- 20 Moments for 20 Years June 2, 2023
Twenty years ago today I went to an open mic at a Jazz club in Washington, D.C. to do an open mic. I had been mulling trying my hand at stand-up comedy for almost an entire year based on encouragement from some friends in college and a need for a hobby to deal what was undoubtedly a bout of depression during my second year of law school. Had the crowd at the jazz club been less forgiving for what was most likely mediocre jokes then maybe I would have avoided two decades of sado-masochistic torture, but thankfully, for several dozen people spread across the globe, the audience at the Takoma Station Tavern that Monday were kind and encouraging to a tall, law student trying his hand at comedy. So to commemorate this I put together the list of my top 20 moments/experiences from my 20 years in comedy.
20. Banned from Two Clubs in San Antonio, TX
The last time I performed in San Antonio, TX was Summer of 2013. There were two clubs – LOL, which was a wonderful place with great accommodations. The other was a dump called Rivercenter, which housed comics in a room with so many roaches I thought it was a tribute to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. You can read more about it HERE, but the bottom line is I was banned from both clubs (they were owned by the same people) for writing a humorous blog about the experience. But shortly thereafter Rivercenter stopped using the condo and years after that the club closed. So to the roach pimps who ran Rivercenter I have this:
19. Won a Contest at the DC Improv
In my 3rd year of law school I won “D.C.’s Funniest College Student” – so like a 7th year senior I ended up too much for all the young folk. This won me my first paid week of comedy work, emceeing for Gary Owen in August of 2004. And the rest is mediocrity.
18. Trump Easter Video
“But J-L, why isn’t this higher on the list?? It’s how I discovered you!” Well, this video has to be on the list of course for the positive impacts (money, hundreds of thousands of passive fans, hanging out with Richard Marx and David Frum to name a couple of people who’ve gone out of their way to show me appreciation – Bradley Whitford and Jane Lynch deserve special mention as well, though I have not met them in person). But this video has too many negatives to go higher. First of all, the vocals were not even close to my best at the time, let alone the future improvements I have made. Secondly, I was sort of settled into a mentally stable, semi-retirement from comedy. Without mentioning any specifics as they related to other artists, the industry, fans the Internet, I have not had a good night sleep since this video went up (with the exception of various oxy-induced slumbers following multiple surgeries).
17. The Goldhawk Show in Hoboken, NJ
For a few years early in my career I helped run a show with my friends Jim and Pat. It was a nice bar, in a nice town and we usually had good comedians on their way to stardom. Nothing more to say about it. It is just one of the fonder memories of my time in comedy.
16. Dave Chappelle’s Noirnette
This video was simply a continuation of something I have done for a little more than half my career and that is mocking celebrity comedians whose act and, more importantly, their fans, become parodies of cult leader and cult members. This was me pointing out early that Chappelle was using the stage to pontificate more than tell jokes. I felt the critiques launched at Hannah Gadsby equally applied to Chappelle (but don’t say that to a Chappelle fan) so I made a Black Nanette AKA Noirnette (the impression got better but this is my favorite):
15. Diamond Maker
Even though I am still happy with my first album, Racial Chameleon, which I always expect to be crappier than it is when I listen because of how relatively new I was, Diamond Maker, my sophomore effort, gets the place here. The main reason is I spent about 6 months transforming vulgar screeds at open mic regarding a deeply troubling relationship into good material for everyone to enjoy. I was able to use comedy to deal with some things, but also developed the skill to make unfortunate things into good comedy. Now, the real solution would have been to seek a therapist at this point, but then I would have possibly been a happier person and you would have been denied all this comedy.
14. Trumpgotz on The Dan Lebatard Show
This would be higher on the list, if not for the way I was eventually dismissed by the show, but as a complete nobody going nowhere in comedy by 2016, the fact is that this show was the launch pad for my Trump impersonation. I basically submitted word for word re-enactments of the show’s co-host, Stugotz, but in Trump’s voice, to highlight the similarity of their thinking. When the show host put up a Twitter poll in 2018 asking “Is Trumpgotz the funniest thing ever?” Over 11,000 fans voted and over 8300 clicked “yes.” Like several things on the list it was, at the time, validation of my work and talent because there was no connection or inside scoop for me. My videos and concept spoke for themselves.
13. The Black Guy Who Tips & Stand Up with Pete Dominick
The two podcasts (and three people) responsible for even getting me to this point, other than myself are Rod and Karen of The Black Guy Who Tips and Pete Dominick of his eponymous show. Their open doors to having me on their shows, as well as their warm and engaged fan bases sustained my comedy career and increased my fanbase when I was without any shows (kind of like now if you look at my calendar). Being part of their respective podcasts worlds has been as much of a blessing as one can receive in the comedy world.
12. Thots & Prayers
I had one take to do this album in Philadelphia in 2018 and had decided that it was going to be my last album. What I ended up doing was a 100 minute double album that when finished performing I just gave my friend and opener for the show, Chris Lamberth an exhausted hug. I am not sure I have ever had a “leave it all on the floor” type performance in my comedy career that matches this one. Here’s one of the opening jokes:
11. My Blog
You are reading it right now. For almost two decades I have been writing my thoughts and experiences as a comedian in over 1000 pieces. Some are super funny. Some are super thoughtful. Many are both. But if an anthropologist ever wanted to cover comedy in the 21st century in America (why the fu*k would he/she/they want to do that?) I would like to think there is no better resource than the perpetually struggling, supremely talent and foolishly honest writings I have compiled on this site. I have been a writing tear recently, but for the greatest hits spend a day or two HERE
10. The Adam Carolla Show
Even though I drifted away from the show as it drifted more stridently and uncomfortably right, ACS was the first big opportunity that I got on my own (a bigger, better and more meaningful version of the Lebatard experience, minus the disrespectful dismissal). I was a guest 10 times on the show and it never got old looking on iTunes and seeing my name as the title of the episodes. Despite political differences and my increasing discomfort with some of his audience, Carolla gave me a shot to be on his show simply because he thought my impression of him, which he saw on Twitter, was funny. Very few people in this business ever do something like that and I will always be grateful. (The below video features a very early (not good), fast talking Trump (he did speak faster in his first campaign) impression along with Carolla)
9. Billions on Showtime
Of course this was one of the coolest experiences of my life. Having a solid guest role on a hit TV show! But the reason it is not higher is that it felt more like I got lucky. And don’t get me wrong, with all the bad luck my career seems to careen into, I am grateful for good luck!
8. Making Podcasts Great Again
Doing over 400 podcast episodes (between the feed and Patreon) and probably 50 paywall videos as Trump is both disgusting and one of the things I am most proud of. I cannot wait to end the show, but am still proud that I can still make it funny. It is basically it’s own alternate Trump universe that more often than not, collides with, or predicts, real life. And probably the most popular podcast in the history of Idaho Militia Christian Bible Tech State College.
Half BlackfaceTall Boy
With no agents even having meetings with me from March 2020-present, with Twitter shadowbanning me in early 2021, which conservatively has cost me $50K since, and with a killer hour of material that I could finally perform for people, I decided 2021 was the year I had to make my first special. I had self-produced 6 albums in my career, but believed that with an appearance forthcoming on Billions, I could really create a new narrative and a new set of fans (and even more importantly, trigger a different algorithm) that could elevate my stand up career. So I decided to work with the industry and give up some up front money for a bigger impact for the special. As of this typing, I recorded
Half Blackfacetwice (587 days ago and 380 days ago, respectively) and I still have no idea of its future.
