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The Role of Jewish Americans in Comedy

The Role of Jewish Americans in Comedy

With Hanukkah right around the corner, it’s time to take a look back at how Jewish Americans shaped stand up comedy into what it is today.

Upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains in the 1930s had vacation resorts that provided an escape for many Jewish-Americans living in New York City. This area affectionately came to be known as the “Borscht Belt”.

Combined with a desire to fit into the American lifestyle and a need for a welcoming space, the Catskill resorts catered to NYC Jews as a place where one can be welcomed and entertained without a cloud of oppression hanging over one’s head.

Vaudeville shows were all the rage back then, but as comedic taste began to get more sophisticated, comedian Henny Youngman began to take the stage as a monologuest with killer one-liners that brought the house down.

The Borscht Belt in the Catskill Mountains gave Jewish Americans an opportunity to mold stand up comedy into a shape of its own.

Legendary Jewish comics like Sid Cesar, Lenny Bruce, and Joan Rivers got their start in the Catskill resorts. The Borscht Belt provided an opportunity for Jewish comics to flourish and eventually burst into the mainstream with the rise of television.

Without the roles Jewish Americans had in stand up comedy, who knows if it would even exist?

The role of Jewish Americans in stand up comedy deserves to be respected. Jews are a staple in stand up culture, and stand up is a staple in Jewish culture. Harrison Greenbaum, a Stand Up NY regular, had this to say about comedy in Jewish culture:

“Comedy likely became such a vital part of Jewish culture as Jews used it as a defense mechanism during tough times.”

Stand Up NY is proud to present Jewish comedians like Harrison Greenbaum, Elon Gold, Judah Friedlander, and Judy Gold.

This Article Written By: Will Flaherty
Follow Me on social media for an extra dose of humor:
Twitter- @WillFlah3rty
Instagram- @WillFlah3rty

Things Just Got DARK

Ahh, dark humor–everyone’s go-to for cordial conference room banter before the big meeting, or a safe ice-breaker at a meet-the-parents dinner. Yeah, no.

Dark jokes can be pretty nerve-wracking to deliver and even more-so to take in as an audience if they go wrong. Whether they’re not executed well or just miss the mark completely, everyone is left feeling all icky and mad and upset, and, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that is not what you’re going for at a comedy show. You came to escape your 9-5 stress and your rent’s-due misery via laughter and booze for a mere hour or two and now this guy is on stage talking about rape with a smile on his face and everyone is skeeved out! Your date is doing that thing where they pick up their drink and sip on it and look into it for a while as if they could just disintegrate and float in there with the ice cubes until the night is over. (If a lot of your dates do this, though, maybe this scrub comic isn’t your main issue.)

I could sit here and break down dark comedy and its origins for you, yammering on about the Superiority Theory justified in the works of Plato, Aristotle and Hobbes (killer line-up, by the way), but the truth is that comics and audiences alike have drastically changed since people actually wrote theories! (Seriously, how does one write a theory nowadays? Are you allowed to just come up with one? Does the sculpture of just your face and neck come before or after it’s published?) Regardless, our tolerance and tastes surrounding the experiences we deem appropriate or inappropriate to joke about is always changing. In the comedy world right now, it seems like we are in the midst of a considerable shift, or at the very least a cloud of confusion, about what lines we should cross on stage or on the air, and more importantly, why we would want to.

I am very excited to put out this article, because a few of our favorite regular pros at Stand Up NY have dropped some serious knowledge and insight on the topic of dark comedy. Below you’ll find the thoughts and endeavors of JP McDade, Aaron Berg, and Geno Bisconte in their experience telling Holocaust jokes or whatever. I got a lot out of reading these and know you will, too! McDade notes some of his favorite comedians of dark comedy (I originally typed “dark comedians” but the good part of my brain said hey that cannot be a thing), Berg challenges the Too-Soon Fallacy, and Bisconte makes an interesting comparison of racist jokes to measles. Scroll down to see what the heck I’m talking about!

J.P. McDade 

Twitter: @jp_mcdade, Instagram: mcdadebaby

When an audience hears a comic bring up a dark subject, the stakes get higher. Everyone in the room understands there’s a high degree of difficulty in an edgy joke and a very real potential for disaster. People’s shoulders go up, they’re sitting there with their date or their coworkers and they silently pray your Paralympics joke doesn’t ruin their night. You’re taking a big swing, and you’ll either hit a home run or screw yourself into the ground.

