RIOT LA is a comedy nerd's dream come true: more than 50 shows will take over seven Downtown Los Angeles venues (and one parking lot) during the last weekend of January. Unlike some other festivals in the middle of the desert (say, that little one known as Coachella), RIOT comes with the freedom of easily slipping in and out as you please; tickets are available for individual events as well as the entire three-day festival. Though headliners like David Cross, T.J. Miller and Bridget Everett are already sold out, there are still plenty of worthwhile sets, including these 10 must-see shows.
P.S. We're giving away two passes to the fest. If you want 'em, enter here before 12pm on Jan. 25.
RECOMMENDED: See more of our coverage of RIOT LA
10 shows to see at RIOT LA 2016
Natasha Leggero, Janeane Garofalo and Maria Bamford
If you asked us to imagine a show with three of the funniest women in comedy performing stand-up on one of LA's most stunning stages, we think it would look a little something like this. Natasha Leggero, Janeane Garofalo and Maria Bamford wrap up the fest's opening night with this must-see show.
Friday, 10:30pm, The Theatre at Ace Hotel
No, You Shut Up! Live
Paul F. Tompkins and foul-mouthed Muppets? We're sold. Tompkins is taking his all-improv news panel show to the stage with its miscreant Jim Henson Co. puppets in tow; expect to see characters like conservative squirrel Star Schlessinger and actor/model/hot dog Hot Dog.
Saturday, 9pm, F-Comedy Stage (next to the Downtown Independent)
Trump vs. Bernie
Even if you'd rather steer clear of political humor during RIOT LA, you should make an exception for this mock debate. Anthony Atamanuik (Trump) and James Adomian (Bernie) don't simply rest on uncanny—and we really do mean frighteningly spot-on—impressions; they back up their imitations with airtight comedy.
Saturday, 11pm, F-Comedy Stage (next to the Downtown Independent)
How many other shows do you know that come with this warning? "Must have thick skin to attend. This show is fucking insane." Comedian Brian Moses hosts this high energy Comedy Store export that combines the best of a rap battle and a boxing match. Judges include the Sklar Brothers and Joe DeRosa.
Saturday, 11pm, Downtown Independent
Alex Edelman - Millennial
Edelman won over pretty much everyone at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe with his confident delivery, smart jokes and stories of brilliantly pedantic arguments. He debuted "Millennial" there, an hour focused on Edelman's neurotic and terrified generation. But don't expect some sort of Buzzfeed-esque rant; our friends at Time Out London raved about his smartass, borderline psychopathic bits.
Sunday, 3pm, The Smell
With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus
UCB regular Lauren Lapkus hands over the hosting duties for her weekly podcast, With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus, to a special guest each episode. But don’t expect her to appear as herself; instead, she sits down for an interview as one of her uncannily hilarious characters. For RIOT, she's inviting her improv group Wild Horses (Stephanie Allynne, Mary Holland, Erin Whitehead) to the show.
Sunday, 5:30pm, The Smell
The Bullshit Artists
Though the comedians that are part of this all-improv show usually offer airtight stand-up performances, they're also pretty good at bullshitting their way through a memorably hilarious set. Join host Andy Peters for a lineup that includes Kumail Nanjiani, Jerrod Carmichael, Rory Scovel, Anthony Jeselnik and T.J. Miller.
Sunday, 6pm, The Regent Theater
Time Out Los Angeles Presents: I Love NY with Eddie Pepitone
We can never let a mention of New York go by without a friendly hug from LA, so we're presenting this RIOT LA showcase of up-and-coming New York comedians. Self-eviscerating comic Eddie Pepitone hosts a 90-minute show at the Downtown Independent with sets from some of (our BFF) Time Out New York's favorite fresh comedians, including Phil Hanley, Jo Firestone, Kyle Ayers and Ricky Velez. Consider this show a safe place to come clean about that East Coast pizza and bagel craving.
Sunday, 7pm, Downtown Independent
Patton Oswalt Can Always Go Downtown
Oswalt's carefully crafted turns of phrase take aim at the asshats of the world, from the Star Wars prequels to the entire state of Florida. Sure, you can see him at Largo on a monthly basis—if you can grab tickets quickly enough—but with a new Netflix special coming in April and support from Brad Wenzel, Drennon Davis and Karen Kilgariff, how can you turn down this show?
Sunday, 9pm, The Regent Theater
Kurt Braunohler Presents: It’s the End of the World As We Know It
Kurt Braunohler's "Roustabout" was one of the indescribable highlights of the last two years' fests. Somewhere in-between an episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse and a Flaming Lips concert, "Roustabout" somehow made acrobatic dogs and zydeco bands work in a comedy routine. While we're not quite sure what he has planned for this year, we're intrigued by the promise of laughs, gags and "the end of everything we know and love."