Jeffrey Gurian is a writer, comedian and TV reporter 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 visited the Village Underground, Gotham Comedy Club, QED and more.
Ned Kenney didn’t start out as a comedy guy. He started out as a tech guy and entrepreneur, and after an initial meeting with comedy manager Peter Rosegarten in a diner and a lot of hard work, he came up with the app Laughable which had its official launch this past week at The Village Underground. It was very well-attended and when I got there I was taken to a table that I shared with Peter Rosegarten. Peter is on the board, and the show was made up of comics who are all on the advisory board. All great names in comedy and in podcasting which is what Laughable is all about.
Users will be able to track down all of the podcasts your favorite comedian has ever appeared on just by using this app. Just download it onto your phone and you’re good to go. Chemda from Keith and The Girl was the host. She once told me that the show is called Keith and The Girl because most people can’t pronounce the Hebrew name Chemda. That was proven by the first comic, Jared Freid, who was very funny, and a good choice to open the show. But even though he’s Jewish, he too didn’t pronounce Chemda. It kind of sounded like he said “Kemda.” And then addressing the industry populated audience he asked, “Any Jews?” And then realizing that was a given, he said, “What a question!”
Mark Normand, Joe List, and Liza Treyger, all performed. Joe told me he’s working hard on putting together an hour so he can do his first special. And Gary Gulman did his abbreviating the states bit that he did on Conan and I got a chance to tell him again just how masterful a piece it is. If there was a museum for jokes that bit deserves its own wing. Not many comics commit so fully to writing an entire bit like that. No stone is left unturned. Even Bobby Kelly who followed Gary and closed the show commented on how Gary is the best writer. After the show, Bobby told me he’s developing a story for Ari Shaffir’s storytelling show This Is Not Happening, for sometime this summer, and he will also be in Montreal at Just for Laughs. And because it was so dark where we were sitting and he noticed what a hard time I was having writing notes, he suggested I come up with a pen that has a light on it. We both know it already exists, but the light is always on the opposite side of the pen from the point. We agreed that if I invented that we’d become partners. And of course in the meantime, while waiting for our invention, he’s still doing his You Know What Dude podcast from upstairs at The Cellar which he tapes every Tuesday.
And then a bunch of us stayed for the New Joke Night show next door at the adjoining Fat Black Pussycat bar. I had to stay and watch Judah Friedlander because he’s always coming up with new stuff. HILARIOUS! Monroe Martin stopped by to try out some new stuff and told me he was going out to Utah to perform for the first time at Wiseguys and was bringing Ian Fidance with him. Ian is one of the “6 foot-nothing” crew that came out of Philly and Monroe said, “the road is always better when you get to bring a homie!” My man Nore Davis dropped by to do a set and told me he’s got a new monthly show at Starr Bar in Bushwick, Brooklyn called Uptown Downtown Comedy. He’s up to his third show and his first guest was Sasheer Zamata and then Mark Normand. It’s the third Wednesday of every month. Sitting in the bar waiting to go on was Rory Albanese and Chris Distefano, and Rory told me he just taped his first hour at The Music Hall of Williamsburg. He told me he had Mike Yard open for him and that Mike was so funny that on the 2nd taping, he asked him to tone it down a peg, and leave something for him! He also said that Jon Stewart popped in during the taping. If you don’t get the reference, Rory executive produced and wrote for The Daily Show for a long time. And Chris Distefano is doing something cool, he’s co-hosting Ultimate Beastmaster, Season 2 on Netflix with Tiki Barber coming out in June.
Tom Rhodes came to town to do multiple sets at The Cellar and The Stand and a guest appearance on Bennington. He also did New Joke Night at the Fat Black Pussycat bar, accompanied by his wife, Ashna, and then we all went out to dinner. Always fun to hang with Tom, … and Ashna too, of course!
Cipha Sounds was hosting at The Cellar and told me he’s still the only comic signed to Tidal, and he gets to see Jay-Z whenever he stops by the studio. He’s still doing his hip-hop improv show at UCB East on Friday nights and recently Black Thought from The Roots came by the show.
