One of the best things about living in L.A., is the vibrant comedy scene, which is constantly growing. In November, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre expanded their operation opening up a new giant venue on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood to accommodate their growing roster of improv classes and sketch writing courses. The new location, which features an 85-seat theater, a café, and even retail stores on street level, is a welcome addition in a field where demand is through the roof (UCB’s old location on Franklin Ave. has people lining up around the block almost on a daily basis). Stalwarts like the Laugh Factory, Largo at the Coronet, and iO West, which for years has funneled comedic gold from Chicago to the west coast, have showcased more new talent and old laugh masters than ever before.
We’ve gone through this year’s comedy album releases, so you can pick your own favorites and come fully prepared the next time you check out a set at one of the clubs in town. Here are five instant classics from 2014.
Cameron Esposito – Same Sex Symbol
We profiled Chicago transplant Cameron Esposito earlier this year where she told us about her experience on Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show and the heartfelt endorsement Jay Leno gave her (She also got Leno to say, “Lesbians rule!” on national television). Esposito’s second full-length album of comedy features her signature sharp observations combined with passionate social commentary on issues like gender equality and sexual orientation, but her work is always solidly grounded in her own experience. “As you can tell from my haircut I’m a ThunderCat. And also a giant lesbian” Esposito opens. “Of course I am. I have a side-mullet.”
Bob Odenkirk – Amateur Hour
Comedy writer, standupper, and actor Bob Odenkirk finagled his way into our hearts using a shell company character by the name of Saul Goodman in AMC’s Breaking Bad, but Goodman is far from Odenkirk’s debut. The 52-year-old comedian has been a writer for SNL, Get a Life, and The Ben Stiller Show and co-created cult favorite Mr. Show with David Cross. Amateur Hour was recorded at NerdMelt in Hollywood and features material about everything from plastic bag hoarders to the elderly and porn. Odenkirk’s deadpan delivery is always what floors us.
Patton Oswalt – Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time
Recorded at the Spreckels Theatre in San Diego, Patton Oswalt’s one-hour stand-up special takes on patented Patton topics that often revolve around geek culture, but he also offers up intimate details about his personal life and meditations on being a father. Oswalt dealt in searing nerd humor before it was popular, but it’s his everyday existentialism that reveals him as a true master of the craft.
Jim Gaffigan – Obsessed
Gaffigan’s on-stage meditations on his own relationship to food has always been a pretext for examining American food culture and the comedian, who has released a string of albums since his debut, Luigi’s Doghouse in 2001, even predicted the advent of Dunkin Donuts’ “glazed donut breakfast sandwich.” In Obsessed, Gaffigan continues his culinary strain of comedy, riffing on among other things seafood (“Lobsters are giant scorpions of the sea”) and kale (“That stuff tastes like bug spray”).
Weird Al Yankovic – Mandatory Fun
Weird Al, whose career spans three decades, fourteen albums, and includes parody hit remakes such as “Smells Like Nirvana,” “Eat it,” and “White and Nerdy,” is seemingly unstoppable. Mandatory Fun, his 2014 offering, which among other tracks featured the massively successful parody of Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” (Weird Al thought it was “Tacky”), is the first comedy album to top the Billboard chart since 1963.