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That said, my top NYC comedy recommendations for January 2020 (with much more to come soon) include:
Sunday 1/5: Comics tell true tales of how drink, drugs, and/or sex addiction have ruined their lives in the past and for what they’re now grateful, with Mike Cannon, Mehran Khaghani, Corinne Fisher, Krystyna Hutchinson, Jonas Barnes, Louis Katz, and host Jeff Leach: Stand-Ups Anonymous (7:00 pm, $15, The Stand Upstairs at 116 East 16th Street)
Sunday 1/5: Enjoy brunch with laughs at this comedy show that provides free bacon and $20 bottomless mimosas along with jokes from NYC stand-ups Ashley Hesseltine (co-host of podcast Girls Gotta Eat), Jeff Leach (host of podcast Savage Snowflake and show Stand-Ups Anonymous—which happens tonight at 7:00 pm in the same room), Ian Lara (HBO, Jimmy Fallon, Comedy Central Stand-Up, NBC’s Bring the Funny; former host of Out of Tune music app), and Ben DeMarco hosted by Remy Kassimir (host of podcasts How Cum and We Really Love Island): Bacon Bits Brunch Show (3:00 pm, $15, The Stand Upstairs at 116 East 16th Street)
Sunday 1/5: Watch the Golden Globes Awards with an audience, and enjoy comedic observations and characters by NYC comics performing for you during the commercials. The show is hosted by Jenny Gorelick, with a voting explanation by Andrea Jones-Rooy, color commentary by Rachel Pegram, Allie Carieri, Gabe Gonzalez, and Miz Diamond Wigfall, and celebrity impersonations by John Everett Trowbridge, Sophie Elizabeth Santos, Ana McCasland, Abby Herold, Micaela Fagan, Joey Dardano, and Jeremy Moulton: Golden Globes Watch Party (6:30 pm doors, 7:00 pm show; $16.89 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)
Sunday 1/5: John Reynolds (co-star of Search Party, cast member of Stranger Things; previously writer for The President Show, Craig Ferguson, and Celebrity Deathmatch) & Matt Barats (HBO’s High Maintenance, Seth Meyers, The New Yorker) perform duo comedy: John Reynolds & Matt Barats (8:00 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Sunday 1/5: Seven art portrait masterpieces come to life and reveal the stories behind their creation—explaining why Mona Lisa was smiling, what Frida was staring at, the cause of the desperately sad eyes of the girl with a pearl earring, and more—written & directed by Karleigh Chase, and performed by Alexa Harris (Narrator), Marlee Dater (Mona Lisa), Karleigh Chase (Girl with a Pearl Earring), Rory Lipede (Dora Maar), Rory Kelsch (American Gothic), Duvall O’Steen (Gala Dali), Juanita Castro-Ochoa (Frida Kahlo), and Maureen Toomey (Marilyn Monroe): Memoirs of a Painted Woman (8:00 pm, $12, The PIT Mainstage (Striker) at 123 East 24th Street)
Sunday 1/5: Sharp stand-up from Rachel Feinstein (HBO’s Crashing, Amazon’s Red Oaks, Netflix’s The Standups, Comedy Central special Only Whores Wear Purple; finalist on Last Comic Standing; Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, Inside Amy Schumer, The View; films include Trainwreck and Top Five), Derek Gaines (Jaybird on The Last O.G.; NBC’s Will & Grace; former host of MTV’s Broke A$$ Game Show), Stavros Halkias (Comedy Central Stand-Up, IFC; co-host of podcast Cum Town; host of Fat Tuesdays), Aaron Berg (TV series 24 Hour Rental, documentaries 25 Sets, A Universal Language, co-host of CompoundMedia.com’s In Hot Water and The Stand’s Frantic!), Yannis Pappas (Comedy Central Half Hour, VH1; co-host of podcast History Hyenas), and Tom Cassidy: Sunday Night Stand-Up at The Stand (8:00 pm, $15 cover and no min., The Stand Mainstage at 116 East 16th Street)
Sunday 1/5: Casey James Salengo (Jimmy Kimmel, Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents; album Wild Country Phoenix), Alex Babbitt (HBO’s All Def Comedy), Mike Brown (TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, TruTV, MTV, Adult Swim; co-host of Comedy Outliers), Jocelyn Chia (2-time Moth StorySlam winner), and JJ Mattise (Brooklyn’s Best) perform stand-up for stellar hosts Sydnee Washington, Aminah Imani, and Marie Faustin: Comedy at The Knit (9:00 pm, Free!, Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory at 361 Metropolitan Avenue; take the G/L subway to Lorimer Street-Metropolitan Avenue)
Sunday 1/5: This weekly competitive 1-on-1 roast battle tonight features a main bout of Jess Feeney (“I’m really nice till you get to know me”) vs. Chris Lamadieu (“You have the confidence of a man who doesn’t know he looks like that”) judged by Corinne Fisher, Trey Galyon, and Dale Cheeseman, and hosted by Matt Maran: Comedy Fight Club (9:00 pm; $8.13 online using code CFC, otherwise $13.13; The Stand Upstairs at 116 East 16th Street)
Sunday 1/5: Doug Smith (Conan O’Brien, co-host of See You In Hell), Subhah Agarwal (writer for Comedy Central’s The Jim Jefferies Show; TruTV, Fusion), Kevin Iso (Hulu’s High Fidelity, Comedy Central’s This Week at the Comedy Cellar and Adam Devine’s House Party), Marcia Belsky (Reductress; Handmaid’s Tale The Musical; lead singer of band Free the Mind), Mike Lebovitz (HBO’s The Deuce, Comedy Central, Last Comic Standing), and Noah Savage (ESPN) 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)
