Comedy Matters with Mitch Fatel, Finesse Mitchell, Kevin Spacey

By | August 3, 2009 at 10:26 am | One comment | Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TEN THINGS I LIKE ABOUT LARRY MILLER

In 1999, Touchstone Pictures released Ten Things I Hate About You starring among others, the late Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Gabrielle Union, and the great Larry Miller who played the strict Dad, Walter Stratford.

Ten years later, it’s hitting the small screen as a TV show, on the ABC Family Channel on Tuesday nights, with the same director, Gil Junger, but the only one of the cast that’s the same is Larry Miller. Larry is reprising the same role he played in the original film!

Larry Miller and I at the Comic Strip.

Larry Miller and I at the Comic Strip.

He came to town to prepare for promo appearances on both The View and Letterman, and of course showed up at his old home, The Comic Strip, to polish up his Letterman set.

Larry was one of the originals at The Strip and will be featured in both the book and documentary film we are doing on it’s almost 35 year history. Needless to say, (then why do I say it anyway?), he has his own way of doing things, and when he rehearses for a TV set he performs without a mike onstage.

I saw him do it at Stand-Up New York, and then I drove him over to The Strip where he did it again. He tells the audience he will be performing without a mike, in preparation for his TV appearance, and they seem to love him so much I don’t think they’d care if he did his act through two paper cups with a string tied between them.

He likens it to “swinging with two bats.” I know that’s probably a baseball reference that I just don’t get, but I didn’t ask him to elaborate for fear of looking like an idiot! I don’t know about sports, but I’m an expert on Schwartz! Wide World of Schwartz! My favorite show.

JR Ravitz, the man with the Cheshire Cat grin in his office at the Strip.

JR Ravitz, the man with the Cheshire Cat grin in his office at the Strip.

There’s a man at The Strip that doesn’t get enough attention; its JR Ravitz, the man behind the scenes, kind of like The Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. JR has been with The Strip for about 15 years, and was actually a performer himself until he went “behind the camera” and started running the club. Every so often he gets up on stage and does a bit, like a dramatic reading from The Yellow Pages.

Since legendary manager Lucien Hold passed away, JR has been helming the ship, booking the acts, and making sure everything goes smoothly, and somehow always manages to stay in a good mood. JR will also have a lot to say in both the book and documentary film.

GOTHAM HAPPENINGS

Gotham always keeps me busy with its exciting line-up. I hadn’t seen my old buddy Kevin Meaney in a while, so I was excited to see him at Tom Ingegno’s Omnipop Industry Showcase at Gotham. Kevin spent five years on Broadway doing Hairspray.

In his illustrious career, he has starred in his own HBO special, appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Saturday Night Live, Oprah, The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Meaney also starred on the CBS sitcom Uncle Buck and had a featured role in the movie Big.

Some of his catch phrases like “That’s not right” and “We’re going to lose the house” (delivered in the voice of his mother) are classics guaranteed to get big laughs.

Vinnie Brand was the MC and cracked me up by intro’ing Joe DeVito as the two-time winner of the Joe DeVito Award. Joe said Sonia Sotomayor is nothing like the Latinas he knows from The Bronx, otherwise her robe would be two sizes two small, and she’d have a red, white and blue tube top under it.

Kevin Meaney and Joe DeVito at Gotham.

Kevin Meaney and Joe DeVito at Gotham.

Comedian Helen Hong has come a long way. She wondered if there could be a less sexy name than Helen. She claims Asian parents give their daughters unusual old-style names, as evidenced by my gorgeous model friend Evelyn Liu. She hoped she did well at comedy so she didn’t feel she could have made more money giving Happy Endings at some Asian massage parlor.

And comedian Nore Davis doesn’t want to be a cop, because you can accidentally get shot by a co-worker. He notes, “You never see a garbage man accidentally throw away another garbage man!”

The concept of “throwing a person away” is hysterical and reminds me of the line I wrote for Brett Eidman’s show, “he was so useless, when he died they didn’t bury him. They just crumpled him up and threw him away!”

Comedian Buddy Fitzpatrick said his wife left him after 23 years just as he was morphing into Frank Purdue. (Great visual!) And Rodney Laney spoke of his home in The Poconos, and introduced himself as the first Black Pocononian ever seen.

DON’T MESS WITH FINESSE

Back at Gotham to see Finesse Mitchell, he told the audience it was a good time to mess with bill collectors. One called him up and said. “Mr. Mitchell, you’re six months behind on your mortgage and you owe $5,700. What do you intend to do about it?

Finesse Mitchell and I hanging out at Gotham.

Finesse Mitchell and I hanging out at Gotham.

Finesse answered, “Well I watch the news and I see that you’re $57 million dollars behind in your payments. What do YOU intend to do about it?”

Finesse is also a great actor and talked about girls being gullible, and not realizing when a guy isn’t good for them. He went into a character named Terrence meeting a girl named Keshia in a bar. When she asked him what he did for a living, and he told her he was a pirate, instead of running away, she said simply, “Oh really, do you have your own ship?”

