Posts Tagged Charlie Joffe

My L.A. Trip with Billy Crystal, Kevin Nealon, and The Phenomenon Known As Russell Peters

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.

I’m out!!! ( Here’s the video! Do it! )

Posted in: Celeb Photos, Comedians In The News, Comedy Events, Comedy Matters, Comedy Videos, Featured, Nightlife Events, Page 6 Review, Red Carpet Events

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My Special Day With Richard Lewis

Many people have idols in their field, people who have inspired them, … and some of them even get to meet their idols. It’s rare but it does happen. Even rarer is to actually be friends with someone who’s your idol, and in my case that someone is Richard Lewis.

Jeffrey Gurian with his friend & comedy idol Richard Lewis in the Billy Crystal Bar of The Friars Club!

Let me try and explain the kind of caring individual that Richard is. We know each other for a long time, but when he agreed to meet me at The Friars Club at lunchtime the day after he opened at Carolines, I was going in hopes of just having a few laughs, and to take a few photos of us for my national column Comedy Matters.

I had hoped for, but didn’t really count on being able to do a video interview. Our plan was to meet before he sat by himself for hours at a time preparing for his show that night at 8 P.M. It’s nothing for Richard to sit for 6 hours reviewing his “premises.” I certainly didn’t want to impose on his time. But from the moment he walked in, he was nothing but accommodating. He actually suggested shots and things I could do to make the video shoot more interesting.

We went into the dining room first to get photos of Richard under his caricature done by the legendary Al Hirschfeld, which was a great honor and source of pride to Richard.  There we encountered the force known to the Friars as Frank Capitelli, the long-time Maitre-d’ who runs the dining room with an iron fist.

Richard Lewis in a calm moment with Gianfranco "Frank" Capitelli the long-time Maitre-D' of The Friars Club.

He and Richard suddenly started berating each other as only big stars can do with Frank, and Richard grabbed Frank’s lapels as they mock-threatened each other while barely being able to keep from laughing.

Richard grabbing Frank's lapel and threatening to ruin his Italian-made custom suit, if he didn't give him the table he wanted! (LOL)

The interview itself was similar to Richard’s act. There was no beginning, middle or end. All of a sudden you were just in the midst of it. It was happening. At one point he told me he didn’t need me that he could just interview himself.

It was one laugh after the next. And when it finally DID end, it was only with assurances from Richard that if I had any further questions, all I had to do was ask, and he’d answer them right away. And that’s because Richard is a “Mensch”!

For the book I’m doing on the history of The Comic Strip, I’ve interviewed some of the biggest stars in comedy. ALL of them were nice while they were there, … except maybe for one, who will go unnamed , … for now!

But it’s the effort it took to get some of them there that made the difference. Most it was easy.  Richie Tienken or I  just had to ask.  Some people are grateful for the help they received in getting to where they are now, like Chris Rock, Ray Romano, George Wallace, Larry Miller, and Jerry Seinfeld, while others want to conveniently forget where they came from and who helped them get there.  None of those names will be mentioned!

But it begs the question – HOW CAN YOU NOT BE GRATEFUL TO SOMEONE WHO HELPED YOU BECOME SUCCESSFUL??? HOW CAN IT BE SO DIFFICULT TO SCHEDULE ONE HOUR OF YOUR TIME,… LITERALLY ONE SMALL, MINISCULE HOUR OF YOUR TIME TO COME AND REMINISCE ABOUT YOUR PAST, WITHOUT HAVING TO MAKE A WHOLE “MEGILLAH” ( a big deal! ) OUT OF IT, AND INVOLVE YOUR MANAGERS, AGENTS AND ASSISTANTS TO SCHEDULE THE THING? DON’T YOU TAKE AN HOUR FOR LUNCH EVERY DAY? DO YOU HAVE TO SCHEDULE THAT THROUGH MANAGERS AND AGENTS? AND THEN MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO GET A RELEASE FROM THEM AFTER THEY DO IT??? WHY WOULD YOU SHOW UP FOR SOMETHING AND THEN NOT GLADLY SIGN A RELEASE???

But, I digress! That’s a topic for a whole other posting. By the time I’m finished with this I’ll have enough ideas for postings for the next decade! Back to Richard Lewis.

Richard prepares for his show like he does everything else in the world, … obsessively. To a fault.  And he’s the first to admit it!

