Gurian's Comedy Matters
Photo: Jeffrey Gurian and Charles Grodin at
the Time Warner Center
The first time I remember meeting Jerry Seinfeld
was at the old, original Carolines Comedy Club on
26th and 8th; it was probably back in the early
80’s. It’s funny how that night sticks
in my mind, because people often ask me what I did
last night, and I come up with a blank. That particular
night is etched in my mind forever, and I can almost
see Jerry up there performing on stage.
Jeffrey Gurian and Jerry
Seinfeld at the Time Warner Center
As I recall, I also met Paul Reiser there that night
as well. Both of them were outstanding, and I knew
right away that they were both destined to be big
stars. They both did very clean material, and had
amazing stage presence and great confidence.
Most importantly, they were very funny, and for
some reason I recall Jerry doing a bit, …
something to do with an African tribe and spears
as I recall, but considering that I have a hard
time remembering my own act, I’m surprised
I remember that at all.
To tell you how long ago it really was, I offered
to introduce both Jerry and Paul to a man who was
guiding me as a manager at the time, since neither
of them had representation. His name was David Jonas,
and he was handling people like Alan Zweibel, Freddie
Roman, Dick Capri, and had made Freddie Prinze a
big star by getting him Chico and the Man.
Neither Seinfeld nor Reiser took me up on it, but
we exchanged numbers and kept in touch periodically.
Then I didn’t see Jerry again for many, many
years, until recently when I saw him at the Time
Warner Center party for Richard Zoglin’s new
book “Comedy At The Edge – How Stand-Up
In the 70’s Changed America." I actually
brought Jerry the old rolodex card with his phone
number on it from twenty-five years ago.
First I showed him my own card and asked if my name
was familiar to him. Maybe he was just being polite,
but he said it was. Then I asked him if he remembered
having the number (212) 595-5588, and he was shocked
to see the card.
I thought it might have been funny to ask him what
he had been doing all these years, … kind
of like when I wanted to palm Donald Trump a buck…
but then I thought better of it, and just told him
it was great to see him again.
I didn’t want to come off like a stalker,
trying to convince a big star that you used to be
Comedy’s reining Queen, Caroline Hirsch and
comedy legend Rick (Catch a Rising Star) Newman,
who really are old friends of mine, both sponsored
the party, and Belzer was there along with Robert
Klein, and Charles Grodin.
Jeffrey Gurian and Comedy
Icon Rick Newman
Now I had been a fan of Charles Grodin for so long,
and had always wanted to meet him, but up until
that night, I never got the chance. Just because
everything in life is about the timing, as I walked
into the Time Warner building that evening, right
there in the lobby, standing directly in front of
me was my good friend, Marion Grodin with her father,
Marion saw me first, and before I even tried to
figure out what to say to meet her Dad, she yelled
out , “ Dad, you MUST meet Jeffrey Gurian,
a dear friend of mine.” The next thing I knew
I was meeting Charles Grodin in the most comfortable,
and natural way possible. He had just been told
that he HAD to meet me by his own sweet daughter.
The two of them have such a great relationship.
Anyway, we got to be fast friends, and after he
expressed some good-natured jealousy about both
my hair, and the girl I was with, I got to hang
out with him, and joke around for a while.
We actually got to have a conversation about beards,
one of my favorite party topics, and when I told
him I was doing a film about beards, because I tend
to write about facial hair, he one-upped me with
some strangeness of his own. And he did it easily,
with no effort on his part at all!
We also took some cool photos, and then he told
me the great story of how he met Marion’s
Mom in an acting class, and what an amazingly beautiful
relationship they had. He even promised to send
me something that he wanted me to read. Whether
he does or not doesn’t matter, ‘cause
I got to hang out with Charles Grodin, and how cool
In the packed room, I also ran into my buddy Adam
Ferrara who was very excited about his new film
Definitely, Maybe with Kevin Kline, Rachel
Weisz, and Isla Fisher, Sasha Baron Cohen’s
Jeffrey Gurian and Adam
Bill Duke Is a Big Teddy
I had always been a big fan of Bill Duke, not only
for his talent but because I like anyone who can
walk into a room and command respect just by his
presence. At a massive 6’4” and with
a shaved head, Bill Duke is that kind of guy.
He came to prominence way back in 1976, in the movie
Car Wash where he played angry Black Muslim
activist Abdullah Mohammed Akbar, “formerly
known as Duane”, and then, in 1980, showed
the extent of his talent by playing a gay guy in
the classic film American Gigolo.
Bill Duke and Jeffrey Gurian
Village East Theater
Bill is not only a successful actor but a well respected
director, whose latest film Cover, a murder
mystery highlighting the prevalence of AIDS in the
black community, is a powerful film with an even
more powerful message.
