Manhattan Comedy School

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Comic Insights from Chris Mazzilli, Industry Laugh Leader

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

We sat down with Chris Mazzilli, Owner and Founder of Gotham Comedy Club and Executive Producer of Gotham Comedy LIVE on AXS TV, to learn what advice he has for comedians who want to appear on the popular show.

A native New Yorker, Chris opened Gotham Comedy Club 20 years ago with Michael Reisman. He was praised for his top-to-bottom redesign of the venue’s original space, which he believed would effectively change the way comedy clubs were perceived at the time: All comedy and no ambiance.

Since then, Chris has distinguished himself as an industry leader. He’s attracted countless celebrated comics to the Gotham stage, including Dave Chapelle, Lewis Black, and Colin Quinn. The club has also been the backdrop for TV shows and films, such as Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian and the pilot for Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. In 2006, Comedy Central began recording Live at Gotham at the West 23rd Street club, with a range of hosts including D.L. Hughley, Patton Oswalt, and Joe Rogan. NBC has also used Gotham as the setting for the New York auditions for Last Comic Standing. Tune in to AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy LIVE, Thursdays at 10/9 c, to catch the funniest comics in America performing live at Gotham Comedy Club.

Here’s the invaluable information for stand-ups Chris shared with us:

MCS: When is a comedian ready to audition for AXS TV?

Chris: When they feel that they have a strong and unique ten minutes to do the show. Fortunately, there is no rush. The show has been going strong for a couple of years now, and will hopefully continue to go that way. So there’s no rush to get in front of me or anybody else, unless you’re ready.

MCS: What if someone auditions too soon? When would you want to see that comedian again?

Chris: It’s different for everybody, because somebody can be very green and need a year or two, and somebody could be close and only need a few months. It’s also how much time they’re going to put in. If someone is getting up once a week, then it could take a long time compared to someone who’s getting up four, five, or six times a week. Their progress will be much faster. It depends where they’re at and, after I give them notes, how much time they put in to correct the issues.

MCS: How does a comedian earn an audition for AXS TV?

Chris: There are many ways. I do a lot of showcases on the New Talent shows. I’ve seen people on regular shows, and some people just submit links. I also get recommendations from comics who have already done the show, whom I work with on a regular basis. There are a number of avenues.

MCS: What advice would you give to a comedian who’s about to audition?

Chris: Know that we want you to get the show. Relax, have fun with it. Really think about material that sets you apart from everybody else. We’ve done a hundred episodes, we’ve booked 500 different comedians. I’m looking for comics with different voices. If you talk about similar subject matter that everyone else is talking about, it’s hard to break through the crowd and stand out. What unique perspective do you have on something? Go with that. Be honest with yourself. Make sure you’re ready to be on stage.

MCS: Are there specific “do’s” and “don’ts” you’d recommend?

Chris: Prior to the audition, look at your stuff. Get other people’s opinions. Be honest with yourself, and make sure you’re putting your best eight-to-ten minutes in front of us. When you’re auditioning, live or via tape, stay away from the crowd. Avoid the “how are you doing?” or “where are you from?” crowd work. That won’t fly on a TV show, because every audience is different. So take a beat, then get right into your material.

MCS: What’s the minimum experience you advise a comedian have before they audition?

Chris: It’s a tough call because everybody is different. Some people have it very quickly, and they’re ready in a year or two. Others take longer. It depends on how much time you’re willing to put in. There are many comics who dabble in and out of it, getting up only a few times a month. Then there are others who really dive into it and get on 20 times a week. It’s not a time issue—it’s how much you really want it. How much time do you want to put in to get to the point where you’re ready?

MCS: What else can you add that would support comedians?

Chris: Have fun with it. We want people to get on the show—I want to stress that. We’re always looking for new talent, so we’re a hundred percent on your side. If you do get to audition, and you get feedback, know that it’s for that show that we’re looking, so don’t take it to heart. We’re trying to guide you to get on the show.

Our thanks to Chris. Please post any other questions you have in the comments.


