It’s been more than two weeks since the New York Comedy Fest started, over a week since it ended, and we finally recovered enough to put together our list of the greatest moments of the festival. We didn’t make it out to a lot of headliner shows. When there’s a giant festival with dozens of shows every night, committing to spending most of any given night at a theater show isn’t necessarily the best use of your time. It’s also really expensive, and buying individual tickets to big New York theaters is a bit prohibitive for most comedy-goers. But that’s not so bad, because we think the best way to experience a big city festival is to go to the club shows, the bar shows, the showcase shows and the concept shows, and we hit up plenty. We scattered around Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens to check out some of our favorite people performing comedy and picked our favorite moments to share.
The Comedy Central party is always considered the biggest comedy party in New York. There is no bigger gathering of comedians, and industry folk anywhere in the Big Apple, except maybe for Aaron Berg’s wedding. This year’s party was once again held at STK, right off Bryant Park. It’s a big chi-chi event in a beautiful, retro modern room, where the people you normally run into on the sidewalks outside of various clubs all come together to hang out, drink excessively from the open bar and eat fabulous passed hors d’oeuvres like Burrata Cups, Sirloin Crostini and braised short rib sliders.
This year, it was a warm beautiful night and half the party spilled out onto the sidewalk, thanks to another open bar outside, where all the smokers sat. It was early in the night when we arrived, and still pretty early when we left, but we did manage to spot plenty of our favorite comedy friends. We saw Ron Bennington and Rich Vos holding court in one section of the room, while other comics and industry mingled in the back where the annual photo booth is always a draw, and someone was giving away free board games. If you wanted to keep an eye on the talent, all you had to do was park yourself in front of one of the several open bars in the room, or better yet, wait in front of the short rib sliders table, where everyone made at least one trip sooner or later. We spotted Jeffrey Ross getting a lot of attention from the crowd, the Goddamn Comedy Jam mingling with New York locals like Aaron Berg. Roy Wood Jr. was walking the room looking like a star, we saw Monroe Martin, Joe DeRosa and so much young talent like Dan Perlman, Anthony DeVito, Greg Stone, Evan Williams, Matt Pavich, Adrienne Iapalucci, Tim Dillon and Jared Freid, plus plenty of publicists, Comedy Central executives, managers and agents. The party was a blast. Unfortunately, it looks like someone got the camera drunk because all our pictures are freaky, scary, blurry versions of the partygoers. We decided to post them anyway.
Our Comedy Festival experience appropriately enough kicked off with our own event, Comedy 101 at The Village Underground. Our show gives young open mic comics to have their balls busted, vigorously and very publicly, by New York’s best and most brutal comics. There were multiple highlights including a surprise set from Nate Bargatze who showed up to run his Tonight Show set, and an open mic comic who got the crowd to start chanting “Give Me That Cum”. But the real highlights came from the hosts, Ron and Gail Bennington and the panel of mentors, Shuli Egar, Robert Kelly, Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane who just brutalized the young comics with a barrage of insults…I mean advice…about their budding comedy careers.
The GDCJ never disappoints. They had a shorter line up than usual and three of the songs were out of our wheelhouse, but who the fuck cares, seeing our favorite comics sing their hearts out is a goddman blast every time. And Josh Adam Meyers and his band go for it every time- heart and soul. Matteo Lane ker-rushhhhed his stand up set before bringing the crowd to a frenzy with a Celine Dion song that I didn’t really know, Jay Pharoah did a double performing Justin Bieber and then joining Hasan Minhaj on stage in character as Jay-Z, but move over everyone else because Big Jay Oakerson nailed Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell and was undoubtably the highlight of the night. We had so much fun that we’re not even going to bring up the names of the performers who shamefully had to use lyric sheets for the full cast finale of Sweet Child O’ Mine. Shhhhh.
Things got crazy again at the Village Underground for Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane’s Would You Bang Him?. Up against the 7th Game of the World Series, they still drew a crowd to watch Tammy Pescatelli, Lynne Koplitz, Gail Bennington and Kerryn Feehan explain in excruciating and sometimes graphic detail whether they would bang the male comedians who performed that night. You would think the most outrageous moment of the night would be when Aaron Berg stripped down to his briefs and tried to lap dance the judges, but the ladies were far more outrageous. Kurt Metzger showing off his sensitive side and trying to explain to Gail Bennington why she shouldn’t worry about the thigh gap wins for the most surreal moment.
