Humphrey Ker

Humphrey Ker

Between 2001 and 2005, Humphrey performed with Edinburgh based improv troupe The Improverts, where he met fellow performers David Reed and Thom Tuck. In 2006 they formed The Penny Dreadfuls sketch group, who performed regularly on the Fringe and recorded the BBC Radio 7 series The Brothers Faversham, which was repeated on Radio 4, and the two Radio 4 afternoon plays Guy  and Revolution.

In 2011 he made his solo Edinburgh festival debut with the show Humphrey Ker is Dymock Watson: Nazi Smasher!, which won him the best newcomer accolade at the Fosters Comedy Awards.

He was also one of the regulars on the BBC2 improv show Fast and Loose, hosted by Hugh Dennis, which aired in January 2011.

And in 2012 he was nominated for breakthrough act and best character and sketch performer at the 2012 Chortle Awards.

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The Penny Dreadfuls: Le Carré On Spying

Note: This review is from 2017

Radio review by Steve Bennett

They’ve previously taken on everything from to Homer to Hereward the Wake. Now for their latest Radio 4 special, Penny Dreadfuls have revived the once-ubiquitous spy spoof.

Whereas Bond parodies were once all the rage, the team – or rather writer David Reed – have here gone for the less preposterous clandestine world of John Le Carré. Indeed, the extravagant 007 features here only as an irritant to the spy writer, who wants a more realistic depiction of the shadowy operations. 

Not that the Dreadfuls have entirely gone for realism in this wonderfully silly parody, full of bold puns, preposterous characters and postmodern references. 

Le Carré On Spying is based on one true fact: That in 1960 David Cornwell, Le Carré’s real name, was working as an MI6 spook under cover in the British Embassy at Bonn. 

Anything more than this, in a plot that demands Cornwell must uncover a mole before John F Kennedy makes his historic visit to Berlin,  is pure, ridiculous fantasy. And although the story twists may be outlandish, Mark Heap is the perfect narrator, giving them fake gravitas. Guest star Miles Jupp is also an excellent Cornwell, a posh, mild-mannered English agent way out of his depth.

Reed’s script is driven by both gags and story. Even though it’s stupid, the narrative keeps you listening, and you’re never more than a few seconds away from a solid joke. He’s particularly strong on painting comic images - ‘I’m not a double agent… I’d rather twang my scrotum on a gate’-  and on acknowledging the artifice of the radio play without subverting it completely. In some respects it’s a bit like a more restrained version of the Goon Show madness.

In the cast, Reed is joined by fellow Dreadfuls Humphrey Ker and Thom Tuck and regular collaborator Margaret Cabourn-Smith creating a colourful ensemble of characters, the stand-out of which is  Al Cadal, the brilliantly brash but dim-witted American Cornwell recruits to help in this fabulously funny romp. 

Take out the radio receiver concealed in your shoe and tune in.

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Published: 8 Jul 2017

Penny Dreadfuls

This is colossal fun and it’s great to see a show…

Aeneas Faversham

This is a wonderful scripted and strongly acted selection…

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2001

Bedlam Improverts

Edinburgh Fringe 2002


Edinburgh Fringe 2003


Edinburgh Fringe 2004


Edinburgh Fringe 2005


Edinburgh Fringe 2006

Aeneas Faversham

Edinburgh Fringe 2007

Aeneas Faversham Returns

Edinburgh Fringe 2008

Aeneas Faversham Forever

Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Penny Dreadfuls


Janette Linden
Contact by email
22 Rathbone Street
Office: 020 7287 1112

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