Laughing gear: the best live comedy to start 2017

Hilarity to come this year includes Bridget Christie battering Brexit, Sue Perkins’ post-Bake Off trip to Leicester comedy festival and a breathtaking bout of escapology

Mr Swallow – Houdini

Lots of comedy is escapist, but only Nick Mohammed’s new show is escapologist. After 2014’s uproarious Dracula spoof, Houdini is the second comic musical that Mohammed has created for his camp chatterbox alter ego Mr Swallow. This one is every bit as daft and delightful, but comes with an added feast of breathtaking escapology. It’s multiple entertainments for the price of one and well worth seeing.
Soho theatre, London, 10 January-18 February (020-7478 0100).

Bridget Christie

Of the several comedy shows since June 2016 to broach Brexit, the first out of the blocks remains the funniest. To what extent was the success of Christie’s hastily assembled Edinburgh festival show – a clownish howl of impotent fury at the successful Leave campaign – down to its being so hot off the press? We’ll find out this spring, as Christie takes Because You Demanded It around her soon to be ex-European country.
Leicester Square theatre, London, 31 January-11 February. Then touring (020-7734 2222).

Kieran Hodgson

Kieran Hodgson’s autobiographical solo work about his teenage obsession with Lance Armstrong was the most accomplished comedy show of 2015. Its follow-up, Maestro, about his ambition to write a Mahler-inspired symphony, attains heights almost as dizzy. Like its two predecessors in Hodgson’s trilogy of coming-of-age narratives, it showcases considerable character-comedy flair, great joke-writing – and in this instance, a heartwarming love story.
Soho theatre, London, 6-11 February (020-7478 0100). Then touring

Leicester bound … Sue Perkins.
Leicester bound … Sue Perkins. Photograph: Steve Ullathorne

Leicester comedy festival

The UK’s second biggest comedy festival returns with a cool 770 events over 19 days. Everyone who’s anyone in comedy is there, including big-hitters like Sue Perkins (as part of a post-Bake Off solo tour) and up-and-comers Dane Baptiste, Ahir Shah, Fin Taylor and more. Festival favourites such as the UK pun championships and droll ghost tour Dead Leicester round off a programme that – according to its 2017 mission statement – promises to “get the UK laughing again”. Good luck with that!
Various venues, Leicester, 8-26 February (0116-456 6812).

Chris Gethard on stage at at the Edinburgh fringe.
Confessional … Chris Gethard on stage at at the Edinburgh fringe. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Chris Gethard

The tears of clowns never flowed more freely than at the 2016 Edinburgh fringe, which showcased a striking number of standup shows addressing trauma and mental illness, sickness and bereavement. One of the most distinguished – and funniest – was by New Jersey comic Chris Gethard. His depression confessional Career Suicide strikes an adroit balance between storytelling, candid intimacies and big laughs, often at the expense of his no-boundaries shrink Barb. It’s a gripping hour.
Soho theatre, London, 23 January-4 February (020-7478 0100).


Brian Logan

The GuardianTramp

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