road comedy stories
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.
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 was another weekend on the road, which of course meant bus rides, many hours reading and watching TV shows in solitary confinement, solid laughs and disappointing merch sales. However, this weekend was a unique one because it involved working a casino and also going to see my nephew in a soccer tournament. So lets’get into it:
Friday – Empty Seats to Hear JLC Speak
Friday morning I made my way to Port Authority Bus Terminal to catch Transbridge Buses (the RC Cola to Greyhound’s Coca-Cola and Peter Pan’s Pepsi in the competitive world of bus/human trafficking transportation). The ride took just over 3 hours to get to Wilkes-Barre, PA, which was late, but not too late. Unfortunately I missed the local bus that goes to Mohegan Sun (the next one would have required a 3 hour wait in the Wilkes-Barre bus depot, which makes Port Authority look like a Saudi Prince’s palace) so I got a Lyft to the casino. When I arrived at my hotel room I was greeted by a TV that could not spell my name correctly (3rd time in 5 visits), but it was still a nice try. I then ate a feast at Timbers Buffet (comedians get 2 comped tickets to the buffet and since dinner is the most expensive meal it makes #ComedyMogul sense to use them for dinner), limiting myself to only 3 desserts with my meal (#PilotSeasonApproaching) and headed to the show.
It was Labor Day weekend so I expected lighter crowds, but when I arrived at the club there were 2 people (normal shows are over 200 people easy – they almost always pack the room). By Friday showtime the crowd had swelled to an almost unmanageable 33. I did have a very good set and sold a few CDs so I had post-show milkshake money at the Food Court Ben and Jerry’s. Shout out to the husky white kid who made the milkshake – maximum thickness, while still drinkable. Just like the plump, tongue-studded waitresses at the casino Johnny Rockets’ presumably have their skill set advertised, it made sense that this kid had milkshake making talent (Jon Gruden “arm talent” voice). The only downside to the night was that a new bit I am working on as a Dog Profiler (figuring out based on fears and reactions what happened to my dog Cookie, in her past – answer: she was molested by a black UPS driver in Kentucky) went well, but was not perfect enough to make a YouTube clip for you 34 blog readers).
Saturday – Power & Reading
Having recently gotten into the guilty pleasure Power on Starz (the 1st two seasons I watched on Hulu) I had only 2 days left in my week long free trial on Amazon Prime Starz Channel. I had watched season 3 after returning from Ohio and now had 5 episodes left, plus Sunday’s season finale. For those that don’t watch let me explain Power. It is a bad, but entertaining show about a drug dealer trying to go legit as a club owner. I have compared it to Skittles. I like Skittles, but I wouldn’t claim them as a good meal. The sex scenes are absurd (romance novel erotic or steroid-fueled, prison-style hate fu*ks, but not much in between), the violence even more absurd and the way 50 Cent, who has executive produced the show, has clearly influenced plot and character development to keep his character alive for 2 seasons too long all point to a terrible show, but I have enjoyed it nonetheless. And as a bonus, the blessed wife of Carmelo Anthony is on the show in all her La La Land glory, raising the important question: How does a double chin, no finals appearing adulterer keep a woman like that when her options are pretty much limitless? Even funnier is to hear her character in earlier seasons, pre-Melo stripper pregnancy, counseling her friend to leave her cheating husband. So I woke up Saturday, had a cup of black Power coffee and watched 5 episodes bringing me up to date. To balance that out and because I am a man of diversity and versatility I then spent 3 hours reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goldfinch in the casino food court as obesity scooters motored about. So after consuming the artistic equivalents of Nerds candy and kale salad I showered up and went to the club.
The Saturday show was a nice large crowd (relatively to Friday’s) and I sold some more CDs and then did my traditional “run through the casino as fast as possible to my hotel room because I don’t want to be tempted to gamble my cash pay for the weekend” walk to end the comedy portion of the weekend. Normally this is where the recap would end, but this was no ordinary weekend (sung like Sade). Sunday, by a scheduling coincidence, would take me to my nephew’s soccer tournament in Allentown (sung like Billy Joel), PA, just an hour away from Wilkes Barre.
Sunday – I’m Gonna Get You Soccer
Knowing that I would need to get to my nephew’s games in Allentown I looked up buses from Wilkes Barre to Allentown, two small, but significant cities in eastern PA. None exist. I would have had to take a bus back to NYC and then get on a different bus line to go to Allentown. Insane. So, because I would be representing the entire Cauvin family at the tournament on Sunday, my brother got me a Lyft from the hotel to the soccer tournament. I got picked up in a Nissan Juke, which is a car that would not be big enough to act as a casket for me, but I still made due. My driver was on time, the ride was smooth and without delay and the conversation pleasant. So my brother tipped him a Lin Manuel Miranda via the app… but only gave him 4 stars. My brother is one of those guys who I think treats ride app ratings like movie or restaurant ratings. In reality 5 stars is the grade for no complaints (versus a movie where it means instant classic/perfection). When I told him he was a tough grader he said “If he had gotten you booked on Comedy Central I would have given him 5 stars.” So let it be known that 5 stars on Lyft is an impossible grade for any human being to get, let alone a driver, from my brother. Maybe John Wick could make it happen, but other than him, no one.
