Enjoying the New York Comedy Festival: The Definitive Guide

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We cover the country, but New York’s our home, so it’s an exciting week when the New York Comedy Festival comes around.  It’s unlike any other festival in the country. It’s gigantic, but it’s also decidedly unfestival-like because it’s spread out through the entire city without a central focal point. Any week of the year there is a massive festival-worthy list of great comedy happening in New York City so by the time you add in a few extra headlining events, what you really have is a gigantic list of impossible choices and tough decisions. What you should do this year during the festival really depends on your comedy personality. Are you a New Yorker looking to see things you don’t normally get to see in New York City? Are you an out of towner looking to experience real New York comedy? Or are you a casual comedy fan and just want to check out the best of the best of the best. Whatever your preferences, this guide will help. Scroll to the bottom for  a night by night guide to the best comedy in New York City.

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Headliners Headliners and More Headliners

Let’s get this one out of the way first because quite frankly, it’s not our top choice of what to do at the NYCF. Whether you’re a New Yorker, or visiting from far away places, you probably get some pretty good headliners coming through your home town, or at least within driving distance. So sooner or later, you’ll have a chance to hear most of these comics come through town. The list of one man shows and club and theater headliners is gigantic. Margaret Cho, Gabriel Iglesias, Norm Macdonald, Hasan Minhaj, Ian Edwards, Trevor Noah, Bill Maher, Nikki Glazer, and so much more. You can catch the full list at newyorkcomedyfestival.com.

Top Picks, Headliners: If we had to pick five headliners to spend your time and money on at this year’s festival, we’re picking the Chris Gethard on Monday at Union Hall, the incomparable Bridget Everett at The Gramercy Theater on Wednesday, Tom Segura headlining at NYU Skirball Center on Friday night, Bill Burr at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, and Craig Robinson Nasty Delicious on Sunday at Brooklyn Bowl.

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Top Five Shows New York Comedy Regulars Need to See

You’re a regular at The Stand, everyone at New York Comedy Club knows your name and your phone number is on the bathroom wall at The Creek and the Cave. You want the chance to see some things you can’t see every day in New York, and you’ve got the headliners covered. But you rarely get to travel out of the NY area for comedy and you’d like to see what everyone is shouting about. What should you see? Our top five picks will give you a taste of Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and even Cleveland.

Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch at Caroline’s on Broadway, Tuesday November 10th at 8pm. You don’t have decide who are the best comedians to see, Comedy Central has done it for you.  This show features some of the best up and coming stand up comedians from around the country.  Kenny DeForest, Jo Firestone. David Gborie, Charles Gould, Sam Jay, Josh Johnson, Jacqueline Novak, Adam Lustick, Billy Prinsell, Ramon Rivas, Randy Syphax, and Jacob Williams performing.

Seven Minutes in Purgatory Tuesday November 10th at 10pm at Littlefield. You know the comics but you’ve never seen the series. Seven Minutes in Purgatory comes from the mad science mind of Los Angeles by way of Chicago comedian Ian Abramson. It’s weird, its experimental, and it’s been a big hit across the country.  The comics can’t hear or see the audience and have to perform their material without the benefit of applause, laughs or reactions.  The audience of course, can see and hear everything.  In most cases, hilarity ensues.  Ian Abramson, Nick Vatterott, Aparna Nancherla, Dave Hill, Seaton Smith, Joel Kim Booster, Wham City, Matteo Lane, Liza Treyger, and Dan Deacon perform.

Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch at UCB Chelsea Wednesday November 11th at 8pm. Sketch fans will enjoy checking out Comedy Central’s very first annual Comics to Watch Sketch Showcase. For those who don’t know their way around sketch, this is a great place to get familiar with some of the performers who could be tomorrows stars of the big and small screen. BOAT and Pop Roulette, along with performances by Joanna Bradley, David Brown,Christine Bullen, Brett Davis, Carl Foreman Jr., Frank Garcia-Hejl, Brandon Scott Jones and Gary Richardson.

