For the last several months, a walk-up apartment on East Seventh Street has quietly, even secretly, served as an alternative venue for comics and comedy fans alike. Since March, Daniel Hurwitz and Drew Miller have invited friends, family and neighbors to enjoy sets by working comedians sans the standard two-drink minimum — in their living room. Why a comedy show? “I just liked going to them,” Hurwitz says. “I didn’t understand why people didn’t go to comedy shows all they time; they’re free and fun. I couldn’t afford cable or to go to plays.”
Filming comics cracking jokes in a cramped East Village apartment started as a side project. The result is an addictive web series of hilarious yet little known names and faces entitled LIVE @ THE APT that will have viewers doing spit takes at their computer screens.
Like many things good in the East Village, Live @ The Apt has decamped to Brooklyn, and the guys will host the first show in Season 2 in their new Williamsburg digs. The September 20th show will feature Comedy Central “Comic to Watch” Josh Rabinowitz, Sarah Tollemache of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, and Kevin Barnett, who has appeared on MTV’s Guy Code, along with free beer and two full bathrooms.
We chatted with Dan and Drew about comedy in New York City, apartment hunting, how Live @ The Apt came to be and where it’s headed.
DM: We were both assistants at Focus Features but didn’t know each other. A bunch of people went to B Bar one night for after-work drinks and we ended up sitting next to each other. The whole night he was making really funny jokes under his breath. I had never heard him talk before but he was sitting there being really funny, basically just to himself. I got moved to the cubicle next to his and we started poking our heads over that wall more and more…
DH: I have always been a bit of a comedy nerd. When I came to New York I thought I wanted to write comedy and do stand-up, so I took some UCB classes and some classes at The Pit. I made a deal with a friend that I would perform at an open mic and three hours before I was on I didn’t have a set. I just sat in my apartment and watched other people do stand-up, thinking I would have an epiphany about what to talk about. Nothing came. I went 42nd out of 44 comedians and my big joke was basically just a pun.
DH: “I have never had sext before. So I guess that makes me a Virgin Mobile.” It isn’t even a joke. I didn’t have the skin for it. I couldn’t go up there every night and work at it like the people who are really devoted to it. I figured it would be better if I just went to shows and didn’t do the performing. I didn’t want to pursue something that was so painful for me. Instead I started writing for Side Splitter and College Humor.
DM: I wasn’t ever that in to comedy, but I love live events. I’d go to shows and see these really talented people and I just gained a lot of respect for what they do.
DM: I just started thinking about what live event I could do that was fun and DIY. I was living with my brother and we had one of those living rooms where the kitchen and living room connect and you could fit a lot of people. We thought, why not?
DH: I was pretty cynical about the whole thing… Like, yeah, do this in your house… good luck. But that’s my role; I’m like the Mom and come up with all the reasons it won’t work.
DM: We’re a good team that way, because I think everything will work.
DM: When I asked my brother and roommate I think they thought it would be a handful of people but a lot of people showed up. It was one of those situations where everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
DH: We were supposed to pick up all these chairs and when we got there the friend we were borrowing them from had, like, four chairs. The person who was going to film didn’t show up because of a delayed flight so we called another friend to do it. It was his birthday. And St. Patrick’s Day. He was wasted but he did okay for a drunk guy.
DM: We rented all these lights. But none of us knew anything about how to light a comedy show. But we got milk crates off the street as chairs. It worked because the whole show wasn’t meant to be formal or highly produced. Milk crates can be chairs and the camera guy can be drunk.
DH: But preferably not.
DM: We find them all over. Our host, Charles Gould, has given us a lot access to the comedy world. The first time I saw him perform it was in a unique setting and I knew I wanted to do this show and I knew I wanted to work with him. He lets us know what shows to hit and who he thinks is good and he’ll help us get in touch. Dan has a good eye for who’s talented and who will fit in the show.
DH: All of these guys are really down to have another outlet for performing. So it’s been remarkably easy. It’s a unique experience for them, too, and they welcome that. It takes them a bit to adjust to doing it in an apartment. A comedy club is dark and there’s a stage. But it’s a testament to the art of stand-up; you just need a mic and you can command a full room of people. We try to be really accommodating. Plus we have free beer, which helps.
DM: ABC Beer Company has sponsored the first shows. They started out in the East Village too, so there was a kinship there.
DM: We just went to our networks. Everyone brings a friend and it turned in to a lot of people. But we hope to expand past the friends and family network. I would say we’re at friends of friends of friends.
DM: It was really tough. We were trying to find a four bedroom so we could live with two of the other producers like one big happy family. We realized if we want to do this once a month it wouldn’t be fair to normal roommates. After a month we found a place and it was perfect and put down a deposit. But they gave it to someone else. We found another place and everyone liked it but me and I pulled out at the last second.
DH: Don’t ever move.
DM: I’ve talked to every broker in town. Finally we found a place and put down another deposit. But then they called to say the tenant was staying. At this point I’m thinking that I’m going to have to move back to Canada. I was this close to moving home. Dan called me that night and told me they had another apartment in the same building. I almost cried.
DH: We haven’t told the landlord that we’re doing the show. Don’t print where we live! But really, it’s not terribly loud. It’s really just people talking in their indoor voices.
DM: It’s not really fair to compare the two. The East Village shows were in a small apartment and the Brooklyn show we’ve had so far was on a huge rooftop. But there’s a difference, I guess, in the amenities each borough provides you.
DH: The show is following the cliché of 20-somethings in New York. You move from a shitty, converted three-bedroom with fake walls to a nicer, bigger building in Brooklyn. Next one of us has to get a dog.