A Broadway, TV, and/or film star performs a classic theatre scene as scripted—except the other half of the scene has to be carried by an improvisor who’s never experienced the play and must spontaneously react to whatever happens. Attracting some of the finest improvisors and actors in NYC (e.g., in a memorable moment above Scott Adsit surprised everyone, including himself, by abruptly kissing Julie Sharbutt), this is one of the best improv shows in the country. It always quickly sells out of seats in advance, but you can probably get in tonight if you arrive early and are okay with standing for actor/director Stephen Ruddy‘s Gravid Water (8:00 pm, $7, UCB Chelsea at 307 West 26th Street)…
…or if you prefer stand-up, Jacqueline Novak (above; exceptionally smart, fresh comic; Comedy Central Half Hour; Inside Amy Schumer; comedy album Quality Notions; book How to Weep in Public), Kevin Barnett (MTV’s Guy Code, #FAIL Comedy Central, TruTV’s Friends of the People, Sleepwalk With Me, College Humor), Louis Katz (Jimmy Fallon, HBO, Comedy Central Half Hour), Jaboukie Young-White (Rough Night), and Paige Weldon (Reductress) perform in Brooklyn hosted by the wonderful Wyatt Cenac (former star correspondent for The Daily Show; writer for South Park, Adult Swim; albums Comedy Person and Brooklyn): Night Train (8:00 pm; $8; Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street; take R subway to Union Street)…
…or if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, come to this free show in which comics Erin Lynn O’Connor, Sam Haft, Leigh Ellen Mitchell, Mike Mercadal, Patrick J. Reilly, and David Picclomini discuss the final episode of this spectacular season of GoT hosted by Nicki Wright: Panel of Thrones (7:30 pm, Free!, Astoria Queens’ QED: A Place to Show & Tell at 27-16 23rd Avenue)…
…and while you’re at QED, stick around to enjoy Myq Kaplan (one of the quickest minds in comedy; finalist on Last Comic Standing, semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent; David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Seth Meyers, Jay Leno, Comedy Central Presents; comedy albums No Kidding, Small, Dork, and Handsome, Vegan Mind Meld, and Meat Robot) host this monthly show that’s a mix of stand-up and music, with tonight’s guests Chris “Shockwave” Sullivan (above left; amazing human beatbox; The Daily Show, The Electric Company, Freestyle Love Supreme, co-host of Battlicious), Chris Duffy (above right; staff writer for NatGeo Explorer; stellar host of You’re the Expert), Marcia Belsky (Reductress; lead singer of band Free the Mind), Robby Hoffman (The Chris Gethard Show, Odd Squad), and Isaac Kozell (New Orleans-based stand-up): Myq Kaplan & Friends (8:30 pm, $6, Astoria Queens’ QED: A Place to Show & Tell at 27-16 23rd Avenue)
Other notable shows this Monday include:
[FREE] 6:00 pm to midnight: Six free hours of improvisation—including at 8:00 pm the groups Thunderbuster (with ace comics Chris Booth and Jen Clark) and The Department (with the superb Dana Shulman)—all at The PIT Underground: Super Free Monday
[TOP PICK] 7:30 pm ($7): Emily Altman (writer for The President Show; previously writer for Inside Amy Schumer), Russ Armstrong (Netflix’s Master of None and The Characters; Inside Amy Schumer, 30 Rock; Senior Writer for The Opposition with Jordan Klepper), and Keisha Zollar (HBO’s Divorce, Orange Is the New Black, MTV; writer for The Opposition with Jordan Klepper; ace improv trio Doppelganger, sketch group Astronomy Club) chug two beers on stage and talk politics at the UCB East theatre hosted by Charlie Todd & Cody Lindquist: Two Beers In
[TOP PICK] [$] 7:30 pm, 9:30 pm, and 11:30 pm ($12 plus 2-item food/drink min.): Some of the finest stand-ups in the country spread among three shows at Comedy Cellar (117 MacDougal Street, between 3rd Street & Minetta Lane): Comedy Cellar Monday
[$] 8:00 pm ($8 plus 2-item food/drink min.): Wil Sylvince (Comedy Central, HBO, Showtime) hosts Michelle Wolf, Adrienne Iapalucci, Ryan Reiss, and more trying out new stand-up material at The Fat Black Pussycat Lounge (130 West 3rd Street): New Joke Night
8:00 pm ($7): A two-man comedic play about star Redd Foxx, who had a legendary stand-up career and hit TV series; “yet toward the end of his infamous life the IRS took everything he had…so he decided to give a fuck” written by Laurence Maslon, and starring Kareem M. Lucas as Redd Foxx and Adam McNulty as an IRS agent at The PIT Loft (154 West 29th Street): Redd, Black, and Blue
