BREVIEW: Andy Zaltzman @ The Glee Club (B’ham) 19.01.17

Andy Zaltzman @ The Glee Club (B’ham) 19.01.17

Words by Helen Knott

Andy Zaltzman is perhaps best known for his political podcast The Bugle, which he originally presented with Brummie comedian John Oliver, before Oliver (as Zaltzman jokes, “the notorious Birmingham traitor”) moved to America to present the satirical talkshow Last Week Tonight on HBO.

Indeed tonight’s show, Satirist for Hire, has the air of an off-the-cuff, topical podcast. There’s no co-presenter, so instead Zaltzman bounces off the audience with the show based on our suggestions of topics that we would like to be satirised. It’s a clever way of creating a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, with the crowd in the packed and stuffy Glee Club studio space – comfortable enough to join Zaltzman in the spotlight, as they make suggestions and talk about their interests.

This does mean that Zaltzman isn’t always the one with the funniest lines, however. The biggest laugh of the night comes when Zaltzman, tongue in cheek of course, asks the audience if there is any way at all that America is better than Britain. Someone shouts out, “America has John Oliver”. Ouch. But Zaltzman is a humble and generous enough performer to not let this faze him – hecklers are gently chided, rather than brutally put down.

It’s also almost inevitable that, when the premise is that the jokes are based on issues suggested by the audience, the resulting show is going to be patchy and disjointed. No matter how good a comedian is, there are always going to be some subjects that they just don’t know enough about. Tonight is a real mixed bag, with suggestions including Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, “standards of driving in Birmingham”, The Ashes, “graduation and despair” (Zaltzman quips, “my favourite Mike Leigh film”) and “the oeuvre of 80s hair metal band Kiss”.

Some of these subjects work better than others. Zaltzman‘s section on Brexit, where he examines some of the reasons people voted the way that they did (“let’s not forget that there were fuckwits on both sides of this”) is really funny. Less successful are attempts to tell jokes about Kiss and Star Wars – two things Zaltzman admits to having little interest in. Jokes about sport, including cricket, football and even snooker, are strong, though sometimes a little niche. After a gag about French nuclear testing gets a lukewarm response, Zaltzman jokes, “this gig’s got everything”.

Zaltzman himself admits that the show is “a bit up and down, not sure I’ve been on the top of my game”. If a comedian is delivering basically the same scripted set for every show, having an off-night isn’t going to have such a big impact as it does in a freer format, like this one. Having said that, not even the pre-prepared sections of the evening completely hit home. Zaltzman ends the set with a twenty-minute section about Trump; the idea is that if he can turn Trump into a cricket fan he will naturally become a better person, as all cricket fans are good people. It’s certainly a novel way of addressing Trump comedically, but it’s much too long and the final punchline just isn’t funny enough.

In essence, this sketch sums up the whole gig. It’s a fun evening, but the show would have benefit from a tighter structure and some sharper gags. Zaltzman’s likeable comedy persona isn’t quite enough to hold things together, resulting in a gig that has its moments, but never reaches the heights of the very best satirical comedy.

Andy Zaltzman – Satirist for Hire

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BPREVIEW: Andy Zaltzman @ The Glee Club (B’ham) 19.01.17

Andy Zaltzman @ The Glee Club (B’ham) 19.01.17

Words by Helen Knott

Andy Zaltzman brings his 2018 tour of Satirist for Hire to The Glee Club (B’ham) on Friday 19th January. Tickets are £12 (adv) and doors open at 8pm, for a 8.30pm start. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

Stand-up comedian, broadcaster, author and cricket fanatic, Andy Zaltzman has been lauded as ‘Probably one of the finest satirical comedians this country’s ever produced’ (Time Out).

Zaltzman is perhaps best known as the writer and presenter of satirical podcast The Bugle, one of the most popular comedy podcasts on iTunes, attracting over one million downloads a month. Zaltzman originally presented The Bugle with Brummie comedian John Oliver, who has since made quite a name for himself stateside, antagonising politicians and world leaders as host of HBO’s excellent Last Week Tonight.

Zaltzman and Oliver originally started The Bugle back in 2007, as an audio newspaper for The Times newspaper. When the phone-hacking scandal broke (incriminating staff at Rupert Murdoch’s other papers The Sun and News of the World) the duo were scathing on the subject, which led to them getting fired. Which goes to show nothing should get in the way of an important satirical joke – even if your job depends on it.

