The Week in Comedy: The 12 gigs of Christmas


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The Independent Culture

What does Miley Cyrus have at Christmas? Twerky. This, according to a poll by the comedy channel Gold, is the nation's favourite new festive joke and as such will feature in a specially commissioned box of comedy crackers this Christmas. I think I preferred the runner-up - Why is it getting harder to buy Advent calendars? Because their days are numbered - but they're neither of them close to the all-time classic: How do snowmen get around? They ride an icicle. You can have that one.

We all like a laugh at Christmas. Thankfully stand-ups do not down tools when the rest of the nation does and there is a feast of live comedy to be enjoyed between now and Christmas Eve. Here's a guide to the 12 gigs of Christmas not to miss. There really is no excuse for watching that Vicar of Dibley repeat on the sofa for a fourth time.

Christmas mixed bills are always good fun, allowing acts to trot out their finest seasonal gags and see what their sketches look like dressed in tinsel. London has two of the best in the next few days. Tonight, sketch trio Sheeps host their annual Festive Bash at The Tabernacle in Notting Hill with last night's British Comedy Award winner Tom Basden, Tim Key, Jamie Demetriou and The Pin. On Monday, The Boy with Tape on His Face hosts Cornucopia, a dazzlingly large bill at The Palace Theatre featuring Jarred Christmas, Stuart Goldsmith, Paul Daniels and many, many more.

Elsewhere, comedy's hardest working atheist Robin Ince has an event for almost every night on the advent calendar (if he owned one). On Saturday, he and Brian Cox co-host a Compendium of Reason at the Hammersmith Apollo. Next week, he begins a run of his perennially popular Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, with guests including Josie Long, Alexei Sayle, Bridget Christie and John Lloyd, at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London.

With DVDs to sell and stockings to fill, many stand-ups are touring up to turkey time this month. Sarah Millican is tackling domestic bliss in Nottingham all weekend with her Home Bird show. On Monday, Ricky Gervais will don David Brent's baggy Levis for another gig with his rock band Foregone Conclusion at Colston Hall, Bristol. The South African comedian Trevor Noah is all over the place between now and 22 December with his thought-provoking show The Racist. And Ken Dodd is touring all month, with a special Christmas show and guests on Sunday in Wolverhampton. In London, the Scrooge-like Jerry Sadowitz takes up residence at Leicester Square Theatre from 18 December for a month of magic and misanthropy. And Tim Key is reprising his show Father Slutmas, an evening of festive poems and Brussels sprouts, at The Invisible Dot next week.

If stand-up brings out your inner Scrooge, there are plenty of festive variations on the format. Popcorn Comedy has a fizzing line-up on 20 December when James Acaster, Liam Williams and Mae Martin will relive the weirdest moments of 2013 and show their favourite online comedy clips at Hackney Picturehouse. The Weirdos Comedy Club are staging a new play, The Colonel, roughly based on the life of the founder of KFC and starring arch experimentalists Ben Target, Pat Cahill and Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer, John Kearns. (Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, 16-18, 20 December). Finally, if it is panto with real punchlines that you're after, try The Santa Claus Science Experiment, an anti-panto for all ages at Bloomsbury Theatre, London on 22 December, starring Twenty Twelve's Sara Pascoe among others.

The British Comedy Awards

If there is one thing everyone can agree on, it is that awards ceremonies tend to go on a bit. The British Comedy Awards usually have enough raucousness to help the time fly but they pushed it this year with not one, but three special awards tagged on to the usual run of Best Males and Females. That is not to say that Will Ferrell, Steve Coogan and Paul Whitehouse did not deserve their International Achievement, Outstanding Achievement and Writer's Guild awards, respectively. They absolutely did and their presence lent glitz and history to the occasion but what do they mean? Last year, perhaps thanks to a dearth of Hollywood film premieres in town, there wasn't an International Award at the British Comedy Awards at all. The year before that there were awards for Special Contribution to Comedy, Outstanding Achievement and Lifetime Achievement. It must be a little annoying for those honoured to have to share their big night with other high-achievers.

What I Watched…

Anchorman 2

A preview at Vue West End. Reviews are under wraps until next week but suffice to say, it's funny, ridiculous and there is a news team battle featuring jaw-dropping cameo after jaw-dropping cameo.

The Duck House

At the Vaudeville Theatre, London. The new expenses scandal farce from Dan Paterson and Colin Swash, the men behind Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You, features a brilliant comic turn from Ben Miller and piles of political gags. My favourite: "When in Rome… get a receipt for your cappuccino."

Key and Peele

The American sketch duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are a joy. Their Liam Neeson fanatics and ludicrously named college footballers (Tyroil Smoochie-Wallace, Leoz Maxwell Jilliumz, D'Squarius Green, Jr etc.) are a fine introduction to their daft art