Left-Field Picks at This Year’s New York Comedy Festival


It’s a special edition of Cheap Laughs this week. The New York Comedy Festival has taken over town, rolling through our five boroughs (well, three) with the unstoppable force of a dangerously packed clown-car. Some of the talent on display are megastars already. We will not recommend buying a ticket for Bill Cosby, Marc Maron, or Maria Bamford. Because if you need a stranger’s recommendation to do those things, you need to pay closer attention. We’re highlighting some left-field comedy choices that are worth your time amid a crowded slate. Let’s get into it.

Wednesday, November 5th

Kyle Kinane
Union Hall, 8.30 p.m. $18.

Kyle Kinane is famous for three reasons. Reason one: courageous booze intake, and a voice to match. We can’t confirm, but his vocal cords sound like they’re soaked in Woodford Reserve overnight. Reason two: Kyle is the official announcer of Comedy Central. Watch any promo or special event on the channel, and the gravelly tones of Kinane’s magical hobo voice will greet your ears. Reason three: He’s one of the best stand-up comedians working today. His two albums, Death of the Party and Whiskey Icarus, are ridiculously good. If you’re a little bit punk-rock, a little bit lost, or both, Kyle Kinane will be up there among your favorite comics.

Friends of the People
UCB Chelsea, 9.30 p.m. $10.

Is the entertainment industry turning away from reality television? Dear God, we hope so. And Friends of the People may turn out be the canary in that whole sick, dirty Kardashian coalmine. It’s a new TV sketch show featuring a brigade of New York’s black comedy talent, with some very funny white folks sprinkled in too. The most surprising part of the story? They are on TruTV, which is mixing up its “all reality, all the time” schedule and taking a bet on scripted shows. Head down to UCB tonight for a special live show with the cast. If you can’t make it, check out their entire first episode on YouTube.

Thursday, November 6th

This Is Not Happening
Comedy Cellar at the Village Underground, 8 p.m. $20.

Is this the funniest storytelling show in the world? Yes. Since 2010, Ari Shaffir has been grooming comedians and sculpting lineups to ensure audiences get the wildest, truest tales of performer depravity every time This Is Not Happening takes the stage. After two proven batches of Web series, the show will debut on-air on Comedy Central next year. Tonight’s bill is a good blend of the salacious, the sad, the dynamic and the disgusting. Honest pervert Jim Norton joins powerhouse diva Bridget Everett, nerd king Mike Lawrence, and dirty road dog Mark Normand.

How Many Questions LIVE
Union Hall, 10 p.m. $10.

Ever asked yourself: “How many questions can two drunk chicks ask in two minutes?” Well, here’s your answer. Based on the YouTube-produced Web series shot over the course of 24 hours at the Montreal comedy festival, Sabrina Jalees and Liza Treyger host this sloppy live show. We’re particularly looking forward to the interview with Brooklyn drag queen impresario Hamm Samwich. Things will be said that cannot be taken back.

What’s Your Effing Deal?
Comedy Cellar at the Village Underground, 10 p.m. $15.

Big Jay Oakerson‘s anarchic crowd-work show returns to the Village Underground tonight. It’s the only show at the festival that is exclusively for you and about you, the ticket-holder. No material. No prepared jokes. The comics have to summon a show into existence using only the questionable fashion choices and foolish answers of the audience. Crowd work is having a moment in the comedy sun. Todd Barry‘s recent crowd-work-only special, released on Louis C.K.’s website, is making a new generation of stand-up fans appreciate the dark art of working a room. Few are better at it than Big Jay and his guests.

Friday, November 7th

Creek Cave Live
The Creek and the Cave, 10 p.m. $10 with free Tecates.

A $10 ticket buys you a bunch of ice-cold Tecates and a hot show in an intimate venue. Creek Cave Live is the touring arm of this alt-comedy venue, and tonight features some of their hand-picked performers. The headliner is MTV star and old-school Bushwick banger Chris Distefano, alongside Seth Meyers writer Michelle Wolf. Kabin host Scotland Green and Creek baroness Peggy O’Leary also appear.

Sean O’Connor
UCB Chelsea, 10.30 p.m. $15.

Sean O’Connor is just funny. The L.A.-based performer has done Conan and the Comedy Central Half Hour and all that stuff. If you’re one of those “slightly awkward but very well-educated young white guys in a hoodie” comedians, you probably watch O’Connor and want to give up. Because he just nails it. Great jokes, great tags, great building bits. So if you like “slightly awkward but very well-educated young white guys in a hoodie” comedians, go see Sean. He’s one of the best at that.

Saturday, November 8th

Eric Andre
The Gramercy Theatre, 7 p.m. $19.

The Eric Andre Show is on Adult Swim. Each episode is a piece of performance art and an exercise in barely contained chaos that you may think is unwatchable…or the height of genius. If Marcel Duchamp had his own TV show, it would look like Eric Andre’s. Every cherished trope of the late-night talk show is deconstructed and mocked. Each episode he destroys his own set…during the opening. Another perfectly formed set then appears behind him as he recovers from the ultraviolence. And his street pieces (like the one above) are legendarily dumb and brilliant. Tonight, you can see Andre do stand-up, but it’s never a “normal” show. The last time he did stand-up on TV, he left his set halfway through to help his fake wife deliver a baby on the street, except she gave birth to a sandwich.

Kurt Metzger
Stand Up NY, 11:15 p.m. $15.

Kurt Metzger released White Precious this year, and it’s a hell of a comedy album. It’s dark and angry and silly in all the right places, and few people pull off the angry-crank routine better than him. In fact, you should follow Kurt Metzger on Facebook. There he fights a daily rhetorical war. He’s a self-appointed one-man army, taking on feminist blog networks, New Left psychobabble, and politically correct dullards of all descriptions.

Sunday, November 9th

Rachel Feinstein
SubCulture, 9.30 p.m. $15.

Rachel Feinstein is the daughter of a civil rights lawyer and a blues musician. So it makes sense she’s full of righteous indignation one minute, and low-down filthy the next. New York is full of quippy, dirty male comedians who own the stage with a combination of bestial energy and tight jokes. Feinstein does exactly the same thing, but with a relaxed ladylike breeze blowing through it. She’s really something.

Ha! The Musical!
Stage 72 @ The Triad, 9.30 p.m. $25.

This musical interpretation of the life of stand-up comedians had a great reception when it premiered in New York a few months back. Now the cast and producers are workshopping it again for the festival, and the fact that all the performers are actual, honest-to-god working comics (rather than Broadway actors pretending to be) lends the whole production an authenticity that hasn’t been seen in musical theater before. It would be very cool if this show transferred to real-life actual Broadway. And even cooler if you went and saw it before anybody else.

Tom Cowell is a comedian.