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Tonight’s recommendations for the best in New York City comedy (in chronological order, with top picks noted and shows over $10 marked with $) include:
[SUPER-MEGA-TOP PICK] [$] Right Now-9:30 pm Sunday ($30): One of the most magical events in NYC, the 14th Annual Del Close Improv Marathon is running continuously from 4:30 pm on Friday June 29th until 9:30ish pm on Sunday July 2nd. Improv troupes from all around the US and Canada—New York, Albany, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Cambridge, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Fairfield, Austin, Miami, Columbus, Cleveland, Detroit, Denver, Phoenix, Raleigh, Carrboro, Toronto, Vancouver, London, Helsinki, and more—will perform over 150 shows, typically in 30 minute blocks, for 55+ hours. Tickets will be $30 for the entire weekend—an incredible bargain. Paul Scheer said several years ago the appropriate charge would be around $600, and he mostly wasn’t kidding.
For complete details, please click here.
DCM is happening at seven different venues this year. I’ll mostly be at UCB Chelsea, but please know there are incredible things happening at every one of these stages. That noted, the following are some of the highlights I personally experienced from yesterday:
- At the DCM press conference, Ian Roberts started announcing a major UCB project…only to have Matt Besser and Matt Walsh interrupt with, “Um, that’s still a secret.” Ian spent a few minutes in denial with “Gee, are you sure we haven’t said anything publicly about it?” When assured that was the case, Ian rebounded with, “Well, when we do you’ll all be very impressed.” I actually have a reasonable guess what it is…and yes, we all really will be.
- Also at the press conference, Matt Besser swore that an improv manual they’ve been working on for nearly 10 years “will, we guarantee, be done before next year’s marathon.” Ian Roberts then added, “Absolutely! And the white buffalo will once again walk the plains…” (As an expert with 20 books under my belt—including five Dummies books—I’ve been offering to help with this for six years running. Ian, Matt, and Matt, at this point I’ll do it for a sentence in the Acknowledgements. Reach out to me…) Among the benefits of the UCB book will be clarifying terms and concepts that often confuse improvisors. For example, as Ian Roberts explained, “Beginners think Agreement means going along with whatever someone brings up. But if your partner suggests ‘Let’s jump out the window,’ and you say ‘Sure!’, then that’s the end of the scene…because at that point you’re both dead. What Agreement really means is saying yes to the reality of whatever scenario your partner suggests—but then responding in a genuine way that reflects how you—or your character—would really behave in that situation.” The book is another project from UCB very much worth looking look forward to.
- Also at the press conference, the guys discussed how much work is involved in becoming good at improv. Ian Roberts said a lot of people who are funny think, “Improv is walking and talking. I do that every day. I’m ready to go on stage as an improvisor!” Ian continued, “That’s like my looking at a piano and saying, ‘I like music. I have fingers. I’m ready to give a piano concert!'” Ian also defended rules, explaining, “The fact that I can stand here is defying gravity. It’s a learned skill I’ve done so often it’s become instinctual. We all learn from habit and repetition.” Matt Besser added that taking a class is great, but not by itself: “You should have your own practice team. And every session you should rehearse with each other for three hours—not one hour, not two hours, three hours is the standard…and at least three times a week.”
- Stellar NYC trio Doppelganger (Sasheer Zamata, Nicole Byer, and Keisha Zollar) was in top form, with running gags including a man (played by Nicole) who keeps proposing marriage at the most inappropriate moments—such as when his girlfriend is caring from her grandma just moments away from death: “We’ll inherit the old bag’s house, car, and savings. Honey, be mine!” Another shining moment was when Sasheer brings an orphan (played by Keisha) into her house, outlining a space four feet by four feet and saying, “That’s how much room you have. Don’t leave that square, you’re dirty.” Keisha looks around rapturously and says, “At least it’s a home.” It was an apt metaphor for any young performer starting out; but chances are each of these fearless and razor-sharp gals will go on to lustrous careers.
- When comedy geniuses Chris Gethard and Shannon O’Neill of The Stepfathers appeared at 9:00 pm, the crowd cheered wildly. Shannon growled, “We’re on this stage every Friday! And at this exact same time!” Then Shannon relented with, “But thank you for your drunken enthusiasm.” What followed was one of the most brilliant 30 minutes of improv I’ve even seen—from Chris, Shannon, Silvija Ozols, Zach Woods, Will Hines, Michael Delaney, and Connor Ratliff working as a perfectly oiled machine, with each understanding each other’s strengths and playing them perfectly. That would’ve been enough; but then Chris said, “And now…let’s rewind.” The troupe responded with pure magic by reenacting every scene it had made up on the spot—backwards! As these stars got to the point of backing out the curtains from where they’d entered, the audience jumped to its feet to provide a rousing standing ovation. The set wasn’t quite over, though, so Shannon returned to growl, “Sit back down! We’re not done yet! Geez, we’re here every Friday!” The troupe proceeded to deconstruct what they’d done, with such comments as, “I thought that tag was a little premature” and “This scene came out of something that happened backstage no one else has any idea about.” When the lights finally came down, the audience jumped up to provide an even louder and more enthusiastic standing ovation.