As well as regular appearances on the now independently run Bugle, Zaltzman pops up on panel shows on TV and radio and is particularly known for his love of sport. He has previously hosted an Ashes show for BBC 5Live called Yes! It’s the Ashes! and over the past few months has presented an Ashes podcast with Felicity Ward for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. If you’re a cricket fan I very much recommend following him on Twitter.

Satirist for Hire debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival back in 2013, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it will be a stale repetition of an almost five-year-old set. Zaltzman has asked the audience to email in topics that we would like to be satirised beforehand (you can do so right now, on his website). Topics can be any issue/person/concept or thing that you would like Zaltzman to discuss – ‘All issues considered (within reason)’.

This format is a clever way of keeping a topical show fresh and relevant, which is difficult if you’re touring the same material for 18 months, especially considering the speed at which the news moves. It should make things fun and current, with Zaltzman utlising his unparalleled verbal dexterity to explore the news of the day.

Let’s just hope that he puts in a better performance than England’s cricketers managed Down Under.

Andy Zaltzman – Satirist for Hire

Andy Zaltzman brings his Satrist for Hire tour to The Glee Club (B’ham) on Friday 19th January. For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit

For more on Andy Zaltzman, visit

For more from The Glee Club venues, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit

ED’S PICK: January 2018

Words by Ed King

January 1st… no finer day to cross off the calendar. But as the world crawls out of bed with hangovers and resolutions, Birmingham’s events diary looks forward to a pretty vibrant January. It seems the ‘quiet month’ is not so dormant this year. Which is a good thing, right? I mean, who needs to stay in and save money? Food and heating are for quitters.

Some pretty big gigs happening this month, with the rock powerhouse that is Paramore (ain’t alliteration ace) coming to the Genting Arena on Jan 14th. Tickets may be sold out by the time I finish this sentence, so you’d better act rápido por favor (just finished watching Narcos) if you want to catch them tour their fifth album, After Laughter, through the second city. On the Lord’s Day as well… dios nos perdone.

On the smaller stages in Birmingham, Surprise You’re Dead are tearing the city in two on 24th Jan – as Ohio’s metalcore Miss May I come to Mamma Roux’s, whilst London’s pop punksters The Bottom Line are joined by Nottingham’s Lacey at The Asylum. In fact, overall it’s quite a strong start to 2018 from SYD as the Birmingham’s stalwart rock/punk promoters are also bringing Dead! to The Flapper on 31st Jan and The Bronx to Mama Roux’s on 17th Jan – although The Bronx gig has already sold out so check the relevant corners of t’interweb for returns.

Elsewhere in the land of live gigs, we have the rising stars Riscas headlining an uber line up at The Sunflower Lounge on 19th Jan – with Spilt Milk Society, Candid and The Real Cool all in support. If this gig doesn’t sell out then I will 1) buy a hat, 2) eat my hat, 3) buy another hat. 2018 is set to be a big year for Riscas, we reckon, so catch them when and where you can. Then The Hunna return to the O2 Academy on 11th Jan, whilst Setting Son Records present Average Sex and Semantics (one of our faves) at the Hare & Hounds on 24th Jan.

Hot on the heels of their recent triumphant homecoming, KIOKO headline a stellar line up of local acts at The Crossing on 26th Jan – with Namiwa Jazz, Zara Sykes, VITAL, Elektric, and revered local poet Kurly all performing as part of the Love Music Hate Racism event at the Milk Street venue. Trish Clowes presents her latest album, My Iris, with a new ensemble of the same name at Eastside Jazz Club on 25th Jan. Whilst those somewhat silent psychedelics, Moon Duo, come back to the Hare & Hounds on 30th Jan courtesy of This Is Tmrw. Then there’s the gig I’m throwing my metaphor in the ring for – This is the Kit showcase their new album, Moonshine Freeze, at The Glee Club on 24th Jan.

January also sees a strong line up of comedy in the city, kicking off with Tina T’urner Tea Lady Steamy Bingo at The Old Joint Stock on 5th Jan. Tracey Collins will be bringing her ‘camp alter ego’ back to The Old Joint Stock in March, so if you miss your numbers this time around you can always try again in spring.

