The 10 Best Comedies About Los Angeles

Comedy Lists Los Angeles
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The 10 Best Comedies About Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a weird fucking city. I moved here nearly three years ago and I had no idea what I would be getting. I had seen the city in movies, of course, but it’s not as if life here is anything like Chinatown, Sunset Boulevard, or—deep sigh—Academy Award Winner Crash. It is instead a city of weirdos and misfits actually making it. It may literally be a desert wasteland, but it is rich in comedy!

1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

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This film was one of my childhood favorites, from before I understood half of it. In addition to sex — I mean “patty cake”— the film deals with murder, alcoholism, prejudice, and the demise of the Los Angeles public transit system. The cartoon Roger Rabbit needs the help of toon-hating human, Eddie Valiant to clear him of murder charges. The animation bringing these two worlds together still looks great, by the way. While the racial allegory about accepting toons as people too is obvious, the uneasy alliance between Roger Rabbit and Eddie Valiant is also a perfect metaphor for Hollywood vs non-Hollywood citizens living together.The toons might be seen as dumb, useless, and over privileged, but damn it, they make us laugh.

Best L.A. Quote:
Eddie: D’you mean to tell me you could’ve taken your hand out of that cuff at any time?!
Roger: No. Not at any time. Only when it was funny.

2. Fresh Prince of Bel Air

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Now this is a story all about how… well, you know the rest. Will Smith (played by Will Smith) is sent from West Philadelphia to Bel Air to live with his rich relatives, and, spoiler alert, their life styles clash. There are a lot of comedies about class difference, but the added level of race, and the show’s sharp writing, put it well above the rest.

Best L.A. Quote:

3. L.A. Story

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Steve Martin wrote and starred in this movie about Harris, a weatherman in L.A. who, in his own words, “was deeply unhappy, but didn’t know it because [he] was so happy all the time.” Harris falls madly in love with Sara, a journalist from England, and eventually wins her heart with the help of a magical road sign and two freak weather anomalies. Or what other cities might call “rain.” In a movie full of magical realism, the biggest suspension of disbelief is a journalist getting flown across the globe for weeks simply to write a lifestyle piece, but hey, it was the 90s.

Best L.A. Quote:
“I have a favorite quote about L.A. by William Shakespeare. He said, ‘This other Eden, demi- paradise, this precious stone set in the silver sea, this Earth, this realm… this Los Angeles.’”

4. Clueless

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I don’t have room in my heart for anyone who does not have Clueless memorized. Although absurdly specific in circumstance—she has beauty, wealth, and intelligence—out hero, Cher (Alicia Silverstone), goes through a universal transformation from a teenager who only thinks of herself to kind of a self aware grown up. Over twenty years later the jokes about youth culture vs adulthood still ring true, and it’s still the only teen comedy I can think of that has made a strong case for refugee immigration. I can also confirm that this film perfectly captures getting onto an L.A. freeway for the first time.

Best L.A. Quote:
Cher: Lucy, you know I don’t speak Mexican.
Lucy: I not a Mexican! [storms off]
Cher: Great, what was that all about?
Josh: Lucy’s from El Salvador.
Cher: So?
Josh: It’s an entirely different country.
Cher: Oh, what does that matter?
Josh: You get upset if someone thinks you live below Sunset.

5. The Big Lebowski

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It’s everyone’s favorite high-brow stoner flick. Actually, that might not be true, but it’s probably this or Koyaanisqatsi. Either way, The Big Lebowski doesn’t need to be your favorite Los Angeles comedy. It doesn’t need to be anything, it just is. If you find meaning in this convoluted crime caper involving a kidnapped Tara Reid, a bowling league, and Julianne Moore repeating “vaginal,” then that’s cool, man.

Best L.A. Quote:
“Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ‘cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about the Dude here. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles.”

6. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

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A classic L.A. noir that is all the more accurate an homage for being a comedy. Phillip Marlowe would absolutely join Harry Lockhart for a drink and say, “You wouldn’t believe the fucking week I’ve had.” But I’m skipping ahead. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a murder mystery/clusterfuck, all narrated by a thief (Robert Downey Jr.) pretending to be an actor, pretending to be a detective. The case itself is rather tragic and unseemly, but the dynamics between Harry and actual detective Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) and actual actor Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan) are hilarious.

Best L.A. Quote:
Harry: I swear to God, it’s like somebody took America by the East Coast, and shook it, and all the normal girls managed to hang on.
Harmony: OK, everyone who hates Harry raise your hand!
[All the girls in the club raise their hands.]

7. Party Down

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Party Down is a cringe comedy sweet spot. Many cringe comedies focus on the entertainment industry (The Comeback, The Larry Sanders Show, Extras, etc.) in part because our desire to put celebrities on a pedestal is linked to our desire to see them pushed off. Party Down mixes that dark impulse with the relatable comedy of The Office, since this group of actors, comedians, and writers are working as cater waiters. It’s hard to believe Roman or Kyle have the talent to make it in Hollywood, which makes their desperate fuck ups fill me with both pity and schadenfreude. The real tragic hero of the show is Ron, a man who wants no part in fame and just wants to do a good job, yet is possibly the character most driven by ego and ambition.

Best L.A. Quote:
“People care what I think. I have a prestigious blog, sir.”

8. You’re The Worst

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You’re The Worst holds a special place in my heart for being the first show I watched when I moved to Los Angeles that made me think I could actually live in Los Angeles. Gretchen (Aya Cash) and Jimmy (Chris Geere) are cynical, immature assholes who get blindsided when they find a sincere emotional connection with each other. Jimmy and Gretchen (and their friends) aren’t trying to make it big in Hollywood, they are just trying not to crash and burn. You’re The Worst shows fancy parties as pretension, day drinking as the norm, and eventually joining an improv team as inevitable. Finally, a version of the city I could believe in.

Best LA Quote:
“I’m from LA. Fun hipster shit is just poor Latino shit from ten years ago.”

9. Bojack Horseman

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The alternate reality version of Los Angeles presented in Bojack Horseman where anthropomorphic animals live alongside human being is cartoonish and absurd and completely dead on. Bojack literally being a horse acting like a human perfect demonstrates his struggle to be a real man and to feel less like an imposter. There is something about Los Angeles that attracts people that are a bit off, to the point where even if someone is normal they seem just as out of place. It is absurd to think that if the D in the Hollywood sign disappeared we would all commit to calling the area “Hollywoo,” but strangely, it feels true.

Best L.A. Quote
Charlotte: Do I think L.A. is a tar pit? No. No, I think you’re the tar pit.
Bojack: Me?
Charlotte: No, not “you” you. I’m just saying, like It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s who you are, and that’s not gonna change whether you’re in California or Maine or New Mexico. You know, you can’t escape you.

10. Lady Dynamite

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This Netflix series follows comedian Maria Bamford (played by comedian Maria Bamford) as she adjusts to life back in Los Angeles after a major breakdown. Based on Bamford’s real life experiences, and her unique style of comedy, the series deals with Maria’s struggle to find balance in her career, her relationships, and herself. All while providing a frank look at living with mental illness. The show includes flashbacks to Maria’s time in Duluth, Minnesota that perfectly demonstrate that narcissistic friends, unbearable stress, and isolation can hit you anywhere. At least Los Angeles is in technicolor.

Best L.A. Quote:
Sarah Silverman: I’m a female comedian, AKA a billionaire. Right, Tig?
Tig Notaro: Yeah, we’re all very rich.

Sara Ghaleb is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. She takes pop culture much too seriously. You can see her sketch team The Burbs perform at The Nerdist School Stage every month. Follow her at @saraghaleb.


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