Austin may always be first known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” and as a tech hub, but its comedy scene has grown by leaps and bounds since the turn of the century.
What started as a scene with a handful of venues has transformed into a city full of aspiring comedians, improv troupes and open mics.
As for venues in the city, some have been around for decades while others are only a few years old.
Whether you’re looking for laughs, trying to break into the scene or just want to get through defensive driving, here are some good places to start:
Capitol City Comedy Club
8120 Research Blvd. | CapCityComedy.com | (512) 467-2333 | Show Calendar
Cap City has been a hallmark of Austin’s comedy scene since its doors opened in 1986. Located in North Austin, the venue brings well-known local stand-ups to its stage as well as nationally-touring comedians. Headlining comics perform Wednesday through Saturday, with shows starting at 8 p.m. and an additional 10:30 p.m. show on Fridays and Saturdays.
In addition, PUNCH! comedy shows take the side stage every Tuesday with a variety of line-ups formats and an open mic night every Sunday. Cap City also hosts the Funniest Person in Austin contest, an annual competition that challenges hundreds of locals to show off their best routines.
4803 Airport Blvd. | ColdtowneTheater.com | (512) 814-8696 | Show Calendar
ColdTowne Theater opened in 2006, about a year after Hurricane Katrina forced Michael Jastroch, Arthur Simone and Justin York to evacuate New Orleans. In the ten years since, the theater has grown by leaps and bound and now puts on a show every night of the week. Improv shows make up the majority of ColdTowne’s calendar.
The theater is located next to I Luv Video on Airport Boulevard. Each month, the theater presents unique feature shows as well as their regular signature shows.
Comedian Ted Meredith poses at Esther's Follies. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)Ricardo Brazziell
525 E. 6th St. | EsthersFollies.com | (512) 320-0553 | Show Calendar
Esther’s Follies shows combine topical humor, sketch comedy, magic performances and musical numbers into a 90-minute show. Founders Michael Shelton and Shannon Sedwick have crafted the show for more than 40 seasons, incorporating Austin actors and performers for decades. A typical week at Esther’s Follies has five showings, one on Thursday starting at 8 p.m., and two on both Friday and Saturday (first show at 8 p.m., second at 10 p.m.).
616 Lavaca St. | Falloutcomedy.com | (512) 696-2590 | Show Calendar
The outfit formerly known as The New Movement (more or less), Fallout is Austin’s newest addition to the comedy/improv scene. Look for shows such as Playpen (stand-ups), Sandbox (experimental comedy) and Garage show (all-women comedy showcase).
The Hideout (photo: The Hideout)
The Hideout Theatre
617 Congress Ave. | HideoutTheatre.com | (512) 443-3688 | Show Calendar
The Hideout Theatre has two stages and hosts a variety of improv shows. Bring the kids to the Sunday afternoon Flying Theater Machine or go see the smore adult Off Script after they’ve been put to bed Saturday night. Shows are generally PG-13 (except for the kids show), but there’s always wiggle room in improv.
Attendees can bring food and drink from the Hideout Coffee House (Austin’s oldest independent downtown coffee house). Thursday through Sunday, the Hideout typically puts on two shows, the first starting at 8 p.m. and the second starting at 10 p.m. You can catch the award-winning Hideout in-house troupe, Parallelogramophonograph, at the late Friday night show.
3708 Woodbury Dr. | TheInstitutionTheater.com | (512) 895-9580 | Show Calendar
What started as a Saturday improv class at Esther’s Follies has turned into a South Austin theater that hosts a variety of shows and (especially) classes. Shows include Virgin Territory (new stand-ups) and Anything Live! (it could be anything. Really).
The Velveeta Room
521 E. 6th St. | TheVelveetaRoom.com | (512) 469-9116 | Show Calendar
In 1988, the owners of Esther’s Follies began renting the place next door, a recently closed gentleman’s club. After some alterations, the venue opened as The Velveeta Room, (aka the Velv).
Thursdays are open mic night , featuring a 9 p.m. start time and a “drink like a comic” happy hour from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Scheduled acts take the stage once on Fridays and twice on Saturdays ( 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.). A special late night show takes place Friday nights at 11 p.m.
RELATED: “Stand-Up Empire” captures Austin’s exploding comedy scene