London is the world’s capital for all sorts, from insane property prices and drizzly weather to muggings. All things we hold close to our hearts. But perhaps mostly as the home of comedy; we really are a bloody amusing nation. At the risk of totally undermining this guide, you don’t need to head to a comedy club for evidence of this, read a newspaper, check out graffiti, from shop keepers to tube announcers, there’s wry sardonic humour across London. But this is most purely and reliably distilled in the many comedy clubs and nights that pretty much every pub hosts. So here are some of the bigger ones to check out.
This Balham stalwart has recently undergone an extensive revamp and as it reopens it immediately regains its crown as South London’s comedy mecca. The pub-with-a-theatre has hosted many on the way up, away from comedy it’s worth flagging that Ed Sheeran has played here, as have The Clash and U2, but when it comes to comedy all the greats really have played here, and continue to do so. Rather than catching the likes of Catherine Tate, Eddie Izzard or Michael McIntyre at, say, The O2, head down to this Balham gem every weekend for their Banana Cabaret.
Where: The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, Balham, SW12 9HD
Piccadilly Comedy Club brings comedy across three rooms. Billing itself as a ‘non–corporate comedy club’, it’s set above the Comedy Pub and just doors down from The Comedy Store, indeed if China Town, a street of Chinese restaurants, qualifies as a town, then Oxendon Street should at least be able to register as a comedy village, hamlet or other conurbation. Maybe a comedy garden city? With varied bills and reliable big names, it’s worth checking out.
Where: The Comedy Pub, 7 Oxendon Street, Picadilly Circus, SW1Y 4EE
Considered by many as comedy London Ground Zero, The Comedy Store has been pumping out comedians since 1979. It can feel a bit touristy, and perhaps won’t show some of the edgiest laughs in town, but it’s got to be done and will be worth it. Which is clearly the attitude of some of the country’s best comedians, who always populate the bill here. I’ve never been and not seen a set from a big-name telly comedian. I’ve also never been without seeing a stag or hen party occupying a couple of rows.
Where: 1a Oxendon Street, Picadilly Circus, SW1Y 4EE
The Bill Murray considers itself more than just a comedy club. It’s a creative space for funny people, a place where comedians can meet, write, rehearse and perform. They even run comedy courses. But obviously it’s at its best when the comedy’s actually on, and thanks to Angel Comedy it’s 7 days a week endeavour.
Where: 39 Queen's Head Street, Angel, N1 8NQ
Old Rope is the comedy store that takes over at The Phoenix on Cavendish Square with a guaranteed quality headliner then, by its own admission, a bunch of lesser but up-and-coming comedy whippersnappers. Comedians who’ve passed through (it’s unclear in which role) including Katherine Ryan, Rich Hall, Sara Pascoe and Rob Delaney.
Where: 37 Cavendish Square, Marylebone, W1G 0PP
Let’s hope that it’s belly laughs that you’re stifling, not stomachy queasiness brought on by the fact this comedy club is ON A BOAT! If that’s not enough to sway you, then it’s also a firm favourite on the comedy circuit with many big names calling in, particularly to try out new material before hitting the arena trail. Landlubbers despair not, they’ve also announced a new venue for 2019, nearby Bar Salsa, a comedy night with a Latin twist.
Where: P. S. Tattershall Castle, Victoria Embankment
We’d love to tell you more, but it’s apparently top secret…
Where: 170 Drury Lane, Covent Garden, WC2B 5PD
Up The Creek was purpose built as a comedy club a short walk from the DLR station and the main bit of Greenwich. Along with the comedy club there’s a bar and cafe, not that you’re here for the coffee. The acts are pretty decent, and the audiences can apparently get quite lairy.
Where: 302 Creek Road, Greenwich, SE10 9SW
Camden Comedy Club, above the held upstairs at The Camden Head pub. The friendly comedy club operates seven days a week and showcases stand-up, sketch and improv, and finds itself a tried-and-tested stop off for new Edinburgh material. They also run workshops for new comedians.
Where: 100 Camden High Street, Camden, NW1 0LU
As a general rule avoid anything and anywhere on Leicester Square. Rule of thumb it’s going to be as bad as or worse than the ring-of-hell that is M&M World. But make one exception, 99 Club Leicester Square, a comedy club at Ruby Blue and it’s pretty decent. As well as pulling in big names, you can eat a meal before you enjoy your comedy and afterward make the most of free entry to Ruby Blue’s onsite nightclub (though this may let down the evening).
Where: Ruby Blue, 1 Leicester Place, Leicester Square, WC2H 7BP