It has been two months since I went viral with Donald Trump vs God on Easter PPV, though the first video was even earlier on March 11, 2020. Because the Twitter algorithm has people missing some videos, two pieces of advice for fans on Memorial Day. One, subscribe to my YouTube channel. You will not miss a video and the views I get on YouTube pay me (versus the views on Twitter which just make my ego feel good, but do nothing for my bank account). Two – share the list I am about to share far and wide with people who are fans and those who have never heard of me. If you do enjoy the impression and have money to spare (subscribing on YouTube costs nothing, if you are not aware) then go get Fireside Craps: The Deuce (dominated the iTunes and Amazon comedy charts for 2 weeks this month) on iTunes or Amazon. OK, without further adieu, here are the top 10 videos of the #TrumPandemic that the J-L Video Committee (me) decided on as the top 10 (all are superb so the deciding was very tough):
10. Donald Trump Encourages People to Drink Diet Fresca
9. Donald Trump Mourns Brian Dennehy (one of two videos that cracked me up and needed re-filming)
8. Donald Trump vs God Easter PPV (the one that went viral and started this)
7. Donald Trump Appoints James Woods (the definitive “reading” Trump)
6. Donald Trump Angry with Georgia (feat. JB Smoove)
5. Donald Trump Reviews Joe Biden’s Appearance on The Breakfast Club
4. New Easter (feat. Andrew Cuomo)
3. Trump Congratulates Tiffany Trump on Law School Graduation
2. Trump Re-Opens Mar-A-Lago
And the Number One for me was a no-brainer. It is the video I had to re-film multiple times because I kept cracking myself up.
1. Donald Trump Is Concerned for Kim Jong Un’s Health
In a few weeks I will “celebrate” 17 years performing stand up comedy. After my second year at Georgetown University Law Center, a year that found me deeply depressed, so much so that my then-girlfriend called a priest from Georgetown to counsel me. Basically he showed up to my apartment like Father Merrin in The Exorcist, we had Chinese food and subsequently had a few months of therapeutic lunches. At the end of that I realized I needed a hobby and went to my first open mic in DC in June of 2003. And if law school was my heroin, for many years it seemed that stand up comedy became my methadone. It stopped me from being depressed about law school and later, about being a lawyer but then it became its own dependency. After a good show in 2006 I might feel high for three days. Six years later the buzz from even a great set would wear off by the time I descended the stairs of the stage. This is not some exaggeration – I remember the show at NYC’s Gotham Comedy Club in October 2012 when it happened.
Part of the problem was that my career, after a solid trajectory for a few years started to feel like treading water. One or two things might happen to give me hope that a career in comedy was in the offing only to realize that it was just a tease. In 2007 I made my national TV debut on The Late Late Show (a great debut set that I find hard to watch simply because I was in such great shape), but months later, when looking to make another appearance on TLLS two things happened: my manager (nothing in writing, but he was helping me immensely with an eye to the future) was let go and I made the rookie mistake of trying to stay with the agency. They officially dumped me months later after the heat of my appearance had died down and this occurred around the time of a writers’ strike in Hollywood. By the time things came back TLLS did not return emails from my manger-less ass.
I was then laid off from my law firm in 2009, but with savings and the money from a returned (snatched) engagement ring I felt like I was good enough to make that money last until I became a star. I ended up featuring around the country (one memorable gig in Detroit paid $300 for 5 shows – I took a train to Detroit… from NYC and a Greyhound back. Found a cheap hotel and managed to make $13 profit, which I considered a major accomplishment and why I have not stopped complaining about stagnant feature pay for years, despite the fact that the industry and almost no headliner care. I kept taking gigs that did not make financial sense because I though if I could keep writing and performing and rubbing elbows with headliners a combination of skill, luck and relationships would take me where I wanted to go.
Most headliners seemed to enjoy my presence and my material but none extended a hand other to say good job. And that’s OK. I think maybe my combination of NBA/NFL size, the “side gig” as an attorney and the fact that I was in my early 30s did not lend itself to a conventional mentoring relationship. I was not some young kid in need of guidance. I was a smart, grown ass man in need of work and a manager, not someone to “teach me the ropes.” But in 2010 I worked with a comedian who would be able to see me in a different light, because he seemed to think of almost every comedian as beneath him: Patrice O’Neal.
I only worked with Patrice twice, but you can hear me introducing him on his two big albums. I emceed for him the first time by luck. I did not take emcee work, not because I was above it but I refused to lose money on road gigs (e.g. you could have me for $13 profit). But my brother and his family lived in DC at the time that I was offered an emcee spot at the DC Improv so I would not have to pay for my own hotel if I took the emcee spot. So I took it. It was a few months before Patrice would record Elephant in the Room and it is one of the three biggest killer weeks of shows I have ever been part of. In terms of pure killing (strong audience reaction) the three guys who have destroyed crowds harder than anyone else I’ve worked with are Patrice, Sebastian Maniscalco in 2013 (another emcee shot I jumped at in DC) and Gary Owen. I watched every one of Patrice’s shows. Patrice did two things that week that made me think that perhaps I had made a potential friend. The first was that he told me one of the nights that he liked my Rocky bit (a bit I never performed in front of him, but that he had seen looking up my stuff – here is the updated version from Thots and Prayers) and the second was that he ripped me for about 10 minutes in front of the local comedians after the last show. It was more friendly roast and felt basically like he “fu*ked with me” as a comedian.
The great compliment came maybe 6 months or so later when he asked the DC Improv to have me emcee his next set of shows. I still feel like it is the single best compliment I have ever received in stand up. He valued the emcee spot, which he told me when I was trying to impress him that I “usually featured” (this is what he ripped me for in front of the comics the previous year). Now I have never asked a comedian “if I could open for them.” I am not super pushy to begin with, but I feel like that is like asking someone if you are invited to their wedding – let them invite you and if they don’t then you just keep working for the next opportunity. But once Patrice invited me back personally I thought that I might ask him if his feature could not make a gig, would he keep me in mind. Like I said, I only would have done this because I felt like he had asked for me first. But a few months later, Patrice would have the stroke that would take his life. I remember being 99% sad that a giant of stand up was gone, just a couple of years into me really delving into his work, but admittedly 1% of me was sad for me because the only headliner who had the physical and mental stature to see me as an inferior (in a good way) and might help me was now gone.
But I kept plugging away. In 2013, after ending a relationship in 2012 that had to suffer through the most disappointing stretch of my career I drank a lot, but also created my best work. In April 2013 I released a video that would be my first viral video – Louis CK Tells the Classics, where I mocked Louis CK’s writing and delivery style through knock knock jokes. This was CK at the height of his powers within and outside of the stand up world. Many people called me a hater, but most thought the impression and the content were A+. It got me a few meetings with managers that went nowhere. But in September of 2013 I released Keep My Enemies Closer, the best album of my career. I wrote and worked the 75 minutes of material in only 16 months (as I had released a very solid album Too Big To Fail in the beginning of 2012). It sold modestly, but almost every fan I have acknowledges that it is a superb stand up album (performed in front of about 30 people, because 10 years into your career your friends abandon your career because they have families and little of the “oh man you do comedy!” enthusiasm that overflowed when you were new and terrible. But you have not developed a large enough fan base of strangers because you are not very successful by the measure of the lay person who often assumes that 10 years without headlining or being on TV regularly means you are probably not that good. It is a terrible place to be in your comedy career, but I had dropped the two best pieces of content in my career at this nadir.
But, predictably, 2013 yielded nothing except all my money had run out, I was a feature of great skill, but little renown and I had put on 50 lbs since my Late Late Show debut. So I started doing part time legal work. Living month to month for the next 5 years. Dependent more on the godsend of Sound Exchange, which paid out streaming and satellite radio royalties (one of the fortunate moves of mine in not believing in the shady comedy labels that dominate the stand up album world and believing in myself, no matter how foolhardy, was that I owned the rights to every stand up album I self produced. So from 2015-2018 the vast majority of my comedy earnings came from those albums, not the 1988 wages clubs were/are still paying middle acts (features, if I did not explain earlier)).
