This weekend I was (technically still am as I have begun this in a Starbucks 90 minutes before the final Sunday show) in Richmond, Virginia, capital of the Confederacy and home to two Amtrak train stations (more on this shortly). More specifically I was in Short Pump Town- arguably the worst town name in history where there is a mall containing the Richmond Funny Bone and other stores. I was staying in the comedy condo across the quasi-highway from the Mall. I was opening for Guy Torre, who I have opened for before. And like any trip down South the people of America fell into three groups – those that look like porn stars, those that look like they have Type 9 Diabetes and immigrants, who appeared to be the only people with average body types. The weather has been very hot (at one point I asked my balls if they were cutting weight for a boxing or wrestling match) and the comedy was very good. So with that brief road map, let’s dive in to another comedy trip:
Thursday – Why Does Richmond Have 2 Train Stations?
When I booked my trip to Richmond I selected “Main Street” as the station I would go to. As it turns out that station is less popular, has less frequent train stops and is a longer ride to the club than the earlier Richmond Station stop of “Staples Mill Road.” Maybe it is a Greenland/Iceland situation where they tell outsiders that there is a Main Street station to draw them away from all the wonders of Staples Mill Road. But I learned in time to get off at SMR.
When I arrived on Thursday I was greeted by Jason, the manager of the club and, as it turns out, my roommate for the weekend. He splits his apartment with the club. Admittedly when I saw my bed I was less than thrilled. It looked like something that Child Services or Special Victims Unit would want to take photos of before letting me move my stuff in. But the apartment was comfortable and one across-the-highway-sprint away from all that Short Pump, Virginia has to offer.
Thursday’s show went really well. The laughter was loud. The jokes killed. And the CD sales after the show were zero. But making up for it was getting to know the staff of the club. The sound guy (Buz) is a dead ringer for Rex Tillerson and that made me laugh. Also, one of the employees of the club, Sho, won me over when, during an in depth discussion of In Living Color, he called David Alan Grier and Tommy Davidson the “Klay and Draymond” of the show (the implication being that Steph and Durant were the Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans of the show). Now, if you know me you know I love In Living Color, Basketball and analogies. Basically at that moment I knew that if I were gay I might have met my soul mate. (Fast forward to next week when I am yelling at my girlfriend – “WHY CAN’T YOU BE MORE LIKE SHO?!!”
Friday – Girls’ Trip and Cheesecake Factory Bloat
On Friday I decided to take it easy so I went to see Girls’ Trip (I give it 3.5 Yassss Queens out of 5) and had an early dinner at The Cheesecake Factory (salmon, broccoli and then a very reasonable 1400 calorie piece of chocolate cheesecake). Apparently all that caloric intake had a positive effect because I crushed both sets that night. And as a bonus, my brand new manager showed up with his wife to the second show. It was their 11th wedding anniversary so either this dude is going to be the Jerry Maguire to my Rod Tidwell, or my comedy career is going to begin having negative impacts on personal lives besides my own.
But the highlight of the night was my exchange with a woman after the first show (which as it stands now was the best set of the weekend).
Terrible Fan Lady: You was pretty good. You’ll get better.
Me: Ah thanks
TFL: You was pretty good. You’ll get better.
Me: I am actually pretty happy where I’m at right now.
TFL: You’ll get better. And you need to get you a real girlfriend.
Me: Wow – 15 seconds to shit on the two of the most important things in my life. That’s impressive.
TFL: You was pretty good.
Fade to black.
Saturday – Get Swoll and Get CDs Sold
Saturday I ventured over to the amazing gym that comedians are allowed free access to during the week. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the condo and it is magnificent. In New York City, a gym as large and comprehensive as this one would probably run around $8500.00 per month. Of course in Richmond it only costs 3 eggs and a loaf of bread. Had a great workout and then had two more great shows. On the second show it was announced that Doug Williams, Super Bowl winning quarterback of the Washington Redskins was in attendance. I did not get to see him, but hopefully he enjoyed my set and will be telling all his friends. I also sold $90 worth of CDs, which would not be good normally, but since they were selling like laser discs the previous two nights I went to sleep happy (after asking a gas station attendant to turn the money into 90 $1 bills so I could Indecent Proposal myself to sleep.
Sunday – Detroit, Joke Bombs and Game of Thrones
(resuming writing Monday morning at Starbucks)
On Sunday I went to see Detroit, which was the story of a young Carrot Top who becomes a cop to terrorize black people in a hotel in 1967. It was a flawed movie, but very intense once it moved past its clunky first 40 minutes. I would give it a B+. Of course during the movie, the headliner for the weekend Guy Torre, asked me if I wanted to attend Washington Redskins training camp with him, so I missed that. But on the plus side, former comedian and Richmond-area resident Mike Way saw me in the theater and we had a pleasant conversation/movie-date. It was like the poorest man’s version possible of a Bill Murray-esque story for Mike.
For Sunday’s show I decided to try a few new jokes. Two went well, one was a shit show (hint – the one that involves sex with kids did not go over well).
- “Why does everyone in the South either look like they do porn or like they have Type 9 diabetes. My trip to the gym nearby was full of jacked tattooed dudes, women with big fake tits and people oozing over their scooters. You need some normal people here.”
- “Why are Southern women so flirty? Every conversation they need to make physical contact and they sound too interested and seductive – a woman at the movie theater asked me if the book I was reading was good in a way that felt more like the beginning of a porn.”
- “A guy once told me I looked like Jared Fogle. And that was before we knew he raped kids. I was offended then. Some things you just shouldn’t say. I don’t care if I am banging a 10 year old, holding a pair of giant khakis with my free hand while being fed a 6 inch veggie sub – you don’t tell me I look like Jared Fogle.”
After the show I went back to the condo to watch Game of Thrones and it was glorious. It was like the fantasy genre version of finally getting Eminem’s rap battle at the end of 8 Mile.
