Ian Schlager’s downtown Public Hotel on Chrystie Street is crawling With comedy all week, serving as the hub for TBS’s presence at the New York Comedy Festival this week.
The hip hotel is so new you could swear you smell fresh paint when you walk through the funky spaces, and this week, the hotel has vowed to be the center of comedy for New York City. TBS and the New York Comedy Festival have taken over three performance spaces at the hotel, including a sub-terranean (ok basement, but its a really nice basement) Public Art space they’re dubbing the Main Stage, and two other spaces 17 floors up- the lounge and the hub. What’s amazing is tickets are free to the events at the super chic space, and apparently, for some of the events so are cocktails, and there’s some really tremendous programming.
Last night the Public Hotel hosted Robert Kelly’s YKWD podcast, a conversation between Samantha Bee and SNL Alum Ana Gasteyer, a comedy showcase with some of NYC’s best emerging comedians and a stand up show featuring the writers of Conan. I made it down for the last event of the night- The Writers of Conan Live, where the writers get their chance to performing stand up comedy. The event was held at the TBS Main Stage, which you get to through a separate entrance just to the right of the Hotel’s main entrance. A walk through a row of bushes will take you through security to some stairs that open down to a pretty spiffy space, free cocktails, beer and wine, and plenty of seating. There in lies the problem. The event was less than half sold out with an audience that didn’t seem to be a stand up comedy audience- which is crazy considering how much comedy fans love Conan. The crowd was very young and hip, and if I had to guess, predominantly worked in the business. There were a few strong laughers but not nearly what the show deserved.
Because the show was really great. Conan favorite Joe List hosted wearing a brand new shirt he bragged about- perfect for the fancy digs, and brought up Conan writers Levi Macdougal, Eric Wielo, Bryan Kylie and NYC stand up regular Laurie Kilmartin. Each had dramatically different styles and all of them were really funny. Free show, great space, free cocktails, great comedians. There was nothing about this event that shouldn’t draw. So what happened?
I’ll chalk this one up to the bad weather- last night was the cold, it was rainy, and it was the first time New Yorkers have seen that combination in a very long time- so its possible that even comedy fans just wanted to shutter themselves in. Of course its tough to do stand up outside of a club environment- comedy fans like clubs, and there’s a reason every club sticks pretty closely to the formula of brick wall, low ceilings, tight space. But there might be another reason. The TBS Comedy Hub is somewhat sequestered from the Festival’s main promotional space. Some of the events also appear on the Festival’s main site, but not all of them and the link that reminds you to check out the TBS hub kind of looks like an ad, and is easily overlooked. It’s almost as if the TBS fest is a separate festival from the NYCF if you judge just looking at websites.
The New York Comedy Festival’s website itself is not exactly easy to navigate this year, either. There doesn’t seem to be any way to search the site, either by performer or by show name, and you can’t even jump to a specific date to see the shows for that night- you are forced to scroll page by page to get to see what’s going on for a specific night.
Later this week TBS is presenting the Writers of Conan Live again, at the upstairs venue (Thursday at 9pm). This is a great show, and should be a full house, even with all the dozens of comedy events going on simultaneously. Plus you get the chance to run around a trendy hotel without having security look at you like you’re not supposed to be there. Tickets are free, head over to TBS’s NYCF website to reserve free tickets.