Komedia was founded by Colin Granger, David Lavendar and Marina Kobler in May 1994 when a Grade II-listed Georgian billiard hall in Brighton’s Kemptown area was converted into a theatre and cabaret bar. The venue was inspired by the founders experience of European Café Theatre venues and opened presenting a programme of trademark variety. Komedia promoted the burgeoning talents of many young performers including Graham Norton, Mel & Sue, Johnny Vegas, The Right Size, Al Murray, Armstrong & Miller, Jenny Éclair, Peepolykus, Alistair McGowan, Omid Djalili, Rhona Cameron and The League of Gentlemen.
The tiny venue proved so popular that in 1998 the company moved into the much larger premises of a former Tesco supermarket in Gardner Street where with two dedicated spaces it was able to greatly enhance its live entertainment offer of music, comedy, cabaret, kids and theatre shows as well as attract established acts such as Nola Rae, Ken Campbell, Harry Hill, Larry Adler, Julian Cope, Steven Berkoff, Arctic Monkeys, The Mighty Boosh and Stewart Lee. Komedia had begun to establish itself as one of the key comedy operators in the UK and an important live entertainment venue in the South.
From 1999 to 2008, Komedia was very active on the Edinburgh Fringe running a number of venues and promoting in-house Komedia acts. These activities included co-founding and managing the multi-award winning Aurora Nova festival of international physical and visual theatre, which ran at St Stephen’s on the Festival Fringe for five years and led to some of the most extraordinary theatre and dance shows in the world playing at Komedia Brighton and around the UK.
Richard Daws, formerly of Victoria Real, joined Komedia in 2000 as co-owner and founded Komedia Entertainment to manage and produce new comedy acts. This sister company promoted Count Arthur Strong’s shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and developed and co-produced the award winning Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show!, recording the majority of the 50 episodes for BBC Radio 4 at Komedia Brighton. Komedia also co-produces the hit BBC1 TV sitcom Count Arthur Strong.
Komedia continue to help a new wave of stand-up comics and comedy performers reach audiences passionate about comedy. Komedia played a crucial part in the early careers of dozens of the UK’s best-known comics including Michael McIntyre, Sarah Millican, Russell Howard, Mickey Flanagan and many others. And through the comedy workshops hosted with Jill Edwards, and in-house production company Komedia Entertainment, it has nurtured new and exciting work with a fresh crop of comedy names, which include Japanese mime duo Gamarjobat, Joanna Neary, Zoe Lyons, Sean Walsh and Romesh Ranganathan.
In 2008, after an award winning restoration of the impressive Grade l listed former Beau Nash cinema, Komedia opened a second European Café Theatre style venue in Bath which quickly became recognised as one of the most important mid-scale venues for comedy, music, cabaret and club nights in the West of England. A two year partnership with River Cottage also set up the venues’ unique, and highly decorated, local and seasonal food offer.
In 2012, Komedia formed a creative partnership with Picturehouse – with the art house cinema group opening Duke’s at Komedia, a two screen state of the art cinema within Komedia Brighton and a screen in Komedia Bath, thereby further extending the entertainment offer in both venues.
Today Komedia is owned by Colin Granger, Marina Kobler and Richard Daws. It continues to be enterprising, independent and creatively thriving entertainment business that aims to start and develop careers, both of performers and staff. Komedia’s growth and sustainability is down to the passion of these stakeholders, their loyal audiences, the commitment of the shareholders, and the long term support of the Dutch ethical bank Triodos.
Komedia looks forward to adding to the sum of human happiness through its venues and the artists it works with.
The Komedia Idea
The Komedia idea is rooted in a love of live performance and a belief in its power to add to the sum of human happiness. Komedia thrives on diversity and specialises in nurturing talent and promoting new work. Its local, national and international programme, which majors on comedy and includes work for children, spans a huge range of entertainment: from theatre and music through to the far corners of cabaret and live literature. There are no boundaries so long as the work is fresh and exciting.