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!
Due to popular request I am bringing back my Comedy Matters blog/vlog. It’s an inside look at The Comedy World letting you hang with the comedy peeps you love, and meeting them on a personal basis. In this first one I will be doing a short review of some cool things that have happened in the comedy world recently, including Nick Kroll and John Mulaney debuting Season 2 of Netflix’ Big Mouth at the 92Y, the NY Comedy Festival with Bert Kreischer, Mike Birbiglia and Lisa Lampanelli, Hasan Minhaj talking about his new show Patriot Act also on Netflix. Ray Romano, Bill Burr, Scott Rogowsky from HQ Trivia, D.L. Hughley and John Oliver plus lots more with photos and videos of and with your fave comedy stars.
BIG MOUTH DEBUT AT 92Y
WITH NICK KROLL AND JOHN MULANEY
The 92 Y keeps bringing in the heavy hitters in comedy. Nick Kroll, John Mulaney and Jason Mantzoukas came to the 92nd Street Y along with their whole team from their Netflix hit “Big Mouth” to kick off the new second season. Exec. Producer Andrew Goldberg, a childhood friend of Nick’s was there and he and Nick were the ones who came up with the idea for the show. They premiered episode three from this new second season, and needless to say it was HILARIOUS.
The event was moderated by LA Times editor Meredith Blake, and other Exec. Producers on the panel were Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett. For anyone who doesn’t know, the animated series follows a group of 7th graders through their experiences with puberty and sexual coming of age including best friends Nick Birch played by Nick, Andrew Glouberman played by John Mulaney, and with Jason Mantzoukas voicing characters like Jay Bilzerian a guy who has sex with his pillow and with a character named Socrates.
WITH JASON MANTZOUKAS BACKSTAGE AT THE 92Y
Nick plays 12 different characters, including everyone’s favorite the Hormone Monster, plus the ghosts of Picasso and Richard Burton, while Mulaney who’s plagued by the hormone monster who constantly makes him masturbate, plays at least three voices as well, as do Jordan Peele and Fred Armisen to name just two of the big stars whose voices recur on the show. Someone even plays Nick’s pubic hair, and Jessi Klein’s vagina.
During the Q&A a girl asked Jason Manztoukas if he wanted to “hang out”, and suggested that they meet at a Dunkin’ Donuts across the street. He wasn’t taking any chances in this #MeToo age and invited everyone else there to join them. And Jon Mulaney admitted that growing up his sexual fantasy was to be 40 and rich! He must be very satisfied!
ACCIDENTALLY PERFORMING FOR JERRY SEINFELD
It all started on what was supposed to be a regular night at West Side Comedy Club. I was scheduled to go on second around 8:30 or 8:45 when GM Gina Savage came in and said that Jerry Seinfeld had Tweeted that he’d be stopping by around 8:30. That’s when people started streaming in. And that’s what you call real live-streaming! I happened to be sitting near the front door watching the MC warm up the ever growing crowd when I caught a glance of Jerry walking down the stairs. He had his baseball cap pulled down low and was alone. He greeted a few people and shook my hand as he walked by.
The comic scheduled to go on first had done 8 shows in the last couple of days, felt she was tired and decided to leave. Gina asked Jerry if he wanted to go right up and he said he wanted to wait a minute so Gina looked at me and said “ Jeffrey, you’re up.” Before I even had a chance to think about it or get nervous I was on stage while Jerry was in the room. For whatever reason I felt calm, and was able to edit what I was doing while I was up there. I often open with stuff about the weather, cell phones, and texting but for whatever reason I decided not to do any of that and went right into other material.
WITH JERRY SEINFELD
Anyway Jerry went up after me to screaming and absolutely HUGE applause, and talked about many things including the weather, cell phones and texting, and it made me wonder what would have happened if I had actually done those same topics just moments before. Might he have said, “ Well Jeffrey said all there is to say on these subjects!” LOL I highly doubt it, but it made me think that at least I made good choices of topics to discuss. After I got off stage I totally re-thought all the stuff I could have done with Jerry in the room, which I think is pretty common for comics to do.
Needless to say Jerry killed with all of his new material, then did a Q&A with the audience which he likes to do. One guy asked him what his favorite thing to do was and he said it was his show “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” and doing stand-up.
I went to see my good pal D.L. Hughley truly one of the official Kings of Comedy. He was headlining at Carolines and there was not a seat to be had. I was with him for all three nights and it was as much fun as you would have expected it to be.
As usual D.L. is very generous with his opening spots and gives stage time to comics on their way up. Bo “Last Name” Dacious is one of his regular openers who is always a killer, and Clint Coley has such a unique stage persona, and is so funny that you gotta come away liking the guy. He really takes command of the stage. Part of Bo’s merch is “Miss Hattie’s rag” which you have to see to understand but it’s a great gimmick and he said one of his best ideas ever!
BACKSTAGE WITH D.L. HUGHLEY AT CAROLINES ON BROADWAY
D.L. is one of the only comics I know who is confident and relaxed enough to either hang out with friends backstage until literally the moment he’s announced to go up, and I know this because I’m usually sitting right next to him when I’m there, and I walk with him to the showroom, or else he arrives at the club just minutes before he’s due to go on, and just goes right up. That is amazing to me. Many comics like to be alone before, and center themselves in some way. Some are still looking over their material until right before they go up.
The girl I was with sparked a deep conversation about the power of women that D.L. and I will continue on his radio show very soon! His radio co-host Jasmine Sanders was backstage on the second night that I went. Always so good to see Jaz!
D.L. hits the stage, always dressed to the nines with his unique style, and does a flawless hour plus with no stress. He saves his crowd work for the end. And he always proves why he’s one of the true Kings of Comedy. I made it back for Sunday night’s closing night hang, which is always fun with DL. The dressing room was just D.L., his two nephews, and his long-time friends and fellow comics Smokey Suarez, and George Willborn.
We laughed for about 2 hours after the show ended until we closed the place down. It was just us and the help. Then they went out to grab a bit to eat, and I uncharacteristically went to get some rest for what I knew would be a crazy week at the NY Comedy Festival.
