While comedy hotspots like the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, King’s Head Theatre and Soho Theatre have long been serving top-tier comedy for the LGBTQ+ crowd, there has until now not existed a venue dedicated solely and explicitly to queer standup and comedy acts.

Now, after several years of planning and heated anticipation, the neatly named Queer Comedy Club in Archway has opened its doors, kicking off with a stellar lineup to toast in the new space.

Half expecting an inconspicuous door to a secret haven of queer delights, I was pleasantly surprised by the bold visibility of the venue from the street — the multicoloured tessellating pattern of its sign stating plainly for all to see just what it is — unpretentious, contemporary, fun. The open, sociable bar follows suit, delivering an aesthetic firmly grounded in camp: the hip, elegant bar staff serve wine in gin goblets as portraits of past and present divas look down from the walls, conferring upon us their blessing and sparking conversations about the community’s sparkly history.

Downstairs, the performance venue is clean, simple, and intimate. Even from the back you can see and hear everything, and the space is beautifully warm from the off. Carrying the night through is club co-founder, David Ian, whose glib, self-deprecating jokes about slutty holidays and gay male body image sets the tone for a warm, welcoming and totally unserious night. The revels do not stop from here!

A standout feature of the opening lineup is the breadth of comedy styles, sexualities, and gender identities represented onstage. This is no boys’ club, with more than half the lineup consisting of women and non-binary comics. Standup is the main dish, with David ‘two-first-names’ Ian, Dee Allum, and Sarah Keyworth knocking out three crackling, crafted and hilariously personal sets, while Ben Pollard and Kathy Maniura offer more alternative acts in the form of parody songs and object impersonations.

This variety is refreshing and bouncy, and the energy in the room lifts with each act: the polish of Allum’s closeted-trans-girl-at-a-boys’-school narratives setting up a tough act to follow, but Pollard grabs the audience with his hilariously smiling, strange and increasingly absurd numbers about his exes weird testicles and gay porn’s obsession with incest sex. It’s crass, sexy, silly — and safe. Everyone gets a ribbing, especially straight people, the lovingly agreed upon enemy of the night — though one who is represented in the crowd and greeted with playfully open arms.

Sketch Off winner Kathy Maniura looks to steal the show with her utterly original, astonishing and boundlessly weird character studies of objects ranging from electric scooters to AirPods. Seeing the LGBTQ+ cycling group, the Ldn Riders, respond to her impression of the worst kind of self-righteous, middle-class, straight white male London cyclist was a moment of pure brilliance — not only because of the polish of its nailing a well-known stereotype but because of its relevance to the audience. This is queer London onstage!

With all this exciting, strange new energy in the air, it’s a tall order for Keyworth’s headline act to stand atop what’s come before — yet they land with such a strong force of character, such a command of joke construction and delivery that it’s impossible not to be carried away. Responding to an audience member declaring their pronouns as ‘he/him’ with ‘Arguably the worst’, Keyworth cheekily skewers the tedium of living under the patriarchy and sticking two middle fingers up at the forces that push women and queer people down. But it’s not preachy or worthy — like the best comedy, we learn through laughter. Of COURSE, society thinks that all boyish non-binary comics are Mae Martin (‘with dyed hair’). Unlike many comedians known for TV appearances and high-profile stadium gigs, Sarah Keyworth’s brand of incessantly funny pub raconteur embraces the opportunity of this intimate venue to really connect with the audience while trying out new material for their upcoming tour. It’s genuine, hilarious and compassionate. We stan!

What Queer Comedy Club have done here is organise a brilliant night of delicious comedy, perfectly pitched for its crowd. The space is unapologetically camp and queer, spacious and authentic — an environment welcome to all. It’s thrilling to think about the potential for a venue like this, the impact it can have on the community at large and the opportunities for LGBTQ+ comedy acts across the board. And whoever is programming — keep up the exceptional work!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Queer Comedy Club is now open! Located in Archway, you can find out What’s On here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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