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!
The comedy world is still in shock from the passing of the great Patrice O’Neal. I attended the services for Patrice yesterday at the Park Avenue Christian Church, on 85th Street and Park Avenue in New York City. I purposely did not use the word “funeral” because the program for the service was entitled “Going Home Services” for Patrice O’Neal.
Plus “funeral” is such a sad word, and as sad as it was to think of Patrice no longer being with us, the comedians who honored Patrice made it more into a “Fun-eral”! If it was possible to put the “fun” into “Funeral” they did it.
The Reverend spoke beautifully, and there were two world class singers. The first was Michael Wheeler who sang, ” I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”, and then the beautiful Antonique Smith sang ” Let It Be.” Their voices were like angels. Powerful angels! But I could almost see Patrice sneaking out, because I knew him as a humble man, (when he wasn’t on stage), and the attention, and having everything be all about him might have made him uncomfortable!
Jim Norton read the Obituary, which chronicled Patrice’s life and career, starting from when he was born in New York City and raised in Roxbury, Massachusetts, (where he led Roxbury High School to a football state championship in his senior year), to his recent first CD entitled “Mr.P”, which sadly will be released posthumously.
Patrice was a huge man in every way. At 6’5″ and 300 pounds he was a commanding presence, but not imposing when you were a friend. From the first time I met him, and told him I thought we should be roommates so we could save money and share clothing, I think he got a kick out of me! He laughed out loud at that one!
Standing side by side we couldn’t have been more different, but we were so much alike. And he knew that. And that was a Blessing to me. Patrice got me. He knew who I was, and welcomed me into his world.
Jeffrey Gurian with Patrice O’Neal at a comedy event for which Jeffrey was honored as part of Black History Month!
Whenever I saw him, I was compelled to hug him. There was just something about him, as big as he was, that just drew me to him. I can’t explain it in words, but he understood it, because when we were on the radio together and he would explain to his audience who I was, and why he had me on with him, he did it with love and affection. I told him if we ever did TV together he should walk out holding me in his arms like a baby! He laughed at that too!
(I also once told the head of the Hell’s Angels, who was about the same size as Patrice, that if anyone ever bothered him to let me know! I like doing that to really huge men. It makes them feel relaxed when they can have a good laugh!)
Many comics said he was harsh with them, or put them down in some way. I can honestly say I NEVER had that experience with Patrice. Patrice never ridiculed me, or gave me a hard time, as comics often like to do to each other. It seems to be some strange right of passage. I actually have tapes of us on air that I treasure, where Patrice said I was “amazing”, and that he was “envious” of me! I have it here, and it’s right at the beginning!
Our ideas of how to meet beautiful women couldn’t have been more opposite. I could NEVER get away with saying the things he said to women, and he could NEVER get away with saying the things I said, nor would he want to. He knew you had to be who you were. It had to come naturally from the heart! You couldn’t fake it.
That’s why to people who thought he was a misogynist, I say, you had no idea what he was about. He truly loved women. He just didn’t like what men had to go through to get them. How a woman’s power could reduce men to being such bumbling jerks!
Patrice could imitate a little girl’s voice on stage and you would see his gentle side come out. It was easy for him to expose that side of himself, because Patrice had nothing to hide. He was comfortable with who he was.
There was nothing you could say to embarrass Patrice, and there was nothing he wouldn’t say either on stage or in a personal conversation. One of my most treasured memories of Patrice is the excited phone call he made to me at 4 A.M. after one of our episodes of The Black Phillip Show on Sirius Radio. He was so happy with how it went that he wanted to call me that night, and suggest we do a show together, but he was so humble that he said he didn’t want to “assume” anything, … as if I might not want to do it! I jumped at the chance, but unfortunately it never developed. Shortly afterwards he went on the road, and like what happens with so many good ideas, it never came to fruition. Now it never will!
If you listen to it right here, you can hear the enthusiasm in his voice!
I write a lot about people in the comedy world who I’ve known over the many years I’ve been in it, and there’s a tendency when you do that to make it seem like it’s about you. How this person was to you. I wrote about ten drafts of this post trying not to do that.
I hope this post comes across as me attempting to explain how Patrice made me feel. If Patrice genuinely liked you, you felt validated. In terms of my comedy, a lot of people have no idea what I do. He took the time to find out.
In the obituary that Norton read, when he was talking about Patrice on “Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn”, he said that “many fans saw Patrice as the shows most controversial and obstinate performer, although only on the subjects of race, religion, gender, relationships, social status, and foreign policy! (LOLOLOL) Patrice was so smart. as I’ve described him before, he was not just a comedian, he was a comedy philosopher!
To some degree all comedians are comedy philosophers, giving you their world view. But Patrice was lightyears ahead in that respect. By the time he left the stage, and very often, he’d stay up there for a while, because he could pontificate, … you really felt you knew him. He made it very clear how he felt on certain subjects.
Several of Patrice’s closest friends got to give him a tribute. Robert Kelly, Wil Sylvince, Colin Quinn, Kevin Hart, and Rich Vos all spoke about the man we were there to honor.
Colin gave a heartfelt tribute, and also made us laugh, first by commenting on Robert Kelly’s opening with a fat joke about himself, and then with his stories of Patrice on Tough Crowd, how Patrice could go on for 20 minutes essentially taking over the whole show, and then say, “Sorry Colin, what do you think? After all, it’s your show!”
Robert Kelly was moved to tears during his tribute as was Kevin Hart. Wil Sylvince who had been Patrice’s roommate at one time said that Patrice spoke “Wil” and was able to translate when people didn’t understand what Wil was saying due to his speech impediment, … which I always thought was just a strong Haitian accent! (LOL)
By the time Rich Vos got up to speak, there had already been lots of laughter, which I know Patrice would have appreciated, especially when Vos told the crowd he’d be selling his CD after the service! I’m sure everyone there had a favorite Patrice story. I’m grateful that I get to give my tribute here!
Then Patrice’s beautiful stepdaughter Aymilyon got up to speak, read a prayer and talked about how “Mr. P.” which is what she called him, had added so much to her life in the seven years he was with her Mom Von. Von is Vondecarlo Brown, Patrice’s wife, and a talented singer/songwriter as well who wrote the song “Cool Ride” for Patrice’s recent one hour Comedy Central special “Elephant In The Room”. It was at that taping that Patrice brought me backstage to introduce me to his Mom, Gloria. You feel proud when someone does that.
It’s like dating someone and they decide it’s time for you to meet their parents! It’s an honor.
I got to the chapel an hour early hoping to see Von so I could express my personal condolences. I hadn’t seen her for a while, but she if anyone, knew what Patrice and I meant to each other. She was in a back room closed off for family so I just made sure I got a good seat and waited for the service to start along with everyone else. So many people came out to honor Patrice. Chris Rock was there, Dave Attell, Bill Burr, Gary Gulman, Ben Bailey, Jay Oakerson, Todd Barry, Keith Robinson, Wanda Sykes, and many more. Several people called and texted me that they were so sorry they were out of town. Macio was in Florida and Wayne Rada was very upset that his plane was delayed coming from Florida, and that he missed it. He and Patrice had a lot of history.
I was sitting on an aisle with Sherrod Small and his girlfriend Marisa. As the family procession came down the center aisle, I saw Von and was nervous to try and get her attention, because those kinds of situations can be very awkward. But as she passed me, she looked into my eyes and I threw her a kiss and touched my heart, and she got it.
After the service when everyone was leaving, I went into the back and was able to see her for a moment. We embraced, and I was able to tell her how sorry I was for her loss. She knew how much I loved Patrice, and as I tried to explain the bond we had, she said she knew, and that made me feel good. Even with his passing, it was important for me to know that Patrice felt the same way about me! And in the midst of her sadness, she did me the kindness of saying, “I was happy to see your face when I was walking down the aisle.” I can’t tell you how that made me feel. Just writing this brings tears to my eyes!
R.I.P. Patrice! You were a one-of-a-kind, and much loved!
Jeffrey Gurian in his last photo with Patrice O’Neal taken at The Comic Strip on 9/27/11!
P.S. As a sick perfectionist, more than once I asked Patrice the proper way to spell his last name, either with an apostrophe or without, and he told me whichever way I wanted was ok, which I never really understood. On the program it was spelled with an apostrophe!
