(CNN) — Los Angeles is a funny place. And not just in an ironic sense. Also literally. More funny business happens every day in the world's entertainment capital than anywhere else.
Home of blooming talents, top headliners and celebs showing up unannounced on small stages for a quick set, L.A. is where the country's top comic talent gravitates to make you -- and, more importantly, that guy from Fox -- laugh.
And not just at those staple industry hubs and comedy franchises you probably know about. L.A.'s comedy circuit radiates well beyond Melrose and the Sunset Strip.
From the South Bay to the Westside to North Hollywood to a vaunted stage in Pasadena where a young Robin Williams and some ex-weatherman named David Letterman once showed promise, these comedy venues consistently deliver hilarious goods when you travel here:
Hollywood Improv, The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store
Open since: 1970s
Top draws: From Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield to the latest Comedy Central luminaries, decades of the most hallowed names in comedy have called at least one of these three hubs home.
Claim to fame: L.A.'s comedy trifecta
Why combine three of the country's biggest comedy club names (which have spawned multiple locations) in one short writeup?
Because their flagships are within a four-minute drive of each other, and even if you missed all 400-plus episodes of "An Evening at the Improv," or all 80 straight hours of the longest standup comedy show in history (a benefit held at the Laugh Factory in 2010 featuring about 150 comics) or the last 25 years of the "Ding-Dong Show" (Monday nights at The Comedy Store), you probably don't need us to tell you about these places if you're a standup fan.
Comedy history continues to be made at these three landmarks, which have drink minimums and an industry-ish vibe.
Collectively, they've presided over L.A.'s seminal standup era in the '70s and all of its subsequent renaissances, while jump-starting countless comedy careers in the process.
The Ice House Comedy Club
Open since: 1960 (1978 as a comedy-only club)
Top draws: A virtual who's who of comics over the last half century and counting -- from Robin Williams, George Carlin and David Letterman to Chelsea Handler, Adam Corolla and Whitney Cummings.
Claim to fame: Tony neighborhoods. Jet propulsion labs. Rose parades and big college football games.
People come to Pasadena for a variety of reasons.
Comedy wouldn't be one of them if not for The Ice House, a former 1960s folk music hotspot that's dedicated itself solely to standup since the late '70s.
"The Ice House is the oldest club to continuously showcase standup comedians in the United States -- and probably the world," says Bob Fisher, club owner for the last 36 years.
As myriad photos and memorabilia hanging on the wall outside the showroom confirm (including a 1979 contract for "Gary Shandoling" [sic] to perform an entire week here for $150), this place has hosted, headlined and helped launch the careers of countless performers over the years, and continues to do so.
Bonus: That cackling, middle-aged Altadena couple beside you sharing mozzarella sticks and a bathtub-sized cocktail have no idea what either CAA or UTA stands for.
Like you, they're just here for a good time.
The Comedy & Magic Club
Open since: 1978
Top draws: Jay Leno, Daniel Tosh, Kathleen Madigan, Bill Burr. Occasional Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Arsenio Hall and Jerry Seinfeld drop-ins.
Claim to fame: Home of weekly Leno shows and Seinfeld's "puffy shirt."
A fixture in the South Bay, The Comedy & Magic Club may be best known as the place where Jay Leno continues to perfect his network-free standup game on Sunday evenings, with tickets going on sale a few months in advance. But this Hermosa Beach institution is much more than that.
The low-key room has been a magnet for so many comic vets over the years that its famous green room graffiti (signatures and one liners from many big names) now extends down the back hallway.
The club has been a who's who of top and emerging comic talent for nearly four decades.
Weekend shows can host up to 10 performers, featuring a range of names you know or soon will, plus the odd illusionist working a set of A-game magic between gags.
Smart audiences here ("Are there any engineers in the crowd?") lean more toward the neighboring aerospace industry than Hollywood.
Bonus: The venue's built-in showroom museum is like the Louvre for comedy memorabilia -- from Buster Keaton's hat and Charlie Chaplin's duds to George Carlin's bell-bottoms, Roseanne's waitress uniform, Eddie Murphy's "Nutty Professor" garb, Jerry Seinfeld's puffy shirt and Robin Williams' "Popeye" and "Bicentennial Man" gear.
M.i's Westside Comedy Theater
Open since: 2009
Top draws: Mission IMPROVable, Zach Galifianakis, Demetri Martin, Natasha Leggero. Recent drop-ins include Dave Chappelle, Judd Apatow and David Alan Grier
Claim to fame: "We own comedy west of the 405."
Hiding next to a parking garage in a back alley (but a friendly one in beach-y Santa Monica), the neighborhood's top comedy venue has been swiftly outgrowing its underground vibe with frequent top tier guests, industry-sponsored shows and (the ultimate de-radicalizer) a recent "Top Place To Scout New Talent" nod from Variety.com.
Fortunately this growth spurt is tempered by a soulful rotation of standup, improv, sketch, confessionals and open mics (they do it all here) in a small room with no drink minimums (and more than 30 beers) where the owners still perform on Thursday nights at 10 p.m. for free in The Grind.
Home to the hit improv comedy group Mission IMPROVable, the theater hosts its signature show on Friday and Saturday nights.
Additional comedy cred: Epic Rap Battles of History was born as a live show right on this small stage.
Ha Ha Cafe Comedy Club
Open since: 1988
Top draws: Kevin Hart, Chris Tucker, Gabriel Iglesias, Joe Rogan, Damon Wayans (Sr. and Jr.).
Claim to fame: "The only comedy club in L.A. that offers a daily open mic and five-10 minutes of stage time!"
When Ha Ha is in your name, you can't take yourself too too seriously -- which is almost never a bad thing in the weighty, overly spotlit world of L.A. comedy.
The best big little comedy club in NoHo, just up the road from that other Hollywood, this unpretentious spot is equally on and off the grid.
Weekends feature All Star Comedy Shows that can reel in a killer set by Fluffy Guy.
Monday evenings host "Next Comic Standing," featuring some nervous, sweaty guy you definitely don't know.
Open mics are available daily for anyone brave enough to shell out $5 or $10 for a soft drink coupon and five or 10 minutes of stage time.
On any day, ducking past the front curtain and comedy lessons postings here will inevitably lead to some laughs, groans and the very real possibility that some famous name dropping by to test out new material on a safe, comfortable stage will bump the next 10 slots of newbies who've been waiting all week for this moment.