Must Love Dogs and Comedy brings dog-friendly live shows to New York City

Must Love Dogs and Comedy
Photos courtesy of Jolie Dudley

Your K-9 companions won’t have to have a ruff night alone thanks to a new series of dog-friendly comedy shows in New York City.

Must Love Dogs and Comedy is the brainchild of Jolie Dudley, a local comedian who has been in the comedy scene for the last three years. Like many people, Dudley spent a lot of the pandemic at home with her dog Knope (yes, like Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation”), but when things started to open back up, she felt guilty about leaving her dog at home.

“I felt really guilty leaving my dog at home because we just sat on the couch together for a year and a half watching TV during quarantine, and now she’s like, hey where are you going?” said Dudley. “I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could bring her to a comedy show?”

As it turns out, a lot of Dudley’s friends were facing similar situations — as excited as they were to get out and start to see people in public settings, the dogs that they had adopted during quarantine had developed separation anxiety. Dudley started to look around and saw that there weren’t any dog-friendly shows that ran on a consistent basis, so she took matters into her own hands and created Must Love Dogs and Comedy. 

“Once we realized it’s not just us feeling like this, we thought, let’s try and make a show where everybody can bring their dog to the show and see how that works,” said Dudley. “It was like a silly crazy idea, and then it went really well so we kept doing it.”

The first show kicked off in October 2021 and started as one show a month through December 2021. After a brief hiatus in January 2022, the shows returned twice a month in February and March and have since been upped to three times a month since April 2022.

Photo courtesy of Jolie Dudley

At each show, dogs are allowed to run around and play off-leash. Due to that fact, the Must Love Dogs and Comedy shows take place in non-traditional spaces that are pet friendly, including dog cafe Boris & Horton as well as the self-serve dog spa Now You’re Clean, both in the East Village. The latest location in the lineup of shows is the Upper West Side’s Black Lab Cafe. 

For Dudley, the most important part is the social good that is coming from the shows. Not only does Must Love Dogs and Comedy give representation to underrepresented performers in the comedy space, but a portion of ticket sales goes to support animal rescue organizations. There is a suggested $20 donation price for each ticket to a show and is ultimately a pay-what-you-can price for each ticket.

“Once we were able to build momentum, we really deepened our mission. Yes, you can bring your dog to the show, but our mission is a portion of ticket sales are always donated to animal rescue centers,” said Dudley. “We partner with different rescue centers every month to spread the wealth and awareness of different animal rescue efforts in New York and beyond. We have sometimes representatives from shelters bring adoptable or dogs that need to be fostered so people can get connected with them really easily.”

Photo courtesy of Jolie Dudley

Dudley says that the feedback from the shows has been mainly positive (with no objections from NYC’s cat people). Comics are able to riff off of the dogs and their various sounds, and the audience gets to take part in a joyful pocket of time with their furry friend.

“Honestly, sometimes it’s chaotic. It can be chaotic if there’s a lot of them there and they’re playing and running around, we don’t make them be on the leash in the venue so they can run around and play. But just the timing of things, you can’t even write stuff, that’s that funny,” said Dudley. “It’s definitely a lot of chaotic joy.”

The Must Love Dogs and Comedy shows are not limited to stand-up, performers can put on a variety of acts including sketch comedy, music, storytelling, and more, and performers are accepted on a rolling basis. Those who are interested in performing can fill out the form on Must Love Dogs and Comedy’s Linktree

The next Must Love Dogs and Comedy is taking place on June 24 at the Black Lab Cafe, located at 420 Amsterdam Ave. Stay up to date on upcoming Must Love Dogs and Comedy shows by following them on Instagram @mustlovedogsandcomedy.