This week I was on three different podcasts (including a new podcast I started with comedian Jay Nog), so here is hoping you can enjoy me on a variety of topics – all funny.
- Making Podcasts Great Again – I play Donald Trump on this new, weekly podcast. Listen on Podomatic or use iTunes to subscribe and give 5 stars.
- Playable Characters Podcast – I play the brother of NBA Jam’s announcer, who happens to be promoting his new game WNBA Jam – super funny stuff – Playable Characters #56: WNBA Jam on podbean
- Locked on Pistons Podcast – A guy who runs the Detroit Pistons podcast wanted to talk to me about comedy and the Utah Jazz playoff run so here it is!
“Orlando is like a city stripping its way through college. Tampa is like a city turning tricks so it can save up for clear heels and get a job stripping.” – J-L Cauvin
This week’s fresh installment of RCR is of my trip to Tampa. I am currently working on 3 hours of sleep since I took a 5:50am flight from Tampa to LaGuardia (I always thought 6 am flights were the first of the day), so hopefully I don’t forget any good details or make any egregious grammatical errors. So let’s just get into it.
Wednesday – Southwest to the Southeast
Tuesday at work, while taking a break from working I noticed that Southwest was trending. Assuming one of their flight attendants did not book a 3 comedy special deal with Netflix this did not seem like a good thing. As we all know that was because the Southwest flight from LaGuardia to Dallas endured basically the nightmare scenario of anyone who fears flying – engine blows up, passenger sucked out of the plane (to be saved by some heroic people, though the woman died later) and landing in Philly – basically the unholy Trinity. This had special significance to me because I would be flying Southwest to Tampa less than a day later (as it turns out from the same gate as the ill-fated Dallas flight) so I was even more anxious than I normally am before a flight.
Well, I had nothing to worry about as the flight from NYC to Tampa went smoothly. I was headlining that Wednesday night in Tampa and it makes me bring up that age old question: If a comedian headlines, but no one shows up for it, did it really happen? Well, for about 28 people it did happen and it was a very mundane experience. There were some laughs, some botched jokes (full disclosure – I had not been on stage in a month) and zero albums sold after the show. However, after the show I went to Buffalo Wild Wings across the street and watched the conclusion of Game 2 of the Jazz-Thunder series. Here is a photo from the watch party/meet n greet I did:
The most entertaining and uncomfortable moment of the night was walking the 8 minutes from BWW to the comedy condo (a pretty solid condo, by comedy club standards – though the C word that offends most comedians, including myself is “condo” when it comes to road work). The area around the club is Ybor City area of Tampa – a place where chickens roam the streets (I averaged crossing paths with 35 chickens a day) and the ambiance feels like Bourbon Street in New Orleans minus the jazz and culture and with more tattoos and meth. On my walk back I encountered 2 black bikers (after all that white people have stolen from black people I never understand why some black dudes choose skateboarding or motorcycles as their areas of reverse cultural appropriation), a homelss black man arguing with a white garbage pail drummer, a whacked out chick randomly dancing with 2 dudes and then for finale – I was yelled at and followed for a block by a meth head with a mustache (“Methstache”) as he ripped leaves off of a tree near the comedy condo. All in all it was a memorable and weird intro to the Tampa area and exactly what I expect for a place with 19 tattoo parlors in a 4 block area.
Thursday: The Barber from Atlanta Arrives
Starting Thursday I was opening for Robert Powell, a comedian who just had a star making turn on Atlanta on FX. He played Paperboy’s barber and his career is about to blow up big time. He encouraged the emcee and I to stay at it because all it takes is that one shot. I nodded, even though in my head I was saying “Nope.” But allow me to discuss more of my surroundings.
I found a coffee shop with NYC prices, just so I wouldn’t feel like I was saving money. The Blind Tiger was near the condo and was basically what a hipster coffee shop would be if it were rebelling against all other hipster coffee shops to prove that it, in fact, was the rightful Cis-King of hipster coffee in Ybor City. I had a cup of black coffee every morning and finished reading the recently crowned Pulitzer Prize winning book Locking Up Our Own so that they knew I was Hoke (“Hipster Woke”).
I also spent some time sun bathing (#TanBae) at my condo pool where I saw the most plentiful of Tampa’s native creatures – the 50+ year old woman with a tramp stamp and fake breasts. Basically the neighbors of the condo that went to the pool felt like the creators of a YouPorn channel that doesn’t get a ton of hits.
