Open Mic Nights in L.A.: Be the Next Big Hollywood Star!

Los Angeles is the place that stars are made – just talk a walk through Hollywood and look at the sidewalk, where over 5,000 actual commemorative stars are embedded, memorializing those who gained fame and fortune here. The talent in this town is overflowing, which is why Open Mic Nights are so popular here. Many places – like the famed Pig 'N Whistle in the heart of Hollywood, the Gardenia Supper Club in West Hollywood, the Tuesday Night Cafe in DTLA and the Kibitz Room at Canter's Deli -- have been hosting wannabe stars for decades, on specific nights of the week specifically devoted to open mic. Other popular spots, like our Number One pick, the Tribal Cafe, actually offer a chance for walk-in patrons to perform seven days of the week. Some places require a two-drink minimum and assess a cover charge at the door, while others offer free entry (in the hopes that patrons will spend a bit on drinks and eats during the shows). Performers are advised to check the details of each place, as some Open Mic Nights are so popular that signing up for a spot in the night's lineup requires advance reservations. But many operate on a first-come, first-served basis, which means when you are ready for your close up, you're well advised to be the first through the door on Open Mic Night here in the city where performing dreams often really do come true.


Tuesday Night Cafe
Photo courtesy of Dustin Hamano

When it comes to Open Mic Nights in Los Angeles, there's nothing quite like the Tuesday Night Cafe, a part of the larger Tuesday Night Project. Every first and third Tuesday of the month from April to October, enthusiastic crowds gather under the stars at the Aratani Courtyard of the Union Center for the Arts in Little Tokyo (which is a part of downtown Los Angeles). It's a gorgeous place to celebrate the arts at this free event created to showcase new original work from members of the Asian American/Pacific Islander communities. The shows begin at 7:30 p.m. and only offer three 5-minute slots for each show. Performers must arrive before 7 p.m. to be considered for a time slot. There's a curated program of multidisciplinary visual and performing art that follows the Open Mic portion of the show.

Begun in Chicago as ImprovOlympic Theatre in 1981, iO West is an offshoot of that famed comedy troupe (which shortened its name to iO Theatre as the years passed). The western version of the theater opened in 1997 and has been wowing audiences ever since with fast-paced improv shows featuring up-and-coming comedians. It's been a place where many of the world's best comic minds have honed their skills, stars like Mike Myers, Tina Fey, Eric Stonestreet and Amy Poehler. The iO Theater also offers a series of classes for aspiring comics, ranging from helping to hone improv skills to writing sketch comedy bits for television. Their Open Mic Nights are Monday and Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., hosted by Joe Canale. Sign up starts at 6:15 p.m. and every performer gets five minutes at the mic.

Suzy's Bar & Grill Hermosa Beach
Photo courtesy of Suzy's Bar & Grill Hermosa Beach

Suzy's Bar & Grill Hermosa Beach has been keeping South Bay party lovers happy for decades, with its dive-bar vibe, live music stage and reasonably priced comfort food. Go on Tuesdays when it's been Open Mic Night since 1995 and enjoy performances that range from Broadway show tune singers to comedians to who knows what – anyone can get up on stage and do their thing here. That fun starts at 8 p.m.; there is no cover charge, but sign up to perform starts at 7 p.m., so get there ahead of time if you're feeling like belting out a tune or two.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre

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 – 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 group holds one Open Mic Night each month and only accepts 10 performers, via a lottery system. Sign up starts at 6 p.m.

At El Cid, they have been showcasing local talent since 1963; this Silverlake landmark hosts one of the best (and oldest) Open Mic Nights in Los Angeles. Every Monday, there's a variety show atmosphere as the performers range across the board, from comedians to singers to oddball performers. There is a $5 cover charge and the show begins at 8 p.m.; performers begin signing in at 7:30 p.m. Get there early for prime seats, as this is a very popular weekly event. El Cid has a full menu of tapas and specialty cocktails and also features famous flamenco shows that happen every weekend.

The Gardenia Supper Club in West Hollywood loves to hear people sing. The club has had one of the best open mic nights in Los Angeles for the past 15 years. The weekly Tuesday night sessions are hosted by singer Keri Kelsey and go from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., with signups starting at 8 p.m. It's got a total Cabaret vibe right down to the piano, so don't expect to hear hip-hop in this sophisticated space. There's an extensive food menu and cocktails galore; note that in this popular spot, there's a cover and a drink minimum. Many of the other nights feature top Cabaret singers strutting their stuff, so if you actually cannot carry a tune, why not check out the evenings featuring the pros.

Pig 'N Whistle

It's fun to imagine the Hollywood heavyweights who have hung out at the Pig 'N Whistle since it opened in the heart of Tinseltown back in 1927. Back in the day, regular customers included Cary Grant, Shirley Temple and Clark Gable; since undergoing a complete renovation in 1999, this landmark restaurant has welcomed aspiring singers to their open mic every Wednesday and Thursday night. Aspiring stars have always flocked to Hollywood Boulevard in the hopes of a big break, so having a chance to sing where the ghosts of the Golden Years of the film business still remain is a heady lure for any young starlet.

The Improv Space encourages talet of all types to step up to the mic. Located in Westwood just steps from UCLA, the club provides a supportive, fun atmosphere for solo comedians or larger improv groups to throw caution to the wind and let it all hang out. That's called "The Improv Sessions" and is a free show (both for performers and audience) that starts at 9 p.m. on Wednesday nights. If poetry is your forte, sign up for "Wax Poetic" to read your poem in front of a like-minded crowd on every other Saturday night from 9 to 11 p.m. for a $10 fee. Poems are limited to three minutes and this one sells out, so be sure to reserve ahead of time to get a chance at the mic.

Miracle Mile/Fairfax District
Canter's Deli
Photo courtesy of Canter's Deli

Canter's Deli has a special performance space known as the "Kibitz Room"; there, every Sunday night from 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m, singers can belt out a couple of songs in the room where, on other late nights (go there around 2 a.m.) people like Sting and Mick Jagger have been known to step up to that same mic. You'll find cocktails and a convivial atmosphere at this open-all-day-and-night deli; they've been pulling people in at all hours since 1931. The Kibitz Room is only open until 2 a.m., however; but that's been late enough for it to have evolved into a legendary place for jam sessions with world-class musicians.

Echo Park

As Tribal Cafe says, "Our open mics are 'mixed' – open to comics, musicians, bands, spoken words, rap/hiphop, multimedia and other creative forms of self expressions." The Echo Park cafe is a cheerful neighborhood hangout that keeps the mic open seven days a week. There's always a $6 minimum when you're planning to get on the stage; but the menu boasts healthy food options at low prices, like salads, sandwiches and burgers. Or hit the Tribal Greens Bar, for veggie-infused freshly squeezed juices and yummy smoothies await. To get your 15 minutes of fame (or perhaps a bit less time), Tribal Cafe advises "to participate, just come in and sign up and the host will schedule your performance for the day/night. No phone or online sign up. It's super easy. Just come in, sign up and perform!"


Meet Jenny Peters

Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good...  More About Jenny