Comedy Matters with Robert Kelly, Anthony Jeselnik, more

By | January 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm | One comment | Features | Tags: , , , , , , ,






Strip Action

On any given night you never know who you’ll see at The Comic Strip. One night recently we got the word that Kevin Hart would be stopping by, and as soon as people found out, the club was sold out. And that was on a Monday night.

Then again, Kevin has about 300,000 followers on Twitter. One tweet from Kevin and you better have a club that seats 300,000!

Kevin rolled in with his best friend Harry, and did a great set. He broke the news that he’s getting divorced, and even managed to make that funny. Comedians will take anything and make it funny. If they have the courage to discuss real stuff on stage. I guess that’s how we deal with things.

Kevin Hart, me and Richie Tienken at The Strip.

In my act, the closest I come to letting the audience into my life is when I admit that I’m insecure. “I’m so insecure, in my sexual fantasies, another guy gets the girl!”

When I saw Kev, it was hard to believe that it’s almost a year already since I co-produced his show at Westbury, along with Tony Rock, and Wil Sylvince.

He was already blowing up at that point. Now he’s gone nuclear! He even turned up at Diddy’s party shortly after where that chick’s hair caught on fire. Kevin wound up on TMZ re-creating the scene.

Kevin also made Punchline Magazine’s year end top ten stand-up comedy DVD list coming in at #8. Check out the story at here.

The Strip has a range of talented comics that work there on a regular basis like the super talented Macio, who always manages to destroy the room, and those that stop by when they’re in town. I also managed to catch Dwayne Perkins’ act one night and he absolutely killed it.

I had seen Dwayne before, but I honestly didn’t remember how good he was. His material is so clever, so well thought out, and delivered so casually, that when he explains why White people are better dancers than Black people, … because they give themselves the freedom not to stick to the beat, it actually makes sense!

Dwayne Perkins and Jeffrey backstage at The Strip. Photo taken by Marina Franklin, who wouldn’t get in the photo cause she thought she looked sick!

Dwayne Perkins and me backstage at The Strip. Photo taken by Marina Franklin, who wouldn’t get in the photo cause she thought she looked sick!

Suddenly you find yourself wondering whether white people actually ARE better dancers than black people! But only for a minute till you come to your senses, and realize you’re in a comedy club!

Dwayne recently got back from a tour in Israel with Gregg Rogell, and is involved in writing a blog which you can find at averyfunnyblog.com.

You wouldn’t know it from the way this column started, but The Comic Strip also has white comedians, … sometimes! (LOL) Tom-E definitely falls into that category . Tom runs the club during the day and was featured with his very own chapter in Lisa Lampanelli’s book, which was both an honor and a diss at the same time! I personally thought it was cool. As long as they spell your name right!

My earliest experience with that was the first time I was ever in the newspaper, and was in Earl Wilson’s column in The Post, back during the Wild West days. I had given a joke to a P.R. guy that was like, “ The big thing these days is snorting coke through hundred dollar bills. But my accountant advised me to snort coke through 6 month Treasury bills! You know how you can spot a guy who snorts coke through T-bills? You look for paper cuts on their nose.”

So I thought the guy would be smart enough to turn the joke around on someone else, but NO, he writes in the N.Y. Post that Jeffrey Gurian’s accountant advised him to snort coke through 6 month Treasury bills. What a putz!!! I called him up screaming, and he said to me, “ Relax. Did they spell your name right?” I was like, “Unfortunately they did.”

Tom-E on stage killing it, at The Strip.

Tom-E on stage killing it, at The Strip.

Anyway, Tom-E is very funny. He warned people at Halloween to check their kids candy for drugs, and then said, “Every year he takes his kids to worse and worse neighborhoods, and every year he gets nothing! Who has extra drugs to give out anyway?, he wonders.

Then he talks about coat drives for the homeless. He’s like , “ I thought we were trying to get these people OFF the streets. Who’s giving them coats???”

And to a woman who said to him that it takes more energy to frown than it does to smile, Tom countered with, “I’m tryin’ to lose weight!”

The guy’s hysterical!

Anthony Jeselnik popped by one night to do a set, and I think he’s great. He’s good looking, very low key, and very sharp in his observations. He’s often sarcastic, and says things that people only think, but wouldn’t have the nerve to say. (Punchline Magazine named his album Shakespeare the best comedy album of 2010.)

Like when he talks about sexual harassment and that some girl is accusing him of giving her inappropriate massages in the office, his tag is “ Good luck with that sweetheart. I don’t even work here!” That is really funny! He even says so too. He acknowledges onstage, “ That’s a great joke!”

Anthony Jeselnik after a great set at The Strip.

Anthony Jeselnik after a great set at The Strip.

