The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #31 – Susan Birkenhead

Susan Birkenhead is one of the most in-demand theatre lyricists. She made her Broadway debut as a contributor to Working in 1978. Her songwriting has been featured in many productions both on and off Broadway, including Jelly’s Last Jam, Triumph of Love, High Society, Hats!, Radio Girl and most recently The Secret Life of Bees. Susan Birkenhead has written with some of the best composers including Charles Strouse, David Foster, Jule Styne and others. In fact, with Styne, Birkenhead wrote two songs recorded by Frank Sinatra.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #25 – Gabrielle Stravelli

The acclaimed jazz and pop vocalist Gabrielle Stravelli joins Paul to talk about her first major album of distinctive original songs “Dream Ago” produced by David Cook. Called an “outstanding singer” by the Wall Street Journal and “hotter than the equator” by The Village Voice, Gabrielle Stravelli is an emerging sensation in New York’s jazz and supper clubs, who is gathering recognition and a following around the nation and beyond.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode #7 – Bill Scheft

I first became completely aware of Bill Scheft’s humor and way of speaking by watching him one night on The Late Show with David Letterman.  Bill Scheft was a joke writer on Letterman from 1991 until Dave’s retirement in 2015.  He was talking with Dave about his book Shrink Thyself and I could relate to his talking about therapy.  He struck me as someone who was aware of how people think and behave and the seed was planted that maybe one day I could interview him.

It didn’t happen while Letterman still had his late night talk show, but everything happens that should, when it is supposed to. The things he talked about at the end resonated deeply with me and I’m glad that I remembered verbatim much of he said. It’s gotten me out of trouble a few times and soothed my soul on a few nights that my thoughts weren’t kind and certainly not conducive to sleeping.   The Bill Scheft interview wasn’t what I expected, but it’s one I will never forget.  Thank you, sir.

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The Paul Leslie Hour Episode # 3 – Delaney Buffett & Katie Corwin

Delaney Buffett and Katie Corwin have a creative partnership built on a passion for cinema and their long friendship. Together they write, conceptualize and bring their imagination to the screen. Take their web comedy  City of Angles, a reality-inspired series based on the true events of a New Yorker who moves to Los Angeles. Clever dialogue and relatable situations remind you that laughter is sometimes the only response that makes sense.  However, their talents are not limited to a single genre.   2017 saw the World Premiere of their documentary short The Spring, which tells the story of the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs, a Florida roadside tourist attraction.

Delaney and Katie are two people who don’t take a story for granted. It was a great chat on The Paul Leslie Hour and I hope you enjoy their insight as much as I did!

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Frankie Keane: Singer-Songwriter, Stage & Screen Actress

Seeing a theatrical or musical performance is a shared experience.  As Jacques said in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.”   We all experience a birth and a passing – a beginning and an end.  Or maybe it doesn’t really end after all?  “Hereafter” is a musical that  brings to the stage an exploration of what happens after that inevitable final curtain call.

In the Big Apple, along comes an artist named Frankie Keane.  Within her was an intense desire to sing, write songs and act.  Where else could you go, but the city that never sleeps?  Eventually she met Vinne Favale, whom she helped in the creative process of writing the musical “Hereafter.”  In addition to being a part of the creative team, Frankie Keane is a cast member playing the role of “Anita.”

In our interview with Frankie Keane, we encounter someone passionate and open, with a desire to bring her heart to the stage and into the lyric and melody of the songs she writes and sings.

Let’s meet Frankie Keane.

Ellen Kaye: Night Club Singer

Ellen Kaye describes herself as a Night Club Singer.  She is also the owner of the restaurant Moscow 57 in New York, New York.  Her love for music and the restaurant business is a deep one.

From 1947 to 1996, Kaye’s family operated and owned The Russian Tea Room, the famed Manhattan Russo-Continental restaurant.  Scenes from many iconic films were shot in the restaurant including “Tootsie” and the Woody Allen film “Manhattan,” “When Harry Met Sally” and many others.

Ellen Kaye is also a recording artist who has released 3 albums.  As a performer she sings not only at her own restaurant, but also at celebrated New York venues such as The Metropolitan Room and the Iridium Jazz Club.

Michael John LaChiusa: Musical Theatre and Opera Composer, Lyricist & Librettist

In the world of musical theatre, Michael John LaChiusa is well known for his shows including “Hello Again,” “Marie Christine,” “The Wild Party,” and “See What I Wanna See.”  He is respected as a composer, lyricist, and librettist.  In addition to Michael John LaChiusa’s work in theatre and opera, he is also a performer of his own work at concert and cabaret venues.

