(photo by Byron Kennerly)

PROMENADE — Looking for a few good laughs?

There just so happens to be a spot in Santa Monica whose eclectic improvisational teams will do their very best to help bring a smile to your face. Most of the shows are free or just around ten bucks. Nothing to laugh at there.

Just north of Arizona Avenue, in the alley nestled between Fourth Street and the Third Street Promenade is a brightly painted red brick building. It is here, at M.I.’s Westside Comedy Theatre, that some of the funniest comedians and improvisation teams on the Westside perform. The club is about 80-90 percent Improv with a small amount of sketch comedy and stand up.

The original M.I. group was formed in the mid-1990s at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The six original members of Mission IMPROVable, Inc. moved to Chicago in 1998. They were Lloyd Ahlquist (the current owner and general manager), Aaron Krebs, Ryan Kiessling, Jeff Durand, Jason Shomer and Jason Reis. Today the current roster includes, Alquist, Krebs, Sean Casey, Sean Monahan, Chris Gorbos and Colin Sweeney.

About a year and a half ago, Ahlquist bought the club with the members of the current roster. The former club, The Westside Eclectic had been functioning as a comedy club.

“The biggest thing we did was change the reputation of the club,” Alquist said. “We had been in the comedy business for 15 years and we took the club to the next level.”

Because M.I. has such a long-standing following and good reputation in the comedy community Alquist was able to get bigger name comics and better acts, stepping up the comedy stylings of the Westside. As of now, there are several different troupes that perform under the M.I. consortium.

“There are the Waterbrains, Bitch Mode, Team X, Fawn Hawk and M.I. M.I. is short form improv, sort of like, ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway.’ We do high-energy improv games, with a spy theme, hence the name Mission IMPROVable,” said Byron Kennerly, the club’s events director.

Each particular performing troupe has a general theme. In M.I. however the members of the troupe wear black pants, white button down dress shirts, black shoes and black ties.

“Because we’re secret agents of comedy,” joked Kennerly.

Kennerly said the best feature of his troupe is that “everyone is super funny and they’re great improvisers. That’s what I really love about it, how much fun we have on stage. As part of our training we are taught to have a great time with the troupe and the audience.”

How fun are they? They are so much fun that they will often invite the audience to join them for drinks at West Fourth and Jane, a beer and wine joint next to Harvelle’s. But the club is in the process of obtaining their beer and wine license so pretty soon you can expect the party will remain in house. For now however, there is a concession stand with candy, but this too will be greatly expanded.

“Don’t be scared to sit in the front row,” Kennerly said.

In fact, there are three shows on Thursday nights that allow for audience participation.

“You can come up and play with the group and try it out. It’s called ‘The Jam’ and we do individual games,” he added.

The Jam is the equivalent of an open mic but for improv comedy. It’s Free and starts at 11 p.m. The club has “House Teams,” which are formed out the classes that are taught at the facility. Anyone from the class system can audition to be a house team member and if they make the cut, they perform every other Monday night.

Also good to know, if you pay the $10 cover for an 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. show you can stay to see the others for Free.

Closer look:

Westside Comedy Theatre

Location: 1323-A Third Street Promenade

Phone: (310) 451-0850


House Teams perform at 9 p.m.

Depending on the schedule you can see Bitch Mode, Team X, Bruce or Fawn Hawk.

Cover Charge: Free


The Punk House — Stand-up comedy, starting at 9 p.m.

Cover Charge: $8


Shows kick off at 8 & 9 p.m., with a new act every week.

The Grind at 10 p.m.: an improv show that features the owners of the theatre; one of the best shows with the most experienced players.

The Jam at 11 p.m.

Cover Charge for 8 and 9 p.m. shows: $10

Cover Charge for The Grind and The Jam: Free


Shows kick off at 8 p.m.; there’s a new act every week.

The Waterbrains at 9 p.m.

Conceived by director Stan Wells, The Waterbrains utilize the clap-in form of improv comedy and it has been the group’s trademark since their inception.

Mission Improvable at 10 p.m.

The “Secret Agents of Comedy”

Cover Charge: $10


Shows kick off at 6 p.m. there’s a new act every week.

6:30 p.m. is a stand-up open mic

The 8, 9 and 11 p.m. shows rotate weekly so check the schedule.

Mission Improvable at 10 p.m.

The “Secret Agents of Comedy”

Cover Charge: $10


Jerk Circus starts at 9 p.m., a sketch show with comics from Mad TV and other high-caliber players.

Cover Charge: $10

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