Posts Tagged Friars Club

Burma Relief Gala At The Friars Club In NYC

Jeremy Taylor is a very dedicated man and right now he’s dedicated to raising money to help ease the plight of Burmese refugee children. In that effort he produced a spectacular event at The Friars Club in NYC, a legendary private club, called “Burma Captured: In Images and Spirit” which was co-hosted by best selling author Naomi Wolf, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, and actor Esai Morales.

Jeffrey Gurian of #Comedy Matters TV at The Friars Club with Naomi Wolf at a fundraiser she co-hosted for Burmese children!

There was also a musical performance by world-renowned classical pianist Rosa Antonelli who just happens to be a good friend of mine, and has a performance coming up in November at Carnegie Hall, as well as a performance by master illusionist Oz Pearlman, another old friend of mine.

Thanks to the efforts of Jeremy Taylor, Burma Relief has developed programs addressing healthcare, education, food and shelter issues among Burmese children in Maesot, Thailand, including malaria testing and treatment, cardiac surgeries, and provision of food. They also constructed a girls’ dormitory and renovated a school.

The proceeds from this Friars Club event will be used to build dormitories for children in three camps in Maesot named Naung Po Deng, Pyan Taung and Hway Ka Loke, as well as to provide bunk beds, computers and solar panels for the dormitories, and thatched roofs for deteriorating wooden structures.

To assist this worthwhile cause you can either:

Mail a check to Burma Relief, 401 Fifth Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016.

Or you can contact Burma Relief at 212-951-7220 ext.170, or email info@burmarelief.org.

The website is www.burmarelief.org

I was able to get what I thought was a very insightful and informative interview with Naomi Wolf, some of which appears in this video, and some of which will be in a separate video simply because it deserves that! Check out the video of the event right here:

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Jeffrey Gurian’s Learning Annex Class on How To Write and Perform Comedy

I was honored by The Learning Annex, the nationally known adult education forum, by being asked to teach an online class for them on Writing and Performing Comedy!

This is the link on U-Stream! Hope you will check it out! I did two other classes for them which I will be posting as well!

These are some of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with over the years!

A rare 4-in-1 photo of me, Richard Belzer and Paul Shaffer, holding a photo of me, Richard Belzer and Paul Shaffer, holding a photo of me, Richard Belzer and Paul Shaffer, holding atill a 4th photo of me, Richard Belzer and Paul Shaffer taken by Richard Lewin at The Friars Club!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Colin Quinn on Broadway at his hit show directed by Jerry Seinfeld, “Long Story Short”!

Paul Provenza, trying to teach Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV how to do to The Aristocrats pose! It’s not going well! LOL

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with JB Smoove in Montreal at the Just For Laughs Festival!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Billy Crystal in Billy’s Beverly Hills office after the interview for the book on The Comic Strip that Jeffrey is writing!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Chris Rock at The Comic Strip after HIS interview for the book that Jeffrey is writing!

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Lisa Lampanelli Videos of Her Singing Debut At The Friars Club

I’ve been a Friar for many years. So when my good friend Lisa Lampanelli informed me that she would be making her singing debut at the club I was, … needless to say, very excited. ( It may have been needless to say, but I said it anyway! )

Jeffrey Gurian of #ComedyMattersTV with Lisa Lampanelli at The Friars Club in NY!C

So I was able to get exclusive inside footage with Lisa where we discussed everything from her upcoming Broadway show, tentatively titled “Bring Back The Fat Chick”, to people feeling left out, how she got started as an insult comic, hecklers, cruelty, why I’m not the same as most other Black comics, and all kinds of interesting things.

Lisa Lampanelli on stage at The Friars Club looking rightfully proud of her great performance!

Get to see Lisa how she really is. The video is in two parts cause it’s really too good for just one!

Part 1 –

Part 2 –

Please watch and leave a comment, and send it around to your peeps! And make sure to check out the previous post with all the Lisa Lampanelli photos at this link right here!

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Lisa Lampanelli Makes Her Singing Debut At The Friars Club In NYC

In a departure from the kind of performance she’s known for and that brought her great fame, Lisa Lampanelli is changing her tune, … literally! In preparation for a one woman show on Broadway, that she is writing with famed comedy writer Alan Zweibel, ( the very same Alan Zweibel that gave me my start in the biz! ) Lisa has been practicing her singing.

Jeffrey Gurian with Lisa Lampanelli at The Friars Club just before her singing debut!

Jeffrey Gurian with Alan Zweibel at the Friars Roast of Jerry Lewis back in 2006!

The show should be ready in the Fall of 2012, and has the working title of “Bring Back The Fat Chick”, which is a reference to a great story as to how she got started doing insult comedy. She did a set at a show and the set went great. The next comic didn’t do so well and some guy in the audience yelled out, “Bring back the fat chick”, probably thinking in his mindless stupidity that he was offering up a compliment!

All Lisa heard was “fat chick” and it got her so annoyed she went home and wrote ” 15 pages of jokes insults and retorts to hecklers!” After that she became an insult comic. She says she’s grateful to that guy to this day, but hopes he’s dead anyway! (LOL) Lisa Lampanelli can say ANYTHING and get away with it. Very few people have that gift! It’s cause she has a beautiful heart and comes from a good place and people can tell the difference!

At a Friars event in her honor that I attended, along with her parents, she referred to her Mom as the “C” word, and her Dad as “an old deaf bastard!” To their credit, both of her parents were hysterical laughing.

Lisa Lampanelli flanked by her parents at an event at The Friars Club in her honor!

