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 Comedy Juice, The Stand, The Red Carpet at Madison Square Garden, The Nightly Show studios, and more…
The big event this week was The Garden of Laughs at Madison Square Garden, an incredible show produced by Emmy-award winning producer Rory Rosegarten, of The Conversation Company. He handles Ray Romano and Robert Klein among other legendary comics. The comedy stars were incredible like Will Arnett, Lewis Black, Bill Burr, Billy Gardell, Dane Cook, John Oliver, and Michael J. Fox, and all of this was hosted by Steve Schirripa who may have played a tough guy on The Sopranos, but is a very warm and funny host, with a strong comedy past. They all did the red carpet and I got to interview everyone, except for Bill Burr who got by me while I was talking to Lewis Black.
John Oliver is such a great guy, he refused to take a compliment. When I congratulated him on his second season of Last Week Tonight he responded with “I’m fulfilling my contractual obligation to do the best I can.” When I brought up his amazing appearance at the Night of Too Many Stars benefit he said “It’s all Smigel. He’s got writers but he’s the single force behind Night of Too Many Stars. Without him nothing happens.” And as far as the comedy line-up for Garden of Laughs was concerned he said to me, “It’s an amazing line-up. Bill Burr is probably one of the best stand-ups on the planet right now and Lewis Black I love with every pound of my heart!” And that’s a quote!
I got to speak with Will Arnett who was dressed in a really sharp suit. He said that as a parent it’s especially important for him to do a charity event to benefit children, and that the fact that these people are out there trying to make a difference in kids’ lives is amazing. We talked about TMNT 2 and he told me he got to shoot a scene with Alessandra Ambrosio at Madison Square Garden the other day during the Knicks game and that was amazing.
I saw Dane Cook and mentioned that he was one of the few people to ever sell out MSG, with two sold-out shows in one night, and he laughingly said “I’m just learning that tonight from you.” He told me he loves being back at the Garden because it was the only place where he ever had his parents with him on stage, and that was where they presented him with a double platinum album for Retaliation. When I asked him about the evening he said, “When I saw the event in 2013 I told them if they ever wanted me to perform I would be happy to.” He added, “If you ever want me to do a charity event, just tell me it’s for children in any kind of need and I’m there.”
On the carpet Michael J. Fox told me he was looking forward to seeing all of the comics especially John Oliver. I asked him why he thought so much comedy came out of Canada and he said, “We have no choice. It’s cold, there’s lots of beer, lots of hockey and it all just adds up to funny people!” Lewis Black told me that any time you get the opportunity to give back it’s important. He said we can’t seem to raise money to get things done that need to be done and until we can, he’ll be there for every benefit he can. And he told me that in his regular voice, not his angry voice!
I was hoping Rory would do the red carpet and he did, accompanied by with his kids. Rory and I have been friends for more than 25 years, and I wanted to be able to congratulate him in person for the great work he’s doing charity-wise. Garden of Dreams helps children overcoming obstacles like homelessness, illness, extreme poverty, and foster care.
I got to catch up with Bill Burr later on when he dropped by The Stand to visit with his opening act Paul Virzi who travels with Bill on the road. These two guys have a blast together. Paul was Bill’s guest this past Thursday on Bill’s Monday Morning Podcast. They did a show this past week at the Tarrytown Music Hall where so many comics have been taping their specials, like Colin Quinn and Lisa Lampanelli just this past weekend.
And then as a special treat for doing Garden of Laughs, MSG made arrangements for Bill and Paul to actually skate on the MSG ice before the Rangers/Kings game, which they said was thrilling and then they got courtside seats to The Knicks sitting with Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Walt “Clyde” Frazier. For two sports nuts like Bill and Paul this was heaven. Bill said he was sorry he missed me on the red carpet and we made plans to do an interview at the South Beach Comedy Festival coming up in about two weeks.
Lots of comics who are in town from LA wind up doing the great Comedy Juice show at Gotham Comedy Club, probably because the head of Comedy Juice, Mark Serritella is from LA. Dustin Ybarra was in town for a few days, doing a charity show at The Village Underground at the request of John Leguizamo. John and his wife are connected to a charity (Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation) dedicated to preserving landmarks in Greenwich Village. Dustin was recently on CBS’s Battle Creek playing a drug dealer named “Teddy The Snitch.” He was actually in three episodes, and while we were talking owner Chris Mazzilli came in, and Dustin told me that Chris gave him his first TV exposure, and now he’s repped by CAA. We also talked about his hair because it looked much neater than usual and he told me he started conditioning it. Up until then, he and I were in competition for the wildest hair in comedy.
