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
This weekend I was in St. Paul, Minnesota at the Joke Joint Comedy Club headlining (one of three headlining engagements I have this month, so apparently Hell has frozen over). It was a great weekend, but emblematic of the struggles of being a (supremely talented) struggling comedian trying to make it to the next level. For instance, I did not draw particularly well because… the weather was really nice. To be fair I did have a fan from The Adam Carolla Show show up as well as a fan from The Black Guy Who Tips, but the crowds were the smallest I have had in my 4 headlining appearances at the Joke Joint (and this after adding more credits and picking up more fans from around the country). It is always a sad measure of your stature as a comedian when “seasonably warm weather” is a deterrent to coming to your comedy show. Admittedly the weather was great and the feature (whose name is Dan Mogal – #ComedyMogul meeting #ComedyMogal – we could not shake hands because it might have ripped the fabric of space) informed me that it was also some big fishing weekend in the Twin Cities. So I guess I lost to sunshine and Nemo this weekend, which didn’t really soothe my wounded pride. Since I am in an hurry to get to my day job (#ComedyMogul) I will give you the highlights and three very instructive videos from the weekend. Enjoy!
Thursday Crowd – The Soul Crushers
The first show of the weekend was lightly attended. But they had the energy of zero people so they definitely had their apathy working overtime. I was happy with my set, but the crowd, which was full of smiling mutes did not produce the usual amount of laughter indicating pleasure with jokes. However, the feature’s Dad was at the show (#FatherMogal) and after a bit on social media he let out the loudest noise of the night, not coming from the microphone, when he sighed “Jesus Christ.” Needless to say I sold zero CDs after the show and just went back to my Best Western Plus and cried into a glass of milk while emotionally devouring a pack of Hostess donuts (very underrated donuts). But then I stared into my mirror and recited my mantra, borrowed from Antwone Fisher, a film about a man finding inner strength dealing with childhood traumas of sexual abuse. Since that felt about the same as what I had received from Thursday’s crowd I stood there saying “I’m still standing… I’m still strong!” I then made a 7 minute montage of Thursday’s crowd silently rejecting every popular culture reference I made during my set. It was very popular on Facebook and now you can see it on YouTube. Enjoy!
Friday – J-L’s Revenge
The Friday crowds were great. Sold some CDs, picked up some social media followers, and I developed a technique that I am patenting for comedy called “Divide and Conquer” (TM). I basically trashed Thursday’s crowd repeatedly at the end of well received jokes and the Friday (and eventually Saturday) crowds luxuriated in their feeling of superiority over their fellow town folk. I felt so good that the Friday crowds had redeemed me that I put together a compilation video of the same jokes killing (mostly) on Friday, that had failed Thursday. It was only 25% as viewed and likes on Facebook as the one of me crashing and burning because people are terrible and only like to see me in pain. If you are a decent person (Divide and Conquer (TM)) then maybe you will enjoy this YouTube clip of the jokes working:
Saturday: Praise the Lord and Pass the Comedic Ammunition
Saturday was the best day of the weekend. The weather was beautiful (again) so I decided to walk to Church (Saturday evening Vigil Mass) , which was 1.8 miles away according to GPS. The priest was a visiting priest who has been doing missionary work, which, as he described, started on a trip to Haiti, which got me a little teary given the recent burial of my father in Haiti (but all the white people were like “This Italian dude is soft AF!”), but don’t worry – most of my thoughts during Church were still comedy-centered. Rather than bore you with more words (Church rock band, 1 black guy in the whole Church…) – here is my summary of Midwest Catholic Mass from the Joke Joint stage that night:
That night the shows were outstanding – and just so the late show Saturday people know I meant it – you were the best crowd (but all the Friday and Saturday crowds were really good). Sold more CDs and ended the night with an ice cream because I was a good boy who had done a good job. And my favorite compliment of the week that showed what a hypocritical laugh whore I am came after the early show Saturday. A Trump voter came up to me and said “I voted for Trump, but unlike some comedians, everyone could laugh at your Trump impression and material (GOAT).” Instead of lying down in front of his car screaming “Free the nipple” while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, I just shook his hand and with a goofy grin said “Thanks so much!” The only difference between a comedian and a politician is that a politician only sells his soul and integrity for money and power, while a comedian will give it away for a handshake and a kind word. Oh well, anything was better than those Thursday people.