So for her singing debut, she did two songs at the legendary Friars Club on what they call “Diva Night.” In an evening produced by Randie Levine-Miller, Lisa joined the ranks of Broadway songstresses, and belted out two funny numbers that go along perfectly with who she is.

Producer Randie Levine-Miller getting ready to introduce Lisa Lampanelli as part of Diva Night at The Friars Club!

They were parodies written by her friend and opening act Mike Morse, who probably has no idea that he’s supposed to be gay! (LOL) Boy will he be shocked! In her early days, Lisa only used gay comics as her opening acts, so unless she changed her ways entirely, he will have to become gay! He also appeared in a little funny sketch she did as a Jimmy Olsen-style old time reporter, who introduced himself as “Brown from the Sun.” I absolutely love silly jokes like that! And he shares a desk with a guy named Al Bumin!

Lisa Lampanelli rehearsing for Jeffrey Gurian in the grand lobby of the famed Friars Club of NYC!

The first song parody was about her addiction to food, because Lisa is very honest about everything, but especially about her struggle with food and her weight. It was written to the tune of ” I’m Just A Girl Who Can’t Say No” from Oklahoma.

Lisa Lampanelli singing her little heart out at The Friars Club in NYC!

The second one was a parody called ” I Don’t Wanna Insult No More”, to the tune “Show Off” from The Drowsey Chaperone! They were both perfect vehicles for her, and she did great! I didn’t know what to expect, but I had the confidence in Lisa to know that if she was going to do something she was going to give it her all, and do it well.

I was honored that she asked me to come and tape her performance, and do an in depth video interview, which you will all be seeing very shortly! Contrary to what some unenlightened people might think, Lisa is about inclusion. The theme of her show will be her lifelong struggles with weight control,and I have to say she looks fantastic. I’ve known her for years, and she’s lost a ton of weight and developed a glamorous appearance. Fame, money and self-esteem will do that for you!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV and his good pal Lisa Lampanelli AFTER her singing debut, and their video interview at The Friars Club!

Lisa’s husband Jimmy Cannizzaro is a great guy, who I see very often helping control the crowds at Gotham Comedy Club. Trust me, no one would mess with this guy. He’s basically a building with clothing! He looks like he could take a bite out of a desk! But he’s one of those guys they describe as “a gentle giant”! You can tell he has a heart of gold. He was telling me about their wedding which took place at The Friars Club last October of 2010.

Lisa Lampanelli and her husband Jimmy Cannizzaro, otherwise affectionately known as Jimmy Big Balls by his loving wife Lisa!

They deserve a lot of Happiness, and I’m proud to say they’re friends of mine, and supporters of Comedy Matters! Video coming soon!!!

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Susie Essman in Cindy Adams' Column-NY Post

Susie Essman got most of Cindy Adam’s column this past Tuesday, and she deserves it. Truth be told she deserves the whole, entire column! Everybody loves Susie as Susie Greene on HBO’s Larry David hit, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” If I remember correctly, Larry saw Susie perform at the Friars Roast of Jerry Stiller and liked her so much, he cast her in “Curb.”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Susie Essman at The Comic Strip!

I have the exact details of that story in the interview I did with Susie for the book I’m writing on the history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, a club where she performed in her early days, but I’d have to look it up and I’m too lazy! I’m proud to say that Susie and I are friends for many years! We often joke that she and I have more photos together than she and her husband!

Jeffrey Gurian, Susie Essman, and Richie Tienken owner and founder of The Comic Strip after Susie's interview for the book on the 35 year history of The Strip!

I’m very happy for her that she and Jimmy Harder, a commercial real estate broker got married back in 2008. They got married at The Friars Club, and multiple Emmy-award winning writer/producer Tom Fontana who is one of the most talented and prolific TV writer/producers in the business, and who also happens to be a minister, officiated at the ceremony. Among other things, he wrote and produced such groundbreaking TV series as “Oz”, “St. Elsewhere”, and “Homicide: Life On The Street.” Tom is also an old friend, and was the Vice Pres. of the Writers Guild East where at least one of the photos below was taken!

Dean Winters, Jeffrey Gurian, and Tom Fontana at a party in NYC!

Jeffrey Gurian with Tom Fontana at the Writer's Guild Awards!

Susie’s TV husband Jeff Greene is played by the hysterically funny Jeff Garlin!

Jeffrey Gurian backstage at Carolines with Jeff Garlin from HBO's hot series, "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

I actually knew Susie’s Dad Leonard, who was a wonderful physician. He was an internist, ( which you would think all doctors were, since most of our organs are internal, right? LOL ), and he was partners with a doctor I went to. Once when my doctor was away, Susie’s Dad treated me, but in those days, I didn’t realize he was Susie’s Dad. He taught me something I never forgot. I had a pain in the back of my head, down into my neck, that wouldn’t go away, and he took his thumb and pressed really hard on something in the back of my head that made me see stars, but the pain went away. I have used that technique ever since!

Jeffrey Gurian with Susie Essman in Montreal at the Just for Laughs Festival posing with his book that she is in called "Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive."

Once when Susie was appearing at Carolines Comedy Club, she came down with some sort of eye infection and was afraid she’d have to cancel her gig. I wrote her a prescription for antibiotics, and according to her I saved the day, cause her eye cleared up right away and she was able to perform. How I was able to write her a prescription is a whole other story, but to keep it simple, I was and still am a doctor, and am licensed to write prescriptions!

Jeffrey Gurian and Susie Essman at an event at The Friars Club in NYC!

Susie will be headlining Carolines Comedy Club this coming week, and she doesn’t know it yet, but I’m planning on coming down to say “Hi!”. Please don’t tell her! I want it to be a surprise!

