Posts Tagged The Comic Strip

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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My Synchronicitous Meeting With Larry David

People often tell me I know everyone in comedy.

If you watch this little video, you’ll hear Nick Kroll and Paul Provenza telling me exactly that, and until a few days ago my answer was always, ” Yeh, but I don’t know Larry David.”

For whatever reason, in all my years in the comedy world, our paths have never crossed, but I’m a huge fan and I always wanted to meet him.

So I’m at LaGuardia Airport , flying to Florida and who do I run into, … Larry David.  And he was alone.   And I was nervous to approach him, and I didn’t know what to say!

I turned into a little girl!   Only knowing his cantankerous ( I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before! LOL) character on Curb, I was reluctant to go over and introduce myself, not knowing what kind of response to expect.

I had been trying to reach him as recently as October 23rd to request a video message to Susie Essman, because I was producing a gala in her honor as part of the Gold Coast International Film Festival for which I was named “Head of Live Comedy Programming”,  and had gotten funny video messages from Richard Lewis, (which for a joke, we filmed in the Men’s Room of The Friars Club), Mario Cantone, and D.L. Hughley, but I couldn’t get to Larry.  I even have a friend who’s close to him but even he was reluctant to approach Larry, which made me even more nervous!

In D.L. Hughley’s interview, we made up to say something like, I tried to get J.B. Smoove and The Wayans Brothers but D.L. was the only one available.

Jeffrey Gurian with D.L. Hughely after D.L.'s show at Gotham Comedy Club!

Jeffrey Gurian with D.L. Hughely after D.L.’s show at Gotham Comedy Club!

 

Jeffrey Gurian with J.B. Smoove on the red carpet of Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars, holding Jeffrey's book ""Make 'Em Laugh" , with an intro by Chris Rock!

Jeffrey Gurian with J.B. Smoove on the red carpet of Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars, holding Jeffrey’s book “”Make ‘Em Laugh” , with an intro by Chris Rock!

 

Jeffrey Gurian bacjstage with Jeff Garlin at Carolines Comedy Club in NYC!

Jeffrey Gurian backstage with Jeff Garlin at Carolines Comedy Club in NYC!

 

But I realized that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.    I had to do it despite my nervousness.  What’s the worst he could say?   It felt like an episode of “Curb!”

To add to the tension, I was running out of time because he was walking towards his gate, with papers in his hand.  There was a terrible fog and everyone’s flights had been delayed for several hours.  I could tell by the look on his face that he was troubled which added to the tension of me approaching him.

Do I tell him that Jerry Seinfeld is in my book “Make ‘Em Laugh” that has an intro by Chris Rock?

Do I tell him I’m friends with Susie Essman, Richard Lewis, Jeff Garlin and J.B. Smoove, or will I just look like a name-dropper?

I realized I would have to do what I had been doing for most of my life, …. confronting my fear and doing something I was nervous to do.  It’s how I finally got up on stage to perform.

I knew that if I waited too long debating on what to say, I might miss the opportunity all together and never forgive myself, so I tapped him on the shoulder, which for whatever reason is where most people usually tap each other, when they want to get another person’s attention, and I said ” Hey Larry, I’m Jeffrey Gurian a comedy writer from NY and we have a lot of mutual friends!”

He was very friendly, gracious, and open and went and sat down while I stood in front of him talking to him.  The whole entire time, I kept wondering whether I was overstaying my welcome.  I got to tell him about the gala I produced in honor of Susie Essman, the video with Richard Lewis, how J.B. Smoove took a photo holding my book, that Jerry Seinfeld gave me an interview for, and he took it all in.

Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip after Jerry's interview for the book "Make 'Em Laugh."

Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip after Jerry’s interview for the book “Make ‘Em Laugh.”

I told him the book has interviews with Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Ray Romano, Colin Quinn, Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, Chris Rock, Judah Friedlander, and about 50 more big stars that started  at The Comic Strip, several of whom talk about Larry!

And I told him the story that Comic Strip owner Richie Tienken always told me about Larry.  There were times in Larry’s early career when if he wasn’t happy on stage, either with his set or the audience, he’d throw the mic on the floor and storm off in the middle of his set.

Richie said that mics were expensive, so one night they played a trick on Larry, and glued the mic into the stand, and when he went to throw it he couldn’t get it out!  Larry smiled and said it was a good story, but he didn’t remember it.  Richie Tienken re-confirmed it for me when i got back to New York.

As I was about to leave, I thought of shaking his hand, but I had a feeling he wasn’t into shaking hands in general and to tell you the truth neither am I.  I actually wear a little bottle of Purell hanging from my belt at all times.   So I said to him, ” You don’t shake hands do you?  And he said, ” I prefer not to!”, at which point I pointed to my Purell and we had a good laugh.

I really wanted to ask for a photo but that’s where I drew the line.   Things were going so well I didn’t want to take the chance of him saying “No.”

