Archive for New Films

Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane Make A Movie

Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane undertook a huge project and came out with a fantastic result. They decided to make a film examining the statement made from time to time by journalists like Christopher Hitchens, and well known comics like Jerry Lewis and Adam Carolla that women aren’t funny.

Producer Rich Vos and director Bonnie McFarlane at Carolines for the debut of their film ” Women Aren’t Funny!”

This of course is a big generality, almost like saying “Men aren’t fashionable!” A lot of men are slobs, but some men are fashionable, and it stands to reason that women can be funny. I know that Bonnie Macfarlane is funny. I love watching her work. She’s sharp and can hold her own with men who try and overpower her comedically. I’ve seen her do it several times!

I guess that comes from being married to Rich Vos. And he should be thanking G-d for that every day, (and I think he does!) (LOLOL)

Rich said he called in every favor he ever had, and got a very impressive list of people in the comedy business to offer their thoughts on whether women can be funny or not! Colin Quinn, who was the MC at the premiere of the film at Carolines on Broadway, joked that if that was every favor he ever had he should be ashamed of himself!

Rich Vos, whose attention span is so short-lived he can’t even look at the camera, and Colin Quinn at Carolines for “Women Aren’t Funny!”

To Rich’s credit, he even put up his own money to do this project. That’s when you know someone really believes in their work.

Asking women who make their living being funny if women can be funny is a little touchy, and one male comic was honest enough to say that a lot of guys aren’t funny either. To verify that all you have to do is go to as many shows as I go to and that will be obvious.

So they made this documentary film called “Women Aren’t Funny” and debuted it as part of Caroline Hirsch’s NY Comedy Festival to a packed house.

As Colin took the stage to make his opening remarks, he wondered aloud to the audience several times, what he was doing there!

Colin Quinn said after thinking it over he’d rather remove his eye than MC this event for Rich! Interesting option!

He also appeared in the film as did so many people like Rosie O’Donnell, Sarah Silverman, Adam Carolla, Patrice Oneal, Judy Gold, Jim Norton, Joan Rivers, Artie Lange, Maria Bamford,Michael Ian Black, Tom Arnold, Chelsea Peretti, and literally a Who’s Who in comedy, which is an admirable feat!

Joan Rivers still looking sexy and proving that women can be funny!

Tom Arnold, once married to Roseanne, weighing in on whether women can be funny!

Sarah Silverman onscreen discussing her point of view on women and humor!

Michael Ian Black onscreen at Carolines, on whether women can be funny!

Lisa Lampanelli onscreen, … another woman proving that women can be funny!

I had to do that twice in the last few years and I can attest to how hard it is to get so many stars lined up to be in your project. In my book “Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive”, based on my writings for the Friars Roasts, which was supposed to be a collection of celebs favorite nasty jokes, I got 250 celebs like Drew Carey, Jason Alexander, and Jeff Garlin, to share pure filth with me, and my pal Paul Provenza wrote the intro. After directing The Aristocrats, I think he knows a thing or two about filth!

In my latest book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with an intro by Chris Rock, it took three years to get all of the in-depth interviews with people like Chris, Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Susie Essman, Colin Quinn, Lewis Black, Judah Friedlander, Billy Crystal, Larry Miller and so many more.

So I totally appreciate how hard it must have been to get all the people that were in this film and get them to offer their personal insight into this question.

They shot all over, and Bonnie and Rich even had footage of both of them on Opie and Anthony where Rich is a mainstay, and where in a touching scene he tried to convince Bonnie that he loved her!

(L-R) Anthony and Opie from “Opie and Anthony” on SiriusXM having some laughs with Rich Vos and Bonnie McFarlane!

Showing emotion is not that easy for Rich, but he tries his best with Bonnie and their adorable daughter Reina who he called out on stage, as Colin said, whenever he felt he needed more of the audience’s support! Reina was his life-saver!

Bonnie McFarlane and daughter Reina after the premiere of ” Women Aren’t Funny” at Carolines!

Bonnie opens her heart in this film, almost as if she’s wondering if she herself is funny. In one scene she even dresses as a guy, with a full beard and goes onstage at The Comic Strip to audition. It must have been one of the rare nights I wasn’t there, because I would have loved to see that in person.

Bonnie McFarlane onstage at The Comic Strip in full beard as if she was a hipster comic from Brooklyn!

Afterwards in an emotional moment, she kind of dissolves in tears, and Rich is there to console her, looking to the rest of the word as if he’s kissing a guy with a full beard. It was funny and moving at the same time.

Rich Vos in an attempt to be supportive, about to kiss what appears to be a guy in a beard!

From a psychological point of view, I have my own opinion about women and comedy. Obviously women can be funny, but as a society we don’t like to laugh at women because we’re taught to respect women. So when they try and denigrate themselves, which men do very easily, or do self-deprecating humor, the audience may not be as willing to go along for the ride.

Men are programmed to make fools of themselves. We do it effortlessly. But from the time women are little girls they’re groomed to be proper, and we’re taught that it’s not polite to make fun of girls or to laugh at them. I think that carries over to when women are on the stage.

It’s possible that the audience doesn’t like to see women talk about themselves in an unflattering way. It may make some people uncomfortable. We’re taught to respect women, and to try and not judge people by their appearance.

The audience may also find it hard to believe that attractive female comedians may have a hard time finding a date, which is a common comedic premise. It’s one of the reasons that women used to play down their looks when they went up to perform, although today there are several attractive women who go onstage looking very “hot”! I will not name them. They know who they are! (LOL)

I will however say that Lynn Koplitz joined Bonnie and Rich for the Q&A that followed the film, and both she and Bonnie are good examples of the above!

Rich Vos, Bonnie McFarlane and Lynn Koplitz handling the Q&A at Carolines!

But in women’s determination to be equal, which I don’t understand because they’re already superior,(LOL), they seem to be in competition with men sometimes on who can be more “gross”, as evidenced in recent films like
“Bridesmaids”.

