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Road Comedy Recap: Boston Sleeps With The Phishes

So this weekend I made a trip to Boston for an encore performance at City Winery. Last July my trip to Boston represented one of my first post/mid/where are we in the pandemic comedy road trips and it was a smashing success. Despite my pessimism at only being offered a Monday night spot I got around 150 people in the main room, met lots of fans and returned home to NJ the next day a conquering hero.  So this year I felt even happier to get a Friday spot at CW.  I had initially booked two Friday shows (the smaller room, which is better for comedy, seats 75 people so I figured 150 on a Monday in July = at least 150 tickets on a Friday in July). As my friend Duane said to me after the show on Friday, “I tried to buy tickets for the late show, but it was sold out.”  I replied, “We canceled it because sales were awful.” He replied “Well you could have said nothing and let me think it was sold out.” I replied, “for better, and most certainly for worse, my entire comedy career’s essence forces me to say exactly what I just said.”  So now that you know the middle of the road story, let’s get going on the whole thing.

The Way to Boston

I took a day off from work (I now try to factor in the cost of  vacation days when taking a comedy gig, the way companies should factor carbon output into their value) and hopped on the 10:03am Acela to Boston.  The train was uneventful. I helped my seatmate, a petite Asian woman, put her suitcase in the luggage compartment. Either I am getting weaker or Thor’s hammer was in her suitcase because that thing was heavy AF.  The real highlight came when a fan, before departing one of the stops just outside of Boston tapped me on the shoulder and said she was a big fan.  I said I was headed to Boston to do a show and she said she knew but her husband had tickets to Phish.  As if that was not bad enough, some guy on the train (one of these Phish people that apparently have unlimited vacation days to tour the country to watch Phish) chimed in with “you’re going to Phish? Me too!”  I wanted to say “Hey fella, can’t you see this is a fan-entertainer conversation?  No one asked what the Ungrateful Dead fan thinks about any of this!”  But instead I thanked the fan for her support and waited to arrive at South Station (as I learned this morning before leaving for NYC it is actually the Michael Dukakis Train Station – PUT SOME GREEK SALAD RESPECT ON HIS HAIRY NAME!)

City Winery

I walked to my hotel, Club Quarters, from MDTS. Serviceable enough hotel, though my bathroom smelled very musky. Then it was time for sound check. The young staff on the show was all very nice and positive.  The lead was a young woman whose experience working with artists and her psych degree clearly gave her a good set of skills to communicate with giant, despondent, self-deprecating comedic geniuses before shows.

I made my way back to my hotel to shower and go over my set list (of the show, at least 50 minutes were written in the last 2 months, post the new special). And on an extra good note, my friend Al, part of a Williams College group of friends coming to the show (Utah Jazz Coach and Class of 2008 Eph Will Hardy was disappointingly not there – he must still be busy helping demolish my favorite team – WHY COULDN’T IT BE AN AMHERST GRAD TO DO THAT!?), had been able to get on a last flight out of Chicago after his planned flight was canceled.

So I went on stage at 7:20 and outside of a bit on Mark Wahlberg and comparing terror attacks in Boston and NY to the Red Sox and Yankees, which did fine but ruffled some, I think the set was a big success.  I do not want to mention some of the topics (simply because several of them are original and I would not want to inspire someone else to do bad versions of my work), but I will probably post some audio/and or video to my patreon this week.  I also busted out an impromptu George Carlin impression for a bit where I was parsing some language.  One fan was at the show 2 days after his father had passed, which was very touching and would have been a much more valid excuse to miss a show than Phish (just kidding Acela fan!).

But it turned out that in addition to all of Boston going away every weekend in the Summer, there were a ton of big concerts in the area on Friday. Not only Phish, but Zac Brown Band and, the big one nearby, New Kids On The Block, whose audience could only be described as a “white, middle-aged flesh tsunami” (as I dubbed it after the show).  After the show my group of Williams friends and I made our way to a nearby sports bar to watch the Red Sox-Yankees game, which the Yankees predictably lost (since I was watching).

