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 Stand Up New York, The Stand, Gotham Comedy Club and more.
Stand-Up New York is doing big things. Within this past week alone Craig Robinson popped in and did a 55 minute musical set with him on the keyboards and for the fans of The Office, he even played the Dunder Mifflin jingle. He got a standing ovation which is really rare in a comedy club. Then later that same night Chris Rock just happened to drop in to see what was happening but unfortunately, the show had already ended so of course, they invited him back the next night when they were having two shows.
But the next night instead it was George Wallace who was holding court at the bar during the 10 P.M. show, talking to new comics as he loves to do. One thing about George and I’ve known him a long time, he’s very approachable and very generous with his time. He went up and did 15 minutes on stage at Stand Up, and then did a Q&A with the audience. And a few days later George came back a little after 8 P.M., but this time with Jerry Seinfeld. The club offered them stage time but there were only about 20 people there. Jerry said he wanted to get up but would be back in 30 minutes and would try and get some people there. Owner Dani Zoldan said he couldn’t picture Seinfeld out on the street selling tickets, but instead all Jerry had to do was tweet “So, I’m hitting Stand Up NY with @MrGeorgeWallace in 30 minutes. Let’s do it” And he attached a screenshot of them. Over 50 people came in right away. Dani said it was amazing.
Jerry did 25 minutes on stage followed by a Q&A. Someone asked what else he wants to accomplish in his life and he said he’s done everything that he wanted to do and his favorite thing to do is to perform in front of audiences like this. Then Jerry called up George and then Judah Friedlander followed with Godfrey closing out the show. Jerry and George hung out at the bar after the show, chatting with audience members and George stayed until after closing to watch Game 7 of the NBA playoffs. Quite a week for Stand-Up New York!
I dropped by The Stand to catch up with my buddy Ron Bennington who was hosting, and more importantly who will become a grandfather in about 6 weeks when Gail Bennington, his daughter and co-host of The Bennington Show on SiriusXM gives birth. He’s very excited about that. As I rolled up I caught Monroe Martin hanging at the lone street table with his homie Derek Gaines who closed the late show, with a crazy set bringing his manic, nuclear energy to the stage.
Dean Delray came in and was psyched about having passed his audition at The Comedy Cellar, which he said to him was like a dream come true, and a totally awesome experience. He said it was a packed Friday night when he auditioned for legendary booker Estee, and he said that hitting that stage is a bit surreal because you never get the chance to be on it until the time you audition. There’s no open mics or bringer shows to prepare you, so you have no chance to try out the stage. He said he had thought about doing it for years and compared it to the feeling he had passing at The Comedy Store in LA another iconic place. He proudly states his age at 52 and said he only started performing when he was 44 because he had been doing music for the previous 25 years. His first time on stage doing comedy was at The Hollywood Improv for a bringer show and he said he remembers he was on with a doctor and a divorced housewife, and he did so well that he never stopped performing after that. He did 298 spots his first year. And I know because he keeps every single one on his phone and he showed me. His second year he did 558 spots, and so far this year he’s done 175 spots. It’s really all on his phone separated by the year.
I saw him again when I dropped by The Cellar one night and the place was packed with comics as usual, I sat with Corinne Fisher, James Myers, and Justin Silver. Also there was Greer Barnes who stopped by to say hi, and Jon Fisch, and then at “the table” was owner Noam Dworman, Estee, Dean, Michelle Wolf, and Lenny Marcus who is the proud father of a new baby girl named Birdie May, which could be spelled Birdie Mae as well but I only remembered to ask him how to spell Birdie. Big congrats to Lenny and his wife! JUST IN TIME FOR FATHER’S DAY! EVERYTHING IN COMEDY IS ABOUT TIMING!!!
I never miss a chance to go and see Billy Gardell perform, not only ’cause he’s so funny but because he’s one of the nicest guys in the business. And also because he’s an L.A. guy and not in NY that much. He was headlining Gotham and I made sure to attend. His act is a mixture of so many things. He actually brings an air of Spirituality and humility to his material, opening by telling the audience how grateful he is for all he’s done. And he seemed shocked to see so many young people in the crowd. It was packed with fans of Mike and Molly which ran from 2010 until 2016.
He talks a lot about his family and how glad he is that his 15-year-old son is not “a dick!” And he told a very moving story about his wife who he’s been married to for 18 years. He said his attitude about life totally changed when doctors found a tumor on her ovary and they spent six months worrying about her survival because they couldn’t tell if it was benign or not. That kind of story is rare for a comedian to share and the audience loved it. It got an applause break. He also gave messages about forgiving people, especially your parents, and to be kind to each other, and don’t take life too seriously. This was a very special rare kind of performance, and I think the audience realized that by the ovation he got when he finished.
I was waiting on the side to congratulate him when he got offstage, and he thanked me for coming and invited me to come down to the green room where we sat and caught up on things along with Nick Griffin, who recently shot his first special at The Village Underground. The special is called “Cheer Up” which Billy thought was hilarious and it’s in the process of being edited.
