Enjoying a walkabout in the city this weekend, a friend and I noticed that in just about any other city, a Fringe Festival takes over the town and you cannot avoid seeing or hearing about it. But in New York City, the Fringe can be happening and you might not even know it. It could just as well be called the Underground festival. Except, oh, that festival is happening in NYC this week, too!
Yes, comedy fans.
If you're in Manhattan, or even Brooklyn, for the rest of August 2010, you have extra options for your entertainment dollar as both the New York International Fringe Festival and the New York Underground Comedy Festival have set up shops. I suppose the simple answer to the question posed by my own headline is that if you're in a black-box theater-type space, then you're at a Fringe show, and if you're in a comedy club or a bar masquerading as a comedy club, then you're at an Underground show. But let's stop trying to answer questions which are moot and answer one that you might find more useful.
Such as, what shows might be worth your time and money at these festivals?
With the Underground Comedy festival, it's always a bit interesting to see what shows they include, because often times, the shows are the same weekly or monthly shows that operate "underground" outside of the city's club system and just happen to be happening with a festival banner this time. See: Morrison Motel, which is happening tonight at Cornelia Street Cafe, with guests including John Oliver and Wyatt Cenac. Very underground? Not very, but still a fun time. Tonight also features the festival's annual "Emerging Comics Contest" at Gotham Comedy Club, which has in years past awarded comedians who have, in fact, emerged. This also is the festival that features the annual "New York's Funniest Reporter" contest. I'm neither competing nor judging this year, so you're all safe! Among other shows to keep an eye on: Franklyn Ajaye is performing Friday at the Green Room at 45 Bleecker, while Ted Alexandro headlines for an hour at Karma on Saturday. Check out the full schedule for lineups and ticket info!
The New York Fringe has dozens of shows listed under the comedy genre this year with multiple performances. I cannot speak for all of them. But I do know about a few of them…
Evan O'Television in Double Negatives is Evan O'Sullivan's latest venture into what he's calling "video ventriloquism." Here is the five-minute preview he offered at the Fringe's press conference last week:
Get Rich Cheating is Jeff Kreisler's "wealth-building seminar" based on his book of the same name.
Headscarf and the Angry Bitch, Zehra Fazal's one-woman show, has gotten good reviews and was the Best Solo Show pick at 2009's Capital Fringe in D.C.
The Rev. Bill and Betty were seen spreading their own version of The Word briefly on Last Comic Standing, and if you'd like to see them spread their "Interfaith Understanding" a little more, then here that is:
Michelle Krusiec, whom I met at the HBO Aspen festival back in 2002, comes to New York with her one-woman show, Made in Taiwan.
Dean Evans will make you take another look at mimes and clowns with his show, Magical Exploding Boy.
PJ Walsh, who toured as the opening act for Larry the Cable Guy, talks about his life in stand-up comedy and in the military in his show, Over There:
Jim David is performing his show, South Pathetic, about the worst community theater in the Carolinas.
The Tim and Micah Project is two sketch guys from Chicago: Tim Soszko and Micah Philbrook.
And Violators Will Be Violated, a show conceived by Casey Smith, was personally recommended to me as a must-see by SNL's Michaela Watkins the last time I visited Los Angeles. See it in NYC while it lasts!
Oh, also: Micah Wertheim, who has performed twice at Edinburgh's Fringe, makes his American debut with his show, Amsterdam Abortion Survivor. Here's a clip: