March Madness at Caroline’s Comedy Club was just like it says, … madness. I was at the last show, “The Final Four” whittled down from 64, to 32, to 16, to 8 and then to four. It was Eagle Witt vs. Melissa Diaz, and Gordon Baker Bone up against Napoleon Emill. Kerry Coddett who won the competition last year was the emcee. and really did her job in getting the audience psyched for the event. And it was all of them against some 13 year old kid in the front row whose parents were dumb enough to bring a kid to a comedy show. It’s weird and can be so stressful to the comics to see a kid in the audience, but they all handled it well and made sure to make the parents feel like morons and not the kid. The kid got a lesson in sexuality for sure.
The first round was ten minutes each. Eagle won his round and Napoleon won his round. It’s interesting to watch because both comics are on the stage at the same time while their opponents are performing. The one sitting it out is usually reading his notes or basically looking like he doesn’t care about his opponent. Except for Gordon Baker bone. He laughed at several of Napoleon’s jokes. Then it was Eagle against Napoleon. Both of them had friends and family there to support. It was hard for me because I’ve watched both of them come up in the ranks from doing late night at New York Comedy Club, and to be honest I felt proud of both of them.They have completely opposite styles. Eagle is high energy, with rapid delivery and moves around a lot on stage. Good act-outs, especially when he imitates girls. Napoleon is VERY laid back. VERY laid back and stays true to his persona the entire time. The final round where he and Eagle went head to head was 15 minutes each and during his set Nap said it felt long. There were times when he hesitated to think of more material but he soldiered on and made it. Not only did he make it, … he won! With only four years in the game!
Judges were Carolyn Gitomer a booker and producer from Carolines, Jessica Pilot a producer who also books Colbert and Nora May from 3 Arts. After the show we hung outside for a while and Reg Thomas was with Napoleon who told me he considers Eagle like his little brother, who “killed and destroyed”, and that the whole thing was “a dope experience” which he was very grateful for. He gave major props to Eagle and was very humble about his win, because he felt it would be good for both of them.
Chris Mazzilli has more charity events at Gotham Comedy Club than any other club in New York. He’s that kind of guy. I pulled up to the club and saw two huge firetrucks outside. I was concerned until I went in and found out it was a comedy night fundraiser called “Laughter Saves Lives” for the FDNY Family Transport Foundation, Friends of Firefighters, NYC Firefighter Brotherhood, and Laughter Saves Lives Foundation which produces fundraising events for other charitable organizations and foundations all in the name of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11th, and also to transport FDNY firefighters and family members to medical institutions both for care and family support.
Comic and producer John Larocchia is the one to thank as he is the founder of the Laughter Saves Lives organization, and produced this show. A former firefighter himself, he lost 19 friends from his firehouse Hazmat 1 in Maspeth Queens that horrible day, including his best friend fellow firefighter Tommy Gardner. John is to be commended for his good works. And just as Peaches Rodriguez was about to go on who walks in but Jerry Seinfeld and George Wallace. So she got bumped for about 40 minutes but she said it was the most exciting night of her life because she had to follow them, and when she went up on stage she thanked them both for opening for her. And then had such a good set that Chris Mazzilli came over to congratulate her and gave her his card. Another comic who really works her butt off, and deserves all the success she gets! She also produces shows and has two coming up, one at Carolines in early April and another at The Comic Strip.
The very next night I’m back there and there’s another fundraiser this time for Jumpstart a literacy group that helps children develop the language, literacy and social skills they need to be successful in school. I have to admit I got there late but was glad to run into my buddy Richie Byrne in the showroom who does the warm-up for Dr. Oz, and who was there with his producer Joel Richardson of Soul Joel Productions. Joel produces Richie’s podcast which he does from The Comic Strip with another great guy Mark Riccadonna and it’s called “Drinks, Jokes and Storytelling.” It’s 30 minutes long and the way Rich described it comics come on and tell the kind of stories they would talk about after a show. War stories from the road! Gotta check it out! I can usually gauge the night by who I run into first and running into Riche was a good sign.
