The joke’s on you if you happen to suppose an Higher East Facet fitness center, an Alphabet Metropolis artwork studio and a close-by laundromat don’t have anything in frequent.
Since April, every spot has doubled as an after-hours venue for Underground Overground, a buzzy word-of-mouth comedy present popping up in uncommon places round city. It’s luring in identified comedic names, equivalent to Mark Normand, Sam Morril and the late Jackie Mason’s daughter, Sheba Mason, for units. And though tickets are solely accessible by messaging the event’s organizers on Instagram, they’re promoting like hotcakes.
The subsequent present, scheduled for Aug. 5, will return to that very same Alphabet Metropolis laundromat, La La Laundry. The next week, on Aug. 12, Underground Overground — a reputation that nods to its surreptitious nature — will head to Invite Solely Studios, a recording studio in Chelsea.
“We need to create an expertise,” mentioned 23-year-old David Levine, an Higher East Facet native who co-created the present with 22-year-old Ethan Mansoor. The pair met as kids on the P.S. 6 chess crew.
“While you stroll into the venue, you’re like, ‘This can be a comedy present? What the hell is occurring?’” Just lately, the pair hosted a gig on a buddy’s rooftop on East eleventh St., the place the viewers had a panoramic view of the skyline. Levine mentioned that’s what they’re searching for in a spot: “We wish that wow issue to shock you.”
Mansoor, who additionally grew up on the Higher East Facet, added, “I feel it’s fascinating for the individuals who come to our exhibits recurrently to see the vary of locations that we get to.”
The 2 say they’re in talks with the East Village location of Staten Island pizza joint Joe & Pat’s for a summer time present, in addition to with downtown streetwear store Stadium Goods and a COVID-19 testing web site for potential pop-ups down the road. However the latter should wait.
“The COVID testing web site mentioned we’d be good to go if it wasn’t for Delta,” mentioned Levine of the coronavirus variant now spreading throughout the nation.
The thought for Underground Overground sparked in February, when conventional comedy golf equipment remained closed on account of COVID.
The 2 had lengthy frequented metropolis golf equipment, such because the Stand, and whereas Levine placed on stand-up exhibits throughout his years at Syracuse College — Mansoor, who attended the College of Chicago, wrote jokes on his cellphone with the hope of at some point telling them to a crowd. (Now, at every Underground Overground present, the 2 do a set collectively.)
“‘Hey, we might placed on a present,’” Mansoor mentioned he informed Levine on the time. “‘Let’s simply do one thing for our buddies. I guess we might discover a house.’”
Two months later, they did — at Initium Novum Membership, an Higher East Facet fitness center opened by a coach who helped Levine with a torn-ACL restoration 5 years prior. About 30 folks got here for units by Normand, who has appeared on “Conan,” and comic and author Jay Jurden. Later that month, Underground Overground headed to an artwork studio, IDC Artwork Home, on Avenue B, which included a set by “SNL” author Nimesh Patel.
“That [show] I feel actually cemented the thought of pop-up comedy — completely different locations each time, cool venues,” mentioned Mansoor.
All of the whereas, the chums saved spreading the phrase in an effort to get extra visitors.
As cool because the quirky venues are for the creators and their viewers, they’re simply as enjoyable for the comics. Phil Hanley, a Canadian comic who’s appeared on “The Tonight Present Starring Jimmy Fallon” and Comedy Central, has carried out at two Underground Overground pop-ups — most lately in July at La La Laundry.
“It’s sort of enjoyable to go from taking part in comedy golf equipment for 16 or 17 years, and abruptly you’re like, ‘Oh, jeez, I did my laundry right here two days in the past,’” mentioned Hanley, who lives close by.
He added that the house’s format allowed for a extra intimate ambiance. “It was a low ceiling, the very fact there are dryers and washers all over the place made it condensed.”
(Levine and Mansoor ask for proof of vaccination and verify IDs to ensure everyone seems to be over 21, however there’s no indoor capability restrict.)
The co-creators e book the comics themselves and strategy particular person companies to ask if they’ll placed on a comedy present in every house.
“We set days throughout the week the place we simply stroll round Soho, downtown — we stroll into each retailer we predict we might presumably do a present,” mentioned Levine. “We’re not afraid of a ‘No.’ We’ve been informed ‘Get out of right here!’ and ‘What’s unsuitable with you?’”
Every present lasts practically two hours and places on an novice comedian within the first set. Tickets price $40 and embody limitless drinks, often drawing a younger crowd trying to pre-game earlier than an evening out. The pair mentioned that every present attracts an rising variety of first-time attendees.
“We are going to completely get random texts, random DMs, like… ‘I heard about your present, when’s the subsequent one?’” mentioned Mansoor, including there’s extra than simply laughs in retailer for visitors.
“It’s an expertise that I haven’t been capable of finding alone in New York. We’re making an attempt to placed on an expertise that we’d like to be given the chance to go to ourselves.”