Men are naturally gross. They don’t even have to try. Why women would want equality in that area of life is beyond me! (LOL)

Anyway, all that being said, this is a film that needs to be seen, so if you get the opportunity make sure to go and see it. Hopefully it will get distribution and get a theatrical release, but Rich and Bonnie should be very proud of what they accomplished, … and I don’t only mean Reina! (LOLOL)

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Chris Tucker In A Rare Appearance with Ron, from Ron and Fez On Sirius Radio

I got to see Ron Bennington’s talent up close and personal recently when he interviewed me for a segment on Ron and Fez, his long-running show on Sirius Radio.

Fez Whatley, Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, and Ron Bennington up at Sirius Radio for the Ron and Fez show!

He does his homework, and knows what to ask in a way that makes you feel really comfortable, plus it’s totally unrushed. So I understood why Chris Tucker, who rarely does any press, would agree to do an episode of “Unmasked”, an interview segment that Ron does with only the biggest comedy stars.

I was one of a small, select group who got invited to attend the interview up at the Sirius studios, where I’ve been spending a lot of time lately doing press for my new book ” Make ‘Em Laugh” with Chris Rock, and Richie Tienken the owner/founder of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip.”

Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip, the club where Chris was discovered!

Richie discovered both Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock, and managed Eddie from his early days on SNL as a featured player though his starring role in Beverly Hills Cop 2, when he was arguably the biggest star in the world.

Anyway, Ron started off the interview by telling Chris how everyone loved him, which is true. He’s such a likeable guy, both onscreen and off. But he made his rise to the top sound too easy, and Ron got lots of laughs acknowledging that, and saying that it’s supposed to be much harder to make a name for yourself in comedy, than it was for Chris.

Chris started out as a class clown, which is a skill never truly acknowledged by anyone’s parents or teachers. As Ron said, no one says, ” Your child may only be in the 3rd grade but he’s funny at a 10th grade level!” Which is a great premise for a stand-up bit.

Chris grew up in Decatur, Georgia and made his comedy debut right there, even though he was underage. One of the headliners from a big club in Atlanta took a liking to Chris and said he wouldn’t perform if Chris wasn’t allowed to come in.

He moved to LA in 1992, and got picked for the 2nd season of Def Comedy Jam where he got to perform with Bernie Mac, and according to him, was the thing that really got him seen. Then in 1995 he got to do his first Friday film with Ice Cube. That really put him on the map.

Ron joked that every day Ice Cube wakes up asking if Chris Tucker called about being in his 4th Friday movie which he’s currently writing, and wants Chris to be in!

Chris’ role as Johnny Booze in Houseparty 3 was what got him an agent, and Ron also brought up his many faceted relationships with such major and varied people as Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton and Bono from U2. How many comics can lay claim to something like that??? (Redundant question, … no answer required!)

Heavy D had seen him performing at The Comedy Store and asked him to be in his video which is how ho got to meet Brett Ratner, and what eventually led him to be in Rush Hour with Jackie Chan.

His Mom was a missionary and his grandfather was a preacher, and Chris talked about tracing his African ancestry to both Cameroon and Angola, but when he went back there he said no one looked like him. There was no “tribe of Chris Tuckers!” (LOL)

These days he’s very particular about what films he appears in, and according to Ron has turned down over 100 million dollars worth of work, which he smilingly agreed with. And then afterwards seemed shocked as the reality hit him, of the enormity of what he had turned down!

One of the things that Chris Tucker said during his interview was that he was a big fan of Eddie Murphy, and that Eddie was a big influence on his career. So when the interview was over, Ron took me over to meet Chris and I was able to give him a copy of the book about the club where his idol Eddie Murphy started out.

He seemed really thrilled to get it and said he was looking forward to reading it, after I got the chance to tell him a few of the stories in the book, including how Eddie discovered Chris in 1986.

To tell you the truth, I was so excited to meet him I don’t remember what I wrote in it, but I do recall saying I was a huge fan of his. Then we posed for some photos, and I was out!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Chris Tucker, up at Sirius Radio with Ron and Fez, holding Jeffrey’s book with Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh”, about the 35 year history of The Comic Strip!

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Mark Malkoff’s Bill Murray Show

When I first met Mark Malkoff I had no idea how much we’d have in common. He’s a very interesting guy! (That’s not what we have in common! LOL) He sets himself a difficult goal and then puts all his energy into making that happen.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Mark Malkoff of The Bill Murray Show on My Damn Channel!

Mark hosts The Bill Murray Show on My Damn Channel, and the sole purpose of the show is to get Bill Murray to come to Mark’s house in Queens and have dinner with him and his beautiful wife Christine. If I was Bill I’d go. When I went for the taping, Christine made me a great meal, and the two of them were so nice, and really fun!

So when I was asked to appear and talk about my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Chris Rock, and my experiences with Bill Murray of which I had four to speak of, I was very excited to do so! Also because I love My Damn Channel and Rob Barnett rocks! (He’s the guy who created My Damn Channel, just so you know I’m not giving a shout-out to some random guy! LOL)

Grace Helbig’s “Daily Grace” on MDC is amazing and she gets millions, and millions of hits! I just saw her doing her version of “Gangnam Style” and she’s adorable, and does it so well. She must have gone to dancing school as a little girl in Korea!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the ebullient Grace Helbig from “Daily Grace” on My Damn Channel at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal!

I actually got to interview both Grace and Rob up at Montreal this past July during the Just for Laughs Festival! ( See Grace’s interview above, and Rob’s interview right here!)

So basically all the My Damn Channel stuff is super and I was psyched to be on.

The reason I relate so much to Mark is that Mark sets out to do things that appeal to him, even if they’re unusual. When I looked him up, I realized I had read about some of his exploits without realizing it had been him.

He’s a former “Colbert Report” staffer, who also visited 171 Starbucks locations in Manhattan in less than 24 hours, moved into a Paramus, N.J., IKEA for a week, and convinced New Yorkers to carry him 9.4 miles.