He writes his premises in a notebook, about 5 times the size of regular letters, and fills the book with notes which he studies continuously for hours, by himself, coming up with thoughts on the topics he wrote.

During a conversation, something could strike him about his wife, as an example, and he’ll jot that down as a premise. Never the full joke. Only the premise. He’s one of those comedic geniuses that can actually develop a premise on stage. He’s been doing that for 41 years.

Sitting with Richard is to me like it would be sitting down with Bob Dylan, ( in the early days!), or Mick Jagger, ( which I did only once!)  or Salvador Dali (which I actually also did for a few hours, and which will be the topic for another posting!). Icons that most people don’t get a chance to know.

Sitting with Richard Lewis in the corner of The Friars Club dining room under the Al Hirschfeld drawing of Richard, of which he is very proud! ( And rightly so!)

For better or worse, ( in terms of my own sanity!), Richard encompasses everything I understand about the world. He also encompasses everything I DON’T understand about the world. He speaks for me. His sickness is MY sickness.

This is not to say that I think I could compare myself to Richard. Only in my private moments alone, when I wonder how things would have been if I had started performing back in the 70’s, would I allow myself to think I could have been good enough to be in that esteemed circle of Richard, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, David Brenner, … like that. All of whom I know from back in the day. It’s only when you’re coming up with guys, that you can allow them to see you grow as a comic.

In order to do that they have to watch you fail miserably many times. It’s the only way you get good. Every comic knows that. You have to try many things sometimes to find the thing that works. When you’re all starting out together, you’re kind of in the same boat, so you bond over that. You empathize with what the other guy is going through. So what am I saying here???

I’m saying I relate to Richard Lewis’ humor so much, that it feels part of me. I feel like he’s speaking for me. There’s an identification that goes down to the DNA. When I say I’ve had a stomach-ache since 1954, I know that HE knows what I mean because when I sat down with him today at The Friars Club, he told me he wants a plaque above the toilet in the Men’s Room, and referenced the drug Imodium.( Which is probably the only drug he can take anymore!)

Imodium is a great comedy word. In MY act, I reference the drug Lomotil. I didn’t think of Imodium. It’s a much funnier word. But I’m too late. Imodium is Richard’s and I’m stuck with Lomotil! ( As long as it works!) LOL

So we met in The Billy Crystal Bar, and as a matter of fact when Billy was honored with a ceremony at the club, the bar was roped off to Billy and his friends while the regular Friars just stood and stared past the velvet ropes, like they were looking at animals in the zoo.

I went up to the rope and before they had a chance to chase me away, Billy looked over and said, ” Hey, I know that guy. Let him in.” And they did. And everyone was shocked that Billy Crystal knew me. Jean Pierre who was the Executive Director of the club at the time was standing there, and he just smiled, as if to say, ” It figures that he would know you!”

Billy knew me from Jack Rollins. From the days when I used to hang out in Jack Rollins office on West 57th Street. Those were the days when I was married, was a dentist, and was living in Westchester, coming to the city every Wednesday to try and make my way into show biz.

I had sent a letter to Jack Rollins himself, ( on my dental stationery no less! ) telling him about the short films I was making and how everyone always compared my comedy to that of Woody Allen. How surprised was I to actually get a phone call from Jack himself, inviting me to come down to this office. It was a dream come true. Woody Allen’s manager asking me to come and meet with him.

Jack actually suggested a sitcom about me, a dentist who was trying to break into show biz. That’s how I met Billy. He thought Billy would be good to play me, and he only wanted to get involved if he was representing the star. So he introduced me to Billy, but Billy was already doing many other things. it could have been SNL or maybe Soap.

That’s when I suggested a young comic I had met who I really liked, Paul Reiser. Jack had never heard of him, because he was so new, but I raved about how funny he was, and Jack said I could call him and ask if he was interested. I remember calling Paul from the municipal parking lot on West 54th Street near what was then Studio 54, and asking him if he would consider playing me in a sitcom, if Jack Rollins was involved.

Jeffrey Gurian, Paul Reiser, and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip for Paul's interview for the book they are doing on the history of the club!

He said he would be glad to, and then about two weeks later, I think he landed a sitcom or a movie or something, and that was the end of that. Are you starting to see a pattern here???

Just a few years ago, when I wrote the award-winning short film “I Am Woody” about a mob boss obsessed with Woody Allen, I sent him the script to read.  In one of our many phone calls he said to me, ” How come I never managed you?”

