Your Guide To LA's Underground Improv Scene

by KYLE RAYMOND FITZPATRICK · March 25, 2010

You wouldn’t know it, but there is actually a lot of really great improv in Los Angeles—and it isn’t just found at Upright Citizens Brigade, The Groundlings, or iO. Underground and lesser-known industry improv venues are providing (sometimes better) outlets for the future of comedy, at a cheaper rate and more laid back environment.

When the big name theatres aren’t doing improv, these underground theatres are the playground for heavy hitters, up-and-coming players, and teams trying new things out. Now, it isn’t guaranteed to be the most hilarious improv you’ve ever seen, but it’s usually quite good and worth the donation you made at the door (and the cheap beer). Let’s run down these new scene hotspots:

TUESDAY NIGHT THUNDER (TNT)

Hosted by UCB performer Harrison Brown and Jonathan Smith, this staple improv arena is famous for its 9PM hour monthly residency team and 11PM (drunken) improv jam, where anyone and everyone jumps on stage to make comedy. Starting at 8PM and ending after midnight, you get up to seven different improv groups. The feel is very relaxed, intimate, and usually male dominated. Running on donations and $2 beer, this spot is the place to go to rock out with your improv cock out.

ROOM 101

This Wednesday newcomer is likely the friendliest of underground improv venues. Hosted by stellar improv group Shakedown (who perform every week, reason enough to come), this show has the most traditional set up: three teams, an intermission, followed by three teams. Raising the classiness bar, this is the only venue to serve beer AND wine for $2 a pop. Similarly, they have successfully secured the best location for underground improv: The Complex on Santa Monica. But, word on the street is donations have been down. So, give them a hand and support a good cause!

CRASHBAR IMPROV

The quaintest of venues, Crashbar is held in a theatre that could easily be mistaken for a living room. Held at Tre Stage, down the hall from Berubian’s Next Stage and above hotspot The Woods, Crashbar is very free-form and open. They are known for their monthly raffle, where three lucky audience members may be selected to perform a Crashbar show with UCB performers. Like TNT, Crashbar also has a jam, which is decidedly less macho, friendlier, and quicker (Crashbar usually ends by 11PM).

IMPROV BACKSPIN

Held at Santa Monica’s Westside Comedy Theatre, this venue is a fan favorite for those addicted to a specific underground team. Each week, the show consists of three teams, each of which has a three-week run. The upside? You can see your favorite group three weeks in a row! The downside? On a Sunday night at 9PM, the show can be unforgiving to Eastsiders who have to be up early on Monday.

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THE BODEGA SHOW

Los Angeles’ newest and—frankly—best underground improv circuit comes by way of New York City transplants. Only having started a few weeks ago, the brainchild of improv group Bodega (Jill Donnelly, Porter Mason, Thomas Middleditch, Nate Shelkey, Greg Tuculescu) has the best of everything: the show only lasts one hour and features hand picked teams by Bodega themselves (who also perform at the show—and are NOT to be missed). For a Saturday night show, The Bodega Show is the perfect pre-game and, because they are at The Sierra Stage off Sunset Blvd, you can very easily plan your next move!