My column may seem somewhat limited this week as I was struck down by the deadly flu virus going around even though I got the shot. I’m left with a bloodshot eye and a body that feels like I was beaten by five dockworkers. Why I chose dockworkers I have no idea!) I’ll tell you one thing, being sick makes you very grateful when you feel better again.
As weak as I was I had to get over to The Friars Club to catch Brian “Q” Quinn from Impractical Jokers doing his second Q&A show because the first one was so good. As you may know Q was a fireman who served actively for 8 years and has the medals to prove it. He said two of them were deserved. If nothing else he’s very humble and honest as the day is long. Bob Spiotto the Director of Programming at The Friars opened the evening which was again produced by Mark “Jiggy” Jigarjian, who gets to open for The Jokers on the road. He wore a plaid jacket that was so bright even I wouldn’t wear it. The audience was chosen by lottery. Over a thousand people responded to a Tweet for tickets and 35 were chosen with the opportunity to bring a plus one. It was in the Milton Berle room where a lot of cool events are held.
Q starts out by telling the audience not to expect a funny show but has people laughing all the way through. He did what few performers can do. He held the attention of the audience for more than two hours because they had so many questions. He’s very generous with his time and stayed on stage even while letting people leave the room for drinks. I told him afterward it would be ok for him to have an actual intermission and leave the stage to rest for a moment. They also announced no photos and before he noticed it was me he said “Remember no photos”, but then when he saw it was me he was like, “except YOU Jeffrey. You can do whatever you want!” That was a relief. But at the end he relented and let everyone take photos.
While on stage he made a few references to the names that had appeared on that stage before him, like Frank Sinatra, and was very impressed, and honored that he was in the Milton Berle room. He was blown away afterward when I told him that Milton Berle had been my sponsor in the Friars Club, and shared some fun stories about Milton with him and his friends. At one point someone asked him where he felt most comfortable and he said he belonged in a firehouse. That’s his comfort zone. He also told very endearing stories about being allergic to cats even though he owns three of them and said if you saw him at home holding them up in the air and kissing them you’d think he was crazy. But the story he told that really rocked me and that he gave me permission to write about was that shortly before their Live Punishment 100th episode of Impractical Jokers where they had to walk a tightrope 100 feet in the air for charity Q had a stroke on stage. An actual stroke. He said all of a sudden his left eye went dark, and he had to leave the stage to throw up but then came right back and finished the show.
Doctors told him he had a stroke caused by a virus he caught from shaking hands. Some kind of encephalitis that affects the brain. And people wonder why I always have hand sanitizer hanging from my belt! Miraculously it went away by itself, after a whole agonizing month thinking he would die, but he went on to do the 100 foot tightrope walk anyway and actually crossed it winning $50,000. for his FDNY charity the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation that honors Steven Siller a hero firefighter who gave his life on 9/11 helping others to survive. He was off-duty but when he heard what happened at The Towers he raced to the site and when stopped at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel strapped on 60 pounds of gear and ran through the tunnel to meet his destiny. In answer to a question about what he felt was his greatest accomplishment, Q said that making that tightrope walk was it. He said he never had a feeling like that.
It’s weird that in this one single column I’m writing about three people who have overcome tremendous obstacles to go and continue to entertain people. That’s very special. After the show we retired to the Ed Sullivan room if any of you remember who that was, and hung out while Q played pool with friends and people from the TV world.
But during the show Q kept referencing a guy who he said had a great influence on him and was the funniest guy he knew and it was Bryan Johnson who plays Steve-Dave in the Kevin Smith movies. They also do a podcast together on the SModcast Podcast Network called “Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave” hosted by Bryan and close friend Walt Flanagan. Q called Bryan up on stage who claimed the pants he was wearing were the first pair he just bought to appear at The Friars Club. He came up sporting an almost Z-Z Top length beard and also took some questions from the fans who seemed very excited to see him there. I asked his new wife Stacy Patella if she was cool with the beard and she said she definitely was. That’s all that counts.
And afterwards I shot a little video with Q about the upcoming Jokers movie which they’ll be starting to shoot in May on Staten Island for Funny or Die with Chris Henchy directing. It’s going to be a road trip movie following the Jokers from New York to Florida. It starts with them in high school and three of them have to rectify a certain situation and one of them winds up in extreme humiliation and banishment which sounds about right for the Jokers. I am officially invited to film from the set. It’s on video, he said it, and I intend to be there! (LOL) It was another great and very successful night at The Friars.
