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Jeffrey Gurian's Comedy Matters

Written and Photographed by
Jeffrey Gurian

Opposite Photo:
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, including myself.

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 that day.

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 friend.

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 biology books!!!)

Chris Meloni and Jeffrey Gurian

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 your life.

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 Grodin

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 domestic violence.

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

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 Imperioli
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 emotional terrain.”

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 beautiful.

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 life.

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 at the
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

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

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 up.

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 there myself.

Jamie Kennedy and Jeffrey Gurian

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 in mind.

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 ring.

Jeffrey Gurian and John Leguizamo

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 oldest profession.”

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 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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