NOTHING special happened in the arts scene in 2019…or did it? Find out tomorrow when the Hutch Award winners are announced for what made the art beat race faster across YORKshire at charleshutchpress.co.uk.
SHAPPI Khorsandi is extending her 2019 tour into 2020, bringing her self-reflective show Skittish Warrior…Confessions Of A Club Comic to Pocklington Arts Centre on February 16.
Comedian, author and “idiot who agreed to be tortured” on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here in 2017, Khorsandi takes a warts-and-all journey back to the 1990s’ comedy scene, her breakthrough on TV and then letting it all slip away in her 20 years as a stand-up.
“The show is a good opportunity to look back on how it all began,” she says. “It talks about the bits that stand-ups don’t usually talk about, those behind-the-scenes moments where doors get slammed in your face. It’s about rediscovering that early passion. It’s a celebration of the comedy circuit.”
Building the show around cultural observations and confessional gags, Khorsandi says: “I hope people will take away a great sense of warmth and a lot of heart. The show is saying it’s OK to be exactly who you are. The only person you should ever compete with is yourself.”
Skittish Warrior looks at the “funny side of failure”. “It’s an ode to being an underdog. We celebrate the underdog. I have to do that. I don’t have a choice,” says Khorsandi.
“But it’s not doom and gloom. I’m perfectly happy. I’m not cut out for a tabloid level of fame. After 20 years, I feel completely comfortable with the fact that I’m vulnerable. It’s OK to say, ‘I’ve messed up so many things’.
“It’s about realising that if you didn’t get something, it wasn’t what you wanted anyway. If it was very important for me to do well on panel shows, I wouldn’t have been daydreaming on panel shows!”
Born in Tehran, Iran, Shappi is the daughter of the Iranian political satirist and poet Hadi Khorsandi and moved to Britain as a child after the Islamic Revolution. In her twenties, she began performing in comedy clubs, going on to appear on a multitude of TV shows, be a panellist on ITV1’s Loose Women and BBC One’s Question Time and write two books, A Beginner’s Guide To Acting English in 2009 and her debut novel, Nina Is Not OK, in 2016.
A play based on the novel is on its way, and already she has a musical comedy to her name, Women In Power, inspired by Aristophanes’s ancient Greek comic play The Assembly Women, co-written with fellow comedians Jenny Éclair and Natalie Haynes for a run at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton, in September 2018.
On the radio, Khorsandi has hosted the BBC Radio 4 series Shappi Talk, Homework and Shappi Khorsandi Gets Organised, as well as appearing on Loose Ends, Front Row, Midweek and Today.
Recalling how it all began, 46-year-old Khorsandi says: “I feel very thankful that when I started out in comedy, it was punk. The ultimate aim was to play the clubs, not telly. That’s why my new show is a love letter to the comedy clubs.
“I was a nervous wreck at the start. It was terrifying. I would phone the Comedy Store for an open spot, and if they picked up, I would put the phone down. I was treading water for the first ten years. It’s a sort of madness to carry on doing something that is so precarious. But I always knew that there was nothing else along my Yellow Brick Road.”
Celebrity has its pitfalls, she acknowledges. “It’s about really understanding what a full-time job it is to be famous and to stay there. It has to be at the cost of everything else. Instagram posts don’t post themselves!”
In 2017, that celebrity status led to Khorsandi taking part in ITV’s reality TV show I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!. “It changed my life. Because you’re hungry and have nothing to do in the jungle, it forces you to look at your life,” she says. “While I was in there, my life was going on without me. I realised there was no other life I wanted, and I desperately wanted to be back in it.
“Some people may see I’m A Celebrity as crass, but it bought me time to re-evaluate my life. I realised what I didn’t want: to be on the front page of The Sun. That’s not worth anything. Doing stand-up, writing plays and books; those things have value and they were the things I wanted to come back to.”
Hence her tour of Skittish Warrior…Confessions Of A Club Comic, now bolstered with more shows in 2020. “I get an absolute adrenaline rush on stage. For me, it’s always been about the live stuff,” she says.
Time for reflection at the year’s end. “I look back on my career and see all the times I’ve sabotaged it. But if I had really wanted it, I would have got it,” says Khorsandi.” I’ve got two kids, and I really wanted them. It may sound cheesy, but they’re my greatest successes.”
Shappi Khorsandi: Skittish Warrior…Confessions Of A Club Comic, Pocklington Arts Centre, Sunday, February 16 2020, 7.30pm. Tickets: £15 on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
ARTHUR Smith, comedian, writer, broadcaster and notoriously Grumpy Old Man, has a new show to brighten up 2020.
