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The changing stage of L.A. comedy

Illustration of a person standing onstage holding a microphone with the word 'improv' on the wall behind them
(Illustration by Tim McDonagh / For The Times)
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Mel Brooks once said: “I cut my finger; that’s tragedy. You fall in a hole and die; that’s comedy.” While falling head first into the void pretty much sums up the last 2 1/2 years of COVID-19 chaos, there’s one saving grace that appears like a safety net every time we feel like we’re on the brink of doom — laughter.

Even in a city built on celebrity, image and endless drama, L.A.'s comedy scene exists beyond all of that as a way to remind us what life’s about in a form that includes everyone. Sure, we’re used to New York taking all the credit when it comes to stand-up … yeah, yeah, it’s great (eye-roll), we know. But L.A.’s comedy scene is never to be trifled with. We’ve got it all — historic venues, underground hot spots, top-tier improv and sketch — even clowns! OK, it’s not as walkable, but who cares?! This year alone we became the epicenter of Netflix Is A Joke — the country’s biggest stand-up comedy festival, we got a front-row seat to the civil war of comedy — a.k.a. the Oscars slap, along with Dave Chappelle getting tackled at the Hollywood Bowl and a large swath of world-class funny people on TikTok and TV crushing it while repping L.A. all the way. (Did we mention we’ve got clowns?) All of that power combined creates the spark that lights up crowds of all colors, creeds and identities on a nightly basis.

This special issue dedicated to L.A.’s stand-up comedy is more than just a spotlight on the scene that continues to give us laughs at a time when we need them the most — it’s a thank you. Thank you for your one-liners, your dirty jokes, your grit, your beauty and your (occasional) leniency when it comes to enforcing the club’s two-item minimum. Most of all, thank you all for your craziness that helps the people of L.A. keep their sanity, one punchline at a time.

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The do’s and don’ts of L.A. comedy

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