By Lisa Kava
In September, Felicia Madison, talent booker and managing partner of West Side Comedy Club, was surprised and disturbed by information she came across while reading a New York Times opinion piece. The piece noted that loneliness is as deadly as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is linked to strokes, heart disease, and dementia, in addition to suicide. It said that loneliness is more dangerous for health than obesity, according to the surgeon general of the United States. “I was sitting and reading the New York Times and I was literally shocked. I couldn’t believe this. I thought this is so sad.”
Madison, who strongly believes in comedy as a way to bring people together, wanted to help address issues surrounding loneliness. She decided to launch the A-lone Comedy Show, where people are encouraged to attend alone and meet others. “Once you are at a comedy show you become part of a community. It’s a community brought together by laughter,” she told West Side Rag in a phone interview.
The A-lone Comedy Show will debut on Monday, October 30th, at 8 PM at West Side Comedy Club at 201 West 75th Street (Amsterdam Avenue), with a second show scheduled for November 8th on National Loneliness Awareness Day. The holiday was founded in 2019 by Beneath the Skin, a peer-to-peer mentoring program for young women, created to help them feel less alone.
Madison will donate all proceeds from the first show to the mental health organization Same Here, and from the second show to Beneath the Skin. The shows are inclusive, Madison told the Rag. While they were created to bring people who are alone together, anyone is welcome to attend with a friend. “You do not need to be single or struggling to come to the show. It’s just a great way to get out, be social and have a good laugh.” She pointed out one frequent attendee is a married woman whose husband often travels. The A-lone Comedy Show will feature a line-up of six comedians, and performances are not about loneliness (although one comedian will address mental health issues.)
Stephanie Goldklang, a comedian in the line-up, and a single Upper West Sider, says the idea for a show where people are encouraged to attend alone immediately resonated with her. “This is a topic I am really passionate about, especially being a single New Yorker.” Goldklang says that stand-up comedy is also often marketed as a date-night activity, or something to attend with friends, because it is a great way to connect with others.
“When you hear someone laughing next to you, you begin laughing together and there is a connection. We are never alone when we smile at someone and laugh together.” Goldklang hopes people will show up early and stay late after the show to socialize. There will be an opportunity for those who arrive early to mingle at the bar at Playa Betty’s.
“Once you are at a comedy show you automatically become part of a community brought together by laughter,” Madison said. “Laughter really is the cure to loneliness. There is a common feeling of camaraderie, that we are all in it together.”