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 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.
When the U.S. Olympic Committee announced over the weekend that our best hopes for a 2024 Summer Olympics would happen in Boston, plenty of heads shook in disbelief. Certainly, Boston fans are literally and figuratively more Patriotic about their sports than fans in other cities across America, but the idea of hosting the Olympics there? Crazy talk. Who would dare suggest a thing? Jon Fisch? No. Not Jon Fisch. Close, though. John Fish. Not the Jon Fisch I know. Fisch is part of a small cadre of stand-up comedians with whom I share immediate and fast friendships and debates with about Boston sports — specifically the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics, in that order. Forget the Bruins. I’m a Hartford Whalers fan for life. Fisch and I both live in Astoria, the Queens neighborhood that boasts more comedians and podcasts than perhaps any Brooklyn or Manhattan hood can offer. I wanted to set the record straight you, dear comedy fans, on the real Jon Fisch.
Fisch’s TV appearances are as varied as your typical Comedy Central showcase (Premium Blend) and as atypical as NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, with legit blue-blood credits that include Late Show with David Letterman and the prestige festivals in Montreal and Aspen. He has a new stand-up comedy album you should check out called “He Has Friends.” Make him your friend, too.
Arrival date: June 2001
Arrived from: Boston, Mass.
When and where did you start performing comedy?
I started comedy in Boston. I took a workshop with Rick Jenkins at the Brookline Continuing Education Center. The graduation show was at The Comedy Studio in Cambridge. I was so petrified I didn’t tell any of my friends that I was doing it. After it was over, I didn’t know how to continue so I didn’t. I didn’t go back onstage for a year. I signed up for an improv class at the Boston Continuing Education Center but I was the only one. So they canceled the class and asked me if I wanted to take the stand-up class instead. I figured why not? Different place. Turned out to be Rick’s partner Jim De Croteau teaching and the same graduation show at The Comedy Studio. I was still petrified, I couldn’t even drive myself to the show. I tried to take public transportation but it wasn’t easy getting from Jamaica Plain to Cambridge. I was so nervous that I would be late that I hopped in a cab at some point and ended up running my set for the cab driver. This time I let some friends know and they came to the show so it felt like it actually happened. Also, this time I made two friends in the class that were interested in keeping it going. I am still friends with them to this day. Anne Maneikis and Mike Dieffenbauch. We navigated the open mic scene together and met to go over material and were each other’s support. We called ourselves “The Comedy Trio.” We would do everything we could. We once split a 45-minute slot at an anything-goes open mic in Waltham. We would do sets at The Comedy Studio and we found our way to Dick Doherty’s Comedy Vault, Nick’s Comedy Stop and The Comedy Connection.
What was your best credit before moving here?
Ha! I moved about two and a half years into doing stand-up. I think my bio was littered with credits like “opened for…” & “auditioned for…” That was the thing in Boston, an intro at that time was “he just opened for Anthony Clark,” or “he just auditioned for Conan.”
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else?
Well I figured it was between NYC or LA. I felt like Boston was in the tier just under those two and going anywhere else would be a lateral move.
I remember visiting LA for a week or so, and then visiting NYC for a week or so with intention that the trips would help me decide. But I think I had already made up my mind because six months previously I had come down to NYC to audition for something at the Comic Strip, maybe an HBO Aspen Festival audition. The manager and booker of the club Lucien Hold talked to me for a little while and then introduced me to Peter Rosegarten, a manager. He told me NYC was where I wanted to be if I wanted to get really good at stand-up. He said I could always go to LA if I had a project or a reason to go, but if I wanted to be a great stand-up, NYC was the place. That stuck with me. And I remember that night there were three shows at the Comic Strip. I was on the first. Lucien let me sit in the green room sound booth and watch the rest of my show and the other two. I was mesmerized. I was just trying to soak up everything I could. I would have kept sitting there. I wanted to be a part of it.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here?
Shortly after I moved to NYC, I was fortunate enough to get an audition for Lucien at the Comic Strip and he passed me to be a regular at the club. I know you ask this in a couple of questions but this was one of my NYC moments. I actually hadn’t even started renting an apartment yet. I was subletting a room at my friend’s apartment on 58th and 8th and I don’t remember if I walked all the way there from the Upper East Side that night, I would not be surprised if I did I was so fired up. But I vividly remember walking by Columbus Circle and by the Park Plaza hotel near Central Park and being so excited that I had the “yell from the rooftop” feeling and so I did, I was screaming with excitement, not from the rooftop but from the streets of NYC nonetheless. It was both trite and inspired. I felt like I had arrived. About a week later I got paid my first $5 for a set at the Comic Strip. I think the weekday pay was $10 per set at the time except for the last two or three sets of the night which were $5. I still have that $5 bill along with the piece of paper that Lucien wrote the phone # on for me to call the club with my weekly availability.
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from?
I always liked the Boston scene because it was set up where you could do short sets on showcase shows during the week and also do paid shows on the weekend for paying customers. So you could stay sharp with tight short sets during the week at places like the Comedy Connection and the Vault and The Comedy Studio and even the weekend at the Vault and Studio. But you could also learn how to host a show, how to middle/feature a show, and eventually headline a show on the weekends in the suburbs and RI, New Hampshire, and Maine. It was like being on the road but close enough to sleep in your own bed.
That being said, I always felt like standup was popping every night in NYC. A Monday night in NYC could feel like a Saturday night anywhere else. There is just so much more comedy, so much great comedy. You can’t help but get better and funnier in NYC.
Can you describe an “only in New York City” moment from your experience here?
If you want more, how about this for comedy. One night at Gotham Comedy Club I did a set sandwiched between Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn. Another night at the Cellar I was hosting and introduced on one show: Judd Apatow, Amy Schumer, Aziz Anzari and then Dave Attell and Jeff Ross were onstage together for a half-hour together closing out the night.
Non-comedy moment: I have always been amazed by the way people get in and out of parking spots in NYC. They have such disregard for their car bumpers they will just whack the cars in front and behind them to the point that it is comical. The first time I witnessed it happening to my car it rocked me so hard I wrote a bit about it.
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here?
Get a bumper guard for your car. If you don’t have a car, make friends with someone that has a car. Buy them a bumper guard as a thank you for all the rides they give you to shows.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Oh man, I was hoping you could help me with that. I love doing stand-up and will never stop. I have always wanted to write monologue jokes for late-night TV. So in five years hopefully still doing stand up and also writing for a show.
Jon Fisch is a regular at The Comedy Cellar, Gotham Comedy Club and other clubs and rooms around the city. You also can spot him this Thursday at Greg Johnson and Larry Murphy’s Myrtle Comedy Show at Splitty’s, Sunday at The Knitting Factory. On the road, he’ll be at the Albany Comedy Works Feb. 5-7, Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, on Feb. 14, and the Palace Theater in Stamford, Conn., on Feb. 19.
Here he was on your cable TV in November performing on AXS-TV’s Gotham Comedy Live, hosted by Margaret Cho:
Buy Jon Fisch’s stand-up CD, “He Has Friends”
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
Above: Jon Fisch photographed by Mindy Tucker