• Comedy Matters with Jim Breuer, Aries Spears, more

    Kevin Hart Sells Out Westbury

    It’s hard to describe the excitement of producing a comedy show for 2,800 people, especially when all 2,800 people show up! The Kevin Hart Live show was months in the making and I could not have done it without my partner Jean Alerte and his company Alerte Carter and Associates who worked tirelessly to make sure the show was a success.

    Me, Kevin Hart and Jean Alerte backstage at Carolines in NYC.

    After months of work, the contract finally came through on Sept. 21, 2009, the very same day I lost my Mom, and Jean said to me that our contract came through thanks to her. He called me that day and said, “Your Mom’s an angel. I got the contract with Kevin.”

    Once I knew that, I called my old buddy Tony Rock and asked him to come on board, and we decided to have Wil Sylvince as our MC. I’ve liked Wil ever since I saw him win the funniest new comic award at Carolines during her NY Comedy Festival a few years ago.

    Then we went to Westbury theater on Long Island in New York and under the expert guidance of Jason Stone, Sr. V.P of Booking for Live Nation and his wonderful staff including Heather Federlin, and Dan Kellachan, we were able to pull it off.

    The day before the event Kevin and his manager Nate Smith, flew in on the redeye from LA, and thanks to the hard work of ACA publicist Tamar Bazin, we started our day hitting the radio stations at 7 A.M. We went to Hot 97 to sit in with DJ Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg who do the early morning show.

    Cipha Sounds has a great affinity for comedy. I’ve seen him hosting a comedy show at Carolines, and the man is actually very funny. He needs some more material, but I can always hook him up with that!

    Me, Peter Rosenberg looking very “street” and Jean Alerte looking very neat up at Hot 97.

    Then we ran over to the CW 11 to do a TV segment where Kevin was the guest weatherman and did his version of hip-hop weather.

    Then it was back down to Hot 97 to shoot a Hot 97 TV segment with Cipha Sounds and we did a thing on Kiss FM with Steve Wilson, from the D.L. Hughley morning show, and Kevin and Steve kicked it on the air for a while.

    Cipha Sounds, Jean Alerte, Kevin Hart and I at the Hot 97 studios.

    Then we went up to WBLS, where Tony Rock joined us, so that Kevin could do an on-air interview with our girl Egypt, who also made us an amazing radio promo that had been playing on our Kevin Hart Live website. Egypt just happens to be married to DJ FaDelf who was on the ones and twos out at Westbury for our Kevin Hart show. The man knows how to get a crowd all worked up, for real!

    Me, Tony Rock, Kevin Hart, Egypt, DJ FaDelf, and Jean Alerte at WBLS.

    A lot of comedy websites promo’ed the show which also raised some money for Haiti. My dear friend Unik Ernest, the Haitian nightlife impresario that used to own PM, Gin Lane, Merkato 55 and other hot Manhattan nightspots created a foundation called Edeyo, which in Creole means “Help Them.” They raise money to take care of Haiti’s kids and in 2007 had built a new beautiful school for 200 kids.

    Three days before the quake, I brought my partner Jean who is also Haitian, and introduced him to Unik, with the thought that they should know each other, and that we could have his charity as the beneficiary of our show.

    G-d works in mysterious ways, because only three days afterwards the quake struck, and we already had everything in place. Unfortunately the new school they built was destroyed in the quake and if you go to Edeyo’s site, you’ll see what Unik is doing to help his country rebuild.

    The day of the show was like a dream. I got there really early to get ready to host the red carpet, which was being filmed for the Chris Rock documentary film on The Comic Strip, and where I interviewed Richie Tienken, owner of The Strip, Sherrod Small from VH1, Jordan Rock, Josaine from Bridezillas, Kendra from The Bad Girls Club, and my boy Macio, who is such a fabulous performer, and who came out to support with his gorgeous wife Gina. Richie used to manage Tony Rock back in the day.

    Richie Tienken, Wil Sylvince, me, Kevin Hart backstage at Westbury.

    By the time I got to my seat, Wil Sylvince was already on stage, and he killed it. The audience went crazy for him. Wil is hysterical but some of his material made me glad I wasn’t sitting with my daughters Liz and Katti who were sitting in Section G, thinking that they were glad they weren’t sitting next to me.

    At the end of the show when they called me and Jean up on stage, I gave a shout out to my daughters, “ the two white girls in Section G.” Someone thought I said, “the two Black girls in Section G” which would have been even funnier.

    Tony Rock was incredible. He makes it look so easy, cause he’s so relaxed out there, and he too absolutely killed with his material.

    Then there was a brief intermission before Kevin took the stage, and it amazed me how calm and relaxed he was standing at the entrance to the stage waiting to go on. That’s the sign of a true performer, and when he went out there he showed why he sells out every show he does.

    A self-admitted rare smiling photo of Nate Smith with Kevin Hart backstage, about two minutes before he was announced to perform.

    Kevin has about 250,000 followers on Twitter and he’s on it so much, I’m surprised he wasn’t Tweeting while he was on stage. I find Kevin to be more of a story teller than an out and out joke teller. Story telling is kind of a lost art, and he does it like a true artiste! ( I added the “e” purposely, for dramatic effect!)

    He is so gracious to his fans. When we were making the rounds of the radio stations Kevin was mobbed by a crowd of about 30 kids in the street and he posed for photos with all of them, signed books and shirts and was very gracious with his time.

    He’s a man who enjoys his well-deserved success, and I was proud to have produced his show.

    As a matter of fact, it kept me from attending the Writer’s Guild of America, East Awards where Alan Zweibel, the man who gave me my start as a comedy writer many years ago, was honored with the Ian McLellan Hunter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Writing.

    Alan Zweibel and I at the Friars Club Roast of Jerry Lewis in 1996.

    One of SNL’s original writers, which is when I met him, Alan went on to win multiple Emmy, Writers Guild, and TV Critic’s awards for his work in TV, including his work on It’s Gary Shandling’s Show, Monk, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He’s written films and books, including The Other Shulman for which he won the 2006 Thurber Prize. And I would have loved to have gone and covered the event, where my dear friend Susie Essman was the host, but what are the chances it would be on the exact same night as my Kevin Hart show? I guess the chances were excellent, because it was!

    Comic Strip News

    The book and the documentary film on The Strip keep rolling along. We did one of our first group interviews for the book, cause if we didn’t we’d have a thousand page book. In this group were Joe Bolster, Wayne Federman, Bill McCarty, D.F. Sweedler, and Ray Pasquin.

    Ray, who’s a comic impressionist, and was also one of the partners in the Ft. Lauderdale branch of The Strip, was actually one of the performers on the very first night that The Strip opened, June 1, 1976.

    D.F. Sweedler performed on the second night and never left. He’s still there most nights and has also been teaching the comedy course at The Strip for about 15 years.

    D.F. Sweedler, Wayne Federman, Bill McCarty, Richie Tienken, me, Ray Pasquin, and a glowing entity known by the Earth name of Joe Bolster.

    Bill McCarty still performs at The Strip as well, besides performing all around the country and doing voiceovers.

    Wayne Federman got there around 1981, and he writes for Jimmy Fallon and also opens for him when they tour together. Wayne took notes through the whole interview, as each person’s comments reminded him of another story he wanted to tell.

    I tried my best to have each comic go one at a time. It would be impossible to try and transcribe an interview of comics trying to shout over one another, which is inevitably what happens when comics begin reminiscing.

    Joe Bolster didn’t get to The Strip until 1979, and Chris Rock raved about him during his own interview, about how no one could kill like Joe Bolster on a Saturday night at The Strip.

    Every single comic has his own impression of Lucien Hold, the legendary manager of The Strip for 25 years, but so far Joe Bolster nailed it best as far as I’m concerned. He had examples of the kind of obscure references that Lucien would make very matter-of-factly in his every day speech. Things like “ Robert Lowell the poet from Massachusetts, invented iambic pentameter once”, or “ Copernicus, who I thought was a little bit fey, remarked that the planets were not aligned properly during the medieval era”.

    But it was his story about the time he missed a weekend spot and had to make up an excuse to Lucien that stood out for me. He had only been working there about two months and missing a weekend show was grounds for capital punishment.

    Joe had met a girl after his first show, took her back to some other comic’s apartment to have his way with her, and never made it back for the second show. As he entered the club later that night, he knew he had to come up with a spectacular excuse for Lucien who greeted him with, “ So Mr. Bolster, I couldn’t help noticing you were unavailable for your scheduled spot on show number two.”

    And Joe was like, “ Lucien, I’m so sorry but the most horrible thing happened. At the end of my first show I met this girl, and I took her back to Peter Bayles’ apartment and at the end she had an epileptic seizure.” And without missing a beat Lucien goes, “ Petit or Grand Mal?” ( The group of us fell down laughing, cause it was one of the best examples of Lucien that anyone had.)

    Rick Newman the founder of Catch A Rising Star is an icon in comedy and I had been looking forward to interviewing him for the book for a long time. He had opened Catch in 1973, and until The Strip opened in ’76, it was basically The Improv and Catch. The Strip changed that dynamic and I was looking forward to getting Rick’s take on the whole thing.

    Rick and Richie Tienken always got along well and actually helped each other out if they needed a comic to fill in cause they were only a few blocks apart. Richie admitted to Rick that Rick was his hero, and his inspiration for opening The Strip, and they hugged. It was a great moment to see these two comedy legends together.

