Friday, May 15, 2009

Clowns to the left me, jokers to the right

The Purple Onion
(thanks to Wikipedia for the 411)

The Purple Onion is a well known club in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco located at 140 Columbus (between Jackson and Pacific). The club offers an intimate, 80-person setting and was a popular influence in local music and entertainment during the Beat era. Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, Maya Angelou, Phyllis Diller (who made her stand-up debut here), the Kingston Trio, and the Smothers Brothers (who recorded their first album, Live at the Purple Onion there) all played the club through the 1950s & 60s.

In the early 90s, owner Tom Guido made the club the center of San Francisco's garage rock scene. Although almost always packed, Guido's mismanagement and penchant for giving away free beer doomed the future of the club.

In 2004, the club returned to its comedy roots. A weekly comedy night was started that featured comedians such as Robin Williams, Paul Krassner, Jim Short and Tom Rhodes. Since then, comedians such as Greg Proops, Zach Galifianakis, Todd Barry, Dan Piraro (yes, of Bizarro fame) and Judah Friedlander have all graced the Onion's stage. Today, the club's weekly comedy nights are produced by Bay Area comedy website SF Standup.

The Purple Onion is a comedy landmark. In 2005, the San Francisco Bay Guardian voted it the "Best back-from-the-dead nightclub". Don't ya just love miracles?

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