The Comedy Store (London)

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The Comedy Store
Comedy Store, Soho, London.jpg
The Comedy Store (London)
Location Soho
London, W1
England
United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°30′36″N0°7′56″W / 51.51000°N 0.13222°W / 51.51000; -0.13222 Coordinates: 51°30′36″N0°7′56″W / 51.51000°N 0.13222°W / 51.51000; -0.13222
Owner Don Ward and Peter Rosengard
Type Comedy club
Opened1979;42 years ago (1979)
Website
thecomedystore.co.uk

The Comedy Store is a comedy club located in Soho, London, England, opened in 1979 by Don Ward and Peter Rosengard. [1]

Contents

History

Since 16 January 1925 [2] David Tennant's Gargoyle private members' club had leased the three top floors of 69 Dean Street, Soho, London (at the corner with Meard Street). [3] In 1952 David Tennant sold the Gargoyle as a going concern for £5,000 to caterer John Negus [4] In 1955 the club was sold on to Michael Klinger [5] and Jimmy Jacobs [6] who relaunched it as a strip club [7] [8] called the Nell Gwynne (variously advertised as a theatre, club, or revue). [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]

A 1960s ad shows the club as the Nell Gwynne by day and the Gargoyle Club at night. [16] [17]

Rosengard

In 1978, Peter Rosengard was on holiday with his then-wife Shirley in Los Angeles.

"We had nothing to do one night, so I asked the concierge and he recommended the Comedy Store. At the time there was no live comedy in the UK, apart from working men's clubs up north, which was not really my scene. I loved what I saw in LA, so decided to open one in London, despite everybody telling me I was nuts." [18]

In 1979, the Gargoyle's upper rooms took in a varied series of weekly themed club-nights, in addition to the long-running Nell Gwynne Revue strip show. [19]

Don Ward said Rosengard could use his premises on Saturday nights. But it was also a strip club with topless barmaids, which Peter had to explain when comedians came to audition. [18]

On Saturdays, beginning 19 May 1979, in the Gargoyle's rooftop club space Hammersmith-born insurance salesman Peter Rosengard [20] started a weekly club-night on Saturdays called the Comedy Store, in partnership with comedian Don Ward. It was open mic, in a Gong Show format, and invited audiences to show approval or disapproval of the unknown acts performing by "gonging" them off. [21] [19] There was no toilet in the dressing room, and male and female comedians used the sink. [22]

"On 19 May 1979, only sixteen days after Margaret Thatcher’s first general election victory, a new comedy club opened in London, hosted in a Soho topless bar named the Gargoyle, accessed through the Nell Gwynne strip club in Dean Street. The Comedy Store was the brainchild of insurance salesman Peter Rosengard, [1] who teamed up with local businessman Don Ward, having been inspired by the Los Angeles [23] Comedy Store while on holiday." [24] [25] [26]

"In the old days, there was a cross-over between stripping and comedy. 69 Dean Street was the Nell Gwynne strip club until about 11 o’clock and then it suddenly turned into The Comedy Store. When it got successful, they stopped doing the stripping on Friday and Saturday and they did two comedy shows – an 8 o’clock and a midnight. If you were on the circuit then, you’d do first act in the first house at the Comedy Store, then go off and do a pub in Stoke Newington or wherever, then rush back and do second or third on the bill in the second show at the Comedy Store. If you were good, you were working in more than one place. Everyone worked round each other and there was a cross-over between street acts and alternative acts"
Philip Herbert [27] [28]

Careers

The London Comedy Store made the reputations of many of the UK's upcoming "alternative comedians" while the specifically political Alternative Cabaret was taking root.

Among the original line-up who made their reputations here were Alexei Sayle, [29] Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, French & Saunders, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson who in 1980 led these pioneers to establish the breakaway Comic Strip team elsewhere in Soho. [30] All were to prove influential in reshaping British television comedy throughout the 1980s as stars of The Comic Strip Presents.

The Comedy Store, at the Gargoyle and elsewhere, helped start the careers of Paul Merton, [31] Ben Elton, [32] Keith Allen, [32] Jo Brand, Mark Thomas, Arnold Brown, [18] Andrew Bailey, [33] Pat Condell and John Sparkes.

Comedian Paul Merton is one of the longest performing mainstream comics to still be associated with the venue from his debut performance in 1984. [31] He presented a BBC 1 documentary, 25 Years of the Comedy Store – A Personal History by Paul Merton (11 January 2005).

In 2016 British artist Carl Randall painted the portrait of comedian Jo Brand standing in front of The Comedy Store, as part of the artist's 'London Portraits' series, where he asked various cultural figures to choose a place in London for the backdrop of their portraits. [34] [35] In an interview Brand explained why she chose The Comedy Store for her portrait, and her experiences performing there early in her career. [36] [37]

Groups

In October 1985, an improvisational group called The Comedy Store Players was formed, consisting of Mike Myers, Neil Mullarkey, Kit Hollerbach, Dave Cohen and Paul Merton. The group has had several line-up changes over the years, and now features a rotating team of Neil Mullarkey, Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence, Richard Vranch, Jim Sweeney, Lee Simpson and Andy Smart, together with frequent guest appearances. Several of The Comedy Store Players appeared on the BBC Radio 4 and Channel 4 comedy game show Whose Line Is It Anyway? .