Smith’s off-the-wall Laughs, Stories, A Song And A Poem will visit Pocklington Arts Centre on Friday, January 31.
Arts centre director Janet Farmer says: “We can’t wait to welcome Arthur back after several sell-out shoes here in recent years.
“He’s a cult hero at the Edinburgh Fringe for his legendary performances and this new show promises to be a thoroughly entertaining night of sublime playfulness, crammed with jokes, anecdotes, short stories, poems, songs and excerpts from Arthur’s latest book, the memoir My Name Is Daphne Fairfax. It’s the complete package!”
Janet adds: “Arthur is the latest in a series of outstanding comedians we’ve lined up for our stage in the coming months, including Shappi Khorsandi on February 16, Tom Rosenthal: Manhood on March 14 and Andy Parsons on April 28.
“Our live comedy programme always sells out, so I would recommend getting your tickets quickly or risk missing out.”
Smith, 65, from Balham, London, has appeared on the BBC’s Grumpy Old Men Q.I, Have I Got News For You and The One Show, as well as Radio 4’s Loose Ends and Balham Bash and hosting Radio 4 Extra’s Comedy Club, and Radio 2’s Smith Lectures. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for his play An Evening With Gary Lineker, which played York Theatre Royal in July 2006.
Tickets for his 8pm Pocklington gig are on sale at £16 on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
Ed Byrne, If I’m Honest, York Barbican, December 13
FRIDAY the 13th is unlucky for some”, and certainly for those who missed out on Ed Byrne’s If I’m Honest show at a half-full York Barbican. An honest mistake, no doubt, that should be rectified next time.
Unlike our political parties in the General Election, 47-year-old Dubliner Byrne has decided honesty is the best policy, and while comedians are no less likely to exaggerate than politicians seeking the X factor at the ballot box, they do so with a silver, rather than forked, tongue.
Byrne headed to York, the lone red rash in deepest blue North Yorkshire, on the night after the nation had voted. Yet more politics was not for him, however. “I could talk about Brexit for 20 minutes, but I choose not to,” he said. Exit Brexit, stage hard right. Good call, Ed, judging that the party mood needed to be joyful, not political.
He was not one to massage figures, either, instead drawing attention immediately to the empty seats, making everyone there feel better for their impeccable judgement. Honesty, straightaway, was the best policy.
Byrne book-ended the show, providing the short opening and longer closing chapters, with Henley comedy pup Kieran Boyd let off his lead in between. While this can break the rhythm of the night, Byrne knows the importance of giving fledgling acts their wings. Nish Kumar, for example, played support slots in York several times before graduation to headline status at the Grand Opera House.
Rather too many comedians do material about their children; the equivalent of being passed endless pictures of little Johnny or Joanna at an inescapable party, but when Byrne, fast thinking and even faster talking, is making the observations, then fair children’s play to him.
In If I’m Honest, he “takes a long hard long hard look at himself and tries to decide if he has any traits that are worth passing on to his children”. On Friday, he did so self-deprecatingly, as he takes on parenthood in his forties with children named Cosmo and Magnus. And no, they were not named for comic effect.
Far from it. When he played Reykjavic, Byrne was greeted with an outpouring of Icelandic congratulations for choosing one of their own!
Byrne could laugh at how his young sons already were mirroring him and his mutually sarcastic exchanges with his wife, theatre publicist Claire Walker.
Byrne’s comedy is both mentally and physically energetic, even hyper, as well as laced with Irish storytelling lyricism and much mischief making, and not only children’s received behaviour was up for his honesty test.
So too were superdads and superheroes and the way superhero film titles have become so convoluted, as he yearned for the simplicity of old.
Byrne wore a shiny red jacket and tapered jeans that would not have looked out of place competing on Strictly Come Dancing, a show he revealed he had turned down, foregoing the chance for “Byrne the floor” headlines, much to his family’s disappointment. He could not trust himself with the dancers, said the Oti fan, honest to the end.
THE comedy year on York Barbican’s main stage will end with another dollop of Wallop! and a welcome dose of honesty.
After walloping the Barbican on October 24, comedian Rob Beckett returns on December 12 with his Wallop! show. The “Mouth of the South” cheeky chappie, 33, hosts BBC One’s All Together Now; does team captain duties on Channel 4’s 8 Out Of 10 Cats; co-presents The Magic Sponge podcast and has joined Romesh Ranganathan for Sky’s Rob And Romesh Vs.
In his confessional If I’m Honest show on December 13, , ever observational 47-year-old Dubliner Ed Byrne takes a “long hard look at himself and tries to decide if he has any traits that are worth passing on to his children”.
Byrne last played York on his Spoiler Alert! tour at the Grand Opera House in March 2018. Fact.
Tickets for both 8pm gigs are on sale on 0203 356 5441 , at yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from the Barbican box office.
HARROGATE comedian and Sitting Room Comedy promoter Tom Taylor hops over to York to headline the Laugh Out Loud ComedyClub line-up at York Barbican on December 20.
Taylor is an award-winning humorist and writer who featured on BBC Radio 4 in the BBC New Comedy Award with his offbeat musical comedy and droll one-liners.
Both a stand-up and character actor, Taylor has penned and performed two murder mystery solo shows, A Charlie Montague Mystery: The Game’s A Foot and Try The Fish/ The Man With The Twisted Hip, as seen at York’s Great Yorkshire Fringe.
Joining him in the Fishergate Bar will be casual, smooth-talking, story-telling Manchester comedian Mike Newall, whose Nineties’ Britpop haircut has gained him the nickname “The Real Magic Mike”.
Debra-Jane Appleby, former winner of the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year and Funny Women Comedy Award in 2005, completes the 8pm line-up with her no-nonsense northern take on the world.
Doors open at 7pm, and the host, as ever, will be Laugh Out Loud promoter Damion Larkin.
Tickets are on sale on 0203 356 5441, at yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from the Barbican box office.
MILTON Jones is adding a heap of extra dates next autumn for his 2020 tour show, Milton: Impossible, but not one of the 34 additions is in Yorkshire.
Panic not, the shock-haired matador of the piercing one-liner is booked in already for York Barbican on February 22, Victoria Theatre, Halifax, February 23, Hull City Hall, March 18 and Leeds Town Hall, March 19, on his initial January to April travels.
One man. One Mission. Is it possible? “No, not really,” says the Kew comedian, who will be performing 100 shows in total as he reveals the truth behind having once been an international spy, but then being given a somewhat disappointing new identity that forced him to appear on Mock The Week, Live At The Apollo, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy and Dave’s One Night Stand.
“This is a love story with a twist, or at least a really bad sprain,” says Jones. “Is it all just gloriously daft nonsense, or is there a deeper meaning? Every man has his price. Sainsbury’s, where good food costs less.”
This adds to an earlier statement by the devotee of particularly bold Hawaiian shirt designs when he first announced his 2020 mission. “My latest show is called Milton: Impossible and is loosely based on a Tom Cruise film I saw once called something like Undo-able Task,” he said.
“In it, I play a Milton who appears to just have a job in Asda, but at night he’s also an international spy involved in secret things and quite bad situations. But if daft jokes give you an allergic reaction and send you into a coma, then don’t come running to me.
“Also, at a difficult time for our country, I believe there’s a chance this show could unite the nation. Admittedly quite a small chance.”
Tickets for York Barbican are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk and on 0203 356 5441; Halifax, victoriatheatre.co.uk; Hull, hulltheatres.co.uk; Leeds, leedstownhall.co.uk.
Those wishing to travel farther afield on their Milton mission next autumn can find out more at miltonjones.com, with tickets going on sale from Thursday, November 28.
Jones, 55, has played York many times, both at the Grand Opera House and latterly at the Barbican, where he presented his Milton Jones Is Out There show on September 30 2017.
HE may be a cynic, but Romesh Ranganathan knows when he’s on to a good thing.
Having sold out his two November gigs at York Barbican, the deadpan Crawley comic, actor and television presenter has wasted no time in adding a third night of The Cynic’s Mixtape next spring.
Ranganathan will complete his hattrick of Barbican performances on May 10 2020, when the 41-year-old star of Asian Provocateur, The Misadventures Of Romesh Ranganathan, The Reluctant Landlord and Judge Romesh will deliver “a carefully curated selection of all the things he has found unacceptable since his last tour”.
On his mind will be why trying to save the environment is a scam, why none of us is truly free, and his suspicion that his wife is using gluten intolerance to avoid sleeping with him.
Ranganathan ditched his burgeoning career as a Maths teacher – maybe it just didn’t add up to much – in his early 30s to focus on comedy, with plenty to moan about in such subsequent shows as Rom Com, Rom Wasn’t Built In A Day and Irrational.
Agent provocateur Ranganathan and his Rob & Romesh Meet co-star Rob Beckett hosted the 2019 Royal Variety Performance on Monday at the London Palladium, to be aired on ITV in December. This was the first time that two comedians had hosted the event together in more than 30 years.
Tickets for Romesh Ranganathan: The Cynic’s Mixtape are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk, on 0203 356 5441 or in person from the Barbican box office.
