Why Is The National Anthem Still Played at Games?

Last week I attended the Knicks-Jazz game at Madison Square Garden.  I have been to three events there recently,  a Rangers game and a Madonna concert being the other two. If you are not new to American pop culture than you know that the only event of the three that did not begin with the Star Spangled Banner was the Madonna concert, unless you count Bob The Drag Queen calling a sold out crowd “bitches” to be a national anthem.  Of course if the Madonna concert had begun with the SSB it would be assumed that it was some subversive attempt by Madonna to “go woke” or “tarnish our nation,” because coupled with the faux outrage by Fox News would also be a fairly obvious truth: it is absurd to begin events like this with the National Anthem. This is not about racism arguments about the anthem itself, or the military funding to have it played, or any other issue beyond the fact that it is a total farce.

Several years ago (2017 or 2018 perhaps –  I cannot quite remember) I began a headlining set by getting on stage to a Kanye West song and decided to stand with my hand over my heart for an extended period of time (whenever it was, it was before Kanye’s extended fling with Anti-Semitism). The idea was born during a conversation I had had on my podcast to show the absurdity of beginning a pop culture event with any kind of salute to a song.  Of course in reality the bit was 1) not as funny as I thought it was, 2) missed by many in the crowd and 3) not looked upon kindly by some in the crowd who believe that mocking the sanctity of saluting the flag before a baseball game is blasphemous.

But, despite half the country having racist seizures due to Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the anthem to protest police brutality against Black people, it seems to me that saluting the flag at sporting events is actually, based on observing the attendees, not that important.

During the Knicks game various men shouted out during the anthem.  It seems there are always a dozen or so (white) men at sporting events who use silent moments to scream support for the team, presumably to maximize their moment for either ego or humor.  It is the sort of disrespect and hypocrisy during the presumed moment of secular reverence that I would analogize to partisan political speeches given by pastors in houses of worship. And a majority of every sports arena cheer and clap before the song is over.  Yet none of the above mentioned men (or women) are scolded, shunned, escorted out of the arena or fired by their bosses.

But basketball is a “woke” sport (translation: full of Black people who occasionally speak their minds for social justice).  A better example is the hockey games I have attended.  NY Ranger games are diverse when compared to Sebastian Maniscalco crowds, but not much else (I am a fan of Maniscalco, but when I attended his MSG show in 2019 I thought I was at a “Don’t Cancel Columbus Day” rally).  And boy do those January 6th alternates in attendance of Ranger games LOVE to scream and shout during the anthem.  Where is this respect for anthem?  I understand that they are being joyful for their team, but what does that have to do with respecting the troops, or whatever the reason given for the flag salute and Kaepernick’s banishment?  Kaepernick was being silent and reflective, but that is more disrespectful than shouting “Let’s fu*king go Rangers!”?

My simple point (which I cannot be the first to make, but I promised the fans a blog every week this year – PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT!) is what the hell is the anthem still doing being played during games?  This forced patriotism (where aggressive, rude white guys are presumed to be in the right spirit, no matter how uncouth their behavior and vocals during the anthem) would seem dumb before a concert (and was, in fact, dumb before a comedy show) but simply because of tradition (and an undoubtedly apocalyptic reaction from right wing media if it was ever stopped) we are held hostage by it before every sporting event. It should stop.

Madonna Got Me to Come Out as a Madonna…

In February 2023 I bought tickets to see Madonna.  I did so for two reasons. Reasons I kept having to provide to people for some reason. The first was because she is a living legend and the second was I need a Valentine’s Day gift for my girlfriend, who was just wrapping up a grueling, two month shift as my nurse as I recovered from two shoulder surgeries.  I wanted to get floor seats and then I saw the prices and was like, “the upper deck has floors as well!”  But my girlfriend, a usually fiscally prudent woman with her money and with mine who would normally say “oh the floor is too expense” pointed me to a site where there might still be some left, indicating that she really wanted to get good seats if it was at all possible.  And I found “reasonably” priced floor seats and waited for August (which is also her birthday month, which is clutch – get the tickets for Valentine’s Day and the double up the gift power of the tickets by actually using them near her birthday). But when I bought them I posted on social media something to the effect of, “Well concert is in 8 months, so I guess the J-L Jinx has 8 months to kill Madonna.” And apparently it almost did…

(Disclosure – a longer discussion of the Madonna concert will be the subject of next week’s Rain on Your Parade podcast)

The Delay

This past Summer, Madonna had to postpone some of her dates because of a life-threatening health issue.  Needless to say, I felt less angry about my special taking over 2 years to come out when I realized that my ability to jinx had nearly extended to Madonna’s life.  But the concert was rescheduled for January 2024 (which the girlfriend gift-giving committee said was no longer acceptable as a double gift for this year’s Valentine’s Day).

