Hattie Lloyd 17/09/19
London’s comedy clubs are always good places for an inside joke.
And if you know where to find them, there’s dozens of pubs, bars and theatres around the city that are full of some real stand-up citizens. From big names to fringe improv groups, here’s where to track down great comedy in London…
Banana Cabaret | Balham
Welcome to the Banana Cabaret.
Hopefully no one’ll slip up on stage.
It’s unlikely, considering that the line-ups are chock-full of comedy regulars, from TV stand-ups Ed Byrne and Omid Djalili to award-winners like Njambi McGrath and Jenny Collier. For the past four decades it’s called The Bedford pub’s Club Room home, and after a multi-million refurb it’s now an intimate, glamorous, Spiegeltent-style cabaret space with individual tables, swooping sashes of satin across the ceiling and a mezzanine level with a great view of the stage.
Details: The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, Balham SW12 9HD | Fridays & Saturdays, book HERE | From £15, students get £5 tickets on the door
Old Rope | Soho
Fancy paying good money for old rope? Excellent news – here’s a comedy club offering just that. Well, specifically, it’s a weekly night where comedians big and small (metaphorically) can come and try out some of their new material. If it starts bombing, they’ll just clutch onto the noose dangling next to them on stage, and switch over to some more tried-and-tested stuff. Which means you’re basically guaranteed to have a great night either way.
Details: 1 Phoenix Street, WC2H 8BU | Every Monday, check line-ups and book HERE
Live at the Chapel | Islington
One comedy night worth making a pilgrimage to, Live at the Chapel takes place beneath the vaulted ceilings of the grandiose and historic Union Chapel. Taking place once a month, the line-ups are focussed on quality rather than quantity, and comprise 4 or 5 comedians, usually including one or two household names. They’re supported by an excellent live band and a tea caddy – plus if you grab some food at the Chapel’s café, you‘ll be supporting their in-house charity in aid of the homeless.
Details: Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, N1 2UN | Once a month – book ahead HERE | £22
The Comedy Store | Leicester Square
The Comedy Store is one of London’s longest-running comedy clubs, now celebrating its 40th year. Over 3,500 people pass through its doors each week, which makes for pretty good odds that you’ll be able to skulk in the shadows and avoid getting hauled up on stage. The week is structured around different themed nights: it kicks off with topical comedy nights on Tuesdays with The Cutting Edge and winds up with improv from the (very talented) Comedy Store Players on Wednesdays and Sundays. In between, both up-and-coming comedians and big names grace the stage, counting Jack Whitehall, John Bishop, Marlon Davis and Sara Pascoe in their number.
Details: 1a Oxendon Street, SW1Y 4EE | Shows most nights, sometimes two a night | Starting from £15 – book ahead HERE.
Top Secret Comedy Club | Covent Garden
The Top Secret Comedy Club isn’t doing a great job, because it’s one of the most popular comedy clubs in London. It started years ago in an old musty storage basement and slowly grew into the nightly phenomenon it is today. Many top comedians rank it in their personal favourites, and it’s a good place to watch high-profile stand-ups try out some of their new material and tweak it before an upcoming telly appearance. What’s more, the drinks are dirt cheap, and from Sundays to Wednesdays, all the shows are pay what you can…
Details: 170 Drury Lane, WC2B 5PD | Nightly | Free/from £8
Knock2bag | Dalston
A regular, roving comedy club that graces the stage at Dalston’s Moth Club. It’s a right old mash-up between big names, up-and-comers and, er, Made In Chelsea’s Francis Boulle, often rubbing shoulders on the same billing. They’ve a penchant for both the sublime and the ridiculous, so expect sketch shows and character acts to make an appearance.
Details: Old Trades Hall, Valette Street, E9 6NU | Regular nights, check ahead | From £11
The CLF Laughter Lounge | Peckham
Peckham’s CLF Art Lounge is an impossibly cool bar and roof garden that, refreshingly, doesn’t try too hard. Unlike its comedians, who, on the last Thursday of the month, give it their all to crack you up.
Details: CLF Art Lounge, 4a Station Way, London SE15 4RX | Last Thursday of the month (restarts in Autumn) | Generally free, see line-up here
Up The Creek Comedy Club | Greenwich
Stand-ups often find themselves Up The Creek. That’s because it’s one of the most respected clubs on the circuit, frequently sporting line-ups with household names like Mo Gilligan and Seann Walsh. Friday nights are a good mix of new faces and big hitters, making it a fairly low-stakes way to discover some new favourites, as is The Blackout – where 15 up-and-coming comedians get 2 minutes to impress you, before audience members start raising black cards: three strikes and the lights are out.
