When people hear I’m a stand-up comedian, they always ask “where?” It’s become apparent that people are unaware of the plethora of underground comedy gigs that are going on every night of the week in and around Cape Town. Comedians need to get up on stage, all the time – it’s the only way we can practice. So we have stages, everywhere. Clubs, Pubs, Restaurants. Some are great for us, some are not, all are entertaining for you to watch.
Live stand-up comedy. You can’t beat it. If you like hearing the pulse of a nation, the modern day philosophers, current events and fart jokes – the only way to mainline this is with live comedy. The stuff you see on TV and YouTube has already been curated. Come support local, all of these gigs below are run by local comedians too so you’re helping the art stay alive.
Cape Town Comedy Club
Obviously the first stop off point for watching comedy in Cape Town is the only dedicated comedy club in the city: The Cape Town Comedy Club. Wednesday – Sunday (7 days a week in Season) Previously ‘Jou Ma Se Comedy Club‘, this is the baby of local comedian legend, Kurt Schoonraad. You’re guaranteed a stellar line-up at this venue, as they are very selective with their comedians and curate the shows professionally. So definitely check this out, you’ll see the best, doing their best. Like a comedy showcase. It’s at the V&A Waterfront, in the Pumphouse. (Best parking is next to the Aquarium.) Show starts at 8.30pm sharp, but get there early, it’s fully licensed and 6-7pm is happy hour. Booking essential.
Cape Town Comedy Club
But here’s a little list of SOME of the more underground venues, where you will see comedians practicing sets, trying new jokes and earning the honour to play at the bigger, more shiny clubs you’re more familiar with. It’s the places you’ll see comedians at their most raw, vulnerable, honest. Where we die and kill and ‘haven’t figured out how to end that joke yet’. It’s where the magic happens.
Where: Obviously Armchair, Backpackers and Pub. 135 Lower Main Rd, Observatory, Cape Town
What you get: Billed as ‘an experimental comedy platform’ Armchair Sundays is an institution in the South African Comedy community, and any given Sunday, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better time. In the bohemian backpacker neighbourhood of Obs, an eclectic mix of locals and tourists blend in the audience of this intimate theatre venue to create comedy gold. Armchair Comedy has been around for a long time, over 20 years, and served as the starting ground for many of the top comedians in South Africa, including icons like Kurt Schoonraad, Loyiso Gola, Stuart Taylor, Nik Rabinowitz and Riaad Moosa. Even Trevor Noah used to play there. It’s a beloved stage to all comedians, offering newbies the chance to try their comedy chops (on a Wednesday) and a safe-space for veterans to play with the crowd, working out new ideas.
Comedians also choose this as a gathering spot, and many more comics who aren’t even on the bill will be lurking around the bar area, nursing beer and exchanging war stories with each other from the week’s gigs. This is the perfect introduction to the underground of SA stand-up.
What it Costs: Minimal, around R40 at the door (last I checked).
Top tip, don’t play on your cellphone in the front row, host Gino Fernandez will read it out loud. (Photo Peter Sserwanga)
2. Hanover Street Comedy Sundowners
Where: Hanover Street Night Club, inside GrandWest Casino, 1 Vanguard Drive Goodwood.
Angel Campey at Hanover Comedy Sundowners.
What you get: Hanover Street Comedy Sundowners is on the first Sunday of every month at 6pm, nice and early for a school-night. The venue is really fun for comedy and so comedians look forward to playing there, and as the audience – it shows. It’s always a good time, with a top line-up, you’ll see some of the best in the city carefully chosen to make for great comedy. (Line-ups change each month). Booking is advised as it often sells out – so don’t dilly dally.
What it costs: R60, 082 588 662 for bookings. (Complimentary Savannas for the first 100 to arrive.)
SGT PEPPER, MONDAY COMEDY NIGHT
Where: Sgt Pepper, 194 Long Street (Opposite Beerhouse), Cape Town.
SGT Pepper regular, Eureka Nkese hosting.
What you get: Every Monday at 8.30pm, a hodge-podge of some of Cape Town’s best (and ahem, newer) comedians (and sometimes an out of towner or international drop-in) trying out new material, honing old jokes or just playing with the crowd. You’ll usually get around 6-8 comedians performing for your buck. It’s a great room to come and have a chuckle on a Monday as it’s lovingly dubbed ‘the room of death’ by many comics, usually packed with dead-pan foreigners – it’s the perfect comedy training ground, and might just entertain you for all the wrong reasons as you see some of the best of the business tap-dance for approval from the grumpy Swedes and the lost in translation Colombians. It has been known to sometimes have the perfect storm of locals, tourists and brilliant comedians -making for hilarity all round. Each Monday the line-ups change, so come often, and come multiple times. Like a woman.
What it costs: R40 at the door, or pay R120 and get a Pizza and Savanna thrown in.
You’re spoiled for choice on a Tuesday. You’ve got 3 options (one is weekly, the others are bi-monthly) 1. #ComedyAtNomad (Town) 2. Fork and Comedy (Fireman’s Arms) 3. Premium Sports Bar (Mitchell’s Plain)
Comedy at Nomad
Where: Nomad Bistro & Bar. 33 Waterkant Street, Cape Town.
