Comedy Capital of the World
If you’re tired of slick, safe, Live At The Apollo sets, London is the number one place to see real, live comedy - up close and personal with no boundaries.
In real live stand up, anything goes: I’ve seen crisps EATEN, Rubik’s Cubes SOLVED, fake penises REVEALED. What’s more, comedy is just about the only thing in London that isn’t horrifically, obscenely expensive. So if you’re looking for a relatively cheap night out, try my fave comedy nights in London for under a tenner:
How Much? £3 - £10
Run by lovely lads Tom Meek and Jack De’ath, Laugh Out London is hands down the most laid back, friendly place to watch comedy in the capital. Expect competitions for Haribo, lo-fi costumes for Halloween and the finest pound shop decorations that money can buy for no good reason at all.
Jack and Tom have a knack for booking the best comedians, and tickets are super cheap to boot, but it’s the hosts’ inclusive fun and silly nature that sets LOL apart from the rest.
Look out for: Stewart Lee pops in for a short set now and then - get on to their mailing list for a heads up. Loads of Edinburgh Previews in the run up to summer only £3-£4!
Where and when? Flagship Night: The Queen's Head in Angel, Islington – once a month. Alternative Night: Camden Head in Camden – first Friday of the month. The Dogstar in Brixton - Third Tuesday of the month. And MORE! (Check Website)
How Much? £7 +
The Invisible Dot is not just in the business of hosting comedy nights, The Invisible Dot produces shows too. They’ve done shows with up-and-coming comedians such as Luke McQueen and Mae Martin, as well as Fosters-nominated Luke Williams and the beguiling Tim Key. The Invisible Dot is based in, and holds shows at, an old welding workshop in Kings Cross - a tiny box room with a block of 75 fold up seats squeezed into it. It gets hot. It gets sweaty. This might not sound ideal, but seriously, when it comes to watching comedy you want to be able see the whites of their eyes and hear beads of sweat forming.
What really sets The Invisible Dot apart from the competition though is that it has a toilet cubicle either side of the stage. Let’s be honest, when has someone getting up to go to the toilet in the middle of a performance ever not been the funniest thing in the history of the universe? A masterstroke of modern architectural design if you ask me.
Look out for: The Saturday Night Show.
Where and When? The Invisible Dot, Kings Cross – Most Days.
Best New Comedy
How Much? £6
Slap bang in the centre of London, in a rather cavernous space underneath the Phoenix pub, you will find Old Rope. Old Rope is a new material night. Comedians come here to express their ludicrous and troubling thoughts for the first time. What is up with airplane food? (for example). Some of these thoughts turn out to be full cream hilarious; some might mature into chuckleworthy jokes with a little churning.
As for the rest of the time, if a comedian senses they’re on the precipice of bombing, they reach for the length of rope hanging in front of the stage and claw back some laughs with their tried and tested material - hence, money for old rope. There are a few new-material nights dotted around the capital but Old Rope is the only one that has a length of rope in it. Old Rope also attracts a consistently great line up of comedians – so it doesn’t matter whether all the jokes hit the mark, you can always expect to have a good laugh.
Look out for: Permanently bewildered pun conjurer Milton Jones regularly drops in to try out his new bits.
Where and When? The Phoenix, Cavendish Square, near Oxford Circus Underground Station – Mondays.
Most Comedians For Your Money
How Much? £8
Knock2Bag hosts monthly comedy nights in the east and west of London. Their line-ups typically feature a mixture of sketch comedy and comedy characters, along with a healthy dose of straight up stand up. Averaging a stonking 8 performers a night, this is the ‘everything including the kitchen-sink’ approach to comedy nights – and it works.
You can guarantee there’s something for everyone, plus some choice wildcards, which, love them or loathe them, you will never forget.
Look out for: Award-winning Cardinal Burns are launching a night with Knock2bag in Hackney in October.
Where and when? Bar FM, Shepherds Bush – once a month on Wednesdays. Rich Mix, Shoreditch – once a month on Saturdays.
Most Comedians For No Money
How much? Zero Pounds and zero pence. Donations accepted (donations keep it free).
You can find Angel Comedy at the Camden Head in Angel 7 nights a week. It’s free, so arrive early, expect a little bit of queuing and fair bit of getting cosy in a nice sweaty room. Monday is improv night, Wednesdays are for new acts and new material, Thursdays to Saturdays, expect more pros topping the bill.
Being free means everyone can spend more money on beer - so things can get a touch spirited. But it’s free, what did you expect?
Did I mention it’s free?
Look out for: How much money you have left in your purse/wallet.
Where and When? 7 nights a week at the Camden Head in Angel (not to be confused with the Camden Head in Camden).
Enigma, raconteur, renaissance man; Tim Cox could be described as none of these things. His main interests include eating full English breakfasts, drinking craft beer and trying to understand modern art. Tim writes about anything and everything in his blog: timcoxwriting.com. Tweet him: @timdcox.