From stage bulbs at the Laugh Factory to clip lamps on ceiling beams in dim Silver Lake bars, Los Angeles is always shining lights on comedians. Although once considered to be a stepchild of the New York scene, Los Angeles’ comedy community is now a world-class incubator, churning out tomorrow’s marquee talent. With so many performers (whether stand-up, improv, podcast or YouTube stars) and countless and constantly shifting venues, how does a fan locate the best up-and-coming talent? Start here, with our annual list of breaking talent. Wherever these 10 comics go in 2018, the light will follow them.
See our picks perform live during A Night with Time Out L.A.’s Must-See Comedians of 2018.
Photographs by Jakob N. Layman.
L.A. comedians hitting it big this year
Booster is the sort of comic who gives the impression he was destined for the stage. Here from Chicago, by way of New York, he is winning over the indie scene with a skeptical point of view, tight jokes and a quiet charisma.
Funniest thing about L.A., according to Booster:
“The La Brea Tar Pits. Clean it up!!!”
See Booster in Asian AF on Jan 19 at UCB Sunset at 9pm.
Clark’s unassuming, cool-as-a-cucumber stage presence belies a fearless and biting wit. There’s nothing thirsty or desperate about her. Warning: Her thoughtful and strong opinions may soon become your own.
Funniest thing about L.A., according to Clark:
“How parents let their kids wear Halloween costumes year-round. I’ve seen little Batmans and princesses in the middle of July. Must be nice to wake up on a random Wednesday, declare you want to dress up like a princess and have your mom make it happen. My mom wouldn’t even let me wear Wonder Woman underoos.”
Clark opens for Jimmy Shubert at Flappers, in Burbank, during all of his shows on Jan 19 and 20.
Although Cooperman writes traditional jokes for TV shows, her own comedy is closer to avant garde. She moves erratically yet seamlessly between characters and conceits, using the entire stage and occasionally banging a keyboard for effect. Just when you think it doesn’t make sense, you’ll get it.
Funniest thing about L.A., according to Cooperman:
“L.A. is overrun by people who say they keep a beach bag in their trunk...‘just in case.’ I’m gonna snap one day and open your trunk. ‘Oh, look! A stack of Chipotle napkins, two dildos for your sketch show and an unread copy of Save the Cat.’”
See Cooperman at the Super Serious Show at the Virgil on Feb 21 at 8pm.
Photograph shot at MiniBar.
The South L.A. and Inglewood native says he moves easily between urban stand-up rooms and indie shows because he has juggled those two worlds his whole life. His endearing stand-up tackles the experience of being a kid in gang culture who liked comic books and punk rock instead.
Funniest thing about L.A., according to Estrada:
“The Winchell’s Donuts off Florence and Crenshaw in South Central, where I like to write and listen to these old black vets jokingly flirt with the middle-age Latina manager, who loves to shut them down. Winchell’s, serving delicious doughnuts and improving race relations in L.A.”
Estrada performs Jan 21 at 8pm at ChatterBox Comedy.
The word “raw” gets misused in comedy to describe an act that is either ribald or politically incorrect. But Gill’s act feels raw in its refreshing lack of affectation or veneer. In a town where many performers tune their instruments to an industry standard, Gill doesn’t seem to be performing for anyone’s gaze. It is refreshing and rare.
Funniest thing about L.A., according to Gill:
“I never thought I’d fall in love with a city where I so regularly hear the phrase: ‘Don’t be afraid to call yourself a brand!’”
Find Gill’s next performance listed on her site.
Johnson pairs supremely silly conceits with deadpan delivery (his impression of Bob Dylan’s cell phone will stay with you). But he has the depth of perspective and unique experience to back up the high jinx—he is currently shopping around a show about his background as a Christian comedian in the South.
Funniest thing about L.A., according to Johnson:
“The funniest thing about L.A. is how it totally distorts your good taste. In Tennessee, I was quick to hate on crappy movies. Here, I’m like ‘Oh, I heard this guy worked on Geostorm, I better not publicly denigrate Geostorm.’”
See Johnson every Wednesday night at 9pm at Rod Stewart Live at La Cuevita in Highland Park.
Knight brings so much joy and energy to the stage, he might not even need to be funny—but of course he is. He’s also young. At the age of 24 he has already logged countless hours on the road, including opening for Dave Chappelle, which Knight says has aged him prematurely: “I’m wearing Jameson-and-ginger all over my face.”
Funniest thing about L.A., according to Knight:
“You see B list celebs screaming mad outside Auntie Anne’s just like you be doing.”
Follow Knight on Twitter for his latest shows.
If you recognize Zach from his short film “Killer Friends” (which won the overall audience award at Dances with Films), know that he is not the infuriatingly undermining character he plays. Rather, his stand-up mostly makes fun of himself—and of aging gay men in Palm Springs, which may one day be himself.
Funniest thing about L.A., according to Towers:
“Definitely the ratio of doughnut shops to residents. There’s like three doughnut shops for every one Angeleno! I’m not mad about it, I just have no clue who’s eating all these pastries.”
Catch Towers on his podcast Killing Time w/Debra & Zach.
Weldon’s first album, the seven-minute vinyl record Uncomfortable at Best, is aptly titled. This so-called unease is part of the skewed perspective that makes her observations so funny. Look for the Temecula native on the upcoming Heathers reboot and grab her next album, Girlfriend at the Time, coming out later this year.
Funniest thing about L.A., according to Weldon:
“Earlier this year when I went to a local pizza restaurant to watch the Sparks play in the WNBA finals, someone came in and asked to change the channel to the Seahawks game (not even a local team), because he assumed the Sparks/Lynx were on by mistake! People in L.A. talk a big game about feminism but very few of those people seem to know we have a kickass women’s basketball team who were the 2016 champs, and almost the 2017 champs. Everyone in L.A. should go to a game in 2018—tickets are super affordable.”
Weldon performs in Good Heroin at Stories Books and Cafe on Jan 20 at 8pm.
Youssef’s comedy is about much more than his Muslim American experience. But it is his iconoclastic honesty on that topic that landed him a pilot order at Hulu. Meanwhile, his work as a comedic writer competes with a budding acting career (catch him on the upcoming season of Mr. Robot).
Funniest thing about L.A., according to Youssef:
“I watched Entourage in high school, so when I moved to L.A. a small part of me thought I’d randomly see Jeremy Piven everywhere... and I do.”
Youssef performs at the Laugh Factory on Feb 5 at 10pm.
Photograph: Marc Hope