Komedia celebrates 30 years in Brighton

Komedia in Brighton in 2021. Credit: Kaleidoshoots

Much-loved Brighton venue Komedia is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

From humble beginnings as a small room on Manchester Street in Kemptown in 1994, to their home for the last 26 years on Gardner Street in the North Laine, Komedia has put on more comedy shows than we could possibly count. The venue certainly been through ups and downs, but has managed to navigate the ever-changing landscape in which multiple independent venues are lost each year to arrive at this big and impressive 30th milestone.

Komedia Brighton in Manchester Street in 1994
Komedia Brighton in Manchester Street in 1994

To celebrate their birthday, Komedia are putting on a week of special events running from Saturday 4th May to Sunday 12th May 2024 (see the full programme here) and launching Komedia branded merchandise, featuring a custom illustration by Emily Wallace (this will be available to purchase in the venue from May onwards).

Komedia was born from the minds of the directors of Umbrella Theatre, Colin Granger, Marina Kobler and David Lavender. The company modelled the venue on the cabaret theatres they had seen while touring in cities such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Berlin. Lavender stumbled across the name Komedia in an international theatre magazine and chose it as it had 'echoes of both comedy and media, and a sense of crossing boundaries'.

Across the 1990s, Komedia was a pioneer in this type of venue and their first season saw many brilliant new talents hit the stage for the first time, including the likes of Graham Norton, Al Murray, Sean Lock, Mel & Sue, Armstrong & Miller, The League Of Gentlemen and Omid Djalili.

The old Komedia Brighton cafe
Poster: The League Of Gentlemen - Comedy at the Cutting Edge. Image shows left to right: Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss, The League of Gentlemen
Sean Lock 1990s poster. Sean Lock
Komedia Brighton 1997 Comedy Festival poster

Komedia soon outgrew the Manchester Street venue and started hunting for new premises, which at one point even included considering a venue in Churchill Square. After much searching, in 1998, Komedia moved to Jubilee Shopping Hall (a former Tesco supermarket). The opening show was Disco Pigs featuring Cillian Murphy. A year later, in June 1999, Krater Comedy Club was born after the 'crater like' basement area was transformed into performance space.

Komedia Brighton March and April 1999 brochure featuring Mel & Sue

The larger venue has attracted a variety of established and up-and-coming acts over the years, often acting as launchpad for new talent. Comedy acts to appear have included Catherine Tate, Stewart Lee, Ross Noble, Alan Carr, Harry Hill, The Mighty Boosh, Johnny Vegas, Dave Gorman, John Bishop, Lee Mack, Jimmy Carr, Michael McIntyre, Micky Flanagan, Rob Beckett, Alex Horne, Rob Delaney, Eddie Izzard, Greg Davies, Flight Of The Conchords, Jack Whitehall, Dara O Briain, Sarah Millican, Bridget Christie, Armando Iannucci, Zoe Lyons, Angela Barnes, Maisie Adam and Jen Brister.

In 2008, Komedia expanded, opening a second venue in the impressive Grade l listed former Beau Nash cinema over in Bath. In 2017, the owners of the former cinema chose to take the bold step to offer to cede control of the business to the local community, ultimately becoming one of the first community owned venues in the country. Thus, in 2019, Komedia Bath became a Community Benefit Society.

Both venues continued to put on great comedy, although they obviously had to stop in March 2020 as Covid hit. Thinking back to that time, the owners says: "It was a time of ups and downs, as it was for many venues across the country. Despite being closed for over a year, shows having to move online, three floods, two new floors and a rollercoaster ride of emergency funding bids, Komedia managed to come out the other side, with a renewed sense of determination, rebuilding their programme from the ground up."

Indeed, looking at Komedia's listings in any week shows a wealth of comedy talent on offer.

Komedia founders Marina Kobler and Colin Granger say: "It has been an incredible journey these past 30 years. The venue we created in Brighton in May 1994 was inspired by European Café Theatre venues and was something entirely new for Brighton and the rest of the UK; and it is thanks to all the brilliant staff and performers who have worked and still work for us, that we remain an independent, self-supporting venue which offers a wide choice of live entertainment, good service and welcomes people of all ages and from all walks of life. We look forward to seeing Komedia develop and thrive in the future."

Komedia Brighton's website is komedia.co.uk

From our archive: Komedia Brighton celebrates 25 years - notable programme snippets

Published: Wednesday 1st May 2024

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