As the concert approached I felt many people I know wondering why I was going to Madonna.  I mean it is not a men’s locker room at an Equinox gym, right? So why can’t a heterosexual man, raised in the 1980s go to see Madonna in concert?  I did not need to use my girlfriend as a concert beard!  Madonna is a music legend, a cultural icon and a lover of beige men – why wouldn’t I go?!

The Arrival

When we got to Madison Square Garden at 830 (the show was slated for 8:30, but thanks to a pathetic lawsuit we were aware that Madonna was not starting on time – but most main acts do not come out right at the start time so no big deal to us) and entered the Delta Lounge.  I would not be the only comedian in attendance as I observed Big Jay Oakerson (I know who he is, but he has no idea who I am), and Sarah Cooper (the 2020 Earth to my 2020 Moon), among the luminaries in the floor lounge area.  Later in the show I also would be fairly close to Amy Schumer, a comedian who has had a different trajectory than me since our days of sharing the bill on open mics and bringer shows.  But the 300 feet between us involved a lot of security and sharing the stage with Madonna.  So close, yet so far.  There was a distinctive air of “look at me” douchebaggery in the Delta Lounge that I was unaccustomed to. For example look at this mash up of Bruno and Marilyn Manson:

We knew the show was beginning when Bob The Drag Queen (someone my girlfriend was familiar with, as a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race) walked right by us dressed as Marie Antoinette. We followed Bob’s cell phone holding entourage and “took” our seats (girlfriend never sat, I sat only for knee breaks).

What followed was one of the greatest concerts, if not the greatest concert I have ever been too.  Based on actuarial charts I may not even live to 65, but what Madonna can do at 65 is nothing short of amazing.  Her vocals were good, her fitness is great, she looks great and the show was tremendous.  Bob The Drag Queen was an incredible emcee, the set pieces, the choreography, the flow of the show, everything was great.  There was a hiccup, however.


About 4 songs in, the security guard came up to me and before I could say, “yes I am G list comedian J-L Cauvin and yes we can take a selfie,” he informed me that many audience members behind me were asking if I could switch seats with someone on the end of my row so they could see Madonna.  Now I had paid for these front row seats and if they wanted a better view they should have been less poor!  But I promptly moved and received praise and thanks from the Gay men and their female companions/accessories for my kindness. My view was not much different, but I was now seen as an ally (hero is probably too strong) to the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Highlights (beyond the whole show)

Hung Up. La Isla Bonita. – Two of my 5 favorite Madonna songs.

Vogue.  The ballroom set up of Vogue, the performance, the dancing from Madonna’s young daughter, the emcee work of Bob – all A+. Now my girlfriend would have probably definitely enjoyed the show more with one of her gay friends.  Me smiling in appreciation and tapping my feet for most of the show would likely not compare to the gay exuberance that I would imagine some of her friends would exhibit. But she looked at me during Vogue and said afterword she was surprised that I liked it so much. As I said then and said on the forthcoming podcast episode, I was witnessing greatness – even when something is “not your thing” when you see something great, only an insecure person or worse would fight that recognition. And it was also funny that a woman I did open mics with was judging with Madonna on stage. But it was fu*king incredible. This was actually me on NJ transit going home after the show:


And a side note – when Madonna started touring, people on Twitter were trolling her for using a grab bar with a lot of people offering “time to hang it up granny” type comments.  What the video and photos did not show was THAT SHE WAS LIKE 30 FEET IN THE AIR WHILE PERFORMING THAT PART OF THE SET!

A Sequel?

The only thing that ruined the night was (of course) comedy. I was checking my mentions after the show and saw someone make a comparison that they believed was flattering and that I promptly blocked them for (as bad as that sounds, it actually represent growth from the incensed artist-scorched earth response i wanted to deliver).  But as has happened after some great concerts in my life, a sort of malaise set in.  I felt like I had just witnessed something truly amazing and I felt my own emotions sort of crashing (after I first saw U2 in concert that is how I felt). It is a weird feeling, but a testament to what Madonna is still capable of at 65.  Now I am contemplating getting tickets to see the show again on Monday.  I probably won’t but if I do it is not for my girlfriend. It is for me. I am a Madonna fan. That is my truth. And forgive me if while at the Utah Jazz-NY Knicks game on Tuesday I spontaneously yell “Lauri Markkanen is serving cu*t tonight!”  That’s just the power of a Madonna concert.

