NYC Year End Review
First of all hellos to everybody out in Shecky-land. It's been
way too long since my first article, so I hope this one finds you
all in great health. The Mecca of comedy is in full holiday mode,
so I thought it would be a good time for a year-end review of the
NYC Comedy scene.
The city's comedy scene is changing rapidly. Big changes like
the passing of Lucien & Manny, and the birth of the NYC Comedy Coalition
and the cancellation of Tough Crowd on Comedy Central are
redefining comedy in the city that never sleeps.
We'll start with a look at the clubs:
The Boston Comedy Club-- The "other club" in the
Village has experienced a renaissance of sorts, as Dustin and company have
transformed this from a place where comics drop by, to a place where they
want to work.
Caroline's-- This room is steady as ever, presenting a mix
of old-guard headliners and emerging stars. Even though the festival
took up much of their time, they still managed to present a larger
number of headline acts than ever before.
The Comedy Cellar-- This was a year of sad changes with the
passing of the owner Manny. To lose a passionate voice in comedy is always
a sad thing, and Manny was absolutely passionate. The room is still the
hottest club in town even after the cancellation of Tough
The Comedy Company-- A grand comedy experiment that looks like
it may be in danger of folding. The fellows at the Comedy Company are on
hiatus for the holiday season, and may return in the New Year. Keep your
The Comic Strip-- The saddest story in comedy came to an end
when Lucien Hold passed away. Lucien worked his way up from a carpenter
who helped build the club to arguably the single most powerful talent
coordinator in comedy. Like him or not, his passing is a changing of the
guard from old-school comedy to the contemporary. He will be
Dangerfield's-- This club lost its namesake in another sad
passing. While the year was steady for the club, there is a veil of
sadness every time you look at the cartoon of Rodney on the wall.
Dillon's-- This is the same comedy spot that used to be located
at Sam's. They moved 9 blocks uptown to a prettier space and still produce
shows with both vets and newcomers.
Gotham Comedy Club-- Gotham experienced a change in bookers
(several actually) and through all the turmoil still managed to keep the
artistic flow of the show quite high.
Ha-- Nothing much changed. Ha is still a barker room with so
much untapped potential.
The Improv-- A spectacular opening, and shortly thereafter, the
opening of a second room, which houses the famed improv group Chicago City
Limits. Already the club has hosted spectacular shows, and many industry
auditions. This is quite a good start to say the least.
Joe Franklin's Comedy Works-- This room is shaky, but it never
falls. It is still the rookie league standard for the industry.
The Laugh Factory-- The room is up and running strong.
The audience is growing steadily, and Jamie and company are
working hard to bring their vision of a comedy community to
the city. One of the nicest touches was the invitation to comics
with nowhere to go to spend Thanksgiving at the club. Very classy.
Laugh Lounge NYC-- This room is barely one year old, and is
developing a strong Lower East Side following. The shows have a strong
structure, and the club is looking like it might be around for a
New York Comedy Club-- The more things change, the more they
stay the same. New York Comedy Club has kept its personality, and has even
become more comic friendly with Buddy Flip running the shows most
Pips-- The longest running comedy room in America has been sold,
remodeled, and relaunched. The new space is pretty, while still keeping
the feel of the historic comedy spot. There are more shows, and a new
booking philosophy-- definitely an NYC up and comer.
Sal's Comedy Hole-- The former Tribeca Comedy Basement became a
multi-night player in the Village. Sal put together an extended comedy
contest for newer comics, and professional workout nights for the big
Stand Up New York-- This club also changed bookers, but the ship
is still sailing smoothly.
The Village Lantern-- This tiny basement workout spot has had a
shake-up in bookers, but overall it still keeps the audience happy every
There is also a strong crop of one nighters in and around
the city like The Comedy Social and Foundation Comedy to name a couple.
Those one nighters seem to be the place where the mid-level comics get
their stage time as they work their way up the comedy ladder.
This year also saw the end of Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn.
This was the show that showcased the best comics in the city.
Unfortunately, the ratings didn't reflect the show's true popularity and
it ended way too soon. I, and the others who appeared on the show or hoped
to, are all saddened by the event.
There was also a happy note as Opie & Anthony returned to the airwaves
on XM radio, bringing their full compliment of comics with them. In
addition, there were several stand-up festivals of note. The UK Comedy
Festival at the Village Gate brought the best UK comics over to the
states. The NYC Underground Comedy Festival had over 100 shows in
all 5 boroughs, and brought opportunity to many of the comics in and
around the city. It also brought comedy back to its historical home, The
Bitter End, for one night and raised lots of money for Operation Uplink in
the process. Also, the NY Comedy Festival sponsored by Caroline's
brought many headline acts into the city for a week in November.
There were also big name concert events like Mort Sahl at
the Village Gate, both Billy Crystal and Whoopie Goldberg with separate
Broadway runs, and Bill Cosby returning to the Apollo Theater for the
first time in nearly 40 years. Add that to over 40 other headline acts and
you can understand why New York City is once again the Mecca of
The growth of this past year also brought about a change
in attitude among the comics. Just this month over 300 NYC comedians
came together to form The New York Comedians' Coalition. This is
the first attempt at a collective approach to club negotiations
since the PCA folded in the early 90's. Although the group is new,
it is powerful, and I expect to see bit things in terms of service
to comedians, and collective negotiations in the coming months.
That's all from the city for now. Have a happy holiday.
Hey kids, if you have NY specific comedy questions,
go to jim-mendrinos.com, drop me a line and I'll try
and answer them the next column. See you in the city!