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 The Stand, Gotham Comedy Club, the New York Comedy Festival.
As part of the NY Comedy Festival, Rick Newman produced an event at The Friars Club hosted by award-winning producer/director/writer Alan Zweibel. It was a comedy writer’s panel and Alan said he invited his top wishlist hoping that even one of them would be free and all four accepted. It was Mike Reiss who’s been with The Simpsons for 26 years, Phil Rosenthal who made TV history by executive producing Everybody Loves Raymond, Larry Wilmore lately of The Nightly Show, and the one I was most excited to meet, Pamela Adlon, who spent 7 years on Californication and played Louis CK’s love interest on FX’s Louie and now has her own FX show which she writes and stars in called Better Things, based on her life as a single mom in her 40’s raising three daughters on her own.
Rick opened the show with an intro of Alan Zweibel that was so long that Alan kept approaching the stage thinking it was over and then retreated back to the back of the room, repeating that scenario at least five times until Rick finished while the crowd roared watching it all go down. It was an energy-filled, high-spirited and hilarious event. Phil Rosenthal was nominated for an Emmy 70 times and won 15 of them, but was introduced as the guy who lost 55 Emmys.
Mike Reiss said he started out writing jokes for the movie Airplane 2, worked writing jokes for Johnny Carson and then wrote jokes for Alan Zweibel when he was producing the show he created It’s Garry Shandling’s Show. Alan was later doing a series called The Boys based on The Friars Club, and Mike tried to get a job on that series, but was turned down. In retrospect, he said it was the luckiest thing that ever happened to him because instead, he got The Simpsons where he’s been writing for the last 26 years. This whole event was special for me because Rick Newman and I have been friends since the 70’s and Alan Zweibel gave me my start as a comedy writer when he was up at SNL in the early days of that show. As a matter of fact, I still have some of the original scripts of “The Boys” that he gave me back then to show me how to write a TV script.
Larry Wilmore says he started out as a comic and actor. He said about being light-skinned, “If I was a beer I’d be Negro Light.” Phil Rosenthal worked with Alan Kirschenbaum whose sitcom Down On The Shore featured Pamela Adlon as one of the stars. She claims she got fired because of a “tits problem.” Alan Zweibel reminisced about his start writing jokes for $7 a pop. He tried performing at Rick’s club Catch A Rising Star and one late night after he went up, a guy approached him and said, “You are one of the worst comics I ever saw, but you’re a good writer.” That guy turned out to be Lorne Michaels who hired Alan to work at SNL. They talked about writers’ rooms and Phil said being part of a writers’ room is like having your friends help you with your homework. Pamela talked about the censorship in TV and said on FX you can say “shit” and even “suck my dick” but for “fuck” you have to get special permission, and her “fucks” are very important to her. She was ultra-gracious to all who approached her afterward to chat and take photos, and I hope she doesn’t mind me saying that she is absolutely adorable in person. On the show, the person who plays her mom is named “Phil”. I asked her if that was for Phil Rosenthal and she laughed and said it was for her mom’s mom who was named Phyllis. Also in that audience were lots of comics like Robert Wuhl and PJ Landers who told me he’ll be playing a cop in a new Spike Lee project on Netflix. He originally auditioned for a non-speaking role and didn’t get it and a few days later they called him in to audition for a speaking role which he got. He had to audition for Spike himself who told him to yell at him like a cop. PJ is about 6’4” with red hair and when he yelled at me the way he did for Spike, even though we were standing in The Friars Club, I felt intimidated! It was a very special evening and Alan looked thrilled.
I was torn between going to the Mitch Hedberg Tribute at Carolines and attending the Comedy 101 show from The Interrobang that was going down at The Village Underground, all the same time on Tuesday night. Not being good at making choices and always afraid I will miss something, I decided to try and do them all. So I ran down to the Village Underground first and ran into Big Jay Oakerson, Christine Marie Evans and Dan Soder hanging outside just having finished an episode of The Bonfire, and then I ran downstairs and watched Ron and Gail Bennington bring up the comedy lambs for slaughter, at Comedy 101. The slaughter of these inexperienced comics by judges Shuli (from the Howard Stern Show!), Robert Kelly, Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane leads to lots of laughter. It’s definitely “open mic night meets a roast!”
I ran out and drove like a maniac to get over to Carolines in time to catch Tammy Pescatelli and Artie Lange sharing Mitch Hedberg stories with Mitch’s wife Lynn Shawcroft and her good friend comic K.P. Anderson, for the Comedy Central Records tribute to Mitch commemorating the release of their’ box set Mitch Hedberg: The Complete Vinyl Collection. Afterward backstage, Tammy told me she was emotionally drained and overwhelmed by reminiscing about her good times with Mitch, and needed a moment to regain her composure. One of her stories was about the time she was hosting an out-of-town show that Mitch was on and nobody could find him. Finally, the club owner told her to start the show just as Mitch rolled up on a bicycle accompanied by three store employees riding little bikes that Mitch had bought for them.
