Tips on how to dodge un-funny cover and drink charges at the nation's comedy clubs
When it comes to a night out at comedy clubs, laughter doesn't come cheap. After paying for cover charges and the common two-drink minimums, audiences often find they are the punchline of a $50 or more joke. There's nothing to laugh about that.
However, by utilizing online discounts, discount ticket booths, or by going on less popular nights, the budget-minded traveler with a sense of humor can get cheap laughs at clubs across the country. And that means more funny for less money.
Cap City Comedy Club (8120 Research Blvd., 512/467-2333, capcitycomedy.com/)
Austin is a little city that sets some big trends in the music and film industry, and Cap City Comedy Club fits in well here. Because of the university-educated audience it regularly attracts, Cap City is a draw for comedians taking chances and trying out new material. Though the venue seats 350, it has a small-town saloon feel and showcases comics you know you''e seen, but can'' quite remember where. David Letterman'' inhouse comic, Eddie Brill (he'' the guy who warms up the crowd before the taping), just finished a week here and Ralphie May of NBC'' "Last Comic Standing" will headline in October. Even the original ""iezel" Pauly Shore will be stopping by next month for one night only.
Improv Asylum (216 Hanover St., 617/263-6887, improvasylum.com/)
Pirates, guys in drag and ax-wielding maniacs running around a stage and taking direction from the audience might be why this place is called an Asylum. The colorful shows put on by this improv-only troupe- voted "best comedy club" in Beantown-- suitable for ages 13 and up. The Asylum players, or "inmates" as they are called, develop scenes and sketches based on audience suggestions at such a frenetic pace, it makes you wonder if they took all of their meds in this cuckoo's nest.
Second City (1616 N. Wells St., 312/337-3992, secondcity.com/)
In Chi-town, Second City is rightfully known as an institution. Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Harold Ramis, Eugene Levy and Chris Farley are only a fraction of the recognizable names that logged time here. In addition, the sketches of Second City were the basis of the television program SCTV. Second City'' formidable presence and cost-effectiveness is the reason that it'' the only entry for clubs in Chicago.
Comedy Store (8433 Sunset Blvd., 323/656-6225, thecomedystore.com/)
The Comedy Store opened in April 1972, but it took Richard Pryor's big comeback in June of the same year to give the club life. Since then, the massive club with three stages, including a Vegas-style showroom, has showcased the brightest of stars. More recently, Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and "Man Show" host Joe Rogan have frequented the club.
Showtimes/cover charge (The schedule for the three rooms at the Comedy Store changes frequently based on show, performers or even who did the booking, so it is best to call for the details of a specific night.)
The main room
The original room
Acme Comedy Co. (708 N. First St., 612/338-6393, acmecomedycompany.com/)
Even though the Acme Comedy Co. is located in the historic Itasca building with brick walls and columns, there is nothing stuffy about this intimate Minneapolis mainstay. Comics Steven Wright and Margaret Cho stop by to try out new material, but even they have to sign-up for Monday'' open-mic nights. In fact, Chris Rock recently arrived too late and was unable to perform.
New York City
Comedy Cellar (117 MacDougal St., 212/254-3480,comedycellar.com/)
Simply put, this Greenwich Village venue is THE comedy club of New York City. When you see a comic here, you know they've arrived on the cusp of fame. "It's the most difficult room to get into in this city," says comedienne Betsy Wise, who goes on to say that a spot at the "Mecca for stand-up comedy in New York" is a rite of passage on the way to fame.
The basement club of the inexpensive Olive Tree restaurant, the Cellar is cramped and cigarette smoke seems to linger in the room, despite the smoking ban that took effect in the city last Spring. But it's a sure thing to see a star any night of the week at this "home club" where Jerry Seinfeld, Colin Quinn, Dave Attell or Jon Stewart stop by frequently.
ComedySportz DC, Ballston Common Mall 3rd Floor, 4238 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA., 703/294-LAFF (5233), cszdc.com/
Billing itself as "competitive improv comedy" for the whole family, from toddlers to teens, ComedySportz is the longest running comedy troupe in DC, making it the capital'' best place for a joke--next to Capitol Hill, that is. The idea behind Sportz is to make comedy a sport with two teams of comics pitted against each other in games, scenes and musical bits. The audience's role is to act as cheering and jeering fans for their teams and to make suggestions to the referee. Be warned though, the ref can hand out a brown-bag foul to anyone he chooses, and make them wear a bag over their head!