Occidental Weekly recommends ASSSSCAT, Harold NightThe Occidental Weekly March 20, 2013
Los Angeles alternative comedy scene brings the laughs
by Ella Fornari
Many think improv died in the ’90s and stand-up comedy takes place exclusively in comedy clubs that have minimum drink requirements on top of ridiculous ticket fees. Well, maybe short-form improv died in the ’90s, but some of the best comedy shows now don’t happen in traditional comedy clubs and range from free to only ten dollars. Welcome to the world of alternative comedy. Luckily, Los Angeles has one of the best alternative comedy scenes in the world. As is the case with most things alternative, getting into the scene needs a bit of know-with-all. Looking at a schedule and knowing where to go can be daunting. Here is a list of comedy events happening in L.A., spanning those geared towards beginners and those for more expert-level comedy fans.
To Begin/ For the Comedy Novice:
The following shows are ideal for those who watch a lot of comedy but have never been to a live show before. These shows are listed as “beginner” because they showcase the best comedy L.A. has to offer in an easier-to-digest format.
ASSSSCAT: The staple show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (UCB), ASSSSCAT, has been running for over 10 years, and it features a crowd of improvisers and a guest monologist. The monologist takes a random word from the audience then gives an on-the-spot monologue related to the suggestion. The improvisers then take over and do a long-form improvised set based on the story told. Hilarity ultimately unfolds.
This improv format is unique to ASSSSCAT and never disappoints. ASSSSCAT almost always includes master improviser Matt Besser, one of the original founders of UCB (along with Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh and Amy Poehler, who also occasionally appear in the show). Guest monologists and improvisers are often familiar faces from comedy, especially NBC sitcoms, as UCB has been a talent feeder for NBC over the past few years (to name a few, alum include Bobby Moynihan of SNL, Donald Glover of Community and of course Amy Poehler).
There are two ASSSSCAT performances a week, one on Saturdays at 8 p.m. ($10) and the other, which is free, every Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Typically the ticketed show is more contained while the free show attracts more colorful characters and displays more ridiculous performances.
The Super Serious Show
Although still a necessary fixture in the L.A. alt-comedy scene, these shows have more specific niche followings of their own. They may be a bit less accessible than the shows above but are fantastic for comedy fans who have been to a few shows and know the difference between, say, sketch and improv.
Harold Night: The “Harold” is a 30 minute form of improv created by legendary improv teacher Del Close. Harolds are usually much brainier and more interesting sets than short form improv games characteristic of shows like “Whose Line is it Anyway.” The long-form structure allows time for stories to go full circle and really engage the audience. Each Harold night features about six up and coming long-form improv groups, which often have (as with many things UCB) cultish followings of their own. The typical Harold Night audience is a bit more well-versed in improv comedy, which is why this show is recommended for people to go to once they get a feel for UCB-style improv at ASSSSCAT.
Harold night at UCB is Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and each show features two improv groups. The show usually sells out a week ahead of time, so go online to purchase tickets.
The Meltdown Show with Jonah and Kumail
After having stalked the UCB calendar and in need of a change of pace from the more well-known shows in the LA Alt-Comedy scene, here are some nice alternatives to the alternative.
Holy F*ck FREE Comedy