However we did exchange contact info and I already sent him a copy of my book with a note that got delivered just yesterday, the date of  which will vary depending on when you read this Blog post! (LOL)

 

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Jeffrey Gurian’s Excellent Adventure with Keith and The Girl

If someone told you you had to go on the radio for an hour and 40 minutes straight you might wonder to yourself if you had enough to say. On today’s Keith and The Girl appearance after almost two hours we were just warming up! I swear we could have gone another two hours easy! The flow was amazing and they are extremely gracious hosts!

The very descriptive and accurate logo for “Keith and The Girl”, (whose name is Chemda, btw!) This happens to be exactly what they look like! (JK!)

My curiousity was piqued last month when I attended a couple of nights of their 8th anniversary celebration which they held out in Brooklyn at a performance space called White Wave. They literally had fans fly in from all over the world. Right around me were people from Australia, Toronto, Europe, Colorado, California, and all of them had gone to great trouble and expense to come in and celebrate with KATG!

Keith and Chemda in a very accurate portrayal of what they REALLY look like, during their 8th anniversary celebration!

People like Ted Alexandro say I know everyone in comedy.

So I was embarrassed to admit that KATG had escaped my comedy radar. And for eight years??? How could that even happen? That’s when I made it my business to find out more about KATG, and I’m so glad I did.

They have a super studio in Queens, whose exact location will not be divulged. Suffice it to say that it’s hidden inside of a mountain and when you approach and yell out a secret word, which they give you before you arrive, the mountain actually splits open, and you walk in, like Moses parting The Red Sea! It’s incredible.

A candid shot of Keith and Chemda in the studio, getting ready to do the KATG podcast and videocast as well!

I started out strong when they asked me my favorite movie and I said “The Sixth Sense.” It seems that was Keith’s favorite movie as well and no one else had ever said that. Then they were both ready to fall out of their chairs when I told them my favorite color was orange, which also happened to be Keith’s favorite color. And anyone who knows me knows that’s true. It’s the color of The Second Chakra and a very powerful color.

We went on to talk about everything. We talked about my new book, “Make ‘Em Laugh”, about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip, comedy legends like Andy Kaufman, Jack Rollins, and Milton Berle, young stars not with us anymore like Patrice O’Neal, Mitch Hedberg, Mike DeStefano, Greg Giraldo, movies, music, Healing which was an amazing discussion where we found out that Chemda has Healing energy, and she thinks she’d like to use it!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with his great friend, the late Patrice O’Neal!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the late Mitch Hedberg at one of his last performances in NYC!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the late Mike DeStefano after he was on Last Comic Standing!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the late Greg Giraldo at a party at Comix in NYC!

We talked about the comedy clubs and gave shout-outs to The Comic Strip, Gotham Comedy Club, and The Comedy Cellar. We talked about high school, and about how and why kids are so mean to each other, dating, sexuality, and almost every subject on the planet, and we had lots of laughs and a really good time.

We even talked about You Pop the new social media craze that’s sweeping the country where creative people can get paid for making cool little videos on their cell phones and uploading them to the YouPop.com site to be offered to the world at large!

You Pop, the most exciting social media craze to come along since Facebook!

To show you just what a good time we had, I didn’t check my e-mail even once during the two hours! It flew by so fast, I couldn’t believe it when Chemda told me how much time had gone by. Then I got the tour of the premises and got to see Lauren again, Chemda’s significant other, plus I got to see the office where they keep their merch and it’s loaded with goodies, except it’s lighter now cause they gave me a whole bunch of presents.

Chemda and Lauren at the 8th anniversary of KATG!

They gave me audio books that you wear on your wrist like a bracelet. I never even saw something like that. I’m not Bill Gates but I’m familiar with lots of technology, and this was really cool. It’s like a thumb drive and you get the book as an MP3.

I got their books, “The Great American Novel” by Keith, and “What Do We Do Now” a modern advice book for modern couples written by both of them. And I had to once again give them props for having been a couple, broken up, and still working together with such a cool dynamic. They are truly good friends. It’s a testament to what people can accomplish if they really want to.

Chemda hiding behind one of the KATG T-shirts while Keith proudly displays his “State of the Union” DVD.

But that’s not all, I also got Keith’s “State of the Union” DVD, and the Keith and The Girl Roast, with cartoon drawings on the back of some of the comics who participated and who you can actually recognize! One I’m sure is Mike Lawrence because the character has a huge beard!

They called my segment ” Healing Hands”, and you can actually listen to the whole thing right here:

http://www.keithandthegirl.com/Show-Detail/2653/Healing-Hands.aspx#

I really hope they invite me back!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Keith Malley and Chemda Khalili of KATG!

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George Wallace Visits The Comic Strip

Whenever George Wallace comes to New York, he always comes back to his “home” to visit Richie Tienken and The Comic Strip. That’s the place where he started back in 1976, before the place was even finished.

