Ari Shaffir Talks World Travel, Adele Givens Headlines in NYC and a Boiler Room Makes Room for Comedy
Jeffrey Gurian is a writer and comedian in New York who loves to Jump Around. Follow his regular column right here, to find out what’s happening in comedy, and who Jeffrey Gurian ran into this week in and around New York. This week Jeffrey hit up Carolines, Gotham Comedy Club, and New York Comedy Club.
I was very familiar with The Kings of Comedy, being D.L. Hughley, Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey and Cedric The Entertainer but I was not as familiar with The Queens of Comedy which were Mo’Nique, Adele Givens, Sommore and Laura Hayes, so when I heard that Adele Givenswas making a rare appearance at Gotham Comedy Club I made it my business to be there to see her. Whereas some comics have several openers, Adele only likes one person going on before her, and this night it was a comic I hadn’t seen before. His name is Timmy Tim. What I noticed first about him was his resonant voice. After the show when I got to speak to him I found out why he’s got that great voice. He’s also a radio guy, originally from Columbus, South Carolina, where he spends every weekday from 2-7 P.M. on I Heart Radio, 105.5. He said that Adele saw him perform in a comedy club, and told the manager of the club that if he didn’t so something with Timmy she would and the rest is history. He’s been traveling with her ever since. It was his first time in New York and he was loving it.
When Adele took the stage she was escorted on stage like a Queen, by two men, one of whom was Timmy. She brought really high energy to her performance and you could tell she was having a blast being on stage in New York to a packed crowd of fans. I like the way she used the words “old-school” to reference being older, like she would say, “ When we get to be old-school”, and performance-wise she mixed material with story telling. Interestingly enough she did a lot of material on dentistry and wearing partial dentures. I knew exactly what she was talking about. Not because I have them, … because I once MADE them! She also said very creatively that your tongue is your mouth’s security guard, always checking for something that don’t belong there. Very oral oriented performance! It was a great show.
I watched it with Jon Fisch who joined me at my table and told me about his new podcast called “Spiralling Up” in which he talks to people about life struggles and getting out of ruts. I bet he’ll have no trouble getting guests. Especially from the comedy world!
I had a great convo with Ari Shaffir after dropping by The Stand late one night. Aaron Berg was outside in the street smoking a cigar in between hosting the show, and we chatted about how little sleep one gets when having a baby, and then I went inside to catch Ari’s set. It’s always so different. Afterwards we sat together upstairs in the restaurant area, and he told me he’s planning an Australian tour in April after which he may go to Singapore and Shanghai, and then maybe Japan or New Zealand just backpacking around. That is amazing to me. He’s done this before where he just disappears for a couple of months and takes only what will fit into a backpack. I’m in awe of anyone who can do that because as a person who rivals Elizabeth Taylor in terms of how much luggage I take when I travel, I’d probably try and pack a shower with me, because roughing it is not my thing. On his last trip to Southeast Asia, he told me he took only one pair of shoes, and two pairs of black jeans. And he said there are comedy rooms, not clubs, but rooms in every country. He doesn’t perform unless he’s on tour because if he hasn’t been on stage for a while he doesn’t want to risk having a set he’s not happy with and having to carry that thought with him for the rest of his trip. Instead he carries the memories of the strong sets he had before he left on his trip and that suffices for him.
If he winds up doing a European tour it won’t be until next November or December, after which he’ll visit his brother in Zurich and maybe go to Israel where he hasn’t been in many years. I asked him if he’s developing anything and he said he’s really happy just working on his stand-up. So I asked him when he got into story telling and if that was his thing from the beginning. He said he used to do regular material but started telling stories at the side room of The Improv in LA where he’d book shows with his production partner Eric. The room held about 40 people so when he booked a show with all killer acts like Eddie Ifft, Jim Jefferies, Bert Kreischer, Jackie Kashian and Bill Burr the owner actually complained that it was too much talent for such a small room and from that night on they moved him to the main room, and story-telling just stuck. One of the most interesting things I think he said to me was kind of advice to comics in general and that was to work on your weakness, not your strength. Most people tend to shy away from things they don’t like, so this to me was a very novel approach. And one I will try and use!
Stavros Halkias dropped by with his newly shaven head to do a set and told me about his show Cum Town which he does with his buddies Nick Mullen and Adam Friedland, and which he described as “three friends shitting on each other” as only true friends can do! But instead of doing it from Nick or Adam’s apartment as they usually do, they’ll be doing it live at Caroline’s this Thursday night. And he said he’s always grateful to Robert Kelly, for whom he often opens, for all the help with his career.
I was sticking around to catch Ari’s late show set and saw Abby Rosenquist who was hosting the show. It’s a big deal to host at The Stand and she said she gets to do it quite a bit. She’s originally from San Antonio and has only been in New York for about a year and a half. She originally started performing in Nebraska and I forgot to ask her why, and then performed in Austin before coming here. She’ll be making her debut at Helium in Philly very soon.
