My Camden Town: Founder of Hampstead Comedy Club reveals favourite one-liner

Ivor Dembina, founder of the Hampstead Comedy Club

Ivor Dembina, founder of the Hampstead Comedy Club - Credit: Archant

Ivor Dembina, 64, is a Jewish comedian who founded the Hampstead Comedy Club in 1994. He is the first stand-up comedian to perform a solo comedy show at the Houses of Parliament. He now lives in Croydon but spends much of his time at the club’s home at the The Camden Head in Camden Town.

What brought you to the area?

Around the time I was opening the Hampstead Comedy Club in 1994, I met a woman on a boat and we ended up living in Camden. We were together for seven years. Throughout, I don’t recall her laughing at a single one of my jokes.

Is there anything about Camden Town which you would like to see changed or improved?

A replica of the Stables market statue of my fellow Jew Amy Winehouse, put bang outside the Jewish Museum in Albert Road. I have no interest in the lives of musicians, but she got to me. Young, beautiful, talented with all the best in true Jewish sensibilities – a million miles from our so-called “modern” right-wing tribe of today.

As guest editor of the Ham&High for a day, what one local issue would you most like to see reported?

The way live comedy is in danger of being ruined in the borough (like everywhere in London) by the plethora of free shows, competitions, and celebrity gimmicks. When I opened the Hampstead Comedy Club I wanted to give the locals a place they could have a stake in – a place where they’d pay good money to see good comedians. My guiding principle is no hype, no tripe.

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Who is the most inspiring person you have ever met?

I meet inspiring people all the time. They are the people who every day stand up to racism, sexism, homophobia and exploitation. Talk is cheap, but it’s the people on the frontline, the ones who refuse to put up with prejudice and exploitation who cause me not just to think but to act – these are my true heroes. Ant and Dec come to mind.

A film is set to be made about your life. Which actor would you choose to play you and why?

I’d insist on an unknown actor. I’m not that famous so the audience could have fun at guessing what the film is all about.

What’s your favourite one-liner?

During the First World War, my grandfather served in the catering corps and he was awarded the Victoria sponge.

If you had to write your own epitaph, what would it say?

Nice guy, lousy one-liners.