Best of British

British Stand Up Comedians; 10 of the Best

It has to be said, we have some funny people in this country! Some of the best stand-up comedians are British. Take that as you will but the fact is that over the decades Great Britain has bred some extremely funny comedians, male and female.

The comedian was a hugely popular favorite among holiday goers catching some light entertainment and attending shows of the summer season at popular seaside towns. Since then British stand-up comedians have been a feature of many performances.

Many comics of note have performed at variety performances at the London Palladium for the pleasure of Her Majesty the Queen and other members of the Royal Family.

So who were some of the best British stand up comedians that had us rolling in the aisles with tears streaming down our faces? See if you remember some of these. 

1.Rowan Atkinson

rowan atkinson british stand up comedians

He of rubber face humor and star of Mr. Bean, Blackadder and more. He has been listed as one of Britain’s top 50 funniest actors and is the recipient of a BAFTA award.

Rowan started out in comedy with a series of shows on the radio. His first TV stint was on Not The Nine o’ Clock news starring alongside Pamela Stephenson, Griff Rhys-Jones and Mel Smith. Rowan also contributed to some of the sketch writing. 

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2.Victoria Wood

victoria wood best british female stand up comedians

This popular actor, comedian, director, producer and singer, songwriter hailed from Prestwich, Lancashire. Over an illustrious career, she treated us to Victoria Wood as Seen on TV, Pat and Margeret, and Dinner Ladies.

A spin-off from one of her shows was the forever popular Acorn Antiques, a purposely badly scripted, badly written, and badly acted play. Much of Victoria’s work involved collaborations with Duncan Preston, Celia Imrie, and longtime friend and fellow actress/comedian, Julie Walters.

Victoria was also a very good piano player and is perhaps best remembered for her comedy song ‘The Ballad of Barry and Freda’. More commonly know to her fans as ‘Let’s Do it!’ Victoria sadly passed away from cancer in 2016 at the age of 63. But she was a firm favourite and possibly one of the best British female stand up comedians of all time.

3.Tommy Cooper

tommy cooper british stand up comedian

Characterized by his large frame and red fez Tommy was popular for his unique brand of humor through the ’60s and 70s. Originally from Caerphilly in Wales, Tommy stood at 6’4” tall. He was a respected magician and a member of the magic circle.

His act blended an offbeat comedy style with magic tricks and amused and entertained audiences of all ages. After serving in the military Tommy took up comedy in 1947 touring the country and popular London nightspots. He died on-stage while performing a live television show in 1984, collapsing from a heart attack. He was 63.

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4.Sarah Millican

sarah millican newcomer comedian edinburgh fringe festival

This edgy and straightforward comic became popular after winning the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Comedy Award for Best Newcomer in 2008. Since then her popularity has risen. Sarah has written and performed in a number of popular tours, appeared on several TV shows, and performed on the radio.

She has also written an autobiography that was published in 2017. Much of her humour was based on her husband unexpectedly leaving her in 2004. This platform resonated well with female fans and a large portion of her early shows revolved around these events.

5.Rik Mayall

rik mayall best british stand up comedian

This comedian, writer, and actor starred in an wrote several shows throughout his career. His best friend and long term comedy partner was Ade Edmunson who he met at Manchester University.

They performed in several sitcoms together such as The Young Ones, Filthy Rich and Catflap, and Bottom. The latter produced a popular stage show as a spin-off. They were also regular performers on the TV show Saturday Night Live and brought us characters like The Dangerous Brothers.

Rik has voiced video games and children’s productions. He has also appeared in several major motion pictures like Harry Potter. Rik was born in Essex and passed away in 2014 at the age of 56.

6.Eddie Izzard

eddie izzard stand up comic transgender

Popularized by his own brand of whimsical and surreal comedy Eddie Izzard blends a mixture of improvisation, observational, and physical humour.

Eddie has had a successful comedy career, appeared in several popular movies and is active in politics. He has twice run for a seat on the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, won a Primetime Emmy, and is committed to charitable causes.

In 2009 he completed 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief. Quite a feat for someone with no history of distance running.  Eddie is transgender and identifies himself as ‘somewhat boy-ish’ and ‘somewhat girl-ish’.

7.Miranda Hart

miranda hart female comedy

After writing for and appearing in several British sitcoms Miranda Hart reached a larger audience with her self titled and semi-autobiographical TV show Miranda.

The show won several awards and was nominated for others. She has also written and published 4 books and made guest appearances in several other popular television programs. Her first stand up showed launched in 2014 and toured the country.

Miranda has a somewhat aristocratic family history with lines that can be traced back many generations, she contributes to Comic relief and regularly writes pieces for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Find out about more British Festivals that you must attend HERE.

8.Jo Brand

jo brand feminist female comic

Once describing her own dress sense as ‘nice in a lesbian-ish kind of way’ Jo Brand is recognized for her feminist and slightly political humour, delivered in a slow, measured, and relaxed drawl that is almost bored sounding.

After moving away from a career in psychiatric nursing Jo Brand embarked on her career in comedy. It proved to be a good move and in 2003 she was listed as one of the 50 funniest acts in Britain.

She has appeared on several popular TV shows, taken part in fundraising performances for charity, and has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was born in London and is involved in several charitable causes. 

9.Lenny Henry

lenny henry popular 80's stand up comedian

Hugely popular in the 80s Lenny Henry is a comedian, actor, writer, singer and co-founder of Comic Relief. The annual comedy fundraising gala that spawned Red Nose Day.

His first TV appearance was on the New Faces talent show which he won in 1975 and he toured in stage shows supporting other popular comedy talents like Cannon and Ball. He also could be seen performing around Britain at working men’s clubs.

Lenny gained wide popularity from The Lenny Henry Show that ran between the mid and late eighties. The show featured sketches and many of Lenny’s invented characters making him one of the most popular British stand-up comedians of the decade. He was listed in 2003 as one of the funniest acts in British Comedy.

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10.John Cleese

john cleese basil fawlty monty pythin

A British actor, writer, producer, author, comedian, voice actor and part of the famous Monty Python comedy group. Monty Python’s performances have become a thing of legend. The team are regarded as one of the best groups of British stand-up comedians

John had a successful comedy career of his own writing and performing in sitcoms such as Fawlty Towers. Featuring the escapades of a mismanaged hotel and its intolerant and cantankerous owner Basil Fawlty.

John Cleese also co-founded The Secret Policeman’s Ball a benefit show to raise funds for Amnesty International. Cleese has appeared in many major movie productions and has written graphic novels and comic books.

He is a long-standing supporter of the Liberal Democrats political party but recently rejected a lifetime peerage from them.

Summary

This list is just a summary of the many men and women that make up the list of best British stand up comedians. British humour ranges from obvious and slapstick style to subtle and surreal. No matter your taste there is bound to be one that appeals to your sense of humor. 

Who else would you like to see on the list?

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1 Comment

  1. Sylvie says:

    All of them but 1 mirranda Hart nope no never tbh she’s not funny replace her with Lee evens

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