This weekend I, along with three other quality comics from New York City, made a twelve hour trek to Asheville, North Carolina for the 4th Annual Laugh Your Asheville Off Festival. It also happened to be the same week as the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, so while the comedic equivalent of the NBA All Star Game was going on in Montreal, we were headed twelve hours in the opposite direction to the equivalent of WNBA tryouts.
The three other members of the car were Nick Cobb, recently of Last Comic Standing, Adam Newman of College Humor and Sam Morril, who most recently won March Comedy Madness at Comix. And me of www.JLCauvin.com, but you already knew that. I had not auditioned for the Montreal festival this year (was not asked to – so it is good to see that I am less worthwhile as a comic than I was two years ag0 – always a rewarding feeling), but I was still happy for all the people doing comedy half as long as me in some cases who were finally getting their shot at the big time after waiting all the time it takes to graduate a community college. I guess next year instead of writing jokes I will simply work on my networking for a year. I’m still convinced that my path to success lies somewhere along the path taken by Johnny Fontaine.
So we headed down to Asheville by car at 5 am on Friday. Nick Cobb did yeoman’s work, both in the amount of driving he did and the pity party he threw for himself for doing so much driving. Sam and I are New Yorkers in the sense that we both obtained driver’s licenses to get people to stop asking us if we have a license. See, outside of New York City people attach ideas like independence and self-worth to the ability to drive as soon as possible. But since native New Yorkers actually have things to look forward to other than driving to the Mall after school we don’t place the immediate importance on it (except for the rich kids I went to high school with who could not wait to drive the Mercedes, Range Rovers and BMWs to school junior). But thanks anyway to Nick for doing about 21 hours of driving in less than three days.
So on the ride down to Asheville we complained about comedy, ate boatloads of fast food and listened to various comedy CDs. By the time we arrived in Asheville at the Super 8 it was 5:30 and we all felt disgusting. Sadly, a Super 8 motel is not the place to feel refreshed. Super 8 motels feel like movie sets for the “brutal rape scene.” They are dark, dirty and the water pressure in the shower feels like someone urinating on you that has prostate problems – just warm enough to feel unsanitary and just enough water pressure to feel like air conditioned drip is falling on you from above. It’s like starring in a scene from Alien whenever you shower.
So after we all half-freshened up and relieved McDonalds and Wendys from our systems we headed to the closest restaurant to the Super 8 – Hooters. The waitress must have smelled the anger, cynicism and general failure of four comics because I have never felt less flirted with by a Hooters waitress in my life. We still left a generous tip because she looked like a young version of Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights.
After Hooters we headed to the Diane Wortham Theater in “downtown” Asheville, but not before some Asheville resident swerved into a puddle (intentionally almost for sure based on its place PARALLEL TO THE SIDEWALK) splashing all four of us (me the most) with some of Asheville’s finest, three day-old puddle water. I then said a humble prayer that the driver of that car find his or her way through their windshield (the haaaard way -Rodney Dangerfield voice).
The DW Theater is beautiful (I knew from last year, but it was the first viewing for my three companions) and the crowd was laughing at everything on the first show. We all got very excited. Only Sam was performing on the second show Friday night (Nick, Adam and I all had spots on Saturday) so we just hoped for his sake that the crowd was as good.
What do you get when you take 350 and subtract 280? The crowd for the second show. Sam had to lead off the show after the “emcee” who resembled Jesse Pinkman’s prostitute friend from Breaking Bad (but with more tattoos) introduced him with – “he’s played the Carolinas” – which was actually Caroline’s in NYC. Sam had a very good set and at least 40 of the 70 people appreciated it. After the show we went out and had ice cream sundaes and drank beer because comedians are both immature and self-loathing. If Nicholas Cage had eaten ice cream to kill himsef instead of drinking alcohol in Leaving Las Vegas it would have resembled my weekend.
Saturday came around and the highlight of the day for Adam and Nick would be performing killer sets Saturday night. In a bit of foreshadowing, my highlight would be seeing Inception Saturday afternoon. Now that is no slouch of a highlight. Inception is a great great movie and you should see it if you have not. But I will explain shortly.
We made a post-movie, pre show trip to Hooters (hey if it’s broken why make the effort to fix it) where we ate chicken quesadillas and talked to the bartender about her 10 month old daughter. I find that before a set of mine it is good to have a conversation with a nice woman who seems to have a somewhat less than great life. If I still feel resentment and hostility towards the world and some women after that then I know I am going to have the right mindset to do comedy. I felt ready.
We headed to the theater and I was to perform first after the intermission. I went out on stage and there was a jazz band playing intro music for every comedian. My first line:
“Give it up for the jazz band. Yeah – jazz, my 11th favorite form of music.” A few comics in the balcony laughed.
