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.
If you just watched Last Comic Standing‘s ranking of the Top 100 jokes from last summer’s eighth season, you’d have sworn that Keith Alberstadt had either won the competition or finished close to the top, what with multiple appearances on the best-of countdown. And yet, that’s not how that worked out. Funny thing, though: Alberstadt has appeared on four separate seasons of Last Comic in the “live audience” rounds, as he recalled to me this week. Alberstadt also refers to his own personality and humor as “inner dork,” but really, he’s got that folksy friendliness and charm that comes with growing up in Tennessee as the son of a Vanderbilt professor and later graduating from that university himself. In addition to the NBC credit, he’s also performed on Late Show with David Letterman, contributed jokes to both Fallon and Weekend Update, and can be seen every so often overnight on FOX News’ Red Eye.
You may have seen him last night on a new episode of Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen. If you missed that, you’ll get another chance to see him tonight.
In the meantime, let’s get to know more about him!
Name: Keith Alberstadt
Arrival date: April 2006
Arrived from: Nashville, Tenn.
When and where did you start performing comedy? I started in Nashville in the summer/fall of ’97, and went full time in 2001.
What was your best credit before moving here? I guess Last Comic Standing. They showed a few jokes of mine during their montages.
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else?
The beautiful weather, of course. And the plethora of stages. I knew I could do a lot of sets here, get some exposure, and still have some accessible road stuff too to pay the bills.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here?
A little over a year. I was so not used to getting paid here that I just left after my set. The next day, the booker emailed me and said, “You didn’t pick up your pay. You need to come get it.” I felt like a moron.
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from?
I loved the comedy scene in Nashville. The camaraderie and support from the other comics and the club there (Zanies) were amazing. But there’s nothing like being a comedian in NYC. It’s a whole different life form here. You can easily, in one single night, go from humbled and bitter to inspired and pumped. I love Nashville, but being here is pretty sweet. Plus, the pipes in my apartment clank real loud. I like to pretend it’s Morse code for, “Hey Keith–you made it, buddy.”
Can you describe an “only in New York City” moment from your experience here?
1. I went on an audition for a Little Caesar’s commercial. The role was for “small town lawyer”. They asked for a southern accent (because of course only the south has small towns), so I did the lines for the casting agent in my normal, everyday voice. She said, “Ok, let’s do it again, only this time…just talk normal. Don’t try to exaggerate the accent so much.”
2. Here’s an interaction I had recently:
Pizza guy — “How ya doin?”
Me — “I feel like a million bucks, sir.”
Pizza guy — “Oh God, this oughta be fun.”
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here?
Write everyday, perform as much as possible, and abandon any ideas of a normal social life. Also, I hope you like halal food and pizza, because that’s your diet the first year-and-a-half.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Writing and starring in my own show, based in Nashville and filmed on location. But I’m flexible.
You can find Keith Alberstadt performing in clubs around New York City nightly when he’s not headlining a comedy club or corporate event on the road. Check his tour dates for the latest updates. Here’s another look at Alberstadt’s audition in the “Invitational” of the 2014 season of NBC’s Last Comic Standing.
He’s also released two stand-up comedy albums, “One Night Stand,” and “It’s Pronounced Jenkins.”
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: Keith Alberstadt photographed by Mindy Tucker