Yesterday I made my way to Cleveland at my usual 5:40 AM bus out of Port Authority Bus Terminal. After 12 hours of being surrounded by snoring and bare feet I arrived in Cleveland.
When I arrived at the club to emcee for Joe Torry (former host of Def Comedy Jam on HBO) I was told that Joe did not bring his own feature and that he requested white and/or & “non-ghetto” comedians. All of a sudden the weekend felt like a setup to be called a “white bitch” or a “light skinned fag-ot” or a “light skinned, bitch ass, fake black fagg*ot” for 6 straight shows – basically all the greatest hits from any urban club nightmare.
When the show started the crowd was talking. Literally it felt like all 200 people (as expected 194 black people, three white people and and in an upset 3 Asians) were talking, but the good news is that they were still settling in. That is different talk then "you are boring me" chatter. So I went through some standard material which got them chuckling a little, but then I got to LeBron and Obama and the crowd all of a sudden became engaged. A few things I learned from my set:
1) Black people in Cleveland hate LeBron as much as the white people burning jerseys in the news clips and they love Dan Gilbert. They also love my Obama impression as much as Dan Gilbert.
2) Ask a crowd of black people in Cleveland to vote for Obama and 8 will clap. Tell a crowd of black people in Cleveland that Obama might not get re-elected and 25 people will boo you. Point out to a crowd of black people in Cleveland that they did not clap when I asked them to vote for him but booed me when I pointed out the logical conclusion of black people not supporting Obama as bad for his re-election chances and 194 will cheer and laugh.
3) Despite starting comedy in DC and working this club a few times this is the first all black crowd I’ve worked that was there specifically for a Def Jam experience. I learned that speaking forcefully, using a dash more profanity and being generally aggressive gained the audience’s attention. And all jokes about having sex with white women were met with discomfort. I am also not comfortable that this sounds like 80% of the manual on slave owning. Too far? Probably.
4) The barista in the Starbucks in Cleveland where I am writing this may be the most attractive woman in all of Cleveland. I really think given her midwestern location and look that she was an absuive realtionship with her parents away from adult films. Well I guess she will make some goober and/or 8 members of the Cleveland Cavaliers happy one day.
My personal highlight was an impromptu quiz of Joe Torry’s credits by Joe Torry. Here was the exchange:
“What do you want me to specifically say for your intro?”
“I don’t care – what do you know?”
“Def Comedy Jam host.”
“I don’t know. You did some movies too.”
Awkwardness. I did not absorb much from law school or the legal profession, but I do remember what Robert Duvall said in A Civil Action: “Never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.”
So today I am hoping to build on my moderate success of last night. If I do not I will be sure to post the video to YouTube.