If you have never been to a New York City comedy club, you owe it to yourself. The city abounds in comedy clubs in many neighborhoods. New and established talent can be seen on a nightly basis. Cable TV and the Internet have made available an enormous amount of comedy - live and recorded. However, there is nothing like the infectious effect of live comedy on an audience.
I have frequented a number of New York City's comedy clubs over the years. Comics will often used the word "killed" to describe a successful show - e.g. he really "killed." This is nearly literal - I have been to many shows where people look like they are going to die with uncontrollable laughter, tears running down their faces and where smiles sometimes even turn to grimaces of pain. I have woken up after a previous night's comedy show with actual muscle aches from laughing. But it is very therapeutic.
New York city has been a birthplace, mecca and an incubator for comedic talent - standup comedians, comic film actors and writers. Particularly the Jewish American comedian - take a look at this short list:
Larry David, Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Jackie Mason, Zero Mostel, Joan Rivers, Groucho Marx and family (UES/Carnegie Hill), Mel Brooks, Andy Kaufman, Alan King, Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon. Milton Berle, George Burns and the newer crop like Todd Barry, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Franken, Jon Stewart and Bill Maher.
Rodney Dangerfield, (born Jacob Cohen, just outside New York City in Babylon, Long Island) was an influential comedian well known for his standup work and film. His signature catchphrases, "I don't get no respect" and "I get no respect" are legendary, as are his comedy routines built on his unique style of self-deprecating humor.
Dangerfield shot to stardom after an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.* On September 29, 1969, Rodney opened Dangerfield's, the longest running comedy club in the world. It is located at 1118 First Avenue at 61st Street in Manhattan's Upper East Side. Dangerfield's club was a broadcast venue for a comedy showcase series with HBO.
It has often been asked: "Why so many brilliant Jewish comics?" Suffering and persecution are common themes in the answers:
"Look at Jewish history. Unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable. So, for every ten Jews beating their breasts, God designated one to be crazy and amuse the breast beaters. By the time I was five I knew I was that one." - Mel Brooks
"The truth of the matter is, persecuted people have two things they can do to win their point." "They can punch back, or they can defuse it with laughter." - Carl Reiner
Rodney Dangerfield, like all the other great New York City Jewish comedic talent, easily gets my respect...
*Ed Sullivan (1901-1974) hosted one of the longest-running variety shows in U.S. television history, from 1948 to 1971. Sullivan was also born in New York City. Broadcast from CBS Studio 50, it was renamed The Ed Sullivan Theater in 1967 and is currently the home of The Late Show with David Letterman.