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
Celebrating my 30th year as a Utah Jazz fan in 2017 (in exile in NYC for the whole time, like a hoops Roman Polanski) I began the 2016-17 season with deferred optimism. Last year (2015-16) the Jazz would have made the playoffs if they had not been the most injured team in the league. This year they had a contract year Gordon Hayward, an ever-improving Rudy Gobert and veteran additions of George Hill and Joe Johnson, so it was not hard to convince me that this was the year they finally became relevant again. They won 51 games, despite losing the most starters’ games to injury in the league. They have a young core, a rabid fan base and a series win over the Clippers to give most of their players a first taste of playoff success. And as of last night’s bitter defeat in Game 3 of the second round hope has been snuffed out. And it may have been snuffed out for the rest of the NBA for some time.
Kevin Durant – Possibly The Biggest Bitch in NBA History
I think I learned that I hated Durant for the first time last night. I thought his decision to sign with Golden State was weak and anti-competitive (you get to an NBA Finals at 23, take the defending champs to 7 games – after BLOWING a series lead – and you decide to join your vanquisher instead of staying put?), but I did not really care that much. I was more focused on the development of Utah and figured we would not be championship ready for a couple of seasons anyway. But seeing the Jazz, who I think could have easily been the 3 seed this year if they had merely suffered the league average for injuries, make such strides so quickly made me feel more helpless as a fan much sooner than I expected.
And before I continue destroying Durant, I think some of the blame for his decision rests with the fans and the media in our age of easy markers of success and low attention span. As a Jazz fan, and a 90s hoops fan of any good team without Michael Jordan on the roster, I felt many stinging defeats, but in retrospect I am happy to have rooted for a team that was competitive for 2 decades and elite for 4 or 5 years. Malone and Stockton are among the game’s greatest players and losing to Jordan did not tear them down as much as it enhanced the legend of Jordan’s greatness. However, with social media, the Internet and stupidity all playing a bigger role in our lives, the scrutiny and need for an easy token of “greatness” dominates sports’ conversations. So after Lebron was crushed, but then redeemed for winning, by a fickle and hypocritical fan base, Durant probably looked and said “The only way for me to be legit is to win a title and the media and fans will forgive my cowardice if I win, just like they did for Lebron.” Of course, there are critical differences (Lebron joined a 47 win team and had been in a purgatory of Cleveland – never bad enough with Lebron for elite draft picks, never enticing enough for free agents. He did not join one of the 5 greatest teams in NBA history that had just barely beat him), but I cannot say that fans and media are completely blameless in creating the atmosphere that made Durant choose Golden State. But that said, his move to Golden State was the most cowardly and bloody coup since the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones (there will be more GOT analogies).
But none of these things made me hate Kevin Durant. No, it was not until late in Game 3 of the Warriors-Jazz series, when Durant cursed out the Jazz mascot, Bear, that I realized he was a bitch. YOU (clap emoji) DONT (clap emoji) GET (clap emoji) TO (clap emoji) ACT (clap emoji) TOUGH (clap emoji) WHEN (clap emoji) YOU (clap emoji) BITCHED (clap emoji) OUT (clap emoji) AND (clap emoji) JOINED (clap emoji) THE (clap emoji) WARRIORS!
I’ll admit I was deeply frustrated that my Jazz squad had nullified Curry, Thompson (FYI – the only non-bitch superstar on the Warriors) and Draymond to bad games and the Warriors were able to rely on the Johnny Gil of their Shitty New Edition to drop 38 points. But seeing Durant try to be a tough guy, a villain and an “assassin” has made me (I never thought I would say this) miss Kobe Bryant – who may have been a douche and a jerk, but never an anti-competitive turd. Watching Durant emotionally flex felt like seeing Amazon do a touchdown dance in front of a neighborhood bookstore that was closing.
So is there any hope? Probably not. I mean maybe Klay Thompson could leave and maybe the overall bitch-ass-ness of the team would force it to implode, but other than that I think we may be stuck with this squad for a while. But if there are any chances for the rest of the league here they are (with a slight Utah bias showing on one):
Lebron. Lebron may be the Jamie Lannister of the NBA at this point (how ironic that the King is best represented by the King Slayer). The Decision was when he pushed a kid out of the window (boooo), but he then helped a giant, unappealing woman (Brienne of Tarth = Cleveland) and we all were fans again (yay). Well with Durant and GS being Cersei and The Mountain (a bitch and a powerful monster tandem) it may be the King Slayer who will provide us the best chance to prevent a terrible dynasty. And, by the way, if Lebron actually does beat this Warriors team in the Finals, I (clap emoji) DONT (clap emoji) CARE (clap emoji) ABOUT (clap emoji) MICHAEL (clap emoji) JORDAN’S (clap emoji) SIX (clap emoji) RINGS! The GOAT title will have passed and I will not longer entertain other arguments… even when it is revealed that Lebron uses HGH for milk in his cereal.