Saturday

The next morning I woke up and read on a park bench downtown while having a cup of coffee.  As I took in downtown Boston, and wrote in a tweet, it felt like watching American History get molested by a shopping mall.  The proximity of commercialism and historical landmarks is so jarring, at least to a visitor.  I then went with my friends and some of their kids to a family friendly brewery called Trillium (seems like an oxymoron, but it seemed to work – beer, kids, driving – what could go wrong?!). I had 3 drinks and then proceeded to play whiffle ball with everyone.  My personal highlights were ripping a double with one hand and on a routine grounder, fielding it and then tumbling to the ground as some combo of beer, surgically repaired knee and 43 year old-thinking-he’s still 29-clumsiness took hold of me.  I cannot imagine what that looked like to half a dozen elementary school age kids, but it had to have been jarring.

An inaccurate depiction of a buzzed J-L playing whiffle ball

I had to take a Lyft back to Boston early because I had to go to Mass (since I am on Amtrak all morning and they don’t provide a snack car chaplain). I arrived in Little Italy for Mass, which meant I had to kiss my hand after doing every sign of the cross.  I also noticed that there were a lot more young and attractive people at Mass in Boston than in NYC or NJ – is this because they are still trying to bag a Kennedy?

After Mass I went back to my hotel and prepped to go watch the Sox and Yankees with my friends, but after a long, fun and tiring day drinking and playing whiffle ball in the Sun the plan was nixed.  So I did not get to watch the Yanks (of course they won 14-1).

Sunday

I got up early for the 6:35am train back to NYC, which is where I am writing this.  It is not an Acela train, but I am sitting next to a guy wearing a Brown University Sailing hat.  It makes sense that I am on this regular people, slow train – comedians on the downside of their career are right at home.  But someone on an Ivy League sailing team?  You are not doing life right if you are on the poor people train.

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Road Comedy Recap: No Sidewalk Suburbs of Chicago

I am sitting in Chicago’s Union Station (the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge to be more specific) racing to write this before my train gets called.  This first leg of my whistle-please-stop doing comedy tour in Chicago is complete and now it is on to leg two – the Southwest Chief, which is Amtrak’s daily train from Chicago to Los Angeles, with stops at many cities, including Las Vegas,… New Mexico?  I did not know there was a Las Vegas, New Mexico, but I hope it is known as Virtue City.  I am taking Amtrak and Greyhound this entire trip because after 2 years of largely working 2 jobs in my apartment, I wanted built-in relaxation where I could not do anything besides look out a window, read or watch a show, even if I wanted to.  So let’s see if I can type the Chicago portion quickly before getting on the train!

Capitol Limited

On Tuesday I made my way to Washington, DC to catch the Capitol Limited – their DC to Chicago train.  I had been upgraded to a full bedroom (from a “roomette,” which is French for “too small for a giant”  – spoiler I am taking a roomette to LA) and settled in.  I watched the entire season of Hawkeye on Disney+ (solid) and made it halfway through the first of four books I packed, David Frum’s Trumpocracy (an autographed gift from the author) and ate some decent meals courtesy of my my excellent train car attendant , who looked like an extra from Dances with Wolves, but sounded like Hank Azaria in The Birdcage.  The train was actually running ahead of time (I slept about 4.5 hours during the night) when we left Toledo but due to train traffic and mechanical difficulties on other trains we got to Chicago 2 hours late. THANKS BIDEN!

I am an Amtrak sleeping car tall

When I got to Chicago I hopped in a Lyft to Schaumburg, IL where the Chicago Improv is located.  It was my first time back at the Chicago Improv since 2010. That year, one year into my “I don’t need another job after being laid off because I am going to make it in comedy,” I went to audition for feature work at the club. The pay for the spot was $50, which slightly exceeded my $100 hotel and $405 Jet Blue round trip flight.  I was passed that night to feature at the club… as I joked once “I will end up headlining clubs before they ever feature me.” Prescient and pessimistic. Prescimistic!  (trademarking that since it is basically my brand).