Tuesday 1/7: 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. Be prepared to boo 2020 puns anything less than stellar: Punderdome 3000: New Year! (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 1/7: Dan St. Germain (above; Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, John Oliver, Comedy Central Half Hour, Crashing, @midnight, This is Not Happening, The Electric Company, MTV, VH1; former staff writer for CBS’ Superior Donuts, Netflix’s The Break with Michelle Wolf, and TruTV’s Ten Things; album No Real Winners Here), Olga Namer (“Unorthodox Jewish comedian”), Justin Smith, Alex Babbitt, and Stephon Bishop 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)
Wednesday 1/8: Comedic storytellers, musicians, and/or political organizers “tell inspiring, funny, and absolutely true personal stories about turning points, and no turning back points. With special remarks from Swing Left about its 2020 strategy to flip the Senate, plus specific calls to action and ways for you to get involved in the fight for our lives. 100% ticket proceeds go directly to Swing Left’s Senate funds,” with performers Aparna Nancherla (one of the very finest stand-ups in the country; co-star of Super Bowl 2019 commercial, Comedy Central’s Corporate, and HBO’s Crashing; also performed on HBO’s 2 Dope Queens, Netflix’s Master of None and The Standups, TBS’ Conan O’Brien, and Comedy Central’s @Midnight and Half Hour; former writer for Seth Meyers; comedy album Just Putting It Out There), Shaina Taub (Emmy-nominated singer/songwriter who’s written songs for TV shows ranging from The TONY Awards to Julie Andrews’ Julie’s Greenroom to Sesame Street; albums Visitors and Die Happy), Paola Mendoza (activist who co-founded @WeAreSoze, @ResistanceRev, and Women’s March OG; author of Together We Rise), Kevin Allison (legendary MTV sketch series The State, HBO, Comedy Central, VH1, host of award-winning storytelling show and podcast Risk!, owner of The Story Studio), Sandi Marx (PBS, 7-time Moth StorySlam winner), and more hosted by Nicole Ferraro (founder of Art, Humanity & Action) and Liat Olenick (Indivisible Nation BK): No Turning Back: A Storytelling Show to Flip the Senate (7:30 pm, $35-$60, The Bell House at 149 7th Street; take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
Wednesday 1/8: Comics who are parents vent by telling mean stories about their children (and guest comics who aren’t revel in their freedom), with tonight’s cruel jokesters Jenny Hagel (staff writer for Seth Meyers; iO, Second City), Iris Bahr (actress in numerous TV shows including Friends, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The King of Queens, and such films as Larry the Cable Guy and The Last Exorcism), Doogie Horner (NBC’s America’s Got Talent; author of A Die Hard Christmas, This Might Hurt a Bit, and Home Alone Hard; stand-up album A Delicate Man), Gastor Almonte (Comedy Central’s This Is Not Happening, host of Stoops2Stages, co-host of Sandwich, comedy album Immigrant Made), and Katie Goodman (member of Broad Comedy; YouTube hits I Didn’t F*ck It Up and Sorry Babe, You’re a Feminist) hosted by the wonderful Ophira Eisenberg (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) and Emily Flake (star cartoonist for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, Forbes, etc.; author of books Mama Tried, 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 1/9: Michelle Collins (host of TLC’s 90 Day Live and Sirius XM’s The Michelle Collins Show; former co-host of ABC’s The View and Bachelor in Paradise: After Paradise) performs a deliciously long stand-up club set for one night only: Michelle Collins Headlines Carolines (7:00 pm, $32.75 plus 2-drink min., Carolines Comedy Club at 1626 Broadway, between 49th and 50th Streets)
Thursday 1/9: Stand-ups Shalewa Sharpe (HBO’s 2 Dope Queens, Comedy Central’s The New Negroes; comedy album So, You Just Out Here?), Daniel Simonsen (Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central’s This Week at the Comedy Cellar; cast member of BBC’s House of Fools; toured with Simon Amstell), Mohanad Elshieky (Conan O’Brien; Epix’s Unprotected Sets; digital producer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), and Amelita (“Future icon blazing through the intersection of diva pop music and comedy that some would argue does not actually exist”) perform for hosts Emily Winter (writer for NPR’s Ask Me Another; The New Yorker, The New York Times) & Larry Mancini (ESPN Radio; band member of The Tracys): BackFat Variety (7:00 pm; $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Thursday 1/9: A guest or guests TBA (not available yet, but to be reported here pre-show) will be the focus of this NPR comedy trivia show taped live in Brooklyn hosted by the wonderful Ophira Eisenberg (one of the finest comedic storytellers and stand-ups in the country; author of bestselling book Screw Everyone: Sleeping My Way to Monogamy, comedy album Bangs!; NBC, CBS, Comedy Central, VH1, Showtime) with music by Jonathan Coulton: Ask Me Another (7:30 pm, $15, Brooklyn’s The Bell House at 149 7th Street; take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
