Helium Comedy Club
This weekend I was at my favorite club in the country (tied for 1st with the DC Improv) – Helium in Philadelphia. As I told the crowds this weekend, my affection for Philadelphia comedy crowds stems from their combination of East Coast intelligence and piece of shit character. They are the perfect audiences because they understand the jokes and also do not (generally) care how dark or cruel the humor, as long as it is good. And it doesn’t hurt that my album sales are always strongest at Helium (average $300 a week in album sales). But if I have learned one thing in my 14 years as a comedian it is that as soon as J-L Cauvin expects something to go well for himself in comedy, it cannot and will not. So on Thursday I loaded up my bag with a ton of my albums and hopped on Amtrak down to the city of lawyerly AIDS.
On Thursday I took the poor people Amtrak down to Philadelphia, but was greeted by new leather seats on the train (#MAGA – Make Amtrak Great Again) so the ride felt more like an upper-middle class train experience. The one show of the night went well (I was opening for Kevin Brennan, who was actually the inspiration for REM’s Shiny Happy People, Thursday-Saturday) but the crowd was not that big and they were particularly stingy in their merchandise purchasing (I think I sold 1) and then I made my way back to 30th Street Station to go back to NYC. The club does not put up features so it was cheaper for me to travel home and come back Friday than to get a hotel Thursday night – the club is located downtown so weekend hotel rates are cheap, but during “business people” days, when titans of industry get rooms to bang hookers and associates, the rates are outside the range of #ComedyMoguls.
I got home at 2 am and settled in for a refreshing 5 hours of sleep.
When I arrived back in Philly Friday around 230pm I made my 1.2 mile walk to the Hampton Inn-Convention Center from the train station. I got my hotel on hotwire.com, which is the Russian Roulette of hotel bookings and had forgotten that I was in the deluxe “2 full size beds” room. Because when you are a #ComedyMogul you don’t sleep in the same bed twice.*
*Sarcasm – the 2 full size bed choice is always the cheapest and most annoying option
Before the Friday shows I made my way to The Cheesecake Factory for a nutritious dinner of salmon and broccoli and a basket of black bread (why does Cheesecake even offer the crusty white baguette when the black bread is basically dunking on the white bread like Shaq on Chris Dudley?). I skipped the cheesecake because I knew this would not be my last trip over the weekend. #RestraintMogul
The shows were really good Friday, but sales remained awful. And then I had to have an annoying interaction with some annoying older South Jersey type woman. Here is the conversation that happened:
Kevin Brennan: Hey J-L do you have the square app? (yes) She wants a t-shirt so you give me the money and then ring her up on your app (no problem)
*This actually meant that my sales of the first show would be -55 cents #ComedyMogul
Woman hands me her card and I swipe it.
J-L: (holds phone) OK – please sign here
J-L (still in friendly sales mode hoping people buy his albums): If you can just sign here…
Woman: (with attitude) OKaaaaaaaaaaay
Woman makes effort to sign.
Woman: (dismissive hand gesture) It’s not working.
J-L holds phone and holds it for her (doing nothing else). She waves her finger to demonstrate that it is not working, except it is working and her signature is just a dismissive line from her shitty finger. She says something else annoying.
J-L: I could really do without the attitude.
Woman: (thinking she is funny) Hey, you know where you are!
Woman then leans over and mumbles a question about my album.
J-L (still in friendly sales mode): I’m sorry? (did not hear her)
Woman: (holds up hands in surrender gesture) I come in peace.
Her weak, emasculated husband tried to engage me in conversation, but I just sort of nodded and said little. Then I think the woman said that her husband shouldn’t buy my stuff because I am not nice. Nothing could embody my comedy career more in 2017 than this: do favor for woman buying merch from a different comedian, get C U Next Tuesday attitude from the beginning, then misunderstood being polite as being a giant rude man and then her trashing me to her cuck husband – ALL WHILE STANDING IN FRONT OF MY MERCH WHILE THE AUDIENCE LEFT THE SHOW BLOCKED FROM SEEING MY ALBUMS.
Saturday was the peak of the trip. Went to the Cheesecake Factory for a late lunch and got cheesecake (what kind of POS goes to TCF back to back and doesn’t have cheesecake either time?). Chose the pumpkin cheesecake because at 1040 calories per slice it is one of the lowest calorie options. #DisciplinedMogul Went to Mass as St John The Evangelist (which is also the name of my home Church in NYC – #BrandLoyalty) and then crushed both sets Saturday night. Had a fan drive from Delaware for the show (Thanks Zeke – a member of The Black Guy Who Tips fan base), but that buried a sadder note about fan support at the end of 14 years in comedy:
- performed at Helium a total of 9 times since 2011 (1 corporate gig, 2 independently booked shows, 6 feature weeks)
- my single highest week of merch sales occurred at Helium $410 in 2014 (out of the feature spot – and no gimmicks or t-shirts like a non-Boss!), almost every year my highest merch sales week is at Helium
- recorded an album there (Too Big To Fail)
- 2017: 6 shows – 1 fan
I am not blaming anyone or even pissed – it just becomes a reality that no matter how good you are or how hard you work, minus kingmakers or fame, people will eventually lose interest when it doesn’t look like anyone or any accepted marker of success is co-signing your work… even if you expand your platforms, produce a new album on average every 2.5 years and stay engaged on social media.
I checked out of my hotel at 1015 am, giving me close to 9 hours to kill as a homeless comedian in Philly. I opted to see Thor:Ragnarok (I give it a B: it’s fun, light and features way too much stupid Hulk and not enough leather clad, evil-hot Cate Blanchett. But in all honesty the Marvel movie universe is basically doing to film what Trump is doing to America). I then spent 2 hours reading The New Yorker (I was able to make it through almost an entire half of an article in those 2 hours) in a Starbucks, just to let all of Philadelphia know that I am better than them. Here is a fun new clip from the weekend:
Sunday night I was opening for Judy Gold who is 6’2,” and gay making us the most progressive front court in comedy history. The set went well and then I ended up on the Accela train back to NYC after the show with Judy Gold. It is part of my new book “Travel Like a Headliner, Live Like an Open Mic-er.” And with me was a ton of albums… minus ten.
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.
Last week was a fantastic week for me as I got to go back to one of the best clubs in the country, Helium in Philadelphia. I was the middle act for headliner Bob Marley, but rather than relay this in a series of anecdotes I will make an easily digestible list of all the things that occurred during the 4 days of shows I had in Philadelphia. But before you do, don’t forget to check out and share my new web series COMEDY ACADEMY. And be sure to check out my podcast (the link is below) on Stitcher. I climbed all the way to #73 on their comedy podcast lists (out of thousands I think) and have a little flame next to my podcast to indicate that either I am scorching up the list or that Stitcher thinks I am gay. Either way, check both those things out, but for now enjoy my list of stuff from Philadelphia:
- 40 – The number of CDs I brought to sell
- 30 – The number of Girl Scout Cookies I ate in two nights – 1 box of Samoas pre show Friday and Saturday
- 28 – The number of CDs I sold
- 26 – The awkward number of seconds a woman pressed her breasts against me posing for a picture while her boyfriend figured out the camera on the camera phone.
- 10 – The amount of dollars I spent on a ticket to see Frozen, Disney’s new animated movie., on Saturday afternoon.
- 9 – The number of women kicked out from shows for heckling (in two groups over two shows) or talking loudly during sets.
- 8 – Number of CDs I think I missed out on selling after Friday’s early show because the club owner’s daughter was selling the aforementioned Girl Scout Cookies, giving audience members a tough choice on where to spend post show dollars: cute little girl selling delicious cookies, or desperate giant selling CDS/future coasters. I lost.
- 7 – The number of times I thought headliner Bob Marley might be a yet-to-written Stephen King villain known as The Comedian. He is from Maine, wealthy and super nice. Stephen King knows where the bodies are buried.
- 6 – The total number of train rides I took to and from Philly to NYC throughout the four days. Had to commute Wednesday and Thursday.
- 5 – The number of people who asked me if my Dad was really Haitian.
- 4 – The number of people who paused awkwardly when I replied yes.
- 2.3 – The number of miles I walked home to my hotel at 1 am on Friday and Saturday.
- 2 – The number of fans I have in Philadelphia who showed up (that I know). Tina and Tameka. Much appreciated.
- 1 – The number of fans who walked up to me after a show and said, “Dude, you are the best opener I have ever seen.” You can now call me the Bull Durham of comedy.
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Last night I was at Helium Comedy Club (with all due respect to all other clubs, Helium and the DC Improv are the two best places to do comedy – I have not been to all, but I have been to most) for a Comedians at Law show. We had a decent crowd in number, but they were fantastic with the laughter. Through 90 minutes and four comedians they were attentive, polite and full of laughter. A comedian cannot ask for more than that out of a comedy club audience. And if the evening had ended there I would have gotten on the late Amtrak back to NYC with an uncharacteristically smiley face. But like a bad Sunday show at the end of a successful weekend on the road, comedy shows always find a way to find a way to end weirdly for me. The way the ring in The Lord of the Rings wanted to make its way back to its evil creator, comedy shows want to find a way to get to my angry core.
After the show I went to sell my CDs outside of the showroom. And here is a sample of what I heard – the good, the bad and the ugly:
- “Great show – you guys need a woman in the group,” (despite the fact that 25% of our lineup that night was female.
- “I really like your stuff. And I am a lawyer and a comedian and I could really kill it. Wherever you need me I can be there.”
- (my favorite) “That was pretty good?!”
- “How much are CDs? We’ll take two. Thank you. Great show.”
- “Did you really graduate from law school in 2004? But that would make you like 33, but you look 50.”
By way of background, Comedians at Law has been the most difficult thing I have ever embarked on in stand up comedy. This is not to say that it has not reaped some benefits, but putting together a new business, marketing it to an untapped, but marginally interested market (law schools hosting comedy shows and comedy clubs showcasing lawyers are both NOT natural sells), managing occasional personality clashes and having two defections from the group that almost made me homicidal have all made it a very trying experience. In short it is taking all the challenges of starting a business and combining those with all the inherent difficulties of advancing a stand-up comedy career. So as much as certain comments can bother me after a regular show, the hubris or complete unawareness of some of the people that come to the Comedians at Law show make steam come out of my ears.
To the credit of the audience no one had specific suggestions for bits like they did in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago, But guess which of the five comments I liked best? If you guessed the one that seems appropriate from a nice fan then you guessed correctly. The other four are easily dismissed.
- (1) – Please do not compliment the show and then tell me what it needs, especially when it is completely irrelevant. If you cannot keep it to a compliment then, in the words of The Rock, know your role and shut your mouth.
- (2) We put together this show from scratch. If you were a comedian worth anything you would know a) how insulting what you said is and b) how much work we put into our project. So therefore you are either rude or not worth performing with
- (3) The word “pretty” does not belong in comedy, especially when you are giving a compliment about a set. If you feel too insecure to give a full compliment (often men) then just leave the club and say nothing.
- (5) I know one thing: I do not look 50. If you are trying to mess with me after a show, don’t because I will dismantle you verbally. If you are too dumb to judge age or know that you are being moronic then do not go out in public or do not speak when you are out in public. This would not annoy me so much, but for the timing – it is after I just had a killer set pursuing my passion – so if you are going to ruin someone’s day go home and hang with your family.
But of course thank you to the two fans who treated me with kindness and respect and put a little cash in my pocket (as well as the couple of dozen people who came out and said “great show” or “nice show” and shook my hand). This may sound arrogant, but as a comedian I am underpaid, underemployed and working my ass off. All I ask is that fans respect what I do (or at least the fact that what I am pursuing is hard). That does not mean compliment me or buy my CDs. It just means if you like it – treat me with respect and if you did not – leave and feel free never to check my stuff again. The fact is I am smarter than most people that come to my shows and better at comedy than all of them. But I would demand that this courtesy be extended from the best comedians to the very shittiest comedians.
Now to some of you this post seems spot on, but to others I come off as an angry asshole. Well, you are both right. Let me give you an analogy for how frustrating what Albert Brooks called “complisults” on The Adam Carolla Show. An ex of mine had a roommate, but my ex handled the cable bill among her roommate duties. So one month there was an additional $4.95 on the bill for an On Demand movie. Her dilemma was that she would seem petty to ask for the $5 for the movie, but felt the roommate was in the wrong for not presenting the money in the first place. And this is how I feel about people giving these half-compliments/half-insulting or thoughtless remarks after a show. They are giving me the cable bill with $5 that I am completely not responsible for. So they might be a jerk or they might just be a little careless, but they are in the wrong. But if you tell them, “Hey you owe me $4.95 for that movie,” or in my case “Please respect what I do and know that you know nothing about comedy or the business of comedy,” the asshole burden is immediately shifted. So that is why I find it so frustrating – because we are desperate as comedians and as a business to maintain great relations with fans so we build our fan base we have to grin and eat their dumb comments and can never correct them or put them in their place because then the asshole burden is 100% shifted on to us. “Ït’s only five bucks,” becomes “Hey, I liked your show – I just thought you could do this or that – what an asshole!” See what I mean?
So to the people that continue to support me, spread the word about what I do and treat me with some respect – thank you. To those of you that don’t like what I do – you are entitled to your opinion. And to those of you that like my stuff, but are dumb enough or arrogant enough to try to mess with what I do – know your role and shut your mouth.
It has been a whirlwind of emotions over the last few days based on the shows I have had. Surprisingly the emotions were both bad and good, which differs from my normal emotional responses to comedy of bad and worse. I will start with the bad news, since that is how it happened chronologically.
Saturday night I was co-headlining a show at the Triad Theater in the west 70s of Manhattan. Comedy crowds come in different bunches. Sometimes you get hardened comedy fans. Those are great crowds – they want good comedy and understand the medium and are not easily offended. Then you have tourist-type crowds that generally want to hear the most basic comedy and are easily offended. But then there is a third, wild-card crowd, that one can see in Manhattan, which is a crowd consisting of other comics’ friends. Now if those friends are comedy savvy people then they tend to embrace all types of comedy. In other cases, they are groups of people who are prepared to laugh at their friend, because their friend is mostly their only exposure to stand up comedy and everyone else to them ranges from unamusing (because you are not their friend) to shockingly inappropriate (because they think stand up comedy is what CBS comedies do). Well guess which one I got Saturday night?
My initial material dealt with interracial porn and how we could never be a racism-free society as long as there were people in America that believe whites and blacks having sex together represents a taboo in keeping with some of the other more anatomically shameful porn genres. I got nothing (obviously this concept was presented in more joke form and not as a graduate thesis). The few laughs I got were from a few comics and a few people, but the mention of race and sex, even in a sanitized way, seemed to elicit a “We didn’t know a comedian was going to discuss race and sex! Well I never!” So in what is becoming an increasingly annoying flaw in my stand up I took the uptight comedy stupidity of the majority of the crowd and looked at them with disdain the rest of the show. I made sure to be harsher and more care free with my material, which actually won me about 12 of the 45 people in the crowd. However, the remaining 33 seemed to genuinely hate me. Which actually felt good. They were only ruining one evening with their response: mine. But I was ruining 33 evenings with my routine.
Confirming the depth of the hatred some members of the crowd had for me was a story told to me by the date of a friend of mine in attendance. After the show, she was in the bathroom and heard a woman say, “I liked the show, but I wanted to stab that last guy in the face.”
In case you are wondering, I was the “last guy.”
But redemption was only a few days away. I had a private show for Comcast at Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia last night. I kept my set clean (not one curse in 45 minutes is the longest I have spoken, let alone performed, curse free since I was 12 years old), I riffed about 20 minutes of political material that went over well and as of today no one has made an official complaint to my knowledge. So it was good to wash away the bad taste of Saturday with a strong showing last night. But the cherry on top was sharing a train ride home from Philadelphia with Samantha Jones a/k/a Kim Cattrall.
I am very well versed in Sex and the City. An odd admission perhaps, but the same way Malcolm X was knowledgeable of the Bible, I felt it necessary to understand the white devil in my own fashion. But let me tell you, my seething disdain for the culture that Sex and the City spawned (or at least greatly augmented) all but melted away when I saw Kim Cattrall. I actually did not think it was her because she looked much younger than what I assumed her age was (dead). But she had not one, but two personal assistants (gay man and hipster looking chick) with her so that settled it for me. In all honesty it is pretty intimidating when you see a woman from television that you never found THAT attractive relatively to other women on television, but then you see them in person and it opens your eyes. I felt the same way when I was in the same green room with Teri Polo (Greg Focker’s wife in Meet The Parents) several years ago. All I could think was “If Greg Focker’s wife looks this good in person, then Macy Gray must be a fu*king knockout!”
Kim and I rode in the same car (we agreed that I could be on a first name basis with her), so hopefully everyone else in that train car realized the star power they were surrounded by. And just in case I thought that Sex and the City was a horrible show for a generation of young women it was refreshing to see one of the show’s stars travelling the same way as the miserable King of Greyhound Comedy. Hello gorgeous.
Well last night was the end of my 7 cities in 28 days “tour.” It was by no means an official tour, but if it had been it would have been named “The 99 Percentile of Height” Tour or “The Slowly Killing My Parents” Tour. Not going to lie it was fairly tiring. But for all the ups and downs it ended on a high note last night in Philadelphia. I recorded my third CD last night at Helium and we had a great turnout. Thanks to everyone who came out, big thanks to people who spread the word and got strangers to attend and an even bigger thanks to people who randomly saw me in May at Helium and decided to come back again. I appreciated it and you guys made it a really fun night.
