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 at Gotham Comedy Club, The Stand, and Visana.
It was a crazy week in the comedy world as usual.
Jessica Kirson and Rachel Feinstein gave the audience at Comedy Juice a big surprise and an unexpected treat when they asked if they could go up together and do some character work as two elderly Jewish women. They did about 20 minutes during which time they made fun of each other for doing this instead of doing stand-up.
Jeff Ross came in to close the show, and we got a chance to catch up which is not easy to do with Jeff cause he’s always on the run. But he was in a great mood and reminded me how I helped him get his iPhone back when he lost it a few months ago in an Uber. He had a great set and carried the message to the audience that if you can laugh at yourself you’re one step closer to freedom. Off stage he told me he’s already shot part of his next special, a roast of the police. He’s filmed in various police stations on the West Coast, and will be shooting the rest in about three weeks on the East Coast, and I promised not to divulge exactly where. He was genuinely excited about having co-written the script for The Comedian with Art Linson starring Robert DeNiro who plays an aging insult comic. I asked him if he had attended the recent shoot at The Village Underground but he said he was stuck in LA and wasn’t able to attend. But he did say it was incredible working with DeNiro to develop the character, as well as coaching and rehearsing with him. They worked on the script for 8 months. It’s going to be HUGE!
I also ran into Steve Hofstetter who I hadn’t seen for quite a while, at Comedy Juice this week, at Gotham Comedy Club. The guy is always busy. I think we first met years ago through Kent Emmons the guy who owned National Lampoon Radio. Steve was the Executive Producer of Laughs for season 1 and a Consulting Producer for season 2, but he really wanted to talk about his new gig. He has transitioned into sports comedy with a podcast called Major League Podcast, where he does longform interviews with Major League Baseball players. The interviews are not about the game but about the person, and he said he asks them uncomfortable questions and puts them on the spot. It’s a once a week show and already wound up in the top 100 in sports podcasts. He made the transition into sports last year when he was the Senior Comedy Correspondent for FOX Sports, and when I told him I never heard of such a title he told me that’s cause he made it up. And while we were talking outside the showroom people who were using the rest room kept coming over to him and congratulating him on his You Tube video, where he yelled back at a woman who heckled him. Now he’s developing a TV show set in the baseball world with a couple of former player, and bringing a new show to New York called Supply and Demand. The reason it’s called that is due to the pricing of the tickets. The first number of tickets are free, then it goes to $5. then $10. and then up to $20. as the show gets more crowded, and becomes more in demand. He figures by the end of May they will have 5-7 shows going a week with the eventual goal of 7 days a week. He said they’ll be “the best damn bar shows in New York!”
I had a surprise visit from Bobby “The Pitbull” Slayton who was in town filming Woody Allen’s new TV show for Amazon. He came by the Comedy Matters crib to catch up and tell me all about what was going on with him these days and it’s a lot. As is common with Woody’s work, he didn’t know the name of the project. All he got were the pages he had to perform- not a full script either, just his scenes. The papers just say Woody Allen Project for Amazon. He said he had a HUGE scene with Woody and was so nervous about it he prepared the scene for at least six weeks. Not only did he work on it every day, but he also hired two acting coaches to help him work on it, so he’d know every word perfectly. He said he woke up during the night with panic attacks in fear that he couldn’t learn his part well enough. After a few weeks he finally felt he got it down. Then when he got to the set he said that after all that stress, Woody was so cool that he allowed him to make changes and throw in an ad lib or two if he felt it worked. He said, if you make mistakes you make mistakes. Don’t worry about it, we shoot it a bunch of times. Who cares. And it took all the pressure off him. Bobby said he never saw anyone work so quickly and so professionally. And he said that Woody told him he always likes working with comedians because they can adlib and have some fun with the script.
Carrying on the tradition that “the show must go on”, only two weeks ago Bobby suffered the loss of his dear wife of 28 years, Teddy, (who he still jokingly referred to as “the Plaintiff”), through what sounded like a compilation of errors starting with her getting hit by a car in Mexico. The accident broke her hip and she was unable to travel in that condition, and so she needed surgery done right there in Mexico. When she arrived back in the states she developed double pneumonia, and things went downhill from there. It also involved a nursing home and her developing a terrible infection, and now a big lawsuit, and in the midst of all this Bobby had to prepare for performing with Woody. His wife had been so excited for him to do this project that he couldn’t possibly have cancelled it. He thought about it but she wouldn’t hear of it, and no one expected her to die. He said he’s been doing a lot of walking through the streets of New York because it clears his head. It’s like a catharsis, but every once in a while his eyes fill with tears, like when he passes a restaurant they used to frequent, or when he thinks of Teddy and how things spiraled out of control. And then of course as a comedian he had to add, “Hookers are good for taking your mind off of things like that.”
