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The Making of “Make ‘Em Laugh”- 35 Years of The Comic Strip

Friday, May 1st, 2015

On June 15, 2008, I was at The Comic Strip with Ann Curry, and Gilbert Gottfried and we were giving Ann tips on how to do stand-up comedy for some kind of event she was preparing for. And despite the fact that I had been there for so many years, and had seen the walls before, I found myself transfixed by all the amazing memorabilia that I noticed that day.

Jeffrey Gurian, Ann Curry, Gilbert Gottfried, and Richie Tienken on the day that Jeffrey suggested doing a book on the iconic Comic Strip!

So I said to Richie Tienken, owner and founder of the club, “You know we should do a book on this club!”

I didn’t know that other people had suggested that to him before but for some reason he wound up not doing it with them. He came to my home for a meeting and ended by saying “You have more photos on your walls than I have at the club”, and he decided to trust me with telling his story, and the stories of all the huge stars that came out of the club.

Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken in the lobby of Jeffrey’s building after their meeting to agree on doing the book!

The club officially opened on June 1, 1976 with Billy Crystal as the opening act. On JUne 17th a young, and unknown Jerry Seinfeld walked in to audition. In those days people were graded on their auditions. Jerry was graded “Good”, and then someone wrote on his sheet, “Definitely put on Mon. 6/21!” Whoever that person was had a good eye for comedy! Jerry stayed at The Strip for four years until he left for LA in 1980. It was his home club.

Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld, and Richie Tienken on the day of Jerry’s interview for the book!

In the book Jerry said he felt like he was born in 1976, because that’s when he began working at The Strip and that felt like the start of his life!

Eddie Murphy spent his early years at the club, and Richie Tienken was his manager for the years when Eddie was the biggest star in the world. That period of time spanned his days on SNL through Beverly Hills Cop 2.

The one night in 1986 Eddie came into The Strip and asked to see a Black comic. The only one around was a 19 year old Chris Rock who was setting up chairs in exchange for stage time, and had only performed for very small audiences at 2 or 3 A.M. Not wanting to disappoint Eddie, they put Chris up in front of a packed house on a Friday night, and Chris killed it in front of his idol.

Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian at The Strip on the day we did Chris’ interview for the book!

That was the start of Chris’s rise to stardom. He hasn’t lost his gratitude for all that Richie did for him and wrote a fantastic, and funny introduction to the book.

He also came into the club and gave Richie and I a really super interview. Most of the big stars came into the club for their interviews because Richie and I felt that being surrounded by those four walls would bring back memories, and we were right.

Alan Colmes who many people don’t even know started his career as a stand-up comic came in wearing his 30 year old Comic Strip jacket that looked as if it was brand new.

Jeffrey Gurian with Alan Colmes wearing his original 30 year old Comic Strip jacket, which looked brand new!

In the middle of Paul Reiser’s interview he suddenly recalled what started the annual New Years Day brunch attended every Jan. 1, by himself, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry Miller and Mark Schiff. There had even been a fifth member of the group, a friend named Michael Cain but he passed away very young.

Gilbert Gottfried and Lisa Lampanelli got interviewed outside the club, and Jeffrey Ross got interviewed inside the club with a dual book/documentary film video interview at the same time. That experience taught us never to do that again! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian, Gilbert Gottfried and Richie Tienken at lunch at Pastis where GIlbert spent most of his interview denying he had ever been at The Comic Strip. He did say they had good electricity though!

Lisa Lampanelli and Jeffrey Gurian,(hidden behind the book! LOL) backstage at Westbury for Lisa’s recent sold-out performance

And then I flew out to LA to get an in office interview with Billy Crystal the first comic to hit the stage on opening night, back in 1976.

Other comics interviewed were Ray Romano, Susie Essman, Jim Gaffigan, Judah Friedlander, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Rick Overton, who has also gone on to have a very successful acting/film career, Jim Breuer, Tony Rock, Adam Ferrara, plus newer stars who frequent the club like Colin Jost and Jay Pharaoah from SNL.

Thanks to our agent J.L. Stermer from N.S. Bienstock, we got a deal with Skyhorse Publishing and the book is 250 pages down from the 500 I started out with. It took three years to get all of the interviews done and transcribed, because I did it myself by hand just by playing the interviews over and over again, and the fourth year was about editing and getting it down from 500 pages to the 250 that was needed. It was often a grueling process, but always a labor of love!

Since it came out, it’s gotten great reviews, tons of press, and lots of celeb attention as you can tell from the following photos.

The post The Making of "Make ‘Em Laugh"- 35 Years of The Comic Strip appeared first on Jeffrey Gurian.

“Make ‘Em Laugh” With An Intro By Chris Rock

Friday, November 30th, 2012

After four years of work, my book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Richie Tienken, owner/founder of the legendary comedy club The Comic Strip finally came out, and is in bookstores all across the country.

