Jeffrey Gurian 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. In today’s column, the Friars Club renames their building after Jerry Lewis, Chris Rock does a surprise set at The Comic Strip, Jeffrey talks with Adam Ferrara, and more!
This week, I went to a big big event at the Friars Club in New York. They call the building The Monastery and they had a huge ceremony to rename the Monastery after Jerry Lewis. The street was closed off on 55th, there were police guarding both sides. You had to be on a list to get in and they gave you a little Jerry Lewis pin to show that you belonged. It was big celebration– with champagne and hors d’oeurves served on the street. Some of the attendees were Vincent Pastore from The Sopranos, Steven Van Zandt, from The Sopranos and the E Street Band, former mayor David Dinkins, Gilbert Gottfried, Pat Cooper, Bill Boggs, Rick Newman, Tamsen Fadal from WPIX news, Joe Franklin, Jackie Martling, Dominic Chianese from The Sopranos, and I had the honor of escorting Lisa Lampanelli, who I have been friends with for many years. A lot of people didn’t recognize her, because they hadn’t seen her since she lost 107 lbs and changed her hair.
(Pictured above, Jerry Lewis, Jerry’s Star, Lisa with Jimmy and Jenna, and Me with Richard Johnson)
As I was walking in, I got a tap on the shoulder– Richard Johnson was saying hello, who used to write Page Six, and now has a big column in the Post called Richard Johnson, The Man Who Knows New York.
Lisa Lampanelli was standing with her ex-husband who she has always called Jimmy Big Balls, and his new girlfriend, Jenna Esposito, a singer. Lisa is on such a high level now, that she wanted to release herself from any negativity, so she and Jimmy get along very well. She made him a fair settlement, and she’s blessing his new relationship to the point that they took funny pictures together.
Anyway Jerry Lewis is close to 90 and he wasn’t able to stand too well, but he did make a speech. He thanked everyone, of course, and then made a point of saying that for the rest of his life, he will support the Wounded Warriors because it is a shame that these guys were coming back wounded and were not getting the care that they deserve. He was incensed about it. And then he closed by saying he wants to bang a woman before he leaves New York, which was an interesting way for him to end.
So I jumped over to Gotham Comedy Club this week to see Tom Papa headline, and he’s so polished. I can see why Jerry Seinfeld chose him to host The Marriage Ref. His material is very real, slices of life, and it all makes sense. The room was so packed I gave up my table and stood in the back of the room.
Then I jumped over to The Comic Strip to see a surprise show by Chris Rock. Owner/founder Richie Tienken told me that around 4 P.M. Chris’ right arm Brandon Vega, who just happens to be super comic Joey Vega‘s son, called up and asked if Chris could do the 10:30 show and the 12:30 am show to try out some new material. Richie said fine to the 10:30 show but that there was no 12:30 show, but then he said, if Chris was coming he’d CREATE a 12:30 show. And that’s what he did. Both shows sold out within minutes of announcing them. When I got there there were lines literally around the block. I stayed for the 10:30 show and when I left there were lines around the block for the 12:30 show as well.
Once again the room was so packed I just stood in the back with Chris’ baby brother Jordan Rock who’s now 23. Jordan is the third Rock brother in the Rock comedy dynasty, besides Chris and Tony, and he recently headlined at the Westchester comedy club Levity Live, which is a big deal. We stood in the back and laughed together, and I asked him how it felt seeing his brother perform and he said it was “very cool.” He calls Chris “Chrissy.” Jordan now hosts his own show called Productively Stoned on the 4th Saturday of each month at the Karma Lounge in lower Manhattan. Last season he was working on the W. Kamau Bell TV show that Chris was executive producing.
Chris was trying out new material for what appeared to be an upcoming tour although after one line he said, “That might stay in for Madison Square Garden.” So maybe that’s where he’s preparing for. Either way all of his new material was very funny, to the point that it didn’t sound new, even though it was. When some comics work out new material some of it doesn’t work. With Chris there were no weak lines.
Chris’s new film Top Five just got picked up by Paramount, up at the Toronto Film Festival, and he told Richie that it felt weird being back on the Paramount lot cause that’s where everything started for him back in 1986 when Eddie Murphy took him out there, and created a part for him in Beverly Hills Cop 2. There will supposedly be a screening in Manhattan this week of Top Five and I hope to be there.
This week I also ran into Gibran Saleem, who often hosts the Comedy Juice show at Gotham Comedy Club. He told me that Last Comic Standing is already doing auditions for next season, and his management booked him for an audition next week. He’s also in Ha! The Musical which got picked up for the New York Comedy Festival, with Big Jay Oakerson, Kevin Farley (Chris’ brother), Bill Dawes, who played Micky Mantle on Broadway, Luis J. Gomez and a few others. The location hasn’t been announced yet. Gibran will also be performing at the Big Sky Comedy Festival in Billings Montana.
