It was a very special night on Broadway and a very special night for me in particular.
About a week after I attended one of the preview shows of Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s masterpiece “Oh, Hello”, I received an invitation to come to the official opening, which was last night. I had never attended a Broadway opening before and was honored and excited.
Even more so when I was invited to walk the red carpet. That was a big surprise. I was afraid I might be embarrassed if none of the press people knew me, but that proved not to be the case. It turned out that without me saying a word, many of the press people knew me as the first person to ever be “prahnked” with Too Much Tuna!
I wound up doing several video interviews, without knowing that my date and I had been photographed by someone on the show and put up on Instagram, as the head of security having arrived. Afterwards, we went inside to wait for more people to show up. Sitting in the lounge, the first person I ran into was Michael Ian Black who was there with his beautiful teenage daughter which I thought was so nice, that he could share an evening of comedy with her. It really is a family friendly show. Michael told me he just finished writing for a couple of weeks on the new season of Comedy Central’s “Another Period”, a reality type show set in 1902 in which he plays a butler called “Peepers” and before that he was writing for a couple of weeks on the new season of Wet Hot American Summer, and then he said, “so then I go shoot Wet Hot American Summer and then shoot Another Period and that will keep me busy for the next few months.” And before we left I told his daughter that me and her dad wrote a movie together before she was born. I think kids might hate that when people reference times before they were born.
And then I ran into Jason Mantzoukas who among many other credits performs with Nick Kroll on The League and we schmoozed a bit on and off throughout the evening. So many comedy people were there. The audience was packed with celebs. Jon Hamm was there who is listed in the playbill as Nick’s understudy. From our seats, I saw Susie Essman sitting with Mario Cantone, and we yelled out to each other.
As I walked around, I saw Jimmy Fallon sitting up front with Lorne Michaels. Jimmy is always very gracious and took photos with all the people who came over to him. While he and I were catching up, I told him about me having a heart attack basically right in front of his studio, and I was able to share with him the true story that as the ambulance came to take me away, I looked up and saw the Jimmy Fallon sign and thought to myself, “I hope I don’t die before I get to do Fallon.” I swear, as sick as that is, that’s a true story! And he made me promise not to have any more heart attacks.
The show seems to have new lines every time I see it and when it came time to do “Too Much Tuna” everyone wondered who the guest would be on this special opening night. Turns out it was none other than someone they reference every night in the show, Alan Alda. You could tell they were genuinely excited about having Alan on the show. Alan came to the stage and improv’ed his way through the funny bit leading to the presentation of the huge tuna sandwich. He kept telling Nick/Gil that he had no idea what John/George was saying, because John is great at pulling obscure references out of the ether, and Alan didn’t follow many of the more current cultural references. Anyway they finally got him to say it was entirely too much tuna and the place exploded with laughter. Nick and John go crazy when they hear those words. And at the end of his part, they bowed to him and told him how much they appreciated him being on the show.
When the show ended to a standing ovation, we made our way over to the after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on East 57th Street, and when we got there the place was already packed. A very elegant space with delicious food served buffet style. First person I saw was Countess LuAnn de Lesseps from Real Housewives of New York, talking to Julie Klausner, star and creator of Hulu’s Difficult People, the show that she does with Billy Eichner. And Julie went to introduce me to LuAnn who told her we had been friends since the late 80’s, when she first came to New York. Julie and LuAnn were besieged by people wanting photos, and LuAnn and I made plans to get together soon.
Chris Gethard was there with his wife and he told me his show Career Suicide opens this Thursday at the Lynn Redgrave Theater where Mike Birbiglia did his last show, and Chris told me the show deals with his depression, alcoholism, which he cured by himself without a program, and suicide, and that it was a hard decision for him to talk about that stuff, but he felt it was important, and could help other people. The show is being co-produced by Judd Apatow, and Mike Lavoie who was there and is also one of the producers of “Oh, Hello” and a real force in the comedy theater world having also produced Colin Quinn’s The New York Story as well as Unconstitutional, Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King, and Mike Birbiglia’s “Thank God for Jokes”. Also at the show and party was a consultant on “Oh, Hello”, Mike Berkowitz, head of comedy at APA who handles all live events for Nick and John, Amy Schumer, Louis CK, Aziz Ansari who was also there, Kevin Hart, Bill Burr and just about every other comedy superstar.
