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Dick Gregory – A Great American Activist

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On Oct. 12th in 1932, Dick Gregory was born Richard Claxton Gregory in St. Louis Mo., unfortunately, he also just left us on August 19th, 2017 at the age of 84; and we would like to remember and honor some of his great actions and pursuits during his life.

He was known as a great African American comedian and social/civil rights activist; beginning his comedy career in 1953 by leaving college to join the U.S. Army, where he hosted and performed comedy routines in military shows to peers. His big breakthrough came in 1961 from a one-nighter at the Chicago Playboy Club, earning him a profile in Time magazine and kickstarting his comedic career.

While Dick was involved in social causes in high school, he truly began targeting poverty, segregation, and racial discrimination with a biting brand of satirical comedy directed towards white audiences after 1961 in subsequent television, nightclub, and concert appearances.

(Check out this video to see one of his common racial satire show clips)

By 1963, he had participated in multiple demonstrations and had been arrested for civil disobedience several times. Eventually, in the mid-1960s, Dick Gregory left his comedy in the past to pursue his political interests such as running for mayor of Chicago in 1966 and president of the U.S. in 1968 and leading him to expand his interests from race relations to violence, world hunger, and poor health care. Building the Dick Gregory Health Enterprises Inc. in 1984  which helped him target the lower life expectancy of black Americans, which he blamed on poor nutrition and drug and alcohol abuse.

 

Overall Dick Gregory was and is a powerful name in the realm of comedy and activism, having fused his two passions to forward important civil rights and social movements over the duration of his life.

 

So follow his words, “Laughter is the best way to release tensions and fears,” and come enjoy some release with Stand Up NY! Shows every night of the week, ready to help you relax with a heavy dose of comedy, satire, and good vibes. Since we all know, Laughter is the best medicine!

NY’s Facts, Fascinations, & Phenomenons

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  • Funny Laws:

  1. Let’s start with an easy one – Don’t forget to report any finding of more than $20 of lost money or else face $1,000 to a year in jail! Section 252 of New York’s Personal Property Law.

  2. No hosting puppet shows, dances, or Comedy skits in any window or open space or any house or building! Section 10-114 of the New York City Administrative Code.

  3. Check your apartment fowl, because usually only Hens are allowed! According to Section 161.19 of the city’s Health Code, “no person shall keep a live rooster, duck, goose or turkey in a built-up portion of the City.”

  4. NO PDA in NYC! – Beware, you could be fined up to $25 for flirting in New York!

  • Fascinating Facts:

  1. New Yorkers bite 10 times more people than sharks do worldwide each year.

  2. The city of “New Amsterdam” was given to the Duke of York in 1664 as an 18th birthday present from his father. He renamed the city as “New York.”

  3. Welcome to the Lowline! The world’s first underground park will be inaugurated in 2018 in New York inside the rundown Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Tunnel near Delancey St.

  4. Free Trees! NYC homeowners can request that a tree be planted outside their homes for free.

  5. Pinball was illegal in NYC until 1976!

  6. Alligators in NYC Sewers not a myth… In 1935 a group of teenagers caught an 8ft alligator under a manhole on 123rd St.

 

  • Fun Phenomenon

  1. The curse of Floor 13 – Of buildings with more than 13 floors, less than 10% actually label a floor “13”

  2. Lost in Central Park? Check one of the 1,600 lampposts, which have a special code to help you map where you are.

  3. The Pirates of Wall Street… Originally more barrier than a street, Wall Street was named after a 12-foot wall that was built by the 17th-century citizens of New Amsterdam to discourage pirate attacks.

  4. In 2010, 25 people were recorded as living in Central Park by the New York City Census… and they still have no explanation for it!

Come out for another NYC favorite at Stand Up NY with fun shows every night of the week and phenomenal specials! Check out our line-up here: http://www.standupny.com/lineups/

Why do we love October?

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Well, beyond containing the greatest holiday of the year, there are these things to love….

