The Comedy Store (London)

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The Comedy Store
Comedy Store, Soho, London.jpg
London, W1
United Kingdom
Coordinates51°30′36″N 0°7′56″W / 51.51000°N 0.13222°W / 51.51000; -0.13222Coordinates: 51°30′36″N 0°7′56″W / 51.51000°N 0.13222°W / 51.51000; -0.13222
OwnerDon Ward and Peter Rosengard
TypeComedy club
Opened1979; 42 years ago (1979)

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


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]


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]


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]


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.


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]


  1. ^ a b Peter Rosengard's website. Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  2. ^ Luke, Michael (1991). David Tennant and the Gargoyle Years. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London, p2. ISBN 0-29781124X.
  3. ^ Johnson, David (1 February 1983). "69 Dean Street: The Making of Club Culture". The Face, February 1983, issue 34, page 26, republished at Shapersofthe80s. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  4. ^ Luke, Michael (1991). David Tennant and the Gargoyle Years. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London, p197. ISBN 0-29781124X.
  5. ^ Spicer, Andrew; McKenna, A. T. (24 October 2013). The Man Who Got Carter: Michael Klinger, Independent Production and the British Film Industry, 1960-1980. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 9780857723093. Retrieved 2 June 2018 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Jimmy Jacobs And The Nite Spots - Swingin' Soho". Discogs. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  7. ^ HuntleyFilmArchives (9 July 2013). "Striptease club in Soho in the 1960s - Film 5132". Retrieved 2 June 2018 – via YouTube.
  8. ^ "Archive film: 5132, 1960, Sound, B/W, Entertainment + Leisure". Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Gallery: Nell Gwynne London Strip Club". 30 March 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  10. ^ "reviews of the top night clubs and strip joints in London 66 VOL. 6. No. 63 FEBRUARY, 1961" (PDF).
  11. ^ "Poker-faced millionaire - Sport - The Observer". Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  12. ^ Miles, Barry (2011). London Calling: A Countercultural History of London since 1945. Atlantic Books: London, pp480.
  13. ^ "Sex and Power Working In A Strip Club". Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  14. ^ "The Avengers Declassified: Steed and Gale". Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Strippers and stand-up comics in the early days of British alternative comedy". 26 March 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  16. ^ "AP2588 - Gargoyle and Nell Gwynne Club, Soho (30x40cm Art Print)". Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Club Soho Stock Photos and Pictures - Getty Images". Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  18. ^ a b c d "A JEWISH TELEGRAPH NEWSPAPER". 1 June 2018. Archived from the original on 1 June 2018.
  19. ^ a b Double, Oliver (2005). Getting the joke the inner workings of stand-up comedy. London: Methuen. p. 38. ISBN 9781408155042. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  20. ^ "Latest News". Peter Rosengard website, retrieved 07-04-18.
  21. ^ "The Comedy Store, Saturday Night Live and being a stripper in 1980s Finland". 15 February 2018.
  22. ^ "Neil Mullarkey of The Comedy Store Players on 1980s alternative comedy". SO IT GOES - John Fleming's blog. 24 April 2014. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  23. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - The Reunion, The Young Ones". BBC.
  24. ^ Gavin Schaffer. Fighting Thatcher with Comedy: What to Do When There Is No Alternative Journal of British Studies 55 (April 2016): 374–397. doi:10.1017/jbr.2015.229 ©The North American Conference on British Studies, 2016
  25. ^ William Cook. The Comedy Store: The club that changed British comedy
  26. ^ Rosengard, Peter; Wilmut, Roger (1989). Didn't You Kill My Mother-in-law?: The Story of Alternative Comedy in Britain from The Comedy Store to Saturday Live. UK: Methuen Drama. ISBN 978-0-413-17390-4.
  27. ^ "stage & theatre - Yorkshire Web and Photography Services".
  28. ^ "A remarkable fire-eater talks about a death and British alternative comedy". 11 April 2013.
  29. ^ "Alexei Sayle - About Me".
  30. ^ Johnson, David (1 January 1981). "Something Funny is Happening in Stripland". Over21, January issue, page 36, republished at Shapersofthe80s. London. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
  31. ^ a b "Comedy Store Players celebrate 25 years of improv" (22 October 2010) BBC
  32. ^ a b c d "History - The Comedy Store London".
  33. ^ The Guardian, Monday 23 November 2015 Andrew Bailey: ‘People have violent arguments about whether I'm funny or not’
  34. ^ Carl Randall's 'London Portraits' on display in National Portrait Gallery., The Royal Drawing School, London, 2016
  35. ^ Comedienne Jo Brand and The Comedy Club., Carl Randall's artist website, 2016
  36. ^ Carl Randall's London Portraits – Video Documentary., The Daiwa Anglo Japanese Foundation London, 2016
  37. ^ London Portraits – Video Documentary., 2016 – via YouTube
  38. ^ "Palm Court Cinema in London, GB – Cinema Treasures". Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  39. ^ Weinreb (ed.), Ben (2008). The London encyclopaedia (3rd ed.). London: Macmillan. p. 233. ISBN 9781405049245. Retrieved 3 June 2014.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  40. ^ "Comedy Store closes; Leeds venue lasts just 8 months" (30 Jun 2004) Chortle

External links[edit]

Media related to The Comedy Store (London) at Wikimedia Commons