Magic is the only word that came to mind when I got to the Grisly Pear at 107 Macdougal Street. I had performed there many times when it was a bar upfront with almost kind of a comedy space in the back. Now it’s a legitimate comedy club in the back with a bar up front! And it’s all thanks to the hard work and dedication of comic/producers Kenny Warren and Gabe Dorado.
You may know Kenny from his show “Comics Cutting Comics” in which he cuts comic’s hair before they get up to perform, which would be horrifying if he wasn’t a legit barber. Fortunately he is, and works out of a shop up in Harlem called Levels. I’ve been there for a shoot we did together called ” Comics Cutting Comics Live” where I had the chance to perform in the barber shop, which was scary to me. Those who know me know I do not frequent barber shops! (LOL) Just the thought freaks me out, but for Kenny I show up! (LOL)
(L-R) Matt Pavich, Norlex Belma, Kenny Warren, Pat Brown, Larry Beyah, Barry Ribs, Jeffrey Gurian
And to show you the kind of guy he is, he was nice enough not to insist on cutting my hair. Even when we did the show out at the Creek and the Cave, he let me slide on the cutting part, and he still let me perform.
When I got to The Pear, the first thing I happened to notice was a big poster like art thing of AMarie Castillo mounted on the wall.
It caught my attention, and then as I looked around I saw Kenny Babbitt, Napoleon Emil and Mallory Bryant up there too. And then I noticed that the walls of the entire place were covered with beautiful graphics of all the comics who performed there, with their social media tags.
Kenny is very big on giving up-and-comers a place to work out and feel at home. He even refers to the place as “the dojo.” He understands the struggle and what it takes to try and get known in this crazy business, and let me tell you it’s a very big thing to come into a club and see your very own picture up on the wall.
He’s doing six shows a week there, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including three on Friday alone, 8, 10, and 12, and he gets a packed house most of the time, unlike when the space was shared by other producers. He’s basically doing it on his own with people like Kathryn Henson producing their own shows, like her show “Late Night at The Pear” on Thursdays at midnight. Gabe Dorado runs the shows on Thursday at 10 P.M., Friday 6 and 8 P.M. and Saturday’s 10 P.M. and 12 A.M. slots.
The show I was on had a great line-up with the very funny Phil Duckett bringing it as the host. He really got the energy flowing, and then there was K.C. Arora, the aforementioned Katharyn Henson, Kareem Green who brought down the house with a very funny “choking” routine, a young funny comic named Marcello Hernandez, Onika McClean and just as I was leaving Neko White dropped by to do a set!
Kenny will be out in LA this month appearing at the clubs, and we wish him lots of luck! As for me, I hope to be doing more sets at the new Grisly Pear Comedy Club! Thanks Kenny!!!
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The Red Room is a very cool space in the KGB Bar on East 4th Street, coincidentally right next door to the new New York Comedy Club. And once a month comic/actor Boris Khaykin puts on a really unique variety-type show called The Breakdown with Boris Khaykin, with the help of producer Jeremy Moses.
I got invited to be a guest and went down the month before to check it out and needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I was duly impressed. Boris and his co-host Jawnee Conroy also a talented comedian and actor have created a very unique format, along with Boris’ co-writer and co-producer of the show Alex Estrada!
The audience warm up was not a stand-up comedian but a musical improviser named Rebecca Vigil. A great song came out of absolutely nowhere. Amazing. Then Boris and Jawnee took the stage and worked off each other for about 10 minutes or so, and then Exacto an amazing beatboxer did a solo performance that blew everyone away. It sounded like he swallowed a drum kit!
Then the first guest was called which happened to be me! I made a point of thanking Ethan “Exacto” Scott for his incredible performance and remarked that his teachers must have hated him because I’m sure he disrupted every class he was ever in.
I got to talk about my Amazon Best Seller book on Happiness, “Healing Your Heart, By Changing Your Mind – A Spiritual and Humorous Approach To Achieving Happiness”, a subject I felt the audience could relate to, and they did. We spoke about changing negative thoughts we were holding onto that were not working for us, and in doing so raising our self-esteem, and self-confidence and conquering the fear that tells us we can’t do something we’d like to accomplish. Fear is a bully and we have to stand up to it.
Speaking of fear, I even got to talk about how I cured myself of stuttering, and how people can overcome obstacles in their lives. I feel like it went well and the audience feedback was very positive.