When I made it to the tournament I saw the different teams and parents. It always feels like there is one parent on every soccer team in America who looks like he is a high ranking member of Blackwater – like during the weekends he is a quiet parent who does cross fit and wears shades and hair gel, even for cloudy youth soccer games, but during the week is ordering black ops for profit in third world countries. But most parents just look like regular folks. My nephew’s team is a diverse mix of black kids, a few white kids, a Latin kid and then two long haired blonde kids (both very good) who looked like a tribute band to Nelson (and the games did in fact take place during AND After The Rain). Their first game, which would get them in the tournament finals if they won was against a team that was physical and 99% white (their best and dirtiest player was a bi-racial kid – he looked like a miniature Aaron Judge, including mohawk, so I felt a begrudging pride). Their defense and goalie tandem consisted of a Spencer, a Remy and a Brooks, so I assume when these kids are not defending the goal they are defending white culture and heritage. Well, thanks to an assist from my nephew, my nephew’s team won a tense 1-0 game (MATCH) to make it to the finals against a team from Maryland called Pipeline. And to quote the philosopher JR Smith, my nephew’s team would indeed get the pipe.
I erroneously/racistly thought a mostly Latino team had made it to the finals. Instead, the Latin team was actually beaten by Pipeline, a mostly white team (multiple kids with highlights in their hair, which is deluxe white, especially in a tournament for 10 year olds). This team, as it turns out would give up their 1st and only goal in 4 tournament games in the last 10 minutes of the finals. They whooped my nephew’s team 6-1. I think with better coaching strategy they could have lost 3-1, but a win was never in the cards. My nephew’s team is coached by a tall, good-looking British man, who probably wooed the parents with his tea and crumpets, but the Pipeline team was coached by two guys who looked furious that their town had cancelled the pee wee football league. The head coach, who gave a very nice speech at the end of the tournament to his team and to my nephew’s team was an insane person on the sideline. And his assistant coach was about 6’3″, 340lbs – you know, that ideal soccer body. My nephew’s team was smaller, more timid and less skilled than this team ( I genuinely think half of the kids would be playing youth football if their town had a team). But at this point I think America should have to call youth sports “Before Black Kids Hit Puberty” Leagues, because these burly white ten year olds that worked over my nephew’s team ain’t all turning into JJ Watt and Rob Gronkowski. But still they were tougher, better coached and stronger, which is basically 95% of winning at youth sports.
So that was the weekend. Meanwhile, back in NYC, my girlfriend gave Cookie a bath and a new toy:
This week I was in Liberty Township, Ohio (a suburb near Cincinnati made for the wealthy people of southern Ohio who love Trump, but don’t like sharing a zip code with the people from The Hills Have Eyes in southern Ohio that also like Trump) to perform at the Liberty Funny Bone (as part of my upcoming tour I will also be performing in Freedom, Illinois; These Colors Don’t Run, Missouri; and Colin Kaepernick is an Ungrateful Nigra, Alabama in September). The trip was one that did not involve Amtrak or Greyhound. Instead I used points on Southwest (which is the phrase you use when you want a woman’s vagina to dry up and collapse on itself like a black hole) to get to Cincinnati (the closest airport to the Township). The trip involved multiple Cheesecake Factory meals, a futuristic and stylish hotel, several killer sets and the usual absence of sidewalks for walking around in fat America. So without further adieu here is the recap:
Thursday – Inauspicious Start
When I got to LaGuardia Airport on Thursday I made my way to the Southwest area to check my suitcase. As I was winding through the roping (there was not much of a line) I saw some balding bro douche just duck under the rope and walk in front of me. I am still at a loss for what to do in these situations. I don’t have a calm, middle ground. I chose to stare at him like I wanted to beat him to death because I felt like my only other option was to actually beat him to death. I genuinely believe that murderers don’t do as much damage to society as people like this douche bag. Murder is an outlier in society. But people who show a lack of courtesy or respect are legion and they eat away at your spirit like termites in the walls of a house. He clearly saw me winding through the ropes and made the calculation that he could cut with no repercussion. And then, restraining myself from calling him a piece of fu*king sh*t and putting him in a choke hold, I start to feel the anger reinforcing itself because my restraint is become a self-fulfilling prophecy for him to get away consequence free. In other words I was ready to make the people of Ohio laugh!
But first was a stop in Chicago. Southwest Airlines basically requires every flight going west to stop in Midway for 4 hours… even if your stop is halfway back in the direction you just came from. So I read for a couple of hours in Midway Airport, but was very disappointed to see that both Potbelly and Ben and Jerry’s had both closed. In their places were a terrible pizza place and a Dunkin Donuts. So I got a Chocolate Long John from DD, which made me realize my 4 favorite donuts from Dunkin Donuts all have overtly homoerotic names:
- Chocolate Long John
- Boston Creme
- Glazed Stick
- Jizz Filled Phallus Surprise
When I landed in Cincinnati just before 4 pm I was picked up by Chris, an employee of the club. We had a pleasant 90 minute drive to the club (horrible traffic). I checked into my hotel, which was super stylish, meaning it looked nice, but had several features that were useless (see my Instagram video from Sunday to see a list).
