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, New York Comedy Club, and more.
I stopped by Comedy Juice to congratulate Pat Brown on her recent Colbert appearance where they promoted her new album Sextape. She told me a funny story about how when she got to the set they told her her shirt was too tight and too revealing. I asked her if it showed off her boobs. She said she wished it did, but it was probably her belly. Let it be known that Pat looks pretty thin. Luckily, she had a second shirt with her and that was perfect. She said that Stephen Colbert was so gracious that just before she came on, he left his desk on the set to come out to the wings where she was standing and wish her luck and told her to have fun out there. She said he was the nicest person ever. I asked her if she had been nervous and she said a little bit, but she thought in her mind that she was performing at a small venue that just happened to be in the Ed Sullivan Theater. She also said she took the subway there, but afterwards she “flew home on Cloud 9!”
Chris Distefano was also there and made me laugh out loud in his description of a physically-challenged guy his mother is supposedly dating. On his way out, running to another gig, he told me how happy he was that they chose Diane Guerrero from Orange is the New Black to play his wife Izzy in his new CBS sitcom called Distefano. Only instead of being Puerto Rican like in real life, she’ll be Colombian like in HER real life. Chris has such a unique delivery, very halting and sometimes almost awkward, which makes it all the more funny as if he’s searching for a word, and makes it sound like the first time he’s ever said whatever he’s saying.
I ran over to catch the end of the show at The Stand and actually saw Big Jay Oakerson close the show, … wearing a blazer. I thought I was seeing things. He still had his “hobo gloves” on, but matched them with a blazer. I asked Christine Marie about it and she said that every once on a while he likes to dress up! Jay told me he’s genuinely excited about his first ever whole weekend at Carolines coming up at the end of March, from Thursday through Sunday. Big stuff for Big Jay!
Ron Bennington followed up his Nick Di Paolo Unmasked with a triple header this past week interviewing Pete Holmes, Judd Apatow and Artie Lange about their new HBO show Crashing created by Pete and directed by Judd. It debuted yesterday, and from what I’ve seen, it looks like it will be a big hit. Ron’s compendium of knowledge came in handy as he works without notes and had a funny and smooth flowing hour with all three guys sharing stories about the making of the show, which is based on the true story of Pete finding his wife cheating on him and having to move out and crash on friends’ couches.
Todd Shapiro from Canada’s SiriusXM radio’s Todd Shapiro Show checked in to tell me he’s producing a show in LA at The Laugh Factory coming up in mid-March which will be a Canadian themed show hosted by Todd himself. Besides promoting new Canadian talent, Todd will also be interviewing two ex-pat Canadian comics now living in L.A. , and three rookie comics will get a chance to perform in a competition with the winner getting to return for a real spot at The Laugh Factory. All I know besides that is that Jeremy Hotz will also be there to perform, and not as a rookie!
Billy Gardell was in town to headline at Gotham and Nick Griffin opened for him. Nick recently shot an hour special called Cheer Up at the Comedy Cellar’s Village Underground, and is currently shopping for networks.
I have seen lots of comics with loving and appreciative audiences, but very few to the level of Billy Gardell’s audience. They genuinely love him. He’s a big man whose size is only exceeded by his humility and his talent. He almost blushes when you compliment him. And after his show, the entire audience lined up to greet him and take photos. But it was what they said that made it special. Even men wanted to hug him.
Afterwards we went downstairs to chat. I hadn’t seen him since he performed last year at Madison Square Garden for the Garden of Laughs event, which he referred to as one of his all-time favorite nights. He said that stepping on the stage of Madison Square Garden where so many of his heroes had been was a very gratifying and humbling experience for him.
I had no idea of his longtime history as a stand-up. He said he actually started in 1987 in Orlando, Florida, and remembers Ron Bennington as one of the funniest guys on the scene. He also mentioned Tom Rhodes and how he says he got one of the best habits of his life from Tom, carrying a notebook wherever he goes to write down comedy ideas. He said if he happened to forget it Tom would chastise him, and it’s thanks to Tom that he does that, and he still does it to this day.
He said that whenever he’s in town he loves to play Gotham because he loves the club and values his longtime friendship with the Mazzilli brothers. He said that Mike and Molly was absolutely life-changing for him, and that he couldn’t have gone though it with a nicer bunch of people. They all still stay in touch. He’s also playing the St. George Theatre in Staten Island next week while he’s here, and will be seen as Col. Tom Parker in the new CMT show Sun Records which debuts next week right after Nashville, on the Country Music Channel. He was in Memphis filming the show for three months.
