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 reports from The Soho Film Festival, Gotham Comedy Club, The Stand, The Actor’s Temple and More.
What a comedy week. This week some nights I was at several events.
It started on a Sunday at the Soho International Film Festival for the premiere of the film The Networker starring a talented actor named Steve Stanulis and directed by John A. Gallagher who will be directing my next film called Men of Violence which was announced on IMDb and has Vincent Pastore and Cathy Moriarty cast in two of the lead roles. But what was exciting to me was seeing my old pal comic Phil Nee who was also in the film playing a Chinese businessman, which was really weird because as you can see in the photo, he’s not even Asian! (LOL) He plays a Chinese businessman who convinces Steve’s character to host an Italian dinner for two of his Chinese colleagues and the result is very funny as you might imagine. Coincidentally we wound up sitting next to each other in the theatre, and I was with a girl named Gigi and he was with a girl named Cici. He told me that in the original script he had 12 lines in Mandarin which he doesn’t speak. I believe he speaks a Shanghai dialect, so he worked very hard to learn the Mandarin lines even more than he worked on his English lines and then the part got cut, after all that work. But Phil’s been very busy on TV. He’s done Kimmie Schmidt, played a tongue piercer on HBO’s Girls, and was in The Mysteries of Laura as well. Plus he liked my line about Chinese people being the smartest people in the world. They have to be. They figured out how to speak Chinese! No one else can do it!
That same night I went to see Hatem Gabr’s second annual Comedy on Broadway show, which he called Up Close and Personal. There were two shows at The Liberty Theatre that night and we got there a little early to check out the scene. They set up the room really nice like in a cabaret, and you can order food and drinks during the show. We got there while the first show was still on. Greer Barnes was on stage and I could honestly watch Greer all night. He’s that funny. He’s recognized by his peers aa a comedy powerhouse and besides doing such funny material, he does amazing sound effects and body movements. Like when he imitates Barack Obama swimming underwater to fix the massive oil leak a few years back, at the end of the bit he swims to the surface, and the way he moves his body on stage makes it look exactly like he’s swimming to the surface. It’s truly amazing. So anyway after the first show, Gigi and I are chilling near the stage and I hear someone calling my name from the balcony. It’s Greer telling me to come backstage. So we did and found everyone on the second level literally sitting in the pitch dark. No lights at all. Luckily I had my little pocket flashlight!
Sherrod Small was hosting, as he does so well, and told me he was looking forward to doing Opie and Jimmy this coming week which will already have happened by the time you read this. I managed to see Kevin Brennan sitting on a couch waiting patiently to go onstage. He was so funny as was Phil Hanley who went on after him, and looked like a thin woodsman! Phil’s writing is just so sharp and his jokes are so clever, and not predictable! That is a good thing! Greer closed the show, and said “I smoke marijuana, sometimes, a lot, every day! Dan Naturman also had a great set, using me as a foil for a couple of questions to the audience. It was a really cool show.
The next night I went to cover Bob Greenberg’s annual comedy benefit for the Actor’s Temple on West 47th Street with Rabbi Jill. It was also an evening in honor of Joe Franklin who used to attend every year, and if the comics had a Joe Franklin story they got an extra minute on stage. I did a set and did a couple of bits that Joe always told me he liked. He used to sit right up front and cheer everybody on. There was no greater supporter of comedy than Joe Franklin. He showed up at The Metropolitan Room only three weeks before he passed away. He was so weak but he showed up anyway to be the Grand Marshall of the longest variety show on record. A 60 hour show. And he got up on stage and told jokes, and for that moment he looked stronger. I was at his hospice bedside the night he left us to pay my respects and say a prayer for him. The benefit was a super lineup with Bob as the host, and Stone and Stone kicking off the show, followed by great comics like Scott Blakeman, Rhonda Hansome, Nancy Lombardo, Dave Konig, Steven Scott, Sassi, Mike Fine, and Stewie Stone.
Bob Greenberg’s been touring with Old Jews Telling Jokes in the character of Morty, from Philly to Maryland and just finished four weeks in Providence, Rhode Island. And when I asked him if there would be more shows he said he didn’t know. I guess it brought him luck because a day later he texted me to let me know they just asked him to do a run at the George Street Theatre in New Brunswick in December, and will send him back to his home in NJ every night, to spend more time with his family, who misses his company. It would have been weird if they just sent him to New Jersey and he didn’t live there!
