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That said, my top NYC comedy recommendations for December 2019 (with much more to come soon) include:
Sunday 12/1: There are open mics for stand-up, storytelling, poetry, and music. And now there’s also an open mic devoted to a particular emotion: rage. Come get stuff off your chest for just $5 (notably cheaper than therapy) at host Jennifer Harmon‘s Rage Blooms Within Me (3:00 pm, $5, Astoria Queens’ QED: A Place to Show & Tell at 27-16 23rd Avenue)
Sunday 12/1: Comics Shalewa Sharpe (above left; Comedy Central’s The New Negroes; HBO’s 2 Dope Queens; comedy album So, You Just Out Here?) and Courtney Fearrington (above right; co-host of Thug Passion Presents) help host Raj Sivaraman (middle)—and science—determine if telling jokes related to racism deflates or promotes actual racism: Test Tube Comedy: Exploring Racist Humor (7:00 pm, just $5!, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Sunday 12/1: Doug Smith (Conan O’Brien, co-host of See You In Hell) celebrates the release of his stand-up album Barely Regal by performing and hosting fellow comics Matt Wayne (Adam Devine’s House Party; co-host with Doug of See You in Hell), Alison Leiby (writer for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, former writer for Comedy Central’s The Opposition and The President Show; VICE, Triumph The Insult Comic Dog; host of It’s a Long Story), Rebecca Vigil (powerhouse improv singer; Your Love Our Musical, The Vigilante), George Gordon (co-host of The Afterlife; stand-up album Your Good Friend), and Robert Dean (Comedy Central): Doug Smith’s Album Release Party (7:30 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Sunday 12/1: If you haven’t already seen Gary Gulman’s HBO special The Great Depresh, do. In addition to delivering his usual razor-sharp and hilarious stand-up, Gary allows himself to be exceptionally open and vulnerable about his struggles with clinical depression, making it clear it’s a disease as real and potentially deadly as any other serious illness. Creating a new show to follow this special is no small challenge—and you can help tonight by offering visceral reactions with your laughs as Gary tries out a bunch of new jokes. Also on the lineup of this safe space for stand-up development will be Jay Welch (McSweeney’s, Someecards), Paul Oddo (host of podcast ScienPaulogy), and host Nat Towsen (Esquire, VICE, College Humor): New Material Night (8:00 pm, $12, The PIT Underground at 123 East 24th Street)
Sunday 12/1: Jo Firestone (one of the most relentlessly inventive comics in the biz; staff writer for Jimmy Fallon; star of Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents special; HBO’s Crashing, Comedy Central’s Broad City; radio host of WFMU’s Dr. Gameshow; live-on-stage co-host of Butterball; comedy album The Hits), brilliant and Emmy-nominated rising star stand-up who’s performed on Stephen Colbert and in a Comedy Central Half Hour; staff writer for Stephen Colbert; comedy album Party Nights), Joe Mande (Conan O’Brien, Seth Meyers, Comedy Central Half Hour, Ben on Modern Family; former writer for The Good Place, Parks & Recreation, Kroll Show, Delocated, Master of None; author of book Look at This F*cking Hipster, comedy album Bitchface; Netflix’s Joe Mande’s Award-Winning Comedy Special), Sean Donnelly (David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central Half Hour, Last Comic Standing, MTV; host of Celebrate! on Sirius Raw Dog 99; host of podcast Defend Your Movie; stand-up album Manual Labor Face), Petey DeAbreu (host of Petey’s World and co-host of White Chocolate), Eliot Chang (Comedy Central Half Hour, Chelsea Lately, Showtime), Mike Lebovitz (HBO’s The Deuce, Comedy Central, Last Comic Standing), and Sophie Buddle perform stand-up hosted by Robert Dean (Comedy Central): If You Build It (9:30 pm, $9, UCB at SubCulture, 45 Bleecker Street—take #6 subway to Bleecker Street stop)
Sunday 12/1: Michelle Buteau (co-star of Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe and BET+’s “The First Wives Club; co-host of popular WNYC podcast Adulting; HBO’s 2 Dope Queens, Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, Amazon’s The Tick, VH1’s Morning Buzz and Best Week Ever, FOX’s Enlisted, Craig Ferguson, Last Comic Standing, @midnight, comedy album Shut Up) performs a solo stand-up show: Michelle Buteau (7:30 pm [sold out] & 10:00 pm, $20, Brooklyn’s The Bell House at 149 7th Street; take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
Sunday 12/1: Comics competitively roast each other, with tonight’s main bout Jess Feeney (“I’m really nice till you get to know me”) vs. Jake Vevera (podcast “Too Ugly for TV”), all hosted by Matt Maran: Comedy Fight Club (10:00 pm, $10, The Stand Mainstage at 116 East 16th Street)
