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. Tonight, a special extra report, from the Third Annual Patrice O’Neal Benefit at City Center in New York City.
Maureen Taran and Bill Burr should certainly feel good about themselves today. For the third year in a row, they put together a star-studded comedy concert at City Center in New York City to benefit the family of everyone’s dear friend, comedy superstar Patrice O’Neal who passed away from a diabetes-related stroke on Nov. 29th, 2011, a very sad day for the multitude of his friends and colleagues who lost a brother, (not in the ethnic sense but the communal sense of the word), and the world at large which lost a comedy philosopher, one of the great and often controversial thinkers of his generation.
Rich Vos did such a fantastic job as the MC which is not only a tremendously difficult task, but a pressure-filled task to live up to the responsibility of the moment, and they asked the right guy because he pulled it off. No one makes more fun of Vos than he does himself, but in true Patrice-style, every introduction was like a mini-Friars Roast. These guys are so brutal to each other, and they love it. The nastier the better. Most people would wither away and die after hearing themselves introduced by being insulted about their appearance or their personality, but if the Marquis de Sade had a good sense of humor, he could have tag teamed with Vos on the show.
Every comic was just so strong. Jim Florentine really got the show off to a great start, with his deep resonant voice. Hannibal Buress came out to tremendous applause. People just love Hannibal Buress, and he has such a unique delivery. Even the way he walks out on stage is unique — that very slow, deliberate walk. Vos said he had to fill “the quota” so he brought out Michael Che next. If I remember correctly I don’t think Vos slammed either Hannibal or Michael Che. Maybe in honor of Black History Month, … who knows? Who ever knows what lurks in the mind of Rich Vos?
Ben Bailey, from Cash Cab, was stuck in traffic so Vos had to “stretch” to fill time, but the wait was worth it because when he finally came out he was so angry about how long it had taken him to get there, he used the traffic to go on a hilarious rant for the first five minutes of his act. The audience was rolling by the end of his set. Strangers were literally holding onto each other to keep from falling out of their seats!
Jim Norton got blasted by Vos both coming and going and Jim gave as good as he got. He’s just so quick. I think Vos called him something like a shapeless jellyfish and told him that nobody likes him, and Norton just treats Vos like he saw something disgusting, and made fun of Vos for plugging his own CD and DVDat a benefit for his friend Patrice. I think that Jim was actually the first comic that actually referenced Patrice while on stage. Jim has long ago mastered the art of just saying it like it is, and that’s what he did in his set. It’s really amazing, especially for someone like me who closes the bathroom door even when I’m home all alone! He too got huge applause.
Colin Quinn, the only comic to come dressed in a jacket and tie, got harassed mercilessly for his appearance, being told that his suit was ill-fitting and made him look like a cartoon character. Colin’s told me many times he never minds this as he encouraged that kind of back and forth on Tough Crowd. That’s why it was called Tough Crowd. Not for the thin skinned! Colin is just so smart, so bright and a master of taking you back in time to an earlier era. In contrast, to Colin’s appearance was Dave Attell who I don’t think I’ve seen take off his coat on stage in the last six months. He often performs with not only his coat, but with a bag over his shoulder, so he keeps all his belongings with him. I think Vos referred to him as a garden gnome, but I can’t be sure! But Attell is the master of the slam, and flattened Vos with his retort. Attell is just so funny and has the ultimate respect of all the comics, for what he comes up with on stage. He’s lightening quick when it comes to a retort.
And then Vos brought out Bill Burr. Before Vos could even say his name City Center erupted into thunderous applause. That’s like 3,000 people applauding wildly and Bill earned it. He did some very cool edgy material I would classify as being empowering to men. And he ripped Vos mercilessly of course.
At the end Vos called everyone out on the stage for one last thank you and applause, including Opie who was so close to Patrice, and everyone thanked Maureen Taran, talent manager/producer/and comedy executive for all of her hard work in putting the event together.
The after party moved over to The Stand, which is the home of Cringe Humor. Bonnie McFarlane and I were laughing about how brutal the comics all are to each other and she said they love it and that’s what makes them feel part of the team, and the nastier they are to each other the more they like it, which prepared me for when Bill Burr came in and saw me, and said ” Jeffrey, what are YOU doing here?” And when I asked him why he was surprised to see me, he said, ” Because we came here to have fun!” And then he laughed and hugged me and said ” Good to see you Jeffrey!”, and I knew I was ok!
Patrice’s family was there; his sister Zinder was sitting at the bar talking to a friend and Harris Stanton, a close friend of Patrice who was injured in the same car crash last summer that Tracy Morgan was injured in. Harris was Patrice’s opening act for his last special, the Elephant in the Room which taped down at the Skirball Center near The Comedy Cellar. Harris stays in close touch with Tracy Morgan, as well as Ardie Fuqua who was also so badly hurt in the accident. Harris said he’s going crazy not having been able to perform since the accident. Patrice’s mom Georgia was there, looking so happy and proud at how much love people had for Patrice. Patrice’s wife Vondecarlo came in a really sexy blue outfit, with her daughter Amilyon, who she calls “Mimi.” Bill Burr did the nicest thing by coming over to make sure she wasn’t bored, and told her that maybe next year she should bring a friend, but she insisted she wasn’t bored.
One by one the comics came in to the after party. Hannibal told me he’s in the middle of his Comedy Comisado tour which he started last October ane will finish in May. He said he uses local opening acts but travels with his DJ Tony Trimm, and that he’s still adding dates to his tour. Michael Che is the greatest and friendliest guy. He’s told excited for SNL’s 40th anniversary event this weekend and to meet his idols like Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin, and Bill Murray. He said seeing all the eras blending together like Tina Fey, with Jimmy Fallon and Chevy Chase all in the same room makes it very special. And when I asked him about doing Update and if he felt it was getting easier for him, he said it’s made him appreciate all the people before him that made it look so easy. He said he just came back from D.C., and that being on SNL has allowed him to appreciate the vast fan base that SNL enjoys, of all ages and all races. He said it boggles his mind that “a 75 year old lady and a 16 year old girl could have the same plans that night and that the plan is to come out and see him!” And he’s right, some of SNL’s original fans could easly be 75! Michael’s Boston fans will be able to see him at Laugh Boston on Feb. 20th and 21st. The dude is just so funny!
And so cool running into Paul Virzi who performs often at The Stand and is on Bill Burr’s podcast channel All Things Comedy. Paul was all excited about heading out to LA on Feb. 22nd to tape the 200th episode of his podcast called The Virzi Effect, with special secret guests, and then on March 16th he’ll be making his debut performance at the SXSW Festival in Austin,Texas. Cris and Paul Italia the owners of The Stand and Cringe Humor were also there, making sure everything went according to plan which it did.
It was definitely a comedy night to remember.
I’ll be back with more of my regular column on Monday! Until then I’ll be jumping around New York.
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Subscribe to his YouTube channel. Pictured below from Top to Bottom, left to right. Row 1: Michael Che and Jeffrey, Jeffrey with Patrice’s Mom, Jeffrey with Paul Virzi. Row 2: Jeffrey with Von Decarlo, Von Decarlo, Michael Che, Maureen Taran and Jeffrey, and Jeffrey with Hannibal Buress. Row 3: Jeffrey with Bill Burr, Jeffrey with Harris Stanton, and Jeffrey with Colin Quinn.