If you follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – the go to place to follow me if you want the complete photo-humor journey @jlcomedy) then this week was either an embarrassment of riches or a plain old embarrassment as I frustrated my girlfriend for four of our five days to make sure my jokes, photos and experiences in Orlando, Florida did not go unpublished. The trip was her Christmas present (and after checking my receipts for the trip apparently it will have to suffice as a Valentine’s Day, birthday and Trump Impeachment Day presents as well). The week started with a room on an Amtrak to go down to Florida (for a change of pace and to get me elevated to an elite status on Amtrak – which is like being the best player on a WNBA team – no one cares and you still need a day job) on Tuesday and then would involve among many other things, Epcot Center, multiple days at Universal Studios, 483 encounters with rude South Americans, an Orlando Magic basketball game and a random, private encounter with a television A-lister at my hotel Starbucks. If I annoyed you on social media this week I don’t really apologize because the content was too good not to share. So here is an epic recap of The Florida Project 2 starring J-L Cauvin.
Part I: Steaks on a Train
We left NYC at 2:15pm for the 3:15pm Silver Meteor train. We were shown to our room on the train by Ismael, a baritone man of apparent Indian descent who referred to me as Mr. Lewis (it is a sign of honor on Amtrak and in India to refer to men by their middle name or by second part of their hyphenated first name) for the remainder of the trip. The room was nice, we had nice meals and I even managed to sleep 5 hours (in 4 increments) throughout the South (either the bumps of the train or my half-black instincts wouldn’t allow me to sleep steady through the deep south at night. We had steaks for dinner (when you get a room on the train all meals are included so I informed my girlfriend (Laura) that she had to order the most expensive item. So she got the steak and two glasses of wine, which were not included so I informed her that my services did not include open bar (which made the train-obsessed retiree sitting across from us at dinner laugh (WHY DO I NEED TO REACH MILLENNIALS COMEDY CENTRAL WHEN I CAN CRACK UP THE GREATEST GENERATION???). I then engaged the retiree on a detailed discussion of rail in America, solidifying it as the central campaign issue of my 2024 third party candidacy for the White House.
And the best way to show my room and the flatulent-fueled train neighbors we had is to show you this short video tour of my room sponsored by MTV Cribs:
Part II: The Guitarist That Made an 8 Year Old Boy See God
When we arrived in Orlando we got a Lyft to the hotel, the Doubletree right near Universal Studios. We showered to get 22 hours of Amtrak off of ourselves and then went out for dinner at Disney Springs a very nice lakeside shopping area. We ate some seafood, I then got a Ghirardelli sundae (the official kick off of Diabetes Week in Orlando for me) and we sat down to watch some live entertainment. It was just some open area where a guy with a ponytail was playing guitar. We sat there for about 30 minutes watching this dude play the ever loving sh*t out of his guitar. And there were several kids dancing to the music, most just trying to make themselves the center of attention (and one couple who danced with their baby strapped to the husband’s chest while the wife cell phone recorded the baby and then the both congratulated the 8 month old on how great he was. But one kid, some 8 year old white kid, may have actually experienced the Holy Ghost during the guitarist’s performance. He could not stop dancing and would not let his mom stop him. But not in a rude douchey kid way, but in a “Mom, do you hear this? So you see this guitar magician? I cannot stop my body from moving!” It was almost as entertaining as the guitarist, but not quite. It was virtuoso playing with great showman flair. The guitarist’s name was Nicholas Marks (insert romance novel joke here) and he was selling albums after so as an artist who sells merch to varying degrees of success after shows I felt a kinship with Mr. Sparks… and then I completely ignored him after his show like so many of the awkward people I see after my shows. But I did go home and buy two of his albums off of iTunes and have not been disappointed.
Part III: Andrew The Closer, Epcot and the Space Ride for Cucks
On Thursday morning it was time to begin tackling theme parks and first on the list was Epcot Center. But as we were leaving the lobby we were lulled into a casual conversation by “Andrew,” who was working for Hilton Honors (the Hilton rewards program). Normally I don’t fall for walk-by solicitations, but this photo of Andrew should show you that I was helpless to resist:
Well after Andrew was done talking to us I had purchased a 5 day vacation (granted – it will be 100% reimbursed once I take the trip) and was a member of Hilton Honors. By the end of the trip I would never NOT see Andrew sitting and getting someone to sign on the dotted line in the lobby. So we made it to Epcot quickly after that, possibly because I was not longer weighed down with several hundred dollars. I will attempt to condense the highlights for you:
- We went on a terrific car race ride, a great VR tour of the world called “Soaring”
- Toured the nations of the world – true story – when I went to Epcot with my Mom c. 1992 they had “Africa”, which has now been replaced with “trading post” which in one way is better and in other ways, really bad since Morocco is the sole representative of Africa (also Russia and India don’t have representative stations, which feel like glaring omissions)
- Mexico had a great area dedicated to Coco, which was a relief since outside the Mexico area was a welcome featuring Mexican icon Donald Duck in a sombrero.
- The Space Simulator Laura and I went on was interesting. We had just eaten lunch and the “Orange” space simulator was supposed to be extremely forceful and intense, whereas the “Green Simulator” was less intense, which we knew because all the audio kept repeating that it was “Green-less intense.” And the progression got insulting as we advanced toward the actual ride. “You have chosen green, less intense,” “You have chosen green, you pussy,” “You have chosen green, why are you still with him?” But the green was plenty entertaining so we never felt a need to go to the “orange- congrats on having courage” ride.
- Trying to buy t-shirts for my nephews proved somewhat difficult because the selection in many of the stores was so terrible. When I was a kid there were dozens of t-shirts to choose from, but now it only seemed adults and girls still have an interest in clothing based on the Disney selections available. Gadgets and toys seem to be all that were available in abundance for boys, so I hope my nephews enjoy their Minny Mouse dresses.
