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 checked out Gotham Comedy Club, The Bitter End, The Underground and so much more!
It was another wild week in comedy as I got to three different boroughs in my quest to cover what’s going on in the comedy scene. And it’s so gratifying to see how many people love The Interrobang, and tell me they read the column religiously! Great set-up for a joke, but I’m leaving it there for you to fill in yourself!
It was a really big week for Big Jay Oakerson, and I began my own week at the first taping of his new crowd work show for NBC’s Seeso, What’s Your Fucking Deal? I was pleasantly surprised to see that Ardie Fuqua was his co-host. As I got to The Bitter End on Bleecker Street, which is where they were filming, the audience was already seated and from the back, standing in front of the club I saw a guy who looked like Big Jay but with the longest scarf hanging out of his back pocket, almost reaching to the ground. Now Jay is known for always having a bandanna hanging out of his back pocket but this looked like a full length scarf, like the kind I wear, with fringes and everything and at first glance I thought maybe it wasn’t him. Then I saw Christine Marie Evans, his better half who is an Executive Producer on the show, and I knew I was home. I greeted Jay, and Christine and Dave Kimowitz from The Stand, and my old pal Lou Wallach, former Comedy Central VP of Original Programming for many years, and who is now also one of the Executive Producers on this show, and they took me to my table.
Hannibal Buress came out and joked about not knowing why he was on the show, and said it’s hard to turn down a show when they call you as opposed to being e-mailed! He told me afterwards that he’s excited about his upcoming role in Will Ferrell’s new movie coming out on Christmas day called Daddy’s Home in which he plays a handy-man character known as Griff! Besides a killer set from Hannibal there were also great sets from Jessica Kirson, and Joe DeRosa, and afterwards we all hung out backstage in a little room filled with snacks! Jackie Martling was there to watch, and Andy Kindler, and Mark Normand were performing on the second show. Out in the street I saw Wil Sylvince and Sherrod Small who were also doing sets on other tapings. Christine told me they were working on this concept for about two years, having started it in Montreal as one of the midnight surprise shows at Just for Laughs. They had also workshopped it at the New York Comedy Festival and SXSW! And Lou Wallach hipped me to Seeso, which is NBC Universal’s new comedy digital platform, for whom Lou is producing the show, aside from two other new shows. If you wanna know what’s new in comedy you ask Lou! He’s always cutting edge, and one of the good guys in the biz! I went back later in the week to catch another taping.
The second taping I went to of Big Jay’s show was as funny as the first. I felt a hand on my shoulder and it was my buddy Tone Bell. Tone told me he came in from LA just to do this show, and was psyched about his upcoming Half Hour on Comedy Central airing Saturday. Tone told me had always wanted to meet Ardie Fuqua so I made sure to get a photo of them together as well as one with Mike Vecchione. And I was thrilled to see Brody Stevens come out to do a set, cause you never know what Brody’s gonna do. I don’t think even HE knows what he’s gonna do at any given moment. Brody also came in from LA, and is a very tall guy who accentuated his crowd work set with several high kicks every so often where he kicked up his leg head-high like a dancer, and touched his toes. He told me afterwards he just wanted to show everyone he was in shape! He has the interesting gig of Periscoping for NBC’s Undateable which has been live this season. He said he’s given free reign on the set to film as he wishes and films backstage and in between breaks, and gets the cast in unexpected situations, and with a cast like Chris D’Elia, Ron Funches, Brent Morin and Rick Glassman, all guys who love to joke around, I’m sure he’s got plenty to work with. He said that Comedy Central recently hired him to Periscope the All Star game in Cincinnati!
The only thing I will say about Ron Bennington’s Bennington Family Thanksgiving Dinner Comedy Show at The Hard Rock– because I know The IBang is already covering it– was that it was fantastic, standing room only, and it was exciting to celebrate with Ron, Gail and Chris and the crew. They unveiled a new comedy show during the event which you’ll be hearing about soon, and it was so cool to see Ron’s name up on the marquee right on Broadway. I had to get a photo of it.
