The 25 best shows to see at the New York Comedy Festival

Spend the New York Comedy Festival laughing at these stand-up sets, talk shows, podcasts and sketches from the best comedians
Bill Burr
Photograph: Brian Friedman Bill Burr
By Tolly Wright |
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Every autumn, the changing of the leaves also brings the best fall festivals in NYC. The New York Comedy Festival, produced by comedy club Carolines on Broadway in association with Comedy Network, is one you shouldn't miss. Whether you want to see the stars from cutting-edge television programs, touring powerhouses or even hometown heroes who happen to be some of the 50 funniest New Yorkers, there’s a show for you—just another something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

RECOMMENDED: See all New York Comedy Festival coverage.

Lewis Black
Photograph: Mindy Tucker
Comedy, Big name talent

A Conversation with Lewis Black

Though for this tête-à-tête Lewis Black might be quieting down his signature one-man-against-the-world style of rants that made him one of the most popular touring stand-ups, make no mistake: Black will deliver plenty of righteous observations should the talk inevitably turn to politics, society and American culture. And really, it’s hard not to shake your head in agreement with the Grammy winner’s strong opinions when your whole body gives in to laughter.

Jamie LeeLo
Photograph: Nathan Forster
Comedy

Brunch Night! with Jamie LeeLo

LeeLo brings a vivacious daytime personality to a late-night setting in this live talk show. Expect celebrity appearances—like the Broad City creators and cast members of 30 Rock and Girls—baked goods, great tunes and fun surprises.

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Chris Gethard
Photograph: Melissa Sinclair
Comedy, Stand-up

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide

The stand-up, sketch and improv performer known best for The Chris Gethard Show presents an hour-long set covering suicide, alcoholism and other dark themes, with his genuine charm and curiosity.

Photograph: Mindy Tucker
Comedy, Musical

Haunting Renditions Live

Eliot Glazer follows up his well-observed Web series It Gets Betterish and appearances on Broad City with Haunting Renditions, in which he transforms fluffy pop hits into grand orchestral affairs.

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Comedy

Margaret Cho

The talented multihyphenate (actor-author-activist-musician-comic-etc.) Cho comes back to New York with her latest stand-up hour, There's No "I" in Team, But There's a "Cho" in Psycho. Her uproarious, politically and socially charged material never shies away from prickly topics like race or sexuality, and we don't expect that she'll hold back her thoughts—or her message of equality—this time.

Bridget Everett
Photograph by Allison Michael Orenstein)
Music, Cabaret and standards

Bridget Everett and the Tender Moments

The astonishing, totally fearless Everett has been playing more comedy shows these past few years, including opening for Amy Schumer, and she never fails to shake up a room with hits like "Boob Song." The towering sex goddess's triumphant set finds her belting and oversharing as only she can. Not to be missed.

Comedy

Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King

The challenges of growing up as a first-generation American, like culture clashes with parents and navigating identity issues, are recounted with enthusiasm and good-natured ribbing by the delightful stand-up comedian and The Daily Show correspondent Minhaj in his one-man show.

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Photograph: Michael Alexander
Comedy, Stand-up

Kathy Griffin

The Emmy-winning Bravo reality show My Life on the D-List helped bump Griffin’s celeb status to, say, a B—and the end of the series hasn’t slowed down this shameless spitfire. She cranks out chatty and gossipy stand-up specials at a ridiculous rate and pops up anywhere she can embarrass Anderson Cooper.

Courtesy Comedy Central
Comedy

Nathan for You — Sneak Peak and Q & A

Nathan Fielder, creator of the "Dumb Starbucks" sketch, shares some clips from the upcoming third season of his Comedy Central series, Nathan for You, followed by a Q&A with the deadpan comedian.

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Norm MacDonald
Photograph: Patrik Giardino
Comedy, Stand-up

Norm Macdonald

The stand-up and actor—best known as a former SNL cast member and "Weekend Update" anchor, and from his many appearances on all of Conan's shows and supporting roles in Adam Sandler films—returns to the stage with his best stuff since Comedy Central named him one of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time.

Comedy, Big name talent

Bill Maher

Saying that this comic and political commentator is smug and self-satisfied is akin to noting that the sun sets in the West. But you've got to admit that he's created a massive platform for his liberal and atheist beliefs through his keen dissections of American society. Given the recent antics of several presidential candidates (looking at you, Trump) Maher should have plenty of ripe fruit for picking.

Hannibal Buress
Photograph: Mindy Tucker
Comedy, Big name talent

Comedy Central Live in Brooklyn

As the stoner-dentist-with-a-romantic-heart character on Broad City and as himself, a stand-up who spins comedy gold juxtaposing a slow speech pattern with a lightning-fast wit on Why? With Hannibal Buress, Buress has risen to be one of Comedy Central’s biggest breakout stars. He is joined by the co-creator and star of Another Period, Natasha Leggero, and insult comic Jeff Ross. Nick Kroll (Kroll Show) and John Mulaney (Mulaney) will also reprise their curmudgeonly-old-man characters from their popular “Oh, Hello” sketch.

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Comedy

Harmontown

Creator and showrunner of the cult sitcom Community Dan Harmon discusses the utopian society where he'd be mayor in the live edition of this weekly popular podcast. Keeping him on task is Harmontown "comptroller" and cohost Jeff Davis (Whose Line Is It Anyway?). Don't be surprised if a big-name guest also drops by—past visitors to Harmontown have included Patton Oswalt, Dana Carvey and Mitch Hurwitz.

