Posts Tagged Tony Rock

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 Friend Kali Hawk, The Movie Star

I just went to see Tyler Perry’s “Peeples”, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had quite a cast with Kerry Washington, David Alan Grier, Craig Robinson, S. Epatha Merkerson, Melvin Van Peebles, (who I almost called “Van Peeples!” LOL), Diahann Carrol, Ana Gasteyer and my old friend, the beautiful, and talented Kali Hawk.

One of the posters portraying the star-studded cast of Tyler Perry’s “Peeples”!

It’s not too often that you get to have a friend who’s a legitimate movie star,… especially one that you’ve known for many years. It’s a really nice feeling to be proud of someone’s accomplishments, and Kali has worked very hard to achieve what she’s gotten. Considering how young she still is, I’m almost afraid to think of how young she must have been when I first met her! (LOL)

(L-R) David Alan Grier, Kerry Washington, Tyler James Williams, Kali Hawk, and Kimrie Lewis-Davis in Peeples!

I remember her as a teenager, and how excited she’d be about watching stand-up comedy. I have this vague memory of standing with her at The Comic Strip, in the doorway to the showroom, watching the acts, while she wondered if she could do comedy. I recall going to see her perform in plays at the Theatre for the New City on the Lower East Side.

She was in high school by the tender age of 12 and in college before she was even 16. She started out doing commercials, but as gorgeous as she was, didn’t begin modeling until she moved out to LA, where she booked magazine ads and commercials for KFC, Clorox2, MTV Europe and was in several music videos for rock band Korn, Rob Zombie, Norah Jones, T.I., and Usher. It was only a matter of time until Kali made her way to the big screen.

Some years passed between the time we spoke and then in 2007, I was out in LA for a party made by Kent Emmons for a book I wrote called “Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive” based on my writings for the Friars Roasts, which are notoriously raunchy, and Kali came to support me.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Kali Hawk in LA, for a book party in his honor, in 2007!

She looked so amazing I couldn’t stop taking pictures of her! She has grown into such an elegant woman!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Kali Hawk, who’s holding Jeffrey’s book “Filthy, Funny and Totally Offensive” but he didn’t let her look inside!

Before “Peeples”, she was seen in the Lion’s Gate thriller ‘Holla’, alongside actor Michael Bergin. She would follow that project with a supporting role in the Spike Lee comedy “Lovers & Haters”, playing a scathing Hollywood diva opposite singer/superstar Mariah Carey, I saw her in “Get Him To The Greek” with Russell Brand, and Jonah Hill, and she played Trudy in “Couples Retreat,” another star-studded movie written by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau.

On TV, she has also appeared on the hit CW sitcom ‘The Game’, executive produced by Kelsey Grammer, was accepted as a cast member for the ill-fated remake of “In Living Color” that unfortunately did not come to fruition, and worked with my boy Tony Rock, on a TV project he was starring in. Tony was the featured performer in a sold out show at the Westbury Theatre on Long Island, that I co-produced starring the one and only Kevin Hart!

(L-R) Jordan Rock, Jeffrey Gurian, Tony Rock, Richie Tienken and down in front Sherrod Small backstage at Westbury with Kevin Hart!

Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV with Kevin Hart at a promo event for their concert at Westbury!

Tony is also the new host of the Jamie Foxx remake of “Live At The Apollo”, aptly named “Apollo Live” shooting right here in Harlem, NYC! I went to the opening of the first season to cheer him on. Tony is amazingly funny, and the nicest guy you’d ever wanna meet!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, Tony Roberts, Tony Rock, and Jordan Rock backstage at The Apollo!

So “Peeples” was exciting to me because Kali had so much screen time. She plays Gloria Peeples the lesbian daughter of Virgil Peeples played so well by David Alan Grier.

A cast shot of “Peeples” with Kali Hawk’s name on the big screen! Go Kali!

I hadn’t seen David since last summer in Montreal during the Just for Laughs Festival when he came in to kibbitz with Adam Carolla right in the middle of my interview with him. It was actually funny, because the door was closed, and we were backstage after Adam’s show, but nobody’s gonna tell David that he can’t come in, so he did! (LOL) And it turned out very funny, because as I recall he was trying to distract me, and we all had a good laugh!

Craig Robinson is also a great guy, and we did a cool interview together on the red carpet of the Comedy Central Comedy Awards.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Craig Robinson at a Comedy Central event at The Monkey Bar in NYC!

