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Road Comedy Recap: Raleigh 2021

As I write this I am sitting in the café car of the Carolinian, the Amtrak route from Charlotte to NYC.  I performed in Raleigh, NC yesterday as part of my “Introduction/Farewell to America” Tour and the trip was well worth it, but not in the traditional sense of worth (e.g. profit, using train bathrooms that do not have The Shining-esque rivers of urine, etc.).  If the train home does not experience any more delays my totals for the last 36 hours will be: 20 hours on Amtrak, $50 profit, 2 college friends caught up with, 1 set that yielded some great things for the special taping in 15 days and a partridge in a pear tree.  With that, let’s break down the details.

The Piss-Dodging, Salad Buying Train to Raleigh

Based on my last experience trying to get home from Philadelphia via Amtrak, taking a 10 hour train trip from Newark to Raleigh with only 2.5 hours to spare before showtime might be perceived as a risk.  After all it took me 5 hours to get home from Philly due to a 4 hour train delay. One of those delays would ruin the show, if you are doing the math.  But the train arrived in Newark on time and 9.75 hours later arrived right on time in Raleigh.  I did lots of comedy writing/fine tuning on the trip down so it was a productive trip, but the real success of the train ride down had nothing to do with punctuality.

Taking a piss as a man on public transportation is a tough proposition, if – and this is a critical if – if you care about the condition of the bathroom once you are finished.  On Too Big To Fail, my 2012 album, I was going through a Greyhound Bus phase where I was taking the bus line to a lot of gigs. I described trying to responsibly piss while on a moving Greyhound bus as the world’s most challenging core workout.  On Amtrak I have perfected a left shoulder lean for balance to get over 95% of the piss in the toilet.  But when I entered the bathroom late morning on this train I could see that someone(s) without my core strength, tactics or ethics had used the bathroom and apparently believed that the toilet was something to be avoided at all costs.  The toilet area was covered in piss. Not a light drizzle or tasteful spritz, but a sloshy amount.  And as I positioned myself for what turned out to be an unexpectedly long piss (hydrate folks!) i noticed that the piss was slowly but steadily moving off the toilet area toward where my New Balance sneaker was positioned.  The was as close as a piss has come to an episode of 24.  This was Indiana Jones yanking his hat at the last minute except in this case it was a stream of stranger urine attacking my sneaker.  Finally my bladder was empty and I pulled my foot back with about 2 seconds to spare.  But the adventures were just beginning.

 

As the train pulled into DC I knew there would be an engine change as there are for all trains departing south or west from DC (when my comedy career finally is declared dead I would like to work for DOT on rail expansion, despite no experience in any related field – consider it payback for SNL allowing Kim Kardashian to host). In an effort to eat healthy I decided to get a salad since I knew there was a Chopt salad in Union Station.  When the train pulled in at 10:49 am I knew I had 19 minutes until the train left for parts south.  I was also in the business class (BALLER) car, which was the last car on a very long train.  But fortune favors the bold so I went in to the station, got myself a kale salad and made it back to the train with 8 minutes to spare.  How was I rewarded? With some guy sitting next to me for the rest of the ride once we arrived in Alexandria, the next stop.

A rare combination of agility and speed to dodge piss and get a salad during an Amtrak to North Carolina

On Amtrak they now do assigned seating for business class. That is fine, except some of these Amcucks don’t realize they can change their seat.  And on top of that, they cannot see who they are selecting a seat next to when they need to choose a seat that is already partially occupied. So while a bunch of small women got to enjoy their entire trip solo, I had some guy cuddled next to me for the last 5 hours of the trip.  Fortunately for both of us I ended up doing a lot of game tape review (watching recent comedy sets where I realized that sets I thought were just decent were in fact outstanding – you are welcome Boston and Philly!) in the café car.

Showtime

I got to the club at 735pm and noticed that there were not many people in attendance.  At 8pm when the host went up I could hear that there weren’t many people, but definitely louder than the few people I had seen when I entered the club.  It was a comparable crowd to the one I had in Philly, which was more expected in Raleigh than it had been in Philly.  The set went well (just reviewed it) and a few bits were off the charts so at least my primary goal of making the best comedy special of 2022 (presumably when it would air or be released)  still feels within reach even though my more immediate goals of happiness and profit seem woefully out of reach.  When you subtract my travel costs from my payout I made $50.  Now, the special makes economic considerations secondary but this felt like what a climate scientist feels when they see a dead coral reef: the future is bleak.

Name looks like Chauvin and sounds like Covid – we’re gonna need a bigger boat (of comped tickets)

One of the highlights for me at the show was the fact that flanking the stage, in identical spaces on opposite sides of the stage were two friends from Williams (they knew each other but had no idea that the other was there until mid show).  Several fans new and old approached me after the show felt great, but I would be lying if it was not particularly nice to hear a fan say “Not afraid of burning in hell” which has become a bit of a catch phrase from Righteous Pk Podcast (my impression of Ron Reagan Jr’s atheism commercials are basically my co-host at this point).  One reason that this new phase of my career feels like the worst is that when featuring you are in a city for a weekend. That allows you to settle in, socialize, etc.  These one and dones are sometimes financially and emotionally deflating, but they always force you into a wham bam thank you ma’am, maybe I will see you in a year if we are lucky existence.  I did get to have a beer with my Williams friends Matt and Pete after, during which I learned that their kids are big fans of my videos. So that was nice to hear, even if I will be dead by the time their kids can legally enter comedy clubs.

Back to New Jersey

When I got on the 10:13 train (currently we are 25 minutes behind scheduled as I type this) – interrupting this for a random musical comment. I don’t know if any artist simultaneously wows me and annoys me more than Celine Dion.  Her version of “I drove all night” just came on my iPod and my God she can sing.  As long as I am not watching her in an interview or during some weird performance I am in awe of her.  Anyway, back to the blog – I get on the business class car and there are 5 people in the whole car.  5.  But guess where one of those 5 people is sitting? Yes – the seat next to mine.  I have no idea why someone would either pick or be assigned a seat next to someone (when I picked my seat a month ago the entire car was empty) but I checked on the Amtrak app and saw there were 7 sets of seats that were completely empty for the entirety of the ride. So I picked one of those. Now that I am done recapping time to go back and read. Just 7 more hours on the train to wonder WTF I am doing with my life. #Blessed

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Road Comedy Recap: The Gig That Broke Me

This morning, on 3 hours sleep (we will address that later) I finished reading Michael Lewis’ new book The Premonition. It is a book about some select people, much like those featured in his book The Big Short, who had a combination of outside-the-box thinking, instinct and intellect to know something bad was coming. In The Big Short it was the financial crisis underpinning The Great Recession. In The Premonition it was the current pandemic.  I know that Lewis will never write a book about me, but I feel like I have some of the same gifts for anticipating doom and gloom, with one caveat: I can only really predict them for myself.  And a day after going on an exhausting, infuriating trip to my nephew’s soccer game (this week’s Righteous Pk Podcast is dedicated to that story – go have a listen), the soccer game misadventure would pale in comparison to the Sunday experience I had going to, and coming back from, Philadelphia.  So let’s get to it.

Christian Rock Lyft

I was headlining Helium in Philly on Sunday night at 7pm.  The good news seemed in abundance. It was one of my 2 favorite clubs in the country, the Eagles were not playing Sunday and the last time I performed at Helium to record my album Thots and Prayers, I sold 100 tickets on a Wednesday.  So my cautious optimism was that I would at least meet that number given my exponential boost in fame and the fact that it was at least a weekend day, if not the worst day of the weekend. I sold 150 tickets on a Monday in Boston, so Philly on a Sunday shouldn’t be a problem I thought.  Now of course, I slept poorly the night before the show and felt my heart racing all day.  See, when I say that comedy is bad for my health I mean that quite literally.  When you entire career has been a fight to get your talent recognized and every legit milestone of your career exists as an isolated incident instead of accumulating as momentum building events, every gig that presents an opportunity for money, a relationship with a club chain, etc. takes on extra weight because of the overwhelming feeling of “these opportunities are infrequent at best.”

So I ordered a Lyft to take me to Newark Penn Station, the world’s worst train station. My driver arrived and began blasting Christian pop-rock.  I like Church and I like rock, but rarely do I like the combination.  First off, how many songs can you just have about Jesus’ love?  I mean that with all due respect – all 10 songs I seemed to hear seem to come from the same single idea with little variation.  There appears to be almost no daylight between a vaguely Christian pop song and a parody of a Christian pop song.  And the radio station said they had pastors on call if people wanted to call in. I found it all sort of humorous, but the driver was not just enjoying the music – he knew the words and was adding percussion on his steering wheel.  And then we passed a homeless man in traffic looking for money and Dominican Joel Osteen behind the wheel just gave him the Jordan shoulder shrug.

My driver had 55 minutes to get me to Newark Penn, which according to GPS was a 13 minute trip. Well DJO opted to avoid the highway (which was clear) for a series of side streets all the way to the station, We still got there with 18 minutes to spare, but I sort of felt like I was being taken the long way to see if the music of Imagine Jesus Dragons could work its magic on me.

