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 Gotham Comedy Club, Carolines on Broadway, and The Stand.
At Gotham this week was the premiere of the sixth season of AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live and the host was none other than the iconic David Hasselhoff. I got there early enough to watch the rehearsal because I knew it would be PACKED and it was, and I wanted to support the Killer Bunny guys who produce the show, Dave Goldberg and Rob Cea. The Hoff looked amazing. Tan and fit and very friendly to everyone who was there, and very open to taking direction from director Bob Lampel. David was still limping from a knee infection that occurred due to some minor surgery he had done, but it didn’t stop him from high fiving everyone in the audience before he took the stage, and doing all the other hosting things he had to do.
The show opened with a little impromptu comedy sketch he shot moments before with his girlfriend playing with the joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” He also showed a clip from his new show on AXS TV called Hoff The Record that happened to be premiering that very night at the same time he was on stage hosting this show. It’s a six episode mockumentary spoofing the events in his life, even the ones that were shall we say “very public!” He has a great sense of humor, as evidenced by his willingness to be Roasted on Comedy Central, and a great singing voice to match, as he warbled a few lines. He also took questions from the audience and told two jokes he thought were funny that he found on Google. The audience was very excited to see him, and he got HUGE applause.
He came up on the stage with that red float he alwAys carried and opened his suit jacket to show it was inscribed inside with the words, “ Don’t Hassle The Hoff”. He also talked about why they had him running on the beach in slow motion on Baywatch and said it started out as an accident because they were 8 minutes short and needed to stretch the time, and afterwards they decided they liked it, so they kept it. And in next years’ Baywatch movie his Mitch Buchannon character is being played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. That’s gonna be fun!
And Ester Steinberg was so excited to see Susie Essman in the audience. She said that Susie is her idol and she wants to play her daughter in something. I tried to find Susie to say “Hi” but she must have left right after the show because she didn’t come to the after party.
I showed up for Comedy Juice at Gotham to find posted warnings that if you enter the show room you agree to be taped for TV. Cosmo Digital was there to tape Emma Willmann for a new web series about women who do very difficult things. It’s called Trying Out, and the producer Niki Usbay told me the show will profile female millennials who are dedicating their lives to being #1 in their fields and will include a UFC fighter and an Olympic high jumper. Comedy definitely fits with those two and is often more dangerous, as anyone who’s done it knows all too well!
Jermaine Fowler came in to do a spot and I almost didn’t recognize him cause he cut off his little dreads! He said he did it back in January cause he was starting to get bangs that he didn’t want. He’s in a CBS pilot called Superior Donuts, which they just shot on March 17th, and on which he’s a co-Executive Producer. My man! It’s an adaption of a play with the same name by Tracy Letts about a run down donut shop in a gentrified area of Chicago, and the owner hires a young Black kid to try and shape it back up. Guess who plays the young Black kid! His character’s name is Franco and he’s not supposed to be Latino. He likes the name. Also in it is comic/actor DavidKoechner from The Office and Anchorman, plus Meg Pryce and L.A. comic Maz Jobrani.
As I came into the club and walked to the little alleyway in the back of the showroom from where I shoot my photos, two hot blondes said hello to me and it was so dark I almost couldn’t see who it was. But it was Annie Lederman from @Midnight and Girl Code in from LA along with fellow Girl Coder Carly Acquilino.
Annie had a funny thing happen during her set. There was a girl sitting near the front in a very sparkly top and Annie remarked that it was too much for her ADD. So the girl took off her sparkly top and underneath it was another top which Annie said was also too much for her ADD. Next thing you know the girl is up on the stage and facing Annie lifted her top and flashed her boobs. Annie handled it well and said it wasn’t right that an audience member had better boobs than she did. The audience had to take her word for it as no one got to see them but Annie. Carly was excited about her upcoming gig headlining for the first time at Harrah’s in Atlantic City. She said she gambles and she’s a Blackjack girl for two reasons, cause it’s luck and cause she doesn’t have to count past 21. She said she never went to college! Even going to college these days doesn’t guarantee you can count past 21! Annie’s in town writing an original movie with a friend, and will be doing the Moontower Festival for her first time this year, opening for Jim Norton which she has done before.
I always pop by The Stand for a little excitement, cause you never know who you’re gonna run into there. I ran into Nate Bargatze who I hadn’t seen in so long. Almost didn’t recognize him with the new beard. Now he can play rooms in Brooklyn! He was really psyched because a little later that night he was doing his fourth Tonight Show appearance with Jimmy Fallon.
I asked him how long he knew Jimmy Fallon and he remembered the exact date they met. And it was at The Stand. Shortly after it opened on December 30, 2012. He was sitting down in the show room with Yannis Pappas and Chris Laker when Jimmy popped in to check out the new club. He stayed and saw Nate perform and shortly afterwards reached out and had him on the show. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Nate’s been touring while growing his beard, and will be at a couple of big rock festivals like the Wild West Festival in Nashville, TN, and Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio, both of them with Big Jay Oakerson.
