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, The Stand, Carolines on Broadway, Governor’s and more.
I had a big disappointment this week. After I did my article about my unusual experience at the HBO taping of Jerrod Carmichael’s new special 8 that came out this past weekend, it got a lot of heat because I always write such positive stuff and try and support everyone who deserves it, and this was just strange and unusual, which is how I described that second taping which was the only one I saw. The Interrobang wanted to do a story on Jerrod to coincide with the special coming out, and I was honored to hear that he requested that I do the interview. It was supposed to be this past Monday in New York, and at the last minute they said there was no time, and it didn’t happen. I was really looking forward to sitting and talking with him. Hopefully, another time. I watched the new special very late on Saturday night and I’m so glad I did. It was very different than what I saw the night of the taping. Bo Burnham did a great job of directing. We saw each other the night of the taping and did a quick “wassup”, but I had no idea he was directing. I just thought he was there to watch.
Anyway, the special was nothing like the taping I saw. Most of it probably came from the earlier taping. Jerrod is obviously a really smart dude, and very thoughtful, not like “polite” thoughtful, but meaning he’s a real thinker. He delivers his material with such confidence, and such interesting pacing, that you’d think he was just saying it for the first time. I was really glad to see how good it came out. Congrats Jerrod, … and Bo too!
And just in time for Passover, coming up soon, I popped into The Friars Club to catch Alan Zweibel’s book signing for his new book For This We Left Egypt? a modern comical version of a Passover Haggadah, co-written with Pulitzer prize-winning author and columnist/humorist par excellence Dave Barry who still has a great head of hair, and New York Times best-selling author Adam Mansbach, author of Go The F*** To Sleep. The book says that Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel are Adam’s only friends. Gilbert Gottfried opened the evening by telling two filthy jokes while Alan’s 8 year old grandson Zach, stood right in front of him. Alan later thanked him for that and for reading the room so carefully. All three authors took turns at the mic. The book is written from left to right and Dave Barry said if you read it the wrong way, it’s a lot sadder.
Alan said that Adam was the inspiration for the book, and as Adam explained, “A couple of years ago, I got kicked out of a Seder for making too many jokes, and I thought to myself, ‘Hey, there’s money to be made here!” The book cover sports a quote from G-d himself, and as for facts, Alan says they relied a lot on Rabbi Google.
Afterwards, I caught up with Gilbert and his wife and asked what they had going on. A director named Neil Berkeley has made a doc on Gilbert called Gilbert and it just got accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival, which will be shown at the SVA Theatre on West 23rd Street later on in April.
Monday night, I started out at Ray Gootz’s show that he produces with Linda Smith at Carolines. They’ve been doing it for about two years. It’s basically a showcase for new talent, but they also bookend the new talent with experienced talent like Aaron Berg who was hosting the night I went, Katie Hannigan and Carmen Lynch. Great crowd, really fun show. Ray is a character, … in the best sense of the word. In the lobby, I ran into Reg Thomas and his buddy Justin from The Comic Strip. They rode downtown with me to go to New Joke Night at The Comedy Cellar’s Fat Black Pussycat Room, but on the way over, I stopped off to schmooze with Steve Fabricant who manages The Cellar during the week. We caught up on some comedy goings-on, and then I went around the corner to Fat Black, on the way passing the long line for Judd Apatow’s ACLU benefit at the Cellar’s Village Underground, and went into Fat Black to run into TV producer Dan Pasternack and Rob Barnett the founder of My Damn Channel, at a table with Harrison Greenbaum, Sherrod Small, and Michael Che.
