Halloween in NYC, John Levenstein & More


So where would you have to go, besides a drug-induced dream, if you wanted to see Josh Wesson dressed as a bird while rapping karaoke-style, with Brendan Sagalow and Mike Feeney dressed as twin Elvis’s, or Ricky Velez in a onesie? The only correct answer would be New York Comedy Club’s Halloween party, which I was invited to attend by owner Emilio Savone himself. To say it was crazy would be an understatement, and many of the comics like Matt Richards, Mike Cannon, Greg Stone and Chrissie Mayr really showed off their singing skills in the karaoke room run by birdman Josh, not on the ones and twos but on the karaoke machine. Eagle Witt took his prodigious pony-tail and split it into what I could only describe as the ethnic version of punk spikes with long braid-like extensions popping out from all over his head. He said it was based on a character from a movie I don’t recall, paired with big white bunny slippers. I’m sure my readers will know it. At one point, Benny DeMarco made his way through the room in his underwear- white t-shirt and white “tighty-whities” I think that’s how they refer to it. He tried to pass it off as some kind of costume, but it was obvious he was just in his underwear! He’s the sickest man in comedy, and I say that with all due respect!

All the girls looked amazing with Walker Hays dressed as what I thought was a sexy fairy godmother and Rosebud Baker in a little slip dress as Courtney Love. Some of the other girls were Ankara Savone, Casey Balsham, Kristin Brey, and Camille Theobald, but it really felt like the whole comedy community was there. Neko White looked like he stepped out of Public Enemy’s Fight the Power video but when I asked him if he was going up to do the song Karaoke-style he said he would if he knew the words. Well if nothing else he definitely had the look down pat.I went out in the street for a few minutes and found myself talking to Ricky Velez. I was wondering why he was just wearing a plain red T-shirt until he walked away and I looked down and saw that it was not a plain T-shirt at all. It was a onesie. Like a baby wears. A red onesie! Perfect for Ricky!

I was back there later in the week to catch Jordan Carlos who I hadn’t seen in a while. After his set we went into the green room to chat. He’s on an upcoming show on TBS Digital that’s part of the New York Comedy Fest starting this week called Stand Up, Sit Down and if I got it right, it’s two comics on each show with a live component and a taped component. Each comic does a live set and the taped portion is them discussing their acts and the evolution of their material. Where it came from, what inspired them. Always interesting to me. I asked Jordan what inspires HIM and he said he talks mostly about things that bother him. Fortunately for him a lot of things bother him so he has no shortage of material. They’ll be shooting it in New York at Ian Schrager’s new Public Hotel. He also has a pilot deal with Comedy Central and is currently writing the pilot, which he said he hopes to star in. All he could say is that it’s a fun script based on mysteries and not on his life.

I ran into Adam Mamawala this week and got the lowdown on what he’s up to. First I always wanted to ask him about his name because it’s so unique. And for some reason I wanted to think it was Australian, like an aborigine name, but I was wrong. It’s actually an Indian name as his Dad is from India. But like Randy Syphax who’s half black but looks all white and has trouble convincing the audience that he’s black, Adam says he has trouble convincing the audience that he’s Indian. His actual first name is the Indian name Adam, pronounced Atham, but since no one could say it properly he made it the English Adam. He’s got his first album coming out from Comedy Dynamics called “One Of The Good Ones” which he explained had two meanings to him. He said his wife is white and she is definitely one of the good ones, and secondly there’s millions of albums on the market, not all of them good, but he hopes that this album is “One Of The Good Ones.” He taped it in Vermont at the Vermont Comedy Club and when I asked him why that club he said because it was the first club that ever headlined him for a weekend. The album drops in December.

I caught Matteo Lane at The Stand and he did something fun and unusual. Every once in a while a comic will physically leave the stage and do something from the audience. He announced that he was working on some new stuff which all seemed to be working well. He had a great story about his affair with a gay porn star, and he wanted to demonstrate how a gay walk differs from a straight walk, which I assumed he’d do on stage. And that’s why you should never assume anything, because he left the stage to do it for the crowd out in the audience area.

John Levenstein is based in LA and was one of the producers of Kroll Show. He also played a judge on the show in many sketches with Nick Kroll and . He’s actually played a judge on four different TV shows already, and is also a TV writer who wrote for shows like Baskets with . When I did Kroll Show he always went out of his way to make me feel very comfortable on the set. So he came to New York for a few days and invited me to a party called John Levenstein’s Retirement Party. I asked him if he was retiring and he said “No. It’s the name of a new podcast I’m doing with a comic named Mary Kobayashi.” The party was in a place called “ Science House.” I didn’t ask why. When I got there I found out why. It’s a seven story private home/office owned by a fascinating couple named James Jorasch who has 700 patents on inventions he’s created, and his wife Rita J. King. They both live and work there.

