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 stopped at Gotham, The Grisly Pear, The Cellar, Greenwich Comedy Club and more!
A very special event for me this week was being invited to a little private show that David Steinberg did at Rick Newman’s Triad Theatre on West 72nd Street. David is working on some new material for a show he’s creating, and of course he could have gone anywhere but he called his old friend Rick to use The Triad. They saved me a great seat right next to my buddy Brad Zimmerman who has the long running show there called My Son The Waiter. It’s hilarious. Both he and I are big David Steinberg fans. Brad told me about his brand new show My Rise To The Middle that he’ll be doing at Symphony Space on next week. Award winning writer/director Alan Zweibel opened the evening and that was special for me too, because Alan was the one who gave me my start in the business many years ago, by calling his manager at the time, a man named David Jonas, and asking him to meet with me.
It was a very casual, relaxed evening, and David wound up telling some fascinating, poignant and funny stories from his life, and included a fact that really resonated with me and that I had never heard anyone else say before. He said that when he told a story from his past he felt compelled to use the person’s real name. And when I write a script where a character in the film is based on someone I know or knew, I also feel compelled to use the person’s real name or else the story doesn’t feel true to me. And now here’s an icon like David Steinberg saying the same thing. It was great validation! He told great stories about some of the synchronistic things that didn’t have to happen, but did, that led to his successful, longtime career. Like performing for Joey Gallo, his friendship with Paddy Chayefsky, and Burt Reynolds, and how Johnny Carson let him host The Tonight Show after only his 2nd or 3rd appearance. What an honor! He was there with his beautiful wife Robyn, who told me she was a fan of this column and reads it all the time! How cool is that? (Rhetorical question!) What makes The Triad really special is that Rick often produces these kinds of unadvertised private shows only for people on their mailing list and they’ve done them with Joy Behar, Susie Essman, Mario Cantone, and Robert Klein. And Rick was really excited about something he’s doing for the New York Comedy Festival. It’s a New York Comedy Writers Roundtable, a panel discussion led by Alan Zweibel, Andy Brekman from Monk and SNL, Michelle Wolf from Seth Meyers, and Matt Roberts from Letterman. I hope I’m on his mailing list, … cause I’d really like to go!
Afterwards when we were hanging out I asked Rick how long he and David go back. Rick told me this great story of how they actually produced a show together for Cinemax back in the late 70’s. Larry Charles was the writer, Richard Belzer was in it and Gilbert Gottfried played the bartender. As Rick recalled Belzer played him because it was supposedly set at Catch A Rising Star, and the great Tom Leopold who I still see occasionally, played Belzer’s manager. He thought this was about 1978 or ’79. The next morning I get a call from Rick, who is great with details and he laughingly told me it was called The Richard Belzer Show set in a supposedly fictitious comedy club, based on Catch.
Kathleen Madigan hosted Gotham Comedy Live this week and when I went down to the green room before the show I was pleasantly surprised to see Lewis Black there. He and Kathleen are good friends and he came to support and wound up shooting a little comedy video they used to start the show. Lewis is telling her she has to go upstairs to go on stage and she says she won’t go until the Cardinals come back on the TV screen. Everyone thought it was funny and I was too embarrassed to ask what the joke was because I know nothing about sports! Alex Edelman was also on the show. Alex was another late nighter from The Comic Strip who spends months in Scotland at the Edinborough festival and wins all kinds of awards. He had a great bit analyzing the song “Happy Birthday”. I think he’s also in his early 20’s.
I went down to The Cellar late one night this week not knowing that Andrew Schulz was going down too. So I was able to find out more about Benders, his hockey comedy show on IFC every Thursday. He plays a guy named Paul Rosenberg with a wife and a kid, and he gets to be on the show with his close friend Chris Distefano, who also plays his best friend on the show. They’ve already had guest appearances by Jim Norton, Godfrey, and Robert Kelly.
Joe Machi came in and we hadn’t seen each other in quite a while so it was good to catch up, He said it’s his first free weekend in a long time. He was excited and told me that very day he just closed the deal to tape a special at The Underground on November 24th, produced by The Comedy Cellar. He’ll be doing two shows. I asked him what it’s like doing so much work on the road and he was very honest. He said he loves the crowds, but it can get lonely after the show. You get so much love on stage, but then everyone leaves to go home, and you’re left alone. He’s a sensitive guy in the best sense of the word and a very genuine guy which is what makes people love him. Joe uses LA comic , formerly NY comic Adam Cozens as his opener.
