Carlos Mencia is the 17th of 18 children, believe it or not, and was born in Honduras. As an infant he was sent to the US to be raised by an aunt and uncle in the Maravilla Projects in Los Angeles,” (the city of Angels” in Espanol), but went back to Honduras as a young teenager to get away from the gang culture in his neighborhood. When he came back to the US, the school system took notice of how smart he was and automatically put him into the 10th grade, …proving that ” The Mind of Mencia” was not just the name of his hit TV show on Comedy Central from 2005 to 2008!
Carlos Mencia onstage at Gotham Comedy Club making a very pertinent point!
( I had a choice with that tag! As a comedy writer, I could have said, “the school system took notice of how smart he was and automatically put him into the 10th grade. Unfortunately he was 19 at the time!” and gotten a cheap laugh, but I like Carlos, so I didn’t do that! LOL )
Carlos started performing stand-up at The Laugh Factory and went on to become a regular at The Comedy Store, which is where I first met him. He performed there every night and drew quite a following. There was always a buzz about Mencia.
The “fluffy” Carlos Mencia I knew when I first met him out in LA! “Fluffy” being Gabriel Iglesias’ term for slightly overweight! LOL
So when I found out he was headlining Gotham Comedy Club I made sure to attend. But he lost so much weight I almost didn’t recognize him.
The newly thin, healthier, and funnier than ever Carlos Mencia onstage at Gotham!
To address that, he comes out and right away tells the audience that he doesn’t have AIDS. One day a friend of his made a comment that he was fat! (I understand it was Gabriel Iglesias who said it, which is hysterical, on many levels!)
Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV and Gabriel Iglesias at a Latino Comedy Festival in LA! Gabriel is shocked by the size of Jeffrey’s big pen!
The next time they got together, Gabriel Iglesias got the bigger pen and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV got stuck with the smaller pen!
Carlos couldn’t believe it cause he never thought of himself as being overweight! Then he saw photos of himself, realized he was fat, and decided to do something about it! That’s what is known as “taking back the power!”
The man is half his size! But if he’s half his size, he’s twice as funny, with a wealth of material that most comics could only wish for.
He talks a lot about how great it is to be an American, and makes sharp racial observations like discussing why it’s a common thought that most Black people can’t swim. “Cause we used to chase them away from the pool. So ironically they became fast runners, but they never learned how to swim!”
A very thin and very funny Carlos Mencia killing it on stage at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!
He also does great dialects including African, French, Spanish of course and Japanese.
But the one concept that stood out to me the most was his take on Columbus discovering America, when the Native Americans were already living here. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something like, “You can’t discover a country if people are already living there!” He envisioned a guy from Mexico jumping the border and when he was stopped by border guards and told he was entering a sovereign country, would plant a flag and say, ” I am discovering this country for my people!” That’s comedic genius!
This is a brief compilation of my recent trip to L.A. featuring my interviews with Billy Crystal, the first comic to ever set foot on stage at The Comic Strip on June 1, 1976, and Russell Peters, one of the only comics to be able to fill stadiums, as he did in Vancouver when 18,000 people came out two nights in a row to see this dude!
Jeffrey Gurian with Billy Crystal in Billy's Beverly Hills office, Face Productions!
As I told Kal Penn when I interviewed him for Comedy Matters, ” there was a time, and not too long ago, when no one knew that Indian people could be funny!” And Kal cracked up because he knew it was true. Kal stars in the Harold and Kumar films and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Indian people can be funny. Russell Peters takes it ten steps further!
Jeffrey Gurian with Kal Penn for the release of a new harold and Kumar film!
Born in Canada, and speaking perfect English with no accent at all, Russell says he identifies more with being Canadian than with being an Indian man. He’s Indian in his DNA, and his skin color, so when he looks in the mirror he’s aware that he’s Indian, but that’s about it.
He sees himself as he is, and sees the humor in seeing everyone for what they are. What I love about him, besides just about everything he does, is that he has almost singlehandedly destroyed a stereotype, which is very hard to do. He has broken the stereotype of the humorless Indian man. To be able to see yourself as you believe others see you, and to make it funny is pure genius.