[TOP PICK] [FREE] 10:00 pm: Mark Normand (one of the very finest stand-ups in the country; Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, stellar Comedy Central special Don’t Be Yourself; Comedy Central Half Hour, Inside Amy Schumer, @midnight, Last Comic Standing, VH1’s Best Week Ever; comedy album Still Got It; opens for Amy Schumer), Laurie Kilmartin (dynamite stand-up; writer for Conan O’Brien; finalist on Last Comic Standing; Jimmy Kimmel, Comedy Central, VH1), Monroe Martin (David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, finalist on Last Comic Standing, Netflix’s Master of None), Chris Distefano (David Letterman, Comedy Central, MTV2’s Guy Code), Tim Dillon (Last Comic Standing), and more perform stand-up for this free weekly show at The Stand Comedy Club (239 Third Avenue, off 20th Street) hosted by Aaron Berg (TV series 24 Hour Rental, documentary A Universal Language): Frantic Mondays
[FREE] 10:00 pm: NYC stand-ups—sometimes stellar ones—push boundaries for a show designed for looseness and experimentation at The Creek upstairs theatre in Queens’ Long Island City hosted by Andy Sandford: Permission to Fail
[MEGA-TOP PICK] [FREE; reservations go quickly, but you can probably get in if you arrive early and are okay with standing] 11:00 pm: Some of the finest comics in the world—who aren’t announced in advance, but it’s usually a great lineup and often an extraordinary one—at UCB Chelsea hosted by someone who’s probably terrific (while usual world-class host Aparna Nancherla tours in LA): Whiplash
NYC Comedy Picks for Tuesday 8/29/17
Politically conscious Judah Friedlander (one of the quickest minds and very finest stand-ups in comedy; 30 Rock, Meet the Parents, Along Came Polly, author of bestselling cartoon book If the Raindrops United) headlines an intimate stand-up show in the West Village: Judah Friedlander Live (8:30 pm, $10 plus 2-item food/drink min., The Fat Black Pussycat Lounge at 130 West 3rd Street)…
…or join Blair Socci (MTV, Fuse), who “wrote a letter to Owen Wilson in 2007 after his suicide attempt telling him how much she loved him and appreciated him and that she hoped he would feel better soon. (A breakup with Jennifer Aniston could truly shatter anyone…)” Tonight Blair interviews comics Dan Soder, Will Miles, Janelle James, Christi Chiello, Lo Bosworth, and Mehran Khaghani, who each first share a 1-2 minute letter to a celebrity who has had an impact on his or her life: Dear Owen Wilson (8:00 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street; take R subway to Union Street)…
…or come to Astoria for Dave Hill (above left; one of the most original and hilariously sharp alternative comics in the country; @midnight, Inside Amy Schumer, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, This American Life; host for HBO and Cinemax; host of WFMU’s The Goddamn Dave Hill Show; bands Valley Lodge and Diamondsnake; books Tasteful Nudes and Dave Hill Doesn’t Live Here Anymore; comedy album Let Me Turn You On) hosting stand-ups Clare O’Kane (above right; Amazon’s Budding Prospects, Viceland’s Flophouse, webseries Semi-Famous; former writer for SpongeBob SquarePants), Chris Gersbeck (co-host of Everythign Is Dumbn, and Bunk Bed and Murray Povich open mics), and Danny Felts (The Moth, Risk!): A Reasonably Hot August Night with Dave Hill and Friends (9:00 pm, $8, Astoria Queens’ QED: A Place to Show & Tell at 27-16 23rd Avenue)
Other notable shows this Tuesday include:
[TOP PICK] 7:00 pm-11:00 pm ($7 for the whole evening): In this 4-hour extravaganza, eight singing & dancing improv groups—all typically led by the best improv pianist in the biz, Frank Spitznagel—at The Magnet make up musicals based on audience suggestions: Magnet Musical Megawatt
[TOP PICK] [$] 7:30 pm, 9:30 pm, and 11:30 pm ($12 plus 2-item food/drink min.): Some of the finest stand-ups in the country spread among three shows at Village Underground (130 West 3rd Street, off Sixth Avenue): Comedy Cellar Tuesday
[FREE] 8:30 pm (reserve your free spots by clicking here): Typically terrific stand-ups (for the line-up, usually posted by 1:00 pm, please click here) performing at The Irish Exit (978 Second Avenue, off 52nd Street, in the back room) produced every Tuesday by Mark Normand, Matt Ruby, Gary Vider, and Sachi Ezura: Hot Soup
