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 Gotham Comedy Club, The Stand, The Comedy Cellar, and Webster Hall.
When it comes to Big Jay Oakerson I always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Big Jay’s taping at Webster Hall for his Comedy Central special was no different. When I arrived, it was raining lightly, there were huge crowds waiting to get in, and fortunately I ran right into Wayne Rada who was organizing the VIP stuff. The show was set up like a rock concert… smoke filled room and all. He crushed the room with his show, and that’s no easy task especially when you perform the way that Jay does. When you do so much crowd work there’s really no way to rehearse, except for the millions of hours of stage time he’s racked up, cause you never know who’s going to be seated within your visual range.
Luis J. Gomez did a great job of opening up the show and warming up the crowd. Also got to see Comedy Central exec’s JoAnn Grigioni and Anne Harris who I was also able to congratulate on her new promotion to V.P. at Comedy Central. And as I walked down the block of 11th Street and saw all the trucks and equipment and all the workers that were there just for Jay, I got a little sense of what it must feel like to have all those people come out just to help you do your show. All that stuff was there just for him.
The after party was really cool and they served cheese steak sandwiches which Philly is known for, as well as waffle fries, and the place was packed with comedy peeps like Von Decarlo, Monroe Martin, Sal Vulcano, Mike Vecchione, Dave Smith, Dan Soder, Joe List, Kaytlin Bailey, Ari Shaffir on crutches cause he got hurt skiing, but showed up anyway, Kurt Metzger, Geno Bisconte, Aaron Berg, and Michael Che. I’m sure there were more but those were the names that stuck out! I talked to Jay at the after party and he said that besides the birth of his daughter, it was the greatest night of his life. When I left around 1 A.M. the party was still going strong.
Word had gotten out that Dave Attell would be making a guest appearance at Comedy Juice this week, to work on some new material, and the room was so packed that I gave up my table and just stood in the back taking my photos and running back and forth talking to the comics as they got off stage. I was glad to meet Ronny Chieng the new correspondent from The Daily Show. His real name is Ronny Xin Yi Chieng and he told me he was born in Malaysia, was raised in Singapore and New Hampshire which sounds like an interesting juxtaposition of cultures, and was living in Australia when he got the chance to audition for The Daily Show. He said he wasn’t sure who had suggested him, but he had performed with Trevor Noah twice at Just for Laughs in Montreal and thought that might have had something to do with it. He said he’s loving being on the show. He said he flew in for the audition, and about three weeks later found out he got the gig.
I was sitting with Trevor’s warm-up comic/opener and current traveling partner Angelo Lozada who filled me in on how fun it’s been traveling with Trevor by private jet during the week they had off. He said that Trevor is such a hard worker he even performed on his birthday. They did six shows at the 1200 seat Wilbur Theatre in Boston on Valentine’s Weekend. They were only supposed to do two shows but Trevor is so popular, and so many people wanted to come out to see him that they just kept adding on shows till they reached six. Then they jetted back to New York and then flew to Seattle a couple of days later to do two more shows, and then jetted to Vancouver for a special Just for Laughs show, and then right after that show ended they hopped back into the private jet and flew to San Francisco for another show. They celebrated Trevor’s birthday with a bottle of Moet on the jet and some cupcakes.
While I was talking to Angelo out in the hall, a big guy in a hoodie ran by and grabbed me around in a bear hug, without me being able to see who it was and quickly ran inside the showroom. I followed in about a minute to see who it had been and it was Jay Pharoah who was already up on stage. Jay was great as usual, and looked really buff, like he’s been working out a lot. When he got off stage I told him that when he grabbed me, for a moment I thought I was being mugged inside of a comedy club, and we both had a good laugh about that.
Over at The Stand I saw Bill Burr who had just done two sets. Bill saw me with Ali Farahnakian, whose hair is pretty wild, he said we looked like two classical musicians. We hung out for over an hour with Bill, Maureen Taran, Damien Lemon, Jeff Alexander, Aaron Berg and Sherrod Small who had some great news to share with me. He said he sold a show to A&E starring him and Christian Finnegan called Black and White, and it’s kind of a talk show that they co-host. It’s gonna be a half hour show with sketches and commentary, and he said the crazy thing was that at least ten years ago he told Christian when they were on Best Week Ever together on VH1 that he wanted to do a show with him, and now it came to fruition. He said that The History Channel also wanted it and that there was a bidding war but that A&E bought 8 episodes and he made me promise to come to every single taping. I’m assuming/hoping it’s going to be a New York show!
It was about that time that Bill grabbed my note pad and made me declare whether I was there as a comedian or a journalist! Given the choice, I said I was there as a comedian, so he jokingly said I had no need to take notes! He always teases me like that, and then when I look sad he tells me he’s only kidding. He’s waiting for news on the second season of F Is For Family, the animated sitcom web TV series on Netflix that began in December, co-created by Bill and based on his stand-up. Bill held court and everyone listened intently as some young comics asked him for advice on things and he was very detailed in his suggestions. He was also very friendly to any young comics that came to over to say hi, and introduce themselves.
