New York City has always been an epicenter of comedy and the presence of world-class performers often extends into Westchester venues. The Emelin Theatre is just such a venue and has shown a dedication to comedy by offering top tier comedy lineups for years. Major headliners like Judy Gold and Kevin Nealon have performed there and upcoming shows include Tom Papa, as well as their annual comedy showcase of Westchester’s own up-and-comers, which is still taking submissions.
One of their most well-attended comedy shows, “The Ivy League of Comedy” series, returned last Friday to present Bonnie MacFarlane, Paul Mercurio and Nick Griffin, who have all appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Shaun Eli, a Westchester comedian and the host of last week’s show, knows that there are lots of comedy fans in the area, but it isn’t always easy getting them in the door. “A theme goes a long way,” explains Eli, “people like to know what to expect and hearing that all the comics have been on ‘The Late Show’ gives an indication of quality.”
Bonnie McFarlane, last week’s first performer, isn’t just an outrageously funny comic, she’s also a writer, a director and a mother. MacFarlane’s tongue-in-cheek take on parenting and candid material on the effects of the Me Too Movement for men in the entertainment industry delivered an air of irreverent fun that lasted through the duration of her set. MacFarlane’s effortless, casual delivery was infectious and started the night off strong.
Paul Mercurio, an Emmy and Peabody award winner, as well as the second act in the show, opened his set with some crowd work, similar to his Broadway show PERMISSION TO SPEAK, in which he interacts with audience members. One crowd member inspired a particularly hilarious riff based on his reluctance to share. In a hilarious nod to Mercurio’s past as a finance lawyer, it turned out that the man was, in fact, an old coworker and IT personnel who used to secretly read Mecurio’s earliest jokes in a hidden folder.
Nick Griffin, who you might have seen on any of his 11 appearances on Letterman, brought his hilariously bleak brand of humor to the stage to close the show. Griffin’s set was a mix of crowd work and prepared material, touching on everything from divorce to the pains of going to a rock show as an adult. Donning a sarcastic tone reminiscent of Lewis Black and a punchy delivery closer to Jon Stewart, Griffin toes the line between endearing and cuttingly clever with practiced steps.
With over 100 new Netflix specials released in just the last two years and unprecedented levels of exposure for comics through social media and podcasts, it’s plain to see that comedy is having a moment. And, considering that the Emelin’s show was sold out months in advance…comedy in Westchester is no exception.
For a full schedule of upcoming Emelin Theatre events, visit: emelin.org.
William Bermingham works in the Communications Department at ArtsWestchester. He is a graduate of Purchase College where he studied Arts Management.