Jeffrey Gurian is a writer, comedian and TV reporter 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 was at Gotham Comedy Club, The Stand and Carolines.
It’s very gratifying to see how many people read and enjoy this column on both coasts, and many of them contact me to let me know what’s going on with them. Chrissie Mayr flew out to LA yesterday to tape a few episodes for a new comedian-based game show on FOX called Punchline! They are filming a 20-episode test run this summer and it debuted last Monday. It will run through August 3rd. She’ll be on tonight and tomorrow as well. The host is Marc Istook, and the comics riff on things in the headlines or pop culture like answering the question, “ What is Purple Rain?” or upon seeing a photo of a shirtless Vladimir Putin, “What exercises would you have to do to get Vladimir Putin’s body?” Other local comics to appear will be KC Arora, Charles McBee, and Luke Thayer.
Along those same lines, Apostle’s Jim Serpico turned me on to the fact that his friend Ron Cicero is doing a Ren & Stimpy feature doc about the Nickelodeon series which went off the air around 1995. I spoke to Ron who told me that everyone who worked on the original series is involved in this project which they hope will go to Sundance next year. I asked Ron, of all the possible shows, why Ren & Stimpy? He said his directing partner, Kimo Easterwood, and he were looking for a unique, true story that they could tell in a surprising way, which he said was not easy given the recent output of Netflix, Vice, HBO, and the rest. But luckily Todd White, a former character designer on SpongeBob suggested that they look into the story of John Kricfalusi and Ren & Stimpy, which ran for five seasons and 52 episodes.
John Kricfalusi left after 2 years due to “creative differences”. It wasn’t amicable. And Ron wondered if anyone would care about a show that was gone for 25 years, especially when so much had been written about the split. But he said that as they dug deeper, they realized the impact this one show had on animation, television in general and popular culture, … including the art world and they wondered how anyone missed that fact.They reached out to the original key players many of whom left in solidarity with John and even after 25 years, they were reluctant to talk about it. They finally got some of them to meet and promised to only mention the break-up, not dwell on it, and instead focus on the much more interesting stuff. And after the first few interviews, word got out and people started contacting them, and now they have so much support. They’ve already finished primary photography interviewing over 45 of the original artists, writers and execs plus comics influenced by the show including Bobby Lee, Iliza Shlesinger, Weird Al, and even Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. They want to finish in early 2018 and have a Indiegogo page for anyone who might want to get involved. I’ll tell you more as it progresses.
I caught Comedy Juice and ran into Carly Aquilino. I commented on her blondness and she told me she just had it done. She also told me she’s on MTV’s new show SafeWord, in which celebs partner up with comics in social media games that seem to involve certain celebs switching phones and daring them to text other celebs. In one scene, Kevin Hart switched phones with Damien Dante Wayans who I just found out is my friend Chaunté Wayans’ brother. When things get out of hand people can use a “SafeWord” to stop the action. It debuts this week. She said that during one of the tapings Leonard Ouzts fell asleep and she and Ricky Velez, and some other comics spilled water on his pants and woke him up telling him he peed himself.
I sat with Matteo Lane who told me he was doing The Late Show with Stephen Colbert tomorrow, talking about being Italian and being gay. We also talked about how it’s harder to do 5 minutes than to do 20 minutes, because you have to leave out jokes you really like, but he said he actually likes it and looks at doing 5 minutes like it’s a preview to a movie. Jessica Pilot who books the show has been very busy. She saw him at The Stand and he said it took about two months to get a date. (Not with her, to perform on the show! LOL)
Ankara Savone and Shauna Lane do a podcast called “Gone Girls” and did a sold-out live show at Carolines. That’s not easy to do. They filled a 300 seat room to capacity, which is probably why they didn’t do it in Ankara’s husband’s New York Comedy Club. I’ve known Ankara for several years since she worked at The Comic Strip, but in those days she wasn’t performing. She must have been taking it all in though because she’s sure performing now. I was a guest on the podcast once and the girls came to my place to record it. It’s a traveling podcast done in different locations. After each episode, the guest gets to do a sketch with the girls that they wrote and it’s done as a cold read. No preparation. Also on the show was Frank Liotti who always kills talking about being Italian and gay, but not looking gay, as opposed to Matteo Lane who talks about being Italian and gay and having a “gay voice.” The main guest was Yamaneika Saunders and her story is amazing. She moved from Maryland to L.A. to do theater, and her mother was the one who got her into stand-up. At one point in her career, she was homeless, which she hid from her well-to-do family for a year. She knew she could always go home, but she was determined to make it on her own and she did.
