TRIBUTE TO MARJORIE GURIAN
This column will be kind of a double column due to the sudden passing of my beloved Mom, Marjorie Gurian, right at the time my last column was due. It just kind of rocked me, and brought home the concept that all we have is today.
My Mom was 84, American born, with no accent, and had the greatest sense of humor, so I jokingly called her Mrs. Bubbashvin, whenever she acted too Jewish. We laughed constantly, even on her last day, and when I left her that night I told her I’d see her in the morning because I truly believed I would.
Some people complain they didn’t get enough attention growing up. The only thing my Mom was guilty of was giving me too much attention. I always said she’d still dress me if I let her. And she’d fix my hair in a nice pompadour.
I kept so many of her funniest voicemail messages, often saying something like,
“Jeffrey. Where are you? Are you okay? Please call me and let me know you’re okay.” When a crane fell near my neighborhood a couple of years back, the anguished calls I received told me she was sure it had fallen directly on me.
Needless to say, if I had a tattoo, it would have said, “Born To Be Nervous.”
To make her happy, I called her every day. And when she was ill I called her even more.
I was her advocate, and made sure she got the care she needed. She was married to my Dad, Raymond for 58 years. They’re back together again now. Rest in peace Mom! I miss you already.
SEINFELD COMES TO THE STRIP
The Comic Strip opened on June 1, 1976. On June 17, 1976, only 16 days later, a young comic named Jerry Seinfeld came in to audition. Owner Bob Wachs was there, auditioned him, and wrote on his sign-up sheet, “Good. Definitely put on Mon. 6/21.”
And that was the start of a career that would change the face of comedy forever. Sitting with Jerry, while Richie Tienken and I were doing the interview for the book we’re writing on the history of the club, I felt compelled to ask how he felt knowing his last name had become part of the lexicon.
Like I can’t picture a show named “Gurian” and Richie couldn’t picture a show called “Tienken” either, but it sounds so natural to say “Seinfeld.” Jerry said it happened so gradually that he got used to it.
The interview itself was amazing. Jerry was so kind, generous, funny, and forthcoming. He told some great stories, which will be appearing in the book, cause if I write them here, you won’t have to buy the book.
I will tell you two things. One, we were able to tell him a story he never knew. When Jerry was first starting out, comics didn’t get paid. Then they wanted to get paid, so there was a meeting of the club owners at The Strip to decide about paying them. It was Silver Friedman, Rick Newman, Richie, and probably more.
Jerry Seinfeld approached Rick Newman the legendary owner of Catch a Rising Star, who was standing with Richie Tienken and said, “I think the comics should get paid.” Rick said “Oh yeah, and who are you?” He said, “Jerry Seinfeld. I’m the MC at your club.” To which Rick replied, “We’ll see about that.”
Jerry got nervous and walked away. When he did, Richie stood up for Jerry and told Rick he was a good kid, and not to hold it against him. This is the part that Jerry never knew went down. Later that day, Jerry told Richie he was nervous to go to Catch, and Richie told him to just go and not worry about it, that Rick probably wouldn’t even remember. Jerry showed up and everything was fine.
Jerry ended his interview by saying he felt like he was born in 1976, because that was the year The Strip opened and the year his life really began. What a great interview!
GEORGE WALLACE DROPS BY THE STRIP
George Wallace was in town to do Letterman and The View and was working on some new material for his “I Be Thinkin’ Show” which is the top rated 10 pm show in Las Vegas.
You go out to Vegas and all you see everywhere you look is posters of George Wallace. You’d think he was the mayor. George is a real crowd pleaser, and the audience at The Strip got a special surprise when he came out unexpectedly to do a hilarious set, for which he got a standing ovation, which is not too common in a comedy club.
George, who is one of Seinfeld’s best friends, got to see Marina Franklin perform as well. I’ve been a fan of hers since I first met her some years back, and her career is finally, and deservedly blowing up. She just got chosen as one of Jay Leno’s comedy correspondents, and she’s opening for Bill Maher at Avery Fisher Hall, during Carolines New York Comedy Festival.
NYCUCF FUNNIEST REPORTER CONTEST
Jim Mendrinos and Carole Montgomery really outdid themselves this year with the NYC Underground Comedy Festival, that Jim took over from founder George Sarris. It was the biggest and best yet, and had some really great shows.
One of them was the Funniest Reporter Show, conceived and produced by P.R. genius Ryan McCormick who was also responsible for producing the longest comedy show on record, a 50 hour star-studded charity show listed in the Guinness Book of Records, also held at The Strip. The last performer of those 50 long hours was Judah Friedlander who was photographed holding the official plaque from the Guinness people.
For the funniest reporter show, each journalist got to work with a comedian or comedy writer as a mentor. I had the pleasure of working with Taryn Winter Brill, the feature reporter from Good Morning America. Taryn is really very funny, and may actually continue performing stand-up. I think she should, since she came in a strong third.
