As promised on my podcast this week this blog is my recommended reading list for the third era of United States History. I think U.S. History (so far) has had three great and co-equal eras. The first is the American Revolution, when the United States became a nation. The second is the Civil War, when America freed its people. And the third, a longer era, is the struggle for Civil Rights that fought and continues to fight for the equality promised, but not delivered, by the Declarations and Amendments of the first two eras. I have been wanting to write this for a while, but wanted to finish the books related to the topic before compiling this list. I was also recently inspired to do this by something I heard on the Adam Carolla Show. I am a big fan of Carolla and have been a guest numerous times on his show. I agree with many of his views on day-to-day life and find him to be an incredibly quick and sharp wit, but politically, and on racism’s role in America, I am often nearly a polar opposite to him. Breaking this down will require another blog post (or appearance on his show), but on a recent show he played a Morgan Freeman interview clip where Freeman said he did not think Black History Month should be a thing because Black History is American History. Of course this quote was used by Carolla as a way of saying “See, dividing by race only perpetuates problems,” but I believe part of Freeman’s point is that the story, struggles and contributions of black people are central to American History and should not be treated as some niche branch of American History and perhaps Black History Month is a copout that allows people to deny the centrality of Black History to American History. At least that is the way I took it. And as I have said on my podcast, I feel that the civil rights struggle and Black History should be considered a co-equal of the first two major events/eras, but often feels like more of an elective course than a core requirement.
The list I am going to post also feels necessary in an era of Trump. He is a man with poor reading skills and an apparent aversion to reading itself (he needs “killer graphics” for even important national security briefings), a disdain for facts, an ignorant and bigoted view of minorities and history and a willingness to use racial animosity to exploit, manipulate and exacerbate anxieties and hostilities among poor and middle class white people. So although I know most people who would be willing to read these books might be people seeking confirmation of things they already believe and/or know, the folks who should really read this are those who believe the myths on race that we learn in schools and are told from mostly “conservative” politicians and thinkers. If you read at a moderate pace like myself this list could take you a year to complete but I think it is worth it. So, without further adieu here is the list in recommended order:
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
The National Book Award winner for History provides an epic scope of how racism developed and evolved in America. In early cases racism was a justification for policies (like cheaper labor) rather than the starting point of people’s beliefs and then of course, evolved into culturally held beliefs that had to continue to evolve to both maintain white supremacy and justify poor treatment across the spectrum of American life of black people. The book also examines how some heroic figures in American history, both black and white, held compromised views that were moderately racist (one broad example of this – believing slavery was wrong, but that black people were not endowed by their creator with the same abilities as Caucasians) and how this two steps forward, 1.5 steps back dance with America and race persists to this day, perpetuated at times by black leaders’ desire for accommodation and compromise and not just white supremacy and hate.
Grant by Ron Chernow
A phenomenal biography about the hero of the Civil War and the only President in the 80+ years until Lyndon Johnson occupied the White House to use the power of the federal government to affirmatively push for full equality of black people. The bittersweet tragedy of this great book is that Grant showed what was possible if the North and Republicans had stayed vigilant to protect the rights of blacks and how Grant saw the terrible future that awaited black citizens once he left the White House due to Republican and northern fatigue over the “Race issue.” Obviously a lesson not learned well by America if you look all the way back to the 2016 election.
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon
This Pulitzer Prize winner explores how during and especially after Reconstruction the South and major industries used the criminal justice system as a way of using thousands of Black Americans to work as free labor (at times even worse than slavery because prisoners working for free did not give employers the same incentive to preserve the health of the labor as they would have had they been owned by the employer). There were heroic efforts by some US Attorneys (Warren Reese Jr. is the particular hero of a good portion of the book – the son of a Confederate who becomes a passionate fighter for stopping the new slavery in Alabama) at times to investigate and stop this, but companies like U.S. Steel still reaped enormous profits knowingly from slave labor. Reading this book made it laughable that someone could think there is NOT a case for reparations, at least for those able to prove definitive links to these laborers.
Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King
This Pulitzer Prize winner follows a pre-Brown case of Thurgood Marshall in Florida (and after reading this book you will not have to ask me why I did not want to see the hip hop swagger-inspired (from the preview at least) Chadwick Bozeman interpretation of Marshall). In an era full of depressing and heartbreaking stories and histories, this book was especially gut-wrenching. The story is a familiar one of black WWII veterans returning to the South and earning the resentment and hostility of poor whites. A false rape allegation and an impossible fight for justice are the main points of the story, but when you hear about a father forced at gun point to watch his son jump to his death or an NAACP worker named Harry Moore, a Florida Civil Rights worker assassinated in 1951, you realize you have not learned nearly enough about this era. This is not a book with a happy ending, quite the contrary. It is impressive for the depths of despair it will make you feel.
American in the King Years (trilogy) by Taylor Branch
This 2000+ page trilogy has won most book awards between the three volumes (Parting The Waters won the Pulitzer, Pillar of Fire & At Canaan’s Edge). These books cover the Civil Rights struggle from 1954-1968 and the big takeaway from them for me, other than the great and important history, is the number of American heroes that I had not heard of. As I have said on my podcast, the fact that many school kids could probably name as many Confederate generals as Civil Rights heroes speaks to a horrible deficiency in our collective education. Of all the names I learned about in these books, the one that stuck out to me was Bob Moses. The man was basically a one man voter registration drive in early 1960s Mississippi. That would be like being a one man gay marriage advocacy group in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. And I don’t make that comparison to be funny – reading these books you realize that the 1960s South (and plenty of the North – as MLK Jr said “Chicago could teach Mississippi something about hate” when he worked to eliminate housing discrimination in Chicago) was nothing short of White Christian terrorism. This is a decade where both of my parents were adults, not some far off time with horses and carriages.
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
This book from 2017, that I just finished, breaks down how throughout the 20th century the federal and state governments were instrumental in developing and augmenting black poverty and black ghettos. It is too often viewed as an issue of individual racism and black failure for housing blight and poverty, but Rothstein breaks down everything from the New Deal to present day to show that discrimination against black people created and exacerbated poverty and housing issues in the black community, allowed for white middle class people to build intergenerational wealth while also preventing black families from doing the same. While many of the other books on this list give historical perspective that is valuable, this was the first one on the list to show how today’s problems have historical roots that persist (for anyone who wants to act like the 1940s, 60s, 80s and 2000s exist in some vacuum). Individual racism has a mighty role to play, but based on the substantial role that government has played (and now continues to play) in creating a segregated society both in geography and wealth, the government has a Constitutional obligation to put forth remedies.
Locking Up Our Own by James Forman Jr
The most recent National Book Award winner examines (as sort of a companion to The New Jim Crow) the role that the black community and leaders had in stablishing the world Michelle Alexander discusses in her book. What is interesting in this book is that poverty, drugs and guns represented epidemics in the black community, and contrary to the “What About Chicago?” fake concern of Trumpists, the reason for some of the worst punishments affecting black people in the criminal justice system are because black leaders and communities felt desperate enough and fearful enough to co-sign draconian measures. However, what the book also points out is that leaders of both parties, though significantly more Republicans, would listen to black leaders ask for an all of the above approach (tough on crime, more education and job opportunities, etc.) and only latch on to the first, while cutting benefits thus exponentially increasing the problem – more black people in jails couple with less opportunity than before.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
A great book that examines the use of the criminal justice system to continue the subjugation and lower class status of black people in America. If you have made it this far in the blog than I am guessing you have heard me or dozens of other people discuss this book.
American Tapestry by Rachel L Swarns
Disclaimer – this book is written by my sister-in-law.
