Arts & Entertainment

Ahead of The Pack, the new theater rocking LA's comedy scene

Josh Fadem performs at the Pack Theater in Hollywood.
Josh Fadem performs at the Pack Theater in Hollywood.
Courtesy of the Pack Theater

Rejoice, Angelenos! The Golden Age of comedy is upon us — actually it's been upon us for the last few years. Between all the improv troupes, classes, performance spaces and online platforms that serve as farm leagues for aspiring funny types to hone their material before they're called up to the majors, the Comedy Industrial Complex is a-boomin'. And Los Angeles is at the center of it.

On almost any night, you can pop into some bar or sweaty shoebox of a theater where Dave Chappelle or Sarah Silverman might drop in to work out new material. But the city also nurtures rising stars like Kate Berlant, Ali Wong and Guy Branum. So why does L.A. need another comedy theater? Ask Miles Stroth.

Two short weeks ago, he opened The Pack Theater, a Hollywood 50-seater. What sets The Pack apart from the pack? 

Performers at the Pack Theater in Hollywood.
Performers at the Pack Theater in Hollywood.
Courtesy of the Pack Theater

"It's more like 'How do we add to it?'," Stroth says. "I think every theater out there wants to say, 'Our shows are the best. Our classes are the best.' But I don't see us as competing with other theaters as much as we complement the community." 

The Pack grew out of classes taught by Stroth, who has been living and breathing improv for nearly three decades. He came up at Second City in Chicago then moved to Improv Olympic and worked with Del Close for about eight years. 15 years ago, he moved to Los Angeles. 

"It was about 15 years behind Chicago. There wasn't a big improv scene here. They basically had the Groundlings and that was it. In the past 15 years, it has exploded out here. It's amazing what's going on in L.A. right now," Stroth says.

He began teaching and developing his own methodology. 

Miles Stroth (left) performs the Pack Theater in Hollywood.
Miles Stroth (left) performs the Pack Theater in Hollywood.
Courtesy of the Pack Theater

Under the giant "yes and" umbrella of improv, there are many approaches and schools of thought. Think of it like academia, only less tedious and with fewer pretentious polysyllabic words. What sets The Pack apart may be Stroth's agnostic approach to improv, choosing instructors with very different teaching styles than his own. 

"I would describe scenes as existing in four different scene types, which is something I've been working on for about 20 years. That's my own lesson. It wasn't taught to me by anybody else. I purposely wanted Emily Candini because she teaches a very opposite school of thought. Mine is much more formal, some might say mathematical. Hers is much more personal. She talks more about protecting the player, protecting the space," Stroth says. Other teachers at The Pack have worked on Mad TV, Animation Domination and "more credits than I know to list." 

Although the theater is only two weeks old, it has a full lineup of shows, seven nights a week with four different slots almost every evening. That includes improv, sketch, standup, variety, musicals and grab-bag of weirdness.

Crowds outside the Pack Theater in Hollywood.
Crowds outside the Pack Theater in Hollywood.
Photograph by Justin Baker

Stroth estimates that approximately 200 players will hit the stage in a given week. That may explain why comedians have been drawn to the venue — they can get stage time and an audience, a combo that isn't always easy to find. 

Even Stroth isn't totally sure what's on tap at The Pack. "I'm excited to see what's going to happen next week," he says. "It looks crazy."

The Pack Theater is located at 6470 Santa Monica Blvd., a block west of Cahuenga Blvd.

 

Performers outside the Pack Theater in Hollywood.
Performers outside the Pack Theater in Hollywood.
Photograph by Justin Baker