The Grawlix at The Bell House, Friday November 13th at 10pm. Three of the funniest voices coming out of Denver Colorado, the Grawlix has been one of the hottest stand up shows in Denver for awhile now.  Adam Cayton Holland, Andrew Orvedahl and Ben Roy perform.  Get to know these guys now before their amazing tv series, Those Who Can’t, premieres in 2016. Read more about these guys in our review of Those Who Can’t.

The Goddamn Comedy Jam at The Gramercy Theater, Friday November 13th at 10:30pm. Comedy and music collide at the GDCJ. Comedians do sets of material, before rocking out with a live band, karaoke style. But before you roll your eyes, this isn’t half assed karaoke. It’s rehearsed and the comics involved take it seriously and have the time of their lives.  This is your chance to see Hannibal Buress, Bill Burr, Matteo Lane, Big Jay Oakerson and Iliza Shlesinger live out an alternate life fantasy of being rock stars at the Gramercy Theater.  Already sold out.  Rumor has it a few more tickets will be released Monday.

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Top Five Shows Out of Towners Need to See

If you’re coming into town for the festival, you want to see New York at its best and there are some amazing shows to check out. We’re picking small– the smaller the better. See New York’s finest working comics in the best New York Clubs. And don’t forget to go off-book. There are plenty of venues not considered part of the official comedy festival schedule that you wouldn’t want to miss if you’re in town for comedy, like New York Comedy Club, Stand Up New York, and the infamous New York Comedy Cellar. Go ahead, retrace the Louie opening while humming the theme song.  Everyone does.

New York’s Funniest.  Sunday at 4pm on Carolines on Broadway. Every year Caroline’s on Broadway hosts one of the best showcases of people you’ve never heard of.  This Sunday afternoon show packs out, and you’ll get to see some of the best New York has to offer, in one of the city’s most iconic clubs.

Picture This.  Wednesday November 11th at 8:30pm at Littlefield. Granted this is originally a Los Angeles show, but producer Sam Varela set up shop in New York and the show is growing fast.  Comedians perform while comedy’s best illustrators create masterpieces based on what they’re hearing on stage, live. You get to watch the process and it’s a really fun time.  There’s an amazing line up planned including Michelle Buteau, Chris Gethard, Ilana Glazer, Matteo Lane, Aparna Nancherla, Sean Patton, and Brooke Van Poppelen.

A Week at the Creek: Bonnie McFarlane. A visit to the Creek and the Cave is a must for any hard core comedy fan.  Proprieter Rebecca Trent has been called the angel of New York comedy and her contributions to the art of comedy are endless. One of her creations, a Week at the Creek gives performers a chance to get up on stage every night for an hour, for an entire week, to work on material. Comedian and filmmaker Bonnie McFarlane will be at the Creek Wednesday through Saturday night as part of the festival.

Stand Up on The Spot Head over to the Stand Comedy Club on Tuesday November 10th at 8pm. Big Jay Oakerson, Aaron Berg, Jessica Kirson, Casey Balsham, Ari Shaffir and Robby Slowik perform in one of the best showcases in town. These are some of New York’s best.

Comedy Juice Gotham Comedy Club, Tuesday November 10th at 9:30pm. Straight across town on the same night, there’s another very New York night of comedy taking place.  Crowds pack out Gotham Comedy Club every Tuesday night for Comedy Juice.  You won’t have time for both CJ and SuOtS unless you jump around professionally, but you also can’t go wrong choosing either. Comedy Juice hasn’t listed their roster for the night yet, but any given Tuesday you are guaranteed a killer lineup at this Gotham Comedy Club New York mainstay.

