Arts, Culture & Entertainment

I discovered ‘comedy’s worst kept secret’

Don’t Tell Comedy brings raunchy sets to discreet locations in 50+ cities

A photo of a comedian on stage with audience members watching them.

At precisely 12 p.m. on Friday, September 16, a secret address for a comedy show that same evening is disclosed in my email inbox: The Union Cowork office space in Downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District, a 15-minute drive from campus.

“You’ve found comedy’s worst kept secret” promises the Don’t Tell Comedy website. For $25 a ticket, Don’t Tell Comedy brings raunchy sets to discreet locations in more than 50 cities around the U.S. Past venues have converted candy shops, rock climbing gyms and abandoned mansions into comedy cellars.

I arrived at 7:58 p.m. later that night. A bouncer greeted me at the door, checking his list for names before letting guests in. Colorful graffiti and neon LED signs lined the halls; the makeshift office space screamed millennial hipster and transformed into a stand-up stage with folding chairs and a stand-alone mic.

Although Don’t Tell Comedy has 1.9 million followers on TikTok, I gravely underestimated the show’s global recognition. The venue was equipped with massive cameras and mics recording the show. This was my second comedy show ever and I was unprepared for being a live audience member, with cameras panning to patrons to capture responses.

It was a BYOB event, but the organizers provided free chardonnay. A couple in the front row offered a White Claw to the opener, and she then kicked off her set on her experience as a comedian in her twenties with crippling anxiety. Katie Kusiciel, known as Katie K on Instagram, has starred on NBC’s America’s Got Talent and Amazon Prime’s Squished (a play-doh sculpting reality television competition).

I was one of the youngest people in the audience. Millennial humor infiltrated each set in an otherwise diverse lineup – the six comics who performed spanned race, nationality and sexuality, incorporating their unique identities into each of their sets.

Next up was Shahak Shapira, an Israeli comedian from Berlin. A heckler in the front row had one too many swigs of the free chardonnay and decided to participate in Shahak’s set. After a series of controversial remarks, his girlfriend made the executive decision to take him home in a dramatic exit.

Jamel Johnson headlined and delivered a hysterical bit describing how the monkeys on the bathroom wallpaper hyped him up before the show (he admits he was stoned).

Guests mingled after the performance and I had the opportunity to speak with some of the audience members in the office space’s vibrant kitchen. The consensus was overwhelmingly positive.

“Pretty strange that my first ever comedy show was at an off-brand WeWork, but a good lineup and fun time,” commented Joshua Gabbay, a sophomore at USC.

Daniel Danes, a millennial wearing a lavender beanie and black Kith hoodie remarked, “Funny lineup, a mix of humor for everyone in a chill way, in an intimate setting,” between puffs from his blue razz Ice Elfbar, “What’s not to enjoy?”

I commend Don’t Tell Comedy for its creative way to market live shows in a post-pandemic world that relies on shock value and virality to draw in audiences who have become all too comfortable streaming from their couches. If you’re looking for a fun, affordable off-campus activity, I highly recommend checking out one of their other pop-ups around L.A. All the comedians from the September 16 show in the Arts District are also linked here.

Each day since the show, I have obsessively checked their TikTok and Youtube to see if the DTLA sets were uploaded. Did my muffled laugh track make the cut? Did the heckler get his moment in the limelight? I’ll keep you updated.