Ray Ellin was the MC, and the winner was Marianne Schaberg from CNN, whose mentor was the always-funny Bernadette Pauley. Needless to say there was lots of press. We were filmed by a team from Good Morning America, and also by Letterbox Pictures who is also doing the documentary film to accompany the book for the 35th anniversary of The Comic Strip.
Gotham Comedy Club is not only known for its headliners, it’s also known for it’s specialty shows. This past month I saw so much great talent at Gotham. I popped by one night to see Dom Irrera rock the house. Dom’s biggest surprise to me was the great Irish accent he does. I’m always impressed by anyone who can do great accents, and the audience was too.
Dean Obeidallah was the MC, and he told about his Mom making herself 16 years younger cause she’s dating again. That meant he had to be 18 years old. He felt strange until his mother’s new boyfriend said to Dean, “Boy, do I have a beautiful 18 year old daughter for you.”
A funny comic named Tom Ryan said he got an e-mail that said, “Make hundreds of thousands of dollars in your spare time.” Tom said if he could do that, he might switch that to his full time job! Stars just drop by at Gotham, and surprise the audience by doing a set. Jim Gaffigan stops in a lot. The night I saw him, he talked a lot about food. He hates seafood, because it reminds him of bugs.
Talking about seafood, he said, “There’s a part of the crab that you’re not supposed to eat. That part is called “All of it!” “The first clue that you’re not supposed to eat it should have been that you have to use a hammer. I’m think I’m gonna eat that crab. Bring me the tools!”
The very funny and beautiful Lynne Koplitz headlined one night, and wore a red sequined dress for the DVD she was shooting. About two big guys in the audience she commented, “Somewhere in NYC, there’s a street not being worked on tonight.” She also took the time to tell us that her “vajayjay” was like an old cave in North Carolina. I had to take her word for that one!
And she summed up Spike TV by saying it was very predictable. Men moving heavy shit with their faces. Barry Weintraub was the MC. Barry said, “Michael Jackson liked boys so he built an amusement park. I like women. I would have had to build a mall.” Gary Gulman did a great set as usual. He said due to the economy he’s had to cut back on certain things. Mostly he cut back on his engraving. His engraving budget for this year is just a skeleton of what it was in years past. Basically Gulman had more engraving material than any other comic I’ve ever seen!
Paul Mercurio had a couple of unusual things happen to him when he came out on the Gotham stage. A guy named Ben was fast asleep in his seat right in front of the stage and didn’t awaken until Paul woke him up. Then a woman named Sheila, who was sitting all the way in the back, actually took a phone call while he was on and talked loud enough for everyone to hear. Paul left the stage, went to her table and actually confronted the woman who believe it or not, didn’t hang up, and stayed on the phone.
To his credit, Paul used both episodes to his advantage, and milked them for all they were worth. A lesser comedian would have definitely been flustered. That’s why stage time is invaluable to a comedian. And last but certainly not least, I went down to see actor/comedian Anthony Anderson, who you know from Law and Order, and who does a monthly show with comic Royale Watkins called Anthony Anderson’s Mixtape Comedy Show, which was truly one of the most diverse and entertaining shows out there.
I got to see one of my favorites, Wil Sylvince. When he imitates his uncle in that Haitian accent of his, the crowd goes nuts. He will be the MC at a concert I am producing with my partner Jean Alerte, CEO of Alerte Carter & Associates, this coming February, at the Capital One Theatre in Westbury. Long Island, starring the amazing Kevin Hart, and featuring the great Tony Rock. They even had a freestyle rap competition which was completely off the chain! You must check it out one month on a Sunday night.
COMEDY MATTERS SHORTIES
Kenny Lonergan is a two time Oscar nominee who writes movies as diverse as Analyze This, and Analyze That, Gangs of New York, and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. I know him from my early days at Naked Angels where he is one of the founding members.
His newest play The Starry Messenger was being produced by The New Group, which is an artist driven theatre company, and is starring his childhood friend, and two-time Tony Award-winner Matthew Broderick. I went to see them at a lecture at the 92nd Street Y for a very enjoyable evening.
Lisa Lampanelli had the book party for her new book Chocolate Please at Carolines on Broadway, and it was a big success. Always so good to see Lisa, whose career is just so huge. The smaller she gets, the bigger her career gets.
Lisa looked great, and introduced me to her boyfriend Jimmy, who is, … how shall we say, very limited in the pigment department. To be politically correct, he’s what’s known as pigmentally challenged! (In other words he’s white.) Can you believe it? Lisa with a white guy? Vanilla please???
She dedicated an entire chapter to my buddy Tom-E Latsch, who works and performs at The Comic Strip. (He also takes great photos when we interview the stars for our book, like Chris Rock and Seinfeld). She started out nice, talking about the start of their relationship, and wound up eviscerating Tom to the point that you had to say to him, “Don’t worry Tommy, all press is good, as long as they spell your name right!”
PUNCHLINE MAGAZINE CELEBRATES FOUR YEARS
I’m really proud to have Comedy Matters be a part of Punchline Magazine for the last year and a half, and when you see the stars who come out to honor Punchline at it’s annual celebration, you understand that I’m not the only one that feels that way.