Everybody loves Paul Provenza, … especially comedians. That’s why Showtime picked up his show The Green Room for a second season. It debuted on Thursday, July 14th, at 11 P.M. while I was still out in LA, performing at Jamie Masada’s Laugh Factory with Kevin Nealon, and Budd Friedman’s Improv on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, plus interviewing both Billy Crystal and Russell Peters. I sure hope I didn’t miss any Green Room premiere party, ’cause I hate when that happens! ( I actually went to a party once and had a good time! LOL)
Check out all the cool comedy names on Paul Provenza's Green Room poster!
Jeffrey Gurian with Paul Provenza in the lobby of The Core Club, for The Green Room.
( I often wonder if I didn’t write the “LOL” if people would know I was kidding! I was born at a party and have been going to them ever since!)
Anyway, Paul made the iconic movie The Aristocrats. He directed the well over 100 comics who performed in that movie, which Penn Jillette produced, and I actually went with Paul when it debuted at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal where Paul and I will be going again next week. The Just for Laughs Festival is the biggest comedy festival in the world. I heard that Andy Nulman who ran it so well for many years, and then went on to direct the huge celeb galas, is back running it again this year! Hey Andy, … see you next week!
Jeffrey Gurian being kissed by Paul Provenza while Jamie Kilstein leans on Jeffrey Gurian, and looks on longingly!
Paul is producing The Green Room with producer Barbara Romen and I remember being there with them when they first introduced it in Montreal, where almost everything big in comedy happens. Barbara honored me by saying she feels like I’m one of The Green Room family, since I’ve been there from the beginning. ( you will see this in the attached video, in case you think I’m exaggerating! LOL )
Jeffrey Gurian holding Paul Provenza's book Satiristas, while Paul is holding Jeffrey's book, "Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive" for which he wrote the foreward!
Paul recently wrote the book Satiristas, in which he also brought in a huge number of big comedy stars to be interviewed. There’s something special about Paul that allows him to get all these huge names to participate in his projects, because they’re not just sitting around waiting for people to ask them to be part of something, which they graciously do for Paul, very often for no compensation. They have to actually like you more than just a little to do that, and with Paul they like him a lot. That’s why when he says the same thing about ME, and gives me props for getting so many big stars to be in my column, it’s very meaningful to me. Someday I hope Paul and I can do a project together.
We first met many years ago on a radio show that Jackie Mason was hosting, when I believe Jackie was filling in for Bob Grant. We were both guests, and Paul and I got along famously. Then one night during a performance of a show he was starring in called “Only Kidding”, he accidentally chipped his front tooth on stage, and some comedian friends suggested he call me! When he asked what good it would do to call a comedy writer, to have his tooth fixed, they explained about my other career as a Cosmetic Dentist. I fixed him up right way and he was back on stage that night. We’ve been friends ever since!
Sylvia Ogonaga, Paul Provenza and Jeffrey Gurian at The Core Club for Paul's debut of The Green Room!
So when I heard that Paul was debuting Season 2 at the prestigious Core Club, ( right across the street from the famous Friars Club) in Manhattan, I actually postponed my departure for LA for one day so I could attend. I brought Ecuadorian model/actress Sylvia Ogonaga with me, … mostly because I could! (LOL) With him that night besides co-producer Barbara Romen was Robin Bronk of The Creative Coalition which was the sponsor of the event, and comics Lisa Lampanelli, Rain Pryor, ( Richard’s daughter), Billy Connolly, and Jamie Kilstein.
(L-R) Robin Bronk, Lisa Lampanelli, Paul Provenza, Rain Pryor, Billy Connolly, and Jamie Kilstein
Lisa Lampanelli came in looking so great. She’s a shadow of her former self, and I guess that’s what success and a happy marriage does for you. I see her husband Jimmy BB ( AKA Jimmy Big Balls), a lot at Gotham Comedy Club, where he makes sure nobody gets out of line. Nobody sane would mess with Jimmy. He’s basically a building with clothing! ( I heard he’s going co-op, but that might just be a rumour! )
Jeffrey Gurian interviewing the amazing Lisa Lampanelli at the debut of The Green Room at The Core Club!
Lisa is always a delight to interview as you’ll see in the video below. It’s a nice feeling when you know someone before they made it big and then watch them enjoy the fruits of their labor and still stay grounded like Lisa. She’s one of the most popular acts around, but still acts nice to people! It doesn’t always go down that way!
