At first it was a collective gasp of outrage on Twitter from diehard comedy fans in the Bay Area and beyond. Then came the star power to try and save a beloved San Francisco institution — a place that has received legendary status and played host to the likes of Dave Chappelle, W. Kamau Bell, Amy Schumer Dana Carvey, and Robin Williams.
On Tuesday, Chappelle and Bell themselves rallied on the steps of San Francisco City Hall to try and save the historic Punch Line Comedy Club, which announced earlier this month it will be closing in August after being unable to renew its lease.
But now the next likely lesse − Google − which is already leasing space next to Punch Line, says it wants to be a good neighbor and help the club.
Google responded after San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin hinted at Tuesday's rally that the tech giant might be coming into the space once Punch Line leaves.
"The Punch Line has been a key part of San Francisco’s culture and community for 40 years," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to NBC Bay Area. "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."
The spokesperson added that Google is absolutely open to participating in preserving Punch Line.
"It's not like they're turning it into a new comedy club or a better comedy club, it sounds like it's going to be turned into a closet for some tech company's bicycles," Kamau Bell said. He added that if nothing works out, he might even take the venue next door to Oakland, where he now lives.
Chappelle and Bell joined San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin Tuesday at City Hall for an announcement about efforts to save the club, which is owned by Live Nation.
"Unfortunately the threat of eviction hanging over San Francisco’s historic, legendary Punch Line Comedy Club is not a joke," Peskin said at the rally, introducing an interim zoning moratorium which would prevent the conversion of the Battery Street venue from an entertainment use to any other use.
Fans carried signs that read: #SaveThePunchLine and "Displacement is not a laughing matter."
Here's how one Punch Line supporter summed up the issue: "We're trying to save a club that's owned by a big corporation from displacement by an even bigger corporation."
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the proposal on June 4, Peskin said, and if approved, the law will go into effect the very next day. Peskin also said the city is in talks with Morgan Stanley, which owns the building.
Peskin has also nominated the Punch Line to be a legacy business which comes with financial benefits.
Chappelle, who is performing at the club's sold-out shows this week, said the place has a special place in his heart.
He called it an "American institution," and compared it's loss to "burning down the Louvre, or selling the Louvre to somebody.”
"When they say special things happen in that room, it's an understatement," Chappelle said. "That was the last pace I saw Robin Williams alive. I was there when I found out I was having my first kid."
The comedy club, which was founded by Bill Graham, announced its plan to move in August on May 7 after it was unable to renew its lease.
"We're losing the culture of the city, and this is one of the things that define San Francisco," Bell said Tuesday.
The announcement drew immediate responses from a number of other well-known comedians, including Steve Byrne, Ali Wong and Moshe Kasher.
"This is heartbreaking for so many reasons. The Bay Area has changed so much but now it’s killing my past. This will always be my home club," Kahser tweeted.
Punch Line originally opened in 1978 as a dressing room for a rock club, The Old Waldof, and both venues were owned by another legend in the world of entertainment, rock promoter Bill Graham. It gradually became a well-known comedy club under House MC Bobby, drawing entertainers as well as fans of comedy from the Bay Area and beyond.