I’m New Here–Can You Show Me Around is a live variety show in New York City hosted by Jon Ronson and Maeve Higgins. It started in June 2014 when both Ronson and Higgins were new to New York. Each month, they invite comedians, journalists, authors, musicians, and other artists to come tell a story about being new. It takes place in the basement of Union Hall in Brooklyn. It is almost always sold out. It is not taped for podcast.
I’m New Here brings alternative comedy and storytelling from across the pond to Park Slope, Brooklyn once a month. Because it is not taped for podcast, this ephemeral experience has an intimacy that allows many of the guests the confidence to tell their personal story where they might not have otherwise–from Mike Daisey’s suicide attempt to Ariel Leve’s complicated relationship with her mother. Welsh journalist/author Jon Ronson and Irish comedian/author Maeve Higgins host with friendly banter, contests and prizes, and stories of their own.
The first show, in June 2014, was sold out. Ronson explained how he’d moved to New York on a whim, and Higgins recalled her vision of the American Dream while growing up in Ireland. Ronson screened the spambot episode of Channel Flip’s Esc & Ctrl and a clip of Pudsey, the wonder dog from Britain’s Got Talent that received Jon’s newfound hatred as he watched it get pampered on his boat to America while his dog was kenneled. Higgins read some things she #OverheardInNewYork. She brilliantly encapsulated what it feels like to live in New York in one sentence, which was something like,
“Sometimes, I wonder if I actually did move to New York or if I just moved fully into my own head.”
The first show only had two guests: Alexandra, a woman Maeve met working at some event space until a railway, who had moved from Ecuador; and Mike Daisey, who recounted his This American Life scandal and recalled what it was like to move to New York:
“You will have to choose some place to die. It might as well be here.”
Jon Ronson was inspired to start this show by the scrappy underdog shows in London that he had seen hosted by Robin Ince or Josie Long. Ince famously used to host Book Club, which was people reading from their favorite bad books, sometimes with the help of interpretive dance. Josie Long still hosts one, which is available on podcast, called Lost Treasures of the Black Heart. Therefor, it was a real treat to have both Robin Ince and Josie Long (on separate nights) perform at I’m New Here. Ince did a set when he was in town for the Infinite Monkey Cage. This was the best of Robin Ince all in one short set–the science jokes, making fun of Brian Cox, impressions, and an unraveling of thought that left many stories half-told and new exciting tangents discovered. To me at least, it was all new material, except the Richard Feynman impression, which was appropriate given Feynman’s New York origin. Long did a set when she was in town for her Cara Jospehine show, and she literally did it right before her show, despite being in a different borough, and then rushed off to Manhattan.
The shows now often have about four different performers, a smattering of standup comics and storytellers. These have included Eugene Mirman, Sofie Hagen, Kristin Schaal, and Aisling Bea.
This is a great show for narcissistic New Yorkers because since the focus is being new, often new to New York, there is a lot of emphasis on how special we are for living here. One of the contests was, “Do you want to die in New York, why or why not?” to which the winning response was something like,
“Yes because I want my death to seem insignificant to my neighbors but glamorous to everyone back home.”