Posts Tagged Chris Mazzilli

Robert Klein at The Friars Club for the Documentary "The Business of Comedy"

I get involved in so many interesting projects. Sometimes things just seem to come out of nowhere because life is magical like that. So I find myself as an Associate Producer on a wonderful documentary film slated for PBS called “The Business of Comedy” working with two great Exec. Producers Gary Licker and Scott Sobel.

(L-R) Scott Sobel, and Gary Licker with trusty camera in Jeffrey Gurian’s writing room, after his interview for “The Business of Comedy!”

They made a name for themselves with a successful documentary called “Selling Cars in America”, about the history of the American car dealership and a look at the players who set the tone in the modern day, 21st century showroom. Scott produced it and Gary Licker directed.

“The Business of Comedy” examines just what it says, the business of comedy. So they’re not only interviewing comedians, but they’re speaking to club owners, managers, agents and anybody who makes the comedy world tick. That’s where I came in. First they interviewed me in my home, in what I call my “comedy museum” packed with photos and nostalgia going back to the late 70’s and early 80’s, when I was writing for Rodney Dangerfield and many Friars Club Roasts at the behest of Friars producer Bob Saks, and my original sponsor in The Friars Club, Milton Berle.

We had so much fun on that interview and we all got along so well that we decided to progress together with me being an Associate Producer. Now as a co-producer I brought the project to Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip where we not only interviewed Richie on his vast experience as the owner and founder of The Strip, but also interviewed a bunch of comics both established and new who shared their feelings on the business of comedy.

Then we spoke to Chris Mazzilli at the Gotham Comedy Club, who offered his unique perspective and who I refer to as “the classiest man in comedy”, and Gabe Waldman owner of Stand-Up New York, who we also filmed performing on stage. Very soon we will be speaking on camera with my old friend comedy legend/icon Rick Newman who opened the legendary Catch A Rising Star at the end of 1972, which was the admitted inspiration for The Comic Strip.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Chris Mazzilli owner of Gotham Comedy Club at a Laugh For Sight charity event in 2011!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with comedy icon Rick Newman founder of Catch A Rising Star and current co-owner of Stage 72 in NYC!

But this week was something special for all of us. We got to interview Robert Klein at The Friars Club. Both Gary and Scott made no secret of the fact that they were both incredibly excited at the opportunity to speak to Robert who is himself an icon of comedy, and one of the enduring bright stars of his generation. Not only has he established himself onstage but he’s appeared in over 40 feature films.

I think it was Gary who said that he’s interviewed many celebs but that the excitement of knowing he was going to interview Robert Klein kept him up the night before the interview! We had intended to do the interview in the beautifully appointed Milton Berle Room but as were were setting up we ran into Peter Rosegarten, Robert’s manager from The Conversation Company who facilitated us moving to the gorgeous dining room to do our interview. It’s actually Peter’s brother Rory who works directly with Robert and has done so for the past maybe 30 years ever since Robert left Rollins and Joffe.

Exec. Producer Gary Licker adjusting the microphone for Robert Klein before his interview at The Friars Club!

That story is in my new book with Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh” in a great interview that Rory gave me. Rory and I go back many years and he represented me when I was writing for Joan Rivers.

Gary and Scott started out by playing a little audio recording of Budd Friedman founder of The Improv, which he opened in 1963, saying some very complimentary things about Robert Klein who was a regular there. Robert was very gracious and humbled by Budd’s statement, and said that as years go on, the more those kind of things mean to him. That kind of set the tone for what turned out to be a fantastic interview.

Exec. Producers Scott Sobel and Gary Licker interviewing Robert Klein at The Friars Club for their project “The Business of Comedy” on which I am Associate Producer!

Robert was so generous with his sharing of stories and his energy. I loved how he easily remembered the date of his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I believe he said it was Jan. 9th, 1968. He remembered Johnny also as being “generous” with his laughter and support.

In 1970 Robert had his own summer replacement comedy/variety show called “Comedy Tonight”, which he hosted along with frequent guests Peter Boyle and Madeline Kahn. He has since done nine HBO comedy specials, and is still very active performing around the country at different venues.

Exec. Producer Scott Sobel with his notes asking questions of Robert Klein for the doc film for PBS, “The Business of Comedy”!

His original manager Jack Rollins who helped me greatly in my own career and who originally introduced me to his other clients at the time Billy Crystal and Robin Williams figured greatly in Robert’s early career. I was still a Cosmetic Dentist in those early days and Jack thought that Billy Crystal would be perfect to play me in a sit-com about a dentist who wanted to be in show biz. That’s why when I interviewed Billy for my book “Make ‘Em Laugh” in one of the photos we took he was pointing to his teeth!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Billy Crystal in Billy’s office in LA. Billy is pointing to his teeth referencing Jeffrey’s background as a Cosmetic Dentist!

Robert was inspired by Jonathan Winters, and Lenny Bruce who was persecuted, blacklisted and ultimately ruined for performing material that was considered obscene in those days, but would be considered tame by today’s standards, where literally anything goes. Robert spoke of comedy as a “craft” that used to have a certain “dignity”. I saw it that way as well.

I was also very glad to hear that Robert and I share the same sensitivity as to what is commonly referred to as “bathroom humor” and I can’t really grasp the fascination that many young comics seem to have with bodily functions that to me have no place in a show where men are taking women out for an evening of entertainment.

Neither Robert nor I are prudes in any sense of the word. I wrote filthy jokes for Friars Roasts for many years, but that wasn’t the material I chose to do when I went on stage, and neither did he. We just share the same dislike for unnecessary grossness which is all too common these days.

