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Cheap laughs: How to spend less than $20 watching L.A. comedy

Illustration of a hand holding $20 bills
(Kay Scanlon / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

$46.

That’s the baseline ticket price to go to most shows at Largo at the Coronet, one of L.A. comedy’s crown jewels. That covers the actual ticket price of $35 plus $11 of those eternally pesky “service fees.” While the cover charge at the Comedy Store or the Hollywood Improv is lower, often around $20 to $25, there’s still a two-item or two-drink minimum at nearly every comedy club that will always kick your budget for the evening back up north of $40 per person.

The prospect of watching live comedy has subsequently become more wishful thinking than an accessible reality to many Angelenos thanks to the almost surreal price of gas plus the increased cost of living due to supply-chain issues from both COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine. However, the L.A. comedy scene, like the city itself, is vast and has so many interconnecting points that, if you know where to look, you can have the perfect hacks that will allow you to watch many of the best and soon-to-be-best comedians in the world for free (or pretty damn close to it).

Personally sourced from more than a decade of going out to live comedy every night, the following is a guide to what one might think is impossible: watching great, live comedy Monday through Sunday all for less than $20 total throughout the Greater L.A. area.

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Visit a work-in-progress rehearsal
In anticipation of a solo show, performers sometimes do “work-in-progress” shows that are often free or cheap no matter what theater they’re at. Also, you get to be a special part of what the show ultimately ends up becoming.

Illustration of a car inside a yellow circle with a yellow line running across it
(Los Angeles Times staff illustration; Getty Images)

Stop driving everywhere
Gas is still expensive despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “efforts.” Uber and Lyft are consequently more expensive. Thus, consider these transportation tips when hopping around from show to show:

  • Metro Rail (there are stops that are a hop, skip and a jump from the Crow, Dynasty Typewriter, the Yard Theater and Westside Comedy Theater).
  • As recommended in a new bit by Adam Conover of “Adam Ruins Everything,” take the bus.
  • Take a Lime or Bird scooter and maybe spend 20 to 30 minutes or less hopping between comedy venues.
  • Ride a bike, whether an e-bike (even faster than a scooter) or one dependent on old-fashioned pedal power. Google Maps has a great bike map function to show a number of bike lanes that you probably take for granted from your car.
  • The yellow and green loading zones are free to park in after 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

The power of the standby line
Most shows that sell out have a standby line. Call or email the venue to make sure, but sometimes you can sign up for a sold-out show and often get in.

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Visit free live TV tapings
Almost every live TV taping is free in L.A., including “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “The Late Late Show With James Corden.” Check 1iota.com for tickets. On occasion, theblacklistnyc.com will have tickets for live special tapings in L.A. as well.

Illustration of a microphone inside a yellow quote bubble and ellipsis inside black quote bubble
(Los Angeles Times staff illustration; Getty Images)

Go to open mics
You can almost always watch up-and-coming and veteran comedians alike dare themselves with new material at open mics for free. You can check thecomedybureau.com for updated L.A. open mics listings.

Try playing the comic card at the door
If you’re a comedian, you can try mentioning you’re a comic at the door and you might get to watch the show free of charge.

Volunteer at a club you like
Some venues, like the Elysian, take on volunteers, which does allow you to watch their shows for free (when you’re not checking people in or seating them).

Illustration of two tickets with the words 'Admit one'
(Los Angeles Times staff illustration; Getty Images)

Keep an eye out for ticket giveaways
Follow all the social media of every comedy venue and your favorite comedians for potential ticket giveaways and off-the-beaten-path free/cheap shows. Also join mailing lists for the same reason.

Is there a two-item minimum?
If a show is at a club that’s free or $5, be sure to check whether they still enforce two-item or two-drink minimum.

Still support these venues — don’t be too cheap!
Please consider giving money, if you can spare it, to any of these shows that pass the hat or have a QR code for Venmo that either covers the cost of the show or directly goes to the performers.