PLANNING A SCARF BUSINESS WITH BILL BURR
I kicked off New York Comedy Festival week with a kind of secret show from Bill Burr at West Side Comedy Club. Secret only in terms of, … you had to know to know. The room was packed to the proverbial gills. Joe Bartnick was the host and Mark Normand featured.
Unsurprisingly Bill did a flawless hour and has such a tremendous range of topics to talk about. He challenges people’s sensibilities which is such a good thing and he’s so smart that he presents things in a way that you have to see his point of view. Being that his wife is black he does a lot of very pertinent and necessary racial humor that everyone responded to very positively. He described himself as being so white he looks like a “bearded moon!”
He was gearing up for his headlining gig that Wed. at Madison Square Garden. He was there with “Late Night with David Letterman” legendary guitarist and Paul Shaffer staple Felicia Collins who happens to be an old friend of mine as well. The room was so dark, and there were no seats, but thanks to owners Eugene and Nina Ashe they pulled me into a seat right next to Felicia, and she leaned over and said “ Jeffrey is that you?” After thoroughly checking, I came to the conclusion that it was me!
WITH BILL BURR AT WESTSIDE COMEDY CLUB
After the amazing show and huge applause that followed, Bill hung out to meet some fans, and take photos, and then Face Timed his wife Nia and their little daughter and he introduced us and we all got to say “hi” over his phone. It was Felicia, GM Gina Savage, and manager Lori Sommer.
Bill’s got the third season of his hit show “F Is For Family” starting November 30th and besides Paul Virzi’s special that he just produced he has three more coming down the pike, if they still use that expression, all under the banner of his “All Things Comedy” network. Next he was off to Chicago.
When I asked him what he had coming up the first thing he said was that he was designing a line of scarves, because he loves to joke about the way I dress, and some genius said he should call the line “Burrrrrr”, which would be incredibly perfect. We also had a long chat about fatherhood and how he felt when he first saw his daughter being born, because everyone told him it would bring tears to his eyes, but it didn’t. I told him that when my daughters were born it brought tears to my eyes and he said that was because I was a wonderful person but that HE on the other hand was a German/Irish serial killer!
MIKE BIRBIGLIA’S NEW ONE
Mike Birbiglia never disappoints. His one man shows are always amazing and “The New One” at The Cort Theatre is no different. I’ve seen them all starting with his first, “Sleepwalk With Me” and the man is a master story teller. He opens the show and takes a minute to talk about his couch and you have no idea where he’s going with that, but he manages to weave it into a thread that carries throughout the entire show.
WITH MIKE BIRBIGLIA AT THE CORT THEATRE
It’s a wonderful story and again it’s a lot about becoming a Dad even though he had never planned on having children. Mike paces the stage a lot during the show and sometimes walks in circles, and there’s one HUGE surprise that I promised I wouldn’t divulge. It adds so much to the show and it’s something you’ve never seen before, and something that will totally surprise you.
After the show we went back to say hi and to congratulate him on his masterful performance, and ran into Nikki Glaser, Carmen Lynch and Myq Kaplan.
The show will run for only 12 weeks so make sure you get out to see it. You’ll hate yourself forever if you miss it!
BERT KREISCHER UNCUT AND UNDRESSED
Bert “The Machine” Kreischer was in town for the festival and had a show at Town Hall, which I knew for sure I had to attend. I absolutely LOVE Bert Kreischer who like Mike Birbiglia, also happens to be a master story teller. He’s just so unique, and when he came out on stage and immediately whipped off his shirt the crowd went insane. It was non-stop laughs through the whole thing and he ended the show with his story of how “The Machine” came to be, and how he committed actual crimes with the Russian Mob. His stories are so insane you know they have to be true. No one could make that up!
SHIRT-SHOPPING WITH BERT KREISCHER AT TOWN HALL
After the show we went back to hang out and his Levity Entertainment crew was there to support, along with a bunch of industry people from different TV shows, with one Levity rep Bjorn Wentlandt having flown in from the UK. Judy Marmel from Levity was there making sure that everything ran smoothly, and Bert greeted his friends still without his shirt. We decided to shoot an Instagram video which seems to be the thing these days except that Bert took my phone from me and said “ Watch this”, as he started filming from below his belly and up into his belly button to his chest while he addressed me and I talked about the show and the standing ovation he received when he was done.
Ray Romano came to The Cutting Room to do a charity spot for Bobby Collins’ Zeno Mountain Farm, a nationally acclaimed, ground-breaking camp for kids with disabilities. They have facilities in Vermont, Los Angeles and Florida. It was a rare experience because it’s not often that you get to see Ray on stage in a smaller venue these days. He’s currently starring in “Get Shorty” a new series on Epix in which he plays a film producer.
Ray came out to tremendous applause and started out by apologizing for his moustache, which he said there was a reason for but didn’t explain. He told great stories about getting older and about his family and especially his kids. He’s got four, one daughter and three sons two of whom are twins. He’s a real family guy and his stories are great. I got to reminisce with him for a minute after his set about a time about 15 years ago when I brought Michael Bolton to the set of Everybody Loves Raymond so they could meet.
It seems they were mutual fans of each other but had never met. I was out in LA talking to Michael about a potential TV show he wanted me to develop for him, and I had called Ray’s manager, and my longtime friend Rory Rosegarten, and so the three of us went over to the set to introduce Michael to Ray, and they were really excited to meet, which they did in front of the live audience, and we all had a great time. Then Michael and I went back to his hotel and watched Ray on TV. I brought the photo from that day of me, Michael and Ray, and Ray and I took a photo holding that old photo which is something I like to do. Fortunately people indulge me! (LOL)
WITH RAY ROMANO AT THE CUTTING ROOM HOLDING A PHOTO OF ME, RAY ROMANO AND MICHAEL BOLTON
TEAM COCO PARTY WITH SCOTT ROGOWSKY AND JOHN OLIVER
Team Coco teamed up with TBS and took over SONY Hall on West 46th Street to create a pop-up comedy club called Team Coco House as part of this 15th annual New York Comedy Festival, which by the way gets bigger and better every year thanks to Caroline Hirsch and Louis Faranda the man who magically books all the shows. Team Coco House lit up the street with it’s huge lighted signs and it featured shows, podcasts, musical acts, magicians, and all kinds of talent hand-picked by Team Coco and Conan himself.
