Un-Cabaret originally started in 1990 when performance artist-turned comedian Beth Lapides started producing shows in 'alternative' venues like the Women's Building, then Highways Performance Space. The idea of the show was to be funny without doing an 'act' and use story-based stream-of-consciousness techniques rather than the set-up and punchline formula of mainstream standup.
In November 1993, Un-Cabaret moved to LunaPark, a new music club in West Hollywood. Every Sunday night for the next seven years, Beth gathered other refugees from the comedy clubs, including Patton Oswalt, Judy Toll, Taylor Negron, Bob Odenkirk, Julia Sweeney, Bobcat Goldthwait, Terry Sweeney, Merrill Markoe, Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Laura Kightlinger, Andy Kindler, Dana Gould, Kathy Griffin, Andy Dick, Margaret Cho and others.
Traditional comedians dismissed Un-Cabaret for its lack of structure and formal technique, but the show drew a rabid cult following and influenced many other 'alternative comedy' shows in Los Angeles, then New York and eventually throughout the country and Canada.
When LunaPark closed, Un-Cabaret moved to the HBO Workspace, then to M-Bar in Hollywood, continuing to produce personal narrative comedy with other non-traditional comedians like Sklar Brothers, Patton Oswalt, Greg Behrendt, Jeff Garlin, Mike McDonald, plus writers like Jerry Stahl, Michael Patrick King, Larry Charles, Judd Apatow and others.
Un-Cabaret founder Beth Lapides and her producer and partner Greg Miller teach personal narrative techniques for writers, performers and other humans in their 'free range comedy' workshop, The Comedian's Way. They teach privately in Los Angeles, have taught at UCLA Extension, Humber College, CalArts, Media Bistro and also create educational materials for aspiring comedy writers and performers.
Un-Cabaret has been featured on “This American Life”, “All Things Considered”, “Morning Edition” and “Marketplace” on NPR, plus over 100 episodes of "Radio Un-Cabaret" for Comedy World and Sirius Satellite Radio. Un-Cabaret also released several compilation CDs including "Freak Weather Feels Different", "The Un & Only", "The Good, the Bad and the Drugly" and "Play the Word (vol. 1 & 2)". Podcasts are now heard on Audible.com/uncabaret.
Comedy Central produced a special in 1997. Directors Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) have been working on a documentary about Un-Cabaret for several years now.
Un-Cabaret also runs a spoken-word comedy show, "Say the Word", which features original first-person stories from TV comedy writers including Cindy Chupack, Jay Kogen, Winnie Holzman, Alan Zweibel, Peter Mehlman and others.