Posts Tagged Jim Gaffigan

The Making of "Make ‘Em Laugh"- 35 Years of The Comic Strip

On June 15, 2008, I was at The Comic Strip with Ann Curry, and Gilbert Gottfried and we were giving Ann tips on how to do stand-up comedy for some kind of event she was preparing for. And despite the fact that I had been there for so many years, and had seen the walls before, I found myself transfixed by all the amazing memorabilia that I noticed that day.

Jeffrey Gurian, Ann Curry, Gilbert Gottfried, and Richie Tienken on the day that Jeffrey suggested doing a book on the iconic Comic Strip!

So I said to Richie Tienken, owner and founder of the club, “You know we should do a book on this club!”

I didn’t know that other people had suggested that to him before but for some reason he wound up not doing it with them. He came to my home for a meeting and ended by saying “You have more photos on your walls than I have at the club”, and he decided to trust me with telling his story, and the stories of all the huge stars that came out of the club.

Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken in the lobby of Jeffrey’s building after their meeting to agree on doing the book!

The club officially opened on June 1, 1976 with Billy Crystal as the opening act. On JUne 17th a young, and unknown Jerry Seinfeld walked in to audition. In those days people were graded on their auditions. Jerry was graded “Good”, and then someone wrote on his sheet, “Definitely put on Mon. 6/21!” Whoever that person was had a good eye for comedy! Jerry stayed at The Strip for four years until he left for LA in 1980. It was his home club.

Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld, and Richie Tienken on the day of Jerry’s interview for the book!

In the book Jerry said he felt like he was born in 1976, because that’s when he began working at The Strip and that felt like the start of his life!

Eddie Murphy spent his early years at the club, and Richie Tienken was his manager for the years when Eddie was the biggest star in the world. That period of time spanned his days on SNL through Beverly Hills Cop 2.

The one night in 1986 Eddie came into The Strip and asked to see a Black comic. The only one around was a 19 year old Chris Rock who was setting up chairs in exchange for stage time, and had only performed for very small audiences at 2 or 3 A.M. Not wanting to disappoint Eddie, they put Chris up in front of a packed house on a Friday night, and Chris killed it in front of his idol.

Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Strip on the day we did Chris’ interview for the book!

That was the start of Chris’s rise to stardom. He hasn’t lost his gratitude for all that Richie did for him and wrote a fantastic, and funny introduction to the book.

He also came into the club and gave Richie and I a really super interview. Most of the big stars came into the club for their interviews because Richie and I felt that being surrounded by those four walls would bring back memories, and we were right.

Alan Colmes who many people don’t even know started his career as a stand-up comic came in wearing his 30 year old Comic Strip jacket that looked as if it was brand new.

Jeffrey Gurian with Alan Colmes wearing his original 30 year old Comic Strip jacket, which looked brand new!

In the middle of Paul Reiser’s interview he suddenly recalled what started the annual New Years Day brunch attended every Jan. 1, by himself, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry Miller and Mark Schiff. There had even been a fifth member of the group, a friend named Michael Cain but he passed away very young.

Gilbert Gottfried and Lisa Lampanelli got interviewed outside the club, and Jeffrey Ross got interviewed inside the club with a dual book/documentary film video interview at the same time. That experience taught us never to do that again! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian, Gilbert Gottfried and Richie Tienken at lunch at Pastis where GIlbert spent most of his interview denying he had ever been at The Comic Strip. He did say they had good electricity though!

Lisa Lampanelli and Jeffrey Gurian,(hidden behind the book! LOL) backstage at Westbury for Lisa’s recent sold-out performance

And then I flew out to LA to get an in office interview with Billy Crystal the first comic to hit the stage on opening night, back in 1976.

Other comics interviewed were Ray Romano, Susie Essman, Jim Gaffigan, Judah Friedlander, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Rick Overton, who has also gone on to have a very successful acting/film career, Jim Breuer, Tony Rock, Adam Ferrara, plus newer stars who frequent the club like Colin Jost and Jay Pharaoah from SNL.

Thanks to our agent J.L. Stermer from N.S. Bienstock, we got a deal with Skyhorse Publishing and the book is 250 pages down from the 500 I started out with. It took three years to get all of the interviews done and transcribed, because I did it myself by hand just by playing the interviews over and over again, and the fourth year was about editing and getting it down from 500 pages to the 250 that was needed. It was often a grueling process, but always a labor of love!

Since it came out, it’s gotten great reviews, tons of press, and lots of celeb attention as you can tell from the following photos.

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Come to Papa at The Village Underground

Making a purposeful effort to make a home for myself at The Comedy Cellar, the legendary club owned by Noam Dworman and frequented by every major comedy star who hits New York, I went down on a Tuesday to catch their weekly podcast, “Live From The Table”, which this week featured the always hysterical Kurt Metzger and Dan Naturman. I was a guest a few weeks ago and had a blast!

The welcoming sign of “The Comedy Cellar” on MacDougal Street in NYC!

The logo from “Live From The Table” the weekly Comedy Cellar podcast!

Sitting at the bar chatting with Marina Franklin, we were soon joined by Tom (The Marriage Ref) Papa who invited me to stop by his monthly Sirius XM radio show which started right after the podcast at the Comedy Cellar’s other space, The Village Underground, conveniently located literally right around the corner.

“Come to Papa” poster at The Village Underground for Tom’s Sirius XM radio show!

Sexy fairy Marina Franklin onstage at The Village Underground for Tom Papa’s “Come to Papa” on Sirius XM radio!