Man vs Manners

Manners maketh man, the old proverb goes (it predates the 2014 film Kinsgmen, apparently).  If that is the case, then I would like to introduce my own observation on current society: lack of manners maketh shit.  Many people have scapegoated the pandemic as this all inclusive excuse for people becoming increasingly incapable of common courtesy or behaving in public, but I think we have been heading this way for a lot longer (I believe the cell phone and Donald Trump were like steroids for indulging or permitting our worst instincts, and dulling our collective consciousness. The pandemic was more like the oven that allowed those awful ingredients to bake).  Because of my resolution to resume writing my blog at least once a week and, more importantly, because the topic this week feels like it is taking years off of my life, I decided to write on our epidemic of diminishing courtesy.  And yes, seeing a man in a sleeveless t-shirt at a Broadway show was probably my last straw.

My older nephew is autistic and since being accepted into a special boarding school I have seen an improvement in his communication, his eye contact and his behavior in the relatively limited time I see him.  And as an uncle I am happy for my nephew and the rest of my brother’s family that their difficult, but necessary decision to send him away appears to be bearing fruit. But the comedian in me had to ask, “what world are the preparing him for?”  Eye contact?  Asking people about their day? Behaving well in public?  Sorry, is my nephew preparing to time travel back to 1958 (hopefully a progressive woke part of the country as he is Black)?  Staring at a screen and mediocre interpersonal skills are the norm today. Eye contact will only make him stand out as odd!”

Because this is a topic I could probably write and Encyclopedia Britannica on, I will focus on just a few areas that I think embody how and why we are losing our courtesy.


I am both unfashionable and do not care about fashion.  I have found in my life, that when I am fit, a t shirt and jeans look good and a suit looks better.  But I believe flip flops are for the beach, tank tops are for the gym and crocs are for the fiery depths of hell.  When I see a man in a sleeveless t-shirt at a Broadway show, it cannot be surprising that the interrupting ring of a cell phone will follow (not necessarily from the shirtless, but from the generally permissive space that the theater has become).  I have a friend who works at the Comedy Magic Castle in LA, a swanky, members only, jacket and tie establishment. It is sort of a Heaven on Earth in that, everyone has to dress nicely, the food, drinks and entertainment are good and there are no cell phone pics or videos permitted.  But he has told me stories of men coming in sweatpants or expensive jeans or shirts and explaining that the cost of their clothes should make up for the lack of compliance with the wardrobe.  As Countess Luann said in her infamous song, which I had the pleasure of hearing in one of the only Real Housewives of New York episodes I have seen, money can’t buy you class.  Perhaps a Real Housewife is not the ideal messenger, but the message is valid nonetheless.

Venue and occasion-appropriate clothes convey a level of respect, not just for yourself, but for your surroundings.  I’ll admit I think this has been the area that I will complain about most directly attributable to the pandemic-work-from-home culture shift.  But it feels as though in the age of sweatpants to the restaurant-bathrobe to zoom work-suit to make Tik Tok dance videos, we have lost where to prioritize dignified dress.  And to be clear, this is not a classist argument. I am not asking that the impoverished man or woman dress above their means. But when you show up to a $200 play with $60 crocs, I am judging.  Because, while in and of itself, it is “harmless,” the tone it perpetuates concludes with show-interrupting cell phones.


Speaking of “harmless,” there is no phrase that I think has done more harm to day-to-day courtesy than “what’s the big deal if I’m not hurting anyone?”  Pain, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  On public transit, it increasingly appears that instead of “the world is my oyster,” the phrase now should be “the world is my footrest.”  Look on a Metro North train in the winter – salt and snow on feet is clearly not an inhibitor of using another seat as a footrest.  And when did the phrase “excuse me” become extinct.  The amount of times I have seen and experienced someone exasperated with the slow pace of someone unknowingly blocking their path and rather than say “excuse me” they will huff, puff or in the case of weirdos, slither past the person like they are passing tripwire lasers in a re-enactment of Entrapment.  Obviously I would love to link this to one of my pet peeves, parents of newer generations letting their children call adults by their first names, but I have no data, other than my disgust at it.  “You’re welcome” has been replaced by “no problem,” which Brendan Gleeson dispatches with brilliantly in the first season of the great Peacock (formerly Direct TV) series Mr. Mercedes (one of my favorite Stephen King adaptations of all time). Unlike my uncle and mom, I don’t really have a problem with “no problem,” but it seems to speak to younger people’s seeming discomfort with anything formal.