[TOP PICK] 9:00 pm ($7): If, like me, you miss the characters of Stars Hollow, come experience a lost episode of the classic series, made up on the spot at The PIT Mainstage: Improvised Gilmore Girls
9:00 pm ($7): A one-man show by Alejandro Kolleeny in which “Professor Insano is a fearsome supervillain and evil Professor of English lit and Soc 102 at Baruch College. He has called a meeting of the Council Of Evil to discuss his latest plans to infiltrate reality,” with an opening stand-up set by Griffin Newman (Arthur on Amazon’s The Tick, HBO, MTV) at The PIT Underground: Professor Insano Destroys Reality
[FREE] 10:30 pm (Free! using online code COMP; no min.): Stand-ups pair up to brutally insult each other and then be judged for the effectiveness of their viciousness by veteran comics such as Big Jay Oakerson and Rich Vos at The Stand Comedy Club (239 Third Avenue, off 20th Street) hosted by Luis J. Gomez: The RoastMasters
NYC Comedy Picks for Wednesday 8/30/17
A star stand-up who’s also a star writer/correspondent for The Daily Show, and was previously a staff writer & performer for Seth Meyers, headlines an intimate show in the West VIllage: Michelle Wolf Live (7:00 pm, $5 plus 2-item food/drink min., The Fat Black Pussycat Lounge at 130 West 3rd Street)…
…or if you prefer Brooklyn, come see Sasheer Zamata (cast member for three seasons of Saturday Night Live; Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, Amazon’s Transparent, TBS’ People of Earth), Joe Pera (Conan O’Brien, Seth Meyers, Comedy Central, Adult Swim), Jaboukie Young-White (film Rough Night)—and Michelle Wolf, presumably rushing over from her West Village gig (see directly above)—performing stand-up, plus ace improvisors Sebastian Conelli, Natasha Vaynblat, and more, all hosted by Conner O’Malley (former staff writer/performer for Seth Meyers; Louie, Broad City) & Carmen Christopher: The Juice (7:30 pm ($5, at Brooklyn’s Union Pool (484 Union Avenue)…
…and Ilana Glazer (co-star of Comedy Central red-hot hit Broad City) delivered superb stand-up shows for the past two weeks, in which she did a great long set and also had two sharp comedy friends do great long sets; and since those went so well, Ilana’s doing it one more time tonight, with both an early and late show: Ilana Glazer and Friends (7:30 pm and 9:30 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street;—take R subway to Union Street; PLEASE NOTE: Both performances have SOLD OUT. However, you might be able to nab tickets via the Fan Exchange)
Other notable shows this Wednesday include:
[FREE] 6:00 pm-midnight: Six hours of free improvisation—including dynamite comics Adrian Sexton and Jay Malsky in The Community Players at 7:00 pm, musical improv from group Vern (which includes superb singer & comic Julie A. Feltman) at 7:30 pm, such stellar improvisors as Pat Swearingen and Langston Belton in Hero Complex at 8:30 pm, and star instructors such as Dana Shulman, Adrian Sexton, Chris Booth, and sometimes even PIT owner Ali Reza Farahnakian at The Faculty at 10:30 pm, all at The PIT Mainstage: Super Free Wednesday
7:00 pm ($7): A dozen comics create an on-stage episode of Game of Thrones in which “women rise up and take back Westeros; it’s All Men Must Die (with jokes)” at the UCB Chelsea theatre: Dames of Thrones
[TOP PICK] [$] 7:30 pm, 8:00 pm, 9:30 pm, 10:00 pm, and 11:30 pm ($14, plus 2-item food/drink min.): Some of the finest stand-ups in the country spread among three shows at Comedy Cellar (117 MacDougal Street, between 3rd Street & Minetta Lane) and 8:00 pm & 10:00 pm shows at Village Underground (130 West 3rd Street, off Sixth Avenue): Comedy Cellar Wednesday
[TOP PICK] 8:00 pm ($7): Dynamite comics Aaron Jackson, Brandon Scott Jones, Jeff Hiller, Josh Sharp, and Brian Faas promise “You are going to turn Gay, and you are going to love it” at the UCB Chelsea theatre: We Will Turn You Gay
[TOP PICK] [$] 8:00 pm ($15): Storytellers Blair Socci (MTV’s Girl Code and Ladylike), Guitler Raphael, and more TBA tell tales revolving around a monthly theme at Brooklyn’s The Bell House (149 7th Street) hosted by Kevin Allison (legendary MTV sketch series The State, HBO, Comedy Central, VH1, owner of The Story Studio): Risk!
