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All Jokes Aside: How Side Ponytail Became Brooklyn’s Hottest Indie Comedy Show

Kristin Manna interviews comedienne and Side Ponytail founder Carolyn Busa

The cast of Side Ponytail photographed by Yoko Haraoka

by Kristin Manna

March, 2014. My Facebook had been flooded with photos from a new comedy show. Comedians were posing with their hair in scrunchies, and of course, side ponytails.

“What was this party I wasn’t invited to?” These were my people. It was not the type of comedy show where you felt out of place—where closet dorks acted like high school jocks to make you feel less cool. This show belonged to the outcasts. It was the part in the 80s rom-com when all the losers reclaim their power. All I knew was that I needed to be a part of the takeover.

About a month later, I got to perform at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Oregon. The first day of the festival, comedians were going around introducing themselves. That’s when I met her. Her name was Carolyn Busa and she had hair down to there, rad glasses, and clothing clearly purchased at a vintage shop. She was quiet, yet seductive, and the founder of Side Ponytail. That weekend, we became best friends—exploring thrift stores, arcades, and strip clubs midday. I had met my soulmate.

After moving to New York from Philly a few months earlier, Carolyn caught a Facebook post offering up Monday slots to four new comedy shows.

“I was really nervous about volunteering, as I was still fairly new to the city,” Carolyn recounts. “But after running shows in Philly, I missed it. Running a show is the best way to get to know your community.”

Soon after meeting Carolyn, I was excited to get booked on her show. I had seen the pictures and knew this wasn’t your typical bar show. The show was packed. How did she do it? She had only just moved here, I thought. The show was only a few months old, but its impressive following indicated otherwise.

Side Ponytail celebrates five years. Photo by Yoko Haraoka.

“I definitely don’t think it happened too quickly, but early on, Time Out included Side Ponytail as one of the best female-run comedy shows, which certainly helped,” she smiles. “We were a critics’ pick for a while too.”

Not only was the room full, but the crowd was excited to be there (a rarity for any bar show). Throughout the night, Carolyn threw scrunchies into the audience. It quickly became one of my favorite shows; the energy was unmatchable.

In April 2016, Side Ponytail went from a monthly to a weekly show because “all the other Monday shows at Over the Eight had stopped or moved so we had the time. Also, it was popular, and the bar liked us and wanted to try. Plus, I wanted to be able to book more comics now that I wasn’t a newb in the city anymore. I had my bearings.”

As the show grew, so did its producers. Ben Wasserman (MTV), Emily Winter (New York Times), and Julia Shiplett (HBO) joined the Side Ponytail Crew. Each member was uniquely talented. You wanted to be best friends with every one of them. In 2018, Over The Eight closed its doors, RIP.

“We all went on the hunt for a new venue and it was Julia who reached out to [Friends & Lovers],” Carolyn says. “They were positive from the start about having us. Of course, we were nervous to start at a new place, especially in a neighborhood nowhere near the original. But the spot itself was much better equipped to host a live show, and we had a sound guy, which felt pretty legit.”

Side Ponytail found its new home at Friends & Lovers in Prospect Heights. Since moving to the new space, the show has thrived.

Carolyn shares, “We have a lot of return audience, which is amazing. One fan said she looks forward to it every week after coming home from her stressful job.”

Having just celebrated its fifth birthday in April, Side Ponytail is one of the hottest indie shows in Brooklyn. Flaunting a killer line-up week after week and the mission statement “Stay Horny,” you can check them out every Wednesday and last Saturday at 8:00pm.

Kristin Manna is a freelance writer and stand up comic living in NYC. You can follow her on Twitter @KristinEManna 

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