Comic Insights from Chris Mazzilli, Industry Laugh Leader
We sat down with Chris Mazzilli, Owner and Founder of Gotham Comedy Club and Executive Producer of Gotham Comedy LIVE on AXS TV, to learn what advice he has for comedians who want to appear on the popular show.
A native New Yorker, Chris opened Gotham Comedy Club 20 years ago with Michael Reisman. He was praised for his top-to-bottom redesign of the venue’s original space, which he believed would effectively change the way comedy clubs were perceived at the time: All comedy and no ambiance.
Since then, Chris has distinguished himself as an industry leader. He’s attracted countless celebrated comics to the Gotham stage, including Dave Chapelle, Lewis Black, and Colin Quinn. The club has also been the backdrop for TV shows and films, such as Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian and the pilot for Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. In 2006, Comedy Central began recording Live at Gotham at the West 23rd Street club, with a range of hosts including D.L. Hughley, Patton Oswalt, and Joe Rogan. NBC has also used Gotham as the setting for the New York auditions for Last Comic Standing. Tune in to AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy LIVE, Thursdays at 10/9 c, to catch the funniest comics in America performing live at Gotham Comedy Club.
Here’s the invaluable information for stand-ups Chris shared with us:
MCS: When is a comedian ready to audition for AXS TV?
Chris: When they feel that they have a strong and unique ten minutes to do the show. Fortunately, there is no rush. The show has been going strong for a couple of years now, and will hopefully continue to go that way. So there’s no rush to get in front of me or anybody else, unless you’re ready.
MCS: What if someone auditions too soon? When would you want to see that comedian again?
Chris: It’s different for everybody, because somebody can be very green and need a year or two, and somebody could be close and only need a few months. It’s also how much time they’re going to put in. If someone is getting up once a week, then it could take a long time compared to someone who’s getting up four, five, or six times a week. Their progress will be much faster. It depends where they’re at and, after I give them notes, how much time they put in to correct the issues.
MCS: How does a comedian earn an audition for AXS TV?
Chris: There are many ways. I do a lot of showcases on the New Talent shows. I’ve seen people on regular shows, and some people just submit links. I also get recommendations from comics who have already done the show, whom I work with on a regular basis. There are a number of avenues.
MCS: What advice would you give to a comedian who’s about to audition?
Chris: Know that we want you to get the show. Relax, have fun with it. Really think about material that sets you apart from everybody else. We’ve done a hundred episodes, we’ve booked 500 different comedians. I’m looking for comics with different voices. If you talk about similar subject matter that everyone else is talking about, it’s hard to break through the crowd and stand out. What unique perspective do you have on something? Go with that. Be honest with yourself. Make sure you’re ready to be on stage.
MCS: Are there specific “do’s” and “don’ts” you’d recommend?
Chris: Prior to the audition, look at your stuff. Get other people’s opinions. Be honest with yourself, and make sure you’re putting your best eight-to-ten minutes in front of us. When you’re auditioning, live or via tape, stay away from the crowd. Avoid the “how are you doing?” or “where are you from?” crowd work. That won’t fly on a TV show, because every audience is different. So take a beat, then get right into your material.
MCS: What’s the minimum experience you advise a comedian have before they audition?
Chris: It’s a tough call because everybody is different. Some people have it very quickly, and they’re ready in a year or two. Others take longer. It depends on how much time you’re willing to put in. There are many comics who dabble in and out of it, getting up only a few times a month. Then there are others who really dive into it and get on 20 times a week. It’s not a time issue—it’s how much you really want it. How much time do you want to put in to get to the point where you’re ready?
MCS: What else can you add that would support comedians?
Chris: Have fun with it. We want people to get on the show—I want to stress that. We’re always looking for new talent, so we’re a hundred percent on your side. If you do get to audition, and you get feedback, know that it’s for that show that we’re looking, so don’t take it to heart. We’re trying to guide you to get on the show.
Our thanks to Chris. Please post any other questions you have in the comments.