 

  1. Oktoberfest!

  2. The Beginning of the most wonderful smell… of Fall leaves crunching under your feet.

  3. Pumpkin flavoring, pumpkin spice, pumpkin beer, pumpkin for all!

  4. Apple picking heats up in October. Why not try a pie!?

  5. Not too hot, not too cold… sweater weather is just right.

  6. Eat candy every day for a month, and no one will judge you.

  7. Fill your heart with happiness watching small children dress up in adorable and outrageous costumes!

  8. Scaring People for fun is encouraged for once!

  9. Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror episode, EVERY October!

 

And some activities to Love…

 

  1. 10/15 Harvest Fest and Pumpkin Patch – $Free

  2. 10/21 Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade – $5 suggested donation

  3. 10/29 Halloween Pumpkin Flotilla – $Free

  4. 10/20-29 Cider Week NYC – $Varies

  5. 10/13-29 Bronx Zoo’s Boo at the Zoo – Adult $36.95, Child $26.95, Senior $31.95

  6. 10/21 – 1/2 Holiday Markets Everywhere… and maybe you’ll find something different this year!? – $Varies

  7. 10/19-24 NewFest: New York’s LGBT Film Festival – NewFest Members $25, General Admission $30

  8. 10/13-31 Archtober (Architecture & Design Month) – $Varies

  9. 10/31, 7 PM and of course, the standard Village Halloween Parade – $Free to watch / Donations

Plus, Stand Up NY has you covered with shows every night of the week featuring spooktacular line-ups of comedians from all wakes of life! Check out our events here: http://www.standupny.com/lineups/

Bear-Squirrel Diet Plan

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Not looking forward to the piercing cold of winter? Want to lose a ton of weight binging on your favorite foods and then sleeping for extended periods of time with no exercise required? The answer for the best diet plan has been in front of us the whole time. All we had to do was study the bears and squirrels. Squirrels, bears, chipmunks, bats and several of our other mammalian brethren hibernate during the winter time. We could learn a thing or two from them. There is now a full-proof diet plan based off squirrel and bear hibernation patterns. Here’s how it would work:

Step 1: Spend October and November gorging yourself on food (pool season should be over by then). I mean just going to town. Try to get as fat as you possibly can. Go for the super fattening stuff you usually stop yourself form having too much of. Chicken Strips, pizza, ribs, donuts, beer, cheeses etc…..eat all of it. End your binging with the biggest, most fattening gluttony-fest of a Thanksgiving dinner you can possibly have. Pro tip: Carnival foods have the most calories. I’m talking Elephant Ears, funnel cakes, fried Twinkies. I’m pretty sure they eat fried butter at the Texas State Fair. You’ll know you’re successful if you’ve managed to double your body weight.

Step 2: Immediately after Thanksgiving, go to bed and don’t emerge or leave your bed until March. You can make a few exceptions to this rule, but only if you’re waking up for Hanukah, Christmas or other holiday celebrations. Also the Super Bowl, playoffs and other important sporting events are allowed. But for the most part you’re just sleeping. Don’t eat, your body will consume the excess body fat you gained. Animals do this because food is scarce in the winter and plentiful in the summer.

Step 3: Emerge from your slumber in Spring. At this point, you should have a toned, hot, model-esque physique with no cardio required. You slept your way to fitness. Go out there and show off your hot beach bod.

Pros:

  • No actual exercise required.
  • Eat all the fattening foods you want for 2 months.
  • Get all the sleep you can handle and start the year well-rested.
  • Become one with your mammal hibernating brethren.
  • Guaranteed incredible results giving you toned hot body.
  • More success in life in general.
  • If doused with radiation and bear DNA, hibernation brings the possibility to obtain super-human bear-like powers? Bear man?

Cons:

  • Potential heart attack before winter even comes.
  • Missing most of the NBA and NHL season. But we all know they don’t get good until the playoffs anyway.
  • Only works for people with seasonal jobs in the summer who are off in the winter.
  • Friends and loved ones will question your disappearance.
  • You’ll miss ski season.
  • You’ll need to find someone to feed your pets.
  • Too many people wanting to have sex with you after they see the results of this diet plan.