I asked him how it came to be with Woody and he told me he has a rich friend of his who owns several apartments in NYC, and who’s close friends with Woody. This friend invited Bobby to a dinner with Woody about two years ago. Bobby decided to fly in from LA just for the dinner because how many times do you get the chance to have dinner with Woody Allen. He said that he and Woody had a lot of mutual friends from the old days when Woody first started performing in the Village. Woody came with Soon-Yi but everyone else was just guys, including comedians Lewis Black, David Brenner and Dick Cavett. And David Blaine showed up halfway through the dinner and amazed everyone with his card tricks. Then about 8 weeks ago Bobby’s people got a call from Woody’s people that there was interest in Bobby doing this project. Bobby cleared his schedule to have a couple of weeks free to hang out in New York. He wasn’t even sure when they were going to shoot it so he left this two week window and is staying in this apartment that his friend gives him on the Upper East Side. At the end when I asked him if he was planning on doing any spots while he was in town he laughingly told me he’s so tired of stand-up, he hates it with a passion! He said he really can’t stand it anymore. He said he probably “has more stage time than any comic alive and that includes Robert Klein and Jay Leno, and a guy like Jay Leno has those $50-100,000 nights, private jet, the Ritz-Carlton. I have Side Splitters in Tampa, coach airfare, Hampton Inn. My hours are a lot tougher than Jerry Seinfeld puts in. So I’ve become kind of sick of stand-up. I’m never gonna stop doing it, it’s how I make my money.”
I was back at Gotham in my usual table for Gotham Comedy Live to see my girl Lisa Lampanelli host the show. Her hair is still Tiffany blue and shaved up the sides. Now what some people might not know is that just before the show starts the director Bob Lampel shoots a little comedy sketch with the host to open the show. In Lisa’s sketch they used her ex-husband Jimmy “Big Balls” Cannizzaro, who does security at the club. They get along better now than when they were married. At the end of the show Lisa shouted out Brad Williams who was headlining there that weekend, and had him take a bow. Brad, who refers to himself as a midget or a dwarf and not as a “little person”, jumped up on a chair to make it easier for people to see him take that bow. Alli Breen was also on the show and she’s a Boston girl who moved to LA and then moved back here from LA to write a morning show for AOL. When that show ended unexpectedly she decided to stay here in NY where she had started doing comedy originally. She just got hired to do a podcast for Forbes of all places called Uncommon Ground where she has on male and female guests who talk about gender differences in the workplace. She begins hosting the podcast tomorrow, on April 12th. She was there with comic Andy Fiori who works at Sirius XM and he’s working on his first album which he’s calling Plan B.
After leaving Gotham Comedy Live even though it was late, I did my first Periscope for the IBang, first at The Stand, with Pete Lee and Emily Tarver. Emily told me she’s gonna be on Season 4 of Orange is the New Black, one of my favorite shows. She’ll be playing a prison guard named Bambi McCullough, and shot 10 episodes. I always wondered what prison they shoot in. She said they shoot the show in Rockland in an abandoned children’s psychiatric hospital and the rest of it at the Kaufman Studios in Astoria. Then it was over to New York Comedy Club where I scoped with the new March Madness winner Neko White, Brandon Sagalow, and Phill Hunt, and that was fun.
Andrew Dice Clay called to catch up after I texted him wishing him luck on his premiere last night on Showtime of his new series. I’m proud to say that he and I have developed a very special friendship. He’s been on a crazy schedule set up for him by Showtime and when I saw him last Monday up at SiriusXM for his second Unmasked” interview with Ron Bennington he apologized for not having time to hang out. He credited me with being the first to break the story in this column about helping Guns N’ Roses get back together back in January and Rolling Stone just reported about it a few days ago.
He called me from a laundromat, or a “Fluff and Fold” as he called it. He said his life was so chaotic and so busy with all these things going on that he just had to get away by himself for a little bit and wound up doing laundry in laundromat. And then he said the Armenian woman who owns the place asked him for a photo. He said she was about 67 years old and it was raining out and he said “ you know what kind of mood that creates”, and the next thing he said he found himself thinking, “I would fuck that!” We had a big laugh over that cause I know how rain makes you feel!
Dice told me about preparing for his set on the Tonight Show. He said that every comic that comes out on Fallon wants to try and get a laugh right away. Not him. He said he took almost two minutes to build his opening by coming out, lighting a cigarette and taking his time to get to the first joke. He said he was picturing Howard Stern watching this at home and thinking that he was having a meltdown from the stress of everything that was happening, and just because his career was on the upswing that he would do something to sabotage it. He never even rehearsed the bit except for doing it alone in his backyard, and once over the phone for the producer. It was supposed to be a four minute spot turned into a six minute spot, and he said Jimmy and the producer loved it. He also said that he got a HUGE offer the minute he got off the plane in LA and turned on his phone. I’ll tell you more about that when I can, but for now it’s still off the record. As Andrew said to me before we got off the phone, … “Dice rules again”! And he does! Every Sunday night, Showtime 9:30 Eastern. Be there!
I found myself back at The Stand a few times this week. Once to see Judah doing what felt like all new material. He’s just so good at crowd work. One guy in the audience near me was laughing so hard I thought he was going to have a coronary. He kept choking and falling off his chair. And Paul Virzi told me he was working on a new hour.
Then I went back again to watch a taping of Danny Palmer’s web series appropriately called Danny, and shot and edited by Ben DeMarco of Fat Baby, and somehow wound up being in it. It’s a really honest web series about Danny’s life as a single comic, and when I say “honest” I mean honest. He examines his friendships with people, and exposes his feelings in a very honest way. The episode was about him trying to get with one of the waitresses at The Stand who he finds attractive and wants to have sex with. He’s already got three episodes up on You Tube and Dustin Ybarra was in the last one playing a guy who just won’t leave, even when Danny’s with a girl in bed.
Everyone’s doing CD’s these days, Miguel Dalmau let me know he’s also got his first CD coming out. It’s called Thank You That’s My Time and he said he worked on the material for over a year headlining every chance he could from clubs to horrible one nighters, but in the end getting the material to a good place was all that mattered to him. He funded it with a go fund me campaign, and said that people supported him way more than he expected. Every single donation came from comics, people who write for major tv shows, famous comics and open micers. He said he had to make sure he got it right because the comedy community believed in him when he wasn’t even sure he believed in himself.
And Keith Alberstadt has a new album called Walk It Off which he recorded in Nashville, his hometown and the place where he did his first four minutes of comedy back in 1992, and that very night decided that’s what he was going to do with his life. He said that recording in his hometown felt really good to him. And there was one bit I really like that I asked him where he got the inspiration for about kids who don’t wanna go to bed when their parents tell them to, and how weird it would be to have kids who couldn’t wait to go to bed. He said it was inspired by a stay at his brother’s house where his brother and his wife were upset that their five year old didn’t want to go to sleep!
I did go back to Gotham to catch Brad Williams perform to a packed room. It was his first time headlining at Gotham, and he told me he was really excited about doing it, because he had performed there before but was always opening for someone else. Whether he knows it or not Brad’s message is acceptance. From the moment he walks out on stage he addresses his size. I guess it would be weird if he ignored it. But he does great accents, and talks about one of my favorite subjects, how comedy has the power to bring people of different backgrounds together. He said that dwarves are the only group in society that doesn’t have stereotypes because people don’t know enough about them. His new Showtime special Daddy Issues, which is his second for Showtime airs on May 20th. I asked him if he was a Dad and he said no, … it was about his relationship to his own Dad.
Elon Altman does a show in a place called Visana which is one of the most interesting venues I’ve ever seen. You have to go through a pizza place to find it. Really! You walk into this small pizza place and the back wall is like a piece of modern art, camouflaging a door that opens into a nice looking show room. It’s hysterical. It was a great show with Guilio Gallarotti, Liz Barrett, the ever present Aaron Berg who manages to be in several clubs at the same time and who roasted me for most of his act, Larry Beyah and Nore Davis. I asked Elon how he found this place and he said through his childhood day camp friend who happens to own it.
And I need a rest after a week like that! Until we meet here 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 include Jeffrey with Bobby Slayton, Lisa Lampanelli, Pete Lee and Emily Tarver, and Brad Williams.