The Funniest British Stand-Up Comedy


   

The laughDB database is dedicated to the funniest comedy movies, stand-up comedy and TV series.

This section is for stand-up comedy sets from the UK. By default they are presented starting with the ones ranking highest on the laugh-o-meter, but you can also sort them by year, title or IMDB rating.


Funniest British Comedies sorted by Laugh-o-meter (descending) / page 1 of 2


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Eddie Izzard: Glorious DVDEddie Izzard: Glorious
      1997 | U.K. | Laughs: 9.1 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia

Show featuring Eddie in a gorgeous red lame outfit. Meanders through a hundred topics from Noah sawing wood for the Ark to Queen Elizabeth reacting to Diana's death. When I woke up the next morning, my stomach muscles still felt the previous night's laughter. (Last viewed: August 2010)

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Bill Bailey: Part Troll posterBill Bailey: Part Troll
      2004 | U.K. | Laughs: 9.1 (Laugh Out Loud) | imdb: 8.4
      

After discovering Bill in Cosmic Jam, we braced ourselves for disappointment when, the following afternoon, we started watching this show, produced seventeen years after the first. Indeed, few are the comedians who keep producing fresh material, and fewer still those who improve as the decades go by. You try it sometime. It must be a really hard job. But to our surprise and delight, this show was even better than the first. Perhaps not on all counts, as it was different, and thankfully so; for instance, there were fewer of these wild surreal drifts. But the show made us laugh harder, and on this site that's all that matters.

Part Troll confirms that Bill is the best thing to come out of the UK since Dark Side of the Moon. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Eddie Izzard: Definite Article DVDEddie Izzard: Definite Article
      1996 | U.K. | Laughs: 9.0 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia

Is this five stars, or four and a half? Izzard sets the bar so high that this would be a five if his other shows didn't exist, but four and a half next to Glorious. Bottom line, it's brilliant and it made me laugh. Highlight: the segment about fruits. Might the segment about French and German language tapes be a bit long for someone who never learned a foreign language? Eddie seems really at ease in this show. Your eyes feast on his smile, his purple-champagne hair, his bright red jacket and his shiny black pants. (Last viewed: September 2010)

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Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill DVDEddie Izzard: Dress to Kill
      1999 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.9 | imdb: 8.7
      wikipedia

This show is often ranked as Izzard's best. I would rate it slightly below Glorious for laughter but on a par overall for different reasons. Eddie's outfit is the most beautiful I have seen on tape: with his planetarium shirt and black shiny vinyl pants, he could be David Bowie's Starman. The show is a bit slow to start, with a slightly boring intro of Eddie doing a goofy voice-over on footage of a San Francisco cable car. But relax, there are nearly two hours on the tape. The show builds up slowly, but you're not going anywhere—you're hooked in, entranced. The second hour is by far my favorite. Right when you think it's all over, after handling applause in a masterful way, Eddie comes back and revs it up for another round. Topics covered include mass murderers, a history of religion, snowboarding, cinema and languages. There's also an amazing segment where Eddie lets you hover between believing that a story he just told is true or untrue, true, untrue, true, untrue… I lived in San Francisco at the time… Why didn't I know enough to go watch Eddie then? (Last viewed: September 2010)

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Dara O'Briain: Live at the Theatre Royal posterDara O'Briain: Live at the Theatre Royal
      2006 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.6 | imdb: 8.0
      

This show was my introduction to Dara O'Briain. He made us laugh harder than we had in a while, so he entered this list with a bang. Dara has a beautiful Irish accent that is not too hard to understand. Unlike comedians who try to make you think at the same time they make you laugh, he uses everyday material, but it's very effective, probably because of the amount of audience interaction. Indeed, the back-and-forth with a handful of spectators is very much part of the show, and it is very funny. It also gives the show a very pleasant improvised feel. What with his fast delivery, his capacity to improvise and his ability to remember details about the spectators he picks on during the show, it's obvious that Dara is extremely bright—in the first place, to be a great stand-up you have to be at least very bright. When I read that he has a university degree in math and physics, I thought "Ah, that fits". I'm excited to see more of Dara's shows. (Last viewed: October 2013)

