Sunday, March 18, 2012

Laugh Yourself Silly at These NYC Comedy Clubs.

Do you like to laugh? Of course you do! Want to know where to go to see your favorite stand-up comedians and improv acts, heckle some amateurs, or try out your own jokes at a comedy open mic?

Here are my suggestions for comedy clubs in NYC:

#1 PickComedy Cellar.  Located in Greenwich Village, on MacDougal Street, between W. 3rd Street and Minetta Lane (just a few doors down from Mamoun's famous falafel restaurant...), Comedy Cellar is by far my favorite comedy club in NYC. Colin Quinn, Dave Attell, and "Godfrey" are just some of the regular comics on the lineup here, and on one occasion, while I was enjoying a Comedy Cellar show, Jerry Seinfeld even stopped by unannounced. Apparently famous celebrity comics tend to drop by quite often.  From Sundays through Thursdays at Comedy Cellar, if you make your reservation early enough, you can get a free "no cover" pass for up to four people (although a 2 item minimum still applies).

I also highly recommend Dangerfied's, a legacy of the late Rodney Dangerfield himself ("I don't get no respect!"), located on 1st Avenue, off of 61st Street.  Dangerfield's, which has been in operation since 1969, claims to be New York City's longest-running comedy club.  There are special discounts available nightly, such as free cover tickets Mondays through Thursdays (with a two drink minimum), and 2 for 1 tickets Fridays through Sundays (with NO drink minimum).  Dangerfield's does not announce a daily lineup on it's website like Comedy Cellar, but you can call for more information (917-210-2541).  Jerry Seinfeld and many others have been known to appear here as well.

If you prefer the improv scene, make some time to stand in line at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, founded by comedian Amy Poehler ("Parks and Recreation," "Saturday Night Live," "Baby Mama"), among others, and operating in New York City since 2003.  Although the main location is on W. 26th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues, there is also a second NYC location in the East Village, on E. 3rd Street, between Avenues A and B.  "UCBT," as it is often referred to, was the first theater to bring "longform improvisation" to NYC, which the company describes as "an entire show consisting of interconnected scenes, characters, and ideas completely made-up on the spot with no pre-planning or pre-writing." UCBT's shows are a riot, and they are, quite literally, a different experience every single time.  Check out the schedules for UCBT and UCBT East to find the show(s) that suit you.  Note: Although you can make reservations for most shows online, at well worth-it prices, typically $5-10 per ticket with no drink minimum, plan on arriving 30 minutes or even an hour before your showtime, as lines form down the block for nearly every ticketed show.

For a more low-key improv experience, I have a soft spot for Big Apple Playback Theatre, an improvisational group that brings audience members' stories to life through theater, musical performance and sometimes even interpretive dance.  Attending a "BAPT" show can be quite a cathartic experience.  Don't be shy... When the performers ask for audience members to tell a personal story, raise your hand and pour your heart out.  Speak your mind and then watch your own story unfold on the stage in front of you. You may even be called up to participate in the re-enactment.  BAPT holds public shows, runs anti-bullying programs for school-aged children and teenagers, and other community programs.

If you don't have cash to burn on comedy shows, there are also many bars and clubs throughout the city that have free comedy nights.  My suggestion is "Gandhi, Is That You?", a free weekly show on Wednesday evenings, downstairs at Lucky Jack's Bar and Lounge. Other free and low-cost comedy shows are frequently advertised/announced on NYC event and nightlife sites such as theskint and murphguide.

If you're looking to be the one on stage, this calendar provides a pretty comprehensive listing of comedy open mics nightly.

Finally, unless there's a specific comedian you are heading there to see, avoid over-hyped, midtown tourist haunts like Broadway Comedy Club and Caroline's.  They're overpriced and they lack the friendlier, cozy atmosphere of the smaller clubs.  Nevertheless, Caroline's does have a long-running "New Talent" night weekly, where you just might see some amateur comic get his or her start.

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