Well it’s become something of a tradition for me to do my year end round up of the most special events I covered, and sometimes was involved with in some way, during the course of the past year. There were just so many, it’s never an easy task but I’m going to try and do it month by month cause my ADHD kicks my butt and that’s the only way I CAN do it. Some months had more than one thing because that’s just how it went down.
Starting in January it was the first annual Martin Luther King Comedy Festival out in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn produced by Joanna Briley and Brooklyn Mike, and a very special event for me that I got to kick off for the second night. It was the holiday parties for Gotham Comedy Club and Stand-Up New York that were both held on the same night and brought the entire comedy community together to have some fun and rejoice in the year that was about to come. And it was the first RoastMasters battle of 2017 at The Stand, the first of the many I attended during the course of the year.
February was notable for Bill Burr and Maureen Taran’s 5th Annual Patrice O’Neal benefit at City Center, another sold-out event where well over 2,00o people came out to celebrate the life and work of the great Patrice O’ Neal, who I was Blessed not only to call a friend, but to work with as a co-host of the Black Phillip Show. The event featured comics like Rich Vos who hosted, along with Pete Davidson, Dan Soder, Jim Norton, Dave Attell and Leslie Jones, with a killer closing set by Bill Burr. And then the amazing after-party at The Stand. February was also the time of Broadway actor/film star from Balls of Fury and Fantastic Beasts/stand-up comic Dan Fogler’s outer-space comedy pilot shoot called “Wormhole” which I attended and I’m still dying to see.
March was special for the opportunity to see Cheech Marin do his Unmasked interview with Ron Bennington up at the Sirius XM studios and then the very next day get to interview Cheech when I was asked to moderate his book signing at Barnes and Noble in Union Square for his new book, “Cheech Is Not My Real Name, But Don’t Call Me Chong.” We were brought on stage by none other than Geraldo Rivera who is a longtime friend of Cheech and who opened the event with some fun stories about their friendship. Then he brought me up to moderate. A very special day for me to meet an icon in the world of comedy, and a really big honor. It was also the month where I drove out to Long Island to catch L.A.’s Jessimae Peluso headlining at Governor’s, and wound up getting invited to perform with her and her opener Marty Caproni when she came back to perform at Bananas.
April’s choice was easy because it was Rory Rosegarten’s Garden of Laughs event that raises money each year for children overcoming obstacles in their lives. There’s always a star-studded line-up and I covered the red carpet and shot video interviews with everyone who was there including show host Steve Schirippa, Susan Sarandon who I had never met before and was blown away by her never-fading beauty, Leslie Jones, Michael Che, John Oliver and two very special interviews I got with Bob Saget, who told me he thought he could fall asleep on my hair, and Tracy Morgan who came out with his wife, asked me to tell her how long we knew each other on camera and said to her these exacxt words, … “he always saw something in me!” He actually said that! It’s on video so you can check it out. So grateful for his complete recovery, and the same for Ardie Fuqua who was in the same accident.
May took me to Las Vegas for the first ever Crapshoot Comedy Festival produced by Paul and Kacky Chamberlain who had previously produced the Maui Comedy Festival. Aside from hanging with buddies like Mark Normand, Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson, Big Jay Oakerson, and Josh Adam Meyers from Goddamn Comedy Jam, I got to invite George Wallace to come and join me. George just happened to text me while I was there. He has a home in Vegas from when he did his show on The Strip for 10 years, so I invited him to come and hang out with me at the festival. Not only did he come but we went to see Dave Attell’s headline show together, and hung out backstage with Brad Williams and Adam Ray. And then the next day we shot an hour and ten minute interview with George which was amazing. Also did a killer interview with the great Bert Kreisher who I was to see again at Skankfest in a month or so. And the topper for me was going to the MGM Grand to hang with my boys from tru TV The Impractical Jokers. My camera guy and I were the only ones allowed to come back and shoot interviews after their killer sold out show, and that was really a blast. May was also the month when Jerry Seinfeld shot his Netflix special, “Jerry Before Seinfeld” at The Comic Strip, and I kept it a secret for at least two months as a favor to Jerry because he asked me to. Netflix came in and turned the club back into the way it used to look in 1976 when Jerry first started performing there. It was his home club until he went out to LA in 1980, and since the special was about him doing his earliest material he wanted the club to look like it did back then. Richie didn’t mind because it looked great and also because Netflix was picking up the tab. I attended the taping with Jerry’s best friend, the afore-mentioned George Wallace who was Jerry’s roommate in those early days. It was also fun to re-connect with Jimmy Brogan and Mark Schiff who came in to open for Jerry and were his friends in those early days as well.
