Comedy Matters with Judah Friedlander, Ralphie May and more

By | January 7, 2010 at 5:53 pm | No comments | Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comic Strip Xmas Party

The truth is I liked my last column so much it was hard for me to start to write this one. That’s a dangerous thing for a writer to fall in love with his own stuff! Anyway, thanks to all of you who sent your condolences on my Mom.

For the second year in a row, The Comic Strip had an amazing, kick-ass holiday party, and tons of fun people were there. The food was great and there was even a show. Owner Richie Tienken was there with his beautiful wife Jeannie, and co-owner Bob Wachs was there with his beautiful wife Tess.

Richie Tienken, his wife Jeannie and Chuck Nice at the Strip.

Richie Tienken, his wife Jeannie and Chuck Nice at the Strip.

The great Scott Blakeman was the MC, and as he went around the room shpritzing everyone, he did me the honor of including me. First he acknowledged how many people there were from my mailing list.

Me and Scott Blakeman at The Strip.

Me and Scott Blakeman at The Strip.

Then he said, “ Jeffrey Gurian is here, … but he’s everywhere. As a matter of fact while he’s here, he’s also someplace else at this very moment!” It got a big laugh. ATTENTION SCIENTISTS: I seem to have conquered the physical principle of being in two places at the same time.

But it’s true. People come up to me all the time and tell me they see me everywhere. Why stay home when you can go out and have fun? Just to freak them out, the next day I turn up in their living room. That usually does it!

Jeffrey Ross doing his Ralph Kramden impression on Richie Tienken at the Xmas party at The Strip.

Jeffrey Ross doing his Ralph Kramden impression on Richie Tienken at the Xmas party at The Strip.

My wonderful friend Robin Byrd showed up, (Yup, that one from Ch. 35!), and really seemed to have a great time. I’m hoping that she and I will create a fantastically funny, sexy project for 2010. Keep your eyes and ears open for that, and any other orifices you have control over!

Robin Byrd, Me and Jordan Rock at the Comic Strip Xmas party.

Robin Byrd, Me and Jordan Rock at the Comic Strip Xmas party.

Comic Strip Drop Ins

On any given night at The Strip you’re always likely to be surprised by at least one superstar drop-in. JR goes out of his way to accommodate people who are loyal to the club. World Champion Judah Friedlander comes by often not only to work out new material, but to keep audiences hysterical with the tried and true stuff he’s already got. The man is every profession you can name. Whatever an audience member says he does, Judah does it too, but much better.

The night I saw him he had already “had” 40 chicks, and that was within two hours of the show. He exercises on a treadmill that has hurdles on it, and often lifts weight lifters for exercise while they are lifting weights. That is so my kind of joke. It’s just such a great visual.

Comedian Jim Mendrinos and World Champion Judah Friedlander.

Comedian Jim Mendrinos and World Champion Judah Friedlander.

That same night Jim Mendrinos, the producer of the NY Underground Comedy Festival was also there to perform. Jim got such props from Chris Rock when I was interviewing him for the book I’m doing on the Strip. Everything was “Jim Mendrinos this” and “Jim Mendrinos that.” Jim will be very proud to read the book when it finally comes out.

I’ll be interviewing Judah for the book in February, right after he finishes working on his own book. When The Strip won the Guinness Book of records award for the longest continuous comedy show, (50 hours), produced by Ryan McCormick, Judah was the final performer who received the actual plaque.

Me and Judah holding the Guinness Book of Records plaque.

Me and Judah holding the Guinness Book of Records plaque.

Then I ran into Kyle Grooms backstage at The Strip, who I also saw at Gotham this month. Kyle is always superb, and his CD The Legend of the Jersey Devil produced by Rooftop Comedy was named in Apple’s iTunes top 20 comedy CDs of 2009. He said 2009 was the year in the news for the light-skinned Black man. Barack Obama, (of whom he does a great impression), Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods, and Chris Brown.

