Locals say that the comedy at New York Comedy Club can be hit or miss, but when it's on, it's on fire. This snug club (read: no bad seats in the house) in Gramercy features top-flight comics, open mic nights and terrific sketch comedy each week. You'll find shows here every night of the week, so we'd recommend checking the calendar before you go to ensure the show is your cup of tea. Most week-day shows kick off at 8:30 PM, and there are typically three shows at various times on Saturdays. Despite pulling most of the crowd in off the street, this joint can still bring the house down when they've got a true talent on stage.
If you're searching for a place that feels comfortable where you can toss back a few beers and maybe eat a chicken sandwich and some sweet potato fries while watching a great live show, Union Hall is a safe bet. A NY Mag "critic's pick" for best comedy club in the city, this 5,000-square-foot joint is a chic bar on top and a stand-up stage in the basement, with a bocce ball court out back to boot. The nightly acts are predictably hilarious and bonus: they won't break the bank - most of the calendar ranges in the $6 - $10 ballpark.
An underground comedy club conjures up images of a dark comedic underbelly running rampant under the city and delighting brave patrons who dare to step inside. Laughing Buddha on the Lower East Side is no exception, though its name does add a bit more levity to the hidden mystique. You won't find the big names here, but that's entirely the point. Instead, hear stand-up hopefuls test out their latest shticks and tricks. We'd recommend turning a night at the Buddha into a long-running bet with a couple of friends - which acts do you think are headed for the bright lights and bigger stages?
Named Best Comedy Club by New York Magazine, The Stand is part of a new wave of comedy clubs in the city. Not only do they feature top acts and rising stars, but their food and cocktail offerings are also on point. And unlike many other clubs in the city, this one plays into the early morning crowds with brunch themes like Pajamas and Pancakes, which feature drool-worthy eats like stacks of cookie dough hotcakes. Regulars say that the acts are always hilarious, and range from the big guys like Lewis CK and Tracy Morgan to lesser-known names that still pack a hilarious punch.
Not for the timid, Carolines on Broadway presents well-known acts performing down and dirty comedy. A two-drink minimum is strictly enforced, but rest assured that you'll need more than two if you sit close to the stage - comedians regularly target unsuspecting audience members in their acts. Conveniently, Carolines also offers dinner-and-a-show packages, so you're able to score great seats early on, and then settle in for the performance later in the evening. Top names, including stars like The Wayans Brothers and Adam Carolla, will often test new material at Carolines, so you'll get an inside glimpse into whatever they're working on before it hits the mainstream.
Chicago-style improv is alive and well in the Big Apple thanks to the efforts of this energetic group of comedians. Indeed, founders Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh all hail from the Windy City, and their unique brand of cutting-edge comedy has been raising eyebrows and breaking ribs since the late 90s. Don't be surprised if you show up to catch a show, only to encounter familiar faces gracing the stage. Their Sunday night show - Asssscat 3000 - is a local favorite, and guests line up for hours, rain or shine, to score tickets for the free 9:30 PM show. Tickets are available for the 7:30 PM showing, but the shows get more outrageous as the night wears on.
Chicago City Limits boasts over 30 years of comedic entertainment on their website, which means they've been at this for a long, long time. That said, their tenure is far from the only reason you should go. This troupe consistently dazzles when it comes to improv comedy - you know, the one where a group of people gets up in front of an audience completely unafraid to make total fools of themselves? At Chicago City Limits, the only fools are the ones who don't buy tickets. Seating is limited, so do yourself a favor and plan accordingly, or risk missing out.
If the Village has a funny bone, this is where it gets tickled thanks to a star-studded group of alumni that includes Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld, and Damon Wayans. Arguably the most famous comedy club in Manhattan, the space is intimate (translation: seating is limited, so be sure to make reservations). If you're not into playing along, this might not be the spot for you, as many comedians incorporate audience members into their acts. If you visit during non-show hours, head upstairs to the pubby Olive Tree, which offers a full dinner menu and creative mixers like the white Russian shake. Two-drink minimum for shows. Shows are 18+ from Sunday to Thursday, but check the website for exact show times.
A great place to catch stand-up acts any night of the week, Gotham has been on the scene since the mid-90s. The space's stylish red interior, designed by co-owner Chris Mazzilli, captures the magic of 20s-era New York, while the lobby walls are adorned with photos of history's greatest comedic talents. Comics do more than decorate the walls, though - they also take the stage, and Gotham crowds have been entertained by some of the industry's top stand-ups in recent years, including Dave Chapelle and Lewis Black. Aspiring comics can also try their hand at one of Gotham's many classes, which run the gamut from stand-up workshops to comedy writing boot camps.
Hannibal Buress and Kristen Schaal cut their teeth at The Peoples Improv Theater, and every week, you can catch other comedic hopefuls on stage for pennies on the dollar of some other clubs. The PIT also has a rotating cast of regular shows, including the hilarious sketch comedy show, Blogologues, which features a script that's culled word-for-word from the internet. Ever wish someone was there to act out those left-field Craigslist posts or cringe-worthy Tindr messages you and your friends giggle about over brunch? Look no further. Definitely rated R, this isn't one to attend if you're easily offended. But then again, what good comedy is?