The San Francisco Punch Line forced out of its home of 41 years as of August 2019

The legendary Punch Line comedy club on San Francisco’s Battery Street will be kicked out when its lease is up this August.

The club confirmed the news late Tuesday.

“We’re currently in search of a new home to preserve our decades-long tradition of entertaining comedy fans in San Francisco and the Bay Area. It’s a sad moment for us, but we’re excited at the future’s potential,” said Punch Line talent buyer Molly Schminke. “While we search for our new home, the club will continue to support local comedy, bring in the hottest up-and-coming comedians and book some of the biggest national headliners who come back to perform on the Punch Line stage year after year.”

The club was unable to renew its lease with the property owners.

Legendary rock music promoter Bill Graham owned The Old Waldorf and the dressing room next door, turning the latter into The Punch Line in 1978. Bobby Slayton was the original house MC.

Slayton wrote Tuesday night:

With so many close friends and family dying the last three years, to hear that my home club, The San Francisco Punchline where it really all started for me over 40 years ago, lost their lease and is closing this summer. It’s another fucking nail in my heart.

The club was originally a restaurant during the day and the backstage hangout for The Old Waldorf nightclub next door at night. I’m not going to go into the whole backstory, but when the original owner, Jeffrey Pollak sold it to Bill Graham, BGP fixed up the joint and it became one of the premier rooms to work in the country. I went from house mc opening for the top touring headliners and then became a headliner myself thanks to all the stage time I got from the original booker John Fox (no not the comic.) Between sets at The Punchline I’d often run through the kitchen connecting the club to The Old Waldorf and make an extra $25 opening for the rock bands performing there. Sometime it went ok and sometimes it was a lonely brutal death up there. Kill or be killed. I believe it was around then that the “Pitbull” was born. Get them before they get you. Guess I should be glad I’m still alive. Fuck. I’m going to miss that place…

The late great Robin Williams would pop into the club from time to time, as has Dave Chappelle to work on new material. The club has hosted all of the great stand-ups over the past four decades.

“We want to thank all the fans and extraordinary comedians that have helped make  Punch Line an entertainment landmark in this city,” said Schminke. “Our best days are yet to come.”

It’s difficult not to blame this on the tech giants who have made San Francisco an even more expensive place to live and do business in the past decade. Let’s hope the Punch Line finds a new home somewhere in the city.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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