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. In today’s column, Jeffrey attends a taping of the new Jack and Triumph show, attends a comedy benefit, and reports on himself!
This week I ran to catch a taping of the new Adult Swim show The Jack and Triumph Show starring Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock, and Triumph The Insult Comic Dog, and his Dad of course– which is how I liked to refer to him– Robert Smigel! The idea for the show came from a sketch they did on Conan, and as a result got a deal for 20 episodes of the show from Adult Swim. Nice!
It was being taped at the NEP Studios in The Pennsylvania Hotel, and I had to race to get there on time for the 4 P.M. taping, just made it, and then wound up having to stay about 3 1/2 hours until the taping was done, because a taping is not like a straight performance, and you can’t leave once you’re there.
A taping requires waiting while they set the scene, check the lighting and sound and possibly re-shoot part of a scene, but it was worth it because the show was that entertaining, and had great guest stars. When I got there I happened to get into the elevator with the Kraft services guy who promptly offered me snacks. Maybe he knew I was friends with Fabrice Fabrice! (LOL) I was brought to a holding room where I ran into my pal Julie Klausner who as it turns out is one of the writers for the show. Julie is always involved in really cool stuff, so I wasn’t totally surprised, Last time I saw her was at her own show where she performed at Joe’s Pub. I have a funny interview with her where she actually interviewed me, on the red carpet of the Comedy Central Awards. She was hosting the red carpet and interviewed me mostly about my hair and scarves.
When I went to use the restroom I ran into Vincent Pastore, aka Big Pussy from The Sopranos, and when I asked him if he was on the show, he said “No, I’m in the audience!” Not realizing he was kidding with me, I said, “Oh yeah, me too!” I wound up sitting next to his security guy Stevie Villano, which helped pass the time in between set-ups. Stevie told me that Vinnie was in a scene, which is how I found out he was kidding me. I hate to admit it but I can be very gullible sometimes!
Other guest stars were Chris Meloni, and Joey Fatone and one of the regular cast members is 84 year old Academy Award nominee June Squibb. Conan O’Brien writer/producer/comic Brian McCann was the warm up comic and is very, very funny. In the course of his warm-up he told the backstory of the show. Then Robert Smigel came out a bit later in a very nice and considerate fashion to help entertain the audience and thank them for their patience. He was all dressed in black with a black baseball cap that had the brim cut off, because he has to hide behind furniture whenever Triumph makes an appearance and dressing all in black helps him not to be seen. I won’t divulge the plot but it involved Apple products and Siri and they also had the actual voice of Siri — a woman named Susan Bennett. At the end of the show, I went to say “hi” to all the stars, and congratulate them, but everyone had to leave to get ready for the next taping so all that was left was Triumph to take a photo! But something I said made Triumph laugh so hard you almost can’t recognize him! ( See below).
Brian Fischler is a comic who is sightless. I don’t like to refer to him as “the blind comic” although that’s how he refers to himself. He held a fundraiser at Gotham Comedy Club called Laugh For Sight which he’s been doing for about 10 years. He called me to let me know, and I went as I always do. It was packed and it was an amazing show following on the heels of the George Carlin Tribute with several of the same comics showing up to perform.
Craig Carton was the host. Craig doesn’t consider himself a comedian but he handles himself very well onstage. He’s funny and likable. I asked him about his name “Carton” and he said it was his real name and his family’s original name. Very interesting. Of the Hebraic persuasion, … and he still knows about sports! Brian Fischler came on first, and talked about being blind. He said crossing the street is weird, and lamented that his jay-walking days are over! He goes on stage with his trusty guide dog Nash. He’s a great guy and all the big talent comes out for him.
I was standing in the back of the room with Colin Quinn when Gilbert Gottfried came on. We looked at each other and just knew he was gonna do another thing like he just did for George Carlin, when he shocked everyone at the tribute by talking about how glad he was that George Carlin was dead. And we were right! Gilbert talked about how you can’t count on blind people for anything. He said of all the people in his life that he can count on, not one of them is blind! And then he elaborated as only Gilbert can. I venture to say that Gilbert is the only comedian in the world that can say what he does and still make people laugh. It’s because it’s Gilbert!