In this interview LaChiusa talks about his influences, history and work.

Buddy Morra: Former Talent Manager for Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Robin Williams, etc.

Buddy Morra is a retired talent manager who worked for the prestigious management firm Rollins & Joffe.  Through the years he represented great talent like comedians David Letterman, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli.  Needless to say, he’s got a lot of stories to tell.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure we welcome our special guest, Buddy Morra. Thank you so much for joining us.

It’s a pleasure to be here, Paul. I’m not sure what I’m doing here, but I’m here (laughs).

I think most stories are best from the beginning. What was life like growing up?

Growing up? It  was kind of nice. It was like a lower-middle or middle class family. We lived in the Bronx. My father had some fruit and vegetable stores. He also had a pushcart for a while. He had a truck for a while. And we always managed to eat and we always managed to have food so we were OK. It was kind of a nice, sweet growing up. I’m glad I grew up that way, actually.

Can you remember early on what you wanted to do as an occupation?

Yes. I wanted to be a singer.

And did you ever pursue it?

Yes I did. It wasn’t terribly good (laughs) and at some point I realized, after a couple of years of having a good time running around and sleeping late that, you know, I had nothing special to offer. And my oldest friend at the time was a comedian, asked me if I’d be interested in working for the guy that represented him. He said he had a, he was doing okay, he could afford not very much money but I had the job if I wanted it. So I went to work for this guy for thirty bucks a week – cash.

The all-important cash!

(Laughs) Very important!

What city was this in?

In New York City. In 1957. I had been on my own until then, yeah. I had my own office for a while after I decided to give up singing and was just scraping by, at best. And then this offer came along and I took it. So I went from thirty bucks a week to forty bucks a week. Then I went to fifty bucks a week and then he put me on a percentage. But he was much smarter than I was because the percentage turned out to be the same fifty bucks a week (laughs).

Early on, the business side of the entertainment business – was it something you enjoyed?

Oh, I always loved it, yeah. I always loved it. Even as a young man I would just – I would read all the gossip columns. In those days we had, like, I think five or six newspapers in New York. I used to read all those columns about what was going on in Hollywood, what was going on on Broadway. I was very interested in that, so yes.

Tell us about how you started to specialize in comedians.

Well, I had my own office, oh, for four years or so, something like that, and then I had the opportunity to join Rollins and Joffe. They offered me a job, which was, at that time, the most prestigious management company in the industry. They handled Woody Allen, Dick Cavett – lots of really interesting people. It was an incredible organization and I went to work for them, and that changed my whole life. They managed a lot of people but mostly comedians. They were very successful with that. So I just kind of fell into that.

What are your memories of them, personally? Jack Rollins and Charles Joffe?

Jack Rollins, who I recently saw about a month or two back – I was in New York visiting my grandkids and I went to see him at the hospital. He had not been well. He had been in the hospital for a while and we talked for a while. He was kind of semi-awake, in and out, and I said ‘Jack, I just want you to know that you changed my life.’ and he said to me (laughs) ‘A lot of people have told me that.’ And he did! And he did change my life. I went from the bottom rung of show business – wherever that was, it’s way the hell down – to the top rung in one leap, and learned an awful lot from them.

You said that they were at the top. What was it about Charles Joffe and Jack Rollins the made that management company what it was?

Without question, it was the most prestigious management company in the industry. Everybody wanted to be with that company. We never had a contract with anybody, which is unusual, then and even now. It was just a handshake and we went to work. That was it.

Why do you think they were so successful? Why do you think they were so prestigious?

(Sighs) They were smart. They were intelligent – Jack Rollins was a very smart man. An intellectual, if you will. Read a lot. Could read a Woody Allen script and just be so precise about what was wrong and what was right about it that the first time, or any time that Woody Allen wrote a script the first person that would read it would be Jack Rollins. It was also that, and the manner that they worked in – no contracts with anybody. It was a very loose relationship with the clients and a very good one – and very honest, by the way. The company policy was – there was a little embroidery that was made by somebody that was hanging in the office that said ‘Don’t embarrass the office!’

(Laughs) That’s pretty good advice.

I had one made when I was living in LA and I misspelled it deliberately, thinking it would be funny but nobody ever caught on to it (laughs).

