Best Sussex comedy haunts
I LOVE comedy and see it in some form every few weeks, be that a big name, a mixed bill with some regulars on the circuit, or a one-off fringe show I just liked the sound of. It’s not just about having a good laugh; I love the cleverness of the best acts, the way they draw humour from everyday observations and pace their material just right. You’ll recognise Sussex’s Romesh Ranganathan, Zoe Lyons and Simon Evans from TV and Radio but there are heaps of other acts on the circuit I really rate and I saw the likes of Bill Bailey and Man Down’s Greg Davies before they were famous. So, I thought I’d share my tips on where to go for the best comedy in Sussex and beyond – including a few places you wouldn’t expect and even some family-friendly options.
The obvious choice – Brighton’s comedy club has won Best in the South 13 times in the Chortle awards. Krater Comedy Club runs at weekends here but a few other things are worth flagging up. There’s a regular gay-slanted comedy night Bent Double, often compered by Zoe Lyons; excellent improv group The Noise Next Door have their Comedy Lock In here when they’re not touring (see my piece on them here); Stand Up and Slam takes over the smaller room on a regular basis pitching slam poets against stand-ups in a mock acrimonious battle. As well as one-offs you’ll have heard off it’s worth keeping an eye out for offbeat fringe shows. komedia.co.uk
Caroline of Brunswick
This Gothy pub on Brighton’s Ditchling Road, just down from The Level has a giant fibreglass three-headed dog above the bar. Take the grungy staircase to a small 60-seater upstairs room and you may well see someone off the telly doing a show for a fiver. The likes of Josh Widdicombe, Mark Steel, Romesh Ranganathan, Rhod Gilbert and Katherine Ryan have played here, doing warm-ups for their tours or (in early summer) for their stint at Edinburgh Fringe. It’s well worth also taking a punt on the one-off fringe acts with real life stories to tell like a guy who got drawn into a farcical copyright battle with French Connection, or a woman who had a very disturbing upbringing in Hollywood… carolineofbrunswick.co.uk
Several other pubs and venues run comedy nights in Brighton, notably The Quadrant near the Clock Tower, Black Dove pub in Kemptown (free on three Thurs a month), Hotel Pelirocco and The Marlborough Pub & Theatre and Mal Maison at Brighton Marina which sometimes has Gag House Comedy nights.
Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham
A little further out, Shoreham’s Ropetackle Centre puts on the Barnstormers Comedy Club and charity stand-up nights plus a range of solo acts. Some strong names there have included Shappi Khorsandi and Bridget Christie ropetacklecentre.co.uk
Ha Ha Hassocks Comedy
Yes, Hassocks. The village six miles north of Brighton has for a year or so boasted a packed monthly comedy night known as Ha Ha Hassocks. I’ve been a few times and seen plenty of really strong comedians I recognise from the London circuit. Amazing freestyle rapper Chris Turner headlined one. The secret? The Komedia’s regular compere Stephen Grant lives in the village and has all the connections. He throws in some local banter too: “You may be in the Doomsday Book Hurstpierpoint but we’ve got 4G…” It’s in the large function room at The Hassocks pub, just metres from the train station (plenty of free parking too of an evening) so if you live in Ditchling, Hurstpierpoint, Burgess Hill or even Haywards Heath do check it out. facebook.com/sussexcomedy
The Bell at Ticehurst
This atmospheric pub has a lovely function room – the Stable with a Table where it hosts regular comedy nights with one off acts or double bills. I keep an eye on the line-up and have noted some decent people from the comedy circuit appear here. They’ve even had Stephen K Amos who is the best at riffing off an audience I’ve ever seen.
Comedy Club 4 Kids
This is a great concept – regular comedians doing non- patronising material pitched at over sixes. I’ve taken my nephews a couple of times and my face has actually ached from laughing. Expect jokes and songs about poo, bogeys, space and dinosaurs, with knowing comments and humiliation for the adults. The kids’ interaction makes it. They heckle with their hands up, anxious to let the act know their brother has the same name, or they lost a tooth the day before, and the comedians banter back. Once they were handed out raw sprouts ‘to eat instead of bogeys’ and ended up pelting the compere.
