Posts Tagged Saturday Night Live

The King of Staten Island Rocks

PETE DAVIDSON/SCOTT CARLIN WITH HIS BOYS MOISES ARIAS, RICKY VELEZ AND LOU WILSON ON STATEN ISLAND

People who know me know I don’t do “review” reviews. I write about my experience seeing a show, or a film or any type of creative performance. I write about how it made me feel, and what the characters did. And if I don’t like it I don’t write about it at all.

WITH PETE DAVIDSON THE STAR OF KING OF STATEN ISLAND

Fortunately that’s not the case with The King of Staten Island because it would have been very difficult for me to ignore this project. It’s literally packed with comedian friends and people I know for a really long time.

Kudos first of all to director Judd Apatow, for bringing this amazing cast together, and creating cinematic magic. He produced, directed and co-wrote the script with Pete, and former SNL writer Dave Sirus who all did an amazing job telling this poignant story. When I spoke to Dave he said the experience working with Judd was surreal, and opening day was “a very weird day”, … in a good way!

WITH THE KING OF HOLLYWOOD COMEDY JUDD APATOW

Just to name the comedy people first, it’s Pete Davidson, Bill Burr, Ricky Velez, Lynn Koplitz, Derek Gaines, Keith Robinson, Pamela Adlon, Rich Vos and Bonnie Macfarlane, Liza Treyger, Mike Vecchione, Carly Aquilino, and Jessica Kirson.

 
I’m particularly happy for Pete Davidson, because I think he had a lot riding on this film personally. So many people including me were waiting excitedly for it to come out, and it would have been devastating if it had not turned out as well as it did. 

Pete gets so much press about so many different things, from all different angles, but he should be very proud of this project, which is loosely based on his own life.

And Judd must have been so proud that his daughter Maude was so great in the film playing Pete’s sister, who loves Pete/Scott in spite of himself.
I called Dave to congratulate him and he said it was a really crazy, “weird” day for him. I can only imagine. 

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film where I had a connection to so many people and even to a location in the film. I can’t do any spoilers so I’m going to keep this article limited mostly to the talent and the parts they played.

Pete, who stars in the film as Scott Carlin, and co-wrote it with Judd and Dave, plays a 24 year old Staten Island stoner who doesn’t have much direction, thanks to the confusion caused by his severe A.D.D.

He does have a dream though and that is to someday open a tattoo restaurant, which would be the first of it’s kind. Until that either happened or didn’t happen, he’d be just as comfortable hanging out in his basement with a few friends getting stoned.

He’s torn up about the death of his fireman Dad when he was only 7, but isn’t really in touch with that as the cause of his inner turmoil and emotional pain.

I happen to know Pete since he was about 17. He used to do my late night show at The Comic Strip. He’d come in late at night with Jordan Rock and was really shy and really funny. I had a feeling he was gonna do big things, but nobody could guess at the time where he would go, and the heights he would reach.

PETE DAVIDSON WITH JORDAN ROCK BACK IN 2011
WITH PETE DAVIDSON WHEN HE WAS 17

I shared the excitement with him when Nick Cannon took him under his wing and brought him out on the road, and Pete used to tell me how amazing it was being with Nick and Mariah.

And then some years later we shot some fun video interviews up in Montreal, when he was asked to perform at the Just for Laughs Festival two years in a row. I remember how excited he was about being up there.

Then one night at Gotham Comedy Club, where he performed pretty often, he introduced me to his girlfriend at the time, super funny comedian Carly Aquilino, and told her she could tell me anything because I was someone who could be trusted. That was very cool.

Carly also has a part in the movie as Tara, and I almost didn’t recognize her with her super blonde hair which has been many other colors including pink!

WITH CARLY AQUILINO OUTSIDE OF A COMEDY CLUB IN NYC

The last time I saw Pete was with Bill Burr when he and Bill produced Paul Virzi’s special and I drove up to watch the taping and hang out backstage with those guys.

Bill Burr, who is so great in this part, plays a fireman named Ray with a big caterpiller moustache, who winds up dating Pete’s Mom Margie, in the film played by my old friend, the incredibly talented Marisa Tomei.

WITH ACADEMY AWARD WINNER MARISA TOMEI

In 1995 I was working with the Audrey Hepburn Foundation and went to the first year of the Aspen Comedy Festival representing the foundation, whose goal was to help poor children all over the world. I knew Marisa from the Naked Angels theatre troupe, as she was one of the founding members, and I used to go every week as one of the writers whose work they’d read.