One thing I noticed was that no one called him Mitch. They all referred to him as Hedberg. Tom Rhodes and Richard Chassler came up, and Tom told a funny story that when he and Mitch would perform together Tom would come out first and say, “I am a marijuana smoker. I only say that because I’m from out of town and I don’t have any.” Then Hedberg would get up and say, “ I like cocaine, … and I’m from out of town too!” Tom reminded me of times I didn’t recall of me, him and Hedberg hanging out. I did recall the last time I saw Mitch was about two weeks before he left us at a show at Carolines. I absolutely LOVED Mitch Hedberg for his absurdity, and I recall at the end of that show, we made plans to do something creative together, which alas was never to come to fruition. One thing that made this show extra funny was that each person did a Hedberg impression when they spoke because he had his own special way of speaking which made whatever he said even more hilarious.
Trevor Noah told me he’s very excited about the release of his very first book coming up next week called Trevor Noah- Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. It’s a coming of age story about growing up in the end of the apartheid days of South Africa with a white father and African mom who had to make believe she was his nanny because in those days his birth was actually illegal. He grew up very religious, and she took him to church six days a week plus three times on Sunday.
And it was a special week for me personally in more ways than one as you’ll see as this column unfolds. New York Comedy Club and Emilio Savone gave me an evening for a comedy show/book signing for one of my new books Man Robs Bank With His Chin – And Other Unusual Stories Missed By Mainstream Media. The line-up for the comedy portion of the evening was TV-special worthy. Tom Rhodes who only headlines was kind enough to agree to host the show for me. He was also staying in my home as a guest so I guess he felt obligated! Tom had flown back from a comedy festival in Galway, Ireland to do this event and the Mitch Hedberg tribute. Corinne Fisher and her podcast partner in crime Krystyna Hutchinson, were kind enough to take the time to come and do the show, along with Paul Virzi who opens for Bill Burr as well as Ricky Velez, Aaron Berg and Richie Redding. Paul, by the way will be seen on the next season of tru TV’s Comedy Knockout, and will be headlining at Absolute Comedy in Toronto for his very first time headlining that venue. I am very grateful for the love they all showed me by participating in this special evening.
I almost missed Eric Andre at his sold out show at Carolines because I was at another event, but even though it was 1:30 A.M. I decided to try and go by there to see him, cause I love the insanity of an Eric Andre performance. And I’m so glad I did because the show was still going strong. The audience was packed with fans, and the room was full, not easy to do on a 12:30am show. He was surprised to see me when he came offstage and told me he’d be spending a lot more time in New York coming up in the near future. He just finished the 4th season of his own The Eric Andre Show on Adult Swim with Hannibal Buress. It’s the craziest show ever to be on TV.
I ended my insane comedy week at Josh Adam Meyers’ Goddamn Comedy Jam at The Gramercy Theatre, and it was beyond amazing. This guy is so talented. What a great rock and roll voice and a superstar band to back him up. They play everything like it came right off the original record. I got to catch Jay Pharoah, Matteo Lane, Hasan Minhaj, and Big Jay Oakerson. Each did some stand up before they went into their song, and it’s such a great show. Jay Pharoah gave the audience an example of his ability to rap, before he did his number, and also did a killer impression of Kevin Hart before he came back on stage a second time with Hasan Minhaj to rap along with Hasan’s Jay-Z tune. Matteo did a Celine Dion song and as he’s a real singer, he really knocked it out of the park. And then Big Jay closed with one of my favorite tunes, Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” and he did it justice cause I got goose bumps the same as I do when I hear Billy do it.
I was back at Carolines again to see an afternoon taping of Guys We Fucked with the aforementioned Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson. Their guest was a fascinating guy named Kenneth Play who bills himself as a “Sex Hacker.” He was described as being a sex educator, fitness expert, and organizer of play parties and intentional community who lives in a “sex house” called The Hacienda with 14 other people. Caroline Hirsch herself came to the green room to say hello and congratulate them on their show. Then, they’re back on the road for their national tour and off to California where they have three shows that are almost sold out already!
