Column: ‘Comedy Matters’ w/ Patrice O’Neal, Paul Provenza, more


Like the salmon that spawn upstream, and the swallows that mysteriously return to Capistrano, each July the comedy industry flocks en masse to Montreal for the biggest comedy festival in the world, Just For Laughs.

Going strong in its 26th year, the shows, galas, and guest hosts were amazing!

Lou Wallach and Aileen Budow, top Exec’s at Comedy Central on the “step and repeat.”

And it only took them 26 years to figure out that they needed to plan daytime programming. This year they created something called “Just Comedy.” Thanks to Deborah Day, the Exec. Producer, and some familiar names like Lou Wallach, Sr. VP at Comedy Central, Jodi Lieberman from Thruline Ent., and Chris Mazzilli from Gotham Comedy Club, we were treated to two days of seminars by some real heavyweights in the industry.

We got to listen to comedy kings Ivan and Jason Reitman, and Judd Apatow,  writer, producer, and director, of the mega-hits 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, who not only performed stand-up comedy, (which I understand is how he started), but also did his own show called Apatow For Destruction with Seth Rogen.

In a separate event, he also received the well-deserved “Comedy Person Of The Year” Award.

For me this was one of the best JFL festivals I ever attended. Within minutes of arriving, Comedy Central powerhouse Aileen Budow was kind enough to take me personally to meet the people from Atom to give them my new short film, “Man Robs Bank With His Chin.”


JFL always draws the best talent. Where else do you get to see Larry Miller and George Wallace on the same show? These two guys are the “gentlemen of comedy.” They both work clean, and they are masters, which is why they were aptly cast in the All Star Show.

Larry Miller and I backstage in Montreal.

I got to know them both pretty well as I interviewed them for a huge project I’m working on, which I will hopefully be able to reveal in my next column.

Larry, George, and Jerry Seinfeld are all best friends who started out together, back in the mid 70’s at Richie Tienken’s legendary New York club, The Comic Strip.

Larry is excited about doing more stand-up again like he used to, and getting back to his comedy roots. He’s been doing so many movies and other things over the years, but stand-up is still his great love, as he proved when he took the stage. The audience loves him.

I got to spend about eight hours with George. First we went to his rehearsal for the gala, just the two of us, and hung out backstage. Then we went out for dinner, and hung out some more until it was time to go back to perform at the gala. Then we hung out in his dressing room where he had a reunion of sorts with Larry Miller who he hadn’t seen in a while. Lastly we went out for a late celebratory dinner, after he killed on stage,  and hung with Jim Hess, George’s agent from Paradigm.  As you can see, a lot of hanging was done in Montreal.

George’s mastery of comedy allows him to walk out onstage not knowing exactly what he will do when he gets there, but since he’s on stage every night at his own show in Vegas, he’s as comfortable on stage as most of us are in our own living rooms.

George went out to Vegas for 30 days, and they wound up keeping him for five years and he’s still going strong, which proves the people of Vegas have good taste in comedy. If you’re out there, stop in at The Flamingo Hotel to check out his show.  He’s not known as The Godfather of Comedy for nothing!

George Wallace and I in George’s dressing room in Montreal.

I ran into my buddy Paul Provenza, who was there as the celeb judge of Joke-E-Oke, a comedy karaoke show produced by Barbara Romen, who had co-produced Paul’s show The Green Room at last year’s festival.

Paul dared me to use the photo I’m using of he and I, where it looks like my good friend Paul can’t even be bothered to look into the camera to take a photo with me, cause he’s too busy checking his e-mail! (See Paul, I told you I’d use it!)

My good friend Paul Provenza and I in Montreal.

The next photo is more like it, as in the middle of us reminiscing about how long we knew each other, he felt compelled to give me a kiss on the cheek.

The real Paul Provenza and I at The Hyatt in Montreal.


There’s only one Patrice. No last name is really needed referencing the name “Patrice” in an article on comedy, but I’ll use it anyway.