Russell Peters is not only “hip”, he’s too hip for the room! And that’s at a time when everyone is striving to be “hip.” The legendary Rodney Dangerfield who was the first big star I ever wrote for once told me, ” Jeff, you know who’s hip?” I’m like, ” No Rodney, who’s hip?” He’s like, ” Two guys in the Village.” And we all fell down laughing cause he was right. Everybody is so caught up in being “hip” when almost no one is, … except for these two elusive guys in The Village!
Jeffrey Gurian, jus' chillin' with Russell Peters at Russell's home in L.A.
Russell is a rare talent and I call him “The Messiah of Comedy.” All you have to do is attend one of his shows, to see the multi-cultural background of his audience. There are people there in turbans and traditional Indian dress and they’re laughing their asses off! I teach at NYU where the majority of students seem to be Indian females and almost all of them bust out laughing at just the mention of Russell Peters’ name. The man is a phenomenon!
He brings all ethnicities together and in a clever way makes fun of everyone, but he comes from such a good place that no one could ever be offended. He has the ability to see things clearly that other people miss. True artists are like that. And people love when you can imitate an accent. I don’t think I can think of one accent that Russell can’t do. But when he does the Indian accent, people are crying from laughing so hard. Not only does he do the accent but the facial expressions, the head movements and the hand and finger movements. He’s a genius at physical comedy. I am truly amazed at Russell Peters.
Jeffrey Gurian and Russell Peters checkout out the munitions artwork that adorns Russell's walls!
I wish I could do a Chinese accent. I talk about it in my act but it would be better if I could do it!
The only accent I can do is like a Greek accent or some kind of Eastern European accent, like when two guys meet in the street and one guy says, ” Hello my friend, how are you today?” And the other guy answers, ” Five thank you, how are you?”. First guy – ” Not too good, I feel a little six!” Second Guy – “Really, you don’t look six at all. You look just five to me!” And they go on through this conversation using numbers instead of the right words, until the end when the first guy says, ” I have to go now. Nice threeing you again!” and the second guy says, ” Nice threeing you two!” That’s the extent of my accent work, and it absolutely “kills”, … around my apartment!
I’ve never actually done it on stage, because I haven’t hated myself enough yet to try it out, ( just in case it doesn’t work!), … but maybe someday???
So anyway, I’m in LA and I call Russell ’cause his brother Clayton, who is a great guy and also his manager, left me a message that if I come to LA, Russell would make time to see me, and hang out. I had only a few priorities on my trip. The first was to interview Billy Crystal, the second was to hang out and interview Russell, and third was to perform in the clubs in LA cause I had never set foot on a stage in Los Angeles, and that was a hurdle I was ready to take on.
I wound up performing on Kevin Nealon’s show at Jamie Masada’s Laugh Factory. I happen to know Kevin back from his SNL days cause I was friendly with him, and Dana Carvey, and Jon Lovitz, and especially Phil Hartman. Listen to this weird synchronicity! When I packed to go to LA, I grabbed a small leather case that I used to carry my comedy material in, without looking at what was inside. When I got to LA and opened it up, I saw that it was material I had written for Kevin Nealon for the Friars Roast of Chevy Chase back in 1990. This was at least 3 days before I knew I’d be performing on Kevin’s show! Coincidence? I think not! (LOL)
Jeffrey Gurian with Kevin Nealon at Jamie Masada's Laugh Factory!
So I get the call that I’m on Kevin’s show and that after my set we’ll do an onstage interview. I’m like, ” Cool.” I hadn’t seen Kevin in a long time and I figured he’d be surprised to see my name on his show roster. I was told I’d be on third at 8:40. I got to the club a little after 8, while Kevin was on stage warming up the crowd, … not with jokes, with blankets and hugs! He was literally warming up the crowd because they felt chilly from the air conditioning! ( I’m just being silly!)
So he’s warming up the audience when he suddenly says, ” We have a great show for you tonight. Let’s see who’s on the list, and he starts reading names and when he comes to mine he says, ” Jeffrey Gurian? is Jeffrey Gurian here?”
And I was in the back of the room, so I answered that I was there. He was like, ” Jeffrey Gurian is here. He’s funny! Let’s put him on first. Give a warm welcome to Jeffrey Gurian.” And the crowd started applauding, and I couldn’t say anything, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, ” I thought Kevin liked me. Why is he putting me on first?” Turns out he did me the biggest favor in the world because I had no time to get nervous, I went right up and if I have to say so myself, I killed!
Kevin Nealon on stage at The Laugh Factory hosting his weekly show!