Joe List joined us with the good news that he recently got engaged to comic Sarah Tollemache, who’s in the process of submitting packets to write for TV. Joe’s Comedy Central Half Hour airs this Saturday, along with Sam Morril’s. They taped it together in Boston. As a matter of fact Sam was having an album release party that very night at the Fat, Black Pussycat, a bar/lounge connected to The Village Underground, which is where I went when I left The Cellar.
I only made it to part of the party but there were still plenty of people there, and Sam was so happy. The party was for the release of his album, Sam Morril-Class Act. He was proud of a photo he got of his Mom with Dave Attell who came out for him and also performed. I ran into Jon Fisch, Harrison Greenbaum, who someone was trying to convince to lose the beard, Gary Vider, Phil Hanley, Mark Normand, and Rachel Feinstein who’s doing her own special on November 4th. Sam was ecstatic and told me he’s very grateful to Comedy Central and that several fans of his podcast, We Know Nothing which he does with Phil Hanley and Anya Marina actually flew in to attend the event. They do their podcast at Stand-Up Labs and he said “it’s a relationship show, but we don’t know shit.” It comes out every Friday and according to Sam, he and Phil abuse each other on the air. I got to tell Matt Ruby that I love his new web series that Chris Laker turned me onto, Club Scale starring Joe List and Dan Soder as doormen at an ultra-hip club. They play perfect doormen, and Joe wears a big, crazy fur hat with earlaps just like one of those doormen would wear. And I know because I spent many years on that scene, and know all the heavy hitters on the nightlife scene.
Reg Thomas was there too and told me that he and Jocelyn Chia were doing a show called Rush Hour Four with all Black and Asian comics at New York Comedy Club, and when I thought about it for a minute, I said, it sounds great but it would sound really weird and racist to make a show just for all White comics, and Reg thought about that for a minute and told me that the check spot is the token spot for one white comic! And just as I finally went to leave, I got as far as the entrance when Ardie Fuqua grabbed me around and pulled me back in. He’s like the mayor only much more popular. Everyone gravitates to Ardie. Always impeccably dressed either in a suit or a beautiful sport jacket, and was buying shots for like six girls at the bar. So good to see him back on the scene.
Steve Marden’s Fast Times Comedy Show at The Standing Room was a hoot with Paul Spratt hosting. It’s a small, intimate room but fun to do, and we had an interesting line-up that included the ubiquitous Aaron Berg who seems to be at even more places than I am, and Richie Redding just off the road with Katt Williams. He’s on tour with Katt till the end of November and has 16 more shows to do down South and in the Midwest. He said that on the road they travel in two buses. The openers on one bus and Kat, Red Grant, Ashima Franklin, and Mark Curry on Katt’s bus, and they would pull alongside each other and tape 15 second diss videos from bus to bus! Aaron Berg, who’s having a party for his new book American Etiquette at The Stand Monday night, told me that he’s one of the stars of a new TV show. A dark comedy called 24 Hour Rental that will air on Hulu. He described it as being like The Sopranos meets Clerks. He plays Floyd, a gangster who drives a cab, and his wife is a hooker who works out of the cab! I saw the trailer and it looks cool.
This was kind of a special week for me. I got to see at least five of the young comics who used to perform on my late night show at The Comic Strip doing really big things. I recall introducing all of them to the stage to perform and they were all brand new, and now because they’ve worked so hard they’re doing big stuff. The first was Neko White, who was headlining Carolines as a “Breakout” comedy star. It was a 7:30 show and to my wonderful surprise the place was packed. On a Tuesday night! That is not an easy thing to do, because Carolines holds about 300 people. And also they had to change the original date and he was scared that no one would be able to come. He prepped for two months and promoted it on FB, Instagram and Twitter, and it worked!
