Comic Strip Documentary Blows Up
We were excited enough when Chris Rock agreed to exec. produce the documentary film for the 35th anniversary of The Comic Strip. Now Abby Russell and Brent Sterling-Nemetz of Letterbox Pictures, who are actually shooting the film have really stepped it up, and have just shot Jay Leno, Billy Crystal, Joe Piscopo, Arsenio Hall, Richard Lewis, Carol Leifer, Kevin Nealon, and Richard Belzer for the film.
That’s besides the stars like Colin Quinn, Paul Reiser, Jeffrey Ross, and early footage of Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, and Eddie Murphy who were already in the three minute trailer on the Comic Strip website. Now every big star wants to be in the film, and we have a waiting list of people to interview.
I was present for the Belzer shoot at The Friars Club, which was a perfect setting because of it’s history and because of how beautiful it is. Also because Belz is a loyal Friar and is very active in the club.
Every night at The Strip is a surprise because you never know who’s gonna drop in. After I produced Kevin Hart at Westbury in February, I invited him to come by The Strip any time he wanted to, and he did just that.
I was home relaxing when Richie Tienken texted me that Kevin had just walked into the club. He did a set and came back the next night to do another one and absolutely packed the place. With over 250,000 followers on Twitter, it’s no problem for Kevin to pack any place he wants. He agreed to be in both the book and the film.
Another night I dropped by and saw famed author Gay Talese and the world’s first supermodel Carmen Dell’Orefice, who could still walk the catwalk at age 78. I don’t usually check out 80 year old women, but in her case I made an exception.
Still another night I brought WKTU’s afternoon guy, Goumba Johnny in to hang out, and he got to see a bunch of his old comedy buddies, like Chuck Nice and J.J. Ramirez who’s been in the club almost since it opened in 1976. I think he left one night to have dinner, but aside from that he’s been living at The Strip, along with D.F. Sweedler. BTW, during his interview I finally found out what D.F. stands for. (Read the book when it comes out and find out!)
On any given night you can find acts like Judah Friedlander, the World Champion, who actually lifts weights while running on a treadmill that has hurdles on it. I love “unique”; and Judah is in a rare category like a Gilbert Gottfried, or a Mitch Hedberg where their material and delivery is just so unique that no one could ever copy it.
NBC’s Last Comic Standing came to Gotham to do two nights of auditions and filmed them for the premiere of the 7th season of the show, due to air June 7th, 2010. Craig Robinson, of NBC’s The Office, will be the new host, but for some reason unknown to me, he didn’t show up for the second night of auditions. The show went off as planned anyway, which just goes to show that no one is indispensible.
It was good to see Barry Katz again who I hadn’t seen for quite a while. Barry created the show and is exec. producer along with his partner, TV producer Peter (Saved By The Bell) Engel.
Wannabe contestants who came from all over the country, camped out in the street in front of Gotham days before the auditions started. They lived on folding chairs and in tents, waiting for their big chance.
Some better known comics, who had all of two minutes to impress judges Andy Kindler, Greg Giraldo, and Natasha Leggero, had booked spots, and I was there to see a lot of my favorites try out for the show. Hanging out with comedy manager Wayne Rada, I ran into two great comics, Adrienne Iapalucci, and Big Jay Oakerson. Adrienne made the finals. It was all very exciting.
Another favorite of mine, Myq Kaplan also made the finals, as did a weird kind of Jerry Seinfeld look-alike, Ryan Hamilton, who was very funny, but resembled Jerry in a very strange way. Almost like a caricature. I wasn’t the only one who thought that. See what YOU think!
Anthony Anderson did his monthly Mixtape Show which has become a necessity for me. I can’t miss going cause it’s much too much fun. Anthony has such great stage presence. Although not a true stand-up comic, he certainly could be if he worked at it cause he’s naturally funny. Some performers are referred to as “triple threats” cause they can act, sing, dance and do whatever. Anthony needs his own category. He’s like an octuple threat if there even is such a word!
This month his show produced two interesting talents for me. One was Sinck, straight out of Brooklyn, who took pride in his “old-school” appearance and used being “old school” as a premise for his act.
The other stand-out for me was a guy named Charles Walden out of Philly. Charles has CP, (Cerebral Palsy), but he hasn’t let that stop him from being one of the funniest guys I’ve seen in a while.
With a halting, almost childlike delivery, he tells his stories in such a funny way. He talks about being kidnapped in a foreign country and the ringleader incredulously saying to the guy who kidnapped him, “Who kidnapped this guy? He ain’t gonna be able to walk if his hands are tied! “
He was trying to bargain with a hooker who asked him how much he was trying to spend. He said he had two twenties, two tens, and a roll of quarters, and if that wasn’t enough that was fine by him, cause he’d use the quarters to do his laundry!
