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.
11. Stephen Colbert’s Dance Marathon to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky – Not only is Colbert the most talented individual on late night television by light years, but he also strikes me as the guy you wish was your uncle at a wedding. Unlike the awkward uncle who makes an appearance at almost every wedding in America, he seems like the one who actually would tear up the dance floor and not just think he is tearing up the dance floor while dancing like Elaine on Seinfeld. Enjoy this clip before it gets taken down:
10. The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America – This Thomas Packer book just won the National Book Award and I read it in San Antonio, TX this year while on the road in the Summer. It is a compelling, non-partisan (though as Stephen Colbert famously said to President George W. Bush, “facts are well known to have a liberal bias”) tale of how the promise of the American Dream is proving more and more to be a fantasy for ordinary Americans.
9. Alt Wolf/Tim & Aaron/Biggie – This year was a big year for my comedy career (in every way, but financial). Louis CK Tells the Classics was by far my biggest hit on the Internet, but I had a three way tie for my favorite video of the year (that I made). So if you missed them or want to enjoy them again, here are Alt Wolf, Tim & Aaron and Biggie:
8. Obamacare – You are probably wondering, huh? The website was a mess (sorry GOP, but the site is working a lot better now) and most Americans, according to Fox News polls, believe the Affordable Care Act is slightly worse than Uday Hussein’s rape room. But from this blogging comedian’s perspective it was a big success. My new health care plan will save me $169/month over what I paid in 2013 for health insurance. I will have smaller co-pays and have a plan that is accepted by all the doctors I already see. The only sad thing is that in my head I still think I am one of the “young people” that the Act needs to enroll. Then I realized that at 34 I might be older than that demographic. So now the President and Comedy Central have no need for me.
7. Captain Phillips – My favorite film of 2013. And the last 10 minutes of acting by Tom Hanks is the best work he has ever done and I do not care what sentiments or feel good stories emerge at the Oscars – Tom Hanks deserves the Best Actor award.
6. The New York Times Series on Dasani – This five part series in the New York Times about Dasani, an 11 year old girl living in a Brooklyn shelter is an incredible and intimate look at the struggles of the poor. Similar to The Unwinding, it takes a look at the poor and the struggling, not through political or economic theories or through statistics, but through an on-the-ground look at the cyclical struggles of the poor and how difficult it can be for people, even with motivation and talents, to rise above their circumstances in an increasingly unequal society. Check it out HERE
5. Lebron James – With my Utah Jazz in a re-building and irrelevant phase of their franchise, it has allowed me to become more of an NBA fan and appreciate the stars of the NBA (unlike in the Jordan era where the Jazz were actually title contenders and I could only view Jordan from the perspective of hostile opposing fan). And no star has shined brighter than Lebron James. If the Olympics were every year perhaps Usain Bolt would be on this list, but the most exciting, entertaining and compelling athlete on a year-to-year basis is Lebron James. And in 2013 it was particularly enjoyable seeing him shut down his haters for good.
4. Breaking Bad – The series ended and I did not think the final season was its best (that would be either season 3 or 4, both of which I would give A+ grades to). And many people believe that Episode 14 of Season 5 – Ozymandias was the show’s all-time best episode (for me it is top five). However, my favorite moment of Breaking Bad this season, and perhaps the entire show, were the final two minutes of the second to last episode of the series. (SPOILER COMING IF YOU ARE WATCHING THE LAST SEASON ON DVD NOW). Walt calls Walt Jr. at school seeking some sort of reconciliation that he does not receive. So defeated, he calls the police to turn himself in, sits down at the bar and awaits his destiny. However, he sees his former partners in the business he left (as Vince Gilligan said in an interview, he believed Walt “broke bad” when he refused a job and full care for his treatment from his former business partners in Season 1, purely out of pride – because if family was most important than the decision should have been made easily) minimizing his contributions to the company on Charlie Rose. It triggers in him a proud rage and as the theme music to the show swells, and we see the police closing in on the bar, the last frame shows an empty seat and an unfinished drink, indicating that Walt is not done yet and that we will, in fact, have one more episode of one of the greatest shows of all time.