Back in Philadelphia

When I arrived in Philly, on time at 435pm, I walked by the club to see my face.  Two things I noticed. One, the club used The Late Late Show as my credit. Perfectly legit, even though most people know me from other, more recent things. But multiple clubs have insisted on including “with Craig Ferguson.”  Would there be a violation of comedy law if we fooled people into thinking my stale late night credit might be from James Corden’s era?  Is Corden going to sue in Musical Theater Court if someone doesn’t make it clear that I was not on his iteration of the show?  The second thing I noticed was the Sonja Morgan of The Real Housewives of NY would be headlining the club a week after me.  I have often told my girlfriend, more anecdotally than with hard data, that when she watches 4 different real housewives’ shows she is supporting the reality show industry which boosted cheap shows starring talentless turds at the expense of more scripted material that before streaming might have been an opportunity for struggling writers and comedians.  I am not saying that reducing scripted shows by half in the 2000s would have directly led to me personally having a boost, but you get that in the aggregate, someone like me might have had more bites at the apple.  But I never meant it in a literal, direct sense. But thanks to sharing a marquee with Sonja Morgan I see that my journey of 18 years in comedy has been worth all the effort and that I am now in direct competition with Sonja Morgan (as singers must compete with Countess Luann’s bars on “Money Can’t Buy You Class”).

The Real Comedian of Bloomfield and the Real Housewife of NY

So now my premonition of doom was bordering on full blown panic.  I went to a nearby Barnes and Noble to finish mapping my set and then went to Shake Shack for a chicken sandwich. Then I went to the club.  With about 15 minutes until showtime my fears were confirmed. I was not going to get close to the crowd I had 3 years ago.  I went into the green room and chatted with the emcee and feature (who both did well) and apologized for the less than stellar crowd.  That is when in a corner of my mind I entered a dark place – if my crowd is reduced by half, after a period when I exponentially increase my fan base, then what has really been accomplished? Other than a Greek Tragedy-level dose of social media-induced delusion.  My goal, of course, is not to be an Internet G-list celeb; it is to be a headlining comedian.  But that requires translating Internet money and followers into asses in seats.  Somehow I did what felt impossible – I turned a fan base 40x bigger than in 2018 into a crowd 50% smaller.

Now before you worry about whether I should be sharing this in an industry that prides itself on false confidence and ass kissing, my crowds in DC and Boston were great.  So it is not like I have been travelling and eating dogshit. But, like many comedians, I can be a prisoner of the moment and because of my several successes in Philadelphia at Helium, it felt particularly depressing to have my smallest crowd in 10 years performing there (including 2 album recordings on Wednesdays when I was obviously the headliner).

The Healing Power of Fans

So I did my set. It went well. My shirt was soaked with sweat, which had less to do with heat and more that I felt like I was fighting off career failure with every joke I told. I greeted fans after the show and they were great. There were social media fans, there was a guy who has first saw me during my first feature week in 2011 and has been a dedicated fan ever since (he told me that when my stuff blew up in 2020 he was indignant on my behalf “you need to check out his stuff! He’s been funny for a long time!”).  And then a fan/friend via social media, Doug, postponed his return trip to the Netherlands to come to the show.  I bought him a milkshake at Shake Shack after for his troubles (as another fan knows – if you travel on a 6 hour+ flight to see me do a show, I will hang out and buy food/drink after – not a great deal admittedly).  So as I walked back to 30th street station, having sold merch and met many kind, generous and effusive fans I felt so much better. One of the silver linings of having a fan base that is not too large is that you get to feel and appreciate their support up close.  From a business perspective sure, it would be better to have a fan base of millions, but when the fans you have can make it personal it makes it easier to be appreciative and stop feeling mopey because one show was financially disappointing.

And then all the good feelings were eviscerated.

The Soul Killing Power of Amtrak

I arrived at 30th Street Station at 1010pm for my 10:28pm train – the Palmetto, which travels from Georgia to NY.  The train was listed as 20 min delayed. No big deal. But on further examination of the arrival/departure board included trains that were supposed to arrive at 718pm and 802 pm from south of Philly as delayed still.  For the next hour, I watched how every ten minutes, ten more minutes was added to the Palmetto departure time.  I checked to see what a Lyft would cost from Philadelphia to Bloomfield (the non-Christian rock, local road option) and it was $134 before tip.  Had I made a killing at the club it would have been a no brainer, but instead I decided to wait for my train.

At 1145pm an announcement was made that all northbound trains were delayed with no addition information. At that moment a mouse ran around near me, presumably trying to get a Lyft before the surge pricing kicked in. I then checked Lyft and it was $220 before tip.

Interesting J-L Jinx sidebar here – the club offered me a hotel. I turned it down because I wanted to be able to start work on Monday morning. Well, as it turns out I do not currently have an assignment, so staying the night in Philly would have had no negative impact on my day job.

30th Street Station Nightmare

At 1215 there was an announcement that the trains north of DC have begun to move and the first one would arrive in 45 minutes.  No word on the Palmetto.  After the 718 train arrived at 1245am, the next train was announced (the 802pm would be here at 105 am).  The station then announced “if you are on the Palmetto your tickets will be honored on this train.” I considered waiting for my train where I would have a reserved seat to myself to maybe nap for the hour back to Newark, but then the Amtrak employee shouted  – “Train 90 can board this train” (that is the number of the Palmetto) so I figured he was emphasizing as a courtesy. So I went down the stairs at 105 am and boarded the 802pm train.  And then we waited.  Multiple trains pulled into the station after, discharged riders and continued north as we sat idle.  An hour later (and as it turns out 35 minutes after the Palmetto had come and gone without me) it was announced that we were waiting for a crew change. My guess is that a train crew cannot continuously operate a train for beyond a set period of time and perhaps the 5+ hour delay necessitated a crew change by union rule.  Well at 215am we finally got to leave. I had the all-nighter chills and shakes, so I probably looked right at home as I arrived at Newark Penn station at 320am, a tidy 45 minutes after the Palmetto had swung through.

I caught a cab and arrived home at 345am to be greeted by Cookie. I put on my eye mask (my bedroom is disturbingly bright in the morning, which is not usually a problem since I cannot sleep past 5am), caught 3.5 hours of quality sleep and woke up wondering if I can continue doing comedy.  Fans are one thing, but 6 hours for a one hour Amtrak trip in the middle of night might be the most powerful, negative force known to man.  The good news for you readers who like miserable comedy writings: I am Amtrak-ing to Raleigh (10 hours each way) in a week and a half to headline Goodnight’s Comedy Club. God help us all (in Christian Rock voice).

P.S. – as soon as I published this by Twitter mentions were blowing up because SNL had announced it hired a new Trump impersonator for the upcoming season. It was not me.  Amtrak actually does not feel so bad anymore!  Good luck to all the new cast members.

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Road Comedy Recap: Comedy and Kevin Spacey in Maryland

After a 5 month drought of road bookings, November represented an avalanche of bookings (2).  I was at the Brokerage in Long Island a few weeks ago, and even though taking New Jersey Transit to Long Island Railroad on a weekend is the time equivalent of driving to Atlanta, I did not write it up as a road recap. But with a booking outside of Baltimore that required Amtrak and hotel accommodations, here is the first road recap in quite some time! I was performing at Magoobys (I think for the 6th time between the 2 locations they’ve had this decade) and the weekend included all the staples of a J-L Comedy road trip: 1 awful show, 2 movies, 3 awesome shows, 5 pancakes at IHOP and a 7am Amtrak trip in Baltimore where Kevin Spacey held the door for me. So without further adieu let’s get into it!

Friday

On Friday I took a regular Amtrak (AKA poor people train) to Baltimore, but upgraded to the business class car, which was actually really nice. The rest of the train was packed, but the business class car, with tons of leg room and leather seats was only about 15% full. When I arrived at Baltimore Penn I walked to the light rail station, which I take every trip to whichever hotel Hotwire.com has bestowed upon me near Magoobys.  I buy a ticket for the light rail every time, but in half a decade of taking it, not once has anyone taken the ticket from me.  I arrived at the Extended Stay America, which is named for how long they expect the hotel’s bed bugs to cling to your clothing, in Timonium (hard to beat $135 after fees and taxes for 2 nights).

The two shows were solid that night. I was opening for Aida Rodriguez, most recently of Tiffany Haddish’s stand up series on Netflix.  I sold a handful of albums and ended the night with a vending machine can of pringles and some CNN. #Blessed

Saturday

Having scouted out eating locations I made my way to an IHOP about 3/4 of a mile from my hotel for some breakfast (also found out that IHOP does catering now, so as soon as I have a function that requires catering expect a call from me IHOP). I then got a Lyft to the Hunt Valley Mall where I went to see two movies: Knives Out and Queen and Slim – both very good movies and also could have been called White People Problems and Black People Problems, respectively. I then had Chick Fil-A for dinner nearby, giving me an IHOP breakfast-Popcorn and Candy lunch-Chick Fil-A dinner. How I am still alive I do not know, but as I write this the diet starts now (33rd time I have said that in 2019).

