Art | The Reconnoisseur

The comedy club that New Yorkers like to keep to themselves

A tiny comedy club with big-name guests

The comedy club that New Yorkers like to keep to themselves

Image: Molly Hawkey

September 29 2010
Sibéal Pounder

Most cities boast an array of well-known comic hubs – centres of amusement which provide satire, repartee and slapstick to the visiting masses – but recently, in New York, I found a comedy club that the locals like to keep to themselves.

It was recommended to me by my friend Jane, a hilarious New Yorker who has professionally trained in improv, and boasts a discerning palate for all things comic. She took me along to a show at the tiny underground venue, Upright Citizens Brigade, on West 26th Street. Opened by comedians Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh in 1999, the club, which now features 25 unique shows a week, is one of the most intimate improv venues in the city, with only 150 seats and a tiny but well-stocked bar.

While the place is small, the comedians who appear there are anything but: well-known names such as Tina Fey, Conan O’Brien and Will Ferrell have performed here, and the night we stopped by, Scott Adsit from NBC’s 30 Rock was among the comedians performing a brilliant improv set based around three words – an object, an emotion and an event – suggested by the audience.

And, refreshingly, the founders of Upright Citizens Brigade have shied away from the tourist trade, preferring to remain a niche venue. Now that my friend Jane has spilled the secret, I’d say there’s a risk that she may kill me for publishing this.

Tickets from $5-$8.

Pictured: left to right, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Amy Poehler on stage.

See also

Events, Comedy, New York