A vintage year beckons for live comedy

Julian is comedy critic for The Stage and The Independent, and author of the Rough Guide to British Cult Comedy
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In all honesty 2012 wasn't a vintage year for live touring comedy. I composed a top five of shows for last year, and while the choices – Andrew Lawrence, Mike Birbiglia, Rob Delaney, Doctor Brown and Greg Davies - were all fine ones, there wasn't a massive amount of competition.

2013 seems to promise more candidates to jostle for position, and maybe even offer a case for a top 10.

There's a welcome return for Harry Hill, after six years away from stage shows. His tour, Sausage Time, (February 7 - April 11) will be something to chew for anyone already missing his TV Burp and a welcome reminder of how he came to be such a successful oddball/mainstream crossover act.

The stream of stellar touring talent continues with the ubiquitous Sarah Millican, in Home Bird, September 19 - May 18, 2014; cockney crowd pleaser Micky Flanagan (Back In The Game, Feb 7 - May 25), madcap musical maestreo Bill Bailey [Qualmpeddler, April 26 – June 16], cheeky chappie and ITV darling Jason Manford (First World Problems, June 13 – Dec 6), plus an international arena tour from veteran absurdist Eddie Izzard (Force Majeure, UK dates May 2 – June 9), reported to be the most far-reaching comedy tour ever.

[pullquote]I have a feeling that 2013 cannot fail to be a bumper year on the live scene[/pullquote]

That's a bumper crop for sure, and they are joined by some intriguing short residencies and one-offs too.

The straightforward, streetwise and eloquent Rob Delaney comes back over from the US ( April 13 2013, O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire). Delaney is joined by fellow American Paul F Tompkins, (April 2-13), but the big US draw this year will be Sarah Silverman's Bloomsbury Theatre date on February 9. The edgy American First Lady of comedy comes to the UK after a successful Australian tour.

Alexei Sayle, the bearded grandaddy of UK comedy, enjoys a residency at Soho Theatre, (January 21 to February 9). Also enjoying Soho residencies are Edinburgh Comedy Award winner and mime artist, Doctor Brown (March 25 – April 20), and sketch troupe Pappy's, whose poignant and funny Edinburgh hour, Last Show Ever, runs April 1 – 20.

Canadian Mockumentary stars Trailer Park Boys ride in to the Hammersmith Apollo on May 3, meanwhile, there a number of overseas visitors in the cast of The Sixth Annual London Improvathon. North American and Australian long-form impro experts join homegrown whizz kids such as Adam Meggido, Cariad Lloyd, Ruth Bratt and Pippa Evans to celebrate “the glory days of Howard Carter and Egyptology" with a 50 hour impro homage. from Friday January 11  at 7.00pm to Sunday January 13 at 9.00pm, Hoxton Hall.

I have a feeling that 2013 cannot fail to be a bumper year on the live scene. It will certainly be varied – but let's hope the quality is more than mixed.