The Fat Black Pussycatby Sara Christoph
130 West 3rd Street | Greenwich Village
On a recent, unseasonably frigid Saturday night, four friends turned to comedy for an escape from the times. (“If presidents can’t do it to their wives, they do it to their country,” Mel Brooks once said.) It was a welcome delight when the velvet ropes and bouncer-buttressed doors unveiled a gust of decadence from the early aughts. Jägermeister and Red Bull scented the air; Bone Thugs-N-Harmony rapped on the off-brand Music Choice channel; the crowded wooden bar, when leaned upon, gummed to one’s coat sleeve. OMG what dorm are you in?—one thirty-two-year-old said to another, with spontaneously contracted vocal fry.
Once inside the lounge of the Pussycat, where stand-up comics take to a small stage twice nightly, the revelry dimmed to a murmur. Ironically eclectic decor—a large replica of King Tut’s coffin stands behind high-backed Victorian chairs—further heightened the dislocation in time. Yet, to one’s relief, the comedy remains fresh, sharp and well worth the two-drink minimum. To paraphrase one performer: “Having a penis is like having a Republican son. It’s part of me, so I support it, but it doesn’t represent my views.” And in a sardonic nod to the wearying predictability of human behavior, one young male comic filled his fifteen minutes with the dogged pursuit of a blonde woman sitting in the front row.
If one were judging solely from Comedy Cellar’s seemingly all-male lineup, it might feel logical to ask: Why have there been no great female comics? Thankfully, though, in a glimmer of equity, Rachel Feinstein took to the stage. Her odyssian tales of touring red states with Jewish heritage and an arsenal of abortion jokes left all rolling in the aisle, though not without a striking reminder of the struggle for women’s rights across the country. Of all the wrenchingly funny moments of the evening—notwithstanding the crowned bachelorette decamped in the restroom—this was comedy at its best: an easy laugh that points, unmistakably, to the painfully ridiculous tragedy of the present.
Written from the most philosophical of perches (a barstool),“The Well” distills the idiosyncrasies of prized New York City taverns.
Sara Christoph is a former Managing Director of the Brooklyn Rail.