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 New York Comedy Club, Sidewalk Cafe, The Grisly Pear, and more.
David Suarez has a cool show at Sidewalk Cafe on Sunday nights where he doesn’t allow the comics to do any material they’ve ever done before. The night I stopped down, I caught Broadway and TV actor Chris Carley who played the priest in Gran Torino working on his stand-up as well as Egyptian-born Tamer Kattan, winner of the 2015 World Series of Comedy who is somehow related to Chris Kattan, and was born into a family of Muslims, Christians and Jews.
P.J. Landers, who at one time owned Boston Comedy Club, and then Comedy Village has a kick-ass Saturday night show at The Grisly Pear and all his years of standing out in the street trying to grab an audience has really paid off because the place was so packed there was no room to sit down. He has succeeded in building a steady audience. P.J. is a very funny dude who had his own one-man show called Universal Dad about the actor-father he didn’t meet until he was 29 years old, after tracking him down to Cali, and finally establishing a relationship only to lose him six months later to a fatal illness. Jordon Ferber was the host at The Pear, and lots of comics were hanging out waiting to go on like Mike Merkovoch and Jason Scoop who gave ME a big scoop that I’m not at liberty to share just yet, but trust me, he will be announcing something big very soon about a TV project he’s involved in.
Live On Air, or LOA, is the name of a new Louisiana/American bar/restaurant in Brooklyn that offers comedy on Tuesday nights and has cameras all over to live stream the entertainment, with the goal of having it going 24/7. They will have different hosts once a month and comedian Angela Star will be one of them. The shows will be streamed on Facebook Live, YouTube and Periscope. The owner, who’s been running bars and restaurants in Vegas, NYC and San Diego for the last 20 years, explained to me that LOA also stands for the spirits of Louisiana Voodoo, and it’s all about good vibes and service. Google it!
Stopped by New York Comedy Club and was so happy to see my man Nore Davis. Nore had come by to do a set and also to be a judge for Roast Battle. He’s currently creating comedy videos for Complex, but will soon be going to VH1 to be part of a TV show about what it’s like to be in your 30’s. It’s starting in April and will be shot in New York. How come they never wanna do a show about what it’s like to be over 50, and still be on the scene? Comedy execs, … are you listening??? Nore taped a special at a place called Friends and Lovers in Crown Heights, Brooklyn called You Guys Are Dope and when it’s finished being edited he plans to shop it to Netflix.
Phill Hunt was hanging out in the green room and told me he’s working on a web series called Fools Comedy Skool which Neko White swears is very funny, and not just because it’s spelled “Skool”! In it, Phill plays a teacher who instructs aspiring comics how to do bad comedy. A couple of regulars are Sydney Washington and Oniyide Francis. Now there’s a common name. My daughter is having a baby and searching for boys names. I’m going to suggest Oniyide, if I can figure out how to say it! Speaking of Neko White, he told me he’s psyched about his first time performing and headlining in Texas, first at The Improv and then in San Antonio, at The Rivercenter Comedy Club, a club I can actually say I was in. It’s a big beautiful club, in a great city, and I can understand why he’s excited to go.
Sal Vulcano came by and the green room was getting as packed as the showroom. Sal has been performing so much lately, and has got a lot of shows lined up at several festivals, which I guess is what he’s preparing for. He’s doing them on his own, and not with the rest of his Impractical Jokers crew. He’s in the Wild West Festival, Moontower, the Sasquatch! Music Festival which is also featuring comedy, and he’s headlining The House of Blues during Comic Con in San Diego.
Then Corinne Fisher came in and told me that she and Krystyna Hutchinson are doing a book called, … what else, … F*cked, with a very long sub-title, and even though it’s not finished yet, it’s already available for pre-order which is very cool. That’s what happens when you get published by HarperCollins. They’ve been working on it for about a year and need a couple of more months of editing before it’s finally finished. I’m always so happy for Corinne’s success and can’t believe we spent so much time together when she was my assistant for a year, while she kept her day job in a spa. Her Friday night show, Nacho Bitches, that she produces with Blair Socci is a sell out every time, and is going on three years already.
