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That said, my top NYC comedy recommendations for January 2019 (with much more to come soon) include:
Sunday 1/13: Comics each make a case for a band that he or she loves but everyone else seems to hate, with music experts Melissa Villaseñor (above middle; Emmy-winning star cast member of Saturday Night Live; force-of-nature voiceover artist who’s performed characters for Family Guy, Scooby Doo, and many other shows), Nikki Glaser (above left; host of You Up on SiriusXM Comedy Central Radio; star of former Comedy Central series Not Safe; films Trainwreck and I Feel Pretty; hour-long special Perfect; Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Last Comic Standing, Comedy Central Half Hour, Inside Amy Schumer, @midnight; NBC’s America Ninja Warrior: Celebrity Edition; podcast You Had to Be There), Christi Chiello (above right; Comedy Central’s Roast Battle, MTV’s Girl Code, TruTV, PBSKids, stellar solo show It’s Christi, B*tch!, co-host of Battle of the Divas and White Chocolate), Shalewa Sharpe (Keith and the Girl; comedy album Stay Eating Cookies), Sean Donnelly (David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central Half Hour, Last Comic Standing, MTV), Anthony DeVito (Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central Half Hour, This American Life, House of Cards), Martin Urbano (Jimmy Kimmel), JP McDade, and Caitlin Peluffo hosted by Tommy McNamara (The Onion, Seeso) & Tom Thakkar: Stand By Your Band Live! (8:00 pm, $10, Brooklyn’s Union Hall at 702 Union Street; take R subway to Union Street)
Sunday 1/13: Storytellers TBA tell DIY healthcare tales, which in the past have ranged from homeopathic cures for yeast infections to at-home surgery, hosted by Allie Kokesh and Sarah Burton: I’m a Doctor Now: Stories About Self-Diagnosis (3:30 pm, $10, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Sunday 1/13: Peer review is applied to the big screen in this show where scientists and comics TBD watch and discuss the science of hit movies and, with your help, decide if the film deserves to be published and have its findings endorsed across the land, or should perish for its crimes against facts. This month focuses on the science of 2002 animated feature film Ice Age, and on the broader topic of climate change: Publish or Perish: Scientists Review Ice Age (7:00 pm, $13.82 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 1/15: Experts and comics—including psychologist Ingmar Gorman (Director of the Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care Program) and Adam Strauss (writer/performer of show The Mushroom Cure)—have a frank and taboo-free discussion of drugs, this month focused on psychedelics, hosted by Sarah Rose Siskind (comedy writer for NatGeo’s StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson): Drug Test: Psychedelics (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)
Sunday 1/13: Jon Glaser (HBO’s Girls, NBC’s Parks and Recreation, star of Adult Swim’s Delocated and TruTV’s Jon Glaser Loves Gear; long-time writer/performer and 5-time Emmy nominee for Conan O’Brien) tries out material for a stand-up special he’s putting together. Help Jon decide what’s funny and what might destroy his career: Come See If This Works Again (7:30 pm, $12, Brooklyn’s Littlefield at 635 Sackett Street; take R subway to Union Street; Please Note: This show has SOLD OUT.)
Thursday 1/17: Highly talented singing improvisors Eric Gersen, Jeff Hiller, Michael Hartney, Jessica Morgan, Zack Willis, Hannah Solow, and Jake Smith interview an audience member about his or her college major, minor, classes, and final thesis, and then use the information to make up a complete musical on the spot: Rumpleteaser: Major and Minor (9:30 pm, $15, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Friday 1/18: A game show that describes itself as follows: “Ever talk to a straight guy and think, ‘Jesus Christ you’re boring!’ Two straight men TBD enter the arena, but only one leaves with the title of Queen of the Straights. Lifelines include a Woman Who Gets It and a Wise Queer” hosted by Matt Rogers & Dave Mizzoni, who invite you to “come witness the ultimate test of who Is honorarily Gay As Fuck:” GAYme Show (9:30 pm, $10, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Saturday 1/19: 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; $17 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)
Saturday 1/19: Storytelling, sketches, and more about sex, including “practical takeaways for the audience,” from comics TBD hosted by Dani Faith Leonard: Adult Sex Ed (9:30 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)
Sunday 1/20: Four brand-new 10-minute segments titled “Lie Detector” (tech expert Sree Sreenivasan explores questions about truth and lies in the digital age), “Control Chorus” (an investigation into our internal rhythms and the external factors that set the tempo for our biology), “Zone Out” (the musical story of going to the doctor at age 13 and learning you’re not who you’ve been led to believe), and “Blood Shame” (What if we could erase our trauma? Would we live healthier lives?): Talks Progress Administration (7:00 pm; $11.70 online or $15 at the door; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Monday 1/21: Racquel Gates (author of Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture) examines the stylistic qualities and production of 1988 comedy film Coming to America, arguing it’s actually two movies in one resulting from the ideological and interpersonal tensions between director John Landis and star Eddie Murphy: Flying University: That Ain’t a Black Film! (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)
Tuesday 1/22: Members of the West Wing Writers group (which includes former Presidential speechwriters) and comic Jen Spyra (staff writer for Stephen Colbert; The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Beast; former Senior Writer/director/producer for The Onion) 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 Brian Agler (Director of West Wing Writers; The New Yorker, McSweeney’s): SpeakEasy (9:30 pm; $12; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Wednesday 1/23: Stoytellers TBD tell tales about great female chefs in history: Yeah She Did: If You Can’t Take the Heat—Women in Food (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)
Wednesday 1/23: Comics TBD share their experiences with racial profiling hosted by Marcela Onyango (host of Feel the News): Profiled (9:30 pm, $12, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Thursday 1/24: Learn the history of the MTA via fun lectures, sketches, and more at this ongoing comedic history series about NYC transit, this month focusing on the troubled L train and why it’s going to be shut down in April for major repairs, with a disgruntled MTA employee as the “secret” guest, hosted by Meg Pierson (TEDx, Alchemy Comedy) and Justin Williams (Comedy Central; host of Death Comedy Jam): Why Your Train is F*cked: The L Train’s Sabbatical (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)
Friday 1/25: Highly talented hip-hop improv group North Coast attempts to create a Hamilton on the spot by making up a musical based on an audience suggestion of a famous historical figure: Anybody: An Improvised Historical Hip-Hopera (9:30 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)
Saturday 1/26: This new free show has fun with SF/fantasy video clips, asking such questions as “Why is Robocop selling blue jeans? Why did Billy Ocean make a Star Wars-themed music video? Did ET ever do porno?” hosted by Chris Cummins (Den of Geek) and guests TBD: Sci-Fi Explosion (7:00 pm; Free!, reserve tickets here; LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street; take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Saturday 1/26: Because there isn’t enough strife pitting the living against each other, comics TBD roast long-past historical figures and events, ranging from Rasputin to The Beat Generation to The 1968 Democratic Convention hosted by Matt Strickland: 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)
Tuesday 1/29: Iranian comic Mehdi Barakchian (host of Passport Control, co-host of Brunch Night, improv group Kibbles and Bits) and writer Kylie Holloway will answer your questions about the relationship between the US and the Middle East—”Why are we still hanging out with Saudi Arabia?’, “Why is Iran is so mad at America?”, and “What the heck is an Aleppo, and is it bigger or smaller than a Venti?”, with this month’s topic Operation Ajax—The Coup That Rocked Iran: It’s Complicated: How the U.S. Shaped the Middle East (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)
Wednesday 1/30: Taylor Lorenz (staff writer on technology and culture for The Atlantic) and Reed Kavner (former director of product development at Billboard magazine; host of Powerpoint comedy show Next Slide Please) host this look at “what the kids are into—apps, memes, songs, fashion trends—through a lens of empathy and genuine curiosity, helped by experts and actual teens sharing the latest developments in youth culture:” The Kids are All Great (7:00 pm, $11.70 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 1/30: The lovely Natalie Wall (above left; host of superb storytelling shows Awkward Sex and the City and Awkward Poop and the City, and co-producer of Bad Assery) and Anita Flores (above right; Buzzfeed) host this show about the unseemly, extreme, and taboo things that ladies don’t usually talk about: Gross Girls: An Unladylike Comedy Show (9:30 pm, $17 online or $18 at the door, LES’ Caveat at 21-A Clinton Street—take F/J/M/Z subway to Delancey Street/Essex Street)
Thursday 1/31: Storytellers TBD try to scare you with modern fantasy/horror tales in this show that’s the next the best to a moonlit campfire: Midnight Society: Why You’re Still Afraid of the Dark (9:30 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)
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 East
153 East 3rd Street; 99-seater; a top comedy venue that focuses more than sister theatre UCB Hell’s Kitchen 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 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
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.
From comedy & rock goddess Lane Moore (host of smash hit Tinder Live; author of How to be Alone; lead singer of Brooklyn band It Was Romance): Hy Bender lives and breathes comedy. He knows what he’s talking about. Listen.
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.