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That said, my top NYC comedy recommendations for August 2018 (with more to come) include:
Thursday 8/2: Guy Branum (razor-sharp stand-up; creator & host of TruTV’s Talk Show—The Game Show, writer/producer for The Mindy Project, regular guest on Chelsea Lately) celebrates the release of his first book, My Life as a Goddess: A Memoir Through (Un)Popular Culture, by performing a long stand-up set, with an opening set by Cole Escola (Jeffery & Cole Casserole, At Home with Amy Sedaris): Guy Branum: Stand-Up Goddess (7:30 pm, $15, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
To start with the positive: This has one of the great titles of all time. I dare you to read it and not a) laugh and b) want to know more. Four years ago, director/composer Christian De Gré kindly shared with me how the show began: “One day I casually asked my girlfriend Serrana Gay how she was feeling, and she said, ‘Oh, you know. Fatty fatty no friends.'” Christian reacted appropriately and convinced her to write an entire musical based on that delightful line. Serrana reacted appropriately in turn by having Christian write the music for it, direct it, and co-star in it (memorably, as a demon…).
The resulting production was in most ways extraordinary. The operatic music by De Gré was haunting and exquisite, the visuals—especially the two demons on stilts, courtesy of costume designer Ashley Soliman & make-up designers Kate Marley & Louiza Diavolitsis—were deliciously nightmarish, and the key singers/performers—particularly Tommy/Fatty, played by Jason Sofge—had impressive pipes.
And the core of the story is dark hilarity: When skinny kids make a fat classmate’s life a living hell, he has a simple solution—eat them.
How could I not love this show?
And I mostly do…except for the flaw. It’s a joke without a punchline.
This show has no idea how to end. The original version, back in 2014, had a climax that was kind of cute but emotionally unsatisfying. To my great dismay, subsequent reworkings—while improving on all other aspects of the production—had endings that were progressively worse. I’d characterize the ending from the last production as “traumatizing.”
Before this new run, I expressed my feelings to the producers, and was promised this version finally fixes things.
I therefore attended opening night yesterday—and, unfortunately, it doesn’t. While the new ending is less horrifying than the previous one (a step in the right direction), I still found it offensive. To my eye, it comes across as both a failure of imagination and lack of storytelling boldness.
Also, because the new venue’s cabaret stage is too small to support a full production, the demons on stilts, which were the most memorable visual of the show, had to be axed.
So that’s the bad news.
The good news is this latest version is a feast for the ears. The music is tighter and more beautiful than ever. And the singers are superb—the best cast to ever grace the show.
So if you love great music, I happily recommend Fatty Fatty No Friends.
But if you love great storytelling, this show still needs a substantial amount of thoughtful and courageous development work before it becomes the classic it has the potential to become.
That said, even as is, this show is unlike anything else you’re likely to see or hear, and well worth experiencing: Fatty Fatty No Friends at the 2018 New York Musical Festival (tonight 8/2 at 9:30 pm and Saturday 8/4 at 7:00 pm; $31.75; The Green Room 42 at 570 Tenth Avenue between 41st and 42nd Streets, inside YOTEL on the Fourth Floor)
August: I’m taking most of August off to complete some major book and media projects, including my cross-genre fiction anthology and podcast Ghosts On Drugs. I’ll still post occasionally in August, though, and will be back as usual in September.
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.
Special Thanks to Mindy and Anya
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.