The question hit me like a lightening bolt. In that one brief moment I felt elation and sadness at the same time, like I had never felt in my life. The elation that the legendary Jack Rollins who had managed Woody from the start, and produced every one of his movies, would have thought to manage me, was one of the biggest honors I ever had.

Then the incredible sadness of realizing the opportunity I had missed, and the courage I had to come up with to ask, ” Is it too late?”, not wanting to hear the answer I knew was coming.  He said it was too late for him in his career as he had retired years before.

I remember being there in his office for the first time like it was yesterday. And after he saw my films, he got on the phone and personally called the late Herb Sargent, who went on to become Pres. of The Writer’s Guild East, and who was running the writing team up at SNL at the time, and asked him to meet with me.

Herb was actually responsible for the name, ” Not Ready For Primetime Players”, and was in charge of shaping the legendary News Update, whose early hosts were Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Dennis Miller, who turned out to be my nemesis for getting on the show.

When I went up to see Herb at the SNL offices he said to me, ” I don’t even have to look at your stuff. If Jack Rollins says you’re funny, you’re funny!” But he DID look at my stuff, and liked it enough to set up a meeting for me with a guy named John Head, who in those days was in charge of film acquisition for SNL.

In those days I was doing films on “Monty-Pythonesque news topics”, like “Several men were arrested today for smearing creamcheese on the ankles of elderly women who wore their stockings rolled down like bagels. One of the victims, here only one month from Ireland gave us her account of what happened. She granted us an interview on the stipulation that she remain anonymous. Her name is Mrs O’Goyim,and she lives in The Bronx, but to honor her request, and protect her identity we’ll simply call her Mrs X.”

And then I got my dear grandmother, Nana Fay, to roll down her stockings which she would NEVER do, and let me put creamcheese on her ankles.  She also made believe she had a thick Jewish accent, where she explained that, “you know we have two kinds of stockings, … one for milk, and one for meat, ( an Orthodox Jewish “Kosher” reference! ) and this crazy man came over and shmeared creamcheese on my “Flaisheke” (meat) stockings and I can’t get it off!”

She said, ” Jeffrey, only for you would I do something like this!” She had such a great sense of humor, and was in other films of mine as well. But it was ALWAYS comedy news for me. That was my favorite thing in the world.

I think maybe because all news sounds ridiculous to me anyway. I think it’s the cadence. I got my “news announcer” training from Chuck Scarborough when I worked with him to prepare for his Friars Roast back in the 80’s.

Anyway, when I got my meeting with John Head I made what was to be one of the biggest, if not THE biggest mistakes in my life. I was no longer married and I was trying to impress this young model/actress I had been running around with. This must have been around 1986. Dennis Miller was doing News Update. I get my meeting at SNL to show my films to John Head. I call this girl and ask her to come with me. WHAT KIND OF SHMUCK TURNS A BUSINESS MEETING INTO A DATE?

As I’m writing this all these years later, I still can’t believe I did this. I bring the girl with me, as if her presence was going to make my films funnier. Talk about low self-esteem. I wasn’t enough on my own. I had to have someone else who I thought was more special, to “validate” me!

We walk in and of course everyone takes notice. Especially Dennis Miller who was single at the time. We had already known each other from other friends of mine who were in the cast since I had been going up to SNL since around 1977. We also hung out at a place called Columbus Cafe on 69th Street and Columbus Avenue.

Dennis immediately takes notice of the girl, asks why I’m there, I excitedly tell him I’m there to show John Head my comedy news, not realizing that Dennis does comedy news, and he asks if he can sit in on my meeting. I, … like the moron I was, … was thrilled! Dennis Miller will laugh his ass off, John Head will be impressed, and I’ll become part of SNL.

What happened next is still almost too sad for me to tell, but I have no choice. We show the films and everyone’s laughing. John Head’s words were burned into my memory. He said, ” I see no reason why you shouldn’t be doing films for the show. I’ll set up a meeting with Lorne Michaels for next week. Call me on Monday.”

I was ecstatic. I was out of my mind with joy. I was going to be making films for SNL. A dream come true. I called John Head on Monday like I was asked to, and was told that Dennis Miller liked my stuff so much that HE wanted to be the guy who brought it to Lorne and that I should call him instead.  John said he was out of it.  I was a little shocked, but still ok that Dennis liked it that much.