Chloe Hilliard was the emcee, and I sat at my usual table #69 laughing the night away with Matt Kleinschmidt from The Laugh Button/Syndicate. Mike Vecchione got up and he is truly one of the really great writers. Matteo Lane was the emcee and when he introduced Mike all he said was “This comic needs no introduction” and then he never even said his name, he just walked off the stage and Mike came up. It was so strange I figured it had to be something very inside and when I asked Matteo about it he told me that Mike asked him to do that. He said it felt weird to him to even do it but in deference to Mike he did it. It’s a perfect Vecchione move. And speaking of clever writing then Andrew Schulz came up and he is so edgy, and so good at taking ultra-P.C. and taboo topics and turning them around, he managed to make almost an entire roomful of women laugh at their periods in this P.C. age of everyone being offended by everything.
After he came offstage I asked him what he was up to, and it’s a lot. He’s playing a comedy writer on Paul Reiser’s Hulu series called “There’s Johnny” which was originally slated to appear on NBC’s Seeso before they shut it down. The project got saved by Hulu and it’s a 7 episode period piece set in 1972 using archival footage from the real Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and is an inside look backstage at that show. Besides Paul it’s also produced and directed by David Gordon Green and David Simon. Andrew is the only stand-up comic in the show, and my old pal Tony Danza plays the Carson show’s longtime producer/director Freddie DeCordova. Andrew will be headlining Gotham for a weekend in the middle of April and is also on what he described as “a world tour” called “Views from The Cis” (look it up!) and the next leg will be Canada, then Europe, England, Sweden, Amsterdam, Belgium, and other countries on that continent. He said he’d love to take opening acts with him but most of the time uses local talent to open.
He’s also doing movies like Feast of the Seven Fishes which they shot in West Virginia, and then doing a reboot of Halloween with Danny McBride and again with David Gordon Green, who I once had the pleasure of doing a cool interview with at Comic Con. Andrew said he felt really honored when David called him to be in this film, which should be out in October. Before I left him I had to ask him about his new look with an almost shaved head. He laughed and said he did it to make sure he wasn’t going bald. When he was shooting one of those films they kept slicking his hair back and it looked to him as if he might be going bald so he shaved his head to make sure it would grow back. Not really sure that works but it’s a heck of a way to find out!
Before I leave the concept of charity fundraisers I must announce that on Tuesday April 24th I will be hosting the very first charity comedy open-mic fundraiser for a group called ZAKA, very famous in Israel where it is based, as well as all over the world, and now thanks to lawyer/lobbyist Brad Gerstman coming to New York. Brad is the Chairman. They train first responders to go to disaster areas anywhere in the world they occur. No politics involved. They are usually first on the scene and are a rescue and recovery volunteer organization of which I am very proud to have been named a member of the Board at a special event at the Israeli Consulate. It’s going to be held at Keats which is a venue on 2nd Avenue and 45th Street and I hope you will come out to support. Feel free to hit me up for more info. Open bar and open mic! Great combo!
Angelo Lozada was doing his show The Lozada Lowdown downstairs in the lounge at Gotham in which he has two comics perform and then does an interview with a special guest who this night was actor Manny Perez, along with comics Eric Nieves and Dean Edwards. This coming month they’ll be celebrating their one year anniversary, and they’re planning something special. Angelo travels with Trevor Noah who he does the warm-up for and was excited when they recently did the Dolby Theatre in LA where the Academy Awards are held.