Chris Paul to the Spurs (or if not, the Jazz). Gregg Popovich is the only superstar in the NBA besides Lebron with a shot to stop the Warriors. And getting Chris Paul would greatly enhance their competitiveness for the next few years while Paul can still deliver (he was outstanding against the Jazz). The Spurs are the Patriots of the NBA, except their leaders don’t like Trump, so they are even better. With Chris Paul taking over for Tony Parker they would immediately be a legit contender again, especially if Apple updates the Kawhi Leonard operating system for 2017-18. But if the Spurs cannot get him I would argue that the Jazz could make a compelling argument. They have a great defense, depth at each position (except center – maybe address that in this Summer’s draft) and with George Hill injury prone and not under contract a possible place for major upgrade. And only a few teams are better than the Jazz and almost all have the pG position filled – GSW, Cleveland, Houston (Harden), Spurs, Jazz. So basically if the Spurs cannot get Paul I think it would be beneficial to the league, to CP3, the Jazz and my mental health for the Jazz to make a deal for CP3. The pitch the Jazz make is simple – “Right now Chris, you are in the Stockton, Payton, Nash category and unless you get a title you will never break into the Isaiah Thomas category. We are your best (non-Spurs) shot at that. So what if Utah is boring – it is beautiful and we only want you for 3 years.”
JaVale McGee accidentally injures all the Warriors. Perhaps an athletic move gone awry (known henceforth as a “JaVale”) in practice leads JaVale to land on Curry and Draymond, ending their seasons (note – I have always been a McGee fan – athletic, plays hard, goofy -pure entertainment, and oddly admirable).
Prayer – It cannot be denied that the Golden State Warriors are an unholy creation.
LaVar Ball gets his son traded to the Warriors on Draft Night and all Hell breaks loose. Now that would be awesome.
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
This week I traveled to Orlando, Florida for my first booking in Florida since 2009 when I performed at a resort in Destin, Florida (my check cleared from that week, but less than a month later the checks stopped clearing for performers, one of the last times in my comedy career that I was not sarcastically #Blessed – though that should tell you something about the stand up comedy business when getting paid what you are owed counts as a blessing). Headed to Orlando, or as I call it “Tampa with an Associates Degree” there were snafus. I was originally slated to perform Thursday-Sunday. So I booked flights on Southwest using points. But a couple of weeks before the gig I was told that it would be Friday-Sunday. Now, changing the ticket would have used up a lot more points (which I do have #ComedyMogul), but I figured I would save them for trips in the future to max out their value and take my old friend Amtrak to Orlando. And that is where this week’s Road Comedy Recap begins:
Thursday – Amtraks of My Tears
I arrived at Penn Station in NYC at 245 pm for the ironically titled “Silver Meteor,” which was set to depart at 3:15 and arrive in Orlando a mere 21.5 hours later(look up #21HoursOfAmtrak on Twitter to see my chronicles). I settled into my seat, which, despite the crowded train, I managed to not have to share with anyone the entire ride to Orlando. The only other two who managed this feat were the black guy behind me who was charming – he listened to music for about 20 of the hours to Orlando via noise cancelling headphones… wrapped around his neck so that basically it just sounded like an iPod playing without the headphones in. So his combination of black skin and shitty etiquette no doubt dissuaded many (white, Southern bound) passengers from joining him. The other passenger who didn’t have to share her seat was a large woman who said she had purchased two seats so technically she is disqualified from the contest of “avoiding sitting next to a stranger.” Rigged seating!
As the ride progressed I did several hours of comedy related work and recreational reading in the cafe car to avoid settling into my seat before sleep time. Then a little after midnight I made my way to my seat. I reclined and closed my eyes and slept for an hour. Then I was awoken by one of the three children sitting in front of me with his mother as he listened to YouTube videos on a cell phone sans headphones. I dozed off again for an hour then woke up (#StayWoke) to more cell phone videos. I then dozed off for one more hour and around 430am woke up for good to Beats Off by Dre behind me receiving a cell phone call that he stayed on til 530 am.
Nothing else of great significance happened on the train, other than it being late. I arrived just outside of Orlando early Friday afternoon, picked up by George, who told me that when he was much younger and living in Miami a guy had tried to work with him to do some modeling or TV work. He declined thinking it was some sketchy 80s Miami thing until he arrived on the set of Miami Vice (where he was interning) and saw that guy with a young actor who resembled him doing a part that he would have been auditioned for by the sketchy guy. The young actor was getting his first big break and his name… was Moe Green (not true – it was Benicio Del Toro, but I just wanted to pull a Hyman Roth from Godfather Part II – but still, what an insane story!).
