Notes From a Comedy Junkie: Kicking Off 2018 With a Visit to GaS Digital Studio, Getting the Best of The Stand, Brunch at The Cellar & Making Friends Along the Way

Sara Dahms is a comedy superfan who even goes so far as to call herself a comedy nerd. Raised on National Lampoon, John Hughes, Gene Wilder, and Fairy Tale Theatre, her life changed after her older sister showed her Eddie Murphy’s Raw in 1988. Soon after, she found Andrew Dice Clay and became a stand-up junkie for life. Eighteen months ago, she took her first comedycation to see Jeff Ross play in Miami on her birthday.  Since then, she’s been traveling all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere, a confirmed comedy addict, and now she’s agreed to share her travels with us. This is her column. In this edition, Sara heads back to New York City to see Dave Chappelle in Residence at Radio City Music Hall.

Read Notes From a Comedy Junkie Volumes 1-9 here, and read more about her travels in Chicago, St. Louis, Austin, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Montreal, Washington D.C. and New York City.

I took my first comedycation of 2018 to New York, caught a ton of live comedy and had enough adventure to make some “must see” recommendations for the new year!

Podcast Network You Need to Subscribe to in 2018: GaS Digital

I flew in on a Wednesday because I wanted to be in town for the live LEGION OF SKANKS podcast recording that usually goes down at The Creek and the Cave in LIC. This particular episode was not recorded at The Creek but at GaS Digital Studio instead. GaS Digital is a podcast network that is owned by Luis J. Gomez and Ralph Sutton. They’ve recently purchased and will soon be moving into a new studio which features a pretty sweet outdoor space that I can already imagine being put to excellent use during the summer. As if the new studio wasn’t exciting enough, they also announced the addition of three new podcasts to their already impressive lineup. Starting this month subscribers can also enjoy THE LISA ANN EXPERIENCE by Lisa Ann, NO DISRESPECT with Chris Distefano & Mike Vecchione, and Yannis Pappas presents THE RIGOROUS PODCAST WITH MAURICA RODRIGUEZ & STAY GREEK BABY WITH MR. PANOS.

I arrived to GaS Digital and was greeted by the talented photographer/LOS intern Becky Rodriguez. Dave Smith was already there so I took a seat and said hello. I respect Dave’s point of view on things, comedy and otherwise, so it is always a pleasure getting a chance to chat with him. Big Jay Oakerson, Luis J. Gomez, Michael Che and Dan Soder arrived shortly after. It was awesome catching up and talking comedy with all of the guys and their team. When they were ready to go live we moved into the recording studio and I got to sit back and watch the magic happen. Being a fly on the wall while these five, comedic geniuses riffed off of one another, coming up with joke after joke right there on the spot was was pretty freaking remarkable. Whether it was Soder imitating Luis drinking a cup of coffee on the train by singing “la la la” in full Luis voice, Michael Che making a callback to a funny video Luis showed us before LOS started recording that completely killed the room (right around the 10 minute mark), Luis reaching for a word to use as punchline to a joke and then throwing out the word “hatrack,”or listening to everybody make fun of him for doing that, I thoroughly enjoyed watching their wits at work. It’s sometimes possible to catch glimpses of it during a standup set, but the best place to witness the comedic mind at work is through the conversational comedy of a podcast and with 20+ hours of live content every week, GaS Digital has something for everyone!

The view from my seat at GaS Digital Studio while Michael Che, Dan Soder, Luis J. Gomez, Dave Smith and Big Jay Oakerson record Legion of Skanks

Make Seeing More Live Comedy Your New Year Resolution: Comedy Brings People Together

Some of my favorite parts of comedy and going to shows are getting to see all of the awesome people I’ve met over the past few years, meeting other like minded comedy nerds and sometimes even making a new friend in the process.

The second night of this comedycation to NYC was the perfect example of this very notion. I was at my hotel bar having a glass of wine while I worked on finalizing my plans for the evening. I texted a friend of mine, who also happened be in town at the time. Her name is Esther Ku and she’s a comedian. We went to high school together and she used to crack me up every morning in our home room class. It turned out that her flight had been canceled and she was just a few blocks away from my hotel doing some shopping. I invited her to come over so she could chill for a bit and figure out her travel arrangements. It was great getting to hang out and catch up. I live in Chicago and she’s usually either in L.A. or Miami, so we don’t get a chance to do that very often. Thank you, comedy and thank you, New York!

Getting snowed in with one of my favorite people, Esther Ku.

After she left, I ordered my Uber and headed out for my night of fun hangs and big laughs. I decided to catch my first standup, comedy show of 2018 at The Stand. I love this place so much because there are no gimmicks, just straight up amazing lineups, seven days a week. They also have a very impressive restaurant/bar upstairs that is a REALLY fun hang before and after shows and if that’s not reason enough to love them, The Stand is one of the only comedy clubs I’ve been to that doesn’t have a “two drink minimum” policy. I had a drink and chit chatted a bit with Derek Gaines at the bar before heading downstairs for the show.

