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 covered the scene in Brooklyn and at The Stand, the ACE Hotel, Carolines on Broadway and Gotham Comedy Club.
I planned to catch Tracy Morgan at Carolines for the 11 P.M. show on Saturday night, figuring I’d go backstage after the show and catch up with him and take a few photos. I made sure to get there after 11 so as to avoid the huge crowds waiting to be seated, as I usually walk in through the back, through the kitchen and hang out with the comics backstage waiting to go on the show. This night as I came in I noticed a four man security detail guarding the way into the kitchen, including J. Ken Feder, sometimes known as Club Soda Kenny from the days when he worked with Andrew Dice Clay. Everyone in security and from the club was so nice and polite but I was told that Tracy wasn’t seeing anyone either before or after the show, and that it’s been that way for all five shows. I didn’t mind at all because it’s important to respect the wishes of talent. Especially with what Tracy went through. I’m just happy that Tracy’s back to himself and feeling well enough to headline five sold-out shows. That is a true miracle.
I asked which comics were opening for Tracy and was told it was only one, … Marc Theobald. That’s a huge deal. Outside the club was parked one of the most beautiful white stretch limos I had ever seen, with a gull wing door that was open into the sky, and in front of that was an exquisite white Rolls Royce which I can only hope belongs to Tracy courtesy of Walmart!
I pulled up to The Stand to find Big Jay Oakerson hanging outside with Christine Marie Evans, one of the producers of the upcoming Skankfest, the “anti-comedy festival” being held at The Creek and the Cave and The Standing Room, coming up on the weekend of June 18-19th. As part of the fest, Friday night Big Jay will be having the kick-off party for his Comedy Central special that Big Jay filmed back in February at Webster Hall. I was there and it was amazing. Like a rock show with comedy! Hosted by Luis J. Gomez who is also one of the producers of Skankfest along with Rebecca Trent of The Creek. You can read more about Skankfest right here!
While I was talking to Jay and Christine, Sal Vulcano from truTV’s Impractical Jokers came out and joined us. He had just gotten back from LA after taping Ari Shaffir’s This Is Not Happening along with Louie Anderson, Brian Regan, Al Jackson, and Nick Thune, and he said that he was honored to be on the show, and that while he was out there he did a bunch of spots at The Improv. I asked him what story he told and he just smiled and told me it was a story I knew and that he had been working on for a while. I do know the story. It involves a pair of pants, a woman, his landlord, and it’s very funny! He thinks it will air in October. And he told me The Tenderloins, which is his group with the guys from Impractical Jokers wrote a third hour because after they taped their second hour they are completely retiring that material. They start a tour next week on June 10th in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and will be at The Borgata in July. And he was very excited about January of 2017. That is when they will start an arena tour of Europe, and they’ve already sold around 150,000 seats. That is incredible! Way to go Sal!
And I also got to connect with Josh Gondelman who writes for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Josh is a really smart guy who used to teach elementary school and pre-K before he got into stand-up comedy. He applied for a job at John Oliver’s show and wound up doing social media for about a year before he started writing for the show. After his set, I asked him how he came up with the name Physical Whisper which is the name of his Rooftop Comedy special that he shot at the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville, Massachusetts and he said it was just a phrase he came up with while he was on stage the very night before the taping. It’s available at Rooftop Comedy and on iTunes and he gave me a cassette copy. I hadn’t seen a cassette in so long, I immediately put it into my fanny pack along with my beeper, my Walkman, and my 8-track tape player! It’s funny too, which helps when you’re doing comedy!
I dropped by The Comic Strip and luckily ran into my man Ruperto Vanderpool who was just interviewed by NPR up in Harlem and he told me some amazing stories about his history with Prince, over whose death he was still pretty shaken up. He first met Prince at the old Boston Comedy Club back when Barry Katz owned it. He said that Prince was with Mayte Garcia and he didn’t believe that Prince was actually in the audience. Prince came over to him after the show to introduce himself, and compliment him on his performance, so he knew it was real, and that started their relationship.
He said that later on, Prince found out he was performing at Gotham and contacted owner Chris Mazzilli to let him know he was coming in to see Ruperto. Chris would have kept it a surprise but he couldn’t let Ruperto go on before Prince got there, so he kept Ruperto from going up until Prince showed up, and had to tell him why he was being delayed from performing.
Then he was invited by Prince’s publicist to a live concert for an album that Prince was promoting at a club in NYC along with George Clinton and some American Idol people. He said that within the VIP area there was a separate VIP area which he got to sit in courtesy of Prince himself who came out and saw him and brought him in. And then another time Prince actually flew him out to LA First Class to host a post Oscar party at his mansion for about 300 guests where Prince jammed from 1 A.M. till 4 A.M., and where Ruperto partied with Stevie Wonder, Sean Penn, Chris Tucker, Wesley Snipes and Jonah Hill. Ruperto is a very talented dude and one of the nicest guys in the biz.
As I walked into the Gotham showroom to catch Comedy Juice, I ran into Jade Catta-Preta walking out, and while we hugged hello she told me about her new show Ladylike coming out on MTV also this week. She said it’s a hidden camera prank show that takes stereotypes and turns them upside down, breaking gender norms. It’s Nicole Byer’s vehicle and also in the cast is Matteo Lane, Blaine Socci, Megan Gailey, Shannon Coffey, and Anna-Lee Wright. Sounds like something I’d love to stay home and watch but this Thursday night I will be making my national TV debut on AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live with Jon Lovitz as the host. I’m beyond excited and Jade and I promised to tape each other and watch!
