Cake Shop is a New York institution. As soon as I walk in, I feel relieved that its integrity has been preserved. This is why New York is still the greatest. I grab a licorice tea at the bar while my roommate buys us Hall & Oats pins from a quarter vending machine. There are records to shuffle through, cupcakes and alcohol to indulge in, and plenty of cozy spots to catch up with friends. It’s like hanging out in your coolest friend’s basement in high school. But I came here with a mission: to laugh.
I head downstairs through the heavily graffitied stairwell into the actual basement to enjoy the free comedy night. Now it feels like a liberal arts college basement party. Not a bad start to go from cool high school hang to even cooler college party. The back of the room, draped with gold streamers and a full twinkle light ceiling, highlights the stage. We grab seats on the small square ottomans as we wait for the show to start. There’s definitely a sense of solidarity among the crowd—friends chatting with open smiles, camaraderie along the bar and an electric stir of anticipation.
I spot a familiar face in the corner: Sabrina Jalees, who I saw on the “Women of Letters” panel earlier this month. The show starts and John Early and Sabrina rush the stage. This is also a pleasant surprise, as I had seen John at his show, Showgasm, a few months earlier. As I connect the dots of familiar talents, I know this is going to be great night. There’s a shout-out to Nick, one of the owners, who continues to work behind the bar. After a few minutes of banter they shoot off an homage to this free show, which started as an open mic. It’s been on hiatus, until now, having been handed down to John Early, Liza Treyger, Sabrina Jalees and Jacqueline Novak.
The show is peppered with feminism, sexuality, internet dating, the New York condition and female empowerment. But the success of this night comes from the fact that the men and women are equally confronting these issues—the men maybe even more so. Now that is gender equality, and in comedy of all places! The topics that come up seem so serendipitous that I find myself ferociously taking notes on my phone. There’s never a moment of awkward silence or unwelcome heckling. No one has to get “the light” more than once and each talent captures the room through his or her own unique style. Both the comedic celebrities and the up-and-comers in the room are here to practice new material, but it comes across as a perfectly curated show that never misses a beat.
Cake Shop has again provided a supportive stage for comedians to grow, work the crowd, hone their craft and make us laugh. The crowd doubles by the end and although the performances are done for the night, the audience and comedians continue to celebrate a successful New York City night out, on a Tuesday. Don’t miss experiencing the pure joy this underground community has to offer.
Featured performers for this event included Ilana Glazer, Liza Treyger, Nick Rutherford, Todd Barry, Nick Turner, Julio Torres, Chris Gethard and Jacqueline Novak.
Photos Courtesy: Greg Kozatek (featured image) & Art Altman