And when I asked him what else he was working on, he said he was “10 minutes into a new hour.” But he said it takes him about two years to write a new hour because he says he works very slowly. That brought us to a conversation about how most comics don’t write material like they used to back in the day, and how he also hates when a lot of young comics still think it’s funny to talk about their bathroom habits, as if anyone cares. We both agreed that if that’s the funniest thing you can think of, maybe you should think of pursuing another field.
He’s also in town promoting Sun Records and will be on Colbert, Harry and The Chew all this week.
And congrats to comic Chris Vaccarelli who produced his first comedy show at HA! in Yonkers with Von Decarlo as the host and Kenny Ortega as the headliner and pulled in such a big crowd that they already promised him another show. I asked Von Decarlo if she was still doing her musical improv group and she told me she had to put it on the back-burner for a little while and just focus on her stand-up, because there just wasn’t enough time to do everything, and she needs the stand-up to be her main thing. She also does a podcast with Aminah Imani called School Days which they do the last Thursday of every month at The Village Lantern. In between the comics, they do trivia and give out prizes to the audience. I asked her if they dressed like sexy schoolgirls, but she didn’t answer me!
Bernie Furshpan owner of The Metropolitan Room, which was the old Gotham Comedy Club, had a fantastic 60th birthday party at the club, and I was only one of three comics asked to perform. Big honor. It was Charles McBee, me and Bob Greenberg. Bob did his hilarious impressions of Oliver Hardy and Jackie Gleason. Sometimes when MCs introduce you and forget your credits, they bring you up by saying whatever comes to their mind at the moment, so Charles was intro’ed as opening for Jerry Seinfeld and I was brought up as opening for Louis C.K. You can’t really correct the MC onstage when that happens, because it would be too awkward, and the truth is that no one remembers it anyway, so you just have to let it go, but when I asked Charles about it afterwards he said he was hosting at Gotham recently when Jerry Seinfeld walked in and he brought him up on stage. In my case, Louis C.K. once shouted me out from the stage in the middle of receiving an award, which I have on video, but that’s the closest we ever came to performing together. I only wish I could open for Louis C.K.
I did get to re-connect to Peyton Clarkson who I hadn’t seen since we did the AXS TV show Gotham Comedy Live together back last June. Originally from Alabama, he moved to L.A. hoping to further his comedy career, but almost immediately got divorced. He stayed out there for five years, then about two weeks ago packed everything he could into a Prius and drove up here. He told me he had spent 9 years here at one time even getting passed at The Comic Strip by Lucien Hold himself, and that New York offers many more opportunities in comedy than L.A. He said the irony was he had to go all the way out to L.A. just to get a TV credit here in New York! He went on to say that L.A. comedy is good if you’re young, or a little bit famous, but it sucks if you’re not either one. He said when he came to New York to do GCL, he was getting paid gigs in all the clubs, but when he went back to L.A., he found himself driving 45 minutes to do a free gig in a pizza place. That’s when he decided to move back here.
It seems that no matter where I go I run into people either in the comedy world or involved some way in the comedy world. I was seated in the front row of the Vivienne Hu fashion show during fashion week this past week next to a girl who’s probably a model and if she isn’t, she should be, but she was very funny and when I told her she was funny she said “ My grandma tells me that all the time!” I was like, “ Oh yeh, … who’s your grandma?” She was like “ Whoopi Goldberg!” I’m like, “ Oh! Well she oughta know!” Turned out to be Whoopi Goldberg’s granddaughter Jerzey Dean. She’s been doing production work in TV, and it was hard for me to tell her I knew her grandma from the early days of Bob Zmuda’s Comic Relief, back in 1986, when Whoopi did the show with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, before Jerzey was even born! #Awkward #FeelingOld
Film producer Dana Verde stopped by to tell me about her new comedy web series and it’s hilarious. The name of the show is “DIRT” which stands for “Dis Is Real Talk”, described on the website as “the urban CNN”, and the segment that’s an absolute killer is “Two Black Girls at The Movies.” It’s all black puppets in a whole range of characters, like Onika and Stacy Ann, and Dana plays Stacy Ann, one of the black girls who review new films. They already shot the first seven episodes. All Improvised. Two black male puppets, Stan and Bobbito talk about the news, and then there’s a stoned-out Jamaican puppet named Trevor who does the weather. They shoot them at her place where she set up a studio with a green screen and everything. She said her goal is to bring back 90’s humor with a 2017 sensibility. Kind of like an “In Living Color” type of humor, except that a lot of that would be considered offensive today, which is why she used puppets. Puppets can say anything and get away with it. She sends all of her actors to puppet school! Yes, … that’s a real thing, … where they actually learn to control the puppets. And she said if you listen long enough, somewhere along the way you’ll hear something that offends you.
Anyway, 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 with Von Decarlo, Dana Verde, Jerzey Dean and Billy Gardell.