In a dark bit, there’s an element of “getting away with it.” The audience has to know implicitly that you’re not a dirtbag and you don’t believe the horrible thing you just said. You have to first connect with them enough that they’ll follow you into that dark corner. Comics who do dark comedy extremely well: Anthony Jeselnik, Nick Mullen, Kurt Metzger, they deliver their jokes in a way that says “wouldn’t it be funny if someone actually said this and meant it?” Metzger’s chunk about child beauty pageants is one of the funniest standup bits I’ve ever heard. If it wasn’t funny he’d be in prison.

I like the gamble of trying a dark joke. That’s why I like roasts so much; there’s nothing better than the moment an untested, risky joke connects. If a joke gets the big payoff in spite of touchy subject matter, I know it’s a joke to be proud of. Not that anyone should be proud of doing standup comedy.

Aaron Berg

Twitter & Instagram: @aaronbergcomedy

Dark comedy is a beautiful coping mechanism.  The funniest people I know are able to take the darkest moments of their lives and turn them into comedy that can be shared universally.  I worked in the sex trade for years and was ashamed and didn’t want to talk about it onstage. Then when I did, I started to have some real success.  Dark humor is essential comedy because it truly employs the tragedy plus time equation that is necessary for meaningful humor. Most times when dark humor bombs it’s because of the “TOO SOON Fallacy”.  There is no too soon, there is just “not funny enough”. If the joke or the thought is funny enough, a school shooting joke can work the day of the incident (Please see Ted Alexandro’s recent shooting joke – Audience member yelled out “Too soon”  Ted said “since the last one or until the next one?”).

People always want to laugh at stuff they think they aren’t supposed to laugh at in comedy clubs. That’s why dark humor works.

But there is a difference between dark humor and gross out humor.  Dark humor sheds light on the pleasures of ass-eating, whereas gross out humor sheds light on the taste of ass-eating.  And therein lies the rub (to quote every piece-of-shit Buzzfeed article on why I can’t identify as a woman during TruTV showcases).  If you want to deal with the art of dark humor, you are one of the select few that has to forge their own path and sometimes you may cross the line.  But it is your job to find that line. Once you do, you may push further or realize that coloring outside the comedy lines isn’t for you.

Dark humor makes you laugh at things that therapists may call sad or damaging.  But the happiest people I know have the darkest senses of humor.

 

Geno Bisconte

Twitter: @GenoBiscontePA, Instagram: genobisconte

The reason I use dark comedy is for the simple fact that people NEED to hear it. They need to be exposed to these things whether they realize it or not. I mean think about it… I know that sounds crazy, but it’s not. Think about when you’re a child and go for a vaccination—whether it be measles, polio, or chicken pox—what they’re actually doing is giving you measles, polio, and chickenpox. And do you know why? Because they need to introduce

it to your body to it so your body can learn how to fight it, how to process it, so it can be stronger than it after it has done so.

It’s the same thing with dark humor. Some people may want to shield you from terrible things that have happened but, by doing that, it only allows them to destroy you when you’ve been sheltered from them for so long and have no idea how to process them on your own.

I know it may be giving myself more credit than I deserve, but when I introduce jokes about racism, the Holocaust and yes, even rape, it allows you to process it. And it allows you to fight these terrible things with the best thing possible: laughter. And in the end, it has always been my hope that it will prevent it from destroying you. But hey, that’s just me.

 

Article by Ellen Harrold

Twitter: @whorsdoeuvres, Instagram: ellewoodz

Contact: harroldellenj@gmail.com

Ellen will be hosting Stand Up NY on December 6th at the FREE 10pm show. Come on out! Your Bumble date does not want to go to that microbrewery beer-tasting seriously IPAs are gross. Bring them here for the show instead! (We have IPAs)

 

This is Halloween, HALLOWEEN! H A L L O W E E N !

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Halloween is creeping up on us and fast– the question lurking around the corner being whether you should go SCARY, SEXY, or FUNNY with your costume this year? Or a mixture of two of the three, if you’re feeling ambitious? Perhaps you could tick all three boxes, but very unlikely. What a long shot it seems that one could possess, say, a naturally hot face, a tube of fake blood leftover from last year, and a sense of humor that translates into something brilliantly relatable? Nope, uh-uh; I’m turning green with envy just typing the possibility, and going as Shrek or the Hulk this year is out of the question on account of it being too on-point and not at all ironic enough because of some unfortunate weight-gain.

