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Books

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.

April Brucker Wrote a Book

Saturday, October 26th, 2013
This past week has been a time warp. I have found myself back in my hometown for a book signing event. I have been writing since I was a little girl so maybe this was a reach, but maybe it was also expected. High school was the best and worst time in my life. It was good because I love learning and had some terrific teachers. It was also horrible because well, kids can be cruel. So there you have it.

Friday I went to speak to some classes at my old high school. One class was a journalism class, the other creative writing. When I walked into school it felt like a scene from Peggy Sue Got Married. Except I didn't hit my head and wake up in math class to find myself receiving a pop quiz. Instead, I was greeted by some familiar faces of people still working there which was nice. Still, it was surreal. Some of the teachers I had retired. My old high school, a set of buildings, has been ripped down. Now it is one big building that looks akin to a small college.

The first class I spoke to was journalism. It was taught by Mr. A, who is a former cross country teammate of my sister's. This was crazy to see him teaching and to hear he is married with a baby on the way. Nonetheless, things have changed for the better. Now the journalism class is the newspaper. To boot, these kids were really stoked about writing. Plus they really liked Mr. A. When I was in school the journalism class and the newspaper were two separate animals. Thus why our newspaper never came out. Now the paper comes out, kids write, and they are enthused about the process. It was beyond a pleasant surprise. It was refreshing.

I found myself interviewed for the campus TV station the next period by a student journalist. A cute girl with blonde hair and glasses she reminded me of myself at fourteen or fifteen. Like her, I was a history buff who loved to write. The tech ed teacher running the media center was also my sister's classmate. Unlike the olden days when the media center was located in the library building, it was now its own animal. We were sound tested and off to the races we went. There were television kiosks in the hall as well. My high school indeed had come a long way.

The next class I spoke to was creative writing. They too were stoked about writing stories and such. These kids had a lot of questions, which was good. We talked a lot about writing, publishing, and marketing. Their teacher had covered these topics with them as well. Again I was pleasantly surprised. This was not like this when I went to school there. We spoke about writing your truth, writing what you know. We also spoke about how to compose, start, and finish a book. These kids weren't just excited about writing, they wanted to be informed. It was another refreshing surprise.

Despite popular belief, this generation is not screwed. High school has changed. With all the attention coming to bullying, now kids seem kinder with each other. The world is different now. It's a good thing.

I found myself giving these kids a piece of advice I wish someone would have given me at sixteen. That piece of advice is to be nice to yourself. Yes, be kind. Reward yourself after you show up for your art by writing daily. Don't beat yourself up and expect everything to be perfect. No adult ever said that to me growing up. Maybe, just maybe, if they had I wouldn't have been such a basketcase for so long. I found once I stopped beating myself up I got so much more done.

Today I did my book signing which was really exciting. Saw a lot more people from my past. My third grade teacher came which was exciting. She was the woman who really turned me on to reading and writing. I wrote her a nice message in the front of her book. She is a wonderful woman and I am grateful and blessed to have known her. However, somethings never change. No matter how many times I write a man's name on my notebook he never returns my phone calls. I still hate math. Oh and my handwriting still sucks.

So yes, Peggy Sue Got Married.

And April Brucker wrote a book

Love
April
I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
www.aprilbrucker.com

D.L. Hughley Man of Many Talents to Host Gotham Comedy Live

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

When I heard that my man D.L. Hughley would be headlining Gotham I knew I’d be in for a treat so I made sure to get my butt down there to see him, in a joint interview not only for my Comedy Matters TV but also for Frank Holder’s amazing Humor Mill Magazine based out in LA, bringing you all the up-to-the minute news about the urban comedy/entertainment scene! (www.humormillmag.com)

The last time I saw D.L. was when we shot a little backstage interview at The Comic Strip, when he was there taping a Comedy Central special called “D.L. Hughley’s Endangered Species” about having the Black man added to the endangered species list! ( Sounds like Schindler’s List for Black folks? LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage at The Comic Strip with D.L. Hughley, after the taping of his Comedy Central special!

During the interview you’ll see below he told me that when he won the Peabody Award this past year they actually used my interview with him on the show! I had no idea but that is AMAZING! At the time we did it, his publicist said it was one of the best interviews she’s seen! I’ll let you guys judge!

D.L. is one of those multi-talented performers who does more things than a human being theoretically should be able to do! And he does them well! When I say something like that I always think of Sammy Davis Jr. who was always described as a “triple threat” performer, meaning he was accomplished at many things, like singing, dancing and acting.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the late, great Sammy Davis Jr. at a dinner in honor of Milton Berle, circa 1985!

D.L. is an actor, a stand-up comic, an author, and a political commentator to start, and was one of the four comedians featured in Spike Lee’s film “The Original Kings of Comedy”, along with Steve Harvey, Cedric The Entertainer, and the late Bernie Mac, for whom he performed a touching eulogy at his funeral. Hard to believe that film was back in 2000.

D.L. wrote, produced, and starred in his eponymously named ABC/UPN show “The Hughleys” from 1996 through 2002, hosted Comic View on BET,and had roles on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Scrubs. He served as the guest moderator on The View for one day, was a correspondent for Jay Leno, and even competed on Dancing With the Stars, dancing with show regular Cheryl Burke!