Robert literally gave us “gold” for the documentary with his honest evaluation of the comedy scene then and now, and he kept me on my toes by throwing questions at me, when certain names in comedy history didn’t quite come to him right away, like Dane Cook and Rosie O’Donnell! He also remembered many years ago when I approached him about writing some material for him. It’s amazing what sticks out in people’s minds that you would think they would never remember!

I was so happy I was able to give him a copy of “Make ‘Em Laugh” because it’s about everyone he knows!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Robert Klein at The Friars Club, holding Jeffrey’s book ” Make’Em Laugh!”

His spirit was youthful and engaging and I hope to see him again soon and maybe even work with him on something fun and meaningful.

Btw, in case you’re interested this is the very cool trailer for the documentary “The Business of Comedy!”

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T.J. Miller Kills It Hosting Gotham Comedy Live on AXS-TV

It makes perfect sense that Chris Mazzilli, who I affectionately call “The Classiest Man in Comedy” would be running the classiest comedy club in town! And not just ANY town, but NYC, which is really saying something!

The marquee outside of Gotham Comedy Club, with T.J. Miller hosting the AXS-TV special Gotham Comedy Live!

Plus he’s always on the cutting edge of entertainment. Whether they’re shooting the auditions for Last Comic Standing, or live streaming Anthony Anderson’s Comedy Mixtape Show, he’s always offering his audiences something really unique. Now he’s got Marc Cuban, and Ryan Seacrest’s AXS-TV shooting Gotham Comedy Live every Thursday at 10 P.M. for 11 weeks with fantastic guest hosts, and a great line-up of comics.

Helming the series are Exec. Producers Dave Goldberg and Rob Cea whose Killer Bunny Entertainment has created week after week of great shows, starting with host Orlando Jones a few weeks ago.

This week I went to see the great T.J. Miller who I had been wanting to interview for quite a while. We first met up in Montreal at the Just for Laughs Festival back around 2010, and have kept in touch, but weren’t able to set up a specific date to get together. So when I heard he was hosting this AXS-TV special I made sure to let him know I was coming.

T.J. Miller wiping his mouth with one of Jeffrey Gurian’s scarves in the green room of Gotham Comedy Club! Fortunately Gurian had at least three more with him, so it was no problem!

Let me first tell you a little about T.J. I could sum it up by saying he’s been in 12 movies in the last three years, but that wouldn’t be doing justice to his talent. He’s not only a talented actor, he’s also a great stand-up, and impressionist, PLUS he makes faces, which he has developed into an art form, starting with just the simplest face he made as a young boy, which was basically moving his mouth to the side like a Bell’s Palsy victim. All of this came out in the fantastic, funny, and generous 40 minute video interview he gave me, which you will be seeing soon right here!

Later on in his career, he graduated to making much more complicated faces, some of which I was able to capture in my interview and will share with you as soon as it’s finished being edited. I was able to capture a couple of them in still photos and as you can see he’s widely considered a master at face-making!

T.J. Miller making one of his more complicated faces for Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV! He claims to have worked on that particular “face” for two to three years!

Everyone has different talents, and different strengths. I for one am good at mentioning things to people! Sometimes I’ll just walk over to someone and take the opportunity to mention something, … but that’s just me!

T. J. was named one of Variety’s “Top 10 Comics to Watch,” as well as one of Entertainment Weekly’s “Next Big Things in Comedy.” Miller will soon be seen starring in the upcoming Fox comedy series “The Goodwin Games” opposite Becki Newton and Scott Foley. The show will be centered on three siblings who reconnect after the death of their father when he leaves them his fortune. Miller will play the youngest Goodwin sibling ‘Jimmy,’ who has just been released from jail.

He will also be seen this October hosting Comedy Central’s “Mash-Up,” a unique new half-hour series – an exciting mix of stand-up and sketch comedy. In addition to his work on TV, he has a popular podcast on nerdist.com “Cashing in with T.J. Miller” which turns the traditional interview comedy podcast on its head, as it’s an interview show, but host Cash Levy only has one guest: T.J. Miller.

He always plays fun, interesting and unusual characters like his recent role in the Focus Features comedy “Seeking A Friend For The End of the World” opposite Steve Carrell and Keira Knightly, and in the Warner Brothers 80’s rock musical feature “Rock of Ages”, opposite Tom Cruise.

He co-starred in The Weinstein Company’s “Our Idiot Brother”, along with Paul Rudd. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 to rave reviews!(As opposed to regular every-day reviews!) He starred as ‘Ranger Jones’ in the Warner Brothers live-action/CGI feature film “Yogi Bear”, along with Dan Ayckroyd, Justin Timberlake and Anna Faris. He also appeared with Jack Black and Jason Segel in the 20th Century Fox 3D film “Gulliver’s Travels”, and in Tony Scott’s dramatic thriller “Unstoppable” with Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.

I really liked him in his co-starring role in the Paramount comedy, “She’s Out of My League”, opposite Jay Baruchel, a film which really brought him to the public eye. (Which begs the questions, ” Where is the public eye? Does the public only have one eye? And if so, does that make the public a Cyclops???)

He appeared with Jay Baruchel again in How To Train Your Dragon, a talent he promised to share with me, as I have a couple of small dragons at home on loan from HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, which were lent to me by Peter Dinklage, on the promise that no one could know. Fortunately no one reads this Blog so our secret is safe! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with an old friend, award-winning actor Peter Dinklage, star of HBO’s “Game of Thrones!”. Earlier in his career Peter starred in Jeffrey’s short film ” Men Who Dance Where They’re Not Supposed To” and wound up getting arrested for dancing in a “No Dancing” zone!