The 1st show of the week was a good one, though it would end up being the least receptive crowd of the week for me. After selling 1 CD (cheesecake money!) I went back to the hotel to watch the Elian Gonzalez documentary on CNN. I had the volume on my TV at 13 out of a possible 100 and it was 10 pm. Then, at 1025 pm I heard a knock at the door. My mind first went “was that my door?” and with a second knock a minute later I wondered “is there a Liberty Town Whore at my room?” so I got up, put some pants and a shirt (I was in boxer briefs because I was settling in for sleep) and went to the door. I was greeted by a short Latino man wearing hotel gear who informed me that he had received noise complaints about how loud my television was. He then immediately said he would inform the people that they were wrong because he could not even hear my TV from the hallway when my door was closed. When he left I just turned off the TV. With the Gestapo atmosphere I was not longer inspired to watch a documentary about a 6 year old boy’s quest for freedom. If I cannot be free in a place called Liberty, is anyone really free?
Friday and Saturday – Cheesecake, Comedy and Sidewalks to Nowhere
On Friday I tried to walk to an LA Fitness 1.9 miles from the hotel. On Saturday I tried to walk to a Catholic Church (St Maximilian “Catholic Mamba” Kolbe Church to be exact). Both missions to better myself physically and spiritually failed. Why? Because America is a series of fat, car-addicted, sidewalk-less places. Making it to either place would have involved risking my life along highways and roads so I opted to live, though perhaps being a martyr would have been interesting:
Saint Jean-Louis Cauvin, died battling America’s obesity when he was hit by a Ford truck on an Ohio highway. His two miracles are turning a profit on a feature gig in Detroit that paid $300 for 5 shows, with no hotel provided and for taking an Amtrak for 30 hours without contracting any foot-borne illnesses.
I also made trips to the Cheesecake Factory on both days (they are donating 25 cents of every piece of cheesecake sold to charity this month, so call me the American Red Velvet Cross). On the second day my waitress was a pleasant young lady with an ample bosom and derriere. To me this felt like overkill by The Cheesecake Factory. You had me at “Cheesecake and 835 page menu.” There is no need to complicate this and turn it into a soft core porn where I cannot decide what I want more, the Hazelnut cheesecake or the waitress. I am thinking of making a Cheesecake Factory-themed porn where it starts with a busty woman delivering food, but then she leaves and I end up moaning in delight as I eat cheesecake and unbutton my pants, but only to make room for my expanding stomach, filled with cheesecake. #CheesecakeBae
The 4 shows were great between Friday and Saturday. Made some sales, made a few fans, blah blah blah. Here’s a highlight reel of various jokes and interactions with the crowds from the Saturday shows:
Sunday – Noneday
Nothing much to report (mainly because I am writing this at lunch in a Starbucks and all I plan on doing to day is sketch writing and making one more trip to the brothel known as The Cheesecake Factory.
This weekend I headed back to Clifton Park, NY for a private party show. Last year a comedian buddy from Albany invited me up to do the party and it turned out to be a great show (here is last year’s recap), so when asked to do it again this year I said yes without hesitation. There were several similarities to last year (though I did a new 35 minutes out of 40 minutes from last year) so I will try to focus on the different from last year. I took Amtrak up to Albany which was pleasant and then waited around the station for Frank (the other comedian) to pick me up. And that is where our story begins.
A Storm Gathers
When Frank pulled up he had his 12 year old daughter with him who was going to a different party. So we were on good verbal behavior (only discussions of soft core pornography). After he dropped her off we went to Starbucks to map out our sets. I had a black coffee and Frank had a citrus mint tea, which I thought could get you beat to death in upstate NY. Obviously there has been some real progress made on social issues (#MAGA). While we were in Starbucks the Heavens opened up and a ferocious storm was unleashed. We became concerned for the party. Not that we wouldn’t get paid, but that the tent they have for the party would not withstand the storm or that there would a downhill flood (the house and tent area is at the bottom of a decline on the property). Well, that was the first and last time I underestimated Wayne Manor.
When we arrived at the house the rain had almost fully stopped. And we had underestimated the size of the property. There is a long downward slope to the front lawn and driveway, but it is so big that there is a nice 30 yards of flat land at the end of the front law so even if there was runoff there was enough of a buffer before the area where the tent was. And not a drop of water inside the large tent. Well done Dave! (Dave is the owner of the home and Clifton Park’s Bruce Wayne). So we dragged all the equipment down to the tent and while Frank set it all up I would look up from my plate of food (delicious chicken!) and ask, with little intention of doing anything, “need help?” Then it was showtime.