I was SO happy to be back! Aaron Berg, Mike Vecchione and everyone in the show were hilarious! I’ve been to The Stand many times before, but this was the first time I had the chance to see Mark Normand perform there and he completely nailed his set. He was hilarious!!! I’m a big fan of the podcast he and Joe List host called, TUESDAYS WITH STORIES and he is just as funny on stage as he is on the pod. I will definitely be buying a ticket for his show the next time he headlines a room in Chicago. Netflix better hurry up and get this guy a deal! This production was so good, I decided to return to The Stand for dinner and another show a few days later.

After the show at The Stand, I hopped into my Uber and headed to my second show of the evening at The Comedy Cellar. I got there pretty early so I decided to order an appetizer and cappuccino at The Olive Tree Cafe. My Ahi Tuna “Nachos” and cappuccino were delicious! Derek Gaines was there as well. He took a seat at my table, ordered a steak and had dinner. We talked about comedy and our love of it. He could not seem to wrap his mind around how a “civilian” like myself, who has “never been on stage,” could love it so much. He wasn’t saying these things in a mean way, it’s just that I guess as a comic, he couldn’t understand loving something so much but not actually doing it myself. I’ve always loved comedy. It’s been a love in my life ever since I was a kid. It’s an art, a type of intelligence and a form of entertainment that resonates with me… I feel drawn to comedy like a magnet. I’d love to find my place in it, but I don’t think I’m a comedian. What more can I say? When I’m around comedy, I always get the sense that I’m home.

My server was super nice and he checked me in with The Comedy Cellar doorman as soon as they started the check-in process. He brought me my seating ticket and it said “1-114.” I was really excited because I thought it meant that I was the first person who checked in. I figured that meant I would be in the front row. I was wrong. I was one of the first people to be seated, but seat 1-114 was a seat way in the back corner. They sat another single female at my table as well (I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was one of the luckiest moments of the entire trip). I got up and asked the hostess if she could please move me to a better seat. They answered that all of the open tables were for parties of two or more. I told them there was another party of one at my table and they could seat us as a double. She said that she would see what she could do and a few minutes later one of the hosts came and moved us to a table closer to the stage. Yay!!!! The other solo, comedy fan at my table was named Maca and was a really cool chick from Argentina. My dad was from Brazil so we instantly bonded over being South American. We talked about our love of New York. I told her that I always stay at the same hotel every time I visit and she said she does the same thing… It turned out that we were both staying at the same hotel! How cool is that?! Did we just become best friends?! LOL!

We had a great time and I have to say it was an amazing show. It was hosted by one of my faves, Wil Sylvince and had an extremely talented lineup. Sam Morril was one of the funniest comedians of the night. He recently recorded an hour special for Comedy Central and is already killing with the new material he’s written since then. Now that’s talent! Chris Gethard was another standout. I’ve seen his show, THE CHRIS GETHARD SHOW on TruTV but had never seen him perform live before. He was slightly self deprecating, super likable and really funny.

After the show Maca and I headed to The Fat Black Pussycat to keep this awesome night going. Derek Gaines and Michael Che were there as well. Michael Che was hilarious the night before on LEGION OF SKANKS podcast. We hung out, had drinks and they played a game of pool. Maca and I had SO much fun! We left the bar, walked to McDonalds and took an Uber back to our hotel. When we got to the hotel we ate our McDonalds in the lobby then said good night. What an awesome adventure!

We came, we saw comedy, we ate McDonalds

Whether they be comedians, writers, club owners, bookers, producers or fans of the craft, meeting people who appreciate comedy is definitely one of the best parts of going to shows and if you are really lucky, the comedy gods will smile upon you and you just might make a new friend in the process.

The Best of The Stand, 2018 Edition:

I had so much fun at The Stand on my second night in town, I decided to return for dinner and a show a few days later. I love the fact that they have two of my favorite indulgences on their menu; Lobster Mac N Cheese and Delirium Tremens beer. This lobster mac is so good, I recommend going to The Stand for dinner even if you’re not going to see a show (but you should definitely see a show)!

My super yummy Lobster Mac N Cheese!!!

After dinner, the party moved downstairs. The night was hosted by Matteo Lane. This was my first time seeing him live and he was amazing. He was quick, funny, had great energy and best of all, the ability to connect with the audience. Loved him! This was another home run show for The Stand. One after another each of the comics came up and killed.

Bonnie McFarlane was one of my favorite comedians of the night. She was the creator/director of the documentary titled, WOMEN AREN’T FUNNY and if there is anyone out there who still thinks that women aren’t funny, all you have to do is watch Bonnie McFarlane perform her set and you will see that she is just as funny as any male comic in the scene. I was a huge fan of her edgy, hard hitting, yet relatable material. She is obviously an extremely talented writer, which didn’t come as a huge surprise to me since she recently wrote an impressive comedic memoir titled, You’re Better Than Me.