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Night by Night Guide to What to Do and See at the 2015 NYCF


  • Comedy Central Comics to Watch. 8pm. Comedy Central picks some of the best up and coming stand up comedians in the country. At Caroline’s on Broadway.
  • Stand Up on the Spot. 8pm at The Stand.  Big Jay Oakerson, Aaron Berg, Jessica Kirson, Casey Balsham, Ari Shaffir and Robby Slowik perform in one of the best showcases in town. These are some of New York’s best.
  • Chris Gethard Career Suicide. 8pm We love Chris Gethard. One of the most original young comics performing today.
  • 7 Minutes in Purgatory. 1opm. You can hear and see them, but they can’t hear and see you. At Littlefield.
  • An Evening with Sam Morril & Beth Stelling. 10pm Two of our favorite rising comedy stars on one stage at the Village Underground.



  • Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast with Artie Lange. 7:00pm at Carolines on Broadway
  • Kliph Nesteroff: Robert Smigel a Discussion in Celebration of the Comedians; Drunks Thieves Soundrels and the History of American Comedy. 8:00pm The title says it all.  At Union Hall.
  • Trump vs Bernie Sanders Debate.  8:00pm At The Bell House starring the amazing talents of Anthony Atamanuik & James Adomian
  • Front Room at the Knitting Room.  9:00pm. See the next wave of comedy greats, for free, in one of New York’s New Yorkiest venues.


  • Bridget Everett Featuring Mark Normand 7:30pm at the Gramercy Theater. This is quite possibly the event of the festival. You’ve never seen anything like it.  
  • The Mash Up Comedy Show  8:00pm at The Stand with Luis J. Gomez and Adrienne Iapalucci

BONUS PICK: Go Off Festival and see Our Own Jeffrey Gurian, one of comedy’s biggest supporters, Headlining at 10:00pm at Broadway Comedy Club!!! 


  • Comedy Central Live in Brooklyn. 8:00pm at the Kings Theater. Featuring Hannibal Buress with Performances by Nathan Fielder, Big Jay Oakerson, Oh, Hello with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, Jeff Ross, Roy Wood, Jr.
  • Hindsight Hosted by Dan Perlman. 8:00pm. Hosted by Dan Perlman & Billy Prinsell, Top stand-ups tell funny, true stories, then face interjections and follow-up questions from the mic’d up hosts and audience. Part-stand-up, part-storytelling, part-interview, Hindsight is interactive and unpredictable.
  • The Grawlix. 10:00pm at The Bell House. Denver’s best. See them before they become too famous to get on stage for you.
  • Goddamn Comedy Jam. 10:30pm at The Gramercy Theater.  Just go, if for no other reason than to see what the hell it’s all about, if you can score a ticket. Description above.


  • Sitdown with the Tonight Show Writers 2pm at the Times Center. Join the Tonight Show writers for a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making the show a success night after night. Featuring Johnathan Adler, Patrick Borelli, Gerard Bradford, Mike DiCenzo, Mike Drucker Jess Dweck, Dicky Eagan, Caroline Eppright, John Haskell, Josh Lieb, Arthur Meyer, AD Miles, Chase Mitchell, Dan Opsal, Gavin Purcell, Albertina Rizzo, and Jon Rineman.
  • Judd Apatow and Friends.  7:00pm Carnegie Hall. Last year Apatow created An Evening with Judd Apatow and Friends, a comedy show at Largo at The Coronet in Los Angeles which benefits various charities
  • Bill Burr: Does Anybody Remember Laugher. 8:00pm at Madison Square Garden.
  • Kate Berlant and John Early. 8:30pm at The Bell House. Two great talents, one great venue.


  • Larry Wilmore presenting The Parallax View at the Wayne Lederman International Film Festival.3:00pm at the Film Forum.  Comedians present movies they love.  This is Larry’s.
  • New York’s Funniest Finals. 4:00pm at Carolines on Broadway.
  • This is Not Happening with Ari Shaffir featuring Jim Florentine, Pete Davidson and more at The Bell House 8pm.  Ari Shaffir’s comedy friends tell stories.  As seen on Comedy Central, this is your chance to see it live. 

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