Bridget Everett live is always a knock you on your ass and drag every ounce of energy out of you kind of show. Yes, she picked up an audience member and played her like a guitar and yes, that was an excellent moment. The music is great, she smashes her tits in people’s faces, bringing fear and tension to the equation. But having seen Bridget in Joe’s Pub, in Austin at Moontower, on Inside Amy Schumer, and now at Town Hall, the greatest moment of the night was when Bridget got a little bit serious, and little bit emotional talking about how incredible it was to be at Town Hall- the largest venue she’s performed at so far. Niagara Falls, Frankie Angel. We’re so proud!
First of all, the love New York has for Dave Hill is just gigantic. He had two big events in the festival and we caught both. During his Dave Hill & Friends show, his take on Guitar Center ads had the room just at a pitch. For the “friends” part of the night, we gotta point to Jacqueline Novak who was so deadpan and hilarious. She basically just picked a topic and just kept going so deep down the rabbit hole that it became funny and existential at the same time.
Hill was also behind Fancy Meeting You Here, a wandering comedy show/art tour that takes place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As both comedy fans, and museum fans, we had the greatest time with Hill and co-host Carl Arnheiter who turn both comedy and art on their asses in this unique show. It’s a ‘scene’ as much as anything else where half the fun is laughing out loud and applauding mid-museum, intriguing and drawing glares from regular museum visitors. Jon Glaser, Jo Firestone, Brandon Scott Jones, were terrific taking over the tour from time to time, and Carl presents the last “exhibit” of the tour flawlessly, and hysterically. But nothing beat Dave Hill’s presentation in the Armor Room. It’s a scream. Hill of course, is known for being one of the most stylish comedians in the country and he did not disappoint, dressed in a tailored camouflage jacket, blue and red two-toned oxford shoes, and what appeared to be a sheep and lamb sweater over a collared shirt and tie. Bravo Dave Hill.
Big Jay Oakerson taped 10 shows over five nights for his Seeso Show, Whats Your Fucking Deal?. Only one of the nights was part of the actual comedy festival, so that’s the one we’re focusing on which is fine because it was absolutely unforgettable. Not only was it a night full of incredible comedy by Big Jay Oakerson, Andy Kindler, Bert Kreischer, Ronny Chien, Chris Distefano and more, but if you dig outrageous moments, you won’t find anything more cringingly hilarious than Tony Clifton taking the stage with a three piece band back up (who looked suspiciously like the Goddamn Comedy Jam band). Clifton comes up in pink brocade tux circa Vegas 1974, lights a cigarette, flicks the lit cigarette into the crowd and starts right in with the N word before covering every offensive outrageous topic you can think of. The audience ranged from blank faced to outright furious with one couple walking out fuming and mumbling something about “a blog” and “proof” despite being told that they couldn’t leave during the taping. It was absolutely Kaufman-esque. It will air on Seeso next year, but mark this down as a ‘had to be there’ moment.
Comics to Watch and New York’s Funniest are two of the most consistently funny shows at the Festival each year and both focus on the best of the best up and coming comics. Comics to Watch was a packed house with New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers alike and a really fun show. If you’re looking to find out who are the stand-outs of the stand outs, keep Sonia Denis on your comedy radar. Her manic energy and take on black millennial-hood captivated the room. Carolines is the place to be on Saturday afternoon every year during the NYCF and this year was no exception, and this year the talent was exceptional. Tim Dillon ran away with the title, but all the comics were amazing and Jared Freid and Anthony DeVito were really tight competition for Dillon. This is one of those rare cases where we can say everyone was exceptional and really mean it.
Getting to listen to Pamela Adlon, Larry Wilmore, Mike Reiss, Phil Rosenthal and Alan Zweibel talk comedy at the storied Friars Club was tremendous. Every moment was electric, but maybe the favorite moment of the night came from Pamela Adlon saying she got fired from a sitcom ‘Down On the Shore’ because of a “tits problem.”
Seeing Big Jay Oakerson and Ron Bennington take the stage for Luis J Gomez and Adrienne Iapalucci’s Mash Up Show at The Stand is always a highlight. The only thing that could have made it better is if we all could have teleported to Philly after for hoagies and cheesesteaks.
Last, but absolutely not least was Petey’s World, at The Creek and the Cave. This show is not a show, it’s a party, and Petey DeAbreu is a perfect host for a party on stage. There were street dancers that Petey met on the subway and invited to perform, free Nutcrackers thrown out to the crowd which is great if you’re the kind of person comfortable with drinking copious amounts of alcohol combined with a mystery neon colored sugar drink out of an unlabeled bottle, Petey’s mom, video desk pieces, and killer comedy from Petey and his friends- John Laster, Anthony DeVito, Noah Gardenswartz and Jeffrey Joseph. Check this show out when you can. It’s more fun than a hula hoop at a porn convention.