Friday – Georgetown Law Reunion
Friday afternoon I did some sun bathing (at this point when I take off my shirt my girlfriend says “Plumo” referencing Pablo Escobar from Narcos (and real life) who would offer men “the silver (plata) or the lead (plumo).” This is not because she thinks I am a ruthless leader or criminal, but because of the Escobar-esque paunch I sport when eating like shit and skipping the gym.) So hopefully some of the women at the pool thought I was too powerful a #ComedyMogul and that is why I have neglected my core. But I got some Sun and then headed to the club to open for The Amazing Jonathan, a comedy/magician veteran that was headlining after taking a few years off due to health issues. When I got there to settle into the green room TJA’s wife informed me that the Green Room was private per his contract, so I settled in the showroom while yelling at her “You know who I am? I’m Moe Green!” (sorry for the Godfather references) No, I didn’t do that and I didn’t care. After all the Palestinians have no home and look how well they are doing, so being a green room-less Power Feature was not an issue for me.
The first show went great and I sold a lot of CDs. One couple, that I would describe as poor man’s Kelly Slater and his porn star girlfriend (though she didn’t have that wounded look in her eyes or a high-pitched, my uncle diddled me when I was 8-voice so maybe she was just hot for hot’s sake), came up to me and were emphatic in their praise. He then pointed to the long line of admirers for the headliner and said “What is that? Are they serious? You should have that line.” Unfortunately he started getting louder and I had to tell him “No one ruins my comedy career or burns bridges except me!” But I still appreciated the sentiment and the support. But it would be very “on brand” for me to get in trouble in my career for getting new fans.
One of the biggest stories of Friday night was three law school buddies coming out to the show! Well they came to the late show. The first show was a tour de force. The second show featured 3 different tables of drunk, loudmouths (women and their weak men) and of course that was the one my friends came to. They still had a good time and I ended up selling decently after that show as well, I think mainly out of solidarity with people’s disgust with the talkers. We then went for dessert at a nearby bar and watched the Utah Jazz lose at home, forcing a Game 7 (an hour away as I write this – UPDATE THEY WON!).
Sadly the real headline for me on Friday was that my brother was in Haiti with my cousin burying my father’s ashes. As my brother said, it was sunny and hot, just like my Dad would have liked it. I would have been there, but there is an old saying in entertainment – when the comedy world offers you a chance to net $310 profit in a week you don’t say no.
Saturday – Rednecks Ruin The Hotel Pool
On Saturday, well rested considering I had slept a fitful 3 hours in the last 44 hours, I made my way to Planet Fitness, the gym for people who hate gyms. Sadly when I arrived it was not hot fudge sundae and donut day. I understand the purpose and focus of Planet Fitness and respect it to a degree. For many people, the gym can be uncomfortable and discourage people from working out. But Planet Fitness seems to have gone too far in the other direction. I half expected to see a sign saying “no shoes, no cellulite, no service.” There was a sign banning supersets. The exercise bike did not go to a level high enough to challenge me and I am an out of shape Plumo! The dumbbells only go up to 60lbs. It’s not a gym. It’s a place where people rehab after hip replacements! But I did a serviceable back workout despite being asked to leave once a vein became exposed in my arm from working too hard.
I then went to the hotel pool for some more rays and that is when the redneck trash took over. I was lying there getting some sun when 6 people, appeared to be two couples and a couple of friends, showed up. They immediately started playing music on a stereo (that Trump America confidence) and Lil John’s “Turn Down For What” came on in their playlist. Then one of the woman changed it and one of the redneck men said “Why did you turn that off? I was fixin’ to turn down for what!”” I had a private chuckle and then went back into my zone until the youngest member of the crew, who I can only describe as “Lena Dunham, if she let herself go” began jumping into the pool. The pool was small and there was less than a foot between the pool and the lounges where people like me were reclining. I barely got splashed so I said nothing, but then she did it again and I got a healthy dose of water. So I said to one of her friends “she’s got to stop that.” Well, Trailer Park Dunham began pouting and “put herself in a time out” because I guess I was being a cranky old man and not letting Shamu Gallagher have her fun. I kept my cool, but I was seething inside. Or maybe that was just the sun burn I developed on my shoulders. Either way I was hot, but left peacefully.
