Jeffrey Gurian 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. In today’s column, Richard Lewis does a DVD signing, Michael Che gets a new SNL gig, Carlos Mencia has two new series in the works, and more!
This week I went to visit my good pal Richard Lewis at a DVD signing for his new DVD Bundle of Nerves. I had called him the day before to say “Hi” but all I got back was a text: “Under the weather.” Typical Richard. Very succinct. So I figured I’d surprise him by going to his DVD signing at Barnes & Noble. When I raised my hand to ask a question during the Q&A he was shocked to see me and yelled out, ” Hey man I couldn’t call you, I had polio!” He told me to come backstage at Caroline’s later that night — where he was headlining — while the opening act was on stage, to give him a hug, because he always splits right after.
During the Q&A for the DVD signing, he talked a lot about his 20 year sobriety and was giving advice to people in the audience on what to do for people who want to get sober. He also told lots of hysterical stories including how David Brenner was such a great influence on him and that the first time he went to Brenner’s house he was shocked at how luxurious it was. He said Brenner had unusual things like the first microphone in the world, and a desk that belonged to Thomas Jefferson’s niece. David used the phrase, “This is the house that jokes built.” Richard said he never forgot it and that’s what inspired him to work hard and get a nice house of his own.
I went to see him at Caroline’s and went early as he requested but was told he wasn’t seeing anyone before the show. I totally understood because Richard is very sensitive, and he needs his space to prepare before a show. They sat me at a table near the backstage entrance so I’d have to see him before he went on stage and he stopped at my table and hugged me on his way to the stage, and said “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t,” and I was like “don’t worry about it. It’s all good.” He did an amazing show as he always does. When he left the stage he came back and hugged me again, and said, “How was it? I have no idea how I did.” And I was able to tell him how fantastic he was, and he said he was proud of me for all that I’m doing. We embraced again and the girl I was with heard him say, “I love you!” and he was off!
I ran into Jim Florentine, Big Jay Oakerson and Dan Soder at the SiriusXM studios this week. Big Jay and Dan Soder have been doing a show called The Soder Show (read more here) and they are billing Big Jay as a special guest. Jay said, look at this, after all my years in comedy I have to be the sidekick. He said he’s embarrassed for his daughter Isabella to find out he’s a sidekick. But they said it’s contractual — there’s a reason that his name couldn’t appear.
This week I also went to a taping of America’s Got Talent, at Radio City Music Hall and I wanted to see Nick Cannon who is an old friend and Howie Mandel also, and I had such a nice surprise. I found out that my friend, Joey Kola, is the warm up comic. He gave me a shout out from the stage when he saw me. Six thousand people, and he’s like, “Jeffrey Gurian is in the house” to the whole audience, so I went over and I said to him, how did you know I was there, and he said, ‘who can miss you?’ Joey was voted as the top warm up comic in the city 5 years in a row by Time Out Magazine. He’s warmed up for Jon Stewart, Rosie for Six years, Martha Stewart for seven years, Rachel Ray for four years, the Marriage Ref, Howard Stern‘s birthday party and America’s Got Talent. He was exhausted. He told me that he’s very happy doing what he does. He’s no longer seeking fame, he’s just enjoying being a stand up comic. One interesting thing I saw during the taping was that at every break, make up people run over and do Howard Stern‘s hair, and Heidi Klum’s make up, and Mel B’s make up.
Thursday night, I went to the AXS TV taping for Gotham Comedy Live and Carlos Mencia was the host and he did a great show. Also on that show was Bob DiBuono and Spank Horton, who is one of Kevin Hart’s Plastic Cup Boyz. They were at Caroline’s this week and Spank was on the AXS TV show.
Carlos Mencia stayed a second night to headline at Gotham Comedy Club and in the middle of his show, a fight broke out. Very rare, you never see that at Gotham. It turned out that it was white people so Carlos asked the black and latino people, when they heard loud yelling, weren’t they relieved to find out that it was white people? Carlos has a lot going on right now. He’s got two tv shows coming out soon — one is for network and one for cable — that should be on at the beginning of next year but that’s all the details he could give me right now.
