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STAR STUDDED GARDEN OF LAUGHS RAISES 2 MILLION BUCKS FOR KIDS

I had been waiting for weeks to cover the biennial “Garden of Laughs” at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden. It’s a star studded event that raises money for underprivileged kids and kids with disabilities. It’s produced by Rory Rosegarten of The Conversation Company and his team, and features some of the biggest comedy stars in the biz as well as many top actors. We were expecting Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, Jon Stewart, John Mulaney, Michael Che, John Oliver, Iliza Shlesinger, Tiffany Haddish, Brian Regan, and actors Debra Messing, Lucas Hedges, Ansel Elgort, Michael K. Williams, Toby Leonard Moore, Gaten Matarazzo, and all hosted by 3 time host Steve Schirripa of Sopranos fame.

WITH RORY ROSEGARTEN PRODUCER OF GARDEN OF LAUGHS

A lot of people don’t know that Steve booked some of the biggest comedy acts when he used to book talent in Las Vegas, and he’s very funny in his own right. Not every star decides to do the red carpet so we’re never really sure who’s going to come out. It was slated to start at 6:30, so I made sure to get there at 5:30 to have time to set up because there’s no real schedule with a red carpet. It’s very stressful. Sometimes several stars come out at once and while you’re talking to one, another one you would have liked to talk to walks by. It’s also all improv. Some journalists come with stock questions that they ask each person. Not me! All my stuff is improv’ed on the spot.

I specifically had my videographer show up at 4 to pack the camera bag and make 100% sure we had all of our equipment.  We went over it together.  So imagine my surprise at 6:10 when he suggested that we do a mic check and the shock ran through my body when we realized we hadn’t packed the microphone.  I can’t describe the horror, and the icy cold feeling that ran through my body. Weeks of planning, and I’m on the red carpet with no mic.

The one thing you need to do interviews besides the camera and we didn’t bring it. I decided I’d have to run home and get it. But I live on the other side of town and it was rush hour. Perfect! I told my assistant to try and shoot some B-roll, and I ran out like a maniac, flashing my red carpet badge to security as I ran through one door after another. As I was running I tried to figure out which would be the fastest way to get home. Should I run back to 8th avenue to take the train, call an Uber, or just jump into a taxi.

I chose the closest taxi and just like in the movies I told the guy to step on it. I said I had to get across town and back in 20 minutes which was impossible. I turned on my WAZE and we got to my house at 6:26. I told him to wait in the downtown direction, jumped out of the cab, ran past my doormen, got the mic and ran back downstairs so fast that both of my shoes opened and I didn’t stop to re-tie them.

Just past 6:30 my assistant texted me that no one had come out yet. As we got closer to the Garden he texted me that John Mulaney was on the red carpet! Shoot! I was hoping he’d come out late but he came out first. Luckily my videographer had the sense to tell John he was working with me, and that I had to run home to get my mic, so John left me this hilarious message, which made it a little bit better!

Of course as we got near the Garden we got stuck in traffic, and every block seemed to take a year. Finally we pulled up in front, I gave the driver a big tip just like in the movies and ran back in, not expecting to have to go through airport-like security again. But I was wrong. Very wrong.  I flashed my badge but it did no good. I told the guy I had forgotten my mic and had to run home to get it and I was missing the whole red carpet but he wouldn’t hear of it. He said he had to do his job. The only man in Manhattan who had to do his job. And of course because I was so nervous I kept leaving something metal in one pocket or another and literally had to go through the metal detector about 10 times while the people behind me waited patiently.

Finally he let me through and then I first had to re-fill my pockets. By the time I got upstairs I had missed Mulaney and Tobey Leonard Moore from Billions who I would have loved to talk to, so I finally bent down to re-tie my shoes, and then Michael K. Williams came along. I loved Michael’s characters “Omar” on “The Wire” and  “Chalkie” White on Boardwalk Empire so I was excited to talk to him. He told me that working with Martin Scorcese was a dream come true for him and that he also works with kids from Garden of Dreams which is the charity itself that Garden of Laughs raises money for.

WITH MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS ON THE RED CARPET AT MSG

To tell you the truth I had never noticed that he had a scar that ran from his forehead right near his eye and down onto his cheek. Obviously I didn’t bring it up, he did. He said he was working with a young boy of 14 who also has scars on his face from an assault, and that he was able to give him some reassurance that he’d be okay. Michael told me he had been assaulted by a gang on his 25th birthday. Man’s inhumanity to man.

Rory Rosegarten came out and told me had been looking for me because he knows I always come early to these things. When I told him the mic story he said the exact same thing that John Mulaney said without having heard him say it. You can hear it for yourself in the video below. He was there with his family.  I was able to congratulate him on another successful show, and it was great to see him looking so healthy again.

Michael Imperioli who played cousin Christopher Moltisante on The Sopranos came out next, and we hadn’t seen each other in years so it was so nice to re-connect. He’s got a movie coming out with Nick Cage, and an NBC TV series based on the movie The Bone Collector, and when we inquired about each other’s health and I told him I had survived a heart attack he said he was sorry, and it sounded like he said he was sorry I survived. Funny!!!

WITH MICHAEL IMPERIOLI ON THE RED CARPET AT GARDEN OF LAUGHS

Bill Burr is always a great time on the red carpet and as soon as he sees me he starts yelling out things like “Oh no”, and “This is gonna be good.”  I told him I was thinking of texting him to let him know I was going to be there so he could think up some insults for me, but he said he didn’t need any advance notice because they just came naturally. He started out by asking me about my sport jacket and if I had gotten it at Woodstock, which was actually very funny.

LAUGHING WITH BILL BURR AT GARDEN OF LAUGHS

 

I asked him if he knew of the You Tube video called “Bill Burr Roasting People” which has over 5.4 million views and opens with he and I on the red carpet where he says he hopes I go bald so that one day we’re two old bald guys on the red carpet.” He said that not only does he know about it he hates that people think he doesn’t like me because he LOVES me, … and that made me feel really good.

I had sent him a recording that the late great Patrice O’Neal had left for me on my phone one night at 4:05 A.M. It was the first night we had done the Black Phillip Show together and Patrice was so happy with it he couldn’t wait to call me and so humbly suggested that we do a show together just the two of us. He said he didn’t want to assume anything, as if I might have said “No”, but unfortunately we never got to do it. I still get messages and e-mails from guys who track me down to give me props on my work on Black Phillip.  R.I.P Patrice. Btw Bill said he listened to it, and I hope he did cause it’s one of my greatest possessions, along with the phone message that Richard Lewis left me saying that some jokes I had written for him were “hilarious” and if he was ever going to use anyone else’s jokes it would be mine!

Bill’s interview went on so long that at one point he asked me if it was still an interview or just two guys talking on the corner! Then he offered me a $700. class he was giving on how to end an interview. He’s hilarious and the very best! And he’s off on a tour from Iceland to Israel!

Just when I thought it was over, I left the red carpet but luckily didn’t pack up yet when I saw Tracy Morgan talking to Bill Burr and went over to catch up with Tracy. His new season if his TBS show “The Last O.G.” was premiering that night and we had a few laughs on camera. He always says something so nice to me and this time he said, “You ARE comedy!”

WITH TRACY MORGAN AT GARDEN OF LAUGHS

Last on the red carpet was John Oliver who was going to be the very first presenter that night. I asked him if his kids were old enough to know that he’s playing Zazu the bird in the new remake of The Lion King directed by John Favreau due out this July.  He said his son is only three and he took him to a movie in which he did the voice of a porcupine named Steve.  He told him that was his Dad and his son said ” No it isn’t”, just like my Too Much Tuna sketch with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. Anyway this little video is a recap of my adventurous day on the red carpet of Garden of Laughs.

Please feel free to “Like”, Comment and Subscribe and please share it with a friend.  On Twitter and IG I’m @jeffreygurian

 

 

 

 

 

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The Phenomenon Known As Sebastian

There’s only a handful of comedians that can fill an arena like Madison Square Garden with 20,000 seats, much less four shows over one weekend!  That’s 80,000 people who came out in the cold and pouring rain to see Sebastian Maniscalco do his thing on his Stay Hungry Tour.

There’s also very few performers who only need one name to identify them. Oprah, Cher, Elvis! Nobody ever said Elvis who? And now there’s Sebastian, holding it down in the comedy world!

I who drive everywhere had a feeling that wouldn’t be a good idea this night so I called for an Uber. I’m basically right across town from MSG, so theoretically it should take a good 15-20 minutes to get there.

The VIP meet and greet was set for 9-10 P.M. between his last two shows. I was told to go to the 8 Penn Plaza entrance which is for employees and media, and make my way to the 5th floor and then down to the third floor for the party.

