Archive for Comedy Central

STAR STUDDED GARDEN OF LAUGHS RAISES 2 MILLION BUCKS FOR KIDS

I had been waiting for weeks to cover the biennial “Garden of Laughs” at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden. It’s a star studded event that raises money for underprivileged kids and kids with disabilities. It’s produced by Rory Rosegarten of The Conversation Company and his team, and features some of the biggest comedy stars in the biz as well as many top actors. We were expecting Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, Jon Stewart, John Mulaney, Michael Che, John Oliver, Iliza Shlesinger, Tiffany Haddish, Brian Regan, and actors Debra Messing, Lucas Hedges, Ansel Elgort, Michael K. Williams, Toby Leonard Moore, Gaten Matarazzo, and all hosted by 3 time host Steve Schirripa of Sopranos fame.

WITH RORY ROSEGARTEN PRODUCER OF GARDEN OF LAUGHS

A lot of people don’t know that Steve booked some of the biggest comedy acts when he used to book talent in Las Vegas, and he’s very funny in his own right. Not every star decides to do the red carpet so we’re never really sure who’s going to come out. It was slated to start at 6:30, so I made sure to get there at 5:30 to have time to set up because there’s no real schedule with a red carpet. It’s very stressful. Sometimes several stars come out at once and while you’re talking to one, another one you would have liked to talk to walks by. It’s also all improv. Some journalists come with stock questions that they ask each person. Not me! All my stuff is improv’ed on the spot.

I specifically had my videographer show up at 4 to pack the camera bag and make 100% sure we had all of our equipment.  We went over it together.  So imagine my surprise at 6:10 when he suggested that we do a mic check and the shock ran through my body when we realized we hadn’t packed the microphone.  I can’t describe the horror, and the icy cold feeling that ran through my body. Weeks of planning, and I’m on the red carpet with no mic.

The one thing you need to do interviews besides the camera and we didn’t bring it. I decided I’d have to run home and get it. But I live on the other side of town and it was rush hour. Perfect! I told my assistant to try and shoot some B-roll, and I ran out like a maniac, flashing my red carpet badge to security as I ran through one door after another. As I was running I tried to figure out which would be the fastest way to get home. Should I run back to 8th avenue to take the train, call an Uber, or just jump into a taxi.

I chose the closest taxi and just like in the movies I told the guy to step on it. I said I had to get across town and back in 20 minutes which was impossible. I turned on my WAZE and we got to my house at 6:26. I told him to wait in the downtown direction, jumped out of the cab, ran past my doormen, got the mic and ran back downstairs so fast that both of my shoes opened and I didn’t stop to re-tie them.

Just past 6:30 my assistant texted me that no one had come out yet. As we got closer to the Garden he texted me that John Mulaney was on the red carpet! Shoot! I was hoping he’d come out late but he came out first. Luckily my videographer had the sense to tell John he was working with me, and that I had to run home to get my mic, so John left me this hilarious message, which made it a little bit better!

Of course as we got near the Garden we got stuck in traffic, and every block seemed to take a year. Finally we pulled up in front, I gave the driver a big tip just like in the movies and ran back in, not expecting to have to go through airport-like security again. But I was wrong. Very wrong.  I flashed my badge but it did no good. I told the guy I had forgotten my mic and had to run home to get it and I was missing the whole red carpet but he wouldn’t hear of it. He said he had to do his job. The only man in Manhattan who had to do his job. And of course because I was so nervous I kept leaving something metal in one pocket or another and literally had to go through the metal detector about 10 times while the people behind me waited patiently.

Finally he let me through and then I first had to re-fill my pockets. By the time I got upstairs I had missed Mulaney and Tobey Leonard Moore from Billions who I would have loved to talk to, so I finally bent down to re-tie my shoes, and then Michael K. Williams came along. I loved Michael’s characters “Omar” on “The Wire” and  “Chalkie” White on Boardwalk Empire so I was excited to talk to him. He told me that working with Martin Scorcese was a dream come true for him and that he also works with kids from Garden of Dreams which is the charity itself that Garden of Laughs raises money for.

WITH MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS ON THE RED CARPET AT MSG

To tell you the truth I had never noticed that he had a scar that ran from his forehead right near his eye and down onto his cheek. Obviously I didn’t bring it up, he did. He said he was working with a young boy of 14 who also has scars on his face from an assault, and that he was able to give him some reassurance that he’d be okay. Michael told me he had been assaulted by a gang on his 25th birthday. Man’s inhumanity to man.

Rory Rosegarten came out and told me had been looking for me because he knows I always come early to these things. When I told him the mic story he said the exact same thing that John Mulaney said without having heard him say it. You can hear it for yourself in the video below. He was there with his family.  I was able to congratulate him on another successful show, and it was great to see him looking so healthy again.

