The Irvine Spectrum Center is the perfect location for The Improv. What better place than a shopping mall open till 11 on weekends with a carousel, giant ferris wheel and 21 movie screens-a mall that's all about fun-for a comedy club?

As if that's not enough, dinner, drinks or both can accompany the laughter at tableside. And if you feel like a beer, the Yard House, with 146 draft beers on tap, is a few steps away.

Most comics play a four-night run from Thursday to Sunday at the Irvine Improv, with two shows (8 and 10) on Friday nights and three shows (7, 9 and 11 p.m.) on Saturdays. These are usually comics who have appeared on shows like "Saturday Night Live," "Last Comic Standing" and Comedy Central. Comics who have performed there include Bill Maher, Joel McHale, D.L. Hughley and Bob Saget.

On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, an up-and-coming comic takes the stage at 8 p.m. or a tag team of top comics perform at 10 p.m. on "Comedy Juice College Nights" (ages 18+ welcome).

As you enter the 300-seat showroom, framed photos of the comedians who have performed here and other Improv clubs line the brick walls. Those bricks are the trademark of the Improv chain, which started in an old brick building in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood in 1963. Improv audiences through the years have seen countless comics who have hit the top: Dangerfield, Carlin, Pryor, Seinfeld, Leno, DeGeneres, Sandler and many more.

Food and drinks are available at most shows, with early shows offering full dinners that compete with some of Irvine's better restaurants. If you're hungry enough, you can order the Baja Tacos (two grilled chicken tacos and two prime rib tacos with guacamole and sour cream, $9.50), Penne Vodka (penne with prosciutto in a tomato-basil vodka cream sauce, $14.50) and a New York Cheesecake ($6).

The Improv has become the world's biggest chain of comedy clubs, with 23 franchises nationwide. The four others in California-in Hollywood, Brea, Ontario and San Jose-offer a similar format and the same dinner menu. Check the Improv Irvine website for comics scheduled in the coming weeks.

HelloIrvine Tip: If your party of four wants front-row seating, you can reserve a VIP table package, which includes food, drinks and commemorative souvenirs.

by Bob Cooper, Irvine Reporter for Hello Metro