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 Gotham, The Mailroom, Friars Club, West Side Comedy Club, and The Stand.
Jim Florentine’s book signing party at The Stand was fun, especially when he had his 7-year-old son Luke Florentine open for him by telling some jokes. He was so cute and well composed for a 7-year-old, and seemed to enjoy being on stage. Maybe it’s genetic. The book is called Everybody Is Awful (Except You) and features a very funny foreword by Jim Norton. I know this because I read it. He lists all of his firsts thanks to Jim, like meeting Ozzy Osborne and jizzing on a TV set, which is the kind of thing I’m sure Jim is proud of taking credit for. Jim (Florentine) read from a couple of chapters, and did a very nice thing by saying how grateful he was to his ex-wife for their son Luke cause without her he wouldn’t have him. It was a really cool event!
For many years The Friars Club did not let in people who were not members unless a member brought them as a guest. They would never have events where outside members could attend. Jiggy Jagarian, the comic who opens for The Impractical Jokers is changing the game over there with his show The Vault. Twice this past week I attended events he produced that were packed with members and non-members alike. All young people with great energy, and the place was hopping! One night was a line-up of funny comics including Marty Caproni who often opens for Jessimae Peluso and who came down from Massachusetts, for the gig. Marty has his own club up in Massachusetts called The Cabot Club, and is opening a new club in a couple of weeks. So it was also Amy Shankar, Fumi Abe, a comic named Christian Duran who started with Jiggy down in Florida and a comic named Jay Miller who came out and asked the audience how many people already didn’t like him, then proceeded to tell a few very graphic jokes and then changed into a sparkly costume and did a dance that he swore he’d be doing in a couple of weeks on America’s Got Talent. It was such a bizarre “dance” as he leaped from side to side, that I had to ask Jiggy afterwards if he was telling the truth or just kidding and Jiggy swore he’d be doing that dance on AGT. I can’t wait to see the reaction of the judges.
The talent was great, but what surprised me was the dress of the comics. Or should I say the lack of dress. They dressed as if they were doing a bar show on the Lower East Side. Stretched out T-shirts, and jeans. You can’t get into the Friars in the evening without wearing a jacket, which they provide to men who come without, but not for the talent. There was a time when no one would think of not coming dressed to an elegant club like The Friars. I guess it’s because I’ve been going there for so many years that I even noticed that but it stuck out for me. I think you should dress in a way that befits the room that you’re performing in.
The very next night Jiggy produced another show at The Friars, which I attended and he was dressed up as was the audience. It was actually a Q&A starring Brian Quinn (“Q”) of The Impractical Jokers and I must say it was a masterful performance. He handled himself so well and entertained everyone for at least 90 minutes with fantastic stories from the show and about his life. And he was so humble, he said several times to the audience if I’m boring you in any way please feel free to leave, but no one did because he was far from boring. He was very entertaining, and shared things with the packed room like about how they upgraded the humor on the show because they felt a greater responsibility to the public after being on the air for a while. Now they’re on for seven years already. Amazing. I watch that show and laugh so hard it brings tears to my eyes with what those guys do. There was a Marine in the audience who asked a question, and Q thanked him sincerely for his service and shared that of all people thanks to Bret Michaels of Poison, who they saw thank service people from the stage they took that on and now they do it all the time as well.
He said that because the four of them are not playing characters but are being who they really are the audience feels that they know them, and feels like they can just walk up to them and say whatever they want like they were friends. And he said it’s weird when you are the project, not like an actor like George Clooney who takes on a different persona depending on what film he’s doing. They are just always themselves. He was asked about him cutting his hair and he said it was because he still identifies as a fireman, which he was for many years and they’re not allowed to have long hair. He also said he lost 25 pounds because he hated to see himself on TV looking out of shape. It made him depressed. He shared stories about how each of the other guys is so special to him in their own way, and how they all have history, and how Sal has been so helpful to him in personal ways, besides never having charged him for a drink during the years he was a bartender. And someone in the audience asked about the time they all broke into Sal’s house. Q said they did it by tricking him and telling him first that Murr was going away on vacation and that they should break into Murr’s house, and Sal thought it was a great idea which he said then gave them permission to break into Sal’s house. It was a fantastic evening and Jiggy is definitely changing the game at The Friars Club.
I dropped by West Side Comedy Club in time to catch Neko White crushing on stage, with Aaron Berg waiting to close the show, and ran into my dear friend Corinne Fisher who was heading to her next set at Beauty Bar. I offered her a lift so I could hear her story of her interaction with both Bill Burr and Jerry Seinfeld this past Monday night at West Side. She told me the story as we drove.