And right after him came the super-talented Modi who was in from LA. Modi does such great dialects I had to tell him he reminded me of comedy legend Sid Caesar, who was known for being able to make believe he was speaking so many different languages. But of course I told Modi he was like a “hip” version of Sid Caesar, because no young comic wants to be compared to a man in his mid to late hundreds! Even if he is a legend like Sid Caesar.

Kyle Grooms and Modi hanging at The Strip.

Kyle Grooms and Modi hanging at The Strip.

Ladies and Gentlemen – Ray Ellin

Besides being a really funny, well established comic, Ray Ellin is also a great host, and has been the host of his own celeb-driven Internet show called LateNet With Ray Ellin since 2007, where he’s had guests like Jeff Garlin, Darrell Hammond, Fran Drescher, Amy Sedaris, Hank Azaria, Leonard Nimoy and Chevy Chase.

In 2010 he will be taking that to a new level thanks to his deal with AOL, and the Asylum Network. The show will begin to air this month, and I was present at the first taping where his guest was the hilarious Susie Essman, and great comic Todd Barry. Later on that day he also taped Letterman’s longtime bandleader Paul Shaffer, actor Ralph (Ugly Betty) Maccio, and tennis great John McEnroe.

Ray Ellin and I on stage at the AOL studio.

Ray Ellin and I on stage at the AOL studio.

I even got to contribute a fix for a line. Russ Meneve had written a funny bit about some guys stealing candy and winding up in jail where he said they would have their cavities filled. Great line. In rehearsal there was some discussion of how to play the line for it’s greatest punch, and I suggested making it stronger by saying “they wound up in jail where they would have ALL of their cavities filled.”

Protocol dictated that the writer of the line would have to agree to the fix, and Russ being the great guy that he is, agreed it would work, and so Ray said it that way. And it DID work! Only people in comedy know how important one little word can be in a joke.

Richie Tienken standing in for Russ Meneve, along with Ray Ellin's writers Dan Naturman, and Danny Lobell.

Richie Tienken standing in for Russ Meneve, along with Ray Ellin's writers Dan Naturman, and Danny Lobell.

The show looks like it will be lots of fun, and features an opening monologue, celeb interviews, short films, and general insanity. I ran into the LateNet writing team of Russ Meneve, Danny Lobell, and Dan Naturman, all of whom are hysterical in their own right.

I think the show will be a great success and someday hope to be a guest! (Are you listening, Ray?)

Gotham Happenings

Besides a host of other things, what’s great about Gotham is that they always have paper surveys on every table that allow you to win tickets to SNL, or Letterman, and I use them to make notes for this column. Thanks, Chris!

Tony Rock Rocks Gotham

The great Tony Rock held court for three sold out nights at Gotham. The night I was there he gave his brother Jordan Rock a shot at performing a set for the packed house, and he killed it. It reminded me of the story when Chris Rock got the chance to perform for Eddie Murphy to a packed house at The Comic Strip and that event launched his career.

Tony said that Black people carry the stereotype of being lazy. But then he explained it. “We worked for 400 years for free. We’re just on vacation, that’s all!”

He also explained that alcohol is like a friend that talks you into doing sh*# and then disappears. “ Floor it man. Those cops can’t catch us. The next thing you know they’re puttin’ you in the cop car and where is alcohol? Nowhere to be seen!” After the show we all went over to celebrate at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club, where Jordan tried to teach me Swag Surfin’, a new dance that he did very well, but that I can not do. Honestly, I don’t think I have enough pigment to do that dance!

Jean Alerte, Tony Rock and me at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club.

Jean Alerte, Tony Rock and me at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club.

I saw Tony again the next night when he did a set at Anthony Anderson’s monthly Mixtape show, where he explained that White people can say certain things that Black people can’t say, like for instance Black people can never ask the question, “ Is there a problem Officer? ”

Tony will be appearing in my show at Westbury in February, that I’m producing with Jean Alerte from Alerte Carter and Associates called “Kevin Hart Live.” From the name you might be able to tell that it’s starring the hilarious Kevin Hart, from 40 Year Old Virgin, Soul Plane, Scary Movie 3 & 4, and his TV special “I’m A Grown Little Man.” Award winning comic Wil Sylvince will be the MC.

Check that out at kevinhartlive.com Tickets are selling fast and there will be an incredible after-party as well.

Godfrey Is Hilarious

I saw some amazing comics at Gotham this month and Godfrey was one of them. Ryan Reiss was the MC, and Gina Brillon knocked it out of the park with her spot- on imitation of a NewYorican girl complete with phrases like “conversate” and “ he asked me pacifically.”

Thank G-d she knew that “conversate” is not a real word. I was starting to doubt that anyone really knew that. Gina Brillon single-handedly restored my faith in humanity. I find it hard to live in world where people gather to “conversate!”

Godfrey and I backstage at Gotham flashing Nigerian gang signs!

Godfrey and I backstage at Gotham flashing Nigerian gang signs!

Godfrey too knows that people love accents, and when he imitated his Nigerian father, the audience fell out of their seats. (Fortunately no one got hurt! With hundreds of people falling out of their seats, it was an absolute miracle.)

No matter what his complaint his father always had it worse. Once when he complained about traveling far to school, his father said, “When I was your age I had to walk 100 miles to school, and when we got there, the school was not there. We first had to build the school.”

Then his father one-upped it and said, “When I was your age we didn’t even have feet!” Hilarious.

Nigeria’s been getting some rough press lately, with the Nigerian crotch-bomber, so maybe Godfrey can turn that whole thing around! Or at least maybe he could get some good material out of it!

Ralphie May Scores Big

Ralphie May is a big boy and he brought a big show to Gotham as well. He really doesn’t look like he weighs in at 385 which he claims, but I believe him cause no one’s gonna cop to that if it isn’t true. It’s not exactly a bragging point. Every once in a while you read about one of these 1,000 pound guys, where they have to tear down the front of the building to get the guy out to take him to a hospital, and it kind of makes you feel bad, … for the landlord.

No landlord can afford to keep tearing down his building every time a thousand pound guy has to go to the hospital, cause thousand pound guys tend not to be too healthy. Then they have to rebuild the building, and tear it down again when the guy comes home. And what if he has a relapse?

Construction crews would make a fortune, but the landlord could go bankrupt. So now before they rent an apartment, landlords these days are forced to ask, “ Are there any thousand pound men in your family?”

Me and Ralphie May outside of Gotham. There was no room inside!

Me and Ralphie May outside of Gotham. There was no room inside!

Ralphie was his usual hysterical self and commented on Michael Jackson leaving his race. Ralphie asked, “ Do you have any idea how much money it takes to leave a race? Oprah Winfrey is still Black. That should give you some idea of how much money it takes!”

The Jewish Xmas Show

No one hosts a Xmas show like Jews, and Marion Grodin proved that, along with Jon Fisch, Rachel Feinstein, and Gary Gulman, the tallest Jew who ever lived. Thank G-d for Gary. Now if we could only talk him into having thousands of children, we’d be okay! Marion did her act standing up, although she claims that at her age, she prefers to lie down, and always craves a nap. She wonders how long she has to be up before it’s acceptable to lie back down again to take a nap.

When Jon Fisch looks on the Internet for a date, he doesn’t want to see photos of girls who are happy. He wants to see a photo of a girl who’s disappointed and angry, cause that’s how she’s gonna look for most of the relationship.

Rachel Feinstein seems to have gone through some kind of transformation, and I mean that in a good way. She was kind of dressed up, and looked really pretty. She always looked good, but most female comics don’t exactly dress to impress. This brings up a good point. How do you compliment a woman for the way she looks now, without making it seem like she didn’t look that great previously? That’s not what I’m saying. All I’m saying is she looked really good.

Marion Grodin, Gary Gulman and Rachel Feinstein chillin’ at Gotham for Xmas.

Marion Grodin, Gary Gulman and Rachel Feinstein chillin’ at Gotham for Xmas.

Anyway, my favorite part of Rachel’s act is when she imitates her mother and grandmother, in response to some street schleps trying to hit on her. Those voices are so distinctive. It makes me wish I could do that. And then there’s Gary Gulman, the ultimate mensch. Gary is not only really funny, he’s a genuinely nice guy, and comes from the heart!

Speaking on behalf of those of us of the “Hebraic Persuasion” he mentioned Christmas Eve, and then qualified that, “ or as we Jews call it, December 24th!” LOL Then he expounded on The Greeks who haven’t really had anything going on since around 300 B.C. “Lately all they’ve had is John Stamos and Yanni. It’s like they all got together and agreed, “ For the next couple of thousand years, let’s just concentrate on our salads.”

A couple of nights later, Gary headlined Gotham as well, along with the always funny Barry Weintraub as the MC, with Karen Bergreen, and Dwayne Perkins who had an interesting take on why men propose to women in quiet secluded areas. So that they won’t be checking out any passing girls while they are busy proposing! Hilarious, … but true!

New Talent?

For me the greatest part of the new talent night was the old talent. Vidur Kapur was the host, and you couldn’t ask for more in a gay, Indian comic. I first met Vidur years ago at an Indian comedy show, (before I even believed there was such a thing), at Don’t Tell Mama’s.

He’s come a long way, and will be headlining a show at Caroline’s Comedy Club this February 24th called “Indophile” as part of what he called a “Major South Asian Comedy Initiative Event.” Sounds serious. What is it sponsored by the government? I don’t know. Ask him not me! You can find him at www.vidurkapur.com

Todd Barry and Vidur Kapur at Gotham.

Todd Barry and Vidur Kapur at Gotham.

I also got to enjoy the comedy “stylings”, if you will, of Todd Barry, who’s so laid back, he’s almost asleep, except for the fact that he’s so funny. He commented on people who wear a BlueTooth earpiece, cause they’re embarrassed to wear a hearing aid. “ Hey, I thought you were deaf. Turns out you’re just a jackass.” People rave about the Mexican food in Mexico, as if you can’t get that in New York. “NYC has about 10,000 amazing chefs. About a dozen of them have figured out how to replicate the quesadilla.”

Show of Shows

If you thought Sid Caesar had a show of shows, you should have seen the line-up that Chris Mazilli put together on his “Tonight Show Show.” William Stephenson is a great MC, and he was the host. Nate Bargatze opened the show with a very interesting, and relaxed delivery. But it was his references to fistfighting with a chicken and being killed by ducks that drew me in. That’s the kind of unusual thinking I like.

Wali Collins said he met a girl who wrote her name as La-Ah, which is how he pronounced it, until she explained her name was LaDasha. Amy Schumer is almost getting too sexy to be a comic. But then again, there’s always Chelsea Handler, so I guess sexy and funny is cool. Rare but cool! I liked Chelsea from the first time I ever saw her at Carolines. Amy said to a guy in the audience, “You’re very cute. I wouldn’t even report you if you date-raped me.” She’s so funny.

Ted Alexandro and Amy Schumer in a serious pose guarding the rest rooms at Gotham.

Ted Alexandro and Amy Schumer in a serious pose guarding the rest rooms at Gotham.

Also part of the show was my old pal Rich Francese who was a big hit, and crowd pleaser Jessica Kirson whose infant imitations are killer. Then came one of my favorites. There’s something about Mike Vecchione that I can’t get enough of. Maybe it’s his deadpan delivery or the cleverness of his lines. As a writer, I always admire another good writer. (That sounded like I complimented myself!)

He acknowledges that he looks like a cop. Not a nice cop. Like a nasty Staten Island cop. So someone suggested to him that maybe he should be an undercover cop. He said, “ I hate to point out the obvious, but if I already look like a cop, it probably wouldn’t be that effective.” Then he signed up for an online private detective school that ripped him off for all of the money he paid to take the course. And he thought to himself, either I just got ripped off, or this is my first case. ( I think the audience applauded that joke!)

