Brad Williams in NYC, Cipha Sounds Hip Hop Improv, Women of a Certain Age and More
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 Gotham Comedy Club, West Side Comedy Club, New York Comedy Club, The Comic Strip and more.
Brad Williams was in town to headline Gotham Comedy Club and Brad is a power of example of how to lead your life overcoming what some people consider to be obstacles. When I saw him last in Vegas last year he was with his fiancee Jasmine Gong who he has since married. I’m guessing that Adam Ray had to get a new roommate! (Inside joke!) Jasmine is a tall, beautiful half-Asian woman, and her affection for Brad is obvious. When I got to the show MC Larry Beyah was on the stage warming up the audience as only he can do. Talk about energy! He has the energy of a tornado and a hurricane combined. And he has the best time up there. I went into the little alleyway behind the showroom to take some photos and ran into Brad and Jasmine just hanging out watching the show.
Brad came out to HUGE applause. The people love him, and right away he remarks about how anyone who didn’t know who he was would be shocked to see “a midget” run out on stage, HE LIKES TO USE THE UN-PC WORD “MIDGET.” He says he doesn’t even need material because there’s nothing funnier than a midget. And he goes on like that and the audience is falling out of their seats laughing. What confidence you need to expose yourself that way. He tells the story of meeting Jasmine’s parents for the first time and just before she rings their bell she tells him she never told them that he was a dwarf. I got nervous just hearing that. He said he told her, that’s the kind of thing you have to prepare people for. It was a non-stop hour of laughs during which he enlightened people to the fact that “dwarves make everything better.” He ended with a great story about how his wife, who has three different back belts in martial arts, and was actually ranked #2 in the nation in Tae Kwon Do, took care of some jerk that was bothering them in a bar one night, and it was such a great way to end the show, and a wonderful way to handle a jerk. Brad closed by telling the audience he’d meet them outside for a greeting and a photo, and he admonished them to not try and pick him up. I wish I could have stayed for the second show as I could watch Brad all night. His is a true story of empowerment, and I so respect that. I wish them a long, happy marriage.
UCBEast is always fun but especially on Tuesday nights at 10:30 when Cipha Sounds brings his amazingly talented troupe called A Tribe Called Yes to the stage to put on a comedy hip-hop improv show. As a major fan of hip-hop, although my knowledge is literally nothing compared to Ciph and the people on stage, I really enjoy watching this show. I like the music but I can’t always attach the songs I like to the artists. I just like the music and the beats. Ciph, who holds the distinction of being the first comic to be signed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, starts the show by asking the crowd if anyone had a genuine experience with any hip-hop star. When he gets someone who fits the bill they come up on stage to be interviewed. The crew is standing and listening, making mental notes of the answers so they can use them in an improv scene, which is what they do when the interview is done. It’s amazing. The second half of the show Ciph asks the audience for a favorite hip-hop lyric and they use that as their suggestion for another improv scene.
The talent is truly amazing and one of the cast is Casey Jost who shares DNA with his brother Colin. Casey is a buddy so after the show I went backstage, (if you can call it that), it’s really side-stage, to hang with Ciph and Casey and get some facts. Casey told me that Colin too is a big hip-hop head and that they used to drive through Staten Island screaming Wu-Tang lyrics from their car. I forgot to ask him if they are actually from Staten Island or if they just chose that as a location to scream out Wu-Tang lyrics. Either way, it’s a great visual! He also told a cool story about how Colin was once saved from drowning while surfing by none other than singer Jimmy Buffett! Real story! So Casey created a half hour pilot which is loosely based on a live show called Audio Visual, which he does with his wife Lisa Kleinman, who does both sketch and stand-up and they co-host it once a month at UCBEast. He’s in the process of pitching it to networks and it sounded amazing because I always love mixing stand-up with multi-media, showing video and slides and powerpoint style elements. The next one is on April 30th and I will be there. Btw, Cipha also does impressions which I don’t recall him doing and he did a great one of Tracy Morgan during one of the improv scenes.