We also discussed my hair and decided it was the exact opposite of Boris’ beard. If I turned my head upside down, I’d have something close to Boris’ beard, which is real by the way, and is what to aim for if you want to grow a beard.
Not everyone has the genetics for it, so don’t feel compelled to grow a beard if you can’t because believe me, no one is interested in your INTERPRETATION of a beard! You either have one or you don’t. There’s a big difference between having a beard, and just having hair on your face! None of that patchy shit! (LOL)
I talked about hair establishing your identity which is why in the Army they shave off your hair right away to make everyone the same and take away your own personal identity. I also said that “Most men wear their hair like they’re embarrassed for having any” and someone in the audience created an immediate meme for Instagram which I thought was very cool!
Then after my interview segment some talented improv artists, Nick Carillo, Katie Hartman, got up and did a sketch using the facts from my interview as inspiration, and that’s always fascinating to me that someone can remember so much of what somebody else said. I have a hard time remembering someone’s name immediately after being introduced to them! (LOL) And then there was a sketch in which Lauren Kahn played Jawnee’s ex-girlfriend.
Next up as a guest was Jamilah Lemieux named in 2015 to The Root’s (the magazine, not Jimmy Fallon’s band) Root 100 list of the nation’s most influential African-American citizens.
She’s a journalist, columnist, cultural critic and editor and afterwards told me she’ll be moving to L.A. to try and get into writing for TV. She’s already got an idea for a script and she wants to do stand-up comedy.
Speaking of stand-up comedy, Emmy Blotnick was the purely stand-up comedy segment of the show and I was glad to finally meet her. Of all things she did some “dental humor” and joked about having to wear a nightguard to protect against the damage caused by grinding and clenching the teeth. How could she have known that was my specialty? Anyway it gave us something to bond over! ( Bonding, … get it? LOL)
And then there was the big close with Boris and Jawnee back on stage, and lots of people hung out to just party because it’s that kind of a hang. Next month’s show will feature Richard Kind, and I’m sure it will be hilarious so make sure to go check it out. I had a BLAST!!!
So until next time we meet please remember that COMEDY MATTERS!!!
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Most of the time when you hear the names Ashley and Madison together the website for people who cheat on their spouses pops into mind. Now there’s a whole new affiliation since two talented comedians Ashley Austin Morris and Madison Malloy got together to create the Ashley and Madison Podcast.
And I got the honor of being their first guest! At least that’s what they told me! (LOL) Besides being a stand-up comic Ashley, originally from Texas, is also an accomplished actress who you may know from her role as Francine Carruthers in the revival of the PBS Kids children’s series The Electric Company, or from her appearances on The Big Bang Theory and Desperate Housewives.
Madison Malloy has been a staple of the stand-up comedy scene for a while, and has performed all over the country, in clubs, at festivals, and on radio and TV as well. The two of them together are a dynamite combination, and prove that you can be funny and still be beautiful! Many legendary women in comedy’s past like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and Phyllis Diller have had to downplay their looks to make themselves palatable for the public to laugh at, because as a society despite what some may think, we’re trained to treat women respectfully which makes it harder to laugh “at them.”
These days women own their power and come out on stage looking any way they choose. Our podcast day started with them offering to travel on the subway with me to Brooklyn so I could find the studio more easily. I had a better idea and offered to drive, which they liked, so the day started with them meeting me at my home, which is like a comedy museum, with photos going back decades. In many of the photos I actually let someone else be in there with me! (LOL) Some people say I have more on my walls than some comedy clubs! (LOL)
Such a fun day!
They asked for the tour and what impressed Ashley the most was that I had a phone mounted in one bathroom right next to the commode. I had seen this at The Four Seasons hotel and decided that “hotel chic” was for me. She asked if she could try it out and was so excited she forgot to pull down her pants! Ooops!!!
I got so excited with this phone, I can’t believe I forgot to pull down my pants! Good thing I’m wearing black!
And then just like that, we were on our way to their studio, The Brooklyn Podcasting Studio, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. When we got there our parking karma was right on the money and we got a great spot. Then they led me to a garage. And I thought, is this gonna be like a Marc Maron thing where he does WTF from his garage?
But no it was more like a hidden speakeasy kind of thing where you had to walk through a garage and go up a couple of flights of stairs to get to this really cool studio. I thought we were gonna have to give some guy a password.
The studio had a big beautiful wooden round table/console set up with a bunch of mics, in a very cool room with lots of snacks, and it was run by a great guy named Josh Wilcox, the manager and lead engineer who was very helpful and made sure that the sound was perfect and that everything went smoothly.