And Yannis Pappas was there and he had his beard with him too. He told me he is releasing his first CD, called Let Me Be Yannis which will be released exclusively on SiriusXM on April 15th. I told him he should have called it “Let Me Be Yannis With You”, and he said he’d think about it! (LOL) It will be exclusive there for about two months and then will be available on Bill Burr’s All Things Comedy network, while still available on SiriusXM. The interesting thing was that he taped it about two years ago, and never released it. He thought about releasing it, as did the people who shot it from Comedy On State in Madison, WI, who he said kept wondering when he was going to release it, and when I asked him why he waited so long he said, … and I quote, … “because I’m an idiot!” He insisted that he’s an idiot. I gave him another slant on it. I said a true artiste is never truly happy with his work. He always thinks he can do better, which gave him an “out” on the two year wait, and he agreed, … but still insisted that he’s an idiot, and to tell you the truth, who am I to argue with him?
I walked outside to get some air and who do I run into but my boy Derek Gaines just back from a couple of months in LA. He went out there for pilot season. I asked him how it was and he said, “A lot of “No’s, but I love you!” He said he did a lot of producer reads, which he said and again I quote, “was like I was going up in front of a firing squad of white people!” He was on several lots including Warner Brothers, FOX, and Universal, and said it was a great learning experience. I asked him where he stayed and he said he couch surfed with friends for the two months. His buddies Monroe Martin and Menuhin Hart were glad to have him back and said the “Six Foot Nothing Crew” was back together again, and then I got the photo below, with Aaron Berg as part of the crew!
Aaron Berg told me some great news about his podcast with Geno Bisconte called In Hot Water. They did 7 episodes and got picked up by a major network. He said in all seriousness that he feels that I was the impetus for that happening as I broke the news in my column about their show. I said “really?” and he assured me he was being serious. He couldn’t tell me which network yet, but he said it’s big and they’ll be doing their first network show some time this month. I told him he better have me on!
This guy is a beast in many senses of the word. He’s a beast physically, he’s a beast on stage, and he’s a beast on taping CD’s. He taped his 2nd CD last month in Miami, which was all crowd work and called Unscripted and will be taping his third CD THIS month at The Standing Room called Mr. Manners Live based on his book of the same name. I was like, “How can you do a CD based on a book? He said, “It’s gonna be a live reading of my book. And no one’s ever done anything like that because no one else had the balls to just get up and read from a book! And then laughingly said, “I monetize everything!” And I’m pretty sure he was serious!
This week, Carolines on Broadway held the finals of their March Madness comedy bracket tournament. The final four comedians were Matt Pavich against Liz Barrett, and Aaron Berg against Neko White. After the first round it was whittled down to Pavich vs White. To add to the intensity of the whole thing, while one comic is performing, his opponent is sitting on the stage which feels and looks kind of awkward. Most of the “sitters” seemed to try and ignore their opponent’s jokes except for Matt Pavich who laughed his ass off at Neko White’s jokes, and in a tremendous performance Neko took the whole competition. But it was good sportsmanship all around. All the performers hugged it out. Neko was over the moon with excitement, and it’s so great to see what he’s accomplished. In his early days we used to hang out at The Comic Strip backstage all the time. He was only 18 and kind of new, but I could tell right away that he had something special. I was hosting late night at the time, and he’d drop in to work out new material. And now he won March Madness. And another one of those Comic Strip late nighters Anthony DeVito won last year and this night, very fittingly was the MC for the show, and gave the award to Neko. I often wondered what it felt like for people who knew Eddie Murphy when he started at The Strip when he was around 19. I think I’m gonna be able to tell stories about how I knew Neko White when HE first started out.
L.A.’s Mark Schiff (who is part of Seinfeld’s infamous annual New Years Day brunch group) and New Jersey’s Steve Shaffer got in touch to let me know about their new play they co-wrote called Not This Year … I Have A Headache which examines the lives of two middle-aged married couples who are dealing with the modern struggles of marriage. It’s been three long years of readings and re-writes and it’s ready for a 6 week run in an LA theatre. Rick Overton is in it, who I’ve known for years. Some of their other close friends from those days like Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser and Larry Miller taped promos that appear in the trailer, which is really fun. They’re raising money via kickstarter page. Schiff called me and said about the play “ It’s cheaper than therapy and works better than Viagra!” I just hope it doesn’t last for 4 hours! (LOL) Good luck guys!
One way you know that someone believes in themselves is if they invest their own money in what they’re doing. Kevin Gootee is that guy. Kevin took his own money and shot two episodes of a show he created called Comics Watching Comics which he describes as a cross between Last Comic Standing and @Midnight. His concept is to try and help intermediate comics get to the next level, which he says is really hard to do. At his own expense he went out and taped 50 comics at New York Comedy Club on a Saturday afternoon, doing their best 5 minutes. They get judged, advised, and sometimes made fun of by more experienced panelists like Jimmy Failla, John Moses, Leah Bonnema, Cyrus McQueen and Mike Recine. The winner will get a spot in a top club in NYC. They’re also in talks to bring on an even more experienced “master panelist” to oversee the final decisions. And the home audience also plays a role by voting via Twitter which panelist they want to see return the following week. They’re planning to shoot two more episodes in June or July. More on that to come!
And energy-wise that’s it for me for the week! I’m OUT!!!
But before I go I just want to say that it’s particularly gratifying when LA based comics come over to say “Hi” and say that the column is widely read in LA. Thanks guys! It happened a few times this week alone, and I hope to be out there soon doing some stuff directly from the clubs. #Awesome #Grateful #LAComedy
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 include Jeffrey with Lauren Francesa, Jermaine Fowler, Nate Bargatze and Carly Acquilino.