This weekend I featured at Magooby’s Joke House in Timonium, Maryland. I was opening for Dan Soder. who five years ago was a waiter at a restaurant near my apartment and was on my podcast (Episode #6 – Walking Dead episode). Since then he has had a Comedy Central special, a Netflix half hour, a radio show on Sirius XM called The Bonfire and a recurring role on the Showtime show Billions. So needless to say my podcast is a real launching pad for stardom for guests, but not so much the host. The trip included fun shows, another visit to a Catholic Church trying to be an evangelical rock concert, poor merchandise sales and a late night trip home on Greyhound. So here we go!
I have been to Magooby’s enough times to have memorized the path to the Red Roof Inn Plus – Amtrak to Baltimore Penn Station, the Light Rail from Baltimore Penn to Timonium Business Park (no one in 4 years has ever taken the ticket from me, but it is only $1.80 so I get it just in case) and then a one mile walk to the Red Roof Inn Plus, which is one mile from Magooby’s.
2 years when I stayed at the Red Roof Inn Plus I was on the first floor, which is basically a motel telling you they hope you get raped and murdered. A year ago I was on the second floor, but this year, in the ultimate sign of discount motel respect, I was on the top floor (the third). People don’t know this, but two flights of stairs is usually enough to discourage most motel rapists and murderers.
The room was nice enough, though I learned that the “plus” apparently stands for the white stain on my black desk chair. I have no idea what the white stain was, but it tasted salty (most of this section are jokes I opened my set with, but also true).
The crowds were solid for the 5 shows at Magoobys. Other than the two clips I have posted below, my favorite joke from the week was comparing Maggie Gyllenhaal to Kevin McHale with breasts – not sure I want to have sex with her, but I definitely want her on the low blocks if I need two points. I then explained to two different audiences who Kevin McHale is, what The Deuce is (Gyllenhaal’s great show on HBO) and who Waingro was (the character in Heat that I expected to run into at the Red Roof Inn Plus) because it is not a J-L Cauvin set unless various historical and pop culture references need to be explained. So here are two new clips (please give them a like on YouTube):
The Rock Church
Now on Saturday I had to check out of my Red Roof Inn Plus (to save money I opted out of a third night #ComedyMogul), which meant roaming Timonium, Maryland for 8 hours with my luggage like a Samsonite-sponsored vagabond. That meant 2 hours at Starbucks, 3 hours at Panera Bread and then a one mile walk to The Church of the Nativity, the closest Catholic Church to the club area, for 5pm Mass. By way of background please enjoy this bit from St Paul, Minnesota this past Summer about when I found myself at a very modern, hip Mass:
Here is the thing – when I go to Mass I expect the simple things: anti-gay, anti-abortion, organ music and/or Gregorian chants and preparation to fight to the death on the side of the righteous in the War on Christmas. What I don’t need is some Joel Osteen-meets-One Direction experience. As I approached the Church of the Nativity I noticed the entrance which felt more like a liberal arts college than a Catholic Church. Big driveway, a huge 3 story floor to ceiling glass wall showing a huge coffee bar and lounge. I then entered the Church part of the structure and when inside here are some of the things I saw:
- A band with 4 guitarists (lead, rhythm, acoustic and bass), a keyboard player, a drummer and 3 vocalists
- 2 large screens for showing the band, the song lyrics and the readers/speakers
- 3 different cameras and a switchboard (they were filming for the website and live streaming)
- A CNN-electoral map-esque 46 inch flat screen TV where the priest touched and swiped to highlight different parts of his homily and Bible verses
- Ushers with security headsets
This was insane to me. If you are Catholic, one of the things you enjoy or like about it is some of the old school-ness of it (and in all seriousness I am not talking about some of the antiquated values). But it is as if this and other Catholic Churches are saying “The Evangelicals are killing us! We need more bells and whistles. More pop music! More cell phone apps! More hypocrisy!” WELL I DON’T LIKE IT! The Catholic Church is not going to win more fans or loyalty by turning into a Mumford and Sons concert. But it will feel like an annoying experience to people who do want the ritual and tradition of Mass. And most of all I was disappointed in the folks in attendance. If you cannot depend on old, conservative white people to maintain old traditions – who can you depend on for that?! #MMGA
So after Mass it was time for the last two shows at Magoobys and then a Lyft (#NeverUber) to the Baltimore Greyhound station. My last three 11pm or later Greyhound trips I have had to sit next to someone because they were packed (Greyhound is like the Underground Railroad at night – immigrants, minorities and felons seeking to avoid the daylight), including my last trip from Albany where I sat next to a man so full of non-James Brown funk that my eyes teared up. Well, just like the Red Roof Inn finally show me 3rd floor respect on this trip, I was rewarded on Greyhound with a full 2 seats to myself.
When I got to Port Authority Bus Terminal at 4am (I called it The David Simon Bus Tour from the home of The Wire to the home of The Deuce – almost no one got that joke the two times I said it on shows) I hopped in a cab and went home.
This week see me at Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia Nov 2-November 5.
Be sure to check out Keep My Enemies Closer, Israeli Tortoise and Fireside Craps on iTunes.
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.
Last week (Wednesday thru Saturday) I was performing at one of my two favorite clubs in America: Helium in Philadelphia (the other being the DC Improv, where I will be performing Feb 26th-28th). The problem was I had to commute all week because I am working a day job and there is no hotel for features at Helium so it is more economically feasible for me to use Amtrak points to commute each day than to get a hotel. I referred to myself as “the Joe Biden of comedy” on stage 4 times – it killed once, got some applause twice and bombed once (Biden famously, or not so famously according to 75% of crowds in Philly, commuted on Amtrak every day back to Delaware from DC to be with his family). What followed was the most successful merch haul of my comedy career and the most exhausting week of comedy of my life. For those not lucky enough to be in attendance here is the recap:
Run out of work at 4:25 – get on the A train to Penn Station to catch a 5:10 Amtrak to Philly. The single scariest experience of my life on the NYC subway occurred (even scarier than when a 400 lb black woman tries to squeeze into a seat space made for an anorexic dwarf and more scary than the time on my 7th birthday when I got on the 1 train without my mother and had to be comforted by a nice Latin lady, which may explain my life long affinity for Latin women). The train was fairly crowded and then at West 4th Street a man with no shirt on, with the build of Tommy Hearns who may have been high on bath salts (not kidding). I have never been on a subway so quiet because this guy was yelling at the top of his lungs (thankfully to no one in particular) the following (just examples, not a full transcript):
- Don’t you fu*king look at me
- You think I am a fu*king ni*ger?
- If I had a knife I would fu*king slash you (especially scary because there has been a rash of slashings on the NYC subway in the last month)
- Does this train stop at 59th street? (Ok, this one is a lie)
When I say yelling I mean Samuel L Jackson “I hope they burn in hell” times 10 yelling. As I sat there I said to myself “don’t look at him and only get physical if he attacks you or a hot chick sitting near you.” He moved to another car at 14th street, but that was the longest 80 seconds of my entire life. And with that fun start to the week it was time for Philly comedy!
Nothing too interesting to say about the show other than the fact that I killed, sold CDs and avoided Shake Shack next door. Also it was my second time opening for Bob Marley (New England comedian, not a hologram of the dead guy with one good song – I am a huge fan of Could You Be Loved), who is a funny guy, really nice and should absolutely be cast as Bill Burr’s nice older brother on a sitcom.
I got home around 12:30 am and fell asleep quickly after setting my alarm for 6 am.
I woke up Thursday at 6 and took Cookie (my dog) out for her morning piss. I then made it to work at 8 am, allowing me to get my 8 billable hours in before going to Amtrak again.
There were no homicidal maniacs on the train on my way to Penn Station or Philly (unless I have some inner demons that have not yet surfaced). The show went great and I sold a lot of CDs. It was at this time that all the comedy pundits began to realize something special might be happening in Philadelphia.
My personal record for merch in a week is $410 – 6 shows in Philly in 2013 I sold that amount of albums ($10 per album or all 3 that I bring for $20). Well after good sales Wednesday and Thursday the experts began to wonder if this could be the week I break my own modern day record for CD sales by a middle act (these are unofficial stats). I just told myself to take it one show at a time and not to worry about the week. Went home same way and when I walked in Cookie did not even greet me, presumably because she already thinks she has a deadbeat dad and because she likes my girlfriend more than me and that is who she was getting quality time with in my absence.
When I got to the club on Friday, both shows were sold out and I made a killing after the first show. I also had a guy come up to me and tell me he liked my appearances on The Adam Carolla Show (now the key is to turn my media presence into people who intentionally come to see me perform, not just get pleasantly surprised). The record looked to be in my sights. But like any no-hitter in baseball – you cannot talk or think about it or you can jinx it. Well, as it turns out the second show started 30 minutes late which meant I would have not be able to sell merch because I had to catch the last train to NYC at 12:10 am. So I left the club and walked to 30th street station and found out that my train was 40 minutes delayed. So now I had missed my chance to sell and had to sit in majestic 30th Street Station with just a pack of peanut M & Ms and some docile homeless dudes until my train arrived.
Now with all attention firmly fixed on me as I entered the last day with a chance to pass $410 (at this point it was the comedy equivalent of DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak – and just so you know, t-shirts and other non-CD/DVD items are like the juiced ball era of merch sales. I am trying to be Hank Aaron, not Barry Bonds #Purist #Hero). I had some good and bad omens. On the good side there was a third show added on Saturday at midnight. Not that I expected to stay to sell after that, but it meant I would have to stay for the first two shows, both of which were sold out, since my only transportation option was a 2:20 am Greyhound. But a bad omen occurred also. My train to Philly was at 5, but my Fresh Direct order, which was supposed to arrive between 1 and 3, was severely delayed due to computer error and would not arrive until 5 at the earliest. So I had to cancel my food order, meaning that Sunday I might not be able to eat, unless I walked two blocks to a local supermarket. But like any great athlete or performer, I blocked out this stress and just focused on having great shows.
I killed with the first crowd and sold a ton of albums and had several repeat fans come up to me saying that they had seen me before and were happy to see me opening (once again, 2016 is the year of the intentional fan support, instead of the accidental). In fact, my total stood at $340 going into the second show. I went to Shake Shack next door to Helium to take my mind off the historic accomplishment awaiting me and order a burger. A woman in the kitchen came up to me and said “You really killed it the other night at Helium.” I said thank you and she then told the cashier to punch in a code that gave me $3 off of my burger. I then headed back to Helium with the swagger of Steph Curry playing a WNBA team knowing that it was not a matter of if, but when I would break the $410 barrier.
The second show went great and I pushed the total to $450. Confetti came down from the ceiling and I got a call from President Obama. I then had a good show on the third show despite being in a sleep deprived semi coma. I left the club and made a 1.2 mile walk to the Greyhound bus station, which, surprisingly was fairly clean and did not have the feeling of a Taliban or Crips meeting place like many bus stations around America. When I boarded my bus at 2:15 am I realized I was on a bus that President Trump might actually drone strike. It was a few black people, 377 Mexicans and 220 Asians. I heard almost no English spoken and realized that this Greyhound bus was basically the 2016 Underground Railroad or a Latin/Asian re-boot of Mad Max: Fury Road.
The bus arrived ten minutes early in NYC and I made my way home for a restful night of sleep, probably already awash in the Zika virus from that bus ride, but also swimming in cash like Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal. All in all a net gain.
So after a few weeks of dominating Call of Duty: Black Ops while stationed in my man-cave, AKA studio apartment, I headed back out onto the road Wednesday for a two week comedy trip. The first gig was a spot at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY, which is somewhere near the north pole.
Wednesday I drove up (well, rode shotgun) with comedian Joe Pontillo to perform at the Turning Stone Casino. It is my third time performing at the casino and I am glad to say that the gig keeps improving with each trip. The first time I went there was a crowd of 25 in a room that sat 400. Then the casino re-configured their night club into a comedy room that was much smaller and more conducive to comedy. The last show I did there probably had 50 audience members and Wednesday night we had about 80! At this rate I will be a world renowned comedian sometime after my 147th birthday!
But the show actually went really well. Fortunately Joe and I did not perish in what has become a traditional, Act-of-God weather phenomenon on the drive up to Verona. Last winter we drove up and encountered three separate snowstorms. However, none scared me as much as the thunderstorm we passed through on the way up Wednesday. I actually thought we were witnessing the end of the world. But I’m sure everyone upstate would attribute increasingly severe weather to it’s obvious cause: the onerous tax burdens on wealthy Americans and businesses.
After my set a young man bought me a drink at the bar and told me he thought my jokes were awesome. Then after the show he came up to me with his girlfriend and said, “Awesome stuff man – I didn’t buy you a drink like as in ‘I’ll suck your dick,’ but (gesturing to his girlfriend) she might suck your dick – hahaha.” I told him, “Yeah that was so weird and awkward until you clarified it. Now no one feels strange.”
But speaking of sucking dick I observed something even more bizarre towards the end of the show. Three women, who on average were a 9.3/10 (and not in that stupid way where most women assume they are already a 7 or an 8 when they are 4s and 5s – these chicks were Hollywood 9.3s). They were accompanied by a few men all of whom appeared to be 2-3 times their age. This brought up several thoughts/questions for me:
- Attractive women can be found anywhere where there is the possibility of money, except for candy stores selling lottery tickets.
- The Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY has prostitutes? And hot ones?
- Why are comedians not offered prostitutes in lieu of cash and/or hotel room?
- Is it possible these women are not whores? Or even if they are, has living in Verona, NY made them unaware that being a 9.3 (or a flat out 10 in the case of the woman wearing the white dress – if you are reading this blog) carries a much higher exchange rate in major cities? Old men in Verona can offer you what? Applebees’ gift cards and discounted hunting permits? In the city you are looking at a 1 bedroom apartment on Central Park West and a purse dog.
Well the gig ended – I got a good night’s sleep and then made my way to the Syracuse Greyhound Station for a 7 hour ride from Syracuse to Cleveland, Ohio while the haunting opening chimes of AC/DC’s Hells Bells played in my iPod.
The Bloody Toilet Seat
It should be no secret to the readers of this blog that like Republicans in Congress I am waging a war to cut benefits on the neediest citizen I know: me. That is why I seek to end up in the black on every trip I make. That means the cheaper the gig, the longer and cheaper the transportation. I have taken 18 hour Greyhound trips and this fall I will add a 20 hour Greyhound trip and a 30 hour Amtrak trip to my Joey Chestnut/Kobayashi of self-destruction through transportation. But Syracuse to Cleveland was only a 7 hour bus ride. I can do that in my sleep. But shortly into the trip I was yelling “This was supposed to be an exhibition!” like Apollo Creed’s trainer right before Apollo is killed by Drago.
One of the great things about America is its diversity, especially in cities like Washington, DC and New York City. It means people of different backgrounds, hot women of all varieties, etc. But these are the positives of diversity. Taking a Greyhound bus for any significant distance (more than 100 miles) demonstrates how awful diversity can be. Here is what one would learn from the diversity on my Greyhound yesterday:
Amish people travel in large packs and not one of them has a stick of deodorant. There is also no such thing as a handsome or attractive Amish person (sorry Kelly McGillis). And even if one were accidentally handsome or pretty, lack of sunlight and grooming products would nurture what nature tried to fight.
People of all races who appear to have felony records prefer Greyhound.
Black woman having a conversation asked the following questions: a) “Her son is dead? They was playing with guns?” b) “Them black vitamins was omega threes?” I enjoyed this because as a heavy set black woman she endorsed two negative stereotypes (poor grammar and gun violence) but also showed that she does care about her heart and joint health.
Only angry tall people read on Greyhound. Everyone else maintains hour long phone conversations or listens to their iPod so loud that I can actually understand lyrics from three seats away (oddly a dude that looked like he was an extra on Sons of Anarchy was listening to No Scrubs by TLC).
But sometimes you learn something on a Greyhound bus that you already knew, but the magnitude of it shocks you to the core. It should not come as a shock that bus bathrooms are gross. For me they pose an additional challenge. First, I have to duck in most (they seem to be about 6’5″ at best and I am 6’7″). Second, the bus drivers prefer the stop and start motion as if they are in bumper to bumper traffic, and third, I try not to hold on to anything in a bus bathroom. So under ideal circumstances a simple piss turns into a p90X level core strengthening and balance workout. But the bathroom on this Greyhound had a special surprise for me:
Blood on the toilet seat.
Let’s do some soul searching. I am not always the best bus and train bathroom person. 9 out of 10 times I will take a wad of toilet paper to lift up the seat, but sometimes the damage is so severe that some J-L urine may actually sterilize whatever the hell has gone on previous to my visit. But those are all within what the reasonable person would expect. But blood on a toilet seat? Personally I think it was the Amish, but who knows? One of my fellow passengers might have been fleeing a shoot out with law enforcement. But in any case it was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen. And then I felt the most disgusting thing I’d ever felt. As I was leaning and twisting to keep balance in the bathroom my back (which was only covered by a t shirt) made contact with a gooey, gel-like substance which quickly seeped through to my skin. The next three seconds seemed to last an eternity as I believed that the blood was just a diversion to get me to inadvertently slap some ejaculate on my upper back. Fortunately it was just some gel soap from the soap dispenser that someone had smeared on the mirror (hell soap anywhere is an improvement at this point). As odd as that sounds it is what I observed and it is what I will tell myself to go to sleep for the next 6 months until the trauma of that bathroom subsides.
Cleveland Improv & The Birth of Vanilla Coke
By 730 last night, after I had scrubbed my back with alcohol and sandpaper it was time to perform at the Cleveland Improv. What is normally a fairly diverse crowd (on average the crowds I’ve had at the club have been 60% black, 40% white + other) was almost 100% black. And female. And that can be a tough crowd for me. If I don’t say some things that bush buttons racially (while urban crowds are still determining whether to consider me one of them or too close to a white dude talking sh*t) I will generally push some buttons gender-wise. But the crowd was fantastic. The last time I was in a room of black people that happy I was at IHOP with my Dad. As I have always said there is no greater feeling than killing in a black room and no worse feeling than doing badly in a black room. And last night felt great.
Here are some of the highlights (because this weekend will probably provide me with five opportunities to experience the full spectrum of urban comedy):
I finally came up with my stage name if I decide to go the BET circuit. Vanilla Coke (alluding to my half-black, Algerian-at-best appearance). At least half a dozen women shouted it at me as they left the club. I will gladly change that to my officially name if Coca Cola wants to pay me $250,000 annually for the next 30 years.
When I said my Mom was white a woman shouted, “You look good anyway!” Never has a compliment felt so weird.
When I discussed how my Dad was a tough disciplinarian when I was a kid there was no response. I then asked, “Anybody know their Dad here?” Huge laugh. When in doubt, in a room of 200+ black women, it is safe to rip irresponsible black men, as long as they already like you.
It is a weird phenomenon, but when you kill with mostly white crowds you feel like they want to buy you a beer or bang their girlfriend in Verona, NY. But when you kill with a black crowd it feels like they want you to join their family. Hopefully the good times keep rolling.
So that has been the trip so far, but with gigs spread over the next 10 days in Cleveland I am sure there will be more to discuss, but hopefully no more bloody toilet seats.
Previously on J-L Cauvin’s 24:
- I wrote a joke, archived on my blog on March 12, 2009, which I also posted to Twitter and Facebook several weeks before the March 12th blog. The joke went: “I like Michelle Obama, but she’s pretty big. I am not saying she’s too big, but Tyler Perry is rumored to be playing her in the biopic.” Joke was received tepidly by liberal New york audiences, especially in the afterglow of President Obama’s inauguration. Joke was praised with “LOL!!!!!!!” from a New Jersey based comic.
- I got booked to emcee for two weeks at the Cleveland Improv. In an effort to save money I booked my trip to Cleveland on Greyhound – a 12 hour bus trip departing at 5:00 am on January 28th.
The following took place between 9:00 pm January 27th and 9:00 pm January 28th (wooshy sound effects):
On my way home from a show on Wednesday I begin checking Facebook on my blackberry because I left a book at home and was bored on the M15 bus. I read an update from one comedian, an in your face, Jim Norton-without-the-humor New Jersey comic, who made the above “LOL!!!” comment on my Michelle Obama joke almost a year ago. His comment was roughly, “American Idol is over, now get ready for Obama and his wife Tyler Perry in ‘Madea Goes to the White House.'”
I commented back, “I take comedic credit, but not political credit for this joke.” He replied, “I did not know you used this. I guess great minds think alike.” I then became very angry. I emailed a friend of mine who then told me that he has recently worked with this comedian and that he told this joke on stage and that it seemed above his paygrade (my words). The reason I am choosing not to name this comedian is because there are three possibilities as to why he has been using the joke:
- He outright stole it the day he saw me post it.
- He actually thought of it on his own (unlikely because wouldn’t he have said that when he posted his “LOL!!!!”
- He forgot where he heard it and months later thought that he thought of it. This has happened to many honest comedians and because of this, I believe, remote possibility I do not want to tarnish his reputation beyond this blog. However, if I ever hear of this individual using someone else’s joke the I will name names. I hate joke stealing and I look at joke thieves the way porn stars look at sonograms: “This thing has to die.” (he may steal this joke because it’s in his wheel house – this is practically entrapment, but for his propensity for it – see above paragraphs)
So I had trouble sleeping that night because I was so angry, but I was able to follow the Utah Jazz win against Portland on my blackberry.
I wake up, drink a Muscle Milk (nutrients and meatheadedness), pack my third and final bag for Cleveland (I am not a prop comic, but I pack like I am) and head for Port Authority, which is the saddest place on Earth at 5 am. Every sign in Port Authority indicating the Greyhound buses to Buffalo (where I would connect to the Cleveland bus) say “Gate 24.” So like any normal person I went to Gate 24 and waited. And waited. And waited. I waited there with only one other person, which did not raise any red flags because IT’S 5 AM TO BUFFALO! Who else would be going besides a self-doubting comedian looking to save money and a chubby black man (the other guy).
At 541 am we went upstairs to find the only Greyhound clerk working and were told (as i we were stupid), “No that bus leaves at Gate 61 – it is gone.” Of course it’s gone – I should have ignored all the signs and simply guessed Gate 61! I asked, since it was only a few minutes since the bus left, if she could call it back (after all what’s 5 minutes lost on a 12 hour bus ride) and her response was, “SIR, that bus has left.” I then contemplated going Book of Eli on this woman, but opted instead to murder my blackberry. I only cracked the face of it, but it still works and has told all the other blackberries that it fell down the stairs at home.
I book a train to BWI and a Southwest flight from BWI to Cleveland. It only cost me a shade over $300, so there went my savings and half of my paycheck. However, I plan on dusting off my diploma from law school and crafting a letter to Greyhound that will demand AT LEAST $300 dollars, probably in Greyhound vouchers, which will ensure more Greyhound trips and battered blackberry syndrome. What’s the colloquial definition of insanity again.
At the Cleveland Improv I am working on terrible sleep, but a calmer frame of mind as I bring up the headliner. Unfortunately the Improv had given me a large amount of announcements and the headliner then gave me several more giveaway/contest announcements at the last minute. And like Married With Children’s Kelly Bundy I apparently could only keep 10 facts in my head, so once a new one went it, one went out. This time the fact that went out was not an insignificant one: the headliner’s name.
His name is Alex Reymundo, or Redddddddddddymundo if you roll the r’s. After delivering the announcements pretty flawlessly I then paused with what Lee, the booker called, “the greatest deer-in- the-headlights-look I’ve ever seen,” and after about 2.5 seconds said “ANDY RONALDO!” Lee has already instructed most of the staff at the Improv to refer to Alex and Andy Ronaldo for the rest of the week. Alex was very gracious about it, but let’s just say a repeat of this would be a disaster (like the last 5 seasons of 24).
If Fox were to market this day they would say, “This is going to be the longest day of J- Cauvin’s life.”
I am off to Cleveland tomorrow for the next 10 days and do not know if I will have WiFi so I may have to just write a giant Cleveland Recap when I return. Here are all the pertinent things you need to know in my absence:
I am taking an 11 hour, 55 minute Greyhound trip out to Cleveland. This should be a piece of cake after my 17 hour, 35 minute trip from Detroit to NYC via Greyhound a few weeks ago. Total cost – $50.
I have been warned by the manager of the Cleveland, one of the most up front and funny managers I have encountered (I think Lou Brown from Major League would play him in a movie) to hit these folks hard and often (not as much story telling) because the Cleveland crowds are… from Cleveland (my words).
During my two day lay off in between gigs I will be attending a Cleveland Cavaliers game, spending a majority of my travel savings on a ticket (but I did pass on a courtside seat).
The apartment I am staying at is 1.5 miles from a gym and a movie theater. Over/under on total trips to these two establishments is 9.
I return on a 13 hour Amtrak – cost $67. Being surrounded by comatose and obese people avoiding the TSA – priceless.
And one piece of advice to comics in NYC pondering an open call for any comedy contests, go to the one at Comix on January 29th. It is run by Josh Filipowski and Bryan Kennedy and is run in an egalitarian fashion. It may suffer from the failings inherent in any contest, but at least they have demonstrated the integrity to not use comedians as a visual prop to falsely exalt the status of already pre-selected (but unannounced) comics. But if you want that, there will be other competition “open calls” soon.
This past weekend I was in Detroit performing at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle. It was a fantastic trip. Or as fantastic a trip as is possible when spending 15 hours on Amtrak to get there and almost 18 hours on Greyhound to get back to NYC. Unfortunately the trip ended with some terrible news for my family from Haiti.
The highlight of the trip going to Detroit was certainly the Amtrak bus. To get from Toldeo, Ohio to Detroit via Amtrak requires usage of Amtrak’s bus service. The bus was comfortable, on par with a Greyhound bus, but due to my bladder unable to hold itself for one more hour before arriving in Detroit I had to use the bus bathroom.
Someone of my size in transportation bathrooms (airplanes, Amtrak, buses) has to find a position where I can both lean against a wall to create stability against bumps and/or turbulence, but also in a position that facilitates urination. It is a delicate balance that I have become expert at. However, the Amtrak bus bathroom presented a previously unseen problem: anonymous urine.
As anyone who has ever used a bathroom on transportation before – the toilets are not free standing the way they are in regular bathrooms. The are sort of portals in the middle of a steel shelf. Well, as the bus driver drove stopped and started a mysterious liquid began pouring down from the steel shelf: anonymous urine. Apparently the previous user of the bathroom had not perfect the lean and piss and had managed to get what felt, given the fear of getting it on my shoes and jeans, like a quart of their urine on the shelf. All of a sudden my evacuation began to feel like an Indiana Jones movie where I had to finish my work and duck out of the bathroom before the urine poisoned me. In this metaphor my sneaker would be playing the role of Indiana Jones’ hat.
I escaped the bathroom sans Golden Shower and made it to the Hampton Inn for a lovely 8:30-1145 AM sleep. By the way Hampton Inn in Madison Heights, MI – can’t get a much better deal for $50/night. Close to several restaurants, a movie theater and free Belgian waffles each morning.
I spent each late morning in Detroit at the movies, where matinees where $4.75 a piece – which is like crack to me (with Manhattan movies at their much more expensive prices being cocaine). I went to see It’s Complicated and Youth In Revolt, the latter of which was apparently a private showing for just me – this is the sort of VIP treatment you get when you are a feature act at a Detroit comedy club I guess.
The shows were the best though. Out of five shows I had 4.99 good ones. The only blemish being the very last show, which featured two hecklers – one blond skank in front, whose boyfriend had neither the authority, nor the balls to tell her to shut up, and some frat dude in the back who made a gay joke, which I likened to something you would hear a high school JV football player say. The crowd backed me against both.
And just so you know that math of a glorious feature act:
- pay – $300
- Hotel – $200
- transportation – $200 (including taxis – plane would have made this $400)
- assorted necessary food items (approx $150)
So as you can see my comedy career is in need of a Black Friday. It should be noted that the reason for this was to be seen for headlining in 2011. In that case your room is paid for, you get transportation to and from airport/train station/greyhound prison and you are more likely to sell merchandise as the top dog. Not to mention a higher pay from the club. So I hoped to make up the difference by selling my CDs, but then the Earthquake hit in Haiti and I decided the least I could do was give the money I make off of CDs to the Red Cross.
And thanks to the generosity of the people of Detroit, a city that is not exactly on easy street itself, I sold all my CDs before the last show of the week (previous high as a feature had been 15 in 6 shows, this time I sold 20 in 4 shows). Probably half of those were because they wanted my CD and half were being charitable. Either way I hope they enjoy them and am very thankful for their help.
The ride home on Greyhound (Detroit-Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Philadelphia-NYC) was interesting for several reasons:
- It was 17 hours and 20 minutes on Greyhound buses. And I was sitting next to a crazy woman for half of it.
- Seriously 1030 am departure, 4 am arrival. Really gross.
- Greyhound Stations have somehow managed to be near absolutely nothing edible in every city besides New York. In Cleveland and Pittsburgh, not exactly tiny villages, the only eating options within sight were vending machines and snack bars that specialized in stale food and sold items like cereal, but not milk. My Dad, a conspiracy theorist bordering on Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory, thinks that the aviation industry has enough power to make bus and train travel inconvenient to encourage air travel. Given my experiences with Amtrak and Greyhound it seems quite plausible.
- Greyhound Stations are how Cormac McCarthy should have envisioned a post apocalyptic future. They are near nothing of significance, the most recent music playing was Hootie and The Blowfish, indicating that the blast occurred sometime in 1995 and the roving group of creatures known as Greyhound travellers have the diversity and desperation of people you’d expect to have survived an apocalyptic event – Asians and Mexicans who have come from afar, black people, white people, and one giant mix of them who shall lead them.
