Being single is full of mixed blessings. There’s being able to do what you want and go where you want for as long as you want without having to consider how it affects another person, but there’s also the realization that you have no one to share your secrets with. Stand-up comic and world-class improviser Joey Novick aims to change that — and give you a few laughs along the way.
“Think back to your most successful relationship,” says Novick. “I think your initial attraction was that you both laughed at the same thing, crazy as it was. If you share a sense of humor, you generally share some deeper meaning in your relationship.” Novick puts his theories to the test in an evening he calls Laugh If You’re Single!, Sunday, February 20, at Catch A Rising Star in the Hyatt Regency Princeton.
The Flemington resident, who has presented this show in clubs, temples, and singles organizations around the country, is quick to make it clear that this isn’t an evening of his telling jokes about the single life. Nor does he ask people to cluck like a chicken — unless they want to. “This isn’t people making fun of people,” he says in a phone interview. “It’s one part storytelling; it’s a little bit of stand-up, some improv, and some games. It’s an interactive comedy program for singles, where we make fun of singles in a fun way, to share that experience. Then I give some tips, in a sketch and with improv, on how to use humor to attract the opposite sex and have good relationships.
“Humor is a great tool to be able to gather people together. No matter what a person’s level is economically or what their background, if you share a sense of humor with that person (you’re connected). I don’t mean just laughing at someone’s jokes. A lot of guys will come up to me after a show and say, ‘Oh, I’m a great joke teller. I watch stand-up comedy, and I tell jokes, and women find me funny.’ That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a much more human, life-affirming way that people will share their sense of humor. I’m talking about when you share a movie, something that has happened, or a story from your childhood, and the other person genuinely laughs with you. You share a moment, and it’s a good bet that you share a great many other values too.
“We’ll be doing some improv games that reflect how you can use that sort of humor in developing your relationships,” continues Novick. “And through some performance and interactive games, we give people top 10 tips on how to laugh successfully with somebody and develop a good relationship with them. You know, women often say they look for a sense of humor in a man, and I think men, although I don’t know if they would admit to it as quickly as women, also are attracted to a woman with a good sense of humor. I have my own stories that I share about my relationship with my significant other — and she still makes me laugh.”
This isn’t the first time that Catch a Rising Star has catered an evening to the singles crowd. says club co-owner Craig Neier. “We’ve been running different programs for singles that have been successful. We know Joey — he’s played our room as a stand-up comic, and this sounded like a new program that would be fun. From time to time, we like to change it up a little bit, and not always have strictly stand-up. We did a singles game show, like a dating game, called ‘Love Comedian Style,’ with Karith Foster of Last Comic Standing. That worked out quite well. And then we did another comedy night in conjunction with the Princeton Elite Club (a dating service and singles organization). This one we are doing because different singles groups just wanted to come.
“Comedy is a great date night,” continues Neier. “A lot of people go for an evening of entertainment, and it creates conversations about the topics that are brought up over the evening. The first singles show was close to sold out, the second about three quarters full in inclement weather. People are already making reservations for Joey’s show.”
Novick, 56, has turned his sense of humor and improvisational skills into a unique career, one that has incorporated his other interests, which include the law and politics. The Brooklyn native graduated from Brooklyn College in 1976 and was admitted to law school, but decided to take a year off to do stand-up comedy. “That was a great phone call to my mother,” he recalls drily. “She hung up on me, didn’t talk to me for about six months. But it was a choice of going to law school or hanging out in comedy clubs with cute women and drinking alcohol.”
The comedy club scene won. As time went by, Novick appeared at Catch a Rising Star in New York, the Comedy Zone, and Dangerfield’s. He has opened in concert for comics including Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, and Rosie O’Donnell. He also joined the fast-growing improvisation field, studying with legendary improv guru Del Close of Chicago’s Second City. For more than 20 years, Novick taught improv workshops as well, first to anyone who was interested, and later, more lucratively, to corporations and law groups.
The explosion of interest in improvisation, due in part to the television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” and the appearance of so many Second City alumni in TV and movies — Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, and Stephen Colbert, to name a few — led inevitably to the call from the business and corporate world. “When I was teaching improv in New York,” Novick says, “I would get a tremendous number of lawyers, teachers, and salespeople who wanted to learn the skills to become more spontaneous, to deal with others more successfully. Then I got a call from a guy who had taken my class. He worked for a financial firm in midtown Manhattan. He asked me to come teach the sales staff, and he offered me a fantastic amount for a two-hour workshop. So I realized this was a good way to make some extra money.”
Sending out a mailer to all Chambers of Congress in New Jersey resulted in several bookings for Novick, who also works with a number of speakers’ bureaus and over the years had given keynotes and workshops for MetLife, Prudential, Merrill Lynch, and different government groups and unions. More recently, he has conducted workshops for lawyers. “It’s the same basic workshop I’ve done for years, but the marketplace has really exploded. With so many improv groups out there, the scene has gone from just performances into corporate teaching. What makes it easier is that today, most people have a good idea of what improv is.”
A new chapter for Novick began in 1995, when he was elected to the Flemington Borough Council — and in so doing fulfilled his mother’s wish. “The introduction of law and politics in my life kind of rekindled my interest in going to law school. One day I Googled law schools in New Jersey and discovered I could go at night, and I took the LSAT and got a high enough score to get in.” He graduated from Seton Hall School of Law in 1995. “The way I discovered improv for lawyers was that I took a class in advance negotiation techniques at Harvard Law School one summer. It was all the same games, just gearing towards a new group of people.”
In a moment that would make any mother proud, Novick passed the bar on his first try. But he would still rather describe himself as a comedian with a law degree.
Novick points out that people react in various ways. “There are all different levels of people. There are people who come there who just want to be made to laugh. Those are the people who are most receptive and sit up front. Catch a Rising Star is an intimate enough room so that everyone will have virtually the same experience. If someone wants to come up and do some interactive improv games that show how their sense of humor can be used to attract someone else, that’s great, but no one is forced to. I’ve learned to read body language pretty well.”
Novick says the people who come to Laugh If You’re Single range in age from the 30s to baby boomers. “The show doesn’t usually draw people who are much younger than 30, and that is probably the best mixture. I do find that I get people who are looking for relationships for the first time, and people who are busy professionals who are looking for a place to meet others; many of them have been in a relationship or marriage.”
The real question is, how well has Laugh If You’re Single worked? “I’ve never done any tracking, which I probably should do,” admits Novick. “But I know that a few years back I was doing a show at a comedy club in Charlotte, North Carolina. About three months later, I got this letter in the mail, and one couple who had met there had gotten engaged. Which was actually a little scary. I’m thinking, ‘I hope this relationship is successful.’ Another guy said that he had gone to one of my workshops and had followed some of the skills. He said, ‘I used to take myself way too seriously in dating, and now, I can tell right away if a particular relationship may or may not work. If we’re not laughing at the same thing, chances are it’s not going to work. And it just saves me a great deal of time.’”
Perhaps the best testimonial of all is Novick’s relationship with his significant other, Rosalie Efthim. He says proudly, “We’ve been together 32 years. That’s my long term credential. It’s a successful relationship — we love each other very much. And she’s a lot funnier than I am. She’s brilliant, very well-read, and knows a lot more about a lot more things than I do. And we definitely still laugh at the same things.”
Laugh If You’re Single, Catch a Rising Star, Hyatt Regency, 102 Carnegie Center, West Windsor. Sunday, February 20, 7:30 p.m. Joey Novick’s interactive comedy show gives audience members insight into how to use humor to enhance their personal relationships. Register. $20. 609-987-8018 or www.catcharisingstar.com.