Posts Tagged Jeffrey Gurian

George Wallace Visits The Comic Strip

Whenever George Wallace comes to New York, he always comes back to his “home” to visit Richie Tienken and The Comic Strip. That’s the place where he started back in 1976, before the place was even finished.

Before The Strip opened it’s doors on June 1, 1976 George came by selling bus advertising and convinced owner Richie Tienken to buy advertising that appeared on the back of buses going up 1st and 2nd Avenues that said ” Eat, Drink, and Laugh at The Comic Strip.”

(L-R) J.R. Ravitz, Marina Franklin, Jeffrey Gurian, and Richie Tienken, and holding down the back row by himself, is George Wallace! George is so big, he’s his own row!

It was the reason when Richie and I did the book on the 35 year history of the legendary club, we were originally planning to call it “Eat, Drink and Laugh”.

George and Jerry Seinfeld were and still are best friends. They were roommates in the early days and shared an apartment on West 71st Street. When Jerry left for LA, George kept the apartment and roomed with Paul Provenza.

George has been in Las Vegas for the last ten years with the highest rated 10 P.M. show on The Strip. He came into The Strip to do a set recently, which thrilled the crowd, and told me he’s thinking of moving back to New York.

George was the second interview I did for the book “Make ‘Em Laugh”, up in Montreal during the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, the summer of 2008.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with George Wallace backstage during rehearsal at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, 2008!

He was hosting one of the huge galas that gets televised, and right before he went out on stage he asked me what I thought he should say! I had to laugh to myself that here was a guy, so accomplished that he didn’t even have to prepare to host a major comedy gala and would decide what he was going to say when he got out there!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage with “All Star Gala” host George Wallace just before he took the stage!

Needless to say he killed it and after the show he took me out for a late dinner, where I did my interview, and we got to know each other. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.

I’m one of the producers of a new comedy documentary film called “The Business of Comedy” Exec. Produced by two great guys Gary Licker and Scott Sobel of Scott Entertainment. They went out to Vegas to interview George, and I gave them a signed copy of the book to bring George as I knew he hadn’t seen it yet. They were thrilled to do it and they said that George was thrilled to get it.

Scott Sobel and Gary Licker, Exec. Producers of the doc. film “The Business of Comedy” at the home of Jeffrey Gurian, filming him for the doc., on which he is also a co-producer!

One of the first things he said when he saw me was how much he loved the book!

So I was backstage with him this time too, and don’t you think that right before he went out to perform he asked me what I thought he should do! (LOL) I reminded him of the incident in Montreal and told him that whatever he chose would be perfect. The audience was already his!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with George Wallace at The Comic Strip!

He talked about going to Oprah’s party, and talked about getting parking tickets. He said he got so many parking tickets he was thinking of removing his windshield. That’s hysterical! He also told of the dyslexic cop who gave him an IUD, instead of a DUI!

He talked about his poor childhood and how in his day kids only got measles, mumps and chickenpox. It was all they could afford!

He said to some guy in the audience who was making remarks, “Where were you when your mind got up and walked away?”

Then he said he didn’t want to get racial, but advised white people to stop looking for ghosts! And then he did one of his classic bits which he calls “I Be Thinkin'” where he comes out with lines like, ” I saw a can that said “Evaporated Milk” and I thought to myself, then what’s in the can?” I told him he should do a CD by that name and he said he was already planning on doing that! Great minds think alike! (LOL)

He also said, ” You never see a homeless Mexican!” And it’s true. They’re like baby pigeons. You know they must exist, but you never actually see one! He said you give a Mexican 8 bricks and 3 packs of chewing gum and a week later you got a housing development!”

George hung out after his killer set, and took photos with his fans and with Richie and I. It was very cool night and if he does move back to New York, you can bet he’ll be a regular at his old home, The Comic Strip!

(L-R) Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, George Wallace and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip, holding the book ” Make “Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of the club written by Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken! George is featured prominently in the book as one of the originals from The Strip!

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Amy Schumer’s New Show on Comedy Central Debuts April 30th

Amy Schumer is the new Amy Schumer! If that sounds confusing, it’s because there’s no one around or preceding her to compare her to. Maybe Sarah Silverman? In terms of being open, funny, sexy, and being able to say anything at all without flinching!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Amy Schumer at a comedy event in NYC!

Her new show “Inside Amy Schumer” debuts this coming Tuesday, April 30th, on Comedy Central and you can see the first episode right here:

http://on.cc.com/ZKPhH3

I caught up with Amy recently at the Jack Black Roast and did a little Comedy Matters TV interview with her on the red carpet. On camera, she asked people to subscribe to Comedy Matters TV as a personal favor to her, which was very kind of her to do! I’ve been supporting Amy for years and always knew she’d make it big.

Comedy Central loves her and the public loves her as evidenced by the fact that every video I post of her gets tons of views. I’m sure her show will be a big hit. Check out my red carpet Jack Black Roast video right here:

Yesterday I was a guest with the great radio talent Ron Bennington, on the Ron and Fez Show on Sirius XM radio, a huge national show, and we started talking about Amy and how she was his featured guest on his special interview show called “Unmasked”!

