San Francisco’s soul is at stake with the impending closure of iconic comedy club the Punch Line, according to comedian Dave Chapelle, who took to the steps of City Hall today as part of the #savethepunchline campaign.
Chapelle was joined by SF city supervisor Aaron Peskin and Bay Area comedians W. Kamau Bell and Nato Green, to support the business, which announced earlier this month that it wasn’t able to renew its lease at 444 Battery St. Supervisor Peskin, who represents the district in which the club operates, nominated the business for legacy status, and called for a zoning measure to keep the building an entertainment venue. The building is owned by a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley and operated by Live Nation, the operator of several large-scale venues like the Warfield.
At the rally, Peskin said that he’d recently learned that a potential new tenant for the building could be Google. “I’d like to say to Google: Please, Do No Evil. We would like to solve this with honey rather than vinegar,” said Peskin.
“We recently learned that the likely lessee is Google. I’d like to say to Google: Please, Do No Evil. We would like to solve this with honey rather than vinegar.” -@AaronPeskin @SaveThePunch #SaveThePunchLine pic.twitter.com/TxnZQBK7s2— imperfect produce (@LeeHepner) May 21, 2019
“We need to have one place in San Francisco that’s not an algorithm,” said Green. “And it’s going to be the Punch Line.”
The comedy club has seen greats like Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Margaret Cho, and others rise through its ranks since it opened in 1978, all of whom were fed by the club’s small menu of nachos, salads, flatbreads, and gimmicky cocktails. It was sold to legendary promoter Bill Graham in 1980.
“Just to give you some context, any storied comedian will tell you that the Punch Line is not just an SF phenomenon, it’s an American phenomenon,” said Chapelle. “It’s one of the premium comedy clubs in all the country; it’s a legendary room up there with the Comedy Cellar in New York and all the the rest of them. When they say special things happen in that room it’s an understatement: when I quit [my] show it became like a home to me. “
“We’re losing the culture of the city, and this is one of the things that defines San Francisco,” said Bell. “If you let the Punch Line go it’s basically a wrap on San Francisco.”
Peskin is expected to make his case today during a Board of Supervisors meeting that begins at 2 p.m. at City Hall. Stay tuned for more on the future of the club in the meantime.