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, The Comic Strip and more!
The Comic Strip has been getting lots of play lately since the Jerry Seinfeld Netflix special. Richie Tienken told me he was sitting in his office last week on Sunday night when one of his employees knocked on the door and said “Larry David’s here with Amy Schumer.” Needless to say Richie came right out… he said especially when he heard that Amy was there because Larry is based in L.A., but Amy is based in N.Y. and used to do the club a lot until someone who was involved with running the club told her she wasn’t funny and would never go anywhere. Really? Richie said it had something to do with that person representing another female comedian and wanting Amy to sign some sort of agreement without the benefit of showing it to her lawyer. When she objected, that’s when he made the derogatory remarks, and Richie said she hasn’t been back to the club since. So he was thrilled to see her. She went up and closed the show with about a 15 minute set while Larry sat and watched. Richie offered him to do some stage time, but he said he wasn’t performing anymore.
Amy remarked on how different the club looked and Richie told her the Jerry/Netflix story. He sent her a thank you e-mail, telling her she was welcome at any time, and she responded. He said he loves when the big stars who started out in the club stop by, because it makes him feel like he had a little bit of involvement with their rise to stardom. After all, he managed Eddie Murphy, Colin Quinn and Adam Sandler and was responsible for Eddie Murphy discovering Chris Rock at the club. I asked him if he had seen Adam recently. He said the last time he saw him was at the Grown Ups 2 premiere. He went with both his sons, Richie Jr. and Jonathan and Jonathan was a big fan of Kevin James, but was too shy to be introduced. Richie talks in a loud whisper due to his throat cancer surgery and spotted Adam in the crowd. He asked Jonathan to call out his name to get his attention, but he was too shy until Richie reassured him that when Adam hears his name and turns around he’ll see Richie, not him and he won’t have to say anything. So Jonathan yelled out “Adam” and Adam turned and saw Richie and they were able to re-connect after not having seen each other for a long time. Jonathan wound up leaving, and walking right past Kevin James without an introduction because he was too shy! Richie said, “ What are you worried about?, He’s a friend of mine!” But Jonathan declined.
While I was at The Strip I ran into Kyle Grooms who told me he had a part in Amy Schumer’s new film I Feel Pretty which they just shot in Boston in August. He plays a character named Lyle and I asked him how it came about. He said he’s known Amy for a while and did some things on Inside Amy Schumer, and she asked him to be in it. The best way to get a part in something. The film should be out next summer.
This coming Thursday is the opening private party for the new West Side Comedy Club. I had already spoken to owner Eugene Ashe so I thought I’d ask his wife/co-owner Nina Ashe and club manager Gina Savage for their take on the club. Gina said, “As we near opening day, I reflect on the over 20 plus years I’ve been in the comedy industry. I’m excited and enthusiastic about joining my longtime friends Eugene & Nina Ashe in opening West Side Comedy Club. The comedy pedigree between us is substantial. We’ve all worked in various NYC clubs throughout the years, have strong relationships with comedians, know a thing or two about the restaurant business and we all know how to have a good time! She went on to say that many of the comedians on their upcoming line-ups are old friends like Greer Barnes, Russ Meneve, Gregg Rogell, Dan Naturman, Vanessa Hollingshead, Todd Barry, Carmen Lynch, Sue Costello, Sherrod Small, Ophira Eisenberg & Mike Vecchione just to name a few. They both made it clear they are open to developing new talent, and cultivating the next generation of comedians. She’s particularly excited about “The Betty’s Show” an all female comedy show which will be on Monday nights and named for Playa Betty’s, the restaurant that houses the comedy club. There’s another show I can’t be on! Nina who has worked in comedy clubs for over 20 years said she’s loved comedy since she was a kid. And having worked in the clubs, she says it’s important to her that her staff also has a good time, and has as much fun as she says she did back in the day. I’m sure her staff will be glad to hear that! I hope to be able to make it one of my regular stops. And I made sure to tell them that Nina and Gina sounds like a two girl singing group!
Neko White is only 24, but he’s already celebrating ten years in the biz. Amazing! So he had a special celebration at New York Comedy Club where you can find him many nights throughout the week. It was a late night show starting at 11:30, with Mike Cannon as the host and Aminah Imani and Phill Hunt who closed. I felt very proud that all of them used to do my late night show at The Comic Strip when they were all just starting out. The room was packed with Neko’s friends, family, and supporters. A lot of people were there from his high school and I sat next to one of his schoolmates, who told me he was always funny in high school which was the Bronx High School for Writing and Communication Arts. She said he used to practice comedy sets in class and in the cafeteria, and one teacher who thought he was funny even let him do like a 5 minute set in the classroom. And once they took a field trip to Washington, D.C. and he performed on the bus. Neko told stories about coming out of the Taft Projects in Harlem and how it was a war zone. It just shows that if you have a goal in life and you work as hard as Neko does, you can turn your life around as opposed to guys like “Swizzy” a guy from his hood who he said got shot! From the very beginning, I always knew that Neko would do good! At the end of the show, Mike Cannon brought out a cake and then Neko hung out and mingled with all his friends.