Dragon also starred Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson, and T.J. will reprise his role, voicing the character of “Tuffnut” in the upcoming “How To Train Your Dragon 2”! Reprising roles is another thing that T.J. is good at! The man has innumerable talents!

He also worked with Russell Brand and Jonah Hill in Universal’s “Get Him To The Greek” and basically there’s almost no TV show or film that he HASN’T been in! (LOL)

T.J. has also had two short films at Sundance, once as writer and star of the short “Successful Alcoholics” which the NY Times referred to as “hilarious”, a term that goes much better with comedy than drama, and last year’s “I’m Having A Difficult Time Killing My Parents”, which he also stars in and wrote.

He chose his home-town of Denver to record his first hour long stand-up special for Comedy Central, and he also released a comedy oriented pop/hip-hop music album with Comedy Central Records. Whenever available, he performs with his sketch comedy group “Heavy Weight,” with Brady Novak, Mark Raterman and Nick Vatterott.

Comedy Central has featured him on their “Hot List” special which focused on the top 10 stand-up comedians of the moment, and even though that moment has passed, he’s still on that list, and will remain there for the forseeable future!

I have no idea how he had the time to give me the interview he gave me what with fielding all those projects. In the short space of time we spent together riffing on all kinds of things, some of which even made sense, and were actually very funny, he fielded three different offers for new films! (While his manager was standing in the corner!)

I left him to prepare for his hosting role, which is different than his bakery roll, and even spelled differently. But not before I gave him a copy of my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Chris Rock, and signed it for him by his request saying “You can never have too many scarves!” It also gave me an opportunity to get yet another photo and experience more of the range of his face-making ability!

T.J. Miller holding a copy of Jeffrey Gurian’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh” in a humorous, and original way! Even holding a book this man is funny!

The line-up of the show was fantastic, with a real variety of different comedic styles, fortunately the one thing they all had in common was that they were all funny!

T.J. Miller onstage hosting AXS-TV’s Gotham Comedy Live, produced by Killer Bunny Entertainment!

I got there early to watch the rehearsal as I always like to see what goes on behind the scenes. That to me is where the magic is. So much goes into the making of a show. And this show goes out “LIVE”, so there’s little room for error! I went down to the green room to say “hi” to the cast.

It was Calise Hawkins, who as soon as she saw me started laughing about our interview last July in Montreal up at the Just for Laughs’ Festival where for some reason she felt she was slurring her words. There’s not much time to eat in Montreal during the festival so the drinks feel more potent!

Calise Hawkins of the wonderful, big hair, (which I totally respect! LOL) onstage at Gotham Comedy Live!

Then I turned around to see Keith Robinson, who also gave me a hysterically funny interview in Montreal. He happened to be sitting with the very funny Chelsea Peretti who you can see very often on Chelsea Handler’s show “Chelsea Lately”, and who recently did a star turn on “Kroll Show” playing an aspiring singer named Farley who wants Bobby Bottleservice to manage her!

Keith is a great guy and a real talent. The audience really responds well to him and his material. He had so many great lines, but one line that really stuck out for me was when he was talking about how people are offended so easily these days, because everything is so Politically Correct. But only people with good jobs can get fired for saying something seemingly offensive. You never hear anyone say, “What happened to Earl the dishwasher?” Oh, he got fired for his homophobic Tweets!”

(L-R) Yannis Pappas, Keith Robinson, T.J. MIller, Calise Hawkins, and Bill Dawes taking their bows onstage at Gotham Comedy Live!

And then in talking about gun control, he riffed on people saying that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Keith was like, “Guns do kill people. You never hear of a mass choking do you?”

Yannis Pappas was also on the bill. I always mean to ask him if his background is Greek! No one dresses up in the comedy world, and Yannis is no exception. He came out in like a sweatshirt and sneakers, and said to the audience, ” I don’t know if you can tell by my appearance, but this is what an adult looks like these days!”

Yannis Pappas at rehearsal waiting to be called onstage by host T.J. Miller!

Commenting on family, Yannis went on to say that our parents and grandparents worked so hard to make sure their kids had a better life than they did, and my generation doesn’t even want to have kids so they don’t ruin our lives!”

And Bill Dawes was an LA comic who I hadn’t seen before but I was really glad I got the chance. He said Latin women tend not to get drunk cause you can’t drink when you’re pregnant!

He also told about a threesome he was invited to join. Two guys and a girl. He said, that’s basically gay sex with a witness!” (I always felt the same way! Much too awkward!) But he showed up anyway, and said he was going hard for an hour when finally he said, “Hey, when’s that girl gonna show up?” That is HYSTERICAL!!!

Yannis Pappas, T.J. Miller, Calise Hawkins, and Bill Dawes. Keith Robinson was hiding in Calise Hawkins’ hair!

So afterwards when I went looking for him to congratulate him, I found him outside the Men’s Room, talking to two of his old friends, who had just seen the show, and I had to stand on the side awkwardly waiting for them to finish their conversation so I could congratulate him. I’m sure everyone has experienced something like that. You hope the conversation will go fast, but as it drags on you just finding yourself standing there like an eavesdropper! (LOL)

You don’t want to interrupt because no one knows who you are, but at some point you have to when it goes past ten minutes and you’re feeling like an idiot standing there listening to someone else’s conversation that you’re not a part of. It’s almost funny, but mostly in retrospect!(LOL)

Anyway, I finally interrupted and got to tell him how funny I thought he was, at which point he was joined by some of my old friends including Caron Bernstein the South African model, who was there with her husband. Caron and I go back a long way, and it was great to see her!

Caron Bernstein, with Noel Ashman looking on as Jeffrey Gurian does emergency “Healing” work on Caron’s sprained ankle!

A perfect end to a fun evening!