He also was kind enough to take some photos while everything was going on.
Jeffrey making a point!
They wanted to talk about my new book on Happiness called “Healing Your Heart, By Changing Your Mind – A Spiritual and Humorous Approach To Achieving Happiness” which hit Best Seller status on Amazon, and how I used the concept of changing your thoughts to cure myself of a severe stutter that plagued me well into my 20’s and beyond.
In reality it’s more about overcoming obstacles in our lives, which we all face. The concept is that we’re all holding thoughts that are not valid for us. Most of the time they are negative thoughts about ourselves, given to us by people who did not have our best interests at heart.
Sometimes it was our parents. Other times bullies, school “friends”, people we dated, worked with or were married to. Those negative thoughts hold us back. They affect our self-esteem, our self-confidence and every decision we make in our lives. Every time you have to decide what to do you use your thoughts to decide but if your thoughts are faulty your decisions won’t work out for you.
You understand, … don’t you?
In order to be Happy, you literally have to “change your mind.” Anyway even though this stuff sounds kind of serious we had a lot of laughs along the way, and the three of us had a great connection. The girls are so funny, and we were all on the same wavelength. It just flowed.
Jeffrey making another point!
Then we had a fun ride back to the city trading stories, and we all made plans to do something cool together. More on that to come!
In the meantime the podcast officially launches this Monday Feb. 4th wherever you can listen to a podcast. My episode probably won’t air till March, but that’s ok. Good things are worth waiting for!
See how Happy we look?
Until then remember, … COMEDY MATTERS!!!
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There’s only a handful of comedians that can fill an arena like Madison Square Garden with 20,000 seats, much less four shows over one weekend! That’s 80,000 people who came out in the cold and pouring rain to see Sebastian Maniscalco do his thing on his Stay Hungry Tour.
There’s also very few performers who only need one name to identify them. Oprah, Cher, Elvis! Nobody ever said Elvis who? And now there’s Sebastian, holding it down in the comedy world!
I who drive everywhere had a feeling that wouldn’t be a good idea this night so I called for an Uber. I’m basically right across town from MSG, so theoretically it should take a good 15-20 minutes to get there.
The VIP meet and greet was set for 9-10 P.M. between his last two shows. I was told to go to the 8 Penn Plaza entrance which is for employees and media, and make my way to the 5th floor and then down to the third floor for the party.
The car picked me and my date up at 8:15, and I arrived at 8 Penn Plaza just past 9:30 after having to get out and walk the last four blocks in the pouring rain which had been predicted to be snow. For whatever reason traffic was INSANE. Much worse than usual. Every block, every avenue backed up! So lucky I didn’t drive.
As we walked over we saw huge billboards with Sebastian’s face on them announcing his show. I got excited just by seeing them. Most comics have the experience of seeing their face on a flier, but to see your entire being on a billboard in Times Square has to be beyond belief.
And in the Garden he and Pete Correale were up on the Jumbotron for their podcast “The Pete and Sebastian Show”!
The lines outside of MSG were crazy but I thought we’d have an easier time at the 8 Penn Plaza entrance. WRONG!!! The line was out through the door and into the street. We managed to get inside where it seemed like nobody was moving. They had metal detectors and heavy security but nobody was moving.
I called upstairs to let Sebastian’s Levity Live people know I was finally there, but it was so noisy it was hard to hear anyone. They had my tickets and VIP party passes at a special table, and we just missed an elevator because they said there was no more room. The guards made us put on our VIP passes. We weren’t allowed to just hold them, we had to WEAR them!
We finally got an elevator and the first guy that got in said, ” Hey I know you. Aren’t you the “Master Panelist” from Comics Watching Comics on Amazon Prime?” I admitted that I was, and then another guy got in who referenced me from “Too Much Tuna” with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, and even the elevator operator said he knew me. That was kind of crazy! Obviously I’m very well known in elevators throughout the land!
When we finally got to the fifth floor, we were ushered vaguely to another place that wasn’t clear but some nice guy said, ” Don’t worry I’ll show you where to go.”
And we finally got there around 9:40 just in time to see Levity’s Alex Goodman standing with Sebastian’s opening act Pat McGann. Alex kindly showed me into the room where Sebastian was mingling and taking photos with the crowd, directed by Levity honcho Judy Marmel.
