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 was at Gotham and The Stand in New York and also ventured out to Altoona Pennsylvania!
It was an odd week for me in comedy being my first week back on the scene since my heart attack, which still doesn’t seem real. As a matter of fact it seems “surreal.” But wherever I went I got lots of support, and must have gone through the details a hundred times with people who knew about it, and even with my buddies from SNL who had been on vacation and didn’t know about it, until till they heard people asking me about it. Telling the story so many times helped me find the “beats”, which thanks to advice from Robert Klein, allowed me to tell it on stage at The Metropolitan Room at Bernie Furshpan’s annual New Years 24 hour long variety show, and again in Altoona, Pa where I was headlining this week. But more on that later in the column.
I was back at Comedy Juice this week because I knew that lots of Saturday Night Live peeps were gonna be there as they have been off for a few weeks, and go back to work today. And all of them got up and talked so honestly about things that are going on in their lives. Pete Davidson performed and had a great set. He’s psyched to be headlining at Cobb’s in San Francisco in February! Sasheer Zamata never seems to run out of new stories to tell. She loves to talk about race even if she thinks it makes the audience uncomfortable. And watching her perform it’s interesting to see how she doesn’t feel the need to cram in tons of punchlines. She’s very comfortable telling her stories and explaining her point of view, talking her time in getting to the punchline. A very confident way to work indeed! I asked Sasheer what she had been doing with her time off and she told me she did some traveling and was on NBC’s Hollywood Game Night with Andy Cohen on New Year’s Eve, along with Bob Saget, Whitney Cummings, John Stamos, and J.B. Smoove, and she said you can still see it on Hulu and that she had the best time! And Jay Pharoah came out and talked about his huge weight loss. He said that people were comparing his ass to Nicky Minaj, and to tell you the truth I almost didn’t recognize him. Jay told a great story about being on vacation with his friends and getting “molly’ed”! It’s always great to see Jay and he’s taking his talents to Virginia at the end of the month and will be appearing at The National and the NorVa Theatres so all our Virginia readers come on out to support!
It was a show packed with talent and I sat with Brian Scolaro who greeted me when I came in extolling the talents of Sal Vulcano from truTV’s Impractical Jokers. I had never met Sal before, and he was a super nice guy. The crowd really came out for him and was very excited by his presence. Sal closed the show and told the audience that he was incredibly high from accidentally eating apple pie laced with weed. He just kept laughing and the audience loved it. After the show he told he’s headed out to do an Impractical Jokers cruise this week, and then he and the boys will be at Radio City at the end of the month.
For my birthday, ( which I was happy to make!) I finally had the treat of seeing Colin Quinn’s The New York Story at The Cherry Lane Theatre which is killing it lately with it’s comedic presentations thanks to producers like Mike Lavoie, Mike Berkowitz from APA, Brian Stern, Kristen Buckels and Marcus Levy, among others.
Colin Quinn is a master wordsmith and a master story-teller, and it’s his second one man show directed by his longtime buddy Jerry Seinfeld. It’s Colin’s fifth one-man show, and I’ve seen all of them. Somehow he always manages to outdo himself. In this one he reviews the history of New York, starting with Colonial times, and how each ethnic group showed up and changed the tableau a little bit. It’s no wonder that I’ve heard other well known comics refer to him as the current “godfather of comedy” in NYC. At least he doesn’t wander the streets in a bathrobe, … or at least not when I’ve seen him! It was great to see him backstage afterwards. Colin and I go back to probably before he did MTV’s Remote Control,. If you can manage to get tix, go and see New York Story as it’s only running until the end of the month!
I was back at the Cherry Lane Theatre to see Hasan Minhaj’s one-man show Homecoming King. It had to be more than a year ago when I heard Hasan tell a story during a performance at Gotham about his high school prom. He was the only student of Indian background in his class and he was to take this particular girl to the prom who he had been very close to and who actually asked HIM to be her date. When he got to her house all excited to take her, he rang the bell which was answered by the girl’s mother. In the background he saw his “date” getting ready to attend the prom with another guy! The mother explained to Hasan that they would be taking a lot of pictures that would be sent to the family, and that it just wouldn’t look right. It would look like he didn’t fit in. I felt the pain of that just sitting in the audience. I can only imagine how it affected him as a young boy. After that show at Gotham I told him how much it had moved me and that it should be part of something bigger and he assured me that he was working on a one man show, hence Homecoming King. How he dealt with that and how he eventually got his “come-uppance” is all part of this wonderful show which had a successful run from this fall and was brought back by popular demand to run from until the end of the month. You’ll experience the entire range of emotion as you hear Hasan tell his stories and talk about his family.