“Unmasked” is where Ron sits down with a big comedy star for an hour and does a really in-depth interview. I was there for his Chris Tucker interview and it was really great!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Chris Tucker up at Sirius XM Radio for Ron Bennington’s “Unmasked” interview! They’re holding Jeffrey’s new book ” Make ‘Em Laugh” with an intro by Chris Rock!

I mentioned I had seen Amy sell out Gotham Comedy Club recently for all of her shows, with Mark Normand as her opening act. Mark’s really funny, and told me he travels with Amy on the road which must be a fun gig. It’s also a great opportunity for him, and don’t be surprised if he turns up on her show! (LOL)

(I hope she sees how good I did on Kroll Show and invites me on her show too!!!!!!!)

Mark talked about guys complaining about having to wear condoms. He was like, “How can you complain about having to need a layer of something between you?” ” Hey Dad, give me a hug! OK but take off that shirt first! I don’t wanna feel anything between us!”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Mark Normand at Stand Up New York!

He also said that being a vegan is like being a Black guy in the 1950’s. You can only eat in certain restaurants! He got huge laughs and endeared himself to the audience by saying, ” I think this might be the best I’ve ever done!”

Amy took the stage and had some great lines like, ” I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual!” She said most girls work on a sliding rape scale.

She said she dated a wrestler who went down on her right away because he was raised well. But she said he gave up after a while because he could see that she was texting!

She asked who was still in their 20’s and encouraged them by telling them they still had hope! She also said that nothing good ever happens in an alcoholic blackout! You never wake up and find a Pilates mat.

And she said her friends are all getting married and incredibly they keep all of their kids! She got huge love from the crowd!

Ron Bennington was commenting on how likeable Amy is, and how popular she is, and they actually showed my red carpet clip on the show over the internet. (I almost wrote “likable” instead of “likeable”, but Amy could also be “likable”! LOL)

“Inside Amy Schumer” is an all around comedy show with sketch, stand-up, man-on-the street, and everything else comedic you can think of! I told her it was like the Amy Schumer version of SNL! She got a good laugh out of that!

Make sure to tune in to Comedy Central on Tues. April 30th 10:30E/9:30 Central, and I’m sure you’ll get a good laugh out of THAT!

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Jim Norton Closes Out Gotham Comedy Live’s First Season

Every Thursday night for about the last three months, Killer Bunny Entertainment has been filming a live comedy show at Gotham Comedy Club for Mark Cuban and Ryan Seacrest’s AXS TV channel!

Every week they have a great host and I’ve been down there to shoot videos for Comedy Matters TV with several of them like T.J. Miller, Susie Essman, and Carlos Mencia, but when I heard that Jim Norton would be hosting the last show of the season I was determined to get down there to see him!

Not only because he’s so funny but because I had been trying to set up an interview with Jim since the previous July when his last CD “Please Be Offended” first came out.

Jim Norton the final host of the first season on Gotham Comedy Live onstage at Gotham Comedy Club!

Jonathan Brandstein’s office and I were working together to set it up, but Jim was so busy that it never happened. And then I ran into Jim in Montreal at the 30th annual Just for Laughs Festival where I was actually shooting for the festival, and it still didn’t happen. We ran past each other in the lobby where I was just able to yell out a quick “hello” and that I had been trying to get a hold of him. I shot 40 video interviews over those three days, but no Jim Norton.

Jim did a great show at Gotham, and the fun thing is that it’s live. For some comics that might be daunting, but Jim’s been on the radio with Opie and Anthony so long doing live stuff every day, that for him it’s nothing.

It’s also no holds barred. Anything goes. So Jim got to talk about one of his favorite subjects, … hookers! And how in Vegas when he called for a hooker they told him it would cost $3,000. And he was wondering how long she stayed for that, … forever? For three thousand dollars, does he get to cut off her head and keep it?

The always funny Jim Norton hosting the AXS TV special Gotham Comedy Live!

I don’t think that was really a desire of his, just a thought that briefly ran through his mind.

Jim’s observations are also right on, like when he said if you’re clearing your throat you sound like a liar. No matter what you’re saying, once you clear your throat in the middle of saying it, you automatically sound like a liar. In a way, and I mean this only as a compliment, he and Colin Quinn work very similarly. He actually imitated Colin’s voice and sounded just like him.

Drew Fraser warmed up the crowd and the man has a way of getting the audience really pumped. It’s a special talent to be able to host a show, and Drew’s got it!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Drew Fraser who not only warmed up the crowd, but heated them up to a boil! (LOL)

Louis Katz was first up on the show and was his usual funny self. He said he spent most of the day balding. He then went on to explain to the audience that with his look he can’t wear a hat, because with his glasses and a hat he’s a fake moustache away from looking like he’s in disguise!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Louis Katz right after he killed it on Gotham Comedy Live!

He talked about someone who had such bad breath he wanted to tell them, “You know there’s no such thing as street chocolate. You’ve been eating dog shit!”

Marina Franklin was up next and I love seeing Marina perform. Especially when she talks about coming from Chicago and wonders if she and not Michelle could have been The First Lady. But then reality kicks in and she realizes she ain’t no lady! She could have been the “First Ho!”

In talking about her dating life and her recent white boyfriend she said she doesn’t just date white guys exclusively, but the economy was bad!

Colin Jost, one of the head writers up at SNL was next, and he too is reliably funny. I always enjoy his performance and the tone with which he delivers his material, which is so important to a comic. He talked about song lyrics and how in one popular song they changed the lyrics to make them family friendly and have a guy apologizing to a girl by saying, ” I don’t mean to be rude but tonight I’m loving you!” He went on to explain that that’s nothing to apologize for. It’s one of the nicest things you can say to a person.

He also advised couples that if one of you loses a ton of weight you both better lose a ton of weight because it’s very awkward to see them and say, ” Mark, you look great, you must have lost 50 pounds! And Janet, ……………”

And closing the show was the always funny and sexy Lynne Koplitz, who openly says she’s 45 years old and it’s over! She calls herself Auntie Lynne and gives advice to the younger women in the audience like not to smile too much or you get laugh lines. Twenty years from now you’ll be asking yourself, what was so fuckin’ funny?

She goes for younger guys who she can control, and ruled out dating one older guy by saying ” You’re cute, but you probably have opinions!”

After the show, which got picked up for a second season, and which will be starting in May, I went down to the green room to have a long awaited chat with Jim Norton. It was well worth the wait, and here it is:

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Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn Team Up at MSG to Fight Diabetes

Comedy is a great way to call attention to a cause and to raise money for charity, and needless to say the bigger the comedy star the more money you can raise. This Wednesday, April 17th two of the biggest, most well-loved stars of comedy, Jerry Seinfeld and his close friend Colin Quinn, will be performing in a comedy concert, as part of the Stand Up For A Cure Concert Series, to benefit the American Diabetes Association.

Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn will be at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden this Wed. 4/17/13! Come out to support a great cause!

It’s a wonderful thing when stars use their celebrity to give back to society. It’s a sign of their gratitude for the success they have achieved.

Stand Up for a Cure Concert Series was launched in 2007 with a Seinfeld-starring show at Hammerstein Ballroom to benefit the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Since that time, they have produced shows with Dave Matthews Band at MSG, Bon Jovi at the Hammerstein Ballroom, Barry Manilow at the Nassau Coliseum, Brian Wilson at the Hammerstein Ballroom, and another Seinfeld show at MSG in 2008.

This will be Jerry Seinfeld’s third show for Stand Up For A Cure, and I’m sure he gets a lot of pleasure out of knowing how many people are helped through his kindness.

Jerry Seinfeld will star in a Stand-Up For A Cure comedy concert to benefit the American Diabetes Association!

The event will take place on Wednesday, April 17 at The Theater at Madison Square Garden (Seventh Avenue and 32nd Street). Jerry had his choice of charities to benefit from his performance and he personally selected the American Diabetes Association as his charity of choice for this year’s fundraiser. I will be covering this event and I hope to be able to ask him why.

I personally have a strong connection to Diabetes as I lost my Dad to that dreaded disease. Many people have no idea how devastating Diabetes can be. My Dad looked like a cancer victim before it took him. It affected every part of his body except his eyesight, which was a Blessing in itself. It’s a wasting disease, where in the end your kidneys can shut down due to end stage renal disease.

My oldest daughter Elizabeth DeRobertis is the head of the nutrition department at a medical group in Scarsdale, and specializes in treating Diabetes and I myself produced a sold-out comedy event to raise money for the ADA at The Comic Strip, on 81st and 2nd in NYC.

Both Jerry and Colin were kind enough to give me interviews for my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip the legendary comedy club where both of them started out and called “home”. I wrote it with owner/founder Richie Tienken, and Chris Rock who also started out there wrote an amazing introduction to the book, besides giving his own interview.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Jerry Seinfeld at The Comic Strip after Jerry’s interview for Jeffrey’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of the club where Jerry started out!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Colin Quinn holding a copy of “Make ‘Em Laugh” the book he is in, about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip where he started his career!

A portion of the proceeds from the event will go towards funding research, education, programs and advocacy for the American Diabetes Association.

Right now there are over two million people living in the New York metropolitan area who have diabetes and that number continues to grow. If this trend continues, one in three children who were born after 2000 will develop diabetes within their lifetime. For minorities, this number becomes one in two.

The American Diabetes Association of Greater New York is working hard to stop this, by focusing many of its programs in New York on prevention. To do this, the association provides health fairs, school walks, healthy living ideas and food choice options/exercise materials to public schools and community organizations.

To learn more about how the American Diabetes Association works with the community, please visit, http://www.diabetes.org/newyork or visit them on Facebook or Twitter.

Together, by attending and supporting comedy events like this, we can Stop Diabetes and have fun along the way!

The overall event is being produced by premiere concert producers Heywood, Mendel and Rose, who have some other exciting shows coming up in the future as well. On August 10th “X Factor” finalist Carly Rose Sonenclar will be performing at the Best Buy Theater and they will also be doing a 3 day festival at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Jan 2014 leading up to the Superbowl in NY with a handful of incredible acts, which I will tell you more about closer to the date!

In the meantime, hope to see you at MSG. I will be there covering the event and will hopefully be posting video of it very soon!