3. Hello Ladies – For any show to be ahead of Breaking Bad, given its quality and my sentimental attachement to it, it would have to be damn near perfect. And like Season 1 of Eastbound and Down, which topped my end of year list several years ago, Hello Ladies was comedy and sentimental perfection. The show was 8 episodes of sly humor, great acting, uncomfortable awkwardness and pure brilliance. And I am not just saying that because the lead actor is 6’7″. Who knows if the show can continue its brilliance, but for 8 episodes it was my favorite thing on television this year.
2. Blurred Lines – Here is how you know a song is good – it is number 1 on the charts for two months before feminist blog sites finally stop dancing and tapping their cyber feet to issue denunciations of it. The song is fantastic. And the video is even better. And the unedited video is even betterer (the brunette could have had her own spot on this list to be honest).
1. The Last of Us – It may seem weird to have a video game as the number one thing of 2013, but The Last of Us was the single best piece of entertainment I experienced this year. A script worthy of Hollywood’s best, great vocal talent, incredible graphics, great gameplay and an ending of moral ambiguity that would make Vince Gilligan envious. I know now everyone that reads this plays video games and not everyone who plays video games has a PS3, but this game alone is worth the purchase of a PS3 and it is my #1 thing of 2013.
For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic, iTunes and NOW on STICHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe on one or more platforms today – all for free!
2013 has been the best year that I can remember in a long time for movies. I have seen great indie movies and great blockbusters, but now there is one movie set to be released this year that trumps them all. It is a movie called Biggie. It is a re-imagining of the Tom Hanks’ film Big, but instead of a loser kid wishing to be big, it is about a loser adult who wishes to be The Notorious B.I.G. Check out the preview:
Check out my web series fund raising campaign here – http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/comedy-academy
For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic, iTunes and NOW on STICHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe on one or more platforms today – all for free!
I was disappointed to see Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass’ new movie, “Green Zone” make a relatively low amount of money this weekend. Not because I have any ownership in the film, but because it is sort of disappointing that Americans don’t want to engage the Wars in the Middle East on any level, even fictional.
It is sort of a Catch 22 that films like Green Zone, which is somewhat political (if you consider the truth, albeit fictionalized, “liberal”) and 2009’s Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, completely apolitical, are unsuccessful because of American society’s war fatigue. If we had such aversion and fatigue over war, where was it in 2003 when troops marched off to war in Iraq? In other words, if people were as tired of war and wanted to hide their eyes from it as much in 2003 and they do in 2010 then films like Green Zone and The Hurt Locker would never have been made.
Sometimes I have friends who say, I just want to go the movies for a diversion, something mindless, not for some high minded message movie. But how much mindlessness can we actually tolerate – Facebook, Twitter, reality television, Internet, video games, porn – and that is just my day before noon! At some point don’t people want something thought-provoking that isn’t a 90 second clip on The Daily Show?
But I was actually very surprised to see a Matt Damon movie with such a good director fail, no matter what the topic. It raises a question in my mind: is there anyone who could actually sell a Middle East War movie successfully to our half apathetic/half-indignant society? Here are some ideas I am pitching:
1) Scorsese directs DiCaprio in “The Enlisted”. DiCaprio plays Tommy Coughlin, a Boston tough who joins the Army and is sent to Iraq as an alternative to going to prison. There is a ton of Rolling Stones music, a lot of quick shots and of course, DiCaprio gets to speak with a Boston accent all while shooting a lot of brown people.
2) Will Smith & Tom Hanks in “I Am Soldier” directed by Steven Spielberg – probably the best bet for a successful Middle East War Movie. Tom Hanks plays General Michael White who is asking Captain John Black (Smith) to go on a dangerous one man mission. When it seems like Capt Black will fail, Sandra Bullock shows up as a sassy southern enlisted woman who is lost and helps him complete his mission. (Captain Black and General White could be role reversed, at which point instead of Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks companion in the desert would be a volleyball).
