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 Radio City Music Hall, and took a trip to FLA to check out comedy in Boca and Miami.
This week I went to the Riverside Chapel to pay my respects to Abe Vigoda who passed away at age 94. People had been joking about his death for at least the past 20 years, and no one laughed harder than Abe, but it was inevitable that it finally happened for real. I came in and sat in the back in time to see ex-Mayor Dinkins come in on a walker with a friend. He wound up being one of the approximately 15 speakers who paid their respects to Abe. Abe made his mark in show biz as Sal Tessio in The Godfather, and as Det. Phil Fish in Barney Miller which led to his own series called “Fish”. He was such a nice man and I saw him often over the years at Friars Roasts where he was often the butt of jokes, about his supposed demise and his age.
Fittingly both Jeffrey Ross and Gilbert Gottfried spoke at his service. Well, Jeffrey Ross spoke and Gilbert yelled, … as is his custom. Jeffrey’s speech was very well done and a nice mix of sincereity and humor. He recalled that at the first Friars Roast that was produced by Comedy Central for TV he did several jokes about Abe Vigoda, which brought them together as friends. Gilbert actually wore a suit and tie which is a very rare thing for him. He opened by asking if there were any Jews in the house. And he went on to make jokes about Abe’s advanced age. He said he was so old, his best friend at school was Christ, and his first pet was a dinosaur. He closed with a joke that he said had nothing to do with Abe or anything else for that matter. But he worked clean, which was a relief to all, because with Gilbert you never know.
It was the only funeral I ever attended where speakers got applause. Usually that never happens. People left to the theme from The Godfather. Afterwards I hung out for a few minutes with Jeffrey, Gilbert and Jean Pierre Trebot the ex-director of The Friars Club who ran the club for many, many years. They were all shocked to hear about my heart attack and it was the first time In all the years I know Gilbert that I saw him react seriously to something. I remember visiting HIM in the hospital many, many years before when he almost died from a burst appendix.
Sal Vulcano hooked me up to see the Impractical Jokers show at Radio City this week. They initially were only doing one night but they sold out so fast they had to add two more nights (which also sold out!). The night I went, Saturday night, it was absolutely packed. The boys were in good form and told stories and showed some of their funniest videos. The show was opened by Roy Wood Jr. (from The Daily Show) who as usual had a great set. The boys, James Murray, Brian Quinn, Joe Gatto and Sal Vulcano met in high school 26 years ago and have been friends ever since. For those of you who may not have seen the show they dare each other to do the most outrageous things, and at times I found myself laughing out loud which is not something I often do. I couldn’t help it.
They started out at a comedy troupe called The Tenderloins, a name which they still use to refer to themselves, and they were all very grateful for the opportunity to appear at Radio City. They said playing Radio City was a dream come true for them and they were genuinely humbled and grateful. At the end of the show, just before showing a video of James Murray eating dog poop for $300. they brought all of their nieces and nephews up on stage for a bow. It was a nice touch.
And then there was the after party at 48 Lounge which was a very cool affair and at which I had the opportunity to meet Sal’s parents. Turns out his Dad is best friends with Joe Brat! They used to work together back in the day! Go figure! Season Five of Impractical Jokers begins on Feb. 11th on Tru TV with the first of 26 new episodes.
I drove out to Astoria to check out, and participate in the Keith and the Girl 47 hour marathon radio show which is an annual event and is expecting comics like Hannibal Buress, Mike Lawrence, Dan Soder, Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson. I was on with comics Myka Fox, Kerryn Feehan, and Farah Brook talking about all things sexual, but mostly I just listened to them telling graphic vagina tales.
I also heard from LA comic Mike Marino who’s got a big social media following from his ‘what if there was an Italian President from New Jersey’ video, and he’s also got a whole bunch of other cool things going on. He’s got one film coming out in April called Criticized in which he plays a detective. A comic playing a detective? Belzer did it for many years playing Det. John Munch! And then in May he starts filming another movie called More Like Brothers in which he plays a hit man in a 1930’s mob family. Both are co-starring roles, and both occupations definitely require a comedy background! He also has a full 2016 comedy tour planned.
And go see my dear friend Kali Hawk’s new comedy feature Fifty Shades of Black in which she co-stars with Marlon Wayans. I know Kali since she was a teen when we used to hang out at The Comic Strip, because she was always a comedy person, and loved watching comics perform. Then she moved to LA and became a big movie star in films like Couples Retreat, Bridesmaids, and Tyler Perry Presents Peeples. She currently co-stars in the Adult Swim series Black Jesus and recurs as Shelby in New Girl. She’s amazing, gorgeous, so funny, and very humble and I’m so happy to see her getting the praise she deserves.
For any of our NY Post readers who happened to see the Page 6 story on Joseph (Joe Brat) McBratney that ran last week, you read that he referred to me as his “Jewish consigliere” and wanted me to be present for some business meetings. While I was there I decided to check out the Florida comedy scene.
I was staying in Boca Raton so I started out by dropping in on Dougie Almeida a comic who travels all over doing shows, and does a radio show called Wake Up Late With Dougie in Coral Springs. We talked about all kinds of stuff including my recent heart attack and other fun things. Florida had non-stop rain with the threat of a tornado, so I drove through that kind of storm to get to Kyle Grooms’ show that same night in Miami at The Flamingo Theatre in The Four Ambassador’s Hotel. I made sure to get there early as I always do and as I walked in to check out the room, a guy said “ Hey Jeffrey, what’s up?” It was Manny Garavito a comic who remembered me from a show we did at The Comic Strip back in NY. He started this beautiful room after producing shows for 8 years in shall we say “lesser establishments”, which he described as “dive bars, and Sushi lounges”. Since they opened last July this 400 seat room has seen the likes of Greer Barnes, Michele Buteau, Imagine, Mike Vecchione, Paul Virzi and Ruperto Vanderpool. He said his vision was always to create a room that would feature the kind of talent you’d find mid-week at The Comedy Cellar.
There was a surprise guest spot done by London Brown from HBO’s Ballers, that is in the middle of shooting it’s second season. I asked London how he got the show cause I’m always fascinated by how those things happen and he told me he didn’t know. He was serious. They called him for an audition but he said he never found out who had seen him or suggested him. He said “The Rock” is very kind and respectful to everyone on the show and there’s no egos on the set. I asked him how the show changed his life and he said that his faith has grown and that it’s made him a kinder person. He feels very humbled by the attention he’s been getting as a result of being on the show. In the past, as a comic he’s played major clubs like The Laugh Factory, The Improv and The Apollo, and toured with Kevin Hart, Katt Williams, Tony Rock and also toured with Chris Tucker for a couple of years.
Also on this show was the always funny Smokey Suarez, whose act is also very physical. Smokey told me he just finished the Damon Dash sketch-movie project that he wrote called Mixed Nuts which will be seen on Netflix, and is coming out in the Spring. He’s also filming a new comedy special at The Apollo, where he hosts a regular show, and which he would also like to be for Netflix.
The next night I drove through another rain storm to get to the Boca Black Box Theatre which is owned and run by another ex-comic Randy Singer. He took an existing comedy club and converted it into a beautiful theatre that seats around 250 people. The night I went he was featuring comedy juggler Billy Prudhomme who spends a lot of his time doing cruises. The Boca Black Box has booked Jim Florentine, Jackie Martling, Louis Ramey coming up this Thursday, 2/4, and Judy Tenuta coming up on 2/26. Go check it out and tell Randy I sent 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 include Jeffrey with Sal Vulcano, Chemda, Kyle Grooms, Dougie Almeida and Minda Mo.