She was booked to do the show and had heard the day before that Bill Burr was due to perform which she said “is not information to take lightly since he’s one of the best living comedians today.” She was excited to see him but when she got there he wasn’t there yet. She took a seat in the comics banquet and right before she was slated to go on stage Bill Burr walked in and she said she was “part excited and part super-nervous, because “like yay, he’s gonna know I exist on the planet but also it just kind of turned into some kind of a weird America-Idol comedy audition only for Bill Burr.” So she got on stage and was a little bit nervous which she said was extra weird when you’ve been doing comedy so long that you don’t really get nervous anymore, but she says she doesn’t think anyone noticed but her.
As soon as she got two jokes in she felt more relaxed and fell into her groove even though she says she could tell that everyone just wanted to see Bill Burr. And after she got into the groove she started thinking, “Well you should kind of showcase for Bill Burr” so she started curating in her mind bits she thought he would like, as if he’s gonna be, “That girl with the whore jokes, … she’s great!”. And when I got off stage I was like, oh maybe he didn’t even see, but he did and he came up to me and said “ Really funny stuff” and he shook my hand, and unless you’re a really cruel person you’re gonna say something nice or you’re not gonna say anything at all. She said he was very nice and has very well moisturized hands, which she added as a little side fact! He was very warm “which I was not expecting from his kind of yelling onstage persona.”
“And then he came and sat down right next to me, and kept leaning over during the show to chat with me”, and she said she didn’t know how to handle it cause she felt so awkward. She said she didn’t want to try and be funny and she didn’t know how to act “like a normal human being.” But he was very charming. “And the whole time I was texting my boyfriend saying, “OMG this is so cool. Bill Burr is next to me and he watched my set and just when I thought it couldn’t get any cooler, Bill Burr’s buddy Jerry Seinfeld walked in. And I was just trying to keep my cool. Everyone saw the Kesha thing so I knew not to try and hug him. My favorite part of it was that Jerry came to support Bill which I thought was really, really sweet, and he kept his baseball cap pulled down low so most people didn’t even know he was there, and at one point Bill turned to me and was like “fan-girling Jerry Seinfeld” and was so excited that he was there. It was Jerry sitting closest to the door, then Bill and then me, and Bill would talk to Jerry and then talk to me. It was obvious to me that Bill loves Jerry’s work and respects him so much, and it showed me that no matter how far you get in comedy you still have people you look up to.”
She continued, “then Bill went up and covered all these new topics effortlessly and he had been taking notes on a napkin, prepping his set, and it just showed me that the process never ends no matter how long you‘ve been doing it. And I love seeing how he handles the audience when he does his really “edgy material”, which is something he’s known for. And any time he’d get pushback he’d be like, “Oh this is why comedy’s dead.” And she said it was interesting for her to see that since everyone’s more P.C. now, “and it’s our job as comedians to kind of push harder.” She added, “so Bill had a killer set and when he was done he came back and sat with me and said, “ Wait till you see how the crowd goes wild when they introduce Jerry. He was not only excited for himself, but also excited to see how excited everyone else was. It was a beautiful thing for me to see three generations of comedy sitting side by side, And this only happens in comedy. If you’re an actor trying to make it chances are you’re not gonna have Brad Pitt show up on the set of your short film, but in New York you get to see everybody.” Then she said that Seinfeld closed the show and did his Q&A like he often does to close and it was just really amazing. She and Krystyna just did a show in Virginia Beach at The Funny Bone because Krystyna grew up there from ages 2-10 and she had always wanted to do a show there. Corinne had to take two planes to get there and two planes to get home because for some reason she said there were no direct flights, but she said it was worth it because they had so much fun.
Beauty Bar was cool and run by comic Josh Carter who’s been doing the show for 6 years and who also does it at The Stand with co-producer Ray Devito. He says it’s one of the last three independently produced shows at The Stand, and he’s been doing it since just after it opened, which he said makes it the longest running indie produced show at The Stand.