I arrived at my Hampton Inn at 1145am, but as people who have seen my stand up recently, the Hampton Inn has really been the hospitality hero of my comedy career.  They let me check in at 1145am, which was a nice help since the Chicago temperature was a balmy 0 when I arrived.  If I ever get big enough to sign with a hotel chain it will be Hampton Inn.

MTV Cribs – Amtrak bedroom edition

Now my show was not until Thursday night so I had time to do my favorite road activity: legal work in my hotel room.  I got to town early by a day for a few reasons – so I had a day to feel acclimated and fresh and also because a social media friend that I made during the pandemic was a local TV personality and had told me to let him know if I got a gig in Chicago. This was no BS offer – the guy had me on via zoom twice in 2020 and was just very kind and supportive – he looked LA, but clearly had solid midwestern values.  Well, as the JL Jinx would have it, after 10 years on air the show had been canceled.

Now the night before I left for Chicago I received an email that my tickets sales in LA for February 6th were not good, so as often happens to me when alone, negativity snowballs and I began to ask myself “what the fu*k am I doing?” And with that joyous thought I fell asleep.

Street Walker

A common complaint I have had throughout my travels in America is, “why aren’t there more sidewalks?”  No wonder we are a fat country!  Well, Schaumburg has sidewalks… but they were all buried under a mound of snow. So to walk for lunch or a coffee on Thursday I found myself walking on the edge of quasi-highways, looking like a drifter. I never got hit by a car, but one person yelled at me “Run Forrest Run” as I trotted past traffic, which did not make me feel optimistic for the comedy sensibilities of the people of Chicago suburbs. Really?  Run Forrest Run is the best you’ve got?

After a meal at PF Chang’s (I like to lean on my eastern philosophy and training before a stressful show) I made my way into the Chicago Improv.  An absolute beauty of a club. Seriously, if you live in Chicago and did not go to my show (like the woman (Fan?) who had a lengthy conversation with me on IG about where I should have eaten lunch and then wished me luck on my show… maybe I can just seat 50 Zagat’s guides at my next show, in lieu of humans) you should go to the Improv.

PF Chang’s next door to the Improv tried to set me up with a sidepiece

The emcee and feature both did well and then I got on stage in front of a respectable crowd and proceeded to do a very self-indulgent 80 minutes.  To be honest I have never gone quasi-hoarse on stage and that is when I knew I had done too much. That said, most of the set was pretty damn killer and already have developed some new bits that make me want to plan for another album at the end of the year.  The audience was really great and after the show meeting the fans was really great.  I know a lot of people have said things like “you got me through the pandemic” and other such nice statements, but after being so stressed and bummed about so many things related to my career, including in the last 48 hours, meeting the fans after the show was maybe the first time ever (no offense to all other great fans in other cities) that it really lifted my spirits.  Not sure if it was because there were many people who I had many interactions with on social media, or if they were at the right show at the right time to pick me up or if it was nice that so many people had specific comments about bits they liked, but whatever the reason (the real reason may have been that they bought more merch than any other crowd in the last year) it made me feel damn good!  So to the fans and friends who came out in Chicago – thank you!  Be warned though, once this all turns south in 6 days or 6 months I will probably blame you for making me want to keep at it.

Goodbye Chicago. Thank you for your service

Bam!  Finished – time to get on this 40 hour train (2nd David Frum book and season 1 of Raised By Wolves on HBO Max is this leg of the trip’s content). Follow my YouTube and Instagram for more train adventures. See you in California!