So I went from being a prosecutor and a big firm associate to a meagerly-paid document reviewing attorney, simply to have the flexibility to do road gigs that would most of the time net me less money than clicking on emails for large corporations as a “contract attorney.” I had fun runs on The Adam Carolla Show as a resident impersonator and video maker (videos that cost me as much to make as a weekend of feature work), flying myself to LA on my own dime just trying to boost my Twitter and YouTube numbers by appearing on a big podcast (see how much my Trump has improved by watching a sample video below – which will mostly only make sense to Carolla Show fans). I made around 15 appearances on ESPN radio as a Trump impersonator, but could never convince the show to make a guest, despite being a huge sports fan and a popular segment on the show.
In 2018 I recorded Thots and Prayers, for me the only album of mine at the level of Keep My Enemies Closer, at Helium in Philly. I remember when the set was done I felt a complete exhaustion and sense of relief. I had cranked out 6 stand up albums, all an hour or more in 15 years (at the time) as a stand up. I was proud of every one. I had produced every one. I had been a road warrior. I had cost myself relationships, financial stability, physical health and happiness in pursuit of making myself a real stand up comedian. I had made podcasts and videos and was proud of that work too, but a headlining stand up comedian was the goal for me. A real popular headliner. Special event on my poster outside the clubs level comedian. And I had maintained an elite headliner level of output, all while only featuring and doing bar shows in NYC because no club had yet passed me after all that time and all those seemingly important accomplishments. But after that 2018 recording I felt done. I felt like I had done all that I could, had become a great stand up, but the career wasn’t going to happen for me.
On a related note from 2016 to today I believed I had the best Trump impression (though it clearly has improved “tremendously” since my early assumptions about its quality), but I was seeing everyone from comedians to sketch guys to famous actors getting paid well to play Trump and I couldn’t even propel ESPN radio and Adam Carolla appearances into anything even decent as far as a payday. So combined with exhaustion from stand up I felt like, “If my best pitch (Trump) is not getting me a sniff then it really is not going to happen.”
The final straw was 2019 – I had only received 3 gigs after March – a headlining gig in Ann Arbor (lots of fun) and two feature spots in Baltimore (fun) and Long Island (some fun and an awkward racial conversation after one show). That was it. So when I received a call out of the blue from a legal staffing agency offering me a position at a big firm I took it. I also moved to NJ, away from the hustle and convenience of NYC, because I figured if I was not working as a comedian and work was no longer coming to me, why not get 2 bedrooms for the price of the studio I was living in. When I left my apartment in midtown in August 2019 it was a happy day for many reasons, but it also felt like the saddest day of my life. I was leaving the only home I’d really had as a non-student since my childhood home. It also felt like my stand up career was staying there while I went to start a new life.
I have messed up relationships. I have hurt people. I have been hurt. I have not been the perfect Catholic I sought to be in my youth and adulthood and I am not the Daniel Caffey/Atticus Finch lawyer I thought I could be when I enrolled in law school. But comedy was the thing that I had done perfectly. Not successfully, but perfectly. I worked hard at it. I had multi-faceted talents within it. I had received unsolicited praise from big time comedians. I had achieved some rewards and opportunities, with the exception of The Late Late Show, all on my own. I have a track record of videos and albums to prove I was here and I produced. And I did it the right way. I stuck true to my voice. I didn’t violate any personal rules I had set for myself in my personal or professional conduct. I wanted my comedy career to be pure, in the sense that if and when I reached where I wanted to get it would be an unassailable journey that others could look at with admiration and for which I could feel an unblemished pride. I did all of that and it did not happen. Until March 2020.
The Covid-to-Riches story of my career is probably the best known thing about me because it what I have discussed on TV and podcasts for the last month. The Covid hit and thanks to a text from a friend I decided to make a selfie video as Trump. It was my 4th or 5th video in the last week and a half, but this one went off like a fire. Within a week I was already Twitter famous. All of my social media metrics skyrocketed and the irony is that I am now famous and have fans with nowhere to perform. And the undeniable flip side of this is that if the world was not in a health and economic crisis I would have been in an office and not posting an off the cuff Trump impression video on March 24th. And my career would likely have been done.
But as I was enjoying recognition and increased opportunities to entertain, a comedian posted a video lip syncing Trump that caught fire in a way that literally doubled, if not tripled the viral impact of my big video a month after mine. I remember laughing at the video and thinking “wow that is blowing up.” But unlike most comedians who will not acknowledge their competitiveness I will admit that I did not feel threatened because I thought, “That is not even my lane. I am free styling A+ material in the best Trump voice people have heard. Hers is a fun Tik Tok.” But then people began @-ing me telling me she was better and/or that we should collaborate. I would be lying if I said it did not bother me on an artistic level to have what I do compared, or equated to a lip sync, but these are tough times and anyone who can make people laugh (including myself) deserve respect and positive vibes. So I just liked the comments or ignored them. Lot of people just want to laugh and equate big belly laughs with big belly laughs no matter how they get them.
But over the last few days I have gotten several messages accusing me of stealing this comedian’s successful act. Never mind that I predated the comedian’s video by a month or that I am improvising a great impression that has been 5 years in the making. They are not merely dismissing that. They are accusing me of theft of something that I take the highest pride in (ironically it is because they think my impression is a lip sync, which is an accidental compliment, but I truly don’t care). For many years, all I had in comedy was pride in that I was doing it the right way because I did not have any other marker of success or progress. To quote Scarface, “All I ha[d] [wa]s my word and my ballssss.” It was like being on a hamster wheel and having to tell yourself, “well I haven’t gone anywhere, but I am really running with good form.” But accusing me of stealing will not be tolerated. I don’t know if you are ignorant of comedy, stupid or just an aggressive on-line presence. I do not give a shit. You put that out there I will stomp it. And if you among the people questioning why I have reacted so strongly to those accusations it is simple. I am not a Twitter comedian. I am a stand up comedian and impersonator that you discovered on Twitter. Please, enjoy my work, but do not confuse my work as a quirky diversion. It is born of many years of hard work and sacrifice. I will not surrender pride in my work and how I got here to be more palatable for Twitter. I hope you understand that. I am not diminishing others. I am defending what I am doing, which I did not think would be necessary. My blog and my podcast were often places where I would write and speak truths (and a lot of humor) about life, politics, art and most of all, stand up. The things I wrote, in some cases, could have been detrimental to my career, but they were always honest words from a frustrated comedian who wanted to see the business work better for himself and others similarly situated. So forgive me if you did not expect this level of honesty from someone you may know as a “Twitter” comedian. Diminish my work and I may be able to bite my tongue. But call me a thief, after all this and how I have tried to pursue it in as pure a way as possible, then all I can say to you is fuck you.
After a 5 month drought of road bookings, November represented an avalanche of bookings (2). I was at the Brokerage in Long Island a few weeks ago, and even though taking New Jersey Transit to Long Island Railroad on a weekend is the time equivalent of driving to Atlanta, I did not write it up as a road recap. But with a booking outside of Baltimore that required Amtrak and hotel accommodations, here is the first road recap in quite some time! I was performing at Magoobys (I think for the 6th time between the 2 locations they’ve had this decade) and the weekend included all the staples of a J-L Comedy road trip: 1 awful show, 2 movies, 3 awesome shows, 5 pancakes at IHOP and a 7am Amtrak trip in Baltimore where Kevin Spacey held the door for me. So without further adieu let’s get into it!
On Friday I took a regular Amtrak (AKA poor people train) to Baltimore, but upgraded to the business class car, which was actually really nice. The rest of the train was packed, but the business class car, with tons of leg room and leather seats was only about 15% full. When I arrived at Baltimore Penn I walked to the light rail station, which I take every trip to whichever hotel Hotwire.com has bestowed upon me near Magoobys. I buy a ticket for the light rail every time, but in half a decade of taking it, not once has anyone taken the ticket from me. I arrived at the Extended Stay America, which is named for how long they expect the hotel’s bed bugs to cling to your clothing, in Timonium (hard to beat $135 after fees and taxes for 2 nights).