The first show Saturday night was outstanding. A new bit I am working on about getting hit as a child really did well on this show.  I cannot blame the first Friday crowd for not laughing a lot – since I forgot half of the punchlines, but none of the sad parts, so it felt more like a sad origin story than a darkly humorous take on my childhood.  But here is the newest rough draft of “All Roads Lead to Joe Rogan”:

The second show on Saturday was lightly attended and even more lightly laughed at.  Most of the audience were good sports and enjoyed my set, but there was one woman in a hat (it looked like she meant to line up early for Church Saturday night to get a good pew, but ended up at a comedy show by accident). So the shows ended on a low point, but the overall trip and majority of shows were a great success.  A good way to end the decade where I made 1 tv appearance, created 2 viral videos, self-produced 4 stand up albums (one went #1), made 8 appearances on Adam Carolla, made double digit appearances with The Black Guy Who Tips and The Dan Lebatard Show and made $734 in net profit. Bring on 2020!

The Red Hat (AKA “The Undertaker of Black Church”) is visible in this shot while Aida Rodriguez performs

Sunday

On Sunday I took the 7am Acela (#Comedy Mogul) out of Baltimore, figuring correctly that that would be the only time to take an Amtrak comfortably on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.  The station was not too crowded, but I did notice one person that I had to do a triple take: Kevin Spacey. Like myself, Spacey obviously knows that the early morning Acela on a Sunday is the most discreet way for an entertainment star to travel.  As I approached I had 4 options:

  1.  Tell him that House of Cards really sucked without him (and then rap my knuckles on the wood bench twice)
  2. Ask someone to record me on their camera and scream at Spacey for all the hurt he has allegedly caused
  3. Try to get him to grope me (#Settlement) or
  4.  Give him a knowing head nod and be on my way.

I chose 4 and his response was:

He was sitting with either a female relative or a personal assistant (OR POSSIBLY A WOMAN WITH HER OWN GREAT CAREER AND LIFE INDEPENDENT OF KEVIN SPACEY – PLEASE DON’T CANCEL ME). I was unable to upgrade to first class on the Acela due to blackout restrictions (insert Spacey joke here), but by coincidence Spacey held the door for me and a woman before going down the stairs himself.  SO HE IS ALRIGHT IN MY BOOK!  Our ways parted when he went to the First Class Car and I went to the upper-middle class section.

So all in all another fun and fruitful road work weekend. Thanks to all that have enjoyed this blog and supported my career the last decade.  All 7 of you!

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Road Comedy Recap: Ann Arbor Day(s)

This weekend I was making my headlining debut at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, a terrific club in Columbus, Ohio (that’s some Big Ten football rivalry humor).  There were two shows Friday and two shows Saturday. The crowds were great, the headliner was greater and the travel atrocious.  If you are familiar with my travel stories over the last decade since I started doing road work regularly, you know that Amtrak and despair are my most frequent travel companions. This trip would be the apex of that travel history.  Before breaking down the weekend here’s the math: I spent 38 hours in Ann Arbor, Michigan and 43.5 hours in Amtrak facilities.  To paraphrase Jamie Lannister, “The things I do for self-destruction.”  OK – here goes the recap!

Thursday-Friday: Amtrak to Ann Arbor

Hello Darkness my old friend! – it was another trip on the infamous Lake Shore Limited – the Amtrak train that goes from NYC to Chicago by way of Australia.  The trip to Toledo (the stop where you get off to get the Amtrak bus to all parts Michigan) is supposed to last 15 hours, ending with a 6am “de-training.” Well, we got stuck in Albany, NY (2.5 hours into the trip on time) for 3 hours. So in the time I was stuck in Albany I could have gotten off the train, gone to Albany airport and flown to Detroit before the train left Albany. So we ended up getting to Toledo at 10am.  But, despite the fact that the Amtrak bus ORIGINATES in Toledo, apparently our 4 hour lateness was not quite enough time for the bus THAT ORIGINATES in Toledo to make it to the station on time.  It ended up getting there at 10:30 and I was in Ann Arbor at 12:20.  I ordered a Lyft and the driver told me that her cousin was Karlous Miller (a finalist on a season of Last Comic Standing). I did not think it was a good sign for the weekend that Lyft drivers in Ann Arbor were able to one-up my career, but so be it.

Since I had managed 3 hours of sleep on the train to Toledo I was full of energy to explore Ann Arbor once I had checked into my hotel. So I walked towards a movie theater to see John Wick 3 (worst of the three Wicks, sorry Keanu) hoping to see some stores or eateries to write in and assess the Tator Thots in the rust belt.  But all I walked by for 2 miles were car dealerships.  Seriously.  But then I found a nice little coffee shop near the movie theater and sat mapping out soon-to-be legendary sets.  After a late lunch of popcorn, M&Ms and Wick I headed back to the hotel to shower off the Amtrak Funk for the shows.

Being a comedian in America often means walking along the side of highways. This one made me more nervous than normal

The crowds on Friday were not too large, but they were outstanding. I then retired to my hotel to get a very important night of sleep (#Foreshadowing).

Saturday – Models, Abortion Stones and BBQ

I woke up Saturday to a solid complimentary hotel breakfast (Danish, Belgian Waffle, youth sports teams not saying thank you when you show them courtesy at the buffet) and then did my review of the sets from the night before, which conclusively showed that I am great, but could be greater (as Saturday’s game day adjustments would bear out).

Knowing I would be on a train all Sunday I went to Mass on Saturday evening (#PrayerWarrior). I got a Lyft and my driver was a former model (she moved to NYC as a teen and was a model for many years – I believe her is all I’ll say) who moved back to Michigan to have kids and start a life coaching business (that was my confirmation that she definitely had been a model). So I was 2 for 2 in Lyft drivers being able to one up me in success in the art/fame pursuits.  Mass was Mass, though from the below picture you can see that these Midwest Churches are not playing second fiddle to the South:

On the back side it says “Except Ohio State”

I then ate some delicious food at a local BBQ spot (warning – I am not a food d-bag so if you are some guy who bathes in his own dry rub and wins contests in Texas for best bbq while carrying an AR-15 then you may not judge the food as I did, but I loved it)

Delicious!

Saturday-Sunday-Monday: White Sharon, Black Sharon and the Tornado

The shows Saturday night were awesome. Bigger crowds and even some fans from my appearances on Sirius XM and The Black Guy Who Tips.  Sold a lot of albums and then went back to my hotel. My train back to NYC was to depart Toledo at 3:15am, but I decided to not risk a lack of availability of cars later in the night so I called (app’d? Summoned?) a Lyft to take me the 70 miles to the Toledo station. A White Lady named Sharon accepted and then abandoned me 7 minutes later (#AbandonmentAmy), which is when a Black Queen named Sharon (am I doing this right Black Twitter?) accepted. She got me to Toledo 7 minutes faster than the estimate and I gave her a strong gratuity (#ComedyMogul is back!).  So at 2am I stepped into the Toledo Amtrak Station.  Before continuing to the horror portion of the story here are two new bits/clips from Saturday’s shows:

The station was fairly crowded. As I would learn it was because every train out of Chicago was extremely late. So I sat next to a young woman with blue hair, two tongue studs and a batman t-shirt (ummm are we soul mates or are you just here to star in my Make-A-Wish porn film The Beige Knight?).  And that was when the alerts started coming. My train would not arrive until 4:30am (a 90 minute delay). Shit.  Then another alert. And another. And another.  My train eventually arrived at 7:30am. I got into my room (rooms were cheap from Toledo so I got a sleeper car using points, figuring I would be getting on the train before daylight), which was prepared very nicely for slumber  by yet another Black Queen (#TrustBlackWomen) who also got a nice gratuity from me (the world will be a better place if I ever become rich and famous). I managed to sleep for 3 hours and that is when the real adventure began.

We were 4.5 hours late in Toledo and kept losing time city after city. Then we arrived in Rochester. Delay because a man was threatening to jump on the train tracks. Then we got to Syracuse. Delayed due to freight train traffic (America – where freight always gets priority over people, which is the main cause of many delays on our country’s rails). Also delayed because of a tornado.  So I took photos and a video. From that video, three different weather services contacted me asking for permission to use the video with credit.  Never a good sign for your comedy career when you crush 4 shows as a headliner and your only glimpse of success is from a weather video you shoot on your phone in Syracuse.

The Syracuse Tornado!