When I saw him last year he had just come out with a book from Crown Archetype Press called ” I Want You To Shut The Fuck Up: How The Audacity of Dopes is Ruining America”. He has so much to say which is one of the reasons I enjoy talking to him so much.

I always respect intelligence and a point of view, which is also why I’m looking forward to his new radio show debuting later this month on 50 stations nationwide. Radio is a such a great medium to work in because you have time to develop your point of view and have a meaningful discussion. I absolutely LOVE radio and have had lots of experience as a guest on so many shows, so D.L.’s show is one show in particular that I can’t wait to appear on!

Needless to say he killed it at Gotham and I attended two shows cause I didn’t feel that one was enough! Steve Wilson a very funny comic out of LA opened for him, and then D.L. came up and hit it out of the park! ( Funny that I use a baseball reference when I’m not even a sports fan! LOL)

I went down with Evie Liu who’s starring my my new video ” Women Who Massage Fruit” divulging the ancient Chinese art of fruit massage. Many people don’t know that fruit is basically nervous and needs to be calmed down. That’s what she does! I’ll be posting that video very soon on my Comedy Matters TV channel.

Jeffrey and Evie at Gotham Comedy Club to see D.L. Hughley do this thing!

On the Friday night show D.L. wore a bright red jacket that matched the power of his personality and stage presence!

Jeffrey Gurian and D.L. Hughley in a candid shot at Gotham Comedy Club!

So the second night, I wore a jacket that he said outdid his. He was just being kind. The man has style. I came across a photo of us from back in 2009 when he was wearing such a beautiful scarf, that it stuck out in my mind all this time!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with D.L. Hughley at Comix back in 2009. Awesome scarf! A man of style and grace!

Anyone who knows me knows that I love scarves. It just adds that little flair to whatever you’re wearing, and I’ve been wearing them for about 20 years cause once I start to do something I like, I don’t know how to stop!

The second night I was excited to be able to give him a copy of my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with a hilarious introduction by Chris Rock, about the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip” written with owner/founder Richie Tienken.

Jeffrey Gurian with D.L. Hughley holding Jeffrey's book "Make 'Em Laugh" with a great intro by Chris Rock!

After the second show we went outside to hang with D.L. and Jimmy Cannizzaro, who just happens to be married to Lisa Lampanelli, and since his weightloss surgery looks more and more like a movie star every time I see him. He and D.L. smoked a couple of special cigars, while D.L. alternated in accomodating every single fan who asked him for a photo.

Jeffrey Gurian, Jimmy Cannizzaro, and Evelyn Liu outside of Gotham Comedy Club!

Then owner Chris Mazzilli came out and asked D.L. to host one of the upcoming AXS TV specials, which they do every Thursday night. They’re shooting the second season now and I’m sure they’ll get picked up for a third season. It was just me, D.L. and Chris and it was exciting to hear D.L. both get offered and accept the hosting gig!

Then we went downstairs and just before he had to go back and do his third show of the night, we shot the fun interview you can see right here:

Twenty-Six

Friday, May 31st, 2013
I was at Skipper and Wendell's graduation when I met their friend Johnny. Hanging out in Providence's Hope Club, Johnny mentioned it was his birthday. That Friday had been Wendell's birthday making them both born under the sign of Gemini. This makes sense. Wendell's specialty will be working with adolescent kids who suffer from eating disorders, addiction, and a host of other things. In addition, while it was a surprise because he was a former football player, Wendell worked with transgender teens and enjoyed the experience. He also lectures on the dangers of child abuse. Wendell's lectures are so entertaining they often don't want him to stop. While this was a surprise at the time it shouldn't have been. Wendell is a people person. He is funny, outgoing, and extroverted. Wendell has never been afraid to be himself. Most Gemini's are not.

Johnny was having a slight quarter life crisis because he was the big 2-6. He mentioned has his beautiful wife Leah sat there that he counted gray hairs on his head. I laughed. I remembered feeling the exact same way when I crossed the that mark in my life. Then I remembered how much fun that age had been. I was literally on national television every week. I was hosting a web show on the internet. My music was on the radio on the internet. And I had my very first publishing contract. Not to mention I was recognized on the street for the very first time. At the big 2-6 I learned the lesson of not limiting myself.

That is when I told Johnny how much fun I had at that age, and how he should look forward to aging. Johnny is a brilliant idea person who is currently using his medical knowledge in an independent business venture to help others. Like many Gemini's, he is creative, smart, and funny. I told him that at twenty six he would come into his own, and would shake off the molting skin from his earlier twenties. At twenty six I told him I saw the work from my earlier twenties begin to pay off. That he should look forward to each approaching year because it meant the coming and dawning of more new adventures.