The show went well on Thursday. Headliner did well ,but so did the emcee who had me laughing all week. I had an expected strong set. Not much of note on that front. Besides you don’t read this to hear how well I did anyway! But here are two new stand up bits I am very happy with from the weekend:
Friday – I Feel Pretty
On Friday I went to see Amy Schumer’s new movie I Feel Pretty. I laughed some and thought Schumer and co-star Rory Scovel actually gave good performances and had good chemistry. I thought the movie was worth a rental (or a movie pass), but I may never know how much I enjoyed it because of the women in the theater with me. Here is what I wrote on Instagram after the movie:
Watching the new Schumer movie. 3 white trash women wouldn’t stop talking for the first 15 minutes. There was also a loud black woman a few rows behind them who was also yelling support for Amy Schumer at the screen. So the Trashdashian trio invited the black boom box to join them and now they are just a quartet of nonstop chattering barefoot jerks who won’t stop talking (1 hour nonstop). Also telling, they keep repeating every laugh line, except every Dave Attel line got silence. #Floridumb #Tampa
The first show went really well on Friday. The second show (the dreaded Friday late show – where everyone who is tired from a week of work, but whose couples’ therapist has insisted that they make time for each other with date nights, shows up to half-nap before beginning their weekend) was just OK (and of course that was the one where a couple of fans showed up #CauvinsLaw).
Saturday – Take it to Church… at Church
Saturday, after another early afternoon of sunbathing with the Florida Project cast again I headed to the vigil Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (which almost made me laugh thinking of the Leslie Nielson line from The Naked Gun when he said Nordberg was at “Our Lady of the Worthless Miracle).” If you have ever discussed religion with me you will know that I am a regular Mass attendee and that part of the reason I go to Mass regularly is because I hope to regain the strength of my feelings that I had when I was younger. There is still a core made up of guilt and faith that keeps me going each week, but often it does not feel as it once did. Pardon me for having a genuine moment here, but it did occur on the road so it goes in the RCR.
The Church was really nice, the temperature perfect and the lighting welcoming. Often when I go to Church I find it psychologically soothing, even if not always spiritually. And then the Church singer started singing. Oddly enough, whenever someone refers to a “voice from God” they are almost always referring to a popular singer, but this dude singing in a 70% empty church had a voice from God. I have been going to Mass since probably the age of 5 or 6 and I literally cannot remember being so moved by Catholic Mass hymns. The man was sort of a nerdy looking Latin man (so I thought, further research has indicated he may be Filipino – FIRST THE GUY IN JOURNEY AND NOW THIS?!). Khakis, tucked in polo, short, quasi-Dad bod. But every song he sang, almost all familiar to me, were sung to perfection. I felt like Nick Nolte in Blue Chips when he goes into a small gym in Louisiana and discovers Shaq dunking all over grown men (#ALGIERS!). Maybe I was still stressed about flying, or having increasingly frequent doubts about why I am still pursuing comedy with my life, or maybe the guy was just that good, but whatever the factor or factors it was a rejuvenating experience. And the closing hymn was How Great Thou Art and it was comically brilliant. Like so good I started laughing at the end because I knew he couldn’t help himself and he finished with a flourish that almost felt more appropriate for the Met than for a lightly attended Mass in Tampa (And then instinctively I yelled “PRIDE COMETH BEFORE THE FALL!” just to keep him level-headed). The Church, including myself, clapped for him when he was done. I heard often as a youth that “singing is like praying twice” in Church. I am pretty sure that is because they just want people to sing. But this man in Tampa literally boosted my spirit in a way I have not felt in years… which is going to make next Sunday’s Mass at my midtown Church awfully disappointing when the off-key organ playing lady does her thing.
I thought to myself after the Mass that the guy should have a recording contract or something, but at the same time I thought maybe part of the purity and soulfulness comes from the fact that he is singing for faith and for God and not for some material purpose. Then I went with a bag full of albums to the Improv and said “Spirituality isn’t paying my cable bill LORT!”
The first show was outstanding. Full house, great set and zero albums sold. And just like that I was back in a funk. To boot, a black guy came up to me, not mean-spirited, but still annoyingly and said “I’m Haitian. When you said you were Haitian I was like ‘bullshit!.'” And that was our exchange. This happens to me often. I don’t use my half black-ness as some excuse to say the N word or use it as cover for jokes. I offer it simply to tell autobiographical material, nothing more, nothing less. The flip side of this was what happened after the second show.
