Comedian Dave Chappelle joins fight to save Punch Line comedy club

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Dave Chappelle and other comics assembled at San Francisco City Hall Tuesday to try to save the Punch Line comedy club, which has its lease expiring in August.

In an effort to block a corporation from taking occupancy of the site at 444 Battery Street currently occupied by the Punch Line Comedy Club, San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced legislation to rezone the area where the club is located for entertainment use.

A tenant of the property for more than 40 years, Punch Line management said that it would be forced to shutter on August 1 because property owner “Morgan Stanley was unwilling to consider discussing a lease renewal.”

Google has leased the space next door to the Punch Line, and some are worried they will eventually take over the entire space. Peskin plans on talking to Google in order to protect the club. 

"As a neighbor, Google is committed to trying to find a way for the Punch Line to remain a vibrant part of the Bay Area community for years to come," Google said in a statement. "Google is absolutely open to participating in conversations with city officials  and the community regarding the preservation of Punch Line."

Although the club is owned by Live Nation Entertainment, which runs many venues across the country, its comedians said it has retained a 'Mom and Pop' feel as well as provided a mental health service to residents and an economic boost to the city.

Punch Line marketing manager Andrea Sherman told KTVU they would continue to support local comedy and bring in the "hottest, up-and-coming comedians," along with national headliners as their future is uncertain. 

On the steps of San Francisco City Hall midday Tuesday, Supervisor Peskin said that at the afternoon Board of Supervisors meeting, he would nominate the Punch Line legacy business status, which could give its landlord financial incentives to keep the club in place.

Joining Peskin on the steps of City Hall were well-known comedians Dave Chappelle, W. Kamau Bell and Nato Green, all of whom where there to rally the effort to save the club from pending eviction.

"Any storied comedian will tell you it's an American phenomenon. When they say special things happen there, it's an understatement," Chappelle said. "It's one of the best comedy rooms literally on Earth -- you should protect it."

Furthering that notion, Green spoke from the steps of City Hall. 

"We need to have one place in San Francisco that’s not an algorithm." he said. “The Punch Line has been a birthplace for comedians for generations. We’ve come there, we’ve learned how to be comics. We support each other. We’ve made fun of each other and we’ve gone on to other things. Without the Punch Line you don’t get [W. Kamau Bell] or Margaret Cho or Ali Wong. It’s become a place for Dave [Chappelle] to come for many years."

W. Kamau Bell said the Punch Line has helped define the culture of the city. "Arts are important. We need to prioritize the arts, especially in a time with everything else that's going on in America."  

KTVU's Andre Torrez and Bay City News contributed to this story.

Video of rally courtesy Kris Struble