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 visited The Stand, The Cellar, New York Comedy Club, Carolines and more!
Yamaneika Saunders will be having a viewing party for her Half Hour Comedy Central special at New York Comedy Club on Friday September 15th and owner Emilio Savone clued me in on a new show they’re planning on doing in the space adjoining the club which they’re thinking of calling “The Place Next Door.” It’s a bartender show where comics will take turns as a bartender and do a few minutes of comedy material from behind the bar. Why not? Colin Quinn started out as a bartender at The Comic Strip!
Emilio is opening rooms all over the place. He’s got one in Philly now and one in Fairfield, CT where Artie Lange did shows this past weekend. Emilio says he looks at these “affiliate rooms” like little “pods” to get comics more work. He said he’s tired of dealing with other comedy club owners and likes to book comics on the road himself, so “we decided to open our own clubs,” he said. Eventually he wants them all across the country.
Neko White told me that in September he’s doing his 10th year in comedy anniversary show, also at New York Comedy Club and is waiting for his Kevin Hart/LOL appearance to come out that he taped at the New Faces Unrepped show in Montreal last summer. Since then, he started being repped by Don Buchwald’s Conan Smith, and Chris Burns and Brian Stern at AGI. The dude’s in ten years and only 24! I met him early on when he used to do my late night show at The Strip and was always a stand-out performer.
It was a special week for me as I got to hang out with two comedy superstar friends Tracy Morgan and Artie Lange. Tracy was headlining Carolines and the place was packed. Every seat. I went in through the back and hung out with his openers Wellie Jackson, (who told me to make sure I wrote accurately that he “killed his shit” tonight, and he did as he always does), Tracey Ashley, and Marc Theobald who was hosting and who filled me in on the new show they’re doing for TBS called The Last OG. Marc is writing on the show and it sounds like a winner. Tracy plays a guy named Tray who just got out of prison after 15 years on a drug charge to find out that Brooklyn is now gentrified and his former girlfriend Shay, played by Tiffany Haddish, got married to a white guy, and is raising the two kids that Tray fathered, but never knew he had. Sounds hilarious!
And it’s got some major players. Cedric the Entertainer runs the halfway house, it’s executive produced by Jordan Peele, and the showrunner is writer/producer John Carcieri known for HBO’s Vice Principals. They had just finished shooting the last of ten episodes the day before and the show is set to debut in October on the 24th to be exact. He told me my boy Derek Gaines is in it for 7 episodes playing a character named Jaybird in the halfway house. Jordan Peele is involved in the writing and Jeff Stilson is an executive producer while Jorma Taccone directed the pilot.
Tracey Ashley, who’s been doing stand-up for 19 years, told me a great story of how she got involved and how special Tracy Morgan has been to her. Wanda Sykes took an interest in her and helped her get on Last Comic Standing and an all female show called Herlarious. Jeff Stilson was touring with Tracy at the time, saw her performance and recommended her to Tracy because he was looking for a female comic for the tour. Tracy watched her set on LCS and saw that she said she was on the show to help her husband who was diagnosed with MS. She said she wanted to become successful enough that he wouldn’t have to work and when Tracy heard that, he took her on tour to 65 cities, and her husband came with her. She said she had never performed with such a big star and she was amazed to see the love that people had for Tracy wherever they went, all over the country. All ages. Everybody wanted to hug him and wish him well. She said he’s one of the most generous people she ever met.
On stage, Tracy told great stories especially about his dad Jimmy who he said wore Jheri curls like Rick James so they called him “Rick Jimmy.” He said he was conceived during a weekend when his dad went AWOL from the Army and one day his dad actually took him to show him the spot where he was actually conceived. He told the audience that he loves being onstage which is why he wasn’t getting off right away after he did such a strong hour plus. And he lectured them on using cell phones to record everything and emphasized that he’s also a businessman and you can’t see him for free on your cellphone, which is why no phones were allowed into the showroom.
And then a crazy thing happened. While Tracy was still on stage, a man went crazy and started yelling at the top of his lungs about being accused of something, and started yelling racial epithets about the white server that he said had accused him. Finally Tracy’s huge security guys went over and escorted the man out of the room, but not before he threatened them by saying he had fought Mike Tyson. Tracy’s guys didn’t seem worried as either one of them looked like they could take a bite out of a desk if they wanted to. Gentle giants.
There was a hush in the room, but Tracy did an amazing thing. He asked everyone to forgive that man and explained the importance of forgiveness using the example of how he forgave the Walmart driver who caused the accident in which he was so badly hurt. It was a powerful moment. Tracy said he survived the accident in order to spread love, and he said “I love you, and you can’t do shit about it! Black, white, gay, straight, it’s all the same.” And he added, “ That’s what my father would have done.” And he left the stage to a standing ovation.
Backstage, it was crazy afterwards. A lot of his family was there and they all came into the green room. After everyone left, we all went out and hung out in the street at the tables that are set up in front of the club courtesy of the Mayor, where the women who came to visit Tracy took turns taking photos with him including comedy manager Cheryl Abbott.
I got to ask more questions about the tour and his Netflix special “Tracy Morgan: Staying Alive.” The 65 city tour which was called “Pickin’ Up The Pieces” was in preparation for the special. Kevin Kevin who I had ran into at The Comic Strip earlier in the week was backstage with Ruperto Vanderpool who’s psyched about the role he has on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None in Season 2 where he plays a doorman. He showed it to me on his phone. It was a very special evening as it is any time I get to spend time with Tracy.