I’d like to clarify something and address some rumors going around. Certain people are saying that a couple of the opening shows at Crapshoot Comedy Festival were canceled due to low attendance. The day I got there, a day before the festival started, with my 10 person Be Terrific crew who needed time to set up, there were already windstorms with winds up to 50 mph that ripped through downtown Las Vegas. That did not bode well for ticket sales, or for my hair. In my naivete, I actually asked someone if we were near the ocean. They laughed and reminded me we were in the desert. Deserts have windstorms too, of course.
The severe winds continued the next day, the opening day of the fest, causing damage to two different venues, and forcing the closing of one of the box offices at Zappos Chambers. Zappos was a main sponsor of the fest. There was electrical damage at venue Ne10, and stage and chair damage at the outdoor venue Beauty Bar. The wind actually destroyed the Zappos Chambers set-up to the point where they had to arrange food trucks end-to-end to serve as a barrier to the wind. The fest lost walk-up sales as well as foot traffic on E. Fremont Street, which is the main street with most of the venues. All this is corroborated in an article in the Las Vegas Weekly.
The shows I went to were well-attended like the opening show at The Fiesta Room in the El Cortez Hotel & Casino with Matt Braunger and Kurt Braunohler. and then Dave Attell’s headlining show at Zappos Chambers with Brad Williams. The next night both of Bert Kreischer’s shows were sold out, as was the “Guys We Fucked” show, and all the comics I spoke to, … and there was a great lineup by the way, … told me they had a great time and were glad they came. Congrats to Paul and Kacky Chamberlain for pulling off a very difficult task and producing a festival in a city with so many competing sources of entertainment. There hasn’t been a comedy festival there for at least ten years, and I’m already looking forward to returning next year.
I was glad to see that Harris Stanton had a full room headlining at Gotham even though it was Memorial Day weekend, and on my way into the club, I ran into my boy Matt Richards who was leaving Gotham and on his way over to New York Comedy Club. He’s only in town for a few days on a break from writing for Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg’s show, Martha and Snoop’s Pot Luck Dinner Party. They just wrapped 20 episodes in two weeks this past Thursday, and I asked him what he does with Snoop and he said he “helps to make sure that Snoop has funny things to say.” He also said that Martha and Snoop are naturally funny together and are even funnier when they’re off the teleprompter. When he leaves New York, he’s off to work in Arizona and Canada to do Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy.
There’s no other way to describe Barry Katz’s career in comedy except to use the word “stellar” and even that falls far short. I’ve known Barry since the days when he owned Boston Comedy Club down in The Village, right around the corner from The Comedy Cellar. That’s about when he started his management company and just about immediately got four of his clients on Saturday Night Live. He can take credit for introducing Hollywood to the A-list talent of Dave Chappelle, Jay Mohr, Bill Burr, Dane Cook, Tracy Morgan, Darrell Hammond, Whitney Cummings and Louis C.K., among others. How’s that for your resume? And he brokered more than 100 TV development deals during his career and helped create and produce 7 seasons of Last Comic Standing. His podcast Industry Standard w/ Barry Katz features major behind-the-scenes players who have shaped the entertainment world like Doug Herzog, Warren Littlefield, Norman Lear, Garry Marshall, and Judd Apatow. But now he’s got something that’s truly unbelievable. He’s the main producer of a documentary film coming out this Wednesday, May 31st for just one night, all over the country called I Killed JFK. It would be in time for the 100th birthday of President John F. Kennedy, and the story Barry told me was unreal. I spent 40 minutes on the phone with him trying to get as many details as I could. Hopefully I remember them accurately.
He got a call one day from someone he didn’t know, asking him to meet with a guy who had something interesting to show him. The guy showed up at Barry’s office with a laptop computer, and showed Barry heretofore unseen footage about the assassination of JFK and who really did it. Barry tracked down the owner of the footage to Amsterdam and flew over there to negotiate the rights to using the footage. The story involves the C.I.A., Chicago gangsters, and about 100 people who have lost their lives in search of the truth. My first question to Barry was if he was in any danger himself by doing this film and exposing the truth after 54 years. He said he was in no danger because most of the people are dead already and nobody seems to really care anymore.
