Zach Zimmerman, Andrea Jin & Abby Govindan.

Zach Zimmerman, Andrea Jin & Abby Govindan Shine Bright at NYCF 2023 (Event Recap, Part 1)

For nearly 20 years, New York Comedy Festival has taken over all five boroughs of New York to bring comedy all across the city for a close to 10 day long period of stand-up shows, podcast recordings, sketch comedy & so much more. Produced by the iconic comedy club Caroline's, this year's lineup features more than 200 comedians performing in more than 100 shows at dozens of venues across the Concrete Jungle.

Over the next week, 800 Pound Gorilla News will be checking out some of New York's finest, funniest & rising comedians you need to know. This past weekend, we got to witness Zach Zimmerman, Andrea Jin & Abby Govindan blow audiences away with new material they've been prepping for the mainstay comedy event. Check out Part 1 of our recaps of these hilarious shows below (more to come this week & next)!

Zach Zimmerman is Doing Stand-Up at a Magic Level, and Magic at a Stand-Up Level

Zach Zimmerman on The Late Late Show With James Corden.
Zach Zimmerman on The Late Late Show With James Corden. Courtesy of CBS.

Friday, November 3rd


At 10pm in the barge-esque space of littlefield in Brooklyn, the 100 or so people gathered in the audience witnessed something special. Sophie Buddle, a headliner who you’ve likely seen do late night sets and redefine what comedy energy can be in her Comedy Central digital set, did a set that never stopped moving, and managed to expand our vocabulary around U.s.regions by referring to Texas as being/being part of South America. Buddle works hard on her craft and timing, and it shows. 


Zach Zimmerman, the headliner of the show, gave a performance that was almost profound in how well it articulated what makes stand-up an art form. Yes, Zimmerman had jokes that were incredibly funny, but there was depth to the set because of how present and relaxed Zimmerman was on stage. There was space for short, one-off jokes in a set filled with larger bits about dating, seeking love as a queer person in a city that is hard to find validation in, growing up religious, jerking off rats in Paris, urine-soaked hoagies, and the myth of god as a bridge to faith in magic. It is impossible to overstate how exceptional the set was, to the point where using real words almost doesn’t serve it justice. The show was “laughsalutely humordadicle.” You get the idea. 


Zimmerman shared some true things with the audience, and, even if it’s material that’s been run a hundred times, sold it as still uncomfortable, candid, or like the audience was being let in on a secret. It primed audiences to receive the gift of an honestly good magic trick as a closer. The set up as sharing a bad thing he did involving America’s Got Talent bends in the arc of comedy, but is also a perfect example of how magic works. There was misdirection, audience engagement, patter, an assumption of authority, and a reveal that was clever and delightful. By combining all the mechanics of strict start-up with something that wouldn’t be out of place at a Rachel Wax show, Zimmerman truly delivered something mesmerizing and beautiful. 

Andrea Jin Has All Comedy Holes Activated

Andrea Jin on The Late Late Show With James Corden.
Andrea Jin on The Late Late Show With James Corden. Courtesy of CBS.

Saturday, November 4th


On Saturday, Andrea Jin worked material out at Brooklyn’s Union Hall. Prior to this, Sophie Buttle, who has an unforgettable joke about men walking naked with small asses and the methods they use to wipe up semen off a perso, went up. However, Isa Medina set the tone with a genuinely good and sibversive set on pansexual dating, being Latine and its social baggage in Anerica, and breast implants. The crowd was bad, as Brooklyn audiences sometimes are, and were unsure if they could laugh at Medina’s unique and important perspective. 


When Jin ran her set, the audience, which may not be used to jokes that confront their national identity and generous ideas about themselves, she gained power from their tepidness. Jin is so good that it feels like the audience is lucky to be there, not the other way around. Running through material on loudness, dating someone younger, credit, and facets of being Chinese, the audience lost it when she discussed having diarrhea, a uti, and her period all at the same time, meaning “all holes were activated.” When she called out the audience for their aloofness, she said not to be scared of her. However, when a white guy in the front tried to be cute and repeat her joke back to her, she admitted being a little scared of her is okay.


