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Jeffrey Gurian's Comedy Matters


Opposite Photo: Jeffrey Gurian and Charles Grodin at the Time Warner Center




Re-Connecting With Seinfeld

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 good friends!!!

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, Charles.

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 is that?

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 other half.

Jeffrey Gurian and Adam Ferrara

Bill Duke Is a Big Teddy Bear

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 Dreams”.

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

Chris Mazzilli, 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 comics.

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 again Karith!

Radio Personality Karith Foster, Jeffrey Gurian
and Comic Dante Nero
The Kaye Playhouse

Multi-Tasking With Will Ferrell

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 that?)

Jeffrey Gurian with Andre 3000
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 Gurian
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 he does.

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 Copperfield.

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 you double!

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 Jeffrey Gurian
Backstage at Madison Square Garden

Russell played 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 Played Comix

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” tour.

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 funny.

Richard Lewis and Jeffrey Gurian at Comix

Some years 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 had time.

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 over.

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 MATTERS!!!

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, go to



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