STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
The renaissance in Fishtown continues.
At 1004 Canal St., just steps across the street from The Fillmore Philadelphia, is Punch Line Philly — the first major comedy club to open in Philadelphia in a decade.
“Helium (Comedy Club) finally has competition,” commented Randy Alexander, the publicist for the 300-seat Punch Line Philly, which also has a restaurant, a bar and an outdoor patio.
“There’s not a bad seat in the house,” he said. “The architecture touches I’ve seen are really nice.”
Like the Fillmore, Punch Line Philly is also a converted historical structure. The building was formerly the site of the Dry Ice Corp.
Believe it or not, Punch Line Philly is the first Live Nation-owned venue in the U.S. outside of California. Live Nation Comedy operates Punch Line venues in San Francisco and Sacramento, along with Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco.
“They have the clout, the leverage …,” Alexander said of Live Nation, which operates both The Fillmore and Punch Line Philly. As a comedy promoter, Live Nation was responsible for more than 850 shows worldwide in 2015 — including venues like the Merriam Theater and the Tower Theater — selling more than 2.5 million tickets.
One of the biggest coups for Live Nation Comedy happened in Philadelphia — a performance by Kevin Hart at the 69,000-seat Lincoln Financial Field. President of Live Nation Comedy Geof Wills said that more than 50,000 filled the football stadium that night, and he’s heard that show was filmed to be Hart’s next stand-up special. “I remember him playing the clubs,” he said of Hart, recalling when the Philly native took the stage at Punch Line San Francisco 10-12 years ago.
Broken in after sneak peek shows featuring Joe DeRosa and Nick Griffin; a “Stars Stand Up for Fallen Officers” night featuring Philly media personalities; plus sold-out, rare comedy club appearances by Dave Chappelle July 5-6, the official grand opening for Punch Line Philly takes place July 8-10 with Canadian comedy star and “Last Comic Standing” alumnus Russell Peters.
Wills said of the attention-grabbing Chappelle shows: “He has a long history with Punch Line, and he’s willing to do that for us, Russell (Peters) too.”
“It all comes out of the club level at some point. This is where they start, and this is usually where we make a relationship with them,” he added.
Other headlining comics that have confirmed dates are:
•Bill Bellamy, July 14-16.
•Robert Kelly from FX’s “Louie,” July 21-23.
•Marlon Wayans (“Fifty Shades of Black,” “White Chicks,” “Scary Movie”), Aug. 4-6.
•Pablo Francisco, Aug. 10-13.
•Deon Cole from ABC’s “Black-ish,” “Angie Tribeca” on TBS and “Barbershop 2,” Aug. 18-20.
•Nikki Glaser of Comedy Central’s “Not Safe with Nikki Glaser,” Aug. 25-27.
Other upcoming shows to note are Asperger’s Are Us on July 13, Supply and Demand on July 20, Fishtown Premium on July 24 and Aparna Nacheria July 30. In addition to national touring acts, Punch Line will offer a launch pad for local comedic talent.
“Philly has been a great comedy market forever and a day. We’re into promoting artists and promoting comedy. One of the key ingredients of any club is you have to nurture and pay attention to the local comedy scene. We’re there to work with comedians on that level,” Wills said, noting that Punch Line San Francisco opens the stage to local talent every Sunday night.
Get show times and ticket information at www.punchlinephilly.com, and stay up to date on show announcements and special offers @PunchLinePhilly on social media.
For an as-yet-undetermined amount of time, for every ticket sold, 50 cents will be donated to Philabundance to help the hungry. “We’ve been doing that forever,” Wills said of charitable giving. “We want the community to come to us and we wanna be good citizens. We think it’s an important component to be good neighbors.”
And this won’t be the last addition to the scene in this part of town. Alexander stated that Revolutions, a bowling center opening in August in the Penn Treaty complex, will offer two floors of bowling, a live music stage and a sports bar.