Laugh Out Loud

7 best Austin comedy clubs for a damn good time

7 best Austin comedy clubs for a damn good time

Esther’s Follies Presents: Holly, Jolly, Follie!
Comedy in Austin is best enjoyed live. Photo by Adam Schlender

Austin has a vibrant comedy scene, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. The best way to enjoy it is to get out and see it for yourself. Here's your guide to the funniest comedy venues in Austin, showcasing everything from classic stand-up to zany improv.

Cap City Comedy Club
Located off Research Boulevard, this three-decade-old club brings in big-name comedians every week; hosts a regular open mic night on Sunday (free with a college ID); and is home to some of the best stand-up shows in town, including Punch! and the Funniest Person in Austin contest. Out-of-town comics perform multiple times a week, usually Wednesday through Saturday. Head's up: There's a two drink minimum, but it won't be hard to meet, even on a budget.

ColdTowne Theater
New Orleans ex-pats opened this "Chicago-style long-form improv training center" back in 2006. Located on Airport Boulevard next to I Luv Video, the theater hosts a wide variety of funny acts. You can also take an improv or sketch class or bust your chops in a troupe — but don't worry, there are no auditions to be a part of the audience. ColdTowne's staple shows return weekly while others rotate monthly.

Esther's Follies
Think of Esther's Follies as part Saturday Night Live!, part talent show, all Austin. Multiple live shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday incorporate timely topics, as well as city-specific jokes. The original location opened in 1977 and moved to its current home at the intersection of Sixth and Neches streets in 1987. If you're trying to get into the game, the venue also hosts comedy workshops.

The Hideout Theatre
The Hideout serves as a headquarters for improv in the heart of downtown. Performances, which are a mix of traveling troupes and homegrown productions, run Thursday through Sunday. Hideout also offers a free taste every first Wednesday and third Saturday of the month, in addition to more vigorous classes. Bonus: The Hideout is also home to a sweet coffee shop open daily.

The Institution Theater
The Institution launched in 2007, without a permanent home, at The Velv (more on that below). Five years later, the theater moved into its own space in South Austin with plenty of room to put on even funnier productions. The venue still provides classes for aspiring improv comedians, as well as corporate deals and free workshops so you can dip your toes into the world of improv.

The New Movement
This Austin branch of a New Orleans original debuted in 2009 in a small space on the east side then moved downtown in 2012. TNM serves as both a theater and a conservatory, complete with classrooms and a production studio. New shows and recurring favorites can be found almost every night of the week. TNM offers business workshops for fun, intensives for the serious, and opportunities for the young ones.

The Velv Comedy Lounge
The Velveeta Room, known affectionately and now officially as The Velv, has been delivering live comedy on Dirty Sixth for close to three decades. What started up as a stand-up-centric offshoot of Esther's Follies is now one of the biggest comedy clubs in town. Big acts usually come to town for two nights, Friday and Saturday. Up-and-comers — and anyone who needs a laugh — should check out the "speed open mic" on Thursdays.

While these are the best comedy venues in town, they aren't the only establishments that host comedy. Spider House Cafe & Ballroom and Cherrywood Coffeehouse have excellent open mic nights, and places like the Paramount Theatre regularly attract big-name acts. Don't forget to check out the Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival in April and the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival in late summer.