Beginning last year, with the havoc of the pandemic and the rise of work-from-home culture, people and publications have steadily lamented the “end of New York City.” And it’s true, many who called the city home have flocked to less dense (and more affordable) areas. We’re not going to deny that there is a definite shift occurring in our country — Manhattan and Brooklyn rental prices have dropped for the first time in a long while — as we grapple with the reality of living in unprecedented times. But don’t let anybody ever convince you that New York is capable of dying. This is New York we’re talking about, it’s known as the city that never sleeps for a reason.
Give them a minute and the citizens of the Big Apple will find new ways to innovate and breathe new life into anything they touch. Just ask Mickela Mallozzi — dancer, travel show host, and proud New Yorker — who wrote about this very subject for our Fall Experiences Guide.
For David Levine and Ethan Mansoor, the chance to be part of how NYC emerges from the pandemic means shaking up the renowned New York comedy scene — making it more accessible and omnipresent than ever. The idea is Underground Overground, which takes unorthodox places and turns them into punk rock DIY comedy venues. A barbershop, a laundromat, a boxing ring, and a rooftop are all great comedy venues in the minds of Levine and Mansoor.
“Honestly, we had no idea what this would turn into,” Levine says. “It’s not that old school clubs needed a revamp, but there’s a lot of formality that we don’t always want when we’re seeing shows. You’re seated somewhere specific, there are item minimums and then you have to wait around for the check to come before you can get up. The second our shows end there’s music blasting and people get to laugh about the sets and move around the room.”
Levine and Mansoor’s shows blur the lines between audience and performer in an effort to create something more intimate and communal.
“Comedians just want a good crowd to perform for,” Levine says. “We’re a bunch of lively 21-25-year-olds drinking in a laundromat and they love that energy when they’re on stage… They’re creative people, so as long as the shows are well run and concentrated on the comedy, they applaud the unorthodox venue choices and willingness to take a risk.”
Levine and Mansoor’s efforts aren’t just for comedy’s experimental new kids — they’re also attracting big names and regulars from New York’s Comedy Cellar, like Sherrod Small, Phil Hanley, Kerry Codett, Mark Normand, and Dave Attell, who have all performed sets for Underground Overground crowds. It’s a reminder that New York is, and will probably always be, the epicenter of American comedy.
“Yes, and…” that, Los Angeles.
Check out Underground Overground’s Instagram to stay up to date with the crew’s latest dates, which include upcoming performances at Soho Ink on October 23rd and Economy Candy on November 3rd.