Laughs, Tyattoos and Dessert!
Frank started the show off and did well, despite the DJ ambushing him into starting the show before he was ready (maybe that is karma payback for every time a comedian has started a bar show without people realizing there would be a show where they are drinking). He did well and then I got on. I did a lot of new material, but my new bit (which needs work) on women with tattoos was a real highlight. Here is a rough approximation of the bit and exchange:
Me: As a mixed race person I am still looking for that type of woman who I can date as a fetish, but also discriminate against by not taking her seriously. I am thinking tatted up women are that group. Like just so inked up that it excites me and feels dangerous, but to a level where she definitely cannot have my kids or meet my parents.
Teacher: Iye hyave lots of tyats (trying to replicate the Vermont accent)
Teacher: Well Iye yam a teacher so Iye cyant hyave visible tyats but my entire sayde is tyattted up!
Me: But I cannot see them so that means you still respect your job and having a normal life. I am talking about a woman with sleeves and neck tattoos – a level of ink that says “fu*k my future.” That’s the level of fetish I am talking about.
*She then showed her substantial thigh tattoo*
Me: Well, give me a second. I am just going to text my girlfriend that we need to see other people.
I ended my set with Trump and then ate 4 mini cannolis and a couple of cookies. With that Frank and I got paid and he drove me to… the Greyhound station.
I got to the Albany bus station at 1030pm for the 11 pm bus. The bus didn’t arrive until 1130pm. I sat down next to a man on the full bus who smelled like the 2 worst smelling African cab drivers formed a super group with the 2 worst smelling Indian cab drivers (NStink?), did a 90 minute Bikram yoga workout and then rented out space in this guy’s seat. Not an exaggeration – my eyes teared up and I had one quasi-gag. Sadly, the driver was super slow and we arrived in NYC at 215am. The only thing I am ashamed of is that when I got home and my girlfriend was sleeping peacefully I got into bed without showering despite carrying at least 4 diseases from the Greyhound ride. But we are still together so unless I run into a woman with sleeves and neck tattoos, nothing can stop us!
This weekend I was (technically still am as I have begun this in a Starbucks 90 minutes before the final Sunday show) in Richmond, Virginia, capital of the Confederacy and home to two Amtrak train stations (more on this shortly). More specifically I was in Short Pump Town- arguably the worst town name in history where there is a mall containing the Richmond Funny Bone and other stores. I was staying in the comedy condo across the quasi-highway from the Mall. I was opening for Guy Torre, who I have opened for before. And like any trip down South the people of America fell into three groups – those that look like porn stars, those that look like they have Type 9 Diabetes and immigrants, who appeared to be the only people with average body types. The weather has been very hot (at one point I asked my balls if they were cutting weight for a boxing or wrestling match) and the comedy was very good. So with that brief road map, let’s dive in to another comedy trip:
Thursday – Why Does Richmond Have 2 Train Stations?
When I booked my trip to Richmond I selected “Main Street” as the station I would go to. As it turns out that station is less popular, has less frequent train stops and is a longer ride to the club than the earlier Richmond Station stop of “Staples Mill Road.” Maybe it is a Greenland/Iceland situation where they tell outsiders that there is a Main Street station to draw them away from all the wonders of Staples Mill Road. But I learned in time to get off at SMR.
When I arrived on Thursday I was greeted by Jason, the manager of the club and, as it turns out, my roommate for the weekend. He splits his apartment with the club. Admittedly when I saw my bed I was less than thrilled. It looked like something that Child Services or Special Victims Unit would want to take photos of before letting me move my stuff in. But the apartment was comfortable and one across-the-highway-sprint away from all that Short Pump, Virginia has to offer.
Thursday’s show went really well. The laughter was loud. The jokes killed. And the CD sales after the show were zero. But making up for it was getting to know the staff of the club. The sound guy (Buz) is a dead ringer for Rex Tillerson and that made me laugh. Also, one of the employees of the club, Sho, won me over when, during an in depth discussion of In Living Color, he called David Alan Grier and Tommy Davidson the “Klay and Draymond” of the show (the implication being that Steph and Durant were the Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans of the show). Now, if you know me you know I love In Living Color, Basketball and analogies. Basically at that moment I knew that if I were gay I might have met my soul mate. (Fast forward to next week when I am yelling at my girlfriend – “WHY CAN’T YOU BE MORE LIKE SHO?!!”
Friday – Girls’ Trip and Cheesecake Factory Bloat
On Friday I decided to take it easy so I went to see Girls’ Trip (I give it 3.5 Yassss Queens out of 5) and had an early dinner at The Cheesecake Factory (salmon, broccoli and then a very reasonable 1400 calorie piece of chocolate cheesecake). Apparently all that caloric intake had a positive effect because I crushed both sets that night. And as a bonus, my brand new manager showed up with his wife to the second show. It was their 11th wedding anniversary so either this dude is going to be the Jerry Maguire to my Rod Tidwell, or my comedy career is going to begin having negative impacts on personal lives besides my own.
