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New York Cool - Comedy Matters

December 2007 Comedy Matters

Written and Photographed
by Jeffrey Gurian


Opposite Photo:
Artie Lange and Jeffrey Gurian
Backstage at Avery Fisher Hall


Cerenzie-Peters Is Global

In last month’s celeb-studded column, I talked about my old friend Michael Cerenzie, who produced the current hit film Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Devil was directed by Sidney Lumet and starred Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and the beautiful and talented Marisa Tomei.

Michael has become a very powerful force in LA; he has offices on the Paramount Lot. When I visited him at Paramount, I was directed to go to the “Lucy” Bungalow (Lucy referred to Lucille Ball). Michael has been given the honor of having Lucille Ball’s old production facility as his own.

He is now in a partnership with Christine Forsyth-Peters, who recently changed her company name from CFP Productions to CP Productions for Cerenzie-Peters Productions. Michael must be a very secure man to not worry that people will think that CP stands for just Christine Peters!

Christine Peters and Michael Cerenzie

On the way to the Paramount lot, I had what they call “A God story.” I’m on the 405 doing about seventy when I get a flat tire. But don’t know I have a flat and because The Universe was watching over me I drove about forty miles on that flat without a blowout or getting killed. People were pointing at my car, but since I am from New York I’m used to jerks pulling alongside my car and making all kinds of weird hand motions. So I didn’t pay attention to them.

I couldn’t have pulled over anyway. There were seven lanes, everyone was driving seventy-five mph and I was in the middle. Then I got lost in a bad area, had to get back on the highway and go back in the opposite direction. I still did not know about the flat. If I had known I’m sure I would have panicked.

By the time I got out and looked I was only a few miles from Paramount and I prayed the whole time until I limped into the Paramount lot. The rental place was kind enough to come and replace my car.

Anyway, Michael has been traveling all over the world - to China, Japan, Korea, and Dubai and other places from which you can not commute to work in Manhattan on a daily basis. (Unless your boss has a very liberal lateness policy!)

Michael Cerenzie with Jeffrey Gurian

Christine was in a ten-year partnership with Academy Award-winning producer Robert Evans. Evans produced The Godfather and Chinatown. Christine has also personally produced many hits including the Kate Hudson/Matthew McConaughey vehicle How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which grossed more than $177 million worldwide. I should have asked her if she could break a twenty for me!

Slipping a very rich person a dollar as if you were giving them a tip has always struck me as a very funny thing to do. Especially when you do it just as you’re leaving their home. They hand you your coat, and you thank them for a lovely evening and palm them a buck! Most of them just stare at me blankly for a moment until the joke kicks in.

Donald Trump Jr. stopped me from doing my "tip gag" to his Dad one night because he wasn’t sure how he would take it. I took his advice since he knows him a lot better than I do!

Cerenzie-Peters is also involved on a global level in video game adaptations. She has quite a slate of films and video projects in the works including: Black Water Transit, starring Lawrence Fishburne and Brittany Snow (I met Brittany at the Hairspray roundtable); an historical (not hysterical) bio-pic of Genghis Khan, the warrior king who united China and gave Jewish people a place to eat every Sunday night ever since; The First Stone, a political spy-thriller set in Saudi Arabia; and an untitled iceberg project, currently referred to as Untitled Iceberg Project , a thriller where scientists must change the course of an iceberg to avoid a nuclear catastrophe

Stay tuned for more Cerenzie-Peters success stories. I’m psyched to see Michael when he comes to New York.

The Friars Club Is Fifty

I am a proud member of the Friars Club; my sponsor was actually Milton Berle. The Friars celebrated its 50th anniversary at their grand mansion on East 55th Street. If I’m not mistaken it was Milton who actually found the building and intended to buy it for his wife (who didn’t want it) so he offered it to The Friars.

