If there’s one thing comedians have been good at in 2022, it’s being part of the pop culture conversation. Whether tragic, shocking, triumphant or hilarious, there’s been no shortage of events centered around comedy that created a mix of local chatter and seismic shifts in the way we view the humor behind stand-up. Here are a few of the main highlights of the year so far in stand-up comedy.
Jan. 9, Bob Saget dies: The world was dealt an unexpected blow when Saget, beloved stand-up comic and star of “Full House,” was found dead in his hotel room in Florida just hours after a show at age 65. Tributes poured in from comics everywhere, especially in L.A., who mourned the loss of one of their heroes.
Jan. 21, Louie Anderson dies: The “Baskets” star, who was among the iconic class of comedians to launch their careers at the Comedy Store, died in Las Vegas at 68 after battling cancer. Known for his distinct, gap-toothed grin, Anderson brought his experience as a stand-up comic to TV, hosting the revival of “Family Feud” between1999 to 2002. He also won two Daytime Emmy Awards during his career for his animated kids series “Life With Louie.”
Jan. 25, Aziz Ansari special “Nightclub Comedian” released on Netflix: At the top of the year, a weary and wiser version of Ansari took the stage at the Comedy Cellar in New York for a 29-minute set tackling the pandemic, politics, misinformation and the sexual allegations against him that turned his career upside down.
Feb. 4, Phat Tuesday documentary released on Amazon: This three-part docuseries celebrates the popular urban comedy night at the Comedy Store that changed the landscape of stand-up from 1995 to 2005, giving Black comics like Tiffany Haddish, Cedric the Entertainer, Regina King, Luenell, J.B. Smoove, Jay Pharoah and Nick Cannon the perfect launchpad to stardom. Directed by Reginald Hudlin, this comedy oral history doc shows the underlying inspiration behind one of LA. comedy’s most star-studded weekly romps.
Feb. 14, Ali Wong’s special, “Don Wong,” released on Netflix: In her third comedy special, Wong returned with swagger and sharp humor tackling gender roles, love and sex from a married (now formerly married) woman’s perspective that came right on time for Valentine’s Day.
Feb. 22, The Amazing Johnathan dies: The comedian/magician born John Edward Szeles made his name shocking audiences for decades as “The Amazing Johnathan.” It was equally shocking to hear news that the man dubbed the “Freddy Krueger of Comedy” died at his Las Vegas home following a battle with heart disease. He was 63.
March 8, Taylor Tomlinson releases special “Look at You” on Netflix: This rising star turned the spotlight on her internal issues in her latest Netflix special. The Temecula native doubled down on her humor, putting even more distance from her early days on the Christian comedy circuit with jokes that are as raunchy as they are wise. Tomlinson also finds a way for us to laugh about the death of her mother from cancer when she was 8 — “She’s in heaven, I’m on Netflix — it all worked out,” the comic said.
March 27, The Slap: When we look back at the world of comedy decades from now, it’ll likely be divided into two parts: Pre-Slap and Post-Slap. When Oscar winner Will Smith got up from his seat to hit Chris Rock on live TV for making a joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s bald head, viewers gasped. The moment not only shocked the world, it rattled the stand-up comedy community to its core (and give all comedians at least five minutes worth of new material). It ignited endless conversations about the role comedians play in society and the right to free speech as well as the consequences that come with that right. As a result of “the slap heard round the world,” the film academy banned Smith from coming to its awards show for 10 years.
March 26, Jo Koy sells out the Forum: Obviously any comedian loves to see the words “sold out” attached to their show. But when you’ve packed one of the biggest venues in L.A. as a headliner— it hits a little different. Even though he’s no stranger to achieving this feat, Koy’s sold-out show at the Forum in Inglewood set the tone for a milestone year in his three-decade career that also includes the arrival of his first starring role in the film “Easter Sunday,” inspired by his Filipino family gathering for the holidays.
April 1, Jerrod Carmichael comes out as gay in HBO special: During the comedian’s intimate and soulful special, “Rothaniel,” Carmichael decided to come out with more than just jokes. He also came out as a gay man for the first time publicly. At the peak of telling a story about his dad getting caught cheating on his wife, Carmichael lets his truth out.
“After that was out in the open, I was left alone feeling like a liar because I had a secret,” he said. “One that I kept from my father, my mother, my family, my friends — and you, all of you. Professionally, personally. And the secret is that I’m gay.” After a long silence, the comedian’s revelation was met with huge applause.
April 7, Comedy Store 50th anniversary: Blood, sweat and laughter helped Hollywood’s most iconic comedy club make it to 50 this year. On April 7, 1972, the Comedy Store opened its doors and began a storied history as one of the anchors of L.A. comedy that turned out some of the world’s brightest stars. The club — once presided over by its owner, the late Mitzi Shore — is still alive and well and has mostly been kept just as it was back in the day, with new generations of comics gracing its stages and bringing in sold-out crowds night after night. Part of the future of the Store depends on remembering the past, Mitzi’s son Peter Shore — who is now the club’s chief executive — says. Keeping the traditions alive for those seeking a place in this revered clubhouse for comics continues to be the most important thing.
