By Lisa Niver with Michael Paul
In compiling the list of great comedy spots in Los Angeles, I called on my friend Michael Paul Ziegfeld to jump in with his suggestions. A 25-year comedy career, MPZ has toured for countless stars, network television and featured movie roles and is now writing and directing. On the eve of his retirement from performing, his new book “Breaking OUT of Show Business: What I Discovered by Not Being Discovered” comes out in March 2015 with tons of fantastic stories!
MPZ: Yes, Hollywood is the entertainment capital of the world, but a surprisingly weak comedy scene. The clubs have become an onslaught of wanna-be actors using the comedy stages just to be seen by agents and casting people. Many times you, the audience are being charged a big cover fee to see novices, making it a painful evening to sit through.
On this list you will find places with true talent to be entertained like Don’t Tell My Mother and Flappers which have good acts and caliber talent. Don’t miss For the Record, UnCabaret, Upright Citizens Brigade and Monday Night Tease.
We have included some of the best places to be entertained as well as some of the best places to learn instead of just watch. Check out these best kept secret coaches and classes by Patrick Bristow, Nikki Levy, Michael Paul Ziegfeld and David Razowsky.
10 Monday Night Tease
MPZ says: Rated one of the top burlesque shows by LA weekly & Time Out LA, it’s produced by the campy and courageous, Lili VonSchtupp as the longest running burlesque show in Los Angeles. Considered part of the underground scene, the performers truly keep the genre and style with bawdy, campy acts and some really unique stuff. MNT is tucked away in the speakeasy-styled, THREE CLUBS, the original Martini Bar featured in countless films and TV shows. I’ve performed in “Tease” a few times and it’s always a close knit, packed house. Super fun. The Bar Opens: 6pm. Seating Starts: 9:30pm. Show Starts: 10pm ((323) 462-6441)
9 Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre
MPZ says: In a town full of expensive, hit-or-miss stand-up comedy, improv can be even more painful. TV’s Who’s Line Is It Anyway made people think improv was quick comedy with tight laughs, while they edited 3 hours of footage into 30 mins. But UCB is super close. Even the UCB’s $5 shows are almost always skilled and hilarious. The Upright Citizens Brigade is Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh who produced their own sketch show, “Upright Citizens Brigade,” for three seasons on Comedy Central, then opening the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. In 2005, they expanded and opened in Los Angeles. High-quality shows seven nights a week. (323-908-8702)
8 The Lab at Theater Asylum
MPZ says: David Razowsky is the reason Colbert and Carell got into improv. Former artistic director for The Second City, he is a consultant for Dreamworks, a teacher for Steppenwolf Theater, and is the host of the podcast ADD Comedy with Dave Razowsky and Ian Foley. When David is in his home base of Los Angeles he teaches a weekly Wednesday drop-in class at Theatre Asylum in Hollywood. “Your present awareness is the only thing you need to create compelling, smart, truthful, and surprising scenes. Period. No games, no preconceived premises, no ideas, no ego. All that matters is now. The actor’s level of experience doesn’t matter. You’ll leave with joy and excitement and confidence. What more do you need?”, says Razowsky. (323-962-1632)
7 The Abbey Food & Bar
Although awarded “the best gay bar in the world” by MTV, it is a favorite of celebrities, locals and tourists alike. The Abbey is one of the premier outdoor cocktail and dining experiences in Los Angeles with great music, food, hot staff and indoor/outdoor environments. A popular rental for private events, The Abbey cancelled every bridal party on the books when gay marriage was being denied in California. The owners stated that until gays could be married, they could no longer in good conscience, host heterosexual wedding celebrations. Pretty impressive. 14,000 square feet, it is said to be the biggest money-making real estate bar property in the country. (310-289-8410, 310-855-9977)
MPZ: For 25 years UnCabaret has been a hotbed of personal storytelling that fostered the careers of iconoclastic comedy stars like Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Jeff Garlin and Patton Oswalt. A legendary LA venue for idiosyncratic, conversational comedy and arguably the very first alternative comedy show, bringing together an eclectic mix of original talent which is hosted by Beth Lapides. Unique vomedy freestyling with creative risk, fast-paced, funny and thought-provoking, you never know who’s gonna get on stage. Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman, Roseanne Barr, Sandra Bernhard, Carrie Fisher and Bill Maher have popped in to try their hand. The last time I went, Max Mutchnik (Will & Grace creator) and Laura Kightlinger did an absolutely hilarious reading of their emails to each other written during the casting a new show. (213-706-3630)
