Comedy at the Knitting Factory: Leveling Up


Comedy Evolved Like DIY Music Scene

In the 1990’s something similar happened in stand up comedy, arguably as a result of music’s little evolution. A new breed of comic equipped with indie rock’s DIY tools was born out of the aforementioned indie scene. Comedy, which had previously existed mostly in comedy clubs, started to happen in bars and coffee shops.ComedyIn the 1980s music, as an art form, was in revolt against itself. It existed as two separate movements. Pop music was a gaudy monolith, produced to excess and jacked into the circuitry of television and radio.

All over the country, however, up and coming musicians were bypassing the system by setting up DIY bands, venues, and touring routes. Eventually Nirvana came along and sort of destroyed both worlds by colliding them. All of this is why today we have music that’s sonically labeled indie rock even though it’s released on medium to major record labels that no longer control as much capital as they used to. It’s a confusing mess but it produces good tunes from time to time.

All of this is why today we have music that’s sonically labeled indie rock even though it’s released on medium to major record labels that no longer control as much capital as they used to. It’s a confusing mess but it produces good tunes from time to time.

Manhattan’s Knitting Factory Landmark

By the 2000s a music venue in Manhattan called The Knitting Factory had opened its doors to jazz artists, experimental musicians, and the likes of Sonic Youth and Soul Coughing. The Knitting factory eventually franchised out a bit and moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where it would collide with Hannibal Buress, a comedian who would become legendary. Every Sunday night Hannibal booked and hosted a free stand-up comedy show in the lounge of The Knitting Factory until he was literally too busy being successful to keep running it himself. In 2015, He handed the reigns of the now wildly popular show off to a trio of breaking Chicago transplant comedians who host the show together like a three-headed comedy breathing dragon.

Comedy at The Knitting Factory continues to be one of the hottest rooms in New York. I talked to the three hosts: Will Miles, Kenny DeForest, and Clark Jones about the show. They responded in earnest, in more earnest, and in something resembling GZA lyrics. Who am I to judge? I just called them a dragon.



On The Chicago to New York Comedy Road

1st Amendment Media: There’s a strong tradition of comedy and comics coming up in Chicago before moving to NYC to level up comedy wise, do you guys feel you’re part of that?

Kenny DeForest: Sure, I guess so. Chicago is a great place to learn the ropes and get funny, but at some point, for what I want to do with my career, I knew I needed to take it to a bigger platform.

Will Miles: I think it’s probably something that’s starting to happen more and more. Chicago has been breeding such a great comedy scene for the last decade, but the industry is still on the coasts. After that, there are really only two choices, LA or New York, and New York is closer and more similar of a city to Chicago.

Clark Jones: I feel like I’m from the future. It’s hard to be a part of anything when there’s a laser like impenetrable force field engulfed around you. So, yes.

1AM: What was it like to inherit The Knitting Factory Sunday night slot from Hannibal?

WM: That was awesome. The show represented a part of New York to me anyway because since I started visiting, it was one of my favorite places in New York to perform. It was a great show to let me know I was on the right track with material. It means a lot that Hannibal decided to hand it off to the three of us. I’m real thankful of the opportunity he gave us.

KD: Unreal. We jokingly dreamed out loud about it on the drive here in the U-haul. We were like “yo, what if Hannibal gets too busy and he’s like “here y’all go. Take it”” and then it actually happened like that about a year later.

CJ: It was like that moment on NBA2K1 when Allen Iverson crossed Kobe over, then threw an alley oop to Jumaine Jones. I mean he slammed it but, you’re still Jumaine Jones until you up your attributes and you’re not Jumaine anymore.

1AM: As a hosting block, you three have good rhythm and chemistry. Is that from coming up together?

CJ: I’m mostly trying to coagulate the three to six personalities I bring to the table, and then enter two gods next to me to form like voltron. The end result is to be in sync like dirty dishes, feel me?

KD: It’s definitely partly that, but we’re also really close friends. Will and Clark have been best friends for a long time. I met both those dudes very early on in my time in Chicago and it was immediate. We’ve been joking around and roasting each other for years now, so it comes naturally. It also helps that we’ve seen each other perform so much so we know each other’s voice really well.

WM: Thanks. Yeah we instantly linked up like Voltron when we found each other in Chicago, and we’ve been great friends ever since. I’ve known Clark since I was 14, so he’s like family at this point. Kenny has been our boy for almost a decade, so he’s now like family, too. Onstage and offstage, we all respect each other and show love, so I think I would hope it comes off that way to the audience.

On the Evolution of the Show

1AM: How have things evolved in the time you’ve been hosting the show?

CJ: Oh, we talking evolution? I mean shiiiiiiiiid, let’s go deep then… You know that face when Captain Planet comes together, now mix that with Blankman, throw some Meteor Man in the mix, and wash it down with season Season 3 of the Wayans Brothers, and that’s only the first three months of hosting the show.

WM: It’s been great. I feel like it doesn’t hurt to be able to perform in front of a great crowd every week for both material and exposure.

1AM: I’ve always thought Comedy at the Knitting Factory provided a nice semi-alt counterpoint to Manhattan’s club scene. What role do you feel the show plays in the overall comedy scene these days?

KD: It’s cool to me that people “Manhattan comics” feel comfortable in our room. We get a lot of “you know I usually bomb in Brooklyn, but this was fun.” I like that. It means we’re a Brooklyn show that isn’t entirely comprised of hipsters that show up to be outraged on their blogs. I also think we get the most racially diverse audiences on a weekly basis which I think plays a role in why the show is so fun.

WM:I think it’s just a fun place where comedians of all types can do their material in front of a dope audience. Hannibal set the tone when he hosted because he was a comic who performed in all types of rooms. So, he was able to grab comics from all different types of scenes. The show built that reputation, and we do our best to uphold that

1AM: What’s going on with your individual careers and what does the future hold for the show?

WM: In the words of Chance The Rapper, we are all just “Having fun with it.” Our websites have updates of specifics we are doing, but every Sunday you can catch us in the midst of that fun.

CJ: I think, and this is no shade to Anita Baker, that I would have had the best “Mad About You” intro song because music is a language I speak fluently. I don’t believe in non-gay marriage. This has been fun.

KD: I just finished pooping and now I’m going to make eggs for my girlfriend and I.

You can follow Will Miles on Twitter at @MrWillMiles, Kenny DeForest at @KennyDeForest, Clark Jones at @theeclarkjones and the show itself at @comedyattheknit. Hit up their websites for other shows and go watch Comedy at The Knitting Factory every Sunday night at 9pm!


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