But rather than just complain and be depressed over losing the single best opportunity in my career, I complained, was depressed AND worked on a new hour. So my
secondfirst special, TALL BOY, is now available on my patreon and will be available for wide release and in album form by the end of June. So when comedy tries to choke you to death on lemons, you make lemonade.
6. Patrice O’Neal Asks Me to Emcee Again
There have been two comedians who have specifically asked for me at a comedy club. My friend Rob Maher let me feature for him years ago during one of my worst stretches of no work. The other was Patrice O’Neal, who asked me to emcee for him on his next visit to the DC Improv after being lucky enough to emcee for him the previous year (I am the man introducing him (and getting roasted by him) on his albums Mr. P and Unreleased. I think the best way to tell this is with the tribute I wrote for him after his passing in 2011, which ends up being oddly prescient about my own career.
5. The Late Late Show
My network debut and apparently my network finale:
4. Louis CK Tells The Classics
I had always been a Rock-Giraldo-Burr-Gulman guy at this point in my career, but Louis CK was the undisputed champ at the height of his powers and scandal free. Tired of being told that I was a “hater” by all my friends, simply because I was not a big fan, I decided to do what I always do – make my case through comedy. People are more universally praising of the video now, but when I put it out, almost as much a challenge to the blind devotion of his fans as a showcase of my comedy skills, I received probably about 35% viciously negative comments. It was played on Rogan and other big shows and even got me two meetings with managers (the last two meetings with talent reps I would have in my career (just over 10 years ago)). I’ve done a lot of great sketch videos and a lot of good impressions, but this one was basically a comedy David vs Goliath (metaphorically as I am actually closer to a goliath) and for 5 minutes, David won here as well.
3. Keep My Enemies Closer
Half Blackfacethis was the album I cited as my best work. There are some bits (and some titles of tracks) that I would modify or just simply not do today, but it still stands as probably my most hard hitting and funniest work until Half Blackface. What made it extra special to me was that there were only about 29 people in attendance in a small room in Long Island City. But I was so desperate to get what I knew was A+ material out that I performed like I had 29,000 in attendance. As Rich Vos said on his podcast years ago, “the guy who did the Louis video – he’s got some funny stuff. I heard him on Sirius. It sounded like no one was there, but it was funny.”
2. Rejecting an “Offer” from a Comedy Content Company
Podcast listeners of mine know this story, but to put it succinctly – a company wanted to partner with me to promote my albums as part of their catalogue. I had worked with them previously in a talent-management capacity so it struck me as odd that they wanted a piece of my IP, despite flat out rejecting me. Despite being broke and desperate for any industry connection I said no. Until Half Blackface, I have owned 100% of my work (my instincts told me not to trust) and that 100% ownership has been worth over $150K since 2014.
1. The Warden Signs a Headshot for my Uncle’s birthday
Knowing how often comedy makes me feel unhappy and disrespected, number one was a very easy choice. Thanks to the Trump Easter video one of the many celebrities who began following me in 2020 was actor Bob Gunton, best known as the warden in The Shawshank Redemption. My uncle was a big fan of his work and I asked Mr. Gunton if he would mail my Uncle a signed headshot for his birthday. He did. It arrived on my Uncle’s birthday, which happened to be… June 2nd. My uncle was genuinely thrilled. He passed away 3 months later. So that is the last gift I gave my Uncle and it was probably the best one I have given him, even though all it cost me was a DM on Twitter. So if and when I finally abandon the Titanic that is my comedy career, this will definitely be the top of the list of things I’ve gotten from it.
Thanks to all of you who have helped make this 20 year run bearable in the bad times and more fun during the good times.
- DeSantis Has Been Aguilera’d by Trump May 21, 2023
Like many pundits I have come to the conclusion that Ron DeSantis cannot defeat Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination. But unlike the run of the mill political handicappers, I came to this conclusion not by polls and chit chat among power brokers and donors, but with a Jon Meachem-esque historical analysis of the last two divas with ties to Florida tangled: Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
By 2001 Britney Spears has established herself as both socially acceptable jail bait and the queen of pop. But nipping at her heels was the much more vocally talented, but not as popular Christina Aguilera. In the life cycle of any young, female pop star there are distinct phases: 1. cute, asexual Disney talent, 2. forbidden fruit starlet, 3. I’m a (legal) woman now and boy do I want to have sex with you, 4. trainwreck, 5. redemption story. Well, by 2001 Britney Spears was fully emersed in the third phase and released “I’m a Slave for You” (which would now have to be the less catchy “I’m an Enslaved Person for You”). It was a masterclass in tasteful sex appeal. She showed off her flat, sweaty abs while dancing with a snake – the most phallic of reptiles – and for good measure, banged the video choreographer Wade Robson (molested by Michael Jackson, sleeping with Britney Spears (which inspired Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River”) the only thing left for Robson to be the ultimate pop music Forrest Gump would be if either Elvis or Madonna were his parent). It was a hit song and established Spears as the limit of tasteful, youthful sex appear. But one artist did not seem to think it was the limit: Christina Aguilera.
The next year, Aguilera raised the bar and released the single and video, Dirty. In the video, Aguilera decided that the only way to defeat Spears in a nuclear ass race was to literally show her ass. In a video where she grinds in a boxing ring wearing assless chaps, Aguilera seemed to be saying “I see your abs Ms. Spears and I raise you butt cheeks!” If Spears was the teen movie sex dream, Aguilera seemed to be saying, “You know what men like more than hot chicks in movies? Hot chicks in porn! Take that Britney!” By today’s standards both videos feel tame (the same way the “Rump Shaker” video felt scandalous when I was a young teen, but now just looks like a fun party) but at the time it became clear that Aguilera had overstepped. The pop starlet war of 1998-2002 was over. Britney had won.
Now don’t get me wrong, 23 year old me LOVED “Dirty.” I liked the song and the video. But if you trust the judgement and libido of 23 year old J-L Cauvin you would have had President Demi Moore, VP Mariah Carey and Surgeon General my medical school-attending girlfriend. It was clear that Britney, by taking it right to the line forced Aguilera into an impossible position: concede or go too far. Either way, she would lose.
So with that insightful trip down memory lane, it should be clear how this applies to Trump and DeSantis. Trump, a fake blonde with some raw talent in his field, who should not be on social media and probably should have a conservator, is Britney Spears. DeSantis is the more talented (at governing), less well-liked competitor trying to establish himself as number 1. Unlike America, the Trump Republican party is not America of 2002. It is a group so morally compromised and hypocritical that you would think there would be no bottom, but alas I believe there might be. For the MAGA folks Trump’s charisma-infused hate is just the right amount. He makes jokes, he claims credit for a surging economy and he tells the people they hate to fu*k off. He has set the standard for how much lack of decency MAGA will accept.
DeSantis, like Aguilera, seems to have made the wrong calculation. Aguilera, as the more talented singer, could have pivoted to more serious music and engaged a broader range of music fans, even if she had to concede the pop star crown. DeSantis, instead decided to bypass “Dirty,” which would have been a mistake already, and go straight to Filthy. He is trying to out-Trump Trump in a culture and party defined by Trump. Trump is the exact package of immoral feces that the MAGA crowd is willing to ingest. If you go crueler, especially without the charisma or personal connection of a Trump, you are toast. To modify the characterizations of Al Gore and Bill Clinton from the 90s, “When DeSantis hates, you feel he’s the most hateful man in the room; when Trump hates, you feel like your hate is the most important hate in the room.”
