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‘Jokesters’ at Center Theatre Group

Laughing through life with comedians who’ve graced our stages


Dame Edna in the Australia/New Zealand tour of 'Eat Pray Laugh! Barry Humphries' Farewell Tour,' adapted for the U.S. as 'Dame Edna's Glorious Goodbye – The Farewell Tour.'
Photo by Matt Jelonek.

HAPPY APRIL! It’s the month that starts off with dad jokes, belly laughs, prank calls, and awkward moments where you pretend to laugh at your director’s less-than-funny jokes. But for pranksters and comedians, this is the time to shine. Comedy is a unique tool that helps artists communicate their stories through laughs and cackles. It’s a storytelling trope that can help in a multitude of scenarios–from reminiscing on the past to tackling the deeper complex issues of society–comedy is the lighthearted unifier that knows no limits. There have been numerous comedians at Center Theatre Group that have had our audiences rolling in the aisles. Let’s look back past to present at some of the talented and funny people who have graced our stages and how they used comedy as a conduit for great storytelling.

Trevor Griffith


Tackling issues of sexism and racism, Comedians takes place during the 1970s in Manchester, England. Working-class comedians take an evening comedy class to learn from retired comedian Eddie Waters. The show follows five of the students, who hope to impress the President of the Comedy Federation with their comedy acts but take different routes in achieving their goal. After performing each of their acts at a club, the group bicker among one another, critiquing the individual choices each comedian made. The decision then lies with the President of the Comedy Federation, who must decide which comedians will work under his wing. Originally opening at the Nottingham Playhouse in England, the show moved to Broadway during the 1976/77 season and played at the Mark Taper Forum in 1977.

Neil Simon

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

When the Ahmanson underwent construction, the James A. Doolittle Theatre became home to many of our shows, including Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Inspired by Simon’s own early career experiences, Laughter... follows Max Prince, the star of a weekly comedy show, and Lucas Brickman, a staff member who commentates on the writing, fighting, and antics that take place in the writers’ room. Providing an insider’s look at the personalities and processes of comedy writing, Laughter...tackles the humor, talent, and underlying political and social conversations that happen in the writing room.

Dame Edna

Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye

Dame Edna is no stranger to the Ahmanson, having graced the stage multiple times, including a run of Dame Edna: Back With A Vengeance! in 2005 and Dame Edna: My First Last Tour in 2009. But in 2015, Barry Humphries and ‘global gigastar’ Dame Edna Everage celebrated 50 years of sold-out venues and global tours in Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye. Australia’s greatest entertainment export returned for more ‘take-noprisoners’comedy and hijinks, and they ensured that no one in the audiencewas safe from the Dame’s wicked tongue.

Mike Birbiglia

The Old Man and the Pool

Comedian Mike Birbiglia knows how to entertain an audience, ranging from film, TV, and interim late-night talk show host when covering for Jimmy Kimmel. Having played the Ahmanson before, the comedian returned to Center Theatre Group with a tale of life, death, and a highly chlorinated YMCA pool at the Mark Taper Forum. Channeling his unique form of comedic storytelling, Birbiglia chronicles a coming of-middle-age story in The Old Man and the Pool, which asks the big questions: Why are we here? What’s next? What happens when the items at the doctor’s office that you thought were decorative become functional? It’s evident that, through comedy, Birbiglia faces the challenges of adulthood head on, processing the realities of fatherhood and the mysteries of life. Though the answers ahead may be frightening, Birbiglia equips the audience with laughter, reminding us that when the going gets tough, it doesn’t hurt to take a beat, and laugh.

John Leguizamo

Latin History for Morons

John Leguizamo is no stranger to comedy, with the Tony and Emmy Award winning actor’s career spanning the depths of the Ice Age to the thrill-seeking brother plumber in SuperMarios Bros. But the comedian is also well acquainted with the stage, having made his Broadway debut in his one man show, Freak, in 1998, followed by Sexaholix... A Love Story which played at the Ahmanson in 2001. Leguizamo returned the stage in Latin History for Morons, where the comedian scholar schooled America on Cinco de Mayo—no, it’s not the Latino Fourth of July—and every other aspect of Latin history that we’ve misunderstood and forgotten. From a mad recap of the Aztec empire to stories of the unknown Latin patriots who won American independence, Leguizamo breaks down the 3,000 years between the Mayans and Pitbull into 110 irreverent and incisive minutes. Leguizamo uses his charm, jokes, and wit to captivate his audiences, keeping the Ahmanson alive with laughter while educating all of us on the important history of the Latine community.

Cecily Strong

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

When one thinks of comedy, Lorne Michael’s long-running sketch show, Saturday Night Live (SNL), is considered a masterclass in live comedic storytelling. It’s no surprise then that in the revival of TheSearch for Signs of Intelligent life in the Universe, Emmy-nominated SNL cast member Cecily Strong was ready to find meaning and hope in life here on Earth. Originally written by Emmy Award winner Jane Wagner for fellow comedian and later, her wife, Lily Tomlin, Search... weaves together the seemingly disparate tales of a punkrock rebel, wealthy Californian socialites, and feminist reactionaries in search of alien life in a hilarious and timeless play about what makes us human.

Kristina Wong

Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord

As one of six recipients to have won the Doris Duke Arist Award this year, it is undeniable that Kristina Wong knows exactly how to make an audience laugh while discussing the complexities of society. First appearing on the digital stage with Kristina Wongfor Public Office, Kristina Wong made her in-person debut at Center Theatre Group this year with KristinaWong, Sweatshop Overlord at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, where she discussed the early days of the pandemic. Sewing masks out of old bed sheets and bra straps on her Hello Kitty sewing machine to support those in need, it wasn’t long before she was leading the Auntie Sewing Squad, a work-from-home sweatshop of hundreds of volunteers—including children and her own mother—that hoped to fix the U.S. public health care system while in quarantine. Following the difficulties of the pandemic, Kristina uses her comedic timing and relief to tackle some of the hardest conversations that arose amidst the pandemic including the rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes, and the support for the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the murder of George Floyd.

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