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 hit up Stand Up New York, The Gotham Comedy Club, The Stand and more.
New York Comedy Club has a stand-up improv night and I think it’s about the hardest thing to do. Comics come out and take suggestions from the audience and then have to make up jokes on the spot about that particular thing. It’s hard enough to do improv as a sketch, but improv stand-up feels impossible when you’re used to writing material and laboring over the wording and the timing of each joke. Jourdain Fisher was a stand-out but when I got to the club he was just coming to the stage and I didn’t realize that it was that kind of a show, so I thought it was very ballsy of him to ask the audience what they wanted him to talk about. It was only when the next comic came out and did the same thing that I realized it was that type of show. Jourdain had to make up jokes about Tinder, steroids, and immigration and he did great with all of that. Just thinking about it made me nervous!
I had the honor of being asked to moderate the Q&A for the documentary film “Oh, Rick” about the life and times of Rick Crom, the multi-talented and multi-faceted comedian who teaches the comedy class at The Comedy Cellar. It was part of the Soho International Film Festival showing at the Village East Theatre on 12th Street and 2nd Avenue, and they asked me because they knew we knew each other for a long time, and had many mutual friends and experiences in the biz. When I showed up at the theatre the timing was perfect as Rick was outside in the street. We talked for a while and reminisced about the old days when who just happened to come walking by but Jim Norton who is in the film. He said he was walking down to The Cellar to do a spot.
The film was great and showed the history of The Cellar started by Bill Grundfest and Manny Dworman back in 1981, now run by Manny’s son Noam. All the greatest comics like Bill Burr, Colin Quinn, Jeffrey Ross, Dave Attell, Louis CK, Ray Romano, Nick DiPaolo, Jim Norton, Judy Gold and Godfrey all had accolades for Rick, who is one of the few comics to ever star on Broadway. He’s also a talented actor, musician and lyricist. Rick made his Broadway acting debut in The Goodbye Girl, was an understudy for Footloose and was in Urinetown: The Musical as Tiny Tom/Dr. Billeaux.
He had a great scene on Louie where they’re all playing cards, Eddie Brill, Jim Norton, Hannibal Buress, Louis, Rick, and Nick DiPaolo leads the intimate questioning about Rick’s life as a gay man, which Rick makes no secret about these days. But that wasn’t the case back in the 80’s when he was starting out. People weren’t as open to alternative lifestyles as they are today. Jim’s best friend Jim David, who also happens to be gay, is in a lot of scenes in the film as well, and a lof of this film has to do with Rick’s sexual proclivities.
During the Q&A I gave Rick props for exposing so much of his life on screen, because it truly takes a lot of courage to do that. He said it didn’t start out that way in the planning, but it evolved into that as the process developed. The main theme of the film seemed to explore the concept of what it means to “make it” in show biz and comedy in particular. Rick’s won awards and is known thoughout the biz, and the synopsis of the film says it aims to “redefine the way we measure success within ourselves, … through Rick’s eyes.” The film was received very well and the Q&A was lots of fun. Rick was very open and generous and shared some great stories. And then we all went to the after party!
Speaking of The Cellar, I’m sitting in The Olive Tree Cafe, right above The Cellar enjoying a burger, when all of a sudden somebody comes up from behind me, grabs my arms and starts tickling me wildly. I happen to be very ticklish, and was laughing so hard I almost couldn’t look back to see who it was, but it was Ardie Fuqua, who has unusual ways of saying hello to people. At least to me! Ardie told me he’s back on the road with Tracy Morgan and then took me outside to check out his new ride, a beautiful black Mercedes Benz -AMG with 600 HP! He opened the door and told me to get in and check it out. Of course he had it parked right in front of the club where nobody is allowed to park, but Ardie has his own rules and it’s always great fun to hang out with him.
Stand-Up New York continues to be on the move in terms of making itself different from all the other clubs, and they had another pop-up show, this time out in Bushwick, Brooklyn at a place called Rose Gold. It was a packed room to hear Shane Torres, Emma Willmann, Mike Lasher, and Matthew Broussard do their thing, and it even had a sponsor, which was the New Belgium Brewing Company. I didn’t even know there was an Old Belgium Brewing Company. They gave away free Fat Tire beers and blue Fat Tire koozies which I had seen but never knew they had a name. They’re these soft blue beer bottle holders with a pocket that keep your beer cold, and your hands warm. They were all over the bar at Stand Up on West 78th. Their next pop-up show will be on July 30th at Yotel, a really cool event space on the West side of Manhattan. And I will be there for sure!
The night I was at Stand-Up, Emily Winter and Caitlin Peluffo were running the show, and for the last five months have been co-producing a show at Rose Gold. On that show out in BK they’ve had Aparna Nancherla, Ophira Eisenberg, Michelle Buteau, and Josh Johnson who writes for The Daily Show.
