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 The Stand, Carolines, and more.
Sometimes when it comes to comedians I think I have ESP. On my way over to St. Peter’s Church for the memorial service for Adrianne Tolsch, I found myself wondering whether David Letterman would be there. As I entered I see a guy with a knit hat pulled down over his forehead with a grey full beard and he looked kind of familiar to me and as we walked down the stairs together to the chapel, he pulled off the hat and I realized it was Letterman. Amazing! Like I manifested him. We exchanged hellos and Happy New Year greetings and then he walked to the back, and I walked to the front. I got the sense he didn’t want to take anything away from the focus of what was going on. The chapel was filled to capacity, and Adrianne’s husband Bill Scheft spoke first and set the tone for what had to be one of the funniest memorial services of all time.
After Bill spoke, former NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn spoke, along with Broadway star Julie Halston, and comedian/comedy writer Larry Amoros, a very old friend who worked a lot with Joan Rivers, and was close to Adrianne since her early hosting days at Catch back in the 80’s. Larry said he checked with Bill before he wrote his remarks about whether anything was off limits and when Bill say it wasn’t, Larry commented on how early in the morning the memorial service was and said, “You could have made it later. She would have still been dead at 2!” The audience collapsed in laughter and collectively fell off their seats! It was a great tribute to Adrianne and just the way she would have wanted. Afterwards there was a “kiddush”, (which means “food”, for those of you who don’t speak Spanish), and lots of comics hung out and “kibbitzed” like Judy Gold, Lenny Marcus, Scott Blakeman, Bill McCarthy, and others who knew Adrianne from back in the day.
I love D.L. Hughley so when I heard he was going to be headlining Carolines, I made up my mind to surprise him and got to Carolines in time to see D.L. crush the room as he always does. I grabbed a seat near his manager Gary and waited on the side till his set was done. We went in the back to hang out. His dressing room is always a party both before the show and after, and he’s gracious to all of his fans. He will literally spend a half an hour talking to people who approach him after the show. He’s currently writing a new special called “Relentless” and he’s not sure what network it will be on yet, and it will be his 12th one!
We also got a chance to talk about the controversy about his Tweet re: the passing of Debbie Reynolds, which honestly I was not even aware of. He had tweeted “Debbie Reynolds died a day after her daughter did! Black Mama’s don’t die cuz they kids do! They cry and say God don’t make no mistakes!” just before New Years. His tweet got over a million likes and a million retweets.
He told me that people always ask him to apologize for things and he says he doesn’t feel the need. He said that as a performer, he’s not in the business of saying what people want him to say. “Comedy by definition is obscene,” he told me. “I think we say shit that may make people uncomfortable. I think that we say shit that is insensitive, and that can be inflammatory, but that’s just the art of comedy. From the greatest on down, I don’t care if you’re Richard Pryor or George Carlin or you’re smashing watermelons, something you do is gonna offend somebody, and that’s the gig we have.” And when I asked if people expected him to apologize he said, “you know me a long time. You ever know me to apologize for something?” And he went on to say, “And even if it were called for, I wouldn’t know who to apologize to, because the people in the joke, they’re not here.”
He went on to say, “Ultimately I think that everybody should have the right to express themselves however profane or profound it is, and I’ve always been a proponent of that, whether you were Don Imus, or someone that said something I agree or don’t agree with, I’ll fight for your right to say it.” And then he quoted Voltaire on freedom of speech and said it’s a tenet of America and that’s what separates us from other places. “And I think that in comedy if we demonstrate that clearly then everybody else benefits too.”
The next night I went back and after his late show around midnight we all went to Cafeteria. There must have been at least 25 people and D.L. treated everyone. This is truly a man of style and grace and a true king of comedy. On the third night, after all the audience had left, D.L.’s DJ kept spinning and a dance party broke out. And then we requested hip-hop and Snoop’s Gin and Juice came on and the place went crazy. D.L. had never seen me dance before and he couldn’t believe his eyes. And that’s when he officially labeled me, “ The Coolest White Man In America.” He also said it on video which I will post shortly so it’s official. He said he was making me a pin with that title on it, so we’ll see!
