Remembering a time when women were not even allowed to become members, The Friars Club was awash in women at Felicia Madison’s Funny People 2 event which was a panel of women discussing the comedy biz. I was one of the very few men in attendance, and it was a great event. The women were Abby Feldman a comedian/producer who created the show “Moist” which she does live on Facebook from her bathtub, comedy exec Jodi Lieberman whose resume includes running Just for Laughs in Montreal, comedian Jessica Kirson, comedy exec/producer Jessica Pilot who among other things books the talent for Colbert, comic/author Corinne Fisher, half of the team of the amazing podcast “Guys We Fucked”, and comedy producer Luisa Diez.
It was an evening of enlightenment scheduled by Director of Entertainment Bob Spiotto who opened the evening and introduced Felicia to the packed room. The women all dropped knowledge on the crowd about their personal experience and how to get ahead in the biz of comedy. There was a lot of great advice, like Luisa Diez warning women not to accept things too early in their career before they’re actually ready to receive them. Sometimes people with promise get offered their own show or something major before they have the experience to handle it. Jessica Pilot who looks at all the submission tapes for Colbert, before choosing who should come on, suggested that women be more confident in their set, because some women actually send in their set with an apology of some sort. She said that men tend to show more confidence even when it isn’t warranted.
Jessica Kirson who said she likes pain and feeling horrible, said that you can’t get too excited about the good times and too upset about the bad times, because they’re constantly alternating and never stop. I got a shout-out from Corinne Fisher who shared some very personal things that she didn’t want to leave the room, even though she knows her secrets are safe with me, and she said, “ And that means YOU Jeffrey Gurian!”
In talking about podcasts Luisa offered that followers are there to consume your content, and that podcasts are still viable but you have to be on a schedule, have consistency and have a good idea and not just think that a group of comics sitting around talking is enough to make it interesting. Jessica Pilot also offered the suggestion of learning to manage your expectations, when it comes to late night TV. She said it doesn’t necessarily lead to guaranteed success, as it may have done years ago.
All the women are doing cool things. Felicia has a bunch of projects going all the time, besides her performing schedule like her monthly show at West Side Comedy Club. Jessica Pilot is producing shows and has a monthly show at Zinc Bar down near The Cellar called “Told You So.” The next one coming up at the end of April will be featuring Dan Soder, Katie Hannigan, Judy Gold and Scott Rogowsky of recent HQ Trivia fame. She’s also very involved with the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York, which should be opening this August during the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival.
Luisa Diez is making moves as well. She’s producing two shows now, one is every Wednesday at Lucky Jacks down on the Lower East Side called “Too Many Cooks” that is a mix of established comics and new comics and has rotating hosts like Jordan Temple, Samantha Ruddy, and Dina Hashem, and then she’s got a monthly show called “Uptown Downtown” the third Tuesday of every month at The Knitting Factory out in Brooklyn, hosted by my buddy Nore Davis and it also features a good mix of comics. She told me to make sure to add that both shows are free! That’s what we do. We give our stuff away until one day they gotta pay us lots of money to see us!
I ran into Harrison Greenbaum in my hood, cause he lives two blocks away, and I asked him about his comedy/magic show that I heard he did at The Village Underground. It’s called “Harrison Greenbaum: What Just Happened” and he did the first one back in October and he said he was told it was the first show at the Underground to get a standing ovation. He had been working on it for 10 years and it combines his stand-up with original magic he created just for the show. Because it went so well he was asked to do it again and did it this past week. Another standing O! And who’s co-producing but none other than the afore-mentioned Corinne Fisher. They are working on turning it into a TV special by the end of the year. He also did it on his recent tour to Australia.
As stressful as it can be, I love when I get asked to cover celeb red carpet events, and this week I got invited to cover Johnny Mac’s Tennis Project’s 2nd annual comedy night fundraiser at Carolines. John McEnroe created a foundation where they take inner city and deprived kids and groom them to be tennis players, starting at a young age and taking them up through high school, hopefully leading to college scholarships and career opportunities. John himself described it as “removing the economic and social barriers to success through tennis, particularly for kids living in East Harlem and the South Bronx”, two communities immediately adjacent to their facility at Sportime Randalls Island.
Thanks to producer Curran Convy it was a super-packed successful event. I got there early to set up, and wound up with the main spot on the carpet so I got to speak with everyone who attended, starting with celeb photographer/legend Patrick McMullan who has shot every celeb since the 70’s, and is used to interviewing everyone else, so I thought I’d interview him for a change. Patrick and I are very old friends and I have been to his home where he literally has millions of photos organized by the decade. John McEnroe was there with his wife Patty Smyth and his two brothers Patrick and Mark. Patrick acted as the MC for the event which was interesting when it came time to introduce the comedians. Comedians have a certain way of introducing the talent to make it exciting, using their credits and getting the audience psyched. Non-comedians don’t know how to do that, so the intros were very simple. Basically just their names. Ian Lara broke the ice by going up first and had a great set.
I was told there’d be a big surprise comedy guest and was asked to keep it a secret which I did. But when Martin Short came down the stairs everyone went crazy. There’s only one way into Carolines, down the main stairs and they set up a red carpet area right near there, so from where I was set up I was able to see all the perfomers as they entered. That way they came to me first and when we were done they exited from the red carpet into the kitchen to go backstage.
I was excited to interview Henrik Lundqvist, the goalie from the Rangers. He said he was a fan of comedy and I told him that since he’s based in NY he should get out to the clubs and have some laughs. Joe List was one of the first comics to arrive and pointed out that his face was swollen because he had just had two wisdom teeth removed, and he asked me some questions about post-op care. I also got to shoot a cool video with Seth Herzog who warms up the audience for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and has his long running show called “Sweet” which is over 10 years old and is down at The Slipper Room on Orchard Street, I’ve done it and it’s a really fun show.