3) “I Can Do War Torture By Myself “or “Why Did I Enlist” by Tyler Perry – the wild card here – this film will be about a man whose marriage to Janet Jackson is on the rocks because he is not living a Christian lifestyle. After receiving advice from his 6’6″ transgendered grandmother the man decides to enlist in the war to prove that he, like Jesus Christ, is willing to sacrifice his life for a greater cause.
4) “Sandstorm” – starring Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. Pattinson plays an English enlisted man fighting in Iraq, but he can only fight at night because of his deep brooding nature and a secret he has (he’s a vampire). Lautner plays an American fighting alongside, but harboring an even deeper secret (he’s a gay werewolf and if either of those things is found out he will be kicked out of the armed forces).
5) “Memorial Day” – starring the cast of Valentine’s Day. The concept of this movie is simple – every cast member of this film actually volunteers for active duty in Iraq as part of a documentary with an option for a reality television spin off.
Let me know which you think has the best chance.
But it seems to me that from Facebook and fantasy sports to Harry Potter and plastic surgery our culture is obsessed with staying in our teens and twenties no matter what. And to compensate for this, we’ve begun to add the words “classic” and “historic” to things that have not really obtained classic or historic status in any objective sense of the word. Harry Potter is not a “classic” as is printed on the book covers. And unlike its true classic predecessors, The Lord of The Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, which have withstood a test of time, Potter has no deeper meaning or societal commentary that is usually necessary for something to gain elevation beyond pop relevance. But to justify our culture’s unwarranted obsession with things puerile and fleeting we tag them with words like classic so that instead of feeling vapid we feel like part of something important. And boy do we live in a golden age of importance!
Ipod now refers to the regular iPod as “iPod classic” – how many decades was Coca Cola in business before they threw classic on their beverage. Watching the E! channel against my will yesterday I heard Ryan Seacrest make a bold proclamation that the cast of Dancing With The Stars this Fall was the largest in the show’s “History! ” It just seemed to cheapen the word History. I think of History in terms decades and centuries, not in terms of a few television seasons. To say nothing of the fact that the word “star” is still a misnomer for this show.
Fame has always been fleeting and cheap, but even by that low standard it feels like we are actually living through a time where the value of celebrity is being downgraded. If he had known what we know now Andy Warhol might have re-stated, everyone will get their 2-3 seasons of fame. Like the Kardashians.
But to quote DeNiro from Heat, there is a flip side to this coin. While older people are trying to resist maturity, their kids, left under the watchful and protective eyes of cell phones and the Internet, are in a hurry to leave childhood. I watched Big yesterday, the film with Tom Hanks. And in it he plays a 12 year old boy who likes playing with toys and does not know much about girls, etc. It was a fun, humorous film and completely unrelatable to kids today. Nowadays to get a kid to act like that and have the audience believe it, it would have to be a 7 year old, because by 12 Josh Baskins c. 2009 would be sexting on his iPhone and encouraging Elizabeth Perkins to do that thing he saw in a porno.
If I were to make a satirical film about the future it would just feature a society filled with people who looked 24 – some would be 13 year olds trying to look and act older, neglecting the fun and innocence of youth; others would be 58 trying through surgery and fashion to look younger and neglecting the wisdom and quality that can come from a long and fulfilling life. Then there would be a group of 24 year olds going, “What the fu-k is going on?” And it will star Seth Rogan playing all three since he is the only actor in his 20s who acts like a teenager, but looks much older than he actually is.
The Empire State Building was built around 80 years ago in 14 months. I look around Manhattan and see buildings one-fifth the size taking five times as long to build. Technology serves a legitimate function, but I feel like our culture in general is taking major steps backwards, while the bells and whistles of technology give us the appearance of progress. As my Uncle is fond of saying, “Don’t confuse movement with action.” Right now it feels like our culture is making a lot of movement, but not much action.
Now back to my Nintendo Wii.