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 New York Comedy Festival!
WOW! That’s all I can say about this comedy week.
The New York Comedy Festival opened with Cristina Cote’s third annual Hersterical show headlined by Sasheer Zamata from Saturday Night Live with killer spots by lots of other funny women like Lynne Koplitz, who was there with her manager Rick Dorfman of Converge Media, Howard Stern Show regular Stacey Prussman, who is also a host on PBS’ Great Places To Live, Melissa Villasenor, from America’s Got Talent, who does crazy hilarious voices, and told me she flew in from LA specifically for this one night, my new friend Caribbean born Janelle James, and the multi-talented Carole Montgomery, who also directed the show. I know Carole for many years and every time I see her she’s doing something else. She’s gone from stand-up comic, to producer/director and now an agent with Kinkead Entertainment. In this show Cristina hosted, Carole did a set and directed, and Kyle Grooms and I were the token males who did a sketch parody of The Dating Game with Svetty, Cristina Cote’s alter-ego a Russian man-eater who’s after rich powerful men. Kyle played Obama, as he does so well, I played a powerful Hollywood producer/Sexual Healer, and David Rey Martinez was literally plucked form the audience to be the third contestant. All of us hung out backstage, and took tons of selfies plus we were all photgraphed by the talented photographer Isak Tiner. I was glad to catch up with Sasheer. She closed the show with a killer set and we were all kept laughing backstage by the antics of Ardie Fuqua who just came to hang out and grace us with his funny presence.
I popped over to Comedy Juice at Gotham to catch Ricky Velez who was all excited about being in a Nightly Show panel over the weekend at The Paley Center with Larry Wilmore, and other people from the show. Ricky told me tickets were so hot for this panel, he was happy to get three for his family! Host Chris Millhouse announced to the audience that there was a surprise guest, and the audience erupted in screams as he brought on Judd Apatow. Before Judd went up I asked him if he would be running his set for Carnegie Hall which was scheduled for Saturday night, and he said it wasn’t necessary as he had rehearsed it so many times already. He was just going up to have fun. He said his kids weren’t coming to Carnegie Hall or he’d have to take out a half hour from his act where he makes fun of them. I had never heard him imitate anyone before but he did a great Bill Cosby, while wondering if Bill ever talks about what happened in his act. He also told a funny story about taking a photo with Robert De Niro, and a scandalous “blind” story about a celebrity, who he refused to identify by name, but eliminated people who it wasn’t.
I had made my headlining debut at Broadway Comedy Club thanks to producer Ron Herron who had seen me perform out in Westbury and told me I needed to be a headliner! It was a packed room, with some people actually having to stand in the back, like Karl Shaft who does security, and has protected the likes of many celebs including Ice T, Mike Epps, and French Montana. He took up the whole back of the room by himself, and I’m sure people thought he was my bodyguard! A Marie Castillo hosted the show, which included sets by Tamara Holder from FOX and Walker Hays who does the show Fuck, Marry, Kill out at The Creek and The Cave. Even friends from The Interrobang came out to cheer me on! It was a GREAT night, but back to the Comedy Central party.
The highlight of the week for me had to be the Comedy Central opening party for the New York Comedy Festival which took place about three days after it opened, on Thursday night at STK, a very hip, huge place on West 43rd Street. I couldn’t get there till after 12 because I was headlining at Broadway Comedy Club. When I arrived, security was heavy, even in the street to get into this party and you had to show your ticket first or you weren’t getting in. I did what I always do and went over to the biggest security guard I could find and told him if anyone bothers him to let me know!
I rolled in on a high from my sold-out show, and immediately started running into people like Comedy Central executive Kent Alterman, chatting with some well known comics, Leonard Ouzts, who is everywhere lately, Monroe Martin— who was headlining Gotham Comedy Club for his first time this weekend– walking with Sasheer Zamata, Marina Franklin sitting with Keith Robinson, with whom I joked that it’s probably the only night of the year when “the table” at The Cellar had an open seat, Ricky Velez who was there talking to Grace Parra, the brand new correspondent on The Nightly Show who started this past week in a sketch, Sam Morril, James Mattern, Seth Herzog with whom I had a great convo, and just so many more fun people. Of course Comedy Central Executive JoAnn Grigioni was there overseeing and participating in the festivities. She’s the most fun executive you’ll ever meet! And I also got to catch up with SNL’s newest cast member Jon Rudnitsky, who says he’s having the time of his life on the show! Also Harrison Greenbaum, The Lucas Brothers, who were hanging with my boy Derek Gaines, Aaron Berg, and just so many more. The Lucas Brothers told me they should have something big to announce soon!
