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That said, my top NYC comedy recommendations for January 2019 (with much more to come soon) include:
Saturday 1/5-Sunday 1/6: Two of the finest productions to ever grace The Peoples Improv Theater are from the Recent Cutbacks company, which includes superbly inventive director Kristin McCarthy Parker, amazing shape-shifting performers Kyle Schaefer, Nick Abeel, and Matt Zambrano, and stellar foley artists Blair Busbee & Kelsey Didion—and this weekend you can see both magical shows back to back. Kicking off the evening is a live-on-stage ‘shot for shot’ parody of the first chapter in “the most epic fantasy trilogy of all time”—i.e., Lord of the Rings: Fly, You Fools!; and then an unforgettable live shot for shot stage version of Jurassic Park: Hold On To Your Butts…Jurassik Parc (8:00 pm, $30 for the entire double-bill (a great deal, as these shows are normally $20 each), The PIT Mainstage at 123 East 24th Street)
Monday 1/7: The wonderful Ophira Eisenberg (above left; one of the finest comedic storytellers and stand-ups in the country; host of weekly NPR/WNYC show Ask Me Another, author of bestselling book Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy, comedy album Bangs!; NBC, CBS, Comedy Central, VH1, Showtime), Hank Smith (above right; 20 years as performer, choreographer, stage manager, and associate director of Sesame Street), NYC trivia games with prizes, and more, all hosted by Nat Towsen (VICE, College Humor): Downtown Variety Hour (7:30 pm, $9, UCB East at 153 East 3rd Street)
Tuesday 1/8: A raucous monthly pun competition hosted by Fred Firestone (co-author with Jo Firestone of #1 bestselling Punderdome: A Card Game for Pun Lovers), with 18 audience members (a dozen sign-ups and six returning champions) fiercely competing for wordplay dominance—and the chance to become an instant star based on verbal cleverness, and the ability to drum up the most applause from a packed and loudly cheering crowd: Punderdome 3000 (8:00 pm, $12, Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street—take R subway to Union Street; show up early—doors open at 7:00—to nab a seat, or plan on standing)
Tuesday 1/8: Storytellers Neil Intraub (two-time Moth StorySlam winner), Adele Jackson-Gibson (co-host of Rule Breakers podcast), Roxanne Khamsi (Chief News Editor for Nature Medicine; writer for The New York Times, The Economist, Scientific American, and Slate), Gianmarco Soresi (Seeso; sketch group Uncle Function; acclaimed FringeNYC play <50%; co-host of The Last Laugh), and Kelsey McCoy (Columbia University PhD candidate in biological sciences) tell tales on this month’s science theme of “personal rebirth, from mystery illnesses to family bonds,” hosted by Tracy Rowland & Paula Croxson: The Story Collider: Personal Rebirth (8:00 pm, $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Tuesday 1/8: Killer lineup of Judah Friedlander (one of the quickest minds and very finest stand-ups in comedy; 30 Rock, Meet the Parents, Along Came Polly; Netflix stand-up special America is the Greatest Country in the United States; bestselling cartoon book If the Raindrops United), Aparna Nancherla (one of the very finest stand-ups in the country; co-star of HBO’s Crashing and 2 Dope Queens, Netflix’s Master of None and The Standups, and Comedy Central’s Corporate; former writer for Seth Meyers; Conan O’Brien, @Midnight, Comedy Central Half Hour, comedy album Just Putting It Out There), Dan St. Germain (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; upcoming album No Real Winners Here), and Michael Kosta (correspondent for The Daily Show) perform stand-up hosted by the charming Ruby Karp: We Hope You Have Fun (10:30 pm, $9, UCB East at 153 East 3rd Street)
Thursday 1/10: Comics share their love for the weirdest animals on the planet, with tonight’s zoologists Michael Cruz Kayne (sketches on Stephen Colbert and The Chris Gethard Show; HBO’s Crashing; former writer for @midnight and Billy on the Street; member of ace musical improv group Baby Wants Candy and UCB Saturday night improv group What I Did For Love; co-host of monthly comedy show The Exhibition), Matt Rogers (co-host of the GAYme Show and the acclaimed Las Culturistas podcast), Dylan Marron (host of Conversations with People Who Hate Me podcast, Welcome to Night Vale podcast, Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite, Seriously.tv), Eliza Cossio (HBO’s Problem Areas with Wyatt Cenac), Kenice Mobley (Person About Town), and Fumi Abe (Asian Not Asian) hosted by Karen Chee (The New Yorker, McSweeney’s): The Biodiversity Jam (7:00 pm, $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Thursday 1/10: Enjoy a comic excavation of teen angst artifacts (journals, letters, poems, lyrics, home movies, stories, and more) shared by their original authors before total strangers at this popular monthly show—which is now also a six-part series titled The Mortified Guide on Netflix!: Mortified (8:00 pm, $12, Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Friday 1/11: A show celebrating the app that redefined online dating, with the lovely and quick-witted Lane Moore (above middle; author of superb bestselling book How to Be Alone; HBO’s Girls; Sex & Relationship Editor of Cosmo; writer for The Onion, McSweeney’s) going on a live Tinder safari for guys while a packed audience watches her every choice with fascination. Offering comments and suggestions are guest comics Abbi Crutchfield (above