Author: Sarah Flocken
Times are tough economically. Need distraction? Laughter is always the best medicine – but ’round these parts, it isn’t always cheap. Getting off-campus to go see an improv, sketch, or stand-up comedy show is an excellent way to break up the party scene monotony on weekends, but usually seems to cost far more than expected after tickets, gas, parking, drinks, taco truck or In-N-Out post-show. So, what’s a student to do? I mean, one can only watch so many episodes of South Park online . . .
Never fear. The answer is here. After much exhaustive research, which included attendance at improv and sketch shows by three major comedy troupes in Los Angeles, I now present the best improv and sketch in L.A. for the best price, based on driving distance, ticket price, variety of shows, parking costs, and of course sheer funniness. Enjoy, and utilize to your heart’s content.
The Groundlings 7307 Melrose AveLos Angeles, CA 90046(10.53 miles from campus.)
This is the place to go to see sketch comedy where Saturday Night Live stars are born, bred, and eventually pictured on the “Alumni” page of the Groundlings Web site.
THE SHOW REVIEWED: I reviewed a preview performance of their new sketch show, “Special Lady Friend.” The show, overall, was very decent sketch. The performers were well-rehearsed, and rarely laughed at themselves onstage (aka “Jimmy Fallon Syndrome”), which makes it all the more convincing and funny. The sketches varied in topic; some were brilliant, while some fell a bit flat.
THE PRACTICAL STUFF: The main issue here is price. Since the show is out of previews, tickets to “Special Lady Friend” are $21.50. The show was good, but not necessarily exciting enough to shell out over $20 per ticket. Also, beware of parking on that part of Melrose – commercial parking is extremely limited, and you may be forced to pay $6 to park in the nearest public lot. However, the theater is conveniently located on a rather cool part of Melrose near lots of thrift shops and oddities to ogle post-show. Also, the theater itself boasts very nice bathrooms – a surprisingly high priority for this writer.
VERDICT: Good if you’re in the mood for some sketch consistently funnier than SNL, at the theater where many of those now-famous comedians started, and if you’re willing to spend a bit more money.
Upright Citizens’ Brigade5919 Franklin AveHollywood, CA 90028(8.11 miles from campus)
Long rumored by some to be the “new” Groundlings, the Upright Citizens Brigade theater features a more improv-rich variety of shows, for better prices.
THE SHOW REVIEWED: “Soundtrack,” wherein the improvisers perform improvised scenes based off of musical selections from audience members’ iPods. The premise is fantastic – they could have done more with it, though. For a show with no limits on content or language, the performers seemed to be playing it a bit too safe, and many potential laugh-out-loud moments were missed. However, after the show, we were invited to stay for another show, “Married,” for absolutely free!
UCB boasts the only free shows of the three companies featured in this article. “Not Too Shabby,” playing selected Friday or Saturday nights at UCB, is a collection of sketch, improv and some stand-up being developed by UCB students and company members.
The material, of course, is hit or miss, since most of it is work in progress, but it is a free show. When asked to compare “Not Too Shabby” to “Soundtrack,” Hank Abbot (junior) replied, “I liked the midnight show [Not Too Shabby] a little more, because it’s free, and nobody comes in expecting as much.” The free stuff doesn’t stop there, either. Check the schedule online to see what is playing – there is a huge variety of shows playing seven nights a week, the most expensive costing $10 a ticket.
THE PRACTICAL STUFF: Parking is free in the residential neighborhoods directly off of Franklin, but it’s a bit of a hike. UCB is located directly across the street from the Scientology Celebrity Center, so bring your telescopes and binoculars, then tell me what you saw going on inside (I’ve always been curious). UCB theater is also conveniently located next door to a few bars, if your budget allows for drinks. The theater is smaller than the Groundlings’, but cozy. Be prepared to wait in line out in front to get in, so bring a jacket.
VERDICT: A lot more variety for a better price, seven nights a week, but be prepared for anything, quality-wise.
ComedySportz LAThe National Comedy Theater733 Seward StHollywood, CA 90038(9.67 miles from campus)
This is not comedy about sports. Their most enduring and popular show is a ridiculously cool, head to head, sports-game style improv comedy “match.” Hence, “ComedySportz.” Their repertoire is definitely not limited to this format, though. I attempted to be as neutral as possible in writing this portion of the review, because I am a proud alum of the ComedySportzLA high school league (look it up). I was team captain. I still have my jersey. I went to the improv camp. So, I’m biased. Good journalism be damned.
THE SHOWS REVIEWED: The ComedySportz company consists of the main company, the Sunday team and the college team. For this article, I reviewed a Thursday night college team show, and “The High,” which is performed by a mixture of main company and college team members.
The College Team show, as with all other ComedySportz shows, is very audience-driven. The series of short-form games was, as with all other improv shows I reviewed, hit or miss. There cannot be enough said for creative audience members who come up with good suggestions. The College Team show is an excellent way to see people our own age doing short-form comedy improv, a lot like our own Fantastiprov.
The College Team even shares one of its players with Fantastiprov: Eric Zipper (junior) has been a member since 2006. When asked why the College Team show is the best improv in L.A. for the best price, Zipper states, “It’s because we provide a really personal experience for the audience, and make them feel involved and part of the show.”
If you want to go off-campus to support and laugh at a fellow Oxy student, hit up the College team’s show.
Are you a fan of teen dramas, like Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, or The O.C.? Want to see them parodied completely on the spot and based off of your suggestions? If that’s the case, I highly recommend “The High,” featuring a cast of well-formed, stereotypical teen soap characters who perform an episode improvised entirely off of audience members’ suggestions, including improvised flashes of what happened on previous “episodes” leading up to the current one. It’s every bit as addictive as the shows it lampoons.
The show’s creator, Andi Goldblatt, states, “We really love teen soaps, and this show is performed by good improvisers that love them too.” “It’s the sexiest show in L.A.,” says another cast member. And, since it runs in “seasons,” “The High” is not going to be around forever. See it while you can.
THE PRACTICAL STUFF: The National Comedy Theater is tucked away on a side street off of Melrose, but parking is much easier in comparison to the Groundlings and UCB – and it’s free. It boasts a back patio, complete with concessions, lots of souvenir t-shirts, café- style tables and even foosball. The theater is small, cozy, and the bathrooms passed the Sarah Flocken test of cleanliness.
VERDICT: Mid-priced, good variety of shows. Easy parking, and very friendly cast members. Highly recommend “The High.” Go see some improv that holds a place very near and dear to two of your fellow Oxy students’ hearts.
There you have it. Go explore, laugh, and have enough money left over afterwards for taco truck. Because that’s what’s really important, isn’t it?
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