Until recently, this sad town of Jersey City was a comedy desert, or perhaps more aptly, a comedy death trap. One was hard pressed to find a comedy show in town. There was no brand-name comedy club (although Rascal’s on the Hudson endured a brief, tortured stint downtown in the mid aughts). The Jersey City Comedy Festival* lasted just two years — 2013 and 2014 — produced by Art House but was for the most part spread out in a vast web of stageless bar and gallery shows throughout town. My own show, “BabyHole,” lasted three years from 2007 to 2010 but never had the same venue for long due to shifting entertainment ordinances. Part real show, part dive bar rock show, part open mic, sometimes an illegal warehouse show, it died mainly because no one appreciates anything until it’s gone.
Happily, things have been brightening a bit this past year.
“Show Us Your Bits” comedy productions by Angela Sharp ran for 14 months at McGinley Square Pub starting in July 2018, during which time it became a veritable institution. The bi-weekly Saturday afternoon mics drew comedians from all over New Jersey as did late night Monday mics and pop-ups throughout the week. It abruptly ended in September, some would say prematurely.
The highly successful “Porno! Comedy Show,” a monthly summer series with an open bar, sold out consistently this past summer. It culminated in the “Porno! Comedy Sextival,” which featured over 40 comedians all day and night packed into the back room of this tiny, antique pub.
And Rich Kiamco’s “The Laugh Tour,” which has semi-consistently been running with Art House Productions at various locations since 2010, sprouted the Sixth Borough Comedy Festival in 2018.
As Jersey City is steadily overcoming the stigma of being a venue-barren town, comedy is re-emerging. Now you can’t even throw a rock without hitting a decent show or someone who calls oneself a comedian; you can see comedy almost every night of the week (at times you can even see six shows in one night, most of them free); you can attempt to be a comedian at one of the many free mics around town; and sometimes you can go out to dinner and not even realize you’re at a comedy show.
*The first Jersey City Comedy Festival ran from 2013-2014. The Sixth Borough Comedy Festival will be renamed Jersey City Comedy Festival for the 2020 run. We will post more about that soon.
Regularly Scheduled Comedy Shows
Below is a list of regularly scheduled comedy shows. Always call the venue to confirm beforehand (for instance, three shows that had been on this list were cancelled just prior to publication). Appreciate these shows while you can, and support these poor, talented, hardworking people.
“Are You Entertained Wild Out Wednesday Comedy Show” – This monthly show combines comedy with other forms of art, such as music, poetry, and (occasionally) magic, to give you the sense of a mini concert. Hosted by Sharief Johnson.
Bright Side Tavern (141 Bright Street)
Last Wednesday of the month, 8 p.m.
“Corgi Comedy Club” – Stand-up that’s always classy at this semi-regular show at Corgi, Jersey City’s only distillery. A tour of the distillery is included. Hosted by Alex Grubard and Ryan Rummel.
Corgi Spirits (1 Distillery Way)
Next show: 12/7, 7:30 p.m
“CrockPot” – They’re all good at this free and absurd stand-up show with a seemingly endless lineup every month. The show is in the basement of a vegetarian restaurant and bar called Pet Shop (that used to be a pet shop). It’s reminiscent of Uncle Joe’s circa 2004. Hosted by Alex Grubard, Nate Marshall, Lemaire Lee, and Tyler Rothrock.
Pet Shop (193 Newark Avenue)
The second Wednesday of every month, 8 p.m.
“Culture Vultures” –This upbeat stand-up show strives to book comics from under-represented communities. It’s at a retro music venue filled with pop art. Hosted by Ariel Leaty and Gordon Baker-Bone.
$15, $10 online
FM (340 3rd Street)
Usually the third Wednesday of the month, 8 p.m.
Next shows: 11/20, and 12/18
“The Extra Extra Comedy Show!” – This is a free stand-up show in the basement of Journal Square Lounge every Friday alternating between open mics and curated shows. Always a good time, always high energy, always a great crowd. Hosted by Irv Hernandez.
Journal Square Lounge (50 Journal Square Plaza)
Open Mic every second and fourth Friday, 8:30 p.m.
“Funny Tikka Masala” – A spicy stand-up comedy show. Jersey City is lucky to be home to America’s first stand-up show in Hinglish (Hindi plus English). Alternates between an open mic and a big show in which prizes, including cash, are given out. Hosted by Vinod Chhaproo & Prathaviraj Purohit.
$20, online; mics are $5
Dorrian’s Red Hand (555 Washington Boulevard)
Monthly, usually second or third Saturday, 8 p.m.
Next dates: November 16 (open mic), December 7 (big show)
“Laughs at the Lounge” – Semi-private shows at private residences. Hosted by Irv Hernandez. Are you intrigued?
Thursdays (usually), 7 p.m.
@irv03 for more information; limited invitations
“Riff Off the Cliff” – The most underground of all, this stand-up show is in an art gallery above a garage known as The Hive, which is filled with local art, antiques, and vintage clothes. It’s in Bergen Hill in the shadow of The Beacon. Hosted by Ryan Rummel, Scott Holt, and Nick Fierro. Music by DJ Blvck Truffle.
Deep Space Gallery (77 Cornelison Avenue)
Usually the second Saturday of the month, 8:30 p.m.
One-year anniversary show on 11/9!
“Smoke Break Comedy Show” – A fun, high-energy stand-up show with a great crowd in a hookah dive bar. Featuring raffles. Hosted by Alex Gardes.
Abbey’s Pub (409 Monmouth Street)
Every first and third Tuesday, 9 p.m.
“Stand-up Comedy Night at Bobby Dee’s” – A laid back, free, no-frills stand-up show at a no-frills neighborhood bar in the Heights. Hosted by Brandon Sager.
Bobby Dee’s (49 Beacon Avenue)
Every second and fourth Wednesday, 9 p.m.
“The Zack and Pat Show” – Don’t miss this stand-up show in a beloved art gallery bar, not just for the comedy bargain of a free show and the intriguing artwork but also to appreciate this Newark Avenue pioneering restaurant/gallery while it lasts. No one knows how much longer it will exist. Hosted by Zack Breheney and Pat Wadleigh.
LITM (140 Newark Avenue)
Monthly, usually second or third Sundays, 7 p.m.
Some Open Mics that are Good for Comedy
If you’d like to try stand-up yourself or just watch the struggle, there are plentiful regular open mics to hit. Here’s a list for starters:
Comedee at Bobby Dee’s – Hosted by Alex Grubard.
Bobby Dee’s (49 Beacon Ave)
Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday, sign up at 7 p.m.
Friggin’ Fabulous Open Mic Mondays – An interdisciplinary mic that also features great local music. Hosted by musician Christopher Hoyle.
FM (430 3rd Street)
Mondays, sign up at 7 p.m.
The Late Night Mic at Abbey’s – Hosted by Irv Hernandez.
Abbey’s Pub (409 Monmouth)
Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday, sign up at 9:30 p.m.
Open Mic Awesome – Hosted by Mark Henely.
Subculture (260 Newark Avenue)
Every other Wednesday, sign up at 6 p.m.
Open Stage – An interdisciplinary mic. Hosted by musician Erika Bracy.
Bobby Dee’s (49 Beacon Ave)
Every 1st and 3rd Tuesday, sign up at 7:30 p.m.
Take a Compliment – An interdisciplinary mic with a full music stage including a grand piano. Hosted by Adrian Dannon, Ian Steffé, and Diana Zinni.
Head Room Bar and Social (150 Bay Street)
Wednesdays, sign up at 6:30.
Top Photo: A comedian entertains the crowd at Late Night Mic at Abbey’s. Photo by Irv Hernandez.