BATS Improvisational Comedy

There is something exhilarating and terrifying about improvisational comedy for performers. They have to rely on their training, instincts, timing, wits and innate ability to make people laugh while not knowing what is coming next. When it works, performers experience a kind of exhilaration seldom found outside a good jazz club. When it doesn’t, like in the rare instances when the performers’ muses are in an unforgiving mood, it is terrifying, as they are onstage together without a script to fall back on.

Fortunately for Bay Area improv fans (and the performers,) those rare instances are very rare indeed at the BATS Improv at the Bayfront Theater in Fort Mason, San Francisco. Each weekend, the improvisational comics at BATS craft a completely new show without a script and judging by the reviews and the troupe’s longevity, they are very, very good at it. As the largest and longest-running Improv theatre and school in Northern California, the BATS performers are the best of the best. In addition to their weekend performances, these amazingly funny people also offers improv classes for all ages and skill levels every month of the year, honing their craft and training the next generation of improvisational talent. They also perform at corporate events, which allow them to provide free performances at area high schools, complete with workshops for the students. They also work with people with life-threatening illnesses, proving that laughter may very well be the best medicine after all.

BATS traces its roots to one of the founders of improvisational comedy, Keith Johnstone. While performing at the London Royal Court Theatre in the 1950s and 60s, he created a series of improvisational exercises to help writers overcome writer’s block. After moving to Canada in the 70s, he took improv to the next level by creating the “Theatersports” concept, where teams of improv comics competed against each other for points. Eventually, he settled in San Francisco in the early 80s, much to the delight of performers and audiences alike!

If you love improvisational comedy and want to see and hear some of the very best improv comics in California, head down to the Fort Mason Center in the Marina District, between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge. Pay parking is available nearby, but you’re probably better off taking a cab or one of the many MUNI routes that run close to the venue. Depending on the presentation, tickets are usually $17 if you buy them online or $20 at the Fort Mason Center box office. Programs and listing change often, it is improv comedy, after all, so make sure to check the official site at for more information about show times, ticket prices and special events and get ready to have a great time!