Tom Papa at Gotham, RoastMasters Says Goodbye to Their Producer, Mark Normand Shares His NYE Plans and More!

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 Gotham Comedy Club, New York Comedy Club, and more.

As I walked into Gotham Comedy Club to catch Comedy Juice the show had already started and I was greeted by Roy Wood Jr. sitting with Mark Normand both waiting to go on, who both whispered to me, “Is it true about the Jerrod Carmichael taping?” They were both shocked because they said they have never seen me write anything negative about ANYONE, which is true. What I told them was that I didn’t draw any conclusions. I just wrote what my experience was, and let the reader draw their own conclusions. From that and the unhappy tweets from others in the audience. But it was nice for me to hear that people notice and appreciate the positivity of my column.

Roy recently taped an hour special for Comedy Central in Atlanta, called Father Figure which should be released early in 2017. I asked him why he chose Atlanta and he said a lot of the special is about race, and he wanted to do it in “a place that still felt the ripple effects of the Civil Rights Movement.”

And Mark Normand told me he’s doing New Year’s Eve with Amy Schumer at yet another arena called The Smoothie King Center in his hometown of New Orleans, which holds almost 18,000 people. I asked him if he was nervous about the prospect of performing for so many people. He said that thanks to Amy, he’s already done 60 arena shows with her, and it’s perfect that the final leg of their tour takes him to his hometown of New Orleans. He expects that about 17,000 of those people will be his family and high school friends, and the other 1,000 will be fans! He also said, thanks to “Schumer money” he just bought his first apartment in the West Village, and is in the process of fixing it up. It’s never a bad thing to be the opening act for a superstar!

Helen Hong was on stage when I came in and when she got off she told me she came in from L.A. to shoot a TV pilot that she couldn’t tell me about yet, and she was going right home to learn her lines, but what she could tell me about was that she was going to be on CNN’s end of year special airing on New Year’s Eve! Very cool! Aaron Berg was hosting and told me he read my book Laughing Legends on his honeymoon in two days and loved every page of it. As a matter of fact, he texted me from the island where they were honeymooning to tell me.


Later at  The Stand, Mark Normand was one of the judges for the RoastMasters battle which included the championship battle between the two kings of battling, Zac Amico and Mike Lawrence, The other judges were Big Jay Oakerson, Ari Shaffir, Rich Vos, and Sal Vulcano. The room was packed and I stood in the back with Geno Bisconte, my 12/29 birthday brother, not realizing that he was dating Alex Engelbert who was in the first roast battle against Jonas Barnes. I think it’s important to mention that Alex is a girl, and Geno’s reaction to every joke about her alleged loose sexual behavior was priceless. They announced a surprise visit from none other than RoastMaster General Jeffrey Ross who yelled out remarks from a seat in the audience. At one point, host Luis J. Gomez asked the audience who THEY thought should be the winner, like they do in LA, according to Jeff Ross, and all the judges all started chanting “Fuck L.A., Fuck L.A.” over and over again. Sal Vulcano did a funny thing by pre-writing his comments and reading them when it was his turn to vote, even though they had nothing to do with the comics on stage or the jokes that had been said. One was like, “¡Ay, caramba!, that was some skirmish!” The bit got big laughs.

Chris Scopo went up against Rosebud Baker and both had lines that destroyed. Referring to Rosebud’s alleged predilection for men with extra melanin, Chris said to her, “If Black Lives really mattered you wouldn’t have had so many abortions!” which brought down the house. And after he mentioned Rosebud’s belief in Astrology, she came back with, “Yeah, I believe in astrology which may mean that I’m delusional, but you still believe in yourself which is even more delusional!” Again, brought down the house! The judges unanimously agreed that the battle between Zac Amico and Mike Lawrence was the best they had ever seen and awarded it a standing ovation by the entire judging panel. Zac and Mike came out dressed like a couple of gay wrestlers, as you can see in the photo above, and the jokes were first class. Zac took the grand prize, with Mike announcing his move to L.A. to write for television. Phil Provencio was there taking pictures, check them out in his Up Next column this week!

Afterwards everybody hung out and it was one big party. Sal told me he and his Impractical Jokers buddies are getting ready to embark on a tour through the UK in January and he was very proud of the fact that they already sold out the O2 Arena which holds 15,000 people for four nights in a row. I asked him if he ever thought anything like this could happen. He said it’s mind boggling and in a million years he never thought they could get so big. It’s the #1 show on Comedy Central in the U.K. I asked him who was opening for them and he said Owen Benjamin. And before I left, he told me he was going to see Oh, Hello next week and is really psyched about it, and added that every time he thinks about it he thinks of me, which was very nice!  Marc Gerber let me know that he’s headlining Carolines Breakout Artist Series this Wednesday, after featuring for his “comedy husband”, Eric Neumann, on his own Breakout show last year. Those guys are inseparable and host a weekly Monday night show together at The Comic Strip!

