Posts Tagged Paul Reiser

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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"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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Paul Reiser Hangs Out At The Comic Strip-New Show Debuts Tonight on NBC

Paul Reiser is one guy who doesn’t forget where he came from. As huge as he is, he’s still grateful for the people who helped him get there, so when he came to New York to promote his new TV show on NBC airing tonight at 8:30 P.M. with Paul playing himself, he came to visit Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip, the club where he started out so many years ago.

After taping Jimmy Fallon earlier, he came to the club, and did a spot at the 8:30 show, left and came back and did the 10:30 show and then came back the next night to do the 10:30 show, and even stayed to do the late show at 12:30, plus he stayed and mingled and took photos with anyone in the audience that wanted to meet him. That’s the essence of a nice guy who cares about the audience.

Paul onstage caught in a typical Paul Reiser expression, while performing at The Strip!

Richie Tienken, Paul Reiser, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip after Paul's set.

Paul is one of the many Comic Strip alumni, who went on to become huge stars, and that I interviewed so far for the book Richie and I are doing on the history of the club, which opened on June 1, 1976. This June will be 35 years.

On June 17th Jerry Seinfeld walked in to audition and about a year later, Paul Reiser came on the scene, with other comics like Carol Liefer, Mark Schiff, Rich Hall, Larry Miller and a lesser-known comic named Michael Cain.( I think that’s how he spelled Cain. No one seems to know for sure, and unfortunately he’s long gone so no one can ask him!)

Paul told me great stories during the interview I did with him. One of them was how he got the movie “Diner” in April of 1982, a film role that really put him on the map! ( What kind of an expression is that? Who even came up with that? A cartographer back in Colonial days??? LOL )

Jeffrey Gurian, Paul Reiser, and Richie Tienken after Paul's interview for the book on the history of The Comic Strip.

It was February of 1981, and Paul had accompanied this friend comic Michael Cain, who was also a stand-up comic and a close friend, to an audition for this new Barry Levenson movie “Diner.” Paul was really on his way to go shopping at Macy’s for underwear and socks,because he had an upcoming gig at The Comic Strip in Ft. Lauderdale and rather than do laundry, he thought he’d just buy more underwear and socks.

That was his mission. So he accompanies Cain, who didn’t wind up getting the gig, but when the casting director saw Paul, she asked him for his headshot. He said he didn’t have one as he was only there with his friend and really just wanted underwear and socks.

She convinced him to come back the next day with his headshot, which he did and then he left for Ft. Lauderdale. He was down there two days when he got the call that he had gotten “Diner.”

His character’s name was Modell. There was no part actually written for Modell as Paul found out when they sent him the contract and the script. He gave the contract to Bob Wachs another founder of The Strip who happened to be a lawyer, and he gave the script to Richie Tienken to look at. Richie came back to Paul and said, ” Your character is Modell right?” Paul said ” Yes” to which Richie replied, ” Well, I don’t know how to break this to you buddy, but you ain’t in the script. Not even once.”

Tienken continued, ” They told you you gotta flesh out your part? Well, I sure hope you do cause you ain’t got any lines! “

Barry expected Paul to create his role on camera which he did. He improvised the whole thing and as he did he got more and more lines. Michael Cain became one of the inner circle of comics who met every New year’s Day for brunch, along with Paul, Jerry Seinfeld, Mark Schiff, and Larry Miller. After Michael passed away they kept doing it as a tradition, which they do to this day. They have brunch and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Jeffrey Gurian and Paul Reiser at The Comic Strip back in '09.

Well a lot has happened since then, and tonight is the debut of Paul’s new show on NBC called appropriately enough, The Paul Reiser Show. Watch this little video I shot with Paul to promote his show. We all wish him well and hope it will be a big hit. How can it not be? Paul Reiser is starring in it!

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Comedy Diabetes Fundraiser at The Legendary Comic Strip

 

This Thursday, April 14th at 8 P.M. there will be a comedy fundraiser held to fight Diabetes at the legendary comedy club The Comic Strip.

The Comic Strip opened on June 1, 1976 and on June 17th a young Jerry Seinfeld walked in to audition.  His first sign-up sheet is still on the wall, and it says ” Good.  Put on Monday 6/21!”

Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld, and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip after Jerry's interview for the book that Jeffrey is writing on the history of The Strip.