 

Leave it to the professionals to pull off the trifecta this Halloween: here at Stand Up NY, we are sneaking right up on all your senses by bringing you Comedy Ugly: A Comedy Strip Tease, Halloween Edition! This scary-good execution of the sexiest show in comedy promises to produce more than just the nervous-laughs that would ensue to at your average, run-in-the-mill strip tease. You know, like the one at your brother’s fiance’s bachelorette party that you’d literally rather gouge your eyes out with a plastic spork than watch alongside a-little-too-excited Aunt Betsy.

 

This downright dynamic show features Stand Up NY favorites, such as the club’s recent headliner Jay Jurden–and let’s face it, everyone in both the comedy- and LGBTQ-realms alike knows that any show featuring Jay will automatically fulfill the sexy factor. And this time, he’ll be actually trying! How’s that for a tease?Image result for jay jurden

Comedy Ugly: A Comedy Strip Tease, Halloween Edition (OK, exhausted from typing that, you’re welcome) happens here at our club ON HALLOWEEN, October 31st, at 7pm! Tickets are only $5, or about 1/600th of the money you’d pay to get the hell out of your brother’s fiance’s Miami hotel room on her special weekend.

Article written by Ellen Harrold

Instagram: @ellewoodz

Twitter: @whorsdoeuvres

The Hang

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The Hang

It’s hard for me to hang out. I took a class in college called “The American Hang Out” in which students were instructed to hang around the lecture hall and do nothing but shoot the shit with eachother for like an hour and a half. I’m pretty sure I was the only one who didn’t get an A.

The truth is that I rarely showed up. I didn’t find much of a point in gathering together in a controlled environment to gab about what Trump tweeted the day before or the latest viral video.

It takes a lot for me to be genuinely interested in what someone has to say unless I have something to gain. It’s selfish and I feel bad for thinking that—and as a wannabe comedian, I feel like it holds me back.

When it comes to comedy, the hangout is an “in” with certain clubs. If you want to get on stage, you have to know someone who can help you. Networking is part of the game any field, but the thought of schmoozing is ingenuine to me.

Last week, Stand Up NY’s podcast “Passed” with Jon B and Kevin Hurley featured veteran comedian Tom Kelly, who expresses his distaste for hanging out in comedy clubs in the season 4 episode titled “A Realist Comedic Point of View.”

Kelly reflects on the time he spent hanging around comedy clubs in his earlier years as a comedian. He struggled to find meaning in spending time and doing favors for other comedians.

“I can’t tell you how many favors I’ve wasted on people who could not return the favor,” Kelly says. “That’s the hard part about [going] tit for tat. I’ve gotten very dark when I haven’t gotten a tat for my great tits.”

Ultimately, however, Kelly says, “Just be a good human being. Make friends for the sake of being friends. Be kind to somebody who can’t do anything for you.”

Kelly has a good point. There’s a lot to be said there about the comedy hangout and hanging out in general. It’s not always about networking.

The point of that “American Hang Out” class wasn’t to find successful people to add to your LinkedIn network. The primary point was probably pretty simple: be friendly to one another. Maybe a friendly relationship can lead to something, but that should be a secondary benefit to finding a new friend.

Written by Will Flaherty

Twitter: WillFlah3rty

Instagram: WillFlah3rty

 

Mentions Tom Kelly

Twitter: @TomKellyShow

Instagram: @TomKellyShow

Website: https://thomasjkelly.com/

To Bring or Not To Bring

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To Bring or Not To Bring

Has a comedian friend of yours ever asked you to come to their show? Maybe you’d have to say their name when you bought the tickets. Once inside the club or bar, you must satisfy a drink minimum. If any of this sounds familiar, congrats, you’ve been to a “bringer” show!

A bringer show is exactly as it sounds: each performer must bring a certain amount of paying guests to the venue in order to get stage time. It makes sense — comics yearn to tell their jokes in front of an audience who actually meant to be there, and the business wants guaranteed ticket and drink sales. Sounds like a win-win, right?