Thursday 1/9: 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 1/10: Great lineup of Eva Victor (Twitter comedic characters video superstar; The New Yorker), Dulcé Sloan (powerhouse comic and correspondent for The Daily Show; Conan O’Brien, @midnight), Ego Nwodim (cast member of Saturday Night Live), Larry Owens (staff writer for TruTV’s Paid Off; HBO’s High Maintenance; feature film To Dust), Conner O’Malley (former staff writer/performer for Seth Meyers; Louie, Broad City), Taylor Garron (editor for Reductress), and Dan Licata (writer for Adult Swim’s Joe Pera Talks To You; The Chris Gethard Show) hosted by Ethan Beach & Josh Nasser. Oh, Such A HUGE Show, Oh!: A Benefit for The Innocence Project (7:30 pm, $20, Brooklyn’s The Bell House at 149 7th Street; take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
Friday 1/10: A solo show by Tiff Stevenson (UK-based comic/actress; numerous UK/US TV show appearances include The Office, Drunk History, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Mock the Week) about which one reviewer said, “It’s jaw-droppingly remarkable how much ground she covers, how funny she is, how intelligent her attacks are:” Tiff Stevenson: Mother (7:30 pm, $15, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Friday 1/10: A show celebrating the app that redefined online dating, with the lovely and quick-witted Lane Moore (above middle; author of 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 Laura Benanti (Tony Award winner for Broadway musical She Loves Me; cast member of TBS’ The Detour; NBC’s The Sound of Music Live, CW’s Supergirl, CBS’ The Good Wife, Showtime’s Nurse Jackie; album Songs From My Fair Lady), and married couple Jennifer Wright (right; political Editor-at-Large for Harper’s Bazaar; The New York Times; author of numerous books including It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History, We Came First: Relationship Advice from Women Who Have Been There, and Killer Fashion: Poisonous Petticoats, Strangulating Scarves, and Other Deadly Garments Throughout History) & Daniel Kibblesmith (left; staff writer since 2015 for Stephen Colbert; The New Yorker, McSweeney’s; writer of such Marvel comic books as Loki and Black Panther vs. Deadpool; author of books How to Win at Everything and Santa’s Husband; former Humor Editor for Buzzfeed): Tinder Live (8:30 pm, $18 at the door or $19.51-$22.76 online; Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street)
Saturday 1/11: 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; $22.32 for a seat, or $17 for standing room, online; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street. Please note this show consistently sells out, so buying in advance online is highly recommended.)
Sunday 1/12: Real-life ER doctors Andrés Mallipudi and Darien Sutton host “chronically over-sharing comics” Peter Muth, Sherm Jacobs, and Todd Montesi to tell stories of their weirdest diagnoses, and then “break down the insane history of how the medical community has treated that condition, why that condition has been stigmatized, and the real facts you should know when dealing with the condition yourself;” plus you can ask the doctors “your own embarrassing medical questions:” Doctors Without Boundaries (9:30 pm, $16.89 online or $20 at the door, Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Sunday 1/12: “A young woman applies for a job at an adult video store because she figures the dress code will be lax.” Shalewa Sharpe (HBO’s 2 Dope Queens, Comedy Central’s The New Negroes; comedy album So, You Just Out Here?) performs a solo show “about the people who need porn and the folks brave enough to sell it to them:” Shalewa Sharpe: Don’t Reach in the Bag (9:30 pm, $13.71 online or $15 at the door, Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Sunday 1/12: Highly talented & hilarious duo Taylor Ortega (HBO’s Succession, Shego in Disney Channel’s live-action Kim Possible, TruTV) & Jay Malsky (acclaimed solo shows Elaine Stritch: Still Here and Jay Malsky Slept With My Boyfriend) play “Leaeah and Jacobs, the founders and resident pastors of a church for the Instagram generation that is known for its celebrity parishioners and hot, relatable take on Christianity. Bear witness to this clearly closeted married couple’s latest fame-hungry venture: Jesus. Sing with them in praise. Become the rock upon which they build their religious empire for Christ-horny millennials:” Turnt Valley Church Club (7:00 pm, $12, 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.