West Side Comedy Club had a busy week with Judy Gold doing two tapings of her new special to a packed house for 800 Pound Gorilla. And a rarity, she got a standing ovation, … in a comedy club! Like I said, a rarity.
Yesterday The Daily Show staff came to West Side to do a show for the first time including Michael Costa and Roy Wood Jr., and Stacey Prussman and Pat Dixon are both bringing their respective podcasts live to the stage this coming week, with Stacey doing The Prussman Report and Pat doing his NYC Crime Report. Those live broadcast shows are always extra fun for the audience.
And I ran into Jiggy Jagarian there, the comic who opens for The Impractical Jokers, who told me he just finished doing two films, one for The Jokers and the other a film he produced. His first feature film production. The Jokers was filmed mostly in Atlanta, which is where he filmed his part and the film he produced was written by his friend Jon Kilmer and it’s called “The Primrose.” Jiggy had a cameo in the film, which of course means he played himself as a comedian from New York. He said it was quite a stretch! They raised the 25 K budget with a Kickstarter campaign and said they saved about another 20-30 K by using two red cameras which they already owned. He described it as kind of a romantic comedy which takes place on a college campus in Boston, and that’s all he could say. Mostly because he had to get on stage! But he’s also still doing his Vault shows at The Friars Club, and his last one just a couple of days ago featured Mark Normand, Sal Vulcano and Ahri Findling.
And the one man production team known as Ryan Dacalos was there to do a spot. Ryan is running shows at Black Cat, The Comic Strip on Mondays, and New York Comedy Club on both Saturday and Sunday at 5 P.M. He and Madison Malloy will be starting their own show on Tuesday nights at West Side Comedy Club, so he’s got things happening all over town.
I drove up to Pleasantville to be a judge at Lucy’s Lounge Summer Comedy Contest produced by Frank Pellegrino, the comic/producer who created the Yonkers Comedy Festival and NOMA Comedy along with Rich DeLayo who was also a judge and Chrissie Mayr who was the third judge. There were 8 comics on the show each doing 8 minutes and the prize was $600. bucks. Chrissie and I took turns critiquing the comics and she did her comments in different accents alternating between English, and Russian. Daniel Perefan was the host and kept things moving along at a good pace. Mark DeMayo was the closer and held it down for a strong close. All of the comics had promise in one way or another but the winner was a young guy fresh out of college named Frankie Becerra, who had a lot of good jokes and good stage presence for someone so young, but he kept his hands in his pockets the entire time, and the mic in the stand, both of which I advised him not to do. I was glad we all voted for him to win.
Runner up was Patrick Holbert who did some very edgy material, and Samantha Bednarz, who I had worked with before and who has a very unique stage persona came in third. Frank Pellegrino said he was glad I chose Frankie as #1 because he felt the same way and has been working with him kind of like a mentor. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Frankie and we’ll certainly be seeing more of Frank! ( I wonder if they know it’s the same name!)
From there I ran down to catch Brent Morin from Chelsea Lately and NBC’s Undateable, who was in from LA headlining Gotham Comedy Club. The place was really packed so I sat on the side with the comics. Brent had lot of fans and friends at the show and said his parents had been at the earlier show also celebrating their 46th wedding anniversary, and he laughingly said his Dad thought he shared too much information about them, and left with saying “We’ll talk tomorrow!” No matter how old you get it’s always weird being yourself on stage when your parents are watching.
It was definitely Brent’s audience and he did a mix of stand-up and storytelling, with one particularly involved story about his fascination/obsession with serial killers. He has an amazing singing voice which I don’t think I knew and he proved it by belting out a made-up song at the end of his act that left the audience applauding wildly.
His openers were also from LA. It was John Campanelli who had a great set and will be headlining Carolines on July 11th and a very interesting guy named Jason Collings who travels with Brent on the road. This is the kind of guy you want to travel with because not only is he funny he’s a fifth degree black belt in Kenpo karate, and used to own a chain of karate schools with his brother. Chris Mazzilli always knows who to introduce me to. I left the showroom for a minute and Chris was outside with Jason and he asked if we knew each other so he made the introduction, and when Chris introduces me to someone it’s always for a good reason.
Sometimes audience members show up late and they try and show them to a seat very unobtrusively so no one notices. While Brent was on stage all of a sudden a long line of what seemed like at least 25 people came in and paraded across the center of the room. I was wondering where they were going to put them because it didn’t look like there was a seat left in the house. And Brent didn’t lose a beat but he made a joke of it and said they were his immediate family. After the show the showroom manager told me those people were expected. They had reservations but were detained and they were holding their seats and Brent had been forewarned so it wouldn’t throw him off when they all came in together.
After his set I surprised him by greeting him as he left the stage and he did something that made me feel great. He’s such a nice guy that he thanked me for coming and for my support and said he loves to read this column and appreciates what I do. It doesn’t get better than that!
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. Pictured, Jeffrey with Rick Crom and Brent Morin.