In 2021 with America is just emerging from the pandemic, Louis Faranda and his team have struggled to get comedians and clubs to commit to the New York Comedy Festival. This year, however, people approached Faranda in February eager to be included in the event which will run from November 7-13.
The result is a festival “with more shows than ever – more than 150 shows and more than 200 comedians,” says Caroline Hirsch, festival founder and owner of Carolines on Broadway. She says the festival continues to expand into new territory, including the UBS Arena just across the border from Queens in Nassau County, the brand new Midnight Theater in Manhattan and even the Gutter in Williamsburg. “Now we do comedy in the bowling alleys.”
The festival is also growing in other ways. In addition to returning partners such as Audible, Hirsch notes that there are new partnerships, including the Hard Rock Café, which not only welcomes guests from outside the festival, but also a few shows, including the annual event. most fun in New York. .
The biggest night of the festival each year is Defend the heroes, which raises millions for the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which supports veterans and their families; Woodruff suffered a traumatic brain injury covering the war in Iraq. Held this year at the newly reopened David Geffen Center at Lincoln Center, it features mainstays Jon Stewart and Bruce Springsteen along with other comedians and musicians.
“This event brings in a lot of money for the organization, but it also draws attention to the issues facing veterans, such as unemployment and food insecurity, at a time when this is largely forgotten,” said said Woodruff. He adds that this year’s event will also focus on helping Florida veterans whose lives were disrupted by Hurricane Ian.
“When I was injured, the war was new and I quote news and the world knew what was difficult for those returning from wars,” Woodruff continues. “Now it’s more difficult because a lot of it is invisible and because it’s assumed that if there’s no act of war, everything is healed, which it never is. “
Over the years, Faranda has found it to get easier to line up comics and clubs, but it presents a different challenge. “I get busier every year,” he says. “There were so many shows to choose from.”
Faranda’s goal is to present an event that goes far beyond the obvious headliners. “I want to have the most eclectic festival, with a lot of weird stuff and a lot of young stuff,” he says. “There’s no city on the planet like New York – you’ll find every genre of comedy in New York and I want to show it off with the most unique shows we can find.”
Faranda, who has “handpicked all the shows,” says the list includes a comedy show featuring ER doctors and another headlined by a nurse (so, yeah, the pandemic is still with us), a fake Ted Talk, a show in which comedians tell jokes while holding snakes, another in which they do mob work on edibles, a sex podcast by a married couple, a rap battle and shows featuring stars from TikTok and YouTube. The shows also feature all races, ethnicities, and gender and sexual identities.
“We make a conscious effort to be diverse, to be everything to everyone,” says Hirsch, pointing to headliners such as Koy, Bassem Yousef, Mo Amer and Jimmy O. Yang, as well as shows more small, the Gayme Show and Girl God. , featuring trans comics, as well as one of his favorite talents, a gay black comedian, Alex English.
English, who has a solo exhibition this year after being part of the festival’s showcases in the past, says the opportunity “means a lot to me. I feel like I’ve proven that I’m part of it. But he adds that the festival is also important for New York because it has, over time, incorporated more and more independent comedy venues that go beyond big clubs such as the Comedy Cellar and the Stand (all two also part of the festival). “It helps these places attract a wider audience.”
Faranda says it’s all about balance. “It’s a lot of work but we have a great team,” he says, adding that he is able to sort out the derivative from the fresh because “I have the experience. It means I’m old but I’m proud of it.
WHAT: The New York Comedy Festival
When: November 7-13
Where: New York City
The Web: nycomedyfestival.com