So thank you Richmond, Short Pump, the beautiful people and the obese people who all make up the capital of the confederacy. See you in 2018. Time to get home.
This weekend continued by July of No Bookings Tour (#JNBT), so it was time to make my way to Martha’s Vineyard for my sister-in-law’s 50th birthday party that my brother put together. Given the peak season, I was still pretty happy to secure a solid rate of sodomy from hotels.com for a bed & breakfast for two nights. I also booked the Seastreak Ferry for my girlfriend and me, which conveniently leaves midtown Manhattan and arrives in Martha’s Vineyard 5 The Perfect Storm hours later. The cost was $240 round trip per person, which is reasonable except for the word “ferry.” The word ferry makes me think $22.50 round trip and kids travel free – not Amtrak Accela to Boston prices. And on an ironic note, there is no better symbol for my comedy career that there was a comedy festival a short ride away from Martha’s Vineyard in Nantucket, where many comics were being paid to perform while I was spending a small fortune to feel like I was an unwitting guest on a hidden camera show. And with that intro, here we go!
The Perfect Ferry Storm
When my girlfriend and I boarded the Ferry it was cloudy with on-again, off-again rain. We got two seats together on the lower deck with books, podcasts and sandwiches ready for our ocean adventure. The Ferry was full of men in pastel colored pants and shorts and women and men trying to hog 4 seat tables to themselves. The boat left on time and despite the heavy clouds and moderate rain the ride was nice and smooth for about two hours. And then at the halfway point we entered the Atlantic. Here is an accurate photograph of how my girlfriend and I felt for the next two hours:
As someone who is almost never on boats and hates flying I was still surprised at how anxious the up and downs made me. I never wanted to puke but the physical and mental tension I had as a constant for 2 hours made me very tired. But we arrived in Martha’s Vineyard safely just after 9pm and made our way to the 1720 House, the bed & breakfast I had booked.
Indiana J-L and the Temple of Bugs
The door was open when we arrived (I believe this is a vacation town’s self fulfilling prophecy – if we leave everything open then we cannot have crime!) and our key to the “Yellow Room” was sitting there waiting for us. Interesting fact: the place is called the 1720 House because it was built in 1720 when it was illegal to make a house for people taller than 5’10”. I have dealt with short doorways and stairwells my whole life, but the additional Fear Factor addition here was that from every low hanging lamp from the entrance to the stairwell to the hallways to our room has spiders and bugs hanging so I quickly had to turn into Rocky Balboa bobbing and weaving to avoid spider/bug essence in my mouth. When we entered my room I assumed the rooms would be bug free, but I proceeded to kill a spider in the room and in our bathroom. I actually almost asked some of the bugs to chip in to offset some of the costs of the financial gang bang hotels.com perpetrated on me.
Sidebar – if you are one of those “I don’t kill spiders because they actually kill the other bugs” stop it. Congrats, you would leave Saddam Hussein in power to suppress the good and bad elements, but I believe in the unfettered freedom to live without Daddy Long Legs walking over my face for $300 a night! I will allow the next Yellow Room (named for the quantity of urine you emit when seeing the bugs) administration to handle the Mosquito ISIS that emerges in the absence of strongmen spiders.
To date my most popular Instagram photos are now the photos of me in the tiny house so if you don’t follow me on Instagram (@jlcomedy) then here is a glimpse of me and various spots in and around the house.
My brother rented a (very nice) house in Martha’s Vineyard for his wife for 2 weeks. She is working on a new book so the house gives her 2 kid-free weeks to relax, sleep and work unencumbered. When I walked in the house I immediately offered money to be able to sleep on the floor for the night. And I could be mistaken but I think as I was wiping away the remaining Tarantula anal leakage on my forehead from the 1720 House I could see a look in my girlfriend’s eye that asked “Why did I get the Eric Roberts of the family?”
The party was really nice, the food delicious and I then got an ice cream sundae from a local shoppppppe afterwards (Martha’s Vineyard has 44,076 ice cream shopppppppes) so it was a nice night. I was in such a good mood I actually high-fived two of the spiders when I arrived back at the 1720 House.
The ferry ride back was a little better than the ride out and we got back to my place where my dog Cookie went nuts when she saw my girlfriend and gave me a head nod when she saw me (#Family #Respect #Blessed). We then watched Game of Thrones as I scanned my bags and clothing for any trace of stowaways from the 1720 House. None. This house is clear.
It cannot be argued that Donald Trump is intellectually, morally, emotionally and mentally unequipped to be president. He doesn’t read (he prefers briefings with “killer graphics” according to a member of his cabinet) and he seems to have no greater than a 7th grader’s knowledge of our institutions. He has no moral compass beyond “is it good for me” and as a parent he seems to have only passed on a name and equally shitty character. Now of course, you can make an argument for this man as a human being or as president, but in either case you are wrong. In baseball when a player has all the necessary skills to succeed he is referred to as a “5 tool player.” In Trump’s case he is the exact opposite – as a president he is a “5 failure tool” (sorry if this feels like I am pulling a Tom Friedman – trying to coin my own phrase). Emotionally unstable, morally bankrupt, selfish, stupid and arrogant – literally a Voltron of the 5 traits you would want least in a leader – and he has all 5 in abundance. But this is not about stating the facts. They are not in dispute among anyone not brainwashed or brain dead. This is about the people who don’t hate Trump and don’t support him, but for those faux intellectual warriors on social media I call the “One Dollar Bet” people.
On The Price is Right when contestants bid on the price of items to be selected to come to stage the last person will often bet $1. The reason for this is any bid that goes over the price of the item is disqualified. Therefore, if you bid $1 all you are saying is “I think everyone went over so even if I am the farthest away from the price of the item, I win by default.” That is sometimes a good strategy on the game show, but when discussing issues of the day these people act like their $1 “objectivity” lends them some sort of intellectual heft. In fact they look just as stupid as the wrong side, but without the passionate support to at least provide justification for their stupidity.