But the highlight of the night was my exchange with a woman after the first show (which as it stands now was the best set of the weekend).
Terrible Fan Lady: You was pretty good. You’ll get better.
Me: Ah thanks
TFL: You was pretty good. You’ll get better.
Me: I am actually pretty happy where I’m at right now.
TFL: You’ll get better. And you need to get you a real girlfriend.
Me: Wow – 15 seconds to shit on the two of the most important things in my life. That’s impressive.
TFL: You was pretty good.
Fade to black.
Saturday – Get Swoll and Get CDs Sold
Saturday I ventured over to the amazing gym that comedians are allowed free access to during the week. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the condo and it is magnificent. In New York City, a gym as large and comprehensive as this one would probably run around $8500.00 per month. Of course in Richmond it only costs 3 eggs and a loaf of bread. Had a great workout and then had two more great shows. On the second show it was announced that Doug Williams, Super Bowl winning quarterback of the Washington Redskins was in attendance. I did not get to see him, but hopefully he enjoyed my set and will be telling all his friends. I also sold $90 worth of CDs, which would not be good normally, but since they were selling like laser discs the previous two nights I went to sleep happy (after asking a gas station attendant to turn the money into 90 $1 bills so I could Indecent Proposal myself to sleep.
Sunday – Detroit, Joke Bombs and Game of Thrones
(resuming writing Monday morning at Starbucks)
On Sunday I went to see Detroit, which was the story of a young Carrot Top who becomes a cop to terrorize black people in a hotel in 1967. It was a flawed movie, but very intense once it moved past its clunky first 40 minutes. I would give it a B+. Of course during the movie, the headliner for the weekend Guy Torre, asked me if I wanted to attend Washington Redskins training camp with him, so I missed that. But on the plus side, former comedian and Richmond-area resident Mike Way saw me in the theater and we had a pleasant conversation/movie-date. It was like the poorest man’s version possible of a Bill Murray-esque story for Mike.
For Sunday’s show I decided to try a few new jokes. Two went well, one was a shit show (hint – the one that involves sex with kids did not go over well).
- “Why does everyone in the South either look like they do porn or like they have Type 9 diabetes. My trip to the gym nearby was full of jacked tattooed dudes, women with big fake tits and people oozing over their scooters. You need some normal people here.”
- “Why are Southern women so flirty? Every conversation they need to make physical contact and they sound too interested and seductive – a woman at the movie theater asked me if the book I was reading was good in a way that felt more like the beginning of a porn.”
- “A guy once told me I looked like Jared Fogle. And that was before we knew he raped kids. I was offended then. Some things you just shouldn’t say. I don’t care if I am banging a 10 year old, holding a pair of giant khakis with my free hand while being fed a 6 inch veggie sub – you don’t tell me I look like Jared Fogle.”
After the show I went back to the condo to watch Game of Thrones and it was glorious. It was like the fantasy genre version of finally getting Eminem’s rap battle at the end of 8 Mile.
So thank you Richmond, Short Pump, the beautiful people and the obese people who all make up the capital of the confederacy. See you in 2018. Time to get home.
Thursday through Sunday I was performing at the Hartford Funny Bone, which as the name would indicate, is located in… Manchester, Connecticut (hence the blog title – there are no specific C-Words, but I could not resist the pun for the title). It was my first time back at the club since 2011. I received good reviews my previous two times at the HFB, but then went to the Des Moines Funny Bone in mid-2011 and received poor fan survey results (I still sold a lot of CDs and never got heckled or booed that week, so I am not sure how bad the grades could have been). So naturally the response was to not book me for five years at any of the 20+ Funny Bone/Improvs. I still wonder if one of my favorite videos on YouTube had anything to do with it, when I read emails during my last Des Moines set from a cute young woman (most likely a year or two away from sleeping with one of her high school students, assuming she is a teacher) who wanted to come to my hotel:
But like a reboot no one asked for I made a triumphant return to Manchester-Hartford last week and it was fun, funny and volatile.
Thursday: Good Start
I arrived in Hartford at 2:20pm on Thursday and was picked up by the club manager. He was running the sound booth when I was last there in 2011, so it turns out that there are ways to advance your career in the comedy business, as long as you make sure to avoid being a comedian. He brought me to the Extended Stay, which is pretty solid for chain hotels. Pluses – full kitchen in your room. Negatives – no breakfast and the arch nemesis of my health a 5 minute walk away:
When my Mom learned I was at an Extended Stay she asked me if it was okay and if there were families staying there. I then realized that she, being unfamiliar with the Extended Stay brand, assumed Extended Stay was some sort of governmental housing term for displaced families or a halfway house. I had to inform her that my career was not so bad (yet) that it required FEMA assistance.
The show that night was good (no hecklers, sold a lot of CDs). And one fan/friend (“Fran” – Trademark pending) showed up as well (I AM A DRAW).