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Road Comedy Recap: Storming The DC Improv

The first comedy club I ever attended was the DC Improv on a trip with my brother. The first comedy club to ever pay me was the DC Improv for a week of emceeing.  So 18 years into my comedy career, which started at a jazz club open mic in Washington, D.C., it would not be an exaggeration to say that I achieved a real and personal milestone by headlining a weekend at the DC Improv.  It was a great weekend during which I connected with fans and old friends. had a genuine DC power lunch and had a few new bits achieve near-instant legend status.  I also sat next to a weeping pre-teen at the new Spider Man and experienced a momentary, but deep crisis of faith in my comedy career (duh). In other words, a uniquely typical road comedy experience for me, so without further adieu let’s get into it!

Thursday

After working from 7am at the day job I made my way to Newark Penn Station to catch the 315pm Accela to DC (with first class coupon upgrade).  It was an uneventful, but as I joked on stage all weekend – why is the first class car the first car on the train?  If a tragedy were to occur, shouldn’t the successful people in first class have a 4-5 car buffer of less worthy people in front of them? We should not be the tip of the spear in an accident!

Got to DC and made my way to the Farragut North station, which sounds like a drunk Dave Chappelle telling people where Dupont Circle is, to go to the AC Hotel, where the club was putting me up. I loved the hotel, though it did have a weird shower and a square toilet (I will never understand hotels that in the name of style and ambiance tinker with basic things that have been perfected).  I then had about 10 minutes to relax before heading out to the club for the first show of the week.

A nice welcome from the hotel

The show went really well, the crowd was great and to celebrate I went and did 90 more minutes of legal work in my hotel room to meet some billing requirements.

Friday

On Friday I had to wake up early to (drumroll please) do day job work because I was having my first real DC power lunch with David Frum. He had been at the Thursday show with his family and though the show went really well, my sole concern, knowing we would be having lunch the next day, was if the show would go well for DF. He did enjoy it so I knew our lunch would not be a 2 hour conversation dancing around the previous night’s comedic failure.  We had a tasty lunch (I had Rigatoni Bolognese) at Et Voila and discussed comedy, politics and more.

After lunch, as I waited outside for my Lyft, a man started approaching me with a look of recognition. As he got close I realized it was a man named Mark and he had been a year below me at Williams College.  I processed quickly like the Terminator and he said “do you remember me?” and I was like “Mark from Williams!”  His wife followed once it was clear that we were both the people we thought we were from 20 years ago. They told me they had been big fans of my stuff during the pandemic and then it came up that he was an assistant GM for the Nationals.  This is a more than common occurrence when interacting with Williams alums. I have a cool YouTube page… you have a World Series ring!

After the Frum power lunch and the Washington Nationals power chat I powered my way back to doing more powerful day job work at the hotel.  Then it was time to crush 2 Friday shows.  But when a comedian makes plans to crush, God laughs.  But not in a good way.

Frist show was actually really good.  It was a full crowd, thanks in no small part to the quasi army of my girlfriend’s friends and family that came through. An older, unpublished bit I dusted off on gummi vitamins tore the roof off (as it would for every subsequent show as it continued to rapidly get better as I began adding more tags in real time).  The star bit of the weekend, however, was definitely my multi part story about Georgetown Law professor Neal Katyal (who wrote a reference letter for me in law school) outpacing my entertainment career.  It is so good that it, along with gummi vitamins, may have extended the lease on my comedy career.

One bit that did not go over as well I hoped (it was the most inconsistent bit of the weekend, but when it hit it did hit big) was basically me offering vulgar and emotional sympathy for Adele’s ex.  During the Friday early show it was the only bit that earned any heckles… and they were from my girlfriend’s family. Here is a pic of me and my girlfriend after the show when I found out:

I know it was you(r cousin) that didn’t like the Adele bit

After the show I took Alex, a devoted member of the Making Podcasts Great Again fan community, and his wife out for a promised drink. Alex came to NYC solo for the taping of Half Blackface so I thought it was the least I could do.  In the course of just a half hour before the 2nd show I learned that Alex was infinitely more successful and accomplished than me.  I won’t discuss his career since it is not my place to do so, but I think my own insecurity about my comedy career made me presume/project a lack of success on to my fans (“well, they love my comedy so they must be at the end of the line!” – to be fair, since it did take an apocalyptic event for my career to finally take off, that is a more rational response than it would be for a comedian who did not require a Biblical plague level event to gain success).  But mostly it was just nice to be able to show a little appreciated to a fan. And then I asked him if I could borrow money.