We kept getting delayed and at 9pm I turned off my phone for the rest of the night to avoid any Game of Thrones chatter. We finally arrived in Penn Station at 12:15am, but like a horror villain popping up right before the credits to slaughter our hero, the train then had to reverse for over ten minutes to actually go to the right platform. I stepped on the platform in Penn Station at 12:30am. I took a cab home to get my dog Cookie, who peed in the kitchen, but she didn’t spoil GOT for me so I didn’t scold her.  I took her out for a walk and then watched the finale of GOT (I liked it – it wasn’t going to be another epic bloodbath folks). I then slept better than I have in a long time – 6 hours.  Thanks Ann Arbor!

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Road Comedy Recap: The Devil’s Transportation Triangle to the…

This weekend I performed in St Paul, MN at the Joke Joint Comedy Club, which recently had to relocate to a new space in downtown St Paul inside of Camp Bar. It was part of the 1 city, 3 show tour I managed to put together to promote next week’s release of my new double stand-up album Thots & Prayers.  Although I will obviously get into the humorous and sad details of the trip, the most notable thing about it was the fact that I travelled a total of 62 hours for two nights of shows in Minnesota.  That is because I decided to take Amtrak both ways.  As I explained to the crowds in St Paul, to be still doing comedy after 15 years despite it being detrimental to my physical, emotional and spiritual health when it clearly is not going to lead to any financial stability, let alone something approaching success, requires a core of delusional optimism that only historical figures and the mentally ill possess. And because I believe with Dr. Ford certainty and Brett Kavanaugh intensity that the album is a masterpiece I felt a heightened fear of flying this week.  I already hate flying and like the train, but about 10% of my brain was saying “If you comedy career has been consistent it is in the tragic irony department – whether it is Patrice O’Neal demonstrating some affinity for working with me only a few months before his eventually fatal stroke or developing the best Trump impression in comedy while seeing everyone but me get paid for it, it is clear that comedy has turned me from Mozart to Salieri.  And the icing on the cake would be dying right before the album comes out.  Yes, I am aware that this sounds Trump-Kanye levels of insane, but if you have wasted 15 years of your life pursuing a career that God and country seemed destined to impede then how nuts is it to take it one more level to comedy martyrdom?  Well, as I write this recap I am halfway through Pennsylvania in a rush to make it home, shower, walk my dog who will no doubt greet me with the apathy that makes me think I should have named her Industry instead of Cookie and rush to Newark, New Jersey to see Bruno Mars.  So here is the recap:

Long Train Runnin’ – NYC to St Paul

I got on the Lake Shore Limited from NYC to Chicago on Wednesday afternoon.  I had a roomette, which after finishing Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, felt like a moderately spacious space pod – two chairs that come together to form a 6’3″ bed (I am 6’7″), a panel of light and climate controls and a toilet right next to your chair/bed (like be careful to not splatter close or else you might be a turn on for Trump).  As cramped as it may appear, a space like this goes for $1350/month in Manhattan.

My Amtrak War Room

The train was 2.5 hours late getting into Chicago, which I did not mind because it allowed me to read half of Bob Woodward’s Trump book (I would finish it two days later and found it fairly underwhelming in its prose – fuller review on my podcast tomorrow). I also watched quite a bit of Senate hearings about Brett Kavanaugh thanks to surprisingly improved Amtrak WiFi service.  I then had a 2 hour wait before getting on the Empire Builder train, which is the Amtrak from Chicago to Seattle. I arrived at 10pm Thursday night in St Paul (my portion of the Empire Builder was a manageable 8 hours) and headed to the downtown Doubletree where I got my cookie and took 4 showers to get the smell of cross country obese feet out of my skin (like a coal mine or a Subway restaurant, long distance Amtrak’s signature scent seeps into your skin).

Friday

The club manager picked me up at 1pm Friday to take me to the club hotel (I used my free night via hotels.com for the early arrival hotel – always helps when you have subsidies for your paranoia about flying).  Now the Doubletree was downtown – a 10 minute walk from the train station and about an equal distance from the club.  Well, the Best Western Plus (which was the old hotel the club used when it was located in the burbs) was now about 30 miles from the club and train station.  Fortunately my schedule of reading in the corner of a Starbucks can be done from any location, which is all I did until showtime.

The emcee, Andy, picked me up and we got to the club about 10 minutes before showtime.  The audience was fairly light, but I assured the manager that my fan would arrive on Saturday (if you think I am joking – my one fan in St Paul did show up, but with his wife so I will count that as two fans – like the French language I consider the man determinative).  I sold one album Friday after what I thought was a pretty good set (and thanks to my Milli Vanilli bit, the floor manager closed the show with Baby Don’t Forget My Number), which I promptly spent on Wendy’s after the show.

As a bonus the feature, David, brought gigantic cookies from a local bakery to the show:

Snickerdoodle

Saturday

When I woke up Saturday it was under 40 degrees so rather than exercise I went and read at Starbucks. Also, had it been 80 and sunny I would have just read at Starbucks.  There were two shows Saturday night. The first had a nice crowd and I sold one album. So basically 38 CDs of mine simply went on a vacation from my apartment and will be back home in a few hours.  Below is one of the non-album, timely bits I did for the early crowd about the upcoming film  A Star is Born:

 

The late show had about 16 people.  And I thought to myself, “This deserves to be my final show.”  They were nice people and decent laughers for such a small crowd, but when the goal is a career and you are 15 years operating at hobby level of success it is important not to forget that if divided into 2 teams, your audience would not have sufficient numbers to play a baseball game.

Long Train Runnin’ pt 2 – St Paul to NYC

After a refreshing 4 hours of sleep Saturday night I got a Lyft to the train station (the aforementioned Andy (emcee) was nice enough to set his alarm and see if I was able to get a cab) and got on the Empire Builder back to Chicago. I had some pancakes in the dining car and did some lounging in the lounge car (as you can see there was a very Earthy looking guy in the car (turns out he was a poet – how has that profession survived?).

The man on the left is typical of long distance Amtrak riders: Unabomber or crunchy granola liberal?

We got to Chicago 20 minutes early so I had 2 hours to kill so I walked around downtown Chicago looking for something to eat, but all I was able to get was Subway (most things were closed) and the apathetic young sandwich artist didn’t even heat the chicken enough.  Clearly a Modern Sandwich Artist.

Who’s taller?

I then got on the Capitol Limited, which goes from Chicago to DC.  That train was 5 minutes early and was a great ride (I got another sleeper roomette where I began ripping through The Dirt, the biography by Motely Crue – unquestionably a brilliant (since it works) structure for a biography (each band member writing different chapters as their story progresses through an unthinkable amount of drugs, sex and violence).  However, quite uncomfortable when the band’s bass player basically admits to rape (letting other people have sex in a dark closet with a woman who believes she is having sex with him).  I feel like the entire music industry could be shut down by #MeToo, except we seem to have grandfathered rock music to be exempt from it.  Now hip hop, which has never been as bad as Motley Crue somehow seemed more problematic to America (thinking emoji). Anyway more on that on tomorrow’s podcast as well.  If the train is good for anything it is great reading time.

I got off the Capitol Limited in Pittsburgh at 5am to transfer to the Pennsylvanian which runs from Pittsburgh to NYC. I tried to get on an express greyhound at 630 am (the Pennsylvanian did not leave til 7:30 and takes longer), but the Greyhound was sold out – which is richly symbolic: the only thing that sold out for me this weekend was a Greyhound bus – if my career were to continue it is good that I can set a new goal of trying to be as successful at comedy as Greyhound is at bus operation.

So now I’m 2.5 hours from NYC and then I will have to hurry up and get ready for the Bruno Mars concert.  Amtrak Funk gonna give it to ya!

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Freaks and Greeks: The Orlando Vacation Recap

If you follow me on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – the go to place to follow me if you want the complete photo-humor journey @jlcomedy) then this week was either an embarrassment of riches or a plain old embarrassment as I frustrated my girlfriend for four of our five days to make sure my jokes, photos and experiences in Orlando, Florida did not go unpublished.  The trip was her Christmas present (and after checking my receipts for the trip apparently it will have to suffice as a Valentine’s Day, birthday and Trump Impeachment Day presents as well).  The week started with a room on an Amtrak to go down to Florida (for a change of pace and to get me elevated to an elite status on Amtrak – which is like being the best player on a WNBA team – no one cares and you still need a day job) on Tuesday and then would involve among many other things, Epcot Center, multiple days at Universal Studios, 483 encounters with rude South Americans, an Orlando Magic basketball game and a random, private encounter with a television A-lister at my hotel Starbucks.  If I annoyed you on social media this week I don’t really apologize because the content was too good not to share.  So here is an epic recap of The Florida Project 2 starring J-L Cauvin.