If I had known that I would have told him about my film I made years ago as part of the “Men Who” Series. It was part of a series of short films about men who go to work in unusual ways entitled “Men Who Insist On Being Carried To Work”! You can actually see it on my website at http://www.jeffreygurian.com, where you will also see Peter Dinklage star of HBO’s hit “Game of Thrones” starring in a film called ” Men Who Dance Where They’re Not Supposed To” and he gets arrested for dancing in a “No Dancing” zone!

So the Bill Murray thing really resonated with me because when I was in my 20’s, before I knew anyone in show biz, there were only three people I ever wanted to meet, and they were Salvador Dali, Woody Allen, and The Beach Boys, and I got to meet and spend an evening with each one of them. I actually made that happen!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Woody Allen in a much more recent photo than when I first met him! I made him laugh by saying, ” Hi Woody, I’m a very close friend of yours!”

And that’s when I realized that if I could lose my self-consciousness, expand my comfort zone, and not be embarrassed to go out and try things, I could basically accomplish anything I wanted, and meet whoever I set out to meet!

Each of those three events is a story in it’s own, but when I realize what I was able to manifest in those days, it’s not unlike what Mark has set out to do. And if you want something bad enough there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.

I live in Manhattan and Mark lives in Queens so ordinarily I would drive, but just that day Pres. Obama came to town, specifically to mess up traffic, so I did something I never did before! I went to Queens by train! Mark gave me great directions and it wasn’t even that bad.

We had a great time and Mark speaks comedy! The guy is a fund of knowledge about comedy and was able to speak to me knowledgeably about people that were way before his time, and people that I knew well like Milton Berle, who was was my original sponsor in the LA Friars Club, Henny Youngman,Jack Rollins, Charlie Joffe, and Alan Zweibel to name just a few!

Also there was My Damn Channel’s Jesse Cowell, the Exec. Director of Original Content, who oversees 30 new series, ( not 10, or 20, but THIRTY!) that will be debuting on My Damn Channel.

Jesse was very low key but is also a lightweight karate champ and when I watched his You Tube videos of him kicking butt, I was like, … this guy’s no lightweight! (LOL) When you’re that well versed in martial arts, you can afford to be low key. It takes great discipline to get that far, and it was always one of my dreams to be that accomplished in Tae Kwon Do. One of my very few unrealized dreams!

In my interview which will air tomorrow, Tuesday Oct. 16, 2012 and will be posted on the My Damn Channel website (http://www.mydamnchannel.com), besides talking about my new book with Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh”, you’ll hear me telling my stories of my experiences with Bill Murray:

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Bill Murray at The Four Seasons Hotel in NYC! ( No, we weren’t staying there together! LOL)

1. How we originally met up at SNL in the early years!
2. How Bill Murray tried to repair my car one night during the 90’s.
3. Me and Bill Murray at a press conference for his film “Get Low”.
4. A screenplay I wrote, with Bill Murray specifically in mind for the lead called “Searching For Ed Zintz”, where as the result of a practical joke gone wrong, Hollywood winds up honoring a guy who doesn’t exist, it becomes the hottest ticket in town, people are fighting for tickets, and Bill Murray, a failed comedian, gets hired to play the guy “Ed Zintz”! But because of my ADD, I got so confused that while I was with Bill Murray, in his company, alone and right next to him, I forgot to tell him about it!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV in yet a second photo with Bill Murray just to prove to myself I was actually there!

Well, if he comes to Mark’s house for dinner, maybe Mark or Christine would be kind enough to mention it, and then we can all make the movie together!

And then I think my next goal after that is to get my own show on My Damn Channel, and have Rob Barnett come to MY house for dinner!

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Millennium’s "The Babymakers" At The Friars- Opens August 3rd

Charlie Prince and his team always manage to get great films for the Friars Club Film Festival, coming up in October, but also to screen at The Friars Club itself. He even manages to get stars and producers to show up for Q & A’s.

Charlie Prince having a great time with Paul Schneider at the Friars Club screening of “The Babymakers!”

So even though I just got back from Montreal from being an official videographer at the Just For Laughs Festival and was exhausted from shooting over 35 video interviews with celebs like Bob Saget, Chelsea Handler, Howie Mandel, Adam Carolla, JB Smoove, and Triumph The Insult Comic Dog, I made sure not to miss the screening of “The Babymakers” starring Paul Schneider from NBC’s Parks and Rec, Olivia Munn from The Daily Show, Magic Mike, and HBO’s “The Newsroom”, actor/Babymakers producer Kevin Heffernan, and actor/Babymakers director Jay Chandrasekhar.

The Friars Club flier announcing the screening of “The Babymakers!”

(L-R) Paul Schneider, Jay Chandrasekhar, and Kevin Heffernan at the Q&A at The Friars Club for “The Babymakers!”

Paul, Jay and Kevin were there, and it was obvious from the way they got along that they had a blast doing this movie.

Jay and Kevin are two of the founding members of the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, and are friends since attending Colgate University together. Even as a screenwriter who creates characters, two nicer guys would be hard for me to imagine, and they both have great comedic presence, even while just doing a Q & A.

Actor/producer Kevin Heffernan making Jay Chandresekhar and everyone else laugh during the Q&A for The Babymakers at The Friars Club in NYC!

I had the treat of seeing them perform last night at The Bowery Ballroom to a packed, SRO crowd, and they were the same. Both of them have great comedy voices, if you know what I mean. Not every comic has a great comedy voice, but when these guys speak, their voices command attention, (and laughs!)

This film is the latest in a line-up from Broken Lizard that includes Super Troopers, Club Dread, and Beer Fest. In Super Troopers they played highway patrolmen who played tricks on people they stopped for speeding. Some of them were things I would do myself, like seeing how many times you could say “meow” to someone during a conversation, while denying you’re saying it.

