Hils Jago cuts loose from the Moose | Comedy promoter ready to pass her company on

Hils Jago cuts loose from the Moose

Comedy promoter ready to pass her company on

Amused Moose comedy promoter Hils Jago is to step back from her business after almost 30 years.

Under that brand she has promoted a club in London’s West End – running up to six nights a week at its peak – overseen a comedy course that helped many famous names progress, and run competitions for new acts and Edinburgh Fringe shows.

But now – approaching 80 and suffering the effects of Long Covid – she says she wants to step back from the demands of the business.

She told Chortle that since contracting the virus early in the pandemic ‘I’ve never quite had the energy levels to be entrepreneurial and do the eight things at once that this business needs.’

But while she is inviting bids to take over the Amused Moose brands. she still intends to be involved in comedy. She will work as a critic for the One4Review website, and said : ‘I’m up for offers for other work in comedy, given I know so much about the business and know so many people.’

Jago started in the business in the mid-1990s at a London club called Sohoho, where she launched a Sunday night new act gig that gave early gigs to the likes of Ricky Gervais and Dave Gorman.

In 2001, Amused Moose then found its own home in the basement of a bar in Archer Street, Soho, running six nights a week for four years, before becoming a weekend gig in the Moonlighting nightclub, also in Soho. 

The club attracted star names to the audience, too, including Paloma Faith, Cate Blanchett – and Gervais, who returned to watch his comedy partner Stephen Merchant work through new material.

Jago said: ‘The reason people like this came is that we had a reputation for being a friendly club. I’d take no nonsense from any audience member – or performer. I didn’t even have any problems with Russell Brand when he was on the bill.

‘My rule was that I’d have no one in the club I wouldn’t have in my home.’

At the same time the club opened, Amused Moose started a comedy course – initially taught by Logan Murray, and more latterly Markus Birdman and Steve Best.  Students on the first course included Greg Davies and Rhod Gilbert

Jago said: ‘We set up the course because I was getting upset that people were slogging around the open mic circuit and not understanding how to improve.’

In the early 2000s she set up a new talent hunt, with winners and runners-up over the years including Sarah Millican, Jack Whitehall Rhod Gilbert, Mark Watson and Rob Beckett.  And since 2010 the Amused Moose Comedy Award has sought to find TV-ready comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe who had not yet got their big break. Winners have included  Tony Law, Marcel Lucont, Ian Smith, Richard Gadd and Janine Harouni.

Jago says she still runs into stars who got early breaks though Amused Moose – including Whitehall, pictured above with her at this year’s Fringe. ‘They say, "I still get your emails" and that they’re pleased to get them, even if they’ve moved into other careers, like Paddington writer Simon Farnaby. I think that says a lot.’

However she says: ‘It is high time that I step away from Amused Moose Comedy, taking my expertise to other comedy areas.

‘I am keen to hand Amused Moose Comedy to a successor so they can develop their vision into an exciting future, and will be delighted to hear from comedy people who are interested.’

Contact her at comedy@amusedmoose.com.

Published: 6 Dec 2023

Live comedy picks

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.