The comedians working L.A.'s improv comedy club circuit are some of the best anywhere—and you can tell Chicago or Toronto we said so. While we may be better known to some for our stand-up comics or even live podcast offerings, the improv academies and theaters here are producing top-tier talent and putting on shows that will have you laughing all night. Whatever your particular taste or style, there is probably an improv team for you, as long as you bring your sense of humor and willingness to go along with the show.
L.A.'s best improv comedy club options
The holy hall of improvisational and character-based sketch comedy operates a popular theater alongside its extensive program of improv classes. Kathy Griffin, Will Ferrell, Phil Hartman and innumerable Saturday Night Live cast members have all shot to stardom from here.
The Pack Theater—which grew out of the Miles Stroth Workshop, focused on advanced training for improv comedians—operates on the belief that comedy must constantly evolve to remain fresh, surprising and relevant. The public shows staged here are free (donations suggested) and follow just one rule: don't be boring.
This tiny theater hosts regular improv shows that continue the comedy experimentation made famous by Chicago legends such as John Belushi and Del Close.
UCB offers three or four shows per night across a variety of disciplines, meaning you might find some stand-up or other off-kilter comedy mixed with the improv and sketch shows. Highlights include the flagship ASSSSCAT improv show ($10 on Saturdays; free on Sundays). There's no bar, but you can BYO from the nearby Gelson's market.
This is still the casual, madcap UCB you know and love, overflow floor seating and all, but the newer Sunset location also provides a proper home base for its training center for improv and sketch students. The calendar is packed with shows, but secure your tickets in advance or you may face a long wait in line.
Developing comedians get a chance to hone their skills in front of a live audience at this intimate, low-key theater run by the Comedy Central TV network. The result is intelligent comedy of all varieties, including several resident sketch and improv teams. Shows are free, but booking ahead is encouraged.
The L.A. outpost of the Chicago-based comedy set-up (formerly ImprovOlympic) offers between three and five shows a night, many featuring the house improv speciality known as 'The Harold.' Bonus: the cover charges and drink prices are the consistently among the cheapest on Hollywood Boulevard. Look out for the annual improv festival in June.
This small and well-kept Hollywood theater hosts Saturday Night Live-quality nights, and you can take that analogy however you please. Sketch comedy is the Acme's speciality but improv is also on offer.
At ComedySportz' eponymous flagship show (Fridays at 8pm and Saturdays at 8pm and 10:30pm), teams of improvisers go head-to-head à la Whose Line is it Anyway?, complete with a referee, peanuts and even the national anthem. Other shows take a similar improv bent: in the sporadically staged U-Sical, an entire musical is improvised around a single audience member.
This two-stage space located in a Los Feliz strip mall is a community-run project where the performers work together to operate the theater and classes. Shows are always free, though donations are happily accepted by the improv teams that perform nearly every single day of the year. Aspiring improv squads looking to get out on stage can apply to be added to the rotation.