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That said, my top NYC comedy recommendations for May 2018 (with more to come soon) include:
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 Baby Gumm and Peter Smith makes the case for Babs, with illustrative diva drag performances by Gina Tonic and Summer Orlando, 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 left; enormously likeable rising star; Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, John Oliver, Comedy Central Half Hour, Crashing, @midnight, This is Not Happening, The Electric Company, MTV, VH1; currently writing for Netflix’s The Break with Michelle Wolf, previously staff writer for CBS’ Superior Donuts and TruTV’s Ten Things), Simon Amstell (UK TV star writer/performer who spent 3 years hosting pop quiz show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, 6 years hosting Popworld, and is currently the creator, writer, and star of sitcom Grandma’s House; writer/director of 2017 movie Carnage; author of Help), Will Miles (co-host of Comedy Night at the Knit; TruTV, The Chris Gethard Show; Steve Martin’s Comedy MasterClass; comedy album Good Year), Molly Austin (TruTV’s Late Night Snack), Daniel Simonsen, Whitmer Thomas, and Xazmin Garza 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)
Tuesday 5/27: Instructions on how to watch new movie Solo: A Star Wars Story is provided by guest JL Cauvin and hosts Pat Stango, Gregg Zehentner, Erin Rose Chan, and Clayton Gumbert for this live-on-stage version of their podcast: How to Watch Movies the Right Way (8:00 pm, $5, Astoria Queens’ QED: A Place to Show & Tell at 27-16 23rd Avenue)
Wednesday 5/30-Wednesday 6/6: LES’ Caveat venue has provided a wonderful new home for innovative stand-up, storytelling, and variety shows—and especially those that are in some way related to science. Making that connection explicit is this festival that covers 16 comedic science-related events, running from May 30th (with an opening night party) through June 6th. Notable shows includes Science Wake: Eulogies for Failed Theories (6/6 at 9:30 pm), The Story Collider: Abortion—Stories from Patients and Doctors (6/5 at 8:00 pm), The Matilda Effect: How Science Hides Women’s Achievements (6/2 at 7:00 pm), and The Racist History of Math (6/6 at 7:00 pm). You can buy tickets to individual shows, or save a bundle with a $50 all-you-can-see pass: Underground Science Festival (week-long fest running 5/30-6/6; individual shows free or $12-$17, or pay $50 for all-you-can-see pass; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Wednesday 5/30: A dozen comics—including Jo Firestone, John Reynolds, Matt Barats, and Anthony Oberbeck—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: 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)
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 email@example.com.