Part IV: Foreigners Feel Like The Worst Time at Universal Studios
Friday was the first day at Universal Studios. There were many highlights – Laura’s particular enjoyment of The Simpsons’ Ride and accompanying world, the butter beer served in the Harry Potter world (cream soda covered in a sweet, buttery foam) and The Transformers ride were among the highest highlights. There was also my picture with only Sideshow Bob, which irritated Krusty The Clown, who had been the preferred photo partner in Simpsons Land, but not for me (#HatersUnite). However, there were some down moments – like being too tall/large to fit into the Harry Potter ride in that section of the park, as well as The Mummy ride. But the heartbreak of having to send Laura on the rides alone paled in comparison to the havoc created on my vacation by ill-mannered, wealthy South American families.
To offer you a glimpse of the rudeness I will present some statistics. The first number is the combined number of unsupervised children walking into me or stepping on my feet, families cutting in front for photos and generally rude incidents. The second number is apologies.
- Asians 1/1
- White People 3/2
- Black People 2/1
- South American families – 4577/1
Now I don’t know why this is, but by Saturday I started to feel like a combination of a Trump supporter and Ed Norton in 25th Hour. Being from New York City I am used to all types of people from natives to immigrants to tourists. And other than texting while walking being a rudeness epidemic I think the egalitarian nature of NYC’s streets and the communal and crowded experience of the NYC subway makes people, for the most part, respect personal space. But these presumably wealthy South American families seem to have a different experience. Which is understandable – if you were a fat 70 year old man with a hot 33 year old third wife, wouldn’t you feel entitled? If you were a woman who did not appear to go to the gym, but had purchased an ass and breasts to look like a sexy, fit woman wouldn’t you think you are privileged? And maybe the wealthy in your town or city are truly treated like royalty so it makes no sense that some American couple would expect an apology on the 3rd, 8th or 12th time your chubby prince kicks them or steps on them. Or if a couple is taking turns having pictures with Homer Simpson or Marmaduke and you jump in and take six different photos with various members of your family before the couple can get two, perhaps in your native land people would never dream of even being in the same space as you and it would never occur to you to wait or acknowledge that you had interrupted. As I said earlier I know these countries are fine and a lot of their people are good, but when it comes to Orlando it appears some good countries are sending their shithole people!
The good news of Saturday was that we rode the Hogwarts Express and I was able to fit into the other Harry Potter ride (though it did malfunction midway which was mildly distressing. We also went on the Kong Island ride, the Spider Man ride and a Cat in the Hat ride (9 year old me would have liked it), but sadly the Jurassic Park ride was down for annual maintenance.
Part V: Orlando Magic and Greek Freaks
Saturday night we went to the Orlando Magic vs Milwaukee Bucks game. Tickets were courtesy of a law school buddy, who has season tickets in the wheelchair section (great seats – center court and because they are the wheelchair row they can accommodate handicapable people like me who are discriminated on the basis of height (see e.g. Harry Potter and The Mummy rides). The game was great – we got to see The Greak Freek (Giannis Ant…) one of the game’s top young stars, but perhaps most memorable was the mascot of the Denver Nuggets. It was Stuff the Magic Dragon’s birthday and as a 2 time reigning MVP mascot in the NBA he had several NBA mascots to help him celebrate throughout the game. Stuff was impressive (handstand in costume on a hoverboard), but the Nuggets mascot was one of the funniest live performers I have ever seen. I had a ton of fun at the game, which may be because I had no rooting interest except to be entertained. But I was not done with Greek Freaks.
On Sunday, when I got back from Mass I went to my hotel Starbucks for a green tea. The Starbucks was not busy at all so I got in line behind a nice looking couple – John Stamos and his pregnant wife. I just stood there for 3 minutes while they gathered all their drinks and food items, perhaps for a drive somewhere. I looked at Uncle Jessie a few times and he looked at me several times with the “Is this guy an athlete (former)?” I wanted to take a picture (which might have made Laura even more jealous than just the story), but I am always uncomfortable asking celebrities for a picture – it feels like an interruption to their day and besides, they were nice enough not to ask for a picture with the #ComedyMogul so the least I can do is reciprocate.
So that was the trip – hope you enjoyed reading this epic. Time to fly home (a relationship cannot survive two 22 hour train rides in one week) and watch my dog Cookie wag her tail at me when she sees me return… and then pee herself whimpering with love when she sees Laura (not a joke). Home sweet home.
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.
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*
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).
This weekend I was featuring at Magooby’s Joke House in Timonium, Maryland (sorry for the Trump-esque title of the blog – it was really 36 hours in a suburb of Baltimore, but that is not as good a title). It was a weekend of highs and lows (as Michelle Obama said of my comedy career “When J-L thinks his career will go high, it will definitely go low”), sickness, multiple perfect sets, one dumb or tired crowd (yes YOU LATE SHOW FRIDAY), a cozy Amtrak ride and a too cozy Greyhound ride. In other words, the trip was all that you have come to expect from road comedy from me, but in a more condensed amount of time. So here ya go:
Friday: Fu*k You Sony!!!!!!!
I arrived in Baltimore on Friday around 2:15pm off of the Amtrak and then hopped on the “light rail” (basically two trolley cars where no one has ever taken my ticket in 3 years – but at $1.70 I can afford it, even if it is just the honor code). I then made the 15 minute walk from the station to my Red Roof Inn Plus (plus is for the fact that they have some rooms with extra amenities… I was not in the plus section). It is the same place I stayed in Fall of 2015 so I knew they got 5 stars on the J-L Road Comedy Guide for Hotels. To illustrate:
5 stars – no thefts or assaults on me or any other guests while I am there
4 stars – no thefts or assaults on me
3 stars – no visible stains of body fluids on sheets or chairs in my room, but possible thefts or assaults on others
2 stars – La Quinta Inn in New Haven, CT
1 star – sewage
One mistake I made during this trip was not bringing my parka. I had no idea how cold it would actually be in Timonium. It was The Revenant-cold. And I had a 1.2 mile walk to the club each night and a .8 mile to Panera Bread. Within ten minutes of my first walk I knew I would get sick (nose still running as of the typing of this sentence). So at 6:30pm I made my way to the club. But these were no ordinary shows. I was also planning on using one of my 4 sets as a submission for Comedy Central’s new season of The Half Hour. I have dozens of sets this year that would be admirable submissions, but knowing that every 5 minutes of material having, roast battling sycophant is submitting 30 minutes I at least wanted to make sure mine did not have any extraneous material that may happen… GULP… during a working comedian’s set!!!!
