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Esther's Follies
Photograph: Courtesy Esther's Follies

The best Austin comedy clubs

In need of some genuine laughs? Check out our guide to Austin’s best comedy clubs for a side-splitting good time.

By Micheal Foulk
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When you’re looking for the best things to do in Austin, a few things come to mind: Live music. BBQ. But comedy? While it wasn’t always a main attraction, the comedy scene in Austin has exploded over the past decade with incredible improv, sketch and stand-up shows happening across the city every day of the week. The bottom line? In Austin, you’re never far from a good laugh.

Austin's best comedy clubs

ColdTowne Theater
Photograph: Courtesy ColdTowne Theater

1. ColdTowne Theater

5 out of 5 stars
Comedy Comedy clubs North Loop

Intimate and punk are two words that don’t usually go together, but that’s the best description for ColdTowne Theater on Airport Drive. The cozy seating area fits about 35 patrons comfortably, jutting up against the small stage so that the audience is in front of the action. Head over on Fridays to catch improvised films from Movie Riot at 7pm, romantic failures-turned-comedies from Loverboy at 8:30pm, and some of the city’s best stand-up performers on Live at ColdTowne at 10pm. Tickets range from free to $12.

The New Movement
Photograph: Courtesy The New Movement

2. The New Movement

5 out of 5 stars
Comedy Comedy clubs Greater Austin

The New Movement is an underground gem tucked away in the basement of a historic building on the corner of 7th and Lavaca Street. BYOB and spend some time in the spacious lobby playing free arcade games, then catch local highlights like Rob Gagnon’s Sandbox on Tuesdays at 9:30pm featuring stand-ups performing their most bizarre and unconventional bits. While the comedy at The New Movement is always aggressive, edgy and inventive, one definite highlight is TNM’s improv flagship, The Megaphone Show, on Saturdays at 10:30pm. On Monday through Wednesday, all shows are donation-based.

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Cap City Comedy Club
Photograph: Amy E Price

3. Cap City Comedy

5 out of 5 stars
Comedy Comedy clubs Crestview

Housed in a strip mall off 183, this North Austin hub has been an integral part of the comedy scene for 32 years. Once a second home for groundbreaking Texas comics Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison, Cap is now nationally known for the annual Funniest Person in Austin contest and hosting touring comics like Anthony Jeselnik every weekend. The main audience area fits up to 350 people, while the front lounge comfortably seats 120 and features a smaller stage for weekly shows like “Punch” on Tuesdays hosted by Austin favorite Matt Bearden. Featuring a full bar and kitchen, Cap City is the epitome of a classic comedy club—right down to the two item minimum and intensely popular shows (snag those tickets early!). Ticket prices vary.

The Velveeta Room
Photograph: Courtesy The Velveeta Room

4. The Velveeta Room

5 out of 5 stars
Comedy Comedy clubs Swedish Hill Historic District

Since opening on the corner of 6th and Red River in March of 1983, The Velveeta Room (more commonly known as The Velv) has been a central star on the Austin comedy map. Inside you’ll find a long, narrow candlelit seating area for up to 70 people, capped by a small polished bar and a modest curtained wooden stage. Come through on Thursdays to catch local comics working through new material at the Speed Mic or watch headliners like Avery Moore and Jimmy Pardo on the weekends. Ticket prices vary.

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The Hideout
Photograph: Steve Rogers Photography

5. The Hideout

4 out of 5 stars
Comedy Comedy clubs Congress Ave District

This historic Congress comedy venue is where old school theater sensibilities meet a more modern improv approach to performance. Known for their Saturday night main stage shows at 8pm, The Hideout operates under the philosophy that there’s more to comedy than just jokes, often choosing to focus on emotional and honest connections between characters rather than strictly going for laughs. The downstairs coffee shop carries baked goods, beer and coffee for your enjoyment, and the upstairs theater sits roughly 49 people comfortably; we recommended that you buy tickets online as shows tend to sell out quickly. Tickets range from $5 to $15.

Spider House Ballroom
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Spider House Ballroom 

6. Spider House Ballroom

4 out of 5 stars
Comedy Comedy clubs West University

Spider House has been around for a while, but the venue has only stuck its toe into Austin’s lively comedy waters in the past few years. Every Monday night the ballroom welcomes up to 300 audience members for shows like Austin Comedy Hour with hosts Lisa Friedrich and Rob Gagnon, and Waterbed with FPIA Winner Mac Blake for the low cost of $5 (often less with a student ID). Snag a drink from long-time bartender Jackson and find a seat beneath the massive disco ball for some of the best comedy in town.

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The Institution Theater
Photograph: Steve Rogers Photography

7. The Institution Theater

4 out of 5 stars
Comedy Comedy clubs Dawson

Primarily an improv conservatory, this warehouse theater is known for its whiteboard suggestion-based improv show Highly Suggestible. If you're looking for stand-up, check out the showcases Laugh Out Proud or Smile More. The Institution maintains a very welcoming vibe, often involving the audience in their performances. Tickets will run $5 to $10, often with proceeds going to local charities like the Austin Justice Coalition.

Esther's Follies
Photograph: Courtesy Esther's Follies

8. Esther's Follies

4 out of 5 stars
Comedy Comedy clubs Swedish Hill Historic District

Since opening in 1977, vaudeville has been alive and well at Esther’s on 6th street, where magic, dancing and sketch comedy are incorporated together in a rehearsed weekly show. Follies is the perfect spot to bring visiting family members for a night of SNL-style comedy and drinks. Notable former cast members include Master Of None’s Noel Wells and Austin counterculture figure Kerry Awn. Shows run Thursday through Saturday and this place gets packed with visitors, so buy those tickets at least a day before you plan to attend. General admission tickets are $25.

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