DeSantis has instituted a 6 week abortion ban, non-unanimous capital punishment, concealed carry without a permit and a host of anti LGTBQ bills, all with the intention of out-Trumping Trump. But his political assless chaps are showing and while losing the moderates that could have made him competitive against Trump, he is also proving to be a less fun version of Trump. MAGA people want their hate to be fun and Trump does that for them. DeSantis just makes hate feel like hate and the key to the MAGAts is that they want to hate, but still delude themselves into thinking they’re the good guys. They are slaves for Trump, but just are not going to get dirty with DeSantis.
- The Worst Abrahams May 16, 2023
The story of Abraham is probably familiar to most people reading this, but to sum it up quickly, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son as a sign of devotion. Only when an angel intervened, because God saw that Abraham feared him, was Isaac spared. Instead a ram was sacrificed – a victory for child welfare advocates, but a big L for vegans. I have been reminded of this biblical story as I watch the modern GOP – a party willing to sacrifice everything from the planet’s health to the lives of (other people’s) children. But unlike Abraham, the GOP is not doing any of this to please a deity.
After reading Invisible Child (a 2022 Pulitzer Prize winner and glowingly reviewed in an early episode of my book club series on my Patreon) I read (probably in the afterword) that the author, Andrea Elliot, had focused her reporting on child poverty. She did this because it was less susceptible to the “personal responsibility” arguments the GOP uses to reject helping the living, while being “pro life” of course. Now thanks to Joe Manchin and the Republican Party (please do not say “Democrats aren’t getting it done when 98% of Democrats in the Senate vote for something and 0% of Republicans vote for something) we have seen that an enhanced child tax credit that reduced child poverty by 30% was still not a worthy enough endeavor to continue. The truth is, as cliché as it has now become, the GOP cares about children as fetal burdens on women and no more (sorry – they do “care” about their exposure to books that talk about sexuality and drag shows).
The GOP’s resistance to solving or even mitigating the myriad problems associated with climate change is so well worn I do not think I have to spend a lot of time addressing it. The bottom line is the world can burn and their grandchildren can drown (of course it won’t happen to their grandchildren) in pursuit of fossil fuel profits. I believe the Democrats should be investing heavily in nuclear energy, but their resistance to that particular solution pales in comparison to the GOP’s resistance to any solution.
It is the gun issue that really made the Abraham comparison crystal clear to me. I do not know who said it, but it is clear that after 20 first graders were slaughtered with an AR-15 in Sandy Hook in 2012 and the GOP did absolutely nothing that the 2nd Amendment had become a suicide pact provision of the Constitution (with the filibuster and its defenders as Dr. Kevorkian). The GOP cannot even be taken seriously when they scream “mental health” as they almost never back up their insincere rhetoric with actual funding. But I think the problem is now deeper than mere hypocrisy. I think the GOP, as much as they do not like the idea of children blown apart by weapons of war, find a perverse pride in not budging on gun control after repeated massacres. In a sort of twisted logic, what shows your principle more than not changing course, even after repeated slaughters of children? And the sunk costs are too high now – how many men, women and children have been gunned down since Sandy Hook? If you admit a mistake now, then those 11 years of killings might partially be on you.
Now of course, we know that “bad guys will always get guns,” but we have so many guns involved in mass shootings that are obtained legally. Why not try? Because owning guns and the futility of gun laws are now articles of faith to the GOP, or at least to their elected representatives. And who gives a shit if x percentage of Republicans believe in common sense regulations if they don’t back that up with votes? They are no longer bound by data or facts (or morality) – and that is the problem.
The only way to save the future of the country and the planet (not in some Fox News fever dream sort of way – but to actually save life on the planet and in our schools) is to elect fewer Republicans. That is it. If you want to have reasonable policy arguments the place to have them is within the Democratic party. But if you want to reduce gun violence and environmental destruction voting for Democrats is the only way right now. When Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son he was doing it for God. As frightening or barbaric as some might find that, the GOP is going much further for a lot less. They are willing to sacrifice your sons and daughters, not for God, but to confirm their fallacy of the sanctity of unencumbered gun rights. Whatever you think of religion, it is clear that the GOP is the most dangerous faith in America and their gun loving members are the worst version of Abraham.
Perhaps it is time they admit that guns are their gods: they give them a sense of safety, a sense of power and the ability to take life. Of course that is the Old Testament God. It is in the New Testament when Jesus showed up (before the GOP, he had a big role in Christianity) and replaced that wrath with love. Quite tragic and ironic that so many “Christians” believe that God gave up his only son as a sign of love for humanity, just to have many of those self-identifying followers sacrifice other people’s sons for their guns.
- Newark Nightmare: A Night with the NY Rangers April 29, 2023
When it comes to hockey I am what a young person might label derisively, a “casual.” Or the median hockey fan (white, scruffy, 33 years old, pissed they missed January 6th to contest a date rape accusation) a “fa**ot.” But hockey itself is an incredible sport, for all the athletic skills it requires of the athletes, the thrills of watching it, especially in person, and the great video games the sport almost always produces. Outside of 1994, when my late uncle was wrapped up in Rangers hysteria (he was a huge fan and the 1994 championship, which broke a 54 year title-less streak, was a major milestone for all in his orbit), and the occasional Olympic game, I had barely paid attention to hockey until my Uncle’s passing in 2020. I think part of that apathy had been augmented by the awful leadership of the NHL (even this “casual” knows that letting your contract with ESPN lapse so you could sign with VS network (WHO?) and then NBC Sports (HUH?) was a bad move, but also the lack of broad media exposure for NHL stars outside of commercials and ads during NHL games), but also growing older and having to prioritize a demeaning comedy career, 805 streaming programs, a day job and the deep frustration of supporting the Utah Jazz, there is only so much Jean-Louis to go around (my uncle always thought that given my size and French name I would have been a great defenseman, despite his occasionally calling me a “Mary.”).
But since my Uncle’s passing, which has coincided with a slight uptick in Ranger relevance (perhaps a post mortem connection), I have been paying attention a bit more. Me and the lady went to two games this year (record 1-1) at MSG, but we decided to splurge (me) for playoff tickets in New Jersey. The series with the Devils was tied 2-2 and given 3 days off I figured perhaps the Rangers would make adjustments to counter the dramatic shift in the series that had the Rangers winning the first two games 5-1 and 5-1 and then only mustering 2 goals total in the next two games (as I would learn, changing goalies was only one factor as the Devils apparently took the Rangers’ skills and souls during that turnaround as well). So I will present to you my day of Game 5 (as I write this we are hours away from Game 6, which I will miss because I have a show in Red Bank – see none of you there if past is prologue), where the Rangers’ horrid performance was only the 4th worst thing I saw.
The Last Beautiful Sight of the Day
On my way to New York Penn Station, after a day of law firming, to walk Cookie Cauvin in Bloomfield and get on a train to Newark I saw an Asian man who almost made me stop in my tracks. To be clear, I am straight, but this man was the most beautiful Asian I have seen in person since my college girlfriend (and she was only half – we met at a mixed race mixer – no we didn’t – sorry I forget that many of my comedy fans do not get comedy). This dude was about 6’3″ in very casual clothing but he looked like someone had taken Jason Mamoa and Chris Hemsworth (but with more Olympic swimmer build than bodybuilder), put him in an Asian Google translate filter gave him a more healthy-looking mane of Steve Aoki hair and put him in my path on the way to the train. He was accompanied by a Black woman, because on top of his other worldly presence he was clearly intent on making a Tiger Woods of attractiveness. I am just assuming he was someone of fame that I was unaware of. But I realized that this man was put before me by a higher power who knew I needed to see some form of natural beauty because of the man made horrors I was going to observe the rest of the night.
