Archive for Nightlife Events

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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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

PLEASE REMEMBER TO “LIKE” COMMENT AND SUBSCRIBE AND FEEL FREE TO SHARE THIS WITH PEOPLE YOU HATE! 

 

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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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Breaking Down The Breakdown

The Red Room is a very cool space in the KGB Bar on East 4th Street, coincidentally right next door to the new New York Comedy Club. And once a month comic/actor Boris Khaykin puts on a really unique variety-type show called The Breakdown with Boris Khaykin, with the help of producer Jeremy Moses.

I got invited to be a guest and went down the month before to check it out and needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I was duly impressed. Boris and his co-host Jawnee Conroy also a talented comedian and actor have created a very unique format, along with Boris’ co-writer and co-producer of the show Alex Estrada!

The audience warm up was not a stand-up comedian but a musical improviser named Rebecca Vigil. A great song came out of absolutely nowhere. Amazing. Then Boris and Jawnee took the stage and worked off each other for about 10 minutes or so, and then Exacto an amazing beatboxer did a solo performance that blew everyone away. It sounded like he swallowed a drum kit!

Then the first guest was called which happened to be me! I made a point of thanking Ethan “Exacto” Scott for his incredible performance and remarked that his teachers must have hated him because I’m sure he disrupted every class he was ever in.

I got to talk about my Amazon Best Seller book on Happiness, “Healing Your Heart, By Changing Your Mind – A Spiritual and Humorous Approach To Achieving Happiness”, a subject I felt the audience could relate to, and they did. We spoke about changing negative thoughts we were holding onto that were not working for us, and in doing so raising our self-esteem, and self-confidence and conquering the fear that tells us we can’t do something we’d like to accomplish. Fear is a bully and we have to stand up to it.

Speaking of fear, I even got to talk about how I cured myself of stuttering, and how people can overcome obstacles in their lives. I feel like it went well and the audience feedback was very positive.

We also discussed my hair and decided it was the exact opposite of Boris’ beard. If I turned my head upside down, I’d have something close to Boris’ beard, which is real by the way, and is what to aim for if you want to grow a beard.

Not everyone has the genetics for it, so don’t feel compelled to grow a beard if you can’t because believe me, no one is interested in your INTERPRETATION of a beard! You either have one or you don’t. There’s a big difference between having a beard, and just having hair on your face! None of that patchy shit! (LOL)

I talked about hair establishing your identity which is why in the Army they shave off your hair right away to make everyone the same and take away your own personal identity. I also said that “Most men wear their hair like they’re embarrassed for having any” and someone in the audience created an immediate meme for Instagram which I thought was very cool!

Then after my interview segment some talented improv artists, Nick Carillo, Katie Hartman, got up and did a sketch using the facts from my interview as inspiration, and that’s always fascinating to me that someone can remember so much of what somebody else said. I have a hard time remembering someone’s name immediately after being introduced to them! (LOL) And then there was a sketch in which Lauren Kahn played Jawnee’s ex-girlfriend.

Next up as a guest was Jamilah Lemieux named in 2015 to The Root’s (the magazine, not Jimmy Fallon’s band) Root 100 list of the nation’s most influential African-American citizens.

She’s a journalist, columnist, cultural critic and editor and afterwards told me she’ll be moving to L.A. to try and get into writing for TV. She’s already got an idea for a script and she wants to do stand-up comedy.

Speaking of stand-up comedy, Emmy Blotnick was the purely stand-up comedy segment of the show and I was glad to finally meet her. Of all things she did some “dental humor” and joked about having to wear a nightguard to protect against the damage caused by grinding and clenching the teeth. How could she have known that was my specialty? Anyway it gave us something to bond over! ( Bonding, … get it? LOL)

And then there was the big close with Boris and Jawnee back on stage, and lots of people hung out to just party because it’s that kind of a hang. Next month’s show will feature Richard Kind, and I’m sure it will be hilarious so make sure to go check it out. I had a BLAST!!!

