There's a seismic shift underway in D.C.'s comedy's scene: No longer do you have to sit through an only-kinda-sorta funny open mike, or save up your dough for a pricey night out at a comedy club. D.C.'s comics are hosting their own weird, wonderful shows, in places like Wonderland Ballroom and even the Black Cat. The excellent news: They're mostly a bargain.
So, what should you see? Here are five comedy shows in coming weeks that I'm excited about:
Saturdays: Wake & Bacon at Shaw's Tavern
Upstairs at this Shaw/LeDetroit Park hangout, comedy collective LYGO closes the shutters, flips on the spotlight and tosses a lineup of the city's funniest comedians in front of brunch crowds. The food is good, the comics funny. This weekend, look out for Jamel Johnson and Adam Friedland, two funnymen whose names you should know. Shows start at 3 p.m.; make a reservation to secure a spot in the intimate space. ($10 suggested donation).
One Saturday a month: The Capital City Showcase at the D.C. Arts Center
On Saturday nights, when all of 18th Street turns into one big bar crawl, you can slip into an Adams Morgan gallery, grab a beer and settle into a quiet black-box theater for a monthly late-night blowout that brings together comedians and local bands, variety-show style. On Sept. 14, the showcase hosts the Pink Collar Comedy Tour with women comics from New York. $15.
Second Wednesdays of the month: Church Night at Wonderland Ballroom
If you're skittish about religious parody, you might steer clear of Church Night, but know that the buzz surrounding this "alternative church service" -- one of the club's several regular comedy nights -- is biblical. Comedians, burlesque and sing-a-long hymns make this a routine stop for the comedy crowd (not to mention the wayward). Free.
Sept. 30: The Little Spoons Comedy Showcase at the Dunes
This buzzy show puts the spotlight on the city's female comics. After months above a bike shop in Adams Morgan, it's moved to swanky Columbia Heights arts space the Dunes; this month's installment features Sara Armour, the 27-year-old comic who is one of the city's brightest stars.
Oct. 12: The Bentzen Ball Saturday Stand-Up Showcase at the Lincoln Theatre
The D.C.-born comedy festival the Bentzen Ball is returning after a four-year hiatus, and though the comedic lineup so far mostly focuses on nationally recognized comedians, one who hails from Washington made the cut. And with good reason. Seaton Smith left the area for Los Angeles (even shooting a pilot for NBC), but he's returning to perform on a showcase with Nick Kroll, Sara Schaefer, Moshe Kasher and Martha Kelly. $20.
Follow Lavanya Ramanathan on Twitter @lalamasala.