Yesterday I wished I could have been around to take my own advice. I was totally not where my feet where when it came to my head. After receiving the shiteous news about my book signing event and the technicality that prevented me from achieving my goal, I just wanted to run into someone as an excuse to deck them. I ended up in Norwalk, CT where I delivered a telegram. Going back to the train station, I crossed the street and was almost run over several times by the worst drivers ever. There is something about New England drivers that makes me nervous. In Rhode Island it is worse, not only do they break traffic laws, but when they see a pedestrian they drive faster. It was the same in Norwalk. When you cross into NE, expect some terrible driving. Move over Asian driver stereotype, meet the New England drivers.

As I was unintentionally playing chicken with the cars, I remembered my boss from the web channel. I often said the universe spoke through this man. Once when I was green in my activism I had a blow up with an ex con over the fact that the accused have too many rights. After my meltdown my boss called me and said that sometimes my problem was I didnt let things go. Life was too short and sometimes you had to laugh it off.

I always thank God for my guy friends, gay or straight. Men tend to see the bigger picture. Women always concentrate on the minute details and we drive ourselves crazy. Maybe that is why it has taken women so long to advance. It's not that we aren't smart, we are very bright and more so than men. Hell, any dude with half a brain and is confident in his stride will agree. It's that we sweat the small stuff. However it is easy to arrive in that head space where I am the worst writer ever. No one wants to read my book. I suck. I am unfunny.

Just then I saw a Dunkin Donuts. I figured it was time for a frozen drink. It was hot outside and I figured it was Colatta time. So I ordered a Colatta. Then I called a friend to cry. Let me tell you I felt loads better. I got on the wrong side of the track and missed my train. But it gave me time to cool off and get my head together. I got back to Manhattan and met some friends. On my way I saw an old friend from college and told him all about my book. Yes, my book. The land of the written word. I am F. Scott Fitzgerald meets David Sedaris in my mind. My former classmate was impressed. Suddenly I began to feel better. I wasn't a complete waste as a person let alone a writer.

Then I saw Arianna Huffington's video of her commencement speech to Smith College. I have never been about these things, I didnt even walk at my own. I had finished in December and was working. But in her speech she spoke about the importance of sleep and how at the Huffington Post she had nap rooms. So I went to sleep and slept like ten hours. And how I am recharged. Ms. Huffington also spoke about redefining the metric of success. I know I put a lot of pressure on myself. It is hard not to as a woman. Sometimes I have to realize there is more to April Brucker than the reality star, comedian, ventriloquist, writer, and singer. Still it is hard, really hard.

This morning because it is hot I decided to go to the pool. On my way I saw an old friend. When I was twenty four I worked as a flier person for a strip club with his bestie. We talked. Twenty-four was one of the lowest points of my life. I was out of money, going no where, and the career was stalled. I spoke to him for a few minutes and he was really impressed when he found out about my book. I felt good. It always feels good to laugh with an old friend. In that covo, I realized how far I had come since that time. This week so many people have told me how proud they are of me. Whether it is my boss telling me no matter how famous I get I still must deliver telegrams. Or my sound engineer Archie who can use dope and many moons effectively in a sentence. Oh and in there are some of my fans pushing my book.

As I continued my journey to the pool I began to realize at twenty six I experienced what is known as Amazon Feminism, doing and living in the absence of a man. At twenty six I was on my own for the first time in forever and paying my own way. I didnt need a guy. I think that is when the chip on my shoulder that took steroids that turned into a cinderblock began. Some of it is being a career woman, choosing to make this my entire life and not have the husband or the family like many of my former female classmates are. Some of it is the stubbornness of going a path that is dark, uncertain, and unsure and for the first time seeing results.

I also discovered how much fun the pool at my gym was at twenty six. While I have plenty of friends in the free weight area, the people in the pool are happy. It's because they can swim, talk, laugh, and lay of the sun deck.

Then I remembered my boss from the internet channel talking to me, at twenty six. I was green in my activism and got into another one of my spats. As usual, he was stuck telling me it wasn't that serious. Then I realized that it wasn't that serious. This wasn't a road block but a temporary traffic jam. My publisher is currently on it. At that moment it hit me, there were two lessons that twenty six taught me. One, sometimes you need to go back to basics. Two, sometimes you need to cool off.

And that is when I dove into the pool.


Love
I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Paperback available on Amazon and 877-Buy-Book
E-Book available on Kindle and Nook
Audiobook available on itunes and Audible this Spring
www.youtube.com/aprilthestarr
Portion of proceeds go to Greenpeace

SAD

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Recently my book became available on Barnes and Noble as a paperback. For months it has been available as a Kindle. Through some drama it finally happened, paperback. Anyway, we were thrilled when it happened. So just to see if it works I try to order a copy of my book online through BarnesandNoble.com. I know, buying my own book, ha ha.

Anyway, the book comes in the mail. On the package is written the word, SAD. Maybe it is some postal expression I don't understand.

Or maybe they think that it is sad that I am ordering my own book.

When I saw that I was like, wait a minute, that is so mean.

But then I was like, wait a minute.That is soooo true. This is sad and depressing that I am ordering my own book. Whether it was a postal expression or not it was some ego reducing. Still it was pretty funny. I get a package with my book in the mail and in big letters is written SAD.

I googled it and found no postal expression. Maybe they were just trying to tell me something. Either way, as I said this is pretty funny. Hey, truth hurts, right?