The second show went well and I ended up selling a decent number of albums. One was to a young white couple. The drunk woman said to me “you were the guy pretending to be black, right?” And then later her boyfriend repeated a sentiment that his girlfriend had stated earlier – that I “had a lot of guts” doing comedy in front of an almost all black crowd. I was not sure which way to be more offended – racially or as a comedian, but it was also the type of ignorant stuff I get from time to time where it is not necessarily mean spirited, but I also don’t feel like having a discussion about it with people that I will know for a total of 8 minutes at most.
More people bought albums, including a guy who had a huge wad of $100s and $50s and gave me a $50 and said keep the change. His generosity was appreciated, but after the first exchange I could not tell if this was another white guy giving me “respect” for doing my thing in front of a black crowd or if he just really liked my stuff solely on the merits. Of course he said nothing like what the earlier couple said so there was no reason to think anything but nicely of his generosity, but for the creeping insecurity.
I ended the night watching the 4th quarter of the Utah Jazz beat down of the OKC Thunder in Game 3 of their series. Ricky Rubio, the Spanish point guard for the Jazz, had a huge night so I tweeted him my respect for how well he played against all those black guys on OKC.
Sunday I had a fan show up (she was visiting her Aunt nearby), so that was nice, but of course because of #CauvinsLaw the crowd was an odd mixture of offended strippers and offended Church goers and the laughs were not as plentiful as I had hoped. However, lots more people came up to me with compliments after the show than from the other shows so maybe they were just a more subdued crowd. All in all it was an interesting week and an entertaining week, but I still had my Southwest flight the next morning.
I got a cab at 4am to the airport for my 5:50am flight. All you need to know about Tampa is I saw more women wearing 3+ inch heels at the Tampa airport at 5 am than I have seen at any other airport at any time of day. I got on the plane and as we were getting our pre-take off speech from the pilot he informed us that we would be flying at 39,000 feet because there was some weather issues they wanted to try to fly above. So now, as we leave in the still dark skies of Tampa I am nervously listening to podcasts just wanting to get home safe. About 25 minutes into our flight the Sun starts to illuminate our journey and I see that we are flying right above an endless see of black clouds (think The Nothing from The Neverending Story. But we never get any real turbulence and arrived slightly early into NYC at 815am. When I got to baggage claim I saw a weather report on the news that there were tornado issues in the southeast. I am just glad I did not listen to any weather reports before getting on the plane because if I had the combination of Southwest engine and tornado stories would have me on an Amtrak right now instead of penning this masterpiece.
As a 6’7″, bi-racial New Yorker I didn’t need any other reasons to be a fan of Aaron Judge, but he gave me 52 more last year as he set a rookie home record for the New York Yankees. He will be the cover for this year’s edition of Play Station’s MLB The Show and is poised for another huge year with the Yankee lineup stacked to a level not seen since maybe at least the early 1960s. But there is a story that is not being told that relates to Aaron Judge. And it involved another Aaron.
Aaron Gordon is a super-athletic forward for the Orlando Magic. He stands 6’9″ and put on one of the three best dunk competition performances of all time a couple of years ago (including the best dunk ever – though unfortunately for him – Zach LaVine is one of the two others on the list, joining the GOAT Vince Carter). For the record here is a frame of Gordon’s historic dunk:
Aaron Gordon grew up in San Jose, California with his parents and siblings. He was born in April of 1992 and his athletic genes are likely the product of his father, Ed Gordon, who played both basketball and football at San Diego St, before a short stint in the NFL with the New England Patriots. You may be asking, why am I reading this J-L? Is there a point? Yes, there is. And it is this:
Using advanced biological data and research, more commonly referred to as “my eyes,” I noticed a distinct similarity in Gordon and Judge. But as for other data – Judge, born 3 years earlier in 1992 and adopted at birth was born in Linden, California. Gordon was born in San Jose, CA – a distance of less than 90 miles from Linden. Both are elite, freak athletes and that generally begins with great genetics. We know Gordon’s lineage, but Judge’s we do not. Both are exceptionally tall and Judge excelled at football and basketball (the sports of Ed Gordon) in high school, not just baseball.
The real figure on intrigue here is Ed Gordon. Aaron Gordon was the youngest of his three kids, so it would mean that Ed would have to have stepped out on his marriage (not unheard of for athletes, ex-athletes, men with a pulse, etc.) during the marriage to father another child in northern California. But wouldn’t it then make sense for that child, if carried to term, to be adopted? Rather than be a single mom, perhaps Ed Gordon’s hypothetical sidepiece said “I will give up the child for adoption, rather than abort or embarrass Ed Gordon.” See, not everyone is just looking for Anderson Cooper to interview them about their thottery!
