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'The Meltdown': Comedy with an edge

Enter the back room at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood and prepare for some of the best stand-up in L.A. Call it a clubhouse for big-name no-name alternative comics.

November 12, 2010|By Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times
  • (Left to right) Jordan Vogt-Roberts, whose video was shown later in the night, stands along the wall to watch fellow comics alongside audience members including Kate Ward and Dave Kloc.
(Left to right) Jordan Vogt-Roberts, whose video was shown later in the… (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles…)

A priest and a rabbi walk into a comic book store ...

Wait. A writer and an agent walk into a comic book store, Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. They head past shelves thick with fanboy fodder — serialized comics, graphic novels, stuffed Ugly Dolls and other Comic-Con-like toys — to the dusty, darkened back room, which has a tiny stump of a stage flanked by patches of red brick. For $8, they gain entry. The room is hot, the ceiling low, and they snag the last two not-so-comfortable folding chairs. Which is lucky, because more than half the people in the room are sprawled out on the concrete floor.


FOR THE RECORD:
Meltdown comedy event: In an article on the Meltdown stand-up comedy event in the Nov. 12 Calendar section, a quote describing the alternative comedy scene as "Basically, anyone who's not Dane Cook" was attributed to Emily V. Gordon. The quote should have been attributed to Linda Pine. —

But the beer is plentiful — and free. The food trucks span the spectrum. And here, they will see some of the best stand-up comedy L.A. has to offer.

Welcome to "The Meltdown," a decidedly indie weekly comedy showcase put on by Jonah Ray, with co-host Kumail Nanjiani and co-producer Emily V. Gordon and help from "funny-guy-in-residence" Ed Salazar. The event has become a clubhouse of sorts for alternative comics in L.A. — "Basically, anyone who's not Dane Cook," says Gordon. Every Wednesday night, audiences are treated to six stand-up routines plus one well-known surprise guest, such as Sarah Silverman, Paul F. Tompkins or Patton Oswalt. Aziz Ansari and Donald Glover have dropped by to work out new material. There are also regular video screenings — when they can get the AV working. "The audience is the UCB [Upright Citizens Brigade] crowd, hipsters, early 30s creatives, other comics — it's a scene," says Gordon.

Created two years ago by Linda Pine as "Comedy Meltdown," the event used to be monthly. Ray hosted, before eventually taking over. The evenings were so popular, drawing shoulder-to-shoulder crowds of up to 90 people sometimes, that Ray decided to relaunch it as a weekly, starting this month.

Ray's inspiration? "Comedy Death-Ray" at UCB, where he used to perform. In that show's early day's at M Bar, he says, "it was all these guys doing it like every week — Zach Galifianakis, Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman — and they're all now superstars. But it was their scene, their time, that generation of comics." Ray wanted to create a new scene for his many aspiring comic friends who are "moving forward and getting bigger," he says. "Everyone's starting to pop off in their own way."

"The Meltdown" is now a who's who of big-name no-names, if that makes sense — comics who are skirting the edge of fame, generating heat with TV/film appearances and a Web presence, but who are not yet household names. Upcoming lineups include: Chris Hardwick, Marc Maron, Jen Kirkman, T.J. Miller, Nick Thune, David Koechner, Nick Cole, Matt Braunger, Kyle Kinane and Pete Holmes, as well as visiting comics from New York.

With occasional live music and a near-naked host in a fireman's uniform, it feels as if anything flies at "The Meltdown." Like how, when a priest and a rabbi walk into this comic book store, there's also a bar.

"The Meltdown." Meltdown Comics, 7522 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. Wednesdays, 8:30pm. $8. .

deborah.vankin@latimes.com

FOR THE RECORD:
Meltdown comedy event: In an article on the Meltdown stand-up comedy event in the Nov. 12 Calendar, a quote describing the alternative comedy scene as "anyone who's not Dane Cook" was attributed to Emily V. Gordon. The quote should have been attributed to Linda Pine.


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