Judah Friedlander took the stage at Dekalb Market Hall on Thursday and declared his bid for president, giving the audience a taste of what he’ll be dishing out on his new comedy tour.
He and five local comics were part of a new stand-up series called "No Phone Thursdays" at Dekalb Stage inside the food hall.
Hosted by "Saturday Night Live" writer Nimesh Patel and Brooklyn comedian Napoleon Emill (known for "Flatbush Misdemeanors"), the concept behind the show is really simple — don’t use your phone and pay attention to the acts.
It may sound obvious, but according to Patel and Emill, you’d be surprised how much audience members get distracted during their set.
"It feels like comedians are the least respected art when it comes to phones," Patel told amNewYork after the show.
"When it comes to performance, yeah, people have regular conversations with each other like I’m television," Emill added. "Put that down, look up here. We want our lineup to be more interesting than the phone."
So far, so good: they said no phones were spotted throughout the two hours of the first show, which featured Patel, Emill, Friedlander, Monroe Martin, Chanel Ali and Doug Smith.
Emill joked about living in New York City and the insanity of racist interactions with people in his neighborhood in Bed-Stuy. Ali, who said the show was "Brooklyn as hell," talked about renting a room off Craigslist and Uber rides. Smith filled us in about what it’s like to be a stay-at-home dad and watching a generation of white kids being raised with Jamaican accents. Friedlander’s shtick was completely about what he’d do as president, using the audience to bring up topics like immigration, health care and equal rights. And Patel, who ended the show, seamlessly flowed from one joke to the next, from the 2020 presidential election to how he knew he was addicted to his phone.
"No Phone Thursdays" are planned for May 2 and 16 and June 13 and 27.
Here are the rules in case you are on board with ditching your phone for some comedy:
Respect the comics.
For Patel and Emill, it’s about respect for the art and living in the moment, and they may introduce pouches to put phones in to further that sentiment, they said.
Patel: "We want people to just be in the room and pretend it’s 1990 for a second."
Emill: "Like it’s a Broadway show. When working a club, it’s about trying to keep their minds in the show. I try to power through it [when people are on their phones]. I try not to feel insulted … but it’s hard especially when you’re in the front."
Patel: "You can tell the difference when someone is on it and just checking something."
Emill: "I was in Harlem and a woman was on the phone. I was like ‘Yo, you’re right here at the closest table and you’re talking at a human volume.’"
You will be called out.
Luckily no one had to be "scolded" during the first show, but it’s likely to happen in others. If it happens, the comics won’t shy away from using the offender in their set.
Emill: "With it being the name of the show, it would be weird not to call out somebody on their phone. It’s an opportunity that you can’t let get away. When you see a phone go up, I assume they’re Snapchatting or putting me in their story. [‘No Phone Thursdays’] sets the standard up top. This was a fun turnout and I could tell everybody was following along."
Know that it’s a space for seasoned comics to do their best work but also to test out new material.
Go in knowing you’ll have a good time, but that this is a testing ground (and a home) for comics.
Patel: "Comics are tastemakers of other comics and I think Napoleon and I know a lot of comics that are strong and can handle a crowd. The goal is to provide a fun, tight show where everyone does well and if a comic bombs, it’s not necessarily their fault. It’s a good thing to have a spot every week or every other week to do whatever you want."
Emill: "Stage time is not guaranteed. I’m getting into the position where I have opportunities to get up every night, but having your own home … I will become super comfortable with this room and test out things and go back and forth with the audience. As comics, we need somewhere where we can fail and to get better."
If you go: Dekalb Stage is inside the Dekalb Market Hall at 445 Albee Square West in Brooklyn. The show runs from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. and has a two-drink minimum. Tickets are $10 at the door and $8 on eventbrite.com. Check the venue’s Facebook page for updates.