Did you have any personal involvement with Woody Allen during those years?

No. Outside of just knowing him, not terribly well but knowing him.  I found him to be a very, very nice man. My son, who was then a kid at the time, I don’t know, ten – nine, ten or whatever – was diving into magic and, uh, Woody had – and Woody was a very good slight of hand magician, by the way – and my son would come to the office every once in a while. And Woody would take him into the little conference room and he’d sit on the floor and do magic tricks for him. But no, I did not have any relationship with him in terms of business.

What about your move out to California– when did that happen?

About 36 years ago, 37 years ago.

Was the business in California different than New York?

I never found it to be different. I mean, people used to say that. I don’t know if they meant it as a joke – ‘Oh, it’s California …’ it’s not different. I’m dealing with the same people out here that I used to deal with in New York. Now I was much more face-to-face with them than I was on the phone, like I was in New York. But I found the business to be the exactly same. But probably a little less honest, maybe, out here than in New York, but the same, essentially.

What about working with Billy Crystal?

That was a joy. That was a joy. Yeah, I got a call one day from this guy – gosh, I wish I could remember his name – who was the manager of Sha Na Na. He called me from Buddah records and we had met a few times before. We didn’t really know each other terribly well and he said ‘Listen, there’s this very funny group, three guys, here that are just hysterically funny. You should come down and see them. They’re at the Buddah, the offices. So I went down – it was about three of four blocks from my office – I went down and I saw them. And I saw the group. I started to work with the group and, oh I don’t know, maybe for or five months later, I broke up the group and just started to work with Billy, who we thought had the most to offer at that point. My wife said to me ‘Why are you working with him? You should work with the others guys. They’re funnier.’ (Laughs) It’s the last time – thank goodness, I didn’t listen to her. I haven’t listened to her since (laughs).

What is Billy Crystal like to work with?

I found Billy to be a terrific guy. He’s one of my favorite people, one of my favorite clients. He’s a very smart young man, by the way. He knows a lot of things. I found him to be very pleasant, no problems. Did we ever have an argument? – we may have had one argument in 30 years or whatever, when we disagreed. But that was very rare.

What happens when a manager disagrees with a client?

The client usually wins. Well, unfortunately, what happens is – see, with our company, which was interesting, is that we never took a client except when they were just first starting out, they were brand new. We never took established clients. Not that it wasn’t possible to take one – we didn’t turn down established clients – but we liked working with someone who was brand new. Why? It was much more interesting. It was much more adventurous for us if we could, if we had a plan for them and that plan came to fruition after whatever – six months or a year later, you know, which is what the plan was, so they could essentially call their own shots at a certain point. And so when that happens, the relationship kind of changes, by the way. In the beginning, the client who is brand new relies on you totally. You are their god for a moment and, hopefully, you make the right decisions. Most of the time we did. Sometimes we didn’t, but most of the time we did. And once they get to a position of importance and becoming a much more important client and personality, the relationship kind of changes a little bit where you can’t just respond or act with them the way you did when they were first starting out. They won’t accept it, it’s not right, and you have to change with the times which took a little while to do, but we did.

When you think of all the clients that you had through the years, is it possible to pick a favorite?

Yeah. I would say probably John Pizzarelli.

What made him your favorite?

He seemed to have no ego. Now, we all have egos – some of them, the egos don’t come out. He was just a very easy guy to be with. He listened. You could say things, he listened. Sometimes he went along with what you said, sometimes he didn’t, but he listened. And it was just a joy to be with him. And he appreciated – he greatly appreciated what we tried to do for him and I think that made a big difference. And I still to this day, although I’ve been retired 14 years, I talk to John probably once a week, once every ten days.

What about the very first time you heard a young David Letterman performing?

Well, the first time I saw David Letterman was at the Comedy Store in Westwood, which doesn’t exist any longer. I was with one of my partners and one or two other people, and had never seen or heard of David Letterman but I knew when he came out and he started to talk – because he was never a very good stand-up comedian, but there was something special about him. I even said to my partner ‘This is the next Johnny Carson.’ And I went back to talk to him, but the guy who was running the back, the manager said ‘You know he has a manager.’ And I said ‘Oh, then I’m not going to go back.’ and I didn’t talk to him. But then a few months later, I was at NBC for some reason and he was doing a, hosting a game show – a pilot for a game show – in the next studio so I went over and spoke with him.

Letterman is very much a legend. When you think about him in those days and you see him now, is it hard to believe?

