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November 2007 Comedy Matters

Written and Photographed
by Jeffrey Gurian


Opposite Photo:
Ivanka Trump and Liz Claman at Azza



I'm writing this column from my hotel room at the Hilton Waterfront Resort in LA, after celebrating Halloween at a SICK party at the Playboy Mansion.

My Old Friend The Hollywood Producer

So I'm reading the production notes on the just-released suspense thriller Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, in order to prepare for my interviews with legendary Academy Award-winning director Sidney Lumet, Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei, Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke (how's that for a cast of characters?), and I see the name of old friend Michael Cerenzie as producer of the film.

Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Gurian

I haven't spoken to Michael in years. Back then, he was in New York, just starting out as a film producer. We used to hang out. Now he's a major producer with an eponymously named company on the Paramount lot.

Michael Cerenzie Productions made the films Deuces Wild with my buddy Matt Dillon, Stephen Dorff, Vinny Pastore and Norman Reedus (another new friend); City of Ghosts, in which Matt Dillon was not only the star but the director, and with other stars including James Caan and Gerard Depardieu; and Den of Lions with Stephen Dorff and Bob Hoskins.

This year, besides Devil, he produced My Sexiest Year starring Harvey Keitel, with Amber Valletta, Karolina Kurkova, and Hayley Duff (whom I’m guessing helps to make it someone's sexiest year). I haven't seen it yet but will.

So I call up Michael in Hollywood, leave a message, and he calls me back right away. I told him I'd be out with Jack 9 Entertainment for the big Halloween Party at the Playboy Mansion, and we made plans to get together. I was really excited to see him again (more on that in the next column).

Jeffrey Gurian with Academy Award-Winning Director Sidney Lumet

The next day, when I interview Sidney Lumet (who looks about twenty years younger than he actually is), I'm prepared with the "inside" info Michael already shared with me. Stuff like when Sidney read the original script, he changed Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke from best friends to brothers, which intensifies the whole dynamic of the story.

Marisa Tomei played Hoffman's "trophy" wife. Phil, (as they call him) gets to have a love scene with Marisa in the opening of the movie, and she didn't use a body double. It's all her. (They should call him "Lucky Phil.”)

Marisa happens to be comfortable with such scenes, and helped everyone else relax, as well. I happen to have known her for a long time, from early Naked Angels days, and she gets more beautiful each year.

She's so good at what she does that Sidney Lumet told me when he saw her in My Cousin Vinnie, he thought they’d hired a non-pro who really spoke like that.

Ethan Hawke and Jeffrey Gurian

Ethan was open, friendly, and demonstrated the hard work he did to prepare for his part by discussing his character's "back story" in detail. He also shared how Sidney made them rehearse extensively, from “Fade-in", to "Fade-out," which I’m sure is part of what distinguishes Lumet as one of the greatest directors of all time.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was the first star hired, and Michael's first choice to play Andy, an overextended broker who involves his brother Hank (Ethan) in the so-called "perfect crime.”

The plan is to pull a simple robbery—their own parents' jewelry store, no less!—to score some much needed cash. But things go awry and they wind up accidentally killing their own mother in the process. A dark story to say the least.

When Michael first met with Sidney to discuss the film, it turned out that Sidney's first choice to play Andy was also Phil. Small world, eh?

The film is great, but so dark that it left me caught in its spell for a couple of days. As I'm writing this, I spoke to Michael, who told me that so far the film is doing fantastically well. Go see it, and I’ll tell Michael you went!

Love In The Time Of What?

It's hard to make an important film with the name of a disease in the title, but New Line did it with Love In The Time of Cholera, set to open November 16th. I guess it's easier when it's based on one of the so-called greatest love stories ever told, Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel of the same title.

The film features John Leguizamo, star of stage, small screen and big screen; he’s one of the very few comedy performers ever to cross over successfully into drama. Also featured are Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Liev Schreiber, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and Giovanna Mezzogiorno (these last two make Gina Lollobrigida sound as if she has a simple name!).

Javier Bardem plays a man who waits fifty-three years to be with Fermina Daza, the woman of his dreams, played by Giovanna Mezzogiorno. They first met as teenagers and he was smitten. John Leguizamo plays the girl's father who wants her to have nothing to do with Bardem, a lowly telegraph operator, the equivalent of a burger-flipper these days.