Michael Imperioli who played cousin Christopher Moltisante on The Sopranos came out next, and we hadn’t seen each other in years so it was so nice to re-connect. He’s got a movie coming out with Nick Cage, and an NBC TV series based on the movie The Bone Collector, and when we inquired about each other’s health and I told him I had survived a heart attack he said he was sorry, and it sounded like he said he was sorry I survived. Funny!!!

WITH MICHAEL IMPERIOLI ON THE RED CARPET AT GARDEN OF LAUGHS

Bill Burr is always a great time on the red carpet and as soon as he sees me he starts yelling out things like “Oh no”, and “This is gonna be good.”  I told him I was thinking of texting him to let him know I was going to be there so he could think up some insults for me, but he said he didn’t need any advance notice because they just came naturally. He started out by asking me about my sport jacket and if I had gotten it at Woodstock, which was actually very funny.

LAUGHING WITH BILL BURR AT GARDEN OF LAUGHS

 

I asked him if he knew of the You Tube video called “Bill Burr Roasting People” which has over 5.4 million views and opens with he and I on the red carpet where he says he hopes I go bald so that one day we’re two old bald guys on the red carpet.” He said that not only does he know about it he hates that people think he doesn’t like me because he LOVES me, … and that made me feel really good.

I had sent him a recording that the late great Patrice O’Neal had left for me on my phone one night at 4:05 A.M. It was the first night we had done the Black Phillip Show together and Patrice was so happy with it he couldn’t wait to call me and so humbly suggested that we do a show together just the two of us. He said he didn’t want to assume anything, as if I might have said “No”, but unfortunately we never got to do it. I still get messages and e-mails from guys who track me down to give me props on my work on Black Phillip.  R.I.P Patrice. Btw Bill said he listened to it, and I hope he did cause it’s one of my greatest possessions, along with the phone message that Richard Lewis left me saying that some jokes I had written for him were “hilarious” and if he was ever going to use anyone else’s jokes it would be mine!

Bill’s interview went on so long that at one point he asked me if it was still an interview or just two guys talking on the corner! Then he offered me a $700. class he was giving on how to end an interview. He’s hilarious and the very best! And he’s off on a tour from Iceland to Israel!

Just when I thought it was over, I left the red carpet but luckily didn’t pack up yet when I saw Tracy Morgan talking to Bill Burr and went over to catch up with Tracy. His new season if his TBS show “The Last O.G.” was premiering that night and we had a few laughs on camera. He always says something so nice to me and this time he said, “You ARE comedy!”

WITH TRACY MORGAN AT GARDEN OF LAUGHS

Last on the red carpet was John Oliver who was going to be the very first presenter that night. I asked him if his kids were old enough to know that he’s playing Zazu the bird in the new remake of The Lion King directed by John Favreau due out this July.  He said his son is only three and he took him to a movie in which he did the voice of a porcupine named Steve.  He told him that was his Dad and his son said ” No it isn’t”, just like my Too Much Tuna sketch with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. Anyway this little video is a recap of my adventurous day on the red carpet of Garden of Laughs.

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Weekly Humorist Up For Webby Award

A Webby Award is an award for excellence on the Internet and it’s presented annually by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a judging body composed of over two thousand industry experts and technology innovators. It’s a big honor to be nominated for a Webby and Marty Dundics’ Weekly Humorist is in line to win one for Best Humor Site, in the upcoming 23rd annual Webby Awards contest.

The event itself will be held on Monday, May 13th at Cipriani Wall Street in lower Manhattan, and will be hosted by everyone’s favorite Jenny Slate, so memorable from Kroll Show on Comedy Central. Jenny played many characters especially “niece Denise” and Liz from Publizity which was a sketch I got to be in.

Marty himself describes his recent comedy startup as an “underdog”,  but people love underdogs and they’re only up against College Humor, Funny or Die, The Daily Show and Cards Against Humanity which bills itself as a game for horrible people.

Marty, who’s the CEO and Editor-In-Chief of Weekly Humorist birthed this babe and is basically a one man band. He has an office on Wall Street wHere he hosts the popular comedy podcast Talkward, and produces “Guaranteed Delivery” a monthly standup show at The Mailroom lounge, a very cool space in the same building. I’ve been on it and he gets great talent. This was a flier from his recent show in April.

He’s also the founder of Humorist Media, which develops comedy media programming and publishing.  Despite having a long history with comedy, having worked at National Lampoon, and The Late Show with David Letterman, he’s funny but he’s never performed himself.

Voting ends this Thursday April 18th with the winner to be announced on Tuesday April 23rd, and you can vote by going to this site, …but do it now while you’re thinking about it, because voting ends on Thursday :  

https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2019/websites/general-websites/humor

 

WITH MARTY DUNDICS DOWN AT THE WEEKLY HUMORIST OFFICE

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Comedy In An Alley

If you’ve been to any upscale, fancy Manhattan event chances are you’ve seen Francesco Belcaro. He’s hard to miss. Tall, handsome and stylish with 46 thousand followers on Instagram, and usually surrounded by models, chances are good he had something to do with making the event successful.