I called Michael Che this week to congratulate him on his Saturday Night Live weekend update gig with Colin Jost, and of course he can’t say too much because new SNL people have to be very guarded about any press they do, but he did tell me he was very excited to be back on SNL as part of the team again, and it was a dream come true to be cast doing Weekend Update, which is a 40 year tradition on the show, going back to Chevy Chase in 1975. He’s also thrilled to be working with his buddy Colin Jost on the show where he wrote for a year. Michael recently got back from the Toronto Film Festival for the premier of Chris Rock‘s film Top Five, which he said he’s in for “about a cup of coffee”, but he said there’s so many comics in it that it was like a family reunion with Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Sherri Shepherd, and Cedric The Entertainer, and he said that Chris showcases everyone perfectly. He says he loves movies with a lot of comics in them, and he knows how hard Chris worked on it, and was so glad to see how well it did.It got picked up by Paramount after a bidding war.
He said that Kevin Hart works so hard, he makes everyone look like they’re not doing anything, and that he took over for James Brown as the hardest working man in show business. I just wished him good luck and continued success!
I was also on the phone this week with Paul Chamberlain who is the founder and Exec. Producer of the Maui Comedy Festival, which is coming up on Oct. 30th for its first year. He called me from Hawaii and was very excited to tell me that they have partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The producers of the festival recognize that mental illness and suicide disproportionately affect the comedy community as has been brought to light by the recent passing of Robin Williams. They want to provide a platform for continuing the dialogue surrounding suicide and depression and the connection to the comedy world.
This weekend I hosted the 9th annual NY’s Funniest Reporter Show at The Comic Strip in a fundraiser for The Humane Society. The contest is the brainchild of PR gurus Mark Goldman and Ryan McCormick of Goldman/McCormick P.R. and reporters from TV and news come and try their stand-up thing to see who’s the funniest. I coached Brooke Baldwin from CNN and she won! AMAZING! I mentored her, and I was the MC for the event. Andrew Schmertz from Arise TV came in third, and Tamara Holder from Fox News came in 2nd. They raised money for the Humane Society, and I said if they raise enough money next year they’ll create a Humane Society for pets, friends and family of the NFL! (LOL)
I went to a birthday party this week for the legendary film producer Marty Bregman, at a hot new club called The Leonora. I went with Morris Levy, a film producer who is a dear friend of mine. Morris happens to be involved in creating a new comedy TV project with two VERY huge comedy stars, who are also good friends of each other, but the thing is a secret cause the papers have not been signed yet. I know who they are, but I can’t say.
It was a hot party and DJ Melle Mel, one of the pioneers of rap was the DJ who was spinning. I ran into James Lipton there and I told him that Richie Tienken and Ron Bennington like to say I’m like the James Lipton of comedy. He said he was honored by the comparison.. I also got grabbed by “sexy” Sonja Morgan of the Real Housewives of New York, who I got to know when I was writing a comedy sketch that I wrote with my writing partner Lance Rizzo for RHONY last season called “Count-A Fit Titles.com” about an internet company that sells you counterfeit royal titles.
Chuck Zito the actor/Hell’s Angel/martial artist who was one of the stars from HBO’s hit Oz was also there. Chuck is an old friend from the days he used to work as Charlie Sheen’s bodyguard. Chuck had just come from Sirius XM where he hosts a show on Howard 101 called “Chuck Zito’s View”. I tried to convince him to do stand-up comedy and that I’d write for him cause I thought he’d be a natural success. Every joke would be a hit, cause the audience would be afraid to NOT laugh at his jokes. He said it was probably the only thing he hasn’t tried yet. As I left I put my arm around him as best I could and told him, ” If anyone bothers you let me know!” We both had a big laugh about that!
And finally, coming up on Sunday Oct. 12th will be the 10th anniversary of the annual Andy Kaufman Awards, and the 30th anniversary of Andy Kaufman‘s passing. There will be an event held at UCBEast in Manhattan and semi-finalists will be announced on Sept. 18th. Andy’s brother Michael requested me to be a judge this year. All I can say is, big honor. Past winners have included Kristen Schaal and Reggie Watts.