The father succeeds in keeping them apart, and interestingly enough, Bardem's character displays actions that today would be considered stalking, and would at the very least afford the object of his affections an order of protection. (In those days, romantic obsession was far more acceptable, it seems.)

Jeffrey Gurian and John Leguizamo at the Press Conference for Cholera


I ran that thought past director Mike Newell, (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Four Weddings and a Funeral), and he laughingly agreed.

Bardem's character, Florentino Ariza, actually has to wait until the woman's first husband, Benjamin Bratt, dies, and then in an incredible show of poor timing he comes to the widow's house the day of the funeral to express his undying love.

He already waited fifty-three years. You'd think he could have waited another week or two.

John Leguizamo is one of the nicest guys I ever met, and we bonded over one of the most unusual things. We both performed comedy with beautiful girls who were 6'2" tall.

With John Leguizamo's comedy background, I knew it was safe to tell him that this movie never could have been made in modern times. No one would ever go to see "Love In The Time of MRSA Virus.”

Punchline Is Two Years Old

Dylan Gadino's online comedy mag Punchline had a two-year birthday celebration at Comix, the beautiful club on West 14th Street.

Jeffrey Gurian and Lynne Koplitz at the Bar at Comix

Lots of people showed up to see comics like Ray Ellin, host of Late Net with Ray Ellin on DailyComedy.Com, the beautiful and funny Lynne Koplitz (who recently shot a lead role on a pilot for IFC, tentatively titled Zo2, in which she plays the tough manager of a band with the same name), the talented Pete Dominick, the always funny, and great guy Russ Meneve, and Dave Attell, who has an HBO special coming out on December 8th called Capt. Miserable. You'd never know it to look at him!

Jeffrey Gurian with Dave Attell (Cap't. Miserable)

Dave is so busy, he's a little behind in his e-mail. A few days after I saw him, he answered an e-mail I had sent him literally months before, apologizing for not getting back to me sooner. Make sure to watch his special in December, cause Dave's hilarious! I'll make sure to tune in also, around Feb. 12th

Gurian's Quickies

I caught film and TV star Sam Elliott at the Rockefeller Center event for the trailer of this holiday season's highly anticipated New Line film The Golden Compass, a futuristic fantasy film which looks amazing and also stars Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.

Sam was as nice as I thought he would be. I've been a big fan ever since he made the mini-series popular back in the mid-70's with Once An Eagle. Plus, he has great hair!

Jeffrey Gurian with Sam Elliott at Rockefeller Center

Check out sexy model/actress Pamela Paige's new film Cracked Out Super Heroes with Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Films playing the part of a cop. ( More in the next column, with some "hot" photos of Pam!)

After doing Court TV Radio, and being asked to become a regular with Vinnie Politan, doing Weekly Weird News from GNN, ( Gurian's News Network), I got asked to appear on Debbie Nigro's internet show First Wives World, a show for divorced women, of whom I've met a few.

The show is shot at the Heartland Brewery in the Empire State Building, and not only did I appear, but I was also the first performing comic to annoy—I mean, entertain—those eating and watching the taping.

Debbie Nigro and Jeffrey Gurian On Air for First Wives World

I spoke about the Spiritual Perspective of Divorce, and how tremendous healing can occur if you handle things properly, and incorporate certain powerful principles into your life.

Debbie is a great hostess who made me very comfortable and invited me back whenever I want. I think I'll show up every week (LOL).

Jeff (Curb) Garlin did a hilarious night down at UCB just before the opening of his film, I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With, co-starring Sarah Silverman and Amy Sedaris.

At UCB, he had some of his favorite comedian friends as his guest performers: his TV wife Susie Essman; my old pal Jim Gaffigan; and my other old pal Louis CK, whose last name is really Ckowitz (he just shortened it to CK for show business).

I went to give Jeff a copy of my book, Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive, since I was so grateful that he was in it, and it's always good to see him.

Jim Gaffigan, Susie Essman, Louis CK, and Jeff Garlin Outside UCB

I'm not sure what Ivanka Trump has to do with horseracing, although I'm sure she's an accomplished equestrian, but she was appearing at the kick-off party for the 2007 Breeder's Cup World Championships, and any time I get a chance to see her I show up. So I ran over to the beautiful club Azza on East 55th Street, on my way over to B.B. King’s, to catch Rockers on Broadway's salute to Motown.