Bill Bellamy was headlining Gotham this weekend, so I had to stop by and catch up. I don’t get to see him that often as he’s based in L.A., so when I get the chance I always make sure I go and catch his show. I was sitting on the side at the comics’ table when he came in, gave me a pound and we made up to meet after the show. He told me had a lot of new stuff and it was FYAH! And he was right! And when they announced him, the audience went crazy. Richie Redding who tours with Katt Williams, was the host and Wil Sylvince who’s in the midst of raising money for his feature film “I Am Maurice” was the feature. Bill did great imitations of Chris Tucker, Dave Chappelle, and Katt Williams, and when he did Katt, Richie said it was like Katt was in the room. Bill told me a story about performing with Dave Chappelle recently at Radio City and he said that so many big stars were there, it was crazy. It was Chris Tucker, Jerry Seinfeld, George Wallace, Mos Def and more. And he said that Chappelle came over to him and told him something he said he’s been wanting to tell him for a while, that he’s a man’s man and a ladies man, and so everyone wants to come and see him. He told Bill he was “like the John Coltrane of our generation.” Bill said he felt so honored, but then he saw Chappelle talking to Chris Tucker and he said he wasn’t 100% sure, but he thinks he told him the same thing! Bill said he’s had to overcome a lot of adversity lately, having lost his Mom this past June 24th and his brother 2 years ago, but he feels it’s made him a stronger person and a stronger comic. You can see Bill right now in Def Comedy Jam 25 on Netflix. Do it!
I stopped off at The Stand late one night to hang with my man Paul Virzi who told me the editing is coming along great on his new special produced by Bill Burr and Pete Davidson, and he can’t wait to see the finished product. And while I was there, I feel like I discovered a new talent, and I’m excited about it. Not discovered in the way that no one knew him before because he was already performing at The Stand, and he’s already done Fallon, but “discovered” in a personal way for myself. Anytime I see someone I hadn’t seen before who I think is really good, I feel like I discovered something. This guy’s name is Randy Syphax, and I wanna call him a “kid” in a complimentary way. His physicality reminds me of Pete Davidson. Something about the look, the height, the hair maybe, the baseball cap, … but he’s a lot whiter than Pete Davidson except for the fact that he’s black. This kid is a genetic anomaly. His dad is black and his mom is white, and Irish with red hair. And this kid doesn’t have one black feature and finds himself having to convince the audience every night that he’s half-black. They don’t wanna believe him ’cause he’s just so white. Not albino white. Plain Caucasian white. He’s got great stage presence and the audience really liked him, so I waited for him after his set, and we sat down to talk. He’s got a fascinating story. Originally from Silver Spring, MD, which he says is near D.C. He’s been performing for about six years. He’s back in NY for the last three years. He lived here before, but he says he had to leave because of bedbugs! Seriously! So he and his girlfriend of five years, Sara Armour, also a comic first went to D.C., then Palm Beach, Florida, then Gilbert, Arizona, and finally Montclair, New Jersey. So if any of those places happen to be infested with bedbugs, you know who brought them! He told me that one of the biggest obstacles he faces, is trying to establish an identity for himself. He says it’s made him pretty insecure at times, but you couldn’t tell from the confidence he exudes on stage. And he said that no one’s more insecure about him than him! He showed me a photo of his dad and he’s pretty dark-skinned. He also said part of his dad’s family history is that Robert E. Lee was his family’s slavemaster. I’m just saying to keep an eye on this kid ’cause he’s got the goods, and I think he’ll be big!
Dana Verde is a producer/director with a vision. She filmed a few episodes of a new show called “Black Twitta Is Real” at the MNN studios on East 104th Street and I was there to see it. Comic Kenny Williams plays Black Twitta who wears a huge afro and a bird suit that Dana had custom made for him. He actually walked through different parts of the city wearing it, (including Harlem), in order to take promo pictures and people were friendly, and inquisitive. No one made a big deal about it. That’s life in New York. A huge guy shows up in a bird suit and no one even notices. And Shaheed Williams is the other star, who is a very talented puppeteer, who plays DJ Tit Tat. He’s a big dude who manages to hide himself behind a small podium to do his puppet magic. It’s done as a talk show with different guests coming on to discuss things involving Black pop culture. I brought on one of their guests, a comic named Hakim Coombs, an even bigger guy who looks a lot like Suge Knight. Probably even bigger than Suge. He’s a funny dude I’ve worked with in the past and he did great! I’ll be excited to see this after the edits are done.
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 Randy Syphax, Neko White and Kenny Williams.