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.
Sara Pascoe‘s latest show, LadsLadsLads, was unapologetically about the aftermath of a break-up. Originally performed at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe, where Pascoe and John Robins both delivered their own shows about the break-up of their relationship, it was much more personal than previous outings but hugely enjoyable, showcasing all of the elements which have made her voice so distinctive – intelligent, often dark, and very open.
There was an intimacy and candidness about LadsLadsLads which was quite a rare feat in a theatre of this size – covering topics such as relationships, sex and family, Pascoe revealed aspects of her life and flaws with a level of vulnerability which isn’t all that common even in stand-up, and imbued these vignettes with layers of great jokes which peeked out of the darkness. Continue reading “Sara Pascoe @ Warwick Arts Centre, 7th October 2018”
Does life begin at 50? Celebrated stand-up Richard Herring has been pondering this while on tour with his latest show, Oh Frig I’m 50, which ended with this date at Warwick Arts Centre. A sequel of sorts to his show titled Oh Fuck I’m 40, this new offering detailed how the biggest events during the past decade or so have shaped his life now, with the most momentous changes including him getting married and starting a family.
It’s a commonly held view in certain circles that those things can often lead to diminishing returns in the quality of a comic’s output, and while that may have been true in some examples Herring’s recent work has long proved its folly. The first half here was slightly more uneven, with keen observational material not always landing, but glimpses of his recognisable style, though a stronger second half of the show really took proceedings to a higher level. Continue reading “Review: Richard Herring @ Warwick Arts Centre, 3rd June 2018”
It’s more than 20 years since I first encountered Danny Baker on the airwaves and the experience made an indelible mark. A famed career in front of the TV cameras notwithstanding, it was on the radio where Baker sounded – and felt – most at home, with his hugely popular shows tracing the absurdity of football and everyday life at an almost molecular level. Never had minutiae seemed more vital, or more universal.
In more recent years, Baker’s has turned his enormous skill as a raconteur to books – he’s published three volumes of his autobiography and has hinted on Twitter that there are more to come – and latterly the stage. It’s odd to think that such a masterful storyteller had never graced the boards for a full live tour prior to last year’s Cradle to the Stage outing, but its follow-up Good Time Charlie’s Back has come barely twelve months later. Continue reading “Review: Danny Baker @ Warwick Arts Centre, 5th May 2018”
Mark Steel is angry. That isn’t a new thing, as anyone who’s followed the career of the long-time Radio 4 favourite will know, but on his latest tour Steel wasn’t just irate about the current state of UK and world politics, but also had lots to get off his chest about his personal life too.
Titled Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright, this show found him in a slightly different mode than usual, flitting between exasperation at what’s going on in the world and picking at the things about the modern world which confuse and frustrate him, along with tracing the decline of his marriage. Continue reading “Review: Mark Steel @ Warwick Arts Centre, 6th May 2018”
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”