comedy road stories
This weekend was a unique one for road work. In early July I featured at the Albany Funny Bone and the emcee was a local named Frank Gentile. We had a nice week and went our separate ways, but then I got a message from him on Facebook a month later asking if I wanted to do a one night gig in the Albany area. I was going to say yes because travel to Albany is cheap from NYC, but before I could say yes, Frank informed me that the gig also paid money and I almost had to reconsider taking the gig since losing money on as many shows as possible has become integral to my brand as a comedian (“The King of All Unpaid Media” (TM)). I decided to take the gig and then learned it was a private party (Frank actually told me that initially, but I was so distracted by the thought of making money on a show that I didn’t read all the details.
When I arrived in Albany off of a packed Amtrak train I was greeted by Frank and we made our way to Clifton Park, NY. We stopped at Wendy’s where I ate a spicy chicken sandwich meal (just like athletes it is important for comedians to give their body the right fuel to generate the proper amount of self-loathing energy before performing). When we got to the venue I was greeted by what I would refer to as “Wayne Manor” the rest of the evening – a huge home with a Ferrari (or Corvette or some other car that I will never be allowed to touch, let alone own in my life) in the garage, a tent for the party and a deluxe his and hers porta-potty that put most Manhattan studio apartments to shame. And I would be remiss if I left out the fact that for a party with about 40 guests in the middle of nowhere (NYC bias), the women looked great – proving my theory that money to women is like heat to bugs. In the middle of upstate NY in a town I have never heard of there were still several attractive women (and there with husbands and boyfriends – so very legit – not imported/rented talent like the Platinum porta potty), which shows wherever there is money – Beverly Hills, Clifton Park, Syria – there will be attractive women. Much like in the middle of winter if there is one sunny 50 degree day all of a sudden bugs show up with no warning for that day, hot chicks and money are the same – they just show up, even in places where you might only expect morbidly obese people on scooters wheeling around the local Wal-Mart. This is not even suggesting gold digging – it is more like how a plant will lean towards sunlight – it just sort of happens sometimes. To prove my point, when I mentioned that I was taking Greyhound back to NYC during my set, three of the women in attendance died. This was not intentional – it was just their natural response to being so close to sad economic situations.
The evening was a catered, DJ event – as I joked, the guy who had the party and owned Wayne Manor basically throws small weddings as his regular parties. In fact, since I only have audio of my performance – here are some of my favorite off the cuff remarks from my set:
- I will keep my set short as I know you probably have to go fight crime in downtown Albany soon
- I assume everyone has their masks for the Eyes Wide Shut sex party inside after my set? Kids, I suggest you leave before then.
- (During Southwest Airlines bit the host clapped) Don’t give me a pity clap sir! We both know you do not fly Southwest. You probably have a tunnel built in the airport for yourself to avoid the riff raff that flies Southwest
- (while his wife stepped away) I bet your wife tries to get mouthy now that she feels comfortable in her big house – like her opinions matter (I then point to the house) Do you just look at her and say THAT’S YOUR OPINION?!
- Your Summer party is a wedding level event to regular people. P Diddy should be taking notes.
The rest was basically just my routine, but what a fun gig! The audience was great and I crushed the desert trays before and after my set. The host is basically an auto body shop mogul – a self made business success. He told me he grew up in a trailer and has been working his ass off in the industry for 22 years (the last seven in his own business) and he told me that he thought I would eventually break through in my industry. It made me sad to inform him that seven years ago I was a six figure attorney so if anything I will be in a trailer by the end of my career, but I still appreciated his kind words and the great party he put on. But like any gig of mine it had to end on a sour note. Enter Greyhound.
Frank gave me a ride to the Greyhound station, which by Greyhound standards was a Ritz Carlton: various vending machines with snacks people might actually want, a separate cafe and only one homeless man semi-pants-less outside the door. I was scheduled to board the 11pm bus which was scheduled to arrive at 1:45 at Port Authority – this is what you get when you travel for $17. To be fair Greyhound has upgraded their seats to leather so now you no longer need a black light to see the body fluid stains. The bus was 30 minutes late, but I did get a seat to myself. However, all lights on the bus were off the whole time so I could not read (bus driver asked “Does anyone want to read?” and to no one’s surprise no one said yes so I didn’t want to be the douche with a reading light on so I just listened to my iPod and rubbed my sore knees (from the cramped seating not any Eyes Wide Shut activities at Wayne Manor).