He told me some of his favorite young comics and without me saying a word singled out Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. He said he worked with Mulaney years ago, when Mulaney was brand new and right away he could see that John had what it took to become a star. He said he thought Kroll and Mulaney were geniuses. And he said he loves silly comedy, so when I told him I was in Too Much Tuna and opened their press conference for them for Oh Hello back in December he asked me to send him the links.
Big shout-out to Leonard Ouzts who made his Conan debut this week. Leonard is popping up everywhere, even in a TV ad for a moving company squeezed into a truck with Vladimir Camaano! He had a great set and Conan came out to congratulate him. Leonard told me he put up the clip and it got 500,000 views in only two days, which he said was the most views of a Conan stand-up set. Keep up the good work Leonard!
I went over to Stand Up New York to visit my buddy J.R. Ravitz who runs the place a few nights a week, and ran into Marc Theobald, who’s currently on Tracy Morgan’s Picking Up The Pieces tour which just started this month and which he thinks goes until the end of May. They’re doing club dates and casinos, and Tracy flies private jet. I asked him if he gets nervous in those small private jets and if they feel more turbulence. He said they made it from Vermont to Boston in only 20 minutes, so he does get nervous but for a much shorter time! He said they played a place in Detroit that he had never heard of and wondered what kind of crowd they would get. It turned out to be an Indian reservation and 5,000 people showed up. Marc told me he’s working on a lot of new projects which he’ll be able to share with me soon!
Dante Nero is a hard man to lose in a crowd. He sat on a stool to deliver his material at Stand Up New York and wore more silver jewelry than most motorcycle gangs. Huge pieces! He told me he got the huge bracelet after he did the movie Fighting with Channing Tatum and Terence Howard in which he fought Channing Tatum and choked him out. The bracelet is 1 1/2 pounds of sterling silver, and his rings were made by the guy who made the jewelry for Sons of Anarchy. And I always think you have to dress down before you go on stage so it’s not distracting to the audience! Shows you how little I know!
I went over to see Wil Sylvince headline Gotham and when I got there I ran into Jacob Williams from MTV2’s Wild ‘n Out. He told me he just finished taping Wild ’N Out in LA and on his way out there on the plane he thought he saw Paul Giamatti sitting in coach in a middle seat. But he figured it couldn’t have been him, because he’d probably be in first class. When they landed he said hello and it turned out to be him. Jacob said he’s such a good actor that no one else noticed him, because he blended in with everyone else on the plane. He also taped Adam Devine’s House Party in Hawaii. He said the whole 10 episodes of Season 3 were filmed in Hawaii and some of the upcoming stars that I know personally who will be on this season were Vladimir Camaano, Leonard Ouzts, who is in everything lately, Anthony Devito who used to do my late night show at The Comic Strip, Kevin Iso, Sarah Tollemache, and Taylor Tomlinson. Jacob will be on the season premiere coming up in March, in a sketch about a fake wedding that sounded really funny. Can’t give away any more details that that.
And after Wil Sylvince’s show he handed out funny postcards to all of the attendees, that had a photo of him in a gladiator’s costume, holding a spear, and on the back it said “That Haitian Dude”, Wil Sylvince. And Wil told me they’re taking submissions for his annual “Short Cuts Festival” sponsored by NBC to feature short films by new as yet undiscovered filmmakers, and I believe that this is the 10th year he’s doing it. It’s coming up soon and is always a fun time!
I spent a fascinating evening hanging out with Ali Farahnakian, the owner and founder of The People’s Improv Theater, otherwise known as The PIT! We’ve been friends for a long time but after 20 something years of doing improv Ali is just getting into doing stand-up. This week he and I wound up on the same show, Craig Fox and Max May’s show at The Village Lantern, and it was a pretty packed room. Ali and I went to The Cellar for a bite to eat and see who was hanging out. Jim Norton was at the table with Greer Barnes, Judy Gold, and William Stephenson. Judy ran over to tell me how glad she was that I was feeling better. Judy was really excited about her upcoming show at 54 Below coming up in March. It’s just her and she said it’s stand-up plus some surprises that she didn’t want to share, but she said that people will be very surprised! Sounds like a show I wanna see!
While we ate Ali entertained me with some great stories. He told me he was one of the original founding members of UCB along with Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Will Ferrell’s partner Oscar winner Adam McKay, Horatio Sanz, and a little known fact of comedy trivia that there was another member named Drew Franklin, who had been a street performer, and dropped out of the group. Ali said that Amy Poehler had been dating Matt Besser, and then joined the group when they decided to come to New York, as did Matt Walsh who was also a friend of Matt Besser. Ali said if he had not left UCB there would never have been a PIT, so it’s interesting how things turn out.
Come see me headline this Wednesday night March 2nd at New York Comedy Club! It’s a 7 P.M. show (doors at 6:30). With Dan Lamorte, Von Decarlo and Amarie Castillo.
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. Photos below include Jeffrey with Big Jay Oakerson, Sherrod Small, Marc Theobald and Ali Farahnakian.