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A Guide to San Diego’s Stand-Up Comedy Scene

All the clubs and companies bringing famous names and funny up-and-comers to town
San Diego standup comedy scene
Courtesy of Quartyard SD

By Ombretta Di Dio

On any given Friday night, a line forms across popular downtown corners, packed with people patiently waiting for a couple of hours of laughter and some relief from the monotony of their work week. Stand-up comedy—once only enjoyed locally at La Jolla’s Comedy Store, which opened its doors for the first time in 1977—is now everywhere in San Diego. 

But, whether those remarks will actually give you belly laughs or leave you wondering why you even bothered abandoning the couch, depends on a number of variables that go from the night of the week and the lineup of the show, to who produces it. No matter what, however, I assure you that watching live comedy is a risk worth taking. I would know. In the almost 10 years I have been around it, both as a performer and as an audience member, I found nothing better to occupy my nights and my mind. 

This guide will help you discover  your next favorite spot to laugh and help you navigate the intricate and somewhat daunting map of shows that populate weekly and weekend nights all over town.   

Courtesy of Mad House Comedy Club

Stand-Up Comedy in San Diego: The Signature Clubs

Mad House Comedy Club

The Mad House Comedy Club has been a staple among locals for over a decade, thanks to its signature open mic nights (currently on hold) and the comedy shows that, from Wednesday to Sunday, offer a platform to up-and-coming talent and out-of-towners. After Midnight host Taylor Tomlinson graced the stage here before catapulting to celebrity status, and I might have stumbled on that same stage for open mics and shows alike once or twice, too, which basically puts me at the same level as the second-most famous Taylor in show business. 

American Comedy Co.

Just a couple of blocks down the road is the American Comedy Co., with its weekly Tuesday-night open mic that attracts hundreds of audience members and dozens of young comics hungry for three minutes in the spotlight. Big Jay Oakerson, Natasha Leggero, and other big names from Los Angeles and New York regularly pay visits to the venue. Locals get to open the act, and if you particularly like any of them, you will find them working the door in between shows. Strike a conversation, and you will make their night. 

Mic Drop Comedy

Downtown isn’t the only comedy hotspot! Out in Kearny Mesa, Mic Drop Comedy makes it a mission to feature diverse and unforgettable lineups, as well as themed shows where comedians draw from holidays, movies, and music to deliver side-splitting jokes (picture a Taylor Swift–inspired midday brunch show). Sip cocktails while you get lost in pop culture references or discover witty, new LGBTQ talent and brilliant women headliners.

Courtesy of Duck Foot Brewery

Stand-Up Comedy in San Diego: The Indie Shows

Comedy Heights

If you think comedy merely belongs to clubs, think again. San Diego’s best stand-up shows sometimes happen in bars, breweries, and even yards. Comedy Heights—which called the recently shuttered Twiggs Bakery Cafe home for 12 years—found a new permanent residence in Normal Heights at Lestat’s on Adams, hosting PG-13 comedians every Friday and Saturday. Make sure to grab a complimentary coffee next door and bring your own booze to enjoy the show!

Duck Foot Comedy Night

Comedy is serious business in Miramar, where you can savor an expansive comedy show experience at the familiar Duck Foot Brewery. This monthly event takes place right outside of the brewery and is consistently packed thanks to a good mix of local and nationally touring comics who are funny enough to grab the attention of a sea of people, despite—or maybe thanks to—the unusual location.

Going Dutch Comedy

If you are a fan of crowd work and want to join in the fun of creating comedy magic, head to Going Dutch Comedy’s monthly evening event. Participating comics pick prompts out of a bowl and riff on them then and there to deliver hilarious dating advice. The trick? Audience members get to come up with the prompts. Going Dutch Comedy recently partnered with Don’t Tell San Diego, the national franchise that brings Netflix-approved comedy faces to unexpected secret venues.

Laugh Outside

Every month, Quartyard San Diego transforms into a comedy-filled garden where beer and laughter flow to the sound of seasoned comics and up-and-comers who have learned how to master a major stage. This outside show in the middle of the East Village is ideal for smart audiences who appreciate diverse humor that isn’t overly obscure or edgy.

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