“Do you think the city in Batman was named after this place, or was the comedy club named after Batman?” I jokingly asked the group at large as we made our way to Gotham Comedy Club on the last day in January of 2018. That night, a fellow New York Arts Program intern, Sam Reid-McKee, would perform, along with a dozen other stand-up comedians, at the club’s New Talent Showcase. Susan, the program coordinator, had graciously purchased tickets so that eight of us could attend the show free of charge, and we all jumped at the opportunity.
Ten NYAP interns showed up that night, and we were seated at two adjacent tables off to one side of the part-bar, part-restaurant, part-theater. Red walls framed a small stage, around which tables were arranged in an arc. As the wait staff took our orders before the show began, the ten of us took the time to chat about our internships, our seminars, and the places we had explored. Some of us had been to Carnegie Hall, some had seen SNL in person. Some of us were participating in multiple faculty seminars, some enjoyed spotting new bookstores or places to eat while running errands for our workplaces. I personally found it a welcome chance to connect with some other students in the Program who I hadn’t yet spent much time with. I found myself being pulled back from the alienation I had begun to feel as a tiny piece in the constant rush of the city, and enjoying our shared experience.
Funnily enough, I think I take things too seriously to really get a kick out of some types of stand-up, but as the show unfolded I found it entertaining to watch the variety of different styles the comedians brought to the stage. One performer poked fun at the way Americans imitated his strong Irish accent by putting on an exaggerated-yet-painfully-accurate Southern persona. Another displayed a gift for comedic timing as she narrated an obscenely relatable story of getting her period at the least opportune time. Sam himself went onstage about halfway through the night, and skillfully incorporated pre-recorded audio into his performance to simulate a conversation with a robot, who, of course, proceeded to systematically criticize all his life choices.
All in all, it was a great night, and it left me with the realization that the chance to perform one’s work in renowned creative spaces was becoming less and less unattainable. By being an intern at the Gotham Comedy Club, Sam had the chance to perform on the same stage as Jim Gaffigan and Jerry Seinfeld in his second week of work. While helping run shows at the Bowery Poetry Club, I am able to read my work at open mics mere hours after Melissa Lozada-Oliva and Taylor Mali grace the stage. One piece of wisdom that a former NYAP participant lended my intern cohort at orientation was to understand the fact that our heroes could be right next door—but I didn’t anticipate just how closely that could be. It’s a benefit to being in New York that I won’t underestimate or undervalue.
And, as it happens, the city of New York got the nickname “Gotham” years before Batman emerged as a fictional vigilante, when the author Washington Irving dubbed the city after an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “Goat’s Town” in 1807. Who knew? You really do learn all sorts of things in the city.
Written by: Kayla Park