In 1990 The Cutting Edge satirical comedy team was formed by comedy journalist John Connor (formerly comedy editor at radical London listings magazine City Limits ). The original team was Mark Thomas, Kevin Day, Bob Boyton, Nick Revill and Richard Morton. The show's aim was to recapture the political edge that was fostered at the original Comedy Store.

Venues

Don Ward dissolved his business relationship with Rosengard in late 1981. [18] Ward remained CEO of Comedy Store interests.

In 1982 when the upper floors were sold off, the Comedy Store moved to a series of other venues. In late 1982, The Comedy Store operated from 28a Leicester Square (The 400 Club) [38] [39] for two years, taking over the club in 1985. [32]

In 1993, The Store moved to a specifically designed stand-up comedy venue, at 1a Oxendon Street, between Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. [32]

In 1984 Rosengard went on to manage the band Curiosity Killed the Cat.

The Comedy Store also has sister venues in Manchester (opened in 2000), and Bournemouth (2006). There was also a venue at the Merrion Centre in Leeds which opened in November 2003 but closed in June 2004. [40]

Related Research Articles

Soho District in London, England

Soho is an area of the City of Westminster, part of the West End of London. Originally a fashionable district for the aristocracy, it has been one of the main entertainment districts in the capital since the 19th century.

Mike Myers British-Canadian actor, comedian, screenwriter, producer and director

Michael John Myers OC is a Canadian actor, comedian, screenwriter, producer and director, known for his run as a performer on Saturday Night Live from 1989 to 1995 and for playing the title roles in the Wayne's World, Austin Powers and Shrek film franchises. He made his directorial debut with the documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2013). He semi-retired from acting in 2012, though he had supporting roles in Terminal and Bohemian Rhapsody.

Paul Merton English comedian

Paul James Martin – known under the stage name Paul Merton – is an English writer, actor, comedian and radio and television presenter.

The Comic Strip is a group of British comedians who came to prominence in the 1980s. They are known for their television series The Comic Strip Presents..., which was labelled as a pioneering example of the alternative comedy scene. The core members are Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson and Jennifer Saunders, with appearances by Keith Allen, Robbie Coltrane, Alexei Sayle and others.

Alternative comedy is a term coined in the 1980s for a style of comedy that makes a conscious break with the mainstream comedic style of an era. The phrase has had different connotations in different contexts: in the UK, it was used to describe content that was an "alternative" to the mainstream of live comedy, which often involved racist and sexist material. In other contexts, it is the nature of the form that is "alternative", avoiding reliance on a standardised structure of a sequence of jokes with punch lines. Patton Oswalt has defined it as "comedy where the audience has no pre-set expectations about the crowd, and vice versa. In comedy clubs, there tends to be a certain vibe—alternative comedy explores different types of material."

Rik Mayall English actor, comedian and writer

Richard Michael Mayall was an English stand-up comedian, actor and writer. Mayall formed a close partnership with Ade Edmondson while they were students at Manchester University and was a pioneer of alternative comedy in the 1980s.

The Comedy Store Players is a group of improvisational comedians who perform at The Comedy Store in London. The group first came into being in October 1985.

Richard Vranch

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Neil Mullarkey is an English actor, writer and comedian.

Raymond Revuebar

The Raymond Revuebar (1958–2004) was a theatre and strip club at 11 Walker's Court, in the centre of London's Soho district. For many years, it was the only venue in London that offered full-frontal, on-stage nudity of the sort commonly seen in other cities in Europe and North America. Its huge brightly lit sign declaring it to be the "World Centre of Erotic Entertainment" made the Revuebar a local landmark.

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Roger Wilmut is a British writer and compiler of books on British comedy. Wilmut attended Warwick School, and began his 'day job' as studio technician for the BBC on leaving school in 1961. Wilmut claims to have drifted into a career as a writer "by accident". Wilmut's books include The Goon Show Companion, Tony Hancock: Artiste, From Fringe to Flying Circus and Didn't You Kill My Mother-in-law.

Ade Edmondson English entertainer

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Gargoyle Club

The Gargoyle was a private members' club on the upper floors of 69 Dean Street, Soho, London, at the corner with Meard Street. It was founded on 16 January 1925 by the aristocratic socialite David Tennant, son of the Scottish 1st Baron Glenconner. David was the brother of Stephen Tennant who was called "the brightest" of the "Bright Young People" and of Edward Wyndham Tennant, the poet who was killed in action in World War I.

David Pax Tennant was a British aristocrat and socialite, and the founder of the Gargoyle Club in London's Soho.

Kit Hollerbach

Kathleen Ann (Kit) Hollerbach is an American stand-up comedian and actress. She was born in Sacramento, California

References

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