I hadn’t seen D.L. Hughley since 2009 at a party at Comix which is no longer in existence. But I’ve always been a fan so when I heard he was going to be taping a special for Comedy Central at The Comic Strip I made sure to be there waiting backstage.
D.L. Hughley and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at Comix back in 2009!
Dean Obeidallah was the MC and did a fantastic job of warming up the packed crowd. Every seat was filled, to the point where D.L.’s bodyguard had to stand. He would have needed two or three seats anyway, cause he was that big! (LOL)
A kind of blurry Dean Obeidallah on stage warming up the audience for D.L. Hughley! ( Just to clarify, Dean’s not blurry, my photo is, cause the lighting was weird!)
Comedy Central execs like JoAnn Grigioni and Val Boreland were there, plus producer Lynne Appelle, joining owners Richie Tienken, Bob Wachs, and myself, and we all sat together in the balcony enjoying the show.
D.L. is always great and this night he did not disappoint! He was in rare form and the excited crowd showed him lots of love! After leaving the stage to thunderous applause, he gave the crowd an unexpected treat by returning to the stage a second time to do some material he felt like adding. Comedy Central still had their cameras set up so it didn’t present any problem.
D.L. Hughley onstage at The Comic Strip killing it for his taping of a Comedy Central special called “D.L. Hughley’s Endangered Species!”
I caught up with him backstage afterwards and shot a really cool, fun, and funny video interview with him for Comedy Matters TV which I will be posting as soon as it’s edited.
His special will be a mockumentary called “D.L. Hughley’s Endangered Species”, which will air this October 27th, I believe he said, in which he suggests that “the Black man” as a race, be added to the endangered species list. It took him eight years to find a home for it, until Comedy Central stepped up to the plate.
I told him that’s the kind of project only a Black man could pitch. A White guy wouldn’t stand a chance! We had a good laugh about that, and about using token White guys to get certain things done.
D.L. Hughley with a lighter skinned Black man, Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV backstage at The Comic Strip! (Under certain lights a lot of people confuse me with Dave Chappelle!)
D.L. said when he has a White guy with him, he doesn’t even bother to carry a driver’s license. That’s how safe he feels having a White guy around! (LOL)
He’s also got a new book called, ” I Want You To Shut The F**k Up: How The Audacity of Dopes is Ruining America!” It’s available on Amazon.com as well as bookstores across the nation! You can check it out right here! and stay tuned for the video coming soon!
Well, after four years of hard work the final manuscript on the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, that I wrote with owner/founder Richie Tienken was handed in, and should be coming out in October of this year from Skyhorse Publishing. Chris Rock is writing the introduction.
Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip.
Since The Strip is like a family, I broke down the chapters into things like “The Parents”, which were Richie and Bob Wachs, “The Older Kids” who were like Jerry Seinfeld, Larry Miller, and Ray Romano, “The Younger Kids” who were like Lisa Lampanelli, Jim Gaffigan, and Judah Friedlander, and a chapter called “The Next Generation”, kind of like the grand-children, the up and comers, who will be the next stars of tomorrow coming out of The Strip.
These are names you may or may not know, but all have impressive credits and are on their way. There’s Marina Franklin, who was chosen as one of Jay Leno’s comedy correspondents, has been on Craig Ferguson,and Last Comic Standing; Ted Alexandro who’s been on Letterman, Conan, and Louis CK’s show “Louie”; Jon Fisch who’s been on Letterman, Last Comic Standing, and Celebrity Apprentice; Brian Scott McFadden who’s been on Letterman, Craig Ferguson, and in the Ice Age films with Ray Romano, and “Robots” with Robin Williams; Mike Vecchione, who had his own ( as opposed to someone elses? LOL) half hour Comedy Central special, and was seen on Leno, as a semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing, and on Russell Simmons special “Stand-Up at the El Rey.
Jeffrey Gurian with Marina Franklin whose “home” is at The Strip!
