Horses for courses

Mark Olver on whether any comedy venue is 'perfect'

Yesterday, Toby Martin wrote on these pages how he disliked the experience of watching comedy at the Komedia in Bath. Now, one its regular comperes, Mark Olver, responds...

I compere Bath Komedia a lot. I live in Bristol, Bath is about 20 minutes’ drive away. All the staff are great. The food is brilliant (honestly, the chocolate brownie is amazing. As for the pork belly. Divine). Every comic I know who has done it has commented on how well we are treated. And the money is excellent.

No, the room is not perfect. The sound and the lights are brilliant, but they have to be to cope with a massive room with a ceiling that is too high. And I have never understood why tables have to be side-on to the stage – although at least in the Komedia, in both Bath and Brighton, they do give you "targets" on round tables right near the front.

So Bath Komedia isn't a perfect comedy room. But what is?

The Comedy Box in Bristol? It is a very good room, run by a brilliant promoter – who is often only able to attract such great comedians because they can double up with the Bath Komedia on the same night. But then his tables are also side-on, so therefore not a perfect room.

Comedy Store in London? Great layout, pricey, and full of tourists.

Comedy Cavern in Bath? Small, intimate, lovely. Maybe too much light on the audience, and some tricky sight lines at the back of the room.

As close to perfect rooms that I have seen? Maybe Glasgow Stand. Or Birmingham or Cardiff Glee. I really like The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth. Square, good stage, nice lights. Oh, and Brighton Komedia, although I often worry about that back corner, stage right, feels too far away.

And the gigs I run? My Oppo gig in Bristol? Where for two pounds the audience have seen in the past several years (deep breath) Russell Howard, Jon Richardson, Rhod Gilbert, Sarah Millican, Mark Watson, Pappy’s Fun Club, Daniel Kitson, Flight Of The Conchords and a musical version of Cool Runnings (OK, that last one was me).

But it is a terrible room, underneath a pub in Clifton, literally lit by my bedside lamps. And the audience love it. I have so many regulars. The gigs can be incredible. And shambolic. And stupid. And hot and sweaty, and unfunny, and mad, and sometimes a fire risk.

Bath Komedia isn't like that.

The comedians who play those big rooms are great. People with proven track records on the UK and international circuit.

And there are never that many regulars. They tend to be people celebrating weddings, or works do's or birthdays.

And they get to have a dance afterwards to some fairly good Motown tuneage.

And they tend to spend a lot of money on good food (I'm not kidding, that chocolate brownie is amazing) and booze and tickets and taxi home.

And usually, they love it.

Because it is a gig made for them. A gig made for a big night out maybe once a year, maybe even less.

In the same way the Comedy Box is made for people in Bristol who want to see strong headliners and supports, and touring shows. And the Comedy Cavern is made for people who want a cheap, chilled Sunday night out. And Oppo is made for people who are skint.

Bath Komedia and the Glees, and the Stores and some Jongleurs and Highlights, all do what they do brilliantly.

They cope with large groups, they feed them and water them, and sometimes give them balloons, and let them pay a lot of money to watch brilliant comedians be brilliant.

This circuit works because of every type of gig. From arenas to theatres to clubs to the corners of pubs. They all feed, and are fed by, each other.

There is something for everyone. You just need to find the comedy night that is right for you and your budget.

Good clubs do it well, bad clubs do it badly. Size is not important. Except when it comes to chocolate brownies.

Published: 23 Sep 2011

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