. . .

Tom Papa headlined Gotham this weekend and I went by to see him and catch up. No one works like Tom. He’s so clean which is probably one of the reasons he’s so close to Jerry Seinfeld, and he talks about such relatable topics. He told me he can finally relax now that his new EPIX special recently aired called Tom Papa: Human Mule. He taped it at the Hanna Theatre in Cleveland this past summer. And he says he remembers very clearly doing spots at The Comic Strip for $5-$8 a night. A lot of his friends showed up at the show I attended and they sat together downstairs in the lounge with Tom between shows. Read more about Tom’s Special in our exclusive interview with Tom right here.

. . .

I stopped by the SiriusXM taping of Jay Nog’s Paid or Pain this week at New York Comedy Club, and his co-host this week was Yamaneika Saunders whose cat attacked her just before she left to do the show, and pulled her sweater all over in the “left breastal area”, and which she pointed out to the audience so they wouldn’t think she was a slob. Yammie is a great host. This week, the judges were Mike Cannon and Tim Dillon.  Most of the comics were too funny to get tortured by Lady Zombie, the dominatrix who doles out pain determined by which card is picked from the deck of pain. But the crowd and judges determined that Jeremy Pinsly deserved to be tortured, not so much for his jokes, but for the creepy sounds he made on stage, which were more disturbing than funny, and so he got hot wax dripped on him, while another comic who insisted on receiving pain got electric shocks which he actually seemed to enjoy.

. . .

My final story is one of synchronicity, which I love. I got home early on a very rare night and wanted to see what was on the tube. I found myself watching the new Showtime at the Apollo which is always a good show packed with stars. I’m watching and I hear Steve Harvey announce that the next act coming up is a guy named Will Mars. Never heard of the guy. My phone beeps to let me know new e-mails came in and I look down and there’s a friend request from Will Mars on Facebook. I was like, that’s impossible. It can’t even happen. So I watched and ran to the computer to tell him of this major coincidence. He wrote me back right away acknowledging how crazy it was and invited me to be on his podcast called Long Way From Mars which is a great name. Two days later, he shows up at my place with recording gear and we do the thing because I felt it was meant to be. And I got to find out more about how this thin, white guy from England wound up performing on Showtime at The Apollo, a mostly black show. He’s originally from Warwickshire. He’s lived and performed all over, starting his comedy journey in Spain where he lived for 9 years.  He says comedy is suffering in The UK and that many of the comedy venues have closed.  He said it took him about three years to get all the evidence he needed for a visa to live in the U.S. He landed in Bay Ridge and now lives in Astoria. I was fascinated with how he managed to get on Showtime at the Apollo. He said his comedy heroes were mostly black, and he was always aware of the history of The Apollo. When he saw an ad that they were auditioning people for the show, he decided to head over. He said he got to the Apollo late and wound up in the last group to be auditioned. Next day, he gets a call to do a Skype interview for producers in LA. A week later, he got the call that he was accepted to do the show. About two weeks later, he recorded the show at The Apollo on a Thursday evening. He got there around 6 and was kept in holding for 8-9 hours before he performed at almost 3 A.M.

He said that Steve Harvey was amazing to him and was very gracious both before the taping and afterwards on stage and he was amazed that Steve could stay funny for all the hours of the taping. But his biggest thrill was being stopped in the street by a black woman who was driving and stopped her car to yell out to him that she recognized him from the show and that he did great!

My next column won’t come out until 12/26 so let me wish all of you a very Happy Chanukah and a Merry Christmas, which fall together this year, and I leave it to each of you to figure out which holiday belongs to you! Until then … I’m OUT!!!

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Jeffrey Gurian is a comedy writer, comedian, author, producer, comedy connoisseur, comedy journalist, and an all around bon vivant. You can find him on red carpets, at comedy events across the country and hosting Comedy Matters TV. He’s the author of the book Make ‘Em Laugh with an intro by Chris Rock”. You've seen him on Comedy Central's Kroll Show and he's a regular on SiriusXM's Bennington Show and it's predecessor the Ron and Fez Show. He's also A BIG BELIEVER in Happiness and Love.
Jeffrey Gurian
Jeffrey Gurian
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedy writer, comedian, author, producer, comedy connoisseur, comedy journalist, and an all around bon vivant. You can find him on red carpets, at comedy events across the country and hosting Comedy Matters TV. He’s the author of the book Make ‘Em Laugh with an intro by Chris Rock”. You've seen him on Comedy Central's Kroll Show and he's a regular on SiriusXM's Bennington Show and it's predecessor the Ron and Fez Show. He's also A BIG BELIEVER in Happiness and Love.