So until next time we meet please remember that COMEDY MATTERS!!!

Please like, comment and SUBSCRIBE to my Comedy Matters TV YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/guriannewsnetwork and follow me on Twitter and IG at @jeffreygurian

See you all soon!

 

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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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My Night With Leslie Jones

I think that everyone agrees that Leslie Jones is funny.  Not just because she’s on SNL but because she’s genuinely funny.  So when Comic Strip owner Richie Tienken told me she’d be appearing at The Strip I changed my plans and made it over there to catch her.  It was a 10:30 show, and when I arrived at 10:30 the line was so long and the entrance was so packed I could barely make it to the little office where Richie lives.

Richie Tienken and Leslie Jones in “the office”

That little office was at one time the coat room, but since I know it everyone in comedy has been in there, like Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Jim Gaffigan, and one time we had Ray Romano in there with five other guys and I think we stretched out the room to it’s capacity.  It really only accommodates approximately 2 people, and probably about a hundred something coats.

I fought my way to the office but Richie wasn’t in there and I was trapped by myself for a while until the crowd was seated. Then I found Richie and he told me to come outside with him where I found him standing with manager Tom-E and Leslie Jones.  It was raining and she had a hood on and I couldn’t see her hair and for a minute I wasn’t sure it was her.  It was definitely her!

Leslie, Richie and I went back into that little office to chat before her set.  Ruperto Vanderpool was hosting and I was thrilled to see the club so packed.  There was literally not a seat to be had.  It was like when Jerry Seinfeld taped his Netflix special this past year.  That kind of crowded. As a matter of fact that’s what rejuvenated the club.  Ever since that time, and then when Adam Sandler followed up taping his Netflix special there, the club has found a new life.

Jerry decided to come back to his original home where he spent the first four years of his career, from 1976-1980, and where he achieved the rank of permanent MC faster than anyone else had ever done. Adam’s taping was a secret kept from Richie until he arrived at the club that same night! Nice surprise!!!

The club had been Jerry’s home and where he met his best friend George Wallace who happened to be in town this week and was hanging out with Jerry.  I know this because I ran into them the night before this all went down.

Anyway there’s only room for two chairs in the office so Leslie sat, and I stood and we all took turns regaling each other with stories from the past about the club, about Eddie, and how he discovered Chris Rock one night around 1986, and how Leslie started out as a short order cook, and waitress, and started doing stand-up in a place in LA that Eddie used to frequent.

She recalled a story of seeing him years later and humbly telling him she never thought she did that well when he came in, and he told her that he thought she was ALWAYS funny!

Leslie told great stories of how she’s gotten everything she wanted. Through a lot of hard work! She also shared stories of how she got SNL, got to be a regular cast member, and how much fun she has doing the show.

She prayed for the manager she wanted and got him and she prayed for a writer and got Lenny Marcus who she’s thrilled with.  She and Lenny met down at The Comedy Cellar and she thought he was funny, so she invited him out to a baseball game, and then REALLY thought he was funny.  Then he started giving her detailed notes on her act that made sense to her, and now they work together on the regular.

They just did a big outdoor gig together in Times Square for New Year’s Eve. We also talked about how you can be doing stand-up for many years and still feel nervous before going out there, especially if you’re not on stage every night.  Leslie’s duties on SNL  take up so much time that she doesn’t get a chance to perform that much and she LOVES doing stand-up.  I shared the story that Jim Gaffigan shared with me that for the first 6-8 years of his career he got physically sick every time before he went on stage. Finally it went away.

So when Leslie went up to HUGE applause, (the room really went nuts), she went out there with some notes, and did her thing. She started out using some 20 year olds sitting in front as her foils, and worked into a smooth half hour of material.  Great physicality.  She moves and jumps around the stage which really builds the energy in the room. She keeps a towel handy to wipe off the sweat that builds up from the energy she puts out. She said she had only planned on doing 20 minutes but once you’re up there and it’s flowing and the audience is loving it, it’s hard to stop yourself.