Caroline and Louis were both at the huge party that took place on Thursday night after Bert’s show. Louis doesn’t usually attend those things or stay out too late but he stayed at this one and everyone in comedy was there. It would be impossible to name all the names but it was absolutely packed with comics and industry, and they served great drinks and passed hors d’oeuvres, and tons of desserts, and when I left around 1:30 A.M. it was still going strong.
One nice surprise was seeing my dear friend Countess LuAnn from the Real Housewives of New York come in with her super-agent Rich Super, and she told me that she’s with Live Nation now and will be going on a huge tour starting Dec. 19th at the Gramercy Theatre with Alexa Ray Joel, and comedian Murray Hill, and you can bet I’ll be there too. In the meantime she’s still filming for RHONY and I always tell her it’s so amazing watching her fulfill her dreams because this was what she always wanted, and she made it happen. Most people don’t have the wherewithal, but she worked so hard and accomplished her dream.
WITH COUNTESS LUANN FROM RHONY
I was back there again to catch HQ Trivia star Scott Rogowsky do his long-running talk show Running Late this time starring John Oliver. I walked in and the place was so packed there were literally no seats and then Matt Richards, who opened the show and is also an HQ Trivia host grabbed me and we hung out together at the bar with HQ Trivia producer Ellen Burke.
Scott wore a crazy jacket and joked with John about how long he had been trying to get him on as a guest. John was his ever-pleasant self and told a lot of great stories and Scott had somehow found old video footage of John as a kid in some early TV show he did in England. They showed the poster for the new season of Last Week Tonight and John had his face down on a desk which he explained by saying that he doesn’t like to see his face on posters. For the last two seasons the poster didn’t show his face. But he showed his face in our photo below! (LOL)
WITH JOHN OLIVER
He talked about his wife who was a combat medic and his three year old son, and among other things told a funny story of how he had to interview the Dalai Lama and it dawned on him after he flew all the way to India that he was about to “fuck with the Dalai Lama.” But he said thAt luckily the Dalai Lama was “a fan of fuckery” and they had a great time.
Backstage afterwards was a crazy scene and I got to see John and Scott and Matt, and Scott’s Dad who’s always on the show with him as well.
(L-R) MATT RICHARDS, JEFFREY, SCOTT ROGOWSKY, MARTY ROGOWSKY
LISA LAMPANELLI IS “LOSIN’ IT” – QUITS STAND-UP COMEDY
When Lisa Lampanelli told me she quit stand-up comedy I could almost hear the relief in her voice. I wasn’t really surprised. I was actually surprised she was able to have kept doing it so long. I think it’s very hard to create a persona that is opposite to who you really are and which can often be misunderstood, … especially these days, when there’s an entire segment of the population that can not WAIT to be offended by something.
There was a reason that Lisa had been known as not just The Queen of Mean, but as “The Lovable Queen of Mean.” Anyone with an IQ over 11 knew she was always coming from a good place. She made fun of everyone starting with herself. She probably made fun of gays the most and they were her biggest fans, as well as her main charity.
I know Lisa long before she became really famous, and saw her agonize more than once about whether the audience was truly getting what she was about. One particular time in Montreal at Just for Laughs was a particularly stressful time for her when the audience wasn’t sure how to take her “insult” comedy. And it bothered her to the point where she said, “ I’m quitting comedy.” I was there to hear her say that. And then she went on to become a superstar, selling out Radio City and Carnegie Hall during her stand-up career.
Enough people “got her” to keep the venues packed where she performed. But around late 2013 when her beloved Dad got sick she started what I can only refer to as her Spiritual transformation which led to her having weight-loss surgery and losing 107 pounds, and going through what I can only describe as a “Spiritual divorce” in which she introduced her ex-husband Jimmy Cannizzaro to his new wife Jenna, and made them part of her extended family.
Lisa has always had a good heart so when she announced her departure from stand-up comedy on Howard Stern recently, and said she was transitioning not sexually but to become a story-teller and Life Coach, it made perfect sense. She had been thinking about it for quite a while, and she tends to do these major things only after she has thoroughly thought them through.
WITH LISA LAMPANELLI BACKSTAGE AT THE GRAMERCY THEATRE
I had attended all of the incarnations of her one woman shows, where she started carrying her message of empowerment, and self-love. I was with her when she made her singing debut at The Friars Club.
When she did her AOL Build talk to announce her Grammy nominated album “Back to the Drawing Board” she honored me by having me moderate the four camera shoot and it was amazing. We talked all about Spiritual principles, food, body-issues, self-empowerment and achieving your goals in life.
When Ron Bennington, king of Sirius XM radio helped me create a radio pilot called “The Happiness Show” to teach people how to bring Happiness into their lives, my first three guests were Colin Quinn, Susie Essman, and Lisa Lampanelli to talk about how they bring Happiness into their own lives. We have a long history.
So Lisa and I had made plans to meet up backstage at The Gramercy Theatre before she went onstage to perform her newest ensemble piece called “Losin’ It” as part of the New York Comedy Festival. When I got there she was in her dressing room with her niece Christine Schiefer and Christine’s podcast partner Em Schulz, the hosts of “And That’s Why We Drink.” And typical of the new Lisa Lampanelli’s selflessness she wanted the focus to be on them.
I wound up shooting two separate videos with Lisa, one with her and the hosts of “And That’s Why We Drink”, and a separate one with just Lisa and I, with her talking about my best selling book on Happiness and how much she enjoyed it because of the principles that we share. The audiobook will be out next month sometime.
You can see the first video on my Comedy Matters TV channel on You Tube at www.youtube.com/guriannewsnetwork This is the direct link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6F-iD4mslnc
“Losin’ It” was great and it had Lisa being just one of the ensemble of story-tellers, with her mainstay Frank DeCaro from Sirius XM, Lauren Ann Brickman from UCB and Lisa’s former play “Stuffed” and Eden Malyn from Orange is the New Black. It was about empowerment, body image, and learning to love yourself, and incorporated a game show and a Q&A with the audience. A really fun evening of entertainment with a very powerful message. Major congrats to Lisa on this major life choice.
HASAN MINHAJ FIRST INDIAN HOST OF MAJOR TV SHOW
I was excited to see huge billboards around town of my pal Hasan Minhaj announcing his new Sunday night Netflix show “Patriot Act” and even more excited to find out that he’d be appearing at the 92Y. The 92Y has been outdoing itself lately bringing in major comedy figures for special events, and this was another great one.
Hasan got an unprecedented order of 32 episodes of the show which is a comedy series exploring “ the modern cultural and political landscape” one topic at a time. Each of the episodes I saw is kind of like a short one-man show on pertinent topics like our dependence on oil, and the one they showed at the Y on “Affirmative Action.”
Hasan is very animated in his delivery and it’s a multi-media production which I always appreciate. It adds so much when you do more than just talk. The evening started out as a one to one interview moderated by Vinson Cunningham, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and then they were joined by Exec. Producers Jim Margolis and
Prasanth Venkataramanujam, which even Hasan didn’t dare try to pronounce, and which Prasanth joked about himself. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for him as a child to learn how to write his own name.
The episode they showed on “Affirmative Action” dealt with Asian students who feel discriminated against by Harvard admissions, where they’re only 22% of all students, while Hasan noted that Asian parents who emphasize education would probably only be happy with 100%.
The story was that he had asked a girl named Bethany to his high school prom and when he got to her house to pick her up she was getting ready to go with another guy, because her family was concerned that Hasan wouldn’t look right in the pictures they would inevitably be taking that night to send to their family. I had seen him do the story on earlier performances and was so moved by it that I told him it would make a great one-man show.
I shared the excitement with him when he became a correspondent on The Daily Show, which lasted four years, and then again when he hosted the White House correspondent’s dinner last year.
So it was a great feeling to see him now the master of his own show. I never had any doubt that he would make it big.
I certainly hope you enjoyed this comedy review of recent events and hope you will subscribe for upcoming Comedy Matters blogs/vlogs! Please check out the website at www.comedymatterstv.com and subscribe to Comedy Matters TV on You Tube at www.youtune.com/guriannewsnetwork @jeffreygurian on Twitter and IG
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.
Many people have dreams that don’t get realized. Every once in a while someone’s dream comes true!
One of my dreams has always to be a presence on the radio, and thanks to Ron and Fez that dream is being realized!
(L-R) Fez Whately, Jeffrey Gurian, and Ron Bennington in the Sirius XM studio on the next to last show before they moved to Raw Dog!
Over the years I’ve guested on many, many radio shows talking about my books, my comedy writing, and other assorted things, but this time is very special as I get to bring on well known comedians that I love and am friendly with.
I also get to cover the comedy scene in both New York and LA talking about what’s going on in the clubs, who got a spot on what show, and who’s doing what with whom, … comedy wise that is!!!
For instance my first promos were about NY comic Michele Buteau getting a spot in the FOX sit-com Enlisted, every Friday night at 9:30 P.M., and then the personally exciting news that Sasheer Zamata was chosen as a regular cast member of SNL, the first African-American female to be on the show as a regular in six years, since Maya Rudolph left, and the reason that’s so exciting to me is that she is featured in my new documentary film ” The Business of Comedy” which was on WNET, Channel 11 this past New years Eve at midnight!
And I was the one who brought her in to be in it. We shot her interview at my apartment which is kind of like a comedy museum!
Jeffrey Gurian with new SNL cast member Sasheer Zamata in his apartment, during the shoot for the documentary film he co-produced and appeared in called “The Business of Comedy”!
Lastly I promo’ed a story about LA comic Mark Schiff going on tour with Jerry Seinfeld.
They’ve been friends since the mid 70’s when they first started out, and Mark is one of the original five guys who meet every year since 1980 in New York, for a New Years Day brunch and then walk across The Brooklyn Bridge. It’s Mark, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry Miller, and George Wallace. Originally there was a fifth guy named Michael Cain but he passed away very young.
My first guest on Comedy Matters Radio was Colin Quinn. I started with Colin for several reasons. First I know him for many years, but mostly because I’m in awe of his talent. He is the ultimate wordsmith, and has had four one-man shows which is an amazing feat. I recall his first one, “An Irish Wake.” I told him on air that I had gone to every one of his shows and he said he took it for granted that I was there because I’m EVERYWHERE!
His show Long Story Short which was directed by Jerry Seinfeld told the history of the entire world in 75 minutes. It was an amazing accomplishment. His new show Unconstitutional, is about the Constitution of the United States, a daunting topic to tackle comedically, and Colin worked for a year with a lot of that time dedicated to studying the Constitution and reading things like The Federalist Papers, in order to be able to handle questions from the “Constitution geeks” that would show up at his shows.
Colin is also interviewed in my book “Make ‘Em Laugh”, about the history of The Comic Strip, featuring a foreword by Chris Rock!
Jeffrey Gurian with Colin Quinn holding Jeffrey’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh” featuring an introduction with Chris Rock!
I saw Colin perform Unconstitutional this past summer at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, and it got amazing reviews. I did a little interview with him for Comedy Matters TV:
He’s actually on tour with his show right now, but was kind enough to take time out to come in and inaugurate Comedy Matters Radio. The next night he was in New Orleans at the Joy Theatre and the following night in Dallas at the Wyly Theatre. He was in such a hurry that he forgot to plug his shows, but I did it for him after he left.
Jeffrey Gurian, Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling and Regina Gil head of the Gold Coast International Film Festival!
