Rosie Jones, Laura Ramoso, Paul Foot, Helen Bauer, Ben Target - Mark Muldoon's Comedy Diary

Rosie Jones. Credit: Andy Hollingworth

Is Rosie Jones on her way to becoming a national treasure? Not many comedians would choose to ponder this in their stand-up, but the pleasures of Jones's comedy come from both her extreme confidence and the minx-ish sense of humour this self-proclaimed "prick" brings to proceedings. The section of her show where she discusses unattractive vulvas is another example of material a lot of comedians wouldn't be able to get away with. Jones cleverly takes advantage of the fact she can.

Many other jokes shine: her Holly Willoughby line is cracking; the Monopoly running joke is good silly fun; live-captioning at this particular performance provides another avenue for high quality self-deprecating humour. The central routine, meanwhile - involving how a recent relationship ended - is a future classic: somebody needs to get it on TV the minute this tour ends. National treasure status must surely be on its way. This hour is a joy and easily her best show yet.

Paul Foot

If you watch a few of these 60ish minute comedy shows, there's a decent chance you'll have seen someone reveal onstage a trauma they've experienced. Hannah Gadsby's wildly successful Netflix special still represents the best known example. Some comedians mine these grim experiences for richer, more complex jokes, whereas some - like Gadsby - blur the line between comedy and theatre, deliberately building tension via the sudden removal of the humour element. A long-term darling of the alternative comedy scene, it represents something of a surprise to see Paul Foot include any personal material whatsoever in one of his shows, let alone reveal a major trauma he's experienced.

The show charts the surprising manner in which he managed to break free from decades of severe depression and anxiety (a challenge that was "easier said than done", until suddenly, he states, it wasn't). This too, though, is mined for humour, as Foot - resplendent in a green jumpsuit - suggests that "not enough people talk about the upsides" of having mental health issues.

Before the interval, and before his show properly starts, Foot opts to be his own warm-up guy, delivering a shorter greatest hits set, or "a bit of a mess around", as he calls it. It's an extremely logical approach to touring that more comedians might want to consider. Then the show - Dissolve - starts properly. When it does arrive, that trauma reveal succeeds in being the funniest one I've ever seen (no mean feat). That alone would be enough to recommend this show, but Foot successfully takes in a surprisingly wide variety of comedy styles here, whilst keeping the show anchored in his usual surreal ways.

Body Show. Image shows left to right: Liv Ello, Frankie Thompson

If these 'trauma reveals' point towards an established trend for comedians incorporating theatrical elements in their shows, there's also been a smaller movement recently, of comedians outright classifying their shows as 'theatre' rather than 'comedy'.

In fairness, it's possible they take the decision purely to free themselves from the expectation of delivering a laugh every 20-or-so seconds. Body Show is one such example - a joint effort from Frankie Thompson and Liv Ello - who both had critically acclaimed shows at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe. Here they explore self-image, and their own relationships with their bodies: Thompson through eating disorders, Ello through gender dysphoria. Obviously the various ways in which one can feel ill-at-ease in your own body provides a lot of potential ground to explore theatrically, and Thompson & Ello explore it well. It's a clowning show, down the more artful end of the spectrum. A couple of comic set pieces, though, are great - look out for The Last Supper/Come Dine With Me mashup. Elsewhere, one particularly offensive 2004 X-Factor fat-shaming clip shows just how casually cruel popular culture was during that period.

The audience that will naturally gravitate towards Body Show probably don't stand to learn anything new from it, so it might not be the show to turn to if you're hoping for a fresh angle on the discourse. But when they're not focusing on making their points humorously, Thompson and Ello still make them persuasively, and beautifully.

Ben Target

Ben Target is also currently working in the 'comedian does theatre' space, and, accordingly, starts his show - Lorenzo - with the caveat to expect "performance art with the occasional punchline".

He's really underselling it. Lorenzo is based around largely spending his pandemic as a full-time carer for a family friend. The show manages to pull off a trick of often being joyful, but in quite a dark way. The writing is superb: frequently hilarious, whilst also highlighting the complex knot of emotions that underpin the show, Target is an animated and engaging storyteller. Gradually, meanwhile, other characters fade into the background - reflecting how they must have done in real life - as caring for Lorenzo becomes an all-encompassing role. The final line, it has to be said, is theatrical perfection. Despite being classified as the former, it excels as both a theatre show and a comedy show. Magnificent.

Helen Bauer. Credit: Raphaël Neal

If you saw Helen Bauer's 2021 Live At The Apollo debut, you may enjoy hearing the backstage tidbit she revealed to an interviewer last year - the fact that the BBC permitted her to use the word 'fuck' three times in her performance - one more than the guys she was appearing alongside, because apparently "they thought Helen needs another".

That makes sense if you're familiar with her live work, or perhaps her excellent podcast. Bauer is a phenomenal force-of-nature comedian, one of those fairly rare occasions when you find yourself thinking "oh wow, you really were born for this job". The new tour show, Grand Supreme Darling Princess, is just 60 minutes of great fun - with one particularly brilliant story, set in a hotel, making for a fantastic centrepiece. It's superb - a real step up.

Laura Ramoso

Finally, there's the promising new talent of TikTok star Laura Ramoso. Her show Frances doesn't have a perfect hit rate, but it does have an admirable one. Some of the sketches will be familiar to fans of her online work: 'Women who have just come back from holidaying in Europe' is a highlight, whilst an appearance from her Italian Dad character elicits a cheer from some corners of the room. A musical number about her being 6'1" is less essential, however. She does handle unpredictable incidents in the room well though - always an important part of the live comedy skillset. Alongside other 2023 newcomers Tom Lawrinson and Tatty Macleod, it suggests that Tiktok is a fertile breeding ground for new UK comic talent.


Read previous editions of this column (including James Acaster, Kate Berlant, Ed Byrne, Ahir Shah and Bridget Christie).

Mark Muldoon is also available on Instagram and Twitter, although he might need to spend the next few days just recovering from such a great fortnight of comedy tbh.

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