What a beautiful space! A really nicely appointed room with lots of tables, dim lighting, big screen TV’s to be able to see well from all over the room, and for the last month or so, comedy as well. Tom hosts a show appropriately called “Come To Papa” which is kind of a throwback to something I had never really seen but only heard of, “scripted radio.” Before TV was invented in this country and even afterwards when people started to buy them thanks to Mr. Television himself, the legendary Milton Berle, most people listened to scripted radio shows for entertainment.

Tom Papa on one of the big screen viewers at The Village Underground, making it easy for everyone to see the show!

It’s hard to believe there was actually a time before TV, but when Milton Berle had his Texaco Star Theatre, people would gather in the streets to watch TV through the store windows of appliance stores selling TV’s, and thanks to the popularity of his show, so many TV’s were sold that that’s how he got the nick-name “Mr. Television.”

I had the honor of being sponsored in The Friars Club by Milton Berle who I also had the honor of writing jokes for, and who I considered a friend.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV in LA, with his friend and sponsor in The Friars Club, the legendary Milton Berle, circa 1984!

Before TV, in the 1930’s and 40’s, families would huddle around the radio to hear their favorite shows, and their favorite comedians like Fred Allen, Jack Benny, Victor Borge, Fanny Brice, Jimmy Durante, Phil Harris, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Red Skelton and Ed Wynn.

They also got to hear shows like Abbott and Costello, Amos ‘n’ Andy, Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Goldbergs, The Great Gildersleeve, and Our Miss Brooks, which I know went on to become a TV show in the 1950’s.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with comedy icon George Burns, Catskill Mountains, circa 1983!

Radio comedy ran the gamut from small town humor like that of Herb Shriner and Minnie Pearl to the weekly “gag shows” like Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One and Can You Top This?, panel programs devoted to the art of telling jokes.

So Tom Papa had a rich history to compete with and from what I saw he’s doing it well. He was joined by comics Cynthia Koury, who doubled as the MC, Dan Soder, the same Kurt Metzger from the “Live at the Table” podcast, Rick Crom who used his deep resonant voice as the announcer, and I stayed long enough to see a mix of stand-up, and written sketches where the comics read from scripts, before I had to run and cover my next event.

Comic Cynthia Koury holding it down on the stage of The Village Underground on “Come to Papa!”

(L-R) Kurt Metzger, Dan Soder, Rick Crom, and Tom Papa onstage at The Village Underground!

The event was produced by Aaron Hodges from Sirius XM radio who was kind enough to tell me he enjoyed my performance on Kroll Show in Too Much Tuna with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV playing himself on the set of Kroll Show with Nick Kroll, and John Mulaney as the “Oh, Hello” boys. After shooting the sketch “Too Much Tuna!”

The reaction of the audience and the strength of the performances I saw makes me want to attend regularly, and I can’t wait for the next one when I can stay for the entire show! Even better, Noam himself invited me back!



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Jim Norton Closes Out Gotham Comedy Live’s First Season

Every Thursday night for about the last three months, Killer Bunny Entertainment has been filming a live comedy show at Gotham Comedy Club for Mark Cuban and Ryan Seacrest’s AXS TV channel!

Every week they have a great host and I’ve been down there to shoot videos for Comedy Matters TV with several of them like T.J. Miller, Susie Essman, and Carlos Mencia, but when I heard that Jim Norton would be hosting the last show of the season I was determined to get down there to see him!

Not only because he’s so funny but because I had been trying to set up an interview with Jim since the previous July when his last CD “Please Be Offended” first came out.

Jim Norton the final host of the first season on Gotham Comedy Live onstage at Gotham Comedy Club!

Jonathan Brandstein’s office and I were working together to set it up, but Jim was so busy that it never happened. And then I ran into Jim in Montreal at the 30th annual Just for Laughs Festival where I was actually shooting for the festival, and it still didn’t happen. We ran past each other in the lobby where I was just able to yell out a quick “hello” and that I had been trying to get a hold of him. I shot 40 video interviews over those three days, but no Jim Norton.

Jim did a great show at Gotham, and the fun thing is that it’s live. For some comics that might be daunting, but Jim’s been on the radio with Opie and Anthony so long doing live stuff every day, that for him it’s nothing.

It’s also no holds barred. Anything goes. So Jim got to talk about one of his favorite subjects, … hookers! And how in Vegas when he called for a hooker they told him it would cost $3,000. And he was wondering how long she stayed for that, … forever? For three thousand dollars, does he get to cut off her head and keep it?

The always funny Jim Norton hosting the AXS TV special Gotham Comedy Live!

I don’t think that was really a desire of his, just a thought that briefly ran through his mind.

Jim’s observations are also right on, like when he said if you’re clearing your throat you sound like a liar. No matter what you’re saying, once you clear your throat in the middle of saying it, you automatically sound like a liar. In a way, and I mean this only as a compliment, he and Colin Quinn work very similarly. He actually imitated Colin’s voice and sounded just like him.

Drew Fraser warmed up the crowd and the man has a way of getting the audience really pumped. It’s a special talent to be able to host a show, and Drew’s got it!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Drew Fraser who not only warmed up the crowd, but heated them up to a boil! (LOL)

Louis Katz was first up on the show and was his usual funny self. He said he spent most of the day balding. He then went on to explain to the audience that with his look he can’t wear a hat, because with his glasses and a hat he’s a fake moustache away from looking like he’s in disguise!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Louis Katz right after he killed it on Gotham Comedy Live!