As a matter of fact I’ll be attending a black tie affair of his tomorrow night called The Venetian Carnival which will be held at The Top of the Standard. You can see him greeting me at a fashion party he arranged in a cool beautique, where the champagne was flowing freely in the  video below.

Pinko fashion Brand and Valdo Prosecco event.

Posted by Francesco Belcaro on Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A force in marketing, promotion, and real estate you can imagine my surprise when he invited me to a comedy event.

And then I saw that Mehul Patel was involved and I know that he does comedy shows in upscale venues to try and create a party kind of atmosphere where the audience hangs out afterwards to keep the show/party feeling going. There was no question that I would attend. It was a concerted effort between those guys as well as Rick Rosa and Maria Ton.

This show was called Laughter at Alley Cat and was held at a place called “Alley Cat” on a street I didn’t even know existed in New York. Theatre Alley. I had no idea what to expect when I drove down there, but it was a good sign that Waze knew just where to take me.

Luckily I was able to find a parking spot where Waze said it was, but when I got out of my car I didn’t  know where to go. I was parked right across from this narrow alley and Waze said I had arrived so I tentatively walked into this alley. Late at night in New York you don’t just walk into any alley, but I didn’t know where else to go. When I first walked in all I saw was this.

I ventured further and suddenly saw velvet ropes which in New York is always a good sign.

As I got even closer I saw the logo of the Alley Cat and felt relieved that I was in the right place.

Right away it had a cool vibe. Security guided me downstairs and then upstairs into a showroom that was packed with people already drinking and having a good time. Francesco spotted me and took me to the VIP room where I saw the other comics, host Rashad Bashir who I had just met recently at a show at Alex Carabano’s V-Spot restaurant and comedy club, Kendall Ketchum representing those with two X chromosomes, Shawn Jackson, Elon Altman, the afore-mentioned Mehul Patel, and Matt Pavich.

Front Row: Shawn Jackson and Yours Truly, Rear )L-R) Elon Altman, Kendall Ketchum, Matt Pavich, Rashad Bashir, and Mehul Patel.

Rashad Bashir was a great host who really got the energy pumping, and one by one all the comics brought their A-game which wasn’t always easy because of the noise from the bar. That’s the only problem with doing comedy from a “hip” venue that is not a traditional comedy club, trying to control the noise from the bar, and from people who may have drank enough to forget their manners and that a show is going on.

Mehul Patel onstage

Fortunately the host reprimanded them and most of the comics projected loudly on the mic to overcome the background noise. Matt Pavich had a different approach which I really respected because it’s hard to do. Rather than yell, he took a chance and spoke quietly, and the audience in turn quieted down to hear him. I’ve seen it done before but it takes courage because if it doesn’t work you’re in worse shape than you were in the first place. I gave him props for that after the show because it was a choice he made that worked.

All in all it was a very strong show, and I hope to go back and perform on it myself one month.

That’s all for me. Just remember that Comedy Matters, … and with that I’m OUT!!!

And please go to my Comedy Matters TV You Tube channel to see fun video interviews with all your favorite stars, and follow me on Twitter and IG at @jeffreygurian

 

 

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Kenny Warren and Gabe Dorado Do Magic

Kenny Warren and Gabe Dorado Do Magic

Magic is the only word that came to mind when I got to the Grisly Pear at 107 Macdougal Street. I had performed there many times when it was a bar upfront with almost kind of a comedy space in the back. Now it’s a legitimate comedy club in the back with a bar up front! And it’s all thanks to the hard work and dedication of comic/producers Kenny Warren and Gabe Dorado.

You may know Kenny from his show “Comics Cutting Comics” in which he cuts comic’s hair before they get up to perform, which would be horrifying if he wasn’t a legit barber. Fortunately he is, and works out of a shop up in Harlem called Levels. I’ve been there for a shoot we did together called ” Comics Cutting Comics Live” where I had the chance to perform in the barber shop, which was scary to me. Those who know me know I do not frequent barber shops! (LOL) Just the thought freaks me out, but for Kenny I show up! (LOL)

(L-R) Matt Pavich, Norlex Belma, Kenny Warren, Pat Brown, Larry Beyah, Barry Ribs, Jeffrey Gurian

And to show you the kind of guy  he is, he was nice enough not to insist on cutting my hair. Even when we did the show out at the Creek and the Cave, he let me slide on the cutting part, and he still let me perform.

When I got to The Pear, the first thing I happened to notice was a big poster like art thing of AMarie Castillo mounted on the wall.

