Television: Game for a laugh

Cult clowns Reeves and Mortimer are risking their reputation in a prime-time Saturday slot. Just what are they playing at?

Arts: Pulling its punchlines

Looks like a documentary. No gags. Disquieting deadpan performances. Welcome to Smack The Pony, the latest offspring of the Armando Iannucci school of comedy. Be careful where you laugh.

Staying In: Interview - John Thomson: The very fast show

John Thomson is one of our most versatile comedy actors - the bloke next door with a cool catchphrase. And he's a jazz drummer. No, really ...

The Critics' Awards 1998: Comedy - The Holy Grail goes to Father Kev

It was the year in which comics wanted to be taken seriously. Ardal O'Hanlon wrote a novel; Gareth Hale, today's Benny Hill, followed the lead of Eddie Izzard and appeared on Question Time; Lee Evans, Britain's answer to Jim Carrey, starred in a couple of films ... and in that digital TV ad.

TV Videowatch

`I'm Alan Partridge', Vols 1 & 2, pounds 12.99 each

Comedy Armando Iannucci

After spending years in a TV studio making Friday Night Armistice and I'm Alan Partridge, Armando Iannucci (right) relishes the freedom of live work. In his new show, Out of His Box, he has to live on his wits, taking questions from the audience and acting out such surreal moments as the Pope singing "Supercalifragilistic...". "It's that instant feedback thing," he explains. "It sharpens you up because you can't say, `Sorry about that, it was a technical fault. We'll be with you in a minute. Meanwhile, welcome Harry the Hammer, laughter- smith and stand-up carpenter'."

Comedy: An evening with the It-Guy and all his alter egos

Steve Coogan Lyceum, WC2

Hero Brown's Column

Oh how we laughed (in the second half anyway). Steve Coogan's new stand-up show, "The Man Who Thinks He's It", created quite a stir this week when it opened in the West End. Yours truly did her duty and went along for the opening night, along with a celebrity audience whose collective cashflow could sort out the entire Russian deficit. Plus change for bortsch all round.

Comedy: Steve Coogan Lyceum Theatre London - In your face, up your nose

ANY POLL of people you'd least like to sit next to at a dinner party would this week no doubt be topped by those two ill- disciplined sportsmen, Paolo Di Canio and Will Carling. But you can bet your leather- effect driving-gloves that the irredeemably ghastly chat-show host, Alan Partridge, would not be far behind them.

First Night: Grotesquely appalling - but nobody does it better

Steve Coogan Lyceum Theatre London

Preview: Comedy - Steve Coogan

In his new show, The Man Who Thinks He's It, the character comedian Steve Coogan (above) will be treating us to his Manchester hoolies, Paul and Pauline Calf, and the smoothie singer, Tony Ferrino. But his finest creation remains the monstrous chat-show host, Alan Partridge. Against all odds, people lap him up. "Even though he's a berk, people like him despite themselves," Coogan says. "The Little Englander in him is in all of us. He gives vent to those things we'd all like to say but daren't. He's a mirror showing us our own hideousness."

Comedy: Gig of the Week - Steve Coogan from tomorrow

Without falling into the cod-psychoanalysis he so abhors, Steve Coogan has a rare ability to "become" other people. He will be demonstrating that once again in The Man Who Thinks He's It, his new show which opens at the Lyceum Theatre in the West End tomorrow. In this, he will be seamlessly taking on the roles of, among others, the yobby Mancunian brother and sister, Paul and Pauline Calf, and the Lothario Latino crooner, Tony Ferrino.

FIRST CALL LAST CALL

The darkly humorous writing talent of Peter Shaffer meets the directorial nous of Sir Peter Hall in the Old Vic's production of Amadeus in October. David Suchet (right) demonstrates the versatility of his acting as the bitter and jealous Salieri, following his recent stint as a hen- pecked husband in the Almeida production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Michael Sheen, the RSC's most recent Henry V, plays the obnoxious child prodigy corrupted by the wild pleasures which accompany his newfound acclaim. This is one that theatre buffs shouldn't miss.

Arts: All he needs is laughter... and respect

Comedy has made Steve Coogan very rich, so why does he let a few critics annoy him?

In the news: Chris Morris - Comedy danger man back on air

CHRIS MORRIS, Britain's most innovative and risque, broadcaster took to the airwaves again in the early hours this morning, but only his most avid fans - which unbelievably include the sober suits at the Independent Television Commission - and insomniacs will be able to hear him, writes Paul McCann.
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