Steven Scott recently shot a pilot for the Travel Channel and it was shot at the airport. He gave this advice. When you’re at the airport, never say you’re there to shoot a pilot! Great advice. And my personal advice is if you’re ever boarding a flight and you unexpectedly see your friend Jack getting on the same flight, don’t yell out to him, “ Hi Jack”! You’ll wind up in prison! ( Sorry! I had to do it! Couldn’t help it!)
A lot of comics are branching out and using their comedic talents in different ways. Rhonda Hansome, who I know since she used to perform under the name Passion is directing a play called Ugly Is A Hard Pill at the Hudson Guild Theatre in July. Dave Konig recently did a guest spot on Louie, playing of all things the owner of The Comic Strip. But they didn’t call him Richie they called him Matchie! It was actually filmed at The Strip, with Steven Wright present as a producer on the show, and who also played the MC who introduced Louis to the stage. Dave’s part as the club owner was to try and convince Louie to stay and host the open mic. I’m not gonna tell you what happened! I know, … but I’m not telling! Dave’s got a new web series currently in post production that he did with Ross Bennett called Addicted to Show Business. And Mike Fine who had an article in the NY Post recently about his “cuddle films” where he cuddled over 10,000 women has been getting lots of offers for things since that article came out. He said he’s been getting offers for endorsement deals, a YouTube channel and he’s doing Anthony Cumia’s show this week to talk about it. And even Stewie Stone, an old friend and the VP of The Friars Club graced the stage to do a set. Stewie’s been opening for Frankie Valli for 47 years, which is weird cause he’s only 50! No actually he announced his age as 76 and looks great after surviving a battle with throat cancer, and coming out with an intact voice and sense of humor! He just got back from doing The Borgata where he’ll be performing again soon with Frankie as well as at Westbury. When he saw me he told me I had his old hair!
But this past Tuesday night was a crazy night in comedy for me. I started out by stopping by the Irish Exit on 51st and 2nd to see if I could catch Mark Normand or Gary Vider at their weekly show called Hot Soup. They were both out of town but instead I ran into Matt Ruby, who I had just performed with at Hi Fi Lounge the week before without knowing that he’s the third partner in the Hot Soup show. Matt’s got a cool show called Vooza, which you can see on Vooza.com. It’s a web series about a phony start-up company and they just shot their 100th episode. They shoot it in an office on Union Square. And I got an inside tip that he’s got a brand new show with Dan Soder and Joe List called Club Scale, where Dan and Joe play doormen at a nightclub, which I’m guessing is called Club Scale. Matt wrote and is producing it and it’s directed by Jesse Scaturro. Jon Fisch was the first comic I saw as I entered the room and that was great because I hadn’t seen him for a while, and we got a chance to catch up before the show started. Jon’s doing a new podcast with Kendra Cunningham called It’s Not You, It’s Us! and will be produced by Andy Fiori, who I see all the time up at Sirius XM as he also produces Bill Engvall’s Off The Cuff Show on Blue Collar Radio. He also used to do the late night show that I hosted for a couple of years at The Comic Strip where so many of todays up and comers got their start. I asked Jon how he picked Kendra to be his co-host and he explained that they were relatively the same age, also seemingly normal as compared to most and yet both still single. In this podcast, they’re trying to figure out what went wrong and who to blame. It will start on Sound Cloud in a couple of weeks. They will have one guest a week and their first guest will be Ophira Eisenberg.
And just as I was about to leave to catch another show Nick Vatterott popped in to host the evening, so I stuck around a few minutes to see what he was up to. Nick’s been busy playing gigs in Milwaukee, then Cleveland, just the night before, and was off to do three shows in Virginia, all in “alternative venues” as he described them. More and more shows are being done, not in regular comedy clubs. There are just so many comics these days that there are not enough traditional comedy clubs to handle them. So after a brief chat with Jeremy Levenbach who books the show, and was kind enough to take the photo below of me and Nick, I left to check out what I thought was going to be a fundraiser for the victims of the 2nd Avenue gas explosion, that was to be held at Eastville Comedy Club on East 4th Street. When I got there, I saw lights and video cameras and I thought to myself, “Wow, this benefit is getting news coverage. Very cool!”
