New York is filled with comedy clubs, from sacred institutions like The Comedy Cellar to bustling showrooms like Gotham, Caroline’s and Stand Up NY to hot young things like the Village Underground and The Stand. Then there’s all The Other Guys, clubs large and small that dot Manhattan, luring in tourists with phony promises of big name comedians and watered down drinks. And then there’s New York Comedy Club and The Laughing Devil, which never really fit into any of those slots.
NYCC has been around for a minute, giving a place for young comedians to develop for many years. But as owner Al Martin expanded to the Broadway and Greenwich Village locations, this little fella tucked away on East 24th lost steam and was soon overshadowed by new neighbor The Stand and improv/alt space The PIT.
And if a side street in Gramercy isn’t tucked away enough for you, try Long Island City, Queens. While nearby Creek and The Cave was creating a creative community that incubated many of the young comedians just starting to break out now, Steve Hofstetter’s weird little club was best known for having one of the worst layouts of any room in the city. But instead of being relegated to a footnote in the comedy memoirs of the 2030’s, both of these clubs are now getting a second chance thanks to the fresh blood of new ownership.
The keys to NYCC are now in the hands of the Empire Tonight team of Scott and Emilio, two long time comedy fans/promoters/producers. Their fandom drives most of the programming these days, from late night shows and open mics for developing talents to new policies allowing audience members to buy one ticket and come back for multiple shows. They’ve also opened up and reorganized the space, making it more inviting for audience members and performers, alike.
As Sam Morril half-jokingly put it: “I think Emilio is a great guy, and think he will do big things for NYCC. Word on the street is that he hired a real plumber for the bathrooms...It wasn't an issue in the past for me, but I've noticed a slight confidence boost when I flush.”
Aaron Berg had some choice words about the upkeep as well: “Years ago, you wouldn't want to step into New York unless you had protection against meningitis. As the years passed, change was slow coming, but now the new owner (Emilio) genuinely seems to care about comedy and they've made the joint more comedy friendly. The crowds are tourist driven, but they are great crowds. There is now a green room for comics and the place has been cleaned up and possesses an olde-English type feel. They have even hired door staff. The lineups are also getting much stronger by bringing in comics with actual credits instead of the old 'Clubs and Colleges' intro."
Across the East River, the folks behind The Stand have taken the reigns at Laughing Devil, which will soon be rebranded as The Standing Room. With not much you can do about the skinny railroad-style showroom (but some improvements on the way), The Devil is focusing on programming and cultivating loyal local audiences, bringing in many of the favorite big name comedians who perform at The Stand, along with new shows from outside producers.
"It used to book low-rent hobbyists and the occasional pro who had a few minutes off in between sets at the Creek. The Stand took it over and the lineups have gone from bland to top notch. Some of the best comics in the city roll through the Devil now as well as great visitors from LA. The people that run the Stand know their stuff. They were already comedy experts and now they've become food and beverage experts. What more do you need? Initially, I found crowds overly PC once the Devil first changed hands (there used to be a lot of clean/ALT acts instead of 'knock down drag em out, belly laugh hilarity'). But now they've got great management, great staff and are undergoing renovations. It's extremely intimate as a room and I'm excited to see how the renovations affect the vibe."
Both seem to be on the right track, with plenty of repeat visitors filling up these once sparsely attended rooms and many comedians re-warming to both locations. It'll be cool to see if they both continue to grow or just fade into that warm glow of hopes past that so many clubs do.