And I got to re-connect with another comic that was there who I hadn’t seen in quite a while– Chris Sullivan who’s also known as Shockwave, the beatboxer from the incredible group Freestyle Love Supreme, who was doing a two man act with Victor Varnado. I had met those Freestyle guys many years ago at Ars Nova in a show with Paul Provenza as I recall before many of them went on to become big stars like Anthony Veneziale, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in what’s being described as Vimeo’s new “musical Silicon Valley”, Bartlett. Chris and Victor do a two man thing they called “Dick Patrol” where Chris beatboxes and Victor dances, and spits rap beats on the spot with bizarre suggestions from the audience, like “butt sex with a giraffe.” I didn’t know what to expect but it was really great and very entertaining, and left me wanting to see more. I’m in awe of people who can make things up on the spot. So hard to do! Afterwards Chris and I caught up and he told me he does a show called Battlicious, which he described as a comedy rap-battle at UCB, where four comedians schooled in both improv and stand-up engage in free-style rapping. This is a show I have to see. That stuff amazes me. It’s the first Saturday of every month. Ars Nova is a production partner with Freestyle Love Supreme and together they are developing a school in South Africa.
Roast Battle took me to New York Comedy Club and it was its usual crazy self. Backstage Todd Montesi and Mike Bochetti were getting ready to roast battle each other by reminiscing about how long they knew each other. When they hit the stage, roast battle judge Yamaneika who is so incredibly quick and funny said it looked like a benefit for the March of Dimes. Judge Shuli Egar asked for a third round before they even started! And Mike Cannon told Todd he looked like Bart Simpson’s one Black friend. They gave the battle to Mike.
The headline battle was between Christian Finnegan and Dave Sirus. Christian always makes fun of the fact that people think he looks gay, and Dave won with lines like “Christian is like Django Jeans. He was cool in the 90’s but is now in the closet”, and “It makes sense that your family named you after Christianity because you’re incredibly old and your family only pretends to believe in you.” Christian had some good lines too, but they went with Dave. Dave will be going for the title tomorrow night at The Stand battling roast champ Eli Sairs.
And I ended my week seeing Paul Mecurio at his sold out show at Gotham, and he has such an interesting take on crowd work. Rather than just talking to people in the audience he finds people he thinks are interesting, brings them up on stage 4 or 5 at a time, has them interact with each other and takes cell phone photos of them while they’re up there. It’s a great bit and the audience loves it. And rather than doing crowd work at the end he started off the show with that. It really got the audience involved and it was a totally fun night.
Marty Dundics is a name you may not be familiar with but you’ll certainly be familiar with his accomplishments. He spent 13 years as the Creative Director of National Lampoon and four years as Editor in Chief. Now he’s the CEO of Weekly Humorist and for the last couple of months is producing live comedy shows at a really cool space down in the Wall Street area called The Mailroom. It’s a really cool venue. Very downtown but at the same time very upscale. It was a chilly rainy night but he still got a good crowd because the venue is in a building where a lot of young, hip people work and they come to the shows.
The night I was there Kevin McCaffrey was hosting. Kevin’s got his first album coming out at the end of March and it’s from my friends at 800 Pound Gorilla. He said he taped it at Zanies in Chicago because he wanted to create kind of like an old-school club vibe and that was the first club to headline him. Mara Marek of the Happily Never After podcast came through to do a set, and she and her podcast co-host Andrew Collin are setting out to do something truly amazing. They call it “Bike, Laugh, Heal” and will be crossing the country by bicycle hitting every comedy club across the nation to raise money for “futures without violence” which includes domestic abuse, childhood abuse and human trafficking. They’re starting Aug. 15th and plan to do 62 shows in 78 days. PNC Bank is sponsoring the tour and the goal is to raise one million bucks. They are also going to document the trip for a 90 minute special and are working with a documentarian to make that happen. Mara said she’s been working out and is in much better shape than Andrew. And she said I can print that too!
Shane Torres is getting ready to tour the South and perform in a rock club in Atlanta. His biker look will definitely help. And Keenan Steiner closed the show and describes himself on stage as “a sneaky gay” because if he didn’t tell you no one would ever know. Very masculine dude.
Comic Gerard Haran is doing lots of stuff. Besides performing and producing shows he also does fun videos. I drove out to Jersey City to watch him shoot one and wound up with tin foil on my teeth like a grill in a crazy scene with comic Jerrold Benford and all I can tell you is that it’s a parody of a rehab commercial, and we shot it in a gym and some very elegant looking rooms. Can’t wait till it’s edited to show you but you can tell by the photo below it was pretty insane.
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. Photos below Jeffrey Gurian with Jerrold Benford and Gerard Haran, and below, Jeffrey with Mara Marek, Shane Torres, Charles McBee, and Kevin McCaffrey.