We got to exchange pleasantries with Sebastian, and I was amazed how calm he was knowing he was about to face 20,000 people in a few minutes, but I guess once you do it three times before, the fourth time feels like “old hat”, as they used to say in 1810!
When we took our seats, in the third row with a great view, I just sat there trying to take in the aura of 20,000 people. As a comic, if a club is full depending on the club there’s maybe 300 people. Lots of clubs have 125. Twenty thousand people is unimaginable, and you really have to put in years of stage time to be able to handle that and not go insane with fear!
You also have to hope they don’t all want to come over your house for a drink afterwards! That call to your wife would be crazy! Honey some people are dropping by. How many? About 20,000!
Pat McGann showed why he was chosen as Sebastian’s opener by doing a strong opening set with great stories about his wife, kids and family in general.
And then it was time for Sebastian, who hit the stage like a rockstar in a sparkly, multi-colored jacket that was the first thing he mentioned.
Then he discussed the fact that people had been wondering whether they’d have to cancel the show because of the weather. He laughingly said something to the effect of, “Hey this is not a brunch where you can just go, ” The weather’s not so great. We’ll do it next Thursday! This is Madison Square Garden. It took me two years to plan this thing. It’s not being cancelled for a little rain.”
He got thunderous applause from the time he came out till the time he left the stage. It’s not only his stage presence, it’s his physicality that always amazes me. He acts out almost every joke he does and contorts his body so it looks like the people he’s talking about.
He’s married to a Jewish woman which gave him the ability to compare Jews and Italians in talking about his wife’s upbringing as compared to his, and people were absolutely hysterical. A guy near me almost fell out of his seat!
He told great stories too like the time his wife made a one year old birthday party for his daughter and ordered an alpaca to make an appearance. He needed to get a permit for the alpaca and the story was hilarious. He even walked and made faces and noises like an alpaca. That’s not easy to do!
Talking about the condition his wife was in after she gave birth, he said she looked like she had been thrown out of an airplane, and that made me laugh out loud which like many people in comedy I don’t usually do.
I had to learn that early on when writing for very famous comedians who would look at the jokes I wrote and with a very serious face say, ” Oh that’s funny. And THAT one’s VERY funny. I’m hysterical!”, without even cracking a smile.
He announced the good news that he has a son on the way. Very exciting. He certainly proved why he was worthy of the respect of 80,000 people who braved the freezing cold and rain to come out and join him. I’m sure he could have done at least two more shows.
Funny and sexy is a great mix and not everyone can pull it off. Esther Ku’s got it down pat! To a science! In this day and age it may no longer be appropriate to tell a girl she looks sexy but I know Esther long enough that I feel comfortable doing that. She’s funny and sexy and she has so much foresight that she was Asian before it was even popular!
When she lived in New York we hung out a lot and hit a bunch of shows and I watched her grow as a performer. I even sat with her and went over material when she was preparing for Last Comic Standing.
She was one of my special guests on Ron and Fez’s Sirius XM show, now The Bennington Show, when I was a regular for a couple of years.
So to say that I know her would not be an overstatement! And I can honestly say that co-hosting the AVN (Adult Video News) awards show at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas, which she’ll be doing next Saturday January 26th, is a perfect gig for her. She has that rare duality of a naive yet intensely sensual creature, who’s totally unaware of her sensuality and doesn’t do it on purpose. She can’t help it! She could be one of the guys, wearing a baseball cap and hoodie, until you put her in lingerie! With the baseball cap on backwards!
Esther’s been on tons of TV shows like MTV’s Girl Code, and MTV2’s “Wild ‘n Out” with Nick Cannon, and she will be joining an all female cast for this show presented by MyFreeCams. She would actually be a great cam girl, and I could almost see her doing it for a laugh.
AVN CEO Tony Rios said that Esther ” brings a fresh, new approach to the show and we are looking forward to her contribution.” Howard Stern once selected Ku as a finalist in the Hottest Funniest Chick competition. AVN hosts in the past have been Dave Attell, Lisa Lampanelli, Jim Norton, Aries Spears, Rebekah Kochan, Thea Vidale and the late Robert Schimmel and I think I can honestly say that Ku is the sexiest of the bunch! (LOL)
She’ll be co-hosting with two adult superstars Romi Rain and Bailey Rayne, pronounced exactly the same so you know that most people will think they’re related, .. the Rain Sisters! And the musical guest will be none other than Cardi B who knows a little something about being sexy herself. She often talks openly about her former life as a stripper.
Ku said, “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of hosting the AVN Awards! I feel so lucky!” When I heard that I had to call her and ask her about her sexy past. This is what she told me:
“Well I grew up super duper christian and in the midwest. My mom would block the TV when there was a kissing scene. I even got mad at my first boyfriend for watching porn because I thought that’s how you were supposed to react. I look back at that now and think that was so silly. But he watched so much porn they called him Porno John.”
How she might have looked in high school!
I asked her how she was in high school. She said, “I went to one dance in high school. I got my hair done and the captain of the football team kept telling everybody I looked like a porn star. I was so flattered! Because up till then I had glasses and was a band kid.”
Well things certainly have changed for Esther. I wonder what she’s going to wear. I just might have to fly out there to check it out! The event is part of the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo that runs from January 23-26. Hey Esther can you hook me up?
I’ve had the good fortune to know Lil Rel since at least 2012 when we met up at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, which is where this photo was taken.
Over the years since I’ve seen him many times and watched as his career blew up very deservedly I might add. The man is hilarious and multi-talented.
This past summer at the very same festival, which is the biggest and most prestigious comedy festival in the world, Rel received the award for “Breakout Comedy Star of the Year”, presented to him by his friend Deon Cole. This video was shot on the red carpet of the awards show.
Since his breakout performance in Jordan Peele’s smash hit “Get Out” back in 2017 Rel has been on a constant roll, with films Uncle Drew, Bird Box which is out right now, and his new film which will be at Sundance this year, “Brittany Runs a Marathon” co-starring Jillian Bell.
He’s currently on his Relevant 2 Tour and made a stop in NYC to headline at Carolines on Broadway one of the most prestigious clubs in NYC. I dropped by to catch the show and support, and needless to say it was a killer show, but I’ll say it anyway. And Rel looks great. He lost weight and looks really in shape. They even commented on it on his recent appearance on The Breakfast Club with Charlamagne Tha God.
He had comic/actor/tour-mate Jay Alexander from “Rel” hosting the show, with comic/actor Reedo Brown from “Caught The Series” and “Rel” as his feature. Both were really funny and then Rel came out and totally crushed the room. He has such an easy way on stage and is so likable that he had the crowd from minute one! His delivery and intonation add to the humor and he’s very physical onstage as well. A couple of times he showed his ability to move, and the man can dance! (LOL)
He’s also a great story teller and his story about going to see a show where he expected to see The Jackson’s performing, but only Tito showed up on stage, and only played his part of the songs he sang in, was hilarious, as were the stories about his family and the people who hit him up for money now that he’s doing well. It was a smooth hour of non-stop laughter.
I was waiting for him when he got off stage and went back into the green room to hang out a little bit. Emmy nominated comedy writer/comic Sam Jay was there, who commented positively on my scarf, and told me she’s back writing for SNL, and having a blast, as was my man Jack Thriller who I didn’t recognize at first.
He was there with his trainer who’s turning him into a beast, and I was sitting right across from him thinking, ” This guy looks so much like Jack Thriller”, and finally someone addressed him as Jack and I realized that it actually WAS Jack Thriller. Jack told me he’s finally moving his fun, crazy Party and Bullshit Show down to Times Square in Manhattan where it belongs. Last time I was at the show he had Safaree from Love and Hip Hop performing. It’s always a whole lotta fun, packed with tons of girls too!
Rel was very accommodating to all of the people who came back and wanted to take photos with him, because he’s really humble and handling his fame really well.
After Sundance he’ll be in Nashville, Orlando and a whole bunch of other places so check it out on his website: https://thelilrelcompany.wordpress.com/ and follow him on Instagram at @comedianlilrel
That’s it for me. Until next time, remember that Comedy Matters! I’m OUT!!!
If you look at this little video below, you’ll hear Paul Provenza openly declare that I know everyone in comedy and you’ll hear Nick Kroll freely declaring that no one has more access to people in comedy than me. So when I hear about a comedy star that has 12 million followers on Twitter, 2.5 million on You Tube, and 1.5 million on Instagram and I realize I don’t know that person, it makes me very nervous!
Such was the case with Rafi Bastos, the comedy superstar from Brazil. I heard he was performing at Gotham Comedy Club in an early 7 P.M. show. It was Wednesday and really cold out, and I wondered if he’d draw a good crowd. It was beyond expectation and when I got there the room was packed with fans.
