Show us your bits

One brave stand-up bares all in the name of funny.

NAKED AMBITION Ofiesh diddles with the mike.

NAKED AMBITION Ofiesh diddles with the mike.

It takes balls to get onstage; it takes even bigger ones to show your balls onstage. Three years ago, a portly comic named Andy Ofiesh did stand-up, at the suggestion of his therapist, nude. Hooked, he started the Naked Comedy Showcase in Boston and, this winter, brought it to New York. The only rule: Every stand-up takes it all off (clothing for audience members is optional). And now the event’s drawing sold-out audiences to the Peoples Improv Theater on the first Friday of every month.

If you’re a comic, chances are you’re already an exhibitionist; the leap to birthday suit is logical. So I booked myself in the May show. And then I started to worry. I was hoping for a liberating experience, but the show could easily be a gimmick. Or the audience may be full of cat-calling perverts. Or my set might end up on YouTube. Would I need a Brazilian?

When I arrived backstage, the comics weren’t mingling with each other the way they do in non-naked green rooms. Ofiesh began undressing, so I did too. “You don’t have to do that right now,” he said. But I was afraid of chickening out, so I got down to just a tank top and boy shorts, and sat coiled up on a couch, the lone female in the room. The other comics were in various states of undress. One sipped from a flask. Another did stretches.

When it was my turn, I stripped and bolted onstage: No microphone, just me in tube socks. It seemed I should speak to the elephant in the room, so I opened with, “I’d like to give a shout-out to my mom and dad in the audience.” The crowd applauded. But when I launched into my regular set, it wasn’t hitting. After three or four jokes, I wanted to run for my clothes.

Rather than heckling me, though, the audience shouted encouragement. My standard jokes weren’t working because the audience didn’t want polished punch lines. They wanted me to be real and natural in a way that isn’t possible (or at least is unlikely) when one is clothed. It wasn’t sexual at all; if anything I felt asexual. The funniest moments of the night were the most awkward, the ones we couldn’t hide or censor.

The Naked Comedy Showcase takes place Fri 6. See listings.