When I got back from Aspen the Hepburn foundation had a big event at Planet Hollywood and I asked Marisa to come and make a special appearance which she did as a favor. She had already won the Oscar for her performance in My Cousin Vinny, so it was a really big thing. And Bill Burr gets to kiss her in this film! #sojealous

BILL BURR WITH HIS BIG MOUSTACHE AND MARISA TOMEI

So many people had fun parts. Ricky Velez who’s one of Pete’s best friends in real life plays a best friend in the film as well, and is absolutely superb. He even gets to wear his favorite clothes, which is usually just jeans and a hoodie. He has a very big and important part in terms of what happens to him and to Pete/Scott during the film.

RICKY VELEZ JUST CHILLIN’ ON STATEN ISLAND

Derek Gaines from The Last O.G. plays a waiter in the Staten Island restaurant where Pete gets a job, and Derek is also a close friend and an old roommate of Pete’s. They actually lived together in real life and when I called him right after I saw the film to congratulate him he told me he was “so glad to work with a cast that knew how to play the line of comedy and drama together. Pete and Judd are a power collaboration that I’m so glad to be a part of.”

He went on to say ” Pete is my friend, we sorta grew up together in comedy. He was my roommate for Christ’s sake … I’m glad we stayed cool and he called me to do the part, .. and in the words of Lil Wayne, … it all worked out! (Tha Carter 5).”  In the film he even gets to show off his pop-and-lock skills!

WITH DEREK GAINES WHEN HE WAS MY GUEST ON SIRIUS XM RADIO

Keith Robinson has a funny scene playing a security guard, and Pamela Adlon who has a big part plays Bill Burr’s ex-wife, and the mother of their two adorable kids. Rich Vos and Bonnie Macfarlane have a cool scene in an Italian restaurant called Denino’s which happens to be owned by my dear friend Joe McBratney’s brother, Jimmy McBratney, and where I’ve actually eaten. Great food by the way!

WITH PAMELA ADLON STAR OF BETTER THINGS AT THE FRIARS CLUB

Lynne Koplitz has a very fun part and gets to let out her “inner Lynn” by playing a wise-cracking nurse and best friend to Marisa Tomei. All these people had a chance to act with Marisa Tomei! Amazing.

WITH LYNNE KOPLITZ BACKSTAGE AT SOME SHOW SOMEWHERE

And when I asked Lynne about working with Marisa she said, “ she was great to work with and needless to say so professional. It was very surreal at first being that it was my first role in a full length movie and there I was at rehearsal with this fantastic Oscar winning beauty, but she was very friendly and the entire environment of the movie was very family like which enabled me to get comfortable quickly.”

LYNNE KOPLITZ AND MARISA TOMEIE

She went on to say, “ I honestly can’t say enough nice things about working on this film. I adore Pete and always have and Ricky and Dave are just so generous, and fun and creative. And Judd, … well he just sets this confident and easy going collaborative tone that’s really great to work with.” Sounds like she liked it!

Liza Treyger plays a waitress in that same Italian restaurant where Pete’s character gets a job, Mike Vecchione doesn’t play a cop for which he’s so well suited, but he plays a fireman also with a moustache, and Jessica Kirson plays the owner of a pharmacy who has a very unusual interaction with Ricky Velez and his boys.

WITH STEVE BUSCEMI AT A FILM EVENT

And Steve Buscemi who has done some comedy parts in the past, like on Jim Gaffigan’s show, (where I accidentally walked onto the set while they were filming to say hello to Jim and ruined the take), plays a senior fireman as well, and adds his great talent to the already amazing cast.

But seeing Ray romance Margie stirred an emotional note with me because of all things, my parents were named Margie and Ray. That can’t even happen. When I told Bill Burr about it he said, “ What are the odds of that?” I was like “Basically zero.” And he also said he was glad I liked the film because he had a lot of fun doing it.

The film was very emotional in several spots, and ran the entire gamut of feelings. Some very funny parts and some very touching parts where Pete and I both had tears welling up in our eyes. Pete really showed that he had quite a range. He’s basically in every scene and it was very special to see him be so good and so believable in his role.

And I must give a special shout out to English actress Bel Powley who played Pete’s childhood friend and occasional hook-up in the film. She was just so good in her part as Kelsey, and she learned the Staten Island accent as if it was her own.

