“Often more philosophical than scientific,” one critic wrote of Newman’s recent critique on brain science, Neuropolis – a book and a radio series, but initially a live standup show. Perhaps Newman’s taken the comment to heart: his new show Total Eclipse of Descartes, touring early this year, reprises the history of philosophy (“from Pythagoras to artificial intelligence by way of Pavlov’s dogs”) as it assembles a modus vivendi for our troubled present.
• 8-20 January, Soho theatre, London. Then touring.
Rock of Ageing, it’s been called: the first tour in nearly 10 years from one of the world’s biggest standups reportedly finds Chris Rock in rueful, reflective form. That’s not because his onstage comments on the post-Weinstein climate got him in hot water late in 2017. Instead – and alongside the expected material of Trump and Black Lives Matter – Total Blackout addresses his recent divorce, and his new life as a middle-aged bachelor.
• 11 January, Manchester Arena. Then touring.
Would it have made John Robins’ breakup from fellow comic Sara Pascoe any easier to bear if he’d known how much his career would benefit? You’d guess not from this remarkable standup show, which splays Robins’ heartache and self-loathing all across the stage to hilarious effect. It’s quite a feat, fashioning uproarious comedy from this much pain, so candidly expressed – and Robins was a deserved joint winner of the Edinburgh comedy award for pulling it off.
• 25 January, Pavilion Leamington Spa. Then touring.
Some acts just won’t be put in a box, and (except when he played Houdini) Nick Mohammed is one of them. A character comic, most notably as nerdy alter ego Mr Swallow, a purveyor of spoof musicals (in the guise of Dracula as well as Houdini), and an actor in, er, Ridley Scott’s The Martian: you’re never quite sure what Mohammed will turn up as next. Which makes this week-long London run one of the spring’s most intriguing comedy prospects.
• 5-10 February, Soho theatre, London.
Aussie act Hannah Gadsby had the most talked-about comedy show of 2017 and was joint winner of the Edinburgh comedy award. But was Nanette comedy at all? A coruscating takedown of the omissions and elisions that humour requires, this hour-long set about gender, homophobia and the stories we tell (of) ourselves stretched the art form to the limit – and beyond. It was meant to be Gadsby’s goodbye to comedy , but, by popular demand, it’s back in 2018 for another run.
• 5 February-3 March, Soho theatre, London.
Since his best newcomer nomination at Edinburgh in 2012, Joe Lycett has quietly been working his way to the top of the UK comedy tree. In 2018, and armed with another punning title (I’m About to Lose Control and I Think Joe Lycett), the Birmingham man embarks on his biggest tour yet. There’s no theme promised, just more of his trademark online pranks and (he promises) a rare foray into politics, too. But in the hands of this thoroughly endearing comic, it’s sure to be fun.
• 13-14 February, Bristol Old Vic. Then touring.
Her first show, Finally Dead, one of 2016’s most eye-catching debuts, took a lot of living up to. Its successor, Sassy Best Friend, was a delight: an hour of goofy, whip-smart and deceptively feminist standup about the personalities available to young women. It transfers to London in the New Year and will confirm the rocketing reputation of this 25-year-old New Zealander, a TV star back home now making an increasingly persuasive bid for stardom in the UK.
• 19-24 February, Soho theatre, London.
Flight of the Conchords
When Flight of the Conchords released tickets to this first UK tour in eight years, they sold out in minutes. It still seems incongruous, but this kooky New Zealand musical comedy double act really are in the Peter Kay/Michael McIntyre big league. Bret and Jemaine are also more than funny enough to make arenas their own. The thought of seeing hits like Business Time, The Humans Are Dead and Bowie’s in Space played live is sending fans giddy with delight; their UK return already looks like the show of the spring.
• 5-7 March, Portsmouth Guildhall. Then touring.
Her last show, the hastily assembled Brexit cri de coeur Because You Demanded It, was widely hailed – here and elsewhere – as 2016’s finest comedy show. But we’re still leaving the EU – so what does Christie do now? We’ll find out from March, when her new show What Next? takes to the road, on the back of a new Radio 4 series, Utopia. Judging by its publicity and recent previews (there are more early in 2018), it lays Christie’s marriage bare for comic effect, and asks how you lead a carefree life against a backdrop of Trump, Brexit and looming nuclear armageddon.
• 16-17 March, Citizens theatre, Glasgow. Then touring.
She is Stephen Colbert’s “favourite comedian on planet Earth” and recently starred in the Netflix sitcom Lady Dynamite (made with the creators of Arrested Development) . But Maria Bamford has never performed a standup gig in England – until now. For some of us, memories are fresh of her winning 2006 Edinburgh festival run, in which she rehearsed the family dysfunction that would later characterise the sitcom. Whatever she brings to London this spring, it’s likely to be memorable.
• 21-23 March, Leicester Square theatre, London..