The building is 110 years old, with an original elevator that I made sure not to take, and is described as a “cathedral of the imagination” where teams of up to 15 people can come “to create the future they can imagine for their organizations.” It was owned for 35 years by Abraham Lincoln’s granddaughter Mary Lincoln Isham. I got the tour from Rita and it’s a one of a kind place. When I came in John was leading the group in karaoke, and as you might imagine it was a very interesting and eclectic crowd, with a couple of comedians thrown into the mix. Comedians as diverse as Chris Laker and Wayne Federman, who often tours with, opens for and writes for . I don’t get to see Wayne too much because he moved out to L.A. about five years ago, but it’s always good to see him when I do. He’s been on so many TV shows, like Curb, Transparent, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Crashing, Shameless and on and on in parts he describes as “The Federman and Out”! He just came out with a three disc album called “The Chronicles of Federman” spanning his material from 1984 to 2015. And he came to New York to do the Wayne Federman International Film Festival, which as you might have guessed from the name is his creation. It features well known comics who screen films they love. This time it’s going to be screening Midnight Run. It’s at the Film Forum on Houston Street and will be part of the NY Comedy Festival. In the past he’s had Gary Shandling, Sacha Baron Cohen, Aziz Ansari and as guests.

And while at the party I met one of the most amazing comedy magicians I had ever seen, and I don’t say that lightly, because I’m friends with David Blaine, Oz Pearlman and Ken Salaz of “The Unseen” and I was on 60 Minutes with premiere illusionist Marc Salem, and I’ve seen them all work up close and first hand. But this guy who’s name is Prakash Puru did something so amazing I still can’t believe what I saw. He took four coins out of a little purse in his pocket. They were four English oversized pennies about the size of a half dollar each. He closed them in his fist and asked me to hold MY closed fist near his. One by one using only thought he transferred them into my closed hand. He did one at a time. I felt each one go in separately. When he did the second one he told me I’d hear the clink of metal and I did. When he had done three he took the fourth one and told me to turn my closed fist over so the top of my fist was facing up. He took the fourth coin and tapped it on the top of my fist and it went through my closed fist into my palm. There is no doubt in my mind that there are people with special powers. That is not a trick. It’s literally beyond our comprehension to experience something like that. They will never admit that they have special powers but there’s no other answer. He also asked me to think of a childhood experience and write it on a card. He looked into my eyes and told me my best friend’s name when I was 7 and what my memory of him was. And his delivery is amazing because he mixes this with comedy. He does a show at The Public Hotel on the last Sunday of each month and i can’t wait to go and see it.  Before I left, John Levenstein told me that for now he’s happy acting and writing for TV but at some point when he gets a little bit older he just wants to stop all that and just write movies and plays, and I’m sure he will! He’s a great guy, and very talented!

Leah Bonnema reached out to let me know she saw me at the NY Television Festival and she happened to be there with her own independent TV pilot. It’s called “Solving Leah,” and it’s a comedic detective story that she wrote and created with Frankenmel Films. It was an Official Selection of the 2017 New York Television Festival, and Leah stars “as a lovably impulsive, anxiety ridden accountant who is wrongly accused of murder and vows to find the killer herself.” Comics Will Miles and Gibran Saleem are also in the pilot. The unsung hero of the show according to Leah is her rabbit “Tupac ShaKute” a character based off her late great guinea pig. I saw the trailer and it looks very cool!

And speaking of insanity, Brett Davis of the “The Special Without Brett Davis Show” which he does live every Wednesday night from the MNN studios on West 59th Street, sent me a link to the new “Best Of” tape they put together for the show featuring Gilbert Gottfried, Michael Shannon, Rose McGowan, Richard Kind and a host of maniacs from the alternative scene who populate the show, and it’s just crazy. I asked him to tell me a little bit about how the show got started. I did the show once and it was very fun and very memorable, and I already knew that it replaced the Chris Gethard show when Chris moved to regular TV. Brett told me The Special was started after he made a splash on The Chris Gethard Show exactly two years ago as a character called Smith, a faux rival of Gethard’s on the public access channel. Many people believed it was real, and so they followed it up with a full one-hour special called Truth or Myth with Smith as if this person had bumped Chris off his timeslot and did this “libertarian/conspiracy-theory show” for an entire hour. I asked him about his experience working with Gilbert. He said “Gilbert was a mensch, and we made sure we stocked many snacks for him. We had a whole b-plot devised if he had a good time on the show, where he would join this adventure involving wild teenagers and Amish people on the rite of passage known as Rumspringa and he was down for it.”

As for Rose McGowan he said, “We had Rose McGowan on the day she was making headlines for calling out a sexist casting request for an movie. She was very nice and didn’t mind laughing at it, as these shock-jock characters we were portraying in the show didn’t see the issue.” And he said that Richard Kind came on the show after having a few drinks with friends and jumped right into a faux sitcom they had developed starring comic Joe Pera and someone playing “Dracula”. Again, he said they had a backup plan, as they always do in case the celebrity isn’t up for participating, but they were happy to see that Richard was willing to go along with this “cliche-ridden Cyrano-aping sitcom plot!” I gotta get back there and do that show again!

Thanks to comic Frank Pellegrino, of the Yonkers Comedy Festival Chrissie Mayr got another party bus for her birthday, like they did last year. This year they hit all the comedy clubs starting at New York Comedy Club, then hitting The Comic Strip, West Side Comedy Club, then down to Macdougal Street, and ending at The Stand around midnight, including a stop for Chrissie to do a spot and get her nails done. Happy Birthday Chrissie!

And lastly my book that launched last week went right to Best Seller status thanks to all of you who were kind enough to download a copy. It’s now up to the whopping price of $2.99 so if you haven’t gotten your copy yet, see if your bank will advance you the funds, and check it out!

And with that, I’m OUT!!!

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Jeffrey Gurian

Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, comedy writer and author and one of the most well-known fixtures in the comedy world. You'll see him in clubs, at most comedy festivals, and at red carpets interviewing celebs for his Comedy Matters TV channel .

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