The legendary North Beach comedy club the Purple Onion will close after a final performance on September 24 when its lease expires, ending a long history of comedy at the club that has hosted emerging acts and some of the top names in the industry since the 1950s.
The last comedy show will be September 24th, produced by Dan Dion under the name Jim Short & Friends and will feature “a marathon of great comics.”
After the Purple Onion closes, there will be one less club that features up and coming comedic talent, a blow to the resurgent San Francisco comedy scene.
“I’m not sure if the scene realizes the impact of this closure,” says Steve Robinson, a founding member of the comedy troupe Rocket Salad. “Newer comics have to work a little bit to find a regular venue to incubate in, and try to win a following.”
Local comedians and producers are already mourning the loss of the club. Sarah Whitmore, another member of Rocket Salad, said, “With the Onion closing, we will lose an intimate venue for comedians to develop their art.”
“The venue will be missed dearly by the whole community,” says producer Jabari Davis. Davis, who produced 160 shows at the Purple Onion since 2009, is working on a film documenting the club’s history from the 50s until its closure .
“The Purple Onion means everything to me,” he said. “It was a place that verified you as an artist. Playing there on the weekends made even the newest of comics feel as if they had a future in stand-up. It possessed a powerful energy.”
That energy might come from the venue’s rich history. In the past 60 years, diverse performers such as the late Phylis Diller, Robin Williams, and Woody Allen have performed there. Lenny Bruce was arrested there and Maya Angelou performed poetry there as well. In 2005, Zach Galifianakis recorded a DVD there, called Live at the Purple Onion.
Despite losing what Robinson called a “marquee” venue, the San Francisco comedy scene will continue. “The scene and myself will have to grind on without it,” said Robinson. ~By Bryan Krol