the dangerfield comedy club earned a lot of respect from the public over the years. but the covid-19 pandemic got the last laugh at the upper east side venue.
The club’s operator, Rodney Dangerfield Inc., announced Oct. 1. On January 14, it was closing Dangerfield’s “after more than 50 years of continuous operation” from its main location at 1118 First Ave. however, the company maintained that it would find a new home and reopen once the covid-19 crisis passes.
Both the club and its parent company are named after Rodney Dangerfield, the late iconic comedian known for his self-deprecating humor and woe stories punctuated with his catchphrase, “I tell you they don’t respect me.” all.” the dangerfield club became one of the great launching pads for comedian careers in new york as comedians performed to theaters full of laughter every night.
But the laughs ended in March when the state and city imposed capacity restrictions and closed non-essential businesses due to the growing covid-19 health crisis. In a statement posted on Dangerfield’s Twitter account, the parent company claimed that the continued closure of public venues, such as comedy clubs, was to blame for the club’s demise.
“new york state and the continued covid-19 lockdown in new york city, the ban on public places, the lack of official guidance on when or if or in what capacity such public gatherings will be permitted, has placed a severe financial burden on the hazard field, making operations in New York City unsustainable,” the statement said.
For weeks, local comedians and comedy club venue operators have been calling on the state and city to reopen at a fraction of the original capacity.
in a sept. At a February 22 press conference led by Kambri Crews, owner of Qed Astoria, and State Senator Michael Gianaris, they called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to issue guidance and approve the opening of comedy clubs. According to the teams, he left the journalist in the hope that his establishment could start having programs on a limited basis. he even went so far as to send a five-page plan to the governor’s office.
but as time passed, there was no response to his proposal even after a call with a representative of the governor.
“I thought for sure the needle would move a bit and we would soon see some changes regarding outdoor seating for ticketed arts and entertainment. when that didn’t happen, I just said, ‘he gave up’ is too strong a phrase, but something like that,” the teams told the amnewyork metro.
The teams said that while the “last gasp of fall” moneymaking opportunity likely won’t present itself, it will instead turn to the merchandising of the gift shop and bar portion of the space. that would mean the possibility of subletting the showroom space to the artists.
Teams expressed frustration that while the governor did not respond to their proposal, he did make a sept. 15 appeared on long island radio stating that he did not believe comedy clubs were essential.
“i understand concert halls, my good friend billy joel, i was doing madison square garden, when are we going back to madison square garden? those large stadiums pose the greatest risk,” he cuomo said. “They’re still coming through a door, and then they’re essential, and I hate to say this because everything is essential: comedy clubs. how essential is a comedy club when talking about the infection rate? so as not to offend the comedy club people, god knows we have to laugh, but those are the calibrations we’re making.”
Last month, a group called the New York Comedy Coalition held a press conference in the East Village urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to consider his plan to reopen clubs safely, with social distancing measures and plexiglass barriers. to protect talents and clients from each other.
Operators are also seeking financial support to offset the huge losses suffered since the clubs closed seven months ago. us. senator charles schumer is working to pass the save our stages act, federal legislation that would pump billions of dollars in aid to struggling live venues and employees across the country. comedian jerry seinfeld is among the bill’s most prominent supporters.
“Dangerfield’s is one of many comedy clubs and other independent live venues across New York City suffering from the economic fallout from COVID-19,” Schumer said. “Independent venues, like the one in Dangerfield, are the beating heart of New York City’s cultural life and a driving force in New York’s economy as a whole. these local businesses were among the first to close at the start of the pandemic, are struggling to stay afloat, and will be among the last to reopen. Unfortunately, Dangerfield, like others, faces the worst outcome, closure, and if we don’t provide dedicated federal assistance to independent venues, many others will suffer the same fate. That’s why I unequivocally support the Save Our Stages Act and fight to include this funding in upcoming legislation.”
For now, the only types of entertainment that can be shown in nightlife establishments are “incidental music,” a policy that was challenged by the Buffalo Sportsman’s Tavern on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment; the state is currently appealing the judge’s decision in favor of the owner.