But note, now it is available through Barnes and Noble as a paperback! Yippee!!!!!!!


Love
I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Paperback available on Amazon and 877-Buy-Book
E-Book available on Kindle and Nook
Audiobook available on itunes and Audible this Spring
www.youtube.com/aprilthestarr
Portion of proceeds go to Greenpeace

We Are Family (Sister Sledge)

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
The weekend of my brother's wedding I was waiting for my plane to take me to Vermont. It was a special weekend too. My only brother was getting married to his college sweetheart. Both at the time were starting on their journey into promising careers in medicine. This was a low point in my life. My bank account was in the negative. As for the career, ha! Not to mention my mother and I had a huge fight that week and were speaking to each other in snaps and jabs, familial tongue if you will sometimes. I had to turn down three jobs to go to this wedding and the weather was going to be cold. Not to mention there was drama with how people were going to get to this remote destination in the midst of no where. Gosh this weekend was going to be filed under "This Fucking Sucks."

Then I picked up a book in the airport. It was called Showing Up For Life. Written by Bill Gates, Sr., it had a wonderful, touching forward by his mogul son in the front. Mr. Gates had a chapter about putting family first. Reading that as I waited for the plane changed my attitude about the weekend. As I explained to my potential employers my brother was getting married to my surprise everyone not only understood but moved the jobs. The wedding, despite the fact that the weather in The Northeast Kingdom Region of Vermont could use some work, was a beautiful event. My sister in law looked spectacular. As for my brother, he was the eager groom when he saw her in white. My baby cousin was the flower girl. Each of the bridesmaids became friendly. Kristen, the maid of honor, worked to make the wedding a wonderful experience for her college bestie. The reception was a blast as we danced until our shoes wore out, literally.

My Mema Ralph got drunk off of high balls and my uncles and cousins crowd surfed her during the reception. Of course she was then returned to her decorated wheel chair adorned with streamers for the big day. As for the tossing of the garter and bouquet, both my baby cousins caught them. They are brother and sister so they shared a rather awkward dance. We all laughed. It was adorable. I ended up dancing with both my sister in law's brothers. My baby cousin PJ, typically shy, ripped off his shirt, dove in the middle of the dance floor with his wife beater, and played air guitar. My dad danced with my sister in law's mom, and my mom danced with my sister in law's dad. Robby, my cousin and my brother's best man, gave a touching toast ending with a trumpet solo, a way this musical prodigy and Carnegie Mellon BFA was thoughtful but also unique. The reception, with music picked by my sister in law's oldest brother, ended with "We Are Family." And that we were. Family!

This was my family. I had fun and afterwards, as we gathered at the house my parents rented for the occasion, we talked about how my aunts and uncles met. That weekend I actually learned a lot about my family as a whole. My one Aunt Lola explained she liked my shy Uncle Apollo the first time they met because he had a "nice butt." Hey, she was honest. As for my other Aunt Marie, she met my Uncle Rob when they were in high school and the rest was history. Then there was my Uncle Steve, who kept losing my Aunt Dionne's number until one day he found it and the rest is history. Of course we cannot forget Aunt Violet, who dated my Uncle Steele in high school and was off an on until they got married when she was entering dental school. The list goes on. Of course there was my Aunt January, who was going to marry my Uncle Columbus, and my Mema Ralph invited Barnie, my Uncle Mark's brother who served in the Vietnam War and liked hookers and drugs and had a history of urinating in public. Needless to say there was a fight. But then it was smoothed over and the show went on.

My Mema Ralph and I also had a deep convo about love, and how I didnt just have to ask God for a man but the right one. Well my experience in asking God for a guy has always produced men missing teeth in various spots so perhaps I better take her advice. She mentioned that while my dad loved my mom, she wanted him too and wasnt letting him get away. Maybe my grandmother supposedly has dementia but at that moment she was lucid as ever. I think she just screws with people from time to time because she just can. Now that is awesome. Oh and her room had mirrors on the ceiling. My Mema Ralph said, "Just like in my books." She means her trash novels that she reads with salacious sex scenes.

That weekend my dad, my Aunt Marie, my Uncle Rob, and I climbed Jay Peak. Despite the rainstorm and mud slides we got to the top and there was a rainbow. Since that time, I have delved into extreme sports. Oh and my mom and I patched things up that weekend too. All and all, not only was I glad I showed up but more than anything I was glad to have my family. Maybe they were nut balls. Maybe they pressed every button known to man. Maybe they tested every last nerve I had. Maybe some even fit the criteria on the DSM IV for mental illnesses. But they were my nuts and only they could press my buttons Goddamn it.

This past weekend I did my book signing at Brown University. Back in March, I had been added to the collection. My baby sister Skipper told me to bring six books when I saw her in February, because she was interested in getting my book into the collection at her college. I had gone up to film a project she was doing. Anyway, it ended up being a nice weekend between the project and watching the Superbowl with her friends. Skipper told me she would try to work some magic. I figured it could go either way. I was in the midst of recording an audiobook, my schedule was picking up, and I was as sick as a dog. My ears were so stuffed up I could barely hear because of the fluid build up. A few weeks later, Skipper texted me telling me that she had managed to make me a part of the collection. I was thrilled.

