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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.

Please feel free to “Like”, Comment and Subscribe and please share it with a friend.  On Twitter and IG I’m @jeffreygurian

 

 

 

 

 

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Comedians Rule Boy Band

With comedian/actor/writer Seth Herzog

When you hear the words “Boy Band” maybe you think of The Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, or New Kids on the Block. Well change that image cause from now on you’re gonna be thinking of Seth Herzog, Dave Hill, Jordan Carlos and Steve Agee, who played part of a gay couple with Brian Posehn on the Sarah Silverman Program.

(L-R) Stephen Levinson, Dave Hill, Jordan Carlos, Joel Levinson and Seth Herzog

All four of the above are comedians who thanks to first time feature screenwriters Joel and Stephen Levinson play members of a boy band called “The Heartthrob Boyz” who were wildly successful in the 90’s,  and went into the studio 15 years ago to record an album and are still there working on the same album. They’ve aged, gained weight and lost hair but didn’t lose their childish sense of humor.

Joel and Steven wrote the script together and Joel directed it. They screened it last night at the Chelsea Music Hall on West 15th Street in Manhattan and preceded the screening with a VIP cocktail party at 7 P.M. I who am never late for anything was literally the first one there which is how I got to talk with Joel and Steve, and Seth who was there early too making sure that everything went smoothly, which it did.

Stephen Levinson holding the film poster with his brother Joel Levinson

I brought the lovely, talented and amazing Jessica Robinson with me, who is kind of my muse, and we had the best time!

The Levinson boys wrote the script over a six month period and shot it in 10 days in Yellow Springs, Ohio, the home of independent film! (JK) They shot it there because it’s near Dayton where they live and because that’s where they had connections for locations and also they said that the rates of everything else were much lower. ( Lower than New York? Who would have believed it? LOL)

I always like to know how things come about so I asked them how they met Seth Herzog. They met through comedy writer Rob Kutner who wrote for The Daily Show and Conan through a project called Purim Shpiel, a sketch comedy show in honor of the Jewish holiday of Purim, and Seth always played a wicked character named Haman, who to this day is responsible for Jewish people eating what’s called Hamantashen on the holiday of Purim, actually coming up later this month. (Google it!)

They said that Seth played the perfect asshole so he was the first one cast in Boy Band to play the bad boy of the group. He’s also a producer on the film. Last May at a John McEnroe charity event at Carolines on Broadway where I covered the red carpet I got to interview my buddy Seth and he told me all about Boy Band before it was shot.

The film was loaded with recognizable faces, like David Gruber Allen and Julie Goldman, and I was pleasantly surprised to see my pal Jerry O’Connell in a pretty big role as a newscaster, opposite Seth’s wife, on-air journalist/actress Hitha Herzog, who he somehow coerced to be in the film.  (LOL) Jerry will soon have his own talk show called Jerry O.  on FOX owned stations, and it’s set to begin on August 12th. It will feature celebs and comedy for sure because Jerry is a funny guy, who appreciates the importance of comedy.

Hitha Herzog and Jerry O’Connell

They even had Questlove from The Roots in the film playing an alien, hence the horns, also appearing in the newscast with Hitha and Jerry.

Seth as you should know is the warm up comic for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and so works with Questlove on a day to day basis. Stephen Levinson is also a writer on that show. And Gilbert Gottfried’s voice made an appearance speaking as a puppet named Morty who played an accountant.

The film also featured comedian Esther Ku playing the character of Tina, Steve Agee’s character’s girlfriend. Esther recently co-hosted the AVN ( porno) awards in Las Vegas, and she had a big part in this film.

Esther looked absolutely gorgeous as she did hosting the AVN awards, and it’s so nice seeing her owning that power and not playing down her looks like many female comedians of the past felt they had to do in order to be taken seriously as a funny person. (Having to be taken seriously as a funny person is a funny concept!) And Esther had the foresight to be Asian before it was even popular!

The screening had a great turnout, and was packed with lots of industry people. I ran into comedy exec. Maureen Taran, and Ali Farahnakian founder and owner of The P.I.T. who many people may not recall was also one of the founding members of USB. He was there with wife TV producer Beth Saunders, and he showed her the photo he took of me in the street many years before that wound up, unbeknownst to me, on the wall of the Men’s Room in The P.I.T.