He talked about someone who had such bad breath he wanted to tell them, “You know there’s no such thing as street chocolate. You’ve been eating dog shit!”

Marina Franklin was up next and I love seeing Marina perform. Especially when she talks about coming from Chicago and wonders if she and not Michelle could have been The First Lady. But then reality kicks in and she realizes she ain’t no lady! She could have been the “First Ho!”

In talking about her dating life and her recent white boyfriend she said she doesn’t just date white guys exclusively, but the economy was bad!

Colin Jost, one of the head writers up at SNL was next, and he too is reliably funny. I always enjoy his performance and the tone with which he delivers his material, which is so important to a comic. He talked about song lyrics and how in one popular song they changed the lyrics to make them family friendly and have a guy apologizing to a girl by saying, ” I don’t mean to be rude but tonight I’m loving you!” He went on to explain that that’s nothing to apologize for. It’s one of the nicest things you can say to a person.

He also advised couples that if one of you loses a ton of weight you both better lose a ton of weight because it’s very awkward to see them and say, ” Mark, you look great, you must have lost 50 pounds! And Janet, ……………”

And closing the show was the always funny and sexy Lynne Koplitz, who openly says she’s 45 years old and it’s over! She calls herself Auntie Lynne and gives advice to the younger women in the audience like not to smile too much or you get laugh lines. Twenty years from now you’ll be asking yourself, what was so fuckin’ funny?

She goes for younger guys who she can control, and ruled out dating one older guy by saying ” You’re cute, but you probably have opinions!”

After the show, which got picked up for a second season, and which will be starting in May, I went down to the green room to have a long awaited chat with Jim Norton. It was well worth the wait, and here it is:

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Jim Gaffigan Takes Mira Sorvino As Wife in New CBS Sitcom

About six months ago I interviewed Mira Sorvino for a film she starred in called Union Square. I’ve been a fan of hers since she won the Oscar for her role in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite back in 1995.

Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino with writer/director of Union Square Nancy Savoca at the press conference for Union Square!

As a matter of fact, I wrote a film script with her in mind for the lead. It’s a romantic comedy called “Baby and Max” where she goes from being a tough biker’s girlfriend to falling for a nebbishy stand-up comic, and I sent it to her reps for review where it is being looked at right now.

I know her Dad, Paul Sorvino for many years. As a matter of fact as silly as it sounds, back in 1990, when he played Big Paulie in “Goodfellas” for whatever reason I was supposed to call him the same day I saw the film. All I remember is that when I left the theatre, his performance had been so powerful that I was literally afraid to call him. I finally got up the nerve to call him and when I told him how I felt, he laughingly told me I was a “schmuck”!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with award-winning actor Paul Sorvino, when he played Big Paulie in Goodfellas, back in the day at Columbus Cafe!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Paul Sorvino in more modern times at the birthday party of socialite/philanthropist Karen Koenigsberg, in the penthouse of The Dream Hotel!

Jim Gaffigan is a HUGE talent and I’ve been a fan and friend for many years. Jim gets offered one project after the next. I remember being at what I think was his first sit-com called “Welcome To New York”, back in 2000, in which he starred with Christine Baranski. I went to a taping in Astoria and I remember him being great in it, as he’s been consistently every time I’ve seen him perform.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Jim Gaffigan on the set of “Welcome To New York” back in 2000!

He occasionally headlines Gotham Comedy Club and I make sure to catch him whenever possible and he’s also very gracious about making appearances on shows for up and coming comics who ask him to do guest spots. Jim is very accommodating that way.

Jim Gaffigan with Gotham Comedy Club owner Chris Mazzilli!

Jim Gaffigan at Gotham Comedy Club after doing a guest spot for “up and comer” comic/producer Alyse Kenny!

Now CBS has partnered him up with Peter Tolan known for many projects but especially for co-creating hit shows like ABC’s “The Job” and FX’s “Rescue Me”, both starring Denis Leary.

In Jim’s new show, he will be playing a guy with five kids, with a wife played by Mira Sorvino named Jeannie, all true, and taken from his own life. Kind of like what Ray Romano did with “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I wish Jim the kind of success that Raymond enjoyed! He’s worked very hard and truly deserves it!

He’s also featured in my new book called “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, in which he gave me a funny, heart-warming and honest account of his early days. He talked about experiencing crippling stage fright for years, and said that for the first few years, his only credit was that Dave Attell told him he was funny!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Jim Gaffigan at The Comic Strip after Jim’s interview for Jeffrey’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh”, with a great introduction from Chris Rock!

Good luck Jim! We’re pulling for you!

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"Make ‘Em Laugh" With An Intro By Chris Rock

After four years of work, my book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Richie Tienken, owner/founder of the legendary comedy club The Comic Strip finally came out, and is in bookstores all across the country.

The front cover of “Make ‘Em Laugh” with an intro. by Chris Rock, and interviews with Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Billy Crystal, Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, Susie Essman and tons more!

It’s about the 35 year history of the club which Richie opened on June 1, 1976, and which is still going strong. I got the idea for it back in 2008 while at the club one afternoon with Ann Curry and Gilbert Gottfried, coaching Ann on how to do stand-up comedy for some event she was doing, and I suggested to Richie that we do a book on the club.

(L-R) Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, Ann Curry, PR guru Ryan McCormick, Gilbert Gottfried, and Richie Tienken, owner/founder of The Strip!

It took three years to get all the interviews and transcribe them from the digital audio recordings, because I did it all by myself. Every word. Every single word. It takes a long time to listen to an hour long conversation, which most of them were, if not longer, and transcribe every single word, by constantly pressing “Repeat” and playing each sentence over and over again to make sure you got it correctly.

That first summer, I went up to the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal and got the first three interviews with Larry Miller, George Wallace and Paul Provenza.

Larry Miller with Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage with George Wallace at Just for Laughs in Montreal, the biggest comedy festival in the world!

At the end besides having a killer, hilarious introduction from Chris Rock, I had interviews with Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Ray Romano, Paul Reiser, Gilbert Gottfried, Susie Essman, Colin Quinn, Paul Provenza, Jim Gaffigan, Lewis Black, Judah Friedlander, Lisa Lampanelli and many more! A book filled with stories from comedy legends on how they got their start and wound up at The Comic Strip.

Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip after Jerry’s interview for the book!

Richie Tienken, Ray Romano, and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at The Comic Strip after Ray’s interview for the book ” Make ‘Em Laugh!”

Although Gilbert Gottfried claimed he had never actually been there and just showed up to the interview for a free lunch! He did admit to having heard rumours around 1974 that a club would be opening so he stood in that spot for years waiting for it to open, and he heard it did eventually open and had electricity. He also heard that many comics came there for dessert, at which point he started yelling out to no one in particular that he wanted a Peach Melba!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, Gilbert Gottfried, and Richie Tienken trying to get Gilbert to admit he had ever performed at The Comic Strip!

This was as Richie Tienken was getting nauseous after having paid $50. to park, and was picking up the tab for lunch, to hear Gilbert say he had never been to the club. Needless to say, the interview was pure Gilbert, and hysterically funny.

I flew to LA to interview Billy Crystal, and that was really a treat. I hadn’t seen him in many years, and we got to reminisce about the days when I was a dentist and his manager at the time, the legendary Jack Rollins, who also managed Woody Allen and Robin Williams, wanted him to play me in a sit-com about a dentist in show biz.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Billy Crystal in his offices in Beverly Hills! Billy is pointing to his teeth referencing Jeffrey’s former life as a dentist!

Most of the interviews were done at The Comic Strip because Richie and I felt it would be advantageous for the comics to be in that environment because it would help to bring back memories and it did.

We got to hear great stories like how Chris Rock was discovered by Eddie Murphy in 1986 when Eddie was considered the biggest star in the world and was being managed by Richie at the time. Or how Ray Romano started his career under the name “Jackie Roberts” for the first two or three months.

Then he “bombed” one night and experienced stage fright, so he quit and went back to selling futons for his best friend, which became an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond!” Two years later he returned to comedy at The Comic Strip under the name Ray Romano and the rest is history!

Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at The Comic Strip after Chris’ interview for the book ” Make ‘Em Laugh!”

Interestingly enough, he even delivered a futon to Larry David who was already well known and true to character, was not happy with the futon, and made Ray take it back.

We have Jerry Seinfeld’s first sign-up sheet on the night he auditioned to perform at The Strip on June 17th, 1976. In those days you were rated, and Jerry was rated “Good” and then someone wrote, ” Definitely put on Monday, 6/21.” That person was smart!

And blurbs! You wanna see blurbs? I got so many celeb blurbs they almost had to use a separate page. I got blurbs from Judd Apatow the king of Hollywood comedies, Richard Lewis, Charles Grodin, Nick Kroll, (whose new “Kroll Show” comes out on Comedy Central in January with me on it!), Bob Saget, (who was kind enough to write: “No matter how many years pass, I can never say no to Jeff Gurian. Hence this quote on his book’s back cover!”) Plus Tom Papa, Danny Aiello, Mike Birbiglia, DJ Cassidy and more!

Back cover of “Make ‘Em Laugh” with blurbs from Judd Apatow, Richard Lewis, Tom Papa. Nick Kroll, Mike Birbiglia, Bob Saget and more!!!

Since the book came out we’ve been getting a lot of attention. Tons of press. A great review from Larry Getlen in the NY Post, an interview on NBC TV, Channel 4, 7 P.M. news with Roseanne Coletti, an interview with WPIX TV, Channel 11 with reporter Dan Mannarino, which will be airing the week of Dec. 10th, radio interviews with Judith Regan, and Ron Bennington of “Ron and Fez” on Sirius Radio, plus radio shows all over the country.

And the book is in the hands of lots of huge comedy stars like Chris Tucker, JB Smoove, Artie Lange, Colin Quinn, and Judah Friedlander to name a few!

Chris Tucker and Jeffrey Gurian up at Sirius Radio with Chris’ copy of the book ” Make ‘Em Laugh”!

Jeffrey Gurian with Artie Lange at The Comic Strip with Artie’s copy of the book ” Make ‘Em Laugh!”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Richard Belzer at The Friars Club. Jeffrey is holding Richard’s book, and Richard is holding his copy of Jeffrey’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh!”

The book is available in all Barnes and Noble stores in NYC, and on Amazon.com

Coming up, I’ll be doing a guest spot on Artie Lange’s new podcast with Nick DePaolo, talking about the book and all things comedy!

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New York Comedy Festival Packed With Stars-11/7-11/11

For the past 9 years Caroline Hirsch, owner and founder of Carolines Comedy Club has put together the NY Comedy Festival, a festival of gigantic talent and impressive proportions. I alternate between calling her “The Queen of NY Comedy” and the “First Lady of NY Comedy”, both titles of which she is deserving, for having Carolines Comedy Club thriving in NYC, and providing A-list entertainment for over 30 years.

The star-studded New York Comedy Festival takes over NYC for 5 days and nights!

The festival is made up of the biggest stars performing in the biggest venues, like Ricky Gervais at Town Hall,Kevin Hart at Madison Square Garden for two shows on Saturday, 11/10, Marlon and Shawn Wayans at Carolines for several shows throughout the festival, Denis Leary at the Paley Center for Media, Artie Lange at Town Hall in a show called ” Too Fat To Die”, Adam Carolla’s “Not Taco Bell Material” at Town Hall, and in a brilliant bit of casting, Jim Gaffigan, the whitest man in comedy, at The Apollo up in Harlem!

These are just some of the shows being offered. There are many more in many other venues, twenty-four altogether. I sat down with Caroline for a fun video interview which should be up very shortly, but we had a chance to reminisce about all of her clubs, which I’ve been going to since she opened in 1981. That club was in a small space on 26th Street and 8th Avenue, where she hired Jay Leno as the first comic to be booked there.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at Carolines on Broadway, with Caroline Hirsch, owner and founder of the NY Comedy Festival!

I don’t remember much of my life, but for some reason I remember very clearly seeing both Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser there, before either of them were known, and being so impressed with them both, that I offered to introduce them to comedy manager David Jonas who at the time was managing Freddie Prinze, and went on to get him ” Chico and the Man!”

I had been introduced years earlier to David by award-winning writer/director/producer Alan Zweibel, when Alan and I first met up at SNL in the early days, although when I first met Alan he wasn’t any of those aforementioned things yet! But it was David that got me started as a comedy writer for great comics like Dick Capri and Freddie Roman.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Alan Zweibel and Jeffrey’s new book ” Make ‘Em Laugh” with Chris Rock!

Alan was a comedy writer on the show, and was playing handball on the walls of the SNL offices with Neil Levy, a cousin of Lorne Michaels, and Neil was also a producer on the show at the time!

Caroline closed her 26th Street location in 1987, when she opened her magnificent South Street Seaport location, and that’s where Jon Stewart got his start as an opening act. He even did children’s parties on Saturdays, and Caroline thinks she remembers him wearing a cape.

Then after five years at that location, in 1992 Caroline opened in her current location on 50th and Broadway, a beautiful room that probably holds 300 people or more, and is usually packed whenever I go. Now it’s called “Carolines on Broadway!”

And it’s run by old, old friend Louis Faranda, who I go back with to the days when he was a bartender at Catch A Rising Star. Louis and I also got a chance to reminisce about old times, and I got to tell him that he’s in my book ” Make ‘Em Laugh” in the Chris Rock story, of how he encouraged a 19 year old Chris to call Eddie Murphy after Eddie had given him his number. Chris was too nervous to call until he ran into Louis who said something to the effect, “Schmuck, if Eddie Murphy gives you his number call him!”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV in a rare photo with old friend Louis Faranda at Carolines on Broadway, the club he runs so well!

That led to Chris calling Eddie, going out with him and his entourage that night to see Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing”, which led to a part in Beverly Hills Cop 2, which led to Chris Rock’s amazing career!

One NY Comedy Festival event in particular that I’m excited about is “Stand Up For Heroes” at The Beacon Theatre, whose red carpet I’ll be covering tonight. It’s a benefit for the Bob Woodruff Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to investing in national and community-based programs that connect our troops to the help they need— from individual needs like physical accommodations, job training, financial counseling, to larger social issues like homelessness and suicide prevention; educating the public about the needs of service members returning from war; and collaborating with key federal, state, and local experts to identify and solve issues related to the successful return of service members from combat to civilian life.

On that show and hopefully on the red carpet escorting injured servicemen will be Mike Birbiglia, (who kindly gave me a great blurb for the back cover of my new book with Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh”),Ricky Gervais, Patton Oswalt, Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart, Robin Williams, John Mayer and Roger Waters.

Sneak peek of Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV interviewing Ricky Gervais on the red carpet of Stand Up For Heroes at The Beacon Theatre!

I’m also excited about the prospect of seeing my good friend, style expert Ann Caruso, who worked with her best friend, and style expert Mary Alice Stephenson to style both the wives of the wounded warriors and some of the female warriors who were wounded as well and will be attending the event! It should be a spectacular evening!

For more info on the festival and the schedule of events please go to http://www.nycomedyfestival.com There’s almost 90 shows in 24 different venues!

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"Make ‘Em Laugh" with Chris Rock Finally Hits The Bookstores

The Comic Strip opened on June 1st of 1976. It’s an iconic comedy club on the Upper East Side of NYC, that launched the careers of stars like Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Paul Reiser, George Wallace, Gilbert Gottfried, Jim Gaffigan, Lewis Black, Lisa Lampanelli, and many more.

Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip after Chris’ interview for the book “Make ‘Em Laugh” for which Chris also write the hilarious intro!

One day,on June 16th of 2008 I was at The Strip with Ann Curry, Gilbert Gottfried, and PR powerhouse Ryan McCormick of Goldman/McCormick PR, and after looking at all the talent on the walls, I suggested to owner/founder Richie Tienken that we do a book on the history of the club. He came to my house to talk about it, and saw even more photos than HE had in the club (LOL), and decided to trust me to tell his story. That was the long and the short of it.

(L-R) Jeffrey Gurian, Ann Curry, Ryan McCormick, Gilbert Gottfried, and Richie Tienken all trying to figure out why Ann looks so surprised! Maybe she heard it would take four years to do the book, and couldn’t believe it!

