No matter where a stand up comic starts out, working in New York City is always the goal. It’s the center of the comedy universe. Where the best of the best perform on legendary stages.
Toronto’s comedy community is like a miniature version of New York’s. It’s located in a multicultural city that offers the most stage time in the country. Toronto is the place where Canada’s finest comics gather to work on their craft and hustle for the limited opportunities in Canadian comedy. As a result of the narrow work prospects, comedians who have the talent, desire and $5k-$10k for a U.S. work visa usually head south for greater opportunities.
It’s no secret that breaking into the New York comedy scene is a daunting and challenging task, especially when you’re coming from a foreign country. One venue that has shown support for their northern peers is New York Comedy Club. Since being purchased and revitalized by Emilio Savone and Scott Linder in the summer of 2014, New York Comedy Club has become one of the more respected spots in the city. The club usually features local pros and some rising talent however, it’s also become a place that’s embraced Toronto’s comedy community.
“I really think Toronto’s one of the top five best cities in the world when it comes to talent and scene,” says Savone. “Canadian comics are very similar to New York comics in that they get through lots of jokes and are able to connect with the audience. But they also have their one style and flare to them.”
“When Scott and I took over we made it a point to extend ourselves to comics from other cities. We feel it gives our club a more diverse and balanced set of lineups that appeals to all audiences, and Toronto comics, in particular, are a group we’ve always paid special attention to.”
For Toronto comedians living in New York, there’s a sense of community and welcoming that can make the transition to the big city a little less intimidating.
“New York Comedy Club is just such a positive, fun place to be even when you’re not performing,” explains Alex Pavone. Pavone moved from Toronto to New York in 2015. “New York has some great clubs and fantastic shows, but New York Comedy Club feels more like a family than anything. From the bartenders to the security to the booker Amy, they’re are all supportive and friendly. You just feel comfortable there.”
That sense of community is something Savone and Linder have made a mandate since taking over the once fledgling club, “I think what makes New York Comedy Club a special place is that everyone is all in,” Savone tells Interrobang. “Everyone believes in the same mission, from our great staff to the comics who’ve supported this evolution of the club since we took over. It really is a place where everyone is aligned with each other. The vibe from the second you walk in is safe, welcoming, edgy, raw, and oozes everything that is comedy. I think that synergy has allowed us the confidence to take chances.”
One of those chances includes working with comedians coming from the north before they’ve established any of the U.S. credits that most clubs look for. “The Toronto comics we work a lot are Aaron Berg, Alex Pavone, and Nathan Macintosh. They’re all very high energy with a lot of jokes within a set. I think Toronto comics have a very strong and outgoing persona onstage. There is a fearlessness to the Toronto comic and an energy level that definitely personifies them.”
The relationship between the club and Toronto scene has fostered into an ongoing collaboration between New York Comedy Club and Toronto’s Comedy Records.
Live From New York Comedy Club is an EP series that showcases Toronto comedians performing at the club. The latest installment will feature Hunter Collins who made his New York debut at the club. “The learning curve is so steep when you transplant yourself as a comic into a different country – you’re in such a heightened state of awareness and conscious of every comic decision you make,” says Collins. “It makes the learning outcomes that much richer because you’re getting brand spanking new reads on material you’ve run through the gamut in your country of origin countless times.”
“Working with Comedy Records has given us an inside track on some of the great, young comics coming into New York,” remarks Savone. “They’re great comics to work with. Always professional and very appreciative of the time given. Even some of the comics who’ve moved into the city, have understood the time it takes to get into a rotation. New York is a different beast altogether. You may be a headliner elsewhere but in New York sometimes it doesn’t mean you’re going to get as much work as you want. Every Comedy Records comic we’ve worked with whose moved here buys into the process and understands it. I think that’s because Toronto is a great teaching ground for them and so many have seen the success of their predecessors in New York.”
While the Canadian-like friendliness of the staff has made New York Comedy Club a home away from home for Toronto comics the room itself still provides the authentic New York comedy experience. “When you picture a comedy club in New York, you think of this place,” says Pavone. “Good size, stage and acoustics are great and the layout is awesome. It doesn’t really compare to any clubs I can think of in Canada, it’s got its own look and vibe. Just a classic New York venue.”
“We are the ultimate Clubhouse,” adds Savone. “And I think what makes New York Comedy Club special is that everyone cares a great deal about its success, and we’ve been able to have a real family atmosphere at the club, even if you’re new to us. Also, that room… man there is no better room in the city for comedy. If God were to build a room for comedy, he would have built that room. It’s perfect for comedy for not just the comic, but audience too.”
The bond and respect between the New York and Toronto comedy scenes continues to grow and evolve thanks to places like New York Comedy Club.
Comedy fans looking to experience the international love can check out upcoming show listings at NewYorkComedyClub.com
Hunter Collins – Live From New York Comedy Club is available through Comedy Records July 7.