MPZ says: You have been entertained by Patrick Bristow many times but he is most recognizable from 4 seasons on ABC’s “Ellen.” and over 100 miscellaneous half hour and hour credits and feature film roles like “Showgirls”. He was a member, teacher and director of The Groundlings main company for 5 years. His own improv company and school, “Improvatorium” has made a mark with their structured, costumed, improvised, full length genre-inspired plays. He is also the co-creator of The Jim Henson Company’s Drama Desk nominated, off-broadway phenom, “Stuffed And Unstrung”. His classes are ongoing improv workshops committed to fostering ensemble approach, creating short or long form stories, maintaining a non-competitive and supportive atmosphere. He says, “Everyone already knows how to improvise because daily life is an improv. Once we remove the barriers of nerves and the need to control, we can apply improv techniques much easier and to better effect.” (323 123 4567)
4 For the Record DBA
MPZ says: A little pricey but you get every bit of your money’s worth with this nightclub’s high end, high energy, high talent show series. FTR is a series of productions adapting the works of directors like Tarantino, Zemeckis, Hughes, Marshall and Luhrmann to a theatrical concert setting. With a kick ass band, it features leading talent from stage, record and screen as well as rising stars interweaving the music and characters of the night’s movie director into a unique, high-voltage, sexy, funny show that utilizes the entire club space. The unassuming exterior of DBA hosts a super cool interior that feels like it was plucked out of New York’s east village. It’s a “don’t miss”. When Hollywood names want a night out for legit talent, they go to FOR THE RECORD.
3 Don’t Tell My Mother
MPZ says: I love “spoken word” shows if done well and kept tight. Created by feature film executive Nikki Levy (Frost/Nixon), Don’t Tell My Mother! is a critically-acclaimed comedy event where performers share true stories they’d NEVER want their moms to know. This is always fantastic, hilarious, layered storytelling at it’s best. Some past performers include: Kate McKinnon (SNL),Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish), Beth Grant (The Mindy Project), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), Joanna Kerns (Growing Pains), Amy Landecker (Transparent), Fortune Feimster (Chelsea Lately), Hal Sparks (Queer As Folk) and Hasan Minhaj (The Daily Show). Follow DTMM’s podcast on I-tunes. Nikki Levy also has classes and top workshops for aspiring talent. Don’t miss out on her onstage or as a coach. (310-780-6368)
2 Flappers Comedy Club
One of the most upscale of all Los Angeles area comedy clubs, Flappers lives up to their boast of the quality combination of service, drinks and good food. But most importantly, this club books really good acts on their main stage/prime-slot shows and has stayed away from churning out “pay to play” shows (ask if you are seeing outside producer’s shows on any club’s stage before buying a ticket). They also subscribe to the best show format of a host, opener, middle and headliner giving the act and the audience time to connect. More performers are not always more entertainment.Owner, Barbara Holiday says, “It’s difficult but we are fighting for quality.” Talented up-and-coming comedians and some of the biggest names in the industry appear here and the club also features “hilarious happy hour” auditions and open mics. (818-845-9721)
1 How To Be The Most You with Michael Paul
My friend, Michael Paul Ziegfeld has been seen on “The Tonight Show”, “Premium Blend”, “The Ten” opposite Winona Ryder & “27 Dresses” with Katherine Heigl; Voicing / puppeteering for Jim Henson Prods., SNL, Walt Disney, Coca-Cola & McDonald’s; Toured with Joan Rivers, Margaret Cho, Don Rickles, Rita Rudner, Wynonna Judd, James Brown, The Pointer Sisters & Kenny Rogers; produced DVDs: “Jewicidal Tendencies” and “Ziegfeld’s Folly: My Rise to the Middle”; an audience with Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and voted Atlantic City Magazine’s “Act of the Year”; Most recently written and/or directed for Kevin Spacey, “Real Time with Bill Maher”, CBS Scripted, “The Friar’s Roasts”, editorials for “The Huffington Post” and “Variety”. He coaches joke structure, character performance, tapping into & layering material, and how to be the most “you”, taught at NYU, UCLA and through private, group and online sessions. (323-206-6514)