San Diego was good. Without resorting to cliches, it was fairly easygoing (aside from the bit of aggro at the hostel on Christmas Eve) and a nice enough place to spend a laid-back Christmas. Today it was onto Los Angeles. Despite there being about 120 miles between the two places, it still took most of the day to get there. There’s no Megabus service in San Diego and the Greyhound station is in a sketchy part of LA that I didn’t fancy potentially arriving in after dark so I took the train. The Amtrak train takes just under three hours. However for about half the price of Amtrak, there’s an option of taking the local train service up the coast. At Oceanside a change of train gets you from the San Diego network onto the Orange County system which eventually arrives in LA. However this route stops at every station between San Diego and LA. That was fine by me though, especially with the OC coastal scenery to enjoy.
LA is a huge city, sprawling for as much as 30 miles. It’s technically a collection of 80-odd distinctive cities that all seem to merge together. Hollywood’s not a bad base to stay in LA. It’s reasonably central in geographical terms, is probably the main tourist epicentre and has some of the better public transport infrastructure in LA.
The Hollywood/Vine subway station exits onto a section of Hollywood Boulevard where the Walk Of Fame stars are located. On the short walk to the hostel I walked past Debbie Reynolds’ star. Until today I wasn’t aware of who Debbie Reynolds was, not being familiar with her work. There was a shrine set up around the star indicating that she had obviously passed away. I knew that Carrie Fisher had died yesterday but only later found out that they were mother and daughter, which is incredibly sad.
Tonight I headed down to The Comedy Store over in West Hollywood, the next city along from Hollywood itself. It’s located on the Sunset Strip section of Sunset Boulevard in an rich in LA history. I walked past the legendary Chateau Marmont Hotel and further up the street was the iconic Whiskey-A-Go-Go music venue.
I’ve always wanted to visit The Comedy Store, even more so after listening to podcasts where it’s often referenced by comics who frequent the place. I got an idea of the layout when I managed to get lost while attempting to go to the toilet. There’s the Original Room which as the name suggests was is the oldest part. It’s very intimate, with maybe around 100 seats. The Main Room is a fair bit bigger. There are pictures on the walls of people who’ve played here in the past and it’s a essentially a who’s who of comedy. The club retains the old-school cabaret style which is nice. Being alone, I managed to be seated on the front row at the side of the stage in the Original Room. This kicked off my anxiety about having to converse with whoever was on stage!
If not the world’s capital of stand-up comedy, Los Angeles is fairly close. Certainly plenty of the big names live there. When they are not touring, The Comedy Store comes in handy for the development of acts. From 9pm until about 2am, each comedian was assigned a 15-minute slot. An act will then introduce the next stand-up, meaning that the comedy never stops. On stage you can get anyone from the biggest arena acts trying out new material to up-and-comers, as well as everyone in between. As the audience were not getting polished routines or full shows, the admission price was a bargain $15. However so the club can stay in business, there is also a two-drink minimum which will set you back around another $15. It’s still great value though.
The opening comic was Dean Delray. I’ve of him and quite enjoy his podcast. Dean immediately clocked me on the front row and said, “You look freezing there buddy. you OK?” I said something about getting off my sick bed to come out to see him and ending up sitting in a draft, which he laughed at. That was my entire interaction of the night so I got off fairly lightly. There were a couple of loud mouths in the front row that were easy to make fun of, so they got the brunt of the audience participation. Some of the bigger names on tonight included Bobby Lee (a big name comedian who’s also been in quite a few films) and Pauly Shore (a star of MTV back in the 1990’s). They were both fairly funny. Judd Apatow, as in the big film director of Knocked Up fame, performed a set. He clearly wasn’t doing it for the cash! Sometimes he got a bit dark but Judds’s a funny fellow. Marc Maron is a huge comedian in America and hosts one of the biggest podcast going. He came on and appeared to ad-lib for 15 minutes. As with his podcast I’m not sure if I’m a huge fan. Especially when he trod on my foot while leaving the stage and failed to apologise! it appeared that the bigger name comedians come on during in first couple of hours. I called it a night around midnight when I began to feel a bit tired. Apparently it’s not unheard of for a huge act (like Chris Rock or Louis CK) to turn up just before closing in order to test material and there’s hardly anyone in the room. The standard of comedy was a bit hit and miss due to the nature of trying out new stuff but overall it was more than decent. It was great to experience such a cool place as The Comedy Club.