A couple of weeks ago, a friend told me he’d seen Aziz Ansari drop in at a random comedy show in New York City, and that he’d only performed a short set. What was that about? my friend wondered.
My reply: Perhaps Ansari was practicing a bit for the Golden Globes, or even something for a scene in the upcoming second season of his Netflix series, Master of None. What we didn’t know then — Ansari’s hosting Saturday Night Live next week (Jan. 21, 2017), so obviously he’d want a fresh, new and easily timed TV-friendly monologue for that!
One of the biggest and best reasons to cover comedy or get involved in the scene at all in New York City over anywhere else is that you’ll never know who you might see around the next corner. Sure, Los Angeles as the home of Hollywood attracts a multitude of A-list talent and superstars, and when I visited La La Land last weekend, I saw plenty at Comedy Central’s taping of The Comedy Jam at the Fonda (including (SPOILER ALERT?) a duet between Veep and Detroiters star Sam Richardson with Tia Carrere), then walked down Hollywood Boulevard to find a packed room of up-and-coming comedy stars performing at 50 First Jokes at the Roosevelt. Jeff Ross was holding court at The Comedy Store while Roast Battle II sets were built across the Sunset Strip at the old House of Blues, and Bob Saget dropped in at the Store on Friday. You could find other stars at the Hollywood Improv, and even the Laugh Factory. And Largo hosted a series of one-nighter all-star collections.
But nothing compares to the magic of the Comedy Cellar on MacDougal Street in NYC’s Greenwich Village.
The Cellar has grown so popular during this current comedy boom that it’s sold out every show, every night of the week, and has expanded offerings to its sister clubs around the corner on West 3rd Street at the Village Underground and now its adjacent Fat Black Pussycat lounge.
The Cellar famously welcomes drop-ins from superstars both local and visiting.
I’ve seen and talked to the late Robin Williams there. I chatted up Jon Stewart when he made an impromptu stop there during his final week hosting The Daily Show, heading downstairs from the Olive Street Cafe to watch Louis CK perform and then feeling the itch himself to take the stage once more. I’ve seen Louis CK and Dane Cook perform there back-to-back. Judd Apatow got the itch to perform again there while directing Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. Ray Romano and Andrew Dice Clay made regular stops while filming Vinyl. I’ve witnessed two-person riffing and roasting from Jeff Ross and Dave Attell, with and without John Mayer. Jerry Seinfeld, anytime he has a TV set to practice. Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle openly musing a few years ago about going on tour together, and plotting to bring Kevin Hart back to the Cellar the following night since Hart was hosting SNL. And they did! Along with Bill Bellamy, who saw the fuss being made on Twitter and hustled over to join in. Rock, Chappelle, Ansari and Mayer all got onstage one night last October.
All of those nights may have paled, though, in comparison to last night, not just another Wednesday night at the Cellar.
So Ansari would be there to work out his SNL monologue, just as he was the night before. But last night, he was joined by Rock, Chappelle, Ansari, Schumer and Seinfeld. Not to mention pre-announced lineup card Dave Attell. And the great Ryan Hamilton. All hosted by Jon Laster.
As Laster himself wrote on Instagram following the show:
“Tonight I was humbled and blessed to have been a part of the greatest show EVER in the history of the Comedy Cellar and maybe comedy period! We were sitting on the steps when Dave Chappelle told the manager that he didn’t wanna go on he just wanted to watch Jerry Seinfeld go on and then he was leaving. He quickly changed his mind and decided to go up. He and Chris Rock then went back and forth about who would be next. Amy Schumer overheard them and asked if she could do five minutes also to be a part of this ‘history.’ I forgot that Aziz was somewhere outside and needed to go on as well. Felt kinda surreal working with my idols. The Birds, Jordans, LeBrons all in this little hallway but I honestly didn’t feel intimidated I felt like I belonged atleast like my work did. I started to excuse myself from this picture and Amy pulled me back into it and said ‘fuck that get in the picture you were a part of this!’ Thank you soooooo much Estee!! The Lineup:
Or as Rock noted on one of his photos: “Next time you should come.”
I wish I had been there. And next time I most definitely will be.