Can you think of a better night than laughing until your belly hurts and then filling said belly full of tacos and beers? We thought not. If you need a break from the North Beach-centric comedy club scene, head to the heart ( and many would say, soul) of San Francisco, the Mission District. There you'll find The Dark Room Theatre. Instead of having to deal with the steep and rolling hills of North Beach, you'll have the flat and lively blocks of the Mission District at your feet. If you do need a break, the city's best Mexican food is at every corner.
Recommended for Comedy Clubs because: The Dark Room Theatre is the best choice for those who are looking for a comedy club in the Mission District.
Tom's expert tip: Experimental improv and stand-up in the centrally located Mission District.
As this list reflects, improv dominates the comedy scene in San Francisco. EndGames is one of the latest on the scene, although their improv instructors have refined their skills at legendary improv clubs of Chicago, New York and LA. What makes this comedy club different is its approach to teaching improv, based on the belief that everyone can do improv. It creates an open, fun, experimental comedy scene unlike the more rigid and traditional comedy clubs in San Francisco. And the Friday Night shows starting at 10:30 are actually free - what's to lose? If you enjoy the inventive chaos that is the base of all improv, head to EndGames for your fair share of laughs.
Recommended for Comedy Clubs because: If you like to cheer and encourage amateurs on the stage, EndGames Improv is a good comedy club for you.
Tom's expert tip: "Learning" oriented environment lends to a more flexible, experimental comedy.
Unlike most comedy clubs that have a revolving line of local or national comics, the Marrakech Theatre depends on one man: Peter Morrision. Since he's a seasoned vet who has put on 3000 shows over the last fifteen years, he's not a bad person to depend on. Unlike stand-up or improv, Peter's act uses magic and heavy audience participation to find your funny bone. It's an elegant, throwback kind of evening that should have you spellbound. And, after the event is over, centrally located Union Square isa great jumping off spot for more nighttime fun in North Beach or Chinatown.
Recommended for Comedy Clubs because: What makes Marrakech unique is its mix of magic acts and comedy.
Tom's expert tip: The Marrakech Magic Theatre blends tricks with top-rate comedy. And magician/ comic Peter Morrison makes or breaks this place.
Featuring the largest and longest-running improv troupe in San Francisco, this award-winning comedy club's Fort Mason location is a must-visit for anyone seeking a hysterical escape from the everyday. Make sure to bring a tissue, and ladies, break out the waterproof mascara, because once the superbly talented comedians hit the stage, you'll be crying with uncontrollable laughter. The sidesplitting, interactive shows are always 100% unique and include rapid-fire competitions, Shakespeare remixes and wacky murder mysteries. And the Fort Mason Center is a large and comfortable space, located right on the water with the nearby Marina neighborhood to cover all your restaurant, bar, and late-night needs.
Recommended for Comedy Clubs because: With one of the longest running improv acts in the whole Bay Area, BATS Improv is a reliable choice for a night of laughs.
Tom's expert tip: Make a full night of it by having dinner at Green's.
Born in the '20s as an illicit speakeasy, Plush Room originally plied guests with well-mixed drinks and premiere entertainment. These days, performers are still top-notch, and the atmosphere remains convivial, but patrons imbibe freely without fear of reprisal. Romantic surroundings set the scene for a variety of entertainments, including vocal performances and comedy acts. The club also attracts many a dating couple, who love the intimate venue's attentive servers, great drinks and sublime talents. Like the Purple Onion, Empire Plush Room has faced its share of financial stress, so be sure to check when the club is open since it's running on a limited schedule.
Recommended for Comedy Clubs because: Empire Plush is a real throwback, so it's a great choice for those who like classic comedy.
Tom's expert tip: This comedy club has a throwback appeal that's actually romantic.