What you get: Every Tuesday. This is a great new venue for comedy, it’s between Long and Loop street, on the Fanwalk, so it’s a little more relaxed and open-air than the other ‘bustling’ Long street venues. Top and new local, national and International comedians rotate on this line-up every Tuesday and the bar has an extensive cocktail menu, so kick-back and enjoy the points of view of comics from all walks of life. It starts at 8pm sharp and is usually finished by 10pm, so you’re not having a late one on a school night.
What it costs: R50 on Quicket, R70 at the door (which you can just add to your bar tab) or R180 to have a Burger & Cocktail thrown in.
2. Fork and Comedy
Where: Fireman’s Arms ,Cnr. Buitengracht & Mechau Street, Cape Town.
What you get: A rip-roaring good time in one of Cape Town’s Oldest and Finest Pubs – Est 1864. A well curated line-up of top comics, this is a tightly run show, starting at 8 and ending by 10, with premium quality stand-up.
Fork and Comedy is a bi-monthly gig, the first and last Tuesday of each month, so double check that it’s on the Tuesday you’re interested in. Also book ahead of time, because it sells out. (Obviously.) So come fork ‘n’ laugh, at fork ‘n’ comedy (see what they did there?)
Bookings: 083 709 0419 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What it costs: R50 gets you a seat and a shot of Jagermeister (for the first 60). Also a free Jack Black Beer if you buy a main-meal. (Yay for alcohol sponsors!)
3. Premium Comedy
Where: Premium Sports Bar, 1 Avocado Street, Mitchells Plain.
What you get: This is widely regarded by Cape Town comedians as one of the most fun rooms in the city. It’s a big beer hall, you get comics having the time of their lives in a room full of laughing patrons. Top comedians like Marc Lottering, Barry Hilton and Kurt Schoonraad often headline so you’ll see the best of the best – and also newer comedians and open mics testing out their funny bones.
Bookings: It’s the first and last Tuesday of every month, so check with 072 399 3338 (whatsapp) for bookings and info.
What it costs: R50
Barry Hilton at Premium Comedy
On a Wednesday you can stay town-side with 1. Beerhouse Comedy Club (Long Street) or check out 2. Armchair Comedy Wednesdays, New Material night in Obs or head to 3. Kasi Comedy Nights out at Mzoli’s in Gugs.
Beerhouse Comedy Wednesday
Where: Beerhouse, 223 Long Street (Opposite SGT Pepper), Cape Town.
What you get: Every Wednesday at 8.30pm. Beerhouse has a great separate space, off the side of the bar, where you’re able to fully enjoy the comedy without being disturbed by all the students trying their 99 varietals of Beer on the Wall, in the main room. Usually no less than 6 comedians will jump up and entertain you, if you’re lucky you might get a celebrity drop-in, Loyiso Gola often frequents this room when he’s in town.
What it costs: 50 bucks at the door.
Beerhouse gigs, organised by Kolping Mbumba
ARMCHAIR WEDNESDAYS (OPEN MIC NIGHT)
Where: Obviouzly Armchair, Lower Main Road, Observatory.
What you get: Every Wednesday at 8.30pm. New Material, and the true underground of comics at work. Everyone from first-timers to comedy legends are taking this mic to try and win the laughter of the crowd. It’s an awesome audience experience where you get to see the hits and misses that comedy so often dishes up steaming hot. The misses make the hits so much sweeter. Definitely worth it to see the raw, unpolished side of stand-up. Where top comedians will be reading jokes off a note-pad and asking the audience for feedback as to which punchline they prefer. Then when you see that joke, weeks later, on stage at the Baxter or on TV on Comedy Central Africa – you’ll know you were part of the process.
What it Costs: R20 before 9pm. R30 thereafter.
Westley Cockrell making comedy. (Photo: Peter Sserwanga)
3. Kasi Comedy Nights.
Where: Mzoli’s Place, Ny 115, Guguletu.
What you get: Every Wednesday, at the iconic Mzoli’s Place – Kasi Comedy Night brings the comedy fire. It’s a rowdy, audience who laughs at every beat, and comedians enjoy every moment up there. There’s always a big name to headline, and the line ups are spattered with local guys trying their comedy chops as well as the more established Cape Town comics. This is definitely worth experiencing. Even if you’re not from Gugs.
The organisers increase security for these events, so if you’re worried about venturing into the townships – you needn’t be.
What it costs: R80.
Yaaseen Barnes brings the Kasi Comedy
Comedy On A River
Where: Slug and Lettuce, The River Club, Liesbeek Parkway, Observatory.
KG Mokgadi at Comedy on a River
What you get: Every last Thursday of the month, at 8.30pm, the Comedy on a Roll team present this show. In cosy room with velvet red curtains as the backdrop and top comedians making you chuckle. The line-up will change every month and will give audience members a hilarious night of fun. The Slug & Lettuce has a fully licensed bar and restaurant.
What it costs: Tickets can be booked on 021 448 7906 /email@example.com for just R50.
Fridays and Saturdays:
The smaller venues don’t need comedians, they are too busy selling you booze on weekends. Your best bet is Cape Town Comedy Club.
See you around, the underground.
Martin Davis at Beerhouse Wednesdays (Photo: Peter Sserwanga)