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Bill Bailey: Live Cosmic JamBill Bailey: Cosmic Jam (a.k.a Live)
      1997 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.3 | imdb: 7.8
      

I first encountered Bill as the character Manny in the (very funny) TV series Black Books, but it was only when I discovered him in stand-up (sixteen years after this set was recorded) that I realized what a genius this man is. With his easy relaxed style (the product not of sloppiness but of virtuosity), he had me laughing right away. It was only ten minutes into the show that I noticed striking parallels with the style of Eddie Izzard—in gesture, yes, but more importantly in the surreal, perhaps sometimes ad-libbed nature of his stories. About halfway into the set, Bill started using his guitar and piano for backup. I am normally not a fan of the musical comedy genre, but Bill carried it to perfection, and the laughter continued. On a cleverness rating the show would rank higher, but some shows that are not as clever do pull more laughs overall.

After this, I am hooked. I'll be looking for more of Bill's shows. (Last viewed: September 2013)

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Eddie Izzard: Circle DVDEddie Izzard: Circle
      2002 | U.K. | Laughs: 8.0 | imdb: 7.9
      wikipedia

Great show. Eddie wears a shiny black outfit. More chuckles than laughs, but I particularly enjoyed the bits about monkeys interacting with humans, about Jesus amidst dinosaurs, and about Darth Vader in the Death Star's canteen. (Last viewed: August 2010)

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Ricky Gervais: Politics DVDRicky Gervais: Politics
      2004 | U.K. | Laughs: 7.8 | imdb: 7.9
      wikipedia

Gervais is so politically incorrect that he can make you ashamed of laughing at his jokes! I enjoyed this show's dark and naughty sense of humor, though at times I almost wanted to make sure no one saw me watching. I couldn't help laughing, but even as I laughed I had to feel sorry for Ricky' victims. One is left wondering if the man on stage is truly mean, or if his meanness is only his act.

I found the pacing excellent, full of pauses in the right places, except for a crude segment purporting to describe a funny pamphlet. It went on forever: Ricky certainly knows how to stretch a bad joke. (Last viewed: April 2011)

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Ricky Gervais: Out of England DVDRicky Gervais: Out of England
      2010 | U.K. | Laughs: 7.6 | imdb: 8.0
      

Taken independently, this show rates four stars on my scale. But if you've seen Politics, you may be disappointed—it seemed to me that three quarters of this show's material was identical to the earlier show's. Yet the stage was magnificent, with massive lit letters spelling the name "Ricky", a clear effort to go "over the top", perhaps because the show was recorded in the United States. (Last viewed: April 2011)

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Jimmy Carr Comedian posterJimmy Carr: Comedian
      2007 | U.K. | Laughs: 7.2 (Watch Once) | imdb: 8.1
      

Three years after I'd watched the Jimmy Carr: Live set, a friend convinced me to give Jimmy another go. Since I laughed, I wasn't disappointed, although I was left a little dissatisfied. As with the other show, this is not the kind of comedy that feeds your brain, as do those by (say) Bill Bailey or Doug Stanhope.

My review is essentially the same as that for Jimmy Carr: Live. Rapid-fire jokes, good laughs, but, oddly, not a set I'll want to watch again as it fails to challenge and nourish, leaving me a bit dissatisfied. (Last viewed: April 2017)

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Dara O'Briain Talks Funny: Live in London posterDara O'Briain Talks Funny: Live in London
      2008 | U.K. | Laughs: 7.1 (Laugh and Smile) | imdb: 7.9
      

This show is not in the same league as the hilarious Live at the Theatre Royal from two years earlier, but it is still funny. At the beginning, Dara takes some time to explain the format of what's about to follow—a bit like presenting a user's manual to the show. When presenting complex data, the famous three-step formula is "tell them what you're about to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you just told them". In comedy, there's no need for this, and it makes for a weak opening. In this recording, the way in which Dara weaves audience interaction with rehearsed material also feels less fluid than in Theatre Royal. But Dara set high standards in that earlier show, and Dara Talks Funny is still well worth a watch, as it easily outshines the gutter comedy that seems to dominate the field these days. Our favorite part was Dara's repeated friendly jabs at a teen who aspires to become an electrician but hasn't yet learned the basics of the trade. (Last viewed: October 2013)

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Bill Bailey: Tinselworm posterBill Bailey: Tinselworm
      2008 | U.K. | Laughs: 7.0 | imdb: 7.3
      

This is my least favorite Bill Bailey show so far, though Bill's standards are so high that the set is still very good in the context of contemporary stand-up comedy. In the first place, doing a good stand-up show at Wembley must be a challenge. The venue is so large and impersonal that comedians must find it hard to "feel" the audience. I've seen a few stand-up shows shot there: none were excellent.

