The History of the NYC Comic Jam

Late summer 2001, after a night of alcohol abuse, a lonely cartoonist named Cheese (me) turned to the internet in search of some comic book kinsman-ship. After fumbling with the keys for a while he was saddened to find only bickering and nastiness on his then-favorite message board, The Comics Journal. Being a lover, not a fighter, Cheese reached out to his fellow New Yorkers and suggested a gathering to foster collective good will. Soon enough, responses started coming in and a date was set: August 29, 2001.

Max Fish just before it closed it's doors.

The first meeting took place at Max Fish, a bar on Ludlow St. in Manhattan’s hipster-hood, the Lower East Side. A half-dozen or so local cartoonists came out and proceeded to get sloshed and draw comics about hookers, penises and alcohol. Such a good time was had that it was decided that it should become a regular thing, K. Thor Jensen said something about the jams being the beginning of an art movement, to which Cheese said under his breath, “Yeah, a bowel movement.” And thus, the Bowery Bowel Movement Jams were born.

Note the incorrect date, this was 2002.

The group gained in popularity those early months, and soon attracted a regular crowd of nearly twenty local artists from as far away as Long Island. After a year, they started growing out of Max Fish and an expedition was sent find a replacement watering hole. After stopping in every bar between 34th and 23rd on the east side, our intrepid explorers found what would become their home for the next five years, McCarthy’s bar and Grill.

This is sadly now a parking lot.

An early promo just before the name change.

Not long after, seeing as they weren’t anywhere near the bowery, the name was changed to the House of Twelve Comic Jams. The Jams stayed at McCarthy’s for nearly five years, right up to their closing in March of 2007.

The back-breaking tables at O’Hanlon’s, and Dave McKenna

trying out for Guess Who’s The Spaz.

After that, one jam was held at a bar on 14th Street called O’Hanlon’s which was fine, but while the back room they provided was fairly private and well lit (the most important thing when looking for a jam spot) it also offered small, low tables, which were literally a pain.

The Jam room at Demsey's.

Luckily, a week after the O’Hanlon’s Jam, Miss Lasko-Gross had a book signing at the popular New York comic shop, Jim Hanley’s Universe. On his way to the event, Cheese walked by a pub on the same block, Jack Demsey’s. He looked in the door and recalled a faded memory of the place having a large basement room. After further inspection, it turned out to be pretty perfect.


Demsey’s has been the jam’s home for the last three and a half years, either in this basement room, or because of occasional scheduling conflicts, an upstairs lounge. We’ve seen drunks come and go, hookers negotiating with johns and at least one little Irish guy get his head bashed in by a guy the size of a tank. That’s not to say the place isn’t safe, it’s just the the real life experience you get living in the greatest city on Earth.