Philadelphia’s thriving music scene is widely recognized, with rising local artists like Dr. Dog and Chiddy Bang, plus icons like Questlove, gaining national recognition. But for those who love to laugh (that’s everybody, in case you forgot), the city’s burgeoning comedy scene is also worth some attention.
The comedy community in the 2-1-5 has been steadily growing over the last decade, thanks in large part to the Philly Improv Theater (PHIT), which was founded in 2006 as a hub for all things funny in the city.
But PHIT’s shows are just one element in a wide range of laughter-inducing performances around the city. There’s a variety of stand-up, improv, sketch and other alternative comedy going on nightly.
Check out these spots — both mainstream and under the radar — for the best places to pick up the best medicine:
Helium Comedy Club: Helium is a stand-up club that Philadelphia can be proud of. The large-yet-intimate venue books premier touring acts and pairs them with local stars for nights so laugh-heavy they just might make you lightheaded. Upcoming highlights include Dave Attell and Doug Benson. The club also plays host to the annual Philly’s Phuniest competition, which is happening now and runs through August.
The Laff House: A South Street staple, the Laff House has been booking favorite comics since being founded as the “Funny Bone” in 1985. These days, it hosts stand-up most nights each week, with a focus on African-American talent, including veterans of Def Comedy Jam on HBO.
Philly Improv Theater: PHIT is the central hub for “alternative” comedy in Philly — that is, anything that isn’t stand-up at a club with a two-drink minimum. Catch their shows at the BYOB (!!) Shubin Theater just off of South Street, including improv, sketch, stand-up and variety shows. These days, PHIT’s late-night improv jam on Saturdays is becoming especially popular, with free entry and an opportunity for anyone to get on stage. Tickets range from reasonable to just plain cheap, and are available here.
Connie’s Ric-Rac: Connie’s is a South Philly institution that has offbeat comedy shows at least once a week. Every Sunday is Jay West Likes Comedy, a stand-up open mic where beginners are just as welcome as seasoned veterans. Beyond that, Connie’s hosts unique shows intermittently, like a recent bout between New York comedians from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and a host of Philly’s favorite funny people (don’t worry; Philly won).
The Ministry of Secret Jokes: The second Wednesday of every month means The Ministry of Secret Jokes at Washington Square Wast watering hole Fergie’s Pub. It’s a showcase that focuses on stand-up, hosted by Doogie Horner, who’s arguably the biggest stand-up in town after his book release and notorious appearance on America’s Got Talent.
ComedySportz: This fast-paced, family-friendly show showcases “short form” improv, of the ilk made popular by Whose Line Is It Anyway?. It’s funny, accessible comedy with regular weekend shows at the Adrienne Theater near Rittenhouse Square. Tickets are available here. Check out their feature in Philly 101!
Comedy Dreamz: Comedy Dreamz shows generally happen once a month, often at The Barbary but sometimes in other venues, like Space 1026. They’re a showcase for some seriously alternative work, like interpretative dance and offbeat stand-up. Though less accessible than some — and anything but mainstream — it’s the artsiest humor in town.
Polygon Comedy: Polygon takes over L’Etage the second Tuesday of each month for a showcase of independent talent. Founded by Rick Horner, a godfather of the local improv scene, it may be Philly’s most diverse comedy show. Expect a mix of improv, sketch, stand-up and storytelling, often with a seasonal theme.
The BIG Show: This new addition to the city’s comedy roster takes place every Wednesday at Callowhill spot Underground Arts. Hosted by veteran local comic Cory Cohen, it’s a hybrid stand-up showcase and talk show, with occasional videos and musical guests. And the best news? It’s completely free.