When I shot Rachel Feinstein’s interview we did it backstage in the green room. When I asked Rachel what she had going on, she said that I should know on my own because I’m supposed to know everything that’s going on in comedy, and then I finally got her to tell me about her Netflix special, which I will be excited to watch! Mike Vecchione ran the set that he was going to do two nights later on Fallon, and then we went back out to the red carpet to shoot his interview, which was really fun because he’s 100% Italian and he looks like a cop.
They broke up the comedy with an auction, during which people were pledging $25,000. and more for different valuable things and then it was back to the comedy and Todd Barry took the stage. Todd is always busy and touring and he doesn’t really like to talk about himself too much but I got him to tell me about his newest Netflix special Spicy Honey which you can watch right now, and the crowd work shows he’s doing. He’s got one of the most unique deliveries in the biz and is consistently funny. Even on the red carpet.
And to the delight of the audience, Michelle Wolf came in to close the comedy portion of the show. After four years as a writer and contributor on The Daily Show and writing for Seth Meyers she will be hosting her own 30 minute talk show on Netflix called “The Break with Michelle Wolf” starting May 27th, and she’s currently working on who will be on the premiere show. She told me she pitched them the idea and they went for it. She is VERY excited about it and we wish her lots of luck.
Martin Short came out as the special surprise guest and did several pages of incredibly funny jokes. I also got a special little interview with Caroline Hirsch herself, the Queen of New York comedy, as we know each other for decades, and I always like to congratulate her on all of her special events of which there have been so many.
Dropped by Gotham Comedy Club to see the All-Star show and ran into Kevin Flynn who I hadn’t seen in too long. He’s longtime friends with Chris Mazzilli and the three of us hung outside the showroom reminiscing until Kevin had to go on stage. He and Chris also share a love of soccer. Kevin produces the Nantucket Comedy Festival which runs from July 11-14th. It’s their 11th year, started in 2007 after a rash of teenage suicides hit that community, and Chris is on the Board. Kevin co-founded it to bring the healing power of laughter. This year they’re having Steven Wright and Ron White on one special night. Starting in May Kevin will be doing a podcast with NPR called “When Comics Were Kids”, which sounds like a really fun idea.
Dropped by The Grisly Pear to catch P.J. Landers‘ packed show, and left with Ben Rosenfeld to drive up to The Stand to join the watching party for Mike Vecchione’s 2nd appearance on Fallon. Ben will become a Dad for the first time sometime within the next ten days, whenever his wife comic Michelle Slonim decides it’s time! Outside The Stand I ran into Sherrod Small who through his Small World Productions just produced a sold-out birthday show for celebrity chef Carl Ruiz at The Village Underground, and he said all the stars from The Food Network came out including Guy Fieri, Alex Guarnaschelli, Rocco Dispirito, and Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes. It was Mark Normand, Bonnie McFarlane, Chris Distefano, and Chris Redd from SNL and Sherrod said that afterwards everyone came up on the stage and it was one big celebration. His next big event will be for Michael Che’s birthday show in May which he’s working on putting together right now.
And then I went inside to join Mike Vecchione and friends to watch him kill it on Fallon with his 100% Italian material. Among others it was Justin Silver, Gary Vider, Mike’s roomie Dan Soder, Kelsey Cook, Dante Nero, Ben Rosenfeld, and then Big Jay Oakerson and Christine Evans dropped by as well, and we all cheered him on and posted about it on social media.
Mike told me he was thrilled when Jimmy called him over to the desk after his performance and said that before the show Jimmy came to his dressing room to chat and they shared road stories and had a few laughs.
Kelsey Cook also recently did The Tonight Show and told me she also recently did “This Is Not Happening” with Roy Wood Jr. and told the story of the first time she tried masturbating and wound up in the emergency room. I wanted to ask her more details about that, but she had to run and get up on stage.
Petey DeAbreu was hosting the late show as he often does and told me his show White Chocolate which he does with Christi Chiello moved from The Standing Room out to Union Hall in Brooklyn starting last month and their show this month at the end of April will feature Nore Davis and Sydney Washington.
I ended my comedy week at the Roast and Toast to comedy manager Jason Steinberg of Steinberg Talent who has worked with so many of the biggest stars like Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr, Patrice O’Neal, Jim Norton, and currently with Donnell Rawlings and Tony Woods among others. It was at West Side Comedy Club and manager/booker Gina Savage was there with owner Nina Ashe to welcome everyone who attended and help them choose between the pancakes or the burritos. Several of Jason’s long time personal friends were there and people got up and told stories and generally said nice things about him. Two of the comics that spoke were Warren Holstein and Kevin Bartini.
Jason was very gracious and grateful to all those who attended and offered the mic to anyone who wanted to say nasty things about him. Nobody took him up on it except for one old friend who said that Jason was afraid to make his wife pregnant because as soon as someone gets big, they leave him! (LOL). Being a manager must be a lot like having several beautiful girlfriends and having to worry that they’ll cheat on you while they’re out of town if they get a better offer.
I sat with Barry Ribs and didn’t feel prepared to speak but I’ll say something now. I think that Jason is a power of example to people proving that you can overcome obstacles and negative experiences in your life and rise above them to attain success and happiness. Jason’s got a lot of cool things planned coming up and he will also be producing the long awaited Patrice O’Neal documentary. I hope they didn’t lose the interview I shot last year at The Stand because I had a very special relationship with Patrice! Happy Birthday Jason!
And with that, … I’m OUT!!!