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 Colin Quinn’s “Unconstitutional” taping, Eastville club, Comedy Juice and a benefit for Charlie Hebdo.
I drove up to Tarrytown to surprise my buddy Colin Quinn who was taping an updated version of his hit show Unconstitutional. I had already seen it about a year ago, but the truth is I could see Colin perform every day and not get tired. I truly admire people who craft words the way he does. He is a true artiste! It was at the Tarrytown Music Hall which holds about 860 people, and it was packed. Colin had Tim Gage open for him and Tim was perfect for the job. He sounds like Colin, has a lot of the same mannerisms on stage, and is actually his cousin. Even more interesting his day job is as a shipping
and receiving manager where he spends his day lifting heavy things. Colin came out to huge applause and totally earned it. I can honestly say that no one else in the business could do a show like this. He’s so well versed on so many things, and really had to bone up on The Constitution which even though it’s only a few pages has a lot of heavy stuff in it! He told me he had to be ready for the Constitution experts who often come to the show to challenge him. No one challenged him this night. It was phenomenal and I thought I heard a lot of new stuff in there. After it was over, we went backstage to congratulate him, and he was so surprised to see me! Like I wouldn’t drive up from Manhattan to see him? He’s always been so supportive of me, and is actually in a pilot I did for radio along with Susie Essman and Lisa Lampanelli, two other dear friends. I asked him if there was any new stuff and he confided to me that some of the things in there he had just written that very same day. You’d never know it because he added them in flawlessly.
Backstage I ran into my buddy Goumba Johnny, radio star and great comic who I had the honor of putting in his first play. We all went upstairs to the balcony for a big pizza party, and I saw Brian Volk-Weiss from Comedy Dynamics who produced the evening. And also heavyweights from APA were there, head of comedy and partner Mike Berkowitz and comedy agent Marcus Levy. It’s almost easier to ask who APA doesn’t handle than trying to make a list of who they DO handle, but it’s Colin Quinn, Kevin Hart, Louis CK, Amy Schumer, and that would be enough in itself but it’s also Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Tom Papa, T.J. Miller, Todd Barry and just about any big name you can think of. We all hung out cause no one wanted to leave, and we all congratulated Brian on the great show he produced, cause he was heading back to LA the next day.
It was a week of surprises because I hadn’t seen Chris Titus in a while so I surprised him too when he was hosting AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live this week. He just got back from Scotland, and tours all over and he was talking about performing in the Middle East in Arab countries where it’s so hot but there’s not a bikini to be found! Guys have to pleasure themselves to the thought of a woman blinking very fast. Tom Ingegno, from Omnipop who had worked with Chris for 18 years was there to support, because they remained friends. Also on the show were Liz Barrett, who made her TV debut, Ambrose Jones who intends to be the last of his line of Ambrose’s who were all alcoholics and fork-lift operators, Brian Cichocki who’s gonna be on the road for the next month, and Jeff Norris who does great impressions. And he always wears a suit and tie, one of a dying breed!
After the show I went and sat with Chris for a few minutes in the green room to catch up and find out what he’s got going on. He’s hosting the new History Channel game show Pawnography which is a spin-off of it’s hit show Pawn Stars. He also did his sixth 90 minute special called Angry Pursuit of Happiness which he taped in Santa Barbara and which he’s offering on his website. You can download it at www.christophertitus.com. He also had some cool advice for newcomers. He said once you get a TV show that’s on the air, stop going to meetings with executives. Paraphrasing what he told me, he feels that meeting with non-creative guys in suits can only hurt you. It was great to see him again. He told me he has his own production company called Combustion World Inc. and when I looked confused he explained it’s because he loves cars! He was flying back to LA the very next day to shoot a little video called Arm The Children. I hope it’s a comedy!
Trevor Noah was in town to do his correspondent gig on The Daily Show and he told me the coolest story. He said he was so humbled that Jon Stewart himself called him to ask him to be on the show. The call came from a hidden number and he answered it anyway. The whole time Jon was talking he thought it was a friend pranking him doing an imitation of Jon’s voice. Turned out to be real. Jon had seen him work and called to tell him he’d like him to be part of the show. I asked him if he asked Jon how he got his number and we just laughed at the ridiculousness of that scenario! Trevor headlined Gotham this weekend and sold it out so fast they had to add a third show on Sunday night at 10 P.M. to accommodate all his fans. There’s really only one word to describe Trevor and that’s “brilliant.” His comedy is brilliant, his personality is brilliant, and his mind is brilliant. He’s on a very rare level. He brings an elegance to comedy that is very hard to find. Angelo Lozada is a great host and opened the show and there was only one performer before Trevor and that was Ophira Eisenberg, who is just so good. Then Trevor came out to a roar from the audience. They were there to see him for sure. I sat there watching in awe with his manager Norman Aladjem from Levity Live Entertainment, and told him I can go to most comedy shows and not laugh out loud the entire night. I amazed myself with how loud and how often I was laughing. Trevor provides a nonstop, un-interrupted flow of hilarity, which was a phrase I came up with as I was watching. And he told me that one of the things he likes is not only to make people laugh but to carry a message and make people think, and that’s what he does.