Details: 302 Creek Road, SE10 9SW | Thurs-Sun with occasional Wednesdays | £6-15
Soho Theatre | Soho
Not technically a comedy club, but undoubtedly one of the best places to see comedy in London. The Soho Theatre has three different stages, each of which host new writing, comedy and cabaret every night of the week. It’s a great place to see big names showing work in progress and previews of Edinburgh Fringe shows, as well as sketch comedy, live podcasts, and rising stars performing polished sets.
Details: 21 Dean Street, W1D 3NE | Nightly shows | From £10
Backyard Comedy Club | Bethnal Green
Not your common or garden comedy club, Backyard was founded by TV regular Lee Hurst. Nowadays it plays to big names as well as emerging comedians on regular stand-up nights (Thursday-Saturday). Two monthly nights, however, stand out – Natural Born Storytellers, a surprisingly moving and varied night which sees audience volunteers and pre-booked professionals get up on stage and tell a true story from their life; and An Evening of Unnecessary Detail, which sees ‘spoken nerd artists’ joined by scientists, experts and enthusiasts to speak on incredibly niche subjects – or as they describe it, “an event where 80% of the words in the title start with a vowel”.
Details: 231 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 0EL | £5 (in advance, £10 on the door)
99 Club | Leicester Square
Don’t flake on the 99 Club. In an intimate room packed with folding chairs, it’s a rough-and-ready setting, but filled with some killer headliners. Many of the comedians here will be familiar faces – Jo Caulfield, Ahir Shah, Chris McCausland – and sets are punctuated with regular breaks, so you can make the most of the happy hour (Sunday to Friday, 5-8pm).
Details: 1 Leicester Place, London WC2H 7BP | Shows Tuesday-Sunday – book ahead HERE | From £9
Camden Comedy Club | Camden
A stellar spot for free comedy, you’ll find pay-what-you-want nights at the Camden Head most weeks, as circuit regulars test out new material on the crowd. Mondays are given over to the critically acclaimed Dan Simpson, who hosts one-off games of Dungeons & Dragons with improv veterans for an unashamedly nerdy take on comedy panel shows.
Details: 100 Camden High Street, NW1 0LU | Nightly shows | PWYW – £10
Angel Comedy | Angel
Angel Comedy’s become so big, their nightly shows have spilled over into two venues, (a different) Camden Head and The Bill Murray. Some of the names who hit up the stage regularly include Tim Key, Stewart Lee and Desiree Burch, and there’s a nice roster of newer faces and alternative comedy for a little more variety. Beyond the programming, they offer plenty more – their comedy school runs classes and short courses on clowning, stand-up and joke writing, as well as women’s improv groups and free comedy writing surgeries.
Details: 2 Camden Walk, N1 8DY | 39 Queen’s Head Street, Islington, N1 8NQ | Nightly shows | Free/From £5
Comedy Carnival | Covent Garden & Leicester Square
Carnivals are often in tents.
Luckily, this classic comedy club is a laid-back affair, with stand-up nights featuring four or five different comedians, each of whom have cut their teeth on panel shows, Live At The Apollo and the like. Over 15 years they’ve built up a reputation for booking some of the best names on the circuit – making it a dependable choice without any risk of toe-curling silences.
Details: 42 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LA | 36 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 7EP | Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights | From £7
The Boat Show Comedy Club | Embankment
This thrice weekly comedy club takes place at the Tattershall Castle – which is, of course, a boat. Weekend shows see a trio of comedians take to the stage for longer sets (regulars include Zoe Lyons, Matt Richardson and Thanyia Moore), while the Tuesday shows are for new material, with 7 or so stand-ups testing the water.
Details: Tattershall Castle, Victoria Embankment, London SW1A 2HR | Tuesdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm | From £15
Downstairs at the King’s Head | Crouch End
For an authentically grungy comedy night, head to the basement of the King’s Head. The bare brick wall takes you back to the clubs of the 80s and 90s – but there’s nothing rusty about the line-up. There are shows here almost every night, with double bills from circuit regulars interspersed with ‘cabaret nights’, featuring taster-sized snippets from around 15 comedians; comedy writing courses; Edinburgh Fringe previews and new material nights. Plus, if you keep your wristband ticket on, you’ll get 20% off drinks in the pub for the hour after the show.
Details: 2 Crouch End Hill, London, N8 8AA | On most nights, book ahead HERE | From £4
Last Updated: 19th March 2020 | Main image: The Bedford, Balham
Looking for something a little more serious? Check out the best London theatre shows playing now.
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