The front cover of “Make ‘Em Laugh” by Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken with an intro. by Chris Rock!

That July, of 2008 I went up to the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, which is the biggest comedy festival in the world, and did my first three digital audio interviews. First was with Larry Miller at his hotel, then George Wallace in a restaurant, and then Paul Provenza at the main hotel where the festival was being held.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Larry Miller at The Strip! Larry was the very first comic interviewed for the book!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage with George Wallace at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, 2008. George was the 2nd comic to be interviewed for the book!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Paul Provenza, at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, 2008. Paul was the the 3rd comic to be interviewed for the book!

From that point on, it took the next four years to see this book on a shelf in Barnes and Noble. I was on a quest to get every big star I could, who had come out of The Strip, to be interviewed for the book. And most of them came into the club to do it during the afternoon when we wouldn’t be disturbed. Richie and I would meet them there and sit casually in the showroom while we reminisced about the old days, into my recorder.

Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip with Jerry Seinfeld after his interview for the book “Make ‘Em Laugh”!

We felt it was helpful to do it in the club, because we thought, and rightly so, that being in the club would help bring back memories, and it did. During Paul Reiser’s interview, he claims to have suddenly remembered for the first time ever, what started the annual New Year’s day brunch that he has attended every year for the last 30 years or more with Jerry Seinfeld, Larry Miller, and Mark Schiff. There was originally a fifth guy named Michael Cain, but unfortunately he passed away many years ago, way before his time.

(L-R) Richie Tienken, Ray Romano, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip after Ray’s interview for the book, ” Make ‘Em Laugh”!

So the book has cool stories from Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, who came in with his long-time manager Rory Rosegarten who he had met at The Strip, Jim Gaffigan, Susie Essman, Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, Paul Provenza, Lewis Black, Judah Friedlander, Jeffrey Ross, Tony Rock, Adam Ferrara, and so many more!

I even flew out to LA to interview Billy Crystal which was a very special one to me, since during the middle of the interview he realized he knew me from the legendary Jack Rollins, who managed him, Robin Williams, and Woody Allen, back in the day!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Billy Crystal in his Beverly Hills office! Billy is pointing to his teeth referencing Jeffrey’s rumored history as a former dentist! (LOL)

I wanted to do all the interviews before looking for an agent and a book deal, because I knew that agents would be skeptical of someone saying they could get this many interviews, with such big stars, and I wanted to be able to walk in with them already done.

After three painstaking years of doing interviews, and transcribing them by hand, my pal media powerhouse Judith Regan, introduced me to her agent at N.S. Bienstock, because she said for a celeb-filled book like this I need a powerful agent, and I spent most of the fourth year editing it down to the length that Skyhorse Publishing wanted it to be.

Media heavyweight Judith Regan and Jeffrey Gurian holding the book that she made possible, “Make ‘Em Laugh”!

I started with about 500 pages, and had to whittle it down to about 250 pages. I have all the stories digitally recorded on a disk, so our next project will probably be a CD of the stories that didn’t make it into the book!

Then I had to get blurbs for the book’s back cover, so I went to some of my famous friends and contacts and asked them to read the galleys and to provide meaningful blurbs and I got amazing stuff from ten people; Barry Katz, co-creator of Last Comic Standing, Judd Apatow, the king of Hollywood comedies, Richard Lewis, Mike Birbiglia, Charles Grodin, Elayne Boosler the first woman ever to have a cable TV special, Danny Aiello, Michael Imperioli, Nick Kroll star of the upcoming The Kroll Show, on Comedy Central, Tom Papa, and even DJ Cassidy, the world famous DJ who is also the DJ for Russell Simmons’ show “The Ruckus” hosted by JB Smoove!

The back cover of “Make ‘Em Laugh” with blurbs from Barry Katz, Richard Lewis, Mike Birbiglia, Charles Grodin, Elayne Boosler, Danny Aiello, Michael Imperioli, Nick Kroll, Tom Papa, Bob Saget, and DJ Cassidy!

Speaking of JB Smoove, this summer in Montreal, I was the official celeb interviewer and shot 40 interviews with stars like Chelsea Handler,Bob Saget, Joel McHale, JB Smoove, Marc Maron, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Adam Carolla, and Howie Mandel, …

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Chelsea Handler at Just for Laughs in Montreal!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Bob Saget backstage at Bob’s gala at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal!

… and one night I got Jay Pharoah from SNL reading Chris Rock’s intro from my book, in Chris Rock’s voice, to entertain JB Smoove and a bunch of comedy execs that were hanging out in the lobby! That you must see, and it’s right here:

So as of Monday, 10/1/12 the book is in Barnes and Noble and is available on their site and on Amazon.com All the stars in the book are helping to get the word out and even stars not in the book like Dave Chappelle are posing with the book!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Colin Quinn holding “Make ‘Em Laugh”, which Colin is in!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Judah Friedlander holding a copy of “Make ‘Em Laugh” which he is in!

Dave Chappelle chillin’ at the bar at The Comic Strip reading “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of the club!

I hope you’ll all read it, enjoy it, and leave a positive comment somewhere where other people will see it! (LOLOL)

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Next Generation of Stars At The Comic Strip

Well, after four years of hard work the final manuscript on the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, that I wrote with owner/founder Richie Tienken was handed in, and should be coming out in October of this year from Skyhorse Publishing. Chris Rock is writing the introduction.

Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip.

Since The Strip is like a family, I broke down the chapters into things like “The Parents”, which were Richie and Bob Wachs, “The Older Kids” who were like Jerry Seinfeld, Larry Miller, and Ray Romano, “The Younger Kids” who were like Lisa Lampanelli, Jim Gaffigan, and Judah Friedlander, and a chapter called “The Next Generation”, kind of like the grand-children, the up and comers, who will be the next stars of tomorrow coming out of The Strip.

These are names you may or may not know, but all have impressive credits and are on their way. There’s Marina Franklin, who was chosen as one of Jay Leno’s comedy correspondents, has been on Craig Ferguson,and Last Comic Standing; Ted Alexandro who’s been on Letterman, Conan, and Louis CK’s show “Louie”; Jon Fisch who’s been on Letterman, Last Comic Standing, and Celebrity Apprentice; Brian Scott McFadden who’s been on Letterman, Craig Ferguson, and in the Ice Age films with Ray Romano, and “Robots” with Robin Williams; Mike Vecchione, who had his own ( as opposed to someone elses? LOL) half hour Comedy Central special, and was seen on Leno, as a semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing, and on Russell Simmons special “Stand-Up at the El Rey.

Jeffrey Gurian with Marina Franklin whose “home” is at The Strip!

Jeffrey Gurian and Ted Alexandro in Jeffrey’s “Dancing With Comedians” Series!

Jeffrey Gurian and Mike Vecchione hanging out casually backstage at The Strip! (LOL)

Then there’s a group of really young comics who work out regularly at The Strip, like Pete Davidson who’s 18, lost his firefighter Dad Scott on 9/11, and has been taken under the wing of Nick Cannon, who he now tours with and opens for; Nore Davis, also a “young ‘un” who’s been taken under the wing of Tracy Morgan, (not only birds have wings, “angels” have wings too!), and has appeared on Russell Simmons “The Ruckus” with J.B. Smoove; and Jordan Rock, just turned 21, who hosts late shows at The Strip on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and is the latest in line in the Rock comedy dynasty along with his brothers Tony and Chris.

Pete Davidson and Jordan Rock chillin’ backstage while waiting to go on at The Strip!

Then there’s two young guys who are already on TV, and happen to be on the very same show. Colin Jost is a senior writer on SNL, but as a stand-up has been seen on Jimmy Fallon and was featured at the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, and Jay Pharoah, who drops by The Strip very often to work out new material is a regular cast member on SNL. He’s an incredible impressionist, and will soon be seen in the upcoming films “Lola Versus” with indie favorite Greta Gerwig, and CBS Films’ “Get A Job”.

Jeffrey Gurian with Colin Jost from SNL, a regular at The Strip!

Richie Tienken, Jay Pharoah from SNL, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Strip!

With this kind of talent calling The Strip “home” you can be sure it will be around for many, many more years!

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Alyse Kenny Brings Monthly Charity Shows To Gotham

Chris Mazzilli and Gotham are always supporting one charity or another. Now comic/actress Alyse Kenny is taking it up a notch by producing a once a month show there, the last Monday of every month called “Alyse Kenny Presents…It’s a Charity Thing!”

Funny ladies Rachel Feinstein (L) and Alyse Kenny at Alyse’s charity show at Gotham!

Each month will benefit a different charity. On the night I went down, the show was to benefit Rosie O’Donnell’s charity, Rosie’s Theater Kids.

It was a great line-up, with fun raffle prizes available to the audience, like VIP tickets to “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”, “The View” and “The Dr. Oz Show”!

The show was hosted by Jimmy Failla, Host of Off The Meter Radio, and I always give extra credit to anyone hosting. Now that I’m doing it on a regular basis, I see how much harder it is than just getting up to do a set, so I give Jimmy props for keeping the show moving smoothly.

Jimmy Failla holding it down onstage at Gotham as the host of the show!

The show also featured comedians Rachel Feinstein, who never fails to make me laugh out loud, Nick Cobb, Matt Baetz, and Greer Barnes! And Alyse got up and did a set as well. She and the audience were thrilled when Jim Gaffigan dropped in unexpectedly and did a killer set, mostly on McDonalds.

Jim Gaffigan who dropped by to do a guest spot on Alyse Kenny’s show at Gotham!

Jim tends to use food and things relating to food as his subject. He’ll always be known for his “hot-pocket” material. This night he went into McDonald’s and their fries, specifically the loose “bonus fry” we’re always so happy to find hiding at the bottom of the bag.

He said we wouldn’t know when breakfast ended if it wasn’t for McDonalds, and he also said that eating fast food gives you a momentary pleasure, followed by intense guilt, followed by Cancer.

Jim Gaffigan killing it onstage at Gotham!

Jim just had his fourth child, so he said he’s trying to be healthy. He takes vitamins, … and puts them in a drawer!

Nick Cobb said ” you know you’re broke when you know exactly how much money you have.” He also wondered about the sexual activity known as “69”! Being 6’4″, he said it’s a short man’s game, and wondered why anyone would want to do it in the first place. He wondered, ( and I’m paraphrasing) … “Who’s that short on time, to take the two most pleasurable things in the world, and combine them? It makes more sense to do each one separately! And he’s right!

Nick Cobb, who claims to be too tall for “69”, onstage at Alyse Kenny’s charity show at Gotham!

