Our guide to stand-up, improv and variety shows happening this weekend and in the week ahead.
BATTLICIOUS: A COMEDY RAP BATTLE at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre East Village (Jan. 5, 11:30 p.m.). Years before “Drop The Mic” appeared on TV, beatboxer Chris Shockwave Sullivan from Freestyle Love Supreme and comedian/actor Victor Varnado were hosting head-to-head competitions in which comedians rap, and rappers crack jokes, with the winners determined by the audience.
50 FIRST JOKES at The Bell House (Jan. 4, 8 p.m.). The only comedy show of the year in which you’re guaranteed to hear only new jokes, this 13th annual event gathers, you guessed it, 50 of the city’s top rising stand-ups in one place to present the first new bit they’ve written in 2019. It’s fun, fast and loose. Even if you might not recognize all of the comedians by name or face. This year’s participants include Catherine Cohen, the “Saturday Night Live” writer Anna Drezen, the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” writer Jo Firestone, Rob Haze, Shane Torres, Liza Treyger and Sydnee Washington.
ON THE MOON ARTS HOLIDAY PARTY at Littlefield (Jan. 4, 8 to 11:30 p.m.). The second night of a two-night variety festival showcasing talent in comedy, music, dance and art that defies easy definitions. Hosted Friday by Leah Bonnema, with music by DJ Avg Jo and performances by the Dance Cartel, Lizz Winstead, Your Love, Our Musical, Ophira Eisenberg, Jessica Rowboat, Dave Hill and Sarah Hartshorne. Both nights feature a special art installation by sculptural lighting artist Ryan Mulkey.
SINBAD at Carolines on Broadway (Jan. 4-5, 7:30 and 10 p.m.) This stand-up broke through in the 1980s via the televised “Star Search” competition and hasn’t stopped making audiences laugh since. Sinbad famously takes the stage without preparing his hour, preferring to work the crowd and find the funny wherever it may be.
BASSEM YOUSSEF at Joe’s Pub (Jan. 4 and Jan. 8, 9:30 p.m.). This thoracic surgeon, inspired by the Arab Spring at home and by “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on television, launched his own humorous news program in Egypt in 2011. Time magazine named him one of the “100 most influential people in the world” two years later. Now living in the Bay Area, Youssef is working on a one-man show about the subtle satirical differences between dictatorship and democracy.
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