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 hit up the Gotham Comedy Club, DocNYC and more!
Brad Trackman wrote Anthony Cumia’s life story called “Permanently Suspended” from Simon and Schuster and it comes out tomorrow. He got a blurb from Artie Lange for the cover of the book. They had been texting each other about it, and in trying to help, Artie took a screenshot of the blurb and Tweeted it. Only problem was he accidentally included Brad’s name and phone number and for days Brad was getting non-stop calls and texts not only from the US but from countries like Ireland and Australia. He told me that working with Anthony was a great experience and that he would address him and introduce him to others as “the book guy.” I hope he gets better credit on the cover! The foreword was written by Jim Norton. Should be a fun book!
Avery Pearson from Goddam Comedy Jam had a fantastic musical comedy show called “The 88 Show” which he hosted down at New York Comedy Club’s newest location and especially because he invited me personally I dropped by for the hang with Josh Adam Meyers, Big Jay Oakerson, Chris Redd, and Dulce Sloan. The 88 Show is a late night variety show that Avery hosts out in LA at The Hollywood Improv, with him on keyboard. Guests actually create original comedy songs and perform them live right on the spot. Avery tours nationally with Adam Ray and his video “I’m Not Equipped To Be A Father” which starred Tiffany Haddish and Chris Redd, was featured by Funny or Die.
I went to see the new Jesus Trejo documentary called “Care to Laugh” at the Cinepolis Chelsea Theatre as part of the 9th annual NYC Documentary Festival, DOC NYC. Jesus, who I met when he was one of the “New Faces” at Just for Laughs back in 2016, was supposed to be there but was unable to attend as he just booked another episode of Gabriel Iglesias’ new Netflix TV show called “Mr. Iglesias” and it’s the third episode he’s been on so far.
The doc, which is a year in the life of Jesus, represents the first feature produced by AARP Studios, (you heard me correctly!) and is a heart-warming story of how Jesus balances a burgeoning stand-up career with being the caretaker for his elderly parents who are not doing so well health-wise. He’s an only child who lives with them, takes them to their doctor’s appointments, and makes their lives as easy as he can while hitting open mics with as little as two people in the audience, as well as performing at better attended regular club shows, leading up to his killer late night debut with James Corden on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
AARP Studios is dedicated to creating content relevant to the huge Boomer and Gen-X audiences, “inter-generational” as EP Jeffrey Eagle referred to them, and the film is packed with comic faces like Bobby Lee, Owen Smith, Pauly Shore and lots more all talking about Jesus’ dedication to the craft of making people laugh. It was very heart-warming film and will make you want to call your parents! Not only was Jeffrey Eagle there but I also got to meet and congratulate director Julie Getz, who welcomed me to the theatre and who is also the Director of Development at AARP Studios.
I stopped off at Andy Engel’s New Talent Show at Gotham Comedy Club and was pleasantly surprised when Jim Gaffigan made a surprise visit. He did about 20 minutes and among others, told a very funny story about having to be airlifted by helicopter while in Alaska due to an appendicitis attack, which he sincerely hoped did not turn out to just be gas! He was airlifted to have surgery and is just fine. Needless to say there was also a lot of material about food.
Beth Stelling headlined Gotham this past weekend and I stopped off to catch the show. At the show I attended there wasn’t a seat left open. The place was absolutely packed, and Beth graciously hung out afterwards and thanked me and everyone else for coming. She just wrapped writing for what she referred to as Season 1B of Sarah Silverman’s Hulu show “I Love You America” where Sarah tries to bring us all together by putting out the message that people should not be divided by their differences in beliefs. Something sorely needed today where everyone is angry about something. Beth, who also wrote for the first two seasons of Crashing has already done two half hours, one for Netflix and one for Comedy Central and is working on putting together her first whole hour, network unknown as of now, but if she had her choice she said she’d like to tape it in Chicago where she first got her start.
I was excited to see huge billboards around town of my pal Hasan Minhaj announcing his new Sunday night Netflix show “Patriot Act” and even more excited to find out that he’d be appearing at the 92Y this past Friday night. The 92Y has been outdoing itself lately bringing in major comedy figures for special events, and this was another great one. Each of the episodes I saw is kind of like a short one-man show on pertinent topics like our dependence on oil, and the one they showed at the Y on “Affirmative Action.”
Hasan is very animated in his delivery and it’s a multi-media production which I always appreciate. The evening started out as a one to one interview moderated by Vinson Cunningham, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and then they were joined by EP Jim Margolis and Prasanth Venkataramanujam, which even Hasan didn’t dare try to pronounce, and which Prasanth joked about himself. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for him as a child to learn how to write his own name. Jim is also the show runner and Prasanth is a writer on the show. The episode they showed dealt with Asian students who feel discriminated against by Harvard admissions, where they’re only 22% of all students, while Hasan noted that Asian parents who emphasize education would probably only be happy with 100%.
