Unless you’re heading to a big venue where a world-famous comedian has sold out all the seats, then you typically do not know the kind of act you are about to see and what kind of calibre their comedy bears. If you have managed to book a specific show because you once saw a particular lesser-known comedian, enjoyed their performance and have chosen to follow their career, then you have a general idea of what some of your night will be like. If not, then you are likely taking a gamble by selecting a time, date and place that suits you and are dearly hoping that the humour is in abundance from whichever brave souls grace the stage.
If you fall into the “taking a gamble” section, then the one thing that you can control is the comedy venue that you choose. Aside from its proximity to you and therefore the convenience factor, you can also rely on reviews of the place itself, the quality of the acts chosen in the past, their history of hosting some big comedy names or of being among the first to discover budding comics that would later become household names. You will also see what type of vibe the place has, which can often (but not always) be an indicator for the sophistication of the comedy that you are about to see.
If you’re going to a club above a Chippie, then it’s probably a ‘anything goes’ type of establishment, whereas you would probably find a performance playing along slightly less crass humour at a more official theatre-type venue with plush, covered seats and a coat-check. But again, I could be desperately wrong about that too, so always research the comics before taking along your parents!
Should your choice of entertainment lead the people who are meant to love you unconditionally to be now unable to look you in the eye after such an evening out, then I also provide a recovery suggestion. Make use of the point collecting and added benefits from your membership to The Montcalm Club Reward Program to show your more distinguished side by booking them into a Montcalm Spa or treat them to a lovely meal at any of the wonderful restaurants affiliated to The Montcalm At the Brewery London City.
In the hope that you will not have to resort to the recovery suggestions (or perhaps that you’ve realised it’s best to keep the comedy outing for yourself and rather just aim your more refined relatives in the direction of the spas and restaurants), here are some of the best reviewed comedy venues to take a chance on in London – in no particular order.
The Bill Murray: Angel Comedy Club – Islington
If you are not lured in by the fact that four friends decided to buy a pub to expand upon their vision of crafting accessible comedy that builds up the community around it and provides a creative sanctuary for all such aspiring comics – and then proceeded to call it “The Bill Murray” – then I’m not sure what expectations you can have of a comedy club. The venue is as vibrant as the paintings that cover its external walls. It is eclectic, operational seven days a week and is completely FREE. I would say you have nothing to lose by giving it a try but based on the raving reviews from all over the internet, I don’t think that was ever really a risk to begin with.
Old Rope Comedy: The Phoenix – Cavendish Square
The Phoenix is a wonderful venue that plays host to all forms of entertainment at any given time – but you came here for comedy and so comedy is what you will get! This experience really is different from all the others because, on Mondays, you get to be a comedy guinea pig and see this art in its most raw and deconstructed form. Old Rope Comedy is the go-to place for famous comedians to test out their new material on a real live audience (that would be you) to see which of their jokes the people of London find amusing and which lead to the resounding silence that they would rather not feature on their Netflix special.
I am not exaggerating about the Netflix special because attendees have been lucky enough to catch Katherine Ryan, Alan Davies, Joe Lycett, James Acaster, Amy Schumer and many more. You either have to cross your fingers and wish really hard, or just keep attending until you get your lucky break with an A-List comic.
The Comedy Store – Leicester Square
This is the place that all comedians want to headline – because then you know that you’re on the right track and you’re on your way to making it. This really is the true London Comedy institution. My personal favourite description of this place was from Danny Wallace writing a similar article to this (but with much greater expertise) for Condé Nast Traveller, where he said: “After the apocalypse, two things will still thrive: cockroaches and The Comedy Store”.
When Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights roll around, you are given three nights every week to experience The Best in Stand Up from all over the world. On these nights, The Comedy Store is well and truly packed because it has a stellar reputation for finding the best talent and for being incredibly selective in who they allow a spot on their esteemed stage. While the days of the rest of the week will be less busy, there will still be comedy gold and a brilliant night out for all.
On Tuesday nights you can watch The Cutting Edge, where all of the jokes are based on current events whereas Wednesdays & Sundays bring you the best Improv Comedy from The Comedy Store Players. And then, on the last Monday of every month, you can be a part of the discovery of a new star (but also risk wanting to crawl underneath your chair and die) with the return of the open mic night: King Gong. Check out their website to see what line-ups they have in store for you or secure your tickets for one of their always-crowd-pleasing regular nights.