- There’s more I could write—about such troupes as Sentimental Lady from LA and Telenovelafrom Washington DC; a fun Bassprov with the form’s creators, improv legends Joe Bill and Mark Sutton, plus guest improv legend Matt Walsh; improv star Fran Gillespie doing an impressive job as a mirror in Paranormal Encounters; and another of the finest improvisors alive, Paul Scheer, in Bruckheimer; but I want to eat something and then get back to the marathon. Please check in here tomorrow for a report on tonight; and please get your ass over to DCM for this not-to-be-missed comedy event.
Also, while I love DCM, please note that if you’re a stand-up fan Ted Alexandro is one of the very, very best, and it’s just bad luck he’s opposite the most incredible improv event of the year. If you might care to take two hours away from DCM and see Ted at the Gotham Comedy Club (just a few blocks away from UCB Chelsea), he’ll deliver gold as well. For more, please click here.
FREE] 4:00 pm: An unusually early weekly open-mic stand-up show (“starts late enough to sleep off that hangover but ends just in time to begin a new one”) at The Creek upstairs theatre in Queens’ Long Island City hosted by Jhoel Walkowski & Evan Davis: The Amateur Hour
[TOP PICK] [FREE] 7:30 pm: Adam Conover, Jermaine Fowler, and Jessica Watkins participate in this “comedy chat show with boundary issues” that has stand-ups perform sets and then be interviewed about their personal lives at The Creek upstairs theatre in Queens’ Long Island City hosted by Matt Ruby & Mark Normand (who says “all these guys were hand-picked because they’re funny and have some serious problems; when you read this lineup you’re gonna be like ‘oh yeah, that guy is a mess'”): We’re All Friends Here
[TOP PICK] 7:30 pm ($7): Improv master Ed Herbstman and five others “perform organic freeform improvisation in two mind-blowing parts; the only rule is that there are no rules” at The Magnettheatre: The Weave
[TOP PICK] [$] 8:00 pm & 10:00 pm ($25 & 2-drink min.) One of the very finest stand-ups in the country, who’s performed on David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel; starred in twoComedy Central Presents half-hour specials; and frequently opens for Louis C.K., headlining tonight through Sunday at the Gotham Comedy Club: Ted Alexandro
8:00 pm ($10): Two of the most respected PIT improv troupes performing on this weekly double-bill—and occasionally with comedy giants Kristen Schaal and/or Kurt Braunohler participating—at the upstairs theatre: Big Black Car and The Baldwins
[TOP PICK] [$] [DISCOUNTED] 9:00 pm & 11:00 pm (FREE TICKETS if you reserve in advance by calling (212) 260-2445 and mention HyReviews.com, but there’s still a 2-drink min. per person): TV & movie star Janeane Garofalo (9:00 pm only), TV & movie star Todd Barry (might be 9:00 pm only), Mike Britt (Comedy Central), and more performing at the only comedy club in the East Village: Eastville Comedy Club
9:30 pm ($15): “A cabaret of darkly funny songs and topical sketch comedy about culture and politics,” following sold out shows at Joe’s Pub and now enjoying a long run at The PIT upstairs theatre: Political Subversities
[TOP PICK] [$] 10:00 pm ($15): Ted Greenberg (Emmy-winning David Letterman writer) performing a fun, fast-paced theatrical comedy show—complete with audience interaction and audience rides home!—at The Complete Performer
[TOP PICK] [FREE] Midnight: This free show at The PIT upstairs theatre does a great job of describing itself: “Bad movies. We can’t stop watching them. Is it because the plot is so enjoyably paper-thin? Or maybe the acting is so deliciously cheesy? Whatever the reason may be, Oscar Montoya (Local 154, Aquarius) is inviting you to his house to watch all of his favorite so-bad-they’re-awesome movies.” Joining him is musical improv troupe Hot Diner to comment on one of the worst musical sequels of all time: Midnight Movie at Montoya’s Presents: Grease 2
[FREE] Midnight: NYC stand-ups (not announced) participate in the fake taping of a bad late-night TV comedy show at The Creek upstairs theatre in Queens’ Long Island City with host Brad Steuernagel: Comedians Off Of the Leash
[FREE] Midnight: A weekly chance for you to shine at The Magnet, as students and veteran improvisors share the stage to form “rare and wonderful one-night-only teams,” with sign-up starting at 11:30 pm: Magnet Mixer
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