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Peter Dinklage of "Game of Thrones" in Early Comedy Film

I first met Peter Dinklage more than 20 years ago, and I’m pretty sure it was through Ethan Hawke. I had been hanging out at the Naked Angels Theatre bringing my early work to be read, which is how I first met Ethan.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Ethan Hawke back in 2005 during his performance in Hurly-Burly!

I had written a play called “A Punch In The Face”, and was going to their Monday night reading series where you could get up and coming actors to read your stuff out loud. The purpose was for writers to evaluate their writing and make changes after hearing it read.

I was doing readings of ” A Punch In The Face” and a young actor who introduced himself as Ethan Hawke came over to tell me he really liked my piece. I had just read about him that very week in people Magazine about a movie he starred in called ” Alive” about people who survived a plane crash.

The Naked Angels was made up of Marisa Tomei, Matthew Broderick, Kenny Lonergan, Fisher Stevens, Sarah Jessica Parker, her brothers Toby and Pippin, and a host of others that have become household names. Somewhere along the way Ethan introduced me to Peter.

I was offered the opportunity to make some short comedy films for the Toyota Comedy Festival, and had about two weeks to get them done from start to finish, and I created what came to be known as The “Men Who” Series, based on a series of ideas I had told to Woody Allen many years before when I was still in Dental School. It was about men who did very unusual things, like ” Men Who Take A Pitchfork To The Movies”, “Men Who Enjoy Latin Dancing With Tools”, and “Men Who Dance Where They’re Not Supposed To”!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Woody Allen many years later in 2011!

In recent years when I re-connected with Woody Allen, as I was about to be re-introduced, I actually made him bust out laughing by saying, “Hi Woody, I’m a very close friend of yours!”

Anyway, back to The “Men Who” Series, … I cast them myself and when it came time to cast “Men Who Dance Where They’re Not Supposed To” I went to Peter Dinklage who kindly agreed to be in the film. He was one of three men who danced in the street wherever they wanted to, despite the fact that there were “No Dancing” signs posted everywhere.

I had my artist make up a perfect “No Dancing” sign that looked just like a “No Parking” sign and even had hours on it. I think it said, ” No Dancing Tues, and Thursdays or any other time!” We shot it on Broadway and 28th Street, where I also shot ” Men Who Dance In Traffic With The Sunday Edition of The New York Times!”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Peter Dinklage currently starring in HBO’s “Game of Thrones!”

When the shoot was over, we accidentally left the sign up, and it created quite a traffic jam for a few days, because even then parking was very difficult in the city and drivers who were looking for a place to park found it very confusing to come up against a “No Dancing” sign. It even wound up as a Page 6 item in the NY Post!

Anyway, Peter was always a very talented actor so I’m not really surprised that he went on to become such a big star. I loved him in the award-winning film “The Station Agent” in which he starred with his good friend, the amazingly talented Bobby Cannavale from Boardwalk Empire, and in about 15 minutes the new season of “Game of Thrones” is coming on and I’m running to watch.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Bobby Cannavale at The Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row in NYC!

Check out below to see Peter dance where he’s not supposed to, … in a “No Dancing” zone!

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Bret Ernst Headlines Gotham Comedy Club

Every so often I get to see someone I’ve only heard about, but never seen before. Such was the case with Bret Ernst who’s based in LA, but Chris Mazzilli makes sure to bring in the best talent from all over and gives them exposure at his clubs. That’s good for me! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with headliner Bret Ernst at Gotham Comedy Club!

Bret was one of four comedians featured in Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights – Hollywood to the Heartland, along with Ahmed Ahmed, John Caparulo, and Sebastian Maniscalco.

Bret has also appeared on Comedy Central Presents and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,and was the host of the first season of Love Games: Bad Girls Need Love Too. He also appeared in Ke$ha’s Blah Blah Blah music video.

His Comedy Central 1/2 hour special was voted in the “TOP 5” of all of 2010, and his first comedy album “American Comic” was an instant success, breaking “TOP 10” on iTunes in its first week, so you can see why I was anxious to meet him and see him perform.

JImmy Failla hosting the Bret Ernst show at Gotham Comedy Club!

The always funny Jimmy Failla MC’ed the show and brought up Drew Fraser first. Drew is also a great host and often hosts events for Comedy Central. He said he’d rather get sick and lose weight than go to the gym. I often thought of that in terms of getting a high fever and hallucinating instead of taking drugs. It’s a legal way to hallucinate! But who do you go to to score a high fever???

Drew also talked about The Pope quitting, and said, ” you know the economy is bad when G-d starts laying people off!”

And on Latina women, he said they don’t age well. He was dating a girl who started out looking like J Lo and wound up looking like Ceelo!

Rachel Feinstein was next and she’s one of my faves! I love when she imitates her Mom talking about a joke she finds objectionable and asks Rachel, ” Can you take that joke out of your talent show?” She calls her act a “talent show”! That’s hysterical!

Rachel Feinstein onstage at Gotham, … as funny as she is pretty! Which means VERY!!!

And then she imitates her Mom as a rapper cause she says her Mom thinks she’s Wiz Khalifa! Just the juxtapostion of the words “Mom” and “Wiz Khalifa” in the same sentence you know it has to be funny!

And I’ve never heard another female comic do a guy’s voice as good as Rachel. When she imitates the “street” accents of the guys who cat-call her on the street by commenting on her appearance with lines like, ” Oh Mami, don’t do that to me!” … as if she purposely looks so sexy just to turn them on, she answers in her grandmother’s Jewish sounding voice with a come-back like, “I’m sorry Jorge,(Pronounced Hor-hay!), I guess I’m up to my old tricks again!” I could watch her all night!

Rachel Feinstein in one of her many characters, probably scolding some street guy who came onto her!

But her set ended and Bret Ernst took the stage to rousing applause. His crowd knew he was coming and turned out for him. Right away he proved his likeability, and went into imitating his cousin who tries to be super Italian, where he transforms himself into that “Jersey-shore” kind of Italian guy, even making up words and phrases like when requesting to use the GPS he’s like, “Put it in the “navigashe!”. Go to a restaurant and make a “reservache”! Just realizing that you understand what he’s saying, even using those made up words is funny in itself!

He has a great comedy voice, which not all comics have. Certain voices are better attuned for comedy than others and he has a good one! He also does a super “drunk” voice as well.

Bret Ernst in one of his many funny facial expressions to go along with his funny act!

Raised by a single Mom he wonders whether there are really any Dads anymore. Kids these days have “Dad sightings!” I think I saw your Dad in the mall!

Currently a bachelor, he explains that a “promise ring” is a ring that buys you some time. He wonders about all the rings you have to buy a girl these days, a promise ring, an engagement ring, a wedding ring. How many rings do you need? What are you Saturn?

Then he riffs on “Save the Date” cards. It’s basically a card that tells you to expect a card. He says it’s like me calling you up and telling you to hang up so I can call you back, “Yo, hang up! I’m gonna call you!” A great example of how comics take everyday things and occurrences that most people don’t notice, and make them funny.

Bret Ernst headlining and killing it at Gotham Comedy Club!

Talking about girls when they’re shopping he says his girl would say something like, ” That shirt would be great in Aruba!” He’s like, ” I don’t even know where that is!”

And he goes on to explain that girls make things more complicated than they have to be because they don’t know what they want. They live in a fantasy. They want to have fun but they make it impossible by coming up with things out of their head like ” I wanna go to a restaurant with a Mariachi band and a harp”, like an imaginary restaurant that only exists in Oz!

I’m really glad I got to see Bret Ernst and I hope I get to see him again soon!

Bret Ernst with his new fan, Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV!

Bret currently resides in Los Angeles, and hosts his own podcast on Tuesday nights at 9pm Pacific at the gocast.com network. If he likes this piece, maybe he’ll have me on as a guest???

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Carlos Mencia: Heavyweight in Comedy, Lightweight in Actual Weight!

The last time I saw Carlos Mencia he was a lot heavier. He told me he lost about 70 pounds, but fortunately he’s as funny as ever, if not funnier! It proves that weight doesn’t make you funny. Look at Lisa Lampanelli! A hundred pounds lighter and she kills it every time!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with a heavier Carlos Mencia back in 2007 at a Latino Comedy Festival in LA!

So when I heard that Carlos was hosting the AXS TV special at Gotham, one of the “Gotham Comedy Live” series produced by Killer Bunny Entertainment’s Dave Goldberg and Rob Cea, I knew I had to get down there.

I let Carlos know to expect me, and we sat down together in the green room during the time between rehearsal and the actual show. He started by saying, “the last time you saw me I was a lot heavier!” Which led into a discussion I enjoy, about empowerment! Most people are too afraid to change their lives, even if they’re miserable, because at least they know who they are while being miserable. But if they radically change their lives, who will they be?

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the new and improved Carlos Mencia at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

That’s a scary concept for a lot of people. In my own life I was a very severe stutterer until I was in my 20’s. I couldn’t even say my name which is a common problem for stutterers. I realized that when I was in a room by myself I could speak perfectly. That told me that there was really nothing wrong with me. It took the next two or three years for me to make progress with my speech and free myself from the bondage of stuttering, but it’s an accomplishment that changed my life.

Carlos came from Honduras, as the 17th of 18 kids, so when he started doing well enough to afford having an appetizer in restaurants, he ordered them just because he could! Then a friend of his who had Diabetes told him he was in danger of losing a toe, and made the observation that when you see old people in their 80’s or 90’s they’re NEVER fat! And that’s true. That realization hit home for Carlos and he got serious about losing weight.

He looks and feels like a new person! Check out what he had to say in the video we shot:

Carlos’s Gotham Comedy Live show was one of the best I’ve seen, because of the energy he brought to it. Angelo Lozada was the MC and he’s always funny and reliable, which is why he gets to host a lot. He said, ” You know your girlfriend talks too much when she wakes up in the morning and her first words are, ” And then, ….”

Angelo Lozada warming up the crowd for Carlos Mencia at Gotham Comedy Club!

Jon Fish was up next and said he wishes his Dad had given him the advice, “When you realize you’re going bald, turn to whoever you’re with at the time and propose!”

Jon Fisch making a point while killing on the AXS TV special “Live at Gotham” starring Carlos Mencia!

He uses Hugh Hefner as an inspiration for dating younger women. He said that Hugh, 86, recently married a girl who was 26. A 60 year difference. That’s an entire old person between them!