I could not see everyone in the crowd, but it was my worst nightmare – it felt like a lot of old people. I guess the theater was having a special – “got to dinner at 4 pm and get half priced tickets to stare at a judgmental as*hole from New York City.”
My first actual joke that I prepared went well enough about shopping at big n tall stores, but it did not go as well as it has the previous 80 times I have told it. Then I did my joke about cougars, butsome loud-mouthed middle aged feminist fu*k kept shouting over my joke, apparently to defend the honor of the women on the Bravo channel from a relatively innocuous joke. In the last part of the joke I ask and answerthe question – “remember what they used to call cougars… uggggggggh.” However, during the pause, the woman who was defending the honor of “cougars,” decided to yell out defiantly, “SWEET!” as in cougars are sweet a/k/a awesome. So when I said “uggggh” it appeared that I was just responding to her with disdain. At that moment, when there was complete silence for my punchline, I was very tempted to stage dive like Axl Rose and at least beat up her male companion if she had one, but instead I just went through my jokes.
Next joke was a 2 minute bit on Facebook photography, which has been doing very well, but when even the children of half your audience aretoo old for Facebook , the joke will fall flatter than usual. I actually did get a big laugh at the end of the joke, but could not leave well enough alone and said with 100% disgust, “Oh, thanks for waking up Asheville.” Crowd lost again.
My jokes from that point on got very consistent laughter, except for the final line of a 2 1/2 minute closing bit, which got nothing after getting lots of laughs throughout the entire bit. So my final words on stage were, “That was the way to end a set poorly.” At least the last line had the Festival producer and the festival headliner, Jake Johannsen, laughing hard backstage.
Now this is when the real fun began. There were some managers and bookers of shows in attendance. And one of the bookers came back stage in between the early show (which I was on) and the later show (which Adam and Nick were on). This booker went and spoke to a few comics exchanging compliments and a desire to get them some bookings. I never even got eye contact from the guy. The best analogy I can think of is when a friend of yours is talking to someone at the bar and he/she has a friend. But the friend has no interest in you so the best he/she gives is sort of a smirky smile and then looks away, which sort of says “Hey I don’t think your an awful person, I just want nothing to do with you.” My experience backstage was whatever would be the level of humiliation after that. Not sure how many bookings I will get form the Festival, but it will probably be between zero and I’m going to call the cops if you email me again.
So the second show Saturday night was a big success as Nick led off the show strong and Adam absolutely murdered it two spots later. So of the four comics that travelled together from NYC, the other three got to be Bosh, LeBron and Wade, and I ironically, as the only one with any minority blood in the water, was Mike Miller. Some of our group even got to speak with a manager from a somewhat reputable agency after the show who offered such insights as “don’t get married, you’ll never regret fu*king a lot,” and “I was chatting up this hot chick tonight. I’m married, but it’s good to see I can still do it.” I am just surprised he was not missed from his Montreal Festival seminar, “Here’s everything that you don’t need to know about comedy, but do need to know about how insecure and regretful I am about my decision to get married and have a family.” I just told the festival producer, Charlie (one of the coolest and nicest guys I have met in comedy) that if I did not see him relatively soon, there was a good chance he’d see me again in several years when I am teaching his kids high school History.
After the show, Sam, Nick and I went to Waffle House at 2 am because I feel it is therapeutic to hit complete rock bottom after a disappointing show. When we were leaving the Waffle House we were approached by a possibly drunk, definitely crazy, man in his late fifties, early 60s with a long white beard, flanked by 3 Latin/light-skinned black guys in their late teens.
Now as a Northern man with a black Dad and an Irish mom there are a few things I fear. 1) The South, 2) Old white men from the south, 3) groups of minority teens wandering parking lots at 2 in the morning. But I learned a new, more powerful fear that night – when an old crazy southern man is hanging out in a parking lot of Waffle House with three minority teens in the south. There is something so prison rape-ish about that combo to me.
So the old man walks up to us and has the following exchange:
Old Man – “You walkin’?”
Me – “No.”
Old Man – “You look like you’re walkin’?”
Me (walking away with Nick and Sam) – “Well yeah, now.”
As we walked away Nick started laughing uncontrollably, but Sam quickly informed us that they were all still looking at us as the old man mumbled something with the word “fu*k” and started angrily mocking Nick’s laugh. It was at that moment that I first imagined what it would be like to star in a re-make of Deliverance. We got back to our rooms and I slept 3 hours that night, both because we were leaving early the next morning and because I feared becoming a victim in The Hills Have Eyes 3.
Nothing much to report the next day – we just drove 14 hours back to the city (90 minute of travel was the Holland Tunnel), ate a bunch of crappy food, discussed comedy (we spent about 4 hours alone mocking comedians who discuss the difference of black people and white people) and just wished for the sweet embrace of death when we arrived back in NYC.
When I got back to Facebook world I got to see all the photos and tweets from all the comics and people from Montreal. Time to start looking at Masters programs in education I guess.