What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they're comedians? No, that's not it. It is a fact, though, that America's biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a new recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York's vibrant comedy scene. It's called Meet Me In New York.
Name: Ali Wong
Arrival date: March 13, 2009
Arrived from: San Francisco
When and where did you start performing comedy? Fall 2005, San Francisco
What was your best credit before moving here? SF Weekly selected me as the "Best Comedian of 2009" and the SF Bay Guardian awarded me a "Best of the Bay 2009" award
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? I moved because I wanted more opportunities and to get better. I've been doing comedy for four years and still have a lot of growing to do. Some of the very best comics in LA get three sets a week, and that's considered good! Three sets per week is not enough stage time to improve and experiment. But in NY, I had heard about people getting multiple sets every single night. So I took a test trip out last September, and had such a great time performing and meeting inspiring comics like Sean Patton, that I knew NYC was the right place for me.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? One month
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? San Francisco was a great place to take risks because there's no industry there. Plus, if the clubs like you, you get to work with great headliners like Dave Attell, Dave Chappelle and Patrice Oneal. At the very least, you can always sit in the back and watch the show for free. In NY, it's hard to get a set that's longer than 10 minutes. I was able to do at least one 30 min set per week in San Francisco. Longer sets allow you to tell an unpolished story, and find the jokes on stage, in front of an audience. It's so important to have the time and freedom, to just practice having fresh words and concepts come out of your mouth into a microphone. That's how I write. But here, there have been times where I've gotten 5 sets in one night. That could never happen in San Francisco because finding parking 5 times in one night, would turn me into Michael Douglas' character from Falling Down. I'm also really impressed by how NYC comics are also writers for late-night TV shows, screenwriters and sketch performers. It's just nice to see so many possibilities of how a stand-up can make money in comedy.
Do you already have an "only in New York City" moment yet? I saw Jesse Spano from Saved by the Bell eating lunch, Rachel Bilson buying ice cream and John Mayer with his fitness trainer, all in one hour, and nobody bothered to harass any of them.
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? Get ready to hustle.
Where do you see yourself five years from now? Knocked up. I don't want to have a retarded baby so I gotta get preggers in five years for sure.
Here's a clip of Ali Wong in action. Roll it!
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com