Welcome to The Rock
The Prudential Center is Newark, or “The Rock” as it is referred to in promotional rantings, is home of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, various major concerts and no interior design people (I assure you I am straight). It feels like a half finished arena in the walkways throughout, though the arena itself is standard pro sports and concert quality. As we made our way in I felt like Devils’ fans gave off a January 5th vibe. Not quite insurrection, but close enough for me to be sure I knew all the exits.
We lucked out with our seats because our row was mostly older and fairly subdued, relative to the crowd. The only positive thing that would happen during the game from my perspective was a comedy fan recognized me (and instead of yelling “Trump!” he mentioned the comedy club he saw me at). So after I walked around the arena feeling like I was at the bar in The Accused an hour before Jodie Foster showed up, I settled into my seat next to the lady and watched the Rangers get absolutely destroyed. The Devils were faster, their passes crisper, their attack and defense more focused and effective… but other than that the Rangers played great! With 7 minutes left in the game and a 20 minute walk to the train, the lady and I opted to give up hope that the Rangers would come back from a 3-0 deficit. In fact, as we were leaving the arena the Devils added a 4th goal.
Looking for Batman
As we walked from the arena through a few blocks of downtown Newark (the lines between “up and coming” Newark and “don’t go there Newark” felt obvious in an almost parody-like way, at least while we walked the 20 minutes) we saw the following:
- An older woman shooting up
- A man passed out in the street
- 4 men getting into a physical fight over, perhaps, bootleg goods. One man had a weapon that sort of looked like a paddle.
- 2 cop cars about half way to the train (where there seemed to be no more litter or homeless people) guarding a film set
Now when I posted the above observations on Facebook and Twitter my intention was to show what felt like a sadly ironic misallocation of resources that it seems up and coming cities are compelled (or feel compelled) to do in the interest of increasing exposure and tax revenue. As we approached the train we heard multiple police cars going toward where we had come from (either to help with crime or to be extras in the movie/TV show) so perhaps better late than never. But I was disappointed by how many people on social media (among my followers) jumped at the opportunity to interpret what I wrote as some callous denigration of urban struggle and crime and pile on. One person went as far as to tell me, “Now do San Francisco, Chicago and New York” as if I was his replacement for Tucker Carlson in the “please replenish my IV of cherry-picked hate from cities with lots of Black people and/or Democrats.” My point was to simply point out the tragic juxtaposition you can see in cities when they put expensive things (stadiums, film sets) in the middle of struggling communities, but the hardships are not alleviated – it simply makes it look more shameful than it already did before. But the silver lining is the Rangers were no longer the worst thing I saw in Newark that night.
- As Broadway Goes, So Goes The Country April 17, 2023
I believe it was Dostoyevsky who once wrote, “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering a theater and seeing how many cell phones go off during a performance.” As a culture critic for the people, I attend a decent number of Broadway performances each year. Now, I am a practical man and realize that against my best hopes, and the heroic efforts of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain, cell phone usage during movies is a lost cause. Even a movie militant as strident as me has fallen back to a position of “Can you at least dim your screen if you are going to text for 1/3 of the movie???” But Broadway, where the culture is snootier and the tickets more expensive? Surely it can stand athwart rudeness yelling Stop, right? Well, don’t expect the man in flip flops and shorts sitting behind you in the August Wilson Theater to give you the response you desire.
The last Broadway show I saw was last week. It was a play called The Thanksgiving Play. It was solid and it stood out to me for one particular reason. No, it was not because it made me see Janet from The Good Place as a sexy Amazonian, though it did. It stood out because it was the first play I can remember seeing in the last decade where I did not hear one cell phone go off. Perhaps it was because there were two people like this, standing in the theater reminding patrons of something important:
Now, while I appreciate the theater doing what it takes, is this where we are? Entering a theater, having a warning stated over the PA system and have a request in the playbill are not all sufficient enough to get people to turn off their phones? Apparently not.
A week earlier I went to Funny Girl, which was a great show. Tickets were extremely expensive and as befits a man of my stature, the couple sitting in front of me was a Property Brother (I do not know which one) and Zoe Deschanel. What warmed my heart was to see Pro-Zo (my celeb name for them) sitting cuddly, clapping for musical numbers and saying less than 10 words the entire show. The same could not be said for the man sitting behind me who never stopped providing answers to rhetorical questions posed by the actors and articulating things like “that was funny” when laughter would have sufficed. This kind of verbal tagging is awful at comedy clubs where ticket are $20 a pop. It is unforgiveable in a theater where the seats were $250 each. And while I was admiring Pro-Zo’s respectful conduct, a phone went off in the second half of the show on the other side of the theater. But I was not surprised, as a young woman had shoved me out of the way at intermission to make sure she was 48th instead of 66th on the line for the women’s bathroom.
I am old fashioned in that I like spaces that occasionally remind us that humans can be classy. I don’t wear sneakers to the theater. I generally dress business casual and if I wasn’t an overweight slob I would probably put on a suit (no tie). But cell phone culture, which has invaded just about every facet of public life, extends to the “I’ll wear what I want” vibe. The email I received from the Funny Girl theater a day before the show included admonitions about cell phone use, but also a gentle suggestion that “some people choose to dress nicely for the theater… it is not required, but…” But if you have been to the theater (saying nothing of the sad fact that the only way to sell tickets is generally celebrity casting or adapting a pre-existing, popular property – Marvel The Musical can only be a few years away) it really is anything goes.
My friend Nick is a magician in LA and he works at the prestigious Comedy & Magic Castle. They have a dress code. Nick has told me that often men will cite the price of their jeans or sneakers or t-shirt as reasons why the do not need to wear a jacket. The answer is that there is a dress code. I think one reason the CMC is a popular hot spot is specifically because it is mandating a level of old school class. From Bar Mitzvahs to proms to weddings to funerals there is something in a lot of us that love the formality of certain occasions. Perhaps we have been conditioned to it or perhaps we just don’t want to see someone’s hairy knee when look at our theater arm rest, but whatever the reason, I think it is nice to have some spaces that we treat as sanctified, even if only in a secular way.
I think the worst recent example I’ve experienced at the theater was at How I Learned to Drive, which I saw last year. The show is about grooming and sexual abuse and one of the actors came out before the show began and told the audience that the play was serious and they wanted everyone to turn off their phones. Phones went off three times during the show. “And that’s when my uncle put his hands under my – RING RING.” This is probably how Catholics more hard core than me are drawn to Opus Dei when they see someone in flip flops and shorts playing an acoustic guitar at Mass.
Obviously our culture has undergone seismic shifts in the last generation or two. Decreasing reverence for and practice of religion, increased usage of cell phones and a decrease in what is considered discourteous or rude, etc. And I am not connecting the two so do not take this as some religious screed (though replacing reverence for a “higher power” with “I’m an influencer” does feel like it could have bad repercussions in some cases). But when I am at a movie and a dozen phone screens are lit up or on a bus and 3 different people are blaring videos or music from their phones without headphones it makes one wonder, are there any spaces where people still collectivity act in a courteous manner? The theater feels like it would be one of those places, but perhaps I need to get into opera or ballet if I want a more reverent environment (or perhaps that is lost as well as I don’t go to either).
I’d like this to end with a “so let’s be better!” hopeful tone, but the last decade plus has just shown me that we have not reached bottom yet. This weekend The Phantom of the Opera, Broadway’s longest running show ever, closed. I never got to see it and amidst the celebrities, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, at the final show on Sunday, I was just left to wonder from a supermarket check out line: who was the final cell phone to go off during the show?
