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The Improv, Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store are top tier of open-mike nights

March 08, 2009|Elina Shatkin

Open mike nights can sometimes be their own special circle of hell -- for the performer and the audience. (It's below the heretics but above the wrathful, sullen and slothful.) But they needn't be. Within this world of two-drink minimums and three-minute showcases, you can avoid the most demoralizing open mikes and stick to the ones that are only mildly disheartening. (We kid because we love.)

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The top tier of the open mike scene is occupied by the Big Three, where a killer set can lead to a coveted showcase spot. The Improv (8162 Melrose Blvd., L.A., [323] 651-2583), of course, hosts an open mike at 5 p.m. Tuesdays, with sign-ups beginning at 4:15 p.m, as does the Laugh Factory Hollywood (8001 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., [323] 656-1336). At the latter, the night begins at 6:30 and has only 15 spots, so stand-ups are advised to arrive very early and master the art of standing in line. The Comedy Store (8433 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, [323] 650-6268) opens up its stage at 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday nights. Sign-up is at 6 p.m. and is based on a lottery system. There are 25 spots, and lucky winners get three minutes of stage time.

The upper crust

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A step below

Beneath that, there are five well-known and moderately well-respected open mike nights. It's first-come, first-served at iO WestThe Comedy Store (6366 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., [323] 962-7560), whose open mike is held in the club's Andy Dick Black Box Theater at 10 p.m. Sundays; sign-ups begin at 9:30 p.m. A little farther east in Hollywood, the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (5919 Franklin Ave., L.A., [323] 908-8702) has an open mike the last Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Sign-ups begin at 6 p.m., and there are 10 five-minute slots.

Over at the Westwood Brewing Company (1097 Glendon Ave., L.A., [310] 824-0820), the jokes start at 8 p.m. Tuesdays. Sign-ups begin at 7 p.m., and comedians get three to five minutes of stage time, depending on how many performers sign up. Farther west, Westside Eclectic (1323-A Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, [310] 451-0850) offers one of the few midweek open mikes at a mid-tier venue. Sign-ups for the 15 time slots end at 10 p.m. Wednesdays, and the show starts at 10:30 p.m.

There's also the Ice House (24 Mentor Ave., Pasadena, [626] 577-1894), which doesn't technically have an open mike but at 3 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month, the club holds an audition. Your only audience will be the booking agent and other comedians, but play your cards right and you might end up in one of the club's showcases.

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Grass roots

If all of that sounds a little too pro for you, Los Angeles is chockablock with coffeehouses and bars that host weekly or occasional open mike nights.

The Chuckle Monkey site ( www.chucklemonkey.com) offers a thorough list of venues not only for Southern California but also for the U.S., divided by state and region, and if you're still finding your bearings and don't mind seeing the spotlight shared with puppeteers, poets and painfully earnest singer-songwriters, it's the perfect option.

-- Elina Shatkin

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