This book traces the roots of Michelle Obama all the way back to slavery. What it shows in (if my recollection serves me – 5 generations?) is that in America anything is possible (“Yay” – conservatives), but also shows how it took not one extraordinary ancestor, but many extraordinary leaps to go from slavery to the White House. Steps that would not be needed or required for white Americans. Of course, anyone getting to the White House is extraordinary, but I remember thinking while reading the book (admittedly several years ago) “If any one of these people slips up, or gets killed, or any number of things that would have been far more commonplace for black people than white people, then Michelle Obama may not be here at all, but certainly not in the White House.” And I guess that is why I included it on the list, because it has an enjoyable narrative and an even more important narrative lesson – Anything is possible in this country, but you must acknowledge that it was and still is harder for a black person to achieve that opportunity. And once that is acknowledged then maybe real change can be had for all and not just the exceptional.
One of the keys to success in stand up comedy, after having management, having lots of followers on social media, being under 30, projecting a false air of confidence, having other talents and avenues to success besides stand up comedy and talent, is having meaningful engagement with your fans. I was in Hartford this weekend (technically I am still in Hartford awaiting Sunday’s final show, but with day job work looming tomorrow morning I wanted to get this written now so that the 80-200 readers I have would not be deprived of a prompt recap) where I have a solid and loyal fan base of 5-9 people. But these are album recording attending, ticket purchasing, movie review watching, podcast listening sons of guns and I am having a hard time convincing them my career is a complete dead end – WOOOOOO! (Ric Flair for those who have no idea why I wrote this sentence like this) so I must keep them (they are basically the Rod Tidwells to my Jerry Maguire – “SHOW ME THE PUNCHLINES! Congratulations J-L we will continue to be your fans”). Before a breakdown of the weekend specifics here is what I gave to my 3 fans +1 spouse that showed up this weekend:
Thursday – gave Jacquelyn a hug though she bolted to allow me to (try to) sell merch. She came with her sister to my last album recording.
Thursday – Jon also shows up – he has been a fan since my 1st appearance in Hartford in 2010 (I had a 5 year stint in Funny Bone prison when I was not given a week of work from April 2011 until mid 2016 (basically this will go down as the Ted Williams going to WWII or the Ali getting stripped of his belt in his prime of stand up comedy – 5 years of being exiled from the largest chain of clubs when I could still have been considered a “young comic” for part of it and networked and met dozens of headliners all while getting money and stage time) because a few morons in Des Moines gave me bad reviews (even though it was still one of my best weeks of CD sales – perhaps it was my 10 minute story about the woman who kept calling me a fa**ot via email because I wouldn’t invite her to my hotel and was still emailing me during the show because she was at a bar next to the club story that did it #ComedySexSymbol #FunnyBone #PsychoSkank). Well Jon is a huge movie fan so I went with him after the show to see Deadpool 2 (enjoyed it and was thrilled to see the Freddie Mercury trailer – I would give the trailer a best pic nomination).
Saturday – Keith (and his wife, +1) came to the early show and I forgot to call a buddy of mine in LA because we talked for about an hour (sorry Nick, but 4 comedy fans are more rare than my 9 comedy friends, but you are still a valued member of my failing comedy career team #SquadGoals). I brought Keith a hard copy of Keep My Enemies Closer because the last time he saw me at the Hartford Funny Bone he said he had lost his copy – it was the only CD stolen from his car! #ComedyKnowledgeableCarThief
The lesson of this long preamble is that it pays to be a comedy fan of mine – you get hugs, movie dates and albums just for prolonging the ebola riddled corpse I call a comedy career. Ok, let’s do the more specific breakdown.
Travel & Accommodations
I took Amtrak up to Hartford on Thursday and immediately found myself enraged. I got on the train, secured a seat and got up to put my bag above me. Just then, the man sitting across from me jumped up and put his suitcase above my seat as I was preparing to put mine up there. Most people, including me, have tics and weird things they do. But like religion, masturbation and bare feet, I prefer to keep those things outside of the public accommodations of travel. So I looked at the guy and asked “Is there something wrong with your luggage space?” and he replied that he “can keep an eye on his bag better if it is there.” Does this assume Tom Cruise is going to Mission Impossible your suitcase by hovering above you? And even if he did that you would know because I would be screaming “G.O.A.T.!!!” at the sight of TC. I was very tempted to pull a TJ Miller and call in the bag and behavior as suspicious, but instead I just sat and steamed. And then, despite 20% of the car still being open a woman asked if she could sit next to me, the largest human in the car. Of course she was a white woman over 70, which if you have read my long distance travel blogs you know that I could probably become the Jon Voigt of an Amtrak-Midnight Cowboy if I wanted to with how many of these old ladies like to chat me up. I think some people claim to have old souls, but I have an old, crotchety and bitter soul so I think it comes off more attractive and authentic to these golden girls.