So as I have done hundreds of times, I set up my camera in the back of the room and proceed to crush (I am just referring to set up the camera when I say hundreds of times – I have crushed 1000s of times!). Like a perfect set. After the set I walked up to my camera and saw that it had turned off. Well, this model of the Sony Handycam series, newer than the previous ones I had, keeps a backup of everything that you cannot delete. So my memory was full and shut off the camera halfway through the set. After cursing and pacing for 15 minutes, the club owner lent me an SD card to use for additional memory. However, I already knew the 2nd set would not go as well, even though it was going to be a bigger crowd. I knew, because it was me. And I was right. I had a strong set on the late show. There was just one problem – very few people in the crowd seemed to agree. I actually did a new bit at the end of my set called “J-L blames crowd for ruining his Comedy Central tape and his life.” That actually got them laughing.
I got a ride home from local legend/comedian Rob Maher who was nice enough to come watch and hang out at the 2nd show. I then spent 90 minutes researching how to clear the memory on my Handycam. I was able to find and implement the solution. And that is how the future of Comedy Central changed forever…
Saturday: Homeless in Panera Bread and Another Perfect Set
On Saturday I had to check out of my hotel. Normally I would stay Saturday night and go home Saturday morning, but when I broke down how much I was earning (not a lot) and did the math of what 2 nights at the hotel and two train tickets would be (75% of not a lot) I opted to get a Greyhound early Sunday morning (12:40am) thus saving me most of the cost of a train trip and one night at a hotel. #ComedyMogul So with an 11 am check out I had to kill 8.5 hours without a home before Saturday shows. So I went to Panera Bread and wrote two sketches while eating a 1030 breakfast and a 2 pm lunch. And just a travel tip – no one does hot chocolate better than Panera. Hot, but immediately drinkable and tastes like someone melted chocolate into a cup. Only thing is overkill – they recently added chocolate chip marshmallows to the hot chocolate which, although tasty, turn a great beverage into a calorie heavy sugar rush. I then made my way to Starbucks across the parking lot outside and read for another two hours before going to McDonald across the highway for dinner. #ComedyMogul
I owe a great debt of gratitude to the Saturday crowds at Magoobys. I was already sick and dreading the pending Greyhound trip. I had only sold 4 cds to the first two audiences on Friday. The pressure was now on after going 0-2 on Comedy Central tapings. And I had no idea if my camera would fu*k up again. Well what transpired was the comedy equivalent of Michael Jordan’s flu game. The first crowd was great. Every joke hit and the camera taped! Headliner said to me “That was the set; make sure that camera taped it.” So when people ask when Comedy Central changed for the better* you can point to that perfect set that then elevated their series, etc.
*Set Deposited into Recycle Bin on desktop January 1, 2017
The second set also went great as a nice bonus and I ended up selling 21 CDs between the two shows. I then took Uber to the Greyhound station for the final part of this epic 36 hour trilogy.
Sunday: Greyhound Abdi & Canola
I got on my Greyhound bus at 12:40am. Before me on line was a man, probably in his late 40s who bore a slight resemblance to Barrkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips fame. The man had a backpack, a suitcase and a large plastic bag. He had a ticket that indicated he was at the end or in the middle of an epic trip (having taken a couple of long Greyhound trips earlier in my career his trip had at least 3 bus changes. But beyond all these details it seemed like the man might have been slightly developmentally disabled. As I got on the bus, having dreaded this trip all day, I thought about this man – Where was he going? Where was he coming from? Was he safe? Did he have friends or relatives helping him? It was making me sad as I settled into my seat thinking about how meaningless comedy feels in a world where a man like that might be struggling just to maintain his existence. And then my bus driver yelled into the bus audio system:
“Good evening everybody!”
silence. (half the bus sleeping)
“I said GOOD EVENING EVERYBODY!!!”
buh buh hello bitch damn
“My name is Canola and I am your driver tonight.”
So I guess laughter can have a useful place when you are feeling down. Thanks Canola. And good luck Greyhound Abdi. I hope you are OK.
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
This weekend I was in Raleigh, North Carolina at Goodnight’s Comedy Club. I am writing this from the cafe car of my Amtrak train (the Silver Star, which originates in Miami, so other than licking a toilet seat in Brazil there are very few places I would expect to carry Zika more than this train) and trying to remember that the week was a strong one – worked with solid comics, saw two good movies, sold some CDs, indulged in some Chick Fil-A (in North Carolina, which I have dubbed a “bigotry Inception”) and was able to relax a little bit. However, 93 Uber rides, a horrible hotel breakfast, one female heckler and her emasculated husband and an elderly obese woman blaming me for her fall on this train 30 minutes ago have forced me to temper my happiness about the trip. So with that tease let’s get into the details of another road trip with America’s favorite Middle Man Road Recapper.
Thursday – Hotel, Motel… Best Western?
I woke up early on Thursday, said goodbye to my girlfriend and Cookie (my dog, I packed several “Complete Cookies” – vegan, protein cookies that my girlfriend calls “Bro Cookies” because they are sold at GNC) and headed for the Carolinian, the 7:05 am train that leaves NY Penn Station for North Carolina. I managed to secure a seat by myself until Richmond, VA, which on a packed train is pretty great. I read a little bit, wrote my next sketch (filming Friday and going up 10 days before the first presidential debate) and generally felt like a freedom rider in the 1960s (there were 3 white people and a bi-racial giant in my car to go with 80 black people and 54 bare feet. I played spirituals on my iPod to complete the ambiance.
