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, Carolines, and more.
I hadda get to see D.L. Hughley one more time before he left town after his sold-out run at Carolines. So we ran over just in time to catch the after-party where he danced with his daughter Tyler. They have such a cool relationship which was great to see, and then in his usual gracious style he took everyone there as his guests to Mr. Chow, one of the most exclusive restaurants in Manhattan and they stayed open just for him until very late on a Sunday night. Restaurants will do that for the right person. In his soft-spoken unassuming way, he ordered for the table and the dishes just kept coming out. Waves of food until no one could eat anymore. We probably left there at 1:30 A.M. and D.L. had a very early morning flight, so he said he probably wouldn’t even go to sleep cause if he did he wouldn’t get up in time. Always a fun time for anyone who hangs with D.L..
Some of the comedy clubs wait till after the New Year to make their holiday party and such is the case with Gotham and Stand-Up New York, but they both happened to be on the same night. It would be easier to say who WASN’T at Gotham than who was. I got there early and realized right away that if I even tried to write down all the names, I’d miss the whole party. It was a literal sea of comedians and industry, and Conan Smith from Buchwald got a great shot of me and comedy exec Jodi Lieberman as we compared our stories of survival. Jodi fortunately survived a serious car accident in LA, and luckily had a brother who’s a surgeon who flew in and made sure she was taken care of properly.
As usual Gotham offered massages, great food, open bar, a hot D.J. downstairs in the lounge, and a photo booth that connected directly to Instagram where you could put on various hats and fun accouterments for your posing pleasure. But the best thing was the camaraderie of the comedy community. To some it may seem cutthroat, but there’s also a great outpouring of love and respect because only another comedian knows what you go through trying to make it in that world. Lots of hugging and kissing goes on! At one point, I went outside and found Gilbert Gottfried standing alone waiting for his wife to retrieve their coats.
Owner Chris Mazzilli, always a classy guy, held a raffle for his staff with great prizes. As Rich Vos wandered into the room somebody gave him a raffle ticket. He asked me to help him see the numbers, which I did, as I wondered how I had missed out on getting a raffle ticket. Literally two minutes later, they called that exact number and Vos went nuts. He came up to the mic and they told him he won an Amazon Echo. He looked at me and said, “ What’s an Amazon Echo?” and I had to admit that I didn’t know either. Then they broke the news to him that he wasn’t eligible because the raffle was only for the staff. So he immediately applied for a job! Afterwards we both told the story to Bonnie McFarlane just because she happens to be his wife.
I left that party around 10:30 and headed up to Stand Up New York which was slated to go till at least 1 A.M. I parked a block away and as I approached the club from half a block away, I began to smell a familiar scent. Sure enough a group of male comics whose names I won’t mention were smoking up in a doorway in the bitter cold. I yelled out to them as I passed, “People a block away are catching a contact high from you guys!” They stopped for a minute to greet me and went right back to getting stoned.
Stand -Up seemed to be a younger demographic with lots of the comics who were at Gotham also partying there as well. Both clubs had lists and you had to be on them in order to get in, and they were pretty strict. The D.J. was spinning hot tracks and people were dancing wildly, especially a couple of the girls. Big boxes of pizza lined the back wall and I was surprised how long they lasted. People were more into drinking and dancing than eating, except for the ones with the munchies! It was a crazy fun night.
Nick Thune dropped by Comedy Juice this week to run his set he was doing on Fallon a few days later, talking about how he could become a Youth Pastor in 2017 based just on his beard. He didn’t play his guitar like he did on the actual show. He just ran the story, and it was well received. I got turned onto Nick originally by Russell Peters up in Montreal a few years ago and hadn’t really crossed paths with him since. We caught up when he left the stage, and being that he looked so serious with his beard I asked him his opinion about celebs giving their political opinions during a public forum like The Golden Globes.
He said “My opinion on celebrities giving THEIR opinion is that I think it’s very needed, in the sense that they have loud voices. Like there are certain groups of people that have loud voices. Like the Christians have a loud voice and when they are angry about something, we all hear about it. And it can be easily dismissed because it’s from this one perspective, But I think celebrities having an opinion, they come from the same background as anybody else in America, … I mean some of them obviously have had silver spoons, … but I think a lot of them worked for it and I think that anybody that works for anything has an opinion on what is right.” And when I specifically asked if the Golden Globes were a place for politics, no matter what side you’re on, he said, “ I don’t think anything should just be about entertainment. I think that entertainment is meant to please people and to take them away from their real life, but if you could somehow incorporate a message in that then what’s wrong? Isn’t that what it’s meant for?”
Nick said he was glad that the guest the night before him on Fallon was Michelle Obama because when she’s on, then the next night is usually rated even higher than usual. Nick’s a new dad and has a new special out on Seeso too called Good Guy, in which he realized that now that he’s a dad he can’t make the same “shitty choices” he’s made in the past. He filmed it in Portland, Oregon last October.
