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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.

Jim Breuer Guests on VH1′s Big Morning Buzz with Carrie Keagan

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Comic extraordinaire Jim Breuer, stopped by VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live recently to add a little of his high energy to the show! The former SNL cast member, who made himself a household name with unforgettable characters like Goat Boy is also an incredible impressionist.

Jim Breuer and Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV at Gotham Comedy Club in NYC!

He shared some of his famous celebrity impressions with host Carrie Keagan, and talked about his upcoming tour, describing himself as “Bill Cosby in a Metallica shirt.” Breuer even revealed the funny story behind introducing his dad to Sylvester Stallone on ‘Saturday Night Live.’

Check out these two cool video clips of Breuer on the show.

Jim Breuer On Why He Doesn’t Swear On His New Comedy Tour

Jim Breuer On Introducing His Dad To Sylvester Stallone On ‘Saturday Night Live’

Jim also appears in a very funny interview he gave me for my new book “Make ‘Em Laugh” with Chris Rock. Chris wrote a special hysterically funny intro for the book, which is about the 35 year history of the legendary comedy club “The Comic Strip”, known as the home for huge stars like Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, Lisa Lampanelli, Lewis Black, and Eddie Murphy, and the club where Eddie discovered Chris back in 1986.

(L-R) Richie Tienken, owner/founder of The Comic Strip, Jim Breuer, and Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV after Jim's interview for the book " Make 'Em Laugh"!

www.HyperSmash.com

“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!

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Party Machine’s “Yacht Party” In Brooklyn

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

This post may make me look like a moron, but hey, … so be it! (LOL)

A couple of weeks back at the request of Nick Kroll I went out to LA to shoot some “Oh, Hello” sketches with Nick and his partner John Mulaney from SNL for Nick’s upcoming show on Comedy Central, tentatively titled “The Nick Show Kroll.” The reason I say tentatively is cause that could change, according to Nick!

John Mulaney as George St. Geegland, Jeffrey Gurian, and Nick Kroll as Gil Faizon on the set of Nick's new show in LA!

On the set, in my trailer was a copy of the script and where it listed the writers it said “Jessi Klein.” I had not seen Jessi Klein for probably several years since I was pitching a comedy news project up at Comedy Central,which was before I launched GNN (Gurian News Network), your source for “All The News That’s Fit To Dance To!” GNN was based on stories I used to write for the legendary Weekly World News.

I had my own column called ” Gurian’s World of the Bizarre” which featured hard to find stories missed by mainstream media, like “Rare Virus Sweeps Japan-Victims Too Weak To Bow”, and “Man Impaled On Spike Still Shows Up For Work On Time!” I also remember Jessi from the old Chicago City Limits theatre on 61st Street and 1st avenue, where I debuted my award-winning short film “I Am Woody” about a violent mob boss, ( is there any other kind?) who was obsessed with Woody Allen. I recall her being there when I did the Q&A.

But I hadn’t seen her for quite a while which I guess is because maybe she moved to LA and when you live in New York, and someone else lives across the country, you tend not to run into them. Except for Helen Hong. She moved to LA and I run into her wherever I go. As a matter of fact, I ran into her in my living room this morning! (LOL)

Jessi wasn’t on the Nick Kroll set. The only writer there was Joe Mande who’s also a stand-up, and who was actually voted “Best Comedian” by Time Out New York.

So anyway, when I got a FB invite to “The Yacht Party” from The Party Machine, out in Brooklyn at Union Hall, I saw three names inviting me, Jessi Klein, Arden Myrin, and Lisa Delarios.

Now I go to tons of events and parties, so I thought this was going to be a comedy party of some kind, which I admit did hit me as being a little bit strange, since most young comics I know are too busy performing to have parties,and they certainly don’t have yachts!

But I had heard from a comic named Tyler Fischer, who performs on my latenight show at The Comic Strip, that Union Hall was a good scene in Brooklyn for comedy, so I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to check it out! Here comes the part where I think I’m about to embarrass myself! (LOL)

I called my assistant Corinne Fisher, who is also a comic and sketch performer with her partner Krystina Hutchinson, (her COMEDY partner! LOL), and asked her if she wanted to come check out this comedy party with me in Brooklyn. I NEVER go to Brooklyn, and I don’t say that as a badge of honor or anything, it’s just the truth. It’s a long drive when there are so many comedy shows right here in Manhattan, but I figured, “What the heck, I’ll give it a shot!”

Corinne mentioned to her boyfriend Frank Hejl from the award-winning sketch group Onassis that we were going to this “Yacht Party” out in Brooklyn, but by the time he checked it out and told her it was a show and not a party, we were already there!