    Rick is doing so many exciting new projects. He’s also on the Entertainment Committee of The Friars Club, and is Exec. Producer of the huge hit, Celebrity Autobiography, the show where celebs read from other celebs autobiographies. The show is currently at The Triad Theatre, but looks like it’s going national.

    Rick was also interviewed for the documentary, and stayed around to see Susie Essman who came in to be interviewed after him. That was a really fun day. Susie says I have more photos with her than she has with her husband Jimmy. I don’t feel right using old photos in this column, so I always try and get a new photo every time I see the person.

    Me, Rick Newman, Susie Essman, Richie Tienken, plus filmmakers Abby Russell, Brent-Sterling Nemetz at The Strip.

    Comedy Matters Quickies

    Fashion PR guru Kelly Cutrone invited me to her book signing at Barnes and Noble, for her book, “If You Have To Cry, Go Outside,” which is basically the fascinating story of her hard won rise to fame and success in the world of fashion PR.

    It was so great to see her cause it had been a while. Kelly and I go back to my early days in Manhattan, and I actually reminded her of the event I attended that really put her on the map. She did a show in an art gallery called “Love, Spit, Love,” which was basically naked couples in different amorous positions. The press she achieved for that was astronomical. I still remember the barricades they had out front because the crowds waiting to get in were so huge.

    People’s Revolution’s Kelly Cutrone and I reunited at Barnes and Noble.

    So when she saw me in the packed room she gave me a shout out on the mic. She also hooked me up with some of her shows during fashion week. Her Monday night show on Bravo, “Kell On Earth” is one of the best reality shows on the air, and I wish her much luck with it.

    I don’t know what it is with my friends from the 80’s and 90’s but they all wound up on TV. I wish it would happen to me! (LOL, … but not really!) LuAnn DeLesseps, also known as Countess LuAnn from the Real Housewives of NYC, and I partied hard back in the day, way before she became a real Countess. In those days she was just a Princess, named LuAnn Nadeau and she was a nurse, and a model.

    She had a magical transformation, wound up modeling in Europe, met a Count, got married and the rest is history, as they say in certain small towns in the Far East. To me she’s the highlight of the show, not just cause we’re such old friends but because I think she handles herself best, and has the least number of “cringe” moments on the show.

    Me and Countess LuAnn at La Pomme for the Housewives premiere.

    She wasn’t able to make the red carpet for the Kevin Hart show cause she was attending an event at the UN that night, but instead she invited me to the Housewives premiere party for the first episode of Season 3 at La Pomme. I went and it was definitely fun.
    ( Hey Lu, when am I gonna be on?)

    Sandy Hicks’ Rockers on Broadway, a benefit show which she produces with Donnie Kehr of Jersey Boys, (who founded Rockers in 1993), is always a spectacular event, and I never know who I’m going to run into there. This time it was Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling, Steven Van Zandt who was there in his music persona as Little Steven, and not as Silvio of The Sopranos, with his beautiful wife actress Maureen Van Zandt, and Vincent Pastore, who even if he was singing and dancing, would still remind you of “Big Pussy” of The Sopranos.

    “Rockers” brings rock stars together with Broadway stars to raise money for good causes, and this time it was a star-studded event for The Children of Haiti.

    Vinny ran an auction and made people offers they couldn’t refuse to bid on items. He raised lots of money. Who says “No” to Vinny Pastore?

    Constantine Maroulis, Stevie Van Zandt, and Donnie Kehr backstage at Rockers on Broadway.

    Among other stars that performed were Christian Hoff, 2006 Tony Award winner for Jersey Boys, J.Robert Spencer of the same show, Grammy Award winner Larry Gatlin, who’s always there for Rockers, Michael Lanning (The Civil War), Jeremy Schonfeld (Drift), Tony nominee for Rock of Ages, and American Idol star Constantine Maroulis, and an old, old friend, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Gene Cornish of The Rascals.

    Gotham Happenings

    As usual Gotham had a line-up that kept me busy this month. I went down to see Jeff Dye from Last Comic Standing who is not only very funny and works pretty clean, but is also a genuinely nice guy who was grateful when I told him I enjoyed his show.

    The very talented, and hard working Vanessa Hollingshead was the MC, and is one of the few women that can really control a crowd.

    Lenny Marcus and Jeff Caldwell after killing at Gotham.

    Jeff Caldwell was up next. Jeff is really so clever, and cracks me up with observations like “ People in the year 1516 were so wise. Many of them lived to be 30.” Or after commenting that eating at a restaurant named Ed’s Kountry Kitchen, spelled with a “K” might lead to “Kountry Kramps,” he went on to wonder about the excitement over anti-bacterial soap. “ I kinda thought that was part of our original contract with soap in the first place. What have I been using all these years?”

