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, New York Comedy Club, and more.
So when I left off last week, I was with George Wallace at Gotham Comedy Club. George told me that the next night, which was a Sunday, he was coming back with Jerry Seinfeld to do an unannounced show. I told him I’d be there for sure. I never miss a chance to see the two of them perform. I got there early and because it was a Sunday night at 8, it was a small intimate crowd. Big for some clubs. Small for Gotham. Jerry went up first and asked the audience, “What am I doing here on a Sunday night? Do I really need this?” To a small crowd? But that small crowd reacted as if it was a huge crowd with thunderous applause. Jerry even did some crowd work and engaged a guy from Australia who he let speak and then told that he didn’t understand one word he said, which made him nervous because he said he had an upcoming gig in Australia. He spoke to the audience very frankly and even took questions. The first night I ever saw him, I remember well. It was around 1982 at the original Carolines on Broadway which I believe was around 28th Street and 7th Avenue. Something about the way he worked was so different than anyone else I had ever seen before, and I went over to introduce myself to him after his set. For some reason, that night is so clear in my life. I wish other things were as well. So this night he also told great stories like when Obama was on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.Then he told the audience about his beginnings because he did a lot of jokes that he did when he was first starting out. He said when he first started out there were only two clubs to perform in, but he didn’t name them. He did say that in those days the comics were not getting paid and they finally were ready to go out on strike to get like $3 or $5 a set. One of the club owners told him he wasn’t worth the five dollars. And then, almost as a joke he said, I bet it would be fun to do a special in one of those clubs! And George and I just looked at each other! More on that as it develops!
When Jerry came offstage, he sat in the back to watch George. Then George went up and told the audience that he and Jerry have been best friends for 41 years, and did a lot of new material all of which worked. Jerry waited for him until he got off stage and was very kind to people who came up to him outside the showroom.
In honor of their first anniversary, the Bomb Shelter Comedy Show on West 48th Street, which usually runs every Thursday at 8, had a four day festival this week. The show is produced by Matt Azark, Jeff Cerulli and Erik Bransteen. It’s in the basement of a bar called Gaf West and they get great talent to come by. The night I went, it was Anthony DeVito, Marina Franklin, Mark Normand, and Sean Lynch before I had to leave. Mark Normand got so many laughs, they didn’t give him the light until he finally said, “How long is this set supposed to be?” The winner of their “Futures” contest, which I guess is like “New Faces” in Montreal, was a young comic named Sal LoPizzo, who won a beautiful belt that must have weighed at least ten pounds. It was truly an amazing gift for an alternative show to give out. Jeff Cerulli said, “It’s the best festival to come along since sliced festivals!”
It was great seeing Jim Norton on Crashing this past week, going into a strip club, just as Artie Lange and Pete Holmes were leaving. And when I stopped by The Friars Club and picked up the new Epistle, there was a nice photo of Jim at some event, but he was identified as Ed Norton instead of Jim. I wonder if anybody’s noticed that yet!
Cory Jarvis debuted his new short film and he did it at a bar on the East Side. Bars and comedians mix well. If the jokes don’t go right, you can always drink. The film is called Characters and it’s about a guy who tries to make money to save him and his mom from being evicted by becoming a character in Times Square to make money. The mom was comic Rhonda Hansome, who I’ve known since the days when she performed under the name Passion, and the son was played by Jonathan Portee, an actor from PIT (Peoples Improv Theater). Chris Griggs another improv guy from PIT played Spider-Man, who tried to keep Jonathan off his turf, and his protection was a huge guy in a President Reagan mask who turned out to be comic Napoleon Emill. Cory dressed as a baby in a diaper with a crazy baby mask and walked around Times Square almost naked in a diaper.