I took my usual table and heard a voice call my name. It was the hilarious Aaron Berg, the tatted up body builder from the foreign country of Can-A-Da!
He was sitting with Alexis Guerreros, and Charles McBee who was hosting the show, and he said, “Hey Jeff I wanted you to meet Rafi, he’s headlining tonight.”
So I shook hands with Rafi who was sitting down and who seemed to be the same size as all the other guys at the table. I say that, not because people usually look to see what size someone is, but because I didn’t notice anything until he stood up and saw that he was 6’7″.
Aaron went up and totally killed as usual. He always announces his Jewishness, despite the fact as he says that he looks like he eats Jews and mixes them with protein powder.
He and his wife and baby Piper are moving to a new house next week. Congrats and best of luck to the Bergs!
Anyway Rafi went up and did an amazing thing. He did a smooth hour in a language that is not his first language. He has a nice Portuguese accent, and his English is amazing. It’s hard enough to be funny, but to be funny in another language you were not born into is a whole other thing. And he like Aaron Berg also announced his Jewishness. It seems we come in all shapes and sizes!
He had lots of Brazilian fans there, and said that when people think of Brazil they think of two things, Brazilian waxes and Pele. At the end of his set he did a Q&A in which he invited questions in both English and Portuguese.
The Portuguese fans were very exuberant, and for a few moments I was afraid that a soccer game might break out, complete with hooligans. But fortunately everything stayed under control.
After the show Rafi was very gracious and stayed to take photos with all of his fans. Afterwards we sat together in the green room so I could ask him a few questions, and shoot a little video.
He was a funny kid growing up but not the class clown. He’d sit in the back of the room in school waiting for the right opportunity to say something funny.
He originally thought he wanted to play basketball, but according to him he had the height but he wasn’t good enough, and wound up with a broken cheekbone. I think he made a better choice, and so does he.
He owns the biggest comedy club in Latin America and since Brazil shares a border with 10 other countries including Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, he has plenty of room to expand!
The club holds about 300 people and he described it as kind of a cross between Gotham and the old Comix on 14th Street which he experienced, because he came here in those years to check out NYC.
In 1999 he had won a scholarship to play basketball in Nebraska. A tall, Brazilian Jewish guy with a good sense of humor playing b-ball in Nebraska. It doesn’t sound right and it didn’t feel right either.
I complimented him on his English and compared it to our mutual friend Gad Elmaleh, who also studied very hard to lose his accent so he could perform in English.
Rafi said his biggest challenge has been to speak English and have sex at the same time. He can only do one or the other comfortably. By the reaction of the female part of the crowd, I have a feeling there were a lot of girls at the show who would have been willing to give him a chance.
He’s also the Exec. Producer of Brazil’s version of SNL, and he’s the host of the Brazilian version of the Netflix show “The Ultimate Beastmaster.”
He was heading first to Boston to perform this weekend at Laugh Boston, a club the size of Gotham, then back to Cali to work on his comedy, and plan a tour with the working title of “Conquering America”, but we made plans to get together when he comes back to NY and hopefully do some comedy together someplace!
Gotham Comedy Club is known for getting great headliners so when owner Chris Mazzilli told me that Bill Burr would be doing a special early show there one night I wasn’t the least surprised. I got there early because I knew it would be packed but before I could even get to my regular table, #69 which is what they give me, I ran into J.Ken Feder, formerly known as comic Club Soda Kenny, who’s a former FDNY police detective and now owns a security company. Club Soda Kenny was a name he got from Andrew “Dice” Clay who he often did security work for as well.
We greeted each other and he asked me who I was there to see. I said I was there to see Bill Burr and he said very seriously that Bill wasn’t performing that night and I must be mistaken. Now I knew from the owner that Bill was expected and had even seen it on the website but Kenny sounded so convincing that I asked him who HE was there to see and he said ” Joe List.” Now Joe List is very funny, and would probably fill Gotham but the place was overflowing with people, and something didn’t seem right. I couldn’t see how I could have made that big a mistake.
I sat down with Kenny at the comics table on the side as it was so crowded that my regular table was already taken, and we just talked about comedy and stuff and then we were joined by Paul Virzi who travels with Bill and is usually his opening act. This was really strange.
Joe List comes over to say hello and then goes up on stage to host the show. I order my usual chicken sandwich, and am still talking to Kenny about comedy and all kinds of stuff. Joe gets off after warming up the audience, and then Paul Virzi goes up and kills for about 20 minutes. My food comes and I’m looking down at my salad when I hear a familiar voice laughingly say, ” So you’re watchin’ your weight eh?” and I look up and of course it’s Bill Burr.