Before The Strip opened it’s doors on June 1, 1976 George came by selling bus advertising and convinced owner Richie Tienken to buy advertising that appeared on the back of buses going up 1st and 2nd Avenues that said ” Eat, Drink, and Laugh at The Comic Strip.”

(L-R) J.R. Ravitz, Marina Franklin, Jeffrey Gurian, and Richie Tienken, and holding down the back row by himself, is George Wallace! George is so big, he’s his own row!

It was the reason when Richie and I did the book on the 35 year history of the legendary club, we were originally planning to call it “Eat, Drink and Laugh”.

George and Jerry Seinfeld were and still are best friends. They were roommates in the early days and shared an apartment on West 71st Street. When Jerry left for LA, George kept the apartment and roomed with Paul Provenza.

George has been in Las Vegas for the last ten years with the highest rated 10 P.M. show on The Strip. He came into The Strip to do a set recently, which thrilled the crowd, and told me he’s thinking of moving back to New York.

George was the second interview I did for the book “Make ‘Em Laugh”, up in Montreal during the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, the summer of 2008.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with George Wallace backstage during rehearsal at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, 2008!

He was hosting one of the huge galas that gets televised, and right before he went out on stage he asked me what I thought he should say! I had to laugh to myself that here was a guy, so accomplished that he didn’t even have to prepare to host a major comedy gala and would decide what he was going to say when he got out there!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage with “All Star Gala” host George Wallace just before he took the stage!

Needless to say he killed it and after the show he took me out for a late dinner, where I did my interview, and we got to know each other. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.

I’m one of the producers of a new comedy documentary film called “The Business of Comedy” Exec. Produced by two great guys Gary Licker and Scott Sobel of Scott Entertainment. They went out to Vegas to interview George, and I gave them a signed copy of the book to bring George as I knew he hadn’t seen it yet. They were thrilled to do it and they said that George was thrilled to get it.

Scott Sobel and Gary Licker, Exec. Producers of the doc. film “The Business of Comedy” at the home of Jeffrey Gurian, filming him for the doc., on which he is also a co-producer!

One of the first things he said when he saw me was how much he loved the book!

So I was backstage with him this time too, and don’t you think that right before he went out to perform he asked me what I thought he should do! (LOL) I reminded him of the incident in Montreal and told him that whatever he chose would be perfect. The audience was already his!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with George Wallace at The Comic Strip!

He talked about going to Oprah’s party, and talked about getting parking tickets. He said he got so many parking tickets he was thinking of removing his windshield. That’s hysterical! He also told of the dyslexic cop who gave him an IUD, instead of a DUI!

He talked about his poor childhood and how in his day kids only got measles, mumps and chickenpox. It was all they could afford!

He said to some guy in the audience who was making remarks, “Where were you when your mind got up and walked away?”

Then he said he didn’t want to get racial, but advised white people to stop looking for ghosts! And then he did one of his classic bits which he calls “I Be Thinkin'” where he comes out with lines like, ” I saw a can that said “Evaporated Milk” and I thought to myself, then what’s in the can?” I told him he should do a CD by that name and he said he was already planning on doing that! Great minds think alike! (LOL)

He also said, ” You never see a homeless Mexican!” And it’s true. They’re like baby pigeons. You know they must exist, but you never actually see one! He said you give a Mexican 8 bricks and 3 packs of chewing gum and a week later you got a housing development!”

George hung out after his killer set, and took photos with his fans and with Richie and I. It was very cool night and if he does move back to New York, you can bet he’ll be a regular at his old home, The Comic Strip!

(L-R) Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, George Wallace and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip, holding the book ” Make “Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of the club written by Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken! George is featured prominently in the book as one of the originals from The Strip!

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Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn Team Up at MSG to Fight Diabetes

Comedy is a great way to call attention to a cause and to raise money for charity, and needless to say the bigger the comedy star the more money you can raise. This Wednesday, April 17th two of the biggest, most well-loved stars of comedy, Jerry Seinfeld and his close friend Colin Quinn, will be performing in a comedy concert, as part of the Stand Up For A Cure Concert Series, to benefit the American Diabetes Association.

Jerry Seinfeld and Colin Quinn will be at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden this Wed. 4/17/13! Come out to support a great cause!

It’s a wonderful thing when stars use their celebrity to give back to society. It’s a sign of their gratitude for the success they have achieved.

Stand Up for a Cure Concert Series was launched in 2007 with a Seinfeld-starring show at Hammerstein Ballroom to benefit the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Since that time, they have produced shows with Dave Matthews Band at MSG, Bon Jovi at the Hammerstein Ballroom, Barry Manilow at the Nassau Coliseum, Brian Wilson at the Hammerstein Ballroom, and another Seinfeld show at MSG in 2008.

