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, the Comic Strip, The Stand and New York Comedy Club.
There was a lot of jumping around this week.
The post Mother’s Day Show at The Comic Strip was spectacular– almost the entire cast of Saturday Night Live performed. When I got to the club I was greeted by Tom-E the day manager of the club, and Jeannie Tienken. BTW, I hear that JR who was the manager for 18 years until about a year ago, has left his position at Stand Up New York and is coming back to The Strip. I went backstage to find owner Richie Tienken sitting with Jay Pharoah, Sasheer Zamata and Julio Torres, a guest writer on the show who had just worked on his first episode that week. To say it was a killer show would be doing it an injustice. It went for almost four hours of non-stop hilarity and the place was so packed I wound up standing in the back with Richie. The show was hosted by Jordan Rock, who has really come a long way. He was in from LA after shooting Judd Apatow’s Netflix series Love on which he said he’s having a blast, and he’s gonna be in a movie directed by Chester Tam. Sasheer’s Party Time show at Union Hall in Brooklyn will now be monthly– next one is June 13th and she’s booking it as we speak. In August, she’ll be kicking off her Spice Wurld Tour with Nicole Byer, star of MTV’s Girl Code, Liza Treyger, and Matteo Lane, which will be covering the Northeast area of the country, and she told me to make sure I spelled “world” with a “u”!
I was still backstage when I heard such screams from the showroom, I thought something happened, and it did. Jon Rudnitsky came out and did an incredible set in which he included some of his best dance moves, of which there are many. Julio Torres did what I would consider to be almost performance art mixed in with his stand-up. Colin Jost stood in the back with me enjoying the show for quite a while before he hit the stage. And after his killer set, he stayed on to introduce Leslie Jones, who’s always flirting with Colin on SNL so much that he referred to her as his TV wife. Leslie stalks the stage and is often angrier than Lewis Black, which is not easy to do.
Jay Pharoah told me he was doing a bunch of voices for the new Comedy Central urban animated series called Legends of Chamberlain Heights created by Simpsons artist Brad Ableson, retired UCLA Bruins basketball players Quinn Hawking and Josiah Johnson, writer Michael Starrbury and Bento Box Entertainment. They got 10 episodes from CC to start. Plus he’s got a mixtape coming out called #Phornication that he’s dropping in June, and he’s in an animated movie called Sing starring Matthew McConaughey, who plays a theatre-owning Koala bear, Scarlett Johanssen, and Reese Witherspoon in a part he said I wouldn’t expect him to be in, and that’s all he could say about it. And this July, he’ll be back at Just for Laughs in Montreal, after doing a national tour starting at the end of this month. When I asked him if he was taking anyone on tour with him, he said he was probably taking a young comic he finds really funny A.J. Foster.
Comedy Juice was amazing this week. I knew it was going to be special when I got to the club and the line was out the door and down the block. Word had gotten out that Judd Apatow would be making an appearance. Myq Kaplan was first up and he told me he had just done Conan with Weird Al. He said he had always wanted to meet Al, and their dressing rooms were right next to each other but he didn’t want to knock cause Al’s dressing room door was closed. He said he kept peeking out trying to catch Al, but it didn’t happen until after Al’s set. And before he could even introduce himself to Al, Al said “ Myq, how are you?” and went on to say some very nice things about Myq’s comedy. Myq said it was a very exciting moment for him to realize that Weird Al knew who he was. Myq is working on a new hour for a new album.
When Judd Apatow took the stage a literal roar went up from the audience. Despite all of his success, Judd is very humble and says he’s very aware of his level of fame. When people come up to him in the street and ask if he’s Judd Apatow and he says “No” they just go, “Oh, okay.” and walk away. He talked about a USO show where he met The President and his wife as well as Joe Biden and his wife. Obama told him he saw Funny People and added, “We love depressing movies.” The USO event took place at Maryland at Andrews Air Force Base. He was there with Letterman, Jon Stewart and John Mulaney and they were all just hanging out. The show marked the 75th anniversary of the USO and the 5th anniversary of Joining Forces, launched by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden to support military families. He also said he got to write jokes for the President for a Presidential dinner the same night he killed Bin Laden and so in some way he feels like HE helped kill Bin Laden. Donnell Rawlings had a particularly strong set, and had the audience rolling and then Judah Friedlander came out with a video camera, which may or may not have been on and started filming people in the audience.
