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Arts and Entertainment

Show Review: What's Up, Tiger Lily?

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Monday nights have long been mentioned on LAist as, surprisingly, a great night for comedy. There’s Harold Night at UCB, the Armando Show at iO West, and plenty of other random shows around town to assuage your already work-weary brain. But there’s one show, in the heart of Los Angeles, that doesn’t really fit the Monday bill. It’s as established as the improv shows mentioned above, and has bigger names attached to it than any random show you’re likely to find. And yet, it still flies under the radar. Or, rather, it’s tucked away, both figuratively and inside the Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill at the Gower Gulch on Sunset / Gower. Hell, even the stage is tucked not-so-neatly into a corner, right by the entrance. But you’re not coming for the ambiance or even the food; you’re coming for the world class stand up. This is Tiger Lily.

What’s Up, Tiger Lily? is the official name of this long-running weekly stand up show, hosted by Melinda Hill, and Maria Bamford. And while the venue has changed over the years, the high level of comedy being performed every Monday night has not. Famous drop ins abound, and even on a ‘normal’ night, the line up is -to borrow a phrase- straight out of the funny pages. Guys like Paul F. Tompkins, Greg Proops, Chris Hardwick, JIm Gaffigan, and Patton Oswalt have all blessed the Tiger Lily stage at one time or another, giving this underground and underrated show some serious street-level credibility. Now, to be fair, the show isn’t exactly unknown to the larger comedy community, but it’s still a little too hip for the regular folks who shell out $25 a pop at some chuckle hut in West Hollywood. In fact, there’s no cover at Tiger Lily, just a bar for stiff drinks and a menu for mediocre meals. I guess as a comedian, you shouldn’t ask for much more.

LAist was recently invited to catch a night at Tiger Lily firsthand, and within the first 45 minutes it becomes pretty apparent that maybe you never want this thing to get too big, too legitimate. Maybe (read: definitely) it’s a good thing the middle of the road crowds don’t come pounding down the Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill door, dragging their fat wallets and arms-crossed-in-disapproval with them. Tiger Lily is for a different crowd, and that really helps to make it great. Not that the jokes being told aren’t accessible, or there’s a pervading sense of comedy entitlement blaring from the microphone or anything. It’s just that, really, Tiger Lily is a great place for comics to come in and try out new stuff, bomb, kill, or just sit in the back and talk shop with Melinda Hill as she gives a stand up the light by waving her cell phone in the air until they notice.

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On this night, the line up was packed with Marc Maron, Nick Kroll, Eddie Pepitone, Jackie Kashian, and Jason Nash, among others. Normally any one of these guys would be getting a spot at a bigger, better lit, and more expensive club somewhere down the street. But tonight, here they all are, looking for the one thing that this audience is willing to give them: honesty. Hands down, the best part about Tiger Lily is the honesty you can find there. When Nick Kroll takes the corner stage at a restaurant with 40 people in it and turns on a voice recorder, he doesn’t want you to laugh at everything he says just because he’s the one saying it. And the same is true for all of the comedians who take the Tiger Lily stage; getting better at what you do is all about learning, and you’re never going to learn if you don’t find out what works and what doesn’t. And rather than getting a case of the Steve Martins, where anything you say is considered genius no matter what, real comedians can expect real reactions from comedyphiles, casual diners, and even the waitstaff.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the line ups are already packed from end to end with ridiculously funny folks every single week. That sure makes laughing a lot easier. And on nights like this, when Marc Maron essentially opens (and kills), you know you’re in for a real treat. And that’s what Tiger Lily is, a treat. It’s never so overdone that you take it for granted, and it’s certainly not one to let you down. The only tough part, then, is waiting six days until you can enjoy it again.