Summer laughin’

A new season of comedy is kicking off in venues in the north. Marissa Burgess chats to funnywoman Bridget Christie and rounds up the rest of the best

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It’s been six years since Rhod Gilbert’s last tour. But here he returns to the stage (Blackpool, 19 July, then Salford, Doncaster, Grimsby and Blackburn) having been inspired by the Book of John. Nope, he’s not gone all religious – just found a brutally honest bloke called John, from whom he’s derived his new philosophy – one to help him cope with the frankly rubbish few years he’s had. Expect plenty of Gilbert’s wonderful, trademark barely concealed anger to surface.

Nick Offerman (main picture) is probably best known over here for his role as the magnificently moustachioed Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation. He’s also married to fellow comic Megan Mullally (of Will and Grace fame). It must be a riot in their house. But here he returns to stand-up sharing his hard-earned wisdom and thoughts on everything from facial hair and wood to religion and red meat. In All Rise (in Leeds on 29 August and Manchester on 30 August) he also promises some “light dance”.

Before she offended Trump’s coterie while delighting the liberals at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Michelle Wolf was already making waves with her shows, not least her Edinburgh Fringe debut in 2016 So Brave. She’s smart, straight talking and pulls no punches – as her calling out of White House press secretary Sarah Sanders playing fast and loose with the facts bore out. Wolf cut her teeth writing for Late Night with Seth Meyers and went on to work for The Daily Show. Now is her time to shine (not least in Salford, 24 July).

Since we last saw Tape Face on these shores he’s gone global. Now so popular he’s become a franchise, while he’s off on this tour his clone stays on performing his residency in Las Vegas. A former street performer, Sam Wills set himself the challenge of not speaking while performing, and The Boy With (quite literally) Tape On His Face was born. People quickly warmed to his somewhat gothic audience-participation mime act – his appearance on America’s Got Talent cementing his success. Now he’s back (playing Liverpool 2 September then Salford, Hexham, Leeds and Stockton on Tees).

For folk of a certain age Basil Brush conjures up memories of childhood teatimes in front of the telly. But the cheeky foppish fox puppet with the plummy accent is out of retirement and gigging again. On and off our tellys since 1963, this tour is fresh from a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, where the family favourite is performing an adults only show. But in Salford (14  September) there’s a clean, family show to take the kids to earlier in the day too.

Q&A: Bridget Christie

Bridget Christie has been a wonderfully distinctive presence on the comedy circuit since she started out in 2005. From impressions of the Black Death to a show entirely centred on an ant analogy, it was when she took feminism on for a second time in A Bic For Her that everyone else besides her faithful fans sat up and took notice. These days Christie expertly blends absurdism with bang up-to-date political satire, all bound up in an eye-popping rant at the ridiculousness of the world.

In 2016 her show Because You Demanded It was written entirely in the six weeks between the EU referendum and the beginning of the Edinburgh Fringe. The show was an amazing, pin-sharp tirade against Brexit, made even more incredible as it was so quickly put together.

How did Because You Demanded It happen so quickly?
I was locked into doing Edinburgh already with a show about death, which I then didn’t want to do after the vote, so it was either write a new one quickly about something I was really passionate about, or do the one about death half-cocked and try to work some stuff about Brexit into it, which I didn’t really want to do. The incredulity and anger was a massive driver. I’ll probably go back to the death show at some point, perhaps after I’ve died, when I’ve got something more interesting to say about it.

Talking of death, how is your blood pressure? In the years since it seems like politics in the Western world has got even more ridiculous.
There is a creeping, oppressive inevitability about everything that’s happening at the moment and very little surprises me these days. It amazes me when people are still surprised by horrible, stupid things Farage, Johnson or Trump say or do. I must admit I was shocked by the public bullying of Greta Thunberg by some pathetic grown men though. That raised my blood pressure a bit, but I just went to the gym and tried to forget about them. On some level I think these massive twats thrive on annoying people and getting under our skin so I try not to let them, because hate takes up sooooo much energy.

It makes you wistful for the days when it was just the minutiae that got your goat, though there is at least some room for that too.
EE keep ringing me up all the time and I keep telling them that they keep calling me about the same thing and yet they keep calling. It’s driving me a little bit nuts.

You’re performing at Leeds and Reading festivals (23-25 August) this summer. That must be quite a different vibe from other shows, even the Edinburgh Fringe.
Doing gigs at festivals is very different, yes, but they can be just as fun as any other. As long as you know that there will probably be noise spill from the other venues and that people will be wandering in and out and children might be sat in the front row throwing coins at you and that if the gig is in the afternoon you’ll be able to see everyone’s faces and that sometimes the front row is really far away depending on what venue you’re doing and that if you go badly you’ll be seeing your audience for the rest of the weekend… but I can’t wait!  I love doing them!

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