I asked him why only one show for something so Earth-shattering. He likened it to comedians four-walling a venue, and said it’s a very special event, and deserves one special showing. The actual killer of JFK and the only person alive who has ever admitted to shooting JFK has been in prison for the last 50 years until his recent release. The documentary claims that so many people knew that Kennedy was going to be shot, the only one who didn’t know was him. According to what Barry told me, and what was told to him by a national security expert who worked for five presidents, people actually flew in from all over the world to watch the assassination.
The documentary runs an hour followed by a 45 minute panel led by Barry where he speaks to five of the most respected Kennedy assassination experts, including a retired FBI special agent, a national security expert, Judyth Vary Baker, who was Lee Harvey Oswald’s lover and author of the best-selling book “Me & Lee” , and the Dallas journalist that inspired the Oliver Stone film, JFK. This is a film not to be missed and you can Google where it will be shown in your area. I ended my conversation with Barry by asking him who the actual shooter was, but then changed my mind before he could answer. Not realizing that as of Wednesday, everyone in the world would know who killed Kennedy, I felt like if I found out in advance I might be in danger!
The Comic Strip hosted the 10th annual New York’s Funniest Reporter contest as it has done for the last ten years. Reporters from TV and newspapers get up on stage and try and do stand up comedy for five minutes in a fundraiser benefiting The Humane Society. I got to coach Fox Business Reporter Jade Scipioni who had never been on a stage before doing stand-up comedy and she tied for first place with Ronn Blitzer, senior editor of LawNewz.com. Jade is the health and wellness reporter, and from the moment we met, I had a feeling she could win because she’s naturally funny. Her dad and boyfriend were in the audience, yet she didn’t let that stop her from doing certain material, … the sign of a true comic. Congratulations Jade. Wish I could have been there, but I was still at Crapshoot in Vegas.
I got a sneak peek at the newest episode of Vincent Veloso’s Amazon Prime series called Changelings:Cambions:kæmbiəns being released this coming Thursday and it’s crazy! The episode is titled Forlorn Lauren after its star, YouTube goddess Lauren Francesca. I play a dead guy that comes back to life and they even put my dead and decaying face on the poster. You’ll be able to see it both on Amazon and on Vimeo. Trust me it’s insane!
Brett Eidman is a comedian and actor who works very hard, and has been at it for at least 20 years. He’s been in sketches on SNL, had a one-man show called One Angry Man, does stand up at clubs, was at one time a Bozo the Clown performer, creates funny song parodies that go viral, and now has a documentary film called In The Name of Comedy that’s in festivals, won three awards and has been nominated six times. It just won at the Hang Onto Your Shorts Film Festival in Asbury, NJ for Best Documentary, and the film itself was inspired by a fake video. I called Brett and in his words, “Four years ago, I was a struggling unknown comic who would do just about anything to change that. I staged a very politically incorrect video, which went viral to the tune of 10 million hits. But my dream turned into a nightmare of threats and being blackballed due to the controversial nature of the video’s content.” This film exposes the truth about that whole scenario, and one of the comics weighing in with their opinions is Lisa Lampanelli.
I drove out to QED in Astoria to check out Tracey Carnazzo’s show, and Tracey is very busy. Besides producing her shows, she’s also doing two podcasts. One with Yannis Pappas and Justin Silver called Funny For Fido which is comedians and dog lovers, and all they talk about is dogs. Tracey herself has a mini-Dachshund named Nikki Sixx, and a chihuahua named Slash. A true rock fan. She’s also doing a podcast in a strip club with Allan Fuks, formerly Allan Finn, who went back to his original name because it sounds better for the podcast named The Week In Sex. They do it from the champagne room at Rick’s Cabaret, which she said is really fun with all the strippers, and she’s also opening for Dustin Diamond at Ha!, which I did a couple of months ago and it was a really fun gig.
And with that I’m OUT!!! Hope you’re all enjoying this Memorial Day weekend.
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, and watch Comedy Matters TV on Be Terrific. Photos below Jeffrey with Tom Rhodes, Matt Richards and Jade Scipioni.