‘50 First Jokes’ at the Bell House

Freshman fifty: Comedians perform their first jokes of the year

The Brooklyn Paper
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Any other time of the year, you would need a lot of money, a lot of caffeine, and probably a time machine to see 50 comedians in one night. But not in early January.

That is when comedians John F. O’Donnell and Sachi Ezura host an annual tradition for New York’s comedy scene — a performance of the first joke more than 50 comedians have written for the year, all told within the span of two hours.

“The first year of it, it was like, ‘Oh, this can be a fun celebration of the comedy scene here,’” O’Donnell said of the show, which has now been going for eight years. “We didn’t know that it was going to keep going and take off and be such a popular thing.”

The line-up of this year’s show, which will be held at the Bell House on Jan. 3, includes both wild successes and hidden gems in the comedy world — look out for Aparna Nancherla, Ben Kronberg, Jermaine Fowler, Lukas Kaiser, and more. All of them have two minutes to tell the first joke they wrote in 2014, surrounded by fans and 49 of their peers. With that many comedians in one place, the atmosphere is joyous.

“It is all of your friends. It’s everyone that you like and think of funny,” said Ashley Brooke Roberts, who is performing at the show for the second year on a row. “It feels like a little bit of a reunion, it feels a little bit like a party. It gets a great crowd.”

Not to mention that the audience gets a lot of bang for its buck.

“Most shows, it’s like five comedians,” Roberts noted.

With several weeks of frustrating holidays behind them, these comedians have plenty of fodder. But the comedians said most punch-lines do not revolve around drunk uncles and crappy gifts — the jokes are typically incredibly diverse.

“With 50 comedians, there is a big wide range of styles,” said Emmy Blotnick, who, like Roberts, is back at the show for a second year.

“I’m sure there are some kind of topics that are overlapped but it never feels like there’s too much of the same topic,” O’Donnell said. “It’s gonna cover the broad base of things that stand-up comics cover.”

“The 8th Annual 50 First Jokes” at the Bell House [149 Seventh St., between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643–6510,]. Jan. 3 at 8 pm. $10 advance, $12 at the door.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.
Updated 10:16 pm, July 9, 2018
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