Opinion: My Comedy Year 2014

“How many comedy shows do you see every week?” After “do you like Michael McIntyre?” it’s the question I get asked the most when I tell people what I do for a so-called job. Well now I can sort of answer it, I’ve just counted up my ticket stubs for 2014 and the results are in. 

In 2014 I saw a total of 189 shows, which works out at, erm, 3.63 shows a week. Of course a chunk of them were back-to-back at the Edinburgh Fringe, so I can't claim to have been out 3.63 nights every week. And, to my annual shame, the bulk were at the Soho Theatre. Memo to self, in 2015 get out to more shows at comedy clubs where stand-ups earn both their spurs and their bread and butter week-in-week-out.  

The shows I saw varied dramatically, and glancing at my tickets there are shows that I’d totally forgotten about. Some hardly even qualify as comedy shows. Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno, for example, on the South Bank nearly a year ago. Or Moscow State Circus in a park in Fulham. Nothing wrong with the clowns, but the burger was pre-glasnost quality and the less said about the cheese on top of it the better.

I saw Daniel Kitson at least four times –  warming up at the Hob in Forest Hill, at the National Theatre where he was disappointing, at BAC where he was brilliant and compering at the Palace Theatre’s Laughing Point gig where he was best of all. Talking of speccy clowns, John Kearns thoroughly deserved his Edinburgh Comedy Award win. 

There were unforgettable gigs and odd gigs that I can barely remember. Al Murray at the Spiegeltent when I was too pre-occupied thinking about England’s first World Cup game straight after the show, but I was assured by my friend that the Pub Landlord was as hilarious as ever. And did I really see Ant & Dec live at Wembley Arena? i’ve got the ticket stub so I must have, but I can't remember a thing about it. 

It was also a year when double acts went solo. Dawn French did the business without Jennifer Saunders, Noel Fielding was just as wonderfully zany without Julian Barratt and Frank Skinner/Rob Newman's other half David Baddiel brought his one-man return to stand-up, Fame: Not The Musical, to the Menier Chocolate Factory for an acclaimed run. Baddiel also had a hit with The Infidel at the Theatre Royal Stratford – I'm amazed that it hasn't been picked up by the West End yet. Is being a Spurs supporter really a subject that is too hot to handle?

There was a gig in an inflatable bowler hat in the city of London and a lot of big gigs all over the capital. Lee Evans was a sweaty let-down at the 02. Outrageous rentagob Chelsea Handler failed to live up to the hype at the London Palladium. Aziz Ansari. Jon Richardson and Lee Mack made me laugh my socks off at the Eventim Apollo – but can we please go back to calling it the Hammersmith Apollo in 2015. 

Despite gloom about the comedy economy in some quarters the mega-gigs kept coming. There was a time when the Apollo seemed like a big deal for comedians, but now it is often just another stepping stone on the way to Arena tours. Talking of which, I guess 2014 will go down as the year of Monty Python at the O2. I had very low expectations of the gig, but ended up enjoying hearing those catchphrases all over again. Maybe 2014 will go down as the year when the oldies bounced back. 

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