Jeffrey Gurian is all about relationships.
Sure he’s a ‘man about town’ (at the Comic Strip Xmas party, comic Scott Blakeman quipped that “Jeffrey is everywhere. As a matter of fact he’s here and at a party somewhere else at the same time.”), an author (with one book under his belt, another on the way, and a 10-year+ column that is now seen monthly in Punchline Magazine), and a producer (of comedy shows, short film series, and now a documentary). And there’s a rumour that he’s a dentist with a professorship at NYU. (He claims that longstanding rumor has been around forever… and started the day he graduated from Dental School.) He also developed a successful treatment for stuttering, which he used to cure himself.
But, as he humbly stressed in an interview a couple of weeks ago, Jeffrey Gurian is a man all about relationships. He attributes his diverse success to his ability to communicate well and maintain contacts across his many walks of life. Of course, a handful of great and hilarious stories along the way are inevitable:
Jeffrey’s idol growing up was Woody Allen, and as a young dental student he contrived a way to meet him personally to show him his writing. Allen read the material in-person and encouraged him to make a film because of the “very visual” style with which he wrote. Jeffrey was so nervous at meeting his idol, that his attempts at banter produced such gems as, “Let’s open up a day camp and throw winter clothes at people,” and “You know, the Aztecs weren’t too good at tap dancing, but boy could they sway!”
Jeffrey told me that, to meet a big star, you must first convince them that you’re not crazy. He figured the only way to convince Allen that he wasn’t crazy would be to wear a tie or bring a pretty girl along with him when they met. He didn’t own a tie, and based on the lines he used, the woman must have been gorgeous. It’s a good thing too, as that meeting was prescient and these films became the “Men Who” series. Eventually, they debuted at the Toyota Comedy Festival and can now be viewed on Babelgum and via the Fun Little Movies site.
Jeffrey became good friends with Jack Rollins and, in later years, Charlie Joffe, Woody’s managers. Jack sent Jeffrey over to SNL with other short films, and it was there that Jeffrey met famous writer/director Alan Zweibel, who this month will win the WGA’s Lifetime Achievement in Writing award. Zweibel sent Jeffrey to his own manager, David Jonas, who took a look at his ideas, among which was The Masters of Disguise series– they were two master criminals who would commit crimes disguised as inanimate objects. For example, two men disguised as coats robbed a hat store. They came in over the arms of two other men who swear they had no part in the whole thing. The way they tell it, “These two guys folded themselves over our arms, put a gun in my ribs and said, ” Just act natural like we’re your coats, and no one’ll get hurt.”
The first big star that Jeffrey ever wrote for was Rodney Dangerfield. He performed Jeffrey’s material on his first album No Respect, and on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Jeffrey went on to write for many other comedy greats like Joan Rivers, Phil Hartman, Pat Cooper, Pauly Shore, Andrew Dice Clay, George Wallace, and Richard Belzer, and and he wrote a short film that Gilbert Gottfried starred in.
After originally being sponsored by Milton Berle in the legendary Friars Club, Jeffrey also wrote for many Friars Roasts over the years– for both the roasters and the roastees. It was this experience in writing “vile and obscene” jokes that led to Jeffrey’s first book: Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive, which compiled the favorite dirtiest jokes of over 250 celebrities. Paul Provenza, a longtime friend of Jeffrey and the Comic Strip, and director of The Aristocrats, wrote the foreword.
Now Jeffrey is working on a book with Comic Strip co-owner Richie Tienken, to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the Club. Along with Richie and Bob Wachs, Jeffrey is also one of the producers of the documentary Eat, Drink, and Laugh, whose progress is regularly updated here at Eighty-Second & 2nd. Jeffrey has already interviewed some of the biggest stars who got their start here at The World Famous Comic Strip Live, including Jerry Seinfeld, Larry Miller, George Wallace, Lewis Black, and Chris Rock. The book should be published in 2011, on schedule with the film’s premiere.
Last year was particularly busy for Jeffrey. He had his own column in the legendary comedy newspaper Weekly World News called Gurian’s World of the Bizarre. When that ended, he took his collection of bizarre stories, like “College Professor Fired For Casually Removing His Spine”, and “Man With Infant’s Head Sues For Discrimination” and created GNN (Gurian News Network), your source for, “all the news that’s fit to dance to.” He had been performing his comedy news broadcast on different Sirius and WOR radio shows in this country and in Canada on CJAD. He then went on to turn these stories into animated shorts that were shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May of ‘09. He also continued writing his Comedy Matters column that has run nationally for over ten years, featuring A-list stars like Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Colin Quinn, George Wallace, Susie Essman, Russell Peters, Gabriel Iglesias, and Lisa Lampanelli.
Over the years, Jeffrey has produced shows like “Uncle Nat’s Traveling Peep Show” with comics like Jessica Kirson, Rich Francese, Rob Magnotti, and many others. He worked with Abby Russell of Letterbox Pictures, who is now shooting the Comic Strip documentary, to co-produce her Hamptons Comedy Festival in 2004.
Recently, Jeffrey teamed up with talent manager Jean Alerte and is in the midst of what he considers his biggest project so far, producing a comedy show starring actor/comedian Kevin Hart, and featuring TV/film star Tony Rock. Part of the ticket proceeds will be donated to Haiti, and you can get them HERE.
Jeffrey hopes to follow this up with many more big comedy shows. He is also a comedy coach, has taught comedy writing at The Learning Annex, and was accepted on staff at Baruch College. He can be reached at Jeffrey@jeffreygurian.com, or you can visit his website HERE.