There are some definite upsides about the bringer show composition and outcome. If done in at a legit comedy club, it allows the comic to do a little sidestep of the open-mic scene, if only for a night. Working out your set at a bar downtown in front of (or more accurately, among) patrons loudly ordering their nth happy hour Corona, on top of the other comics looking down at their notebook and scurrying out immediately after giving the microphone back to the host, can get pretty old. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a vital part of coming up in comedy, and you can meet some equally-frustrated yet hopeful comedians who you can keep doing shitty mics with until you find the ones worth the haul. So what makes the bringer show worth it?

I chatted with comedian Tim Sturtevant about the big question of “to bring or not to bring?” He stands by the notion that starting out doing bringer shows may not be the best option for new comics. “Would you invite people to a concert if you’d only been practicing guitar for three months? No, you wouldn’t, because if you did, everyone who came to support you would lie and tell you, ‘wow, you’re so great at guitar already!’ and then you’d confidently suck at it because of the biased feedback you were given by friends and family,” Tim proclaimed. “Seek out strangers, perform for them, make them laugh. Do that consistently until you’ve got a goal. Doing bringers without a goal in mind is pointless. If you’re only goal is to make Aunt Jeanine laugh about that one time you burnt Santa’s oatmeal cookies, don’t do a bringer. If you want to submit to a festival, or need a tape to send to other clubs, a bringer is a great option.”

I can’t argue with that. I have to say, it feels pretty swell to bring people who love and support you to see your show. It feels even better to bask in the afterglow of their compliments. It feels natural to cling to their praise when you’re just starting out. But Tim has a point. Strangers need to think you’re funny, too, not your closest friends who, and I’m quoting him “have seen our dicks during middle school gym class (but like not in a gay way).” Charming stuff, Tim.

OK, so the audience at a bringer show is guilty of consisting of the buddies, coworkers, and family of any given comedian in the line-up. They’re laughter doesn’t always translate. Unlike when you may have actual bookers or scouts in the audience, no one is going to give you a sitcom if you crush. Then again, no one was going to do that regardless.

However, at the end of the day, even if it is full of ex-jocks you traded cups with in high school or whatever, a great crowd is a great crowd. If you can catch them on tape vibing with your material, and you have somewhere you want to send that tape, you’ve gotten yourself a huge asset. That being said, I would not do a bringer show if a tape isn’t part of the deal, especially if you’re not getting any kickback on the ticket sales you generated. The pay-to-play mentality is inevitable in a comedy scene packed to the brim with so many eager jokesters, such as in NYC, but we can only give so much! Yes — most open mics in the city charge the performer five bucks to get up and entertain people.

“Keep in mind that the bringer is a means to an end,” Tim adds. “If someone is promising you paid work based off your performance on a bringer show, be weary.”

Wait, paid work? That sounds dope, though. Why be weary?

“Because producers who run bringers often use those [comedians] without goals to fulfill goals of their own: to fill a venue and collect ticket sales,” Tim explained. “Don’t help them fulfill their goals without fulfilling any of your own.”

That definitely makes sense. A bringer show, with its professional tape, and high-brow club logo in the background, and even higher-energy audience members (shout out to Auntie J!), can be a useful and rewarding outlet for comedy. The key in choosing whether or not to participate is largely around timing. Is there something coming up to which you’d like to submit a tape? Have you gotten around to enough seedy mics and made uninterested strangers do a spit-take with their well gin and tonic? Was it a 4:30pm on a Tuesday when you did that? If any of this sounds familiar, congrats! You’re ready for a bringer show.

Article written by Ellen Harrold

Twitter: @whorsdoeuvres

Instagram: @ellewoodz

 

Featuring Tim Sturtevant

Twitter: @tstrurdcomedy

Instagram: @conwayjest

A Stand Up Show That Stands Out For Comics

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Ahh, the New York comedy scene – where stage time is compensation enough in itself, and a solid tape of your performance is like crack. Here at Stand Up NY, I guess we can consider ourselves enablers.

This past summer, we began opening up our stage here at Stand Up NY to on-the-rise comedians through our New Headliner Series. Lucy’s Laugh Lounge does a similar headliner show at their location in Pleasantville, New York. Similarly at both clubs, these hour-long spots are usually held on Fridays, and give comics a chance to not only deliver their jokes in a longer format, but to a larger-sized, more mainstream audience.

To get an idea of what specifically these up-and-coming comedy killers get out of doing a spot like this, we asked a couple of our past headliners what exactly it was that made the night stand out: the highlights, the lowlights, the differentiators. The deets, juice, dirt – whatever you want to call it – follows below!