Jeffrey Gurian and Ted Alexandro in Jeffrey’s “Dancing With Comedians” Series!
Jeffrey Gurian and Mike Vecchione hanging out casually backstage at The Strip! (LOL)
Then there’s a group of really young comics who work out regularly at The Strip, like Pete Davidson who’s 18, lost his firefighter Dad Scott on 9/11, and has been taken under the wing of Nick Cannon, who he now tours with and opens for; Nore Davis, also a “young ‘un” who’s been taken under the wing of Tracy Morgan, (not only birds have wings, “angels” have wings too!), and has appeared on Russell Simmons “The Ruckus” with J.B. Smoove; and Jordan Rock, just turned 21, who hosts late shows at The Strip on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and is the latest in line in the Rock comedy dynasty along with his brothers Tony and Chris.
Pete Davidson and Jordan Rock chillin’ backstage while waiting to go on at The Strip!
Then there’s two young guys who are already on TV, and happen to be on the very same show. Colin Jost is a senior writer on SNL, but as a stand-up has been seen on Jimmy Fallon and was featured at the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, and Jay Pharoah, who drops by The Strip very often to work out new material is a regular cast member on SNL. He’s an incredible impressionist, and will soon be seen in the upcoming films “Lola Versus” with indie favorite Greta Gerwig, and CBS Films’ “Get A Job”.
Jeffrey Gurian with Colin Jost from SNL, a regular at The Strip!
Richie Tienken, Jay Pharoah from SNL, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Strip!
With this kind of talent calling The Strip “home” you can be sure it will be around for many, many more years!
Eddie Murphy receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy from Tracy Morgan at the Comedy Central First Annual Comedy Award show!
Eddie left the show in 1984, and rumour has it that he had a feud with producer Lorne Michaels over an on-air joke made about Murphy by David Spade, back around 1989, concerning Eddie’s faltering career. Spade has always been known for his snarky remarks! It’s part of who he is, and what people expect of him!
Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV with Lorne Michaels at the Writers Guild Awards!
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with David Spade at a comedy club in NYC!
According to Page 6, sources said that Murphy demanded an apology from Michaels which was not forthcoming since Michaels felt he had to give his writers “creative freedom.” Now with Ratner producing The Oscars, and Murphy hosting, it’s felt that Ratner has orchestrated a detente between Michaels and Murphy so we’ll all have to tune in on Saturday night to see what happens.
In the meantime, I have a Murphy/SNL story that you probably don’t know. I know it because I’m writing the book on the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, the club that brought Eddie to world-wide stardom, thanks mainly to it’s owners and founders Richie Tienken and Bob Wachs, who still own and run the place today!
(L-R) Bob Wachs, and Richie Tienken, owners and founders of the legendary comedy club The Comic Strip opened on June 1, 1976, and still going strong!
Richie was Eddie’s day to day manager. Eddie had been performing as part of an ensemble known as “The Identical Triplets”, two white guys and him! The other two guys were Rob Bartlett and Bob Nelson two respected comics in their own right! Nelson is out in Branson, Missouri, and Bartlett is Don Imus’ sidekick for many years, doing characters on the radio.
Nelson and Bartlett had been performing at The Comic Strip, and they called up Tienken asking him to take a look at Murphy to see if he could audition there. Murphy was supposed to come in on a Monday night which was audition night, but instead of coming in on the night when Tienken was there, he came in when Bob Wachs was there, who had no idea that Eddie was coming, and didn’t go out of his way to accommodate him. When Eddie got a little testy, expecting to go right up on stage, Wachs basically threw him out.
Eddie’s partners called up to find out what happened and Tienken told him to come back on a night he was there. Eddie came back all contrite and acting very polite. Richie told him he wouldn’t go against his partner but told Murphy to go up on stage and if he was good, he’d talk to Wachs. Needless to say, Eddie killed it, and Tienken smoothed it over with Wachs.
