Posts Tagged Woody Allen

Hail (Sid) Caesar! There’ll Never Be Another!

When I heard the sad news that Sid Caesar passed away this week at 91 years old, I was very moved.  He’s one of the last of his generation of comedians from what has been referred to as The Golden Age of Television.  I think I first got to meet him when I wrote for his Friars Roast in 1983.  Every big star was there, and I was writing for the Roasts at the time and at that Roast I wrote for five different performers including Dick Shawn, Jan Murray, and Joey Travolta, John Travolta’s older brother, and the son-in-law of Dick Shawn, one of my very favorite comedians, and a friend.

(L-R) Bobby Shields, Norm Crosby, Gene Baylos, Sid Caesar, and Jeffrey Gurian at the Friars Roast for Sid Caesar, 1983.

(L-R) Bobby Shields, Norm Crosby, Gene Baylos, Sid Caesar, and Jeffrey Gurian at the Friars Roast for Sid Caesar, 1983.

Joey Travolta, Jeffrey Gurian, and Jack Carter at the Friars Roast for Sid Caesar!

Joey Travolta, Jeffrey Gurian, and Jack Carter at the Friars Roast for Sid Caesar!

Sid was the star of NBC’s “Your Show of Shows” from 1950-1954, and “Caesar’s Hour” from 1954-57, and created sketches with his co-star comedienne Imogene Coca that are funny to this very day.  Sid was a genius in what you might call “dialect comedy.”  He could make believe he was speaking almost any language, from German, French, Italian, Russian, or Japanese, and with the help of writers like Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Carl Reiner, and Woody Allen created many memorable characters.

He was also known for being incredibly strong physically, and supposedly once pulled a sink out of a wall in anger, and held Mel Brooks out of a window by his feet!  After we met, we stayed in touch for a while and I remmber going to see him in a theatre in NYC, and when I went backstage after the show to say “Hi” it looked like an underground bunker or construction site.

Jeffrey Gurian visiting Sid Caesar backstage in what looks like a construction site!

Jeffrey Gurian visiting Sid Caesar backstage in what looks like a construction site!

A different grouping at the Sid Caesar Roast, (L-R) Henny Youngman, Sid Caesar, Gene Baylos, Jan Murray, Norm Crosby, and Jeffrey Gurian!

A different grouping at the Sid Caesar Roast, (L-R) Henny Youngman, Sid Caesar, Gene Baylos, Jan Murray, Norm Crosby, and Jeffrey Gurian!

 

So many of the greats of that generation lived to ripe old ages. Milton Berle lived to be 93 or 94.  He was my original sponsor in The Friars Club and brought me into the LA club first where he was the President.   I was out there in 1985, which was where we took the photo below.

Jeffrey Gurian with Milton Berle at the LA Friars Club in 1985.  Milton was the Pres. of The Friars Club and was Jeffrey's sponsor!

Jeffrey Gurian with Milton Berle at the LA Friars Club in 1985. Milton was the Pres. of The Friars Club and was Jeffrey’s sponsor!

And in all the years I knew Milton I was always in awe of him.  I’d be on the phone with him and all I’d be thinking was, ” Holy s**t, I’m on the phone with Milton Berle!”.  Mr. Television.  The reason he was called “Mr. Television” was because people in this country bought TV’s just to watch him on Texaco Star Theatre.

He was the host on the show that ran from 1948 until 1956, eventually called “The MIlton Berle Show”, and people would crowd around in the streets watching his show through the windows of the television stores.  TV had only been around since 1941, and thanks to Milton TV ownership went from about 500,000 TV’s to over 30 million.

Milton was like a mentor to me, and we’d have lunch at The Friars Club in NY, just the two of us, and he’d tell me wonderful show biz stories and about things like “spitballing” where two comics run ideas back and forth to create new material.    He took me to his home in Beverly Hills, and showed me  his archives of kinescopes and jokes, and even showed me the thing he was most famous for in terms of his physical endowment! (LOL)  Not that I asked to see it, but I think he was so proud of it, that he showed it to people he trusted!

Jeffrey Gurian and Milton Berle at an event where Milton was performing! Circa mid-80's.

Jeffrey Gurian and Milton Berle at an event where Milton was performing! Circa mid-80’s.

I recall one instance where I felt he really came to my rescue.  It was 1985, and I was in a very down place emotionally.  It was a freezing cold winter day, and I got to the door of my 2nd floor studio apartment, just in time to hear the phone ringing.  I remember fumbling with my keys, hoping to get the call before they hung up.  I raced to the phone and picked it up just in time and who was it, … Milton Berle.  He had called to see how I was doing.   To this day I still can’t believe that.  If I had been one minute later, I might have missed it because who knows if Milton Berle would have left a message on my answering machine.

He wound up inviting me to a Friars Tribute in his honor.  I think he was named “Man of the Year”, and that’s where he introduced me to Sammy Davis Jr., who actually kidded me about the amount of jewelry I was wearing.  He who wore more gold than an Aztec god! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian with Sammy Davis Jr. at a Friars Club tribute to Milton Berle.

Jeffrey Gurian with Sammy Davis Jr. at a Friars Club tribute to Milton Berle. 1985

Some years later, I also attended a special event in Milton’s honor in Montreal hosted by the legendary Budd Friedman, owner and founder of The Improv, the very first comedy club in the world.  Budd sat at the head of the table, Milton sat next to him, and I sat next to Budd directly across from Milton.    When Budd inserted his monacle into his eye, I took a plastic spoon out of my pocket, ( I’ve been carrying at least one spoon since the early 80’s and no one knows why! LOL) and inserted that into my eye to “look at the menu.”

