The New York Comedy Festival takes over town this week, and by all means salute your Bill Burrs, your Larry Davids and your Stephen Colberts. But they get enough ink. Cheap Laughs ignores the main event and digs through the undercard, bringing you the best and boldest of alt, indie and up-and-coming comedy talent on garish display throughout the festival.
Wednesday, November 6
UCB Chelsea, 9.30 p.m. $15.
Portland native and Bridgetown comedy Festival co-founder Matt Braunger is the kind of hotshot L.A. comic you only get to see when there’s a big ol’ festival in town … like right now! He’s what happens when folksy everyman charm meets absurd premises and laser accurate punchlines. Plus he kind of looks like a badger. Sold yet?
Thursday, November 7
The Set List
The Comedy Cellar @ Village Underground, 8 p.m. $15.
A “set list” is a bunch of words, usually scrawled on a cocktail napkin, that comics use to remind them of which jokes to tell. The premise of this show? You pick up the wrong list, and each comedian on stage has to improvise material from scratch, based on the handful of random words in front of them. It’s high-risk, high-reward standup comedy without a net. Tonight features a bonanza bill too: Jonah Ray, Big Jay Oakerson, Nick Swardson, Jim Norton, Eliza Skinner and Sean Patton. Heavyweights all.
Friday, November 8th
The Creek and The Cave, 8 p.m. Free.
The Wildcats (J-Dawg, Sweet Baby J and Scooter) are a standup comedian street gang that takes over comedy shows and makes them better. Don’t question this premise, just go with it and you’ll have a hilarious time. This month, Matt Wayne, Rojo Perez and Andy Sandford stop by to have their acts ruined by three idiots dressed like they auditioned for (but didn’t get) roles in the video for Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” And after the show, stay in your seats for…
Talk Show: The Game Show, hosted by Guy Branum
The Creek and The Cave, 10 p.m. $10.
Ex-Chelsea Lately star Guy Branum does what no one ever dared do before: fuse two of America’s least respected television genres. Three minor celebrities vie to prove which is the best talk show guest by telling amusing stories, plugging projects, and charming the pants of a panel of comedian-judges.
Saturday, November 9th
Oh Hi, Mark: Greg Sestero and the Comic Genius of “The Room”
Union Hall, 8 p.m. $15.
If you haven’t seen The Room, prepare to enter the greatest movie comedy cult of this or any era. Brainchild of potato-faced oddity Tommy Wiseau, it’s been described as the most purposely terrible film in celluloid history. And, therefore, it’s hilarious. Guest of honor Greg Sestero plays Mark in the film, and his fascinating memoir The Disaster Artist reveals the true insanity of the set that produced this art brut comic masterpiece. Come by to ask your fan questions (no matter how odd), enjoy a never-before seen documentary, and watch stand-up comedians eviscerate the movie that tore them apart, Lisa.
The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail
The Bell House, 7.30 p.m. $20.
Here’s a little Los Angeles ray of sunshine to light up our otherwise dull, hide-bound, privileged East Coast lives. The hippest comedy room in L.A. is found at the back of a comic book store called Meltdown, and they bring their show to New York for one night only. Enjoy the west coast ramblings of Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani, along with some secret (but sure to be huge) guests.
Sunday, November 10th
Improvised Shakespeare Company
Theatre 80 St. Marks, 7 p.m. and 9.30 p.m. $32.50.
Haven’t seen it? You just have to. This week. Go. Get a babysitter. Sell the kids. Do whatever it takes to see these ridiculously talented performers before you die. They WILL improvise a Shakespeare play in front of your astonished face and you WILL become very boring for a month as you tell everyone they “simply must go.”
Tom Cowell is a comedian. Follow him on Twitter @mrtomcowell. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with all listing suggestions.