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New York Sees a Comedy-Club Renaissance

The concept of a comedy club may bring to mind brick walls and sparse attendance. But it's a thriving business in New York City, which now boasts 19 full-time venues for comedy. Some of those venues are upscale clubs that can seat 300 people and feature expansive wine lists.

With so many venues, it's possible for a working comedian to fill up a weekly schedule by making the rounds — and even make some money doing it. A good, but unknown, comic can earn $1,000 a week just by playing the city's clubs.

The improved prospects for New York comedians are a new phenomenon, brought on partly by an industry union, but also by the fact that so many competing venues create a demand for talent.

There are a number of theories as to why stand-up is doing so well. One is that comedy clips on Tivo have whetted audience appetites for stand-up. Others say that we're in a comedic perfect storm: Politics have created a mood of discontent, but the economy is humming along.

Even with all of these venues, comedy can still be a soul-crushing profession. After all, you need to get that humor-fueling discontent from somewhere.

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Mike Pesca
Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.
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