Hadiyah Robinson was up next and was also very funny. She talked about not being able to have a gay guy as a roommate. She said she couldn’t live with a guy who didn’t want to have sex with her!

Hadiyah Robinson “bringin’ it” to the crowd at Gotham Comedy Club!

Most people in comedy have had the experience of meeting someone who tells them a family member is also very funny, and is starting out in comedy. Usually it turns out to be nothing. They were funny once at a family party or something. In the particular case of which I speak, the “someone” was the super of my building, who told me many times about his step-son who was performing comedy. I had no idea it was going to turn out to be Mark DeMayo, who happens to be very, very funny! He’s also an ex-NYPD cop, which gives him lots of relatable material.

The very likeable and funny Mark Demayo, ex-cop turned comic onstage at Gotham Comedy Club!

When people ask him what he does now since he retired, he tells them he smokes pot! He got an extended applause break when he showed the audience how he used to bang on doors in the projects in order to get people to come to the door. He banged on them as if they were conga drums, and he was banging out a Latin beat! The audience pictured some guy dancing his way to the door to be arrested! Really funny visual, but Mark told me afterwards that the length of the applause made him have to leave out a joke. A lot of comics would like to have that problem!

Carlos liked him so much that at the end of the show he asked him to do an extra bit! Mark was there with his manager from Cringe Humor Cris Italia, who with his partners Paul Italia, Patrick Milligan and Dave Kimowitz own the super cool new comedy club/restaurant called The Stand! If you haven’t been there yet you must check it out on 20th Street and 3rd Avenue in NYC! And make sure to tell them I sent you! (LOL)

Jason Andors was also on the line-up and admitted that he cheated on his last girlfriend which he felt must have been Karma. He wondered, “what did she do to deserve that kind of treatment?”

The funny and flexible Jason Andors, onstage at Gotham Comedy Club!

He also told about this Latina chick he was dating who would yell at him in public, so to counteract that he’d take out a script and make believe they were rehearsing a scene for a movie. Jason has a background in ballet, which he uses so effectively onstage in the physical part of his act, and is one of the best pop-lockers I’ve ever seen. He’s often the only White comic performing to a Black audience, and I can see why his material would go over so well.

But Carlos was amazing. He was so funny, he commented himself that he even wasted jokes during the commercial breaks when only the club audience would hear them, as opposed to the TV audience at home. He talked about so many diverse topics like:

Oscar Pistorius – You have no legs. Why are you shooting the one chick that was willing to have sex with you? She’s probably up in heaven now saying, ” I should have been f***king a guy with no arms!” (Did I mention that this show was “Live” with no censorship???)

Hurricane Sandy – In this country we called it a “Super Storm”. In India they simply say, ” A wave came and everyone died!”

Camping – Camping is for rich people who want to pretend to be homeless. Most regular people don’t even understand the concept. When I explained it to my gardener, he told me that his family has been “camping” for hundreds of years!

And at the end of the high energy show they all came out to take a bow!

Mark Demayo, Jason Andors, Carlos Mencia, Jon Fisch, and Hadiyah Robinson onstage for a cast bow at Gotham Comedy Club!

Carlos is a super guy who deserves all of his success. He alluded to working on a concept for a new TV show and personally I would love to see that! I’d love even more to be on it! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Carlos Mencia backstage at Gotham Comedy Club holding a copy of Jeffrey’s new book with an intro by Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh!”

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Sherri Shepherd Kills It At Gotham

Most comics have to worry about winning the audience over. Sherri Shepherd is one of those rare comic performers that the audience likes so much, they’re already on her side when she hits the stage. Gotham Comedy is a big club and when I got there it was so crowded for Sherri that my usual table was gone.

Sherri Shepherd killing it onstage to a sold-out crowd at Gotham Comedy Club!

Fortunately I got an even better table since I need to sit way in the back so I can jump up to greet the performers and get my photos during the show without disturbing anyone. I wound up with the corner table that had good light and put me right next to the comics who were on the show.

Angelo Lozada was the host, and he’s great at warming up an audience, which is a lot harder than just coming out and performing. I should never use the word “just” because coming out and performing stand-up comedy is the hardest thing in the world, even though Joel McHale once told me that he thought that brain surgery might be more difficult! (LOL – Your cue to laugh!)

Angelo Lozada hosting the show at Gotham Comedy Club for Sherri Shepherd!

Angelo told about a homeless guy on the train, and imitated the usual spiel, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I don’t mean to disturb anyone. I’m just trying to get some money to get my son a tattoo, and to start a record label.”

First up was Harrison Greenbaum, a favorite of mine. Harrison’s killer theme is that people think he’s gay. And he explains it openly, “If you walked into a room and saw me kissing a guy, you’d immediately say, ‘That guy is definitely gay.’ But if you walked into a room and saw me kissing a woman, you’d immediately say, ” That guy … is fooling himself!”

Harrison Greenbaum, Harvard grad, who explains how having sex with another guy is the straightest thing you can do!

He embellished upon that by saying, ” How do you know you’re not gay unless you’ve had sex with another man? That’s the straightest thing you can do is to have sex with another man and then say you didn’t like it.” He explained it so well, it almost made sense! (LOL)

He’s also very clever with lines like,” My friend reads the Bible religiously, which is really the only way to read it!”

