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 UCB Del Close Marathon, Gotham and New York Comedy Club.
This weekend was the 18th annual Del Close Marathon sponsored by UCB and this year, they partnered up with Seeso, NBC’s new digital arm. It was over 670 improv shows on 9 different stages in this one weekend, including FIT’s Haft Auditorium, The Magnet Theater, UCB Chelsea, UCBEast, SVA Theatre and more. I attended the press conference which was much different from last year. There was no party and red carpet this time, but I got to sit in the front row and was allowed to tape the whole thing.
The four founding members kicked it off, Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, and they moderated the conference. They were soon joined by the fifth founding member Horatio Sanz, but each of the other people they called out didn’t stay too long. They called them out in groups of two, did brief interviews, asked them questions about their early experiences on stage, and with Del Close, and then let the press ask questions, and this year even let the audience ask questions, and then brought out the next two performers. They came out two by two. Like a comedic Noah’s Ark!
The big announcement was that Seeso will be renewing its original series The UCB Show and actually began shooting the second season during the Del Close Marathon. The UCB Show is a weekly variety showcase for the best sketch, character, and stand-up performers coming out of UCB theatres in LA and NYC and is hosted by the four co-founders that are still involved, Amy, the two Matts and Ian. They also announced that Seeso had acquired the documentary called Thank You Del: The Story of the Del Close Marathon that originally premiered at the 2016 SXSW fest.
Some of the grouped performers to come out, were Gil Ozeri from Happy Endings, with John Gemberling from Broad City, then there was Jason Mantzoukas from The League, with Echo Kellum from CW’s Arrow, along with D’Arcy Carden, recently announced as a series regular in Mike Schur’s new NBC sitcom Good Place, and Katie Dippold who wrote the new Ghostbusters, plus Ben Schwartz from House of Lies and Chris Gethard from The Chris Gethard Show, and the hilarious Jon Daly from Kroll Show, and a new upcoming FOX pilot with Judy Greer as yet unnamed, in which he plays a guy named Gene.
And to no one’s surprise, I made sure to attend the Del Close Marathon’s Nick Kroll and Friends show which is a prime example of what good improv should be. Improv is the hardest thing in the world to do well. It’s harder than stand-up because you’re making it up on the spot. I invited Cristina Cote who is the producer of the all female Hersterical shows, to join me, because it was her birthday.
Funny story! As we approached the Haft Auditorium one of the UCB volunteers outside came over to me and said, “Jeffrey Gurian?” I admitted to that, to which he said, “OK follow me. I assumed he was taking us to our seats, but before I knew what was happening he led me and Cristina through a maze of hallways, to backstage. Now I knew I wasn’t supposed to go backstage until AFTER the show. Unless you’re actually on the show NOBODY goes backstage before the show. You look like an invasive putz if you do that. Like an inexperienced schmuck! Everyone was waiting to go on stage. Nick was already out there, and Jason Mantzoukas looked at me strangely and said, “Hey Jeff, what’s up?” I didn’t know what to say, so we just stood there not knowing what to do. I still have no idea how we wound up backstage! But a security guard greeted me warmly, who remembered me from last year and told me how much he enjoyed seeing me on Saturday Night Live! I wonder who he thought I was!
Nick came out on stage with “friends” like Jason Mantzoukas, Jon Daly, Matt Walsh, Gil Ozeri, Mary Holland, and John Gemberling, and then Nick chose random people from the audience and did a brief interview with each of them separately and then used the info from the interview to improv sketches on stage. Like Mary knew a girl from high school and they brought her up on stage, or else Nick just asked for someone who was having a good day, and people from the audience volunteered. It was very original, very creative and very funny. Afterwards we went backstage to see Nick and the gang. Nick had given me a blurb for the cover of a new book I have coming out very soon called Man Robs Bank With His Chin – And Other Unusual Stories Missed By Mainstream Media from Micro Publishing Media, and I wanted to show it to him, which I did. The blurb reads, “ Jeffrey Gurian asked me to write a blurb for his book, … and this is it!” He and John Mulaney will be up at Just for Laughs next month doing Oh, Hello and Nick told me to bring the jacket they made me that says “Gurian Angels” on the back. Don’t know if they plan on using me again or not, but if they do, it will be so AMAZING, and a dream come true!
