An AT&T ad executive hangs up the phone, grabs his jacket, and heads toward the subway to Hell's Kitchen. It's the late '80s, and at the New York comedy institution The Improv, a slew of up-and-coming talent, including Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, are testing jokes and honing timing. In the next few years, they'll perform on television for millions. But for now, they're changing the life of one ad executive.
The founder of LA Stand-Ups, Joe Falzarano, quit his promising advertising career because he "hated being a suit" and preferred to nurture promising young comedians. With accomplishments that include producing the CableACE Award–winning Caroline's Comedy Hour for A&E, Falzarano helped launch the performing and writing careers of entertainers including Jon Stewart and Louis C.K. Today, Falzarano imparts his more than 20 years of industry experience to aspiring joke-tellers, teaching them tactics for perfecting a punch line, calming nerves, and subduing hecklers with a marshmallow gun. Falzarano maintains a supportive atmosphere where students learn how to use who they are to connect with an audience, and even lets students try out material at the Hollywood Improv.
Led by Allen Levin, an experienced actor, producer, and writer, Lifebook Acting Class’s celebrity-extolled workshops impart budding performers with the art of dramatization. Stratified into three levels ranging from orientation to advanced, classes for aspiring professionals mix improv and character building with career coaching to prevent missteps such as starring in a western with talking tumbleweeds. Acting hobbyists develop comedic and dramatic talents in Acting for Non-Actors and First Timers, a self-confidence strengthening romp through the basics of theatrics. For those with proven celebrity or one major credit to their name, the Master Class sharpens already deadly dialogue skills into a force to be reckoned with in time for a prized audition, starring role, or first meeting with future in-laws.
Founded in 1989 by Mestre Amen Santo—the choreographer who added a touch of authenticity to the capoeira scenes in 1993’s Only The Strong —Brasil Brasil Cultural Center hosts classes in Brazil’s signature martial art alongside lessons in other multicultural disciplines. Like a fight with the cast of a variety show, capoeira combines martial artistry, dance, and acrobatics, fusing them into a stylized Afro-Brazilian art form. To complement capoeira sessions—available to adults as well as children aged 4 and older—instructors also teach Portuguese language classes, health classes and dance classes. Students can also cut rugs in dance styles such as the samba, West African dance, and belly dancing, and youngsters can get their first taste of Brazilian rhythms through workshops with the Ballet Folclórico Do Brasil, a dance company that reaches more than 50,000 children annually.
Founded by Jamie Masada when he was just sixteen, The Laugh Factory has become an internationally-known comedy club with locations in three states. This original Sunset Strip venue continues to be a favorite of fledgling and world-famous comics alike, with familiar faces from Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Jim Carrey, Richard Pryor and Chelsea Handler all gracing the stage in years past. The surprisingly intimate space seats only a few hundred people, mostly at café tables and banquettes surrounding the stage, and with the usual two-drink minimum there’s always plenty to eat and drink while you’re being entertained. A nearby VIP lounge offers more discreet access to shows, or (depending on which side of the velvet rope you’re on) for peeking in on the latest celebrity out to catch a laugh. Parking in the neighborhood is almost exclusively restricted, so stick with the valet out front.
Personal trainer Nicole Williams founded Allure Dance & Fitness Studio to bring clients closer to their health goals through fitness classes, personal-training sessions, and intense, empowering pole-dancing lessons. Having dubbed the pole "the new dumbbell," Nicole now draws on more than 10 years of experience training everyone from housewives to celebrities as she brings full-body pole workouts to the masses. Nicole and her coterie of instructors specialize in pole dancing, but also lead personal-training sessions and classes that incorporate kickboxing, plyometric, and cardio techniques. Along with classes, Allure hosts private pole parties to sprinkle some spice into birthdays, bachelorette parties, and routine training for streetlight cleaners.
From 18 studios scattered around Los Angeles, Lori Moran Music Studios’ armada of instructors offers all-ages voice, piano, guitar, violin, and composition classes. With teachers who have worked on films such as Dreamgirls and Dance Flick, world-touring operatic productions, and Grammy-nominated choral CDs, the school can cater to virtually every musical taste—from classical to jazz to pop. Students choose the emphasis of their lessons, whether they want to work on their public performance skills, write their own songs, sight-read scores, or simply be able to play musical chairs during a power outage. Many will also get the chance to show off in recitals, concerts, and showcases.