[TOP PICK] [$] 8:30 pm ($20 plus 2-item food/drink min.): A stand-up with numerous appearances on David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Louie who’s also an Emmy-nominated comedy writer and talk show host headlines at The Fat Black Pussycat Lounge (130 West 3rd Street): Nick DiPaolo
9:00 pm ($5): Bonnie McFarlane (HBO, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central Presents special; co-host of My Wife Hates Me podcast), Kevin Barnett (NBC’s The Carmichael Show, MTV’s Guy Code, #FAIL Comedy Central, TruTV’s Friends of the People, Sleepwalk With Me, College Humor), Rob Cantrell (Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central, HBO, VHI, FX’s Totally Biased, documentary Metaphysical Graffiti, High Times), Josh Johnson (writer for Jimmy Fallon; Comedy Central Half Hour, Kevin Hart’s Hart of the City), Martin Urbano, and Mike Lebovitz perform stand-up at Brooklyn’s Gutter Bar: Bowling and Fine Brews (200 North 14th Street) hosted by Jeff Steinbrunner: Comedians You Should Know
[TOP PICK] 9:30 pm ($7): Shannon O’Neill (lighting-quick, fearless improvisor/sketch comic; co-star of TruTV’s The Chris Gethard Show; landmark improv group The Stepfathers) performs a show based on nothing but interviews with the audience and sheer guts at the UCB Chelsea theatre: Strangers Wanted with Shannon O’Neill
11:00 pm ($7): Stand-ups tell jokes “about their personal mental health” at The PIT Loft (154 West 29th Street): Let’s Talk About Dying
NYC Comedy Picks for Thursday 8/31/17
Kat Radley (staff writer for The Daily Show; stand-up album The Important Thing is that I’m Pretty), Matthew Broussard (Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central Half Hour), Becky Yamamoto (Web series Uninspired), Wanjiko Eke, and Khalid Rahmaan perform stand-up in the East Village produced by Carol Hartsell and hosted by Sean Crespo & Katina Corrao: Lasers in the Jungle (7:30 pm, $7, UCB East at 153 East 3rd Street)…
…and while at you’re UCB East, stick around for Andy Blitz (above right; 7-time Emmy-nominated and long-time writer/performer for Late Night with Conan O’Brien; has also written for Comedy Central’s Review and Important Things with Demetri Martin, Netflix’s Master of None—which Andy also co-exec produced, Adult Swim’s Eagleheart, MTV’s Human Giant, etc.; a thoroughly unique stand-up whose sets—ranging from talking peanut butter to jet-flying cats—tend to be unforgettable), Jena Friedman (above left; wry dark political stand-up; Stephen Colbert, @midnight, The New Yorker, Adult Swim, Netflix mockumentary Undecided; former staff writer for David Letterman, former producer for The Daily Show), Charlie Pickering (Australian comedy star; host of ABC’s The Weekly), Chris Lamberth (AXS TV), and Ester Steinberg perform stand-up hosted by rising stars Jim Tews (Louie, Last Comic Standing, host of Homeschooled, New York Times bestselling author of Felines of New York) and/or Ashley Brooke Roberts (energetic, enormously likeable rising stand-up; writer for Nat Geo and MTV’s Guy Code blog): Fresh Out (9:00 pm, $7, UCB East at 153 East 3rd Street)…
…or go cross-town to UCB Chelsea for NYC’s premium improv competition. Last week indie group Miles From Pete (above; Josh Tobin, Waylen Roche, Scott Vicari, and rising star Desi Domo) proved their first underdog victory against What I Did For Love was no fluke by once again crushing a UCB house team—this time Lloyd Night’s Zaddy, by 92 votes to 50. Zaddy actually performed a cliever and impressive improv set revolving around zoo animals, and on most other nights would’ve been hard to beat. But MFP rose to the challenge, creating a 25-minute monoscene set on a boat that started out with mild disquiet, and then progressively built into a fantasy-horror tale involving aggressively sensual mermaids and ritual human sacrifice. Tonight MFP aims for a third notch on its crown against indie improv duo 2 Puerto Ricans (Taylor Gonzalez & Will Martinez) competing for your laughs and votes at the raucous Cage Match (11:00 pm, $5, UCB Chelsea at 307 West 26th Street)
