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Marty’s comedy club sits at one end of a strip mall on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, above a cleaner’s and a take-out pizzeria. The entrance is up a side street and easy to miss. In the club, color eight-by-tens of past performers line the walls. Many of these photographs suffer from red-eye; some of the faces have penises drawn on them. On a low countertop near the front door, a clipboard holds a sign-up sheet with the heading funny and funny looking. For five dollars, a stand-up hopeful can perform a set in Marty’s main area, which resembles an abandoned factory showroom: bare concrete floor, sparse track lighting, and a dozen or so seats, most of them rolling desk chairs. Though the walls are painted a bright cherry red, the place has little cheer. The headrests of two beige easy chairs, which sit in front of the stage, are stained black from the oily scalps of nervous comics. At one end of the room, the stage rises six inches off the floor, with a haphazard drum kit in one corner, a wheeled wooden throne in the other, a metal stool between them, and a microphone stand in front. A decal on the back wall, with text in Comic Sans, reads marty’s. Next to it is a poster-size sketch of the club’s owner, Marty Foster.

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is the author of The Authentic Animal: Inside the Odd and Obsessive World of Taxidermy. His story collection, If You Need Me I’ll Be over There, will be published by Indiana University Press in 2016.

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