This may come as a surprise to recent transplants, but San Francisco was once the hot West Coast center of stand-up comedy. In the '70s and '80s, comics flocked to Bay Area clubs, taking their best shot up against the brick wall with jesters like Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Kevin Pollack. Hungry young cutups competed to win a spot in the annual San Francisco Comedy Competition, known industrywide as the best stand-up launching pad, and events like free Comedy Day in the Park attracted 60,000 to Golden Gate Park's Polo Field.
To us, Bob Saget, you'll always mean
With sets from Bob Saget and local
comics Mark Pitta and Johnny Steele
But with the post-'80s downturn in the laugh biz, the fortunes of local comedians and clubs alike have fallen. Venerable haunts like Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint, the Other Cafe, Holy City Zoo, and the Boarding House are long gone. And after Cobb's Comedy Club closed in April because of fire damage at its Fisherman's Wharf location, S.F.'s only remaining full-time venue was Clear Channel Entertainment's Punch Line.
However, Cobb's fortunes have lately taken a different turn. Under its trio of mom-and-pop owners (divorced couple/ best friends Tom and Caroline Sawyer and their gay Latino partner Michael Pagan -- very San Francisco), Cobb's has relocated to spiffy North Beach digs. The new site, former home of the Boarding House and 7th Note jazz club, is more than twice as big as its old Cannery space. The owners intend to put the elbow room to good use by hosting big-name headliners Thursday through Sunday: Bob Saget (who is the featured act opening night), Suzanne Westenhoefer, Joe Rogan, D.L. Hughley, and Jake Johannsen are the draws through December.
The rest of the week Cobb's plans All-Pro Comedy Showcases featuring up-and-comers. Attention aspiring smartacres: Now's the time to polish your set. Because if the folks at Cobb's have their way, the Bay Area's headed for a whole new comedy renaissance.