Not really. I always thought that he could do what he’s doing. I always thought so. And we got started with him and things just moved really quickly. I think one of the leading factors was that as we started to make a little noise out here, The Tonight Show called. And The Tonight Show, at that point, when they had comedians on the show it was kind of a policy that you never sat down with Carson until you’ve done three shots on that show as a stand-up. And I kept turning down the show because I knew Letterman’s stand-up was not that great but he’d be great sitting down with Carson because they had a lot of the same things in common. And I must have turned it down half a dozen times. And then finally they said to me one day ‘OK, he can sit down.’ then we took the show.

Wow. What makes a good manager a good manager?

(Laughs) Good question! Well, honesty for one, I think is very important, you know? I mean, you have to be honest with your clients and sometimes it’s not as easy as it may sound, you know? If you have critiques about a particular client, hopefully you’re right, well you try to explain that to the client – hmmm, you’re dealing with egos now and actors are very fragile, so it has to be presented in an interesting way where you’re not offending their ego but, at the same time, making your point. And sometimes it’s not easy to do, but you find a way – sometimes.

What’s the best thing about being Buddy Morra?

(Laughs) That’s a good question! You’ll have to ask my wife that, I think (laughs). We’re about to celebrate 50 years.

Wow. Congratulations!

Thank you. Early May we celebrate, yeah, end of May, yeah. It’s been an incredible ride. I mean, my – she is amazing. That’s all I can tell you. I don’t know where I’d be without her, quite honestly. I once said to her, not too long ago, I said ‘Why did you want to marry me?’ She said ‘I just had a feeling you were the right guy and you would do well,’ when I first met her (Laughs) I was making, like, twenty bucks a week or something like that on my own (laughs)! Yeah, I mean I couldn’t pay the rent, really.

So she saw a spark.

I hope so! (Laughs) Unless she was lying – I don’t know (laughs)!

What do you want to say to anyone who is listening to this interview?

Gee whiz. Well, if you’re going out to see live talent, do listen to them. Don’t make noise. Don’t slurp your soup. Otherwise, don’t go to the club. Stay home and listen to the radio or something. I mean, pay attention to these people. They work real hard. It’s important for them to get your acknowledgement and your applause, assuming you like them. If you don’t like them, then don’t applaud. But otherwise, be kind, be attentive, pay attention. You’ll learn a lot more that way. And I think, also, you get to be a bit more discriminating that way. If you see enough talent after a while, you can be a little more discriminating in your taste. Because everybody has talent. It’s just that what kind of talent is it and does it rise to where the general public can love it and like it and understand it?

Mr. Morra, it’s been a pleasure to do this interview.

My pleasure, Paul. Sorry I didn’t get you earlier but my daughter is back east, in Harrison, New York and there’s floods and things. I couldn’t get through for the longest time. I finally got through so we got a little time on the phone.

I appreciate it very much. It’s been a joy.


Thanks!

TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA

Eddie Brill: Comedian

EDDIE BRILL is a comedian, but as you can tell from this interview…he is a man with a lot of stories to tell.  He seems to be a busy man.  Just look at his resume!  In addition to being a comedian, he is also the warm-up comic on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Eddie Brill not only performs his brand of stand-up comedy regularly throughout the United States and the United Kingdom, but also has performed in Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, France, Holland and Hong Kong.

In this interview Eddie Brill talked about not only his comedy, but also his appreciation for the talent of others.  He also talked about his work with Reader’s Digest and appearing as a cartoon on the acclaimed show Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist.

Enjoy this in-depth interview!  We would love to one day interview Eddie Brill in person.

We think you will agree with us that Eddie Brill is a comic of and for the people…

It is our pleasure to welcome comedian and actor, Eddie Brill. Eddie Brill is a worldwide comic. He is also the warm-up comedian and talent coordinator for The Late Show with David Letterman. Thanks so much for doing this.

Oh, it’s my pleasure Paul. I got an email from you that said you had talked to my pal, Alan Kalter, and now, uh, you know, I’m sure if it’s good for Kalter, I’d be more than happy to be on the show.