Next up was Brad Trackman who I think I know even before he married his lovely wife Christina, who used to book acts at Carolines. Brad is one of the few comics who is always a hit and works clean.

A photo of Brad Trackman and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV taken at The Comic Strip, circa 2002!

He’s done lots of national TV appearances like NBC’s “Later” and “Friday Night”, CBS’s “Star Search”, ABC’s “NY Comedy Festival”, MTV’s “The Buried Life” and had his own commercial campaign for Spike Television where he played the fictitious presidential elect Biff Wolinski.

One of his CD’s called “Safecracker” is based on a killer bit he does about women being like safes and men having to figure out the combination to get into the safe. A compliment like ” Of course you don’t look fat in those pants” is like 22 to the left, etc. knowing full well that men will say anything they have to to crack the combination to the safe!

I heard rumours that Brad may be in line for a show! More on that to follow. He said his wife has trust issues and he knows that for a fact because he read it in her journal! That is really funny! And when she asked him if he would still look for her if they were both in Heaven, he had to remind of of their marriage vows, ” Til death do us part!” It’s Heaven, and he’s not making any promises!

Then Sherri took the stage to thunderous applause. She’s one of those performers that people like before she even says a word. There’s not that many. I once saw Artie Lange get a standing ovation just by coming out on stage!

Sherri automatically endears herself to the audience, but don’t tell her she’s adorable, or you’ll never hear the end of it. She hates being called “adorable” and I understand it cause I always hated it when people said it about me too! “Adorable” is more for a pet or an infant, not a grown-ass adult! (LOL)

Sherri Shepherd in the midst of one of her funny stories onstage during her headlining gig at Gotham Comedy Club!

People love Sherri because not only is she funny, but she’s honest and self-effacing. In talking about her preparation for Hurricane Sandy she said she stocked up on lots of food, and then ate it all in one day!

She talks about washing her wig, and even warned her son Jeffrey, ” Don’t you lie to me. I got eyes in the back of my wig!” And if you ever saw Chris Rock’s documentary entitled “Good Hair” on the state of Black women and their hair, you know not to fool around with a Black woman and her hair! That’s serious bizness!

Sherri replaced Star Jones as a co-host on The View back in 2007, and has also appeared on 30 Rock, Entourage and Hot in Cleveland. She’s also landed supporting roles in a range of films, from the 2009 drama Precious to the 2012 action comedy One for the Money. Also in 2012, Shepherd did a stint on Dancing With the Stars, and had some really funny stories about that, and how she got eliminated from the show. Meanwhile, just being on it is an honor in itself.

Ask Jeffrey Ross who was on for only a short time when his dancing career got put on hold due to a finger in his eye! Very hard to dance with a finger in your eye!

Sherri claimed as she was running towards her partner for him to lift her up in the air she swore she heard Maksim Chmerkovskiy say ” Ohhhhhh Jesus!”

Sherri is a great story teller. Some comics just get up and tell jokes. Others are able to tell stories. She’s one of those. She talks a lot about her new husband who she calls “Sal”, who’s supposedly very tall.

Sherri Shepherd and husband Lamar Sally, otherwise known as “Sal”!

When I heard her call him “Sal” I thought she married some big Italian guy until out of curiousity I looked it up, and saw that her husband’s real name is Lamar Sally, “Sal” for short, which made a lot more sense to me! (LOL) Her son’s name is Jeffrey which I feel is one of the greatest names to come along in all of history! (LOLOL)

I recently ran into Sherri after a guest spot she did at The Comic Strip and was able to give her a copy of my new book with Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of that legendary club! My co-author was owner/founder of the club Richie Tienken, who appears with us in the photo below.

Richie Tienken, Sherri Shepherd holding her copy of “Make ‘Em Laugh” and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV!

Sherri is really fun, and really funny, and I hope to be able to interview her soon for Comedy Matters TV!

Hypersmash.com

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The Phenomenon That Is Nick Kroll

Papi Steenbergen, Aspen Bruckheimer, Gil Faizon, Fabrice Fabrice, C-Czar, Dr. Armond, Bobby Bottleservice, AKA Bobby Bruschia, AKA Bobby B., … these are only a handful of the many colorful characters emanating from the mind and talent of what I call “The Phenomenon that is Nick Kroll.”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Bobby Bottleservice, AKA Bobby Bruschia, AKA Bobby B at a promotional event at The Hundreds in NYC, back in 2011!

And what I think is most amazing is that when I see him inhabiting the body of all of these characters there are times I can not tell you who the real Nick Kroll is. I’ll try and explain that.

To the best of my ability I would identify the guy on my right, (your left) as Nick Kroll, and the guy on the other side of me as John Mulaney, but who really knows??? It could be Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland posing as them!

When Nick is in character as Gil Faizon it’s obvious that he’s in costume, but his body language and facial features seem to actually change along with the character he’s doing to the point where I no longer can tell what he really looks like. At the beginning of each episode he seems to appear as himself, in a Nick Kroll type of monologue, but even knowing him as I do, I’m still not 100% sure that’s him without any make-up. I couldn’t really tell you how he wears his hair.