So I walked across 4th street right towards the entrance of Eastville and as I got there who walks out the door but Jim Gaffigan and Steve Buscemi. And just as I was about to yell out, ” Hey guys” a guy walked over to me, tapped me on the shoulder and said “Excuse me sir, we’re shooting a scene here!” Turns out I accidentally walked into a scene from The Gaffigan Show. I felt like one of those guys who accidentally wanders onto The White House lawn, and gets past security guards cause he’s not trying to hide anything, and gets too close to the President! Afterwards, I thought it was very funny!
So I headed down to the Comedy Cellar cause I knew I’d have fun there but I had no idea how much fun was in store for me. As I walked down what has become like a comedy block, I saw guys from Greenwich Village Comedy Club, then the Grisly Pear and as I got to The Cellar I didn’t even have to go inside. Sitting outside at a table was Dov Davidoff, Keith Robinson, Dan Naturman, and Artie Lange along with Steve Fabrikant who runs the room. It was so good to see Artie who I hadn’t seen for a while. Artie told me he’ll be doing Montreal this summer at Just for Laughs after a hiatus of 16 years. He’s doing the whole two weeks up there that they do in English, and will be doing two podcasts and every Nasty Show. His podcast is now called Artie Lange Uncensored which he does here from Monday thru Thursday. And it’s at artiequitter.com
Soon we were joined by Gina Yashere who was also on the 9:30 show, but I was wondering why none of these guys were going inside to perform. They weren’t on the 9:30 show. They were just there to hang out. Dov told me he recently shot an hour special in Chicago at a venue that was chosen by the producers, The Vick Theatre which holds about a thousand people. It’s tentatively titled Lower your Expectations which I can see Dov choosing for a title because as funny as he is, he’s a very humble guy. Everyone was trading funny stories as comics tend to do when they get together. Even if it’s a regular story it turns into a funny story the way they tell it, and I finally dragged myself away for
a minute to check the line-up for the 9:30 show and saw that John Mulaney was listed, so I figured I’d surprise him. I went downstairs to see Gina Yashere finish her killer set, talking about the things she’s does to purposely gross out the airport security guys who choose her “randomly” to search her luggage while she’s traveling.
Then Rory Albanese took the stage, and that was a treat cause Rory’s on hiatus from producing The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, and told me while he’s off he tries to get as much stage time as possible. Rory tells jokes but like most of the guys these days is also a story teller. It was good to have a chance to catch up with him cause when I went to Wilmore, he’s so busy during the shoot he barely has time to say “ Hi!” As he finished his set I went out in the corridor to greet him and who was there but John Mulaney waiting to go on next. He was like, “Gurian, what’s up?”, but I could see he was looking at some notes, and I didn’t want to disturb his concentration so I asked if we could speak for a minute when he was done. People LOVE John Mulaney and he had a great set, and afterwards we went upstairs with Rory to find ourselves at a little birthday party for Sean Donnelly who was hosting that night. The Cellar had a delicious chocolate cake for Sean, which was very nice and he cut the cake and served a piece to everyone who wanted one. Artie and I commiserated on how chocolate was like a drug as we both dug into our pieces, but how luckily nobody actually OD’s on chocolate!
Before John Mulaney left he told me he was taping a new special on May 30th at The Chicago Theatre which Artie said was a great place to perform. And Sean Donnelly was taping his The Half Hour for Comedy Central at The Royale Theatre in Boston some time in June. He’ll be doing @midnight in LA first with Chris Hardwick and then flying right to Boston to tape the CC special at the same time as Sam Morril who by that time also came in and joined us at the table. I suggested to Sam that he and Sean travel up there together which he said was a great suggestion, and was surprised he hadn’t thought of it! Then people kept straggling in and we were soon joined by Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane, Ryan Hamilton who’s been spending a lot of time on the road and was headed to San Jose, Nikki Glaser, who came in to do a set and have a bite to eat, and Ricky Velez who’s also on hiatus from Wilmore, and told me excitedly about having taped his first TV show appearance on Aziz Ansari’s new series on Netflix. They shot it on 8th street and 5th Avenue and he couldn’t believe how expensive it was to join SAG. He couldn’t divulge anything about the show except to say his appearance had something to do with tacos! Makes sense! A Puerto Rican kid from the Bronx, and tacos!