Anyway, T.J. Miller is actually headlining Gotham for another three shows tonight, so make sure you get out and see him. The snow wasn’t as bad as they predicted, so you really have no excuse not to go! And when you get there, … tell him I sent you!

www.HyperSmash.com

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Dean Edwards Packs ‘Em In at Gotham Comedy Club

Dean Edwards is one of those rare guys who starts out strong and gets even stronger the longer he’s on stage. When most comics are winding down, he’s just getting started. Last night at Gotham, the room was so packed they almost had to put strangers at my table! (LOL) That’s packed!

Headliner Dean Edwards with Gotham owner Chris Mazzilli at the gorgeous Gotham Comedy Club!

And Dean greeted me warmly when I came in which made it even more special. Then he told me had had my book ” Make ‘Em Laugh” and that made it even better, and then he topped that by telling me he was in Barry Katz’s office out in LA and when he walked in Barry had my book on his desk!

Barry is one of the co-creators of Last Comic Standing and one of the top comedy managers in the biz. Last July in Montreal we did a “two-hug interview” for my Comedy Matters TV, which you can see right here. A “two-hug” interview by the way, is a very rare occurrence! (LOL) This may be the only one in existence!

Dean and I will always have a special moment that we shared because I was standing with him in Montreal during the Just for Laughs Festival when he found out he had gotten SNL. It was very exciting for me, so I can only imagine how HE felt! (LOL)

Dean Edwards and Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV outside the showroom at Gotham Comedy Club!

Karen Bergreen was the MC and Karen is always funny, and really knows how to warm up an audience! She mines her relationship with her two little boys for material, and she imitates them perfectly! Not that I know them, but for all intents and purposes, it sounds like she imitates them perfectly!

MC/comic Karen Bergreen onstage at Gotham Comedy Club!

Like when they were riding in a cab where the driver was wearing a turban, and her little six year old son asked, ” Mommy, why is a genie driving our taxi?” That is hysterical! I’m sure the driver had no idea what that meant either! (LOL)

And when her older 8 year old son told her something he liked about her that was kind of a backhanded compliment she answered with, “And the only think I like about you more than your little brother is that your school day is longer!”

Harris Stanton came up next and he too is always a crowd pleaser. He was also very close to Patrice Oneal and was on Patrice’s last big show when he taped “Elephant in the Room” down at the Skirball Theatre. I used to see him a lot when I was hanging out at CB’s Comedy Club down on Macdougal Street!

Anyway he totally brought his A-game to the stage, and talked about how New York has changed him since he was a polite young man who came here from down South. Now he raced a woman to a seat on the subway!

Harris Stanton onstage, opening for Dean Edwards at Gotham Comedy Club!

And I like when he does a bit about how people shouldn’t complain if they get hurt being someplace they’re not supposed to be, and he directed this remark mostly to white people. Like if a guy gets bit by a shark. Harris is like, “Where were you when it happened? In the ocean? Well you see that’s the problem. You were in the shark’s home. If you got bit by a shark in the supermarket, I’d feel bad for you, but if you go into the ocean where you don’t belong, you gotta expect that to happen.

Or when guys get lost climbing a mountain. Another white guy thing! You don’t read about Black guys getting lost in an avalanche, or being attacked by a shark while surfing. Only white guys do stuff like that!

Rich Francese always has great lines and he was up next. He said he thought his wife was cheating on him, because the other day he caught her belittling another man! That’s really funny!

Rich “The Bouncer” Francese killing it onstage at Gotham Comedy Club!

He also said he didn’t get the concept of an ‘intervention”. At an intervention the alcoholic or drug addict is surrounded by his parents, relatives and loved ones. Aren’t those the people who made you drink and take drugs in the first place?”

Dean’s audience was waiting for him, and he hit the stage to resounding applause. He talked about lots of different things. Like people who read the NY Times always want you to know they read the NY Times! “Like, … I saw this article in the NY Times, …”

Personally the NY Times makes me nervous. Especially the Sunday edition. I always feel like I’m gonna have to cut out articles and summarize them for the next day as “Current Events” homework! I still hate Sundays because of that memory!

If you take a moment to watch this you’ll see a little film I made some years ago as part of The “Men Who” Series, about men who do very unusual things. It’s called “Men Who Dance In Traffic With The Sunday Edition of the NY Times.” That’s about all it’s good for! (LOL)

In talking about women, Dean says he wants a woman so fine that when she enters a room, she has her own theme music, and it plays automatically!

He did a masterful piece which got an applause break about being the only Black guy on a flight to Russia, where they thought he was Kobe Bryant, and he imitated the Russian accent like it was a Grinch song backwards.

Dean Edwards showing lots of expression during his sold out headlining gig at Gotham!

Accents and impressions are a real strongpoint for Dean, and his Eddie Murphy is only surpassed by his Denzel Washington which he used to close the show the night I saw him.

In talking about Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian he said that never in this country have Black men been so supportive of the KKK! And that Kim Kardashian has taken out more Black men than Sickle Cell Anemia! That is HYSTERICAL!

On comparing his Associates Degree education to that of his wife who is a professional, with a Post-Graduate degree, he said an associates degree is like a receipt that you were in the building, … nothing more! Nothing to brag about!

He even does impressions of animals! When he described Beyonce as being so fine she was like a stallion, he pranced around the stage clip-clopping like a horse.

But ending on introducing his wife to Denzel Washington was the piece-de-resistance, that proves what an “artiste” Dean Edwards is! Plus he’s the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet!