Basically, my sister had given me very little information on how it happened and had been filling out the paperwork herself even before submitting my book.

When I asked to do a signing on the weekend Skipper got her MD and Wendell finally got his MD/PhD, they asked if they could join me. For the record, my book is next to theirs in the Brown Bookstore. It wasnt even a question of yes or no. It was "Why not?" The three of us hardly ever get to do anything together anymore. Wendell is married and lives in Massachussettes. Skipper is busy in Rhode Island. I am in New York City. The event was not just successful but fun. I got to see many of Skipper's college friends come up for reunion weekend and campus dance, as well as saw that she was well liked in her medical school class as well. Wendell's lab friends stopped by the table. I had only heard names and stories but had never seen the faces. My dad and Uncle Rob, who originally planned to drink at the Irish Pub during the signing, also stopped by. This was a family affair, and a family event. I wore a cake costume to the event. Brown University Bookstore is now following me on twitter. I was put on their feed as well as their website. It was a good day.

After the signing the medical school had a dinner where Skipper and Wendell did a skit. Here is the clip. They actually aren't too bad. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udjF0KcX0Vc

The next day they graduated, brother and sister MD. They both got hooded and then Wendell got a double hood. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YmhM1f4mBo

Bottom line, I could not be more proud of Skipper and Wendell right now. Skipper will be moving to Nashville to be a resident in emergency medicine at Vanderbilt. Wendell will be working with adolescents and will be a resident at University of Connecticut in Hartford. Both have bright futures ahead.

I am glad to say I shared the weekend with my Aunt Marie and Uncle Rob, Skipper's Godparents. More than anything, my mom was brimming with pride that she has three children who not only have books that are part of the collection at an Ivy League University, but who also did a signing. And they did that signing together.

One thing my parents always imparted on us growing up was in this world, when they are gone, we only have our siblings. That is why the three of us have always worked well together. Whether my sister Skipper assisted me in my ventriloquist shows as a kid, or my brother Wendell beat up anyone who bothered us. Sure Skipper might be over clinical and a tad anal at times, but she is my clinical anal retentive baby sister. Say a bad word about her and die. My brother Wendell might be a clueless goofball who puts his foot in his mouth, but he is my clueless goofball who puts his foot in his mouth. Sure my dad might be brutally honest, but he is still my dad. Say a bad word about him and die. And don't you dare even talk about my mama, oh don't you even say it.....Don't tempt me. I will do the time with pleasure.

Any of my cellmates at any prison will understand a felony charge over that. Cause we are family!!!! Yeah that is right
Three little pigs, all part of the same book collection. Note, my sister is the smartest. Skipper makes her house out of bricks. 

Me at my book signing at the Brown Bookstore. The real life Skipper is behind me in the peach suit, and the real life Wendell is in the suit coat at the table. They were signing a book on Cellular Respiration or whatever it is called.



Love
I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Paperback available on Amazon and 877-Buy-Book
E-Book available on Kindle and Nook
Audiobook available on itunes and Audible this Spring
www.youtube.com/aprilthestarr
Portion of proceeds go to Greenpeace




George Wallace Visits The Comic Strip

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

Whenever George Wallace comes to New York, he always comes back to his “home” to visit Richie Tienken and The Comic Strip. That’s the place where he started back in 1976, before the place was even finished.

Before The Strip opened it’s doors on June 1, 1976 George came by selling bus advertising and convinced owner Richie Tienken to buy advertising that appeared on the back of buses going up 1st and 2nd Avenues that said ” Eat, Drink, and Laugh at The Comic Strip.”

(L-R) J.R. Ravitz, Marina Franklin, Jeffrey Gurian, and Richie Tienken, and holding down the back row by himself, is George Wallace! George is so big, he's his own row!


It was the reason when Richie and I did the book on the 35 year history of the legendary club, we were originally planning to call it “Eat, Drink and Laugh”.

George and Jerry Seinfeld were and still are best friends. They were roommates in the early days and shared an apartment on West 71st Street. When Jerry left for LA, George kept the apartment and roomed with Paul Provenza.

George has been in Las Vegas for the last ten years with the highest rated 10 P.M. show on The Strip. He came into The Strip to do a set recently, which thrilled the crowd, and told me he’s thinking of moving back to New York.

George was the second interview I did for the book “Make ‘Em Laugh”, up in Montreal during the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, the summer of 2008.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with George Wallace backstage during rehearsal at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, 2008!

He was hosting one of the huge galas that gets televised, and right before he went out on stage he asked me what I thought he should say! I had to laugh to myself that here was a guy, so accomplished that he didn’t even have to prepare to host a major comedy gala and would decide what he was going to say when he got out there!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV backstage with "All Star Gala" host George Wallace just before he took the stage!

Needless to say he killed it and after the show he took me out for a late dinner, where I did my interview, and we got to know each other. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.

I’m one of the producers of a new comedy documentary film called “The Business of Comedy” Exec. Produced by two great guys Gary Licker and Scott Sobel of Scott Entertainment. They went out to Vegas to interview George, and I gave them a signed copy of the book to bring George as I knew he hadn’t seen it yet. They were thrilled to do it and they said that George was thrilled to get it.

