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The 50 Funniest Cities in America

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David Cross

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A couple of weeks ago, I went to my first improv comedy show with fellow Movoto Real Estate blogger Natalie Grigson. Honestly, it was a lot more fun that I expected. Since then, I’ve been thinking about how I could use the experience to write a blog post. If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that this is a regular occurrence at the Movoto blog. What I came up with was a Big Deal List centered on comedy. Essentially, I wanted to know what city in the country has the best comedy scene.

Traditional wisdom holds that the title of funniest city in America would be one of the big three: New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. After I created a formula (discussed at the bottom of the post) and plugged in my numbers, I learned that Atlanta is the city doling out the most chuckles. I know, I was just as surprised as you are. Atlanta, it seems, is one happening town; it has made a number of our lists, including coming in at No. 1 for the Nerdiest City in America.

Maybe there’s something in the water that makes Atlanta so cool?

Now that the warm-up act is over, here are the 10 Funniest Cities in America.

1. Atlanta, GA

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Is Hotlanta actually the funniest city in America? Here’s why the city ranked so highly: Atlanta has, according to my count, 35 comedy clubs, including the Laughing Skull Lounge, which was voted the best comedy club in the city in 2009, 2010, and 2011. There’s also The Punchline Comedy Club, another well-known spot. In addition, Atlanta is home to Dad’s Garage Theatre Company, Laughing Matters, and Whole World Theatre, all professional improv comedy companies. And finally, Atlanta is the birthplace of Jeff Foxworthy and my sort-of nemesis, the other David Cross—who I wish I could call a no-talent ass clown.

2. Chicago, IL

If you know even a little about comedy, you knew that Chicago was going to make the list. Some of you might even be annoyed the Windy City failed to take the top spot.

What makes Chicago so great for comedy? Let’s start with its comedy clubs. According to my research, there are 123 comedy clubs in Chi-Town. If you want to rack up some guffaws, there are plenty of places to go. Some notables are Up Comedy Club and the Second City and Zanies.

While Chicago might not have the sheer number of famous comedians born in the city that New York does, it can boast some pretty big names: Jack Benny, Chris Farley, Bernie Mac, and Robin Williams.

Nonetheless, one of the reasons Chicago ranked so highly was because its strong improv scene. The Second City, ImprovOlympic, Salsation! Theatre Company, and The Annoyance Theatre all call the the city home.

3. Los Angeles, CA

Where to start with Los Angeles? First, it is literally littered with comedians who call the city home. I counted 38 on my list of 100 top comedians. Honestly, this didn’t surprise me much. But what about the other criteria? I counted 133 comedy clubs, but with such a large population the city didn’t break the top 10 for this criterion.

If you’re looking for comedy clubs, you can check out some mainstream ones such as The Comedy Store, The Hollywood Improv, or Laugh Factory. If you’re looking for something a little outside the box hit up The Groundlings Theatre or UCB Theatre.

There are also major improv groups in the area such as the aforementioned The Groundlings, a troupe that is been around since 1974. While going over the troupe’s requirements for getting in, I was a bit shocked. These guys and gals take their comedy seriously, which I guess isn’t an oxymoron if you love what you do, and these folks do.

4. Boston, MA

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

I counted 38 comedy clubs Beantown, which isn’t too shabby for a city its size. In addition, Boston is home to ImprovBoston (technically in Cambridge) and Improv Asylum. ImprovBoston has a lot going on. Not only does it host shows, but ImprovBoston offers classes on improv and sketch writing. Finally, Boston is the birthplace of John Pinette, as well as the home of Steven Wright.

5. New York, NY

The Big Apple is big on its comedy. I found 246 comedy clubs in the city. So, when people say you can see a set every day of the week, they aren’t kidding. Still, New York suffered from what I call “too-many-people syndrome.” Because I looked at the comedy club criterion on a per capita basis, New York only placed 20th for the category.

There is a lot of debate about what is best place to see comedy in NYC, but here are some of the most widely discussed: Caroline’s, Upright Citizens Brigade, and the Gotham Comedy Club.

Also, there’s this little thing called the New York Comedy Festival. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

6. Minneapolis, MN

What makes Minneapolis so great for the chuckles? How about it being the setting of the Mary Tyler Moore Show? I’m only partially kidding. Minneapolis scored well thanks to a high number of comedy clubs compared to residents. If you’re in the area, you can see The Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre, which is billed as one of the nation’s longest running improv groups. And if you’re hungry you can get a reservation at the Acme Comedy Company and Sticks Restaurant.

7. Seattle, WA

While Seattle didn’t show up on my lists as being the hometown of any of the 100 greatest comedians, it did place for being the setting for “Fraiser”. The city is also home to Unexpected Productions, an improv group that was founded in 1983 and helmed by Artistic Director Randy Dixon. The company organizes the International Festival of Improv, which will celebrate its 18th birthday next year. I can only image the riffs that are going to be had with that one.