And my background as a former cosmetic dentist made me very observant of detail. He so becomes the character he’s doing that he truly gets lost in it. When he’s Gil Faizon or Bobby B. it seems effortless to him to inhabit the facial movements, the tone of voice, the cadence of speech. It’s truly amazing. In all my years of comedy I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with the ability to do so many characters, and do them well.

Quite a few years ago, around 1990, the first time we at The Friars Club roasted Chevy Chase, I was working with the producer of the Roasts at the time, as kind of the official writer for The Friars Club, and wound up working with the SNL crew who was going to appear at a Roast for the first time.

Most young guys had never done a Roast in those days, so it was up to me to guide them through the process. I had been writing for the Roasts for 12 years previously with legends like Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, and Pat Cooper, and became kind of a liaison between the older comics and the younger comics, since I was friendly with both. In those days a Roast was kind of a secret art form.

Jeffrey Gurian, now of Comedy Matters TV and Phil Hartman in Jeffrey’s apartment rehearsing for the first Chevy Chase Roast, Oct. 1990!

As I recall I had to work with my old friend Phil Hartman, who I’m pretty sure appeared as Donald Trump, Kevin Nealon, who I think appeared as Mr. Subliminal, and who I recently saw when I appeared on his show at The Laugh Factory in LA, and Dana Carvey who may or may not have appeared as Church Lady. I saw first hand how hard it is to be able to stay in character for an entire set. Nick makes it look effortless.

Dana Carvey, Jeffrey Gurian, and Phil Hartman after a rehearsal up at SNL, circa 1990!

Needless to say, people were very excited about the prospect of “Kroll Show” before it came out. A year ago February, I got a call from Inman Young, Nick’s producer in LA, asking if I’d like to come out to LA to be in some sketches with Nick. I packed my bags when I got off the phone even though I wasn’t going until the next month. That’s how excited I was to do it! (LOL)

I went out last March and shot two sketches. One was with Nick, and his writing partner and friend John Mulaney another super talent loved by all who know him, in an “Oh, Hello” sketch, and another in a Woody Allen like party scene with Nick, John, and award-winning actress Karen Black.

On the Kroll Show set with Jeffrey Gurian, Gil Faizon, Karen Black, and George St. Geegland! They were all wearing costumes! (LOL)

I had the time of my life out there with Nick and his friends like Ed Helms, Jason Mantzoukas, Joe Mande, and Jon Daly, who is not only a producer on the show but also an actor who also does several characters like Wendy Shawn, Nick’s partner in Rich Dicks.

The show is literally filled with Jons/Johns including Jon Krisel the director also co-creator of Portlandia starring Fred Armisen, and producer John Levenstein, previously from Arrested Development.

I often say there’s no more two man teams out there like you used to see with Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, or Jackie Gleason and Ed Norton who were hysterical together, but Nick and John Mulaney, or Nick and Jon Daly are two teams that could wind up in that category.

The lunch table on set was representative of the level of talent that Nick brings in. All of his friends were on other shows as well.

Nick Kroll and friends from Kroll Show on lunch break. They’re all there except for Ed Helms who had to make a call! He’s in the next photo!

Jeffrey Gurian on the set of Kroll Show in LA with Ed Helms!

Jeffrey Gurian on the set of Kroll Show in LA with Jason Mantzoukas!

In the Comedy Matters TV interview I did with Nick and John after the shoot they were still in character and I made the mistake of trying to interview them as Nick and John because it’s confusing sitting with people in character as to how to address them, … as themselves or as their character. Well, let me clarify that. It was confusing to ME, not to them as you’ll see in this video!

George St. Geegland as he really looks when he’s not playing John Mulaney, Jeffrey Gurian as he looks when he is and is not playing himself, and Gil Faizon as he looks when he’s not playing Nick Kroll!

Months before the show came out as “Kroll Show” people were already excited to see it, and buzz was building for what was originally going to be called “The Nick Show Kroll”. As a matter of fact in the early e-mails I received from the LA office, the “Subject” line all said ” Nick Show Kroll” which I promptly corrected, thinking I was being helpful, to “Nick Kroll Show.” After about the third one, I realized that it was I who was the moron, and that no one on the staff was making a consistent typo, but that it was meant to be called “The Nick Show Kroll”!

In the intervening months while people were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the show, the public had to be satisfied for their Kroll fix by enjoying Nick as Ruxin on FX’s “The League” with his pals Paul Sheer, Jon Lajoie, Stephen Rannazzisi, Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton, (husband and wife in real life!), and in his other personal appearances.

By the time it came out in January simply as “Kroll Show” the buzz was loud and Nick knocked it out of the proverbial park. The show got renewed on Comedy Central after only the first three episodes. My first sketch was in Too Much Tuna, where Nick and John do their best to prank me with a much too large tuna sandwich, but as you’ll see in this clip, I wasn’t having any part of it!

The extremely large tuna fish sandwich meant to prank Jeffrey Gurian on “Kroll Show”!

 

They told me if the show got picked up they’d ask me back for the 2nd season. As a precautionary measure, I’m not leaving the house until they do, just in case my voicemail doesn’t work when they call!

Check out Kroll Show, every Wednesday night at 10:30 ET/9C on Comedy Central, and be ready to laugh your ass off! And don’t forget to tell Nick I sent you!

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