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New Comedy Walk Opens

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Friday, January 11, 2008, at 05:27PM
IMGP1041.JPG Ed Fuentes

At last night’s Downtown Art Walk, 30 comedians invaded empty spaces around the Historic Core for the inaugural Downtown Comedy Walk. The idea, improvised by Brady Westwater, Cultural Affairs, and the Los Angeles Comedy Festival, almost passed the stress test of diverting too many art goers from the galleries. 5th and Main was still packed, but the south and north ends of Gallery Row seemed quieter than before.

The Comedy Walk, along with the opening of the new MJ Higgins event space, made 5th and Spring active with street life beyond the Red Dot Café and Bistro. The Alexandria Hotel hosted performances in the Palm Court, and by using half of the large space it almost felt intimate. LATC offered their black box theater to feature ensemble comedy, giving a theatrical legitimacy to improvisational groups. A side benefit was the 20-year-old Restaurant Ensenada being filled until midnight, a needed boost after months of being hidden behind scaffolding.

Using Broadway's Palace Theatre, a stage built for performance, was ideal but didn’t always work. Only seasoned pros like Rick Overton and D’ Sean Ross were able to fill the room with mere presence and material, while others got lost on the massive stage.

Also lost were people and performers trying to locate the theater, as most were new to downtown and the two blocks hike into parts unknown suggested that the venues might be too spread out.

If not used for screenings, the black box of the Spring Arts Collective would make 5th and Spring a distinct comedy corner, allowing better access to other comedy sites, the Canadian building and what can be dubbed the Main St Cinder Block Comedy Hut.

Comedy Walk could run on another Thursday night––once it has it’s own legs. Still, with some adjustments it can compliment the Downtown Art Walk, rather than compete with it, by simply starting the rotating sets of 10 minute acts 30 minutes later, from 8:30pm until 10pm. That would allow performers to get into downtown after dark, and keep the walk alive after the galleries "close" at 9pm.

It was one of those Downtown things that happened with very little planning. A testament to downtown advocates like Brady, who saw comics looking for perform outside a traditional comedy venue, the event bypassed urban hecklers that never had chance to say why a Comedy Art Walk wouldn’t get off the ground.

Pictured: Two professionals with tools of their trade; Garrett Morris (left) at the microphone, and Brady Westwater (right) organizing on the fly.

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