The Stand was popping this week and the bar area was as crowded with comics as the showroom. So great to see Ron Bennington on the mic for the past few weeks. Ron is the master of just going up and winging it, which is why he can do mash-ups with Big Jay and Sal Vulcano. Ron did stand-up back in the day when he owned a comedy club in Florida, but his radio skills come into play when he’s on stage because when you have guests on the radio nothing is prepared. It’s straight up improv, and if you can bring that to the stage as he does, it’s pure gold. I’m fine on red carpets and radio, but am still reluctant, (#afraid), to try that on stage. Maybe some day!
I rolled in late one night and heard a big voice call out my name. It was Dante Nero holding it down with Wellie Jackson and Sherrod Small. Dante is currently filming Ocean’s Eight, the all women version, … I guess except for him. It’s a spin-off of the Ocean’s 11 trilogy, starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, and other show-biz newcomers, which will be out in 2018. In 2017, he’ll be in John Wick 2: The Spear playing John Leguizamo’s hit man. And because of the success of his hit podcast The Beige Phillip Show, showcasing his “pimpmanship” he’s holding classes and seminars for guys who want to be more successful with women! Wellie’s been on tour with Tracy Morgan and will be going out to LA to write for Tracy’s new series on TBS along with Marc Theobald, which was created originally for FX by Jordan Peele. They’re in the process of putting together a writing team, and the show, as yet unnamed, will be shot in NY. Wellie also wrote on Tracy’s new special on Netflix which will be out in the next month or two. We all hung out and I felt like fam with everyone calling me the “N” word with an “a” on the end, especially Sherrod who I go back with the longest. I was so tempted to say it myself, but I couldn’t get the word out!
And then Artie Lange was there. Artie had a killer extended set and then we went outside to talk. It was freezing outside, but Artie didn’t seem to mind and wasn’t even really dressed for the cold. When a bunch of his fans asked him for photos he stayed outside and accommodated them and not once did he complain that it was cold, but he did take the time to make them all laugh.
Jim Florentine came in to The Stand to do an extended set for a new special which he just recorded this past weekend, and he is really psyched about his last special, Simple Man just released in December and currently available on iTunes. He taped it in New Jersey at the 600 seat George Street Playhouse and when I asked him why he said cause it’s close to his house. A very simple man! He’a a perfect example of taking a negative and turning it into a positive as he uses his divorce and catching his ex with a 22 year old as the basis for a his new special. Jim often opens for “Dice” Clay.
Another comic having success with a special is Jimmy Failla, with his special State of the Union which just came out on Amazon Prime. It got a huge number of views right away, and according to Jimmy it was thanks to being able to promote it on Howard Stern wrap up, and a host of other shows on SiriusXM, Fox News, and CBS Radio. He said the tweets of support from people like Jim Gaffigan, Kennedy, and former WWE champ Dolph Ziggler, plus Instagram photos from Dave Mustaine of Megadeth that got 11,000 likes also helped bring attention to the special. Maybe I should try that with my books!
Another reason this column is a mash-up is because I decided to collect New Year’s resolutions from a bunch of the comics I ran into this week.
Dante Nero: “My resolution for 2017 is to be more awesome than before. I got a few things I’m working on and one of them is that I’m trying to learn to fly.” And he didn’t mean with a plane!
Wellie Jackson: “My resolution for 2017 is to do exactly what the hell I did in 2016. I love it when a plan comes together, and 2016 worked out so perfect, I’m tryin’ to do it again!”
Sherrod Small: “ ‘I got no resolutions. I did everything perfect in 2016. I’m gonna do the same thing.” And then he added, … “And I wanna know how your dick works like a model detector! Not a metal detector, a model detector!”