I made my way through the velvet curtains into the dark, intimate showroom where Wil Sylvince was hosting the “New Joke” show. Comics come up to do new untried material, very often on paper, and it’s fun seeing works in progress develop. Most of the jokes work because the comics are experienced enough to know what’s funny. Every once in awhile, something doesn’t, but they know how to handle it like when Ryan Hamilton simply said to the audience, “That’s the quietest I think that anybody’s ever been for some of my new material.” But then, they go on and the next line gets a big laugh. The more self-deprecating, the more the audience likes it. Most of the time, they’re pulling for you to make it work. Phil Hanley came up with papers that he referred to periodically, and what is really different about this show is that Wil yelled out questions to Phil and to the other comics about their material while they were performing on stage. Never saw that before. Like a little mini-interview. Or controlled heckling. If an audience member did that, they’d get thrown out!
Liza Treyger got up and told a story that she needed to tell about losing her virginity to prepare for another show that she was doing, and I got to see my buddy, Hasan Minhaj who I hadn’t seen for too long. After his set, we hung out for a minute upstairs in the green room and he told me he’s in a movie with Scarlett Johansson called Rock That Body (now titled Rough Night). It’s his first studio feature and I guess there’s a wedding scene because he said he plays one of the groom’s friends. He also said he’s been traveling a lot doing field pieces for The Daily Show, and that even though he loves what he does, the traveling is pretty rigorous and not as fun as it sounds.
In the short-lived, but amazing HBO series Vinyl, Andrew “Dice” Clay who plays a radio station owner, gets killed by a radio promotion bad guy named Joe Corso, played by ex-NYPD legendary detective Bo Dietl who is now running for mayor of NYC. At a fundraiser for Bo the other night, I got to reminisce with him about the days when we hung out at Columbus Cafe back in the 80’s, and I got to ask him how it was working with Dice. He said he loved Dice and they had a lot of fun on the set. He had to kill him by bashing his head in, and he said they had four prosthetic heads for Dice and they all looked exactly like him. And every time he had to bash in one’s head he looked up and Dice was standing there smiling. Bo would make a tough, but sensitive mayor and he speaks from the heart.
I ran up to catch Frantic! at The Stand also hosted by the same Aaron Berg who was hosting Ray Gootz’s show earlier that night. The man is a beast! I sat at a table in the middle of the room and most of the comics put their phones on my table to film their sets, cause I was right in the center. Molly Austin came and sat down next to me and set up her little table tripod with her phone on it and had it on pause. I assumed she was getting ready to film herself. When the next comic came on she started to film him instead. I whispered to her, “Are you under the impression that you’re up on stage now performing because that’s not YOU! It’s a guy!” and we both had a good laugh, but had to stifle it so it wouldn’t come out on the tape.
Aaron kept announcing that there was going to be a special guest to close the show. Big Jay Oakerson came on last and shortly after he started, he too announced a special guest and brought up Sal Vulcano where they did a mash-up and stayed on stage together. I’ve seen them do it before and it works because they play well off each other. Sal came up wearing his backpack because he said he forgot to take it off. They both referenced me from the stage, which is always fun. They also tried to get a white girl with a boyfriend, (who wasn’t there), to make out with her black male best friend, but neither of them would do it. Somewhere during the course of this evening, I think I lost my Olympus audio recorder. It had two years of info on it and it wasn’t backed up. If anyone reading this knows someone who found an Olympus recorder, please let me know. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Comedy Juice was fun this week and as I came in, I ran into Janeane Garofalo hanging outside the showroom with owner Chris Mazzilli. I foolishly asked her if she was on the show as if she might just come in to hang out. As I was asking, we both started laughing at my almost rhetorical question. Matteo Lane went up and asked the audience who was gay, but didn’t get much of a response, even though the club is in Chelsea, so he chose someone he thought was gay based on their having good posture. As I was watching and taking photos from the back, I felt a looming presence behind me, like all the light was being blocked out, and then I felt the hand, turned and found that it was Chris Roach, who plays Mott on Kevin Can Wait, just coming to say “Hi”, … all 6’6” of him. It was his first time doing Comedy Juice, and as we were talking, Chris Mazzilli came over and invited us into the kitchen for some donuts! Chris told me he’s opening for Kevin James next month at The Paramount on Long Island, and I assured him that I will be there, along with about a thousand other people! (And they’re all coming in my car!)
