In this day and age, many people get their daily laughs from reading the morning headlines. Unfortunately, those same headlines probably cause just as many people to cry as laugh. So, where can one go to ensure that appropriately comical spins are provided to the state of the nation? To comedy clubs, of course! One option for folks in need of a laugh is Irvine Improv Comedy Club, which is owned, operated and booked by the same team that runs the Improv clubs in Brea, Ontario, Hollywood and Oxnard. So, if you’re familiar with those establishments, you pretty much know the dynamic of the Irvine Improv experience: great entertainment but can be a bit hit and miss on amenities and service. That said, let’s focus on the entertainment.
The acts one can expect to see at Irvine Improv range from established personalities that may have achieved fame on Saturday Night Live, Mad TV, YouTube or one of those America’s-Got-So-and-So type shows; up-and-coming comics that have been making their way around the comedy club circuit; or fresh faces that have submitted their stuff to the club and received an invitation to perform. Over the course of the next couple of months (February – March), the cross-section of Irvine Improv’s acts include well-known performers such as Christopher Titus, Bobby Lee, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes and Norm Macdonald, while some of the more diverse acts include Tuesday and Cyrus Present Freak Show, Erik Rivera, and comic / medium Cindy Kaza.
When Irvine Weekly reached out to the venue to ask a few questions about what they look for, the state of comedy and if there were any particular acts audiences should keep an eye on, publicist Wendy Zocks provided their collective answers [as of this writing, the Irvine Improv team has not responded to our request to clarify which members of their team offered which of the following responses]. The first was no shocker; they said, “The main criteria for accepting new talent is simple – be funny and original.” They also pointed out that the best way for new comics to submit their stuff is through an email with a link to samples of their work. If they like what they hear, they’ll follow up and set up a live showcase for someone in their booking department. Beyond that, they say, “We are constantly out at open mics and clubs across the city and country scouting for new up-and-coming talent.”
One thing on our minds was the subjectivity of comedy and how a venue like Irvine Improv treats it. Back in 2015, comedian Jerry Seinfeld said that given the ultra-sensitivity of the youth culture, he no longer wished to perform at colleges because people were getting offended way too easily. So, what is the extent to which social movements like #metoo have affected the comedy industry? The conglomerate says, “We see comedy as the final frontier, and we won’t censor an act.” However, they added, “We hope that all the comics coming to an Improv stage are more sensitive as well in this ‘me too’ time.” This appeal to good taste is probably the best assurance that a club can offer in this era of heightened PC awareness. They conclude, “We want to provide a platform for performers to continue their creative journey without scrutiny [and] we trust that our audiences can decide for themselves what their limits are.”
Beyond consideration of the boundaries of taste, we want to know the extent to which there are currently trends in routines and performance styles that audiences can expect to see at their shows or in general. The Improv responds, “Comedy is constantly evolving. There will always be an audience for traditional stand-up, but with so many new platforms, there are absolutely no limits. The pure volume and diversity solely being provided to audiences via Netflix, YouTube and Instagram only help to build the appetite for live comedy. We had a wildly successful tour with both Celeste Barber and Trae Crowder in 2018. Podcasts continue to draw big crowds like ‘Hollywood Babble-On’ and ‘Watch what Crappens.’”
As for Irvine Improv’s suggestions as to who to keep an eye out for, they sent us a handful of names. Included on this list was Mo Amer, who will perform from Jan. 31 – Feb. 2. This Arab American comic cut his chops while performing with the Allah Made Me Funny comedy troupe and recently debuted his first stand-up special, “The Vagabond,” on Netflix. His performance bio reads: “A pioneer in Arab American stand up, Amer’s humor consists of observational comedy, political satire and race related material, heavily drawing on autobiographical elements, as well as his unique improvised, conversational style.”
Also, Irvine Improv says to keep a look out for Nicole Byer, who will perform on Feb. 21. Byer’s credentials include a Netflix show called “Nailed It!”, a sitcom on Facebook Watch called “Loosely Exactly Nicole,” a podcast called “Why Won’t You Date Me,” and plenty of TV appearances. Her bio states, “Nicole has done lots of fun shit.” Next on the docket is Ron Funches, who will perform on Feb. 28. His resume includes a major role on the TV show “Powerless,” multiple appearances on “@Midnight,” and other TV appearances. He has an impressive amount of voice-over work on his bio and is credited with having “a unique delivery and lovable demeanor. You just want to hug and squeeze him like a big stuffed bear.”
Rounding out the selection of Irvine Improv’s list of comics to catch in the next couple of months is T.J. Miller, who will perform from March 8 – 10. Miller’s extensive resume includes voice-overs for the “How to Train Your Dragonand Gravity Falls” series, and his acting resume includes the “Deadpool” films and the “Silicon Valley” series. He has had two comedy specials, “T.J. Miller: No Real Reason” (Comedy Central) and “T.J. Miller: Meticulously Ridiculous” (HBO). For April 18-20, Irvine Improv also wants to recommend Pete Lee, whom they have labeled as their “Up and Coming Act of 2019.” Lee’s resume is also chock-full of television appearances, and, among other regular appearances, he is a regular on “Comedy Knockout” (TruTV) and “Roast Battle” (Comedy Central).
Now that you’ve got an idea of who’s waiting to make you laugh out loud, check out video clips of these and other scheduled acts on the Irvine Improv website to see who best tickles your funny bone. Most shows are only $20, but do bring additional cash – there is a two-item minimum, and the items ain’t cheap. Plus, get there early to get a good seat; laughter is good for the soul, but those neck cramps can be a bitch!