New York loves a good laugh

Ananya Bahl | Updated on July 05, 2019 Published on July 05, 2019

Prime time: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is one of the many live shows recorded in New York   -  ISTOCK.COM

There is comic relief in every bite of the Big Apple. We show you some places around Manhattan where laughter rules

“Yes, please” is a phrase I love to use in diverse situations — whether purely for manners or when asked if I’d like another glass of wine. Turns out, comedian-actor-writer-and-overall-woman-extraordinaire Amy Poehler says it a lot, too — so much so, she used it for the title for her 2014 autobiography. Needless to say, “yes, please” was my answer when a friend recommended a trip to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCB Theatre) in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. The theatre — founded by Poehler and her fellow comedian-actors Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh — is a mecca for improv, stand-up and sketch comedy. I settle in for the 7.30pm show of Alfredo,in which Mike Brumm, Jen Spyra and Ariel Dumas — writers of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert — regale us with improvised antics. They begin by asking the audience about their favourite type of fast food. Taco Bell gets the most votes, post which the show spirals into relentless laughter, some of which even the performers can’t resist. The UCB Theatre, credited with bringing the Chicago-style long-form improv to New York, is an unmissable pit stop for lovers of comedy.

This tryst with improv sets the mood for my next round of laughs. Of the many live shows taped in the city is The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Seating is on a first come, first served basis (post an online booking). This results in an almost three-hour wait outside an unassuming Subway joint at W 52nd street. Once inside, a stand-up comedian roasts the audience to get them prepped for Noah and his guest. On the evening of my visit, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is in the studio to discuss women’s rights, climate change and economic policy. Noah’s conversation with his guest began with an appeal for a personal loan and moves on to the problems that Lagarde inherited in her role as the chief of IMF.

As is the norm, before every interview, Noah rounds up news in his inimitable style. The best part about the show is how he engages in casual conversation with the audience during halts for commercial breaks. If you are to enjoy an evening with Noah, ensure you line up by 4pm. You should be done and ready for dinner by eight.

Hop-on, hop-off bus tours are one of the quintessential ways to see NYC. The Ride is an interactive audiovisual way to see some of midtown Manhattan’s iconic landmarks. It is a 75-minute laugh riot in which you are in a bus with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, in the care of two comedic hosts who provide in-depth information about famous sites such as Times Square, Columbus Circle, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal and Bryant Park, all in a hilarious fashion.

Funny bone: On a museum hack tour at The Met   -  ANANYA BAHL


The city is also known for its glorious portfolio of museums. Their mammoth exhibits often intimidate (and tire) first-time visitors. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the foremost institutions for any art and history junkie. If you are a tad apprehensive about navigating your way through the museum on your own or afraid you won’t take in all that it has to offer, sign up for the amusing Museum Hack tour of the MET. With “guided tours for renegades” as its tagline, this organisation spruces up museum tours for those who like to do things differently. I sign up for the VIP Night Tour of the MET where my guide, Kevin, first asks everyone to list the things that interest them. He then curates a 150-minute journey through the museum, narrating all the juicy gossip-filled stories behind the exhibits. There’s also a wine tasting session in between to make sure you are suitably tipsy during the tour. Before the tour starts, he asks us to spot something we like, pose with it and make up a caption. The most hilarious caption writer wins a freebie. I am yet to understand why it’s called the VIP Night Tour. There is no VIP in sight, but I am told that Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen of Game of Thrones) and singer Peter Frampton are fans of this tour.

To round up my NYC adventure, I head for another classic experience — Broadway! On past visits, I’d caught iconic shows such as ThePhantom of the Opera and Anastasia. This time, I watch the hilarious musical comedyThe Book of Mormon. After an entertaining evening at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, I ask myself: Would I return for another round of laughs? The answer is — you guessed it — “yes, please!”

Ananya Bahl is a travel writer based in Mumbai

Ticket counter
  • -The Alfredo show at the UCB Theatre costs $10 (approx) per person. Reach early to get a good seat. The nearby West Gotham Market is a good place to catch a meal before or after the show
  • showclix.com is the only website offering online reservations for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. If anyone from your party isn’t present at the time of entry, you will have to forego his/her seat
  • The pickup point for The Ride is at Patrick’s Restaurant at 42nd street and 8th Avenue. A ticket costs $69 for general admission and $79 for the front row; experiencetheride.com
  • The VIP Night Tour of the MET costs $99 per person; museumhack.com
  •  todaytix.com is a good website for discounted Broadway tickets. The only glitch is you can’t choose your seat. The Book of Mormon tickets start from $69 on the website

Published on July 05, 2019
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