London: Comedy Clubs

Laugh? I nearly split my sides. Or not. It can be somewhat hit and miss, watching stand up comedy. There are of course comedians like Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard, Ross Noble and Sarah Millican who can have you laughing so much your friends think you’re going to have an asthma attack. But there are also those just starting out, some of whom are ruddy good and some of whom…aren’t.

Kudos to them for getting up and doing it and all that, and as we have some stand up comedian friends we always like to support the ‘scene’, but watching someone saying ‘Ummmmmm’ a lot and fumble for twenty seconds through their notes on stage – while the silence stretches and streeeeeeeetches – is so excruciating it has clearly scarred us forevermore. (We have an overactive embarrassment gene here at Freedom2Explore – it’s why we can’t watch The Apprentice.)

So, while we still support the comedy scene and will go along to people’s first gigs, sometimes it’s nice to see something a bit more polished. And there are loads of places to do that in London, where you don’t come out of the place all mortified after. Here’s our Six of the Best: London Comedy Clubs.

The Comedy Store: The Comedy Store at Piccadilly Circus is London’s biggest comedy club, running comedy events seven nights a week. There’s whatever type of comedy you can think of here – improvisation, topical comedy and The Best in Stand Up every Thursday, Friday and Saturday – and plenty of special events including comedy charity fundraiser nights and Channel 4’s Comedy Showcase. The club gets extra Freedom2Explore points for offering discounts to students and nurses, and for having (in May 2012) an event called Balls to Homelessness.

Jongleurs: There are three different branches of the comedy chain in London – Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Mincing Lane (hee hee). If you’re some type of clown who thinks they’re funny, Jongleurs also runs the School of Comedy, a full one year course – yes, a full one year course – which is the first of its kind in the country. If you can manage to persuade the folks that you’re dropping your sensible architecture course and going for this instead, you probably have the necessary determination to make it on the stand up scene.

Highlight Camden: Based in the former Jongleurs venue, Highlight is near Camden Lock and has comedy shows every Friday and Saturday night, with the occasional show mid week too. (It’s done in a teamup with Foster’s beer, so we’re hoping the beer doesn’t reflect the comedy.) There’s also a Highlight in Watford, again doing Foster’s Comedy Live, although both venues also do live music which is sponsored by Smirnoff. That’s much more sensible.

Comedy Camp: It’s strange to think that in a city the size of London there’s only one mixed lesbian, gay and straight comedy club in the entire city, but there is, and Comedy Camp is it. It’s at Barcode in Soho, has won loads of awards and been called ‘one of the best nights out anywhere’ by Time Out. Graham Norton, Al Murray, Alan Carr, Harry Hill, Pam Ann, Sue Perkins, Gina Yashere…they’ve all played here on the Tuesday comedy nights or the first Saturday of the month. And there are drinks from £2. Result.

Comedy Café: Food and comedy? It’s win/win.  The Comedy Café is a purpose built comedy club in Shoreditch, where you can nosh in the restaurant and bar downstairs, then go up to the first floor Comedy Theatre for live shows. It’s a change of direction starting from 2012, because, as owner Noel Faulkner says: ‘I have been hacked off with the level of brainless wankers in the otherwise lovely audiences we have been getting, and I have now decided to change the direction of the comedy and bring it back to what most serious theatre people would appreciate.’ Go Noel. There are new acts on Wednesday nights, one person show and theatre nights on Thursday, and Friday and Saturday still the traditional stand up nights. But, adds Noel, ‘more so for the thinking man than the page three man. For 20 years I have suffered, pandering to brainless fools but now it's my turn to create the kind of live comedy venue that I would go and see.’ You tell ’em, Noel.

Comedy Carnival at The Grand: The Comedy Carnival has hosted shows at The Grand in Clapham for over seven years, with some of the top names on the scene including Michael McIntyre, Milton Jones, Sarah Millican and Jack Whitehall. It also has a branch in Leicester Square featuring award winning international comedians every Friday night. And all this doesn’t have to break the bank – there are Dinner and Show deals available with nearby restaurants for just £20 per person. But if you do want to break the bank, there are also VIP deals, where you can hire a box and have champagne, food and free entry to the nightclub afterwards.

Any more comedy clubs in London you think we should cover? We’ll even come along to your gig. Let us know your favourite London comedy clubs in the forums.