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 visited The Stand, New York Comedy Club, Gotham and more!
Richie Tienken called and invited me to join him at The Comic Strip for the viewing of the Jerry Seinfeld Netflix special called Jerry Before Seinfeld that was shot in the club a few months back. The place was packed, but luckily they had seats for us in the comics section in the little balcony area. The club looks amazing since Netflix re-did it to look the way it did back in 1976. Scott Blakeman who’s been involved with the club since the early days opened the show and who warmed up the audience and Ruperto Vanderpool also came up and did a set. Then they showed the special which was fantastic and a mixture of Jerry’s stand-up from his earliest days mixed in with personal home videos of him as a little boy, thanks to the expert direction of Mike Bonfiglio who I hadn’t seen since this past July in Montreal. The special was great and I got to laugh out loud several times, which I always notice because it’s a rarity for me. Jerry is a consummate wordsmith, a master of observation, and a true genius at taking everyday things and presenting them in a hilarious light. And he works clean. No “F” words. No bathroom references. He doesn’t need them. It’s not his style. I always appreciated him, but never more than that night. A true comedy artiste! The nice thing was that he kept crediting The Comic Strip for giving him, not only his start, but also a home where they gave him hamburgers so he wouldn’t starve and t-shirts that he could wear. He estimated that thanks to The Comic Strip and Richie Tienken, he was eating about “30 pounds of chopmeat a month!” At the end, Ruperto called Richie Tienken up on the stage to say a few words, and it was a nice ending to the show.
Afterwards I sat with Richie in his little private office that was at one time the coat room, and he told me that after the renovation, Jerry asked him how he liked the club. Richie said it was great, but all it needed was “the fat lady.” In the earliest days of the club, in a take-off on the old expression which no-one seems to know the origin of, … “ It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”, the club had a wooden figure of a fat lady in a rocking chair wearing a white dress with ruffles and when they wanted to get a comic off the stage instead of a red light, Richie would press a button causing the fat lady to rock back and forth and sing. The comic knew it was time to get off the stage. Obviously, it brought back bad memories for Jerry because he simply said “That’s okay”, and left it at that.
The Tribeca Film Festival launched it’s first Tribeca TV Festival in the Cinépolis Chelsea theater on West 23rd Street and I stopped by to see Louis C.K. interview Pamela Adlon about the new second season of her show Better Things on FX.
I got there early, so I went to see Gotham Chopra, (Deepak’s son) who with Michael Strahan was debuting an episode of a new TV series they co-produce on AT&T. I had hoped to get a moment with Deepak Chopra to ask him for a quote on my new upcoming book on consciousness. I didn’t find Deepak, but I ran into Pamela who was just finishing a promo shoot and we agreed to meet up after her presentation which is how I got the shot of her and Louis.
Louis came out and to Pamela’s dismay, read a four page humorous introduction of Pamela listing all of her credits from the time she was a child.He mentioned her Emmy for her voicing of Bobby Hill on King of the Hill, and her role as Marcy Runkle for seven seasons on Californication. In her humility, she yelled out to try and stop him, to no avail. He said he was determined to get through it. Pamela wrote or co-wrote most of the episodes and directed every single episode of the second season of Better Things, and Louis gave her props for being the only woman in the business to do so. And she credits him with giving her the courage to do so. They first met in 2005 when she came to audition to play Kim the nurse, and as Louie described her, “the unlucky wife on Lucky Louie,” which he described as “the only multi-cam sitcom in TV history. And then to great laughter from the audience, he added, “It was cancelled.”
In the episode of Better Things they showed, which will air this coming Thursday at 10, called ‘Robin”, she plays against an actor who was a child star, as was Pamela. I don’t want to give any of it away except to say that it was great and you’ll love it. Pamela Adlon is adorable and won a Peabody Award for the first season. Louis said it’s the best show on TV. He asked her if she ever made a bad decision and if so, how did she overcome it, to which she said “I got divorced.” And she made a point of saying something to the effect of, and I’m paraphrasing, … the less self-conscious you can be, especially when it comes to your appearance, the more powerful you can be.” And that is very true. Good luck with Season 2 Pamela, we’re all rooting for you!
I stopped by the Olive Tree cafe to see who was hanging out and to get a bite to eat and ran into Bobby Kelly who told me he’s being honored as Comic Of the Year at the Boston Comedy Festival, which he thought was hilarious since Boston is his hometown, but he’s never been invited to perform at the festival before. He’ll gladly accept the honor. So many comics were either just hanging out or waiting to go on, and it was Rick Crom, Dan Naturman, Big Jay Oakerson with Christine Marie Evans, producer of Skankfest, Godfrey, Andy Fiori, Cipha Sounds, Roy Wood Jr., and a whole bunch more who stopped by to say hello.