These are the people that used to say “I am not a scientist” when it comes to climate change. WOW – how brave. By saying you aren’t a scientist ($1 bet) you now have absolved yourself from listening to or believing scientists? Maybe the creationist CEO of the oil company is right that climate change is a hoax! Maybe Trump is right that it is a Chinese hoax – I DON’T KNOW BECAUSE I AM NOT A SCIENTIST.
Now these folks have evolved into the “I don’t like Trump. Heck I didn’t vote for him, but both sides are bad! Hillary was bad too!” Oh shut up you One Dollar Betting Bitch! First off a vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein is not even a $1 bet. It is more like when Drew Carey or Bob Barker called your name to come on down and instead of coming down you went outside the studio and burned your name tag. But now these morons have evolved from the types that question scientists’ on climate change (AND PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND THAT YOU BELIEVE IN CLIMATE CHANGE IF YOU ARE ONE OF THESE PEOPLE – CLIMATE CHANGE IS AN EXAMPLE, NOT AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST OF HOW YOU ARE INTELLECTUALLY DISHONEST) to now demanding rigorous evidence from every commenter on social media:
- There seems to be collusion with Russia – WHAT IS YOUR EVIDENCE? – Ummm, common sense
- (a few months later) There have been contacts with Russian – SAYS WHO – Ummmm Donald Trump Jr.
- (a few days later) The emails say they intended to collect dirt on Hillary thinking it was Russian government intel – SAYS WHO – DO YOU HAVE DNA EVIDENCE AND VIDEO TAPE PROOF? WHERE IS IT? YOU ARE REALLY REACHING HERE!
This kind of shit just keeps happening. The $1 bet people keep puffing out their chests like they are Copernicus challenging whether the Sun revolves around the Earth, but they are really just Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun insisting there is nothing to see while the store behind him explodes. You can have your vote and your opinions – but stop pretending that ignoring facts and being a simpleton makes you an intellectual heavyweight. It just makes you complicit in an administration that should have an approval rating of a terror attack instead of in the high 30s.
And this goes for a lot of independents as well (the Kings and Queens of the $1 bet in many cases). Standing outside the parties may win you moral points and (for left leaning indies) make you feel a strong kinship with Bernie (who still insists on using as much of the Democratic establishment he can while not joining so he can just bitch about it, keeping up his brand). So keep complaining about the system, remaining an independent (I would be curious how many independents actually show wide variance in the parties they support from election to election) and be sure to complain about the parties not letting you vote in primaries as you insist on not joining the parties. I am not saying some people are not truly independent and do not have valid concerns, but I genuinely believe a lot of independents care more about feeling independent than actually maintaining some sort of political independence.
But at the end of the day yes, it is all Hillary’s fault. Because “any decent candidate would have crushed Trump.” But if that is true, then why after watching President Sleeper Cell destroy America’s credibility from within and put millions of people’s health care and safety at risk every time he has a thought, are his ratings still around 40%? Maybe the country, full of hate and morons has its own issues and the cure may not be “Hillary was bad too.” But keep making your $1 bets if it makes you feel good. I am sure you will get some nice parting gifts.
Normally my road recaps are about weeks or weekends performing comedy somewhere in America. However, this recap, because of its greatness and volume of information and humor will be my first road recap (that I can remember) that is simply a review of a non-comedy trip. I went to my girlfriend’s 20th high school reunion this weekend in Arlington, Virginia. Before you are done reading you will read about slavery, pornography and something far more depraved – a lying scumbag on Amtrak. You will also learn about a legitimate comedy milestone for me as well as chaperoning my Mom to a Bill Maher stand up comedy performance (well, that will be on this week’s podcast). So get ready to learn, laugh and hate!
The Preamble: The Train, The Porn Star and Mean Girls?
As usual, any trip via Amtrak for me will involved the “future glimpse at a dystopian future” known as Penn Station. My girlfriend and I saw the red caps bringing bags to gate 12 East so we, along with a dozen or so other geniuses, lined up there to beat the eventual crush of thousands. Then, the worst thing happened: the gate was announced as 12 West, which meant we were at the back of the line we thought we were starting. As Jesus and Amtrak said, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Of course there was a guy I remember cutting about 120 people and I wanted to throw him down the escalator, but then I remembered this is not a Trump rally, just Penn Station.
When we got to DC we headed to the Hyatt in Rosslyn, VA which was 2 blocks from the site of the reunion. We then ate at a nearby place called District Taco, which was incredibly delicious (including the rare Boylan soda fountain), so expect a big bump in sales after this endorsement DT. After that it was time to meet up with my girlfriend’s two best friends from high school and their significant others. Here is where things start to get interesting.
There are three main facts learned at the dinner:
- One of their classmates is now a porn star!
- That class mate is a man 🙁
- My girlfriend and her friends may have been the mean girls in high school.
We will cover the first two in the “Boogie Night” section, but the third was interesting because when I asked my girlfriend about being the mean girls in high school, she did not deny it. Instead, she said “I think I was the nicest one!” which is a denial worthy of a Sean Spicer press conference. When I asked one of the two friends later in the weekend, there was not a flat denial, but rather a series of explanations, which confirmed they were the mean girls. So I wondered if I, along with the two other significant others were being set up as human shields for some 20th Reunion school revenge shooting. The rest of the night I just paced around the hotel like Marion Barry yelling “Bitch set me up!”
Too Much Black History!
The next morning, my girlfriend and I went to the National African American Museum of Lit History and Fire Emjoi Culture. The place is stunning, though it requires a full day. We spent four hours there and only got through half of the museum (the lower three levels are the hard core history from slavery through President Obama and it involves a lot of reading, which keeps things to a fairly slow pace, especially when considering how densely packed the large area is with information, displays and artifacts. The top 3 floors cover more culture, sports, etc. and I figured we could see that on our next trip to DC. But at one point, my girlfriend and I were feeling so overwhelmed by the sheet depth and quantity of information that I just yelled out “THERE ARE TOO MANY BLACK… PIECES OF HISTORY!” at which point I got a lot of stares. I quickly pulled out a copy of my Sprint Cell Phone bill to prove my half blackness and everything was forgiven.
