Magic is the only word that came to mind when I got to the Grisly Pear at 107 Macdougal Street. I had performed there many times when it was a bar upfront with almost kind of a comedy space in the back. Now it’s a legitimate comedy club in the back with a bar up front! And it’s all thanks to the hard work and dedication of comic/producers Kenny Warren and Gabe Dorado.
You may know Kenny from his show “Comics Cutting Comics” in which he cuts comic’s hair before they get up to perform, which would be horrifying if he wasn’t a legit barber. Fortunately he is, and works out of a shop up in Harlem called Levels. I’ve been there for a shoot we did together called ” Comics Cutting Comics Live” where I had the chance to perform in the barber shop, which was scary to me. Those who know me know I do not frequent barber shops! (LOL) Just the thought freaks me out, but for Kenny I show up! (LOL)
(L-R) Matt Pavich, Norlex Belma, Kenny Warren, Pat Brown, Larry Beyah, Barry Ribs, Jeffrey Gurian
And to show you the kind of guy he is, he was nice enough not to insist on cutting my hair. Even when we did the show out at the Creek and the Cave, he let me slide on the cutting part, and he still let me perform.
When I got to The Pear, the first thing I happened to notice was a big poster like art thing of AMarie Castillo mounted on the wall.
It caught my attention, and then as I looked around I saw Kenny Babbitt, Napoleon Emil and Mallory Bryant up there too. And then I noticed that the walls of the entire place were covered with beautiful graphics of all the comics who performed there, with their social media tags.
Kenny is very big on giving up-and-comers a place to work out and feel at home. He even refers to the place as “the dojo.” He understands the struggle and what it takes to try and get known in this crazy business, and let me tell you it’s a very big thing to come into a club and see your very own picture up on the wall.
He’s doing six shows a week there, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, including three on Friday alone, 8, 10, and 12, and he gets a packed house most of the time, unlike when the space was shared by other producers. He’s basically doing it on his own with people like Kathryn Henson producing their own shows, like her show “Late Night at The Pear” on Thursdays at midnight. Gabe Dorado runs the shows on Thursday at 10 P.M., Friday 6 and 8 P.M. and Saturday’s 10 P.M. and 12 A.M. slots.
The show I was on had a great line-up with the very funny Phil Duckett bringing it as the host. He really got the energy flowing, and then there was K.C. Arora, the aforementioned Katharyn Henson, Kareem Green who brought down the house with a very funny “choking” routine, a young funny comic named Marcello Hernandez, Onika McClean and just as I was leaving Neko White dropped by to do a set!
Kenny will be out in LA this month appearing at the clubs, and we wish him lots of luck! As for me, I hope to be doing more sets at the new Grisly Pear Comedy Club! Thanks Kenny!!!
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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!
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!
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!