April 12, Gilbert Gottfried dies: One of the most iconic voices in comedy was unexpectedly silenced in April when Gottfried died at age 67 following a long battle with a rare muscular disease. Beloved for his grating vocal delivery and foul-mouthed style of stand-up, Gottfried was always in the company of giants, including his good friends Bob Saget and Louie Anderson, who both died before him just months earlier. The renowned voice actor made his mark on Hollywood in many films, including his role as the squawky parrot Iago in the Disney animated classic “Aladdin,” as well as the voice of the duck in the Aflac TV commercials.
April 28, May 8 Netflix is a Joke Fest debuts in L.A.: This unprecedented, citywide celebration of stand-up comedy instantly become a monster event in L.A. comedy as well as a sign of Netflix’s continued dominance in the comedy world. The festival featured more than 250 shows over 12 nights at 30-plus venues around L.A. including a historic run of sold-out shows at Dodger Stadium by headliner Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias. However, that huge moment was quickly overshadowed by Dave Chappelle getting tackled by an audience member onstage at the Hollywood Bowl during the his second show at the festival.
May 24, Ricky Gervais special “Super Nature” released on Netflix: Another month, another Netflix special causing controversy over transphobic jokes. This time it was Ricky Gervais stirring the pot in his latest hour, “Super Nature,” that highlighted wisecracks about identity politics, cancel culture and trans women. “The one thing you should never joke about is the trans issue,” the comedian said from the stage. “They just want to be treated equally. I agree,” the comic said onstage. “That’s why I include them.” Criticism of the special spread quickly online including from many in the LGBTQ community such as GLAAD, which accused Netflix of disobeying its own rules of content moderation by airing the special.
May 30, Norm MacDonald’s posthumous special “Nothing Special” released on Netflix: Nearly nine months after his death, comedian Norm Macdonald once again graced the screens of comedy fans for one last time, courtesy of his posthumous final special — aptly titled “Nothing Special.” Set up with a simple microphone, headphones and a computer, Macdonald, who died in September from cancer at age 61, is seen fighting to stay in his element, telling jokes that seemingly ignored his pain and suffering as a way to cope with death and keep doing what he loved. The unearthed video was released unvarnished by Netflix as a tribute to a stand-up great who still had a lot of fight and funny one-liners left in him before leaving his mortal coil.
June 1, The Crow comedy club opens: This summer, a new L.A. comedy club was born — actually, hatched — in Santa Monica. The Crow, a three-part club that includes a main stage, a second-floor “nest” stage and a charming green room, represents husband-and-wife owners Mickey and Nicole Blaine’s lifelong dream. Built as an inclusive den of laughs inside art colony Bergamot Station, the small theater became a much-needed addition to L.A.’s comedy landscape.
June 3, Louis C.K. releases his self-financed film, “Fourth of July”: Here’s a movie with a twist we didn’t see coming — one starring disgraced comedian Louis C.K. On June 3, he announced a new film project that he directed, independently produced and financed called “Fourth of July,” released July 1. It’s about a young man from New York working out his issues with his problematic family. In the film, he plays the role of therapist — yep, seriously. The movie marks C.K.’s return to the big screen since he was accused of sexual misconduct in 2017 during the peak of the #MeToo movement.
June 10, Bob Saget memorial special on Netflix: What better way to salute the memory of Bob Saget than a raunchy, star-studded send-off at the Comedy Store? Equal parts emotional and hysterical, a celebrity-filled memorial to Saget at the West Hollywood venue became fodder for a Netflix comedy special six months after his death. Comedians onstage included Jeff Ross, Jim Carrey and Chris Rock, as well as John Stamos, John Mayer and Saget’s longtime opening act Mike Young — all gathering to roast and remember one of comedy’s kindest and filthiest souls.
June 24, Lyric Hyperion reopens: The Lyric Hyperion in Silver Lake has been a staple of the improv and open-mic stand-up scene for 20 years. So when it was in danger of closing its doors during the pandemic, there was no doubt that someone had to step in and save it. Run by new managers Brandon Wood and Kaela Green, the 65-seat black box theater experience is now revived and working on rebuilding itself back to time-honored glory. The theater continues to host a wide range of cabaret-style comedy shows, including its most recent, “The Streaming-Verse of Madness: An Unauthorized Musical Parody” starring comedian and thespian Aidan Park.
July 14, Jak Knight dies by suicide: Stand-up comedian, actor, writer and producer Jak Knight took his own life on July 14. Born Jakim Maulana, Knight, 28, starred in the Netflix animated series “Big Mouth” and the edgy comedy series “Bust Down” on Peacock. Knight’s body was discovered at an embankment. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to the Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner. The remembrances of Knight poured out across social media and the marquees of clubs like the Improv, which payed tribute to the beloved comedian.
Upright Citizens Brigade reopens with in-person classes (mid-July): UCB Franklin returned to the L.A. comedy scene in July to resume in-person improv classes and begin to unfurl its plans to fully reopen its legendary theater on Franklin Avenue after being dark for over two years.
July 24, Chris Rock publicly addresses Oscars slap for first time: For the first time since the infamous Oscars slap, Chris Rock addressed the incident while onstage for his “Only Headliners Allowed” comedy tour with Kevin Hart in New Jersey, where they were joined with special guest Dave Chappelle. Though it was a pain he’ll never forget, Rock said he refused to let it put him down for the count.
“Anyone who says words hurt has never been punched in the face,” Rock told the crowd, according to multiple outlets. “I’m not a victim. Yeah, that s— hurt, motherf—. But, I shook that s— off and went to work the next day. I don’t go to the hospital for a paper cut.”