It caught my attention, and then as I looked around I saw Kenny Babbitt, Napoleon Emil and Mallory Bryant up there too. And then I noticed that the walls of the entire place were covered with beautiful graphics of all the comics who performed there, with their social media tags.

Kenny is very big on giving up-and-comers a place to work out and feel at home. He even refers to the place as “the dojo.” He understands the struggle and what it takes to try and get known in this crazy business, and let me tell you it’s a very big thing to come into a club and see your very own picture up on the wall.

He’s doing six shows a week there, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including three on Friday alone, 8, 10, and 12, and he gets a packed house most of the time, unlike when the space was shared by other producers. He’s basically doing it on his own with people like Kathryn Henson producing their own shows, like her show “Late Night at The Pear” on Thursdays at midnight. Gabe Dorado runs the shows on Thursday at 10 P.M., Friday 6 and 8 P.M. and Saturday’s 10 P.M. and 12 A.M. slots.

The show I was on had a great line-up with the very funny Phil Duckett bringing it as the host. He really got the energy flowing, and then there was K.C. Arora, the aforementioned Katharyn Henson, Kareem Green who brought down the house with a very funny “choking” routine, a young funny comic named Marcello Hernandez, Onika McClean and just as I was leaving Neko White dropped by to do a set!

Kenny will be out in LA this month appearing at the clubs, and we wish him lots of luck! As for me, I hope to be doing more sets at the new Grisly Pear Comedy Club! Thanks Kenny!!!

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The Phenomenon Known As Sebastian

There’s only a handful of comedians that can fill an arena like Madison Square Garden with 20,000 seats, much less four shows over one weekend!  That’s 80,000 people who came out in the cold and pouring rain to see Sebastian Maniscalco do his thing on his Stay Hungry Tour.

There’s also very few performers who only need one name to identify them. Oprah, Cher, Elvis! Nobody ever said Elvis who? And now there’s Sebastian, holding it down in the comedy world!

I who drive everywhere had a feeling that wouldn’t be a good idea this night so I called for an Uber. I’m basically right across town from MSG, so theoretically it should take a good 15-20 minutes to get there.

The VIP meet and greet was set for 9-10 P.M. between his last two shows. I was told to go to the 8 Penn Plaza entrance which is for employees and media, and make my way to the 5th floor and then down to the third floor for the party.

The car picked me and my date up at 8:15, and I arrived at 8 Penn Plaza just past 9:30 after having to get out and walk the last four blocks in the pouring rain which had been predicted to be snow. For whatever reason traffic was INSANE. Much worse than usual. Every block, every avenue backed up! So lucky I didn’t drive.

As we walked over  we saw huge billboards with Sebastian’s face on them announcing his show. I got excited just by seeing them. Most comics have the experience of seeing their face on a flier, but to see your entire being on a billboard in Times Square has to be beyond belief.

And in the Garden he and Pete Correale were up on the Jumbotron for their podcast “The Pete and Sebastian Show”!

The lines outside of MSG were crazy but I thought we’d have an easier time at the 8 Penn Plaza entrance. WRONG!!! The line was out through the door and into the street. We managed to get inside where it seemed like nobody was moving. They had metal detectors and heavy security but nobody was moving.

I called upstairs to let Sebastian’s Levity Live people know I was finally there, but it was so noisy it was hard to hear anyone. They had my tickets and VIP party passes at a special table, and we just missed an elevator because they said there was no more room. The guards made us put on our VIP passes. We weren’t allowed to just hold them, we had to WEAR them!

We finally got an elevator and the first guy that got in said, ” Hey I know you. Aren’t you the “Master Panelist” from Comics Watching Comics on Amazon Prime?” I admitted that I was, and then another guy got in who referenced me from “Too Much Tuna” with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, and even the elevator operator said he knew me. That was kind of crazy! Obviously I’m very well known in elevators throughout the land!

When we finally got to the fifth floor, we were ushered vaguely to another place that wasn’t clear but some nice guy said, ” Don’t worry I’ll show you where to go.”

And we finally got there around 9:40 just in time to see Levity’s Alex Goodman standing with Sebastian’s opening act Pat McGann. Alex kindly showed me into the room where Sebastian was mingling and taking photos with the crowd, directed by Levity honcho Judy Marmel.

We got to exchange pleasantries with Sebastian, and I was amazed how calm he was knowing he was about to face 20,000 people in a few minutes, but I guess once you do it three times before, the fourth time feels like “old hat”, as they used to say in 1810!

When we took our seats, in the third row with a great view, I just sat there trying to take in the aura of 20,000 people. As a comic, if a club is full depending on the club there’s maybe 300 people. Lots of clubs have 125. Twenty thousand people is unimaginable, and you really have to put in years of stage time to be able to handle that and not go insane with fear!

