5 of the best comedy clubs in the D.C. area

Maybe you’ve been lured in by the lackey handing out fliers for a free show, or maybe you’ve been a follower of Underground Comedy since its inception more than a decade ago. But for new and longtime area fans, Hotbed has been the pinnacle of D.C.’s comedy community since the pandemic ruptured the scene.

It took over Songbyrd Music House’s old Adams Morgan space in 2022, courtesy of Sean Joyce — a comic and the local comedy scene’s unofficial mayor, who hosted more than 4,000 shows at the Big Hunt before the pandemic closed down the beloved (and infamous) dive turned comedy club. There, headliners included Patton Oswalt, Michelle Wolf and Hannibal Buress, but in the troupe’s new (and first official) venue, Joyce says he’s focused on incubating local talent (a hotbed, if you will — get it?).

It’s fitting that Underground Comedy would find a permanent home below street level. The first floor of Hotbed has a narrow bar not unlike the others that line 18th Street NW, where patrons while away time before doors open for the shows. The stage is on the lower level, a space Joyce says was made by a comic with comics in mind: a classic brick wall, short stage, low ceilings, tightly packed chairs and another full bar, all softly lit in a red glow. “Hotbed is a re-creation of Big Hunt, but a nicer version that was made for comedy instead of an accidental comedy club that grew inside of a bar,” Joyce says.

About six days a week, Hotbed offers a free lineup of local comedians that starts at 8 p.m. on weeknights and 11:30 or midnight on weekends. On Fridays and Saturdays, it hosts five $25 “showcase” shows, curated by Joyce and Hotbed staff, featuring 15 of the city’s best talents and the occasional touring artist. If you can’t score a ticket online, there will be some available at the door, and standing room is available once seats are full. There are no item purchasing requirements, but both bars offer specials like passion fruit whiskey sours and strawberry vodka fizz on tap.

Tip: If Hotbed is promoting a secret show, you might expect a visit from a certain “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update host whose name might rhyme with “you don’t say.”

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