For today’s Small Business Spotlight, we talked to Suzette of NYLaughs.org. This past year, they have brought joy to a few thousand people in New York City. If you’re ever in the Big Apple, be sure to stop by one of their shows at iconic places all across the city.
Tell us a little about NYLaughs.
NYLaughs is a unique nonprofit that believes that laughter can change the world. Our mission is to create opportunities for a united and happier New York City by producing FREE comedy experiences in PUBLIC spaces! We create events that build community and bring together the rainbow of backgrounds that inhabit New York in harmony and goodwill. We also want to give stand-up comedy the recognition it deserves as an art form. Our signature free comedy series is called, “Laughter in the Park.”
How did NYLaughs begin?
As an aspiring comedian years ago, I used to perform in the subways of NY. Many were supportive, but I had some critics. Others call them cops. I kept getting kicked out of the subway. So I decided to take my shows to the parks, which was great because the rats are mellower. I was originally hoping to create a stage for myself, but it was clear after the first show, the good generated from a public forum for comedy. I saw the potential to create something that could help make our world a better place. That’s when NYLaughs was born.
What do you like most about it?
What I like most about it is that NYLaughs was relatively easy to create and get off the ground, so I like when our example is used to help motivate other people to do something that makes a difference, too. We like others to know that the power for change is in their own hands.
What was the most exciting experience you’ve had in your time at NYLaughs?
The most exciting experience is always the premiere show of each season of our signature summer series “Laughter in the Park.” We only have enough funds for a yearly event so we are dormant throughout the rest of the year. Every premiere is like a new beginning and that’s exciting.
Do you have any advice for people who are interested in pursuing a career in nonprofit organizations?
My advice for anyone thinking of starting a nonprofit is to seek out advice from smaller organizations that are in similar fields such as the nonprofit they wish to start. The paperwork to start a 501(c) 3 can be a monster to tackle, so my suggestion is to place ads on nonprofit volunteer sites to find a lawyer that needs pro bono hours. We lucked out and found a great firm. They’ve since merged with a larger firm twice and don’t exist anymore.
What is the most memorable thing that you have done this year (or month) outside of NYLaughs?
The most memorable thing I’ve done outside of NYLaughs last year was travel to Australia. I spent 6 weeks traveling to 7 areas. I went because one of the founders of NYLaughs is Australian. Ten years ago I was looking for a web designer for my MySpace page and when I saw his work online, I reached out to him for help. When I randomly mentioned my idea for NYLaughs too, he jumped in and established our graphic identity. That’s why our logo has the familiar Aussie green and gold colors. I got to meet my co-founder for the first time!
What is your favorite part of your job?
The favorite part of my job is that I get to laugh, I get others to laugh and I get to celebrate the people that make us laugh.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love customized cocktails, so in my spare time I try to find great bars with great bar chefs. This is not code for saying I’m an alcoholic, though. : )
What are your 5 favorite foods?
My five favorite foods are sushi, Thai “drunken” noodles and anything containing cilantro, ginger or mint.
What is your favorite book (or movie)?
My favorite movie is The Godfather 1 and 2.
What is your favorite inspirational quote?
“The best thing anyone wears well is a smile.”
If you could bring 3 things with you to a deserted island, what would they be?
The three things I would bring with me a deserted island would be my music stored digitally, a solar battery and seeds to grow cilantro.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you want to go and why?
If I could travel anywhere in the world, I’d like to give Antarctica a try. It’s odd for a black person to want to go someplace so cold. The closest we ever get to ice is a glass of rum punch.
What is your guilty pleasure song? (What song do you find yourself singing in the shower most often?)
My guilty pleasure song involves Muppets. ‘Nuf said.
Think back to when you were a kid. What was your dream job/career? Do you still have ambitions?
When I think back on my childhood in the hood, I think my dream for my future was to have one. The rest is gravy.
What is your idea of a perfect day?
My idea of a perfect day is one where I’ve made the world a better place, I’ve learned something that’s made me a better person, and I made it through without my butt looking fat.
Visit NYLaughs.org’s website at www.nylaughs.org