And as if there was not enough black history going on, while in the museum I got a message that my album Fireside Craps would be the first of my albums to make it on to the Billboard Comedy Charts (so look for annoying photos on social media from me when that happens this week).
Among my chief complaints about the museum (after they should have gotten twice the amount of space – though if they were limited to this square footage it is a marvel of design fitting everything in in the manner in which they did) is that there was no display dedicated to angry white guys yelling “But my parents didn’t own slaves!” nor was there anything dedicated to white women running amok with black twitter vernacular. But they did a strong job nonetheless. Though sadly, I expected to see a display of Amber Rose next to either Sojourner Truth or Rosa Parks, but I guess sex positive heroes have not found their place in the museum yet! Here is a photo journal of highlights from my first trip:
Now it was time for the reunion, which was located in a beautiful top floor space overlooking the Potomac River and basically every landmark in DC. However, because of the cost of renting that space the reunion was left with beer, wine, an appetizer station and someone’s iPod playing hits of the 90s over the PA system. It felt like someone buying a Park Avenue penthouse, but only being able to afford to furnish it with an air mattress.
So as I said hi to a few people (and was mistaken as someone else, but then had to have a 5 minute conversation wit the guy to ease his embarrassment) and then I spotted someone that might be the porn star. I worked for the DA’s office in the Bronx for 3.5 years so maybe it is unfair of me to use my skills like this, but I have a keen eye for clues:
- Dirty handsome. Tan, lean jacked, hair product – like Zac Efron if he had been abandoned as a child.
- Poor eye contact, but very friendly.
- Sort of a child-like voice
- accompanied by a woman under 23 covered in tattoos, with a shapely bum and friendly, but exhausted eyes
- said when speaking to my girlfriend “I work out of Vegas, LA, and San Francisco” (something I coined as the BermudAIDS Triangle” later that night)
When I later spoke to my girlfriend’s friend’s husband he said “that’s him, right?” and I said “he had me at Vegas, LA and San Fran.” I am sure that somewhere in Vegas there is a blog being written by the porn star about how he knew who the comedian was in the party:
- Too many jokes
- The frame of a guy who used to workout, but now has the cream filling of a cupcake
- Works in NYC, even though “works” really means has a day job
- Dating some Tina Fey-ish chick because that is as close as he will get to SNL
Church and the Devil
On Sunday morning I woke up to head to Mass before catching the train (I upgrade my girlfriend to the Accela so we could take the train home together #ReunionMogul). I had originally needed to leave earlier than her because I was taking my Mom to see Bill Maher in Newark Sunday night as her birthday present (I stored up just enough African-American Museum Wokeness credits to attend the show – that show and experience will be recapped on this week’s Righteous Prick Podcast Tuesday morning). I went to St Michael’s Cathedral near the DC Improv – the Church that Pope Francis And I attend while in Washington. DC. However, Mass was at 830am and as I found out the hard way, the DC Metro does not open until 800am – what kind of major city does not open their local train until 8am?! And then it was a 20 minute wait for the train once it opened (they should start a couple of trains in the middle of the route, but what do I know). So I was late to Mass, but I was sure to pray for the DC Metro system (“love your enemies/haters” – Jesus Chris and Katt Williams).
I then met my girlfriend at Union Station and we got on the Accela to NYC. Once we hit Philadelphia the train started to get crowded. A few people asked the man sitting in front of us if they could sit with him. He said that the bag next to him belonged to someone who had gone to the Cafe car. When we got to Newark (ten minutes from NYC) and the train was even more crowded and he told a woman “This guy has been gone for like an hour so you can probably sit here,” but she declined. Well, as we pulled into NYC this piece of shit stands up and picks up the bag. It was his bag. I almost said something to a conductor when he claimed it had been left there (hey, what if it is a bomb), but I didn’t. I wanted to say something to the guy as we were leaving, but all I really wanted to do was set his bag on fire, so that would not have been constructive. From his affected mannerisms I think he may have been in town to celebrate PRIDE Day/Week/Ethnic Female Guts Spilling Out of Crop Tops Day in NYC, but he should have been… ASHAMED! *drops mic*
Subscribe to the Righteous Prick Podcast. New every Tuesday. This week a full review of the Bill Maher show in NJ + Mateen Stewart as guest.
In Ace Ventura’s voice: “Trump is Jackson… Jackson is Trump… Jackson is a cuck!”
The two biggest news makers on my timeline (besides me and my brand new comedy album Fireside Craps – only $4.99 on iTunes) this week have been “President” Donald Trump and Knicks “President” Phil Jackson. Trump is the worst president in American History by Secretariat margins and Phil Jackson is the most inept president of a basketball team since my last NBA 2K season on Play Station. I thought a quick comparison would be interesting and it sure was.
Donald Trump entered the presidential race based on an unearned, but highly public reputation as a business genius because he turned his father’s empire and money into a bigger empire and several bankruptcies. Phil Jackson took over the Knicks with an unearned reputation as a basketball genius (whose signature offense was designed by a former assistant coach) built on the backs of 4 of the top 20 players of the last 30 years in the NBA, including 3 of the top 10.
Both have their roots in 1970s New York City – Trump as a young real estate douche bag. Phil Jackson as a player for the Knicks who threw a lot of elbows like a douche bag.
Trump took his job with no experience, but lots of unearned arrogance. He clearly did not want to live in the city of the job and believed his charisma and confidence would somehow make the job easy. Jackson had no experience in management, wanted to do the job remotely from Montana, and believed that his reputation would lure players to NYC.
