Dave Chappelle joins effort to save Punch Line comedy club in SF

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Dave Chappelle joined comedians and politicians at San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday to try to save the Punch Line comedy club, which has its lease expiring in August.

The club, located in the Financial District at 444 Battery St., will be displaced by Google after spending more than 40 years in its current location unless legislation is passed to conserve it.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin announced his three-fold plan to protect the club.

VIDEO: Dave Chappelle reports on SF's Punch Line for ABC7
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We asked Dave Chappelle how he would deliver the news of comedians rallying to save the Punch Line comedy club in SF. Here's how it went.

First, he is introducing legislation to the Board for an "interim zoning moratorium" that would prevent the conversion of spaces zoned for entertainment use to any other use.

Second, he plans to begin talks with Google, and lastly he has nominated Punch Line as a legacy business, which would entitle it to financial benefits from the city.

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.

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"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."

Some of his colleagues voiced concerns about the degradation of the city's culture and alleged it was inattentive to artists. Award-winning comic W. Kamau Bell asked "if the city can't even prioritize a successful club that makes money, how is it going to fund smaller, less profitable art?"

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Larry Dorsey, a patron and performer at the Punch Line, said, "People used to come here for inspiration, for art, and now it's slowly dying out. (San Francisco) is becoming roboticized."

Another comic, Nato Green, made similar sentiments.

"We need to have one place in San Francisco that's not an algorithm, and that's the Punch Line," Green said.

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The club opened in 1978. It's where legendary comics like Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Ellen Degeneres and Wanda Sykes all took the stage before they became famous.

The club says it is looking for a new venue.

Later in the day a Google spokesperson responded to our request for comment.

"Google has leased the space next door to the Punchline and we look forward to being their neighbor. As a neighbor, Google is committed to trying to find a way for the Punchline to remain a vibrant part of the Bay Area community for years to come" said Katherine Williams with Google's press team.

Bay City News contributed to this report.
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