Very recently we both participated in the Gold Coast International Film Festival. I was the Head of Live Comedy Programming and produced a gala in honor of Susie Essman, and Jackie kicked off the festival with a pre-show that drew a full house. I hosted that show and had the pleasure of opening for him, and also went on his radio show, Jackie’s Joke Hunt, to promote the festival, and to tell some nasty jokes! He was also in one of the films called “Send No Flowers” with Sean Young!
I did this little Comedy Matters TV interview with him on the red carpet of the Gold Coast Festival:
I’m very much looking forward to his appearance on Comedy Matters Radio with Ron and Fez. That’s this Tuesday, 1/14/14 at 2 P.M.
Jeffrey Gurian with Jackie (The Joke Man) Martling at the Gold Coast International Film Festival!
Please remember to follow me on Twitter at @jeffreygurian and please subscribe to Comedy Matters TV at https://www.comedymatterstv.com
After many years on the Opie and Anthony Channel on Sirius XM, Ron and Fez are moving over to Raw Dog to focus more on comedy. Starting Monday, Jan. 6th, 2014 they will make the switch and get back to their comedic roots. In line with that they are bringing me on to create Comedy Matters Radio for Ron and Fez, in which I will be inviting on well known comics to join us in studio to talk about comedy and whatever we want to talk about.
(L-R) Fez Whatley, Jeffrey Gurian, and Ron Bennington in the Sirius XM studio on the next to last show before they moved to Raw Dog!
The studio is a very relaxed hang, with the kind of atmosphere that makes people feel comfortable and open up!
My first guest is Colin Quinn and I chose Colin because we go way back, and I’m in awe of his talent. He’s smart, he’s the consummate wordsmith, and I love that. He takes things we all say and do and deconstructs them down down to their very essence.
I recently heard some young guys in comedy refer to him as the godfather of comedy in New York right now.
When I saw him last he was giving the keynote speech at the Just for Laughs Festival this past summer in Montreal, which is a HUGE honor. It was hard for Colin to admit that because despite all he’s done and accomplished, he’s a very humble guy!
We sat down together and shot this little interview for Comedy Matters TV!
He’s also in my book ” Make ‘Em Laugh” about the history of The Comic Strip, and he told me some great stories. He was actually the bartender at The Comic Strip, and was constantly berated by manager Lucien Hold who constantly called him a “moron” and complained about the way he used the cash register!
Jeffrey Gurian with Colin Quinn holding Jeffrey’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh” featuring an introduction with Chris Rock!
Colin finally had to quit his job in order to perform at the club. I think he’s glad he did, and so is everyone else who’s ever enjoyed him!
We’re planning specials like one on my book “Make ‘Em Laugh” which will hopefully include a lot of the big stars that are in it, and I will also be doing regular updates on what’s going on in the comedy world in both New York and L.A.
Jeffrey Gurian with Judah Friedlander holding Jeffrey’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh”, which he is in!
Jeffrey Gurian with Susie Essman holding Jeffrey’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh” which she is in!
Jeffrey Gurian with the new, skinny Lisa Lampanelli holding Jeffrey’s book ” Make ‘Em Laugh”, which she is in, and which is on HIM!
I’ll be talking about who’s headlining what club, who got what TV show, and who’s doing what with whom, … comedy-wise!
For instance in New York, my old friend Michelle (Michy) Buteau scored a regular part on the new Fox sitcom “Enlisted” starting this Friday night, 1/10/14 at 9:30 P.M., my friend Sasheer Zamata just got cast on the new season of SNL and will be the first African-American female comic to be a regular on the show in 6 years since Maya Rudolph left, and LA’s Mark Schiff will be going on tour with his old friend Jerry Seinfeld!
If you watch this little video, you’ll hear Nick Kroll and Paul Provenza telling me exactly that, and until a few days ago my answer was always, ” Yeh, but I don’t know Larry David.”
For whatever reason, in all my years in the comedy world, our paths have never crossed, but I’m a huge fan and I always wanted to meet him.
So I’m at LaGuardia Airport , flying to Florida and who do I run into, … Larry David. And he was alone. And I was nervous to approach him, and I didn’t know what to say!
I turned into a little girl! Only knowing his cantankerous ( I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before! LOL) character on Curb, I was reluctant to go over and introduce myself, not knowing what kind of response to expect.
In D.L. Hughley’s interview, we made up to say something like, I tried to get J.B. Smoove and The Wayans Brothers but D.L. was the only one available.
Jeffrey Gurian with D.L. Hughely after D.L.’s show at Gotham Comedy Club!
Jeffrey Gurian with J.B. Smoove on the red carpet of Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars, holding Jeffrey’s book “”Make ‘Em Laugh” , with an intro by Chris Rock!
Jeffrey Gurian backstage with Jeff Garlin at Carolines Comedy Club in NYC!
But I realized that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I had to do it despite my nervousness. What’s the worst he could say? It felt like an episode of “Curb!”
To add to the tension, I was running out of time because he was walking towards his gate, with papers in his hand. There was a terrible fog and everyone’s flights had been delayed for several hours. I could tell by the look on his face that he was troubled which added to the tension of me approaching him.
Do I tell him I’m friends with Susie Essman, Richard Lewis, Jeff Garlin and J.B. Smoove, or will I just look like a name-dropper?
I realized I would have to do what I had been doing for most of my life, …. confronting my fear and doing something I was nervous to do. It’s how I finally got up on stage to perform.
I knew that if I waited too long debating on what to say, I might miss the opportunity all together and never forgive myself, so I tapped him on the shoulder, which for whatever reason is where most people usually tap each other, when they want to get another person’s attention, and I said ” Hey Larry, I’m Jeffrey Gurian a comedy writer from NY and we have a lot of mutual friends!”
He was very friendly, gracious, and open and went and sat down while I stood in front of him talking to him. The whole entire time, I kept wondering whether I was overstaying my welcome. I got to tell him about the gala I produced in honor of Susie Essman, the video with Richard Lewis, how J.B. Smoove took a photo holding my book, that Jerry Seinfeld gave me an interview for, and he took it all in.
Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip after Jerry’s interview for the book “Make ‘Em Laugh.”
I told him the book has interviews with Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Ray Romano, Colin Quinn, Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, Chris Rock, Judah Friedlander, and about 50 more big stars that started at The Comic Strip, several of whom talk about Larry!
And I told him the story that Comic Strip owner Richie Tienken always told me about Larry. There were times in Larry’s early career when if he wasn’t happy on stage, either with his set or the audience, he’d throw the mic on the floor and storm off in the middle of his set.
Richie said that mics were expensive, so one night they played a trick on Larry, and glued the mic into the stand, and when he went to throw it he couldn’t get it out! Larry smiled and said it was a good story, but he didn’t remember it. Richie Tienken re-confirmed it for me when i got back to New York.
As I was about to leave, I thought of shaking his hand, but I had a feeling he wasn’t into shaking hands in general and to tell you the truth neither am I. I actually wear a little bottle of Purell hanging from my belt at all times. So I said to him, ” You don’t shake hands do you? And he said, ” I prefer not to!”, at which point I pointed to my Purell and we had a good laugh.
I really wanted to ask for a photo but that’s where I drew the line. Things were going so well I didn’t want to take the chance of him saying “No.”
However we did exchange contact info and I already sent him a copy of my book with a note that got delivered just yesterday, the date of which will vary depending on when you read this Blog post! (LOL)
Jeffrey Gurian with Budd Friedman in Montreal at the Just for Laughs Festival’s celebration in honor of 50 years of The Improv., July 2013!
It was on 44th Street and 9th Avenue, in Manhattan, and it started out as a coffee house and a place for actors to come and hang out, and maybe get up on stage to perform after they got off stage at the nearby Broadway theatres.
At first it drew actors and singers, and then comedians began to come and perform. Budd was the onstage host, and Danny Aiello was the door host/bouncer. After a while more and more comics started showing up to hone their craft.
Before The Improv came along comics would perform only in nightclubs and theatres as part of variety shows, but there had never been an establishment that offered only stand-up comedy.
After a couple of years Budd noticed that the comics were predominating, and that the audiences loved it, so he started doing all comedy, hence the world’s first comedy club!
Fifty years later The Improv is still going strong on Melrose Avenue in LA. I performed there a couple of times myself.
Narrated by Adam Sandler and produced by Judy Pastore, Monica Bautista, Budd and his partner Mark Lonow, (who joined him in 1979), and Budd’s accomplished daughter Zoe Friedman, who actually was the Exec. Producer, the film features footage with Judd Apatow, Lewis Black, Larry David, Jimmy Fallon, Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin, Jay Leno, Richard Lewis, Bill Maher, Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld, and Damon, Keenen, Marlon, and Shawn Wayans all in intimate sit-down recollections of their early days at The Improv. accompanied by archival video footage and rare photos. Only a legend like Budd could assemble that many huge names!
And those are just some of the comedy stars he helped become household names. Besides having Danny Aiello as his door host/bouncer, other workers went on to achieve greatness.
First there was Chris Albrecht who managed the club when Budd went to LA in 1975, and went on to become the Pres. of HBO, then Les Moonves, currently the Pres. and CEO of CBS, who was a bartender. There were the waitresses, like Karen Black, who I got to work with last year on Kroll Show, and who we just lost to cancer this past August, and cable TV’s pioneer female comic/legend Elayne Boosler, who also toiled as a waitress, and then there were a couple of other door hosts you may have heard of including Keenen Ivory Wayans and Joe Piscopo.
Jeffrey Gurian, Nick Kroll as Gil Faison, Karen Black, and John Mulaney as George St. Geegland on the L.A. set of Kroll Show!
Jeffrey Gurian with Keenen Ivory Wayans in NYC, helping him cast the new, but “ill-fated” “In Living Color”.
Jeffrey Gurian with Joe Piscopo at a fundraiser at Gotham Comedy Club!
Jeffrey Gurian with comic extraordinaire Elayne Boosler at a Diabetes fundraiser she performed in produced by Jeffrey!
A&E immortalized Budd when they had him host “An Evening at The Improv” from his Hollywood club, which was a weekly series that ran from 1982 through 1996. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t performing in those days and never got to be on, but I watched the show religiously!
Over the years I got to know Budd and his partner Mark Lonow who joined him in 1979. As a matter of fact, I wrote Budd and his lovely wife Alix into a feature film script I wrote in 1990 called Baby and Max, about a comic named Max Arnold who gets the worst gigs imaginable. The film opens with Max trying to entertain a guy on Death Row. He’s about to get the electric chair, and is already strapped in, and Max is in the execution room trying to tell him jokes.
On one of his other horrible gigs he’s trying to entertain passengers on a cross-country flight from NY to LA, by telling jokes in the main aisle of the plane, when he gets discovered by Budd Friedman who’s on the flight with his wife Alix. To find out what happens next you’ll have to come up with a budget to make the movie!
Budd and I have history! I recall many years ago he made a party in Montreal to honor Milton Berle who may have been the first honoree to be inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame, and Milton invited me to attend as his guest. He was also my sponsor in The Friars Club. We sat at a long table, with Budd at the head, me on his right and Milton directly across from me. Budd went to read the menu and put a monocle into his eye. I had never seen that before and was kind of surprised.
Jeffrey Gurian and Milton Berle at the LA Friars in 1985!
Around 1970, I had created a character I called “Spoon-eye” who went around holding a spoon in his eye like a monocle, as if he didn’t know it was there. It sounds silly but at one point Conan O’Brien came out on his show with a spoon in his eye, and it took Cindy Adams to write that it was I who started that. She wrote, “I don’t know who would even want to take credit for such a thing but it was Jeffrey Gurian who did it first.” I actually showed it to Salvador Dali back around 1978, who was so intrigued he actually tried to put one of my spoons in his ear, instead of his eye. I still have that spoon!
