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For those of you not working dream jobs as pollsters for The Onion, a good laugh is something you may be craving by quitting time. Overhearing next-cubicle-guy's rehashing of last night's Everybody Loves Raymondepisode, complete with character voices, certainly isn't doing the trick, and even if you do crack up at the revealing doctor's appointments he schedules, laughing out loud probably isn't the best way to maintain a positive work environment. Comedy clubs can serve as an adequate pick-me-up, but the moola you have to shell out is laughable in a whole other (more depressing) sense. Luckily, a few downtown bars and lounges are providing jokes other than their drink prices.

If the laughs take a backseat to the libations for you, NIGHTINGALE BAR(213 Second Avenue, 212-473-9398) won't disappoint on Thursdays, when comedy begins at 7 p.m. during happy hour (5 to 8 p.m.). Heckled Girl (yours truly) and her Heckled Date enjoyed a by-the-books cosmo and a Red Stripe lager for the bargain price of $7, but paid for it dearly—proximity to the stage and a sparse crowd made them easy targets. The word "crowd" isn't even appropriate: As the night wore on (and on and on), it turned out that most of the audience members in the trendy lounge were in the show. A couple of the seemingly amateur performers were legitimately funny, though the emcees should have left the jokes to the comics. The atmosphere livened a little toward the end (which was barely in sight after two hours), with the occasional drinker stopping by, but by then, even some of the show's own had hightailed it out of there.

In search of a cure for a bad case of the Mondays, Heckled Girl headed to CHETTY RED (28 East 23rd Street, 212-254-6727) for its weekly cover-free comedy show. The significantly older and more corporate clientele was already semi-sloshed by the time the comics came on at 8:30—probably due to the two-for-one drink special from 5 to 8 p.m.—but most of them stayed for the shenanigans, creating a lively, mixed crowd. The lounge's red mood lighting is true to its name, and the friendly bartenders served up $6 Heinekens with a smile while encouraging patrons to lower their voices during the acts. The lineup consisted of professional comics from networks like NBC and Comedy Central, who touched on a range of inevitably funny topics, including Iraq, baby pictures, cripples, and low self-esteem, and Heckled Girl and her posse left their cushy chairs with stomachaches from the deadly combo of laughter and beer.

Bingo!: At B3, the more you drink the funnier they are.
photo: Cary Conover
Bingo!: At B3, the more you drink the funnier they are.

For those seeking to drown their sorrows by poking fun at the misfortunes of others, there's always open-mic night. But beware: "Do Whatcha Like" Tuesdays at B3 (33 Avenue B, 212-614-9755) won't give you the chance to mock and snicker. Almost all of these amateurs are funny, especially the host, Roman, the most crowd-pleasing emcee Heckled Girl encountered in her travels. B3's cozy basement lounge, with its tucked-away bar serving $4 Bud bottles, fills with an enthusiastic crowd on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when comedienne Becky Donohue hosts a professional stand-up show. But B3's best feature is its one-stop-shopping status: You can stop by upstairs for happy-hour drink specials from 5 to 7 p.m., enjoy a phenomenal two-course prix fixe meal with wine for $9.99 (!) until 7:30 p.m., and then head downstairs to the lounge for some laid-back good times. Tips from Heckled Girl for remaining heckle-free around the city? Toss back a couple more drinks—at least then, heckling back will seem like a good idea.

 
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