WPIX Morning News requested me to come on and discuss Letterman retiring and the history and future of late night TV which I did with Shawn Wayans, and Mickey O’Connor from T.V. Guide, and I was able to bring up how innovative both Steve Allen and Ernie Kovacs were. Steve Allen yelling out his “Schmock, schmock”, on TV which was probably code for “Schmuck, schmuck” which could never have gotten past the censors in the days when married couples couldn’t even be portrayed as sleeping in the same room and you couldn’t use the word “pregnant” on TV. Ernie died in a car crash at only 42 years old but was an innovator of a lot of the fun visuals you see on TV today, like working on a tilted set so everything looked a little bit off, and when he spilled his drink it would look like it was flying away. And I also got to say how I feel that Jimmy Fallon is the most gracious and versatile late night host there ever was. He makes his guests feel so welcome which is why they are very often willing to do such “out-of-character” things with Jimmy. Shawn Wayans had just flown in to headline at The Stress Factory and when Suki from WPIX asked him about the Letterman finale he said he hadn’t see it cause he was on a plane at the time, but he felt the energy of the whole thing 35,000 feet in the air! (LOL) After the show when I told Shawn I was friends with his niece Chaunte, he gave me the good news that she was opening for him. Very cool! And I called her to congratulate her. She told me she’d be performing in New York very soon, and we’ll hang out then. Shawn told me he’s developing a whole bunch of projects and would let me know the deets as soon as he was free to make them public. This is the link to our appearance.
Mel Brooks Executive Produced a great film called Sam, that premiered at the Soho International Film Festival, and his son Nick Brooks co-wrote and directed it. Nick’s co-writer was John A. Gallagher, mentioned above. John had a miraculous recovery this past year, from being burned in a fire and actually coming out of a coma, to produce and direct two other films that were also in the Soho Film Festival. He produced Enchantments, and directed The Networker. Sam is about a womanizing creep named Sam who goes into a mystical apothecary shop, who’s owner is played by Stacy Keach, and wakes up the next day in the body of a beautiful woman! Great story, great flick, great acting, including stars like Bryan Batt from Mad Men and the ever-beautiful Morgan Fairchild. I had read the script in it’s early stages and it really turned out great!
And I ended my Memorial Day week at The Stand, at Cipha Sound’s weekly midnight show which has been having great turn-outs, and cool line-ups. When I see Cipha work the crowd it makes me want to do it too! I’ve watched him progress into the really accomplished host he is now. He really knows how to warm up a crowd, and get them energized. Gibran Saleem was happy that his sister Neena came to visit from D.C. and watch his set. Glad for him that he had a good one! (LOL) Comic/Stand manager Tommy Kang had to get rid of a couple of unruly customers while one of the acts was on stage, and he totally stepped up and tossed the jerks out! But he’s very funny when he has to be! And Josh Wesson, who according to him is referred to by his friends as “Black Josh” , and who co-hosts the Fat Baby Show at The Stand on Thursday nights was performing as was his co-producer of Fat Baby, Ben DeMarco, a white guy who may be “blacker” than Josh! And Josh has dreads! They both had strong sets, and then Kyle Grooms popped in and sat with me for a bit. Kyle’s producing a theatre show with Mike Yard, Dan Soder and Carmen Lynch called the Summer All Star Comedy Series. It’s out in Metuchen, N.J. on June 20th at the Forum Theatre Arts Center so go check it out!
Anyway, I gave you enough so that’s it for me this week! I’m OUT!!!
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Subscribe to his YouTube channel. Jeffrey with comedian Phil Nee, Greer Barnes, Nick Brooks, Nick Vatterott. Jeffrey with Sean Donnelly, and Jeffrey with Artie Lange, Sean Donnelly and Rory Albanese.