 (Laughs) Well, I think most stories are best from the beginning so tell us a little bit about where you came from.
I’m originally from New York and I had lived there as a kid ‘til I was just about 12 and then moved to Hollywood, Florida which is the other end of the spectrum, you know, from Brooklyn, New York. I went to junior high school and high school there and it was pretty nice. And, uh, I never thought I’d do any comedy. I always loved comedy and I loved George Carlin – he’s my hero – and Richard Pryor and all the comedians I would listen to on albums. Uh, and I was, you know, all ready to maybe go into college to go for maybe math or science. But my stepfather, who was very young and very close to us, died very young and I just changed my whole life and decided, you know what, I was going to do things that were really fun in life because you didn’t know how quick it could be over. So, I changed my sort of dream to go into maybe broadcast journalism and I went to a college in Boston for that, Emerson College. And then all these, uh, very funny people at the beginning of school, we formed a comedy group and it was the first foray I ever had in comedy. And it was a lot of very successful people and, uh, very successful people now. And a lot of people who were involved both, on both sides of the industry, you know, people like the president of Comedy Central and then, you know like, Denis Leary and, you know, a mixture of a lot of different kinds of people. But one of our best friends was Steven Wright and he was doing stand-up. So we would go watch him and it sounded fun so we started doing a little stand-up. Um, I did it for a little bit during college and then when I graduated I moved back to New York and said ‘You know what? You need a real job.’ And I went, I quit comedy and did some advertising writing. And I realized I was lying for a living and not making that much money. And I went back into comedy so I could tell the truth for a living and, uh, have a much better career.

I’ve never heard it put that way, ‘telling the truth for a living.’

Yeah. Since 1984 so, in a row, I’ve done it for 25 years.

Wow. Now, what do you think it is about comedy that attracts you?

Um, well, it’s just you know, pfff, it’s just so alluring. It’s, there’s no, you know, the feeling of, the cathartic feeling of laughing is just so wonderful. And when you make other people laugh there’s no better feeling. It’s really is, you know just, pfff – I mean, I’m giving you sounds effects. There’s no words really to describe the feeling. And to be able to, to make people laugh is just very, very fulfilling. And once you get a laugh, it’s like a drug. You chase that laugh for the rest of your life.

You mentioned just a moment ago George Carlin.

Right.

Now, who would you say is your all-time biggest influence?

It would be George Carlin.

And what about, what about him do you think, makes him so?

Um it was just that, you know, the way he thought, the way he just told the truth and was silly. He was smart and silly and that was attractive to me, and a lot of things I heard him say were sort of echoing the way I thought. So I couldn’t get enough of, you know, somebody who was making people laugh, thinking the way I was thinking. And, eventually, that’s the path I took. And the beautiful story, part of the story, is that we ended up becoming close and, uh, respecting – he respected what I did which was, you know – now I can die (laughs). I got my hero to respect my work and it was a really wonderful thing. He taught me a lot and he was really just a wonderful man. And anybody who’s ever met him would say the same story. Butit’s not like it was just me – he was good to a lot of people, a lot of people.

What about the comedians that are, are active today, like the young guns? Who out there do you have to give the respect to?

Well, Chris Rock I would think is the best comic of our generation. Dave Chappelle, um, you know he’s not been around as much in the public side but still out there at the comedy clubs. He’s pretty damn terrific. Uh, you know, there’s Jim Gaffigan, uh, Brian Regan, and Jake Johannsen who are sort of really smart, funny network guys. And then there’s the people like Norm MacDonald and Nick DiPaolo and Colin Quinn and Nick Griffin, who may be a little darker but, uh, still hilarious and smart and great. And I’m sure there’s a million people I’m leaving out. Lewis Black is very funny. And you know, there’s a, there’s a good group of really great stand-up comics. And young kids like Joe Wong and Tommy Johnagin, who are, you know, coming up through the ranks, are – as young guns who are, you know … Bill Burr who’s a phenomenal comedian, Greg Giraldo, Louis C.K. You know, there are so many great comics out there really doing smart, great stuff.

Well, tell us a little bit about this comedy club that you had in New York City called The Paper Moon.