Winner of Season 3 of New York’s Got Talent, Elon Altman, owned our stage for the series this past Friday, noting that the experience was “unique in that it takes place at primetime on a Friday night, so you know you’re going to have a lively, weekend crowd.” Altman also reflected that being the sole source of promotion for a show “can be daunting,” but appreciated that SUNY was “frequently promoting the show through their own social media.” No problem, Elon. What are interns for, after all?

For Jay Jurden, awarded best LGBTQ comic in the 2018 Manhattan Comedy Festival, the sweet, sweet hour-long tape was “a huge win.” Jurden understands that “being able to tell producers, agents, managers, and industry people that you have an hour is great, but being able to show them is even better.”

After speaking with some of the fantastic comics who have presented their hour for this series, we could determine that they value an almost family-like support system in creating, shaping, promoting, and carrying out a headliner show. Even more pleasing news is that they found this in the Stand Up NY team. Jay Jurden specifically thanks Sydnee Washington, Mike Lasher, Robb Coles and Jon B for helping him achieve the show he envisioned. He has been building this 50-minute set for 20+ years, very creatively, yet accurately, calling it his “incredibly queer, racially aware, sexually inappropriate baby.” Well said, Jay.

“Stand Up NY is my home club,” proclaims Ashley Morris, who will be our headliner this Friday evening, October 5th. Morris considers the folks here “some of her best friends and family,” and feels “honored” to take the stage. “What is something that feels different about preparing for this show compared to others shows you’ve done?” we inquired with Morris. She replied, “I live three blocks away, so I’ll actually be on time. I’ll have my pants on.”

You can catch Ashley Morris tonight, Oct. 4th, on Murphy Brown on CBS at 9:30PM, to give you a little taste before she headlines at Stand Up NY this Friday, Oct. 5th,  at 7:30pm.

O.K., so it looks like we did not end up touching on any lowlights of the New Headliner Series. But that’s only because none of the comics could think of any. So, yeah, this show is awesome!

 

 

Article written by Ellen Harrold

Instagram: @ellewoodz

Twitter: @whorsdoeuvres

Inquiries: harroldellenj@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respect The Nerds

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RESPECT THE NERDS

We live in a paradoxical world. Cities are banning plastic straws, but machine guns are A­OK. It’s cool to pop opiates if they’re prescribed, but don’t you dare touch that green stuff, Cynthia Nixon.

The most prevalent and perhaps the most important societal paradox that deserves our utmost attention is the fact that normal, everyday people are—and I shudder to say it—are now calling themselves nerds to seem cool.

I’m not saying all nerds are phonies. I’m just saying that buying a Dark Knight poster and downloading a few comics doesn’t make someone a Batman nerd. Being a nerd is less casual than that.

So what does it actually mean to be a nerd? How can we tell if someone is a nerd if everyone else is claiming they’re nerds as well? To answer these crucial questions as nerd culture bursts into the mainstream, we should look back to see who the real O.G. nerds are.

Patton Oswalt wrote an article for Wired on the deterioration of geek culture. In the article, Oswalt relates the Japanese word otaku—meaning one who has “obsessive, minute interests”—to nerds such as himself.

Oswalt says that traditional geeks have obsessive, minute interests in the things they like. It could be a comic book series, a movie, an underground band, or cats.

However, Oswalt believes that due to the internet, the depth and meaning of otaku—as it relates to nerds—is stripped away. Thanks to the world wide web, all it takes now is a quick Google search to find The Green Lantern’s backstory and *boom* you think you’re a super nerd.

Well it wasn’t that easy for the O.G. nerds back in the day. These are the nerds who had to wait for the next issue of Watchmen to come out instead of downloading it onto their computer. In the time these O.G. nerds spent waiting for the next issue, they went back, re­read, and studied the old issues. They didn’t have the convenience of the internet—they had to work with what they physically had.

Comedian Tom Franck is an O.G. nerd and deserves the same kind of respect Oswalt calls for in his Wired article. Franck grew up in the time of having to wait for the next episode of that super robot show. In fact, he is a renowned collector of Japanese robot toys. Here’s a video of Franck showing—with an obsessive and minutely detailed explanation—his robot collection.

That’s as otaku as otaku gets, ladies and gentlemen.

O.G. nerds deserve respect not only because they’re passionate enough about their interests to explore them in obsessively, but also because they do it against the flow of the mainstream. Not following the mainstream is what made nerds uncool. They rejected the norm and obsessively studied their quirky personal interests.