    Perennial crowd pleaser, (as opposed to one who only pleases part of the time!), Lenny Marcus complains that girls often say, “ I’m tired of meaningless sex.” Well, what do you want to do, dedicate it to somebody? O.K. Lenny, this one’s for the troops!” Hysterical.

    Me, and Jeff Dye at Gotham. The taller Jeffrey uses the shorter version of the name.

    Jeff Dye thinks that LA is weird and has a real double standard. “If a girl goes out and sleeps with a lot of guys she’s a slut. If a guy does that he’s homosexual.” And concerning gay marriage, Jeff is convinced that knowing the pitfalls of any kind of marriage, gay guys probably vote “No” themselves, when they’re alone in the voting booth. They’re still guys. I would love to Eric, but it’s against the law!”

    Aries Spears headlined a great show, MC’ed by Buddy Fitzpatrick. Eddie Brill who books Letterman was there to see Joe Wong do his 5 minute Letterman bit before he went on the show for his first time, and Joe killed with lines like, “ I was once the youngest baby in the world.”

    Me and and Aries Spears throwing down the comedy version of gang signs backstage at Gotham!

    Aries said that Black people didn’t have to worry about getting Anthrax, “cause we don’t open our mail anyway. You wanna give Black people Anthrax, put the powder in a Jay-Z CD.” Great line!

    Comedy Covers

    The great Jim Breuer did an interesting show. In music, certain bands do “covers”, meaning they sing another band’s song. Jim did a show called “Comedy Covers” where comics do another comic’s material. It’s a great idea and very funny.

    Several of the comics didn’t do themselves doing the comic they covered, they did impressions of someone ELSE doing the comic they covered.

    Me, Jim Breuer, and Mike Bochetti downstairs at Gotham.

    Vinnie Brand was great doing Gilbert Gottfried doing Mitch Hedburg with lines like “ A lollypop is a cross between hard candy and garbage.” And “ If you’re a fish and want to be a fish stick, you have to have very good posture.” And finally, “ My fake plant died because I didn’t pretend to water it.”

    Bib DiBuono did a great Rich Vos including the backwards hat, and chided the audience with, “ You want poetry, go to Soho!”

    Mike Bochetti who I love despite the fact that he forgot he had booked me on The Testosterone Show, did a spot, but I don’t recall who he covered. Even the hilarious Jim Gaffigan came in and did a set including Jack Nicholson doing a Gary Shandling joke.

    Bob DiBuono and Vinnie Brand at Jim Breuer’s show at Gotham.

    Joey Kola killed with his impression of Joe Pesci making cornbread, which was so good that Jim Breuer, who also does a great Pesci, joined him on stage for “Dueling Pesci’s” doing the legendary Abbot and Costello bit, “ Who’s On First.” It was a fantastic show.

    I’ll end on what has become one of my favorite shows to attend. Once a month Anthony Anderson and Royale Watkins, who call themselves The Good-Time Brothers, do their Mixtape Show and each one is better than the last.

    Anthony is a great host, and a real gentleman, and has surrounded himself with what seems to be a crack team of people. (And I don’t mean that they’re on crack!)

    Dean Edwards is always really funny, but he also does GREAT impressions, and imitates accents which are real crowd-pleasers.

    Joey Gay talked about how in the ghetto KFC doesn’t stand for Kentucky Fried Chicken. It stands for Kennedy Fried Chicken, cause you can get assassinated there.

    It was the first time for me seeing Pat Brown, who was a big hit with the crowd, and then Dwayne Perkins came on and killed with lines like when his gf asks him, “ When are you gonna do the dishes?” Dwayne: “ I’m not sure. First I’m gonna watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and then read The Old Testament.”

    He also had a great money saving tip. Send someone a letter for free by putting their name and address in the return area, and your own name in the “To” area, so when it gets “returned” for insufficient postage, it gets where you wanted it to go in the first place! Ingenious.

    Anthony Anderson, Tichina Arnold, and Royale Watkins at Gotham’s Mixtape Show.

    Lots of celebs just show up, like Tichina Arnold, known best from the sit-coms Martin and Everybody Loves Chris. I didn’t recognize her at first with her long sexy hair, when she came over and complimented me on MY hair. I love a woman with good taste!

    The musical guests were writer/performers Full Force who looked like two bodybuilders, (one with the great name “Bowlegged Lou”), who were such good dancers you’d have thought they were small and thin. The show just totally rocks!

    Next month, Sat. April 24th, get ready for Darcy Novick’s 8th annual Long Island Comedy Festival at Westbury starring Bob Nelson, Richie Minervini, Angel Salazar and Scott Record. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Comedy Cures.

    Anyway, until next time, remember, … 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 Jeffrey@jeffreygurian.com.

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