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Stand-up History

Stand-up comedians and historians explain the past in funny ways.
The Jericho Tavern, 56 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AE, Fri 14 September 2018

For those who like to learn as they laugh, Stand-Up History is a real treat. Imagine a lesson with your favourite history teacher from school, only funnier (and probably ruder!), as a medley of professional comedians, historians and archaeologists bring the past to life with humour.

On the one hand, for those with a serious thirst for knowledge, the funniest trivia is often the most memorable (take it from someone who recently won a pub quiz thanks to the Horrible Histories monarchy song). On the other, explorations of outrageous ancient beliefs, unanswered mysteries or the bizarre quirks of infamous historical figures add fascinating depth to traditional observational comedy. The quirky combination of fun facts and belly laughs is one of the reasons why producers Jericho Comedy have grown a cult following among Oxford's academically-minded audiences.

Particular highlights for this edition include Iszi Lawrence, who has contributed to BBC Radio 4's Making History show and produces a number of history-related podcasts, and Paul Duncan-McGarrity, comedian and archaeologist whose Edinburgh show 'A Practical Guide to Attacking Castles' received critical acclaim.

The rich mine of material provided by the breadth of 'history' as a concept ensures that no two nights are the same, so returning audiences are bound to make new discoveries each time.

October 20, 2016
Stand-Up History is a nerdy, deeply charming adventure into the funnier bits of history.

In the upstairs room of the Jericho Tavern we were presented with six comics (including the compère). The whole place was packed with archaeologists having a wicked evening, which made for an extremely jolly atmosphere.

Among the comedy there were a variety of impressive facts and the night was genuinely interesting from a historical point of view. I was impressed by how easily the standard comedy fare (religion, bodily functions, Jeremy Clarkson) was laced with information. Here are my favourite nuggets of history from the night:

- Carrots are only orange because of the Dutch Revolt

- Vikings didn't really wear horned helmets

- Tutankhamun had a sword made from ore taken from a meteorite, aka space metal

The two stand-out performers were Paul Duncan McGarrity and Pierre Novellie. McGarrity delivered a beautifully animated description of the little-known ridiculousness of Richard III's death with gusto, and brimmed with enthusiasm for his subject matter and awkward charm. Novellie, headlining the night, had a very enjoyable laid back persona and some cracking material. My favourite sequences were the story of how his family were tricked into relocating in South Africa, and the hapless attempts early Christians made to spread their religion to the Vikings. There was also some gleefully filthy material about medieval Welsh law that had the audience genuinely overwhelmed with mirth.

The only slight shame was that many of the sets seemed not to have a definitive ending, instead trailing off a bit, losing the closure of a final punchline. This was the only time the lack of slickness was a problem rather than an enjoyable part of the style.

The theming of the night was very good fun and added shape and purpose that really elevated the night beyond the usual comedy night fare into something really special. Oxford is the perfect setting for this quirky and fascinating evening, which would be particularly suitable for fans of podcasts like No Such Thing As A Fish and Answer Me This.

Overall this was a gem of an evening. A real treat for history buffs and comedy fans alike.

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