Jeffrey Gurian with Budd Friedman at the 89th Birthday Roast of Henny Youngman, for TV!

Jeffrey Gurian with Budd Friedman at the 89th Birthday Roast of Henny Youngman, for TV!

It was a character I created back in the 70’s which I called “Spoon-eye”, and which was copied many years later by Conan O’Brien, and written about in Cindy Adam’s column in the NY Post.  I provided photos of myself “with spoon” from back in the 70’s, and Cindy wrote, ” I don’t know why anyone would want to take credit for something like this, but Jeffrey  Gurian definitely did it first!

Anyway, Budd looked at me like  “What the F**K are you doing?”  And I simply said, ” It’s very big out on the coast”, not thinking that HE lived out on “the coast.”  He looked at me and said, ” I live out there and I have NEVER seen anyone do that.”  In the meantine, Milton was looking at me in disbelief, and I decided to take out the spoon and just change the subject.  I don’t think it ever came up again!

On May 14, 1998, when Frank Sinatra passed away, I happened to be out in LA.  I remember very clearly calling Milton from a pay phone. I guess my StarTAC clamshell cell phone was on “Roam”!  He took the call and told me that he wasn’t taking calls from anyone else because the press was calling him non-stop for quotes on Frank Sinatra’s passing, but he said when he heard it was me he took the call.  Another amazing moment for me.

Jeffrey Gurian with Milton Berle at the LA Friars Club in 1985.

Jeffrey Gurian with Milton Berle at the LA Friars Club in 1985.

He brought me to his home in Beverly Hills, and showed me his kinescopes and the 6 million jokes he had compiled over the years that he kept in a separate little house.  He also showed me the body part he was known for, … without me asking, … which is a whole other story for another time! (LOL)

I remember the first time he let me write for him.  It was for an event honoring Buddy Hackett.  I was supposed to go to Atlantic City to meet with Milton where he was performing, and I was bringing my wife at the time, as Milton’s guests, and a couple of days before we were scheduled to come, he called me at home and asked me to give him an example of the jokes I was writing about Buddy.  If they were funny I could come, if not, I guess he would withdraw the offer.  Now I was in the position of having to impress Milton Berle with my jokes, the man who heard every joke ever told.

Jeffrey Gurian with Buddy Hackett at a Friars Roast, mid-80's.

Jeffrey Gurian with Buddy Hackett at a Friars Roast, mid-80’s.

I recall saying to him, ” Clean or dirty?”  He said, ” One of each.”  My clean joke was, ” Buddy’s not a good looking man.  It took him a long time to get used to the fact that girls are supposed to close their eyes when they KISS you, not when they’re introduced!”  My “dirty” one was, ” A lot of people like to think of Buddy Hackett as a little man with a rubber face.  I prefer to think of him as a little rubber, with a man’s face!”  Milton laughed, and told me to pack my bags cause he was expecting us in AC!  AMAZING!!!

Through Milton I also got to meet George Burns who was performing at one of the grand hotels in The Catskills.  In those days all the big TV stars still performed at the hotels, like The Concord, Grossingers, Kutschers, and The Nevele. George lived to be 100 years old.

Jeffrey Gurian with George (God) Burns backstage at a hotel in The Catskills! Mid-80's.

Jeffrey Gurian with George (God) Burns backstage at a hotel in The Catskills! Mid-80’s.

I got to know Red Buttons very well, who lived to be 87, as well as Norm Crosby, “The Master of Malaprop” who fortunately is still with us, and is in his mid-80’s, as is Jerry Lewis who’s 87 and who I had the honor of writing for and working alone with, when he was Roasted by The Friars, back in 1986.

Jeffrey Gurian with Red Buttons at a comedy event, mid-80's.

Jeffrey Gurian with Red Buttons at a comedy event, mid-80’s.

Jeffrey Gurian with Norm Crosby at The Friars Roast of Don King, 2005.

Jeffrey Gurian with Norm Crosby at The Friars Roast of Don King, 2005.

And then there was Henny Youngman who lived to be 91 and who I knew well from The Friars Club and from Milton.  He and Milton once headlined together at Westbury Music Fair and when Milton saw me, he gave ma a shout-out from the stage.  It was one of the proudest moments of my life.  He would always kid Youngman with lines like, ” Nice suit Youngman, who shines it for you?”  And lines like that would crack me up, cause I love that kind of humor!

Jeffrey Gurian with Henny Youngman at a comedy event, Oct. 1990.

Jeffrey Gurian with Henny Youngman at a comedy event, Oct. 1990.

I got to work with Henny for his 89th birthday roast which was televised and which I wrote with Bill Persky, the genius who wrote and created “That Girl” for Marlo Thomas, Danny Thomas’s daughter, and was also known for “Kate and Allie” and for his writing on the Dick Van Dyke Show.

I consider myself Blessed that I got to meet so many of the legends I watched growing up, and I think it’s safe to say that no matter how talented the stars of today are, there’ll never be any others like Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, and the others I mentioned.  And the fact that they all had such longevity adds strength to the concept that laughing keeps you young!  In any case, I certainly hope so!  As a matter of fact, I’m counting on it! (LOL)

 

Posted in: Celeb Photos, Celebrity Passing, Comedians In The News, Comedy Central, Comedy Clubs, Comedy Events, Comedy Matters, Entertainment News, Featured, General Information, Important News, Jeffrey Gurian News, Point of View, Stand-Up Comedy

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Nat Geo Gets Into Comedy With Duck Quacks Don’t Echo

They always say that everyone wants to be in comedy, and now I’m sure it’s true.  Even Nat Geo is getting into the mix.  I attended a taping the other night in the AMV/Unitel studios on West 53rd Street in Manhattan, where Wendy Williams does her show, to see “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo” with three of my comedy friends starring in the show, Tom Papa, Michael Ian Black and Seth Herzog.

DuckQuacksLogo

I had just seen Tom kill it at The Village Underground, a beautiful venue recently taken over by Noam Dworman of The Comedy Cellar.   Noam is very proud of the space as he should be.  He put in great lighting and sound, and every show I’ve seen there so far has been super!

Tom Papa on stage at Noam Dworman's The Village Underground

Tom Papa on stage at Noam Dworman’s The Village Underground, now part of The Comedy Cellar

 

Last week Paul Provenza came in to do his new show Set List, and everyone is talking about Jim Norton’s performance, and how great he was doing it for the first time.

The reason it’s called Set List is because Paul gives each comic their “set list” when they hit the stage, and not a moment before.  They have no idea what it’s going to be, and it’s not topics like “Internet Dating” it’s more like “Anorexic Dog”, or “Penguin Sex Therapist” which one comic actually got stuck with, when I saw the show in Montreal this past summer at Just for Laughs.

So I ran into Tom Papa at The Underground, and he invited me to see his new show and two days later, before I even got a chance to make arrangements with him to attend I got an invite.

Duck Quacks Don’t Echo is a comedy/science show where each of the three stars gets to present weird, unusual and incredible facts. In addition to telling us the fact, they will each participate in an on-the-spot experiment proving each fact. It kind of reminded me of the stuff I used to do in science class to make the other students laugh when the instructor wasn’t looking.

On one occasion I mixed the wrong ingredients together and accidentally created poison gas, and they had to evacuate  not only my class, but the entire floor.

The fact that stuck with me was than you can’t hum while holding your nose.  It’s true.  We  tried humming Yankee Doodle, which was a very synchronicitous choice as I’ll explain in a moment, and then Tom instructed us to hold our collective noses and all the humming stopped.  Who know that humming comes through the nose?

Another thing they could not have known is that I’ve always been fascinated by humming and actually did my college thesis on Abe Bembelman, the man who invented humming, back in the day when Yankee Doodle was popular.  Before Bembelman people would hear a song they liked and have no way of recalling the tune.  Then Bembelman came along and changed the entire world.

Bembelman was actually English but moved to this country during Revolutionary times, and during the Revolutionary War he was responsible for teaching the English to hum when they went into battle.   Fortunately for us, the English hummed so loud that the American’s heard them coming, and that’s how we won the war, because basically you can’t sneak up on anyone while you’re humming!  As a result Abe Bembelman became an American national hero.  It’s in the history books!  Look it up!

So towards the end of “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo” the guys took a break for a costume change and I was wondering what was going on, until they came back in what turned out be motion detection outfits but what at first looked like a re-enactment of “Blue Man Group Attacked By Ping Pong Ball Gang.”

Tom Papa in his new look for the film " Attack of the Ping Pong Ball Men!"

Tom Papa in his new look for the film ” Attack of the Ping Pong Ball Men!”

 

(L-R) Michael Ian Black, Jeffrey Gurian, and Seth Herzog in a very strange stance that goes perfectly with his outfit!

(L-R) Michael Ian Black, Jeffrey Gurian, and Seth Herzog in a very strange stance that goes perfectly with his outfit!

Seth Herzog is used to wearing costumes as he’s been known to do when doing his popular Wonder Woman routine, so he took to this quite naturally, as you can see in the photo.  Seth is the warm up comic for Jimmy Fallon and plays all the hot clubs in the city.

He also has his own show called “Sweet” every Tuesday night at The Slipper Room on Orchard Street, in NYC, where I hope to perform one day!  It’s one of the few stages I haven’t been on.

What made the evening even more special was getting to re-connect with two guys I hadn’t seen for a long time.  Michael Ian Black and Duck Quack’s producer Jim Biederman.

Michael and I have history.  Back around 1992 Michael and I and Ben Garant wrote the first ever interactive film for Sony called “I’m Your Man.”  It was shown in the Sony Theatre on 19th Street and Broadway and the audience got to change the outcome of certain scenes by pressing buttons from their seats.  From what I recall Sony spent about half a million bucks on outfitting the theatre with the buttons that attached to the arm rest of each seat.

Michael Ian Black with Jeffrey Gurian at a Roast, possibly for The Naked Angels!

Michael Ian Black with Jeffrey Gurian at a Roast, possibly for The Naked Angels!

This was before Michael went on to co-create MTV’s The State and the sketch group Stella of which he was a founding member, along with Michael Showalter, and David Wain.  They performed together from 1997 through 2005.  The photo below was after one of the Stella’s performances at a place called Fez, which was their home base, and Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo both came by that night.

(L-R) David Wain, Michael Ian Black, Jeffrey Gurian, and Ben Stiller at Fez, circa 1997.

(L-R) David Wain, Michael Ian Black, Jeffrey Gurian, and Ben Stiller at Fez, circa 1997.

Duck Quacks producer Jim Biederman is the head of JimCo Productions and I hadn’t seen him in maybe 15-20 years.  Jim was at Lorne Michael’s company Broadway Video back in the day working with a guy named John Head, who as I recall was in charge of film acquisition, and I was making short, bizarre little films in those days.

I had been sent up to see Herb by another legend Jack Rollins, best known for managing Woody Allen and producing all of Woody’s movies, and in those days was also managing Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.   When I first met Herb he said he didn’t even have to look at my stuff because if Jack Rollins said I was funny, I was funny!