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The Holiday Gift You Want People to Laugh At

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

Does your boss get a little touchy around this time of year? Are your friends depressed when they see holiday decorations on Walmart’s shelves? Is your mailman overreacting to the impending bankruptcy of the U.S. Postal Service?  You can help!

With your gift certificate to any of Manhattan Comedy School‘s Level 1 stand-up comedy classes, all their troubles will be washed away in just six weeks. Instead of understanding why they hate their mothers, students learn how to write jokes, develop an effective set, and command a real comedy club stage. In the process, they’ll build confidence, increase their comfort speaking in public, and polish their performance skills as they experience the ego-boosting adrenaline surge that comes with doing stand-up comedy. Maybe your mailman can even start a new career before he has to visit the unemployment office.

All MCS courses are taught by seasoned comics with years of experience in the industry, and conclude with graduates performing live at the Gotham Comedy Club. Adding to the excitement, big-name special guests like Jerry Seinfeld, Louis CK, Jim Gaffigan, and Sherri Shepherd often appear for the shows.

Gift certificates are good for any beginner class, and are valid for up to 12 months from the date of purchase. Limited numbers are available, so hurry and get a few of them for all your morose pals. They’re cheaper than Xanax with none of the sexual side effects!

Purchase here:

Recipients choose the class they want to attend (start dates are posted at the link above), then contact MCS at least two weeks in advance to register. All classes are held at 54th and Broadway, in the heart of the Theater District.

For more information, call 212-362-6647.

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AXS of Comedy: New Talent Booked on TV

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

As a graduate of a Manhattan Comedy School class, you get to ply your new skills performing on the Gotham Comedy Club stage. But the advantage doesn’t end there. Comedian Tom Eschleman, a student in a Level 1 class, can confirm that: His appearance got him booked to perform on AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy LIVE show.

This is Eschleman’s first TV spot—a seminal event in any young comic’s career.

This week, Chris Mazzilli, owner of New York City’s premier comedy venue, gave feedback and notes to several acts, as he’s done every month for New Talent show comics the past two years. After seeing Eschleman’s performance, he immediately booked the young comedian on the popular Thursday night AXS TV show.

Eschleman has been taking MCS’s six-week Beginner Stand-Up Class (Level 1) with industry pro Karen Bergreen, and has also honed his craft with veteran comedian and MCS instructor Cory Kahaney.

But he’s just one of many MCS students and New Talent show comics to rate a booking on Gotham Comedy LIVE. Comedy veteran Keith Anthony landed his first AXS TV spot at the same show, while Kenny Garcia, who won the New Talent contest last week, also will appear.

These opportunities are not auditions—all three comics are scheduled to appear on the show.

For more than 12 years, MCS’s faculty of national headliners has been teaching stand-up comedy to professionals in entertainment as well as the corporate world. Students master skills in writing, delivery, and developing their persona. They then have the opportunity to test their refined acts on the professional stage at Gotham Comedy Club.

We got raves from some of the other comics who were booked on AXS TV:

Charles McBee (2014): “Doing Andy’s New Talent show has allowed me to perform on the same shows as Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, and Judah Friedlander, because they drop in quite often to work on material. . . . Very worth it.

Gibran Saleem (2014): “I recently auditioned for AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live and am booked on my first stand-up TV debut! I can honestly say none of this would have happened without Andy Engel’s help, support, and exposure, and his New Talent shows.”

Ashley Austin Morris (2013):I was able to instantly get bookings around the country. . . . I was doing a New Talent show, and Andy Engel went out of his way to introduce me to Chris Mazzilli. . .he booked me on AXS TV.”

Cyrus McQueen (2013): “I simply wouldn’t have gotten my first TV credit without the help of Andy Engel and the platform his New Talent show provided me.”

Chloe Hilliard (2013): “There is no way, as an up-and-coming comic, I would have been able to land my TV debut without Andy Engel. His showcases gave me the exposure I needed to get the attention of club bookers, TV producers, and college agents.