Now I have no direct evidence of this, except photographic resemblance and their otherworldly athletic skills, but someone had to ask the question. And what if Ed Gordon, in a moment of guilt and tribute, decided to name his youngest child Aaron, as a tribute to the one he never met? Or, what if I am completely wrong?
*When I came up with this blog idea months ago I never looked up to see if anyone had written on this topic, so if it has been covered I am not copying it* And if no one has yet written about this, please email me for my address for where you can send my Pulitzer. And for another interpretation of Aaron Judge’s origin story please watch this video:
If you follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – the go to place to follow me if you want the complete photo-humor journey @jlcomedy) then this week was either an embarrassment of riches or a plain old embarrassment as I frustrated my girlfriend for four of our five days to make sure my jokes, photos and experiences in Orlando, Florida did not go unpublished. The trip was her Christmas present (and after checking my receipts for the trip apparently it will have to suffice as a Valentine’s Day, birthday and Trump Impeachment Day presents as well). The week started with a room on an Amtrak to go down to Florida (for a change of pace and to get me elevated to an elite status on Amtrak – which is like being the best player on a WNBA team – no one cares and you still need a day job) on Tuesday and then would involve among many other things, Epcot Center, multiple days at Universal Studios, 483 encounters with rude South Americans, an Orlando Magic basketball game and a random, private encounter with a television A-lister at my hotel Starbucks. If I annoyed you on social media this week I don’t really apologize because the content was too good not to share. So here is an epic recap of The Florida Project 2 starring J-L Cauvin.
Part I: Steaks on a Train
We left NYC at 2:15pm for the 3:15pm Silver Meteor train. We were shown to our room on the train by Ismael, a baritone man of apparent Indian descent who referred to me as Mr. Lewis (it is a sign of honor on Amtrak and in India to refer to men by their middle name or by second part of their hyphenated first name) for the remainder of the trip. The room was nice, we had nice meals and I even managed to sleep 5 hours (in 4 increments) throughout the South (either the bumps of the train or my half-black instincts wouldn’t allow me to sleep steady through the deep south at night. We had steaks for dinner (when you get a room on the train all meals are included so I informed my girlfriend (Laura) that she had to order the most expensive item. So she got the steak and two glasses of wine, which were not included so I informed her that my services did not include open bar (which made the train-obsessed retiree sitting across from us at dinner laugh (WHY DO I NEED TO REACH MILLENNIALS COMEDY CENTRAL WHEN I CAN CRACK UP THE GREATEST GENERATION???). I then engaged the retiree on a detailed discussion of rail in America, solidifying it as the central campaign issue of my 2024 third party candidacy for the White House.
And the best way to show my room and the flatulent-fueled train neighbors we had is to show you this short video tour of my room sponsored by MTV Cribs:
Part II: The Guitarist That Made an 8 Year Old Boy See God
When we arrived in Orlando we got a Lyft to the hotel, the Doubletree right near Universal Studios. We showered to get 22 hours of Amtrak off of ourselves and then went out for dinner at Disney Springs a very nice lakeside shopping area. We ate some seafood, I then got a Ghirardelli sundae (the official kick off of Diabetes Week in Orlando for me) and we sat down to watch some live entertainment. It was just some open area where a guy with a ponytail was playing guitar. We sat there for about 30 minutes watching this dude play the ever loving sh*t out of his guitar. And there were several kids dancing to the music, most just trying to make themselves the center of attention (and one couple who danced with their baby strapped to the husband’s chest while the wife cell phone recorded the baby and then the both congratulated the 8 month old on how great he was. But one kid, some 8 year old white kid, may have actually experienced the Holy Ghost during the guitarist’s performance. He could not stop dancing and would not let his mom stop him. But not in a rude douchey kid way, but in a “Mom, do you hear this? So you see this guitar magician? I cannot stop my body from moving!” It was almost as entertaining as the guitarist, but not quite. It was virtuoso playing with great showman flair. The guitarist’s name was Nicholas Marks (insert romance novel joke here) and he was selling albums after so as an artist who sells merch to varying degrees of success after shows I felt a kinship with Mr. Sparks… and then I completely ignored him after his show like so many of the awkward people I see after my shows. But I did go home and buy two of his albums off of iTunes and have not been disappointed.
