There doesn't seem to be any universally-accepted criteria for what makes a comedian a "New York comic," but when Lenny Marcus and Carmen Lynch visit the Woolfe Street Playhouse this week, audience members will be treated to two of the finest practitioners of the form currently working the NYC circuit. "You'll get a good sense of what happens in a New York comedy club," Marcus says. "Two different styles, two good people. If they like comedy, I think they'll have a good time."
Born and raised in Oceanside, N.Y., Marcus' on-stage persona is heavy on the big-city cynicism. Or is it? The comedian prefers the term "sardonic," explaining that cynicism has a negative connotation he doesn't think necessarily applies. Summarizing his routine, he says, "Here's what I don't like about something, and here's some jokes about it. Here's my premise, here comes the punchline."
"I'm supposedly the quintessential New York act," he says. "It's shorter in the city, because the attention spans are shorter." While subject matter is often also city-specific, he attributes his reputation more to his style than the subject matter. "The jokes come rapidly; there's nothing alternative about it," he says. "I've been told when I'm on the road that I've got a city style, and I'm like, 'What do you do out here, not tell jokes?'"
Marcus recently appeared on Letterman, and while a clip of the performance is available online, he generally prefers to restrict what's available in order to keep his show fresh for people coming to see him in person. "If you want to see it, come see it live," he says.
While Marcus has enjoyed his work in other mediums (including the very funny web series Superstar Talent), he truly believes that stand up is way better live. And if you watch the Letterman clip, here's something to note: "The real versions are edgier and longer. It's not as nice as when I'm on Letterman," Marcus says.
Unlike Marcus, Carmen Lynch was a transplant to New York, but her comedy and deadpan delivery have found a perfect home at the clubs there. Much of her material focuses on her own failures and shortcomings, in addition to observations about life's general ups and downs (in her act, there are more downs than ups).
Topics on any given night might include her childhood scoliosis diagnosis, her date from the previous week, what her cat did earlier that day, or the difficulties of daily phone calls from her recently retired parents. Fans of her popular web series Apartment C3 will recognize both her sense of humor and her often self-deprecating source material.
Lynch is naturally drawn to the humorous side of life's disappointments, she says, and this comes through in her stage persona. "Sometimes she's [the persona] darker than me. It's all real, but I think it might just be a heightened version of a part of me," she says. In conversation, Lynch is very funny, but also more lighthearted and a good deal less cynical. She admits that sometimes she even surprises herself when she performs. "Sometimes I get off stage and I'm like, 'Who was that person?' It might have to do with what I had for breakfast. How much coffee I've had."
Lynch is also a Letterman veteran, having appeared on the show multiple times. Clips of her performance are also online, and she says they give an accurate impression of her act. "I'm not going to wear a dress, but it's pretty much me," she says. "It might get darker. It will depend ... I think your day can make a big difference. If I did laundry that day, I'm kind of exhausted. I try not to do laundry on a big comedy night."
She's not planning on bringing any laundry to town with her, so Charleston comedy fans should expect a great show from both Lynch and Marcus on Woolfe Street.