Opinion: A Boil on the Bum of the Comedy Circuit

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Clarification – The Comedy Club referred to throughout this article is not to be confused with the entirely different "The Comedy Club Ltd" which does not run any regular comedy clubs in central London but does put on special comedy nights and books comedians for events and corporate functions. There is no association between the two organisations.

I was delighted to hear that The Comedy Club (see above clarification) has been told to change its advertising by the Advertising Standards Authority after the watchdog concluded that the clubs' claim that they featured "award winning comedy" was misleading.

I just hope that the ruling can be successfully imposed. This club has been a boil on the backside of the stand-up circuit for a few years now. Anyone who has passed through Leicester Square over a weekend must have seen their flyering team handing out leaflets. I don't know how many just get dumped, but when I wanted to find one so that I could complain about the reference to me recommending the club on their leaflet a few years ago I found a handful in the first bin I looked in.

Now, this is where it gets complicated. I did recommend a particular night, back when the club was in a restaurant basement right next to Leicester Square, but not because the club was so good, but because Adam Bloom was appearing that night and he is one of my favourite club comics. Whatever I might have said about the club I was recommending the comic not the venue. And without getting too philosophical about the issue, if I was recommending the venue rather than the acts, the quotes have continued to appear when the club was not even in the same venue when I wrote about it. I'm not saying where it has moved to, I don't want to give them any extra publicity.

So should the club then be able to use that quote for later shows when Bloom is not on? I certainly don't think so (it reminds me of that philosophical shovel question – if you change the top handle bit and then later change the bottom digging bit is it still the same shovel?). I spoke to Adam Bloom about it and he said –  I'm paraphrasing here – that he didn't enjoy the gig. As for the man that I contacted at the club about the ad, he claimed that I wanted a number of friends put on the guest list. The number he quoted was incorrect, but even if it was accurate I don't remember saying that that makes it OK to continue to use the quote in promotional literature. I've just looked online where the club is called The London Comedy Club and it currently says "Personally recommended by the London Evening Standard comedy critic Bruce Dessau.” 

The complaint that prompted the ASA response came from the people behind the promoters of the Comedy Carnival Club, but other promoters have complained about The Comedy Club (see above clarification) to me over the years, asking if I really gave the club the glowing recommendation that appears on their leaflets. 

This problem has made me much more cautious about recommending clubs since then. Quotes often get taken out of context, but it has never been as annoying as this. This club is the only one that flyers so intensively, which is apparently legal but annoying. Some argue that they are not a typical comedy club and cater for passing tourist trade rather than knowledgeable comedy fans, but that does not justify the way they promote their business. Let's hope they respond in the correct manner to the ASA. In an ideal world maybe they would stop producing leaflets and flyering completely. Not only would this make the comedy circuit happier, it might also save some trees.

This article was first published in March 2013.

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