This week in Cheap Laughs, we have television’s finest improvisers, live dubbed sitcoms, Freudian drama, black talent, white talent, and a literal trip to comedy hell. Wear breathable fabrics, because it’s going to be a hot one. Here’s our rundown of the best in independently produced New York comedy this week.
Wednesday, May 14
John and Scott
UCB Chelsea, 9.30 p.m. $5.
They were arguably the two finest character actors in 30 Rock. So it’s no coincidence that Scott Adsit and John Lutz are, arguably the two finest improvisers working in New York today. See for yourself tonight, one of the sporadic occasions when they perform an hour of unfailingly brilliant shit they just made up, guided by the more patient, character-focused method of improvisation favored in Chicago, where they trained. It’s so good, it must be seen to be believed.
Thursday, May 15
Live Dubbed Sitcoms
Videology, 8.30 p.m. $5.
This is an all-new show where notable New York City improvisers live-dub muted episodes of well-known sitcoms to create entirely new story lines on the spot. Anything could happen: Full House could become film noir. Friends might morph into a tense political thriller. According to Jim may become watchable. Host Jo Firestone will ensure that, for once, you have no idea how a sitcom episode is going to end.
Hotter Than Freud’s Mom
People’s Lounge, 8 p.m. Free.
Getting off work in the LES and don’t want to go home yet? This comedy show with the dirtiest name in town isn’t your home, and it’s pretty great to boot. Hosts Paul Oddo and Ray DeVito bring fine stand-ups Rachel Feinstein, Nick Turner and Jeff Simmermon to a room well-lubricated with happy hour drink prices.
Friday, May 16
One and One, 7.30 p.m. Free.
The remarkable rise of Michael Che shows few signs of slowing, as he caps a meteoric three-year arc from Letterman appearance, to SNL writer and now the Daily Show‘s newest correspondent. Catch him here, absolutely for free, alongside new TDS colleague Matt Koff, the brilliant Carmen Lynch, the North-West’s hilarious Owen Straw, and others.
Saturday, May 17
Big Jay Oakerson at The Stand
The Stand, 10 p.m. $15.
Whatever your preferred brand of entertainment, weekends can be a tricky time to get a deal in New York City. Comedy is no exception, as bridges and tunnels flood with suburban audiences bidding up ticket prices and drink minimums in clubs all over town. If you’re broke, it’s annoying. But at least it ensures the city’s biggest comic talents get a decent pay-day. So if you have to pay weekend rates, the best deals often involve The Stand, and the crowd work brilliance of Big Jay Oakerson.
Sunday, May 18
This is an all-singing, all-dancing, all-female comedy show (except for the signing and dancing part). Twelve female New York comics showcase tonight at the Chicks and Giggles anniversary show, one of many platforms springing up around the city that focus solely on the town’s female talent. Ophira Eisenberg and Carolyn Castiglia are particularly recommended, along with author/comic Kambri Crews and the wickedly funny Michelle Buteau.
Monday, May 19
NPR’s Ask Me Another!
The Bell House, Doors 6.30 p.m. / show 7.30 p.m. $15.
Host Ophira Eisenberg (having a busy week) and house musician/nerd king Jonathan Coulton presents a rousing night of brainteasers, comedy, and music, taped live for broadcast on NPR. Their V.I.P. guest is the brutally funny Anthony Jeselnik, possibly one of the most gifted and gruesome joke writers who ever lived. He’ll talk about his brand of dark comedy, his latest stand-up tour, and try his hand at a trivia game made just for him.
Tuesday, May 20
Todd Barry is the belle of the ball right now. He released a successful crowd work-only special on Louis C.K.’s website, appears frequently on Louis’ TV show as his deeply unhelpful and insult-lobbing best friend, and just got the Jerry Seinfeld seal of approval through his web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. See what all the fuss is about for just $5 at The Stand tonight, and get a bonus bill of very talented comics: Kyle Grooms, Janeane Garofalo and Ted Alexandro.
See You In Hell!
UCBeast, 8 p.m. $5.
Doug Smith and Matt Wayne are longtime hosts of perhaps the most beloved, bonkers, chaotic comedy show in New York. Here’s the premise: each week, they put a stand-up comedian through some version of Hell, forcing them to perform while a horrific, demeaning circumstance is imposed upon them. Favorites include Whisky Bear Hell (tell jokes while wearing a bear suit and slamming four shots in eight minutes), Guantanamo Hell (tell jokes blindfolded and strapped to a gurney) and Over The Top Hell (tell jokes while anyone from the crowd challenges you to an arm-wrestle). The show is usually (and shall remain) at the Creek and the Cave, but this is a one-off event as part of Comedy Central’s Corporate Retreat series, showcasing oddball ideas that could one day become actual shows. You won’t regret attending.
Tom Cowell is a comedian. Follow him on Twitter @mrtomcowell. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with all listing suggestions.