This will be Jerry Seinfeld’s third show for Stand Up For A Cure, and I’m sure he gets a lot of pleasure out of knowing how many people are helped through his kindness.

Jerry Seinfeld will star in a Stand-Up For A Cure comedy concert to benefit the American Diabetes Association!

The event will take place on Wednesday, April 17 at The Theater at Madison Square Garden (Seventh Avenue and 32nd Street). Jerry had his choice of charities to benefit from his performance and he personally selected the American Diabetes Association as his charity of choice for this year’s fundraiser. I will be covering this event and I hope to be able to ask him why.

I personally have a strong connection to Diabetes as I lost my Dad to that dreaded disease. Many people have no idea how devastating Diabetes can be. My Dad looked like a cancer victim before it took him. It affected every part of his body except his eyesight, which was a Blessing in itself. It’s a wasting disease, where in the end your kidneys can shut down due to end stage renal disease.

My oldest daughter Elizabeth DeRobertis is the head of the nutrition department at a medical group in Scarsdale, and specializes in treating Diabetes and I myself produced a sold-out comedy event to raise money for the ADA at The Comic Strip, on 81st and 2nd in NYC.

Both Jerry and Colin were kind enough to give me interviews for my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip the legendary comedy club where both of them started out and called “home”. I wrote it with owner/founder Richie Tienken, and Chris Rock who also started out there wrote an amazing introduction to the book, besides giving his own interview.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Jerry Seinfeld at The Comic Strip after Jerry’s interview for Jeffrey’s book “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of the club where Jerry started out!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Colin Quinn holding a copy of “Make ‘Em Laugh” the book he is in, about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip where he started his career!

A portion of the proceeds from the event will go towards funding research, education, programs and advocacy for the American Diabetes Association.

Right now there are over two million people living in the New York metropolitan area who have diabetes and that number continues to grow. If this trend continues, one in three children who were born after 2000 will develop diabetes within their lifetime. For minorities, this number becomes one in two.

The American Diabetes Association of Greater New York is working hard to stop this, by focusing many of its programs in New York on prevention. To do this, the association provides health fairs, school walks, healthy living ideas and food choice options/exercise materials to public schools and community organizations.

To learn more about how the American Diabetes Association works with the community, please visit, http://www.diabetes.org/newyork or visit them on Facebook or Twitter.

Together, by attending and supporting comedy events like this, we can Stop Diabetes and have fun along the way!

The overall event is being produced by premiere concert producers Heywood, Mendel and Rose, who have some other exciting shows coming up in the future as well. On August 10th “X Factor” finalist Carly Rose Sonenclar will be performing at the Best Buy Theater and they will also be doing a 3 day festival at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Jan 2014 leading up to the Superbowl in NY with a handful of incredible acts, which I will tell you more about closer to the date!

In the meantime, hope to see you at MSG. I will be there covering the event and will hopefully be posting video of it very soon!

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Robert Klein at The Friars Club for the Documentary "The Business of Comedy"

I get involved in so many interesting projects. Sometimes things just seem to come out of nowhere because life is magical like that. So I find myself as an Associate Producer on a wonderful documentary film slated for PBS called “The Business of Comedy” working with two great Exec. Producers Gary Licker and Scott Sobel.

(L-R) Scott Sobel, and Gary Licker with trusty camera in Jeffrey Gurian’s writing room, after his interview for “The Business of Comedy!”

They made a name for themselves with a successful documentary called “Selling Cars in America”, about the history of the American car dealership and a look at the players who set the tone in the modern day, 21st century showroom. Scott produced it and Gary Licker directed.

“The Business of Comedy” examines just what it says, the business of comedy. So they’re not only interviewing comedians, but they’re speaking to club owners, managers, agents and anybody who makes the comedy world tick. That’s where I came in. First they interviewed me in my home, in what I call my “comedy museum” packed with photos and nostalgia going back to the late 70’s and early 80’s, when I was writing for Rodney Dangerfield and many Friars Club Roasts at the behest of Friars producer Bob Saks, and my original sponsor in The Friars Club, Milton Berle.

We had so much fun on that interview and we all got along so well that we decided to progress together with me being an Associate Producer. Now as a co-producer I brought the project to Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip where we not only interviewed Richie on his vast experience as the owner and founder of The Strip, but also interviewed a bunch of comics both established and new who shared their feelings on the business of comedy.

Then we spoke to Chris Mazzilli at the Gotham Comedy Club, who offered his unique perspective and who I refer to as “the classiest man in comedy”, and Gabe Waldman owner of Stand-Up New York, who we also filmed performing on stage. Very soon we will be speaking on camera with my old friend comedy legend/icon Rick Newman who opened the legendary Catch A Rising Star at the end of 1972, which was the admitted inspiration for The Comic Strip.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Chris Mazzilli owner of Gotham Comedy Club at a Laugh For Sight charity event in 2011!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with comedy icon Rick Newman founder of Catch A Rising Star and current co-owner of Stage 72 in NYC!