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

This is a brief compilation of my recent trip to L.A. featuring my interviews with Billy Crystal, the first comic to ever set foot on stage at The Comic Strip on June 1, 1976, and Russell Peters, one of the only comics to be able to fill stadiums, as he did in Vancouver when 18,000 people came out two nights in a row to see this dude!

Jeffrey Gurian with Billy Crystal in Billy's Beverly Hills office, Face Productions!

As I told Kal Penn when I interviewed him for Comedy Matters, ” there was a time, and not too long ago, when no one knew that Indian people could be funny!” And Kal cracked up because he knew it was true. Kal stars in the Harold and Kumar films and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Indian people can be funny. Russell Peters takes it ten steps further!

Jeffrey Gurian with Kal Penn for the release of a new harold and Kumar film!

Born in Canada, and speaking perfect English with no accent at all, Russell says he identifies more with being Canadian than with being an Indian man. He’s Indian in his DNA, and his skin color, so when he looks in the mirror he’s aware that he’s Indian, but that’s about it.

He sees himself as he is, and sees the humor in seeing everyone for what they are. What I love about him, besides just about everything he does, is that he has almost singlehandedly destroyed a stereotype, which is very hard to do. He has broken the stereotype of the humorless Indian man. To be able to see yourself as you believe others see you, and to make it funny is pure genius.

Russell Peters is not only “hip”, he’s too hip for the room! And that’s at a time when everyone is striving to be “hip.” The legendary Rodney Dangerfield who was the first big star I ever wrote for once told me, ” Jeff, you know who’s hip?” I’m like, ” No Rodney, who’s hip?” He’s like, ” Two guys in the Village.” And we all fell down laughing cause he was right. Everybody is so caught up in being “hip” when almost no one is, … except for these two elusive guys in The Village!

Jeffrey Gurian, jus' chillin' with Russell Peters at Russell's home in L.A.

Russell is a rare talent and I call him “The Messiah of Comedy.” All you have to do is attend one of his shows, to see the multi-cultural background of his audience. There are people there in turbans and traditional Indian dress and they’re laughing their asses off! I teach at NYU where the majority of students seem to be Indian females and almost all of them bust out laughing at just the mention of Russell Peters’ name. The man is a phenomenon!

He brings all ethnicities together and in a clever way makes fun of everyone, but he comes from such a good place that no one could ever be offended. He has the ability to see things clearly that other people miss. True artists are like that. And people love when you can imitate an accent. I don’t think I can think of one accent that Russell can’t do. But when he does the Indian accent, people are crying from laughing so hard. Not only does he do the accent but the facial expressions, the head movements and the hand and finger movements. He’s a genius at physical comedy. I am truly amazed at Russell Peters.

Jeffrey Gurian and Russell Peters checkout out the munitions artwork that adorns Russell's walls!

I wish I could do a Chinese accent. I talk about it in my act but it would be better if I could do it!

The only accent I can do is like a Greek accent or some kind of Eastern European accent, like when two guys meet in the street and one guy says, ” Hello my friend, how are you today?” And the other guy answers, ” Five thank you, how are you?”. First guy – ” Not too good, I feel a little six!” Second Guy – “Really, you don’t look six at all. You look just five to me!” And they go on through this conversation using numbers instead of the right words, until the end when the first guy says, ” I have to go now. Nice threeing you again!” and the second guy says, ” Nice threeing you two!” That’s the extent of my accent work, and it absolutely “kills”, … around my apartment!

I’ve never actually done it on stage, because I haven’t hated myself enough yet to try it out, ( just in case it doesn’t work!), … but maybe someday???

So anyway, I’m in LA and I call Russell ’cause his brother Clayton, who is a great guy and also his manager, left me a message that if I come to LA, Russell would make time to see me, and hang out. I had only a few priorities on my trip. The first was to interview Billy Crystal, the second was to hang out and interview Russell, and third was to perform in the clubs in LA cause I had never set foot on a stage in Los Angeles, and that was a hurdle I was ready to take on.

I wound up performing on Kevin Nealon’s show at Jamie Masada’s Laugh Factory. I happen to know Kevin back from his SNL days cause I was friendly with him, and Dana Carvey, and Jon Lovitz, and especially Phil Hartman. Listen to this weird synchronicity! When I packed to go to LA, I grabbed a small leather case that I used to carry my comedy material in, without looking at what was inside. When I got to LA and opened it up, I saw that it was material I had written for Kevin Nealon for the Friars Roast of Chevy Chase back in 1990. This was at least 3 days before I knew I’d be performing on Kevin’s show! Coincidence? I think not! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian with Kevin Nealon at Jamie Masada's Laugh Factory!

So I get the call that I’m on Kevin’s show and that after my set we’ll do an onstage interview. I’m like, ” Cool.” I hadn’t seen Kevin in a long time and I figured he’d be surprised to see my name on his show roster. I was told I’d be on third at 8:40. I got to the club a little after 8, while Kevin was on stage warming up the crowd, … not with jokes, with blankets and hugs! He was literally warming up the crowd because they felt chilly from the air conditioning! ( I’m just being silly!)

So he’s warming up the audience when he suddenly says, ” We have a great show for you tonight. Let’s see who’s on the list, and he starts reading names and when he comes to mine he says, ” Jeffrey Gurian? is Jeffrey Gurian here?”

And I was in the back of the room, so I answered that I was there. He was like, ” Jeffrey Gurian is here. He’s funny! Let’s put him on first. Give a warm welcome to Jeffrey Gurian.” And the crowd started applauding, and I couldn’t say anything, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, ” I thought Kevin liked me. Why is he putting me on first?” Turns out he did me the biggest favor in the world because I had no time to get nervous, I went right up and if I have to say so myself, I killed!