Aside from Jerry, the club also launched the careers of Paul Reiser, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Ray Romano, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock just to name a few.

Richie Tienken, Paul Reiser, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip with Paul preparing for his new show on NBC.

Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip after Chris' interview for the book Jeffrey is writing on the history of this famous club!

This show will feature appearances by the great Elayne Boosler, the first woman to ever have a one hour TV special, on Showtime, Chuck Nice from VH1, Goumba Johnny the afternoon host of WKTU, Cipha Sounds the morning host of Hot 97, Jon Fisch from Comedy Central and VH1, Sherrod Small from VH1’s Best Week Ever, Eddie Brill from Letterman, Harrison Greenbaum, winner of The Andy Kaufman Award, and voted one of Comedy Central’s ” 10 Comics To Watch”, Macio from The Chapelle Show, Comedy Central’s Louis Ramey and more, plus special guests!

Jeffrey Gurian and Elayne Boosler freezing their behinds off, outside The Comic Strip!

This event is being produced by comedy writer/producer Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters and Richie Tienken, original owner/founder of The Comic Strip.

Tickets are $50. plus a 2 drink minimum and can be purchased over the phone by calling (212) 861-9386.

Please come and help make this a sold out show to fight Diabetes!  Proceeds from all ticket sales go directly to the American Diabetes Association!!!

 

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My Special Day With Richard Lewis

Many people have idols in their field, people who have inspired them, … and some of them even get to meet their idols. It’s rare but it does happen. Even rarer is to actually be friends with someone who’s your idol, and in my case that someone is Richard Lewis.

Jeffrey Gurian with his friend & comedy idol Richard Lewis in the Billy Crystal Bar of The Friars Club!

Let me try and explain the kind of caring individual that Richard is. We know each other for a long time, but when he agreed to meet me at The Friars Club at lunchtime the day after he opened at Carolines, I was going in hopes of just having a few laughs, and to take a few photos of us for my national column Comedy Matters.

I had hoped for, but didn’t really count on being able to do a video interview. Our plan was to meet before he sat by himself for hours at a time preparing for his show that night at 8 P.M. It’s nothing for Richard to sit for 6 hours reviewing his “premises.” I certainly didn’t want to impose on his time. But from the moment he walked in, he was nothing but accommodating. He actually suggested shots and things I could do to make the video shoot more interesting.

We went into the dining room first to get photos of Richard under his caricature done by the legendary Al Hirschfeld, which was a great honor and source of pride to Richard.  There we encountered the force known to the Friars as Frank Capitelli, the long-time Maitre-d’ who runs the dining room with an iron fist.

Richard Lewis in a calm moment with Gianfranco "Frank" Capitelli the long-time Maitre-D' of The Friars Club.

He and Richard suddenly started berating each other as only big stars can do with Frank, and Richard grabbed Frank’s lapels as they mock-threatened each other while barely being able to keep from laughing.

Richard grabbing Frank's lapel and threatening to ruin his Italian-made custom suit, if he didn't give him the table he wanted! (LOL)

The interview itself was similar to Richard’s act. There was no beginning, middle or end. All of a sudden you were just in the midst of it. It was happening. At one point he told me he didn’t need me that he could just interview himself.

It was one laugh after the next. And when it finally DID end, it was only with assurances from Richard that if I had any further questions, all I had to do was ask, and he’d answer them right away. And that’s because Richard is a “Mensch”!

For the book I’m doing on the history of The Comic Strip, I’ve interviewed some of the biggest stars in comedy. ALL of them were nice while they were there, … except maybe for one, who will go unnamed , … for now!

But it’s the effort it took to get some of them there that made the difference. Most it was easy.  Richie Tienken or I  just had to ask.  Some people are grateful for the help they received in getting to where they are now, like Chris Rock, Ray Romano, George Wallace, Larry Miller, and Jerry Seinfeld, while others want to conveniently forget where they came from and who helped them get there.  None of those names will be mentioned!

But it begs the question – HOW CAN YOU NOT BE GRATEFUL TO SOMEONE WHO HELPED YOU BECOME SUCCESSFUL??? HOW CAN IT BE SO DIFFICULT TO SCHEDULE ONE HOUR OF YOUR TIME,… LITERALLY ONE SMALL, MINISCULE HOUR OF YOUR TIME TO COME AND REMINISCE ABOUT YOUR PAST, WITHOUT HAVING TO MAKE A WHOLE “MEGILLAH” ( a big deal! ) OUT OF IT, AND INVOLVE YOUR MANAGERS, AGENTS AND ASSISTANTS TO SCHEDULE THE THING? DON’T YOU TAKE AN HOUR FOR LUNCH EVERY DAY? DO YOU HAVE TO SCHEDULE THAT THROUGH MANAGERS AND AGENTS? AND THEN MAKE IT DIFFICULT TO GET A RELEASE FROM THEM AFTER THEY DO IT??? WHY WOULD YOU SHOW UP FOR SOMETHING AND THEN NOT GLADLY SIGN A RELEASE???

But, I digress! That’s a topic for a whole other posting. By the time I’m finished with this I’ll have enough ideas for postings for the next decade! Back to Richard Lewis.

Richard prepares for his show like he does everything else in the world, … obsessively. To a fault.  And he’s the first to admit it!

He writes his premises in a notebook, about 5 times the size of regular letters, and fills the book with notes which he studies continuously for hours, by himself, coming up with thoughts on the topics he wrote.

During a conversation, something could strike him about his wife, as an example, and he’ll jot that down as a premise. Never the full joke. Only the premise. He’s one of those comedic geniuses that can actually develop a premise on stage. He’s been doing that for 41 years.

Sitting with Richard is to me like it would be sitting down with Bob Dylan, ( in the early days!), or Mick Jagger, ( which I did only once!)  or Salvador Dali (which I actually also did for a few hours, and which will be the topic for another posting!). Icons that most people don’t get a chance to know.

Sitting with Richard Lewis in the corner of The Friars Club dining room under the Al Hirschfeld drawing of Richard, of which he is very proud! ( And rightly so!)

For better or worse, ( in terms of my own sanity!), Richard encompasses everything I understand about the world. He also encompasses everything I DON’T understand about the world. He speaks for me. His sickness is MY sickness.

This is not to say that I think I could compare myself to Richard. Only in my private moments alone, when I wonder how things would have been if I had started performing back in the 70’s, would I allow myself to think I could have been good enough to be in that esteemed circle of Richard, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, David Brenner, … like that. All of whom I know from back in the day. It’s only when you’re coming up with guys, that you can allow them to see you grow as a comic.

In order to do that they have to watch you fail miserably many times. It’s the only way you get good. Every comic knows that. You have to try many things sometimes to find the thing that works. When you’re all starting out together, you’re kind of in the same boat, so you bond over that. You empathize with what the other guy is going through. So what am I saying here???

I’m saying I relate to Richard Lewis’ humor so much, that it feels part of me. I feel like he’s speaking for me. There’s an identification that goes down to the DNA. When I say I’ve had a stomach-ache since 1954, I know that HE knows what I mean because when I sat down with him today at The Friars Club, he told me he wants a plaque above the toilet in the Men’s Room, and referenced the drug Imodium.( Which is probably the only drug he can take anymore!)

Imodium is a great comedy word. In MY act, I reference the drug Lomotil. I didn’t think of Imodium. It’s a much funnier word. But I’m too late. Imodium is Richard’s and I’m stuck with Lomotil! ( As long as it works!) LOL

So we met in The Billy Crystal Bar, and as a matter of fact when Billy was honored with a ceremony at the club, the bar was roped off to Billy and his friends while the regular Friars just stood and stared past the velvet ropes, like they were looking at animals in the zoo.

I went up to the rope and before they had a chance to chase me away, Billy looked over and said, ” Hey, I know that guy. Let him in.” And they did. And everyone was shocked that Billy Crystal knew me. Jean Pierre who was the Executive Director of the club at the time was standing there, and he just smiled, as if to say, ” It figures that he would know you!”

Billy knew me from Jack Rollins. From the days when I used to hang out in Jack Rollins office on West 57th Street. Those were the days when I was married, was a dentist, and was living in Westchester, coming to the city every Wednesday to try and make my way into show biz.

I had sent a letter to Jack Rollins himself, ( on my dental stationery no less! ) telling him about the short films I was making and how everyone always compared my comedy to that of Woody Allen. How surprised was I to actually get a phone call from Jack himself, inviting me to come down to this office. It was a dream come true. Woody Allen’s manager asking me to come and meet with him.

