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Best of Toronto

The Best Comedy Clubs in Toronto

Posted by Michael Jagdeo / April 29, 2013

Comedy Clubs TorontoThe best comedy clubs in Toronto are were Yuk Yuk's, Second City, and Absolute Comedy. For years, that statement rang true, but not anymore. In recent years, comedy producers have been popping up all over the place, leveraging the infrastructure of small to mid-size venues and doing everything from handing out flyers to negotiating food and drink specials to build their brand. The result is that comedians and comedy-goers in Toronto are now exquisitely spoiled when it comes to the immense selection at their fingertips.

Here's the list of the best comedy clubs in Toronto.

Comedy Bar

Comedy Bar

Located across from Ossington Station lies Comedy Bar, a place that puts itself head and shoulders above the rest by the sheer variety of shows available on any given night. It's not uncommon to have an international headliner like Ari Shaffir playing the mainstage at $20 a head while a sketch troupe works out material in the cabaret for a paltry fiver. The best thing about the club is that it gives would-be producers on a tight budget the environment they need to fail forward. More »

Yuk Yuk's

Yuk Yuk's

If you've seen stand-up in Toronto, you've probably been to Yuk's, a club that has hosted the world's best and most popular stand-up comics, from Dave Chappelle to Dustin Diamond. Shows range from $11-20, and their roster of comedians ensure that the audience gets their money's worth. One of the interesting things about the club is the mirror against the back wall, which lets comics see what they look like while they're on stage. See if you can catch them stealing a glimpse! More »

Second City

Second City

Unobtrusively located at 51 Mercer lies Second City. From a performer's perspective, this venue provides a completely different experience compared to all of the other comedy clubs in Toronto. The lights, the high ceilings, the curtains, everything makes it feel like a stage worthy of one's best. Not surprisingly, their sketch and improv shows consistently receive the highest ratings from critics of all tastes. More »

The Rivoli

The Rivoli

The Rivoli near Queen and Spadina will forever be connected with the alt comedy scene in Toronto. Laugh Sabbath and ALTdot Comedy Lounge gave audiences a break from the Letterman-stamped acts. On Mondays, some of the best comedians in Toronto, regardless of where they're headlining, will drop in for a five-minute set. On Tuesdays, sketch comedy takes center stage. All this for a measly $5? Count me in. More »

Absolute Comedy

Absolute Comedy

When Absolute Comedy opened up at Yonge & Eglinton, stand-up comedians' allegiance to Yuk's was torn, and for good reason. The crowds are always in a great mood. Not surprisingly, comics have been known to wait for as long as eight months for one of the coveted five-minute spots on their Wednesday Pro/Am show. Their booking sensibilities always ensure that the opening and middle acts serve to complement the headliners, which keep the shows consistently interesting. At $6-15 per head, it's money well spent. More »

The LOT

The LOT

As soon as you pass through the black veil, the sumptuous red velvet curtains let you know that this was a place designed with care. Mark Debonis and Garrett Jamieson have turned this previously unassuming room into a place where up and coming Toronto stand-ups are finally getting the chance to showcase their headlining sets. As such, it's not uncommon to see this Ossington club packed with loyal fans, even on a Wednesday night. It's truly a comedy club by comics, for comics. More »

The Central

The Central

The Central, located behind Honest Ed's, is a small, intimate room, but that doesn't mean you're going to see small comics. It's perfectly natural for headliners to drop in for a set, whether they're working out new stuff or simply enjoying an atmosphere where they can let it all hang out. It currently serves as the home for up and coming producers like Anto Chan and Evan Desmarais, the latter who recently put on his own comedy festival. Given that the shows are free, you really have nothing to lose! More »

The Office Pub

The Office Pub

Conveniently located just a stone's throw away from Hooters, this is a perfect small to mid-sized venue for comedy. The comics have a green room of sorts, and there's a window behind the stage that serves as a great canvas for the art form. The workaholic tag-team of Christopher Allin and Brian Ward currently lead the charge, producing free, themed stand-up comedy productions which keep their audiences coming back for the shows themselves and not just for the comedians on the bill. More »