The car picked me and my date up at 8:15, and I arrived at 8 Penn Plaza just past 9:30 after having to get out and walk the last four blocks in the pouring rain which had been predicted to be snow. For whatever reason traffic was INSANE. Much worse than usual. Every block, every avenue backed up! So lucky I didn’t drive.

As we walked over  we saw huge billboards with Sebastian’s face on them announcing his show. I got excited just by seeing them. Most comics have the experience of seeing their face on a flier, but to see your entire being on a billboard in Times Square has to be beyond belief.

And in the Garden he and Pete Correale were up on the Jumbotron for their podcast “The Pete and Sebastian Show”!

The lines outside of MSG were crazy but I thought we’d have an easier time at the 8 Penn Plaza entrance. WRONG!!! The line was out through the door and into the street. We managed to get inside where it seemed like nobody was moving. They had metal detectors and heavy security but nobody was moving.

I called upstairs to let Sebastian’s Levity Live people know I was finally there, but it was so noisy it was hard to hear anyone. They had my tickets and VIP party passes at a special table, and we just missed an elevator because they said there was no more room. The guards made us put on our VIP passes. We weren’t allowed to just hold them, we had to WEAR them!

We finally got an elevator and the first guy that got in said, ” Hey I know you. Aren’t you the “Master Panelist” from Comics Watching Comics on Amazon Prime?” I admitted that I was, and then another guy got in who referenced me from “Too Much Tuna” with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, and even the elevator operator said he knew me. That was kind of crazy! Obviously I’m very well known in elevators throughout the land!

When we finally got to the fifth floor, we were ushered vaguely to another place that wasn’t clear but some nice guy said, ” Don’t worry I’ll show you where to go.”

And we finally got there around 9:40 just in time to see Levity’s Alex Goodman standing with Sebastian’s opening act Pat McGann. Alex kindly showed me into the room where Sebastian was mingling and taking photos with the crowd, directed by Levity honcho Judy Marmel.

We got to exchange pleasantries with Sebastian, and I was amazed how calm he was knowing he was about to face 20,000 people in a few minutes, but I guess once you do it three times before, the fourth time feels like “old hat”, as they used to say in 1810!

When we took our seats, in the third row with a great view, I just sat there trying to take in the aura of 20,000 people. As a comic, if a club is full depending on the club there’s maybe 300 people. Lots of clubs have 125. Twenty thousand people is unimaginable, and you really have to put in years of stage time to be able to handle that and not go insane with fear!

You also have to hope they don’t all want to come over your house for a drink afterwards! That call to your wife would be crazy! Honey some people are dropping by. How many? About 20,000!

Pat McGann showed why he was chosen as Sebastian’s opener by doing a strong opening set with great stories about his wife, kids and family in general.

And then it was time for Sebastian, who hit the stage like a rockstar in a sparkly, multi-colored jacket that was the first thing he mentioned.

Then he discussed the fact that people had been wondering whether they’d have to cancel the show because of the weather. He laughingly said something to the effect of,  “Hey this is not a brunch where you can just go, ” The  weather’s not so great. We’ll do it next Thursday! This is Madison Square Garden.  It took me two years to plan this thing. It’s not being cancelled for a little rain.”

He got thunderous applause from the time he came out till the time he left the stage. It’s not only his stage presence, it’s his physicality that always amazes me.  He acts out almost every joke he does and contorts his body so it looks like the people he’s talking about.

He’s married to a Jewish woman which gave him the ability to compare Jews and Italians in talking about his wife’s upbringing as compared to his, and people were absolutely hysterical. A guy near me almost fell out of his seat!

He told great stories too like the time his wife made a one year old birthday party for his daughter and ordered an alpaca to make an appearance. He needed to get a permit for the alpaca and the story was hilarious. He even walked and made faces and noises like an alpaca. That’s not easy to do!

Talking about the condition his wife was in after she gave birth, he said she looked like she had been thrown out of an airplane, and that made me laugh out loud which like many people in comedy I don’t usually do.

I had to learn that early on when writing for very famous comedians who would look at the jokes I wrote and with a very serious face say, ” Oh that’s funny.  And THAT one’s VERY funny. I’m hysterical!”, without even cracking a smile.

He announced the good news that he has a son on the way. Very exciting. He certainly proved why he was worthy of the respect of 80,000 people who braved the freezing cold and rain to come out and join him. I’m sure he could have done at least two more shows.

I really look forward to seeing him again!

 

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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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