Part III: Andrew The Closer, Epcot and the Space Ride for Cucks
On Thursday morning it was time to begin tackling theme parks and first on the list was Epcot Center. But as we were leaving the lobby we were lulled into a casual conversation by “Andrew,” who was working for Hilton Honors (the Hilton rewards program). Normally I don’t fall for walk-by solicitations, but this photo of Andrew should show you that I was helpless to resist:
Well after Andrew was done talking to us I had purchased a 5 day vacation (granted – it will be 100% reimbursed once I take the trip) and was a member of Hilton Honors. By the end of the trip I would never NOT see Andrew sitting and getting someone to sign on the dotted line in the lobby. So we made it to Epcot quickly after that, possibly because I was not longer weighed down with several hundred dollars. I will attempt to condense the highlights for you:
- We went on a terrific car race ride, a great VR tour of the world called “Soaring”
- Toured the nations of the world – true story – when I went to Epcot with my Mom c. 1992 they had “Africa”, which has now been replaced with “trading post” which in one way is better and in other ways, really bad since Morocco is the sole representative of Africa (also Russia and India don’t have representative stations, which feel like glaring omissions)
- Mexico had a great area dedicated to Coco, which was a relief since outside the Mexico area was a welcome featuring Mexican icon Donald Duck in a sombrero.
- The Space Simulator Laura and I went on was interesting. We had just eaten lunch and the “Orange” space simulator was supposed to be extremely forceful and intense, whereas the “Green Simulator” was less intense, which we knew because all the audio kept repeating that it was “Green-less intense.” And the progression got insulting as we advanced toward the actual ride. “You have chosen green, less intense,” “You have chosen green, you pussy,” “You have chosen green, why are you still with him?” But the green was plenty entertaining so we never felt a need to go to the “orange- congrats on having courage” ride.
- Trying to buy t-shirts for my nephews proved somewhat difficult because the selection in many of the stores was so terrible. When I was a kid there were dozens of t-shirts to choose from, but now it only seemed adults and girls still have an interest in clothing based on the Disney selections available. Gadgets and toys seem to be all that were available in abundance for boys, so I hope my nephews enjoy their Minny Mouse dresses.
Part IV: Foreigners Feel Like The Worst Time at Universal Studios
Friday was the first day at Universal Studios. There were many highlights – Laura’s particular enjoyment of The Simpsons’ Ride and accompanying world, the butter beer served in the Harry Potter world (cream soda covered in a sweet, buttery foam) and The Transformers ride were among the highest highlights. There was also my picture with only Sideshow Bob, which irritated Krusty The Clown, who had been the preferred photo partner in Simpsons Land, but not for me (#HatersUnite). However, there were some down moments – like being too tall/large to fit into the Harry Potter ride in that section of the park, as well as The Mummy ride. But the heartbreak of having to send Laura on the rides alone paled in comparison to the havoc created on my vacation by ill-mannered, wealthy South American families.
To offer you a glimpse of the rudeness I will present some statistics. The first number is the combined number of unsupervised children walking into me or stepping on my feet, families cutting in front for photos and generally rude incidents. The second number is apologies.
- Asians 1/1
- White People 3/2
- Black People 2/1
- South American families – 4577/1
Now I don’t know why this is, but by Saturday I started to feel like a combination of a Trump supporter and Ed Norton in 25th Hour. Being from New York City I am used to all types of people from natives to immigrants to tourists. And other than texting while walking being a rudeness epidemic I think the egalitarian nature of NYC’s streets and the communal and crowded experience of the NYC subway makes people, for the most part, respect personal space. But these presumably wealthy South American families seem to have a different experience. Which is understandable – if you were a fat 70 year old man with a hot 33 year old third wife, wouldn’t you feel entitled? If you were a woman who did not appear to go to the gym, but had purchased an ass and breasts to look like a sexy, fit woman wouldn’t you think you are privileged? And maybe the wealthy in your town or city are truly treated like royalty so it makes no sense that some American couple would expect an apology on the 3rd, 8th or 12th time your chubby prince kicks them or steps on them. Or if a couple is taking turns having pictures with Homer Simpson or Marmaduke and you jump in and take six different photos with various members of your family before the couple can get two, perhaps in your native land people would never dream of even being in the same space as you and it would never occur to you to wait or acknowledge that you had interrupted. As I said earlier I know these countries are fine and a lot of their people are good, but when it comes to Orlando it appears some good countries are sending their shithole people!
The good news of Saturday was that we rode the Hogwarts Express and I was able to fit into the other Harry Potter ride (though it did malfunction midway which was mildly distressing. We also went on the Kong Island ride, the Spider Man ride and a Cat in the Hat ride (9 year old me would have liked it), but sadly the Jurassic Park ride was down for annual maintenance.