Colin Quinn talked about so many things, but one of the funniest was when he acknowledged that he’s famous, but not THAT famous. He says he could be walking down the street and people might tell out, ” Hey Colin”, but then they add “Grab the other end!” as if they’re carrying something heavy and need his help! Colin is a master wordsmith and deconstructs every expression you’ve ever used to make it seem ridiculous. He’s just so smart which is what makes his shows so special. He told me he studied the Constitution for a year before doing his show Unconstitutional, not so much to learn the facts but to be able to stand up to the Constitution experts who invariably come to the show to challenge him.
Craig Carton introduced Robert Klein as one of the only comics that Jerry Seinfeld stays to watch. That’s saying something. Robert Klein proved that you don’t have to be in your 30’s, or 40’s to kill when all the other comics are around that age. Robert is just funny and a real crowd pleaser. He told me he’s making a career now of playing people’s fathers. He’s played Jennifer Tilly’s father, Kyra Sedgewick’s father, and now he’s playing Debra Messing’s father in the NBC TV series The Mysteries of Laura, which he said should be on some time next week, and there’s a chance it may become a regular part.
We walked out to the street together after the show, and he told me some exciting news– The Weinstein Company is doing a documentary on him, and it’s tentatively called Robert Klein – Still Can’t Stop His Leg. He said there is so much stuff to go through, like his 11 hours of HBO specials, and innumerable TV appearances throughout the years, so there’s lots of work to do, but he’s very excited about the project and feels very honored that it’s being done by The Weinstein Company. And somehow, … and I’m not positive exactly how, … but Marshall Fine is involved!
Other stand-outs on the show were Stacey Prussman, Eddie Brill, and the always amazing Dave Attell, who told the crowd they had the energy of a check-out line at Barnes and Noble. Dave will be doing a live version of his Comedy Central hit Comedy Underground as part of the New York Comedy Festival, at The Village Underground which has become part of The Comedy Cellar. Owner Noam Dworman recently showed me around. It’s really beautiful.
So I jumped on over to catch the Comedy Juice Show this week. The Lucas Brothers where there, Gibran Saleem from Ha! the Musical was performing, Emma Willmann was hosting, and I got to talk with SNL alum Brooks Wheelan who was also on the show. He said he’s moving back to L.A. cause he HATES New York. He said the city kicked his ass. He said he lives on 3rd Street and Avenue D. Saturday Night Live pays pretty well. Maybe he didn’t save? He told me that just before he went onstage his bike was stolen. Not his motorcycle but his bicycle. He just turned 28, and talks about how much he drinks and drugs all the time. Maybe he’s safer on a bicycle! It feels like he’s one of those good looking guys who grows a beard to try and hide his looks! I’ve known guys like that who were embarrassed that they looked so good, they grew a beard to try and tone it down!
He also told about how he opened for Ludacris at the University of Florida and got booed off the stage in front of 17,000 people. Hip hop fans can be harsh, as evidenced by the crowds from Apollo Live. If they don’t like you they let you know it. Brooks is more honest than most.
Catie Lazarus is a UCB girl who’s a writer/comic, a story teller and a talk show host. Inspired by Tina Fey, she hosts a monthly show and podcast at Joe’s Pub called Employee of the Month where she interviews interesting people about their jobs. Her bandleader is Shockwave from the group Freestyle Love Supreme, who I met in Montreal when they were performing in one of Paul Provenza’s shows and they were so unique, I never forgot them. Her guests sit at a table with her as if they were sitting down for lunch and it’s a very cool, free-spirited show.
