From left: The Half King exterior; overview of 26th Street; Joe Coffee.
It’s no coincidence that Maggie Carey’s favorite street is home to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the legendary improv incubator where she cut her teeth as a performer and writer in the early 2000s. “I’m obsessed with this street,” says Carey of the nondescript block in Chelsea. “When I first moved to NYC, I would see four to five UCB shows a week. I had no friends and no social life. But it’s hard to feel lonely when you’re laughing.” Carey’s social life has since improved (she’s married with kids to former SNL’er Bill Hader), and so have her professional prospects. Late last month, she saw the release of her debut feature film, The To Do List, about the sexual misadventures of a straight-laced high school grad (Aubrey Plaza). Carey wrote and directed the film, which is partly inspired by her upbringing in Boise, Idaho. Here, she talks about the street that started it all.
“My favorite memory is my first time entering the UCB Theatre as a performer. I felt like I was sneaking into the cool kids’ party. But this time I’d have an answer when they asked me why I was there. I was elated.”
“You can go downtown a few blocks to the Meatpacking District if you want to rock your heels, but the dress code for girls—as well as guys—in Chelsea is sneakers and a hoodie.”
“Take a Sunday stroll on the High Line, grab a pint and smoky bacon mac-n-cheese at The Half King, then let it digest while you wait in line for Asssscat, UCB’s signature Sunday-night improv show.”
“Not on the street but just around the corner are Co. restaurant, Joe Coffee, The Hotel Chelsea [now closed] and tons of art galleries,” says Carey of some of her favorite businesses in the area.