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Sebastian Rocks Gotham Comedy Club

I first met Sebastian on the Kandy Kruise, a special charity cruise from Cali to Mexico that had 500 guys and 1500 girls. All the girls were from Playboy, Penthouse, Maxim, … you get the idea. It was a very quiet, relaxing cruise! (LOL) He was performing with Cort McKown from Playboy Comedy.

Sebastian Maniscalco and Cort McKown on the Kandy Cruise back in 2007!

Then I saw him again with Russell Peters on Russell’s Best of the Fest show in Montreal at the Just for Laughs Festival, and ran into him again when I was out in Cali doing Nick Kroll’s upcoming show on Comedy Central.

This week, Sebastian has been having sold out shows at The Gotham Comedy Club as part of the NY Comedy Festival, and if you have to ask “Sebastian who” you’re not in “the know”! ( To use an expression from 1810! LOL) One name is all he needs like Cher, Lindsay, Brad, … very rare for a comedian!

Sebastian, killing it onstage at Gotham Comedy Club in one of his 6 sold-out shows for the NY Comedy Festival!

He’s lucky he’s so well known cause “Sebastian Maniscalco” is not fitting on a marquee that easily! I popped in to see him last night and not only was my usual table filled, but the entire place was so packed, I wound up standing, which is something I don’t do. When I see a show at Gotham I’m popping up every few minutes to shoot photos, so I cant be wedged into a seat where I have to disturb other customers every time I get up.

Gotham is built for filming and shooting photos as they have a private passageway in the back of the room where you can shoot through glass. Sebastian’s show was so good, I made the decision to stand. So I positioned myself back there and took all the shots I needed.

First the show was MC’ed by Angelo Lozada, who I think is one of the best hosts out there today. There’s a special thing about being a host. Besides having great material, you have to be able to warm up the audience with some crowd work, and get people in the mood for a show. Angelo is very strong when it comes to that, and he knows how to put people in their place very gently but effectively.

Angelo Lozada hosting Sebastian’s show at Gotham Comedy Club!

Mark Normand was also on the show. His lines are very clever, and the crowd really liked him.

The very funny Mark Normand onstage at Gotham opening for Sebastian!

But let me see if I can describe what makes Sebastian so special. First of all he had his crowd there. They were there for HIM, and to that there was no doubt! His strength is not only his material, but his physicality. He embodies whatever person it is he’s talking about whether it be male of female, and moves constantly around the stage.

Somehow he manages to create a visual image of what he’s telling you, and with his sculptured and manicured look, when he does his “Italian thing” you could almost see John Travolta in his Saturday Night Fever days, if he had been a stand-up comic. And I mean that with the greatest respect, not as a slam in any way, shape or form!

When Sebastian talks about how in the old days you’d pick up a girl at a club, not only by your approach, but with your dancing, he totally nails it, and his moves are great! I was standing with Chris Mazzilli, the owner of the club and he totally agreed with me.

Sebastian said his tough Italian father never bought him and his siblings things. Instead he told then what kids owned the things they wanted, and where they lived, and left the rest up to them. “You know that dog you want? A kid five blocks away has that dog. That’s your dog.”

And his father always wanted to haggle over a deal. The dentist told him he needed a crown that cost 800 bucks. The father jumped out of the dentist chair and said, ” I got a crown guy. If I pay you cash, how much???” and Sebastian makes the “paying cash hand moves” that we’ve all experienced, with guys like that!

He talks about how badly we’re treated by airline personnel when going through the airport and how the only time they’re happy is when your bag is over the weight limit. “You’re three pounds over” the woman told him. “You have to take out three pounds of clothing.” He said,”And where am I supposed to put it?” And she said, ” In your carry-on!” And he wanted to explode, ” It’s still going on the plane! What’s the difference if it’s inside my luggage or in the overhead compartment? It’s the same three pounds!”

That observation got him an extended applause break of which there were many. And that’s why I put up with standing through the entire show, with no food or drinks. It was that good. And what’s really nice is that he told the entire audience to come and meet him afterwards to take photos if they wanted to. That’s a guy who really appreciates his audience!

I may actually go back to see him again tonight at 8 P.M. I just hope I don’t have to stand again! (LOL)

He’s also doing a new podcast with the very funny Pete Correale, and I can’t wait to check that out as well!

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Comedy Seminar at Gotham Comedy Club

Andy Engel produces New Talent showcases at Gotham Comedy Club as he has been doing successfully for many years now. All you have to do is to look at the testimonials on his Manhattan Comedy School page to see how respected he is within the comedy community.
http://www.manhattancomedyschool.com/talent-shows/
This time he produced a comedy seminar open to the public, to anyone with an interest in comedy. I came by to “support”, and was not surprised to see a packed room, and I think the main room at Gotham holds over 300 people. I also saw lots of comedians I knew. The moderator was Gotham owner Chris Mazzilli, who I like to call “The Classiest Guy In Comedy.” Chris has been known to wear a suit and tie to the beach! (JK, … LOL)

Chris Mazzilli and Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV at a charity event at Gotham Comedy Club!

Also on the distinguished panel was JoAnn Grigioni, the talent executive from Comedy Central, who I had just seen earlier that day at Amy Schumer’s taping for her new Comedy Central pilot, Conan Smith former agent and now an executive at Apostle Entertainment which is Dennis Leary’s production company, and loved and respected comic Ted Alexandro.

(L-R_ The distinguished panel of Ted Alexandro, Conan Smith, JoAnn Grigioni, and Chris Mazzilli for Andy Engel’s comedy seminar at Gotham!

It was a question and answer session and people got the opportunity to ask whatever they wanted. Questions ranged from how to behave on the road, to how much money you could expect to make as a comic starting out! Ted said he doesn’t think he got paid anything at all the first three years he was performing.

Apostle’s Conan Smith giving a thoughtful answer during the seminar at Gotham Comedy Club!