The two shows were solid that night. I was opening for Aida Rodriguez, most recently of Tiffany Haddish’s stand up series on Netflix. I sold a handful of albums and ended the night with a vending machine can of pringles and some CNN. #Blessed
Having scouted out eating locations I made my way to an IHOP about 3/4 of a mile from my hotel for some breakfast (also found out that IHOP does catering now, so as soon as I have a function that requires catering expect a call from me IHOP). I then got a Lyft to the Hunt Valley Mall where I went to see two movies: Knives Out and Queen and Slim – both very good movies and also could have been called White People Problems and Black People Problems, respectively. I then had Chick Fil-A for dinner nearby, giving me an IHOP breakfast-Popcorn and Candy lunch-Chick Fil-A dinner. How I am still alive I do not know, but as I write this the diet starts now (33rd time I have said that in 2019).
The first show Saturday night was outstanding. A new bit I am working on about getting hit as a child really did well on this show. I cannot blame the first Friday crowd for not laughing a lot – since I forgot half of the punchlines, but none of the sad parts, so it felt more like a sad origin story than a darkly humorous take on my childhood. But here is the newest rough draft of “All Roads Lead to Joe Rogan”:
The second show on Saturday was lightly attended and even more lightly laughed at. Most of the audience were good sports and enjoyed my set, but there was one woman in a hat (it looked like she meant to line up early for Church Saturday night to get a good pew, but ended up at a comedy show by accident). So the shows ended on a low point, but the overall trip and majority of shows were a great success. A good way to end the decade where I made 1 tv appearance, created 2 viral videos, self-produced 4 stand up albums (one went #1), made 8 appearances on Adam Carolla, made double digit appearances with The Black Guy Who Tips and The Dan Lebatard Show and made $734 in net profit. Bring on 2020!
On Sunday I took the 7am Acela (#Comedy Mogul) out of Baltimore, figuring correctly that that would be the only time to take an Amtrak comfortably on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. The station was not too crowded, but I did notice one person that I had to do a triple take: Kevin Spacey. Like myself, Spacey obviously knows that the early morning Acela on a Sunday is the most discreet way for an entertainment star to travel. As I approached I had 4 options:
- Tell him that House of Cards really sucked without him (and then rap my knuckles on the wood bench twice)
- Ask someone to record me on their camera and scream at Spacey for all the hurt he has allegedly caused
- Try to get him to grope me (#Settlement) or
- Give him a knowing head nod and be on my way.
I chose 4 and his response was:
He was sitting with either a female relative or a personal assistant (OR POSSIBLY A WOMAN WITH HER OWN GREAT CAREER AND LIFE INDEPENDENT OF KEVIN SPACEY – PLEASE DON’T CANCEL ME). I was unable to upgrade to first class on the Acela due to blackout restrictions (insert Spacey joke here), but by coincidence Spacey held the door for me and a woman before going down the stairs himself. SO HE IS ALRIGHT IN MY BOOK! Our ways parted when he went to the First Class Car and I went to the upper-middle class section.
So all in all another fun and fruitful road work weekend. Thanks to all that have enjoyed this blog and supported my career the last decade. All 7 of you!
This weekend I took my girlfriend to Baltimore. If you are part of the racist cult known as MAGA, you might consider this a capital offense, but it was actually a nice weekend that I planned as part of her birthday before Donald Trump lashed out at the city and John Lewis (not to be confused with Jean-Louis, a half black civil rights icon). But I am willing to take coincidental progressive points for pumping tourist dollars into Charm City after Trump’s attack. Having just shelled out a lot of money for a move (and related expenses) next month to New Jersey I was tempted to tell my girlfriend that my birthday present to her was my freedom and the bulk of my checking account, but that might have come off a tad dickish, so when she saw a commercial for a Live/Bush concert and said “Oh I like Live!” (my response of “And I like Bush!” was not met well) I figured that might make for a good present. Problem was the most convenient concert was in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, so I said to myself “Hey – a two day getaway near the harbor to see the concert, throw in an Orioles game, nice accommodations and the non-poor Amtrak (Accela) and you’ve got yourself a decent birthday present!” What would follow would be one of the most entertaining trip of my adult life. The sad news I have to report is that Trump may have been partly right about Baltimore… but for completely different reasons than he undoubtedly meant.
Friday – KKKountry Music Knight at Camden Yards and Possibly the Worst Cheesecake Factory in America
We took the noon Accela out of Penn Station and arrived at Baltimore Penn at about 2:30. There was a line of cabs outside and as someone who appreciates organized labor and detests the libertarian driven gig-economy I hopped in to a yellow cab. Interestingly enough a millenielle (female millennial (TM)) was telling a cab driver that she was ordering an Uber. This struck me as a decisive victory for apps, cell phone addiction and stupidity. The yellow cab was actually cheaper than an app and though clicking an app may be convenient – how is waiting 4 minutes for a more expensive ride more “convenient” than getting in the cab that is in front of you?
We arrived at our hotel – The Kimpton Monaco, which was a beautiful piece of shit (also how I have described multiple exes). It sounds like a hotel where James Bond would be meeting someone to exchange data files, but beneath the service it was a stunning mediocrity (how some of my exes probably describe me). I wanted to name the blog Kimpton Ain’t Easy, but did not after it got two eye rolls from my girlfriend. However, when we arrived we had not yet discovered any of the hotels flaws (it was listed as a 4.5/5 star property on Hotwire – the website for people who are willing to play Russian Roulette with their lives to save significantly on hotel rooms).
After we checked in we headed out to a local restaurant I found through exhaustive research – The Cheesecake Factory. The exterior of the Factory looked more like what a Cheesecake Factory would look like if described in a Bruce Springsteen song – the exterior looked like shit and the hostesses had the enthusiasm of women whose men folk had been laid off from the Cheesecake Textile Mill. They said we had to wait 15 minutes and gave me a buzzer. Five minutes later the buzzer buzzed. So like Pavlov’s dessert dog I headed to the hostess who then started to show a trio of people who just walked in (no buzzer) to a table after taking my buzzer. I followed, assuming she was taking us to our table (since we were first by 5 minutes and had a buzzer) and the other hostess, who had just seen me, a 6’7″, 290 lb dude in a purple shirt 5 minutes ago, said “Can I help you?” I then said, in my most Wahlbergian-Departed voice “Yeah, I’m the guy looking for cheesecake – you must be the other guy!”
When we sat down we waited for a while until our waiter, who I would describe as a gay man so stressed I assumed Barbara Streisand and Britney Spears had just died in a murder-suicide. We never got the Brown Bread before the meal, our order was taken late and he genuinely made us anxious (not for us, but for him). He also seemed unhappy I did not order the cheesecake he recommended. Hopefully all is good with him now.
Then it was time for the Baltimore Orioles-Tampa Rays game at beautiful Camden Yards. I was there in the mid-late 90s with my brother, but this was my first trip back since then. It really is one of the great stadiums in all of sports. The Orioles are an abomination though and the stadium was about 85% empty, making my isolated seats (which I eventually moved up from) all the more absurd:
However, it was Country Music Night at Camden, so at least people who love country music and awful baseball would be in attendance. Now there were some black people at the stadium, but I did not realize until the 6th inning that it was White Culture night at the stadium. Players were still coming up to their walk up music, which included MAGA-approved blacks like Kanye, but all the stadium music was country and I kept thinking, “How far South is Baltimore?” But I really let out a laugh when during one inning break they played some country song that featured flat out rap, including the lyric “I’m a shot gun toter, Republican voter…” and I thought – that is classic new Republican – abuse an art form begun and dominated by black people and use it to praise anti-Black-adjacent politics (unless of course I missed the next lyric “With Grant and Lincoln I’m Three’s Company like Mr. Roper” and then have the audacity after each rap verse go back to pure country. Truth be told I am all for a good mash-up, but hearing hip hop hijacked by guys who don’t seem like allies feels icky, to say the least. I probably had the look like Will Ferrell in Old School when he realizes his wedding band is cursing as I listened to this song.
We then went back to the hotel after seeing the Orioles get worked (these kids sitting behind us were really into the game and left an inning before the Orioles hit a home run for their sole run of the game. I guess he should have listen to Colt Ford’s hip hop country masterpiece above, in which he says “Quitters never win” (25% chance quitters is code for the N word).