I thought he was outstanding but I couldn’t find him after the show to make contact with him. Two nights later, I’m at a BET filmmaker’s function hosted by Blair Underwood, and as I’m leaving the event, a woman stops me and says she was sitting next to me the other night at Anthony Anderson’s show. As we’re talking, it comes out that of all people in the world, she manages Charles Walden. That can’t even happen. Now we’re talking about doing something together to take Charles to the next level.
Kurt Metzger also did a really funny bit, when he asked the audience if they remembered where they were when they heard that Michael Jackson had died. Kurt said he happened to be at his father’s funeral, and when his mother heard the news about MJ, she passed out and almost ruined the whole funeral.
Jay Mohr Rocks Gotham
When you talk about the nice guys in comedy, you have to put Jay Mohr’s name near the top of the list. Jay is one of those talented guys who’s secure enough to be humble. He goes out of his way to make people around him comfortable.
I liked that he talked about comics who make fun of the audience or who spend too much time asking where people are from, unless they’re the MC, cause it usually means that have no material. I’m one of those people who couldn’t care less about where people are from. I guess you have to do that to warm up the crowd, but I could always do without it. No one but Jimmy Brogan ever really made that work as a career move.
And while I’m at it, nothing to do with Jay Mohr, but everything to do with stuff I don’t like, why do so many comics these days focus on what I call “bathroom humor”? The kind of jokes where people laugh out of embarrassment, instead of just staying perfectly silent which would teach these guys not to do such ugly material. Guys who do this are encouraged by any kind of laughter, because they are so immature, they can’t tell the difference between real laughter and uncomfortable laughter.
I don’t know who enjoys sitting with a woman on a date, and listening to graphic details about some dweeb’s toilet habits. Maybe if more of those guys got a date, they would find something else to talk about.
I’m glad I got that off my chest! Thank you for indulging me. I liked comedy that’s clever, not that comes from embarrassment.
Back to Jay Mohr, or Jay Mohrs as Tracy Morgan calls him. Jay does such a dead-on impression of Tracy, as he does with Colin Quinn as well.
Jay’s current act is a lot about true stories and fatherhood. He and his beautiful wife Nikki would like to have a baby, and so he talks a lot about gynecology, waxing, nail salons, and other assorted female subjects.
His new book, No Wonder My Parents Drank-Tales From A Stand-Up Dad is already available on Amazon.com, and if you use the key word “Jay Mohr” you’ll get 10 bucks off! The book hits bookstores out on May 11th.
Back in his dressing room, we got to hang out with Gregg Hughes, better known as Opie from Opie and Anthony who’s expecting a baby any minute with his fiancée Lindsay, and may already have one by the time you are reading this. We all wish him and Lindsay a lifetime of happiness with their new baby.
I also got to meet a fascinating guy named Scott Chesney backstage. Scott is a good friend of Jay’s, and is an internationally known motivational speaker who thanks to a spinal stroke, travels by wheelchair, and sets an example for the rest of us.
The Heartbreak Kid Plays Gotham
I don’t know how Marion Grodin pulled it off but she actually got the legendary Charles Grodin to show up for the taping of her new talk show pilot she shot at Gotham.
Maybe he was attracted to the similarity of their last names, Grodin and Grodin. They’re so much alike, you’d almost think they were the same.
It was great to see Charles again, and even though he’s Marion’s Dad he did his own thing. I don’t know if that was part of the script, or even if there WAS a script, but no matter what she asked him to do, he did it his own way. He’s the Frank Sinatra of the comedy world.
Marion’s other guest was Colin Quinn, who never fails to be funny, and is in Adam Sandler’s new movie Grown Ups, set to hit theatres on June 25th. The film also stars Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James, Rob Schneider and other men who are known to have made people smile hysterically.
Colin’s new show The Decline of Civilization which I am very anxious to see, opens May 15th at the 45 Bleecker Theatre.
Marion is a comedy powerhouse and deserves all the success she gets. There were two agents already waiting to talk to her after the show. And she promised me that if the show gets picked up, … I can sit in the audience and watch it any time I want!
COMEDY MATTERS QUICKIES
Ice-T Throws a Party
Ice-T has actually performed comedy at at least one Friars Roast, and I actually had the honor of giving him a couple of jokes. Who the Roast was for and what the joke was I don’t recall, but I DO recall a joke I wrote about Ice. “ Ice really likes to stay in shape. Three times a week he goes to the gym and lifts whites!”
His wife Coco is one of the most beautiful women you’ll ever see, and he made her a birthday party at the hot Hudson Eatery on West 57th Street.
Ice was telling me about the documentary he’s working on which I think was called “The Art of Rap”, examining the roots of hip-hop going all the way back to the beginning. Ice is very articulate and a fascinating guy to hang out with.
Also at the party I ran into comic/writer Wayne Federman, currently working with Jimmy Fallon, who often tours with him, and Seth Herzog who warms up the audience at the Fallon show. Wayne gave me a great interview for the Comic Strip book.
