“This might be TMI, but I have really gigantic balls,” admits Billy Procida, a New Jersey-born comedian who has lived in Bushwick for most of the past decade. For the past year, he has been hosting stand-up comedy nights inside an orgy basement at the Hacienda Villa, an otherwise quiet brownstone in the neighborhood that doubles as a major site in the city’s kink scene. “Naked comedy in an orgy basement is, I think, what Republicans outside of New York think we’re doing. I think that’s what they think all of us are doing,” he says, laughing.

Of course, that is exactly what Procida is doing: his “Naked Comedy Show” celebrates its one-year anniversary on Saturday night. Over the past year, he estimates that “about 50-60 comics” have done the show this year. He estimates that about one-third of the comics he asks end up doing it, but says that “the Naked Comedy Show has been more diverse than a lot of shows you’ll see around the city.

“I could have done a five dollar comedy show at some venue in Bushwick, but there’s a lot of those. There is no [other] naked comedy show in the city,” he says. 

The anniversary show takes place September 16. The lineup includes returning comics like Nick Viagas as well as names like Chloe Cunha and Casey Bauer, who both write for the popular comedy website Reductress. Tickets can be bought via eventbrite.  

“It was such a freeing experience,” says Drexton Clemons (above) a comedian from Atlanta who now lives in New York.

Drexton Clemons: I performed on a naked show when I was 21 and bad at comedy in Atlanta, and I wanted to see if I could do it again 8 years later to redeem myself. Back then I was paid a lot of money by very nice people to bomb, I just started comedy, I couldn’t let that be my defining naked comedy experience.

Procida: Bombing naked is just a bit worse than having a full beer can thrown at you on stage. 

Clemons:  [It was] nerve-wracking! All of a sudden the room felt so cold and claustrophobic and I was very aware of my body. And then 15 seconds into my set, I realized I was having so much fun and the room and crowd was so warm and inviting. It was only up from there.

Procida: I didn’t suck, but that didn’t stop me from bombing naked. It was just a way to get stage time. I was new. I’m not very good. I didn’t have to bark. I just had to be willing to take my clothes off. And I said fine, whatever I got to do to get on stage. 

Clemons: It was such a freeing experience. I’m always concerned about how I come off on stage and whether or not I’m embarrassing myself. And because of that, I feel like I’m not always having fun on stage. But after this show, I’ve felt more confident and more comfortable being loose and free on stage and it’s allowed me to explore material outside of my comfort zone. 

Procida: You really could just do your set, but some people do bits, like naked bits, like Dwayne Cullen, back in April – This was epic: he goes on stage and, halfway through, he does the thing where he goes on stage and does the thing where he says ‘I’ve forgot my jokes, this is so embarrassing, do you mind if I take out my setlist? And then he pulled a setlist out of his foreskin. 

Madelein Smith: I didn’t want to at first, I was too nervous, but when I went to the show and saw my girlfriend performing I was like “oh this is actually fine and not a big deal.”

Sarah Barnitt: I thought it would be a fun body positive experience, and something I’d regret not saying yes to.

Procida: I get female comics who reach out to me because a different, female comic did the show and then told them that it’s safe, it’s fun; “if you would want to do it, it’s safe to do it.” That’s a huge compliment to me. This thing that should be scary for so many reasons, you can do it now too. 

Barnitt: It was wild — at first i was very aware I was naked but as I got more comfortable I kind of forgot.

Procida: I have a person who’s dedicated job the entire night is just to stand on the side, in the back, and look at the audience for phones. That’s usually the only concern people generally have. I think people trust me doing the show.

Every time I see a poster for a show and it’s got all dudes on it: I’m like, every month I find quite a few women to take their clothes off to do comedy, what’s your excuse for your clothed show?

Smith: I think it’s hard to go onstage naked and not acknowledge things that are happening with your body-for example, during the last show I had a heavy period and I definitely talked about that onstage.

Procida: Hanna Gerlander was on her period and she was wearing a tampon, so she decided that she was going to do a string reveal. She goes on stage and does the one or two lines that she crafted for it, but then couldn’t find the string. She then turned her back to the audience and rummaged around her vagina for this tampon string, she doesn’t find it and then just had to do her ten minutes. 

So, I wouldn’t say that it changes the comedy too much, just that it creates new moments of tension. It creates moments of tension that you can play with, if you want to. Because that’s what comedy is about, creating and releasing tensions. 

Chuck (a longtime regular): I’m also a nudist myself, so I am always intrigued by spaces where people are naked non-sexually, and I definitely wanted to support it. I’ve gone back because come on, it’s naked people telling jokes, but more importantly the lineups of comics have been really strong. 

Procida: I’ve been carrying on a tradition. Andy Ofiesh started the naked shows up in New England. I used to do his naked shows when I was in college cause he used to run one in the old [Peoples Improv Theater, in Manhattan]. I used to do that in college. That was the first time I saw Eric Andre, at naked shows at the PIT.

Madelein Smith: I don’t think it’s that different than typical comedy. Whether you are naked or clothed, stand up is a vulnerable experience.

Procida: If I wanted to do a normal comedy show, I don’t know if I would have sold out shows every month. There’s so much out there. This is a concept that works.

Images provided by Billy Procida.

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