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Want to be a comedian? Come to Los Angeles

Bil Dwyer, Baron Vaughn and Andy Kindler doing improv as part of STARDUMB! at Riot LA 2015.
Bil Dwyer, Baron Vaughn and Andy Kindler doing improv as part of STARDUMB! at Riot LA 2015.
Liezl Estipona
Bil Dwyer, Baron Vaughn and Andy Kindler doing improv as part of STARDUMB! at Riot LA 2015.
Up-and-coming comic Julia Prescott says she's performed in a lot of alternative spaces, like the basement of a hookah bar.
Bil Dwyer, Baron Vaughn and Andy Kindler doing improv as part of STARDUMB! at Riot LA 2015.
Comedian Baron Vaughn during the Riot LA 2015 comedy fest.

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It's a Saturday night and comedian Baron Vaughn is completely booked. 

"I'm doing a five comedy show night, like it's New York. And it's not New York," Vaughn says.

In the green room at the Downtown Independent theater, in between a barrel of beers and half a dozen other comedians who just finished an improv show, Vaughn explains why he came to L.A. to do comedy. 

"In other places, especially in Boston, it's like a place where comedy gestates. People come out of there that are fantastic but you have to come to New York or L.A. to quote unquote 'make it.'"

And Barron wasn't the only comedian backstage who came to L.A. from somewhere else.

Andy Kindler made the move from New York decades ago. Now he feels like more of an L.A. guy. 

"I'm a huge fan of Los Angeles because I don't think we have a provincial attitude or we're competitive. Most of us, if you insult Los Angeles, we'll probably agree with you. The comedy scene is very great... I'm happy to be here."

Then there was Bill Dwyer. Also not from L.A., Dwyer's done Letterman, a long string of TV spots — well, just check his IMDB. Dwyer says, as a working comedian/actor, it doesn't hurt to have the TV and film industry close by. 

"That's why you do it, right? You do it 'cause Hollywood's close. If I didn't care I'd live in Big Bear," Dwyer says. 

According to Vaughn, Hollywood aside, L.A. is a hub for aspiring comedians right now. 

"I think right now in particular, Los Angeles comedy is really fantastic. Because people have moved here from Boston, Chicago, Austin, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, San Francisco with their own do-it-yourself attitudes. So there's a lot of people doing it for the sake of doing really good comedy. It's making the bar raise for everybody."

Three years ago, Abbey Londer started Riot L.A. — downtown's large-and-growing comedy festival.  A comic herself, Londer's festival showcases the talent of hundreds of comedians. 

"I think when people think of stand-up comedy, they think of New York. And I think people need to start thinking about L.A.," Londer says.

"And I also think it's super underrated," she says. "You can see comedy every single night in L.A. for free and you can see great comedians."

Fred Willard, known for mockumentaries like "Best In Show" and "A Mighty Wind," agrees with Londer. A 55-year comedy veteran, Willard says there's just more opportunities for comedians in L.A. these days. 

"You know, when I first got out to L.A. it was the Improv andthe Comedy Store. But now there's a lot of places to go... There's more chance for comics. So funny is still funny."

But if you're new to the comedy scene in L.A., where do you start? Well, you could try an open mic. 

In the patio behind downtown's Lexington bar, up-and-coming comic Julia Prescott explains. 

"I always say that you'll see every corner of humanity at an open mic," Prescott says. "So you'll see people I lovingly refer to as resolutioners... It's the new year and they're deciding to start comedy for the first time. And so they're kind of the ones pacing around nervously in the back."

Then there are the veterans. They've been to their share of open mics and are a bit more confident. "It's always a mixed bag," says Prescott.

But Prescott says comedy in L.A. isn't just about doing stand-up on a stage anymore. 

"I've done comedy on rooftops and houses and backyards and sort of courtyard spaces. I've done comedy in the basement of a hookah bar. Really anywhere that you can find a spot to put a mic, you can have a comedy show."

Sure, L.A.'s comedy institutions are still around. Places like the Laugh Factory or the Improv or Pasadena's Ice House. But for Prescott and a lot of other young comedians in L.A., it's the new, less traditional places that house the truly inventive shows. 

She notes comedian Chris Hardwick, who started a comedy club in the back room of Meltdown Comics in Hollywood. 

"Now they have shows there every night of the week, and the shows are really great, and the audiences are really great too," Prescott says. 

Some of her other favorites comedy spaces in L.A.? There's Echoes Under Sunset in Echo Park or the Virgil on Santa Monica Boulevard. 

"I just saw Sam Simmons do a show there. One part that stood out to me, his partner in the show, he sponge-bathed him in Fanta in this small theater space that's mostly just a bar," Prescott says. "You see stuff like that and that was a free show."

"It's great, I love what's happening right now," she says.  

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