- Kid Rock IS The Republican Party April 12, 2023
This week’s blog was supposed to be about the erosion of etiquette at the theatre and how that spells so much more doom for society. That can wait until next week. This week, due to both inspiration and time crunch, I will be writing about the man that I think best embodies the Republican Party more than any human alive. That man is Robert James Ritchie, AKA Kid Rock (there will be no pictures of Kid Rock due to me being scared off of using copyright-protected photos – podcast listeners know to what I refer – so pictures of my dog Cookie, who is dirty blonde and was found abandoned in a Kentucky trailer park, will have to act as stand-ins – the pic to the left is Cookie with her Donald Trump chew toy).
Now full disclosure – I am not one of these people who just reflexively dismisses Kid Rock like a progressive hack. I own several of his albums and to this day will defend his breakout album, Devil without a Cause, as a great album (and Rolling Stone picked him as their 1999 male artist of the year for that album). But given multiple decades to absorb the man’s place in our culture, mostly against my will, I have come to see him as much more than a top tier artist of the 90s-2000s rap-rock hybrid era (Linkin Park as the best and most unscathed member of this genre). I now see him as the embodiment of the modern GOP.
One hallmark of Kid Rock’s persona is a brash, flag waving patriotism that would come across as sacrilegious to anyone with a brain. Rock’s patriotism is the “How dare Colin Kaepernick kneel for the anthem – now watch two strippers twerk while I throw up middle fingers with the American flag in the background because AMERICA!” Like the thousands of mostly white dudes across American sports arenas who scream, shout and stuff hot dogs down their throats as the anthem plays, but will condemn anyone who doesn’t show proper respect (especially if they look different than them), Rock is the ultimate do as I say and not as I do patriot.
“Black Chick, White Guy”
Taylor Swift used country music as her path of least resistance in the musical world and then slowly, but surely, turned herself into a pop music megastar (I, for one, appreciate her honesty in making the full transition to pop, versus a lot of what passes as country music today, pop music with a little twang and a lot of fear of leaving the warm bosom of country music). Rock took a more conventional American path to music stardom – he immersed himself in Black art, rap to be specific, but like a stand up comedian failing to generate likes, he retreated into aggressive whiteness after his career regressed to the mean, after initial success (a song about an interracial relationship where he drops the N word might have been a harbinger of things to come – though artistically defensible when you hear the song, it becomes even more uncomfortable when the man becomes a Trump supporter who says things like “Fu*k Oprah” (disliking or disagreeing with Oprah is obviously not a crime or racist, but it certainly doesn’t look or sound great when factoring the totality of the Kid Rock circumstances)). But the point of this is using Black art/culture/proximity as a shield, but then denigrating Black people and supporting racist politicians when not appearing racist is no longer useful, is very GOP.
“I’m a Cowboy Baby!”
(Don’t even try to tell me this is not a good song) From what I have read Kid Rock grew up a well off suburban kid and has grown into a very rich adult. But his image is clearly as a man of the trailer park-oxy abusing people! From the stringy hair, the ratty mustache and the fur coat-wife beater couture, he is clearly cultivating an unemployed-just won a scratch off-working man-without a real job persona. And is there anything more Republican than pretending to be one of the people? From Reagan’s actor-politician who hates Hollywood and Washington, DC to George W. Bush’s Connecticut Cowboy to Donald Trump’s deep contempt for his own voters, but willingness to be their “retribution,” the modern GOP is one big cosplay act. Only H.W. Bush seemed to be true to the fancy pants that he was in real life and he got voted out after one term.
“Only God Knows Why”
This song is a damn masterpiece. I know it is, because a friend of mine in college, who hated Kid Rock, was deeply distressed when he found out the song he liked was, in fact, a very off brand, auto-tuned ballad by Kid Rock.
If ever there could be an anthem for the modern, Trump GOP, I think it would be Only God Knows Why. The lyrics that most reflect this are as follows:I said it too many times and I still stand firmYou get what you put in And people get what they deserveStill I ain’t seen mineNo, I ain’t seen mine I’ve been givin’, just ain’t been gettin’ I’ve been walkin’ that there lineSo I think I’ll keep a walkin’With my head held high I’ll keep movin’ on And only God knows whyThe inherent contradiction in these lines, though poetically frustrating, are also the perfect embodiment of the modern GOP’s hypocrisy. I believe with all my heart that hard work and personal responsibility pay off, BUT IT IS NOT WORKING FOR ME! Well which is it? Is it personal responsibility for everyone, or is it others who are not working hard, but for folks like Kid Rock, it is actually an unjust tragedy that his hard work is not paying off? If not for his politics and generally offensive nature, I would say the song is a laudable lament of a world that seems to contradict the values it espouses. But knowing now who Kid Rock is, it sounds more like hypocritical bitching and is there any better way to describe the modern GOP than hypocritical bitches?
- John Wick? More like John WOKE March 23, 2023
When I heard that a new installment of the John Wick film franchise was coming out I was excited. Wick represented a throwback ideal of a man – husband (albeit he left his job to please his wife – no one is perfect), feared by criminals and impeccably dressed (sorry, no sweat pants for your stay at home zoom “job”). He killed with ruthless efficiency and set a high standard for justice: kill my puppy and I will kill everyone. Needless to say John Wick was not taking time out to go protest the 2nd Amendment with David Hogg!
So last week I lined up all three Wick films for a great retrospective before the 4th chapter’s release this week (in Joe Biden’s world of gun control, paternity leave and pronouns – it felt like nothing was more needed than the Wick movies). But as I rewatched the films I realized that the John Wick films were actually a progressive trojan horse. John Wick was actually John WOKE.
In the first film, Wick attacks exclusively white criminals (they appear to be Russian, so I guess double points on the globalist, woke scorecard). Of course he is friends with a few people in the criminal world – Latino Mike Birbiglia John Leguizamo and the late Lance Reddick, the concierge of the assassin hotel. He did have a white friend, played by Willem Dafoe, but the John Woke screenwriters obviously saw fit to have him killed. Wick eventually avenges his deceased puppy leaving a lot of dead white people.
But I did enjoy the first one and since I am the last person to engage in cancel culture, perhaps this was just one plot line. But as I re-watched John Wick 2 I saw a clearer pattern emerging. Wick is forced to repay a debt to an Italian criminal (so apparently honoring a contract is a bad thing when a white man asks you to do so!) and in attempting to do so is attacked by a Black criminal… who Wick allows to live. The actor’s name may be Common, but needless to say, this was a very uncommon fate for killers who cross John Wick. When Wick needs assistance in the film he gets it from a homeless Black man, played by Lawrence Fishbourne. So instead of perhaps cleaning up the homelessness problem in Democrat run NYC, Wick empowers this man to wreak more havoc on a once great city.
Well then we get to John Wick 3: Parabellum, which might as swell mean “all out war against traditional values.” Wick is now being hunted by all assassins because he violated the terms of service at the Continental. There white people go again – wanting contracts to be honored. For a contract killer, John Woke seems to have a major problem with… contracts. In John Wick 3, Wick makes it to northern Africa where he of course will finally have to kill some killers of color. But he is aided in that pursuit by Halle Berry, a Black woman, who, in the Leftist hierarchy is the most discriminated against person so, by the John Woke transitive property, is entitled to kill men of color, as they are part of the patriarchy. So John Woke gets a pass via Halle Berry and comes back to America to fight a gang of Asian assassins.