Tim Dillon was hosting Juice for the first time, and he’s a great host. Judah Friedlander was here too and got up on stage and wished Tim a happy 60th birthday. Tim’s maybe 35 and told me it was not his birthday at all. He’s doing a lot of first time stuff like headlining The Brokerage on June 26th, which he was really psyched about doing. He made me chuckle when he told me he used to wonder what I did before he knew me, because he said he saw me everywhere. He said it was all very mysterious and he thought I was like an undercover comedian.
Jay Pharoah hosted Gotham Comedy Live this week and made a point of saying how fun it was performing with his friends as he got three of his openers on the show with him, A.J. Foster, Mike Paramore, and Neko White who recently headlined an evening at Carolines, as well as at The Apollo, and who started out on my late night show at The Comic Strip only a few years ago as a teenager. He’s definitely going places, and is always a crowd favorite. Blonde, female Kelsey Cook, whose family are professional foosball players, was an interesting addition to that mix! Jay recently did a comedy video with Michelle Obama, shot at The White House. It was a rap video called Go To College promoting the value of higher education and of course it went viral. The after party was crowded with people and I got to see Jay’s sister/manager Shayna who usually accompanies him on his gigs.
It feels great hanging out at Dangerfield’s again and I went to see the 16 year old comedy wonder Simon Cadel headline a show featuring Myq Kaplan, and Pat Dixon. I had the honor or hosting and it was another successful, packed-house Ron Herron production. Simon is currently starring in a Canadian sitcom called Raising Expectations and told me he’s developing an independent internet project which he’d like to get on TV. It’s called The News Millennium and it’s a millennial’s take on The Daily Show. The first two episodes have been shot and deal with young conservatives and Islamophobia, and I’m not sure the two topics are connected. Simon’s comedy coach, veteran comic Scott Blakeman was there to support. He told me that Simon’s bar mitzvah gift in 2013 was a session with him, and they’ve been working together ever since. He is very proud of all that Simon has accomplished.
I raced over to the Ace Hotel to catch Walker Hays and Luchana Gatica’s show and who did I run into right in front but Walker Hays herself in a skin tight, white slinky dress, … I’m not too good at describing women’s clothing, … but she looked “hot”! And she was trying to track down Jason Scoop who was supposed to go on first and somehow disappeared, so Luis J. Gomez who was hosting was stretching until they could find him. Then we were joined by the other co-host Luchana Gatica who was also wearing a very sexy flowered dress, and they posed for a couple of sexy, very affectionate photos for me, while we all tried to figure out what happened to Jason.
Jason Scoop did reappear and told me he’s having a viewing party this coming Tuesday June 7th on St. Mark’s Place for the first episode of his show with Dana Carvey called First Impressions. He’ll be on AOL Build the next day as well promoting the show, and didn’t bother explaining where he had disappeared to! I stood on the side hanging out with Mike Merkovitch who came by to check out the scene. It was a hot show with Mark Normand, Thomas J. Kelly, host of the internet radio show You Need To Live Your Life and Harrison Greenbaum who is so intent on getting himself a Netflix special that he created a website dedicated to it called Iwantanetflixspecial.com. Comedy photographer Brody Brodo and I took turns taking photos of everyone until someone suggested we take a photo of us together which we did.
Lance Rizzo is one of the founding members of Cult Comedy Pictures a group of very talented guys who do live shows and comedy videos. I brought them in when I was asked to create a comedy sketch for Bravo TV’s Real Housewives of New York. Lance and I wrote it together and filmed it at The PIT. Lance was shooting what he hopes will be a pilot he created for TV called Successful Failures about people needing therapy caused by the feeling that they’re not fulfilling their goals or potential. And I drove out to Franklin Lakes, NJ to participate, along with a bunch of other comics like Kevin Meaney, Jose Vega, Mike Sgroi, Harris Stanton, and Eric Lyden.
People came in from all over to do this project. Kevin came in from a gig in Philly, and Eric had been up for 36 hours as he had just flown in from Alaska where he had been on a cruise working as he put it, “the igloo circuit”, on the Princess Cruise Lines. Eric told me that Kevin was the very first comedian he had ever seen work live, and that he inspired him. And Kevin said he wanted to start doing cruises again.
Eric then told me a crazy story about having been fired from another major cruise line for answering a negative e-mail from a passenger on the cruise who took offense to a joke he had told. Political correctness gone wild for a change. He got the e-mail at home, and answered it from home, basically telling the passenger to go fuck himself and the guy turned it over to the cruise line and Eric got fired after 12 years of working for them. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and he was married with a three year old daughter and a second daughter on the way. He said he had lost everything. Luckily just one week before this happened, he had gotten hired to work on the Princess Line, and that’s what saved him.
Film shoots and schedules being what they are, Eric and I had a couple of hours to run our lines, which came in handy. I play a shrink who thinks he’s Japanese. I almost lost my voice trying to speak in what I thought was a Japanese accent.
Anyway until next 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. Photos below Jeffrey Gurian with Ruperto Vanderpool, Kevin Meanie and Eric Lyden, Josh Gondelman, Sal Vulcano and Simon Cadel.