I really don't think I can say enough how great Meltdown audiences are. They toughed it out last night on a random 90 degree day in November with two extra drop-ins and showed very little signs of fatigue, even at the very end.
I can't seem to stop going to shows at NerdMelt lately and I've been especially tickled by the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary paraphernalia (that's one of my dorkdoms) that continues to amass as the 23rd grows near. I was completely tickled that last night I got to text someone, "I'm standing over by the Dalek." And I think it's that sort of nerdy connection and joy that being in the back of a comic book shop brings that helps make these crowds so good. Yes, they're comedy-educated and are delivered consistently high-quality shows so they stay loyal and start each set by giving the comedian the benefit of the doubt, but especially in Hollywood, it's nice to just go somewhere where you feel at ease or even delighted when you walk in the door.
Which relates back to something I've been thinking and talking a lot about lately - why is there such a hard and thick line between the "alt" and "club" scenes in Los Angeles? That isn't the major fault line in any other city (that I'm aware of, I'm open to being corrected on that one). The divide is most bitter on the performers' side, but I find the average audience member ends up sticking in one clubhouse or the other, too.
I'm going to leave the long and ugly road of cliquishness, exclusion and sniping (on both sides) that created and continues to reinforce this chasm among performers for another day, but last night was my "Ah ha" moment for the audience side. These shows make you feel like you belong there.
Sure, one big explanation is just that once you find a comedian you like, you go see him and he's likely to be on shows with similar comedians and so you end up starting with Best Fish Taco, branching out to Performance Anxiety and ending up a Meltdown devotee. But how does someone who wants to see comedy end up at a show in a sex shop in the first place, rather than saying, "Hmm, I'd like to see some comedy, why don't I go to a Comedy Club?"
Some of it is just location, I mean, I am 80% more likely to attend a show in Hollywood or West Hollywood than Downtown or Venice, and that's true for everyone. When I talked to Jeremy Burke about Best Fish Taco last year, he said most of the crowd are neighborhood locals.
Alt shows are also often free or considerably cheaper than a club, and often they bribe YOU with free beer rather than asking you to pony up for two overpriced drinks. In a way alt shows are the Uber of comedy.
But beyond convenience and logistics, there's that thing that connects with a comedy lover and makes them loyal. And with most alt shows, that's comfort. You don't have to dress up, there's no bouncers or seaters, your credit card's not going to get declined at the end of the night. There's also the fact that there will be tons of pop culture references and very few rape jokes (which, ironically, is where the other side of the coin starts to show and you get both audience and performers who feel willfully excluded, but, again, keeping that can of worms closed for now).
I felt it last night. Even though I skew "club" and don't always feel welcome or included at Meltdown, I had just come from a party at a bar down the street and as soon as I walked in, I was like "Whew, these bright blue sneakers and flannel shirt I'm wearing don't make me feel like a loser here. I'm home." Of course, with Rick Glassman, Marc Maron, Fahim Anwar and Nick Youssef on the lineup, it felt almost exactly like "home," but... baby steps.