Posts Tagged “Comedy Cellar”

The King of Staten Island Rocks

PETE DAVIDSON/SCOTT CARLIN WITH HIS BOYS MOISES ARIAS, RICKY VELEZ AND LOU WILSON ON STATEN ISLAND

People who know me know I don’t do “review” reviews. I write about my experience seeing a show, or a film or any type of creative performance. I write about how it made me feel, and what the characters did. And if I don’t like it I don’t write about it at all.

WITH PETE DAVIDSON THE STAR OF KING OF STATEN ISLAND

Fortunately that’s not the case with The King of Staten Island because it would have been very difficult for me to ignore this project. It’s literally packed with comedian friends and people I know for a really long time.

Kudos first of all to director Judd Apatow, for bringing this amazing cast together, and creating cinematic magic. He produced, directed and co-wrote the script with Pete, and former SNL writer Dave Sirus who all did an amazing job telling this poignant story. When I spoke to Dave he said the experience working with Judd was surreal, and opening day was “a very weird day”, … in a good way!

WITH THE KING OF HOLLYWOOD COMEDY JUDD APATOW

Just to name the comedy people first, it’s Pete Davidson, Bill Burr, Ricky Velez, Lynn Koplitz, Derek Gaines, Keith Robinson, Pamela Adlon, Rich Vos and Bonnie Macfarlane, Liza Treyger, Mike Vecchione, Carly Aquilino, and Jessica Kirson.

 
I’m particularly happy for Pete Davidson, because I think he had a lot riding on this film personally. So many people including me were waiting excitedly for it to come out, and it would have been devastating if it had not turned out as well as it did. 

Pete gets so much press about so many different things, from all different angles, but he should be very proud of this project, which is loosely based on his own life.

And Judd must have been so proud that his daughter Maude was so great in the film playing Pete’s sister, who loves Pete/Scott in spite of himself.
I called Dave to congratulate him and he said it was a really crazy, “weird” day for him. I can only imagine. 

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film where I had a connection to so many people and even to a location in the film. I can’t do any spoilers so I’m going to keep this article limited mostly to the talent and the parts they played.

Pete, who stars in the film as Scott Carlin, and co-wrote it with Judd and Dave, plays a 24 year old Staten Island stoner who doesn’t have much direction, thanks to the confusion caused by his severe A.D.D.

He does have a dream though and that is to someday open a tattoo restaurant, which would be the first of it’s kind. Until that either happened or didn’t happen, he’d be just as comfortable hanging out in his basement with a few friends getting stoned.

He’s torn up about the death of his fireman Dad when he was only 7, but isn’t really in touch with that as the cause of his inner turmoil and emotional pain.

I happen to know Pete since he was about 17. He used to do my late night show at The Comic Strip. He’d come in late at night with Jordan Rock and was really shy and really funny. I had a feeling he was gonna do big things, but nobody could guess at the time where he would go, and the heights he would reach.

PETE DAVIDSON WITH JORDAN ROCK BACK IN 2011
WITH PETE DAVIDSON WHEN HE WAS 17

I shared the excitement with him when Nick Cannon took him under his wing and brought him out on the road, and Pete used to tell me how amazing it was being with Nick and Mariah.

And then some years later we shot some fun video interviews up in Montreal, when he was asked to perform at the Just for Laughs Festival two years in a row. I remember how excited he was about being up there.

Then one night at Gotham Comedy Club, where he performed pretty often, he introduced me to his girlfriend at the time, super funny comedian Carly Aquilino, and told her she could tell me anything because I was someone who could be trusted. That was very cool.

Carly also has a part in the movie as Tara, and I almost didn’t recognize her with her super blonde hair which has been many other colors including pink!

WITH CARLY AQUILINO OUTSIDE OF A COMEDY CLUB IN NYC

The last time I saw Pete was with Bill Burr when he and Bill produced Paul Virzi’s special and I drove up to watch the taping and hang out backstage with those guys.

Bill Burr, who is so great in this part, plays a fireman named Ray with a big caterpiller moustache, who winds up dating Pete’s Mom Margie, in the film played by my old friend, the incredibly talented Marisa Tomei.

WITH ACADEMY AWARD WINNER MARISA TOMEI

In 1995 I was working with the Audrey Hepburn Foundation and went to the first year of the Aspen Comedy Festival representing the foundation, whose goal was to help poor children all over the world. I knew Marisa from the Naked Angels theatre troupe, as she was one of the founding members, and I used to go every week as one of the writers whose work they’d read.