I was still a practicing Cosmetic Dentist in those days, which is why in the photo below Billy Crystal is pointing to his teeth.  Jack Rollins had wanted to do a sit-com based on a dentist in show biz and thought Billy would be great to play me!

Jeffrey Gurian with Woody Allen who he had met many years earlier through his mentor Jack Rollins!

Jeffrey Gurian with Woody Allen who he had met many years earlier through his mentor Jack Rollins!

 

Jeffrey Gurian with Billy Crystal pointing to his teeth, referencing Jeffrey's history as a dentist!

Jeffrey Gurian with Billy Crystal pointing to his teeth, referencing Jeffrey’s history as a dentist!

But Herb did look at my films and set me up with a meeting with Jim Biederman.   I was doing a comedy news broadcast at the time with stories like ” Several men were arrested for smearing creamcheese on the ankles of elderly women who wore their stockings rolled down like bagels”, and “The Masters of Disguise” which were two master criminals who disguised themselves as inanimate objects to commit their crimes.

It started with two men disguised as coats who robbed a hat store by coming in over the arms of two other men who claim they had no part in the crime.  I did an interview with one of the victims who gave his account of what happened, and said that one of the coats pulled a gun and said, ” Just act natural like we’re your coats and no one’ll get hurt!”   Police artists did a composite drawing of the perpetrators.  One man was described as  a tan trenchcoat, the other man was said to resemble an overcoat, possibly black, …  but could have been navy blue!

I had several crimes like that culminating in 250,000 men disguised as vests robbed a suit warehouse taking all 250,ooo suits and the police artists were going out on strike so as not to have to draw pictures of all 250,000 vests!   As I recall Jim set me up with a meeting with John Head who said ” I see no reason why you shouldn’t be doing films for SNL”, and the reason it didn’t happen is a story for another day.

Jim went on to produce  a ton of TV shows including “The Whitest Kids You Know” and the Onion News Network, and I went on to write a column for Weekly World News called “Gurian’s World of the Bizarre” which the guys from The Onion told me they were fans of.  So it all comes full circle!

And the wild stories I was writing also became part of a comedy news broadcast which I shot up at WPIX TV.  Check it out here:

It was great to see Jim again after all these years and I wish him luck with Duck Quacks!

 

 

 

 

Posted in: Comedians In The News, Comedy Central, Comedy Clubs, Comedy Events, Comedy Festivals, Comedy Matters, Comedy Videos, Entertainment News, Jeffrey Gurian News, New TV Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in: Breaking News, Broadway Show, Celeb Photos, Comedians In The News, Comedy Central, Comedy Clubs, Comedy Events, Comedy Matters, Entertainment News, Featured, New Films, New TV Show, Red Carpet Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Phenomenon That Is Nick Kroll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Jim Gaffigan Takes Mira Sorvino As Wife in New CBS Sitcom

About six months ago I interviewed Mira Sorvino for a film she starred in called Union Square. I’ve been a fan of hers since she won the Oscar for her role in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite back in 1995.

Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino with writer/director of Union Square Nancy Savoca at the press conference for Union Square!

As a matter of fact, I wrote a film script with her in mind for the lead. It’s a romantic comedy called “Baby and Max” where she goes from being a tough biker’s girlfriend to falling for a nebbishy stand-up comic, and I sent it to her reps for review where it is being looked at right now.

I know her Dad, Paul Sorvino for many years. As a matter of fact as silly as it sounds, back in 1990, when he played Big Paulie in “Goodfellas” for whatever reason I was supposed to call him the same day I saw the film. All I remember is that when I left the theatre, his performance had been so powerful that I was literally afraid to call him. I finally got up the nerve to call him and when I told him how I felt, he laughingly told me I was a “schmuck”!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with award-winning actor Paul Sorvino, when he played Big Paulie in Goodfellas, back in the day at Columbus Cafe!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Paul Sorvino in more modern times at the birthday party of socialite/philanthropist Karen Koenigsberg, in the penthouse of The Dream Hotel!

Jim Gaffigan is a HUGE talent and I’ve been a fan and friend for many years. Jim gets offered one project after the next. I remember being at what I think was his first sit-com called “Welcome To New York”, back in 2000, in which he starred with Christine Baranski. I went to a taping in Astoria and I remember him being great in it, as he’s been consistently every time I’ve seen him perform.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Jim Gaffigan on the set of “Welcome To New York” back in 2000!

He occasionally headlines Gotham Comedy Club and I make sure to catch him whenever possible and he’s also very gracious about making appearances on shows for up and coming comics who ask him to do guest spots. Jim is very accommodating that way.

Jim Gaffigan with Gotham Comedy Club owner Chris Mazzilli!

Jim Gaffigan at Gotham Comedy Club after doing a guest spot for “up and comer” comic/producer Alyse Kenny!

Now CBS has partnered him up with Peter Tolan known for many projects but especially for co-creating hit shows like ABC’s “The Job” and FX’s “Rescue Me”, both starring Denis Leary.

In Jim’s new show, he will be playing a guy with five kids, with a wife played by Mira Sorvino named Jeannie, all true, and taken from his own life. Kind of like what Ray Romano did with “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I wish Jim the kind of success that Raymond enjoyed! He’s worked very hard and truly deserves it!

He’s also featured in my new book called “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, in which he gave me a funny, heart-warming and honest account of his early days. He talked about experiencing crippling stage fright for years, and said that for the first few years, his only credit was that Dave Attell told him he was funny!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Jim Gaffigan at The Comic Strip after Jim’s interview for Jeffrey’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh”, with a great introduction from Chris Rock!

Good luck Jim! We’re pulling for you!