When I arrived in Raleigh only an hour late (5:30pm) I got an Uber thinking I had hotwire.com’d the same hotel I had been in 2 years ago. For those of you that don’t play travel Russian Roulette on Hotwire.com (or as I will call it after this trip THOTwire.com), you put in your location and the website gives you discounted rates for hotels within a distance range – but to get the discounted rates you don’t know the name or exact location of the hotel. 4 out of 5 times it is a great deal and very convenient. However to get the $54/night rate (#ComedyMogul) I picked a hotel in a 0.2 miles-5.0 miles range from the club. Well, this was the 5th time because the hotel was 4.7 miles from the club – so that would mean Uber back and forth every night. But if you add up the rate of the hotel I stayed at last time (Days Inn – #ComedyMogul) I still saved about $19 when you subtract the Ubers from the increased nightly price so basically I gamed the system again, if you don’t factor in the mental cost of inconvenience. Sadly their continental breakfast sucked, but for $54 a night I guess I should be thankful that they had anything. #Blessed
Thursday night’s show was fun. The headliner was Jon Reep, who I actually voted for on his season of Last Comic Standing many years ago, and 6’7″ emcee Brent Blakeney, who I worked with the last time I was in Raleigh (the Duncan-Robinson of opening acts), but this time we did not have to babysit Iliza Schlesinger’s dog in the green room. The show went well, though it was the only crowd for the week that wasn’t packed. But I did make one pity sale of a CD to an older woman. That pity money then went to pay for a depression donut at the Dunkin Donuts near my hotel (the only thing within walking distance to my hotel – I would end up eating half of their inventory by Sunday morning).
Friday would be the peak of the trip on all fronts, except CD sales. I woke up, thought about going to the hotel gym, and after burning 3 calories thinking about it I opted instead to do a double feature at the movie theater. I got an Uber and ate at the aforementioned Chick Fil A and then saw Hands of Stone and Don’t Breathe. Check my positive reviews of both here:
The shows that night were great. Packed crowds, big laughs, etc. In other words nothing really fun to recap happened. I did get a celebration milkshake at Dunkin Donuts (technically it is a DD/Baskin Robbins, but DD is doing all the heavy lifting for that mediocre ice cream – the milkshake was weak).
Saturday – “If AIDS and Cancer had sex on this stage right now it would be more enjoyable than what you are doing”
During the day I sat in my hotel room doing a marathon of The Good Wife on Amazon Prime (solid show – 15 eps through season 1; I would have called the show The Nice Lawyer). I then made my way to the club. The first show was hot despite a few woman making their voices heard too much (one woman said “oh come on” in disappointment about 7 times in the first 11 minutes of my set and a couple of younger ladies kept trying to get me to recognize them by overreacting with “awwws” at some punchlines. But overall – great first show. Then the second show happened.
There are sad and tragic moments in American History concerning black men that are too legion to count. From slavery to Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin America has a plentiful history of destroying black men. I would like to add another black man to that tragic roster. There was a Latin woman who kept talking and repeating lines and clapping off the beat of the jokes. At best she was horribly distracting, at worst she should be first on Trump’s deportation squad list. I probably spent 12 of my final 22 minutes on stage in North Carolina dealing with her. I pledged to the crowd that I was going to join ISIS and after I completed my one target mission I would retire from jihad. I ripped this woman so many ways and nothing worked (also here is a popular blog I wrote in 2013 about female hecklers). And even more disappointing was that her husband or boyfriend, a strong looking black man (physically strong, obviously he had been mentally broken) had said nothing or never tried to intervene or calm her down or drown her in a bathtub. Now in fairness to Stephen from Django, she was a Latin woman and that is right after cookies as my life kryptonite , but at some point you have to step up and be a cis-hetero-normative male, no matter how good the salsa is. The entire crowd roared every time I crushed her and the biggest laugh I probably got all week was when I morphed into Trump and gave her a “Get her out.” On Twitter and Facebook I said this man’s performance was “the weakest by a black man since Charles Smith against the Bulls.” (The above quote is one of many things I said to her by the end of my set). Here are just a couple of still shots from me scolding the woman:
After the second show I sold some more CDs and was treated like a hero by most of the crowd. But those good tidings simply meant that the comedy gods had something negative in store for me before leaving North Carolina, because no comedy journey ever ends well…
Sunday – The Fall Guy for the Fallen Lady
Just 2 hours ago at the writing of this sentence I arrived at the Raleigh train station. I boarded the train and was told to take seat 3. I saw an obese elderly woman sitting in seat 4, but she had books and a tray of snacks in seat 4. I then said “Hey, that is my seat – they assigned me to it.” She then started saying she could move back (her scooter was in front of seats 1 and 2), but I did not understand that seat 4 was not her seat (why would I assume an obese/handicapped woman would park her chair somewhere other than the seat she is sitting in?) so I just waited for her to move the snacks so I could sit down. She then got out of the seat and shuffled/struggled to walk over to seats 1 and 2. At this point half the car is staring at me like I am the bus driver telling Rosa Parks to move, even though that is not what I intended. Also I am now blocking about 12 passengers from making it to their seats. A guy the size of Luke Cage then tells me he is in seat 4 (why Amtrak paired 6’7″, 280 lbs with 6’3″, 230, when the people paired behind me had the combined weight of Tom Hanks at the end of Philadelphia is a mystery to me). As I was sliding out of the way of Luke the fall heard around the Amtrak world occurred. The old lady fell spilling coffee and juices. Luke and I helped her up to her seat and then a conductor came up to her to see if she was OK. She then explained that (pointing to me) “He HAD to have that seat so I got up.” I tried to get support from Luke Cage, but between elderly black woman and guy who looks like he co-owned the pizza shop in Do The Right Thing I think his support for my predicament was tepid at best.
So now I sit in the cafe car on my way home blogging instead of being treated like the Bull Connor of Amtrak in my seat. The good news is I will be back on Amtrak tomorrow headed to Albany to do voice work as Donald Trump, so I just need to remember my German Sheppard and fire hose in the morning.
So this past week I was performing in Cleveland, Ohio, one of my favorite cities and one of my three potential permanent residences within the next 18 months (the options are A) New York – because if it is broken, why bother to fix it; B) LA – because there are more opportunities for industry to ignore me or C) Cleveland – because I like it, it’s cheap and the only worse thing than wasting 13 years of your life doing comedy is to do it for another 13, so might as well pack it in and enjoy as much real estate as your money can afford). The week was chock full of adventures, discoveries and fun so might as well get into it.