Fortunately I was not alone in that assessment! Kevin said so, and so did owner Jamie Masada who was there and saw the set. Jamie said I could perform there anytime I was in town. Not only that, he told me to call the club the next day and tell the booker that Jamie said to put me on Tom Arnold’s show the next night.
I was so psyched, because Tom is a friend and I had e-mailed him a few days before telling him I was going to be in LA to see if he had time to hang out. He wrote me back saying he was doing a lot of filming including a thing on “Sons of Anarchy” and probably wouldn’t have time for us to get together.
Jeffrey Gurian with Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada, AFTER Jeffrey's set in front of the Laugh Factory logo!
So when Jamie told me I’d be on Tom’s show I was thrilled, cause I knew he’d be surprised to see me there, and I’d kill the proverbial two birds with one stone. Who by the way, was ever killing birds with a stone? Where did that expression start? And not only one bird but two birds with the same stone? They must have been very slow moving birds. Who does that anyway? Killing birds with a stone. Very bizarre! So I’m psyched to do Tom’s show, and impress him with my comedic talent (LOL), and at the last minute Tom has to cancel because he’s stuck on the set of ” Sons of Anarchy.” It just goes to show that you can not micro-manipulate The Universe. Things only happen when they’re supposed to.
Kevin by the way sent me this really nice e-mail in response to my thank you e-mail to him, saying : “Great seeing you again, too. You always crack me up. Hope to see you again down the road.” How nice is that that Kevin Nealon says I always crack him up?
Jamie happens to be a very kind man. I remember being out in LA one Christmas and Jamie does this thing where he feeds people all Christmas day from the club. Non-stop! Homeless people, and comics both, … and sometimes they’re the same thing! (LOL) The way most comics dress, they ALL look homeless! (LOL)
So I didn’t get to perform for Tom Arnold, but but I DID get the Friday night show at The Improv thanks to booker Emilie Laford, who put me on the 10 P.M. show with Ralph Figueroa as the host. It was also a very successful show and Ralph sent me a really nice e-mail telling me that I did an “awesome” set and that he hoped to work with me again! Thanks Ralph, the feeling is mutual!
Jeffrey Gurian with show host/comic Ralph Figueroa at The Improv in Hollywood!
Plus, I got to go on stage right before my good friend Helen Hong, who I know from New York and who can definitely do the Chinese accent! Maybe if I ask nicely she’ll teach me! Helen is always so funny! Prease Heren, would you teach me???
Jeffrey Gurian with Helen Hong at The Improv in L.A.!
Anyway, back to Russell Peters! ( I feel like I’m all over the place with this post! )
Russell invited me to his house and I expected something special but it was even better. I got to meet his wife Monica, who he married in August of 2010, and his new little daughter Crystianna, who was so cute I tried to take her with me when I left, but he caught me and made me give her back! He was like, ” What’s that lump under your jacket?” And I was like, ” OK, you caught me. I’m sorry. Here. You can have your baby back!” She was really that cute!
Jeffrey Gurian reclining in Russell Peters' screening room with wall to wall TV!
Russell has a screening room, with reclining chairs where you can just lay back and chill, and watch this huge screen TV that covers the entire wall.
Then there’s the entertainment room with the pinball games.
But my favorite toy of his was his new Rolls Royce, which I’m pretty sure he called a Phantom Drophead Coupe, or Dropdead Coupe, or something like that. ( There’s supposed to be an accent mark over the last “e” in Coupe, but my computer only speaks English so I don’t have an “accent egout” which is what I think they called it in French class when I wasn’t paying attention! LOL)
They only started making this model in 2007, and Russell was too humble to tell me it’s the most expensive Rolls Royce they make. It’s got like a stainless steel hood, what Russell referred to as “suicide doors” that open backwards towards the back of the car, and which you can open and close remotely, and believe it or not the exterior is available in more than 44,000 color combinations. I didn’t even know there WERE more than 44,000 color combinations. My crayon box has about 108 colors and I thought that about maxed it out.
Jeffrey Gurian and Russell Peters in his new Drophead Dropdead Rolls, with the stainless steel hood, just in case you want to cook lunch on the top of your car!
So Russell and I were chillin’ in the Rolls and I felt I had to remind him that you were supposed to get these things like a gorgeous home and Rolls Royce BEFORE you’re married not after! We had a good laugh about that! And I think that was when he discovered I had his baby! (LOL)
Who wouldn't be smiling driving a car like this???