A real highlight of my week was getting to see Judd Apatow actually direct scenes for the new HBO TV pilot Crashing created with comic Pete Holmes. They filmed it at The VIllage Underground over the course of several nights. On the night I dropped in, I got to see a scene with Rachel Feinstein, Keith Robinson, Gina Yashere, Pete Holmes of course and Big Jay Oakerson which is why I opened this column by saying it was a huge week for Jay. ChrIstine told me that on the last night of his own shoot. he had to run back and forth between The Bitter End and The Village Underground to shoot both shows, and then after midnight ran back once again to attend his own after party! What was great about watching Judd was that every so often he’d yell out a line he came up with for the actor’s to try, which they all did willingly. I told him afterwards it seemed like he was channeling the comedy gods, as he got one inspiration after the next. Pete Holmes told me it was a dream come true for him to have Judd direct him, and that this was very different from having his own show on TBS which ran for two seasons, because this one was his creation, which is a very different thing from having a late night variety show. Even Val, a manager from from the Comedy Cellar got to do a walk-on with lines!
Brian Fischler’s annual Fight for Sight charity event was a huge success at Gotham Comedy Club. I got there early enough to catch Gilbert Gottfried out in the hall with his wife Dara, just hanging out waiting to go on. Radio guy Craig Carton was the host, and as I entered the room I saw Robert Klein hanging out with Artie Lange. Robert told me his comic son Allie was there as well, and it was cool to see him again too. Everyone had great sets. Artie talked about being in jail, and mental institutions. He went on stage wearing a jacket about which he said, “I’ve been in show business for 25 years and I’m wearing the same jacket I wore to a Rush concert in 1981.”
Gilbert was his amazing self and told jokes about blind people that had them howling with laughter. At one point Dara laughingly told me she had to leave for a minute because she couldn’t believe what he was saying! And Robert Klein killed it with the young audience which is always so cool to see. He’s iconic. He said he got a tattoo of a varicose vein on his leg, and talked about people who were so Jewish they wouldn’t let their kids watch Porky Pig. A great evening of entertainment!
I got to Comedy Juice this week to find Judd Apatow of all people sitting in my seat! I had to laugh because it reminded me of the time many years ago when SNL was brand new, and I got to the show to find that Arnold Schwartzeneggar was sitting in my seat. In those days there were assigned seats and I actually had to ask him to move. He was very apologetic and we actually became friends for a short while and I even wound up writing him jokes to do on the Merv Griffin show. He wasn’t a star yet and had only done Pumping Iron, but I knew of him because I was a fan of bodybuilding. Anyway I did NOT ask Judd to move and he was just getting ready to go up on stage anyway, but it’s good for me to get out of my comfort zone and sit somewhere else every once in a while. In the middle of his set some drunk woman yelled out to another person in the audience, … not to Judd, … :” Blow me”, and she had to be removed from the crowd because Gotham is wonderful like that and has a very strict policy about interrupting the show. Also on the Juice show was Janeane Garofalo, and Michelle Buteau who told me she had a new album called Shut Up that came out recently and that she taped at Union Hall in Brooklyn for Comedy Central Records!
The 92nd Street Y was buzzing with excitement with award-winning writer/director/author Alan Zweibel in conversation with the incredibly talented Martin Short who I had not seen in a really long time. Alan and Martin, lifelong friends from their SNL days, were both talking about their books, Alan’s being Benjamin Franklin- Huge Pain in My ****, and Martin’s being I Must Say … My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend. Martin came out first after a hilarious video perspective of his work, thankfully including Ed Grimley, one of the most bizarre characters to ever hit TV, and did one of the funniest intros of Alan Zweibel you could imagine., with lines like “ It’s more than a thrill to be here, it’s an obligation” and “ of all my fake friendships, he’s one of the most fake”. He said that he and Alan were so close that Alan was present not only for the birth but for the conception of all three of his children. And after this long hysterically funny intro he ended it by saying, “the greater the talent the shorter the introduction!” It was a great evening and we all got to catch up afterwards for a few minutes.
Lewis Black told me he wasn’t feeling that well the night he hosted AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live but you couldn’t tell because it didn’t affect his performance. He was just considerate enough to tell everyone that went over to shake his hand. Lewis told me he’s on his never ending Lewis Black Tour in cities like Redding, PA, Binghamton, NY, and Wallingford, CT. He jokingly said he’s trying to hit places with less than 12,000 people! He had a great opening set comparing Christmas and Chanukah, and talking about his doctor’s visit where his doctor admitted he had no idea what was wrong with him, but still charged him $250 bucks! And also on the show was my old, old friend Luca Palanca, a California comic married to Tammy Pescatelli, who killed with his impressions, especially the one of Robert DeNiro.
