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 reports from Gotham Comedy Club.
It was a busy week in the comedy clubs, particularly for me. This week was the Roast of Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby, radio co-hosts on WABC radio on the Curtis and Kuby Show, that was held at Gotham Comedy Club. As I got to the club for the Curtis and night there were TV crews in the street wrapping a shoot, and it turns out that Jim Gaffigan had been at the club right before, shooting scenes for his new Jim Gaffigan Show on TVLand that he’s writing and producing with his talented wife and creative partner Jeannie Gaffigan. I had just interviewed them about the show on the red carpet of Night of Too Many Stars the week before, when Jim said he wanted me to play one of his kids. I forgot to ask him which one! (LOL)
I was honored to produce the Roast with Chris Mazzilli owner of Gotham. The purpose of the show was to call attention to the fact that Curtis and Kuby are back on the air again together. They had split up for several years, and considering what went down with each other it’s amazing they can sit across from each other and be civil. Well, … almost civil, … some of the time!
Curtis and I have been friends for over 25 years, and he was the one who called me and asked me to put together the roast. Most of the comics came early and hung out at the VIP reception before the event started, enjoying drinks and hor d’oeuvres, and we all got to meet Ron Kuby who was there with his wife. I had everybody seated on the stage with Curtis and Kuby off to the side in high chairs like babies!
Rich Vos did an outstanding job as Roast Master. When the roast started, there was an empty chair where Chuck Nice was supposed to be sitting. For whatever reason, he was off to the side of the showroom. It was Chuck’s first Roast so we put him up first at his request. He almost seemed surprised that he did so well, but I wasn’t because Chuck is a real showman who can rise to the occasion of any event he’s asked to perform on. Bonnie McFarlane was her usual hysterical self. She was the only woman performer but her stage presence and material are always so strong, and every time she goes up she belies the title of her and Rich’s documentary film Women Aren’t Funny which proves without a doubt how funny women actually are. Aaron Berg was spot on. Aaron at one time was a stripper. A Jewish stripper with tattoos, and he dresses in tight vests and fitted shirts. Stone and Stone, that’s Adam and Todd did a spectacular job with their funny bit of starting out by talking at the exact same time. Kurt Metzger made it right in time for the show and looked fantastic in a suit and tie. The funny thing was he had his jokes on his phone but then started to worry that his battery was getting so low that he would lose his jokes. Kurt’s doing big things including writing for Inside Amy Schumer and it’s generally acknowledged that he’s on track to do some really HUGE things. Closing out the show was my boy Geno Bisconte because he’s always so strong and just brings it 110%. Geno had literally just got back from traveling for a couple of months on tour. Geno and I share the same birthday, and I had the honor of introducing him to The Friars Club at a book party for my book Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive back in 2007. Also added on to the event were two people from WABC, young comic/radio producer Mike Coscarelli and radio personality/comic Maria Garcia and each of them did great! Curtis and Kuby, and all the WABC people were thrilled with the event. It was a packed room, and Curtis wants to make it an annual event!
There was an announcement asking people to clear the room for another show that hadn’t really been announced. Next thing I know I’m greeting Amy Schumer, who stopped off for a quick hello while running to get ready. She was rehearsing some lines for the MTV Movie Awards which she’ll be hosting in April. I was so surprised to see her. I was standing and talking to Ralphie May who had just come into the room at the very end of the Roast, and was with Cat Rhinehart who’s following him around the country and taping him for a project they’re working on. I should add that she’s following him with his permission.
Jimmy Failla opened the show for Amy Schumer and it was a pretty full room considering that most people found out about the show on Twitter. There was no time to advertise it. I had been ready to leave but decided to stay and see Amy. She was sitting at the back table where I usually sit, with her sister Kim, and a guy wearing a cap who acknowledged me, and looked a lot like Chris Rock, but because it was so dark, I wasn’t 100% sure. Turned out it was Chris Rock. When Amy went on she started by turning her back to the audience and telling them to get the photos over with before she started. She stuck out her butt and people took photos. Chris and Kim seemed to be there to give Amy their feedback on the material. Amy’s winning the game, and I hope she’s enjoying it.
I popped by the Comedy Juice show. The MC was a comic I hadn’t seen before and I think his name was Larry Beah. I’m sure about the “Larry” part and not 100% on the “Beah.” Anyway he was so exuberant with his introductions that Dan Soder was embarrassed when he came up. The guy introduced him by telling the audience that the “comedy gods were smiling on them for the next comic who’ll be gracing our stage”, and people were probably looking around for Dave Chappelle or Louis C.K. and Dan came out laughing and said that was too much pressure and that kind of intro only sets you up for failure. I know him to be a humble guy and you could see he felt funny with such a grand intro. He said that growing up in Colorado where weed is now legal was weird for him cause all his stoner friends who were going nowhere fast are now all successful businessmen selling weed. He said “they went from being potheads to experts in their field.”
Janeane Garofalo did a set and as always apologized to the audience for her lack of joke writing. She’s more of a story teller. She actually tells them they shouldn’t have to pay a cover charge to see her, and she loves to use words and outdated phrases like “tomfoolery”, “ the oughts”, and “swarthy gentleman”! I too love phrases like that as any wordsmith would. She stopped to chat before she left and told me she’s playing a teacher named Eve in the new Jim Gaffigan show and she would be shooting her scenes in a few days which would have been this past Friday. She plays James’ teacher. I was under the impression that they’re using his real children, since I saw them appear with Jim and Jeannie a couple of times, but Janeane thought they were using actors. Neither of us were sure but maybe she’s right since as I said earlier, Jim told me he wanted me to play one of them!