I asked him what it was like to do that. He said, “I’ve been a stand-up for ten years, and I feel like I’m naked up there every night, so it was nothing for me.” He’s also had a fascinating background, spending four years living in Japan where he learned Japanese and performed comedy there too, but in English. He said you can’t even imagine how crazy Times Square really is until you pull out a camera. He said a camera is like an asshole magnet. The cops didn’t bother them while they were shooting, but the lunatics did. And you can’t use a tripod there, so his camera-people used shoulder mounts, and had to shoot away from the crowds they were drawing, so it wouldn’t show in the film. Next step for him is entering it into as many festivals as possible.
I got over to New York Comedy Club just in time to see Gina Yashere killing it with her impression of how she sleeps with a CPAP mask for sleep apnea. And I know how horrible it is because I have one too, and I’m even embarrassed to wear it when I’m alone! Her new special Ticking Boxes is now on Seeso, but I wanted to congratulate her on her correspondent’s gig on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I asked her how that came about. She said she and Trevor first met doing Gabriel Iglesias’ show Stand Up Revolution and they were filmed the same day. They stayed in touch over the years and one day in December, he just texted her and asked if she wanted to be the British correspondent on the show. She told him she did, but couldn’t start till March as she had a tour booked throughout Asia, including China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia. I said I was amazed that comedy is so big there and she said, “Are you kidding? There are two comedy clubs in Kuala Lumpur!” One is called Live House and the other is called Crack House! And she said it in that great accent of hers!
Michael Yo was headlining Gotham this weekend and I hadn’t seen him in awhile, so I went to catch the show and catch up with him. Ophira Eisenberg was hosting, so after we made a few jokes to each other about our Passover Seders, just before she hit the stage she told me she was off to L.A. next week to do @midnight for the first time. I asked her how it came about and she said, “Simple! I finally got the energy to go to L.A.! ” Harrison Greenbaum went up and afterwards told me he was recently featured in the NY Times for his live comedy/magic show which he’s been developing for the last ten years. He feels he’s ready for a Netflix special and is running a grass-roots campaign to try and achieve that. The show is called Harrison Greenbaum: What Just Happened? and he’s already done it at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and The Schimmel Center in New York. Now he feels he’s ready to film it.
Then Michael Yo went up and did a wonderfully warm hour focusing on his “Blasian” background coming from a Black dad and a Korean mom, … and he imitates both accents perfectly. He’s been working on this all new family material because he got married and has a baby, and wants to do his first hour special. During his act he showed slides throughout his life, starting with him as a two day old baby, comparing his looks which he likened to an old Asian man who passed away, to his beautiful son’s two day old photo. Then slides of his parents, his wedding, and his baby. His set was received really well and afterwards I waited till he greeted all his fans and we hung outside the showroom to chat. He’s planning to shoot his special in October, and when I asked him where, he said “Houston, because that’s where I was born and raised.” And he said he purposely hasn’t performed there in about three years so people will come out to attend the special. They’ll be shopping it to Showtime, HBO and Netflix and when I asked him what his goal was he said, “I want people to leave the show saying it was funny, but I really like HIM! I want them to have a personal connection.” I told him that that was exactly MY experience.
A sincere R.I.P. to my friend Charlie Murphy who left us very unexpectedly this week. I don’t think anyone knew he had been sick. He was part of the Comedy Get Down tour with D.L. Hughley, Cedric The Entertainer, Eddie Griffin and George Lopez and when I saw D.L. recently, there was no mention of Charlie being ill. Charlie was a really good guy, so funny, and always with that big smile of his for everyone. He’ll be remembered for many things, especially his Chappelle’s Show appearances with his Hollywood Stories about Rick James and the time Prince beat him in basketball and then made pancakes for everyone the next morning. He used to come down to The Comic Strip when he was in town, because that’s where his brother Eddie started out and I always respected and admired him for all he accomplished, which was a lot, as it had to be very difficult for him to have a younger brother who was such a superstar. I was able to pay my respects on Fox 5 when they came to my home to interview me for a comment.
And before I go I want to take a moment to say that I hope you all had a really Happy and Sweet Passover and a very Happy Easter!
And with that, … I’m OUT!!!