Comedy Matters with Woody Allen, Jon Stewart and more!

By | June 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm | No comments | Features | Tags: , , ,

Strip Action

Richie Tienken is a very kind and caring man. He does lots of charity work, and recently did two major fundraisers, one for The Red Cross and the other for the American Diabetes Association.

In conjunction with Karen Horn, an executive from The Red Cross, Richie produced a great show that raised a good amount of money for the charity.

Hosting the show was the always entertaining Jim Mendrinos, who has lots of projects on the fire right now, including a one man show he plans to open in August.

Bob Wachs, Jim Mendrinos, and Richie Tienken at The Strip.

I myself always wanted to do a one man show, but I could never figure out who that one man should be! ( Do I really need to put the LOL there??? I’m hoping that’s a redundant question!)

The Red Cross fundraiser was a sold out event that saw comics like Louis CK, Alan Colmes, Wayne Federman, Joe Bolster, Sherrod Small, and Colin Quinn among others, stop by to perform and support.

Louis CK and Richie Tienken backstage at The Strip.

Wayne Federman, Colin Quinn, and Jim Mendrinos at The Strip for Red Cross.

Then I produced a fundraiser for Diabetes which is a killer disease that affects so many people in this country. In my case it took my Dad. My daughter Elizabeth is a well known and successful nutritionist, whose specialty is Diabetes. She called me one day to ask if I thought I could put together a comedy fundraiser.

I knew I could count on Richie and I was right. Once again I asked Jim Mendrinos to host, because he’s the best, and he too lost his Dad to Diabetes. We also had a sold out event, with a guest appearance by the great Elayne Boosler, the first woman to ever have a one hour cable TV special, plus performances by Letterman’s Eddie Brill, Louis Ramey, Jeff Pirrami, Jon Fisch, from Comedy Central and VH1, Chuck Nice, host of The Hot 10 on Centric, Goumba Johnny, famed radio guy from KTU, and a newer guy named Harrison Greenbaum, winner of the Andy Kaufman Award, who I think will do big things, and certainly did big things that night.

Harrison Greenbaum, Eddie Brill, Goumba Johnny, Jeff Pirrami, Elayne Boosler, Jim Mendrinos at The Strip for my Diabetes fundraiser.

We raised a good amount of money and everyone had a fantastic time. So many comics offered their services. I wish I would have been able to accommodate them all but the show would still be going on if I had.

The day before we did a spot on a TV show called “ Inside City Hall” , with host Errol Louis and I brought premiere political comics Barry Weintraub, Scott Blakeman, and Sherrod Small to bring the funny to the political scene and to promo our Diabetes event. I’m very grateful to all who performed and attended.

Sherrod Small, Barry Weintraub, Jeffrey Gurian, and Scott Blakeman on the set of Inside City Hall for my Diabetes fundraiser.

Paul Reiser came to New York to promote the new show he was doing on NBC called The Paul Reiser Show. Where they got than name I’ll never know, but Paul came to the club to rehearse, since it had been a while since he had done stand-up.

You certainly couldn’t tell from his performance. I guess it’s like riding a bike. When you’ve spent that many years honing your craft onstage, it comes back to you pretty quickly.

And The Strip was Paul’s home club, so that’s where he migrates to when he wants to work out material. It’s where he feels most at home. I’m sure it brings back lots of fun memories for him.

Richie Tienken, Paul Reiser, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Strip.

Gotham Happenings

Anjelah Johnson is an anomaly. First of all she’s part Mexican and part Native American, ( hence the amazing hair! ), but has the last name Johnson, which was hard for her growing up because she always wanted to be considered a Mexican “chola.” ( Female Mexican gangbanger, … for the uninitiated! LOL)

Then she’s really cute and sexy, which to me is a great mix in comedy, but only started happening as of late, since for some reason it seems harder for pretty girls to get laughs, and she only started doing comedy at age 24, after taking an improv class at her church. Before she went into stand-up she was a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders.

Anjelah Johnson onstage at The Gotham Comedy Club.

Since then she’s been in films, and a cast member of MadTV, where she developed her popular character Bon Qui Qui, ( which you can see on You Tube), and speaking of You Tube, she also had a viral smash with her short film Nail Salon.

Chris Mazzilli goes out of his way to have the best talent at Gotham, and I had always heard about Anjelah but had never seen her, so when I found out she was headlining Gotham, I made sure to be there to check it out! It’s a good thing I made reservations cause it was a sold-out show!

Not only is she funny but she’s clean! Squeaky clean! I don’t mean physically, (which I’m sure she is too! LOL ) … her material is really clean, which is a nice change. She takes her Christian background seriously and sticks to G-rated topics. It’s much harder to work clean than it is to work dirty, especially when working a nightclub where people are drinking.

One of the things I always respected about Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser when I first met them back in the day, was that they ALWAYS worked clean. And let me tell you it’s not always easy. When you’re working a late night crowd that’s had a few drinks, it’s very tempting to throw something in that you might not share with your parents, cause you know it’s an easy laugh, but to resist that temptation takes a strong person.

So explaining her ponytail she says, “I’m not a Lesbian. I’m just lazy! “

Not only does she do great voices and character work but she’s also a good singer! The girls got it going’ on! Another cool thing is that she travels with her brother Mitchell who also functions as her photographer! He’s very cool and helps her with whatever she needs as well as being on hand at the end when she greets the audience and signs autographs.

MC’ing the show was Dean Obeidallah, a Palestinian-Italian comedian who tours the country with Jewish comedian Scott Blakeman trying to bring Muslims and Jews together. I don’t know what particular jokes will accomplish that, but it couldn’t hurt, right? The problem is the people who most need to hear those jokes are not the people showing up to the shows. Most comedy shows don’t draw a big fundamentalist crowd, as far as I know!

Then Cipha Sounds from Cipha Sounds and Rosenberg, co-host of Hot 97’s morning show took the stage. The dude insists he’s not a comedian, but you could fool me! He’s consistently funny and a real crowd pleaser. He also hosts a weekly show at Carolines and works hard to hone his comedic skills.

And then Anjelah had a favorite of hers who’s also a favorite of mine, Nate Bargatze. There’s an unusual name. Kind of like Ben Bernanke. It’s so unusual you can’t tell where it’s from. All I know is that Nate is really funny.

He does some great Chinese language stuff, cause that’s a funny language, and the accent is a killer. Not particularly sexy or romantic, but interesting! I wish I could imitate a Chinese accent, at least as good as Russell Peters, doing a Chinese guy arguing with an Indian guy.

Anyway, Nate told a great story about a guy at the airport not getting the best care and pulling “the race card.” Only he was white. He was like, “ you’re only doing this to me because I’m white. And after all we’ve been through. Then he turned to Nate for back-up, and Nate was like, “Hey man, if you wanted me to back you up on this, you should have given me more notice! “

It was a great , great show and I hope to see Anjelah when I’m out in LA over the summer.

I also caught Jim Breuer’s sold out show, and Jim is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser. They go crazy just when he’s introduced and he always puts on a high energy show, cause that’s who he is.

Jim Breuer and Jeffrey Gurian at Gotham!

He also had copies available of his new book, “ I’m Not High” cause of his eyes which make him always look high. He claims that Richie Tienken first brought it to his attention early in his career when he asked him if he was doing drugs, as the reason why his eyes looked like that. Of course he wasn’t, but that’s why he called his company “Lazy Eye Productions.”

Jim’s new book, “I’m Not High.” Make sure to buy it, ( and read it too! )

At Anthony Anderson’s fantastically fabulous monthly Mixtape show, I ran into both Dawn B. and Chuck Nice two of my favorite people in the world!

The sexy Dawn B. and the sexy Chuck Nice at Anthony Anderson’s Mixtape show at Gotham.

Comedy Central 1st Annual Comedy Awards

I had so much in my last column I didn’t have room to write about the 1st annual Comedy Awards from Comedy Central. Comedy Central pulled out all the stops on this one, and everyone who ever told a joke or laughed at a joke was there.

Tracy Morgan presented the first “Comedy Icon” award to Eddie Murphy, and you could see he was thrilled to do so. Eddie influenced so many Black comics who came after him. He probably influenced a lot of White comics too, but they didn’t do as good a job of following up! (LOL)

Tracy Morgan presenting Eddie Murphy with the Comedy Central Comedy Icon award.

It was a thrill for me to see him since in a six-degrees of separation thing, I feel like I know him since Richie Tienken and Bob Wachs, owner and founders of The Comic Strip, both managed him for so many years, and in doing the book on the club, I’ve heard all the stories.

Tina Fey was there as a presenter, and also won for Best Comedy Actress for her work in Date Night, where she dropped an f-bomb while accepting , and telling how she crushed Helen Mirren in acting., with her tongue so firmly planted in her cheek, it looked like she was hiding a crab apple in there! Btw, has anyone noticed she may possibly have the best legs in comedy???

David Letterman was there, and accepted the night’s highest award from Bill Murray called “ the Johnny Carson Award For Comedic Excellence”, and Alec Baldwin came out on stage with Chloe Moretz of “KickAss” fame, and accepted an award for Best Comedy Actor for his work in 30 Rock.

Chloe Moretz and Alec Baldwin on stage at The Comedy Awards.

I was on the red carpet shooting the arrivals, ( sounds so violent! ), and got to see Christian Finnegan who was hosting the red carpet, and was very humble about having been chosen for what I thought was something very special.

Comedy Central’s Aileen Budow ran the red carpet with great skill as she always does, assisted by Eve Kenny.

I got to interview Jon Stewart who I hadn’t seen in quite a while. John won for Best Late Night Comedy Series, and is managed by an old friend of mine, James Dixon. I knew James when he was an agent at William Morris, where he could always be found with fellow agent Mike August, who I understand is with him at Dixon Talent.

Jeffrey Gurian and Jon Stewart at The Comedy Awards. Photo by James Dixon!

James also handles Stephen Colbert and a few other names you may have heard of, like Adam Carolla, Carson Daly, and Jimmy Kimmel, and James was kind enough to actually snap the photo that appears below. So added to all his other credits is this photo credit for the shot he took of me and Jon.

I also got to see Will Ferrell, Olivia Munn, The Gregory Brothers, Mark DuPlass and his wife Katie Aselton, who made the movie Cyrus, with Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson from The Office and Louis CK who received an award, and will also be honored in Montreal this summer as the Comedy Person of the Year.

Check out the little film right here.

Richard Lewis at Carolines

Richard Lewis came to New York to headline at Carolines, and we made up to meet at The Friars Club. Richard is in a class by himself when it comes to comedy. To me, he’s a modern day Woody Allen, and I mean that as a compliment to both of them. Funny that they’re both in this column together!

Richard’s one of those rare performers that has such a strong comedy identity, … that of an angst-ridden Jew, … that a comedy writer like myself, who understands that head perfectly, could have a ball writing for him, except that Richard has never used a writer.

Jeffrey Gurian and Richard Lewis in the dining room of The Friars Club.

Once many years ago when he starred in the movie “Drunks” I presented him with some material, and before I even got home that night there was a message on my answering machine, thanking me, and telling me that the material was not only hilarious but “brilliant”, and it was obvious that I could write a funny joke, but that he couldn’t use it because he always writes his own material.

That phone call is actually on my website here in the little film that plays automatically when the site opens.

The fact that Richard answered me right away is part of his character. In making plans to meet at The Friars he was meticulous in keeping in touch, and planning the exact time, like the Allies planned the invasion of Normandy!

Richard Lewis sitting under his prized Al Hirschfeld caricature at The Friars Club.

I got there early to set up, and Richard was right on time. We sat in the bar, where we could be undisturbed, and he was very gracious with his time, since Richard prepares incessantly for every performance, and tends not to meet with anyone while he’s doing so. It was only because we’re old friends that he graciously agreed to meet with me.

I showed up not knowing whether I’d be able to film him, but he was so accommodating he even helped me set up the camera at the right angle, and suggested a couple of shots for me that he thought would work.

Richard prepares like no other comic I’ve ever seen. His work ethic is admirable, and shows on stage. He sold out Carolines with all his shows. He works with such an incredibly high level of free association that he actually interrupts himself with a new thought, before he allows himself to finish the thought he was talking about. He hardly lets himself finish a sentence. None of his shows could ever be the same.

Check out the full story in my Comedy Matters Vlog at and the video on my Gurian News Network You Tube channel at Comedy Matters Shorties

Phil Rosenthal Exports Raymond For The Friars Club

Charlie Prince is appropriately named, especially when it comes to his work for The Friars Club. He heads up the Friars Film Festival in in doing so, manages to bring great films to be screened at The Friars on a constant basis.

Phil Rosenthal was the Exec. Producer of Everybody Loves Raymond, so when he was asked to bring that show to Russia, he was smart enough to make a documentary out of his ordeal, which is what it turned out to be. A successful ordeal, but an ordeal never-the-less.

Phil Rosenthal and Jeffrey Gurian on the step-and-repeat for Exporting Raymond.

I had last seen Phil in Montreal last summer when the film was being shown in the the Just For Laughs festival, but I didn’t get a chance to see it then, because Richie Tienken and I were there to show the trailer for Eat, Drink, Laugh, the doc on The Comic Strip.

This screening was so well attended that we had to show it across the street from The Friars at The Core Club which is where I sat down with Phil for this little interview you can see in my Vlog.

Rhonda Hansome on Louie

Rhonda Hansome is back on the comedy scene with a vengeance, and not only performing all over town, but also did a guest spot on Louis CK’s “Louie.”

Doug Stanhope, Rhonda Hansome, Louis CK, Leo Goodman, Santos Morales

Story Pirates With Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart and his wife Tracey co-hosted the third annual “After School Special” at Symphony Space on Broadway, and it was a really fun enjoyable event for the children’s writing initiative known as Story Pirates.

Story Pirates takes elementary school kids stories and well known actors act them out. I was prepared to be bored, but it was fantastic and very entertaining., because the children’s stories are very entertaining and creative.

I kidded Jon that the reason it was called “Story Pirates” was because these well known performers steal the ideas from small children and then use them as a performance, and that he could actually do the same thing on The Daily Show if he wasn’t doing it already! That got a big laugh from Jon.

Jeffrey Gurian interviewing Jon Stewart at Story Pirates!

The event drew lots of stars besides Jon and I got to speak not only to Jon, but to John Oliver, Kristen Schaal, who looked so cute in a pony tail, and Ana Gastayer who was there with her son Ulysses. Artistic director Lee Overtree is to be commended, as is Kiki Valentine the talented performance artist who helped bring attention to the event.

Jeffrey Gurian interviewing John Oliver at Story Pirates.

You can see it all here on video.

Reggie Watts, Jeffrey Gurian, and Kiki Valentine after one of Kiki’s recent shows.

Men of Violence Slated for 2012

My only non-comedy project, a feature film I wrote called “Men of Violence” was picked up by director John Gallagher, and is posted on IMDb Pro. as being in pre-production for 2012.

John Gallagher is a film director who always works with star-studded casts like Amanda Peet, Michael Imperioli, Gretchen Mol, John Leguizamo, Zach Braff, Heather Matarazzo, and Denis Leary, and has directed award-winning films like “Blue Moon”, “Men Lie”, and The Deli” .

John Gallagher and Jeffrey Gurian on the red carpet of the Soho International Film Festival!

He’s currently working on horror movie DIGGER 3D starring Heidi Kristoffer and Ryan O’Callaghan; the gangster comedy FICKLE starring Frank Vincent
and the short comedy I LOVE YOU starring Ryan O’Callaghan.

I recently saw John at the Soho International Film Festival where he is on the Advisory Board, when I did interviews with him and actor Frank Vincent in an event John produced, plus a great interview with Michael Imperioli who was there presenting his own film “The Hungry Ghosts”, with Sopranos co-stars Steve ( Bobby Bacala) Schirippa, John (Artie Bucco) Ventimiglia, Vince ( Johnny Sack) Curatola, and Sharon (Rosemary Aprile) Angela. I was there with the beautiful, and talented internet sensation Lauren Francesca. You can see the video here!

Lauren Francesca and Jeffrey Gurian on the red carpet for the Soho International Film Festival.

Men of Violence is about a successful plastic surgeon obsessed with violence , who accidentally kills the son of a powerful mob boss and has to become the baddest man on the planet to save his wife and kids from retribution.

The Night I Made Woody Allen Laugh

Woody Allen has always been my inspiration and was actually the first big star to read my very early ideas. That is a story I will tell in depth on my blog, because it’s a long one, but suffice it to say that he read my material over the course of two nights, and encouraged me to make films because he said my comedy was very visual.

This was many, many years ago, and our paths had not crossed in quite some time, so when my dear friend Rosa Gudmundsdottir, a talented singer, and friend of Woody’s close friend John Doumanian, told me he was performing at the Café Carlyle, we went up to see him.

Jeffrey Gurian, Woody Allen, and Rosa Gudmundsdottir at Café Carlyle.

As John was about to re-introduce me to Woody, I stuck out my hand and interrupted with, “ Hi Woody, I’m a very close friend of yours!” He thought about that for half a second and burst out laughing, which is not an easy thing to make happen, as you might be able to tell from the serious way he comes out in photos!

Jeffrey Gurian with his best friend in the world, Woody Allen. That’s why he looks so happy! ( Jeffrey, not Woody! LOL)

It was a special moment that I wish I had on video. I do have two witnesses however and their names are Rosa Gudmundsdottir and John Doumanian.

Anyway, until next time, remember, …. COMEDY MATTERS!!! And remember to check out the Comedy Matters Vlog for many more stories and interviews.

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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