The two major comedy clubs in town are Cobbs and The Punch Line. Both of these Live Nation owned venues are where you'll see the big touring acts.
Cobbs is a 400 seater that sees a lot of the comedians that are big names, but not quite doing theaters just yet. The atmosphere isn't the coziest. Almost like a warehouse with a stage. But the staff is great and the comedy is fantastic. You'll find acts like Jo Koy, Drew Carey, Pablo Francisco, and Marc Maron.
The Punch Line is a more intimate 200 seat venue and one of the best places to see comedy anywhere in the country. Every seat in the house is good and you'll see great acts like John Heffron, Scott Capurro, and Nick Kroll. Of particular interest is the Sunday Night Showcase. Normally that kind of thing would be code for "run away fast"! But the vetting system at the Punch Line ensures that every Sunday is a stellar set of comedy from only the very best in the Bay Area. Make sure to get advance tickets or get there early as it often sells out.
Tommy T's is the newest full time club in town, housed in a beautiful space on Van Ness Ave. This is your neighborhood comedy club all dressed up in red velvet and dark hardwoods. The shows here are a little more niche, like Rex Navarette. But it's also a great place to see some classic performers of the comedy world like Bobcat Goldthwait.
If your tastes run more toward the edgy and underground, San Francisco is an incubator for some of the greatest modern comedy minds in the country. Here's a few great spots to hit:
Club Deluxe - This great little speakeasy on Haight St has one of the longest running comedy shows in town every 3rd Monday of the month. The talent is tightly curated and features the best up and coming comics in the area. There are often unannounced guest sets from bigger names passing through town too. It's the kind of room where "You'll never guess who we saw last night..." stories are made.
The Purple Onion - This is one of the classic venues in San Francisco where Mort Sahl, Phyllis Diller, and The Smother Brothers all got their start. For years it sat unused until some enterprising young comics convinced the owner to open it up for them again. Now they host comedy five nights a week with the San Francisco Comedy College taking the week days and a selection of promoters programming the weekends. Stop in one a weekend night and chances are someone cool is recording their new comedy CD there.
And if you'd like the quintessential San Francisco Comedy Experience, make your way to The Brainwash on Thursday nights at 7pm for one of the longest running open mics around. The Brainwash is a Cafe and Laundromat that hosts comedians and musicians on different nights of the week. Not only will you see some of the best (and worst) comedy in San Francisco, but it's all done in front of the most unforgiving and quirky local crowd you can imagine. It may not always be funny, but it's sure to be an adventure.
Next time you're in San Francisco and looking for a laugh, try out one of these great shows or one of the zillion other little comedy spots happening in bars, cafes, and theaters around town.