Ben Gleib was in from LA and was also on Juice. He’s got enough going on to fill a whole column by himself. He said he came to town to do his 12th appearance on The Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda where he’s on the panel of Guys Tell All with Chuck Nice. They give advice and according to him drink real alcohol on the air. He said the show is such fun to do. I bet it is! And January 19th starts the fourth season of his GSN game show Idiotest for which they got a 65 episode deal. They just passed their 200th episode and he said it’s the most watched show on GSN. He’s become the face of the network with them even using him for their holiday promos, several of which he showed me on his phone, and all of which were labeled A Holiday Filled With Gleib! The premiere will pit Jo Koy and Amir K. against Sydney Castillo and Zainab Johnson. He said one episode is going to be particularly crazy and a game show first, as all four contestants will be his ex-girlfriends, who he referred to as “the loves of his life.” It will probably air on Valentine’s Day. Very appropriate, but sounds dangerous! He’s also got a special on Showtime airing currently called Neurotic Gangster and if that’s not enough he says he made comedy history in St. Louis recently by live streaming an entire set on FB Live which got 330,000 views, doing strictly crowd work. He went on to do that in 8 different cities, all strictly crowd work and all going viral and said it was like doing 8 one hour specials. I stayed with him so long writing all this down that I missed the next comic on stage!
AMarie Castillo who you may also know as Alexandra Heikkila, (and I’ll let her explain why when you see her!) produced a sports roast at New York Comedy Club in which she had 32 comedians come on as sports teams roasting each other. Not knowing a thing about sports I showed up hoping to understand what was going on, but it might as well have been in Cantonese. The audience seemed to love it, but I didn’t get one joke or reference. As I was staggering out, dizzy from all that I didn’t know, owner Emilio stopped me and explained that one of the judges Mike Benevento was there imitating Chris “Mad Dog” Russo from SiriusXM. Mike won the 2013 SiriusXM contest for the best impersonation of Russo and did it the whole night, each time he was called upon to judge. Emilio said that Mike and another guy who imitates Mike Francesa sold out The Gramercy!
I went to catch my man Dean Edwards headlining Gotham and Ophira Eisenberg was the host. People always get her name wrong as she says she was once introduced as “Oprah Something Jewish!” But being Jewish and exceedingly polite, when I asked her what she had going on, she disappeared for a few minutes and came back with something written on paper that no one else has ever done for me. For the last five years, she’s been the host of NPR’s game show Ask Me Another, and on January 30th they’ll be doing a live taping at the Bell House in Brooklyn, with someone she’s been wanting to have on for the longest time, Kathleen Madigan. Harris Stanton was also on the show and Dean told me they’re “road dogs” together. He often takes Harris with him when he travels. Dean is working on creating a TV project that he would produce and star in, and just did a 12 city Air Force base tour all over the country. He’ll be doing another one in April and said that as a veteran himself, he likes to give back.
I ran over to The Stand to catch Luis J. Gomez hosting another RoastMasters battle and the room was so packed I literally couldn’t get into the room. I hadda come down the back stairs through the kitchen, and almost had to sit on Patrick Milligan’s lap! That would have been a photo op! The judges who are as funny and sometimes funnier than the roasters themselves were Sam Morril, Monroe Martin, Mark Normand and Rich Vos. A particularly brutal match between great roasters Erik Bergstrom and Aaron Berg ended with Aaron winning by focusing primarily on Erik’s bout with cancer for the first couple of rounds, and then doing an expertly written bit after vowing not to say “cancer” again using words that started with “c-a-n” so that it sounded like he was about to say “cancer”, but then changed it at the last minute. The judges actually agonized over who to give it to, but settled on Berg, maybe hoping it would give Erik the strength to stay healthy and come back to compete in the future.
A comic named Will Thilly (that’s his real name) once invited me to something he called “The Chill Circle”. I went out of curiosity and it turned out be a bunch of people sitting in a circle and staring at each other waiting for someone else to say something. It was an interesting social experiment. This time Thilly’s event was billed as a big comedy blow-out/party and comedy show at Broadway Comedy Club. It was one of the strangest gatherings I’ve been to, with Will Thilly standing on the stage in total silence for several minutes, just staring out at the room, until JC Best ran up, grabbed the mic, and did a funny set on what was going on. It seemed that that was what Will Thilly was going for. After that, other comics came up, but some of them were interrupted by Thilly suddenly yelling out “Next” right in the middle of a joke. I made one “find” in a young comic named Teresa Sheffield who came up and actually got to do somewhat of a regular set, and was very original and funny. Then I had to leave to get to another show. But I received such a nice, gracious note from Will Thilly (I like saying his whole name!), thanking me for attending, and saying that the club will be having them back for another party/show and offered them an extra hour so comics could do longer sets. He said I would not be obliged to buy drinks if I could attend and the next show is Sunday January 22nd in which I could do my entire set. Maybe I should go and do my 45 minutes!
And now I’m on my way out to Brooklyn to be a judge at the first MLK Comedy Festival hosted by Brooklyn Mike Troy and produced by Joanna Briley. More on that in next week’s column. And with that little tidbit, 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 Sam Morril and Erik Bergstrom, Ben Gleib, and Gilbert Gottfried.