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 visited The Stand, The Cellar, New York Comedy Club, Carolines and more!
Race Wars with Sherrod Small and Kurt Metzger held a live show at the Village Underground and it was as sick as you might expect. It was also a combination birthday celebration for both Sherrod and Pete Lee who just turned 40. Kurt Metzger was back in town and the line-up was amazing. At the comics table, I was sitting with Pete Lee, Yamaneika Saunders who’s on just about every show these days, Yannis Pappas and Matteo Lane who was dressed as Liza Minnelli, … with a mustache and day old beard. Yannis told me he has a Comedy Central special coming out on September 15th.
When the show started, Matteo took a seat in the audience and was given his own mic so he could yell out remarks during the show, which he did, … as Liza, and he was hilarious. He also managed to keep a straight face throughout the entire thing. Never smiled once. But the audience went crazy when he said as Liza, “I’ll never forget the first words my mother ever said to me, “Liza….call an ambulance!”
Mark Normand opened and proved why he’s one of the best writers out there today. The audience recognized that by giving him a couple of applause breaks during his set. Then Ari Shaffir came up and with his Orthodox Jewish background described Orthodox clothing, Chris Distefano talked about his own “race war” with a Puerto Rican woman with whom he has a daughter. There was a surprise set from Tony Rock who flew in from D.C. for his cousin Sherrod’s show and birthday celebration. Those guys are so close and started performing on the very same day. I think it was back in 1989. I know for sure they were passed at The Comic Strip on the same day because the story is in my book “Laughing Legends” about how they both cried on the corner after being passed in the same club where their cousin and brother Chris Rock started out. During a game of pool, Tony told me that he and his brother Jordan had done six shows at The Improv in D.C. All were sold out and that Jordan is developing into a beast on stage and could wind up being the funniest of the Rocks. They were heading off to Dayton to do the Funny Bone, and then Tone has a new sitcom coming out on September 1st called By The Book in which he plays the lead character’s best friend.
Pete Lee, one of the nicest guys in the biz, had a great set and opened by referring to Sherrod and Kurt as Ebony and Jittery! Pete has a way of talking about off-color topics while still keeping his “aw-shucks” Wisconsin persona. Kurt once said at The Stand that he bet that Pete couldn’t talk about porn in his act, so Pete set to work and came up with a great line that he was once watching porn and had to scroll to the end to see “if they really had the baby!” It was perfect. Pete and I hung out and talked in the showroom after everyone had left. He said he’s in therapy and that he’s carrying that into his comedy by being more introspective, because every nice guy “has a cauldron of pain inside them that they’re trying to burn off.” He explained that he’s a kind person in real life, but he’s been using stand-up lately to try and burn off some of that other stuff that’s been stored away to try and reduce it.
He also grew a goatee which is a great look for him and he said he purposely let it grow in gray to give him a more serious macho look. Even his acting coach makes him speak in his deeper register, which goes better with this look. But his material calls for his Wisconsin accent. And the nicest part of all, was when I commented that I saw Emily Tarver there and he told me they got back together again. He said of her, “She’s my person! She gives me advice and having her along is great and like having a writing staff. She’s one of the funniest people in the world.” It was a special moment. Then we realized we were the only two humans left in the room, so we went upstairs to join the party.
I stopped by Comedy Juice at Gotham and Jacob Williams came in and joined me. He’s on the new season of Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘N Out. It’s his 5th and the show’s 9th. He told me a funny story about when Rick Ross was on the show and he was supposed to ask Rick about his chin tattoo that says “Rich Forever” on it. He supposedly got it when he was heavier and Jacob was supposed to ask him how he decided which chin he wanted it on. Luckily for Jacob, they ran out of time and he never got to ask the question.
Neal Brennan, co-creator of Chappelle Show stopped by and did a set which was unusual because I don’t recall the last time I saw him at Gotham. Kelsey Cook, an L.A. comic who tours with Jim Norton came in with comedy manager Allie Demopoulos, and after Jacob left Allie stayed and kept me company. That was nice! Kelsey told me that Jim Norton changed her life, so I asked her how they met and how she wound up opening for him. She said she managed to get him as a guest on her old podcast. He had tweeted something about his upcoming special and she tweeted back at him, and his fans brought them together. She was getting ready to do Joe and Sam the next morning on SiriusXM, and has a new podcast that’s a month old called Self Helpless that is just starting to have guests
Jo Koy popped by to run his Fallon set which he was taping on Thursday to air on Friday and wound up doing a full set. I told him I’d be seeing him the next day when he came up to SiriusXM to do an Unmasked interview with Ron Bennington, and I did. It was a very insighful interview as most of the Unmaskeds are, but this one in particular for any comedians struggling to make a name for themselves. Jo talked about all the years he struggled to get known. He made his own fliers and had to rent out theaters and produce his own shows in order to get booked places. He had a child to support and worked very hard to achieve the success he now enjoys, while his mother yelled at him in a Filipino accent, (which he imitates perfectly!), and he didn’t let any obstacle stand in his way. And there were many. It was a really great interview.