The NY Post ran an article about a Rodney Dangerfield tribute mural that was painted on a wall in Queens in the neighborhood where he was from. The artist painted it for free using a photo provided by Rodney’s widow Joan who lives in L.A. and even chipped in $1,000 to get it done. Joan was not happy with the finished project, but the artist went back to Italy before she could revise it. Joan wants it painted over because she says it’s not a flattering likeness. I went to see Rodney’s longtime partner and co-owner of Dangerfield’s, Tony Bevacqua to see what he thought and he said he agrees with Joan 100%. He said it’s not Rodney-like at all, and nowhere near his image. It actually made him look bald in the front which he wasn’t!
RoastMasters at The Stand was insane this week. Eli Sairs was defending his championship and it was an East Coast vs. West Coast thing. Not as dangerous as Tupac and Biggie, but almost. When Eli took the title from Zac Amico, he did a promo where he called out producers on Comedy Central telling them they need to put him on the Roast Battle show and bring the L.A. battlers to New York. After he issued that challenge, the next thing he knew it was on. L.A. vs New York. And it all went down in front of judges Rich Vos, Big Jay Oakerson, Duncan Trussell, Yamaneika Saunders, and Annie Lederman. First up was Scott Chaplain vs. Keith Carey, both good battlers and Scott kept laughing at Keith’s jokes. Keith didn’t use notes, which according to Stand co-owner Patrick Milligan who was sitting right next to me, is how they do it in L.A. Very professional, I must say. The material was absolutely brutal, with Scott doing a joke about Keith’s mother getting gang-banged and Keith coming back with, “Unlike Scott, my mother knows how to entertain a crowd!” A killer come-back and the room exploded. Keith also seemed to admit to having committed a crime, but said that the statute of limitations was already up.
Next up was Christi Chiello vs. Pat Barker. When Vos saw Pat after seeing the plus-size Keith Carey he said, “I thought the people in L.A. ate healthy! What? Did you guys come over in cargo planes?” Christi zeroed in on Pat and his wife having lost a baby. BRUTAL! Like an MMA fight with no holds barred. Duncan Trussell was horrified and told her that what she did to him was really bad and that it would be embedded in her soul. And it sounded like he was serious! All of his comments are always thoughtful and out of the box. Pat came back with “Christi has the voice of a rape whistle, and the face and the body of someone who will never NEED a rape whistle.” When Christi’s joke didn’t work, she would drop her mic on the stage. L.A. won the first two battles. Then it was time for Eli Sairs to defend his title in a match where the winner would get both belts, West Coast and East Coast. He was up against Alex Hooper, the L.A. champ, and it was hard for Alex not being on his home turf. The comics from L.A. were watching from a house party in L.A., but it’s not the same as having your peeps in the audience. Aaron Berg led the NY crowd in a cheer for Eli, and the audience took up the “Eli” chant. Alex kind of shot himself in the foot by coming out and doing a Christi Chiello impression that didn’t hit the way he expected it to. It’s hard to come back from that. And then there were Eli’s jokes like “Alex, you’re so creepy, when you were younger your uncle was molested by YOU! Eli wound up winning the match and both belts despite the fact that Yammie described him as looking like he was related to Dylann Roof. At the end, Vos yelled out, “Doesn’t anybody wanna know where they can buy my CD?” To which Yammie yelled out, “At the discount rack at Walmart!” It was a fun night all around.