He got his father a t-shirt that said “World’s Greatest Dad – Semi-Finalist”. He said his mother was the worst at giving her kids bad news. She admitted to him one day that she was having an affair but told him he couldn’t tell his Dad. He said, “ Why not?” And she said, “Cause he just passed away!” Anthony Jeselnik ladies and gentlemen! Wherever you are at this moment Anthony, when you read this, please take a bow!

The Christmas Party

Ray Ellin hosted the fabulous and eagerly awaited holiday party at The Strip. Ray is one of the guys who always does his homework and prepares, even if it’s something simple like hosting a holiday party.

He did have the good manners to inform me that several of his jokes would be about my hair. (Jews are very polite as a group!) I explained to him that most men wear their hair like they’re embarrassed for having any. Almost like an apology. Sorry I have hair. I’ll try and wear it in a way you won’t notice. Personally, I’m just glad I HAVE hair. That’s not a slam on any of you who don’t. But for me personally, I’m grateful!

Ray opened by looking out at the packed room and wondering how many people were there “from Jeffrey Gurian’s mailing list!”

Then he enumerated some of the exciting events from the past year. Ankara, the sexy hostess from the club got engaged, Greg the bartender had a baby boy, and the rumour was that Jeffrey Gurian’s hair actually moved.

He went on to ponder, “What’s higher? J.R. and Tom-E after a show? Or Jeffrey Gurian’s hair?

And he didn’t leave himself out of the shpritz-fest! He said, “As you know, I’m heterosexual – but I have been known to blow the light!”

Fancy Perrine, Richie Tienken, me, Robyn Byrd, and Lauren Francesca whooping it up at The Strip.

Fancy Perrine, Richie Tienken, me, Robyn Byrd, and Lauren Francesca whooping it up at The Strip.

He also took time to encourage a round of applause for two fellow comic legends we lost this year, Greg Giraldo and Robert Schimmel.

Richie Tienken and his beautiful wife Jeannie were there enjoying the festivities, as was his partner, and co-founder of The Strip, Bob Wachs and his beautiful wife Tess.

Gotham Happenings

Gotham’s holiday party will not be until Jan. so as not to conflict with all the other goings on.

But almost every night is a party at Gotham. There’s always an array of big stars to choose from, not only on stage but also hanging out.

Like the night I went to catch Dom Irerra who I hadn’t seen since I interviewed him last summer in Montreal, I ran into the star of The Office and the host of Last Comic Standing, Craig Robinson.

Craig Robinson just hanging out at Gotham.

Craig Robinson just hanging out at Gotham.

Craig is one of the few comics who have managed to translate a stand-up career into a career on TV, and on the big screen in films like Hot Tub Time Machine. He’s not only really funny, but a really nice guy as well.

A new project for Craig will be a starring role in the film We The Peeples, which sounds kind of like a Black version of Meet The Parents, opposite Kerry Washington and David Alan Grier, written by Drumline’s Tina Gordon Chism.

Barry Weintraub MC’ed the Irerra show, and Barry is always a fantastic host. Hosting is very difficult cause you have to have things to say all throughout the show, and you have to keep things moving along.

Mike Ivey was on the bill and said during the 6 years of his marriage he lived by the motto” Don’t ever go to sleep with a problem unresolved. He didn’t sleep for 6 years.”

Jesse Joyce was also on the bill and reminded me and the rest of the audience of some very funny old time expressions, when a neighbor admitted to him he was a drug dealer and then warned him, “ Remember loose lips sink ships!” Who says that? It’s like saying, “Remember, it’s between you, me, and the lamppost,” or even better, “Mums the word!” Thanks Jesse!

Dom Irerra reminded us that laughter is the best medicine, … except for medicine!

He made fun of people’s lame medical advice. “Drink water when it’s hot! Even an armadillo knows that!”

Dom Irrera and Jeffrey at Gotham back in ’09.

Dom Irrera and me at Gotham back in ’09.

In Ireland the waiters ask, “Would you like some fat with your fat?”

Another Irrera line I wish I wrote – “ She was so Chinese, it looked like it hurt!”

Robert Kelly who I first got exposed to when he did Dane Cook’s HBO hit Tourgasm, had a sold out show at Gotham as well.

This time William Stephenson hosted. William is one of the best hosts around.

Everybody loves Amy Schumer and she had a killer set with lines like “This shirt makes me look pregnant. Well they always say, “Dress for the job you want.”

And, “I slept with my high school crush, and now he expects me to go to his graduation.”

Pat Brown got a lot of love from the audience as did Rich Francese. Rich is so Italian, he explained that his birthstone was cement. And growing up, his parents always told him if he did his homework, someday he could be President, … of the Teamsters Union!

Robert Kelly and me after his killer show at Gotham, wearing a jacket obviously given to him by NASA.

