When the best rooftop bars in Boston are closed during the winter or when you’re looking for an activity that goes beyond a visit to the best Boston sports bars, you’ll want to consider heading over to the best Boston comedy clubs. Visit the venues listed below for a guaranteed fun time involving both improv and stand-up acts and you’ll realize that a good laugh at the end of the day happens to be one of the best things to do in Boston, period.
Best Boston comedy clubs
Consider this one of the granddaddies of the comedy scene. ImprovBoston has been making Bostonians double over since 1982 and has since grown into a huge web of both comedy shows and comedy classes, the latter sought out by every aspiring humorist in the New England area. Having outgrown its original Inman Square space, ImprovBoston has moved into the heart of Central Square, with multiple shows happening Wednesday through Sunday.
The venerable Nick’s Comedy Stop has been turning out comedic talent since 1977, with many regulars becoming household names both locally and nationally. There’s no food menu, but a full bar combined with a no-drink minimum means you can enjoy an evening of belly laughs without later bellyaching over the cost. The space also hosts private corporate events as well as bachelor/ette parties for those looking to switch up the usual bar crawl routine.
Gather your squad, pull up a scorpion bowl and settle in for one of the city’s most renowned underground comedy scenes. Above Hong Kong restaurant in a space that could best be described as homespun, standups both new and established take the stage every day but Monday. Book a seat in advance to avoid any last-minute buzzkill (the parking in Harvard Square is stressful enough), and don’t miss the Tuesday comedy magic show, The Mystery Lounge.
There’s standup, and then there’s high-concept standup. This is your spot for Dirty Disney (think puns along the lines of “Bibbity Bobbity Boobs”) and High Hamlet (when actors meld the stylings of Shakespeare and Snoop Dogg). Also on the current roster: Boston comedy legend Tony V, who hosts an open mic on Wednesdays. For a change of pace, “Player 1/Player 2” is a free night devoted to gaming—playing, discussing, predicting the gaming future and maybe even dabbling in a little VR.
For nearly two decades, Improv Asylum has hosted both improv and sketch comedy shows and has also offered running classes for local aspiring Wiigs and Belushis (and the occasional Piscopo). Shows take place seven nights a week, with five shows happening on Saturday alone. The headline act is the Saturday midnight show called Raunch, in which every nicety is thrown out the window in favor of risqué, R-rated fare.
Across from Rowes Wharf and below Howl at the Moon—in other words, a bit hard to find—Dick Doherty has been a mainstay on the Boston scene for 26 years. Saturday sees a rotating lineup of national stars and local aspirants and, of course, the man himself, Dick Doherty, who is closing in on half a century of asking, “Is this thing on?” This is also the rare full-service comedy club that lets you order both drinks and appetizers, all at reasonable price points (who wants to cry over a dinner bill inside a comedy club?).
If you can make it out to Route 1 (an Uber will cost you, so designate a driver), 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 Steve Sweeney, 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).
The Italian sister of Loco Taqueria in Southie has just launched a comedy Monday series hosted by well-known local comedian Will Noonan. This is no alleyway venue: The state of the art stage is a refreshing change of pace for both standups and comedy fans who have endured plenty of subpar locales. Chef Tony Susi’s full menu is also available starting at 7pm, which means you can giggle over a plate of linguini scampi or perfectly prepared ribeye.
Yes, it’s mostly an alt-rock club, but on Fridays you can also catch up-and-coming talent presented by Anderson Comedy. Though the focus is mostly on local performers, shows frequently attract out-of-town headliners from New York and Los Angeles, which means you’re catching top acts for basement-level prices. The space also makes a point of supporting female comics and has hosted special women-in-comedy weekends.
Improv Jones Boston has made its home at the Riot Theater in Jamaica Plain for over a decade, eventually establishing itself as a nonprofit so as to better support burgeoning performers. Catch regular standup, competitive improv (more brutal than an MMA match) and ComedySportz, a PG-rated show deemed appropriate for ages 7 and up (maybe your niece is the next Melissa McCarthy?).
With the Boston Unscripted Musical Project (BUMP) and Dirty Disney, Catalyst has a distinctly melodic take on improv—and offers a reprieve from those tired of strictly standup fare. The venue also offers Kerplunk, a children’s improv comedy show in which lilliputians call out suggestions, then delight in seeing their ideas acted out by professional funny people.
The spot once known as the Davis Square Theater of Jimmy Tingle’s Off-Broadway—a speakeasy of a space hidden in Davis Square—is now the Rockwell, serving up a wider variety of comedic stylings. Offerings range from BUMP (Boston’s Unscripted Musical Project) and Dirty Disney to Shit-Faced Shakespeare and standup acts both renowned and unknown. If you’re looking to shake things up, the Star Wars burlesque show is ribald nerdiness at its best. The space also offers a dinner and show package with sister venues Saloon and Foundry on Elm.
The Comedy Connection has undergone many incarnations over the years, but its current one at the Wilbur may be its most luxurious yet, drawing many of the top comedy names in the city (which means you’re charged accordingly). This is the club for when you’re looking to make a full evening of it, as the myriad of nearby dining spots mean you can easily impress your paramour with dinner and a show in the heart of the city’s reborn downtown district.