Stand up also starts strong at The Glee Club, with Andy Zaltzman bringing his Satirist for Hire tour to The Arcadian Centre venue on 19th Jan – a week before Fern Brady’s debut Suffer Fools tour lands there on 26th Jan. Quick tip, if either of these stand ups ask you to email in suggestions or comments… don’t. Or at least don’t sign your name. Or sit in the front row. You have been warned. Whilst over at the Town Hall, Ed Byrne brings his Spoiler Alert tour to Birmingham on 27th Jan – a room big enough for some safe anonymity, for the audience at least.

Theatre stamps a reassuringly eclectic foot down on the first month of 2018, with Outer Circle Arts presenting The Death Show at The Rep Door on 26th and 27th Jan. Whilst a stone’s throw behind them in Hockley, Blue Orange Theatre present The Late Marilyn Monroe – running from 30th Jan to 3rd Feb. Then over at The Patrick Centre is the somewhat less self-explanatory Translunar Paradise  – Ad Infinitum’s unspoken story ‘of life, death and enduring love’, presented at the Hurst Street venue for one night only on 31st Jan.

Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet present Swan Lake, also for one night only, at the Symphony Hall on 7th Jan. Whilst The Mockingbird continues to its mission to save The Custard Factory from the cultural abyss with a double screening of Clerks and the documentary behind Silent Bob’s directorial debut, Shooting Clerks, on 19th Jan. There will also be a Q&Q with the latter’s director, Christopher Downie, and some cast members at 9pm.

For more film, mac hosts Playback from 7th to 24th Jan – a touring and ‘interactive exhibition’ of over 200 short films from ‘krumping and parkour dance shorts, to an animated tale of teenage love that unearths our desire to be as cool as the zines we read’. Held in the arts centre’s First Floor Gallery, with free admission, Playback carries a Tubbs and Edward local angle too, as ‘some of the films were originally made in and around Birmingham, where young people based in the Midlands were given the support and funding to create a short film.’

Then rounding off Birmingham’s cultural cache for the New Year, The Chefs’ Forum present their ‘Pay What You Can’ lunch at University College Birmingham on 15th Jan – a networking, trade and showcase event with four courses from some of the city’s top restaurants. Having launched its Midlands’ agenda at UCB back in February this… sorry, last year, The Chefs’ Forum is hosting their Jan ‘18 lunch to raise funds and awareness for its Educational Foundation which supports young chefs across the UK.

And with Louisa Ellis (The Wilderness), Mark Walsh (Opus Restaurant), Luke Tipping and Leo Kattou (Simpsons) and Olivier Briault (The Edgbaston Boutique Hotel) all chipping in a course, it should do just that. Although, the non-fixed donation approach is gratefully received in mid January.

Now if I can just find an energy provider with the same approach…

**Also straddling this month and the next are the two rescheduled Lady Gaga concerts, as the uber-star kicks off the UK leg of her Joanna World Tour at Arena Birmingham on 31st January before returning to play the Genting Arena on 1st February. Tickets to both arena shows are priced at £48.50 (+ fees), as presented by Live Nation UK.

In memoriam of her paternal auntie and namesake, Lady Gaga’s latest song, album and tour appear as personal an affair as you can offer when delivering it to millions of strangers. A curious dichotomy, but one Birmingham will get to see on stage first as the Live Nation machine sets down in our city before anywhere else in the UK. Kudos.

And with tickets being transferred from the previous dates in October 2017, it’s fair to say there may be a bit of a bun fight to get in to these gigs. No doubt it’ll be worth a few scuffed elbows though, but even if ‘I’m never going to know you now, I’m gonna love you any how’. OX Joanne.

For direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, for Lady Gaga at Arena Birmingham on 31st January, click here. For Lady Gaga at the Genting Arena on 1st February, click here.’

Tickets for the originally scheduled Lada Gaga shows at the Genting Arena (12th Oct ’17) at Arena Birmingham (15th Oct ’17) can be transferred to the new dates. According to the venues’ websites, ‘if you cannot make the new date, refunds can be obtained at your point of purchase for a limited period’.**

Playback @ mac 7th to 24th Jan

For more on any of the events listed here, click on the highlighted hyperlink. 

Ed King is Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing, which issues both the Birmingham Review and Birmingham Preview titles.