Trump has been a colossal failure, unless your only reason for support is “I am a spiteful bigot so Trump is crushing it right now.” Similarly, Jackson has been a colossal failure unless your only hope for the Knicks is “Maybe they will be so bad the NBA forces James Dolan to sell the team.” Both fan bases probably hope for Trump and Jackson to say racist things on tape, but for very different reasons.
Trump has alienated allies, shown zero knowledge of politics, government or the world and has made horrible personnel decisions. Jackson has alienated fans, shown no knowledge (in fact has been dismissive) of the modern NBA and has made horrible personnel decisions (the Joachim Noah trade is his Michael Flynn, and suggesting he would trade Porzingis is basically his version of putting Jared Kushner in charge of everything).
But here is the main difference between Trump and Jackson. Trump told America all the stupid things he believed and would do. And America still elected him. But if Phil Jackson had said “I will give Joachim Noah $72 million, berate our star player and lower his trade value and then threaten to trade our best player in 2 generations” no Knick fan would have supported his hiring. So take heart Knick fans and even James Dolan; it could be worse. You could be as dumb as Trump voters. I guarantee 35% of Knicks fans are not sitting at home wearing Donald Sterling jerseys claiming that “trading Porzingis would Make the Knicks Great Again.”
I learned after writing this that Observer.com had written an article in April comparing Trump and Jackson, but mine was written without this knowledge (and is funnier).
This week the autobiographical film about Tupac Shakur, All Eyez on Me, arrives in theaters. Named after his 1996 double album, the film is no doubt an attempt to capitalize on the success of Straight Outta Compton, an outstanding musical biopic that I put right with Walk The Line and the criminally under-viewed Love & Mercy (about the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson) as my favorite musical biopics of all time (FYI Amadeus, my all time favorite movie, is far above any sub-genre categorizing, just as The Dark Knight is above any discussion of “best comic book movies.”). When they announced Eyez I had my suspicions and those suspicions arose from another rap biopic: Notorious.
Notorious, to put it simply, is a pile of shit. Notorious BIG is my favorite rapper of all time (sorry Gerardo) and the movie drew me to the theater like a hip hop pied piper. “Hey I love Hypnotize! I will see this movie that looks like a few wealthy NYU film students with 1.9 GPAs made it!” It was awful. The performances sucked. The dialogue was corny (“We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves” is still one of the 5 worst pieces of dialogue I have ever heard in any film, porn included) and everything but the soundtrack sucked. In the lead role was a new actor named Jamal Woolard and he was now associated with a movie that would go down as the worst thing to ever happen to Biggie. When I saw Straight Outta Compton my main concern was that it would be another Notorious-esque experience. Fortunately it was not.
So thanks to Straight Outta Compton, I became cautiously optimistic for All Eyez On Me. And then several months ago, I learned a bombshell – Jamal Woolard would be playing Biggie in All Eyez On Me. At that point I realized AEOM was likely to be dogshit. If you think I am jumping to conclusions allow me two pieces of evidence.
Item 1: The Trailer for All Eyez On Me (DON’T BE LURED IN BY CALIFORNIA LOVE!)
Item 2: The film has not been screened for critics less than 48 hours before opening day. This is basically a signed confession that your movie is trash.
So although this is not his starring film, Jamal Woolard will be playing significant roles in two movies that are going to stand for a while as the film legacies for two hip hop icons. My advice to Jay Z, Nas (Eminem already did his film and had the guy from Ballers), LL Cool J and Kendrick Lamar – if you have had fat black men play significant roles in your lives, put something in your wills that Jamal Woolard cannot be allowed to play them.
This is not to say that Jamal Woolard is necessarily a bad actor, but he may be something worse: he may be the black Jai Courtney AKA “The Franchise Killer.”
The Franchise Killer
Jai Courtney is an actor who has surpassed Taylor Kitsch and Sam Worthington as the white actor who gets the most chances in Hollywood to lead films or get major roles in franchises, despite no exceptional abundance of talent or track record of success. Courtney has been (as far as I have seen) a main player in Die Hard 5, Terminator 5, Suicide Squad and the Divergent series (wannabe Hunger Games, whose final installment had to go straight to On Demand or Seeso or something). This would be like being the Secret Service agent in charge of Lincoln, Kennedy, and Reagan and then being handed another detail with the next president.
But the danger of Woolard becoming the black Jai Courtney is that he is doing historical damage. Courtney is destroying beloved film franchises, but if Woolard is carrying the Jai Courtney Syndrome (JCS) then he may be destroying legacies of black icons. What might be next for Woolard? A 15% Rotten Tomatoes score for an MLK Jr biopic? Losing weight and winning a Razzie for playing Barack Obama? A starring role in Tyler Perry’s Oprah biopic? Do you see my concern now?
The bottom line is All Eyez On Me looks awful and the black community does not need a black Jai Courtney. It already has Jai Courtney. Jai Coutney is not a white problem or a black problem – he is a human problem and film fans can only handle one.
All Eyez On Me is actually an excellent song, except for the guest verse by “Big Syke”.” In the history of rap I don’t know if I have ever heard a rapper do less with more – the middle verse on a great song on a #1 double album from an iconic rapper and he turned in a stinker. Maybe that is why the film was named for that song – the idea sounds good but it’s hiding a big turd.
