Clubs: Star billing: Neptune and Venus are the forces behind the opening of a new London comedy venue. James Style meets its cosmic creators

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The Independent Culture
At exactly 7pm on Thursday 10 March, when Venus is rising in the Eastern sky and the planets are in a propitious orbit, the doors will open on London's newest stand-up venue, the Cosmic Comedy Club and Astro Bar. Concert promoter Ollie Smith and star designer and horoscope nut Tony Weller have taken an old derelict Victorian pub on the Fulham Palace Road and transformed it into, something . . . well, cosmic, man. With its sloping brick columns and wrought iron furniture, it resembles the architect's house in Asterix and Cleopatra, angles slightly askew and lintels that don't quite meet. Whimsical, and perfect for comedy.

Weller descends from a long line of gypsies and mediums. 'Buildings talk to me,' he confesses. Small, smiling and bald, he looks like a mischievous professor. Slight of frame but not of reputation, he is famous for creating the cream of London's new wave of designer bars: sophisticated baroque watering holes such as the Market Bar in Portobello Road and Beach Blanket Babylon, an upmarket West London eaterie. He mixes conventional design with a tacit understanding of New Age theories, and the chattering classes love it. With the Cosmic Comedy Club he has made a silk purse out of a pig's ear.

Formerly this was the site of the notorious Greyhound Pub; a sleazy throw-back to the Seventies, it boasted a small concert-hall and showcased low-life bands. But Fulham shrugged off its working-class roots and quickly became yuppified. The Range Rover set had no time for leary rockers, complained to the local council and it was last orders for the Greyhound.

For Ollie Smith this is a return to the big time. Formally he ran London's best live music venue, the Town and Country Club. Amid much controversy he spectacularly lost the leasehold last year to his great rival, venue mogul, Vince Power. The Cosmic Comedy Club is his first venture back into the capital. As a typical thirtysomething gig-goer, he knows what he wants from a venue. 'I'll go where the bouncers aren't rude, and the food and decor is nice. I want comfort. The Cosmic is somewhere where people can come to relax.'

'I'm a maverick designer, astrology is very important to me,' says Weller, 'it's fundamental to the design of this building. Every part has been built at a specific time mostly around the planet Neptune which symbolises booze and escapism. Our launch is important because while Libra, or the planet Venus, is ascendant, Mercury is in the fifth house. Venus stands for harmony, love, giggles and money, while Mercury is all about communication; very important for comedy.' Weller has even hired his staff on an astrological basis. The flamboyant, such as Leo, deal with the public while Virgos, good organisers, control the box-office and stock-room. A future case of unfair dismissal on the grounds of astrological discrimination would be no laughing matter.

The Astro Bar and Cosmic Comedy Club opens at 7pm on Thursday 10 March, 177 Fulham Palace Rd, London W6 (071-381 2006). See listings below for further details

(Photograph omitted)

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