But this week was something special for all of us. We got to interview Robert Klein at The Friars Club. Both Gary and Scott made no secret of the fact that they were both incredibly excited at the opportunity to speak to Robert who is himself an icon of comedy, and one of the enduring bright stars of his generation. Not only has he established himself onstage but he’s appeared in over 40 feature films.

I think it was Gary who said that he’s interviewed many celebs but that the excitement of knowing he was going to interview Robert Klein kept him up the night before the interview! We had intended to do the interview in the beautifully appointed Milton Berle Room but as were were setting up we ran into Peter Rosegarten, Robert’s manager from The Conversation Company who facilitated us moving to the gorgeous dining room to do our interview. It’s actually Peter’s brother Rory who works directly with Robert and has done so for the past maybe 30 years ever since Robert left Rollins and Joffe.

Exec. Producer Gary Licker adjusting the microphone for Robert Klein before his interview at The Friars Club!

That story is in my new book with Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh” in a great interview that Rory gave me. Rory and I go back many years and he represented me when I was writing for Joan Rivers.

Gary and Scott started out by playing a little audio recording of Budd Friedman founder of The Improv, which he opened in 1963, saying some very complimentary things about Robert Klein who was a regular there. Robert was very gracious and humbled by Budd’s statement, and said that as years go on, the more those kind of things mean to him. That kind of set the tone for what turned out to be a fantastic interview.

Exec. Producers Scott Sobel and Gary Licker interviewing Robert Klein at The Friars Club for their project “The Business of Comedy” on which I am Associate Producer!

Robert was so generous with his sharing of stories and his energy. I loved how he easily remembered the date of his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I believe he said it was Jan. 9th, 1968. He remembered Johnny also as being “generous” with his laughter and support.

In 1970 Robert had his own summer replacement comedy/variety show called “Comedy Tonight”, which he hosted along with frequent guests Peter Boyle and Madeline Kahn. He has since done nine HBO comedy specials, and is still very active performing around the country at different venues.

Exec. Producer Scott Sobel with his notes asking questions of Robert Klein for the doc film for PBS, “The Business of Comedy”!

His original manager Jack Rollins who helped me greatly in my own career and who originally introduced me to his other clients at the time Billy Crystal and Robin Williams figured greatly in Robert’s early career. I was still a Cosmetic Dentist in those early days and Jack thought that Billy Crystal would be perfect to play me in a sit-com about a dentist who wanted to be in show biz. That’s why when I interviewed Billy for my book “Make ‘Em Laugh” in one of the photos we took he was pointing to his teeth!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Billy Crystal in Billy’s office in LA. Billy is pointing to his teeth referencing Jeffrey’s background as a Cosmetic Dentist!

Robert was inspired by Jonathan Winters, and Lenny Bruce who was persecuted, blacklisted and ultimately ruined for performing material that was considered obscene in those days, but would be considered tame by today’s standards, where literally anything goes. Robert spoke of comedy as a “craft” that used to have a certain “dignity”. I saw it that way as well.

I was also very glad to hear that Robert and I share the same sensitivity as to what is commonly referred to as “bathroom humor” and I can’t really grasp the fascination that many young comics seem to have with bodily functions that to me have no place in a show where men are taking women out for an evening of entertainment.

Neither Robert nor I are prudes in any sense of the word. I wrote filthy jokes for Friars Roasts for many years, but that wasn’t the material I chose to do when I went on stage, and neither did he. We just share the same dislike for unnecessary grossness which is all too common these days.

Robert literally gave us “gold” for the documentary with his honest evaluation of the comedy scene then and now, and he kept me on my toes by throwing questions at me, when certain names in comedy history didn’t quite come to him right away, like Dane Cook and Rosie O’Donnell! He also remembered many years ago when I approached him about writing some material for him. It’s amazing what sticks out in people’s minds that you would think they would never remember!

I was so happy I was able to give him a copy of “Make ‘Em Laugh” because it’s about everyone he knows!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Robert Klein at The Friars Club, holding Jeffrey’s book ” Make’Em Laugh!”

His spirit was youthful and engaging and I hope to see him again soon and maybe even work with him on something fun and meaningful.

Btw, in case you’re interested this is the very cool trailer for the documentary “The Business of Comedy!”

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Sherri Shepherd Kills It At Gotham

Most comics have to worry about winning the audience over. Sherri Shepherd is one of those rare comic performers that the audience likes so much, they’re already on her side when she hits the stage. Gotham Comedy is a big club and when I got there it was so crowded for Sherri that my usual table was gone.

Sherri Shepherd killing it onstage to a sold-out crowd at Gotham Comedy Club!