Comedy Central’s JoAnn Grigioni and Gotham’s Chris Mazzilli listening to Ted Alexandro make a point!

They all agreed that you don’t go into comedy for the money, but that money follows success. Talent finds a home and if you’ve got it, eventually someone’s bound to see it!

Everyone’s answers were honest and insightful. It was a great panel covering all aspects of the comedy world.

I think the seminar was a great idea, people learned a lot and really enjoyed it, and I have a feeling that there will be more of them! Are you listening Andy??? (LOL)

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Sebastian Maniscalco With Sold Out Show at Gotham

The packed room that came to see Sebastian Maniscalco last night at Gotham Comedy Club got an extra little treat, a surprise performance by Jim Gaffigan. After MC Buddy Fitzpatrick’s great warming up of the crowd, which is a rare talent as anyone who’s ever had to warm up a cold crowd can attest to, Jim came on and killed it for ten minutes.

Sebastian Maniscalco destroying the audience on stage at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

I’ll never forget when I interviewed Jim for my book, he told me he suffered with severe stage fright for the first six years of his career. You’d certainly never know it and I think of that a lot before I go on stage when I’m feeling a little anxious! You never know what you say to someone that resonates with them and has an affect on their lives.

Jim’s favorite topic seems to revolve around food, and he did a lot of material about McDonalds. Like about how good McDonald’s fries are, but if you try and reheat them in the microwave they become packing peanuts! He even comments on that one loose fry it’s so exciting to find at the bottom of the bag. He calls it “the bonus fry!” It’s always long and you find yourself wondering, ” How did I miss you?”

(L-R) Sebastian Maniscalco, Jim Gaffigan and Gotham owner Chris Mazzilli at Gotham Comedy Club!

He commented on hotels providing stationery, because like me, the moment he checks into a hotel the first thing he likes to do is write a letter!

Next up was Rajiv Satyal, an Indian comic from LA. Russell Peters gave a lot of Indian guys the courage to show they can be funny! (LOL) Rajiv talked about how different ethnicities mispronounce certain sounds in English, like the Asians with “R’s” and “L’s” and the Indians with “V’s” and “W’s”. He went into a Subway looking for a healthy sandwich and the Indian guy behind the counter offered him a “Weggie”, ( pronounced Wedgie!) I think I laughed out loud at that one! Great visual of a guy behind the counter grabbing a customer by the underwear!

Rajiv Satyal on stage at Gotham proving more than one Indian guy can be funny!

Then Sebastian took the stage. The first time I met him was on the Kandy Kruise from LA to Mexico. Five hundred guys and 1500 girls all from Maxim, Playboy and Penthouse. It was sick. and he was one of the “Playboy comics”. Just to get people just to show up for the show at all was a big accomplishment when there’s that many gorgeous girls to look at!

I saw him again this past July in Montreal when he was on Russell Peters’ show “Best of the Fest”, which Russell described as just another night of comedy in LA! (LOL) We were hanging out backstage after the show, where I took the photo below.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Sebastian Maniscalco backstage with Russell Peters in Montreal!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage with Russell Peters at his show in Montreal, “Best of the Fest”!

The thing about Sebastian is that he makes comedy “hip”! Some comics play off their “lameness”, but Sebastian is cool. He slips into his Jersey Shore Italian voice, when he’s talking about the dancing and meeting girls on the club scene, and almost becomes Vinnie Barbarino, for those of you who remember John Travolta in those days. he’s so relaxed, and very physical which I never expect him to be. He dances around and often acts out his material, which is great! Most of the time, I stand there like I’m nailed to the stage! (LOL)

He started out talking about Customer Service at the airport, and how the people who work there look upset that you even showed up to fly. And what if your bag happens to be four pounds over the weight limit? They make you take four pounds of clothing out? And where are you supposed to put it? In your carry-on! It’s still going on the plane!!!

That actually happened to me, but it was about ten pounds I had to take out. Unlike most people, I don’t often travel with a clothing scale, so I’m guessing on the weight of each thing while people are walking by and I’m frantically grabbing things out of my bag and mentally weighing them! Trust me, it’s only funny afterwards!

He’s always busy, so he wonders about these people that have the time to demonstrate in the street, or to show up every day to follow a trial like the Michael Jackson trial. ” Whatta youse people do when there’s no trial? You got nothin’ else to do?

He even talks about “kids these days” without sounding like a comic from the Ed Sullivan days. If his father took him and his family out to eat there was no such thing as saying you didn’t like the food. “Chicken and broccoli? One look from his father and he’d be like, ” Don’t worry, I’ll get it down.” These days kids complain they don’t like the menu, and a Mom might say something like, “Timmy, is that a good choice?”

But when he talked about his Dad not being too tech savvy and he was trying to guide him onto the internet over the phone, that was hysterical! Especially when his Dad asked what to do with the foot pedal! He had put the mouse on the floor trying to work it with his foot! Sebastian had to tell him, ” It’s not a sewing machine Dad, it’s a computer!”

I hope I get to see him again soon! He was really great!

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Tony Rock Headlines Gotham- New Host of Jamie Foxx’s Showtime at The Apollo

When I found out that Tony Rock was going to be headlining at Gotham Comedy Club I knew it was one show I wasn’t going to miss. Tony is not only hysterically funny, but he’s a great guy who deserves all the accolades he’s currently receiving.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage at Gotham with Tony Rock!

I’ve known him for quite a while now, but I really got to know him when I interviewed him for the book on the 35 year history of The Comic Strip. That’s really where he got his start. July 27th 1998 is the day that he and his cousin Sherrod Small passed their auditions at The Comic Strip. And according to Tony, they were so happy they “hugged each other and cried on the corner like two little girls!” (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV getting some love from Chuck Nice(L) and Sherrod Small! Classic!!!!

