Live, Laugh, Love (but Evil)

Mera Caulfield was watching television a couple of months ago when the screen suddenly erupted with characters doing their best evil laughs. Ms. Caulfield turned to her two roommates, Alixandra Matos and Megan Mandrachio.

“I was like, ‘That’s literally us,’ ” Ms. Caulfield said.

Their apartment in Queens was soon filled with a cacophony of evil laughs. By her own admission, Ms. Caulfield, 25, who subsidizes her nascent career in comedy by waitressing and being a nanny, was disappointed in her performance. (“I don’t have a good one,” she said, sounding distraught.) But she also knew what she needed to do.

“We need to take this to Brooklyn,” she recalled telling her roommates.

The result of that jolt of inspiration played out on Thursday night at Nighthorse, a cocktail bar and event space in Greenpoint, where 39 contestants squared off in the inaugural Evil Laugh Competition before a standing-room-only crowd of about 120.

Megan Mandrachio, Mera Caulfield and Alixandra Matos organized the event. And leaned in on the evilness of the whole thing.Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

The evil laugh is a time-honored pop-culture staple, an affectation that somehow pulls off the high-wire act of being both villainous and hilarious — although some lean more heavily in one direction than the other.

Villainous? Think of the O.G., the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz,” or Ed the hyena from “The Lion King.” On the more purposefully funny side: Dr. Evil from “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” and Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons.”

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