13 Hours on Amtrak
Considering the fact that I have been very busy this year with full time legal work, triple the amount of road work I had all of 2015 within the first 3 1/2 months of 2016 (a good thing, but also shows just how terrible my 2015 was) and a new dog stressing me out occasionally, I have not had a lot of time or energy to do anything with my girlfriend besides Netflix and Pass Out. So I figured I would book some emcee work in Cleveland and make it a 4 day trip. Not knowing if the feature would be using the comedy condo (of course once I paid for 4 nights in a hotel, the JLComedy Law* is that the condo would go unused by the feature, which it did) I booked a Comfort Inn in downtown Cleveland for a rate so cheap on Hotwire.com that I assumed a disaster loomed.
*JLComedy Law is like Murphy’s Law, except only half Irish and a lot worse when applied to trying to turn a profit from comedy endeavors.
I also convinced my girlfriend to take the 12.5 hour Amtrak ride from NYC to Cleveland (at the convenient time of 3:30pm, arriving in Cleveland at 3:27 am), because it is a “nice ride” and “quite cheap.” Let me put it to you this way – if you have a chick who does this with you and doesn’t complain she is not only a ride or die chick, she is potentially a ride AND die chick (two seats behind us for the second half of the train trip was a man with more than half his face and neck tattooed – the 4 types of people who take Amtrak more than 6 hours are 1) felons 2) illegal immigrants 3) morbidly obese 4) overly qualified comedy emcees) .
I looked up the Comfort Inn before leaving work and noticed that several of the pictures featured rooms with 2 double beds, as well as tube TVs (or as the headliner I would soon meet, Tone Bell put it, “the TVs with the asses” so I figured I may have gotten a hot rate of 50% off the room rate, but it still might feel like I got robbed. This was running through my mind as we traveled all the way North through northern and then western New York. We lost time in Albany so the train could change engines there (from electric to diesel or something like that) because our train industry is still stuck in different era. We ended up arriving in Cleveland at 4:05 am feeling like human experiments at the CDC. We made our way into the Comfort Inn and were greeted by a friendly, heavy set black woman, straight out of central casting, who saw us with out bags making it through the doors and began asking our names while still struggling with the suitcases in the doorway. To her credit she never gave us any eye contact during our entire exchange, so I applaud her commitment to the character.
God Bless The GOP Convention
When we made it to our floor we noticed that the carpet on our half of the floor was new and when we got into our room it had a king sized bed, a newly furnished bathroom and a flat screen TV!! We then passed out for a healthy 4 hours of Amtrak filth covered sleep, breathing in the Subway bread air that penetrated the room since we were directly above a Subway restaurant. #BreatheFresh
As it turned out, this hotel was clearly undergoing renovations for the rush of taxphobic whores, religious nuts and Klan members that will descend upon Cleveland in July for the GOP Convention. For the hell of it I looked up hotels the week of the convention. Hotels.com reported 167 hotels WITHOUT availability that week and the only hotel within 15 miles of the city center with availability was a 2 star hotel charging $340 a night. This same hotel’s rate next week, for point of comparison? $96. So perhaps if the convention were taking place elsewhere I would have been sleeping in a semen stained, TV with ass-having room filled with police caution tape, but thanks to the GOP I stayed in a 2 star hotel with 3.5 star upgrades.
Needless to say, my girlfriend and I spent our first day in Cleveland at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. I am a member of the museum (a guest and I can get into the museum for free for the next 4 years thanks to my generous donation #PatronOfTheArtsMogul and I get 10% off all purchases #ComedyMogul) so we walked in and I got a member wrist band, while my girlfriend was given a wristband for non-members. #MembershipMogul
The next day we went to a new restaurant at the Westin hotel (where staff followed us around because they could smell Comfort Inn/Subway on our clothing) called Urban Farmer (it’s theme is a black farmer called Ol’ DaeMcDonald) and it was delicious! My girlfriend made it her business to force me out of my usual shitty routine of chain restaurants by becoming a human Fodor’s guide to Cleveland. The food was great (and she let me off the hook by choosing lunch – dinner prices were like NY Steak House prices, but lunch prices were like Cleveland lunch prices). We then saw The Jungle Book, which I reviewed in beautiful (and windy) downtown Cleveland:
The next day (Saturday), my girlfriend’s last day in town, we went bowling on E. 4th Street, which is sort of the hip/hipster area of town with several new restaurants. We bowled (I racked up a career high 148 in one game – not too bad for someone who has bowled less than 10 times in his life and never more than once in a two year period) and then left for an early dinner. We tried to eat at a brand new bar-b-q restaurant, recently opened up by one of the 377 celebrity chefs on TV, but the wait was 1 hour and 45 minutes… at 430pm. So we went across to a restaurant that looked promising, despite the communal tables, which always spell some horeshit dining “experience” gimmick. The restaurant’s food was tasty, but they promised family style. Well, when we sat down our waitress told us that it was tapas style. I asked her if I looked like a trendy bitch from Manhattan because I came in here for Midwestern family style, not big city skank tapas! She recommended we order several things which we did, only to realize that Midwestern tapas doesn’t really mean many small dishes; it means many large dishes. But I learned a valuable lesson in food marketing – if you call something pizza you can charge $10, but if you call it a “flatbread” you can charge $14.
The Shows: Work Work Work and a Killer Headliner
Emceeing shows at the Cleveland Improv is work. It is not always fun. It is not always comedy. But it is always work. You are competing with 10% of the crowd coming late, 33% of the crowd talking for half your set, etc. Your job is not to warm them up, but to gather their attention. It is basically like a combination of being Jesus Christ on the cross while telling a Black Lives Matter rally to disperse: sacrificial and unwanted. Well, as of this writing (Sunday evening before the final show) I have had 4 good sets and one horror show (I am talking to you late show Friday), which I consider a huge win/upset. And, instead of looking at the week as a massive loss of money for comedy work, I have framed it as a mini vacation where the Cleveland Improv is paying for me and my girlfriend’s hotel. Glass half full sort of thinking.