Jay and Kevin actually guzzled two bottles of Maple Syrup each, during the filming of Super Troopers, which to me shows great commitment to their craft! The stomach-aches must have been intolerable.(LOL) After the second bottle, Jay found himself on the floor in a fetal position vowing to never do that again. He said he finally ran to the rest room, and he thinks he “passed” a sparrow!

In Babymakers, Paul Schneider plays a guy named Tommy Macklin, who’s finally ready to try and get his wife Audrey (Olivia Munn) pregnant, but to his dismay, finds out he’s shooting blanks. With the help of his friends, he decides to rob a sperm bank that holds a sample of his from earlier days when his sperm was still viable.

Paul Schneider, star of The Babymakers with Jay Chandrasekhar actor/director of The Babymakers at The Friars Club!

Jay Chandrasekhar plays a guy who’s supposedly a member of the Indian Mafia, and who agrees to lead the sperm theft! His Indian accent is right on, and I guess he comes by it naturally!

Jay Chandrasekhar and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at The Friars Club for a screening of Jay’s new film “The Babymakers!”

He, Russell Peters, Aziz, and Kal Penn have broken down stereotypes, by showing how funny Indian people can be, which I love.

A sperm bank in general is a funny concept! It’s basically the only bank where after you make a deposit you LOSE interest! And I once wrote a Friars Roast joke, (maybe about Lisa Lampanelli?), that she just got a job as the night depository slot for an all night sperm bank!

Anyway, this movie is very funny, with lots of unpredictable situations, including Kevin getting to slip and slide his way through a roomful of sperm, so if you want some really good laughs, check out the film that opens tomorrow Friday, Aug. 3rd, in theatres nationwide!

I’m just fascinated that five guys who are friends from college actually get to make feature films together! To me that is AWESOME!

And stay tuned for the great video interview I did with Jay and Kevin at the Soho Grand Hotel, which will be up in the next few days!

Jay Chandrasekhar, Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, and Kevin Heffernan at the Soho Grand Hotel in NYC talking about “The Babymakers!”

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Nancy Savoca Scores With Union Square

Nancy Savoca’s new indie feature “Union Square” starring Mira Sorvino, Tammy Blanchard, and Michael Rispoli, is a great example of the beauty and freedom of independent film.

The poster for Nancy Savoca’s film “Union Square, starring Mira Sorvino and Tammy Blanchard!

As a writer and more specifically a comedy writer,I know the feeling of having someone who thinks they have an incredible sense of humor try and change what you wrote. More often than not, their sense of humor is easily surpassed by their sense of smell!(LOL)

With independent film you don’t have to worry about a studio handing over your script to someone who doesn’t get it! With independent film YOU’RE in charge!

It’s a natural extension for a writer to want to direct, since the writer has the vision in the first place, and sees the movie in his/her mind. In the case of this film, it’s birth came about in a coffee shop, with Nancy, producer Neda Armian, and co-writer Mary Tobler commiserating on how hard it is to get an independent film made.

A smiling Nancy Savoca at the press junket for her new film ” Union Square!”

Neda offered her apartment, which is just one room, made to look like two, and said, ” Let’s just shoot something! Anything!” and they all agreed. Nancy said that Mary was “fearless” and over a summer they hashed out the script. They even believed in it enough to put up the initial financing. Once you’ve got the money, it’s a go! That’s the one ingredient that keeps everyone from making a film! (LOL)

They chose locations they could walk to from Neda’s apartment which was one block from Union Square. They purposely wanted a small cast, maybe two principal characters and two or three supporting characters.

You’ll see in the attached video how excited Nancy was to get the cast she wanted. Casting is always key, and when you get the stars you want, especially on an indie budget, you know they’re doing it because they believe in the project, and not for the money!

The film was also shot using less equipment than many student films. They had a very small crew, almost no lighting equipment and shot on a Canon 5D, which is a still camera, capable of shooting high def video.

Again, the beauty of independent film does away with the necessity of using crews of 50 or 60 people, and trailers, and truckloads of equipment. Most of the time they didn’t even use a tripod!

Nancy Savoca and Mira Sorvino at the press conference at The Regency Hotel for “Union Square”!

Mira plays Lucy, a free-wheeling, sexy, but confused girl on the verge of a nervous breakdown over a relationship with a married man, gone wrong before our very eyes. She virtually has a meltdown in Union Square Park, in front of innocent passersby, some of whom had no idea she was shooting a film, which is another funny story you’ll see Mira describe in the video below.

Director Nancy Savoca with Tammy (Jenny) Blanchard at the press conference for “Union Square!”

With her life seemingly in shambles, on a whim she decides to drop in unannounced on her estranged sister Jenny, (Tammy Blanchard) who she hasn’t seen or spoken to in three years. On the surface they couldn’t be more dissimilar.

Mira, as I told her in the video, totally nailed her inner “Bronx-girl”. The accent was perfect as was her style of dress. She dressed really sexy, and with all due respect, she has the body to pull it off too! (Even Tammy said that, … but a lot more graphically! LOL)

Tammy as Jenny, on the other hand played a woman who had seemingly gotten away from her “Bronx past”, and was leading a quiet sedate life with her fiance Bill, played by actor Mike Doyle. In real life, Tammy is a beautiful, stylish woman. In the film she plays kind of a frumpy part, to the point where she said she didn’t even want to look at herself in the mirror!

Writer/Director Nancy Savoca with a very stylish, “un-frumpy” Tammy Blanchard, one of the stars of her new film “Union Square!”

Lucy announces that she would like to stay with Jenny for at least a couple of days, and begins to wreak havoc in Jenny’s life and with her relationship. Lucy drags Jenny out to a club, where Mira’s character Lucy, gets to dirty dance with a guy who turns out to be her own real-life husband, Chris Backus, with whom she just had her fourth child about a month ago. You’d never know it because she’s in such great shape!

Lucy and Jenny’s mom in the film is played by Patti LuPone, and it’s a great, and funny part, and actor Michael Rispoli also plays a wonderful part, as a very stable down-to-earth guy, which he’s so good at. Michael is an old friend, who’s been in so many films, like “Kick-Ass”, “Invincible” with Mark Wahlberg, Spike Lee’s “The Summer of Sam”, and of course he was mob boss Jackie Aprile on HBO’s hit show “The Sopranos.”