Then he never took my call. Many messages later, I realized he wasn’t going to ever take my call, or call me back. Not only that, but he took the girl’s number who I was with and went out with her, adding insult to grievous injury.

Making it even worse, ( it that was even remotely possible!) they went out socializing with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams and didn’t invite me!   I almost lost it over that. It was a lesson that haunts me to this day, about trying to be a bigshot and wind up looking like a putz!!!

I ran into Dennis some time later at Columbus Cafe where we all hung out. I asked him why he never got back to me. Rather than give me an answer he said, ” You wanna write for me? The show wants me to do remotes and that’s not my style. It’s YOUR style. Come up with a few ideas for me and if I like them, I’ll do them on the show.”  Then came the kicker!  “But I need them by tomorrow!”

Needless to say, I stayed up all night coming up with ideas to get them to him by the next day. It’s more than 20 years later, and I still haven’t heard from him.  Nice, …  right???

It took me a long time to just let that stuff go.  It doesn’t mean I don’t remember it, but I don’t let it make me ill!  It’s not worth it.

This blog, on the other hand, is getting to be like Richard Lewis’ act, … kind of like free association, but nowhere near as funny! When I saw him last night, among the million things he discussed,and let me say that there was one moment where he almost finished a sentence, … he told about missing the huge Woodstock festival in 1967 because it was drizzling, so instead he went to the movies and saw Fred McMurray in Flubber, which was one of his biggest errors in life!

And then he went on to tell how when he called his Mom to tell her he got The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which should have sent her into a state of rapture, she simply asked him who else was on with him!

That was one way we differed. My Mom would take every opportunity she had to brag about me.  She would brag about the way I coughed. Did you see my son cough? Amazing. Your son may cough, but not like Jeffrey. When he clears his throat there’s nothing like it.  Rest in Peace Mom, you were the best!

Go see Richard at Carolines. He’s still there tonight, Sat. March 26th for two shows and one final show tomorrow on Sunday. Trust me, it’s not to be missed. Caroline herself came to see him on opening night and stayed through the whole thing.

If this post gets any longer, I’ll need a book publisher, and a literary agent to even GET the book publisher!

Jeffrey Gurian with Richard Lewis after one of his sold-out shows at Joe's Pub in NYC!

To be continued!

Posted in: Celeb Photos, Comedians In The News, Comedy Events, Comedy Matters

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Richard Lewis Comes To New York

If you grew up idolizing the stand-up comedy of Woody Allen, … that’s assuming you’re old enough to remember when he performed stand-up on the Ed Sullivan show, …you can understand the frustration of knowing you’ll never see him perform stand-up again.

As a performer myself, I hate to compare one to another, but in my estimation the closest you can come to the kind of humor, and level of sophistication of humor that Woody did, is the great Richard Lewis, the Master of Angst!
(He’s also the creator of the expression ” the __________ from hell”, like ” the date from hell”, ” the vacation from Hell” This man put that into the lexicon!

Richard Lewis and Jeffrey backstage at Joe's Pub after Richard's sold-out show!

I’ve known Richard for a long time and was very excited to hear that he will be headlining Carolines on Broadway from March 24th thru March 27th. It’s a rare occurrence and one not to be missed! Especially if you’ve been enjoying him on HBO’s hit show ” Curb Your Enthusiasm” for the past 8 seasons.

I have a couple of Richard Lewis stories to share.

Back around 1996 or so, Richard was starring in a film called “Drunks” with Faye Dunaway, Calista Flockhart, Sam Rockwell, Parker Posey, Dianne Wiest, Amanda Plummer and other names that were not as big then as they are today. I was always determined to write for Richard not knowing that he never allowed anyone to write for him. I had gotten my start by actually showing my very early writings to Woody Allen himself, who was starring on Broadway in “Play It Again Sam” at the time,with Tony Roberts of course, and Woody was so kind he invited me back the next night to show him more of my work.

Richard Lewis and Jeffrey Gurian backstage at Westbury

One of the reasons he did that was because I had so little knowledge of what to do, that I went backstage during intermission instead of waiting till the end of the show, and he had to go back onstage. The story of how that all came about, and how I wound up backstage in the first place will be the subject of another blog, but suffice it to say that years later when I became friendly with both Jack Rollins and the late Charlie Joffe, both of whom managed Woody’s career for many years, they were both pleasantly surprised that Woody was so nice to me. Woody actually read through my ideas, and told me I had a very visual sense of humor and should think about making films of my work.