Learning to Take a Joke

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Recently, many high-profile comedians have decided to stop doing shows at universities because they believe students are too easily offended by their jokes. Some think this is a symptom of a culture that has gotten too politically correct. Others just say that sensibilities always change with the times and they are just protecting once overlooked marginalized groups. There’s always been controversial comedians and people that enjoy making fun of powerful people and saying things that society may not deem appropriate. Throughout history, people have been beaten, arrested and even killed for joking about the wrong thing or person. We Americans have pride in our freedoms and the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution, but there is an endless debate on where the line should be drawn. Comedians have consistently pushed that line and have been shocking and controversial mainly just to get laughs. Sometimes, however, they push the line to not just be funny, but to shine a light on injustices or absurdities in society. In the 1960s, comedians like George Carlin and Lenny Bruce were big supporters of the Free Speech Movement that was popular on college campuses. Today, it seems like many college students have the opposite view of the Free Speech Movement, which felt there should be no punishment for saying mere words. Instead, they wish to ban any speakers, including comedians, whose language they deem offensive or can be misconstrued as hate speech. Supporters of speech codes on campus say they prevent the spread of hateful ideas. Opponents say censoring any speech prevents a free flow of ideas and leads to groupthink. In addition, they say you beat hateful or bad speech with good, logical, sane speech and not with censorship. Here’s what various comedians have to say about performing on college campuses:

Chris Rock said he no longer plays college because they are too conservative:

“Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.”

Sarah Silverman, who is no stranger to being attacked for telling jokes that aren’t particularly “politically correct:”

“To a degree, everyone’s going to be offended by something, so you can’t just decide on your material based on not offending anyone. But, I do think it’s important, as a comedian, as a human, to change with the times. To change with new information. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with changing with the times. I think it’s a sign of being old when you are put off by that.”

Bill Maher on being disinvited, then re-invited to UC Berkeley:

“They got their act together and I wound up doing it…” Maher said. “But Berkeley, you know, used to be the cradle of free speech, and now it’s just the cradle for fucking babies.”

Jerry Seinfeld on why he no longer performs at colleges:

“I hear that all the time,” Seinfeld said. “I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, ‘Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC (politically correct).’ I’ll give you an example: My daughter’s 14. My wife says to her, ‘Well, you know, in the next couple years, I think maybe you’re going to want to be hanging around the city more on the weekends, so you can see boys.’ You know what my daughter says? She says, ‘That’s sexist.’ They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist’; ‘That’s sexist’; ‘That’s prejudice.’ They don’t know what they’re talking about.

Amy Schumer on why extreme language policing can be harmful to comedy and society:

“I enjoy playing the girl who time to time says the dumbest thing possible and playing with race is a thing we are not supposed to do, which is what makes it so fun for comics. You can call it a ‘blind spot for racism’ or ‘lazy’ but you are wrong. It is a joke and it is funny. I know that because people laugh at it. Even if you personally did not. I am not going to start joking about the safe material. And don’t ask that of me. I love what I do and won’t let anyone take that away. I ask you to resist the urge to pick me apart.me. I am not racist. I am a devout feminist and lover of all people. My fight is for all people to be treated equally. So move on to the next person who is more deserving of your scrutiny and not the girl in your corner.”

Two Jews Walk Into A NYC Bar…

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In celebration of the Jewish New Years (Happy Rosh Hashanah!), National New York Day, and Throwback Thursday, we would like to recognize some of the first Jewish comedians to hit NYC! Below are some of the very first stand-up comedians of Jewish descent that either was born in new york or got their start here, maybe both! Take a look…

Side Fact: Between the 1920’s and 1970’s there was a circuit of hotels along the Catskill Mountains in New York known as the “Borscht Belt,” where many Jewish comedians got their initial start performing for New York City vacationers; before moving on to greater recognition.

