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That said, my top NYC comedy recommendations for January 2020 (with much more to come soon) include:
Monday 1/13, Tuesday 1/14, Tuesday 1/21: The great Mike Birbiglia (writer/star of hit Broadway show & Netflix special The New One; writer/director/star of feature films Don’t Think Twice and Sleepwalk with Me; actor in numerous films and TV shows, including Trainwreck, Inside Amy Schumer, and Orange is the New Black; multiple appearances on David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, etc.; three Comedy Central specials; comedy CDs Two Drink Mike and My Secret Public Journal—Live) plays around with new material in the West Village: Mike Birbiglia: Working It Out (7:00 pm tonight, 9:00 pm on 1/14 & 1/21; $27-$37, depending on seat location; Lucille Lortel Theatre at 121 Christopher Street; take #1 subway to Christopher Street)
Monday 1/13: Cole Steffensen (Rainbow Brigade) hosts this show about sports for people who don’t “get” sports. This month the game of Football is explained in ways that finally make sense, including the gayest moments in football history, the queer athletes that made it happen…and tons of pictures of hot jocks! In between these edutainment segments, a member of the queer community—this month Gus Constantellis—faces off against a straight person—TaTa Sherise—in a series sport-themed challenges; plus stand-up from Moroccan-Japanese comic Sarah Harvard (CBS): Sports For Gays (and Curious Straights): Football (7:00 pm; $11.59 in advance online using discount code SPORTYVIBES, or $15 at the door; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Monday 1/13: Powerhouse lineup of Dan Soder (one of the very finest stand-ups in the country; HBO special Son of a Gary; Dudley Mafee on Showtime’s Billions; films Trainwreck, Drunk Parents; Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central hour-long special Not Special, Comedy Central Half Hour, Netflix’s The Standups, Inside Amy Schumer, MTV’s Guy Code and Guy Court, hosts with Big Jay Oakerson Sirius XM’s The Bonfire), Ron Bennington (host of radio shows Bennington and Unmasked), 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), Jessica Kirson (stellar hour-long special Talking to Myself currently streaming on Comedy Central; HBO’s Crashing, The Tonight Show, The View, Last Comic Standing, Celebrity Apprentice, This Week at the Comedy Cellar, Showtime, Bravo, VH1, Logo one-woman show My Cookie’s Gone), Stavros Halkias (Comedy Central Stand-Up, IFC; co-host of podcast Cum Town; host of Fat Tuesdays), Abby Rosenquist (Fuse TV; host of Citywide), Adrienne Iapalucci (David Letterman, Last Comic Standing,, Comedy Central, VH1, Netflix; co-host of podcast Vadge), Rojo Perez (HBO Latino’s Entre Nos: Spot On, Conan O’Brien, MTV’s Decoded, TruTV), and—from Austin Texas and its Moontower Comedy Festival—Matt Bearden (co-host of Austin radio’s The Dudley & Bob with Matt Show; Comedy Central, MTV, A&E, IFC) & Raul Sanchez (#1 iTunes stand-up album I’m Funnier Than This): Austin’s Moontower Visits The Stand (7:30 pm, $15, The Stand Mainstage at 116 East 16th Street)
Monday 1/13: 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; podcast Broccoli and Ice Cream) performs stand-up and hosts fellow stand-ups Jaye McBride (writer for Abortion Access Front), Nadia Pinder (host of Can I Ask You Something?), Gavin Matts (Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central’s Bill Burr Presents, Hulu’s Ramy), and twins Max & Nicky Weinbach: Myq Kaplan & Friends (9:00 pm, $8, Astoria Queens’ QED: A Place to Show & Tell at 27-16 23rd Avenue)
Monday 1/13: “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)
Monday 1/13: Great lineup—for any show, let alone this free one—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), Dan Soder (one of the very finest stand-ups in the country; HBO special Son of a Gary; Dudley Mafee on Showtime’s Billions; films Trainwreck, Drunk Parents; Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central hour-long special Not Special, Comedy Central Half Hour, Netflix’s The Standups, Inside Amy Schumer, MTV’s Guy Code and Guy Court, hosts with Big Jay Oakerson Sirius XM’s The Bonfire), Francis Ellis (co-host of Oops the Podcast), Nina Daniels (Showtime’s Shameless, TBS’ The Last O.G., Maron), Caitlin Brodnick (co-host of Brutally Honest, writer for Glamour.com, docu-series Screw You Cancer), Ian Lara (HBO, Jimmy Fallon, Comedy Central Stand-Up, NBC’s Bring the Funny; former host of Out of Tune music app), Ismael Loutfi (writer for Netflix’s Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj), and Mike Figs (host of Arthur Avenue’s Bronx Beerhall show Figs in the Hall) trying out material at this weekly show hosted by Aaron Berg (documentary 25 Sets; TV series 24 Hour Rental; co-host of CompoundMedia.com’s In Hot Water and The Stand’s Frantic!) and/or Kerryn Feehan (Comedy Central, TruTV, Spike TV): Frantic! (10:00 pm, Free!, The Stand Mainstage at 116 East 16th Street)