Saturday – Aquarium, Bush v Live, White Trash and McCormick & Schmucks
Saturday was a packed day. Since it was a birthday trip I decided to spring for an overpriced hotel breakfast, figuring that anyone will the temerity to charge $20 for pancakes and bacon will make a decent set of pancakes. Nope! Pancakes sucked! It was like they were missing an ingredient. After that we headed to the National Aquarium, which felt overpriced and was full of rude kids. Maybe it was because my parents instilled a healthy fear of adults in me as a child I was never one to challenge or be rude to adult strangers. But as my girlfriend and I were waiting in lines, parents would routinely tell their kids to hit whatever hole opened up in viewing spaces of various exhibits, as if we were just offensive linemen opening holes for their shitty kids. I know it’s a small sample size, but on top of climate change, Trump and the Kardashians, parents who want to be cool will be the 4th horseman of the apocalypse. Teaching your kids to say please, thank you and exhibit some amount of manners doesn’t make you a bad parent. It makes you a good one. I’m this close to pretending that I am a bulked up, just-out-of-prison Jared Fogle just to put some fearful respect into the hearts of these families!
After escaping the Aquarium we went to Pizzeria Uno for lunch (all the Baltimore hot spots) and it was the only meal we had all trip that featured good food and good service. Then it was time for some rest before the main purpose of the trip – Bush and Live.
When we left the hotel that evening we headed to McCormick and Schmicks – a good restaurant with abhorrent service. The restaurant was about 80% full, but from the servers you would think they were feeding thousands. The food was good for sure, but I think our waitress was actually a bar tender pressed into service. Baltimore may be Charm City, but the service industry there appears to be second to all.
After McCormick’s we walked to the concert venue, which if Heaven has a trailer park I believe I saw it this weekend. Let’s start with the Baltimore accent (not The Wire version, but the whiter version – which seems to sound like Philadelphia (already one of the worst accents out there) had a one night stand with a trailer park and had a baby). Then the tattoos – as I said on my 2012 album Too Big To Fail – it appears that once American manufacturing dried up and coincided with the rise of reality TV and MMA – America traded in identity and creativity for “expressing themselves” through permanent ink. And I would guess that that at least 31% of the audience at the show had uploaded a video to YouPorn, which is the same percentage of the women present that I believed had had sex with non-front-men members of the two bands we were there to see. And as two bonuses, the man in front of us during Bush had body odor so strong that the lady and I had to move elsewhere for Live. And during Live, we were standing behind what appeared to be a Throuple (that’s a term that means when a married couple has a third partner who has low self-esteem… unless they live in a wealthier zip code and they suddenly become “enlightened sexual beings”). The man looked like he just missed out on playing the husband on Escape at Dannemora and to be fair his wife was pretty good looking except for a paunch that signified “I am no longer the hot stuff I was in high school and as long as this ‘Associates 15’ I put on 20 years ago is still here there is enough insecurity to allow a goofy chick in to do the dirty work.” But let’s talk about the music, shall we?
Bush was outstanding and even though Live is the billed headliner on this tour, it was clear that Bush was the more dynamic band with the
better hour and the better front man (despite not playing his single from the Richard Gere-Diane Lane romantic drama Nights in Rodanthe). Gavin Rossdale was an A and so was Bush. And I am pretty sure 4 women in their late 40s left pregnant after Bush’s set. The bar was set high for Live and boy did they not meet it. That is not to say they were bad. They were very good and I would argue that the night’s closing song, Lightning Crashes, was the best song by either band, but the overall catalogue and energy of Bush and the presence of Rossdale (versus the “what if your uncle were a less cool version of Andre Aggasi of Live’s Ed Kowalczyk) made it a decisive victory. Plus, in their hour, Live did not one, but two covers. That’s a forfeit in my book. I did plenty of people watching during this and noticed that almost every white man in Baltimore (or at least the white men who come into Maryland for Bush/Live concerts) walks with a mixed look of anger and insecurity (I guess that is the official look of MAGA). It’s a look like they just found out that their girlfriend is talking to her ex from high school by the porta-potty.
After the show, which was very enjoyable (and based on the hey day of both bands reminded me of my first workout mix tape), we went back to the hotel, arriving at 11:05pm. I asked the front desk if room service still delivered and he said no. We then asked if they had vending machines. He said no, but offered the 7-11 three blocks away that we passed on because I believe it is a hotel’s responsibility to offer me overpriced snacks and food when it is 11pm on a Saturday. So we went to bed having had as great a weekend as you can have when coupled with MAGA throuples and terrible overall service almost everywhere you go.
I am not saying Trump was right about Baltimore, but if by calling the city “filthy” he was referencing all the white trash and the menus at McCormick & Schmick’s I would be unable to refute him. But you have to be an asshole to look at this and call it “disgusting”:
I looked up the most recent Real Clear Politics aggregate poll (averaging all the polls) for the 2020 Democratic nominees and was shocked and dismayed by what I saw. I saw that Governor Jay Inslee of Washington was dead last. Behind Gillibrand. Behind Yang and Gabbard. Behind Tom Steyer and John Delaney. And yes, behind the star of The Dark Crystal(s) – Marianne Williamson. I knew he was not yet at the 2% threshold, but I was not prepared to see that he was listed last, even among those only averaging 0.3%. So this blog is not a call for donations for Inslee, which I have been doing (and will continue to do so) like it’s my job over the last several months. This is a plea to the Jay Inslee team to face reality. Democrats say they care about climate change. At best they are committed in word, but not deed. But it may just be that Democratic voters are liars. It’s time for you to find out.
In November 2018 a CNN poll revealed that the issue that ranked as most important to Democratic voters was climate change. 82% of respondents listed it as “very important.” Second place, right after it, was health care. Now I understand that this doesn’t mean that everyone who said it is “very important” means that it is their #1 issue. But more than any issue, according to Democratic voters, it was recognized as a priority. So I don’t begrudge Governor Inslee for believing there was a viable candidacy in climate change focus, both because he believes it in his heart as THE priority, and because Democratic voters indicated so in polling data. But he was wrong.
Now, a friend yesterday showed me 2016 data indicating that climate change was barely a top 10 issue to voters at the time of the Clinton-Trump matchup. But a few things as to why that data is misleading. One, it included Republicans. Less than 20 percent of Republicans view climate change as a very important issue. Two, since 2016 there has been even more dire data about climate change as well as a host of epic natural disasters that have heightened the public’s awareness of the “climate crisis” as
Kamala Harris Jay Inslee originally dubbed it among the nominees. So because it is the Democratic nomination I am concerned with, there is literally no reason to consider GOP voters in this discussion.
Democrats/Progressives have a grand tradition of saying the right thing and insisting that someone else do it. Starting with desegregation – the North adopted a strong NIMBY approach. They loved pointing the finger at the South, as well they deserved. The North had the historical benefit and moral authority of fighting slavery in the Civil War, but when it came to desegregating housing (“Chicago could teach Mississippi something about hate,” said MLK Jr when marching to desegregate housing in the Windy City), schools (e.g. Boston) and even windfarms (Ted Kennedy did not like the eyesore of windmills) Democrats have been much better at launching rhetoric against the worse villains, but not adjusting or sacrificing on their own end. This is not to say that progressives have not made sacrifices or changes, enforced change and done many good things. But the modern progressive generally excels at things like marriage equality, civil rights legislation, etc. – things that require political will and moral strength, but no real tangible sacrifice unless you are a bigot crippled by prejudice (the same energy that Trump has weaponized – a robot took your job, but it feels more tangible and actionable to your hate if you can blame it on a Mexican). In other words if it doesn’t cost any money and won’t require you to pause Netflix, a majority of Democrats are warriors for justice.
Now the GOP is basically a lost cause at this point, but needless to say I believe they are a lot worse than Democrats on issues of justice, equality and the environment. But no issue more than climate change and no candidate more than Jay Inslee demonstrate the disconnect between Democrats’ words and deeds.
As a quick recap, Jay Inslee has the best track record and experience of any candidate running for the Democratic nomination. 8 terms in Congress with a great progressive voting record, 2 terms as the governor of Washington and a brief social media campaign of thirst for the strapping, bespectacled man:
- Lost his first seat in Congress supporting the assault weapons ban of 1994 (and yet the New York Times failed to mention him in an article today about the 1990s battle over assault weapons – but they managed to mention Steve Bullock, John Hickenlooper. Tim Ryan, Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand. HALF OF THESE PEOPLE WERE IN HIGH SCHOOL WHEN INSLEE WAS SACRIFICING HIS JOB ON THIS EXACT ISSUE AND THE NY TIMES CANNOT EVEN MENTION HIM
- voted against the Iraq War, the repeal of Glass-Steagall and against the Hyde Amendment
- As Governor he has pushed through gun control laws, the country’s best clean energy plan, the first public option health plan, the best teacher pay increase in the country, a long term care plan for seniors and has pardoned thousands of non-violent drug offenders while also banning the box. Oh and his state has the #1 GDP in the country, the highest minimum wage and is rated #1 in business AND employee satisfaction.
