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 hit up Carolines, West Side Comedy Club, and New York Comedy Club.
Some performers have one opener, some have two, maybe three, but when I saw that Faizon Love had four I was wondering if he was gonna do a whole hour, and not only did he do a smooth, laugh-packed hour, he did even more. Richie Redding was the host and he always brings his A-game and then he brought up Veronica Mosey, who told me she’s part of a theatre show called “Women of a Certain Age” starting later this week along with Vanessa Hollingshead, LeighAnn Lord, and Carole Montgomery who’s producing and performing on the show which she explained has a residency at The Kraine Theatre. When I asked her if she knew if there was any show around like “Men of a Certain Age” she said “Yes” that was EVERY show.
Then A.G. White came up and A.G. is one of the very few “cross-over” comedians who is capable of drawing an all-Black audience. The A.G. part of his name is his real name but the “white” part he explained to me is his ethnicity. I sat right behind an entire table of black people and watched them react to A.G.’s material and stage presence. It took them a few minutes to get that he was real and genuine and not just some white guy trying to be black. His talk is real and they appreciated it and showed it in their applause. Especially when he did his Jamaican accent. They also showed their enthusiasm by yelling out to him while he was on stage! Then a comedian named George who I think was from LA and was a friend of Faizon came up and did a guest spot and when Faizon came out he was met with thunderous applause. Sometimes when comics who are primarily known for acting come out you never know what to expect, but Faizon brought it. For a straight hour. He only did crowd work after his show was officially over. He had already thanked everyone for coming but they liked him so much they didn’t want him to leave, so he started doing crowd work asking people where they were from and what they did for a living. Faizon is known for saying exactly what’s on his mind, and I thought it was great, as did the audience.
But the coolest thing about what Faizon did was keeping his cool while a woman in the audience sitting right near me had some sort of a seizure and had to be taken out by ambulance. All of a sudden in the middle of his act someone screamed, and all hell broke loose. It was only two tables away and someone said “Call an ambulance” which is what I did. I got 911 on the phone and proceeded to tell them at least 5 times the address and that it was in the Gotham Comedy Club on the first floor, but the guy kept asking me questions about her condition even though I explained that she was surrounded by people and I couldn’t actually see her. I assured him several times that if he sent an ambulance he would not find it hard to locate the woman as she was the only one in the crowd having a seizure and needing medical attention, and it wasn’t important for me to describe to him what she was wearing. A few minutes later an ambulance crew appeared and wheeled her out and all the while Faizon stayed on stage and managed to stay funny and relevant while still showing his concern for the woman they were taking out. That was a masterful thing to do, and it takes quite a professional to do that.
Afterwards he was swamped by fans who wanted to meet him and take photos and he and I got a minute to reminisce, and bonded over our friendship with the amazing and gorgeous actress Kali Hawk, who was his co-star in the hilarious film “Couple’s Retreat,” and who in her early days in New York was very interested in comedy and hung out with me all the time at comedy clubs like The Comic Strip.
It was fun for me to see how much fun Jade Catta-Preta was having at her Breakout Artist Comedy headlining gig at Carolines on Broadway with her bestie Michelle Buteau who was her feature. Jade told lots of personal stories to an audience that had many of her friends, and talked about ending her 8-year relationship as well as who she’s dating now including an autistic guy and a 24 year old. After the show she told me she’s also trying to sell a documentary film that she made doing a series of nine shows in Brazil, with the working title of Born and Raised.
Michelle Buteau told me she’d be performing stand-up on Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams’ Two Dope Queens show on HBO which got picked up as a show after starting out as just a podcast. With that in mind Michelle is coming out with her own podcast in April called “Late Night Whenever” and will be one of 16 comedians heading down to Atlanta to film a 15-minute comedy special for Netflix. And she’s doing a monthly show out in Brooklyn with Jordan Carlos at Union Hall called #Adulting. When I asked her to explain the concept she said, “we welcome guests to break down the what, the how, the where and the why #Adulting is the puberty you opt into.” I think I’ll have to check it out to really find out what that means. Some of their guests so far have been my pal Jerry O’Connell, Sam Jay, and Abbi Jacobson.