left; Broad City, MTV, VH1, TBS, TruTV, Witsream), Chase Mitchell (above right; former writer for Jimmy Fallon, the 2017 Golden Globe Awards, and MTV). and Samhita Mukhopadhyay (Executive Editor of Teen Vogue, co-editor of book Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America). This show usually sells out, so I highly recommend nabbing tickets in advance online for Tinder Live (8:30 pm, $15, Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Friday 1/11: 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, $17 online or $20 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Sunday 1/13: Jon Glaser (HBO’s Girls, NBC’s Parks and Recreation, star of Adult Swim’s Delocated and TruTV’s Jon Glaser Loves Gear; long-time writer/performer and 5-time Emmy nominee for Conan O’Brien) tries out material for a stand-up special he’s putting together. Help Jon decide what’s funny and what might destroy his career: Come See If This Works Again (7:30 pm, $12, Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Sunday 1/13: Storytellers TBA tell DIY healthcare tales, which in the past have ranged from homeopathic cures for yeast infections to at-home surgery, hosted by Allie Kokesh and Sarah Burton: I’m a Doctor Now: Stories About Self-Diagnosis (3:30 pm, $10, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Sunday 1/13: Peer review is applied to the big screen in this show where scientists and comics TBD watch and discuss the science of hit movies and, with your help, decide if the film deserves to be published and have its findings endorsed across the land, or should perish for its crimes against facts. This month focuses on the science of 2002 animated feature film Ice Age, and on the broader topic of climate change: Publish or Perish: Scientists Review Ice Age (7:00 pm, $13.82 online or $15 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Tuesday 1/15: Experts and comics—including psychologist Ingmar Gorman (Director of the Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care Program) and Adam Strauss (writer/performer of show The Mushroom Cure)—have a frank and taboo-free discussion of drugs, this month focused on psychedelics, hosted by Sarah Rose Siskind (comedy writer for NatGeo’s StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson): Drug Test: Psychedelics (7:00 pm, $17 online or $20 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Thursday 1/17: Highly talented singing improvisors Eric Gersen, Jeff Hiller, Michael Hartney, Jessica Morgan, Zack Willis, Hannah Solow, and Jake Smith interview an audience member about his or her college major, minor, classes, and final thesis, and then use the information to make up a complete musical on the spot: Rumpleteaser: Major and Minor (9:30 pm, $15, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Friday 1/18: A game show that describes itself as follows: “Ever talk to a straight guy and think, ‘Jesus Christ you’re boring!’ Two straight men TBD enter the arena, but only one leaves with the title of Queen of the Straights. Lifelines include a Woman Who Gets It and a Wise Queer” hosted by Matt Rogers & Dave Mizzoni, who invite you to “come witness the ultimate test of who Is honorarily Gay As Fuck:” GAYme Show (9:30 pm, $10, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Saturday 1/19: World-class singing improvisors Rebecca Vigil & Evan Kaufman 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). I highly recommend the phenomenal Your Love, Our Musical (7:00 pm; $17 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 1/19: Storytelling, sketches, and more about sex, including “practical takeaways for the audience,” from comics TBD hosted by Dani Faith Leonard: Adult Sex Ed (9:30 pm; $17 online or $20 at the door; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Sunday 1/20: Four brand-new 10-minute segments titled “Lie Detector” (tech expert Sree Sreenivasan explores questions about truth and lies in the digital age), “Control Chorus” (an investigation into our internal rhythms and the external factors that set the tempo for our biology), “Zone Out” (the musical story of going to the doctor at age 13 and learning you’re not who you’ve been led to believe), and “Blood Shame” (What if we could erase our trauma? Would we live healthier lives?): Talks Progress Administration (7:00 pm; $11.70 online or $15 at the door; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Monday 1/21: Racquel Gates (author of Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture) examines the stylistic qualities and production of 1988 comedy film Coming to America, arguing it’s actually two movies in one resulting from the ideological and interpersonal tensions between director John Landis and star Eddie Murphy: Flying University: That Ain’t a Black Film! (7:00 pm; $17 online or $20 at the door; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Tuesday 1/22: Members of the West Wing Writers group (which includes former Presidential speechwriters) and comic Jen Spyra (staff writer for Stephen Colbert; The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Beast; former Senior Writer/director/producer for The Onion) will break down their favorite speeches, give behind-the-scenes looks at the speech drafting process, and even lead you in crafting your own keynote speech, all hosted by Brian Agler (Director of West Wing Writers; The New Yorker, McSweeney’s): SpeakEasy (9:30 pm; $12; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.