New comics in the Bay Area are so easily overlooked by the ego-driven regular performers and unconcerned crowds, but opportunities abound, if you know how to find them. So, here's a quick and dirty (but not blue) guide to getting started in this overwhelming scene.
Why San Francisco?
Besides its rich history, the scene offers ample stage time for comics at any level, without dragging the fresh meat into leafleting work or other humiliations. The size of the city gives a beginning comedian a great balance between big opportunities and low pressure, perfect for figuring out who you are before ascending to greater heights.
Because you're funny, right?
A Few Do's and Don'ts
Do learn how to host well.
Do try some clean material, even if comedians don't laugh at it.
Do welcome and support new talent; it's great for everyone.
Don't scold your crowd for not laughing.
Don't steal jokes.
Don't write to make the comedians in the back of the room laugh.
Where to Go?
This starter list of weekly rooms should help not just those looking to make it in comedy but also anyone looking for a laugh on the cheap.
Deco Lounge: 510 Larkin St. (at Turk), 346-2025. Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.
A great open mic for beginners, with a respectful audience of mostly other comics.
SF Comedy Cellar: 222 Hyde St. (at Turk), 345-8222. 7 p.m.
Open mic every Tuesday and Thursday, plus regular showcases, in a cozy dive bar.
The Layover: 1517 Franklin (at 15th St.), Oakland, (510) 834-1517. 8:30 p.m.
Showcase featuring some of the best Bay Area up-and-comers. Welcomes new talent, so introduce yourself to the host.
Dirty Trix Saloon: 408 Clement (at Sixth Ave.), 387-1400. Sign-up at 8:30 p.m.
At this re-imagining of the long-gone, history-making S.F. comedy spot The Holy City Zoo, come early to sign up, and then take advantage of drink specials, as it's a long night.
The Business at the Dark Room: 2263 Mission (at 18th St.), 401-7987. 8 p.m.
One of the best local shows in the city. Not for brand-new comics, but once you've got some momentum, you should check it out and introduce yourself to the producers.
Vitus: 201 Broadway (at Second St.), Oakland, (510) 452-1620. Sign-up at 6:30 p.m.
Sylvan Productions hosts an open mic followed by a local showcase each week at this downtown Oakland venue.
Cafe Yesterday:1122 University (at San Pablo), Berkeley, (510) 969-9619. Sign-up at 7:30 p.m.
Both comics and non-comics fill the room at this open mic, offering you an opportunity to work on new material in front of a real crowd.
Comedy Off Broadway Oakland: 1 Broadway (at Water in Jack London Square), Oakland, (510) 214-2626. 8 p.m.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. You'll get a chance to see some of the best local comics in an intimate crowd.
SF Comedy Showcase at Punchline Comedy Club: 444 Battery (at Clay), 397-7573. 8 p.m.
Tell them you're a comic, and grab a free seat at the back of the room. You'll likely have to hang here for six to nine months before getting on stage and proving to them you're a comic, but you'll learn loads watching and listening — and then maybe you'll be ready for the opportunity to perform in a real club that could lead to paid work.
How Can I Learn More?
Follow the people talking about stand-up in San Francisco:
SFStandup.com: A comprehensive guide to news, shows, venues, and stage time.
Read “Awkward Silence” on SF Weekly's arts blog, The Exhibitionist. This column covers local stand-up comedy in San Francisco.
Join the Bay Area Comedy Network group on Facebook to engage with local comics.
Follow @CourtingComedy on Twitter for a behind-the-scenes look at the local open mic scene.