NYC Comedy Scene for Newbs

By Rachel Chou

PSA: Despite the countless grumpy, passive-aggressive commuters giving you laser eyes when you brush past them on the subway in the early mornings, there are funny people in New York City. You just have to know where to find them. And since I need to laugh and feel emotions every once in a while, I scoped out the city’s finest spots for comic relief. Wherever you go, you’ll be a guinea pig for up-and-coming comics most of the time, so you may laugh or you may witness a train wreck, but you’ll be sure to have a memorable night.

Improv/Sketch Comedy

The most popular improv theaters are Magnet, UCB, and the PIT. All three theaters offer classes and put on weekly shows including improv, musical improv, and sketch. Ticket prices are relatively low, ranging from free to $10.

Magnet Theater

254 W. 29th Street, Chelsea

Magnet Theater

Magnet Theater is best known for the close-knit, friendly community its classes provide (plus their cheap beer). Note: If you are on the claustrophobic side, this small, intimate theater might not be for you. Just a handful of talented people and a few chairs, moving their limbs and moving their mouths, will entrance you. The people, not the chairs. Unless you chugged a few too many beers.

Upright Citizens Brigade

East Village: 153 E. 3rd street
Chelsea: 307 W. 26th street

Upright Citizens Brigade

UCB has launched the careers of comedy mega-stars who have gone on to appear on SNL, Parks and Rec, The Office, and more. Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, Ellie Kemper, Ed Helms, Donald Glover, and Aziz Ansari are just a few of the heavy-hitters who’ve graced the UCB stage. Among its founders? None other than Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation fame. One tip: Get there 15 to 20 minutes early if you haven’t made reservations online, otherwise you may not get in. If you like sitting in a theater full of grownups and that one dad who brings his small children to a relatively PG-13 kind of show, get ready to cringe at the kids’ expressions when things inevitably get “adult.”

The People’s Improv Theater

123 E. 24th Street, Flatiron District

People's Improv Theater

The PIT has free shows on Wednesdays. As in, completely FREE. No better reason to go. The shows that I’ve seen here have had me laughing until my stomach hurt and I wanted to throw up. Unless you have high blood pressure or easily hurt yourself laughing, the PIT is a must-see.

Standup Comedy

There are almost too many comedy clubs in NYC to count, but here are two famous joints to get you started.

Carolines on Broadway

1626 Broadway (at 50th Street), Theater District
Fee: Tickets (prices vary) + 2 drink minimum

Carolines on Broadway

Carolines is a New York comedy staple, not to mention one of the most established comedy institutions in the country. The country! And obviously, the U.S.A. is the funniest country in the world, so that makes this one the most established and funny comedy institutions in the world. Just kidding, the U.S.A. is not the funniest country in the world, as exemplified by my sad attempt at a joke. The food here holds its own but the comics are even better—you can get tickets to see comedic all-stars like Jay Pharoah, Tracy Morgan, and Dave Chappelle.

The Comedy Cellar

Comedy Cellar

117 MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village
Cover fee: $20 + 2 drink/menu item minimum

The venue may be a  hole in the wall, but the Comedy Cellar often has pretty solid line-ups. Big names are known to drop by for the weekend late shows, including Louis C.K., Seinfeld, Aziz Ansari, and Dave Chappelle. It’s a great place to bring a date if you really want to get to know their sense of humor. Maybe not a first date, though, lest your cackling scare them off.