But above all, Inslee has staked his campaign on an issue he has fought on for 25+ years and that polls say is “very important” to Democratic voters: climate change. He has a progressive record of accomplishment second to none in the campaign (all due respect to Kamala Harris’ mile wide, inch deep policy knowledge and Elizabeth Warren who was a registered Republican when the 1994 crime bill was passed (just a fact to illustrate the point that not everyone is a “perfect Democrat”… though Inslee is as close as I have ever seen). Well I am here to tell Governor Inslee that I think he is wrong.
Not wrong that climate change should be the number one issue. He has issued the best plan and most comprehensive climate plan because it addresses everything from the environment to climate justice to enhancing organized labor and using the USA’s prestige and leverage to move the world along. But all that has fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes. Let’s start with everyone’s favorite punching bag: the media.
Other than MSNBC, Inslee has been an afterthought on CNN and in the New York Times. He was the first to call Trump a “white nationalist,” during the debate ON CNN, and yet a few weeks later he was not even listed on a very crowded graphic of Democrats who had called Trump a white nationalist. The Times last week had 3 straight days of climate change related articles on the front page and yet in every article about candidates on issues that Inslee is a LEADER on, including climate, he is never mentioned. That is a fu*king disgrace and disservice.
But the real and deeper problem is Democratic voters. Jay Inslee will likely make it to the donor threshold by the August 28th deadline to qualify for the September debates, but it will take a miracle for him to get to the polling threshold. And I think, quite simply that Democratic voters don’t really care about climate change. They care about saying they care. It’s what a good Democrat does. You sound better than the GOP, who admittedly seem to want to poison the Earth. You have the same opinion as Leonardo DiCaprio! Tesla and Prius!
Inslee made the ethical and moral decision to campaign on what he actually believes. But if he also believed that Democratic voters were more than talk he should be dissuaded of that opinion now. He has two options and I think he should do both:
Highlight His Entire Record
I suggested months ago, assuming budget constraints, that Inslee’s team should make a series of YouTube videos – at least 5, where he splices leading candidates talking about their plans, followed by a clip and graphics of Inslee making that policy law as a legislator or governor. His tag should be “Vision to think it. Experience to get it done. Jay Inslee – ready on day 1.” I suggested he go after Warren during debate 1 with this backhanded compliment technique. He chose to make it generic of “plans vs accomplishments,” which was good, but not good enough. I still think his digital team should make these videos ASAP. They would be cheap, insightful, informative and headline grabbing. What is the defense to an “attack” of “I like your idea. I already did it”? There is none. And when just trying to get to 2% it is inexcusable to not be audacious.
Call the Democrats to Action
Jay Inslee strikes me as a truly good man. But also a man who could beat the sh*t out of Donald Trump’s Type II ass if he creeped behind him during a debate. And it is time for that combination to be turned on the Democratic electorate. I am not optimistic about Inslee qualifying for the September debates. I have given him more money than my Manhattan rent so don’t take this as a retreat. It is a strategic shift. He should be planning on the October debates (and if September happens then that is a bonus) and on top of the guerilla digital approach he must deliver an address to galvanize the real progressive spirit in all Democrat voters. I wrote in early July a speech that I thought tapped into this. Obviously it was not used or adopted, but THIS IS IT if you want to read it. Right now I feel like the Inslee campaign is being run like Shiny Happy People:
But it needs to be a more desperate version of JFK’s plea of asking “what can you do for your country?” I suggest months ago a possible large speech – bill it to the media as a major address. Do it in your home state if you need to, in order to guarantee a larger crowd. And make the theme that it is time to call all Democrats to re-capture the spirit of JFK. In the speech I wrote I make the connections to the great things Democrats and progressives have done but also link climate change inaction (or mere words of support) to issues like affordable housing, windmills, etc that Democrats have often NIMBY’d (Not In My Backyard). I would title the speech “The Time of NIMBY Progressivism Has To End Now.” Climate change is the big issue, but unless Inslee can inform more voters of his second-to-none record of accomplishments ACROSS THE BOARD and how climate change is the chance at redemption for a party that, while driving change, has often slow-walked change in their own world, all while talking a good game against Republicans and their sins. Governor Inslee is at the cross roads of no time left for the planet and nothing left to lose in his campaign. It is the time for bold action – he is asking the country to take bold action and he is right. It is time for his campaign to do the same damn thing.
I was disappointed to learn earlier this Summer that the Joke Joint clubs in St Paul, MN and Houston, TX had closed. They were two of three venues to book me as a headliner so I just lost 67% of the rooms that headline me (though I say with no humility, but total honesty that I can probably torch 67% of the comedians headlining A-list rooms today). They were venues that gave some comedians who were strong features, but not well known or well-represented comics a chance to headline, which almost always means more money and better merchandise sales (in St Paul – the policy for years had been if you buy a comedian’s merch he would give you a free pass to a future show – obviously a big help to road comedians). And it allowed real experience in headlining (which requires not just material quantity, but reps doing that length of time). The Houston location came under fire from some comedians for headlining porn star Stormy Daniels, who obviously is not a stand up comedian and drew this response from most comedians:
Now I have made many jokes about A-list comedy clubs booking YouTube stars, actors, Instagram celebs and WWE wrestlers to headline their clubs, but the Daniels booking did not make me feel the same way. Perhaps it was some personal bias, but the Joke Joints were basically C-list clubs. They were not owned by a chain. They were owned by one guy who was giving opportunities to comedians who otherwise would not get that opportunity. So with that goes a need to boost attendance in other ways. If the JJs were booking A-list acts they wouldn’t need to stunt book, but they were giving working/struggling/up and coming/down on their luck comedians opportunities that other clubs couldn’t (and can’t) bother to provide. That should be understood and celebrated. That is why I defended JJ’s specific booking of Daniels.
I emailed the owner of the JJs recently to thank him for his years of bookings and to wish him luck and say that I was sorry the clubs had to close. He thanked me, but then said something that made me sad, but also confirmed a lot of my cynicism of the “comedy community.” He told me that he was sort of surprised at how few people had reached out after the closings. I was sad because this was not a business owned by a some faceless conglomerate – the owner was on site most of the time. He did the bookings for the clubs. In St Paul, before he moved to Houston, the comedy condo was the top floor of his own family’s house (kept very nice with a separate entrance for comedians). You could not have an owner with a more personal connection to the comedians. And the response to the clubs’ closings was mostly silent ingratitude.
For years I have hoped for a groundswell of comedians to push for a guild (Hassan Minhaj’s Netflix show recently highlighted a push by video game developers to unionize – so now gamers are ahead of comedians on labor rights), but said many years ago that you probably cannot organize a work force that already acts with the self-centered desperation of a scab. But this demonstrated to me that comedians are just as big a problem to the comedy bubble that has already burst for the working class. It is an industry littered with a workforce with Boiler Room ethics. I have consistently blamed the management and business classes of stand up for its problems, but it takes two to tango and a stand up community filled with equal parts opportunistic social media and podcast stars and actual comedians is not going to be the place to look for moral or ethical behavior.
I know it’s a small sample size, but there are top tier comedians and nobodies who have made their way through the Joke Joints and the club has been opened for many years. That’s hundreds of comedians who have walked through their doors, many for their first or only headlining opportunities (hopefully local comedians were more thoughtful and appreciative than the headliners). But as my comedy career winds down, to my deep disappointment (though a new doorman at my building found out I did comedy and binge watched my YouTube channel last night with his wife and loved it! #HopeSpringsEternal), I can take a perverse comfort in knowing that, although there are good people at all levels of the stand up comedy world, perhaps it is a community that I will be better off without. I hope the JJ owner is better without it as well if he chooses to be done with the business.
