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 covered the scene in at The Stand, the New York Comedy Club and Gotham Comedy Club.
I went to Gotham Comedy Club over the weekend to see Jon Lovitz headlining. I had no idea what to expect from Jon’s stand-up act and I have to say it was one of the most unique and eclectic type of acts I’ve seen. Add HILARIOUS as well. It’s a mix of regular stand-up, political comedy which often doesn’t mix well with regular stand-up, but Jon makes it work great as he looks at things from both sides of the proverbial coin. You’re not really sure what side he’s taking as he skewers both equally. Then he ends the show with a shocker– musical comedy. He ends on a medley of Bob Saget themed songs that are are mad funny.
He had two shows the night I went, and after the first we sat down to chat. He was accompanied by his little dog Jerry, who also attended the rehearsal for GCL. Owner Chris Mazzilli joined us.We talked about all kinds of things, starting out with Jon acknowledging how hard it is to do stand-up. He’s been doing it for 10 years after starting out at the Laugh Factory in LA. During his SNL days, Dennis Miller tried to get him to do it at Catch a Rising Star, but he didn’t feel ready . He still thanks Lorne Michaels whenever he sees him, and said he still can’t believe he was on SNL. He said he had done The Groundlings and was looking to perform to a larger audience but never thought in his wildest dreams that he’d wind up on SNL. He was recommended to Lorne by Laraine Newman and Charles Grodin, and during his whole five years, he still found it hard to tell people he was on SNL because it seemed so surreal to him.
We reminisced about hanging out together at Columbus Cafe back in the 80’s which was on 69th and Columbus and how we both had the experience of meeting David Bowie and Mike Tyson there along with Danny Aiello, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And we talked about the magic of SNL being on for 40 years, and he said he was at SNL’s 40th anniversary show. And to show you the caliber of guests, in his row alone was Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Robert DeNiro with his wife Grace, and Christopher Walken, and right in front of him was Eddie Murphy. When I asked him what was coming up for him, he said he had a new residency in Vegas, but couldn’t tell me where it is yet.
I popped over to New York Comedy Club, … well really to its next door restaurant, comic Alex Carabano’s place The V-Spot for a viewing party for Jason Scoop, who was one of the contestants on the new Dana Carvey USA Network vehicle First Impressions. Jason Scoop did his first impression at five years old, and it was an impression of Bernie from “Weekend at Bernie’s.” I got to know Jason a bit by driving home together from a gig we did out in the burbs. I’ve always been fascinated by performers who did impressions and somehow I managed to have written for some of the greatest including Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, and Fred Travalena. Jason says he works from videos and insists that you have to capture the person’s essence before you capture their voice or expressions.
He taped the show in February, when he went out to LA for five days, and had to keep it a secret for the past four months that he won the $10,000 grand prize. He jokingly said he spent it all already! Jason was psyched about doing Opie and Jim on SiriusXM this past week and he said they love when he does his Bill Burr impression. I asked him to do it for me, and I thought Bill had suddenly shown up. I asked him who he’d like to do that he hasn’t done yet and the answer was easy for him. Adam Sandler. He says he’s been working on him for a long time, but that Adam has, how he put it, a very versatile voice, and speaks in different ways in different situations. And he said he won’t be happy until he can do ALL of his voices! We all watched the show projected on to the wall of The V-Spot, and it was exciting to watch him win because none of us knew beforehand how it would turn out! He kept the secret well!
I was back at New York Comedy Club the very next night for the fundraiser and memorial show for Comedian Lord who left us very suddenly last month due to cancer. Several of the comedians said that they had seen him a couple of days before, and he had said he wasn’t feeling that well and was going home to rest. The general consensus of the packed crowd that turned out to honor him, which included several members of Lord’s family, was that he was a wonderful human being who cared more about his fellow performers than he did for himself. The testament to that was how many showed up to honor him and the caliber of the performances they brought to the stage. There were going to be two shows, one at 9 and one at 11. I got a secret text telling me that the rapper 50 Cent might be coming to the 11 P.M. show.
Being a big fan of “Fitty” myself I decided to get there a little bit after 9 and try and stay for both shows. The evening was produced by comics Matt Bridgestone, and Kenny Warren. Del Harrison who recently made the move to LA was in town to host as she was close to Lord, and she did an amazing job of keeping everything going and keeping everyone laughing. I sat off to the side with LaTice Klapa who wound up going up and some of the what felt like at least 30 comics who performed were in order of pigmentation, (LOL) and Matt Bridgestone representing the performers with the least amount of pigment, followed by comics with increasing amounts of melanin like Imagine who is Puerto Rican, Alvin Irby, Stephanie McRae, who was sitting in the audience with comic Aminah Imani, Joanna Briley, Wellie Jackson who often tours with Tracy Morgan, a funny dude named Big Baby, who said he weighed in at 290 pounds and I had no reason to doubt him, despite the fact that he literally almost lost his pants they were so low, Matt Richards, J.C. Knows Best and so many more. I have to admit I had not heard of many of the others, but every single one of them was really funny and gave 100%. Many of the comics did a little eulogy to Lord when they were done and everyone had such nice things to say about him. The first time we met may have been at my book party at The Comic Strip, for my book “Make ‘Em Laugh” on the history of that club. He stood out in my mind for his gentle way.
