Can’t Even Comedy elevates L.A.’s stand-up scene on the rooftop of Mama Shelter

A woman doing stand-up in a crowd outside
Iliza Shlesinger performs for a capacity crowd at a recent Can’t Even Comedy show on the rooftop of Mama Shelter in Hollywood.
(Danney Paul)

Angelenos love a rooftop — especially one with tropical vegetation, sprawling vistas and Technicolor cocktails. Add food and entertainment, and it becomes an irresistible place to sip sangria as sunset clouds blush with streaks of pink and coral. This is the ambiance at Caitlin and Maxwell Benson’s Can’t Even Comedy, a stand-up and live music event at Hollywood’s Mama Shelter hotel every Tuesday and Thursday. The wife and husband team envision a new sort of environment for stand-up that’s a far cry from the dusky, divey and often intimidating atmosphere of comedy clubs.

“We put on an experience,” says Maxwell, whose work producing music, concert films and documentaries lent itself to producing Can’t Even Comedy. “You go to most comedy shows and it’s like, ‘Here’s the show. Now get out.’ At Mama Shelter, it’s free, you sit on couches, you’re relaxed. It’s on a rooftop. There’s good food. I book some of the best DJs to open and close the shows.”

“And there’s no drink minimum,” Caitlin adds cheerfully — even though neither she nor Maxwell imbibes.


Caitlin, the stand-up comedian of the duo, began her career more than seven years ago doing up-and-comer shows at the Comedy Store. Enamored with the art form, she performed anywhere she could — small clubs and backyards — and hosted open-mic nights. But when the pandemic swallowed L.A., many comics were left without a stage. Caitlin wanted to create a performance space, and even contemplated hosting open mics in her backyard. It was around this time that she met her future husband.

A man speaks while his hand is around a woman sitting next to him
Caitlin and Maxwell Benson onstage at a rooftop show for Can’t Even Comedy.
(Danney Paul)

“We literally met next to a dumpster behind a 7-Eleven,” she says with a laugh. “Then he came to the open-mic night I was hosting and it was like, degenerate city. That’s when I decided I was gonna start my own open mic.”

Caitlin and Maxwell’s relationship quickly blossomed, as taking walks to Delicious Pizza on Sunset together became their pandemic pastime. On one of these outings, restaurant owners Mike and Rick Ross, who are friends of Maxwell‘s, mentioned the financial strain their businesses were facing. They decided to host open mics in the parking lot of Delicious Pizza rather than in Caitlin’s backyard. Combining the allure of entertainment and pizza, Can’t Even Comedy was born.

“We were trying to create something different,” Caitlin says, adding that Can’t Even Comedy is “curating culture and community. Here, there’s a woman running the show. The energy is positive. If you’re funny, you’re funny, and you deserve to be validated. Word got out that it was an open mic where you could walk away feeling good versus lower than when you entered — it just took off.”

The couple’s monthly event at Delicious Pizza frequently began selling out. When Andrew Jay, general manager of Mama Shelter, came to an event, he immediately saw their potential, and in March 2021 they moved to the hotel rooftop. Now twice a week, the event sees a potpourri of burgeoning and celebrity comics alike, such as Willie Macc, Ian Bagg, Erik Griffin and Iliza Shlesinger, who was especially captivated by their ethos.


“I’ve done a lot of independent shows and I would put Caitlin and Max at the top in terms of professionalism,” says Shlesinger. “They have a passion for creating not only a wonderful environment for comedy, but for treating comics with respect. They have also done a great job of curating the experience over time so that when you come to their show you know you are getting a professionally run show in a gorgeous environment. It’s an elevated experience.”

Can’t Even Comedy has also held events in Austin and New York. The end of 2022 will mark its 100th show at Mama Shelter. Aside from stand-up shows, it has also partnered with Annenberg PetSpace, hosting pet adoptions the first Tuesday of each month. It is holding a ticketed event at the Regent on Wednesday co-headlined by Shlesinger and Trevor Wallace. There will be musical performances from DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest, DJ Anna Krylova and R&B songstress Luck. That same day is the premiere of Caitlin’s first 30-minute special, which will be released on Can’t Even Comedy’s YouTube channel.

“So many people didn’t understand our vision,” Caitlin says, describing the event’s growth. “This didn’t profit immediately, but we knew that in the long run it would. Now we’re on the other side of the hump of building it, and it’s paying off.”