Fun Little Movies Wins Big
Frank Chindamo’s Fun Little Movies is now officially the most award-winning mobile video production company in the world. And he’s got the press to prove it. So far 25 and counting. Plus they have over 55 contracts with mobile and web outlets all around the world. FLM has apps on I-Phone, Blackberry, and Sprint,TV, and every other device you can think of.
I went to visit a friend of mine in the hospital and by his hospital bed, on the screen where the EKG was supposed to be, instead of his heart rhythm, I saw one of Frank’s movies. He’s everywhere!
And while I was in the hospital, I turned my back for one minute and caught some guy going through my bloodstream. It was a tough hospital!
All I wanna know is, if FLM is doing so well, how come I’m making 11 dollars a year on my short films???
Long Island Comedy Fest
Darcy Novick accomplished the impossible, … drawing a big crowd to Westbury Theatre, where I produced Kevin Hart, without using any radio advertising. It was her 8th annual Long Island Comedy Festival, starring four great comics, Richie Minervini from the CBS hit King of Queens, and former owner of Long Island’s East Side Comedy Club where so many big stars started out, Angel Salazar from Scarface, the great singing impressionist Scott Record who’s been my friend since the days I wrote for Rodney Dangerfield back in 1980, and Bob Nelson who was one of the original Identical Triplets, Eddie Murphy’s comedy group before he got famous on his own.
Scott is a master talent and traveled with Rodney for three years. Richie Minervini was a great MC, and Angel Salazar is unexplainable if there even is such a word. He’s just a nut, who strips down to basically nothing during his act, and uses his signature line, “ Sheck it out!”
It was great to run into Bob Nelson again after so many years. He’s out in Branson in his own theatre, and is one of the few comics I’ve ever seen where the audience yells out requests. They all wanted to see his football line-up with his character Eppy Epperman. I want to interview him for the Comic Strip book to get some stories on the early Eddie Murphy.
Bill Murray Doesn’t Do Agents
I first met Bill Murray many years ago up at SNL through Alan Zweibel. They were both very close to Gilda Radner. Bill dated her for about three years, and Alan was like her best friend. I had seen him sporadically over the years but wasn’t sure he’d remember me when I interviewed him for his great new film Get Low, which just screened at Tribeca, and opens on July 30th, 2010. The film was also an official selection at Sundance and SXSW this year.
Some years ago I went down to the garage in my building to find that my car suddenly would not start. The next thing I knew, out of nowhere, Bill Murray is walking through my garage, sees my dilemma, opens the hood, looks inside, and gets down on the floor trying to fix my car. It was surreal. I don’t remember him being able to fix it, but I do recall trying to slip him a buck, which I like to do to very rich, successful men!
I was once going to do it to Donald Trump, but his son Don Jr. warned me against it saying he wasn’t sure he’d get the joke. Palming a rich guy a buck, as a tip, like you’d do to the guy who parks your car just strikes me funny!
Anyway, it’s not easy to get Bill to do a film. He doesn’t have a manager or agent. You can only contact him through his lawyer. The producer, Dean Zanuck called Bill’s lawyer and was told to send a one pager on the script. He said it would be sent on to Bill and he would never hear back from him.
Totally discouraged, he waited three weeks to send it and then thought, what the heck, he might as well try. He had nothing to lose. A couple of weeks later Bill called and left a message that he wanted to read the script. Dean played the message over and over again to make sure he heard it right. They sent the script to a post office box, and didn’t hear back for a while.
Then they got a call that he wanted to do it. However weeks went by and there was no follow up. The director Aaron Schneider poured his heart out to Bill in a letter, and sent it to the same P.O. box where they sent the script.
Bill called, and finally committed around 5 or 6 weeks before shooting began. They said they were so counting on him doing it, that by the time he actually committed they couldn’t see doing the film without him. In order to raise the money they had to show signed contracts from the two stars Bill Murray and the incredible Robert Duvall, who plays the lead role of Felix Bush, a man who’s been a hermit for 40 years, and who decides to make his own funeral while he’s still alive.
The only problem is that Bill Murray does not sign contracts. When I asked him what he did about not signing contracts as a younger performer, he said he always did it that way. If they wanted him they had to believe he would show up. For this film, they worked it out.
BTW, Robert Duvall is unlike anyone you’ve ever met. He talks to you as if you’ve been a friend of his for years. He’s so gracious and so humble, you walk away thinking, “ Do I know him well? Is he a close friend of mine?”
Anyway, to show you the extent of my ADHD, and the confusion I deal with on a daily basis, I spent this much personal time with Bill Murray and forgot that I had written a script that I wanted him to star in, but never sent it out, cause I didn’t know how to reach him. Now I was sitting with him chatting, and I forgot to mention it. That’s even worse than when I parked my car on 2nd Avenue a couple of weeks ago and just walked away leaving my keys in the ignition for over 90 minutes.
Bill asked me for my card, so maybe he’ll just happen to call me one day and ask if I have any scripts for him. The truth is I’m more likely to grow a Biblical length beard before that happens! ZZ Top here I come!!!
Anyway, until next time, remember, … COMEDY MATTERS!