Mark Normand came in to The Stand to run his Conan set which he’ll do next week on May 23rd for the 4th time. (Not the same set, btw!) He said he was trying to think of something different to do. Last time, he said he grabbed Conan’s tie and dabbed his forehead with it. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with this time. Also saw Dan Soder who told me his first album is coming out on May 24th from Comedy Central Records. It’s called Dan Soder: Not Special and he taped it at The Trocadero Theatre in Philly. He will also be back on the new upcoming season of Inside Amy Schumer.
Jumped over to New York Comedy Club to see a Roast Battle. Andy Fiori and Dan Shaki, who are obviously close friends, were particularly cruel to each other talking about each other’s girlfriends and with Andy hammering Dan about his dead Dad. Shaki crushed by acting like he didn’t know his dad was dead. He was like, “ Are you telling me my dad is dead? Is that what this is all about?” The judges were Wil Sylvince, Corinne Fisher, Wendi Starling and Mike Cannon, and they were all on point with their comments. Mike was particularly exuberant, but it could have been the alcohol! They gave the battle to Dan Shaki.
I had a conflict this week and wasn’t able to stay for the Gotham Comedy Live show, which I attend faithfully every week, so instead I went to the rehearsal to wish them all good luck, and see Norm Macdonald prepping to host the show. Norm is hilarious, but always looks so confused, and he seemed genuinely comforted by the fact that someone would be guiding him on and off the stage at the appropriate time.
I did manage to stop at Gotham to see Harland Williams headline the weekend. Harland has been in so many movies and is kind of known for his offbeat sense of humor, so he intersperses weird noises and improv stuff within his stand-up. Every so often he adopted a devil’s voice with which he engaged a member of the audience. When one woman wouldn’t stop talking, he improv’ed a very scary scene as the Devil, and threatened to suck her soul out of her nostrils. That shut her up really quick!
Cristina Cote’s Mother’s Day show at Carolines was an all female review, raising money for Gilda’s Club. Cristina did double duty as host and as her alter-ego Svetty the Russian model. I went backstage to talk to all the ladies including Leah Bonnema, Janelle James, Angela LaGreca, Aparna Nancherla and Yamaneika Saunders.
Janelle James told me she’s doing her first @Midnight on May 18th and was really psyched about it. Helen Hong told me she is coming back for the second season of Patrick Stewart’s Blunt Talk on the Starz Network. She plays Patrick Stewart’s kid’s school teacher who does wildly inappropriate things. She had just come from Chicago where she taped Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me for NPR. Aparna told me she’s putting out her very first album through Tig Notaro’s new Bentzen Ball Records. It’s also their inaugural release. It’s called Just Putting This Out There. She taped it at Union Hall in Brooklyn last June and should be out in July. She first met Tig back in 2009 at Tig’s Bentzen Ball in D.C. and then opened for her at the NY Comedy Festival when Tig made comedy history by baring her mastectomy scars on stage for all to see. She encouraged Aparna to do the album and the rest as they say is “Herstory”.
Interesting story about a big show coming up in Astoria. Greg Kritikos is a comic who goes by the name of Greg The Greek. Born in Greece, he came here in 1971 with his family and was dubbed “Hamburger” by the neighborhood kids in Astoria where they lived, because of the way he pronounced the word with his Greek accent. Probably similar to the way Belushi did in his classic “Cheeseborger” sketch. In that group was a kid named Maya, who went on to become Mark DeMayo, the comedian. Kids go different ways sometimes and that’s how it was for Greg and Mark. Mark went on to join the NYPD, where he spent 20 years as a detective, while doing comedy, and Greg went the other way, ran with a gang called The Steinway Boys, and wound up living in a “gated community” for a while, if you get my drift; the kind where you’re not allowed out until they let you out. Now Greg turned his life around completely and is dedicated to leading a clean life in many ways.
He and his partner, George Zouvelos of Fiat Lux Entertainment are producing a huge show in Astoria on Saturday May 21, at the Stathakion Cultural Center and Mark DeMayo is one of the comics on the show, along with Nicky Sunshine, Irene Bremis, Barry Ribs, and myself. Greg, who is very proud of his five years of sobriety is a power of example of how hard work and comedy can change your life.
Anyway that’s it for me! 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 Jeffrey Gurian with Colin Jost, Jon Rudnitsky, Jordan Rock, and Richie Tienken with Jay Pharoah.