Fortunately I got an even better table since I need to sit way in the back so I can jump up to greet the performers and get my photos during the show without disturbing anyone. I wound up with the corner table that had good light and put me right next to the comics who were on the show.

Angelo Lozada was the host, and he’s great at warming up an audience, which is a lot harder than just coming out and performing. I should never use the word “just” because coming out and performing stand-up comedy is the hardest thing in the world, even though Joel McHale once told me that he thought that brain surgery might be more difficult! (LOL – Your cue to laugh!)

Angelo Lozada hosting the show at Gotham Comedy Club for Sherri Shepherd!

Angelo told about a homeless guy on the train, and imitated the usual spiel, “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I don’t mean to disturb anyone. I’m just trying to get some money to get my son a tattoo, and to start a record label.”

First up was Harrison Greenbaum, a favorite of mine. Harrison’s killer theme is that people think he’s gay. And he explains it openly, “If you walked into a room and saw me kissing a guy, you’d immediately say, ‘That guy is definitely gay.’ But if you walked into a room and saw me kissing a woman, you’d immediately say, ” That guy … is fooling himself!”

Harrison Greenbaum, Harvard grad, who explains how having sex with another guy is the straightest thing you can do!

He embellished upon that by saying, ” How do you know you’re not gay unless you’ve had sex with another man? That’s the straightest thing you can do is to have sex with another man and then say you didn’t like it.” He explained it so well, it almost made sense! (LOL)

He’s also very clever with lines like,” My friend reads the Bible religiously, which is really the only way to read it!”

Next up was Brad Trackman who I think I know even before he married his lovely wife Christina, who used to book acts at Carolines. Brad is one of the few comics who is always a hit and works clean.

A photo of Brad Trackman and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV taken at The Comic Strip, circa 2002!

He’s done lots of national TV appearances like NBC’s “Later” and “Friday Night”, CBS’s “Star Search”, ABC’s “NY Comedy Festival”, MTV’s “The Buried Life” and had his own commercial campaign for Spike Television where he played the fictitious presidential elect Biff Wolinski.

One of his CD’s called “Safecracker” is based on a killer bit he does about women being like safes and men having to figure out the combination to get into the safe. A compliment like ” Of course you don’t look fat in those pants” is like 22 to the left, etc. knowing full well that men will say anything they have to to crack the combination to the safe!

I heard rumours that Brad may be in line for a show! More on that to follow. He said his wife has trust issues and he knows that for a fact because he read it in her journal! That is really funny! And when she asked him if he would still look for her if they were both in Heaven, he had to remind of of their marriage vows, ” Til death do us part!” It’s Heaven, and he’s not making any promises!

Then Sherri took the stage to thunderous applause. She’s one of those performers that people like before she even says a word. There’s not that many. I once saw Artie Lange get a standing ovation just by coming out on stage!

Sherri automatically endears herself to the audience, but don’t tell her she’s adorable, or you’ll never hear the end of it. She hates being called “adorable” and I understand it cause I always hated it when people said it about me too! “Adorable” is more for a pet or an infant, not a grown-ass adult! (LOL)

Sherri Shepherd in the midst of one of her funny stories onstage during her headlining gig at Gotham Comedy Club!

People love Sherri because not only is she funny, but she’s honest and self-effacing. In talking about her preparation for Hurricane Sandy she said she stocked up on lots of food, and then ate it all in one day!

She talks about washing her wig, and even warned her son Jeffrey, ” Don’t you lie to me. I got eyes in the back of my wig!” And if you ever saw Chris Rock’s documentary entitled “Good Hair” on the state of Black women and their hair, you know not to fool around with a Black woman and her hair! That’s serious bizness!

Sherri replaced Star Jones as a co-host on The View back in 2007, and has also appeared on 30 Rock, Entourage and Hot in Cleveland. She’s also landed supporting roles in a range of films, from the 2009 drama Precious to the 2012 action comedy One for the Money. Also in 2012, Shepherd did a stint on Dancing With the Stars, and had some really funny stories about that, and how she got eliminated from the show. Meanwhile, just being on it is an honor in itself.

Ask Jeffrey Ross who was on for only a short time when his dancing career got put on hold due to a finger in his eye! Very hard to dance with a finger in your eye!

Sherri claimed as she was running towards her partner for him to lift her up in the air she swore she heard Maksim Chmerkovskiy say ” Ohhhhhh Jesus!”

Sherri is a great story teller. Some comics just get up and tell jokes. Others are able to tell stories. She’s one of those. She talks a lot about her new husband who she calls “Sal”, who’s supposedly very tall.

Sherri Shepherd and husband Lamar Sally, otherwise known as “Sal”!

When I heard her call him “Sal” I thought she married some big Italian guy until out of curiousity I looked it up, and saw that her husband’s real name is Lamar Sally, “Sal” for short, which made a lot more sense to me! (LOL) Her son’s name is Jeffrey which I feel is one of the greatest names to come along in all of history! (LOLOL)

I recently ran into Sherri after a guest spot she did at The Comic Strip and was able to give her a copy of my new book with Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh” about the 35 year history of that legendary club! My co-author was owner/founder of the club Richie Tienken, who appears with us in the photo below.