For all of you that were unable to experience the genius that was this show (or were there and want more), I suggest you go to iTunes and get my new stand up album Israeli Tortoise which went #1 this month on iTunes (also available on Amazon and Google)
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!
Dispatch from BWI. Today I left NYC on a 3:00 am Amtrak to catch a 915 am flight from BWI to Cleveland (travel for free will make me do annoying things to myself, but I have Amtrak points to cover the train trip and I had enough points on Southwest to get to Cleveland for free round trip from BWI, but not from NYC. But it is not all bad news. Thanks to some good luck I will be staying in a nice hotel instead of the comedian condo. Perhaps this is just luck, or perhaps my no-holds barred, bridge burning, career destroying blog tactics have gained me a measure of fear among bookers and managers (to paraphrase Walter White – I AM THE ONE WHO BLOGS)! But probably just luck.
Either way, I am too tired to write much, but I have already experienced something funny, or at least memorable. Because the diner was closed (July 31st-August 1st – great timing) I had to eat breakfast at McDonald’s when I arrived through security. There is no level of satire that could parody the experience of a 645 am trip to the BWI McDonalds. I feel like the service style was one of such hostile apathy that it would make the most hardened fast food employees stop and take notice. I know it is McDonald’s and the pay sucks, but to combine apathy with hostility takes some effort. Saying “can I help whose next would you like to try the egg white surprise” in the form of one word, delivered in monotone and just repeating it with increasing volume so that some intimidated Midwestern couple in their 50s hop to attention takes a real dedication, as do the dozens of tattoos adorning the arms of the women of BWI McDonalds. The best is when the food is ready they drop it off to a spot 3 feet from you and no matter how many people reach to be handed the food it was consistently placed just outside of the reach of the customer, yours truly included. It felt like the whole staff were women who were deemed “too tough and nasty” to play Snoop on The Wire. Oh well, time to get on the flight to Cleveland.
Review of 2 Guns tomorrow. Shows all weekend starting tonight at the Cleveland Improv.
Week 2 of my San Antonio journey officially began yesterday as I moved from the outskirts of San Antonio into the heart of downtown to work at Rivercenter Comedy Club. A quick breakdown of the two clubs – The LOL Club gets you free admission to the best movie theater in America (Alamo Drafthouse) and quick access to a Cheesecake Factory and a Chick Fil-A. On the downside you are sort of isolated and the only gym you can workout at is Planet Fitness – a gym that bans jump rope and heavy weights, but does have tootsie rolls and pizza parties. Now I am at the Rivercenter Comedy Club. Pluses – near the Alamo, which could be defeated by an athletic high school basketball team (if the tall Dutch were attacking instead of miniature Mexicans it would have been taken faster – the thing is small and short), near a Fogo De Chao (a Brazilian steakhouse that serves unlimited filet mignon) and a free week pass to the Gold’s Gym. There is a movie theater, but it is not free and not as good, though it is a solid AMC. So at this point it is hard to draw an overall winner. Each club has its strengths and weaknesses. The tie breaker is simple:
LOL Club – comedians get a hotel. At Rivercenter – comics get the condo.
Whenever a comedian gets booked on the road there are three possibilities: one is the club provides a hotel, the next is they provide a condo – an apartment the club owns or rents and have cleaned once a week for the incoming comedians (do yourself a favor and DO NOT bring a black light – better to live in ignorance) and the last is that the club provides nothing. Shockingly the lack of any lodging is sometimes preferable to the condo.
The first time I performed at Rivercenter was in Fall 2011 and I did not see one bug the whole week. So despite other comedians ripping on the condo I had no problem coming back to it. And during the day I saw nothing.
I did the show that night and had a great set – excellent crowd. Had fun chatting with the emcee George and the headliner Cory, who was my condo-mate (the headliner gets the room with the 14 inch tube television – BALLER). However, as I walked back with Cory to the condo after the show he began telling me haunting stories about his last time at the club (which was Fall 2012 – so more recent and relevant) and the high quantity of roaches he saw throughout the apartment (to be fair there are a lot of combat traps and 2 bottles of Raid in the condo). And like Beetlejuice or Candyman it was as if Cory summoned the evil spirits of roaches and waterbugs by saying their name because when I got back to the condo I saw a large roach climbing the side of my dresser. I promptly smashed it (#hero), but was now convinced/paranoid that the apartment was teeming with them. I put all my stuff into my suitcase and sprayed every inch of the room with Raid.
We then went out where I decided a few beers might put my already tired ass into a coma so I could pass out without thinking about my new roommates. We ended up going to this excellent place Mad Dog’s British pub, which featured outstanding karaoke hosts (they looked like an older Amy Poehler and Mya Rudolph performing a sketch about two older women hosting karaoke). When Cory and I walked in we got great looks of “who ARE these guys” because Cory is short but very jacked and bears a little resemblance to Michael Vick, while I look like a back-up long snapper for an NFL team (hey we both made this fictional roster). One of the karaoke highlights was one guy wearing a Roger Staubach jersey who did a phenomenal version of Cherry by Franki Valli and the Four Seasons. The staff was hot, the crowd was fun and the hosts were great (singing, dancing and joking around – I guess women in their mid forties do have something to contribute after all!) and I started to relax. After a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours we left to go back to the condo.
We were talking in the kitchen area and I was starting to feel comfortable (all the lights on in the apartment) and then a roach just sauntered out towards me in the light of the kitchen. This roach was like Blade – it was of the night, but could also walk in the light. I then noticed one on the wall and Cory informed me that a stain on the floor was his handiwork earlier in the day (dead roach stain, not a Cory stain). I promptly stepped on the one approaching me and declared “I’m out of here.” I felt like those brave souls at the Alamo that I was now so close to – outnumbered by aggressive, tiny, brown creatures. I then booked a room at a nearby Doubletree for a surprisingly low rate (this blog is sponsored by hotels.com). When I got to the Doubletree at 3 am the man at the desk looked at me and said “No offense, but you look deathly tired. Here are a couple of cookies.” And then I fell asleep in my beautiful room at the Doubletree.
Remember the Condo!
Comedy can be cruel. For example, after last week’s ridiculously great set of shows at Helium in Philadelphia, I found out within a span of 2 hours this past Monday that a show at the Houston Improv on Feb 20th was cancelled and that the club I was supposed to perform near Baltimore on February 22-23rd had closed. The comedy lord giveth and he taketh away. But I still had a private gig in Houston on the 21st (tonight as I write this) which was the reason for going to Houston in the first place. And changing flights would have been more than 5x the cost of the hotel for one night (I stay in really classy joints) so I decided to check if the Houston Rockets were playing. There were and tickets were available. More on this in a minute.
I was flying to Houston by Southwest because flights are dirt cheap to Hobby, because it is a hub of Southwest (I think). I just had to get an 8 am flight to Midway, wait 3 hours and then catch my flight to Houston, arriving at 2:50 pm with plenty of time to spare before the Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder game at 7pm local.
I woke up at 430 am because I am now committed to making trips as cheap as possible, which means the 6 train to the M60 bus to LaGuardia. $2.25 for only 375 minutes of travel. The flight to Midway took off on time and arrived early. Then bad sh*t started happening.
I already had a 2 hour and 50 minute layover, but that was before my flight got delayed an additional 3 hours and 45 minutes. Even when I factored in Southwest’s “we are super cheap, so don’t depend on us that much” motto I did not think they would actually put me in jeopardy of missing the game. The lesson here is no matter how big a lead your team has, never doubt that Southwest Airlines can turn it into a deficit.
When I finally arrived in Houston greeted by fellow comedian Alex Barnett who informed me that Brian Jian, the third comedian who would be performing Thursday (tonight) had flown in to Houston’s other airport. So we arrived at the arena only 8 minutes after tip off, but in Texas, everything is bigger, especially the lines of people driving into parking lots because public transit does not exist here because public stuff is part of a socialist plot – AMUUURRRRRICA!
So the three of us arrived and we absolutely were representative of the Rockets organization. We had Brian, representing the Asian community, which was in full force to support Jeremy Lin, or as they call him in Houston, Yao .5. Then there was me at 6’7″ the average height of an NBA player. Then we had Alex, a short Jewish attorney to represent the agents and ownership ranks of the NBA. And lastly we had Alex’s friend Chuck, who was black. We could have been a promotional ad for the NBA.
As soon as we arrived we discovered that some people were in our seats. They asked if they could stay because they were part of an office party and they had nearly identical seats on the other side of the arena and were willing to pay us $20 each to exchange (naturally that deal was orchestrated by Alex). We did and the seats were almost as good; I still had an aisle seat to stretch my awkward legs.
At this point, after being up for 16 hours and travelling for 12 of them I was beat and don’t forget we were at the game because a show was cancelled. And then, in one of the greatest ironies in my 10 years of comedy, a man with a beard made it all worth it. James Harden, the immensely talented well-bearded star of the Houston Rockets put in one of the greatest performances I have seen live (for the record I have only been able to watch myself perform stand up on recorded video, for obvious reasons).
We were enjoying the game which featured Harden’s old team, the Oklahoma City Thunder and it was back and forth all game, but with the Thunder always in the lead. Here are some of the highlights up until Harden and Lin went legend:
- Harden hits a half court shot at the buzzer of halftime. We all missed it because we were arguing over something.
- But fortunately the INCREDIBLE HD scoreboard of the Toyota Center replayed it for us several times – seriously the scoreboard at that place is incredible and the producer of it is so good it looks like he is producing highlight reels and music videos live. Seriously, if you are in Hollywood I would snatch up the Toyota Center Jumbotron segment producer now. He (or she, but probably he) most likely has a cheap price tag.
- The giveaway people are really good at the Toyota center. We were in the cheap seats (which are $69, so not that cheap) but the t shirt giveaway people run up there and hand out free t-shirts since we are out of range of the 16 year old girl with the t-shirt gun. Also, there is “parachute time” when some guy in the scaffolding (I dubbed him “The Phantom of the Giveaways”) starts dropping down prizes in mini parachutes. Unfortunately our seats were behind, and practically above him so we did not get any.
- Speaking of giveaway teams – wouldn’t this be a great place for Al Qaeda to launch their next team? The stadium gives you t-shirt gun firepower, the opportunity to stand in the middle of the court and a chance to drop miniature parachute bombs all over the crowd. You get a motivated sleeper cell of energetic Al Qaeda teens (the jungle gym workout is great for auditioning as a halftime tumbling act as well) and next thing you know you have 9/11 x 6 at a sports arena. In other words I think we need to screen these arena employees more carefully.
- And last thing I noticed at the arena is that during the game they highlighted a “Suite of the Game.” This is where the arena takes the richest people in the stadium, who have luxury boxes, and puts them on the screen for the masses to cheer and appreciate their success. WE DID BUILD THAT!
So with all those highlights the game was coming to its conclusion the Thunder were leading by a dozen or so points with less than five minutes and Brian, who earlier in the game met up with Jeremy Lin’s agent for China-related dealings (they are friends, proving that the Chinese are the Jews of China) said words that must have reached Lin on some sort of cosmic, Asian, telepathic level. He said “The Rockets better make their move now. Time is running out.” It was like when Drago’s trainer yelled “SHOSHYA!” right before Drago murdered Apollo. And just like that James Harden and Jeremy Lin put on a display of brilliance that had me going “HOUSTON IMPROV WHO???!!!” Harden put on a dazzling display of shooting and testicular fortitude on his way to a career high of 46 points and Lin dropped in two three pointers in the last few minutes, ending the game with 29. Rockets win by three. And comedy disappointment was unexpectedly handed its second straight week of defeat. Nice win rockets.
And now tonight it is time to a show for the Houston Intellectual Property Bar Association. Dammit – maybe I should wait til tomorrow to gloat over the comedy gods.