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 each week in comedy, and who Jeffrey Gurian ran into this week in and around New York. This week, continuing updates all week from the best shows at the New York Comedy Festival. Over the weekend Jeffrey hit up the New York’s Funniest contest, Ha! The Musical and a Tribute to Joan Rivers.
So Saturday afternoon, I went over to Caroline’s to check out the finals of the New York’s Funniest Stand-Up competition (read our full coverage of New York’s Funniest here). The place was packed to the rafters, ( I’m not even sure if there are rafters in Carolines, but it was really packed!) Having been a judge at this kind of contest myself , I know how hard it is to judge “funny”. That being said, although all of the comedians performed admirably, the fact that the success of a performance can be affected by such disparate things as the energy of the audience, or the current temperature in Stonehenge, the funniest of comedians can have a weird set. In terms of laughter it seemed like a lock for Ricky Velez who got the most, loudest, and longest sustained laughs, and being that a comedy performance is usually judged on the amount of laughter produced, it seemed like a fair, and unanimous choice. Other strong performers besides my buddy Chris Distefano who MC’ed were Kevin Iso, Adam Newman, and Joe List all of whom I happened to know and enjoy watching perform. Caroline Hirsch announced the winner and it was fun seeing Ricky win, and seeing his excitement cause it’s a big deal. I was surprised when he told me he’s only 25. I feel like I know him for years, and I probably do, because lots of comics start performing very young these days. I wish I did. You’ll be seeing a lot of Ricky as you probably will of all of the people in the contest!
I left to run home, grab a new scarf, dinner, and get ready to see Ha! The Musical at 9:30, then boogie out of there and catch the end of Jeffrey Ross’s Roast Battle, which I was dying to see. You know what they say about plans right? I hate being late so I raced through dinner, I got to Stage 72 around 9:20 to find lines that extended halfway to Europe. I figured for a 9:30 show that people would be inside already. I wasn’t prepared for how many people wanted to see this show. As a matter of fact it was so over capacity that owner Rick Newman was nice enough to offer exchange tickets and amenities to anyone not able to be accommodated. I asked him if it reminded him of the early days of Catch A Rising Star when people would line up for hours hoping to get in, and comics would wait for hours hoping to get on! He laughed and said that this was the worst part of the job, having to find places for everyone to sit and even worse having to turn people away, which is very hard because Rick is a great host and takes great pleasure in accomodating everyone at his shows. So the 9:30 show got a late start and I was concerned for Big Jay Oakerson, who’s in the cast of “Ha!”, even more than for myself because Big Jay was also performing in the Roast Battle, and I was only going to watch. So in the finale number of Ha! I realized that Jay was not there on stage singing and dancing. And I have to say it was great fun watching Jay sing and dance. At one point, he came out in the audience and shouted me out as Dog The Bounty Hunter because of my hair!
Big Jay had to book it down to The Gramercy where I later heard that they were making announcements to the audience on his location and how close he was to being there. He was in a Roast Battle with Ari Shaffir. I on the other hand didn’t get there until midnight, just in time to greet everyone walking out. Now the weird thing about that is that everyone you see assumes you were there the whole time, especially the comics who were in the show. And if you weren’t there, you don’t necessarily know who performed, so you don’t say “Great set” or “great show” or anything at all, and it feels weird because usually it’s supportive to compliment the performers especially if they did well. So I got invited to the after party downstairs in the basement and I was about to go when I realized once again how awkward it was going to be to have to explain to each person that I missed the show. So when the guys from Cringe Humor told me about the late after-party down at the Hi-Fi Bar on Avenue A. that sounded like a better plan. But by the time I got there, around 2 A.M., the only person I recognized in the entire late-night crowd, was Yannis Pappas hanging out with the funniest comic in Norway.