The shows Saturday night were both excellent. Sold merch, met a fan from The Black Guy Tips (a usual occurrence by now because he has the most engaged audience of anything I have done in 14 years of comedy – UPDATE – another fan showed up to Sunday’s show) who came from Tampa with his girlfriend to see me (despite the fact that the club staff repeatedly told him I was not performing there this weekend because in comedy there is an old saying – “Fu*k a feature, and not in a good way.” But here are two good clips from the weekend’s shows. A brand new bit and a retooled classic from Keep My Enemies Closer (seriously that album is a masterpiece – get it):
Sunday – The Sweaty Journey to a Fake Catholic Church Before The Jazz Game
Now there are stories that I am not writing here that will be covered on the podcast this week, but this is also being written before the Utah Jazz game on Sunday. So for anything Sunday night or Monday-Tuesday (taking Amtrak back – #PrayersForJL) , as well as things from the weekend not written up here, the podcast is the place to go Tuesday night. But Sunday I woke up (#StayWoke), had a delicious breakfast at the hotel and began walking to the nearest Catholic Church for 10:30 am Mass. Now I forgot to pack walking around shorts so I had to make the 2 mile walk in jeans. So when I arrived at the Church in humid heat and sprinting from cars as I crossed the highway (thanks Google maps for making me think there were sidewalks) I was tickled at the fact that it was an Eastern Orthodox Church. It counts for Catholic Mass (like transfer credits from a strange alternative learning college that doesn’t believe in grades or gender), but it really feels like a parody of Catholic Mass. First off, 95% of the Mass is sung. Even the readings. So during prayers I sounded like the bass from Boyz II Men doing an interlude breakdown while Greek Shawn, Greek Nate and Greek Wanya sing-prayed their hearts out. Also, these folks do the sign of the cross wrong. And Communion was a wine soaked piece of bread. So now I know that I prefer my tasteless wafer.
So now that I am caked in dried sweat with dusty jeans sitting in a Starbucks I am hoping that my #Blessed weekend passes to the Utah Jazz. See you next year when my Amtrak arrives back in NYC! And meanwhile, back in NYC while I am away:
This week’s comedy destination was Washington, D.C. for 6 shows at the DC Improv. Because I had to put myself up in a hotel I did what I do with all comedy trips that won’t make me much profit… I asked my girlfriend to join me for a weekend getaway (this is the way that I rationalize my comedy career – rather than being a struggling feature, trying to make a profit I instantly become a guy who gets paid a few bucks to take his girlfriend on vacation). #CheapVacationMogul. I arrived Thursday solo at the Westin City Center. It was a very nice hotel that I was able to swing a good deal on through Hotwire.com. I knew it was a nice hotel because nothing was included. Internet, breakfast and prostitutes were all additional fees. Normally when I go to a hotel it’s a Hampton Inn where they give you Internet, a waffle iron and a townie 7 to warm your bed, all for $62 a night. No such luck with the DC Westin. My favorite thing about hotels like this are the breakfast options. “You can have a thimble of coffee and one scrambled egg for $25.50… or our buffet which features, eggs, pancakes, french toast, pastries, cereal, an omelette station and a therapy dog for $26.00.” Hmmmmmmmm, can you come back and let me consult with Jared Kushner on the pros and cons of both options? So as I write this in a coffee shop (I had to check out of the Westin at noon, which leaves me as a nomad in DC for 5 hours before Mass and comedy tonight before hopping the 1010pm train back to NYC) here is a recap of the week in quips and photos:
With my lady not arriving until Friday morning, Thursday became “Thidepiece Thursday.” Only one fan showed up (thank you The Black Guy Who Tips for having the most engaged and loyal fans anywhere) and she was attractive, but unfortunately she did not get the memo about Thidepiece Thursday because she rolled in with her man. Maybe because he felt guilty about violating Thidepiece Thursday etiquette by showing up or because no one had bought any of my merchandise after the show, but he bought all three albums I had for sale as he and his lady were happy with the show. So I guess I will let it slide.
But after the 1 pity purchase I texted my girlfriend at 12:01 am (First Lady Fridays) and said, “Bring a bag with room; you are going to have to bring some of these CDs back home.” And not to be too down, my buddy Ross and a friend of his also came to the show so obviously I am being modest about my ability to draw audiences nationwide. We sat in Shake Shack in between shows and talked about deceased relatives, just to keep it light. Here is a fun clip from the show:
Food Court Friday
The girlfriend arrived Friday and we promptly went looking for food. Fridays during Lent mean no meat for Catholics so she got some free-trade, goat cheese-quinoa-avocado wrap that was smuggled out of Brooklyn and I got two slices of pizza. I actually walked from my hotel to Union Station to get her and then we walked all over DC. By the count of my new invention FatBit (which keeps track of all your steps and the fact that you are still horrible out of shape) I had done at least 25,000 steps before getting back to the hotel to prep for the evenings shows.
Before the evening entertainment we tried to go to the African-American History Museum (see my instagram – @jlcomedy – for Trump’s opinions on it) and there was a huge line. I ended up talking Utah Jazz basketball with the guy standing behind me, which is actually the least African-American way to have an NBA discussion. We then got about 30 people from the front when they said no more tickets were available #Blessed. We then went to an art museum where some Japanese lady who looks like a Pixar character had a big exhibition. We also failed to get limited tickets for that so we looked at other stuff, including a sculpture of a bald, fat girthy-cocked dude (the pic omits the girthy phallus for any young readers of bitter, anonymous comedian blogs #TargetMarket):
My girlfriend was meeting her high school friend and her husband at the show (THAT’S 6 FANS ALREADY FROM THE FEATURE ACT – #DRAW) and I had a very strong set. The audience was not full so I set my camera up in the back to capture the action. Unfortunately some folks sat near my camera (for no discernible reason) and bumped my camera so I learned quickly after the set that I had a great 18 minutes of the bathroom door killing.
As I steamed after the first show, and sold nothing, I considered quitting that very moment. However, I did something smarter. I decided to counter the JL Comedy Jinx with some self-hate. I decided not to tape my second set. And of course I crushed. So while I don’t have that set on tape, I did sell 12 CDs after the show (including 3 to ANOTHER member of The Black Guy Who Tips fanbase – 7 FANS MOTHERFU*KERS!). I then crawled into bed next to my girlfriend, who was in a wine-induced coma, at 1 am. #SpoonSaturdays
On Saturday we woke up and made our way to her friend’s house in East Falls Church for some brunch (“When in White Women Rome…”), though before that I had the pleasure of running into NYC comedian Anthony DeVito on the street. We had a nice chat and I wished him luck on his Comedy Central taping (for blog readers, you may remember Anthony from my intimate Winery Show/Bed and Breakfast in early 2016). After brunch the gf and I went for a long walk around DC and went to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the World War II Memorial, which I think is the best thing in all of DC (thank you for your (lobbying) service Tom Hanks. Both are beautiful. The weather was beautiful, but then it was time to bring the lady back to Union Station (you either get 3 days in a Hampton Inn, or 2 in a Westin on the Broke Comedian Getaway Vacation Package). We ate Pizzeria Uno, which obviously put me on a 24-esque timetable to get back to my Westin bathroom and I put her on the train back to NYC. Before getting to the shows that night here are some photos (more on my Instagram):
That night I arrived at the DC Improv for three shows and was greeted by friend, former podcast guest and DMV comedy legend Rob Maher. We chatted and then I went on stage and did the Lord’s work. I then went into the DC Improv Lounge to follow another DMV legend and friend, Randolph Terrance and crushed even harder than in the main room (I feel like my new bit on the “Fluidity of Sexuality” would please most comedians and members of the Nixon White House). I then had my best post show sales of the week (I opted not to give CDs to the gf to bring back – either I would sell them (good) or be furious that I was dragging them back to NYC (justifying my rage at comedy) to the point that I had to run back to the Westin to get the remaining copies for the late show. All joking aside, I do wish I had gotten a job in DC over NYC after law school because the DC comedy scene has always been my favorite.
I had a very good second set and sold a few copies more. Then I received news that Louis CK had started his SNL monologue with a “Why Did the Chicken Cross The Road” joke. So as I kill some more time on this beautiful DC Sunday, enjoy my video from 2013 that proves that I am way ahead of Louis CK. #JLouisC
Thursday through Sunday I was performing at the Hartford Funny Bone, which as the name would indicate, is located in… Manchester, Connecticut (hence the blog title – there are no specific C-Words, but I could not resist the pun for the title). It was my first time back at the club since 2011. I received good reviews my previous two times at the HFB, but then went to the Des Moines Funny Bone in mid-2011 and received poor fan survey results (I still sold a lot of CDs and never got heckled or booed that week, so I am not sure how bad the grades could have been). So naturally the response was to not book me for five years at any of the 20+ Funny Bone/Improvs. I still wonder if one of my favorite videos on YouTube had anything to do with it, when I read emails during my last Des Moines set from a cute young woman (most likely a year or two away from sleeping with one of her high school students, assuming she is a teacher) who wanted to come to my hotel:
But like a reboot no one asked for I made a triumphant return to Manchester-Hartford last week and it was fun, funny and volatile.
