In 1993 Newman and his then comedy partner David Baddiel became the first comedians to play and sell out the 12,000-seat Wembley Arena in London.
Newman’s first speaking appearance was with Third World First (now known as People and Planet), the student political organisation. In addition to comedy and writing, he has also worked as a paperboy in Whitwell, Hertfordshire, farmhand, warehouse-man, house-painter, teacher, mail sorter, social worker, mover, and broadcaster.
Newman began his comedy career as an impressionist in the late 1980s before gaining fame when he appeared alongside fellow Cambridge alumni David Baddiel, Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt in the BBC radio and TV programme The Mary Whitehouse Experience (1989–92). The title referred to the main campaigner for “moral decency” on television, Mary Whitehouse. With The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Newman and Baddiel had become “unlikely pin-ups as, in the early 1990s, comedy was being fêted as ‘the new rock and roll’,” leading to their own series, Newman and Baddiel in Pieces (1993).
His later work is characterised by a very strong political element, and parallels the work of contemporaries such as Mark Thomas. In 2003 Newman toured with From Caliban to the Taliban, which was released on CD and DVD. In 2005 the show Apocalypso Now or, from P45 to AK47, how to Grow the Economy with the Use of War debuted at the Bongo Club during the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Apocalypso Now toured nationally, sometimes as part of a double-bill where Newman was joined by Mark Thomas. The show was filmed at the Hoxton Hall in Hoxton, east London and shown on More4 under the title A History of Oil, with a later release on CD and DVD. A mixture of stand-up comedy and introductory lecture on geopolitics and peak oil in Apocalypso Now Newman argues that twentieth-century Western foreign policy, including World War I, should be seen as a continuous struggle by the West to control Middle Eastern oil.