Adam Ray was headlining Gotham so I dropped by to see him cause it had been awhile. The room was packed, and Adam was as funny as usual and he had a great ending to his show. I had been wondering why he had a keyboard on stage. For a moment, I thought maybe Craig Robinson had left it there. But then Adam was joined on stage by L.A. comic Avery Pearson from Goddamn Comedy Jam and they did some musical improv using answers to questions that Adam had previously asked audience members as inspirations for the song. It was a great bit and I never realized that Adam had such a good voice. Strong and powerful like a mix between Bruce Springsteen and Joe Cocker. Adam has a hit podcast called About Last Night which he’s been doing for the past four years, but is very psyched about his new show Return of the Mac, which he described as a “Curb Your Enthusiasm-type show”, starring New Kids on the Block’s Joey McIntyre as a TV version of himself along with his real-life family, his wife Barrett and their three kids, all following his quest to be taken seriously as a legit actor, and Adam plays his manager. He and Joey had originally met and became friends when they did the movie The Heat. “Return of the Mac” starts April 12th on Pop TV.
Jessimae Peluso of Girl Code fame, who’s a good friend of Adam’s dropped by and did a guest spot. She said that she and Adam are close friends who have “laughed and cried together” and will probably be married one day! She said they always joke about that. When I went down to the green room afterward to see Adam, Jessimae was there with Chris Mazzilli who told her to tell me the story of when she got thrown out of the Don Rickles Friars Club tribute. She said that she and comic Robyn Schall tried to sneak into the tribute which was a black tie affair at The Waldorf, “dressed all in cotton” and carrying a gym bag. They waited till after it started, and almost made it in until security spotted them and escorted them out. Chris didn’t find out until later and the frustrating part was he had extra tickets in his pocket!
Jessimae is doing something very exciting. She already has a podcast called Sharp Tongue where she has all kinds of interesting guests and said that each episode is like a little movie. But now she became a 50% partner in a cannabis dispensary where they have a grow house in Compton of all places, and she’ll be doing a brand new second podcast called HIGHlarious directly from the dispensary which she described as “advocating, celebrating, and educating the public all about the cannabis culture.”
Jessimae was in town to headline Governor’s out on Long Island and I took that as a reason to go out there the next night, as I had always heard so much about it and wanted to broaden my horizons. I almost didn’t get to see the club because when I got there they took me right to the green room, and I wound up hanging out with Jessimae, MC Chris Scopo, comic Tim Gage, and the very funny Marty Caproni who I had never seen before and who travels with Jessimae along with her Chihuahua rescue dog Chaplin. I first met Chris Scopo on Robert Kelly’s podcast You Know What Dude where he was a regular, and now he has his own podcast called Suite Buddies with his roommates Alex Pavone and Mike Albanese. I asked him how he got the name. He said they live in three rooms. His room is the biggest which they call “The Suite” and Alex from Canada calls everyone “buddy”! Mike is about 6’6” and has the smallest room, which they call “the P.O.W. room!”
I had a great time hanging out with all of them, and I love meeting so many out-of-town comics who come to NY to perform. Marty is from Massachusetts and endeared himself to me immediately by telling me he loved my book. But he turned out to be one of the funniest and nicest guys. He was even kind enough to offer me some of his stage time. I wasn’t able to take him up on his kind offer, but we will do it next month when he opens for Jessimae for her headlining gig at Bananas, and it’ll be my first time there as well. BTW, Governor’s is a big, beautiful club, in which the sound system is so good, you can hear the act on stage from anywhere in the club, including the men’s room.
Lastly, at the close of Mike Merkovich’s hit show Melting Pot at New York Comedy Club this week, he let Kenny Warren cut his hair on stage in a preview of Kenny’s live stage version of Comics Cutting Comics at The Creek and the Cave, which he usually does from Levels Barbershop in Harlem. He put a drape on Mike, and they both told jokes while he cut and shaped Mike’s hair.
I met Alana at Governor’s and when I asked her why she was there she told me she’s a big fan of Jessimae Peluso. When I asked her why she said she’s a big fan of female comedy in general, but that Jessimae embodies female empowerment and she always liked watching her on MTV’s Girl Code. She added, “ I must really like her, otherwise I wouldn’t bother to come out on such a cold night!”
And on that note, … 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. Photo below, Jeffrey with Gilbert Gottfried, Alan Zweibel, Jessimae Peluso and Bo Dietl.