Why would anyone mourn a venue that’s essentially a dive bar with inconsistent air conditioning, horribly horrible bathrooms, a movie screen that had a massive tear in it (until, ha-ha, this past week!) for a place that still had a sign outside boasting it was Cinema Classics, and really, all of the fun that the East Village had to offer? Then again, the independently-produced comedy community of New York City has been through this before, whether it was last year at Mo Pitkins or years ago with Luna Lounge. So there we were, after an abrupt email sent out in the wee hours yesterday morning, trying to figure out if it really would be the final hours for comedy at Rififi. Spoiler alert: It was.
While rumors flew about what made July 30 the last night for Rififi (a month-to-month lease that finally found someone willing to pay the increasingly high East Village rents seemed to be the leading speculation), the indie comedy scene hastily recast the weekly Gelmania show originally scheduled for this Wednesday night. The hosts from Thursday’s Totally J/K (Joe and Noah) and Friday’s Greg Johnson and Larry Murphy Show certainly would be there. So, too, would many others come to pay final respects. The Whitest Kids U Know, Andy Blitz and Todd Barry showed up as spectators. The final bill would see Joe Mande and Noah Garfinkel take over first-half hosting duties, with one final "List of Nothing" and a joke Mande had uttered earlier in the day via Facebook, that the current Rififi owner would be fleeing on Thursday and taking all of the Glade air-fresheners with him to "Molester Town." Gabe and Jenny (Gabe Liedman and Jenny Slate) returned to host the second half. The final schedule will show that Adam Newman, Pete Holmes, "John McCain," Baron Vaughn, John Gemberling, Slightly Known People, Hannibal Buress, Tom McCaffrey, Chelsea Peretti, Greg Johnson and Larry Murphy, Jon Glaser, John Mulaney, Leo Allen and Eugene Mirman took part in this last Rififi effort. There was a one-woman lip-synch effort to Les Miz with Pez, or is that called Pez Miz? Mirman shouted out requests to Glaser to "do some oldies!" Mulaney even used the opportunity to try new jokes! The show began auspiciously late (?) at 9:11 p.m. and lasted past midnight, with Mirman taking the stage at 12:01 a.m., getting all rock ‘n’ roll by play-real trashing the stage, and Leo Allen rejoining him onstage for some last-minute banter that was odd and appropriately poignant for the occasion.
Among the quips I quoted…
"Rough week, first Bennigan’s, now Rififi!" — Pete Holmes
"I like how the owner never learned our names," Jenny Slate said. "And we had a show here for two years," Gabe Liedman replied. "Well," Slate said, "He only knew me by who I was sleeping with."
"So, Rififi’s closing…ninth time’s the charm, right?" — Tom McCaffrey
"I only saw the last episode of Seinfeld, if that makes you feel any better." — Chelsea Peretti
"I could stand up here and tell jokes that I’ve told 5,000 times on this stage, and I think I might." — Greg Johnson
"Greg Johnson and I tried to save Rififi once." — John Mulaney, adding that they discovered at a city meeting that, at that time, Rififi didn’t even have a license to host live events such as comedy. Rut-ro!
"I like Rififi because you could do things that you thought were funny, but most audiences would disagree vehemently with you." — Leo Allen
"When you leave, take a door with you!" Eugene Mirman said, then made some banging noises on the ceiling. "Oh, wait. The neighbors will complain…to the next landlord."
I have video of the final 13 minutes of the show, after the jump. You may think it a bit anti-climactic, but remember, comedians and fans didn’t really have much of a chance to plan this out, even though we all knew this night would be coming sooner or later. Perhaps all of those false closing rumors of Rififi made some believe the dive would never change hands. This night proved us wrong. So now where does this scene hang out and perform now? Suggestions and thoughts encouraged in the comments. Don’t be shy.
Warning: There is some NSFW language in the final 13 minutes of Rififi’s final comedy show, and also, I seem to have put my finger over one of the mics for a few minutes, inadvertently muffling the noise. My apologies in advance! You can still hear everything. Just turn it up if need be. And enjoy this oddly poignant finale to comedy at Rififi: