From slapstick tomfoolery to dry innocuous wit, Brits have always had the upper hand on the comedy circuit, and comedy’s newest infatuation fits expertly into the line-up of stand out British stand ups.
Leo Reich – a Gen Z fever dream – lit up stages across the country in 2022. From the Edinburgh Fringe to appearances on Friday Night Live, and his sold out run at EartH Hackney, the comedian’s talent is one to watch out for. At the end of 2022, he was named the number one comedy show by The Guardian, as well as being nominated for Best Newcomer at the Dave Comedy Awards.
“When I started doing stand-up my stuff was a lot more traditional – confessional anecdotes about my life, jokes about politics, about my sex life, that kind of thing. Then at a certain point I was just like, what am I doing?” Leo tells GAY TIMES, explaining how he found his unique style of British wit and ‘hot takes’.
“I don’t know a fucking thing about politics, I basically never have sex, and half of the anecdotes I’m telling need made-up details to make them funny. It made me laugh so much that I was fabricating events and opinions and performing them onstage for attention. I was like, who the fuck would do that? And like, why? So now my act is more like an attempt to answer those questions.”
With an intelligent and knowing narcissism attached to his performance, the lines between character and the real Leo are blurred – parodying the caricature nature of life as a member of Gen Z in 2023. With social media, news, fashion and sex all constantly on display, Leo’s comedy acts as a tongue-in-cheek mirror to the cringe-worthy conversations many of us are privy to on social media and IRL.
Performing an anecdote about gay sex to a group of silent pensioners in Yeovil is actually really character building.
From winning the 2Northdown New Act Of the Year competition in 2020, to then moving on to support Simon Amstell, Reich’s comedy was then impacted by the pandemic. Like many, he took to TikTok and Instagram to scratch that performative itch.
In 2022, his show Literally Who Cares?! was an instant hit – selling out its run at the Edinburgh Fringe as well as its run at Soho Theatre in London. The show explores big questions such as ‘Am I hot?’ and ‘What is going on?’. Definitely questions we can get behind.
Featuring material about his sexuality, we asked Reich if this was something that was ever an obstacle in the beginning of his career. “Honestly? Not really. The biggest obstacle has, I guess, been the fact that some crowds don’t like me – especially outside of cities, or at the more retro comedy clubs. But you learn to see that as a positive. Performing an anecdote about gay sex to a group of silent pensioners in Yeovil is actually really character building.”
“I was extremely lucky to start doing comedy in London, where there are alt gigs, queer nights and cabaret shows – where you can perform comedy about Call Me By Your Name to a hundred gender non-conforming students with futuristic hairstyles. It gave me a base to go back to, so even if I bombed fifteen times in a row at straight nights I knew I wasn’t totally unfunny. If I‘d had to brave the club circuit like a real comedian then I imagine everything would’ve gone very differently.”
Having just announced his New York residency at the Greenwich House Theatre starting in February, and performances at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in April, success is something that doesn’t come as a surprise.
“It felt 100% justified and correct to be number one on a perfect and objective list,” he shared after pondering what it felt like to be named No.1 Comedy Show of 2022 by The Guardian. “I aim to defend the spot every year until my death.”
Cracking America can be a tricky task for many, but Reich isn’t worried about how he’ll be received amongst the queer community of New York City. His show, which will run from 15 February to 11 March, is (according to Leo himself) “still funny”.
“I’m really looking forward to joining NYC’s famously non-competitive comedy circuit – and, even more so, its notoriously welcoming gay scene!”
Despite spiked conversation surrounding the Dave Chappelles and Ricky Gervais’s of the world – who arguably use LGBTQ+ in their material to poke fun at rather than include LGBTQ+ in on the joke – LGBTQ+ comedians are storming the circuits. With clever narratives about internalised homophobia, hook-up culture and White Gays (looking at you Simon David), comedians of the LGBTQ+ persuasion often hit the nail on the head far better than our straight counterparts – effortlessly critiquing the very community they adore being a part of.
If you’re looking to get into comedy however, Leo’s advice is pretty stark.
“We’re full, sorry! Try theatre x”
Alas, the competitive nature of the gays strikes again, clearly showing that although the door has been swung open for Leo and many others, it can be firmly shut again when there is clearly already enough talent in the room.
A rising star and confident voice, Leo’s ability to poke fun at a culture many of us are so firmly embedded within is light relief in a world that is constantly making noise, and sure to make him a stand-out hit for the world to fall in love with.