I was glad to run into Melissa Diaz because I didn’t get a chance to congratulate her for being in the Final Four of Caroline’s March Madness last week. She’s being featured in Carolines Breakout Artist Series, which is a monthly series featuring NYC’s up-and-comers doing a full hour of stand up. It’s the third week in April, and a portion of the proceeds will go to support New York Women in Film and Television, an organization that provides educational and community support to young women in filmmaking. She said the show is the culmination of 4 years of hard work, and that she feels “most at home at Carolines so it’s an honor to be selected to be showcased and given a chance to spread my wings and find my voice as a performer.” Chris James will be hosting, and Rachel Jones and Gene Getman will be opening for her, “all close friends who I share a close and mutually supportive connection with since I started doing comedy. I didn’t want to have this opportunity and not give back somehow, and that’s when I thought of the New York-based not-for-profit, New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT).” I asked her about her connection to NYWIFT and she said it was the first organization she contacted for work, and they hired her as a video editor when she was trying to find her niche in the entertainment industry. She said that organization is always willing to give young adults a chance to make something of themselves and have accomplished so much for women in entertainment and film. She went on to say “I’ve worked with a variety of not for profits throughout my adult life so far, and very few offer as much support to women, especially women of color, and of diverse ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this was the charity I wanted to work with for this show.” As far as her material goes she said she’ll be delving into “some very personal and dark topics about my past, like my childhood growing up in the Bronx and my father’s death when I was 16 as a victim of the flight 587 crash of November 12th, 2001 in Queens Harbor, one month after 9/11. My hope is that this show can be emotional, cathartic, funny, and memorable for all those who attend.”
I got to Roast Battle in time to see Ray Gootz go up against Mike Keegan, and as usual the judges were the best part of all of the roasts. I don’t know if Mike Cannon prepares his remarks and I should ask him one day, but he comes out with the most amazing, and cutting remarks telling both of these guys they look like they’re at different points in their transition. He went on to tell Ray Gootz that he looked like the last Blockbuster employee. I laughed so hard I don’t remember who won!
Cat Zini vs. Chris Crespo was billed as the main card, and Cat came out with a killer line saying that Chris almost didn’t make it to the show that night. He got trapped in a room filled with doorknobs. You have to know that Chris has no hands in order to get that joke and I must say that Chris Crespo is not only very funny, but whether he wants to be or not, he’s an inspiration to anyone who feels they are facing obstacles in their lives. Chris is living proof that you can rise above whatever you’re given and use it to your advantage. Chris came back with “ Catherine’s Mom is like my sense of touch, … dead!” Screams from the audience. Cat came back with, “Looking at Chris always reminds me to take my birth control!” More screams. Cannon told Chris he looked like a 4th grader made him out of clay. Besides Cannon, judges were Mehran Khagani, who may have been one of the most physical judges I’ve seen leaving his chair several times to act out what he was screaming, (#Hilarious) and Yamaneika who never needs a mic and always gives the best reasons for why she voted for whomever she voted for.
I ran into Tamer Kattan at West Side Comedy Club and he has such an interesting background and story. He’s the proud owner of a Muslim Dad and Jewish Mom, and theoretically, that would be all he needs for a comedy career. He began performing in Los Angeles and New York, but very quickly began to tour internationally. Including a couple of Armed Forces Entertainment trips to perform for the troops in Afghanistan, as well as performing at the American University in Cairo (during the Egyptian revolution) and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, where he says he received three 4 star reviews from international press. He even lived in London for a year, won the 2015 World Series of Comedy and also won his episode of Comedy Knockout on truTV in 2017. He’s got a lot of TV credits in both Europe and the US. He has a comedy album out now called Brown Sheep that is now on SiriusXM Raw Dog, Spotify, iTunes and everywhere else that streams comedy. I asked him if he had any funny stories about being in Afghanistan with the troops. This is what he told me, “I was performing at Manas Air Base in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, en route to Afghanistan. The place has a really unique energy because one large group of soldiers are being trained before going “downrange” (to war) and the other group of soldiers there are preparing to return home. So there was this yin-yang of nervous and happy energy. Not the easiest room to perform in. Our first day going downrange into Afghanistan, there was this nice sized group of soldiers excited to see myself and a few other comics perform. I was third up. The show was going well, but in the middle of my set, I hear gunfire and I just freeze. In the silence more gunfire is heard and everyone starts to laugh at my reaction which was to freeze. I scream out, what are you guys laughing at? Is that gunfire ok? They laugh even harder at my panic (and I’m now failing to make it look like it’s a part of my act). A soldier yells out “it’s ok sir! That gunfire is several klicks away!” Whew! Thank god…relief….I pause again and say, “What the fuck is a klick?” The group of soldiers erupted in huge laughter. Partially at my cowardice and partly because we’re not supposed to cuss. I’ve never felt like less of a man and more of a comic in my entire career. The yin/yang of war brought out the yin/yang of me.”