Kenny and Paul were playing a trick on me and I fell for it. Kenny was actually there as Bill’s security, but he played it so well that for a moment I actually questioned whether I was wrong and that Bill wasn’t going to come. I happen to like Joe List and was going to stay anyway!
So Paul finishes his set and then Bill is set to go up when out of the corner of my eye I see a familiar form with a baseball cap pulled down low over his eyes, and it’s Seinfeld standing with Chris Mazzilli. Joe List goes up on stage and tells the audience that at Gotham, you never know who’s going to stop by, and announces Jerry Seinfeld and the crowd goes berserk!
Full on standing ovation as he takes the stage. Very rare to get a standing O before you even say a word. Jerry came out with papers and did about 20 minutes of what sounded like new material. Whether it’s old or new it’s always hilarious. He also did a Q&A and announced that he’d be back at The Beacon Theatre where he’s had a residency. He loves Gotham and is good friends with Chris Mazzilli. They are both avid car collectors.
And when he was done Bill Burr greeted him as he got off stage and they hugged. And then Joe List announced Bill Burr and it was another standing ovation. It was a straight hour of laughs and only one woman stood up and said she was “offended” by something innocuous that Bill said. The audience cheered as she walked across the room and left. And Seinfeld stood in the back watching Bill’s set. He hardly ever does that, but it was so fun watching him laugh at Bill. They couldn’t be more different in their styles and type of material, but talent at that level respects other talent at that level.
Keeping 300 people laughing for a straight hour is not an easy task but they both know how to do it. The audience got more than what they paid for and it was an amazing night!
On June 15, 2008, I was at The Comic Strip with Ann Curry, and Gilbert Gottfried and we were giving Ann tips on how to do stand-up comedy for some kind of event she was preparing for. And despite the fact that I had been there for so many years, and had seen the walls before, I found myself transfixed by all the amazing memorabilia that I noticed that day.
Jeffrey Gurian, Ann Curry, Gilbert Gottfried, and Richie Tienken on the day that Jeffrey suggested doing a book on the iconic Comic Strip!
So I said to Richie Tienken, owner and founder of the club, “You know we should do a book on this club!”
I didn’t know that other people had suggested that to him before but for some reason he wound up not doing it with them. He came to my home for a meeting and ended by saying “You have more photos on your walls than I have at the club”, and he decided to trust me with telling his story, and the stories of all the huge stars that came out of the club.
Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken in the lobby of Jeffrey’s building after their meeting to agree on doing the book!
The club officially opened on June 1, 1976 with Billy Crystal as the opening act. On JUne 17th a young, and unknown Jerry Seinfeld walked in to audition. In those days people were graded on their auditions. Jerry was graded “Good”, and then someone wrote on his sheet, “Definitely put on Mon. 6/21!” Whoever that person was had a good eye for comedy! Jerry stayed at The Strip for four years until he left for LA in 1980. It was his home club.
Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld, and Richie Tienken on the day of Jerry’s interview for the book!
In the book Jerry said he felt like he was born in 1976, because that’s when he began working at The Strip and that felt like the start of his life!
Eddie Murphy spent his early years at the club, and Richie Tienken was his manager for the years when Eddie was the biggest star in the world. That period of time spanned his days on SNL through Beverly Hills Cop 2.
The one night in 1986 Eddie came into The Strip and asked to see a Black comic. The only one around was a 19 year old Chris Rock who was setting up chairs in exchange for stage time, and had only performed for very small audiences at 2 or 3 A.M. Not wanting to disappoint Eddie, they put Chris up in front of a packed house on a Friday night, and Chris killed it in front of his idol.
Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Strip on the day we did Chris’ interview for the book!
That was the start of Chris’s rise to stardom. He hasn’t lost his gratitude for all that Richie did for him and wrote a fantastic, and funny introduction to the book.
He also came into the club and gave Richie and I a really super interview. Most of the big stars came into the club for their interviews because Richie and I felt that being surrounded by those four walls would bring back memories, and we were right.
Alan Colmes who many people don’t even know started his career as a stand-up comic came in wearing his 30 year old Comic Strip jacket that looked as if it was brand new.
Jeffrey Gurian with Alan Colmes wearing his original 30 year old Comic Strip jacket, which looked brand new!