I read one review of the film where the writer used such big words and flowery expressions I couldn’t tell whether she liked it or not. I don’t even know how to write that way. I just write it simply the way I see it.

This is definitely a film you should see and I’m sure it will do great things for everyone who was involved in it. I sure wish I had been! (LOL)

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Seth Meyers Takes Over Late Night Tonight

In the ever-increasing entertainment empire that is under the guidance/ownership/leadership of king-maker Lorne Michaels, Seth Meyers will take over the reins of Late Night tonight, a week after his friend and former SNL cast-mate Jimmy Fallon replaced Jay Leno on The Tonight Show.

 

Jeffrey Gurian of ComedyMattersTV.com interviewing Seth Meyers on the red carpet of the Just for Laughs Awards luncheon!

Jeffrey Gurian of ComedyMattersTV.com interviewing Seth Meyers on the red carpet of the Just for Laughs Awards luncheon!

In a NY Post article, Seth credits the confidence needed to make such a move to Lorne’s support in suggesting him for the gig.  It’s such a HUGE thing to have someone like that behind you.  It makes all the difference in the world, when someone with that much power believes in you!

Jeffrey Gurian with Lorne Michaels at a Writers Guild Awards event!

Jeffrey Gurian with Lorne Michaels at a Writers Guild Awards event!

Lorne created Saturday Night Live in 1975 and the show has gone on to provide some of the biggest stars we know today like Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, TIna Fey, Amy Poehler, Eddie Murphy, Jimmy Fallon and on and on!

It’s a huge amount of pressure to do a show five nights a week where you have to interview A-list celebs every night, and keep it fresh and hip!  He’ll be in the same 30 Rock building  he’s called home, since 2001 when he joined the cast of SNL.  Within a period of two years he went from writing supervisor to head writer, and then to Weekend Update co-anchor with Amy Poehler.

He, like Jimmy Fallon has been doing test shows during the week with guest celebs like Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb of “Today”, and a few guest comics as well.  His bandleader is also an interesting choice, former SNL star and current star of IFC’s Portlandia, Fred Armisen.

Interesting fact: Portlandia was created by Jonathan Krisel who also directs Kroll Show on Comedy Central, and during the last NY Comedy Festival, when Nick Kroll did a panel at The Paley Center, ( formerly the Museum of TV and Radio), Seth was the moderator, and Jon Krisel was on the panel, along with Nick Kroll and Exec. Producer of Kroll Show and sometime actor on the show, John Levenstein.

KrollShowGraphic_PaleyCenter_SetyhMeyers_11_9_13

(L-R) Jon Krisel, John Levenstein, Nick Kroll, and Seth Meyers at The Paley Center in a panel on Kroll Show!

(L-R) Jon Krisel, John Levenstein, Nick Kroll, and Seth Meyers at The Paley Center in a panel on Kroll Show!

It happened to be during that panel that I got a great surprise.  Not only did Nick give me a shout out from the stage, before showing my ” Too Much Tuna” sketch with him and John Mulaney, but they also showed the upcoming sketch I’m in, which I understand will be the finale of the 2nd season, with me playing myself in a sketch with Laura Dern, Amy Poehler, and Katy Perry!

Jeffrey Gurian with Laura Dern, as C-Czar's mom. on the LA set of Comedy Central's hit Kroll Show!

Jeffrey Gurian with Laura Dern, as C-Czar’s mom. on the LA set of Comedy Central’s hit Kroll Show!

Jeffrey Gurian with Amy Poehler on the LA set of Kroll Show in a sketch that will air in the new 2nd season!

Jeffrey Gurian with Amy Poehler on the LA set of Kroll Show in a sketch that will air in the new 2nd season!

Amy and Seth are very close as they shared the Weekend Update desk for two years from 2006-2008.  This past summer in Montreal at The Just for Laughs Festival which is the biggest comedy festival in the world, Seth presented Amy with the Breakout Comedy Star of the Year Award at a huge awards luncheon.

AmyPoehlerGraphic_Montreal_7:24:13

Seth Meyers at the podium at the Just for Laughs Festival presenting Amy Poehler with the Comedy Person of the Year Award!

Seth Meyers at the podium at the Just for Laughs Festival presenting Amy Poehler with the Comedy Person of the Year Award!  Amy is partly shown sitting behind where he’s standing!

She will be his first guest tonight along with VP Joe Biden.  Interesting mix!  Later in the week he’ll have Kanye West, and Patrick Stewart!

