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 hit up Stand Up New York, The Cellar, Comic Strip Live, West Side Comedy Club and more.
Now that the weather is nice I went to hang out at The Cellar because for some reason I like going there best in nice weather. Not sure why but it’s the truth. As I got to the club the first person I saw was Sherrod Small who was holding court with a table full of girls at the only outside table so we hung out for a bit before I went in. When I got to the legendary “table” Estee Adoram the even more legendary booker for the club was engaged in conversation with Gina Yashere and Sam Morril, and the place was filled with comics as usual. On my way to the table I passed Ryan Hamilton sitting with Wil Sylvince and outside was Cort McKown in from LA talking with Rich Vos. They soon joined us at the table and Cort told me he was very excited because earlier that evening he passed the audition for the Cellar by auditioning for Estee. He said he was really nervous but it evidently went well. Vos made fun of the fact that Cort was telling me things because he said that no one reads this publication, and then within seconds went on to tell me things that he and Bonnie were doing! That’s Vos for you! Cort was on his way to do The Funnybone in Virginia Beach and The Draft House in Arlington.
People come in in waves. Ricky Velez came in with a bunch of exciting news that I promised not to share except for the fact that he’s at the Philly Punchline next weekend using local comics as his openers. Then Jon Laster and Harris Stanton came and joined the table. Jon is in the new indie film called “One Bedroom” in which he plays the lead’s best friend. It’s currently on the festival circuit, and it was shot in Brooklyn, where these days you’re lucky to even be able to afford one bedroom!
And then I got a chance to catch up with Sam Morril who taped a Comedy Central special called Positive Influence and it’s produced by Amy Schumer. He described it as being kind of sarcastic and said he liked to give himself false compliments. He said the special is a lot about breakups and fun stories. It will air September 14th at midnight the way CC usually drops its specials. Sam also described it as “jokes that will NOT make you a better person.” They might make you a bitter person but not a better person.
And he said he really loves Amy because she’s so helpful and supportive. She helped him in so many ways and reviewed videos with him and went over the material to help choose the strongest bits. He’s also had the good fortune to open for her in “huge venues” when Mark Normand wasn’t available and said it was amazing flying in a private jet and being in a helicopter. He said that Amy is very loyal to the people that she cares about and that she also has great taste in Scotch! The hour-long special was taped in Brooklyn, with an audience of about 250-300 people.
1 A.M. I went back outside to schmooze with Sherrod who was now sitting with Marina Franklin and Artie Lange who just popped by to hang out. I made plans to visit Artie in the Cumia Studios this coming week and Sherrod told me about his upcoming SmallWorld production show for Michael Che’s birthday next Monday May 14th at The Village Underground with Jessica Kirson, Sam Jay, Drew Michael, and Chris Redd, and Che and Colin Jost will be coming by to join the festivities right after they do the Robin Hood charity event.
I popped into Stand Up New York’s new pop-up show at Beauty Bar that had some funny comics I hadn’t seen before and some that I did. Mark Normand and Ronny Chieng went on back to back and brought down the house. Mark has a way of tackling controversial topics like abortion, being gay, and school shootings that might “offend” young liberal audiences, but he makes them so funny with his unusual point of view, that everyone has to laugh. And Ronny Chieng will be seen in the new film out this summer called “Crazy, Rich Asians” which he said was great because he had auditioned for the “Financially Responsible Caucasians” movie and never even got a callback. They filmed on location in both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is one of the three locations where he married his wife Hannah, and Singapore is where he was raised.