But the real revelation for me this weekend was the headliner Tone Bell.
When you see a name that you are not too familiar with you can make several assumptions. Maybe this guy is just some rising MTV type star with great PR and a mediocre act. Or maybe he is a niche, urban act who has not crossed over (he is black). Or maybe he is a really good comic who is under the radar. Well I didn’t know what to expect, but the dude is hilarious. He is an Atlanta-born comedian and he flows easily with urban vernacular, but doesn’t present the animated delivery found frequently at clubs like the Cleveland Improv. He walks a middle line, not with middle of the road mediocre comedy, but in terms of his delivery and sensibility. He legitimately had me LOL-ing for most of his set, as well as quoting his jokes throughout the weekend to my girlfriend. For all of you who paint me unfairly with the “hater” brush, you will at least take my praise of him seriously. But the guy’s potential for breakout stardom had me thinking of Gary Owen and Sebastian Maniscalco. Not his style, but his potential to have broad appeal at the comedy club level (he is already a working actor). So if you see Tone Bell coming to a city near you I give it the official Righteous Prick recommendation.
While at the club I also got to bid a potential Cleveland farewell to Lee Herlands, my favorite club manager in the country. He will be leaving Cleveland for the east coast, but rather than explain why I am a fan of his, feel free to check out one of my favorite podcast episodes of all time when I chatted with him in 2014.
So it is time to head to the club for the final show of the week before I hop on my 5:50 am train back to NYC on Monday morning, but I hope to be back in Cleveland soon. Maybe for a lot longer than 4 days. And in case you are wondering, my pup Cookie is in the care of a friend of my girlfriend and she is already taking ass shots like a teenage girl from the Bronx without my strong paternal influence over her:
This weekend I was in Timonium, Maryland performing at Magooby’s Comedy Club. I had performed a couple of weekends at the club’s older space a few years ago, but had not been booked since. But then I worked a weekend in Syracuse a couple of months ago with the brother of Magooby’s owner, killed it and got him to vouch for me to work Magooby’s (side note – this is why for the rest of the year I am putting together a “Working With Relatives of Comedy Club Owners” tour). But like all my comedy recap stories, the comedy club is just one player in an ensemble of experiences over the course of three days. So here it is:
On Friday I arrived in Baltimore and then proceeded another hour via light rail and bus to Cockeysville, Maryland where my hotel, The Ramada Limited, was situated. The first thing that bothered me was that the place was listed as a hotel, but had the motel-esque feature of all rooms accessible from the street (the lobby was just its own kiosk and not an entryway for access to any of the rooms). In addition to that was the fact that within 2 blocks of the Ramada Limited (the Limited stands for your chances of success in life if you have to stay there) there was a Chick Fil-A, a Five Guys, an IHOP and a Dunkin Donuts. The message from Cockeysville was simple: if a drifter looking for a quick score doesn’t kick in your door and murder you, the food options will do it to you.
The first bad omen on the trip was when I checked in to the ho/motel I was sent to one room that had not been cleaned. I came back and was sent to another room. That one had not been cleaned either (I could see the dead hooker’s body through the window). Finally I got a third room that was clean. #Blessed
Friday night’s shows were interesting. The first crowd was dead for the emcee. Now sometimes I can see an emcee doing poorly and say either “crowd is not warm yet or the emcee sucks.” But in this case there were some solid jokes that were not even registering with the crowd. My set had some good laughs and plenty of almost inexplicable dead spots (like language barrier level dead spots). Here is how I basically ended my first set:
“Well, this was fun, though it was more like a TED talk than a stand up set.”
Crowd – nothing
“Oh Christ, I did it again – you guys probably don’t know what a TED talk is! Now my set is turning into an Inception of references you don’t get – like layers of things you have never heard of on top of each other.”
Crowd – nothing
“Oh, Inception. Sorry – this tiny movie that made like $300 million a couple of years ago. I referenced two movies in this set – Avatar and Inception and you’d think I mentioned some obscure foreign film.”
See a lot of politicians say things like “The American people are smarter than that…” to discredit opponent’s positions. And many comedians focus on being likable or pandering. To quote Danny Glover, “I’m getting too old for this sh*t.” I understand if someone like Dennis Miller can throw people off with all his references, but if an analogy to Avatar or Inception in a joke doesn’t register (when it registers laughs 98% of the time) then yes, crowd, it is you. So I will treat you with disdain and condescension (even more than usual). I have never watched a TED talk, but I know what the fu*k they are! As another example unrelated to my jokes, I have never watched Citizen Kane from start to finish, but I wouldn’t stare like a vegetable if someone made a broad reference to it. But maybe the crowd was just tired from a long work week. Or stupid. Or both.
The second show went much better Friday and I sold a couple of CDs. It was a hard earned split.
Saturday’s shows were both solid. The first show was probably my favorite crowd. I celebrated with a couple of gin and tonics and a burger (important note for a later part of this story – the last thing I ate until 8pm Sunday was the burger at about 1030pm) and then Rob Maher and Joe Robinson of the Rob and Joe Show arrived at the club. They run a very good podcast and we communicate often on social media, but it was good to hang out in person. Of course I woke up today to see that I had fallen 10 spots on the Stitcher Comedy Podcast Rankings, which I think is directly attributable to my association with them this weekend.
The second show was probably only the third best set of the week for me (nothing was going to be worse than the first Friday show unless someone shot me while on stage) but I felt like I ended the weekend with a 3-1 record. However, the most eventful part of the weekend was just getting started…
SUNDAY FUN DAY!
I could not sleep well Saturday night. I was getting up at 8am anyway to begin my journey on the Maryland bus system to get to Baltimore Penn Station, but what should have been 6 hours of relatively satisfied sleep was about 2 hours of crappy sleep. My stomach was feeling a little queasy so I decided to skip the “executive continental breakfast,” as the Ramada Limited called it, and went to the bus.
