The Comedy Cellar is where you want to work if you’re a serious comic in NYC. It is the most difficult club to get in requiring 2 referrals from CC comedians before a DVD of your act is considered. The first objective is getting face time at the comedians’ table.
There is a table, actually two tables pushed together, where Comedy Cellar comedians gather to eat, drink, and be sour. The comedians’ table is in the back of the Olive Tree restaurant just above the storied comedy club. This seating arrangement that holds 8 uncomfortably has been the springboard for at least one TV show, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. It is now used for the Comedy Cellar podcast with an extra table on Tuesdays. I have not been on the podcast just because I don’t do podcasts. (A while back, I felt ambushed during one episode when a comedian I don’t get along with said something unkind about me, and they wanted me to respond on air. No thank you. Get your drama from elsewhere. It was a personal thing between us and nobody’s business.)
The slate tables are great for leaving messages to other comics in chalk. Or simply doodling your time away before you hit the stage. 90% of the time the scribblings are wholly inappropriate, depending on the relationship you have with a particular comic. Mike Vecchione and I tease each other mercilessly off stage. He hammers me with a wide variety of Detroit-is-dead jokes every chance he gets. I wrote on the table, “Mike Vecchione is a beard.”
When it’s time to universally slam a comic for an article of clothing, new joke, or bad haircut Keith Robinson is the ring leading, roast-master. If you do something that “infuriates” him, look the hell out. The combo of Keith, Jim Norton, and Robert Kelly is deadly to anyone within earshot. It’s high school lunch room all over again. In this case, the bullying is professional.
Customers occasionally come over after seeing a show and stop by to ask for a picture, but if they pull up a seat…that’s a big time no-no. (A table tent explains, “This table is reserved for Comedy Cellar comedians only”). Within seconds, a comic will inch the tent over to the offender until it is dead in front of them. If they still don’t see it, it will be picked up and placed directly in front of their eyes. Even a comedian that doesn’t work the club will get the bums rush. Unless a sitting Comedy Cellar comic invites you to sit…you don’t.
Discussion of the crowd down in the show room is a common theme at the table. The emcee will warn others of the bachelorette party in the back or the guy in the front row who can’t wait to offer his opinion of the previous joke.
The owner and booker of the CC are usually at the table on the weekends and conversations are not tempered by their attendance. There is a healthy back and forth, but with the club doing better than ever, there is not a lot to bitch about.
Well, they could give us a comics’ table at their new place around the corner. The Village Underground Comedy Cellar is all show room, and we get 3 bar stools by the door.