No other place in New York City could be as joyous as the comedy nights happening down at the East Village’s Boris & Horton.
When you enter the dog-friendly café on nights when Must Love Dogs (and Comedy) is setting up, there’s an eruption of joyful chaos that greets you as the door opens. Dogs of all sizes and colors are prancing around, tails wagging, as their owners chit-chat happily to other K9 comrades.
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The atmosphere is light and welcoming even before the show has begun, and chances are that before you leave to go home, you’ll make a new friend or wind up holding a dog that does not belong to you.
That’s the kind of scene that producer Jolie Dudley has created with Must Love Dogs (and Comedy)—her comedy variety show that happens twice a month. Featuring up-and-coming and established stand-up, character, storytelling, and musical comedy acts who are women, LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC performers, the show aims to provide a spotlight for underrepresented comedians…with a twist. (The dogs are the twist.)
Anyone is welcome to bring their dog to the show as long as they get along with others. It might sound disruptive, but the ensuing performances are enhanced and even made better with furry friends around. They may not be the subject of the show, but comedians often incorporate them into their jokes and play off their barks and whines. Sometimes they sigh at the perfect time or demand pets from the performer.
“When you think of traditional stand-up, you think of a crowded space that’s dark and you’re sitting and watching comedians perform. In every sense of the way, this show is different,” Dudley tells us. “It’s bright in there, so the performers are shocked to see the audience, and when you come into the space it is so joyous and happy. I tell performers that it’s hard to bomb because everybody is just smiling at dogs. The space is such a positive and supportive environment.”
Comedians who have performed recently include Farooq Hussain, Jonathan Thomas, Sam Morrison, Ann Van Epps, Mariel Jimenez and Sami Schwaeber.
Each show raises funds for local animal shelters like Muddy Paws Rescue.
Dudley’s own dog, Knope (named after Parks & Rec’s beloved Leslie Knope), is a rescue, so the mission is close to her heart. When venues began opening again, she found it difficult to leave Knope behind at home after spending every day with her for two years during the pandemic. She wanted to produce a show that not only would help other dogs, but would allow people to bring their own furry friends with them. “I felt so guilty leaving Knope at home…I thought maybe other people are feeling this way, too,” she says.
Each show is pay-what-you-can but already Must Love Dogs (and Comedy) has raised $1,000 since it began in October 2021. At some shows, these rescues come with dogs who are in need of a foster or a forever home.
Setting up at Boris & Horton was the perfect match, too—Dudley and Knope were familiar with the “dog-forward” space and after speaking with its owners, it seemed like their missions aligned.
“We are so thrilled with the success of Must Love Dogs (and Comedy),” said Boris & Horton co-owner Logan Mikhly. “We find that our customers are looking for fun social events to take part in with their dogs and this is the perfect thing. We love the energy of the event and the fact that the comics work the dog antics into their sets. Having the ticket sales benefit local animal rescues is the icing on the cake.”
If anything, Dudley hopes that audience members leave the show feeling happy and connected.
“There’s so much passion and a heart behind [Must Love Dogs],” Dudley says. “Providing and creating space for underrepresented performers and being able to support animal rights are the underlying mission of who we are…as human beings that’s what drives us the most. People who are coming to Must Love Dogs (and Comedy) should get ready to laugh and sniff each other’s butts.”
You can find the show’s ticketing information at eventbrite.com and can follow along on Instagram.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.