Jeffrey Gurian and his Spoon-Eye Club on an outing, circa 2003!
Anyway, when Budd put his monocle in I took out a spoon and put that it MY eye. Budd looked at me like “What the heck are you doing?” and I made the mistake of trying to tell him it was very big on “The Coast.” He said to me, “I live on The Coast and I NEVER saw anyone do that!” Milton just sat there confused and I quickly changed the subject!
In 2007, Kent Emmons from All Comedy Radio made me a party in LA for my new book at the time based on my years of writing for the Friars Roasts. It was called “Filthy Funny, and Totally Offensive” and featured nasty jokes from over 250 celebs like Drew Carey, Jason Alexander, Chris Elliott, Jeff Garlin, the late Greg Giraldo, Colin Quinn, the late Patrice O’Neal,Artie Lange, Joan Rivers, Jason Alexander, and more than 200 more. Budd was there as evidenced by the photo below!
Jeffrey Gurian with Budd Friedman in 2007 at Kent Emmons’ party for Jeffrey’s book “Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive.”
Budd is also in the recent documentary film I co-produced called “The Business of Comedy, with Exec. Producers Scott Sobel of Scott Entertainment and Gary Licker who also directed the film. It features Budd along with Robert Klein, George Wallace, Tom Dreesen, Susie Essman, Shecky Greene, and comedy club owners who were inspired by Budd, Rick Newman and Richie Tienken. In actuality all comedy club owners were inspired by Budd, which is why when I opened this post I said that Budd changed the world! In the photo below, a young Budd Friedman with a goatee, is on the upper right corner!
The promo card for “The Business of Comedy” a doc film co-produced by Jeffrey Gurian featuring Budd Friedman, pictured on the upper right hand corner.
This is the trailer for the doc.
So on Dec. 6th at 8 P.M. ET, make sure to watch “The Improv-Fifty Years Behind The Brick Wall” on Epix and Epix.com . You’ll thank me for the tip!
Watch the Epix trailer in case you need convincing:
Making a purposeful effort to make a home for myself at The Comedy Cellar, the legendary club owned by Noam Dworman and frequented by every major comedy star who hits New York, I went down on a Tuesday to catch their weekly podcast, “Live From The Table”, which this week featured the always hysterical Kurt Metzger and Dan Naturman. I was a guest a few weeks ago and had a blast!
The welcoming sign of “The Comedy Cellar” on MacDougal Street in NYC!
The logo from “Live From The Table” the weekly Comedy Cellar podcast!
Sitting at the bar chatting with Marina Franklin, we were soon joined by Tom (The Marriage Ref) Papa who invited me to stop by his monthly Sirius XM radio show which started right after the podcast at the Comedy Cellar’s other space, The Village Underground, conveniently located literally right around the corner.
“Come to Papa” poster at The Village Underground for Tom’s Sirius XM radio show!
Sexy fairy Marina Franklin onstage at The Village Underground for Tom Papa’s “Come to Papa” on Sirius XM radio!
What a beautiful space! A really nicely appointed room with lots of tables, dim lighting, big screen TV’s to be able to see well from all over the room, and for the last month or so, comedy as well. Tom hosts a show appropriately called “Come To Papa” which is kind of a throwback to something I had never really seen but only heard of, “scripted radio.” Before TV was invented in this country and even afterwards when people started to buy them thanks to Mr. Television himself, the legendary Milton Berle, most people listened to scripted radio shows for entertainment.
Tom Papa on one of the big screen viewers at The Village Underground, making it easy for everyone to see the show!
It’s hard to believe there was actually a time before TV, but when Milton Berle had his Texaco Star Theatre, people would gather in the streets to watch TV through the store windows of appliance stores selling TV’s, and thanks to the popularity of his show, so many TV’s were sold that that’s how he got the nick-name “Mr. Television.”
I had the honor of being sponsored in The Friars Club by Milton Berle who I also had the honor of writing jokes for, and who I considered a friend.
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV in LA, with his friend and sponsor in The Friars Club, the legendary Milton Berle, circa 1984!
Before TV, in the 1930’s and 40’s, families would huddle around the radio to hear their favorite shows, and their favorite comedians like Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Victor Borge, Fanny Brice, Jimmy Durante, Phil Harris, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Red Skelton and Ed Wynn.
They also got to hear shows like Abbott and Costello, Amos ‘n’ Andy, Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Goldbergs, The Great Gildersleeve, and Our Miss Brooks, which I know went on to become a TV show in the 1950’s.
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with comedy icon George Burns, Catskill Mountains, circa 1983!
Radio comedy ran the gamut from small town humor like that of Herb Shriner and Minnie Pearl to the weekly “gag shows” like Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One and Can You Top This?, panel programs devoted to the art of telling jokes.
So Tom Papa had a rich history to compete with and from what I saw he’s doing it well. He was joined by comics Cynthia Koury, who doubled as the MC, Dan Soder, the same Kurt Metzger from the “Live at the Table” podcast, Rick Crom who used his deep resonant voice as the announcer, and I stayed long enough to see a mix of stand-up, and written sketches where the comics read from scripts, before I had to run and cover my next event.
Comic Cynthia Koury holding it down on the stage of The Village Underground on “Come to Papa!”
(L-R) Kurt Metzger, Dan Soder, Rick Crom, and Tom Papa onstage at The Village Underground!
The event was produced by Aaron Hodges from Sirius XM radio who was kind enough to tell me he enjoyed my performance on Kroll Show in Too Much Tuna with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney!
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV playing himself on the set of Kroll Show with Nick Kroll, and John Mulaney as the “Oh, Hello” boys. After shooting the sketch “Too Much Tuna!”
The reaction of the audience and the strength of the performances I saw makes me want to attend regularly, and I can’t wait for the next one when I can stay for the entire show! Even better, Noam himself invited me back!
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!
I had a really great experience as a guest on the Comedy Cellar podcast called “Live From The Table.” Noam Dworman the owner of The Cellar is such a kind and hospitable guy, and I’ll tell you why I say so!