The party/show is held at Comix, that beautiful club on West 14th Street, and this year featured the fantastic Ted Alexandro, Robert Hawkins, Christian Finnegan, the great Pete Dominick, Todd Barry, Janeane Garofalo, the incredible Lewis Black, who closed the show, and a surprise appearance from the hilarious D.L. Hughley, former star of the ABC/UPN sitcom The Hughleys, one of the four comedians starring in the Spike Lee film “The Original Kings of Comedy” and currently a correspondent on the new Jay Leno show, and a New York radio personality.
D.L. said he just stopped by to wish Punchline a happy anniversary, and offered the observation, “ You know how bad Pres, Bush had to be if the whole country said, “Let’s give the Black guy a chance!”
About Michael Jackson – “A wonderful singer but a lousy babysitter.” “Lucky he didn’t go to jail. They would have passed his ass around like a joint!”
Lewis Black had the closing spot, which is usually reserved for the strongest. For many years at Friars events, another angry man Pat Cooper was ALWAYS the closer for that very reason. He grabbed an audience by the throat and didn’t let go till he was ready. Lewis Black does the same thing. He talked about Country-Western music, a lot of which he said was “based on old Jerry Springer episodes.”
He went on to tell of once having to follow the wonderful Vince Gill, who he said had such an amazing voice that 30 seconds into his first song, Lewis felt the same way as he does when his bath is just the right temperature.
“Vince’s wife Amy Grant is so perfect,” Lewis continued, “she’s entirely made of cream.” He said he had to flee the room to prevent himself from rushing the stage and taking Christ into his heart! That’s how beautiful the experience was.
HOT 97 THE COMEDY SCENE
I left a party for the VMA Awards and wandered into Carolines to find DJ Cipha Sounds from Hot 97 onstage MC’ing a comedy show. The dude is funny, and very comfortable on stage.
He does his thing as easily as if he was behind the mike in the radio station, where he’s the host of the morning show Cipha Sounds and Rosenberg, and he admitted to me after the show that he’s always had a thing for comedy and wants to do more.
Yo Cipha, I’m available bro’! Holla at your boy!
Then I went to an event at the Time Square Arts Center, formerly The Laugh Factory on West 42nd Street and wound up giving an interview on the red carpet hosted by Lil’ Nat, also of Hot 97 who does the overnight show from 2 A.M. till 6 A.M. leading into Cipha’s show.
I got a chance to talk about Chris Rock Exec. Producing the film we’re doing on the history of The Comic Strip, and my upcoming Kevin Hart concert at Westbury which I hope we can promote on Hot 97 among other stations.
MAGIC AT THE ANGEL BALL
Denise Rich creates magic every year at the Angel Ball cancer fundraiser she holds in honor of her late daughter Gabrielle. This year I added to the magic by bringing Ken Salaz , magician/mentalist from the two man group The Unseen, who performed for Denise’s distinguished guests during the cocktail hour, and who also donated a two hour private performance as part of the silent auction.
I got to fulfill a dream for Ken by introducing him to his idol and my old friend David Blaine. I had once arranged for Ken to perform for both Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, co-hosts of the fourth hour of the Today show on NBC, and they never forgot how he amazed them. When we ran into Hoda at The Angel Ball, Ken told Hoda to think of a drink that she liked, and then produced it from thin air. She said she wanted him to come on the show. That’s in the works.
Denise raised four million dollars to fight cancer in just one night. That is a new record for her, and I’m sure she’ll beat it next year.
Chris Rock had the premiere of his new documentary film Good Hair at the IFC Theatre downtown on 6th Avenue and I went down with Richie Tienken and Chris’ cousin the hilarious comic Sherrod Small to see it. Sherrod is also a regular at The Strip and is very close to Chris Rock and like a brother to Tony Rock. As a matter of fact, he refers to his cousin Chris as “Chrissie,” which is fine for him, but I still call Chris “Chris.”
I was thrilled to meet Chris’s Mom Rose at the after-party. She looks so young, you would never know she has eight kids,
THE BELZER/SHAFFER FOUR-IN-ONE
Some years ago, (more than I’d want to admit), Richard Belzer, Paul Shaffer and I took a photo together. A few years after that, I brought that photo and held it while we took another photo standing in the exact same order. A few years later I brought that photo to The Friars Club, and we held that photo while taking still a third photo of us standing in the exact same order, so it became a photo, within a photo, within a photo.
And that’s how it stayed for years until last week. Belzer and Shaffer had a joint party, (you should excuse the expression!) at The Friars Club, for their new books. Belzer promoted Shaffer’s book called “ We’ll Be Here For The Rest Of Our Lives”, and Shaffer promoted Belzer’s book, “ I Am Not A Psychic.”
They both knew what I had in the case I was holding. The three-in-one. Fortunately we were able to tap the talent of Friars official photographer Richard Lewin, who took the “four-in-one” that you see below, ( or above, depending on where the editor chooses to put it!) Someday, maybe we’ll go for the five-in-one!
Anyway, no matter what, until next time, remember, … COMEDY MATTERS!!!