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That said, my top NYC comedy recommendations for December 2019 (with much more to come soon) include:
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-Thursday 12/19: UK-based brilliant writer/performer/lightning-wit Daniel Kitson is back in NYC, and tonight kicks off a two-week run of his new solo show titled Keep playing in Brooklyn. I don’t know to what extent it’s comedic vs. dramatic, but a fair bet is it’s a tasty blend. Barring something going awry, I’ll be seeing it tomorrow. If it sort-of qualifies as a comedy show, I’ll report on it here. Either way, it’s always wonderful to see Daniel Kitson, and on that basis alone I recommend you nab tickets—which, per Daniel’s policy of high accessibility, are an affordable $25 across the board: Daniel Kitson: Keep (8:00, $25, Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse at 45 Water Street; take the F subway to York Street, or the A/C to High Street-Brooklyn Bridge, or the 2/3 to Clark 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 National 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 Tim Platt (Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central, Sesame Street; member of The Story Pirates and Cartoon Monsoon; host of podcast Hampton High) & Drew Anderson (McSweeney’s, Reductress; co-host of Stevie): Sweethearts of Comedy (7:30 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Wednesday 12/4: Great lineup of 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), Erica Rhodes (HBO’s Veep, ABC’s Modern Family, FOX’s New Girl, @midnight, IFC’s Comedy Bang Bang, A Prairie Home Companion, Howard Sterm; #1 stand-up album Sad Lemon), Andrew Schulz (Amazon’s Sneaky Pete, Hulu’s There’s…Johnny!, HBO’s Crashing, Netflix, MTV, co-host of podcast The Brilliant Idiots), Michael Kosta (correspondent for The Daily Show), Subhah Agarwal (writer for Comedy Central’s The Jim Jefferies Show; TruTV, Fusion), Sal Vulcano (co-star of TruTV’s Impractical Jokers), and Kerryn Feehan (Comedy Central, TruTV, Spike TV; co-host of Frantic): Stars at The Stand (8:00 pm, $15 cover and no min., The Stand Mainstage at 116 East 16th Street)
Wednesday 12/4: The luminous Maria DeCotis (above left; Comedy Central, Mike Birbiglia’s The New One, champion improv group The Sister Wives), Dina Hashem (right; Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central’s Stand-Up and Roast Battle), Jeff Simmermon (middle top; NPR’s This American Life, Moth GrandSlam Champion, comedy album & show And I Am Not Lying), Rojo Perez (middle bottom; HBO’s Entre Nos: Spot On, Conan O’Brien, MTV’s Decoded, TruTV), Maddy Smith (MTV’s Wild N Out), Will Abeles (stand-up album Regrets of My Father), and Lindsay Boling perform stand-up hosted by Ahri Findling: Hey! It’s a Comedy Show (8:00 pm, $5 [includes one free beer—make free online reservation and then pay at door], Brooklyn’s Silver Light Tavern at 689 Lorimer Street; take L subway to Lorimer Street)
Wednesday 12/4: The Sister Wives is an improv group that’s a UCB Cage Match champion, and is comprised of Maria DeCotis (front; racing over from Brooklyn show directly above), Felicia Blum, Emily Bradshaw, Molly Brown, Emily Evans, Eileen Hanley, and Lauren Schiebly. Tonight the team hosts female comics in “a variety slumber party for a night of gossip, pillow fights, and maybe even drawing penises on each other’s faces:” Sister Wives Slumber Party (9:30 pm, $10, The PIT Mainstage (Striker) at 123 East 24th Street)
Wednesday 12/4: Strong lineup of Ari Shaffir (Conan O’Brien, creator & 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), Andrew Schulz (Amazon’s Sneaky Pete, Hulu’s There’s…Johnny!, HBO’s Crashing, Netflix, MTV, co-host of podcast The Brilliant Idiots), 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), Josh Wesson (Comedy Central, MTV2, FX), Paul Virzi (hour-long special I’ll Say This, currently streaming on Comedy Central; TruTV, FOX; host of podcast The Virzi Effect; stand-up album Night at The Stand, which hit #1 on iTunes; tours with Bill Burr), Sal Vulcano (co-star of TruTV’s Impractical Jokers), and Amy Miller (Last Comic Standing; host of podcast Who’s Your God?; stand-up album Solid Gold): Stars at The Stand (10:00 pm, $15 cover and no min., The Stand Mainstage at 116 East 16th Street)
Thursday 12/5: This monthly comedic show about the MTA tonight deals with one of the most frustrating aspects of the NYC transit system: service changes. “We’ve all been there. You’re about to head out for Saturday brunch in Queens when you think, Wait, is the R running this weekend? What’s up with the Q26? Can I even get to where I need to go? So what are service changes even about, and who decides we need them? This month we dive into the forces driving these nuisances: issues with weather, signals, track, even holidays.” Helping untangle it all wil be guest Stephanie Burgos-Veras, a native New Yorker and Campaign Manager of the Riders Alliance, plus hosts Meg Pierson (TEDx, Alchemy Comedy) and Justin Williams (Comedy Central; host of Death Comedy Jam): Why Your Train is F*cked: Service Changes (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 12/5-Saturday 12/7: Janelle James (staff writer for Showtime’s Black Monday; Seth Meyers, HBO’s Crashing, Netflix’s The Comedy Lineup, Comedy Central’s @midnight; has toured with Amy Schumer and Chris Rock) produces this second annual comedy mini-festival, consisting of three Bell House shows happening tonight, Friday, and Saturday. You can see any individual show for $20, or go all in on the fest with a 3-night festival pass for $55. Tonight’s event features Ilana Glazer, Abi Sanchez, Kristen Toomey, Daniel Simonsen, and Chloé Hilliard and is titled Comedians That Don’t Owe Me Money. It’s likely to be a fun, high-energy way to kick off The 2nd Annual Janelle James Comedy Festival (Thursday-Saturday, 8:00 pm, $20-$55, Brooklyn’s The Bell House at 149 7th Street; take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