The inviting look of the outside of The Comedy Cellar! Makes you wanna go in and have some laughs!
First let me tell you about The Cellar. It’s a magical place where every single big star likes to hang out and perform. On any given night you’ll see Louis CK, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Attell, Jim Gaffigan, Ray Romano, Colin Quinn, and anyone who happens to be in town from LA hanging out there or getting up to do a set. It’s not that the 150 seat room is so overpoweringly beautiful, because it literally is in a cellar, but I think it’s kind of an energy thing.
Rooms take on the energy of the people who own them and hang out in them, and I think it’s the positive energy that pervades the place that draws the big names. That and the Olive Tree Cafe that’s part of it with the VIP table in the back!
The VIP table in the back of the Olive Tree Cafe where all the stars hang out while waiting to go on! Here it’s set up for the weekly podcast on Tuesday nights!
The club at 117 MacDougal Street, was originally owned by Noam’s Dad, the beloved Manny Dworman, who opened it in 1980 as Cafe Feenjon, a coffeehouse that was a serious hang for musicians. I remember seeing that name as a kid hanging out in The Village. It always stood out to me because “Feenjon” was such an unusual name.
Manny was not only a nightclub owner, but also a talented musician who appeared as himself in the Seinfeld documentary film “Comedian” in 2002. The Cellar was renowned for its postperformance roundtable discussions with comedians in the audience about political issues, and it was these very exchanges that were the inspiration for ”Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn” on Comedy Central.
When Manny left us in 2004, Noam took over the helm of the club! And he hosts the Comedy Cellar podcast called “Live From The Table” which is done from the VIP table in the back of the club where the comics who are performing in that night’s show can be found along with the comics that just come to schmooze or hang out with their friends.
Noam had me on as a guest and made me comfortable right away. I got there early as I always do so I can just chill and be ready to go on the air. I had a bite to eat and even got to meet his beautiful little daughter Mila!
Noam Dworman, owner of The Comedy Cellar, holding his 15 month old daughter Mila, with comedy writer/comic Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV!
One of the things we were going to talk about was my book called “Make ‘Em Laugh” which is about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip, the comedy club on 81st and 2nd. Chris Rock wrote an amazing introduction to the book and I interviewed comics that started out there like Seinfeld, Chris, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Billy Crystal, and several that frequent The Cellar like Ray Romano, Jim Gaffigan, Jim Breuer, Judah Friedlander, and Colin Quinn who was a bartender at The Strip until he quit to start performing stand-up.
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with old friend Colin Quinn holding Jeffrey’s book ” Make ‘Em Laugh” which he is in!
I was on the podcast with Jim Norton who I had just interviewed a few days before for my Comedy Matters TV channel, when he hosted the last show of the first season of AXS TV’s Gotham Comedy Live at the Gotham Comedy Club.
Promo for the Comedy Cellar podcast announcing Jeffrey Gurian as a guest, and coincidentally it’s #54 which is Jeffrey Gurian’s lucky number! He even lives on 54th Street and graduated #54 in his class!
This was Jim’s fun interview:
Then it was also Lynne Koplitz who I love, and she had also just been on that same show with Norton, and then it was Dan Naturman who I know for many years and have always enjoyed his comedy.
Noam Dworman, Lynne Koplitz, and Dan Naturman on “Live From The Table” at The Comedy Cellar!
Noam was such a gentleman to have me on to talk about another comedy club, but I liken that to a beautiful woman who’s secure enough in herself to acknowledge the beauty of another woman without feeling threatened. Noam has nothing to be threatened about. He is the owner of a truly legendary venue that the biggest stars in the business call “home” today.
Not only did he help promote my book but he himself was kind enough to buy a copy and said on the air that he really enjoyed it. That’s not a just a gentleman, it’s the definition of a “Mensch” a word you may not find in your dictionary, … unless your dictionary was printed in Tel Aviv! (LOL)
Noam began by trying to give me a compliment by telling people that they should read about me, because I had an interesting background and an interesting look, and that I looked like a star, but Dan Naturman couldn’t bear to let him finish. He couldn’t wait to interrupt with an attempt to sabotage the compliment by yelling out “No, he looks more like a 70’s style producer” or something to that effect, but I stopped him in mid sentence.
I said, ” Why do you say “No’? Why can’t you let Noam finish saying something nice about me? Why do you have to jump in and try and say something negative?” Noam immediately agreed and stated that Dan was known for being negative, and Dan backpedaled by saying that what he meant to say was that I looked like a successful producer or someone who worked behind the scenes.
That led us into a discussion of “cock-blocking”, which that was a form of, where people try and block someone else from succeeding in some way. For whatever reason they can’t bear for someone else to receive something good. It kind of became the theme of the show, as you’ll see on the promo!
Now Dan is always a nice, mild-mannered kind of guy, and I don’t even think he realized he was doing that. It’s probably just second nature for him as it is for many comics.
Guys grow up being used to cutting each other down. It’s not necessary. Every meeting doesn’t have to be a rite of passage. Guys can support each other. For a lot of comics every casual meeting turns into a Roast. It’s why a lot of guys are not comfortable hanging out with other guys. Patrice O’Neal was supposedly famous for putting other comics in their place, or making remarks about them, but he never did it to me. It’s basically high school behavior!
Patrice and I had a closer relationship, and we really “got” each other. I would go so far as to say we had mad respect for each other.
(L-R) My special girl Jacqui B., Patrice O’Neal, Jeffrey Gurian, and Dante Nero at The Black Phillip Show!
Many people still don’t know that I was his co-host on The Black Phillip Show on Sirius, along with his original co-host Dante Nero. And if he hadn’t left us when he did, so prematurely, we would have probably had our own show together. Listen to a phone call he left me one night after we did our first show together. It’s something I treasure:
Anyway, I stayed on the podcast for the whole hour and when it was over, Noam invited me back, not only to the podcast but to hang in the club more often which I totally intend to do. It’s a rare magical place and he’s a rare magical guy! I can’t wait to go back! Here’s the link to the podcast: