Jeffrey Gurian is a writer and comedian in New York who loves to Jump Around. Follow his regular column right here, to find out what’s happening in comedy, and who Jeffrey Gurian ran into this week in and around New York. This week Jeffrey covered the scene at Gotham Comedy Club, New York Comedy Club, Dangerfield’s and more.
There was a cool surprise this week when I went to see Paul Mecurio headline at Gotham. It was an early show and even the night after Thanksgiving the room was packed. I was glad to see Wali Collins there and after he went up, we went outside to chat and he told me he’ll be in the new season of Netflix’s The Get Down playing a character named Calvin Moody who he described as being like the Don Cornelius of the show. And then all of a sudden, host Chloe Hilliard announced a special guest and it was George Wallace. The applause was deafening. George came onstage with a paper in his hand and told the audience he just wanted to try out some new material. Whereas lesser comics might have tried to hide the paper, George held it the whole time, and after each joke he took his pen and marked down which ones worked, or which phrases worked, because he also ad-libbed a bit. I greeted him as he came offstage and he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him.
He told me he’s got lots of cool stuff coming up. A film he just finished shooting with Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones called Villa Capri which should be out Christmas of 2017, a movie with Snoop Dogg, called Grow House which I made him repeat three or four times because I couldn’t get what he was saying. I kept saying “the WHAT house?” And George acted like it was a common phrase, I was like, what the heck is a “grow house?” He said he plays a banker and Snoop comes in for a loan to do something involving growing weed, and then the name made sense to me. He’s also got a TV show on FOX called The Detroiters, which I also made him repeat after asking him if he was in any shows that had normal names, and he said in that show he plays an old time Motown guy. We were standing there with Wali Collins and when George stepped away for a moment, Wali told me that he was in a restaurant with George once and George was telling everyone that Wali was his son. But when George left the table people came over and asked him what it was like being George’s son, and he said he couldn’t pull it off. He just laughed and told them the truth, … that he was really his brother!
Meanwhile, Paul rocked the house and really engaged the crowd by walking through the audience during his set, and bringing groups of people to the stage. Then he took a group of guys and told them he was going to teach them how Italians take a selfie and then told them all to grab their respective crotches. (See photo) It was a great show and he was on top of his game.
Very cool news from Sherrod Small who was performing at The Stand. He’ll be co-hosting his own show on ESPN and ESPN Radio, he said hopefully with Peter Rosenberg who was Cipha Sounds’ co-host for many years on Hot 97. It seems that ESPN took over 98.7 FM which had always been known as a black station favorite, so they wanted to continue that by finding black talent. Sherrod said that Justin Craig who’s the program director at ESPN happened to be a big fan of Race Wars, the podcast that Sherrod does with Kurt Metzger, and he also listens to Sherrod on Opie Radio. He considers himself a Sherrod fan. At the same time, another guy who’s big in radio who happened to be friends with Sherrod’s cousin Chris Rock wanted Sherrod to do a show for ESPN as well, and when he spoke to Justin and they found out they both wanted Sherrod Small, it was a done deal. Sherrod says he’s planning to have a wide variety of guests including sports figures, comics, sports analysts, and actors as well as radio and TV personalities, and it will probably be on once a week from 1-3 hours during the day, from the ABC building on the Upper West Side. And as I congratulated him and said it was so cool that he and his cousin Tony Rock are doing so well, he told me that Tone just got a sports show too. More on that to follow! Just my luck, all my friends are getting sports shows, and all I know is that dunking is illegal in golf!
I stopped off late at New York Comedy Club one night to find them set up for Karaoke, and it was amazing. If you want an example of racial harmony, all you have to do is experience the comedy community and it’s all right there. White comics got up and sang hard core rap songs for real, no bullshit, with all the right movements and energy to really put it over, while black comics got into the center of the room and danced. The white comics stuck to singing and fortunately did not dance! But it was amazing to watch what went down as Josh Wesson from the Fat Baby crew ran the mic and the karaoke TV screens. The Fat Baby crew was out in force. Ben DeMarco did a song by Tenacious D, and Giulio Gallarotti did Desiigner’s “Tiimmy Turner”, (wishing for a burner), which was an amazing choice because if you listen to it, it’s almost unintelligible, But Giulio did it incredibly well, “N” words and all, and it was one big party. Then when Dave Sirus got up and did Eminem’s “They Forgot About Dre” I felt a source of pride as he showed that white boys can rap too, and then Tom McCaffrey, who’s basically as white as you can be, got up and absolutely killed it with Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” and the place went crazy. I wound up staying much later than I had intended, and tried not to keep running up to Josh asking him the name of the songs so I could download them on my phone.
