For as long as she can remember, comedian Carolyn Bergier has had a recurring nightmare in which she is on stage, partially nude. She’s scary, and then she wakes up.
The difference this time is that she is entirely naked, and this is not a dream. It’s real life, or at least as close to it 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, took the stage naked, staring at a sold-out crowd of 75, a red neon sign behind them. which showed two rabbits. having sex, and he realized that he had made a big mistake: he forgot to remove the hair tie from the doll.
What an oversight! As she stepped up to the microphone, he hit her with an epiphany. She tossed the hair bow to the side of her and quipped, “I knew she was too dressed up for the occasion.” Big laugh.
public speaking is always ranked in the polls as one of our biggest fears. Stand-up must be worse. But “The Naked Comedy Show”? This monthly showcase represents the Everest of anxiety. “This is as vulnerable as you can be,” Bergier, 38, told me over Zoom later. “That’s what drew me in.”
Mixing standing and naked meat is nothing new. Lenny Bruce worked in strip clubs. Tig Notaro told topless jokes, which is berto kreischerbrand of an East Village hit, “Put a post in it.” alternates athletic pole dance and stand-up sets, always with a different musical theme. (It’s Rihanna over Memorial Day weekend.) And there’s also a somewhat dark New York City tradition of fully nude stand-up that has included comics like Eric André and Mike Lawrence (who starred in “The Naked Comedy Showcase” in the Pit more than a decade ago).
Billy Procida, the 33-year-old producer and host of “The Naked Comedy Show,” has been performing naked comedy since he attended New York University. The second time he performed nude, the woman he lost his virginity to appeared. The bombing. “Bombing is shameful, but naked bombing is the worst that can happen,” he told me in a coffee shop near Union Square, speaking like someone who has long outgrown such complexes.
On stage, Procida displays warmth and sensitivity, which I suppose are useful qualities when wearing a cock ring (he also calls it “genital jewelry”). After the pandemic, realizing there were no regular strip shows in New York, she saw an opportunity. For a good night of dressed up comedy in Brooklyn, it can be hard to draw a crowd. As of last September, his first “Naked Comedy Show” was sold out 10 days in advance. She now hosts two a night each month and most have sold out. (The next one is in Saturday.) He hopes to bump that up to three a month, perhaps by adding a battle of naked barbecues (although he worries that the gritty, cutthroat tone of those events won’t work for the body-positive crowd).
He writes veteran comics, the kind that have done sets on late-night shows. talk shows and perform most nights on the town. Their material tends not to be that different from their regular concerts. Procida said she was looking for diversity, not just in race, gender and sexual orientation, but also in body type. (“It’s nice not to have five torn comics on one poster.”) His main criteria: Are they funny? Also obviously willing. Approximately two out of three comedians reject it. Agreeing and then having cold feet is not uncommon.
Part of the show’s success, and what sets it apart from previous versions, is that it takes place in a space belonging to tax authorities, 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 spoke to people who had recently attended naked game nights, naked karate, and naked boxing.
“These people are starving for events where they can take their clothes off for two hours,” Procida said. That’s why she’s made the front two rows clothing optional, providing new avenues for working with crowds. The night I attended, she had a friendly chat with a life coach in her birthday outfit.
The most surprising aspect of “The Naked Comedy Show” might be how asexual it is. The audience is meticulously educated, quick to laugh. The jokes were less raunchy than what you might find at the Comedy Cellar. There’s even an incongruous innocence to some of the sets. While the Off Broadway shows “Naked Boys Singing!” and “Puppetry of the Penis” proved that combining nudity with a little wholesomeness can be fun and commercially successful.
“Let me put it this way,” Procida said of the lack of eroticism or sexuality. “If you’re in the audience and you’re turned on by someone making suicide jokes while you’re naked, that’s your problem.”
The first time the comic Nick Viagas, 27, performed there, took Viagra before going on stage. It didn’t work. Too scared. Via Zoom, he told me that he calls this situation “battle dick” and compared the intensity of the nude stand-up to Michelangelo’s David statue: the crew did not match the martial reputation of him fighting giants. .
“I think it’s good to be humiliated as a comedian,” Viagas said. “You have to put your ego aside.”
Despite being warned not to by his manager, Viagas returned a second time, the night I attended, and started a joke by asking, “Does anyone here work in an office? Does anyone work from my office? No response. “Good,” he said, a look of genuine relief on his face.
Later, he told a joke that was based on a self-deprecating punchline. He died. “Usually when I say this, you can’t see my penis,” she said, winning over the crowd.
The men on the poster generally talked more about being naked than the women. But one comic clearly went further by incorporating his body into a bit.
Dwayne Cullen he stopped his game, pretending to forget a joke, then reached down and took a small square of paper from under his foreskin. She spent some time unfolding it before reading the joke on the page. The crowd roared and cringed.
Carolyn Bergier, who began thinking about acting nude six years ago after getting divorced and dying her hair pink, was surprised at her lack of nerve. “It was fun, not a big transformative thing,” she said before praising the crowd. “I feel like they’re disarmed if you’re naked,” she said, contrasting it with a show at a Manhattan club. “Last night at Stand Up NY, the crowd was tense, but everyone there dropped their guard because we’re naked.”
His biggest concern turned out to be footwear. Do you have to wear shoes and socks on “The Naked Comedy Show”? It can’t be the cleanest floor. He decided on bare feet. “I’ll feel like a fool in socks,” she said, adding that this mattered more than nudity: “That was the most stressful.”
That being said, he still hasn’t told his mother, who advised him against it years ago when she had shown interest then. His plan is to tell her in the most unexpected way: in this column. (Hi Mom!)
“I was hoping the article would come out before Mother’s Day,” she told me, disappointed.
Do you think your mother will be angry? “I think so, but she’ll get over it,” Bergier said, looking as nonchalant and confident as she brushed off her hair bow. “Alright.”