I'm a stand-up comedian. My comedy career was born in Boston, and I've performed thousands of hours of comedy there, which makes me pretty close to being an expert on it. Ask Malcolm Gladwell. Or don't. (He might not know what you're talking about.) Either way, here are some great places to see comedy in Boston, based on both my brain's memory and speaking with smart comedy-savvy friends... who have different brain memories.
This is where I started out, so this is where I'll start out. For the past 20 years (this April is the 20th anniversary), the attic of the Hong Kong restaurant in Harvard Square has been home to one of the coziest, friendliest, smartest, funniest, and most enjoyable comedy venues in the universe. Do you like Chinese food? Doesn't matter. There's no two-dumpling minimum. And there's no laughing maximum. It's open almost every night of the week for you to enjoy the comedy magic. (And one night of the week for you to enjoy an actual magic show. The rest of the time it's metaphorical magic. You know, wonderful comedy.)
Want to see a comedian you've probably definitely heard of? This is your best bet. The Wilbur hosts some of comedy's biggest names doing stand-up shows, live podcast tapings, and probably other things. What more could you want? Specifics? Fine! Coming soon, you can see folks like Trevor Noah, Norm Macdonald, Maria Bamford, etc. (I love the comedy stylings of “etc.”). If you have a time machine, feel free to go back to 2013 and see me tape my first hour special there. Things like that happen.
Great Scott! This venue has a name that sounds like a Christopher Lloyd quote. By day, it's a mild-mannered bar. But by night (every Friday at least), it becomes The Gas, a showcase featuring the best in local comedy and beyond. If you enjoy alcohol and/or finely curated comedy, with hopefully an emphasis on the latter, then I think I've said enough.
You can see both sketch and stand-up comedy at this venue, which is actually located in Cambridge. (THE NAME IS A SHAM!) Of course, Cambridge is in the Boston area, and they do have improv. So never mind, it's fine. Anyway, I once saw them improvise a full-length episode of The Love Boat. But that's not all they do. So if you love love, love boats, love love boats, or don't, this is a lovely place to see improv, sketch, and/or stand-up. Who knows what it'll be... check the schedule.
This venue IS in Boston, but doesn't say it. Also, it ISN'T an asylum, but it DOES have shows that combine audience-inspired improv with pre-written sketches that won't ask you for any inspiration at all.
As the self-proclaimed “stand-up sister to the Improv Asylum,” Laugh Boston is the city's newest full-time place to laugh (with a name that makes a lot of sense). Of all the places on this list, it's the one I've haven't been to yet, so hopefully that adds a dash of mystery to the experience. What will it be like? I don't know. Probably great! They're bringing in a lot of funny comedians.
This place has a number of worthwhile shows to check out, from Casey Malone's Fine Line Comedy to Will Smalley and Andrew Mayer's Two Kids in a Trench Coat. Fun people in a fun place.
A Boston staple whose impact and influence on the scene goes back decades, the Comedy Den is the latest incarnation of Dick Doherty's Boston comedy club evolution. Personally, Dick Doherty was one of the first Bostonians to pay me to perform on his stage, so his establishments hold a special place in my heart. They can hold one in your heart, too.
According to Google, “This no-frills theater with a full bar has been showcasing local comedy since 1977.” And it's true. As long as you believe the Internet...
1. The Comedy Studio1236 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
2. Wilbur Theatre246 Tremont St, Boston
3. The Gas at Great Scott1218 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
4. ImprovBoston40 Prospect St, Cambridge
5. Improv Asylum Theatre216 Hanover St, Boston
6. Laugh Boston425 Summer St, Boston
7. Bella Luna & Milky Way284 Amory St, Jamaica Plain
8. Dick Doherty's Comedy Den184 High St, Boston
9. Nick's Comedy Stop100 Warrenton St, Boston
The Comedy Studio is one of the best places to check out live entertainment in Boston. The creative minds behind the studio turned the attic of a Hong Kong restaurant into a friendly and inviting comedy haven that is open almost every day of the week.
If you are looking for a nice place to see obscure comedians in action, the Wilbur Theatre is your best bet. They are open to biggest comedy names, of course, but they have a knack for finding the best unknown names and throwing them on stage for your entertainment.
Great Scott is one of the best places to catch live entertainment in Boston. Whether you are in the mood for a comedy show, a live band, or maybe just a drink and some noise, Great Scott has something for everyone that stops by.
You never know what you'll see when you stop by an ImprovBoston show. They do both sketch and stand up comedy, so there is something for everyone who visits. If you are looking to take some out of town visitors or a first date to an obscure Boston hot spot, make sure to consider ImprovBoston.
Improv Asylum is unlike any other Boston comedy show, because their shows are either inspired by the audience or pre-written without any audience inclusion. That means that you could come back every night of the week and experience something different.
Laugh Boston is one of the newest additions to the Boston comedy scene, and they are worth taking notice of. They bring in a lot of big names form the comedy world and have them perform for you live from the Seaport District. Make sure to check their line up and stop by this weekend.
The Milky Way has a fun atmosphere that is a perfect fit in Boston's comedy scene. Featuring a variety of different shows that change every night, you won't want to miss when is cracking people up at The Milky Way.
Dick Doherty's has been a major influence in Boston's comedy culture for the last few decades, so if you are in the area and looking for a good time, this should be your first stop. Every show is a new experience, and they are known for bringing some pretty big names to Boston.
This comedy club has been stealing the show in Boston since 1977, and we predict that it will continue to for years to come. By featuring some of the biggest names in comedy along with local favorites, Nick's Comedy Stop should be part of your weekend plans.