The second edition of The Riot LA Comedy Festival left me exhausted over how awesome it was, just like a comedy festival should do. So many times during the festival, there was a sense of controlled chaos and wonderment at the plethora of superb comedy happening a stone’s throw away from each other in addition to marching bands, lasers, pranks with real money, Jon Dore, and oh so much more.
Here’s my recap from the splendid comedy whirlwind of a weekend I had at the 2nd Riot LA.
–Jon Dore was a jewel in this festival. If you know Dore and his comedy, this will come as no surprise to you, but his impression of a person who smokes in a non-smoking area and getting two guys to embrace each other during Prompter!, and his version of storytelling in This Is Not Happening, were all brilliant.
-Out-of-towners Liza Treyger and Jenny Zigrino, from Chicago and New York, respectively, served some up great sets throughout the festival with domineering stage presence and some snappy but welcome attitude.
-The first ever Rodney Dangerfield Award was a great showcase of the great wealth of talent in L.A.’s backyard, with the likes of Eliza Skinner, Chris Garcia, Josh Fadem, Christian Duguay, and more. Fadem, in his pure, unfiltered silliness, won a special Stand Out Stand Up award at the end of the night.
–Eddie Pepitone, a wonderful staple of the L.A. comedy scene, heckled the host, David Feldman, of his own show, Eddie Pepitone’s Bloodbath, while Feldman was trying to bring him up. Of course, Eddie took the stage as a citizen of Altadena who came all the way down to see Pepitone.
-The cult following of CC:Studios’ This Is Not Happening with Ari Shaffir came out to Riot LA and wasn’t disappointed, as they got to hear a prostitute story from Dov Davidoff, a decidedly darker, but funnier angle on storytelling than something like The Moth.
–Kurt Braunohler‘s Roustabout presented by CC:Studios was one of the best shows at the entire festival. Kurt interviewed guests like comedians Joe Mande and Grace Helbig while they were hooked up to a polygraph machine, and the show’s finale kept going off too early throughout the whole show, to Braunohler’s disappointment. Just when the show was ending with no finale and in complete darkness, shadow puppets dancing to hard rock and a marching band leading the entire audience to the after party through the streets of Downtown L.A. perfectly exemplified the spirit that Riot LA’s name suggests.
-At KCRW Presents Unfictional Live, Jay Larson, a regular on Conan for his sensational stories, told another great one of how he picked up girls with his friends in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire in a limo while he was only in 8th grade.
–Midnight Run with Andy Haynes, a show in which all the comedians on the line-up got “super baked”, then performed, ran the whole spectrum of weed smoking with a spirited set from veteran pot smoker and great comedian Rory Scovel to first timer Whitmer Thomas.
-Free beer, Jarritos soda, air hockey, arcade games, Sprinkles ice cream, a .gif making photo booth from Bosco, and a good row of food trucks in the Riot LA “lot” is as awesome as it sounds.
-The Wayne Federman International Film Festival stopped by Riot LA for a single screening of the original The Heartbreak Kid, as chosen by Kevin Nealon, who, apparently, went through his own experience of having to tell a woman he was dating that he had found someone else while on vacation.
-One of the biggest comedy shows to take place at someone’s house, Comedy Living Room, took residence in a loft and was so packed because of an amazing line-up, per usual, that I couldn’t even get in.
–Todd Barry headlined The Downtown Independent Theater and treated us to his famous wry wit as well as putting his razor sharp crowd work skills on display. An audience member asked Todd why he was calling him a hippie and what a hippie is anymore, and Todd shot back immediately, “Look in a mirror.”
–Guy Branum‘s Talk Show The Game Show, in which guests compete to have the best panel interview, is one of the best game shows that has yet to be a TV show. Guests/competitors Gabe Liedman, Alice Wetterlund, and Ian Karmel, along with judges Karen Kilgariff, Chase Bernstein, and Whitmer Thomas, plus Branum’s aggressive hosting, made for one of the more memorable shows of the festival.
–Superego showed once again why they’re one of the funniest podcasts around, joined by guests Paul F. Tompkins, Erinn Hayes, and Matt Jones for such fun “case studies” like a town meeting with a man running running for comptroller even though he doesn’t know what that is.
–Paul F. Tompkins also wore a cap and a mask and donned a Southern accent as a Florida vigilante, J.W. Stillwater, who listens to “crime go” on his “Bearcat scanner” during Comedy Bang! Bang! Live. You definitely missed out if you didn’t catch this.
-Despite what you hear about open mics, the Riot LA was packed the whole time and no one’s soul looked like it was being sucked out while on stage.
-The amazing Andrés du Bouchet hopped from venue to venue as a fictional ancient General that likes partying at Hamburger Mary’s and also gets confused on what animals to compare his soldiers to when describing how well they fought.
–Tony Sam‘s Persona showcased a cavalcade of fully costumed characters all in one show, from a struggling hypnotist in Ron Lynch’s Mezmerizo to Sam’s own real life member of the Fun Police.
–Drennon Davis and his Imaginary Radio Program wowed crowds with the plethora of fictional radio stations (but based on actual ones) parodying hard rock and classical music, complete with ads for GPS systems as narrated by Morrissey, all with Davis’ voice, effects pedals, and looping machines.
-The podcast version of long form improv on improv4humans has been a hit at comedy festivals across the country, and was no different while at Riot LA, with Andy Daly, Lauren Lapkus, Matt Besser, and Seth Morris doing scenes on such things like necessary compliments of funeral attire.
–Comedy Bang! Bang! Live not only had a be-caped Tompkins as stated above, but Lauren Lapkus as a uniquely frustrating teenager that has a crush on host Scott Aukerman as well as Harris Wittels’ Phone Corner, in which Wittels reads jokes off of his phone that he really didn’t feel like reading. It was all the great tomfoolery that we all have come to expect from the podcast and TV show.
–The Riot LA Space Exploration Program: Electronic Comedy & Real Lasers with Carlala and The Funk at The Smell was the best sci-fi themed, musical comedy dance party ever. Yes, there were clearing out chairs and dancing, two earthlings throwing pies at each other’s faces, silly string, and lots of lasers. It was another of Riot LA’s most memorable shows.
–H. Jon Benjamin, who you should know from Archer and Bob’s Burgers, had a special show commemorating his dearly departed show Jon Benjamin Has a Van that was kicked off with Benjamin and series co-creator Leo Allen determining that the ticket price of their show at The Downtown Independent was a little too much and his JBHV writer Nathan Fielder (who you probably now know from Comedy Central’s Nathan For You) should deliver envelopes with partial refunds with real legal tender while the Ghostbusters theme was playing. Ten or so minutes later, Benjamin and Allen decided they had miscalculated how much the show was worth and decided it was more, then had Fielder go collect $2 of the partial refunds, again to the sound of The Ghostbusters theme.
-The entire festival pretty much takes place on one and half blocks, which maximized the amount of comedy that I could see and made sure I missed as little as possible. With that being said, there was still too many great shows for me to all be at simultaneously.
Also, here’s my interview with Riot LA’s creator and executive producer Abbey Londer, who managed to spectacularly wrangle all of this together.