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 at Gotham Comedy Club, New York Comedy Club, Westport CT, and the Village Underground.
It’s always great watching Ron Bennington do his Unmasked show as only he can do. An hour of in depth conversation with no notes. Just his memory, which seems to be infallible. And so it was with Bonnie McFarlane and her book You’re Better Than Me which is probably what Rich Vos says to her every day! It was at The Village Underground and the place was packed from stem to stern! (I guess I’m using old nautical expressions now!) Bonnie spoke of her very difficult early life in Canada, and talked about things often very hard to discuss but Ron creates the kind of safe environment where people feel secure enough to do that. And then at the end she signed books for everyone who was there. And Vos inhabited a tiny space that looked like a bird feeder to sell his CD’s. To his credit he said he didn’t want to step on Bonnie’s evening, but others insisted that he sell his CD’s so he did!
The folks from Just For Laughs were in town auditioning people in different clubs. I jumped over to The PIT to catch the character auditions. People who DO characters, not people who ARE characters! Jeff Singer was there with his new team of Hannah, and Nick B. to check out the talent. And there was a lot. I specifically liked Lucie Pohl who tours the world with her one woman shows and does so many voices and accents. Lots of agents there too, like Marcus Levy from APA, and Conan Smith from Buchwald, who I saw again later in the week at the JFL stand-up auditions at The Stand.
I caught the JFL auditions at Stand Up New York as well. Sean Patton was hosting and wound up doing the dreaded check spot, which is basically like standing on a highway and yelling out jokes to passing cars. That’s how much people are paying attention when they get their checks. Sean told me that usually nervous beginning comics get stuck with that spot, but he dove on a grenade for the sake of the show. I sat with Comedy Central Executive Joann Grigioni who kindly invited me to join her and Dave Kimowitz from The Stand who was there to watch one of his comics, Jordan Harris do his audition. One of the stand-outs was Tyler Fischer who really belongs on a show like SNL with his crazy characters. He’s very inventive and also does “prank” videos like when he snuck into Ikea and made believe he was a couples therapist. Keep an eye out for him! Michael Che dropped by and was sitting at the bar chatting with Kevin Iso, and then went to join Maureen Taran.
Jeff Singer explained to me that there are three categories of people auditioning for this Round 1 of auditions, repped, unrepped and people doing characters. He said that repped comics get submitted by their agents or managers, but even unrepped comics can get seen by sending in a link. But he prefers they come in early because it takes him and his team a couple of months to look at all the links. Round 2, for those who pass Round 1, will be sometime at the end of May.
Jared Freid went on last as one of the few unrepped comics, and he’s got a new show called College Night that he does on Thursdays. I asked him about his popular J-Train Podcast and how he chose that name. He said that J-Train was a nickname he gave himself in high school “to be a total douche”. He said he basically gave himself the worst nick-name he could think of. And then I showed him how little I knew about sports when he said it was also the first day of ”the tournament” and I said “What tournament”. Apparently it’s some kind of sports tournament. Not sure if it’s basketball or football. Either way I couldn’t care less but Jared got a good laugh out of my lack of sports knowledge.
In Westport, CT Lisa Lampanelli premiered the reading of her play Fat Girls, Interrupted. It was personally exciting for me to see Lisa fulfilling a dream, as I knew she had been working on this play for two years. She had previously been working on a Broadway show for four years, which has not come to fruition yet, but she said it was not at all a loss because she incorporated a lot of the “food” material into this play. She and the audience were genuinely thrilled to have internationally acclaimed, best selling author of women’s books, Jane Greer welcome people and offer the introductory remarks. So it’s Lisa, and three other actresses. Broadway’s Lisa Howard, star of TV and stage Patricia Kalember, and comedic actress Jessica Luck, make up the four women talking about women’s issues like weight, body image, abuse and self-esteem. The play carries a message of empowerment with Lisa telling her own true story and the other actresses telling stories that Lisa wrote for them using interviews from real people to draw on for inspiration. Three other plays will be following, … one on men and relationships, one on anger and one on grieving.
Afterwards I asked Lisa about her hair which she described as “Tiffany Blue.” It’s shaved up on the sides and she was wearing a blue ponytail. She said she had been inspired by Julianne Hough’s pink hair and intended to go pink for the Grammy’s. ( Her newest special Back to the Drawing Board was nominated) and she wanted her hair to match the pink dress she planned to wear. However her hair stylist convinced her that the pinks could never really match and suggested she go blue. She paired up the blue hair with pink lipstick, and now says that so many people liked it in the press that she’s afraid to wear anything else or “those bitches’ll come after me!” On top of that, she wound up being named to the best hairstyle list for The Grammys, along with Taylor Swift, so she plans to keep it cause she said it’s always been her favorite color. Look for her play to hit an off-Broadway theatre sometime in the Fall. And because she says she “loves money”, she’ll be breaking tradition by NOT having a Saturday night show so she can continue to do her stand-up and will instead do a Monday night show when most other theatres are dark! It will all be announced within about a month. Remember that you heard it first right here!
Comedy Juice continues to be a home for the Saturday Night Live crowd. The room was packed so I squeezed in with Sal Vulcano from truTV’s hit Impractical Jokers, and Chris Distefano from IFC’s Benders. Chris and I spent the time talking about his 10 month old daughter, and he does the best impression of his Puerto Rican wife. He says she’s so sexual he doesn’t want his daughter to hang out with her. Sal told some great stories too, and brought some prop graphics with him onstage to help illustrate the story. Kind of like show and tell. When Sal came out the applause was so loud you could hardly hear his name. When I asked him about the props he said he was like “ a fat Carrot Top”!
I made it out to Secaucus to judge Joe Loesner’s America’s Stand-Up Comedy Championship and Joe has created a very interesting model. Since 2013 Joe has been taking two beautiful rooms of the Meadowlands Plaza Hotel and converting them into the Meadowlands Comedy Club. One room holds around 125 people and the other holds around 250. This is a genius move since he doesn’t have to be saddled with maintaining a brick-and-mortar comedy club on a daily basis. He also does shows at a room on Plank Road, and at the Empire Hotel down the street. He got his start in radio from the legendary Sid Bernstein who was Joe’s inspiration. The Plank Road room claims Chris Rock as one of it’s alumni with a story of how he started out performing there in his earliest days for $30 plus cabfare. It was a cool event. There was an umpire who yelled out to one comic, “That was your funniest joke!”, there was a ring girl like in a boxing match, and then there was a surprise performance from Angel Salazar who came in, sat in the audience and then got up and did a great set at the end after the competition was over. Jason Scoop and Solo Jones were the two finalists with Jason taking the prize. As the winner Jason will get to close Joe’s Meadlowland’s Comedy Festival which runs from April 13-17th.
Jay and Lisa Ann had just gotten back from bringing Paid or Pain to SXSW and they told me they had a blast. Sold out show at The Hideout Theatre in Austin where Todd Glass did a guest spot, and they used local talent for the Paid or Pain part. In this show the audience votes on whether the comic gets paid, or whether he/she receives pain from a dominatrix. I asked him how the breakdown was and Jay said one paid, which means $20 bucks for a 6 minute set, two “pains” and one guy got both because the audience was tied three times in a row. Lisa Ann said it was the first time they did the show in a theatre space. It was stadium seating and was so cool to have a different feel. After the show almost everyone stayed for a meet and greet and she said she had so much fun she hopes they have a chance to go back.
Anyway, that’s all I got for ya 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, Comedy Matters TV. Photos below include Jeffrey with Lisa Lampanelli, Angel Salazar and Joe Loesner.