Che, Patel and Denny at Broken Comedy in February. All photos by Phil Provencio.

      Che, Patel and Denny at Broken Comedy in February. All photos by Phil Provencio.

New York's Greatest Stand-Up is Broken

by Gili Malinsky

Just past eight on a Monday night in mid March, Mike Denny and Nimesh Patel set up the back room of Greenpoint’s Bar Matchless for their weekly stand-up show, NYC Broken Comedy. Technically a garage, the room features a drum kit on the small stage, walls made of chalkboard and an actual, functioning garage door in the back. For years, Broken Comedy’s been one of New York’s best kept secrets, a free night of stand-up featuring some of the biggest names and new comers. Past guests have included Hannibal Buress, Trevor Noah and Michelle Wolf. SNL’s Michael Che one of its three founders (along with Denny and Patel), he, of course, has graced the stage many times, too. Denny goes up and checks the mic, Patel lights candles and disperses them around the room, producer Becky Astphan greets people as they come in. That night would feature jokes about Life cereal, the new Batman movie, and, of course, dating. Ester Steinberg asks if anyone’s willing to date her desperate sister.

NYC Broken Comedy was founded in 2011, a friend of Denny’s asking if he’d like to start a show at the basement of a shipping company. Denny agreed, texting Che and Patel immediately to ask if they’d join. The show would take place there for several months before the three’d realize a shipping place wasn’t ideal as a venue, Bar Matchless the first place Denny turned to instead.

“We traded like 40 emails,” he says about reaching out. “I talked them all the way down from $180 [to rent the room] to $0.” And so in 2012, Broken Comedy moved there, building buzz as the hot new show and seeing crowds of various sizes, along with industry execs popping their heads in to check out the comics. And it’s happened every Monday night since. Astphan joined as producer in the spring of 2012. Today Che comes in when he can. And from a handful of people to a room totally packed, there’s always an audience.

It’s hard for Denny, Patel and Astphan to pinpoint exactly what makes the night so special. 

“All three of them have - it’s not a similar cadence,” says Astphan about the three founding comics’ deliveries. “It’s very conversational… When Denny hosts, it’s very much you’re seeing a one-time set. Some things we might never see Denny do again.” He and Patel are highlights of the show, Denny now hosting and Patel going up every week. They’re masterful in their deliveries. Denny tells jokes very naturally, literally like he’s thinking on stage ("Money. What is it? Where is it? How do you get it?”). Patel’s jokes are perfectly crafted and intelligent, albeit sometimes offensive (maybe white kids should die of drug epidemics first? Takes so long for people to notice when black kids are dying…). 

Broken Comedy on a packed night in February.

Broken Comedy on a packed night in February.

“What’s cool about Broken is that it’s a good hang afterwards,” says Patel. “The wings are fuckin’ banging, so people will just chill and bullshit for a long time… People will, like, impromptu dance party. I’ve seen Reggie Conquest - one of the funniest guys on the planet - just be dancing on that little [raised circle under the stage] by himself at the end of the show. To Beyonce.”

One word that comes up often when the three describe the show is “family”. From comics who’ve been coming for years, to regular audience members who’ve been catching the show and staying after to hang, to the bartenders - each energetic in their own way and making Broken that much more hyper - everyone’s in it together. Everyone’s always been in it together. And, actually, watching the three set up that night, it’s obvious why that back room is such magic. 

They just love it so much. 

Catch NYC Broken Comedy Monday nights, 8:30pm at Bar Matchless