Part V: Orlando Magic and Greek Freaks
Saturday night we went to the Orlando Magic vs Milwaukee Bucks game. Tickets were courtesy of a law school buddy, who has season tickets in the wheelchair section (great seats – center court and because they are the wheelchair row they can accommodate handicapable people like me who are discriminated on the basis of height (see e.g. Harry Potter and The Mummy rides). The game was great – we got to see The Greak Freek (Giannis Ant…) one of the game’s top young stars, but perhaps most memorable was the mascot of the Denver Nuggets. It was Stuff the Magic Dragon’s birthday and as a 2 time reigning MVP mascot in the NBA he had several NBA mascots to help him celebrate throughout the game. Stuff was impressive (handstand in costume on a hoverboard), but the Nuggets mascot was one of the funniest live performers I have ever seen. I had a ton of fun at the game, which may be because I had no rooting interest except to be entertained. But I was not done with Greek Freaks.
On Sunday, when I got back from Mass I went to my hotel Starbucks for a green tea. The Starbucks was not busy at all so I got in line behind a nice looking couple – John Stamos and his pregnant wife. I just stood there for 3 minutes while they gathered all their drinks and food items, perhaps for a drive somewhere. I looked at Uncle Jessie a few times and he looked at me several times with the “Is this guy an athlete (former)?” I wanted to take a picture (which might have made Laura even more jealous than just the story), but I am always uncomfortable asking celebrities for a picture – it feels like an interruption to their day and besides, they were nice enough not to ask for a picture with the #ComedyMogul so the least I can do is reciprocate.
So that was the trip – hope you enjoyed reading this epic. Time to fly home (a relationship cannot survive two 22 hour train rides in one week) and watch my dog Cookie wag her tail at me when she sees me return… and then pee herself whimpering with love when she sees Laura (not a joke). Home sweet home.
A couple of months ago Netflix launched, The Punisher starring Jon Bernthal. It was the 744th Marvel property to make it to either the big or small screen in the last eight years and was very popular. Well, for fans of the show and its star Bernthal, there is a good news. A new web series focused on The Punisher a/k/a Frank Castle when he is at home has launched and the 5 episode collection is worth fifteen minutes of your time. Enjoy!
Wednesday I was headlining a one-night show at the Albany Funny Bone in New York. I won’t bore you with all the details, but it was a great show and thanks to the great crowd I have three new bits to share with you as I prep for a new album later this year. So enjoy the new stuff (and please tweet or FB share if you like any of them a lot)
This weekend I purchased a Google E-book of Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff, the book that summarizes the ineptitude, chaos and stupidity of the Trump presidency. I tried to buy a hard copy of the book Friday, but all copies in all NYC Barnes and Nobles sold out before lunch. So between Saturday and Sunday, in the span of under 36 hours I read the 300 pages of F&F on my computer and may have caused permanent eye damage (I am a ride or die hard copy reader of books and newspapers for good reason). You may be wondering, but J-L, even though your comedy career is a wasteland of bitterness and non-bookings, why use your free time to read the book in such a short time? The reason is to create an abridged audio book of F&F in Donald Trump’s voice for the people! So, with no further introduction here is the 8 part abridged audio book of Fire and Fury as read by Donald Trump (it’s 2 hours of listening so my suggestion is that you just listen to the videos in the playlist format (like a YouTube podcast) and if you enjoy them share on social media (or email) with friends. #MAGA
The day after Thanksgiving I took my nephew to see Coco, the new Pixar masterpiece about the Day of the Dead in Mexico. It follows one boy’s quest to find his great, great-grandfather’s spirit and also his love of music, which has been forbidden by his family due to a long simmering resentment towards musical artists. It is basically Pixar doing a brilliant mash-up of Ghost and Footloose. My review would be an A or 4 out of 4 stars. The animation was outstanding, the story was incredibly original (nice to see that Disney actually allows Pixar to do Pixar things once in a while since buying them, instead of another half-baked franchising attempt) and it provided accessible exposition on some of the Mexican culture that was the backbone of the story for an outsider like me. I cannot vouch for how authentic it was culturally, but after reading articles by the filmmakers who went to great lengths to be accurate, and from the applause after the film ended from the majority Latin sold out crowd, I am guessing they did their homework and executed it well. In fact, Coco is now in my Pixar Mt Rushmore (which also consists of Toy Story (for those pleading for Toy Story 3 to be included, let’s just say the TS saga has a spot – it is the only story and franchise to date that Pixar has flawlessly executed, though with Disney shamelessly pushing Toy Story 4 out in a year it shows that they feel the need to cash in and potentially diminish a beautiful ending to the trilogy that would make Six Feet Under‘s finale writers proud), Finding Nemo and Wall-E).