I went specifically to see Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, the Broad City girls, kind of hoping that Amy Poehler would pop in, but she wasn’t there. But the girls did say that the best advice they ever got was from Amy who told them to treat yourself like you’re own daughter. They had to leave early to go back to a taping of their show. Catie’s other guests that night were Wesley Morris the film critic, Anthony Bregman the film director, and Alex Borstein who’s spent years playing Lois Griffin on Family Guy, which she said gave her the freedom to not have to audition for anything she didn’t want to. She also sang a song from The Little Mermaid, and was really good!
Other guests that Catie has had on past Employee of the Month shows have been Lewis Black, Dick Cavett, and Wallace Shawn. I hope to go back again on Dec. 5th.
I went over to Comedy Juice to catch Kim Coles who was hosting and it was a really strong show. Yannis Pappas was also on the show and killed it as usual. Great to have him back in New York, and I also got to see a newcomer from LA, an Indian female actress/comic named Kiran Deol who will soon be seen in an episode of New Girl on FOX with Zooey Deschanel. She’s in a sex scene with Jake Johnson! Kiran said in doing this scene she felt like she was breaking the Indian stereotype by playing a “ho”! She also said that Jake gave her the best advice she ever got. He told her that when acting to always put her face in the light, because acting is not about being seen, it’s about being in the light and saying the words!
I went to see Jay Pharoah at The Stand’s late show on Sunday night. He was reviewing his set and choosing what order to do things in when he tapes his Broadway Video special Can I Be Me at The Cutting Room this Tuesday, November 4th. I’ll be there at the 9:30 show to cheer him on. I won’t give away anything from his set because it’s going to be in his special and you’ll all have a chance to see it. I asked him after his set how it was working with Prince Saturday night on SNL, and he said that Prince didn’t hang out or go to the after party. He just did his thing and magically disappeared like in a puff of smoke! It’s just how I would picture Prince entering and leaving a room, in a very majestic, magical fashion!
I was with Rick Newman this week– he was my guest on SiriusXM’s Ron and Fez Show. Rick is a true icon in comedy as the founder of Catch A Rising Star which opened on Dec. 18, 1972 and launched the careers of people like Freddie Prinze Sr., Gabe Kaplan, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. While I was with Rick he told me about a show he thought I should see which just happened to be at Stage 72 his theatre on West 72nd Street. It’s called My Son, The Waiter, – A Jewish Tragedy, written and performed by Brad Zimmerman, and I am so glad I went. In a word the show is “FANTASTIC”! I see comedy basically every night, and as most people in the comedy world I don’t laugh out loud. I laugh to myself, and find myself saying, “That was very funny!” In this show, I laughed out loud through the whole thing. The material was so sharp, and relatable (especially for me), and Brad’s delivery is spot-on!
Brad took his time getting to his comedy career, while spending 29 years as a waiter, but when he finally got around to it, he wound up opening for A-listers like George Carlin, Brad Garrett, Susie Essman, and Joan Rivers, and now he opens for himself! Joan Rivers once introduced him as “the best comic in his price range!” When I told him how much I LOVED the show he said I had made his day, and we shared a big hug!
And finally, I’m taking a moment to turn the pen back on myself. This week I made time to go to Astoria to be a guest on the huge podcast known as Keith and the Girl, who literally have fans all over the world. It’s Keith Malley and Chemda Khalili and I actually took a subway to get out there, which shows you how much I wanted to do the show. It’s one of the only shows where I get to talk about my inventions, like leather socks with heels and laces that will probably put the shoe industry out of business. Shoes are way too expensive these days and socks are so much more affordable, so leather socks with heels and laces should really take off, and be HUGE! I also got to talk about my other inventions like the flashlight that works during the day, the 24 hour stapler, and the battery operated beard. I’m grateful to them and they say we always get great ratings when we talk about such things. It’s always a fun time with Keith and the Girl.
That’s it for this week, but starting Wednesday morning, I’ll be back with an update every day from the New York Comedy festival, where I’ll be jumping around more than ever before!
Pictured below from left to right Jeffrey with Triumph, Jeffrey with Keith and the Girl, Jeffrey with the Brad Zimmerman, and Jeffrey with the Lucas Brothers, and Jeffrey with Jay Pharoah.