In other words, John Woke is now able to murder lots of minorities, as long as they are over-represented minorities. And boy does Wick go off! He takes out so many Asians I thought he was Bill DeBlasio trying to stop them from getting into selective high schools! And orchestrating a lot of the enemies against John Woke was a non-binary actor, known primarily for their work on Billions, a show I know something about. Does the non-binary actor get murdered by John Wick? Of course not – John Wick may have killed 1000 assassins, but if you have a plural pronoun you are off limits. And when it is time to finally defeat the evil Italian gangster, Wick is given aid by the aforementioned Reddick, who needless to say survives the gun battle. Do you see it yet?
So as I reflected on this deceptive legacy that the Wick films represent, I have opted to skip John Wick 4. I can actually appreciate films like Schindler’s List, 12 Years a Slave and Roots who at least when they shove wokeness down your throat, they do it openly. What the John Wick franchise has done is far more devious. They have taken a beta cuck and wrapped him in the blood and garments of an alpha male and sold us the lie with popcorn. John Woke? I’d rather take a nap!
- Road Comedy Recap: New England, Old Problems March 7, 2023
This past weekend I made my way to New England for shows in Boston, MA and Fairfield, CT. The gigs featured trademarks of J-L Cauvin comedy shows: A+ material, small crowds, meager profits and travel discomfort. I cannot think of any other witty things to put in this intro so let’s just get into it!
I made my way to Boston on the Acela, the northeast Amtrak line that gets you to Boston 20 minutes faster for only $8000 more. Unfortunately and unexpectedly, the seats on the Acela were uncomfortable for me due to my never-ending recovery from shoulder surgeries. The only comfort I had for most of the trip was the knowledge that I was not traveling with the poors. But then I noticed the man sitting adjacent from me was watching season six of Billions. As you should know, if you are reading my blog, which you are if you are reading this, I was in episode 5 of season 6 of Billions and I realized that this man was on episode 3 of the season. With 3 hours until Boston I realized he would get into my episode if he continued watching. Well, after taking a break in the snack car, I returned to my seat to see him in episode 5. I got out my phone (what is a better photo than taking a picture of someone watching your show while you sit behind them?) and was prepared to tap him on the shoulder when I appeared on screen and say, “THAT’S ME!” in the worst Make-A-Wish ever. And then, with less than 5 minutes before my first scene, he closed his tablet because he was getting off at the Rt 128 stop, a stop about 20 minutes before downtown Boston. Classic J-L Jinx.
Before going to City Winery I checked into the hotel, the Boston Wharf Hotel. My friend and opener for the night, Joe Pontillo was arriving later, but given the weather I changed my hotel from a (Tall) King bed to a Yassss Two Queen beds room. When he arrived I learned the first of many sad truths about the Boston Wharf Hotel, a hotel that looked like a million bucks and delivered 5 dollar service. $50 parking for the night!? I asked if that came with a hooker/sex worker/vaginal entrepreneur and they said no.
Joe and I made it to the venue around 6:15 and with no one helping us get the car into the parking lot I made my way into the venue and asked for help. They told me I could go to the parking lot and buzz him in. I went into the parking lot and no one answered the buzzer. Then some turd kicked the door stop, which left me in a cold parking lot unable to get Joe’s car into the lot and unable to get back into the venue. It felt like I was rebooting Spinal Tap into a depressing 10 minute drama. Nothing makes you feel like a headliner than being your own, inept parking attendant. But then, in a Shining like experience, an older Black man opened the door and let me back in (he must have sensed my despair). Once someone let Joe in we both ate some delicious pre-show salmon (my reminder that it was a Friday during Lent guilted Joe into ordering the same) and took some photos in the room posing as our green room. Then Jocelyn, our great handler (she was guiding the ship on my last trip to Boston as well) said they wanted to delay the start of the show because a lot of ticket purchasers had not yet showed up. Some little inside industry info – when a show has to start late because of lack of audience, that is not a great thing. But then a bunch of people actually started filing in and I felt temporary relief.
The show went really well (for the unvarnished truth listen to this week’s Righteous Pk Podcast) and I met several people who had come to the show just looking for comedy and thought I was great (in my years long struggle to woo comedy fans and not just bored people who like impressions, gaining people who only know me for stand up is a Godsend). After the show Joe, my college friend Duane and I went to a nice Italian restaurant for some drinks and bites and then left to go back to the hotel. And like a movie that you think is about to end, but then goes on for an hour more, the Boston Wharf Hotel front desk and valet now had their time to shine. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but at 1115 pm at a luxury looking hotel, with no other customers at the front desk and no other cars seeking valet service, 40 minutes is a long time to have to wait.
In the morning, Joe and I made our way home with a stop in a Connecticut IHOP for a breakfast where Joe marveled at the speed with which I inhale 5 pancakes, 4 sausage links (insert Mike Pence running gif here) and a partridge and a pear tree.
After a restful Saturday it was time to perform in Fairfield. Having not seen my Mom in a few weeks I met my Mom in midtown before catching a Metro North to Fairfield. We went to Shake Shack, at which point she handed me a stack of money to take a cab home to NJ… from Fairfield. “There’s a lot of shit going on in the subways,” my Mom told me at which point, her 6’7″ son with money and anger issues channeled Walter White said, “On the subway, I am the shit!” Like so many of the people hearing my jokes, my Mom did not get the reference. After Shake Shack I made my way to a packed train (I wish John Wick existed and the only people he went after were people who put their feet on train seats and people who listen to music and videos on their phones in public spaces without headphones). We arrived at the station at 7pm and it was literally 50 steps from the theater.
The small theater was great and the theater said they could tape our sets on their brand new, state of the art video system. I had brought my camera, but when I saw their set up I said I definitely wanted them to video tape on their system. We had 25 audience members, but at least half of them appeared to be actual fans or friends of mine (thank you!) and my pay was not contingent on ticket sales, so no pressure! I ended up having an outstanding set with all new material for my next hour and a lot of good ad libs. And just to be safe, 15 minutes before my set I went to the video guy and confirmed that he was recording the sets. You know where this is going…
On the train back at 1015 pm (a 90 minute train ride sitting next to a mother-daughter combo listening to loud music on one phone for the entire ride – teaching the next generation to be inconsiderate assholes warms the heart) I got a text from the show producer saying, “You are really jinxed – the theater forgot to turn on the video recording system). At this point I spiritually gave up on my comedy career. It is not the big things that break you folks – I am still performing and keeping up hope for my special(s), despite 501 days and counting of abject despair. But when pressing record proves too big a lift for a show? – that is the stuff that breaks me. I eventually made it home (only had to take a cab home from Newark, so “unnecessary cash from Mom” proves to once again be one of the most profitable sources of money in my stand-up comedy career – $120 profit on cab money from Mom compared to $170 profit on gig in Boston, which was a lower profit margin than my opener Joe).
Thanks to everyone who came to the shows, but more importantly, thank you to everyone who did not. In the words of George W. Bush after a different tragedy, “I hear you!”
- Road Comedy Recap: 39 Hours in Ann Arbor November 14, 2022
I have written dozens, maybe hundreds of road comedy recaps from my adventures around the country, basically a multi-decade effort to validate focusing my adult life on the pursuit of a career in stand up comedy. But this weekend felt like both the apex and nadir of that career and these recaps. It began on Wednesday with my computer crashing and ended with me walking home smelling like The Walking Dead and getting my first good night of sleep in what feels like a decade (literally). So let’s get to it!
Wednesday: What the Fu*k Just Happened to My Computer?!
