“50 Comics. One Mega Show. 1st New Joke of the New Year!” That’s the tagline for 50 First Jokes, which celebrated its 10th annual edition in New York City on Saturday, January 2, 2016, at The Bell House in Brooklyn. But when comedians John F. O’Donnell, Claudia Cogan and Jiwon Lee came up with “50 First Jokes,” they originally just wanted to invite a bunch of their friends to a dive bar show to commiserate over the very first jokes they ever told onstage. Now it’s an annual party that’s moved not only to bigger venues across New York City, but also has expanded to include hundreds of comedians in several cities across the country — sister shows have been held at the start of 2016 in Los Angeles, Austin, New Orleans, Denver, Atlanta, Ann Arbor and Washington, D.C.
Each comedian gets a couple of minutes to try out brand-new material and start the year off on the most fun note possible, while dozens of comedians sit onstage behind them. It’s like a spelling bee, only it’s an exhibition, not a competition. As David Letterman would remind us, please, no wagering.
O’Donnell and co-producer Sachi Ezura sat down with me backstage after this year’s 50 First Jokes in Brooklyn to discuss fresh starts, bursts of inspiration, and reflections on years gone by. But first, please enjoy a portion of the show, courtesy of Sachi, JFOD and the comedians who participated.
So let’s get to it!
Featuring performances by Sean Donnelly, Doug Smith, Nate Fridson, Giulia Rozzi, Matt Wayne, Matt Koff, Nimesh Patel, Carlos Delgado, Robert Dean, Nick Maritato, Nick Vatterott, Erik Bergstrom, Seaton Smith, Scotland Green, Jacqueline Novak, Rojo Perez, Molly Austin, Jeff Wesselschmidt, Joel Kim Booster, Shane Torres, Brad Austin and Josh Gondelman. Hosted by John F. O’Donnell.