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Nick Kroll, Jon Daly, and John Levenstein at Comic Con 2012 for Kroll Show

Comic Con New York is such a huge event it’s hard to describe unless you’ve actually experienced it. Literally thousands upon thousands of people show up, many in costume, dressed like their favorite comic book characters. But it’s not only about comics and comic books, it’s also about new TV shows, and tons of celebs show up to meet their fans.

Comedy Central was debuting three new shows, one of them being “Kroll Show” starring Nick Kroll, debuting Jan. 30th, 2013, so I knew I had to cover that press conference for Comedy Matters TV.

Nick Kroll, star of “Kroll Show” coming up on Comedy Central 1/30/13, at Comic Con!

I’m not big on comparing people to others, because Nick is his own man, but in a sense I think Nick is the Phil Hartman of his generation. Phil was a very dear friend of mine, and so respected in “the business” for his amazing character work on SNL. Nick exhibits that kind of diversity going from a flamboyant (code for “gay”! LOL) character like “Fabrice Fabrice” Craft Services Coordinator for the sitcom ” That’s So Raven”, to Bobby Bottleservice a guy who out-Jersey-Shores, the Jersey Shore guys! When he addresses all the beautiful internet ladies out there in his perfect Bobby Bottleservice voice,by saying ” Do you date me?”, and ” No offense, but you’re very beautiful”, I need oxygen from laughing so hard!

When I showed up at the press conference I got an unexpected treat. Not only was it Nick, but also Jon Daly, who is an actor and supervising producer on the show,along with John Levenstein, an executive producer and writer on the show! The whole triumvirate was there! The only one missing was Jon Krisel who’s directing the show and created Fred Armisen’s Portlandia!

I think it helps to be named some form of “Jon” to get involved with the show. Maybe just the letter “J” is what they’re looking for, cause that would explain how I got on! LOL

I got to know Jon and John, and Jon when Nick called me out to be in some sketches for the new “Kroll Show”, which I shot last March. I got to do one sketch with Nick and John Mulaney, Nick’s pal from SNL, who is one of the hottest stand-ups on the scene today, and one sketch which was like a Woody Allen parody, with famed actress Karen Black, who gave me the onscreen name of Galvani, in an on-the-spot inspiration! I’ve been calling myself that ever since! (LOL) Galvani Gurian! It has quite a ring to it!

Jeffrey Gurian, Nick (Gil Faison) Kroll, Karen Black, and John (George St. Geegland) Mulaney on the set of “Kroll Show” in LA. I’m the only one wearing my own clothes!

I had such a good time on that set, and was there for the filming of another sketch called “Sex and The City For Dudes” which involved so many of Nick’s friends who are on TV shows, it was crazy. It was Ed Helms, Jason Mantzoukas, Owen Burke, Jon Daly, Seth Morris, John Mulaney, Joe Mande, and everyone you see seated at the table below where we were having lunch.

Nick Kroll’s TV star friends on the set of “Kroll Show” to film “Sex In The City For Dudes”!

Seth Morris and Owen Burke on the set of Kroll Show in LA for the sketch “Sex In The City For Dudes”!

That’s where I got to see what a great guy Ed Helms was. I got to lunch late and everyone was already eating at a packed table so I just said ” Hi” to everyone and sat down at another table by myself, which didn’t bother me. But it was in the hot LA sun, and the next thing I knew, Ed called me over and moved people’s chairs to make room for me to sit next to him, and I thought that was such a nice gesture. Everyone on the set made me feel so at home.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Ed (Hangover) Helms on the LA set of Kroll Show, which at the time had the working title of “The Nick Show Kroll”!

I think John Levenstein may have been the first person I met after I got to my trailer. John is known for his work on the hit show Arrested Development, where he wrote 6 episodes, and acted as consulting and co-executive producer for 39 episodes. That’s a pretty cool credit for your resume! John is the nicest guy and made me feel “part of” right away, so I was really glad to see him at Comic Con.

Jon Daly from “Happy Endings” and “Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time” is Nick’s partner in crime in sketches like “The Ed Hardy Boyz” where he plays a character known as Peter Paparazzo to Nick Kroll’s Bobby Bottleservice, and they solve mysteries for Christian Audigier, king of the Ed Hardy fashion empire.

He’s also the other half of “Rich Dicks” two rich and wild guys. Nick plays Aspen Bruckheimer, son of Jerry, and Jon plays a guy named Wendy (short for Wendell). Both are rich and act like dicks! When they get kidnapped by Mexican gangsters, … you just gotta see it for yourselves!

These guys are so funny together in a time where comedy teams are extremely rare. (I wanted to say ” rare as hen’s teeth”, but I suddenly became overwhelmed with sadness at the realization that I even knew that expression, so I changed my mind!)

I remember teams like Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and The Marx Brothers, who are still hysterical today, but probably couldn’t get representation! But that’s a whole other story!

Again in my reluctance to compare, they kind of remind me of Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd’s two wild and crazy guys, in the sense that the way Martin/Aykroyd became a phenomenon, or Belushi and Aykroyd became the phenomenon known as “The Blues Brothers”, that’s what I think will happen with Nick and Jon. I think as long as you’re comparing people favorably with legends, they won’t mind!

Watch the video. Nick and Jon give me props for my performance!

And we also took photos with my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Chris Rock, and Nick was kind enough to write a blurb on the back cover!

(L-R) Jon Daly, Jeffrey Gurian, Nick Kroll holding Jeffrey’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with an intro by Chris Rock, and blurb from Nick Kroll,(LOL), and John Leventstein at Comic Con 2012!

And then tune in for Jan. 30th. I don’t care if it’s only October! Set your TIVO’s in advance. You’re not gonna wanna miss this! Kroll Show! It rocks!!!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV on set in LA with Nick Kroll in character as Gil Faison, of the “Oh Hello” boys!

