L.A.'s Comedy Scene: The 13 Hottest Places to Catch a Laugh
Call it the farm league of funny: Hollywood's circuit is where Jay Leno and Melissa McCarthy began and big names can still be found, from The Comedy Store and the Laugh Factory on Sunset Boulevard to the Downtown Independent and Santa Monica's The Virgil.
This story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
While L.A. is still ground zero for America's next top comics, the days when a few clubs held the keys to a comedy career are gone. The rise of "alt comedy," the hipster humor popularized by Judd Apatow, has prompted a slew of improvised venues such as sex stores, bars and cinemas. Agents and showrunners are as likely to scout talent at the Upright Citizens Brigade as at the Improv. "People seem to really be engaged with stand-up comedy right now," says comic Kumail Nanjiani, who co-hosts The Meltdown inside a comic book store. This cheat sheet lists the latest laugh hotspots.
THE COMEDY STORE
8433 Sunset Blvd.
The house that Pauly Shore's mom and dad built also is the most focused on fine-tuning the joke craft. The venue offers a trio of rooms where big-name comics can work out the kinks of new material in the smaller Belly Room before tackling bigger, tougher audiences in the Original Room and Main Room.
WHEN TO GO: Saturdays at 9 p.m. in the Main Room.
WHO'S THERE: Whitney Cummings, Sarah Silverman, stand-up comic Bill Burr.
8001 Sunset Blvd.
The Sunset Strip mainstay has been the scene of some of comedy's most ignominious chapters, including Michael Richards' N-word tirade and Daniel Tosh's controversial rape joke.
WHEN TO GO: Tuesdays at 8 p.m. for New Material Night with Kevin Nealon.
WHO'S THERE: Comedy Central roast host Jeff Ross, Dane Cook, actress-comic Mary Lynn Rajskub.
7522 Sunset Blvd.
Tucked behind a comic-book store is a 200-seat theater that is the epicenter of L.A.'s alt-comedy scene. "We've gotten most of our dream list," says Emily Gordon, producer of flagship show The Meltdown, "save Seinfeld, Rock and Chappelle."
WHEN TO GO: Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. for The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail, hosted by Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani. "Daniel Tosh and Louis C.K. stop by all the time, consistently blowing the crowd's socks off, which is good," says Pete Holmes, of TBS' upcoming The Midnight Show With Pete Holmes, adding: "This is L.A., and socks look terrible in flip-flops. Unless you're German -- then it's adorable."
WHO'S THERE: Jeff Garlin, Donald Glover, Robin Williams.
5919 Franklin Ave.
A comedy theater and improv school founded by Amy Poehler's former sketch group, the UCB has transformed a stretch of Franklin Avenue into a comedy mecca, with young performers regularly spilling over into nearby hangouts such as Birds and La Poubelle.
WHEN TO GO: Sundays at 7:30 p.m. for ASSSSCAT, a longform improv show based on monologues delivered by celebrity guests.
WHO'S THERE: UCB founding fathers Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh.
2106 Hyperion Ave.
A cafe-by-day, theater-by-night hangout for alt comics in the hilly hipster enclave of Silver Lake.
WHEN TO GO: Thursdays at 8 p.m. for The Business, the L.A. edition of a popular San Francisco comedy night.
WHO'S THERE: Conan's James Adomian, Bobcat Goldthwait, vet actor-comic Eddie Pepitone.
THE PLEASURE CHEST
7733 Santa Monica Blvd.
Free beer and free comedy set inside a sex-toy emporium. Still need convincing? Patrons are offered a 15 percent discount on playtime purchases.
WHEN TO GO: Tuesdays at 8 p.m. for Performance Anxiety.
WHO'S THERE: Comedy Central star Anthony Jeselnik, The League's Nick Kroll, Happy Endings' Adam Pally.
7702 Santa Monica Blvd.
This Russian-themed hipster bar in WeHo offers a wide selection of vodkas to loosen inhibitions, plus a post-show schmoozing scene where one might charm the pants off a potential date (or, better yet, a booking agent).
WHEN TO GO: Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. for The Josh and Josh Show, hosted by NYC transplants Josh Haness and Josh Weinstein.
WHO'S THERE: Chelsea Lately's Greg Proops, ESPN SportsCenter comics The Sklar Brothers and actor-comic Nick Thune.
4519 Santa Monica Blvd.
Grab a cocktail at this cozy speakeasy on the outskirts of Silver Lake, then head into the performance room to watch a growing lineup of stand-up and variety shows.
WHEN TO GO: Mondays at 8 p.m. for Hot Tub, a weekly revue hosted by The Daily Show's Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler.
WHO'S THERE: Aziz Ansari, Comedy Central's Demetri Martin and Schaal.
366 N. La Cienega Blvd.
A cabaret set inside the legendary Coronet Theatre, Largo hosts shows where music and comedy frequently intermingle -- often with magical results.
WHEN TO GO: The second Saturday of every month at 9 p.m. for Patton Oswalt and Friends.
WHO'S THERE: Tig Notaro (who performed her famed breast cancer confessional there), Oswalt, former Best Week Ever host Paul F. Tompkins.
8162 Melrose Ave.
The Ivy League of L.A. comedy clubs, the Improv is where every major comedian -- from David Letterman to Jerry Seinfeld to Bill Maher -- honed their craft. It's still a major draw: Louis C.K.'s most recent drop-in set was at the Improv.
WHEN TO GO: Saturdays at 11:45 p.m. for After Hours at the Improv.
WHO'S THERE: C.K., Jay Mohr and Brian Posehn, formerly of The Sarah Silverman Program.
THE GROUNDLINGS THEATRE
7307 Melrose Ave.
Still the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to sketch comedy, The Groundlings troupe boasts an impressive track record for nurturing female performers. Case in point: Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are alums.
WHEN TO GO: Sundays at 7:30 p.m. for The Empire Strikes Sunday, in which the next generation of Groundlings is groomed.
WHO'S THERE: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash -- who share (with Alexander Payne) an adapted screenplay Oscar for The Descendants -- and Enlightened's Michaela Watkins.
COMEDY LIVING ROOM
737 N. Cherokee Ave.
Six months ago, roommates Matt Lottman and Frank Chad Muniz threw a BYOB comedy night in their living room. It has been standing-kitchen-only ever since.
WHEN TO GO: Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
WHO'S THERE: Louie's Maria Bamford, Saturday Night Live writer Hannibal Buress, Oswalt-tour opener Kyle Kinane.
251 S. Main St.
Comics and fans craving a New York vibe have gravitated to this futuristic-looking cinema/theater in Little Tokyo.
WHEN TO GO: Tuesdays at 9 p.m. for Holy F-- Free Comedy, the show credited with kick-starting downtown's burgeoning comedy scene.
WHO'S THERE: Childrens Hospital's Rob Huebel; actor-comic David Koechner, who reprises his sportscaster role in the upcoming sequel Anchorman: The Legend Continues; podcaster Marc Maron of WTF With Marc Maron.