Gurian's Comedy Matters
Jamie Kennedy and Jeffrey Gurian
Harold and Kumar
Escape To Comedy Matters
I think you have to put actor Kal Penn up there
with comic Russell Peters in teaching the world
that Indian people can be funny. It wasn’t
too long ago that people didn’t know that,
Kal told me that along with everyone else in the
world, he too was a fan of Russell Peters.
I learned that Indian people could be funny a couple
of years back, when I got asked to be a judge at
an Asian comedy competition, and got to see performers
like Rahul Siddharth, Dan Nainan, and Vidur Kapur.
Kal Penn and Jeffrey at
the Regency Hotel
for the Harold and Kumar Press Conference
These talented performers are responsible for smashing
the stereotype of Indian people as serious IT specialists,
cabdrivers, or the humorless guy you get on the
phone when you call your local bank and they have
outsourced their servicing calls to a small village
on the Ganges River where a guy named Ramindeep
tries to convince you his name is Joe.
I love people who break stereotypes, because I hate
when people think they can tell what you do, or
what you’re like just by looking at you.
People seem to like putting other people into categories,
which I guess, makes them feel more comfortable.
So when someone steps out and changes that perception,
I give them tons of credit.
For years, people who meet me immediately insist
I’m in the music business. They won’t
take no for an answer. Even my parents think I’m
in the music business! So much for appearances!
Neil Patrick Harris and
Jeffrey Gurian at Harold and Kumar
Anyway, New Line’s Harold and Kumar Escape
Guantanamo Bay is a very hip, funny film with
John Cho as the more serious Harold, who is constantly
getting into trouble thanks to the wild and unpredictable
Kumar (played by Kal Penn).
The only thing you can predict about Kumar is that
he’s always going to do something outrageous,
like taking a cell phone call while being interviewed
for medical school, and openly making plans in front
of the shocked Dean to smoke weed and party later
Then Kumar will return to his conversation with
the Dean as if nothing unusual has transpired. I
liked the film, but I liked Kal Penn even more and
found myself wanting to hang out with Kumar as a
In both the previous H & K film, (
H&K Go To White Castle), the talented
writer/directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
wrote parts for two recurring characters, only one
of whom was Neil Patrick Harris.
Harris plays a womanizer
in H & K, just as he does in the hit
CBS TV series How I Met Your Mother, despite
the fact that not too long ago he exhibited the
courage to come out and state his true sexual preference
as being for those having XY chromosomes, as opposed
to those with XX chromosomes! ( Look it up in your
Chris Meloni and Jeffrey
The other recurrent
star in H & K is the incredibly talented
Chris Meloni, an old pal of mine, who in his first
film played a hideous character named Freakshow,
whose face was covered in disgusting pus-filled
boils. Freakshow, however, had a really hot wife.
In this new film, a once- again unrecognizable Chris
Meloni plays a horrible KKK Grand Wizard, and as
a joke actually tried not to take a screen credit,
but the union wouldn’t allow it. Instead he’s
credited as The Rev. Clyde Stanky.
When Harris was first offered the original role
in the first film, he admitted concern about whether
they chose him as an object of ridicule, or whether
they were being reverential. After one meeting with
the writers he knew they were being genuine and
accepted the role of what I call a flaming heterosexual,
especially since he wound up branding his initials
on a hooker’s butt.
Bill Macy and Cheryl Hines
– A Nice Jewish Couple
It’s a testament to their talent that Bill
Macy and Cheryl Hines play a believable, divorced
Jewish couple, in the funny new comedy Bart
Got a Room, and I actually got to tell them
that at the Q&A after the movie. (My comment
got big laughs, as did the movie !)
I also got to tell Cheryl that she’s definitely
the sex symbol of Curb Your Enthusiasm,
which she took as the compliment I meant it to be,
despite the fact that she admitted there’s
not much competition. I had to agree with her!
