Jeffrey Gurian is one of the most well-known fixtures in the comedy world. You’ll see him in clubs, at most comedy festivals, and at red carpets with a microphone in hand ready to interview his favorite comics. He’s not a full-time stand up comedian (although he does sometimes perform), and he doesn’t work for a major television network. He isn’t a super agent, or comedy club owner. Jeffrey isn’t a ‘power player’ in the usual sense of the word. He hosts his interviews for his own self-produced YouTube Channel, Comedy Matters TV. So you might not expect him to be one of the most connected people in the world of comedy, and yet, he is.
Comedian Ted Alexandro once said about him, “If you don’t know Jeffrey, then you probably are not a comedian.” During remarks at the world-famous Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, comedian John Mulaney said “If…you see someone [at a comedy event] and you’re like, ‘who the fuck is that’, that’s Jeffrey Gurian.” Bob Saget can’t say no to him. Sarah Silverman skips other interviews to talk to him. Patrice O’Neal once said he was “envious” of him. And Paul Provenza told him “you actually do know everybody in the comedy world.” So why do comedians who routinely turn down interviews with the major networks, happily grace Jeffrey’s camera and microphone for an interview for Comedy Matters TV?
Maybe it’s because of his genuine love for comedy and the people who create it. His interest in entertainers started when he was just a kid. His grandfather owned a nightclub in the Bronx, and he would be fascinated by the performers who were always around. “From the time I was 12 years old,” Gurian said, “I wanted to be in show business. And I also wanted to be a dentist. And I remember thinking, how am i going to do both of those things? Who does that? How can that even possibly be? And that was interesting that I was able to combine those two things.”
At first, he chose the dentist route, but comedy never was completely out of his life. In the early 80’s, Gurian started making short films about bizarre news stories he invented. One of his earliest “stories” reported that several men had been arrested for smearing cream cheese on the ankles of elderly women. “Whenever I see old women with their stockings rolled down,” he explained, “it looks like fucking bagels, and it flips me out, and I want to put cream cheese on their ankles.” So he filmed a scene, and took it, along with a few others, over to SNL. He didn’t have an appointment, so he told the doorman Lorne Michaels was expecting him, threw the guy a few bucks, and got himself in the door, where he met Alan Zweibel. Zweibel liked Gurian’s material, and made a few introductions, and soon Gurian found himself writing jokes for comedians.
“I needed to write for famous people if anyone was going to take me seriously,” Gurian said. “If I’m going to write for up and comers whose going to care?” So he went to the biggest stars he could find and introduced himself. “I would say, I’m a comedy writer, can I write for you?” Before long, he was writing for some of the legends of comedy. Legends like Rodney Dangerfield, Pat Cooper, Richard Belzer, Joan Rivers, Milton Berle, and Jerry Lewis have all used Gurian’s material.
Jeffrey’s weekly column in the Weekly World News, a newspaper that was the Onion of its time, eventually led to the creation of the Gurian News Network, your source for “all the news that’s fit to dance to.” In Gurian’s column you’d find stories like “Man Paints Replica of the Sistine Chapel With his Beard”, “Rare Virus Sweeps Japan, Victims Too Weak to Bow,” and “Man Robs Bank With His Chin.”
These days he still writes jokes and makes videos about unusual stories for GNN, Gurian News Network. But his main focus is Comedy Matters TV, where he’s generated over 300 interviews with a-list celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Chelsea Handler, Chris Rock, Louis CK and Jon Stewart. “I enjoy doing that, it allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of whats happening in comedy,” Gurian said. He also does a weekly segment on SiriusXM’s Ron and Fez Show. Each week guests accompany Jeffrey to SiriusXM to talk comedy with Ron Bennington and Fez Whatley. Names ranging from comedy veterans like Shecky Green, to powerhouses Susie Essman, Artie Lange, Russell Peters, and Colin Quinn, and up and comers like Dean Edwards, Chris DiStefano and Myq Kaplan have all accompanied Jeffrey to SiriusXM. And of course, he guests on The Nick Kroll Show, where his appearance on the sketch “Too Much Tuna” has become bigger than life. (Watch it here!)
But his comedy work alone doesn’t answer the question of why so he has more comedy friends than most headliners do. “That’s a mystery to me even. I really don’t understand it,” Gurian said. “I started out not knowing one person in show business. Zero. Nobody.”
Most men wear their hair like they’re embarrassed for having any. It’s almost like an apology
His quirkiness is also endearing. Whether he’s carrying a piece of Matzoh in his pocket to make conversation, or a giant pen (really, really giant), he’s always drawing your eye, making you laugh, making conversation.
I want to talk about happiness and I want to bring that into everything I do. Maybe that makes people feel comfortable.
Instead he wants to make people happy and put positive energy into the world. “That’s why I want to do a happiness show,” he said, referring to an idea he has for a show focused on being happy. “I want to talk about happiness and I want to bring that into everything I do. Maybe that makes people feel comfortable. I don’t know. My life is a mystery to me.” But it’s no mystery to everyone else. Jeffrey Gurian knows everyone in comedy, not for what he can do for people, or how he can help their careers, but because they like him. The ‘man who isn’t afraid to show the world he has hair’ makes everyone smile, which is perfect, because that’s exactly what he wants to do.