Pat Dixon’s NYC Crime Report on Compound Media, straight from the Anthony Cumia studios is always a fun place to visit on Monday nights. Even more fun when you wind up on the panel. I was even able to contribute my copy of the N.Y. Post which I always have with me, to reference some of the innumerable crime stories featured on a daily basis. Pat’s show started in 2011, but it could run forever because there’s just so much crime in this city. With me on the panel were Clayton Fletcher, who’s got a ten-year-old show running every Friday night at the Greenwich Village Comedy Club. He said it used to be at New York Comedy Club before Emilio Savone took over in Clayton’s words, “when it was still a dump!” Also on panel was Ian Erickson of The Patriarchy Show on NewMediaCentral.net which he describes as Opie and Anthony meets Sean Hannity. He said it’s a comedic show, but he’s not a stand-up. Some people are just naturally funny. And then there’s “the Asian Pat Dixon” normally portrayed by Ryan Katsu Rivera, but as recently as last month, played by comic Andre Kim. Now I had only met Ryan once, … maybe twice, and when I came in to the studio, Andre greeted me as if we knew each other so I assumed he was Ryan Katsu Rivera. It wasn’t until the end of the show when we were speaking that he thought it was hilarious that I mistook him for another Asian guy, but really in my defense I don’t recall ever having met him before! Everyone had a good laugh at the interchangeable Asian Pat Dixons! Andre is involved in a once-a-month all Asian comedy show at Stand Up New York, where Ronny Chieng has been a guest and where they’re hoping to get Steve Byrne!
The Metropolitan Room, which is the old Gotham Comedy Club owned by Bernie Furshpan will be moving to a new and larger location on West 29th street, hopefully within the next six months, after it’s built out from the empty space it is now. I saw Bernie at a memorial event he had over the weekend for longtime accompanist Barry Levitt who passed away suddenly this week after a performance at the Laurie Beechman Theatre on West 42nd Street. He was having an after-show drink at the bar when he suddenly turned and fell to the ground with a massive fatal heart attack. Barry was a really talented great guy who accompanied many of the cabaret shows where comedy was performed over the years, and he will be sorely missed. The club is having it’s marathon show this Monday going into Tuesday after which it will close forever at that location, until the new club opens. Beat of luck to them!
I had a great thrill this week. I discovered comedy talent that was new to me. I found myself near Carolines and wandered in to catch someone I hadn’t seen before and boy was I glad I did. It was Gary Owen, a white dude who had an all-black audience. Literally an all-black audience. I had really never seen anything like it before and thought that maybe he was really light-skinned or biracial, but that was not the case. The dude is stark white! And the audience went insane for him. I have rarely seen any audience react like these people did for Gary Owen.
Because I look at comedy as a healing force and a way to bring all people together, I consider him a phenomenon. His wife is black and he speaks like he’s black, but it feels genuine. Not like some white guy trying to be black. He even keeps a handkerchief on hand to wipe the sweat off his forehead. I never saw another white comic do that. But he’s the real deal and funny as shit! He talks about how he likes black girls and how he used to meet them. He talks about his three bi-racial kids, two boys who are attracted to white girls and a daughter who’s only attracted to black guys. He talked about “dudes be talkin’ reckless when they almost get into a fight” and exactly as he did that a fight broke out in the audience.
A man and woman started screaming at each other and the man kept saying in a very slow, deep voice, “YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH”. It interrupted the whole show just as he was talking about backing down from a fight. Now some comics would have been thrown by this, but Gary who’s been at it for 20 years, handled it amazingly well, making fun of the guy’s voice, repeating “You shut your mouth” over and over again until the audience was laughing so hard and loud you couldn’t hear those people yelling. It was masterful. Afterwards, we sat in his dressing room for a few minutes and I complimented him effusively, … almost too much, to the point where he looked uncomfortable, on what I had seen. I was so greatly impressed. He’s based in Cincinnati and got started performing while he was in the Navy and after one year was voted “Funniest Serviceman In America.” He wanted to start performing, but couldn’t get any stage time until a friend of his suggested he try the black circuit. He actually won the “Funniest Black Comedian in San Diego” contest, and is the only white guy to ever host BET’s Comic View, which is where he got his big break in 1997. Ebony named him “Black America’s Favorite White Comic” and I can understand why. Since 1997, he’s been in so many movies with people like Kevin Hart and Mike Epps, and has his own show on BET called “The Gary Owen Show.” He’s got a Showtime special up now called “I Got My Associates” and is working on a new hour. You’ll see him with Snoop and Martha in the new season and the truth is I can’t wait to see him again.
Ace Salisbury is a comedy director/animator who as we speak, is on his way to LA to walk the red carpet of the Streamy Awards for a show he created called “Everything’s OK” which is in the running for “Best Indie Series.” In the middle of his birthday party which I attended out in Brooklyn, where all creative people seem to live theses days, he described the show to me as “a Dystopian surreal comedy in which New York City has run out of water after an apocalyptic event, and a young girl searches for her father with the help of her sidekick, the revived head of Orson Welles.” Needless to say it’s very different and could only come from the mind of a man whose animated films I wrote like “College Prof. Fired For Casually Removing His Spine” and “Man With Infant’s Head Sues for Discrimination,” which he did.
And with that 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. Pictured, Jeffrey Gurian with Pamela Adlon, with Team Pat Dixon, and with Gary Owen. And Jeffrey’s upcoming book.