From Podcasts to People, 8 Reasons L.A.'s Comedy Scene is Thriving

Tiffany Haddish, Best Breakout Comedian.
Tiffany Haddish, Best Breakout Comedian.
Courtesy Jonas PR

Our annual Best of L.A. issue hit stands last week, and it's no wonder that a good chunk of the Arts & Entertainment section is devoted to comedy. L.A. is home to so many funny podcasts, so many funny people — even a comedy scholar — not to mention a slew of live shows. From Best of L.A., here are our critics' picks for some homegrown hilarity that shouldn't be missed.

Best Streamable Comedy Duo
The Jackie and Laurie Show
Conan staff writer Laurie Kilmartin and The Dork Forest host Jackie Kashian are survivors of the '80s comedy boom who've seen, done and, most importantly, dealt with everything the stand-up industry can dish out. As tenets and tastes continue changing, so too do Kashian and Kilmartin's perspectives on what it means — and takes — to succeed. Since January, the duo has co-hosted The Jackie and Laurie Show; they've bitched, waxed poetic, named names, lauded an up-and-coming Female Comic of the Week and shared the bittersweet antics of Laurie's newly live-in mother every Monday on the Nerdist Podcast Network. Or as Kashian put it on the first episode, "As opposed to middle-aged white guys talking about comedy, it's middle-aged white ladies talking about comedy!" No guests or format gimmicks; just hysterical, invaluable insight on how the business really works and how it really feels to be a female in comedy. (Hint: At times frustrating, to say the least.) —Julie Seabaugh

Best Podcast for People Who Like Murder
My Favorite Murder
Some girlfriends gossip about guys and clothes; other girlfriends gossip about the grisly ways in which people have ended other people's lives. L.A.-based comedian-friends Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff indulge their mutual desire to gab about horrifying crimes on their weekly podcast, My Favorite Murder. Over the course of 30-plus episodes, the duo has discussed everything from pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey's long-unsolved and gruesome murder to the mysterious death of Elisa Lam, whose nude body was discovered in a water tank atop a DTLA hotel (Lam's death was actually ruled an accidental drowning, but the internet's armchair detectives are dubious). Besides well-known true-crime cases, Hardstark and Kilgariff solicit stories from listeners (aka Murderinos) and friends about murders and horror stories from their hometowns. Their banter is extremely funny — it's a comedy podcast, ultimately — but you never get the sense that they're laughing at other people's tragedies. It's more like laughing at what a genuinely awful place the world can be. —Gwynedd Stuart

Best Comedy to Bridge the Generation Gap
Crabapples

Every Tuesday at 10 p.m. in the Improv Lab, '80s comic whirlwind turned genre-defying director Bobcat Goldthwait joins decades-younger San Francisco transplant Caitlin Gill (the Oddball, Bridgetown and Outside Lands festivals) to co-ringlead Crabapples, a variety circus of nontraditional locals and out-of-town pals who proudly rally around a certain freak-flag mentality. (Margaret Cho has been a frequent drop-in guest since the show's March debut.) Gill and Goldthwait were formerly assistant and boss, but now the pair are unlikely real-life roommates in a hectic house positively begging for the sitcom treatment. Crabapples' welcoming vibe and collective spirit embody the all-inclusive nature of the current stand-up boom, giving the audience a de facto living-room view of personal revelations, Goldthwait's outlandish stories from the past and the day-to-day travails of two transgenerational kindred spirits who'd pretty much be lost without the substitute-family support the comedy community provides for those most in need. —Julie Seabaugh

Best Comedy Scene Booster
Jeremiah Watkins

Midwest transplant Jeremiah Watkins began performing as a kid, won national awards in broadcasting throughout high school and landed a Kansas City radio station gig at age 19. Today the Second City and Groundlings veteran maintains supporting roles on Roast Battle and Goddamn Comedy Jam, both of which are beloved L.A. stand-up shows–turned–trendsetting Comedy Central properties. Watkins also hosts the monthly improvised show Stand-Up on the Spot, is half of musical-comedy duo Regan & Watkins and every Saturday night co-hosts and plays saxophone on late-night, party-heavy variety show Midnight Snack. Meaning — particularly for a local up-and-comer — he's got red-hot irons in an inordinate number of comedy fires, all the while exuding an easygoing, community-focused appreciation for the opportunities L.A.'s local scene offers. A handful of indie flicks and a Jimmy Kimmel Live! appearance round out an acting résumé aimed at landing the ultimate dream gig: Saturday Night Live cast member. We're rooting for him. —Julie Seabaugh

