Jerry Sadowitz: Comedian, Magician, Pyschopath!, Leicester Square Theatre, London (3/5)

Ricky Gervais reminded us recently, as if we'd forgotten, that language can still offend en masse if its use is misjudged.

Conversations with Penn & Teller, IndigO2, London

"Six seconds was all it took between horrible accident and hysterical laughing.” That was how Penn Gillette described his reaction to longtime showbusiness partner,Teller, having his feet nibbled by a Piranha.

Stewart Lee: Carpet Remnant World, Leicester Square Theatre, London (3/5)

"If you are thinking 'it's Friday night, let's go and be entertained'. No. I don't think like that." As ever the exigent rigour of Stewart Lee demands his audience work for their laughs.

Deadpan: In his 'passive-aggressive', middle-aged and bitter way, Stewart Lee brilliantly deconstructs and savages other comedians' techniques

Stewart Lee, Leicester Square Theatre, London

Have you heard the one about the oh-so-clever comedian who sends up, er, comedy?

Chris Addison: The Time Is Now Again, Dorking Halls

“Advertising slogans stick with me” says Chris Addison. The comedian isn't, however, talking about why he took on a series of much-maligned adverts for a certain insurance company, but is paraphrasing David Cameron's defence of the catchphrase “calm down, dear”, aimed at Labour's Angela Eagle, during PMQs this April.

Some rather obvious shorthand: Omid Djalili

Omid Djalili: Tour of Duty, Corn Exchange, Cambridge

Jason Alexander, who played nervous ball of angst George Kostanza in Seinfeld, recently met Israel's president Shimon Peres to discuss the Middle East. The Israeli press inevitably asked the actor and campaigner if humour had a role to play the peace process, Alexander replied in the negative "because someone is always going to be offended".

The Horne Section, Criterion Theatre, London

The chocolate-box charm of the Criterion Theatre seems a good fit for the sweet allure of the Horne Section and their latest season of jazz-comedy fusion. Furthermore, the lightbulbs that adorn the proscenium arch give the group's set the requisite cabaret vibe. It's a vibe that stand-up Alex Horne propagates with the show's opening number, "Roll Up", that playfully warns "no matter what you think of us you won't be reimbursed."

Brighton Comedy Festival Gala, Brighton Dome

For 10 years now, the Brighton Comedy Festival has provided a welcome hub for the latest comedy shows, many of which have been hits at the preceding Edinburgh Fringe. The opening-night charity gala has, meanwhile, principally relied on special turns from big beasts [represented by the Off the Kerb agency], such as Lee Evans, Michael McIntyre and Alan Carr, to make waves.

Stephen Merchant, Hexagon, Reading

Having tried his hand at stand-up in his Bristol hometown during the late 1990s, Stephen Merchant has been slow in launching his own solo vehicle. But it has been worth the wait.

Stephen Merchant: Hello Ladies, The Hexagon, Reading

Last year Stephen Merchant described himself as a "mediocre" stand-up and, based on the quality of the various warm-up gigs he'd performed by this point (three years into a reprisal of a discipline he first attempted in 1997), it was hard to disagree. However, now that his full tour has rolled out, it would be fair to say that the star was prematurely dismissive about his ability.

Alan Carr: Spexy Beast, Brighton Centre, Brighton

Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" plays Alan Carr on to the stage tonight, the opening night of his first tour for four years. However, the fanfare proves to be in vain, with the bespectacled comic laying on a ride with lulls and peaks mostly too shallow to either thrill or bitterly disappoint.

The Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards: the Nominees, Various venues, Edinburgh

The shortlist meeting for the awards this year was record-breakingly lengthy and no wonder, what with a rather unwieldy list of eight newcomer nominees. Many of the buzz acts made the cut, and of the main six nominees (Adam Riches, Andrew Maxwell, Chris Ramsey, Josie Long, Nick Helm and Sam Simmons), four have already been reviewed on this page and Simmons is covered below.

Sam Simmons: Meanwhile, Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh

Before coming to Edinburgh, I caught up with Simmons's last Fringe show, Fail, in London. Unfortunately, that title and this show are interchangeable. Essentially, Meanwhile is Simmons's home-made Twitter feed with two devices at work. Simmons attempts to answer questions put to him through various mediums while a female voice interjects with an activity going on simultaneously somewhere else in the world. At this point, Simmons jumps around to act out someone in Germany getting annoyed with their flatmate – or some other scenario.

Political Animal, The Stand, Edinburgh

They co-operate from opposite sides of the Atlantic with their weekly podcast, The Bugle, but Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver have not appeared on the same stage for more than five years – in that time, Oliver has become an Emmy-winning addition to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

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