Jack said, “Woody must have really seen something in you to have done that.” Whatever Woody saw that night it took me many years to turn those early ideas I showed him into The “Men Who” Series a series of films about men who do very unusual things, like ” Men Who Take A Pitchfork To The Movies”, “Men Who Enjoy Latin Dancing With Tools”, and “Men Who Take A Fish To Hot Clubs.” You can actually see those films on my You Tube page at http://www.youtube.com/guriannewsnetwork

Anyway, I showed up at Drunks with jokes in hand expecting to give them to Richard in hopes he would use them. I wrote it as part of what I was calling his ” Born To Be Nervous” tour, which I wanted to suggest to Richard. Aside from the “Born To Be Nervous” Tour, I suggested a couple of the following lines-

My family are firm believers in the power of negative thinking. They feel you can ruin anything if you really put your mind to it.

Low self esteem goes back in my family to the beginning of time. I actually had an uncle who was the first man to walk erect. But he couldn’t hold it. He’d take a few steps and just slump over.

I was such a shy kid, I never even had the courage to go Trick or Treating. I tried doing it over the phone.

My apartment is a problem too. I just got my new lease, turns out I’m renting it by the hour.

I don’t like to burden my shrink with my problems. He’s too sensitive. One time I told him I was leaving him, he threatened to kill himself.

I think I would have made more progress with him, but when he told me to lay back on his couch, I couldn’t do it. My mother always taught me not to put my feet up on someone else’s furniture.

And I knew that if I did it, she’d find out and feel that somehow, it would be a reflection on her.

My shrink was treating me for feelings of loneliness. At one point I was so lonely I tried to develop a split personality, just for the company.

So anyway, I felt pretty good about the jokes and ran to the theatre with them in an envelope. The problem was I had planned to get there early to try and see Richard, but I was so nervous I made myself late, and when I got there, there was already a long line of people waiting to get in.

In a panic, I by-passed the line and ran down a staircase not knowing where it would take me, and who’s coming up the staircase right towards me but Richard Lewis himself. Those kinds of things happen to me on kind of a regular basis, although I have no idea why, or what to do in those circumstances.

He looked at me and said, ” Hey, what are YOU doing here?” I’m like, ” I came to see you”, and I was so shocked to actually run into him that I almost forgot to give him the envelope with the jokes in it. Fortunately I remembered and gave it to him, even though he was on his way into the theatre to do his presentation. Most people don’t like to be carrying things with them, but I didn’t know what else to do.

After the screening he took off pretty quickly, but by the time I got home there was already a message on my phone from Richard. I think it was the nicest decline of material I ever received. He said I was talented and hilarious, and you can listen to it right here because it meant so much to me I saved it all these years. He was so kind that he called me right away. That is a very, very rare thing for anyone to do, especially a star of his calibre. ( I think his caliber is 9 millimeter, or it could be .380. They’re very close in size! LOL)

Richard Lewis Phone Call

I always wonder if I didn’t put the (LOL) would people know it’s a joke? I guess if they didn’t, it wasn’t much of a joke! (LOL)

I remember seeing Richard in Westbury, and going to see him backstage afterwards when he told me that he stopped taking his notes out onstage with him at that very performance.

I also went to see him at Joe’s Pub a few years back, and again at Comix in 2008, and he did an incredible performance, in a kind of stream-of-consciousness style that is inimitable, and what he’s known for. I was amazed that anyone could go that long, with what looked like an unprepared act, in the sense that no one could memorize such a thing, with one thought leading him to another, and I wrote to him at the time –

“No one goes that long at that pace but you, with consistently funny, material that is not an act! Despite the fact that you rarely let yourself finish a sentence, it’s hysterical. You have the “un-act!”

So needless to say, I will be at Carolines at least once during his stay, which is one show Thursday at 8:00, one show on Friday at 8:00, two on Saturday at 8:00 and 10:30 and one on Sunday at 8 P.M. For tickets call (212) 757-4100 or go to the Carolines website.

All the info you need to see Richard Lewis at Carolines!

I also hope to see him at The Friars Club for lunch, cause when I asked him if I could come see him backstage, I got this e-mail :

I have six or seven tv n radio shows
Prep
Jet lagged
Five shows
Never backstage more than two minutes be it God, Dylan or you

PERFECT!!! He lumped me in with G-d and Dylan! Come see Richard at Carolines!
S

 

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