Epix Presents: The Improv-Fifty Years Behind The Brick Wall

In 1963 a man named Budd Friedman changed the world.  And I’m not being over-dramatic.  He literally changed the world, and especially the world of entertainment, by opening what became the world’s first ever comedy club, The Improv.

Jeffrey Gurian with Budd Friedman in Montreal at the Just for Laughs Festival's celebration in honor of 50 years of The Improv., July 2013!

Jeffrey Gurian with Budd Friedman in Montreal at the Just for Laughs Festival’s celebration in honor of 50 years of The Improv., July 2013!

It was on 44th Street and 9th Avenue, in Manhattan, and it started out as a coffee house and a place for actors to come and hang out, and maybe get up on stage to perform after they got off stage at the nearby Broadway theatres.

At first it drew actors and singers, and then comedians began to come and perform.  Budd was the onstage host, and Danny Aiello was the door host/bouncer.   After a while more and more comics started showing up to hone their craft.

Before The Improv came along comics would perform only in nightclubs and theatres as part of variety shows, but there had never been an establishment that offered only stand-up comedy.

After a couple of years Budd noticed that the comics were predominating, and that the audiences loved it, so he started doing all comedy, hence the world’s first comedy club!

Fifty years later The Improv is still going strong on Melrose Avenue in LA.  I performed there a couple of times myself.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Improv, EPIX, the network that brings you the biggest movies including three of the biggest of 2012, like The Avengers, Skyfall, and The Hunger Games, is releasing “The Improv-Fifty Years Behind The Brick Wall” on Friday Dec. 6th, 2013.

Narrated by Adam Sandler and produced by Judy Pastore, Monica Bautista, Budd and his partner Mark Lonow, (who joined him in 1979), and Budd’s accomplished  daughter Zoe Friedman, who actually was the Exec. Producer, the film features footage with Judd Apatow, Lewis Black, Larry David, Jimmy Fallon, Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin, Jay Leno, Richard Lewis, Bill Maher, Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld, and Damon, Keenen, Marlon, and Shawn Wayans all in intimate sit-down recollections of their early days at The Improv. accompanied by archival video footage and rare photos.  Only a legend like Budd could assemble that many huge names!

And those are just some of the comedy stars he helped become household names.   Besides having Danny Aiello as his door host/bouncer, other workers went on to achieve greatness.

First there was Chris Albrecht who managed the club when Budd went to LA in 1975, and went on to become the Pres. of HBO, then Les Moonves, currently  the Pres. and CEO of CBS, who was a bartender.  There were the waitresses, like Karen Black, who I got to work with last year on Kroll Show, and who we just lost to cancer this past August, and cable TV’s pioneer female comic/legend Elayne Boosler,  who also toiled as a waitress, and then there were a couple of other door hosts you may have heard of including Keenen Ivory Wayans and Joe Piscopo.

Jeffrey Gurian, Nick Kroll as Gil Faison, Karen Black, and John Mulaney as George St. Geegland on the L.A. set of Kroll Show!

Jeffrey Gurian, Nick Kroll as Gil Faison, Karen Black, and John Mulaney as George St. Geegland on the L.A. set of Kroll Show!

Jeffrey Gurian with Keenen Ivory Wayans helping him cast the new "In Living Color".

Jeffrey Gurian with Keenen Ivory Wayans in NYC, helping him cast the new, but “ill-fated” “In Living Color”.

Jeffrey Gurian with Joe Piscopo at a fundraiser at Gotham Comedy Club!

Jeffrey Gurian with Joe Piscopo at a fundraiser at Gotham Comedy Club!

 

Jeffrey Gurian with comic extraordinaire Elayne Boosler at a Diabetes fundraiser she performed in produced by Jeffrey!

Jeffrey Gurian with comic extraordinaire Elayne Boosler at a Diabetes fundraiser she performed in produced by Jeffrey!

A&E immortalized Budd when they had him host “An Evening at The Improv” from his Hollywood club, which was a weekly series that ran from 1982 through 1996.  Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t performing in those days and never got to be on, but I watched the show religiously!

Over the years I got to know Budd and his partner Mark Lonow who joined him in 1979.  As a matter of fact, I wrote Budd and his lovely wife Alix into a feature film script I wrote in 1990 called Baby and Max, about a comic named Max Arnold who gets the worst gigs imaginable.  The film opens with Max trying to entertain a guy on Death Row.  He’s about to get the electric chair, and is already strapped in, and Max is in the execution room trying to tell him jokes.

On one of his other horrible gigs he’s trying to entertain passengers on a cross-country flight from NY to LA, by telling jokes in the main aisle of the plane, when he gets discovered by Budd Friedman who’s on the flight with his wife Alix. To find out what happens next you’ll have to come up with a budget to make the movie!

This past July at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, which is the biggest and oldest comedy festival in the world, Budd and Mark were honored with an award and the red carpet treatment.  I interviewed them both, once together on the red carpet and then separately!

Budd and I have history!  I recall many years ago he made a party in Montreal to honor Milton Berle who may have been the first honoree to be inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame, and Milton invited me to attend as his guest.  He was also my sponsor in The Friars Club.  We sat at a long table, with Budd at the head, me on his right and Milton directly across from me.  Budd went to read the menu and put a monocle into his eye.  I had never seen that before and was kind of surprised.

Jeffrey Gurian and Milton Berle at the LA Friars in 1985!

Jeffrey Gurian and Milton Berle at the LA Friars in 1985!

Around 1970, I had created a character I called “Spoon-eye” who went around holding a spoon in his eye like  a monocle, as if he didn’t know it was there.  It sounds silly but at one point Conan O’Brien came out on his show with a spoon in his eye, and it took Cindy Adams to write that it was I who started that.  She wrote, “I don’t know who would even want to take credit for such a thing but it was Jeffrey Gurian who did it first.”   I actually showed it to Salvador Dali back around 1978, who was so intrigued he actually tried to put one of my spoons in his ear, instead of his eye.  I still have that spoon!

Jeffrey Gurian and his Spoon-Eye Club on an outing, circa 2003!

Jeffrey Gurian and his Spoon-Eye Club on an outing, circa 2003!

Anyway, when Budd put his monocle in I took out a spoon and put that it MY eye.  Budd looked at me like “What the heck are you doing?” and I made the mistake of trying to tell him it was very big on “The Coast.”  He said to me, “I live on The Coast and I NEVER saw anyone do that!”  Milton just sat there confused and I quickly changed the subject!

In 2007, Kent Emmons from All Comedy Radio made me a party in LA for my new book at the time based on my years of writing for the Friars Roasts. It was called “Filthy Funny, and Totally Offensive” and featured nasty jokes from over 250 celebs like Drew Carey, Jason Alexander, Chris Elliott, Jeff Garlin, the late Greg Giraldo, Colin Quinn, the late Patrice O’Neal, Artie Lange, Joan Rivers, Jason Alexander, and more than 200 more.  Budd was there as evidenced by the photo below!

Jeffrey Gurian with Budd Friedman in 2007 at Kent Emmons' party for Jeffrey's book "Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive."

Jeffrey Gurian with Budd Friedman in 2007 at Kent Emmons’ party for Jeffrey’s book “Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive.”

Budd is also in the recent documentary film I co-produced called “The Business of Comedy, with Exec. Producers Scott Sobel of Scott Entertainment and Gary Licker who also directed the film.  It features Budd along with Robert Klein, George Wallace, Tom Dreesen, Susie Essman, Shecky Greene, and comedy club owners who were inspired by Budd, Rick Newman and Richie Tienken.  In actuality all comedy club owners were inspired by Budd, which is why when I opened this post I said that Budd changed the world!  In the photo below, a young Budd Friedman with a goatee, is on the upper right corner!

The promo card for "The Business of Comedy" a doc film co-produced by Jeffrey Gurian featuring Budd Friedman, pictured on the upper right hand corner.

The promo card for “The Business of Comedy” a doc film co-produced by Jeffrey Gurian featuring Budd Friedman, pictured on the upper right hand corner.

This is the trailer for the doc.

So on Dec. 6th at 8 P.M. ET, make sure to watch “The Improv-Fifty Years Behind The Brick Wall” on Epix and Epix.com .  You’ll thank me for the tip!

Watch the Epix trailer in case you need convincing:

 

 

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“You Know What Dude?” with Robert Kelly

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Despite the fact that after all my years in comedy, a lot of people still don’t know what I do, …  (which is the reason for the video  “Who The F*@k is Jeffrey Gurian”, seen below with Nick Kroll, Amy Poehler, John Mulaney, Bob Saget, Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman, D.L. Hughley, and Robert Kelly), … I get to appear on lots of podcasts.

I really enjoy doing podcasts because you have more time then you do on TV, and you usually get enough time to speak your piece, and expound on a few subjects.

This past summer at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, which is the biggest comedy festival in the world, I got to see Bobby Kelly tape a special JFL version of his podcast “You Know What Dude” on the RiotCast Network and I thought it was great.  After I interviewed him for my Comedy Matters TV channel, he was kind enough to invite me on as a guest.

It’s done from The Comedy Cellar in owner Noam Dworman’s old apartment festooned with all kinds of fun stuff on the walls, including a collection of guitars that looked very special, and probably are,  since Noam is not a comic but an accomplished musician.

As the special guest, I got to sit on the comfortable couch next to Bobby, along with the regulars Chris Scopo who also produces, Kelly Fastuca, Dan Soder, Joe List and Luis J. Gomez, who all had to sit on regular chairs!

The cool clubhouse atmosphere around Robert Kelly's podcast "You Know What Dude?"

The cool clubhouse atmosphere around Robert Kelly’s podcast “You Know What Dude?”

The studio is set up like a cool little clubhouse, complete with a little fridge stocked with beers!

It was cool seeing Luis, who I had just gone over to introduce myself to a couple of nights before when he appeared on AXS-TV’s “Live at Gotham” so I could congratulate him on his great set on live TV.

Luis J. Gomez holding a small yellow doll that he carries with him, and Dan Soder looking bemused!

Luis J. Gomez holding a small yellow doll that he always carries with him for luck, and Dan Soder looking bemused!

Dan Soder, Joe List and Kelly Fastuca around the YKWD roundtable!

The exact same Dan Soder as in the photo above, Joe List and Kelly Fastuca around the YKWD “roundtable”, which just happened to be rectangular!

Over the next two hours which went pretty fast we covered a range of topics, including one I brought up about comics not needing to rip on each other all the time which they seem prone to do.  If you force comics to do so, they can actually engage in a conversation without making fun of every word the other guy says!

But it isn’t easy.  We got our experience interrupting teachers in school, by making random comments to make the other kids laugh, and comics carry that over into their daily lives, taking advantage of every opportunity to make fun of what someone is saying.

Especially if the other guy is trying his best to  be serious!

That led to Bobby saying that there were some comics who were afraid to do the show.  He made the point that he wanted his show to be the kind of show that all comics felt comfortable coming on, and didn’t like to feel like he was putting out any kind of negative vibe, which he is not.

Bobby is a smart, well spoken guy, who like a lot of comics has a lot to say, about a variety of different things.  Comedians are generally really intelligent.  They have to be in order to be the wordsmiths that they are.  And Bobby adds structure to his show by grabbing the reins when he feels it’s necessary, to make a point.

He gives his guests a lot of freedom but there’s no doubt that it’s his show.

Bobby Kelly making a point with Chris Scopo holding it down in the background!

Bobby Kelly making a point with Chris Scopo holding it down in the background!

Anyway I got to tell some stories about how I got started in comedy by pulling up to 30 Rock in a Mandarin Orange Pimpmobile that had been made for one of the Isley Brothers, and telling the doorman to please watch my car, because Lorne Michaels was expecting me!

The front of my Mandarin Orange Cadillac Eldorado, with the Rolls Royce Grille that had been made for one of the Isley Brothers, (with the D.D.S. plates!)

The front of my Mandarin Orange Cadillac Eldorado, with the Rolls Royce Grille that had been made for one of the Isley Brothers, (note the D.D.S. plates!)

Then I snuck past the security and got up to SNL where I met Alan Zweibel playing handball on the wall with Neil Levy, a producer on the show.  I got Alan to look at my comedy films one of which was a faux news story about several men who were arrested for smearing creamcheese on the ankles of elderly women who wore their stocking rolled down like bagels.  I actually got my dear grandmother to roll down her stockings, make believe she had a Jewish accent and then schmeared creamcheese on her ankles, which she let me film.

She explained to the police that Jewish people have two kinds of stockings, one for milk and one for meat and this crazy man schmeared creamcheese on her “meat” stockings and she can’t get it off!  Fortunately Alan liked what he saw, and actually called his manager for me, who at the time was a guy named David Jonas.  He was the guy who was managing Freddie Prinze Sr. and got him Chico and The Man, and that’s how I got started writing comedy!

As a result of telling that “creamcheese” story, Robert named this podcast episode “Creamcheese on the Ankles!”  And if I hadn’t told you that story you would have NEVER figured out the reason for that title!

Bobby also gave me the opportunity to talk about my book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with a really cool, heartfelt introduction by Chris Rock.  It took me four years to write it,  and get interviews with Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Billy Crystal, Colin Quinn, Jim Gaffigan, Lisa Lampanelli, Susie Essman, Lewis Black, Gilbert, and so many more.

The book is available on Amazon and also in Barnes and Noble and makes a great Xmas gift! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian with Robert Kelly who's holding his copy of  Jeffrey's book, "Make 'Em Laugh"!

Jeffrey Gurian with Robert Kelly who’s holding his copy of Jeffrey’s book, “Make ‘Em Laugh”!

Anyway, we had a real blast, with Dan Soder doing a great Rodney Dangerfield impression after my stories about writing for Rodney, who was the first really big star I ever worked with.  That was in between him and Joe List good-naturedly slamming each other every chance they got, and doing the same to Luis J. Gomez, cause you have to expect that when you’re around comics that are friends.  You need to develop a thick skin when you’re a comic!

I told Bobby that Patrice O’Neal and I never did that with each other, even though Patrice was known for doing that to most other comics, and Bobby said he’d never do that with me either!  Wheww!  So I got away lucky!

Jeffrey Gurian with his dear friend, the late, great Patrice O'Neal!

Jeffrey Gurian with his dear friend, the late, great Patrice O’Neal!

Kelly Fastuca proved she was one of the guys, by taking a lot of heat, and a lot of jokes at her expense, and laughing it off, which is really all you can do in a situation like that!

(L-R) Robert Kelly, Jeffrey Gurian, Joe List, Kelly Fastuca, Dan Soder, and Luis J. Gomez!

(L-R) Robert Kelly, Jeffrey Gurian, Joe List, Kelly Fastuca, Dan Soder, and Luis J. Gomez!

And the segment went up today so what YOU need to do is to go to www.riotcast.com and sit there and listen to every word!  Then go and Tweet the shit out of it! (LOL)

This is the RiotCast.com page.  On the upper right is "Creamcheese on the Ankles!"

This is the RiotCast.com page. On the upper right, where it says “You Know What Dude”, is “Creamcheese on the Ankles!”

I’m out!

 

 

 

 

 

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“Standing Up” by Marion Grodin

Marion Grodin is a lot of things.  She’s a comedian, a producer, an actress, one of the best MC’s,  and now an author, with a new book called “Standing Up”, from Center Street a division of Hachette.

The cover of Marion Grodin's book says it all!  She's a stand-up gal in every sense of the word!

The cover of Marion Grodin’s book says it all! She’s a stand-up gal in every sense of the word!

If anyone knows anything about “Standing Up” it’s Marion!  The title could be taken to referencing her long and well established comedy career, but it also represents her life where she has stood up to many obstacles that could have easily overwhelmed others.

Marion is a trooper, which is why the sub-title of her book is called “A Memoir of a Funny (Not Always) Life”!

All you have to do is see her act to know how honest she is, about herself and all she’s gone through, including battles with addiction, breast cancer and divorce, as well as the pressure of being funny while growing up in the shadow of her legendary Dad Charles Grodin.

Marion Grodin and her Dad Charles!

Marion Grodin and her Dad Charles!

It’s thanks to Marion that I got to meet her Dad who I always idolized, and I was even able to help them with one of the many charity events they held to help our soldiers overseas.

Jeffrey Gurian with one of his idols Charles Grodin!

Jeffrey Gurian with one of his idols Charles Grodin!

Just back from a 15 city book tour, she’ll be headlining at Gotham Comedy Club tonight along with her long-time friends Danny Cohen, Lenny Marcus and Jimmy Failla and I know I’ll be there to cheer her on as always!

You can order her book on Amazon, so please do:

http://www.amazon.com/Standing-Up-Memoir-Funny-Always/dp/1455510130

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Nat Geo Gets Into Comedy With Duck Quacks Don’t Echo

They always say that everyone wants to be in comedy, and now I’m sure it’s true.  Even Nat Geo is getting into the mix.  I attended a taping the other night in the AMV/Unitel studios on West 53rd Street in Manhattan, where Wendy Williams does her show, to see “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo” with three of my comedy friends starring in the show, Tom Papa, Michael Ian Black and Seth Herzog.

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I had just seen Tom kill it at The Village Underground, a beautiful venue recently taken over by Noam Dworman of The Comedy Cellar.   Noam is very proud of the space as he should be.  He put in great lighting and sound, and every show I’ve seen there so far has been super!

Tom Papa on stage at Noam Dworman's The Village Underground

Tom Papa on stage at Noam Dworman’s The Village Underground, now part of The Comedy Cellar

 

Last week Paul Provenza came in to do his new show Set List, and everyone is talking about Jim Norton’s performance, and how great he was doing it for the first time.

The reason it’s called Set List is because Paul gives each comic their “set list” when they hit the stage, and not a moment before.  They have no idea what it’s going to be, and it’s not topics like “Internet Dating” it’s more like “Anorexic Dog”, or “Penguin Sex Therapist” which one comic actually got stuck with, when I saw the show in Montreal this past summer at Just for Laughs.

So I ran into Tom Papa at The Underground, and he invited me to see his new show and two days later, before I even got a chance to make arrangements with him to attend I got an invite.

Duck Quacks Don’t Echo is a comedy/science show where each of the three stars gets to present weird, unusual and incredible facts. In addition to telling us the fact, they will each participate in an on-the-spot experiment proving each fact. It kind of reminded me of the stuff I used to do in science class to make the other students laugh when the instructor wasn’t looking.

On one occasion I mixed the wrong ingredients together and accidentally created poison gas, and they had to evacuate  not only my class, but the entire floor.

The fact that stuck with me was than you can’t hum while holding your nose.  It’s true.  We  tried humming Yankee Doodle, which was a very synchronicitous choice as I’ll explain in a moment, and then Tom instructed us to hold our collective noses and all the humming stopped.  Who know that humming comes through the nose?

Another thing they could not have known is that I’ve always been fascinated by humming and actually did my college thesis on Abe Bembelman, the man who invented humming, back in the day when Yankee Doodle was popular.  Before Bembelman people would hear a song they liked and have no way of recalling the tune.  Then Bembelman came along and changed the entire world.

Bembelman was actually English but moved to this country during Revolutionary times, and during the Revolutionary War he was responsible for teaching the English to hum when they went into battle.   Fortunately for us, the English hummed so loud that the American’s heard them coming, and that’s how we won the war, because basically you can’t sneak up on anyone while you’re humming!  As a result Abe Bembelman became an American national hero.  It’s in the history books!  Look it up!

So towards the end of “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo” the guys took a break for a costume change and I was wondering what was going on, until they came back in what turned out be motion detection outfits but what at first looked like a re-enactment of “Blue Man Group Attacked By Ping Pong Ball Gang.”

Tom Papa in his new look for the film " Attack of the Ping Pong Ball Men!"

Tom Papa in his new look for the film ” Attack of the Ping Pong Ball Men!”

 

(L-R) Michael Ian Black, Jeffrey Gurian, and Seth Herzog in a very strange stance that goes perfectly with his outfit!

(L-R) Michael Ian Black, Jeffrey Gurian, and Seth Herzog in a very strange stance that goes perfectly with his outfit!

Seth Herzog is used to wearing costumes as he’s been known to do when doing his popular Wonder Woman routine, so he took to this quite naturally, as you can see in the photo.  Seth is the warm up comic for Jimmy Fallon and plays all the hot clubs in the city.

He also has his own show called “Sweet” every Tuesday night at The Slipper Room on Orchard Street, in NYC, where I hope to perform one day!  It’s one of the few stages I haven’t been on.

What made the evening even more special was getting to re-connect with two guys I hadn’t seen for a long time.  Michael Ian Black and Duck Quack’s producer Jim Biederman.

Michael and I have history.  Back around 1992 Michael and I and Ben Garant wrote the first ever interactive film for Sony called “I’m Your Man.”  It was shown in the Sony Theatre on 19th Street and Broadway and the audience got to change the outcome of certain scenes by pressing buttons from their seats.  From what I recall Sony spent about half a million bucks on outfitting the theatre with the buttons that attached to the arm rest of each seat.

Michael Ian Black with Jeffrey Gurian at a Roast, possibly for The Naked Angels!

Michael Ian Black with Jeffrey Gurian at a Roast, possibly for The Naked Angels!

This was before Michael went on to co-create MTV’s The State and the sketch group Stella of which he was a founding member, along with Michael Showalter, and David Wain.  They performed together from 1997 through 2005.  The photo below was after one of the Stella’s performances at a place called Fez, which was their home base, and Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo both came by that night.

(L-R) David Wain, Michael Ian Black, Jeffrey Gurian, and Ben Stiller at Fez, circa 1997.

(L-R) David Wain, Michael Ian Black, Jeffrey Gurian, and Ben Stiller at Fez, circa 1997.

Duck Quacks producer Jim Biederman is the head of JimCo Productions and I hadn’t seen him in maybe 15-20 years.  Jim was at Lorne Michael’s company Broadway Video back in the day working with a guy named John Head, who as I recall was in charge of film acquisition, and I was making short, bizarre little films in those days.

I had been sent up to see Herb by another legend Jack Rollins, best known for managing Woody Allen and producing all of Woody’s movies, and in those days was also managing Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.   When I first met Herb he said he didn’t even have to look at my stuff because if Jack Rollins said I was funny, I was funny!

I was still a practicing Cosmetic Dentist in those days, which is why in the photo below Billy Crystal is pointing to his teeth.  Jack Rollins had wanted to do a sit-com based on a dentist in show biz and thought Billy would be great to play me!

Jeffrey Gurian with Woody Allen who he had met many years earlier through his mentor Jack Rollins!

Jeffrey Gurian with Woody Allen who he had met many years earlier through his mentor Jack Rollins!

 

Jeffrey Gurian with Billy Crystal pointing to his teeth, referencing Jeffrey's history as a dentist!

Jeffrey Gurian with Billy Crystal pointing to his teeth, referencing Jeffrey’s history as a dentist!

But Herb did look at my films and set me up with a meeting with Jim Biederman.   I was doing a comedy news broadcast at the time with stories like ” Several men were arrested for smearing creamcheese on the ankles of elderly women who wore their stockings rolled down like bagels”, and “The Masters of Disguise” which were two master criminals who disguised themselves as inanimate objects to commit their crimes.

It started with two men disguised as coats who robbed a hat store by coming in over the arms of two other men who claim they had no part in the crime.  I did an interview with one of the victims who gave his account of what happened, and said that one of the coats pulled a gun and said, ” Just act natural like we’re your coats and no one’ll get hurt!”   Police artists did a composite drawing of the perpetrators.  One man was described as  a tan trenchcoat, the other man was said to resemble an overcoat, possibly black, …  but could have been navy blue!

I had several crimes like that culminating in 250,000 men disguised as vests robbed a suit warehouse taking all 250,ooo suits and the police artists were going out on strike so as not to have to draw pictures of all 250,000 vests!   As I recall Jim set me up with a meeting with John Head who said ” I see no reason why you shouldn’t be doing films for SNL”, and the reason it didn’t happen is a story for another day.

Jim went on to produce  a ton of TV shows including “The Whitest Kids You Know” and the Onion News Network, and I went on to write a column for Weekly World News called “Gurian’s World of the Bizarre” which the guys from The Onion told me they were fans of.  So it all comes full circle!

And the wild stories I was writing also became part of a comedy news broadcast which I shot up at WPIX TV.  Check it out here:

It was great to see Jim again after all these years and I wish him luck with Duck Quacks!

 

 

 

 

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Jeffrey Gurian Named Head of Live Comedy Programming for Third Annual Gold Coast International Film Festival

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When Peter Rosegarten from The Conversation Company called and asked me to get involved with the Gold Coast International Film Festival, on Long Island, I was open to it right away because of who the request came from.  Peter and Rory are legends in the comedy world, and I was proud that they thought to call me.

I met with Aviva Miller the head of events and planning and we decided to work together.  They wanted to honor a big comedy star with the Artist of Distinction Award in Comedy so I called my friend Susie Essman and she accepted the invitation to be honored.

Susie Essman and Jeffrey Gurian at Carolines Comedy Club in NYC.

Susie Essman and Jeffrey Gurian at Carolines Comedy Club in NYC.

 

We are holding the event in a gorgeous new theatre called “The Space at Westbury”, that can accommodate 800 people.

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Aviva Miller, Head of Events for  GCIFF, and Jeffrey Gurian in the lobby of the new "Space at Westbury."

Aviva Miller, Head of Events for GCIFF, and Jeffrey Gurian in the lobby of the new “Space at Westbury.”

Susie just got back from starring in 8 sold out shows in London’s famed Soho Theatre and headlines in major venues all across the country.

We will be showing a little video at the event where I got some funny video messages from friends of Susie like Mario Cantone, D.L. Hughley, and Richard Lewis, also from Curb, who shot his video in the Men’s Room of The Friars Club.

I knew he was in there but in my excitement in finding him, I couldn’t wait till he was finished doing his business. He didn’t seem all that happy to see me!

 

Richard Lewis on the toilet in the Men's Room of The Friars Club.

Richard Lewis on the toilet in the Men’s Room of The Friars Club.

I got him to calm down by showing him an article about myself in the Friars Club Epistle.

 

Jeffrey Gurian with Richard Lewis in the Men's Room of The Friars Club, reading an article about Jeffrey in the Friars Epistle.

Jeffrey Gurian with Richard Lewis in the Men’s Room of The Friars Club, reading an article about Jeffrey in the Friars Epistle.

 

This is a little video I shot with Susie recently when she hosted AXS-TV’s Gotham Comedy Live at the Gotham Comedy Club in NYC.

The evening will also be honoring actor Paul Sorvino with the Lifetime Achievement Award.  Paul has been in 140 movies, 6 television series, 2 operas, 3 Broadway plays, numerous musicals on Broadway and has performed at major theaters across the country … and that’s just a part of his tremendous resume.

The festival will be presenting  a special screening of his new film “How Sweet It Is,” followed by a Q&A with the legendary actor on Tuesday October 22 at the Soundview Theater in Port Washington.

 

Jeffrey Gurian, socialite/philanthropist Karen Koeningsberg, and Paul Sorvino celebrating Karen's birthday at The Dream Hotel PHD, Meatpacking District, NYC!

Jeffrey Gurian, socialite/philanthropist Karen Koeningsberg, and Paul Sorvino celebrating Karen’s birthday at The Dream Hotel PHD, Meatpacking District, NYC!

For tickets and information go to http://tinyurl.com/GCIFF-HowSweet.

For sponsorship information and tickets to the Gala, visit: http://www.goldcoastfilmfestival.org/gala

And finally the Mindel Family will be honored with the Honorary Founders Award.  They own several hotels through their company named  Samar Hospitality, which is a combination of the names Sam and Mary.

The Mindel Family has been a loyal supporter of the Great Neck Arts Center for many years, and through their company Samar Hospitality, they own and built The Inn At Great Neck, as well as other hotels like the Viana Hotel and Spa.

Sam and Mary Mindel were Holocaust Survivors that raised their children, Joseph, Marlene and Alan in Great Neck.  They believed strongly in supporting their community and instilled that in their children.

When they built the Inn at Great Neck, the realization of a long time family dream, incorporating an artistic touch was a must.  You can see their love of art throughout the Hotel; from the hand painted mural of the roaring 20’s to the gorgeous paintings in the restaurant.

Artistic design elements can also be found in the other Samar Hospitality hotels as well.

Most recently when the Viana Hotel and Spa was built, their son Alan incorporated the use of the ancient art of Feng Shui and specially commissioned art pieces to make the hotel a unique and stunning facility.

The Mindel Family has not only hosted many events for the Great Neck Arts Center at the Inn at Great Neck but has also catered events at the Center itself.  Alan and his wife Kara have brought their children there over the years to help continue their family legacy of love for the arts.

The Mindels are absolutely thrilled to be associated with and honored by the Great Neck Arts Center. 

We’ve done several media events leading up to the festival and all have been really fun!

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Sen. Alfonse Damato, Jeffrey Gurian and Aviva Miller at Oheka Castle in Hungtington, Long Island.

Jeffrey Gurian with Congressman Steve Israel in the Owner's Box at Citi Field.

Jeffrey Gurian with Congressman Steve Israel in the Owner’s Box at Citi Field.

 

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Producer Emily Conner, Jeffrey Gurian, and Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling at Citi Field.

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WPIX news anchor Tamsen Fadal with Jeffrey Gurian in the owner’s box at Citi Field.

Singer/entertainer Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin with Jeffrey Gurian at the GCIFF press conference in Manhasset, Long Island.

Singer/entertainer Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin with Jeffrey Gurian at the GCIFF press conference in Manhasset, Long Island.

Regina Gil founded the Great Neck Arts Center more than 20 years ago and has worked tirelessly with her team of Aviva, Gala Coordinator Ronni Berger, Assoc. Director Caroline Sorokoff, Coordinator of the Furman Film Series Katie Mancher, Gala Chair Bonnie Zarabi, and Honorary Gala Co-Chairs Jill and Michael T. Lamoretti to make this third annual film festival the great success it will be.

 

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Amy Poehler, Nick Kroll, Michael Cera, Sarah Silverman and more at JFL Comedy Awards Show

Out of all the amazing shows and panels at this year’s 31st annual Just for Laughs Festival, I think the most exciting event was the JFL Awards Show.

The Awards Show poster showing recipients Amy Poehler, Edgar Wright, Mitch Hurwitz, Nick Kroll, Michael Cera, and Mark Lonow and Budd Friedman.

The line-up of talent was fantastic. And I would be remiss for not thanking certain people who made my attendance at this year’s festival even more meaningful than ever, so special thanks to Paul Ronca the Director of the Comedy Pro-Conference, Zoe Friedman the Artistic Director of The Awards Show, Olivia Benaroche the Industry Coordinator and my Guardian Angel, and Emily Shore my other Guardian Angel borrowed from Andy Nulman, Pres. of JFL. Thank you all sincerely!

So the Award Show was spectacular. Amy Poehler received the Comedy Person of the Year Award, presented to her by Seth Meyers. Interviews with both of them will follow very soon, in a separate Comedy Matters post.

Nick Kroll received the Breakout Comedy Star of the Year Award and it was presented to him by his old friend John Mulaney, which was a very meaningful experience for both of them.

Nick Kroll and John Mulaney in their personnaes as George St. Geegland (L) and Gil Faison!

Nick Kroll as Bobby Bottleservice.

Nick Kroll as Dr. Armond, eminent canine plastic surgeon!

In a later interview alone with Nick, outside of the Variety party for the Top 10 Comics To Watch, he said something to the effect that John was a funny guy with a lot of potential, as if he was a newcomer! Then he busted out laughing! You’ll see it in the video when it’s finished being edited.

The hilarious Michael Cera, who takes nerdiness to new heights in most of his Judd Apatow helmed films and who is back on TV in the resurrected Arrested Development now on Netflix, won an award for Best Comedic Short Film for his 16 minute short, Brazzaville Teen-Ager. It was presented to him by Sarah Silverman who did something so funny on the red carpet.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV on the red carpet of the JFL Awards with winner of Best Short Comedy Film, Michael Cera!

I was positioned at the end of the red carpet where I often prefer to be so that people have time to talk to me and no one else is waiting. That works except when the event is running behind and the PR people rush the celebs along. But in this case it worked out fine.

I was in the middle of interviewing Michael Cera, and discussing our mutual friendship with the wild and wooly Kenny Hotz, when Michael asked if Kenny was what he was smelling.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV interviewing Michael Cera on the red carpet discussing their mutual friend Kenny Hotz!

A few seconds later with no pre-planning, strictly by coincidence, Nick Kroll came over and started sniffing Michael. Nick asked him if he uses fabric softener because he told him he smelled great.

Nick Kroll sniffing Michael Cera and telling him he smelled great!

Michael left and I continued interviewing Nick, when right in the middle, one of my all time favorites, the incredibly talented and beautiful Sarah Silverman jumped in and said she had skipped all the other press people to come and talk to me. Sarah has the most amazing smile!

Sarah Silverman joins Nick Kroll in an interview by Jeffrey Gurian for Comedy Matters TV!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Sarah Silverman at the JFL Comedy Awards!

Then she and Nick double-teamed me, and wound up interviewing me, and evaluating my outfit! It was very funny because Sarah was wearing such an unusual outfit, like a hoodie on top with a T-shirt, and a very hot lingerie looking combo from the waist down, with boots!

Sarah Silverman and Nick Kroll evaluating the outfit worn by Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV on the red carpet of the JFL Comedy Awards!

Sarah Silverman presenting the award to Michael Cera in her sexy thigh highs and boots, topped off with a T-shirt and hoodie!

It was hysterical and you can see it right here!

I shot 32 interviews over the four days I was up there with people like Amy Poehler, Seth Myers, Judah Friedlander, Paul Provenza, Colin Quinn, Bo Burnham, about 26 more, and we’ll be rolling them out as they’re done, so keep your eyes on my Comedy Matters TV You Tube channel at http://www.youtube.com/guriannewsnetwork, and PLEASE SUBSCRIBE!

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Jimmy Fallon Up For An Emmy

The exciting news just came out that Jimmy Fallon is up for an Emmy. While exciting, it comes as no surprise because it’s so well deserved. That’s why he was chosen to replace Jay Leno.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage with Jimmy Fallon at Gotham Comedy Club!

He’s perfect to be next in line for the late night throne. I see him more in the vein of Johnny Carson. And not just because his suits fit so well. It’s the confidence with which he carries himself.

I also don’t know of any other talk show host who is as multi-talented as Jimmy. In Part 1 of the two part video interview I did with him, he claims the only thing he doesn’t do is dance, which is belied by his recent dance-off with Sam Rockwell, where he played a game of improv dancing and totally held his own, against the talented, footloose Rockwell.

Jimmy, by the way is in great shape. He’s really strong and I know cause he picked me up recently! Not that I’m that heavy, but I felt his arms while trying to get him to put me down! (LOL) He was just excited to see me, and decided to pick me up. It’s not something I encourage people to do! It feels weird being a man and being held in the air! (LOL) At least he didn’t hold me like a baby!

A few nights later he also danced with Nick Cannon who’s no slouch in the dance department either, by the way! He didn’t pick him up, but he did dance next to him!

Nick Cannon and Jimmy Fallon busting a move on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon!

It was so funny because earlier that same evening, Nick was spinning at a pre-All Star party honoring Darryl Strawberry thrown by Junebug at a cool place called Slate in midtown Manhattan.

I went down there to see Nick cause I hadn’t seen him in a while, kind of hoping to shoot a little video with him, even though I knew that he’d probably be stuck behind the decks. In the VIP room I happened to run into my old buddy Tony Orlando who was also there with Darryl Strawberry for the All Star party and was attending the game the next day, and Tony and I shot this little interview while I was waiting for Nick to come offstage.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with pal Nick Cannon at Nick’s comedy show!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with old pal Tony Orlando at the pre-All Star party at Slate!

Nick was so into spinning that all I could do was shake hands with him, but wasn’t able to tell him I wanted to shoot something when he was done. It was too noisy and tumultuous plus he had his headphones on. I happened to be in the street when he came out and was able to give him a copy of my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with a great intro by Chris Rock, and Nick was so happy to get it that we shot this little video promo in his car before he drove away.

Then I ran home to download the video, turned on my TV to watch Jimmy and heard him announce that Nick Cannon was his guest! I guess he ran right from the party right over to Jimmy’s studio.

Nick Cannon and Jimmy Fallon having a ball on Late Night!

Fallon’s guests run the gamut from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who did an amazing appearance recently, and who will probably be running for President in 2016, to ex-Governor Elliot Spitzer, who was on last night, to stars like Ryan Reynolds, Colin Quinn and Bob Saget who was also on recently promoting his new killer DVD/CD called “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About.”

Bob Saget and Jimmy Fallon discussing Bob’s new DVD “That’s What I’m Talking About!”

Bob chose Seattle to shoot that special and in a quote from the CD cover writes, ” And there’s a lovely old school hotel behind the theater with what looked like old school prostitutes, and people on leave from The Ukraine that we got to watch on the loading dock as we went through the production of this show.” Then he says after they finished “my friends Tim, Michael and I went to the Palace Kitchen Restaurant”, Tim being Tim Sarkes his long time manager, and Michael being Michael O’Brien his long time publicist and long time friend of mine!

Close up of Bob Saget’s new DVD/CD “That’s What I’m Talkin’ About!”

Bob is the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet and on the back of my new book with Chris Rock called ” Make ‘Em Laugh” his blurb said “No matter how many years pass I can never say no to Jeff Gurian. Hence this quote on his book’s back cover!”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Bob Saget and Jeffrey’s book with Chris Rock, whose back cover has a blurb from Bob!

Within a few nights Jimmy also had on Colin Quinn, and Ryan Reynolds. Colin came on to talk about his new one man show called “Unconstitutional” which I’m hoping to see when I go up to Montreal this week for the Just for Laughs Festival, the biggest comedy festival in the world. Colin will be performing his show there a few times during the festival.

Colin Quinn holding Jeffrey Gurian’s book ” Make ‘Em Laugh” which he just happens to be in!

Ryan Reynolds came on for a water fight with Jimmy. They absolutely soaked each other, and looked like they were having the best time ever! That’s the cool thing about Jimmy, he’s all in. Not only does he participate, but he does so so willingly that you just know he’s having a blast. I don’t know if he comes up with these ideas or if his head writer A.D. Miles does, or maybe they collaborate, but they must be very in synch cause the show’s a winner night after night!

A soaking wet Jimmy Fallon dumping a glass of water in Ryan Reynolds’ lap!

Needless to say, no one will be surprised when Jimmmy wins an Emmy, because every once The Universe comes together, and the right thing happens. Watch him every night on NBC at 12:30, until February when he switches to the 11:30 slot!

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Jimmy Fallon Visits Brute Force’s Show at The Players Club

Once a month a talented musician, songwriter, comic and avant garde talent by the name of Brute Force produces a variety show at the esteemed Players Club in Manhattan on East 20th Street!

Brute Force at the mic in the library of The Players Club where his monthly shows are held!

Believe it or not, Brute Force was not the name his parents intended him to have. He started out in life as Stephen Friedland, and took the name Brute Force in 1964. He wrote and performed with The Tokens in the 1960s and wrote songs for Peggy March, Del Shannon, The Chiffons and The Cyrkle.

I believe The Cyrkle sang a song called ” Red Rubber Ball” which was one of my favorites!

Brute also recorded an album in 1967 called ‘I Brute Force: Confections of Love.’ But I think his most enduring credit is the song he recorded on Apple Records, ( Yes, … The Beatles label!) called “King of Fuh.”

Brute Force at the keyboard performing his hit on Apple Records, ” King of Fuh”!

A friend of Brute’s who was in The Cyrkle, played the song for Beatles manager Brian Epstein who then played it for George Harrison. Harrison, and John Lennon both wanted to release the song but Capitol/EMI blocked it because of the lyrics which in the 6o’s were considered too outrageous. Today they would be nothing!

Similar to the way that Lenny Bruce was pilloried for things he said that were considered obscene in his day, that today would make him like just another stand-up comic. It was a different world.

It took 40 years for Brute’s song to finally be officially released on a compilation album from Capitol/EMI called ‘Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records,’ a compilation of music recorded by Apple artists such as James Taylor, Billy Preston, Badfinger and Mary Hopkin. Also on the collection is ‘King of Fuh,’ marking the first time it got an official major label release.

Brute like so many who are ahead of their time, is so unique that he doesn’t fall into a category. I had that for so many years in my early career. I had such high level meetings with everyone important in comedy who said things like, ” Your stuff is really funny, but it’s so different we don’t know where to put it!” It makes you wanna say, “Well, how about putting it on it’s own show???

Brute plays the chair like no one else I ever saw who plays furniture, and he also plays a fantastic violin solo on the elongated hair from his eyebrows, … eyebrows that even George Whipple would envy!

Brute Force performing a classical violin concerto on the hair from his eyebrow! He can actually play it on both sides and it sounds like it’s in stereo!

Anyway, somewhere during the show Jimmy Fallon popped into the room, and then hung out afterwards for about an hour with his new producer Amy Ozols who will be producing The Tonight Show when Jimmy brings it back to New York starting in February, 2014.

(L-R) Jimmy Fallon, Jeffrey Gurian and group watching Brute Force perform after his regular show at The Players Club!

Jimmy will be bringing his unique voice to a legendary show and I can only imagine how exciting this must be for him. He’s so much more than just a comedian. He’s a multi-talented guy who sings, plays instruments, does impressions, … you name it he does it!

Jimmy Fallon with Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at a comedy event back in 2006!

He was telling Amy about my Comedy Matters TV channel, and we reminisced about the time I interviewed him at Gotham Comedy Club and his wife Nancy shot the interview for me because my DP wasn’t able to show up. It’s in two parts, and I’ll show one here!

Jimmy stopped by to give Brute his support and was very surprised to see me there too! I told him I had just gotten back from LA from doing a guest spot on Kroll Show on Comedy Central playing myself in a red carpet sketch, as an interviewer for Comedy Matters TV.

He kept saying “Jeffrey, what are you doing here? I explained that I’m a regular performer on Brute’s shows, which are always fun and different! You can always count on Brute to do something fun and outrageous. Like a yoga position he named something to do with a dog, … not Downward Facing Dog, but his own version where suddenly he’s on the floor on his back with his legs up in the air panting like a dog!

Brute Force in his original “doggy style” yoga posture!

Brute played King of Fuh for Jimmy at his request, and then Jimmy surprisingly turned the piano over to me, not aware that I was actually able to play. I don’t know who was more surprised, he or I that I knocked out a couple of songs off the top of my head!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, JImmy Fallon, and Brute Force at The Players Club in NYC!

I took lessons for ten years from the time I was 7 until I was 17, but I don’t get to play as much as I’d like to. Just recently I played in a comedy video I shot with this great comedy troupe called “Cult Comedy Pictures” where I played myself interviewing a hack comic named “Count Hackula.”

Hackula dresses like a vampire and hasn’t changed his act in hundreds of years! I confront him on that on Comedy Matters TV!

Jeffrey Gurian interviewing the legendary Count Hackula in his Comedy Matters TV home studio!

Anyway, it was great to see Jimmy and we’re all so excited for him to take over The Tonight Show, and bring it back to New York! One thing I know for sure, it’s going to change a lot of things around here, … and all for the good!

You can subscribe to Comedy Matters TV right here at this link, and you should to get regular backstage and inside interviews with the comedians and film stars you love!

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Make ‘Em Laugh…

Make ‘Em Laugh…

book_cover35 Years of the Comic Strip, the Greatest Comedy Club of All Time.

Written by Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken with an Introduction by Chris Rock, and with interviews, personal stories and anecdotes from Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Ray Romano, Gilbert Gottfried, Judah Friedlander, Susie Essman, Lisa Lampanelli, and so many more! Plus blurbs from some of the biggest names in the biz, from Richard Lewis, and Judd Apatow, to Bob Saget, and Nick Kroll from Comedy Central’s “Kroll Show”!

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Now available for pre-order on:

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