In 1980, after Tienken and Wachs were managing him, Eddie was added as a featured player on the sixth season of SNL. The producer that year was Jean Doumanian,who went on to co-produce movies with life-long friend Woody Allen. Her ex-husband John is still Woody’s close friend and was with him when I last saw Woody at the Carlisle Hotel this past April.
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Woody Allen at The Carlyle Hotel in NYC!
One night he called Tienken in a panic. The show was running short, and Doumanian asked him to do five minutes of comedy to stretch the show. She had originally asked Joe Piscopo to do it, but he liked Eddie and suggested him instead. When Tienken asked what the problem was, Eddie said ” I’m nervous to do it cause I curse!” So Tienken advised, “Then don’t curse.” Eddie wound up doing it and saved the show.
When it came time for contract renewal, Tienken went up to meet with Doumanian who assured him that Murphy would be re-signed, … as a featured player again. Tienken, as a good manager said, ” He saved your show! Don’t you think he deserves to be a regular cast member?” Fortunately she agreed, and Eddie went immediately from $750. a week to $3,000. a week, and Tienken proved his worth as a great manager.
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Bob Wachs and Richie Tienken at the Friars Club Film Festival where they were showing the trailer for their documentary film on The Comic Strip!
If Eddie is in New York this weekend, they would love to have him drop by The Strip!
This is a brief compilation of my recent trip to L.A. featuring my interviews with Billy Crystal, the first comic to ever set foot on stage at The Comic Strip on June 1, 1976, and Russell Peters, one of the only comics to be able to fill stadiums, as he did in Vancouver when 18,000 people came out two nights in a row to see this dude!
Jeffrey Gurian with Billy Crystal in Billy's Beverly Hills office, Face Productions!
As I told Kal Penn when I interviewed him for Comedy Matters, ” there was a time, and not too long ago, when no one knew that Indian people could be funny!” And Kal cracked up because he knew it was true. Kal stars in the Harold and Kumar films and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Indian people can be funny. Russell Peters takes it ten steps further!
Jeffrey Gurian with Kal Penn for the release of a new harold and Kumar film!
Born in Canada, and speaking perfect English with no accent at all, Russell says he identifies more with being Canadian than with being an Indian man. He’s Indian in his DNA, and his skin color, so when he looks in the mirror he’s aware that he’s Indian, but that’s about it.
He sees himself as he is, and sees the humor in seeing everyone for what they are. What I love about him, besides just about everything he does, is that he has almost singlehandedly destroyed a stereotype, which is very hard to do. He has broken the stereotype of the humorless Indian man. To be able to see yourself as you believe others see you, and to make it funny is pure genius.
Russell Peters is not only “hip”, he’s too hip for the room! And that’s at a time when everyone is striving to be “hip.” The legendary Rodney Dangerfield who was the first big star I ever wrote for once told me, ” Jeff, you know who’s hip?” I’m like, ” No Rodney, who’s hip?” He’s like, ” Two guys in the Village.” And we all fell down laughing cause he was right. Everybody is so caught up in being “hip” when almost no one is, … except for these two elusive guys in The Village!
Jeffrey Gurian, jus' chillin' with Russell Peters at Russell's home in L.A.
Russell is a rare talent and I call him “The Messiah of Comedy.” All you have to do is attend one of his shows, to see the multi-cultural background of his audience. There are people there in turbans and traditional Indian dress and they’re laughing their asses off! I teach at NYU where the majority of students seem to be Indian females and almost all of them bust out laughing at just the mention of Russell Peters’ name. The man is a phenomenon!
He brings all ethnicities together and in a clever way makes fun of everyone, but he comes from such a good place that no one could ever be offended. He has the ability to see things clearly that other people miss. True artists are like that. And people love when you can imitate an accent. I don’t think I can think of one accent that Russell can’t do. But when he does the Indian accent, people are crying from laughing so hard. Not only does he do the accent but the facial expressions, the head movements and the hand and finger movements. He’s a genius at physical comedy. I am truly amazed at Russell Peters.
