David Carl (hilarious, charismatic co-star of Point Break Live) is best known for his solo show Gary Busey’s One Man Hamlet (As Performed by David Carl), which nabbed raves and awards during its debut in the 2014 FringeNYC Festival and subsequent international tour (for my review, please click here).
Three years later, Carl has created this second solo show as a weird sort of meta-sequel. Titled Trump Lear, you might at first think it’s Donald Trump’s One Man King Lear (As Performed by David Carl); but it’s actually more complicated.
In this play, a character named “Carl David” has achieved acclaim performing Lear as Trump—and it’s attracted The Donald’s attention. Trump has Carl David kidnapped to perform the play in front of him…and also his social media audience. If Trump decides he doesn’t like what he sees, or if the show fails to maintain the interest of POTUS’ Internet followers, he’ll have the actor executed.
What follows is a complex blend of Carl’s impersonation of Trump, unusual performances of scenes from King Lear (involving toys, paper puppets, and impersonations of a host of characters ranging from Ronald Reagan to Miss Piggy), and frequent conversations between Carl David as struggling artist and Trump as supremely successful showman.
The key power of this production is actually in the latter. Carl David is played as a poor, bumbling artist who makes most of his living from Trump impersonations, yet has devoted his life to achieving and conveying truth. In contrast, Trump has won the greatest power in the world—President of the United States—by embracing and perpetually dispensing lies. The tension between those two extremes is sometimes electric. Plus there are moments when Carl makes himself so vulnerable that this play achieves a feeling of realness managed by few productions, be they comedy or drama.
And on top of all that, where else are you going to see a Shakespearean actor eat a McDonald’s burger and fries in under 60 seconds? (About halfway through, Carl rolls the fries into a giant greasy white ball he then stuffs whole into his mouth, which is nearly worth the price of admission by itself…)
One extra spin to this meta-show is knowing that, in real life, it’s rumored there was some sort of blowback from Gary Busey’s people about Carl’s first show—because the original brilliant title Gary Busey’s One Man Hamlet (As Performed by David Carl) was changed about a year ago to David Carl’s Celebrity One-Man Hamlet. But even if a brush with Busey’s reps was the seed that led to the creation of this second show, Trump is both far more and far less than a stand-in for Busey.
A major difference is that Carl appears to loathe Trump, but I believe he continues to adore Busey. For example, after the production I asked Carl why Busey isn’t among any of the dozens of impersonations he performs in Trump Lear. “Oh, I couldn’t let him in,” Carl replied. “I’d love to, but then I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from making his role bigger and bigger until he took over.”
David Carl is a special comic, and this is a show worth experiencing. Trump Lear is running for just two more performances, this Saturday and next Saturday at 2:00 pm at Under St. Marks at 94 St. Marks Place, off First Avenue. Tickets are an extremely reasonable $20…and typically include free brownies baked by the multi-talented Carl himself.
Other notable shows this Saturday include:
6:00 pm ($7): Springboarding off the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen, this show pits three improv groups against each other by making them meet multiple challenges while encouraging them to try to sabotage each other at The PIT Loft (154 West 29th Street) hosted by Harry Marker: Cutthroat Improv
[TOP PICK] [$] 7:00 pm, 7:15 pm, 8:00 pm, 8:45 pm, 9:15 pm, 10:00 pm, 10:30 pm, 11:15 pm, and 12:15 am ($20-$24 per show, plus 2-item food/drink min.): Some of the finest stand-ups in the country spread among four shows at Comedy Cellar (117 MacDougal Street, between 3rd Street & Minetta Lane), the 7:15, 9:15, and 11:15 shows at Village Underground (130 West 3rd Street, off Sixth Avenue), and the 8:00 pm & 10:00 pm shows at The Fat Black Pussycat Lounge (130 West 3rd Street): Comedy Cellar Saturday
7:00 pm ($7): Reveal a deep secret so improvisors—including improv puppets by Josh Cohen & Tamra Malaga—can make up scenes about it at The PIT Mainstage directed & hosted by Liz Magee: Shhhh
7:00 pm ($7): Political activists and pundits mix with comics at this political comedy show that makes fun of the news at The PIT Loft (154 West 29th Street): Electoral Dysfunction
