New York keeps NYU laughing with local, student comedy

Julia Krom

Watching comedy is a great way to decompress after a hard week of class and lucky for NYU students, New York is one of the funniest cities in the world.

For sketch and improv comedy, one of New York’s best offerings is the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, which has two locations — one in the East Village and another in Chelsea. UCB was started by Amy Poehler of “Parks and Recreation” fame and, in addition to its performances, it offers classes in sketch and improv comedy. Tickets for shows are no more than $10, with certain shows open to the general public at no cost at all. UCB’s most popular show is “ASSSSCAT 3000,” performed twice every Sunday. Featuring popular improvisers such as Chris Gethard, Peter Grosz and even Poehler herself, the show often invites guest comedians from shows including “Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock” and “The Colbert Report.”

Also in the NYU area is Gotham City Improv. Located on MacDougal Street and boasting a group of alumni that includes Lisa Kudrow, Kathy Griffin and Conan O’Brien, this theater offers classes as well as frequent improv shows. With its summer season winding down, the theater will soon announce its fall season.

 Next door to Gotham City Improv is the Comedy Cellar, the brick-walled comedy club known for its slew of celebrity performers. Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chapelle, Tom Papa, Wanda Sykes, Marc Maron and Lisa Lampanelli are among the talented comedians who have performed there regularly over the years. Today, Colin Quinn, Kevin Brennan, Gary Gulman and NYU alumnus Aziz Ansari will stop by to test out new material. Louis C.K.’s Comedy Cellar shows are even featured prominently in his semi-autobiographical FX show “Louie.”

More big names can be found at two NBC live shows — late-night classic “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Comedy fans can get in line for standby tickets for either of these shows, but doing so can take commitment and endurance — people will get in line as early as 24 hours in advance to get tickets for these popular shows.

The year’s biggest New York comedy event has yet to come. The annual New York Comedy Festival, sponsored by Comedy Central, will take place this year from Nov. 5 to Nov. 9. As always, the line-up boasts a diverse mix of celebrities and up-and-comers. This year’s festival highlights include Bill Cosby at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 8; Amy Schumer, also at Carnegie Hall, on Nov. 7; Tig Notaro at Town Hall on Nov. 6; and Marc Maron’s two shows at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 7.

And if all that sounds overwhelming or too expensive, NYU’s student clubs and groups put on comedy shows year-round, many of which are free. Among NYU’s student-run comedy groups are Dangerbox, Pasadena Golf Club, After School Special, Home Improvment and Dirt Circle, as well as two sketch groups, Hammerkatz and Free Beer. Auditions for these groups are held in September, offering students the chance to join in on the laughs. And for those looking to enjoy comedy instead of perform it, these groups are proof that one does not even need to leave campus for a good laugh.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 2 print edition. Email Julia Krom at [email protected]

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