Black Swan

Black Swan

What a wonderful room. From the time you open the door of this Danforth pub, the ambiance, set by the rock 'n roll and jazz posters on the wall, makes you feel like you're walking in on history in the making. In addition to providing space for sketch and improv comedy, they also offer classes taught by seasoned veterans for those looking to dip their toes in the water. The cost per show goes as high as $12, which is a steal given the performers that grace the stage on a regular basis. More »

Discussion

21 Comments

nardl blarn / April 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm
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Who were the second city cast members to join snl in 2012? If you are talking about the three who were associated with second city in chicago that's really misleading. Sure, second city chicago and second city toronto are the same brand and have similar structures, but one cannot expect to see future stars of snl at second city toronto, even though this is what you are implying. Chicago has a whole improv infrastructure that toronto doesn't have - look at the cvs of the three 2012 snl cast members to whom this article refers and you will see a long list of chicago improv theatres and established comedy troupes. Toronto just has second city.

Don't get me wrong, second city is great fun but apart from the old cast photos from the 70's and 80's you won't be celeb spotting there (unless you get excited seeing someone in a tv commercial who you have seen in real life acting out a news reader sketch). Also, I feel this article doesn't explain the difference between improv venues and stand up comedy venues. They really are different and someone expecting machine gun gags or expert (or not so expert) heckler put downs would be disappointed with technical improv shows.
Michael Jagdeo replying to a comment from nardl blarn / April 29, 2013 at 01:55 pm
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Hey Nardl,

I hear what you're saying, but I still think that Toronto has a very strong sketch and improv scene. There's a difference between celeb-spotting and talent-spotting, and I'd rather watch the latter on stage.

Just take a look at the weekly shows at Comedy Bar & Black Swan, let alone the genius that's on stage at Fan Fiction. Second City's Memeing of Life is consistently selling out. In addition, let's also keep in mind that the transition from Toronto to Hollywood isn't as fast as it as it is when you're in the States.

Regarding the differences between stand-up and sketch, you're right. A sketch show is different from stand-up comedy, and audiences will have to do a bit of research before attending a show.

Jagdeo
jacob / April 29, 2013 at 01:58 pm
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Yeah, Comedy Bar rocks! Love Catch 23 on friday nights. It's a bit hit or miss, depending on the lineup and the host/judge, but when it's good it's really, really good.

Also just caught The Meme-ing of Life at Second City. Highly recommend it, great show.
Steve / April 29, 2013 at 02:10 pm
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The office Pub isn't a comedy club, it's a sad open mic on Monday nights that has no audience on the second floor on an empty bar. If 8 comedians performing for each other now qualifies as a comedy club this is still one of the worst open mic "comedy clubs" I've ever seen.
Michael Jagdeo replying to a comment from Steve / April 29, 2013 at 02:47 pm
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Hey Steve,

Any of these places might have an off-night. The last time I went to The Office Pub (March 27 2013), there was a full room. Regarding it being one of the worst open mic clubs you've seen, I can't disagree with your opinion, because it's how you feel.

However, Christopher Allin, one of the hosts/producers of the show, recently opened for the Sklar Bros. That means Ian Atlas likes his stuff, and I don't think there's any independent comedy producer in Toronto putting on more comedy shows with international headliners than Ian.

But hey, comedy's subjective!

