"Guy Code" star Jon Gabrus on Bellmore, Freeport and what's ahead for him
While based in Los Angeles these days, comedian Jon Gabrus has been proudly flying the Long Island flag for years. It comes up on podcast appearances, both when in-character and being himself. It comes up in his improv. It even came up in an ad for the TruTV show he hosted called Santas In The Barn.
But more importantly, Jon Gabrus is a hard-working and respected comic with a lot happening at any given times. He is a regular on the MTV2 hit Guy Code, the host of the High And Mighty podcast, and a regular at Upright Citizens Brigade. He has been seen on a variety of TV shows, including Comedy Bang! Bang!, The Hotwives Of Las Vegas, Younger, and Workaholics. Beyond his on-camera and on-air work, Jon is a writer, and there's a rumor of a pilot being sold to Fox.
Jon -- who this writer attended Grand Avenue Junior High School alongside -- took the time to do some Q&A with No Place Like Long Island. Beyond his website, www.gabrus.com, Jon can be followed on Twitter and Instagram.
I've heard you mention being from Freeport, yet also referencing growing up in Bellmore. Do you identify as being from one town as more than the other?
Jon Gabrus: I moved to Bellmore when I was in 6th Grade, so I identify as being from Bellmore. But my whole family, mom and dad's side, are all from Freeport. My parents went to Freeport High School and I lived there till I was 12, so I feel like technically I am FROM there.
Your comedy style is rooted in improv. Do you see yourself primarily as an improv comic? An actor that also writes and performs live?
JG: Yes I started doing improv in college, and continued at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City after graduation. I am not sure if I would consider myself primarily an improv comic. Full disclosure: I have no idea what I consider myself. I like to write, act, perform live, and podcast, but career-wise, I would say it's kind of hard to do improv for a living -- but it definitely helps with all other aspects of comedy.
How did you first get interested in improv?
JG: I grew up loving movies, especially action and comedies. I watched a TON of stand-up, memorized so many different routines, but always the best way to crack up your friends was with something in the moment in class. I was always a wise-ass, I'm sure if any of my former teachers at Mepham [High School] are reading this, they can attest. I loved the attention I got from making my class laugh. Also if you are a kind of dorky, kind of fat kid, making girls laugh is HEROIN, so I was always into comedy. In college, I discovered improv and sketch and that was right in my wheelhouse. I enjoy collaborating, so I stuck with it all four years and started taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade before I even graduated.
Have you ever performed live on Long Island?
JG: I did do a live show at Hofstra [University], I did some small weird open mic stuff when I was home for summers during college. But not much as far as live Long Island performances...YET.
How often are you on Long Island? Is your family still out here?
JG: Just about everyone in my family is still out on Long Island. My brothers, mom, aunts, uncles, etc. So whenever I come out east to shoot something, I try to get out there and see them. ESPECIALLY if it's summer and I can get down to the cabana.
When you moved out to Los Angeles, did you know a lot of people? Did you go out there primarily to pursue your career?
JG: Yes, I moved to L.A. to pursue my career. I knew a ton of people out here, because a lot of my friends from comedy were moving out here. A lot of TV and movie stuff is made out here, so there is just more work, though New York City has plenty. Once you're out here and you realize there is no snow, and don't have to live in a tiny NYC apartment...
Gino Lombardo, the character you've often played on Comedy Bang! Bang!, is the show's intern. Did you do any internships in your early days in L.A.?
JG: I only moved to L.A. four years ago. I lived in Brooklyn for eight years before moving out here. I had an internship at VH1 after college, I worked on the "talking head" show, I Love The 90s -- the irony that I am now on a "talking head" show, Guy Code, is not lost on me.
I've heard Gino mention McHebes. Was that a spot you ever hung out at?
JG: I hung out at McHebes, of course, all of the Hempstead Turnpike bars over there. Whatever Bogarts and Monterey's are called now. I actually bartended at McHebes for one summer -- shout-out to White Trash Wednesdays and Bladder Busters. I also hung out at Effin Gruven, Mulcahys, ScuttleButt and in people's backyards.
During your appearance on the Get Up On This podcast, you talked about a show that was sold to Fox, a Santa-themed reality show you're hosting, and of course you're often seen on MTV2 programming. What's coming up for you at the moment?
JG: Always a lot of stuff up in the air. Right now nothing I can really talk about, besides my podcast High And Mighty, which can be found on iTunes. That is something I am ALWAYS working on...I actually did two episodes specifically about Long Island, and plenty more to come.
JG: I am primarily a hip-hop guy -- what a white sentence. But yeah, I grew up listening to hip-hop, did my transition to indie-rock and shit, and still listening to hip hop all these years later. Being on MTV2 and surrounding myself with young hip people, it's hard NOT to get caught up in the newest acts. I am a bit of a square and would probably still be listening to Queen's Night At The Opera if no one took the time to show me new music.
Is there anything you miss about Long Island? Do you have a favorite restaurant out here?
JG: I miss the food of Long Island, the delis, there are no delis out here in the way that New York -- especially Long Island -- have. My Hero, on Jerusalem Avenue in Bellmore, is the place I miss the most. If I go home to see mom, I always get up there and get a chicken club add cheese, no tomato. [Editor's Note: My Hero is technically in North Merrick.]
Weather aside, what does L.A. offer to you that the Island does not?
JG: People always say "besides the weather," but holy shit is the weather important. It's a game-changer. No more umbrellas, no more scarves, no more boots. Flip flops, board-shorts, sunnies...If you grew up hanging and working at Jones Beach like I did, how can you resist?
Finally, Jon, any last words for the kids?
JG: Do whatever you want in life, just don't be a dick about it.