The very funny Amir K was in visiting from LA and totally smashed it when he went on. The audience was rolling! And how cool to see Pete Davidson who was a last minute addition to the show. He was running his material for the Justin Bieber Roast which was taped this Saturday and is scheduled to air on Comedy Central for March 30th at 10 P.M. The audience was thrilled to see him, and Pete did his stuff off of his phone, like Kurt Metzger did at the Roast. But right in the middle he got a text message and it threw him off cause I think it closed the page he was looking at and he had to re-open it. It didn’t even bother him. Kids his age just take it in stride when technology interferes! He said he’ll only be doing 3 minutes so he has no idea which jokes will make the cut but he was well prepared. And closing the show was Ben Gleib from LA and from Chelsea Lately. Ben’s got lots of cool stuff going on. He was in town hosting the upfronts for GSN, the Game Show Network where he has his own show called Idiotest. The upfronts were held at The Sony Building, and the premiere of Season 2 of Idiotest is on April 1st with two shows back to back at 8 and 8:30, and 65 episodes in the can. How amazing is that? 65 episodes! That’s a lot of episodes!
As the club was closing up I had an enlightening moment with Gotham showroom manager Ed Cavanagh, who started out explaining to me how come there’s no “u” in Cavanagh. He said his great-grandfather was really drunk when he came to this country, and accidentally left out the “u” when writing his name and it stuck. Ed runs the room like clockwork. He does everything, from greeter, and host to announcer, to making sure the customers are happy and well taken care of, and he’s moving every minute, and I always wondered how he understood comedy so well. Turns out he’s an ex-comic who went on to become the Entertainment Director for all the Rascals clubs in the country, he booked the talent, and discovered the talent, and performed for about 7 years after having taken a class with Scott Blakeman. He even passed at The Comic Strip and still remembers the words that were told to him by the legendary booker Lucien Hold, “On the road you can get away with paint by numbers, but in New York City comedy is an art form.”
I caught the taping of AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live with Ralphie May who was hosting the show. Ralphie’s psyched about his newest special Unruly which is on Netflix and which just came out. He shot it in Atlanta at the Cobb Performing Arts Center that held around 3000 people! I asked him why he chose Atlanta and he had a very thoughtful answer. He said “the people are smart, they love to laugh, they’re not pretentious, and they don’t allow their ego to overshadow their intellect!” That’s exactly what he said!
His wife and the mother of his two kids, Lahna Turner was also on the show. Lahna does musical comedy and she’s got a new special on Hulu called And So I Wrote A Song About It, which is perfect because she comes out on stage with a guitar and does musical comedy, but X-rated. Very funny stuff and Ralphie didn’t tell the audience she was his wife until after she performed. Then he said how proud he was of her. He said he didn’t want to influence the audience by telling them before.
Dominican-American comedian Vladimir Caamano, ( there’s a combination for you, like Ernesto Peenishvontz!), was also on the show and he endeared himself to me immediately at the after-party by telling me how much he liked my book Make ‘Em Laugh. The dude is hysterical, especially when he imitates his Dad who throws in one English word at the end of a Spanish sentence and thinks he’s speaking English. Matt Burke was a guy I hadn’t seen before who described his look as that of a “Civil War surgeon” which was right on. And one of the stand-outs of the show was another big guy Leonard Ouzts, pronounced “Ootz”! He’s only 22, from The Bronx and when I asked him about his unusual last name he said it was German.
Now while I was watching the show enjoying my chicken sandwich and fries who came down to sit near me but my buddy Kareem Green. And next to him was another guy in a hat who looked familiar. No it wasn’t Chris Rock again but I kept looking over at the guy and it looked a lot like L’il Rel Howery. Sure enough I’m at the after-party and it’s L’il Rel. I didn’t feel so bad for not recognizing him when Kareem told me he didn’t recognize him at first either. Rel’s in the midst of shooting Season 2 of Tru TV’s Friends of the People. But he also just landed a starring role in Jerrod Carmichael’s new NBC sitcom Go, Jerrod Go playing Jerrod’s ever-hustling brother Bobby so he’s gotta move back to LA again to shoot the show. He’s moved a couple of times already in the last couple of years, and unfortunately will not be able to do both shows. But hey when you get a starring role in a network sitcom you do what you have to do! And in April he’s shooting his first hour special in Chicago at the Vic Theatre which holds about 2,000 people. He’s calling it Rel-event which is a nick-name given to him by Russell Peters. He told me that Russell always calls him that anyway, so when he needed a name for the special that came to mind. And it’s really a genius name for his special cause it’s starring Rel, it’s an event and it’s totally relevant! And it’s being produced by Kevin Hart and his Hartbeat Productions, so I’m sure it’s gonna be top notch! And Kevin will be there for the taping to insure that!
I called Derek Gaines who’s hosting Broke Ass Game Show on MTV with Dave Magidoff, to see if he was in town. Turns out he’s out in LA for pilot season and just survived a terrble car accident where he and the girl he was with were blessed to walk away in one piece. He was driving on the 101 in LA when he was hit from behind by a drunk driver. His car spun and hit a wall. It was demolished but he and the girl walked out of it ok. He said the accident taught him how famous Drake was. When I asked him to explain he said, the girl he was with called her mother hysterical crying, and in describing her “near-death” experience she quoted Drake by saying her life went by “from zero to a hundred real quick” with an “N” word thrown in there somewhere. And that’s when it dawned on him how famous Drake was. We talked about how crazy it would have been had something terrible happened since he just got the TV show, and he said he thought of that while the car was spinning out of control. I’ll see him when he gets back in April.
That’s it for me 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. Below, photos, Jeffrey with Pete Davidson, Janeane Garofalo, Geno Bisconte, Ben Gleib, Lil Rel Howery, Ralphie May, Ron Kuby and Curtis Sliwa.