Kevin Nealon on stage at The Laugh Factory hosting his weekly show!

Fortunately I was not alone in that assessment! Kevin said so, and so did owner Jamie Masada who was there and saw the set. Jamie said I could perform there anytime I was in town. Not only that, he told me to call the club the next day and tell the booker that Jamie said to put me on Tom Arnold’s show the next night.

I was so psyched, because Tom is a friend and I had e-mailed him a few days before telling him I was going to be in LA to see if he had time to hang out. He wrote me back saying he was doing a lot of filming including a thing on “Sons of Anarchy” and probably wouldn’t have time for us to get together.

Jeffrey Gurian with Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, AFTER Jeffrey's set in front of the Laugh Factory logo!

So when Jamie told me I’d be on Tom’s show I was thrilled, cause I knew he’d be surprised to see me there, and I’d kill the proverbial two birds with one stone. Who by the way, was ever killing birds with a stone? Where did that expression start? And not only one bird but two birds with the same stone? They must have been very slow moving birds. Who does that anyway? Killing birds with a stone. Very bizarre! So I’m psyched to do Tom’s show, and impress him with my comedic talent (LOL), and at the last minute Tom has to cancel because he’s stuck on the set of ” Sons of Anarchy.” It just goes to show that you can not micro-manipulate The Universe. Things only happen when they’re supposed to.

Kevin by the way sent me this really nice e-mail in response to my thank you e-mail to him, saying : “Great seeing you again, too. You always crack me up. Hope to see you again down the road.” How nice is that that Kevin Nealon says I always crack him up?

Jamie happens to be a very kind man. I remember being out in LA one Christmas and Jamie does this thing where he feeds people all Christmas day from the club. Non-stop! Homeless people, and comics both, … and sometimes they’re the same thing! (LOL) The way most comics dress, they ALL look homeless! (LOL)

So I didn’t get to perform for Tom Arnold, but but I DID get the Friday night show at The Improv thanks to booker Emilie Laford, who put me on the 10 P.M. show with Ralph Figueroa as the host. It was also a very successful show and Ralph sent me a really nice e-mail telling me that I did an “awesome” set and that he hoped to work with me again! Thanks Ralph, the feeling is mutual!

Jeffrey Gurian with show host/comic Ralph Figueroa at The Improv in Hollywood!

Plus, I got to go on stage right before my good friend Helen Hong, who I know from New York and who can definitely do the Chinese accent! Maybe if I ask nicely she’ll teach me! Helen is always so funny! Prease Heren, would you teach me???

Jeffrey Gurian with Helen Hong at The Improv in L.A.!

Anyway, back to Russell Peters! ( I feel like I’m all over the place with this post! )

Russell invited me to his house and I expected something special but it was even better. I got to meet his wife Monica, who he married in August of 2010, and his new little daughter Crystianna, who was so cute I tried to take her with me when I left, but he caught me and made me give her back! He was like, ” What’s that lump under your jacket?” And I was like, ” OK, you caught me. I’m sorry. Here. You can have your baby back!” She was really that cute!

Jeffrey Gurian reclining in Russell Peters' screening room with wall to wall TV!

Russell has a screening room, with reclining chairs where you can just lay back and chill, and watch this huge screen TV that covers the entire wall.

Then there’s the entertainment room with the pinball games.

But my favorite toy of his was his new Rolls Royce, which I’m pretty sure he called a Phantom Drophead Coupe, or Dropdead Coupe, or something like that. ( There’s supposed to be an accent mark over the last “e” in Coupe, but my computer only speaks English so I don’t have an “accent egout” which is what I think they called it in French class when I wasn’t paying attention! LOL)

They only started making this model in 2007, and Russell was too humble to tell me it’s the most expensive Rolls Royce they make. It’s got like a stainless steel hood, what Russell referred to as “suicide doors” that open backwards towards the back of the car, and which you can open and close remotely, and believe it or not the exterior is available in more than 44,000 color combinations. I didn’t even know there WERE more than 44,000 color combinations. My crayon box has about 108 colors and I thought that about maxed it out.

Jeffrey Gurian and Russell Peters in his new Drophead Dropdead Rolls, with the stainless steel hood, just in case you want to cook lunch on the top of your car!

So Russell and I were chillin’ in the Rolls and I felt I had to remind him that you were supposed to get these things like a gorgeous home and Rolls Royce BEFORE you’re married not after! We had a good laugh about that! And I think that was when he discovered I had his baby! (LOL)

Who wouldn't be smiling driving a car like this???

And before I left his house, with his “man-servant”, or assistant who he referred to as “Homeless Matt”, I happened to tell him that I was going to interview Billy Crystal the next day. That’s when he told me that he and Billy were doing a movie together and that I should send Billy his best, cause Billy was his boy!

Billy was as nice as could be. We met at his offices in Beverly HIlls, thanks to Bob Wachs, the co-founder of The Comic Strip in NYC, and Billy’s lawyer in the early days, and Billy graciously gave me about an hour of his time. We reminisced about how we first met through Jack Rollins who is currently 96 years old, G-d Bless him,( I’m becoming my own grandmother! ) and how Jack had wanted Billy to play me in a proposed sit-com about a dentist who wanted to be in show business. He even remembered calling me “the funny dentist” and how Alan King referred to me the same way.

Billy Crystal pointing to his teeth, referencing the rumour that Jeffrey Gurian used to be a dentist!

