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Comedy Matters Round-Up with Nick Kroll, D.L. Hughley, Colin Quinn, Amy Schumer, Sam Morril, Ron Bennington, Tim Dillon, NY Comedy Festival and More!!!

Comedy Matters Round-Up with Nick Kroll, D.L. Hughley, Colin Quinn, Amy Schumer, Sam Morril, Ron Bennington, Tim Dillon, NY Comedy Festival and More!!!

What better time than holiday time to catch up on what’s been going on in the comedy scene? ( Rhetorical question – no answer required! LOL) Spoiler alert – it’s going to be a long one!!!

Thanks to Caroline Hirsch and Andrew Fox of Carolines on Broadway, the NY Comedy Festival was back big-time this year, and I went to a bunch of great shows.

In no particular order, I gotta start with Nick Kroll who was making his Carnegie Hall debut, which he said had been his dream for many years. Nice to see someone fulfilling a dream.

Nick Kroll by the door of his backstage dressing room at Carnegie Hall!

I purposely didn’t let Nick know I was coming because I wanted to surprise him. The deal was I was supposed to meet Carolines long-term GM Louis Faranda and assistant Carolyn Gitomer at the backstage entrance to get our seats.

Being that I am a master at self-sabotage, … like the time I left my microphone home when covering the red carpet at MSG for Rory Rosegarten’s Garden of Laughs, and John Mulaney made fun of me…

halfway over to Carnegie Hall I realized I had forgotten my wallet with my vax card and had to go back home to get it.
Good thing I did because the Covid restrictions were very tight. People lined up outside had to show their vax card and I.D. and get a bracelet to wear inside that was actually put on your wrist by the people working the line.

Backstage is always a fun hang and I had a chance to catch up with my old friend Louis Faranda which was a real treat, and then he walked me to my seat to make sure I was taken care of.
Louis and I spoke so long that I missed Nick’s opening act Emmy Blotnick , but I got to my seat in time to see Nick hit the stage wearing a sharp brown suit with white sneaks that looked a lot like the Nike Airs I was wearing.

Carnegie Hall holds roughly 3600 people, all of whom had to wear their masks during the whole entire show, and believe me it’s not that easy to laugh so much while wearing a mask. But thanks to Nick’s talent people managed to laugh a lot. No surprise there.

Nick did voices and characters, and told stories about his life starting from his childhood, leading up to meeting his wife Lily Kwong, when he realized that she was his person! That was a moving story.

And then having their 2 month old son, who he considered naming Kilometer Kroll because he’s a big fan of the metric system. After the show my intention was to go and congratulate Nick on his sold-out incredible performance but I didn’t know how to get to his room.

A kindly usher saw my dilemma and offered to guide me through the masses yelling out “Move to the right, move to the right” as we navigated the hallways, through the crowds, and into an elevator that took me to Nick’s floor.

I was confronted with two closed doors with Nick’s name on the outside. I was expecting a huge crowd inside, so I knocked very tentatively as I didn’t want to disturb anyone. Nick yelled out “Come in” and at the exact second as I opened the door I was greeted by the flash of celeb-photog Marcus Russell-Price’s camera and hysterical laughter from both Nick and his agent, or should I say SUPER-agent Mike Berkowitz from WME.

Caught by the camera of Marcus Russell Price exactly as I entered Nick Kroll’s dressing room. Mike Berkowitz is laughing already!

Nick was laughing so hard because he said that his own family wasn’t able to get in to see him because the Covid restrictions were so strict, ” but this man was able to get in” and he took out his phone to film me. It’s the photo that wound up on the cover of The Interrobang.

Nick Kroll filming my entrance to his dressing room at Carnegie Hall when no one else was allowed in, with uber-agent Mike Berkowitz laughing hysterically off to the side!

I actually felt embarrassed for being the only one let in, but was relieved a few minutes later when they let Nick’s wife Lily in to congratulate him and we all stepped outside to give them a moment.
Then we all left together and Nick was swarmed by fans outside and graciously took photos and gave autographs to all who asked. It was a very special night and I was so glad I was there to participate.

The Stand was a hot bed of performances during the festival and I made sure to catch Ron Bennington’s “Unmasked” with Tim Dillon who has risen to astronomical heights with his podcast The Tim Dillon Show.

Tim Dillon and Ron Bennington outside The Stand after taping Unmasked for Sirius XM Radio

All Unmaskeds are very special and this was the same, with the hour flying by before you knew it as there is never any dead space when Ron does his thing. Tim identifies as a gay Republican and credits Joe Rogan with helping to put him on the map.