I ran into Jim Mendrinos who’s back on the scene 100% after recovering from a terrible accident and who told me he’s helping run a new comedy festival out in New Jersey called The Turnpike Comedy Festival which I’m hoping they’re planning to have indoors, and not on the actual turnpike. It’s gonna be four nights of comedy from June 13-16th, in and around central New Jersey and there’ll be seminars and special events as well, ending with a closing reception and presentation of awards. There are 40 spots open to performers and the 40 that are chosen will perform on one of four shows on the first few nights with the top four on each show going to the final shows. Judges will include a mix of sponsors, audience votes and industry pros. And you know what category you fall into. But the cool thing is that the final 16 will perform in a filmed special for Amazon Prime, and I bet they’ll also throw in free two day shipping! One caveat, the contest is only open to those comics who have not filmed a special for Netflix, HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central or the BBC, so sorry Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Bill Burr, Dave Chappelle, and Adam Sandler. Maybe next time!
Jason Steinberg had a second talent showcase but this time at the West Side Comedy Club and this time he brought out the big guns. People like Greg Rogell who often opens for Russell Peters and travels the world with him, new up-and-comers like Jason Scoop who did his great Trump impression among others, the great Donnell Rawlings who’s been in so many things like HBO’s The Wire but will probably always be remembered as Ashy Larry from The Chapelle Show, and a man I really admire Marshall Brandon. Marshall to me is the epitome of a professional comedian. Not only because he’s so funny and unique but because he has experienced great tragedy in his life with the loss of his beautiful daughter yet he goes out on stage spreading laughter to the rest of the world. There’s no other business I know of where people are called upon to do this kind of thing, and I respect him so much for being able to do that. He told me he’s been having trouble with his name all his life. Even as a child in school they’d call him Brandon Marshall, especially when you had to write last name first, they always thought he made a mistake. Then there are two Brandon Marshall’s who play football. One played for The Giants and the other for the Broncos, and he said he had trouble one time at the airport with a TSA agent who thought he was one of the football players and didn’t want to admit it. So he told the guy a joke and that settled everything.
Tyler Fischer has been in my column before and is one of the most unique alt comics on the scene today. He’s also a stand-up/actor and has been seen on America’s Got Talent, NBC’s Chicago Med, TV Land’s “Younger” and his crazy YouTube videos like “ Pretending To Work At Apple” which I have no idea how he pulls off without getting arrested, have more than 7 million views. He was named “ Best Impressionist” by the NY Times, and now he’s also on the new Amazon series called “Startup”. He’s producing a new show starting tonight at The Mailroom down on Wall Street and Leah Bonnema and Louis Katz will be on that show plus special guests, and he’s also got a show in Brooklyn called “The Big Break Show” twice a month on Saturday nights at a place called “Bluebird” in Leffert’s Garden. I WILL travel to Brooklyn for that! And he’s yet another one who used to do my late night show at The Comic Strip. Just about all of them have gone on to do great stuff.
Speaking of great stuff Andy Kaufman award winner Brett Davis checked in to let me know that his amazing show “The Special Without Brett Davis”, a weekly live variety show, just celebrated it’s 3rd anniversary on air. To celebrate they put up a new “Best Of” special on YouTube with his own version of Aladdin, and that as a man who personally loves laundry and everything to do with laundry he’s still doing his “Podcast for Laundry” . It’s found on the Forever Dog Podcast Network as well as Stitcher, Spotify and the A.V. Club, and I’m assuming by the name that it’s only the cleanest comedy! ( You know what they say about assumptions!) In the laundry podcast Brett plays a version of himself growing more and more psychotic every week trying to do a podcast about “doing laundry”. He says it’s at the point now where he has alienated all of his comedian friends who have appeared on the show. He is living in 24-hour laundromats and has a detergent bottle “girlfriend” named Tidey. In a preview of what’s to come he told me that in one storyline during a trip to LA he may have killed a man, and he’ll be dealing with that fallout for some time. On his Special show he recently had Josh Gondelman and Seth Herzog helping to replace show regular known as “Mr. Jokes” AKA Steve Whalen, which ended in what he described as “ a devastating roast battle.” As you can tell Brett is not a normal human, but a very fun, creative dude!
Lastly yesterday was the taping of the 7th season of Kevin Gootee’s Comics Watching Comics for which I went to New Jersey. It was me, Sean Lynch, Richie Redding and Geno Bisconte and you’ll have to see it to see how much fun we had. It’s also on Amazon Prime and if you haven’t watched it yet I hope you will. I’m the so-called “Master Panelist” with the final say of who goes on to the next level! More on that next week! Condolences to Yamaneika on the loss of her uncle and to the Goldman family for the loss of MY uncle Howard Goldman this past week who was married to my Aunt Joan for 67 years!
And with that, I’m OUT!!!