Riot LA is no longer the indie crowdfunded show that it was in 2012 when it first launched. RIOT is one of the big dogs now with major headliners, celebrities, and some serious promotional muscle. RIOT is now under the Goldenvoice umbrella (they also promote Coachella and other big fests and venues), and has tripled in size, but that doesn’t mean the small festival aesthetic is gone. Abbey Londer still runs the festival with the same love for comedy that she did in the festival’s first run. “When I came here [to Goldenvoice] I told them I didn’t want to lose what I consider to be the heart and soul of the festival, which are those small shows, and those really eclectic venues. That’s why I started it.” Londer told us in a telephone interview. “I pretty much run the entire thing still, from top to bottom so I am able to maintain that intimacy that I think is crucial to Riot LA.”
And that includes “the Lot” which transforms into a full comedy carnival where comedians mingle with LA celebrities, and fans, and it all takes place amidst a block party carnival vibe with Skee-Ball, arcade games, a Ferris Wheel, food trucks, a photo booth, animals to adopt, tech games, DJ’s and more.
Along with that party vibe come some seriously funny shows and stars like Ali Wong who sold out six shows at the Ace Hotel. And Mel Brooks who will entertain a crowd at the Microsoft Theater with a Q&A and screening of Blazing Saddles. Maria Bamford, Jonathan Katz, David Wain, Sam Richardson, Anthony Jeselnik, Todd Barry, Bobcat Goldthwait, are just a few of the comedy big shots who will be making their way around the festival which runs from January 19th through the 21st. But perhaps even more exciting, Londer and her team have assembled a tremendous roster of hot young up and coming comics to check out.
With so much to choose from, you won’t be able to attend everything, so you might need help deciding where to go and what to do with your Superfan pass? Of course spending time in the presence of Mel Brooks is a no brainer, and there really isn’t a show on this line up that isn’t worthy of your time. But to help you choose what to get on line for first, Here are 10 other shows that we’re looking forward to seeing at the Riot fest this year.
Ali Wong, Ali Wong, Ali Wong. Various. All the Ali Wong shows are sold out, but if something changes, if a show is added, if a friend can’t make it and gives you their spot, this is the show to see. If a ticket becomes available, cancel your plans and get there. If you followed our year end lists, then you know we chose Wong as one of the ten strongest comedians of 2016, and we picked her special as one of the ten best hours of 2016. In fact, her debut hour special, Baby Cobra, is one of the best debut specials we’ve seen this decade. We expect more greatness coming from Wong, so keep your comedy eye and your comedy ear on her. Multiple Shows.
Comics to Watch. Various. A lot of people put out comics to watch lists. Variety, Comedy Central, Just for Laughs, then there’s New York’s Funniest, JFL’s new faces and plenty of others. Riot LA really dug deep this year, to find an impressive list of emerging talents that even those deeply immersed in the comedy world can be surprised and delighted by. Londer scoured the country, watching tapes, scouting, and getting recommendations to end up with ten comics to watch shows, and unless you’re able to be in two places at once, you won’t be able to get to them all, but you should definitely try to get to a few of them. There’s some names on the list that we’ve covered before- like Janelle James, Jono Zalay, Sonia Denis, Tom Henry, Tanael Joachim, Shalewa Sharpe, some names of comics we’ve heard about and are excited to see for the first time, and still other names that are completely new for us. Londer’s philosophy in putting together comics to watch is to layer the lineups with comics who are getting their very first shot at industry shows with others who deserve more than once chance to be seen. Every CTW show is worth seeing, and that’s not just lip service, it’s the truth. Multiple Shows.
The New Negros. Saturday 8pm. Open Mike Eagle and Baron Vaughn return to the festival for a second year, and it’s a guaranteed great time. Both Mike and Baron are so talented on their own and then curate such a great lineup, they always knock it out of the park. This year, TNN is bringing another great line up of comics you should already know, but if you don’t, you’re in for some great discoveries with Yassir Lester, Dulce Sloan, Opeyemi Olagbaju, Troy Walker, Jay Whittaker, Jackie Fabulous and Kristal Oates. Add to that the opportunity to hear Open Mike Eagle’s musical talents which have been lauded by the likes of LA Weekly, Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, and you’ve got a real can’t miss show.
Andy Kindler’s Particular Show. Saturday 11pm. Nothing makes us happier than a show with Andy Kindler as any part of it, but we’ve picked this show not only to enjoy Kindler’s talents, but also because the lineup is one of the best in the fest. Jon Dore, Drew Tarver, Ian Abramson, Natalie Palamides, Tom Henry and Lisa Best are all performing. Tom Henry has a lot of buzz around him right now and in fact, was picked on our own list of comics picking who will break out in 2017. Natalie was a JFL New Face this year, and we’ve been following Ian Abramson since he left Chicago bring his hilarious brand of weirdness to the LA scene. We are wild about Jon Dore and Drew Tarver too. Get this show on your list. It’s amazing.
About Last Night, Crabapples, and The Drop In. Sunday 5pm. We literally can’t help you here. Three of our picks for shows to see are all up at the same time, and you’re going to have to choose. The good news is, you can’t make a mistake here. About Last Night is the hit podcast from Adam Ray & Brad Williams and is a guaranteed blast. But then at the same time Bobcat Goldthwait and Caitlin Gill have handpicked a great show that benefits Planned Parenthood, and not only do you get Bobcat and Caitlin, but it’s a known fact that Bobcat has a phenomenal eye for spotting young talent with tremendous growth potential. If following Bobcat everywhere he goes wasn’t illegal and creepy, we’d do it! And then finally, the Drop In will be full of amazing surprises. Abbey told us that since RIOT LA is essentially in the backyard of some of the most amazing talent anywhere, she wanted to create a staple show for the festival where big name comics can come by the festival and drop in unannounced and do a set. Anthony Jeselnik is hosting. Gigantic!
Dr. Katz Live. Sunday 7pm. It’s Jonathan Katz’s first time bringing his live show to Los Angeles, and the line up is phenomenal. If you’ve never been to a Dr. Katz live show, then you’re in for unforgettable fun, and if you have, then you know that it’s never the same thing twice. Joining Katz on stage, are Bob Saget, Tig Notaro, Maria Bamford, Thomas Middleditch, David Wain, and Laura Silverman. This is going to be one of the most talked about events of the festival and not to be missed.
John Early and Friends. Sunday 9pm. John Early is one of our favorite breaking comedy talents today. If you haven’t seen him on stage, you may have seen him starring in TBS’s amazing update on the whole Scooby Doo genre, Search Party. If you haven’t seen Search Party start binging now, it’s a great series and Early is a star in the making. The “and Friends” takes the form of three New York favorites: Chris Laker, Janelle James and Jacqueline Novak. Go all in. But this is another pick ’em. At the same time, Kyle Kinane, Eugene Mirman and Nikki Glaser will be performing with host Deb DiGiovanni, who was one of our favorite comics at Moontower last year. Either show is a guaranteed hit.