Alyse Kenny is fairly new on the comedy scene, and is an actor on ABC’s “What Would You Do?” She is co-writing and starring in the television pilot, “Pryor Knowledge” with Richard Pryor Jr., who just happens to be an old friend of mine, and who I sponsored for membership in The Friars Club. I actually took a photo of him in front of the photo of his Dad, Richard Pryor Sr. that graces one of the upstairs rooms.

Richard Pryor Jr., Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, and Rain Pryor at the premiere of Paul Provenza’s The Green Room in NYC!

Alyse also just appeared in Eli Shapiro’s indie flick, “Ike Interviews God.” Her clean, fun brand of comedy showcases her skewed view of growing up the daughter of a shrink and cardiologist, her inter-faith marriage and many jobs working in television including as an Emmy Award-winning producer.

Alyse Kenny onstage performing at her charity show at Gotham!

She’s a go-getter and I’m excited about her, and even more excited that I will be performing on her next show on Monday Feb. 27th, which will benefit a charity called The Cure Is Now. You can read about them at www.thecureisnow.org

Come on out and support!

You can read more about Alyse on her website at www.alysekenny.com

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Sebastian Maniscalco With Sold Out Show at Gotham

The packed room that came to see Sebastian Maniscalco last night at Gotham Comedy Club got an extra little treat, a surprise performance by Jim Gaffigan. After MC Buddy Fitzpatrick’s great warming up of the crowd, which is a rare talent as anyone who’s ever had to warm up a cold crowd can attest to, Jim came on and killed it for ten minutes.

Sebastian Maniscalco destroying the audience on stage at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

I’ll never forget when I interviewed Jim for my book, he told me he suffered with severe stage fright for the first six years of his career. You’d certainly never know it and I think of that a lot before I go on stage when I’m feeling a little anxious! You never know what you say to someone that resonates with them and has an affect on their lives.

Jim’s favorite topic seems to revolve around food, and he did a lot of material about McDonalds. Like about how good McDonald’s fries are, but if you try and reheat them in the microwave they become packing peanuts! He even comments on that one loose fry it’s so exciting to find at the bottom of the bag. He calls it “the bonus fry!” It’s always long and you find yourself wondering, ” How did I miss you?”

(L-R) Sebastian Maniscalco, Jim Gaffigan and Gotham owner Chris Mazzilli at Gotham Comedy Club!

He commented on hotels providing stationery, because like me, the moment he checks into a hotel the first thing he likes to do is write a letter!

Next up was Rajiv Satyal, an Indian comic from LA. Russell Peters gave a lot of Indian guys the courage to show they can be funny! (LOL) Rajiv talked about how different ethnicities mispronounce certain sounds in English, like the Asians with “R’s” and “L’s” and the Indians with “V’s” and “W’s”. He went into a Subway looking for a healthy sandwich and the Indian guy behind the counter offered him a “Weggie”, ( pronounced Wedgie!) I think I laughed out loud at that one! Great visual of a guy behind the counter grabbing a customer by the underwear!

Rajiv Satyal on stage at Gotham proving more than one Indian guy can be funny!

Then Sebastian took the stage. The first time I met him was on the Kandy Kruise from LA to Mexico. Five hundred guys and 1500 girls all from Maxim, Playboy and Penthouse. It was sick. and he was one of the “Playboy comics”. Just to get people just to show up for the show at all was a big accomplishment when there’s that many gorgeous girls to look at!

I saw him again this past July in Montreal when he was on Russell Peters’ show “Best of the Fest”, which Russell described as just another night of comedy in LA! (LOL) We were hanging out backstage after the show, where I took the photo below.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Sebastian Maniscalco backstage with Russell Peters in Montreal!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage with Russell Peters at his show in Montreal, “Best of the Fest”!

The thing about Sebastian is that he makes comedy “hip”! Some comics play off their “lameness”, but Sebastian is cool. He slips into his Jersey Shore Italian voice, when he’s talking about the dancing and meeting girls on the club scene, and almost becomes Vinnie Barbarino, for those of you who remember John Travolta in those days. he’s so relaxed, and very physical which I never expect him to be. He dances around and often acts out his material, which is great! Most of the time, I stand there like I’m nailed to the stage! (LOL)

He started out talking about Customer Service at the airport, and how the people who work there look upset that you even showed up to fly. And what if your bag happens to be four pounds over the weight limit? They make you take four pounds of clothing out? And where are you supposed to put it? In your carry-on! It’s still going on the plane!!!

That actually happened to me, but it was about ten pounds I had to take out. Unlike most people, I don’t often travel with a clothing scale, so I’m guessing on the weight of each thing while people are walking by and I’m frantically grabbing things out of my bag and mentally weighing them! Trust me, it’s only funny afterwards!

He’s always busy, so he wonders about these people that have the time to demonstrate in the street, or to show up every day to follow a trial like the Michael Jackson trial. ” Whatta youse people do when there’s no trial? You got nothin’ else to do?

He even talks about “kids these days” without sounding like a comic from the Ed Sullivan days. If his father took him and his family out to eat there was no such thing as saying you didn’t like the food. “Chicken and broccoli? One look from his father and he’d be like, ” Don’t worry, I’ll get it down.” These days kids complain they don’t like the menu, and a Mom might say something like, “Timmy, is that a good choice?”

But when he talked about his Dad not being too tech savvy and he was trying to guide him onto the internet over the phone, that was hysterical! Especially when his Dad asked what to do with the foot pedal! He had put the mouse on the floor trying to work it with his foot! Sebastian had to tell him, ” It’s not a sewing machine Dad, it’s a computer!”

I hope I get to see him again soon! He was really great!

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