You also have to hope they don’t all want to come over your house for a drink afterwards! That call to your wife would be crazy! Honey some people are dropping by. How many? About 20,000!

Pat McGann showed why he was chosen as Sebastian’s opener by doing a strong opening set with great stories about his wife, kids and family in general.

And then it was time for Sebastian, who hit the stage like a rockstar in a sparkly, multi-colored jacket that was the first thing he mentioned.

Then he discussed the fact that people had been wondering whether they’d have to cancel the show because of the weather. He laughingly said something to the effect of,  “Hey this is not a brunch where you can just go, ” The  weather’s not so great. We’ll do it next Thursday! This is Madison Square Garden.  It took me two years to plan this thing. It’s not being cancelled for a little rain.”

He got thunderous applause from the time he came out till the time he left the stage. It’s not only his stage presence, it’s his physicality that always amazes me.  He acts out almost every joke he does and contorts his body so it looks like the people he’s talking about.

He’s married to a Jewish woman which gave him the ability to compare Jews and Italians in talking about his wife’s upbringing as compared to his, and people were absolutely hysterical. A guy near me almost fell out of his seat!

He told great stories too like the time his wife made a one year old birthday party for his daughter and ordered an alpaca to make an appearance. He needed to get a permit for the alpaca and the story was hilarious. He even walked and made faces and noises like an alpaca. That’s not easy to do!

Talking about the condition his wife was in after she gave birth, he said she looked like she had been thrown out of an airplane, and that made me laugh out loud which like many people in comedy I don’t usually do.

I had to learn that early on when writing for very famous comedians who would look at the jokes I wrote and with a very serious face say, ” Oh that’s funny.  And THAT one’s VERY funny. I’m hysterical!”, without even cracking a smile.

He announced the good news that he has a son on the way. Very exciting. He certainly proved why he was worthy of the respect of 80,000 people who braved the freezing cold and rain to come out and join him. I’m sure he could have done at least two more shows.

I really look forward to seeing him again!

 

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Lil Rel Killin’ It Bigtime

I’ve had the good fortune to know Lil Rel since at least 2012 when we met up at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, which is where this photo was taken.

Over the years since I’ve seen him many times and watched as his career blew up very deservedly I might add. The man is hilarious and multi-talented.

 

This past summer at the very same festival, which is the biggest and most prestigious comedy festival in the world, Rel received the award for “Breakout Comedy Star of the Year”, presented to him by his friend Deon Cole. This video was shot on the red carpet of the awards show.

Since his breakout performance in Jordan Peele’s smash hit “Get Out” back in 2017 Rel has been on a constant roll, with films Uncle Drew, Bird Box which is out right now, and his new film which will be at Sundance this year, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” co-starring Jillian Bell.

He’s currently on his Relevant 2 Tour and made a stop in NYC to headline at Carolines on Broadway one of the most prestigious clubs in NYC. I dropped by to catch the show and support, and needless to say it was a killer show, but I’ll say it anyway. And Rel looks great.  He lost weight and looks really in shape. They even commented on it on his recent appearance on The Breakfast Club with Charlamagne Tha God.

He had comic/actor/tour-mate Jay Alexander from “Rel” hosting the show, with comic/actor Reedo Brown from “Caught The Series” and “Rel” as his feature. Both were really funny and then Rel came out and totally crushed the room. He has such an easy way on stage and is so likable that he had the crowd from minute one! His delivery and intonation add to the humor and he’s very physical onstage as well.  A couple of times he showed his ability to move, and the man can dance! (LOL)

He’s also a great story teller and his story about going to see a show where he expected to see The Jackson’s performing, but only Tito showed up on stage, and only played his part of the songs he sang in, was hilarious, as were the stories about his family and the people who hit him up for money now that he’s doing well. It was a smooth hour of non-stop laughter.

I was waiting for him when he got off stage and went back into the green room to hang out a little bit. Emmy nominated comedy writer/comic Sam Jay was there, who commented positively on my scarf, and told me she’s back writing for SNL, and having a blast, as was my man Jack Thriller who I didn’t recognize at first.

He was there with his trainer who’s turning him into a beast, and I was sitting right across from him thinking, ” This guy looks so much like Jack Thriller”, and finally someone addressed him as Jack and I realized that it actually WAS Jack Thriller. Jack told me he’s finally moving his fun, crazy Party and Bullshit Show down to Times Square in Manhattan where it belongs. Last time I was at the show he had Safaree from Love and Hip Hop performing. It’s always a whole lotta fun, packed with tons of girls too!

Rel was very accommodating to all of the people who came back and wanted to take photos with him, because he’s really humble and handling his fame really well.

After Sundance he’ll be in Nashville, Orlando and a whole bunch of other places so check it out on his website: https://thelilrelcompany.wordpress.com/ and follow him on Instagram at @comedianlilrel

That’s it for me.  Until next time, remember that Comedy Matters!  I’m OUT!!!

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Rafi Bastos Comedy Superstar With Only 12 MM Twitter Followers

If you look at this little video below, you’ll hear Paul Provenza openly declare that I know everyone in comedy and you’ll hear Nick Kroll freely declaring that no one has more access to people in comedy than me. So when I hear about a comedy star that has 12 million followers on Twitter, 2.5 million on You Tube, and 1.5 million on Instagram and I realize I don’t know that person, it makes me very nervous!

Such was the case with Rafi Bastos, the comedy superstar from Brazil. I heard he was performing at Gotham Comedy Club in an early 7 P.M. show.  It was Wednesday and really cold out, and I wondered if he’d draw a good crowd.  It was beyond expectation and when I got there the room was packed with fans.

I took my usual table and heard a voice call my name.  It was the hilarious Aaron Berg, the tatted up body builder from the foreign country of Can-A-Da!

He was sitting with Alexis Guerreros, and Charles McBee who was hosting the show, and he said, “Hey Jeff I wanted you to meet Rafi, he’s headlining tonight.”

So I shook hands with Rafi who was sitting down and who seemed to be the same size as all the other guys at the table. I say that, not because people usually look to see what size someone is, but because I didn’t notice anything until he stood up and saw that he was 6’7″.

Aaron went up and totally killed as usual.  He always announces his Jewishness, despite the fact as he says that he looks like he eats Jews and mixes them with protein powder.

He and his wife and baby Piper are moving to a new house next week.  Congrats and best of luck to the Bergs!

Anyway Rafi went up and did an amazing thing.  He did a smooth hour in a language that is not his first language. He has a nice Portuguese accent, and his English is amazing. It’s hard enough to be funny, but to be funny in another language you were not born into is a whole other thing. And he like Aaron Berg also announced his Jewishness. It seems we come in all shapes and sizes!

He had lots of Brazilian fans there, and said that when people think of Brazil they think of two things, Brazilian waxes and Pele. At the end of his set he did a Q&A in which he invited questions in both English and Portuguese.

The Portuguese fans were very exuberant, and for a few moments I was afraid that a soccer game might break out, complete with hooligans. But fortunately everything stayed under control.

After the show Rafi was very gracious and stayed to take photos with all of his fans. Afterwards we sat together in the green room so I could ask him a few questions, and shoot a little video.

He was a funny kid growing up but not the class clown.  He’d sit in the back of the room in school waiting for the right opportunity to say something funny.

He originally thought he wanted to play basketball, but according to him he had the height but he wasn’t good enough, and wound up with a broken cheekbone. I think he made a better choice, and so does he.

He owns the biggest comedy club in Latin America and since Brazil shares a border with 10 other countries including Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, he has plenty of room to expand!

The club holds about 300 people and he described it as kind of a cross between Gotham and the old Comix on 14th Street which he experienced, because he came here in those years to check out NYC.

In 1999 he had won a scholarship to play basketball in Nebraska. A tall, Brazilian Jewish guy with a good sense of humor playing b-ball in Nebraska. It doesn’t sound right and it didn’t feel right either.

I complimented him on his English and compared it to our mutual friend Gad Elmaleh, who also studied very hard to lose his accent so he could perform in English.

Rafi said his biggest challenge has been to speak English and have sex at the same time. He can only do one or the other comfortably. By the reaction of the female part of the crowd, I have a feeling there were a lot of girls at the show who would have been willing to give him a chance.

He’s also the Exec. Producer of Brazil’s version of SNL, and he’s the host of the Brazilian version of the Netflix show “The Ultimate Beastmaster.”

He was heading first to Boston to perform this weekend at Laugh Boston, a club the size of Gotham, then back to Cali to work on his comedy, and plan a tour with the working title of “Conquering America”, but we made plans to get together when he comes back to NY and hopefully do some comedy together someplace!

There was no one with us to shoot the video but his extended reach came in handy and he shot it himself.  After I left I realized I had totally forgotten to tell him that Pele lives in my building! Maybe he’ll see this and we’ll have a good laugh about it!

 

 

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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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Tracy Morgan On Road To Recovery

Anyone who knows my posts knows I only like to write about positive things.  I’ve been holding off on writing about the horrible accident that injured Tracy Morgan, and his fellow-comic passengers Ardie Fuqua, Harris Stanton, and Jimmy Mack who unfortunately did not survive.   I didn’t know Jimmy personally but from mutual friends I  heard he was a great guy and that Tracy considered him his mentor.

It’s a very different thing writing about someone you know.  Especially when it’s something terrible.  Most journalists write very dispassionately never having met the people they’re writing about.  Writing about a friend is much more difficult in many ways, because you never want to feel that you’re trying to draw attention to yourself, through their misfortune.

With Tracy Morgan in happier days at Gotham Comedy Club!

With Tracy Morgan in happier days at Gotham Comedy Club!

I saw Tracy as recently as April 15th when he came up to Sirius XM studios to do a special ” Unmasked” interview with Ron Bennington, the “Ron” from the legendary Ron and Fez Show.  Everyone was excited and Tracy did a very moving and intimate interview, really opening up about his life, and the things that are important to him, and moving both himself and the audience to tears!   I was in the green room watching, and after the interview there were big hugs all around!

The shocking news came through on Saturday, June 7th that Tracy was in critical condition after a tractor trailer slammed into his SUV limo bringing him and his entourage back from performing at a casino in Delaware.

The limo Tracy was in turned over, and Tracy was said to have sustained several injuries including a broken femur, a broken nose and several broken ribs.  He already underwent surgery for the broken femur , and was said to be recovering, at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick.

Fortunately Harris Stanton got away with relatively minor injuries if you can call any injury “minor”,  and was well enough to be released.

Harris Stanton, Jeffrey Gurian, and Patrice O'Neal at the taping of Patrice's last special "Elephant In The Room!"

Harris Stanton, Jeffrey Gurian, and Patrice O’Neal at the taping of Patrice’s last special “Elephant In The Room!”

Ardie who has been opening for Tracy for a while now, is still listed in critical condition, and to my knowledge no one has said anything  specific about his injuries.  I last heard from him the Wednesday before the accident, when he texted me all excited that Chris Rock himself had brought him on to the BET Awards.

Ardie is a super guy, loved by all who know him, who’s still recovering from the loss of his beloved son Ardley Jamaal Fuqua in May of 2012 in a freak accident, but he still manages to go out and make other people laugh despite his own personal pain.   He teased me for weeks about the fact that when I went out to Brooklyn a few months back to see him open for Tracy , I brought Tracy a copy of my book “Make ‘Em Laugh” as a gift, and signed it for him on the spot.  Tracy had known about the book, and I promised him a copy but for some reason Ardie thought it was hysterical that I would think to give Tracy a signed copy of my book!  I’m still not sure why he thought it was strange, but he did!  And he told that to everyone he saw when I was around! (LOL)

Ardie Fuqua and Jeffrey Gurian in an Ardie-taken selfie at Carolines!  His arms are REALLY long so they come out good!

Ardie Fuqua and Jeffrey Gurian in an Ardie-taken selfie at Carolines! His arms are REALLY long so they come out good!

Also seriously injured were Tracy’s assistant Jeffrey Millea, and there were supposedly two other people in the limo that were not injured.  Thank G-d Tracy’s wife Megan, and 11 month old baby daughter  Maven were not in the SUV as they usually travel with Tracy, and are there at every recent show of Tracy’s that I’ve attended.

Everyone, especially his friends in the comedy community are all praying for their swift and complete recovery!

 

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Kevin Hart Produces Keith Robinson Special

Keith Robinson is often called a “comic’s comic”, which means he’s very highly respected by his peers.  In the world of comedy that means a lot.  Because from the time they start out, all comics want to feel like they’re the funniest of all, and because of that they often don’t encourage their peers!  A lot of comics don’t even take the time to say ” Nice set” after another comic performs.  It’s such an easy thing to do, and means so much to a fellow hardworking comic, but out of fear, they keep it to themselves.

Keith Robinson and Jeffrey Gurian backstage at The Gramercy Theatre in NYC after Keith's killer show!

Keith Robinson and Jeffrey Gurian backstage at The Gramercy Theatre in NYC after Keith’s killer show!

I make it a point of telling other comics when I think they did well.  We all need encouragement.  Anyway, I digress! (LOL) Kevin Hart, who’s career is absolutely HUGE, and getting bigger by the moment, produced a Keith Robinson special called ” Back of the Bus Funny”, at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City.

But not only did he produce it,  he came out on stage to welcome the audience before the show started, and said that Keith Robinson was his mentor and he wouldn’t be who he was today if not for Keith!  What a tribute!  And what a  great, and selfless  thing to do.  Kevin didn’t have to say that but he was being honest, and you could tell that he meant it!

Keith Robinson producer Kevin Hart and Jeffrey Gurian backstage after Keith's show "Back of the Bus Funny!"

Keith Robinson producer Kevin Hart and Jeffrey Gurian backstage after Keith’s show “Back of the Bus Funny!”

I got to know Kevin originally when I co-produced a comedy show at Westbury Theatre on Long Island starring Kevin back in 2010.  It was right after the earthquake in Haiti and we decided to make it a benefit for that ravaged island.  My partner was Haitian and I have a lot of Haitian friends, and thanks to Kevin we sold out the place.  Three thousand people came out to see Kevin kill it, with Tony Rock as the feature, and Haitian-American comic Wil Sylvince as the MC! Needless to say, a lot of them were late, (LOL), but they came, and that’s what counts!