At the end she closed with a new bit about a Time Machine, and how she wishes she could go back and talk to her 20 year old self, and how her 80 year old self would come back and talk to her 51 year old self, and it may have been new but it was masterful. Most comics like to leave the stage with a big laugh.  This was more powerful than just a big laugh. She left the audience laughing but with a very positive message about appreciating and enjoying whereever you are in life, and the applause she got validated that they got it and appreciated it.

Afterwards we got to hang out a bit at the bar and she and Ruperto reminisced about all the gigs they had played together in different places around the country. It was a very special night and she’ll be back next week before SNL goes back on the air.

I told her I’d bring her a copy of the book I wrote with Richie on the history of the club. The latest version is called  “Laughing Legends” and it features a foreword by Chris Rock, lots of cool photos from the past, and interviews with Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Colin Quinn, Jeffrey Ross, Jim Gaffigan, Susie Essman, Lisa Lampanelli, and so many more of the big stars that came out of this iconic club.

 

 

 

WITH D.L. HUGHLEY

WITH CHRIS ROCK

WITH DAVE CHAPPELLE

WITH JUDAH FRIEDLANDER

WITH HANNIBAL BURESS

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Tricked- Bill Burr and Jerry Seinfeld On One Show

Tricked- Bill Burr and Jerry Seinfeld On One Show

Bill Burr at Gotham Comedy Club

Gotham Comedy Club is known for getting great headliners so when owner Chris Mazzilli told me that Bill Burr would be doing a special early show there one night I wasn’t the least surprised.  I got there early because I knew it would be packed but before I could even get to my regular table, #69 which is what they give me, I ran into J.Ken Feder, formerly known as comic Club Soda Kenny, who’s a former FDNY police detective and now owns a security company. Club Soda Kenny was a name he got from Andrew “Dice” Clay who he often did security work for as well.

We greeted each other and he asked me who I was there to see.  I said I was there to see Bill Burr and he said very seriously that Bill wasn’t performing that night and I must be mistaken.  Now I knew from the owner that Bill was expected and had even seen it on the website but Kenny sounded so convincing that I asked him who HE was there to see and he said ” Joe List.”  Now Joe List is very funny, and would probably fill Gotham but the place was overflowing with people, and something didn’t seem right. I couldn’t see how I could have made that big a mistake.

I sat down with Kenny at the comics table on the side as it was so crowded that my regular table was already taken, and we just talked about comedy and stuff and then we were joined by Paul Virzi who travels with Bill and is usually his opening act.  This was really strange.

Joe List comes over to say hello and then goes up on stage to host the show. I order my usual chicken sandwich, and am still talking to Kenny about comedy and all kinds of stuff.  Joe gets off after warming up the audience, and then Paul Virzi goes up and kills for about 20 minutes.  My food comes and I’m looking down at my salad when I hear a familiar voice laughingly say, ” So you’re watchin’ your weight eh?” and I look up and of course it’s Bill Burr.

Kenny and Paul were playing a trick on me and I fell for it.  Kenny was actually there as Bill’s security, but he played it so well that for a moment I actually questioned whether I was wrong and that Bill  wasn’t going to come.  I happen to like Joe List and was going to stay anyway!

So Paul finishes his set and then Bill is set to go up when out of the corner of my eye I see a familiar form with a baseball cap pulled down low over his eyes, and it’s Seinfeld standing with Chris Mazzilli. Joe List goes up on stage and tells the audience that at Gotham, you never know who’s going to stop by, and announces Jerry Seinfeld and the crowd goes berserk!

Full on standing ovation as he takes the stage.  Very rare to get a standing O before you even say a word.  Jerry came out with papers and did about 20 minutes of what sounded like new material.  Whether it’s old or new it’s always hilarious. He also did a Q&A and announced that he’d be back at The Beacon Theatre where he’s had a residency.  He loves Gotham and is good friends with Chris Mazzilli.  They are both avid car collectors.