When I got back from Aspen the Hepburn foundation had a big event at Planet Hollywood and I asked Marisa to come and make a special appearance which she did as a favor. She had already won the Oscar for her performance in My Cousin Vinny, so it was a really big thing. And Bill Burr gets to kiss her in this film! #sojealous

BILL BURR WITH HIS BIG MOUSTACHE AND MARISA TOMEI

So many people had fun parts. Ricky Velez who’s one of Pete’s best friends in real life plays a best friend in the film as well, and is absolutely superb. He even gets to wear his favorite clothes, which is usually just jeans and a hoodie. He has a very big and important part in terms of what happens to him and to Pete/Scott during the film.

RICKY VELEZ JUST CHILLIN’ ON STATEN ISLAND

Derek Gaines from The Last O.G. plays a waiter in the Staten Island restaurant where Pete gets a job, and Derek is also a close friend and an old roommate of Pete’s. They actually lived together in real life and when I called him right after I saw the film to congratulate him he told me he was “so glad to work with a cast that knew how to play the line of comedy and drama together. Pete and Judd are a power collaboration that I’m so glad to be a part of.”

He went on to say ” Pete is my friend, we sorta grew up together in comedy. He was my roommate for Christ’s sake … I’m glad we stayed cool and he called me to do the part, .. and in the words of Lil Wayne, … it all worked out! (Tha Carter 5).”  In the film he even gets to show off his pop-and-lock skills!

WITH DEREK GAINES WHEN HE WAS MY GUEST ON SIRIUS XM RADIO

Keith Robinson has a funny scene playing a security guard, and Pamela Adlon who has a big part plays Bill Burr’s ex-wife, and the mother of their two adorable kids. Rich Vos and Bonnie Macfarlane have a cool scene in an Italian restaurant called Denino’s which happens to be owned by my dear friend Joe McBratney’s brother, Jimmy McBratney, and where I’ve actually eaten. Great food by the way!

WITH PAMELA ADLON STAR OF BETTER THINGS AT THE FRIARS CLUB

Lynne Koplitz has a very fun part and gets to let out her “inner Lynn” by playing a wise-cracking nurse and best friend to Marisa Tomei. All these people had a chance to act with Marisa Tomei! Amazing.

WITH LYNNE KOPLITZ BACKSTAGE AT SOME SHOW SOMEWHERE

And when I asked Lynne about working with Marisa she said, “ she was great to work with and needless to say so professional. It was very surreal at first being that it was my first role in a full length movie and there I was at rehearsal with this fantastic Oscar winning beauty, but she was very friendly and the entire environment of the movie was very family like which enabled me to get comfortable quickly.”

LYNNE KOPLITZ AND MARISA TOMEIE

She went on to say, “ I honestly can’t say enough nice things about working on this film. I adore Pete and always have and Ricky and Dave are just so generous, and fun and creative. And Judd, … well he just sets this confident and easy going collaborative tone that’s really great to work with.” Sounds like she liked it!

Liza Treyger plays a waitress in that same Italian restaurant where Pete’s character gets a job, Mike Vecchione doesn’t play a cop for which he’s so well suited, but he plays a fireman also with a moustache, and Jessica Kirson plays the owner of a pharmacy who has a very unusual interaction with Ricky Velez and his boys.

WITH STEVE BUSCEMI AT A FILM EVENT

And Steve Buscemi who has done some comedy parts in the past, like on Jim Gaffigan’s show, (where I accidentally walked onto the set while they were filming to say hello to Jim and ruined the take), plays a senior fireman as well, and adds his great talent to the already amazing cast.

But seeing Ray romance Margie stirred an emotional note with me because of all things, my parents were named Margie and Ray. That can’t even happen. When I told Bill Burr about it he said, “ What are the odds of that?” I was like “Basically zero.” And he also said he was glad I liked the film because he had a lot of fun doing it.

The film was very emotional in several spots, and ran the entire gamut of feelings. Some very funny parts and some very touching parts where Pete and I both had tears welling up in our eyes. Pete really showed that he had quite a range. He’s basically in every scene and it was very special to see him be so good and so believable in his role.

And I must give a special shout out to English actress Bel Powley who played Pete’s childhood friend and occasional hook-up in the film. She was just so good in her part as Kelsey, and she learned the Staten Island accent as if it was her own.

I read one review of the film where the writer used such big words and flowery expressions I couldn’t tell whether she liked it or not. I don’t even know how to write that way. I just write it simply the way I see it.

This is definitely a film you should see and I’m sure it will do great things for everyone who was involved in it. I sure wish I had been! (LOL)

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Come to Papa at The Village Underground

Making a purposeful effort to make a home for myself at The Comedy Cellar, the legendary club owned by Noam Dworman and frequented by every major comedy star who hits New York, I went down on a Tuesday to catch their weekly podcast, “Live From The Table”, which this week featured the always hysterical Kurt Metzger and Dan Naturman. I was a guest a few weeks ago and had a blast!

The welcoming sign of “The Comedy Cellar” on MacDougal Street in NYC!

The logo from “Live From The Table” the weekly Comedy Cellar podcast!

