Sometimes you just need a good laugh. How about hitting up a Boston comedy club? Some of America’s most popular contemporary comedians (Conan O’Brien, Denis Leary, Amy Poehler, Dane Cook) found their funnies in Greater Boston. Big names passing through town might stop at the Wilbur Theater or other venues, but it's easy to check out the up-and-coming scene at smaller comedy clubs or improv nights around town. Make a night of it with drinks at the best rooftop bars in Boston or set the mood with dinner at one of the most romantic restaurants in Boston.
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Best Boston comedy clubs
This comic institution in Central Square has been a major player on the Boston theater arts scene since the early 1980s. Besides regular shows in its two performance spaces, this non-profit arts organization includes workshops, a national touring company, and ImprovBoston’s annual Comedy Festival (held every September). There are several shows most days including late shows (11:30 pm) with the raunchiest material, and family shows (4 pm), when kids under 12 are allowed. The smaller studio features experimental or developing artists. Beer, wine, snacks and soda are available.
Nick’s has been a comic theater staple in Bay Village since 1977, the very time when improv and stand up was in its rip-roaring infancy. It’s still in operation, with good local and national headliners every weekend, all in a relaxed atmosphere. There is a full bar, but no food. Abby Lane, which serves casual food and cocktails nearby on Tremont Street, offers Nick’s ticket-holders a discount.
Some of the Theatre District’s biggest venues host comedy shows, but the Wilbur—which took over the Comedy Connection bookings—is the big kahuna, bringing the biggest comedic talent to Boston. It features everything from hallowed names to hip shows such as The Greatest Generation, a comedy podcast about the hallowed TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
If you can make it out to Route 1, there’s great comedy to be enojyed amongst the north-of-Boston chain restaurants and dicey motels. The weekly lineups are studded with Boston comedy legends like Lenny Clarke, and the space itself is housed in the legendary North Shore pizzeria Prince’s (you’ll know it by the replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa out front).
Laugh Boston is another well-trod comedy venue with both big time comic writers and new comedians—SNL alum are regulars—featured on its calendar. Reoccurring nights include Boston comic Ken Reid, who brings his TV Guidance Counselor podcast to the stage. Laugh Boston has a full bar and serves snacks and sandwiches, plus desserts. One thing to watch out for is performance days and times, which vary. Usually, there is one performance each Wednesday, and two on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. If in doubt, check the website.
This is Laugh Boston’s smaller sibling, housed in the North End, and serving as an incubator for new talent. To that end, the resident pros also host classes for aspiring comics, as well as special custom shows and corporate training programs. Generally, there’s a comedy show every night, both improv and sketch, and reccuring nights like Catalyst Comedy’s Dirty Disney, which besmirches our favorite Disney flicks. There is a bar. Midnight shows on weekends are not for the easily offended.
This Roslindale theater is the home of two locally owned and operated improv and sketch comedy organizations: ComedySportz Boston, the award-winning, competitive improv comedy show performed in 31 cities across the US and Europe, and The Riot Theater Company, featuring the veteran troupe Improv Jones. The theater—which also has strong education and community programs—features comedy shows every Friday and Saturday; adult oriented shows usually take place in the evening, while those suitable for families begin at 5pm. Days and times vary, so check the website.
Located downstairs from the Howl at the Moon bar in the Financial District, for almost three decades Dick Doherty’s has booked comics from around the area. There is a Boston slant as to who performs, though: expect big names with a Boston connection, and local comedians. The club serves food and has a bar, making it easy to pull up a chair and settle in for the night.
Every Tuesday, Anderson Comedy hosts a comedy open mic at the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub's Corner Bar stage. Anyone can sign up to strut their comedy stuff; just arrive early, before the 9pm start time, and check in with the staff. Set times are at least four minutes long and run according to how many would-be comics are signed up.
Every Friday, before bands begin to riff, the Boston comic who goes by the name Anderson Comedy presents The Gas comedy night, which brings skit and sketch comedy to the Great Scott stage. Shows begin around 7:30 and include amusing spoofs like The Gas: Here We Go Again, which takes the Mamma Mia! film franchise for a comedic spin, or local and traveling stand-up comics.
The Comedy Studio moved from its longtime location in Harvard Square to Somerville’s Union Square in 2018. The Comedy Studio is locally run in the spirit of classic improv and stand-up clubs, and mixes in new talent and veterans. There are comedy shows nightly at 8pm, including the regular Mystery Lounge Magic show on Mondays. (The casual Variety Bar is open daily.)
Formerly The Davis Square Theatre and Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway comedy club, this basement-level theater features a variety of shows throughout the week: everything from skits, standup, burlesque, and variety to children’s shows. Regular nights include Shit-faced Shakespeare, which lampoons the bard’s works with no-holds-barred innuendo and toilet humor, but in full Shakespearean character and costume. The bar does not serve food, but some shows are available as a dinner-show hookup with nearby Saloon restaurant.
Though the City Winery hosts many musical acts, it is also the place to be entertained by top name comedians. Performances take place both the main room and the Haymarket Lounge—a smaller, club-like space with a full bar. The bigger the name, the bigger the space, and the likes of Jay Mohr, Ben Bailey, and the entertaining designer-turned-raconteur, Isaac Mizrahi, have held court.