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 visited The Village Underground, The Cellar, Gotham, and even the World’s Fairgrounds!
I feel like I was all over this week.
Sam Morril taped his first album this week at The Village Underground and lots of people came out to support him. He said he wanted to do it at The Village Underground because it’s part of The Comedy Cellar now and passing and performing at The Cellar was always his dream. Sam did two shows. I was at the early one and it was so strong, I told him he didn’t have to worry about needing to take anything from the second show. Drew Fraser opened the show and hosted the evening, and Sam’s opening act was Anthony DeVito. It was personally gratifying to me to see both Anthony and Sam doing so well since I saw them in their early days, when they both used to perform on my late show at The Comic Strip. Anthony told me afterwards that Sam is the hardest working guy he knows and he’s very grateful to him for taking him on the road and opening up many opportunities for him. The working title of his album is Class Act. A couple of nights later I saw Sam again at “the table” at The Cellar and he told me he’ll be taping his Half Hour for Comedy Central next week in Boston.
I dropped by The Cellar and rain into my buddy Godfrey, who started his co-hosting gig on Fox’s Bullseye last week. He said it’s from the creators of Fear Factor and Wipeout, and he co-hosts with Kellan Lutz, who played Hercules on the big screen. He described it as being a challenge show, like a cross bettween Fear Factor and the stunt world. He’s also doing a Denis Leary hockey comedy project on IFC in October, which got greenlit recently called Benders. It’s about a “sucky hockey team” and he plays a goalie named Rajon, who also runs the ice rink.
The table was packed that night with Mark Normand, Brian Scolaro, Carmen Lynch, Judah Friedlander, Pete Davidson, and Morgan Murphy, in from LA, who said she couldn’t wait to get back to writing on 2 Broke Girls in about two weeks. I asked her how she got the gig and she said that both Whitney Cummings and Michael Patrick King, who wrote the pilot, both liked her stand-up. And then we were joined by Sam Morril, who was still on a high from his great taping the night before at The Village Underground.
And on my way home I ran into Dan Soder who was psyched about doing Bonaroo next week with Bobby Kelly, Big Jay Oakerson, (is there any other Big Jay?), and Jeffrey Ross to name just a few. And he was also excited about performing in Denver, the town where he grew up!
I ended my comedy week with an incredible event put on by AJ Jacobs, a 4 time NY Times best-selling author, best known for writing about his “lifestyle experiments”. He’s an editor at large for Esquire, which sounds like an editor on the loose (LOL), and his humor book “The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become The Smartest Person In The World, for which he read all 32 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, spent 8 weeks on the NY Times best seller list. He rented out the old World’s Fairgrounds in Queens to put on the Global Family Reunion showing that everyone in the world are cousins. I think Cousin Brucie figured that out a long time ago! The event was packed with comedians who were hosting different events. And the talent was coordinated by Lisa Cohen, who created Witstream with Michael Ian Black and who made sure everything ran smoothly. AJ said he couldn’t have done it without her.
Tom Shillue was hosting on the main stage when I arrived, and when he saw me he shouted me out from the stage. He was like, “Of course Jeffrey Gurian would be in the VIP area!” And then he told me on the mic to cross over into the general area and start shaking hands with some of my “cousins” to break the ice, which I did. After he came off stage, he broke the news to me that he just found out that he’ll be hosting Fox’s Red Eye, which is amazing. He’s so happy that now he can stay home in New York and spend more time with his wife and daughters. He had been touring with Jim Gaffigan, and I can see them together as a great team. Tom and I were laughing about how long we know each other, basically since he was in a show called “Gas, Food and Talent”, probably back in the early 90’s. Congrats Tom, you truly deserve this!
Morgan Spurlock who told me about his new show on A&E called Takedown, Paul Williams came in to do a spot and perform and sang Rainbow Connection with David Ippolito “The Guitar Man” from Central Park backing him up. Paul’s got a NY Times Best Seller called Gratitude and Trust which he wrote with Tracey Jackson who was there with him. He told me about his podcast of the same name on which he’s had several huge comedy names as guests, including Judd Apatow, David Steinberg, and Penn Gillette. Paul was leaving in a few hours for MIDEM in Cannes where he was to be the keynote speaker. Other hosts at this comedy/cousins event were Ryan Reiss, Cate Smit, who shared the stage with Tom Shillue, Ophira Eisenberg who was standing with Jeremy Wein the founder of NYC Podfest, which he told me is moving to May instead of January like last year, Karen Bergreen, Abbi Crutchfield, Scott Rogowsky, Jared Freid, who I had to inform that he spells his last name wrong, and Seth Herzog who warms up the crowd for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon which has to be one of the best gigs in the biz. He and his Mom will be seen on the new truTV show How To Be A Grown-Up talking about the trials and tribulations of being a grown up. Before I left the Global Family Reunion I grabbed AJ and asked him how he came up with this innovative idea. He said about two years ago, he got an e-mail from a stranger claiming to be his 12th cousin. Of course he thought it was a scam and that the guy would be asking him for money. Turns out it was legit and the guy was part of a team of scientists, helping to build the hugest family tree in the world with the help of new discoveries in DNA, and “collaborative genealogy”. According to him Barack Obama is his fith great aunt’s husband’s brother’s wife’s seventh great nephew, which he repeated from memory and if that’s not comedy, I don’t know what is!
