Nervous Laughter, the comedy show that gives the city the therapy it needs.

A crowd in the East Village almost busts a gut at one of Nervous Laughter’s comedy shows. ( Photo by JT Anderson)



Ever other week the comedy show Nervous Laughter pops up at an East Village venue to do what “comedy is best at doing,” using humor as a weapon against “cultural taboos, injustice and tyranny.”

The comedy series’ most recent show, which took place on Jan. 8 at The Secret Loft, embraced one of western culture’s most uncomfortable subjects: mental illness.

The show’s line- up featured  nine stand-up comedians including Todd Barry , Bonnie McFarlane, Mark Normand  and Dan St. Germain  shared stories about addiction, sobriety and the ups and downs of mental health.

This is what makes Nervous Laughter so special. Every show takes on a different subject like religion, war, love and sex every two weeks. Providing a lens for the audience to explore these topics is a revolving cast of well-known and emerging comedic talent like Maz Jobrani, Bonnie McFarlane, David Cross, Sam Morril and Erin Jackson. It has become a hot spot for visiting comics performing at larger venues. 

Nervous Laughter was launched last May by journalist and activist, Sarah Harvard and British comedian Piers Moreton. Harvard told The Villager that she was drawn to stand-up because of its “ability to really speak truth to power and challenge authority.”

Nervous Laughter creators Piers Moreton and Sarah Harvard are trying to break the silence on societal taboos through humor. ( Photo by Mike Bryk).

When thinking about starting Nervous Laughter, Harvard reached out to Moreton and together they started to carve out a space “where comics from all walks of life” could make fun of  “as well as makes sense of the crazy things in the world today.” Creating a means of catharsis for audience members was important as well.  

One of Nervous Laughter’s 2020 resolutions is to extend the spotlight beyond its performers. On Jan. 22, the show will raise money for a charity or charities dedicated to helping Uighur refugees. Many of the Muslim majority of China’s northwestern Xinjian province have fled due to approximately 1  million Uighur’s being forced into camps for “re-education” by the government, according to the BBC. The Chinese government started building “re-education” camps three years ago, and continues to say that they are for “voluntary education and training.” But accounts of former camp members tell a different story where Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are indefinitely detained, beaten and forcibly sterilized. 

 “The persecution of the Muslim ethic minority in China is just devastating,” Harvard told The Villager.  “It’s such a shame it’s being under-reported and that there’s a lack of international outrage.” A future show could be dedicated to raising funds Australian bush fire relief efforts, Harvard added.  

For more information about Nervous Laughter showtimes and upcoming show themes, please visit


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