Best of live comedy 2016
- Brian Donaldson
- 21 December 2016
From classy confessional comedy to superlative solo sketch work, the year was filled with a plethora of live treats
It may be over-stating the case to say that 2016 was a high watermark for Scottish comedy. But when it came to frequently notable and occasionally astonishing live fare, the last 12 months have been like few others in recent memory. The facts alone tell their own story: not only did a solo Scottish act win the world's top comedy award, but Richard Gadd's triumph was accompanied by Scott Gibson taking the Best Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Fringe. This was a double victory for Scottish comedy at a festival which is often accused at marginalising homegrown talent.
Fife-born Gadd's Monkey See Monkey Do was a few-holds barred confessional (with a treadmill) about the sexual assault he suffered a few years prior and which has detrimentally contributed to his mental health issues (as any cursory glance at the reviews from August will attest, this was the year's stand-out theme with American Chris Gethard and Australian Felicity Ward also making valuable contributions with their own traumatic life stories). While Gadd was a serious contender for the main award once the shortlists had been announced, Glaswegian Gibson's triumph was less predictable but his Life After Death certainly had the critics and customers purring.
Other strongly-performing Scottish acts during August included southern-based Fern Brady and Larry Dean while local wags Mark Nelson, Janey Godley and Scott Agnew consolidated their reputations. Outside of the festival, Billy Connolly defied the critics (and possibly his medics) to tour with High Horse while Gary: Tank Commander cut a sarky swathe through the Hydro.
If Scotland had a blast in comedy, this was always going to be a big year for touring Americans ahead of the most poisonous presidential election in a generation. Amy Schumer, Bill Burr, Ron White and Louis CK opted for more personal material while still seeking to tear a strip off of the candidates with US-based Aussie Jim Jefferies being typically more blunt with his Freedumb tour.
Back at the Fringe, one-man character juggernaut Steen Raskopoulos set new standards for himself and the sketch genre, the wonderfully non-sentimental Doug Anthony All Stars delivered the comeback of the year while passionate and intelligent socio-political comedy could well be in safe hands if the likes of Ahir Shah, Fin Taylor, Bridget Christie, Matt Forde and Nish Kumar maintain the heights they attained this year.