Jagdeo
Jeff C / April 29, 2013 at 02:57 pm
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Please please please consider changing the part in your article where you refer to the three cast members from Second City joining SNL. This is an article about TORONTO comedy clubs and implying anyone from Toronto has joined the cast of SNL is just dishonest and misleading.
@TrackGodz / April 29, 2013 at 02:58 pm
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The only thing Anybody in Toronto needs to do to sustain their humor level is follow @TrackGodz & @Heavvy on Instagram and twitter and use the hash-tag #TrackGodzSentUs and see what happens
Adam Parlette / April 29, 2013 at 04:11 pm
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Where the hell is Duffys tavern? Duffys tavern has been the backbone of amatuer stand up comedy for the past 2 years!
Alex / April 29, 2013 at 04:47 pm
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I've been to Second City twice and both times it was absolutely hilarious. I would highly recommend. I went to Absolute Comedy once, during Toronto Comedy week(or whatever it was called), and it was also hilarious. All 3 comics were pure gold, and the MC was great as well. I guess because during that week they might have had better standups in it doesn't count as the average, but it was still amazing and I would definitely go back.
mikey / April 30, 2013 at 10:35 am
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Why would you pick Ari Shaffir as your example of an international headliner at Comedy Bar? And no props for Gary Rideout Jr? He's the best thing to happen to Toronto's comedy scene since Howie Mandel.
Michael Jagdeo replying to a comment from mikey / April 30, 2013 at 12:30 pm
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Hey Mikey,

Good call, and my bad. Gary Rideout Jr. should have been mentioned as the founder of Comedy Bar.

IMO Ari Shaffir had one of the best shows at JFL42 last year. Who would you have cited?

Jagdeo
Vacatia replying to a comment from Michael Jagdeo / April 30, 2013 at 01:36 pm
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Gary Rideout Jr. AND James Elksnitis are the co-founders/co-owners of Comedy Bar

And, agreed with Mikey on Gary's impact on the Toronto comedy scene. GARY RULES.
Tyler Stein / May 1, 2013 at 01:00 pm
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i can agree with most of these. except i dont get why any of the vapour lounges were'nt on the list. Vapour Central, Vape on the Lake and Vapour village are three places that would make it infront of The office pub. Vapour central has comedy most nights of the week and Vape on the Lake in Etobicoke is killer every monday night
Michael Jagdeo replying to a comment from Tyler Stein / May 1, 2013 at 03:33 pm
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I was talking to a comic last night and we both agreed that the Vapours and the Crown & Tiger were clubs that we thought would for sure be on the list. Rita, Collins, O'Gorman, K Trev, Horwood...I could go on forever about the killer talent tearing it up at these places.
Matt / May 1, 2013 at 04:11 pm
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Left off this list is the actul best comedy club in the city, Vapor Central. Reuglar hosts Mike Rita, Hunter Colling and Bryan O'Gorman tear down the walls with audience laughter week after week after week. Mike Ritas show has sold out for 37 weeks in a row .. Once i notice Vapor was not on this list, i knew the list was pure $#it
Abe replying to a comment from Matt / May 2, 2013 at 09:13 pm
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Matt, you think maybe there's another reason everyone's laughing their asses off?
terry / May 10, 2013 at 07:05 pm
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Both rooms at Comedy Bar have a terrible set-up. They're small, cramped, and there's no waiter service.

Yuk Yuk's isn't too much better. Many seats don't have an accompanying table. Good luck if you want to order food.

I loved the show at The Second City but the fact that they make you share a table with strangers is off-putting.

The Lot Comedy Club and The Central are both long and narrow which is just the worst.

The only club I visit on a regular basis is Absolute Comedy. Graded floor, consistent line-up, free pool, and cheaper than Yuk Yuk's.

Toronto Photo Booth / May 16, 2013 at 08:20 pm
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I didn't know about half of these places. Thanks! I like to laugh :)
Em / May 21, 2013 at 08:23 pm
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Terry sounds pressed
Cal Fong / May 29, 2013 at 06:58 pm
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I've been attending a show that runs weekly on wednesday nights at Fox and Fiddle Richmond Hill. Pavone, Merheje, Collins they've all headlined. THey also have some solid amateur spots as well.

They're a pretty small operation but looks like it has some solid potential.
Viktoriia / June 3, 2013 at 08:02 am
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Comedy bar on Bloor Street West was by far the absolute worst (comedy) bar I've been to in my life. We live near there, so we checked it out more than once. Each time just horrible in every aspect. Never going back!

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