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
This Friday, Wonder Woman, the latest DC comics attempt at a film, opens up nationwide. The film has recently generated (or manufactured) some headlines in anticipation of its release with Alamo Drafthouse receiving angry criticism from men at their “Women Only” screenings of Wonder Woman. Now, I do not know if that means 11 emails, or 11,000, but I am guessing it is a lot closer to the former. This was savvy strategy. After all making an all ladies Ghostbusters worked the same angle. The movie was terrible and unfunny, but by making the marketing a quasi political quest to show how funny women are, critics largely gave it praise and liberals and feminists heaped praise on a movie before they even saw it. Thankfully for good taste, lady Ghostbusters did not make enough money to warrant a sequel, but the same tactics will probably prove much more successful for Wonder Woman. The main reason is that Wonder Woman is a comic book movie, which as DC has proven repeatedly, is critic-proof. They have yet to make a good one not involving Christopher Nolan, but they have all been massive hits. Add on top of that a sort of Trump-America guilt (after all what is more American than not voting in the eminently qualified Hillary Clinton for the comic book villain Donald Trump, but then flexing our collective progressive muscle by supporting a comic book hero in bigger numbers than a real woman who could provide real things) and savvy social media posts about “men losing their minds” over all female screenings and you have a recipe for a major hit. But there are several issues with this. Quite simply, they are, in order, DC films, Gal Gadot (the star of Wonder Woman) and Wonder Woman in general.
DC – A Tradition of Crap
Ever since Christopher Nolan set the bar with The Dark Knight trilogy, DC has done their best to erase the memory. It’s as if Christopher Nolan was The Cosby Show and every film DC has made since has been a rape allegation. Man of Steel – mediocre, Batman vs Superman – a mess, Suicide Squad – atrocious (with a good soundtrack to distract you from the pain). And yet, despite all evidence pointing to a rushed and incompetent franchise, now everyone is going out of their way to claim that Wonder Woman will be different. Fool me once – shame on you; fool me twice – shame on me; fool me 4 times and I am a comic book loving moron. Nope. DC – you are terrible and unless you pay Chris Nolan or David Fincher to rescue your garbage factory I will keep my money.
While I like the idea of a girl named Gal playing a Woman, praise on her has been absurd. She has benefited from the Tony Campbell rule (a mediocre pro basketball player with a 6 points-per-game average, Campbell averaged over 22 ppg the year he was picked by the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves because someone had to score points). People have said Godot was the best part of Batman vs Superman. That’s like saying the bathroom air freshener is the best part of violent diarrhea – sure it is true, but how much of that is mere downward social comparison? Lets look at Godot’s last 4 films:
- Triple 9 – 53% on Rotten Tomatoes (rotten)
- Keeping Up With The Jonses – 19% on Rotten Tomatoes (rotten)
- Criminal – 30% on Rotten Tomatoes (rotten)
- Batman v Superman – 20% on Rotten Tomatoes (rotten)
Basically the only way to have a worse movie track record than Godot is if your name is Tyler Sandler. But she is very attractive and married to a real estate mogul so if Ivanka Trump can have a moment in 2017 then why can’t a lady named Gal? But I am not ready to sign on to the emergence of a star just yet. Though, if Ryan Reynolds got 17 chances at being a leading man before he finally had his hit with Deadpool, it stands to reason that we should extend Godot 13 chances to do the same (that’s 77 cents on the dollar of chances a white leading man gets).
Why Does Wonder Woman Have To Be a Hot Woman?
Then we get to the casting, once we have gotten through the phony marketing politics and the failed track record of a dame named Gal. I am just surprised women have not yet railed against the choice of a tall, thin, attractive white former model. So instead of getting caught up in this bullsh*t toxic masculinity, male privilege, patriarchal micro-aggressive casting choice I would like to offer some other choices that might actually move us forward, instead of backwards (if the movie doesn’t suck):
Ariel Winter – If there is anyone fighting the real struggles of modern women with style and grace it is the middle child from Modern Family. Will Wonder Woman ever face the level of scrutiny that Winter has faced for dressing like a porn star to attend an elementary school picnic? Has Wonder Woman ever had to “clap back” at Internet trolls for pointing out that her ass cheeks need not be exposed to order a sandwich from Subway? In other words, once Winter’s ample chest and Miley Cyrus booty have dealt with the issues of today, channeling the strength to play Wonder Woman would be no problem – and also a little more relatable to today’s millennial ladies.
Michael Jordan – He never lost in the Finals, basically making him and LaVar Ball the only two people qualified to be superheroes (SORRY LEBRON). And why can’t Wonder Woman be a man? This path only seems to go one way. Maybe it is finally time for a man (a BLACK MAN to boot) to play Wonder Woman… OR DO WHITE GENDER NORMATIVE THINGS ONLY APPLY TO WHITE WOMEN TAKING OVER TRADITIONALLY WHITE MALE ROLES????? (thinking face emoji)
Caitlyn Jenner – If we are going to restrict casting to only physically stunning women then why not Caitlyn Jenner? Olympic Athlete, around since WWI, media savvy, banging body – I mean maybe we should just re-name Wonder Woman “Caitlyn Jenner.”
Ivanka Trump – as mentioned above, if we must cast a “hot woman,” married to a real estate mogul who is having a moment in 2016-17 then why not the First Daughter-Wife-Thot? Gal Godot is basically the Israeli Ivanka, which is probably what Jared Kushner would have preferred (sadly Gal was not attached to several billion dollars).
So, to summarize I won’t be seeing Wonder Woman and if you are someone who likes good movies, women from Dove commercials or embraces true liberal politics and not just surface level hashtags, then I know you won’t be seeing it either.
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
American (and world) pop culture has
stolen borrowed from black people for decades. From Elvis to Led Zeppelin to Justin Timberlake (hear my bit on Timberlake duets here) to Katy Perry on SNL this weekend, white artists have taken what black people have created and made it their own (doing the same thing, but with a white face to make it more palatable to the American “mainstream”). It is like this country had 400 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow and is now in the middle of its Pop Culture Sharecropping phase. America basically cultivated the environment and the need for black people to thrive in sports, arts and entertainment (I mean did you see what the country did when it gave a qualified black man real power? It responded with Trump, basically white America saying to black people “Stay In Your Lane” like an angry, old, white LaVar Ball. But all of these cultural appropriations that have made America what it is today, still required talent and time. Elvis may have used old black music, but he still was a talented artist. Nowadays, the Internet has exponentially sped up the rate at which vernacular and culture get taken while simultaneously broadening the spectrum of people who take it beyond the talented and into the mediocre. In this clip comedian J-L Cauvin (me!) summarizes how average white women are on the vanguard of co-opting black Internet culture and vernacular. Enjoy it – it’s lit and savage (hands clapping emoji)!
