'A Drinking Game' at Next Stage Is Exactly What You Want It To Be

It's not often that a comedy show emerges onto the Los Angeles scene to offer something truly unique. Most dimly lit back room shows fall into one of a few categories: stand up, sketch, or improv. There may be different themes, different ways of extracting the jokes from a given set of parameters, but ultimately the delivery ends up being about the same. Does all that sound boring to you? Then clear your calendar for the next A Drinking Game. It might just be the type of show you've been waiting for.

A Drinking Game is actually the perfect title for the monthly shenanigans currently happening at The Next Stage on La Brea. Equal parts drinking and game-within-a-show, this relative newcomer has already gained packed-house status every time they get on stage. That's no easy feat, considering the proximity of comedy heavy-hitters vying for eyes and butts in seats nearby. The NerdMelt Showroom at Meltdown Comics is just around the corner, iO West has shows seven nights a week over in Hollywood and the Upright Citizens Brigade is never without a line. So what makes A Drinking Game so special? Basically, everything.

Enough being coy about the details. Here's what A Drinking Game is, if you were to list out its basic features: a staged reading of a famously funny movie. Actors recite the timeless lines to a room full of revelers, who are encouraged to shout lines as they happen, taunt, and harass the actors on stage, and drink each time a certain word or phrase crops up in the reading. But oh, A Drinking Game is so much more.

Last month's show featured a staged reading of "Blazing Saddles," the 1974 Mel Brooks Western farce. A range of eight or so actors take the stage, already dressed and prepped in their best Western wear. For the most part, each actor plays multiple characters, parading around and making small costume changes on the fly. There is even event narration and a show wrangler, as it were, who buzzes every time one of the magical words or phrases is uttered, encouraging the whole room to drink. Not to be outdone, the shabby black box theater itself is adorned with various small touches to reflect the film, and small grab bags of personal props for the audience are available for purchase. Most of the time they're chock full of inventive ways to further subject the actors to some sort of low level humility.

What works so well about A Drinking Game is its full immersion. There's really not much to look at, what with the actors all sitting, holding scripts. Yet, this show is undeniably stimulating, with laugh lines, buzzers, shouted choruses of famous dialogue, props, instructions, and drinks. If anything, A Drinking Game is a party where people happen to enjoy sitting down and staring straight ahead. It's also a party where people certainly don't mind laughing.

For now, the monthly party continues at the Next Stage on La Brea, which ironically often holds AA meetings during the week. There are loose plans to move venues as the show continues to expand, but with the liquor store downstairs and a BYOB policy (mixers and water—plenty of water—are provided), it may be tough to replicate. On the L.A. scene, though, A Drinking Game isn't going anywhere. In fact, it's one of the most inventive shows in town.

The next show, Office Space, takes place Saturday, September 28, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15.