The joke’s on you in case you suppose an Higher East Aspect gymnasium, an Alphabet Metropolis artwork studio and a close-by laundromat don’t have anything in widespread.
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, akin to Mark Normand, Sam Morril and the late Jackie Mason’s daughter, Sheba Mason, for units. And though tickets are solely obtainable by messaging the occasion’s organizers on Instagram, they’re promoting like hotcakes.
The following 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 wish to create an expertise,” stated 23-year-old David Levine, an Higher East Aspect native who co-created the present with 22-year-old Ethan Mansoor. The pair met as children on the P.S. 6 chess crew.
“Once you stroll into the venue, you’re like, ‘It is a comedy present? What the hell is happening?’” 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 stated 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 Aspect, added, “I believe it’s fascinating for the individuals who come to our reveals commonly 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 season present, in addition to with downtown streetwear store Stadium Items and a COVID-19 testing web site for potential pop-ups down the road. However the latter should wait.
“The COVID testing web site stated we’d be good to go if it wasn’t for Delta,” stated 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 attributable to COVID.
The 2 had lengthy frequented metropolis golf equipment, such because the Stand, and whereas Levine placed on stand-up reveals throughout his years at Syracuse College — Mansoor, who attended the College of Chicago, wrote jokes on his cellphone with the hope of someday 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 stated he advised Levine on the time. “‘Let’s simply do one thing for our mates. I guess we might discover a house.’”
Two months later, they did — at Initium Novum Membership, an Higher East Aspect gymnasium opened by a coach who helped Levine with a torn-ACL restoration 5 years prior. About 30 individuals 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 believe actually cemented the thought of pop-up comedy — completely different locations each time, cool venues,” stated Mansoor.
All of the whereas, the buddies 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 just lately in July at La La Laundry.
“It’s sort of enjoyable to go from enjoying comedy golf equipment for 16 or 17 years, and hastily you’re like, ‘Oh, jeez, I did my laundry right here two days in the past,’” stated Hanley, who lives close by.
He added that the house’s format allowed for a extra intimate environment. “It was a low ceiling, the very fact there are dryers and washers in every single place made it condensed.”
(Levine and Mansoor ask for proof of vaccination and examine IDs to verify everyone seems to be over 21, however there’s no indoor capability restrict.)
The co-creators guide the comics themselves and strategy particular person companies to ask if they’ll placed on a comedy present in every house.
“We set days through the week the place we simply stroll round Soho, downtown — we stroll into each retailer we predict we might presumably do a present,” stated Levine. “We’re not afraid of a ‘No.’ We’ve been advised ‘Get out of right here!’ and ‘What’s unsuitable with you?’”
Every present lasts almost two hours and places on an novice comedian within the first set. Tickets value $40 and embrace limitless drinks, normally drawing a younger crowd trying to pre-game earlier than an evening out. The pair stated 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?’” stated Mansoor, including there’s extra than simply laughs in retailer for visitors.
“It’s an expertise that I haven’t been capable of finding by myself in New York. We’re attempting to placed on an expertise that we’d like to be given the chance to go to ourselves.”