Felicia Madison kicked off her comedy workshop series at West Side Comedy Club with a very cool, and well-attended event featuring Jessica Pilot a TV producer and booker for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Felicia’s audience is usually women but this time there were several men in attendance as well. She told me she wants to start a regular series of workshops hopefully in the Fall, and is planning a big one with Jessica Kirson, in a full day workshop specifically geared to female comedians.
Jessica Pilot offered up a fascinating hour of information and tips of how to get yourself ready for late night TV, whether it’s CBS, Comedy Central or Netflix she said it’s important to present yourself in the best light possible. The important thing she said is to have “a tight presentation. Branding and sound are also both very important. Even what you do with your hands is important. Every detail counts.” She said that she hopes that the “take-away” is for people to be more self-aware and to put their best self forward. I’m sure that was the result because she gave a lot of helpful advice.
I got some unwanted attention at Sherrod Small’s “Small World Production” at The Village Underground thanks to Sherrod Small himself. For a few minutes, the show actually stopped and became all about me. At least that’s how Sherrod described it. When I got there with my date Sherrod escorted us in and made sure I was on his guest list. We sat all the way in the back of the room facing the stage and my pal Cipha Sounds was opening the show and kind of co-hosting with Sherrod while also DJ’ing. Sherrod sat me at a table where I had a clear view of the stage to take my photos. Now when I take photos for my column I ALWAYS make sure that the people in charge know that I’ve been given permission to do so, especially in clubs where it’s not allowed like The Cellar, and especially where all of the staff may not know me. If they know me it’s never a problem, but at The Cellar, I always check with owner Noam Dworman before I shoot anything. So before the show started I double checked with Sherrod to make sure he told the people in charge and he said, “ Jeffrey, what are you worried about it’s my show. I give you permission to take photos.” So, of course, every time I took a photo one of the staff who didn’t know me came over to warn me that I wasn’t supposed to do that, and I had to tell them that Sherrod said it was ok. Then they all said it was fine, but it’s very stressful being told you can’t do something when you’ve been told that you have permission. At least it is for me.
So all was going well until Aziz Ansari took the stage. I shot only one photo on my phone when he stopped the show, pointed at me, and said “ Hey, I know you. You’re not supposed to take photos here, and you’re not gonna write about my jokes are you? And he asked me that several times. Now I was sitting in the back of the room so I had to yell out, “Sherrod told me to take photos.”’’ And he continued with, “If you’re gonna write about my jokes I’ll leave and then the audience will hate you!” And he made me promise that I wouldn’t divulge or review any of his material. He said that’s why comics are afraid to work out new material. He said, “Do you promise?” And I yelled back, “I promise I would never do that. That’s not what I do!” All this going on during the show. Meanwhile, I think Sherrod was laughing behind me, loving what was going down, and the entire audience was wondering what was going on.
After Aziz finished his killer set, he came by my table and we laughed about it, and I told him I never write anything negative in my column, because if I have nothing good to say, I don’t say anything at all, and that he had nothing to worry about anyway, because his set was hilarious. I had shot a video interview with him previously up at Just for Laughs in Montreal when I was with Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, so we already had a little bit of history. But when Sherrod and Cipha Sounds came back on the stage they didn’t let it go because they thought it was so funny. They were saying stuff like, “If Aziz had walked out because of Jeffrey Gurian, the audience would have hunted him down and beat him up!” And afterward, Sherrod said he thought it was hilarious that for a few minutes the show became all about me. They thought it was funny. To be honest with you, I didn’t really enjoy it. Even though I was right, being misunderstood still feels awkward to say the least, but some people thrive on “awkward.” They love it!
The show itself was amazing with Sam Jay, the only gay woman I ever saw who did a huge, hilarious bit on blowjobs, so against character that I had to congratulate her afterwards, Mark Normand who always brings it, Jessica Kirson, who was so on her game that she had the crowd crying with laughter, and who told me she’s off to Israel this week for her first time, and Chris Redd from SNL who literally danced onto the stage to the hip-hop beat that Cipha was spinning, and totally slayed the room with his jokes! Then after the show, Chris Redd came by my table, and when I introduced him to the girl I was with, a Black girl who calls herself “Brownie” he looked at me like I had just used a racial slur, and then busted out laughing. He was like, “Is that her name or do you just call her that?” We both assured him that she chose that name for herself and that I had nothing to do with it. As a matter of fact, it took me quite a while to get used to calling her that. Now I was almost accused of being a racist! (LOL)
I had another unusual and potentially awkward experience, which turned out to be funny when I went to see Aminah Imani’s birthday show at The Mist Theatre in Harlem. I happen to love that space and had just been there the week before for Karl Shaft’s birthday party. This night they had moved the show from the theatre into the dining room. When I came in I went right up to Aminah who I know very well from her earliest days of performing at The Comic Strip, gave her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and wished her a Happy Birthday. And I was wondering why she was so stiff and cold to me since we know each other so well. When I went back a minute later to ask her a question she said to me, “You know I’m not Aminah, I’m her twin sister!” And then it all made sense. I was wondering how Aminah was able to change her outfit so fast! And I felt embarrassed for having hugged a girl I had never met before, but of course it was her birthday too, so at least that part was alright.