Robert Kelly and me after his killer show at Gotham, wearing a jacket obviously given to him by NASA.

Robert Kelly is always funny. On losing weight and how much he hates eating apples, “Have you ever tasted an apple? Five tastebuds are happy!”

I actually liked him so much I went back to see him a second time, and heard him declare, “ I can’t wait to be 80, and wear three sweaters and a hat.”

He also said he didn’t give a f*&* about anything. What are they gonna do, take away my birthday? That’s all I got!”

The second night it was the hysterical Ophira Eisenberg, and Rich Francese. Rich gets in with all the pretty girls!

Rich Francese and Amy Schumer at Gotham.

Rich Francese and Amy Schumer at Gotham.

And then there’s the monthly show I never miss, (sounds like a period!) the Anthony Anderson Mixtape show. Anthony never ceases to surprise. This month the surprise was that he wasn’t there, but Royale Watkins his partner made sure it was a killer show none-the-less.

It’s always quite a line-up, and this month was no different. Amy Schumer, who seems to be everywhere there’s a mike stand these days, Royale, Franz Cassius, Macio who got out of bed to come down and do the show at the very last minute, and Rob Cantrell who I totally enjoyed.

Macio looking absolutely HUGE like Bluto, in whatever kind of coat he’s wearing!

Macio looking absolutely HUGE like Bluto, in whatever kind of coat he’s wearing!

It always amazes me that some people have escaped my radar and so it was with Rob. I had always heard about him, but never had the good fortune to catch his act until that night, even though he’s based in Brooklyn. Rob’s been featured on CBS, NBC, Comedy Central and HBO, and now I know why.

I’m definitely a fan. The line that stuck out for me was, “if you were a regular squirrel and saw a flying squirrel, how pissed off would you be?” A rhetorical question if I ever heard one! I heard he also does a radio show, and I will HAVE to check that out. I LOVE radio!

Rob Cantrell after doing the Mixtape show at Gotham.

Rob Cantrell after doing the Mixtape show at Gotham.

Comedy Matters Quickies

Look for the multi-talented Rick Younger in the movie Morning Glory starring Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford. You can also see him in a regular appearance on “Guys Tell All” on NBC’s Today Show , and on HBO’s Real Sports with Paul Mecurio,. I’ve seen it written Mercurio , and other times Mecurio. Either way, with the “r” or without, the guy is funny. As far as I know, no one letter has the power to bestow humor on a person!

Harris Bloom hosted Yonah Grossman’s open mic show at Gotham and brought me up to do a set of some new stuff I’m working on.

Harris Bloom warning the audience to pay attention because Jeffrey Gurian is taking the stage! (LOL)

Brute Force held his regular monthly open mic show at The Players Club, where he wowed the crowd with his excellent chair playing, which I think he may have referred to as his plastic seat playing. This is a show not to be missed!

Brute Force playing a medley of his hits on the chair to the enthusiastic response of his fans.

Brute Force playing a medley of his hits on the chair to the enthusiastic response of his fans.

Another monthly performance show is Robert Galinsky’s open mike night, where you get about 7 minutes to do your thing. I ran into Rick Shapiro who did a set that only Rick Shapiro could do. Watching Rick work as a performer gives you the freedom, and courage to be able to try different things in your own act. He works on a whole other level, and it was good to see him.

Rick Shapiro at the Galinsky show at Bar Ten Eleven.

Rick Shapiro at the Galinsky show at Bar Ten Eleven.

My ex-comedy partner, the spectacular Sonya Gignac came to town to visit me for a few days. The only reason she’s my ex-comedy partner is that she moved to LA. to pursue other goals. We did the best comedy news broadcast together and we shot it in the actual newsrooom of WPIX Channel 11.

Me and Princess Sonya at one of the many shows we attended while she was in town.

Of the many events we hit while she was in town, we went to Tanya Young Williams book launch at Club Juliet, for her new self-help book “I’m Tired! –Carry Your Own S#!T” – (Oops, I Mean BAGS). It’s an inspirational book written during her recovery from the trauma of what she went through during the murder trial of her ex, Jayson Williams.

Andy Diaz put together a fantastic event, and I got to find out that Tanya is not only beautiful on the outside but on the inside as well. Her book is filled with Spiritual Wisdom which is all we really have to get through the tough times in life. She’s about empowerment, self-realization, and self-help, three things that are key in my own life. I’m so glad we met!

Tanya Young Williams on the red carpet with me; I almost got thrown out for trying to remove the mark on her right breast, not realizing it was a tattoo!

Tanya Young Williams on the red carpet with me; I almost got thrown out for trying to remove the mark on her right breast, not realizing it was a tattoo!