As I came inNick Alexander was warming up the crowd, and Neko was at the bar, and spied me in the mirror behind him. He was like, “Gurian, you showed up!” I was like, “Of course! I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Two of the comics he had opening for him were also from that late night show, Aminah Imani and Phill Hunt. Both of them were HILARIOUS, and Neko closed to a standing ovation. He’s been performing since he was 14 and he’s only 22 now! After the show, he was mobbed by well-wishers, and very touchingly he said to me, “Not a lot of good things have happened to me in my life, so this is very special. To see all these people that came out for me.” It was a great moment, and you could see he was truly grateful. We spent a lot of time hanging out backstage at The Strip. Aminah Imani used to come in exhausted from her job as a swim instructor (Yes, Black people DO swim!) and work on her material. She now as a 15 month old son Nasir, so she said she can only get on stage like twice a week cause she has to get a baby sitter. But she makes sure to produce a show called Wreckless Wednesday twice a month at Tavern on Third.
Phill Hunt also proved the magic of stage time. Originally from Indianapolis, he’s been honing his stuff on the road. There’s a special bond among those comics who started out together.
Nick Alexander just finished opening for Sinbad. Great story of how it came about. When Shang did Gotham Comedy Live, Nick was there hanging out with him. I was there too that night to support Shang. Sinbad was the host. After the show we all went to Jake’s Tavern to hang out and party. Shang introduced Nick to Sinbad and vouched for his ability to make people laugh. Sinbad was headlining Gotham that weekend and Nick asked him for a guest spot which he got. He did the guest spot, and Sinbad kept him onstage for a long time, answering questions with him from the audience. Sinbad didn’t take his number so he was shocked when Sinbad texted him and told him to come down to The Cellar, cause he was eating dinner with Dave Chappelle. That’s when Nick realized that if a celeb wants your number they can easily get it. He went down and sat with Sinbad and Dave and then Estee asked Chappelle if he was ready to go up, and Chappelle suggested that Sinbad go up with him, which is exactly what happened. It was a magical night for Nick and for the audience. They stayed in touch ever since and Sinbad called and asked if he could open for him at Carolines for the weekend. Big break for Nick and it just shows that sometimes you have to have the courage to step up and ask for something.
If you ever wanted to know how to fill The Grisly Pear (a club in the village if you’re unfamiliar) ask a comic named Joe Alfano who seems to know how to do it on a regular basis according to owner Gary Miller. Joe’s got a show called Thunderbird that he does with four other funny, ethnically diverse comics like Brad Hagan a white bearded dude who hosted the show, Emil Kim who’s Korean and does great Asian stuff, Gabe Dorado, who’s Latino, and James Alexander who’s Black. When I was growing up Thunderbird was a cheap wine that even kids could afford to buy. And the thing was you’d ask ‘What’s the word?” and the answer would be “Thunderbird!” Well that’s how James Alexander opened the show and it took me back. It was the fourth anniversary of the show, and the place was filled from wall to wall. Not just comics. Regular paying customers! Cyrus McQueen from Last Comic Standing, who had formerly worked at Gotham Comedy Club for years, which is where he honed his act, opened the show. I got to go up right before Jon Laster, who is a beast on stage, and very often closes the AXS TV show Gotham Comedy Live.
Jon was excited about having just gotten greenlit on a new comedy reality show for TV for which he was sworn to secrecy on the details, but he did tell me that he’s in a film called No More Mr. Nice Guy, by NY Times best-selling author Carl Weber in which he plays a gangster named Pooh, a bad guy’s henchman!
Ron Herron of Herron Entertainment produced a show at Greenwich Village Comedy Club featuring LA comic Tommy Savitt who bills himself as a Healer, self help guru, and winner of the Boston and Seattle comedy competitions. He was also once a Brooklyn lawyer before he moved out to LA. We bonded over the healing and self-help thing, and he told me he’s doing a web series called Chakra Chat. It’s Spiritual advice as told through his dream-catcher wearing character of Tommy Lama. But he had to wait until Mercury was no longer in retrograde before he could start shooting it because he believes in that stuff! Also on the show was an interesting comic who goes by the name of Jacq T. Stripper. A pretty blonde girl who’s actually a stripper. Add her to the short list of girls in the “anti-slut-shaming movement”. Lots of porn stars and models breaking into comedy these days. Kudos to these girls for their courage in owning who they are!
So that’s if for me this week! 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. Below, photos, Jeffrey with David Steinberg, Sam Morril, the cast of Thunderbird (Emil Kim, Brad Hagan, Joe Alfano, Gabe Dorado and James Alexander), Jeffrey with Neko White. and Jeffrey with Jacq T. Stripper.