My name is Simon Harper. I'm a freelance journalist specialising in writing about music and comedy. My work has been published by the Birmingham Post, Arena, Bearded, the BBC and Channel 4, among others. I have also written for BBC Radio 4 Extra's Newsjack, as well as co-writing and -hosting the Comedy Fix podcast.
I've been writing about comedy in Coventry, Birmingham and the West Midlands as Who's Laughing Now? since 2008. Here you'll find reviews, previews, interviews and other stuff about live comedy in the area.
After taking a break from stand-up for a couple of years, Robin Ince is back on tour with his latest show, Pragmatic Insanity. A lot has changed since his time away from the stage, as he was quick to note at the outset. Yet rather than making up for lost time, he noted that he was going to steer away from Brexit, Trump and the fact that the world is slowly falling apart, given that everyone else had that covered anyway.
Instead, after an opening half-hour or so of Ince’s ambling observations, almost with polite conversation as a form of invective, singer-songwriter Grace Petrie performed support duties with a short set of unusually personal vignettes, a slight departure from her usual, much more politicised material. A regular touring partner of acts such as Ince and Josie Long, among others, it was no surprise that she also shared a gentle humour in between songs. Continue reading “Review: Robin Ince @ Warwick Arts Centre, 13th April 2018”
Earlier in the decade, stand-up and activist Mark Thomas performed a show called Walking the Wall – a tale of his “extreme rambling” excursion along the West Bank’s barrier. In his latest tour, Showtime From the Frontline, he recounted his return to the region for a very different type of visit.
Wonderfully aided by Alaa Shehada and Faisal Abualheja, the show detailed his time spent teaching a comedy workshop at the Freedom Theatre in the Jenin Palestinian refugee camp – his co-performers were among the students, and their clowning and acting skills were brought to the forefront here, essaying the different characters among the student cohort and illustrating their experiences. Continue reading “Review: Mark Thomas @ MAC, 28th February 2018”
As show titles go, Alunish Cochranish isn’t the most attention-grabbing headline you’ll see, but it is pretty accurate. In fact, it does a remarkable job of signalling what to expect from the Yorkshire-born stand-up – it’s possibly the most ‘Alun Cochrane’ show that Alun Cochrane has ever done.
What that resulted in was an hour of observational comedy – a disjointed collection of stories from Cochrane’s life, performed warmly and in his unmistakably gentle way. After being ably supported by Mike Newall, Cochrane delved into material about sneezing, the prison service, and a host of subjects plucked from everyday life, from which he’d effortlessly wring layers of jokes and relatable whimsy. Continue reading “Review: Alun Cochrane @ Warwick Arts Centre, 25th February 2018”
There’s something particularly magical and evocative about stories set at Christmas. Whether it’s the work of Charles Dickens, the ghost stories of M.R. James, Doctor Who‘s festive outings, or anything in between – the snow, Christmas trees and spirit of giving help to conjure vivid ideas of late December and all the joys (and, in the case of James, fears) that come with it.
Mark Thomas returns to Birmingham’s MAC in February with a new show about his experiences in Palestine. Setting out to run a comedy club in a refugee camp in the city of Jenin for two nights, Showtime From the Frontline will trace what happened when he tried to do so.
This isn’t the first time the celebrated stand-up and activist has performed a show about a trip to the region, with 2011’s Extreme Rambling – Walking the Wall detailing his own story of visiting the West Bank. This time around he’s joined by Faisal Abualheja and Alaa Shehada, two actors and aspiring stand-ups from Jenin, and you can expect a funny and fascinating evening in the company of one of the UK’s finest storytellers and performers.
First broadcast in 2003, QI has become something of an institution. The BBC panel show which shines a spotlight on comedians’ knowledge and ignorance has been running since then with Stephen Fry and now Sandi Toksvig at the helm – along with creator and producer John Lloyd – but it’s behind the scenes where a lot of the (Quite) interesting action happens.