What counts as funny, what as toxic, and who gets to decide? Explore the serious business of stand-up with Andrew Hankinson, author of cult classic You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat].
AMY SCHUMER. LOUIS CK. JERRY SEINFELD. CHRIS ROCK. They all worked the Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village, honing their acts, experimenting, taking risks. It was a safe space, thanks to the principles of its first owner, Manny Dworman, then his son Noam. The only threat to freedom of expression was a lack of laughs.
But how did a New York taxi driver, born in Tel Aviv, create comedy’s most important stage? How did he influence some of the biggest names in stand-up? What are the limits of a joke? Who decides? And why does the comedians’ table matter so much?
Andrew Hankinson speaks to the Cellar’s owner, comedians, and audience members, using interviews, emails, podcasts, letters, text messages, and previously private documents to create a conversation about the perils, pride, and prejudice of modern comedy. Moving backwards in time from Louis CK’s downfall to when Manny used to host folk singers including Bob Dylan, this is about a comedy club, but it’s also about the widening chasm in contemporary culture.