Part I: Steaks on a Train

We left NYC at 2:15pm for the 3:15pm Silver Meteor train. We were shown to our room on the train by Ismael, a baritone man of apparent Indian descent who referred to me as Mr. Lewis (it is a sign of honor on Amtrak and in India to refer to men by their middle name or by second part of their hyphenated first name) for the remainder of the trip.  The room was nice, we had nice meals and I even managed to sleep 5 hours (in 4 increments) throughout the South (either the bumps of the train or my half-black instincts wouldn’t allow me to sleep steady through the deep south at night.  We had steaks for dinner (when you get a room on the train all meals are included so I informed my girlfriend (Laura) that she had to order the most expensive item.  So she got the steak and two glasses of wine, which were not included so I informed her that my services did not include open bar (which made the train-obsessed retiree sitting across from us at dinner laugh (WHY DO I NEED TO REACH MILLENNIALS COMEDY CENTRAL WHEN I CAN CRACK UP THE GREATEST GENERATION???). I then engaged the retiree on a detailed discussion of rail in America, solidifying it as the central campaign issue of my 2024 third party candidacy for the White House.

America
Someone eat this motherfu*king steak on this motherfu*king train

And the best way to show my room and the flatulent-fueled train neighbors we had is to show you this short video tour of my room sponsored by MTV Cribs:

Part II: The Guitarist That Made an 8 Year Old Boy See God

When we arrived in Orlando we got a Lyft to the hotel, the Doubletree right near Universal Studios.  We showered to get 22 hours of Amtrak off of ourselves and then went out for dinner at Disney Springs a very nice lakeside shopping area.  We ate some seafood, I then got a Ghirardelli sundae (the official kick off of Diabetes Week in Orlando for me) and we sat down to watch some live entertainment.  It was just some open area where a guy with a ponytail was playing guitar.  We sat there for about 30 minutes watching this dude play the ever loving sh*t out of his guitar. And there were several kids dancing to the music, most just trying to make themselves the center of attention (and one couple who danced with their baby strapped to the husband’s chest while the wife cell phone recorded the baby and then the both congratulated the 8 month old on how great he was.  But one kid, some 8 year old white kid, may have actually experienced the Holy Ghost during the guitarist’s performance. He could not stop dancing and would not let his mom stop him.  But not in a rude douchey kid way, but in a “Mom, do you hear this? So you see this guitar magician? I cannot stop my body from moving!”  It was almost as entertaining as the guitarist, but not quite. It was virtuoso playing with great showman flair.  The guitarist’s name was Nicholas Marks (insert romance novel joke here) and he was selling albums after so as an artist who sells merch to varying degrees of success after shows I felt a kinship with Mr. Sparks… and then I completely ignored him after his show like so many of the awkward people I see after my shows. But I did go home and buy two of his albums off of iTunes and have not been disappointed.

Nicholas Marks

Part III: Andrew The Closer, Epcot and the Space Ride for Cucks

On Thursday morning it was time to begin tackling theme parks and first on the list was Epcot Center. But as we were leaving the lobby we were lulled into a casual conversation by “Andrew,” who was working for Hilton Honors (the Hilton rewards program). Normally I don’t fall for walk-by solicitations, but this photo of Andrew should show you that I was helpless to resist:

Well after Andrew was done talking to us I had purchased a 5 day vacation (granted – it will be 100% reimbursed once I take the trip) and was a member of Hilton Honors.  By the end of the trip I would never NOT see Andrew sitting and getting someone to sign on the dotted line in the lobby. So we made it to Epcot quickly after that, possibly because I was not longer weighed down with several hundred dollars. I will attempt to condense the highlights for you:

  • We went on a terrific car race ride, a great VR tour of the world called “Soaring”
  • Toured the nations of the world – true story – when I went to Epcot with my Mom c. 1992 they had “Africa”, which has now been replaced with “trading post” which in one way is better and in other ways, really bad since Morocco is the sole representative of Africa (also Russia and India don’t have representative stations, which feel like glaring omissions)
  • Mexico had a great area dedicated to Coco, which was a relief since outside the Mexico area was a welcome featuring Mexican icon Donald Duck in a sombrero.
El Donald Duck
  • The Space Simulator Laura and I went on was interesting. We had just eaten lunch and the “Orange” space simulator was supposed to be extremely forceful and intense, whereas the “Green Simulator” was less intense, which we knew because all the audio kept repeating that it was “Green-less intense.”  And the progression got insulting as we advanced toward the actual ride. “You have chosen green, less intense,” “You have chosen green, you pussy,” “You have chosen green, why are you still with him?”  But the green was plenty entertaining so we never felt a need to go to the “orange- congrats on having courage” ride.
  • Trying to buy t-shirts for my nephews proved somewhat difficult because the selection in many of the stores was so terrible.  When I was a kid there were dozens of t-shirts to choose from, but now it only seemed adults and girls still have an interest in clothing based on the Disney selections available.  Gadgets and toys seem to be all that were available in abundance for boys, so I hope my nephews enjoy their Minny Mouse dresses.

Part IV: Foreigners Feel Like The Worst Time at Universal Studios

Friday was the first day at Universal Studios. There were many highlights – Laura’s particular enjoyment of The Simpsons’ Ride and accompanying world, the butter beer served in the Harry Potter world (cream soda covered in a sweet, buttery foam) and The Transformers ride were among the highest highlights.  There was also my picture with only Sideshow Bob, which irritated Krusty The Clown, who had been the preferred photo partner in Simpsons Land, but not for me (#HatersUnite).  However, there were some down moments – like being too tall/large to fit into the Harry Potter ride in that section of the park, as well as The Mummy ride. But the heartbreak of having to send Laura on the rides alone paled in comparison to the havoc created on my vacation by ill-mannered, wealthy South American families.

Feature J-L and Sideshow Bob – America’s Most Hater 2nd Fiddles
Former prosecutor and cop enjoying large donuts

To offer you a glimpse of the rudeness I will present some statistics. The first number is the combined number of unsupervised children walking into me or stepping on my feet, families cutting in front for photos and generally rude incidents. The second number is apologies.

  • Asians 1/1
  • White People 3/2
  • Black People 2/1
  • South American families – 4577/1

Now I don’t know why this is, but by Saturday I started to feel like a combination of a Trump supporter and Ed Norton in 25th Hour. Being from New York City I am used to all types of people from natives to immigrants to tourists. And other than texting while walking being a rudeness epidemic I think the egalitarian nature of NYC’s streets and the communal and crowded experience of the NYC subway makes people, for the most part, respect personal space.  But these presumably wealthy South American families seem to have a different experience.  Which is understandable – if you were a fat 70 year old man with a hot 33 year old third wife, wouldn’t you feel entitled?  If you were a woman who did not appear to go to the gym, but had purchased an ass and breasts to look like a sexy, fit woman wouldn’t you think you are privileged?  And maybe the wealthy in your town or city are truly treated like royalty so it makes no sense that some American couple would expect an apology on the 3rd, 8th or 12th time your chubby prince kicks them or steps on them. Or if a couple is taking turns having pictures with Homer Simpson or Marmaduke and you jump in and take six different photos with various members of your family before the couple can get two, perhaps in your native land people would never dream of even being in the same space as you and it would never occur to you to wait or acknowledge that you had interrupted.  As I said earlier I know these countries are fine and a lot of their people are good, but when it comes to Orlando it appears some good countries are sending their shithole people!

The good news of Saturday was that we rode the Hogwarts Express and I was able to fit into the other Harry Potter ride (though it did malfunction midway which was mildly distressing.  We also went on the Kong Island ride, the Spider Man ride and a Cat in the Hat ride (9 year old me would have liked it), but sadly the Jurassic Park ride was down for annual maintenance.

Well, maybe I will see you next time Mr. Rex

Part V: Orlando Magic and Greek Freaks

Saturday night we went to the Orlando Magic vs Milwaukee Bucks game.  Tickets were courtesy of a law school buddy, who has season tickets in the wheelchair section (great seats – center court and because they are the wheelchair row they can accommodate handicapable people like me who are discriminated on the basis of height (see e.g. Harry Potter and The Mummy rides).  The game was great – we got to see The Greak Freek (Giannis Ant…) one of the game’s top young stars, but perhaps most memorable was the mascot of the Denver Nuggets.  It was Stuff the Magic Dragon’s birthday and as a 2 time reigning MVP mascot in the NBA he had several NBA mascots to help him celebrate throughout the game.  Stuff was impressive (handstand in costume on a hoverboard), but the Nuggets mascot was one of the funniest live performers I have ever seen.  I had a ton of fun at the game, which may be because I had no rooting interest except to be entertained.  But I was not done with Greek Freaks.

The Greek Freak
Great double jumbotron at the Magic arena
The GOAT

On Sunday, when I got back from Mass I went to my hotel Starbucks for a green tea. The Starbucks was not busy at all so I got in line behind a nice looking couple – John Stamos and his pregnant wife. I just stood there for 3 minutes while they gathered all their drinks and food items, perhaps for a drive somewhere. I looked at Uncle Jessie a few times and he looked at me several times with the “Is this guy an athlete (former)?”  I wanted to take a picture (which might have made Laura even more jealous than just the story), but I am always uncomfortable asking celebrities for a picture – it feels like an interruption to their day and besides, they were nice enough not to ask for a picture with the #ComedyMogul so the least I can do is reciprocate.

