A Brief History Of South London Comedy Clubs: Page 2 of 2

Up The Creek

If you could get a table away from the braying twats, however, there were some great shows to be seen. Household names learnt their trade fending off wine-quaffing scum here. Ben Elton, Eddie Izzard, Steve Coogan, Alan Davies. They all paid their dues at this former rolling skating rink.

Keep the Red Flag Flying

There were other thriving venues in South London. Old leftie hippy, Roland Muldoon, used to run Cast (Cartoon Archetypical Slogan Theatre – I warned you he was a leftie hippy) and then formed New Variety with the help of a GLC grant which put gigs on all over London.

A favourite haunt was the Old White Horse, now Jamm, on Brixton Road. Back then you could get a cab there, see some stars from Saturday Night Live such as Julian Clary and Paul Merton, have a couple of pints and still have enough money left over from your dole cheque to blow at the bookies in the morning.

The Movable Feast of EDC

When is an East Dulwich comedy club not an East Dulwich comedy club? When it’s in Forest Hill. East Dulwich Comedy has been putting on brilliant comedy nights since 1989, but the gentrification and gastropubisation of SE22 gradually pushed Ron and Emma Emslie further south. Starting at the East Dulwich Tavern at Goose Green they worked their way down Lordship Lane, having a stint for a while at the Magdala (later the Magnolia and the Patch, currently with the shutters up again and soon to be The Lordship).

IMG_4952Pull the Other One at The Old Nun’s Head

Ron and Emma finally settled at The Hob opposite Forest Hill Station and seem to work 24/7, running both the pub and the comedy gigs in the room above. Recently big acts such as Stewart Lee have played there to raise the profile. All-round genius Daniel Kitson – go and see him if you want to be my friend – regularly tries out new material there too.

It is a pity EDC had to move. There is surely as big an audience for live comedy in SE22 as there ever was. In fact others have had a crack. Just last month the Gut Rocking Comedy Club started running shows on the last Thursday of every month. Where are they doing this? Back at the EDT.

And so, as you can see. Comedy is alive and well and living in South London. What I’ve written about here is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the Banana in Balham which has been going for three decades. The Always Be Comedy mini-empire runs gigs at, among other outposts, the Tommyfield in Kennington, the Avalon in Clapham and the Prince of Wales in Brixton. Innovative promoters Show & Tell are also putting on gigs at the POW. The Camberwell Arms is starting its Up In Arms comedy nights from April 7th, kicking off with the enviably noisy Nick Helm.

The Ritzy Cinema has gigs upstairs. One-offs are always popping up. Laugh Out London has gigs in Brixton too. There are occasional comedy nights at the Bussey Building in Peckham and the nearby Peckham Liberal Club. Comedian Holly Walsh runs the fabulous Happy Mondays at the Amersham Arms in New Cross on, yes, you got it, Mondays…

Don’t come sobbing to me if I’ve missed something. It’s a funny old world out there.

The black and white pictures are from the Tunnel Club, copyright Bill Alford. More here.


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