The 10th annual New York Comedy Festival kicks off tonight at comedy clubs and performance spaces across the city. Produced by Carolines on Broadway and in association with Comedy Central, the festival runs through Sunday, Nov. 10 and features a jam-packed lineup that includes some of the biggest names in comedy, both new and old. There are stand-ups, improv groups, live podcast tapings, variety shows and plenty of other weird comedy stuff we’ve probably never even heard of.
Some of the notable names topping the bill include stand-ups John Mulaney, Hannibal Burress, Bill Burr, Maria Bamford and Whitney Cummings. There will also be a special evening with Bill Maher, a Town Hall sit down with Larry David and David Steinberg and a behind-the-scenes look at The Colbert Report featuring Colbert himself.
Tickets for the headlining acts can get pretty pricey, though (you can’t get in the house to see Larry David sit in a chair and talk for an hour for less than $80). But there are also plenty of “additional” featured acts that will offer a much more accessible, intimate and, honestly, probably twice as fun night of comedy. Here are 10 to hit up if you’re in town and looking for a laugh.
1. Jenny Slate and Friends
Sunday, Nov. 10 @ 8 p.m. — Littlefield
“Jenny Slate is a human woman who is a comedian.” So says the NYCF website. More specifically, she was an SNL cast member from 2009-2010, is a regular on Comedy Central’s Kroll Show and has a recurring role on Parks and Recreation as Jean-Ralphio’s raunchy sister, Mona-Lisa Saperstein. She’s also the voice and mind behind the acclaimed animated short Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, which is about a shell named Marcel…with shoes on. Though she lives in Los Angeles now, Slate was a long-time Brooklyn resident so she should feel right at home at Littlefield on Sunday. No word on who her “friends” are, but there’s a good chance they’re also human women who are comedians. (Update: Slate’s “friends” will actually be Nick Kroll, Max Silvestri, Greg Johnson. So no on the “human women,” yes on the “comedians.”)
2. Matt Braunger
Wednesday, Nov. 9 @ 9:30 p.m. — UCB Chelsea
Big guy Matt Braunger made his mark on the laugh scene when he was a cast member on the final season of Fox’s MADtv. Braunger is as Chicago as they come and can own a room with tales of strip club etiquette, clown pub-crawls and the worst jobs he has ever had. To catch Braunger and featured comic Randy Liedtke this week, head over to UCB Chelsea on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 9:30 p.m. Although his special, Shovel Fighter, aired in July of 2012, seeing him live will make you wish that the network had also taken a chance on his TV pilot (which would have also starred Kyle Kinane). -Bryan Wallace
3. Moshe Kasher
Sunday, Nov. 10 @ 10:00 p.m. — UCBeast
Moshe Kasher wrote a book called Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16. If that doesn’t pique your interest I don’t know what else to tell you. The 34-year-old, LA-residing comedian has garnered acclaim recently through his book, his Twitter account and his unapologetic stand-up. His name is likely to soon be recognized outside the comedy world, as well. In October he struck a deal with Showtime to create and star in an autobiographical half-hour show for the network.
4. Set List: Stand-Up Without a Net
Thursday, Nov. 7 @ 8:00 p.m. — Comedy Cellar at Village Underground
Getting on a stage in front of an audience that expects you to make them laugh is a scary enough proposition when you have time to prepare material. When you have to riff extemporaneously on topics you’ve never seen before? Like hermaphrodites, or bestiality glory hole etiquette, or freezing strangers’ sperm? ...I guess that’s why they call them professional comedians. Just like you can get a more accurate idea of a rapper’s sensibilities by listening to them freestyle, you can get more acute look into a comedian’s sense of humor when they’re caught off guard and forced to improvise. This is the premise behind Set Lists’ “Stand Up Without a Net,” which has featured comics like Bob Odenkirk, Moshe Kasher and even Robin Williams (a classic). At the NYCF edition, onah Ray, Big Jay Oakerson, Nick Swardson, Jim Norton, Eliza Skinner and Sean Patton will all make appearances.
5. Nick Kroll
Saturday, Nov. 9 @ 4:00 p.m. — Paley Center for Media
The star of his own series, Comedy Central’s Kroll Show, Nick Kroll is coming to the Paley Center for Media on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 4:00 p.m. The comic has been at it for years, having a small bit on Reno 911!, doing stand-up on the brutal interruptive series The Benson Interruption and, of course, starring in FX’s fantasy football comedy The League. Kroll has put his time in before having his biggest year to date with the success and renewal of Kroll Show, which showcases his characters Fabrice Fabrice, Bobby Bottleservice and many more. He was also on the dais for The Roast of James Franco in early September. What else are you doing on a late Saturday afternoon better than checking out Kroll? -Bryan Wallace
6. Christ Gethard and Friends
Thursday, Nov. 7 @ 8:00 p.m. — The Creek and the Cave
The first thing I think of when I think of Chris Gethard is a story he told about how much he regrets turning down a chance to get paid to pretend to be in love with an overweight black woman for a Jerry Springer-type daytime talk show (Gethard is very small and very pale). The second thing I think of is how the UCB improv show he hosted at SXSW this year almost made me cry laughing. But the NYC comic is probably best known for The Chris Gethard Show, a free form, public access-style laugh fest. His show at the NYCF promises to be a “night of comedy, experimentation and fun” that will feature comics such as The Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac.
7. The Sam & Joe Show
Sunday, Nov. 10 @ 9:30 p.m. — Carolines on Broadway
As Carolines on Broadway describes them, the “gruesome twosome” couldn’t possibly miss out on New York’s biggest comedy event of the year. Sam Morrill and Joe Machi, better known as The Sam & Joe Show, will be performing at Carolines on Sunday, Nov. 10 at 9:30 p.m. This week’s show will feature the hipster-hating Dan Soder, a comic who performed on the Season 2 premiere of Comedy Central’s The Half Hour. Also featured will be the lively Rachel Feinstein, best known for her impressions of a small-town innocent lass and an urban man trying to pick up a woman. Lastly, the show will feature the rising monotone comedian Andy Haynes, who has made appearances on Conan and Pete Holmes’ podcast You Made It Weird.
8. W. Kamau Bell
Friday, Nov. 8 @ 8:00 p.m. — Gramercy Theatre
San Francisco comic W. Kamau Bell is known for the politically charged brand of comedy he dishes out on his show, FX’s Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. The New York Times called Bell “the most promising new talent in political comedy in years,” and the San Francisco Chronicle said that Totally Biased “makes The Daily Show seem like something your dad watches.” ...Actually, too many venerable publications have heaped praised on Bell to list it all here. He’s funny, he’s smart, and few performers posses Bell’s ability to open audiences minds at the same time they’re laughing their asses off.
9. Baron Vaughn
Friday, Nov. 8 @ 10:30 p.m. — UCB Chelsea
Like W. Kamau Bell, issues of race frequently pop up in a Baron Vaughn’s stand-up material, albiet with a more lighthearted and less political touch, covering issues like arguing with a white step father about who exactly invented slavery or wondering why no one ever sees burning crosses being constructed. His first comedy album, Raised on Cable, was released last year and he’s performed on late night shows like Conan, Craig Ferguson and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. If you’re feeling down, a Baron Vaughn set will pick you up, as few comics take the stage with more energy and enthusiasm, even when he’s venting about how much he hates alarm clocks waking him up in the morning. Vaughn also had a role on the USA show Fairly Legal, on which he portrayed Leonardo Prince, easily one of the greatest character names of all time.
Wednesday, Nov. 6 @ 8:00 p.m. — The Pit
SNL’s Vanessa Bayer is headlining a night of, if you couldn’t tell by the name, all female comedy. An alumni of the Chicago improv scene, Bayer is currently in her fourth season on SNL and has impersonated the likes of Miley Cyrus, Hilary Clinton and Lady Gaga. Also featuring comedy from Marina Franklin, Jackie Singer and Alyse Kenny, the entire night will be for a good cause, as all of HERSTERICAL’s proceeds will go toward the Gilda’s Club charity, founded in honor of late SNL great Gilda Radner.