Best Standup Comedy in New York City
If you take a walk through Times Square, you’re likely to be approached by one of those in-your-face guys (and a few gals) asking you, “Do you like to laugh?” Well, who doesn’t? But watch out! These guys/gals are going to offer you “free” tickets to a famous name comedy club. But what they don’t tell you is there is a 2-drink minimum, per person. And what if you don’t drink alcohol? Even if you order seltzer water the price tag on that starts at $10. You will end up paying for that comedy show in spades as well as dropping on an average $75 for a two people and a lot more for a group.
I want to tell you about some alternative comedy venues where the tickets are $5, $10, $15 (maximum) or -for real- free! The quality is just as good as at the “famous” venues, and, just like all comedy shows, there’s some hit and miss moments, but almost always an overall good time filled with lots of laughs. And on any particular night there’s a potential surprise bonus lurking of big deal comedians making an appearance to try out new material in these underground’ish venues! You might witness the best show you’ve even seen, or you might have just an okay time. But in either case, you will not not bust the bank. Plus, you will have an authentic New York experience.
Here are some of my favorite venues:
The Magnet Theater
254 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001
The Magnet Theater, founded in 2005 by Del Close, Armando Diaz, Ed Herbstman, Shannon Manning and Alex Marino, is an improv comedy theatre and school. The Magnet has shows seven nights a week and prices range from free to $7 for special single shows to $10 for an entire evening of performance. Its school has spawned talent working on Broad City, 30 Rock, The Colbert Report, The Onion, and more. The Magnet is located at 254 West 29th Street 8th Avenue in Manhattan.
The Comic Strip Live
1568 Second Ave New York, New York 10028
The Comic Strip Live first opened its doors in 1975, making it the longest-running showcase comedy club in New York and the world. Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, and others started their careers there, and they still return from time to time to do new sets. They are open seven days a week and work to develop the most talented up-and-coming comedians through regular open mics, new talent showcases, and stand-up comedy classes.
Gotham Comedy Club
208 West 23rd St., New York, NY 10011
The Gotham Comedy Club, located next to the legendary Chelsea Hotel in a 1929 building, is known for its architecture and comfortable atmosphere, as well as its fantastic lineups. As you walk through the red carpeted halls, you’ll feel transported back in time to the golden era of live entertainment, as they embrace a 1920s live theatre vibe. It has appeared in numerous television shows and films, including Jerry Seinfeld’s 2002 Miramax film “Comedian” and Larry David’s pilot for “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
The Experiment Comedy Gallery
272 Grand Street, Basement Level, Brooklyn, NY 11211
The Experiment Comedy Gallery, or The Ex as locals affectionately refer it to, was founded in 2013 by Mo Fathelbab, Derek Smith, and Ben Trandem as a comedy collective. They continue to produce the best in live standup, improv and sketch shows in New York City. Located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at 272 Grand Street, Basement Level, The Ex is a cozy venue with a casual vibe. You can often find comedian and local favorite Elsa Waithe behind the makeshift bar serving beer, water and soda along with zingers that have you laughing before the show even starts!
The Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre
555 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036
The Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre, founded by Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, is a staple of the NYC (and LA) improv scene. With shows several times every night, most of which run for only an hour and generally cost $5-$10, the UCB is a bargain on many levels. Many graduates of the UCB Training Center have gone on to write for or appear on Saturday Night Live, Inside Amy Schumer, The Jon Stewart Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and many other comedy shows. Follow UCBNY on Twitter for the most up-to-date performance info. They have two locations to choose from: UCB East is located at 153 E 3rd Street in the East Village and UCB West is at 307 W 26th Street.
The Creek and the Cave
10-93 Jackson Ave, Queens, NY 11101
The Creek and the Cave is a combination restaurant, bar and comedy club in Long Island City. With a broad array of comedy and other performance, the offerings are a mixed bag that is often a very fun surprise. They host regular shows and comedians traveling through NYC often have a chance to perform to a new audience. The Creek and Cave is located at 10-93 Jackson Avenue near the 7, G, E & M trains. Many of the Creek and Cave’s comedy shows are free and the venue provides a free PBR to each attendee for supporting the space! And, if you sit in the front row you get a free shot!
Stand Up NY
236 W 78th St, New York, NY 10024
Stand Up NY debuted in 1986 and has since attracted the talents of top comedians such as Amy Schumer, Artie Lange, and Aziz Ansari. If you become a superfan, there is even a yearly subscription pass called the “Stand Up NY LaughPass” that includes access to unlimited shows, a free drink upon arrival, VIP preference seating, and other perks.
You can buy drinks at all these alt venues, sure, but you won’t be bullied into purchasing overpriced and watered down booze. So if you like to laugh, take a risk and see a free show or even spend a five- or ten-spot to see emerging and established talent doing the best comedy in NYC.