And then there is the loss of even common pleasantries.  The other day I was in the supermarket and I am always one for idle chit chat, but I can also read a room.  I can have a long conversation with the woman who once colorfully asked me about my pasture-raised, organic eggs, “why the fu*k ate these so expensive – ooops sorry for that.” I also know when a mere hello or hi as a *gulp* courtesy will be all that is welcome. On the day I am referencing, I began to put my dozen items on the conveyer belt and said, “hello.”  No response. Employee looked up from their phone, began scanning the items and then handed me a receipt.  It is when it feels like it takes more energy not to say hello back that I wonder, “WTF?”

And I do believe there is a generational divide when it comes to common courtesy.  When I lived in NYC, I said hello to all my neighbors and 96% of them said it back!  As comedian Gary Gulman spoke of during his special The Great Depresh, nice little interactions with people release serotonin, a hormone that can decrease depression. One time, having lunch with Gulman, I mused, “but when I have all these rude interactions they must have the opposite effect.”  I see a direct proportion to people’s comfort with everyday interactions and their common courtesy to their age. Of course this is neither scientific, nor is it 100 percent correlated, but I have too much anecdotal experience to ignore what I have experienced.

I used to complain about people not saying thank you when you held the door for them, but now I am lucky to get eye contact from a neighbor walking down the hall.  Perhaps this is the perfect storm of cool parents, I’m not hurting anyone laissez-faire values and a resentment of formality and perhaps the inadvertent intimacy thanking someone genuinely or accepting that thanks genuinely, but I think one thing above all has hastened our demise into a courtesy free society.


When I say devices, I am really only referencing the “smart” phone, though i did see a man looking at his iPad during a movie yesterday, so we may have someone pushing the boundaries of rudeness to the next frontier. Stay tuned!  If the Bible were written for the first time today, the serpent wouldn’t tempt Eve with an apple. He would present her with an iPhone. The smart phone has, through a combination of corporate and psychological intentionality, unleashed the absolute worst impulses in humanity. It literally creates a society of naval gazing.  I believe most problems involving lack of manners and courtesy have been uncovered, augmented or created by the smart phone.  Walking while texting, driving while texting, forcing the world to be part of your amateur films and the abandonment of headphones while listening to music are all bad developments for society and the last gasps of manners.  Earphones and ear buds are readily available. But the culture around the cell phone of navel gazing, self-importance and disproportionate access and power from a device in your hands made listening to shows and music and forcing them on others almost an inevitability.  When no amount of announcements and signs can lead to a cell hone free Broadway show it is clear we are no longer collectively in control of our phones.

A brief message of hope – I will give this to the animals that inhabit Phish shows (I kid my Phish show brethren rom my 2 shows I have attended): I have not seen that small a number of smart phones out at a concert since before there were smart phones. In all their dirty glee, the Phish Phans were still able to prioritize being in the moment and enjoying the show, rather than trying to memorialize it like a well-trained cell phone slave.  Much like Rhianna, I found love in a hopeless place when I saw hope for society at a Phish show.  But then you merely have to walk into a cafe, a store or anywhere and see that parents are allowing tablets and phones to be adjunct babysitters. If we, who at least were able to form ourselves without cell phones, have become pathetic tools, how can a generation raised on them not come out worse?

In the aforementioned supermarket I have seen a manager informing cashiers not to have their cell phones out while actively working. The tech marvel of cell phones has empowered bad instincts and created bad impulses as our society furthers the message that in person social interaction is unnecessary and courtesy completely irrelevant. And then we wonder why depression is up – perhaps because the thing we use so much is destroying some of the things that have made generations and generations of humans feel good.  Small talk, eye contact, flirting, pleasantries, courtesy, awareness of others, sympathy, empathy, interaction – I think the cell phone has not lessened our need for these things. It has simply made us worse at them while, in a self-serving manner, convincing us we don’t need those things anymore.  Though not cell phone related, I think my former co-worker who was frequently pissed off that our job required in person work after the pandemic, demonstrated the catch-22 of all of this perfectly when he recently lamented to me that his new fully-remote job would “have him all alone.”  Technological convenience blinds us to the harm until we are already harmed.  And all I am asking is that we remember to say please and thank you and to look where we are walking!


