Forget open-heart surgery or fire-fighting, standing up on stage and trying to be funny is considered by most as the hardest profession on the planet. I suddenly became a figurehead of fearlessness when I signed up for a stand-up gig, the impact of which I had seriously underestimated.
The Cavendish Arms offers an ‘entry level’ open mic night for Londoners crazy enough to crack a few gags on stage, aptly named ‘Comedy Virgins.’ The free night, running on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and the occasional Thursday, offers a stage for anyone who has been tempted or bullied into trying stand-up comedy.
It was the simultaneous terror and excitement that had me signing up for a 5-minute spot and then inviting all my friends so that I didn’t have the option to back out. Intrigued by this vulnerable art form that exposes the very heart of humanity, I found myself eager to contribute to comedy’s honest discussion on London life without sugar-coating anything. From Weight Watchers weekly weigh-ins to Brexit Britain, no conversation is too dull, disruptive or dramatic to constitute comedy. Anything goes, as long as it’s funny.
The only rule is that every comedian brings a friend. This prevents a comedy car-crash, where a crowd is only made up of other comedians anxiously awaiting their spot and not laughing. So I was grateful for the lively room packed with people and pints looking for a laugh. The night showcased a real mix of experience, age, style and subject matter, all hoping to win the Cavendish Arms’ coveted prize: a mini plastic trophy. After each act the crowd decides if the contestant is a worthy winner by shouting “Buy them a drink”. A clap off at the end of the night confirms the overall champ. If I’m honest, I didn’t care about the trophy. I just wanted to get through my 5 minutes without vomiting. After years of acting on the stage I was surprised by my stomach-turning response to the reality of stand-up. Luckily, I was put out of agony early on in the night, when my name was called out in the first act. To my complete surprise, I absolutely loved it. The responsive crowd gave me the confidence and energy I needed to get through my set and by the end I didn’t want to leave the stage. Of course, I was glad I had invited a few friendly faces who had promised to laugh no matter what but in general the uncritical crowd were a generous bunch, offering solid support for my first ever stand-up gig. I even got “bought a drink” and during the final clap off found myself finishing 3rd. Maybe I have beginner’s luck to thank, but I’ll definitely be back for more; it’s an adrenaline rush like no other and a fantastic way of facing your fears.
A great evening for performers and audience members alike, ‘Comedy Virgins’ offers unique, free, and funny weeknight entertainment. You might even find yourself seduced into booking a spot.
Nearest tube: Stockwell (Victoria and Northern lines)
When: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesday (and the occasional Thursday).
The bar opens from 5pm, comedy starts at 8pm. The night usually ends around 10:30pm (depending on the number of performers).
Booking a spot: You can book a performance spot in advance by signing up to the Comedy Virgins mailing list using this link. You will receive an email every month, when booking begins, asking you to pick your three preferred dates.
Alternatively, you can head down early on the day you wish to perform and grab one of the five open spots, (WARNING: these fill up fast). There are also five reserve spots just in case booked acts don’t turn up.
Edited by Ivy Joseph