Well, what happened was is, I wasn’t really thinking of getting back into stand-up. I was working with the group in college and you know, because it was so successful, the people we went to college with respected what we did. So there was a gentleman who worked at this restaurant and heard that they wanted a comedy night downstairs in this cabaret room. And he called me because he knew – you know, the connection of going to school with these people – Joe Mauricio, and we started comedy at The Paper Moon in 1984. And all of a sudden, I was hosting the shows just to, you know, take care of the shows. And I was paying these comedians out of my pocket with my day job just so we could get really good comedians in there. And, uh, it just became a comic’s club for a bunch of really great comedians from all over the country – could come into the city and work out. And it was very widely popular – ‘widely popular’? I don’t know if those are even two things that go together (laughs) – it was wildly good and very popular. And, uh, it was very successful and I did that for a while. Unfortunately, there was a – the drinking age went up from 18 to 21 and that was a real NYU kind of a place. It was called The Paper Moon. And Adam Sandler was going to NYU at the time and he would come and work out there. And Colin Quinn would work out there, and Susie Essman and Mario Cantone and Paula Poundstone and Bob Goldthwait, and all of these different folks from all over, you know, from that era. Dennis Miller would come by and work out material for Saturday Night Live at the club. So it was a pretty phenomenal place. That lasted for a while but, as a comic, I started having some success and I didn’t want to be tied down to this club because I wanted to now get out there and do some good things for myself.

Something that I thought was really interesting was, uh, your work with Reader’s Digest.

Yeah, you know, that happened by accident. They, um, because of the connection with the Letterman show oftentimes I’m asked to judge competitions which is ironic because, you know, you can’t really judge comedians. … really said it best when he says ‘I’ll give you two famous painters. Tell me who is the better one.’ But you can’t. It’s art. It’s subjective. But oddly enough, I was asked to judge this joke competition for Reader’s Digest. The host got sick or hurt – I think it was hurt – and I was forced then to be the host of the show. I worked with them, um, I, it was a thing for Reader’s Digest and, um – all of a sudden their name slips my mind. I work with them all the time! You’ll help me with this one, it’s uh, Marlo Thomas’s charity – St. Jude’s. I got it. Yes, it was St. Jude’s. I was able to figure it out myself (laughs). And I work with them a lot. I love what they do. So you know, it worked out really great and I got very close with these organizations – so much that I remember their names … uh, after prodding. But um, then I, you know, got involved, you know? And they said ‘We like what you do. Would you help us put together some more shows and be a consultant for us?’ And then they had me come in and work on their web site and read some of the jokes that came in and it’s – I’ve just had a very, very nice relationship with them. They’ve, you know, quoted me a lot and they’ve also printed some of the things that I’ve written as well.

There’s was a TV show that you did a guest spot on. I’ve always felt like this was one of the funniest TV shows on television and I tell people the name of the show – and a lot of times people seem to have forgotten it already – but that was Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.

Oh god, yeah. That was really terrific. You know, as a little boy I was a cartoon guy and I loved cartoons and in my era, you know, I was a cartoon nut I guess. I don’t know, I’m sure people are that way now, maybe even with animé or whatever, but growing up I just loved all of the cartoons. And to be able to be in a cartoon was one fantastic thing but for them to make a cartoon of you and your voice it’s, you know, like a dream come true – like a little boy’s dream come true. And I did Dr. Katz and it got really great response. And I actually did a second one. Um, I was there recording the same day with a few other comedians who were getting ready for their next season, I think their third season, and the show didn’t get picked up so none of those shows went out. It would have been nice to do another one. It would have been really fun.

Another TV show that you’re currently associate with – The Late Show with David Letterman.

That’s right.
Tell us about how you became associated with Dave.
Well, you know, in this business, it’s really who you know. You know, you have to deliver once you get to place with who you know but Louis C.K. and Bill Scheft, a couple of guys who worked at the show, uh, I think Jeff Stilton who was there at the time as well, I think – and they had recommended me. They were looking for a warm-up and I had done some warm-up over the years. You know, nothing really major but just here and there and there. You know, I actually – Dana Carvey Show, I actually worked on Saved By The Bell for a very short time in it’s infancy and when I was out in L.A. So I’d done a few things. Well, they said they’re looking for a warm-up and I figured OK, I’ll give it a shot. They gave me a six-week trial period and in February of 2010 it’ll be now 13 years. And during the time I was there I got to, you know, get to know Dave and get to know the staff and the people there. And eventually I got moved up, in 2001, to be the stand-up comedy booker on the show which is a huge thrill. You know, nobody really in this industry has ever done that position and is also a stand-up comic. So, you know, because I am a stand-up and it was my dream to do the show, I know what it’s like for other comedians who want to do the show. And I think I’m equipped in a way that I can really help comedians out in a very good way, and treat them the way I would have wanted to be treated if I was, you know, dealing with a booker. And sometimes I’m very good at it and sometimes I’m not always great at it but I give it my best shot and try to be as approachable and as honest as you can be, as one can be in that position.

