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 stopped at Gotham Comedy Live, New York Comedy Club, The Stand, The Cellar, Stand Up NY, and more!
Earlier this week I sent a message to Ardie Fuqua, that I hoped to see him soon. Maybe three hours later I popped into The Cellar to check out the action and who’s standing in front? Ardie Fuqua. I came up from behind and just grabbed his hand, and he didn’t even flinch. Ardie was so surprised to see me, and we hung outside trying to talk while millions of well-wishers came over to shake his hand and say how glad they were to see him. He looked great as always, in a sharp sport jacket with a pocket handkerchief. Even cops love Ardie. He had parked his car right in front of The Cellar and walked around the corner when two cops pulled in at an angle right behind him. I called Ardie on his cell to warn him he might get a ticket but when he came back and the cop saw him they started hugging each other like it was a wrestling match. Turns out they were old friends.
Then I felt a big hand on MY shoulder, and I did turn around cause I’m not as used to be grabbed, especially by such a big hand, and it was George Wallace, who I was planning on seeing the next night when he hosted the fifth season premiere of AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live. George had just come off stage and was holding his yellow legal pad that he often has with him. I asked him why he carries a big yellow legal pad when he could carry a smaller pad, and he told me that anything smaller would be illegal! Talk about a great line! I asked him if he was running his set for GCL, and he said that even if he did, he never really knows what he’s going to say on stage until he walks out there.
At that point I still didn’t know that he had been sitting inside The Cellar at “the table” with Chris Rock and Louis CK. But when he mentioned he was performing for 39 years, he said the young comics now call him “Mr. Wallace” and it feels weird. And then he said that Chris Rock told him he gets the same thing. Chris said, “ I used to be the kid, and now they call me “Mr. Rock”. I finally went inside the club and saw Chris and Louie sitting alone at “the table” engrossed in conversation. I just waved hello as I went down to the showroom to see Mark Normand crush the crowded room, even at 1 A.M. You can never just stop off at The Cellar and expect to get home early.After his set, Mark told me he has dates coming up at the Stress Factory, the San Francisco Punchline and then the Sacramento Punchline. But he was really psyched about doing Toronto on September 6th with Amy Schumer as part of the Odd Ball Comedy Festival sponsored by Funny or Die, that kicked off this past Friday the 28th at Kansas City’s Starlight Theatre. Mark and I stood in the back of the room to watch Dave Attell close the show, then Dave brought host Wil Sylvince up on stage with him in a hilarious kind of comedy back-and-forth to close out the show.
At the premiere of the fifth season of Gotham Comedy Live, George Wallace brought out a HUGE crowd. And they went crazy for him. George is so kind to his fans; he’s one of the most gregarious big stars in the biz. And you can see that after all these years, he still truly enjoys performing and making people laugh. Just before the show started Keith Robinson came in with Marina Franklin to watch their friend Chris Cotton do a set on GCL. It’s nice when your friends come out to support. At the after-party downstairs lots of people besides Keith and Marina came down to congratulate the comics. There was also Derek Gaines, Monroe Martin, Drew Fraser who was the warm-up for the show and Ryan Reiss who closed the show. George was there with his manager Christopher Pratt, and I took George into the green room to shoot a little video. Just as we were finishing there was a knock on the door. Luckily we were actually wrapping up and Chris Pratt looked in and said that Chris Rock’s Mom was there and wanted to say hello to George. It was so nice to see her again and I got to tell her how good her “baby” Jordan is doing. The last line of my video is George laughingly saying he had to go and see Chris Rock’s mother because he’s really Chris Rock’s Dad!
I got to the debut of the new Roastmasters show at The Stand just in time to catch host Luis J. Gomez, AKA The Puerto Rican Rattlesnake open the show. Rap battles seem to be all the rage these days, if you’ll forgive an expression from what has to be the 1920’s when Flappers were “all the rage!” Luis introduced the three judges in a roast-like manner. He said that Rich Vos was responsible for more dead pilots than Malaysia airlines, and then he said “and the next judge is fucking Rich Vos.” Everyone expected him to introduce Bonnie McFarlane, but instead he introduced Aaron Berg, and no one laughed harder than Bonnie, who was actually the third judge. So it was Subhah Agarwal against Crystian Ramirez in round one, and Crystian ran out of jokes! Luis had to come back up early because he said he just wanted to end it. He couldn’t take it anymore! Needless to say Subhah won. Two guys who came up, and who will remain un-named, were so bad that Rich Vos said he hoped they weren’t in recovery or else they might relapse from the shame!
At one point Vos yelled out, “We should all just Roast Jeffrey Gurian”, and then looked at me and added “Hey Jeffrey, how about you spell my name right, It’s ONE s” as if I didn’t know. There was a great cheerleading team of three guys led by Ed Larson called “The People’s Wave” who would react to the jokes on stage by jumping up and yelling shit out, or jumping up on the stage, beating each other with what looked like metallic pans, and blasting that loud airhorn that lots of DJ’s use these days. The best challenge and main event was between Geno Bisconte and Mike Vecchione, both known for their sharp and clever manner on stage. Round one went to Geno and round two went to Mike, and Geno was actually laughing hard at Mike’s jokes about him. In a final round Mike was declared the winner. Rich and Bonnie had their adorable little daughter Reyna with them, who luckily is the spitting image of Bonnie. I don’t know if Reyna heard the Roast but she’s definitely got to be the hippest kid in her class.
And I ended my week at another Roast Battle this time at New York Comedy Club, hosted by Rell Battle the comic who brought the show up from LA, where it’s a huge hit at The Comedy Store. The show was at 11:30, so the younger comics would already be in bed and not subjected to the filth! As I walked in I ran into Corinne Fisher just off her and Katie Hannigan’s new show at Under St. Marks where the concept was that neither of them could talk about sex, men, vaginas, or relationships. For the Roast Battle, she helped Lance Weiss with his jokes. He was set to battle Madison Malloy, who was also sitting up front wearing a very revealing dress, and doing it justice! The judges were Kevin Brown from 30 Rock, Zainab Johnson, from LCS, and ex-porn star Lisa Ann, who hosts her own monthly show Paid or Pain. The show was set to go off at 11:30 but by 12:15 Kevin had still not arrived so Emilio Savone and Rell asked me if I would judge again, since I had judged the first one. Of course I agreed. Rell had me take my seat in the judges chair and went on stage and literally just as he was about to introduce me Kevin lumbered into the room. He is a HUGE dude. Nicest guy, but a HUGE dude. So instead of having four judges, they replaced me with Kevin. But Rell didn’t let Kevin off easy. He told the audience that Kevin was probably late from coming from his Planet of the Apes audition, not a joke any White comic could ever get away with! And then he said, “ Why do “N-words” always have to be late?”
Rell prides himself on organization and you can tell it’s important to him that things run just right. He’s also really quick and funny as the host! Brendan Sagalow won against Andrew Lee with lines like “Andrew looks like an autistic child fucked The Dalai Lama!” Lance Weiss bettered Madison Malloy despite the fact that she had a better body, which got lots of remarks. Lance lost one round for making fun of the judges. Zainab wasn’t having it, and made no bones about it. Charles McBee easily vanquished Brandon Collins, both of whom Rell introduced as non-threatening Black men, in a contest seemingly about their Blackness and ability, or lack of their ability to intimidate people, and in the main event of the evening Reg Conquest went up against Yamaneika Saunders who told me before she went up that she didn’t think she’d do well, and then went up there and went in hard, tearing the place down with her energy! She and Reg really went at it. There were times that they just devolved into screaming insults at each other, all in fun of course cause they’re tight. But at one point Rell took the stage and jumped up and down like Rumpelstiltskin trying to bring some order to the festivities. I got a photo of him in the air. And Chris Cotton seemed to be Reg’s second, yelling out constantly from the sidelines, “Go Reg, … Get her Reg!”. It didn’t help cause Yamaneika was declared the winner. Chris Scopo and Luis J. Gomez opened the show, and James Mattern took the audience on a wild ride as he always does for the finish.
After the Roastmasters show at The Stand, we were all hanging out outside as usual when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Ricky Velez who had been promising to tell me something big as soon as he could, and this was the time. I don’t often see Ricky this excited but in this case I understood why. He had just gotten the news that he’d be opening for Dave Chappelle, in Mountain View, CA as part of Live Nation’s Comedy Fest at the Shoreline Amphitheatre along with Chris Tucker, and Tom Segura. Ricky was beaming as he told me. It’s a really big deal and his agents at UTA, John Levy, Steve Cohen and Doug Edley were just as excited to tell him.
I don’t get over to Stand-Up New York as often as I’d like but I popped in to see my buddies JR who ran The Comic Strip for 18 years, and Greg Judge who now works behind the bar. As I walked up I ran into Jane Velez-Mitchell my longtime friend from HLN where she had her own show for six years. She had come with a bunch of friends to see Marlaina Schiavo, former HLN producer turned stand-up comic who won for NY’s Funniest Reporter in 2012. That’s a cool show in which I participate every year since it’s inception either as a judge, a mentor, or as the host as I was last year. It was so good to run into Calise Hawkins who I hadn’t seen since the Funny Girls premiere for Oxygen. She did The Nightly Show last week and wound up doing panel, talking about real stories which she said she likes doing. She said she likes the idea of making fun of real stories and finding the humor in real things which is what she does in her act. She also recently wrote for Lie Detectors on the Game Show Network, but the show only lasted one season.
As I’ve often told you comedy happens all over this town, and sometimes in the most unlikely places, even like a laundromat. Comics would perform in the men’s room of a gas station if they had the opportunity and a mic. Max May runs a fun show for international travelers at the International Youth Hostel on 103 and Amsterdam and he gets some really funny comics. The night I stopped by Sahar Adri was hosting and Tommy Kang formerly of The Stand dropped by and did a funny set about his Korean background. His family was actually in the dry cleaning business, and his Dad is a martial arts instructor. So cool! Max May is hilarious and I saw him a few nights later performing at Stand Up New York. With all those foreign people it was a great place for me to perform my traveling and “going through customs” material, so I did! And even though the audience is from all over the world, they still speak enough English to get the jokes. But they laugh in their native languages!
And as for me, I was just kind of chillin’ at home when I got a text from Allan Finn asking me to be on his podcast The Week In Sex out at The Standing Room. It was about 6:15 P.M. I was excited until I asked him what time he needed me there and he said “7”. That was only 45 minutes. When I got there he and Subhah Agarwal were already on the air and I joined them, talking about all things sexual! It was a fun show and I’ll be doing it again in the near future as Allan said there were lots of things we didn’t get to cover.
It was a great week as always on the comedy scene and with that, … I’m OUT!!! (P.S. I only need 5,000 more views on my Comedy Matters TV channel to hit one million, so PLEASE subscribe) Thanks for your support!
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Below, photos, Jeffrey with Ardie Fuqua, Jeffrey with George Wallace, Jeffrey and Ricky Velez, Jeffrey with Zainab Johnson and Lisa Ann,