And he shared with me a little gem that Jack Rollins had told him after seeing his early stand-up. He said, ” You did great, and your act was fine, but ” you didn’t leave a tip!” You didn’t leave the audience with anything to remember you by! ” And that message stuck with Billy all these years and changed the way he performed on stage from that day forth! He always remembered to share a little bit extra of himself with his audience, and always left them a tip!

I did remember to send Billy Russell’s regards, and Billy echoed what Chris Rock said about Russell, who ranked #9 on Forbes list of highest earning comedians, ” Russell Peters, … he’s the most famous comedian that no one ever heard of.” I have a feeling that all that will change very soon! ( My words, not Billy’s!)

In summary, … anytime you have an opportunity to see Russell perform, make sure you go, because it’s really a treat! So check out the little video interview I did with Russell. There will be a longer version coming up soon, but I’m getting ready to go and see him perform in Montreal next week at the Just for Laughs Festival where he will be hosting his own show, with his own hand-picked comedians like Dom Irrera, and Jeremy Hotz, and it was all I could do to get this short version ready for the public before I left.

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

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King of Broadway Stewart F. Lane and Ellen M. Krass Present Company, (The Film)

Stewart Lane is truly the King of Broadway! He just won his 5th Tony Award for War Horse. It received the Tony for Best Play, but when I last saw him two days before the Tonys at the premiere of the film version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” at the NYIT Screening Room on 61st Street and Broadway, he didn’t know that yet.

Company poster showing the all star cast with Neil Patrick Harris, Patti Lupone, Jon Cryer, Stephen Colbert and many more!!

I had seen him a couple of weeks before that at his book party at The Friars Club, where we are both brother Friars,for his new book “Jews on Broadway”, (of which there have been quite a few!) Btw, just in case you were wondering some of the Jews on Broadway were Fanny Brice, Irving Berlin, Barbra Streisand, Jerome Kern, Alan Menken, and Tony Kushner, some of whom you may have heard! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian and Stewart Lane at The Friars Club book party for Stewart's new book, " Jews on Broadway!" Jews are also off-Broadway but that's a topic for Stewart's next book!

It was there at The Friars that I also ran into Broadway Producer Ellen M. Krass, CEO of EMK Productions, and she and Stewart told me about an event they were doing for the premiere of the film version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”, which would only be shown four times June 15th, 16th, 19th and 21st. The production was done with the world-renowned New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and starred Neil Patrick Harris who went on to host The Tony’s that Sunday, Patti Lupone, Jon Cryer, Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks, Craig Bierko, Martha Plimpton and more.

(L-R) Friars Club Dean Freddie Roman, Ellen M. Krass, Jeffrey Gurian, and producer Susan Solomon supporting Stewart Lane at his book party!

Ellen gave all the credit for the evening to co-producer Lonny Price. She herself is a successful producer of TV, off-Broadway and Broadway, and actually produced the Kathy and Mo Show starring Kathy Najimy, and Mo Gaffney. That show will always stick out in my mind because the one show I ever invested in in my life was a show called “Only Kidding” starring Paul Provenza. That show was in the Westside Arts Theatre on West 43rd Street, and so was Kathy and Mo. Only Kidding was voted the #1 off-Broadway comedy by Tim Zagat, so we thought for sure we had a winner, but instead everyone lost all the money they put into it.

It was very disturbing and a very painful lesson, and wound up costing me a fortune. Not because of what I lost, but because of what I could have gained. Right afterwards, I had the opportunity to invest in a brand new little show called “Blue Man Group.” I went to see it, thought it was very entertaining, three guys in blue doing wild things with rhythym, but the fear of having lost all of my investment in Only Kidding caused me to pass, and needless to say, ( then why am I saying it??? LOL), Blue Man Group is not only still running after 20 years, but I think it’s running world-wide. Maybe not in Mozambique, … but it’s certainly running in most places, and I probably could have made a fortune on it, but I guess everyone has a story like that!

So anyway, the plot of Company follows five couples and their friend Robert (Neil Patrick Harris), the perpetual bachelor, and explores the meaning of relationships through a series of vignettes. Company first won the 1971 Tony Award for Best Musical, and is a classic.

Anyway, at the Company event, I got to speak with Stewart, Ellen and Jon Cryer in the video you’ll see below. Stewart was there with his lovely wife and co-producer Bonnie Comley!

Bonnie Comley is not only Stewart Lane's wife but also a producer in her own right, and as you can see "Comley" is a perfect name for her because Comely means "beautiful"!!!

Jon is as nice as you would expect, maybe even nicer! He had gotten a call from his agent asking if he’d do a benefit for the NY Philharmonic, but he didn’t realize he’d be asked to sing on stage professionally, which he had never done before. He thought it might be something simple, with people holding their scripts and such. After he agreed, he found out it was a fully staged production, to which he said , “EXCUSE ME???”!!! Hear it for yourself in the cool video below!

Jon Cryer smiling big while being interviewed by Jeffrey Gurian for Comedy Matters!

I was tempted to ask Jon about my old pal Charlie Sheen and Two and a Half Men, now that Ashton Kutcher has agreed to join the cast, but in my infinite wisdom, I decided against it, and just stuck to Company. Check it out right here!

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Page 6 Review – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and David Blaine

So as one of the new features of Comedy Matters I’m taking stories from Page 6 in the NY Post, the most powerful and influential page in the country, and adding some personal stories about the people I know who were mentioned on the page.

The top story this day was about Mick Jagger going into the studio with a new supergroup including Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics, Damian Marley, Joss Stone, and A.R. Rahman. And also about how pissed he was at Keith Richards for writing unkind things about him in his new book ” Life.”

