Best live comedy shows of 2019
- Brian Donaldson
- 16 December 2019
Hannah Gadsby / credit: Ben King
Featuring shows about circumcision, cynicism and carparks
Another year of laughing is almost done and, let's face it, we could all do with an above average number of chuckles in our lives with all that's going on in the world, eh? The rise of populism, conspiracy theories and censorship might well make 2020 another tough year, but comedians have a duty to rise above it all and bring a little light and lot of insight into our lives. Here are some of the shows and acts who helped make 2019 an exciting year for live comedy
10 Phil Wang: Philly Philly Wang Wang
Selling out the esteemed Pleasance Courtyard Cabaret Bar well in advance of his Fringe run didn't make the lad Wang take all that love for granted, as he delivered a top-notch set about identity, ageing and The Muppets. And obviously, he gave us one of the most gleefully daft show titles of this or any other year.
9 Courtney Pauroso: Gutterplum
This US comic and character clown laid on a show that made her audience never quite slip into full-on relaxed mode for fear that awkward participation could occur at any moment. In hindsight, the electric Gutterplum experience is likely to linger in the minds of those who witnessed it.
8 Tom Rosenthal: Manhood
The Plebs and Friday Night Dinner hero produced a show that had people bent double with laughter and crossing their legs in empathic distress as he dissected in minute detail the largely negative effects that circumcision had on his adult life.
7 Romesh Ranganathan: The Cynic's Mixtape
All that telly he does thankfully hasn't blunted Ranganathan's live work as he balanced his natural bonhomie with that grumpy persona to enjoyable effect.
6 Huge Davies: The Carpark
Bringing a darker edge to the musical comedy genre, Davies and his keyboard provided bleakly hilarious moments, wonderfully silly singalongs, and a sort-of musical about a carpark. Firmly in the 'one to watch' category.
5 Jessica Fostekew: Hench
A powerfully funny show from a comic who has leapt and bounded her way to bigger things over the past few years, Hench was fully deserving of an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination. Fostekew's tale of language, gender, parenthood and having a Nordic-walking mother hit all the right spots.
4 Ben Elton: Live
This long-awaited return to the live stage could have been all kinds of wrong, but the man who created two of the 80s best sitcoms proved that the stand-up arena remains his forte as he analysed his perspective as a middle-aged man living through strange and confusing times.
A sort-of sketch supergroup which merged Gein's Family Giftshop and Goose, their show had the energy of the latter and jet-black horror sensibilities of the former. Tarot is the place where giggles met gore.
2 John Kearns: Double Take and Fade Away
The man who made Edinburgh Fringe history by claiming both the Best Newcomer prize and Main Award (in successive years, too) hasn't rested on those laurels and his 2019 return was a typically poetic and arresting treatise about the intimate details of life.
1 Hannah Gadsby: Douglas
It might not have been as viscerally affecting as the global sensation that was Nanette, but the Tasmanian comic's much-anticipated follow-up (named after one of her dogs) was still a triumph for an act who is clearly relishing her moment in the limelight.
…..honourable mentions go to ……………
Zoë Coombs Marr: Bossy Bottom; James Acaster: Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999; Kai Samra: Underclass; Stand Up with Janine Harouni (Please Remain Seated); Ivo Graham: The Game of Life; Ahir Shah: Dots; Jacob Hawley: Faliraki; Garrett Millerick: Smile; Will Adamsdale: Facetime; Michael Legge: The Idiot