The Improv Space is a multifunctional comedy laboratory that both teaches and performs unscripted humor. Catch one of the troupe-hosted shows ($5–$10), such as the seasoned cast of Robert Downey Jr. Jr. performing Hometown Interview on Friday nights at 9:30 p.m. In this show, the cast interrogates an audience volunteer for tidbits about their hometown experiences to use as inspiration for a fully improvised comedy show, then the volunteer returns to his seat to apologize to his friends for using their real names.
Beyond a façade of black-painted bricks blasted by a bright-red sunburst, M.i.'s Westside Comedy Theater's laughter authorities train up-and-coming comedians in the art of forcing other people to laugh. The theater opened in 2009, 11 years after six comedians from the touring group Mission Improvable moved from Massachusetts to Chicago to continue training in the art of the extemporaneous. Now, 50 members strong, Mission Improvable helps students hone their comedic instincts during weekly classes, performances, and pie-throwing workshops. Instructors have imported a grounded, distinctly Chicagoan comedic sensibility to the West Coast, building improv courses on Viola Spolin's seminal, creativity-unlocking theater games and standup classes on students' own experiences and observations.
Comedy is often used as one way of speaking truth to power; the work of Public Citizen is another. The nonprofit lobbies Washington on behalf of everyday citizens on economic, healthcare, and environmental issues. Stand Up for Main Street adds a panoply of familiar and funny voices to the chorus behind their good works in a comedy benefit show. Ray Romano headlines with the charisma and humor that made Everybody Loves Raymond as popular as I Love Lucy, Love Boat, and all but one of history's top puppy-cam feeds. In an ingratiatingly mopey, Queens-accented voice, Romano goes beyond sitcom surfaces in his live act to draw up takes on family life and longtime marriage that remain self-deprecating and slightly offbeat even after decades of fame.
The Dinner Detective eschews campy costumes and plots for an exciting evening of food-accompanied mystery and paranoia, where actors hide among the diners, playing innocent and making everyone a potential suspect. To solve the crime, guests freely interrogate one another, chivvying out clues about the murderer and determining who has a bloodthirsty look in their eyes. Between dramatic deaths and simulated police involvement, guests dig into three-course meals, washed down with bottomless iced tea, coffee, and drinks from the cash bar. The diner who comes closest to solving the mystery through their snooping goes home with a prize basket to show off to their friends or split with the murderer as per their shadowy conspiracy. Prop guns and gunshot sound effects may be used during the performance.
At the Hollywood Improv, comics lure laughs from deep within bellies as they follow in the footsteps of standup legends such as Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Dave Chappelle, all of whom have graced the Improv club stages. The club's calendar schedules comedians as often as seven nights a week, alternating between big-name headliners and up-and-coming funsters who tickle funny bones with fresh material, abundant energy, and feathered reflex hammers.
Though he's used to hitting night clubs and touring, Adam Richmond's star is rising with appearances on Last Comic Standing, Last Call with Carson Daly, and a gig warming up the audience for The Best Damn Sports Show Period. The in-your-face comedian—blessed with a gravel-toned voice and pointed cadence—expounds on the big-picture and small-picture aspects of life, from religion and history to the ethics of killing ants and ideas for hypothetical horror movies about coconuts. He'll hit the Thai Palms Restaurant and Bar stage with a posse of comedians yet to be announced. Until then, customers can catch up on Richmond's lively online life, which abounds with a personal website, a video blog christened Suck My Shtick, and the occasional anonymous post on Gargoyles message boards.