Roof Top Humor: 'It's A Long Way Down' Brings Comedy to New Heights

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Barbara Gray at a recent It's A Long Way Down. Photo courtesy spencerwider via Flickr.

Lights in the night sky around Los Angeles are a fairly regular occurrence. Between the police helicopters and white-hot dual beams denoting the latest club opening (don’t cross the streams!), our city is downright diluted with light pollution. One place you wouldn’t always expect to see a few shining lamps streaming skyward, though, would be an unassuming - even boxy - apartment complex just off the 405 in Culver City. You’d be even more surprised to find a really inventive comedy show happening on the roof.

It’s A Long Way Down is still a baby of an indie comedy event, having been born only a few months ago out of a pure love for stand up between friends Alex Hooper and Eric Sheffield. Together, they book some of LA’s best comics - Kyle Kinane, Raj Desai, Brandie Posey and JC Coccoli have all dropped in, and thankfully not off the roof. They’ve also built themselves a nice little wooden stage, and have classed up the joint with a slew of seats (some foldable, others a touch more… thrifted) and warming gels over the otherwise harsh lighting. The Los Angeles night sky and a BYOB policy provide the rest of the ambiance, which is more than enough.

On a recent Saturday night, It’s A Long Way Down booked a few LA heavy hitters, including Paul Danke and the always fantastic Rob Delaney. As the crowd approached whatever ‘capacity’ is for a tarred roof on a slightly aged building, the downstairs doors clicked closed for the night and the fun began. Zach Sherwin (aka MC Mr. Napkins) played host, inviting guests to get cozy and make sure to take in their surroundings, although it’s hard to imagine anyone forgetting that the moon is just over their right shoulder. As the night progressed, a mixed bag audience that included someone’s parents and a couple of surprisingly well-behaved dogs hunkered against the light chill with whatever remedy they prescribed themselves, including laughter.

As you can imagine, Rob Delaney managed the stage with a deftness and likeable personality that’ll charm your pants off and leave you exposed. His bits are so honest and unassuming that it’s hard to believe they’re written down at all. That’s good stand up, folks. Other highlights include Alex Hooper talking about how he’s managed to defy his own odds and land a girlfriend, and Michelle Buteau dishing on what it means to have a white Dutch husband.

It’s A Long Way Down succeeds where so many other indie improv shows seem to fail in Los Angeles, for one very simple reason: it’s unique. Sure, there’s the Guitar Center amp dropped unceremoniously at the feet of the performer, but there’s also a backdrop of stars and open sky. Yeah, the lighting isn’t great, but the gels help and the warm light from the surrounding rooftop help to cast a favorable glow. Plus, regardless of the roof itself, what other indie show has funky live guitar riffs as interstitials for the comics, or cares enough about tech-ing the show to let MC Mr Napkins do three raps at the top of the show?

Perhaps Long Way Down excels precisely because so many other shows fail. They fail to see the value of a worthwhile venue, or choose to look beyond the aesthetics to an assumptive future where everyone crams into dark janitor closets to catch a bit about rubber snakes from some guy who couldn’t even make it on Lopez Tonight (RIP). There are ways to push the indie stand up comedy game up a level, and you need look no further than… up. Or, rather, a long way down.

It's A Long Way Down occurs monthly on a rooftop in Culver City.