Seth is such a charming, humble, and likable guy, he’s a natural for the spot and people will love him.   Just last year he got married to human rights lawyer Alexi Ashe and he says his new schedule will allow him to start a family!  ( Not by himself, with Alexi’s cooperation, of course! LOL)

Between Seth, Jimmy, and David Letterman, they’ll be bringing major entertainment back to New York in a very big way.  So many more stars from LA will be here to do the shows!  Very exciting.

We’ll all be watching you tonight Seth, and we know you’ll totally kill it!  Below you can see my little interview with Seth in Montreal just before he presented Amy with her award!

 

 

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Sasheer Zamata To Join SNL Jan. 18, 2014

Sasheer Zamata is so funny, so pretty, and so talented, and she will be the first Black female comic to be on SNL since Maya Rudolph left 6 years ago.  I feel so proud of her, and FOR her!

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"!

Jeffrey Gurian with new SNL cast member Sasheer Zamata in his apartment, during the shoot for the documentary film she was featured in and that he co-produced and appeared in called “The Business of Comedy”!

The first time I saw her perform was in a show out in Brooklyn.  I rarely go to Brooklyn because there are so many things for me to see right here in Manhattan, but I went out to Union Hall for what I thought was a party.  It was an invite from a young comic named Lisa Delarios, who is hilarious, (which sounds a lot like Delarios! LOL) and it invited me to The Party Machine’s Yacht Party on a Saturday night in April, and that sounded good to me.

I thought everyone would be dressed in white, and pictured a scene from The Hamptons.  I drove out with my assistant at the time, funny, funny girl Corinne Fisher from the comedy duo with Krystyna Hutchinson called “Sorry About Last Night”, to find a packed room, with everyone in black, not a white outfit in sight, and a very Brooklyn hipster crowd. Most of the men had unibomber-type beards, and looked like they lived in a cabin in the woods!  Lots of flannel! (LOL)  I fit right in, and blended in with the crowd as I always do! (LOL)

To make matters worse because I thought it was a party, we showed up fashionably late and missed part of the show!  The show was produced by Arden Myrin from Mad TV, and the aforementioned Lisa Delarios, who also produces shows around town, as well as producer Emily Kindler, related to the great comic Andy Kindler, known for his incredible “State of the Industry” speeches every year in Montreal at the Just for Laughs Festival, which everyone in the industry looks forward to and attends.

At this past one last July, John Mulaney introduced Andy and gave me a surprise shout out from the stage!  You can see it at the end of this little 3 minute video!

The invite also advertised “Yacht Passengers” Jessi Klein (SNL), Team Submarine (Just For Laughs, NPR) , Ben Kronberg (Jimmy Kimmel Live), Sara Schaefer (Jimmy Fallon), who went on to star in The Nikki and Sara Show on MTV, which I went to a couple of times, Lukas Kaiser (Spike TV), and Adira Amram (ECNY WINNER) so I thought it was a combination show and party and that they’d all be mingling in the crowd at the party! (LOL)

I felt like such a moron because there was no party.  That was just the name of the show.  I even wrote a blog post about how misinformed I was!

But that was the first time I saw Sasheer perform and I was struck by her presence.  There was something magical about her that I couldn’t get out of my mind!  I saw her again a short time later at The PIT, and was impressed yet again, so when Gary Licker and Scott Sobel came to me to appear in the documentary called “The Business of Comedy”, which just played on New Year’s Eve on WNET, Channel 13 at midnight, and I wound up becoming a co-producer on the project, I invited Sasheer to participate.

Gary Licker and Scott Sobel shooting Sasheer Zamata for the documentary The Business of Comedy in Jeffrey Gurian's apartment!

Gary Licker and Scott Sobel shooting Sasheer Zamata for the documentary The Business of Comedy in Jeffrey Gurian’s apartment!

We shot the scene at my apartment this past April and she was wonderful, and open, and forthright, and is featured prominently in the film which you can see on Hulu.

The promo card for "The Business of Comedy" a doc film co-produced by Jeffrey Gurian featuring Sasheer Zamata, pictured in the box right next to the producing credits.

The promo card for “The Business of Comedy” a doc film co-produced by Jeffrey Gurian featuring Sasheer Zamata, pictured in the box right next to the producing credits.