It was exciting for me to meet Rain Pryor, Richard’s daughter who came with her brother Richard Jr. who I hadn’t seen in a long time. I actually sponsored Richard Jr. into The Friars Club and took a photo of him standing under a portrait of his Dad, which hangs in one of the spectacular meeting rooms of The Friars Club. Rain was one of the participants in the panel that Paul was leading in a Q&A after the screening.
Surrounded by Pryors! Richard Pryor Jr., Jeffrey Gurian, and Rain Pryor at The Core Club for The Green Room!
The first episode featured such notables as Judd Apatow, who basically owns Hollywood, and is a difficult “get”, Gary Shandling who will be receiving a lifetime achievement award in Montreal this year, Greg Proops, Kathy Griffin, Marc Maron, and Dana Gould, all led in conversation by Paul. It’s totally unscripted, and very loose, and you never know what will happen when you bring minds like that together. Paul makes them all comfortable enough for them to just let it roll, and it’s funny, and entertaining, and it works!
Screen shot of Kathy Griffin and Dana Gould from an episode of The Green Room!
Other stars who’ve appeared are Janeane Garofalo, Lewis Black, Ray Romano, Rick Overton, Joe Rogan, Margaret Cho, John Corbett, Dave Attell, Franklyn Ajaye, Rick Shapiro, Doug Stanhope (and Bingo), Jim Jefferies, Kelly Carlin, Glenn Wool, Matt Kirshen, Kumail Nanjiani, Eddie Ifft, Randy Credico, Kathleen Madigan, and Tommy Chong.
Paul will be shooting at least two episodes of The Green Room in Montreal next week, and he’s threatening to let me be part of one! If I’m not careful I’m liable to be successful, so I better watch out!!!
And YOU better watch this cool, fun video of the premiere of Season 2 of The Green Room held at The Core Club in Manhattan, thanks to their Director of Business Development and Cultural Curator, Pablo DeRitis, who made sure that everyone was comfortable and had a good time !
P.S. Yesterday was Lisa Lampanelli’s birthday, so send her a birthday Tweet at @lisalampanelli, and tell her it’s from both of us! Okay, okay, … here’s the video already!
Last night I was at a show produced by Scott Kluge for the Birthright Israel Foundation, a wonderful educational program that sends young Jewish adults on all expense paid trips to Israel, to diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world, and to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry.
(L-R) Ray Ellin, Scott Kluge, and Dan Naturman backstage at The Hudson Theatre.
Gilbert read the story of Purim putting in his own hilarious facts like Nebuchadnezzar not being able to get online, and change his status on his Facebook page. In between he would introduce the next act, and then go back to his readings. It looked like he was reading from The Torah.
Gilbert, in his best red shirt, looking like he was reading out of The Torah, onstage at The Hudson Theatre.
Dave Attell came out looking like a Russian peddler from the early 20th century, which is a look he pulls off well. He was his usual hysterical self, and had lots of Jewish humor. I wasn’t taking notes as I usually do but I believe when talking about brisket he said, ” I don’t think any kind of meat should be wetter than the front row of seats at a Justin Bieber concert.”
Dave Attell looking like he was auditioning for a part in Fiddler On The Roof
And then it got raunchier and the audience loved it!
In the all-star Broadway cast was Mitchell Jarvis, Nick Adams from the brand new Priscilla Queen of the Desert, (which I almost wrote as “Queen of the Dessert”, … which could be about Lisa Lampanelli before she lost all the weight!); Curtis Holbrook from West Side Story, Kelli Barrett from Baby It’s You, Garrett Long from South Pacific, Rachel Potter from The Addams Family, and my good friend, the beautiful and talented J.Elaine Marcos, also from the show opening next Sunday, Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
J.Elaine as she started out her number fully dressed!
J.Elaine came out on stage and did a number that was so sexy and adorable. She sang in an accent, and danced around while taking off her clothes to the delight of the audience. First her sweater, then her blouse, and just as she reached behind her to unclasp her bra, … the lights went out!
J.Elaine beginning to disrobe on stage during her number!