He said he was afraid his girlfriend had a sleepwalking problem. Turned out she was justleaving him in the middle of the night. The guy is hilarious!

Followed by another favorite of mine who’s also a great writer, Ted Alexandro. Ted said that not only is Barack Obama our first Black President, but thanks to him there will never be another White President, … because you know what they say! Some day, I would love to write for either Mike or Ted, … or maybe both! Who knows, … it could happen!!!

Comedy Matters Quickies

Susie Essman’s book party at The Friars for “What Would Susie Say?” It was a big success, packed, sold out, tons of people. I couldn’t even get a book. They were all gone. I took the millionth photo I have with Susie at that event. I’m pretty sure I have more photos with Susie than she has with her husband Jimmy.

Me and Susie Essman at The Friars. The one millionth photo.

Me and Susie Essman at The Friars. The one millionth photo.

Her close friend Joy Behar was also there to wish her luck, and buy a book.

Comedy Doll

“Hot” toy designer Julia Griffel and I are working on a comedy idea involving her amazing dolls, “The Griffeys.” More to follow on that!

Julia Griffel and I in formal mode at an Alerte Carter event.

Julia Griffel and I in formal mode at an Alerte Carter event.

Help for Africa

Just to prove Scott Blakeman right that I’m absolutely everywhere, I turned up at a fantastic Susan Blond event called Same Sky at the Ana Tsarev Gallery on West 57th Street. The event was to raise money to help women in Rwanda by buying beautiful bracelets that they made. Cleverly billed as “ A hand-up not a hand out.”

Nothing to do with comedy,but a great cause. And I ran into my good friend, the gorgeous international DJ Donna D’Cruz, who happens to be a big comedy fan, and who was one of the hosts of the evening.

Donna D’Cruz modeling her new bracelets with me at Ana Tsarev Gallery.

Donna D’Cruz modeling her new bracelets with me at Ana Tsarev Gallery.

I may head down to the South Beach Comedy Festival at the end of January to catch Gabriel Iglesias, Mike Birbiglia, Aziz Ansari, Joe Rogan, Brian Regan, and Kevin Hart. Just waiting to hear from P.R. guy Woody Graber, and deciding whether I want to fly right now.

Letterbox Gets New Mailbox

Emmy award winning Letterbox Pictures, a film/tv production facility owned by producers Abby Russell and Brent Sterling-Nemetz has new fantastic offices on East 23rd Street. With great outdoor spaces for shoots of all kinds. I’m really excited that they are shooting the documentary film we are doing on The Comic Strip. I saw the trailer and it totally rocks. Check them out at http://letterboxpictures.com

Abby Russell and Brent Sterling-Nemetz at Letterbox.

Abby Russell and Brent Sterling-Nemetz at Letterbox.

Charlie Murphy also had a book party for his new book “ The Making of a Stand-Up Guy”, at the hot 40/40 Club, and I didn’t get a book there either. What’s going on here? I did get to make a plan with him to appear in both the book and documentary film we’re doing on The Comic Strip. His manager Richie Murphy, promised to set it up.

Charlie Murphy and I on the step and repeat at the 40/40 Club.

Charlie Murphy and I on the step and repeat at the 40/40 Club.

Richie also took me to be introduced to the legendary “Uncle Ray”, uncle to both Charlie and Eddie Murphy, and I ran into Ice-T again, who I seem to run into every few minutes, with his beautiful wife Coco. It was a really fun event.

P.S. Since the time of this piece Charlie Murphy lost his wife, Tisha Taylor Murphy to cancer. Our sincerest condolences go out to him, and his family.

Charlie Murphy, Coco, Ice-T, and Charlie Murphy at the 40/40 Club.

Charlie Murphy, Coco, Ice-T, and Charlie Murphy at the 40/40 Club.

So 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.

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