One of Los Angeles’ delightful cultural veins is the weird places that it chooses to do comedy. Often marginalized by traditional venues and even cliques of performers as well, Los Angeles’ resident comedy folks have sought out movie theaters, Chinese restaurants, laundromats, video rental stores, and even their own garages/living rooms/roofs to put on their own brand of comedy on their own terms.
Yet, there is a risk to be run as many people that are uninitiated in the world of comedy at all cannot simply compute that someone can be made to intentionally laugh in a space that wasn’t originally purposed for laughter. Specifically, they’ll call the cops for disturbing the peace because your rooftop stand-up show with a packed crowd and some of the city’s, and even the country’s, best comedians and you’ll have to end what you’ve worked so hard to build.
Such a thing happened to Alex Hooper’s and Eric Sheffield’s Long Way Down, a show that was just mentioned in Splitsider’s Guide to the LA Comedy Scene. Before you get too worried, Alex and Eric weren’t arrested or charged and they intend to relocate the show and bring the same amazing DIY comedy spirit to wherever that may be.
For now, here’s Alex Hooper’s personal account of what happened:
Last night was our one year anniversary party for Long Way Down-Comedy With a View. For those not familiar, it is a comedy show that Eric Sheffield and myself (Alex Hooper) throw monthly on the roof of our house. For 8 shows, we never had an issue. Everyone loved what we were doing and every show was more fun and special than the next.
Ricky Carmona-Photo by Tyler Ross
Last month, at our 9th show, the police showed up. They were very understanding (particularly because we lied and told them there were 30-40 people upstairs, when in fact it was closer to 150.) They let us finish the show, James Adomian handled it like the true pro he is. We wrote letters to our neighbors trying to explain our cause, we bought them chocolates, we thought we would be OK this month. Even Still, we started at 7:30 to be sure we would be done before 10.
The Roofies (our first annual award show for our audience) was going swimmingly. It was smaller, about 90 people and mostly a core group of the people who have come since the beginning. As Josh Androsky was on stage, JC Coccoli, our last comic to perform, showed up, but unfortunately not alone. Three members of the LAFD were with her.
Fire Chief: “You guys really know how to piss off the neighbors.
Androsky: Can I put that on my resume?
I went downstairs with the fire department. They weren’t angry about the show. They actually thought it was really cool. Their issue was the roof collapsing or a fire starting. Understandable. We never set out to be the Great White of Comedy. We like our audience alive.
LAFD and I exchanged information. They left, and they were very cordial to myself and Eric. JC went on stage, and told the story of her letting them in as if it were a polished bit she had been working on for weeks. "I’m tired of all you kids laughing, like we are the town in Footloose.” I’m obviously paraphrasing because we all know JC is more lyrical than that, but I was drunk and deal with authority.
Show ends. Everyone takes their gift bags, and either continues to party or goes home. We laugh, Its Silly. As Jesse Case said, “The LAFD came and Lafd. (Does that translate in writing? I hope so).
2 hours later the cops show up. I go downstairs to deal with it and I am immediately put up against the wall and handcuffed. My crime: running an illegal comedy show. Not gonna lie, my first thought after "Holy Shit!” was that this would be exactly what I needed to make it to the top! Lenny Bruce and George Carlin went through my head. Comedians who had been arrested for their art. Then my delusions of grandeur slowed as I realized I was in cuffs (cherry popped on that front), and I could go to jail. I was searched for narcotics but thankfully I had used them all. Long story short, the neighbors are pissed. Cops are tired of coming back to the same house, because “we apparently never learn."
Oh, I learned Officer Ballerina, and i get your whole good cop/bad cop routine you are doing with this clearly closeted homosexual officer/buddy/whatever, but you have no idea what you are taking away from us. It isn’t just myself, Eric, or the people who live here. Its the friends, family, and amazing audience members this show has entertained for a year. People love this. It was described as magical. If you were here, you were doing one of the coolest things in LA that night. One good friend said "It’s completely original in a town full of recycled ideas."
Long Way Down has become one of my favorite things. Its my favorite stage in the world. Over 60 comics have had killer sets. The audience didn’t care who was on stage. To us comedians, having murderers like Kinane, Andre, Brody, Adomian, etc is a treat. We know we are privy to some of the best LA has to offer. But my friends, and the people who attended this show, had pretty much never heard of anyone. They just knew, you came here to laugh. The people we put up were continually great, whether they had credits or not.
Long Way Down is on hiatus. It saddens me to say. One of my favorite things in the world is being stripped from me because of one stupid neighbor who is against laughter. But, we are not dead. This show stands for something. It stands for freedom in comedy. Freedom from rules, clubs, drink minimums, pressing bookers and promoters. Long Way Down is special, and everyone who has ever been here knows that they were part of something great.
Eric Sheffield & Alex Hooper-Photo by Tyler Ross
I stress, we are not dead. We will come back bigger and stronger than ever. As soon, as I talk to the cops and/or find a new roof. I love you all. Thank you for your unparalleled support of this underground movement. Its all been worth it.