10 Best Comedy Venues in Los Angeles

5. The Laugh Factory

Everyone, from neighbors in West Hollywood to folks in Minnesota, knows about the Laugh Factory. It's what everyone thinks of when they imagine in a comedy club: red velvet drapes, small round tables for the all-important two drink minimums, that swooping arch behind the stage and the glowing orange-yellow Laugh Factory orb that hangs inside. This is where longtime comedians like Kevin Nealon and Tim Allen come to just talk (while filling the seats with out-of-towners). It's also the place where less nationally recognized comedians come to put in work outside of the indie comedy rooms; guys like Eric Andre, Dan Levy, Chris D'Elia and Maz Jobrani seem to pop in nightly. If the Comedy Store has the history, the Laugh Factory has the memories. This place is what most people think of when they ponder stand up comedy in Los Angeles. 8001 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 656-1336, laughfactory.com.

10 Best Comedy Venues in Los Angeles
Courtesy the Groundlings

4. The Groundlings

The Groundlings is a factory for talent, having pushed out a roster that includes everyone from today's Melissa McCarthy and Jim Rash to yesteryear's Laraine Newman, Phil Hartman and John Goodman — not to mention all of the Will Ferrells and Kristen Wiigs in between. For character-based sketch and improv classes, the Groundlings use a rigid, years-long school structure to teach students the value of hard work and patience, and they certainly have a light at the end of the tunnel to shine in the face of prospective students. For anyone just looking to sit in the audience and laugh, the rotating Sunday Company shows are the cream of the crop, featuring character-driven sketches that have been hashed out as previously improvised scenes for weeks beforehand. At around $15, Groundlings tickets are no weight on your wallet either, which means you can get a glimpse of tomorrow's talent for less than it would cost to eat dinner next door on Melrose. 7307 Melrose Ave., Fairfax; (323) 934-4747, hollywood.improv.com .

See also: 6 of L.A.'s Most Fascinating Comedians

10 Best Comedy Venues in Los Angeles
Photo by Lina Lecaro

3. Hollywood Improv

Anyone with even a passing interest in stand-up comedy hopes to some day play the main stage at the Hollywood Improv. It's the iconic brick wall, the proximity to Hollywood success, the feeling that everyone around you is succeeding so you'd better go up and kill: The Hollywood Improv is fear and hope and comedy all mixed into one. That's precisely why almost every show here is a hit; it's one of the most sought-after bookings in the stand-up world, and will feature road legends like Ralphie May doing Tuesday night sets, former professional wrestler Mick Foley telling stories on a late Sunday night and unstoppable indie darlings like Andy Kindler, Maria Bamford and Rob Delaney sprinkled throughout the week. If you're looking for a drop-in by Louis C.K. or some other living legend, there's a better than even chance it'll happen here. The Hollywood Improv is just that kind of place. 8162 Melrose Ave., Beverly Grove; (323) 651-2583, hollywood.improv.com.

10 Best Comedy Venues in Los Angeles
Photo by Liezl Estipona

2. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre

Simply put, the UCB on Franklin is comedy in Los Angeles. It's not the oldest, the biggest or (as this list will tell you) even the best single comedy operation in town, but ever since Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Matt Besser and Ian Roberts dropped their school on Hollywood (after starting out with a New York branch earlier), things have been different around here. Improv comedy — both theatrically and as in independent medium — has skyrocketed, challenging stand up comedy as the medium of choice for writers and performers looking for a way into the biz. There are dozens of weekly indie improv shows, from Santa Monica to the valley, thanks in large part to the rise of UCB. There are endless numbers of sketch performers on The Daily Show, Saturday Night Live, Parks & Recreation, Key & Peele, Comedy Bang! Bang! and The Birthday Boys who owe large chunks of their career to UCB. And every night, still, you can stand in line with aspiring actors, veteran performers, new improv students, Hollywood agents and comedy tourists for the chance to potentially witness something magical. And all for ten bucks or less. 5919 Franklin Ave., Hollywood Hills; (323) 908-8702, franklin.ucbtheatre.com.

See also: A profile of comedy couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani

1. NerdMelt Showroom

With the catapultic rise of the NerdMelt Showroom in the back room of Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard, indie comedy in Los Angeles has finally arrived. Yes, the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater on Franklin has been home to more underground acts, crazier nights of not-for-everyone comedy and still acts as a revolving door for young comedians about to climb the entertainment ladder. But there is a certain type of indie comedy — stand-up, mostly — that exploded into every corner of Los Angeles a few years back. There were (and often still are) shows above Chinese restaurants in Los Feliz, shows at bowling alleys and fish taco stands, in backyards and on rooftops; the NerdMelt showroom is the full realization of DIY comedy in L.A., with Comedy Central backing and plenty of big industry names to show for all of their hard work.

Originally began as an occasional experience in the unused space behind Hollywood's nerdiest hangout, Kumail Nanjiani, Jonah Ray and Chris Hardwick have all done an astounding amount of work to bring the musty space to the forefront of Los Angeles' current comedy culture. Now, with the addition of a sketch and improv school, the NerdMelt era enters a new phase. Where their do-anything mentality goes from here is anyone's guess, but it's already been an amazing climb. 7522 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood.; (323) 851-7223, nerdmeltla.com.

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See also: Best Comedy Club 2013: Nerdmelt Showroom

Disclosure: The author is a comedian in Los Angeles who has performed at some of these venues.



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