On November 29, 2023

Rockin’ the Region: Second annual Vermont Comedy Festival provides big names, big laughs

Jeffrey Gurian

By Dave Hoffenberg

The second annual Vermont Comedy Festival is upon us, and this year the committee brought in some big names in the biz to give you some big laughs. One of which is Jeffrey Gurian, who people refer to as a “Renaissance Man”, because he’s involved in so many things. In the movie world, there’s “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, so I think in the comedy world it should be “Six Degrees of Jeff Gurian.” He’s connected to so many big stars and comedy legends like Rodney Dangerfield, Joan Rivers, Richard Belzer, Jerry Lewis and Andrew “Dice” Clay and then relative new stars like Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Tracy Morgan, and Bill Burr. 

Gurian has been covering the comedy scene since 1999. He’s a comedy writer, performer, director, best-selling author, producer, radio personality, motivational speaker, and doctor with many of those at the same time. He’s been interviewing celebrities on the red carpet at the biggest comedy festival in the world, Just for Laughs in Montreal, since 1992. He has over 600 interviews from all the major comedy events and now will be adding the Vermont Comedy Festival to that list. Jeffrey will be on the red carpet for all the events this weekend and you can see all the fun stuff at vermontcomedyfestival.com. 

Gurian has a YouTube channel “Comedy Matters TV” that you should definitely subscribe to. On it, there’s a 2-minute video on Jeffrey called “Who the F*@K is Gurian” and it shows a sample of people he’s interviewed. Bob Saget said, “I can’t say no to you. I’ve known you my whole career. I can’t say no to Jeff, nobody can say no to him.” Nick Kroll said, “People love you, Jeffrey. You have more access to more people than anyone I know in comedy.” That video led to a filmmaker making an award-winning short documentary about Gurian, under the same name. Gurian said, “When the filmmaker contacted me, he said I can’t come up with a better title than that, I gotta use that.” His website is comedymatterstv.com and he can be found on Instagram @jeffreygurian. 

Gurian has never been to Vermont but is looking forward to seeing our state and being a part of the festival. He said, “When Matt and Collen asked me, I said Great, I’d love to do that. I know it’s their second year, and I love to support people. It’s tremendous to create a comedy festival. I respect everybody that performs because it takes a lot of courage to make strangers laugh with what you think is funny.” Gurian is the official interviewer at the festival, may do some of his stand-up and do a book signing as well. Gurian has written eight books, the first five on comedy, and the last three of which are in what he calls his “Happiness Series.” You can find his books on Amazon.

Gurian and I spoke for almost 90 minutes, which in my interview world is unheard of. This article is only a small sample of our chat. It was as if I was speaking to an old friend, he’s very easy to talk to. Ironically, he is kind of an old acquaintance. We realized we both are connected to Naked Angels Theatre Company in NYC, and he attended one of their big galas that I deejayed in 1994 in the Hamptons. I wish I could write about everything we spoke of but space limits that, so I recommend you speak to him this weekend at one of the events. He wrote comedy for Rodney Dangerfield, who did Gurian’s stuff on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and Joan Rivers, just to name a few, but what most impressed me is he was the main writer for the infamous Friars Club Roasts for 12 years. Those roasts are legendary. 

Not only does Gurian have a hand, or many, in the comedy world but he also helped many people as a former cosmetic dentist, former clinical professor at NYU in oral medicine and he developed a cure for stuttering which he used to cure himself of a severe stutter. There is not an ounce of stutter in his voice. It was amazing to learn of his techniques. He works with stutterers all over the world and if he can’t help them in person, he works with them on Zoom or Skype through his websitestopstutteringnowgurian.com. He said, “There’s millions of people who stutter and they don’t know they can be helped. It’s a very sad thing because they’re not being told they can get better.”

Both his parents had a great sense of humor. His dad would take him to see films of comedic old-timers like Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, the Marx Brothers, and W.C. Fields, who is a big influence. He started writing comedy when he was 12. He said, “At 12 years old, I decided what I wanted to be and never changed which is such a rare thing for a 12-year-old to know.” He has a short film “I am Woody” about a mob boss obsessed with Woody Allen, which has won several awards. Woody Allen is Gurian’s most powerful influence and once told him his comedy is very visual and he should think about making a film out of it.

He met Nick Kroll and John Mulaney at a party for a comedy event and they asked if he would take a picture with them. Nick said if he ever got a TV show, would Jeffrey be on it and obviously Gurian said yes. A few years went by, and Gurian got a call from a production company asking him to come to LA to be on the Kroll Show. He was the first guy to be pranked with Too Much Tuna in the viral “Too Much Tuna” sketch on the “Kroll Show.” 

Gurian has hundreds of stories about fun stuff in his life like the Kroll Show or being Patrice O’Neal’s co-host on “The Black Phillip Show” on XM Radio, which Gurian considers to be one of his greatest honors. His grandfather owned a nightclub and he said, “All our family events were there so I always found show business exciting, but I had no idea how I was going to break into it. There’s no easy way. It’s been a very weird trip. People always ask how I know all these people and I don’t have an answer for them, I don’t know. It’s amazing to me that I got to meet all the people I admired growing up. I’ve loved comedy all my life. It’s such a great gift to make people laugh. My goal has always been to put positive energy out to the universe. Whether I do that by interviewing someone and making them feel good or performing comedy. I love to make people laugh and make them feel good.”

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