I only met Jagger once but he has a very special place in my history. First of all, as far as I’m concerned, ( and no one actually knows how far that is! ) the man is a King. To me he’s the best of the best. No one has ever come close and his performance at The Grammy’s this year gave me the chills cause he’s 67, and rocks out better than most musicians in their 20’s. He’s thin and still has the moves that made him famous back in the 60’s.

The man is AMAZING. And thanks to Mick no one ever has to be old. Who ever heard of anyone being 67, and being so hip? Mick Jagger changed the world, and the world’s perception of getting old. Because if HE can do it, so can others. He’s an inspiration. As long as Mick is older than me, I can never get old. I look at him for inspiration.

Now when my kids were little, ( yes, … I have kids! LOL) and we lived in a fancy neighborhood in Westchester, they used to ask me why I couldn’t be like the other Dads. At the time, my hair was way, way below my shoulders, and I was driving a car that could only be described as a “pimp-mobile!” It was a Mandarin Orange Eldorado, with a white Cabriolet top, the big white wall tires, and I totally pimped it out with a Rolls Royce grille, just like the pimps did in the 70’s. The dealer where I bought it told me it had been made for one of the Eisley Brothers, and he decided not to take it, so I grabbed it.

My wife used to say to me, ” We’re Jewish and we live in Scarsdale. Why do I have to drive an orange Cadillac? All the women laugh at me! ” Obviously she didn’t get it! So when my kids said, ” How come you can’t look like the other Dads, my answer was, ” Well you’d understand if I was Mick Jagger!” And their answer was, ” Yeh Dad, but you’re not!”

In all my years of hanging out, I was sure I’d run into Mick, but it never happened until one night at a place called Lotus. I was at a private dinner party, with an actress named Aesha Waks, and right near us, seated with Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone fame was Mick Jagger. I couldn’t believe it. He was like two tables away from me. Because I was a guest at the same party I was able to walk over and introduce myself to him. I actually told him that story about my kids, thinking that he’d think it was really funny, but to be honest, he didn’t seem that amused. And he didn’t ask me for my number so we could keep in touch! (LOL) Maybe he had other things on his mind.

I also met Keith Richards once as well. This was at an event for the Songwriters Hall of Fame awards, and it was black tie and I was with a gorgeous singer I was dating at the time. We were seated at a main table and with my tux and long hair, everyone took it for granted that I was someone big in the music business. To this day when people meet me, many people still think I’m in the music business. ( Even my parents think I’m in the music business! )

Anyway, on this night, three superstars stopped off at my table specifically to say “Hello” to me even though they had never met me before. I guess I looked like the kind of guy you should know, and they didn’t want to slight me. It was Keith Richards, who was there with Patty Hansen, Paul Anka and Billy Joel. I swear to G-d, each one of them stopped by to say “Hi!” and ” Great to see you! It’s been a while.” The girl I was with was absolutely shocked, and said ” No one would believe this! “

Perception is everything in show biz! If you like look a certain way, and carry yourself a certain way, and have a gorgeous girl with you, interesting things can happen! Unfortunately in those days I wasn’t carrying a camera the way I do now. They didn’t have small cameras in those days, and certainly not digital ones.

I missed getting photos with Woody Allen, Salvador Dali, The Beach Boys, and the three musical superstars mentioned above.

Jeffrey Gurian and David Blaine at Denise Rich's Angel Ball!

David Blaine, was also in a Page 6 story the same day, about him hanging out with Ashton Kutcher, who is replacing Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men. They were at a restaurant in Manhattan called Indochine. The first time I met David Blaine was also in a restaurant. I don’t recall the name but I know it was on East 21st Street, and I was with the legendary music agent, and long time friend Jonny Podell.

Jeffrey Gurian with Jonny Podell at The Friars Club for the book party for Jeffrey's book, " Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive". The book was based on Jeffrey's writing for the famed Friars Roasts for many years and featured the favorite nastiest jokes from over 250 celebs.

Jonny Podell is known these days as the father of DJ Cassidy who spins at every hot hip-hop party on the planet, whether it’s for Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, or Oprah! He was actually flown to South Africa to spin for one of Oprah’s New Years Eve parties a few years back.
DJ Cassidy at Heffrey's book party at The Friars Club holding a copy of Jeffrey's book, Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive!

D J Cassidy looking at Jeffrey Gurian at a party in NYC, where Cassidy was spinning!

Both Jonny and Cassidy came to my sold-out totally packed, book party at The Friars Club for my book “Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive” and it was written up on Page 6.

Page 6 did a great write-up about Jeffrey Gurian's book party at The Friars Club, with all the names of the celebs that attended!

Anyway, Jonny was representing David Blaine at the time and was also like a mentor to him. We were sitting with Alan Grubman, the famous entertainment lawyer and father of P.R. queen Lizzie Grubman. Jonny asked David to show me some card tricks and the one I remember most is where he asked me to pick a card, look at it and put it back in the deck. Then he threw the entire deck at the window of the restaurant, and the card I picked was stuck to the glass outside of the restaurant looking in at us. I never saw anything like that in my entire life. Even if he would offer to tell me how he did it, I wouldn’t want to know. I prefer to think he has magical powers! He amazed us for quite some time with many different and amazing tricks, but that’s the trick that stands out to me.

I think it was shortly after that that Jonny got him his first huge TV deal for a special. It could have been for about a million bucks if I’m not mistaken. Since then I see David periodically, usually at some fun special event like Denise Rich’s Angel Ball, and he’s even a fan of my short comedy films “The Men Who Series”, about men who do very unusual things, like ” Men Who Take A Pitchfork To The Movies”, “Men Who Enjoy Latin Dancing With Tools”, and “Men Who Dance Alone In Gas Stations After They Close For The Evening.”