Scott Sobel and Gary Licker, Exec. Producers of the doc. film "The Business of Comedy" at the home of Jeffrey Gurian, filming him for the doc., on which he is also a co-producer!

One of the first things he said when he saw me was how much he loved the book!

So I was backstage with him this time too, and don’t you think that right before he went out to perform he asked me what I thought he should do! (LOL) I reminded him of the incident in Montreal and told him that whatever he chose would be perfect. The audience was already his!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with George Wallace at The Comic Strip!

He talked about going to Oprah’s party, and talked about getting parking tickets. He said he got so many parking tickets he was thinking of removing his windshield. That’s hysterical! He also told of the dyslexic cop who gave him an IUD, instead of a DUI!

He talked about his poor childhood and how in his day kids only got measles, mumps and chickenpox. It was all they could afford!

He said to some guy in the audience who was making remarks, “Where were you when your mind got up and walked away?”

Then he said he didn’t want to get racial, but advised white people to stop looking for ghosts! And then he did one of his classic bits which he calls “I Be Thinkin’” where he comes out with lines like, ” I saw a can that said “Evaporated Milk” and I thought to myself, then what’s in the can?” I told him he should do a CD by that name and he said he was already planning on doing that! Great minds think alike! (LOL)

He also said, ” You never see a homeless Mexican!” And it’s true. They’re like baby pigeons. You know they must exist, but you never actually see one! He said you give a Mexican 8 bricks and 3 packs of chewing gum and a week later you got a housing development!”

George hung out after his killer set, and took photos with his fans and with Richie and I. It was very cool night and if he does move back to New York, you can bet he’ll be a regular at his old home, The Comic Strip!

(L-R) Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV, George Wallace and Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip, holding the book " Make "Em Laugh" about the 35 year history of the club written by Jeffrey Gurian and Richie Tienken! George is featured prominently in the book as one of the originals from The Strip!

Ivy League Baby!

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013
Yesterday I found out I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl got accepted as a part of the collection in Brown University Bookstore. This came after a hellacious week where my grandmother passed and I was sick. A good beginning to a good week. I will have to say I love Brown University kids because they are compassionate, creative, bright, and think outside of the box. Not to mention hard working. I am flattered and amazed to be a part of such a wonderful collection.

Now this takes away the blow that my crush blew me off. Not to mention things are starting to open up for me. I am so excited. This weekend I am seeing my family which is also exciting. Oh did I mention I might be doing a book talk there too?

Ivy League Baby!

Yes, in between Brown University Bookstore and Mensa it is true, I is a tuttle geniuz.

On a serious note I am in the music section.

Love

April
I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Paperback available on Amazon and 877-Buy-Book
E-Book available on Kindle and Nook
Audiobook available on itunes and Audible this Spring
www.youtube.com/aprilthestarr
Portion of proceeds go to RAINN

Robert Klein at The Friars Club for the Documentary “The Business of Comedy”

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

I get involved in so many interesting projects. Sometimes things just seem to come out of nowhere because life is magical like that. So I find myself as an Associate Producer on a wonderful documentary film slated for PBS called “The Business of Comedy” working with two great Exec. Producers Gary Licker and Scott Sobel.

(L-R) Scott Sobel, and Gary Licker with trusty camera in Jeffrey Gurian's writing room, after his interview for "The Business of Comedy!"

They made a name for themselves with a successful documentary called “Selling Cars in America”, about the history of the American car dealership and a look at the players who set the tone in the modern day, 21st century showroom. Scott produced it and Gary Licker directed.

“The Business of Comedy” examines just what it says, the business of comedy. So they’re not only interviewing comedians, but they’re speaking to club owners, managers, agents and anybody who makes the comedy world tick. That’s where I came in. First they interviewed me in my home, in what I call my “comedy museum” packed with photos and nostalgia going back to the late 70′s and early 80′s, when I was writing for Rodney Dangerfield and many Friars Club Roasts at the behest of Friars producer Bob Saks, and my original sponsor in The Friars Club, Milton Berle.

We had so much fun on that interview and we all got along so well that we decided to progress together with me being an Associate Producer. Now as a co-producer I brought the project to Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip where we not only interviewed Richie on his vast experience as the owner and founder of The Strip, but also interviewed a bunch of comics both established and new who shared their feelings on the business of comedy.

Then we spoke to Chris Mazzilli at the Gotham Comedy Club, who offered his unique perspective and who I refer to as “the classiest man in comedy”, and Gabe Waldman owner of Stand-Up New York, who we also filmed performing on stage. Very soon we will be speaking on camera with my old friend comedy legend/icon Rick Newman who opened the legendary Catch A Rising Star at the end of 1972, which was the admitted inspiration for The Comic Strip.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Chris Mazzilli owner of Gotham Comedy Club at a Laugh For Sight charity event in 2011!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with comedy icon Rick Newman founder of Catch A Rising Star and current co-owner of Stage 72 in NYC!