I had to include him because he has set a tone that has clearly influenced large swaths of the population. He cleverly (or more likely instinctively because he is more animal than man) cultivated a norm where being offended by something was “woke” and “politically correct,” even when the thing is actually deeply offensive.  Morgan Wallen gets caught Hard R-ing the N word?  Well, that’s just wokeness – let’s push his album to #1.  Being decent is actually being a pussy. Not wanting to offend people is never the right answer, so we begin seeing comedy that is more focused on triggering emotions than triggering laughs.  And the racism?  I can just say that since 2015, members of my family have experienced direct racism more than I recall hearing the previous 36 years of my life.  He has emboldened the worst in a lot of people and has created a culture where not giving in to your cruelties and your base instincts is somehow weak or *GASP* “liberal.”

Whether an erosion of courtesy came first or resulted from many of the things above, it is irrelevant now because these things are happening and I see no reason to be optimistic of us improving.  I am sometimes dismayed when I see how much time my nephew spends on his phone, not because I would have been better than him if I had a cell phone in my teenage years, but because of the stories, experiences and memories I have from not being buried in a phone in my formative years.  There are so many ways to scold what we have become (you just read it) because of diminishing manners, more controlling technology and horrible leadership examples. But perhaps the best way forward is for the people who know a life before all of this to share why courtesy and all its accompanying behaviors were and are good. Because the truth is, in 30 years I would hate for my nephew to be writing something about “how much better society was when all we did was stare at screens and said ‘no problem’ when someone gave you something.” Because that might mean his and our future became a Hell not even fit for Crocs.

The Conservative Comedy Cheat Code

This past weekend, during an exhausting journey to get to Philadelphia to watch my Utah Jazz defeat the Philadelphia 76ers (join my Patreon to hear the saga in a bonus podcast episode) I saw several billboards and ads for comedians coming to the Wells Fargo Arena, where the 76ers play.  One stuck out to me and that was the ad for Jeff Dunham’s show.  Obviously, it first offends me that a ventriloquist can headline an arena, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is from 1000 feet away does it even matter if he’s moving his lips or not?  But Dunham’s comedy is really elite hackery. Obviously plenty of people like it because there are lots of simpletons in our country.  But there has always been a strain to his humor that felt like a wink and a nod to the “conservative” (I put it in quotes because what we really mean by “conservative” now is religious hypocrites, racists and greedy, myopic assholes) crowd. It was simple and harmless, but had just enough bland bigotry in some of the characters to appeal to their soon-to-be-MAGA hearts.  But with Dunham’s new show, he has given away the game.

Jeff Dunham’s new show is called “Still Not Canceled” because PG rated ventriloquists are on the front lines of speech and comedy, right?  The only thing that could and should cancel Jeff Dunham Puppetry of the Peanut is good taste.  But that is not what he is suggesting or better yet, what he is lack-of-virtue signaling.  He is sending a thinly veiled message to his fans and their ilk that his comedy is an enemy of the dreaded “woke mob.”  And that is the new algorithm cheat code for right wing comedians (and ventriloquists) and grifters.

When they came for Jeff Dunham I said nothing, because I hate his act and no one actually came to cancel him

Similar to Bill Maher and Ricky Gervais, the conservative comedy crowd (of which there are funny people – I am not going to take the low hanging , and incorrect fruit of some of my left leaning fans who will reflexively say “conservatives aren’t funny” when my personal experience is a lot more pushback from liberals whenever my jokes touch on anything deemed sacred to them (e.g. a tweet making fun of Hunter Biden for being loved less than Beau Biden earned quick condemnation from my “fans” while there was no end to the joy my Jeff Epstein and Donald Trump having sex with underage girl references)) never seems to get bored of hearing the same attacks on “wokeism” or “cancel culture.”  It’s like every topic can be hack or overdone to them, but as long as you complain about wokeness, or deride a liberal talking point with a stereotypical gay accent, it is a never ending stream of originality and humor.  Just like the Left has proven themselves humorless sometimes when a topic is not to their liking, the Right seems to ignore the staleness of the bitching and moaning because it validates their beliefs.  But it is bad comedy.

And now, to use one of the few Latin phrases I remember and like from law school, we have reached the reductio ad absurdum point of the “cancel culture” warrior phase of comedy. Jeff Dunham, promoting an entire tour as “I have not been canceled yet.”  Perhaps his poster should be the famous photo of Malcolm X holding an assault rifle looking out of his window, but with one of his puppets’ heads superimposed on Malcolm’s.  The chances of Jeff Dunham being canceled are about as high as my new special going platinum (Half-Blackface totally should, but should and will are a universe apart).  But this is the point now – Dunham is sending the very clear message that funny is less important that culture war signaling.  Even if that is completely absurd. Only complete idiots would be motivated to see a ventriloquist with 1980s stereotypical puppets simply because he had made the ridiculous claim that he had evaded cancellation… so far!  But apparently, judging by the size of the Wells Fargo arena, Jeff Dunham’s dummies will have a lot of company this week.