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Frank Vincent from The Sopranos Honored at Soho International Film Fest

Goodfellas came out in 1990.  That was 21 years ago, and I don’t think anyone who ever saw the film will ever forget actor Frank Vincent’s line as Billy Batts to Joe Pesci’s character Tommy DeVito, ” Go home and get your shinebox.” Just hearing that line, and knowing Tommy’s hair trigger temper sends chills through most people.  Billy Batt’s paid for that line with his life.

Jeffrey Gurian with Frank Vincent at the Soho International Film Festival event in Frank's honor!

As Phil Leotardo in The Sopranos, Frank got whacked in the last episode, standing in a gas station kissing his grandchildren goodbye, and fell under the wheel of his daughter’s car, which rolled over his head.  Another Frank Vincent scene indelibly etched in the minds of whoever saw it.

Jeffrey Gurian with Frank Vincent at the Gen Art Film Festival back in 2006!

Frank Vincent’s presence on the big screen is so powerful that of all the guys who play gangsters, to me he stands out as one of the scariest. ( A definite compliment! )  So to find out that he started out as a comic was both startling and thrilling to me.  He actually did stand-up with Joe Pesci.  Pesci killed him in Goodfellas and he returned the kindness, and killed Joe Pesci in Casino.

Jeffrey Gurian with director John Gallagher, who's also on the Advisory Board of the Soho International Film Festival, and who produced the event in honor of Frank Vincent!

Frank was honored by the Soho International Film festival in a fantastic evening produced by award-winning film director John Gallagher, who will be working with Frank in an upcoming film called Fickle, written by Ryan O’Callaghan who was there to walk the red carpet with John and Frank.

All of Frank’s friends came out to support him including some of his Sopranos cast members.  There was John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia, sometimes known as “The Mayor Of Little Italy”, who played Albie Cianflone, (and who couldn’t believe I remembered the name of his character), Tony (Paulie Walnuts) Sirico, and TV and film actress Sharon Angela, who memorably played Rosalie Aprile, on the hit HBO show, where during the 6th season she was elevated from a guest star to a series regular.

Jeffrey Gurian with John "Cha Cha" Ciarcia at the Friars Roast for Jerry Lewis in 2006!

Jeffrey Gurian and Tony Sirico in James Edstrom's column that was also on Page 6 of the NY Post where Tony (Paulie Walnuts) Sirico showed Jeffrey how real men take photos together, … with a fist through the other guy's arm!

Jeffrey Gurian with Sharon Angela at the Soho International Film Festival where she starred in Michael Imperioli's film "The Hungry Ghosts."

There were also lots of beautiful women there from all over the world, in the film business and not.  I met two from The Philippines, Ida and Lisa, who were there to honor Frank and also had their own film in the festival.

(L-R) Lisa and Ida who came all the way from The Philippines for the Soho Film Festival!

And just to play it safe, I brought my own beautiful woman, (LOL) Lauren Francesca, the internet sensation known for playing Lady Gaga in The Key of Awesome films, ( www.thekeyofawesome.com) and who starred in two short films I created for her, “Besame Mucho’s Academy of Oral Skills”

Jeffrey Gurian and Lauren Francesca on the red carpet of the Soho International Film Festival!

and “The Magic Of Transforminol” about a magic pill that guys can take called “Transforminol” that makes their girlfriends look like Lauren.

 
The thing about Frank Vincent is that he’s nothing like what he looks like which makes his performance even more powerful.  In his own words, he’s a nice guy, and he is.  But he told a story that was so chilling it affected everyone in the audience.

He was saying how many people think they’re really gangsters when they’re really just Italian-American actors, but one night he walked into a restaurant and there was a real mob boss there who called him over to his table to say hello.

Frank’s group was then seated near this mob boss close enough for Frank to hear him mention something about Hollywood, which caused Frank to toss out a remark.  With that the mob boss called him over to the table and in front of everyone there told Frank he had a lot of nerve barging in on his conversation, and as Frank phrased it, “He’d leave him standing right where he was, if he ever did that again.”  Frank’s point in that story was well taken.

Frank is a good actor which is why he knows how to act like a gangster.  A good actor has feelings.  Real gangsters don’t.

John Gallagher is on the advisory board of the Soho International Film Festival and works directly with Sibyl Santiago, the director of the festival, who was incredibly helpful to me in getting this story done.  She made sure that I got to speak to everyone I wanted to see.

Aside from directing John also teaches acting, and among other places taught for five years at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse on East 54th Street in Manhattan, the school where Sanford Meisner taught for more than 50 years.  I even took the summer program there one year because as a director, I thought it behooved me to understand the acting process as much as possible.  It was a fantastic experience.

I’m hoping that John will be directing a film that I wrote that he fell in love with called “Men of Violence.”  It’s a gangster/martial arts/action film with lots of comedy.

The comedy is real, as is the violence, in the style of Pulp Fiction.  It’s about a plastic surgeon who is obsessed with violence.  He studies martial arts and carries a gun.  When he accidentally kills a mob boss’ son protecting his wife during a mob hit in a restaurant, he has to become the baddest man on the planet in order to save his own life and the lives of his family.

All we have to do now is raise the money!  ( Maybe Kickstarter?)  The cast we don’t have to worry about.  Between John and myself we know every gangster/actor in the business!

Check out Jeffrey on the red carpet for Frank Vincent!

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Phil Rosenthal Brings Exporting Raymond To The Friars Club

Phil Rosenthal created and Exec. Produced one of the most successful sit-coms of all time, “Everybody Loves Raymond” starring Ray Romano, which ran on CBS from Sept. 13, 1996 until May 16, 2005.

