Has the end of each season for both of Buffalo’s prominent sports teams left you laughing, albeit unintentionally? Yeah, same here.

Now that we’re amidst the off-season for both teams, what are we to do? Where are we to get our jokes?

Let’s face it: Western New York has been the well-toned butt of many jokes for years. It’s time to take the criticisms against us and use them to make us stronger, even if self-deprecating. I mean, what city could use a really good laugh more than Buffalo? Just ask Anderson Cooper.

“Bet hoo ehm aye lookin’ fahr an whare can I find ‘em?” Funny you should ask in a silly accent.

As a performer in this area, I’ve had the chance to know some great comics and been privileged to work alongside many of them. I’ll drop some names and venues to start you off, but comedy has many different forms so you may have a different preference as to what you’re looking for. (Plus I just can’t name them all.)

In my opinion, the stand-up comedy scene is on the rise. I attribute this, in large part, to burgeoning amounts of accessible open mics. Though somewhat underground, you could catch a different open mic virtually every night of the week! Mr. Goodbar, Club 55, and Canvas are among the newer shows, while Nietzsche’s continues as the longest running in the community.

Nietzsche’s, Allen St., is the backbone; with a stronghold of great, local flavor like Matt Bergman, Will Mutka, Eric Lingenfelter, Tyrone Maclin, and Tim Joyce. Amateurs, up and comers, Buffalo natives stopping by while making it big elsewhere, and the occasional industry professional (Maria Bamford, Doug Stanhope, Josh Blue, etc.) are apart of the assortment you’ll find in the mix. Of course much of Nietzsche’s success comes from the efforts of Kristen Becker.

After touring for nine years on the road and an appearance on Last Comic Standing, Kristen came back to the city and is producing some of WNY’s most successful comedy shows (Doin’ Time Comedy, Rust Belt Comics, Dykes of Hazard). Her website, www.BuffaloComedy.com, has information on local comics as well as the exposure for them to nurture their talents. She teachers her own comedy classes that have helped develop and introduce audiences to fresh new talent. Chet Wild, Mark Walton, and Rick Matthews, are among a few of her students turned masters, and have been busy creating their own success all over Buffalo and Rochester.

Rob’s Comedy Playhouse (www.robscomedyplayhouse.com ) is an obvious choice for live entertainment, as it is one of the better-known venues. Rob Liederman, a personality and the Creative Director on 97 Rock, is one of the most decorated vets in town, having opened for some of the comedy’s legends ranging from Don Rickles to Dennis Miller. The talent that runs through his place has kept audiences coming back for more. Other radio personalities like Greg Bauch and Dan Fisher from WGR550, and Josh Potter from 103.3 The Edge, may be spotted there, if not carving their name in stone elsewhere.  

Or you can lose some weight by laughing your ass off enjoying improvisation. Much like the popular TV series, Whose Line Is It Anyway? improvisational comedy is that off-the-cuff spontaneity based on audience suggestions. The improv community wouldn’t be what it is today, had it not been for the folks of Buffalo ComedySportz. (www.Buffalocsz.com)

ComedySportz is an international brand of improvisation known for it’s competitive, “sportier” format. Currently residing in the Snyder Square, Amherst, the Buffalo chapter of ComedySportz (BCSz) was created in 1993 and will be officially “celebrating the funny” for 20 years in WNY come 2013. As part of this momentous occasion, BCSz has landed the ComedySportz World Championship, where every CSz city will be converging in Buffalo for what BCSz claims to be, “one giant improv spectacle.” (Location TBA, so check their site for updates) But in case you’re anxious to get your improv fix now, they’ve tripled the amount of weekly shows to perform, set up a widely popular show for adults, IMF, and offer their own beginner and intermediate improv classes.

Of course, in those two decades, other improvisers have taken the proverbial baton. Some came about on their own accord like The Domino Effect, part of The Road Less Traveled Productions Blacklight Series, while many of BSCz’s alumni have made their own strides. Groups like The Francis Bacon Experiment and The Improv Buffet showcase their interesting takes on improv around town, while Defiant Monkey encourages anyone to jam with them on Wednesday nights out in Lockport. The Eclectic Company, performing in the Smith Theatre at Shea’s, remains to be one of the most charming fraternities. Now in their 14th year, The Eclectic Company are still working their wits out, never performing the same show twice. (www.eclecticimprov.com)

Lastly, I’m proud to say the past three years the guys and I from Buffalo Sketch Comedy have been helping create a bigger presence for the lesser-known sketch comedy in town. Our performances may shadow formats mirroring SNL, MadTV, or Kids in the Hall, but we work at making it uniquely ours. We’re in and around the city, but for the tip of the iceberg check here: youtube.com/BuffaloSketchComedy. (Thanks!)

Speaking on my own behalf, for Buffalo Sketch Comedy, and perhaps for those in town who, like me, take the funny business very seriously – we appreciate your support. And we have a lot to offer. I think it would be nice for Buffalo to be known for more than its’ hot wings, cold winters, and mild professional sports. My hope is that those who are reading this will take time to discover a new person or place, but more importantly, will be left laughing- intentionally.

(It’s impossible to name every person and establishment evolving the comedy in town, and for that I apologize. Anyone I left out, please feel free to post information below in the comment section.)