And then before I left around 2 A.M. I ran into comic Pete Lee who used to do my late night show at The Strip, and who I had just seen killing it at The Stand. He was just sitting and kind of chillin’ with his girlfriend who he introduced me to , actress Emily Tarver, who is not only in Season 4 of Orange Is The New Black playing a prison guard of all things, but is also co-starring in Donny Deutsch’s new USA sit-com Donny, in which Donny plays a clueless day-time talk show host, and she plays the Executive Producer of his show within a show, describing herself as “an alpha female who does her best to keep him in line!” Oh, and I almost forgot, I got choked out by Luis J. Gomez for real! He was telling me about his new show The Countdown with MMA star Michael Bisping on SiriusXM Rush 93, and he got so excited that when we took the photo first he tried to put his knit hat over my hair, which is not allowed, and which I successfully blocked with my Tae Kwon Do training, but then he got me in a choke hold for real as you can see from the grimace on my face in the photo below.
In a crazy night of poor time planning, I ran out to Brooklyn to catch a bit of the Comedy Central Live show at The King’s Theatre, which is a gorgeous theatre out of another age that holds about 3,000 people to see Nick Kroll and John Mulaney in an Oh, Hello sketch, including a Too Much Tuna scene, so how could I NOT go. My Too Much Tuna sketch is on the Comedy Central YouTube channel and went viral with well over 300,000 hits so far.
For some reason I thought Hannibal Buress was scheduled to host but when I got there Big Jay Oakerson who was billed as Jay Oakerson, (don’t worry he’s still big!) was hosting. Security was really tight again and we all had to go through metal detectors. I was told that my ticket was of the Platinum variety that allowed me to go to a special room filled with snacks like gummy bears, goldfish and jelly beans. Kroll and Mulaney were in character as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, and were in a sketch involving a pitch on Shark Tank with a product that combined the inventors name Januzzi with Jacuzzi and has something to do with a Jacuzzi Tunic, and Swoosei Kurtz as the spokesperson for the product. Something like a Swoosie Januzzi Jacuzzi, and then they presented someone in the audience with a HUGE tuna sandwich. I was in specially reserved seats in the first row of the balcony which was great for everything but taking photos, which is why mine are not so clear!
Somehow when Jeffrey Ross came out he wound up with the huge tuna sandwich. He told the audience that his real last name was Lifshultz, which he explained was Hebrew for “ You better change that” and so he used his middle name “Ross” as his last name. He did a mini-Roast oif about 20 people from the audience, which is always a crowd pleaser. And Nathan Fielder came out and showed a clip from the new season of his show and told everyone what would happen to them if they tried taping it on their phones. He took a volunteer had him hold up his phone and then squirted him with the hose from a fire extinguisher till he was soaked, and then they held up a big towel and had the guy change into poorly fitting clothing right on stage behind the towel. I don’t want to get squirted with anything so all I’ll tell you is that the sketch was hilarious, and involved a hotel, parents, a child and a custom made “sex-box”! You’ll have to see it for yourselves.
I would go anywhere to see anything that has to do with Jimmy Fallon. To me he’s the most talented late night host of all time. Not that I had to go that far! The NY Times sponsored what they called A Sit Down With “The Tonight Show Writers” at The Times Center as part of the NY Comedy Festival, and I went to see Josh Lieb the producer and show runner, talking with head writer A.D. Miles, producer Gavin Purcell, and writers Mike DiCenzo and Gerard Bradford who was also a high school friend of Jimmy’s, in a discussion lead by NY Times reporter Dave Itzkoff! They all raved about Jimmy’’s incredible talent and how gracious he is and how fun to work with. He comes up with ideas in his head even, out of dreams he’s had, and they all seem to work! They said he’s a natural impressionist who can speak to someone for five minutes and come away with an accurate impression.
A.D. is in charge of the monologue jokes and said they have a rehearsal of the monologue every day with an audience of around 75 people during which they do probably five times the amount of jokes they’ll actually need for the show. Gerard said that Jimmy was always funny and talented, even back in high school, and that as kids they had a band called “The Born Losers.” A.D., who they refer to as “Miles”, also uses his acting training to act in some Tonight Show sketches like the one he did playing a strict Dad, with Jimmy, Seth Rogen and Zak Efron all dressed as high school girls in one of the beloved “Ew!” sketches. They also played an incredible compilation video from the show showing classics like Jimmy dancing with Justin Timberlake, and throwing water on Tom Cruise. It was a fantastic panel and I’m glad I went.
