Live comedy is once again enjoying a boom period, even if some of the bigger clubs and bloated chains around the country are going bust. Thanks to the Internet's generous enabling of DIY promotion, production, talent booking and ticketing, who needs a humorless industry gatekeeper when one can simply throw their own show anywhere, anytime?
True, actually it helps to be, you know, funny. You'll also have to get other funny folks to take you seriously. And find a decent sound system and venue where the talent won't be heckled by drunks or forced to compete with televised sporting events blazing overhead. OK, so it's nowhere as easy as it looks. But those running the shows below are doing (most) everything right at a time when comedy options have never been more wide open … or so overwhelming.
10. The Josh and Josh Show, Bar Lubitsch
Joshes Haness and Weinstein's Thursday get-together is one of the more reliably relaxed offerings on the scene. Doors to the retro-red, speakeasy-vibed back room open at 8, the free show kicks off around 8:30 and includes an informal meet-and-greet and no-pressure singles mixer afterwards…as well as the odd Jon Hamm sighting. Little surprise, then, that Conan writer Andrés du Bouchet chose the same locale to record his 2001 debut, Naked Trampoline Hamlet; rumor has it Brody Stevens may be doing the same in the near future. 7702 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd., (323) 654-1234, www.twitter.com/joshandjoshshow.
9. Tomorrow! With Ron Lynch, Steve Allen Theater
Saturdays, midnight, $8 and titular madman Ron Lynch just might be the only constant variables of this eclectic variety free-for-all whose recent themes have ranged from the circus, acts consisting of duos, sets completed in five minutes or less and “Men Talk About Menstuff.” In other words, the hook is that there is no hook … or every hook in the book, depending on perspective. The Willy Wonka-esque atmosphere is simultaneously bewildering and brilliant, and, as the name implies, adamantly forward-thinking. 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 666-4268, www.facebook.com/tomorrowshow.
8. This Is Not Happening, Hollywood Improv
The Moth has long been a juggernaut frontrunner of the storytelling form, but smaller, scrappier, comedy-minded versions recently seem to be multiplying like proverbial rabbits, and TINH is one of the best of this new breed. Hosted by Ari Shaffir, produced by Eric Abrams and always revolving around a specific theme, the show is a mostly monthly (“the third Tuesday of the month or something … usually Tuesdays, sometimes Wednesdays,” offers Abrams) chance for performers to flex their narrative muscles in ways traditional stand-up doesn't always favor. As an added bonus, one of artist Kevin Christy's posters is autographed by the comics and given away at each show. 8162 Melrose Ave., W. Hlywd., (323) 456-0720, www.hollywood.improv.com.
7. Holy Fuck, Downtown Independent
As downtown continues to transform for the better, so too do its entertainment offerings, and Dave Ross, Jeff Wattenhofer and Jessica Ruiz's free weekly (9 p.m. Tuesdays) is easily one of the top efforts not only between the 10, the 110 and the 101, but basinwide. In addition to stand-up, quality video sketches are a major draw (the key word there being quality), as are the cheap drink specials and ain't-it-cool ambiance of seeing a live comedy show inside the smartsy-futuristic architecture that is the Downtown Independent movie theater. 251 S. Main St., L.A., (213) 617-1033, www.holyfuckcomedy.com.
6. What's Up, Tiger Lily?, Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill
This October will mark the impressive sixth anniversary of the weekly stalwart booked by Jazz Ponce and founded and produced by comics Maria Bamford and Melinda Hill. Though the free 8 p.m. show can occasionally run a bit too long, it boasts an ample ocean of parking, large and boisterous crowds and an ad-hoc green room/kitchenful of top L.A. talent, visiting New York stars and surprise drop-ins. Comedywise, there's no better place to be on Monday nights. 6122 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 466-9917, www.whatsuptigerlily.tumblr.com.
5. The Paul F. Tompkins Show, Largo at the Coronet
Though his H.G. Wells-“starring” Dead Authors Podcast — taped live at 826LA's Echo Park Time Travel Mart — comes in a close (and brilliantly bizarre) second, it's retro-fetishist Tompkins' variety spectacular at the venerable Largo that draws huge comedy and music names most third Saturdays of the month. The $25 ticket may at first seem a bit steep, but when precisely zero other offerings showcase the likes of Andy Richter, Ed Helms, Fiona Apple, Jack Black, Fred Armisen, Neil Patrick Harris, Ted Leo, Maya Rudolph and Death Cab for Cutie singer Ben Gibbard on such a semi-regular basis, the experience is actually priceless. 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., W. Hlywd., (310) 855-0350, www.paulftompkins.com.
4. The Super Serious Show, Cafe-Club Fais Do-Do
Though a comparative newbie at 2 years old, Super Serious is a prime example of what can happen when high production values and a little cash propel a live-comedy undertaking. The result is an artfully lit warehouse throwing a stand-up, sketch, music and video party every third Thursday of the month, complete with DJ, food truck, free beer from Eagle Rock Brewery and wine from Cube Café. Outside the local scene, editions recently popped up at this year's SXSW, Bridgetown, the debut Moontower Comedy Festival … and a month's worth of shows are heading to this August's Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 8 p.m., $13. 5257 W. Adams Blvd., L.A., (323) 931-4636, www.superseriousshow.com.
3. The Set List, multiple venues
Taglined “Comedy Without a Net,” the innovative brainchild of Troy Conrad and Paul Provenza flips the typical stand-up script by providing its performer-victims, mere moments before they take the stage, with a random, cheeky list of topics they must riff on. Said topics are projected on the wall for all to see, while double entendres and audience suggestions heighten the stakes further. The Set List has already made the rounds at every major Stateside and international festival in the world (and then some) and soon will begin filming episodes for the U.K.'s Sky Atlantic HD channel; in addition to weekly early shows at Rafa's (Wednesdays) and Flappers Comedy Club (Fridays), it also pops up from time to time at the likes of UCB and Nerdist Theater. Multiple venues, www.setlistshow.com.
2. Comedy Bang! Bang!, UCB
Bear with us: Scott Aukerman's Comedy Death Ray evolved into the Earwolf podcast Comedy Bang! Bang!, the $5 live show of which occurs Tuesdays at 8:30 and spawned a televised version co-starring Reggie Watts (and bearing such dryly descriptive episode titles as “Amy Poehler Wears a Black Jacket & Gray Pants” and “Michael Cera Wears a Blue Denim Shirt & Red Pants”) that debuted June 8 on IFC. In other words, an alt-comedy mainstay rightly gone mainstream. 5919 Franklin Ave., Hlywd., (323) 908-8702, www.comedybangbang.com.
1. The Meltdown, Nerdist Theater at Meltdown Comics
Hosted by Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani and co-produced by Nerdist Theater program director Emily V. Gordon, this flagship weekly isn't merely a consistently stellar show but also something akin to a family gathering for those in the comedy know. Highlights include a snack bar, genuinely inquisitive audience interaction and the best up-and-comers alternating between huge names both scheduled and surprise. Which is all another way of saying that hanging out in the scruffy back room of a comic-book shop has never been so justifiably cool. Wednesdays at 8:30, $8. 7522 Sunset Blvd., Hlywd., (323) 851-7223, www.nerdmeltla.com.