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That said, my top NYC comedy recommendations for May 2018 (with more to come soon) include:
Saturday 5/19: Guests Justin Ellis (staff writer for HBO’s Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas),Nore Davis (HBO’s Last Week Tonight, Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer and Russell Simmons Presents The Ruckus, Showtime’s Boardwalk Empire, MTV), and Tokyo Driftwood (band formed by Ryan Dieringer & Sam McDougle) perform stand-up, songs, characters, and/or more, then enthusiastically endorse some product they love…which will be handed out to lucky members of the audience! Hosted by the wonderful Chris Duffy (staff writer for NatGeo Explorer, host of You’re the Expert), who makes this promise for one audience member per show: You Get A Spoon (4:00 pm; $13.71 online, $15 at the door; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Saturday 5/19: World-class singing improvisors Evan Kaufman & Rebecca Vigil interview an audience couple about their love life and then turn it into a musical—with breathtaking skill (see my review of their award-winning FringeNYC 2015 shows here). Tonight will be extra special, as the show is celebrating its Fourth Year Anniversary. I highly recommend the phenomenal Your Love, Our Musical (7:00 pm; $16.89 in advance online or $20 at the door; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Saturday 5/19: Star Tracy Morgan is interviewed by Vulture TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz, plus an episode of Tracy’s new TBS show The Last O.G. is screened, sponsored by pop culture site Vulture as part of its two-day festival: Tracy Morgan in Conversation (8:00 pm, $32.66, Milk Studios AT&T Studio at 450 West 15th Street)
Saturday 5/19: In this unique show, animators spontaneously bring the jokes of stand-ups Josh Gondelman, Hari Kondabolu, Kate Willett, Nore Davis, Molly Ruben-Long, and Nina Tarr to visual life with lightning speed & wit. Part of the fun is that the comics don’t know what the animators will draw and the animators don’t know how the comics will react. Produced by Sam Varela & Brandie Posey and hosted by Ian Fidance: Picture This! (8:00 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Saturday 5/19: A live taping of the acclaimed Las Culturistas podcast hosted by Matt Rogers & Bowen Yang interviewing “a special guest” sponsored by pop culture site Vulture as part of its two-day festival: Las Culturistas Live (8:30 pm, $21.66, Milk Studios Penthouse at 450 West 15th Street)
Saturday 5/19: Comics offer oddball information on topics selected in alphabetical order, with tonight’s subjects Betty Boop, Biological nightmares, and more, plus monthly game “Name That Demon,” expounded upon by guests Lorelei Ramirez, Gary Pascal, Megan Henricks, Joanna Rothkopf, Shannon Odell, and Jordan Mendoza: Encyclopedia Commedia: Vol. II (Av-Br) (9:30 pm, $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Sunday 5/20: Killer lineup of Wyatt Cenac, Josh Gondelman, Julio Torres, John Reynolds, Ana Fabrega, Matteo Lane, Sasheer Zamata, and Emma Willmann perform stand-up for this event curated & sponsored by pop culture site Vulture as part of its two-day festival: Vulture Festival Comedy Show (7:30 pm, $20, Brooklyn’s The Bell House at 149 7th Street—take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
Tuesday 5/22: UK-based comic Barry Ferns (BBC) gives a rare NYC stand-up performance, with openers Sean Patton (one of the very finest stand-ups in the country; killer sets on Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien; Comedy Central’s Half Hour, Inside Amy Schumer, @midnight, This Is Not Happening, and The Meltdown; VH1, TruTV, IFC, Viceland; feature film Wifed Out; former co-host of Esquire Network’s Best Bars in America) and Caitlin Cook (singer/songwriter): Barry Ferns Loves You, Co-Starring Sean Patton and Caitlin Cook (8:00 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Wednesday 5/23: John Hodgman & Jean Grae have written topics on a carnival wheel. In this show they spin the wheel and then chat about whatever subject they land on, along with a surprise guest. What else do you need to know?: Jean and John (8:00 pm, $15, The Bell House at 149 7th Street; take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
Thursday 5/24: David Cross (comedy legend; Mr. Show, Arrested Development, Modern Family) tries out new stand-up material in Brooklyn: David Cross: Still Shooting the Shit, Still Seeing What Sticks (8:00 pm, $15, Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street—take R subway to Union Street; please note previous performances of this show have consistently sold out, so nabbing tickets in advance ASAP is recommended)
Thursday 5/24: Comedic storytellers TBA join pioneering sketch comic and storyteller Kevin Allison (The State) at what’s typically one of the finest storytelling shows in the country: Risk! (9:30 pm, $15, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Friday 5/25: Highly talented hip-hop improv group North Coast attempts to create a Hamilton on the spot by making up a musical based on an audience suggestion of a famous historical figure: Anybody: An Improvised Historical Hip-Hopera (9:30 pm, $16.89 online or $20 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street; see also Friday’s North Coast show)
Sunday 5/27: Michelle Wolf (star stand-up; previously the finest writer/correspondent for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah; previously staff writer & performer for Seth Meyers; stellar HBO hour-long special Nice Lady; shocked attendees at this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner by bluntly telling the truth) debuts her weekly Sunday Netflix show tonight! For a trailer, please click here; and don’t forget to watch The Break with Michelle Wolf
Sunday 5/27: In this new show from Mike Drucker (hilarious stand-up and staff writer for TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee; previously a staff writer for NBC’s Jimmy Fallon and Comedy Central’s The President Show, and contributing writer for Saturday Night Live), comics read obituaries they wrote for themselves, “honoring the lives they had and making fun of the lives they could have had.” Tonight’s dying-as-we-speak guests are Sean Crespo and Nicole Silverberg (like Mike, staff writers for Samantha Bee), Jess Dweck (executive story editor for Showtime’s SMILF; long-time former staff writer for Jimmy Fallon), Evan Waite (staff writer for The President Show), and Dina Hashem (Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central’s Roast Battle): My Obituary Show (8:30 pm, $7, Astoria Queens’ QED: A Place to Show & Tell at 27-16 23rd Avenue)
Sunday 5/27: Storytellers Andrea Hickey (illustrator for Buzzfeed), Jesse Lee (Broad City), and Brad Einstein tell DIY healthcare tales, ranging from homeopathic cures for yeast infections to at-home surgery, and are then judged by comic & registered nurse John St. Denis: I’m a Doctor Now: Stories About Self-Diagnosis (7:00 pm, $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Monday 5/28: Dan St. Germain (above; enormously likeable and rapidly rising star who has several TV shows in the works; Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central Half-Hour Special, The Electric Company, MTV, VH1; staff writer for CBS’ Superior Donuts), Molly Austin (TruTV’s Late Night Snack), Daniel Simonsen, Whitmer Thomas, and more perform for this weekly Brooklyn stand-up show hosted by Jo Firestone (staff writer for Jimmy Fallon, co-author of #1 bestselling Punderdome: A Card Game for Pun Lovers), Aparna Nancherla (co-star of HBO’s Crashing, Netflix’s Master of None, and Comedy Central’s Corporate), and Maeve Higgins (Maeve in America, co-host of Nat Geo’s Star Talk): Butterboy with Jo, Aparna, and Maeve (8:00 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Thursday 5/31: A glorious collection of hilarious film & TV clips and lectures by mass media experts hosted by super-fan Kevin Maher (Emmy-nominated writer whose work has appeared on HBO, Comedy Central, and AMC; former host of AMC’s The Sci-Fi Dept.), this month focusing on detectives (for a trailer, please click here), with scheduled guests Adam Howard (Associate Producer of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), Emily Intravia (co-host of The Feminine Critique podcast), Chico Leo (co-host of the Scream Squad podcast), Nick Nadel (host of the Movies My Friends Have Never Seen podcast), Gena Radcliffe (co-host of the Kill By Kill podcast), and Mike Schuster (writer-producer of Super Deluxe and Rifftrax): Kevin Geeks Out About Detectives (9:30 pm; $16—buying in advance is recommended, as this show crammed with rich imagery and fascinating ideas often sells out; Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Cinema at 136 Metropolitan Avenue—take the L to Bedford)
You can find the vast majority of notable NYC live comedy shows by using the links below to explore the schedules of the following top NYC comedy venues:
Best Inexpensive Stand-Up, Improv, Sketch, and Storytelling
Upright Citizens Brigade Hell’s Kitchen
555 West 42nd Street; 152-seater; one of the most respected comedy showcases 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 Hell’s Kitchen 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 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
Best NYC Stand-Up Comedy Clubs
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.
From legendary NYC comedy site Brooklyn Vegan: Thank God for Hy Bender’s religiously updated show bible Best New York Comedy (and HyReviews.com). He is literally the only person in NYC providing daily summaries of what’s happening comedy-wise. 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.
From comedy & rock goddess Lane Moore (host of smash hit Tinder Live; author of How to be Alone; lead singer of Brooklyn band It Was Romance): Hy Bender lives and breathes comedy. He knows what he’s talking about. Listen.
Please feel encouraged to reach out to tell me about comedy shows, provide feedback on my cross-genre short story anthology Ghosts on Drugs, hire me to develop your book or screenplay (please visit BookProposal.net or HyOnYourScript.com), or for any other reason by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.