In my mind, I think I confused Jamaica, Queens with the idyllic island of Jamaica, because I went out there to see Nick Cannon host a live edition of Wild ‘N Out with my buddies Jacob Williams and Rip Micheals, as well as the rest of the cast, completely unaware that it was the neighborhood where 50 Cent was raised and got shot 9 times. It was the Trinidadian girl who was with me that hipped me to the history of the location. As we pulled up to the NYC Arena, there were two cops guarding the street and lines that stretched 3 blocks around. To say I stood out was an understatement. I was prepared to leave if things looked hairy, and as we approached the venue we happened to come in front of the door marked “Performers Only.” There was a whole gang of guys guarding that door and one of the biggest guys was screaming at another guy calling him the “N” word, and telling him he couldn’t go inside. Just as I was pondering what to do next, I hear a voice say, “ Is that Jeffrey Gurian?” It was Chico Bean one of the cast members from Wild N’ Out who recognized me, told me he was a fan and how much he loved what we did on Black Phillip, the show I was honored to do with the great Patrice O’Neal. Chico said that the show changed his life. In that moment, the entire energy of the scene changed and we were taking photos and laughing and then he called Rip Micheals who brought us in immediately through that backstage door to hang out. It was truly amazing.
The 9:30 show that I raced there to be on time for started around 11:30, but we had a blast backstage hanging out with everyone. Nick was resting in his room and I didn’t get to see him till after the second show ended around 1 A.M., when we had a few minutes to catch up. It’s funny for me to see Nick so thugged out, like he was for this show when I’ve seen him in beautiful suits, with elegant pocket squares and all the proper accessories. The show was non-stop laughs mixed in with some of the best hip-hop music and at the end, Nick invited members of the audience to come up on stage. It was all very orderly and respectful until one point where everyone jumped to their feet and looked towards the back of the room. I have no idea what happened as I was way up front, but in a moment or two everyone sat back down again, and the show just went on like nothing happened.
There was a VIP meet and greet at the very end, and Jacob told me he was flying to Atlanta the next day to shoot Roast Battle for Comedy Central against Erik Bergstrom the comic who recently beat cancer, and next weekend he will be starting his first national tour starting in Ontario, California. I wasn’t even aware there was an Ontario in California, but then again I didn’t know about Jamaica, Queens. He said the new season of Wild ‘N Out will be starting to air this winter, probably in December.
Always glad to hear from fans of the column who let me know what’s going on in their comedic world. L.A. comic Mo Mandel had his first-hour special come out on Seeso called Negative Reinforcement and he did a hilarious video for YouTube in front of a rotating billboard on Sunset Boulevard that showed his face and advertised his special for about 15 seconds before going to the next slide. And every time he mentioned his special the billboard switched to something else. I asked him if anything funny happened during the filming and this is what he told me:
“The best part about shooting this special was taking the trip out to Denver with my dad. We did it old school family style, shared a room at the crappy hotel, ate the free breakfast, I got to wake up eight times in the middle of the night to hear him going pee again. Special stuff. Then at the show itself, I got my first and so far only standing ovation. It didn’t happen on the first show, but it did on the second, and that’s the one that my dad was at, so it was extra sweet. Then we went and ate frozen yogurt. Because I am a comedy rock star. If you watch my special to the end, you can catch a glimpse of my dad laughing. He is the guy with the huge Jew-fro and the horrible shirt.”
Gary Dell’Abate hosted Gotham Comedy Live this week and for the first time ever the Killer Bunny/AXS TV guys shot a Gotham Comedy Live segment on a Sunday night. It was the only night they could schedule both for the club and for host and the longtime Howard Stern producer, and it was a fun show. Gary told me he doesn’t often do stand-up, but felt very comfortable doing the jokes. The comics had already done the show previously, like Robyn Schall who said she’s gotten a lot of work since her first appearance, Jon Laster, who fortunately has recovered from losing everything in a fire last year and now mines that experience for comedy, Ryan Hamilton who reminisced with me about his audition for The Comedy Cellar where he performs on the regular, and Joe Matarese whose very first one-hour special called Medicated will debut on Seeso in December. He was excited because he said he’s done half hours before, but never a whole hour. Ryan said the night he auditioned at The Cellar not only did he have to audition for legendary booker Estee, but also Dave Attell was there along with Amy Schumer and Anthony Jeselnik and the Cellar employees. He described it as “nerve-wracking”!
Kenny Warren was there to support and told me that the Killer Bunny guys would be filming the pilot for his show Comics Cutting Comics at his hair cutting salon called “Levels” up in Harlem and his wish list for that shoot would be Yamaneika Saunders, Tony Rock, Judah Friedlander, and Godfrey.
And I’m exhausted just from re-reading everything I did this week, … so guess what? 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 Gurian with Pamela Adlon, Chico Bean, Eric Andre and Nick Cannon.