Other notable shows this Thursday include:
[TOP PICK] [$] 7:30 pm, 8:00 pm, 9:30 pm, 10:00 pm, and 11:30 pm ($14 per show, plus 2-item food/drink min.): Some of the finest stand-ups in the country spread among three shows at Comedy Cellar (117 MacDougal Street, between 3rd Street & Minetta Lane) and 8:00 pm & 10:00 pm shows at Village Underground (130 West 3rd Street, off Sixth Avenue): Comedy Cellar Thursday
[TOP PICK] 9:30 ($7): Gary DeNoia plays movie icon Nic Cage delivering a lecture about physical intimacy at The PIT Underground: Nic Cage Teaches Sex to Adults
9:30 pm ($10): A raunchy musical about high school seniors and aliens from outer space plotting to harvest our genitals begins a 10-show run tonight through September 18th at The PIT Mainstage from writer Joe Kelly, musical director Jonathan Evans, and director Griffin Osborne: Aliens Coming: The Musical
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.
For many more shows, please click the following links to top NYC comedy venues:
Best Inexpensive Stand-Up, Improv, Sketch, and Storytelling
Upright Citizens Brigade Chelsea
307 West 26th Street; 150-seater; one of the most respected comedy theatres 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 Chelsea 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 Underground (Downstairs) Theatre
123 East 24th Street; 40-seater; often more quirky & experimental than upstairs Striker; shows free-$10
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
254 West 29th Street; 60-seat theatre; strong on improv, musical improv, sketch, and energy; shows $5-$10
The Creek and the Cave
Queens’ Long Island City; 40-seat theatre upstairs, 25 downstairs; virtually all weeknight shows free; weekend shows free-$10
702 Union Street in Brooklyn; R to Union Street; 50-seat theatre; shows $5-$20
635 Sackett Street in Brooklyn; R to Union Street; 100-seat theatre; shows $5-$20
149 7th Street in Brooklyn; R to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Ave.; 200-seat theatre; shows $10-$25
QED: A Place to Show & Tell
27-16 23rd Avenue in Astoria Queens; N/Q to Ditmars Boulevard; 40-seat theatre; shows free-$10
Best NYC Stand-Up Comedy Clubs
117 MacDougal Street; among the finest daily stand-up lineups in the world; 2-item min.
130 West 3rd Street; Comedy Cellar’s larger sister venue, just around the corner with the same top comics; 2-item min.
239 Third Avenue; recent competitor to Comedy Cellar; no drink min.—support this policy!
Carolines Comedy Club
1626 Broadway; focuses on the world’s top headliners, who perform hour-long sets; 2-drink min.
Gotham Comedy Club
208 West 23rd Street; headliners on weekends, specialty & lineup shows weekdays; 2-drink min.
Eastville Comedy Club
85 East 4th Street; strong weekend lineups; no cover using code HyReviews; 2-drink min.
Greenwich Village Comedy Club
99 MacDougal Street; convenient if Comedy Cellar’s sold out; no cover using code HyReviews; 2-drink min.
Comic Strip Live
1568 Second Avenue, off 81st; Upper East Side club with typically solid lineups; 2-drink min.
Stand Up NY
236 West 78th Street, off Broadway; Upper West Side club with typically solid lineups; 2-drink min.
The Standing Room
4738 Vernon Blvd., by #7 train; Queens LIC club; no drink min.—support this policy!
From legendary NYC comedy site Brooklyn Vegan: Thank God for Hy Bender’s religiously updated show bible BestNewYorkComedy.com…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, submit material to my short story anthology Ghosts on Drugs, or for any other reason by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.