Patrice O’Neal was a huge hit in Montreal, not only from his stand-out performances on the Nasty Show, but even more for his one man show Positivity at the Ste. Catherine Theatre.  He actually got two rave newspaper write-ups while he was there, and created a real industry buzz for himself.

Patrice is a modern day philosopher, with a well thought out point of view regarding women; its taken him many years to achieve. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, which makes me even prouder to announce that he has named me a regular co-host on his XM Radio show The Black Phillip Show.

The show also features co-host Dante Nero, and Patrice often refers to me warmly by the name “Master Pimp Level 12,” which coincidentally is the name my parents called me as a child.

The show is on sporadically on Saturday nights from 9-12, and we hope to get a regular spot in the XM or Sirius/XM  line-up very soon. I think he should have his own talk show on cable TV!

Patrice O’Neal and I at the XM radio station


I also got to do a whole hour on CJAD radio in Montreal with my best girls, Olga and Laurie, who host a show from the main hotel lobby each year. I almost missed it because I’m always so confused.

I was on my way to a party, which I erroneously thought was at the hotel, and when I stepped out of the elevator Olga and Laurie’s producer saw me and told me they wanted me to come on the air. I thought the show went till Saturday night, but it ended Friday night, and this was Friday night at 2 A.M.

So I missed the party, but I got the whole last hour of the show to myself, to talk about the launch of GNN (Gurian News Network) – All The News That’s Fit To Dance To,” and the debut of my first animated film Man Robs Bank With His Chin which I did with master animator Ace Salisbury.

You can see the film here on You Tube or on the  dedicated site for GNN at

DVD label for “Man Robs Bank With His Chin

I even got to tape something for The Tonight Show. They do a thing called “Pass The Mic,” where each comic tells a joke from their act, and passes the mic to another comic.

My joke was, “This girl once told me I was like an animal in bed. But it wasn’t a hip animal. It was like a ferret or something. Not a good self-esteem thing.”  The camera crew busted out laughing, but I guess Leno didn’t, cause it didn’t make the show!


I’ve been hearing so much about Vegas lately that I decided to check out the scene there and do a column about Vegas comedy and entertainment in general.

Driving into town, I noticed that my old buddy, musical superstar Michael Bolton was appearing at The Orleans hotel. Fortunately I had his number with me, and was able to hook up tickets for the show.  It was amazing as usual, as Michael is the consummate performer, and a real crowd pleaser.

Me and the hilarious Michael Bolton backstage in Vegas

What a lot of people don’t know is how funny Michael is. He is a serious Rodney Dangerfield freak, and ever since he found out that Rodney was the first major star I ever wrote for, he and I run Rodney lines whenever we get together.

I actually sent him some of the really old lines I wrote for Rodney back in the 80’s some of which he hadn’t heard.  Lines like “My wife likes to tell people she picked me out of six other guys. Unfortunately I was in a line-up at the time.”

And “All I get is fat girls. I went out with one girl who was so fat, I took her to the park, young lovers kept stopping to carve their initials in her legs.” I’m tellin’ ya, she was fat!  (Think in Rodney’s voice, which is the essence of Joke-E-Oke!)

Penn and Teller have their own theatre out there at The Rio Hotel. Penn produced the hit film The Aristocrats, that Paul Provenza directed. Penn and Teller are good friends with my pal Roger Dreyer from Fantasma Magic who produced a magic show at The Friars’ Club with me a few months ago.

Penn Gillette and I at The Rio hotel in Vegas

The show is funny and amazing and they are both so talented, but also the nicest guys. Teller, as you know, never speaks on stage, but is very happy to talk to his fans after the show, as they do a regular meet and greet in the lobby after each show.

I always respect that when a star takes the time to come and meet his fans. They take photos and sign autographs, and are very gracious, which is a show of gratitude to their audiences who have made them the stars that they are and deserve to be!

Me with the loquacious Teller in Vegas


This item somehow got left out of last month’s column, so I’m sticking it in here, because I can.

Emmis Communications sponsored Project Sunshine’s fifth annual gala, at a black tie event at The Waldorf Astoria, honoring the president of the Emmis Radio Division, Rick Cummings.

