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 the Gotham, New York Comedy Club and more!
I’d have to say the highlight of my week was going to see Gad Elmaleh at Town Hall this weekend, and hanging out with him after the show. They like to refer to him as “the Jerry Seinfeld of France”, and he actually performed with Jerry up at JFL this past summer, but after seeing him perform at his first major show in English which was taped for a Netflix special, they may start referring to Jerry as “the Gad Elmaleh of America.” No offense to Jerry who is still tops in my book but Gad is really very unique. Aside from being funny the only person who is as physical onstage that I have ever seen is Sebastian Maniscalco.
When we got to the venue I felt a tap on my shoulder and it was Ardie Fuqua dressed as usual in a beautiful suit with a pocket square and I said to him, “are you part of the show tonight” and he said, “ No, I’m just here to sweep up the theatre.” So when the show finally started and he came out to open I was surprised and I was wasn’t surprised, both at the same time. Why wouldn’t he have told me? If he bothered to say hello I would think he’d say he was opening the show. But that’s Ardie. He did show me his new Rolex though.
The show, which was appropriately called Oh My Gad was amazing but what really struck me was Gad’s mastery of the language. He hardly has any accent at all and very often sounds truly American. He was born in Morocco and grew up in Paris and the audience seemed to be filled with people from both places. A lot of French was being spoken all around me. And French people kept complimenting me on my scarf and said I looked very French. A guy on the production team came out before the show started, to tell the audience the rules and I was surprised to hear him request that no one yell out during the performance. I thought to myself who would yell out during a Netflix taping, but yet again I was wrong. It seems that French people do tend to yell out things, taping or no taping, and some shmuck actually did. But Gad handled it so well. Ryan Hamilton was sitting right behind me and told me that he had opened for Gad the night before, but that performance was not taped. There were two this night that were both being taped. The after party was down the block at the Heartland Brewery in a private room in the back and they had great food laid out and an open bar.
Gad gave me a very warm welcome and introduced me to his sister who flew in from Paris for the event. I got to tell him how amazed I was at his command of the language, even in using very up-to-date street expressions during the show. He told me he’s worked so hard every single day with an English tutor in preparation for his first major special in English and he imitated for me how he spoke with a French/Moroccan accent only two years before. He was leaving to go back to France the next day to spend time with his kids for a while. He has a 16-year-old and a 3-year-old who he misses very much. Aside from being so funny, he’s a genuinely great and gracious guy and it was a very special night.
D.C. Benny was taping an hour of story telling for 800 Pound Gorilla and CEO Ryan Bitzer came by the Comedy Matters offices to chat while he was in town visiting from Tennessee and to check out my “comedy museum.” D.C. invited me down and I got to the Fat Black Pussycat early and was glad I did because I got to catch Colin Quinn running some new material he was working on for an hour. Lots of comics work on their hours at Fat Black. It’s a great room for that. He’s so great at taking things we all say to each other and making hilarious material out of it, like when people tell you they can’t picture you doing something. I asked Colin if he was working on a new hour and he said he’s ALWAYS working on a new hour.
Lance Weiss hosted D.C.’s show which was a packed room, and I sat on the stairs leading up to the little loft to oversee the action. I told Lance afterwards that I don’t ever like to compare people, but that his material and delivery reminded me somewhat of Mitch Hedberg and he was complimented by the comparison which is exactly how I meant it. Liz Miele did a set and had recently toured Europe and the Middle East performing for our troops. And then D.C. came out and did a flawless hour of stories which is a great strength of his. D.C. does great characters and accents too like Russian, Japanese, and Italian. He told stories about being cast as a Latino hitman, even though he doesn’t speak Spanish and is not Latino, and the worst gig he ever did which was on a cruise ship, and one that was hard for me to listen to as it was about a stutterer.
Rick Crom, the long running emcee at The Cellar, and who now teaches the comedy classes there has a student named Dustin Sussman. Dustin financed and made a documentary about Rick called Oh, Rick with Ray Romano, Colin Quinn, Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes and more all talking about him, and it won the audience award at the NYC Doc Film Fest at the IFC Center on 6th Avenue, right near The Cellar. It took three years and was Dustin’s first movie ever. I hope Rick gives him some stage time!
So I run into Sherrod Small outside of New York Comedy Club as he was energizing himself for his closing set, and he told me about his big Homecoming Show tonight at The Village Underground for Thanksgiving. He said that everybody comes home this week before the holiday so he thought it would be a good time to do a Homecoming Show, with Leslie Jones, Greer Barnes, Kurt Metzger, Chris Distefano, Rachel Feinstein, and Mo Amer. As he put it, “the whole family is here!” He was hanging out with Matt Richards, Reg Thomas and Jordan Rock and after his set he told me “It’s so fun to be black cause you can mispronounce words and still be smart”, and then he said to me, “Well you know. You’ve been black since 1979!” He was a year off but who am I to quibble! A famous boxer named Daniel Jacobs came to the club to see him perform.
Matt Richards was heading back to LA to continue his string of successes which are so well deserved. He’s been writing for a bunch of rappers including Snoop, Waka Flocka, and T-Pain and is actually producing pilots now for MTV. My man is a TV producer! He’s actually been a producer for a year, and says he can’t wait to be able to help anyone who’s ever helped and supported him, because his parents taught him “always look out for the people who look out for you!” Great advice!
I stopped by The Comic Strip to catch up with Chuck Nice who just wrapped another season where he’s the most regular co-host on Nat Geo’s Star Talk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and he told me that Neil is a very funny guy. Right in the middle of Chuck interviewing Neil, Neil jokingly ask him if he’d like to touch his meteorite, and Chuck said “I thought you would never ask!” They shoot the show in the Hayden Planetarium in the Hall of the Universe, and he says it’s a show where pop culture and science collide. He also said that Neil is one of the smartest, warmest and nicest people he’s ever met, and that as smart as he is, that’s how humble he is as well. Chuck said that he never makes you feel bad even though after five seconds of talking to him you realize he’s so much smarter than you! James Mattern was there hosting and told me he recently did warm-up for three weeks for Comedy Knockout with people like Mark Normand, Sarah Tiana, Mo Amer, Amir K, and Thomas Dale.
It was a big week for Kevin Gootee the creator of Comics Watching Comics, a show where seasoned comics judge new comics and the judges rotate except for me who was given the honor of being named “Master Panelist.” The show is now on Amazon Prime thanks to Jim Mendrinos and his new production company and facility. They did a live show in the downstairs lounge at Gotham and the place was packed to capacity. No judging went on but judges and season winners got up and each did 7 minutes for the appreciative crowd.
Ron Barba opened, and introduced Kevin Gootee who hosted the rest of the show. Jim Mendrinos went up first because he had another gig but he stayed around long enough to tell me about his new production facility. It’s called New Media Comedy Studios and it’s 2500 square feet of an all inclusive facility in Colonia, New Jersey owned by Jim and three partners who have their own Amazon Prime channel, and they will be distributing Comics Watching Comics on their channel. It’s a full service facility and Jim said they already have a commitment to produce 1,000 hours of content over the next three years on Amazon, both syndication and original stuff they’ll be creating in the studio. Most importantly it was great to see Jim back at 100 percent after his devastating train accident where he was severely injured. It took two plus years of intense therapy for him to get to where he is now, and he said it took that much time for the industry to trust him again to be a headliner, because they were worried about his memory. He said his new wife Jessi nursed him through the entire ordeal. Great to see him back in good shape.
Also on the show was the always funny Mark Riccadonna, and crowd pleaser Mike Keegan, with a killer closing set by Sean Lynch and season winners like Joan Weisblatt, Rob Santos, Kaitlyn Murphy, and a talented newcomer I was impressed with named Reid Clark, who had interesting material and stage presence. Then there was a redemption set where comics who did not have their best sets on the show got a chance to redeem themselves with one minute of material. One of them was my pal from Cult Comedy Pictures Jose Vega who’s also part of a comedy group called American Me which is made up of all minorities. He said there’s a black guy, a Korean guy and a Puerto Rican guy which is him. Then he told me the names, Jason Rogers and I said, “is that the black guy? And he said, “ No that’s the Korean guy” and busted out laughing because he said that’s a big part of his act explaining how a Korean guy is named Jason Rogers. Then Jason came over and explained that for some reason several of the Korean comics were adopted, which explains the American names. So the black guy was Mel Hancock and they’ve been performing all over the country. It was very special for me to meet comic Pamela Rae who was there helping out, and who posts a lot iof fascinating stuff on Facebook. She has a one woman show called Stand Up Inclusion about her life as a woman with Tourettes. She was actually once diagnosed with the most severe case of Tourettes in the country evidenced by the fact that she once literally broke her neck from her head snapping back so hard and she actually injured an internal organ from the same thing. A talk she gave on her Tourettes at a Jewish organization turned her speaking ability into a career as a motivational speaker and Mayim Bialik from Big Bang Theory saw her at a talk and hired her to write for her website Grok Nation. Pamela seems to have her Tourettes under control enough that she performs her stand-up and goes out and speaks nationally, and I think she’s great.
Speaking of people making changes and overcoming obstacles, Mike Bochetti checked in with me to let me know he’s making major changes in his life. He says he’s lost so much weight he’s down to a 36 waist, and has a lot of great stuff going on. He wrote the foreword to Artie Lange’s third book and has what he referred to as a “small but pivotal role” in a film starring Christina Ricci, plus he’s taping a half hour for Raw Dog Comedy. Way to go Mike.