Ivanka is so lovely, and has such wonderful presence, that it's just a joy to be around her. She's the picture of elegance and grace, and she certainly stood out amongst all the jockeys.

That afternoon, I happened to send her brother Don an e-mail about Operation Smile, a charity he's involved with, then I saw Ivanka, and then at B.B. King’s I was supposed to see her Mom Ivana. It was a triple-Trump day!

Rockers on Broadway Salutes Motown

WOW!!! What a show. Exec-produced by Cori Gardner and Donnie Kehr of Jersey Boys (who founded Rockers in 1993), and produced by Sandy Hicks, these folks showcased unbelievable talent to raise money to benefit charities Broadway Cares, Equity Fights AIDS, and Wingspan Arts.

Berry Gordy Sharing a Moment with Donnie Kehr

As she did last January, Caroline Rhea hosted. And I got to see great performances by Micky Dolenz, who seemed to channel soul when he sang "When A Man Loves A Woman"; the great Michael Lanning; the incredible Jeremy Schonfeld; the beautiful star of TV and theatre Renee Elise Goldsberry (who simply radiates positive energy, and has legs that bring men to their knees); Greg Reuter and Thomas Cannizzaro in Spamalot, who along with Mitch Jarvis and Clarke Thorell made up the super group White Boyz II Men; and Bobby Spencer of Jersey Boys, whose film Farm Girl in NY is debuting at the Tribeca Cinema on November 15th. Check it out!

Jeffrey Gurian with the Ageless Legend "Cousin Bruce" Morrow

Berry Gordy actually got up and spoke, along with Holland-Dozier-Holland, one of the most successful songwriting teams in the history of the biz. They all really enjoyed the show.

Even the eternally young radio legend, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cousin Brucie was there announcing the acts, and it was so good to see him again, and to listen to his voice, which brings back so many great memories for people who have enjoyed him over the years.

Caroline Rhea and Jackie Martling Backstage at B.B.King’s

My old bud Jackie (The Jokeman) Martling performed comedy, and the backstage scene was as much fun as being out in the audience, if not more so. There were so many more acts I couldn't possibly mention them all, but I think they raised tons of cash for their charities.

Friars Roast Pat Cooper

It's not often when it works out that I'm personal friends with not only the Roast Master of the event, but also the honoree, but in this case that was true. Pat Cooper finally received the honor of having horrible things said about him, after all his years of dedicated service to the Friars Club.

Jeffrey Gurian and Friars Honoree Pat Cooper

Pat closed many a Friars event, sometimes literally waiting hours to go on, which usually served to fuel his generally angry rant even more.

Lisa Lampanelli was given the honor of being the Roastmaster, one of very few women ever allowed to do so. Lisa and Pat are both prominently featured in my Filthy book.

Jeffrey Gurian and Lisa Lampanelli in the VIP room before the Roast

On the dais were performers like Artie Lange from the Howard Stern show, who shpritzed Opie and Anthony, along with their co-host Jim Norton, Jeff Pirrami, Dick Capri, Michelle Balan, Belz, and Gilbert Gottfried, (who married long-time GF Dara, and has a four-month old daughter Lily—congrats, Gillie!).

Also on the dais, Dean Freddie Roman, Stewie Stone, Norm Crosby, and Gregg Fitzsimmons. Artie was there with longtime "Howard" producer Gary Dell'Abate, whom I hadn't seen in a long time—and who looks great.

Jeffrey Between Radio Legends Opie and Anthony

Some of my favorite lines which I can actually print in this column were from Colin Quinn who said about Pat," The last woman he was in was Beth Israel." I'm still laughing at that one. Then there was Artie Lange, who said that this was a very special day because usually the Friars roast someone in show business. Then he earned applause when he said about Jeff Ross: " I don't want to say Jeff steals material, but his comedy coach is Bill Bellichek.” Artie also kiddingly said that once he was “so desperate to do some blow, he let Belzer sneeze in his mouth."

Then there was my pal Jeffrey Ross, who after looking over the dais exclaimed, " This isn't a "Who's Who.” It's more like a "Who's Left." Hysterical as always.

Jeffrey Gurian and the Elegant Colin Quinn

So remember, until next time, 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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