Friday, 7 October 2016

Laughter at LA's Comedy Store

My admission to The Comedy Store was arranged by Visit West Hollywood.

“There’s a Highway to Hell, but only a Stairway to Heaven,” says comedian Argus Hamilton, riffing on the two song titles. “That tells you a lot about the expected traffic.”

It’s an observation that resonates here inside The Comedy Store, a long-lived comedy club on LA’s infamous Sunset Strip.

Because this short stretch of Sunset Boulevard fell outside the jurisdiction of the neighbouring Los Angeles and Beverly Hills city councils, it became a racy nightlife hub in the 1920s.

Over the decades the Strip has waxed and waned in its entertainment offer, hosting nightclubs, restaurants, bars and live music, in addition to vice.

It’s also been a hub of live comedy.

Co-founded in 1972 by Mitzi Shore, the Comedy Store has hosted an array of well-known comedians, including Jim Carrey, Amy Schumer, Roseanne Barr, Billy Crystal and Chris Rock.

The only name I recognise on the bill tonight is Pauly Shore, son of the venue’s co-founder. “My whole life was a two-drink minimum,” he says, referring to the compulsory minimum drinks order that applies to every patron.

Mind you, Narrelle and I get value for our drinks, sitting amid cabaret-style seating just a few metres from the stage. Around the walls are neon portraits of legendary comedians such as the Marx Brothers, and the stage is flanked by neon swirls resembling Greek columns.

On a Friday night the space is filling with a lively crowd, with a surprisingly broad age range and the usual LA multi-ethnic mix.

There are thirteen comedians on the program, each performing a snappy set before giving way to the next.

Highlights tonight are Sarah Tiana from Georgia (she’s 38 and “not thinking of kids, thinking of cake”); veteran comedian Yakov Smirnoff with plenty to say about the US presidential election; Iliza Shlesinger with incisive material about body image; and Anthony Jeselnik, who plays with edgier themes of death and race.

To our surprise, comedian Rick Ingraham outs a guy sitting next to us as an Australian ‘snow-maker’, then riffs entertainingly on how Aussies in Los Angeles “never have proper jobs.”

After 11pm it gets tougher on the less experienced end of the bill, battling a growing restlessness among the audience. Hey, it’s LA, we all want to head to the next big thing!

We embrace the vibe and slip out before midnight, to catch an Uber to Hollywood. It’s been a fun evening though, and reflective of today’s Sunset Strip – less vice, but still a certain edgy charm.

The Comedy Store is located at 8433 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, USA. See thecomedystore.com for program details.