Jeffrey Gurian and Russell Peters checkout out the munitions artwork that adorns Russell's walls!
I wish I could do a Chinese accent. I talk about it in my act but it would be better if I could do it!
The only accent I can do is like a Greek accent or some kind of Eastern European accent, like when two guys meet in the street and one guy says, ” Hello my friend, how are you today?” And the other guy answers, ” Five thank you, how are you?”. First guy – ” Not too good, I feel a little six!” Second Guy – “Really, you don’t look six at all. You look just five to me!” And they go on through this conversation using numbers instead of the right words, until the end when the first guy says, ” I have to go now. Nice threeing you again!” and the second guy says, ” Nice threeing you two!” That’s the extent of my accent work, and it absolutely “kills”, … around my apartment!
I’ve never actually done it on stage, because I haven’t hated myself enough yet to try it out, ( just in case it doesn’t work!), … but maybe someday???
So anyway, I’m in LA and I call Russell ’cause his brother Clayton, who is a great guy and also his manager, left me a message that if I come to LA, Russell would make time to see me, and hang out. I had only a few priorities on my trip. The first was to interview Billy Crystal, the second was to hang out and interview Russell, and third was to perform in the clubs in LA cause I had never set foot on a stage in Los Angeles, and that was a hurdle I was ready to take on.
I wound up performing on Kevin Nealon’s show at Jamie Masada’s Laugh Factory. I happen to know Kevin back from his SNL days cause I was friendly with him, and Dana Carvey, and Jon Lovitz, and especially Phil Hartman. Listen to this weird synchronicity! When I packed to go to LA, I grabbed a small leather case that I used to carry my comedy material in, without looking at what was inside. When I got to LA and opened it up, I saw that it was material I had written for Kevin Nealon for the Friars Roast of Chevy Chase back in 1990. This was at least 3 days before I knew I’d be performing on Kevin’s show! Coincidence? I think not! (LOL)
Jeffrey Gurian with Kevin Nealon at Jamie Masada's Laugh Factory!
So I get the call that I’m on Kevin’s show and that after my set we’ll do an onstage interview. I’m like, ” Cool.” I hadn’t seen Kevin in a long time and I figured he’d be surprised to see my name on his show roster. I was told I’d be on third at 8:40. I got to the club a little after 8, while Kevin was on stage warming up the crowd, … not with jokes, with blankets and hugs! He was literally warming up the crowd because they felt chilly from the air conditioning! ( I’m just being silly!)
So he’s warming up the audience when he suddenly says, ” We have a great show for you tonight. Let’s see who’s on the list, and he starts reading names and when he comes to mine he says, ” Jeffrey Gurian? is Jeffrey Gurian here?”
And I was in the back of the room, so I answered that I was there. He was like, ” Jeffrey Gurian is here. He’s funny! Let’s put him on first. Give a warm welcome to Jeffrey Gurian.” And the crowd started applauding, and I couldn’t say anything, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, ” I thought Kevin liked me. Why is he putting me on first?” Turns out he did me the biggest favor in the world because I had no time to get nervous, I went right up and if I have to say so myself, I killed!
Kevin Nealon on stage at The Laugh Factory hosting his weekly show!
Fortunately I was not alone in that assessment! Kevin said so, and so did owner Jamie Masada who was there and saw the set. Jamie said I could perform there anytime I was in town. Not only that, he told me to call the club the next day and tell the booker that Jamie said to put me on Tom Arnold’s show the next night.
I was so psyched, because Tom is a friend and I had e-mailed him a few days before telling him I was going to be in LA to see if he had time to hang out. He wrote me back saying he was doing a lot of filming including a thing on “Sons of Anarchy” and probably wouldn’t have time for us to get together.