For the second time in a few weeks I was back at Carolines seeing women I had known from earlier in their careers who are on their way to becoming superstars. The first was Tiffany Haddish and this week it was Amanda Seales. I hadn’t seen Amanda for quite a while since a show she did at The PIT, and she gave me a warm welcome. From guest-hosting on The View, to creating ,writing and hosting award-winning web series for major platforms like scripted comedy “Get Your Life”, AOL’s “The Spark”, and BET’s “Funny Style” to performing comedy all over and even lecturing on college campuses using her Masters in African American studies, Amanda has built up a following that allowed her to sell out all her shows at Carolines. And a 7:30 show is not easy to sell out! Especially when it’s only 14 degrees outside. At the show I attended there was not a seat available in the house. And aside from all I mentioned Amanda is also a DJ, who’s on the ones and twos at special events all around the world. But she’s also a woman of style and grace, and she brought all that to the stage showing her range and versatility. She looked incredible and wore her hair in what she called “a Rapunzel braid”, and she sang and danced, and actually led the audience in a song that not one White person knew but that every single Black person sang along with called “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” That alone was hilarious. It was only afterwards that I learned that that song is considered by some to be like the Black National Anthem. But with all she’s done I think it was her role as Tiffany Dubois on HBO’s Insecure that brought out many people in the crowd the night I went. She brought so much energy to the stage from the moment she got on and brought the crowd to a screaming pitch not often seen at the many shows I attend. Her bits were pointed and socially conscious especially her bit on the power of white women, and cat-calling, and when she acted things out she took on the persona and ethnicity of each of the people she was imitating. She even did impressions including a pretty good Barack! And just this past June she was named one of Essence’s “Future 15” a list which spotlights tomorrow’s greatest Black millennial influencers. This girl has got it goin’ on!!!
For most of the show I was hanging with my homie Reg Thomas who was her opener. He couldn’t get over the fact that I didn’t know “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, because as D.L. Hughley once laughingly said about me, “you’ve been Black since ’79.” LOL Leah Bonnema was the MC and did a great job of warming up the crowd, and Reg took it from there. I’ve known Reg probably since he started in the game and I’ve watched him progress from a late night performer to hosting his own shows with Jordan Rock called Productively Stoned to the seasoned performer I saw on stage featuring for Amanda, and I told him so, and he was humble and grateful. He said he was glad I knew him so long that I could see the difference, and how much he’s grown as a performer.
Reg told me he’s been friends with Amanda for years, and they kept in touch and he was honored to have been asked to open for her. He’s been working the road and is still doing Productively Stoned with Jordan even though it’s been a bit difficult since Jordan is spending more time in LA doing so much TV. They have PS shows planned for Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles and Connecticut, cause I guess people get high in all those places too. When Amanda came off she gave herself about two minutes to hang with a friend backstage and then went out to greet her adoring fans, and took photos with everyone who wanted one. When we took our photo she told me I smelled really good, and I carried that with me for the rest of the week!
West Side Comedy Club is always popping with good energy as it was the night I stopped by this week, and got asked to host in place of a host who was detained. Gina Savage and Lori Sommer always make sure the place is running at 100. Alingon Mitra rolled in with three other compatriots all of whom just happened to be of Indian descent, and all were comedians. Alingon was on the show as was K.C. Arora and they were with Akaash Singh, and Tushar Singh, no relation! They are all doing a show together at Carolines called American Born Desi Comics at the end of March. They had done it previously during the NY Comedy Festival and also on India’s Independence Day. So I asked Alingon if his name was common in India since I had never seen anyone else named “Alingon”, and he laughingly told me his parents made it up. It’s just a word they like which means “Embrace” in their native language. So I hugged him.
Tom Kelly was also on the show. He does warm up for a couple of big TV shows and is working on shooting episodes for his Tom Kelly Show on YouTube for the series How To Be A Comedian. He said he didn’t do it as an exercise in ego but because people are always asking him how to become a comedian, as he says they probably do to every comedian, but he decided to make this series as “a public service.” He says the first lesson, at about three minutes long, is the most important of all and already got him some paid work.
And then I left which is what I’m doing right now! 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 with Amanda Seales and Faizon.