This is a city that welcomes and embraces unique individuals and thus, it has long been known as a flourishing community for comedians. Catching a good stand up comedy show is one of the best things to do in San Francisco, and the city by the Bay is home to some of the best up-and-coming talent—many great comedians such as Margaret Cho, the late Robin Williams, and Dana Carvey got their start at the underground comedy clubs that dot North Beach and the Mission District. Wondering where you can catch a good laugh? Here are ten of the best place to see stand up comedy in SF.
SF’s best spots for stand up comedy
Located in North Beach on Columbus Street, Cobb’s Comedy Club is quite possibly the most well known spot for stand up comedy in the city. Founded in 1982, Cobb’s was originally a pub in the Marina. The current space, which seats 400 at circular low and high bar tables, is the third home to the club. When big name comedians come through SF, they are most likely to take the stage at Cobb’s; past comics include Louis CK, Dana Carvey, Dave Chappelle and other regulars of the late shows and Comedy Central. Upcoming artists include Michael Yo from Chelsea Lately and Pete Davidson from Saturday Night Live. Cobb’s has a dinner menu and full-service bar with a two drink minimum. Most of the seating is general admission and it’s first come first served. Since it’s a bar, all IDs must be checked before show-goers enter, so there may be a line out front to get in. Public transportation is recommended as there isn’t much parking nearby.
The Punch Line, a sister club to Cobb’s, is SF’s longest-running comedy club. It’s a historic place where many amazing comedians—Robin Williams, Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell and Chris Rock to name a few—honed their skills early on in their careers. The Punch Line is an intimate space with wooden chairs and a cartoonish skyline of SF as a backdrop to the stage. On the corner of Battery and Washington in downtown San Francisco, Punch Line seats a sizeable crowd that are first come first served. There is a two drink minimum and nightly dinner menu served. Be warned: Show tickets are purchased at the Punch Line box office are non-refundable and non-exchangeable.
Doc’s Lab is a downstairs venue underneath a Jackson Square restaurant, Doc Ricketts’. The venue was the original home to the Purple Onion and countless artists have performed in this historic basement including Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce and Zach Galifianakis. Today, Doc’s Lab is a warm and inviting space with L-shaped seating and a small bar. Seats and tables are given on a first come, first served basis, and tickets can be purchased through Doc’s Lab’s online box office. Pinching pennies? Every Monday evening Doc’s hosts a free comedy show. Doors open at 6pm and the show starts at 7pm, featuring some of the best up-and-coming comics along with varying special guest hosts. Doc’s Lab is one of the few venues where the food is as good as the shows; chef Justin Deering serves up sensational pork meatballs, fried chicken bites and a finger-licking good ground short rib burger.
On Hyde Street between Eddy and Turk is a weekly stand up show known as the The Setup. It takes place at The Basement every Saturday night; doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm. The underground comedy club is run by comedians Kevin Whittinghall, Abhay Nadkarni and Richard Sarvate. The space, which was once the green room for the Blackhawk Jazz Club, is all exposed brick and tufted leather couches. There’s practically no stage and the comedians tell their jokes just a few feet from the crowd. It’s a great spot to scout talent at a cheap price—tickets to a show are just $5 each.
Cheaper Than Therapy serves up an intimate evening of stand up comedy with no drink minimum. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10pm to 11:30pm, a group of comics take to the stage at the Shelton Theater in Union Square to provide show-goers with some healthy laughs. Cheaper Than Therapy is produced by Scott Simpson, Eloisa Bravo and Jon Allen, who are all seasoned comedians in their own right and perform each night. The doors and bar open at 9pm, and after the show everyone is invited to an after-party at Chelsea Place, the local dive bar around the corner from the theater.