Tell us a little bit, a little bit more about what that job entails as talent coordinator. Do you listen to, like, tapes of comedians or how does that work?

Um, there are many, many ways. One of them is listening to DVDs or VHS tapes of comedians – and I get hundreds and hundreds in a very short period of time – and I have to tackle them all the time. And it works against me as a comedian a little bit because I hear so much comedy. You know, for me to be able do my own style, I have to really compartmentalize and just think do I think – and actually, my comedy has gotten better because I’m really just doing stuff that’s from my perspective. But back to the question, I do look at a bunch of stuff and I also, um, people will send me their links online. Then you know, as a comedian, I travel around the world doing shows in different places and in many of these places they’ll set up showcases for me to look at the local comics and that really is helpful. Plus, other comics will say ‘Hey Eddie” – people I respect, comics I respect will say ‘Hey Eddie, there’s, uh, a comedienne I worked with and she was great and, you know, you should look at her to put her on the show.’ Or this other person, a manager will call me and say ‘I don’t manage this guy but I saw him in a club and he’s so right for the show.’ So, you know, everyone knows everybody in the business, kind of, or, you know, and we keep each other informed so that the right people get into the right position.

And what exactly are you looking for? I mean, other than a funny person.

(Laughs) Yeah, that’s a big one! You know, laughter is good for a comedian. That’s probably number one. And, um, but no, really, honestly it’s about – we’re looking for the real artist, the real one-of-a-kinds. You know, the ‘Ray Charles’ of comedy. The soulful comics. You know, the people who really have, artists – you know, you know that there’s no other comics like that in the world. And there are, there are a smaller percentage of those kind of comedians You know – the Pryors, the Carlins, the Cosbys – those kind of guys. The Seinfelds, you know, through history the Ray Romanos, and you know, of course I’ve skipped ten thousand billion brilliant comics. The one-of-a-kinds. The ones that you remember, not because they’re famous but because they’re really great comedians. And that’s who we put on the show. We look for that. We look for that spark, that one-of-a-kind-ness you know that. But it’s gotta be smart and it’s gotta be silly. It’s gotta be a combination like that. It’s, uh, a nice you know, and – it’s not the same ‘style’ we’re looking for. We’re looking for the same kind of uniqueness and most of the time we get it right.

What do you think about David Letterman’s comedic delivery?

Oh, he’s you know, I mean, he’s just one – you know, I would consider him one of the best ever at what he does. And, you know, he’s really who he is and there’s that one-of-a-kind guy who just, you know, stood out from everybody else during that time, and he’s only gotten better and better. And you know, the only way to ever get better is to go out there and do it. Well, he’s done over 5,000 shows, you know, in late night television and in the morning. Altogether, you know, that’s a, that’s a nice little catalog of work so he’s really good at what he does, you know? He’s brilliant. And he’s a great interviewer as well and he’s a very compassionate man, and it’s, uh, you know, silly and fun and it all comes across, I believe. You know, in this business all the comedians, the real pure comedians, respect Dave the most. Not that they disrespect anybody else. I mean, there are some incredible people out there that are doing the same thing but Dave is the guy everyone looks up to. I mean, even Conan O’Brien has said it out loud ‘He is the man. He is my hero.’ And that’s what they do. And, of course, all of us including Dave’s hero, was Johnny Carson. You know, and all of those guys – the Johnny Carsons – they looked up to the Jack Paars and the Steve Allens and the Ernie Kovacs’s (laughs). And you know, it all goes – it’s generational, from one to the next. Dave is the guy of this era.

Our special guest is Eddie Brill, the warm-up comedian for The Late Show with David Letterman. I was hoping you could tell us, through your association with The Late Show, do you have a favorite memory?

You know, there are so many. There’s some of the biggest thrills of my life. I mean, again, I feel like a little boy going, you know ‘and then I got fire truck and then I got a toy boat.’ (laughs) You know, I got to meet Sophia Loren. When I was a kid, you know in my era – I’m 51 – all of the kids had Farrah Fawcett posters. I had Sophia Loren. Not … I didn’t ‘have’ her, but in my mind I did (laughter)– you know but every night I was there falling asleep with that poster. But, um, I got to meet her and be, you know, I was charmed by her. And I got to sit at the piano with Burt Bacharach and chat with him. And I got to, you know, hang out with George Carlin or Elvis Costello or talk – you know, I mean it’s, again it’s ‘I got a big truck!’ (laughs) and that’s just what I feel like – that kind of a guy. And I got to hang out with the President and I got to talk to Paul McCartney and it’s just, I mean it’s just too much fun. It’s too great and I’m just, I’m just very, very blessed.