And here are some more MCS-graduate success stories:

Carmen Lynch: Two appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman

Ryan Reiss: Monologue writer and warm-up comic for Late Night with Seth Meyers

Chloe Hilliard: NBC’s Last Comic Standing

Jimmy Failla: Recently taped his one-hour special at Gotham Comedy Club

Vidur Kapur: Showtime Special

Colin Kane: National headliner, recently headlined at Gotham Comedy Club

Register today for a class at Manhattan Comedy School, and you might find yourself on TV, too.


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Stream Some Laughs Today

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

Feeling the need to laugh for several hours on end? Paste Magazine has made it easy with their list of the 25 Best Stand-Up Comedy Specials on Netflix Instant.

The widely varied assortment includes a range of accomplished styles and personalities, and features comedians such as current favorites Louie C.K. and Aziz Ansari to the legendary Eddie Murphy. All the joy is available to stream anytime, so settle in with some non-spit-outable snacks and prepare to laugh.

It’s also an opportunity to do some studying. Watch the material to pick up some valuable tips on delivery, developing a solid routine, writing tight, succinct jokes, and owning the stage. Watching so many seasoned pros in succession is also a great way to compare and contrast different stand-ups’ voices, and understand exactly how they’ve distinguished themselves from the crowd.

Who would you have on your list of the best stand-up specials of all time?

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Funny How You Can Learn to be Funnier

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

Climb into the trenches to create your comedy material with an industry pro as your drill sergeant. Join instructor Cory Kahaney for Stand-up Comedy-Writing Boot Camp, starting Tuesday, September 29th.

During this intensive six-week course, you’ll learn the basics of writing and performing stand-up comedy. Become skilled at the craft of joke-writing, structuring set-ups, and tailoring punchlines for maximum effect in your set. The class meets every Tuesday from 7:00 to 10:00 PM.

What’s special about this course? For starters, class size is small, so you get individualized attention. You’ll also get feedback on your recorded set from a major comedy booker and/or Chris Mazzilli, owner of Gotham Comedy Club and booker for AXS.

What’s more, students of this class are booking jobs on shows like NBC’s Last Comic Standing and AXS-TV’s Live at Gotham Comedy Club, as well as hosting shows at Gotham and other major clubs in New York City.

Register before Saturday, September 5th, and if you use a credit card, you’ll receive a rebate of $100. You must receive permission from either Andy Engel or Cory to participate this class.

Maybe you want to become proficient at improvisation. In that case, join industry pro Marc Adam Smith for his course Improv for Stand-ups–an experience that feels more like getting together with a group of friends to play games, even while you’re learning the fundamental skills of the craft.

Starting Saturday, September 12th, the six-week class meets every week from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. There will also be a graduation performance. Register now while there’s still room.

Either way, you’ll be funnier after just a month and a half!


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What Becomes a Legend Most: You

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

None other than George Wallace stopped in to do the New Talent show last Wednesday, to the delight of both the audience and the lucky comedians who were also there to perform.

As fabulous as George’s drop-in visit was, it’s not unusual for a comedy icon to stop by to do a set. Gotham Comedy Club has been getting a lot of surprise visits from headliners at Manhattan Comedy School and New Talent shows–among them, Louie C.K., Amy Schumer, Jim Gaffigan, and Jerry Seinfeld. It’s a regular police line-up of faces anyone could identify as comedy legends.

If you want to be part of these incredible moments, but don’t want to quit your day job to do it, now’s your chance. Register today for seasoned comedian Karen Bergreen‘s class, Stand-up Comedy: Level 1, starting Wednesday, September 2nd. The class meets every week for six weeks from 7:00 to 10:00 PM, with a graduation performance that will showcase the skills you’ve mastered.

Or maybe you want to try improv. Industry pro Marc Adam Smith is teaching Improv for Stand-ups–an experience that feels more like getting together with a group of friends to play games, even while you’re learning the fundamental skills of the craft. Starting Saturday, September 12th, the class meets every week for six weeks from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. There will also be a graduation performance.  Register while there’s still room.

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Laughter is the Best Air Conditioning

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

Polish up your “how hot is it?” jokes this summer with a class at Manhattan Comedy School.

