Jeffrey Gurian is a writer, comedian and TV reporter 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 was at Gotham Comedy Club, The Stand and New York Comedy Club.
I got to catch up with one of my faves T.J. Miller at New York Comedy Club. T.J. who recently left his role on HBO’s Silicon Valley where he played the iconic role of Erlich Bachman, just moved here to NYC with his wife, underground mixed-media artist Kate Miller. Kate has a new exciting art installation called “Once Broken” in the West Village where they live. It explores the idea of “emotional abuse” and uses poetry, video, and music to tell the story. T.J. told me the physical space itself is very exciting and I’m looking forward to experiencing it. T.J. himself is VERY busy getting ready for a tour planned for him by, as he put it, “CAA, a superior agency” with Rhys Darby, the actor/comedian from New Zealand. He may be best known for playing Murray Hewitt, the band manager on HBO’s Flight of the Conchords. Combining both of their wild and unique energies on stage should make for a very entertaining show. He’s also filming Deadpool 2 in Vancouver, recently finished an hour for HBO called Meticulously Ridiculous, which was taped at The Paramount Theatre in Denver where he’s originally from, he will be starting a tour across Canada for JFL in November which he’s really excited about, and he’s working on a new hour of material. His animated comedy The Emoji Movie opens in the States August 4th.
So when I asked him about leaving Silicon Valley, he explained that “unlike women and wine, television does not get better with age, and if you’re just a TV actor that is a concern.” He is foremost in his mind, a comedian, which is why he loves being in New York. He says that here you can do so many more sets in one night than you can do in LA, and people have been very kind in offering him stage time. He said he doesn’t need the stability of a TV show, because he rather likes chaos. He said he has “a great wife and a great life” and he didn’t want to leave Kate alone for 5 months while filming the show. He said he wanted some freedom because he found himself working so hard to do something he was tired of. And the clincher was when he discussed it with his dad, who’s a lawyer and whose opinion he greatly respects. He said his dad told him it was time and that his character was becoming a one note performance.
I always enjoy seeing him perform and watching what he brings to the stage, as he’s so free which always makes it something different and hilarious. I’m really glad he’s living in New York now, so I can get to see him more often.
New York Comedy Club finished renovating its green room and it’s a really pretty cool space as spaces go, for the comics to hang out in. I ran into Nick Vatterott in there and we both agreed, he has too many “T’s” in his name. He said he’ll try and get rid of a couple. Nick was there with T.J. They do Comedy Central’s The Gorburger Show together and are good friends. Nick is also very unpredictable on stage and anything can happen and does when he performs. I reminded him of a TV audition at Gotham once when he did his whole act screaming from the audience. He also won the Andy Kaufman Award one year, which awards comedians for their unique approach to comedy, on stage or off! Nick told me about his sketch pilot that he did himself called No Outlet, which he described as a surreal half-hour stream of consciousness “from the mind, body and toes” of Nick Vatterott, which can be seen on his website, and on YouTube. I watched it and it’s really fun with Nick doing tons of fun characters and some really cool video work. Some of the comics he has in it are Dan Soder, Aparna Nancherla, Will Miles and Nick Turner.
Nick got started in Chicago when he left college to do comedy, and has been in the sketch group Heavyweight for the last 14 years. He described it as basically three stand-ups who like to do improv. The other two guys are Mark Raterman and Brady Novak. They did sketches the night before we spoke out at The Creek and the Cave in Long Island City. And he said sometimes when in Chicago, they write a whole show in a week and run around like crazy doing sketches. He had a very interesting take on improv comics saying they have to be very confident and sure of themselves, because where stand-up comics can make money doing sets at clubs, improv comics can’t. They work for free until they get a real opportunity to audition for a show. He’s in New York doing something for Comedy Central radio.
Both Nick and T.J. opened up the show before Roast Battle, and as usual the judges were funnier than most of the comics on stage. The judges were Chris Distefano, who made multiple references to his love-life and difficult relationship with his Puerto Rican wife and mother of his child, Wendi Starling and regulars Yamaneika Saunders, and Mike Cannon. The headline roast was between Elon Altman and Alingon Mitra, who made the fatal mistake of making a roast-like remark about Yamaneika, who took her time, like a medieval torturer, in dismantling him in front of the audience with one devastating come-back after the next, but then in a display of comedic professionalism voted for him anyway because she thought he was funny.
I caught up with my buddy Sherrod Small who filled me in on the firing of Gregg “Opie” Hughes from SiriusXM this past week. Sherrod said it was cool to write about it so I will. (You can read more about Opie leaving SiriusXM here). He said it was basically a big deal over nothing and due to a video that Opie shot on his cell phone in the men’s room. He said that nobody saw it, and that they’ve done that kind of thing before, but that there were people up there who had it in for Opie and just wanted him gone. Sherrod said that since the firing at least 1,000 people have cancelled their subscriptions to SiriusXM in outrage over the firing. And also, since the firing, the listeners to Race Wars, the podcast Sherrod does with Kurt Metzger, have quadrupled in numbers, and next week, they’re having everyone on who was involved with Opie’s show.
He said Opie’s show has already received many offers of a new home. Sherrod’s company Small World Comedy is making major moves and is co-producing a show with a major purposely un-named producer, who already has a bunch of shows on cable TV. They’re shooting a sizzle reel at Butter, a restaurant on 45th and 6th with Opie, Sherrod and chef Carl Ruiz, who was also on Opie’s show.