Stamos and wife… staying at my hotel #ComedyMogul

So that was the trip – hope you enjoyed reading this epic. Time to fly home (a relationship cannot survive two 22 hour train rides in one week) and watch my dog Cookie wag her tail at me when she sees me return… and then pee herself whimpering with love when she sees Laura (not a joke). Home sweet home.

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Black Days and Boogie Nights in DC: A Special…

Normally my road recaps are about weeks or weekends performing comedy somewhere in America. However, this recap, because of its greatness and volume of information and humor will be my first road recap (that I can remember) that is simply a review of a non-comedy trip. I went to my girlfriend’s 20th high school reunion this weekend in Arlington, Virginia.  Before you are done reading you will read about slavery, pornography and something far more depraved – a lying scumbag on Amtrak. You will also learn about a legitimate comedy milestone for me as well as chaperoning my Mom to a Bill Maher stand up comedy performance (well, that will be on this week’s podcast).  So get ready to learn, laugh and hate!

The Preamble: The Train, The Porn Star and Mean Girls?

As usual, any trip via Amtrak for me will involved the “future glimpse at a dystopian future” known as Penn Station.  My girlfriend and I saw the red caps bringing  bags to gate 12 East so we, along with a dozen or so other geniuses, lined up there to beat the eventual crush of thousands.  Then, the worst thing happened: the gate was announced as 12 West, which meant we were at the back of the line we thought we were starting.  As Jesus and Amtrak said, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Of course there was a guy I remember cutting about 120 people and I wanted to throw him down the escalator, but then I remembered this is not a Trump rally, just Penn Station.

When we got to DC we headed to the Hyatt in Rosslyn, VA which was 2 blocks from the site of the reunion.  We then ate at a nearby place called District Taco, which was incredibly delicious (including the rare Boylan soda fountain), so expect a big bump in sales after this endorsement DT.  After that it was time to meet up with my girlfriend’s two best friends from high school and their significant others. Here is where things start to get interesting.

There are three main facts learned at the dinner:

  1. One of their classmates is now a porn star!
  2. That class mate is a man 🙁
  3. My girlfriend and her friends may have been the mean girls in high school.

We will cover the first two in the “Boogie Night” section, but the third was interesting because when I asked my girlfriend about being the mean girls in high school, she did not deny it. Instead, she said “I think I was the nicest one!” which is a denial worthy of a Sean Spicer press conference.  When I asked one of the two friends later in the weekend, there was not a flat denial, but rather a series of explanations, which confirmed they were the mean girls.  So I wondered if I, along with the two other significant others were being set up as human shields for some 20th Reunion school revenge shooting.  The rest of the night I just paced around the hotel like Marion Barry yelling “Bitch set me up!”

The reunion was not fetch.

Too Much Black History!

The next morning, my girlfriend and I went to the National African American Museum of Lit History and Fire Emjoi Culture.  The place is stunning, though it requires a full day.  We spent four hours there and only got through half of the museum (the lower three levels are the hard core history from slavery through President Obama and it involves a lot of reading, which keeps things to a fairly slow pace, especially when considering how densely packed the large area is with information, displays and artifacts. The top 3 floors cover more culture, sports, etc. and I figured we could see that on our next trip to DC.  But at one point, my girlfriend and I were feeling so overwhelmed by the sheet depth and quantity of information that I just yelled out “THERE ARE TOO MANY BLACK… PIECES OF HISTORY!” at which point I got a lot of stares. I quickly pulled out a copy of my Sprint Cell Phone bill to prove my half blackness and everything was forgiven.

And as if there was not enough black history going on, while in the museum I got a message that my album Fireside Craps would be the first of my albums to make it on to the Billboard Comedy Charts (so look for annoying photos on social media from me when that happens this week).

Among my chief complaints about the museum (after they should have gotten twice the amount of space – though if they were limited to this square footage it is a marvel of design fitting everything in in the manner in which they did) is that there was no display dedicated to angry white guys yelling “But my parents didn’t own slaves!” nor was there anything dedicated to white women running amok with black twitter vernacular.  But they did a strong job nonetheless.  Though sadly, I expected to see a display of Amber Rose next to either Sojourner Truth or Rosa Parks, but I guess sex positive heroes have not found their place in the museum yet!  Here is a photo journal of highlights from my first trip:

The first MAGA hat on record
Old Frederick Douglass looked like old Redd Foxx!
GOAT Woke White Man
One of the first (if not the first) black congressman: Keenan Thompson of SNL
Thomas Jefferson with the Declaration of Independence in the background and then immediately behind him bricks with the names of many of his slaves behind him
I was too big too live in sharecroppers’ cabins
Boston in the 1970s. One of the great horrific photos of all time in American History
Toussaint Louverture – leader of the Haitian Revolution and the 2nd most famous person of Haitian origin in the whole museum that day!
Part of the display dedicated to President Obama – the 2nd most famous bi-racial person at the Museum that day!

Boogie Night

Now it was time for the reunion, which was located in a beautiful top floor space overlooking the Potomac River and basically every landmark in DC.   However, because of the cost of renting that space the reunion was left with beer, wine, an appetizer station and someone’s iPod playing hits of the 90s over the PA system. It felt like someone buying a Park Avenue penthouse, but only being able to afford to furnish it with an air mattress.

So as I said hi to a few people (and was mistaken as someone else, but then had to have a 5 minute conversation wit the guy to ease his embarrassment) and then I spotted someone that might be the porn star. I worked for the DA’s office in the Bronx for 3.5 years so maybe it is unfair of me to use my skills like this, but I have a keen eye for clues:

  • Dirty handsome. Tan, lean jacked, hair product – like Zac Efron if he had been abandoned as a child.
  • Poor eye contact, but very friendly.
  • Sort of a child-like voice
  • accompanied by a woman under 23 covered in tattoos, with a shapely bum and friendly, but exhausted eyes
  • said when speaking to my girlfriend “I work out of Vegas, LA, and San Francisco” (something I coined as the BermudAIDS Triangle” later that night)

When I later spoke to my girlfriend’s friend’s husband he said “that’s him, right?” and I said “he had me at Vegas, LA and San Fran.”  I am sure that somewhere in Vegas there is a blog being written by the porn star about how he knew who the comedian was in the party:

  • Too many jokes
  • The frame of a guy who used to workout, but now has the cream filling of a cupcake
  • Works in NYC, even though “works” really means has a day job
  • Dating some Tina Fey-ish chick because that is as close as he will get to SNL

Church and the Devil

On Sunday morning I woke up to head to Mass before catching the train (I upgrade my girlfriend to the Accela so we could take the train home together #ReunionMogul). I had originally needed to leave earlier than her because I was taking my Mom to see Bill Maher in Newark Sunday night as her birthday present (I stored up just enough African-American Museum Wokeness credits to attend the show – that show and experience will be recapped on this week’s Righteous Prick Podcast Tuesday morning).  I went to St Michael’s Cathedral near the DC Improv – the Church that Pope Francis And I attend while in Washington. DC.  However, Mass was at 830am and as I found out the hard way, the DC Metro does not open until 800am – what kind of major city does not open their local train until 8am?!  And then it was a 20 minute wait for the train once it opened (they should start a couple of trains in the middle of the route, but what do I know).  So I was late to Mass, but I was sure to pray for the DC Metro system (“love your enemies/haters” – Jesus Chris and Katt Williams).

I then met my girlfriend at Union Station and we got on the Accela to NYC.  Once we hit Philadelphia the train started to get crowded. A few people asked the man sitting in front of us if they could sit with him. He said that the bag next to him belonged to someone who had gone to the Cafe car.  When we got to Newark (ten minutes from NYC) and the train was even more crowded and he told a woman “This guy has been gone for like an hour so you can probably sit here,” but she declined. Well, as we pulled into NYC this piece of shit stands up and picks up the bag. It was his bag. I almost said something to a conductor when he claimed it had been left there (hey, what if it is a bomb), but I didn’t.  I wanted to say something to the guy as we were leaving, but all I really wanted to do was set his bag on fire, so that would not have been constructive.  From his affected mannerisms I think he may have been in town to celebrate PRIDE Day/Week/Ethnic Female Guts Spilling Out of Crop Tops Day in NYC, but he should have been… ASHAMED! *drops mic*

The best shot I could get of the guy on Amtrak. Should be on FBI’s Most Wanted list

Get J-L’s New Album Fireside Craps on iTunes for only $4.99

Subscribe to the Righteous Prick Podcast. New every Tuesday. This week a full review of the Bill Maher show in NJ + Mateen Stewart as guest.

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Road Comedy Recap: The Fairfax of Life

This weekend I was in Fairfax, Virginia to perform at headline at bless two restaurants. I was booked by a DC area comedian a month ago, negotiating a decent rate for myself (as the author of The Comedy Art of the Deal I adhere strictly to rule #1 of comedy business: “When possible, try to make a profit, but don’t insist”).  Once I guaranteed myself more than $0 profit I closed on the deal like my name was Mariano Trump Rivera and prepared for highly anticipated gigs at The French Quarter Brasserie (Saturday) and The Blue Iguana (Sunday).  As usual this story will involve Hotwire.com, Amtrak, sweaty walks alongside highways and small crowds full of passion. So let’s begin this epic journey of comedy genius.

