Comedy flows through London’s heart just like the rushing crowds of Oxford Circus or the murky waters of the Thames – ever-present, fascinating and, yes, sometimes mildly annoying.
With literally hundreds of venues to choose from, this list was never going to be exhaustive. From floating venues to old churches and legendary spaces, these are just four of the best venues to watch a stand-up comic make a fool of themselves in the UK’s capital.
The Union Chapel, Islington
A Grade I listed working church built in 1874 may not seem like the most appropriate venue for a comedy club – but trust us, the Union Chapel is fantastic. Long known as one of London’s premier smaller live music performance spaces (the acoustics are great) they moved into comedy a few years ago and haven’t looked back since. Hosting about 250 events per year in it’s gorgeous main hall, complete with stained glass porticos, confession booth just behind the stage and hanging candelabras, The Union Chapel is one of the capital’s most celebrated venues of any kind – let alone comedy. Oh and a percentage of the profits from each show goes to running their year-round homeless shelter and kitchen too. Not too shabby!
Sadly, not actually a castle, but a boat – permanently moored across from the London Eye, of course. Once a working ferry taking tourists and workers across the Thames, today the brilliantly named Tattershall Castle hosts a weekly comedy night called, appropriately enough, the Boat Show. Moored minutes away from prestigious King’s College University London and the cultural milieu of the South Bank, enjoy the glittering view with a pint from the on-deck bar or head below to see stand-up from up and coming comics and scene stalwarts like Romesh Ranganathan or Paul Sinha.
The Phoenix, West End
A proper old-school London boozer, this traditional English public house also hosts live comedy nights on the weekends – and they attract some truly big names. With no guaranteed performers on the bill for most nights, punters just turn up, grab a drink and see who’s on stage. With a regular night called Old Rope, featuring a noose hanging in front of the stage, many arena-filling comedians attend The Phoenix to trial out new material before hitting larger audiences. In fact, in the past year this quaint little pub basement has seen surprise performances from Michael McIntyre and US Hollywood star Amy Schumer. We can’t promise you the line-up will be that A-list every weekend – but the beauty of it is, you never really know!
The Comedy Store, Soho
Probably the most famous comedy venue in London, their website proudly boasts that over 3500 attend a show here every single week. Not bad going, for a venue that started out in a tiny room above a strip club in 1979. Nowadays, playing at the Comedy Store is seen as somewhat of a rite of passage for upcoming UK stand-up comics and the Store has seen performances from Jack Whitehall, Greg Davies, John Bishop and Paul Merton in the just the last year alone.