Behind the Headlines Topical Sketch Comedy

30th March 2023

Compere: J P Houghton | 1000 Trades

Local comedians inject some much-needed humour into recent news stories in a series of improvised sketches ranging from odd to utterly surreal.

'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' was one of my favourite TV shows when I was a teenager in the 1990s. I think it was the danger I loved. What if they couldn’t come up with any ideas on the spot? What if they spoke over each other and it all went horribly wrong? What if they just weren’t funny?

Comedy is a difficult enough genre to pull of with a brilliant script. Improvisation is a whole different, and much more dangerous, ballgame. So hats off to ‘Behind the Headlines’, for making it work. This small but perfectly formed group of local comedians delivered laugh after laugh in an evening of topical sketch comedy inspired by headlines from the previous month’s news. As the five-strong group of improvisers proved, March 2023 was ripe with comic possibilities.

The concept works brilliantly: a compere reads out a headline and shares basic details of a recent news story, sets up a scenario, allocates roles to the competing performers and, with barely any thinking time, off we go. Points are awarded and we move on to the next story. Combining the buzz of live comedy with the unsafe thrill of improvisation is a winning formula.

John Paul Houghton is a natural compere, putting the audience at ease and setting up the sketches seamlessly with a Clive Anderson-like glint in his eye. Pitting the performers against each other (Red Team – Lou and John, Blue Team – Nick, Laura and Matt) worked well to introduce a light-hearted competitive element but the creative collaboration vital in improvisation meant that everyone was a winner in this show.

Headlines ranged from local to national, personal to political. The evening started with a bizarre take on Orca, the winning dog at Crufts, and quickly moved onto pensioners reuniting on a bus after strikes. The stories came thick and fast: the collapse of Credit Suisse; Ian Wright and Gary Linekar watching Match of the Day; boffins wanting to ban the word boffins. Memorably surreal sketches included Boris and Stanley Johnson and a take on the knighthood scandal involving a gong made out of a baby and Harry and Megan forced out of Frogmore Cottage to the workhouse and ultimately the mines.

An enjoyable evening of comedy performed in a gem of a location in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. What will future headlines bring? Follow Behind the Headlines to find out.

Behind the Headlines performed ‘Lack of a Future’ topical sketch comedy at 1000 Trades in the Jewellery Quarter on Thursday 30th March 2023. Details of future performances can be found on their website:

Lack Of A Future