So other than getting over my disappointment that Coco was not a 2 hour film about Ice-T’s wife (the name is for the main character’s great-grandmother), it seems like it was a pretty flawless cinematic experience – so what could J-L have to complain about?
Before every Pixar movie that I can remember (and I have seen all but two in the theater – Cars 3 and A Bug’s Life being the exceptions) there has been an animated short. Usually about 5 minutes, and sometimes getting nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Short, these mini-movies are often testing grounds for up and coming directors for Pixar to showcase or audition their talents in front of receptive audiences. Well, before Coco, there was a 20 minute (at least), 3 song, mini-movie involving the character from Frozen. For those of you that don’t know Frozen is arguably the most overrated phenomenon that Disney has ever produced. It was a throwback the The Little Mermaid-The Lion King era of Disney musical movies, but a shallow and weak descendant. Despite a great song from the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem, most of Frozen left me confused as to why it was such a phenomenon. Maybe cartoons and comic book movies had become so male, and even worse – adult-centered, that it offered a clear girl-focused story, even if weak by comparison to something like The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast. So that may explain the success of Frozen, which is fine.
However, it does not explain why Coco required a 20 minute opening act involving Frozen, whose characters are so white, the Snowman almost passes as their black friend. I only mention race, not because I have a problem with Frozen, which takes place in Scandinavia I think, having a white cast. But I don’t think there is anyway to read it other than an animated white co-sign for the first Mexican-centered Pixar film. They broke every pattern of previous Pixar movies to do so, so the question is not if they did something wildly different for Coco, but why.
Obviously we live in polarizing times. The “President” is a racist and a white supremacist (I am still waiting for him to call out Jimmy Kimmel and Eminem the way he called out NFL players, Steph Curry, LaVar Ball and the mayor of San Juan, PR) and he began his campaign targeting Mexicans. And there are still many people who support him in this country and I am guessing some of them enjoy Pixar films. But Pixar, even with Disney’s money grubbing abuse, still has a track record of excellence that I think exceeds even that of Stephen Spielberg. Their films are original, creative and work so well on child and adult levels. They are all hits, almost universally critically acclaimed (ahem – Cars 2 and 3 please leave the room). Basically if Pixar makes a movie all they should have to say is, “Hi, we are Pixar. Enjoy.” But for some reason, in the 22 years since Toy Story graced movie theaters, the formula needed to be changed for Coco. And it was even featured on the posters as if to say, “Hey I know this *whispered* Mexican *end whisper* story may not be the normal Pixar you are used to, but if you give it a chance, you also get a bonus Frozen movie that is so white it will make these Mexicans at least feel like light-skinned, GOP voting Cubans. So come see Ivanka Trump and Taylor Swift sing in the snow!”
There is a benevolent interpretation to this move of course. Disney may recognize the political climate of our country and moviegoers’ tendency to ignore stories involving minorities unless they are comic book heroes or played by Denzel Washington or Will Smith. So maybe, taking a practical approach they said “This movie is great. We need to do whatever it takes to get folks to see it, even if it is pandering.” I appreciate that and in some ways think that that is good. But what does it say about this country that either the biggest entertainment studio in America is too insecure or cowardly to let their track record and a new great film speak for themselves or the company recognizes that even in movie going, white people may not support a story that isn’t white no matter who is making it. Because I am pretty sure many of those Latino people in the theater saw Toy Story, The Incredibles and many other Pixar movies with characters that didn’t look like them.
I hope Coco is a big success as it deserves to be, but the interminable Frozen movie before it was bad. On many levels.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
This weekend I featured at Magooby’s Joke House in Timonium, Maryland. I was opening for Dan Soder. who five years ago was a waiter at a restaurant near my apartment and was on my podcast (Episode #6 – Walking Dead episode). Since then he has had a Comedy Central special, a Netflix half hour, a radio show on Sirius XM called The Bonfire and a recurring role on the Showtime show Billions. So needless to say my podcast is a real launching pad for stardom for guests, but not so much the host. The trip included fun shows, another visit to a Catholic Church trying to be an evangelical rock concert, poor merchandise sales and a late night trip home on Greyhound. So here we go!