Rodney Dangerfield would have been proud of the show that was done in honor of his 95th birthday at his eponymous club in Manhattan. It was a really great line-up, and D.C. Benny who I had not seen in a while opened the show. He does a great Russian, Spanish, English and Black accent, … not all at once, but one at a time. The bar was packed with comics like Barry Ribs, Kevin Gootee, Mike Keegan, Walker Hays, and AMarie Castillo who just came to watch the fun. Also on the line-up were Andrew Schulz, Dante Nero, Greer Barnes and Mike Bocchetti, plus I was tipped off that there would be a special secret guest, which turned out to be my old friend Bob Nelson who used to tour with Rodney. He came out in the guise of Jiffy Jeff the punch-drunk fighter who is the inspiration for a new TV show that Bob is developing called Jiffy Jeff’s Gym where he plays the owner of a failing gym who said “in a world of chumps, he’s looking for the next champ!” And it was thanks to four people, David Suarez and Chris Casiero the heads of New Comic All-Stars, comedy promoter Julius Donat, and Tony Bevacqua, Rodney’s original partner who opened the club with Rodney in 1969. It was a packed house thanks to those four guys plus the actions of the 12 members of NCA who work together to support each other and make sure their shows are well attended. Thanks to hardworking guys like this, Dangerfield’s is seeing a resurgence like it hasn’t seen in a long time.
A lot of people may not remember that Bob Nelson was originally partners with a 19 year old Eddie Murphy in a comedy group called “The Identical Triplets”, two white guys and Eddie. We sat down together after his set to catch up and reminisce and he told me he’s on tour with Gallagher and a guy named Artie Fletcher and all three of them are on stage at the same time. Artie and Gallagher rip each other the whole time as Bob morphs into his different characters including everyone’s favorite, Eppie Epperman. They tour every couple of months to all different parts of the country. He told me it was genuinely a great thrill for him to be back on the Dangerfield’s stage cause he hadn’t been on it since around 1996. Bob had done four HBO specials, two with Rodney, then a half hour on his own and then his own hour. He’s also doing something really nice, giving his time for free to work with new comics in a project he calls Bob Nelson’s Playroom where he helps them develop their improv skills.
I also found out from D.C. Benny that he and Ben Bailey just launched a new podcast called Tall But True, which is perfect because I think they’re about the same height, like maybe 6’4”, and their first two guests were Colin Quinn and Rachel Feinstein.
I wish I knew what DROM stood for, but it’s a beautiful space down on Avenue A, that is probably mostly for live music, but I went down to see a very cool variety-type show called Mic Check Wednesdays hosted by the dynamic duo of Mic Barber and the very special and talented Mo Brown who goes by the name Mo Brown Suga. When you see the photos you’ll see why the name fits! It’s a showcase opportunity in a beautiful room with a big stage which is set-up for a band, and it’s open to rappers, singers, musicians and comics, along with super hot beats spun by Hot 97’s D.J. Spynfo. Mic Barber was P.Diddy’s assistant a few years back and is such a funny dude. I don’t ordinarily like to compare people but I had to tell him how much he reminded me of Nick Cannon energy-wise, and he truly appreciated the comparison. His real name is Michael, but he told me he uses “Mic” cause to him it stands for “Master of Individual Creativity”, which I thought was very cool. He and Mo have great chemistry on the mic and after 7 years of doing this show together, they just signed a deal to do it with Spike TV. The night I went, me and Kerry Coddett from MTV’s Joking Off, were the two comics on the show and the place was crazy. The food was also good, there was some really good talent, and the crowd was appreciative. Can’t wait for the next one!
Hope you all had a GREAT Thanksgiving with lots of good food, and people you care about, and with that, … I’m OUT!!!
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, Comedy Matters TV. Photos below Jeffrey with George Wallace, Mo Brown Suga and Bob Nelson.