99 Comedy Club London has just won Chortle’s award for the Best London Comedy Club 2012. They also won it in 2011. How did they do this? Well, they did it by treating comedy as Art.
One of my favourite things in life is comedy. I love watching comedy, and I love performing comedy. For me, comedy is more than just jokes: it’s an Art form and a brilliant way to express oneself. Over the last few years comedy has really seen a boom. Comedians like Louis CK, Patton Oswalt, and Paul F. Tompkins have shown how comedy can really mean something, for both the audience and the comedian. They’ve done this by being extremely personal; talking about shame, and their failings in life. As well as being a form of entertainment, they’re doing more, and forging a strong and true connection with their fans. It’s really working too, and right now it seems as if the emotionally invested act is really becoming king.
One thing to mention at this point is that most of these comedians are American, although this new (almost “alternative”) approach is also taking hold in the UK. This is mainly because of the internet and sites like Youtube where you can now see clips of comedians who would never have seen otherwise. New comedians are being inspired by acts that aren’t local (or at least playing in the local clubs) and it’s creating a really interesting new breed of comedian. Seeing this before it happened has been the secret to Club 99’s success over the last few years.
Since 2004, Club 99 has grown from being a comedy night above a pub, to being one of the largest Comedy Clubs in London. Influenced immensely by the alternative comedy scene of the 1970s, 99 wanted to create a club that would allow comedians to (rightfully) be treated as artists, and be respected by the audience as such.
Gone are the stag nights and hen dos; in are comedy literate audiences and a sense of freedom. Acts no longer aim their gags at drunken louts and instead aim for respect. The nineties were a time of real dreadfulness in comedy (yeah, some good acts still worked, but generally it was BAD) as acts found themselves struggling to find venues that would treat their acts right, or even venues that were actually conducive to comedy.
James Woroniecki the founder of 99 Club loved Alternative Comedy and wanted to change what was happening. He set out to do this and has thus far succeeded with excellence and aplomb. Woroniecki’s dream doesn’t end there; hopefully the example set by 99 will inspire other London Comedy Clubs to change the way they do things (even clubs outside of London) to focus less on commercial imperatives and more on creating the perfect environment to let this art form flourish.
It’s definitely inspired me, and that’s why I do what I do. It’s also why I’m here, and why I’m going to be writing about comedy. Comedy is great right now, but it feels like it’s about to become even greater, real soon.