[TOP PICK] [$] 7:30 pm ($12): Improv powerhouses Charlie Todd, Jeff Hiller, Jim Santangeli, Natasha Rothwell, Brandon Gardner, Chelsea Clarke, Kevin Hines, Erik Tanouye, and John Timothy at UCB Chelsea interview an audience member about where he or she grew up and then “turn that town’s tourist attractions, landmarks, hangouts, local celebrities, urban legends, and more into a hilarious show made up on the spot:” The Curfew: Not From Around Here
7:30 pm ($10): May Wilkerson, Brian Parise, Martin Urbano, and Conrad Roth share with you things they feel you really ought to know at Astoria Queens’ QED: A Place to Show & Tell (27-16 23rd Avenue) hosted by Colum Tyrrell & Lev Fer: Sh*t You Should Know: An Educational Comedy Show
[TOP PICK] 8:00 pm ($10): Improv groups Gypsy Danger (which includes brilliant comics Katie Hartman and Evan Kaufman, and which will make up a feature film on the spot) and The Baldwins (which includes brilliant comics Micah Sherman and Sarah Nowak) make stuff up at The PIT Mainstage: Gypsy Danger: The Improvised Movie and The Baldwins
[TOP PICK] 8:00 pm ($8): Hosts Catherine Cohen & Patti Harrison “are three gals who just don’t get ‘guy stuff.’ They’ve invited comics to give them lectures on guy stuff so that they can finally fit in,” with tonight’s bearers of wisdom Katie Hartman, Sudi Green, Sydnee Washington, Steven Phillips-Horst, and Ruby McCollister, all performing at Brooklyn’s Union Hall (702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street): It’s a Guy Thing
8:00 pm ($10): Short political plays from across the country are performed at at The PIT Loft (154 West 29th Street): Raucous Caucus
[TOP PICK] [$] 8:30 pm ($12): Improv group Airwolf—with big talents Molly Lloyd, Tim Martin, Achilles Stamatelaky, Eddie Dunn, Ben Rameaka, and Adam Fruccie—make up scenes about terrible audience experiences related to a home at UCB East: Airwolf: Let’s Go Back to Your Place
9:30 pm ($10): Improvisors make up scenes of a relationship springboarding off an audience-supplied wedding announcement in The New York Times at The PIT Loft (154 West 29th Street): Forever: Improv Inspired by NYT Wedding Announcements
9:30 pm ($10): Springboarding off “a trend in Hollywood where instead of writing original stories with female protagonists, lady actors are given dusty scripts that men already used,” in this sketch show female comics perform their versions of all-gal reboots of popular movies at The PIT Mainstage directed & hosted by Liz Magee: Al Female Reboot
[TOP PICK] [$] 10:00 pm ($12): A powerhouse group of improvisors—Zhubin Parang (writer for The Daily Show), Michael Kayne (Baby Wants Candy, Diamond Lion), Natasha Vaynblat (one-woman show United Federation of Teachers), Casey Jost (former writer for NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and TruTV’s Impractical Jokers), and Lui Vega—springboard scenes off interviewing an audience member about his or her love life at the UCB East theatre: What I Did For Love
[TOP PICK] 10:30 pm ($10): Long form improv about the behavior of a theatrical troupe both on-stage and off-stage, revolving around a different show biz theme each week at The Magnet theatre: The Cast
[TOP PICK] [$] 10:30 pm ($12): At UCB Chelsea, improv group Grandma’s Ashes—which includes stellar talents Ryan Karels, Morgan Grace Jarrett, Brandon Scott Jones, and more—takes your written secrets and turns them into very funny improv scenes: Grandma’s Ashes: We Won’t Tell
10:30 pm ($7): Storytellers whose names start with “A”—Adam Wade (two-time Moth GrandSlam Storytelling Champion (2006 & 2009) and record-breaking 20-time StorySlam Champion; album “The Human Comedy;” for a sampling of Adam’s award-winning tales, please click here), Amy Dixon (Cinema Stories), Andrea Jones-Rooy, and Alex Murray—tell tales set outside of NYC (e.g., in their home towns) at The PIT Loft (154 West 29th Street) hosted by Andre Medrano: The Town and the City
[TOP PICK] 11:30 pm ($5): Jo Firestone (star), Josh Rabinowitz (Broad City), Anthony Devito (Stephen Colbert), Jordan Temple (Showtime), and Raanan Hershberg share true-life longish funny tales at this UCB East mashup of stand-up and storytelling hosted by superb comic Alison Leiby (writer for The President Show; VICE, Triumph The Insult Comic Dog): It’s a Long Story
Midnight ($7): Sketch groups Uncle Function and Kiss on the Lips compete for audience laughs and votes at UCB Chelsea hosted by Alden Ford & Justin Tyler: Backyard Brawl
[FREE] Midnight: “Mother Oslo (a.k.a. Oslo The Gay Black Metal Southerner) will host and read scriptures from the most unholy book of all eternity. The Black Metal Bible. Come for the damnation, stay for the sacrifice” at The Creek upstairs theatre in Queens’ LIC (10-93 Jackson Avenue): Black Metal Chvrch
NYC Stand-Up Open Mics & Improv Jams
If you want stage time, you can find one or more stand-up open mics virtually any night at Manhattan’s The PIT, Eastville Comedy Club, and Stand Up NY Comedy Club, and at Queens LIC’s The Creek and Astoria Queens’ QED.
