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 Red Carpet at the Sunshine theater and New York comedy Club.
Several years ago, Nick Brooks, son of Mel Brooks, along with director John Gallagher brought me a script titled Sam that Nick wrote with John and asked for me to offer my thoughts. It’s about a womanizer named Sam who is not particularly nice to the women he womanizes, and wakes up one day as a woman! I liked it a lot. Well, the film finally got made, Executive produced by Mel Brooks himself, and directed by Nick, and I got to see the NY premiere at the Sunshine Theatre the other night. There was a red carpet and everyone was excited to see who’d show up. Bryan Batt from Mad Men was there! Bryan plays a hilariously flamboyant role in the film as fashion stylist Mr. Blondell whose job it is to teach the now female “Sam”, … now Samantha, …how to walk, talk and dress like the beautiful woman she is. Lots of people were there, … including Lucie Pohl star of the one-woman show Apohlcalypse Now, who’s also in the movie, … except for Nick Brooks, and everyone was anxiously awaiting his arrival. Sibyl Santiago who runs the Soho Film Festival and who also had a role in the film told me that Nick was on his way, but didn’t mention who he was with. When Nick arrived the whole tone of the room changed and even though I was on the other side, I could tell something special was happening. Nick was accompanied by his Dad, Mel Brooks and the press and attendees went crazy!
Mel took photos and mingled and even did some quick interviews. He was very gracious and I got to talk to him about his attendance at Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s Oh, Hello show which he saw in LA. When I mentioned it he said, “Nick and John? They’re very funny.” And many people compare them to a modern Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner who Kroll and Mulaney say were a big influence on them. Mel got a big laugh when I told him I was the first to be pranked with Too Much Tuna, and someone got it on video. I’ll be posting it shortly.
Mel introduced the movie, and praised Nick but said he couldn’t praise him too much because his other son Eddie was in the audience too! He said he always thinks of his sons as being like 12 years old. He said he was really proud of Nick because “I’ve seen this picture and I LIKE it!” He said it’s not only funny, but it’s really eloquent. It’s touching and it probes our souls.” And then he apologized to a priest in the audience for mentioning souls. Nick thanked Mel for 50% of his chromosomes. He said the film is available on Amazon, YouTube and soon to be on Hulu. And then strictly as a joke, Mel said, “And while I got you here, I got a new book out called Young Frankenstein and he was drowned out by applause. The woman who played Sam as a woman was stand-out performer Natalie Knepp who unfortunately was not able to be present that night, but she really nailed the character as he transitioned from a man into a woman.
* * *
I got to Gotham Comedy Club early to catch Bobby Kelly who was headlining there to ask him about his True Story tour which started in September and runs through January. He had Stavros Halkias with him as his opener who also opens for him on his tour. Bobby said he wanted this tour to be different in the sense that instead of playing the same place for three days in a row, he wanted to play small rock venues, and theaters besides his favorite comedy clubs. He said that he and Stavros have been driving places together going to places he’s never been to before for one night and doing a lot of Facebook Live videos.
He said that he and Stavros write together and just that day had a two-hour writing session because he’s working on a new hour and Stavros is constantly writing new jokes. He said they push each other to do better. I asked Bobby why he called his tour True Story and he said, cause a lot of his comedy is just that, … true stories!
* * *
I saw Emmy award-winning radio personality Michael William Lebron, known as Lionel to his listeners, do a political comedy show at The Cutting Room to a packed audience that included May Pang, Robert Trump and WPIX news legend Marvin Scott. Jamie Roberts, who has one of the longest running comedy shows, with an 8 year show called Sunday Night Live currently at New York Comedy Club opened the show. Lionel interspersed the comedy by playing bluegrass music like Dueling Banjos from Deliverance on his guitar with two other musicians and it was great! He closed by thanking the audience for coming and then they cleared the room cause Dave Chappelle was coming in to do a show, and they made an announcement that all cell phones would have to be checked and put into separate security bags before Dave would perform. I would have loved to stay and finally be separated from my phone for an hour or so, but I had somewhere else to be. I did, however, stay long enough to see May Pang (John Lennon’s ex-girlfriend) and Lionel present Cutting Room owner Steve Walter with a birthday cake!