Saturday: How The Sausage Gets Made

I headed to Amtrak for a 1:17pm poor people’s train. When the announcement was made for the train gate, most people actually got into a line (it sort of resembled the zombies in World War Z uniting to try and murder humanity, but if you travel from NY Penn Station with any regularity you know that this is a distinct improvement).  But of course, several animals just cut the line like they did not know there was a line. I wish people like that got the death penalty. Seriously.  People who murder are not deterred by the death penalty.  If you are such an outlier to commit murder, knowledge of the legal system is not a consideration weighed before lighting the elementary school on fire.  However, people who do annoying things like rap loudly on the subway, litter, or cut lines for Amtrak could potentially be deterred if they found out the result was a firing squad.

The train arrived in DC on time and I got on the Metro headed to Tysons Corner, Virginia. I was staying at the Westin hotel in TC because thanks to hotwire.com (as I shared with the audiences) is a site where they give you cheaper rates, but they only give you the general area and star rating of the hotel.  So I chose a highly rated hotel for $68 a night that was within 450 miles of where I wanted to be and landed up with the Westin, which was a 1.5 mile walk from the Metro. So over the course of the next 27 minutes I hauled my bags through Tysons Corner looking like a beige, sweaty ISIS recruit. I got to the hotel with about 30 minutes to spare before show booker and comedian Jon Yeager was to pick me up from the hotel.  So I dropped my stuff off, did snow angels on top of the hotel comforter to build up my immune system and then headed down to the lobby.

The Wild Wild Westin

We arrived at the French Quarter Brasserie (New Orleans food and Jazz-style comedy, in that it was not very popular) and I decided to have the “beans and sausage entree,” which was to play a profound role later in the weekend.  I then met several local comedians that I had only known through Facebook up to that point, heard several solid sets and then went up to perform (after about 90 minutes I then went up and did 55 minutes – I referred to the show as more telethon than comedy show).  The crowd was good, though a little fatigued and I even ended up nailing a newer bit:

After the show I bought a pack of donuts, reviewed my set and then went to sleep, think all was right with the world.

Sunday: Louis Armstrong’s Revenge & Killing The Blue Iguana

Sunday I woke up and ate a healthy breakfast and then returned to my room to binge watch some Hulu before heading out to do 3 Guys On Podcast (listen to the episode here). For me, Netflix is the wife streaming service. She holds it down for me at home, provides me with the best content of any streaming service and is central to my streaming life.  Hulu, as I would inform the crowd that night, is a road groupie whore streaming service.  I watch shows on Hulu in hotels and occasionally on my phone if I can get a private, sneaky, sleazy moment (to further this point the first thing I did when I got home on Monday was watch a new documentary on Netflix – also, notice how “Netflix documentaries” have replaced “books” for the way my generation and younger discus things to sound smart? That is why we are an increasingly stupid population, while simultaneously more arrogant).  Well, just as I was ready to Hulu and Pimp Slap, the beans and sausage came upon me as unwanted as another season of Orange is the New Black.  I then proceeded to spend the next 90 minutes losing about 10 lbs (with vomit playing the best supporting actor in the new Hulu series “New Orleans Food Exacts Revenge for Katrina on Toilet Water.”  The food had been tasty and I am pretty certain it was my delicate system that was at fault, but if any more shit came out of me I was going to have to name my asshole Happy Madison Studios.

Well after that ordeal I made my way to Pentagon City to do the aforementioned 3 Guys On Podcast. And then got a ride in (Listen people, when you are a #ComedyMogul other comedians drive you around!) to DC to go to one of my favorite Churches in the country – St Michael’s Cathedral in DC (2 blocks from the DC Improv). I went in for Mass and something happened that really annoyed me. A very curvy Latin woman decided to sit in front of me at Mass.  Many big Churches have sound proof rooms for families to sit in if they have babies.  However, crying babies do not annoy me. Their cries are the wondrous sounds of new life and nothing could be more like a choir of angels than that.  However, when I am trying to be spiritual and chaste and pure, I don’t need some 20 year old Salma Hayek sharing her Satanic blessings within a Peace Be With You handshake from me!

After leaving Mass I headed back to Fairfax for the Blue Iguana.  Greeting me there was DMV comedy legend Rob Maher. We caught up and as usual I was happy to have him there, not only to chat with, but also for him to watch my set.  I still maintain that if I am to remain a quasi-nobody in the world of comedy, I would rather do that in DC than NYC.  Also on the show because he probably wants to be written up, was DC area comic Danny Charnley who I referred to as “Meth head David Beckham.” He had me laughing both nights, but especially Sunday night because I was paying more attention.  Then I went up and had, with no exaggeration, one of the ten best shows of my nearly 14 years performing comedy.

The audience was small.  It was 945 on a Sunday night when I reached the stage.  This is a point where someone can mail it in or try to make something happen.  I decided that I wanted to make something happen.  I scrapped most of my more prepared material and decided to use the 55 minutes I was on stage to work on some major new bits I want to be part of my 2018 album (tentative title Light Privilege, possible new title after the show Rain Whore).  I spoke about and sang Chris Cornell, did 20 minutes on a traumatic relationship that yielded absolute gold, discussed why Marcus Allen’s legendary penis can be directly linked to Donald Trump’s election win, and after talking about breasts for about ten minutes, compared a woman at the show, who had the largest breasts I have ever seen in person, to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (“whatever you do Ray, don’t think of breasts”).  My Trump impression killed (Obviously #GOAT), but rarely have I felt as great a connection with a crowd as I did Sunday night.  I think they appreciated my honesty, my energy and obviously my skills for a lightly attended show. To my pleasant surprise, after the show I ended up selling like 9 CDs, which to extrapolate, would be like selling 10,000 CDs at a full comedy club show. There are no clips to share as I taped it more just for material improvement purposes, but it confirmed my feelings that I am rapidly approaching having a new great hour, on the level of my best album Keep My Enemies Closer). It was a really fantastic night and the kind of show that made me feel like I am not wasting my time with comedy.

Epilogue: Monday Amtrak 

On the way home I took the Accela because the Sunday performance demanded an upgrade.  A guy tried to cut me in line and, already having PTSD from the cutting in NYC two days earlier, I told him there was a “fu*king line.” He apologized, which was hollow of course because he knew what he was doing. He then ran to the 1st class customer line and cut me and about 25 other people. I took a deep breath and said to myself, “Well, if he is in 1st class he actually should already be on.” But then I scanned the 1st Class car and he was not there.  I then made a blood oath that if I ever see that man again, to throw a food item at him.

I sat down on the train next to a very nice older woman and as has become my Amtrak tradition, proceeded to have a great conversation with her for most of the trip. She reached the conflicting conclusion about me that many people, including family members come to, which is that all that I need is representation or PR to get my skills a wider audience, while also seriously questioning what a Williams-Gtown Law grad is doing wasting his time with a struggling comedy career.  Well if you need an answer to that you can ask some of the people or giant breasts at The Blue Iguana. *mic drop*

Blog

Road Comedy Recap: A Special Episode of This is…

Recently it has felt like stand up comedy is less a passion or profession I am pursuing and more an angry Albanian engaged in a blood feud with me. Beyond my usual gripes about the comedy industry (see 90% of my podcast episodes for more specifics) my last few weeks have felt like an installment of the Final Destination film franchise, where Death is determined to stop me from performing comedy.  Last week, after being booked for the Toledo Funny Bone since January I decided to email the club to confirm my spot (it would be the third time performing there, but knowing that the Comedy Grim Reaper is determined to push me back into the full time practice of law I figured that I should confirm just in case).  The response I got back was “Yes, the hotel is the same, but we don’t have you until the end of the month.” Now this was 27 hours before I was scheduled to leave for Toledo, so I had my round trip train ticket and more importantly had not picked up any day time work for the week (which pays more than a week of featuring, so it was a double whammy). And add on to the fact that I am booked elsewhere when Toledo said they have me.  I will spare you the transcript of my reaction within my apartment to myself after a series of cordial, neutered emails, but the look on my dog’s face said “Please just send me back to my abusive trailer park in Kentucky. This “comedian” (even my dog puts air paw quotes around my career) is too angry.”  With that preamble, I will now take you to this past weekend’s comedy journey in Albany, NY.