This weekend I was in Fairfax, Virginia to
perform at headline at bless two restaurants. I was booked by a DC area comedian a month ago, negotiating a decent rate for myself (as the author of The Comedy Art of the Deal I adhere strictly to rule #1 of comedy business: “When possible, try to make a profit, but don’t insist”). Once I guaranteed myself more than $0 profit I closed on the deal like my name was Mariano Trump Rivera and prepared for highly anticipated gigs at The French Quarter Brasserie (Saturday) and The Blue Iguana (Sunday). As usual this story will involve Hotwire.com, Amtrak, sweaty walks alongside highways and small crowds full of passion. So let’s begin this epic journey of comedy genius.
Saturday: How The Sausage Gets Made
I headed to Amtrak for a 1:17pm poor people’s train. When the announcement was made for the train gate, most people actually got into a line (it sort of resembled the zombies in World War Z uniting to try and murder humanity, but if you travel from NY Penn Station with any regularity you know that this is a distinct improvement). But of course, several animals just cut the line like they did not know there was a line. I wish people like that got the death penalty. Seriously. People who murder are not deterred by the death penalty. If you are such an outlier to commit murder, knowledge of the legal system is not a consideration weighed before lighting the elementary school on fire. However, people who do annoying things like rap loudly on the subway, litter, or cut lines for Amtrak could potentially be deterred if they found out the result was a firing squad.
The train arrived in DC on time and I got on the Metro headed to Tysons Corner, Virginia. I was staying at the Westin hotel in TC because thanks to hotwire.com (as I shared with the audiences) is a site where they give you cheaper rates, but they only give you the general area and star rating of the hotel. So I chose a highly rated hotel for $68 a night that was within 450 miles of where I wanted to be and landed up with the Westin, which was a 1.5 mile walk from the Metro. So over the course of the next 27 minutes I hauled my bags through Tysons Corner looking like a beige, sweaty ISIS recruit. I got to the hotel with about 30 minutes to spare before show booker and comedian Jon Yeager was to pick me up from the hotel. So I dropped my stuff off, did snow angels on top of the hotel comforter to build up my immune system and then headed down to the lobby.
We arrived at the French Quarter Brasserie (New Orleans food and Jazz-style comedy, in that it was not very popular) and I decided to have the “beans and sausage entree,” which was to play a profound role later in the weekend. I then met several local comedians that I had only known through Facebook up to that point, heard several solid sets and then went up to perform (after about 90 minutes I then went up and did 55 minutes – I referred to the show as more telethon than comedy show). The crowd was good, though a little fatigued and I even ended up nailing a newer bit:
After the show I bought a pack of donuts, reviewed my set and then went to sleep, think all was right with the world.
Sunday: Louis Armstrong’s Revenge & Killing The Blue Iguana
Sunday I woke up and ate a healthy breakfast and then returned to my room to binge watch some Hulu before heading out to do 3 Guys On Podcast (listen to the episode here). For me, Netflix is the wife streaming service. She holds it down for me at home, provides me with the best content of any streaming service and is central to my streaming life. Hulu, as I would inform the crowd that night, is a road groupie whore streaming service. I watch shows on Hulu in hotels and occasionally on my phone if I can get a private, sneaky, sleazy moment (to further this point the first thing I did when I got home on Monday was watch a new documentary on Netflix – also, notice how “Netflix documentaries” have replaced “books” for the way my generation and younger discus things to sound smart? That is why we are an increasingly stupid population, while simultaneously more arrogant). Well, just as I was ready to Hulu and Pimp Slap, the beans and sausage came upon me as unwanted as another season of Orange is the New Black. I then proceeded to spend the next 90 minutes losing about 10 lbs (with vomit playing the best supporting actor in the new Hulu series “New Orleans Food Exacts Revenge for Katrina on Toilet Water.” The food had been tasty and I am pretty certain it was my delicate system that was at fault, but if any more shit came out of me I was going to have to name my asshole Happy Madison Studios.
Well after that ordeal I made my way to Pentagon City to do the aforementioned 3 Guys On Podcast. And then got a ride in (Listen people, when you are a #ComedyMogul other comedians drive you around!) to DC to go to one of my favorite Churches in the country – St Michael’s Cathedral in DC (2 blocks from the DC Improv). I went in for Mass and something happened that really annoyed me. A very curvy Latin woman decided to sit in front of me at Mass. Many big Churches have sound proof rooms for families to sit in if they have babies. However, crying babies do not annoy me. Their cries are the wondrous sounds of new life and nothing could be more like a choir of angels than that. However, when I am trying to be spiritual and chaste and pure, I don’t need some 20 year old Salma Hayek sharing her Satanic blessings within a Peace Be With You handshake from me!
After leaving Mass I headed back to Fairfax for the Blue Iguana. Greeting me there was DMV comedy legend Rob Maher. We caught up and as usual I was happy to have him there, not only to chat with, but also for him to watch my set. I still maintain that if I am to remain a quasi-nobody in the world of comedy, I would rather do that in DC than NYC. Also on the show because he probably wants to be written up, was DC area comic Danny Charnley who I referred to as “Meth head David Beckham.” He had me laughing both nights, but especially Sunday night because I was paying more attention. Then I went up and had, with no exaggeration, one of the ten best shows of my nearly 14 years performing comedy.
