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, and more.
Every once in a while somebody well known in comedy escapes my path and I don’t know who they are. Very often, I haven’t even seen them perform. So when I heard that Jerrod Carmichael would be doing Comedy Juice at Gotham Comedy Club this week I made it my business to be there. I got there a few minutes late, and by the end of the show as the last comedian took the stage and it wasn’t Jerrod Carmichael, I came to the conclusion that either he had gone on first and I missed him or that he had cancelled. The latter turned out to be the case. But I did get to see Monroe Martin who’s been on the road and I saw Derek Gaines who was psyched about filming his half hour the next night at The Village Underground. Daphnique Springs came in from LA to do the show, and tested me to see if I recognized her with her new short hair.
Mike Yard had an exciting week. It was his first time headlining at Gotham, and he got a packed room. He told me he was developing something for TV and was awaiting his AXS TV appearance coming up in January. Opening for him was Veronica Mosey who said she’s 43 and just had a baby girl at 41 which gave her a lot of material to talk about.
Being that I missed Jerrod Carmichael at Comedy Juice, I was excited about being invited to his HBO taping at the beautiful Masonic Hall on West 24th Street. When I got there for the 10 P.M. taping there were lines out in the freezing cold that went around the block. I brought a friend who has a big PR company in Germany, and whose English is excellent, but the test of anyone who’s first language is not English is whether or not they can understand comedy, since it’s often about playing with the meaning of words.
We were taken to a holding area where we waited to be seated. The 10 P.M. taping didn’t start until almost 11. A guy came out holding a piece of paper and addressed the crowd. I assumed he’d be reading audience guidelines from the paper, but after a few minutes I gathered that he was a stand-up from LA who had come out to warm up the crowd, but no one had introduced him so we didn’t know his name. All we knew was that he was Muslim because he announced it. And as he left, he said that Jerrod would be right out to do “a tight hour.”
I knew that Jerrod had his own show on NBC and was excited to see him perform, but I wasn’t ready for what transpired. People who know me and who have read my column know that I am all about support and positive energy. I NEVER write anything negative about people because as a performer myself, I respect every person that goes on stage. That being said, this was my experience. Jerrod ran out on the stage which was like a mini-version of Westbury with the audience in the round, and came out very energetically, but almost immediately said he didn’t know where to start. I assumed that would lead into jokes, but I was wrong. He stood there for what seemed like a while, scratching his head and openly wondering where he should start, complete with prolonged silences, which occurred several times during the course of his performance. Prolonged silences. You could hear a pin drop. Or hundreds of pins. One at a time! He finally began by commenting on how people were dressed, and said for the most part we were dressed like we were going to our grandfather’s funeral. And then he said “ F*@k that N**ga, and that’s where we’re starting!”
I was sitting in the first row of the balcony right above the stage. At times, he spoke so quietly into the mic that I literally was not able to hear what he said. And he spoke at such a slow pace, laboring and deliberating over each word as if his life depended on it. It was almost like being at a psychotherapy session as he explored things like why he doesn’t have feelings, and why he doesn’t care about most things in the world, except maybe some black issues. He didn’t say it in a racist kind of way. Just in a very matter of fact way. He also did something I found very unusual. He took at least three lengthy bits and repeated them verbatim throughout the taping. The first time he did it, I thought to myself, that sounded familiar. Maybe because it’s a taping he didn’t like the way he did it the first time. But then when he kept doing it, I realized he was doing it on purpose. Probably for dramatic effect, but it was strange. As an example, one premise was that it’s a lot of work to be black. He went on to say, “I know it looks fun, especially when we’re dancing or flying through the air when dunking, but it’s exhausting.” There was more to it, and he repeated the entire thing at least three times. And at one point he even said, “I want to make sure I choose my words carefully” as if he was answering to a lawyer in court, where his life might be on the line. I’m guessing that he had a concept in his mind and was attempting to bring that to life, but I honestly couldn’t figure out what it was.
It was probably the strangest, most unusual performance I’ve ever seen, especially for something being taped for TV. It’s usually tight and on the money, Two tapings and they take the best from each. The “tight hour” turned into what was like an hour and 15 minutes, and at the end they told him twice that he had enough in the can, but he kept on going. He kept trying to remember something he thought he had left out that he wanted to say. Finally they told him they ran out of tape and that’s when I left. He stayed on stage and took questions from the audience. My German friend told me that Jerrod spoke so slowly he was able to understand every word, but that the timing of the performance gave him a pain in his stomach that lasted throughout the whole thing.
Laugh for Sight at Gotham is always a special event and it was again this year produced as always by sight impaired comedian Brian Fischler and his trusty dog Nash and brought out some big comedy legends like Joy Behar and Robert Klein. I got there early as I am wont to do, and got to catch up with radio personality from Q104.3 Maria Milito who was hosting the event. Maria’s been on radio for well over 20 years and is so comfortable on the mic that even though she’s not a regular stand up comic, she’s always a great host.
