Boston has produced some of the country's most notable comedians. Comics from Dennis Leary to Janeane Garofalo and Conan O'Brien to Louis CK spent their formative comedic years working comedy clubs in Boston—and that doesn't even scratch the surface of the sketch and television writers that have come out of area colleges. But any barroom can put up a sandwich board and claim: Comedy Tonight! So where are Boston's best stand up, sketch, and improv shows? Where's the city's weirdest comedy to be found? Where can you catch its most riotous sketch shows? Here's a primer on where and when to find the best comedy in the Hub.
Best comedy clubs in Boston
This Harvard Square spot carries on the tradition of top-notch Boston Comedy in seedy Chinese restaurants. Perched atop the Hong Kong, the Studio features stand-up comedy Wednesday through Sunday (magicians take the stage on Tuesdays). The shows move quickly, with several comics doing short, punchy sets. Each weeknight features numerous gems, but on the weekends you get the highest caliber of talent. Club owner (and frequent host) Rick Jenkins showcases ten of the best local comics, and there's always the potential for a drop-in from national acts like Mike Birbiglia, Gary Gulman or Joe Wong.
Five nights a week, Improv Boston is a clearinghouse for improv, sketch, and standup comedy. Wednesday night, you can get a sampling of all three at the Comedy Lab, which features experimental shows getting ready for a shot at the prestigious Friday night showcase. Recent offerings include "Twitterprov" "The Bigfoot Monologues,” and "Discount Shakespeare: As You Like It in 45 Minutes.” The Comedy Lab lets the top local talent breathe life into their weirdest comedy experiments, and you get to watch.
Improv Asylum is primarily known for its improv and sketch comedy revues, and is almost always worth the stress of parking in the North End. The shows rotate throughout the year, with the main stage cast performing every Thursday through Saturday. Midnight on Saturdays is the "Raunch" show, which provides a much-needed late-night entertainment option in sometimes-sleepy Boston. Improv Asylum also accommodates private events and groups shindigs like bachelorette parties; so ladies, please keep your penis tiaras out of stand-up shows.
Though not quite within the city limits, Giggles is an institution of Boston-area comedy. Giggles showcases many of the legends of Boston’s rich comedic tradition (Don Gavin, Kenny Rogerson, Lenny Clarke) and performers who have been at the top of their game for years. Many of these comics are booked solid with engagements on the road or corporate work and don’t get to perform around home much, so Giggles is the spot for classic, no-frills stand up. No weirdos with PowerPoint presentations here. Just jokes, and lots of them. Look for the replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa off the side of Route 1.