I asked Chris why he called the show Career Suicide and he said “the show talks a lot about actual suicide, and I thought staging a major piece of your career around the idea of a suicide is in effect career suicide, … it kind of loops around that way in kind of a circular logic.” And then, he went to get some water.
I had a lot of “family” interaction at the party. A lovely woman named Joan came over to introduce herself to me and to inquire as to who I was. When I told her I was the first to be pranked with Too Much Tuna she identified herself as award winning “Oh, Hello” director Alex Timbers’ mom. She said she wondered if I was in the group Steely Dan, who Nick and John also reference throughout the show. It’s like a running gag for them like the Alan Alda reference. I told her that people always mistake me for being in the music business. I was at a black tie music event one night when Keith Richards, Paul Anka and Billy Joel all stopped by my table specifically to say hello to me because they thought they knew me.
Alex is a two-time Tony-nominated director, and the recipient of Golden Globe, Drama Desk, and Outer Circle Critics Awards as well as two Obie and Lortel Awards so he knows of what he speaks. When I went to tell him how I met his mom, which sounds a lot like a TV show, he had this to say about the show. He felt that it couldn’t have gone better and that Nick and John are just brilliant. He said they had the greatest time putting this together, and that Nick and John are an inspiration. When I asked him how he met Nick and John in the first place to wind up directing their show he told me this great story. He had directed Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and The Pee-Wee Herman Show, both in the same year, and he and Nick met at the shows, and discovered they were mutual fans, but they didn’t really stay in touch. About five years later, Nick reached out to Alex and said “ Hey, I’m working on this thing, maybe we could work on it together. Alex continued, “And so it’s all them, but I feel very lucky to just be an extra set of eyes on it because they’re amazing.” Really humble, talented guy.
And carrying on the “family” theme I ran into Nick’s parents one at a time, first Nick’s dad Jules who commented on the fact that the girl I was with was named Julia so we were all “J’s.” Jeffrey, Julia and Jules, and we vowed to stick together! And then we found his wife Lynn and had a group “kvell” over the boys being feted on Broadway, and decided as a group that they would have to create a special Tony Award for them, since this show probably doesn’t fall into any kind of regular category. Aziz Ansari came over to congratulate Nick and his parents while we were there, and said he wasn’t allowed to discuss what he’s working on right now or who else is involved in it.
Robin Byrd told me she had been the Too Much Tuna guest last week and when they were preparing her for what was to happen they sent her the tape of my Too Much Tuna sketch as an example not knowing we were old friends. And she was surprised because she didn’t know I had done it. She and I went over to talk to Lorne Michaels who surprisingly stayed for almost the entire party. When I left after midnight he was still there, and was very engaging and gracious to whoever came over to speak to him. Lorne was the force behind John Mulaney’s show “Mulaney” and after talking about the merits of this show, we reminisced about the days of Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz and Kevin Nealon, the days when I was up there a lot.
Seaton Smith who had been a co-star of Mulaney was there and was engaged in a lengthy conversation with Julie Klausner who he said gave him some great tips on how to run a TV show. He said it gave him a lot to think about, so I guess he’s working on developing something.
And just before I left I had one more “family” encounter when a beautiful blonde woman with a great smile introduced herself to me as Robert Smigel’s sister Bellanca, and she is also one of the producers of “Oh, Hello”. She was there with two of her sons, (I think there are three all together), one of whom is a comedy writer, who recently wrote some stuff for Steve Carell, and her dad is the famous Irwin Smigel, known as the Father of Cosmetic Dentistry and an old colleague of mine from back in the day.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that both Nick and John have succumbed to the beard influenza, more commonly known as “beard flu” where seemingly rational men feel compelled to have a beard. John often describes himself as a tall child, and I told him it was weird to see a child with a beard. He said that most people didn’t even think he could grow one. And then as I prepared to leave this magical night, he told me to keep my Gurian Angels jacket ready, which can only mean one thing! More will be revealed!
And with that, … I’m OUT!!!