Brett Davis of “The Special Without Brett Davis” is in prison, possibly for murder, or so he’d like you to believe, which was the premise for the episode of his “Podcast for Laundry” that I joined him on in his studio out in Brooklyn. Somehow he managed to get permission from the warden to still do his podcast from prison where he is obsessed with all things laundry-related. When he asked me about my favorite “terge” I did not get right away that it was short for detergent and thought he was just making up a word which is when I told him I liked to use “Nayshpes” which is not an easy word for most people to say. He looked at me strangely as I carried on the conversation thinking it was a made-up word until he clarified that he wanted to know my favorite detergent. I’m not sure how I did it but I snuck in a slide whistle past the guards so he could have something to use as an alarm in case any of the other prisoners tried to attack him. Chris Gethard who used the same studio at MNN before he got picked up by the Fusion Network had come to visit Brett before me, and Todd Barry was scheduled to come and visit him right after me. It was a very entertaining hour of fun and improv. And I hope he gets out soon cause he’s not really cut out for prison.
I recently found myself wondering why I haven’t seen my buddy Derek Gaines for a while and then I ran into him at Stand Up New York along with Monroe Martin and Chloe Hilliard and then I found out he’s been in LA for pilot season. He also plays Jaybird in Tracy Morgan’s TBS hit The Last O.G. which just got picked up for its 2nd season.
He said that working with Tracy, Cedric and Jordan Peele is a dream come true and that it feels good to put “blue comedy back on TBS.” He also said there’s an uncut or uncensored version available on iTunes and TBS.com. It airs on Tuesdays at 10 and he also said that now that he’s back we’ll be able to find him at The Stand every weekend either hosting or doing spots.
Yannis Pappas was headlining Gotham Comedy Club. Charles McBee was hosting and told me he’s on the Diversity Show at Gotham coming up next week, and doing a guest spot at The Village Underground next week to help Rick Crom kick off the Go Fund Me page to help fund distribution for his documentary film “Oh, Rick.” Also on the show will be Judy Gold, Tom Papa, and Modi. So Charles was at my table talking with me about all this stuff and all of a sudden the announcer announced his name as the host and he grabbed his cell phone and ran to the stage.
After Yannis’s great performance (during which he chose to ignore a table full of women who were yelling out remarks and were finally asked to leave), we hung out in his dressing room for a bit, where he remarked how one unruly table in a huge room can change the entire energy of the crowd. And it’s true. He made the right choice to ignore them. His closing bit about certain languages that should no longer be allowed to be spoken is so good because he imitates each language kind of the way Sid Caesar used to do. He didn’t really speak the language he just sounded like he did.
Yannis and Chris Distefano are really focussing on their Bay Ridge Boys series and have already done five episodes. It’s going so well a restaurant in Brooklyn already named a sandwich after them. It’s directed and produced by Jim Serpico, and you can see it on YouTube and Facebook. They also just started a new podcast a couple of months ago called History Hyenas. I asked if the hyena reference was about laughter and he said no, it’s because hyenas are some of the most vicious animals on the planet, with the females being more vicious than the males. Now I’m afraid to go on the show. It’s on Bobby Kelly’s Riot Cast Network and they do it from The Cellar.
Maryssa Smith has a long-running show at Broadway Comedy Club, which she started back in 2009 but it’s been at Broadway for the last four years. It’s called Fashionably Funny and when I asked her why she said that at the end of each show she gives away a designer handbag to some lucky lady in the audience. Very cool! She also has a new second podcast which she’s doing from Gotham Podcast Studios no relation to Gotham Comedy Club. It’s called “Blamestorming” and it’s about political news and turned up as #11 in News and Politics on iTunes. This is besides her original podcast called Big Talk and Brewskies which I was on and which is a really fun podcast to do.
West Side Comedy had some people on the show I hadn’t seen for a while, Noah Gardenswartz was there with his significant other Ester Steinberg and both of them were on the show. Noah is hard at work writing on the 2nd season of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel which they shoot at Steiner Studios out in Brooklyn. Ester is on the season premiere of the new Comedy Central show Corporate, and just did a commercial for Spotify.
