First published on 11 Feb 2011. Updated on 3 Jul 2012.
Sandwiched into a minuscule 60 person capacity room and clocking in at the resounding price of free, one would forgive Comedy@Spleen for serving up a diet of entry level comics, desperate for their first stumbling stint on stage. However, nothing could be further from the truth, as week after week this place plays host to some of the best comics in Melbourne and beyond. A prime opportunity for well-known names to try new material (and lesser known ones to hone it) the quality is remarkably consistent and the atmosphere often electric. A more than worthwhile way to spend your Monday night if you're city side, although be warned: the place is packed every, single week, so be sure to get there at least 30 minutes early if you want a seat. Mon 8.30pm; free (gold coin donation appreciated)
A relative newcomer to the comedy – and bar – scene, Softbelly has nonetheless quickly established itself as one of the premier week-to-week comedy rooms in Melbourne. Offering an affordable bar and a cosy, easy-going lounge fit out, the place bursts to life on Thursdays, when it plays host to a rotating line-up of high-end Melbourne talent. They’ve been known to sell out, so get down there early to ensure you can get in. Thu 8.30pm; Sun 6.30pm; $12
One of the grand old rooms of Melbourne comedy, Local Laughs remains to this day one of the most reliably entertaining comedy nights in the city. Situated in the relaxed surrounds of the Local Taphouse – who, notably, have one of the best selections of beer on tap in all of Melbourne – the room is curated by the esteemed Janet McLeod, who ensures that only the finest local and international acts make their way on to her stage. There’s an international aspect too: if there's someone touring who's worth putting on, chances are Janet will convince them to come down and do 15 minutes. A friendly, worthwhile and, above all, funny night. Mon 8.30pm; $12/$10
The Melbourne iteration of Perth's longest running and most successful improv comedy night, The Big Hoo Haa is improvised comedy at its absolute funniest: minimal pretension, maximum straight for the throat hilarity. Featuring a rotating cast of some of the finest improv comedians from Melbourne, Perth and elsewhere, the Big Hoo Haa is two hours of slightly manic, ramshackle entertainment that I have never seen have a bad night. A perfect way of getting into comedy if the whole 'single person on a stage telling jokes about how awful their life is' model of stand-up doesn't appeal. Fri 8pm; $14/$12
Running since 1975 and offering more in the way of a traditional stand-up experience, Last Laugh, housed inside The Athenaeum Theatre, harks back to the 1980s comedy clubs of the US, all table seating, low lighting and quality entertainment. As you might expect, then, the line-ups on offer skew heavily toward the established and the famous, meaning you're more likely to encounter a name you know. There's also fewer comics doing longer, 20-30 minute routines, so you really get to see what each comedian is made of. Fortunately, given that most of the comics performing have been doing it for at least a decade – and usually more – that's not such a risky proposition. An excellent, self-contained night out. Fri & Sat 8pm; $48/$52 with dinner, less without. Discounts often available.
Every Wednesday night, Felix Bar puts on a night of laughs at a very reasonable price. It’s a different lot of acts each week, and given that so many household favourites such as Arj Barker and Dave Hughes, as well as promising up-and-comers pass through its doors; you’re definitely getting your money’s worth here. Wed 8.30pm; $12.
This charming bar is a cozy way to spend a Wednesday night enjoying a comic, while sipping on a cocktail. You might see one of your comedy favourites, or you might see a young comic’s first attempt at performing their comedy. Either way, at $5, it’s a cheap and enjoyable midweek treat. Wed 8.30pm; $5.
It has proclaimed itself the “premier above ground underground comedy room” in Melbourne, and having seen the likes of Jeff Green, Lawrence Mooney and Felicity Ward pass through in its first year, Checkpoint Charlie is definitely making a name for itself as a weekly comedy night in Melbourne. At $5 entry and cheap drinks on top of that, you can’t go too wrong. Wed 8pm; $5.
If only one night of comedy a week isn’t enough, then there’s the Comic’s Lounge that puts on shows 6 nights a week. The lesser known comics can try and hone their skills, and the well known comics can entertain without fail. Tickets range from $15-20, with an added dinner and show package. Mon-Sat 8pm; $15-25.