When winter came, Zoldan had to get creative again.
“I was just wracking my brain,” Zoldan said. “What else could we do? We couldn’t have shows in the club, we couldn’t have outdoor shows anymore.”
His solution was the subway, which singers, dancers and musicians have long treated as a stage (comics, less so). At the first subway show in late December, Stand Up NY’s chief of staff and booker, Jon Borromeo, recalled that an M.T.A. conductor approached them and said, “Are you guys doing comedy?” The group braced for a reprimand, but instead the conductor said, “That’s awesome,” gave a thumbs up, and returned to his post.
“I was like, ‘Yes! Yes! We have approval from the M.T.A.!’” Borromeo remembered.
On Saturday, audience members and comics, who are paid $25 each to perform, met at 72nd Street and Broadway, outside a Bloomingdale’s Outlet store. Carrying the speaker and hand-held microphone, Borromeo led the group to the 72nd Street station, where they swiped in and waited for the downtown 1 train to South Ferry. (Tickets for the show are $15 each, plus the $2.75 fare, but the rules are as loose as the surroundings.)
The audience of about eight was lighter than usual, probably because it was a warm spring night and the Passover holiday was beginning. Furqan Muqri, a 33-year-old surgeon from Syracuse, was visiting his brother, Hasan Muqri, a 25-year-old medical student, in the city. The brothers — who were both fully vaccinated — had long attended stand-up comedy shows together, and when they searched the internet for shows during the pandemic, this was what they found.