1. Leicester Square Theatre, West End
This magnificently restored theatre located in the centre of the West End, offers two spaces which run a healthy programme of comedy, cabaret, dance, music and theatre. Our favourite spot is the 400-seat theatre with two bars, perfectly positioned in the auditorium for half-time drinks, plus newly-installed cinema-style seating. Described by Ricky Gervais as ‘one of my favourite venues in the world’ and ‘my favourite venue of them all’ by Michael McIntyre, this is definitely one to check out. We like to watch Shitfaced Shakespeare, where actors drink throughout one of the Bard’s productions – with varying levels of success.
6 Leicester Place, Leicester Square, WC2H 7BX
2. The Covent Garden Comedy Club, Covent Garden
The Covent Garden Comedy Club has been located at Under The Arches at Heaven for 17 years. With 200 seats, the club prides itself on being the largest and most successful independent comedy club in the West End, with consistently strong line-ups (Jack Whitehall, Michael McIntyre, Alan Carr, Micky Flanagan, Noel Fielding, Jimmy Carr and Rhod Gilbert have all played here), super-friendly staff and a lively atmosphere. The venue makes a great spot for groups of all sizes, from big birthdays to shy couples looking to break the ice on a first date.
The Arches, Villiers Street, Covent Garden, WC2N 6NG
3. Backyard Comedy Club, Bethnal Green
Backyard Comedy Club is the largest professional, purpose-built comedy club in London and has been the unofficial home of comedy in the East End for the past 20 years. Founded and owned by Lee Hurst – who came to fame in the 1990s as a regular face on television shows such as They Think It’s All Over – the club regularly hosts big TV names and circuit pros such as Jo Brand, Harry Hill, Russell Howard, James Acaster, Sara Pascoe and Joe Lycett.
231 Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, E2 0EL
4. Downstairs at The King’s Head, Crouch End
One of the oldest comedy clubs in the UK, Downstairs at The King’s Head opened in 1981, and specialises in presenting larger-than-life entertainment in an intimate environment. The 100-capacity club presents shows throughout the week championing the ‘best of the new’, be it comedy, music, spoken word, magic or dance. You'll be hard pushed to find any top comics who haven’t passed through these doors on their way up – the club prides itself on the fact that many continue to perform here long after they have become ‘too big’.
2 Crouch End Hill, Crouch End, N8 8AA
5. Camden Comedy Club, Camden
This little room above the Camden Head pub has hosted everyone from the alternative comedy regulars right up to TV headliners and arena fillers. These have included Harry Hill, Alan Carr, Russell Howard, Bridget Christie, Stewart Lee and Sara Pascoe. Relaunched in 2014, the venue showcases bigger names at the weekends and new material nights – established acts working on their new sets, Edinburgh previews, new panel shows and sketch nights – during the week. Importantly, the tickets here are really affordable: top tickets cost just £10 and many events are free or pay what you can.
100 Camden High Street, Camden, NW1 0LU
6. Live At The Chapel, Islington
Union Chapel is an architectural treasure that's home to a working church, award-winning venue, unique organ and The Margins Project for those homeless and in crisis in London. Live At The Chapel – its monthly comedy night – has been running since June 2007. One of the biggest, most dramatic comedy clubs in the country, the chapel has hosted everyone from Noel Fielding to Adam Buxton, Bridget Christie, Reginald D Hunter, Simon Amstell, Stewart Lee and Tim Key. A rather special setting.
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, N1 2UN
7. Banana Cabaret, Balham
The Bedford, the iconic pub and live music and comedy venue in Balham, reopened in December following a massive refurb. Thankfully Banana Cabaret – one of London’s longest-running comedy clubs – still has a regular weekend slot. Stars who have graced the Banana Cabaret stage over its 36 years include Eddie Izzard, Catherine Tate, Michael McIntyre, Micky Flanagan, Lee Mack, Harry Hill, Al Murray, Jack Whitehall, Jo Brand, Stewart Lee, Jack Dee, Greg Davies, Rob Brydon and Frank Skinner. Banana Cabaret continues to be the spring board for new and emerging comedians as well as established artists.
77 Bedford Hill, Balham, SW12 9HD
8. The Bill Murray, Islington
The Bill Murray is more than an intimate, well-proportioned comedy club. It’s also a creative space where comedians can meet, write, rehearse and perform, and where the team runs comedy courses and projects for the local community. It’s also a cracking pub, serving drinks and snacks every day from 5pm. A permanent venue run by Angel Comedy, the club has grown from a once-a-week gig into a venue which hosts free and funny shows every single night.
39 Queen's Head Street, Angel, N1 8NQ
9. The Comedy Store, Soho
The Comedy Store is the capital’s busiest comedy venue – over 3,500 people pass through its doors every week. The club has come a long way since it first opened in 1979 above a strip club in Soho. Today, it offers everything from topical news-based comedy from The Cutting Edge team to the very best in comedy improv from The Comedy Store Players. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening the venue puts on ‘The Best in Stand Up’ – classic stand-up comedy featuring some of the best talent around.
1a Oxendon Street, Soho, SW1Y 4EE
10. Soho Theatre, Soho
A charity and social enterprise, Soho Theatre’s mission is to produce new work, discover and nurture new writers and artists, and target and develop new audiences. The team’s Dean Street theatre is one of the country’s busiest venues, with a year-round festival programme and buzzing bar. By day it’s a hive of writing, workshops and showcases. By night it stages at least six shows (over 2,000 performances a year). Soho Theatre Upstairs is the place to head for intimate and adventurous work; Soho Theatre Downstairs is a New York-meets-Berlin comedy and cabaret space; while Soho Theatre is the spot for powerful new theatre, opera, musical dance and comedy.
21 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 3NE
11. Up The Creek Comedy Club, Greenwich
Up the Creek is a well-established comedy landmark right in the middle of Greenwich. The venue’s main room is world-famous and renowned as one of the best rooms to perform in – it can seat 275 guests and is ideal for club gigs as well as touring shows. It’s often used as a TV studio for BBC2’s No Such Thing As The News and a radio studio for BBC Radio 4. Quite possibly the quirkiest venue in the South East, Up The Creek fosters an intimate, cosy atmosphere – with big laughs.
302 Creek Road, Greenwich, SE10 9SW
12. Knock2Bag, Hackney
Known for hosting some of the best mixed bills in London, Knock2Bag comedy night takes place weekly at Moth Club in Hackney and monthly at Rich Mix in Shoreditch, bringing an eclectic mix of big names and handpicked ‘ones to watch’. The club night is also responsible for Cardinal Burns Presents…, hosted by Channel 4 sketch stars Seb Cardinal and Dustin Demri-Burns. Recent live acts include Brett Gelman, Stewart Lee, Greg Davies, Aisling Bea, Stephen Merchant, Russell Kane, Katherine Ryan, Joe Wilkinson, Adam Buxton, Shappi Khorsandi and Lee Nelson.
Moth Club, Valette Street, Hackney, E9 6NU and Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch, E1 6LA