The UK’s Greatest Comedy Nights
Now that it’s perpetually chucking it down you can’t hide from the fact that these grey skies and unimaginative weather conditions do little to lift the spirits. Our cruel, malevolent god probably watches down from his massive bathtub in fits of hysterics at the sound of our inner sobbing, he guffaws at our daily commute, he snorts laughter through his nose thinking about our seasonal sadness.
But don’t worry, there is a silver lining on the edge of this thundercloud. When the nights draw in and everyone gets the blues, so comedy clubs really come into their own – becoming not just warm solaces from the chill winds, but also fun, sometimes uplifting, havens full of like-minded people all looking to find a smile. Far better than they are during the summer when no one wants to be indoors and there’s a brutal smog cloud of body odour. You’d be wise to pay a few of these stalwarts a visit this winter…
Before and after Christmas all of the gorgeous sandy beaches Glasgow has to offer become totally redundant – free from sunbathers, Hawaiian music and pineapple sellers. But don’t let that stop you having a great time, just head to a local comedy night at The Stand – comedians like Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges have been known to pop in to try out impromptu sets, and it’s situated in Scotland, which is great if you happen to be there already.
Once the Everest peak of performing at The Edinburgh Comedy Fringe Festival of The Arts has been scaled, you’ll find that lots of comics suddenly have a world of time on their hands. Some take the chance to lie in bed all day mindlessly staring at the ceiling. Others build on their gathering momentum by taking their sets to a fashionable area of North London to show the trendy elite what laughs they can elicit using just their words and their… timing.
The list of comics who have graced the stage at XS Malarkey reads like a Who’s Who of people who have performed at XS Malarkey. There’s Stewart Lee, John Bishop, Jason Manford, Jimmy Carr, Alan Carr, Josie Long, Sarah Millican, Jack Whitehall and loads of others. It’s the perfect tonic once you’ve finally tired of pulling on your thermals and spending the evening staring meaningfully at Manchester’s wonderful collection of canals.
Don’t worry if your motorbike and sidecar won’t make it to Birmingham, you can also find pretty decent Glee clubs in other cities like Oxford, Nottingham, Cardiff and Stoke. It’s a franchise that, unlike some, has managed to ride the vast wave of popularity without allowing its standards to slip. And best of all they have a strict “no idiots” policy, so if you turn up with a load of lads ready to swill some beers and do some heckling, chances are you won’t be enjoying fresh material from Lee Evans that night.
Brighton has lots to offer – white guys with dreadlocks, girls with those nose rings that go right through the middle bit, and this amazing comedy venue. The massive neon sign out the front is undimmed by the resplendent joke fest gathering pace indoors. More than one comedy pal of mine has said that this is one of the nicest places to do stand up in the whole country. No frills, just a great selection of comics.
No one is confidently sure where Bracknell is, but ask where the Comedy Cellar is, and any true devotee of the spoken word will have drawn you a detailed map in under two minutes. This place has been going for years, and with its stark brick wall background, it’s not unlike the club from the beginning of each episode of Seinfeld. Comedians adore playing at this venue, and if you can’t be bothered to eat first, there’s the option to get yourself a tasty hamburger while you’re there.
Situated in Kingston-on-Thames this intimate comedy club has been a cult favourite for years. All of the biggest acts have been known to pop down to try out some material. There’s no point in even listing them, instead just close your eyes and imagine a famous comedian – yep, they’ve played here. Easily one of the best comedy nights in the country, The Guardian named it their fourth favourite, which means that they made the wrong decision three times before they got it right.
Josh Burt is a London-based writer who used to run a popular comedy night in South London called Interestment Presents… Get Up Stand Up. He’s written for The Times, The Telegraph, The Sun, FHM, Shortlist, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and many more. He has also written two published books.