But now the mainstream is flowing in a nerdy direction. Superhero films are everywhere. Graphic novels are consistently being adapted into television shows. Comic­con has been growing consistently for the past several years. There’s something for everyone out there. People now know the distinction between anime and hentai. Crazy. The point is that nerd interests are now everyone’s interests.

So where are the nerds now? They’re still out there—some are probably just a little harder to find. Your Average Joe might be able to name every Avenger, but a true O.G. might be familiar with every comic backstory to every Avenger hero ever written from every issue.

This can be applied to people of different interests as well. It’s nice that Average Joe might know the names of dog breeds, but can he look at a mutt and tell what breeds are mixed in?

So next time you call yourself a nerd, think about how passionate the O.G’s are about their interests. Think about how much time goes into learning about your interest. Think about how common your interest is.

I am not a nerd. Maybe one day I will find something I can go otaku­crazy for—but currently, I cannot make claim to nerd culture—as it is not my own. I understand that there’s no shame in that. But most importantly, there’s no shame in being an O.G. nerd.

On Thursday, October 4 (right after the first day of Comic­con!) Stand Up NY will host Tom Franck’s comedy series “Comics and Comics”—which features O.G. comic nerds. Franck, the creator of “Comics and Comics”, is a seasoned comedian with appearances on Comedy Central and SyFy. Reserve your FREE tickets here!]

Written by Will Flaherty

Twitter: WillFlah3rty

Instagram: WillFlah3rty

A Musing: Meet Your New Blog Contributor Who Talks About His Feelings

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A Musing: Meet Your New Blog Contributor Who Talks About His Feelings

I work at a fancy country club in addition to my internship at Stand Up NY. On the first day, my boss took me to a garage where I was told to clean golf carts.

“You know, we usually hire, like, 16 year olds to do your job,” he said. “I’m used to telling these kids over and over again how to do everything. You seem to be picking it up pretty well, though.”

I was flabbergasted. This man was genuinely trying to compliment my work ethic by telling me I’m better than high schoolers. It made me feel like the smartest kid on the short bus.

What do I even say to that besides, “yeah, no shit?” I settled with giving him the same kind of “thanks” you give to someone that hands you a flyer on the street.

But what my boss said also made me think: Is this really where I want to be?

I just moved to New York after living in my parents’ apartment as a post-grad with a creative writing degree. During that time with my parents, I slowly rotted from the inside out as I tried and failed to get entry-level jobs at hip startup companies in Boston. These are the kind of places with ping-pong tables and free beer in the break room to help you forget about that client who told you to go fuck yourself.

I realized that if my job involves being glued to a phone attempting to upsell clients all day, I’d hate my life. So I moved to New York. And now I clean golf carts.

But I also stumbled upon this opportunity to intern at Stand Up NY. For the first time, I get to see what it’s like to work for a company that promotes something deeply important to me: creativity.

In college, the only thing I was truly passionate about was my own writing. I enjoyed sitting down to craft poems, stories, and essays. I did it as much as I could, because I knew that once I graduate, I’d have a real job doing real work for a real company. I never had faith that I’d find something I enjoy doing.

But here I am, writing on a blog that maybe 12 people skim. I may be on the very bottom rung of the ladder for now, but it’s a start. So yes, I really am where I want to be and I’m willing to do worse things than clean golf carts to make sure I am here for a while.

In the golf cart garage, my boss told me he was leaving me alone for a minute. He said to clean a couple golf carts while he was gone. He left me for an hour. When he came back, I had every golf cart cleaned.

“Wow. You definitely aren’t a 16 year old,” he said.

Yeah, no shit. What else do you need me to do?

Article written by Will Flaherty

Twitter: WillFlah3rty

Instagram: WillFlah3rty

C.K. Calling, Who Will Pick Up?

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At the myriad of notorious comedy clubs scattered across New York City, it is part of the game for big-name comics to drop in unannounced for a set. Before they can grace the stage, however, it is under the discretion of those running the club that night–be it a booker, manager, owner, whoever ranks highest–whether their stage is one that needs any gracing. With Louis C.K. evidently back on the scene, and executing that surprise-visit technique flawlessly, the protocols for this drop-in method become, well, a bit more blurred, and a lot more dependent on who is making the decision.

