I have been going up to the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival for more than 20 years. Maybe 25 years! It’s hard to imagine but it’s true. JFL is the biggest, most prestigious comedy festival in the world, and this year, thanks to Robbie Praw and “the powers that be”, I was given the honor of being one of the official videographers of the festival for my Comedy Matters TV channel.
There was so much to see, so many shows, and so many comedians that it would literally be impossible to see all of them. Fortunately so many of the comics are friends that I was able to find them in the hotel lobby, at parties, in the elevator, on the streets, in the dining room, and just about everywhere you looked, and I got over 35 interviews with fun people like Bob Saget, Chelsea Handler, JB Smoove, Gina Yashere, Howie Mandel, Adam Carolla, Joel McHale, Jay Pharoah, Todd Barry, The Sklar Bothers, Marc Maron, Hannibal Buress, and even Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and his owner Robert Smigel!
I got there on a Wednesday, unpacked, got my “All Access” pass for me and my producer Rob Krieg, and went right off to Patton Oswalt’s show at The Metropolis. Patton was there with his manager Dave Rath from Generate,and it was a great show. Patton has enjoyed a high profile lately after having spent nine years as a regular on The King of Queens, his Comedians of Comedy tour, and his part in films like ” A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas”, and Steve Carell’s “Seeking A Friend for the End of the World!”
He also presented the Comedy Icon Award to Robin Williams at the Comedy Central Comedy Awards 2012,and delivered the Keynote Address to the attendees of this festival, of which there were many! It was nice to see Myq Kaplan opening for Patton. I’ve been a fan of Myq’s ever since I was a judge on the NY part of the auditions for the Boston Comedy Festival, a couple of years back, and Myq won.
After congratulating Patton and Myq backstage we ran over to catch “Best of the Fest” hosted by Jessica Kirson, featuring Key and Peele, John Heffron and Joe Mande who I met on the set of Nick Kroll’s new show, simply called “Kroll Show” out in LA. Nick called me out to do some sketches with him and John Mulaney and it was the best!
I’m still editing the over four hours of video I shot, but I wanted to present some of the highlights of the festival in this column and then follow it up with the videos.
When I reminded Chelsea Handler that the first time I saw her I knew she’d be HUGE cause she was doing “b.j. jokes” and her Dad was in the audience she said,” I take every opportunity I can to torture my father!”
At the JFL Awards Luncheon, Chelsea received the award for Comedy Person of the Year that Louis CK received last year. Everyone was very excited to see her and people were amazed that I got my video interview. It’s all about timing.
I ran into her in the lobby the night before and told her I’d be looking forward to shooting something with her after the luncheon so she was prepared when she saw me. She even suggested we do it before the luncheon since it was less crazy than trying to do it afterwards. She was on her way to the Olympics in London and had gotten guest hosts for her TV show for the very first time. Needless to say she looked gorgeous, as usual, (and if it’s needless to say, then why did I say it? Because it’s my column and I can do anything I want! LOLOL)
Howie Mandel was “upset” that he didn’t get lunch at the awards luncheon. He felt bad that he didn’t get anything at all. Just as I suggested getting in touch with co-founder, and President of JFL Andy Nulman to complain, who should happen to come along but Andy Nulman in the company of the other co-founder Gilbert Rozon, and they joined my interview telling Howie that next year they’d make sure he got lunch. It gave him something to look forward to.
I hadn’t seem Howie since 2007 when he helped me promote my first book “Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive” while we were up in Montreal!
Andy Nulman and I also filmed a very funny video clip of us walking down the red carpet together to the Variety party for the Ten Comics To Watch, while he made my cameraguy/producer walk backwards to film us with no one guiding, or protecting him. Luckily he made it and it looked very funny!
I got to literally jump around with Jessica Williams from The Daily Show, who shared with me that she likes to play, and I taught her to spell it “pleigh” instead of “play.” I grabbed onto her and we just swung each other around, like a fast version of “Ring-A-Round-Of Rosie”! (I don’t think I ever wrote those words out before in my entire life!)
She just makes me feel like doing that when I see her so I did!
My old friend Marc Maron remembered that he never gave me the interview I wanted last year, but we did a great one this year to make up for it, and he even treated me to breakfast the next day! (No, … we didn’t spend the night together! LOL)
I found it interesting that he’d remember something like that, because I certainly did, but it just goes to show you that people do remember things, and if we were on WTF together that would probably be something we’d talk about. The awkwardness of wondering if someone remembers something like that. Every time we saw each other last year, I’d say,”Remember I wanna talk to you on camera”, and he’d say “Sure” but the whole festival went by and it didn’t happen.
I happened to meet him in the elevator, and it was only the two of us, and it was that awkward moment where you don’t know if you should just say “Good seeing you” and walk away, or if you should continue walking with the person. So when we hit the dining room and were still talking he invited me to join him, and was kind enough to treat me.
We had a great talk about all kinds of things, and in the video interview he said that over the last 75 to 100 years in comedy, at every major comedy event, the only thing that was a constant was my hair! And in his deepest moments of despair he thought of my hair and it got him through!
I was glad I got to tell him how happy I was for him for all of his recent success with WTF. No one is honest like Marc Maron when it comes to sharing his feelings on stage. I still remember cringing at some of his revelations in “Scorching The Earth” his one man show about his break-up with his ex-wife.
I met his ex-wife many years ago through our mutual friend Ardie Fuqua, and it turns out that’s how Marc met her too!
Adam Carolla and I kicked it backstage after his podcast while David Alan Grier looked on with Rob Barnett from My Damn Channel, and Adam’s manager Mike August, who I also hadn’t seen in quite a while.
I know Mike back from the days when he was an agent, I think at William Morris, but maybe not! In those days, he always hung out with James Dixon, now of Dixon Talent who handles Jon Stewart, John Oliver and stars of that magnitude.
