NYC's comedy-verse, once a bastion for a revolving door of homogeneous dudes, is shifting in a new direction––gayer, funnier, and more inclusive. You might think that the rise of online comedy would render live performances obsolete, but New York's alt-comedy scene is thriving with a new generation of LGBTQ and POC comics taking center stage.
Sure, a viral tweet might help launch someone's career, but more often it's the community that uplifts and supports its members' work via podcasts or show appearances and creative collaboration. NYC's comedy scene is a pretty inspiring showcase of solidarity in an otherwise cutthroat entertainment industry. Here are six acts that you should know if you don't already:
As an improv-er, standup comedian, and published New Yorker writer, Ayo Edebiri makes comedy look effortless. Her bubbly stage persona is tempered by her dark outlook on modern urban life. She's such a joy to watch that you might not even notice the existential dread creeping up on you! As she bounces around the stage, her whip-smart material covers all the basic tenets of the cultural zeitgeist––gentrification, uniq-lo joggers, and Mark Ruffalo's extensive filmography.
If you haven't heard of prodigious comedian Jaboukie Young-White, what are you even doing? Hailing from Chicago, Jaboukie has made a name for himself this past year after being added as a correspondent to The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, as well as making a standup appearance on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show, where he came out to his parents as gay. JY-W gained popularity on Twitter, where he offers some of the freshest takes on millennial culture. Though he draws a lot of his material from feeling alienated, his content sheds light in a way that makes people feel a little more connected. From talking about gay bugs to health insurance, he never seems too worried. In many ways, Young-White represents a new generation of comics democratically elected by the internet. Lots have caught on to the hype– he's written for Big Mouth and American Vandal, and made appearances on Crashing and Rough Night. Currently, there are talks of him starring alongside Dumplin' star Danielle Macdonald in Bo Burnham's next project. We wouldn't be surprised if there's a Netflix Special somewhere in his future.
Larry Owens is the alt-comedy scene's bona fide Sondheim aficionado. He's a beacon of light among the sometimes dreary, self-effacing standup sets. Owens can dive into classic standards just as easily as One Direction hits, all the while mixing in riffs on everyday life struggles in between. His self-assured diva energy reminds me of Tituss Burgess' portrayal of Titus Andromedon in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. With an angelic voice and serious comedy chops, Owens is the ultimate hilarious, musical package.
If you're a sad e-girl trying to Instagram a picture of a dead bird, Rachel Sennott will not hesitate to put you on blast. Her topical comedy targets all of the worst parts of millennial and influencer culture, never shying away from poking fun at herself. As a writer, standup, and actress, Sennott has written and starred in her own original shorts and appeared on HBO's High Maintenance. Whether she's exposing Bushwick fuckboys or gingham-clad influencers on a picnic, Sennott uses her interpersonal life to inform and fuel her unique brand of sardonic, self-aware humor.
After Sydnee Washington spent a decade working as a bottle girl, she transitioned to the realm of standup comedy to offer a fresh perspective. She has her own show Death of a Bottle Girl and co-hosts The Unofficial Expert podcast, where she offers insight on New York's nightlife scene. She's like the funny, more experienced older sister you never had. Now a resident of the alt-comedy scene, Washington presents her razor-sharp takes from her own vantage point as a queer black woman in the city.
Ana Fabrega can do just about anything. Though she started off working in finance, Fabrega emerged as one of the most consistent (and funniest) members of the comedy scene. You may have seen her in Portlandia or High Maintenance, or perhaps you came across her through her 10-second videos on Twitter where she does micro-bits, impressions, and oddly specific characters. Now, Fabrega is working on the HBO show Los Espookys (co-written with Julio Torres and Fred Armisen). She may not be new to the scene, but she's definitely one to keep your eye on.
Sara is a music and culture writer who lives in Brooklyn. Her work has previously appeared in PAPER magazine and Stereogum.
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