Our pick of the finest places in London to seek a few laughs. In no particular order…
1. Hampstead Comedy Club: Chalk Farm, NW1
Possibly one of the friendliest and best-priced venues around. Ivor Dembina, as the club’s founder and resident compere for 16 years, is a true veteran of the comedy circuit. Some even regard his jokes older than the club itself. So much so, that he’s been nicknamed ‘Ivor Dembingo’. They’ve wandered around over the past few years, since moving from their long-time home, The Washington in Belsize Park, but have now settled down at The Pembroke Castle, just around the corner from Chalk Farm Tube. Get tickets well in advance for upcoming shows, especially for the Edinburgh Fringe previews.
2. Crack Comedy, Long Lane, EC1
Crack have expanded and opened at a new venue in the City at Native Tongue; an arts collective that started out in Epsom, Surrey. So, if you’re stuck for something to do on a Thursday or Friday and don’t want to have a bad night out, this is the place to go.
EDIT (19 July 2011): Crack Comedy can now be found in the Slug & Lettuce in County Hall, Waterloo.
3. Bearcat Comedy: St Margaret’s
At 20 years old, this aged club in the leafy suburbs seems like an odd place to host comedy. But, by Jove, they get some of the best names in! Hosted by Ed Tudor Pole look-a-like, James Punnett — who seemingly has a clip-board surgically attached to his arm — it is a stones-throw from St Margaret’s rail. Expect the hottest new acts trying out new material along with house-hold names; Omid Djalili, Rich Hall and Lee Hurst count it as one of their favourite clubs to play in. The club even gives you a life membership for just turning up, which entitles you to discounted entry.
4. Banana Cabaret: The Bedford, Balham, SW12
The Bedford bears an uncanny resemblance to the TARDIS. You wouldn’t think it from wandering around inside, unless you’ve made it to their cavernous function rooms behind the main bars. They play host, two nights a week, to Banana Cabaret, a cross between theatre and a Las Vegas club night. You expect Tony Clifton to rear his podgy face at any moment. So, if you’re stuck at Clapham Junction station due to a signal failure, you’d be well advised to head here. When the show is over, your tickets unlock a bonus feature — a DJ til 2am.
5. Headliners Chiswick: George IV, Turham Green, W4
A spin-off from Ha Bloody Ha in Ealing, which is currently under refurbishment. But we don’t mind, as it means we get our comedy delivered slightly closer to central London. You do have to go a bit ‘Goodfellas’ and wander through the pub to the converted warehouse out the back, but the weekends always have a great line-up and a really friendly atmosphere. They also have a new-act night once a month, so check out the fresh talent before they start filling out stadiums.
6. The Lowdown at The Albany, W1
It’s had its doors closed for a while, but now the refurb has changed this venue from a sweaty sumo-wrestlers belt, to one of London’s hidden gems. The skinny basement club has a small stage and some of the newest and most interesting shows in town, from stand-up in the form of their regular night, Spank! to cabaret, sketch shows and improv. It also has a sister venue, The Hen & Chickens Theatre in Highbury.
7. Up the Creek, Greenwich, SE10
Right in the heart of Maritime Greenwich and famous for comedy speed dating. If you don’t pull by the end of the night, at least you’ll have got some entertainment to make up for your own cringe-worthy ice-breakers and chat-up lines. The regular comedy nights pull in some of the best comedy talent in London and they even offer a comedy course — if you REALLY think you’re funny.
8. 99 Club: Leicester Square, WC2
The London Critics’ choice for comedy. This has consistently brought the best comedy around, every day of the week. There aren’t many places that can say that. Always good to sign up to their mailing list to get the last minute heads-up on their sooper-seekrit special guests.
9. The Comedy Tree, Putney, SW15
Thursdays are the bargain offer nights, for £10 you’ll get food and drink, as well as some new names on the comedy circuit. Saturdays are when the Wahoo bar (or the Litten Tree for those who have been around a while) wakes up with top-drawer names trying out new material in a cosy venue.
10. Old Rope: The Phoenix, Cavendish Sqaure
Held in the spacious basement boudoir bar — part of the delicious Pheonix pub around the corner from Oxford Street — this club is a semi-residency for bookish nerd extraordinaire Robin Ince, as well as hosting circuit regulars and some fresh faces. It’s also home to Mitch Benn’s The Distraction Club each month, and a few impromptu gigs from wondering comedians from around the globe.
By Sid Rodrigues
Outraged that we missed your favourite? Tell us below…but include the best joke you ever heard there.
Image of the Comedy Café (not in our list) by Peppermint Nightmare in the Londonist Flickr pool.