Field Report & Review:
The Gotham Comedy Club, New York, NY
Diana, MaceVindaloo, Diasala, SuSu, AndiAs, Lizard
By now, most people know that "Gotham City" is yet another nickname for New York City, specifically, parts of Manhattan. And though the Gotham Comedy Club is not really located in the part of town which may be considered to be Gotham, it's pretty close. And it was during a major religious holiday weekend, so there were not many natives left in the city. They had likely been forced to travel home to wherever their parents are, to be quizzed about how they could live in that city, and why don't you come home, and why aren't you dressed for the seder or for church?
The city was crawling with visitors not from around here, so we decided to be tourists, too. And one thing that people from out of town ask us about are the comedy clubs, which are all over the place here. The now-ubiquitous cable channel Comedy Central actually presents whole seasons of people who perform exclusively in comedy clubs. It's a good idea, production-wise minimal costs of props, space, audience, and that gritty, raw feel is a good thing! And this is no shortage of people who want to be stand-up comics.
In New York, everyone's a comedian, and the general quality is high. The entry fee is $16 plus a minimum of two drinks, but the drinks can be softdrinks, so your entry fee is about $25 to $40, depending on your drink of choice. It's not expensive for live entertainment, which consists of an emcee, two warm-up acts, and the main act.
The night we were there, the main act was Eddie Brill, who is the talent coordinator for the Late Show with David Letterman and who is the warm-up-the-audience guy for Mr. Letterman, as well. He's written for television, acted on the small and big screens, is an emcee who does many corporate and charity events, and he's considered one of the best stand-up comedians of our era. He's an affable looking bear of a man, and he's a native New Yorker, which means he's very, very intense.
Not everyone can bear that intensity. One in our party complained that his whole routine was a diatribe, but the rest of us "got it." His love of New York City and it's unique cultural values causes him to rant and rave in turns. In fact, we've noticed that comedy is about social commentary these days, poking fun and the stupidity of advertising, perhaps. Or at American arrogance toward the rest of the world. Things which are obvious, ridiculous, and funny if presented properly.
The set Brill gives might be familiar, since he is one of the most successful of stand-up comedians, and his show is in rotation on Comedy Central's schedule. It's still fun to see him in person, perspiring, waving his free arm around like a lunatic, and his show is very, very polished. He seems like such a nice guy, and what a cutting wit!
The warm-up routines are scheduled in order to ramp the audience for the main act, and they started with the least polished first. The emcee was a guy who tried to engage the audience directly, smacking on people who might be on dates, or were from out of town, etc. Some of it was mean-spirited, but it was rather funny. We were glad to have been assigned seats in the back of the room, so we'd be invisible to the guy with the mike! He also engaged the audience by letting them know that applause and cheering and laughter would make the comedians perform better, and "this is not place to be so cool you can't make noise!" We all need to be told that, we guess.
The club did not give out fact sheets for the show, so we don't have the names of the people who weren't Eddie Brill, sorry. And we were to amused and the place was too dark to write down names.
The opening comedian was a tall, thin, sephardic looking man who lived in Brooklyn and wore a sweatshirt and baseball cap with dirty jeans. He hadn't shaved either, and he had obviously cultivated this air of casualness. He talked about being a Jewish guy who maybe made a mistake when buying a German shepherd as a pet ... we hadn't heard Nazi holocaust humor in many years, but it was still (discomfittingly) funny. He also did what many comedians do: make observations, presenting them so it becomes ridiculous and funny. Like how on a New York City subway, there seems to often be an empty Snapple bottle rolling up and down the train car, and how people will pick up their feet so as not to impede the progress of the bottle ... or how making jokes of Dale Earnhardt in Kentucky will result in a warning from the audience ... He also would wait till the laughter died down before starting up again, in contrast to Brill, who had a machine-gun approach and just yelled louder over the noise of the laughter so we would keep on laughing till it hurt.
The second comedian was a married mother of a teen daughter, who related how she'd married the wrong type of lawyer, "I married the 'want to see justice done, pay me later' type of lawyer ... I was so ripped off!" And how he wouldn't let her sue Macy's when she fell in the store, because she loved the store so much she'd take her winnings and simply go shopping there again after the trial. Or how every woman who found herself performing oral sex on a man after a dinner date was beating herself up over, "I should have ordered the lobster!" She was good and had a tightly written set and excellent delivery. We wish we could have remembered her name, because we'd go see her again, for sure. (We learned that she learned Spanish when she was a waitress, and had a dishwasher named Jesus: "Una cervezas, por favor.")
We were seated at little cocktail tables and waiters and waitresses circulated so they could take our two-drink minimum orders. Note that if you choose not to order the drinks, you will be charged for standard drinks (each $10) anyway. so you may as well have the drinks.
There is a bar in the waiting room in the basement, but the drinks you get there don't count toward the minimum, so you should wait till the servers come around. Remember to tip, since that's how these men and women make their money.
Eddie Brill teaches comedy workshops and actually helped write the first curriculum in comedy at Emerson College in Boston. Graduates include Denis Leary and Mario Cantone, and it's no wonder American stand-up comics are into ranting they learned from the master! But despite his successes and the respect he has earned from colleagues and up-and-comers, at the end of the show, we spied him talking to the managers of the club and furtively whispering, "Do you think it went too long? Should I have used that joke?" You know how we're always told that the class clown is actually insecure and use comedy as an outlet instead of bullying others?
The whole show lasted just under two hours, making for a nice warm-up if you'd planned to go dancing or clubbing around 11pm. The Gotham Comedy Club had three shows that Saturday, and ours was the middle one, which we think of as prime-time: after dinner, before nightclubbing. It's an excellent first-date idea, especially if you don't know the other person very well, or are afraid to be alone with them! You can at least find out how they react to excellent comedy in Gotham City.
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