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)
Thursday 12/5: Dan Perlman (cast member of MTV’s Vidiots; co-writer, co-director, and co-star of series Flatbush Misdemeanors; written for Lewis Black and Roy Wood Jr.) records a stand-up album via early and late shows. Come share your joy and have your laugh immortalized at Dan Perlman Album Recording (7:30 pm and 10:00 pm, $8, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Thursday 12/5: Because there isn’t enough strife pitting the living against each other, comicss Manolo Moreno (Dr. Gameshow, Comedy Central), Kady Ruth Ashcraft (IFC, Reductress), MK Doherty (MTV, TruTV), and Juliet Prather (MTV) roast long-past historical figures and events, ranging from Rasputin to The Beat Generation to The 1968 Democratic Convention hosted by Matt Strickland (Comedy Central): The Roast of History (9:30 pm, $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Friday 12/6-Saturday 12/7: Day #2 of the Janelle James Comedy Festival features Baron Vaughn & Open Mike Eagle (hosts of Comedy Central’s The New Negroes) hosting stellar comics Kevin Iso, Yassir Lester, Hadiyah Robinson, Jannelle James, and more: A Black Ass Show (8:00 pm, $25, Brooklyn’s The Bell House at 149 7th Street; take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
Friday 12/6: Comics Ari Durnell, Rachel Sennott, Bradley Sinanan, and Kylie Holloway try to figure out and articulate the meaning of a piece of art. Then an actual art expert tells them what the piece is generally considered to be about and its cultural impact. Plus select audience members—maybe including you—will draw their art on the spot and have it interpreted by the comics. According to hosts Matt Hartin & Akmal Tajihan, “This is the only show you’ll want to Van Gogh to:” Modern Whitney (9:30 pm; $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Saturday 12/7: This third and final day of the Janelle James Comedy Festival features ace comics Sydnee Washington & Marie Faustin (above middle; hosts of podcast The Unofficial Expert and, with Aminah Imani, highly popular weekly Brooklyn stand-up showcase Comedy at The Knit), The Lucas Brothers (top right; Jimmy Fallon, 22 Jump Street, Netflix’s The Lucas Bros: On Drugs and Lady Dynamite, FOX’s Lucas Bros Moving Company and Arrested Development, HBO’s Crashing), Ayo Edebiri (top left; Comedy Central, The New Yorker), Jaboukie Young-White (bottom left; correspondent for The Daily Show), Ethan Simmons-Patterson (bottom right), Casey Balsham, and more: Comedians Who Flewed Out (8:00 pm, $25, Brooklyn’s The Bell House at 149 7th Street; take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
Monday 12/9: This solo production, which debuted at the 2018 FringeNYC and is now enjoying a monthly revival at LES’ Caveat, starts out pretending to be a scientific lecture about and demonstration of chaos theory.
But it’s really a highly interactive show that uses comedy and thoughtfully structured game-play for nudging audiences to explore their wishes and desires, push past boundaries, connect with everyone around them, and be open to anything.
It’s all courtesy of writer/performer Jessica Ellen Creane, who cycles between faux-shyly giving illustrated talks about such things as fractals, love, and velociraptors, making herself fearlessly vulnerable, and improvising quick-witted responses to audience choices. For example, when Creane asked me to name a goal, I replied, “writing and selling a movie.” She immediately gave me the best pep talk I’ve ever had, stating beyond doubt that I’d succeed. In gratitude, I added, “I’ll cast you in it.” Without missing a beat, and fully committing to her scientist character (wearing thick black-frame glasses with no lenses), Creane tossed off, “I’m not good at acting” before moving on to help someone else. That she even thought of that line demonstrates what a superb actress Creane is…and how completely she performs in the moment.
Because this show relies so deeply on interaction, each edition will be different based on the decisions made by you and your fellow audience members. Along the same lines, how much you enjoy it, and genuinely get out of it, will depend heavily on what you bring to it.
For me, it was a **** (out of 4) show. If you come experience this—and you should—I hope you have a wonderful time too; and that it moves you closer to your dreams.
Tuesday 12/10: Members of the West Wing Writers group (which includes former Presidential speechwriters) 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 Chandler Dean (McSweeney’s): SpeakEasy (7:00 pm; $15; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Thursday 12/12: Andrea Jones-Rooy, who is a Professor and Director of Undergraduate Study at the NYU Center for Data Science—and also a fire-wielding circus performer—uses decades of data-driven political research to “help us understand what our political structures are actually doing, why, and how (and whether) to change them. We explore such questions as ‘What does majority rule even mean, and what are the consequences of it? Are we actually getting more polarized? Why, despite the historical records in the midterm election, do so many candidates and leaders still look the same?”: Political Circus: Why Democracy is F*cked and What to Do About It (7:00 pm, $15, 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 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.