The Fat Baby crew held their last show at the Fat Baby bar on the Lower East Side. It’s the bar they were banned from last year after a raucous show where a cop got kicked, and the show got closed down. For some reason the manager was letting them do one more show, their last at that location, and it was a party and a show. Benny DeMarco, a certified lunatic who I love for his craziness, opened the show as only he could. There was a DJ spinning hip hop and a cool line-up of talent. Jordan Rock, just in from six sold out shows with his brother Tony, opened the show. He just wrapped the third season of Judd Apatow’s “Love” on Netflix. After each comic performed they had to draw a piece of paper from a jar and improvise a song from whatever was on the paper. Stuff like “Red Bull Gave Me Tits.” Not the classic “Red Bull Gave Me Tits” that you might know, but an original version made up on the spot. Some comics did better than others with that.
Ricky Velez one of the original Fat Baby crew read a poem he had written to Benny D for a previous birthday. I think the song he had to make up was “Fat Baby Loves Cocaine.” Tom McCaffrey was good because he’s also a rapper and the topic he drew was “Sluts In The Pool.” Fat Baby members Giulio Gallarotti and Josh Wesson who has some of the longest dreads I’ve ever seen, both went up and did some funny shit, but the show closer was a wild man named Jeffrey Katsman who I had seen before, but he was in rare form this night. He did a very crazy set and the crowd loved him and I don’t remember what song he got, but whatever it was he did a great job. At one point, he threw down the mic and got so carried away, I thought he was going to destroy the stage. Plus his act was filthy! I asked the group without smiling, “Was that his Fallon set?”
Emilio Savone, owner of New York Comedy Club came down as did Paul Italia owner of The Stand, and Paul told me a cool story. He said he had come down to Fat Baby bar originally to see comic Molly Austin perform about four years ago and when he saw how crazy the Fat Baby boys were, he invited them to do their show at The Stand. They’ve been there ever since. But even better at that show, Paul met his girlfriend of the last four years, Katelyn, who was with him at this last show, so he’s very grateful to the Fat Baby crew.
And then there was the Baby Roast for Aaron Berg and Christine Meehan-Berg’s daughter coming in September. That baby’s gonna have a great sense of humor. The roast was at New York Comedy Club and no one held back because it was a baby. The jokes were outrageous with Yamaneika Saunders as the MC, which was only proper since she officiated their wedding in Central Park only last September. She said referring to the couple’s size, “Them having sex must look like a mosquito trying to mount a fruit fly.” Yammie made fun of three “skinny bitches” that were sitting in front, nursing small plates of chicken tenders, and she was followed by Nathan Macintosh who asked of Aaron, who is always trying to work clean for a late night set, “What late show are you trying to get on, America’s Most Wanted?”
Casey Balsham and Robby Slowik came on together which is when I found out they were a couple who actually live together. They dressed as a couple of old Catskill-type performers, with Robby in a suit with a cigar, and they did their jokes together working off each other, like George Burns and Gracie Allen! ( Google it!) It was a fun event. Aaron told me his third album is coming out called “Mr. Manners Live from Long Island City” which he taped at The Standing Room. He had his podcast comedy partner Geno Bisconte open for him, and the special was based on his first book and he said he did it basically as an audio book, but in front of a live audience. And Christine will be taping her first special which would have happened last night by the time you read this. It was two shows at New York Comedy Club. Big week for the Bergs!
I was so glad to run into Vlad Caamano who was in from LA doing a set at The Stand. He was running out to do a spot at Dangerfield’s, but stayed long enough to tell me he had been in Montreal for two weeks at JFL doing The Ethnic Show and a gala with Lilly Singh. And before he ran, he asked me why I didn’t warn him that I was coming because he had been trying out new material, but fortunately, it was funny and all worked out well.
I went to catch Aries Spears at Gotham and saw server Rebekah Stein who told me that her film Cheryl and Denise which she did with Gotham server Johanny Mota just won for Best Short Film at the Madrid International Film Festival. She didn’t go, but Johanny attended along with Charles McBee who was also in the film.
Angelo Lozada hosted and told me his new show in Gotham’s downstairs lounge, The Lozada Lowdown Live, has been selling out. And he made a couple change seats because the guy was big and his date was small and sitting behind him and Angelo thought it was rude, so he had the guy move, so his girl sat up front and he sat behind.
Aries Spears did a great show and works so hard he wears a towel across his shoulder to wipe the sweat. The girl with me who happened to be a woman of color told me it was a black thing! She would know! Aries also did great crowd work, especially with the black people in the crowd. He told one girl she had “slave hair” and asked her if she was starring in “Twelve Years a Perm.” Then he started humming “ Negro spirituals”. Then he told another black guy that he laughed like slavery was still around. Like he was only allowed four laughs a year and had already used two of them.
Aries told me he’s in a new independent film called “Kings” with Halle Berry and Daniel Craig set against the backdrop of the LA riots. And he said that Halle Berry is as beautiful in person if not more so than she looks in pictures.
And in next week’s column I’ll be telling you about the Paul Virzi taping, up in Tarrytown that I’ll be attending with both Bill Burr and Pete Davidson producing and performing!
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 Gurian with Aaron Berg, with Pete Lee, with Tony Rock and with the Fat Baby Baby Live Crew.