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. In today’s column, find out what went down on the Red Carpet when The Friar’s Club honored Robert DeNiro, hear what Anthony Jeselnik is up to, and find out which famous stand up comedian was also a great singer! Visit Jeffrey’s website at comedymatterstv.com, where you can watch his interviews with everyone in comedy who matters!
This week I went to see Richard Pryor Jr. perform at The Metropolitan Room. The show was part music and part him telling what it was like growing up the son of Richard Pryor and he has a fantastic singing voice. He shared that his Dad also had a good singing voice, which I never knew.
The stories he told on stage were painful. He grew up in Peoria and it wasn’t easy. Richard Sr. had divorced his Mom Patrricia when he was about 1 year old. When his dad got famous his Mom never went to court to get more money so until he was 18 they lived on $300 a month. He remembered his Mom keeping meat on the back porch to keep it cold. He recalled that on the set of Adios Amigos, in 1976, his Dad had a woman named Mary Whitecloud take his virginity and he said his Dad’s male assistant also abused him sexually. He also talked about having worked as a drag queen and sang a number in a dress and heels. It was a very different kind of a show, and very entertaining.
I had a huge event this week covering the red carpet for the Friars Club Tribute to Robert DeNiro who was was given the Entertainment Icon Award, only the 5th recipient since 1904. The other 4 were Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Tom Cruise, and Frank Sinatra. I did many interviews with celebrities like Miss America, Kira Kazantsev, Larry King, Harvey Keitel, Vincent Piazza, Kathrine Narducci, and two with people in the comedy world Penny Marshall and Joel McHale.
Joel McHale is always a fun interview because he stays in character as his sarcastic self. I asked him if he ever had Robert DeNiro on his show Condensed Soup. He was so shocked that I even knew about Condensed Soup. I told him it was my business to know everything going on in the comedy world and he said laughingly, “So I’m still in the comedy world?” You can see it, and the whole overview of the event, on my Comedy Matters TV channel.
Penny Marshall and I had a great talk about The Bronx where we both came from, and especially Mosholu Parkway where she and her brother Garry grew up and where I used to hang out. We bonded over the name Roy Drillich on whom her brother Garry Marshall says he based the character of “The Fonz“, on Happy Days.
Roy Drillich was a good friend of mine, and was known as the toughest guy in the Bronx, who legend had it, once stole a NYC bus after forcing off all the passengers. He was dating a girl who lived upstairs from me in my building and one day he took her and me out to White Castle for a snack. Only problem was he had no money. So he drove into Highbridge, one of the toughest sections in those days, saw some random guy sitting on a wall and got his attention by snapping his fingers till the guy came over and gave him some money to take us out to eat. That’s why The Fonz always snapped his fingers! But I digress…
I jumped on over to Carolines this week to catch Anthony Jeselnik who I haven’t run into in a long time. No show was ever more appropriately named than Jeselnik Offensive because Anthony talks about every taboo topic you can think of, from cancer to dead babies, to dead Grandmas, but he does it with such an innocence that you find yourself laughing at things you think you would never laugh about. He said that people are so sensitive you can’t even talk about transexuals anymore. You can’t even say ” Chicks With Dicks”! You have to call them “Men Who Talk Too Much!”
He’s taping a new special on Nov. 14th in Austin Texas, tentatively titled Thoughts and Prayers. I asked him if there was any line he wouldn’t cross and he said to me, ” I don’t have a line myself, but if I thought something might be too offensive, I would make it my business to find a joke about it, so I could find a way to incorporate it.”
I also ran into Gallagher this past week, who I hadn’t seen in ages, and he was hosting Gotham Comedy Live for AXS TV. He wore like a leprechaun’s hat, and didn’t smash any watermelons, but they had watermelon props on stage. As a matter of fact he didn’t use any props at all. Just jokes.
I jumped all the way over to Long Island City which I rarely do. There’s too much going on in Manhattan but the Queens comedy scene is very hip and flourishing (as is the Brooklyn scene). I went because of a phenomenon known as Keith and The Girl. Keith and The Girl is a podcast hosted by Keith Malley and Chemda. She says that people have a hard time pronouncing Chemda so she’s just The Girl. They have listeners all over the world. I went out to The Creek and The Cave, (a very cool spot where Colin Quinn likes to work out material) for Chemda’s boyfriend’s birthday.
Chemda’s boyfriend is Lauren Hennessy, who works as an assistant to Judy Gold, and is a trans-sexual person, with her own show called My Feminine Side which will be part of the NY Comedy Festival on Nov. 14th at The Creek. Lauren is a fascinating person who explained to me he was born as a male but developed as a female. He kept waiting for his penis to grow in but when it didn’t by his 7th birthday, he had to adjust. It’s a story of not fitting in, and one that I’m anxious to see. He is a fascinating, warm, honest person and I hope his show does well.
Come back next week, when I’ll talk all about being a judge at the Andy Kaufman Awards and more!
Visit Jeffrey’s website at comedymatterstv.com, where you can watch his interviews with everyone in comedy who matters! Pictured below, me with Penny Marshall, Joel McHale and Richard Pryor Jr.