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 reports from The Stand, Gotham Comedy Live and Westbury New York.
I popped in to Gotham to see Aries Spears from Mad TV host Gotham Comedy Live this week. He only comes to town about once a year to headline at Gotham for the weekend which he was also doing. Aries is such a funny dude, and does some of the most accurate impressions. His Schwartzeneggar is particularly impressive. After the show I asked him what was going on with him and he told me he’s trying to put a sketch comedy show together with a revolving cast. He’s calling it Project Spears for the time being and is meeting with Howie Mandel’s production company, and Lorne Michaels‘ production company Broadway Video. The audience lined up to meet him and take photos and he had copies of his CD I Ain’t Scared to sell as well.
Also on the show was Gary Vider, whose deadpan delivery is always so funny, part Palestinian comic Dean Obeidallah, and then Sarah Tollemache who told me her interesting last name is of Scottish derivation, and Mike Gaffney from Last Comic Standing was also on the show. I asked him what was the most beneficial thing that happened to him as a result of being on LCS and he said it was getting passed at The Comedy Cellar without having to audition. Lynne Koplitz brought him up to Estee and she said, “Oh yes, I like him. He’s funny!” and to Mike that felt like the pinnacle of his career.
I decided to stop off at The Stand and I was very glad I did. There’s always somebody cool at The Stand and this night was the party for the premiere of Derek Gaines‘ MTV show Broke Ass Game Show which will air every Thursday at 11 on MTV. He said the concept is that he and his co-host David Magidoff challenge people on the street to do crazy things for money. Like some dude got paid $200 to use a Porta Potty and a random guy on the street gets accosted by four “ninjas” and asked to break some wood for money. I asked him how the show came about cause I’m always interested in how people get things and he told me he was out in LA for pilot season last year, and his agent at Gersh sent him on an audition for a game show. So the audition was last February and he got the call in May, and shot the pilot in June and July in every borough of New York but The Bronx! And he said they paired him up with David and they had instant chemistry which he didn’t expect mixing a “dorky white dude, with a tell-it-like-it-is black dude”. He said it’s surreal because we’re both funny but in different ways, cause he’s a stand-up and David is an improv guy. I asked him how it felt to have his own show and he said to me, ” It’s one thing to get on TV but it’s another thing to be good on TV!”
What he hadn’t known was that the MTV exec he met with had actually seen him perform in Montreal at Just for Laughs the year before, in 2013 as part of the New Faces Show, but when he went on the audition he had no idea about that. His only thought was that he wanted to do well, and I guess he did! Michael Che from SNL was also there to support Derek!
Wil Sylvince may be one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met! He’s certainly one of the most determined. I always admire people who take control of their lives and overcome what appears to others to be obstacles. He’s starting on a major Australian tour beginning on March 17th through June 20th. It’s a solo tour without even an opening act. When I asked him the title of the tour, that’s what led to one of the most inspirational conversations I’ve had in a while. The tour is called Syllables, Fat, and Celibacy, which is an unusual name to say the least. When I asked him why, he explained that those are the three things he works on on a constant basis. Haitian born, he has an interesting way of speaking. You know he’s not from The Bronx but it’s not a strong Haitian accent like he imitates when he does his Dad, or his uncle. He works on his speech every day. On his own. He’s determined to speak clearly because he told me that earlier in his career he became aware that sometimes he wasn’t getting the laughs he expected, not because the jokes weren’t funny, but because the audience didn’t understand him.
The “fat” part is referring to his major weight loss. He went from 220 pounds down to around 150, and not only did he lose the weight but he’s in fighting shape. He started making his changes in 2006 when he gave up fast foods. In 2007 he gave up chicken. In 2008 he gave up dairy. In 2009 it was fried foods. In 2010 he gave up white flour and everything white except for white women, (his quote!), and in 2011 through 2012 he managed to give up sugar, and I wish he could tell me how he did that, and did a Candida cleanse where he ate only salmon, spinach, almonds and kale. Other things he changed were his walk and his teeth. He used to walk with his feet flaring outwards, like many heavy people do and he re-trained his legs to be straight, and he said he had very stained teeth and couldn’t afford to go to a dentist so he scraped his own teeth until they were white! And the “Celibacy” part of his tour is his determination to no longer have casual sex. He said, ” If I don’t wanna be with you long term I don’t wanna be with you at all!” All admirable traits.
Another interesting fact about Wil, he graduated college as a technology major with a degree in electro-mechanical engineering. To be honest, I’m not even sure what that is, but it allowed Wil to develop an app for the iPhone that he says is better than the two most popular messaging apps. He said he can’t tell me the name of it yet but he did tell me that his app does something the other apps don’t do.
I went out to Westbury to catch Lisa Lampanelli in a sold-out show before she left for Vegas. Lisa had just gotten back from a 7 day silent retreat in The Berkshires, and told me she was really psyched about performing because she hadn’t been on a stage for about two weeks. You wouldn’t know it by how smooth her performance was. She got HUGE laughs from start to finish and she says anything that comes to her mind, and people laugh. It’s not mean-spirited it’s just pure fun and people know that, which is why Lisa is so popular. We reallly need her in this uptight politically correct environment we live in where some people just can not wait to be offended! She had a gig in Las Vegas the very next day at The Venetian, and was leaving for the airport right from Westbury so she wasn’t seeing people in her dressing room after the show. We had to go and see her before the show which a lof ot big stars don’t like to do, but Lisa is confident enough not to let that bother her. Only family and close friends were backstage along with her ex-husband Jimmy’s two sisters, and her opening act Luke McCollum, who like all of Lisa’s opening acts before him is gay. Lisa jokes so much about gays, but her favorite charity is the Gay Men’s Health Crisis which she once donated $50,000 to in the name of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, donating $1,000 for every protester that showed up to protest her show. Luke told me that going back to Vegas is like old home week for him already since he’s been there so often with Lisa and everyone knows his name. What a fantastic opportunity for him and any young comic who gets to open for a comedy superstar.
When it was time to take our seats for the show to start, Lisa told me to stay for a minute so she could tell me about her special coming up in March. She’s filming it in Tarrytown at the Tarrytown Music Hall, where Colin Quinn just shot his special, and she’ll be taping it on March 28th, another Comedy Dynamics project. Those guys do all the big ones!
It’s gonna be called Back To the Drawing Board and is all new material about her back to being single, her huge weight loss and how it is to be dating again. She’s been working on it for about a year, and she’s already tried it out in two club markets, where it was received very well, so she’s really excited to be doing it. Then I left her so she could go over her notes while Luke was onstage warming up the crowd.
I called my boy Smokey Suarez to get the lowdown on the Damon Dash directed movie I had read about on Page 6 in the NY Post where Damon compared Smokey to Richard Pryor, and compared himself to Woody Allen. Smokey is mad funny and is a favorite to open for lots of big stars like Kevin Hart. He’s a real crowd pleaser. I first met Smokey through Mike Epps when he opened for him at one of the many shows Mike’s been on that I attended.
The movie is called Mixed Nuts and Smokey describes it as a “sketch-comedy movie.” There’s a series of sketches, skits and spoofs, with a musical guest that happens to be Murda Mook, who held it down at the BET Awards this past year by closing out the show to a standing ovation and who is generally recognized as the best battle rapper in the biz. They’re hoping it will spin off into a TV series on Netflix. Also in it are comics Marshall Brandon, Tommy Five Thousand, and Meme Simpson out of Chicago. Smokey said his relationship with Damon goes way back to 2002 when he did the movie Paper Soldiers with Kevin Hart, and later on another movie directed by Damon called Death of the Dynasty also with Kevin Hart, plus Capone, the gangster of comedy, Rob Stapleton and Gerald Kelly.
Smokey wrote Mixed Nuts and had it for a while. Damon had called him to be in a film called Loisaidas with Jadakiss and Murda Mook, and they just shot another film called Too Honorable up in the Catskills, with Cam’ron, and Murda Mook and they sat down and Smokey pitched Mixed Nuts and Damon said , “Let’s do it!” During the filming of Mixed Nuts he and Damon had a snap battle, and he dared Damon to try stand-up comedy which he did. He got up and did like a 5-7 minute set which Smokey says will be in the movie.
I was with Keith Robinson, Lenny Marcus and Marina Franklin at SiriusXM this week. Keith and Marina play boyfriend and girlfriend in the new Judd Apatow movie that Amy Schumer wrote called Trainwreck which is due to come out on July 17th. Lenny told me he’s starring in a new short film where he plays a serious role. It’s called The Unimportance of Being Ernest about a guy named Ernest who can’t let go of his ex-girlfriend. It’s being submitted to festivals, and as Lenny tells it it was shot in Tallahassee, Florida and his first scene was standing in a field in pajamas as it is kind of a dream sequence. He has this long monologue and there are mosquitos everywhere. The whole crew is spraying bug spray all ove the place. They’re all bundled up so they don’t leave with malaria, and there’s Lenny in PJ’s. He said he thinks he even did one take with a mosquito in his ear. The next day they shot him naked in a bathtub for the whole day, and while nobody wants to see him naked he says it was better than being eaten by bugs.
I went to a Real Housewives of New York taping, which was really a charity event for Smile Train the organization that brings plastic surgery to indigent children all over the world to correct cleft lips and cleft palates. It was hosted by Housewife Kristen Taekman and her husband Josh who told me that Kevin Hart will be the spokesman for a new product he’s involved with, some kind of headphones that have wireless capability so you can hit a switch and people in the room can also hear your music. More details on that to come!
That’s it for this week! Got something you want to share with me? Email me at email@example.com.
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Subscribe to his YouTube channel. Below, photos, Derek Gaines and Jeffrey, Lisa Lampanelli and Jeffrey, Jeffrey with Heather Thompson, and Jeffrey with Wil Sylvince, Jeffrey with Aries Spears.