I spoke to Maureen Taran who told me that she and Bill Burr will be producing their 4th annual Patrice O’Neal benefit at City Center on January 26th and tickets are available now. This event completely sells out every single year. Hard to believe Patrice is gone since November 29th, 2011. He’ll be honored with performances by Dave Attell, Greer Barnes, Bill Burr of course, Rachel Feinstein, Godfrey, Artie Lange, Russ Meneve, Jim Norton and Rich Vos. By the time you read this I should have already filmed my interview for the new, big Patrice O’Neal documentary called Better Than You produced by Patrice’s ex VonDecarlo, Sansan Fibri, and Mark Farrell.
I’m so looking forward to talking about my good friend Patrice, how I felt he validated me in many ways, by making me a co-host of his Black Phillip Show, and all the cool things we shared! It’s gonna be an amazing doc!
This week I went to the International Youth Hostel on 103rd and Amsterdam where we get to perform for sometimes 50-60 young people from many “foreign lands” thanks to comic Max May, who always has a great line-up of comics including Paul Schissel and Tommy Kang, who is of Korean heritage, and a talented comic named Sean Mallory I had not seen before, who treated the foreign audience to a medley of foreign accents which he did quite well. His card says “I once had an English teacher who had semi-colon cancer.” Funny dude!
I ended my week at a very exciting event out in Brooklyn, … Williamsburg to be exact, and I felt like I stepped into another world. Something very exciting is happening out there, and it feels like the birth of a new, and intimate form of comedy. A comic named Scotty Levell created a show in his living room in a huge building that used to be a doll factory. Scotty himself is also a nurse anesthetist, experienced in assisting in heart, lung and liver transplants in a Level 1 Trauma Center. No elevators in a huge building filled with young people living behind gray metal doors. It’s like one huge party out there, and people come and go at this show with maybe 50-60 people in the room, with free beer and tequila shots and everyone having a blast! The show is called Comedy Commune, and it’s a monthly free show in a loft apartment decorated with psychedelic looking artwork also made by Scotty. Talented dude! He had a great line-up with Sean Lynch, Hadiyah Robinson, Kenny DeForest who does a great show at The Knitting Factory every Sunday that he took over from Hannibal Buress. Kevin Barnett was also on the show fresh off Friends of The People TruTV’s first sketch-comedy series. Kevin does his podcast Roundtable of Gentlemen from The Creek and The Cave every Sunday night where they talk about crazy news items in kind of a round table of comics, and he and Josh Rabinowitz got a deal with NBC writing a sit-com kind of about them as an odd couple which they are working on 10-12 hours a day. As yet untitled! I made sure to apologize to the audience for my lack of facial hair, as I told them I had been too busy to grow a beard, and that just being there, I felt the need to use the world “artisanal” somewhere during my set. And sure enough when I left there was an artisinal ice cream parlor right downstairs.
As I left Brooklyn and crossed the Pulaski Bridge I passed right by The Creek and even though I was exhausted I couldn’t help but stop by and I’m glad I did. It was s show called Love, Poverty and War and I got to see Drew Michael do a really funny set, who referenced Copernicus, which I like because I happen to reference Leuwenhoek in my act which is also an obscure reference that not everyone knows, and I got to see Mike Cannon and Erik Bergstrom who I didn’t recognize, because he’s battling cancer, and undergoing chemo, which made him lose his hair, but he still showed up to do a very funny set. We all wish him well in his fight! Hopefully laughter really IS the best medicine.
And on that note I’m OUT!!! But not before I wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all have a lot to be grateful for and are in touch with it at this wonderful, often tricky, and sometimes stressful time of the year!
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, Jeffrey with Pete Holmes, Jeffrey with Big Jay Oakerson Brody Stephens, Ardie Fuqua and Wil Sylvince, Jeffrey with Alan Zweibel and Martin Short, Jeffrey with Leonard Outz, Tone Bell, Mike Vecchione, Luca and Sherrod Small,