Ron Bennington was another stand out. Ron hosts THE BENNINGTON SHOW on SiriusXM along with his daughter Gail and has recently added a new gig to his already impressive list of credits. Starting January, 2018, he will be the host of a new series on SiriusXM’s Raw Dog channel called HEADLINERS. Bennington is the perfect example of a comedian who is just as funny with the off-the-cuff, conversational, comedy he does everyday on his radio show as he is at writing material to perform on stage that will slay the crowd. Not to mention his ability to conduct an interview that is second to none. I’m a huge fan of Ron’s and I look forward to seeing much more of him in the new year.

Pete Lee had an appearance on THE TONIGHT SHOW to prepare for so Matteo brought him out so he could run his set for all of us. This was such a cool thing to see and boy was he ready! He had an absolutely killer set and to top it off, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone be so darn likable and completely hilarious at the same time. I’m usually drawn to darker senses of humor like Attell, Stanhope or Oakerson, but funny is funny and to quote Barry Katz, Pete Lee was “undeniable.” With his combination of universal likability, good looks and “undeniable” talent the sky is the limit for him and I hope to see big things for Pete Lee in 2018.

Pete Lee running his set for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

If you enjoy great service, delicious food and hilarious comedy all within a cool, friendly atmosphere then you should definitely come check out The Stand for yourself!

2018’s Can’t Miss Meal of the Day: Comedy + Brunch= Bliss at The Comedy Cellar

Brunch has always been my favorite meal of the day and comedy has always been my favorite form of entertainment. I booked a later flight home on Sunday specifically just so I could experience the pairing of two of my favorite things at The Comedy Cellar for brunch.

I checked in with the door man as a party of 1 and yet again I was seated in seat 1/114. Since I was the first person being seated, I asked the hostess if there was any place else she could put me, but she let me know that they only had two seats in the house reserved for parties of one and both of them were in separate, back corners of the room. Luckily for me a young lady came over to a server who was standing next to my table and asked if her party of three could be moved to a table that was open in the front row. He explained that it was a table for four so he couldn’t move them. I offered to join their party to make four and solve everyone’s problem. Boom! Done! THANK GOODNESS!!! Comedy really does bring people together. The party of three I was joining were a father and his two daughters. They were a pleasure to sit with and having them at my table made the show even more enjoyable. I ordered the SALMON BENEDICT: Two Poached Eggs, Cold Smoked Salmon, English Muffin, Hollandaise & Breakfast Potatoes and kept the mimosas flowing!!! Everything was delicious and the comedians were as funny as the food was good. Very!!! I had a great time and I have to say, the show was amazing!

The view from my new and improved seat at Sunday Brunch

It was hosted by the super hilarious, Wil Sylvince and featured an extremely talented lineup. Wil Sylvince is so damn funny! He has completely mastered the art of crowd work. I remember seeing Wil do his thing on Big Jay Oakerson’s crowd work show, WHAT’S YOUR F@%KING DEAL?! and being completely impressed by his performance. He was the perfect host for this perfect show.

Another comedian I thought was really funny and am looking forward to seeing more from in 2018 was Lynne Koplitz. This was my first time seeing Lynne perform live but I’ve been a fan of hers forever. I remember seeing her on CHANGE OF HEART and thinking she was like a really funny Cindy Crawford. I was very happy that I was finally getting the chance to see her perform standup. I’m also a huge fan of Joan Rivers and I loved their chemistry on the show JOAN AND MELISSA: JOAN KNOWS BEST. Together they were a perfect comedy duo and strangely enough Joan was the straight man and Lynne played the funny man in their double act. Their shenanigans always worked and the episodes she was on are definitely the funniest ones in the series. Lynne’s set at brunch was hilarious. I loved her tell it like it is, give zero fucks take on things. She is my kind of people. Make sure to check out her comedy special, HORMONAL BEAST on Netflix.

Matteo Lane was another comedian on the Sunday brunch lineup. I have seen him as a guest on the LEGION OF SKANKS PODCAST and had seen him host the show I was at the night before at The Stand and thought he was super funny, so I was really looking forward to seeing him perform his actual set. He was excellent! He had a ton of hilarious material as a host the night before but didn’t repeat any of it in his act. He has that certain “it” factor that made me feel that he is destined to be a star. Someone needs to give this man a special and why not make 2018 his year?!

NYC is one of my favorite comedy destinations and this trip was no exception. Comedy brings people together and no “bomb cyclone” or below zero temperatures were going to keep the “city that never sleeps” from a good time!

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Sara Dahms

Sarah Dahms is a comedy superfan hails from Chicago and travels all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere.
Sara Dahms
Sara Dahms
Sarah Dahms is a comedy superfan hails from Chicago and travels all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere.