When you think of San Francisco, you probably think of the Golden Gate Bridge, the hilly streets, and its foggy climate. However, if you do not also think about performing arts — specifically comedy — it is time to start.
The city has long been a fertile ground for stand-up comedy (it even influenced the famed “Summer of Love”). “San Francisco may not be the nation’s comedy capital — like New York or LA — but its hilarious history is no joke,” Joshua Rotter writes for the San Francisco Examiner. “Robin Williams was discovered performing at the Richmond’s Holy City Zoo.”
Rotter explains that there was a perfect storm for comedy to take off in the city, with a few key moments paving the way to today’s current crop of esteemed comedy clubs. “After the Gold Rush established San Francisco as an ‘anything goes’ city and Prohibition developed a lively underworld, an opening appeared for bars and nightclubs where off-beat, fringe and gay comedy flourished for decades,” he writes. While not the most popular city in the country for stand-up comedy, these days, San Francisco is finally getting its due. There are plenty of great clubs to visit the next time you’re in town, which is why we pulled together this short list of some of our favorites.
Cobb’s Comedy Club – Cobb’s Comedy Club has hosted some of the finest comedy talent in the world since it first opened its doors back in 1982. Originally called Cobb’s Pub and located in San Francisco’s Marina District, it eventually relocated to San Francisco’s famous North Beach. The club boasts a 400-seat venue which offers a full dinner menu and full-service bar. A handful of the headliners who perform at Cobb’s Comedy Club are regular guests on late night shows and many have their own comedy specials and big screen cameos, including Dana Carvey, Dave Chappelle, Dave Attell, Russell Peters, Jo Koy, Anjelah Johnson, Bill Burr, and more.
The Setup San Francisco – The Setup was started in Feb 2015 in San Francisco as a monthly comedy show. It has since expanded to become a national comedy brand with several shows a week across different cities, and over 100,000 people have attended The Setup’s shows in the past seven years.
Cheaper Than Therapy – Enjoy a healthy dose of stand-up comedy in San Francisco’s Union Square at Cheaper Than Therapy, with each show featuring veteran comedians Jon Allen and Scott Simpson, along with a rotating selection of experienced Bay Area and visiting comics. The theater bar serves everything from craft beer to cocktails, and there are plenty of restaurant options in the area.
Punch Line Comedy Club – Punch Line needs no introduction, since stars including Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Ellen Degeneres, Wanda Sykes, Drew Carey, and Chris Rock all took some of the first steps of their show biz journeys on the stage. In the words of Dave Chapelle, “Punch Line San Francisco is the best club in the USA!”
Best of SF Stand-Up Comedy – Located in the iconic Hobart Building with stadium-style plush movie theater seats and a lounge that sells concessions, Best of SF Stand-Up Comedy is a great place to have some laughs. Plus, you can feel good about your patronage, since concessions are sold by Variety Children’s Charity, and all proceeds go to support children with special needs.
If you’re looking for other exciting activities to enjoy between all the laughs, you’re in luck. San Francisco is home to a diverse gastronomy that draws foodies from across the country, and its unique blend of West Coast fusion cuisine is something you’ve got to sample before you leave town.
There’s also plenty of incredible nature and National Landmarks to check out, and the easiest way to do that is by boat — cruise, actually. The San Francisco in a Day: Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf & Scenic Bay Cruise is the perfect adventure to tackle while in town. You’ll enjoy a leisurely, hour-long Bay Cruise to the Golden Gate Bridge; take an iconic San Francisco Cable Car ride; see all the top neighborhoods, including Chinatown, North Beach, and Fisherman’s Wharf; and learn from a local a guide who will divulge the spaces and places only known to the people who live there.
Oh, and don’t forget to embark on a tour of the famous Alcatraz island, where you can experience the many moods of the island with a daytime or evening visit; enjoy access to Alcatraz Island, including the historic Alcatraz cellhouse with the self-guided cellhouse audio tour; and go on a guided adventure to explore clues to the island’s fascinating past.