Jeffrey Gurian with Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, AFTER Jeffrey's set in front of the Laugh Factory logo!
So when Jamie told me I’d be on Tom’s show I was thrilled, cause I knew he’d be surprised to see me there, and I’d kill the proverbial two birds with one stone. Who by the way, was ever killing birds with a stone? Where did that expression start? And not only one bird but two birds with the same stone? They must have been very slow moving birds. Who does that anyway? Killing birds with a stone. Very bizarre! So I’m psyched to do Tom’s show, and impress him with my comedic talent (LOL), and at the last minute Tom has to cancel because he’s stuck on the set of ” Sons of Anarchy.” It just goes to show that you can not micro-manipulate The Universe. Things only happen when they’re supposed to.
Kevin by the way sent me this really nice e-mail in response to my thank you e-mail to him, saying : “Great seeing you again, too. You always crack me up. Hope to see you again down the road.” How nice is that that Kevin Nealon says I always crack him up?
Jamie happens to be a very kind man. I remember being out in LA one Christmas and Jamie does this thing where he feeds people all Christmas day from the club. Non-stop! Homeless people, and comics both, … and sometimes they’re the same thing! (LOL) The way most comics dress, they ALL look homeless! (LOL)
So I didn’t get to perform for Tom Arnold, but but I DID get the Friday night show at The Improv thanks to booker Emilie Laford, who put me on the 10 P.M. show with Ralph Figueroa as the host. It was also a very successful show and Ralph sent me a really nice e-mail telling me that I did an “awesome” set and that he hoped to work with me again! Thanks Ralph, the feeling is mutual!
Jeffrey Gurian with show host/comic Ralph Figueroa at The Improv in Hollywood!
Plus, I got to go on stage right before my good friend Helen Hong, who I know from New York and who can definitely do the Chinese accent! Maybe if I ask nicely she’ll teach me! Helen is always so funny! Prease Heren, would you teach me???
Jeffrey Gurian with Helen Hong at The Improv in L.A.!
Anyway, back to Russell Peters! ( I feel like I’m all over the place with this post! )
Russell invited me to his house and I expected something special but it was even better. I got to meet his wife Monica, who he married in August of 2010, and his new little daughter Crystianna, who was so cute I tried to take her with me when I left, but he caught me and made me give her back! He was like, ” What’s that lump under your jacket?” And I was like, ” OK, you caught me. I’m sorry. Here. You can have your baby back!” She was really that cute!
Jeffrey Gurian reclining in Russell Peters' screening room with wall to wall TV!
Russell has a screening room, with reclining chairs where you can just lay back and chill, and watch this huge screen TV that covers the entire wall.
Then there’s the entertainment room with the pinball games.
But my favorite toy of his was his new Rolls Royce, which I’m pretty sure he called a Phantom Drophead Coupe, or Dropdead Coupe, or something like that. ( There’s supposed to be an accent mark over the last “e” in Coupe, but my computer only speaks English so I don’t have an “accent egout” which is what I think they called it in French class when I wasn’t paying attention! LOL)
They only started making this model in 2007, and Russell was too humble to tell me it’s the most expensive Rolls Royce they make. It’s got like a stainless steel hood, what Russell referred to as “suicide doors” that open backwards towards the back of the car, and which you can open and close remotely, and believe it or not the exterior is available in more than 44,000 color combinations. I didn’t even know there WERE more than 44,000 color combinations. My crayon box has about 108 colors and I thought that about maxed it out.
Jeffrey Gurian and Russell Peters in his new Drophead Dropdead Rolls, with the stainless steel hood, just in case you want to cook lunch on the top of your car!
So Russell and I were chillin’ in the Rolls and I felt I had to remind him that you were supposed to get these things like a gorgeous home and Rolls Royce BEFORE you’re married not after! We had a good laugh about that! And I think that was when he discovered I had his baby! (LOL)
Who wouldn't be smiling driving a car like this???
