If you like comedy, you may be familiar with the names Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly, and Ricky Gervais. Yet these comedians are only the tip of the iceberg of funny men and women, many of whom have not made it onto American television—but you’re in luck! Below are some of the funniest people in Britain that you may not know, courtesy of the BBC show Live at the Apollo.
1. Jack Whitehall
Born in London to an actress and an agent, Jack Whitehall was inspired by fellow comedian Jack Dee and began his own comedy career in 2008. In that year, he won the award for Hackney Empire New Act and was nominated Chortle Best Newcomer. He started appearing on various programmes including Big Brother’s Big Mouth and Jimmy Carr’s 8 Out of 10 Cats. Last year he appeared on Comedy Central Presents, and his comedy is a mix of fast-paced sarcasm and high-pitched emotion. Certainly one of the best young comedians in Britain.
2. Russell Howard
Russell Howard is a comedian for whom social boundaries do not exist. Watching five minutes of his comedy will help you realize that absolutely no subject is off-limits. Of course, I’m the type of person who thinks some of the best comedy involves me having to say “Oh, that’s wrong” or “I’m going to hell for laughing at this”. Starting in 1999, he was a regular panelist on Mock the Week from 2006-2010 and appeared on Conan in 2011. Since 2009, he has hosted his own show, Russell Howard’s Good News, which could be compared to a news version of Tosh.0 or The Soup.
3. John Bishop
Another Scouser who got out of Liverpool while he had the chance, John Bishop began doing comedy in 2002 and won several comedy awards at various festivals. Once you can get past one of the thickest Northern accents I’ve ever heard, you find a comedy routine that focuses on his observations on the world and stories about his family, from how he turned his children into Liverpool fans (despite living in Manchester) and his oldest son’s voice-cracking. In addition, he got his turn around the track as the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car during the last series of Top Gear, becoming the fourth fastest person to drive the Kia Cee’d. Currently, he hosts John Bishop’s Only Joking on Sky One.
4. Lenny Henry
One of six children born to Jamaican immigrants, Lenny Henry has been involved in comedy since 1975. Much of his comedy relates to growing up in Dudley and racial issues. In his career, he has been a guest-host of Live at the Apollo, headlined The Lenny Henry Show, and appeared with his former wife Dawn French on her show French and Saunders. Additionally, those with keen ears may recognize him as the voice of the Shrunken Head on the Night Bus from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Peg Leg Hastings in The Pirates! Band of Misfits.
5. Sarah Millican
Rated one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the United Kingdom by BBC Four Radio’s Woman’s Hour, Sarah Millican debuted in 2004 with a show based on her divorce. Her humor can range from views on sex to differences between men and women. Since 2009, she’s found a great deal of success with her own Radio Four program Sarah Millican’s Support Group as well as The Sarah Millican Television Programme. She was crowned Queen of Comedy at the 2011 British Comedy Awards. Coming into 2013, Sarah has had two successful national tours and her third begins in September.