Richard Belzer and Alan Zweibel at
The Friars 50th Anniversary Party

On November 27th, 1957, The Friars moved from their old clubhouse on East 56th Street into the beautiful mansion on East 55th Street. The city then re-named the street Friars Way. On November 27t, 2007, the block was closed for an official proclamation by Mayor Bloomberg in honor of the 50th Anniversary. There was champagne flowing in the street, which I think you can only do when the Mayor says it’s okay.

The 50th Anniversary party was a hoot with many great comics and performers in attendance including; Lisa Lampanelli, whose star is so on the rise she was given the honor of cutting the cake; TV star Richard Belzer; award-winning writer/producer Alan Zweibel (who I credit for giving me my official start as a writer - sorry Alan!); comics Jeffrey Ross and Steven Scott; actor Tony LoBianco; legendary agent Don Buchwald; Gilbert Gottfried with his lovely wife Dara; Vinny Pastore; Dick Capri; Dean Freddie Roman; and many others.


Lisa Lampanelli Cuts the Cake
Jeffrey Ross (l), Steven Scott and Gilbert Gottfried Look On

When I asked Dara what it was like being married to Gilbert, she confided in me that being married to Gilbert and having a baby (Lily) just meant she had two babies to take care of.

Super Agent Don Buchwald and Jeffrey Gurian

Artie Lange Kills at N.Y. Comedy Festival

Caroline Hirsch did it again with her NY Comedy Festival - another home run. I don’t know much about sports. I watch Wide World of Schwartz, but I know she’s batting a thousand.

In a town saturated with comedy and comedy events, she managed to produce a festival filled with headliners at various major venues around town. And the shows mostly sold out. Caroline even hosted a benefit (during the Festival) to help our wounded soldiers which was called “Stand Up For Heroes.” The benefit was hosted by Conan O’Brien and featured sets by Robin Williams and Lewis Black plus a performance from Bruce Springsteen.

And that was only one of the Festival's shows! Now in its fourth year, the NY Comedy Festival also featured shows starring Sarah Silverman, Rosie O’Donnell, Bill Maher, D.L. Hughley, Louis CK, Damon Wayans, and Artie Lange at prestigious venues like Avery Fisher Hall, Town Hall, and Carnegie Hall. No one does it better than Miss Caroline!

Wil Sylvince Holding his WinningCheck

Most star performers have performed at Carolines on Broadway. Caroline opened her present location in 1992, after moving from her South Street Seaport location. Prior to that she had operated from her original cabaret club on 8th Avenue and 26th Street.

It was at the original 26th Street location that I first saw Paul Reiser and Jerry Seinfeld performing back in the early 80’s. I actually offered to introduce them to representation since they were so new they had none and I had been working with the legendary David Jonas. Jonas is now in his 90’s and living in California. I can hardly remember anything, but I remember the night I met both Seinfeld and Reiser as if it was yesterday.

There was never any question they would both become huge stars.

At Carolines on Broadway, I watched Wil Sylvince win the $2500 check for funniest new comic and then saw him open for D.L. Hughley a few days later at Town Hall. Great, great show! D.L. rocked the house.

Then I popped into Avery Fisher Hall to catch Artie Lange’s sold out show. I’ve seen plenty of performers get standing ovations but usually not just for coming out on stage. If they’re lucky, they get one when the show is over. But Artie got his standing ovation when he was introduced. Artie is really loved by his fans.


Ratso Sloman, Mike Bochetti and Jeffrey Gurian at Avery Fisher Hall

Opening for Artie were three talented comics. First was the incredibly funny Pete Dominick, (, who currently hosts two daily shows on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Raw Dog 104. From 12-1 P.M. he hosts Comedy By Request, and then on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11:15 P.M., he hosts Getting Late where he interviews comedians, actors, writers, and artists in a free-wheeling uncensored format. I don’t know what he does on Thursdays, but it’s not Getting Late!

His guests have included Bob Saget, Jon Lovitz, Jim Gaffigan, Dane Cook. Jamie Foxx, Adam Sandler and by the time you read this column, my name will be added to that esteemed list.

I went to try and find him after the show to congratulate him on his outstanding performance but he already split. Probably had another gig to do.

Sirius Radio chose my book Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive as one of their stocking stuffers for Xmas and when I went over there to drop off the books, Exec. Producer Rory Belfi brought Pete out of the booth to meet me and I was able to tell him how he rocked Avery Fisher Hall. I’m really looking forward to being on the radio with him.

Next on stage was the great Mike Bochetti who is becoming kind of a cult favorite. I’ve known and loved Mike for years (not in the Biblical sense of course!); he starred in one of my films in the “Men Who” series. The “Men Who” series is currently showing on the Fun Little Movies Channel on mobile phones.

Frank Chindamo, CEO and founder of Fun Little Movies, is one of the hardest working men in show biz. Frank recently called me with the good news that he sold part of his company for millions! If there’s one guy who deserves it it’s Frank. Maybe soon I can slip him a buck!

Anyway, Bochetti starred in Men Who Swim To Work. He was originally supposed to star in Men Who Never Get To The Office Because They Don’t Know Where They Work, in which he’d stop people in the street and ask, “Pardon me, do you know where I work?” That proved to be too difficult to film but we knew we had to have him so I switched him to Men Who Swim To Work. He was amazing. Check out Men Who on my website at

Next to perform was Greg Fittzsimmons, who has been seen all over late night TV with his own unique brand of comedy. (Does that sound silly? Who does someone else’s brand?) He killed as well.

Artie didn’t hang out too long backstage, but at least I had time to run into legendary writer Ratso Sloman who got the name Ratso from Bob Dylan. And I got to congratulate Artie on his outstanding show. He never fails to talk up my book and I really appreciate that.

Gurian’s Quickies

I ran in to see Lizz Winstead’s fabulously hip, politically oriented, weekly show Shoot the Messenger at the cabaret under Acme on Great Jones Street.,
( ). That night her guest was Todd Hanson from The Onion. Todd once told me he was a big fan of Weekly World News, and actually claimed to have read and enjoyed some of my stories. So why can’t I write for The Onion???

Lizz by the way is the co-creator of The Daily Show, and the current creator of Wake Up World, billed as America’s only six hour morning show. Lizz knows everyone so she always has great guests. Go buy tickets and check out Shoot the Messenger, you cheap s.o.b.’s! It’s only ten bucks!

Lizz Winstead Interviews Todd Hanson

While there, I ran into Jeff Kreissler whose Comedy Against Evil is on the political comedy college tour. I know less about politics than I do about sports. It’s frightening.

I also helped out with a VIP party for Zink Magazine and was on the red carpet with my muse, the talented actress/model Jacqueline Beaulieu (who recently starred in one of my Masters of Disguise films, about a famous lingerie model who was held up by two men disguised as a bra). Check it out on You Tube at

Jacqueline Beaulieu and Jeffrey Gurian

Danny Aiello Is A Comedy Hero

Danny Aiello is a big movie star. He’s also a man who gives back. He’s always been grateful that many years ago in 1972, while he was struggling and out of work, Improv founder Budd Friedman gave him a job as a bouncer for the club.

Danny had been a union president for the Grayhound Union, representing bus drivers, and ticket agents. He lost his job as the result of a wildcat strike, and as he told it to me, Budd Friedman recognized his talent and hired him as a bouncer for $150 a week.

For about two years (between throwing out drunks) he introduced the acts at The Improv. He watched comics rise from obscurity to stardom and realized that he himself was not cut out to be a comedian but that he did make a great audience. Danny has a good sense of humor and an even better eye for talent.

He told himself that one day he wanted to have his own club where comics could have a chance to develop and show what they can do and now that dream has come true at Danny’s Upstairs in Hoboken, New Jersey, right above Tutta Pasta restaurant, on Washington and 2nd Street.

Danny Aiello and Jacqueline Beaulieu at Danny’s Upstairs

The food at Danny’s is great, and there are about one-hundred-and-fifty comics on the roster already because it’s a very short trip from Manhattan out to Hoboken and everybody loves Danny. On any night, you might find a Jerry Stiller, a Robert Klein, or a Joe Piscopo in the audience.