Monday 1/13: Musical theater collides with sketch comedy when Broadway characters appear in skits written and/or performed by Matt Gehring (Amazon’s The Tick), Shaina Taub (Shakespeare in the Park), Max Ash, Joél Pérez (Fun Home), Alex Song, Mahayla Laurence, Heath Saunders (Great Comet of 1812), and Natalie Walker, and also performed by Kim Blanck, Larkin Bogan (Wicked), Fernando Contreras, Liana Hunt (Newsies), Kuhoo Verma, and Nicole Weiss, with musical direction by Myrna Conn: SHIZ: Broadway Meets Sketch Comedy (10:30 pm, $9, UCB Hell’s Kitchen at 555 West 42nd Street)
Tuesday 1/14: The 1989 TV movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk introduces David Banner to Matt Murdock, who tries to help David beat a robbery frameup in both his day job of attorney and his nighttime role as superhero Daredevil, battling kingpin Wilson Fisk. Spoiler alert: There never is an actual trial of The Hulk, so the title is a blatant lie. These and other cinematic crimes will likely be pointed out as this film is screened, dissected, and mercilessly savaged by Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank on Mystery Science Theater 3000; Cinematic Titanic), Jenn Wehrung (BBC; co-producer of Soft Core!), Brian McGuinness (Inside Amy Schumer, co-host of Retro Bits, Playable Characters podcast), and Aaron Zarabi hosted by Chris Gersbeck (host of Casual Sets, Soft Core!, and Bunk Bed Time Open Mic; producer of numerous comedy shows): Movies R Dumb: The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (8:30 pm, $10, Astoria Queens’ QED: A Place to Show & Tell at 27-16 23rd Avenue)
Wednesday 1/15: Hosts Molly Gaebe & Kylie Holloway invite female storytellers, comics, and historians to share the tales of “some of the greatest women the world has ever known, but history erased” for this live-on-stage podcast recording, with this week’s theme Heroines of Reproductive Rights (in partnership with Abortion Access Front) articulated by guests Lizz Winstead (Comedy Central Presents, The Daily Show, Air America), Sarah Hartshorne (HBO’s Vice, Netflix’s Explained, former contestant on America’s Next Top Model), Jaye McBride (writer for Abortion Access Front), Arti Gollapudi (host of Yourself, Your Body), Onika McLean (Bravo; co-host of podcast Violently Funny; host of Cosmic Comedy), and Brittany Brave (TBS, MTV; the other co-host of podcast Violently Funny): Nevertheless She Existed: Boss of Her Body (7:00 pm; $16.89 online or $20 at the door; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Wednesday 1/15: Professional meme creators and @NetflixIsAJoke writers Ben Leary & Kendall Payne scour the Net every day for the latest viral trends and deep cut content. In this monthly talk show, they share their expert knowledge with you via visual round-ups, as well as provide you with stand-up comedy and interviews with guests TBA: Extremely Online (9:30 pm, $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Thursday 1/16: Phoebe Robinson (co-star of HBO’s 2 Dope Queens; host of podcast Sooo Many White Guys; Seth Meyers, Conan O’Brien, Broad City, MTV’s Girl Code; feature films What Men Want and Netflix’s Ibiza; author of Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay and You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain) performs and hosts “special guests” to raise funds for the reelection of her brother, Ohio State Representative Phil Robinson (above left): Phoebe Robinson and Special Guests (7:30 pm, $25, Brooklyn’s The Bell House at 149 7th Street; take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
Friday 1/17: Famed musical comic Nick Thune (albums Thick Noon, Folk Hero, and Good Guy) ]and lengenary musician Damian Jurado team up to create an odd blend of laughs and melancholy: Nick Thune & Damien Jurado: Sad Music, Sad Comedy (9:00 pm, $25, Brooklyn’s The Bell House at 149 7th Street; take R subway to 9th Street or F/G to Fourth Avenue)