When looking at C.K.’s talk-of-the-town rebirth at the Comedy Cellar the other week, he was reportedly welcomed back with open arms, as shown by the club owners who were comfortable with having him and the crowd who gave him a standing ovation. The Twitter world’s uproar was largely to the opposite effect. The consensus is that his “time to listen” has not nearly been long enough nor filled with any sort of restitution. The fact of the matter is that just like each audience–from comedy club patrons in the flesh to Tweeters to fans in general–is comprised of differing opinions, so is the workforce of a comedy club. If and when C.K. strolls in to do a set at our club, his request to perform will receive a different answer depending on the night.

So what is the role of a booker or owner in this situation? The stage is a vessel, a platform for art, opinion, thought, trial and error. Is it the club’s duty to bring even a controversial comic on stage for the sake of keeping the flow of said vessel? How does that reflect on the club as a whole, from reputation to revenue?

In a post on her take on the situation, one of our bookers concluded that though she is not a “judge, jury, cop, or ‘comedy’ police” she definitely reserves the right to say ‘no’ if Louie were to walk in and ask to jump on stage. “I wouldn’t make a scene, I wouldn’t call attention to it. I would simply say, ‘I’m afraid it’s not possible,’” she wrote. However, if it were, say, a Tuesday instead of Thursday, with a different set of staff on deck and a different person at the top to say yay or nay, our audience would be hearing some new, hot-off-the-presses C.K. material that night.

There are a couple takes on this that can be outlined immediately to support a yes or no answer to a drop-in by Louis C.K. Both want to ensure that “vessel” concept of the stage. For one, we want to foster a creative, kick-ass space for comics to spit their stuff, perfect it, play with it, and give an audience a night out to remember that they know they can relive any night of the week just by coming in. We want to provide enjoyment, excitement, entertainment. That partially means creating a safe space for that creativity to flow, for that enjoyment to be had unapologetically. One could say C.K. definitely compromised and may continue to compromise the safety of a working environment. Who are we to let him in to jeopardize it again? On the other hand, some say that #MeToo offenders, namely Louis C.K., should be able to “serve their time and move on”. A considerable number of folks are hankering to see Louis back in the comedy game, and who are we to deny audiences that if he is ready to give them a show?

So where does that leave the audience, the unsuspecting patrons of the club on any given evening? Many on Twitter say, if you are a champion of #MeToo-related causes, that it is your obligation to get up and leave if you were to be a member of an audience like the one at the Cellar who received C.K. the other week. I can’t help but wonder, though, if that expectation is a little far-fetched. Imagine, you’re at one of the most acclaimed comedy clubs in the city–maybe the world–and the once-adored now-social-pariah from whom no one has seen or heard in the comedy realm for months appears before your very eyes. Everyone around you gets on their feet. What is he going to say? You’re going to be one of the people who takes in the jokes of his very first comeback set. But, you know he did some really shitty things and put a number of women in what you can only imagine were really shitty situations, sometimes even in the workplace environment. What has he done in his time served to repent for the wrong he’s done to these women? How long has it even been anyway? Oh well, everyone around seems fine with it, and I may miss out on something if I leave.

Anyone getting deja-vu here? Louis put the Cellar audience that night in the same position as those women in the room over the years. The option is there to refuse, to say no, to “just leave”. But there is more to the equation than that. You feel like you ought to stay. Here he is, back from his sentence, whether you find it way too short or too long or just right, wielding that same power. If you were in the audience, what would you do when Louie stepped under the lights?

More importantly to the theme of this particular blog, would you feel like it is the club’s responsibility to not put you in that situation in the first place?

Louis being back on stage and the way he chose to go about it no doubt raises ample amounts of contrasting emotions and opinions. The decision-making is no longer just reserved for ownership. As a patron, as a booker, as an owner, as a general fan with a voice, what are you going to do when Louis C.K. inevitably calls? Trick question: he probably won’t call to let you know he’s on his way. He’ll just drop in.

Article written by Ellen Harrold

Instagram: @ellewoodz

Twitter: @whorsdoeuvres

Comedy & Charity

ByonwithComments Off on Comedy & Charity

Let talk about support, baby! Now that you are full grown we can have a more intimate conversation about it… New York City is a great big place, but like all great places we have our ups and downs, issues, and causes to handle. Thankfully NYC is also a comedy hub filled with amazing comediennes and comedians with all shapes and sizes of heart! Many organizations have put two and two together to create scores of outstanding charities and organizations to help bring comedy to those in need as well as fulfill needs through comedy. To mention just a few…

Comic Relief USA – “We are built on the foundation that the power of entertainment can drive positive change and help people who need it most, in America and around the world.”