Joy Behar sat at the table next to me with her husband. She said she was a little concerned since she hadn’t done stand-up for at least a year. She mingled a bit and took some photos with fans and went up on stage first. She needn’t have worried because she did great and the crowd loved her. She did a lot of political stuff and when she was ready to leave the stage, Maria was outside taking care of some other things pertaining to the show, and Joy said “Is anyone here besides me?” so comic Shaun Eli who was also on the show, ran up on stage to bring her off. Robert Klein was there with his son Allie and both of them performed. Robert and I stood on the side watching his son Allie perform who has really come a long way for a relative newcomer, and he prowls the stage so quickly I wasn’t able to get a clear shot of him performing. And it was obvious how proud Robert was of him, but Robert’s praise was not only for his son. When Jessica Kirson went up, Robert turned to me and said, “she’s really funny” and repeated that a couple of times while she was on. Robert told me it looks like The Weinstein Company is making a deal with Starz for his documentary, Robert Klein Still Can’t Stop His Leg. I wasn’t able to stay for the whole show and as we left, I ran into Dave Attell standing outside in the cold waiting to go on. He seems to prefer waiting outside until it’s his time.
I attended the premiere party for WE tv’s new docu-series debuting in January, called Ghosts in the Hood and my boy Matt Richards was part of the cast as the comic relief, only in the show they call him Matty! It’s the reason he spent the last month in LA. The rest of the cast had backgrounds related to investigating paranormal activity, but it was up to “Matty” to bring the funny and he did as he always does. The show revolves around a group known as O.P.O. (Official Paranormal Operations), a bunch of ghost hunters who dare to go where no other ghost hunters ever do, to the heart of “the hood.” They go to places like a South Central piñata shop, an old Korean brothel, and a funeral home in Compton, basically places where even ghosts are afraid to go. The show debuts on January 5th. Matt, by the way, is headed back to LA where he now lives, to be a writer/content provider for a new show on MTV2 called World Star TV. It’s gonna be crazy!
The party was held in the McKittrick Hotel and it’s a dark and scary place, absolutely perfect for a ghost-themed show like this. The event was MC’ed by SiriusXM radio legend Sway Calloway who you can always count on to be a great host, and he moderated a Q&A with the cast after we watched the first episode. After the screening, it turned into a party with music and a photo booth and the cast hung out like they were family. Sway was particularly accommodating to all of the fans who wanted photos, and I got to congratulate him on his turn on FOX TV’s Empire, the hottest show on the tube. Can’t give any more away about the show, but make sure you tune in.
I dropped by New York Comedy Club to see who was around and when I came in, Sherrod Small was onstage and he told me that Jordan Rock was backstage. Jordan is in from LA until February and we hung out and caught each other up on what was going on. He’s starring in a new pilot for Comedy Central, being produced by A24 Television and written by comic/writer Sarah Walker. It’s called Drunk Girl, High Guy, based on a story by Sarah about her and her best friend Noah Garfinkel. She’s seemingly always drunk and he’s seemingly always high as they go about their adventures. Jordan of course, plays the high guy, a part he was born to play and has been playing in real life for years. They’ll be shooting all over the city, and his co-star as “the drunk girl” is Maya Erskine. Comedy Central brought them together and he says they’re becoming good friends. He also said you can’t write stand-up jokes in LA because there’s no way to work out the material. There’s not enough stage time like there is in New York. What he does write is sketches that get submitted to places like Funny or Die or to TV. That’s what happens when you have good representation.
And he was hanging out with Phileo Shacor, who recently got back from touring for three months in Australia, the UK, Sweden and Finland. He said that Finland actually has an Apollo Theater, and he got to perform there. Phileo is originally from Atlanta, but also lived in London and Switzerland for awhile and even performed in Japan for a month, and managed to get Josh Wesson from the Fat Baby Crew, a spot there when he came over to visit. I had to ask him about the name Phileo and he told me it was Greek and one of the four ways to say “love” in Greek. He has a brother named “Agape” which is another way to say “love” in Greek. I asked him if his parents were Greek and he said no, they were just a couple of “black hippies from Atlanta!” When we went to take the pictures, Jordan wanted to put on his hoodie and his knit hat first. I totally get that cause I try not to take pictures without wearing at least two scarves!
Some comics work corporate gigs as a specialty and some comics work Orthodox Jewish gigs as a specialty and by some comics I mean Modi Rosenfeld. I went to see him perform at The Jewish Heritage Museum on Battery Place in a benefit for Bnos Menachem, a Jewish school for girls, and wound up meeting Ambassador John Bolton, who may be our next Secretary of State, and who was their keynote speaker for the evening. I actually got to speak to him for about 20 minutes about all sorts of things, including comedy and got to tell him about “Too Much Tuna” and the “Oh, Hello Show” currently on Broadway. I couldn’t believe I was explaining the concept of Too Much Tuna to our possibly next Secretary of State, but I did. And he happens to have a great sense of humor.
Just a quick tribute to comedienne Adrianne Tolsch who left us this past week at 78. She was a pioneer of female stand-ups and was the first woman to ever host at Catch a Rising Star back in the 70’s like her idol Richard Belzer. When I first met her back in those days, she was not only MC’ing at the club, she was also managing the place. She performed on Broadway and headlined every major comedy club in the states, as well as casinos in Vegas, AC, and venues in London, Melbourne and even Tasmania. She was married for the last 20 odd years to Letterman writer and right hand man Bill Scheft, and the two of them exec-produced a new documentary coming out soon called Take My Nose, … Please – Women, Comedy , and Plastic Surgery! Besides being hilariously funny, she was a wonderful person, and she will be sorely missed. Bill broke the news on his Twitter page and on Facebook. RIP Adrianne. There will be a memorial service on Wednesday, January 4th at Saint Peter’s Church on East 54th Street.
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 Jordan Rock, Ambassador Bolton, Sway Calloway and Matt Richards.