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L.A. comedians to watch in 2020

These 10 up-and-coming L.A. comedians will make you cry with laughter

Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography
By Jane Borden |
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Los Angeles’s stand-up scene once had a reputation as slick and industry-friendly. But now the scene is large and diverse enough to comprise every style of solo comedic performer imaginable. We’ve tried to capture as much of that spectrum as possible in this year’s list of the up-and-coming stand-ups making a splash here.

In Sunset Strip clubs or private garages, delivering jokes or performance art, and whether having 500 or 50K Instagram followers, these ten comics make us laugh—very hard. At our annual live show on March 12, they’ll make you laugh, too.

Photographs by Mandee Johnson Photography | @mandeephoto

L.A. comedians hitting it big this year

Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography

Julia Austin

Whether talking about her family’s dysfunction, her relationship drama or the general trauma of human life, Austin gets audiences to laugh at hardship while also making them feel like everything will be okay. “Whenever I see a guy starting a bar fight,” she jokes, “I’m like, ‘Just publish your short stories already!’” The Santa Barbara native is also unabashedly girly. She spends her free time making silly videos from inside the fitting room in a Ross Dress for Less, including one in which she advises “What to Wear for the Global Warming Apocalypse.”

The funniest thing about L.A.:
“If everyone here is a personal trainer, who are they training?”

M.i.’s Westside Comedy Theater is Austin’s home base—she was a finalist in its Comedy Showdown competition last year—and you can also see her cohosting both Pointless Comedy (at the Clubhouse on second and fourth Sundays at 8pm) and Mixtape (second Friday of every month at the Virgil). Follow her on her website and on Instagram at @caninesandcoupons.

Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography

Chris Bryant

“I’m a stereotypical gay millennial,” Bryant says, opening a recent set. “I just had a conversation with a friend about ‘getting tested.’ They thought I was talking about STDs. I was talking about the autism spectrum. Did we have this misunderstanding because I don’t understand basic social cues, or because I am an enormous whore?” Since starting stand-up six years ago, Bryant has mined his childhood as a gay kid growing up (and being bullied in) the Bible Belt. After receiving an autism-spectrum diagnosis last year, he now jokes candidly about that, too. His humor is deliciously dark, but also winningly earnest. Leaning heavily on storytelling, he mostly performs in theaters and alternative rooms. You’ll also see him as a judge on Netflix’s Cooking on High, and on panels at various comic cons as part of his work for L.A. Gaymers, a nonprofit dedicated to developing diversity in gaming.

The funniest thing about L.A.:  “I saw a six-year old send back sushi that was made wrong.”

See Bryant at Fat Cat Comedy, at the Virgil on the third Tuesday of every month. Follow him on Twitter at @TenderChris and Instagram at @TenderChris.

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Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography

Emily Catalano

Confident, deadpan and not in a hurry, Catalano builds one dry line on top of another, pulling in more and more of the audience as she goes, until each joke crescendos. She talks about marriage, sex, sports and sometimes sex as sports. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes when it comes to men,” begins one bit. “For about two years, I was in a relationship with a married man. I was married to him.” After cutting her teeth in the Bay Area, Catalano moved to L.A. She performs frequently at Largo and in indie shows, and made her late night debut on Conan in November.

The funniest thing about L.A.: “Stopping at red lights is optional.”

Catch Catalano in Witch Hunt (at the Virgil on Jan 31 at 8pm) and at Venice Underground (at the Townhouse on Feb 5 at 9pm). Follow her on her website, on Twitter at @emilycatalano and Instagram at @catalano_emily.

Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography

Paul Danke

The L.A.-born, Washington State-raised comic developed in a DIY, under-the-radar scene. For 15 years, he’s cohosted an underground stand-up show in private homes; and he’s a regular at a roving, outdoor show set at various stops around Echo Park Lake (see below for both). His silly, improvisational style deftly spins distractions into had-to-be-there moments: At a recent set by the lake, when a jogger coasted between him and the audience, Danke remarked that the runner’s confident stride suggested he had no anxiety about climate change.

The funniest thing about L.A.: “The coolest people from all over the world move to Los Angeles. Sometimes you feel like you don't measure up. But every once in a while you get to see one of these people out while their very normal parents are visiting and you can tell they’re kinda embarrassed. That’s my favorite show.”

See Danke at Comedy Garage in Echo Park every second and fourth Friday and often at Comedy Crawl (most Wednesdays at 8:30pm, meet by the swan boat rentals at Echo Park Lake, check @howardkremer). Follow him on his website, on Twitter at @pauldanke and Instagram at @pauldanke.

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Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography

Christina Catherine Martinez

Conceptually highbrow and physically slapstick, Martinez’s work is a heady combination. Sometimes it’s peppered with song, dance and characters. Sometimes it’s a scripted, faux-dramatic scene study. Always, it’s a window into an enlightened id. While pulling an apron over her head, she introduces a bit titled, “How to bake a cake in the digital age.” The following stream of consciousness does not make good on the title’s promise, but it does discuss “that middle class cosplay known as brunch,” and referentially joke, “You know that thing, when you’re still reeling from the broken promises of the industrial age?” The L.A. native was a gallery director before discovering comedy, and she still works as an art critic. Her inventive, experimental voice scored her a spot in the writers’ room on the Eric Andre Show and in the ensemble behind FX’s short-film series, Cake.