He played the lead in the film “Two Family Home” which won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award back in 2000, which is when we took the photo that appears below. It was a party for “Two Family Home” and many of the Sopranos’ cast were there like Aida Turturro, Michael Imperioli, and Drea De Matteo. I was so happy to see him in Union Square.

What will make this film even more popular, is the fact that so many people will relate to the theme of estranged siblings. Unfortunately, it’s all too common.

I was most happy to meet Mira as I’ve admired her talent for years, ever since “Mighty Aphrodite” with Woody Allen in 1996. I actually wrote a film with her in mind for the lead, about a tough biker chick who falls for a stand-up comic. A very unlikely couple to say the least!

So I was so happy to be able to meet her and interview her in person. It was also special for me because I know her Dad, Paul Sorvino for a very long time as evidenced by the photo below taken at Columbus Cafe back around 1991.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Paul Sorvino at Columbus Cafe, circa 1991!

Mira and I had a good laugh about how her Dad bursts out into song at a moment’s notice,(or sometimes without any notice at all! LOL), very often while you’re seated with him in a restaurant.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, philanthropist Karen Koeningsberg, and Paul Sorvino at a party for Karen’s birthday at The Standard Hotel! Paul graced us all with a song, and his magnificent voice!

She says he’s been doing that all her life, and Paul has a beautiful, operatic voice, which you can easily hear from several blocks away. She says such nice things about her Dad, which you’ll also hear in the video I keep talking about. I think it’s time for you to watch it, right here.

And after you watch this, run out to the theatre on July 13th and watch Union Square. You won’t be sorry!

Nancy’s work is also an inspiration to all filmmakers. If you have something in you that needs to be said in film, just go out and do it! These days if you want to get it done, there’s always a way!

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Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Mike Birbiglia in "Your Sister’s Sister"

I get to see a lot of films before they hit the theatres and that is one of the perks of writing Comedy Matters for so many years. This week I had the pleasure of seeing Sundance award-winning filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s fourth feature film “Your Sister’s Sister”, and when I use the word “pleasure” I really mean it. The film was great!

Interestingly enough when I heard the title it reminded me of Mike Birbiglia’s My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, not knowing that he was even in this film. As the film opened on a group scene where friends gathered to remember their friend Tom who had passed away, it was all about Mike Birbiglia. He had the entire opening of the film, and it was great.

An unclear shot of Mike Birbiglia onscreen in “Your Sister’s Sister”, and I think he’s wearing his own clothes in this shot!

I tried shooting some screen shots but it didn’t work out that well, mostly because I was so startled to see him up there, I couldn’t stop watching to get a grip on my camera! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage with Mike Birbiglia when he first did “Sleepwalk With Me” back in 2008.

Mike was recently in Sundance showing his own film “Sleepwalk With Me” which I saw when he did it live at the Bleecker Street Theatre. The New York Times called it “simply perfect”, and it was named “Comedy of the Year” by Time Out New York.

Richie Tienken, Mike Birbiglia, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip after Mike filmed a scene for Sundance!

He came into The Comic Strip one night before he went to Sundance, to shoot a scene of him performing onstage to play over the credits of Sleepwalk With Me. That’s when I did this little video:

Mark Duplass is absolutely everywhere and for good reason. He’s incredibly talented, and he’s as nice as he is talented! The first time I met him was at a press junket for the film Cyrus which he wrote with his brother Jay, and which starred Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill. It garnered well deserved rave reviews.

Jay Duplass with his arm around his brother Mark Duplass at the press conference for Cyrus their hit film starring Marisa Tomei, John C. Reilly and Jonah Hill!

I interviewed them both and then got to see Mark again on the red carpet of the First Annual Comedy Central Comedy Awards. He was with his beautiful wife Katie Aselton who is also an actor, co-stars with him in FX’s The League, and appeared in Cyrus as well. They assured me there was a part for me in their upcoming film “Jeff Who Lives At Home” even though it had already been shot and was ready to be released! (LOL)

Mark Duplass and his wife Katie Aselton from The League, on the red carpet of The Comedy Awards, holding up four fingers to show me how many awards they were up for!

You can see that right here in this red carpet video interview from my Comedy Matters TV channel:

When I was out in LA recently to shoot some sketches for Nick Kroll’s new show “The Nick Show Kroll” on Comedy Central, everyone on set was friends with Mark Duplass. Nick, as Ruxin, is one of the stars on FX’s hit show “The League”, and Mark and his wife Katie Aselton also star on that show as well. Mark is definitely everywhere you look these days, and deservedly so.

In “Your Sister’s Sister” Mark plays Jack, the brother of Tom who died recently. Tom’s girlfriend Iris, played by the fantastic Emily Blunt, is Jack’s best friend and because he is emotionally spent she offers him her family cabin on an island in the Pacific Northwest so that he can just chill and get back to himself.

Emily Blunt in a serious onscreen moment with Rosemarie DeWitt in “Your Sister’s Sister.”

Mark Duplass in an on-screen close-up from “Your Sister’s Sister” opening June 15th, 2012!

The cabin is supposedly empty, but when Jack arrives he finds Iris’s sister Hannah there, beautifully played by Rosemarie DeWitt, who just happens to be a Lesbian trying to get over the break-up of a 7 year relationship.

Rosemarie DeWitt in an onscreen moment, making a facial expression that makes her look like Diane Keaton in early Woody Allen movies. Tell me if you agree!

They proceed to get really drunk and despite the fact that she has no interest in men, they wind up in bed together, with some really unpredictable consequences. I really loved this scene because I have been friends with some women of that proclivity and I could swear we had an attraction to each other, which I found both very freeing and kind of exciting.