Colin Quinn on Broadway

I had seen Colin’s show, “Long Story Short” at 45 Bleecker, but there’s nothing like seeing a friend starring on Broadway. Besides Jackie Mason, I think Colin is the only other comic I can think of that had a one man show on The Great White Way. I was excited for him, so I can only imagine how he feels.

Colin Quinn’s marquee on Broadway outside of the Helen Hayes Theatre.

Colin Quinn’s marquee on Broadway outside of the Helen Hayes Theatre.

I even took a photo of the marquee. How many people get to see their names on a marquee on Broadway. Especially in a show directed by Jerry Seinfeld.

Colin had one earlier show, which I saw and loved called “Colin Quinn-An Irish Wake” which was also at the Helen Hayes Theatre. That was back around 1994. This show is a winner and has already been extended into February, I believe. Anyway, if you have not yet seen it, it’s a must that you do! Tell Colin I send my best!

Colin Quinn and me at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

Colin Quinn and me at the Helen Hayes Theatre.

David Jonas

Tribute To David Jonas

Many of you may not know who David Jonas was, but you’ll know of the people he managed and worked with. He’s the guy who got the late Freddie Prinze the show Chico and The Man. Most of you know Freddie Prinze Jr., but this was his Dad, talented comic/actor Freddie Prinze Sr.

I first met David around 1977, when I was sent to his office to meet him by award winning writer/director/producer Alan Zweibel. He wasn’t any of those things at the time. At the time he was one of the main writers on a new little show called Saturday Night Live.

I snuck up to SNL, after pulling up in my orange Cadillac Eldorado, that I was told by the dealer who sold it to me, had been ordered by one of the Isely brothers who decided not to take it, so I did. I immediately pimped it out, with a Rolls Royce grill, straps in the back, big white wall tires, Cabriolet roof, … to the consternation of my wife at the time, who said, “ We’re Jewish and we live in Scarsdale. Why do I have to drive an orange Cadillac? All the other women make fun of me.”

Alan Zweibel and me backstage at the Friars Roast of Jerry Lewis.

Alan Zweibel and me backstage at the Friars Roast of Jerry Lewis.

I didn’t hear her. I was too busy playing my Superfly tapes, convinced I was meant to be Black. Trust me, no White man ever drove a car like that. So I pulled up at 30 Rock, threw the doormen a few bucks, asked them to watch my car, and told them that Lorne Michaels was expecting me. You could do that in those days. The street in front of 30 Rock was open and filled with limos and high end vehicles. My pimp-mobile really stood out.

Plus I had a CB radio in the shape of a phone. They had no reason to doubt me, that Lorne was expecting me. I looked the part. So I got up to SNL, met Alan, and got him to look at some early films I was doing. One in particular about a maniac who was arrested for smearing creamcheese on the ankles of elderly women who wore their stockings rolled down like bagels.

I actually got my dear grandmother, Nana Fay, to play the part. She put on a phony Jewish accent, and gave her account of the crime. She told how Jewish people have two kinds of stockings, one for meat, and one for dairy, and this crazy man shmeared creamcheese on her meat stockings, and she couldn’t get it off.

I guess Alan got it cause he called his manager at the time, David Jonas and asked him to see me. David was also managing great comics like Dick Capri and Freddie Roman who is now the Dean of The Friars Club.

David at first tried to discourage me from getting into joke writing, probably because I was so bad at it in the beginning, (LOL) but after a year of hard work, he introduced me to the great Dick Capri who was the first comic who ever bought material from me, back in 1978. It was Dick who introduced me to Rodney in 1979 when I started writing for that comedy legend. ( And don’t say Rodney who? There was only one!)

David Jonas just left us at the ripe old age of 99. I called Dick who’s wintering in Florida where he performs as he tells it, “for the Chosen People.” He tries to avoid doing TV which he thinks is just a fad! (LOL – That was one of our earliest jokes! )

Amazing how we remembered so many of the jokes we did together in the early days. He hit me with, “ The hotel was so Jewish, instead of a hotel doctor, they sent an elderly woman to your room who put her lips to your forehead!

He said that David passed away quietly in his sleep. No tubes, no disease, just old age. Perfect! Dick had stayed in touch with David all through the years. I wish I had.

I asked Dick for one great David Jonas story. Once a year, famed Broadway Producer Joe Cates would produce a show at the Ford Theatre in Washington D.C. for the Pres. of the United States. George H.W. Bush was the Pres. at the time, and there were tons of security present, as you might imagine. There were Secret Servicemen everywhere.

Dick was backstage waiting to go on surrounded by guys with Uzi’s. His manager David Jonas is with him for support. They finally call Dick’s name to go out and perform for the Pres. and just before he walks out, right in front of the Secret Service, Jonas yells out, “Go out and kill ‘em!”

Needless to say, the comment caused quite a stir! Rest in Peace David. You will be missed!

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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