comedyNYC Guides

Comedy in New York: A Guide To Laughing In Public

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You can't beat comedy in New York. Chicago's for baby comedians just starting out. LA's for cashing in.  But if you're going to go from "person with a day job who tells disbelieving people in bars that they're really a comedian" to superstar, it'll happen in New York.

No surprise then that there are a lot of places to see a show. That's where we come in. But, of course, knowing the spots is only a third of the battle. It helps to know which are the best shows to go to and we've got you covered on that, whether it's on the app (get asembl), our weekly blog of the best things to do in NYC or on our newsletter (subscribe at right). And most of us aren't too keen on heading out alone, so let the asembl app help you find the people you want to go with.

On the the spots:

Manhattan

The Comedy Cellar

117 Macdougal Street (btw. W 3rd & Minetta Lane). Reservations.

This is the one even tourists from remote hillsides in the Balkans know to go to. If you're going to one club to see comedy in New York, make it the place with the brick wall behind the stage. And book ahead, as it tends to sell out.

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The Comedy Cellar is the #1 spot for drop ins from superstars like Dave Chappelle (he came down here several times after his shows uptown during his run on Broadway last year), Collin Quinn, Ray Romano, Amy Schumer & all the rest + hilarious folks you haven't heard of yet but will be huge the day after tomorrow. A quintessential NYC experience.

Shows are $10 to $17 on weekdays and $22 to $24 on weekends, in each case plus a 2 drink minimum.

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Carolines on Broadway

1626 Broadway (btw. 49th & 50th). Schedule.

You go to The Comedy Cellar in hopes of Sarah Silverman dropping in. You go to Carolines to see the person who's name is printed on your ticket. So it's a bit more of a sure thing, the room's a bit more comfortable and the food/drink is more expensive.

It's great. This author took his mom to see Jeff from Curb Your Enthusiasm here for her 60th birthday and years and years of disappointment in your narrator drained from her face. Your mileage will vary.

Tickets usually $18 to $35 + 2 drink minium.

Beacon Theatre / The Town Hall

Beacon: 2124 Broadway (btw. 74th & 75th). Schedule/Tickets.

Town Hall: 123 W. 43rd (btw. 6th & 7th Ave.). Schedule/Tickets.

We put these together because neither is a comedy club per se but any comedy fan in New York that isn't keeping up with who's performing at either is doing it wrong.

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Jerry Seinfeld's at the Beacon all the time (though, unfortunately, you have to be almost as rich as he is to affort tickets), while Jenny Slate and Nate Bargatze are among the many recent highlights at Town Hall.

If you want to see a super-duper star, these two are often your best bet, though you also need to check the Hulu Theatre at MSG (in MSG, duh; schedule/tickets) and sometimes even MSG itself (schedule/tickets). Luckily, asembl's got you covered on the app & the blog.

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UCB Theater

Hell's Kithcen: 555 W. 42nd (btw. 10th & 11th Ave). Schedule

Noho: 45 Bleecker St. (btw. Lafayette & Bowery). Schedule

If you like, or can even just stand, improv, this is your place. Legends like Amy Poehler & Matt Walsh made its reputation, stars like Jenny Slate got huge boosts from performing there & new stars are being made every day.

Tickets usually $5 to $15, with some ASSSSCAT shows free.

Other Spots

Beyond the above, there are almost too many clubs and venues to name. These are our favorites:

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Long an anchor of the scene, everyone of note has passed through the Gotham Comedy Club (208 W. 23rd btw. 7th & 8th Ave.; schedule) & still does (plus, the pilot of Curb Your Enthusiasm was filmed here). Definitely worth your while.

Tickets usually $15 to $28 + 2 drink minimum.

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The Stand (116 E. 16th btw. Irving & Union Square East; schedule) is relatively new and it looks like the type of place you'd take a banker or a lawyer for a first date (not that there's anything wrong with that). Don't let that fool you, though. The comedians are first rate.

Tickets usually $15 to $25.

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Two locations and an unending stream of very funny people, New York Comedy Club (241 E. 24th btw. 2nd & 3rd Ave & 85 East 4th btw 2nd & Bowery; schedule) is definitely worth checking out.

Tickets usually $20 to $40 + 2 drink minimum.

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The Comic Strip Live (1568 2nd Ave. btw. 81st & 82nd; schedule) is another legendary club, where Chris Rock used to bus tables and Colin Quinn used to tend bar. It's still one of the best spots in town.

 Tickets usually $20 + 2 drink minimum.

Brooklyn

Young comedians can't afford to live in Manhattan anymore (who can?) and nobody wants to take the subway forty-five minutes to a gig that pays $25. So as with most of the arts these days, a lot of the comedy scene's energy is in Brooklyn. Let's take a look:

Williamsburg / North Brooklyn

It's best to break up Brooklyn into North and South, since whoever designed the public transportation system (even the buses) never imagined that anybody would want to go between them. We'll start in the north.

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This part of town is dominated by free weekly shows & DIY type stuff with the big exception of Old Man Hustle (308 Bedford Avenue at S. 1st; schedule / all shows on asembl). Great comics every night, well priced drinks, no line to get in. Best off all, get 10% of your tickets through the asembl app (get asembl).

Tickets usually $12.

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The Gutter Bar (200 N. 14th Street btw. Berry & Wythe; schedule) is a cool spot with regular free comedy shows + some ticketed ones. You won't see big names every night but drop ins are a regular occurrence.

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Ambush Comedy is a low key free show every Tuesday in the back of an entirely adequate pizza shop  (Two Boots Pizza, 558 Driggs Ave. at N. 7th). We like it.

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Like a lot of good Brooklyn spots for comedy, the Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Ave. at Havemeyer; schedule/tickets) isn't a comedy club. But their free Sunday show is a must see and  sometimes there are great comics on other days too.

 

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You can almost make a week out of free comedy shows in North Brooklyn and on Mondays Ponyboy (632 Manhattan Ave. at Nassau Ave.) is the spot. It's good stuff.

 

South Brooklyn

The South Brooklyn comedy scene is more established than the one up North but like Brooklyn as a whole, there aren't many dedicated comedy clubs. There is, however, a cluster of super strong venues with a focus on comedy. Check them out:

Despite the above, we start with a full-fledged comedy joint in Eastville Comedy Club (487 Atlantic Avenue btw. Nevins & 3rd Ave., Boerum Hill; schedule). It's a great spot. Janeane Garofolo is there a bunch, they've got a lot of regular themed shows that are great and you get a fair number of famous drop-ins. Check it out.

Tickets usually between $15 & $25.

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Littlefield (635 Sackett Street btw. 3rd & 4th Ave., Gowanus; schedule) is one of the best bets in the city if you're just wandering in somewhere looking to laugh. From the venerable Butterboy on Mondays, to the hilarious "Entirely from Memory" series (where comedians watch a movie once and then try and re-create it on stage), to headline shows, we're big fans.

Tickets usually between $10 & $20.

The Bell House ( 149 7th Street btw. 2nd & 3rd Ave., Gowanus; schedule) is a big place with a good bar that hosts some truly great comedy, including a monthly showcase hosted by Benito Skinner.

Tickets usually between $15 & $20.

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Union Hall ( 702 Union Street btw. 5th & 6th Ave., Park Slope; schedule) is the Bell House's sister club & a bit more (though far from entirely) traditional standup focued. Jordan Klepper, Mike Birbiglia, The Lucas Brothers & Adam Cayton-Holland are some people who have performed here.

Tickets usually between $8 & $15.