Funny story, … I was walking in the street at a street fair when this nice guy who I had never met before asked if he could take my photo. He said he thought I had an interesting look and because he was so nice I agreed. At the time I didn’t know who he was. So one night I’m at The P.I.T. and I had to use the Men’s Room and while I’m standing there doing my business, I happen to look to my right and see my photo staring me in the face. It was hilarious and we’ve been friends ever since. He’s just a great guy.

And when Bravo TV wanted to shoot scenes with me for RHONY, with Countess LuAnn de Lesseps and Princess Carole Radziwill for a sketch I created and co-wrote for them, Ali was kind enough to give us The P.I.T. for the shoot and after-party.

Boy Band was a fun 90 minutes with a sci-fi element and even a touch of zombie stuff, and it’s available to be seen on all platforms that show movies! Make sure to check it out.

And with that, … I’m OUT!!!

Oh yeah, … and please make sure to like this post, comment and “Subscribe” to Comedy Matters TV by clicking on the “Follow” button at the bottom of the post. Also follow Jeffrey on Twitter and IG at @jeffreygurian.

 

 

 

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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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Patrice O’Neal 7th Annual Benefit Smash Success

Patrice O’Neal 7th Annual Benefit Smash Success

Every year for the last 7 years without fail, Bill Burr and comedy exec. Maureen Taran organize a special tribute to the late, great Patrice O’Neal. It’s truly amazing the respect that Patrice still gets. He left us on Nov. 29, 2011, and the love is still there.

It had a lot to do with the man himself, because other comedians have transitioned to that other plane, but people don’t talk about them as much, or do annual benefits in their honor. I always say that Patrice was much more than just a comedian. He was a comedy philosopher. He had a well thought out point of view, on many things, especially on how men should act around women.

And as I said the love for Patrice is just as strong as ever. I personally come across it, without exaggerating, probably on a weekly basis. People write to me by e-mail, or on FB or even stop me in the street and give me props for what we did on The Black Phillip Show. I’m always surprised because it was back in 2008, but people say that what we did changed their lives. That’s heavy for a radio show. And it was one of the greatest honors of my career to have been Patrice’s co-host on that show. We had a very unique relationship and one that his wife Vondecarlo could attest to.

You can hear it yourself in this rare phone call from Patrice to me the first night we did the Black Phillip Show together. it took a lot to get Patrice excited and he was not known for just throwing around compliments but he called me at 4:05 A.M. because he couldn’t wait till the morning to tell me how much he liked what we did together.

Anyway, Bill and Maureen hold the show at City Center, a venue in the heart of Manhattan which according to Google holds 2750 people, and every one of those 2750 people were there last night to see an incredible line-up of talent.  Rich Vos MC’ed a show that Patrice would have been proud of.

Although Rich said that it if had been a benefit for him all these years, … maybe Patrice would have shown up, … one year.  And then Rich brought up Joe List who ( and I’m sure it wasn’t for me) happened to do a lot of dental oriented material which is not a common theme. He even said that in root canal you take out the roots and throw them away and I meant to tell him that it’s the nerves they take out not the roots, but hopefully he’ll read this and find out.

Aussie comic Brendan Burns made the mistake of making fun of Vos, and Vos came back with nuclear weapons. He did that with every comic that made jokes at his expense, which was just about every one of them. And later at the after-party, his wife comic Bonnie McFarlane told me she was backstage with Rich and offered suggestions to him for the comebacks!

At the after party over hors-d’oeuvres I told Vos that he was like President Trump (not anything political), who doesn’t let anyone say anything about him without clapping back twice as hard. No one gets away with anything.

Mark Normand had some good advice for the audience.  He said it was ok to be offended, just shut up and keep it to yourself. Michele Wolf made fun of Vos’ foot size and he made fun of her voice. She also talked about otters raping baby seals, which she swore to be true, and white women’s privilege, which she also swore was true, and as she left the stage Vos asked for a big hand for Michael Rappaport.

Gary Gulman showed his prowess as a wordsmith as usual by deconstructing the word “ruthless” as having no ruth, like “Buzzi” or “Bader Ginsberg”, and went on to use words like hijinx, and tomfoolery. Writing these notes in the dark by the way was very difficult. I could hardly read my writing. And photos were out of the question. They had everyone place their phones in Yondr bags which in case you don’t know is a special bag that locks the phone inside of it until you leave. They literally leave you holding the bag!

After mine was locked I was worried that I had left the ringer on and that I’d get a call during the show and wouldn’t be able to turn off my phone  because it was locked in that stupid bag, but I didn’t want to leave to have it checked.