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The Mark Malkoff’s Bill Murray Show, Ron and Fez, Patrice O’Neal, Curtis Sliwa Connection

I woke up to a message that my appearance on the Bill Murray Show with Mark Malkoff, on My Damn Channel was up! That was exciting in itself. It was accompanied by messages that people liked the Blog post I wrote about Rob Barnett’s My Damn Channel and the amazing amount of entertainment they provide.

Mark Malkoff’s Bill Murray Show on My Damn Channel!

Up in Montreal, at the very end of July, at the Just for Laughs Festival, (the biggest comedy festival in the world), where I was honored to have been chosen as the official celeb interviewer this year, I shot 40 interviews, some of which are still being edited, as we speak! Two of them were with Rob Barnett and one of his MDC stars, Grace Helbig who does the “Daily Grace” Show and has become an internationally known internet star as a result!

The whole concept behind Mark’s show is that he wants to get Bill Murray to come to his house in Queens to have dinner with he and his wife Christine! It would be like me wanting to have Woody Allen over to my house for dinner. All I’d need to do is find out his favorite food, and then get a wife for myself! It would be too awkward if it were just me and Woody, and on top of that I served something he didn’t like!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with his idol and inspiration, Woody Allen!

Mark reveres Bill Murray not only as a comedy icon, but I think also as a unique guy who can be counted on to do the unexpected.

Someone might ask for an autograph, and Bill might say “No” but instead will allow them to film him doing a “slow walk”! I get it! I used to travel around holding an iron, (for no particular reason, except that it’s easier to carry than a large appliance!), and sometimes during a conversation with a stranger, I’d ask them to hold my iron.

When I first started performing my comedy news broadcast, with my beautiful model co-anchor Sonya Gignac, I sat behind an ironing board instead of a desk, and I just noticed the connection as I’m writing this between the iron and the ironing board! Fascinating! They were years apart,that I did those things, and I never even realized it until this moment!

Jeffrey Gurian and his co-anchor Sonya Gignac seated behind an ironing board to do a Monty-Pythonesque news broadcast!

So I did the Bill Murray Show with Mark and it was complete and total fun! Check it out right here!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV and Mark Malkoff of My Damn Channel both holding Jeffrey’s book ” Make ‘Em Laugh”!

At the same time I got the message that I was on The Bill Murray Show, I also got a message that my interview with Ron Bennington of the famous, long-running Ron and Fez Show on Sirius Radio was airing today at 1 P.M. Ron is a real student of comedy, and a student of human psychology. He’s a really smart, and intuitive guy! He interviewed me about my new book with Chris Rock called ” Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, written with owner/founder Richie Tienken!

(L-R) Fez Whatley, Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV holding his new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Chris Rock, and Ron Bennington up at Sirius XM Radio!

Ron asked me questions with great understanding and insight into the human psyche, and I was so glad he brought up my friendship with the late Patrice O’Neal. Patrice and I had a very special friendship. He had been doing The Black Phillip Show with Dante Nero as his co-host, and when we met and connected on so many levels he honored me by asking me to join them as his third co-host, something that really thrilled me. It was truly one of the great honors of my career to get that respect from Patrice.

Patrice Oneal and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at an event Jeffrey produced at Gotham Comedy Club. Patrice was his featured speaker!

And this afternoon I got a message from his wife Von who happened to be in her car, turned on the radio and heard me being interviewed and speaking about Patrice. She thanked me for the way I described him as a “comedy philosopher” and for way I spoke about him. When I saw Patrice I would always smile, and we hugged each other, and it was real. There was no BS with Patrice. If he didn’t like you, you knew it, but if he did like you, he made it obvious!

(L-R) Jacqueline Beaulieu, Patrice O’Neal, Jeffrey Gurian, and Dante Nero up at Sirius Radio for the Black Phillip Show!

I’m waiting for the MP3 of the show and when I get it I’ll post it so you can hear it for yourselves! I did however also receive an MP3 of my appearance on the Curtis Sliwa radio show that I did last Friday.

Back when I was a dentist, I was the dentist for The Guardian Angels, and Curtis used to come up to my office. We always had the best time, while I was putting him back together, since he was always getting punched in the face, while making our city safe!

Recently I ran into him in the street, at a street fair, and when he heard about my new book he said he wanted me to come on the show one day to talk about it. Well the day after the Vice-Presidential debates when everyone was talking about Joe Biden’s whiter than white teeth, and his inability to control his laugh response, Curtis thought “teeth” and “laughing”, and the only person he thought could put those two things together was me. So we did a fun interview about my book and analyzing the debate, and Joe Biden’s teeth, and it was very cool!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with his old pal Curtis Sliwa, founder of The Guardian Angels!

So today was a special day, … not just for the non-stop press, but for the fact that it feels good to be acknowledged in a positive way, for trying to put positive energy out into The Universe, ’cause that’s what Comedy Matters is about! Putting out positive vibes!

If I see a show I don’t like, or someone’s set that didn’t go particularly well, I don’t write about it. I don’t write that I didn’t like it. I’m not a critic. I have an opinion, and if it’s good I’m willing to share it, but if it’s not, I keep it to myself.

I don’t put negative stuff out there, because I respect what it takes to get out on any stage and try to entertain people. It’s the hardest thing in the world, so I try and give props to the people who deserve it!

I’m out!

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Mark Malkoff’s Bill Murray Show

When I first met Mark Malkoff I had no idea how much we’d have in common. He’s a very interesting guy! (That’s not what we have in common! LOL) He sets himself a difficult goal and then puts all his energy into making that happen.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Mark Malkoff of The Bill Murray Show on My Damn Channel!

