Norwich laughs to banish those January blues

January 23 is the most depressing day of the year — and that's a fact! Statisticians, scientists and a whole host of other clever people have declared January 23 the most depressing day of the year. Fear not though, SIMON PARKIN previews five comedians that'll cheer you up.


Comedian Mark Watson returns to Norwich Playhouse for a three night run after fans asked him to head back up the A11 to Norwich.

Every time he announces a set of tour dates, there are disappointed tweets from all corners of the UK not covered by his travels. His Request Stops tour aims to solve that by encouraging fans to vote where they want him to visit, dictating his entire schedule.

Last year, via his daily blog, Mark invited fans to suggest destinations for his 2011 shows. Over the past few months he's been sifting through these suggestions and calculating the most popular choices from what remained.

He'll be doing out a mixture of old favourites and new material, experimental stuff and greatest hits to those who have previously been deprived of his trademark frantic wit.

'Mostly it will be new material at the gigs. A few old things but three-quarters new stuff and even more in Lincoln as I haven't been for a few years and the show has changed a lot since then.

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'I am probably a bit braver than I used to be about new material. I am a bit more experienced now with a wider range of subjects.'

n Mark Watson, Norwich Playhouse, January 26-29, �18.50, 01603 598598,


Those nice folk at Red Card return with their first Carrow Road show of 2012 and can always be relied upon to provide a top notch bill of some of the best stand-up talent on the circuit.

This month they welcome back a firm favourite with Norwich audiences in comedian, actor and writer Barry Castagnola. His easy-going, yet very physical, style, mixes personal anecdotes and observations with some sharp topical and political comment.

Also returning is former Time Out Comedian Of The Year Sean Meo — yes, he is the former professional snooker player — has become one of the most reliable performers on the circuit since swapping the green baize for comedy.

Definitely needing no introduction to Norwich audiences will be Andre Vincent. A firm favourite with Comedy Store crowds, he has appeared on Harry Hill's Fruit Fancies and Lee Evans Christmas Special, but will perhaps be best known to Norwich audiences after appearing in the last two Theatre Royal pantos.

Also on the bill is Danny Ward, whose lively, animated style and impeccable timing have marked him out as a to watch.

n Red Card Comedy Club, Carrow Road, Norwich, January 26, �12, 0844 8261902,


A vegan, anarchist, occultist, transvestite dressed like a heavy-metal rocker may not sound like everybody's cup of tea — particularly not in genteel North Norfolk. However, this cross-dressing comedian has won a steady army of admirers and is definitely one to watch.

He may appear a controversial figure — and some of his anarchistic, left-wing political views suggest that he is — but there were plenty of traditional tales to keep mainstream stand-up fans happy.

Since his Edinburgh Fringe run in 2009 with the critically acclaimed 'Occult Comedian', he has performed stand-up on the televised Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala and Good News Week, appeared as a guest on Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle.

O'Neill likes to hitch-hike and has picked up many stories on his travels in the passenger seats of strangers' cars all over the country. These form some of his material together with his unusual quirks and funny takes on popular culture and rants on what has annoyed him.

n Andrew O'Neill, Granary Theatre, Wells-on-Sea, January 28, �8, 01328 710193,


Glenn Wool is one of the pioneers of what is now known as the world circuit. Over the past three years he's been circling the globe with no need for a permanent address.

His comedy travels have taken him to India, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Holland, Japan, Dubai, Bahrain, Abu Dabi, America, Canada, Indonesia, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Malaysia to name just a few.

Now he's heading to the equally exotic Norwich.

He's distilled all the experiences of those travels and poured them into a laughter packed hour of straight on honest stand-up comedy for his latest show No Man's Land.

Wool's travels began after being nominated for the Chortle 'Best Headliner' award along with Jim Jefferies, Michael McIntyre and Rhod Gilbert. He lost out to McIntyre and decided he'd had enough. Literally and spiritually he went home, back to America. Who knows where he would be if he'd stayed in the UK — headlining arenas maybe. Still he's taken a far more interesting path.

n Glenn Wool, Norwich Playhouse, January 30, �12, 01603 598598,


From a bit-part extra in The Mummy to having his own show on BBC1, Omid Djalili has become a household name in just a few short years.

Now one of Britain's most recognised faces, British Iranian Djalili has take time out of his busy schedule to return top what he loves most — stand-up comedy.

Tour Of Duty is his first for almost four years, but that is not surprising considering he has bagged two series of his own sketch-show on the BBC as well as cropping up in films like Gladiator and Pirates Of The Caribbean.

Anyone who has already seen him live knows Djalili is proud of his heritage but happy to poke fun at both himself and a number of politically-sensitive topics.

With all the mainstream success it is easy to overlook what made his comedy name in the first place. He has won Time Out, South Bank Show and Emma Awards for his comedy and has been a Perrier Nominee, so why has he come back to stand-up only now? 'I did a corporate gig, which can be notoriously difficult, and I was so nervous I couldn't go on. Then the opening joke got more laughs than I'd expected. It was at that moment I thought 'I'm going on tour'.'

n Omid Djalili, Norwich Theatre Royal, February 8, �20-�5.50, 01603 630000,