10 Best Comedy Venues in Los Angeles
The comedy scene in L.A. has never been stronger than it is right now. Stand-ups are moving to the city in droves, improv comedy is starting to become (gasp!) a viable way to kick in the entertainment industry door, and sketch comedy is leading to deals at Saturday Night Live, IFC, Comedy Central and beyond. The wealth of hometown success that has risen from L.A.'s storied comedy history is remarkable. And what's better still: It's all available for you to see, live and in person, seven nights a week.
The list below represents the 10 best comedy venues in Los Angeles. There are stand-up rooms, improv spaces and long-running stages that have been defining comedy here for a generation. Depending on the night and the show, you can catch a national headliner for five bucks or be across town working through a two-drink minimum when Louis CK walks through the door, looking for some stage time. But if you're just looking to laugh, any of these places will do.
Here are the 10 best comedy venues in Los Angeles.
Kevin Farley at iO West
Courtesy iO West
10. iO West
The link between Hollywood's iO West and Chicago's Improv Olympic — one of American comedy's great meccas — isn't just in name only. Just try walking into the front bar any time the Cubs are playing; pitch after pitch, performers and bartenders will cheer the good and bemoan the bad, while the faces of luminary Chicago comedians hang from the walls. iO (pronounced "eye-oh") has helped push the world of sketch and improv into the mainstream, mostly under the on-and-off guidance of improvisational guru Del Close. You can actually buy a t-shirt with his face on the front from the box office, or step through the black curtains to the theater in the back to see what the man is responsible for. Seven nights a week, iO plays host to long-running improv house teams, sketch comedy performers currently working through the curriculum levels, and old standby shows featuring the links of David Koechner, Bob Dassie and beyond. For students within the iO education stream, there are two black box theater spaces in the back, where a lot of the real experimentation goes down. 6366 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323)962-7560, ioimprov.com/west.
See also: 10 Best Standup Comedy Shows in L.A.
Mi's Westside Comedy Theater
After working to get its footing west of the 405, Westside Comedy Theater is now firmly entrenched ... in a back alley off the Third Street Promenade. If anything, the exposed brick and low stage create a fun, easygoing atmosphere for performers and audience members alike. The shows are a mix of improv born from their small program and stand up comedy that routinely pulls in big headliners. Neal Brennan, co-creator of Chappelle's Show, hosts a weekly night that's played host to Aziz Ansari, Demetri Martin and Chappelle himself. Ali Wong is regularly around, as is Kevin Pollack's podcast taping, while Ed Galvez' Punk House remains one of the longest-running stand up shows around. The theater itself is owned by Mission IMPROVable, a touring improv collective that still plays every Saturday night. 1323-A Third St., Santa Monica; (310) 451-0850, westsidecomedy.com.
Courtesy Comedy Central Stage
Lots of folks are surprised to hear that Comedy Central runs their very own comedy venue here in Los Angeles. For better or worse, the Comedy Central Stage on Santa Monica Boulevard is a bit under-appreciated, but certainly not under-utilized. A quick check of the stage's calendar reveals a wide array of constantly rotating shows, with equal preference given to sketch and stand up comedy. The monthly Sit N' Spin writers' reading series is the closest the Comedy Central Stage gets to a "house show," while heavy hitters like the three-man improv team Dasariski tend to make several appearances a year as well. Some nights are a mixed bag of material that works and comedy bits that fall flat, but it's a lot easier to suffer the up-and-comers when you don't have to pay a dime to get inside. 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.; (323) 462-2400, hudsontheatre.com/backstage.html.
Courtesy Comedy & Magic Club
South Bay folks already know about the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach. The seaside comedy spot has been providing laughs to underserved residents for years, mostly with stand up nights that feature nationally-recognized names. Jon Lovitz and Kevin Nealon are regulars, and touring heavyweights like Gabriel Iglesias and Dom Irrera tend to kill here. Of course, Jay Leno is always around, having worked out a weekly Sunday night deal with the owners. Whatever your thoughts about Leno and his television show may be, the long time stand up comedian is undeniably masterful with a microphone in his hand. 1018 Hermosa Ave., Hermosa Beach; (310) 372-1193, comedyandmagicclub.com.
"The Store" has been an important home for young stand up comedians for decades. Under the watchful eye of Mitzi Shore (yes, Pauly Shore's mother), the dark Sunset Strip comedy haunt came to make and break generations of stand ups, from Sam Kinison to Marc Maron. Their Original room still pulls plenty of nationally recognized names and indie darlings alike — Brody Stevens, anyone? — but the Main and Belly rooms are where the truly experimental stuff goes down. Most nights though, expect the typical two-drink-minimum type of comedy, with the usual rotating list of a dozen comedians that you may or may not have heard of. But all of them are working hard, some will inevitably go on to reach the upper echelon of Hollywood, and the rest are just hoping to become a regular headliner long enough to sign their name on the outside of the building like all of the legends that have come before them. 8433 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood Hills West; (323) 650-6268, thecomedystore.com.Next Page
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