It’s too easy, when planning a night out watching some stand-up comedy, to head straight to one of the big venues. Or play it safe, and buy tickets to a headline tour by a comic you know and love.
Don’t get me wrong – the big names on the comedy venue circuit (think The Comedy Store in Manchester and London, or Jongleurs, which has comedy venues across the UK) pretty much guarantee you a good night out – and you’ll likely see some acts you already recognise off the telly.
And of course you should always make time to see your favourite comedians when they hit the road.
But there’s a whole other world of comedy out there for you to discover, and pub comedy is very much part of it.
I’ve been to more pub comedy shows than I can remember. I’ve watched comedians in the remarkable little theatre that is housed in The Bedford pub in Balham; I’ve watched acts including Bridget Christie, Pappy’s and Romesh Ranganathan in the dingy room underneath The Phoenix pub in central London; and I’ve had great nights at both Pub/Zoo Bar and the Ape and Apple in Manchester.
I could go on – in fact, if I put my mind to it I can recall sitting, chuckling away, at pubs in Crouch End, Bathgate on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow (actually, The 13th Note is well worth checking out for gigs).
On any given night of the week, pubs across the UK are hosting some of the best up-and-coming comedians in the country, and putting them on stage for your delectation – often at knock-down prices. And it’s not just the big cities either – your local town will almost certainly have a comedy night up and running – you just need to find it.
Now, I won’t lie to you. The pub comedy scene is less reliable than your big name venues. Comedians need to start somewhere, and when they first get on stage they won’t necessarily be quite as polished as the acts you see on Live at the Apollo, or Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow.
But some are. In fact, many are – and you won’t know why the act you’ve only just discovered playing live at your local boozer isn’t a household name. And how you got lucky enough to enjoy them without having to pay venue prices for your pint.
Comedians these days are often compared to rock bands. They can sell out arenas, often for weeks (Peter Kay sold out 20 dates at the 23,000-capacity MEN Arena in Manchester). But it’s the pub comedy scene where you can discover your new favourite comedians before they hit the big time – and then brag about the fact that you were into them before they were cool.
ShowSpot will be bringing you information about all the live comedy in your area, from the big arenas to your local pub. Come back regularly to make sure you are in the loop.