I’ve been a fan of Charles Grodin forever, and I always look forward to seeing him. Besides being a legend in comedy and film, he also does a lot of charity work, as does his daughter, who hosted the show, the always funny Marion Grodin. So when Marion told me about the event they were doing for Help USA to fight homelessness I knew I had to be there. Of course it was at Gotham because Chris Mazzilli must do a charity event at least once a week, if not more. I think he told me that last year he did 80 charity events. He’s that kind of guy. And then when I heard who else was going to be on the bill, I knew for sure I couldn’t miss this. It was Regis Philbin, Joy Behar and Ted Alexandro, the man who proclaimed in a video that you can’t really consider yourself a comedian if you don’t know me!
Ted told me he just finished a Week at the Creek, which is of course The Creek and the Cave comedy club in Long Island City, working on a new hour to be recorded later this year or early next year. I asked him if he did the same material every night at The Creek and he said that each night it changed by about 30 % and by the end of the week he eliminated some things but felt he’ll keep about 60% of what he did.
Joy Behar looked great, and had a really strong stand-up set. Joy was on The View for 16 years, and said she’s been going back fairly often as a guest, and was going on again at the end of the week. I asked Joy about her multi-media hit one woman show Me, My Mouth, and I that played last November , and she said she’ll be doing it again in a number of places, one of which will be Guild Hall in East Hampton the weekend of August 29th. She also told me she couldn’t possibly do all the charity events she gets asked to do, but she came out for this event because this was such a great cause and because of the people attached to it. A lot of heavy hitters were there. Help USA is the leading provider of housing and services for the homeless.
While Joy was performing, Regis Philbin and Charles Grodin sat down next to me, because they were going on next, and Joy was getting such huge laughs that Regis said to me, “Why do we have to follow Joy Behar? She’s the greatest. Who’s gonna laugh at us?” Then he looked at Charles and said, “We have no laughs!” Well he needn’t have worried because he and Charles took the stage to thunderous applause. While we were sitting there I asked Regis if he had ever done stand-up and he said he had, “but not as much as Joy.” He and Charles, who told me they’ve been friends since 1976, told stories and showed some funny clips from back in the day. There was an incredible clip of Charles on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson where he was confronting Carson on the air and asking him who he really was because he didn’t feel like he really knew him. Johnny seriously looked shocked that anyone would put him on the spot like that! Only Charles Grodin with his perfectly deadpan delivery could pull off something like that. Johnny wound up inviting Charles to accompany him on safari to Africa, and they became great friends.
When I interviewed Charles, he told me a funny story about having been the first choice to star in The Graduate, but that Mike Nichols set him up to fail by not sending him the script till the night before, so he didn’t have time to learn his lines and Dustin Hoffman got the part. The whole show was great and It was a very successful evening for all involved! To donate you can go to helpusa.org.
Comedy Juice was it’s usual strong self this past week especially with Aaron Berg as the host! The wonderful Elayne Boosler was there running her five minute set for her Tonight Show appearance (which you can watch here). Elayne was also excited about her upcoming appearance at The Triad performing in Rick Newman’s hit Celebrity Autobiography, with Tony Danza and Sasheer Zamata among others, and was then heading back to LA to work on a comedy/musical piece that she will be performing with the Huntington Beach Symphony in a composition she described as “written for piano, flute, cello and comedian!” And everything is about her pet charity that she’s been involved in for 20 years, TailsofJoy.net She says it’s for all animals, even those without tails!
Sasheer Zamata was sporting a new “do” I hadn’t seen before. She’s getting ready to start a tour in mid-June, as yet untitled that will take her through Sacramento, San Francisco, Houston, Louisiana, New Orleans, D.C., and Baltimore and she’s taking Liza Treyger with her. Not just for company, but to perform as well! Sasheer has obviously been putting a lot of work into her stand-up because she used to do mostly characters, and now she’s kind of transitioned off into traditional stand-up, and all of her hard work really shows. She was very funny!
Adam Ray was in town from LA for the premiere of Spy. He plays one of the CIA agents. Adam had a killer set on Comedy Juice, and does a lot of material where he imitates girl’s speaking voices, and he does it very well. Pete Davidson came in to do a closing spot, and said that being 21 isn’t so great, except for the fact that he no longer needs his Mom to order a beer for him! He told me he really loved his first year on Saturday Night Live and can’t wait to get back. The last night of the season he thought he had lost a memento from his Dad at the show, but luckily someone there found it and held it for him. I’ll be seeing him again in Montreal at Just for Laughs at the end of July.
I’ve given you enough already! I’m OUT!!!
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Subscribe to his YouTube channel. Below, photos from the Global Family Reunion with Jeffrey Gurian and AJ Jacobs, Tom Shillue, Dr. Oz, and Paul Williams. Photos from Charles Grodin Help USA event with Grodin, Regis Philbin, Marion Grodin, Ted Alexandro and Joy Behar. Photos with Sasheer Zamata, Godfrey and Elayne Boosler.