NYC comedians bare their souls and bodies at Naked Comedy

You'll never see a more attentive audience.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Things to Do Editor
A naked man performs comedy on stage.
Photograph: By Kayana Szymczak

Performing comedy is a vulnerable act. The art demands bravely standing on stage under bright lights in front of strangers while sharing embarrassing moments, family history and dating faux pas—all while trying to elicit a laugh. But the comedians who perform at this monthly comedy show take the challenge a step further: They're completely nude.

While doing stand-up in the buff presents its own complications, the comics who perform at The Naked Comedy Show say it's a way to push themselves, and they promise it's a lot of fun. Plus, they insist, you'll never meet a more attentive audience. 

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"How can you make a seasoned, experienced, funny comedian nervous like it's their first time going on stage again?" NYC's Naked Comedy organizer Billy Procida asks. The answer's simple: Nudity. 

Procida and a cast of comedians will perform at The Naked Comedy Show this Friday, December 1, in Brooklyn (tickets here). The lineup features Nat Towsen, Madelein Murphy, Geneva Rust-Orta, Tony Sykowski, Herbie Gill, Beecher, Juan Nicolón, Sarah Barnitt, and Hanna Gerlander across two showtimes. Shows have featured comedians from America's Got Talent, Wild 'n Out, Nickelodeon, HBO, NBC, CBS, Comedy Central, Netflix and more.

If you miss this month's show, sign up for the mailing list here to get updates on future events. Word to the wise: Shows tend to sell out quickly.

Lured by the chance of free stage time, Procida performed in his first naked comedy show back in 2009. More than a decade later, he got the idea to host an au naturel show in partnership with Hacienda, a sex-positive venue in Brooklyn.

In the past year, he's hosted Naked Comedy on a monthly cadence, each time bringing in impressive lineups of comedians who are willing to bare it all. 

"If they were wearing their clothes, you'd still be like, 'this is a great lineup,'" he tells Time Out New York. "I don’t care if you’ve been doing comedy for 10 years, if you’re not used to being naked in front of people, it can definitely make it feel like your first time all over again."

Before the show, comedians are known to do push-ups to tone their arms or use a resistance band for buns of steel. And, yes, he admits, sometimes the male comedians are worried about how they'll, well, "present."

Comedians tend to channel that nervous energy into the act. 

Madelein Murphy performs naked on stage.
Photograph: Courtesy of The Naked Comedy Show | Madelein Murphy performs

“You forget that you’re naked like a minute into it. A lot of [the comics] are surprised by how not weird it feels once they’re up there,” Procida says. “You get like 30 seconds with the audience of them being like, ‘haha look’ and after that first 30, they’re like, ‘Do you have jokes?’”

Audience members are welcome to strip down for the show; the first two rows of seats are clothing-optional. Plus, Procida carries on a tradition from the founder of Naked Comedy, Andy Ofiesh: Anybody in the audience who is brave enough to get naked and tell a joke on stage is welcome to. Believe it or not, a handful of attendees usually do, and the winner will be awarded a prize, like a ticket, some weed or a vibrator.

"The more naked the audience gets, the more fun the whole audience ends up being," he says.

While the audience has fun, they also must abide by a few rules: Be respectful, no heckling, and phones must be put away during the show.

Stand-up comedian Sarah Barnitt lauds the audience as a "good crowd" where she doesn't feel judged. 

As a young comic in her 20s, Barnitt says she’s still finding her persona or point of view in comedy, and doing show after show (naked and not) helps hone that skill. She’s performed in several iterations of naked comedy shows, and she’ll perform again this Friday. Not to give away the joke, but we’re very excited for a bit she’s planning about side chicks.

You forget that you're naked like a minute into it.

For her, performing in the nude strips away distractions as a performer (while also adding a big one: nudity). 

"You can't really play with your clothes, you can't really hide when you're up there," she says. "It makes you much more aware of your physicality as a comic."

During her Naked Comedy performances, Barnitt has learned to embrace the situation and the absurdity. As she puts it: "This could only happen in Brooklyn."

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