I anticipate the CD being released in mid December. I will harass all of you with that info when it becomes available.
Have not been blogging recently due to some pressing family matters, but now that things are looking good here is the big announcement:
To get tickets – use this link:
Thanks – hope to see you there. Everyone who shows up will get a free copy of the CD when it is released.
With all due respect to the many excellent clubs that I have performed at over the years, but this past weekend in Philadelphia was the best sustained comedy experience of my life. It was not a weekend without challenges, but never have I had more fun on stage than I did for the five shows at Helium Comedy Club from Thursday through Saturday.
Thursday – May 19th
Despite my plans to take Megabus down to Philly on Thursday afternoon I was still writing out my set for the show (I like to type out my entire set before a feature spot – both old jokes and newer ones as a way to beat them into my brain – plus in ensures I have most of my material archived on my computer). It was taking me longer than usual because I was putting in about 6 new minutes in that I felt good about. So instead I had to take New Jersey Transit to Trenton and then SEPTA to Philly.
Taking New Jersey Transit in the late afternoon from Penn Station reminds me of the scene of any Armageddon-style movie where the world is coming to an end and people begin acting like desperate animals only interested in self-preservation. I was actually pushed out of the way by a woman on her way to get a whole two people ahead of me in the mob going towards Gate 7 (as in she was standing behind me and just decided, “fuck this dude”). Now I will never hit a woman, which was exhibited many months ago when a young woman tried to trip me at Karma Lounge in NYC after I did some jokes she apparently did not approve of. Or, when last Winter a waitress at the Village Lantern pushed me in anger in the back because I was in her way on a narrow stairwell. But I would like to find some way to inspire fear in them (that apparently being 6’7″ and looking angry does not do) so that they at least think I might have OJ tendencies.
But I made it on safely to the NJ Transit train and managed to leave my camera tripod underneath my seat. So as I arrived in Philly, hating both myself and women (a wellspring of comedy brilliance) I got to Helium. Of course starring right at me is a giant picture of Myq Kaplan, that seemed to be staring at me saying, “Maybe if you had beaten me at Carolines or in Boston anytime since 2005 YOU’d have a poster in here instead of your name misspelled on a piece of paper outside.”
Well the first show went great. Philadelphia sports fans have a reputation as being, what is the term I am trying to think of… oh yeah… pieces of sh*t. Well, perhaps that anger, cruelty and intensity is exactly the perfect place for my humor because I have never felt more in sync with a crowd. It was like we were female roommates for the weekend. Part of that may also be because the headliner Steve Rannazzisi attracted a certain fan base because of his fantasy-sports comedy The League. And I should note that it was good to work with Steve. The man killed every show, so it was refreshing to see a comedian who had television celebrity, but still had stand up chops, instead of guys who are hogging stand up spots because of television success but cannot back it up (which I complain about every other week on this site). Well, here was one of the new bits I did the first night (I wrote it that morning so it felt good to know it might have legs). I think it tells you a lot about me and Philadelphia that the idea of giving AIDS to people who text in the middle of the sidewalk made us all so happy:
After the show I sold a couple of CDs and made my way home on NJ Transit without getting assault by any skanks.
Saturday – May 20th
I had been nervous all day that the shows would be cancelled on account of Rapture, but when it reached 8:00pm I realized we were all safe. First show was great and then for the second show I was greeted with a surprise. A good friend of Steve’s, a Philly based comic also named Steve, was in attendance with Pauly Shore. Philly Steve and Pauly had a gig on Thursday night and decided to stop by and watch the Friday late show. You can imagine my surprise. Having a healthy ego I immediately thought, “I wonder if Pauly has read my blog and knows that some people in Des Moines thought he sucked and that I think comedians working largely on name recognition are destroying the future of comedy?” Obviously he had not. Or unlike women on NJ Transit, he was afraid to confront me. After the show, which I performed hopped up and several gallons of Red Bull Vodkas, Pauly told me that he thought I was funny and then asked everyone in sight where the nearest strip club was because he “wanted to see pussy.” Speaking of vagina here is another new bit that did well with the Philly folk on Friday night:
I sadly informed Pauly that I already had a date with 18 unattractive vaginas on the 2:40 AM Megabus and would not be joining him. So working on little sleep I got on a packed Megabus where I had to sit sidesaddle for two hours because I literally cannot fit into the top deck Megabus seats. When you are as tall as I am it feels as if you are so not handicapped that you eventually have the same effect as being handicapped. Until you walk off the bus. Then you feel properly capped again.