With irreverent and inventive humor, cheap beer and free Oreos, there's much to love at this San Francisco comedy club's Saturday night improv extravaganza. In the cozy Shelton Theater, a phenomenally talented, good-natured cast performs highly interactive sketches with the aid of perfectly timed tunes from the witty house musician. The actors exude a contagious enthusiasm for improv and dare to think outside the box, providing unexpected hilarity that is well worth the $15 tickets. You might be able to find cheaper improv around the Bay Area, but it's hard to beat the dependability of this practiced group. Secret Improv Society now offers 2 laugh out loud performances per night at 8pm & 10pm every Friday & Saturday. The cozy underground theater also features a full bar with no minimums. Secret's award winning shows (SF Magazines Best Comedy 2016) are only $19.50 online or $22.50 at the door. And did we mention Oreos and beer?
Recommended for Comedy Clubs because: Although there are many improv choices in the city, Secret Improv is consistently one of the very best venues.
Tom's expert tip: This group takes it Improv Comedy very seriously.
One of the most raved about comedy clubs in San Francisco, Chicken Scratch describes their mission as "Slaughtering the world's evil with laughter. Pizza. Beer. Sometimes inappropriately pathetic low-stakes poker." While audience members can't speak for the poker or pizza, the beer and laughter definitely do wonders for a rough day. Directed in part by audience suggestions, these top-notch humorists perform hilariously unpredictable improv games and even outlandish rap songs that keep visitors in stitches. As with any improv experience, be prepared for some flubs or awkward pauses as the comedy gets rolling. In fact, the mistakes or hiccups often make up the most hilarious parts of the show.
Recommended for Comedy Clubs because: Chicken Scratch is a great choice for those who enjoy audience participation.
Tom's expert tip: A long-running and dedicated comedy troupe - be prepared for anything in this inventive atmosphere.
This dance club generally entertains a packed house. Live bands perform on weekends, salsa's the rage on Sunday, a global dance party wins applause on Friday, rock 'n' roll takes the stage on Saturdays, and Wednesdays are punk and rock nights. You may also find Arabic music, world music, dancehall and hip-hop, outdoor film festivals and cabaret performances as well as benefits for local community organizations. If that's not enough, there are shuffleboard, ping-pong, pool and weekly BBQs. The popular outdoor patio, bedecked with lights, is often filled with a very diverse crowd. Besides all of this tremendous activity, yes, the stage is also used by some of the best improv and stand-up San francisco has to offer.
Recommended for Comedy Clubs because: El Rio offers all kinds of entertainment, but the comedy is still some of the city's best.
Tom's expert tip: A really packed and eclectic crowd since this space is used for so many different diversions.
If you're hoping to see the biggest names in funny business while in San Francisco, this comedy club's star-studded lineup has you covered. From Robin Williams and Ellen DeGeneres to Sarah Silverman and Dave Chapelle, the standup standouts who have taken Cobb's stage are the most hysterical A-listers out there. Superb sightlines from every seat enable audience members to catch the comic's every laugh-inducing expression while savoring selections from the full bar and dinner menu. If improv or group sketches by earnest but still learning comics is not your thing, stick by the tried and tested line-up at Cobb's Comedy Club.
Recommended for Comedy Clubs because: The history alone of Cobb's Comedy Club makes it a spot worth visiting.
Tom's expert tip: If you only have time for one comedy club, make it a Cobb's night.
Among the most beloved comedy clubs in San Francisco, Punch Line is an intimate 200-seat theater that has showcased such star-quality headliners as Jay Leno, Wanda Sykes, Zach Galafianakis and Whoopi Goldberg. The venue is beautifully designed, the wait staff is prompt and the potent drinks and palate-pleasing dishes provide sustenance for hours-long laughing fits. Plus, every vantage point offers a clear view of the stage backed by a funky Cubist mural of San Francisco. If you want that traditional-style of stand-up comedy you see on HBO specials - or the kind the recently closed Purple Onion used to bring to San Francisco every night - check out the Punch Line Comedy Club.
Recommended for Comedy Clubs because: Punch Line is a classic comedy venue for those who prefer stand-up to improv or audience participation.
Tom's expert tip: Go old school at this traditional comedy club.