The turn-around came in the form of a phone call for an audition from Last Comic Standing when she made it into the top 25. From there, Oxygen came calling and she was on the show Funny Girls. I remember that day very clearly when the show had a big event at Gotham. Yammie was so sick that day, but she went up anyway and crushed. Then she was a panelist on The Meredith Vieira Show, and as she said, her story is one of perseverance, and proof that everything happens at the right time and place. Shauna reminded her that she kept threatening to quit and at one point was so despondent that she said she swallowed two bottles of sleeping pills, and woke up two days later. And despite sharing all that drama, she was hilariously funny. The show was closed by Mike Vecchione who I add to the very small list of comics that make me laugh out loud, … involuntarily! I have no choice. Most of the time I just sit and listen, thinking to myself, “That was very funny!” But Mike is just such a good writer and his delivery is so unique, which is something I greatly admire. Now he’s also telling stories too.
Also at Carolines, Bob DiBuono stars in The Trump Show, in which he comes out as President Trump. Bob does about 12-15 voices and does Norm Macdonald so accurately that last month when Norm dropped in to do the show, his girlfriend came in from the other room to talk to him because she thought she heard his voice, but it was Bob DiBuono. The show is always on a Wednesday which they call Trump Day instead of Hump Day. Some of the comics who’ve been on were Eddie Brill, Greer Barnes and Jim David. I sat with him for a few minutes in Carolines brand new green room. They took out the counters where the comics used to eat and the sink too and put in nice comfortable benches along the perimeters of the room.
The Soho Playhouse down on Vandam Street is a regular theater. But downstairs they have a room that they’ve been using for comedy shows and I went down to check one out. It’s produced by a comic named Matt Graham who told me that at one time he roomed with Marc Maron, David Cross, and Louis C.K., but not all at once and not all together. He was also friends with Bill Hicks, but describes himself jokingly as a bitter, miserable failure. It was a very eclectic mix of comedians including Ray Gootz, Amir Gollan, and Becky Yamamoto who was hosting. Matt’s been doing this show for about two years called “This Too Shall Suck” and the theme is about being a loser!
Nacho Bitches with Corinne Fisher and Blair Socci was its usual crazy self this week. But even more so because it was the 3rd anniversary. I came in while Big Jay Oakerson was on stage schooling the audience on many varied topics. And Blair Socci is probably one of the most unique voices on the comedy scene today, both literally and figuratively. The range of her voices is truly amazing! She goes from a little girl’s voice to a gruff manly voice, and all manner of voices in between, in a crazy off-beat cadence unlike anyone else I’ve seen. Because comedy is like music in a way and has a rhythm, Blair is to comedy what jazz is to music. On a creative level, it’s just so interesting. She’s got a new podcast called How To Be A Beefy Women that she’s doing from a home studio, and her first two guests were Rosebud Baker and Greta Titelman.
I caught Ron Bennington host a killer show at The Stand with Rich Vos, Chris Distefano, Ari Shaffir, Judah Friedlander, and a set from Ian Lara, plus Big Jay Oakerson and Sal Vulcano. Ron shouted me out as “the eyes and ears of the comedy scene.”
Speaking of new green rooms, don’t know if I told you, but New York Comedy Club has one too. It’s a wall of benches where all the comics sit and face each other like they’re in detention. It’s funny, but would be weird if you didn’t know anyone and just had to sit across from them staring them in the face. Alexis Guerreros was there and told me a funny story about opening for Paul Virzi at a country club in New Jersey, where he had to perform 8 out of his 10 minutes with no mic. It was a 3 day golf tournament, all men, and they hired comics, but didn’t think to set up a mic or a proper stage. They finally found some semblance of a mic as he was closing his set, plus the room was noisy because as Alexis described it, there were no wives around to corral these jerks. And you think it’s easy being a comedian!
