Laughing The Roof Off
Disclaimer: The following review is for the Comedy Loft on Broad Street in Birmingham City centre.
As a host venue for a Brummies’ Choice Award event; Just the Tonic, GOAD visited The Comedy Loft on Broad Street to see what the venue had to offer.
I’m not a New Yorker, so the obsession with Lofts is one that has fallen on deaf ears with me, so to hear that one of the best Comedy Clubs in the country was lording over the citizens of Birmingham, I had to put my reservations aside and see if I could get in on the joke.
Situated on one of Birmingham’s Broad Street, the Comedy Loft does it’s part to look good in a part of town everybody wants to be seen in. From student nights and Hen Parties, to hotel meetings and drinks after work, Broad Street doesn’t feel left behind like others parts of the city since the Bullring has been built.
However, this will to keep up has meant that Broad Street suffers from a lack of accessible parking, leaving you with little choice but to arrive at the Comedy Loft by Taxi, or on foot having parked some distance away and having paid the price for the privilege.
If taking a Taxi is out of your budget, arriving to the Comedy Club from New Street Station is a feasible walk that you should fill with conversation.
Upon arrival, there are a number of entrances into the venue each with varying degrees of success and ease.
Your first and most obvious choice is to enter via a door underneath the ‘Comedy Loft’ signage on Broad Street itself. However, depending on your time of arrival, you can enter through Bar 6 which is to the right of the main entrance. However, my most favourite and game like tip is to enter through a secret entrance which seemingly has no connection to the Loft at all.
Now it has been made abundantly clear that this is not a suitable entrance to the Comedy Loft. However, since the staff here were so kind to us and the couple with us as Storm Doris wailed on outside, I want to give these special people of Laundrette an honourable mention. Furthermore, it takes you to right outside the box office which is awesome.
The actual loft section of the Comedy Loft is intimate and there are two sections: The Bar and the Comedy area… bit? The bar is easy to navigate; it’s simply a dark room with a Bar no different at a University nightclub or student union house. What does that mean? Well, if it’s not in a bottle or a can, you aren’t going to get it. Also, expect substitute brands for your Alchopops too.
However, unlike a university bar and more like a Theatre, you are able to pre-order drinks for the interval, saving you time queuing up when the inevitable rush happens.
The toilets are here in this bar section too, and whilst they aren’t the best maintained toilets in the city centre, they are at least kept clean and aren’t a pain to use during your show’s two intervals- if you decide to use them.
Now onto the meat of this article; the seating area itself.I have to be honest with you, the Comedy Loft is not the warmest of places and if the outside temperature drops, there doesn’t seem to be a reliable way to raise that temperature again in any sort of hurry.
There’s a clear reason for this once you take a look on their website, as the venue seems to throw some killer after parties- which are of course, sweaty affairs even if you held it in the centre of the South Pole.
However, for sit down events like this, the space heaters they have employed aren’t enough to keep the entire venue warm, with people sitting closer to the stage more likely to be left with a draft than those in the centre where there is space to put a heater. It meant that over the six hours I was there, it was not uncommon for people to either keep their coats on, or for their coats to repeatedly come on and off as their comfort level changed.
The visibility at the Comedy Loft also has some serious visible blind spots due to four huge pillars that support the centre of the room. It means that should your comic decide to jump off stage and enter the audience for whatever reason, don’t expect to be able to see them 100% of the time.The owners have clearly tried to rectify this issue by placing mirrors on the said posts, but in reality, this still does not fix your obscured vision and you find yourself looking strange and getting stared at as you stare at an object that is nowhere near the performance.
Audio quality here seems to wain ever so slightly too. Whilst the speakers themselves are superb and are a credit to the engineer who invented them and put them in, the microphones seem to have dead-zones on the stage and even being wired up doesn’t seem to help and takes you out of the immersive feel of the performance. Luckily, the venue is small enough for a vocally endowed performer to hit the back without too much effort.
However, the biggest and by far the best gem of the venue is the lighting feature. Hanging overhead are what I can only imagine are thousands of LED’s, grouped together in lightbars that can change at a moments notice. It means that different acts can have completely different feels, tones and focal points on the stage, reengaging your focus multiple times in an evening and keeping the night feeling fun.
The Comedy Loft is a fun and quirky venue that offers everything you need, but not much more in areas you are expecting it to outperform. As a venue hosting a Brummies Award nominee event, perhaps I was expecting more. I wanted a better stocked bar and I wanted to see everything that my ticket had given me a right to see. I wanted to be warm and I wanted my date to be wowed and sadly I got none of those things.
On the flip side however, I cannot dispute the sheer significance of this nomination and in that I can see why the Comedy Loft is so well respected.
The location in Birmingham’s Broad Street and the array of ways to get into the club means that coming here feels like a sense of occasion. Your date going home and telling their friends about the evening isn’t going to reflect on the venue itself, but the content within.
So what if it was a little cold? You’re still going to leave with your ribs sore from all of the laughter.
- The actual sound system itself is excellent and immersive- nothing sounds off and you’ll sit in your seat and feel as if you are right next to the action.
- Reasonable capacity with tabled seating and tiered section
- Superb lighting effects that do the promotional photos justice.
- Surprisingly comfy seating. I sat for 2+ hours at a time with minimal fidgeting and was surprised to leave after 6 with a tushie that didn’t feel like it had been worn down to the bare bone.
- Bar isn’t great and has a strange pricing system that makes Alcoholic beverages cheap, but soft drinks expensive (more than £2 for a Redbull but Corona was something like £3.30)
- The Microphones are arguably the weak link in the sound system, meaning you might miss a section to a joke, but anyone who’s done their mic-check isn’t going to let that happen.
- Poor heating coverage, so wear your thermals or at least layer up if you aren't going to the after party. (Sorry ladies, if you don't want your parts to get cold, put away the sexy clothing.)
- Seating arrangement can mean you miss some of the action due to huge support pillars in the centre of the room.