Best comedy clubs in NYC
This sprawling spot’s two bars—one nestled in an ornate front room, the other in the rear performance space—provide plenty of drinking options. Skip toxic cocktails in favor of one of 12 beers on tap—from Anchor Steam to Smuttynose—or a taste of more than 20 bourbons. The large rear performance space is a favorite for podcast recordings, intimate band gigs, and wild comedy shows.
This cozy Lower East Side cafe has become a haven for students, freelancers and anyone else looking for a comfortable place to get some work done. At night, the exposed-brick spot hosts cozy free comedy shows.
Called the New York Improv when it opened in 1963, this club showcased legends such as Bill Cosby, Andy Kaufman and Robin Williams during its first stint. After being closed for years, former collaborators opened this basement joint a few blocks from the original, and they showcase TV faces and other regulars from the club circuit.
Even comics who are regulars at the city’s other stand-up rooms have to work extra hard to get stage time at this venerable institution. Carolines is the best place to see marquee names, including sitcom-ready stars, familiar faces from the ’80s comedy boom, Friars Club–style spritzers and cable-special ravers.
Daniel Nardicio and Alan Cumming took over the former Eastern Bloc bar in 2017 and reimagined it as a cabaret, comedy and party hub evocative of NYC's golden era of downtown nightlife. Count on Broadways singers belting out favorites by the piano, wild ’90s dance parties and stellar cabaret and comedy nights.
Claustrophobes, beware: It gets crowded down here, especially on weekends, thanks to the immense popularity of this Village standby. Big names from Amy Schumer to Aziz Ansari will drop by for a set and on any given night, you can expect to see other local greats whose acts are more X-rated than at other clubs (and who will distract you from your bachelorette-partying neighbors).
This burgeoning, multi-level comedy palace in Long Island City is the deserving gem of the Queens comedy scene. Owner Rebecca Trent programs shows seven nights a week, and at times you can catch up to five free shows on a busy weekend night. Among it's features: cheap, serviceable Mexican food, a ramshackle theater hosting larger events, a smaller space downstairs for intimate stand-up or storytelling shows and a bar with adjoining patio on which to ply friends for their opinions after the show.
Setting the pace for campy, good-natured fun, the city’s oldest cabaret is still going strong at 55. A generous mix of regulars and tourists laugh and sing along with drag performers, comedians and rising stars in the cabaret room on the second floor. (Special showcases are still in the intimate game room, which is also upstairs and has a separate bar.)
Chris Mazzilli’s vision for his club involves elegant surroundings, professional behavior and mutual respect. That’s why the talents he fosters, such as Jim Gaffigan, Tom Papa and Ted Alexandro, keep coming back here long after they’ve found national fame.
Al Martin, the longtime owner of both the New York Comedy Club and Broadway Comedy Club, follows the same basic tenets of those ventures in his new room—an intimate basement space below an Indian restaurant. Though a few pillars in the 60-seat venue interfere with sight lines, the pub grub, extensive cocktail selection and long list of stars who just might do a spot while passing through town are drawing crowds every night.
There’s a deliciously arty feel to this left-leaning, eco-friendly BK venue, which runs on wind power and serves old-fashioned cocktails from a bar built from salvaged bowling alley lanes. Littlefield’s booking policy is similarly eclectic: A typical week features hip-hop, folk and soul gigs, plus quirky club and comedy nights.
The community of house teams and solo performers at Armando Diaz’s upstart black box has grown strong, cementing the Magnet—the signature style of which is slower and therefore frequently more rewarding than other improv styles—as one of the best places to watch improv in the city.
After many years in Chelsea, this improv and sketch theater moved crosstown to a dramatic East Side location, with a warm proscenium stage, a black box in the basement and an inviting bar. Cheap shows and free jams keep the crowds young and lively; a full evening of free improv shows every Wednesday anchors the weekday schedule.
This satellite of the Peoples Improv Theater hosts a wide range of late night sketch, improv and variety shows.
This reliable bar in Astoria hosts events featuring comedy, storytelling, poetry and more.
Sons of Essex’s Seth Levine turns out comfort-food spins—like cheeseburger pot stickers and duck-topped pizzas—at this comedy club–restaurant hybrid. After dinner, head downstairs to the club, where you can sip cocktails designed by Minetta Tavern vets, while acts like Judah Friedlander and Artie Lange supply the belly laughs. Test your stand-up knowledge and try to name all the comedians on the wallpaper in the bathrooms.
Upstairs in this bi-level bar, boozers chomp miniburgers and nip at microbrews like Sixpoint in the gentlemen’s-club–style anteroom (decorated with Soviet-era globes, paintings of fez-capped men, fireplaces)—before battling it out on the clay bocce courts. Downstairs, spectators are treated to a rotating roster of live talent, such as blaring bands, comedians and a monthly science night.
NYC's unbeatable comedy bastion moved its Chelsea HQ to Hell's Kitchen in late 2017. Expect the same steady lineup of bonkers improv, sketch and solo shows every night from young and veteran performers.
The East Village branch of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre brings the same sort of cheap, raw and rowdy shows featured on the West Side, and focuses as much on sketch and stand-up as it does improv.