Naked stand-up comedy: Everything you imagine, and more – Times of India

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For as long as she can remember, stand-up comic Carolyn Bergier has had a recurring nightmare in which she’s onstage, partly nude. It’s scary, and then she wakes up.
The difference this time is that she is entirely naked – and this is no dream. It’s real life, or at least as close as you can get in a Bushwick, Brooklyn, basement. Last month, Bergier, the kind of person who changes in the locker room as quickly and discreetly as possible, walked onstage with no clothes on, looked out at a sold-out crowd of 75 people, a red neon sign behind them showing two rabbits having sex, and realized she had made a big mistake: She forgot to take the hair tie off her wrist.
What an oversight! As she approached the microphone, an epiphany hit. She tossed the hair tie to the side and quipped, “I knew I was overdressed for the occasion.” Big laugh.
Public speaking is always ranked in polls as among our greatest fears. Stand-up must be worse. But “The Naked Comedy Show”? This monthly showcase represents the Everest of anxiety. “This is the most vulnerable you can be,” Bergier, 38, told me over Zoom later. “That’s what drew me in.”
Mixing stand-up and naked flesh is hardly new. Lenny Bruce worked strip clubs. Tig Notaro told jokes topless, which is Bert Kreischer’s brand. An East Village hit, “Schtick a Pole in It,” alternates athletic pole dancing and stand-up sets, always with a different musical theme. (It’s Rihanna over Memorial Day weekend.) And there’s also a slightly obscure New York City tradition of totally naked stand-up that has included comics such as Eric Andre and Mike Lawrence (who performed on “The Naked Comedy Showcase” at the Pit more than a decade ago).
Billy Procida, the 33-year-old producer and host of “The Naked Comedy Show,” has been performing comedy sans clothing since he attended New York University. The second time he performed nude, the woman he lost his virginity to showed up. He bombed. “Bombing is embarrassing, but bombing naked is the worst thing that can happen,” he told me at a coffee shop near Union Square, speaking like someone who is long past such hang-ups.
Onstage, Procida displays warmth and sensitivity, which I would guess are useful qualities when wearing a penis ring (he also calls it “genital jewelry”). After the pandemic, realizing there were no regular naked shows in New York, he saw an opportunity. For a good night of clothed comedy in Brooklyn, it can be tough to draw a crowd. Starting last September, his first “Naked Comedy Show” sold out 10 days in advance. Now, he stages two a night every month, and most have sold out. (The next one is Saturday.) He hopes to raise that to three a month, maybe adding a naked roast battle (although he worries that the rough and ruthless tone of those events might not work for the body-positive crowd).
He books veteran comics, the kind who have done sets on late-night talk shows and perform most nights in the city. Their material tends not to be that different from that of their regular gigs. Procida said he looked for diversity, not just of race, gender and sexual orientation, but also body type. (“It’s nice to not have five ripped comics on one bill.”) His main criteria: They need to be funny and, obviously, willing. Roughly 2 out of 3 comics turn him down. Agreeing and then getting cold feet is not uncommon.
Part of the show’s success, and what makes it different from previous versions, is that it takes place at a space belonging to Hacienda, a sex-positive organization that has built a sizable mailing list hosting sex parties. Some of the audience members are regulars, including nudists. Before a recent show, I talked with people who had recently attended nude game nights, nude karate and nude boxing.
The most surprising aspect of “The Naked Comedy Show” might be how asexual it is. The audience is meticulously polite, quick to laugh. The jokes were less bawdy than what you might find at the Comedy Cellar. There’s even an incongruous innocence to some of the sets.nyt

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