Jeffrey Gurian with The
Sexy and Very Jewish Cheryl Hines!
Bart Got a Room
made its World Premiere at The Tribeca Film Festival,
a prestigious place to debut. In Bart, Bill and
Cheryl play a couple trying their best to help their
son get a date for the prom.
Cheryl told me that many years before, while tending
bar in a hotel in LA, the late Phil Hartman’s
sister directed her to The Groundlings, where she
started her career in comedy. I love those kinds
of “synchronicities,” the kind where
a casual remark or suggestion completely changes
Night of Too Many Stars,
… To Count
The Beacon Theatre in Manhattan was the site of
this year’s fabulous “Night of Too Many
Stars: An Overbooked Concert for Autism Education.”
produced by Comedy Central in partnership with event
host Jon Stewart’s Busboy Productions.
The red carpet saw appearances by Susie Essman,
Matthew Broderick, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler
and her husband Will Arnett, Jonah Hill (who had
a sore throat and couldn’t talk), hot band
“The Roots”, Susan Sarandon, Kelsey
Grammer and his lovely wife Camille (an old friend
of mine, who actually starred in a short comedy
film with Gilbert Gottfried that I wrote years ago,
B.K.=Before Kelsey!), and the man who brought it
all together, Robert Smigel, father of Triumph The
Insult Comic Dog.
Robert is also the father of Daniel, his son who
is autistic and in whose honor all these stars came
out to donate their time and talent.
Jeffrey Gurian on the Red
Carpet with Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog
As Robert moved towards me down the red carpet,
he referenced me to an interviewer after telling
a joke, and said, “Did you like that one Jeffrey?”
I asked Robert if he could think of a turning point
in his long and successful career. He wasn’t
sure, but he said definitely the low point of his
career was being interviewed by Jeffrey Gurian.
I’m pretty sure he laughed when he said that.
I know I did. I’ll have to review the tape
to make sure!
One Night Only With Marion
As sexy as that might sound, it was all for a good
cause. Marion has long been active with a group
called “Help USA”, one of the nation’s
largest providers of housing, job training, and
social services for the homeless and victims of
Marion undertook the huge task of producing what
turned out to be a sold-out event at Studio 54 to
benefit homeless veterans, entitled “One Night
Only – An Evening of Comedy and Music”.
I had the privilege of helping Marion with the production
of this event.
Jeffrey Gurian and Charles Grodin at Studio 54
I don’t know how, but somehow she got the
legendary Charles Grodin to show up, along with
other guests, Regis Philbin, Martin Short, and Paul
Shaffer, plus a surprise walk-on by Richard Belzer
and his constant companion Bebe, (his dog!).
Everyone was funny, but Martin Short brought down
the house with a song called
“Springtime Makes Me Want To Cheat On My Wife,”
which he choreographed with what could only be described
as a bump and grind that any self-respecting stripper
would be proud of.
The facts that led to the need for this benefit
are disturbing. One out of every three homeless
men is a veteran, and the VA reaches only 25% of
them. In 2008, Help USA is trying to expand its
dedicated veteran’s housing from 275 units
to 420 units.
To make a donation go to www.helpusa.org
Marion and her Newly Found
Dad, Thanks to Jeffrey Gurian!
But the thing I’m proudest of, is that I can
take credit for introducing Marion to Charles. I’m
happy to report they got along so well, they decided
to become father and daughter. I always thought
they had so much in common, and I’m so glad
they agreed with me!
Studio Dante Benefit
About five years ago, Emmy Award-winning actor/writer
Michael Imperioli (best known for his role of Christopher
Moltisante on HBO’s hit, The Sopranos)
and Imperioli's equally talented wife Victoria opened
Studio Dante, on West 29th Street in Manhattan.
A lot of people don’t know that Michael Imperioli
also wrote five episodes of The Sopranos.
I have known Michael a long time, since 1993 when
he was one of the stars of Frank Pugliese’s
powerful play, Aven' U Boys.