Another young comic I talked to this week was Neko White, who is only 21 years old. Neko has been performing since he was 14 and he’s already opened for Jay Pharoah, and he performs at Caroline’s, and all the clubs. I’ve known him since he was 18 cause he used to perform on my late night show at The Comic Strip. He is coming out with his first CD and DVD in October or November. It’s called Neko White Introducing Me produced by Temple Horses, and it was filmed August 15 at New York Comedy Club. Neko told me that he likes to get very pro black on twitter, but embarrassed himself during the Ferguson events. He said he saw Ferguson Missouri trending and started writing, RIP Ferguson #Ferguson because he thought the kid who got killed was named Ferguson. He said he felt like a moron when a young white kid named Cracker22 corrected him. His mom said he was so dumb she was revoking his black privileges next February for Black History Month.
I saw Harry Terjanian at The Stand this week. Harry was the winner of last year’s Andy Kaufman Award, and he’s also the co-host of The Beige Phillip Show with Dante Nero, which I’ve guested on a few times, and which is kind of an homage to Patrice O’Neal’s Black Phillip Show. He was excited because they just got the news that Beige Phillip will be moving to Robert Kelly’s Riot Cast Network of podcasts. That’s a big deal!
Joe List was also at The Stand, and he told me that he’s excited about being chosen to open for Gary Gulman on Gary’s first ever tour starting in mid-October. Gary recently celebrated his 20th year performing, and had never done a proper tour before so it’s being called It’s About Time and he chose Joe List to open for him in Philly, Chicago, Minneapolis, and then back in NY at the Bowery Ballroom.
I went to see Adam Ferrara hosting AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live, and needless to say he was great. He always is, and he did something that no other host has done since the show started three seasons ago. He did the interim hosting by himself. Usually there’s a club MC — often Drew Frazer — who goes up and warms up the audience and then comes back between each act, to do a few minutes of comedy while the commercials run, and then he brings the host back to introduce the next act. Adam stayed on stage the whole time and when I asked him why after the show, he told me that once you have the audience’s attention, it’s better to stay connected by doing the other stuff yourself. It made perfect sense and to me was the mark of a true showman who controls his own show. I went backstage after to hang out with him as we are old friends.
So Adam is in town to kick off the new season at the Abingdon Theatre in Manhattan in a play opening Oct. 3 and running through the 23rd called It Had To Be You. It’s about a wealthy widow who hooks up with a younger man, and her grown children wonder whether he’s a gigolo. That’s Adam’s part. And his only complaint about doing theatre is that “they even make you work on Sunday. These people don’t care anything about football!” He’s also kicking off the 4th season of his show Top Gear on Sept. 30th.
Liz Miele and Jason Andors were on the show, and both did really well. It was nice to see Liz doing well as I’ve been watching her progress since she started out doing open mics. And Kevin Iso was on the show too, and told me his Williamsburg, Brooklyn comedy show got cancelled for being too nasty. He started it in April and had guests like Dan Soder, Yamaneika Saunders (who just left for LA until November), and Sasheer Zamata from SNL.
And Ruperto Vanderpool was there. I just love saying his name. How can you not like saying Ruperto Vanderpool? He’ll be headling off to LA soon to do Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen for his fourth time. He also told me about a pilot he did with Gotham owner Chris Mazzilli that was written by Chris’s uncle Joe Mazzilli called Spanish Eyes and, yes, Chris was actually in it. Chris and Ruperto swore they were gonna send me a trailer of the pilot to look at. I’ll let you know more when I get it.
John Fugelsang was my guest this week on Ron and Fez and John is a fascinating character and a fund of knowledge, about politics and the economy. He’s flying out to LA this weekend to meet with a very big star he works with a lot about a TV project they’re planning. John has more projects that he’s not at liberty to talk about than most comics have in their whole careers. They involve radio, TV, film and books. He’s got every area covered and he promised me an exclusive in a couple of weeks when he should be able to talk about them in detail. And then while we were still up at SiriusXM, our mutual friend Pete Dominick came by and grabbed John about yet another project he wanted to talk to him about. Very exciting.
And finally, I called my friend stand-up comic Abbi Crutchfield to congratulate her on being chosen to be a co-host of the new online show from the people who create People Magazine. It’s called People Now, and it airs live Monday through Friday on people.com at 8:30am, with an updated version of the episode airing at noon. She told me that the show will bring to life popular features of the magazine and also provides celebrity news, interviews, and what is about to go viral on the Internet. She co-hosts with Jeremy Parsons from the Reelz channel. She said they have been rehearsing since May and just went live Sept 3.
That’s it for now, but I’ll be jumping around all week, so check back next Monday for more!
Jeffrey Gurian is a writer and comedian in New York. Visit his website at comedymatterstv.com, where you can watch his interviews with everyone in comedy who matters! Pictured below, me with Ruperto Vanderpool and Kevin Iso (top left), Little Steven (top right), me with Jordan Rock (botom left) and a photo with Adam Ferrara (bottom right).