I woke up Wednesday and went to my computer to send some emails. And then my computer froze and crashed. I had planned on using some of my downtime in Michigan to write some sketches and although pen and paper work, they make it very difficult to conform with screenwriting formatting. I proceeded to curse, panic sweat and complain about my third PC in 3 years to crash (must be all my comedy content and the Bible passage browsing I keep doing). I packed the computer and brought it into the Geek Squad near my office in midtown. I was helped by a young Geek (good rap name right?) named Jose and he was very helpful (like an old person I had made an appointment for the wrong day and had a look of panic in my eyes and Yung Geek (or El Guique?) explained what he thought the problem was and that he could have my computer back to me by lunch on Thursday, either repaired or diagnosed with a hardware issue, which would then be a manufacturer’s warranty issue… which as coincidence would have it was set to expire 4 days later).
Thursday: Race Through The City and the Train to Ann Arbor
On Thursday I woke up, packed for Ann Arbor (my triumphant return to the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase club after a three year hiatus) and headed into the city an hour earlier than needed to get my computer from midtown. When I arrived at Geek Squad I was greeted by a Black woman (Jose was not there) and she seemed perplexed by my expectation that my computer would be ready. I assured her that Jose had told me I could have it back fixed, or at least diagnosed, by right now. She checked the paperwork and confirmed this and then came out and told me the computer had been repaired (YAY) and they just had to complete the repair paperwork.
Now, even though I had 90 minutes until my train for Ann Arbor left and was a mere 15 minutes from The Moynihan Train Station I was nervous because I had left all my belongings in a locker in MTS unlocked. Even though it is a secure and monitored lounge it still crossed my mind that I could go to Ann Abor with the clothes on my back and my computer and nothing else if a theft occurred.
So as I paced around the Geek Squad area of Best Buy waiting for the Black woman (I wrote a joke in my phone that she might call it Gique S’quad and then deleted it thinking, “don’t be a Black name hack!”). The woman arrived with my computer and said I might get a survey (I just gave both employees high marks) and that Jose helped me on Wednesday and that her name was Ideal (immediately retrieved and updated my text joke) when I filled out the survey. I thought to myself, when you go to Geek Squad to interview (or any job) and your resume says “Ideal” as your name, isn’t that the easiest hire of all time?
So I left with my computer and walked to the Times Square Chop’t to get a salad. There is a Chop’t in MTS, but since it is mostly tourists who have never ordered a $19 salad they often take a long time considering their options while people with salad slicing blades stare at them with NYC brand hostility. I got my salad and made it back to the VIP lounge in MTS and ate my salad awaiting the announcement for train 49 to Chicago. I made my way to my roomette and had a pleasant evening of reading a Jim Thopre biography and watching The Good Fight as the train made its way to Chicago.
Friday: The Red Roof Inn Plus
When I woke up at 530 am in my roomette I saw that the train was 35 minutes behind schedule into Toledo (where you transfer to the Amtrak bus that services Michigan cities and towns), which gave me enough time to get breakfast on the train (all meals are included for sleeper car passengers, but when the train is on time to Toledo there is not enough time to get breakfast before arrival). So I got in an extra meal and then got on the bus to Michigan around 7am. I made it to downtown Ann Arbor at 9, but because check in at my hotel was not until 3pm I secured a seat at the college Starbucks (the most nonstop busiest Starbucks I have ever seen) and proceeded to configure my computer, which had to be wiped clean to reinstall the operating system – which feels like a threat the rapper El Gique/Yung Geek would make on a rap track.
At 2 pm I made it to the Red Roof Inn Plus. Rather than write all about it, here is a video from one of my sets this weekend for you to enjoy and learn from:\
I also saw Ann Arbor’s fat squirrels and chronicled them for Twitter:
Friday night we had one show and it went well. I hung out after with a fan/friend named Lacee (her heroics will come later in the weekend) and her co-workers, one of whom looked like a progressive, Italian Lauren Boebert, which if you listen to my podcasts lets you know that I was close to changing my state of residency during my second gin and tonic.
I went back to the RRI+ after and got a solid 6 hours sleep, not a small feat considering this is where I was staying:
Saturday: Highway Shoutout, Old Friends & an Oath Keeper?
On Saturday morning I woke up and asked the RRI+ for a late check out (just an hour) because I was leaving town on a 3:15 am Amtrak after Saturday’s two shows. It was granted and then I made my way to the McDonald’s a mile away for breakfast. About 5 minutes into my walk a woman in a car exiting the highway yelled “J-L!” I turned and saw that it was a friend of my sister-in-law’s who was supposed to attend my Saturday show. She pulled over (technically it was her son driving, a friend of my younger nephew) and she told me that because of an illness in her family they were driving to Ohio and would have to miss the show. Like The Nothing in The Neverending Story wherever my comedy goes, bad things seem to happen. But before we said goodbye she informed me of a greasy spoon right near where we were talking that I should try over McDonald’s. So after she and her son drove away with my well wishes I went to the aforementioned diner and it was delicious. A+ pancakes. The pancakes were so good I was able to ignore the ten 3 percenters that were sitting right next to me.
I will also say, I wish I had gone to law school at Ann Arbor instead of Georgetown. Not only do I really like Ann Arbor (I like DC as well), but as a large human being who carries himself with the arrogance, but also deteriorating body of a former athlete, I felt a lot of looks like “I wonder if he played for the Wolverines.” And the answer would be yes.
I went back to the Friday Starbucks to read and review the video from Friday’s show. I then went to St Thomas the Apostle for 430pm vigil Mass and walked back to the main strip to meet my childhood friend Ian, his wife and two of their friends for pre-show dinner.
The first show was excellent and as I learned throughout the weekend, Michigan, so far, seems to have the highest percentage of platinum J-L fans. Owners of multiple albums, listeners to at least one of my podcasts and Patreon subscribers. Several people made long drives to make the show and it felt really good. One fan owned all 8 of my albums and had seen me for the first time almost a decade ago at a different Michigan club. If I had 25K Lees I would be the happiest comedian on Earth (that’s a lie, but I’d be happier. I would simply have to find other reasons to maintain my misery). The first show ended and then the second show had more diehard fans and a guy that I think may have stormed the Capitol.
The second show started well enough and I was discussing my vaccination status and an older, rugged man kept making comments. He was not being aggressive and seemed in good cheer so I decided to humor him and simultaneously shut it down. I said “you look like you were at the Capitol on January 6th, but you seem a lot calmer than some of your allies – probably because a lot of them are home alone in their moms’ basements, but you have a good looking woman on your arm (Lesson 1 in the J-L disarm a MAGA comedy audience member – be large, Lesson 2 – make them feel like they’re doing cancel culture if they boo you and Lesson 3 – appeal to their traditional sense of masculinity). He seemed pleased and entertained but did not stop talking. Then, an audience member, who I must imagine did not get a good look at the man, yelled “Read the room man and shut the fu*k up!” That made it awkward but Quaker Oath Keeper in front seemed to not be offended. The club manager (a kind, young woman, which I think helped de-escalate) said to him that he would have to stop talking or he would be asked to leave. To his credit the Ann Arbor Shaman remained quiet for the rest of the show, but he and his lady did not seem too pleased (especially during my bits about roasting Barron Trump and having hypothetical, law school sex with Tiffany Trump). When he left he shook my hand and looked me in the eye and it was a look that said “Once I accepted Christ I renounced violence. Lucky for you.” He had a large neck tattoo, which on a white guy in his 60s is about as strong a warning sign as there is. Like I said, the guy who stood up for me and told him to STFU clearly did not see the man up close.