Best Breakout Comedian
Tiffany Haddish

When Tiffany Haddish was a 9-year-old growing up in South-Central L.A., her childhood effectively ended when her mother was in a catastrophic car accident. The oldest of five children, Haddish, who's of Ethiopian Jewish descent, navigated her way through the foster-care system and homelessness, but eventually broke into the stand-up scene and made her way to Def Comedy Jam, Chelsea Lately and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. She launched a successful acting career, too, landing roles on That's So Raven, My Name Is Earl and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but her career hit its stride when she was cast as a regular on NBC sitcom The Carmichael Show. This year, Haddish also appeared in Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele's debut film, Keanu, and stole the show at Just for Laughs Montreal's annual (and infamous) The Nasty Show. Next summer she'll appear with Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Regina Hall in the feature Girl Trip; she'll also be expanding her Chuckles Not Knuckles anti-bullying program in area high schools. Her star is on the rise and doesn't appear to be slowing down. —Julie Seabaugh

Best Local Comedy Author
Kliph Nesteroff

Since Kliph Nesteroff's The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy (Grove Press) was released last November, fans including Bob Odenkirk and Steve Martin have raved about it on social media and bought multiple copies apiece to share with like-minded peers. The Canadian transplant has appeared on panels with Lewis Black, Gilbert Gottfried and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog; scored gigs with TBS, CNN and Viceland; landed his own forthcoming Earwolf podcast, Classic Showbiz; and is the curator at the National Comedy Center, where among other current projects he's working on a George Carlin exhibit with George's daughter, Kelly Carlin, an L.A. resident and author in her own right. The Comedians, which is right up there with I'm Dying Up Here, Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live and Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, in terms of thoroughness, engagement and lasting significance, is available in paperback on Nov. 8, while Audible.com promises an audiobook version soon as well. —Julie Seabaugh

Best Place for Female Comedians to Cut Their Teeth
Tao Comedy Studio

Considering the amount of bro energy that can course through the average comedy club, it's no wonder female comedians — especially newer ones — would be on the lookout for a more welcoming space. For plenty of women pursuing their stand-up dreams, Tao Comedy Studio has become a place to explore and assert themselves creatively in an honest, fearless way. The cozy, colorful space above a nail salon on Beverly Boulevard was founded by comedian, author and teacher Bobbie Oliver as a "safe space" away from the misogyny, bullying and lowbrow, bigoted material she felt was common at mainstream clubs. Tao hosts comedy classes, open mics — some of which are female-only — and booked showcases, with plenty of male comedians mixed into the lineups. Oliver's act is actually ribald, ferocious and far from politically correct, and Tao's audiences dig the smart, personal, uncensored material coming from comedians of either gender. Just in case anyone was expecting a soft, gentle, comedy version of Lilith Fair. —Adam Gropman

Best Place to Tell Your Story
The Lyric-Hyperion Theatre & Cafe

The Lyric-Hyperion Theatre & Café has been a Silver Lake institution for some time, but it wasn't until recently that its calendar got shored up with some top-notch storytelling events. Like many L.A. storytelling shows, there's usually a side element of stand-up comedy, but every show has a different theme, which invariably means a wide swath of genres and styles. There's a new one called Haunted, which (shocker) is about ghosts and the paranormal. Then there's Killer Unicorns, where people reach deep into their pasts to tell their most horrifically hilarious childhood stories. Ordinary Phreeeks Storytelling Show is a New York–born show that just moved west to bring a taste of dark sideshow humor to the stage, while Cara & Jen's Sleepover Party encourages everyone to put on their jam-jams and get comfy for long-form comedic stuff. And if you’re lucky, DisOriented Comedy’s Jenny Yang, Atsuko Okatsuka and D’Lo will bring out their Family Reunion storytelling night to Lyric-Hyperion with a different boundary-pushing theme every month. No matter what you're into, you can hang out on the venue's patio and catch a show while enjoying some pretty good drink specials. —April Wolfe


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