Last year he was the featured guest on a huge show I co-produced as a benefit for Haiti starring comedy superstar Kevin Hart, with Wil Slvince as the MC. It was a sold out 3000 seat event, and Tony killed it!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Kevin Hart at a promo for their show at Westbury Theatre!

(L-R) Jordan Rock, Jeffrey Gurian, Tony Rock, Richie Tienken and Sherrod Small doing his best Gary Coleman impression in front!

In the exclusive video interview below, Tony tells me how it came to be that he’s the new host of Jamie Foxx’s updated “Live At The Apollo”. That’s gonna be AMAZING, and you will definitely find me hanging out on 125th Street when that goes down!

So this night at Gotham, Buddy Fitzpatrick was the always reliable host. He’s just really funny and a crowd pleaser! Next up was Jordan Rock, the baby of the family who I’ve seen really come along in the last couple of years. It was his 4th anniversary of performing stand-up, and Jordan and I alternate as late night hosts at The Comic Strip on 81st and 2nd, the club where his brother Chris, … who they call Chrissy, … got his start back in 1986. Jordan had a regular spot and he did really well. It’s so cool to see him hanging out with his brother. It must be really exciting for Tony to see Jordan moving up in the ranks.

Jordan Rock, next in line after Chris and Tony, doing major damage onstage at Gotham!

The very funny Corey Kahaney was next and had some good advice for the crowd. She said if you’re divorced you should never badmouth your ex to the kids. Cause then you ruin the day when they find out for themselves!

Then Tony took the stage and knocked it out of the proverbial park. Almost every line was a killer. I particularly liked when he was giving the example of a conversation with his friend who had smoked too much weed. ” If you were invisible, which ex-girlfriend’s house would you rob?” The answer was, ” That’s deep! Cause technically you is invisible but the shit you steal ain’t! So now you just got a TV floatin’ down the street! That’s how I got caught last time! “

Tony Rock holding it down onstage at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

And then he does a take on why Black women should not work in Customer Service, and he imitates the “angry Black woman” who he hopes he never gets when he calls for assistance! It literally brings the crowd to it’s knees, cause unfortunately, we’ve all had to deal with that woman!

He does a lot of hysterical Black/White comparisons, like a Black vs. White McDonalds, and a Black vs. White Church, but what’s different about Tony’s take, and I complimented him on this, is that he does it from an honest point of view, not just from a Black perspective. He himself admits, in his jokes, that Black people are not always the winners, and neither is he! I think it’s that honesty that endears him to audiences both White and Black! ( And Asian and Indian too, I’m sure! ) LOLOL

Check out the video below! Tony, … good luck with Showtime at The Apollo! Can’t wait to be there!

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Carlos Mencia Kills It At Gotham Comedy Club

Carlos Mencia is the 17th of 18 children, believe it or not, and was born in Honduras. As an infant he was sent to the US to be raised by an aunt and uncle in the Maravilla Projects in Los Angeles,” (the city of Angels” in Espanol), but went back to Honduras as a young teenager to get away from the gang culture in his neighborhood. When he came back to the US, the school system took notice of how smart he was and automatically put him into the 10th grade, …proving that ” The Mind of Mencia” was not just the name of his hit TV show on Comedy Central from 2005 to 2008!

Carlos Mencia onstage at Gotham Comedy Club making a very pertinent point!

( I had a choice with that tag! As a comedy writer, I could have said, “the school system took notice of how smart he was and automatically put him into the 10th grade. Unfortunately he was 19 at the time!” and gotten a cheap laugh, but I like Carlos, so I didn’t do that! LOL )

Carlos started performing stand-up at The Laugh Factory and went on to become a regular at The Comedy Store, which is where I first met him. He performed there every night and drew quite a following. There was always a buzz about Mencia.

The “fluffy” Carlos Mencia I knew when I first met him out in LA! “Fluffy” being Gabriel Iglesias’ term for slightly overweight! LOL

So when I found out he was headlining Gotham Comedy Club I made sure to attend. But he lost so much weight I almost didn’t recognize him.

The newly thin, healthier, and funnier than ever Carlos Mencia onstage at Gotham!

To address that, he comes out and right away tells the audience that he doesn’t have AIDS. One day a friend of his made a comment that he was fat! (I understand it was Gabriel Iglesias who said it, which is hysterical, on many levels!)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV and Gabriel Iglesias at a Latino Comedy Festival in LA! Gabriel is shocked by the size of Jeffrey’s big pen!

The next time they got together, Gabriel Iglesias got the bigger pen and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV got stuck with the smaller pen!

Carlos couldn’t believe it cause he never thought of himself as being overweight! Then he saw photos of himself, realized he was fat, and decided to do something about it! That’s what is known as “taking back the power!”

The man is half his size! But if he’s half his size, he’s twice as funny, with a wealth of material that most comics could only wish for.

He talks a lot about how great it is to be an American, and makes sharp racial observations like discussing why it’s a common thought that most Black people can’t swim. “Cause we used to chase them away from the pool. So ironically they became fast runners, but they never learned how to swim!”

A very thin and very funny Carlos Mencia killing it on stage at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

He also does great dialects including African, French, Spanish of course and Japanese.

But the one concept that stood out to me the most was his take on Columbus discovering America, when the Native Americans were already living here. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something like, “You can’t discover a country if people are already living there!” He envisioned a guy from Mexico jumping the border and when he was stopped by border guards and told he was entering a sovereign country, would plant a flag and say, ” I am discovering this country for my people!” That’s comedic genius!