Founded in the UK in dedication to Any Kaufman, comedy writer and producer Bob Zmuda worked with HBO Executive Chris Albrecht to found the US version in 1986. Focused on raising funds to help those in need, specifically America’s homeless, Comic Relief USA has historically put on televised fundraising events hosted by comedians Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg. Entertainers performed various segments including stand up comedy, sketch comedy, speeches, live music, and impressions with the goal of entertaining and enlightening. Check out their upcoming events here.

Red Nose Day – “Red Nose Day brings people together to have fun, raise money and change the lives of kids who need our help the most.”   

A fundraising campaign off-shoot of Comic Relief, Inc., Red Nose Day was launched in 2015 to help end child poverty. The symbol of the Red Nose was adopted to remind us of the power of laughter; it is a simple yet powerful, visible and playful, symbol meant to break down barriers. Kicking off on May 24th, 2018 you better run out to purchase a Red Nose at a local Walgreens (Duane Reade for New Yorkers) so you can go “Nose to Nose” to raise awareness and funds to help children in need. Plus, tune into NBC for their special night of programming to celebrate Red Nose Day 2018!

Comedy Cures – “provides joy-filled, therapeutic entertainment to kids and grown-ups living with illness, depression, trauma, and disabilities.”

Founded by Saranne Rothberg in 1999 after being diagnosed with early stage IV Cancer, Comedy Cures grew from Saranne’s first “Chemo Comedy Party.” Truly putting the meaning behind “laughter is the best medicine,” Comedy Cures hosts a multitude of events through a therapeutic comedy program for people living with chronic and or acute illness, depression, trauma and disabilities plus their caregivers and family members. Comedy Cures brings comedians into venues or events to perform stand up comedy or entertain their guests and bring laughter back into their lives. Try them out yourself! Call into their LaughLine (1-800-HA-HA-HA-HA / 1-800-424-2424) to listen to a joke or laughter! If you are a comedian or aspiring to be one call in and press 3 to leave your joke or just leave your laughter for others to enjoy later!

Night of Too Many Stars – “Giving children and adults with autism the chance they deserve to learn, to contribute and to live the fullest lives possible.”

This televised program and event brings together entertainers from across the spectrum to raise funds to give children and adults with autism the chance they deserve to learn, contribute, and live the fullest lives possible. Hosted by HBO and NEXT for Autism (Historically New York Collaborates for Autism) this program has raised more than $30 million since 2006 to fund autism programs focused on creating and supporting exceptional education, clinical, and vocational programs geared towards affecting fundamental shifts in current approaches to autism services.

Donate The Door with Stand Up NY!

Did you know Stand Up NY loves to support all charities and organizations through our new program affectionately called “Donate the Door”? This program allows us to partner up with causes to raise donations for great organizations. We host stand up comedy showcases every night of the week, so what better way to give back than to provide what we do best!? To help forward each organization’s brand and mission we engage across social media platforms advertising the showcase. Stand Up NY loves having this amazing way to bring a lighthearted appeal to donations for amazing charities. The way this works? A majority of total ticket sales from the evening’s show goes to the organization represented that evening.

Check out a few of our upcoming Donate the Door opportunities:

The New York Women’s Foundation creates an equitable and just future for women and families by uniting a cross-cultural alliance that ignites action and invests in bold, community-led solutions across the city.”

“Leading the fight to treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy while also empowering people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support.”

The Lymphoma Research Foundation’s mission is to eradicate lymphoma and serve those touched by this disease.”

Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organization that takes decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger. We save the lives of malnourished children. We ensure families can access clean water, food, training, and health care. We enable entire communities to be free from hunger.”

Why not enjoy yourself while giving back? Join Stand Up NY for Comedy supporting great causes! Check our website and calendar to plan your next night to donate! All Donations are included in the regular ticket price.  For future shows please purchase tickets here or make a reservation today. If you want your own opportunity to make your way into the stand up comedy world, join us for our Open Mics every weekday, Monday – Friday at 5PM. Think you’ve already got a great set going? Then check out our Bring It show every Saturday at 6PM with more info on how to sign up here. Join us on Twitter or Instagram!