ALEXANDRO THE GREAT

Anytime I can, I catch Ted Alexandro perform. Not only is he talented but he’s a special kind of guy, and very genuine. He headlined Gotham and had a great show. Buddy Fitzpatrick was a perfect host, and Veronica Mosey was also very funny.

Comedian Wali Collins found out that he’s responsible for his actions in his wife’s dreams. One day he woke up to find her yelling at him, “Why didn’t you save me when that pig monkey was chasing me?”

Ted was his usual low-key self on stage; it’s amazing to come across that relaxed. I don’t think I’m that relaxed when I’m asleep. Some of Ted’s most hilarious observations: Pirates are back and The Renaissance Fair people were all excited. Maybe we’re next M’lod.” Referencing Obama – Do you think that someday we’ll have a woman President? Or maybe a half woman?

Ted Alexandro and I on the dance-floor at Gotham.

Ted Alexandro and I on the dance-floor at Gotham.

“A woman would not declare war, they would declare the silent treatment,” he said. “Everyone listen, we are not speaking to Iraq.”

“George Bush is loved in some parts of America and hated all over the world. He’s kind of the exact opposite of David Hasselhoff.”

Ted should have his own show. (And he should bring me on as a writer!) In the meantime he did Letterman last Friday, which just proves that until you get your own show, you should do someone else’s.

Mitch Fatel and I in a photo taken much too close… at Gotham.

Mitch Fatel and I in a photo taken much too close… at Gotham.

Actually about a week later during Mitch Fatel’s show, Ted came up to rehearse his Letterman spot, in which he observed that not only is Obama our first Black Pres. but it’s the end of white Presidents forever, … cause you know what they say! Once you go black…”

I hadn’t seen Mitch Fatel in too long but he’s still one of my faves. Comic Gary Cannon from LA opened for him and his rapid-fire delivery and strong stage presence really pumped up the audience for Mitch.

Mitch uses a childlike innocence to cover every aspect of sexuality and sexual aberration, but he does it in such a way that you can’t be offended. It’s like a child bragging about himself. It starts when he opens with “I’m very talented. I like being talented cause lots of girls go out with me.”

He also says, “I know I’m famous, cause at the end of the show everyone says, “You’re really famous, come and smoke crack with us.” Another “Fatelism” – “Girls can have two different types of orgasms, and yet they still wanted the right to vote!” Mitch said he wanted to be in the Comic Strip book, and that made me very happy, and made me smile, because he’s very funny and very famous.

COMEDY MATTERS QUICKIES

Uncle Snappy “the man of many hats” who does the door at all of my special events showed up at Tavern on the Green at our Thursday night event, and surprised social impresario and creator of V&V energy drink Erik Von Broock with his hat that can only be described as a small sombrero.

Uncle Snappy and Erik Von Broock at Tavern on the Green.

Uncle Snappy and Erik Von Broock at Tavern on the Green.

Wendy Diamond, publisher of Animal Fair Magazine who has produced several comedy events with stars like Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Mario Cantone, Richard Belzer and Jeffrey Ross to raise money for the proper treatment of animals, came out to play one night and hit the comedy circuit with me.

Wendy Diamond and I at an event.

Wendy Diamond and I at an event.

Nick Loeb is running for the Senate in Florida and had a big fundraiser at his Dad’s home in Manhattan. He also received a glowing recommendation from our past mayor Rudy Giuliani which is on his site at nickloeb.com.

Nick’s Dad just happens to be John Loeb, Jr. the ex-ambassador to Denmark, and it was a great event. His Dad asked me if I would make Nick’s speeches funnier, because he realized that sometimes you can make a point using comedy, often more effectively than by being serious. So if Nick reads this and he asks me, I’d be happy to do it! (As long as he promises to introduce me to his wife Anna!)

Nick Loeb and I at The Ambassador’s mansion.

Nick Loeb and I at The Ambassador’s mansion.

I don’t know much about politics, I just know we need some real people working for us, and someone with a sense of style and humor, and that’s Nick.

WHEN IN ROME

Rome Kanda is a great comic who just happens to be Japanese. I know that for a fact because an entire crew of Japanese TV people flew over from Japan, and came to my apartment once to film Rome and I talking about comedy for a big Japanese TV show.

They were so polite they brought me food, and presents and everyone was bowing to each other. It was so crowded that two of the men were actually injured in a bowing accident! The trick is, you must make sure to leave enough room between you and the other person when you bow.

Rome Kanda and the logo for his show.

Rome Kanda and the logo for his show.

Rome also happens to be the first Asian host of an American game show. It’s called I Survived A Japanese Game Show, and it’s so successful it’s in its second season. Watch it Tuesday nights at 9 P.M. on ABC.

THE UNSEEN ARE SEEN

I’ve written about The Unseen before. The Unseen is a two-man mentalist/magic act and the two men are Oz Pearlman and Ken Salaz. They had a sold-out show at Gotham where they did things I had never seen before. They hit a balloon out into the audience, that got knocked around and was caught by a random audience member. Inside the balloon was a paper with information written on it that pertained to the person that caught the balloon. Just incredible stuff.