Saturday May 21st
The final day began with another night of nearly no sleep (I do not have the gift of some of my friends to sleep 8-10 hours regardless of when they actually go to sleep – I always seem to wake up around 8 am). I touched up my set and sat around for 5 hours thinking about going to the gym. When I finally left myself no time to go to the gym I showered and headed down to Philly for the last night of gigs.
At this point I realized that commuting by Megabus at the odd hours I was, with almost no sleep, for a few days consecutively, was probably the equivalent of Navy Seal Training, if they had a comedy division. I think the 30 hour train ride I have scheduled coming back from New Orleans in September will be my Comedy Seal Team 6 training. “YOU WILL HAVE TO SIT NEXT TO OBESE PEOPLE IN TINY SEATS! YOU WILL BE SO TIRED YOU WILL START TO TWITCH AS IF YOU IN DRUG WITHDRAWAL!! THEN YOU WILL HAVE TO ENTERTAIN PEOPLE AGAIN AFTER GETTING ALMOST NO SLEEP! THEN JUST WHEN THE WHOLE PROCESS IS OVER YOU WILL BECOME DEPRESSED BECAUSE DESPITE ALL THE DRAWBACKS TO THE GIG IT MADE YOU MUCH HAPPIER THAN DOING OPEN MICS AND BAR SHOWS! ANY QUESTIONS?!”
The two shows went great Saturday night. In fact they went so well that I took Myq Kaplan’s poster and Rocky IV’d it like he was my personal Drago (despite the physical reversal of roles) (2:01 mark of the video, but the whole scene is awesome):
Ok, so I did not actually do that because I like Myq and destruction of property probably trumps “good sets” as the lasting memory for features when it comes to comedy clubs. But here are the last two clips (these from Saturday’s shows):
Nothing could have gone better under the circumstances (circumstances being travelling on Megabuses that were so hot and uncomfortable that I just assumed that the driver’s background was in human trafficking). After the show I went to a nearby bar and someone from Friday’s show was at the bar with friends. he immediately turned to his friends and said, “THIS WAS THE DUDE I WAS TELLING YOU ABOUT!” He started reciting a couple of jokes back to me and it felt really awesome. And then he said to his friend, while pointing at me, “Dude – this guy is right there with Aziz for me!” I think when he saw the confused look on my face (I love Parks and Recreation and Tom Haverford, but I have yet to dig Aziz’s stand up) he clarified and said, “‘Cause I saw Aziz a little while back and he is fu*king hilarious!” Phew, because he could have gone either way with that and I would have understood.
So I learned many things this week in Philly. One is that Philly is neck and neck with DC as my favorite places to perform. The second was that if I criticize a comedian on my blog it appears that I will either meet them or be compared to them. But seriously I thank Steve, Lawrence Mullaney the emcee, everyone at Helium and all the people that came out to the shows. It was the type of weekend that can give new energy to a cynical comedian to keep at it in this business. And one day that comedian will perform at Helium and it will make a world of difference. 🙂
Rock Bands have their own private 747s. John Madden had his own tricked-out bus for his coast-to-coast travel during football seasons. Well from last Saturday to this coming Sunday I have Metro-North and Megabus.
My Metro-North tour was a one night round trip to Stamford, Connecicut this past Saturday ($18.50 in total travel costs – already a win). Great show, nice town. Based on the Metro North clientele on both trips I would say that it appears financial services employees (on the way to Stamford) and their scantily-clad daughters or potential 4th wives (on the trip back to NYC) are the bulk of Stamford’s populace. Whatever the case may be, it was a great show in Stamford and really great to be in the black after a gig.
This week I finally feature at Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia. The club has a great reputation, but the one drawback is that I am not getting a room for the weekend (for more on the life of a feature act please rent Roots). That means instead of being an Amtrak tour (the usual unofficial sponsor of my travels east of Chicago) it will be a Megabus tour, probably making me the only person, other than Megabus drivers, that commutes to and from work by Megabus.
For any fans in Philadelphia or NYC here is the “tour” info:
345pm Megabus to Philly
1047 SEPTA/NJ Transit
345pm Megabus to Philly
8, 1030 pm shows
240 am Megabus to NYC
345pm Megabus to Philly
8, 1030 pm shows
240 am Megabus to NYC
wake up and wonder what the fu*k I was thinking.
So tell your friends in Philly if they want to see a giant limp around on stage due to cramped Megabus seating they should check out a show at Helium this weekend (Thurs-Sat.). And to Philadelphia – you are welcome in advance.