Things get even more complicated when Iris shows up unexpectedly the next day, and is thrilled to see her sister, but wonders how she and Jack spent the evening. I won’t tell you any more, because it’s too good, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

Iris ( Emily Blunt) and Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) having a sisterly talk in bed in “Your Sister’s Sister!”

I understand a lot of the movie was improv’ed which is incredible because that is just so hard to do, but it tends to give you more of a real feel as opposed to someone who memorized all of their lines. It must be very draining especially during the confrontational scenes which are very powerful in this film.

The film brought out some very interesting points to me, one of the most important being that you can have a terrible, all-out battle with someone you love, and if you step away from it for a few days, it tends to resolve itself. Sometimes distance is necessary to allow yourself to think clearly and to allow your heart to heal a little bit.

This is a heart-warming, thoughtful film that definitely needs to be seen, so go out and see it! It opens on Friday June 15th. Don’t even wait till then, go figure out a way to see it tonight!

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Chazz Palminteri in Mighty Fine-Opening Today May 25th

I get to interview lots of people but every so often I get to interview someone of whom I’m a genuine fan, which makes it even more exciting. I’ve enjoyed all of Chazz Palminteri’s work, and his new film Mighty Fine really shows off his range as an actor.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Chazz Palminteri!

Known for playing tough guys, in this film he plays Joe Fine, a tough Jewish guy from Brooklyn in the “schmatte” trade who relocates his family from Brooklyn to New Orleans in order to be closer to his factory. Every major character in a film needs a fatal flaw, and Joe’s fatal flaw is his unpredictable anger and uncontrollable rage.

An Adopt Films feature, written by writer/producer/director Debbi Goodstein, it’s a semi-autobigraphical drama based loosely on her own Dad, about a father’s love for his wife and two daughters, and how they are affected by his sudden, unexpected bursts of anger and rage.

Joe’s wife is played by the incredibly talented Andie MacDowell, who plays a Holocaust survivor, and I understand that Andie worked very hard to get her Polish accent down pat which she certainly did. It takes a very strong and talented performer to be able to stay in character even for a short sketch, but for a whole film it’s really quite an achievement.

The daughters superbly played by Jodell Ferland, who played Nathalie the youngest daughter, and Rainie Qualley who played Maddie the older daughter were both very endearing and had great chemistry as they had to support each other through the trials and tribulations of living with a father who constantly embarrassed them with his behavior, and probably needed to be medicated, but was living in denial about his problem, and refused to seek help.

Rainie Qualley is actually Andie MacDowell’s daughter. It must be so fun to act in a film with one of your kids!

The story is supposedly told in the voice of Nathalie as a grown woman, which turned out to be the voice of Janeane Garofalo. I knew it sounded somewhat familiar to me!

When Joe Fine did finally give in to his wife’s demand to seek help he wound up charming the psychiatrist into thinking it was all a distortion of his wife’s thinking since she suffered through the Holocaust. Joe refuses to face the fact that his business is on the brink of collapse, and struggles to turn that around with the unwilling, coerced help of his partner well-played by Arthur Nascarella.

When I started this video interview Chazz asked me how long I would like to speak with him so he could guide himself on how long or short to make his answers. I told him I was at his disposal. I would stay for as long as he had things to say. We spent 30 minutes together, and it was an insightful interview into the mind of the Academy Award nominee, who gave us among too many to mention, A Bronx Tale, the Academy Award nominated role of Cheech in Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway”, and his starring role in “The Usual Suspects.”

If you’re a Chazz Palminteri fan, and who isn’t, … I think you’ll really enjoy this!

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Writer/Director Sean Mannion Talks About His New Film "Abel and Cain"

I sat down with writer/producer/director Sean Mannion to discuss his upcoming project, a psychological thriller/horror short film called “Abel and Cain.”

Sean considers it an “experimental” film and he’s currently raising funds for the project on Kickstarter. We sat down in my Manhattan office to chat about the project. Check it out here:

And go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/seanmannion/abel-and-cain to donate, but go to his website first to see his other work at http://www.sean-mannion.com

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Soho International Film Festival Kicks Butt

It may only be the third year for the Soho International Film Festival,but it’s grown into a formidable event, with a week straight of great shorts and features, plus a cool party every night, thanks to sponsoring partner Brock Ganeles of www.NiteTables.com who arranged for all the venues from Sat. through Thurs. and Greenhouse/WIP who sponsored the opening party on Friday 4/13, and the party for awards night,on Friday 4/20, as they have done for the past two years.

It even had to move to a larger venue this year and was held at the Sunshine Cinema Theatre on East Houston Street, right next to Yonah Schimmel’s knish shop, the oldest knish shop in the country! Very fitting, the oldest knishes and the newest films! (LOL)

I must give props to the founder of the festival, Jorge Ballos for bringing in Exec. Director Sibyl Santiago, who worked tirelessly the last 2 years to make this happen, and to Carlos Santiago and his team of screeners for choosing films that people want to see. I also made sure to get what turned out to be an insightful video interview with Sibyl, as I not only like to talk to the celebs, but I like to talk to the people who make the events happen.

Soho also gets great celebrity support, with red carpet guests like Kevin Jonas, Mike Starr, Octavia Spencer, Rudolph Martin, and Danny Aiello just to name a few, and Danny doesn’t do these type of things very often at all. He told me he did it to support Sybil and John Gallagher.

I also ran into director John Gallagher’s talented writing partner Nick Brooks, who just happens to be the son of Mel Brooks! Watch out for their project “Sam” which they are currently in the process of making into a play. And it was great to see mega-movie producer Mark Lipsky who produced many of Eddie Murphy’s films, and will hopefully like my film “Men of Violence” that John Gallagher is committed to directing!

Exec. Director Sybil Santiago with international film star Danny Aiello on the red carpet of the Soho International Film Festival!

Opening night, I got to meet and interview Mike Starr, who’s been in so many TV shows and films including Goodfellas, Dumb and Dumber, Radio Days, and Ed Wood. He was also the star of John Gallagher’s film “The Deli” which was shown on closing night as part of a celebration for it’s 15th anniversary.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with film star Mike Starr, (which is a perfect name for him), on the red carpet at the Sunshine Theatre!