I had run into Chris Gethard earlier in the week up at APA where I had gone to have lunch and re-connect with an old friend Senior V.P. Betsy Berg, who handles talent like my old pal Charlie Sheen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who I also have history with and Al Pacino! I asked her if she reps anyone I ever heard of before! Anyway when we came back from lunch as I was coming out of the men’s room Chris Gethard was coming in. We fist bumped and exchanged pleasantries. He’s waiting to hear about the renewal of his mad, funny, crazy show on Fusion, which just wrapped its second year, and he told me he’d have some big news to share with me soon. Within seconds of leaving him, I ran into my bud T.J. Miller who was coming in to meet with Mike Berkowitz, head of comedy at APA, and who told me he’s been in town for three weeks filming Pete Holmes’ Judd Apatow directed show Crashing, about a divorced comic forced to crash on other comedians’ couches. Most comics I know don’t even HAVE couches!
Thursday was the finale of this season’s Gotham Comedy Live and I made it a point to get over there to see Chris D’Elia who I hadn’t seen since Montreal last year. He did something I thought was amazing and that in all the GCL shows I’ve been to, I hadn’t seen a host do before. He riffed his way through the opening monologue doing hilarious crowd work which is such a ballsy move for live TV cause there’s no guarantee that the audience will give you what you need. Only a real improv pro like Chris can pull that off. He has such an endearing way with the audience and laughs a lot himself during his set as if he can’t believe what he’s getting away with saying to people. He had so much fun he even stayed on during the commercial breaks. Also on the show were John Mooney, Justine Marino, Jonathan Martin, the host of Kevin Hart’s Plastic Cup Boyz, and the inimitable Aaron Berg.
Chris D’Elia hung outside the showroom for a while after the show, greeting his fans and well wishers, but he didn’t hang out at the after party. At the party, Jonathan Martin told me that the Plastic Cup Boyz, made up of Na’im Lynn, Will “Spank” Horton, and Joey Wells will be doing a national tour, which he will be hosting and they just did Boston and Harrah’s in Atlantic City. He said every once in a while Kevin joins them when he’s available, which isn’t often these days!
When I saw my girls Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson at Comedy Juice this week, I assumed they would be performing together, but boy was I wrong! They both got up and did separate spots showing us why they’ve been blowing up these past few months. They’re prepping for a national tour and testing out the material at Subculture down on Bleecker Street, and they already sold out their first show for next month’s Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, where I will be shooting videos as per my usual M.O. They both said they were excited! Not as excited as I am!
Comedy Juice was crazy this past week with Judah Friedlander, Todd Barry, John Rudnitsky and Mark Normand all on that same show. Mark ran his set that he’ll be doing for Stephen Colbert coming up in August, and was there with Jessica Pilot who is now working for CBS! Mark sat down at my table to share some fries, cause I never eat all of mine anyway! He told me he was really excited to be opening for Amy Schumer at Madison Square Garden in two days and a bit apprehensive for performing for 20,000 people for his first time. I told him that after doing Carnegie Hall this should be “old hat” for him which is an expression you don’t hear often enough any more! I saw a video of the response he got at MSG and it was incredible. Major congrats to Amy for being the first female comedian to play MSG and sell it out!
I saw Corinne again a few days later when she co-hosted Paid or Pain with Jay Nog at New York Comedy Club in a charity event for the victims in Orlando. I came in just as they were doing the banana swallowing contest, and sick as it is to say, a guy won. Out of all the girls and a guy had to win!
Owen Benjamin Headlines Gotham
Owen Benjamin did three shows on Saturday night at Gotham and told the crowd he was trying to conserve his energy, but you certainly couldn’t tell from the high level of energy he put into his early show. He has such a great voice and intersperses his jokes with playing the keyboards every few minutes. Like a modern day Henny Youngman, but a more talented musician and much hipper jokes! Maybe like a modern day Victor Borge! Anyone remember who that was? And it seems that even Owen got the comedy memo about growing a beard! At least his is close-cropped!
And with that, I’m OUT!!! (Btw, have I really been on Saturday Night Live?)
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 Gurian with Nick Kroll, Jeffrey with Nick plus Jon Daly, John Gemberling and Jason Mantzoukas, Jeffrey and Cristina Cote, and Jeffrey with Mark Normand.