The best comedy clubs in London

A night at one of London’s comedy clubs could mean seeing a superstar or finding one for the future
London has just about everything cultural in spades: music, theatre, art, yoghurt. Comedy is no exception to that rule, with superb comedy nights popping up in the dedicated clubs around Soho and Leicester Square and in pubs slightly further afield. You could be in the world-famous Comedy Store or a pub in Balham and find yourself watching a panel show regular alongside some of the best rising talent. So, when the crowds and the tube get you down, there’s only one sure-fire way to lift your spirits.
The Comedy Store
The renowned London comedy club has been going strong since 1979, introducing new talent to the world, some of whom have gone on to become big, big names. There’s a rotating cast of ‘house’ comedians, but you never know who might pop up unannounced. Recent ‘special guest’ appearances have included Greg Davies, Sara Pascoe, John Bishop, Michael McIntyre and Jack Whitehall.
Leicester Square Theatre
It’s not just a comedy theatre but the Leicester Square Theatre has a track record in attracting some of comedy’s best for extended runs in the main theatre or the lounge. Doug Stanhope is a big fan of the venue, often doing four or five nights in a row – just so he can offend as many people as possible – while Richard Herring records his regular podcast here and his former partner in crime, Stewart Lee, is another who frequently pops up. You’ll also get the sort of comedians who would usually fill arenas booking a night or two to try out new material before heading out on tour.

The Phoenix
The upstairs of this pub off Oxford Street is generally packed with office workers having a pint or two at lunch or after work, but downstairs is where the magic happens. The Old Rope weekly comedy night is one of the best in London. The premise is that you get one big name doing tried and tested material, while the rest of the line-up are trying out new material. Previous appearances include Katherine Ryan, Josie Long, Rich Hall, Stephen Merchant, Reginald D Hunter and Jason Manford. The Phoenix hosts a couple of other nights, including This Is Your Trial, a kind of Judge Rinder concept but with comedians presiding.

The Bedford
This sizeable Balham boozer is legendary around the capital for its comedy nights, especially its Banana Cabaret night. The list of comedians who’ve appeared on the pub’s globe theatre stage includes Harry Hill, Al Murray, Rob Brydon, Daniel Kitson, Jack Dee, Eddie Izzard and Jack Dee. Its pedigree in unearthing new talent is unquestionable and signing up to the mailing list is a great way of finding out about surprise guests and secret gigs. 

Also worth checking out: Backyard Comedy Club (The Backyard, Bethnal Green); Camden Comedy Club (The Camden Head, Camden); Live at the Chapel (Union Chapel, Islington); Laugh Out London (various venues)
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