After last night’s Tarantino-length debate in Detroit I am pleased with the performance of my preferred candidate, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state. He had some good lines, only made attacks or corrections on areas well within the bounds of good decorum and stayed true to his message of defeating climate change. He highlighted some of the things he has done as governor and also seem to become a Twitter sex symbol for a few hours (my favorite nickname given him by someone on Twitter was “Plant Daddy”). Now before I go any further I need to make clear I am not an Inslee or Bust person (if those even exist). The eventual Democratic nominee will have my vote and my donations (though likely not to match the month of NYC rent I have thrown Inslee’s way). But I have to say, even for a cynical comedian who just turned 40, I am surprised that Inslee is not doing better in polls. He is literally what polls of Democratic voters claim to want. So what gives?
First off let’s see Inslee on issues – THAT HE HAS DONE AS A GOVERNOR AND LEGISLATOR, NOT JUST AS A CAMPAIGNER:
- Passed the 1st public option for health care in the country. This may not be the Bernie plan or the latest draft of whatever Kamala Harris is trying to do, but it represents the most popular approach according to Democrat polls
- He is THE climate change candidate and along with health care this is a top concern for Democratic candidates. I have read his Evergreen Economy Plan (it was like a text book for a course I was not fully qualified to take) and it is, as he said at a fundraiser, “a governing document,” not just a wish list. The only reason to say climate change is a top issue is if you really believe it is a crisis. And Inslee is the only candidate who actually wants to talk and govern like it is a fu*king crisis!
- Highest teacher pay increase in the country. And STEM education is one of the cornerstones of his climate/economic plan
- Organized labor – I wish he had highlighted his commitment to union labor in last night’s debate, because I was surprised when I read his plans just how central organized labor was to his vision – a group of voters that used to be a pillar of Democratic support
- Criminal Justice – as he said last night, while other candidates were bickering over who has done or not done enough – he has pardoned thousands of non-violent drug offenders, banned the box (which I didn’t even know until last night) and has pushed for more de-escalation training for officers
- Immigration – has encouraged refugee settlement in Washington and was the first to sue Trump on the Muslim ban
- Economy – #1 state GDP, #1 state for employer AND employee satisfaction
- College – passed a law offering free state college to tens of thousands
- And in his nearly 20 years as a Congressman before becoming a governor:
- voted for the assault weapons ban (lost his first Congressional seat doing so)
- voted against Hyde Amendment
- voted against the repeal of Glass-Steagall
- voted against the Iraq War
- voted for Obamacare (duh)
And one thing that is not really a bullet point, but something I have noticed about the way Inslee, a man married to his high school sweetheart for 47 years and who writes children’s books for his grandkids, carries himself with a decency that is uncommon in politics. There appears to be no cynicism in him. He is a fundamentally decent man who knows that climate change is a crisis and will not pander to polls to make his campaign more broad, despite a record that really is second to none in the field. For people looking for the opposite of Trump, there is no one more opposite in their core than Inslee. So a great record, great experience, fundamental decency and honesty and blue eyes that made him a “Plant Daddy” on Twitter. But the problem is that MAGA does not have a monopoly on stupidity.
After the two debates – the names Williamson, Yang and Gabbard were getting much more buzz than Inslee. And I fear all three of those will make the September debates either before, or in place of, Governor Inslee. An anti-vaxxer who voted for Jill Stein and has no experience; a guy who actually seems to have some brains and ideas, but no experience; and a woman who, despite her tremendous 1980s sex-scene chest sweat during the debate and a vibe of “what if young Catherine Zeta-Jones was also a combat vet,” has several issues on her record that would and should disqualify a Democratic candidate; these are people who based on donors and post-debate buzz seem better placed than Inslee to make the September debates. And that is an absolute embarrassment.
There are several top tier candidates that I think would make good presidents. Cory Booker, Elzabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders and Michael Bennett have all gotten money from me at some point during their careers (most during this run, but not all). These are all different candidates in demeanor and policy, but I appreciate their different views and think all of them would govern in the right direction (ignoring electability for the moment). But Inslee is a cut above them all when you add up the factors usually desired (experience, policies, values, accomplishments, electability vs Trump). But instead of at least being in the mix, like where Cory Booker is, he is now in danger of falling behind the lower 2nd tier candidates and some 3rd tier candidates!
I hope I am wrong. I hope Inslee sees a polling bump and a fundraising bump, but if Jay Inslee is not on the September debate then there is a lot more stupidity and hypocrisy in the Democratic electorate than we might like to admit. I gave to Bernie in 2016, despite voting for Hillary, because his issues were important and he pushed the nominee to the left. If climate change is not worth $1 donations from hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters then we are already doomed, because as Governor Inslee said last night, there is only one party with a chance to save the country and the planet. If you need a superficial comparison – think of Inslee vs Trump as Aquaman (Seaweed Daddy?) vs Fat Bastard – who would you rather have saving the country?
After the Miami debates I posted a blog on what I believe Governor Jay Inslee had to do in the Detroit debates, which he will be participating in on July 31st. You can read that HERE. For those of you who don’t want to read two blogs today I will sum up the gist of it – Labor. Labor. Labor. Confront rivals by name. Don’t let Kamala Harris steal your lines or ideas. Those all still apply, but this also includes more specifics now that I know who Governor Insee’s specific opponents will be after the CNN Draft Lottery last night (to no one’s surprise the New York Knicks selected Marianne Williamson). Based on my substantial donations to the Inslee campaign and the fact that several people on his communications team are following me on Twitter I have self-appointed myself the poor man’s Sean Hannity For Good – offering a NY comedian/lawyer/political junkie’s insights into how an accomplished politician with big ideas and a good heart can land some more meaningful punches in the debates. Some of my tips were employed, coincidentally or not, in Miami, but some were ignored to the Governor’s detriment in my opinion. No one went after Elizabeth Warren, so like a boxing champion she left the debate with a unanimous decision victory for basically pulling a Floyd Mayweather Jr. in librarian garb. This debate cannot go that way, so first I will give a few general tips (all Labor because I know he needs no push to discuss climate) for the Governor and his staff and then some specific lines and lines of attack against his debate opponents (and if two blogs is not enough for you, here is a speech I offered for Inslee with many usable soundbytes).
I had the honor of interviewing Governor Inslee for Sirius XM on Wednesday and the only thing that gave me pause was Inslee’s potential stubbornness to reframe his climate cause. What I mean by that is one of the big issues in the Midwest has been the loss of jobs and the weakening of organized labor. In Miami, Governor Inslee was the only one to mention it at all in the two debates. And that is because in his state he has been a successful pro-labor AND pro-business governor and in his signature plan, the Evergreen Economy, he devotes pages to the role that organized labor will play. I think saying “I will create 8 million jobs, develop new industries and help transition those in affected industries with a new GI Bill. In growing our middle class and reinvigorating organized labor you will be on the front line of also helping fight climate change. It’s not an either-or; it’s a win win!” will reach more people than “We have to take drastic climate action (which we do)… but I will also create millions of jobs.” One places workers, some of whom may be skeptical, at the center of change and progress, instead of sort of giving them dessert only after they’ve had their rhetorical vegetables. So here are some general things he could say on the debate stage:
- “Not one person on this stage mentioned organized labor in Miami, except me. I didn’t come here to pander to organized labor, who many in this party have forgotten or never really paid attention to. I came to let them know that, as the backbone of our 20th century economy, under my plan they will be the engine of a new 21st century economy. Washington has the best economy in the country because we have embraced workers and the future together. You can look at my record, my results and my Evergreen Economy plan to see that I’m not here to pander, but to promise that the jobs and the growth of a President Inslee economy will go to the middle class, with empowered union workers leading it, not just being thrown promises and talking points.
- (as Inslee has said in some form) “Fossil fuel workers helped build this country. Donald Trump lies and says that coal is their future because to Trump and the GOP the future is a spreadsheet next fiscal quarter and a Rassmussen poll. To me, the future is knowing that your kids and grandkids will be able to grow up in your town and city and find a good job and follow in their family’s footsteps if they want to. My plan calls for a GI Bill for workers in the fossil fuel industry – to help them be part of the transition to a 21st century economy. It’s worked in Washington state and I know it can work for this country. Because for me there are two essential truths relating to our economy and our planet – climate change must be defeated and under an Inslee administration America’s workers will be the ones to win that victory.”
