Column: Comedy Matters w/ Jim Gaffigan, John Mulaney, more

By | November 3, 2008 at 3:53 am | 3 comments | Features

Once a year, the legendary Friars’ Club holds a  major celebrity roast to raise money for charity. This year they roasted Today show host Matt Lauer; Al Roker was the roast master and Mark Krantz produced the event, as usual. I was part of the writing team, under the leadership of master comedy writer Larry Amoros.

Other roasters not usually known for telling jokes were Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, Brian Williams, and Jeff Zucker, who performed alongside comedians who often do tell jokes— Richard Belzer, Jeffrey Ross, Bob Saget and Pat Cooper.

Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira at Matt’s roast

John (Goumba Johnny) Sialiano from KTU Radio, was also one of the Roasters as a result of winning the Friars Club competition, “So You Think You Can Roast?”

This event will go down in roast history as one of the most special, since Tom Cruise came out as a surprise guest, and did a very funny bit, about how he and Matt were really good friends, and that when Matt does his famous “Where In The World Is Matt Lauer” shows, only Tom really knows where he is.

Then he proceeded to show computer generated slides of he and Matt doing things together, like floating on rafts, doubling up on a jet ski, and just hanging out, despite their little tiff on air over a disagreement about psychiatry and anti-depressants.

Tom called Matt  “glib” during their on-air spat, and used it again at the roast, when he referred to Matt as a “glib putz.” Matt asked Tom if he could stay, and offered to get him a booster seat! Tom may have left by the time he said that!

Meredith Vieira and I after the Matt Lauer roast

Aretha Franklin opened the event by singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and I’m pretty sure it was Jeffrey Ross who cleverly played on the saying “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” when he said about Aretha, “That’s the first time I ever saw the fat lady sing at the opening of the show!” Aretha gave him the finger.

A highlight for me was being stopped by Martha Stewart, who called me from the dais, and asked if she could take my picture because she liked my hair. I love a woman with good taste! I should have asked her to take a photo with me, but she took me by surprise, and I didn’t think of it. Of course I said ok, and she whipped out her own little digital camera and took my photo.

Nancy O’Dell and I at the Matt Lauer roast

The dais was filled with gorgeous women like Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, and Access Hollywood co-anchor Nancy O’Dell.   Lots of people referenced Omarosa, who was also on the dais.  Omarosa is probably best known from her appearance on The Apprentice, and again on Celebrity Apprentice, but she has gone on to do so many more shows, and has a new hot book out called “The Bitch Switch.”

Personally I think Omarosa is great. Aside from being a stunningly beautiful woman, I find her to be elegant, sexy, and super-intelligent, and during the Roast when they said some things about her that were “Roast-like” she texted me from the dais with the single word “Ouch!” Watch for her to do something of a comedic nature in the near future!

Omarosa and I at the her roast at the Friars Club

Leading up to this big roast were a series of preliminary roasts within a contest called “So You Think You Can Roast?” at which Omarosa was one of the honorees.

There were lots of remarks made about Omarosa’s “endowments” as she recently went, according to her, from a double A cup to a double D cup. She carries them well, as if she’s had them all her life! Back then, she was Omarosa, now she’s The Ponderosa. (I liked that one, but I wrote it).

Speaking of things that come in pairs, there were two winners that evening at The Friars. One was Reese Waters, a great young comic who I recently sponsored in The Friars Club, and who said that when he filled out his race on the application, under “black” it said, “If so please explain.”

Then, in reference to Omarosa, he commended the club on finding the one black person to honor that even other black people won’t defend. Reese is funny, and very clever, and I think he will go far in this business.

Barry Weintraub and Reese Waters at the Omarosa roast

The other winner was the funny, and sexy Christina Galston, who brings great attitude to her performance. Half Puerto Rican and half Jewish, she’s also someone I’d like to see more of! I actually tried to see more of her, but she was wearing the kind of dress where that wasn’t possible.



When the legendary Comic Strip opened in 1976, the only other clubs around were Budd Friedman’s Improv and Rick Newman’s Catch A Rising Star. The Comic Strip is the only one still in existence in New York, and it was the acknowledged home club for Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. All of them honed their acts at The Strip.

Page 6 of the New York Post, the most powerful gossip column in the country broke the story about the book I’m doing with Strip owner Richie Tienken, with a story of our interview with Gilbert Gottfried. See it here.

Gilbert Gottfried, Richie Tienken and I at Pastis in New York

Gilbert showed up right on time, after we picked him up at his house to make sure he’d get there, and started out the interview by saying he had never heard of The Comic Strip, or Richie Tienken, and certainly had never performed there, and that the only reasons he was there was for lunch. It was the kind of interview you could only get from Gilbert!

So far we’ve spoken to Larry Miller, George Wallace, Paul Provenza, Susie Essman, Colin Quinn, Eddie Brill, Jim Breuer, Pete Correale, Rick Overton, Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling, Lisa Lampannelli, Alan Colmes, and Adam Ferrara, with many more big stars lined up. We’re starting with the NY comics first, and then will go to LA to do the others.

Richie Tienken, Jim Breuer and I at Sirius



Comedy has been known to fight a lot of things. Lately many charities are using the power of laughter to bring their message to the public, and Upright Citizens Brigade partnered with Funny or Die, to hold an event for Mercy Corps  benefitting The Action Center To End World Hunger.It was held at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan, a fantastic space on West 17th Street.

Mercy Corps is an organization that brings aid to people  suffering as the result of natural, or unnatural disasters, and since 1979 has provided over 1.3 billion dollars in assistance to people in 100 nations around the world.

Rachel Dratch and Miriam Tolan in the VIP room of the Highline Ballroom

UCB and Funny or Die, Will Ferrell’s site, is connected to some of the hippest talent in the business, so the hosts of the event were Matt Walsh, founding member of UCB, and Horatio Sanz of SNL who looked like he lost 50 pounds, but gained a beard. I had a beard once, but I had to get rid of it. The elastic band kept irritating my neck!

Also participating were Chevy Chase, who graciously hung out with the VIP guests the whole time, Jack McBrayer, Todd Barry, Miriam Tolan, Rachel Dratch, Seth Myers, Triumph The Insult Comic Dog with his constant companion Robert Smigel, (and it was Smigel who bit me!), and good buddies Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, two really funny guys.

Nick Kroll, John Mulaney and I at the Highline Ballroom

Nick is a stand-up, who regularly appears on Comedy Central and shows like Best Week Ever and Human Giant. He also created the web series Layers with a couple of old friends of mine, The Sklar Brothers, who look so much alike, they should really be twins!  (Seriously Sklar brothers, if you happen to read this, think about becoming twins!  It can only enhance your careers!)

Nick did his fabulous character, Craft Services coordinator, Fabrice Fabrice,  made famous on the Disney Channel’s longest running hit show “That’s So Raven” and he was a big hit. Thanks to him, several people in other lands probably got a lot more food than they had before.

John Mulaney is a regular on VH1’s Best Week Ever and has performed on Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and Comedy Central’s Live At Gotham.  He’s also been touring as part of the Comedian’s Of Comedy tour, as well as with my buddy Mike Birbiglia on his Secret Public Journal Live Tour.

John and Nick Kroll created the sketch show “Oh, Hello” and John did some really sharp stand-up at this UCB event. I really enjoyed his laid back delivery.  His stuff is funny, and clever of course, but his stage presence is very cool.


I popped into Comix comedy club to catch the very pale Jim Gaffigan do a radio spot of all things. Ron Bennington of XM Radio was there taping Jim in front of a live audience for his interview-based show “Unmasked” where he talks with leading comedians of the past and present, and attempts to ‘unmask’ his interview subjects, and reveal their true personalities, if they happen to have them.

Jim Gaffigan at Comix for an XM “Unmasked” taping

Unmasked is broadcast on XM Satellite Radio, airing Saturdays at 8 pm on XM Comedy – XM 150 and Sundays at 2 pm on XM 202 The Virus.

Ron has another show he’s developing called “Unpantsed” where he talks with not so famous comedians of the past and future, and tries to depants them during the interview, just to make them remember what it was like to go to summer camp.

Jim was of course very funny, as always, and will be performing at Town Hall in New York from Wed. Nov. 26 through Sunday Nov. 30, which is part of “The Sexy Tour.” Jim was there with uber-publicist Michael O’Brien, and promised to do an interview for my book.


Dylan Gadino, founder of Punchline Magazine, who I happen to know personally, along with every member of my family, celebrated Punchline’s third anniversary with a blowout event at Comix, the gorgeous comedy club on 14th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan.

Pete Dominick, Dylan Gadino and I at the Punchline Magazine 3rd anniversary show

He had a great line-up of comedians including ones that told jokes and said funny things. Present and accounted for were Greg Giraldo, Tom Papa, Judy Gold, Christian Finnegan, Laurie Kilmartin, Robert Kelly, Pete Dominick and Ray Ellin and needless to say it was a great show.  (If it’s needless to say, then why am I wasting your time and mine by saying it?  Shoot me a quick e-mail if you know the answer!)

Greg Giraldo and I at the Punchline Magazine 3rd anniversary show



Charity once again benefited from comedy at Gotham Comedy Club when comedians got together to do a show benefiting Operation Uplink, a charity whose goal it is to provide our servicemen overseas with free phone cards so that they can call their families at home at no charge. Many of our fighting men and women can not afford to call home, and there is definitely something wrong with that!

The show was in the form of a contest to find the funniest news reporter in New York, and was part of Jim Mendrinos’ NYC Underground Comedy Festival.

Cat Greenleaf and I outside Gotham Comedy Club

I had the good fortune to be coaching Cat Greenleaf, the features reporter on NBC’s “Today in New York.” Cat really surprised me by being such a quick study, and by being so funny. We rehearsed at my place, and up at 30 Rock.

Cat Greenleaf and I during rehearsals

She was used to working with copy, and being brief and to the point, which are two essentials of comedy, and she took the material right off the paper and owned it.

The event was produced by PR whiz, Ryan McCormick, who was also responsible for the longest comedy show on record, 50 straight hours of stand-up at The Comic Strip, earlier this year. Judah Friedlander closed that show and accepted the award/documentation from the Guinness Book of Records on behalf of the club, for the incredible feat, which also benefited our men and women serving overseas!

Cat came in second to Alison Rosen of Page 6 Magazine, who won the contest, and was really funny. She was also a natural!  She was coached by Ray Ellin of LateNet with Ray Ellin fame. Ray, we gotta get you for the book!

My work with Cat wound up on NBC’s “Today In New York” and ran for a week on Taxi TV. I think more people saw me on that than anything else I’ve been in! I never knew I knew so many people who took cabs!

Anyway, until next time, remember … COMEDY MATTERS!

You can read more about Jeffrey at, or you can e-mail him at


About the Author

Jeffrey Gurian

Jeffrey Gurian is a comedy writer who has written for lots of big names, and is currently writing the book on the 35 year history of The Comic Strip. Contact Jeffrey at

  • http://aintgotone Glennis McNeal

    There should have been more photos of Jeffrey Gurian

  • harriet norris

    Love the Jeff Gurian article about the Friars Roast, but can;t help wondering why Jeff is so fascinated with very tall (and beautiful) women.

  • Koufax

    John Mulaney is hilarious. He’s from Chicago.
    He reminds me of these other two guys from Chicago:

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