The New York Comedy Festival: Top 10 Facts You Need To Know

It is upon us! From November 7 through 11, thousands of fortunate comedy fans will have the opportunity to feast on some of the best performances available, all in New York. We’re huge comedy fans here at Heavy, so over the next week we’ll be bringing you real-time coverage that includes exclusive interviews and news about the performances. In the mean time, here’s everything you need to know going into this great week.

1. The Guests: The Biggest Names in Comedy Will Be Present

Comedy festivals generally set out to bring an eclectic mix of laughs so that no one’s funny bone goes neglected, and the NY Comedy Festival is no exception. This year’s guest list delivers a smorgasbord of professional funny people. Aziz Ansari, Ricky Gervais, The Wayans Brothers, and Robin Williams are just a few names among the enormously famous headliners. The family friendly and longtime fan favorite Brian Reagan will be opposite people like the razor tongued Bill Maher. Major up-and-comers Hannibul Buress and Rory Scovel will also be in attendance. Basically, it’s the Super-Bowl of comedy in America.

2. The Places: From Carnegie Hall to Basement Stages, Comedy Will Be Everywhere

This part is complicated. Because of the enormous lineup, the festival utilizes several NY venues. The biggest shows will be at famed places like The Apollo, Town Hall, and Carnegie Hall. Show producer Caroline’s On Broadway, a major spot in its own right, will also be hosting big events. Though it’s the smaller venues like the Upright Citizens Brigade theaters that promise more intimate shows where you won’t feel like you’re in rock concert cheap seats.

3. The Andy Kaufman Award

The annual Andy Kaufman Award is a prestigious comedy accolade that is given to the comedian that exhibits “the elements of originality, creativity, spirit and execution, as exemplified by Andy Kaufman.” It is usually presented at the end of the festival after a six contestant shoot-out at the Gotham Comedy Club. Think you’ve got what it takes? Find out more about entrance criteria here.

4. There’s a Ticket For Every Wallet Size
Okay, can you afford it? We figured that despite our obvious excitement over the festival, this question needed to be asked in earnest. To faithfully answer it, we need to address a few variables. For starters, are you already in New York? Are you a comedy fan? If you anwsered “yes” to both of those, than quit reading, and go shell out the measly 15 bucks to see Rory Scovel at UCB Chelsea on Thursday, you cheap ass. However, if you answered yes to only one of these and you happen to be a comedy fan who does not live in New York, you have a much more serious dilemma on your hands. The next question you need to ask yourself is where do you actually live? If you live in say, L.A or Chicago, both towns that have great comedy scenes, than maybe you can skip NY since most of these acts will be swinging through your town at some point anyway. But lets say that you live in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, or pretty much Anywhere, Indiana, really. In that case, you need to suck it up and ask yourself what’s more important in life; delivering that child support check on time (that you know your ex just spends on booze anyway) or being front row at the Apollo and staring up Jim Gaffigan’s pasty nose? Unfortunately, we must anwser life’s toughest questions for ourselves, Grasshopper.

5. New York’s Funniest Standup

One of the coolest things about the festival in the past was the now defunct opening act competition. In 2009, the festival paired with the People’s Choice Awards to give one lucky amateur comic the opportunity to be the opening act for a headliner. This year, Caroline’s is hosting the New York’s Funniest Stand-Up competition. The prize is forever bragging rights and a week of shows at the famed club. It’s open to any and all comedians who think they have the right stuff. The finals will be held at Caroline’s on Nov 10th, for what promises to be a great showcase of up-and-coming talent.

6. Caroline’s On Broadway is the Festival Hub

In 2004, Caroline Hirsch, owner of famed comedy club, Caroline’s on Broadway, launched the New York Comedy Festival. It was an immediate success. Though long before that, Hirsch opened a cabaret in Chelsea in 1981. After realizing that the cabaret model wasn’t working out, Hirsch started booking comedians. Eventually she would become famous for having an eye for spotting top talent. Most of the biggest names in comedy have performed there over the last two decades. It’s what’s made Caroline’s one of the clubs that are most famously associated with the New York comedy club experience.
7. Comedy is Patriotic: Saluting The Troops

Stand Up For Heroes raises money for the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which helps connect service members to everything from financial services to post-combat readjustment counseling. It’s also where you can see Bruce Springsteen and Patton Oswalt on the same night (Nov 8th), as well as a bunch of other bad-asses like Jon Stewart and Robin Williams. Well, you can if you already have tickets (which start around 300 bucks) because not surprisingly, this ones sold-out, folks.
8. Scoring Tickets Can Be Tricky

Alright, the nitty gritty. Tickets availability and price, as you might imagine, are mostly determined by who you want to see and where. The priciest events, like the above mentioned Stand Up For Heroes, are the type of things that responsible people buy tickets to months in advance. But don’t fret, there are still several great shows that you might be able to grab seats for, like Hannibul Buress ($18 at Santos Party House) but hurry the hell up. The trick is to check availability everywhere, not just the tickets available through The New York Comedy Festival’s website, which is where you should start. Also look through Ticketmaster and individual club websites. If you’ve been blessed with the time and patience, you also might want to try looking for cancellations, but no promises.
9. Past Performances Have Included Today’s Comedy Superstars

This one’s a doozy. Pretty much every big name in comedy has graced the festival at some point over the last 8 years. To name a few, last year’s attending fans had the opportunity to see Tracy Morgan, Sarah Silverman, and Louis C.K, all in the same week. The most eclectic stuff goes down on the Stand Up For Heroes stage where notables like Bill Clinton and Diane Sawyer have appeared alongside Bruce Springsteen and Jim Gaffigan.

10. It’s Not All Stand-Up
As we’re sure you know, comedy isn’t all about stand-up, and neither is the festival. It’s also loaded with tons of great sketch (Best of NY Sketch at UCB Chelsea), improv, and live comedy podcasts. As if you didn’t already have enough reasons to attend?
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