I have been to Magooby’s enough times to have memorized the path to the Red Roof Inn Plus – Amtrak to Baltimore Penn Station, the Light Rail from Baltimore Penn to Timonium Business Park (no one in 4 years has ever taken the ticket from me, but it is only $1.80 so I get it just in case) and then a one mile walk to the Red Roof Inn Plus, which is one mile from Magooby’s.
2 years when I stayed at the Red Roof Inn Plus I was on the first floor, which is basically a motel telling you they hope you get raped and murdered. A year ago I was on the second floor, but this year, in the ultimate sign of discount motel respect, I was on the top floor (the third). People don’t know this, but two flights of stairs is usually enough to discourage most motel rapists and murderers.
The room was nice enough, though I learned that the “plus” apparently stands for the white stain on my black desk chair. I have no idea what the white stain was, but it tasted salty (most of this section are jokes I opened my set with, but also true).
The crowds were solid for the 5 shows at Magoobys. Other than the two clips I have posted below, my favorite joke from the week was comparing Maggie Gyllenhaal to Kevin McHale with breasts – not sure I want to have sex with her, but I definitely want her on the low blocks if I need two points. I then explained to two different audiences who Kevin McHale is, what The Deuce is (Gyllenhaal’s great show on HBO) and who Waingro was (the character in Heat that I expected to run into at the Red Roof Inn Plus) because it is not a J-L Cauvin set unless various historical and pop culture references need to be explained. So here are two new clips (please give them a like on YouTube):
The Rock Church
Now on Saturday I had to check out of my Red Roof Inn Plus (to save money I opted out of a third night #ComedyMogul), which meant roaming Timonium, Maryland for 8 hours with my luggage like a Samsonite-sponsored vagabond. That meant 2 hours at Starbucks, 3 hours at Panera Bread and then a one mile walk to The Church of the Nativity, the closest Catholic Church to the club area, for 5pm Mass. By way of background please enjoy this bit from St Paul, Minnesota this past Summer about when I found myself at a very modern, hip Mass:
Here is the thing – when I go to Mass I expect the simple things: anti-gay, anti-abortion, organ music and/or Gregorian chants and preparation to fight to the death on the side of the righteous in the War on Christmas. What I don’t need is some Joel Osteen-meets-One Direction experience. As I approached the Church of the Nativity I noticed the entrance which felt more like a liberal arts college than a Catholic Church. Big driveway, a huge 3 story floor to ceiling glass wall showing a huge coffee bar and lounge. I then entered the Church part of the structure and when inside here are some of the things I saw:
- A band with 4 guitarists (lead, rhythm, acoustic and bass), a keyboard player, a drummer and 3 vocalists
- 2 large screens for showing the band, the song lyrics and the readers/speakers
- 3 different cameras and a switchboard (they were filming for the website and live streaming)
- A CNN-electoral map-esque 46 inch flat screen TV where the priest touched and swiped to highlight different parts of his homily and Bible verses
- Ushers with security headsets
This was insane to me. If you are Catholic, one of the things you enjoy or like about it is some of the old school-ness of it (and in all seriousness I am not talking about some of the antiquated values). But it is as if this and other Catholic Churches are saying “The Evangelicals are killing us! We need more bells and whistles. More pop music! More cell phone apps! More hypocrisy!” WELL I DON’T LIKE IT! The Catholic Church is not going to win more fans or loyalty by turning into a Mumford and Sons concert. But it will feel like an annoying experience to people who do want the ritual and tradition of Mass. And most of all I was disappointed in the folks in attendance. If you cannot depend on old, conservative white people to maintain old traditions – who can you depend on for that?! #MMGA
So after Mass it was time for the last two shows at Magoobys and then a Lyft (#NeverUber) to the Baltimore Greyhound station. My last three 11pm or later Greyhound trips I have had to sit next to someone because they were packed (Greyhound is like the Underground Railroad at night – immigrants, minorities and felons seeking to avoid the daylight), including my last trip from Albany where I sat next to a man so full of non-James Brown funk that my eyes teared up. Well, just like the Red Roof Inn finally show me 3rd floor respect on this trip, I was rewarded on Greyhound with a full 2 seats to myself.
When I got to Port Authority Bus Terminal at 4am (I called it The David Simon Bus Tour from the home of The Wire to the home of The Deuce – almost no one got that joke the two times I said it on shows) I hopped in a cab and went home.
This week see me at Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia Nov 2-November 5.
Be sure to check out Keep My Enemies Closer, Israeli Tortoise and Fireside Craps on iTunes.