COMEDIANS had been strangely reluctant to discuss Brexit, seemingly for fear of alienating half an audience. Three years in, however, and no nearer to finding a fixit, they are joining the rest of a divided nation in frustration at Mission Implausible.
If one comedian were guaranteed to lose his rag over Brexit Britain, it would be the garrulous Guvnor, bellicose pub landlord Al Murray.
His July show at Pocklington’s Platform Festival had been billed as the “last hurrah” for his Landlord Of Hope And Glory tour, but Brexit is the wanted/unwanted gift that keeps giving.
So, here we all are, post-October 31 impasse, rain sodden and shivering as we go to the polls in darkest December, Boris and Jezza fighting to be the next Guvnor, and Murray’s bilious bulldog still barking his take on Brexit on his autumn travels that stop off at the Grand Opera House, York on November 18.
A comedian seeks to be side-splittingly funny; now Murray is having to deal with split sides. “That’s the interesting thing: they really are split, and you can’t predict how people will be on each night,” says Al, who conducts his interviews as the real Al Murray, satirical comedian, TV presenter, author and military history documentary maker.
” What you have to do is burrow down into ‘Who are we?’; ‘What does this say about us?’, and that’s the thing you then mine for comedy,” says Al Murray, defining the comic craft.
“There are people who still care about it, with everything that’s going on in parliament, but the rest are fed up. Who could imagine people being frustrated with politicians promising things that couldn’t be delivered?!”
Given the Little Englander persona of Murray’s larger and louder-than-life caricature, you might expect him to line up with Boris/Farage/No Deal/Brexit Means Brexit, but Murray thinks as much as the Guvnor drinks, and so Landlord Of Hope And Glory does not take the path of least resistance.
“You write the kernel of a show a couple of months before going out on the road, so that was back in March and April, when it looked like we might go No Deal, and you just think, ‘Come on, make a decision’.
“But whatever way you voted, you have no say in what’s been happening, and as a comic, you’re thinking, ‘How can I find a fresh angle on this?’.
“You don’t want to sound like anyone else, so the conclusion to the show came to me pretty early on, but for the show to merge together perfectly, it took 20 gigs to get to that point.”
Social and political satire requires exaggeration to lampoon its targets, and yet the Westminster and Brussels playgrounds keep surpassing such comic imagination.
“People talk about that a lot: that there’s this problem for comics being outflanked by the behaviour of our politicians, so what you have to do is burrow down into ‘Who are we?’; ‘What does this say about us?’, and that’s the thing you then mine for comedy,” says Al.
“Get Brexit Done/Not Done” may exasperate many, but Murray is revelling in picking at its bones. “The idea that this thing was going to go on forever didn’t have bite in April, but it does now. It routs us – and I’m rather pleased about that.
“Brexit is now being paraded full bore at the centre of our national debate, yet people were telling me a decade ago that the Pub Landlord’s anti-European stance was outdated!”
Murray is not predicting an end to Brexit deliberations any time soon. “I think we’re going to go back out with this show next spring, when it still won’t be over.
“The reality is, you will never find anything to satisfy everyone, so you just have to balance it,” he suggests. “Is there a way out of this mess? The Pub Landlord thinks so: the whole of Europe goes on the pound and the EU changes its name to Great Britain!”
Is Brexit a step backwards or forwards for Britain, Mr Murray? “The thing is, I haven’t heard yet how it’s a step forward. I’m open to whatever ‘Brexit’ is, but you get the feeling a lot of people don’t know what it is, or that people won’t like it, whatever it is.”
Al Murray: Landlord Of Hope And Glory, Grand Opera House, York, Monday, November 18, 7.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/York
By Charles Hutchinson
Copyright of The Press, York
TOM Rosenthal, star of Channel 4’s Friday Night Dinner and ITV2’s Plebs, will bring his new stand-up show, Manhood, to Pocklington Arts Centre on March 14 next year.
His 8pm performance will tell the story of how he spent his life trying to avenge the theft of his foreskin.
Tickets for this past winner of the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year award will go on sale at £17.50 on Friday at 10am on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
Arts centre director Janet Farmer says: “We’re delighted to be able to bring Tom Rosenthal to Pocklington as part of his latest stand-up tour.
“This booking only strengthens an already fantastic line-up of comedy, which features our popular Punchline Christmas Comedy Gala on December 13 and TV regulars Arthur Smith and Andy Parsons on January 31 and April 28 respectively.
“As with all our live comedy, Tom is likely to sell out, so I would advise you to book your tickets in advance.”