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This NYC Event Has Two Rules: Must Love Dogs & Comedy

At this comedy event, you might hear some barks among the giggles.

by Nikki Palumbo
September 12, 2022
A woman performing in front of people and dogs.
Photo: David Kirchner

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

If you love dogs and you love laughing, you’re probably someone who might do OK on a date with a clown who walks dogs on the side (on second thought; clowns are fairly polarizing). How about this instead: You go on a date with a non-clown to Must Love Dogs and Comedy — a dog-friendly comedy variety show that’s really marking its territory in New York City.

Photo: Must Love Dogs and Comedy / @mustlovedogsandcomedy

What started as a way for producer and host Jolie Dudley to do comedy without the separation anxiety from Knope — her beloved 43-pound Southern belle of a dog (named after fellow park lover Leslie Knope) — has blossomed into a female-and-minority-owned small business on a mission to support animal rescue and create space for underrepresented performers.

“We spent every day together for a year-and-a-half during the pandemic, so when I started going back to open mics, the spaces weren’t welcoming for her. And it’s not like I could tote her around in a backpack.” See: 43 pounds.

Photo: Must Love Dogs and Comedy / @mustlovedogsandcomedy

So, Dudley made the space she wished to see — and perform — in the world: a bi-monthly comedy show at the East Village dog cafe, Boris & Horton. While Dudley and co-founder Nick Polanco would classify the atmosphere of their shows as “chaotic joy,” you could also call them “inclusive.” Every show features a mix of up-and-coming and established women, LGBTQIA+, and BIPOC stand-up, character, storytelling, and musical comedy performers.

For those not on stage, the audience is supportive, responsive, and diverse (small pups and gentle giants alike are welcome!). Anyone is welcome to sit, stay, and roll over for a night of laughs and barks — as long as they play well with others. “We start every show by saying ‘Get ready to laugh and sniff each others’ butts!’” Dudley says.

Photo: Must Love Dogs and Comedy / @mustlovedogsandcomedy

For each show, Must Love Dogs & Comedy partners with different animal rescue organizations and shelters who often bring dogs who need to be fostered and adopted. So, if you show up to this event dogless, you might not be for long.

Dudley and Polanco also believe their show is a perfect place for a second or third date (see?). “It’s a great vetting process for this new stranger in your life. A great test for your relationship to see if your sense of humor and love of dogs are on the same page.”

In the year since Must Love Dogs and Comedy has leapt onto the scene, Dudley and Polanco have produced 20-plus shows at Boris & Horton, expanded to an additional venue at the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog, and raised over $11,000 for animal rescue and wellness, to date.

Photo: Must Love Dogs and Comedy / @mustlovedogsandcomedy

At this point, you’re probably begging for information on when you can catch the next Must Love Dogs & Comedy Show. Here are some upcoming dates where you can fetch pay-what-you-can tickets, a portion of which will be donated to a to-be-announced animal rescue center:

Besides their ultimate dream of taking the show on the road, the duo has already successfully produced a sold-out “pup-up” show in partnership with the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace in Los Angeles. Also on their to-do(g) list: having their own venue and theater space and offering classes.

For all things dog and comedy, you can follow along on Instagram.

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nikki palumbo

Nikki Palumbo

Nikki is a writer and comedian. Her writing has appeared on The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Funny or Die, Reductress, the Google Assistant, and her folks’ fridge. She was named one of WhoHaha’s “35 LGBTQ Creators We Love” in 2018 and a Yes, And Laughter Lab finalist in 2019. She worked as a story producer on the YouTube Originals weekly music show, RELEASED, and wrote for the inaugural 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards: Unscripted, hosted by Nikki Glaser. Nikki hosts the monthly-ish standup show Queer Tiger Beat, which has been recommended by The New York Times and featured in Time Out.