Carole Montgomeryhas a residency for her show “Women of a Certain Age” at the Kraine Theatre on East 4th Street right about Eastville Comedy Club, which will be receiving some major changes soon. More on that to come. I sat with Dave Goldberg from Killer Bunny Entertainment who produced 126 episodes of Gotham Comedy Live. He’s currently pitching Carole’s show for TV. It was very funny. Carole hosts and of course opens the show with material emphasizing what women of “a certain age” go through, and then she brought out Janeane Garofalo, who carried a backpack from which she took a plastic baggy filled with her comedy material. It was on scraps of paper and she placed them on a stool. I have to say that I think a theatre is a perfect place for Janeane to perform because she absolutely crushed even after apologizing for not being a good joke writer which she usually does and she does it very sincerely. But an intimate venue is good for her because of the way she interacts with the audience. She was so on point, and she delivers her material in a halting kind of a way that makes you feel like she’s making it up on the spot. I can only describe her outfit as very sexy with leggings and a shirt that looked like she slit it up the sides to make a short skirt out of it. She left as soon as she was done to go do another gig. Next up was Lori Sommer who took time off from co-managing the new West Side Comedy Club to come and give her point of view on what women of “a certain age” have to go through. Also a wonderful performance as usual and then Shalewa Sharp came out to close and added a whole different flavor to the show. It was a packed house and everyone really enjoyed the show. I’d like to see it again.
I stopped off at The Comic Strip to catch the late show and ran into author Tripp Whetsell who just did the book with Budd Friedman on the history of The Improv, which Budd opened back in 1963, and he was sitting with the great Steve Mittleman, who’s been out in LA since 1985, but lived in NY and worked The Strip in his early days. He also was in Steve Martin’s Roxanne and Woody Allen’s Radio Days and did all the major clubs including The Cellar and all the major late night shows including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.He was in town to do a private gig and it was great to see him again after all these years.
NBC producer Mike Schultz dropped by the Comedy Matters TV office to discuss my relationship with the late Phil Hartman because he’s producing a doc on Phil. Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since his passing. I had the pleasure of writing for Phil and we were good friends. I had some special photos of Phil in my house to share with Mike, and a photo he signed to me with complimentary things he said about my writing. I also had some fun stories. I was actually supposed to see Phil on that very fateful weekend, and when the terrible news came out on TV my mother was in a panic because I had told her I was going to see Phil that weekend, and the initial report was that two men were found lifeless in Phil’s home. Her early morning phone call to me from NY was what alerted me to what had happened. I don’t remember why I wound up not going that weekend, but I thought about it for many days after.
Abby Feldman likes to combine giving advice with being in the bath, so she created a show called Moist which she does live every Monday night on Facebook, directly from her bathtub, and now once a month at The Creek and the Cave. The Creek show is no longer from a bathtub, because it was too cumbersome to get on stage. Then she said they tried a wading pool, and now she just gives advice fully clothed, with stand-up comics in between. I went out there to check it out. It’s a fun show. She passes out little slips of paper to the audience for them to write down things that make them uncomfortable. That is the theme of the show.
The slips go into a bucket and she picks from the bucket and gives humorous advice to people to help them handle whatever it is that makes them uncomfortable. Comics on the show were Farah Brook, who said her job thinks her name is Sarah Brooks, Gabe Pacheco who described himself as a tall Mexican, Karmen Naidoo from South Africa who pointed out her big booty and credited it to her Zulu background, Jessica Michelle who’s entire set was about guys she had sex with, and Gianmarco Soresi who seems to be on every show lately and who made me laugh when he talked about the fact that he kisses his Dad and his gf asked him if he kisses him in public and he said it would be weird if he only kissed him in private. That made me laugh out loud!
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. Pictured, Jeffrey with Brad Williams and with Casey Jost and Cipha Sounds.