That night I got to see a fantastic documentary film called “Genius On Hold”, the story of Walter L. Shaw, an inventor, and genius, working for AT&T who invented things like speaker phones, call waiting, call forwarding, and conference calling, all of which were taken from him, and he was not given one cent in royalties. He died homeless and penniless. In his quest to make a living and support his family, he worked for the only people who would pay him, the mob.

He invented something called “the black box” that the mob used to evade police detection when taking bets, and he wound up going to prison for four years on charges of stealing 4 phone calls from AT&T without paying for the service. His son, Walter, who made this film, and told me it was 22 years in the making, turned to a life of crime out of bitterness, and wound up doing 12 years in prison himself. It’s a story that needs to be told and a movie that needs to be seen to be believed.

The after-party at Greenhouse that night, was off the proverbial chain, and people really let loose and had fun!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Sibyl Santiago, Exec. Director of her Soho International Film Festival at Greenhouse!

A couple of days later I had the pleasure of seeing a film called “Forgetting The Girl” directed by Nate Taylor who had an amazing Mohawk hairdo, and starring an actor named Christopher Denham. I got a great video interview with both of them which will be posted shortly.

I also got a great video interview with Kevin Jonas, of The Jonas Brothers, who was there with his wife Danielle DeLeasa. Her brother Brian Gonsar was one of the producers of the film, which answered my question to him, ” How does one get even one of the Jonas Brothers to support your film?” (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Kevin Jonas at the Soho Film Festival. I accidentally called him Nick, and we both had a good laugh!

The short that night was a drama called “Enamour” with Ryan O’Callaghan, who I have seen in a few films already, and directed by Justin Ho, and was also very good.

The after-party that night was at Sutra on First Avenue. Besides choosing great films, they also chose great venues for the parties which included Affaire, Le Souk, Hotel Chantelle, and Tammany Hall!

(L-R) Actress Lisa Regina, Donna McKenna, Jeffrey Gurian, and director Ari Taub partying at Sutra!

The next night was another treat as I got to see a film called “From The Head” written and directed by George Griffith, currently living in LA. Not only did he write and direct the film, he starred in it as well. A masterful move!

Anyone who knows my comedy knows I always talk about owning a Men’s Room, and what I don’t like about it is that I hate when guys come in and ask if they can use my restaurant! I’m like, ” Look pal, I’m running a Men’s Room here. You can’t just come in to use the restaurant!”

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with writer/producer/director/actor George (Shoes) Griffith from the film “”From The Head”!

Well George shot almost his entire film in a Men’s Room. He was the Men’s Room attendant for three years in a strip club in NYC, and he told a brilliant story about life as a Men’s Room attendant. They called him “Shoes” for the two-toned wingtips he wore on a nightly basis, and everyone there wondered why such an intelligent guy would be working in a Men’s Room for such a long time.

I was glad I got to meet George, because I needed to tell him how talented I thought he was. I knew that scene very well, ( not the Men’s Room, the strip club! LOL) and he portrayed it perfectly. I understand he had to actually build a Men’s Room in order to be able to get the camera in there and get the shots he needed. I’m sure it was a difficult job, because there’s lots of mirrors in Men’s Rooms and you have to be careful that the camera doesn’t show in the shot!

I also liked the choices he made as an actor. He didn’t play the character as a typical loser. He played him as a guy in control who made a conscious choice to do what he was doing. If you get a chance to see this film, definitely go and see it, and check out the site at www.fromthehead.com

The after-party that night was in Le Souk, a place I really like on LaGuardia Street that has cool “hookahs.” (Not hookers! LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with actress Valery LaFond at the Soho Film Festival, before attending the after-party at Le Souk!

I was not able to attend every night even though I wanted to, because of my schedule. I don’t know how Sibyl and Carlos did it, but they did it with grace, and neither of them even looked tired. I guess when you do something you love, it gives you energy! (LOL)

Closing night was very exciting as it began with an event honoring Danny Aiello, one of the greatest film stars, and one of the greatest, and humblest gentlemen in the business. Danny has been in 90 films, and starred in 30 of them. They showed a retrospective of his films, some of which were Spike Lee’s ” Do The Right Thing” for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, Norman Jewison’s “Moonstruck” in which he starred with Cher, Luc Besson’s “The Professional”, Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo”, Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon A Time In America”, and Francis Ford Coppola’s classic “The Godfather.”

This moving retrospective of his films was followed by a Q&A, and Danny could not have been more open and more generous. The only time he was more open and generous was in the interview he gave to me before the evening started. I had gotten there early, with my DP Rob Krieg, and we were all set to shoot Danny on the red carpet. As luck would have it, he got there early and I was in the right place at the right time, and as I went up to say “Hello”, Sibyl went to introduce me, and Danny said, ” I know Jeffrey for a very long time”, and we embraced and went onto the red carpet by ourselves to do an interview.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with award-winning film and TV star Danny Aiello at the Soho International Film Festival!

Well we weren’t by ourselves for very long, as people started to come in and gathered around to watch and listen. I wanted people to know about Danny’s connection to comedy since many people only know him from his film roles and from TV, where he usually plays a tough guy or a cop. (Is that redundant? LOL)

Danny got his start as a bouncer at the original Improv Comedy Club on West 44th Street, which Budd Friedman first opened back in 1963. Danny worked his way up to be an MC, and he was supporting three children at the time, and always appreciated what Budd did for him. He also worked for Greyhound Bus Co. where he started as a bus driver, calling out the stops all the way from NYC to Buffalo, which he still remembers and did for me in the interview, worked his way up to head the union, and then got into acting late in life.

In recent years he even had a comedy club called “Danny’s Upstairs” in Hoboken, above a fantastic Italian restaurant, (where else???), and I remember being at the opening. All the comics from NYC wanted to work at Danny’s. I wasn’t performing yet in those days or else I would have asked for a spot too!