When I went down to his dressing room after the show to congratulate him, Angelo Lozada was there with a couple of other comics and they were all singing the praises of Greer Barnes who was asked just the night before to open for Louis C.K. at Madison Square Garden. Louis called Greer and said, you wanna open for me tomorrow night at The Garden? Greer is so respected by his peers for being one of the funniest dudes around. The other comics, including Trevor were repeating some of Greer’s lines as their favorites. I have several of my own and have known Greer for a very long time. We actually had meetings back in the day when I wanted to write for him. Greer has a such a unique perspective, because his step-dad was Jewish and his mom is Black, which is comparing a race to a religion, but I know you get what I mean. I’m glad to see Greer getting such mad respect! I hope he knows how much people like him.
Comedy Juice was it’s usual talent-packed line-up this week, but every comic that got up complained about the energy of the crowd. It was definitely a weird crowd, and a weird energy. It was as if many small groups of foreign people got together, from different countries that vowed never to get along, and they all wound up in that one room, seated next to the people they hated the most, and mostly didn’t speak English. Every comic commented on it with Gary Gulman actually chastizing them for being the worst audience in the three sets he did that night. Gary has something big coming up that he couldn’t tell me about yet, but when he can he will. He is such a master of words. When he talks about Hitler’s “shenanigans”, it’s such a clever bit using words you’d have to use a Thesaurus to find, (which by the way is not a dinosaur!), that even THAT audience had to give him an applause break.
Poppa Rus Gutin was the host, and he had to work his butt off that night. Geno Bisconte closed the show, and he told me he put together a little 4 week tour for himself starting in LA, then off to Anchorage, which he assured me is still in Alaska, and a place where he has performed for the last ten years, then off to Reno to perform at Catch a Rising Star, then to Park City Utah, coming back to NYC on March 8th in order to do my Curtis Sliwa/Ron Kuby Roast the very next day on March 9th. He swears that’s why he’s coming back. I hope I give him a good spot! Fun comedy history fact – I brought Gino to The Friars Club for his first-ever performance there, back in 2007 when he MC’ed the party for my book Filthy, Funny and Totally Offensive which was based on my joke writing for the Friars Roasts for so many years! And he’s been performing there ever since! We also share the exact same birthday, Dec. 29th. I got to talk to Bronston Jones an LA comic who’s been in NY for the last month.
I was at The Stand this week. I didn’t get there till after midnight but The Stand is such a cool hang and I usually run into someone fun there. And so it was this night because who was sitting at the bar but my good pal Dante Nero, chatting with Leighann Lord. Dante wound up with a recurring role on one of the hottest shows on TV, NBC’s The Blacklist, with James Spader and Megan Boone. I asked him how it came about because I’m always interested in things like that, and he told me it was originally just a one-off, a one shot deal playing a character called Samuel “The Samoan” Aleko, and if anyone can pull off a Samoan look it’s Dante Nero. He looks like he could take a bite out of a desk! He plays Megan Boone’s bodyguard, and her character shoots her husband and she brings him to a friends boat which Dante is in charge of. He said after that, the writers just kept writing him in. He promised to send my best to Megan who I recently interviewed. Leighann will be performing at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on Feb. 6th in a show called Black Women in Comedy with Nicky Sunshine, and my girl Calise Hawkins as the headliner and Pat Brown as the MC. It should be a great show. They are all very funny, and in line with the show’s title, they all have just the right amount of pigment!
I stopped by the Alex Brizel produced showcase at Eastville, specifically to meet comic Scott Rogowsky, who was hosting the show, and who’s producing the Running Late show that runs at Carolines, (on time, I might add!), which I plan to attend on Jan. 29th to see Morgan Spurlock and Judy Gold. Not only did I see Scott, I ran into a bunch of cool comics, and even got to do a set.
When I came in Adam Newman was finishing up a great set, and he released his new album Killed just this weekend, which you can download on iTunes, Amazon, and at Rooftop Comedy. My buddy Joe DeVito was there too, and not only filled me in on his Rooftop Comedy CD called First Date with Joe DeVito, he was also kind enough to give me one, and even had a special pen to sign it with. I really like his new look, very distinguished, and kind of like Commander Whitehead from the old-time Schweppes commercials. It’s nice to see a comic dress up for a change. He taped the special over three nights at the Brokerage Comedy Club in Bellmore, which was one of his home clubs and it comes with a couple of cool bonus tracks. I listened to it right away, … well as soon as I got home, not in the street, … and was not surprised to find that it was very funny! Way to go Joe! And he wrote on it in a nice gold marker, “Jeff G. – Thanks for being everywhere!” To those who know, I’ve managed to break the space-time continuum, and have actually been seen in more than two places at the exact same time!
Scott Blakeman and the regulars of the Laughing Liberally crowd held a show to benefit the victims of the Charlie Hedbo massacre in Paris, at the Ethical Culture Society on West 64th Street. Running over from some other event, I got there in time to see Gary Gulman killing it to the packed crowd, and this time the energy was amazing. My new friend Frank Conniff performed, and so did my old friend John Fugelsang as well as Lizz Winstead, Jim David, Jeff Kreisler, John Marshall, Katie Halper, and Dean Obeidallah.
That’s it for this week! Be back with more in just seven short days!
Pictured below, Jeffrey with Trevor Noah, Jeffrey with Colin Quinn, Jeffrey with Chris Titus.