In addition, at the East Village’s UCB East you can typically find a stand-up open mic Thursdays at 6:00 pm, an improv jam Wednesdays at 11:15 pm, and a rare bring-your-own-group improv/sketch open stage Sundays at 11:00 pm. And in Chelsea, The Magnet offers an improv jam on Wednesdays at 6:00 pm, and a rare musical improv jam on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm.
All of the venues above typically provide you the stage time either for free or for $5.
There are also numerous other open mics throughout the city. For a more comprehensive list, please visit FreeMicsNYC.
For many more shows, please click the following links to top NYC comedy venues:
Best Inexpensive Stand-Up, Improv, Sketch, and Storytelling
Upright Citizens Brigade Chelsea
307 West 26th Street; 150-seater; one of the most respected comedy theatres in the world; especially strong on improv, sketch, solo shows, and one-act comedic plays; shows free-$12
Upright Citizens Brigade East
153 East 3rd Street; 99-seater; a top comedy venue that focuses more than sister theatre UCB Chelsea on stand-up and screenings, and on experimental shows taking big risks; shows free-$12
The PIT Striker (Upstairs) Theatre
123 East 24th Street; 88-seater; a top venue that’s a powerful rival of UCB, and often surpasses UCB when blending comedy with music and/or theatricality; shows free-$20
The PIT Underground (Downstairs) Theatre
123 East 24th Street; 40-seater; often more quirky & experimental than upstairs Striker; shows free-$10
The PIT Loft
154 West 29th Street; 50-seater; the third of The PIT theatres, located separately on the West side, hosts a wide range of comedy, but is especially effective as a home for intimate solo and/or theatrical shows; free-$20
254 West 29th Street; 60-seat theatre; strong on improv, musical improv, sketch, and energy; shows $5-$10
The Creek and the Cave
Queens’ Long Island City; 40-seat theatre upstairs, 25 downstairs; virtually all weeknight shows free; weekend shows free-$10
702 Union Street in Brooklyn; R to Union Street; 50-seat theatre; shows $5-$20
635 Sackett Street in Brooklyn; R to Union Street; 100-seat theatre; shows $5-$20
149 7th Street in Brooklyn; R to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Ave.; 200-seat theatre; shows $10-$25
QED: A Place to Show & Tell
27-16 23rd Avenue in Astoria Queens; N/Q to Ditmars Boulevard; 40-seat theatre; shows free-$10
Best NYC Stand-Up Comedy Clubs
117 MacDougal Street; among the finest daily stand-up lineups in the world; 2-item min.
130 West 3rd Street; Comedy Cellar’s larger sister venue, just around the corner with the same top comics; 2-item min.
239 Third Avenue; recent competitor to Comedy Cellar; no drink min.—support this policy!
Carolines Comedy Club
1626 Broadway; focuses on the world’s top headliners, who perform hour-long sets; 2-drink min.
Gotham Comedy Club
208 West 23rd Street; headliners on weekends, specialty & lineup shows weekdays; 2-drink min.
Eastville Comedy Club
85 East 4th Street; strong weekend lineups; no cover using code HyReviews; 2-drink min.
Greenwich Village Comedy Club
99 MacDougal Street; convenient if Comedy Cellar’s sold out; no cover using code HyReviews; 2-drink min.
Comic Strip Live
1568 Second Avenue, off 81st; Upper East Side club with typically solid lineups; 2-drink min.
Stand Up NY
236 West 78th Street, off Broadway; Upper West Side club with typically solid lineups; 2-drink min.
The Standing Room
4738 Vernon Blvd., by #7 train; Queens LIC club; no drink min.—support this policy!
From legendary NYC comedy site Brooklyn Vegan: Thank God for Hy Bender’s religiously updated show bible BestNewYorkComedy.com…It must be exhausting keeping that monster of a website alive. It is your daily comedy itinerary and it scares me how on top of his shit this guy is.
Please feel encouraged to reach out to tell me about comedy shows, submit material to my short story anthology Ghosts on Drugs, or for any other reason by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.