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. In today’s column, we get an update on what comedian Ardie Fuqua has been dealing with since he was in a terrible car crash with Tracy Morgan this summer, plus news from the George Carlin Way dedication ceremony, what’s Rick Newman doing these days, and a Mel Brooks update.
The big event in comedy in New York this week was the dedication of George Carlin Way. It was West 121st Street and Morningside Drive and was followed by an event at the famous Caroline’s on Broadway.
As I got to Caroline’s I was greeted outside by Artie Lange and Rain Pryor huddling under the awning have a smoke in the rain. I guess a little rain doesn’t bother Rain! Rain, who of course is the daughter of comedy legend Richard Pryor, performed and was thrilled to be introduced by host Colin Quinn who said “if anyone belongs on the stage at Caroline’s it’s our next comic Rain Pryor.” Rain was also shooting video interviews for a new news entertainment morning talk show she’s co-hosting, and her first event was covering the naming of George Carlin Way.
The Caroline’s event was absolutely packed with huge talent, and as I came in Gilbert Gottfried, my favorite comedian of all time had just taken the stage. Despite all the huge talent I think that everyone would admit that Gilbert stole the show. He went into a 10 minute hilarious diatribe as only Gilbert can, about how happy he was that George Carlin died. He said the only regret he had about George Carlin’s death is that he didn’t kill him himself. Because then he could have told his grandchildren that he had killed George Carlin and he would have made the story even better by telling them in Yiddish, which he did on stage. Or at least it was Gilbert’s version of Yiddish.
I was standing in the back right next to Gilbert’s wife Dara, and I asked Dara if she had any idea of what Gilbert was going to do that night and she said she didn’t. She said he never tells her, and as a matter of fact he just made up this whole thing on the spot. Gilbert and I go back pretty far. I often drove him home when he still lived with his mother, and I would ask him, “Gilbert does your mother get you? Does she know who you are?” and he would just laugh.
Artie Lange had to follow Gilbert at the George Carlin tribute and when he took the stage, he said following Gilbert’s act was like “trying to follow a rape!” Artie recently announced that he’s starting a new podcast– and now there’s an official date! The Artie Quitter Podcast will be starting Nov. 1st and he invited me to come on with him, which I consider a great honor. It was so crowded backstage with well-wisher that Artie and I wound up having to take a photo in the kitchen! It was the only place open for us to stand.
And I was so happy to see my friends Eddie Brill and Judah Friedlander. Eddie killed it as usual, Judah was so strong. Also in the crowd was Caroline Hirsch, the no-contest Queen of New York comedy, and producer of the upcoming NY Comedy Festival, who always looks so beautiful. Rick Overton came in especially from LA for this George Carlin tribute. Rick shared with me that he had just shot an episode of Comedy Central’s series Another Period in a parody of Downton Abbey where he plays a steel baron from 1914 named Savoy.
Also hanging out backstage was premiere talent manager/producer/woman of many hats Maureen Taran, and we were reminiscing about how far we go back together. I knew her when she first worked for Barry Katz in management, when Barry had the Boston Comedy Club, and she was guiding the early careers of Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan, Dane Cook, Wanda Sykes, Jeffrey Ross, Tracy Morgan, Jim Norton, Judah Friedlander, Tom Papa, Jim Breuer, Jay Mohr, Darrell Hammond and Bill Burr. SiriusXM’s Gil Edwards was there, and was able to pull together a Sirius XM taping of this amazing event in just one day.
And lastly I got to speak to Colin Quinn who hosted the daytime street naming as well as the event at Carolines. When I asked Colin for a few words on George Carlin who I know he idolized for many reasons he said, “George Carlin meant everything to me as far as being a comedian, and as far as being New York Irish. He was basically The Apostle Paul, of Fallen Catholics! ( A reference this Hebrew didn’t totally understand!) You can always count on Colin to come out for a great cause and to do favors for his friends. In fact, Colin is one of my guests in a new radio pilot I’m creating along with Susie Essman and Lisa Lampanelli! More on that to come!
It was like a big reunion. We all laughed and hugged and it was a very special night. Other comics who killed were Ted Alexandro, Kevin Bartini, John Mulroney, Dave Attell and Jim Norton! Hope I didn’t leave anyone out!
I spoke to my dear friend Ardie Fuqua this week who’s in the process of recovering from his latest surgery as a result of the horrific accident he was in, in June that also injured Tracy Morgan, Harris Stanton and unfortunately killed comic Jimmy (Mac) McNair. I had spoken to Ardie just two days before the accident, and we were working out plans to do something together, but that was the last time we spoke.