Around 11:30 or so somebody whispered to me that 50 Cent came in and sure enough he was sitting in the far back corner of the room with one girl on either side of him. At that distance, I couldn’t see how big he was, but I did see him laughing a lot. After the show finally ended, I waited for Fitty to come out. He mingled with the comics and the crowd and took photos with everyone who asked. That’s when I got to see how big the dude really is. No wonder nine bullets couldn’t stop him. He’s like a building with clothing. Some of the deets are secret, but it seems that 50 Cent’s doing a show with A&E that Matt is on. It’s gonna be a variety series called “ 50 Cent Presents”, hosted and produced by Fitty, involving sketch comedy, and music and showcasing new talent. I was glad I got to tell him how much I enjoyed his music and how I still play “ In Da Club”, and actually that whole CD “Get Rich or Die Tryin’ from back in 2003, when I’m cruising in my whip! (LOL)
I dropped by the Soho International Film Festival at the Village East Cinema on East 11th Street to visit with my friend Sibyl Santiago, the Executive Director of the festival and also to see Bobby Cannavale, currently starring in HBO’s Scorsese/Jagger project Vinyl. He was there to support a friends’s short film called Mired, and I almost didn’t recognize him. His hair was short and he was wearing a baseball cap, jeans and sneakers, but I did get to congratulate him on his role as Richie Finestra and his new role as a dad to his son Rocco. And he told me to send his best to Andrew Dice Clay who he said he loves! They got tight while filming the pilot for Vinyl. Are you listening Dice?
Stopped by The Stand and caught Derek Gaines hanging out. He’s waiting for the third season of MTV’s Joking Off where he is also in the cast as well as a new show on truTV that he’s on that should be out in August called Best Ever. He said it’s like a talking head show where they’ll be commenting on the “best” things like “Best Weddings.”
And Aaron Berg was celebrating getting his green card as he’s originally from Canada. He jokingly said that now that he got it he can call off his wedding. Luckily his fiancee is comic Christine Meehan so she can take a joke. He said it took five years and cost him about 20 G’s.
The producers of Gotham Comedy Live will gladly vouch for the fact that I have attended almost every one of their shows in the six seasons it’s been on. They joke that I’ve been there more than they have. So this week I had a life-changing event happen when I actually got to perform on the show with my old pal Jon Lovitz as the host. Now I can give you the inside scoop of how the show runs.
It took me about a year or more to get on, as it’s a show that every comic in the world wants to do. And Executive Producer Chris Mazzilli can only put on four comics every show. And NO ONE can ask for any favors. They really have to feel that you’ll do well in order to put you on. I was on with Kenny Garcia, Janelle James who told me very coincidentally that she’s also writing on the aforementioned 50 Cent project, and Peyton Clarkson. I didn’t know for sure I was doing it until I got my contract. The day of the show, it was hard to get through the day waiting for the excitement of the evening. I just kept thinking “I just wanna go up already!” We all got there before 7 to check in and have dinner down in the lounge.
After we ate, director Bob Lampel came down and gave us a little pep talk. First, he rehearses the order of the show with the host and then we went upstairs and blocked out everything we had to do. He laughingly said that I should know what to do since I’ve been at almost as many GCL shows as he has. We don’t rehearse the performance. After rehearsal and blocking which ends around 9, you just sit and wait till around 9:45 when they bring the performers up to the showroom to their table. And then the excitement really builds. The room was packed tight. Drew Fraser built the crowd into a frenzy and then Jon Lovitz came out to thunderous applause. I was slated to go on third which was perfect. Jon gave me a very gracious introduction referencing our friendship going back to the 80’s, and I literally ran onto the stage. All the anxiety evaporated with the laughs from my first joke and I felt like I wanted it to go on forever, but 8 minutes goes very fast. I hope to be able to post the video when I get it so you can see for yourselves. It was an incredible experience and a dream come true for me. And the producers were thrilled with Jon as they told me that they had wanted him to do the show for a long time.
I drove up to Port Chester to check out the scene on Three Drink Minimum, the podcast hosted by JC Knows Best, and to give Kevin Gootee what JC felt was a taste of his own medicine. Kevin is the host of the new independent show “Comics Watching Comics” in which comics judge other comics, often harshly, and the viewing audience gets to vote on which judge they want to return. I was asked to judge a 5 minute set from Kevin himself for the podcast. I had promised to be honest, which I was. We commented on everything from his style of dress, which included shorts and flip flops, to the content, and his material, and it was a really fun show to do.
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 50 Cent, Jon Lovitz, Matt Richards, Jason Scoop.