What’s the best thing about being Eddie Brill?

(Laughs) That’s a weird, interesting question because if I thought … ‘Oh, what do I want to say about me?’ I don’t know. I mean, I’m not ashamed to say good things about myself. I know I’m very passionate about what I do. I’m a workaholic. I do so many different kinds of things. I’m involved with a lot of things. Like, I’m very involved with this comedy festival called The Great American Comedy Festival in Nebraska, in Johnny Carson’s hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska. I’m involved in both sides of the business – in front of the camera and behind the camera. You know, so that’s a big part of who I am. And I guess, I’m, you know I grew up with very, very humble beginnings and I appreciate the really cool things that have happened for me. And it’s all happened for me because I worked my tail off because I love what I do. So it’s, you know, I don’t know. I’m proud of my life. I’m really happy with the way it’s turned out, you know? Any mistakes I made along the way I don’t regret. You know, I just have to move on and learn from them and, you know, try to get better and better. And you know, I just have to make sure that I’m always true to my, you know, values and beliefs. And as long as I can do that, and get the respect and integrity of my friends, um, and peers then I’m doing OK. So those are the good things, you know. It’s a hard question to answer – but I just talked about it for an hour, I guess.

Well I have two final questions. I asked Alan Kalter this one. New York City has absolutely some of the best places you can eat.

Right.
Where do you like to eat in New York City and what do you get when you go there?
Well you know, there again, it’s like, you know ‘do you have two hours?’ We could do a whole show on this, you know. But there’s a place in the East Village that no one knows about – maybe now everyone will know, hopefully – called Café Orlin. And it’s open 24 hours on the weekend and during the week it’s open ‘til midnight, and they have breakfast ‘til 4, and it’s the most nondescript place. You gotta really find the name, which is on a glass window – it’s very hard to find. But it’s a little place that’s so humble and so unique, and the food is fantastic. There’s not one thing on the menu that’s not terrific. And it’s hardwood floors and exposed brick and always great music playing in the background and it’s very, very delicious and it’s great. But famous places that are great – I love Mesa Grill, the Bobby Flay restaurant. I did his show – you know, we didn’t get paid in cash but we got paid in a much nicer way (laughs). We got paid with dinner for two at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill and I’ve been going there ever since. Southwestern food, really great. And also, I love the Red Eye Grill which is almost in a very touristy part of town but they have some of the best seafood in New York. And there’s so many great – like I said, we can go for hours, you know? But if a tourist comes to New York City, they should ask other New Yorkers which restaurants to go to, not read out of the books and go to the tourist places because most of the tourist places are mediocre, you know, run-of-the-mill. In fact, in Times Square in New York where all the tourists are, there are no original restaurants with, you know, any flair or one-of-a-kind-ness or a uniqueness that is really New York. It’s more like Disneyworld there where there’s, you know, all these famous chain restaurants, selling processed food that, you know, all frozen stuff that comes off a truck. You know, probably every restaurant in Times Square gets the same delivery and they just put a different name on it, you know? That’s not what New York is about. If you’re gonna eat in New York, stay away from Times Square. You know, if you want to see New York, stay away – if you really want to see what New York is – stay away from Times Square (laughs).

Wow. Well, my final question for Eddie Brill. This broadcast goes out all over the world so what would you like to say to all the people who are listening in?

Hmm, OK, uh, you know – hmm. I would just say do not take life very seriously, it’s very short. And, you know, you should take risks in this world because if you do you’re going either go really high or you’re going to go really low. And you know what? If you go up and down and up and down – if you look at it like a graph, like an EKG machine – that means you’re alive. But if you don’t live life and you just take the safe way out all through the rest of your life, you might as well be dead ‘cause you’re just flat-lining, you know? So that’s my one message – to live life. And also, don’t care what it looks like when you, when you make a mistake or don’t care how it looks when you fall because, in reality, at least you’re in the game. You’re not on the sidelines pointing and judging other people. You’re in there giving it a shot. And that, I guess that would be sort of the biggest philosophy I live my life by.

Very well put. Thank you so much, Mr. Brill. It’s been a pleasure to speak to you.

It’s my pleasure Paul and good luck to you, Have a wonderful holiday.

You too. Godspeed.


TRANSCRIBED BY GAYLE BRAZDA.