I did a fun interview with Grace Helbig one of the stars of My Damn Channel for her show “Daily Grace.” She gets millions of hits and she’s so fun and adorable. I wanted to swing her around too, but I didn’t get the chance!
Walking through the lobby at night I ran into Keith Robinson and Chelsea Peretti and we had a really fun interview. Then I interviewed Joe Mande who was one of the “Ten Comics To Watch At All Times, No Matter What Else You’re Doing”, and such a bizarre thing happened. I had already interviewed Chelsea, who was sitting next to me and Joe Mande sat next to her, and all of a sudden some girl comes over, kneels down and starts talking into my mic saying how some company is poisoning children in Africa.
Now I thought she was joking and was a friend of Chelsea’s. Chelsea thought she might be a friend of mine, and Joe didn’t know what to think, but after a few minutes of this girl ranting and raving we all realized she was nuts! I couldn’t get rid of her.
I went over to interview Tom Cotter about his upcoming appearance on America’s Got Talent, and she broke in screaming about children being poisoned. I was ready to poison HER, but instead I got security and they wound up having to physically remove her from the premises.
Turns out she was not a comedy person and didn’t even belong there. It was just funny that we all thought she was a friend of someone else’s so no one wanted to insult her! Chelsea made me promise to send her the video which I will as soon as we’re done with the rest!
Joel McHale, who hosted the closing gala, couldn’t get over my outfit. He wanted to know why I chose to wear a wifebeater under an open Hawaiian shirt plus a seersucker jacket with white shoes! He was just being Joel McHale.
He introduced a comic on the show by the wrong name and refused to correct it right away. He must have gone through 5 or 6 takes each time purposely messing up the comic’s name. So when he called me Perez Hilton I wasn’t totally surprised! Look what he does to Ryan Seacrest and he’s his friend!
JB Smoove was hysterical as always. He was there with his manager Rick Dorfman and his beautiful wife Shahida Omar a singer, who couldn’t have been nicer. When JB thought he was too tired to do the interview after his show, (which he did as Leon Black from Curb Your Enthusiasm), she encouraged him to do it cause I had been waiting so long. I couldn’t have done that, but SHE did!
JB told me all about how he got started as a hip-hop dancer named J Smoove, which is why he moves so well, but the guy is just funny. He doesn’t even have to say anything. And his new DVD is killer, “This Is How I Dooz It”!
One of the other highlights for me was Jay Pharoah who was there with his manager/sister Shayna. Jay read an excerpt from Chris Rock’s introduction from my new book “Make’Em Laugh”, that I wrote with Richie Tienken about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip. But not only did he read it, he read it out loud in Chris Rock’s voice for JB Smoove and a bunch of other people hanging out in the lobby. I got it on video and trust me you’ll laugh your ass off. He does a great Chris Rock!
Robert Smigel woke Triumph The Insult Comic Dog out of a deep sleep in his backpack to do an interview with me backstage at Bob Saget’s “Triple X show”, which Bob said was more like ” Triple R”! It was really very kind of him despite the fact that Triumph roasted me, but that’s what he does. He’s an insult comic dog. He said I always looked hideous, but this time I really outdid myself.
And Robert did a great imitation of Jeff Singer, who booked him onto Saget’s show by telling him how perfect he’d be for it.
I’d have to say one of my most special interviews was with Bob Saget himself. I wasn’t sure I was going to get it, cause Bob has been working tirelessly to prepare for hosting his gala, and even his publicist, my old friend Michael O’Brien told me he couldn’t guarantee it.
So when I went backstage after the show and Bob saw me, he asked if I minded waiting a few minutes. For Bob Saget I’d wait months! (LOL) He’s that nice a guy.
During the interview he said the kind of things to me that my parents would have said had I been interviewing them! He said on camera that he had to do the interview because ” No one says ‘No’ to Jeff Gurian!” And he went on to basically interview me, even asking me for my cell phone number on camera! I gave him my e-mail cause I knew I could trust him not to tell anyone! (LOL)
He ended the interview by saying “Be well” which he said is what one Jew wishes another. I added,”the real expression is ‘You should live and be well!” which he agreed with because he said, “You’re right! What good is it to be well if you’re dead?” And that interview with Bob is one I really can’t wait to put up!
Other interviews I got were with The Sklar Brothers for their show Sklarboro Country, Hannibal Buress who won for Breakout Comedy Star of the Year, someone else who won for the star whose face broke out the most last year, the great Kenny Hotz, the only Canadian comedy star to have three shows on American TV,Kenny vs. Spenny, Testees, and Triumph of the Will, (which had nothing to do with Triumph The Insult Comic Dog!), Nigerian comic Gina Yashere on her way to do a comedy special in San Francisco, L’il Rel and Jermainne Fowler who are two of the cast in the new “In Living Color” coming up soon, Todd Barry, Moshe Kasher, Godfrey, Paul Telner, Myq Kaplan, Lynn Koplitz, Jared Logan, Joe Machi, Mick Foley, Calise Hawkins, Alonzo Bodden who hosted the JFL Awards Luncheon, Andy Kindler who gave his usual SRO “State of the Industry Address”, which everyone waits to see, and his manager Bruce Smith from Omnipop films, and then I did some non-comics like Kimberly Hannwacker, Julie Lawless the comedy booker, (not hooker!) from Australia, Ben Relles from Barely Political, and The Key of Awesome fame who’s now with You Tube and Google, Lee Aronsohn the co-creator of Two and a Half Men, and Rob Barnett the head of My Damn Channel.
Whew, … that was a looooooong sentence! And a lot of interviews. The editing should be done very soon, and you guys will be the first to know!
Let me leave you with a few more fun photos until the videos are ready!