Shortly after, we wound up at a lunch at Michaels with theatrical and film producers Beverly Camhe, Patty Watt, and Jamie Cesa, and at the next table was Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb from NBC.

Kathie Lee, Ken Salaz, and Hoda Kotb at Michael’s.

Kathie Lee, Ken Salaz, and Hoda Kotb at Michael’s.

Unable to contain my enthusiasm, I brought Ken over to the table to show Kathie Lee and Hoda some amazing things, which he did. Not wanting to stay too long while they were eating, we went back to our table, and shortly after Kathie Lee approached.

It was so cute. She was like a shy, sweet little girl and she asked if she could ask me a question. She said Ken had left a playing card on her table, and she was holding it against her chest so no one could see it. She asked if Ken could tell her which one it was. She was testing him. I don’t know about Ken, but I was nervous for him.

He asked her to think of the card in her mind, and then calmly told her she was holding the ten of clubs. She was. Amazing!

NEW YORK COMEDY CONTEST

Jim McCue of Boston Comedy Festival fame was in New York holding a contest to find new hot comics for his festival and he asked me to be one of the judges in the semi-finals and finals. I was happy to do it because I slept one night many years ago, and have not felt the need to do that since.

The finals were held at Cal Wynter’s Green Room at the Theaters at 45 Bleecker Street, where both Mike Birbiglia and Marc Maron have been running their shows. The great Judy Gold came and opened the show.

Judy Gold and I on the couch at The Green Room.

Judy Gold and I on the couch at The Green Room.

Jim McCue is a very funny guy, who actually made me laugh out loud which is not an easy thing to do. Speaking of skin cancer, which is not ordinarily funny, he said it’s prevalent in pale people with red hair, and freckles, and he wondered, “ Why don’t they just say Irish people?” nick-naming himself Jim McMelanoma.

He explained that he was 6’6”, and at that height sun block is more expensive than chemotherapy! I also got to see three great new comics like Joe List: A girl said to him, “Would you still have sex with me if I gained 300 pounds?” And he said, “I don’t even know if it’s possible to have sex with a girl who weighed 600 pounds!”

Josh Homer : “I’m half White and half Black which is why I look Dominican.” He’s married to an Indian girl whose father said to Josh, “If you marry my daughter we will throw a huge party to show people we are not embarrassed.”

Myq Kaplan: (he won the contest): Have you ever had a conversation with someone who’s not too smart and they check with you on facts you don’t have? “So I was banging this chick, … right?” “ I don’t know. Probably not!”

BONDING WITH MATTHEW MODINE

Matthew Modine is known for involving himself with humanitarian causes, so it was no real surprise to run into him at a Paper Magazine party to raise money for a school in India. He has a long filmography, including several comedies, and he and I had a synchronicitous connection that he wasn’t aware of. Just after I co-wrote the film Face to Face with actor Scott Baio, Matthew made the movie Very Mean Men also with Scott Baio, and a host of other stars like Martin Landau, and Charles Durning. I was out in LA with Scott and we attended the premiere for Very Mean Men, and the after party at Planet Hollywood. Both films got great reviews.

Matthew Modine and I at a Paper Magazine party at the Thompson Hotel.

Matthew Modine and I at a Paper Magazine party at the Thompson Hotel.

Unfortunately, neither film ever got released in this country or got any kind of distribution due to a strange decision by one of the producers. It was a tremendous disappointment to all the people who had worked so hard on both films. Years later, Matthew and I got to both commiserate, and laugh about it, all thanks to Paper Magazine!

KEVIN SPACE AND ROBIN WILLIAMS IN SHRINK

In the new movie Shrink, Kevin Spacey plays Henry Carter, a spaced out psychiatrist who smokes dope 24/7 to deal with his wife’s suicide. One of his patients is a guy named Holden, played by Robin Williams, who for some reason I did not see credited either at the end of the film, or in the production notes where the cast was listed. I’m sure there’s a story behind that.

Anyone who’s ever been in Robin’s company knows he’s always “on,” so I asked Kevin what it was like to work with Robin. Robin plays a character who has a lot of problems, among them a desire to cheat on his wife, and Kevin has to call him on his B.S., which Robin tries to parry with jokes, until he finally crumbles.

Kevin Spacey and I at the Regency Hotel.

Kevin Spacey and I at the Regency Hotel.

Kevin said there was lots of improvising with the script, and Robin was going off, as is his custom, but to his credit he let Kevin stop him, and reel him in. Kevin said he respected Robin for that, as his character realized that all his joking around wouldn’t help him in the end. A valuable lesson for many comics! I got to remind Kevin when we used to hang out at Columbus Café hundreds of years ago, when he was famous for playing a character named Mel Proffit in the show Wiseguy starring Ken Wahl, another old friend I haven’t seen in many years.

I brought a card with me that had yellowed with age, on which Kevin had written his manager’s name and his agent’s name, and I asked him if he knew what happened to both of those women. They still rep him after all these years. Kevin Spacey is a loyal guy!

Anyway, until next time, remember … COMEDY MATTERS!!!

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 Jeffrey@jeffreygurian.com.