In a time of technology addiction, climate anxiety, and soaring inflation rates, sometimes you just need a good old belly laugh. And live comedy is the best way to escape reality for a little while (or, at least make fun of it in an if-I-don’t-laugh-I’ll-cry kinda way). Drink in hand, laughing alongside a room full of people is a shared experience you just can’t get from a Netflix comedy special.
But great comedy in the capital doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg either. Sometimes, the UK’s best comedians can be found on the smaller circuit, practising for their next solo tour. Or you might just discover a lesser known gem of a comedian. The London comedy scene is thriving, so we’ve rounded up the best comedy spots in London to get your fill of humour for an evening. From comedy clubs and stand up, to drag and special performances, here are the best comedy nights to book for the laugh of your life.
Located in a small Covent Garden basement, the Top Secret Comedy Club started out as much more of a secret than it is now, being one of the best spots in the capital for affordable, utterly hilarious comedy. There are two performing areas, one on the ground floor and one in the basement, however, they run the same show a half an hour apart. Which means that after a comedian is finished upstairs, they run downstairs and do it all again. It’s a brilliant way to keep the shows intimate for the audience (but, y’know, still function as a business in central London).
One the most affordable nights in London, you can bag a midweek show for just £1, with weekend shows going up to £20, and a very affordable bar for the Covent Garden location. It’s a regular haunt for celeb comedians to drop in and try new material, so if you’re lucky, you might pay just a pound to see one of the UK’s biggest names.
WHERE: 170 Drury Lane, London, WC2B 5PD
This comedy club has been providing the giggle for the people of Balham for nearly 40 years. Located inside the round Club Room, audience members are seated at tables for a true cabaret experience. The shows are all on the weekend, and the club has a firm commitment to promoting and showcasing new and upcoming talent in the comedy world, as well as featuring bigger veterans names.
Catherine Tate, Joe Lycett, Rob Brydon, Lee Evans and Sara Pascoe have all appeared here early in their careers, and there’s a Hall of Fame section on their website if you want to dive in and see some of the biggest performers. There’s also the Balham Comedy Festival which takes place each July, which is the best chance to see some famous faces as well as great comedy.
WHERE: The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, Balham, SW12 9HD
Upstairs at The Camden Head in Camden Town, you’ll find The Camden Comedy Club (it’s in Camden, in case we haven’t mentioned that already), and there’s plenty of comedy gold to be found here. Gigs are on most nights of the week, and there’s a mixture of free and paying shows. Saturday nights are when Hampstead Comedy Club takes place, hosting bigger names than earlier in the week.
You can find sketch and improv comedy alongside stand up, and occasionally previews of Edinburgh Fringe Shows. New panel show ideas have been tried out here too. There’s even masterclasses and workshops for anyone who wants to try their hand at comedy. Performers have included Stewart Lee, Aisling Bea, Harry Hill and Sara Pascoe, and tickets cost as low as £10.
WHERE: 100 Camden High Street, London, NW1 0LU
I mean, any pub that’s named after Bill Murray gets our vote. But it hosts some pretty decent comedy nights too. The pub was founded with the sole purpose of operating as a comedy club, and it’s certainly been successful. A lot of the shows here are free, and the expectation is you donate some cash as you leave, depending on how highly you thought of the evening.
There’s plenty of comedy, and there are some big names that pop up on occasion. The venue is small and intimate, and shows sell out fast, and whilst it’s possible to get in on the night, don’t count on it – make sure you book online beforehand.
WHERE: 39 Queen’s Head St, London N1 8NQ
The most famous and prestigious comedy venue on this list, The Comedy Stores opened in 1979 and kickstarted the British stand up scene we know today. These days, you’re guaranteed to always catch a high calibre of comics with your ticket, as well as plenty of improv. High profile comedians are no strangers to this club either, with the likes of Mike Myers, Eddie Izzard and Paul Merton making appearances.