But this week was something special for all of us. We got to interview Robert Klein at The Friars Club. Both Gary and Scott made no secret of the fact that they were both incredibly excited at the opportunity to speak to Robert who is himself an icon of comedy, and one of the enduring bright stars of his generation. Not only has he established himself onstage but he’s appeared in over 40 feature films.

I think it was Gary who said that he’s interviewed many celebs but that the excitement of knowing he was going to interview Robert Klein kept him up the night before the interview! We had intended to do the interview in the beautifully appointed Milton Berle Room but as were were setting up we ran into Peter Rosegarten, Robert’s manager from The Conversation Company who facilitated us moving to the gorgeous dining room to do our interview. It’s actually Peter’s brother Rory who works directly with Robert and has done so for the past maybe 30 years ever since Robert left Rollins and Joffe.

Exec. Producer Gary Licker adjusting the microphone for Robert Klein before his interview at The Friars Club!

That story is in my new book with Chris Rock called “Make ‘Em Laugh” in a great interview that Rory gave me. Rory and I go back many years and he represented me when I was writing for Joan Rivers.

Gary and Scott started out by playing a little audio recording of Budd Friedman founder of The Improv, which he opened in 1963, saying some very complimentary things about Robert Klein who was a regular there. Robert was very gracious and humbled by Budd’s statement, and said that as years go on, the more those kind of things mean to him. That kind of set the tone for what turned out to be a fantastic interview.

Exec. Producers Scott Sobel and Gary Licker interviewing Robert Klein at The Friars Club for their project "The Business of Comedy" on which I am Associate Producer!

Robert was so generous with his sharing of stories and his energy. I loved how he easily remembered the date of his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I believe he said it was Jan. 9th, 1968. He remembered Johnny also as being “generous” with his laughter and support.

In 1970 Robert had his own summer replacement comedy/variety show called “Comedy Tonight”, which he hosted along with frequent guests Peter Boyle and Madeline Kahn. He has since done nine HBO comedy specials, and is still very active performing around the country at different venues.

Exec. Producer Scott Sobel with his notes asking questions of Robert Klein for the doc film for PBS, "The Business of Comedy"!

His original manager Jack Rollins who helped me greatly in my own career and who originally introduced me to his other clients at the time Billy Crystal and Robin Williams figured greatly in Robert’s early career. I was still a Cosmetic Dentist in those early days and Jack thought that Billy Crystal would be perfect to play me in a sit-com about a dentist who wanted to be in show biz. That’s why when I interviewed Billy for my book “Make ‘Em Laugh” in one of the photos we took he was pointing to his teeth!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Billy Crystal in Billy's office in LA. Billy is pointing to his teeth referencing Jeffrey's background as a Cosmetic Dentist!

Robert was inspired by Jonathan Winters, and Lenny Bruce who was persecuted, blacklisted and ultimately ruined for performing material that was considered obscene in those days, but would be considered tame by today’s standards, where literally anything goes. Robert spoke of comedy as a “craft” that used to have a certain “dignity”. I saw it that way as well.

I was also very glad to hear that Robert and I share the same sensitivity as to what is commonly referred to as “bathroom humor” and I can’t really grasp the fascination that many young comics seem to have with bodily functions that to me have no place in a show where men are taking women out for an evening of entertainment.

Neither Robert nor I are prudes in any sense of the word. I wrote filthy jokes for Friars Roasts for many years, but that wasn’t the material I chose to do when I went on stage, and neither did he. We just share the same dislike for unnecessary grossness which is all too common these days.

Robert literally gave us “gold” for the documentary with his honest evaluation of the comedy scene then and now, and he kept me on my toes by throwing questions at me, when certain names in comedy history didn’t quite come to him right away, like Dane Cook and Rosie O’Donnell! He also remembered many years ago when I approached him about writing some material for him. It’s amazing what sticks out in people’s minds that you would think they would never remember!

I was so happy I was able to give him a copy of “Make ‘Em Laugh” because it’s about everyone he knows!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Robert Klein at The Friars Club, holding Jeffrey's book " Make'Em Laugh!"

His spirit was youthful and engaging and I hope to see him again soon and maybe even work with him on something fun and meaningful.

Btw, in case you’re interested this is the very cool trailer for the documentary “The Business of Comedy!”

Carlos Mencia: Heavyweight in Comedy, Lightweight in Actual Weight!

Friday, March 15th, 2013

The last time I saw Carlos Mencia he was a lot heavier. He told me he lost about 70 pounds, but fortunately he’s as funny as ever, if not funnier! It proves that weight doesn’t make you funny. Look at Lisa Lampanelli! A hundred pounds lighter and she kills it every time!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with a heavier Carlos Mencia back in 2007 at a Latino Comedy Festival in LA!

So when I heard that Carlos was hosting the AXS TV special at Gotham, one of the “Gotham Comedy Live” series produced by Killer Bunny Entertainment’s Dave Goldberg and Rob Cea, I knew I had to get down there.

I let Carlos know to expect me, and we sat down together in the green room during the time between rehearsal and the actual show. He started by saying, “the last time you saw me I was a lot heavier!” Which led into a discussion I enjoy, about empowerment! Most people are too afraid to change their lives, even if they’re miserable, because at least they know who they are while being miserable. But if they radically change their lives, who will they be?