To wrap things up, here’s a list of 15 cheap or free shows happening in L.A. every week

Mondays

“Loose,” Little Joy, stand-up, free, 8 p.m. (Echo Park): The first stop of the week at several Echo Park comedy havens. @loosecomedyla on Instagram.

“Holy S— Improv,” Silverlake Lounge, improv, free, 8 p.m. (Silverlake) $5 (Free livestream on Twitch): If you wonder where all the great improv at Upright Citizens Brigade went, it’s mostly here every Monday. Look for it on IG and Twitter.

Tuesdays

“Drunk on Stage,” Akbar, stand-up, free, 8 p.m. (Los Feliz): Bruce Daniels’ stand-up showcase has weathered more than just COVID-19 and is still going strong after several years. Follow @brucedaniels on Twitter.

“Loud Village Comedy Night,” Best Fish Taco in Ensenada, stand-up on first and third Tuesdays, free, 8 p.m.-ish (Los Feliz): You can find out why the venue lives up to its name on top of seeing many of L.A.’s favorite stand-ups. Get there early if you want to sit, otherwise you’ll be on the sidewalk, peering through a fence. @loudvillage on IG.

“Blam! Blam! Blam!” R Bar, variety, free, 9 p.m. monthly (Koreatown): If there ever was a comic’s comic showcase, this is it. facebook.com/blamx3.

Wednesdays
“Bear City,” Que Sera, stand-up, free, 8 p.m.: Long Beach’s premier indie stand-up showcase. @bearcitycomedy on IG.

“Totally!” Bar Lubitsch, stand-up, $5, 8:30 p.m. (West Hollywood): Five dollars is the early-bird price that ends on the Mondays before the show. Lubitsch’s red-drenched backroom is a near-perfect setup for stand-up comedy. @totallycomedyshow on IG.

“The Breaux Show,” The Friend, stand-up, free 8 p.m. (Wednesdays, sometimes) (Silver Lake): The bar and lineup are so hip, you’ll wonder how you didn’t pay a cover. @cecilybreaux on IG.

Thursdays

“Peacock,” Club Tee Gee, stand-up, free, 8 p.m. (Atwater Village): A tightly curated lineup of comedians from Los Angeles and elsewhere in one of L.A. comedy’s prettiest rooms. @peacockshowla on Twitter and IG.

“The Comedy Patio,” Horse Thief BBQ at Grand Central Market, stand-up, free, 7 p.m. (Thursdays, sometimes) (downtown): Born out of the necessity to do outdoor shows during shutdown, the Comedy Patio endures as one of DTLA’s few recurring free shows. @thecomedypatio on IG.

Fridays

“Cult Comedy,” Cafe Tropical, stand-up, $5, 9 p.m., (Silver Lake): Get tickets early as space is very limited in the backroom of this mainstay Cuban bakery. @cultcomedyshow on IG and Twitter.

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Saturdays

“Good Heroin,” Stories, stand-up, free, 8 p.m. (Echo Park): Probably the best weekly, free comedy show in all of L.A. @goodheroinshow on IG and Twitter.

“The Frogtown Show,” Spoke Bicycle Cafe, stand-up, $5, 7:30 p.m. monthly (Frogtown) : If you needed a reason to see the good part of the L.A. River and/or live for comedy, this is for you. @thefrogtownshowla on IG.

Sundays

“Big League Comedy,” Bigfoot Lodge East, stand-up, free, 8 p.m. monthly (Atwater Village): The kitsch of Bigfoot Lodge sets a pretty great vibe for this new showcase from recent L.A. transplants that has lots of other great transplant comedians. Follow @ashley_brooke_roberts on IG for updates.

“Permanent Vacation,” Permanent Records Roadhouse, stand-up, free, 8 p.m., monthly (Cypress Park): Sammy Mowrey, Bailey Norton, and Tyler Jackson gather for a fun, loving, inclusive comedy showcase in the back patio of one of L.A.’s coolest record store/dive bar/underground venues. @permanentvacaycomedy on IG.


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