Mark hosts The Bill Murray Show on My Damn Channel, and the sole purpose of the show is to get Bill Murray to come to Mark’s house in Queens and have dinner with him and his beautiful wife Christine. If I was Bill I’d go. When I went for the taping, Christine made me a great meal, and the two of them were so nice, and really fun!

So when I was asked to appear and talk about my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Chris Rock, and my experiences with Bill Murray of which I had four to speak of, I was very excited to do so! Also because I love My Damn Channel and Rob Barnett rocks! (He’s the guy who created My Damn Channel, just so you know I’m not giving a shout-out to some random guy! LOL)

Grace Helbig’s “Daily Grace” on MDC is amazing and she gets millions, and millions of hits! I just saw her doing her version of “Gangnam Style” and she’s adorable, and does it so well. She must have gone to dancing school as a little girl in Korea!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the ebullient Grace Helbig from “Daily Grace” on My Damn Channel at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal!

I actually got to interview both Grace and Rob up at Montreal this past July during the Just for Laughs Festival! ( See Grace’s interview above, and Rob’s interview right here!)

So basically all the My Damn Channel stuff is super and I was psyched to be on.

The reason I relate so much to Mark is that Mark sets out to do things that appeal to him, even if they’re unusual. When I looked him up, I realized I had read about some of his exploits without realizing it had been him.

He’s a former “Colbert Report” staffer, who also visited 171 Starbucks locations in Manhattan in less than 24 hours, moved into a Paramus, N.J., IKEA for a week, and convinced New Yorkers to carry him 9.4 miles.

If I had known that I would have told him about my film I made years ago as part of the “Men Who” Series. It was part of a series of short films about men who go to work in unusual ways entitled “Men Who Insist On Being Carried To Work”! You can actually see it on my website at http://www.jeffreygurian.com, where you will also see Peter Dinklage star of HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones” starring in a film called ” Men Who Dance Where They’re Not Supposed To” and he gets arrested for dancing in a “No Dancing” zone!

So the Bill Murray thing really resonated with me because when I was in my 20’s, before I knew anyone in show biz, there were only three people I ever wanted to meet, and they were Salvador Dali, Woody Allen, and The Beach Boys, and I got to meet and spend an evening with each one of them. I actually made that happen!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Woody Allen in a much more recent photo than when I first met him! I made him laugh by saying, ” Hi Woody, I’m a very close friend of yours!”

And that’s when I realized that if I could lose my self-consciousness, expand my comfort zone, and not be embarrassed to go out and try things, I could basically accomplish anything I wanted, and meet whoever I set out to meet!

Each of those three events is a story in it’s own, but when I realize what I was able to manifest in those days, it’s not unlike what Mark has set out to do. And if you want something bad enough there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.

I live in Manhattan and Mark lives in Queens so ordinarily I would drive, but just that day Pres. Obama came to town, specifically to mess up traffic, so I did something I never did before! I went to Queens by train! Mark gave me great directions and it wasn’t even that bad.

We had a great time and Mark speaks comedy! The guy is a fund of knowledge about comedy and was able to speak to me knowledgeably about people that were way before his time, and people that I knew well like Milton Berle, who was was my original sponsor in the LA Friars Club, Henny Youngman,Jack Rollins, Charlie Joffe, and Alan Zweibel to name just a few!

Also there was My Damn Channel’s Jesse Cowell, the Exec. Director of Original Content, who oversees 30 new series, ( not 10, or 20, but THIRTY!) that will be debuting on My Damn Channel.

Jesse was very low key but is also a lightweight karate champ and when I watched his You Tube videos of him kicking butt, I was like, … this guy’s no lightweight! (LOL) When you’re that well versed in martial arts, you can afford to be low key. It takes great discipline to get that far, and it was always one of my dreams to be that accomplished in Tae Kwon Do. One of my very few unrealized dreams!

In my interview which will air tomorrow, Tuesday Oct. 16, 2012 and will be posted on the My Damn Channel website (http://www.mydamnchannel.com), besides talking about my new book with Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh”, you’ll hear me telling my stories of my experiences with Bill Murray:

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Bill Murray at The Four Seasons Hotel in NYC! ( No, we weren’t staying there together! LOL)

1. How we originally met up at SNL in the early years!
2. How Bill Murray tried to repair my car one night during the 90’s.
3. Me and Bill Murray at a press conference for his film “Get Low”.
4. A screenplay I wrote, with Bill Murray specifically in mind for the lead called “Searching For Ed Zintz”, where as the result of a practical joke gone wrong, Hollywood winds up honoring a guy who doesn’t exist, it becomes the hottest ticket in town, people are fighting for tickets, and Bill Murray, a failed comedian, gets hired to play the guy “Ed Zintz”! But because of my ADD, I got so confused that while I was with Bill Murray, in his company, alone and right next to him, I forgot to tell him about it!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV in yet a second photo with Bill Murray just to prove to myself I was actually there!

Well, if he comes to Mark’s house for dinner, maybe Mark or Christine would be kind enough to mention it, and then we can all make the movie together!

And then I think my next goal after that is to get my own show on My Damn Channel, and have Rob Barnett come to MY house for dinner!

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Nancy Savoca Scores With Union Square

Nancy Savoca’s new indie feature “Union Square” starring Mira Sorvino, Tammy Blanchard, and Michael Rispoli, is a great example of the beauty and freedom of independent film.

The poster for Nancy Savoca’s film “Union Square, starring Mira Sorvino and Tammy Blanchard!