And another Mike has some cool news too. Mike Lavoie who was a producer on Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s “Oh, Hello” show has a new show at the Subculture Theatre on Bleecker Street called “So Long Boulder City” and I’m sure it’s good because Mike doesn’t get involved in anything that isn’t. Starring LA improv comic Jimmy Fowlie, from The Groundlings playing a woman in a “one woman show” that seems to be a take-off on a character played by Emma Stone in the movie “La La Land.” Jimmy’s been getting rave reviews for his performance and I’m going in December!
It seemed to be a week of firsts and celebrations. It was the first anniversary of Wali Collin’s Comedy Cup show at the downstairs lounge of Gotham Comedy Club so I went down to help them celebrate and it was a really fun show. It was MeMe Simpson, and Dustin Chafin with his ever-present cowboy hat, on one team and Ophira Eisenberg, and Brandon Marshall on the other team. The Host who is Wali calls out topics that the comic has to address in a short stand-up set and then he awards points based on merit, most of them starting around 20,000 points. At one spot in the show the audience gets to pick topics from a basket which get assigned to the comic on stage that Wali feels would do justice to that topic. At the end each comic is free to go wild and do material of their own choosing. The winning team is awarded a big gold cup, hence the name of the show. So Marshall Brandon, who was so funny and told me he’s got a web series called “The Adventures of Brown Dragon” got to talk about the weather, and even used the word “inclement” after which he said the audience looked shocked that he even knew the word! Dustin and Meme won the cup, and at the end everyone had cake!
Lots of Comics came to hang out and watch and I caught up with Rodney Laney was hanging out at the bar and told me about his first album called I Blame The Public School System which he taped at a club in New Jersey. When I asked him why New Jersey he said it was close to where he grew up and the album is about his experiences in public school. He said it’s a mix of autobiographical and observational material, and that many years of work went into it. It’s available on iTunes and iCloud and anything with an i! Jordan Rock was there, in from LA for December and was with his comedy partner in crime Reg Thomas. As you can see from the photo they definitely stuck around for the cake!
After the show I went upstairs to catch Comedy Juice. The timing was perfect. Janeane Garofalo was on stage trying to convince the audience that Chris Christie was going to be trying stand-up. She always puts down her stand-up skills and ended by saying she started weak so it’s good to end weak. But they love her. Ben Gleib always has new stuff going on. He’s on a new webseries for Facebook Watch called Comedians On Another Plane, a comedy show on an airplane, and it was so noisy that all I could hear is that a guy named Nick Tarascio from Ventura Air Services is the pilot. Ben explained it as an air version of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. He was in New York to do his Guys Tell All panel on The Today Show with Bob Kinney and Chuck Nice. Josh Gondelman was also on the show and I have to say that he is a great writer. I always appreciate good writing as you don’t see it that often, and he talked a lot about his recent marriage.
Everyone kind of stopped by my table to say “wassup” and fill me in on what they’re up to. Michael Yo, who was in town to do the Wendy Williams Show, Molly Austin performed too, and started out by laughingly asking the audience how many people had seen her on truTV since her show has been on for three seasons, and when the response was light she explained that being on TV is not always what it’s cracked up to be. That being said she’s got a new unscripted series with her comedy partner Shamikah Martinez in which as she explained it “episodes come from relatable conflicts and milestones of officially becoming an adult.” Austin Martinez will Executive Produce so how cool is that? And it was worth waiting to the end to see Mark Normand close which is about the only way to see Mark Normand. He’s always so busy he usually splits right after his set. He works so fast on stage spitting out one joke after the next.I asked him about his new apartment and he says he’s loving it.
I ran uptown to participate in Kevin Bartini’s The Movie Preview Review podcast which is very original. He does it with his wife Jessica Bailey and Jay Schmidt who’s producing a new headliner show on Sunday nights at The PIT. The hosts and guests review movie trailers right on the spot and talk about whether they’d want to see the movie or not based on the trailer. Kevin has done the warm up gig on five different Comedy Central shows and the newest one is with Jordan Klepper called The Opposition. He described it as “what the Colbert Report was to Bill O’Reilly, The Opposition is to Alex Jones’ “Info Wars.”
And before I sign off, I just want to wish every single one of you a very Happy Thanksgiving. This is the only holiday where every single person you meet asks you what you’re doing for Thanksgiving and no matter what you tell them, they all have the exact same answer, … “ That’s nice!” Hope you all have a lot to be grateful for 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 Gurian with Chuck Nice, Gad Elmaleh and Comics Watching Comics.