Sitting at the bar chatting with Marina Franklin, we were soon joined by Tom (The Marriage Ref) Papa who invited me to stop by his monthly Sirius XM radio show which started right after the podcast at the Comedy Cellar’s other space, The Village Underground, conveniently located literally right around the corner.

“Come to Papa” poster at The Village Underground for Tom’s Sirius XM radio show!

Sexy fairy Marina Franklin onstage at The Village Underground for Tom Papa’s “Come to Papa” on Sirius XM radio!

What a beautiful space! A really nicely appointed room with lots of tables, dim lighting, big screen TV’s to be able to see well from all over the room, and for the last month or so, comedy as well. Tom hosts a show appropriately called “Come To Papa” which is kind of a throwback to something I had never really seen but only heard of, “scripted radio.” Before TV was invented in this country and even afterwards when people started to buy them thanks to Mr. Television himself, the legendary Milton Berle, most people listened to scripted radio shows for entertainment.

Tom Papa on one of the big screen viewers at The Village Underground, making it easy for everyone to see the show!

It’s hard to believe there was actually a time before TV, but when Milton Berle had his Texaco Star Theatre, people would gather in the streets to watch TV through the store windows of appliance stores selling TV’s, and thanks to the popularity of his show, so many TV’s were sold that that’s how he got the nick-name “Mr. Television.”

I had the honor of being sponsored in The Friars Club by Milton Berle who I also had the honor of writing jokes for, and who I considered a friend.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV in LA, with his friend and sponsor in The Friars Club, the legendary Milton Berle, circa 1984!

Before TV, in the 1930’s and 40’s, families would huddle around the radio to hear their favorite shows, and their favorite comedians like Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Victor Borge, Fanny Brice, Jimmy Durante, Phil Harris, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Red Skelton and Ed Wynn.

They also got to hear shows like Abbott and Costello, Amos ‘n’ Andy, Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Goldbergs, The Great Gildersleeve, and Our Miss Brooks, which I know went on to become a TV show in the 1950’s.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with comedy icon George Burns, Catskill Mountains, circa 1983!

Radio comedy ran the gamut from small town humor like that of Herb Shriner and Minnie Pearl to the weekly “gag shows” like Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One and Can You Top This?, panel programs devoted to the art of telling jokes.

So Tom Papa had a rich history to compete with and from what I saw he’s doing it well. He was joined by comics Cynthia Koury, who doubled as the MC, Dan Soder, the same Kurt Metzger from the “Live at the Table” podcast, Rick Crom who used his deep resonant voice as the announcer, and I stayed long enough to see a mix of stand-up, and written sketches where the comics read from scripts, before I had to run and cover my next event.

Comic Cynthia Koury holding it down on the stage of The Village Underground on “Come to Papa!”

(L-R) Kurt Metzger, Dan Soder, Rick Crom, and Tom Papa onstage at The Village Underground!

The event was produced by Aaron Hodges from Sirius XM radio who was kind enough to tell me he enjoyed my performance on Kroll Show in Too Much Tuna with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV playing himself on the set of Kroll Show with Nick Kroll, and John Mulaney as the “Oh, Hello” boys. After shooting the sketch “Too Much Tuna!”

The reaction of the audience and the strength of the performances I saw makes me want to attend regularly, and I can’t wait for the next one when I can stay for the entire show! Even better, Noam himself invited me back!



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The Comedy Cellar’s Live From The Table

I had a really great experience as a guest on the Comedy Cellar podcast called “Live From The Table.” Noam Dworman the owner of The Cellar is such a kind and hospitable guy, and I’ll tell you why I say so!

The inviting look of the outside of The Comedy Cellar! Makes you wanna go in and have some laughs!

First let me tell you about The Cellar. It’s a magical place where every single big star likes to hang out and perform. On any given night you’ll see Louis CK, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Attell, Jim Gaffigan, Ray Romano, Colin Quinn, and anyone who happens to be in town from LA hanging out there or getting up to do a set. It’s not that the 150 seat room is so overpoweringly beautiful, because it literally is in a cellar, but I think it’s kind of an energy thing.

Rooms take on the energy of the people who own them and hang out in them, and I think it’s the positive energy that pervades the place that draws the big names. That and the Olive Tree Cafe that’s part of it with the VIP table in the back!

The VIP table in the back of the Olive Tree Cafe where all the stars hang out while waiting to go on! Here it’s set up for the weekly podcast on Tuesday nights!

The club at 117 MacDougal Street, was originally owned by Noam’s Dad, the beloved Manny Dworman, who opened it in 1980 as Cafe Feenjon, a coffeehouse that was a serious hang for musicians. I remember seeing that name as a kid hanging out in The Village. It always stood out to me because “Feenjon” was such an unusual name.

Manny was not only a nightclub owner, but also a talented musician who appeared as himself in the Seinfeld documentary film “Comedian” in 2002. The Cellar was renowned for its postperformance roundtable discussions with comedians in the audience about political issues, and it was these very exchanges that were the inspiration for ”Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn” on Comedy Central.

When Manny left us in 2004, Noam took over the helm of the club! And he hosts the Comedy Cellar podcast called “Live From The Table” which is done from the VIP table in the back of the club where the comics who are performing in that night’s show can be found along with the comics that just come to schmooze or hang out with their friends.

Noam had me on as a guest and made me comfortable right away. I got there early as I always do so I can just chill and be ready to go on the air. I had a bite to eat and even got to meet his beautiful little daughter Mila!

Noam Dworman, owner of The Comedy Cellar, holding his 15 month old daughter Mila, with comedy writer/comic Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV!

One of the things we were going to talk about was my book called “Make ‘Em Laugh” which is about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip, the comedy club on 81st and 2nd. Chris Rock wrote an amazing introduction to the book and I interviewed comics that started out there like Seinfeld, Chris, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Billy Crystal, and several that frequent The Cellar like Ray Romano, Jim Gaffigan, Jim Breuer, Judah Friedlander, and Colin Quinn who was a bartender at The Strip until he quit to start performing stand-up.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with old friend Colin Quinn holding Jeffrey’s book ” Make ‘Em Laugh” which he is in!

I was on the podcast with Jim Norton who I had just interviewed a few days before for my Comedy Matters TV channel, when he hosted the last show of the first season of AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live at the Gotham Comedy Club.

Promo for the Comedy Cellar podcast announcing Jeffrey Gurian as a guest, and coincidentally it’s #54 which is Jeffrey Gurian’s lucky number! He even lives on 54th Street and graduated #54 in his class!

This was Jim’s fun interview:

Then it was also Lynne Koplitz who I love, and she had also just been on that same show with Norton, and then it was Dan Naturman who I know for many years and have always enjoyed his comedy.

Noam Dworman, Lynne Koplitz, and Dan Naturman on “Live From The Table” at The Comedy Cellar!

Noam was such a gentleman to have me on to talk about another comedy club, but I liken that to a beautiful woman who’s secure enough in herself to acknowledge the beauty of another woman without feeling threatened. Noam has nothing to be threatened about. He is the owner of a truly legendary venue that the biggest stars in the business call “home” today.

Not only did he help promote my book but he himself was kind enough to buy a copy and said on the air that he really enjoyed it. That’s not a just a gentleman, it’s the definition of a “Mensch” a word you may not find in your dictionary, … unless your dictionary was printed in Tel Aviv! (LOL)

Noam began by trying to give me a compliment by telling people that they should read about me, because I had an interesting background and an interesting look, and that I looked like a star, but Dan Naturman couldn’t bear to let him finish. He couldn’t wait to interrupt with an attempt to sabotage the compliment by yelling out “No, he looks more like a 70’s style producer” or something to that effect, but I stopped him in mid sentence.

I said, ” Why do you say “No’? Why can’t you let Noam finish saying something nice about me? Why do you have to jump in and try and say something negative?” Noam immediately agreed and stated that Dan was known for being negative, and Dan backpedaled by saying that what he meant to say was that I looked like a successful producer or someone who worked behind the scenes.

That led us into a discussion of “cock-blocking”, which that was a form of, where people try and block someone else from succeeding in some way. For whatever reason they can’t bear for someone else to receive something good. It kind of became the theme of the show, as you’ll see on the promo!

Now Dan is always a nice, mild-mannered kind of guy, and I don’t even think he realized he was doing that. It’s probably just second nature for him as it is for many comics.

Guys grow up being used to cutting each other down. It’s not necessary. Every meeting doesn’t have to be a rite of passage. Guys can support each other. For a lot of comics every casual meeting turns into a Roast. It’s why a lot of guys are not comfortable hanging out with other guys. Patrice O’Neal was supposedly famous for putting other comics in their place, or making remarks about them, but he never did it to me. It’s basically high school behavior!

Patrice and I had a closer relationship, and we really “got” each other. I would go so far as to say we had mad respect for each other.

(L-R) My special girl Jacqui B., Patrice O’Neal, Jeffrey Gurian, and Dante Nero at The Black Phillip Show!

Many people still don’t know that I was his co-host on The Black Phillip Show on Sirius, along with his original co-host Dante Nero. And if he hadn’t left us when he did, so prematurely, we would have probably had our own show together. Listen to a phone call he left me one night after we did our first show together. It’s something I treasure:

Patrice-Our Own Show

Anyway, I stayed on the podcast for the whole hour and when it was over, Noam invited me back, not only to the podcast but to hang in the club more often which I totally intend to do. It’s a rare magical place and he’s a rare magical guy! I can’t wait to go back! Here’s the link to the podcast:

http://www.riotcast.com/thecomedycellar/

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