In the middle of Paul Reiser’s interview he suddenly recalled what started the annual New Years Day brunch attended every Jan. 1, by himself, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry Miller and Mark Schiff. There had even been a fifth member of the group, a friend named Michael Cain but he passed away very young.
Gilbert Gottfried and Lisa Lampanelli got interviewed outside the club, and Jeffrey Ross got interviewed inside the club with a dual book/documentary film video interview at the same time. That experience taught us never to do that again! (LOL)
Jeffrey Gurian, Gilbert Gottfried and Richie Tienken at lunch at Pastis where GIlbert spent most of his interview denying he had ever been at The Comic Strip. He did say they had good electricity though!
Lisa Lampanelli and Jeffrey Gurian,(hidden behind the book! LOL) backstage at Westbury for Lisa’s recent sold-out performance
And then I flew out to LA to get an in office interview with Billy Crystal the first comic to hit the stage on opening night, back in 1976.
Other comics interviewed were Ray Romano, Susie Essman, Jim Gaffigan, Judah Friedlander, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Rick Overton, who has also gone on to have a very successful acting/film career, Jim Breuer, Tony Rock, Adam Ferrara, plus newer stars who frequent the club like Colin Jost and Jay Pharaoah from SNL.
Thanks to our agent J.L. Stermer from N.S. Bienstock, we got a deal with Skyhorse Publishing and the book is 250 pages down from the 500 I started out with. It took three years to get all of the interviews done and transcribed, because I did it myself by hand just by playing the interviews over and over again, and the fourth year was about editing and getting it down from 500 pages to the 250 that was needed. It was often a grueling process, but always a labor of love!
Since it came out, it’s gotten great reviews, tons of press, and lots of celeb attention as you can tell from the following photos.
If you were around in the 70’s, 1973-1979 to be exact, then you were aware of Jimmy “J.J.” Walker who played J.J. Evans in the Norman Lear, CBS hit “Good Times”, with Esther Rolle who played JJ’s mom Florida Evans, and John Amos who played his dad Michael Evans.
Interestingly enough, Good Times was a spin-off of Maude, which was itself a spin-off of All in the Family along with The Jeffersons. And it was co-created by Mike Evans, who portrayed Lionel Jefferson on the Norman Lear-produced series All in the Family and The Jeffersons.
JImmy “J.J” Walker onstage at Broadway Comedy Club without a floppy hat, but making one of his signature faces!
At the time that JJ was on the show he played so much younger than he actually was that John Amos who played his Dad was only 8 years older than him!
JJ’s signature phrase was “Dyn-O-Mite!” which follows him to this day. And in my interview with him recently at Broadway Comedy Club where he showed up with his agent and my old friend Roger Paul, he said he was grateful for that tag, “Dyn-O-Mite”! Very few performers have something that sticks for so long. Like Rodney Dangerfield will always be associated with the phrase “No Respect.” In comedy having an identity like that is magical!
The main room downstairs was packed, wall to wall, and JJ went up on stage and knocked it out of the park. He talked about the economy being so bad that when you rent an apartment they want the first month’s rent and the last month’s rent. JJ was like, ” I wasn’t even here last month! Why do I gotta pay that guy’s rent?”
Jimmy “J.J.” Walker killing it onstage at Broadway Comedy Club! The audience loved him!
In talking about doing drug testing of post office employees, he said, “The one drug you won’t find is speed!”
And in talking about crime, he told of a 21 year old man who tried to rob a Toys ‘R Us with a toy gun. He was shot by a 5 year old with a real gun!
And he said, ” As crowded as jails are these days, they always seem to have room for Black people!”
He was just filled with funny lines. He said that Kim Kardashian is like Kryptonite for Black men, and that they tried to do a Real Housewives of San Francisco, but they couldn’t find any.
He even acted out scenes from a fictional Maury Povich show where the Black characters were named what sounded to me like Aquaneshia and Tyquarius, and he called “Cops” a Black reality show with a three tattoo minimum and a 4 tooth maximum.
I was so glad to see him being so funny after all these years. And he was so kind to his audience. He stayed afterwards to greet people who wanted to take photos and buy his merchandise.
Jimmy “J.J.” Walker and Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV at Al Martin’s Broadway Comedy Club!
It just goes to show you that being funny is like riding a bike. You never lose it, and if you fall off the end of the stage you get right back up and start telling jokes again!
Check out the cool video interview we did after the show!