The funniest thing about L.A.: “Nothing is sacred. I went to a party at Hollywood Forever Cemetery where people were dancing on gravestones while sipping corporate-sponsored cocktails laced with B12. I hope my death will one day be the (literal) foundation for such resonant abandon.”

See Martinez in Talent at UCB Franklin on Jan 21 at 11pm, in Weirdo Night at Zebulon on Feb 2 at 7pm, and in Hot Tub’s 15 Year Anniversary Show at the Virgil on Feb 24 at 8pm. Follow her on her website, on Twitter at @xtina_catherine and Instagram at @xtina_catherine.

Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography

Sean Grant

Eschewing politics and pop culture, Grant mines his background and life for jokes that he delivers with high energy and palpable joy. “I used to get bullied as a kid,” he begins. “Not because I let the big kids cheat off my paper. I’d get beat up because I let them cheat and the shit would all be wrong.” After cutting his teeth in the Miami comedy scene, Grant moved to Los Angeles and has been honing his act at the HaHa Comedy Club, M.i.’s Westside Comedy Theater and as part of the up-and-coming contingent at the Comedy Store. His first album, Sean Grant: First of His Name, came out in 2018. And you can watch bits of his act get translated into film on both seasons of Laff Mob’s Laff Tracks on truTV.

The funniest thing about L.A.: “When you first get here, you make fun of how fake and flakey everyone is because you haven’t learned to be good at it yet.”

Catch Grant in Characters: A Review at the Second City on Jan 30, in Comedy Joint at HaHa on Feb 2 at 8:30pm, and at M.i.’s Westside on Feb 3 at 8pm. Follow him on his website and on Instagram at @mrseangrant.

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Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography

Anna Seregina

When you see Seregina perform live, you don’t forget it. Relying heavily on the repetition of phrases and movements, her act is as much a symphony of sound and motion as it is quote-unquote material. She introduces a premise—for example, that she has lost her voice and will be miming her set tonight while friend and fellow comedian Kyle Mizono translates for her—and then improvises her way through the concept’s major beats, allowing the audience to conduct as much of it as she does. Born in Russia, Seregina emigrated at age 12. She’s been doing stand-up for the last nine years; the more she develops, the sillier and less traditional her act becomes.

The funniest thing about L.A.: “The quiet agony of the Janis Joplin guitar sculpture at the Sunset Strip location of Chase bank.”

Catch Seregina cohosting (with Kyle Mizono) Goopy, a new monthly show launching Feb 13 at Lyric Hyperion, second Thursdays at 9pm. Follow her on Twitter at @touchingcheeses and Instagram at @CashMoneyGrandpa.

Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography

Sahana Srinivasan

A former child actor (and recent host of Netflix’s science show Brainchild), Srinivasan has only been doing stand-up for a couple of years. You wouldn’t know it. With deft misdirects, the Texas native puts dark and absurd spins on standard stand-up topics, such as sex and dating. “Sex is like an M. Night Shyamalan movie,” she opens. “You think it’s going to be good. But then, it turns out, the whole time he was dead.” At other times, her one-liners are pure silliness: “I accidentally typed in my name as my bank account password, and it said, ‘Strong.’”

The funniest thing about L.A.: “L.A. is the only place I can text my roommate, ‘Hey if you hear me yelling I’m just practicing for an audition lol’ (There was no audition.)”

See Srinivasan in Funnilingus at Junior High in Hollywood on Jan 31. Follow her on her website and on Instagram at @sahanayomomma.

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Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography

Finn Straley

With jokes that are equal parts observational and confessional, Straley has climbed his way up the Eastside indie scene’s ladder. If you find his act charming and likable, you won’t be surprised to hear that he got his start as a child, writing and performing comedy sketches with his novelist father for the local public radio station in Sitka, Alaska, where he grew up. With casual delivery and self deprecation, his sets flow naturally, belying the wit and craft behind their creation. Sometimes the jokes are so natural, they aren’t even punchlines: “In Alaska, I am a ten. The fact that people laugh at that never stops hurting my feelings. Not a joke. Just information.”

The funniest thing about L.A.: “The number of people who move here just to complain about it.”

See Straley in the Super Serious Show at the Virgil on Feb 19. Follow him on his website, on Twitter at @FinnStraley and Instagram at @FinnStraley.

Photograph: Mandee Johnson Photography

Chinedu Unaka

Rather than being either autobiographical or absurd, Unaka’s comedy is both. In a slow, relaxed style, the L.A. native pulls you into stories from his life. Every time you think the joke is over, he delivers another punchline with another twist. (In one bit, he recalls that rather than pay for tickets, his dad told a young Unaka he had to be 18 to visit the zoo. By the end of the joke, Unaka is finally 18 and convincing his friends to hit the zoo instead of a strip club.) He’s honed his expert timing in the city’s club scene and on the road, touring with Damon Wayans, Jr., and Yvonne Orji, and in 2018 with the USO. His first comedy album, Mostly Kidding is out February 14.

The funniest thing about L.A.: “The price we pay for rent. I have a friend paying $800 a month to live in a sand castle. And his place is nowhere near the beach.”

See Unaka on Coming to the Stage on Hulu and at Comedy Kickback every second Sunday at Hollywood Improv Lab, and check the Laugh Factory for dates every month. Follow him on his website, on Twitter at @chineducomedy and Instagram at @chineduunaka.

See our picks from previous years

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