There’s also their infamous ‘King Gong’ night, AKA “the most brutal open mic in London”, where new comedians test their material to a jeering crowd and a judging panel. If you’re a budding comedian looking to build resilience, this is certainly the place to do it!
WHERE: 1A Oxendon Street, London, SW1Y 4EE
Located in the East End, The Backyard Comedy Club is a purpose built comedy club next to Bethnal Green tube station, and its stage has the aesthetic of, well, a backyard. The club’s founder Lee Hurst is often found performing, alongside a wealth of comedic talent. One of its more unique shows is the monthly Nerd Nite, where three speakers give fun but informative talks in any topic they like. The venue also serves pizza and sides, and there are board games you can play too.
Don’t expect any heckling here though – the club operates a strict policy of having a non-heckling crowd, for a more chill theatre like venue.
WHERE: 231 Cambridge Heath Rd, Bethnal Green, E2 OEL
We love a great stand-up comedy night at Laugh Train Home. Taking place at both The Honor Oak and The Four Thieves pubs, every line-up is full of professional comedians, ranging from TV names to rising stars. Famous names, faces and voices you know from TV, radio and the comedy circuit grace the line-up every week to have you in stitches.
Past performers include the likes of Sara Pascoe, Joe WIlkinson, Josh Widdicombe, Joe Lycett and Kerry Godliman.
Where: Honor Oak / Clapham Junction
Bang in the heart of London’s West End the Soho Theatre operates a festival-like programme of shows, championing voices that challenge outside the mainstream, and there’s such a huge range of comedy shows that it’s hard to know where to begin. Think touring comedians, live and hilarious podcast recordings, exhilarating solo drag shows, and genre-bending cabaret nights.
They’re also expanding, which means a new 1,000 seat venue is coming to Walthamstow very soon.
Where: 21 Dean St, London W1D 3NE
Known for their stellar roster of live entertainment, Proud is the place to head for an evening of naughty, hilarious drag – which you’ll enjoy alongside a three course dinner.
Settle in for a full evening of laughter and choose from their delicious list of cocktails for an unforgettable night of laughs and luxury.
Where: 8 Victoria Embankment, London WC2R 2AB
Located in the very heart of (you guessed it) Covent Garden, The Covent Garden Comedy Club is the the biggest of London’s independent clubs. And if you’re after a laugh, this place is just the ticket.
Head over for a night of giggles, taking you through 3 or 4 different comedians, including the likes of Seann Walsh and Rob Beckett.
Where: Prince of Wales, 150 Drury Lane, WC2B 5TD
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See London’s cultural scene at its finest at one of the best bars in town, the Phoenix Arts Club.
Multi-award-winning and independently owned, the Phoenix is bursting with shows to choose from – from comedy, to cabaret, drag and burlesque. Tucked away beneath the Phoenix Theatre (the bar used to be the theatre’s dressing rooms back in the day) this place is fully immersed in the history of the West End which makes it an epic location to catch a show. They host a range of hilarious shows, from Fringe Festival favourites to kooky cabaret. Stand-up wise, this month, Paul Chowdhry is taking the stage with his work-in-progress show, with tickets from just £15.
Where: 1 Phoenix St, London WC2H 8BU
A private members club might not be the first place you look for a comedian (unless they’re, y’know, a member) but The Richmond Club sure know how to dish out a great comedy night.
The line up changes monthly, but you can expect to see a range of well-known and loved comedians from Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You and Live At The Apollo. It’s a South West Londoners ideal comedy night.
Where: 115-117 Kew Rd, Richmond TW9 2PN
If you’re looking for a unique venue, The Boat Show Comedy Club is for you. All the comedic action takes place… on a boat. You can find this one in the West End opposite The London Eye, aboard the Tattershall Castle. Shows have four top comics, sometimes with a special guest. There’s also a number of bars on board.
There are some great views across the Thames as you have a quick drink between acts. The seating is pre-allocated and reserved for you before the show starts, and unallocated on the day seats are only available on Tuesdays.
WHERE: Tattershall Castle, Victoria Embankment, London SW1A 2HR