The Comedy Store (ITV, 1989-1990)
I am always on the lookout for comedy shows that I might not remember from the time, along with the ones that I do remember, so when I come across something interesting on YouTube, it’s always good. The Comedy Store in Leicester Square, London was a venue where a huge amount of comedy talent performed, many of them taking the first steps to becoming rather famous.
Although stand-up isn’t really my favourite style of comedy, this caught my interest because of the way that this was put together, along with the scheduling. The first edition was a special shown shortly before Christmas 1989 in a late-night slot, possibly only in the Thames/LWT region. The host was Chris Tarrant, who introduced the various acts in his usual quirky style.
He wasn’t at the actual club though, just in some empty void. Would we be ready for what these people were about to offer us. And then, there were ten more editions, that were only ten minutes long, and turned up rather erratically in the schedule, giving us only a quick insight into the scene. Well it was something to do whilst waiting for the usual America’s Top Ten and the like.
Among those who featured were double-act Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis, along with grumpy Arthur Smith (or Arfur Smif as he now seems to be known). I’m sure that people were soon rolling around! I’ve no idea how well this all went down with viewers, but any possible TV exposure in this era would come in useful. And this was also a Mike Mansfield production, which is always of course a guarantee of quality…
Many years later, there was an unrelated show that took another look at the happenings in The Comedy Store. This was a part of Channel 5’s launch schedule in a late-night slot (indeed, the first edition was shown on the first night on air in 1997). As well as performers from across the country, and across the world taking part, Arfur Smif (er, yes) returned to interview various comedians who performed at the club’s early days including Ben Elton, Bob “MeDinner” Mills, Alexei Sayle, and Frank Skinner.
There were also special editions given over to one performer, including Richard Morton, Phill Jupitus, Rich Hall, and Peter Kay (this was in 1999, and was repeated about 50 times following his subsequent fame). There were 70 editions in six series, ending in 2001, which is a decent amount preserved for the archive, and I think that they were eventually repeated on the Paramount Comedy Channel.