50 First Jokes was the funniest show of the year.
And I have a feeling I will still say that on December 31st!
On Tuesday, Jan. 5, I attend the 4th annual "50 First Jokes". Thank you to co-producer Claudia Cogan for the invitation. Although the show's title may be a riff on the 2004 film "50 First Dates", this show will endure long after that film is forgotten, (no offense, Mr. Sandler) and become a New York City New Year's tradition, much like the Polar Bear Club in Coney Island (but warmer & funnier).
The show was conceived, produced and hosted by John F. O'Donnell, Jiwon Lee and Claudia Cogan. The idea is to get 50 comics to do two minutes of brand new material. The caveat: the material must be written after the ball dropped on New Year's Eve.
Although the comedians may not all be household names (yet), they have been on or written for SNL, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Comedy Central, VH1, HBO, Letterman, CollegeHumor, IFC, Leno, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Colbert Report, Montreal Just for Laughs Festival, Bonnaroo Festival, The Daily Show, Family Guy (say whaaat!?), and more. And most are well known to anyone who follows the NYC comedy scene.
The comics came on stage in four groups of twelve, to help speed the transition up to the mic. Co-hosts John, Jiwon and Claudia took turns introducing the acts, from all different backgrounds, to tell their first joke of the new year...Due to the fast pace, and the fact that I didn't have a program, it was hard for me to remember all the names of the comics as they were bombarding us with fresh, raw humor. But there was not a weak link among the group. The room oozed creativity and comic brilliance, and the audience was ready to eat it up.
Seth Herzog of "Sweet" was the first one up, while Roger Hailes finished strong, closed the show...In between, each dozen took turns at the mic with their new material. It was good to see Shawn Hollenbach & Matt McCarthy, two stars of MurphGuide's first (and so far, only) attempt at co-producing a comedy show: "Insert Catchy Name Here". Perhaps in 2010 we will try it again...I also got to meet for the first time several of the comics that are frequently listed on MurphGuide.com, including Jessy Delfino, RG Daniels and Diane O'Debra...Because the jokes were written just since the first of the year, there were lots of bits about going home for the holidays. There were also lots of references about being gay or Jewish (this is NYC, after all), but I only counted two Tiger Woods jokes (that's so 2009)...It was interesting to hear the origins of material that I'm sure will be polished in the coming months. Some highlights (for me) included: Victor Varnado's opening line, John Knefel's bit about NASA, Joe DeRosa's "kill-me" pleas, Michael Recine's line about Cash Cab, and the musical numbers by Jessy Delfino and Sara Schaefer... The Studio at Webster Hall is a nice space for the show. Before the show, we stopped in nearby The Central Bar for a little pre-game, and ended it with a nightcap at Nevada Smith's. Cheers!
Thanks to our friend Paul Katcher for these photos:
with what looks like a left-handed compliment.
*subject to changes.
Joe DeRosa, Myq Kaplan, Katina Corrao, Victor Varnado, Thomas Middleditch, Jesse Popp, Dan Curry, Amy Schumer, Matt McCarthy, Gilad Foss, Joe DeVito, Jon Friedman, Kumail Nanjiani, Ray Devito, Giulia Rozzi, Jackie Monahan, Sean Patton, Michael Recine, John Knefel, Diane O'Debra, Erik Bergstrom, Mike Drucker, Seth Herzog, Pat Stango, Sean Donnelly, Anthony Jeselnik, Joe Garden, Lizz Winstead, Roger Hailes, Lee Camp, Scott Yacyshyn, Ali Wong, Shawn Pearlman, Liz Miele, Abbi Crutchfield, RG Daniels, Danny Solomon, Mark Normand, Matt Ruby, Kate Berlant, Neal Stastny, Shawn Hollenbach, Lisa Kaplan, Dan St. Germain, Sean Crespo, Chris Doucette, Jessica Delfino, Tom Shillue, Sara Schaefer, Luke Thayer, Jon Lang, Jamie Kilstein.
Co-hosts: Claudia Cogan, Jiwon Lee, John F. O'Donnell.
Do yourself a favor:
1. Google these names above.
2. Watch their clips on youtube, myspace, etc.
2a. Laugh your ass off.
3. Go see them at clubs and comedy shows happening in NYC, every single night of the year.
Fifty First Jokes
Review: 50 COMICS first jokes (Jessy Delfino)
Gallery: 50 First Jokes 2010 (Mary Anne Ventrice Photography Blog)
More Photos by Mary Anne Ventrice (flickr)
50 First Jokes (NYTimes)
The Studio at Webster Hall