The cabaret room at LunaPark is a low-ceilinged black box hung with red curtains and mirrors--as well a cabaret should be. Little round tables snuggle together. Candles smolder.
"I feel like I'm in a Turkish prison," comic Ed Kraznick says appreciatively, taking the stage.
LunaPark is the creation of Jean-Pierre Boccara, genius of the Lhasa Club and Cafe Largo. The cabaret is just one aspect of a bi-level, avant-garde theme park that promises "post-modern Mediterranean fare" in the restaurant upstairs and a fully equipped dance hall.
Meanwhile, the cabaret proves to have a life of its own.
"Good entertainment for a nasty world, that's our motto," says Beth Lapides, the beehived mistress of ceremonies for Sunday night's "Uncabaret" comedy show. (Lapides won worldwide fame on CNN last year in her unsuccessful bid for the office of First Lady.) "The week of the earthquake, we were all very bitter and very real. This is a good place for a disaster--any disaster," she says.
The Sunday show features first-timers yucking it up from handfuls of notes as well as comedy luminaries like Bobcat Goldthwait venting hysterical spleen about the existential tortures of opening for Nirvana in the nude.
"This is like the comedy safe house," Goldthwait declares, mid-rant, throwing his coonskin cap to the winds.
By 10 o'clock, the Wayne Peet and Vinny Golia quartet takes over, and Sweet Baby J'Ai sings. If she had a coonskin cap, she'd chew it to bits and throw it to the winds without missing a note.
On a recent Thursday night at the cabaret, an audience too cool to be entirely industry packs the house to hear writer/performer Barry Yourgrau rescue runaway sex organs from the branches of trees and drown among a bevy of salacious mermaids. The reading was from his forthcoming story collection, "The Sadness of Sex."
Yourgrau is followed by guitarist Pascal Humbert's band Rex Voto, featuring Esther Balint, the bleak Hungarian gamin of "Strangers in Paradise" fame, who struts dire numbers with a country twang--Joy Division does Nashville.
If it isn't Berlin in the '30s, the cabaret at LunaPark at least offers a ribald alternative to despair in the '90s.
"The atmosphere is just about right," says actress Corinne Bohrer on her first visit to LunaPark. "A little too smoky for New Age saxophonists, but comfortable for people who maybe don't do so many drugs any more--a nice place to hear stories and have a couple of vodkas.
"It's Thursday, so I guess we're all people who don't have jobs," Bohrer adds.
Where: LunaPark, 665 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood.
When: Nightly. Times and entertainment vary. "Uncabaret" shows Sundays at 7:30 p.m.
Prices: Cover $5 to $10 depending on entertainment. Domestic beer, $3.50; imported beer and wine, $4; well drinks, $4.