As we were talking I mentioned to Billy that lots of TV stars think they can parlay their stardom on TV into a stand-up career, and it doesn’t really translate, but that he is a legit stand-up comedian, and he told me that was his first love and he’s been doing it since 1987, way before he hit TV stardom. That made perfect sense because stand-up is an art form unto itself and anyone who’s done it successfully knows it takes a lot of work and dedication. We also talked about a big TV star whose name I won’t mention, who’s been doing stand-up for only a few months but is not particularly nice to the other comics on the show with him.
Billy told me the good news that he’ll be doing 6-8 episodes of Young Sheldon this year playing a crazy, redneck neighbor. And before I was ready to leave I wanted to get a photo of Billy and Nick but Billy suggested we take a selfie of all three of us, which is what you see below. Billy is one special guy.
Director Sean Mannion is finally finishing up his first feature film called “Meme” which he describes as a surreal comedy-drama about a girl named Jennifer, “a frustrated freelancer whose relationship with her VHS obsessed boyfriend has stalled. When she finds a surreal mashup VHS tape her journey to find the person who made it leads her to standing up to her “clients from hell” and finally taking control of her life.” The film will be getting its world premiere at the Art of Brooklyn Festival and I will be there!
This past week I attended what was billed as the world’s first Virtual Reality comedy show at Gotham which will be going on every Thursday evening at 10 P.M. just the way they used to do Gotham Comedy Live. But with Virtual Reality, people all over the world can put on a headset and feel like they’re sitting right in Gotham Comedy Club, enjoying a real live comedy show right in the heart of Manhattan. Facebook launched a new app called Oculus Venues in which headset wearers will be able to watch concerts, sports games and comedy events like “Live In Gotham” all together. The tons of equipment that were needed to film Gotham Comedy LIve are all gone and replaced by one simple yet complicated camera that stood in the middle of the room. Whereas Gotham Comedy Live had rotating hosts each week, Yannis Pappas will be the permanent host of the show. Drew Fraser was there to warm up the crowd, and Richie Redding was there to close. In between were four reliable Gotham regulars starting with Jimmy Failla, then James Goff, Brian Scott McFadden and Gina Yashere to close the VR part of the show. Afterwards I asked Chris if it was his idea to do VR, and he told me he had been approached by an exec from Next VR who proposed the idea and he jumped on it because he knew it couldn’t lose. And judging by the audience reaction on Thursday night he’s definitely right.
I went to a great UCB show at their space on West 42nd Street. And besides being great it was really unique which is a hard thing to find in the comedy world. The show is called Gravid Water and it’s created and directed by UCB actor Stephen Ruddy. They also do it in LA where it’s hosted by Stephen’s brother Neil Ruddy. The show pairs actors with improvisors. The actors memorize their lines that are drawn from established plays, and they do it word for word as it was written. The master improvisors though, who have no prior knowledge of the scenes and therefore can not possibly prepare anything, have to improv their responses to the actors lines.
The entire cast was super-talented and in the first scene Amy Rutberg from Marvel’s Daredevil, and the new proposed comedy series I recently wrote about, Karl Manhair, Postal Inspector was the actor while an actor named Brian Stack was the improvisor. The two of them were incredible together. They did a scene from “ A Future Perfect” and Brian became an English janitor with such a believable English accent that I was sure he was a Brit. Turns out he’s one of us, and just really talented. Amy’s reactions and mannerisms were hilarious. This show was a wellkept secret because Amy told me she’s been doing it for 11 years. The other improvisors were from TV and Broadway namely Scott Adsit from 30 Rock, Veep and Big Hero 6, and Michael Delaney from The Stepfathers. The actor’s side included Michael Kostroff from “The Wire” and actors from 30 Rock, and Orange Is The New Black. After the show I got to hang with some of the actors for a bit before we all had to clear out for the next show. But I’m definitely going back and not just because I was invited. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Kiki Yeung a stand-up comic from LA is coming to New York to do her one-woman show called “Second Chances for Grace” at the Studio Theatre on Theatre Row on June 15th and 17th. Kiki does a lot of stuff. She’s not only a stand-up but also an actress, writer, producer, host and director. She’s a storyteller which started for her at a young age. She’s worked in Hong Kong and London and as you might have guessed from her name she is Asian and also created the LA show “Crazy Woke Asians” , featuring the best of Asian comedy on the West Coast. It’s a show she produces, and books. In her play “Second Chances for Grace” she plays anywhere from 12-18 characters, of all ages and genders. The synopsis of the show is as follows: “Morphing in and out of a multitude of characters, actress-writer Kiki Yeung takes you on this heroic coming-of-age story as a girl from Hong Kong desperately seeking her identity in the world, defying her overbearing parents and overcoming two auto-immune diseases. Watch and be inspired as she offers real-talk — and no small amount of “Chinglish” — addressing determination, healing and dream-chasing.” This is one busy woman. She recently produced a sci-fi feature for Amazon Prime called “Star Leaf”, a short film for HBO called “Fung Family Feast” which I have a strong feeling is about an Asian family, and she wrote “Sweet and Sour Chicks” a comedy pilot for NBC Universal Short Fest. All I know is I’m going to see the show when it gets here mid-June and I’ll tell you all about it!
And with that, … 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 Billy Gardell and Nick Griffin, Amy Rutberg, Dean Delray and Chris Mazilli.