You already know that there are a ton of great places to see stand-up in the city, but here’s what you may not know: a lot of them are completely free. And, no, that doesn’t mean they’re bad -- in fact, almost all of them have been frequented by well-known comedians at one point or another (and the rest have been blessed with the likes of sure-to-be famous up-and-comers). So the next time you need an underground sanctuary for excellent comedy for the price of $0.00, check out these.
“Let’s See, What Else” at Poco
Wednesdays at 8pm
Local comedians Tom Delgado and Missy Baker host a new batch of both rising and established comedians in this restaurant’s intimate downstairs cellar every week (there’s a bar down there, relax!) -- which means you could quite literally be rubbing elbows with reputable comics like Nick Vatterott (Comedy Central, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon) and SNL cast member Sasheer Zamata.
“Hot Soup” at Irish Exit
Tuesdays at 8pm
Although the Steelers fans that flock to this bar add their own comedic flair, the 50-seat showroom in the back features legit comedians as well. Aziz Ansari and Jeff Garlin are just a couple of the heavy-hitters who have stopped by for an impromptu set.
“Gandhi, Is That You” at Lucky Jack's
Wednesdays at 9pm
Every jokester in this typically seven- to eight-person lineup has some cred, and we don’t just mean of the street variety. Think writers and actors from Comedy Central, MTV, and NBC. You can also count on the occasional star like Todd Barry, Judah Friedlander and, um, Vinny Guadagnino (fist pump!) dropping-in to test new material.
“Comedy as a Second Language” at The Delancey
Thursdays at 8pm
This show has been rotating in new comedians for nearly eight years, but in recent months it moved over to The Delancey’s showroom. Luckily, the same antics, roaring laughs, cheap drinks, and new batch of comedians every week followed (as did the free admission).
“Whiplash” at Upright Citizens Brigade
Mondays at 11pm
This show is free, but so notoriously great that getting a reservation (or even standing room) can be damn near impossible. Book early, because it’s that good. Not only because UCB has long been the birthplace of great comics, but also because even Louis C.K. counts this show among his favorites, and he rarely likes anything.
“The Front Room” at the Knitting Factory
Wednesdays and Sundays at 9pm
You may have seen this funny foursome stop in at paid-for shows -- like The Strand -- but they also host their own every week. And almost every week, a surprise guests makes an appearance. But even if they don’t, the laughs keep coming thanks to the $6 PBR & shot combo that coincides with the show.
“Live From Outer Space” at The Cobra Club
Fridays at 9pm
This no-frills weekly show hosted by a quirky trio of rising comedians (Erik Bergstrom of Comedy Central and The New Yorker; John F. O’Donnell of Comedy Central; and Ben Kronberg of Last Comic Standing) always promises a good time with special guest stars and drink specials. Also, we can’t make any promises, but we have it on pretty good authority that something absurd will go down.
“Broken Comedy” at Bar Matchless
Mondays at 9pm
The hosts of this show should be reason enough for you to attend, since they include comedian trio Nimesh Patel, Mike Denny, and Michael Che from SNL’s "Weekend Update.” Plus, since they recruit the performers, you know the talent also won’t disappoint.
Open mic night at Legion Bar
Sundays at 6:00pm
Yes, open mic nights are typically terrible (or only slightly less-terrible than you thought), but it’s hard not to find this community of misfits at least mildly entertaining. Plus the crowd isn’t terribly judgmental, so if you’re feeling brave you can give it a worry-free whirl.
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Liz Newman is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and recently performed stand-up for the first time during an open mic night that thankfully is not on this list. Follow her as she attempts to be funny in 140 characters or less on Twitter and Instagram at @lizn813.
1. Poco33 Avenue B, New York
2. The Irish Exit978 2nd Ave, New York
3. Lucky Jack's129 Orchard St, New York
4. The Delancey168 Delancey St, New York
5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre307 W 26th St, New York
6. Knitting Factory361 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211, Brooklyn
7. The Cobra Club6 Wyckoff Ave, Brooklyn
8. Bar Matchless557 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn
9. Legion790 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn
This Alphabet City spot offers up organic breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with the hope of making every guest feel like they are at home. The tapas-style dinner menu is full of interesting bites to share with a group, and if you come for brunch, there's an excellent boozy add-on to a number of great lobster dishes.
Irish Exist in Midtown East is the kind of quintessential Irish-pub-meets-sports-bar that every neighborhood in Manhattan needs. Its convenient mid-50s location means it’s a standard after-work spot while its status as the #1 Steelers bar means it’s a football destination. A 50-seat dining room in the back hosts various events from comedy shows to happy hour, and serves a full menu of Irish-touched pub grub.
This cozy Irish pub is a gem in the crowded Lower East Side bar scene. A long copper bar and brick walls make it feel homey, as do the friendly bartenders. There’s a solid selection of small-batch bourbons and craft beers, but the bartenders will mix up anything. It’s the perfect place to catch up with a few friends after work or hit up on Friday night for low-key chilling and dancing.
This nightlife spot on the Lower East Side includes a plush lounge, canopied roof deck and basement performance space. In the summer, make a beeline for the top deck of this tri-level club— the palm tree rooftop is the place to be when the sun is still out and when summer nights are oh so nice. If it's too hot, the air conditioned performance space in the basement is a definite runner up. Speaking of, stop in Thursdays at 8pm for the “Comedy as a Second Language” series. This shows have been rotating in new comedians for nearly eight years. Luckily, the same roaring laughs, cheap drinks and free admission never went away.
UCB is the city's premiere improv and sketch comedy venue, and also one of the busiest, with shows playing every night. Over a dozen courses are taught by famed comics (including co-founder Amy Poehler), from long-form improv to sketch writing. It’s probably the most well-known place in NYC to see up-and-coming comedians fine tune their art. Case in point: Broad City’s Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson met while taking a class there.
Only in Bushwick would you find a yoga studio/coffee shop/bar hybrid. There’s something going on every night at The Cobra Club: trivia nights, comedy shows, live music, DJs, and more. The yoga studio is behind a discreet door in the back of the bar and hosts unordinary classes like Hangover Yoga, a weekend session whose entrance fee includes a Bloody Mary or mimosa at the bar.
Set in a former auto shop opposite McCarren Park, this Greenpoint bar is a cool and laid-back neighborhood bar. There’s a solid beer selection, from craft brews to Budweiser, plus classic bar food like wings, sliders, and burgers. There are events most nights of the week, like comedy shows, live music, and the occasional karaoke night.
Dark brick walls, barred windows, and pink neon lights make this East Williamsburg bar eerily reminiscent of your high school friend’s basement. Drinks run the gamut from Stella and Hoegaarden on tap to bourbon and scotch, and there’s a small outdoor patio perfect for summer nights. A backroom stage hosts bands, karaoke, comedy shows, and readings throughout the week.