Starting August 19th,  you can learn the basics of stand-up comedy with Karen Bergreen, an established pro who’s appeared on Comedy Central and at the Kennedy Center; she also performs regularly at all the major New York City clubs.  Karen will guide you in identifying your persona, developing and refining your set-ups, and testing new material in front of your fellow students in a professional setting. In addition, your graduation performance will take place in front of a live audience at Gotham Comedy Club.

The course meets every Wednesday for six weeks from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM in Manhattan. Register today while there’s still room.

Another great class will hone your improvisational skills so you can pretend the temperature is whatever you want it to be. With Marc Adam Smith at the helm, Improv for Stand-Ups doesn’t feel like learning at all–it’s just like playing games with a group of really fun friends. Special guests include Jimmy Failla, Ryan Reiss, and Chloe Hilliard.

The six-week course starts August 22nd, and meets every Saturday from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM in Manhattan. In addition, there will be a graduation performance on a date to be announced. Register today!

When the colder weather means you need new material about snow and frostbite, try the Stand-Up Comedy: Beginner Level 1 course at Levity Live in West Nyack, NY. Kerri Louise, a regular correspondent on The Oprah Winfrey Show who went to the finals on Last Comic Standing, teaches this information-packed, six-week course starting October 14th, with a graduation performance on a date to be announced.  Register immediately!

And stay cool by staying funny.



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Get Schooled in Comedy

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

A Prayer in Spring
by Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
To take a class at Manhattan Comedy School

The Stand-Up Comedy: Level 1 class with Karen Bergreen begins Monday, May 4th, so register this second. This class meets in Manhattan, every Monday for six weeks from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., all on a Springtime’s delicate eve. In addition, you’ll participate in a graduation performance (date to be announced) on the professional stage at Gotham Comedy Club.

You also have the choice of joining the Stand-Up Comedy: Beginner Level 1 class at Levity Live in West Nyack, NY. Led by Kerri Louise, it starts Wednesday, May 6th, meets every week for six weeks, and also includes a graduation performance at an established comedy club.  Register as soon as humanly possible!

Both instructors are proven professionals with years of performing and writing under their belts. Under Karen or Kerri’s guidance, you’ll learn how to write a joke, create an original set, develop stage presence, and more. As a result, you’ll polish your performance and build your confidence–invaluable skills whether you’re an entertainer or you appear in public in a professional setting.

MCS classes offer you the unique opportunity to perform live for six consecutive weeks, all  while getting direct feedback from a working comic. You’ll hone your talents in a variety of ways, and be able to put your newfound skills to use in any number of areas of your life.

For more information, call 212-462-3200.

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Seinfeld Strikes Again

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

Jerry Seinfeld has said that Gotham Comedy Club‘s stage is his favorite–and he really meant it. He stopped in yet again this past Wednesday night to perform at the New Talent show. Which, by the way, is produced by Manhattan Comedy School founder and owner Andy Engel.

Jerry seems to be making a habit of these surprise visits. Sometimes he even gives some warning!  But it’s still an event big enough to make the news.

Don’t you want to be there, too? Preferably on the very same stage (no, not at the same time, but come on now)? Sign up for a Manhattan Comedy School class (there’s still time to make it into the one that starts January 21st) and you can appear on the legendary stage where none other than Jerry Seinfeld might turn up at any moment.

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Inspiration to Take a Comedy Class

Posted on by Emily Rosenberg

What’s becomes a legend most? No, not a fine fur–Gotham Comedy Club.

None other than Jerry Seinfeld dropped in on the first night of the New Talent show on Wednesday this week. He made the audience roar, as usual.

Then he said something deadly serious: “Gotham is my favorite club.”

Sign up to take the free improv sample class on Saturday, January 17th from 1:00  to 3:00 pm so you can start working your way toward appearing in the very same club that Jerry Seinfeld prefers over all others. Email [email protected] with your name, phone, and email address to learn all the information about the class, which is taught by Marc Adam Smith.

And to really flex your comedy muscles so you can confidently stand on the stage where Jerry Seinfeld feels funniest, register now for a Stand-up Level 1 class at Manhattan Comedy School. The next one, taught by industry pro Karen Bergreen, begins January 21st.

Keep your New Year’s resolutions, keep your day job, and try stand-up comedy.

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