On the way, we hit a ton of traffic, but because I still thought it was a party, and that the party started at 7:30, I wasn’t stressing. Who wants to be the first one at a party? I figured we’d make an “entrance” about 8:15 and we’d still be cool. What kind of party is over in 45 minutes, right? It should just be getting good by that time.

When we walked in to Union Hall around 8:10, I saw lots of people playing what looked to be bocce, I think, but no party. I was so glad to finally get there that I didn’t even really hit me that people were playing bocce. I asked some guy who worked there if there was a comedy party going on, and I don’t think he really heard me over all the noise, but he directed me to the back and downstairs.

I had just seen Arden Myrin last week, performing in a Comedy Juice show at Gotham, but didn’t have a chance to say “Hi” cause I had to run and host a show at The Comic Strip. So I thought I’d look for her at the party, and tell her I liked the show.

And Lisa Delarios is one of my FB friends, so I thought I should show up and support! I thought maybe it was a comedy fundraiser or something.

I love her last name cause it’s like a combination of “hilarious” and “delirious” both of which are good states to attain! (LOL) But when I saw her, I didn’t recognize her the way she was dressed and told her that Lisa Delarios invited me, to which she said, “That’s ME!” Moron feeling #1.

Lisa Delarios seemingly perplexed by the size of my big pink pen!

So anyway, as you may have guessed by now,the party turned out to be a show, and by coming late, we missed at least the first half, if not more. The room was packed, and Corinne and I squeezed into a space along the wall in time to see Arden Myrin and Lisa Delarios dressed in “yachting attire” and looking very retro, introduce a comic named Ben Krongold to perform.

That’s when I realized I was not only NOT at a party, but I was at a very different kind of show. Kind of a “hipster” comedy show if there is such a thing, and I’m sure there is! Ben came out looking like a cross between maybe like a young Marc Maron, and a man who lives alone in the woods, and could possibly be a serial killer! As a matter of fact there is a You Tube video I came across starring Ben and Jena Friedman, in which Ben is actually playing a killer!

He was sporting a thick beard, (not as thick as Jason Mantzoukas who I also ran into on the Nick Kroll set, and tried to get him interested in my new invention, the battery-operated beard), and not as big as the one worn by Zach Galifianakis, (who I think is friends with all these people), but Ben still had a hearty growth of foliage, enough for a small bird to build a nest in.

Jeffrey Gurian, Jason Mantzoukas, and Jason Mantzoukas' beard which will soon be seen in the new Sascha Baron Cohen flick, "The Dictator!" On the Nick Kroll set in LA!

Ben’s delivery was very unusual, and he thumbed through a small notebook to present the audience with facts, mostly involving “poop”, and then asked the audience questions, which ended in ” Why is that?’ a bit which which the audience loved. I particularly liked when he said, “I don’t like to call my step-dad my step-dad. I like to call him my “faux-pa”, which I thought was so clever cause I like that kind of silliness. Ben’s act made me think that traditional stand-up comedy, like we do at The Comic Strip, might not work in this part of Brooklyn.

It might seem too contrived to come out on stage as if you knew what you were going to say, and had your material at your fingertips. That didn’t allow for as much awkwardness as this audience seemed to demand. It was really very interesting. And I’m so glad I got to go.

I also really loved Adira Amram and The Experience, which were her back-up dancers Jessi and Maresa. Adira has a great voice and the music was bangin’ as were her two back-up hip-hop dancers, in their fun costumes. If you have some free time later, try saying Arden Myrin and Adira Amram ten times fast!

Now this could have been a party! Maresa, Arden Myrin, Lisa Delarios, Jessi and Adira Amram, down in front, at Union Hall in Brooklyn!

I heard I missed Bobby Tisdale, and some other funny comics, but I did get to meet producer Emily Kindler, who is related to my old pal Andy Kindler. I’m anxious to see more of her work!

Lewis Black, Jeffrey Gurian, and Andy Kindler in Montreal during the Just For Laughs Festival for Andy's "State of the Industry" speech, circa 2001!

Lisa Delarios, who "one-upped" my big pen with a HUGE drink, Arden Myrin, and producer Emily Kindler at Union Hall for The Yacht Party! (LOL)

One of the most unusual aspects of the evening was the large amount of infants that attended the show. They all sat together which was fascinating to me. And when I went over at the end to ask one of them how they liked the show, it made a face at me. At first I thought the infant looked familiar to me, but then I realized you never see an infant that looks familiar to you!

One of the many infants that attended the "Yacht Party" show! She said her name was Adrienne before she made this face at me!

I would definitely come out to Brooklyn to see them all again, but next time I’ll get there on time as one should do for a show, and not a party! (LOL)

Read about my recent Nick Kroll and John Mulaney adventure in Comedy Matters right here:

http://wp.me/p1pHIm-Ou

P.S. Jessi Klein by the way, was not there! (LOL)

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