Last night at the 92nd Street Y J.B. Smoove and Richard Lewis shared some amazing stories about being on the set of Curb Your Enthusiasm, especially about how important it was to them to please Larry David, and how Larry would break into hysterical laughter, while both of them struggled to maintain their composure during the shoots. J.B. berated Richard for not having had to audition like he had to. He said that Richard didn’t have to audition because he was Larry’s friend but he had to audition and that fortunately Larry broke up during his audition, which made him feel so good!
J.B. swore he never even saw an outline on Curb. When he came in for the day, he just went over and asked what they were doing, and that was the extent of his preparation. He also said if they had to do a scene over he would never do the same take twice, to keep it fresh. He’d always do something different. But his main goal was always to make Larry laugh. He said if he could accomplish that he knew he had done a good job. Richard said that every time he left the set he’d be in a weird mood because in every scene he ever did he had a fight with Larry. He’d go home and his wife Joyce would ask how it went and he wouldn’t know. He said he thought it went well, but he was never sure, because Larry did all the editing and chose what he liked best and the actors would never know what would be used. One time an actor showed up with notes to give himself different choices and Larry walked over and tore it up. Richard said it was an amazing 8 years of his life doing that show. And they both suggested to Larry that he do a Curb movie if he didn’t want to do another season.
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It was a fun and very special night for me at the 92nd Street Y cause I got to see two of my favorite comedians of all time on stage together in conversation, Richard Lewis and J.B. Smoove. The event was in honor of Richard’s new book called “Reflections from Hell: Richard Lewis’ Guide On How Not To Live. And the fact that they’re both friends of mine put the proverbial icing on the cake. That I get to actually tell them in person how funny they both are is a very special experience for me. Most people only get to enjoy them from afar, or from the audience and they register their pleasure and appreciation with applause. I’m lucky enough to be able to tell them to their face that they are hilarious, and they they bring joy to me and everyone who hears them.
The 92nd Street Y offers some amazing evenings with their 92Y Talk Series, and while J.B. and Richard were being introduced by Sue Solomon, Assoc. Director of 92 Y Talks, they both peeked out from behind the curtains like little kids. First JB and then Richard. Richard who is known for always wearing black actually came out in a dark suit with a white shirt and tie and looked great! JB is always stylin’ and immaculately dressed. He likes to call me “Playa” but he’s a true “playa” in every sense of the word! He’s the essence of cool!
J.B. doesn’t even have to say anything to be funny. His entire physicality is funny. He glides out on stage using his skills and his past as a hip hop dancer, which is how he broke into the biz. He was part of a two man group called “Smoove and Groove.”
For the first few minutes when they came out they kidded each other about everything the other one said. Richard said that J.B.’s suit made him look like he was ready for the Black version of The Love Boat. J.B. discussed how he’s thought of differently by the Black community than the White community. To the Black community he’s their “dude.” To White people, he’s never sure how they perceive him. (It’s funny but I tend to capitalize the word “Black” when referring to people, but it looks funny when I do it with “White” people! Is that reverse racism? LOL) Richard asked JB if he knew anything about moderating, and JB said he moderates all the time, and has been moderating all his life. It was less of an interview and more of a very funny conversation between two friends who obviously really dig each other.
They said they had a blast together doing Curb.
Richard thought it was great that they could discuss the differences between Black and White people and everyone was laughing, which he said is how it should be in the real world! Amen to that! They came to the conclusion that they both hated racism and anti-Semitism and that they should both run for President. Well actually JB said that Richard should be President and he’d be Vice President, which drew great applause from the audience.
Richard’s book is a series of sayings that are illustrated by his long time friend Carl Nicholas Titolo who was there in the audience with his wife, and was also there for the book signing. Because I suffer with a lot of the same neuroses as Richard I made sure to buy the book as soon as I got there so they wouldn’t run out and so I wouldn’t have to stand on a long line after the show! The book has a very funny Foreward by Larry David who complained throughout the entire piece about having to write it and warned anyone who ever met Richard to NOT give him their contact information or they would be besieged, and bombarded with unwanted messages as has happened to him. It’s hysterical and a perfect Larry David. Somewhere in the second page of his diatribe he did manage to say something nice about Richard, and that he’s not only very funny but also “kind, sweet, and generous!” He ended by saying that the book is a marriage of artist and comedian referencing the collaboration, and that he’s usually skeptical about marriages of any kind, but this one works!
The sayings and drawing were of course of a dark nature, like ‘ Today I made the worst of a great situation” which goes perfectly with Richard’s take on life, but J.B. analyzed each drawing they sampled on the big screen with his own take which invariably turned it into something positive. Like there was a picture of Richard with a gun in his mouth, and J.B. said how do we know that flowers aren’t coming out of that gun, like the way clowns do in the circus! He tried his best to make Richard’s sayings positive, which is J.B.’s nature!
After their “conversation” they took questions from the audience and then while Richard was signing books, I went backstage to catch up with JB, who was there with his manager Rick Dorfman from Converge Media who’s a major player, and handles some really big stars. And JB’s real brother came to visit him too. I say “real brother” cause he introduced him as his “brother” and I didn’t know if he was just using an expression or if it was his biological brother, so he clarified if for me and told me it was his “real brother.” J.B.’s into his fourth season of 4 Courses with JB Smoove on MSG, where he goes out to eat with his guest and talks about all kinds of stuff while they’re eating. He said that Richard promised him he’d be on this season even though he always says that and hasn’t come on yet!
J.B. was off to Atlanta, to film Barbershop 3, the MGM sequel that New Line is producing, and he said he’ll be in Montreal this summer at Just for Laughs, where I’ll be as always shooting video interviews for my Comedy Matters TV channel.
And when I asked him what else he had going on, he said something very cool. He said he’s now a free agent and entertaining offers from lots of people, but then he added something powerful, … he said “ I’ve been everybody’s sidekick, It’s time to do J.B.” and then he added, “You know how they have like The Year of The Horse, The Year of The Tiger, and The Year of The Dragon? Well this year is gonna be “The Year Of The Smoove”, … and I believe him! He certainly deserves it.
I’ll be seeing Richard again this weekend when he headlines Carolines on Broadway!
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and comedy bon vivant living in New York City. You can read Jeffrey’s regular column every Monday morning right here on TheIBang.