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Ted Alexandro’s picks for the smartest comedy shows in NYC

Written by
Nick Leftley

In a scene dominated by a confessional style that sees stand-ups blurting their most intimate secrets into the mike in comedy clubs every night, the calm, considered Ted Alexandro is a much-needed breath of fresh air. His monthly comedy shows at Astoria’s Q.E.D. are the perfect showcase for his thoughtful style, as he interviews a mix of comics, artists, activists and authors. (This month’s edition of The Ted Alexandro Show sees Zephyr Teachout—who narrowly lost the Democratic nomination for Governor to Andrew Cuomo last year—take the stage.) We asked Ted to round up his picks for the best places to see intelligent comedy in NYC.

“I think we're in the midst of a comedy boom. Due to a generation raised on cable television and the Internet, people have grown up with access to more comedy than ever before—this has resulted in more comedians, more shows and more clubs. ‘Smart comedy’ can sometimes be synonymous with ‘not funny comedy,’ but there are lots of comics who are hilarious while also being smart in an unobtrusive way (that was smart). Here is my list, both thorough and incomplete, of smart comedians and places to see smart comedy. Most comics are smart, but I picked these because they have unique styles and I like the way their brains work. They make me laugh but they also shift the energy, making me sit up and listen.”

- If you want to see a smart comic, see any show by Todd Barry, Aparna Nancherla, Gary Gulman, Jeffrey Joseph, Carmen Lynch, Hari Kondabolu, Jena Friedman, Baratunde, Lizz Winstead and Jim Tews.

- I like Whiplash at UCB because it’s a cross section of styles and the comics are usually taking risks, trying out new material in front of a packed house at 11pm on a Monday night.

- Comedy as a Second Language (now at Lit, formerly Kabin) has a great community vibe and lots of great comics. You can see a lot of great younger comics here who may not yet be "passed" at the comedy clubs.

- The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. Initially hosted by Hannibal Burress, now it's a great comedy showcase hosted by several great comedians. Always packed, great room, the energy is hot.

- The Creek and The Cave (Long Island City). I call it the CBGB's of comedy. A great den of comedy, community and experimentation, always something interesting going on.

- QED is a great new comedy/performance space that has hit the ground running in Astoria. It’s owned by Kambri Crews, who has a long and impressive resume working in comedy, not to mention being married to a great comedian, Christian Finnigan. 

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