I recently sat down with comedian and writer Jeffrey Gurian to discuss his passions, projects, and future plans. Jeffrey has written comedy for Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle, Phil Hartman, Richard Belzer, Gilbert Gottfried, George Wallace, Andrew Dice Clay, Henny Youngman, and many other great comedians in a career that spans over four decades. He has also written for a variety of politicians, actors, and musicians, including Bruce Willis, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Frankie Avalon, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins. Jeffrey is the author of two books: Filthy, Funny, and Totally Offensive, and Make 'Em Laugh, and has written for New York Friars Club roasts and "Saturday Night Live." He is also a screenwriter, playwright, blogger, DDS, and much more!
Learn more about Jeffrey Gurian below, and check him out on the season finale of Comedy Central's hit series "Kroll Show"!! Appearances by Katy Perry, Amy Poehler, and Laura Dern!
Two passions: Comedy and Dentistry
When I was 12 years old, I knew that I wanted to be a dentist, and I was already writing comedy. So my whole life was that split. I was a cosmetic dentist and I was writing for people like Rodney Dangerfield, Joan Rivers, for the Friars Club... Richard Belzer, Gilbert Gottfried... some very well-known people—and I was doing it while I was in practice. I had a very busy practice, and I would go out at night and go to the clubs and I would write for people. And I wouldn’t tell them about my other field. In show business, no one hires you because you’re a dentist, they hire you in spite of it. My nurse knew [to] never disturb me unless it [was] show business. She would come in and say “Dr. Rivers is on the phone,” “Dr. Berle is calling”... the only one that people didn’t believe was “Dr. Dangerfield.” I loved doing both. I loved making people look beautiful—because my specialty was cosmetics—and I loved making people laugh. I could never let one go and just do the other.
After I left practice, I was a clinical professor at NYU in Oral Medicine and Orofacial pain. One of my specialties was temporomandibular joint problems, and treating it with very gentle, healing touch... energy work. They actually allowed me to lecture on that at NYU, which is very unusual because a lot of universities are not open to alternative therapies like that. [Healing] was a gift that was given to me as a child. When I was seven or eight years old, I already knew that I could take away certain pain with my hands. When I became a teenager and I started going out with girls... a lot of girls get pain at ‘that time of the month,’ and I [intuitively] knew how to take it away. I called it “Jeffrey’s Famous Stomach Operation.”
When I went into practice, I started studying different modalities of energy work. Things like shiatsu and reiki, therapeutic touch, and applied kinesiology... plus intuitive healing. I created my own form of energy healing called S.T.A.R. therapy. It stands for Spiritual Transformational Affirmative Resonance Therapy. It’s like a guided meditation. Most stress-related illness comes from a lack of information. People live in the past, they regret their past , and they worry about their future. That causes illness in people after a while. In order for me to help people heal, I have to find out what information they don’t have in their hard drive... what thoughts they’re not using to make decisions. When I offer them a thought they need, it resonates with them as a truth.
All I want to do is have fun, and I want people around me to have fun. I want people to play. That may sound childish to some people, but it’s the reason I have balloons in my apartment, and crayons wherever you look, and there’s toys. If you look around, you see little knick-knacks, little toys that I collect... and my “spoon plants.” I do this for me. I’m a big believer, and I teach this, [in creating] your own happiness center. I had a healing center, [which I called] The Happiness Center™. Every place you look, there should be something that makes you smile. My place may look it’s cluttered with a lot of things, but everything is here because I put it here. Bright colors, pictures of people that I like, things that are meaningful to me.
There are less writers working for comedians than there were in the past. In the old days, comedy was different. There were more one-liners. Now it’s more observational humor that comes from someone’s thoughts. These days, [comedy writing] doesn’t come into play as much unless someone gets a television show. Then they’ll bring other comics whose comedic sensibilities they respect, and say “Come on the show and write for me.” When you’re out in the clubs performing, you hear other people performing... you see how they think. They know good writers when they hear them because they can tell how the jokes are crafted. It’s very hard to write a joke... a good joke. But when you’re writing comedy, you have to write in the voice of the comedian. You have to think in their voice. One comedian should not be able to do another comedian’s jokes. My stuff is a little Woody Allen-ish... if I had to compare it. Woody gave me my start. He read my material and told me that it was very visual, and I should think of making a film out of it. I was just a kid, and I got to meet Woody Allen for two nights.