Project Sunshine, is a beautiful charity founded by Joseph Weilgus that brings joy to sick children and their families, in countries all over the world as far away and as disparate as China and Israel.

I attended with the eminent Dr. Judy Kuriansky, better known as Dr. Judy, who you know from radio, TV and print, and the award to Rick was presented by Jeff Smulyan, CEO of Emmis who confirmed to me that Emmis is called Emmis, because it means “The Truth” in Yiddish.  Jeff is proud of his heritage and rightly so!

Hilary Cruz, Dr. Judy, Crystle Stewart, myself, and Riyo Mori at the Waldorf Astoria

Funkmaster Flex was the DJ, and both Miss USA 2008 Crystle Stewart, and Miss Universe 2008, Riyo Mori were there, along with Hilary Cruz, Miss Teen USA, to add their star power to the event.


It’s really amazing how the people you least expect to be funny can be really funny. Ann Curry is fantastic on Today with Matt Lauer, but I wouldn’t have had any inkling that she could be funny until I saw her perform at Carolines on Broadway.

A few weeks before, she had been preparing at The Comic Strip with my long-time favorite Gilbert Gottfried in a secret, hush-hush meeting videotaped by Today for a special on facing your fears.

From Left- Jeffrey, Ann Curry, publicist Ryan McCormick, Gilbert Gottfried, and Richie Tienken, owner of The Comic Strip

I guess Ann’s biggest fear was doing stand-up, but she was great. She says people come up to her on the street all the time, and leave telling each other how nice it was to meet Connie Chung!

She imitated her Mom’s Japanese accent perfectly, and the audience loved it.  She wasn’t sure how she did, but I assured her that she had great stage presence, and exhibited lots of confidence which is important in order for the audience to “buy you” as a comic.

I tried to convince her to do the Matt Lauer Roast this coming October, but even if she got up there, she would never be able to utter the filth that’s required to do that kind of a Roast. Ann, trust me, you were very funny.  Audiences don’t laugh just to be polite!


Speaking of Roasts, (how’s that for an amazing segue?), Rick Newman of Catch A Rising Star fame, and Mark Krantz who produces the Friars’ Roasts got the great idea to do a national contest called “So You Think You Can Roast.”

Contestants compete to see who the funniest Roaster is, and the winner will be allowed to perform at the huge Matt Lauer Roast in October. There will be four smaller Roasts at The Friars Club, where the finalists will perform each month leading up to the main Roast in October.

The auditions were held at Chris Mazzilli’s Gotham Comedy Club, because Chris is always where the action is.

Comic Steven Scott, owner Chris Mazzilli, and comic Cory Kahaney at the auditions at Gotham

The first Roast was for my good pal Vinny (Big Pussy) Pastore. I never saw anyone so anxious to be roasted in my life. Even Donald Trump once asked me before his own Roast, “Do you think I can handle it?”  I said to him, “Donald, if anyone can, I think it will be you!”

Vinny was actually excited to hear people say horrible things about him. I guess it’s because on his radio show, The Wiseguy Show they roast each other all the time anyway.

His radio co-hosts Cha-Cha, and Joe Rigano both showed up to support Vinny. Cha-Cha not only roasted Vinny, and was hysterically funny, but he managed to get even more attention for himself by falling off the stage. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt, and his lovely wife Karen wasn’t there to see it!

Me and Vinny Pastore at The Friars holding the award he received

Vinny sent me an e-mail asking if I would be one of his Roasters, but they already had too many people. However if I was to Roast Vinny, I would have said things like, “Vinny takes playing a gangster so seriously,  when he puts his kids to bed, he sings them an alibi!”

Or, “I’ve known Vinny Pastore for many years now, and despite the way he looks, he’s really the nicest guy. Seriously, even before my family paid the ransom, … of the three guys that were holding me, he was definitely the nicest !!!

Anyway, remember until next time, … Comedy Matters!

Jeffrey Gurian

Jeffrey Gurian is a comedy writer who has written for lots of big names, and is currently writing the book on the 35 year history of The Comic Strip. Contact Jeffrey at

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