Watching comedy live is often an unparalleled experience, and in Los Angeles there’s an entire nightly spoil of live comedy riches to enjoy. In fact, there’s so much that it might be hard to sort through what to see, even with curated guides such as What Should We Do, especially if you’re not incredibly well versed in the ever-burgeoning scene that spans stand-up, improv, sketch, movies, podcasts, TV, experimental comedy, art exhibitions, and more.
For nearly a decade, our comedy expert, Jake Kroeger, has been closely monitoring the pulse of the entire Los Angeles comedy scene. He watches several hours of live comedy seven nights a week, covering and reporting for What Should We Do, as well as various other outlets, including his own up-to-the-minute website, The Comedy Bureau. As you’d imagine, he has a few pointers on how to best enjoy a night of live comedy. For tips on getting the most out of something truly special and hysterical, we’ll let him take it from here:
First off, don’t fall for generalized flyers and ads. Many a live comedy show promises the hottest comics around town that you “could” have seen on Netflix, HBO, or Comedy Central. Others will try to lure you with celebrity drop-ins, often suggesting that “you never know who you’ll get to see.” In both cases, you’re kept in the dark about who is on the show and, more often than not, unless it’s a famous comedian known for performing with other famous comedians, that’s a red flag.
Also, you never know what you like until you try it. So branch out now and then and go see something really different from what you’re used to. There are purists for stand-up, improv, and clowning, which can be nice in the short-term, but ultimately limiting. The true beauty of the L.A. comedy scene lies in how all of these disciplines coexist and are now cross-pollinating. If you mostly go to the Comedy Store, try the Virgil or the Satellite. If you only hit UCB, try the Improv Lab.
Many favorite moments that were truly dazzling happened by accident. Take a chance on something that sounds completely out-there and see how it expands your personal taste for comedy. For instance, how about a show that’s a live-action version of a Japanese dating simulator video game? (That’s the monthly Super Dating Simulator at the Pack Theater, and you don’t want to miss it.)
Go out late. Much local standard fare takes place in the prime-time slots. That’s not to say that what goes on around 8 p.m. isn’t great, but some of the more surprising, daring, and often very rewarding live comedy happens late, late into the night. Whether it be a midnight show at UCB Franklin (Cool Shit/Weird Shit and Tournament of Nerds are favorites), the long-standing weirdo variety show Tomorrow! With Ron Lynch, or catching the trial by fire that is Roast Battle at the Comedy Store, it really is worth staying out past your bedtime.
Seek out house shows. There is a very DIY, build-it-and-they-will-come ethos to the L.A. comedy scene, which has led several very funny people to do shows in houses. It might be intimidating to go into a stranger’s home with a bunch of other strangers, but the comedy-viewing experience doesn’t really get more intimate than sitting in a backyard, front yard, living room, or wherever else an abode can take you. Dirt Pit Lounge, High Priestess (which also features tarot readings), and the LGBTQ+ friendly Josh are among the brightest currently carrying the torch for this type of show.
A lot of shows are announced last minute and sell out immediately, so do a bit of homework. Follow your favorite performers on social media, sign up for mailing lists for both your favorite performers and venues, cross-reference those performers/venues/shows, and, of course check WSWD and The Comedy Bureau regularly. If you have severe FOMO, just a little bit of sleuthing can make sure you never miss any sort of magic that might be happening on a given night. Do it right, and you’ll even catch the holy grail: a surprise Dave Chappelle pop-up performance. Good luck and Godspeed.