There hasn’t been much news about his condition. He was in a medically induced coma until July with devastating injuries to his brain and body, and his leg was shattered in five places. He told me the injuries were so severe that they had to replace his femur, the largest, strongest bone in the body, with titanium. It takes a HUGE amount of force to break a femur. And on top of everything else, he recently needed yet another surgery on his leg. He’s in rehab four times a week at least, but he tries his best to stay in good spirits and he’s just happy to be alive. He also realizes he has a long road ahead of him.
He was sitting right next to Jimmy Mac, and he realizes it could have gone any other way. As a matter of fact he told me he was so badly injured that they thought they lost him a few times. It was that close. He definitely feels Blessed. And there’s a very special twist to this story. As an unexpected outcome he’s back with the love of his life who came to his bedside when she heard he was so badly hurt, even though they had previously broken up. Now that’s a good woman! She said she’d always felt they should be together. And now he feels like he’s a changed man, with a whole different way of thinking. He said he wakes up feeling grateful every day. That says a whole lot for a person who’s been through what he’s been through. Even when the physical damage heals the emotional damage will be with him for a long time to come.
The psychological trauma of the whole thing is still with him every moment, and it’s hard for him to talk about it. He said he alternates between crutches and a cane. I hope to be able to visit him soon, and bring him the good wishes of so many people who are rooting for his recovery. Ardie is a great guy who takes such pleasure in performing. I really hope he gets to do it again some day.
So I jumped over to Gotham to catch Dave Coulier, “Uncle Joey” from Full House, host AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live. He was a super host and brought great energy to the show. Both producers Rob Cea and Dave Goldberg from Killer Bunny were there and were thrilled with his performance and the packed house turn-out. Dave treated the audience to may of his cartoon voice-overs. I never even realized how many of them he did, in shows like Muppet Babies and The Jetsons, and Real Ghostbusters.
Erica Rhodes a relative newcomer to stand-up comedy but an actress who’s been on A Prairie Home Companion since she was 10 performed and she was terrific. She was there with her manager, and my old friend Tom Ingegno from Omnipop, who knows what to do when he finds someone talented. She’s in very good hands!
Gotham owner Chris Mazzilli told me that the night before, while I was out at Carolines for the huge George Carlin event, I missed a new talent show where both Jerry Seinfeld and Louis CK independently just happened to drop by to do a set of some of their new material, and the crowd went wild. Louis did about 20 minutes and who gets to see a show with Jerry and Louis for such a reasonable price!? That leaves me still working on a way to be in two places at the exact same time, which some people have sworn they’ve actually seen me do!
I ran into Monroe Martin, one of the finalists of Last Comic Standing. And he shared with me that he’s working on two different scripts for TV, one a scripted comedy and the other a variety show, but he said he had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and couldn’t tell me any more right now but would as soon as he was able! For now, he’s gearing up for two different comedy festivals in the same week. He’s got 3 shows during the New York Comedy Festival, all at The Stand, and he’s doing Jeff Ross’ Roast Battle at The Gramercy Theatre. Then on Nov. 8th he’s running up to Boston to do that festival at the Davis Square Theatre.
This weekend I jumped on over to The Comic Strip, for the 2nd annual comedy fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society produced by a nice guy named Tom McIntyre whose brother Bob has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Amazingly, they are both running in the marathon in Athens, Greece on Nov. 9th to bring awareness to blood cancers. You can contribute to the fundraiser here! A funny comic named Tom Kelly hosted the event with great performances by Chuck Nice, Sherrod Small, Brian Scott McFadden, and Ruperto Vanderpool, a name I love to say!
Sherrod is psyched about being in his cousin Chris Rock’s new movie Top Five coming out in December. I asked him who he plays in the film and his answer was “some random Black dude!” What a stretch! He said that Tom Papa is in the scene right after him and that it was a really fun shoot. Some of it was shot at The Comedy Cellar and also at a big regular non-comedy club on the West side. He also told me his podcast Race Wars with Kurt Metzger is kicking butt. They do it at the 78th Street Labs, a cool studio above Stand Up New York.
Ruperto Vanderpool told me he’s working on a script for a TV variety show, and would like club comics Teddy Smith, and Jason Andors (one of the few white comics to do well on the urban circuit) to be in it with him.
I went out to The Creek and The Cave to see if the promised Naked Show that I wrote about it in a previous column was real and it was. It was a midnight show, and the lines to get in were out into the street but when I came up they were kind enough to escort me in past the lines. Because they were so nice I was determined to stay for a while. A girl named Kaitlin Bailey was the host, and about 8 comics came out onstage completely dressed. After Kaitlin explained the rules about conduct, no yelling out remarks and no photos or video allowed all the comics took off their clothes completely right on the stage. And they each performed completely naked. What a difficult thing to do! Each of the ones I saw made reference to the fact of how weird it was to be naked on stage and I really give them credit. It’s hard enough to do comedy when you’re dressed. You have to have so much confidence to come out stark naked. The only performer I knew was Corinne Fisher who does the anti-slut-shaming podcast as she calls it called Guys We Fucked with her co-host Krystyna Hutchinson. Krystyna was in the audience in one of the few chairs they had set up. Everyone else stood to make more room because so many people showed up. I left after about an hour cause I just couldn’t stand anymore.
