Based on the stand-up comedy shows that happen in Los Angeles on any given night, it's safe to say we're the center of the comedy universe. The best comedy clubs in L.A. include Sunset Strip venues where you'll catch well-known names, live podcast tapings and cool bars that host comedy nights. Bring your sense of humor and prepare to laugh the night away.
Best comedy clubs in Los Angeles
This intimate 1940s-era theater is now the best place to see A-list comedians and storytellers. When comics like Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro or Patton Oswalt aren't doing stand-up, you might see live podcast tapings by Paul F. Tompkins or Paul Scheer. Some nights, the comics turn the stage over to (or share it with!) singer-songwriter performances. The ticketing system can be confusing for first-timers: Your advance purchase buys you an unassigned seat; if you want to be in the front row, you'll need to check in at the club hours in advance to claim your spot.
The flagship of the Improv chain is one of the most legendary clubs in Los Angeles, maybe the country. It’s not just a club, it's a scene. On any given night you can walk in to see one of your favorite comics sitting at the bar and the main room acts are never a let-down. Comedians such as Dane Cook, Louis C.K. and Steve Byrne have all been known to make appearances. When you go to see a comic perform at the Improv, you know they're bringing their best and delivering the goods. Come early as seats do fill up fast. Next door, at the Lab, catch some of the finest up-and-coming talent in the industry. The shows are an eclectic mix of experimental and independently-produced, often boasting appearances by well known and respected comedians.
This Sunset Strip staple is where Dave Chappelle and Dane Cook once had a competition to see who could perform the longest. It's also where an audience member captured Michael Richards' racist rant on video. In a nutshell, the Laugh Factory is where to go if you want to see comedy celebrities. The round, glowing orange sign has become an iconic image of L.A. comedy. You'll need to spring for VIP tickets to guarantee a seat.
The original UCB offers three or four shows per night across a variety of disciplines: There's stand-up, improv, sketch and off-kilter comedy. Many shows sell out weeks in advance and fans wait in long lines just to get in the door. Highlights include the flagship ASSSSCAT improv show ($10 on Saturdays but free on Sundays), Death By Roo Roo, Diamond Lion and Harold Night. As well as the consistently star-studded Comedy Bang Bang (Tuesdays, 8:30pm), where you might find Sarah Silverman, Aziz Ansari and Patton Oswalt on the same bill. There's no bar, but you can BYO from the nearby Gelson's market.
The original space, henceforth UCB Franklin, isn’t going anywhere, but this new venue’s 85-seat theater will host a number of new and familiar shows (including Sunday’s free ASSSSCAT performances). This is still the casual, madcap UCB you know and love, overflow floor seating and all, but the new Sunset venue finally provides a proper home base for its training center, with 14 classrooms dedicated to sketch students. You’ll even find a cafe, the Inner Sanctum, that doubles as a pop-up performance space—think of it as a college dorm common room. That’s all good news for the hundreds of Harold Team hopefuls that sign up for the school’s coveted classes.
The biggest names in stand-up come to this hallowed yet funky beach club miles from the Sunset Strip. Jay Leno performs here regularly, and Jerry Seinfeld often shows up when he's in town. So basically, you get an A-list lineup without having to deal with Hollywood's chaotic scene. Up-and-coming comics sometimes play the smaller-scale Live at the Lounge series. There is a two drink minimum and dinner on offer as well.
The long lines outside this bar aren't just for the farm-to-bar cocktails slung in this vintage-style drinks den. Those crowds are often waiting to get into comedy nights like the weekly "Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen" hosted by Kurt Braunohler & Kristen Schaal (who bring plenty of their funny friends out each Monday) or the "Mixtape" series, offering stand-up, sketch and music all in one night.
The site that once held the notorious club Ciro morphed into the Comedy Store in 1972. It's a must-visit just for the history alone. Three separate stages host a monstrous array of stand-ups more or less every night of the week (Check the website for precise times.). It's in the heart the Sunset Strip and the pad from which many comedians have launched their careers. The rooms are haunted by the ghosts of Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman. Marc Maron was the door man there.
Watching comedy at the Ha Ha Cafe Club in North Hollywood is like sitting back and relaxing in your own living room. It's one of the most comfortable rooms in town. Stop by to see fresh faces trying out new material. There’s a no-pressure vibe and, while they do drop by on the odd occasion, don’t expect to see any celebrities here.
This Pasadena establishment has been a mainstay in the comedy scene since 1960. Surreptitiously located near a dumpster in an alley off of a one-way street, the spot has welcomed everyone from George Carlin to George Lopez over the years. The club's $7 for seven comics showcase every Thursday night may just be one of the best deals in L.A. A two-drink minimum is enforced, plus dinner is now on offer; if you eat before the show you'll get saved preferred seats in the intimate theater. The Ice House has two showrooms and even serves the community it its own way by hosting a comedy traffic school to make you laugh while working off a ticket; the fee includes a pair of tickets to an upcoming show at the House as well.
You can stop in at about any time of night, any day of the week and see comics at all levels at this Burbank club. From established names (Jeff Garlin and Andy Dick have recurring gigs here) to comedians just breaking into the game. Parking is simple and free in a complex right next door. There are typically multiple shows going on in the different rooms and the waitstaff is friendly and efficient as they bring drinks and a full food menu. Flappers is spacious, and the 1920s ambience brings its own special vibe conducive to watching comedy.
Looking for improv and sketch comedy?
Tomorrow's stars are currently the small stage's royalty—many of today's most famous TV and film faces cut their teeth in improv theaters. All you have to do to see them is reserve a seat and give them a suggestion.