Bed Stuy/ Bushwick

Is Brooklyn the new king of the late-night comedy scene?

Scott Rogowsky is our very own Jay Leno, minus the chin. (via Facebook)
Scott Rogowsky is our very own Jay Leno, minus the chin. (via Facebook)

With Los Angeles  laying claim to Leno and Conan, and Letterman, Stewart, Fallon and Colbert taking hold as the reigning late-night kings in Manhattan, Brooklyn’s not exactly a big name when it comes to comedy talk shows. But that might change soon: our fair borough is now home to not one, not two, but three shows following that fail-safe late-night format: Running Late with Scott Rogowsky, the Chris Rose-hosted Late-Night Basement and Get Happy, spearheaded by Punderdome’s Jo Firestone. Is this the start of a new, hilarious trend? We hope so — we caught up with all three hosts to see how they got their start in the biz, and how Brooklyn’s treated them thus far.

The longest-running show of the bunch, Running Late, is actually a transplant from Manhattan; host Rogowsky ran a sports-themed late-night show called 12 Angry Mascots at a handful of comedy clubs over on the Big Island from 2008-2011, and birthed the new show from its ashes. “I had had ‘Running Late’ rattling around in my head for a while as a good name for a late night talk show, and I asked [the People’s Improv Theater] director Jeff Lepine if I could try doing an all-purpose, general interest talk show with that name,” Rogowsky, who worked the stand-up circuit a bit before turning talk-show host, told us. “He gave me a spot, that first show drew well, and so he gave me another spot which drew even better. And it took off from there.” Running Late alternated between the PIT, 92YTriBeCa and Galapagos Art Space for a bit, then permanently moved to the Dumbo space in April.

Since its incarnation in October 2011, Rogowsky’s drawn guests ranging from David Cross to Girls‘ Alex Karpovsky, and built a solid fanbase both in Manhattan and Brooklyn. “I was a little worried we’d lose some of the audience that we cultivated over a year of doing shows in Manhattan, but any loss was offset by the boatloads of new Brooklyn fans we gained with the  move,” he said. “They’re literally arriving by luxury yacht.” And he says he thinks some of Running Late’s appeal is the talk-show format itself, guests and all. “Speaking from the audience’s perspective, I think it’s nice to provide an alternative to a straight-up stand-up show in the city’s crowded comedy scene,” he said. ” I love it when I can have David Cross and Andrew W.K. on a show alongside a sex blogger or a pizza tour guide.” Plus, Rogowsky’s dad is his sidekick — always worth watching.

Michael Marona at Late Night Basement, indicating the ceiling of Brooklyn's talk show host talents
Michael Marona at Late Night Basement, indicating the ceiling of Brooklyn’s talk show host talents

Semi-monthly (free!) show Late Night Basement, which has had a home at Legion in Williamsburg and Pine Box Rock Shop in Bushwick since kicking off in January, is grounded in hilarious parody videos and offbeat man-on-the-street interviews, and host Chris Rose says he’s modeled some of the show after things like SNL’s Weekend Update and Jimmy Kimmel Live. “I try to put a lot of production value into filming things for the show,” Rose told us. “I spend a lot of time going out and shooting videos that are topical and funny, and I try to make them relate to Brooklyn.” Rose has parodied everything from an Anthony Weiner campaign commercial to the Real Housewives franchise, and he’s also boasted local stand-up comedians, filmmakers, Mike Marona from Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete and Pete, and also snared Andrew W.K. Though he got a bit of a rocky start. “The first one, I had every single person on the lineup cancel on the day of, which was definitely rough,” he told us. ” There was a lot of scrambling to rebook it with hours notice, and even then the guest interview didn’t show up. I just pulled someone from the audience and interviewed them as if they were the guest.” But there was a happy ending: “The next show, Andrew W.K. showed up.”

Jo Firestone (left, cringing) reacts to another unannounced late-night quest. via Facebook
Jo Firestone (left, cringing) reacts to another unannounced late-night quest. via Facebook

Brooklyn’s newest show, Get Happy, is also the quirkiest of the bunch: host Jo Firestone takes inspiration from ritual-heavy theater like The Rocky Horror Picture Show to keep the audience on their toes. “I thought it might be fun to have a talk show where there are a lot of rituals for the audience to participate in,” she told us. “It’s really about the experience, everyone in the space is participating in this kind of strange and chaotic show.” Rituals include sessions with a sassy backstage advice columnist, visitors ranging from Vikings and prospectors on quests to find treasure and a even a singalong or two; Firestone will also pay people a dollar to tell a joke, and everyone has to golf-clap, stand up or whisper when guests stumble on the “secret word.” “The nature of the show is that the more we do it, the more people have caught onto it and done more of the rituals,” Firestone, who says the show is themed around things that make people happy, told us. “The more we do it, the more regular [the rituals] become.”

For those interested in getting their own talk-show start, the hosts agree your best bet is book space, invite your friends and see what happens. “I booked Cameo Gallery, I thought it would be a good place to have a talk show like that,” Firestone told us. “Then I just booked guests and tried it out.” And if the show takes some time to catch on, don’t freak out. “In the beginning, it was a little harder to convince people to come on the show since it was an unknown entity,” Rogowsky said of Running Late. ” I’m incredibly grateful to those early guests — Jenny Slate, Chris Gethard, Dave Hill, A.J. Jacobs, Janeane Garofalo — who helped establish us as a real thing that’s worth paying $10 to see.” As Rose says, “Pretty much everything will go wrong.”

Running Late has its Season 3 finale this Wednesday at Galapagos Art Space (16 Main Street) at 8pm; guests include Wyatt Cenac, Nathan Fieldar and TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone, and tickets are $12 (it also streams live online). Late Night Basement’s next show is July 19th at Pine Box Rock Shop; details will be released on the show’s Facebook page, and it is free to attend. Get Happy will be held at Cameo Gallery sometime next month; tickets are $7, and we’ll update when specific details are released.

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