Coney Island Comedy Festival to return for three nights this month

Irina Ginzburg, Upa inSpace, performing at the 2019 Coney Island Comedy Festival.
Photo courtesy of Irina Ginzburg

The Coney Island Comedy Festival is gearing up for its second year in person with two locations, two contests and a huge lineup hoping to spread laughter across the peninsula. 

“We believe laughter is the best medicine, so giving it away, I think, would be best for our community,” said comedian Irina Ginzburg, who performs under the stage name Upa inSpace and founded the Coney Island Comedy Festival in 2019.

The third iteration of the festival will offer five free shows over the course of three nights, from Sept. 16 through 18. The first two evenings will include back-to-back shows starting at Coney Island Brewery and then moving over to Ruby’s Bar and Grill, with the closing night event exclusively at the brewery.

While the festival’s founder is ready to take the stage again after festivities transitioned online in 2020, Ginzburg told Brooklyn Paper that they’re continuing with the one-liner contest introduced during the pandemic and accepting submissions of 30 words or less on the website until Sept. 1. 

“We started a one-liner competition and we opened it to the public, and we loved it,” said Ginzburg. “It’s just going to be part of our festival for everyone now.” 

The one-liner competition will join the traditional stand-up comedy festival, where 10 comedians — out of over 300 submissions, Ginzburg said — will battle to take home the title of the funniest in Coney Island.

And, as the festival’s two venues represent the contrast between independent and corporate businesses, Ginzburg said, the event’s lineup serves as a similar hodgepodge of both mainstream and urban circuit comedians.

“We have a mix of comedians,” she told Brooklyn Paper, “and we are very happy about that because Ruby’s is a family-owned business and Coney Island Brewery is a corporation so we kind of feel we are fusing that together.” 

Ginzburg says she founded the festival in an effort to support emerging comedians by bringing stand-up comedy opportunities to southern Brooklyn, where there currently were none, while also offering accessible comedy shows to audiences on her end of the borough. 

“I feel like this is something I can bring to the community,” she said.

In addition to supporting emerging artists through the comedy festival, the southern Brooklynite has hosted a summer of open-mics from June through September leading up to the main event — all of which was free and open to the public each Thursday at Margarita Island. 

“If I had an open mic when I was growing up in Coney Island, I would have probably started comedy earlier,” Ginzburg told Brooklyn Paper.

This time around, she said the audience can expect lots of timely jokes about the pandemic — because what else did comedians have to do for the past 18 months?

“We are going to joke about it,” she said. “What could be better than to laugh about this unknown, whatever this is.”

Coney Island Comedy Festival at Ruby’s Bar and Grill (1213 Riegelmann Boardwalk between W. 12th Street and Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island) Sept. 16 —17 at 9 pm. Free. 

Coney Island Comedy Festival at Coney Island Brewery (Maimonides Park, 1904 Surf Ave. between W. 16th Street and W. 21st Street) Sept. 16–18 at 7 pm. Free.