Danny and I reminisced about the days we used to hang out in Columbus Cafe back in the mid 80’s, and he shared a great story with me about a night when Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, and other stars of that magnitude were there, which was common for Columbus. That’s when Danny and I first met, since I was a regular there as well.

I recall one night, I was downstairs near the rest rooms, talking to Robin Givens, and Mike Tyson came over, grabbed her, literally threw her over his shoulder and carried her out of the restaurant. I think it was the first time they met! Needless to say, I didn’t start a fight over it! (LOL)

Danny also shared with me the story of how he lost his son Danny, back in 2010 to pancreatic cancer, and how he was concerned that if he did a PSA,to help raise awareness and money to fight pancreatic cancer, it might look to people that he was looking to get attention for himself. That is the sign of a truly humble man to even worry about such a thing. He spent about 25 minutes with me on that red carpet and it was a moment I will cherish. I can’t wait to edit the video and show you all!

The best part was when I was able to ask Danny to play the lead in a film I wrote called “Men of Violence” that John Gallagher loves and wants to direct, and he asked me to send him the script. He’d be absolutely perfect for the lead.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters Tv with director John Gallagher before the showing of his films “I Love You” and “The Deli”!

After the Danny Aiello Q&A, they showed two of John Gallagher’s films. One was a short that I and my “muse” Sylvia Ogonaga are in called “I Love You”.

Sybil Santiago onscreen in John Gallagher’s film ” I Love You!”

Actress and Jeffrey Gurian muse Sylvia Ogonaga onscreen in John Gallagher’s film ” I Love You”! Come home Sylvia, we miss you!

The other was his iconic film “The Deli” which I think had more stars than almost any movie I’ve ever seen. It was the 15th anniversary and in the film were Gretchen Mol, Ice-T, Heavy D, Michael Imperioli, Frank Vincent, Heather Matarazzo, Burt Young, Chris Noth, David Johansen, Iman, Frank Vincent, Tony Sirico, Vincent Pastore, Mike Starr, Debi Mazar, and even Jerry Stiller. There were even more, like comic Joey Kola who it took me a moment to recognize! And he was funny even then!

Screenshot of the John Gallagher movie “The Deli!”!

Poster credits for “The Deli”! I’m surprised he didn’t need two posters to get all the names on there! (LOL)

(L-R_ A.J.Benza, Frank Vincent, and Debi Mazar in a scene from “The Deli”!

Anyway, I can’t wait to see what Sibyl and Carlos come up with for next year. All I know is I’ll be there, so save me a place on the red carpet guys!

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Abel Ferrara, Shanyn Leigh, and Willem Dafoe in 4:44

The film poster for Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 in theatres near YOU!

I don’t usually like to do anything of consequence the day before I leave on a big trip, but the day before I was set to leave for LA, to shoot some sketches with Nick Kroll, and John Mulaney from SNL, for Nick’s new show on Comedy Central, I got the opportunity to interview famed director Abel Ferrara, and actors Shanyn Leigh, and Willem Dafoe for Abel’s new film 4:44, about the end of the earth.

I had to do it! First of all, Abel is an old friend and I hadn’t seen him in a while. And second of all I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to meet Willem Dafoe, whose work I’ve always respected.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with writer/director Abel Ferrara!

One of the last times I recall seeing Abel was at a great Italian restaurant called La Mela owned by a dear friend of Abel’s named Frankie C. I just happened to have a shot of us together that night, which is a cool reason to ALWAYS take photos wherever you go!

Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV with writer/director Abel Ferrara at La Mela!

Frankie C. has since passed on, but Abel, Shannyn, and I were there to celebrate some film event. Probably of Abel’s! (LOL) I think he was working on a project about The Chelsea Hotel at the time!

Abel always gets a strong cast of people. Good actors respect his work, and the list of his films is impressive, like “The Funeral”, “King of New York”, and “Bad Lieutenant.” He’s worked with Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, and Willem Dafoe just to name a few.

Natasha Lyonne was also in 4:44 and I was hoping to see her again since I did such a fun interview with her a few months ago. It was at a New Group event honoring Wallace Shawn, but I lost her contact information and was never able to send it to her! Unfortunately she was not able to attend this interview session.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV interviewing Natasha Lyonne at a New Group event in honor of actor/director Wallace Shawn!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with actor/director Wallace Shawn at a New Group event in Wallace’s honor.

I really liked 4:44, even though the concept was “scary”, to use a childish type of word! (LOL) The entire world has accepted that it will end at 4:44 A.M. the next day and that there’s nothing that anyone can do about it. It shows how people spend their last night alive, particularly a couple who live on the Lower East Side, played by Willem (Cisco) Dafoe and Shanyn (Skye) Leigh. It’s a very wild concept, and Abel’s take was very realistic. People are confused. They don’t know how to react because they’ve never had to face certain death before! (Who has??? LOL)

It doesn’t seem real. It’s all going to happen instantaneously, and as a director, I was fascinated by his creative choices, all of which I liked. He also showed some fantastic news-type footage of people gathering in places all over the world, in candle-lit ceremonies, very often to pray, as in the throngs that were shown in St. Peter’s Square.

It also examined the theme of sobriety, since Cisco has been clean for two years, but in the face of certain death contemplates “picking up” and actually goes to score some drugs. I won’t give away what happens, but it’s powerful.

Abel was surprised to see me, and after the press thing we got a chance to hang out and catch up. It was funny when I went to interview Shanyn who besides being a talented actress is also Abel’s girlfriend, she looked at me and said, “I know you!”, and I reminded her that I was an old friend of Abel’s and that we had met before socially!

Willem Dafoe is such a great actor and I was very glad to have the opportunity to meet him.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Willem Dafoe at The Regency Hotel for 4:44!

There will be a video interview to go with this as soon as I get it edited, but in the meantime, go see the film. It just came out, it’s in the theatres, and it got good reviews. I liked it a lot, and I’m sure you will too. It’s a reminder to treasure every moment!

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