Bill told me that in Washington, D.C. alone, one
out of every seven black men has AIDS, and that
is unacceptable. He said it’s great that we
are so concerned about AIDS in Africa, but it’s
important not to forget about what’s happening
in our own country.
What made me get up the courage to go over and talk
to Bill is that he also gives a lot of his time
to working with inner city kids; he mentors them
in the performing arts. It turns out that Bill is
the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.
When I told him I was being honored by an organization
called BUILD (as part of their Black History Month
celebration) for creating comedy workshops for inner
city kids, he immediately introduced me to his beautiful
girlfriend Michelle Revere, who also immediately
introduced me to her sister Janine Saulsberry who
is very active in non-profit charities They were
both very supportive of what I was planning to do.
Bill Duke and Michelle Revere
Bill’s film stars Viveca A. Fox, Aunjanue
Ellis, Lou Gossett Jr., Patti LaBelle, and actor/singer
Leon (who wound up inviting me to the opening of
his play with Billy Dee Williams at The Beacon Theatre,
called Three Ways to Get a Husband). A
funny comic named Reggie Reg, who does great impressions,
was in that play as well.
Leon and Jeffrey Gurian
The Beacon Theatre
Did you know that Billy Dee’s real name is
William December Williams? Neither did I, but it’s
true. Billy Dee sounds so much cooler than just
Bill Williams, or William D. Williams, or even Bill
Billiams! There’s so much power in a name.
What sounds better as an introduction, Bond, James
Bond, or Binder, Jimmy Binder? Point made?
Leon’s play was fantastic even though a fistfight
broke out in the audience during the performance,
but to the actors' credit, no one on stage even
flinched. They just kept on doing what they were
supposed to do, until everything quieted down.
My Black History Month Honor
My inner African-American self emerged this month,
and culminated in me being honored at The Kaye Playhouse
of Hunter College as part of Black History Month,
by an organization called “BUILD” which
stands for “Building Up Lifelong Individual
It was founded by two incredible sisters, Kathryne
and Dawn Leak and focuses on bringing positive self-images
and wellness to the inner city by offering educational
seminars in the areas of Fashion, Art, Physical
Fitness and Personal Development.
Kathryne and Dawn Leak
owner of the beautiful, new multi-million dollar
Gotham Comedy Club on West 23rd Street, was kind
enough to offer me his club to use for the workshops,
cause that’s the kind of guy he is!
I already have support from many well known comedian
friends like Susie Essman, Dean Edwards, Chuck Nice,
and Patrice Oneal, who have volunteered to be celeb/guest
At the well attended Hunter event, lots of people
in the comedy community, like Dante Nero of XM Radio,
Reese Waters, and Macio and Gina Parilla, of Macio
TV, came out to support me and the workshops.
I was particularly grateful to see my old friend
Karith Foster, who was recently chosen as Don Imus’
radio sidekick on WABC-AM radio. I am so happy for
her well-deserved success, and always knew she’d
do something big. Talent always finds a home! Congrats
Radio Personality Karith
Foster, Jeffrey Gurian
and Comic Dante Nero
The Kaye Playhouse
Multi-Tasking With Will
Very often when I attend a press junket for the
release of a film, I bring an assistant to take
photos or video. For the press junket for Will Ferrell’s
new film Semi-Pro starring Will, Woody
Harrelson, Maura Tierney, Will Arnett, and Andre
3000 from Outkast, I was all by my lonesome! ( What
is this 1860? Where did I get an expression like
Jeffrey Gurian with Andre
The Ritz Carlton Hotel
So when it
came time for me to ask a question, I was left holding
a hand held mike in one hand, while awkwardly holding
the video camera in my other hand. I was doing my
best to speak into the mike, while shooting the
video camera at the same time, totally blocking
out my face as I was speaking, and probably looking
very foolish, kind of like a one-man band.
Lately all Will's movies are about sports, so I
asked him what sport his next film would be on and
after commenting on my multi-tasking ability, which
drew a pretty big laugh, especially from those around
me who saw my predicament, he said his next film
was going to be an expose on a guy who traveled
the world holding a microphone in one hand and a
camera in the other hand while simultaneously interviewing
people, and thereby creating a new sport! The Olympic
sport of "Multi-Tasking"!
Will Arnett and Jeffrey
Semi-Pro Press Conference
The room erupted
in laughter at my expense!
Magic At The Friars
I’m proud to serve on the New Directions Committee
of The Friars Club, which I guess from the title
means we try and take The Friars in “new directions.”
Personally, I’m trying to take them North
by North-West, so I called my buddy Roger Dreyer,
owner of the largest magic manufacturing company
in the country, Fantasma.