This was another great show with Leonard Ouzts who had lots of good news to share, Yamaneika Saunders who tore down the room, and Rob Stapleton, one of the “Bad Boys of Comedy” who is a legend on the urban circuit and who needs to be seen more, which may change very soon! Rob gets everybody moving. He did a bit about how Black people do cookouts and asked the DJ for some Black cookout music and he had the entire showroom dancing in their seats. Some people even jumped up and danced at their tables. He imitated a “midget stripper” on the pole and said he was “going to hell” for that. Rob is about to finish editing a feature film he wrote, raised the money for, and shot independently called “The Stuff.” He said it’s a dark comedy/action film with Michael Blackson, Arnez J. and an actor he’s convinced will be the new Brad Pitt named Dana Watkins. He said it’s like Training Day meets Friday where the action and violence is real and the comedy is also real. It was shot mostly in Brooklyn.
Leonard Ouzts told me he got cast in a show on NBC called “Abby’s” and that it’s a reboot of Cheers. It’s set in a bar called “Abby’s”, owned by Abby played by Natalie Morales, and he plays James a security guard, … or more rightly a scared security guard which should be hilarious. Neil Flynn from Scrubs is also in it, and it’s created by Mike Schur who co-created Parks and Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine among other things. The pilot will air in January of 2019, and already got picked up for a series. Leonard is also in two movies coming out on Netflix, … one with Taye Diggs, and the other with Seth Rogen and Kelsey Grammar. Go Leonard!
Stand-Up New York had an interesting week, with an unusual guest in the form of Conservative Milo Yiannopoulos who dropped by to be a guest on the Race Wars podcast hosted by the aforementioned Sherrod Small. But before he went on the podcast, he jumped behind the bar, with the permission of owner Dani Zoldan, and played bartender for a good 30 minutes whipping up drinks for a dozen or so comics hanging out. The comics were shocked when they came in and saw him there. Dani said to me, “Putting aside his crazy and controversial views on so many issues, he was actually really well received and all the comics had a good time hanging with him.” Sherrod said it was especially rewarding to see him making and serving drinks to Black people.
Another night I stopped by Stand Up and caught Jeff Arcuri hanging by the bar. He will be making his debut on late night TV with an appearance on Colbert in early June. He moved here from Chicago in December, and when I asked him how he got Colbert, he told me that Jessica Pilot had seen him performing at the Big Sky Festival in Montana and remembered him.
Michael Yo was headlining Gotham and has such an interesting multi-media kind of show. Throughout his show he projects photos of his family on the TV monitors around the club, at different stages in their lives from when he was 2 days old to his marriage photo with his wife and dog, and photos of his baby son. It’s such a nice touch and combined with the comedy, it’s a very warm and friendly show, and Michael is always so gracious to his audience. He greets them all individually after the show. Michael was a recurring comedy panelist on Chelsea Handler’s show, and just recorded his first album called Blasian, which describes his ethnic background, half Black, half Asian. He’s also a hot topic talker on The Wendy Williams Show. Always good to see him!
I stopped by the late show at New York Comedy Club and ran into Carmen Lynch, who told me she taped her first album called Dance Like You Don’t Need The Money and it was voted best album of 2017 by SiriusXM Radio. She said she taped it at the San Francisco Punchline because she loves San Francisco even though she had never performed at that club before.
And Alex Carabano was there and I hadn’t seen him in a really long time. He’s busy running his V-Spot vegan restaurants but told me he’s been performing a lot more than he used to because two comics, Jeff McBride and Tristan Smith are taking his East Village location, where they currently run a weekly show and open mic, and building a real performance venue inside of it, with a great stage, a brick wall and good sound equipment. It’s going to be called Brickspot at the V-Spot and it should be open by June. It’s allowed him to get a lot more stage time. When you have your own place you can get as much stage time as you want!
Peggy Boyce’s Ladies of Laughter (LOL) is looking for funny female comedians for their LOL Contest coming up this summer. Peggy’s been doing this since 1999, and has awarded thousands of dollars, and major publicity and has helped many women get to the next level in their comedy careers. I wish they would do that for men! The prizes now will include $10,000. in paid bookings with the Ladies of Laughter Funny and Fabulous National Tour at theaters across the country. There are separate categories for pros and newcomers, and winners will get to perform for reps from major TV networks and talent scouts. The finals will be on Aug. 15th at Gotham Comedy Club. You can register at www.ladiesoflaughter.org before July 13th and I’m proud to say I will be one of the judges!
I ran into my man Reg Thomas walking down Macdougal Street and he told me that he’s off to Cali to do some cool stuff. He’s doing his show Productively Stoned which he co-hosts and co-produces with his partner Jordan Rock at Los Globos, a huge nightclub in LA, and he’s opening for Amanda Seales at the Hollywood Improv which probably already happened by the time you read this. He’s already opened for her about 9 times already, and then he’s off to do The Comedy Works in Denver.
And I’m also proud to say, … I’m OUT!!!