I’m heading out to LA in about ten days to shoot my third appearance on Comedy Central’s hit “Kroll Show” and I really hope to be able to get the chance to congratulate Kali in person!

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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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Tony Rock Hosts New Apollo Live on Centric

The Apollo Theatre, on West 125th Street in NYC is a legendary venue known for “breaking” lots of huge talent over the years. It started as “Apollo Hall” in the mid 1800’s.

The new stage of Apollo Live at The Apollo Theatre in Harlem!

It was always the pre-emiment showcase for African-American talent, which was definitely not a term that was used back in the 1930’s!

The great Ella Fitzgerald made her singing debut there at 17 on November 21, 1934, which was the year it introduced it’s regular Amateur Night shows hosted by a performer named Ralph Cooper.

Other stars that graced that stage at the beginning of their careers, as well as after they had made it, were Billie Holiday, James Brown, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill, Sarah Vaughan, and Machine Gun Kelly (rapper).

Comedy was also a big feature at The Apollo, and it spotlighted the performances of old-time vaudeville favorites like Tim Moore, Stepin Fetchit, Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham, and younger comics like Godfrey Cambridge, who some of my readers may never have even heard of. Jimi Hendrix won the first place prize in an amateur musician contest at the Apollo in 1964, but one thing The Apollo was always known for was how they rated the talent.

In the early days, they had a guy they called “the executioner”. Audiences were encouraged to let the performers know how they felt about their performance either by applause or by the loudest booing you ever heard. If it was boos, the executioner would come on stage with a broom, and literally sweep the performers off their feet.

Things haven’t changed much over the years. This Monday, July 9th was the debut of Apollo Live, Jamie Foxx’s remake of “Showtime At The Apollo” where aspiring singers put their self-esteem on the line, and come out to perform for audiences that have no qualms in standing up and booing, effectively drowning out the performance, while waving their arms motioning the performer to get off stage.

The sign on Tony Rock’s dressing room door, backstage at The Apollo!

Tony Rock was chosen personally by Jamie Foxx as the host of this new show, to air on Centric, which is a spin-off cable TV channel of BET (Black Entertainment Television). I wanted to be at the first one, cause generally I like to go to the first one and the last one and see how it changes during that timespan. They will be shooting for two weeks.

At this first show, Rob Stapleton was the warm-up comic and he is always great. Warming up the crowd is a specific talent in itself. Not every comic can do it. You not only need material, but you have to be really personable, and excellent at crowd work, which Rob is. I’ve seen him host several shows already and he’s always strong.

The very funny Rob Stapleton warming up the crowd at The Apollo before Tony Rock came out to host the show!

The judges were also fantastic and very right on the money with their decisions, even though the final decisions were left up to the audience. Michael Bivins from Bell, Biv, Devoe was one judge, Doug E. Fresh the rapper/beatboxer and inventor of “The Dougie” was a second judge, and the third judge, Gladys Knight, (without her “Pips”), got a standing ovation when she came into the theatre. She sat right near me and waved hello, ’cause everyone always thinks I’m in the music business.

Many years ago, I attended a black tie event in the music business with a girl I was dating at the time who was a singer, and one after the other, Billy Joel, Paul Anka and then Keith Richards all stopped off at my table to say hello to me personally, and shake my hand, to the great astonishment of the other people at my table, and the girl I was with, but no one was more astonished than ME! I guess they thought I was some music executive, and they didn’t want to take a chance and “brush me”!! (LOL)

Anyway, Apollo Live is a really fun show. The audience was out for blood, and started booing some singers almost as soon as they started. Some of them made it through their song anyway. The guy who won for the evening was really the best, and Gladys Knight for one said he touched her heart with his voice.

For a comedy break they had another Tony, Tony Roberts who I had seen recently with Cipha Sounds. Hot 97 was in the house, and after Tony’s spot he came backstage to shoot a promo for them. Seeing me in the dressing room, he pulled me on camera and introduced me as his real Dad! It was hilarious! Here’s the clip!

Jeffrey Gurian and Tony Roberts backstage at Cipha Sounds’ show at Carolines!

Tony Rock was a fantastic host. He looked slim and trim in a suit, and the crowd loved him. I went backstage afterwards with his youngest brother Jordan, who’s 21, and also a comic. Jordan performs at The Comic Strip the same way that Tony Rock, and Chris Rock did all those years ago.

Jeffrey Gurian, Tony Roberts, Tony Rock, and Jordan Rock backstage in Tony Rock’s dressing room at The Apollo!

When Tony Roberts came back to say hi to Tony Rock he was shocked to see me there. He was like, “Dude,you’re everywhere!” I was like, and when you get home, I’ll be waiting in your apartment! I think he was afraid to go home! (LOL)

I was excited for Tony, but almost even more excited for comic/actor Sherrod Small because he and Tony are like brothers, … even closer. They’ve been friends since early childhood, and started performing on the exact same night in July of 1998. And when they passed at The Comic Strip on the exact same night they hugged each other and cried on the corner, because they were so happy. It was great to see the honest joy that Sherrod had seeing Tony onstage hosting a major show like Apollo Live.

Tony Rock and his cousin and closest friend Sherrod Small backstage at The Apollo!

I think this show will be a hit. Make sure to tune in, and check it out!

Tony Rock and Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV backstage in Tony’s dressing room at The Apollo Theatre in NYC!

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Tony Rock Home At The Strip

When Tony Rock comes to town he always makes sure to hang out at The Comic Strip. He comes in to visit Richie Tienken, the owner and founder of the club, who was his first manager.

Tony Rock with his first manager Richie Tienken, owner and founder of The Comic Strip!

It’s where he got started, back in 1998 with his cousin Sherrod Small. They started performing the exact same day, and when I did their interviews for the book “Make ‘Em Laugh- 35 Years of The Comic Strip, The Greatest Comedy Club Of All Time”, they both answered all their questions in the “we” form. It was both funny and touching at the same time.

Tony stops by and usually surprises the audience by doing a guest spot, and then hangs out to check up on the progress of his little brother Jordan Rock who hosts the latenight shows on Wed. and Thursday evenings. It’s really great to see how the audience responds to Tony. They really love him.

A fun night at The Strip when Tony Rock comes to visit! (L-R) Jeffrey Gurian, Jordan Rock being held in place by Richie Tienken, and in the back Sherrod Small and Tony Rock!

When I co-produced a show starring Kevin Hart back in 2010, Tony was the featured performer. Needless to say it was an amazing show! (And if it’s needless to say, then why did I say it???)

Richie Tienken, Kevin Hart, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip!

Tony’s been in quite a few films lately, the most recent being Think Like A Man, with Steve Harvey, Kevin Hart, and Taraji P. Henson, but the real excitement is coming up for Tony on July 9th when he kicks off hosting the new Jamie Foxx produced show ” Apollo Live” on Centric, which is an updated version of “Showtime At The Apollo”!

Everyone’s excited about that, and Comedy Matters TV will be there for sure to get a fun interview with Tony, and hopefully Jamie as well!

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Next Generation of Stars At The Comic Strip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Young Talent At The Comic Strip

The Comic Strip is legendary for the people that came out of that club, like Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, and Eddie Murphy just to name a few. But the nice thing about The Strip is that it also develops young talent who are going to be the stars of tomorrow.

Two that come to mind right away are Pete Davidson who’s only 18 and Jordan Rock who just hit the magic age of 21!

Comedy buddies Pete Davidson and Jordan Rock backstage at The Comic Strip!

Pete is being mentored by Nick Cannon, who’s really taken him under his wing, which is such an incredible thing for a young performer, and Pete deserves it. He lost his Dad in 9/11, and turned his life to comedy. I’m sure his Dad is watching over him, cause he’s doing very well!

He has funny energy, meaning that when he hits the stage you WANT to laugh. He dresses kind of “gangsta” for a White kid, but he explains it by saying that all of his friends are Black. I get it! He’s authentic!

Pete was all excited ’cause he just got back from doing five shows in Miami with Nick, and Kase Glenn at The Miami Improv, while staying at The Mayfair Hotel. Pete opened the show. It was the first time that Pete had to fly to a gig and he told me a very funny story.

The day he was to leave, he had a 10 A.M. flight but didn’t wake up until 9. He threw his stuff together and tried to call a cab but they told him it would be an hour. He got the valet guy to drive him for double the regular price, and offered him an extra $20. if he could make it in ten minutes.

Meanwhile his Mom was calling and yelling at him for being late. He got to the airport at 9:40, ran to check in and found himself on a long line. Just as he was resigned to missing his flight, the Black security guard recognized him, and yelled out, “Hey, you’re that dude from the show!”

Pete said,”I guess he had attended one night, and fortunately I did well!” The guard let him right through and referred to him as “The White Hope!” The other passengers were already aboard, and Pete ran on as they were about to lock the doors. He said he made it by one minute!