I went out there for the taping of a new pilot for television called Danny’s Upstairs; it was being shot and directed by Larry Weitzman of NBATV fame. Larry was the V.P. and Head of Program Development for NBA Entertainment for almost twenty years before he launched WeitNoize Entertainment which will hopefully be producing Danny’s new show. It just needs to be picked up.

I’ll tell you one thing about Larry, he runs a tight ship. He got everything done on time and getting a roomful of comics to do what you want is not easy.

I walked in and it was like old home week. My muse Jacqueline from the paragraph above performed her stand-up comedy segment while wearing a bikini, which she did very well ( both in the wearing of the bikini and in the telling of the jokes!). (To see Jacqui in a bikini, check out the You Tube thing!) When Jacqui and I got there, we ran right into Danny.

Tom Cotter and Kerri Louise at Danny’s Upstairs

Then I go inside and there are Geno Bisconte, Howard Feller, Tom Cotter and Kerri Louise with their newest addition (a baby), Ross Bennett, Jeff Pirrami, and a bunch of other guys I know. Everyone was supposed to do an improv scene with comic Al Lubell, the star of that night's show.

I was absolutely dying to do a scene with Al but I didn‘t have the nerve to ask Larry, cause like most comics I’m secure and insecure at the same time and I always think people are going to yell at me if I ask a question.

Danny Aiello and Jeffrey Gurian at Danny’s Upstairs

Afterwards, a really funny comic named Laura Nikifortchuk (who is both Larry and Danny’s “consigliore”) told me that I would have been very welcome as a performer in the improv. So maybe I will sometime soon.

So why do we do those things to ourselves? Because we’re afraid we’ll look “pushy”! And how do you ever get seen if you’re not pushy? It’s a Catch 22.

I saw Laura again afterwards at a party and told her I kept wanting to call her Nikki Fortchuk cause I think it's such a cute name. She told me that Danny calls her Nikki Fortchuk all the time.

I can’t wait to see the edited version of the filmed show.

Anyway, until next time, Happy Holidays, Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year to you all, and remember … COMEDY MATTERS!!!

A nationally known comedy writer and an authority on roast humor, Jeffrey L. Gurian has written material for many of the great performers at the fabled Friars Roasts including Richard Belzer, Robin Williams, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis and even Bruce Willis, as well as material for comedy stars such as Joan Rivers, Gilbert Gottfried, Phil Hartman, Pauly Shore, "Dice" Clay, and Pat Cooper. He wrote and directed The Men Who Series of short films for the Toyota Comedy Festival currently showing on cell phones and You Tube. . He also wrote for MTV and USA Network and was one of the writers of Sony's first interactive film. As a playwright he wrote a one- hour NBC drama about the devastating effects of homelessness on the young, entitled De La Salle. He was given the honor of having his own column in the legendary Weekly World News called "Gurian's
World of the Bizarre." His first feature film Face to Face, that he wrote with Scott Baio, made its world premiere at the Taos, New Mexico Film Festival, and was honored as the opening night film. It has since become an award-winning film and won for Best Comedy Feature at the Marco Island Film Festival in Florida and the Valley Film Festival in Hollywood. His newest film, I Am Woody , about a mob boss obsessed with Woody Allen, won for Best Short Film at the NY Independent Film Festival. Jeffrey can be seen around town performing his comedy news broadcast Uncle Nat's Traveling Peep Show with his comedy partner model/performer Sonya Gignac. Jeffrey was recently chosen to be the East Coast producer of National Lampoon radio. His first book, based on his writing for the Friars Roasts is from Kensington Books, "Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive - Jokes So Dirty Comedians and Entertainers Only Tell Them To Each Other." In addition Jeffrey is a Clinical Professor at NYU in the Oral Medicine/Oro-Facial Pain Department, a cosmetic dentist, lecturer, author and healer. He also is credited for developing a cure for stuttering. You may read more at http:

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