And before I left his house, with his “man-servant”, or assistant who he referred to as “Homeless Matt”, I happened to tell him that I was going to interview Billy Crystal the next day. That’s when he told me that he and Billy were doing a movie together and that I should send Billy his best, cause Billy was his boy!
Billy was as nice as could be. We met at his offices in Beverly HIlls, thanks to Bob Wachs, the co-founder of The Comic Strip in NYC, and Billy’s lawyer in the early days, and Billy graciously gave me about an hour of his time. We reminisced about how we first met through Jack Rollins who is currently 96 years old, G-d Bless him,( I’m becoming my own grandmother! ) and how Jack had wanted Billy to play me in a proposed sit-com about a dentist who wanted to be in show business. He even remembered calling me “the funny dentist” and how Alan King referred to me the same way.
Billy Crystal pointing to his teeth, referencing the rumour that Jeffrey Gurian used to be a dentist!
And he shared with me a little gem that Jack Rollins had told him after seeing his early stand-up. He said, ” You did great, and your act was fine, but ” you didn’t leave a tip!” You didn’t leave the audience with anything to remember you by! ” And that message stuck with Billy all these years and changed the way he performed on stage from that day forth! He always remembered to share a little bit extra of himself with his audience, and always left them a tip!
I did remember to send Billy Russell’s regards, and Billy echoed what Chris Rock said about Russell, who ranked #9 on Forbes list of highest earning comedians, ” Russell Peters, … he’s the most famous comedian that no one ever heard of.” I have a feeling that all that will change very soon! ( My words, not Billy’s!)
In summary, … anytime you have an opportunity to see Russell perform, make sure you go, because it’s really a treat! So check out the little video interview I did with Russell. There will be a longer version coming up soon, but I’m getting ready to go and see him perform in Montreal next week at the Just for Laughs Festival where he will be hosting his own show, with his own hand-picked comedians like Dom Irrera, and Jeremy Hotz, and it was all I could do to get this short version ready for the public before I left.
On June 1, 1976 Richie Tienken and Bob Wachs opened the legendary comedy club called The Comic Strip. It was at 1568 Second Avenue in Manhattan, between 81st and 82nd streets. It’s still there and thriving.
Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip for Jerry's interview for the book!
On June 17th, 1976, barely two weeks after it opened, a young, unknown comic named Jerry Seinfeld came in to audition. His sign-up sheet still hangs in the club. It says ” Good. Definitely put on Monday 6/21.”
Richie Tienken, Ray Romano and Jeffrey Gurian below Ray's old photo on the wall at The Comic Strip!
Not only did Seinfeld get his start there, but so did Paul Reiser, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Ray Romano, Adam Sandler, Colin Quinn, Susie Essman, Jim Gaffigan, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and many other huge stars who called that club their home.
Jeffrey Gurian, Susie Essman, and Richie Tienken after Susie's interview for the book!
Jim Gaffigan and Jeffrey after Jim's interview at The Strip. Richie must have been hiding!
Richie and Bob went on to manage Eddie Murphy for 11 years, from his SNL career through Beverly Hills Cop 2. Richie also managed Adam Sandler, Tony Rock, and Colin Quinn.
Jeffrey Gurian, Tony Rock, and Richie Tienken after Tony's interview at The Strip!
Jeffrey Gurian, Judah Friedlander, and Richie Tienken under the photo taken BEFORE Judah was World Champion! ( over his left shoulder!)
I have been chosen by Richie, to write the book on the history of the club, and so far have interviewed about 26 of the biggest names that have come out of the club, including Seinfeld, Larry Miller, Paul Reiser, George Wallace, Colin Quinn, Ray Romano, and Chris Rock.
Recently Judah Friedlander of 30 Rock fame, and The World Champion, came to the club to sit down with Richie and I to reminisce about his beginnings, and his memories of the club in the early days of his career. This is a little video excerpt of the interview.