2013 - the year in review: The best comedy of the year


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The Independent Culture

"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.