The ever-so-serious New York City, with its well-earned image of being a global business and commerce hub, and a center for banking and finance, world trade, tourism, real estate, the arts, you name it, has a funny side, too, remarkably reflected in its unique relationship with live comedy. Since everybody loves a good laugh, we've sorted through the finest comedy clubs to catch a show in NYC.
Some of the best early American comedy stars, such as the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, and Eddie Cantor debuted on the New York City vaudeville stage. The city attracted comedic talents from all over the country and from across the globe, and by the 1940s, a particular style was born in NYC's supper clubs.
The counterculture of the 1960s would push comedians to new levels, and performing alongside beat poets and jazz musicians would enable them to express themselves in much more personal and explicit acts. The rise of the comedy club would not stop there, as in all seriousness, laughing is a serious business. Saturday Night Live brought to light a specific brand of New York City comedy, while Manhattan stages like Caroline's on Broadway and the Comedy Cellar would create major film and television stars during the 1980s. Everybody remembers classics like Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David’s Seinfeld.
Every night is a good night for laughing in New York City, and the options are endless; in fact, there are so many places to choose from that it can be a challenge to decide on the best spot to go catch a show and laugh your head off. Whether you live here or you’re just visiting, if you love to have a good laugh, the venues below are sure to keep you entertained and help you let your hair down.
This club opened in 1982 with Bill Grundfest at the wheel, who back then was a stand-up comedian himself. It is located in Greenwich Village and features a showcase format. You will probably recognize it if you're a fan of Jerry Seinfeld, as much of his 2002 documentary Comedian he was filmed here. The club was also featured in Chris Rock's film Top Five appeared regularly on HBO's Crashing and is home to Comedy Central's This Week At The Comedy Cellar. Among its regular performers are Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, Dave Attell, Judah Friedlander, and Colin Quinn. Celebrity comedians who started their comedy careers at the Comedy Cellar include Jon Stewart and Aziz Ansari, and both return from time to time to perform here. Other big names of the industry to have cracked jokes on Comedy Cellar's stage include Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Robin Williams, Kevin Hart, and Chris Rock.
One of the oldest comedy clubs in the city, Caroline's first opened as a small cabaret club in the Chelsea neighborhood in 1982. Stemming from the owner's passion, the comedy acts performed here, which included now-legendary performers such as Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, Billy Crystal, Rosie O'Donnell, and Jay Leno, turned the place into a tremendously successfully club. As the popularity of stand-up comedy surged, the club moved to a bigger location at 1626 Broadway, where it continues to hold center stage in a 300-seat space designed by Paul and Barbara Haigh of HAIGHArchitects.
When it first opened in 1988, it was called The New York Comedy Club. For a while, it closed its doors but reopened in 2003 at 318 West 53rd Street in the heart of Times Square, becoming the first bi-level entertainment complex with three showrooms and a quaint cafe. Among the stars that appeared here were Rosie O'Donnell, Tracy Morgan, Tim Allen, Dave Attell, and Damon and Shawn Wayans. The venue also featured Letterman, Comedy Central, The Tonight Show, and Just for Laughs auditions. They serve finger and bar food, coffee, and drinks. There's also street parking for those coming by car. If you prefer to catch a show downtown they also have a sister location at 99 Macdougal Street, dubbed the Greenwich Village Comedy Club.
The club opened in 1992, and during its first decade, its stage attracted comics such as Dave Chapelle, Lewis Black, and Colin Quinn. More so, the 3,000-square-foot venue turned into the backdrop for several TV shows and films, including Jerry Seinfeld's Comedian and Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm. In 2005 it more than tripled in size, relocating to a 10,000-square-foot space at 208 West 23rd Street, in a 1929-building next to the historic Chelsea Hotel. The venue captured the upscale feel of live theater entertainment using the period's Art Deco style in its design. The interior walls combine a warm, red tone for the showroom with the hallways' Gotham Yellow, while the entry walls feature photographs of some of the comedy world's most familiar faces.
Manhattan may host more fun venues, but Brooklyn is no stranger to the industry. One of the fun places of the borough is Littlefield, located at 635 Sackett Street. The club was established a decade ago thanks to an environmental engineer and a chef. They've turned a 1920s textile warehouse into an eco-friendly performance and art space with a very unique and eclectic style. They host here not just comedy acts, but also live music, dance parties, film and theater shows, exhibitions, private parties, and festivals. In other words, make sure you check their calendar first, as the club is only open when they have scheduled events.
The Knitting Factory opened in 1987 in Manhattan at 47 East Houston Street as an art gallery with a performance space and cafe serving its audience poetry readings, performance art, stand-up comedy, and musicians. It has gradually grown into a sophisticated music and entertainment business. The Williamsburg, Brooklyn location opened in 2008 at 361 Metropolitan Avenue, and notable comedians gracing the stage here included Hannibal Buress, Seth Herzog, Che Bridgett, Dan Illic, and Pete Davidson. Nowadays, KFE has locations in Spokane, Boise, and Los Angeles, and its operations include festivals and events, artist management, as well as recorded music production and distribution.
If Queens is your playground, at 27-16 23rd Street is where you'll find the home of laughs and creativity. The location brings together artists, producers, teachers, creatives, and performers of all types. A colorful mix of performances keeps the venue open every night of the week, and it hosts more than 100 events every month. Funnily enough, Q.E.D. calls itself ‘an afterschool space for adults.’
Established in the 1950s across the street from its actual location at 61 Christopher Street (at 7th Avenue), this West Village corner home with French doors is touted as the city's oldest cabaret theatre, where Joan Rivers and Woody Allen showcased their early work. Every night, the black baby grand piano downstairs creates a lovely atmosphere, and every Wednesday, there's a comedy open-mic session from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.