One girl in the audience took off her top in solidarity, and one guy in the audience got naked too cause there’s always one guy who wants to walk around naked. I noticed one of the guys in the show seemed a little too comfortable being naked on stage, the way he jumped around, despite the fact that he was not particularly well endowed, not that I’m judging. It was just interesting to see that people could actually do that!
My last jump of the weekend was over to The Comic Strip to catch Jay Pharoah who I always enjoy seeing. He came in to prepare for the taping of his special for Broadway Video next Monday, Nov. 4th at The Cutting Room. When he saw me he gave me a big, warm greeting as he always does and gave me what sounded like a compliment but could have gone either way. He said “Jeff, no one but you could wear your hair that way and still make it look cool as shit!” He said he’s seen other guys try it and he always thinks to himself, “They’re trying to do Jeff!” I’m definitely taking it as a compliment! Jay did a cool hour of amazing stuff, in preparation for the taping of his new special for Broadway Video called Can I Be Me. Not sure if it’s a question or not but on stage he’s very often someone else. The man does so many spot-on impressions it’s amazing. He credited his career to bullying. He said if he hadn’t been bullied so much as a kid, he would never have stayed home so much alone and developed his ability to do so many voices and impressions. He finished to a standing ovation which is very rare to get in a comedy club!
Back at home, I’ve been in the middle of construction hell having all of my windows and terrace doors ripped out and replaced, and not by choice, by my co-op’s choice, and in the middle of all that insanity my cell phone goes off and I see it’s my old pal Rick Newman, the founder of Catch a Rising Star and a true comedy legend. When Rick calls I answer cause I know it’s something good, and he’s calling from Washington D.C.
Rick is in D.C. for the 17th annual Mark Twain Awards at The Kennedy Center, being given to Jay Leno for his contribution to American humor. Jay was feted in a star-studded event by names like Jerry Seinfeld, Jimmy Fallon and Chelsea Handler. Rick said he hadn’t seen Jay in about 10 years and when they saw each other it was a warm reunion. Rick said that while they were catching up they complimented each other on how good they looked, but Jay said it looked like they were getting a little grayer! (LOL) Also there was Budd Friedman, who just celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Improv.
He also wanted to tell me how excited he is because he’s involved with Ha! The Musical! Rick gets deluged with offers to get involved with different projects all the time because of his excellent track record of successes, but he turns down most of them because there’s just no time, so when he’s excited about something I listen. He spends a lot of his time with his theatre Stage 72 on West 72nd Street, which he totally remodeled into a beautiful playhouse that offers all kinds of comedic entertainment and of course, that’s exactly where Ha! The Musical opened this summer, and will run again during the New York Comedy Festival. If you haven’t been following the stories on the IBang, Rick describes it as almost “A Chorus Line” for comedians it stars a number of good friends like Big Jay Oakerson, Bill Dawes, Gibran Saleem, Luis J. Gomez and Alyse Kenny. It runs on the 5th, the 8th and the 9th.
Then I got a call from my buddy Nick Brooks, Mel Brook’s son, who told me some very exciting news. Mel recently did a one-hour one-man show at The Geffen Playhouse in LA, and Nick confided in me that it looks like it will get picked up by a major distributor. More on that to come! Mel is one of only 11 people in history to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award! He’s a true legend in every sense of the word.
Speaking of Mel’s great work, 20th Century Fox just released a Blu Ray edition of the exceptionally brilliant Young Frankenstein in honor of it’s 40 year anniversary! And you can also pick up his DVD/CD compilation called The Incredible Mel Brooks- An Irresistible Collection of Unhinged Comedy so you never run out of of amazing comedy to watch. Check it all out at shoutfactory.com. Remember, the Holidays are coming!
Nick Brooks is a screenwriter in his own right, and also has a great project that I’m excited to talk about. He co-wrote and directed a new film called Sam, which is being executive produced by his dad. Sam just got submitted to Sundance and will be submitted to Tribeca. Sam is about a cool guy, and a ladies man, who wakes up one morning as a beautiful woman and falls in love with his own best friend. I read the script and it’s great, and the cast includes Morgan Fairchild and Stacy Keach. This is a film to watch out for!
Visit Jeffrey’s website at comedymatterstv.com, where you can watch his interviews with everyone in comedy who matters! Pictured below from left to right me with Colin Quinn, me and Gilbert Gottfried now, and back in the 80’s, and me with Sherrod Small.