Enjoying a walkabout in the city this weekend, a friend and I noticed that in just about any other city, a Fringe Festival takes over the town and you cannot avoid seeing or hearing about it. But in New York City, the Fringe can be happening and you might not even know it. It could just as well be called the Underground festival. Except, oh, that festival is happening in NYC this week, too!
Yes, comedy fans.
If you're in Manhattan, or even Brooklyn, for the rest of August 2010, you have extra options for your entertainment dollar as both the New York International Fringe Festival and the New York Underground Comedy Festival have set up shops. I suppose the simple answer to the question posed by my own headline is that if you're in a black-box theater-type space, then you're at a Fringe show, and if you're in a comedy club or a bar masquerading as a comedy club, then you're at an Underground show. But let's stop trying to answer questions which are moot and answer one that you might find more useful.
Such as, what shows might be worth your time and money at these festivals?
With the Underground Comedy festival, it's always a bit interesting to see what shows they include, because often times, the shows are the same weekly or monthly shows that operate "underground" outside of the city's club system and just happen to be happening with a festival banner this time. See: Morrison Motel, which is happening tonight at Cornelia Street Cafe, with guests including John Oliver and Wyatt Cenac. Very underground? Not very, but still a fun time. Tonight also features the festival's annual "Emerging Comics Contest" at Gotham Comedy Club, which has in years past awarded comedians who have, in fact, emerged. This also is the festival that features the annual "New York's Funniest Reporter" contest. I'm neither competing nor judging this year, so you're all safe! Among other shows to keep an eye on: Franklyn Ajaye is performing Friday at the Green Room at 45 Bleecker, while Ted Alexandro headlines for an hour at Karma on Saturday. Check out the full schedule for lineups and ticket info!
The New York Fringe has dozens of shows listed under the comedy genre this year with multiple performances. I cannot speak for all of them. But I do know about a few of them...
OK, comedy fans. We're back with the first (of how many? of how many???) episodes from the New York City auditions, and after some more glimpses of Tommy Johnagin and a naked Andy Ofiesh, here's Craig Robinson strolling down the sidewalk of West 23rd Street on his keytar with judges Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo, plus wannabes in tow. Who here wanna be?
Alycia Cooper from Maryland is our first billed auditioner. She made Giraldo laugh with her jokes about D.C.'s horrible sports teams, but she is adding tags that he and the other judges do not condone. She moves on to the night showcase nevertheless. Our first featured contestant of the evening, however, is Mike DeStefano who shows us his fellas in the Bronx to bust his chops and deliver some classic stereotypical Bronx gruff and stuff. "Hey Mikey, if you win, what's in it for us?" I've told you about DeStefano before. I will be telling you more about him in the future. His jokes about dealing with a potential agent show off his style and personality and the crew loves him as much, perhaps more, than the judges did.
Kevin Bozeman of Chicago said he is pro-life except for two times. Jamie Lissow jokes about not getting the NY Times crossword. New Yorker Claudia Cogan jokes about wanting to be a nasty stripper, while I wonder when she'll reply to my email from months ago. They are all part of a montage of yes votes for the showcases, and there is Elon James White brunching hard but not getting his name on camera. Andy Ofiesh, on the other hand, got almost all of himself on camera since he went onstage without any clothes on. Of course, readers here (or people who have been to a Naked Comedy Showcase show in Boston, NYC or Edinburgh in the past few years) knows Ofiesh is an avowed nudist and comedian. All we see and hear, however, is the judges not being happy seeing all of Ofiesh and he kicks off the night's first montage of horribleness.
Kurt Metzger says he has done comedy for 11 years and wonders about performing for three people, especially when at least one of them works with him regularly at the Comedy Cellar. No need to wonder, since Metzger is moving to the showcase.
And we're back. Robinson walks out to inspect the line of crazies. I also inspected this line outside Gotham Comedy Club the night beforehand. Want to see that?
Tommy Johnagin invites the cameras into his hotel room(?) to watch him write his jokes on toilet paper. Johnagin jokes about how women suck for asking him about keeping track of the one time he had sex. Kindler jokes that he feels threatened by Johnagin's humor.
Todd Catalano brought his mullet across the bridges and tunnels from New Jersey, and guess what, he is Italian. Guess what, Giraldo isn't sure if he was laughing with Catalano's insults about women, and this kicks off a montage of stereotypical Italian New Yorker shtickery.
Jamie Lee from Dallas says she quit her corporate job to pursue stand-up (and it was a job with Comedy Central where she had to deal with people like me!) and if you saw the ads of the past week, you already saw her running with joy after whatever the judges said. Giraldo said she felt "still pretty new" to him, which is absolutely correct, and all three of the judges would like to see her perform in front of an actual audience.
When we return from commercial...
Five hours down, and yet, that's really only one-tenth of the way home. The wall behind me hums and vibrates against my back, gently soothing (plus) yet also making me feel dangerously sleepy (minus minus!). The audience is thinning and shuffling. Some customers just moved from the back to the front. I've heard from Jim David and Dean Edwards, who reminded us all that "this is the first time a comedy club has told comedians you can go longer." Kevin Brennan is making Ku LOL very loudly and often, so much so that he wonders if it's a fake laugh. "I'll take it!" Brennan said. Not to worry. Ku's laugh may be loud, but it's real and sincere. Earlier in his set, though, Brennan yells at the crowd. "Just relax...we're trying to set a record, not have a good show!" Interesting point. My body feels like it's in a Sharper Image chair. I'm hearing voices. Is that Gollum as a woman? No, it's Al Ducharme. Some dude brought a pillow. Why didn't I think of that?