Producer/Director Phil Rosenthal and Jeffrey Gurian on the "step and repeat" for "Exporting Raymond"!

It was a comedic masterpiece often based on true stories from both Ray and Phil’s own lives.  Then Phil got the call from Sony that Russia would be interested in doing it’s own version of “Raymond”, and wanted him to go over to Russia to make that happen. Most people plan to bring a camera with them when they travel. Phil had the presence of mind to bring a camera crew with him, and if nothing else it lead to this hysterically funny documentary called “Exporting Raymond” which opens in theatres nationally on April 29th, 2011.

It’s the story of Phil’s trials and tribulations in adapting “Raymond” for a Russian audience, and how he barely escaped with his sanity intact. Not knowing what to expect in preparing for his trip, he was a little disturbed when someone suggested he take out K&R insurance, especially when he found out that “K & R” stands for Kidnapping and Ransom. He was assigned a bodyguard named Eldar, who became a friend, and it was only at the end of his stay that Eldar admitted to him that Sony didn’t go for “the gun package.” In other words, Eldar was depending upon his hand-to-hand skills to keep Phil out of harm’s way.

At the screening, I asked Phil, how much could the gun package have cost that Sony decided to pass on it? He himself was stymied by that question, and I am stymied as to why I used the word “stymied.” It’s such a weird, almost frightening word!

Phil and I discussed whether they may have looked into the knife package or maybe the brass knuckle package, or did they just decide that Phil wasn’t worth any package at all??? Phil said after meeting his Russian counterparts, the fear of being kidnapped was replaced by the fear of what they might do to his show! One woman, the costume designer was intent on turning it into a fashion show with the actors wearing evening clothes you’d wear for a night out on the town, as if anyone, especially a blue-collar family, would lounge around the house dressed like that.

They also tried to convince Phil that men were more manly over in Russia, and wouldn’t be so concerned about pleasing their wives, like Ray Barone was in the USA version of the show. The Russians also felt that Russian men would not relate to the way Ray was treated by both his wife and his mother and that it made him look like a weakling. Phil didn’t go for it because he said that he doesn’t believe that men are the boss in their homes anywhere in the world.

Despite the Russian’s best efforts, Phil’s adaptation was successful, and he was able to help cast it and make it funny. So not only did he escape from Russia with his sanity, he wound up with a funny, entertaining and fascinating film, which just happens to be his film directing debut. I’m sure it will be the first of many.

However he did have the sense to turn down the “opportunity” to bring “Raymond” to Poland and Egypt! (LOL)

Here in New York it will be opening at the Angelika and at the Loew’s Lincoln Square theatre on Broadway and 68th Street. This is a movie you have to see.

Charlie Prince is the force behind the Friars Club Film Festival, and once a month, he brings great films to be viewed at special Friars Club screenings. Recently he brought the very funny “Peep World” starring Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson and Ben Schwartz, that I wrote about in a previous blog. Both Sarah and Ben showed up at The Friars to do a Q&A.

Ben Schwartz and Sarah Silverman at the Q&A for Peep World at The Friars Club.

This time, for “Exporting Raymond” there was such a big crowd that the club had to show it across the street in the beautiful screening room of The Core Club, another very exclusive club with which The Friars has an arrangement. I wound up walking in with the General Manager of The Friars Club Michael Caputo, who is always on hand to make sure everything goes smoothly.

(L-R) Charlie Prince, John Woldenberg, and Phil Rosenthal at the Friars Club screening of Exporting Raymond!

As I mentioned, Phil Rosenthal was there of course, along with his Executive Producer John F. Woldenberg, a really nice guy, who was very accommodating in the writing of this story.

When Phil was introduced after the film ended, I was sitting in the front row with an old friend, legendary film animator Bill Plympton, who has an animated film coming out called “Idiots and Angels”, a black comedy that he did with Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame.

Phil who happens to be very funny, (which helps if you’re creating and producing comedies), didn’t notice me sitting there, until someone asked him if he ever did stand-up. He said he tried it years ago, and then asked if there were any stand-ups in the audience. When I raised my hand and he saw me he was surprised he hadn’t noticed me, and gave me a gracious hello.

The last time I had seen him was last summer in Montreal when he was showing “Exporting Raymond” at the Just For Laughs Festival, and I was showing the trailer for “Eat, Drink. Laugh” the documentary Richie Tienken and I were working on about the 35 year history of his comedy club “The Comic Strip,” Exec. Produced by Chris Rock.

The film poster for Exporting Raymond that was in the street in Montreal, where it was shown in the Just For Laughs Festival in 2010!

It was a chance meeting in the street when Phil was on his way to his showing, with John Woldenberg, and I was on my way to mine. I had also happened to have the photo with me of Ray Romano, myself and Michael Bolton from when I brought Michael to the set of “Everybody Loves Raymond” several years back, maybe 1998, courtesy of the other Exec. Producer of Raymond and Ray Romano’s manager, Rory Rosegarten.

When I interviewed Ray for the book and the film we’re doing, I brought that old photo to remind him and we took another photo of us holding it.

Ray Romano and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip holding the photo of Ray, Jeffrey and Michael Botlon taken when Jeffrey brought Michael Bolton to the set of Everybody Loves Raymond to meet Ray Romano!.

Screenshot from "Eat, Drink, Laugh" of Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken interviewing Ray Romano at The Comic Strip!

Phil was kind enough to sit with me for a while to do this great little interview for my readers of Comedy Matters. Check it out right here! And go see the film on April 29th! I would tell you to go even before April 29th, but you wouldn’t get to see anything, so wait till April 29th and run out and see it immediately!

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