MARQUEE MATTERS: The Groundlings is tops in L.A., while NYC theatre freezes

Grant Shaud, Marlo Thomas and Lisa Emery in Elaine May's 'George is Dead' — Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus


• We’re going to branch off from strictly theater and discuss a little bit about the great comedy offerings in Los Angeles. The City of Angels is quite simply the place to be for the best stand-up and improv comedy in the country. New York City and Chicago are formidable candidates, but nothing can top the expansiveness of the L.A. comedy scene. It seems that on every corner there is a comedy club.

Plus, this is the land of milk and honey, meaning some of the best acts are based in southern California. Celebrities, including the top-names in the comedy business, live right around the block from these storied venues. It’s not uncommon to find unbelievable headliners almost every single weekend.

For example, this weekend, when Hollywood Soapbox visits Hollywood, famed film director Kevin Smith is performing at the Jon Lovtiz Comedy Club at Universal Studios’ CityWalk. On Sundays, Jay Leno routinely performs at The Comedy and Magic Club.

For my money, I’ll take the improv houses over the stand-up houses any day of the week. Last night, we caught a performance of The Groundlings, the legendary improv group on Melrose Boulevard. Many illustrious comedians have graced the stage of The Groundlings, and, from the looks of Friday night’s show, the tradition definitely continues.

Because we caught a developmental performance (titled Zombie Apocalypse), we’re going to hold off reviewing the show. But, truth be told, it would be receiving a stellar write-up. The cast was energetic, creative and original — three qualities that are difficult to achieve on stage.

Other great comedy spots in Los Angeles: Upright Citizens Brigade, The Comedy Store, The Laugh Factory and Acme Comedy Theatre. The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club is probably the nicest-looking venue because it’s conveniently located in CityWalk and offers some great dining selections (we’re gaga over their buffalo chicken sandwich). Plus, if you want to stick to just drinks, then head to one of CityWalk’s many other restaurants.

• A quick note on Broadway closings … As usual, the winter months are proving particularly cold for many productions.Word on the street is that On a Clear Day You Can See Forever will close and be replaced by Leap of Faith, a new musical starring Raúl Esparza, at the St. James Theatre. Billy Elliot, Private Lives and Bonnie & Clyde have already shuttered. Relatively Speaking will hit the unemployment line by the end of the month, while Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin’s concert show will close as scheduled Sunday, Jan. 15.

Lysistrata Jones is history, and will likely be joined by a few more before Valentine’s Day.

There are a few bright spots: Stick Fly has extended its limited engagement into the spring. Venus in Fur will transfer from the Manhattan Theatre Club to a commercial run at the Lyceum Theatre. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is still going strong, defying all critics, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is drumming substantial business with Glee’s Darren Criss (we personally saw scalpers near the marquee recently).

Hopefully spring will bring bountiful offerings on the Great White Way.


This is a weekly feature of the ‘Marquee Matters’ column that will offer subjective top 5 lists on theatrical stories and trends.

Top 5 Los Angeles Spots for Great Comedy

5. The Comedy & Magic Club

4. The Comedy Store

3. The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club

2. Upright Citizens Brigade

1. The Groundlings


In the coming days, expect to read the following on Hollywood Soapbox…

• Reviews of O(h), The Road to Mecca, Cirque du Soleil: IRIS, Red-Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, Seminar and Wit

• Feature on The Phantom of the Opera

By John Soltes / Publisher /

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

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