The front cover of "Make 'Em Laugh" with an intro. by Chris Rock, and interviews with Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Billy Crystal, Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, Susie Essman and tons more!

It’s about the 35 year history of the club which Richie opened on June 1, 1976, and which is still going strong. I got the idea for it back in 2008 while at the club one afternoon with Ann Curry and Gilbert Gottfried, coaching Ann on how to do stand-up comedy for some event she was doing, and I suggested to Richie that we do a book on the club.

(L-R) Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, Ann Curry, PR guru Ryan McCormick, Gilbert Gottfried, and Richie Tienken, owner/founder of The Strip!

It took three years to get all the interviews and transcribe them from the digital audio recordings, because I did it all by myself. Every word. Every single word. It takes a long time to listen to an hour long conversation, which most of them were, if not longer, and transcribe every single word, by constantly pressing “Repeat” and playing each sentence over and over again to make sure you got it correctly.

That first summer, I went up to the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal and got the first three interviews with Larry Miller, George Wallace and Paul Provenza.

Larry Miller with Jeffrey Gurian at The Comic Strip!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage with George Wallace at Just for Laughs in Montreal, the biggest comedy festival in the world!

At the end besides having a killer, hilarious introduction from Chris Rock, I had interviews with Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Ray Romano, Paul Reiser, Gilbert Gottfried, Susie Essman, Colin Quinn, Paul Provenza, Jim Gaffigan, Lewis Black, Judah Friedlander, Lisa Lampanelli and many more! A book filled with stories from comedy legends on how they got their start and wound up at The Comic Strip.

Jeffrey Gurian, Jerry Seinfeld and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip after Jerry's interview for the book!

Richie Tienken, Ray Romano, and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at The Comic Strip after Ray's interview for the book " Make 'Em Laugh!"

Although Gilbert Gottfried claimed he had never actually been there and just showed up to the interview for a free lunch! He did admit to having heard rumours around 1974 that a club would be opening so he stood in that spot for years waiting for it to open, and he heard it did eventually open and had electricity. He also heard that many comics came there for dessert, at which point he started yelling out to no one in particular that he wanted a Peach Melba!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, Gilbert Gottfried, and Richie Tienken trying to get Gilbert to admit he had ever performed at The Comic Strip!

This was as Richie Tienken was getting nauseous after having paid $50. to park, and was picking up the tab for lunch, to hear Gilbert say he had never been to the club. Needless to say, the interview was pure Gilbert, and hysterically funny.

I flew to LA to interview Billy Crystal, and that was really a treat. I hadn’t seen him in many years, and we got to reminisce about the days when I was a dentist and his manager at the time, the legendary Jack Rollins, who also managed Woody Allen and Robin Williams, wanted him to play me in a sit-com about a dentist in show biz.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Billy Crystal in his offices in Beverly Hills! Billy is pointing to his teeth referencing Jeffrey's former life as a dentist!

Most of the interviews were done at The Comic Strip because Richie and I felt it would be advantageous for the comics to be in that environment because it would help to bring back memories and it did.

We got to hear great stories like how Chris Rock was discovered by Eddie Murphy in 1986 when Eddie was considered the biggest star in the world and was being managed by Richie at the time. Or how Ray Romano started his career under the name “Jackie Roberts” for the first two or three months.

Then he “bombed” one night and experienced stage fright, so he quit and went back to selling futons for his best friend, which became an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond!” Two years later he returned to comedy at The Comic Strip under the name Ray Romano and the rest is history!

Richie Tienken, Chris Rock, and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV at The Comic Strip after Chris' interview for the book " Make 'Em Laugh!"

Interestingly enough, he even delivered a futon to Larry David who was already well known and true to character, was not happy with the futon, and made Ray take it back.

We have Jerry Seinfeld’s first sign-up sheet on the night he auditioned to perform at The Strip on June 17th, 1976. In those days you were rated, and Jerry was rated “Good” and then someone wrote, ” Definitely put on Monday, 6/21.” That person was smart!

And blurbs! You wanna see blurbs? I got so many celeb blurbs they almost had to use a separate page. I got blurbs from Judd Apatow the king of Hollywood comedies, Richard Lewis, Charles Grodin, Nick Kroll, (whose new “Kroll Show” comes out on Comedy Central in January with me on it!), Bob Saget, (who was kind enough to write: “No matter how many years pass, I can never say no to Jeff Gurian. Hence this quote on his book’s back cover!”) Plus Tom Papa, Danny Aiello, Mike Birbiglia, DJ Cassidy and more!

Back cover of "Make 'Em Laugh" with blurbs from Judd Apatow, Richard Lewis, Tom Papa. Nick Kroll, Mike Birbiglia, Bob Saget and more!!!