Last week, I mentioned that Kyle Mooney who’s going into his fifth season at Saturday Night Live dropped by the Comedy Matters TV offices to talk about his new film, and his first feature Brigsby Bear as well as all things comedy. He’s a fun, fascinating dude who came out of San Diego, went to USC and was led to comedy by his two older brothers who he said turned him on to SNL, and Monty Python. While at USC, he and three friends created a sketch group called “Good Neighbor” and also made videos which somehow came to the attention of Lorne Michaels. Kyle is not exactly sure how that happened, but he says that growing up when he thought of SNL, it was so iconic and such an institution that he never felt like it was a realistic opportunity to become part of it. That’s where the synchronicities in life come into play and he is very much a believer in that. His “Good Neighbor” cast mates Beck Bennett, Nick Rutherford and Dave McCary all wound up on SNL together, and Dave, who directed their early videos wound up directing Brigsby Bear as well.
Kyle told me he was voted Class Clown in high school and “Most Likely To Become A Movie Star” in middle school, which is where he first met the guy who co-wrote Brigsby Bear with him, Kevin Costello. Kevin moved to Oklahoma City where he went to college, while Kyle went to USC. But they both wound up as part of a Best Filmmaker contest run by MTVU and that’s how they re-connected years later. Kyle said he pitched the idea for Brigsby Bear to Kevin, and they decided to do it together. He also said that he was not as familiar with the format of a feature length film script, so it worked out perfectly. The film is a fascinating story of a boy who was kidnapped as an infant, lives in a remote cabin in the woods with the people who he thinks are his parents, and is obsessed with the only entertainment he’s ever watched, a TV show called Brigsby Bear. When he gets rescued and returned to his real parents, his world gets completely turned upside down as he tries to adapt to life in our world without Brigsby Bear, which had been created just for him. It’s one of the most unique and interesting films I’ve seen in a long time.
The cast besides Kyle including Greg Kinnear, Mark Hamill, Andy Samberg, and Matt Walsh. The film debuted at Sundance, and he just got back from showing Brigsby Bear at Cannes which he also described as a surreal experience. He said he wondered how the material would translate to an international audience and thought it was interesting to see how some lines that get a big reaction here in the States got nothing over there and some lines, even something simple, got a massive response and even a standing ovation for a single line. The film opens here on July 28th. Go see it! And you can see more of Kyle in the video we shot on my Comedy Matters TV channel.
I went to catch Owen Benjamin headlining Gotham. I’m not usually a big fan of musical comedy, but I love to see Owen perform because he’s so talented on the keyboard. In a weird moment, he did a joke involving John Lennon’s death, and a woman in the audience actually got offended. Owen couldn’t believe she’d be so upset by a simple joke, and came back by saying he loves Paul, but that John had a lot of flaws. Not only was he an admitted wife-beater, but he also abandoned his children and tried to start a Communist revolution in this country, and that seemed to quiet her down, to the delight of the rest of the audience.
I sat with Nore Davis for a few minutes to find out what he’s got going on. He’s got his show out in Brooklyn at Starr Bar every third Wednesday and so far has had Sasheer Zamata, Ricky Velez, and Michelle Buteau, with Mark Normand coming up! He said there’s a real stage in the back of the bar and the venue holds about 50 people. It starts at 8 and ends sharply at 10 because the “hipster class” has to get ready for work the next day. He also said he gets a very mixed crowd, which he likes and is very cool. and that he’s working on a new hour to follow up his first, Home Game. Next time I see him, I gotta ask him about the green hair. The whole time he was on stage, I was transfixed by what looked like green hair. However, I literally talked myself into believing it was just the lighting. Now that I see the photos, I see, he definitely has green hair!
Esther Ku checked in to let me know that she’s in a new all female, 8 episode sketch show called Sorry Not Sorry executive produced by Astronauts Wanted made up of former MTV CEO Judy McGrath, Sony Music Entertainment and DIGA Studios. I wonder if she’d remember, but Judy actually hired me personally many years ago to write for MTV’s Friday Night Video Fights where I wrote for one of the first MTV VJ’s Mark Goodman. The other comics in the show are Manon Mathews, Traci Stumpf, and Hannah Pilkes and she said the show takes its inspiration from viral short-form content and is an extension of the cast’s existing work on Vine, Snapshat, YouTube and Facebook. It’s on Verizon’s go90 and Esther told me that during one sketch which was suppose to be a “behind-the-scenes” scenario, she kept hearing noise during the filming and openly complained, thinking it was workmen making noise during the filming. She said she was embarrassed to find out that it wasn’t noisy workmen at all, but the background actors who were just doing what they were suppose to do, playing the grips in the scene. Her bad!
And lastly, in another July 28th premiere date, is Jessica Williams’ Netflix feature film The Incredible Jessica James. Jessica, formerly a senior correspondent on The Daily Show, plays a young aspiring playwright in NYC, struggling to get over a recent break-up while trying to make it in the theater world. Forced to date by a well-meaning friend, it becomes a love story about a seemingly unlikely couple. It’s an honest look at millennial dating in a social media obsessed world. Jessica’s performance has been described as a “breakout performance” of which I’m not surprised. Jess’ talent is only matched by her beauty, … and her amazing hair!!! The first time we met up in Montreal, we did a video and swung each other around. She’s so awesome! Best of luck Jess!!!
And with that I’m OUT!!!
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, and watch Comedy Matters TV on Be Terrific. Below, Jeffrey Gurian with Kyle Mooney, T.J. Miller, Nick Vatterott and Nore Davis with his green hair.