I drove out to Fairfield, CT, ( thank G-d there’s a way to abbreviate the name of that state!) to see Artie Lange headline at the Fairfield Comedy Club, mentioned earlier as one of the pods of NYCC. Artie was in rare form and got four standing ovations. Two as he approached the stage and two as he left the stage. He was there with his producer Dan Falato, and the shows were a blast. It’s set up in the lobby of a hotel, but there’s great seating like in a theater. A center row and on both sides of the stage.
The show is produced by Beecher and Joe Gerics both of whom take turns hosting because there were two shows, one at 7 and one at 9. I got to perform on both which was cool for me because I never got to perform on a show with Artie before. Also on the show were the very funny Brian Beaudoin, and Russ Meneve.
Artie leaves nothing out when he’s on stage. He discusses every terrible thing that’s ever happened to him; jail, rehab, stabbing himself, accidentally snorting glass, … it’s all there. And the audience rewards him with such great affection for his honesty. He lays himself bare. His ad-libs were great too. In between shows, I got to talk to Artie about Crashing. He said that aside from Howard Stern, it was the best job he ever had. He said that Judd Apatow is amazing and really knows how to get a stand-up comedian to act, and that he got very close to Pete Holmes during the taping. He said they made him so comfortable and that made it a very easy place to be. There’s even an episode in the second season named “Artie” which he jokingly said was pressure because he said it dealt with his personal problems like the drugs and everything else he’s been through. He said he never really likes to do that kind of stuff, but it was written in such a kind and caring way, that it made it easier. They just finished shooting it. He said it was kind of emotional, but it went great. He also said that Judd and Pete were both really good friends to him and supported him both personally and professionally and that he’s very grateful for the opportunity. He added that if his performance comes across well, it’s because they made him so relaxed and so comfortable, and he hopes it comes off on screen like that. And so do we. Everyone is pulling for Artie Lange.
Roast Battle was as crazy as usual this week. One of the battles was between Corey Reppond and Daniel Perafan, who managed to lose over 200 pounds. (Not during the show, but over a period of time!) For that alone, he should win everything he goes out for. However, Corey won the battle and one of the judges this week was Dolph Ziggler, superstar wrestler and sometime comedian who is in town for WWE SummerSlam. The judges usually evaluate each roaster’s performance after each round. Mike Cannon, a regular judge, had this very insightful comment to Corey, “Corey, I think you won because you won!” They wound up only doing two rounds instead of three because both rounds went to Corey, however Corey made the very big mistake of making a remark, which I guess he thought was a joke, about judge Yamaneika’s grandma who is very ill. Yammie went off on him on a well deserved tirade and really put him in his place. As I say every time, these roast battles have gotten meaner and meaner, even though the roasters hug each other at the end, some of the so-called “jokes” are just mean-spirited. Yammie was driving down to Maryland to visit her grandmother after the show. Sending prayers and positive thoughts for her recovery. The headline roast was between John Moses and Pat Dixon who wore his official gray suit and tie. I wonder if he has a closet full of gray suits and matching ties, or if it’s the same one.
The Fat Baby show was back at The Stand this week and Ari Shaffir opened the show with a crazy story about his trip to Thailand. LA comic and ex-footballer Jared Campbell dropped by to do a set and talked a lot about his brother, NFL player, Calais Campbell who’s 6’8” and over 300 pounds. They come from a big family of five brothers who hope to someday be the next Wayans Brothers. Chris Scopo was there. Chris will be doing the Red Clay Comedy Festival in Atlanta at the end of September for the first time. He’s doing four shows and said that SiriusXM will be taping one of them.
I popped into my old haunt, Dangerfield’s and ran into J.J. Ramirez affectionately known as “The Latin Lunatic” and he definitely lives up to the title. He’s been in the biz for 36 years and just got back from performing at Mohegan Sun, and will be off soon to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. When he’s not at Dangerfield’s, he’s playing clubs across the country.
Eric Neumann told me that he and Robyn Schall will be doing a Bring Your Parents To Work show for the New York Comedy Festival in which his mom and her dad will be doing five minutes of stand-up for their very first time on stage. They each will help them to prepare. Most people LIKE their parents! Should be a fun show!
I happened to drop by to visit Comic Strip owner Richie Tienken on the night that comedy legend Gladys Simon had her monthly Gladys’ Pro Show and it was packed. I’ve known Gladys since her days at Hamburger Harry’s in Times Square which she did from 1994-2004.
That’s the year she moved to The Strip. Interestingly enough she originally wanted to be a singer and dancer on the Yiddish stage until she took a comedy class with Gabe Abelson. That not only changed her life, but the lives of many big comedians she’s worked with and coached. Personally doing Gladys’ show, has helped me tremendously with my own performance. Gladys not only runs the best open mic show in the city, on Wednesdays and Fridays at The Strip, but she’s also a respected comedy coach and this Pro Show is only for comics she’s worked with personally. When I came in, Vince August was on stage absolutely killing it!
Some of the people who have come up through her rooms have been Jim Gaffigan, who did her Pro show not too long ago, Dave Attell, Greg Giraldo, Zach Galifianakis, Darrell Hammond, Jon Rudnitsky and lots more. As a matter of fact, one of the new students in her class/show is Jon Rudnitsky’s mom Karen Angrist, who I hear is very funny. Jon’s been in to watch her, so I’ll have to go back and check it out for myself.
I ended the week at Danny Palmer’s birthday party at a lounge down on St. Marks place. I got there late, but it was still going on with Giulio Gallarotti, Chris Scopo, Matt Pavich, Remy Kassimir and a whole bunch more comics.
And that’s it 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 Gurian with Tracy Morgan, Mark Theobald, and Artie Lange with everyone in Fairfield Ct.