As a writer and more specifically a comedy writer,I know the feeling of having someone who thinks they have an incredible sense of humor try and change what you wrote. More often than not, their sense of humor is easily surpassed by their sense of smell!(LOL)

With independent film you don’t have to worry about a studio handing over your script to someone who doesn’t get it! With independent film YOU’RE in charge!

It’s a natural extension for a writer to want to direct, since the writer has the vision in the first place, and sees the movie in his/her mind. In the case of this film, it’s birth came about in a coffee shop, with Nancy, producer Neda Armian, and co-writer Mary Tobler commiserating on how hard it is to get an independent film made.

A smiling Nancy Savoca at the press junket for her new film ” Union Square!”

Neda offered her apartment, which is just one room, made to look like two, and said, ” Let’s just shoot something! Anything!” and they all agreed. Nancy said that Mary was “fearless” and over a summer they hashed out the script. They even believed in it enough to put up the initial financing. Once you’ve got the money, it’s a go! That’s the one ingredient that keeps everyone from making a film! (LOL)

They chose locations they could walk to from Neda’s apartment which was one block from Union Square. They purposely wanted a small cast, maybe two principal characters and two or three supporting characters.

You’ll see in the attached video how excited Nancy was to get the cast she wanted. Casting is always key, and when you get the stars you want, especially on an indie budget, you know they’re doing it because they believe in the project, and not for the money!

The film was also shot using less equipment than many student films. They had a very small crew, almost no lighting equipment and shot on a Canon 5D, which is a still camera, capable of shooting high def video.

Again, the beauty of independent film does away with the necessity of using crews of 50 or 60 people, and trailers, and truckloads of equipment. Most of the time they didn’t even use a tripod!

Nancy Savoca and Mira Sorvino at the press conference at The Regency Hotel for “Union Square”!

Mira plays Lucy, a free-wheeling, sexy, but confused girl on the verge of a nervous breakdown over a relationship with a married man, gone wrong before our very eyes. She virtually has a meltdown in Union Square Park, in front of innocent passersby, some of whom had no idea she was shooting a film, which is another funny story you’ll see Mira describe in the video below.

Director Nancy Savoca with Tammy (Jenny) Blanchard at the press conference for “Union Square!”

With her life seemingly in shambles, on a whim she decides to drop in unannounced on her estranged sister Jenny, (Tammy Blanchard) who she hasn’t seen or spoken to in three years. On the surface they couldn’t be more dissimilar.

Mira, as I told her in the video, totally nailed her inner “Bronx-girl”. The accent was perfect as was her style of dress. She dressed really sexy, and with all due respect, she has the body to pull it off too! (Even Tammy said that, … but a lot more graphically! LOL)

Tammy as Jenny, on the other hand played a woman who had seemingly gotten away from her “Bronx past”, and was leading a quiet sedate life with her fiance Bill, played by actor Mike Doyle. In real life, Tammy is a beautiful, stylish woman. In the film she plays kind of a frumpy part, to the point where she said she didn’t even want to look at herself in the mirror!

Writer/Director Nancy Savoca with a very stylish, “un-frumpy” Tammy Blanchard, one of the stars of her new film “Union Square!”

Lucy announces that she would like to stay with Jenny for at least a couple of days, and begins to wreak havoc in Jenny’s life and with her relationship. Lucy drags Jenny out to a club, where Mira’s character Lucy, gets to dirty dance with a guy who turns out to be her own real-life husband, Chris Backus, with whom she just had her fourth child about a month ago. You’d never know it because she’s in such great shape!

Lucy and Jenny’s mom in the film is played by Patti LuPone, and it’s a great, and funny part, and actor Michael Rispoli also plays a wonderful part, as a very stable down-to-earth guy, which he’s so good at. Michael is an old friend, who’s been in so many films, like “Kick-Ass”, “Invincible” with Mark Wahlberg, Spike Lee’s “The Summer of Sam”, and of course he was mob boss Jackie Aprile on HBO’s hit show “The Sopranos.”

He played the lead in the film “Two Family Home” which won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award back in 2000, which is when we took the photo that appears below. It was a party for “Two Family Home” and many of the Sopranos’ cast were there like Aida Turturro, Michael Imperioli, and Drea De Matteo. I was so happy to see him in Union Square.

What will make this film even more popular, is the fact that so many people will relate to the theme of estranged siblings. Unfortunately, it’s all too common.

I was most happy to meet Mira as I’ve admired her talent for years, ever since “Mighty Aphrodite” with Woody Allen in 1996. I actually wrote a film with her in mind for the lead, about a tough biker chick who falls for a stand-up comic. A very unlikely couple to say the least!

So I was so happy to be able to meet her and interview her in person. It was also special for me because I know her Dad, Paul Sorvino for a very long time as evidenced by the photo below taken at Columbus Cafe back around 1991.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Paul Sorvino at Columbus Cafe, circa 1991!

Mira and I had a good laugh about how her Dad bursts out into song at a moment’s notice,(or sometimes without any notice at all! LOL), very often while you’re seated with him in a restaurant.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, philanthropist Karen Koeningsberg, and Paul Sorvino at a party for Karen’s birthday at The Standard Hotel! Paul graced us all with a song, and his magnificent voice!

She says he’s been doing that all her life, and Paul has a beautiful, operatic voice, which you can easily hear from several blocks away. She says such nice things about her Dad, which you’ll also hear in the video I keep talking about. I think it’s time for you to watch it, right here.

And after you watch this, run out to the theatre on July 13th and watch Union Square. You won’t be sorry!

Nancy’s work is also an inspiration to all filmmakers. If you have something in you that needs to be said in film, just go out and do it! These days if you want to get it done, there’s always a way!

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