New York City is the Comedy Capital of the World


The Comedy Cellar is home to many world renowned comedians. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Joseph Connolly, Contributing Writer

Club comedy is about as New York as it gets. First of all, this city throws a lot at you, and everybody could use a laugh. But it goes deeper than that. To me, New York’s fabled comedy clubs embody the spirit of the city. Their atmospheres can be gritty and unforgiving, providing no room for anything hacky, pompous or unoriginal. Nobody tiptoes around a subject to be gentle, and nobody gets up on stage to deliver a speech. These are not pretentious establishments. It doesn’t matter if you provide biting satire or fart jokes, you just need that one thing: humor. When a comic is sharp, there is nothing more electric. They can extract joy from the day-to-day humdrum of life, taking hilarious stances on angles you thought only you noticed. The laughter bounces off the walls and heightens to the point where you can hear it from the street. 

With a plethora of A-list clubs in the area, we may live in the comedy capital of the world. The talent in New York feels endless. Comics from all over come to the city to cut their teeth, and the nature of New York stand-up forces comics to get good or else they will be quickly forgotten. Some become club veterans, while others grow past the clubs to mainstream success. However, most fail. Those fortunate enough to earn a spot at these storied clubs have already made it through a ringer of open mics and free shows, having done what it takes to get good. 

These clubs also have their fingerprints all over the area. They add excitement and liveliness to the streets, and the surrounding scenes can often only be described as comical. Lined as well with restaurants and jazz clubs, a night out on MacDougal Street almost always provides some fun observations. The neighborhood is lively and uniquely New York. There is so much to see , that you realize why the city produces so many laughs. Every corner is an observation, every stroll is an experience and the best find the humor in all of it. 

The last time I went to the Comedy Cellar, I noticed the man in front of me was holding a mouse. A friend said that he looked like Mike Tyson holding a pigeon. As we exchanged observations and jokes about it, we were approached by a man who wanted to sell us an arrangement of products. He said he knew we wanted some because we were white. After respectfully declining, we watched him walk down the street emphatically, extending the same offer to every white person he saw. He turned a corner and we could no longer see him, but we could still hear him calling out “WHITE PEOPLE.” We loved it. There was so much going on, we forgot the comedy show hadn’t even started yet. To this day, my friends and I remember the surrounding area more than the show itself. 

This past weekend, I went to a show at The Stand. The lineup spanned generations of New York comics. The host was Marcelo Hernandez, the newest cast member of “Saturday Night Live.” He opened with a combination of crowd work and material on his parents’ failed marriage. He was blunt and hilarious, touching on their Cuban and Dominican heritage, their journeys before coming to America and what it was like for him growing up. 

Following Marcelo were Sherrod Small, Sean Patton and Derek Gaines. All veterans of comedy, they had material on subjects like the rats in the city, the queen, what it is like to get on stage after Jerry Seinfeld and how it feels to be a black man in Brooklyn. 

Patton recently released an hour-long special on YouTube, so we got all new material from him. This was both good and bad. He is currently working out his act, and the material was not fully fleshed out. Still, he provided the crowd with fresh perspectives and bundles of energy for us to feed on, making it a solid performance. 

To round out the show was New York legend Rich Vos. For those unfamiliar,  Vos came up in a renowned class of comedians, featuring the likes of Bill Burr, Colin Quinn and the late Patrice O’Neal. His resume speaks for itself. Vos was a frequent guest on staple shows such as “Tough Crowd” with Colin Quinn and “Opie and Anthony.” He was also the first white comedian to perform on “Def Jam Comedy,” a show traditionally featuring Black comedians, after earning the co-sign of mogul producer Russell Simmons.  

You could tell Vos had done this a million times. He began to make fun of himself the second he touched the mic and quickly turned it on the crowd. Vos was not there to make you ponder the meaning of life by contributing material on his wife’s idiosyncrasies and his daughter’s recent sleepover. He just wanted laughs. Once his set was done, he slowly put the mic down and walked to his next spot down the street. 

With all this being said, there are a few things you can do to make sure you catch the best show possible. First, these tickets sell like hot cakes. If you want to go to a show, you should grab tickets at least a week in advance. Second is a bit of an insider tip: If you can make time for a show on a weeknight, you are more likely to get a great lineup than on a weekend. There is a simple reason for this. The best comedians tour all over the country on the weekend, so many of them are not in New York come Friday and Saturday. By no means am I suggesting that the weekend lineups are bad, because they are great, but many times the weeknight shows have the truly world-class lineups that I’ve already described. 

We all live in the same city. We move at a fast pace, and we see crazy stuff. Comedy can help us all make sense of it. The beauty of New York’s comedy clubs is that they pack you in with strangers and make you realize how much you have in common. There is an extraordinary feeling of connection when you can sit with a complete stranger and derive joy from the mundanity, or even tragedy, of life together. It feels like you are actively engaging in humanity. Whenever I go, I have an afterglow for days. 

New York’s club comedy scene is in tune with the essence of the city. Nothing ostentatious, merely fast-paced, hard-hitting comedy. Just like the city we all chose.