The Grim Reaper Strikes Amtrak

In a sequence worthy of its own episode on This Is Us my Friday morning unraveled like the Comedy Grim Reaper was gunning for an Emmy.  I arrived at NY Penn Station at 10:50 am for my 11:20am train.  Well, little did I know that a train derailment in New Jersey had caused havoc (my guess is that it was either the Comedy Grim Reaper or Mr. Glass from Unbreakable testing to see if my comedy will is unbreakable). I will now deliver the news/plot in bullet points:

  • Wait for news until 1pm
  • Told at 1pm to take Metro North from Grand Central Station to Yonkers where an Amtrak train was waiting to go to Albany and points north
  • Take subway to Grand Central and catch the 1:51pm train to Yonkers
  • Arrive at Yonkers at 2:20pm – told train must wait.
  • Go to vending machine at Yonkers Station because the Albany-bound trains do not have snack cars (#FindOurSnackCars). Machine eats one of my dollars (cue the This is Us acoustic singer songwriter depressing song)
  • Train finally cleared to leave at 3:30pm
  • Arrive in Albany at 5:35pm
  • Get in cab with 4 other people and forced to ride all over Albany for an hour before being dropped off at the Hampton Inn
  • (cue even more This Is Us-ish music – get a text from my girlfriend that her brother… wait for it… was on the train that was part of the derailment that set this all in motion – he is OK).
  • I have sex with Mandy Moore at the hotel.

So with 20 minutes before the start of the first show Thursday I texted my girlfriend saying that I needed to quit comedy.  Most of what happens in comedy makes me angry and that anger can sometimes provide fuel and motivation. But the trip to Albany, coming off of a week of a cancelled gig felt more helpless and pathetic (which, make no mistake about it, it is). End credits.  “Next week on This is Us…”

Great Crowds Save The Day

My mood was almost immediately uplifted once I got to the club on Friday night.  Maybe it was Pavlovian – going near a stage with Guns N Roses playing in the background is as good a set of factors to trigger involuntary happiness in me, but it would be unfair to characterize it that way.  The crowds were really good and generous the entire weekend.  The headliner was John Henton, who most notably played the handyman on Living Single, a show that aired on Fox from 1993-1998, also known as a great time for a young man to discover that Tootie from The Facts of Life was all grown up (the Michael Jordan of “Damn, she’s grown!” to Ariel Winter’s Crag Ehlo).  They were great laughers and even more importantly great buyers – sold out of all my CDs over the weekend.

The Rest of My Albany Trip

I saw the movie Life (really good).

I am working on new bits towards a 2018 album. Here is a clip of that bit making progress:

And if you do not follow me on social media here is a pic of me seeing one of Albany’s prized tourist attractions “Giant, Dirty Pile of Snow”

Hartford, CT starting Thursday.  Tell them I am coming.  And Hell’s coming with me… (this is from Tombstone, in case you think I am being exceedingly morbid).

Blog

Road Comedy Recap: 36 Hours in Baltimore

This weekend I was featuring at Magooby’s Joke House in Timonium, Maryland (sorry for the Trump-esque title of the blog – it was really 36 hours in a suburb of Baltimore, but that is not as good a title).  It was a weekend of highs and lows (as Michelle Obama said of my comedy career “When J-L thinks his career will go high, it will definitely go low”), sickness, multiple perfect sets, one dumb or tired crowd (yes YOU LATE SHOW FRIDAY), a cozy Amtrak ride and a too cozy Greyhound ride.  In other words, the trip was all that you have come to expect from road comedy from me, but in a more condensed amount of time.  So here ya go:

Friday: Fu*k You Sony!!!!!!!

I arrived in Baltimore on Friday around 2:15pm off of the Amtrak and then hopped on the “light rail” (basically two trolley cars where no one has ever taken my ticket in 3 years – but at $1.70 I can afford it, even if it is just the honor code). I then made the 15 minute walk from the station to my Red Roof Inn Plus (plus is for the fact that they have some rooms with extra amenities… I was not in the plus section). It is the same place I stayed in Fall of 2015 so I knew they got 5 stars on the J-L Road Comedy Guide for Hotels. To illustrate:

5 stars – no thefts or assaults on me or any other guests while I am there

4 stars – no thefts or assaults on me

3 stars – no visible stains of body fluids on sheets or chairs in my room, but possible thefts or assaults on others

2 stars – La Quinta Inn in New Haven, CT

1 star – sewage

One mistake I made during this trip was not bringing my parka. I had no idea how cold it would actually be in Timonium.  It was The Revenant-cold.  And I had a 1.2 mile walk to the club each night and a .8 mile to Panera Bread. Within ten minutes of my first walk I knew I would get sick (nose still running as of the typing of this sentence).  So at 6:30pm I made my way to the club.  But these were no ordinary shows.  I was also planning on using one of my 4 sets as a submission for Comedy Central’s new season of The Half Hour.  I have dozens of sets this year that would be admirable submissions, but knowing that every 5 minutes of material having, roast battling sycophant is submitting 30 minutes I at least wanted to make sure mine did not have any extraneous material that may happen… GULP… during a working comedian’s set!!!!

So as I have done hundreds of times, I set up my camera in the back of the room and proceed to crush (I am just referring to set up the camera when I say hundreds of times – I have crushed 1000s of times!).  Like a perfect set.  After the set I walked up to my camera and saw that it had turned off.  Well, this model of the Sony Handycam series, newer than the previous ones I had, keeps a backup of everything that you cannot delete. So my memory was full and shut off the camera halfway through the set.  After cursing and pacing for 15 minutes, the club owner lent me an SD card to use for additional memory.  However, I already knew the 2nd set would not go as well, even though it was going to be a bigger crowd.  I knew, because it was me.  And I was right.  I had a strong set on the late show.  There was just one problem – very few people in the crowd seemed to agree.  I actually did a new bit at the end of my set called “J-L blames crowd for ruining his Comedy Central tape and his life.”  That actually got them laughing.

I got a ride home from local legend/comedian Rob Maher who was nice enough to come watch and hang out at the 2nd show. I then spent 90 minutes researching how to clear the memory on my Handycam.  I was able to find and implement the solution.  And that is how the future of Comedy Central changed forever…

Saturday: Homeless in Panera Bread and Another Perfect Set

On Saturday I had to check out of my hotel. Normally I would stay Saturday night and go home Saturday morning, but when I broke down how much I was earning (not a lot) and did the math of what 2 nights at the hotel and two train tickets would be (75% of not a lot) I opted to get a Greyhound early Sunday morning (12:40am) thus saving me most of the cost of a train trip and one night at a hotel.  #ComedyMogul  So with an 11 am check out I had to kill 8.5 hours without a home before Saturday shows.  So I went to Panera Bread and wrote two sketches while eating a 1030 breakfast and a 2 pm lunch.  And just a travel tip – no one does hot chocolate better than Panera.  Hot, but immediately drinkable and tastes like someone melted chocolate into a cup.  Only thing is overkill – they recently added chocolate chip marshmallows to the hot chocolate which, although tasty, turn a great beverage into a calorie heavy sugar rush.  I then made my way to Starbucks across the parking lot outside and read for another two hours before going to McDonald across the highway for dinner.  #ComedyMogul

My Panera Bread fan meet n greet event was a huge success

I owe a great debt of gratitude to the Saturday crowds at Magoobys.  I was already sick and dreading the pending Greyhound trip. I had only sold 4 cds to the first two audiences on Friday. The pressure was now on after going 0-2 on Comedy Central tapings. And I had no idea if my camera would fu*k up again.  Well what transpired was the comedy equivalent of Michael Jordan’s flu game.  The first crowd was great. Every joke hit and the camera taped!  Headliner said to me “That was the set; make sure that camera taped it.”  So when people ask when Comedy Central changed for the better* you can point to that perfect set that then elevated their series, etc.

*Set Deposited into Recycle Bin on desktop January 1, 2017

The second set also went great as a nice bonus and I ended up selling 21 CDs between the two shows.  I then took Uber to the Greyhound station for the final part of this epic 36 hour trilogy.

I love that the bathrooms have Kathy Griffin and Dane Cook at Magoobys. I did not verify, but I would like it to mean "for female shit" and "for male shit"

Sunday: Greyhound Abdi & Canola

Exclusive shot of me on Greyound (c) Annie Leibovitz

I got on my Greyhound bus at 12:40am. Before me on line was a man, probably in his late 40s who bore a slight resemblance to Barrkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips fame.  The man had a backpack, a suitcase and a large plastic bag.  He had a ticket that indicated he was at the end or in the middle of an epic trip (having  taken a couple of long Greyhound trips earlier in my career his trip had at least 3 bus changes.  But beyond all these details it seemed like the man might have been slightly developmentally disabled.  As I got on the bus, having dreaded this trip all day, I thought about this man – Where was he going? Where was he coming from? Was he safe? Did he have friends or relatives helping him?  It was making me sad as I settled into my seat thinking about how meaningless comedy feels in a world where a man like that might be struggling just to maintain his existence.  And then my bus driver  yelled into the bus audio system:

“Good evening everybody!”

silence. (half the bus sleeping)

“I said GOOD EVENING EVERYBODY!!!”

buh buh hello bitch damn

“My name is Canola and I am your driver tonight.”

Me: laughing.

So I guess laughter can have a useful place when you are feeling down.  Thanks Canola. And good luck Greyhound Abdi. I hope you are OK.

Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER &  ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.