If you haven't seen much of Bill Bailey yet, I suggest you start with one of his earlier shows, which were filmed in more intimate settings.

A good portion of the material in Tinselworm was recycled; another portion was new but not quite as crisp as usual. Yet there were some very funny bits, and bits of Bill's trademark dazzling brilliance that I just love regardless of whether I find them comical.

I was impressed by a segment where Bill tackles the idea that our beings are all made of different fragments—perhaps a psychologist would call that some kind of Gestalt line of thinking. What impressed me was that I'd never seen that idea pursued so aggressively or successfully in popular culture. That alone earns a "hats off" for Bill: he doesn't treat his audience as a pack of morons.

Despite the show's real shortcomings, there is a lot to like, and true fans won't want to miss out on the good bits. (Last viewed: December 2013)

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Eddie Izzard: Stripped DVDEddie Izzard: Stripped
      2009 | U.K. | Laughs: 7.0 (Watch Once) | imdb: 7.8
      wikipedia

Belongs in the "watch once" section. Izzard at the top of his mental powers, but not of his comical powers. Stripped of his former dazzling costumes, bare of make-up, less animated, Izzard puts his brilliant mind on display. You laugh less, but you admire him more. How can the man carry on for a hundred minutes? Well, the reliance on stream-of-consciousness to move the show along is too heavy, and the segment on the Greeks far too long. Perhaps this is a good show for the English: it's a bit on the brainy, sophisticated side, which makes me wonder if Eddie is trying to get on track for a knighthood. His unsparing caricature of the queen (one of the show's choiciest bits) could improve his chances with a fair-dealing monarch. Among the other bits that made me laugh, I remember those about computers, religion, the stone age and the sect of the Hashishins. (Last viewed: September 2010)

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Jimmy Carr Live posterJimmy Carr Live
      2004 | U.K. | Laughs: 6.9 (Watch Once) | imdb: 8.0
      

Jimmy Carr seems to belong to the tradition of stand-up comedians who deliver unrelated jokes in rapid-fire, rather than the tradition of those who take the audience through an exploration of loosely connected themes. I find this style harder to follow, and it may well be harder to perform as well. Jimmy also interacts with the audience. His use of written material, his businesslike presentation and the desk on the stage reminded me of Bob Newhart's Button Down Concert. But where Newhart is likeable, Carr is (by choice) unlikeable, less because of his foul mouth than because he picks on easy targets, as Ricky Gervais often does. It's hit-or-miss, but when it hits, it really works. I laughed and smiled, I was entertained and I'm glad I watched this set—but I probably won't run out to look for more of Jimmy's material. (Last viewed: December 2013)

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Michael McIntyre: Live & Laughing DVDMichael McIntyre: Live & Laughing
      2008 | U.K. | Laughs: 6.6 | imdb: 7.6
      

One thing must be said in favor of Michael McIntyre: he gets A+ for effort. For the duration of this 85-minute set, he never seems to take a breath from walking around the stage, gesticulating and delivering material at a fast pace. Inevitably (or perhaps fortunately), some of it works, although at first I found the hit ratio quite low—somewhere between a quarter and a third. For most of the show, I enjoyed the chuckles and the rare laugh but found the rest of the time a bit long. Michael ended stronger though, redeeming the show overall. For my taste, Michael's humor is a bit simple, in the sense that it's something my grandparents might have liked, except for the saucy bits. You know how humor evolves over time as life becomes more and more complex? As the packed theater shows, Michael is hugely popular, so this set might just be your thing. (Last viewed: January 2013)

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