Richie Tienken, Sherri Shepherd holding her copy of “Make ‘Em Laugh” and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV!

Sherri is really fun, and really funny, and I hope to be able to interview her soon for Comedy Matters TV!

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Anthony Anderson’s Mixtape Comedy Show Celebrates Four Years at Gotham Comedy Club!

Anthony Anderson and Royale Watkins should be very proud. For the last four years, at the beautiful Gotham Comedy Club on West 23rd Street in NYC, on the third Sunday of every month, they have been putting on their Mixtape Comedy Show which is a very cool mix of Comedy and Hip-Hop, my two favorite things.

Anthony Anderson and Royale Watkins holding it down onstage at a previous Mixtape Comedy Show at Gotham Comedy Club!

To be able to sustain a show for fours years especially in New York City, where there is so much to choose from, is a major accomplishment. They never tell you who is appearing until you get there, but it’s always great talent. Two other people who should be very proud are Byron Ward and Kristen J. Eddy who produce the show.

Anthony flies in from LA whenever he can, and adds a little extra “Anthony Anderson flava” to the show. For the fourth anniversary “Bow-Legged Lou” from Full Force opened the show and introduced Royale Watkins to the stage. Royale warmed up the crowd as he usually does, and talked about being one of 14 kids in his family. Finally one day he had to take his mother aside and tell her, “You know, there ain’t much more room around here for any other people!”

Then he brought Nick Griffin to the stage.

Nick Griffin onstage at Gotham Comedy Club for the 4th anniversary of Mixtape Comedy!

Nick has a very interesting, low-key delivery and I notice things like that, because among other things, I also consider myself a student of comedy! He’s so relaxed it almost seems like he doesn’t care, which is part of the art.

Nick explains that guys want abs so that when we go to have sex and take off our shirts, the girl takes one look and we go, ” You made the right choice honey!”

He said he was married three years and got divorced. They were supposed to be together till one of them died. Nick says he never even had a fever!

In talking about how perfect Brad Pitt is he wondered, “What did he do, pull a thorn out of G-d’s paw?” What does he have left to pray for? Like Brad Pitt starts to pray and thinks about it for a minute and then goes, ” “Ohhh, no, forget it, I’m good!”

Wil Sylvince is always a crowd pleaser! His imitation of his Haitian father’s accent always brings down the house, and his father would complain if Wil got bad grades in English and demand to know why. Wil would say, “Well maybe the English I have at home is not the English I have at school” and use the example of his Dad questioning him about someone stealing the doors from their home, “Who took de door from de door?”

Wil Sylvince killing it as he always does at Mixtape Comedy!

Wil also said his rent was “$850. a month with utensils!” That’s hysterical!

One surprise guest was Sherri Shepherd from The View. I’ve been running into Sherri a lot recently and she’s always very funny. She’s newly married and was afraid to use her reading glasses in front of her husband because she didn’t want him to think she can’t see.

Mixtape producer Kristen J. Eddy with comedienne extraordinaire, and The View co-host Sherri Shepherd!

They did a fantasy thing where they checked into a hotel and made believe they didn’t know each other. Sherri acted like a hooker and her husband cheated on her with HER!

People in the hotel recognized her and said, ” Aren’t you Sherri Shepherd, and she said ” No, I’m Star Jones!”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Richie Tienken owner/founder of The Comic Strip, Sherri Shepherd holding Jeffrey and Richie’s book ” Make ‘Em Laugh”!

The big surprise of the evening was when Chris Rock stopped by to do a set. That was really amazing. What a gift to have Chris come by and do a guest spot on your show.

Chris talked about so many things. For instance he said the new Freedom Tower should be called “The Never Going In There Tower”, cause I ain’t never going in there! I don’t care if Tyra Banks is in there naked with a plate of ribs. I ain’t goin’ in there!

Then he talked about the TV commercials on MLK weekend using slogans like, “These Toyotas are so low priced they’re practically “free at last”, … free at last!”

He said the first Black diver went underwater to escape racism, and went on to talk about how the first Black person to do anything never has any fun. Like the first Black gymnast, Gabby Douglas, when she became a star old Black ladies were crying, “Remember when we couldn’t flip?” That visual alone was hysterical!

Chris Rock onstage at Gotham for the 4th anniversary of the Mixtape Comedy Show!

And then Chris told the story of how he was at the White House and found himself alone talking to Michelle Obama, and something about it just felt wrong. He was like, “I shouldn’t be talking to Michelle Obama with nobody else around! She’s really the First Lady of The United States and I’m talking to her like she was one of the Atlanta Housewives! Suddenly she faked like she saw Oprah and took off, and he told her not to worry it was “Aiight!”