On Sunday I headed out to Port Washington to the Soundview Cinema. where I had been invited to participate in a Q & A about Joan Rivers after the showing of the documentary about her called A Piece of Work. It was a very moving film where Joan opened her heart and talked so honestly about her life, her husband Edgar and his suicide, her loneliness, her joy and her sadness. I got to share my stories of how Joan and I met back in 1991 at the Richard Pryor Roast, when I wrote some stuff for Robin Williams, how I wound up writing for her in 1992, and how I saw her last at her Unmasked interview with Ron Bennington this past June. She is sorely missed by all who knew her and the millions of people that only knew her as fans.
Afterwards, I raced back to New York to catch Sommore at Carolines in her last show of the weekend, and of the NY Comedy Fest. What a powerful performer. I truthfully hadn’t seen her before which was why I raced back from “The Island” to do so. She commands the stage as well as any male comic I’ve seen, and is just that strong. I love her look. It’s very unique, with hair that stands up in the front, and lots of sparkly jewelry and skintight leather looking pants. The girl’s got style for days! The place was absolutely packed. And if I hadn’t had to run home and write my column, which I’m still doing at 3am, I would have def hung out to go backstage and tell her myself how much I enjoyed her performance. Hopefully she’ll read this on her own!
After covering almost a full week of shows here’s my New York Comedy Festival wrap thoughts. I loved Hersterical the all women’s show at Carolines hosted by Cristina Cote, with Helen Hong, Aparna Nancharla, Sabrina Jalees, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, the last two from SNL, it was a killer show. It was women of varied etnicities and sexual preferences owning their power, and killing it onstage! Attell’s show at the Village Underground was a stand-out for me. It featured Big Jay Oakerson, Jessica Kirson, Kurt Metzger, Dave Attell of course, and Gilbert Gottfried, who so many people call Gilbert Godfrey! Do your homework comedy people! The show that blew me away was the private gala for the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) in an event space on Park Avenue and 63rd Street co-chaired by Lorne Michaels, and David Steinberg, with Seth Meyers as the host, featuring Larry David who did stand-up for the first time in like 35 years, Jerry Seinfeld, Susie Essman, and Amy Schumer who was so humble she was questioning how she belonged on the line-up, but of course she did.
And I’m not sure how it happened but except for a small in house crew, I was the only one there shooting video on the red carpet and got amazing interviews with everyone but Jerry Seinfeld who doesn’t really mingle and who came out this week with a statement that he thinks he’s on the spectrum of autism. I’ve seen him acting withdrawn many times in social situations but when he came in to The Comic Strip to be interviewed for my book “Make’Em Laugh” on the history of that club, he came in in the best mood I had ever seen him in. He was so gracious, and open and stayed for an hour, but when it was time to leave and Richie Tienken asked him if he would be in the documentary film we were making, he laughingly answered “Probably not!” I felt very proud of The Interrobang because we had the most coverage of any of the press outlets, and I myself covered shows at The Comedy Cellar, The Village Underground, The Stand, The Comic Strip, Stand-Up New York, UCBEast, as well as UCB Chelsea, and Stage 72, to name a few! Yet I wasn’t able to stay for entire shows very often because I am required to jump around continuously in order to be able to maintain my “jumping around” license!
The NYCF opening party was just SICK! It was at the Empire Hotel rooftop and the weather was still nice enough that people could hang outdoors, which they did. And there was a plethora of comic talent there, (look it up!) besides major comedy execs, all partying together. Amy Schumer at Carnegie Hall, along with Mark Normand, and Kyle Dunnigan was another highlight for me, especially because I’ve watched Amy progress over the last few years, and it was very gratifying to see her being acknowledged for her talent, at such a prestigious venue. Then it was Ha! The Musical, which you should all go out and see, and the Big Jay Oakerson and Nick Vatterott shows and album release parties at The Stand, and finally Sommore who now that I’ve seen her, I definitely get her name. Once you see her, you definitely want “Some-More”!
What a week! That’s it for now, but I’ll be back next week with my usual column, jumping around New York City! Thank you to everyone in the #NYCF! Now I’m going to sleep.
Pictured below from left to right Jeffrey with New Yorks Funniest Finalists Mike Cannon, Tommy J Pope, Ricky Velez and Joe List, Jeffrey with New Yorks Funniest winner, Ricky Velez.