Five things we learned at New York’s Funniest Stand-Up competition

This annual New York Comedy Festival contest gives nine locals—including winner Joe Machi—time enough for a short set and the chance to shine

Joe Machi

Joe Machi Photograph: Phil Nee

Tight sets can be pretty constrictive in a live setting. Most of the comics—each of whom performed their A material—felt pretty constrained by the circumstances and the time limit. Crowd work was minimal, so the entire competition felt like a battle over material and delivery, without much consideration to the energy in the room. Comics we think are great in longer, looser sets—like Phil Hanley—didn’t quite nab the audience and couldn’t (or didn’t) take much time to engage them.

On the other hand, seeing a comic in a competition with stakes can really help you see growth. Joe List, whose material has been solid for a while, exhibits more poise and sense of rhythm now; Michelle Wolf took her bits in a number of different directions while staying pretty grounded; despite going on after the loud and emphatic Ricky Velez, Gary Vider took the audience in quickly, stepping to the stage and quietly asking, “How’s everybody doing…financially?"

Even if you're trying to stay on task and take notes, don’t eat a whole cone of fries in five minutes. Just don’t.

Sometimes it’s better for a host to do less. Michael Che, who won last year’s competition, must not have been available; Vince August stepped in, and he did a fine job of keeping the crowd together but continued to do material as the show went about two hours.

There were a lot of fine sets, but a worthy performer won. Joe Machi, who plays his cartoonishly sweet looks against some fairly dark material—he touched on 9/11, the inevitability of death, the “one good use of the n-word” and more—was declared the winner. (A sample: He received a pizza from a restaurant crass enough to print "Never forget" on its delivery box.… But they failed to deliver part of his order. "How about, 'Never forget…my breadsticks?'") Kind as always, he said any of the comics could have won on another night; true, maybe, but this night was his.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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