Nat Towsen’s Downtown Variety Hour

By Andrew Andrews

Considering how much we love variety shows, it’s surprising that we haven’t reviewed one (specifically, Ten Foot Rat Cabaret) for over a month, and perhaps even more surprising that we haven’t reviewed one of Manhattan’s best variety shows before: Nat Towsen’s Downtown Variety Hour. In fact, it’s been more than a year since we’ve attended his excellent mix of comedy, interviews and who-knows-what—way before we launched this little project. What I’m saying is: this review is long past due.

Nat Towsen grew up in an Italian family surrounded by Jewish (and Puerto Rican) friends in the old East Village—a neighborhood he barely recognizes anymore, not far from the set of his night at UCB East—and started the show explaining that he is constantly mistaken as Jewish due to those influences and his distinctive nose. His first guest, comedian Tyler Richardson, had the audience in stitches when he explained how we tend to treat dogs today the way people used to treat slaves: walking them around on a chain and posting photos when they go missing!

In the true variety show spirit, Nat’s hour includes more than just comedy and usually features a one-on-one interview with a notable person from the neighborhood. Tonight, Nat discussed a slide show with Christa Sullivan from CityMeals, a charitable organization that provides meals-on-wheels (the wheels often being on a granny cart!) to shut-ins when they need food most. Next up, Jamela Zarha Williams, who usually leads a NYC Trivia segment with winners from the audience, presented a special “wild card” edition this month, with questions about other major U.S. cities.

Speaking of other cities, Jamela was followed by cartoonist Branson Reese, who projected some of his funniest comic strips, including one about the Baltimore Oriole’s famous mascot talking about his cloaca. Rounding out the evening, financial adviser Paul Oddo convinced the entire audience to invest all of our savings into feline futures, but explained how smart investors can avoid the high brokerage fees at pet stores and animal shelters by snagging kittens from CraigsList—or, if you’re outside of New York City, by driving slowly down the street and just scooping up a handful of strays and releasing the ones with no income potential!

Now that we’ve been reminded what a great show Nat Towsen’s Downtown Variety Hour is, we’re not going to wait so long until we come back again. And the good news is, you don’t have to wait long, either: the next show is April 3rd at UCB Theatre East Village. And on the topic of good investments: this event costs less than twelve cents per minute when you buy the whole show, and it’s worth every penny!


Andrew Andrews attended Nat Towsen’s Downtown Variety Hour at Upright Citizens Brigade East in Manhattan on Monday, March 6, 2017 @ 8:00pm to write this review.