  1. Lenny Bruce was born in New York and eventually returned after a short stint in California in order to establish himself as a comedian. Apparently, in 1947, Lenny earned $12 and a free spaghetti dinner for his first stand-up performance in Brooklyn! One of his most famous performances occurred in 1961 at Carnegie Hall during a massive blizzard. Recorded and later released as a 3 disc set, Albert Goldman, an American professor and author, described Lenny’s humor: “His idea was to walk out there like Charlie Parker, take that mike in his hand like a horn and blow, blow, blow everything that came into his head just as it came into his head with nothing censored, nothing translated, nothing mediated, until he was pure mind, pure head sending out brainwaves like radio waves into the heads of every man and woman seated in that vast hall.”

  1. Alan King (Irwin Alan Kniberg) was born, raised, and worked in New York City during the 1930’s through to the 21st century. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Alan King supposedly used humor to survive tough neighborhoods by performing impersonations on street corners for pennies as a child. The time came for him to drop out of high school and join many other Jewish comics at hotels in the Catskill Mountains. Known initially for a one-liner style, he adapted it to a more conversational style used in everyday life for his humor. Comedians such as Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld, and Larry David attribute inspiration to him.

https://youtu.be/83yyMAdbrpE

  1. Rodney Dangerfield – Like many other Jewish comedians of the day, Jacob Cohen, aka Rodney Dangerfield, got his start performing at hotels along the Catskill Mountains in New York during the 1930’s. He became known eventually for his last-minute replacement of another act for The Ed Sullivan Show which led to a total of 35 appearances on The Tonight Show, and his one-liner style of standup comedy. He even made a clean entrance into the world of film comedy by starring in Caddyshack and Easy Money. His career in NYC is further remembered and intact at the longtime Upper East Side stand-up comedy venue aptly named Dangerfield’s.

Last but not least, some of the most recognized and honored names in female comedy, Fanny Brice, Barbra Streisand, and Bette Midler…

  1. Fanny Brice – Born Fania Borach in 1891 in New York City, she became professionally known as Fanny Brice; an American comedian, singer, and actress with many stages, radio, and film appearances. Her initial start came with her headlining of Florenz Ziegfeld’s, “Ziegfeld Follies” in 1910 to 1911. In the 1921 Follies, Fanny sings “My Man” which becomes both a huge hit and her signature song. Later in 1930’s, she became a well-known radio presence as a bratty toddler named Snooks. She was such an anchor and inspiration for Jewish women in comedy that thirteen years after her death Barbra Streisand portrayed Fanny Brice on the Broadway stage in the 1964 musical Funny Girl, which eventually won Streisand an Oscar for her portrayal of Fanny in the 1968 film adaptation.

  1. Barbra Streisand – One of the greatest names in American film, song, and acting, Barbra Streisand continues a career spanning six decades so far. Born in 1942 in Brooklyn, NY, she got her start by auditioning at the Bon Soir nightclub near MacDougal street in the 1960s, she was the opening for comedian Phyllis Diller. This helped gain her notoriety and self-confidence, so she began developing and improving her stage presence by speaking to the audience between songs in her Brooklyn-based style of humor. All of Barbra’s career has remained within singing, acting, and comedy; she is still kickin’ it as one of the greatest names alive!

  1. Bette Midler – Not originally a New Yorker, but born in Honolulu by two New Jersey parents, Bette Midler landed her first professional onstage role in 1965 in Tom Eyen’s off-Broadway plays, which were children’s plays by day and an adult show by night. This is what begins to bring Bette into her musical comedy genre. As recently as starring in the Walt Disney comedy fantasy film, Hocus Pocus in 1993, Bette Midler has been a force in theatre, film, and musical comedy since her inception to Broadway in Fiddler on the Roof in the late 1960s. Perhaps her most well-known performance is of “Dr. Long John,” shown above. Please take a seat and open your ears for one of the greatest singer, songwriter, actress, and comedians of all time.

Be sure to catch the next generation of comedians at Stand Up NY, with shows every night of the week and a special show, Bring It!, pairing New and Pro comics every Saturday night at 5 pm. Stand Up NY also hosts an open mic for anyone hoping to test their material.