I went back to see him after the show to congratulate him, and he told me he had been working on the show for about two years, and that he and his director Greg Walloch developed the show at the Sundance Labs. I was curious to know where he rehearsed because most comedy clubs can’t give you more than an hour to rehearse your show. He said he rehearsed it while touring with The Moth, and would work out little 10-15 minute bits at different comedy clubs, and he told me he changed the names of the people in the story to protect their anonymity, but they even went as far as to create very real looking Facebook pages for the main characters, which was a fantastic touch to add to a multi-media show. On the signed poster he gave me aside from some other nice things he also wrote “Good hair for life!”
Pete Correale was headlining Gotham and I hadn’t seen Pete in a while so I made sure to check it out. Pete did a killer show a and said that on his way into the city to play Gotham he lost his wallet. He went to check into his hotel and when he went for his credit card he panicked. It wasn’t there. He realized he had probably left it at a coffee shop at LaGuardia airport. He couldn’t check in, and also wouldn’t be able to fly home with no ID. Very scary situation. Fortunately he had the presence of mind to call the airport and they transferred him to a woman who works at the baggage carousels across from where the coffee shop was. She put him on hold for at least 20 agonizing minutes but finally came back and said “I got it!” Amazing story, which Pete said “proves that us New Yorkers are trustworthy classy people.” The tag was he said it cost him 115 bucks to get the damn thing back! I told him he got off cheap! You can watch Pete’s new special ”Let Me Tell Ya” on Showtime on Demand now.
Vic Dibitetto packed them in at Gotham for a headline show with Jimmy Failla as the host, and the always funny Gina Brillon, and Jimmy had an amazing set with lots of new stuff. He told me they’re trying to figure out when to release his new as yet untitled special. Using my expertise in the biz, I advised him to come up with a title before they release it! Vic had people literally crying with laughter. And he’s so angry on stage. Almost like an Italian Lewis Black with the energy he brings to the stage. After the show, I got to sit and catch up with his manager Russell Best. Vic will be starting a 22 city tour this month kicking it off in Boston called The Three Tenors – (Who Can’t Sing) and he’s doing it with Richie Minervini, and Freddie Rubino all nice Italian boys, who refer to themselves as the “made men of comedy” !
I ran into my birthday-mate Geno Bisconte, who dropped the news on me that he will be doing a new podcast with Aaron Berg on Fridays on Artie Lange’s show because Artie only does from Monday thru Thursday and Artie told him he could program Fridays. So they’re going to do it in a hot tub, ( I swear that’s what they told me!), and it’s tentatively titled In Hot Water which I’m sure knowing Berg and Bisconte as the two wild men they are, they will be in constantly. They already invited me on, but I told them I was concerned about the effect of the hot water on my hair!
As I mentioned The Metropolitan Room ran a 24 hour variety show, which will be come an annual event after their Guinness Book of Records 60 hour show from last year, and lots of comics came down to perform. Abbi Crutchfield came down at a reasonable hour like I did, and then there was the post midnight crew like Harrison Greenbaum, Bob Greenberg, Ben Rosenfeld, Katie Hannigan, and Sal Capizzi.
There’s a comedy phenomenon around and his name is Dan LaMorte, ( yes it means “death”!) but he’s only 20 years old and very much alive. I met him first thru Ron Herron of Herron Entertainment and we did a couple of shows together and just got to perform together at my headlining gig in Altoona, which I thought they invited me to cause it had to do with “tuna!” Dan’s only 20 and already opened for Kathleen Madigan, Vic DiBitetto, and Rev. Bob Levy. You can only describe Dan as a jolly soul. With his flannel shirts and full beard he looks like he should be living in Brooklyn or a cabin in the woods. And he had such an interesting back story. He was supposed to become a baseball player like his Dad and his grandfather before him, but on opening day of his very first NCAA season in college he threw his first pitch and wound up in the hospital needing surgery which ended his baseball career on the day that it started, and launched him into the comedy world.
We went down to PA to be in comic/producer Steve Kifer’s show and the room was packed with lots of Bennington fans, as well as the people from radio show Mix 94.7 who promoted the event. It was a 4 1/2 hour drive, but really fun, and we had a great crowd.
Anyway that’s enough for this week! 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 include Jeffrey with Colin Quinn backstage at Colin’s show, dancing with Hasan Minhaj backstage after Hasan’s show, with Geno Bisconte and with Dan Lamorte.