Then he felt he had to look for someone of his level of intelligence so he scouted out Charles Barkley and Jay-Z. And in talking about Stevie Wonder’s performance he said it was so good, he put some extra “blind” into that shit! Only Chris Rock could say that and make it so funny!

Chris wrote a hysterically funny introduction to my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh”, about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip, the club where he was discovered by Eddie Murphy back in 1986. It was great to see him again as always!

What a super show! Can’t wait for next month!

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Jim Breuer Guests on VH1’s Big Morning Buzz with Carrie Keagan

Comic extraordinaire Jim Breuer, stopped by VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live recently to add a little of his high energy to the show! The former SNL cast member, who made himself a household name with unforgettable characters like Goat Boy is also an incredible impressionist.

Jim Breuer and Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

He shared some of his famous celebrity impressions with host Carrie Keagan, and talked about his upcoming tour, describing himself as “Bill Cosby in a Metallica shirt.” Breuer even revealed the funny story behind introducing his dad to Sylvester Stallone on ‘Saturday Night Live.’

Check out these two cool video clips of Breuer on the show.

Jim Breuer On Why He Doesn’t Swear On His New Comedy Tour

Jim Breuer On Introducing His Dad To Sylvester Stallone On ‘Saturday Night Live’

Jim also appears in a very funny interview he gave me for my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Chris Rock. Chris wrote a special hysterically funny intro for the book, which is about the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, known as the home for huge stars like Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Lisa Lampanelli, Lewis Black, and Eddie Murphy, and the club where Eddie discovered Chris back in 1986.

(L-R) Richie Tienken, owner/founder of The Comic Strip, Jim Breuer, and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV after Jim’s interview for the book ” Make ‘Em Laugh”!

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The 36th Annual Christmas/Chanukah Party at The Comic Strip

For the last 36 years, which is a claim probably no other comedy club in NYC can make, The Comic Strip has held it’s annual Holiday party. This year was no exception and I had the honor of being one of the hosts, so I invited lots of fun people and lots of great girls.

Jeffrey Gurian and Lauren Francesca dressed as her “Jeffrey Gurian created character, Besame Mucho”! Unfortunately she didn’t wear this outfit to the party but she was there in all her glory!

Both my agent JL Stermer, and my publisher Julie Matysik from Skyhorse Publishing were there, adding to the “beautiful women factor”!

(L-R) JL Stermer. Jeffrey Gurian, and Julie Matysik at the Comic Strip holiday party!

Jim Mendrinos who is always funny, and a great host, hosted the show which featured a surprise visit from comic Hiram Kasten, who I hadn’t seen since the 80’s when I was hanging out with, and writing for Rodney Dangerfield. Hiram was a regular at Dangerfields in those days, but I think has been out in LA for many years.

The party was amazing, and really packed with hundreds of people, including tons of comics a few of whom were Tony Woods, Brian Scott McCarthy, Abbi Crutchfield, Joe Rocha, PJ Landers, Nancy Lombardo, Andrea Mezvinsky, Stu Trivax, and the legend Gladys Simon, plus reporter/comic Marlaina Schiavo, TV star Robin Byrd, internet star Lauren Francesca, Hazel Pascual running for Miss New York State, and Mark Malkoff from My Damn Channel, with his beautiful wife Christine!

Mark Malkoff from My Damn Channel, and his beautiful wife Christine!

Gladys Simon and Andrea Mezvinsky at the Comic Strip holiday party!

Owner/founder Richie Tienken went all out on providing tons of food and open bar for all the guests, and his wife Jeannie and son Richie were there adding to the festivities!

Manager JR helped plan the entertainment which was an assortment of homemade videos by the comics, and a couple of imitations, one being of ME!!! Comic Sean P. Darr did his second annual impression of me, and next year I will insist on helping him with it so that he gets my lines down right.

Sean P. Darr taking the stage as Jeffrey Gurian!

He got the hair and the scarf, but didn’t get the glasses, or the act! (LOL) It’s not really possible to imitate me anyway, … right??? (LOL)

Sean P. Darr doing his version of The 12 Days of Christmas as Jeffrey Gurian!

Anyway there were lots of beautiful girls there too as you’ll see in the photos below:

Sheryl always comes out to support me! Thank you Sheryl! XOXOX

Jennifer definitely brightened up the party with her presence! Thank you Jen! XOX

I’m anxious to see Trina B. Real perform! And what a great smile!

One that was missing was the super-talented, internationally known ballerina Shoko Tamai who was preparing for her show later that same evening, which I went to see!

Shoko Tamai performing at her show Red Christmas which kept her from attending the Comic Strip party! I didn’t even know I knew anyone who could do that!!! Personally, I still don’t think it’s possible! (LOLOLOL)!!!

And then there’s the video:

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