The music was hot and was supplied by Cipha Sounds who I had just seen the night before at Chelsea Music Hall where he performed on Ryan Ling’s Bird Brain Comedy Show, but this night he was spinning hip-hop in between acts.

And then it was Chris Redd from SNL followed by Bill Burr who closed the amazing show. Everybody killed. No surprise there.

And then it was off to the after-party at a place called Esther and Carol’s down on Broome Street. It’s the lounge of the Soho Hotel and it was arranged by the owners of The Stand who host the after-party every year. Unfortunately they are still waiting for their new two-level club to be finished down on West 16th Street, so in the meantime they’ve been doing pop-up shows in this cool lounge.

I walked in early and Bill was there talking to Maureen, and he saw me out of the corner of his eye and because he takes pleasure in torturing me, made sure to say something very loud like, “I sure hope that guy Jeffrey Gurian doesn’t come”.  I laughed and told him it was too late that I had already snuck in.

They had the whole staff there including owner Cris Italia, Joe Harary, and the always lovely Adele Carollo, and they had good food and drinks.  All of the comics who performed were there, as well as Ronny Chieng, Joe Bartnick who opens for Bill, Luisa Diez, Bonnie McFarlane who I spoke to the longest of anyone, and Krystyna Hutchinson who was also celebrating her birthday and came in with Wendi Starling, whose hair is now short and dark and I almost didn’t recognize her.

Joe List “the dental expert”, with Mark Normand and Michelle Wolf

But the highlight of the party for me was when I heard someone calling out my name and I turned to see Patrice’s Mom Georgia calling me over to say hello. She was sitting in the balcony with her daughter Zinder, because she made it down this long flight of stairs which was not easy for her, and they wanted her to sit in a safe place.

She’s always so gracious and we reminisced about Patrice and how great he was, and I told her how many times people contact me about Black Phillip and she said he always loved that show so much.  Then we took the photo you see above and for me that was the highlight of the evening.

I didn’t get a photo with Bill because I never know how to approach the man! (LOL) When he was getting ready to leave I walked over to say goodnight and he was talking with Ronny Chieng but he stopped his conversation to yell out, ” Jeffrey you have to stop crashing parties”, and I was concerned that Ronny didn’t know he was kidding!

So I decided to post some of the many photos that Bill and I have taken over the years, starting back in 2005. Great job Bill! Hope to sneak into #8 next year too!

With Bill Burr back in 2005

 

With Bill Burr in Montreal at Just for Laughs

With Bill Burr at West Side Comedy Club in 2018

With Bill Burr at the taping of Paul Virzi’s special 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Colin Jost Takes Over Weekend Update on SNL Tonight

It’s been kind of a tradition that the head writer of SNL takes over the Weekend Update desk and now that Seth Meyers left to take over for Jimmy Fallon on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Colin Jost gets to occupy the co-anchor seat next to Cecily Strong, as of tonight, March 1, 2014.

Jeffrey Gurian with SNL Weekend Update anchor Colin Jost at a comedy show at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

Jeffrey Gurian with SNL Weekend Update anchor Colin Jost at a comedy show at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

And for that I’m staying home, because Colin is a friend and I feel like I support him better by watching it live rather than taping it!

It’s a very prestigious position held by only a relative few in the show’s 38 year history.  Chevy Chase was the first with Gilda Radner from 1975-1976, then Jane Curtin from 1976-1980, followed by Dennis Miller from 1985-1991, Kevin Nealon from 1991-1994, Norm Macdonald from 1994-1997, Colin Quinn from 1999-2000, Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon from 2000-2004, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler from 2004-2006. Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers from 2006-2008, and finally Seth Meyers and Cecily Strong from 2013-2014.

Like others before him on SNL Colin graduated from Harvard where he was President of The Harvard Lampoon, and joined SNL in 2005.  He worked his way up to head writer in 2012. 

I see Colin fairly often performing at The Comic Strip, which is one of his favorite clubs, and he’s really funny and very likeable onstage.  People will love him as the Weekend Update anchor.  His parents came to see him at one of the shows I was at and interesting fact, … his Mom is the Chief Medical Officer for the NYC Fire Department!

Colin Jost onstage at The Comic Strip!

Colin Jost onstage at The Comic Strip!

Make sure to tune in and watch!  But first watch this little video I shot with Colin backstage at The Comic Strip!

 

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Seth Meyers Takes Over Late Night Tonight

In the ever-increasing entertainment empire that is under the guidance/ownership/leadership of king-maker Lorne Michaels, Seth Meyers will take over the reins of Late Night tonight, a week after his friend and former SNL cast-mate Jimmy Fallon replaced Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.

 

Jeffrey Gurian of ComedyMattersTV.com interviewing Seth Meyers on the red carpet of the Just for Laughs Awards luncheon!

Jeffrey Gurian of ComedyMattersTV.com interviewing Seth Meyers on the red carpet of the Just for Laughs Awards luncheon!

In a NY Post article, Seth credits the confidence needed to make such a move to Lorne’s support in suggesting him for the gig.  It’s such a HUGE thing to have someone like that behind you.  It makes all the difference in the world, when someone with that much power believes in you!

Jeffrey Gurian with Lorne Michaels at a Writers Guild Awards event!

Jeffrey Gurian with Lorne Michaels at a Writers Guild Awards event!

Lorne created Saturday Night Live in 1975 and the show has gone on to provide some of the biggest stars we know today like Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, TIna Fey, Amy Poehler, Eddie Murphy, Jimmy Fallon and on and on!

It’s a huge amount of pressure to do a show five nights a week where you have to interview A-list celebs every night, and keep it fresh and hip!  He’ll be in the same 30 Rock building  he’s called home, since 2001 when he joined the cast of SNL.  Within a period of two years he went from writing supervisor to head writer, and then to Weekend Update co-anchor with Amy Poehler.

He, like Jimmy Fallon has been doing test shows during the week with guest celebs like Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb of “Today”, and a few guest comics as well.  His bandleader is also an interesting choice, former SNL star and current star of IFC’s Portlandia, Fred Armisen.

Interesting fact: Portlandia was created by Jonathan Krisel who also directs Kroll Show on Comedy Central, and during the last NY Comedy Festival, when Nick Kroll did a panel at The Paley Center, ( formerly the Museum of TV and Radio), Seth was the moderator, and Jon Krisel was on the panel, along with Nick Kroll and Exec. Producer of Kroll Show and sometime actor on the show, John Levenstein.

KrollShowGraphic_PaleyCenter_SetyhMeyers_11_9_13

(L-R) Jon Krisel, John Levenstein, Nick Kroll, and Seth Meyers at The Paley Center in a panel on Kroll Show!

(L-R) Jon Krisel, John Levenstein, Nick Kroll, and Seth Meyers at The Paley Center in a panel on Kroll Show!

It happened to be during that panel that I got a great surprise.  Not only did Nick give me a shout out from the stage, before showing my ” Too Much Tuna” sketch with him and John Mulaney, but they also showed the upcoming sketch I’m in, which I understand will be the finale of the 2nd season, with me playing myself in a sketch with Laura Dern, Amy Poehler, and Katy Perry!

Jeffrey Gurian with Laura Dern, as C-Czar's mom. on the LA set of Comedy Central's hit Kroll Show!

Jeffrey Gurian with Laura Dern, as C-Czar’s mom. on the LA set of Comedy Central’s hit Kroll Show!

Jeffrey Gurian with Amy Poehler on the LA set of Kroll Show in a sketch that will air in the new 2nd season!

Jeffrey Gurian with Amy Poehler on the LA set of Kroll Show in a sketch that will air in the new 2nd season!

Amy and Seth are very close as they shared the Weekend Update desk for two years from 2006-2008.  This past summer in Montreal at The Just for Laughs Festival which is the biggest comedy festival in the world, Seth presented Amy with the Breakout Comedy Star of the Year Award at a huge awards luncheon.

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Seth Meyers at the podium at the Just for Laughs Festival presenting Amy Poehler with the Comedy Person of the Year Award!

Seth Meyers at the podium at the Just for Laughs Festival presenting Amy Poehler with the Comedy Person of the Year Award!  Amy is partly shown sitting behind where he’s standing!

She will be his first guest tonight along with VP Joe Biden.  Interesting mix!  Later in the week he’ll have Kanye West, and Patrick Stewart!

Seth is such a charming, humble, and likable guy, he’s a natural for the spot and people will love him.   Just last year he got married to human rights lawyer Alexi Ashe and he says his new schedule will allow him to start a family!  ( Not by himself, with Alexi’s cooperation, of course! LOL)

Between Seth, Jimmy, and David Letterman, they’ll be bringing major entertainment back to New York in a very big way.  So many more stars from LA will be here to do the shows!  Very exciting.

We’ll all be watching you tonight Seth, and we know you’ll totally kill it!  Below you can see my little interview with Seth in Montreal just before he presented Amy with her award!

 

 

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