Posts Tagged “Robert Klein”

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!”

Posted in: Books, Celeb Photos, Charity Events, Comedians In The News, Comedy Central, Comedy Clubs, Comedy Events, Comedy Videos, Entertainment News, General Information, Nightlife Events

Leave a Comment (0) →

Steven Wright, Tom Papa, Judah Friedlander Star In Laugh For Sight at Gotham Comedy Club

Chris Mazzilli is a special kind of guy and a very charitable man. I don’t think it’s any accident that there are so many charitable events at Gotham Comedy Club. Laugh for Sight is a national charity which raises awareness and funding for Retinal Degenerative Eye Disease Research benefitting the Scheie Institute at the University of Pennyslyvania.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Gotham owner Chris Mazzilli at Laugh for Sight!

It was a very eclectic mix of performers at this packed event, with the always funny Dan Naturman as MC. Dan has a unique style and delivery all his own, which is the key to successful comedy. No one else should be able to take your jokes, if they are crafted towards your own comedy personna.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters Tv with MC Dan Naturman, at Gotham Comedy Club!

Dan says people on the internet lie about their age. He received a photo from one woman that had the Berlin wall in the background, … and it was under construction!

I also love his take-off on the TV commercial encouraging patients to ask their doctors about Previcid. In response to Dan’s Dr. telling him he has a condition that nothing can be done for, Dan asks, ” What about Previcid?” and then ponders, ” Shouldn’t HE know about Previcid? How is that MY job? “

First up was sight-impaired comic Brian Fischler and Nash, his canine companion, and Brian was very funny. Next was Jessica Kirson, a real crowd-pleaser, who is so animated, and takes impromptu breaks onstage in the middle of her act, to talk to herself, offering herself little bits of advice and encouragement like, ” You just have to realize that wheat bread is still bread!”

Jessica Kirson with Tom Papa who looks like he’s going into a swoon, waiting to perform at Gotham Comedy Club, at the benefit for “Laugh For Sight”!

Jess was followed by Tom Papa, TV and film star, and currently the host of Jerry Seinfeld’s NBC hit, The Marriage Ref. Tom says that men don’t care that much about getting married. That’s why there’s no Groom Magazine! Men don’t even wear their own clothes to get married in. They rent them.

And he opines on Wall Street guys who kill themselves after losing all their money. “They’d rather die than live like us!”

He talked about hating cliches, the way I do when during the summer, people who think they have a sense of humor ask ” Is it hot enough for you?” Those same creative geniuses can’t wait till Winter to switch to, ” Is it cold enough for you?” Those two “Bon-mots” can keep a guy with absolutely no personality going conversation-wise throughout the year!

Tom Papa killing it onstage at Gotham Comedy Club in a benefit for “Laugh For Sight!”

Tom’s example of an obnoxious cliche was, in answer to the simple question ” How are you?” ” Still about a million dollars away from being a millionnaire!”

Then Eddie Brill took the stage. Eddie is the consummate showman, and will be making his 10th appearance on Letterman very soon. Eddie also books the talent on Letterman which must have been very difficult for him trying to convince himself to put himself on! I heard he auditioned for himself several times before he agreed to let himself appear! (LOL)

A very thin Eddie Brill performing onstage at Gotham in a benefit for “Laugh For Sight!”

Actually Eddie can’t book himself. He’s too humble a guy to do that. I hear that Letterman himself is the one that requests that Eddie appears.

Judah Friedlander, star of NBC’s 30 Rock, is one of the funniest guys to come along in a long time. His “World Champion” hook is one that most comics only dream of. It’s a never-ending source of material for him. What’s cool about Judah though is that as famous and popular as he has become, he’s still totally approachable to his fans. He honors every request for photos and chats with fans after every show.

Judah Friedlander onstage at Gotham Comedy Club in a benefit for “Fight For Sight!” Judah’s look is his brand!

As World Champion of everything, Judah claims he’s been on Twitter since 1985, is an extra-dark Black belt in Karate, and weighlifts weighlifters while they’re lifting weights to keep in shape. He doesn’t even wait till they put the weights down, which he could conceivably do without anyone doubting his masculinity. But instead, he actually lifts them while they’re holding the weights which makes it much more difficult! Then again, he IS the World Champion!

Judah was standing behind where I was sitting when Steven Wright took the stage, and it was great to hear him laughing out loud at Steven’s rare and obscure observations like, ” It’s a good thing that other people speak foreign languages, otherwise those people would have no one to talk to.”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Judah Friedlander after his set at Gotham Comedy Club at a benefit for “Laugh For Sight”!

“In her spare time, she liked to waste time!” ” He majored in Calcium Anthropology – the study of milk men!” ” I have two pair of reading glasses, one for fiction and one for non-fiction!” ” The Earth is bi-polar!” ” Do you know what time it is?” “No, I’m not from around here!” ” A friend of mine has a trophy wife, but apparently it wasn’t First Place!”

I think that Steven was probably an inspiration for comics like Mitch Hedberg, and maybe even Judah. I know he was an inspiration to me, and that Chris Mazzilli, who often leaves at the end of his long day, actually stuck around to see him!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with one of his most important comedy influences Steven Wright, at Gotham Comedy Club!

Judah Friedlander at Gotham Comedy Club with Steven Wright, after Judah and everyone else enjoyed Steven’s masterful performance!

Robert Klein brilliantly closed the show and followed Steven because he was probably the only one who could!

Robert Klein closed the “Laugh for Sight” benefit at Gotham Comedy Club!

Posted in: Celeb Photos, Comedians In The News, Comedy Events, Comedy Matters, Featured, Nightlife Events, Red Carpet Events

Leave a Comment (0) →
close

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word by Subscribing :)