And when he was done Bill Burr greeted him as he got off stage and they hugged.  And then Joe List announced Bill Burr and it was another standing ovation.  It was a straight hour of laughs and only one woman stood up and said she was “offended” by something innocuous that Bill said.  The audience cheered as she walked across the room and left.  And Seinfeld stood in the back watching Bill’s set.  He hardly ever does that, but it was so fun watching him laugh at Bill.  They couldn’t be more different in their styles and type of material, but talent at that level respects other talent at that level.

Keeping 300 people laughing for a straight hour is not an easy task but they both know how to do it. The audience got more than what they paid for and it was an amazing night!

 

 

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Stan and Ollie Is Truly Amazing – A “Must See” Film

Growing up very middle class in The Bronx I was lucky that my Dad had such a good sense of humor and would take me to see comedy films starting when I was very, very young.  I remember us sitting in the theater laughing together like it was yesterday.  Laurel and Hardy were my favorites.  I think because in some ways Oliver Hardy reminded me of my Dad. He was a big guy, certainly not as heavy as Oliver Hardy though in his mind I think he was, but he was one of those really nice guys and people often took advantage of his kindness. Just like Oliver Hardy!

I’ve been in the comedy world for decades now but comedy has changed drastically since the days of Laurel and Hardy, and Abbott and Costello, and The Marx Brothers.  However John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan did a wonderful thing.  They brought Laurel and Hardy back to life in their wonderful film “Stan and Ollie” which I was privileged to see at the 92nd Street Y the other night, and I’m so glad I went.

First I was wondering how they’d pull off the look because John C. Reilly, as talented as he is looks nothing like Oliver Hardy, but in some of the scenes you’d swear it was him, right down to the double chin.  The prosthetic people on this film deserve an award for doing magic.  Both John and Steve looked so much like the real guys it was uncanny. And with the way they had down the mannerisms, the walk, the accents, and facial expressions you’d think it was the real Laurel and Hardy.

I can’t even begin to imagine the time it must take to get all of those factors down. The pronunciation of the words was perfect.  And when Steve as Stan scratches his head like Stan Laurel did it was exactly like Stan did it.  The only thing he didn’t do was Stan Laurel’s cry.  When he used to cry in his films it was sad and hilarious both at the same time.  His facial expressions are what made him such a lovable character, and Steve Coogan nailed it. They both did.

Unfortunately for the world Laurel and Hardy left us quite a while ago, Ollie in 1957 at only 65 years old, and Stan in 1965 at 75 years old.  After Oliver passed Stan never performed again, but still wrote material that the two of them could have done on stage. They were brought together on the Hal Roach studio lot and the comedy world was never the same.

After the screening which was very funny and also very moving John and Steve came out on the stage to be interviewed. During the film John and Steve perfectly re-created the “Way Out West” dance from the movie of the same name that came out in 1937.  And I dare you to watch that dance without laughing hysterically.

Joining them onstage was the director Jon S. Baird and the evening was narrated by Annette Insdorf one of the best moderators I’ve seen at 92Y events.  She’s a Columbia Univ. film professor and was so knowledgable about the film and film in general and had such interesting insights that her questions kept the energy high and kept things moving along at a nice pace.  I often tell the people at 92Y that they should choose comedy people to moderate the event because they’re used to improvising all the time, but Annette was wonderful

 

(L-R) – John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Jon Baird and Annette Insdorf

I wish I had had the opportunity to tell John and Steve in person how much I liked it and to thank them sincerely as part of the comedy world for doing more than justice to the memory of these two talented men, but hopefully they’ll read this or their PR person will show it to them. The sad thing is that comedy like Laurel and Hardy no longer exists on the planet.  If two guys tried to do that today I don’t think they’d even get a meeting, no less representation.  There are no more duos in comedy. Unless you count Nick Kroll and John Mulaney and they both work individually too.  Laurel and Hardy were a team and that’s all they did.

Their kind of humor may not be considered “hip” for the 21st century, but you should have heard the laughs from the people in the audience at the 92Y!  It was genuine, and truly AMAZING!!!

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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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