Comedy Mortality

One of the resolutions I made on Twitter/X (so it is legally binding) on the eve of 2024 was to get back to blogging once a week.  Though Saturday is not a business day (“every day is a business day” said the random bro influencer on Tik Tok with a million followers and an equally large number of aggressive, unverifiable platitudes), it is the last day of week 1 of 2024 so here I am maintaining one of my resolutions for at least a week.  I think the reason I singled out my blog, amidst all of the things I do (or try to do) in comedy was because in a time when I was truly a nothing in comedy (versus a significant has been currently) was that the blog had a bigger reach than I did.  Because I wrote honestly, and fairly well about many things, but most significantly, the struggles, hypocrisies, idiosyncrasies and (occasional) joys of stand-up comedy, the blog would sometimes generate broader mention than my early stand-up work.  So after a nearly 4 year period that saw my comedy career resurrected like Lazarus and euthanized like Old Yeller (early in my unexpected rise in 2020 I presciently suggested that my comedy career might have a similar arc as the patients in the film Awakenings), I thought, why not get back to my basics, if  only for comedic self-care.  Or at this point, it might just be comedic palliative care.

This week, after a 26 month ordeal that has been the worst experience of my 20 years doing stand-up comedy, my special Half-Blackface, was released.  I think, along with the companion album, which was released in August and differs in material by about 25 minutes, it is my finest work.  After the stresses of 2020, as related to my comedy career (inability to get a manager or agent to even call me back or set up a meeting, seeing a brief resurgent respect for lip sync as an art form, fearing the loss of my day job as I tried to pull 15 hour days in my apartment balancing a law firm workload and the unexpected need to produce comedy work for a career that had seemed comatose at best), I wanted to expose all the people who had become fans of mine from my impressions to my voluminous stand up work and sketch video library. With SNL not calling, I believed that stand up comedy was still my future and with approximately 200,000 new fans across social media, I wanted to convert those people into fans of my stand up. After all, if stand up clubs have been the all purpose venue spaces that managers and agents dump their “influencers” on to get a paycheck, then certainly a viral social media entertainer with 20 years of actual stand up experience should be a cake walk, right?

It turned out that none of the daydreams I had, logical though they may have been, came to pass. In fact, the biggest break I received post 2020 had nothing to do with the stand up world or anything I was expecting. I was asked to audition for a role on Billions in 2021, got the part and had a nice guest role in an episode of season 6.  It turned out that even without an agent, my social media reach was enough to create opportunities on its own.

But 2021 turned out to be the end of the ride up. After Donald Trump was kicked off of Twitter, my growth went from 10,000 followers a month for 7 straight months to zero. Not a few hundred a month. Zero.  Mind you, this was 2 years before Elon Musk took over.  And not only that, but engagement with the followers I had plummeted. I still get messages from followers telling me “I haven’t seen your stuff in months/years” (we will return to this point later).

But having learned hard lessons from a career of isolated successes that never snowballed into anything, I decided mid 2021, with Billions on the horizon and a great new hour of stand up that I had put together that perhaps, I could create one last gasp of social media buzz to turn my career from “what happened to that Trump guy?” to “Wow this guy was on Billions and has a killer new hour!”  I will not bore you with the details, but when a special takes two tapings and over two years to come out, things have not gone well.  In fact, the process was so long, that I wrote, filmed and (SELF-)produced a new album/special in the interim (Tall Boy on my YouTube channel and music streaming services).

But as I sit here typing today, in early 2024, I need to confront a sad truth.  Barring a miracle, my comedy career has likely peaked.  Every career has a peak. But you don’t know what your peak is until you start to fall from it and cannot regain it. I recently had to ask 3 MAJOR national headliners to write me recommendation letters to a booker. They all kindly did and it was a rare moment of feeling respected, or at least being treated kindly, in this business.  But even with my credits, skills and those recommendations, I am still not as hopeful for bookings as many might assume I should be.  At 44 I am not yet old enough to compete for the Lewis Black curmudgeon bookings, but I am certainly well outside the desired age range for Tik Tok Crowd Work Influencer-do you actually have any material? slots.  Is this how actresses used to feel when they turned 30, before porn made it OK to be hot and in your 30s?

Then there is the hopelessness of my social media platforms, especially Twitter/X.  Before 2020, when I had 4000 followers I would have one or two tweets a year that would explode and garner me some new followers.  I now have 125K followers, but have not had one tweet in 3 years reach the level of explosion.  In 2020, almost all my tweets and videos reached hundreds of thousands of people. But for the last 3 years, when trying to sell tickets, promote specials and other things of major significance to both a comedian, and presumable, a comedian’s fans, they get under 10% of that engagement, almost without exception.  Several people will probably respond to this by doing the progressive, reflexive response of “Elon ruined it!” but the truth is, in an effort to purge right wing misinformation (or right wing view points), my account was destroyed.

So if you are still reading this, you might be wondering, what is your point J-L?  My point, is that, even with all these things working against me, I still have a combined 90 thousand subscribers on YouTube and 125 thousand followers on X. These are people who chose to follow me based off of my comedic output.  So even if social media is not showing them my stuff, certainly they will search me out for shows and new content, right?  Wrong.

The harshest lesson from my rise in 2020 to where I am now (with a great new special that no one is seeing and a still prolific YouTube channel that has not lost subscribers, but has seen a 90% drop in views) is that the vast majority of people just want to be distracted.  Mediocre crowd work clips do the job just as well as brilliantly crafted material.  Most people, even self-proclaimed “fans” are willing to trust that the social media algorithms will show them what they want to see to an alarming degree (I had a fan tell me last year that “I haven’t seen your stuff in so long, I just assumed you quit” – which raises the concern that if having 6 social media accounts and a website are not convenient enough for a fan to look up if they don’t see your stuff, what the hell would be?).  Clearly most comedy fans have put on mental autopilot and assume social media will curate what they have asked for and will just assume the comedian is retired or dead before going to their page to see.

I also observed that many friends, co-workers, comedy colleagues etc. expressed unending amazement and support once 2020 hit and in my exuberance I was too clouded with a feeling of “Finally!” to realize that so many acquaintances from various times and places in my life were simply excited about proximity to someone with some heat, and nothing more.   Needless to say the only thing that has dropped off worse than my social media engagement is the emails and texts of impressed recognition.  I was funny and talented before March 2020, but good experiences feel better when shared, so my normal cynicism was in snooze mode. A career in comedy has limited my social circles (I joke that if I get married my wedding party will be my brother, my best friend and three podcasts) so sometimes Johnny Come Lately still feels like good company when you want any company to celebrate with you.

When I first recorded Half-Blackface I said two things to my girlfriend, who has had to endure almost 4 years of mood swings as my comedy has put me through the ringer. I said to her, my worst nightmare, related to comedy, is that I will make something truly great and it will never be heard or seen.  I also told her that if I could combine my best work (Half-Blackface) with my best entertainment opportunity (Billions) into one publicity chance then I could see if my career could continue.  Because if my best did not do anything, then it was no longer worth enduring if it would make me miserable to the people who actually care about me.  Ineptitude made the latter a moot point.  Social media algorithms and indifference seem to have made the former a reality.

The last time I felt close to this in comedy was 2013. I quit a stand up troupe I was part of and really did not think there was much hope for my comedy career. I then made a video called Louis CK Tells The Classics, which went viral and recorded my best stand up album (until the aforementioned Half-Blackface).    Both had more success than anything I have put out in the last 2 years, despite having a fan base 95% smaller.  As down as I was at the time about my career, there was still a glimmer of hope. Even if small, I did not feel barred from the game. Social media still could blow up (which it did for me with that video) and the industry did not feel shut off from me (I had meetings with 2 reputable managers in 2013, zero in 2020-21). But now, based on being shut off from my fans and their collective indifference (I am surely not unique in this respect – it is simply how we are now conditioned), I think there is little hope for a breakout moment again. Without representation and without a way to correct or appeal social media throttling my accounts, all I can do is make good stuff for the few that see it.  I promise that the blogs this year won’t be this morbid, but I have gone through the other 4 stages of grief (anger, denial bargaining, depression), so this is my attempt at acceptance.

My Phirst Phish Concert

I do not know when I decided I did not like Phish. I think it started in high school, but phor approximately 25 years I have decided I did not like the band. It was not the same as my disdain phor a band like Dave Matthews Band, whose combination of Jar Jar Binks vocals, cacophony of too many instruments, awkward dancing and phans that simply referred to them as “Dave,” could quantifiably explain my hostility (though I do like the song Two Step).  The vibe I got around Phish, whose music I had never heard until last night was more like the instinctively repulsion I pheel toward people who walk around barephoot in public places.  I was content to remain an ignorant hater (I am a proud American), but late last year an opportunity presented itself.

My phriend Ross, who generally enjoys my curmudgeon-style comedy, decided it was time to invite me to a Phish show (perhaps even he has his limits phor my hating when it comes to his beloved Phish). He comes to NYC, what seems annually, for some of Phish’s end of year Madison Square Garden residency and he asked me if I wanted to go last year. I said I would. Now at the time I was high on opioids dealing with the phirst of a soon-to-be unexpected two shoulder surgeries, but I had been told by my surgeon that I should be good to go to a concert.  I was not and had to postpone my phirst Phish experience.  But hope and Phish tickets spring eternal and Ross was back in town this weekend for 2 Phish shows.  I had two shows this weekend as well (my phirst show in Princeton Friday was one of the 20 greatest shows of my life and the show Saturday was one of the 2 best shows I had that weekend…) so my only option was to join him phor the Sunday show.  I thought this might have been a problem when I phirst accepted because I had a day job and did not want to be up late on a Sunday night, but the gods of jam band cured that issue with a June layoff (please join my patreon or buy my albums) so I was ready to go to Phish!

I arrived at MSG at 6:30 for the doors to open so I could absorb the “Phull Phish experience.”  I will say this – Phish concerts are a very diverse group of white people.  You have your dirty hippies, some gym bros, one or two weed smokers, some corporate boat shoe bros, biker looking dudes, etc.  The lack of racial diversity was somewhat alarming to observe, but not unexpected, but unlike the Sebastian Maniscalco concert I saw in 2019 at MSG, this collection of white people seemed to be, phor obvious reasons, MAGA free, even if some pholks might have looked MAGA at phirst blush.

We had nice, comfortable seats in the Chase Bridge area (my stage name when I become a country singer), an area high up but with an oddly VIP vibe and a lot of space phor a tall and increasingly large man (DAMN YOU LEFT SHOULDER!).  The show began 35 minutes late (or right on time to Ross and his buddy Jason).  Now right before the show Ross confessed to me that he has seen Phish over 70 times.  It phelt like that moment in a movie where our hero volunteers for a paratrooper mission and as the plane door closes with an intimidating phinality, the guy in charge says, “And we are doing it without parachutes” and only the hero was uninformed of this beforehand.

I stood 2 steps below to create a semblance of equality at the Phish show

One of the distinct things about a Phish concert is the dancing.  As I looked to the men standing in front of me or the teeming masses in the phloor area of the arena, I could not pick out one individual with something I would call rhythm. It more resembled an Elaine from Seinfeld dance contest phor (mostly) men.  But together they all phormed an undulating collective – like one of those portraits made of different photos or the zombie mass in World War Z.  And perhaps if there is an overarching beauty to the experience it is that it is a collective and positive experience where every phan is enriched by being part of a like-minded collective. Like a bizarro MAGA rally – all white, all loving the person/people on stage, but instead of wishing death on people who read books, the Phish people writhe like joyful seizure victims.

Now of course I am making jokes, but many of you are wondering, “but J-L… did you ENJOY the show???”  And the answer overall is… yes?

This portion of the Phish show was sponsored by Planet Phitness

The songs are absurdly long, but I actually enjoyed 3 or 4 of them (I think they only played 2 songs in the 3 hours, but what do I know).  The lights are actually an impressive and not irrelevant component of the show. The guitar playing was strong and everyone seemed pleasant. Even concession workers seemed to be in a better mood than normal, most likely thinking “these dirty white people are actually much better than the diverse coalition of aggressive assholes who show up to Knick games and the MAGA whites who yell at us during Ranger games!”  Sweetening the experience was the phact that I did not pay for my ticket (thanks again Ross!) and I got to have an extended hang with a phriend and his buddy.  Did I like it when the Phish songs veered from more rock sound to a phunky style, the way the entire crowd seemed to?  Absolutely not!  I hated the phunky songs.  But, according to my Phish Phact checker Ross, the set list was more rock than normal, so thank you Phish for phinding it your heart to appeal to a Phish Phirst timer.

I had to leave after the phinale (which was one of the ones I liked) to catch a train so I missed the encore, which I can assume and imagine every Phish phan is going “OH MY GOD YOU TOTALLY MISSED THEIR KILLER 9 HOUR ENCORE SET!” but I think with Phish, it was good when I left.  I may not have been left wanting more, but the victory here for Phish is I did not leave wanting less either.

20 Moments for 20 Years

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!

From Thousands to Billions!

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.

7. Half Blackface Tall 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 Blackface twice (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 second first 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

Until Half Blackface this 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

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

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

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.

Our seats for the execution of the Rangers

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.