- Arriving at Port Authority at 4 am on Sunday I was so delirious that I could have almost been convinced to become a runaway teenage prostitute. I can only imagine the actual runaways that arrive at Port Authority on these buses.
Unfortunately, the trip ended on a sad note. When I turned on my phone late into the trip I had a message from my brother that my Uncle Henri had died in Haiti, as a result of the Earthquake. Right now my Aunt Denise and My Uncle Maurice are safe. My Aunt Adeline is still unaccounted for.
A few days ago we received word that Uncle Maurice, who is in his early 90s – my Dad’s oldest brother had been in his house when it collapsed. Uncle Maurice is a relatively feeble man, obvious given his age, but we had not received word whether Uncle Henri, my Dad’s younger brother and closest in age of all his syblings was in the house as well. As it turns out Uncle Maurice survived the Earthquake, but Uncle Henri did not. A picture was taken of him to confirm this before he was brought to a “morgue,” which may or may not amount to a mass grave. We don’t actually know.
My Dad is rather stoic when it comes to death, but there is no doubt that this has been tough for him, both in personal loss and in seeing his native country basically blown up by a natural disaster. My Uncle Henri and Aunt Adeline were/are my Godparents and were by far the most frequent visitors to my house form my Dad’s side of the family. When they were children my father shared a bed with Uncle Henri, and if this did not speak to their closeness enough, my older brother is named Henri.
From my perspective my Uncle Henri was also the “coolest” of my Haitian relatives. It seems that the younger my Haitian relatives got the easier they were/are to relate to. For example my late Uncle Jean had the countenance of a dictator with an unpleasant thought. This may have been just reserved for me because he had been the tallest member of the family at 6’4″ before I arrived. Further down the line was my father who had a sense of humor, but one that seemed to stop at Red Skelton and The Smothers Brothers. Then my Uncle Henri, the youngest of the Cauvin men of my father’s generation was the one who would come over and talk NBA hoops and was definitely the easiest laugh. My family’s loss is just one of thousands of sad stories, and at 76 my Uncle Henri certainly was not someone “taken too soon,” at least statistically. However, it is tragic nonetheless.
My brother is going to Haiti with my cousin Gregory today. They will try to persuade/assist my surviving relatives to go to the U.S. and hopefully find my other Aunt. Good luck and safety to both of them.
With the Detroit Auto Show in town I did not want to give the impression of being a corporate fat cat comedian, so I took Amtrak to Detroit, which only costs $78. The catch is that it takes a 14 hour train ride (looping around New York State instead of a direct line – who knew going through Rochester and Buffalo was the fastest way to Ohio and Michigan?) to Toldeo, Ohio and then a one hour Amtrak bus (yes, Amtrak has buses) to Detroit.
For those of you who have never taken the train outside of the popular Northeast Corridor (Boston-DC), it is a real treat. It is basically people too obese to travel by plane comfortably, people afraid of being near TSA agents and 6’7″ comics attempting to be frugal. The winner from my trip yesterday-today (3:45 pm-730 am in total) was a woman proudly sporting an Ohio State t-shirt who must have threatened to beat her daughter at least a dozen times. My favorite threat was after leaving the snack car, she said, word for word, “Now eat your snack or I will beat you.” Now I am all for the occasional beating of a kid as discipline, but this woman was threatening so much, without delivering that I almost yelled, “just fu-king hit her already!” Of course I had some sad thoughts about this girl if her Mom really does just beat her up in private all the time. But then I thought, assuming her father is not in the picture, she will probably make some young man and/or fraternity and/or strip club clientel happy one day. It’s all connected in the great circle of life.
After getting a quality 45 minutes of sleep around 3 AM I was woken up by horrific snoring from behind me. With most of the train car sleeping I considered using one of those cheap Amtrak pillows to smother the person to death, but I opted against it.
When I finally arrived in Detroit I had to take a cab from the hotel. The cab driver had on what appeared to be a relatively mainstream urban station (black people) and they were talking about whether the earthquake in Haiti was a sign that the End of Days was here (presumably they did not realize that the terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger film was released 10 years ago). If that was not enough for me to question the radio’s mainstream status, the female deejay was listing numerous natural disasters, including “tusanamis” – rhymes with two sodomies (I believe she meant tsunamis, but she should have axed her producers during a commercial break if she was unsure of the pronunciation). Of course my thoughts immediately went to, “So this ignorant bit*h gets a radio show and I am off to a Hampton Inn to inevitably lose money on another comedy gig?”
It should be noted that my return trip to NYC is a 17 hour Greyhound bus ride. I am currently getting CDC guidelines for what inoculations I need before taking that trip.
Of course my travel discomfort is but a mild diversion from the the horror occuring in Haiti. Right now, my father has not been able to get word yet on family members, including my Aunt and Uncle, but hopefully things turn out for the best. My Dad who is usually rather detached and uncomfortable with death seemed shaken (at least for him) because it looks as if his homeland has been destroyed – he is from Port-Au-Prince. It feels like a big waste of strength and time to be in Detroit writing a blog, rather than doing something concrete to help (given my size and name I could be of use in Haiti). So, in addition to texting some donations I will give all the money I make from CD/DVD sales this weekend at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle to the Red Cross for Haitian disaster relief (which to my family, before the Earthquake, hd meant me getting money from my Mom to subsidize a failing comedy career). I brought 20 CDs/DVDs which I will sell for $10 each(iTunes/on-line sales for the rest of the month will be donated as well). Now you are probably thinking, “J-L, what good will $10 do for the relief effort in Haiti?” Well, hopefully every bit helps.
I am getting paid $300 for the gigs and my hotel and transportation for the trip equals $328 so the CDs were going to be where I made my food money/profit (mostly food money – I eat a lot). So if you are in Detroit or know someone who is,encourage them to come to the show or to buy a CD – I will count ALL money towards on-line purchases/iTunes returns for the rest of the month to my Red Cross donation). Or if you want to get something for your donation you can buy my CDs, even if you are not in Detroit. And if you hate me or my comedy, but still want to help, just donate.
Important statistics from this week:
- 1 show at the Cleveland Improv- 15 minute set
- 24 hours on Amtrak to and from Cleveland, Ohio within a 51 hour span
- 1 cold/flu obtained
- 700 page book on basketball read
On Tuesday I set off on Amtrak for Cleveland, Ohio to do a set at the Cleveland Improv. It was a 3:45 train, which was scheduled to arrive in Cleveland in a manageable 11 hours, 42 minutes. I really like the train. Anything under 12 hours I consider enjoyable. It has an old school charm, in a way, but instead of travelling the rails with people who look and dress like Don and Betty Draper, it now really just consists of people who cannot fit in airplane seats (the morbidly obese and in my case, the semi-freakishly tall) and those that want to avoid TSA for profiling and legal status related issues.
On the train ride to Cleveland I managed to write the next brilliant, but under-viewed and underappreciated JLCauvin.com sketch and read 300 pages in Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball. About half way through the trip I felt the symptoms of a cold coming on, which I blame half on my Atlantic City drinking binge/sleep deprivation last weekend that may have left me susceptible to illness, and the health industry’s biggest customers that I was entombed with on Amtrak.
I arrived at the Doubletree in downtown Cleveland at 4:10 am. I fear that one day my nomadic travel schedule and odd hours, along with my menacing frame, will lead me to be the chief suspect in some disappearance/serial killer case. “The last I saw Mary Jo she was coming back from the bar around 3 am. To think of it I did see a rather large, rather unhappy looking man around 4 am that same night.” NY Post headline the next day: Comic Kills!
The next day I hung out most of the day at The Cleveland Improv (extremely nice club) and at the Rock Bottom restaurant above (I am sensing a message from above since I keep ending up in that restaurant chain in different cities).
The show that night was an open mic night where local comics are given 4 minutes each and a few visiting comics are given longer sets to audition for emcee and feature work. 4 minutes may not seem like a long time, but the good news is the club does not make it a bringer for the young comics, so unlike other places, dreams are not manipulated and raped by club owners. Not to mention that the booker of the Cleveland Improv has without question the best track record in returning phone calls and e-mails of any club with which I have dealt. But it’s like Sinatra said about NY, “If you can, duh duh, make it there, then you are probably with the right booking agency or sucking the right di-k.”
For my set I got to follow an older comedian with Cancer who is undergoing chemo. In one of my best off the cuff comments of my career so far the first thing I said on stage (with a well timed sniffle) was: “Well, I though I might get some slack from you guys because I have a pretty bad cold, but I guess that excuse is fu-ked now.”
I went through my set doing quite well until about the 11 minute mark. Then 2 of my last 3 bits (including the Mariano Rivera of my set – Obama impression) fell flat. There were three forces at work that I believed caused this: the checks were getting dropped on tables, my voice was dying on me and as the booker told me, Midwest crowds are slower, belly laughers (this last one may be the greatest euphemism of all time). Overall it went well and I think it was worth the trip. At least the trip going.
The trip coming back (a 5:20 am Amtrak the next morning, arriving at 6:25 pm in NYC) was like being Joel McHale’s character on Community. I don’t like to pick on special needs folk, but about three seats back from me was a man by himself who literally spoke for about 4 hours with very little break to an elderly couple who were sort of being polite. The main problem was that, as if some sort of stereotype from a Carlos Mencia bit, he just kept shouting out things like, “I like the train more than flying,” followed quickly by non sequiturs that expressed interest or joy in something.
The stars of the trip were not that guy, but the crazy (literally) guy who kept walking from the cafe car and back talking to himself and the woman who sat in front of me and kept having incredibly loud cell phone conversations. Here was my tally of phrases she used and how many times she used them on the train:
- “You know what I’m sayin” – 1,187
- “He think he can play me but I’m playin’ him” – 66
- “Sorry, but she caught me on the phone and I was like ‘I need to go'” – only 1 time, but this is funny how she was blaming her her other friend for keeping her on the phone, even though it appeared that her friend said almost nothing.
So I can tell you when I need to go back to Cleveland for more extensive work I am definitely going to upgrade and take Greyhound.