And then Subhah Agarwal came in and gave me the news that she’s moving back to LA to write on the upcoming season of the Jim Jefferies show. I asked her how it came about and she said she sent in a packet and then had a Skype interview and they hired her! Just like that! So cool!
I always say that comics would perform in the men’s room of a gas station if there was a show there but I should have included the boiler room of a building because that’s exactly where I wound up on Saturday night. A comic named John Hammond who does funny videos with his roommate Kevin Venturino produced a show out in Williamsburg in the basement of his building and as you can see from the photo they were next to the boiler or whatever that big thing is in basements of buildings. And you had to get there by walking down a dark alley so narrow I had to use a flashlight and close my umbrella to do it. Beards were plentful and the room was packed with millennials ready to have a good time. And the comics brought it. It was interesting to me because I had never seen any of them before and one that stood out was, and I say this with all due respect, a maniac named Nick Naney who veered from topics like hating his parents, a bucket of cum, and screaming into a girl’s pussy, … and he did a lot of screaming in general. Screaming on a Sam Kinison level, … and he made it work. Which is not easy. Very unique premises and very funny stuff. The scary thing is the transition came naturally to him. One minute he was calm and the next a maniac!
And then he was followed by two other comics whose names I won’t mention because it might sound like I was thowing shade on them which I’m not. It was just that they too screamed and it made me wonder if screaming was the new thing in Williamsburg comedy or if they were just all friends trying to be like the other one. It’s hard to have three screaming guys on one show even if they’re all funny. And they were, but there should be a limit to one screamer per show or else it looks contrived.
And then who straggled in from out in the rain but Eagle Witt who closed the show with a very long and funny set. He talks about not liking white liberals who are more offended for black people than black people themselves, and having to fight his way to the front of a Black Lives Matter rally through a whole bunch of white people. At one point he asked if there was a light, so he’d know when to end his set, and the hosts had to admit they forgot to get one as it was their first show. They told him to just go as long as he wanted to. He did almost an hour till they realized they could just light him with a cell phone, and didn’t need an electrician! And then he was “lit”, … in more ways than one! ( And that’s very clever! LOL) Anyway John and Kevin did a masterful job of hooking up the whole thing, and co-hosting the evening, and they plan on doing it monthly, as long as the boiler doesn’t need repairs!
At Roast Battle this week Lucas Connelly was one of the openers before the Battle started and talked about being raised by two lesbian moms who got divorced and re-married leaving him with four moms. Very unique background and perfect for comedy. Then Andrew Schulz came up and did his thing and I almost didn’t recognize him without some sort of basball cap. It was a weird night of Roast Battling and the first two Battles did not go well for either the audience, the Roast Battlers, or the judges, which this week were Mike Cannon, Yamaneika Saunders, and Kate Wolf who told me she found it difficult to be mean enough in her judgments and said so openly to the audience.
The evening was saved by the battle between Matt Maran from Comedy Fight Club, who always wears the same outfit of a backwards baseball cap and a sleeveless vest and Chrissie Mayr, who always wears something that no one else wears to do comedy. And she wears it well. It’s her look. She did a very clever remark about Matt’s ever-present sleeveless condition, something about Matt and the second amendment givng him the right to bare arms, and when he referred to her as “Jessica Rabbit’s-teeth” Yamaneika screamed so loud and for so long, I thought she was gonna spit out her liver.They gave the battle to Chrissie. At the end of Roast Battle they have a comic come up to close the show. It’s a difficult spot. By that time the audience is antsy and they have their checks and are getting ready to leave. Brendan Sagalow did it for a long time and I watched him improve as a comic. He went up there every time and learned to work the audience. It’s a craft. He has now passed the baton to Eagle Witt, who comes out with his prodigious growth of hair piled high on his head and does some very insightful racial stuff .
Michelle Slonim is not only a comic but also produces shows and she produced a great one at The Friars Club this week. Always fun at The Friars. It’s not easy to produce a show especially when you’re pregnant and she is. She opened the show and brought up a very diverse line-up consisting of the high energy Andrew Lee, Mark Jigarjian who opens for The Impractical Jokers, Bobby Sheehan, Greg Aidala who closed with a great Pacino impression, the always unpredictable, and currently bearded Tyler Fischer and in a big surprise to me, the comic that got Michelle pregnant, her husband the Russian-born Ben Rosenfeld. I had no idea they even knew each other let alone were married. I’m sure the baby will have a great sense of humor. And then Michelle Balan longtime Friar came up and graciously did a guest spot at the end. It was nice to see The Friars Club so crowded with comedy fans.
And before I leave I have to send good wishes to another John, my pal John Mulaney who’ll be appearing at Radio City Music Hall this coming weekend into Monday with his show Kid Gorgeous, … and he is!
And with that, I’m OUT!!!
Jeffrey Gurian is a comedian, writer and all around bon vivant in New York City. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, Comedy Matters TV.