8. Orlando, FL

How does a city known mostly for its location to The House of Mouse make the list? Mostly, because it has a relatively slim population that supports 20 comedy clubs. In addition, Orlando is the home of the SAK Comedy Lab, a theater owned by Wayne Brady, with an ensemble. In addition, there is the budding Orlando Comedy Festival, which was hosted by Bruce Bruce this year.

9. Sacramento, CA

Sacramento landed in the top 10 thanks primarily to its comedy clubs and comedy festival. Some comedy clubs in the area are Laughs Unlimited, Punch Line Comedy Club, and ComedySportz.

Since being founded in 2011, the Sacramento Comedy Festival has slowly grown. Currently, it is an eight-day event featuring improv groups, sketch comedy, live podcast recordings, and national stand-up acts.

10. San Diego

San Diego is home to the National Comedy Theatre. This theatre has won the “Best Live Comedy” several years in a row from a local TV station. In addition, the city is the birthplace of Gabriel Iglesias and Doug Benson.

How Did I Do It?

Unsurprisingly, figuring out how a way to measure humor was difficult. In fact, it was way more difficult than a lot of posts I’ve written. Most of the headache had to do with figuring out what to measure and find a reliable way to do so. I ended looking at six criteria:

  • Comedy clubs per capita
  • Comedian hometowns
  • Where comedians live
  • Comedy/improv festivals
  • Cities used as settings in sitcoms
  • Improv groups per capita

Comedy Clubs Per Capita

I think this is an obvious criteria. I picked comedy clubs per capita as a way to measure the number of places a person could visit. Essentially, the higher the rating the the more options a comedy fan has. When I finished spreadsheeting, my um, spreadsheet, I learned that Los Vegas had the highest number of comedy clubs per person. Coming in second was Orlando. I should also note that New York did have the most comedy clubs overall.

Comedian Hometowns

For this criterion, I wanted to know what city produced the most comedians. Talk about a difficult assignment. What I decided on was to find a list of the 100 best American stand-up comedians and then mark down where they were born. My initial thought was was that larger cities, because of their sheer size, would easily walk away with this category. I was correct. Go figure.

I learned that New York is the birthplace of 27 of the 100 comedians I researched. Yikes! To put this into context, the next city was Chicago, which had four laugh hounds born in the city.

Where Funny Men and Women Live

For this criterion, I searched the Internet to located where comedians call home. For those comedians who’ve gone to the big stage in the sky, I marked down where they died. When everything was tabulated, I wasn’t surprised with the results. Of the 100 comedians on my list, 37 called Los Angeles home. Coming in second second was New York city with a total of 20 people who live there or lived there at the time of their death.

Festivals

For this criterion I researched whether a city had a improv or comedy festival. It didn’t matter if they had one or a billion. I just wanted to know if there was a big enough comedy scene that it could support at least one festival. Cities with a festival where ranked equally, while cities without a festival were mocked.

Sitcoms

To create this criterion, I looked at TV Guide’s list of best TV comedies. I went through the list and found the 50 non-variety shows, and then found where each sitcom was based. I had assumed that Chicago would be the city in which more sitcoms were based. I had no real reason for this other than a gut feeling. Sometimes your gut leads you astray. New York City had 15 sitcoms based in the metro, while Chicago had only two. Still, two was enough to land Chi-town in second place, even if it was by a long distance.

Conclusion

If you live in any decent-sized city, you will be able to find a place to go for a laugh, but the amount and variety of performances you’ll get in one of these 10 cities is going to be much higher. Just think of all the laughs you would have missed out on if these cities were as funny. Personally, I’d almost never get to make a nevernude joke, which is pretty much the only way to start a conversation.

(click to enlarge)

Garden Cities Ranking

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posted on: August 20, 2013
22,103 views, 24 comments

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24 Comments

  1. Peter

    Wait a minute…ATLANTA? Are you serious Movoto? Over Chicago, the birthplace of Harold Ramis, arguably the most influential comedic mind of the latter 20th century?

    It’s particularly funny that you mention David Cross in Atlanta’s No. 1 ranking, when Cross’ stand-up is littered with disdain for his hometown.

  2. Frankie G.

    San Francisco didn’t even make the top 10? Ridiculous. Comedy shows happen outside of comedy clubs, dude.

  3. Alyssa

    SAK Comedy Lab in Orlando is not owned by Wayne Brady, although he did train there.

    • Terry Olson in response to Alyssa

      Imagine my surprise – as one of the owners of the SAK Comedy Lab in Orlando- to learn that not only could we be proud of Wayne Brady’s being an alumni that started with SAK just out of High School, but that he now owned the place! I’m expecting a check for my shares any day now.

  4. Not meztger

    What a great way capture the excitement from one’s first improv comedy show! I myself have ways wondered if our great American cities could be ranked by funniness, and if I could maybe one day find such a list, only made better if it was written by someone who knows very little about comedy. My search is over!

    DOLING OUT CHUCKLES

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Not meztger

      I appreciate the 4 layers of sarcasm you managed to get into one comment. Well done sir or madam.