J. Elaine just about to undo the clasp of her pretty pink bra!
J. Elaine and I had met years before in a comedy class and she has always been very funny. Sexy and funny is a difficult mix but she manages to pull it off. She’s also been in in Chorus Line,(which I saw and she was fantastic), The Wedding Singer, Sweet Charity, and Flower Drum Song, among others.
J.Elaine Marcos and Jeffrey Gurian both completely dressed backstage after the show!
She was as shocked to see me backstage as I was to see her onstage!
J. Elaine handling "the big pen" with great dexterity and ease!
Anyway, I’m sitting enjoying the show when all of a sudden I get a text from my fabulous PR team Goldman-McCormick asking me if I could do a radio spot at 10:07 about Gilbert Gottfried being let go as the voice of the AFLAC duck, for what they felt were insensitive Tweets made regarding the devastation in Japan.
I was like,” I’m here with him now.” Basically that can’t even happen! What are the odds that someone would want to talk to you about someone you were with at the moment?
When the show ended I went backstage to see Gilbert, which I would have done anyway,because he has always been my favorite comedian, and he knows that.
I’ve been telling him that for years. He was with his wife Dara, and I had just seen them last week at the taping of the Donald Trump Roast airing tonight at 10:30 on Comedy Central, btw!
I asked him if he wanted to come on the radio with me, but he told me that I could speak about it for him. I could tell he felt badly about what happened. Gilbert doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He might not offer to buy you a drink, but he would never purposely hurt anyone.
People who love Gilbert know what he does. Not only does he push the envelope, he tears it to shreds. Look at his performance in The Aristocrats. When Gilbert goes off the deep end, nobody can go any deeper.
Comedians see the world in a different way than most people. That’s what allows them to see the humor that other people overlook.
Unless you’re there to see if for yourself, no one can possibly grasp the horror of a cataclysmic event like the one that happened in Japan. You can’t really wrap your mind around it. It’s too big.
Plus, people don’t have the capacity to feel other people’s pain. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time. We would probably be incapacitated, and catatonic if we felt what other people were feeling.
It might also make for a kinder world, if people knew how their words affected others. Children can be very cruel as we all remember from our early days in school. They think it’s fun to single out one person and make their life utterly miserable. I know I did it too, and I cringe today when I think about it.
Comics are very often extremely socially awkward and not well versed in social graces. They’re the first to admit that they were the guys, ( and girls!), who didn’t exactly fit in in high school. Many were self-described nerds. They used comedy to survive, and so their personalities only exist on stage. Off stage they’re often very quiet, and even very shy, which is hard to believe when you see how animated and funny they are on stage.
They learn to say anything to get a laugh and often at other people’s expense. Shock value is getting harder to find because it’s all been said and done already.
Anyway, as of the time of the writing of this entry, I’ve already done two big radio shows about this today with two more scheduled. I did the Bob Dutko Show on WMUZ coming out of Detroit, which is a Christian Radio station, and that was lots of fun.
The Bob Dutko Show WMUZ out of Detroit! Really fun show to do!!!
Until I told the producer Jan Foxx, that her last name was like a porn star! (LOL) When I realized that I had just said that to someone on Christian radio I felt very badly, and corrected myself. I said Foxx with 2 “X’s” is like a rock star, like Nikki Sixx. Foxxx with 3 “X’s” would be like a porn star! She said I was very funny! Thank G-d! (LOL)
The Big 810 show with Ed Tyll out of Orlando, Florida. Ed's a great host!
Then I did The Big 810 out of Orlando, Florida with Ed Tyll, on WEUS, and we spoke for quite a while on the mindset of comics and how they think. Also, AFLAC has a tremendous business in Japan and for that reason alone could not take a chance and alienate anyone, despite the fact of how much they like Gilbert.
Gilbert has been open about his apologies and has posted them on Twitter, like the ones below.
“I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families.”6 hours ago · reply
“I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my attempt at humor regarding the tragedy in Japan.”6 hours ago · reply
So all in all it was a busy day, and I’m learning to like this blogging thing. People have been telling me for years that I should be blogging, but I didn’t get the significance of it till last week! Now I can’t stop. It’s addicting!!!
Let me know your thoughts on the Gilbert/AFLAC Tsunami thing. Curious to hear your take on it.