Thursday 1/16: Skilled punsters Sam Corbin, Tim Donnelly, Jerzy Gwiazdowski, Ally Spier, and Nikolai Vanyo will show off their word expertise by punching up news headlines, tightening movie titles, merging words to create new terms, taking etymological deep-dives, and playing a variety of other word games: The PUN-ch Up (9:30 pm, $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Sunday 1/19: “Since the dawn of mankind, humans have tried to get high in one way or another. Why? Altered states of consciousness can be profoundly dangerous or dangerously profound. Knowledge makes the difference. We welcome a panel of experts and comedians to discuss how these drugs work.” More specifically, tonight’s focus is on drug economics: “When the black market turns rainbow, what are we gonna do? How do we keep the good parts of an underground community? How do we protect against the bad parts of a legal economy? How do we keep the deal in drug deal?” Plus a post-show hour of networking: Drug Test: Psychedelic Economics & Networking Hour (9:30 pm, $16.89 online or $20 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Monday 1/20: Jordan Klepper (star of docuseries Klepper; former star of Comedy Central’s The Opposition and correspondent for The Daily Show) hosts a comedic debate about whether we should break up big tech, with Kelly Bachman (CNN, The New York Times, Glamour), Adam Green (co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Progressive Change Institute), and Peter Suderman (Managing Editor of Reason.com; The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Politico): Debate Club: Should We Break Up Big Tech? (7:00 pm, $22.20 online or $25 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Tuesday 1/21: Helping to solve some “serious problem” (TBA) via PowerPoint, essays, music, and/or videos are guests Todd Barry (Netflix special Spicy Honey, star of delightful documentary The Crowd Work Tour; David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central Presents, FX’s Louie, HBO’s Flight of the Conchords and Bored to Death, Adult Swim, co-star of feature film The Wrestler), Mia Jackson (Comedy Central Half Hour, Inside Amy Schumer), and Adam Mamawala (Comedy Central, MTV, BET; freelance contributor to SNL’s Weekend Update; stand-up album One of the Good Ones) plus hosts Kevin McCaffrey (former warm-up comic for David Letterman; TruTV; co-host of podcast Sex and the Cidiots; stand-up album Nice & Drunk) and and Emmy-winning writer/producers Brock Mahan (Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj) and Josiah Madigan (Head Writer of HQ Trivia): Serious Matters (7:00 pm, $13.71 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 1/21: A highly popular show that reenacts bizarre events of the past, with all sketches researched, written, and directed by award-winning journalist Malorie Cunningham (ABC News, NBC News) and Heath Harckham (Food Network), and performed by comics including Malorie, Heath, Victoria Hoffman, Sophia Shefner, Talia Heller, Ian Mather, and/or Mike Newkirk: Sketchy History (9:30 pm, $13.71 online or $15 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Wednesday 1/22: Ben Sinclair (co-creator, co-director, and co-star of HBO’s High Maintenance) is the guest 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 1/23: This monthly comedic show about the MTA is usually full of compaints, but tonight sings the praises of…the G Train! “The New York Times said it best in 2016, with an article titled, ‘Once Mocked, the G Train Is Now Cool. Kind Of.’ Honestly, we think the G line kicks ass and is massively misunderstood. The trains may be short, but their hearts are large. So we’re going to spend an hour and a half telling you why The Little Light Green Line That Could really can,” hosted by Meg Pierson (TEDx, Alchemy Comedy) and Justin Williams (Comedy Central; host of Death Comedy Jam): Why Your Train is F*cked: The G Train (7:00 pm; $16.89 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 1/23: Comedic storytellers TBA join pioneering sketch comic and storyteller Kevin Allison (The State; owner of The Story Studio) at what’s typically one of the finest storytelling shows in the country: Risk! (9:30 pm, $15, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Friday 1/24-Sunday 1/26: This solo show is described as follows: “”In my four years of living in New York, I’ve only ever swiped right on white men.’ In this semi-autobiographical stand-up drama, Sim Yan Ying takes a bitingly honest look at white worship, postcolonial baggage, and politically correct culture. She tears apart her escapades with white men in New York and delves into her experiences growing up in Singapore, throwing into question how and why we are sometimes complicit in the very things we outwardly reject:” I Love White Men (7:00 pm, $22, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Friday 1/24: “Amazon is a crazy big corporation. So big, in fact, it’s hard to even wrap your head around it. Web hosting, groceries, streaming video, home surveillance, holiday gifts…you can get almost anything from Jeff Bezos’ mega-company…” The online store & Web services company that changed the world, Amazon.com, is explored by host Mark Vigeant (Funny Or Die, Prairie Home Companion) with Kashmir Hill (The New York Times), Dhruv Mehrotra (Gizmodo), Caroline Haskins (Buzzfeed News), Samantha Reece (Head Writer of Buzzfeed’s BTW) and Rollie Williams (host of An Inconvenient Talk Show), plus music by Darren Williams: Internet Explorers: Amazon.com (9:30 pm, $13.71 online or $15 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Friday 1/24: This popular podcast by Abdullah Saeed & David Bienenstock (above right) “blazes joints, cracks jokes, and explores the people, places, and events that make up the complex and fascinating 10,000+ year past of weed and weed culture, from Barack Obama’s time in the Choom Gang, to an exclusive first-hand account of how the Hollywood sign briefly became the Hollyweed sign,” tonight with guest Ben Sinclair (above left; co-creator, co-director, and co-star of HBO’s High Maintenance): Great Moments in Weed History Live (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; part of the Brooklyn Podcast Festival)
Saturday 1/25: Candid conversations about coming out with a diverse array of LGBTQ+ persons (TBA) for a podcast sponsored by Gay City News, the largest LGBT newspaper in the country: Thank You For Coming Out (9:30 pm, $16.89 online or $20 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Monday 1/27: Jordan Klepper (star of docuseries Klepper; former star of Comedy Central’s The Opposition and correspondent for The Daily Show) hosts a comedic debate about whether the US should pay reparations, with Kenice Mobley (host of podcast Love About Town, co-host of The Pasta Show), Michael Cruz Kayne (sketches on Seth Meyers and The Chris Gethard Show; HBO’s High Maintenance; 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), Nelini Stamp (National Organizing Director at the Working Families Party), and Coleman Hughes (undergrad at Columbia University who’s written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The National Review): Debate Club: Should the US Pay Reparations? (9:30 pm, $22.20 online or $25 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Tuesday 1/28: Readings of short humor pieces by sharp writers & comics TBA, plus hosts Brian Angler, Luke Burns, and James Folta (all writers for The New Yorker and McSweeney’s): An Evening of Humorous Readings (7:00 pm—arrive at 6:30 to hang out a bit with the guests, $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Tuesday 1/28: Jordan Klepper (star of docuseries Klepper; former star of Comedy Central’s The Opposition and correspondent for The Daily Show) hosts a comedic debate about whether the US should pay forgive student loan debt, with Michael Cruz Kayne (sketches on Seth Meyers and The Chris Gethard Show; HBO’s High Maintenance; 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), Lou Perez (former producer for Impractical Jokers; half of sketch duo Greg and Lou), and more: Debate Club: Should the US Forgive Student Loan Debt? (9:30 pm, $22.20 online or $25 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Thursday 1/30: Stellar storytellers 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), Gastor Almonte (Comedy Central’s This Is Not Happening, host of Stoops2Stages, co-host of Sandwich, comedy album Immigrant Made), David Heatley (The New Yorker; Qualification: A Graphic Memoir), Angel Yau (Asian American Film Thing), and Julian Fleisher (Joe’s Pub: The Naked American Songbook) tell tales about how they started out hosted by Blaise Allysen Kearsley: How I Learned In The Beginning: Origin Stories (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)
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.