And that’s why the show was sold out!

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Steven Wright, Tom Papa, Judah Friedlander Star In Laugh For Sight at Gotham Comedy Club

Chris Mazzilli is a special kind of guy and a very charitable man. I don’t think it’s any accident that there are so many charitable events at Gotham Comedy Club. Laugh for Sight is a national charity which raises awareness and funding for Retinal Degenerative Eye Disease Research benefitting the Scheie Institute at the University of Pennyslyvania.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Gotham owner Chris Mazzilli at Laugh for Sight!

It was a very eclectic mix of performers at this packed event, with the always funny Dan Naturman as MC. Dan has a unique style and delivery all his own, which is the key to successful comedy. No one else should be able to take your jokes, if they are crafted towards your own comedy personna.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters Tv with MC Dan Naturman, at Gotham Comedy Club!

Dan says people on the internet lie about their age. He received a photo from one woman that had the Berlin wall in the background, … and it was under construction!

I also love his take-off on the TV commercial encouraging patients to ask their doctors about Previcid. In response to Dan’s Dr. telling him he has a condition that nothing can be done for, Dan asks, ” What about Previcid?” and then ponders, ” Shouldn’t HE know about Previcid? How is that MY job? “

First up was sight-impaired comic Brian Fischler and Nash, his canine companion, and Brian was very funny. Next was Jessica Kirson, a real crowd-pleaser, who is so animated, and takes impromptu breaks onstage in the middle of her act, to talk to herself, offering herself little bits of advice and encouragement like, ” You just have to realize that wheat bread is still bread!”

Jessica Kirson with Tom Papa who looks like he’s going into a swoon, waiting to perform at Gotham Comedy Club, at the benefit for “Laugh For Sight”!

Jess was followed by Tom Papa, TV and film star, and currently the host of Jerry Seinfeld’s NBC hit, The Marriage Ref. Tom says that men don’t care that much about getting married. That’s why there’s no Groom Magazine! Men don’t even wear their own clothes to get married in. They rent them.

And he opines on Wall Street guys who kill themselves after losing all their money. “They’d rather die than live like us!”

He talked about hating cliches, the way I do when during the summer, people who think they have a sense of humor ask ” Is it hot enough for you?” Those same creative geniuses can’t wait till Winter to switch to, ” Is it cold enough for you?” Those two “Bon-mots” can keep a guy with absolutely no personality going conversation-wise throughout the year!

Tom Papa killing it onstage at Gotham Comedy Club in a benefit for “Laugh For Sight!”

Tom’s example of an obnoxious cliche was, in answer to the simple question ” How are you?” ” Still about a million dollars away from being a millionnaire!”

Then Eddie Brill took the stage. Eddie is the consummate showman, and will be making his 10th appearance on Letterman very soon. Eddie also books the talent on Letterman which must have been very difficult for him trying to convince himself to put himself on! I heard he auditioned for himself several times before he agreed to let himself appear! (LOL)

A very thin Eddie Brill performing onstage at Gotham in a benefit for “Laugh For Sight!”

Actually Eddie can’t book himself. He’s too humble a guy to do that. I hear that Letterman himself is the one that requests that Eddie appears.

Judah Friedlander, star of NBC’s 30 Rock, is one of the funniest guys to come along in a long time. His “World Champion” hook is one that most comics only dream of. It’s a never-ending source of material for him. What’s cool about Judah though is that as famous and popular as he has become, he’s still totally approachable to his fans. He honors every request for photos and chats with fans after every show.

Judah Friedlander onstage at Gotham Comedy Club in a benefit for “Fight For Sight!” Judah’s look is his brand!

As World Champion of everything, Judah claims he’s been on Twitter since 1985, is an extra-dark Black belt in Karate, and weighlifts weighlifters while they’re lifting weights to keep in shape. He doesn’t even wait till they put the weights down, which he could conceivably do without anyone doubting his masculinity. But instead, he actually lifts them while they’re holding the weights which makes it much more difficult! Then again, he IS the World Champion!

Judah was standing behind where I was sitting when Steven Wright took the stage, and it was great to hear him laughing out loud at Steven’s rare and obscure observations like, ” It’s a good thing that other people speak foreign languages, otherwise those people would have no one to talk to.”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Judah Friedlander after his set at Gotham Comedy Club at a benefit for “Laugh For Sight”!

“In her spare time, she liked to waste time!” ” He majored in Calcium Anthropology – the study of milk men!” ” I have two pair of reading glasses, one for fiction and one for non-fiction!” ” The Earth is bi-polar!” ” Do you know what time it is?” “No, I’m not from around here!” ” A friend of mine has a trophy wife, but apparently it wasn’t First Place!”

I think that Steven was probably an inspiration for comics like Mitch Hedberg, and maybe even Judah. I know he was an inspiration to me, and that Chris Mazzilli, who often leaves at the end of his long day, actually stuck around to see him!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with one of his most important comedy influences Steven Wright, at Gotham Comedy Club!

Judah Friedlander at Gotham Comedy Club with Steven Wright, after Judah and everyone else enjoyed Steven’s masterful performance!

Robert Klein brilliantly closed the show and followed Steven because he was probably the only one who could!

Robert Klein closed the “Laugh for Sight” benefit at Gotham Comedy Club!

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JIMMY FALLON EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW – PART 2

Jimmy Fallon made a rare stand-up comedy appearance in NYC, at the Gotham Comedy Club on West 23rd Street. Jimmy sat down backstage with Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV in an even rarer video interview, with some great and funny stories from his past and his present. Check it out!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV does EXCLUSIVE Video interview with Jimmy Fallon!

This is Part 2!

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