She talked about how much fun it is to get paid for doing comedy even though she’d do it for free just because she loves it so much.  She also lamented that she doesn’t see a lot of people who “look like her” doing comedy!  Maybe that’s because no one else looks like her! (LOL)

She has her own very unique look and it’s awesome!  Her eyes sparkle and her smile lights up a room!

And lots and lots of people will get to see her now, and all of her hard work will pay off.   And if being paid for doing comedy is fun, Sasheer should be having lots and lots of fun this year!

Congratulations Sasheer, can’t wait to see you on the show!

Jeffrey Gurian and Sasheer Zamata after the shoot for The Business of Comedy, shot in his "comedy museum"!

Jeffrey Gurian and Sasheer Zamata after the shoot for The Business of Comedy, shot in his “comedy museum”!

 

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Jim Norton Closes Out Gotham Comedy Live’s First Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SNL Show to Benefit Victims of Sandy at The Comic Strip

This Sunday night,11/18, at 8:30 P.M. cast members from SNL plus Judah Friedlander from 30 Rock will be performing at The Comic Strip on 81st and 2nd to raise money to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The show will feature Saturday Night Live’s castmembers Jay Pharoah, Vanessa Bayer, Tim Robinson, and John Mulaney and writers Colin Jost (head writer) and Mike O’Brien. 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander will also be performing.

(L-R) Jeffrey Gurian, Shayna Farrow, Richie Tienken, Jay Pharoah at The Strip!

Vanessa Bayer on stage at The Strip!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with John Mulaney of SNL after taping his comedy special at The Skirball Center!

Judah Friedlander of 30 Rock holding the book “Make ‘Em Laugh” on the history of The Comic Strip, with author Jeffrey Gurian!

Admission proceeds will be donated to New York Cares to help further the work they have done to aid victims in areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy and the subsequent Nor’easter.

RAFFLE: We’ve received great product donations that will be raffled off to attendees at the benefit. Prizes include: Tickets to Late Night with David Letterman; Personal Training Sessions at Equinox; Restaurant Gift Cards; Beauty Makeover and Consultation with Celebrity Makeup Artist; Free Night at The Comic Strip, an autographed copy of “Make ‘Em Laugh” the new book by me and Richie Tienken on the 35 year history of The Strip, with an intro by Chris Rock, and more.

In case you haven’t already seen it, this is a video of Jay Pharoah reading Chris Rock’s introduction in Chris Rock’s voice for JB Smoove and others at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal this past July.

Admission price is $50 plus a two-drink minimum per person. Reservations are required 212-861-9386. Tickets may be purchased at http://comicstriplive.com/

Let’s all come out for this fabulous show and opportunity to help out! This storm affected all of us whether directly or indirectly.

***If you are unable to attend the show, please consider donating: http://www.crowdrise.com/comicstriplive ***

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Me and Arnold Schwartzenegger at SNL

I read an item about Arnold Schwartzenegger today on Page 6, something about him trying on a watch with a huge face, (which I’m sure he can handle),and then something about his recent shoulder surgery, but it made me think of one of the funniest stories of my career, when I met Arnold many years ago at SNL, and then wound up writing some jokes for him to do on the Mike Douglas show.

Growing up, I had always been a big fan of body building. I never had the genetics to succeed at it, but I read the magazines, and was fascinated by the sport. I was also fascinated by unusual names so when a friend told me about a young guy named Arnold Schwartzenegger, I thought it was a joke. I think his last name translates to mean something like ” Black-Black”!

I soon found out that it wasn’t a joke, and I became a big fan. He was absolutely immense and his nickname was “The Austrian Oak”! As time went on, I got married and I used to say to my wife, “Please don’t ever let Arnold Schwartzenegger insult you, because I’d hate to have to fight him.” It was kind of a standing joke between us.

A couple of years later, when SNL was new, I went to one of the early shows with a girl named Kathy Jonas, the daughter of famed comedy manager David Jonas, best known for managing Freddie Prinze Sr., and Alan Zweibel. As we walked in, in those days you had assigned seats. I don’t think they do that anymore. Anyway, we walked to our seats, and who was sitting in MY seat? None other than Arnold Schwartzenegger. I almost fell down. I was wishing my wife was there to share the experience with me. I recognized him from his photos in the magazines.

Anyway, I gathered up my courage, walked over to him and said ” Excuse me, aren’t you Arnold Schwartzenegger?” To which he said, “Yes.” I said, ” Well I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re in my seat!”

