Long Island City Gets the Last Laugh

This month, comedy hit its tipping point in Long Island City. Specifically comedy hit it’s tipping point in a three-block radius of the Vernon-Jackson stop on the seven train.

On August 1st, Bread Box (47-11 11th St) became the third comedy venue in Hunter’s Point, hosting two weekly comedy shows with an eye to expand to seven days a week within a year. On August 13th, Adam Ferrara promoted the new season of Top Gear with his only hour-long appearance in NYC – at the Laughing Devil (4738 Vernon Blvd.). And on August 21st, Queens’ favorite son Jerry Seinfeld made a surprise appearance at the Creek and the Cave (10-93 Jackson Ave). Manhattan’s monopoly is officially busted.
When we opened the Laughing Devil in December, it became the first full-time comedy club in Queens in almost 20 years, and the only one in one in New York City outside of Manhattan. There had been a surplus of comedic talent in the boro for years, and it was time to tap it.
“I host a weekly show,” said Queens’ Ben Rosenfeld. “If a comedian cancels, there are twenty people I can call who will be there in five minutes.”
Within a month of the Laughing Devil’s opening, Judah Friedlander became a regular at the Laughing Devil. Friedlander shoots 30 Rock for NBC in LIC’s Silvercup Studios (34-02 Starr Avenue), and lives in Queens. Christian Finnegan, formerly of VH1’s Best Week Ever, lives in the neighborhood – I regularly run into him on Vernon Boulevard. Other Western Queens comedians and regulars at the Laughing Devil include Ted Alexandro (Comedy Central Presents), Jon Fisch (Late Show), Dave Waite (Late Night), Liam McEneaney (Premium Blend), Kevin McCaffrey (Late Show), Mike Trainor (World’s Dumbest), Keith Alberstadt (Late Show), Moody McCarthy (Jimmy Kimmel Live!), Tony Deyo (HBO’s Comedy Arts Festival), and Andy Hendrickson (30 Rock), to name a few. Or a dozen.
“It’s not just better to live here as a comedian, it’s also easier to leave,” said McCarthy, who frequently tours the country. “There are two airports and you can actually own a car.”
It’s also easier to get here. Part of the LIC Arts Open, the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival brought over 100 comedians to Long Island City, and included pop-up shows at Alobar (46-42 Vernon Blvd), Manducatis Rustica (46-35 Vernon Blvd) and Bread Box Café (47-11 11th St.) as well as lunchtime events at various venues and a Mets game. In October, the She-Devil Comedy Festival will do the same with female comedians – and is already the largest female standup festival in the world.
“Long Island City is cool, but I can’t put my finger on anything particular about it that makes it so,” said Myq Kaplan about the neighborhood’s je ne sais quoi.
Kaplan, a regular on Conan and the Late Late Show, is now a regular at the Laughing Devil. Perhaps the cool factor of LIC is self-perpetuating. Louis CK even came by while we were building the club.
And it’s not just the Laughing Devil. LIC Bar (45-58 Vernon Blvd) hosts a weekly comedy/trivia night each Thursday. Dominie’s Hoek (48-17 Vernon Blvd) has hosted pop-up shows. The Creek and the Cave hosts 3-5 standup/variety shows and up to 9 open mics per week.
“More comics are coming here every day,” said Trainor. “So many comics have moved to Queens to be close to their gigs in Manhattan that they don’t even need to go to Manhattan anymore.”
And neither do the crowds.
By Steve Hofstetter
Steve Hofstetter is an internationally touring comedian born and raised in Queens, and the owner of the Laughing Devil Comedy Club.