And before I left his house, with his “man-servant”, or assistant who he referred to as “Homeless Matt”, I happened to tell him that I was going to interview Billy Crystal the next day. That’s when he told me that he and Billy were doing a movie together and that I should send Billy his best, cause Billy was his boy!
Billy was as nice as could be. We met at his offices in Beverly HIlls, thanks to Bob Wachs, the co-founder of The Comic Strip in NYC, and Billy’s lawyer in the early days, and Billy graciously gave me about an hour of his time. We reminisced about how we first met through Jack Rollins who is currently 96 years old, G-d Bless him,( I’m becoming my own grandmother! ) and how Jack had wanted Billy to play me in a proposed sit-com about a dentist who wanted to be in show business. He even remembered calling me “the funny dentist” and how Alan King referred to me the same way.
Billy Crystal pointing to his teeth, referencing the rumour that Jeffrey Gurian used to be a dentist!
And he shared with me a little gem that Jack Rollins had told him after seeing his early stand-up. He said, ” You did great, and your act was fine, but ” you didn’t leave a tip!” You didn’t leave the audience with anything to remember you by! ” And that message stuck with Billy all these years and changed the way he performed on stage from that day forth! He always remembered to share a little bit extra of himself with his audience, and always left them a tip!
I did remember to send Billy Russell’s regards, and Billy echoed what Chris Rock said about Russell, who ranked #9 on Forbes list of highest earning comedians, ” Russell Peters, … he’s the most famous comedian that no one ever heard of.” I have a feeling that all that will change very soon! ( My words, not Billy’s!)
In summary, … anytime you have an opportunity to see Russell perform, make sure you go, because it’s really a treat! So check out the little video interview I did with Russell. There will be a longer version coming up soon, but I’m getting ready to go and see him perform in Montreal next week at the Just for Laughs Festival where he will be hosting his own show, with his own hand-picked comedians like Dom Irrera, and Jeremy Hotz, and it was all I could do to get this short version ready for the public before I left.
Everybody loves Paul Provenza, … especially comedians. That’s why Showtime picked up his show The Green Room for a second season. It debuted on Thursday, July 14th, at 11 P.M. while I was still out in LA, performing at Jamie Masada’s Laugh Factory with Kevin Nealon, and Budd Friedman’s Improv on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, plus interviewing both Billy Crystal and Russell Peters. I sure hope I didn’t miss any Green Room premiere party, ’cause I hate when that happens! ( I actually went to a party once and had a good time! LOL)
Check out all the cool comedy names on Paul Provenza's Green Room poster!
Jeffrey Gurian with Paul Provenza in the lobby of The Core Club, for The Green Room.
( I often wonder if I didn’t write the “LOL” if people would know I was kidding! I was born at a party and have been going to them ever since!)
Anyway, Paul made the iconic movie The Aristocrats. He directed the well over 100 comics who performed in that movie, which Penn Jillette produced, and I actually went with Paul when it debuted at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal where Paul and I will be going again next week. The Just for Laughs Festival is the biggest comedy festival in the world. I heard that Andy Nulman who ran it so well for many years, and then went on to direct the huge celeb galas, is back running it again this year! Hey Andy, … see you next week!
Jeffrey Gurian being kissed by Paul Provenza while Jamie Kilstein leans on Jeffrey Gurian, and looks on longingly!
Paul is producing The Green Room with producer Barbara Romen and I remember being there with them when they first introduced it in Montreal, where almost everything big in comedy happens. Barbara honored me by saying she feels like I’m one of The Green Room family, since I’ve been there from the beginning. ( you will see this in the attached video, in case you think I’m exaggerating! LOL )
Jeffrey Gurian holding Paul Provenza's book Satiristas, while Paul is holding Jeffrey's book, "Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive" for which he wrote the foreward!
Paul recently wrote the book Satiristas, in which he also brought in a huge number of big comedy stars to be interviewed. There’s something special about Paul that allows him to get all these huge names to participate in his projects, because they’re not just sitting around waiting for people to ask them to be part of something, which they graciously do for Paul, very often for no compensation. They have to actually like you more than just a little to do that, and with Paul they like him a lot. That’s why when he says the same thing about ME, and gives me props for getting so many big stars to be in my column, it’s very meaningful to me. Someday I hope Paul and I can do a project together.