He jumped right up and was so apologetic. He was so kind and humble and apologized profusely. And I was thinking, “Life is so bizarre. (Or at least MY life is so bizarre!) I just asked Arnold Schwartzenegger to get out of my seat. And he did!!!

I told him I was a comedy writer and a big fan of his. I think Pumping Iron either just came out or was about to come out, and he said he needed some comedy material to do on the talk shows. We exchanged information, but didn’t connect for a while.

Then after Pumping Iron came out, I heard he was doing some kind of book signing at a bookstore in Westchester, not far from where I lived. I went over to see him, and we spoke again, and once again exchanged information, and this time I wound up writing for him for an appearance he did on the Mike Douglas Show.

Somewhere in my memorabilia, I still have a letter from him on his Golden Oak Productions letterhead. At least I think it was called Golden Oak. I have a feeling that was the precursor to Oak Productions which he created in 1985.

It’s going back a long ways! I wasn’t carrying a camera in those days like I do today, so I don’t have a photo of us together, because there was no such thing as small digital pocket cameras in those days. Cameras were huge, needed film, and lights, and definitely did not fit into anyone’s pocket. But even without a photo, it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

It makes me want to search my house to find it, but that’s probably just because I’m in the midst of a huge project and my ADHD is telling me to divert my attention to something less important! (LOL)

In more recent years, I had another connection to Arnold. Back in 2004, David Pecker, the billionaire who owns American Media and many magazines and newspapers under that vast umbrella, bought Muscle and Fitness and Flex magazines, and went into an association with Arnold, who was supposed to be an advisor, and editorial contributor. I was asked to write some humorous remarks for David to say at a big press event entitled “The Arnold Classic”, announcing their association, and this was part of what I wrote for David to say, in which he was comparing himself to Arnold:

“And in terms of comparing our experience in the world of fitness. Basically, I am to the world of bodybuilding what the legendary Luciano Pavarotti is to the world of pole-vaulting.

I am to the world of fitness, what the great Mike Tyson is to the world of speed-reading, … what George Bush is to the world of cliff-diving, what Al Sharpton is to the world of modern dance, and what the legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman is to the world of porno films.”

That’s all folks!

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Jay Pharoah Does A Surprise Set At The Comic Strip

It goes without saying that if you’re a cast member of SNL that you have to be great at doing characters, but Jay Pharoah is in a class by himself. And he stopped by The Comic Strip to prove it! He came in with Colin Jost, who’s a writer on SNL and is a regular performer at The Strip. I would think that all young Black comics would want to perform on the stage that launched Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, Shayna Farrow, owner Richie Tienken and Jay Pharoah at The Comic Strip!

Jay came in with his manager/sister Shayna,(I hope that’s how she spells it! LOL), and his agent and we all sat up in the balcony with owner Richie Tienken to enjoy Jay’s set. The packed audience was surprised and thrilled, and Jay did about 30 minutes.

Jay Pharoah from SNL onstage at The Comic Strip!

His impersonations of Obama, Will Smith, and Denzel Washington absolutely killed. Shayna kept the family name Farrow, but I like the way Jay spells it, cause it carries the power of ancient Egypt.

The cool thing about Jay is that he’s as humble as he is talented. I hope to be shooting a video with him real soon for Comedy Matters TV! Stay tuned!

Jay Pharoah from SNL with Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV trading gang signs at The Comic Strip!

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Steve Byrne Packs ‘Em In At Gotham Comedy Club

When I heard that Steve Byrne would be performing at Gotham Comedy Club I made sure to get over there and catch his show. He was always a favorite of mine and I was wondering why I hadn’t run into him for a while. When he told me he had moved to LA back in 2004, it all made sense to me! (LOL) That must have been the last time I saw him!

Jefrfey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Steve Byrne at Luna Lounge back in 2004, before his move to LA!

Steve has an interesting background, being half Korean and half Irish. I want to say I first met him when I was judging an Asian comedy contest, many years back, but that could be wrong. All I know is that he endeared himself to me because when I saw him at Gotham he told me I hadn’t changed a bit from the last time we saw each other, and that was seven years ago! (LOL)

Steve now performs all over the world, and has even opened for musical superstars like Kanye West and Mariah Carey.

One of his half-hour Comedy Central Presents specials was voted as one of the best specials of all time in the Comedy Central Standup Showdown. His hilarious standup has been seen on NBC’s The Tonight Show, The Jay Leno Show, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, CBS’s The Late Late Show and BET’s Comic View.

