YER generic Friday night upstairs at the Goat & Gangrene in Crapton-on-Brine might still be booking eight white blokes complaining about their divorces, but in the urban centres the alternative scene is as exciting, experimental and inclusive as it’s ever been.
Special mention to brilliant nights LolWord, Weapons of Mass Hilarity, and Brown Sauce for bringing alternative comedy to new audiences, and to the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society for continuing to confuse all the right people.
Rosie Jones has had another brilliant year — the foul-mouthed, queer, disabled comedian, who brings an anarchic sense of joy and no-fucks-given attitude to every stage, podcast or TV show she graces. Special word for her particularly brilliant turns on Channel 4’s Last Leg as part of their exemplary Paralympics coverage.
Nish Kumar’s anti-Tory jokes at a posh charity gig in 2019 irked the racist right-wing establishment. What followed was tabloid 101: manufactured outrage, death threats, and an understandable mental health crisis for the extremely likeable Londoner.
He reflects on all these things in his show Your Power, Your Control, more personal than we’re used to but no less funny for it.
Less profound but still very much worth seeking out is his reaction at being read excerpts from politicians’ terrible novels on the Trashfuture podcast.
Sexy calendar star, Y-fronts enthusiast and one of the nicest men in comedy Joz Norris hit new heights this year with Edinburgh Fringe show Blink, performed in the guise of a shit mesmerist. Norris allowed us a glimpse behind the curtain, as we learned that performance is one big confidence trick, and that life is a Greggs sausage baguette with a disconcerting lack of sausage.
One of the strangest and most memorable acts of the year, Frankie Thompson’s Catts was a lip-syncing, multimedia, clowning/dance experience built around some excellent archive video. As profound as Adam Curtis, and twice as silly.
In an alternative universe where talent equals fame (Nigel Blackwell is poet laureate and Coldplay work for KPMG), Mark Silcox is the national treasure his website describes him as.
Perhaps best known for playing Uncle Shady in Man Like Mobeen, Silcox’s stand-up patter is relentless, obsessed with arcane detail, and very, very funny.
Julia Masli, the Estonian-born, London-based clown, found regular hilarity as one-third of buffoonish nonsense purveyors Legs; her solo show, Choosh, adds moving material about migration and belonging amid the laser-targeted tomfoolery.
Whether performing to a packed room or to two confused teenagers from the Faroe Islands, BBC (Bangladeshi British Canadian) comic Sharlin Jahan is the same, a curious, open idiot savant trying to navigate our stupid modern world.
Tackling topics as varied as body fascism, being listed as marriageable in a Bangladeshi newspaper and her own fanatical need to be loved, Jahan never misses, and you shouldn’t miss her either.
Luke Rollason’s Fringe show, Bowerbird, was a bizarre domestic breakdown made flesh, an hour-long masterclass in physical comedy and relentless stupidity. The streaming services have come a knocking — he’s in a big Disney+ series next year — but I really hope he keeps touring, for our own [in]sanity’s sake.
After skipping Edinburgh for financial and sanity reasons, Charlie Vero-Martin ended the year funnier than ever — sometimes accompanied by her good friend Mr Basketcase, sometimes impersonating historical characters, always playful and silly to the extreme.
Simon Munnery, the godfather of alternative comedy is still performing like there’s no tomorrow, which there probably isn’t.
A master craftsman who polishes jokes to their absolute shining limit, Munnery should be watched everywhere, all the time, to see what on earth he will come up with next.