Comedy

Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King

The challenges of growing up as a first-generation American, like culture clashes with parents and navigating identity issues, are recounted with enthusiasm and good-natured ribbing by the delightful stand-up comedian and The Daily Show correspondent Minhaj in his one-man show.

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Joel Creasey
Photograph: Ed Purnomo
Comedy

Joel Creasey: The Hurricane

Though he is only 24, Joel Creasey is already one of the most popular stand-up comedians in his native Australia. Creasey brings his relentless energy and twisted wit across the ocean to recount hilarious stories about his past as a (rather exasperated) ball boy for professional tennis games, his life as a reality show contestant (I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!) and his experiences touring the world.

Comedy

Sarah Silverman and Friends

Need any further evidence that comedy’s lowbrow is becoming accepted in the hallowed halls of high culture? Silverman takes her acerbic off-color act to BAM during the NYCF. Bring Mom—if BAM approves, she’d be wrong to disagree.

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Photograph: Melissa Sinclair
Comedy, Stand-up

Two Dope Queens

Blogger and comic Phoebe Robinson brings her online alter ego Blaria to the stage alongside The Daily Show's Jessica Williams in this fun stand-up show that features sardonic storytelling and special guests.

Bill Burr
Photograph: Brian Friedman
Comedy, Stand-up

Bill Burr

With his crackling energy, simmering rage and trademark “uninformed logic,” Burr is simply one of the best comics working. A his latest Netflix special I'm Sorry You Feel That Way demonstrates, Burr is at his best when positing notions that no sane person could possibly agree with (at least not in public) and then winning the crowd over, joke by joke and laugh by laugh.

Comedy

Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King

The challenges of growing up as a first-generation American, like culture clashes with parents and navigating identity issues, are recounted with enthusiasm and good-natured ribbing by the delightful stand-up comedian and The Daily Show correspondent Minhaj in his one-man show.

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Joel Creasey
Photograph: Ed Purnomo
Comedy

Joel Creasey: The Hurricane

Though he is only 24, Joel Creasey is already one of the most popular stand-up comedians in his native Australia. Creasey brings his relentless energy and twisted wit across the ocean to recount hilarious stories about his past as a (rather exasperated) ball boy for professional tennis matches, his life as a reality-show contestant (I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!) and his experiences touring the world.

Mindy Tucker
Comedy

Judd Apatow and Friends

Apatow has recently refound stand-up as a passion after ditching it for nearly 25 years. In that time, he made hit films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and, most recently, Trainwreck. So, we're not that upset, but we're happy he's back on the stage with a bunch of friends—and he's really funny. Need proof? Check out his set on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

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John Early
Photograph: Mindy Tucker
Comedy, Sketch shows

Kate Berlant and John Early

Two of New York's best young talents—Berlant has made multiple lists of top comics-to-watch, while Early has scored noteworthy grabs at the spotlight through small roles in 30 Rock, Broad City and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp—combine their kooky comedic powers for a night of sketches, stand-up and short films.

The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail
Photograph: Tyler Ross
Comedy

Kumail Nanjiani

The Silicon Valley star tosses off articulate dismissals of things that flabbergast or frustrate him, making it all look effortless and casual. Tonight he does it for the New York Comedy Festival.

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Nikki Glaser
Photograph: Stephen Dash Brown
Comedy, Stand-up

Nikki Glaser

The former cohost of the MTV talk show Nikki & Sara Live recently moved to L.A. for her upcoming Comedy Central series Not Safe with Nikki Glaser!, but she couldn't resist returning to her former home—and, we presume, favorite city—to film her first stand-up special. Onstage, Glaser proves herself not only a razor-sharp joke writer, but a sympathetic presence, even when going blue or pushing the bounds of good taste.

Comedy, Stand-up

Trevor Noah

The South African comedian has left audiences in stitches with jokes about politics, race and class. If his takeover of The Daily Show is any indication, expect Noah to push the envelope just far enough.

Comedy, Stand-up

Ari Shaffir

This energetic, rambunctious comic and storyteller likes to embody the characters he comes across, as well as personify phenomena that defy imitation altogether, like diarrhea. He’s a goofy-looking guy who revels in the filthy. Not only does he happily embrace every connotation of that word, he encourages even timid audiences to jump off that cliff with him.

Comedy, Big name talent

Craig Robinson & The Nasty Delicious

Craig Robinson may have made us fall in love with him through his scene-stealing comedic turns in The Office and Hot Tub Time Machine, but now the stand-up is gunning to do the same with his smooth voice. Robinson and his eight-piece band bring the funk, soul, hip-hop and rock with their fusion band as part of the New York Comedy Festival.

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Comedy

Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King

The challenges of growing up as a first-generation American, like culture clashes with parents and navigating identity issues, are recounted with enthusiasm and good-natured ribbing by the delightful stand-up comedian and The Daily Show correspondent Minhaj in his one-man show.

Joel Creasey
Photograph: Ed Purnomo
Comedy

Joel Creasey: The Hurricane

Though he is only 24, Joel Creasey is already one of the most popular stand-up comedians in his native Australia. Creasey brings his relentless energy and twisted wit across the ocean to recount hilarious stories about his past as a (rather exasperated) ball boy for professional tennis matches, his life as a reality-show contestant (I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!) and his experiences touring the world.

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