Opened in 1971, The Comedy Store has owned the corner of Sunset and Olive on the Strip ever since. Owner Mitzi Shore (the mother of comedian Pauly Shore) made it a force to be reckoned with, back in the day when very few women were involved in comedy. Everyone from David Letterman, Jay Leno, Robin Williams and Richard Pryor performed at the club back then; these days, children run the Store and book cutting-edge performers including Louis C.K., Whitney Cummings, Russell Peters and more. Mitzi's story is so interesting that Tom Hanks is making a movie about her life, with a special emphasis on her groundbreaking encouragement of female comedians in the club's Belly Room, designated for women performers only. She died in 2018, but Pauly and company still keep the laughs going, "nightly 365 days a year."
In 1975, impresario Budd Friedman brought his hugely successful New York City club with the signature brick wall to the West, opening a branch on Melrose Avenue. That's the same spot where you will find it today. And if those walls could talk, what stories they would tell. Famed comedy director Judd Apatow managed the door, actress Debra Winger was a waitress and CBS-TV head honcho Les Moonves made cocktails at the bar. On stage, everyone from Robin Williams and Andy Kaufman to Sarah Silverman, David Spade and Dane Cook hit the stage. Today, there are 21 outposts of The Improv, all over the U.S. But it is the L.A. Improv that is the place that draws the best of the best; you cannot help but laugh when you visit this famed place for funny.
Flappers Comedy Club is right in the heart of the comedy beast, located in Burbank near NBC Studios and many of the biggest movie studios in the world. Which explains why stars like Dana Carvey and Adam Carolla can be found working the mic in this popular club. Try the "Dinner and a Show" deal, which includes appetizer, main course, dessert and performance ticket (alcoholic drinks are extra) and make a night of it. Flappers even offers shows just for the younger set; the "Two Milk Minimum" on Saturday afternoon is designed just for kids 13 and younger. At night shows, the club suggests that everyone be 18 or older, as you never know what the performers might say.
The Second City Hollywood is the West Coast outpost of that famed Chicago comedy club and school. Begun in the 1950s, The Second City boasts some of the world's most famous funny people as alumni, including everyone from Alan Arkin and Joan Rivers to John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short Bill Murray and many more. Fifty years later, the comedy keeps on going here, with improv and variety shows happening regularly. Aspiring comedians can find all sorts of classes designed to help hone their skills, too. Even kids with the burning desire to be comics get the chance every summer, with The Second City's Kids Comedy Camps that specialize in improv and writing. And you never know who might turn up at one of The Second City shows, as those famous alumni are definitely known to stop in for a visit.
The Upright Citizens Brigade is made up of comedians Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh. It all started with those "UCB4," who produced their own sketch show, the "Upright Citizens Brigade," for three seasons on Comedy Central from 1998-2000. From that has flowered four theaters, two in Los Angeles and two in New York, where a wide range of comedy shows are presented â" from improv to stand up, sketch to talk/variety and more. You never know what you're going to get, but one thing is certain: it is all comedy all the time at the UCB Theatre.
The Acme Comedy Theatre in North Hollywood is not just a hotbed of improv and sketch comedy shows, it is also a longstanding school for comedians. Since 1989, Acme has been making Angelenos crack up, while grooming talents like Joel McHale, Adam Carolla and Wil Wheaton for bigger stages in the worlds of film, television and even radio. This comedy institution is in NoHo near both Universal and Warner Bros. studios, where the crack troupes putting on shows are dedicated to making you laugh until you cry. Don't be surprised to see some famous faces in the audience, cracking up along with everyone else; Acme performances are generally on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and range from improv to sketch to stand up to variety shows.
One of the most famous comedy clubs in SoCal, The Laugh Factory has launched some seriously funny people into the stratosphere since 1979. Think Tim Allen, Chris Rock, Roseanne Barr, Ray Romano, Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans and just about every other famous comedian you can think of. It's the place where anything can happen â" Michael Richards (Kramer of "Seinfeld" fame) went into a racist rant on stage in 2006 that was captured on video here and imploded his career, for example. The club has been so successful that founder Jamie Masada now has six other branches, from Long Beach to Las Vegas and beyond.
What could be better than a trip to the beach AND a comedy club? That's part of what makes the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach such a great venue. Other elements that make visiting it a great night out are the excellent layout of the seating, the good, reasonably priced food (which, when you order something, is included as part of your "two-item" minimum during a show) and the fact that Jay Leno uses this place as his personal practice ground. He performs all the time here (and even more since he retired from "The Tonight Show"), so if you're a fan, make sure to make a reservation for the nights he is on the calendar. Leno is still a big draw, but the club also specializes in showcasing up-and-coming comedy talent.
The Groundlings Theatre has been serving up improvisational comedy since 1974, keeping audiences in stitches every night as well as launching the careers of top film and television comedians including Melissa McCarthy, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Jennifer Coolidge, Will Forte and Kathy Griffin. Head in on Wednesday nights for "The Crazy Uncle Joe Show," one of LA's longest-running improv shows, as seven comedians take random suggestions from the audience and spin them into hilarious skits. There's plenty of other show choices all week long and The Groundlings even do a comedy session aimed directly at children â" designed for kids starting at age three and going to about ten. And if you want to learn to be an improv comedian, enroll in The Groundlings School and you'll soon be on your way.