I’ve known Tim for quite a while and always admired his humor and his willingness to be open about who he is and his beliefs, so it was really great to see him again. Obviously a lot of other people agree with me because his Patreon page takes in almost 200 K per month! He was headlining The Beacon Theatre the very next night!

With my man Ron Bennington of The Bennington Show on Sirius XM

Before I left The Stand that night I went over to the owner’s table to visit with owner Chris Italia and who did I find there but the ever-shrinking Dan Lamorte, who actually lost around 200 pounds and is running marathons now when he isn’t on stage.

I literally almost didn’t recognize him except for the frontiersman’s beard that fit better when he weighed around 350, which is where he was when I first met him, and he opened for me at a headlining gig in PA. Now I’d like to open for HIM! Way to go Dan!

The Ever-Shrinking Dan LaMorte

It always feels great to be back at my usual table 69 at Gotham Comedy Club, and to be warmly greeted by owner Chris Mazzilli and the staff like Billy Hayes and Rich who do security, and manager Andrew Schwartztol.

I went to catch H. Foley and Kevin Ryan’s live version of their hit podcast Are You Garbage and the place was PACKED with his fans. Literally not a seat to be had!

He had a fun line-up and at the end as he left the stage I went to congratulate him on such a successful show and he was very gracious in thanking me for coming. There are just so many choices in the NY Comedy Festival that it’s basically impossible to see everything you want to see and the comedians know that.

But Foley is a classy guy and even followed up his verbal thank you with a personal e-mail the next day thanking me for coming to support, which I really appreciated.

Foley Wants To Know, … Are You Garbage???

New York Comedy Club is always packed no matter which venue you go to, but I went to the 24th Street location for James Mattern’s album release party for his album Check Spot and it was wall to wall peeps. James is known for being one of the best hosts in town.

With Two Of The Hottest Girls In The Game-Corinne Fisher and Katie ( T-Spoon) Haller

He also had a great line-up with one of my faves Corinne Fisher, Nathan Macintosh, and Jon Laster. As I came in I was greeted by owner Emilio who always makes me feel at home, and we took this pic which he so kindly posted on IG!

With James Mattern, Adrian Minkowitz, and NYCC Owner Emilio Savone!

I popped in to the Gramercy Theatre one night to catch Sam Morril’s show. I’ve always been a fan of Sam’s since he used to do my late night show at The Comic Strip when he was pretty new at the game. It was always obvious that he was a great writer and had a very unique delivery.

The Gramercy not only required a vax card they also searched you and patted you down before you went in. I guess Sam draws a rough crowd! (LOL)

Sam has done 3 specials for Comedy Central and was named one of Comedy Central’s Comics To Watch back in 2011. When he’s not touring he’s usually performing at The Comedy Cellar which are several reasons why The Gramercy was packed.

I felt bad that I couldn’t stay to go backstage and congratulate him cause I had to get down to the Lucille Lortel Theatre to catch Colin Quinn in his new one man show The Last Beast Hope. Seeing two shows back to back in different parts of town is not easy in NYC. But at least I was able to get a shot of the Sam Morril marquee!

I didn’t get to see Sam but at least I got a shot of the marquee! (LOL)

The parking gods were with me and I managed to get a spot and race into the theatre on time. Watching Colin work is like watching one of the old masters create a masterpiece on canvas, which usually describes Colin’s shows.

He’s one of the very few comics besides Mike Birbiglia to consistently create one-man shows. I know I have a one man show in me too, if I could only figure out who that one man should be! I always wanted to do a multi-media show cause I have so much memorabilia! Maybe one day!!!

Anyway it’s always so great to see Colin perform because he breaks it all down in a way that only Colin can do. We’ve been friends since the days he was on Remote Control on MTV, and I still get excited seeing him work.

He was my very first guest when I was bringing my favorite comics on Sirius XM’s Ron and Fez show with Ron Bennington and the great Fez Whatley, who we lost so sadly at only 57 years old this past August.

The Day I Brought Colin Quinn on Sirius XM With Ron and Fez As My Guest-1/9/14

I didn’t tell Colin I was coming either. I like to surprise people.

After it was over Colin came out to greet the fans that were waiting in the theatre. Lucille Lortel doesn’t really have a backstage area for shmoozing, but we did a good job of it in the theatre itself. He told me he’s been working on the concepts for the show for about two years.

With Colin Quinn at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. I like to think we look the same as we did in 2014!

Leading into the NY Comedy Festival, I had the honor of judging an all women’s comedy festival called “Ladies Night.”

Produced by Robin Siegel-Laikin and Nancy Levine, both of whom performed, it was held at Broadway Comedy Club. Two hundred women applied. Forty-five were chosen. I judged for two shows along with comedy stalwarts like Jodi Lieberman, and longtime agent Roger Paul, and boy what a variety of women hit the stage. One of my faves was a girl named Amber Joy Lane. Hope I get to do it again next year!

(L-R) Robin Siegel-Laikin, two performers and Nancy Levine at Ladies Night!

Amy Schumer premiered her new film Humans, now in theatres and streaming on Showtime, at the 92Y which prides itself on bringing in great comedy talent and rightly so! But this is not a comedy. It’s an interesting ensemble piece.

After the screening there was a panel discussion led by Sirius XM’s Jessica Shaw with co-stars Beanie Feldstein, Steven Yeun, Richard Jenkins and Jayne Houdyshell. Amy’s three-episode docu-series “Expecting Amy”, which she partly shot with her husband Chris on their cell phones is currently showing on HBO Max.

The panel from Humans with Jessica Shaw and Jayne Houdyshell, Richard Jenkins, Amy Schumer, Steven Yeun and Beanie Feldstein at the 92Y. 

Any time I get to spend with my buddy D.L. Hughley is always special so when I heard he was headlining Carolines on Broadway for the Thanksgiving weekend I knew I had to be there. And I was. For Saturday and Sunday.

The first night I got there around 9 so I could catch him in between shows. It was great to see Eric Singer running the room as I made my way through the kitchen to come out near the green room.

Derek his security guy was on guard as always and ushered me in to see “The King,” as he is referred to with reverence by A.G. White who came in to do an opening spot.

Barry Ribs also came in a bit later and also did an opening spot, while I got to catch up with D.L. and his daughter Tyler and one of the biggest dogs I had ever seen, an Akita named Charlie, named after D.L.’s late Dad.

The dog was the size of a small bear, and had the nicest face matched by the nicest disposition. He was able to find a place for himself in the crowded VIP room and just plopped down on the floor. Barry Ribs almost got trapped and couldn’t get up because the dog layed down across his feet!

The first night I made the mistake of wearing a summery outfit which D.L. got a kick out of. I promised to come back the next night wearing winter type clothing and D.L. predicted I would be wearing a maroon jacket, which by the way he had no idea that I owned.

D.L. dressed for winter while J.G. is still dressed for summer!!!

Needless to say the show was amazing. D.L. hits all the bases and talks about everything that’s going on in the world with the D.L. spin.

After he came offstage to thunderous applause we talked about his performance as we usually do, and I told him that it’s great to watch him guide the audience exactly where he wants them to go. He totally owns the stage when he’s out there. It’s like watching an orchestra leader guiding the musicians. Then we filmed the little video below.

D.L. actually predicted I would wear a maroon jacket, … so I had to!!!

So the next night I wore a jacket that was as close to maroon as I could get, and showed up around 9 again so we could have a good laugh before the show. D.L. hangs with friends literally until the minute it’s time for him to go onstage.

I told him the only person I know in comedy as relaxed as him before they go out on stage is Sebastian Maniscalco who held a party between his 3rd and 4th shows at MSG with 20,000 people at each show.

D.L. didn’t seem totally shocked that I had a maroon jacket! (LOL) But I was!!!

And Sunny Hostin from The View came back with her husband Manny, the orthopedic surgeon to congratulate D.L. on another magnificent performance, and the four of us got to exchange child raising tips! It was an amazing weekend for sure, and D.L. and I have some interesting plans that I hope to be able to share with you very soon!

I’m sure this is one of the longest columns I’ve written in a while because thanks to Covid I’m just not out as much as I always was, but I thought you’d enjoy seeing what’s been going on in the comedy world!

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The Making of "Make ‘Em Laugh"- 35 Years of The Comic Strip

On June 15, 2008, I was at The Comic Strip with Ann Curry, and Gilbert Gottfried and we were giving Ann tips on how to do stand-up comedy for some kind of event she was preparing for. And despite the fact that I had been there for so many years, and had seen the walls before, I found myself transfixed by all the amazing memorabilia that I noticed that day.

Jeffrey Gurian, Ann Curry, Gilbert Gottfried, and Richie Tienken on the day that Jeffrey suggested doing a book on the iconic Comic Strip!

So I said to Richie Tienken, owner and founder of the club, “You know we should do a book on this club!”

I didn’t know that other people had suggested that to him before but for some reason he wound up not doing it with them. He came to my home for a meeting and ended by saying “You have more photos on your walls than I have at the club”, and he decided to trust me with telling his story, and the stories of all the huge stars that came out of the club.

Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken in the lobby of Jeffrey’s building after their meeting to agree on doing the book!

The club officially opened on June 1, 1976 with Billy Crystal as the opening act. On JUne 17th a young, and unknown Jerry Seinfeld walked in to audition. In those days people were graded on their auditions. Jerry was graded “Good”, and then someone wrote on his sheet, “Definitely put on Mon. 6/21!” Whoever that person was had a good eye for comedy! Jerry stayed at The Strip for four years until he left for LA in 1980. It was his home club.

Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld, and Richie Tienken on the day of Jerry’s interview for the book!

In the book Jerry said he felt like he was born in 1976, because that’s when he began working at The Strip and that felt like the start of his life!

Eddie Murphy spent his early years at the club, and Richie Tienken was his manager for the years when Eddie was the biggest star in the world. That period of time spanned his days on SNL through Beverly Hills Cop 2.

The one night in 1986 Eddie came into The Strip and asked to see a Black comic. The only one around was a 19 year old Chris Rock who was setting up chairs in exchange for stage time, and had only performed for very small audiences at 2 or 3 A.M. Not wanting to disappoint Eddie, they put Chris up in front of a packed house on a Friday night, and Chris killed it in front of his idol.

Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Strip on the day we did Chris’ interview for the book!

That was the start of Chris’s rise to stardom. He hasn’t lost his gratitude for all that Richie did for him and wrote a fantastic, and funny introduction to the book.

He also came into the club and gave Richie and I a really super interview. Most of the big stars came into the club for their interviews because Richie and I felt that being surrounded by those four walls would bring back memories, and we were right.

Alan Colmes who many people don’t even know started his career as a stand-up comic came in wearing his 30 year old Comic Strip jacket that looked as if it was brand new.

Jeffrey Gurian with Alan Colmes wearing his original 30 year old Comic Strip jacket, which looked brand new!

In the middle of Paul Reiser’s interview he suddenly recalled what started the annual New Years Day brunch attended every Jan. 1, by himself, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry Miller and Mark Schiff. There had even been a fifth member of the group, a friend named Michael Cain but he passed away very young.

Gilbert Gottfried and Lisa Lampanelli got interviewed outside the club, and Jeffrey Ross got interviewed inside the club with a dual book/documentary film video interview at the same time. That experience taught us never to do that again! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian, Gilbert Gottfried and Richie Tienken at lunch at Pastis where GIlbert spent most of his interview denying he had ever been at The Comic Strip. He did say they had good electricity though!

Lisa Lampanelli and Jeffrey Gurian,(hidden behind the book! LOL) backstage at Westbury for Lisa’s recent sold-out performance

And then I flew out to LA to get an in office interview with Billy Crystal the first comic to hit the stage on opening night, back in 1976.

Other comics interviewed were Ray Romano, Susie Essman, Jim Gaffigan, Judah Friedlander, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Rick Overton, who has also gone on to have a very successful acting/film career, Jim Breuer, Tony Rock, Adam Ferrara, plus newer stars who frequent the club like Colin Jost and Jay Pharaoah from SNL.

Thanks to our agent J.L. Stermer from N.S. Bienstock, we got a deal with Skyhorse Publishing and the book is 250 pages down from the 500 I started out with. It took three years to get all of the interviews done and transcribed, because I did it myself by hand just by playing the interviews over and over again, and the fourth year was about editing and getting it down from 500 pages to the 250 that was needed. It was often a grueling process, but always a labor of love!

Since it came out, it’s gotten great reviews, tons of press, and lots of celeb attention as you can tell from the following photos.

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"Make Em Laugh" on WPIX TV Morning News with Dan Mannarino

Hurricane Sandy affected everyone in NYC either directly or indirectly. Luckily for me I didn’t lose power or have any flooding, but I did have several TV shoots cancelled, in which I was supposed to talk about my new book with Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip.

My co-author is owner and founder of the club Richie Tienken!

One of them was with WPIX TV, and it had something to do with their bus being out of service. When I heard the word “bus” I was thinking of something small like the little yellow school buses we see around the city. How wrong I was!

When we re-scheduled, WPIX reporter Dan Mannarino showed up at The Comic Strip in a block long custom made WPIX bus sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts! The thing was huge but outfitted inside like a limo, or a private jet. Very spacious and elegant!

We started the interview in the club with me and owner/founder Richie Tienken on the stage of the club telling stories from the book, then I took Dan on a tour of the club, and finished by going on the bus and doing more if the interview on there!

It was really fun and the interview is airing this coming Monday morning, Dec. 10, 2012, between 8 and 9 A.M. on the WPIX Morning News! Check it out!

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Marc Maron, Bobby Lee, Dov Davidoff at The Comedy Store in LA

I was heading out to LA to do my third guest spot on Nick Kroll’s Comedy Central hit Kroll Show, in which I’d be playing myself in a red carpet sketch during a Pub-LIZ-ity sketch with Nick as Liz G.

I love ALL of Nick’s sketches but Pub-LIZ-ity is really one of my faves so I was doubly exicted. But since I’m not a great traveler, I don’t like to fly across the country for one or two days, so I decided to go out out a few days earlier and stay a few days afterwards to visit some friends and check out the LA comedy scene.

My first night in town I went right to The Comedy Store to see my buddy Tommy Morris, who runs the place, and give him a copy of the documentary film I recently co-produced with Exec. Producers Scott Sobel and Gary Licker who also directed the film.

It was called “The Business of Comedy” and featured interviews with comedy icons like Budd Friedman, who opened the world’s first comedy club, The Improv, in NYC in 1963, Rick Newman who opened Catch A Rising Star in 1972, Richie Tienken who opened The Comic Strip in 1976, and comics like George Wallace, Robert Klein, Tom Dreesen, and newcomer Sasheer Zamata, all talking about the business end of the comedy world.

I wanted to bring Tommy his copy personally, and as you can see from the photo, … I did!

There’s always a star-studded show at The Store, and that night I ran into my old friend Marc Maron, with Cort McCown, who I had met on the Kandy Kruise where he was performing for 500 guys and even more important, 16500 girls from Maxim, Playboy, and Penthouse.

I also ran into Bobby Lee, and then I got to see Chris D’elia from Whitney, and Dov Davidoff who I just saw again headlining Gotham in NYC this past weekend. These guys go back and forth like it’s nothing!

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Jimmy "J.J." Walker at Broadway Comedy Club

If you were around in the 70’s, 1973-1979 to be exact, then you were aware of Jimmy “J.J.” Walker who played J.J. Evans in the Norman Lear, CBS hit “Good Times”, with Esther Rolle who played JJ’s mom Florida Evans, and John Amos who played his dad Michael Evans.

Interestingly enough, Good Times was a spin-off of Maude, which was itself a spin-off of All in the Family along with The Jeffersons. And it was co-created by Mike Evans, who portrayed Lionel Jefferson on the Norman Lear-produced series All in the Family and The Jeffersons.

JImmy “J.J” Walker onstage at Broadway Comedy Club without a floppy hat, but making one of his signature faces!

At the time that JJ was on the show he played so much younger than he actually was that John Amos who played his Dad was only 8 years older than him!

JJ’s signature phrase was “Dyn-O-Mite!” which follows him to this day. And in my interview with him recently at Broadway Comedy Club where he showed up with his agent and my old friend Roger Paul, he said he was grateful for that tag, “Dyn-O-Mite”! Very few performers have something that sticks for so long. Like Rodney Dangerfield will always be associated with the phrase “No Respect.” In comedy having an identity like that is magical!

The main room downstairs was packed, wall to wall, and JJ went up on stage and knocked it out of the park. He talked about the economy being so bad that when you rent an apartment they want the first month’s rent and the last month’s rent. JJ was like, ” I wasn’t even here last month! Why do I gotta pay that guy’s rent?”

Jimmy “J.J.” Walker killing it onstage at Broadway Comedy Club! The audience loved him!

In talking about doing drug testing of post office employees, he said, “The one drug you won’t find is speed!”

And in talking about crime, he told of a 21 year old man who tried to rob a Toys ‘R Us with a toy gun. He was shot by a 5 year old with a real gun!

And he said, ” As crowded as jails are these days, they always seem to have room for Black people!”

He was just filled with funny lines. He said that Kim Kardashian is like Kryptonite for Black men, and that they tried to do a Real Housewives of San Francisco, but they couldn’t find any.

He even acted out scenes from a fictional Maury Povich show where the Black characters were named what sounded to me like Aquaneshia and Tyquarius, and he called “Cops” a Black reality show with a three tattoo minimum and a 4 tooth maximum.

I was so glad to see him being so funny after all these years. And he was so kind to his audience. He stayed afterwards to greet people who wanted to take photos and buy his merchandise.

Jimmy “J.J.” Walker and Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV at Al Martin’s Broadway Comedy Club!

It just goes to show you that being funny is like riding a bike. You never lose it, and if you fall off the end of the stage you get right back up and start telling jokes again!

Check out the cool video interview we did after the show!

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