- Please stop saying “wind turbines don’t cause Cancer; they cause jobs” – it’s not a great line. Instead – “Donald Trump says stupid things like THE SOUND of wind turbines causes Cancer (actually what Trump said, which is even dumber). He is that committed to fighting science and new jobs because coal and oil lobbyists pay him compliments. The science of climate change is real, but so is the money that can be made in making America the leader in combatting it. But Donald Trump, through sheer ineptitude and insecurity would rather lie about science and deny working people a great future because coal and oil executives will tell him what a good boy he is. This is no longer a right or left issue. It is a right or wrong issue. Washington State has the best economy in the country because being on the right side of science and on the right side of working people is a win-win, not an either-or (only use this one time, even though I used it twice in these bullet points).
SPECIFIC CANDIDATE TIPS
- Joe Biden – It will be tempting to attack Biden (as I call it to “Beto” him) after Harris drew blood and donations from attacking him. But I could see this being a tiresome, almost hacky theme for the night. Score points on Biden when clear (“middle ground” on climate change is a good and unforced area to exploit), but don’t make him the Governor’s whipping boy.
- Kamala Harris – This is where Governor Inslee cannot be afraid to attack BY NAME if the occasion arises. She is polished and also inconsistent and not too grounded in a lot of her policy positions.
- “She is a sharp and talented politician, but replacing Trump will demand something more than a steep learning curve. This country will need someone ready on Day One. 16 years in Congress and 2 terms as a governor you can bet that I know my position and policy on health care and the other vital issues of our time.”
- (if in a climate change exchange) “I’m glad Senator Harris has embraced climate change and my terminology” – bait her into “Governor, you don’t have a monopoly on the issue of climate change” to reply with “But I do have the gold standard plan to fight it and not just borrowed platitudes.” Boom goes the dynamite. But don’t engage her unless the Governor is prepared to take a knockout punch. It can be a winning moment FOR SURE, but only if going for the final line.
- Andrew Yang
- $1000 a month to everyone is a nice idea, but what’s worked for me as Governor in Washington is to continually look to the future by embracing new industries and focusing on workers’ rights. I find that that has put more than $1000 a month in the accounts of many Washingtonians.”
- Tulsi Gabbard – She’s peaked at 1% – nothing to go after here. At least Yang provides an angle for a good soundbyte
- Bill DeBlasio
- “Perhaps if you interrupted your own governor as much as you interrupt me the NYC subway system would be in better shape”
- “Mayor DeBlasio has done some great things for working class families and everything he’s done as a Mayor from minimum wage to Pre K, etc. I have done and more as a governor (careful though – population of NYC is bigger than the state of Washington – but argue forcefully that Governor Inslee accomplished some things without the convenience of one-party rule in NYC)
- Cory Booker – I like Booker, but don’t see a lot of areas for confrontation, nor really the need to as I think his candidacy will never break into the top tier
- Julian Castro – the candidate most likely to go overboard (he endorsed abortion rights for trans women in the last debate, which seems like something out of a science fiction novel parodying the modern left). He is probably going to try and follow Harris’ tactic of attacking Biden, but then also try to attack Harris on criminal justice issues. Potentially a positive contrast with Castro on issues like immigration to show you have had success with liberal policies and court action, but perhaps look somewhat moderate in comparison (maybe if a Castro-Bennett argument occurs Governor Inslee can look like a moderate success by comparison)
- Michael Bennett – I like Bennett and he will probably act as a moderate attack dog, perhaps as a more energetic alternative for Biden voters. I would leave him be for now.
- Kirsten Gillebrand
- “When I was in a conservative district I voted for the assault weapons ban and lost my seat. My opinions on guns didn’t change based on what district I was representing.”
- “Please stop interrupting”
The goal from Detroit is not to become a front runner. It’s 2% or more – I think that’s possible, but it will require more than a good record and a kind demeanor. Go get it!
From die hard sports fans to casual sports observers, it can truly be said that we live in the best time in history to be watching tennis. I myself was a casual fan who has sort of been forced into a more serious enthusiasm for the sport, based on the sheer historic greatness on display in the last decade. On the women’s side we have witnessed the greatest of all time in Serena Williams (though arguing for a Steffi Graf is certainly a respectable position or I guess Margaret Court, who appears to have won 24 grand slam titles sometime before women’s suffrage I think. But as great as Serena has been, the men’s game has been absurdly historic. We have the three greatest players of all time at the same time. The collective greatness of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokavic has basically snuffed out a later generation of tennis players. There is a generation of tennis players from age 28 to 40 who basically have no idea what winning a grand slam feels like unless they have a hook-up at Dennys. It started with Federer who basically took over men’s tennis from the United States and then repeatedly snuffed out its heir apparent, Andy Roddick, who won the last U.S. men’s title in 2003. Federer won several titles from 2003-2007 basically unimpeded as the clear best player in the world. But then he got company.
Rafael Nadal showed up and has basically called dibs on the French Open since 2006. The only reason Federer ever won in France is because Nadal was eliminated before they could meet (Nadal is currently 40,999,987-2 at Roland Garros). He has been a Spanish brick wall. Some try to pigeonhole him as a one surface star, but he still has 6 non-French Open titles on his record. And that includes the 2008 legendary Wimbledon match that turned me from a casual tennis fan into a more serious tennis fan. Dubbed until yesterday as “The Greatest Match Ever Played” it was an epic that basically took the entirety of my hungover Sunday 11 years ago. It represented Nadal beating the older Federer on his best surface and proving he was not just a clay specialist. It looked like it might have been a passing of the torch, but it turned out to be more of a sharing of the torch. From that day I became a huge Nadal fan. I had wondered why he was always sneering and picking his butt, but that day I watched him exhibit such will and athletic talent that his grimacing and wedgies just seemed like eccentricities of a genius. And I simply took for granted Federer’s talent and effortless excellence.
As the years went by I made sure not to miss any majors and continued to root hard for Nadal in a race to be the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT). As he continued to pile up French Opens and the occasional other major, and Federer looked to be aging, I felt confident that Nadal might take the title. He has a winning record against Federer (but to be fair a lot of that is on his clay kingdom – but they do count!). But then Novak Djokavic showed up and the Magic and Larry of tennis may have met their Michael Jordan.
I don’t know when I became aware of Djokavic. To me and many fans he just felt like the dude who kept messing up Nadal and Federer’s title chase. But I know when I became a big fan. The 2015 U.S. Open. The rowdy crowd was, like every crowd in tennis, rooting hard for Federer in the Finals. Djokavic was the world #1 and seemed to take it as disrespect. He dropped the 2nd set, but then proceeded to beat Federer’s ass in the remaining two sets to take the title. I have always liked athletes with bad tempers. Perhaps because I was one. But Djokavic seemed to take the title of “J-L’s favorite angry athlete” from Paul O’Neill (who is now MAGA so fu*k him – how do you win championships with Puerto Ricans and immigrants and then vote and support a racist xenophobe?). I was so impressed with Djokavic’s performance that day and realized that he might be able to run roughshod over men’s tennis for the next decade with Nadal’s physicality taking a toll and Federer getting old.
Except it hasn’t been like that. Djokavic’s entire career has been a fight against immortal Federer and unmovable Nadal. And yet he was won 16 grand slams and counting, without a 4 year solo head start like Federer or a single dominant surface like Nadal. So I think it is safe to say that Djokavic is the best player in the history of tennis. He has at least 3 years of dominance left in him (at least physically) and has a winning record against both Federer and Nadal in his career. And his performance yesterday, while not dominating, was as gutty a performance as I have ever seen. Down two match points to Roger Federer with the whole crowd about to climax for Federer he pushed the game to deuce, won the game, forced a tiebreaker and turned Federer into Swiss Miss en route to another Wimbledon trophy. But then I realized something. Federer is the GOAT.
For background I liked Federer early on, but the grit and range of Nadal made me more awestruck. And later, the “fu*k you, pay me!” attitude of Djokavic seeking his own respect in a sport married to Federer was relatable and enjoyable to me. But the common thread throughout this is the greatness of Federer. He innovates, adapts, augments and enhances his game at every turn. He has no weaknesses and makes the brilliant look routine. No great moment in tennis seems to be able to occur without his presence or shadow. (Full disclosure, for blogger integrity, years ago I dated a woman who was a huge Federer fan. In terms of my life she ranks somewhere between Trump and 9/11 so needless to say I used to take glee in Federer losses. But yesterday I felt like Federer’s performance AT ALMOST 38 YEARS OLD forced me to surrender any resentments (towards Federer)). He is the standard to which every player must measure themselves – numerically and stylistically.
