London 2013: Best Comedy Shows

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London-based stand-up comedian James Mullinger talk us through his highlights of hilarity for the coming 12 months

Micky Flanagan is the latest comic to be promoted to arena status but surely the most well deserved. A circuit legend for a decade before becoming a national treasure, Flanagan is possibly the only comedian to reach this level of success without a single person resenting him. Having tested out new material at the Leicester Square Theatre, Flanagan takes his 'Back In The Game' tour to Wembley Arena and the O2, and it's sure to be as insightful and hilarious as anything he's done. If you only go to one comedy show in 2013, make sure this is it.

Also hitting the arena stage is the peerless Eddie Izzard, who is taking on another world record having recently run 41 marathons in 53 days. This time he'll be using transport but the feat is no less impressive. 'Force Majeure' the biggest international stand-up tour of all time, taking in 25 countries around the world. From Cardiff to Kathmandu, Moscow to Mumbai - Eddie is leaving no stone unturned. 20 UK arena dates include two at Wembley Arena in May and one at the O2 in June. Undoubtedly one of the world's greatest living stand-up comedians, Izzard's show is sure to be unadulterated genius. The tour will be legendary. Be a part of it.

There are few stand-ups willing to be quite as honest about their own failings as Russell Kane (main picture; right), who tours the UK in 2013 with as-yet-unconfirmed dates in London over the summer. Despite hitting the big time following his well-deserved Edinburgh win in 2010, Kane has resisted the urge to become sanitised. His show, 'Posturing Delivery', is about masculinity and Kane's own insecurities, infused with manic streams of consciousness.

Harry Hill returns to the stage with 'Sausage Time'; Eddie Izzard embarks on the biggest stand-up tour ever; Home Bird Sarah Millican is one to watch

Harry Hill upset everyone by quitting his popular 'TV Burp' at its peak this year, but the big-collared buffoon is back with a long awaited return to stand-up. Hill's masterstroke is that he lost none of his zaniness with mainstream success. His act may not have evolved in 20 years in show business, but then it hasn't needed to. There aren't many acts you can say that about. His new show, 'Sausage Time', is likely to be the funniest thing you'll see all year.

Talking of sausages - this year Richard Herring (main picture; left) revives his seminal show, 'Talking Cock'. This reworked version is even better than the 2002 original, Herring having grown as a performer in the past decade. Thought-provoking, profoundly honest and hysterically funny, Herring's unmissable riposte to 'The Vagina Monologues' comes to the Bloomsbury Theatre for two nights in April.

Without question the most exciting act on the comedy circuit right now, Nick Helm's shows are unlike any other. Brooding, boisterous, bursting with vicious energy but above all hysterically funny, his increasingly impressive live shows boast everything from sing-alongs and games of Russian Roulette with orange fizzy pop.

Remarkably, Helm finds pathos amongst the madness and the result is an exhilarating and refreshing stand-up performance like no other. In a circuit crawling with Russell Howard wannabes, Helm is a revelation. And you can find him playing London clubs a few nights each week - and at the Udderbelly comedy festival on the South Bank.

Believe it or not, I'm a former Women's Studies student whose first full-length solo show was titled 'James Mullinger is The Bad Boy of Feminism'. As such, I cannot write about the 2013 comedy scene in London without mentioning one of my favourite women stand-ups on the circuit.

Brooding and boisterous, Nick Helm is a singing stand-up performer like no other; Cockney charmer Micky Flanagan hits the arena circuit in 2013

In the wake of 'The Sarah Millican Television Programme' being commissioned for a second series on BBC 2 and her second live DVD breaking records for a female comic, Millican's brand new stand-up tour, 'Home Bird', is as inviting a proposition as it's possible to imagine.

Every bit as charming, filthy and loveable as she was on the circuit, Millican is now a bona fide superstar but unlike, say, John Bishop, she hasn't gone all 'celebrity' on us. This home bird is keeping it real. My prediction for 2014? She will be the UK's first female comic to sell out an arena.

And finally, being the self-confessed 'Bad Boy of Feminism' as I am, I'd like to mention a fundraiser gig that I'm organising for Eaves, a London-based charity that provides support to vulnerable women who have experienced violence. 'Stand Up For Women' takes place on Monday 14th January at the Bloomsbury Theatre and features the best the UK comedy circuit has to offer (as well as me as MC).

For just £15 you can catch 'Live At The Apollo' star Sara Pascoe, 'The Office''s Robin Ince, bestselling author and star of 'Mock The Week' Shappi Khorsandi, truly brilliant Mary Bourke, Edinburgh darlings Max and Ivan, 'Have I Got News For You' panellist Shazia Mirza, oddball anti-comic Ed Aczel and Children's BBC Presenter Ed Petrie making a rare return to his stand-up roots. Blow away those January blues with an incredible night of laughs for a truly amazing cause.

James Mullinger will be performing his fourth solo show - 'The Man With No Shame' - throughout 2013 at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden
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Sophie Wallace


Sophie Wallace

28th September 2023


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