I did a book last year called Make ‘Em Laugh, and Chris Rock wrote the introduction to it. It’s a book on the history of a legendary comedy club called The Comic Strip, that opened June 1, 1976, and it’s still open. It’s the only club that’s open from those days in New York [out of] the big three clubs that started out: The Improv, Catch a Rising Star, and The Comic Strip. I write a blog, “Comedy Matters,” and I go to shows all over town. I’m going to cover the South Beach Comedy Festival next week in Miami for my Comedy Matters TV [YouTube] channel, and for Sirius XM, where I am a regular on “The Ron and Fez Show.” I [also] cover the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal—the biggest comedy festival in the world.
There’s a reason for all those pictures. I’m fascinated by my own life. My life feels like a movie to me. For a long time I was like an observer watching it happen. I started out knowing nobody in show business... not one person. I’ve been able to create this over the years. It’s amazing to me how many people I’ve been able to meet. I have a love of people, and for whatever reason I’ve been able to meet people in all areas of entertainment. I took pictures to capture the moment. I take pictures because that’s what makes it real to me. If I take a picture, I know it happened. It’s like a comedy museum in my house, because the pictures go back a long way. Milton Berle was my sponsor in the Friars Club. I wrote Henny Youngman’s 91st birthday roast for television. I got to meet all these legends... the people who created the world of comedy that we know today. It’s amazing to me. And I’m so blessed that I was able to take pictures.
One of my proudest credits is that I wrote for Weekly World News. I was a reporter. It’s a legendary newspaper that influenced The Onion. I had my own column called “Gurian’s World of the Bizarre.” I did stories like “Tap Dancing for the Criminally Insane,” “Man Paints Replica of Sistine Chapel with His Beard,” and “Man with Infant’s Head Sues for Discrimination.” I took these stories and I created Gurian News Network (GNN), which is “All the News That’s Fit To Dance To.” GNN [features] stories that are missed by mainstream media. I do a weekly podcast every Friday called “Unusual News” on the “Wake Up Late with Dougie Show” on the WEI Network.
"Real Housewives of New York"
I’m going to be on several episodes of [Bravo’s] “Real Housewives of New York.” I’m very good friends with Countess LuAnn [de Lesseps]; we’ve known each other for more than 20 years. She came to me to create a comedy sketch to bring them into the comedy world. It’s a big love of hers, and she loves doing characters. I figured sketch comedy would be perfect for her to play a character. We made a sketch that made fun of her and Princess Carole [Radziwill]’s royal titles, and the girls loved it and Bravo loved it. We shot an episode in my apartment, and a few at The P.I.T. Then Carole had a surprise 50th birthday party, and I was there, and that was filmed for the show too.
Nick Kroll is the hottest thing on Comedy Central right now. I was on twice last year in his first season. One sketch... it’s so silly but it went viral... it’s called “Too Much Tuna.” It’s me, Nick Kroll, and John Mulaney. I’m on [tonight] with Katy Perry, Amy Poehler, and Laura Dern. It’s the finale of the second season.
I’m on ["The Ron and Fez Show"] every week. I bring on celebrity guests who are friends of mine. I started with Colin Quinn in January, and I brought on Artie Lange, Russell Peters, Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, Tom Cotter from “America’s Got Talent,” Esther Ku from MTV’s “Girl Code,” and Patrice O’Neal’s wife, Von Decarlo, from the new Centric TV show "According to Him & Her."
Comedy Matters TV
My YouTube channel, [Comedy Matters TV], is coming up on 300 [on-camera] interviews, and all A-listers: Jimmy Fallon, Chelsea Handler, Bob Saget, Jack Black, Uma Thurman, Chazz Palminteri, Jessica Biel... I have about 296 interviews already.
I want to do more movies. I’ve only done one full-length feature that I wrote with Scott Baio. It was called “Face to Face” when we wrote it, and for some reason they changed the name to “Italian Ties.” We had big stars in it: Alex Rocco, Joe Viterelli, Dean Stockwell from “Quantam Leap,” Meatloaf, [and] Scott Baio of course. It winded up going to film festivals... it was the opening night film at the Taos [Talking Pictures] Film Festival. I’d like to do guest spots on different shows. I love doing comedy, and a couple of places have offered for me to do one-man shows. In a one-man show you have to be more honest. It’s not just comedy, it’s talking about your life, and I’ve never really done that. But I think I can. I’m letting the universe guide me and see where it takes me.