During the 80 total minutes I was on the different buses I started to get progressively more tired and queasy feeling, though travelling through several neighborhoods in Baltimore I could not help but smile thinking about The Wire because everyone had the physique and accent of Prop Joe (and half the characters on The Wire – either the white-ish Baltimore accent of saying words like “Coach” as “Cauch” or the one I heard much more common, the blacker Baltimore accent of saying words like “two” as “tseu” (I hope that is clear and if it is not, I blame you)).
By the time I reached Baltimore Penn Station I was sweating profusely and my stomach was reacting like I had just chugged a gallon of Mexican tap water. As I result I ending up spending so much time in a Baltimore Penn Station bathroom I nearly qualified for adverse possession. Feeling better and barely making a train I had been 50 minutes early for I sat down in my seat and started to feel a different kind of queasy coming on. Not to mention the sweating got worse to the point that it might have been making fellow travelers uncomfortable. I went to the snack car to have a water and a Gatorade and to get a little more space. About 25 minutes into that I had the sudden urge to vomit. So I shuffled my way to the bathroom (by this time my back was hurting and all my muscles felt weak) and let forth a furious puke fest. Now I was just left with back pain and a headache, but my stomach was much better. I then went back to my seat to see someone sitting in it (to be fair it was a crowded train and I had been gone for an hour) and my backpack missing. Turns out someone had seen a sweaty dude with thick eyebrows leave a backpack and told the conductor! I could finally cross “be suspected of being a terrorist” off of my bucket list. To show how out of it I was, the conductor had walked right by me with my backpack – as it was at the table right next to where I had been semi-comatose in the cafe car.
So there it is folks – comedy, hostility, illness and terror threat – just another weekend in comedy.
For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic, iTunes and NOW on STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe on one or more platforms today – all for free!
I am writing this from the kitchen area of the Madison Heights, Michigan Days Inn. It is the logical ending place for the journey I just completed to Detroit for a weekend (Thurs-Sat) of gigs. Readers of this blog or my tweets know that I am an avid Amtrak user and will take it from NYC to Boston or DC for a humane and traditional usage of the rail service. However I have also logged train trips of 30 hours (New Orleans to NYC), 20 hours (Chicago to NYC) and other similar journeys when I want to save money on road gigs at the expense of my sleep and sanity.
This weekend I am at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, Michigan and it is a gig that requires me to save money at every turn (starting with bringing a bagged lunch/dinner onto the train). So I booked Amtrak to Detroit (which is a 16 hour train ride to Toledo and a 1 hour Amtrak bus to Detroit – yes they have buses and if you are taller than 5’11” you basically have to sit side saddle to fit into their tiny seats), booked a room for three nights at the aforementioned Days Inn, which met my criteria on hotels.com of “under $50/night while giving me at least a 75% chance of not being a victim of a violent crime,” and booked a cheap flight back home on Spirit Airlines which, based on an informal poll of friends’ Facebook statuses, is rated as a “piece of sh*t.” To put it simply it was a borderline miracle to be in the black for this gig (financially, not a reference to Detroit’s population), but I am and now profits will be directly tied to how much merchandise I push over the next three nights. But that is for Monday’s blog. This one is about the 17 hours of Amtrak that are now seared into my memory, since I only slept 17 minutes of the trip.
For those of you who have not taken Amtrak long distances (the kinds of distances that one usually flies to), imagine a Noah’s Arc of society’s saddest members:
- We will need two (hundred) obese of every race and gender;
- We need at least two (dozen) people who look like they are avoiding TSA scrutiny, but not because they are ardent civil libertarians
- We need two (thousand) people who hate wearing shoes in public
- In J-L’s car we will need two Honey Boo Boos
Yes, you read that last part correctly. The Lake Shore Limited – Amtrak #49 had all the usual things I listed. In addition there were funny little things like the woman sitting in front of me watching bootleg DVDs of movies that are on basic cable right now and the old woman who did not lock the bathroom door (but gave me the dirty look like I wanted to see her ancient body squatting), but the worst aspect to the trip was something unique to this trip (at least for me), which I listed last in the bullet points – a pair of 8 year old Honey Boo Boo-esque twins and their assorted siblings. Here is a list of their offenses with mitigating circumstances when I discovered them:
- Walked up to the woman watching bootleg DVDs and kept asking her to play with the DVD player
- Walked up to me and asked me for M & Ms that I was eating. I said no.
- Started playing with my computer mouse pad at 1 am while I was watching episode 7 of Downton Abbey Season 3.
- Asked if she could sit next to me and watch something else on my computer. I said no in a nice way for a change claiming that I only had “boring grown up stuff.” Then I started playing my digital copy of Toy Story 3 in front of her just so she knew that I DON’T ANSWER TO 8 YEAR OLDS!
- I notice the twins both have hearing aids, which momentarily made me feel bad. I then got over it.
- I discover that there are a total of seven kids, which belong to two women, who may be friends or more likely sisters, or even more likely half-sisters. Both women appeared to be slow. Like not “full retard” to quote Tropic Thunder, but the kind of slow that the Supreme Court would not allow them to be executed for murder convictions. Let that sink in women – these two cannot stop from getting knocked up and will not stop even though at least five of the children appeared special in one or multiple ways.
- At 4 am the younger brother of the twins kept asking me my name. I declined to provide that information to him.
- At 430 am the same younger brother hugged the train conductor planting his face squarely in the cock region of the conductor. My camera phone would not focus quickly enough for a picture.
I had confused feelings about these kids and women, but it is part of a theory I have. Not all handicapped people are good people. We just assume they are, but some of them have to be jerks and rude, just by playing the odds. These kids were not evil and they had problems, but they were also without any manners or sense of propriety (perhaps a Downton Abbey marathon of all of Season 3 was the wrong show to make me forgiving of their poor manners). All I knew was that these women should not have had 7 kids between the two them, as evidenced by the fact that almost all of them seemed sort of fu*ked up. Add in poor manners and a willingness to talk to strangers without any care or reprimand from their moms and I think we have January – July 2014 milk carton models in the waiting.
