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 checked in from the NYC Comedy Club Crawl, Sinbad’s killer show at Gotham and more.
This week Sinbad was hosting Gotham Comedy Live. I hadn’t seen Sinbad in so long I honestly didn’t know if he’d remember me. We used to hang when he was hosting Showtime at the Apollo, which to his recollection was 1989 to 1991, when he was the permanent host. I purposely got there early, not only to see him but also to see my boys from Killer Bunny— Dave Goldberg and Rob Cea who produce the show– and when I went down to the green room to see the comics having their make-up done, Sinbad was sitting in a chair and I just stood there staring at him until he turned around. I didn’t say a word and he jumped up and we hugged. It would have been easier if he had stayed seated cause he’s about 6’5″. And boy did his fans come out for him. The place was so packed they put other people at my table, which only happens in dire emergencies!
So after the show, which was great and featured Joe DeVito, and Shang Forbes, we went down to the after-party and then I went to find Sinbad entertaining his friends in the green room. We all reminisced about the old days, and Sinbad told me about how he travels with his daughter Paige Bryan‘s band to entertain our troops in the Middle East and how he has his own band called Stank Nasty a crazy name for a band if I ever heard one! Sinbad is also an accomplished musician and plays drums, guitar, trombone, and trumpet under the name Memphis Red! He’s doing a million things, like updating a movie he wrote back in the 90’s, and working on new material which he performs on the road. But the biggest thing is that he’s developing a new TV show called Turn It Up which he describes as a cross between SNL, In Living Color and The Chappelle Show. Three different companies are interested in producing it, but that’s all he could tell me right now. More to come on that, cause now we’re gonna stay in touch.
When the club closed we moved the party down the block to the after-after-party at Jake’s Tavern where we ran into Monroe Martin, Jimmy Failla and Ryan Reiss. Ryan warms up the crowd for Seth Meyers, and usually closes the Gotham Comedy Live show but didn’t have to that night because Sinbad and MC Drew Fraser stayed on stage the whole time. We hung around with Sinbad, Shang, and Sinbad’s driver, an ex-Marine who traded some cool stories with us and Sinbad about being overseas. Jimmy Failla, in response to something I didn’t hear, jokingly told Sinbad, ” I don’t know if you heard but we don’t shine shoes anymore!”
I caught the 6th anniversary of The Mixtape Show, a show that was originally started by Anthony Anderson and Royale Watkins and now is done only by Royale. It’s a great mix of comedy and hip hop, plus other kinds of music usually performed by a special musical guest. Imagine performed, he’s a really hysterical Latino comic from The Bronx, and Lynne Koplitz rocked the house with her set.
Ted Alexandro also performed, and he got very political and talked about cops and race, and some people got uncomfortable, especially one black woman who couldn’t contain herself and started yelling out negative comments that Ted heard from the stage. With 20 years of experience under his belt he handled it fine, and said that people didn’t have to like what he was saying, but he was gonna say it anyway. After his set, Royale admonished the audience saying that Ted, as a white man was on the front lines as an activist, sticking up for the Black community and if anyone there didn’t like it they should leave, and he would pay their bill, and he directed his remarks to the woman in the audience who was being disruptive.
I asked him if I could write about this, because I thought it was very meaningful, and he gave me permission. Ted also shared some exciting news with me. They’re taking his web series Teachers Lounge and pitching it as a TV show to IFC. Both Alec Baldwin and Craig Ferguson have offered to play teachers, and Ted and his partner Hollis James who started together as a duo 20 years ago, a fact I never knew, are working on the treatment and the script. I really hope he gets it, cause Ted is just so funny and deserves to do something really big.
Jon Laster closed the show, and killed it as he always does, and Royale took the stage again and told the audience that Jon had recently had a fire in his apartment in Clinton Hill that destroyed everything he had, and basically left him homeless, and he announced that proceeds of three shirts he had auctioned off earlier in the night would go to help Jon get back on his feet. He’s actually living in his ex’s house while she’s away but needs to find a new place because she’s returning soon.If you’d like to donate to Jon’s fund you can go to www.gofundme/jonlaster, and if you know of an apartment that might be good for Jon, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will pass that on to Jon.
This week was Rick Shapiro’s NYC Comedy Crawl which was an event to raise awareness and money with the Light of Day Foundation to fight Parkinsons’ Disease, something he was diagnosed with in 2012. The crawl hit up three clubs, Stand Up New York, the New York Comedy Club and The Village Underground. Rick performed at all three, as did Artie Lange. Rick later got on stage and told the audience that he’s not a nice guy, but that sentiment was belied by the huge numbers of people and big stars who came out to support him and his comedy club crawl. If he doesn’t feel the love after this, I don’t know what will do it.
It started at Stand Up New York and the club was buzzing with J.R. at the helm, making sure everything ran smoothly, and Greg Judge holding it down behind the bar. James Mattern was the host at Stand-Up NY, and I told him that I think it’s great that he’s going by “James” and not “Mad Dog” Mattern anymore. James is really one of the best hosts in the game right now, and because of that he hosts a lot of shows.
Artie Lange also got there early so I got to talk with him before the show started. Artie just loves to help people. I asked him why and he said that there’s a lot of good causes out there, and it makes him feel good to help people. Artie told me he is really excited about his podcast, The Artie Lange Uncensored Podcast, which he’s doing from his place, and he has an appearance on Conan coming up on Tuesday, February 24th. He’s also single again. When he went onstage to do his set he talked about it, saying his fiancee left him, because her eyesight came back, and that he went to Amsterdam of all places to try and get over it. When he came off I asked him if it was true about being single, and he said, regrettably it was, but that there was hope, and that was good to hear!
Godfrey came in to do a set, and told me he was on his way to Lithuania of all places to be in the Vilnus Comedy Festival. I didn’t even know people laughed over there, how amazing! He also told me he has a gig on the new Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore on Comedy Central. He’ll be doing warm-up as well as doing some fun on-camera stuff as part of the cast. Judah Friedlander was there who is one of the few people who can make me laugh out loud. Judah likes to tell me, and everyone standing around us that I have the best hair in the business. That’s fine with me! Mike Vecchione raced in to do his set, then raced down to The Cellar and came back to do another set on the comedy club crawl later on in the evening. The man is a comedy beast! Rick Shapiro closed the show and this time described his outfit as looking like a gay cop from the ’70’s. Earlier he described himself as looking like he had sex with a 16 year old and kept her clothing! It was so good to see him, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good he looked. I didn’t know what to expect, but when we hugged I could feel his body trembling. He seemed to be walking well, and mingled with everyone thanking all the comics sincerely for coming out for him. And they just kept coming!
We all left to go to the second club on the crawl, the new New York Comedy Club and by the time I drove down, the second show had already started. Jim Gaffigan was on stage murdering the crowd, and Artie Lange was already there. Bonnie McFarlane got up and proved why I really think she’s one of the sharpest comics out there today. Bonnie is so funny and welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming to this event for Pakistan, which is funny on it’s own merits. Later on in the car I started thinking, maybe it was a play on Parkinson’s that she said Pakistan, but whether it was or it wasn’t, if was still a funny way to open.
Rich Vos had to follow her. He will be the Roast Master at the Roast of Curtis Sliwa that I am co-producing at Gotham with Chris Mazzilli to take place on Monday, March 9th. The rest of the roasting crew will be announced soon. Greer Barnes came in and did a very strong set, as usual, and Joey Gay, who is probably one of the only comics who could work MSG without a mic, cause his voice is that powerful, managed the impossible by crushing following Gaffigan, Barnes and Lange. Then Mike Bocchetti took the stage and introduced himself as Honey Boo Boo’s Mom, and Artie and I just stood there laughing and enjoying him. Artie always looks out for Mike. By the time Rick got on stage it was well after 11, and he did a superlative job. He may be battling Parkinsons’ but thank G-d it hasn’t affected his ability to perform. He’s a one of a kind, just like he always has been! And this is a link for anyone who would like to make a donation to the organization behind the event, The Light of Day Foundation.
I also ran into my old friend Carole Montgomery at the NY Comedy Crawl. I know her from the Marty Fisher days. She told me she was producing a comedy special for Shang Forbes this week at the Gerald Lynch Theatre at John Jay College, and Shang told me it was going to be his first time doing a whole hour, so of course I wanted to show up and support.
When I got there, I got an extra treat to find out that a comic I had just met at Gotham Comedy Live, Paul Ogata originally from Hawaii, but living in LA, was taping his special as well. It took a while for it to start because the Killer Bunny Entertainment guys are perfectionists, and wanted everything to be just right which is the only way to do it. It’s the same crew that does AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live. When Shang did Gotham Comedy Live last year he was so strong that they approached him about doing something together. So when Carole Montgomery got together with Shang to produce this special called Shang is Shangry, the first people they went to was Killer Bunny and they jumped on it.
Cipha Sounds from Hot 97 opened the show and warmed up the crowd. Cipha once told me he doesn’t consider himself a comedian but he is. And he especially knows how to warm up a crowd. Then Shang came out and did a basically flawless hour with no awkward hesitations, just went right through it like he did it all the time. Shang also had a podcast that he filmed as a live TV show which is called Monkey With a Brain, Bitch! So now he’s got two hot projects to sell, and Carole is fielding the offers.
When his set was over, they had to break down the set and create a new one for Paul. While that was happening a young comic named Nick Alexander came out to warm up the crowd. Paul came out rocking a suit and tie. I hadn’t seen him perform before and unlike most of the Asian comics I’ve seen he didn’t really mention his ethnicity until way into his hour. He’s very likeable, with basically clean funny material. Carole produced his special also.
Shang and Paul both came outside afterwards to greet their fans and guests. I went over and asked Carole to tell me how she thought it went and what it was like for her because she worked so hard to make this happen. She said “The experience was off the charts for me. As a comic myself watching Shang and Paul get the recognition they deserved made me very proud. There are so many strong comics that no-one knows about cause they’re not twelve. I love working with my talent and making sure their set goes effortlessly. Watching the stage go from empty to having the set built , to tech rehearsal, to full set always blow me away. So many little things have to get done to make the big thing happen. I guess all those years in the PTA came in handy!”
That’s it for this week, but you know I’ll be jumping around all week, so I’ll be back next Monday with more!
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Subscribe to his YouTube channel. Below, photos, Jeffrey with Sinbad, Jeffrey with Rick Shapiro, Jeffrey with Shang Forbes and Jeffrey with Jon Laster.