The DC Improv: A History of Laughter


Improv comedy clubs have been recognized as the nation's premiere comedy venues -- and that's not just a brilliant marketing scheme. Founded by Budd Friedman, The Improv first opened in New York City in 1963. It was built as a venue for aspiring comedians to practice their craft in front of both the public and the entertainment industry.

The club's success sparked a mass expansion across America. Improv clubs popped up in Hollywood, Irvine, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Tempe, Addison, Tampa, Coconut Grove, Houston, Pittsburgh -- and of course, Washington, D.C.

The DC Improv opened its doors in 1992 under the direction of the late Mark Anderson. In fact, our first show featured Ellen DeGeneres, Dave Chappelle and Brian Regan! In the early days, the club hosted a mix of stand-up shows and small-scale comedy theater productions, such as "Defending the Caveman." Stand-up gradually took over the schedule, and throughout the 1990s and early 2000s the club was a regular destination for many of today's superstars -- among them, Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan, Lewis Black, Brian Regan, Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart and more.

Thanks to our intimate set-up and Washington's great crowds, the club has become a favorite venue for the comics themselves. Dozens of people have recorded stand-up albums here. Jerry Seinfeld came to the DC Improv when perfecting his "comeback" set, as seen in the 2002 documentary "Comedian." And just look at the lineup of headliners who joined us for our 20th anniversary celebration in 2012: Brian and Dennis Regan, Bill Burr, Jim Gaffigan, and Mike Birbiglia. (By the way, Mike used to work here as a door guy.)

The DC Improv expanded its mission in 2003 by starting a comedy school with classes in both improv and stand-up comedy. Our instructors have helped thousands of people in the Washington area have fun and pursue their dreams. We expanded our performance space in 2006 by adding the comedy lounge, a showroom that seats about 60 people. If we think of more ways to expand, we'll be sure to let you know about it.

Recently, the DC Improv enjoyed its busiest years ever, brining in a record number of audience members from 2015 through 2019. When the pandemic hit in 2020, we were forced to close our showroom to the public for more than a year, but we continued offering programming online.

The DC Improv is more than just a comedy club. It represents a tradition of excellence and laughter. Thanks so much for being a part of our history. We couldn't do it without you.