Littlefield Theater, at 635 Sackett Street in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn has already established its credentials for performances both comedic and musical. The theater was the jumping off point for Wyatt Cenac, who would later go on to star on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (now Trevor Noah). The bar has recently undergone renovations and looks excellent. On Monday, February 5, 2018, Littlefield hosted the Butter Boy comedy show, which is the successor to Cenac’s Monday night show. The show was professional, well-performed, and above all, really funny.
“I’ve been seeing comedy for five or six years now, at UCB Chelsea mostly, and this is one of my favorite shows. The host of this show, Aparna Nancherla, started at UCB east, and so it feels like the same show, the continuation of the show I watched for so many years,” said Gabe Rosenberg, who works for the venue.
The renovations of swank, new, shiny décor, a box office cashier, a DJ, and slick projectors make this a professional venue – this wasn’t an open mic but rather a professional show. Usually comedians in Brooklyn start at open mics and schools, where anything goes for better or for worse. On the better side, comics at open mic venues have huge amounts of freedom, but on the worse side this also means comics are often workshopping material that hasn’t been tested or worked on before. A second problem with comedy open mics is comedians go to perform, not to watch. This means time is something done to everyone else, as opposed to a gift given and received. A corollary is at any comedy open mic, every man is for himself, and the audience disintegrates after they perform.
Emily, an art teacher from BedStuy neighborhood of Brooklyn, brought a friend who was visiting New York all the way from Los Angeles, and this is a testament to how popular Littlefield’s Monday night shows have become. Emily was slightly disheartened this wasn’t the same show with Wyatt Cenac. “Yeah I’ve been before. I don’t know how it’s going to be this time, I hope it’s as good as it was before,” she said.
Emily might have been surprised because Littlefield put on a truly excellent show on February 5th. Not to be outdone by its own success, the theater even hosted Daily Show star Roy Wood Junior as a headliner late in the show.
While Aparna Nancherla was not the host at this particular show, her substitutes Jo Firestone and Maeve Higgins were absolutely awesome. They bantered with each other in order to open the show, and they also talked to DJ Donwill about eating pizza. The two talked about religion, as Firestone is Jewish and Higgins is Irish Catholic. Memorable bits included how Higgins attended a Bat Mitzvah, where she told the parents of the teenager, “You’re my chosen people.” Higgins said the parents didn’t like that one, but the Littlefield audience roared with laughter.
The first comic set of the night after the announcers was Eman El-Husseini, who was from Montreal. El-Husseini is a Muslim, Lesbian, and Canadian, and used a dry sense of humor to juxtapose ways of thinking about the political environment. El-Husseini has a wonderful delivery that pauses after certain jokes to let the audience catch up.
After El-Husseini, Chris Duffy performed using many story-based and narratives for humor. Duffy had a ton of excellent material, including going on to “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” and losing about NASCAR, to interviewing Congressman Barney Frank after a night of no sleep, only to find a kindred spirit in the disheveled politician. Duffy’s stories have a whimsical turn of absurdity, which makes his stories as fun as they are funny.
Duffy was followed by Mara Wiles, who told everyone women could avoid being sexually harassed if they wore bicycle helmets in a very funny set of jokes, which included a dance and a rap song similar to an after-school special from the 1990’s, “Keep your helmet on, keep-your-helmet-on,” and the audience responded with laughter. Mara has a very physical comedy where punchlines are underlined with accents, impressions, references to folk songs (or German death metal), dance moves, and spins.
After Wiles, Yedoye Travis performed in a leather jacket made to look like one of the characters from Dragon Ball Z. Travis’ comedy is sharp and biting, and it wasn’t always clear where the punch line was coming because the comedy was so dark. This made the payout when he finally delivered that much more worthwhile. Travis made a joke about being arrested for “throwing gang signs,” which he delivered with incredulity and scathing disbelief. He said, “What, haven’t you ever seen a black man cast magic spells? What are you a muggle?” And the audience laughed and applauded.
Travis was followed by Leah Bonnema, who had some of the best delivery in the entire group. Bonnema had excellent control of the audience, and at least one of the people in the audience sounded like they were having an asthma attack because Bonnema was so funny. Bonnema talked about how she went into the hospital for an emergency visit for abdominal pain. “The tea tree oil wasn’t working anymore,” she said. When the doctors left the room, Bonnema stripped her clothes, only to scare the doctors when they came back in. Terrified herself, Bonnema called her boyfriend, only to find out that you don’t have to take your clothes off for CAT scans. The audience looked like a wave from the ocean when they laughed so hard at that.
The set was closed out by celebrities Roy Wood Junior and Seaton Smith, and this was easily one of the best shows in New York last night, let alone Brooklyn. Littlefield Theater is an amazing, clean, and large venue where up and coming and professional comedians have and do find a national stage. Better than that, Littlefield is a true gift for the audience, who are able to see performers cut the rug with their best material.