Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
After opening a New York theater in 1999, an L.A. branch in 2005 and a second New York venue in 2011, the Upright Citizens Brigade — led by original foursome Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh — took a huge step forward in November 2014 when it opened its second L.A. space, UCB Sunset. The building is supposed to feel like your college dorm: It includes a sparkling yet intimate main theater, a casual second stage, lots of classrooms and a cafe that's always full of comedians chatting or working on laptops between classes or gigs. UCB Sunset is so huge, it makes you all the more impressed that the theater and training center was able to make such an impact on L.A.'s comedy scene from its tiny venue on Franklin Avenue — and it foreshadows how the company's influence is likely to grow exponentially bigger.
Comedy writer Jason Shapiro started the Twitter feed @LosFelizDaycare in 2013, and you would have thought it would be old hat at this point, but there is no shortage of fodder for satirizing young, educated, progressive, Angeleno parents. The feed spoofs not only their child-rearing styles but also their other fixations, such as food trends ("Truffle macaroni art was a huge success today"), mindfulness ("Ramen (3) will only eat white foods but we're letting her live her truth for now."), debates over gender in pop culture ("Hmm we like that the new Ghostbusters cast is all female but we can't be supporting Judeo-Christian afterlife propaganda") and, of course, vaccination ("Java (3) is giving a talk on vaccine paranoia vs. vaccine hesitancy tomorrow. Time is meaningless so whenever you come will be the right time.") It's fun to imagine a daycare in which Intelligentsia shows up in a "Free Adnan" T-shirt and Wren calls Linus a "slacktivist" over the sounds of Sleater-Kinney before everyone sits down to watch Pussy Riot's House of Cards appearance together to avoid spoilers.
Photographer Kate Rentz's Instagram feed will make you want to put down your phone and grab a sleeping bag. The Los Angeles–based photographer is always outdoors: hiking in the mountains, camping in the forests, twisting through canyons or even just playing Monopoly in the park. Snap a shot of her dinner? Not unless it's a picnic basket. Rentz's quest to merit her favorite hashtag —#LiveAuthentic — has taken her as far as backpacking on an Argentine glacier, and her nature portraits of her husband, music video director Isaac Rentz, and their dog Maggie are both stunning and cozy. But it's her pictures of California that make her our favorite Instagrammer. Not only do her photos capture the ecological diversity of our state, they urge you to get in the car and chase her trail. Just check out the comments: "Where is that?" "How close?" and "Take me!"instagram.com/katerentz
As an L.A.-based musician of complex talents and singular taste with his own band, The One AM Radio, Hrishikesh Hirway understands the amount of finesse and perfectionism that goes into crafting fantastic songs. With his Radiotopia-powered podcast, Song Exploder, he takes that understanding to interviews with other music makers — some of whom are of the household-name variety — and draws out the best parts and thoughts. By doing all of the hard work of chasing down his favorite songmakers, conversing with them at length and — most importantly — filing his conversations down to their essential pieces, he ends up with a tight but well-tuned 13 to 15 minutes about a single song. All of his own effort cuts out the prosaic (though often necessary to the process) prattle that lesser music podcasts force their listeners to endure. Given that he's been featured in Wired and the AV Club and has featured acts like U2, Death Cab for Cutie and Best Coast, it's doubtful he'll have to do much more chasing.songexploder.net
Suffice to say, Dave Ross is a funny guy. His storytelling and self-deprecating entr'actes to his own late, great Holy Fuck free comedy show in downtown L.A. were perfect morsels of what the kids used to call "alt comedy." Even better, his superb taste in other comedians, from nobodies to marquee acts, brought together the kind of talent that average schmoes would have lined up to pay for at mainstage clubs. Ross takes all that and, with new co-host Anna Seregina, puts it into the magic of Internet streams. The show, operating under Nerdist's banner, focuses on insecurities rather than merely yuks, and, unlike certain garage-based hosts' nasal chattering, Ross' gravelly baritone has a soothing effect that facilitates his guests' self-dissection. While he's not drawing commanders-in-chief (yet), his roster pulls in the kinds of folks on the edge of L.A.'s cultural fabric whom you'll be posting about and retweeting in the years to come.nerdist.com/podcasts/terrified-channel
The setup is simple — six comedians rhyme over a beat, competing with one another for audience votes — but the results are endlessly varied. Every second Tuesday of the month, stand-up and improv comic Eliza Skinner, with the beatboxing assistance of Joshua Silverstein, hosts Turnt Up!, a rap battle that features your favorite local stand-ups leaving their scripts and set lists behind to risk humiliation in the freestyling ring. The audience rewards cleverness and fearlessness over insults and the show has become so popular that professional rappers — from Busdriver and Open Mike Eagle to comedic rhymer Wayne Brady — occasionally pop in, taking the stage at the end to play around with the winning comic. No matter the surprise star power on any night, though, the most impressive rhymes typically come from Skinner herself, who opens each show by spinning an audience suggestion into an impromptu track.