After the event we went backstage to greet Hasan and congratulate him and we shot an Instagram video in which he laughingly described me as his “lucky charm”. I’ve known him for several years having first met up in Montreal at JFL, and have supported his talent ever since. I was there at the Cherry Lane Theatre for the premiere of his hit show “Homecoming King” which as a Netflix special won a 2018 Peabody Award. I had seen him do the story on earlier performances and was so moved by it that I told him it would make a great one-man show. I shared the excitement with him when he became a correspondent on The Daily Show, which lasted four years, and then again when he hosted the White House correspondent’s dinner last year. So it was a great feeling to see him now the master of his own show. I never had any doubt that he would make it big.
When Lisa Lampanelli told me she quit stand-up comedy I could almost hear the relief in her voice. I wasn’t really surprised. I was actually surprised she was able to have kept doing it so long. I think it’s very hard to create a persona that is opposite to who you really are and which can often be misunderstood, … especially these days, when there’s an entire segment of the population that can not WAIT to be offended by something.There was a reason that Lisa had been known as not just The Queen of Mean, but as “The Loveable Queen of Mean.” Anyone with an IQ over 11 knew she was always coming from a good place. She made fun of everyone starting with herself. She probably made fun of gays the most and they were her biggest fans, as well as her main charity.
I know Lisa long before she became really famous, and saw her agonize more than once about whether the audience was truly getting what she was about. One particular time in Montreal at Just for Laughs was a particularly stressful time for her when the audience wasn’t sure how to take her “insult” comedy. And it bothered her to the point where she said, “I’m quitting comedy.” And then she went on to become a superstar, selling out Radio City and Carnegie Hall during her stand-up career. But around late 2013 when her beloved Dad got sick she started what I can only refer to as her Spiritual transformation which led to her having weight-loss surgery and losing 107 pounds, and going through what I can only describe as a “Spiritual divorce” in which she introduced her ex-husband Jimmy Cannizzaro to his new wife Jenna, and made them part of her extended family. Lisa has always had a good heart so when she announced her departure from stand-up comedy on Howard Stern recently, and said she was transitioning not sexually but to become a story-teller and Life Coach, it made perfect sense. She had been thinking about it for quite a while, and she tends to do these major things only after she has thoroughly thought them through.
I had attended all of the incarnations of her one woman shows, starting with the early readings of “Bring Back The Fat Chick” which I believe became “Stuffed” the off-Broadway play, where she started carrying her message of empowerment, and self-love. I was with her when she made her singing debut at The Friars Club. When she did her AOL Build talk to announce her Grammy nominated album “Back to the Drawing Board” she honored me by having me moderate the four camera shoot and it was amazing. We talked all about Spiritual principles, food, body-issues, self-empowerment and achieving your goals in life.
When Ron Bennington, king of Sirius XM radio helped me create a radio pilot called “The Happiness Show” to teach people how to bring Happiness into their lives, my first three guests were Colin Quinn, Susie Essman, and Lisa Lampanelli to talk about how they bring Happiness into their own lives. She was also prominently featured in my “Laughing Legends” book about the history of The Comic Strip, where she got passed by legendary booker Lucien Hold himself after preparing on the road for about 7 years before attempting her audition. We have a long history.
So Lisa and I had made plans to meet up backstage at The Gramercy Theatre before she went onstage to perform her newest ensemble piece called “Losin’ It” as part of the New York Comedy Festival. When I got there she was in her dressing room with her niece Christine Schiefer and Christine’s podcast partner Em Schulz, the hosts of “And That’s Why We Drink.” And typical of the new Lisa Lampanelli’s selflessness she wanted the focus to be on them.
She said their podcast had suddenly blown up, and was a HUGE hit, and that she was so proud of them. Christine and Em described it to me as “a paranormal and true crime podcast that comes out every Sunday”, and it was written about in the New York Times as one of the hottest podcasts around. So I wound up shooting two separate videos with Lisa, one mostly about “And That’s Why We Drink”, and a separate one with just Lisa and I, with her talking about my best selling book on Happiness and how much she enjoyed it because of the principles that we share. The audiobook will be out next month sometime. You can see the first video on my Comedy Matters TV channel on You Tube.
“Losin’ It” was great and it had Lisa being just one of the ensemble of story-tellers, with her mainstay Frank DeCaro from SiriusXM, Lauren Ann Brickman from UCB and Lisa’s former play “Stuffed” and Eden Malyn from Orange is the New Black. It was about empowerment, body image, and learning to love yourself, and incorporated a game show and a Q&A with the audience. A really fun evening of entertainment with a very powerful message. Major congrats to Lisa on this major life choice.
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. Pictured, Jeffrey with Hasan Minhaj.