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November 6, 2017

Road Comedy Recap: Philadelphia Gump

by J-L Cauvin

This weekend I was at my favorite club in the country (tied for 1st with the DC Improv) – Helium in Philadelphia. As I told the crowds this weekend, my affection for Philadelphia comedy crowds stems from their combination of East Coast intelligence and piece of shit character. They are the perfect audiences because they understand the jokes and also do not (generally) care how dark or cruel the humor, as long as it is good.  And it doesn’t hurt that my album sales are always strongest at Helium (average $300 a week in album sales).  But if I have learned one thing in my 14 years as a comedian it is that as soon as J-L Cauvin expects something to go well for himself in comedy, it cannot and will not. So on Thursday I loaded up my bag with a ton of my albums and hopped on Amtrak down to the city of lawyerly AIDS.

Thursday

On Thursday I took the poor people Amtrak down to Philadelphia, but was greeted by new leather seats on the train (#MAGA – Make Amtrak Great Again) so the ride felt more like an upper-middle class train experience.  The one show of the night went well (I was opening for Kevin Brennan, who was actually the inspiration for REM’s Shiny Happy People, Thursday-Saturday) but the crowd was not that big and they were particularly stingy in their merchandise purchasing (I think I sold 1) and then I made my way back to 30th Street Station to go back to NYC. The club does not put up features so it was cheaper for me to travel home and come back Friday than to get a hotel Thursday night – the club is located downtown so weekend hotel rates are cheap, but during “business people” days, when titans of industry get rooms to bang hookers and associates, the rates are outside the range of #ComedyMoguls.

I got home at 2 am and settled in for a refreshing 5 hours of sleep.

Friday

When I arrived back in Philly Friday around 230pm I made my 1.2 mile walk to the Hampton Inn-Convention Center from the train station.  I got my hotel on hotwire.com, which is the Russian Roulette of hotel bookings and had forgotten that I was in the deluxe “2 full size beds” room.  Because when you are a #ComedyMogul you don’t sleep in the same bed twice.*

*Sarcasm – the 2 full size bed choice is always the cheapest and most annoying option

My rider says I get two beds so that I can sleep in a different bed each night

Before the Friday shows I made my way to The Cheesecake Factory for a nutritious dinner of salmon and broccoli and a basket of black bread (why does Cheesecake even offer the crusty white baguette when the black bread is basically dunking on the white bread like Shaq on Chris Dudley?). I skipped the cheesecake because I knew this would not be my last trip over the weekend. #RestraintMogul

The shows were really good Friday, but sales remained awful. And then I had to have an annoying interaction with some annoying older South Jersey type woman. Here is the conversation that happened:

Kevin Brennan: Hey J-L do you have the square app? (yes)  She wants a t-shirt so you give me the money and then ring her up on your app (no problem)

*This actually meant that my sales of the first show would be -55 cents #ComedyMogul

Woman hands me her card and I swipe it.  

J-L: (holds phone) OK – please sign here

Woman stares.

J-L (still in friendly sales mode hoping people buy his albums): If you can just sign here…

Woman: (with attitude) OKaaaaaaaaaaay

Woman makes effort to sign.

Woman: (dismissive hand gesture) It’s not working.

J-L holds phone and holds it for her (doing nothing else). She waves her finger to demonstrate that it is not working, except it is working and her signature is just a dismissive line from her shitty finger. She says something else annoying.

J-L: I could really do without the attitude.

Woman: (thinking she is funny) Hey, you know where you are!

Woman then leans over and mumbles a question about my album.

J-L (still in friendly sales mode): I’m sorry? (did not hear her)

Woman: (holds up hands in surrender gesture) I come in peace.

Her weak, emasculated husband tried to engage me in conversation, but I just sort of nodded and said little.  Then I think the woman said that her husband shouldn’t buy my stuff because I am not nice.  Nothing could embody my comedy career more in 2017 than this: do favor for woman buying merch from a different comedian, get C U Next Tuesday attitude from the beginning, then misunderstood being polite as being a giant rude man and then her trashing me to her cuck husband – ALL WHILE STANDING IN FRONT OF MY MERCH WHILE THE AUDIENCE LEFT THE SHOW BLOCKED FROM SEEING MY ALBUMS.

I am worse at Microsoft Paint than I am at selling merchandise

Saturday

Saturday was the peak of the trip. Went to the Cheesecake Factory for a late lunch and got cheesecake (what kind of POS goes to TCF back to back and doesn’t have cheesecake either time?). Chose the pumpkin cheesecake because at 1040 calories per slice it is one of the lowest calorie options. #DisciplinedMogul Went to Mass as St John The Evangelist (which is also the name of my home Church in NYC – #BrandLoyalty) and then crushed both sets Saturday night. Had a fan drive from Delaware for the show (Thanks Zeke – a member of The Black Guy Who Tips fan base), but that buried a sadder note about fan support at the end of 14 years in comedy:

  • performed at Helium a total of 9 times since 2011 (1 corporate gig, 2 independently booked shows, 6 feature weeks)
  • my single highest week of merch sales occurred at Helium $410 in 2014 (out of the feature spot – and no gimmicks or t-shirts like a non-Boss!), almost every year my highest merch sales week is at Helium
  • recorded an album there (Too Big To Fail)
  • 2017: 6 shows – 1 fan

I am not blaming anyone or even pissed – it just becomes a reality that no matter how good you are or how hard you work, minus kingmakers or fame, people will eventually lose interest when it doesn’t look like anyone or any accepted marker of success is co-signing your work… even if you expand your platforms, produce a new album on average every 2.5 years and stay engaged on social media.

Sunday

I checked out of my hotel at 1015 am, giving me close to 9 hours to kill as a homeless comedian in Philly.  I opted to see Thor:Ragnarok (I give it a B: it’s fun, light and features way too much stupid Hulk and not enough leather clad, evil-hot Cate Blanchett.  But in all honesty the Marvel movie universe is basically doing to film what Trump is doing to America).  I then spent 2 hours reading The New Yorker (I was able to make it through almost an entire half of an article in those 2 hours) in a Starbucks, just to let all of Philadelphia know that I am better than them.  Here is a fun new clip from the weekend:

Sunday night I was opening for Judy Gold who is 6’2,” and gay making us the most progressive front court in comedy history. The set went well and then I ended up on the Accela train back to NYC after the show with Judy Gold. It is part of my new book “Travel Like a Headliner, Live Like an Open Mic-er.” And with me was a ton of albums… minus ten.

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