Monday 12/2: Corinne Fisher & Krystyna Hutchinson (authors of F*CKED: Being Sexually Explorative and Self-Confident in a World That’s Screwed) record their wildly popular Guys We Fucked: The Anti Slut-Shaming Podcast live on stage: Guys We F*cked (6:00 pm; $22.32 in advance online or $24 at the door; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Monday 12/2: If you love shadow puppetry—as I do—check out this show playing in NYC tonight only as part of a national tour (please see trailer here). The recipient of two Jim Henson Foundation grants and two years in the making, creators by Kite & Cadaver describe it as follows: “As a storm brews on the horizon, three women take refuge in an abandoned house. Their presence awakens a strange and shadowy world of memory and desire where fantasies are possible…if only for a night. This surreal, enchanting production is told entirely without words and features original music, agile scenery, and intricate shadow design:” Flying Lessons (7:00 pm, $17.35 in advance online or $18 at the door, The PIT Mainstage (Striker) at 123 East 24th Street)
Monday 12/2: Tonight is probably the last chance to see Douglas Widdick & Ken McGraw’s hour-long musical, directed by Caitlin Bitzegaio, in its original version developed for and performed at the UCBT-NY theatre. The show is about the myriad wrong ways to try to pick up women and live a bachelor lifestyle: Toxic Masculinity: The Musical (7:30 pm, $9, UCB Hell’s Kitchen at 555 West 42nd Street)
Monday 12/2: Stand-up from Mark Normand (one of the very finest stand-ups in the country; Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, HBO’s 2 Dope Queens, Inside Amy Schumer, @midnight, Last Comic Standing, VH1’s Best Week Ever; Comedy Central Half Hour, stellar Comedy Central special Don’t Be Yourself, comedy album Still Got It; hosts podcast Tuesdays With Stories; tours with Amy Schumer), Ari Shaffir (Conan O’Brien, former host of Comedy Central’s This Is Not Happening, HBO’s Down and Dirty, National Lampoon, Comedy Central special Passive Aggressive, Netflix special Double Negative), TV & movie star Janeane Garofalo, Mike Vecchione (Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central’s Half Hour and Inside Amy Schumer, Last Comic Standing, Howard Stern; stand-up album Muscle Confusion), Shane Gillis (co-host of Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, frequent guest on Sirius XM’s The Bonfire; very nearly a cast member of SNL), and Aminah Imani (host with Sydnee Washington & Marie Faustin of highly popular weekly Brooklyn stand-up showcase Comedy at The Knit; host of podcast Wine Before Nine): Stars at The Stand (8:00 pm, $15, The Stand Mainstage at 116 East 16th Street)
Monday 12/2: Mark Normand (one of the very finest stand-ups in the country; Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, HBO’s 2 Dope Queens, Inside Amy Schumer, @midnight, Last Comic Standing, VH1’s Best Week Ever; Comedy Central Half Hour, stellar Comedy Central special Don’t Be Yourself, comedy album Still Got It; hosts podcast Tuesdays With Stories; tours with Amy Schumer), Ari Shaffir (Conan O’Brien, former host of Comedy Central’s This Is Not Happening, HBO’s Down and Dirty, National Lampoon, Comedy Central special Passive Aggressive, Netflix special Double Negative), Mike Vecchione (Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central’s Half Hour and Inside Amy Schumer, Last Comic Standing, Howard Stern; stand-up album Muscle Confusion), Shane Gillis (co-host of Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast, frequent guest on Sirius XM’s The Bonfire; very nearly a cast member of SNL), Janelle Draper (IFC), Danny Polishchuk (co-host of podcast Fckonomics), Francis Ellis (co-host of Oops the Podcast), Joe Praino, and more try out material at this free weekly show hosted by Aaron Berg (TV series 24 Hour Rental, documentary A Universal Language) and/or Kerryn Feehan (Comedy Central, TruTV, Spike TV): Frantic Mondays (10:00 pm, Free!, The Stand Mainstage at 116 East 16th Street)
Tuesday 12/3: Family Ghosts is a podcast that “investigates the true story behind a mysterious figure whose legend has followed a family for generations. Grandmothers who were secretly jewel smugglers, uncles who led double lives, siblings who vanished without a trace, and other specters who cast shadows over family members in ways that might not be immediately obvious. We’re all formed in part by our familial collections of secrets, intrigues, and myths. Engaging with each others’ legends can help us see each others’ realities more clearly.” Host Sam Dingman (Moth GrandSlam Champion) celebrates the kickoff of Season Three with this live-on-stage edition: Family Ghosts Live (7:00 pm; $15; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Tuesday 12/3: 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 12/3: The Lucas Brothers (above; Jimmy Fallon, 22 Jump Street, FOX’s Lucas Bros Moving Company, Arrested Development), Matthew Broussard (Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central Half Hour), Sam Morrison (writer for Bravo’s Blind Date), Ja-Ron Young, and Brian Enck perform stand-up hosted by Nore Davis (HBO’s Last Week Tonight, Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer and Russell Simmons Presents The Ruckus, Showtime’s Boardwalk Empire, MTV; album You Guys Are Dope) representing both well-known and less-known comics considered worthy of your attention by comedy blog Stellar Underground (8:00 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Tuesday 12/3: Jo Firestone (one of the most relentlessly inventive comics in the biz; staff writer for Jimmy Fallon; star of Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents special; HBO’s Crashing, Comedy Central’s Broad City; radio host of WFMU’s Dr. Gameshow; live-on-stage co-host of Butterball; comedy album The Hits), Adam Friedland (co-host of podcast Cumtown), and more perform stand-up for host Stavros Halkias (Comedy Central Stand-Up, IFC, co-host of podcast Cum Town): Fat Tuesdays (8:00 pm, $15 cover and no min., The Stand Upstairs at 116 East 16th Street)
Tuesday 12/3: Stand-ups and/or storytellers Ben Hargrave, Tim Keck, Laura Zabolotsky, Maritza Montañez, Brian Allen Mitchell, Amanda Van Nostrand, and Shenuque Tissera”share what scares the sh*t out of them,” with tonight’s guests Ben Hargrave, Tim Keck, Laura Zabolotsky, Maritza Montañez, Brian Allen Mitchell, Amanda Van Nostrand, and Shenuque Tissera, all hosted by Tracy Soren: My Nightmare (8:30 pm, $6, Astoria Queens’ QED: A Place to Show & Tell at 27-16 23rd Avenue)
Tuesday 12/3: With brutal honesty, comics Ron Bennington (host of radio shows Bennington and Unmasked), Yamaneika Saunders (HBO’s Crashing, NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central Roast Battle; stand-up album Damsel in Distress),and Stavros Halkias (Comedy Central Stand-Up, IFC; co-host of podcast Cum Town; host of Fat Tuesdays) each shares a story of one of the worst things he or she has ever experienced, with periodic questions and other interjections from host Big Jay Oakerson (Jimmy Fallon, Comedy Central Presents, Louie, Inside Amy Schumer, HBO, Showtime, MTV, IFC; co-host of Sirius XM’s The Bonfire, and podcasts Legion of Skanks and The SDR; stellar comedy special Live at Webster Hall): The Worst (9:00 pm, $15 cover and no min., The Stand Mainstage at 116 East 16th Street)
Tuesday 12/3: Gabe Gonzalez (Scruff, MTV News) and Steve Dean (dating industry consultant & relationship coach) will choose audience members with dating woes and use data to transform their lives by helping them find who they’re looking for. “Along the way we’ll hear some crazy stories, learn insane truths about the dating industry, and meet some new people:” The Nerds & the Bees (9:30 pm, $15, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Wednesday 12/4: Chanel Ali (MTV’s Girl Code, Starz, TruTV) records a comedy album via early and late shows. Come lend your joy and get your laughs immortalized at Chanel Ali Stand-Up Album Recording (7:00 pm and 9:30 pm, $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Wednesday 12/4: Jo Firestone (one of the most relentlessly inventive comics in the biz; staff writer for Jimmy Fallon; star of Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents special; HBO’s Crashing, Comedy Central’s Broad City; radio host of WFMU’s Dr. Gameshow; live-on-stage co-host of Butterball; comedy album The Hits), Clare O’Kane (Comedy Central Half Hour, Amazon’s Budding Prospects, Viceland’s Flophouse, webseries Semi-Famous; former writer for SpongeBob SquarePants; stand-up album Let It Be), Megan Stalter (star of webseries The Megan Stalter Show; member of Nattional Lampoon Radio Hour), Alex English (writer for BET’s The Rundown with Robin Thede), and Joe Castle Baker (host of monthly Williamsburg show Get Reel) perform stand-up for happy couple Drew Anderson & Tim Platt: Sweethearts of Comedy (7:30 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Thursday 12/5: Open mic storytelling show, with each yarn-spinner whose name is picked from a basket receiving 5 minutes on stage to share something that happened in his or her life, hosted by David Lawson (Comedy Central; solo storytelling shows include The Flyer Guy, No Oddjob, The Prequels; and The 2020 Book Report): The Astoria Bookshop Storytelling Show (7:00 pm, Free!, Astoria Bookshop at 31-29 31st 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 at SubCulture
45 Bleecker Street; What used to be a top comedy venue called UCB East has sadly gone under, but some of its shows live on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights at respected East Village indie theatre SubCulture at Bleecker & Lafayette Streets, direclty by the #6 subway’s Bleecker Street stop; shows $7-$14
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
Fat Black Pussycat Lounge
130 West 3rd Street; Comedy Cellar’s smaller, intimate, and lower-priced sister venue (next door to Village Underground), which serves as its primary home for solo shows and experimental shows—which means it’s sometimes the most exciting choice; 2-item min.
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.
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.