And I had a big thrill this week. I got a call asking me to moderate an interview with Cheech Marin of Cheech & Chong fame at the big Barnes & Noble in Union Square for the release of his new book, Cheech Is Not My Real Name, … But Don’t Call Me Chong. I had met Tommy Chong before, but not Cheech. I was out of town when he hosted Gotham Comedy Live, so I was very excited about the opportunity. I took advantage of the fact that he was doing an Unmasked interview that very same day with Ron Bennington up in the SiriusXM Fishbowl, to go over and meet him so we’d already know each other that evening. I was so glad I did. Ron and Cheech’s beautiful P.R. rep Yvette Shearer who reps other big comedy stars like Lisa Lampanelli and D.L. Hughley introduced me, and needless to say it was a really fun Unmasked.
Geraldo Rivera did the introductions. I’ve known Geraldo since the 80’s when we both spent an evening with Salvador Dali which is a story for another time. I’ve also seen him in recent years, so it was cool when we wound up in the green room just the two of us, waiting for Cheech to arrive.
Now I had gotten there early to set up my video camera, because I knew this was gonna be something very special and I wanted to preserve it for posterity, (and for my Comedy Matters TV YouTube channel!), so I set it up at the back of the room. Fortunately, I had remembered to bring my headphones to check the audio, and was absolutely horrified to find I had no audio. It’s so bizarre how things like that always happen to me. My wireless mic set-up wasn’t working, and I realized I’d have to depend on the built-in mic from the camera to try and get anything. So I moved my camera to the very front of the room, directly in front of the stage. And then, I just left it there to go and hang with Geraldo. The moment Cheech arrived, Geraldo went right up on the stage and started introducing Cheech and then myself. I barely had time to run over to my camera to press “Record” and zeroed in on Geraldo who was sitting in one of the two chairs set up for Cheech and myself. Then I ran back to Cheech, totally forgetting that when we took our seats the camera would only be on whoever was sitting in Geraldo’s seat, which unfortunately turned out to be me! It was too late to run back and adjust it because the next thing that happened was that Geraldo introduced ME and I had to run right out on the stage with no preparation at all. I brought out Cheech to wild applause and as we were talking I saw that my camera was only facing me and that Cheech would not be seen.
I tried to concentrate on what I was saying while wondering how I was going to fix that camera situation. I couldn’t miss out on having a video with the legendary Cheech Marin, and only show myself talking and gesturing to Cheech’s arm which it turned out was all that would have showed. At times, I kept trying to get the attention of photojournalist Jeff Smith who was sitting right up front and fortunately was videotaping the event as well, but I didn’t want to distract Cheech as he was speaking, and the minutes were passing by. Finally, I got the attention of PR person Adam Sands who realized that by me mouthing the word “ camera, … camera”, that I wanted him to do something with my camera. Finally just as I was about to give up, he looked over, saw the situation in the LCD screen and shifted the camera so that both of us were on the screen. I could finally relax.
Cheech had the most amazing stories. Like how he got his name, and how he thought his calling was pottery, the unusual set of circumstances that led to him meeting Tommy Chong in Vancouver, and how they found their name. You MUST read this book. It’s packed with cool stories of how these legends changed not only the comedy world, but the world at large.
Roast Battle was crazy this week! The judges were Mike Cannon, who’s permanent and if you hear his remarks you know why, Yamaneika Saunders who is also amazing and funnier than most of the roasters, Nore Davis and Akaash Singh. Surprisingly, the first battle between two downtown comics Mark Reiss and Kevin Froleiks was to me the funniest. But you have to see their photo in order to truly appreciate it. Yammie said it looked like a battle between a suicidal gay teen and the teacher who molested him. Mark joked mostly about Kevin’s wife having sex with many other comics, while Kevin said that Mark looked like he was made out of parts of an Orlando nightclub shooting. Kevin won, but it was very close, and both were good writers. Very clever stuff.
Paul Spratt and Alex Portillo went up next and proved that once you lose the audience you really can’t get them back. And the main bout was between Barry Ribs and Mimi Simpson, who Barry kept referring to as his granddaughter so often, that I almost believed she was. They had already started roasting each other on Facebook before the actual Roast Battle. Barry said she was five months pregnant and traveled to Alaska as livestock. Yammie had one of the best lines of the evening when she said that this was a historic night for Barry, almost equal to the night he signed The Constitution of the United States. (A joke about his age!) And then it was over and Brendan Sagalow came out to do the check spot which he has made into an art form. I heard such screams of laughter from the green room that I had to run out and see what was happening. It was just Brendan doing his thing. He told me he took that very difficult spot where he does mostly crowd work, purposely to get better. Wish I had the nerve to do that!
What I do have the nerve for is to leave, … so 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. Photos below, Jeffrey with Cheech Marin, Geraldo Rivera, Nore Davis and Yvette Shearer.