Thursday: Good Start
I arrived in Hartford at 2:20pm on Thursday and was picked up by the club manager. He was running the sound booth when I was last there in 2011, so it turns out that there are ways to advance your career in the comedy business, as long as you make sure to avoid being a comedian. He brought me to the Extended Stay, which is pretty solid for chain hotels. Pluses – full kitchen in your room. Negatives – no breakfast and the arch nemesis of my health a 5 minute walk away:
When my Mom learned I was at an Extended Stay she asked me if it was okay and if there were families staying there. I then realized that she, being unfamiliar with the Extended Stay brand, assumed Extended Stay was some sort of governmental housing term for displaced families or a halfway house. I had to inform her that my career was not so bad (yet) that it required FEMA assistance.
The show that night was good (no hecklers, sold a lot of CDs). And one fan/friend (“Fran” – Trademark pending) showed up as well (I AM A DRAW).
Friday: The JL Jinx Affects Connecticut’s Heroines
It is no secret that I am a gambling cooler to my own comedy career. Therefor, if anything actually positive starts to happen in my career the universe requires a hefty sacrifice to balance it out. Well, with CDs sales brisk and shows going well, it should come as no surprise that within 36 hours of my arrival in the state, the UConn women’s basketball team, 4 time defending champions and owners of a record 111 game winning streak saw their streak ended Friday night. There was nothing else to really report from Friday, but with the debt to the comedy gods paid, Saturday was in a safe position to resume destroying my career.
Saturday: Faith, Fans and Fu*k-Ups
I started my day (at 315pm) with a 2 mile walk to the nearest Catholic Church for Saturday Vigil Mass at 4pm. In a big plus for Connecticut everyone shook hands during Peace, instead of the Purell habit that I have observed over the last 5+ years of just waving and saying “Peace be with you,” even to the person standing next to you. Having prayed for guidance on what to do with my life, God would give a very clear answer that night at the Funny Bone.
I had 6 fans showing up to the early show (well 3 separate fans dragging others to the show) – I AM A DRAW OUT OF THE FEATURE SPOT! But the early show was not starting on time. In fact it was starting 15 minutes late. So while the emcee was on stage (doing his full time) I was asked to get off stage by 8:05, which ended up being an 11.5 minute feature set (instead of the usual 20-25 minutes). THAT WILL TEACH PEOPLE TO BE FANS OF MINE! I still sold CDs and expressed gratitude afterwards, by doing a 30 minute set/podcast rant in front of Bertucci’s in the shopping mall for superfan Keith and his brother (I think it was his brother) and friend after so they got headliner minutes out of me at least.
The late show started and a short Latino man in his 40s kept yelling that it was his birthday (apparently as part of Trump’s MAGA, men are trying to snatch the comedy club heckling nightmare crown from drunk white women). At one point he took the mic from the emcee (who was a nice kid 20 years old, but legitimately looked like a very tall 14 year old). During my set Stand and Deliver and his surrounding tables never shut up (as I write this I wish I had gone into a Jaime Escalante impression), but I handled it pretty well and even got to say many humorous, somewhat racist things to him and his table using my Trump impression. Look for my next video “Comedian CRUSHES Heckler as Trump, Obama & Bernie Sanders!!!!” (just kidding – I don’t want to post it)
Sunday: The Trump Pen and Peter Pan
Sunday was the final show of the week and after watching the Utah Jazz lose a close one on national TV I headed to the club. The crowd was big and the show went great. However, the show started 30 minutes late and the headliner did well over an hour, so instead of being able to sell merch I had to run to catch my 10pm Peter Pan bus (named Peter Pan because like the kids in Pan, if you ride their buses you are likely not to grow older). But after my set the headliner, Michael Colyar was kind enough to call me back up to the stage, called me a genius and gave me a talking Trump pen (follow my Instagram (@jlcomedy) to see my video of the pen). One of the nicest, if not the nicest gestures any headliner has ever done for me. But with no time to spare I got a ride to the bus station in downtown Hartford.
The bus got to NYC 40 minutes early (one of the great paradoxes of bus travel in America – it is unquestionably the worst of transportation choices and yet, always on time and cheap, which trains and planes cannot claim), but my favorite part of the trip was the intro safety video on the bus from the Peter Pan CEO and family (like a Trump family but with a net worth of $900K). As I sat with a bunch of people that looked like extras from The Wire and a Trump campaign video about illegal immigrants, it was pretty funny to sit there watching the Peter Pan CEO, White Whiterson, and his children wish us well on our journey. I could actually see them cross the street on the video after delivering their message.
All in all, a productive and fun week of comedy. Even more significantly, with 7 fans and kind gestures from the headliner, there may have been a downside to the week – I feel motivated to continue doing stand up. And with that, enjoy two new stand up bit/clips from the weekend. Enjoy!