Comedy Club 4 Kids is often at Brighton’s Komedia but it also tours around and pops into Chichester’s Minerva Theatre. Kids usually sit on mats in front but get there early to get a seat near them. comedyclub4kids.co.uk
Matt’s Comedy Club, Worthing
Let’s face it, if you go to see stand-up you’re going to get a lot of four letter words. Started by a church group who wanted something more family-friendly, Matt’s Comedy Club is swear-free and aimed at ages 12+ Catch their multi-bills or their pay-what-you-like open mic nights with stand-ups trying new material. It’s run on a not-for-profit basis so is always good value. Gigs are generally at the Connaught Studio. There may even be a fancy dress theme. stmatthewsworthing.co.uk
Bring Your Own Baby, Brighton and Tonbridge
Great idea – something you can enjoy with a baby that doesn’t involve being made to behave like an infant yourself. Bring Your Own Baby comes up monthly at the moment at Brighton’s Komedia and The Plough near Tonbridge, Kent as well as various London and Surrey locations. It’s a proper adult, sweary daytime stand-up show with toys, lights and the like to distract under 12-month-olds. You enjoy comedy without having to book a babysitter and they’re none the wiser about any filth beyond that they’re filling their nappy with. byobaby.com
I know less about these events but all these venues have regular stand-up slots.
Lewes Con Club: A not-for-profit social club in the county town with music and comedy nights. lewesconclub.com
The George in Rye: The boutique hotel hosts nights with three stand-ups every few months. thegeorgeinrye.com/events
Crawley Comedy Club: Romesh Ranganathan’s sister is behind this club, held at Crawley Rugby Club on odd dates so you know she has some good connections. It’s next up this very week – Fri 27 Jan. Crawleycomedyclub.co.uk
Grinstock, East Grinstead: This club was nominated for Comedy Club of the South by Dave TV and Absolute Radio and has acts from the national circuit. There’s live comedy on the first Thursday of the month. grinstockcomedy.co.uk
Barnstormers Comedy, Horsham: Barnstormers, which originated in East Sussex, runs comedy nights across various UK venues, including the aforementioned Ropetackle in Shoreham. It’s at The Capitol Horsham monthly with three acts and an MC. barnstormerscomedy.com
Jailhouse Screamers, Arundel: Comedy… in a jail! Six comedians and a compere on Friday nights. arundeljailhouse.co.uk
Seriously Funny Comedy Club, Haywards Heath: Monthly At Clair Hall, which also hosts one off appearances by touring TV types. placesforpeopleleisure.org
Comedy Caf, Tunbridge Wells: Monthly bill at Trinity Theatre with half price food available. trinitytheatre.net
BIG NAMES TOURING
Omid Djalili, Stewart Lee, Russell Brand, Reginald D Hunter and Susan Millican are among big names touring this way this year. If you want to see comedy in Sussex from a TV regular then check out the coming season at the following venues: Brighton Dome, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, Brighton Centre, The Old Market, Hove, White Rock Theatre, Hastings, Clair Hall, Haywards Heath; Worthing Theatres; The Hawth, Crawley and Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells.
Sure The Comedy Store near Leicester Square is the famous one but here are my tips for great lesser-known venues …
Up the Creek, Greenwich
Hands down my fave comedy club. It used to be my local and I still drive up there on occasion now. It’s won Time Out’s best comedy club multiple times and has recently had a makeover. There’s comedy Fri and Sat nights but it’s the bargain Sunday Special that’s really worth shouting about (best of course on bank holidays when you don’t have work the next day). That costs just £7. Let me say that again £7 folks!! What’s more you can usually park for free virtually outside. For that princely sum I’ve seen here Rich Hall, Stephen Merchant, Greg Davies, Stephen K Amos, Arthur Smith and many more TV types.
Covent Garden Comedy Club: This nice intimate gathering is in the arches under Charing Cross station – the same venue turns into famous gay nightclub Heaven at a later hour. coventgardencomedy.com
Leicester Square Theatre: A smallish venue to see well-known comedians touring. Even TV regulars like Bill Bailey sometimes do bargain warm-up gigs here before their tours. There’s a Comedian of the Year competition in June. leicestersquaretheatre.com
Got a good comedy venue near you I haven’t mentioned? Give me a shout, I’m always keen to know more.