Jin is one of the best comics of her generation, and if you ever get a chance to see her, take it. Just be in a place to laugh. 

Abby Govindan Is Ready To To Take Over Comedy (And So Are Her Friends)

Abby Govindan.
Abby Govindan. Instagram.

Sunday, November 5th


It’s easy to forget that stand-up is a gift bestowed upon audiences from people who want to share their time with them, and give them something to make their day brighter. Yesterday afternoon, while buildings (people? Dogs? clouds?) burned outside the venue, Chelsea Music Hall gave the 150 or so folks in attendance something special. Hosted by the beautiful and thoughtful Josh Gondelman, six non-white comics took the stage, many of whom were queer. Gondelman set a brilliant precedent, by telling jokes about the importance of staying open-minded, not fighting progress, and having an ex come out as non-female. As always, Gondelman’s jokes were uniquely warm and thoughtful, and it may be one of comedy’s greatest shames that he is not the cis white male comic seen as the gold standard for that type of comedian. 


Auguste White, who was ready to break last year, is in an even more undeniable space with her comedy, and ran through material that was feminist, sex-positive, silly, and also formidable. There is a lot of bad comedy right now, but White gives you something to feel inspired by. There’s a sense that it’s just a matter of time before she takes off in a big way, and like the other comics on the lineup, is helping shape comedy history into something better than it was before. If you are a young person looking for a comedy crush, please consider Auguste White as someone to take notes from. 


Ashton Womack deserved better from the audience, as he holds a space in his comedy not that dissimilar from the great (and overlooked) Kevin Iso. There’s a generosity and stateliness to Womack’s comedy that makes it elegant and impressive if you know what to look for. His joke about Black, non-coastal terminology meaning different things in different areas as delivered through the earnest and saf engine of his father’s passing is so good that it’s a shame the audience only caught up to him by the time he closed with it. 


Ibhan Kulkarni kindly drove in from New Jersey to talk about posture, the weirdness of video games like Call of Duty trying to sell the idea of war to kids (a good joke that’s in conversation with Kumail Nanjiani’s classic bit about it), and trying to connect with Gucci Mane on LinkedIn. The set was hot, and Kulkani used every second of it to its fullest comic potential. 


Mohanad Eishieky reminded everyone what some time in the comedy trenches can do to your act, and delivered a knowing set that killed. Using every move he could think of to surprise and build anticipation with the audience, Eishieky is someone ready for a large special, and if this article can help move that along in any way, it’s succeeded. His incredible bit about thinking his driver was fucking with him, only to realize he was the unhinged person in the situation is perfect. 


Sureni Weerasekera is a whirling dervish of energy that delivers club-ready material in a charged, woke package. Everything from ungrateful babies and Cayman Islands pillow menus, to white audience discomfort and race gets filtered through a delivery that’s on 1.5 speed and adds an electricity to the set that’s addictive. While I can’t tell anyone what to do, what I will suggest is that if you’re looking to figure out how to have a voice that stands out and commands attention from a smarmy audience, Weerasekera should be your template. 


Abby Govindan headlined, and did something special. Govindan is funny, but there’s also a real tenderness, kindness, and generosity to her comedy that it feels personal. It’s like…if you had 100 dogs sitting in chairs, and called each of them up by name to get a diploma. It’s meaningful. There’s a discussion about her boring ex-boyfriend that hinges on the idea of Taylor Tomlinson’s bit about couples being unequal, with one always being chocolate, and the other more like raisin. From here, Govindan moves to a punchline about her ex asking if he could be more like pistachio, which seems worse than raisin. The bit is funny, but it’s also layered with a throughline of food and has an in-joke citation of another comic, which is a rare thing indeed. However, that’s the kind of comic Govindan is. She is someone who can share herself with you, make you feel and think, and move comedy in a way you might not see for a hundred more sets. Truly, this is someone to watch. 

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