Jeffrey Gurian with Michael
at the Rubin Art Museum
In person, Michael is such a quiet, gentle, artistic,
well-spoken soul that it amazed me when I first
saw him as the ultra-violent Christopher on the
show. Just like with Bill Macy and Cheryl Hines
playing Jewish, … also a testament to his
great talent! That’s why they call it acting!
Studio Dante is a little gem of a theatre, where
they also offer acting classes, and is dedicated
to exposing writers who exhibit a fresh point of
view, and have the courage to investigate “difficult
They held a very classy, star-studded fundraiser
at The Rubin Museum of Art, on West 17th Street,
near where the original Naked Angels theatre stood,
back in the late 80’s, and into the 90’s.
The event was presented by Architectural Digest,
and included a tribute to the legendary Lauren Bacall,
who I had seen a few months earlier at a press conference
for her film The Walker. She still looks
Jeffrey Gurian and John
( Artie Bucco) Ventimiglia
at The Rubin Museum
Also looking beautiful
at the Rubin Museum were a lot of Sopranos'
alumni like Drea de Matteo, Vincent Pastore, Aida
Turturro, and John Ventimiglia, plus Stanley Tucci
who happens to be Italian but whose only connection
to The Sopranos was that he once dated
Edie Falco, who played Tony’s wife Carmella.
The theatre and writing communities are grateful
to Michael and Victoria for giving them such a supportive,
and beautiful place to express themselves.
Uma and Eva
It’s interesting to me, if to no one else,
how my stories are somehow related to each other.
I just mentioned the theatre troupe Naked Angels,
whose members include Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew
Broderick, Marisa Tomei, Rob Morrow and Fisher Stevens.
When they first started in the late 80’s I
used to bring my stuff down there to be read, which
is how I first met Ethan Hawke. He had just done
the movie Alive and he was kind enough
to approach me, and compliment me on my writing.
Uma Thurman at the Press
Conference for The Life
Fast forward many
years, and I ran into Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman
on the West side, and Ethan introduced me to Uma.
She was nowhere near the star she is today.
In Uma's newest film, The Life Before her Eyes,
she plays a young woman injured in a high school
massacre. It points out how one single moment in
the right or wrong place can change your entire
I found the film very entertaining, although the
ending was very disturbing to me in an existential
sort of way. You’ll have to see it to understand
what I mean, … then call me up and we’ll
discuss it. (Just kidding!)
Susan Sarandon’s daughter Eva (pronounced
Evva) Amurri, (pronounced however you like!) also
has a starring role as the best friend of high school
girl Uma, (played by Evan Rachel Wood).
Jeffrey Gurian and Eva Amurri
Regency Hotel Press Conference
At the interview, Uma was gracious, friendly, and
elegant, and I felt very badly for her that she
had to have endured a stalker for two years, whose
lawyer actually tried to portray him as a normal
man who was just trying to express his affection
for her. What a legal system we have!
Since I always like to try and ask a question that
no one has ever asked before, I asked Uma if she
knew that her Mom had actually been married to Timothy
Leary, the father of LSD tripping before Uma was
even born. Of course she did, but got a laugh out
of me thinking I knew something about her life that
she didn’t know.
See the movie!
Comedy Workshops at Gotham
In the last column I told you I had been honored
as part of Black History Month by an organization
called BUILD, for creating comedy workshops for
inner city residents, at Gotham Comedy Club.
We held the first one this month and it was a big
success. On hand to help me out were two really
talented, funny guys, Wali Collins and Kyle Grooms.
Wali performs at top venues all over the country
and has been seen many times on TV and in film.
He’s been the warm-up for The Letterman
Show and performed on Chappelle, Tough
Crowd, Spin City, and Donny Deutsch.