* * *
JC Best and his partner Tracey Carnazzo realized a dream by having their show Race and Sex get a slot at The Stand. They were both so excited because they said they had been working on it for a long time. According to them, it’s a show that’s “not afraid and doesn’t make apologies. It’s definitely an unsafe space!” JC added, “It’s basically our own private phone conversations on stage in front of the greatest audience in the city.” JC and Tracy co-host on stage together, and they had a great line-up with Joe List, who told me he’s been traveling by private jet opening for Louis CK, as well as Pete Lee, Ari Shaffir, Yamaneika Saunders and Aaron Berg. Judah Friedlander made a guest appearance and walked up on stage holding a video camera that was filming the audience and chastised them for clapping saying it was “insulting to people with no hands.” Joe List said he didn’t know the show was on race and sex until about one minute before he hit the stage. And then he added that because he was white and a man, he’d stick to sex.
* * *
I made one of my rare excursions out to Brooklyn to catch Scotty Levell’s Comedy Commune show because I like “different” and this is definitely different. It’s always in a different location and this was a Halloween costume/dance/comedy show event in a very interesting space in Williamsburg. Scotty was dressed as Prince in a purple velvet outfit, and his wife Meredith was dressed as Wonder Woman. For the price of admission, he offered free drinks, food and candy, and he puts on a great show. It was a packed room for the talents of Tim Dillon, Dan Soder, and several other comics including Kerry Coddett, from MTV’s Joking Off, who opened the show. Scotty’s goal with the commune is to produce a lot of video content and license it to the networks so the comics get more of the share of revenue. He said that so many people have good ideas, but don’t have the money to bring them to fruition. He plans to raise money through what he called “grass roots comedy shows” and wants to start with five episodes of a web series he wrote called Sharee and Me.
Kerry and I were the first ones there so we had a chance to hang out and chat. I asked her about Joking Off because it looks like a very fun, but stressful show to do because of the pressure of having to be so quick with a joke. She said they have the opportunity to prep the jokes beforehand, but it’s always a race to tell your joke and no one lets ladies go first! She said as the only Black female comic she didn’t want to come across as too aggressive so she held back. She said, of course, you never know which jokes will hit and she’s often stayed up all night writing. The producers suggest writing three jokes on each topic, but she has written as many as nine, and then had to try and memorize them all. She’s often paired up with Matt Richards, who’s currently out in LA and just scored a role in the new show on WEtv called “Ghosts In The Hood”, and they make a great team. As to where she got the nickname “Overfab” she said it started in college when she was really into fashion and everyone told her she always did too much and was way over the top. The girl has style and is legit “Overlyfabulous”! To find out more read this month’s cover story all about Kerry!
Dan Soder, of the one-hour Comedy Central special Not Special, was the headliner and told me he was supposed to be opening for Sal Vulcano in Kentucky along with Chris Distefano, but had to pass because he got a call to shoot his role on Showtime’s Billions, where he spent the first season playing a young trader named Mafee. He said it’s an amazing show to be part of, and that that Roy Wood Jr. stepped up to take his place with Sal.
* * *
Tomorrow night on November 1st at 7 P.M. New York Comedy Club is making me a comedy show/book signing for my book Man Robs Bank With His Chin – And Other Unusual Stories Missed By Mainstream Media. The show is featuring Tom Rhodes as MC along with Ricky Velez, Corinne Fisher, Paul Virzi, Richie Redding, Aaron Berg, and Jon Laster! Gonna be lots of fun so come on out and join us!
And that’s it for me! 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 Bryan Batt, Mel Brooks and Nick Brooks.