Comedy is kind of my thing. I love it. I do it constantly. I’ve spent thousands of dollars and hours learning, performing, teaching, and watching comedy. It’s a guaranteed mood-booster no matter what the circumstance.
I try and write about comedy and happiness regularly. Since good comedy can help make you happier, I thought I’d share with you four of my favorite types of live comedy performances and which ones are best for whatever mood you’re in.
There’s nothing more exhilarating than improvisational comedy done well. The symbiosis created between the audience and the performers is incredible. Going into a show knowing that these people are going to create something on the spot in this moment that you’re never going to see again creates an excitement and electricity that’s hard to match. Both performers and audience are delighted when something works and people laugh. They’re surprised when they find connections organically in the moment simple listening and building. It’s spontaneous and creative and exhilarating.
The beauty of improv comes from the fact that you can take so many risks. And that you can and will likely fail in some of your comedy attempts. So there are plenty of improv shows that go awry. And plenty of improvisers who don’t commit to the scene, the show, or the moment. So there’s a good chance if you show up at an improv show, you’re going to see a bunch of uncomfortable people make uncomfortable choices that will also make you uncomfortable. And it won’t be funny until later when you describe to your friends how you spent your time and money.
So if you’re in a risk-taking mood and don’t have the money to visit Vegas, go see improv comedy. As long as you know you’re investing in a risk. It could be one of the funniest and most exciting shows you’ve seen in years. Or it could be a great chance to practice some schadenfreude.
You want to escape and watch people acting larger-than-life. You want to see people you can identify with who tackle everyday life scenarios in a new and innovative way. You’ve spent all day in the drudgery of some paperwork and just want someone to come at you with lots of energy and do a little song and dance.
Go see a sketch show.
Sketch comedy is filled with costumes and ridiculous makeup and wigs and people throwing so much energy at you, you can hardly stand it. Sketch comedy shows are rehearsed and practiced, so (depending on the group) you have a pretty good shot at having a good time. Sketch comedy is where you can find some of the silliest characters and one-liners in all of comedy. If you want to go somewhere with friends where you can quote it for days and act like a fool, I highly suggest a sketch show.
3) Stand up
If you’re in need of a guaranteed good time, go see a professional comedian at a comedy club. They’re the best at turning that mood around. Successful stand up comedians are some of the most practiced and disciplined performers in the industry despite the fact that they often like to pretend they’re total slobs who don’t have themselves together. But don’t be fooled by their appearance. If they’ve made a name for themselves in the stand up community and have momentum in their career, they’re spectacularly disciplined about getting in front of enough audiences to craft incredible jokes that will take you on a hilarious comedy adventure.
If you’ve had a rough week or are in a funky mood and really want to be jolted out of it, go see a stand up comedian.
What I love most about the stand up comedy experience is the fact that good comedians have elements of sketch and improv in their set. They’re able to create a dynamic with the audience that’s organic and in the moment, often spontaneously coming up with hilarious jokes on the spot. They can create these goofy, larger-than-life characters that you identify with and love watching. But unlike sketch and improv, they don’t usually have the risk-factor that those shows bring along with them.
Stand up comedians- the pros- know how to handle an audience. They know if you’re there to see them, you’re there to hear a certain voice and perspective. If they do something that doesn’t work, they have a myriad of jokes to get you out of it. They’re practiced to deliver the most laughs in the shortest period of time. They know when to pause and how to say their perfectly crafted joke in the most effective way to make you laugh the hardest. They got their risks and their bad shows out of the way in dive bars and strange venues across the nation. Now you both get to revel in their hard work and thousands of hours of practice. You trust them. They’ll take care of you.
There are a lot of creative people who are pushing the envelope in comedy always. Some of the coolest comedy I’ve seen is “experimental” comedy. People who are melding the worlds of sketch, stand up, improv, and the hundreds of other comedy outlets I’m not even mentioning here into live performances and shows. You can see improvisers record a comedy podcast live.
If you’re in a bit of a hipster mood and want to have a comedy experience that’s completely unique go see something experimental. No matter how the actual show is, you can at least enjoy people who are pushing the envelope creatively. Odds are, there will only be a handful of people in the audience anyway. But with the way the entertainment world goes, you could be watching the next big comedic explosion finding its voice onstage in front of you.
If you live in Los Angeles, some of the best theaters for comedy are UCB, The Groundlings, Second City, iO, The Improv, The Laugh Factory, and The Comedy Store. Check out their respective websites and schedules. If you’re not LA local, there are incredible comedy communities in every town. A quick google search and I’m sure you can find whatever you’re looking for. Always look up the team or performer so you know what you’re getting into. That way, too, you can choose based on your mood.