Throckmorton Theatre (credit: 142throckmortontheatre.org)
Wing it! Be spontaneous. Take in an improv evening or learn to do it yourself. San Francisco has some wonderful coaches and improv courses with plenty of opportunities to have some good laughs. It’s great medicine no matter which side of the stage you’re on.
142 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
“Uniting our community through the power of the arts” is the mission of this theatre. You can’t talk any kind of comedy around the Bay Area without mentioning Throckmorton Theatre. Connected over decades not only to Robin Williams, but also to Ellen DeGeneres, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Cosby, Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, the Smothers Brothers and Dana Carvey, there’s a heritage to be traced back to the greats at Throckmorton. A product of the ’80s ‘golden age,’ Mark Pitta runs the Tuesday night comedy show that provides a spotlight for rising talent and has, for 10 years, been the place where headliners drop in, too. It’s a place where “you get to talk shop with legends,” says comedian Cody Woods.
533 Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Do you want a free Oreo cookie with your laughs? That’s the deal at this Union Square spot, tucked away inside the Shelton Theater. Join the short-form improv scene for 90 minutes on a Friday or Saturday night at 10 p.m. Remember, you’re in it too, and every time is different. There’s a bar inside with no minimum drink orders and tickets are sold online at $17. These talented folks have been making people chuckle since 2008.
446 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Entrepreneur meets long-form improv and this is the result. At this BYOB spot in the Mission since 2010, co-founder Max has been an improviser, teacher and director rolled into one. Longform improv actors create sketches based on a clue from the audience, working together to build a story of 25 minutes or so as they go. Come to a show at 8 p.m. or 10 p.m., sign up for a class or drop in on a Saturday afternoon to learn the art form yourself.
B350 Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA 94123
Themes such as improvised Shakespeare, enjoying a 25-year run, and spontaneous Broadway are typical of the talent that comes out of this intimate space producing both short-form and long-form shows. The audience kicks it off for performers from The Main Stage Company every Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. Upcoming fall weekends are themed around “Game of Thrones,” “Twilight Zone” and a scary Halloween Horror Musical. A monthly series in November includes the DuoProv Championship and Family Drama. Enthusiasts who get hooked can take classes.
Ninth St. Indepenant Film Center
145 9th St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Exciting things are happening at Leela. Beyond the improv acting series, ensembles and drop-in classes, the only thing missing was the opportunity to see shows. But that’s all sorted out now. This fall, shows are every other week at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center. And, from January 2015, the schedule increases to every Saturday night at 8 p.m. Jill Eickmann is Leela’s artistic director who believes in “the opportunity for adults to play…it’s naturally healing and transformational.” As associate producer and board member for the San Francisco Improv Festival, Eickmann has a lot of fun insights to share and teach.
Oakland, CA 94612
Thinking on your feet, bantering about the unexpected, delivering with great timing and being funny look easy when skilled folks are having a really “on” night. Oakland’s entry into the improv scene stages two shows every Friday and Saturday night, at 8 p.m. and at 9 p.m. Located one block from the 19th Street BART station, the theater has $10 tickets sold at the door at 7:50 p.m., one ticket good for both shows. Why not audition? You’ll get two free tickets if you’re ready to try something new.