Na’im Lynn of Kevin Hart’s Plastic Cup Boyz was headlining Gotham and I dropped by to see him and catch up. He had Jonathan Martin open up for him who told me he’s not an official Plastic Cup Boy, but as a friend of Kevin’s for about 20 years and because he tours with the PCBs he considers himself a Plastic Cup Cousin. He shot a half hour special for Kevin’s LOL Network which is set to launch very soon and he taped it in Atlanta. The Plastic Cup Boyz are Na’im, Joey Wells, and Will “Spank” Horton. I’ll be seeing Kevin up in Montreal in a couple of weeks at JFL, and will be covering his red carpet for the LOL Network. Na’im told me he recently sold a show he created to HBO. It’s a dramedy, as yet untitled and will be shot in L.A. More to come on that. At the end of the show, I was outside talking to Na’im when we heard loud screaming and applause from inside the showroom. While host Rich Francese was on stage ending the show, a guy from the audience got up on stage and proposed to his girlfriend, offering her a ring, and the audience went wild when she said “Yes!” And the crazy thing is that Rich has a line about whether he got down on one knee to ask his wife to marry him, and he says he got down on two praying she’d say “No!”.
Because of my incessant need to try and keep up with whoever is who and doing what in comedy, I found myself looking up a comedian named B Phlat. Not sure why or what encouraged me to do so, but I looked her up. A couple of days later, strictly by coincidence, if you believe in those things, I saw her performing in Wali Collins‘ Comedy Cup show at Gotham. She was part of a team of her and Jimmy Failla who faced off against Regina DeCicco and Harris Stanton in a comedy contest where Wali and the audience take turns choosing topics for the comics to talk about. Sometimes they have 5 minutes and at the end only 2 minutes then they’re free to talk about anything they want. Wali is on a mic and awards the comics points. Not like 5 or 10 points. More like 20,000 points. At the end, they count them up and see which team has the most points. On this show, it was Jimmy Failla and B Phlat who won the huge cup! Regina opened with an apology for what she felt was a risky set based on her topic dealing with her GI disturbances, but the crowd seemed to love it. Jimmy Failla wore a jacket and tie, not his usual look, but it didn’t stop him from being funny. Harris Stanton talked about colonoscopies and the pain of a broken bone, with references to how he broke his wrist in the Tracy Morgan car crash and afterwards I sat down with B Phlat to find out a little more about her, since I’ll be seeing her in Montreal in a couple of weeks doing Kevin Hart’s show as well as The Masters. It could have also been the hair. She has great hair!
B is working on a one woman show called Sophisticated Ignorance, a musical comedy in which she’ll play a trumpet. She is also a musician which is the origin of the name B Phlat she uses to perform. She’ll be doing her first taping on September 10th at the Westport Funny Bone in St. Louis where she’s originally from. And you’ll be seeing her telling a story on Comedy Central’s This Is Not Happening with new host Roy Wood Jr. which she taped recently. As she tells it, it’s the story of how her mom tried to destroy her chance of getting into art school by ruining her portfolio of artwork. Wali’s been doing his Comedy Cup show for about a year now, and has regular audience members who often travel far to attend the show. Some from as far away as Massachusetts. Even celebs come. I was happy to see my good buddy Dominic Chianese from The Sopranos there with his son Dominic Jr., who is also a stand-up comic among other things.
Big shout outs to Judy Gold and Jon Daly for their kick-ass performances on Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here. Jon is a regular named Arnie who seems to be the booker at the club, and Judy did a killer guest spot as Judy Elder, an aging comic who gets major laughs, but is told she’s behind the times and shouldn’t try and perform to young audiences.
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, and watch Comedy Matters TV on Be Terrific. Below, Jeffrey Gurian with B Phlat and Dominic Chianese.