Jack actually suggested a sitcom about me, a dentist who was trying to break into show biz. That’s how I met Billy. He thought Billy would be good to play me, and he only wanted to get involved if he was representing the star. So he introduced me to Billy, but Billy was already doing many other things. it could have been SNL or maybe Soap.

That’s when I suggested a young comic I had met who I really liked, Paul Reiser. Jack had never heard of him, because he was so new, but I raved about how funny he was, and Jack said I could call him and ask if he was interested. I remember calling Paul from the municipal parking lot on West 54th Street near what was then Studio 54, and asking him if he would consider playing me in a sitcom, if Jack Rollins was involved.

Jeffrey Gurian, Paul Reiser, and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip for Paul's interview for the book they are doing on the history of the club!

He said he would be glad to, and then about two weeks later, I think he landed a sitcom or a movie or something, and that was the end of that. Are you starting to see a pattern here???

Just a few years ago, when I wrote the award-winning short film “I Am Woody” about a mob boss obsessed with Woody Allen, I sent him the script to read.  In one of our many phone calls he said to me, ” How come I never managed you?”

The question hit me like a lightening bolt. In that one brief moment I felt elation and sadness at the same time, like I had never felt in my life. The elation that the legendary Jack Rollins who had managed Woody from the start, and produced every one of his movies, would have thought to manage me, was one of the biggest honors I ever had.

Then the incredible sadness of realizing the opportunity I had missed, and the courage I had to come up with to ask, ” Is it too late?”, not wanting to hear the answer I knew was coming.  He said it was too late for him in his career as he had retired years before.

I remember being there in his office for the first time like it was yesterday. And after he saw my films, he got on the phone and personally called the late Herb Sargent, who went on to become Pres. of The Writer’s Guild East, and who was running the writing team up at SNL at the time, and asked him to meet with me.

Herb was actually responsible for the name, ” Not Ready For Primetime Players”, and was in charge of shaping the legendary News Update, whose early hosts were Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Dennis Miller, who turned out to be my nemesis for getting on the show.

When I went up to see Herb at the SNL offices he said to me, ” I don’t even have to look at your stuff. If Jack Rollins says you’re funny, you’re funny!” But he DID look at my stuff, and liked it enough to set up a meeting for me with a guy named John Head, who in those days was in charge of film acquisition for SNL.

In those days I was doing films on “Monty-Pythonesque news topics”, like “Several men were arrested today for smearing creamcheese on the ankles of elderly women who wore their stockings rolled down like bagels. One of the victims, here only one month from Ireland gave us her account of what happened. She granted us an interview on the stipulation that she remain anonymous. Her name is Mrs O’Goyim,and she lives in The Bronx, but to honor her request, and protect her identity we’ll simply call her Mrs X.”

And then I got my dear grandmother, Nana Fay, to roll down her stockings which she would NEVER do, and let me put creamcheese on her ankles.  She also made believe she had a thick Jewish accent, where she explained that, “you know we have two kinds of stockings, … one for milk, and one for meat, ( an Orthodox Jewish “Kosher” reference! ) and this crazy man came over and shmeared creamcheese on my “Flaisheke” (meat) stockings and I can’t get it off!”

She said, ” Jeffrey, only for you would I do something like this!” She had such a great sense of humor, and was in other films of mine as well. But it was ALWAYS comedy news for me. That was my favorite thing in the world.

I think maybe because all news sounds ridiculous to me anyway. I think it’s the cadence. I got my “news announcer” training from Chuck Scarborough when I worked with him to prepare for his Friars Roast back in the 80’s.

Anyway, when I got my meeting with John Head I made what was to be one of the biggest, if not THE biggest mistakes in my life. I was no longer married and I was trying to impress this young model/actress I had been running around with. This must have been around 1986. Dennis Miller was doing News Update. I get my meeting at SNL to show my films to John Head. I call this girl and ask her to come with me. WHAT KIND OF SHMUCK TURNS A BUSINESS MEETING INTO A DATE?

As I’m writing this all these years later, I still can’t believe I did this. I bring the girl with me, as if her presence was going to make my films funnier. Talk about low self-esteem. I wasn’t enough on my own. I had to have someone else who I thought was more special, to “validate” me!

We walk in and of course everyone takes notice. Especially Dennis Miller who was single at the time. We had already known each other from other friends of mine who were in the cast since I had been going up to SNL since around 1977. We also hung out at a place called Columbus Cafe on 69th Street and Columbus Avenue.

Dennis immediately takes notice of the girl, asks why I’m there, I excitedly tell him I’m there to show John Head my comedy news, not realizing that Dennis does comedy news, and he asks if he can sit in on my meeting. I, … like the moron I was, … was thrilled! Dennis Miller will laugh his ass off, John Head will be impressed, and I’ll become part of SNL.

What happened next is still almost too sad for me to tell, but I have no choice. We show the films and everyone’s laughing. John Head’s words were burned into my memory. He said, ” I see no reason why you shouldn’t be doing films for the show. I’ll set up a meeting with Lorne Michaels for next week. Call me on Monday.”

I was ecstatic. I was out of my mind with joy. I was going to be making films for SNL. A dream come true. I called John Head on Monday like I was asked to, and was told that Dennis Miller liked my stuff so much that HE wanted to be the guy who brought it to Lorne and that I should call him instead.  John said he was out of it.  I was a little shocked, but still ok that Dennis liked it that much.

Then he never took my call. Many messages later, I realized he wasn’t going to ever take my call, or call me back. Not only that, but he took the girl’s number who I was with and went out with her, adding insult to grievous injury.

Making it even worse, ( it that was even remotely possible!) they went out socializing with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams and didn’t invite me!   I almost lost it over that. It was a lesson that haunts me to this day, about trying to be a bigshot and wind up looking like a putz!!!

I ran into Dennis some time later at Columbus Cafe where we all hung out. I asked him why he never got back to me. Rather than give me an answer he said, ” You wanna write for me? The show wants me to do remotes and that’s not my style. It’s YOUR style. Come up with a few ideas for me and if I like them, I’ll do them on the show.”  Then came the kicker!  “But I need them by tomorrow!”

Needless to say, I stayed up all night coming up with ideas to get them to him by the next day. It’s more than 20 years later, and I still haven’t heard from him.  Nice, …  right???

It took me a long time to just let that stuff go.  It doesn’t mean I don’t remember it, but I don’t let it make me ill!  It’s not worth it.

This blog, on the other hand, is getting to be like Richard Lewis’ act, … kind of like free association, but nowhere near as funny! When I saw him last night, among the million things he discussed,and let me say that there was one moment where he almost finished a sentence, … he told about missing the huge Woodstock festival in 1967 because it was drizzling, so instead he went to the movies and saw Fred McMurray in Flubber, which was one of his biggest errors in life!

And then he went on to tell how when he called his Mom to tell her he got The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which should have sent her into a state of rapture, she simply asked him who else was on with him!

That was one way we differed. My Mom would take every opportunity she had to brag about me.  She would brag about the way I coughed. Did you see my son cough? Amazing. Your son may cough, but not like Jeffrey. When he clears his throat there’s nothing like it.  Rest in Peace Mom, you were the best!

Go see Richard at Carolines. He’s still there tonight, Sat. March 26th for two shows and one final show tomorrow on Sunday. Trust me, it’s not to be missed. Caroline herself came to see him on opening night and stayed through the whole thing.

If this post gets any longer, I’ll need a book publisher, and a literary agent to even GET the book publisher!

Jeffrey Gurian with Richard Lewis after one of his sold-out shows at Joe's Pub in NYC!

To be continued!

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Judah Friedlander Comes To The Comic Strip For Interview

On June 1, 1976 Richie Tienken and Bob Wachs opened the legendary comedy club called The Comic Strip.  It was at 1568 Second Avenue in Manhattan, between 81st and 82nd streets.  It’s still there and thriving.

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

On June 17th, 1976, barely two weeks after it opened, a young, unknown comic named Jerry Seinfeld came in to audition.  His sign-up sheet still hangs in the club.  It says ” Good.  Definitely put on Monday 6/21.”

Richie Tienken, Ray Romano and Jeffrey Gurian below Ray's old photo on the wall at The Comic Strip!

Not only did Seinfeld get his start there, but so did Paul Reiser, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Ray Romano, Adam Sandler, Colin Quinn, Susie Essman, Jim Gaffigan, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and many other huge stars who called that club their home.

Jeffrey Gurian, Susie Essman, and Richie Tienken after Susie's interview for the book!

Jim Gaffigan and Jeffrey after Jim's interview at The Strip. Richie must have been hiding!

Richie and Bob went on to manage Eddie Murphy for 11 years, from his SNL career through Beverly Hills Cop 2.  Richie also managed Adam Sandler, Tony Rock, and Colin Quinn.