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the new and improved Carlos Mencia at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

That’s a scary concept for a lot of people. In my own life I was a very severe stutterer until I was in my 20′s. I couldn’t even say my name which is a common problem for stutterers. I realized that when I was in a room by myself I could speak perfectly. That told me that there was really nothing wrong with me. It took the next two or three years for me to make progress with my speech and free myself from the bondage of stuttering, but it’s an accomplishment that changed my life.

Carlos came from Honduras, as the 17th of 18 kids, so when he started doing well enough to afford having an appetizer in restaurants, he ordered them just because he could! Then a friend of his who had Diabetes told him he was in danger of losing a toe, and made the observation that when you see old people in their 80′s or 90′s they’re NEVER fat! And that’s true. That realization hit home for Carlos and he got serious about losing weight.

He looks and feels like a new person! Check out what he had to say in the video we shot:

Carlos’s Gotham Comedy Live show was one of the best I’ve seen, because of the energy he brought to it. Angelo Lozada was the MC and he’s always funny and reliable, which is why he gets to host a lot. He said, ” You know your girlfriend talks too much when she wakes up in the morning and her first words are, ” And then, ….”

Angelo Lozada warming up the crowd for Carlos Mencia at Gotham Comedy Club!

Jon Fish was up next and said he wishes his Dad had given him the advice, “When you realize you’re going bald, turn to whoever you’re with at the time and propose!”

Jon Fisch making a point while killing on the AXS TV special "Live at Gotham" starring Carlos Mencia!

He uses Hugh Hefner as an inspiration for dating younger women. He said that Hugh, 86, recently married a girl who was 26. A 60 year difference. That’s an entire old person between them!

Hadiyah Robinson was up next and was also very funny. She talked about not being able to have a gay guy as a roommate. She said she couldn’t live with a guy who didn’t want to have sex with her!

Hadiyah Robinson "bringin' it" to the crowd at Gotham Comedy Club!

Most people in comedy have had the experience of meeting someone who tells them a family member is also very funny, and is starting out in comedy. Usually it turns out to be nothing. They were funny once at a family party or something. In the particular case of which I speak, the “someone” was the super of my building, who told me many times about his step-son who was performing comedy. I had no idea it was going to turn out to be Mark DeMayo, who happens to be very, very funny! He’s also an ex-NYPD cop, which gives him lots of relatable material.

The very likeable and funny Mark Demayo, ex-cop turned comic onstage at Gotham Comedy Club!

When people ask him what he does now since he retired, he tells them he smokes pot! He got an extended applause break when he showed the audience how he used to bang on doors in the projects in order to get people to come to the door. He banged on them as if they were conga drums, and he was banging out a Latin beat! The audience pictured some guy dancing his way to the door to be arrested! Really funny visual, but Mark told me afterwards that the length of the applause made him have to leave out a joke. A lot of comics would like to have that problem!

Carlos liked him so much that at the end of the show he asked him to do an extra bit! Mark was there with his manager from Cringe Humor Cris Italia, who with his partners Paul Italia, Patrick Milligan and Dave Kimowitz own the super cool new comedy club/restaurant called The Stand! If you haven’t been there yet you must check it out on 20th Street and 3rd Avenue in NYC! And make sure to tell them I sent you! (LOL)

Jason Andors was also on the line-up and admitted that he cheated on his last girlfriend which he felt must have been Karma. He wondered, “what did she do to deserve that kind of treatment?”

The funny and flexible Jason Andors, onstage at Gotham Comedy Club!

He also told about this Latina chick he was dating who would yell at him in public, so to counteract that he’d take out a script and make believe they were rehearsing a scene for a movie. Jason has a background in ballet, which he uses so effectively onstage in the physical part of his act, and is one of the best pop-lockers I’ve ever seen. He’s often the only White comic performing to a Black audience, and I can see why his material would go over so well.

But Carlos was amazing. He was so funny, he commented himself that he even wasted jokes during the commercial breaks when only the club audience would hear them, as opposed to the TV audience at home. He talked about so many diverse topics like:

Oscar Pistorius – You have no legs. Why are you shooting the one chick that was willing to have sex with you? She’s probably up in heaven now saying, ” I should have been f***king a guy with no arms!” (Did I mention that this show was “Live” with no censorship???)

Hurricane Sandy – In this country we called it a “Super Storm”. In India they simply say, ” A wave came and everyone died!”

Camping – Camping is for rich people who want to pretend to be homeless. Most regular people don’t even understand the concept. When I explained it to my gardener, he told me that his family has been “camping” for hundreds of years!

And at the end of the high energy show they all came out to take a bow!

Mark Demayo, Jason Andors, Carlos Mencia, Jon Fisch, and Hadiyah Robinson onstage for a cast bow at Gotham Comedy Club!

Carlos is a super guy who deserves all of his success. He alluded to working on a concept for a new TV show and personally I would love to see that! I’d love even more to be on it! (LOL)

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Carlos Mencia backstage at Gotham Comedy Club holding a copy of Jeffrey's new book with an intro by Chris Rock called "Make 'Em Laugh!"

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