Sunday – The Extraction
After the show I had some great long chats with big time fans and then Lacee met me after the show knowing I needed to kill time before the 3:15 am train. So we went near the club for a drink and some appetizers and I began the Lyft watch.
- 12:15am $95 to Toledo Amtrak
- 12:45am $156 to Toledo Amtrak
- 1:10 am $221 to Toledo Amtrak
- 1:40 am (when leaving) $365 to Toledo Amtrak
So at that point I began to panic and asked Lacee if she could begin driving me toward Toledo (which is at least in the direction of her home) and she did and about 6 minutes out of the downtown area the price was $156 – I immediately selected it and we pulled into a large (closed) shopping center to wait for the Lyft… which never came. He claimed to be in front of the store, but clearly he wasn’t. Lacee’s guess was that he actually saw the ride was to Toledo and then pulled some BS (as proof my $5 non-pick up penalty was refunded). So at that point the Lyft price had climbed back to $230 to Toledo so Lacee drove me to the Amtrak. At one point with a 20 minute buffer between our GPS arrival and the train departure I said “GPS says that way” and she said “But the highway entrance is right there (pointing to an entrance 50 yards away)” but that would have involved crossing a double yellow line or some by-the-book GPS nonsense so my GPS led us on an 8 minute time killer through local roads to get us back to the highway Lacee had pointed out.
We arrived at the station in plenty of time (the train would end up delayed 30 minutes anyway) and I thanked Lacee by promising her copious attention and ink in the road recap. I then got in my roomette and fell asleep on and off for the next 4 hours. I spent the day reading, watching stuff and finally made it through my door in Bloomfield, NJ at 830pm where I was hugged by my girlfriend despite smelling of a day of Amtrak and licked by Cookie, probably because I smelled like a day of Amtrak. After a shower I went to bed and had the first uninterrupted 7 hours of sleep I can remember in the last several years.
- Road Comedy Recap: Heavy Lyfting in Princeton October 31, 2022
This weekend I had a pair of gigs in Princeton, NJ at Catch A Rising Star. It was my first time back to the club in what feels like 10 years (it did not go well when I featured there a decade ago) and fortunately, thanks to a killer Saturday show, I left with my head held high. But until then it seemed like a potential disaster. So with that thrilling and misleading intro, let’s break down the most recent road trip!
Friday: Lyft Tears Me Down
On Friday I woke up early to get some legal work done (Spike Lee’s documentary about me, J-L Doin’ Work, was scrapped because reviewing documents by the Beige Mamba was deemed “not as interesting” as his Kobe documentary), hit the gym and then made my way to Newark Penn Station for the 6:03pm express train to Princeton, NJ. I would have taken the train to NPS and saved myself money, but NJ transit is shaped like a V in my area, with Secaucus as the pivot point of the V. You need to go all the way to Secaucus to get a train that goes along the other part of the V. So you end up going past Newark to get back on a different train line that runs through Newark. So to do that by train I would have had to leave at 430pm, whereas a 530pm cab would allow me to catch a better and faster train out of Newark Penn (which for TV enthusiasts is what The Walking Dead is based on).
So when I ordered my Lyft at 5:20 I was offered a faster ride (to arrive 8 minutes before the 6:03 train) if I upgraded to Lux (these are Lyft cars sans food/beverage/jizz stains) for a couple of dollars more. Then I got a text from my Lux driver:
“Are you going to [sic] far?”
I did not reply because I was going exactly as far as I wanted. Not one step more. So when my driverette (a female driver) showed up I hopped in and she asked where I was going. I told her Newark Penn Station and she said she wanted to go to NYC. I thought, “You can, as soon as you drop me off.” For the rest of the ride she kept nervously checking her phone, while hitting every bad patch of traffic. Then as we got near Newark Penn at 5:59pm she opted to go through the most clogged traffic near the station and I missed the 6:03 by 1 minute. She also rejected a person who was clearly her pick up at Newark Penn. To top it all off, she dropped me off in the 3rd lane of traffic so she could make an easy escape to whatever awaited her in NYC. When I opted to not tip her I noticed that she had 5 stars. Not since the last Terrence Malik film I saw have I seen something so absurdly overrated.
I caught the next express to Princeton and arrived at Princeton Junction at 7:00pm (8pm show time). The club is located in the Princeton Hyatt and GPS said it was a 1.3 mile walk. I opted to walk. And then .4 miles into the walk the sidewalk disappeared. This happens far too much in our car obsessed, fat fu*k society – even if you want to walk and keep the Grim Reaper at bay for another 20 minutes, you can’t. So I ordered another Lyft to take me less than a mile because to walk this path in the dark would probably spell my death via oncoming traffic. When my Lyft driver arrived he farted when I got in the car. And it smelled. His rating on Lyft? 5 stars.
I arrived at the hotel, checked in to a lovely king suite and then headed down to the club where there was an audience that could be described as “small.” We had a good show (I posted to Twitter a sad engagement where no one got my Opus Dei reference) and oddly enough the crowd seemed to like me more the longer I was on stage, which is contrary to many audiences and most relationships I’ve been in. A highlight was seeing a friend from my days in Washington DC when I was a law student. Sadly I have only seen him around once a decade and a joke that hit well on stage was “a friend of mine from DC who saw me when my career started is here tonight. He knew me when I was only performing in front of a couple dozen people in DC. Now, 19 years later he sees me in a different city performing for a couple dozen people. Dreams come true!” I retreated to my room with an ice cream bar after the show and got a solid 6 hours sleep.
Saturday: Better Show. Better Lyft Ride. Papa Johns’.
On Saturday morning I went to get breakfast. I saw a buffet display and was then told that it was for a private party. I then made my way down to the restaurant for an delicious, overpriced hotel breakfast (this is why I prefer Hampton Inns, the official hotel chain of J-L’s comedy “career” – breakfast is always included). After that I did something I never get to do – I read all the magazines and papers I subscribe to – The Athletic, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Washington Post, NY Times and Michael Cohen’s substack. I even spent 3 hours reading 1/8 of a ProPublica article! Then it was time to have lunch with a long time fan who also had a business proposal to pitch me (TBD). We went to a great pizza place in Robbinsville, NJ called Papa’s Tomato Pie. Superb.
After I returned to the hotel I did a few hours of writing. I then had a steak dinner at the hotel restaurant (at this point my spending for the trip was approaching the pay check I would receive at the end of the night for the weekend work). The set was strong (with about 40 new minutes since the (2) special tapings (angry emoji) to the point that I am planning on a spring taping of my 8th hour – tentative title “The Hateful 8th” – SELF PRODUCED) and as proof here is a clip from the show as well as a Facebook posting about one superb fan, that of course seemed to be interpreted by many on Facebook as more sentimental than funny, as it was intended, because… my #fans.
So after the show I had a drink with the other comics and the show promoter. I then decided to head home that night, rather than sleep in the hotel again (even though it was really nice). I kept checking Lyft (prices ranged from $66 to $121) and then I saw on the wait and save option $54 to go from Princeton to my apartment in Bloomfield. SOLD! My driver picked me up in a nice car (could have been a clean/jizz free Lux car, but was obtained via the common folk option) and beat the estimated arrival time by 14 minutes, all while laughing with me when I told him about Friday’s two awful drivers. I gave him a deserved 5 stars and a $20 cash tip because at the end of a weekend like this, someone good at their job should turn a profit.
Thanks to CARS in Princeton and thanks to everyone who showed up. Off to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 12 days.