I finished off the week first at Ryan Hoffman, AC Roe and Nick Ruggia‘s New York Comedy Shorts Fest, and then ran over to Monroe Martin’s headlining gig at Gotham. It was his first time headlining the club and his management team from The Stand Cris Italia, and Dave Kimowitz came to support him. Monroe wore a beautiful sport jacket, and looked like a million bucks if you can still use that expression! He had his friend H. Foley open for him. They both came up from the clubs in Philly. Monroe told about his Dad who was in prison most of his life, and said when you come from a background like that there’s less pressure to accomplish anything. All he had to do was learn to walk to beat his Dad!
And then I was thrilled to see my buddy Vladimir Caamano, who came in to support his buddy Monroe. Vlad just signed a deal with NBC for his own sit-com called Vlad based on his life in The Bronx, with his Dad who’s the super of a building, and his older brother. Whenever I see Vlad perform I always hope he does an imitation of his Dad, which is just so funny! Well, I guess that’s why he’s getting the sit-com. He told me he got a “put pilot” which he explained was an expression that meant that the network committed to producing the first episode. It’s with Warner Brothers and Doozer, Bill Lawrence’s production company best known for Scrubs, Spin City, and Undateable.” Vlad is Executive Producer and writing with Adam Sztykiel, Bill’s partner. I asked Vlad if his Dad gets the jokes and he said he recognizes himself and laughs along with everyone else. I’m so happy for Vlad and wish him the best! He’s not only funny but a genuinely nice guy! I told him now that he’s gonna be famous, people will finally learn where to put the two “a’s” in his name!
I surprised my old friend Rick Newman at The Triad by showing up to cover Alan Zweibel’s Writer’s Roundtable, and wound up sitting with Rick and laughing for an hour or so at the remarks of Alan who hosted the show, Andy Breckman who created Monk and wrote for SNL, Michelle Wolf who writes for Late Night with Seth Meyers, Matt Roberts, former head writer for Late Show With David Letterman and author/screenwriter Delia Ephron, whose new book Do I Have to Say Hello? will be published sometime this month. They all had great stories but the one I loved most was Alan’s story about doing a stand-up set in 1975 at Rick Newman’s Catch A Rising Star and being approached afterwards by a stranger who told him he was the worst comedian he had ever seen, but his jokes were well written. Alan had been working in a deli at the time slicing sandwiches. That mystery man turned out to be Lorne Michaels.
I took a ride up to Yonkers to help kick off the 1st Annual Yonkers Comedy Festival produced by comic Frank Pellegrino, no relation to the actor/restauranteur Frank Pellegrino who owns Rao’s, and starred in The Sopranos, although he probably wishes he was! I wanted to say “the real Frank Pellegrino” but that would have sounded weird since the one in Yonkers is real too! I would love to hear him call Rao’s and try to get a table. The opening show that I was a part of was the The Yonkers Brewing Company. a really big restaurant with a nice stage area, and it was hosted by JC Knows Best, which is definitely the name his parents gave him. It always fascinates me, in a business where you fight for people to know your name, when comics make up a name as a persona! JC is a great host and kept the show moving along with a bunch of very funny comics like Johnny Watson, Dan Lamorte, and Mike Cannon. Then afterwards there was a big opening party at another big beautiful place called Rory Dolan’s where they engaged in a challenge to get the most comics ever telling jokes within 90 minutes and I participated in that as well. It was a really fun evening and Frank worked very hard to put it all together.
Anyway that’s it from 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, Luis J. Gomez chokes out Jeffrey at the Comedy Central party, Jeffrey with Sasheer Zamata, Jon Rudnitsky, Derek Gaines and the Lucas Brothers, Esther Ku, Jeffrey and Cristina Cote, Backstage at Hersterical with David Rey Martinez, Carole Montgomery, Ardie Fuqua, Victoria Terri-Cote, Cristina Cote, Kyle Grooms, with Mark Normand, and Ricky Velez and Grace Parra, Jeffrey with Vladimir Caamano, and Jeffrey with Comedy Central executive Joanne Grigioni.