Friday: The JL Jinx Affects Connecticut’s Heroines
It is no secret that I am a gambling cooler to my own comedy career. Therefor, if anything actually positive starts to happen in my career the universe requires a hefty sacrifice to balance it out. Well, with CDs sales brisk and shows going well, it should come as no surprise that within 36 hours of my arrival in the state, the UConn women’s basketball team, 4 time defending champions and owners of a record 111 game winning streak saw their streak ended Friday night. There was nothing else to really report from Friday, but with the debt to the comedy gods paid, Saturday was in a safe position to resume destroying my career.
Saturday: Faith, Fans and Fu*k-Ups
I started my day (at 315pm) with a 2 mile walk to the nearest Catholic Church for Saturday Vigil Mass at 4pm. In a big plus for Connecticut everyone shook hands during Peace, instead of the Purell habit that I have observed over the last 5+ years of just waving and saying “Peace be with you,” even to the person standing next to you. Having prayed for guidance on what to do with my life, God would give a very clear answer that night at the Funny Bone.
I had 6 fans showing up to the early show (well 3 separate fans dragging others to the show) – I AM A DRAW OUT OF THE FEATURE SPOT! But the early show was not starting on time. In fact it was starting 15 minutes late. So while the emcee was on stage (doing his full time) I was asked to get off stage by 8:05, which ended up being an 11.5 minute feature set (instead of the usual 20-25 minutes). THAT WILL TEACH PEOPLE TO BE FANS OF MINE! I still sold CDs and expressed gratitude afterwards, by doing a 30 minute set/podcast rant in front of Bertucci’s in the shopping mall for superfan Keith and his brother (I think it was his brother) and friend after so they got headliner minutes out of me at least.
The late show started and a short Latino man in his 40s kept yelling that it was his birthday (apparently as part of Trump’s MAGA, men are trying to snatch the comedy club heckling nightmare crown from drunk white women). At one point he took the mic from the emcee (who was a nice kid 20 years old, but legitimately looked like a very tall 14 year old). During my set Stand and Deliver and his surrounding tables never shut up (as I write this I wish I had gone into a Jaime Escalante impression), but I handled it pretty well and even got to say many humorous, somewhat racist things to him and his table using my Trump impression. Look for my next video “Comedian CRUSHES Heckler as Trump, Obama & Bernie Sanders!!!!” (just kidding – I don’t want to post it)
Sunday: The Trump Pen and Peter Pan
Sunday was the final show of the week and after watching the Utah Jazz lose a close one on national TV I headed to the club. The crowd was big and the show went great. However, the show started 30 minutes late and the headliner did well over an hour, so instead of being able to sell merch I had to run to catch my 10pm Peter Pan bus (named Peter Pan because like the kids in Pan, if you ride their buses you are likely not to grow older). But after my set the headliner, Michael Colyar was kind enough to call me back up to the stage, called me a genius and gave me a talking Trump pen (follow my Instagram (@jlcomedy) to see my video of the pen). One of the nicest, if not the nicest gestures any headliner has ever done for me. But with no time to spare I got a ride to the bus station in downtown Hartford.
The bus got to NYC 40 minutes early (one of the great paradoxes of bus travel in America – it is unquestionably the worst of transportation choices and yet, always on time and cheap, which trains and planes cannot claim), but my favorite part of the trip was the intro safety video on the bus from the Peter Pan CEO and family (like a Trump family but with a net worth of $900K). As I sat with a bunch of people that looked like extras from The Wire and a Trump campaign video about illegal immigrants, it was pretty funny to sit there watching the Peter Pan CEO, White Whiterson, and his children wish us well on our journey. I could actually see them cross the street on the video after delivering their message.
All in all, a productive and fun week of comedy. Even more significantly, with 7 fans and kind gestures from the headliner, there may have been a downside to the week – I feel motivated to continue doing stand up. And with that, enjoy two new stand up bit/clips from the weekend. Enjoy!
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
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.
It has been several years since I attended any comedy festival and 10 years since I made a good, but failed run at the Boston Comedy Festival. But in the “hope springs eternal” mindset that rests beneath numerous layers of “fu*k this sh*t” I entered the Boston Comedy Festival again this year. My mindset was fairly practical in entering. The prize for the winner was $10,000. With 96 competitors I figured odds were in my favor (imagine buying a $600 lottery ticket – train and hotel fare – but your odds of winning $10,000 was 1 in 96 – but really much better than that based on experience) so I entered. Also, a much less important factor I figured was with most comics of my comedy generation either finding success or permanent obscurity it was time for me to meet the next group of comedians who might pass me by in the next five years. Either way I figured there were enough reasons to give it a shot.
So after spending several hundred dollars I went to my preliminary round Thursday night and had a really good set. And then at the end of the show when the comedians going on to the semi finals were announced I figured I was definitely in the top 5. And I may have been right, but I was not in the top 3, which was the number of comics advancing. And just like that I felt like Scatman Crothers from the Shining. I had gotten on my Snowcat (Amtrak) and traveled many miles to show up to save the day, only to have a comedy contest ax buried in my chest. But like many things in comedy, I am calloused at this point to where I can just sort of shrug it off in a few minutes (by contrast losing in the semi finals in 2006 took me… oh wait I am still not over that robbery). Silver lining 2 of the 3 comics that made the semis from my prelim also made the finals, meaning that we had a disproportionate number of finalists. The system really is rigged!
I spent the next day at the movie theater (movies and movie snacks are my alcohol) and saw Arrival (thoughtful and solid) and Magical Harry Potter Beast Creatures Movie (decent escapism, but not sure I need it to be a five movie franchise, which is what they have planned). And then, thanks to my friend comedian Jay Nog I got a spot on his Paid or Pain show as part of the festival. The show is unique, but simple: comedians perform and the audience decides if they get paid or pain (delivered by a dominatrix – on this show a latex clad busty woman – my favorite thing on the show, other than my own humor, was seeing the comedians on the lineup talk to her in the green room like she didn’t look like a porn star – my conversation with her would have been “Did you order a pizza? Something wrong with your cable? Plumbing? Are we gonna fu*k or what??”). I was one of the two judges on the show offering witty criticism and commentary on the show and the performers. Other than the aforementioned dominatrix I think it would be safe to say my Trump impression stole the show. I spent the last 20 minutes speaking as Trump only, including what Trump would want from a dominatrix (“I would want Ivanka in the room because she is very hot and I would want the dominatrix to be dehydrated so when she peed on me it was a strong Trump gold color”). I think the show will air on Sirius XM at some point – I will tweet/share the details if I get them.
After the show I had a couple of comedians and audience members tell me that I should audition for SNL. It was a nice compliment and I will get on that as soon as I find a way to make it to the semi finals of a comedy contest.
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
So this past week I was performing in Cleveland, Ohio, one of my favorite cities and one of my three potential permanent residences within the next 18 months (the options are A) New York – because if it is broken, why bother to fix it; B) LA – because there are more opportunities for industry to ignore me or C) Cleveland – because I like it, it’s cheap and the only worse thing than wasting 13 years of your life doing comedy is to do it for another 13, so might as well pack it in and enjoy as much real estate as your money can afford). The week was chock full of adventures, discoveries and fun so might as well get into it.
13 Hours on Amtrak
Considering the fact that I have been very busy this year with full time legal work, triple the amount of road work I had all of 2015 within the first 3 1/2 months of 2016 (a good thing, but also shows just how terrible my 2015 was) and a new dog stressing me out occasionally, I have not had a lot of time or energy to do anything with my girlfriend besides Netflix and Pass Out. So I figured I would book some emcee work in Cleveland and make it a 4 day trip. Not knowing if the feature would be using the comedy condo (of course once I paid for 4 nights in a hotel, the JLComedy Law* is that the condo would go unused by the feature, which it did) I booked a Comfort Inn in downtown Cleveland for a rate so cheap on Hotwire.com that I assumed a disaster loomed.
*JLComedy Law is like Murphy’s Law, except only half Irish and a lot worse when applied to trying to turn a profit from comedy endeavors.
I also convinced my girlfriend to take the 12.5 hour Amtrak ride from NYC to Cleveland (at the convenient time of 3:30pm, arriving in Cleveland at 3:27 am), because it is a “nice ride” and “quite cheap.” Let me put it to you this way – if you have a chick who does this with you and doesn’t complain she is not only a ride or die chick, she is potentially a ride AND die chick (two seats behind us for the second half of the train trip was a man with more than half his face and neck tattooed – the 4 types of people who take Amtrak more than 6 hours are 1) felons 2) illegal immigrants 3) morbidly obese 4) overly qualified comedy emcees) .
I looked up the Comfort Inn before leaving work and noticed that several of the pictures featured rooms with 2 double beds, as well as tube TVs (or as the headliner I would soon meet, Tone Bell put it, “the TVs with the asses” so I figured I may have gotten a hot rate of 50% off the room rate, but it still might feel like I got robbed. This was running through my mind as we traveled all the way North through northern and then western New York. We lost time in Albany so the train could change engines there (from electric to diesel or something like that) because our train industry is still stuck in different era. We ended up arriving in Cleveland at 4:05 am feeling like human experiments at the CDC. We made our way into the Comfort Inn and were greeted by a friendly, heavy set black woman, straight out of central casting, who saw us with out bags making it through the doors and began asking our names while still struggling with the suitcases in the doorway. To her credit she never gave us any eye contact during our entire exchange, so I applaud her commitment to the character.
