Any Los Angeles local will tell you that if you’re visiting LA, you’ve got to check out the local stand-up comedy scene. This movie-making town is packed with performers, and there’s nothing quite like saying you saw one of them up on stage before they hit the big time.
For one of LA’s best weekly comedy nights, head to the Rapp Saloon at HI Los Angeles Santa Monica hostel on Tuesday and Saturday nights. HI USA Volunteers Michael Magid and Andy Ruther run the weekly shows, in which local comedians perform in English for a group of LA community members and international hostel guests. The result is a unique experience that pokes a little fun at our differences while bringing everyone together over a lot of laughs. Michael recently took some time out of his busy performing schedule to talk to us about Los Angeles, language barriers, and why comedy is just what the world needs right now.
What do you love about stand-up comedy?
I love the immediate connection with the audience! Nothing feels better than to get to really speak from the heart and share stories, anecdotes, or observations with others and simultaneously entertain them.
What makes comedy an important part of LA culture?
In this day and age… it's a necessity to be able to see the humor in our world. When we all can share our faults, and missteps, we humanize each other.
What made you want to do a comedy show at a hostel?
I'm first-generation Venezuelan (I was born in Caracas), and English was my fourth language I learned as a child. I lived in 3 countries by the time I was 5, and had traveled to about 20. Other cultures have always been around me, and I wanted to explore how I could relate internationally. I wanted to continue to challenge myself to make my comedy universally relatable, yet specific and unique to my own experiences. I couldn’t think of a better place to do this than the hostel.
What's it like performing for an international audience when many people may not have English as their first language or may not always get American cultural references?
It's definitely a challenge, but it makes you a stronger performer and person in general. I also have English as my second language and am from a different country, so I have empathy towards the experience. Sometimes (during the show) the room can be silent for stretches as people "take in" everything, and then once they are on the same page, the room gets lively again. Comedy is subjective to what you know, so not everyone's going to have the same experiences, and it's always a blast learning what crosses cultural and language barriers and what is more regional.
What do you enjoy about performing for an international audience?
I enjoy how open and honest they are to interaction. Every show I feel I gain knowledge from the guests. Whether it's a group of Kazakhstani students discussing their culinary delights, a Malaysian on why he loves American comedies, or an Algerian showcasing his freestyle basketball skills, the crowd interaction always brings a smile to my face.
So, what’s it like during a show?
Every show is different! The audience is an eclectic mix of people so each one has its own unique feel. Typically, we open the show asking what countries everyone's from. This breaks the ice as people begin talking about why they are visiting and about themselves. Then a couple comedians go up, and I usually wrap up the show with my act. Essentially the energy is interactive, positive, and very much like the opening of a school welcome party or orientation. In fact, many people meet for the first time at the show and head out on the town together after.
How do you find the performers for the weekly show?
We are fortunate that the show has received quite a buzz around town, so we get established performers and artists we personally make contact with. We are blessed to have such a rich talent pool (in LA), and at any given show you could have two or three recognizable international comedians on the stage.
What else would you recommend visitors do or see while they’re in LA?
So many choices! LA county (and Southern California in general) has so much to do, it depends on what you fancy. LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and the Getty are pretty cool museums. But the #1 thing you need to do when you get to LA is open up your laptop or mobile device and pre-order Michael Magid's new comedy album, "It's not what it looks like," on all platforms. That or go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. That's also decent.
For more information on Michael’s stand-up comedy nights and other events at the hostel, check out HI Los Angeles Santa Monica’s events calendar.
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