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
Recently it has felt like stand up comedy is less a passion or profession I am pursuing and more an angry Albanian engaged in a blood feud with me. Beyond my usual gripes about the comedy industry (see 90% of my podcast episodes for more specifics) my last few weeks have felt like an installment of the Final Destination film franchise, where Death is determined to stop me from performing comedy. Last week, after being booked for the Toledo Funny Bone since January I decided to email the club to confirm my spot (it would be the third time performing there, but knowing that the Comedy Grim Reaper is determined to push me back into the full time practice of law I figured that I should confirm just in case). The response I got back was “Yes, the hotel is the same, but we don’t have you until the end of the month.” Now this was 27 hours before I was scheduled to leave for Toledo, so I had my round trip train ticket and more importantly had not picked up any day time work for the week (which pays more than a week of featuring, so it was a double whammy). And add on to the fact that I am booked elsewhere when Toledo said they have me. I will spare you the transcript of my reaction within my apartment to myself after a series of cordial, neutered emails, but the look on my dog’s face said “Please just send me back to my abusive trailer park in Kentucky. This “comedian” (even my dog puts air paw quotes around my career) is too angry.” With that preamble, I will now take you to this past weekend’s comedy journey in Albany, NY.
The Grim Reaper Strikes Amtrak
In a sequence worthy of its own episode on This Is Us my Friday morning unraveled like the Comedy Grim Reaper was gunning for an Emmy. I arrived at NY Penn Station at 10:50 am for my 11:20am train. Well, little did I know that a train derailment in New Jersey had caused havoc (my guess is that it was either the Comedy Grim Reaper or Mr. Glass from Unbreakable testing to see if my comedy will is unbreakable). I will now deliver the news/plot in bullet points:
- Wait for news until 1pm
- Told at 1pm to take Metro North from Grand Central Station to Yonkers where an Amtrak train was waiting to go to Albany and points north
- Take subway to Grand Central and catch the 1:51pm train to Yonkers
- Arrive at Yonkers at 2:20pm – told train must wait.
- Go to vending machine at Yonkers Station because the Albany-bound trains do not have snack cars (#FindOurSnackCars). Machine eats one of my dollars (cue the This is Us acoustic singer songwriter depressing song)
- Train finally cleared to leave at 3:30pm
- Arrive in Albany at 5:35pm
- Get in cab with 4 other people and forced to ride all over Albany for an hour before being dropped off at the Hampton Inn
- (cue even more This Is Us-ish music – get a text from my girlfriend that her brother… wait for it… was on the train that was part of the derailment that set this all in motion – he is OK).
- I have sex with Mandy Moore at the hotel.
So with 20 minutes before the start of the first show Thursday I texted my girlfriend saying that I needed to quit comedy. Most of what happens in comedy makes me angry and that anger can sometimes provide fuel and motivation. But the trip to Albany, coming off of a week of a cancelled gig felt more helpless and pathetic (which, make no mistake about it, it is). End credits. “Next week on This is Us…”
Great Crowds Save The Day
My mood was almost immediately uplifted once I got to the club on Friday night. Maybe it was Pavlovian – going near a stage with Guns N Roses playing in the background is as good a set of factors to trigger involuntary happiness in me, but it would be unfair to characterize it that way. The crowds were really good and generous the entire weekend. The headliner was John Henton, who most notably played the handyman on Living Single, a show that aired on Fox from 1993-1998, also known as a great time for a young man to discover that Tootie from The Facts of Life was all grown up (the Michael Jordan of “Damn, she’s grown!” to Ariel Winter’s Crag Ehlo). They were great laughers and even more importantly great buyers – sold out of all my CDs over the weekend.
The Rest of My Albany Trip
I saw the movie Life (really good).
I am working on new bits towards a 2018 album. Here is a clip of that bit making progress:
And if you do not follow me on social media here is a pic of me seeing one of Albany’s prized tourist attractions “Giant, Dirty Pile of Snow”
Hartford, CT starting Thursday. Tell them I am coming. And Hell’s coming with me… (this is from Tombstone, in case you think I am being exceedingly morbid).
News outlets were reporting earlier this month that President Donald Trump would not be filling out a March Madness bracket for the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament, as had become a sort of unofficial tradition with President Barack Obama, a hoops aficionado. Well, those reports might as well be classified as “fake news” because Trump, thanks to comedian J-L Cauvin, has made a video predicting his Final Four, champion and, as a special bonus, his own “One Shining Moment.” Trump has Duke, Michigan, West Virginia and Kentucky as his Final Four, but trust me, you will want to watch this anyway:
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.