This may be the unfortunate fate that awaits Djokavic. If I had to pick any player in history to win one match (not on clay) I would pick Djokavic. He has incredible, well-rounded talent, has been dubbed by John McEnroe the greatest returned in the history of the sport and has Federer’s 20 titles in his sights. And yet, seeing Federer, even in defeat, I felt like I was watching the man who invented tennis. It’s a weird distinction, to say that the best player ever may not be the greatest, but the most important thing is that we all get to watch the three greatest tennis players of all time play.
On Thursday morning I woke up to read my NY Times and started with the Arts section when I saw a large picture of Dave Chappelle and what I assumed was a review of his current 2 week stint on Broadway. The article was by NY Times comedy writer Jason Zinoman and from the headline I decided I did not want to read it. The vibe I got from the headline and first paragraph was that Chappelle was retreading old ground and punching down. Also I did not want a spoiler for a performance that I had paid an exorbitant amount to attend (doggystyle seating – my girlfriend was sitting in the aisle seat in front of me). My basic assumption was the Zinoman was just following the current, Nanette-infused sensibility of what should be comedy, what is good comedy and how 18 different progressive buzzwords should be dictating what stand up comedians perform. Having enjoyed Chappelle’s recent Netflix efforts and defending that material against accusations of transphobia I just assumed this was more of the same. Well… (*Malcolm Gladwell podcast intro voice*) it turns out… maybe Zinoman had a point (still haven’t read it though).
The show did not start until about 8:25 (8:00pm show) when DJ Trauma (Chappelle’s road DJ, a concept I hate as I type it) began playing his own songs before Chappelle’s opener, Wil Sylvince did a 20-25 minute set. Then DJ Trauma began a medley of hip hop to get us all pumped up for Chappelle. He did something that I found hilarious – you know how bands will stop singing so the audience fills in (Steve Harvey, I believe, mocked this in The Kings of Comedy)? Well DJ Trauma decided to stop playing the records so we would fill in – so I guess in 2019 DJs are tired of doing all the work of playing a song on their MacBook. And then, finally, the man came out.
Chappelle started his set insulting the New York Times, which despite having had two relatives work for the NYT in the past, I laughed at because I assumed he was going to stick it to another progressive (where I lie politically on most things, but not nearly as much within the art of stand up) writer who wants to dictate to a master what is and isn’t OK. I am going to try and not spoil any jokes, but the vibe I got from Chappelle’s set was of a guy who was a little angrier than normal and felt it was his job to be Louis CK’s proxy or defender. What I mean by that is his topics included trans people, the use of the word fa**ot and school shootings – he was almost going through a checklist of what got CK in trouble after one of his first post-hiatus performances. And I will admit I was never a huge fan of CK, but I actually laughed at his material that the comedy police decided was now “hack” and “disgusting.” Now, for most of Chappelle’s set it was A level material on some very touchy subjects. Exactly the type of hilarious tight rope walk a lot of people like me want to see in stand up comedy (his dismissiveness of white opioid addicts, his discussion of getting a gun, his school shooter material, his insulting of the women’s soccer team and many other things were legitimately great comedy and well within what should be allowed for comedians to joke about and risk failing while attempting). But during some of the material, for the first time in my watching Chappelle for decades, I felt like he was veering into Edge-Lord, “Hey Man I’m a fucking comic – this is what we do bro” kind of “own the libs” peacocking. The appeal for me of Chappelle has always been the laid-back genius of what he does and how he does it. This was absent during the bits of the show that were the weakest.
Now there is a chance he was still working on material, but based on the price of the tickets and the high profile of the residency I have to imagine it is close to a finished product. And I must say – two sections of the show actually made me cringe both because of the laziness of the material and the reaction of the crowd.
One bit was about the word fa**ot. He said that Comedy Central did not want him to do a sketch centered on the word. He then asked Comedy Central why he was allowed to say ni**er all day on air, but not fa**ot. The woman’s answer at standards and practices was that he isn’t gay. Chappelle’s answer to that was “But I’m not a ni**er either.” And the crowd, full of a cross section of people who apparently want the freedom to call people fa**ots, cheered like he had just said something profound and brave. He then said that a lesson he (and now Kevin Hart – the other comedian he seemed intent on defending through word and deed) learned is that you cannot make fun of LGBTQ people because “they” run Hollywood. I don’t say this lightly; this moment sucked. First off, the analogy that Chappelle made to defend himself was so lazy and wrong it doesn’t work. Clearly the implication was “you are black, so you can say the N word, but you are straight so you can’t throw around the F word” and he turned it around in a stupid way but that still got Church “mmmhmms” from the Black members of the audience and “whoops” from the NY Post reading White people in the crowd. Then there was the direct claim that a group running Hollywood was stifling only slurs against themselves. And then there was the whooping of the crowd at it. I don’t care if you think this is hyperbole or snowflake shit, but I’ve basically defended everything in comedy that isn’t Kramer’s N word rant and unlike Zinoman, have been a comedian for 16 years, but this felt like being at some Trump rally for a few minutes. Unlike a lot of the great comedy Chappelle shared last night, this did not feel like pushing the envelope to prove a point about comedy and speech. This felt like a white person asking to say the N word (which tellingly a white person did after the show during a Q&A which was resoundingly booed by white and black alike). Except in the case of Chappelle, it was a black man demanding the right to use a slur of a group he doesn’t belong too and then claiming some racism/adjacent white privilege for why he wasn’t allowed to. And the crowd loved it.
The second bit that bothered me was probably the worst joke in the whole show, just on a comedic level. I thought his trans jokes on Netflix were funny. Problematic, but funny and at the end of the day that is my metric for a comedy special. But he starting basically retreading the CK bit (if I identify as a woman, why can’t I identify as an Asian person – CK did it as a tree or something) that got CK into some heat recently. One of the reasons why I think Chappelle was trying to avenge CK in some way with this hour. And the crowd was loving it (he had other LGBTQ jokes that were much more skillful and funny). And then he just started doing an Asian person impersonation that felt like a 1950s stereotype and the crowd ate it up (having worked plenty of black rooms on the road and in DC when I started I do know that for some reason doing basically racist impressions of Asians still seem to kill in a lot of those rooms). Now – maybe he was just doing this to stick his finger in the eye of political correctness. This one felt so simple and offensive that that might actually have been what he was doing. But it was beneath most open micers, let alone a legend.
The rest of the show was great, Chappelle is an all time great, but for the first time I felt like I could see the beginning of the end of Chappelle as an artist at the peak of his powers. At least for me. Our country has shown there is a deep thirst for offensive commentary and someone who will stop sensitivity and political correctness from being used as dual cudgels to hammer people into a future they haven’t signed on for. And maybe I am wrong – Chappelle clearly has lots to say and a lot of talent with which to say it. But he stopped doing Chappelle Show because he felt like he was giving white people too much license to laugh AT black people. But has middle age, millions and the current climate shifted him into a guy who now finds it OK to rally the MAGA folk and his loyal fans into a group that dismisses all political correctness and other marginalized groups? It wasn’t OK for white people to laugh at ni**ers in 2004, but we can all come together and laugh at these politically correct fa**ots in 2019? My credentials and past writings speak for themselves so I don’t need to heed anyone who thinks this is some soft, PC bullshit blog. In those two bits Chappelle was being lazy and worst of all unfunny – maybe to prove a point, but the point to his audience, based on their reaction was not “we need more honesty!” It was “yeah I should be able to say fa**ot!” And I am not against using any language in comedy. I have laughed at entertainers’ usage of the fa**ot in some movies and comedy, but the point of that usage was not to defend the usage of the word.
I don’t normally dissect comedy like this or treat it like a term paper, but I am only doing this because it felt so stark. If I had just listened to a Chappelle album with last night’s set I might have just said “Great album, but tracks 4 and 6 sucked,” but being in a theater with thousands of people applauding not the humor, but the perceived truth of those words, was a lot more uncomfortable than I expected to be at a Chappelle stand up show.