From the Windy City comes Comedians You Should Know, an eclectic mix of comics who are on a mission to make a lasting imprint in the New York comedy scene. Produced by comics David Drake, Jeff Steinbrunner, Saurin Choksi, and Mike Lebovitz, the show has found a home in Brooklyn at Gutter Bar. We caught up with Mike Lebovitz to discuss the history of CYSK and the challenge of creating New York’s best weekly comedy show.
50 First Jokes
Produced by John F O’Donnell and Sachi Ezura
Hosted by Sean Donnelly
The Bell House in Brooklyn.
50 First Jokes is a celebration of the year’s first new material from 50 of New York City’s most up-and-coming comedians. One might compare it to a much lower key version of the 121212 Concert, without the music and the celebrity, and the raising of money, and the tragic event. Ok, it’s really just 50 comics on-stage waiting for the person at the mic to be done talking.
The show emanates from The Bell House in Brooklyn. The Bell House is a nice facility tucked into a corner of Brooklyn where people have died trying to reach the concert they wanted to see. They have a state-of the-art security operation, which involves bearded men telling you where not to go. If you think you can just show up and get in line for the show without an invisible hand stamp, well – you are sorely mistaken. Shame on you for thinking that in the first place, you silly white honky (paraphrasing). A sign would be helpful, but I digress.
The Bell House features 10 chairs on the floor in the front set up in airline style closeness with room for 400 people to stand. It is comfortable, it just depends on who sits next to you. I got the fat guy. You know, the fat guy in the mom jeans and sneakers with the belt clip for his phone? Yep, that fat guy. The guy who standing is 5-8 and then sitting is 6-5 because all of that fat gets pushed up towards his neck. I had to move my chair over – to the other room – to accommodate this man’s girth. Fat guy sits down and then Loud guy sits behind him and says ‘Great, I’m right behind the Fat guy.’
Host Sean Donnelly takes the stage to warm up the crowd for a bit, before we get going with the first group of 25 comedians. As an observer of the New York comedy scene, I expect all the comics to know each other – and then you realize they don’t and may be meeting other comics for the first time. A fascinating experiment in comedic socialization if you ask me. The highlight of the first set, however, was when Jon Friedman got up and told a Lactose Intolerant – Missing Children joke and Loud guy behind me bellows ‘Ha, first funny line of the night, liked that one.’ Thank God this guy is here, otherwise the rest of us wouldn’t know what to laugh at. Loud guy continued this routine throughout the night. Other comics of note were Dan St. Germain, Phoebe Robinson, Myq Kaplan, and John F. O’Donnell. Having not seen O’Donnell perform live before, he does bring a lot of energy to his set, which helps when you have 3 minutes to impress the crowd. For those of you at home wondering, the African-American community has found an answer to the Sklar Brothers, and they are the Lucas Brothers.
The ‘huh’ moment of the night came from comedienne Candi Candi (not her real name). Ms. Candi got up to the mic and then held a small flute up to her ass as music played throughout the house. Shen then took said flute and put it up to her mouth and flatulence played. Get it? Because you were expecting the opposite sound from the other end of her body. To paraphrase Adam Sandler from an early 90’s SNL sketch, ‘who are the comedic geniuses who came up with that one?’ I will say that if Ms. Candi had hiked up her skirt and gone bare-ass to flute, it would have satiated the porn fix for at least half the audience, but she didn’t – oh well.
At intermission, we were treated to the comedy team known as Murderfist. I don’t know exactly what they did, but it was bloody and scared both the audience and the group of comics on stage. There was a genuine fear of getting trampled.
To close out the night, the second group of 25 comics took the stage. Among the standouts from that group were Mike Racine, Calise Hawkins, Michelle Wolf, and Nate Fernal. Did I mention James Adomian? I probably didn’t – but the guy does a killer Jesse Ventura impression and you can’t go wrong with that. The show ended with an appearance by the Recovering Whores, who are southern belles with dirty mouths, and quite entertaining at that. When you see two women ready to go onstage at the Grand Ole Opry appear among 25 New York comedians, you say ‘ok, this should be interesting’ and it was, a job well done.