It's close to midnight on Saturday as an army of comedy fanatics amass in front of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood. They're all eager to see the evening talk show What's Going On? With Mike Mitchell. The program has attracted a huge following and usually sells out quickly.
The premise is simple. Host Mike Mitchell, has no clue what will happen during the show. He knows as much as the audience does, which is pretty much nothing. He doesn't know who the celebrity guests will be or any of the jokes and sketches that have been written for him. What's Going On is an original, one of the more hilarious and well-written productions to come out of L.A.'s comedy scene in recent memory.
Inside the 92-seat theater, the small stage is designed to reflect the set of a talk show, complete with two chairs, a desk with a coffee mug adorned with Mitchell's face and a large image of the downtown L.A. skyline framing the background. Given the program's clever concept, you have to wonder how Mitchell keeps it all together without failing miserably. He does stumble a few times, but pulls it off in a way that somehow endears the audience to him.
"It's the classic underdog story," says co-producer Meghan Falcone. "When people see that he is frustrated, you just want to root for him."
The evening begins with announcer Michael Cassady introducing the intrepid host. Mitchell starts his opening monologue by reading jokes off note cards. He fumbles the setup of a few.
"I'm very nervous," Mitchell tells the audience. "I apologize."
Despite his mea culpa, Mitchell exudes an amiable charisma and a wide grin that makes it hard not to like the guy. The crowd responds to his apology with applause and cheers. The next bit has Mitchell's personal assistant come out with his dry cleaning. Mitchell never knew he had a P.A. Showing a need to please his new boss, the overzealous assistant pulls out a toothbrush and cleans Mitchell's teeth. He later has Mitchell spit out the toothpaste onto his hand, eliciting laughs and groans from the audience. Crew members wearing "Team Mitch" shirts later rush out on stage, throwing a judge's gown and a white wig over him. They're doing a parody of the The People's Court. Two women from the audience come on with one complaining that her friend doesn't show off her breasts enough in public.
"I have my ruling," Mitchell says immediately, amid chuckles. "You have to show the boobs."
Most guys in the audience clap in approval.
Then come the celebrity guests. Simon Helberg of the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory is introduced first to our illustrious host. Helberg seems to be relishing Mitchell's anxiety.
"Are you sweating through your blazer?'" Helberg asks.
Mitchell nervously tries to pivot back to asking questions that reveals he never watches the sitcom.
"So how are things on the set?" Mitchell asks a smirking Helberg.
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Ashley Bell, star of the upcoming horror film The Last Exorcism comes out next. Mitchell is clearly smitten with the attractive actress, revealing that he always has a fascination with the paranormal and thinks Bell is "very pretty" despite being a demon in the movie. The whole interaction reads like an awkward first date.
As the night draws to a close, Mitchell thanks everyone for being part of the show's six month run as dozens of balloons fall from the ceiling.
"I love doing the show," Mitchell tells the Weekly. He expresses gratitude for the hard work that the crew puts into the production every month. As he's talking, a small crowd lines up backstage after the show praising the winsome host. People just seem to love Mike Mitchell.