Despite being the seat of the world’s most powerful government, “The District” occupies a neither-nor space in the mind of most comedy fans—a situation befitting its total lack of representation in the aforementioned federal government. So what’s a comedy seeker to do when he or she wants to escape the House of Cards and West Wing fantasies of his or her peers? Believe it or not, there are several reliable sources for comedy shows in DC. You just have to know where to look.
For a unique approach to comedy clubs, StandUpComedyToGo is a sort of pop-up comedy club that puts on shows in three different venues weekly (one Irish pub and two hotel bars). If it makes it seem hipper, feel free to think of it as the stand-up comedy equivalent of a food truck.
Whether you go Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturday, pay $10 and you’ll get an 80/20 blend of established comics doing 10-15 minute sets and brand new comics who may or may not bomb, but will do it for no more than 2-3 minutes at a time. All these shows are friendly to aspiring performers as well as behind-the-scenes comedy hopefuls, offering opportunities to fake it ‘til you make it without the pressure that comes with an actual paycheck.
In the mood for comedy shows in DC that are a little more pro? DC Improv has been called “the mothership” where every big stand-up star touches down – and you’ll pay consistently less to see those big names than you would at other clubs!
Unlike a lot of stuffy venues who serve up famous faces on stage, DC Improv has a wide variety of classes covering all aspects of comedy from stand-up to improv and SNL sketch writing to marketing yourself as a comedian. Once you’ve completed at least one class, you’re eligible to perform in a comedy showcase for the public (i.e., not just your friends and your mom).
If you can go to a hotel bar for comedy shows in DC, then surely you won’t be afraid to cross District-State lines just this once. The Drafthouse plays host to comics you’ve likely heard of in the main room and hidden gems for a pittance (or sometimes nothing at all) in the “green room.”
Make sure you stop by at least on Saturday for one of the best open mics in the region. Now doesn’t that seem worth a short road trip?
Comedy shows in DC will never be mistaken for those in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, and doubly so when it comes to improv. But anyone who expects the improvisers at the Washington Improv Theater to be second-class to Second City will be pleasantly surprised. WIT is an appropriate title for a club that offers smart, fun improv shows with a strong sense of community.
WIT’s school of improv is a huge part of that vibe, with classes feeding directly into the mainstage shows. These performers also stretch their comedy community further than the school, with discounted and pro-bono workshops for organizations that serve the underserved of DC, be they young at the Boys and Girls Club or old at the St. Mary’s Court senior facility.
Going to local comedy shows is a vital experience for any actor or comedian. You can get in and out for an invigorating experience that will inspire you as a performer, or you can choose to stick around and find your own unique way to be part of the scene. If nothing else, you can truthfully tell your friends that there’s more to comedy shows in DC than Colbert’s famous roast.
Photo by Ed Schipul