Bill Dawes was hanging out in the hallway with Dustin when I came in. Bill is in an episode of The Following with Kevin Bacon, in which he plays a bad ass ex-Marine, but that was all he was allowed to tell me. He also shot a TV pilot for Michael Bay in Puerto Rico called Cocaine Cowboys, in which he plays a cop. They’ll find out in about a month or so whether it gets picked up. Wishing Bill good luck on that! And Richie Redding came in; he’s been opening for Kat Williams, and has done about 40 shows with him. I asked him how he got hooked up with Kat and he told me that when he only had about nine months of experience he got booed off a stage in West Philly by a crowd of about 4500 people. It was a gangsta rap crowd that wasn’t having what Richie was putting out. But he needed the $500 that the gig paid, and the booker told him he had to do his entire time, which was 10 minutes. He managed to stay on stage for the full ten so the guy had to pay him. Years later he went back to that same venue and killed it. He persisted in e-mailing the promoter periodically and one day he gets a call from that promoter who said, “ Do you wanna open for Kat Williams tomorrow night?” And the rest is history.
Carmen Lynch had a great set and talked about having a heart murmur. After the show I asked her if she really has a heart murmur and she said she does. She said she shot a few sketches on Inside Amy Schumer over the winter, but has no idea when they’ll air. And Rus Gutin, who used to book Comedy Juice was there and has a one hour special called Legal Guardian that he shot at the New York Comedy Club. He said it’s a movie and an album. The movie is on iTunes, and the album was put out by our friends at Comedy Records. And even more exciting news he’s having a little girl in the Fall. Well, … I should say his wife is having a little girl to keep their three year old son company.
I went over to check out The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore this week. I called Rory Albanese the producer to let him know I was coming, and maybe that’s why I got such good seats! It’s a fun show, and very stricly run. No photos at all. Not even during the rest-ups when nothing is going on. Very strict, with security watching every moment. So I had to settle for shots of the set! Rory’s working hard the whole time, giving people notes on what’s happening, but he took a moment to stop off and greet me.
As I recall Larry’s panel consisted of Jordan Carlos, and three women, one of whom was my friend Sabrina Jalees, and another was Shenaz Treasury, which is one of the most unusual names I’ve ever heard, and who is a contributor to the show. She’s a beautiful Indian model and actress, who loves to do comedy. I wanted to ask her if it was her real name, but I didn’t get a chance to see anyone because we had to file out right after the show. Larry is a very warm, genuine host who really seems to care that people are enjoying themselves. At the end we all stayed for a few minutes while they did some pick-ups of things they wanted to re-shoot. I want to go back again but next time I’ll try to arrange for photos beforehand. Oh yeah and Kevin Bartini was the warm-up comic and did a great job. He’s very energetic and really gets the audience pumped up!
Joy Behar hosted AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live this week, and it was good to see her again cause it’s been quite a while. Joy looked great, and was there with her husband. Eddie Ifft was in from LA and did the show too. Joy laughingly introduced him as a guy with no credits. Eddie’s a new dad as well and was very excited about it. He told me he couldn’t wait to get home cause he misses his baby. He does a podcast called Talkin’ Shit and has over 400 episodes. The first 100 were done with Jim Jefferies. Then his wife told him she wouldn’t let him do it from the house anymore, so he bought a short bus and customized it spending 100k worth to turn it into The Bingle Bus which makes his podcast mobile and now he’s working with a big TV producer to develop The Bingle Show into a TV show. That’s all he could tell me. More details to come.
I went over to New York Comedy Club to say “what’s up” to owner Emilio Savone, just missed him and wound up at Mike Cannon’s 30th birthday celebration where I ran into Ricky Velez and Chris Distefano. They were there to celebrate with Mike and do sets in his honor. Alexis Guerrero was the very funny birthday show host. Chris is getting ready to start shooting the 4th season of Girl Code and just wrapped the current season of Guy Code. He’s doing a lot of college stuff and has a show in development that he’s taking to the networks, currently called The Chris Distefano Project, which he co-wrote with two LA comics Garth Reynolds and Evan Mann. It’s a scripted show based on his stand-up. They all met on the MTV show Failosophy, a show hosted by Hasan Minhaj where Mike Cannon was a guest a few times. But the big news with Chris is that he’s engaged and expecting a baby in May. A little girl. All these babies coming into the comedy world. Very exciting. I got to do a guest spot for Mike Cannon’s birthday too! Happy Birthday Mike!
Anyway that’s it for 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 Paul Virzi and Bill Burr, Dustin Ybarra, Richie Redding, Eddie Ifft, Ricky Velez. On the red carpet at the Garden of Dreams Benefit, Jeffrey Gurian with Lewis Black, John Oliver, Dane Cook, and Will Arnett.