Hope you enjoyed this rundown of some of the big names in NYC Jewish Comedy pre-2000s! Happy Rosh Hashanah!

5 Things About Autumn In New York That Remind Me of my Childhood

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  1. Mellencamp formations

Whether the first crisp fall breeze summons feather-haired Mellencamp impressionists or vice versa, autumn goes hand-in-hand with large organized groups of John Cougar Mellencamp. These can range from Mellencamp pyramids in Times Square to Mellencamp phalanxes in Central Park, but every time I come by these formations I am reminded of the human pinwheel I escaped when I was four.

  1. When the subways converge on the night of the harvest moon

Sometime during the third week of September, the harvest moon lines up over specific coordinates in New York, where all New York subway trains reroute in order to converge upon the annual Grand Coven. No one knows why the subways do this, year after year, but the practice has been found to exist far before the first humans walked North America. This year it’s happening under a Dunkin Donuts in Williamsburg that is full of adults resembling the one I disguised myself as at age seven.

  1. People who are obviously in a witness protection program

No doubt about it, Fall is witness protection season. I know the shifty look of a false identity when I see one. It’s tricky at first but once you know what you’re looking for it becomes obvious. A man in a long black coat, bowler hat, and mustache, diving immediately into a pile of leaves at the sight of pinstriped mafia gangs? This is the telltale sign of three children stacked on top of each other, disguised as one adult man. I remember spending long hours debating with my fellow children which position was the hardest: feet, midsection, or face. I was never face.

  1. Feeding the Toad King

This is my darkest secret. You might be wondering, how exactly did I break free of a giant spinning wheel comprised of hundreds of humans chanting the words, “give me da money I want da money”? It was there, in a continuously spinning world, that the Toad King came to me in a vision. I can never speak the words he told me that I then recited, but for those twelve syllables, I am forever indebted to the Toad King. It’s been three years since I broke free from the wheel. I hear it’s rolling through Kansas now. Anyways, every fall equinox I drop a sea bass into the gutter so the Toad King can feast. It’s the least I could do.

  1. Apple Pie

I love a fresh apple pie! It’s all I ever eat in the fall. The toasty scent of apple, cinnamon, and sugar fills me with a sense of warmth and euphoria like no other food. It reminds me of tradition, and family, and how the image of the Toad King appears on everything I eat and feeling peaceful, and being thankful (for the Toad King to whom I owe the ability to move as an individual as opposed to being in a mechanical human spinning wheel).

Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television

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(Note: This blog post contains language that some readers might find offensive.)

Some comedians have popular bits but only George Carlin creates comedy bits that get him arrested and bring about a Supreme Court ruling. 45 years ago this month, comedy legend George Carlin released his comedy album Class Clown. The album featured a monologue that is arguably his most famous, Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. The routine is centered around a list of seven words: shit; piss; fuck; cunt; cocksucker; motherfucker and tits, that Carlin says a person cannot say on television without facing legal consequences. He then proceeds to hilariously explain why he put each word on the list.

Carlin said he got the inspiration to create this routine because he’s always been interested in language and has an anti-authoritarian disposition that gives him a loathing for arbitrary rules. He said the only reason society bans words is to get people in the habit of conforming and blindly following authority. Carlin points out that words are just sounds and we apply the extra meaning to them by deeming them too offensive to be said.

The words were the subject of a Supreme Court case in 1978 after New York radio station WBAI broadcast the full monologue uncensored. The station was censured by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for this act. The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of the FCC, claiming that Carlin’s bit was “indecent but not obscene.” The court claimed that the government has good reason to censor the airwaves, to protect children from potentially hearing offensive material and to ensure that unwanted material can’t potentially enter one’s home. Free Speech advocates and the ACLU are adamantly opposed to the Supreme Court’s decision in this case because it allows the government to decide for families what is indecent and obscene.

Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that the government can punish broadcasters for “indecent” language, Carlin’s routine continues to be one of the most famous monologues in comedy and may have helped loosen up laws on speech. Whereas Carlin was arrested for doing the routine back in the 1970s, it is unlikely that someone would be arrested for saying the seven dirty words in modern times. Likewise, the FCC has relaxed somewhat in coming down on language that it deems offensive. I like to think Carlin is the reason for this. George Carlin was ahead of his time and wasn’t afraid to speak up for what was right even when doing so was considered extremely offensive.

In The Beginning…

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Everyone gets their start somewhere. For comedians, it is usually in a brick-walled room, dimly lit, possibly half empty, and the MC may be landing more jokes than the comedians. That’s a pretty nerve-wracking job interview! So how do big names like Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, TJ Miller, Sarah Silverman, Judy Gold, and everyone else come about? Well, I’ll say again, everyone has to start somewhere; which is exactly what Huffington Post documented and compiled. The video below displays some of the best and worst pioneering performances of today’s top comedians. Take a look and enjoy!

Source: The First Stand-Up Performances of Famous Comedians Supercut by WorldWideInterweb on Rumble

So not everyone has a great first show… but these not-so-well-known-at-the-time names kept coming back to the stage for more until one great audience acknowledged their powers of humor and started to spread the word. A few comedians even had one of their first breakthrough performances here at StandUp NY, these names include Andrew Schulz, Dan Soder, and Joe Machi, among others. This is partially due to StandUp NY’s recurring Thursday evening show, Clap Clap Boom, offering many new comics a chance to join pros on stage to test their wit and charm against the best. Visit us at the only comedy venue currently on the Upper West Side with shows every night of the week.

 

Come see us any Thursday at 10:15pm for our Clap Clap Boom showcase, only $5. Who knows you could be watching a future star’s maiden performance here at StandUp NY!

Where Where They?

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How old were you when you realized your calling? Maybe you’re still searching for it. Comedians are no different.   Some people always knew they wanted to do comedy. There are a few comedians who were already well known when they were teenagers. Others didn’t find out they were meant to do comedy until much later in their lives. Sometimes comedians worked in vastly different fields before finding out they could make a living being funny. Here is the age and former occupations of various famous stand-ups before they made it big:

Chris Rock – Rock dropped out of high school and was working in fast food before he began performing in various New York comedy clubs in 1984 at 19 years old.

Amy Schumer – Schumer started her stand-up career on her 23rd birthday in 2004 after working as a bartender and waitress.

George Carlin – Carlin began performing stand-up in the early 1960s after getting kicked out of the Air Force and working as a radio host.

Ron White – White started performing at age 29 after serving in the Navy.

Sarah Silverman – Silverman first performed comedy at age 17 and did so bad she didn’t try again until she was 19. She was an NYU student and waitress in the mean time.

Wanda Sykes – Sykes began performing in DC area clubs at age 23 while working as a contracting specialist for the NSA.

Seth Rogen – Movie star Seth Rogen was getting paid to do stand-up comedy at age 13.

Joan Rivers – Rivers got her start doing stand-up in 1959 after working as a Rockefeller Center tour guide, as a fashion consultant and as a writer for an advertising agency.

Louis CK – Louis first performed at an open mic at 18 but worked as an auto mechanic, cook and video store clerk before he began to make a living doing comedy.

Sam Kinison – Kinison became a comedian in 1978 after divorcing his wife and giving up his career as a Pentecostal preacher.

Roseanne Barr – Barr was a stay-at-home mom before finally giving stand up a go in 1980 at age 28.

Richard Pryor – Pryor worked as a drummer and was drafted into the Army before beginning his legendary career at age 23.

Rodney Dangerfield – Dangerfield had moderate success as a comedian as a teenager in the 1930s. He gave up on show business soon after and worked various jobs but was mostly a salesman until the 1960s. Changing up his name and his act, Dangerfield finally became a successful comedian in his mid-40s.

This list shows us that comedy knows no age and you should always keep looking for the career that makes you happy. Rodney Dangerfield remained a popular comedian even around the time he died at 82. Old or young, we want to hear your jokes down at Stand Up NY.