We got together to produce a fantastic and “Fantasmic”
comedy/magic/mindreading show featuring Simon Lovell
the star of the off-Broadway hit Strange and
Unusual Hobbies, and Jon Stetson, the mentalist
who has made five White House appearances and performed
in over twenty-five countries. His tag line is "
I know what you're thinking", and believe me
The show was a sold-out hit, and people were amazed
by both performers. Roger did a little magic himself,
and personally owns one of the largest private Houdini
collections in the country, second only to David
Roger Dreyer, Jon
Stetson, Simon Lowell and Jeffrey Gurian
The Friars Club
When it came time for me to make my remarks to the
overflowing crowd, I thanked them for coming, and
said, “ I myself would have loved to be here
tonight, but unfortunately I’m out of town!”
Got a big laugh! (Sometimes I’m just so hysterical!
Too bad no one’s around at the time!)
Fantasma is located right across from Madison Square
Garden and was voted by New York Magazine as the
best place to have a birthday party. Stop in there
and tell them I sent you. They’ll only charge
The Messiah Of Comedy
I like to call Russell Peters “The Messiah
of Comedy” because he has such a multi-cultural
audience and he brings everyone together with laughter…
and lots of it. Much of his audience doesn’t
even look like they speak English, but obviously
they’re a lot hipper than they look which
I can tell by their response to Russell's material.
Aside from being a master of dialects ( his Jewish
accent, and Chinese accents are phenomenal!), he
breaks down stereo-types and proves them to be false.
Until a few years ago, no one except Indian people
knew they could be funny. Now we all know better.
Russell Peters and
Backstage at Madison Square Garden
to a packed house at the WAMU Theatre at Madison
Square Garden (right across the street from Fantasma!).
I can’t believe how all of my stories flow
into each other. What perfect segues!
He was only supposed to appear one night, but due
to the overwhelming demand they added a second night.
Sitting in my row was a middle aged Indian lady
dressed in traditional garb, who was laughing at
everything he said.... even the racy stuff. I later
found out it was his Mom. Very cool!
Backstage was a trip as well, since Russell has
an eclectic mix of friends and is the only comic
I know who has two hot hip-hop DJ’s opening
up for him. This time it was Spinbad, ( I love that
name!), and DJ Starting From Scratch, who I had
met in Montreal last summer. After playing Madison
Square Garden, Russell was off to Australia.
The Master of Angst
It’s not often I get to see Richard Lewis,
so when I know he’s in town I go out of my
way to see him, … even all the way down to
14th Street and 9th Avenue! (LOL)
I called my pal Rocky at Comix and she hooked me
up to come and see the man who has taken neuroses
and made it into an art form, which is why he’s
so incredible on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
He and Larry David are unbeatable together and should
think of doing a “Born To Be Miserable”
Richard played to a packed room, and came out to
say “Hi” afterwards. I never saw anyone
but him who could do “stream-of-consciousness”
comedy for over an hour, non-stop, and still be
Richard Lewis and
Jeffrey Gurian at Comix
ago, when Richard was starring in the film Drunks
I attended the premiere and brought some material
with me that I had written for him. It’s a
well known fact that Richard always writes his own
material, but I was determined, and created what
I called the “Born To Be Nervous Tour”,
since if I had a tattoo, that’s probably what
it would say.
As a recognized expert in self-sabotage, I got there
late, ran down the wrong stairway, and wound up
running right into Richard who greeted me by saying,
“ What the f _ _ _ are you doing here?”
I told him I was there to support him, and the film,
and then I handed him the envelope with the material
I had written, and asked him to read it when he
Later that very night, I came home to find a message
on my machine, thanking me for the material, and
explaining that he has never used anyone’s
material, but that it was “brilliant and hilarious”,
and that I knew how to write a funny joke. He must
have said “brilliant and hilarious”
at least five times.
I play that message to myself every night before
I go to bed!
Here are some of the jokes:
Low self esteem goes back in my family even to prehistoric
times. I actually had an uncle who was supposedly
the first man to walk erect. But he couldn’t
hold it. He’d take a few steps, and just slump
My shrink was also treating me for feelings of loneliness.
At one point, I was so lonely, I tried to develop
a split personality, just for the company.
I once knew a guy from group therapy who had a split
personality. He dated a girl who also had a split
personality. They used to double date.
He fell in love with her other personality, and
she fell in love with his other personality. They
got married, accused each other of cheating with
themselves, and the marriage fell apart.
Not bad, … right?
Anyway, until next time, remember … COMEDY
A nationally known comedy writer, director, and
producer, Jeffrey has written for and worked with
many big stars. Jeffrey has been featured on radio,
TV, and in the press. To read more about Jeffrey,