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 headed north and covered the scene at Just for Laughs in Montreal!
We, (meaning me and the powers that be at Just For Laughs), figured it out that I’ve been going up to Montreal for the festival anywhere between 25-30 years. It’s hard to wrap my mind around that but it’s the only place I’ve been to more than once in my life, except maybe for Puerto Rico to which I went twice when I was a kid.
It’s the 34th year and it always manages to outdo itself. Just when you think it can’t get any better, .. it does! One of my most favorite highlights was running into Louie Anderson in the elevator and being able to congratulate him on his Emmy nomination for playing Christine Baskets, the mother of Zach Galifianakis’ character on the FX series Baskets. And then Bobby Slayton came along and they started hugging like the old friends they are. Then Bobby took the photo of me and Louie, which seemed like a bit overwhelming for Bobby to handle something as new fangled as a camera!
A lot of my highlights this year seem to revolve around Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, and Judd Apatow.
The first night I got there I unpacked and went right to see Joe Mande who was the second Too Much Tuna prankee, and a writer on Kroll Show when I was out in LA shooting the first Too Much Tuna sketch. Since then he’s written for Parks and Rec and Aziz’s Master of None, and is currently writing for Ted Danson’s new NBC Show The Good Place. He did an hour show at a place called New Speak where I had never been before. And while I was there I ran into Jordan Rock who just finished up the second season of Judd Apatow’s Netflix series Love. Always fun to see Jordan and see how far he’s come in such a short time. He and his partner Reg Thomas are taking their show Productively Stoned on the road. A couple of nights later we wound up dancing wildly next to each other at the Netflix Party, (not together) in the lobby of the Hyatt when Russell Peters took over the ones and twos, along with Aida Rodriguez, Lil Rel, my man NBC star Tone Bell, and a bunch of other hip-hop freaks.
I pulled myself away from the Netflix party long enough to go and check out Jeffrey Ross and Brian Moses’ Roast Battle being filmed for Comedy Central. The other judges that night were Kevin Hart and David Spade, and needless to say both were great. The place was so packed Samantha Black of The Blacklist who handles all the seating for the big Comedy Central events was nice enough to find a place for me and squeezed me in. I also hung out in the upstairs VIP area where they had large screen TVs all over the room, and open bar and hors d’oeuvres. Plus lots of comics like Jay Pharoah, who was there with his sister/manager Shayna, Jermaine Fowler, Harrison Greenbaum, Big Jay Oakerson, Ryan Hamilton, and so many more. After the show ended we went down on the main floor again to congratulate Jeffrey Ross and Brian Moses. The whole set was very cool. It was set in a round like a gladiator’s pit. As a matter of fact a couple of nights later Tony Hinchcliffe came out to roast in some kind of armor, like a gladiator might wear, wielding a sword. It was a great visual, but It didn’t help him though. He lost the battle.
Then it was back to the Netflix party that started at 11 P.M. and I wound up staying till almost 4 A.M. For me the festival really takes place in the lobby, the terrace, and the parties because there are just so many shows, it’s impossible to see them all. I enjoy seeing the comics hanging out in between shows, and catching up with them on what they’re up to.
The next morning with not much sleep I reported to the press office for the super-special Megastars of Comedy event which wasn’t even on the schedule. I had to be escorted out to the terrace for the event by an official publicist from the festival, … that’s how exclusive it was. I got to catch up with Brad Williams, Greg Proops, Ralphie May, Iliza Schlesinger and then had to wait about 30 minutes or more to sit with my man J.B. Smoove, but it’s always worth it. Kevin Hart’s pitch panel was awesome and the lucky 10 pitchers who pitched ideas to him can attest to that as Kevin decided to take ALL of the pitches for his new LOL Network. I covered all three of those events on my first daily wrap and you can read more here.
Facebook Live was a highlight for me. They had a really cool booth in the Hyatt bar where you could go in, connect to Facebook on your iPhone and do a live broadcast which they helped you to boost. Thanks to Jade Lewin from Facebook I got to do a very cool one which now resides on my personal FB page and I pulled in Corinne Fisher, she of the mega-hit Guys We Fucked podcast, and Harrison Greenbaum who was up there opening for Gad Elmaleh, and we had lots of laughs.
I got to see the Goddamn Comedy Jam which was on my “to-do” list and saw Judd Apatow rock out to a Queen song, … wearing shorts. He gave it his all and was fantastic. He told me later that he thought he had made some mistakes but I told him the music was so loud that no one would have noticed. He really did a great job. He ran around almost the whole time with his actress daughter Maude, his oldest, and it was so cool that they could experience the festival together.