Jim Florentine: “ I wanna have a threesome. I only had one before and it ended badly so I’m tryin’ to redeem myself. I got a prescription for Cialis so I’m ready!”
Ron Bennington: I vow this year to quit smoking, … while I’m doing coke. So I will wait till all the coke is gone, and then light up! It’s tough but it’s discipline. The only way to get through life is discipline!”
Leonard Ouzts: “ My resolution is to listen to my sets after I record ‘em and put out an album. That’s it for me. Get ready for a special!”
Clint Coley: “My 2017 New Year’s resolution is to get married, have kids, and, and, and, … (and at that point he broke out laughing so hard), … and that’s it. I’m bored. I ain’t got shit else!”
Matteo Lane: “ My goal in 2017 is to find a boyfriend and to replace Mariah Carey!” To which I said, “ And you’d probably look better in the outfit she wore on NYE than she did”, and he agreed. Matteo had just recovered from the flu and was hoping his voice would be back because he was flying to LA next week to do the Comedy Jam on Comedy Central where he said “ I will reclaim Mariah’s throne.” I asked him if he knew what song he was singing yet and he said he wasn’t sure if he could disclose it in advance but it’s “a big diva song.” What are the chances it’s by Mariah? Your guess is as good as mine!
Willie Lynch Jr.: “My New Year’s resolution is to just produce. Like do something. Produce bodies of work, and one of my goals is to keep not drinking liquor. I haven’thad liquor since July, so so far we keepin’ it up!”
Molly Austin: “I don’t really believe in resolutions, I’m more of a visualization person, so it’s to get real rich. Real, real rich. That’s it! J.K. Rowling rich!”
Benny Demarco: “Do more comedy and travel more with all my friends and get a TV show.”
Ricky Velez: “ I wanna be a better person this year. Naaah, fuck that! I just wanna be happier. But I wanna bring back the word “Psyche”! (which he spelled “Sike”, to make sure I knew what he meant, … but I hadda correct it for his sake!) As an example of using the word “psyche”, he yelled out “ The Interrobang is awesome! Sike! And then said, “ Only kidding!” And as a final thing he said, “ I saw your review about the HBO special, and I don’t wanna be on Jeffrey Gurian’s bad side!” Gotta love Ricky Velez!
Josh Wesson: I think it’s important before I write Josh’s resolution to state that he’s a man of color, with long dreads. I think it’s important to state that because by the name Josh Wesson you might not be able to tell and his resolution was, “ In 2017, Imma kill these ni**as!” That’s it for me for 2017. Kill these Ni**as! I wasn’t sure whether to capitalize that word or not and Al Sharpton wasn’t in, so I did it on one and not the other. Josh also said he intended to work very hard. His exact quote was “ I don’t know if you can say ‘kill these ni**as, but what you CAN say is I’m goin’ in!”
Derek Gaines: “Derek Gaines here with a 2017 resolution. Be funny! Be prolific! And get on the stage! That’s what Patrice told me back in the day.”
Monroe Martin: “Just be funny and be honest. Completely honest. That’s it!”
Roy Wood Jr.: “ I wanna be better about my damn social media. That’s really it. I just want people to watch my comedy special “Father Figure” when it premieres. Comedy Central hasn’t given me a premiere date yet, either February or March, we’re hoping for it to get out there. Ultimately, I’m just trying my best to not get angry at people. That’s the biggest thing. Cause otherwise you gonna be angry all the time and you can’t let anger consume you. Although it does burn more calories.” And he ended with a big laugh.
Phill Hunt: “ My resolution is to stop putting alcohol on credit cards!”
Neko White: “My resolution is to be better than I was last year and to get rid of everybody on Facebook that doesn’t buy a ticket.”
Anyway that’s it for me this week. I am OUT!!!
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, Comedy Matters TV. Photos below Jeffrey with D.L. Hughley and Jasmine Sanders, Artie Lange, and Jim Florentine.