The Comic Strip has a cool little podcast room leading off the control room where they keep the red light and the video stuff, and where I spent a lot of time in my days at The Strip. Joel Jacobson of Soul Joel Productions produces some of the podcasts done there and this day it was Mark Ricccadonna and Richie Byrne with their podcast Drinks, Jokes, and Storytelling. Until they started the show I had no idea I had any or enough of those things to talk about. They made fun of me for asking them why they didn’t tell me to prepare something beforehand, and then I wound up having plenty of jokes and stories to share from my decades of experience in the comedy world. It was a really fun show to do, and besides talking about stories from my book on The Comic Strip called “Laughing Legends” they were also very interested in my newest book on Happiness which reached Best Seller status on Amazon and was #1 in Medicine and Psychology called “ Healing Your Heart, By Changing Your Mind.” It was a fun fast-moving show and the time went very quickly.
Dani Zoldan from Stand Up New York stopped by the Comedy Matters TV offices and shared some exciting news with me. They are working on lots of ideas to make the club stand out but as of tomorrow, they will be offering an online comedy course for new and not-so-new comics taught by 7 pros, Godfrey, Modi, Aaron Berg, Brian Scott McFadden, Marion Grodin, Gina Brillon, and Tom Kelly. In a partnership with Teachable, the course includes videos, doing open mics, access to a special private Facebook page with a community of comedians, and even one to one coaching with the club’s talent booker to help walk them through their 5-minute set.
Dani said “ We know how important it is to work with the next generation of comics to help them develop their best material, just the way Amy Schumer, Pete Davidson, Michael Che, Michelle Wolf and Colin Jost did when they came here to do open mics in the beginning of their careers.”
I went down to the trendy hotspot known as The Mailroom on Wall Street to catch the ”advance VIP screening” and after party for a new proposed dark comedy series called “Karl Manhair Postal Inspector” brought to us by award-winning filmmaker Chandler Kauffman who wrote and created the project, produced by Hillary E. Cutter and Cutter Productions. It had a great cast including Geoff Cantor best known as Mitchell Ellison in both Marvel’s Daredevil and The Punisher on Netflix, and he’s also in the Netflix series Maniac with Emma Stone and Jonah Hill. Amy Rutberg is also in Marvel’s “Daredevil“, and NBC’s “Taken”, Peter McRobbie is from HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire“, Brandi Nicole Wilson plays Jim Belushi’s wife in SONY Pictures “Home Sweet Hell” and stand-up comic Mike Somerville who plays a really crazy part.
Karl Manhair is a postal inspector on a mission to unravel one of the most bizarre cases of his basically unexciting career. Described as a cross between “Inspector Clouseau and Tim Stack via Son of a Beach” Karl Manhair is a frustrated man questioning his relevance in this modern world where hardly anyone mails anything anymore and after seeing someone (Mike Somerville) supposedly stealing a box that had just been delivered to someone’s doorstep, and chasing him down, he gets involved with a crazy family that makes “marital aids” and a life coach that’s involved in a sex cult. It’s a wild and fun story, and the event was well attended.
I ran into Abby Russell there who produced the documentary film on The Comic Strip comedy club called “Eat, Drink and Laugh” that I was a co-producer on with owner Richie Tienken. After the presentation, I spoke with Geoff Cantor who was so funny in the film, and he told me he had tried stand-up twice in his life but realized it wasn’t for him. I asked creator Chandler Kauffman what led him to create such a project and this is what he told me about the genesis of Karl. Back in 1998 he was living in Astoria and working as a PA on SNL, and managed to license his NYU senior film to a PBS show called Independent Images. He was promised a royalty check which never came. A trip to his local post office revealed that his whole block was missing mail and he was told that a postal inspector would be put on the case to track down the missing mail.
Turned out it was a bunch of 10th graders who were stealing mail on their way home from school, but the experience stuck with him, and he started wondering about who the group of people were who became postal inspectors and “how someone like that was dealing with his increasing irrelevance. What would become of this old west sheriff with no frontier town to police?” It turned out to be a really fun project and I look forward to seeing more of it. Oh, … and yes he finally did receive his PBS check!
And that’s if 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. Pictured, Jeffrey with Brett Davis, Geoff Cantor, Mark Riccadonna Joel Richardson and Richie Byrne, and Natalie V.