The joke’s over: The Experiment Comedy Gallery was forced to close after a neighborhood beef

The Experiment was one of the few vestiges of 'weird' on the waterfront. Sam Corbin / Brokelyn
The Experiment was one of the few vestiges of ‘weird’ on the waterfront. Sam Corbin / Brokelyn

Many of us were lucky enough to drink in the emergent comedy scene at The Experiment Comedy Gallery, an awesome BYOB comedy venue formerly in residence at 20 Broadway. The Experiment rose to notoriety during the “Donald Trump Special” they ran last year, when owner Mo Fathelbab announced he was offering Muslims free admission to shows.

But as with most good things in Brooklyn, Vice bought it. Just kidding. But the Experiment was forced to cease operations last week due to conflicts with the housing board and management company. Comedian Elsa Waithe set up a GoFundMe page on Fathelbab’s behalf in order to bring back the Experiment, citing a deadline of May 1 to gather the necessary funds for relocation. “As a result [of the closure],” she writes, “many amazing shows have had to cancel, or be put on hold. Mo’s first concern in all of this was not for the financial loss of his business but the loss of stage time for so many terrific comedians.”

Waithe’s GoFundMe emphasizes The Experiment’s dedication to diverse comedy and the opportunities for stage time that it offered to up and coming or lesser-known comedians. (This writer remembers it fondly as venue emeritus of her internet comedy show, Subreddit Live.) The page gives the following explanation for the venue’s sudden closure:

“Unfortunately due to neighborhood conflicts, the housing board in the building where he was located decided they no longer wanted The Experiment housed there. The venue was forced to close as of March 27th.”

The Experiment's stage features faux furniture quilting wallpaper. Sam Corbin / Brokelyn
The Experiment’s stage featured faux quilting wallpaper that we all want back. Sam Corbin / Brokelyn

We reached out to Fathelbab for comment, and he told us that the building and management company had been giving them headaches for the past six months. He’s now looking to relocate to a venue in Williamsburg or Bushwick, not too far from The Experiment’s original location.

“We’re currently looking at two spaces,” Fathelbab told Brokelyn. “The most promising is [a space] close to the Knitting Factory but it’s not a done deal yet.”

Despite not having been publicized on any media channels, Waithe’s GoFundMe campaign has raised over $600 in a single day. Donations are rolling in from comedians and audience members alike, in amounts ranging from $5-100. Improvisor Sefa Urgenc added a note to his donation: “I got your back!”

Donation perks include free admission to a single show ($20), free admission to five shows plus signing your name on the new wall ($50), and free admission to 10 shows plus wall signature ($50). May 1 is The Experiment’s target re-opening date if the funding goal is met, with a special show and the afterparty for the GoFundMe contributors planned for the weekend following.

Fathelbab told us that the $5,000 price tag on relocation would cover rent at the new space, the costs of moving, “and yes, the hope of getting our signature ‘wallpaper.'”

Do you have The Experiment’s back? If so, donate whatever you can! And if you’re dead broke but still want to help, e-mail mofathelbab[at] with your interest to lend a hand in moving, setting up the new space once they secure it, promoting shows and other odds and ends.

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One Response to

  1. Guy Pickrell

    Sam – Why don’t you do a little research or is that just too much like being a real journalist? As the public record shows, Mo Fathelbab and owner of The Experiment Comedy Club was evicted for non payment of rent and had nothing to do with the housing association or any other crap he’s made up.

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