Kevin Hart and Jeffrey Gurian promoting their show at Westbury Theatre back in 2010!

Kevin Hart and Jeffrey Gurian promoting their show at Westbury Theatre back in 2010!

So when I run into Kevin periodically it’s always good, and I’m really happy for his success!  He’s got 11.7 million followers on Twitter and will probably have more than 12 million by the time I finish this blog post! (LOL)  Two years ago, when I interviewed him for Black History Month,  he had only 3 million followers, and in two years time his popularity has grown so much, … I wish my investments would grow like Kevin Hart’s Twitter following!

Zainab Johnson opened the show and it was really cool because I had just seen her the night before on Last Comic Standing.  She’s got a shaved head, .. I don’t wanna say “bald” because “Bald” to me implies that you somehow lost your hair.  Her’s is obviously a fashion choice!  And it works for her.  She wore a belly baring outfit on LCS and did the same at Keith’s special.  The girl is proud of her abs! (LOL)  And she’s funny too,  so it’s a good combination all around, ’cause abs by themselves don’t fill seats!

The audience was packed and there were lots of Keith’s friends from his Tough Crowd days.  Colin Quinn was sitting in front of me with Chris Rock and Gary Gulman.  Next to me was Robert Kelly and Vondecarlo Brown, Patrice O’Neal’s wife.  Keith gave Colin a shout-out in a very funny, but backhanded way by saying there were people in the audience who used to be famous, like Colin Quinn, and nobody laughed harder than Colin.  Well that was the confrontational energy that Colin brought to Tough Crowd, and he told me once in an interview that  he wanted it that way!

Kevin Hart and Chris Rock enjoying the festivities!

Kevin Hart and Chris Rock enjoying the festivities!

Robert Kelly, Colin Quinn and Gary Gulman backstage for Keith Robinson!

Robert Kelly, Colin Quinn and Gary Gulman backstage for Keith Robinson!

Vondecarlo and Jeffrey Gurian at the after-party for Keith Robinson's show!

Vondecarlo and Jeffrey Gurian at the after-party for Keith Robinson’s show!

The show had a really cool set and Keith came out, literally from the back of a bus, wearing a very cool looking suit.

The backdrop of Keith Robinson's set, where he stepped off the back of the bus to open the show!

The backdrop of Keith Robinson’s set, where he stepped off the back of the bus to open the show!

He thanked Kevin, and mentioned that Kevin had a HUGE following on Twitter, and that probably 12 of them were white!   He said that Kevin was like “the Red Lobster of comedy”! (LOL) He went on for an hour with really strong material.  There were so many strong spots but I particularly like when he’s talking about the saying, ” Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  Now I’m paraphrasing here, but he says something like guns DO kill people.  if you wanna kill someone you use a gun.  No one goes around choking people.  There’s a reason you never hear of a mass choking!  And then he acts it out, like a guy’s sneaking up on someone to choke them, and it’s hysterical!

Many years ago, when I was writing for Weekly World News I did a story on a man who claimed to have personally killed every person in Manhattan!  He says he did it about two weeks before, and that he single-handedly snuck up on each and every person in the borough and strangled them, while under the influence of an entire pack of cigarettes.  Police spokesmen were quoted as saying they felt that the man either lying, or else he was covering up for someone else.  What the public wanted to know was, ” Who are police spokesmen anyway?  What kind of a job is it?  Are they actually policemen or just men who speak?  Has anyone you know actually ever met a police spokesman, and if not do they in fact exist?” 

Anyway, after the first show we all went backstage to congratulate Keith and it was Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Gary Gulman, Robert Kelly, Jermaine Fowler, Marc Theobald, Vondecarlo, Kevin’s posse, and lots more people eating, drinking and letting Keith know how good he was.  Then he had to split to do it all over again for the second show!  That has to be hard, following yourself on a really great performance!  Now they have to go to the next step!

Colin Quinn and Georgia O'Neal, Patrice's Mom!

Colin Quinn and Georgia O’Neal, Patrice’s Mom!

Everybody laughing and having a good time after the show!

Everybody laughing and having a good time after the show!

Another candid backstage photo of Kevin Hart and Chris Rock!

Another candid backstage photo of Kevin Hart and Chris Rock, with Keith in the foreground!

But  between Keith’s talent and Kevin’s heat they should have no trouble finding a home for this special!  I for one can’t wait to see it again!  It was a great night and very special to see Kevin and Chris again!

Chris Rock, Jeffrey Gurian, and Kevin Hart backstage after Keith Robinson's show!

Chris Rock, Jeffrey Gurian, and Kevin Hart backstage after Keith Robinson’s show!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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