The club manager piced me up at the train and drove me to my
hotel motel, America’s Best Value Inn. From the exterior I thought “well if it is any more than free there is no way it is the ‘best value.'” However, my room was actually quite solid and a great flat screen tv, that had a remote that worked like a real remote and not a “20 seconds of ‘did I turn it on’ delay for no reason” hotel motel remote. The hotel motel manager told me at check-in that if I wanted service I needed to open the shade so they knew to help me. As Ben Franklin once said “Those willing to give up room service for security deserve neither.” If you can’t tell from my Midnight Cowboy and Ben Franklin references I am slowly morphing into a real-life version of my new Righteous Prick Podcast character “Beige Dennis Miller” and when I tried to recall the room service story Thursday night it fell flatter than a Larry Nasser patient cha cha cha (damn it STOP Beige Dennis Miller!). “Can they not invest in three cent placards that say ‘do not disturb?’ Instead I have to resort to old time spy tradecraft to get my towels changed?” I think it was the general silence and realizing I had said “tradecraft” when I realized I was finally becoming Beige Dennis Miller. But to be fair – to the average comedy club audience these days anything beyond weed and jerking off starts to feel high brow.
Merchandise Is Dead… Almost
Only Friday’s late show seemed openly hostile to me, but CD sales basically reflected 5 (and counting) audiences that hated my existence. Now my post-show handshake game was on point, but I only made one sale Thursday and 5 on Saturday (between the 2 shows). And all joking aside – these were from crowds that liked me! A few factors affect this – the headliner, Chris Porter, was selling his DVDs, so naturally that will eat into the merch sales of “the middle guy.” And most people will say “no one buys CDs anymore.” That is true generally, but up until late 2017 I was selling really well so something else feels afoot. I don’t know what it is other than God’s 988th sign that I “should quit while I am behind” (credit for this quote belongs to Coach Kreso – football coach and high school gym teacher at my high school.
Another feature of my road work is my weekly journey to America’s Catholic Churches. The closest one to my
hotel motel was St. James (#Lebron), which was 3.1 miles away. And as fate would have it, Sunday was, by far, the hottest day of the week so I ended up sweating substantially by the time I arrived on time for 11am Mass. I looked like a black Baptist preacher when I walked in because of both the sweat and the fact that I looked like the only person in attendance who wouldn’t turn into a lobster in the Sun (actually there were 3 black people and 4 Indian people giving the Church a 3.5 black, 4 Indian and 277 bleach ethnic breakdown). Mass was good, though nothing compared to the Voice of God in Tampa (though the Choir was very good and they even had a horn player, which I consider acceptable, unlike Church bands with full on rock band components). It is OK to have a little Chicago in your Church band, but you cant go full Journey.
So that is all I have for you this week. I am taking Greyhound home after the show tonight, so really the only possible news from this point on relative to this road work would be some sort of horrific incident on the bus or at NY Port Authoirty at 1am. I will give my girlfriend my wordpress password so she can amend the blog in that event. Otherwise, just enjoy this new clip from Hartford and have a good week!
This week took me back on the road to Albany, New York, home of grey skies and the Albany Funny Bone. The week has been unique for its general lack of eventfulness or even humor derived from awkward or uncomfortable circumstances. Some cuck once said “The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.” Now I believe that he was completely wrong, but assuming Elie Weisel was correct, then Albany has had very little love for me this week. I am writing this just before the final show on Sunday, so that should demonstrate how little I feel another show will change the tenor of the weekend.
I took Amtrak up on Thursday drenched in sweat. I was lugging a suitcase and a backpack and also a small bag full of CDs for sale. And it was 90 degrees in NYC. So by the time I settled into my seat on the train I had the brown complexion and sweaty gloss of someone who was nervously preparing for jihad. The train made it to Albany on time and I was picked by the manager and taken to the Hampton Inn near the club.
The Thursday show was a smaller crowd, but I ended up making two sales and offending no one. I figured that was a good omen for the main part of the weekend – the two shows Friday and two Saturday. And like every other business instinct I have had in 14 years, 11 months of performing stand up comedy, I was mistaken. On a bright note I shared a brief clip of myself on Twitter the next day and Jim Gaffigan liked it which then propelled it to well over 10K views. I have never worked with the great Gaffigan, but he pays me a compliment or shares some piece of my comedy content a few times a year, which makes me think we will never work together, but out of respect he will be the celebrity that pays for my funeral.
Friday’s early show was fantastic. Big crowd, big laughs, zero sales. And almost no acknowledgement – in an age where it feels like more and more audiences care about the fame level of the people performing, being a middle act has begun to feel more like club staff than one of the entertainers in terms of post show reception. And I would admit it if I were having bad sets, but these are the reactions after killing sets, which makes it all the more disheartening.
The late show Friday is often the show that is most predictably terrible. It is usually people who have had a long work week and decide, “Hey, can we drag down any struggling entertainers with us?” This late show was no exception. And they were led by an older drunk lady (she was the type where you didn’t know if she was a 38 year old who had been through the ringer or a 55 year old who was just taking a break from banging her middle school students in northern Florida. She had the orange complexion of a woman who either tanned too much or had just finished tossing Donald Trump’s salad (hence my nickname for her, “Trunt,” as in Trump/C- you can figure it out). She was loud, drunk and threw the show off repeatedly. And even worse, she spent 15 minutes after the show at the headliner’s merchandise table repeatedly saying “Oh my God, they hated me – I was getting reprimanded!” in that way that let’s you know she didn’t actually feel bad – she just wanted to remind everyone that there had been focus on her. In better news, one couple bought the three albums I had for sale. And making the evening a complete disaster was the Utah Jazz getting annihilated by the Houston Rockets in the western conference semi-finals.
Saturday I got up early, eager to change my luck. So I GPS’d the nearest gym, which was a Planet Fitness 2.6 miles away. I started walking figured that walk would be a good warmup before some light exercise and ice cream sundae eating at America’s most embarrassing gym chain (pizza day and bagel days are real things at PF). When I was .6 miles away all roads disappeared. Much like a lot of fat America, New York above New York City apparently becomes a place where you need to drive everywhere. So I walked back to the hotel, gathered my computer and went and finished my next YouTube masterpiece (142 views at least), “Comedian Combine,” which should be filmed and launched in June. I then made my way to All Saints Parish for Saturday evening Mass to pray for album sales and Donovan Mitchell’s jump shot.
Saturday night I had two great sets and sold zero albums. I went back to the hotel and had a chipwich and promised myself that if I experienced this disappointment another 322 times then I might have to call it quits on my comedy career.
Sunday I made a guest appearance on The Black Guy Who Tips podcast and then went to Dave and Busters with the headliner Dale Jones. We got a Lyft from the hotel because it was raining and here is the conversation we had with the driver:
Me: Just two grown men going to play video games.
Driver: Haha well it’s a good day to do it. Where you guys in from?
Me: New York City
Dale: Los Angeles
*brief pause where driver realizes how weird it is for a 39 year old man and a 48 year old man to be from opposite coasts meeting up to play video games at a shopping mall. Moment of contemplation if this is a new tactic used by closeted married men and wondering if Albany is a new hotbed for down low activities #TheNewAtlanta*
Driver: What are you guys in for?
Dale: We are both performing at the Funny Bone.
Driver: OH! (puts away Grindr app)
So we played some video games, ate some Pizzeria Uno and now I am back writing this masterpiece. Tonight I have one show, but cannot stay to sell CDs (HAHAHAHAHAHA) because my train is at 9:15. So if all goes well I will have a good set, get on the train and watch the Utah Jazz win on my phone on the way home.
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