I had that happen to me once after having been snowed in the first year of the Aspen Comedy Festival. I had been stuck there for five days, when they gave me less than 30 minutes to catch a plane. I was literally running down the runway with my bags to catch the plane, and everyone stared, and glared at me as I straggled on board loaded down with stuff, and then first had to try and get it in the overhead bins, while everyone waited and rolled their eyes. Very uncomfortable to say the least!

Jordan Rock works The Strip as conscientiously as both of his brothers did, Chris and Tony, and it shows in the quality of his work. Nothing replaces stage time in perfecting your performance. He also hosts the latenight shows on Wed, and Thursdays, and I host them on Sundays and Mondays.

I predict that you’ll be seeing lots of these guys in the future. I wish I had started that young, but if you get famous in your 20’s you gotta be funny for 60 maybe 70 years! That’s a long time. I only wanted to have to be famous for maybe 20, … 25 years tops! Needless to say, I’m still waiting! (LOL)

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Kevin Hart Comes To The Comic Strip

The Grio.com is the first African-American video news site, specifically geared towards bringing stories of interest to that community. Launched by NBC News, it’s editorial mission is to be the primary news source for the Black community on a national level. February is Black History Month and so they are interviewing 100 people who they feel are making a positive effect in the Black community.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the great Kevin Hart at a promo event for their show at Westbury in 2010!

One of those people, not surprisingly is comedian Kevin Hart, who jokingly demanded to know what number he was out of the 100. He felt he should be around number 6! (LOL) NBC made arrangements to meet Kevin at The Comic Strip, thanks to Bob Wachs a co-owner and founder of the club.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV interviewing Kevin Hart at The Comic Strip after his NBC interview with Todd Johnson from www.thegrio.com

It was also very fitting because I had the honor of co-producing an event starring Kevin back in Feb. of 2010, in a benefit for Haiti. It was a sold out event at Westbury Theatre on Long Island, and about 3000 people showed up to see Kevin, Tony Rock, and Wil Sylvince in a tour-de-force, that showed why Kevin is as popular as he is.

The Westbury Flier in a benefit for Haiti starring Kevin Hart, featuring Tony Rock and Wil Sylvince as the MC! It was sold out as are ALL of Kevin’s shows!

Kevin Hart onstage, entertaining 3,000 people at Westbury Theatre on Long Island!

Kevin is one of only a handful of comedians ever to release a live performance as a feature film. That group includes Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Griffin, Martin Lawrence, and maybe three more so he’s in very special company. (Somehow, I think there’s a connection between pigment and funny! LOLOLOL Albinos are rarely funny, … except for Victor Varnado of course! Of all the albino comedians I know, I’d have to say he’s the funniest! LOL)

He put up his own money to release “Laugh At My Pain” in 200 theatres, which is considered a limited release and it’s already brought in millions of dollars. He’s also got 3 million followers on Twitter, about a million more than he had the last time I saw him which wasn’t that long ago! The man is a phenomenon.

I did a little video chat with him for Comedy Matters TV. See below!

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Gotham Holiday Party A Smash

Gotham Comedy Club keeps the holiday season alive by always having it’s holiday party after the holidays, which is a very cool idea. Like every year, it was packed with who’s who in comedy. Chris and Steve Mazzilli the owners of Gotham, and two of the nicest guys in the biz, threw this great party, and were actually dressed very casually which is rare for them, especially Chris who’s been known to wear a suit and tie on the beach! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Chris Mazzilli of Gotham Comedy Club at the Laugh For Sight charity event, one of the many charity events that Chris holds throughout the year!

There was a real assortment of new and established entertainers, with a live band, plenty of good food, and a dance thing downstairs where the DJ was none other than Jim David. I asked him for some hip-hop and he looked at me like I had insulted his parents! (LOL)

I managed to dance anyway, but missed my chance to dance with Marina Franklin, who was occupied dancing with someone else! Some of the people there were Jordan Rock, who came with his Mom, Rose Rock, the matriarch of the Rock comedy dynasty, featuring brothers Chris, Tony, and now young Jordan, who was just 21.

Jordan Rock with his young-looking Mom Rose, the matriarch of the Rock comedy clan, that spawned Chris, Tony, and now Jordan! And no surprise, she has a great sense of humor!