Jeffrey Gurian, Tony Rock, and Richie Tienken after Tony's interview at The Strip!

Jeffrey Gurian, Judah Friedlander, and Richie Tienken under the photo taken BEFORE Judah was World Champion! ( over his left shoulder!)

I have been chosen by Richie, to write the book on the history of the club, and so far have interviewed about 26 of the biggest names that have come out of the club, including Seinfeld, Larry Miller, Paul Reiser, George Wallace, Colin Quinn, Ray Romano, and Chris Rock.

Recently Judah Friedlander of 30 Rock fame, and The World Champion, came to the club to sit down with Richie and I to reminisce about his beginnings, and his memories of the club in the early days of his career.  This is a little video excerpt of the interview.

Jeffrey Gurian Interviews Judah Friedlander at The Comic Strip

I hope you’ll like it enough to send it around to your friends!!!

 

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Speaking of Gilbert

My superstar P.R. team Goldman/McCormick has been working overtime and as a result, last night at 11 P.M., I got a call from Mark Amazon on 700 WLW News Talk Radio, known as “The Big One”, out of Cincinatti, Ohio for my take on the Gilbert Gottfried/AFLAC scenario.

Having known Gilbert for more than 25 years, I told them that I felt it was a mistake in judgment that Gilbert regretted, not only because he lost his position as the voice of AFLAC, but because he never intended to hurt anyone’s feelings.  He had already posted apologies on his own Twitter page.

With AFLAC having such a huge percentage of it’s business in Japan, I guess it couldn’t afford the potential losses from people who were insulted by Gilbert’s Tweets, and made the choice to let him go.  The only other way would have been for them to stick up for him, against an entire ravaged country, and that would be a very unlikely scenario for anyone to expect.

Gilbert was just being Gilbert, as he’s always been.  That’s what he does.  He goes where no one else dares.  Comedians often try to do that.  I have several thoughts on that matter.

 

Gilbert and Jeffrey back in 1992, when Gilbert starred in a short film Jeffrey wrote called “Seeing is Believing”, where Gilbert wears glasses like microscopes, and tries to get X-ray vision to see through women’s clothing. Also featuring Camille Donatacci Grammer, Kelsey Grammer’s recent ex, playing a very sexy nurse. Check it out at http://www.jeffreygurian.com

 

Comics spend every day looking for what’s funny about things that most people don’t see as funny.  Not cause they want to, cause they HAVE to.  They have no choice.  It’s how comics think.  It’s in their blood.  It’s a drug, and they’re addicted.

Some comics work clean, some work filthy.  Some comics say the most outrageous things, but they say them within the confines of a club, not in a forum to the world.  I think that’s what makes the difference here.

Sick, cruel humor has always been around.  Some people love it.  I happen not to, but that’s coming from someone who wrote nasty jokes for Friars Roasts for many years.  BUT, … I ALWAYS asked the person being Roasted if there was anything that was off-limits to him, so that I wouldn’t write anything particularly hurtful. That’s just me.

Maybe human beings have a naturally cruel side?  Just go to any schoolyard, or high school to see what I mean.  Probably all you have to do is think back to your own high school days.  Not a very comfortable time right?  Bullying isn’t something new.  Kids make fun of other kids if they don’t think you fit the mold.  And how many people actually did in those days.

I always say, ” If high school was the best time of your life you should probably kill yourself!” (LOL) For many people it was the worse time in their lives.

And very often those very same kids who didn’t fit in in high school went on to become comedians!  They used humor to help them fit in.  So many comics are socially awkward, and lacking in social graces. They only have personalities on stage.  It’s an amazing thing!  Offstage they can be quiet and shy.

In any case, Mark Amazon and the other radio hosts I spoke with didn’t seem to be coming down too harshly on Gilbert.  They all seemed to understand that Gilbert was being Gilbert.  It’s unfortunate that it had to happen at all, meaning the devastation that hit Japan in the first place, and the Tweeting that followed it.

 

Jeffrey Gurian and Gilbert Gottrried lunching at Pastis during Gilbert's interview for the book on the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club The Comic Strip, the club that launched the careers of Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Paul Reiser, Ray Romano and so many more. Jeffrey is writing the book with owner/founder of The Strip, Richie Tienken.

Let’s send Healing energy to all parties!

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