For comedians in a city like Los Angeles – where every moment is an audition and every breath is a pitch – it’s absolutely necessary to have a place where seasoned standups can work out new material and newcomers can test their mettle. One such proving ground is the weekly comedy showcase at Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill called What’s Up Tiger Lilly. Produced by Melinda Hill, who is a burgeoning standup comedian herself, Tiger Lilly has featured such comics as Patton Oswalt, Charlene Yi and others. Jeffrey Ross reportedly tests out his material here before taking it to Comedy Central roasts. The material isn’t always solid and the comics can be raw, but when the jokes hit, your laughs will be genuine.

The host for the evening this past Monday night was Karl Hess who warmed up the crowd and loosened their laughs with his smooth voice and floppy hairdo. He does an excellent job introducing the acts and swooping in for a quick recovery after a particularly lackluster performance. He may have been testing out new material as well, since he produced a wad of paper that was presumably his enemies list, which apparently includes flan, “because it’s just plain nasty.”

Marc Maron was the first comic of the evening and he unapologetically prepared the crowd for new material. Maron’s new bits really showcase his versatility and comfort on stage, switching easily between snappy one-liners and long lead-ins. He’s also quick enough on his feet to improvise with the audience. Some men walked in just as Maron finished saying, “…finger in my ass” and then the men walked out. “I’m glad they left,” Maron added. “They were in here for three seconds and they sucked the energy right out of the room.” Before he finished his set, Maron encouraged everyone to listen to the WTF Podcast on iTunes.

Sean O’Connor kept the laughs going with varied jokes that included people thinking he was gay, heroine backstories and ruining sex by being bashful. He also has a very strong hatred for Dave Matthews, claiming that his new album does what he does best: “fucking sucking.” O’Connor is easy to laugh at with his sing-song delivery and non-confrontational demeanor. Even though his last joke about confrontation over fast food didn’t go over very well – partly due to too long of a lead-in – O’Connor is still definitely a comic to keep an eye on.

Next was Becky Yamamoto whose comedy seemed the most experimental. Many of her jokes had long setups with no identifiable punch line. She talks about being adorable, wearing a hat printed with babies also wearing hats printed with kittens…then she moves on to the next joke. From there, she wanders into bits about being a hermaphrodite and what she would do if she had a dick for a day. Of course she would stick it in tapioca pudding. Her thoughts were simply on display and – given enough time – it might develop into a hilarious act. For now, it’s a little incoherent.

Nick Kroll also made an appearance. He was trying out new material as well and he referred to his notes between jokes. Some of his tastier bits involved trying to understand what Dogtoberfest was about in Solvang and solving the murders of rappers. He says the culprits are the ones that benefit the most from the slayings: “airbrush portrait artists.” Afterwards, Kroll filled the rest of his time by riffing on jokes about cats and dogs and which animal was better. He finished with some relatable material about the DMV before relinquishing the stage.

Eddie Pepitone commanded the room as soon as his lips touched the mike. His energy and ear-piercing voice kicked the room in the teeth and the audience couldn’t help but laugh. Of all the comedians, Pepitone’s persona was the most developed. He is clearly a man at war with the everyday world. He “jerks off to psycho on a nice day just to get back at LA.” He doesn’t like going into Winchell’s, because it always feels like a murder just happened right before he walked in and he hates that the Coffee Bean is trying to become a news source. Yet, it’s also relieving to see him crack up at his own jokes. “I laugh,” he says, “because I’m funny.” Fortunately for all of us, he’s right.

Jackie Kashian was next and for whatever reason her act just wasn’t coming together. It seemed like she was probing the audience to see where the laughs were, promising dick jokes, making fun of her physical appearance and tossing in a Star Trek reference. Her performance was a little manic and segueing with “Here’s the scoop” over and over again only drew more attention to it. The audience started warming up once she got into her routine talking about her family and it’ll be interesting to see what her act is when she has more stage time to flesh it out.

Reginald Hunter got the laughs going again with his amazingly engaging performance. His Southern friendliness made him fun to watch and his inappropriate thoughts were the perfect payoff to his long setups. Usually performing in England, Hunter recounts witnessing Hurricane Katrina over the news and seeing dehumanized Afro-Americans. He immediately thought that he too might be “one storm away from sucking cock for potatoes.” When he comforts the women in his life during their breakups, he secretly wonders how he can employ their newly ex-boyfriends’ breakup lines in his own relationship. With such great charisma and a strong routine, Hunter deserves his own television show.

Finishing the evening on low notes were Jason Nash and Chris Laker. Judging from material you can find on the Internet, you’d expect them to turn in better performances. Instead, Nash opened with ill-advised audience participation and then wandered around the stage for a bit, taking time to finger a few keys on the nearby piano. His act mainly consisted of insulting his family and complaining about fatherhood. It just wasn’t the kind of crowd that responded to a man who calls his wife “super cunty” for no good reason. It’s difficult to decide if Nash was working new material, but it’s safe to say that it didn’t go over well. Laker, on the other hand, presented his stock material. Watching it online is way more enjoyable than watching it live, because of how it’s cut. Laker’s act is almost Dennis Leary-esque and shouldn’t pause for laughter, which is precisely what Laker does on stage, ruining the flow. He also tends to mumble, which kills a lot of his jokes.

Overall, What’s Up Tiger Lilly offered a decent variety of comedians. Some comedians were obviously more polished than others, while some comics were cringe-worthy. Nevertheless, with free parking and no cover charge, spending a Monday night with friends over cocktails and comedy is always a winning combination.

What’s Up Tiger Lilly @ 8 p.m. every Monday
Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill
6122 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028-6424
(323) 466-9917