We first met many years ago on a radio show that Jackie Mason was hosting, when I believe Jackie was filling in for Bob Grant. We were both guests, and Paul and I got along famously. Then one night during a performance of a show he was starring in called “Only Kidding”, he accidentally chipped his front tooth on stage, and some comedian friends suggested he call me! When he asked what good it would do to call a comedy writer, to have his tooth fixed, they explained about my other career as a Cosmetic Dentist. I fixed him up right way and he was back on stage that night. We’ve been friends ever since!
Sylvia Ogonaga, Paul Provenza and Jeffrey Gurian at The Core Club for Paul's debut of The Green Room!
So when I heard that Paul was debuting Season 2 at the prestigious Core Club, ( right across the street from the famous Friars Club) in Manhattan, I actually postponed my departure for LA for one day so I could attend. I brought Ecuadorian model/actress Sylvia Ogonaga with me, … mostly because I could! (LOL) With him that night besides co-producer Barbara Romen was Robin Bronk of The Creative Coalition which was the sponsor of the event, and comics Lisa Lampanelli, Rain Pryor, ( Richard’s daughter), Billy Connolly, and Jamie Kilstein.
(L-R) Robin Bronk, Lisa Lampanelli, Paul Provenza, Rain Pryor, Billy Connolly, and Jamie Kilstein
Lisa Lampanelli came in looking so great. She’s a shadow of her former self, and I guess that’s what success and a happy marriage does for you. I see her husband Jimmy BB ( AKA Jimmy Big Balls), a lot at Gotham Comedy Club, where he makes sure nobody gets out of line. Nobody sane would mess with Jimmy. He’s basically a building with clothing! ( I heard he’s going co-op, but that might just be a rumour! )
Jeffrey Gurian interviewing the amazing Lisa Lampanelli at the debut of The Green Room at The Core Club!
Lisa is always a delight to interview as you’ll see in the video below. It’s a nice feeling when you know someone before they made it big and then watch them enjoy the fruits of their labor and still stay grounded like Lisa. She’s one of the most popular acts around, but still acts nice to people! It doesn’t always go down that way!
It was exciting for me to meet Rain Pryor, Richard’s daughter who came with her brother Richard Jr. who I hadn’t seen in a long time. I actually sponsored Richard Jr. into The Friars Club and took a photo of him standing under a portrait of his Dad, which hangs in one of the spectacular meeting rooms of The Friars Club. Rain was one of the participants in the panel that Paul was leading in a Q&A after the screening.
Surrounded by Pryors! Richard Pryor Jr., Jeffrey Gurian, and Rain Pryor at The Core Club for The Green Room!
The first episode featured such notables as Judd Apatow, who basically owns Hollywood, and is a difficult “get”, Gary Shandling who will be receiving a lifetime achievement award in Montreal this year, Greg Proops, Kathy Griffin, Marc Maron, and Dana Gould, all led in conversation by Paul. It’s totally unscripted, and very loose, and you never know what will happen when you bring minds like that together. Paul makes them all comfortable enough for them to just let it roll, and it’s funny, and entertaining, and it works!
Screen shot of Kathy Griffin and Dana Gould from an episode of The Green Room!
Other stars who’ve appeared are Janeane Garofalo, Lewis Black, Ray Romano, Rick Overton, Joe Rogan, Margaret Cho, John Corbett, Dave Attell, Franklyn Ajaye, Rick Shapiro, Doug Stanhope (and Bingo), Jim Jefferies, Kelly Carlin, Glenn Wool, Matt Kirshen, Kumail Nanjiani, Eddie Ifft, Randy Credico, Kathleen Madigan, and Tommy Chong.
Paul will be shooting at least two episodes of The Green Room in Montreal next week, and he’s threatening to let me be part of one! If I’m not careful I’m liable to be successful, so I better watch out!!!
And YOU better watch this cool, fun video of the premiere of Season 2 of The Green Room held at The Core Club in Manhattan, thanks to their Director of Business Development and Cultural Curator, Pablo DeRitis, who made sure that everyone was comfortable and had a good time !
P.S. Yesterday was Lisa Lampanelli’s birthday, so send her a birthday Tweet at @lisalampanelli, and tell her it’s from both of us! Okay, okay, … here’s the video already!