God Bless The GOP Convention
When we made it to our floor we noticed that the carpet on our half of the floor was new and when we got into our room it had a king sized bed, a newly furnished bathroom and a flat screen TV!! We then passed out for a healthy 4 hours of Amtrak filth covered sleep, breathing in the Subway bread air that penetrated the room since we were directly above a Subway restaurant. #BreatheFresh
As it turned out, this hotel was clearly undergoing renovations for the rush of taxphobic whores, religious nuts and Klan members that will descend upon Cleveland in July for the GOP Convention. For the hell of it I looked up hotels the week of the convention. Hotels.com reported 167 hotels WITHOUT availability that week and the only hotel within 15 miles of the city center with availability was a 2 star hotel charging $340 a night. This same hotel’s rate next week, for point of comparison? $96. So perhaps if the convention were taking place elsewhere I would have been sleeping in a semen stained, TV with ass-having room filled with police caution tape, but thanks to the GOP I stayed in a 2 star hotel with 3.5 star upgrades.
Needless to say, my girlfriend and I spent our first day in Cleveland at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. I am a member of the museum (a guest and I can get into the museum for free for the next 4 years thanks to my generous donation #PatronOfTheArtsMogul and I get 10% off all purchases #ComedyMogul) so we walked in and I got a member wrist band, while my girlfriend was given a wristband for non-members. #MembershipMogul
The next day we went to a new restaurant at the Westin hotel (where staff followed us around because they could smell Comfort Inn/Subway on our clothing) called Urban Farmer (it’s theme is a black farmer called Ol’ DaeMcDonald) and it was delicious! My girlfriend made it her business to force me out of my usual shitty routine of chain restaurants by becoming a human Fodor’s guide to Cleveland. The food was great (and she let me off the hook by choosing lunch – dinner prices were like NY Steak House prices, but lunch prices were like Cleveland lunch prices). We then saw The Jungle Book, which I reviewed in beautiful (and windy) downtown Cleveland:
The next day (Saturday), my girlfriend’s last day in town, we went bowling on E. 4th Street, which is sort of the hip/hipster area of town with several new restaurants. We bowled (I racked up a career high 148 in one game – not too bad for someone who has bowled less than 10 times in his life and never more than once in a two year period) and then left for an early dinner. We tried to eat at a brand new bar-b-q restaurant, recently opened up by one of the 377 celebrity chefs on TV, but the wait was 1 hour and 45 minutes… at 430pm. So we went across to a restaurant that looked promising, despite the communal tables, which always spell some horeshit dining “experience” gimmick. The restaurant’s food was tasty, but they promised family style. Well, when we sat down our waitress told us that it was tapas style. I asked her if I looked like a trendy bitch from Manhattan because I came in here for Midwestern family style, not big city skank tapas! She recommended we order several things which we did, only to realize that Midwestern tapas doesn’t really mean many small dishes; it means many large dishes. But I learned a valuable lesson in food marketing – if you call something pizza you can charge $10, but if you call it a “flatbread” you can charge $14.
The Shows: Work Work Work and a Killer Headliner
Emceeing shows at the Cleveland Improv is work. It is not always fun. It is not always comedy. But it is always work. You are competing with 10% of the crowd coming late, 33% of the crowd talking for half your set, etc. Your job is not to warm them up, but to gather their attention. It is basically like a combination of being Jesus Christ on the cross while telling a Black Lives Matter rally to disperse: sacrificial and unwanted. Well, as of this writing (Sunday evening before the final show) I have had 4 good sets and one horror show (I am talking to you late show Friday), which I consider a huge win/upset. And, instead of looking at the week as a massive loss of money for comedy work, I have framed it as a mini vacation where the Cleveland Improv is paying for me and my girlfriend’s hotel. Glass half full sort of thinking.
But the real revelation for me this weekend was the headliner Tone Bell.
When you see a name that you are not too familiar with you can make several assumptions. Maybe this guy is just some rising MTV type star with great PR and a mediocre act. Or maybe he is a niche, urban act who has not crossed over (he is black). Or maybe he is a really good comic who is under the radar. Well I didn’t know what to expect, but the dude is hilarious. He is an Atlanta-born comedian and he flows easily with urban vernacular, but doesn’t present the animated delivery found frequently at clubs like the Cleveland Improv. He walks a middle line, not with middle of the road mediocre comedy, but in terms of his delivery and sensibility. He legitimately had me LOL-ing for most of his set, as well as quoting his jokes throughout the weekend to my girlfriend. For all of you who paint me unfairly with the “hater” brush, you will at least take my praise of him seriously. But the guy’s potential for breakout stardom had me thinking of Gary Owen and Sebastian Maniscalco. Not his style, but his potential to have broad appeal at the comedy club level (he is already a working actor). So if you see Tone Bell coming to a city near you I give it the official Righteous Prick recommendation.
While at the club I also got to bid a potential Cleveland farewell to Lee Herlands, my favorite club manager in the country. He will be leaving Cleveland for the east coast, but rather than explain why I am a fan of his, feel free to check out one of my favorite podcast episodes of all time when I chatted with him in 2014.
So it is time to head to the club for the final show of the week before I hop on my 5:50 am train back to NYC on Monday morning, but I hope to be back in Cleveland soon. Maybe for a lot longer than 4 days. And in case you are wondering, my pup Cookie is in the care of a friend of my girlfriend and she is already taking ass shots like a teenage girl from the Bronx without my strong paternal influence over her: