I've noticed that the majority of Los Angelenos are pretty ill-informed of the local comedy scene. I’ve been working as a comedian here for a few years, and I can't tell you how many times when I've said to someone, “I'm doing a spot at the Improv tonight,” they’ll reply, “So, you do improv or stand-up?”
Really? You think I get up on stage and pretend to work on an assembly line while people make sound effects? Yikes.
You might need a refresher. There are three major comedy clubs in Hollywood. And here's everything you need to know about them. I'm going to rate them on 1) talent 2) atmosphere, and 3) value.
Laugh Factory (8001 Sunset Blvd.)
Talent: B+. The Laugh Factory features recognizable names on a nightly basis, but don't confuse recognizable with good. Most of the Factory's headlining acts fall into the category of Former Sitcom Guy, Current Sitcom Guy Who's Sitcom Nobody Watches or anyone with syndication who needs to get out of the house -- Tom Arnold, Bob Saget, Tim Allen. You will also likely see Dane Cook here, and I'm not sure if you consider that a negative or positive.
Atmosphere: B. It has that huddled theater feel, like you're about to see a really classy cockfight. When people are jammed together the laughter feeds on itself -- you can never hear the ice machine buzzing here. Unfortunately, this is the most touristy of the clubs. I once heard a woman in the front row interrupt a performer by yelling out “Talk about farts!” Very Mason-Dixon.
Value: C. Their drinks are over-priced and the food is what you'd expect. Unlike the other clubs, it’s pretty hard to get comped tickets.
The Improv (8162 Melrose Ave.)
Talent: B. This club, for the most part, features a great mix of talented performers. Often times you'll also get an awesome unadvertised drop-in along the lines of Chris Rock or Adam Sandler (I've seen both here). But many of the shows are farmed out to outside promoters, people who want to use the club's namesake so their friends can take their picture on stage and the like. These shows often suck.
Value: B. The ticket prices are on average a few dollars less than the other clubs. Also, the club is good about giving out comped or discounted tickets. Comedy Juice, every Wednesday at 10 p.m., has been the best show in town for years. Get on the mailing list and you'll get ticket deals sent to your inbox.
Atmosphere: A. Unlike the Laugh Factory, the Improv has a bar that's separate from the showroom. I personally think it’s as cool as any bar in town -- a great mix of people, good drink prices, and old-school bartenders who will tell you to 'fuck-off' if you give them any attitude. You don't have to see a show to visit the bar.
The Comedy Store (8443 Sunset Blvd.)
Talent: D. Here's a little-known fact -- the Comedy Store sucks. It gets by completely on its name. Many of the performers here are “regulars,” meaning they perform almost exclusively at the Comedy Store, and may lose that privilege if they perform anywhere else. Why would any decent comedian sign up for that? To be fair, quality performers are usually present, but most of the show lineups also feature amateurs or homeless people, who don't know they're on stage.
Value: D. Their ticket prices are standard, but I once paid 12 dollars for two club sodas, and the chicken strips come already dropped on the ground.
Atmosphere: D. The outside patio is all right if you want to grab a beer and watch people walk by on their way to better places, but the large contingency of aspiring comedians, many of them pathetically obvious archetypes, such as the Fat Biker Comedian, or the Seventies Hippie Comedian, give the place a desperately creepy feel.