2013 - the year in review: The best comedy of the year
"Bo Burnham: What", Pleasance Grand, Edinburgh Fringe, August
Firing on all cylinders, the 23-year-old American boy wonder’s return to the UK slew all before him. So slick as to leave one almost numb with awe, Burnham unleashed his inner voices to great effect. He clowned, he rhymed, he sang; a neurotic post-modern variety act for the social media generation.
"Louis CK", The 02, London, March
Riding the momentum of his popular stand up / sitcom cross-over Louie, CK added his name to the 02’s comedy roll call of big beasts. And what a fine addition he was, effortlessly ranging over the benignly bewildered world of a middle-aged American; older, wiser and at the peak of his powers.
"Russell Brand: Messiah Complex", Birmingham Symphony Hall, October
Brand’s Messiah Complex mixed the self-deprecating with the self-aggrandising more effectively than he’d done for some time. The tour was universally well-received, more than could be said for his subsequent poo-pooing of the electoral system.
"Paul F Tompkins: Crying and Driving", Soho Theatre, London, April
Low key, poised, classy; the 44-year-old American came to town last spring and charmed us with a gentle-but-deft set based around making his way through the world and tackling his apparent inability “to do life”.
"Monty Python Press Conference", Playhouse Theatre, London, November
Sure, in 2014 it could be my pick for turkey of the year, but let us at least dream that the remaining Pythons can deliver next year at the 02. “They clearly don’t like each other” was one assessment of their November press conference, but from what I saw there was still plenty of cheese left in the shop.
Discovery of the year
"London Sketchfest", Victorian Vaults, London, May
Sketchfest was a nifty lift of a US idea, pitting a number of sketch groups against each other in competition. The standard was high, though the format needs a little revision in terms of time onstage. I hope to see it back next year, it helped alleviate my dread of sketch and showcased a number of good acts including The Pin, Rory and Tim and Thünderbards.
Turkey of the year
"Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure", Brighton Centre, May
Things can only get better again, surely? After the well received return of Stripped in 2008, reviving his fortunes from 2003’s not so alluring Sexie, Izzard’s live renaissance lost momentum again. Force Majeure’s gravitas deficit was due in part to Izzard’s simplistic political grandstanding which he should leave for his attempt to become a candidate for London Mayor.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant