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That said, my top NYC comedy recommendations for May 2018 (with more to come soon) include:
Monday 5/21: Emmy Blotnick (brilliant rising star stand-up who’s performed on Stephen Colbert and stars in an upcoming Comedy Central Half Hour; Head Writer for Comedy Central’s The President Show; former writer for Comedy Central’s @midnight, Roast of Rob Lowe, and Not Safe with Nikki Glaser; MTV, VH1), Ronny Chieng (correspondent for The Daily Show), Alison Leiby (writer for The Opposition with Jordan Klepper, previously writer for The President Show; VICE, Triumph The Insult Comic Dog; host of It’s a Long Story), Jordan Temple (staff writer for The Rundown with Robin Thede, previously writer for Showtime’s SMIFL), and more are scheduled to perform stand-up for this free weekly show hosted by the multi-talented Morgan Miller (sharp improvisor, sketch comic, and stand-up): Dirty Laundry (11:00 pm, Free! (make reservation here), UCB Hell’s Kitchen at 555 West 42nd Street)
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)
Sunday 5/27: In this acclaimed monthly show, NYC stand-ups Tom Thakkar, Abby Rosenquist, Tito Garzo, and Maria Wojciechowski each perform a 10-minute set while they “risk getting slapped by Satan himself. Actually, he hosts only bringer shows, but join Matt Wayne & Doug Smith as they step into the Big Man’s shoes and put NYC’s finest through comedy purgatory. Hula-hoops, celebrity impressions, unwanted audience participation, all incorporated into each performance! Will they triumph or will the nether world eat their souls?f” For a sample torture set with the delightful Christi Chiello, please click here; and if you’d then like more, Matt & Wayne will See You in Hell (8:00 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Monday 5/28: Because there isn’t enough division in America, this monthly show strives to create more discord by asking the musical question “Whose side are you on: Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz, Easter Parade, Meet Me in St. Louis, A Star is Born) or Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl, The Way We Were, Yentl, A Star is Born)?” Comic Cole Escola argues for Frances Ethel Gumm and Peter Smith makes the case for Babs, with illustrative diva drag performances by Shuga Cain, plus music from DJ Molly Austin, with fabulous hosts Christi Chiello (Comedy Central’s Roast Battle, MTV’s Girl Code, TruTV, co-host of White Chocolate, stellar solo show It’s Christi, B*tch!) & Matteo Lane (Seth Meyers, Comedy Central, MTV’s Guy Code & Girl Code): Battle of the Divas: Judy Garland vs. Barbra Streisand (8:00 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union 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)
Wednesday 5/30: Sixteen comics TBA perform characters, songs, and a variety of other comedic bits: Yardsale Comedy Night (10:00 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union 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)
Thursday 5/31: Comics who are parents vent by telling mean stories about their children, with tonight’s cruel jokesters J.R. Havlan (Emmy-winning former staff writer for Jimmy Fallon and The Daily Show), Abbi Crutchfield (Broad City, MTV, VH1, Witsream), and Carole Montgomery (Comedy Central, ABC’s Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, Oprah, Showtime, MTV, VH1, A&E) hosted by the wonderful Ophira Eisenberg (NBC’s The Today Show, CBS’ The Late Late Show, Comedy Central, VH1, Showtime, host of NPR’s trivia/puzzle show Ask Me Another, bestselling book Screw Everyone, comedy album Bangs!) and Emily Flake (star cartoonist for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, Forbes, etc.; author of books Mama Tried [above], Lulu Eightball, and These Things Ain’t Gonna Smoke Themselves): Shitshow (7:30 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
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.