With improv, sketch, and stand-up shows seven nights a week, the UCB theater in Chelsea is the place to see the comic A-listers of today perform alongside the comic A-listers of tomorrow. All shows are gut-busting, but it's Sunday's frenetic "Asssscat 3000" that regularly features improv by cast and writers from SNL, 30 Rock, and The Colbert Report. (Who you may see: Jason Sudeikis, Jack McBrayer, and founding member Amy Poehler — when she's in town).
UCB Theater, 307 West 26th Street (between 8th and 9th avenues); 212-366-9176.
Gotham Comedy Club
Another landmark club, Gotham (est. 1996), is located in trendy Chelsea and packs its showroom for headliners such as Lewis Black, Pablo Francisco, and Dave Attell. New Talent Nights here offer a mix of unknowns with the occasional celebrity drop in— Jim Gaffigan and Jerry Seinfeld have stopped by in recent months.
Gotham Comedy Club, 208 West 23rd Street (between 7th and 8th avenues); 212-367-9000.
Carolines on Broadway
A staple of Manhattan's club circuit, Carolines is the perfect venue for locals and tourists alike, regularly bringing out names like Adam Carolla, Susie Essman, and Tracy Morgan. Located blocks above Times Square, a night at Carolines may be the perfect cap to a day spent sight seeing or at work in West Midtown.
Carolines on Broadway, 1626 Broadway (between 7th and 8th avenues); 212-757-4100.
The Comedy Cellar
The Cellar — the go-to spot for stand-up in the West Village — has recently garnered even more exposure through its many guest appearances on FX's Louie. Indeed, Louis CK performs here frequently, as do Colin Quinn, Amy Schumer, and Hannibal Burress, all of whom get in on the club's showcase-style evenings.
Comedy Cellar, 117 MacDougal Street (between West 3rd Street and Minetta Lane); 212-254-3480.
The third of New York's major improv theaters, The Magnet is another home base for nightly improv and sketch. Don't be fooled by the smaller theater size (compared to, say, UCB), laughs here are just as big as anywhere else. Regulars "We're Matt Weir" are two dudes with one name guaranteed to bring the funny.
Magnet Theater, 254 West 29th Street (between 7th and 8th avenues); 212-244-8824.
Opened in 2011, UCB's East Village space also offers live comedy every night. Check out long-form improv from the ladies of Doppelganger on Wednesdays, or see Thursday’s Totally J/K, a stand up show hosted by Joe Mande and Noah Garfinkel featuring sets from the likes of Reggie Watts and Nick Kroll. Post show, get liquored up at the theater's wine and beer bar, located in the back.
UCBeast, 153 East 3rd Street (between avenues A and B); 212-366-9231.
Another alt room, Seth Herzog's Sweet dazzles East Village audiences every Tuesday for a mere $5. Herzog (the warm-up for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) has been doing the show for seven years and his roster of performers has included Horatio Sanz, Jena Friedman, and Justin Long (yes, that one).
Sweet (at Ella Lounge), 9 Avenue A (at Houston Street); 212-777-2230.
Comic Strip Live
If for nothing else, go to Comic Strip Live for the history. The Upper East Side institution is credited with jump-starting the careers of Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock. Evenings here run showcase style (like the Cellar) and comedians you may see include Sherrod Small and SNL scribe Colin Jost.
Comic Strip Live, 1568 2nd Avenue (between 81st and 82nd streets); 212-861-9386.
This comedy hotspot, established in 2002, comes equipped with a full bar (food, too!) and two stages, allowing audiences to maximize the number of shows they see every night. Super Free Wednesdays feature performances from eight of the theater's house teams that are bound to hurt your sides but not your wallet. Also worth checking out: sketch sensations Harvard Sailing Team and veteran improv group, Big Black Car (Saturdays).
The PIT, 123 East 24th Street (between Park and Lexington avenues); 212-563-7488.
Big Terrific at Cameo
Gabe Liedman, Max Silvestri, and Jenny Slate (SNL, "Marcel the Shell") co-host this hilarious (and free!) night of stand-up every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Removed from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, Williamsburg's Cameo draws a younger crowd, serves up cheap drinks, and draws talents like John Mulaney, Aziz Ansari, and Jessi Klein.
Big Terrific (at Cameo), 93 North 6th Street (between Wythe Avenue and Berry Street); 718-302-1180.
Located off the Graham stop, Legion boasts a full bar that hostes a comedy show every other Sunday.
Legion Bar, 790 Metropolitan Avenue (between Humboldt Street and Bushwick Avenue); 718-387-3797.
Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen (at Littlefield)
Comedy partners Kurt Braunohler (Delocated, IFC's upcoming Bunk) and Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords, 30 Rock) bring their signature brand of absurdism to Gowanus' Littlefield. Hot Tub, a tried and true variety show, mixes stand-up, sketch, and music. On any given Monday you may see New York alt institutions like Eugene Mirman, Janeane Garofalo, and Michael Showalter.
Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen (at Littlefield NYC), 622 Degraw Street (Between 3rd and 4th avenues); 718-855-3388.
The Creek and The Cave
Perhaps the best known alt-comedy venue in Queens, LIC's The Creek — which doubles as a bar/restaurant — regularly hosts improv and stand up shows in its upstairs theater and downstairs lounge. Feel free to hit one of the nightly open mics, or catch a long-form show like Monday's Kaleidoscope.
The Creek and the Cave, 10-93 Jackson Avenue (at 49th Avenue); 718-706-8783.
The Laughing Devil
A more traditional club, the Laughing Devil might be Queens’s answer to Carolines or Gotham. This month alone has seen performances from Todd Barry and 30 Rock's Judah Friedlander.
Laughing Devil Comedy Club, 4738 Vernon Boulevard (between 47th Road and 48th Avenue); 347-913-3845.
Queen's Secret Improv Club
Formerly known as the eGarage, QSIC puts up shows at LIC's Secret Theater every Friday night. Look out for indie darlings US National Improv Team and Funkle Todd here.
Queen's Secret Improv Club, 44-02 23rd Street (between 44th Road and 44th Avenue); Long Island City; 718-392-0722.