5 Hidden NYC Comedy Club Gems
If you're a standup fan in the area, chances are you've frequented Caroline's, Gotham, or the Comedy Cellar. New York City has raised the likes of Billy Crystal, Richard Pryor, and Jerry Seinfeld, to name a few, and continues to house perhaps the best comedy scene in the country.
With such a diverse collection of comedy clubs throughout the city, it would be a shame to get pigeonholed into just a few favorite joints. The bigger names tend to hit the clubs on Broadway, but all five boroughs offer good venues. From bigger stages to improv troupes, here are five comedy clubs you probably haven't been to yet.
1. Stage 72 at The Triad
This may slip under the radar because of its prominence as an off-Broadway musical theater, but Stage 72 (formerly known as The Triad) brings in plenty of great comics for smaller shows and intimate settings. Standup routines lose their luster when the performer is forced to address a crowd that broaches four digits, but at Stage 72, where the capacity maxes out at a paltry 130 people, comedians stay fresh and engaged with their audiences.
Partners Peter Martin and Rick Newman, the latter of which founded the "Catch a Rising Star" club that found Chris Rock and Robin Williams, have brought back The Triad and diversified its calendar. The quaint spot on W. 72 Street hosts Jeff Lawrence and Laughing Buddha Comedy troupe this Saturday.
2. Parkside Lounge
Situated on the Lower East Side, the Lounge had a bad rep for operating in squalor and catering to a druggy crowd. Now Parkside is cleaned up and offers billiards, live music, and an open mic in addition to the comics brought in. While Stage 72 is more of a theater, this is a perfect post-work joint to grab drinks and keep things casual.
Parkside Lounge has four upcoming comedy events in the next week, and unlike Stage 72, it keeps its schedule stuffed with multiple shows every night. It's pretty DIY, to the point where aspiring performers over 21 are encouraged to apply for a show.
3. Chicago City Limits
Yeah, I know. It's in New York though. These guys must be real funny.
Chicago City Limits brings Second City-style improve to Manhattan. The group tours, offers lessons in improv, and even features a comedic film festival. Located on W. 53 Street, CCL is in the middle of its 39th improv revue, "#Hashtag You're It," combining scenes with audience suggestions on the trending topics of the night.
Of course there's a bit of scripted material, but this troupe gets creative with an on-the-spot musical and plenty of games that encourage, if not depend on crowd participation. Improv comedy is obviously a whole different scene than standup, and if you're looking for more of a weekend feel, this is the place to hit. Shows are $20 with a two drink minimum every Friday and Saturday. Chicago City Limits also brings in independent improvers around the city on Wednesdays for a $5 "West Side Jam."
4. Laughing Devil Comedy Club
Manhattan doesn't have such a stranglehold on the NYC comedy game. Queens' Laughing Devil Comedy Club is just as quirky as it sounds, coming alive on weekends and bringing in a loyal following.
Comedy Central Presents' Greg Warren comes on Saturday, while popular standup comic Liam McEneaney visits later in the month. Servers and bartenders are reportedly very friendly, and prices stay low. Saturday evenings feature open mics with professional critique and feedback too.
5. EastVille Comedy Club
A little bigger but still boasting an underground aesthetic, EastVille Comedy Club has hosted the likes of Jim Gaffigan, Aziz Ansari, Sarah Silverman, and Louis C.K. Most of the performers, however, are pretty low profile, and Monday-Friday features a 6 p.m. open mic. Prodigy Comedy and Rising Stars are two up-and-coming groups that act as the staple of EastVille's weekday lineup.
It's an all-ages club with a two-drink minimum and shows that run under two hours. Though the tiled walls resemble an MTA subway stop, EastVille is a great time and brings in entertainment bigger than its look suggests.