I also saw Todd Barry, Ted Alexandro, Mike Yard, Carmen Lynch, Helen Hong, or was it Herren Hong, (both of whom are moving to LA very shortly), Angelo Lozada, Dan Naturman, Kyle Grooms, Greer Barnes, Yonah Grossman who runs the open mics with Jessica Kirson, Marion Grodin, Madison Malloy, Andrew Schwartztol, Jordan Ferber, Jamie Rosen, Mike Vecchione, and so many more that it was probably a silly idea for me to try and name them since I probably left out hundreds of people I was talking to.

“Brothas” in comedy Angelo Lozada and Mike Yard jus’ chillin’ at the Gotham Comedy Holiday party!

Brothers in comedy, Todd Barry and Ted Alexandro just chilling, at the Gotham Comedy Holiday party! (Get it??? Compare this photo caption to the one above, and let me know if you get it! LOLOL )

The people from The Syndicate, Matt Kleinschmidt, Chris Elles, and Tracey Zucatti, were there too, which was very cool, since it’s always nice to meet people in person who you talk to online. The Syndicate reps some very heavy hitters.

When I left by around 10:30 to host the Monday night show at The Comic Strip, the party was still going strong! Good job Chris and Steve, … as always!!!

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Tony Rock Headlines Gotham- New Host of Jamie Foxx’s Showtime at The Apollo

When I found out that Tony Rock was going to be headlining at Gotham Comedy Club I knew it was one show I wasn’t going to miss. Tony is not only hysterically funny, but he’s a great guy who deserves all the accolades he’s currently receiving.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage at Gotham with Tony Rock!

I’ve known him for quite a while now, but I really got to know him when I interviewed him for the book on the 35 year history of The Comic Strip. That’s really where he got his start. July 27th 1998 is the day that he and his cousin Sherrod Small passed their auditions at The Comic Strip. And according to Tony, they were so happy they “hugged each other and cried on the corner like two little girls!” (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV getting some love from Chuck Nice(L) and Sherrod Small! Classic!!!!

Last year he was the featured guest on a huge show I co-produced as a benefit for Haiti starring comedy superstar Kevin Hart, with Wil Slvince as the MC. It was a sold out 3000 seat event, and Tony killed it!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Kevin Hart at a promo for their show at Westbury Theatre!

(L-R) Jordan Rock, Jeffrey Gurian, Tony Rock, Richie Tienken and Sherrod Small doing his best Gary Coleman impression in front!

In the exclusive video interview below, Tony tells me how it came to be that he’s the new host of Jamie Foxx’s updated “Live At The Apollo”. That’s gonna be AMAZING, and you will definitely find me hanging out on 125th Street when that goes down!

So this night at Gotham, Buddy Fitzpatrick was the always reliable host. He’s just really funny and a crowd pleaser! Next up was Jordan Rock, the baby of the family who I’ve seen really come along in the last couple of years. It was his 4th anniversary of performing stand-up, and Jordan and I alternate as late night hosts at The Comic Strip on 81st and 2nd, the club where his brother Chris, … who they call Chrissy, … got his start back in 1986. Jordan had a regular spot and he did really well. It’s so cool to see him hanging out with his brother. It must be really exciting for Tony to see Jordan moving up in the ranks.

Jordan Rock, next in line after Chris and Tony, doing major damage onstage at Gotham!

The very funny Corey Kahaney was next and had some good advice for the crowd. She said if you’re divorced you should never badmouth your ex to the kids. Cause then you ruin the day when they find out for themselves!

Then Tony took the stage and knocked it out of the proverbial park. Almost every line was a killer. I particularly liked when he was giving the example of a conversation with his friend who had smoked too much weed. ” If you were invisible, which ex-girlfriend’s house would you rob?” The answer was, ” That’s deep! Cause technically you is invisible but the shit you steal ain’t! So now you just got a TV floatin’ down the street! That’s how I got caught last time! “

Tony Rock holding it down onstage at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

And then he does a take on why Black women should not work in Customer Service, and he imitates the “angry Black woman” who he hopes he never gets when he calls for assistance! It literally brings the crowd to it’s knees, cause unfortunately, we’ve all had to deal with that woman!

He does a lot of hysterical Black/White comparisons, like a Black vs. White McDonalds, and a Black vs. White Church, but what’s different about Tony’s take, and I complimented him on this, is that he does it from an honest point of view, not just from a Black perspective. He himself admits, in his jokes, that Black people are not always the winners, and neither is he! I think it’s that honesty that endears him to audiences both White and Black! ( And Asian and Indian too, I’m sure! ) LOLOL

Check out the video below! Tony, … good luck with Showtime at The Apollo! Can’t wait to be there!

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