As a big supporter of the US troops, Steve also headlined several USO tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan and Guam. On the big screen, Byrne appeared in the recent hit comedy blockbuster Couples Retreat, which I absolutely MUST see because I understand my dear friend, gorgeous Kali Hawk is one of the stars in that film as well, plus Steve was in Four Christmases opposite Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, and The Goods: The Don Ready Story alongside Jeremy Piven.

This night at Gotham, Steve had one of the strongest closes of any comic I’ve seen. He chose five guys from the audience to be a “boy band” and dance for one girl who he also chose from the audience. He gave them each very bizarre names which they had to answer to, and they each had to give the chosen woman kind of a lap dance. It was HYSTERICAL and the audience loved it.

Steve Byrne coaching his “boy-band” on stage at Gotham Comedy Club! Colin Jost, whose boy-band name I can’t recall, is 2nd from right!

One of the five guys happened to be talented comic Colin Jost who was one of Steve’s opening acts, and who writes for SNL, and also appears a lot at The Comic Strip.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Colin Jost of SNL fame, who opened for Steve Byrne, and wound up as part of his “close” as well!

I hope it isn’t as long before I get to see Steve Byrne again. He’s a real crowd pleaser, and a heck of a nice guy!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Steve Byrne at Gotham Comedy Club for one of Steve’s sold-out shows!

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Eddie Murphy Might Do SNL After 25 Years???

Page 6 of the New York Post, the most prestigious, and most powerful gossip column in the country says that Eddie Murphy, set to host the Academy Awards this year,may make his first appearance on SNL in 25 years this coming Satuday night when Ben hosts SNL. The Academy Awards will be produced by Brett Ratner this year. Eddie and Ben recently starred together in Tower Heist, a film Ratner directed, set to open November 4, 2011, which also stars Matthew Broderick, and Alan Alda.

Eddie Murphy receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy from Tracy Morgan at the Comedy Central First Annual Comedy Award show!

Eddie left the show in 1984, and rumour has it that he had a feud with producer Lorne Michaels over an on-air joke made about Murphy by David Spade, back around 1989, concerning Eddie’s faltering career. Spade has always been known for his snarky remarks! It’s part of who he is, and what people expect of him!

Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV with Lorne Michaels at the Writers Guild Awards!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with David Spade at a comedy club in NYC!

According to Page 6, sources said that Murphy demanded an apology from Michaels which was not forthcoming since Michaels felt he had to give his writers “creative freedom.” Now with Ratner producing The Oscars, and Murphy hosting, it’s felt that Ratner has orchestrated a detente between Michaels and Murphy so we’ll all have to tune in on Saturday night to see what happens.

In the meantime, I have a Murphy/SNL story that you probably don’t know. I know it because I’m writing the book on the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, the club that brought Eddie to world-wide stardom, thanks mainly to it’s owners and founders Richie Tienken and Bob Wachs, who still own and run the place today!

(L-R) Bob Wachs, and Richie Tienken, owners and founders of the legendary comedy club The Comic Strip opened on June 1, 1976, and still going strong!

Richie was Eddie’s day to day manager. Eddie had been performing as part of an ensemble known as “The Identical Triplets”, two white guys and him! The other two guys were Rob Bartlett and Bob Nelson two respected comics in their own right! Nelson is out in Branson, Missouri, and Bartlett is Don Imus’ sidekick for many years, doing characters on the radio.

Nelson and Bartlett had been performing at The Comic Strip, and they called up Tienken asking him to take a look at Murphy to see if he could audition there. Murphy was supposed to come in on a Monday night which was audition night, but instead of coming in on the night when Tienken was there, he came in when Bob Wachs was there, who had no idea that Eddie was coming, and didn’t go out of his way to accommodate him. When Eddie got a little testy, expecting to go right up on stage, Wachs basically threw him out.

Eddie’s partners called up to find out what happened and Tienken told him to come back on a night he was there. Eddie came back all contrite and acting very polite. Richie told him he wouldn’t go against his partner but told Murphy to go up on stage and if he was good, he’d talk to Wachs. Needless to say, Eddie killed it, and Tienken smoothed it over with Wachs.

In 1980, after Tienken and Wachs were managing him, Eddie was added as a featured player on the sixth season of SNL. The producer that year was Jean Doumanian,who went on to co-produce movies with life-long friend Woody Allen. Her ex-husband John is still Woody’s close friend and was with him when I last saw Woody at the Carlisle Hotel this past April.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Woody Allen at The Carlyle Hotel in NYC!

