'Brunch' Stand Up Show Cracks Jokes But No New Eggs

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Matt Braunger at Brunch. Photo courtesy Sam Varela.

In this town, you’ll spot about as many new burger places as you will alternative stand up comedy shows. That is, a lot; especially along Sunset Boulevard as it drags its way from the beach to Elysian Park. (OK, maybe Pacific Palisades isn’t a hotbed of comedy, but you get the idea). So when The Park on Sunset in Echo Park - with their fantastic Wednesday night burger deal - decided to host a Monday night stand up show, the Eastside comedy feeling was a resounding “…totally…”.

The show is cheekily named Brunch, making it about as easy to Google as the restaurant Street on Highland Blvd. (another great burger spot). Essentially, Brunch has copy-and-pasted the new indie stand up show model and carved out an edge for themselves in Echo Park. Folding chairs? They got ‘em. People standing in the back, arms crossed, hoodies in every color of the rainbow? Of course. Choosing a corner of the room and calling it a stage? Hoo boy, you better believe it.

The model seems to continue to gain an audience. Of course, it helps that the line-ups have slowly gotten better as the show emerges from its infancy. In fact, in recent weeks Brunch has been one of the most well-curated free shows available. Next week’s guests include Ron Lynch, The Birthday Boys and Kyle Kinane, which either means someone at the top of this Brunch pile (mmm, delicious) is well-connected, or this alternative stand up snake is starting to eat its own tail.

Perhaps that’s the biggest issue with Brunch; it just doesn’t feel ‘new’. The current ‘free alternative stand up comedy show’ model is stretching itself pretty thin, even if Brunch isn’t. The twenty-year-old comedy nerds sitting cross-legged on the tile floor is unsustainable, in a time when the Wednesday Meltdown show (also on Sunset - no burger to be found) pulls in bigger names, keeps prices reasonable and gives you a real seat to watch it all unfold. The Upright Citizens Brigade hovers tickets around $5, and drop-ins are a near-weekly occurrence. Even free shows like Holy Fuck at the Downtown Independent or Frolic at Far Bar (burger alert!!!) are giving the audience a better physical experience, and (since we’re all swimming in the same can of comedy soup) probably booking the same names as Brunch, just in a different order.

Recently, Matt Braunger closed the Brunch show around 11:30pm with a bit he’s been honing for a while. It’s a streamlined and clever story about going on an impromptu pub crawl in Chicago while dressed as a clown, and it never fails to knock a room on its ass. Well, maybe it’s the stolen-from-a-construction-site lighting, or the basement band amp sitting fat on the floor, or the fact that it’s Monday, in Echo Park, and Short Stop is so close you can practically smell the bad decisions, but damned if that bit didn’t just roll out to a golf tournament level of polite applause. Giggles, chuckles, sure. But no guffaws, nobody spilling their two buck chuck and not giving a fuck.

It’s not the joke, and it’s definitely not the comic. It’s not the show, either. Brunch is - and hopefully will continue to be - a welcome bi-Monday show with artfully crafted line ups. So maybe it’s the model itself. Maybe we’re all just getting a little too ahead of ourselves, and instead of tossing a mic stand into any unoccupied corner that can also fit a 60 watt light bulb, we can all agree that comedy deserves a little bit more. The audience, all of us out here on a school night, deserve better. Brunch isn’t the problem, but it’s time we started looking for a more inventive solution.

"Brunch" runs every other Monday @9pm at The Park Restaurant