The Stand was hopping as always and I ran into Tim Dillon who will have two specials coming out this summer, a 15 minute one on Netflix and a half hour on Comedy Central, and Ari Shaffir was there and gave his own personal version of the story of Passover, which coming from an ex-orthodox Jew made it hysterically funny. At the end of his set he wanted to remember one more thing about Passover but couldn’t think of it and Mark Normand who was standing with me at the bar uttered a bit too loudly, “Thank G-d” and Ari heard it from the stage and broke up laughing. Mark told me he didn’t mean to say it that loud. Mark just did his 6th appearance on Conan, it’s up on YouTube, and he told me they let him be kind of edgy talking about the “Me Too” Movement and gay people, and he said he thinks that after you’ve been on a few times they let you go a little darker, which he was grateful for. When I asked him about the PC current in the country right now he said it the jokes are good enough people will laugh and a lot of it is phony outrage. He said it’s better on the road but in LA and New York it’s worse. Go figure! He’s pitching a show next week that is already written and he said it’s also dark, and nothing like ‘Two and Half Men”. I wish him a lot of luck.
Backstage at New York Comedy Club is always a hoot. I ran into Vondecarlo who told me she fills in for Godfrey on his SiriusXM show, Channel 126 The Power Hour when he’s on the road, and she’s working hard on her independent podcast the Coach Von Podcast talking love and basketball, and hopes to be having comics on as guests very soon. And Mike Britt told me something very cool that he’s the singer of the Kimmy Schmidt theme song. He said they auto-tuned his voice. And he also has a cool Geico commercial running right now which someone congratulated him on while we were speaking. He said it was cool working with that little gecko. And he’s been doing a lot of acting in stuff like Boardwalk Empire and Luke Cage on Netflix which is a series about a Black superhero.
Cipha Sounds came through and I got to congratulate him on his show Laff Mobb’s Laff Trax which is such a cool show where they act out comic’s jokes, plus he’s got his UCB show with comedy and hip hop now every Tuesday night down at UCBEast. Phil Hanley another great writer had a fantastic comeback to a woman who yelled out to him while he was onstage asking him what he thought about Prime Minister Trudeau. Without missing a beat Phil said, “Well I like him and I know him to be a very polite man who would never do what you just did!” He and I had a good laugh about that after his set. He’s got a special coming out which he taped in Vancouver called “Please Don’t Chit Chat While I’m Pursuing My Dream” which fit in very well with what had just transpired.
Lynne Koplitz headlined Gotham and got a lot of love from the audience to the point where three audience members hugged her while she was still on stage. Lynne said after all her years on stage she’s not scared of anything and she gives her address to the audience including her apartment number, while daring anyone to try and rape her. She’s well prepared with her own countermeasures.
Corinne Fisher and Rosebud Baker’s Nacho Bitches show was packed as usual and I got to see someone new, trans comic Jaye McBride who was really funny and very open about her “transness” if there is such a word. Originally from upstate, she went to LA for what she described as a very long year, and said it was more than enough for her and she has been in NY for the last year. She told me she transitioned on 2/22/07 and was inspired to come out after hearing about 11 year old Jazz Jennings who wrote a book about being trans and identified as trans at only 6 years old. She received death threats, and Jaye felt that if Jazz could be brave enough to endure that that she herself should come out as well. She said it took her about three years to start talking about it on stage but she does and her stuff is funny which makes her experience even more powerful.
Corinne and Rosebud are excited about their new podcast called “Two Less Lonely Girls” where they focus in on their obsession with all things Justin Bieber, including his lifestyle, his astrological signs, and his relationships and it will be done by seasons. And their producer Mike Coscarelli was also there. Mike transitioned too, … not his sexuality but from doing comedy into heading up his own podcast network called “The OG Podcast Network” and he produces about 30 different podcasts from the studios at WABC, 2 Penn Plaza. He even does his own podcast called “Anxiety Now” which he described as “a satirical look at overly-sensational news” like the Bomb Cyclone, and the North Korea nuclear war scare which we both feel is done just to get more viewers for their shows. He co-hosts the show with comic Jordan Raybould. I first met Mike when he was producing Curtis Sliwa’s radio show and he did an outstanding job of performing on the Roast I produced for WABC honoring Curtis and his then co-host Ron Kuby! Mike is a funny dude!
Hope you all had a wonderful Easter and Passover, and with that, … I’m OUT!!!