Since the book came out we’ve been getting a lot of attention. Tons of press. A great review from Larry Getlen in the NY Post, an interview on NBC TV, Channel 4, 7 P.M. news with Roseanne Coletti, an interview with WPIX TV, Channel 11 with reporter Dan Mannarino, which will be airing the week of Dec. 10th, radio interviews with Judith Regan, and Ron Bennington of “Ron and Fez” on Sirius Radio, plus radio shows all over the country.

And the book is in the hands of lots of huge comedy stars like Chris Tucker, JB Smoove, Artie Lange, Colin Quinn, and Judah Friedlander to name a few!

Chris Tucker and Jeffrey Gurian up at Sirius Radio with Chris' copy of the book " Make 'Em Laugh"!

Jeffrey Gurian with Artie Lange at The Comic Strip with Artie's copy of the book " Make 'Em Laugh!"

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Richard Belzer at The Friars Club. Jeffrey is holding Richard's book, and Richard is holding his copy of Jeffrey's book "Make 'Em Laugh!"

The book is available in all Barnes and Noble stores in NYC, and on Amazon.com

Coming up, I’ll be doing a guest spot on Artie Lange’s new podcast with Nick DePaolo, talking about the book and all things comedy!

Detachment

Sunday, October 21st, 2012
My boss is a yogi and a meditation guru. Yesterday he was in town and he took me for a meditation lesson in the park as well as a yoga lesson. A snow board buff, my boss usually does yoga and meditation in the mountains. So we went on a cliff in Central Park in order to feel superior. How did it work out for us? Just fine.

My boss said this week's yoga lesson was detachment. How did he know I needed that? Was he reading my blog?

Anyway, we ended up doing yoga and my attitude towards yoga changed. I have been getting more into meditation this past year. My boss mentioned that I needed to detach from all things that were uncomfortable, and if I detached from the outcome I wouldnt stress about things and it wouldnt be so hard to get what I wanted. My whole life I have been a pusher. That's just who I am. That's probly why I am always so tired.

Well I detached during the yoga practice and it helped clear my head of all the rubbish of the past weeks. From the anni of by boys death to everyone I hated seemingly being facebook superstars. They say to compare is to despair and I had only been despairing hours before. We did some chakra cleansing and that felt good. My mysterious headaches and backaches were gone by the end of the lesson. I will admit, I need to get more patient with myself during my meditation practice. Sometimes I am all gung ho about meditation, but then sometimes I am like screw this granola eating crap. But the granola eating crap, when I do it, helps me balance and is the reason I am grounded and do well

Every acting teacher in the world has told me that breathing is my big weakness. It's why I can't stay in the moment. Number one booker feedback is I need to TAKE A DAMN BREATH BECAUSE I TALK TOO FAST AND THEY LOOSE ALL MY WORDS. There was a time in my singing telegram career that people would complain that my work was too fast, I was in and out. I didnt mean to be so fast. I just operate on hyperspeed. It used to drive my second grade teacher crazy, but it was fitting because she was a crazy bitch named Denise. She said I didnt pay attention. Bitch, I was paying attention. You were on page five taking your good old time. I am now at page 50. BORED! Sometimes though, it is beneficial to stay in the moment. Not only is my acting/comedy/telegrams better but everyone wants to kill me much less.

We talked about how as people we create highs and lows which is so true. When I was younger especially, I used to experience extreme highs and lows. It was either the best day ever or the end of the world. I still do now, but I am better able to balance them and snap out of them. When I was younger I was accused of being conceited because sometimes it truly was the best day ever. But then the next day it was the end of the world. I have snapped out of it as I have aged, knowing this too shall pass. Still yes I am a bit of a melodramatic.

Afterwards we went back to the place his familia keeps in midtown to have nosh. There we met a couple and talked about brain chemistry and how some people have to engage in addictive behaviors to achieve homeostasis. It was quite fascinating, especially since my boss is doing the same thing with yoga. Plus it was crazy because they thought at one point my boss was my husband.

Well we both want a good looking husband.

Meanwhile I had my book with me. I didnt know whether or not to give it to my boss. While it is about him in a way, because Bruce Myles Beaureguard is based on him, I didnt want to give it to him in case he would hate it. But everyone else in the telegram company knows about it and I am presently on Barnes and Noble's website. Plus I have done several interviews. I have also been featured on the website of Britney Spears. I didnt want my boss to hear it from other people. It was time.

Thats when I told my boss I had a present for him. Detachment.

I handed him the book and he was excited. He asked when this happened and I told him everything. He said the book was amazing and that he was sooooooo proud of me. I also told him that a certain character in there might remind him of someone he knew. Needless to say my boss LOVED IT ALREADY AND HE HASNT EVEN READ IT!!!!!

Hope he loves it after he reads it. Either way, I practiced the lesson of the day, detachment.

Love April

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl

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