Variety’s Top Ten Comics To Watch cocktail party is always a highlight, and I got to shoot fun stuff with Vlad Caamano, Jermaine Fowler, Aparna Nancherla and someone I was really excited to meet, YouTube star Lilly Singh, or Superwoman as she’s known on the internet, with over 9 million subscribers, over a billion views, and the 8th ranked YouTube moneymaker with a reported $3 million bucks last year. But so cool, and so nice and very approachable. Her hair was down to her waist and she told me she had just cut it and was trying to get used to how short it was! That night I went to see Maria Bamford because I knew I’d be seeing her on the red carpet of the JFL Awards show the next day and wanted to see her show before I interviewed her. I was so glad I did because it’s basically indescribable. Judd Apatow said it was a lesson for comedians on what is possible to do on stage. Suddenly as if on a whim she starts to skip or jump around, just like a little girl might do who got distracted in the middle of telling you a story. She’s that free on stage. And she bears her soul about all that she’s been through. That takes so much courage. I hope to be able to do that one day instead of just doing “material.” And she had her close friend Jackie Kashian open for her. It was very special. More on those events here in my daily updates!
I had to be on the red carpet for the JFL Awards at 2:30 which meant I couldn’t see Andy Kindler’s State of the Industry but at least I got to see him at Ron Bennington’s Unmasked. To say it was great would be doing it an injustice, but every Unmasked I’ve ever seen has been great. I was able to help mentally prepare Barry Katz for his Unmasked when I ran into him in the lobby, and he told me how important it was for him that he did well on that. I told him that Ron would create a safe space for him and when I saw him afterwards he told me that’s exactly what happened. The red carpet this year was particularly smooth and well done. I refuse to come with pre-written questions. I like a conversation, which is weird because I don’t do much crowd work or improv and that’s really what it’s like doing red carpet interviews. An improv conversation. This red carpet ran like clockwork. It not only started on time but started early. And I’ve seen rude PR people who try and pull the celebs away while you’re still talking. Not on this carpet! I got to speak to everyone there except for Aziz Ansari who wasn’t up for doing the red carpet but I got to speak to him at the little private VIP reception afterwards. Sebastian Maniscalco was so humble and grateful to have won the Stand-Up Comedian of the Year Award and his managers Chris Mazzilli and Steve Mazzilli were there beaming at his well-deserved success. I would have said “kvelling” but they’ll probably read this and I’m not positive they know what that is! And also great to see Andy Dick doing so well. All of these video interviews will slowly appear on my Comedy Matters You ube channel.
The last two highlights for me were kind of personal. I was given the honor of appearing on stage at Oh, Hello the masterpiece by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney starring Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, wearing the custom-made jacket they had made for me that is an exact replica of the Guardian Angels jacket except that mine says “Gurian Angels”. So I was the fierce, karate trained security guard for Messrs. Faizon and St, Geegland, guarding their stage room door in a Facebook Live video they decided to do right before they went on stage. Literally four minutes before they hit the stage. They just improv’ed pure hilarity for those few minutes during which time they referenced me several times.
But that’s not all! I was given the honor of presenting the huge tunafish sandwich to none other than Judd Apatow who they were so excited to have as a guest, or should I say a “prankee.” At this point, when I came out on stage, holding that huge tuna sandwich along with my beret, I was afraid that Judd would think I was stalking him as I kept turning up at everything he was doing. But when he said “That’s just too much tuna” the audience erupted in screams. Backstage before I came out, tour manager Beth Thomas had to literally sculpt the tuna sandwich to just the right size so the covering which is kind of like a king’s crown, would come off smoothly and not get stuck on the crust of the bread. We all hung out afterwards backstage and took photos like the one you’ll see below. More on those events in my daily write ups here!
Last highlight for me was the red carpet for Seth Rogen’s film: Sausage Party. The red carpet was very small and tight, which was a fitting metaphor for the “R” rated content, and you know it’s gonna be rough when you show up and the PR people are already apologizing for lack of space. But they were extremely accommodating, and fortunately my assistant Vito from the Bennington Show is very tall and was able to shoot over everyone’s head. Since Seth and I had done the Blisterito’s sketch on Kroll Show, Seth’s first question to me was “Did you see Nick Kroll?” and I told him the story of the night before and he loved it, and my jacket. Nick had a HUGE part in Sausage Party literally playing a “Douche.” I absolutely LOVED the film. Kristen Wiig was a surprise guest and Judd Apatow moderated the Q&A afterwards, and I made sure not to let him see me so he wouldn’t get nervous.
As I was leaving the hotel to head back to the airport I shared an elevator with my old pal Jeff Singer who books the festival, and told him I’m sending him my AXS TV tape so maybe next year, … who knows? It was another GREAT year at JFL and I’m already looking forward to coming back next year.
And as usual, … 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.