  5. Susan

    I enjoyed the article. However, I don’t agree that the hometown of the comedian matters. As you said, it followed that the larger the city,the more born there, so that is just a statistical measurement. On the other hand, if you included where the comedians/funny actors went to college – if they did – I think Chicago would probably pop back on the top of the list. Julia Louis-Dreyfus . . Stephen Colbert . . . Megan Mullally . . . Seth Meyers . . . Zach Braff . . . David Schwimmer . . . Richard Kind . .Ana Gasteyer . . And an excellent top comedic writer: Brad Hall . . . They all went to Northwestern University. Who cares if they graduated? (Some actually did.)

  6. Really?

    Chris Farley is from Madison, WI, not Chicago.

  7. chunk

    this is crap… you’ve all been trolled… SF = 43 you gotta be smoking crack

  8. Bruce Toot

    I wouldn’t put Baton Rouge ahead of 3 Mile Island, much less San Francisco.

  9. Ben

    I’m shocked that a real estate company that nobody has ever heard of doesn’t know anything. “I just went to my first improv show. Time to start judging cities incorrectly “

    • Nick in response to Ben

      You’ve heard of us now, Ben. So there’s one person.

  10. Holden McGroin

    I live in Atlanta and there are NOT 35 comedy clubs here. Enjoy the $5 you made off Fiverr for this post

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Holden McGroin

      Hey Holden,
      As the article explains, we look to Yelp for the data. Here’s the exact search we use:
      http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=comedy+club&find_loc=Atlanta

      Hope that helps!

      And for some reason I can’t get the exact URL to work as a link, but the steps we take are:
      1. Go to yelp.com
      2. Enter “Comedy Clubs” (Without the quotes)
      3. Enter the city as “Atlanta, GA” (Without the quotes)
      4. On the results page, under neighborhoods, select Atlanta
      5. That’s our number.

  11. Holden McGroin

    That explains it and I stand by my statement. A comedy show at a pizza place or bar is not a comedy club. For the record there are only 5 actual comedy clubs in Atlanta.

  12. Turbo

    I blame cracked.com for these goddamn lists. Any idiot can be an expert on comedy because they have thought about taking an improv class. You’re getting a lot of laughs from actual comics dude! They are laughing at you, but in the biz a laugh is a laugh, amiright?

  13. Orlando

    Orlando has the best open mic scene in the country… Austin’s coffee and film comedy night is packed every Sunday for 10 years which was started and run by comedian Craig Norberg. Craig also has his own radio show called The Bantering Idiots which features interviews with major headliners from the Improv. The Other Bar open mic, run by Ken Miller is another great open mic. Ken also named runner up in Florida’s Funniest Comedian competition. Space Bar is relatively new, but packed every Wednesday. There are enough open mics to get up every night in front of a solid audience!!!

  14. Mike K

    Why in the world does the birthplace of a comedian matter? It’s idiotic to look at people’s birthplaces instead of the place where they learned their craft and made a name for themselves.

  15. Scott

    All of this “research” is garbage. There are nowhere near 246 “comedy clubs” in NYC. His numbers might be a decent guess if he’s including the alternative bar shows and other venues, but in terms of “clubs” – there are around 20. And, the same is going to hold true for any of these other cities – they aren’t large enough to support that many “clubs.”. As an NYC comic, I know what I’m talking about.

  16. masked superstar

    Good to see Sacramento get some love. I travel back and forth between the bay area and sacramento weekly and the Sacramento comics are by far better then San Francisco comics who think being swarmy and shocking are all it takes to be a stand up.

  17. The Second City Network

    Dear Mr. Cross,
    Please take a moment to review our counter-list and consider our invitation to come take in a show if you’re ever in #2…
    bit.ly/1bTziOu

    Love,
    The Second City Network
    Chicago, IL

  18. Jack Hank

    Hey Atlanta, we’re not laughing WITH you, we’re laughing AT you.

  19. jack cyajic

    You left out Woburn, MA. Much bigger scene than down the road Boston. Stinky Johnson’s is legendary. Both Mickey Bisco AND The Scubatto Brothers started out there.

  20. Hank Hank

    Atlanta is a bustling metropolis on par artistically with that of New York or Paris… not just another Delta hub.

    Yeah, you keep telling yourself that, honey.

    While I live here in Atlanta, and love a great many comedic talents and just plain funny folk it’s a quivering cess pool of awful. Maybe that helps pull a laugh worthy phrase out of its writers and performers. Dad’s Garage collected an amazing pool of talent and many people from here go on to greatness. Doesn’t make it any more special than anywhere else. For the people who are behind Orlando, shut the front door. Orlando is a terrible terrible place but I guess if you can’t laugh at meth…

    In any case, yeah, we don’t have 35 comedy clubs, maybe a few with Laughing Skull and Punchline being the more prevalent of the group. Whoever wrote the article should stick to real-estate appropriate topics and not discuss other cities like they Kerouac’d up and hit the road to find it. From what I can tell, I’ve done more on the road than this author and for that they should feel shame. You did bad and you should feel bad.

 

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