Comedy does not have to be crude. At least, this is the premise that co-creative directors Tim Kanter and Jeremy Zeller operate under during their Clean Up Comedy improv shows. In 90-minute, family-friendly performances, Tim, Jeremy, and an ensemble cast of comedians build jokes and etch out scenes from audience suggestions. A diverse group, the troupe of actors, writers, amateur magicians, and pie-eating contestants makes up routines on the spot from seemingly disparate words or phrases. Each show's audience fuels the comedic fodder with shouted suggestions or even by helping on stage, keeping every performance as fresh as a backtalking daisy.
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.
A frequent finalist for Best Comedy Club according to Ventura County Reporter's readers, Ventura Improv Company offers the only improv comedy in Ventura and has been eliciting chortles and guffaws with family-friendly farce for the past 21 years. The VIC's veteran comedic combatants perform unscripted comedy through scenes, games, and music created on the spot. The VIC performs shows such as Spontaneous Broadway, a full-length musical whose plot is conceived through audience suggestions, and TheatreSports Team Match, a two-team battle where competitors perform a challenge set by the host.