One night he called Tienken in a panic. The show was running short, and Doumanian asked him to do five minutes of comedy to stretch the show. She had originally asked Joe Piscopo to do it, but he liked Eddie and suggested him instead. When Tienken asked what the problem was, Eddie said ” I’m nervous to do it cause I curse!” So Tienken advised, “Then don’t curse.” Eddie wound up doing it and saved the show.

When it came time for contract renewal, Tienken went up to meet with Doumanian who assured him that Murphy would be re-signed, … as a featured player again. Tienken, as a good manager said, ” He saved your show! Don’t you think he deserves to be a regular cast member?” Fortunately she agreed, and Eddie went immediately from $750. a week to $3,000. a week, and Tienken proved his worth as a great manager.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Bob Wachs and Richie Tienken at the Friars Club Film Festival where they were showing the trailer for their documentary film on The Comic Strip!

If Eddie is in New York this weekend, they would love to have him drop by The Strip!

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Jimmy Fallon In Rare Stand-Up Appearance at Gotham Comedy Club

The sold-out crowd at Gotham got themselves a real treat, … 2 headliners for the price of one! Bobby Slayton, known as “the pitbull of comedy”, (for good reason), packs them in on his own, but combined with Jimmy Fallon opening the show, it was a guaranteed sell-out!

I had just seen Bobby in Montreal the week before at the Just For Laughs Festival, where he also performed. It’s the biggest comedy festival in the world, and needless to say a very prestigious place to perform.
(So if it’s needless to say, then why did I say it??? LOL )

Bobby Slayton, the "pitbull of comedy", on stage at Gotham Comedy Club!

Even he was excited about performing with Jimmy, and he was the one who told me they’d be on the same bill. Turns out Jimmy was excited to perform with Bobby as well, plus crowd pleaser Buddy Fitzpatrick was the MC, so it was really a guaranteed success.

As soon as I got back to New York, I called Chris Mazzilli the owner of Gotham, and told him to please save me my usual table. Chris advised that I get there early because everyone knew it would be packed.

It’s been 2 1/2 years since Jimmy took over Late Night from Conan O’Brien, and the show is up for 3 Emmy’s. Jimmy is ecstatic, but one of the most humble guys you could ever meet. As well as one of the most talented. He not only does stand-up, and plays the guitar and harmonica, but his characters are amazing, as are his impressions. It’s no wonder that he got SNL when he did. He’s one of those rare “triple-threat plus” guys, ( more like quintuple plus! ) but he cautioned me that he doesn’t dance. I’m pretty sure he could if he tried!

He does singing impressions of Neil Young and Bob Dylan that are so good you really think it was them. And then he did an impression of every comic who ever performed at Gotham starting with Jerry Seinfeld, who he once had to follow as a young comedian.

I went to both the Friday night and Saturday night shows. That wasn’t the original plan. I was originally supposed to interview him after his Friday night set, but he had to leave immediately after the show, so we decided to do it on Saturday night instead. I got the unexpected benefit of being able to see him twice! And Robin Williams showed up at the Saturday show, came down to visit Jimmy, and then saw Jimmy do an impression of him.

At the last minute my DP Sean Mannion wasn’t able to show up, so I was left to my own devices in terms of filming. Everyone I called was busy, so I wound up at the show myself with my camera equipment, wondering how it would all work out.

Jeffrey Gurian and Jimmy Fallon backstage after Jimmy's killer set at Gotham Comedy Club on West 23rd Street, in NYC.

After Jimmy’s set he invited me down to the Green Room backstage, where he introduced me to his lovely wife Nancy, who just happens to be a TV producer. Problem solved! Nancy was kind enough to film our interview.

Jimmy was so gracious. I only expected to do about 5 minutes and he gave me 22. Foolishly I was using a tape that only had 23 minutes left on it, so The Universe was watching over me, because when we finished, the camera was blinking on 0:01 minutes.

He shared some great stories with me which you’ll see in the upcoming video, and they included how he auditioned for Lorne Michaels for SNL, and was told by everyone there from the make-up person to the director, not to worry because Lorne never laughs. But when Jimmy did his Adam Sandler impression, Lorne laughed and put his head in his hands. I told Jimmy, he was probably trying to hide the fact that he was laughing or it would spoil his reputation! Then Jimmy and I laughed! (LOL)

Stay tuned for the video coming shortly!

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