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 covered the scene at The Stand, Gotham Comedy Club, The Cellar and more.
The second round of RoastMasters at The Stand was CRAZY and the comics were pumped and well prepared. Internationally traveled comic/legend Tom Rhodes is in town staying with me for the week, and we had ringside seats right next to Stand partner Patrick Milligan. One of the reasons that Tom came to town was to do an Unmasked with Ron Bennington, but he didn’t know that Ron was going to be a judge on RoastMasters. He was shocked when he saw him! They had five judges. Bobby Kelly, Rich Vos, Mike Lawrence, the half blonde Big Jay Oakerson, and Ron Bennington, and when you see how quick Ron is with his comments it makes sense that he used to be a stand-up and owned his own comedy club in Florida.
Before the show we all hung out in the street and Bobby called over his friend Stavros Halkias, and made sure to tell me how funny he was. Bobby told me he was working in Magooby’s in Baltimore when Stavros came down to hang, knowing Bobby was a “foodie”, he took him to a 24 hour Korean BBQ place, and the food was so good they became friends and now Stavros opens for him.
Zac Amico was one of the roasters and told me about his work with Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma Films since 2009. He started out as an intern and wound up ADing Troma’s last two features “Return to Nuke ‘Em High” Vols. 1 and 2. Zac is also in the films playing a character named Zac which he described as a hyper version of himself. It was shot in Buffalo and New York, and he told me about a scene he got to do with Bailey Jay the trans porn star/actress. There was a montage of Zac being rejected by a slew of women, (not sure how many women are in a slew!), but when he brings flowers to Bailey Jay’s door she slaps him in the face. He said they must have done 20 takes and it was the best day of his life. Vol. 2 is expected in January.
Tom Rhodes had lots of sets at The Comedy Cellar which is all back in one piece since the kitchen is done. I came in one night to hear Noam Dworman playing guitar and singing Besame Mucho. I also got to tell Gary Gulman in person that his set on Conan where he talks about the abbreviations of the states was simply genius. He’s a master wordsmith. He was hanging out with Liza Treyger, Dave Attell, and host Jon Fisch.
I jumped over to New York Comedy Club to find Sam Morril sitting at the bar with Jason Salmon. Jason just added to his string of commercials with a new one for Bud Light that comes out very soon during football season. Of course I had to ask him when that was! Sam’s doing a couple of shows for the New York Comedy Festival and said he’s working on a new hour which he’ll be doing at the Fat Black Pussycat, and it’s only $5. because in his words, “it’s not there yet!”. He also told me he did a couple of gigs with Amy Schumer when Mark Normand wasn’t able to make it. One show was a 12,000 seater at the Verizon Center in D.C. to which they traveled by private jet. The other was also a 12,000 seater at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly and to that they went to by helicopter, with Amy, her mom and a couple of her mom’s friends. He said that Amy is very generous, and that once you drink wine in a helicopter, it’s very hard to go back to Greyhound.
Saw Mike Vecchione at The Stand who told me he entertained our troops for the first time in South Korea and Japan, where he stayed on military bases that were so huge he got lost. He said it’s a complicated procedure to be allowed to do these shows, but he loved it. And there’s no restrictions on language. He said that one base in Japan offered sushi on a conveyor belt and after you eat they scan your plate and tell you how much you owe. They wake you up with a bugle. He headlined and did a show every night. He said the troops were the best, and so appreciative, and they all hung out and drank beers after the show.
He said that both the comics and the troops expressed their appreciation for the other. The trip home from Japan was Naha to Tokyo, Tokyo to Minnesota, and Minnesota to JFK, all in all about 13 hours. And while he was performing on stage at The Stand and talking about his car being stolen at that very second, police cars drove by with their sirens blasting. You couldn’t have planned it better had you tried.
Bert “The Machine” Kreischer is the ultimate storyteller and wild man. The inspiration for “Van Wilder” tells crazy stories that can be long and involved, which is not easy to do and still keep them funny, but he keeps the energy high and the audience loves him. He doesn’t wait anymore to take off his shirt. He took it off immediately on hitting the stage the night I saw him headlining Gotham. He had great stories about his family, his daughters Georgia and Ila, and getting drunk and committing crimes with the Russian mob while on a college field trip. He’s got a special coming up on Showtime in November, but before that, he also will be doing an Unmasked with Ron Bennington while he’s in town.
At the end of the show he informed the audience that there was some kind of problem with the reservation phone line so if they had fun they should tell their friends, and he got huge applause. Some fans wanted photos with the shirt on and some with it off.
The life and death part of this column. Condolences to Robert Smigel, and his sister Bellanca on the loss of their Dad, the world known, Dr. Irwin Smigel, considered “The Father of Cosmetic Dentistry” who I knew very well, and who left us this week at the age of 92. I had just been discussing Irwin with Bellanca when I met her at the opening of “Oh, Hello” on Broadway as she is one of the producers. The Riverside Chapel was packed with people who wanted to pay their respects, and quite a few people from the comedy world were there.
As Tom Rhodes and I got to the Village Underground, I joined Ted Alexandro in the little area where the comics sit and he was the first to tell me the terrible news about our friend Kevin Meaney, who passed away from what some people are saying was a heart attack at only 60 years old. What a shock. Always the nicest guy and the consummate gentleman and performer. I remember when he first lost all the weight and I saw him up at SiriusXM, he walked over to say hello and I didn’t recognize him. He actually had to tell me who he was after knowing him for so many years.
I remember seeing him in a show at The Friars Club not too long ago and writing in this column how all the comedians were funny, and did their acts, but Kevin put on a show. He had that powerful Broadway voice and did impressions, and belted out songs, besides his jokes. Truly the consummate performer. And afterwards I asked him if he still does “You’ll poke your eye out!” which to me was one of the funniest warnings his mother ever gave him. No matter what implement he was using, according to his mother there was always an opportunity to poke his eye out.
This past June, we shot an independent pilot together for comic/actor Lance Rizzo and we got to hang out and catch up on things. He was fascinated with the details of my heart attack story which had only occurred six months before at the time. Life is funny that way.
I called Lance to ask him about working with Kevin and this is what he said: “This past summer, I blindly reached out to him in hopes he would play a part I had written for him in my own self-financed TV pilot. I only had a script, a dream and a VERY small budget. Needless to say, I couldn’t believe it when he actually wrote me back and told me to send him the script. A couple weeks later, he wrote back and said he was on board. He was a consummate pro through and through… Not only did he roll with every inevitable production hiccup, but he was the first one there when I showed up to open our location. I couldn’t believe it. He not only showed, but was waiting in the parking lot well in advance of his call time. I introduced myself, thanked him & told him to hang tight as I started to set up. He started hauling equipment! His actions immediately told me just how humble, passionate & kind, he truly was. And he told me a great story about him and George Carlin. Kevin was a young comic doing a big awards show that George was on, and he was nervous to meet the legend he greatly revered. But, Carlin greeted him by name & said he was a fan. Kevin said he couldn’t believe it and how much it meant to him. He and Carlin even kept in touch through the years, speaking in great length on the phone & just chatting like old friends.
Now for the “life” part of the column, … while Ted and I sat there commiserating over Kevin’s untimely passing, Lenny Marcus came by to perform and told me the great news that he was getting married to a girl named Gina. The wedding happened yesterday in New Jersey, and they will be honeymooning in Hawaii, which is much more interesting and scenic than New Jersey. Ted and his girlfriend Madalyn were in attendance as was Marina Franklin who was hosting that show. Ted’s story was also very uplifting. Ted and Madalyn had dated 10 years ago and then she moved to Italy. Years passed and then just last year she reached out and invited Ted out for a cup of coffee. And that was it!
Ted will be touring with Jim Gaffigan again from mid-November through mid-January in a US/UK tour. In their last five week tour over the summer, Ted told me he was on Jim’s custom tour bus for two of the weeks, and then Jim’s family joined him for the other three weeks while Ted traveled by rental car. Ted also got to warm up the crowd in Columbus, Ohio before Jim taped a new special.
I turned around to talk to someone for a minute and felt a vise-like hug around me, and who did it turn out to be but Ardie Fuqua in a beautiful suit and what appeared to be red Beats headphones. He was hosting the next show, and Ardie is so funny. He was backed up by an amazing two piece band who seemed able to play all kinds of music. They intro’d Ardie as “Mr. Walmart” in reference to the accident. Ardie told the audience that his leg had been broken in five places and then went into a Latin dance that people with two perfect legs couldn’t do. He danced a lot through his hosting set and the band switched easily from Latin to Jewish music and then to some cool hip hop beats.
You never know what Ardie will do when he’s hosting. He picked a couple up front, bought them each a glass of champagne, had the guy make a toast to his lady and then led the audience in a sing along to R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” to HUGE applause from the packed crowd. And Tony Woods closed the show. Tony told me he’s shooting an independent docu/comedy special in D.C. in December which he thinks he’s calling The Tony Woods Christmas Special, and hopes to sell it to Netflix or iTunes. At the end of his set, he blesses the audience. And after the show ended, the audience had a special treat. Ardie called back Des Bishop, an American comic who lived in both Ireland and China, and who had been on earlier to sing a song that has become my personal theme song, House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” Not only did they nail the song, but Des did a verse in Chinese and the crowd went wild. I have the video and trust me it was CRAZY! Afterwards me, Tom Rhodes and Tony Woods went back to the original Cellar to catch Tony do another set, cause you can’t really get enough of Tony Woods and ran into Godfrey who was hosting the show. After faux fighting each other, they looked at old photos of themselves on the wall of the club and laughed about how much they’ve changed.
Dangerfield’s held a comedy benefit for the PBA Widows and Children’s Fund, and Curtis Sliwa showed up with one of his Guardian Angels as company. I have rarely seen owner Tony Bevacqua so excited to meet someone. Everyone loves Curtis and what he stands for, and how courageous he’s been in curbing crime in the city. He started the Angels in 1979 with nothing, depending on donations, and now there are over 130 chapters all over the world.
The next night I was back there again to catch David Suarez and Chris Caseiro’s packed show with their New Comic All-Stars and among other talented comedians Paul Virzi dropped by to do a spot. Paul opens for Bill Burr and told me that back when he was just starting out in comedy, he had an apartment near Dangerfield’s. One snowy night, he made his way to the club to see his idol Bill Burr perform. He took a table alone, and wouldn’t you know that Bill picked him out from the stage and engaged him in conversation, having no idea who he was. Years later now, he travels with Bill all the time opening for him in places like Madison Square Garden, and he says he’ll never forget the synchronicity of that night way back when.
That same night Alex Carabano, whose last name he revealed means “Bathroom Face” in Spanish, got passed at the club after a high powered set that owner Tony B. was there to see. Alex was overjoyed and said it was a dream come true for him to be on the same stage where Rodney once performed. David told me they’re trying to combine the party and social thing with comedy so that people hang out after the show, and in his words, he wants it to be like “a mobile Friars Club.”
Bob DiBuono was also there to perform and told me he had been under contract to The Nightly Show to play Trump for the last six months. Now he’s looking for other political shows to do it on. Fortune Magazine named him one of the top five Trump imitators along with Jimmy Fallon, Darrell Hammond, and Meryl Streep! I swear that’s what he told me! Streep as Trump! He’ll also be doing Trump at Carolines during NY Comedy Festival week coming up fast.
And also a big thank you to Norm Aladjem and Justine Cabulong for making me feel so welcome at a taping of the Daily Show on 11th Avenue. I hadn’t seen Trevor Noah in too long so I went to see the show and it was well worth the long wait beforehand, which includes going through security similar to going through TSA at the airport. After the show, Trevor goes right into a staff meeting, but was kind enough to stop off and say hello, and tell me he’s psyched to be doing The Beacon for the New York Comedy Festival.
And that’s it for me. 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. Photos below Jeffrey Gurian with Trevor Noah.