Comedy

Alan Simpson (1929-2017)

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Alan Simpson (left) with co-writer Ray Galton (right) and Tony Hancock (centre)

Alan Simpson, who has died aged 87, was half of one of the most talented and socially-perceptive comedy-writing partnerships of post-war Britain. He and Ray Galton created two of Britain’s best-loved comedy series, Hancock’s Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.

Alan Simpson was born in Brixton to a working class family, the son of a window-cleaner. He attended Mitcham grammar school but left early to work as a shipping clerk.

The Liar's Quartet

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Sitting in the shadows of the fairly new Trinity Shopping Centre near the now closed Conservative Club, there is a Red Shed, also known as Wakefield Labour Club.

Having miraculously survived various redevelopments in the city centre the Red Shed celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The Red Shed is the political origin of comedian Mark Thomas’s activism, so to celebrate its birthday he put on a show and took The Red Shed on tour.

The Liars Quartet collects the scripts of The Red Shed and his previous shows, Cuckooed and Bravo Figaro!

A revolutionary Brand

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The call for revolution by the comedian and actor Russell Brand in his interview with Jeremy Paxman has had a wide reasonance. Amy Leather looks at what this tells us about the radical mood in society today.

Most readers have probably seen the Youtube clip of Russell Brand taking on Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. With over 10 million hits it has both resonated with the feelings of many people and sparked further debate.

It was refreshing to see someone not only challenging the mainstream consensus that there is "no alternative" to cuts and austerity but actually talking about the need for revolution on mainstream TV.

Don't make me laugh

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What's going on? It seems like every time I switch on my TV, so-called comedians and panel show celebrities are telling racist and other offensive jokes.

Only the other day, Jimmy Carr was on a quiz panel spouting a tirade of racist jokes about Travellers and their protest at Dale Farm. Two days later Jeremy Clarkson was on the BBC's One Show saying that strikers should be shot in front of their families.

His excuse? It was only a joke. I don't recall the same leniency being applied to the two young men who jokingly called on people to riot on facebook over the summer.

Comedy: Behind Byron's Bear

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Pat Stack asks socialist comedian Mark Steel about his new TV series The Mark Steel Lectures

Pat Stack (PS): Where did the idea come from for the series?

Mark Steel (MS): I had a radio series in the mid-1990s with the same format. I thought, ’There is a way of doing these talks that has jokes in but doesn‘t deviate from the subject.‘ It doesn‘t necessarily send up the subject. These sort of historical events are funny to anyone who‘s not an academic.

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