June was fun watching Ron Bennington start to host shows and do stand-up spots at The Stand in preparation for an hour performance he would do some months later. It was also the month of Rich Vos’ birthday roast at The Village Underground, produced by his wife Bonnie McFarlane, which was an amazing event for which I was allowed to shoot the after party, and got great interviews with Ron Bennington, Anthony Cumia, Bobby Kelly, Colin Quinn, Judy Gold, Keith Robinson and more. And then there was Skankfest out at The Creek and the Cave in Long Island City which drew people from as far away as Europe, including several women I met who were proud to identify as “skanks.” It was a great platform for Luis J. Gomez, Big Jay Oakerson, and Dave Smith the guys from Legion of Skanks and it was such a big success that next year they will be moving to a much larger venue. But Rebecca Trent owner of the Creek will still be involved, along with producer Christine Evans. I got to hang out some more with Bert Kreisher, and re-connect with Reggie Watts who made a special appearance, and who I hadn’t seen since he moved out to LA to be James Corden’s band leader. It was also the event where Zac Amico came out naked with a lantern swinging from the piercing in his shvontz, to host the Naked Roast Battle during which Ari Shaffir peed in a cup and threw it in Zac’s face after he came out covered in blood. Try THAT on Fallon!
July of course was the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal and I get tired just thinking about it. Basically everyone who’s anyone in comedy was there. It’s like going to comedy camp. Jerry Seinfeld made a rare appearance with the so-called French version of him, Gad Elmaleh who will also appear in another month in this column. The parties were amazing, especially the huge blow-out Funny or Die throws every year, but I have to say the highlight for me was the JFL Awards red carpet where I got to interview everyone who walked including Jim Carrey who was there promoting his Showtime hit “I’m Dying Up Here” and I got to meet some of my favorite characters on the show at the Funny or Die party the night before including Erik Griffin, Michael Angarano and Andrew Santino. It’s still very exciting for me to meet people who are in a show that I love. But the hightlight for me was getting that great red carpet interview with Jim Carrey that got over 50,000 views in the first few days it was up.
The highlight of August was seeing Tracy Morgan headline sold out shows at Carolines on Broadway, with Wellie Jackson featuring and Marc Theobald hosting, and getting to hang with Tracy after the shows, plus finding out more about The Last O.G., in which superstar Tiffany Haddish plays Tracy’s ex named Shay. It was only one of the things she did that propelled her to the top before the success of Girls Trip. And it was hanging out with my pal Artie Lange out in Connecticut when we both performed at Fairfield Comedy Club, and him telling me all about his experience shooting HBO’s Crashing with Pete Holmes and Judd Apatow. And while we mention Artie we send him prayers for his speedy and complete recovery so he can come back and do what he does best, make people laugh!
September saw the screening of Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix special at The Comic Strip, and it was as exciting watching the edited version as it was watching Jerry tape it in the first place. It was also the month I went to see Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K. do a Q&A during the Tribeca TV festival for their show “Better Things” and was probably the last time anyone would see them together.
October had three special events for me. One was the party for Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson’s book called “F*cked” from Harper Collins at a place called The Rose Hill Lounge, and it was absolutely packed with comedy peeps and it was a fun and classy event. Plus a big chocolate cake with the girls’ pictures on it. It was also the grand opening of the newest comedy club in Manhattan called West Side Comedy Club which is a beautiful club on the Upper West Side owned by Eugene and Nina Ashe and run by Gina Savage who has decades of experience in the comedy world and left running Broadway Comedy Club to manage and book West Side. And it was the month I got invited to come visit the set of 50 Cent’s show “50 Central” which was shooting at a studio on the East side of Manhattan and the day I went the special surprise guest was my buddy J.B. Smoove. So I got to hang out in a private room with both 50 Cent and J.B. Smoove and let me tell you it was HILARIOUS! JB told me about his new book, “ The Book of Leon- The Philosophy Of A Fool” and told me the mantra for the book was “Leon Black, … he ain’t wrong, he just ain’t right!” And me and 50 Cent nearly fell on the floor laughing. He also said there’s Leon in JB but there’s no JB in Leon. And then we all took photos and I did some recording with them, and it was amazing. I can’t wait to go back in the Spring when they release the second half of the show.
November was the New York Comedy Festival and two of the shows that really stood out for me were Jeffrey Ross’s show “ Stand-Up On The Spot” which he produced with Jeremiah Watkins from Goddamn Comedy Jam, where comics had to basically do improv stand-up according to topics given to them by the audience, and the other special show was Joey “Coco” Diaz’s show at Gotham Comedy Club, because Joey is a wild man and it’s always fun to watch him kill and then hang out with him in the green room. He had Dean Delray as his host and opener. It was also the month that Gad Elmaleh shot a special at Town Hall, and I’ll never forget as I arrived I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Ardie Fuqua in a beautiful suit as always, and when I asked him if he was there to see the show he didn’t really answer. Then when the show started he came out on stage and turned out to be the host. Hanging out with Gad afterwards was really special and he was extremely genuine in his thanks for me attending. I got to meet his family who came in from France, and most importantly for me I was able to congratulate him on learning so much English and speaking it so well that he was able to pull of a flawless performance. He was very glad to hear that because he had worked so hard for at least two years on losing his French accent. And it was the month I got to see D.L. Hughley headline at Carolines to sold out shows and we hung out as usual afterwards with the whole D.L. crew. As I always say I never met anyone more relaxed before they go out on stage than D.L. He hangs with friends backstage until the very second they introduce him, and he gives up and comers the opportunity to do some time in front of him, but no matter how many people go on before him, the audience still has plenty of laughs left for D.L. I hope to be seeing him in January as he told me he’ll be playing The Barclay Center for the first time with the guys from The Comedy Get Down, George Lopez, Eddie Griffin, Cedric The Entertainer and D..L. RIP to their comedy brother Charlie Murphy.
The twin highlights for me in December were to see Colin Quinn do some time before Judd Apatow did an hour, the night his special dropped on Netflix called “The Return.” It was Judd’s return to the stage after 25 years and he had been working on it for at least the last year. Every time he was in town I came to watch him work it all out at Gotham. And the combination of Colin and then Judd was a rare gift to the audience. Judd said it would be the last time he could do any of the material he had done because it was all on this special that was dropping at 3 A.M. that night. The other highlight was re-connecting with my old friend Tiffany Haddish who was headlining six sold-out shows at Carolines and has gone on to superstardom from her hilarious role in the movie Girls Trip. It would be a great accomplishent for anyone, but particularly for Tiffany as she had such a difficult childhood, and overcame tremendous obstacles though her talent, hard work and dedication. She’s a power of example to all who have a dream.
It was also a year when I had a hit Best Seller book on Amazon about Happiness called “Healing Your Heart, By Changing Your Mind – A Spiritual and Humorous Approach To Achieving Happiness”, which I hope you will all download and read, and a year in which I found out who my true friends were, … and I’ll leave that right there!
A special thank you to the owners and staff from Gotham, The Stand, West Side Comedy, Stand-Up New York, The Comic Strip, Broadway Comedy, Greenwich Village Comedy, New York Comedy Club, The Grisly Pear, The Comedy Cellar, Fat Black Pussycat and The Village Underground for making me feel so welcome this past year, as always. Hope I didn’t leave anyone out!
And with that I wish all of you out there in comedy land Happy Holidays and a very Happy and Healthy New Year to all. Hope to see you all back here in 2018!
That’s a wrap, … I’m OUT!!!