The audience was small. It was 945 on a Sunday night when I reached the stage. This is a point where someone can mail it in or try to make something happen. I decided that I wanted to make something happen. I scrapped most of my more prepared material and decided to use the 55 minutes I was on stage to work on some major new bits I want to be part of my 2018 album (tentative title Light Privilege, possible new title after the show Rain Whore). I spoke about and sang Chris Cornell, did 20 minutes on a traumatic relationship that yielded absolute gold, discussed why Marcus Allen’s legendary penis can be directly linked to Donald Trump’s election win, and after talking about breasts for about ten minutes, compared a woman at the show, who had the largest breasts I have ever seen in person, to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (“whatever you do Ray, don’t think of breasts”). My Trump impression killed (Obviously #GOAT), but rarely have I felt as great a connection with a crowd as I did Sunday night. I think they appreciated my honesty, my energy and obviously my skills for a lightly attended show. To my pleasant surprise, after the show I ended up selling like 9 CDs, which to extrapolate, would be like selling 10,000 CDs at a full comedy club show. There are no clips to share as I taped it more just for material improvement purposes, but it confirmed my feelings that I am rapidly approaching having a new great hour, on the level of my best album Keep My Enemies Closer). It was a really fantastic night and the kind of show that made me feel like I am not wasting my time with comedy.
Epilogue: Monday Amtrak
On the way home I took the Accela because the Sunday performance demanded an upgrade. A guy tried to cut me in line and, already having PTSD from the cutting in NYC two days earlier, I told him there was a “fu*king line.” He apologized, which was hollow of course because he knew what he was doing. He then ran to the 1st class customer line and cut me and about 25 other people. I took a deep breath and said to myself, “Well, if he is in 1st class he actually should already be on.” But then I scanned the 1st Class car and he was not there. I then made a blood oath that if I ever see that man again, to throw a food item at him.
I sat down on the train next to a very nice older woman and as has become my Amtrak tradition, proceeded to have a great conversation with her for most of the trip. She reached the conflicting conclusion about me that many people, including family members come to, which is that all that I need is representation or PR to get my skills a wider audience, while also seriously questioning what a Williams-Gtown Law grad is doing wasting his time with a struggling comedy career. Well if you need an answer to that you can ask some of the people or giant breasts at The Blue Iguana. *mic drop*
I was going to write about LaVar Ball and/or Aaron Judge today for this week’s sports-themed blog, but then I woke up to the sad news that singer Chris Cornell had died at 52 so you get this instead.
When I first started dating my
current girlfriend forever love (she reads this) she expressed that she was a fan of Chris Cornell, the suddenly late front man of Soundgarden and owner of one of the great rock voices of all time. Of course she expressed it with googly eyes and an Antoine Walker shoulder shimmy, a expression of love she only usually used for Johnny Depp (her #1 celeb crush). Since my celebrity five list (the list of celebrities you are “allowed” to cheat on) had ballooned to about 4,700 names I allowed her her PDCA (Public Displays of Cornell Affection). When it came to her birthday in August of 2015, despite already having Hamilton tickets (original cast, orchestra, #ComedyMogul) for less than two weeks after her birthday I decided to go big and add two tickets to a recently announced Chris Cornell tour promoting his then forthcoming solo album Higher Truth.
The show was in October of 2015. I was familiar with Cornell (unlike my audiences in St Paul, Minnesota who gave me nothing for my Chris Cornell joke about how he began his show at the Beacon Theater by getting the crowd pumped up… right before beginning his set with a song he wrote for the movie 12 Years A Slave – a video of this bit actually working, just 10 days ago, is at the bottom of this post). I was never a big Soundgarden fan, but I did own their mega hit album Superunknown (featuring Spoonman, Fell on Black Days, Black Hole Sun and The Day I Tried to Live to name a few), as well as a few Audioslave songs (his side band with members of Rage Against The Machine). But what I did know was the Cornell had one of the great rock voices of all time. The lead singer from Boston is still probably my favorite, but just like Guns N Roses was so far ahead in quality in comparison to their hair band contemporaries, Cornell’s voice was so far ahead of his early 90s rock contemporaries. His lyrics are just as depressing as Kurt Cobain’s, but Cornell had a voice that felt more like a male Whitney Houston than a grunge cousin of Eddie Vedder. Below is a song that I consider one of the great breakup songs ever written from his 2015 album:
So we thoroughly enjoyed the concert. He sounded great, played Like a Stone (a hit with Audioslave that is probably my favorite song of his), all the Soundgarden hits, many tracks off of his solo album and a great song, where he sang the lyrics to Metallica’s One, to the arrangement of U2’s One and called it “Won.” After seeing him live I played his solo album so much on my iPod it would have worn out a tape had it been a tape. His lyrics were so deep and depressing (even his love song to his wife Before We Disappear made me feel good and depressed at the same time – framing their love as something to hold on to because in a blink of a cosmic eye they would both be gone) and his voice was still super rangy and powerful.
What I really felt about his voice and what I feel separates music from other things, like comedy for one good example. is that it really seems God given (or whatever you believe). When I hear voices like Whitney Houston, or Brad Delp of Boston or Chris Cornell it feels like something Heaven sent. Like something not sarcastically #Blessed. I believe I have comedy talent, but a voice like those I mentioned (and obviously many more) make comedy talent feel like something born in a gutter. I heard as a child in Church that to sing is to pray twice (I think that was just to encourage me to sing instead of go mute during singing portions of Mass – BUT TO THIS DAY I DON’T SING AT MASS #Integrity), but Chris Cornell’s voice was one of those voices that did seem to be a divine instrument that he used with great success. I am glad my girlfriend was so expressive of her
lust, passion, appreciation for Cornell because it allowed me to become a bigger fan and see him live before he passed. Much like George Michael’s sudden passing last year, Cornell was an artist with tremendous gifts gone way too soon. I don’t know yet if he relapsed (there is no cause of death, but the death was completely sudden) now that he is touring with Soundgarden – perhaps old habits resurfaced, but whatever the cause, this is a major loss. But alas, since I am a comedian, here is my description of his show at the Beacon from a recent show (maybe I really am a jinx). #RIPChrisCornell