I finally arrived in Toledo and took the Amtrak bus to Detroit and am now at the Days Inn outside of Detroit. But my room is not ready and will not be for a few hours so I am writing this post in a semi-coma waiting to get into a room that costs as much as a blu ray disc per night. Friday and Saturday shows at Mark Ridley’s will be great, but tonight will definitely be the wild card. It reminds me of the John Malkovich line in In The Line of Fire told to Clint Eastwood’s character, “Do you have any idea what I have done for God and country Frank?? Some pretty horrible fu*king things!” Replace God and country with comedy and money and you know how I feel. Especially knowing that that family on the train is much closer to a television development deal than me.
So Saturday night seemed like it would be a tough night, following a very strong Friday night of shows. LSU had their first home game of the season Saturday night, which I feared would mean that the only crowd we would get would be disgruntled LSU fans, sort of resembling. It turned out that the 8pm crowd was fantastic. The material killed and the incredibly high percentage of plus size women (they were so plus-sized I thought about referring to them as multiplication sized women) were very forgiving of me mocking them.
So after three shows, which I was very proud of under my belt, all I had to do was get through the 10pm show unscathed and I would have
a perfect weekend. I think you know where this is heading.
The 10pm crowd rolled in and did not look any different from the other crowds. Decent size and just one drunk big girl who was trying to make the emcee’s set about her. So I got on stage and felt pretty sure it would go well.
First two jokes – barely a response (admittedly I forgot to try a new one, with local flavor, about how I cannot eat catfish because it feels weird eating something with a mustache that isn’t an Italian woman). I think one woman laughed really hard at one of the jokes so I said, “Hey everybody, she’s right, just to let you know. That joke is awesome.” Then The Bitch In The Fedora started talking (sounds like a companion play to The Motherfu*ker With The Hat) and so did the table which seemed captained by the aforementioned drunk big girl. At that point it became sort of a war. The Bitch In The Fedora kept saying things and stepping on punchlines like I actually wanted her opinion.
I should note that women in fedoras are a particular pet peeve of mine. All women who wear fedoras should be forced to marry all men who wear sunglasses indoors and they should be forced, with all of their offspring, to move to an island which will be called Douchebag Island where their collective delusional sense of cool cannot infect normal people. When I worked at the Bronx DA’s office if I were receiving a domestic violence complaint I would ask the woman one question: “This is awful, but before we proceed I need to know one thing, were you wearing a fedora when your husband punched you? Oh you weren’t? Phew – great to hear! We will nail that son of a bitch!”
So when you take a dumb and rude southern woman and place a fedora on her head it is as if you have just made me an awful sundae and it now has its cherry. So the set went on and I won constant laughs from about three tables and stares like I was speaking Arabic to the rest of the crowd (actually if I was speaking Arabic I probably would have at least gotten booed which would have been a reaction of some kind). I did get one boo from another woman when I mentioned Obama even though I specifically requested no one boo or cheer.
So after my set I went out to the bar connected to the club and watched the locals. I have said this before, but there is a real degradation of our culture going on. We are rotting at the core. Hollywood exports so many ideas and cultural trends to the rest of the country, which now lacks any kind of identity. The small towns and cities of America truly feel like testing grounds for reality show fashions and trends. Like instead of testing makeup on monkeys, we now market test the power of The Real Housewives, the Kardashians and Jersey Shore on ignorant small town folk, who are all too eager to adopt someone else’s identity. I was particularly disturbed by a woman who appeared to be grinding her daughter on the dance floor, apparently trying to entice her daughter’s friends to get with her. She was very surgically enhanced and appeared physically fit so to me she was just another cougar a/k/a awful parent. Then the emcee told me something remarkable. This woman was not the mother. She was a friend. She was 31 and her younger friend was 26. I honestly thought the woman was 50. So on one hand I was happy that she was
not the girl’s mother, but on the other hand I was looking at a 31 year old woman who had literally tanned, implanted and hair-dyed her way to looking like a mash-up of Pamela Anderson and Richard Harris.
But just as I was deep in my analysis of the Benjamin Button of southern whores I was then approached by The Bitch In The Fedora. She offered me the following gem (while still wearing her fedora):
“Hey, I thought you were good. But you’re from New York right? See that’s probably it. People probably didn’t get you so that is why
no one was laughing.”
I said, “Oh, maybe, yeah ok, well thanks I am glad you liked it.” That took all of my energy. 90% of my trip was fun and a success (I ate IHOP, I worked with a great headliner, Rahn Ramey, and had three excellent sets), but as comedy can do, the last note was a sour, fedora-wearing one.
I went back to the hotel after that because I had to be awake at 400 AM for my shuttle to the New Orleans train station to take The Crescent – the 30 hour train from New Orleans to New York City. So after 2 ½ hours of great sleep I made my way to New Orleans for the longest continuous trip in my life. But unlike my other long train rides, this one I prepared accordingly. I reserved a roomette, which is basically a closet with two seats that convert to a small twin-width bed and a tiny toilet located in the space where a full size-width bed would end. It may actually have been possible to take a shit and still be lying down on a majority of the bed.
Just as I thought I would be the world’s most comfortably buried alive person fate intervened. The door to my roomette was missing a large pane of glass, which means that even with the curtain pulled over people would be able to hear me speaking to myself in different celebrity voices as well as the sound of my sh*t hitting a steel toilet. Naturally, this was unacceptable so I asked for a different roomette. None were available, but fortunately a room (no ette) was available. The rooms are literally double the size and include a separate bathroom as well. I felt like such a lucky baller that once all my stuff was in my room I immediately went to the peasants in coach and began offering women the other bed in my room (“that’s right I got a bed to spare motherfu*kers” was what I was yelling in the snack car) in exchange for favors of the flesh. It did not pan out, but I think they at least respected me even if they didn’t outright love me.
For some of you the idea of being in a small room on a train for 30 straight hours may sound like torture, but to a comedian living in a studio apartment it just sounds like another 1.25 days. So perhaps if comedy doesn’t work out (it’s getting there) I could have a future as a CIA operative in withstanding torture tactics.
So thank you very much to Rahn Ramey, the Baton Rouge Funny Bone, the first three crowds and small pockets of the fourth crowd, and the
people of Amtrak. And everyone else I spoke of well in the first two parts of this Baton Rouge Journal. God help the rest of you.