He also recently created a line of “inspirational
clothing” called Y’Nevano, a mysterious
looking title, named after something his Mom would
say after he told her of his show business aspirations,
“Well Wali, ya never know!”
Kyle Grooms, Jeffrey Gurian,
and Wali Collins on stage at Gotham
Raise your hands high, if you thought “Y’Nevano”
was a little-known American-Indian tribe! Kind of
like Navaho, but not! Check out Wali at www.walcollins.com
Kyle Grooms started out in life as a graffiti artist
(not as an infant, as a teenager!), but he went
on to also become a national comedy headliner in
major venues across the country. (Then he probably
went outside after his set and spray painted his
tag all over the walls!)
You’ve also seen him on Chappelle,
Comedy Central, BET, and he has
a new hilarious DVD called Miami Nights,
which you should definitely check out on www.kylegrooms.net.
I like when he talks about growing up in the hood
wearing eyeglasses, with a name like Kyle. It’s
probably tough to act thuggish if you wear glasses
and your name is Kyle.
I’m very grateful to both of them for showing
The Jamie Kennedy Experience
There are not many guys named Jamie around. It’s
just not a common name. Jamie Masada owned The Laugh
Factory in Times Square until recently.
Now it’s called the Times Square Art Center
and the new owners Billy Raum and John Velasco,
had comic/actor Jamie Kennedy as the guest star
the night I visited.
The club looks better than ever, and still has five
separate show rooms. I hope to produce some shows
Jamie Kennedy and Jeffrey
I was glad to see the main room was packed when
I was there, thanks to a hard-working promoter named
JT, because a star of Jamie Kennedy’s magnitude
deserves that. It’s very disturbing to me
to see a big star have to face an unfilled room.
Jamie killed, but how could he not! I’m a
big fan of his show, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment,
in which he does so many characters, accents and
dialects. He’s really very versatile. He’s
also very accommodating, and extremely nice to his
fans who were all eager to meet him after the show.
He made himself available for all that, and more.
John Leguizamo – The
Hardest Working Man In Show Business
I opened my interview with John as I always try
to do, with an attempt at humor. I said, “John,
it’s a done deal. You have officially replaced
James Brown as the hardest working man in show business.”
John’s response was, “That’s not
hard to do. He’s dead!”
What I meant was that John is in every single film
that comes out these days. It seems that no one
writes a film without a part for John Leguizamo
Within the past few months I’ve seen John
in Love In The Time Of Cholera, Paraiso
Travel as part of the Tribeca Film Festival,
and The Babysitters in which he plays a
young Dad who gets intimately involved with his
babysitter, a high school girl played by relative
newcomer Katherine Waterston.
After John’s character overpays her for her
“babysitting services” each time they
have sex, the money starts to become addicting,
and she goes on to form a high school prostitution
Jeffrey Gurian and John
This subject matter led me to a discussion on why
prostitution should be legalized in the first place.
There’s obviously a need for it or else it
wouldn’t be called “the world’s
I borrowed a line from the hysterically funny Brett
Eidman who says, "Prostitution should definitely
be legal. Where else are married men supposed to
go to get sex?”
John liked that line, as others will when Brett
opens his new one-man show soon, that we wrote together
entitled Brett Eidman – One Angry Man.
I hope Brett has the kind of success that John Leguizamo
attained from doing his one-man shows. I myself
always wanted to write a one-man show, but I could
never figure out who that one man should be!
The other night I went to see a movie and saw a
poster advertising a new Ice Age movie,
with John Leguizamo and then during the coming attractions,
I saw a very intense looking movie called The
Happening starring, … you guessed it,
… John Leguizamo.
I think Robert Redford, Jane Rosenthal, and Robert
DeNiro should give up their own festivals, team
up and create the John Leguizamo Film Festival since
he seems to be in every film anyway. Some creative
genius will eventually write a film where John plays
all the parts.
The best thing about all this is that John is so
talented, and such a nice guy that he really deserves
all of his success.
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,