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 Carolines, West Side Comedy Club, and New York Comedy Club.
Most of the time I have absolutely no idea where my comedy week will take me. Sometimes if it’s a really special event I have to make arrangements beforehand but most of the time I let my intuition guide me as to where to go. This week was what I consider a blockbuster week that kind of came out of nowhere, because I wound up at a lot of different types of comedy events.
Frank Pellegrino just opened a new comedy room called Lucy’s Laugh Lounge in Pleasantville with a soft opening last month and when I asked him who he had so far he rattled off Paul Virzi, Joe Matarese, Regina DeCicco, and Tom Grassi at which point I interrupted and said, “Anybody NOT Italian?” and he laughed and threw out the name Neko White, who is definitely not Italian.
I had to go to Carolines to support my man J.B. Smoove who was headlining six sold out shows. And whenever I’m interviewed people always ask me who my favorite comedians are and I always say it’s so hard to answer but I like people who are unique like Judah Friedlander, and Gilbert Gottfried who no one can ever copy and J.B. is another who is so unique and different, and so hilarious, he keeps them laughing literally from the time he glides out on the stage until the moment he leaves. He is a true comedy phenomenon, and truly one of the nicest and most humble guys in the game. He welcomes me like I’m family and his family was actually there the night I was there. He had his brother Think Floyd open for him.
Cipha Sounds was the MC and he told me that he and J.B. have been friends for years but it was the first time he was hosting for him, and he did a great job. Ciph is hosting truTV’s Laugh Mobb’s LaffTracks in which actors act out jokes by lip-synching while the comic is telling the joke on stage and they cut back and forth. It’s really cool and they’ve shot 12 episodes including bits with Mark Viera, Rachel Feinstein, Ayanna Dookie, and Yamanieka Saunders.
But the highlight for me was after the show, and getting to hang with JB in the green room after he took photos with half the audience who was waiting to meet him. I got to improv with JB doing a promo for his book The Book of Leon – Philosophy of a Fool. Even the title makes me laugh. I was watching the show with tears streaming down my face. JB’s got a Bic shaving commercial going on and a big Super Bowl commercial coming out but it has to remain a secret, but he did tell me that when I see it I’m gonna say, “ Ohhhhhh J.B., this is amazing!” He was also coronated The King of Flavor with Crown Royal Vanilla and now Crown Royal Apple – The Musical and he says he loves doing all his commercials. He’s heading out to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl, and every year he does a correspondence gig for the Rich Eisen Show where he interviews the teams to “ask silly questions and have a good time with the players, just to break the ice a little bit.” He says the guys love it when he walks around and talks trash to them. He says that he’s good friends with Tom Brady and that they both have clefts in their chin so he calls him his “cleft brother.” He’s looking forward to a great game and said he has a lot of friends on the Philadelphia team as well. Then he’s flying back to LA to finish a house he’s renovating right now which is driving him crazy. His advice “don’t EVER buy a house that needs renovations. Buy a house that’s already done. Everything in your life should be move-in ready!” And as if that’s not enough he has a new line of clothing called The Jerry Angelo collection because that’s his real name. It’ll be out before summer and will include shoes, suits, jackets, jeans even glasses, cause as he says “who looks better than J.B. Smoove?”
Brian Howie creator of the show Pieces of Ass was in town hosting his new show The Great Love Debate at Stand Up New York so I popped in to see what was being debated. Brian was the host, and had three women and a guy on stage as moderators while he walked through the audience polling men and women on things like what to do on first dates, and deal breakers for dating someone, and then there were questions directed strictly towards the women like how you like to get picked up for a date, what do you prefer in an approach when a guy wants to meet you, and how do you feel if he touches you on the arm or shoulder when he makes his approach. It was a fun and interesting show and the audience seemed to be having a really good time.
Popped by West Side Comedy Club and ran into Nicky Sunshine who was hosting. Last I saw Nicky she was doing her one woman show “Confessions of a Massage Parlor Madame” at Broadway Comedy Club, which was a real life expose of her former career, and a very courageous and entertaining show to do. She’ll be back at Broadway in just a few weeks doing it again for two nights and raising money for the “Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation” and is partnering with Northwestern University. Dan Perlman will be opening for her, and there will be a Q&A after the show. She’ll also be one of the women performing in The Vagina Monologues along with Gina Savage, Vanessa Hollingshead, Vicky Cooperman, and Stacy Prussman coming up mid -February. And J.C. Best was there with his co-producer Brian Rabadeau and they’re psyched about their new show “Coffee for Closers” at West Side Comedy Club and when I asked him to tell me about it he had to remind me that I was going to be on it in March, so that’s how my memory’s working these days!
I got a lot of love this week starting at New York Comedy Club where I was presented with an official NYCC jacket after owner Emilio Savone had ordered some copies of my best selling book on Amazon on Happiness called “Healing Your Heart, By Changing Your Mind – A Spiritual and Humorous Approach to Achieving Happiness. He invited me to come and catch Roast Battle which I did and it was even crazier than usual. The judges were regulars Mike Cannon and Yamaneika Saunders, plus Mike Lawrence and someone I was very glad to meet Felonious Munk. After the Roast Battle I was hanging out at the bar with Emilio who introduced me to Felonious who admitted to being a fan of the column and paid me a great compliment by saying that when he first started reading it he thought to himself, “this guy has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in comedy.” Felonious was kind enough to share his real name with me, Dennis Banks, cause I’m always curious about that when someone takes on a stage name, and also shared his dramatic history with me. He spent six long years in prison for drug dealing, and for retaliating violently against a man who had robbed him only two weeks before. As he described it to me, after he was released “I worked in IT, finance for a car dealership, and almost fell back into crime until comedy saved me. December 19, 2010 i went up at an open mic in Va., and a year later I was doing comedy commentary for WPIX11. The rest is the beginning of my “history.” So I asked him how he got his stage name and he said he got it from a friend named Robert Solomon, who after he started in comedy told him that his material sounded like he was “a criminal with a conscience.” He said he was still performing as Dennis Banks, but he had used that nickname for a YouTube character and for his screen name on Twitter. Once a few videos went viral, he felt he was more recognizable as Munk and he just stuck with it. He has a daughter who’s very proud of him and personally, I am always in admiration of anyone who can turn their life around like that. He just finished seven weeks of his show “Nothing To Lose But Our Chains, a show that detailed how he went from prison to comedy and activism. The Washington Post called it “arguably the best work Second City has done in DC.” And he added that he’s really glad to be back in NYC!!! Kudos to Felonious Munk. And if you’re old enough to remember it’s a take-off on the name of the famous jazz musician Thelonious Monk.
The Pop TV Network is a cable and satellite station that’s a joint venture between CBS and Lionsgate Entertainment. It focuses mainly on programs pertaining to pop culture like Eugene Levy’s Schitt’s Creek and a brand new show called “Lets Get Physical” starring Jane Seymour, the gorgeous Annalynne McCord, ChrisDiamantopolous, and Matt Jones who you probably know best from Mom or as Badger from Breaking Bad, a tweaked out meth-head who wore crazy clothes including an insane-looking knit hat with long ties hanging loosely down the sides. There’s probably a proper name for it but I have no idea what it is. Matt came by the Comedy Matters TV offices on the very day his new show was premiering that evening to talk to me about his comedy background and the show. A nicer and more humble guy would be hard to find. He was excited about it being his very first TV show that he starred in, and I was excited to share that excitement with him. I had the advantage of having watched the first three episodes which I thought were really good so I was psyched about the interview. Matt plays a guy named Joe Force who’s the front man for a cover band named Guns Van Bovi and who has a penchant for getting stoned with his boys, and taking life as it comes. His Dad was the exact opposite, a staunchly conservative Marine Colonel, Tom Force who supposedly invented aerobics and owned a gym, which he left to his son Joe (Matt) when he suddenly passed away during a strenuous aerobics class. Jane Seymour plays his Mom and Annalynne his ex, Claudia Cross, who is now married to Joe’s life-long nemesis Barry Cross an obnoxious character played expertly by Chris Diamontopolous, who Matt swears is nothing like the character he plays. Joe’s Dad leaves him 8 million dollars but he only gets it if he takes over the gym that he hates and wins the National Aerobics Championship where he has to best his rival Barry Cross. It’s a really fun show and Matt plays a lovable “schlub” that you just can’t help like and root for. You wind up wishing he was a friend of yours. You can see the actual interview we did on my new Comedy Matters TV channel on Twitch which I hope you’ll subscribe to and follow. Let’s Get Physical is a really cool show so make sure to check it out.
Then there was the annual Keith and the Girl Marathon for which I trekked out to Astoria early on a Saturday morning to do my annual hour, and the theme this year was what you got caught doing that you weren’t supposed to do. It’s always fun hanging with Keith Malley and Chemda Khalili and their crew, and they were taping me while I was taping them. We were all taping each other and it was fun. As I was leaving I ran into Myq Kaplan who was going on next who like every other comic in the world is developing a new podcast, and I got to speak to comic/Keith and the Girl producer Andrea Allen who told me about Keith and Chemda’s new show “My Opening Line” where comics come on and talk about their first time on stage. So far they’ve had Emma Willmann, Jared Freid, and Adam Conover. Andrea herself has a new show called “Hot Mess Comedy Hour” where she interviews comedians and asks them what makes them a hot mess. It’s on iTunes and on a podcast network launched by Cumulus radio.
I had to run home to meet Chrissie Mayr and her crew who’s shooting a new documentary film tentatively titled “Who Is Chrissie Mayr” and she was with comic and Yonkers Comedy Festival Executive Producer Frank Pellegrino who’s producing this film as well. Chrissie describes the project as being an underdog story, and about overcoming obstacles that go along with trying and failing, and hopefully in the end succeeding in making your own independent comedy special. Mark Holst was filming and is also a producer on the project, which they hope to get into festivals in the Fall.
Mehran Khagani the openly gay comic of Iranian descent from Boston came over and did a hilarious yet very thoughtful interview while lying draped across my couch, wearing his own dark sunglasses after trying on several pairs of the ones I have lying around, and fanning himself with one of my feathers. He loved my “comedy museum” and the fact that my place is filled with silly toys, crayons, balloons and all kinds of fun stuff, besides walls of photos that go back to the 80’s. Mehran does a free show that’s been running for the last two years that sounds so fun. It’s called Hush Money and he does it out of a bar called Pinks, where he encourages comics to be as experimental as possible, and he only books “super pros” as he called it including most of his colleagues from The Comedy Cellar. He wants comics taking as much risk as possible and everyone in the audience gets a dollar which is their hush money, and with it comes a promise that if they hear somebody bomb they won’t tell anybody. They also get free beer so how can you go wrong? Past performers have been Todd Barry, Mark Normand, and Joe List to name a few. And I forgot to mention, the first spot which he called “the bullet” goes to a comic in the audience whether he has experience or not. Mehran picks them himself. I was really glad we got to hang out and got to know each other better. He brought great energy to the project. And we got to tell what we thought about Chrissie with her in the room! Luckily it was all good!
And this week, Dave Chappelle won a grammy for his new comedy album. And four out of the five comedy albums were produced by Netflix so major congrats to Jonathan Mussman, the director of production at Netflix for that huge accomplishment!
And finally, I can’t write anymore 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. Pictured, Jeffrey with Matt Jones, Cipha Sounds, Emilio Savone and J.B. Smoove.