The second show would be the one that would leave me sad.  The crowd was not big, but that was not the problem.  I felt like I was having a very good set, but instead of a full house where the energy feeds off of itself it was small enough that big laughs were borderline impossible, both because it was 1/3 full and because when crowds are small they seem uncomfortable laughing loudly because there is a much bigger chance of shifting the focus onto yourself.  So during the course of the set I made about 6 allusions to suicide (all jokes), but otherwise gave a strong effort.  When I left the stage I didn’t feel great. I felt like by not being able to pack every show I had put fans in an awkward position.  That feeling was only augmented by the kind words from the fans who were there.  They did enjoy the set and one quartet said they came down from Baltimore that night specifically for me on their friend’s birthday.  Instead of making me feel good, it actually made me feel bad.  If you come to see me from another city I feel like I owe you a great experience and it is almost impossible to have a great comedy show at 1/3 capacity.  Not that it can’t be good, but when there is too much silence or too low energy that responsibility falls to the headliner for not getting more people.

Staring at you while you pee at the DC Improv

When I got to the hotel at 1 am I woke up the girlfriend to tell her that I think I needed to quit comedy.  It is one thing to fail myself, but I felt like I had failed fans, even though they said they loved the show. My girlfriend’s response, reflecting both her fatigue and familiarity with this subject was “uhhhh zzzzzzzzzz.”

Saturday

When I woke up Saturday I still felt a little bummed, but the feeling started to subside as I realized I really had had two strong performances the night before.  I went for a long walk through DC with the gf before she had to leave for home.  I then went and saw Spider Man: No End in Sight, or whatever it is called. I know it is setting records and people love it, but I am kind of done seeing Marvel stuff in theaters.  I think Disney+ is the right venue for me from now. I actually really liked the first Tom Holland Spider Man movie, but the new one and the one preceding it I thought were just fine. Considering the entire Spider Man film universe spans only 20 years, it seems now that anything 5 years or older counts as nostalgia for the Marvel fan base that is America.  I don’t think the movie was bad, but hammering me with memories of the last decade of movies seems to be enough for people to categorize something as “great.”

To make matters worse, the very chatty 11 year old next to me in the theater began weeping halfway through the film during an “emotional” part.  When I was his age I cried at Dead Poets’ Society and Glory, not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Saturday’s shows were absolutely great.  Both were sold out and I would like to say good things about the early show, but the problem is I am so proud of what I pulled off on the late show.  As I watched the emcee and feature on the late show I could see that the crowd was very chatty and quite possibly very drunk. There was one woman in the back that I referred to as Max Cady (think 1991 Cape Fear movie theater scene) because her laugh appeared designed to only distract and not register enjoyment of comedy.  I told Jon, the emcee, “well I won’t be going over my time with this crowd.”  And then I had my best set of the week. Every bit worked and I don’t know if I presented an intimidation or an “I don’t care” attitude on stage based on my low expectations for them, but whatever algorithm I unlocked, it was the key to the crowd.  When I finally got to sleep that night I felt like I had redeemed myself and was especially happy at referring to the Spider Man weeper as a “future adult gummi vitamin consumer if I’ve ever seen one.”

Sunday

I woke up Sunday and went right to 9 am Mass at the Cathedral of St Matthew, like I always do when in town (very beautiful Church). Then I had some time to kill at Panera Bread before heading to a noon show of West Side Story.  A mask-less, mustachioed man saw me pouring a cup of “medium roast” coffee and looked at me and said “Medium Roast guy, huh?”  And I wondered, “is that MAGA for “you suck di*k huh?” or closeted code for “you suck di*k, huh?”  Just happy he didn’t see my digital ticket to West Side Story.

The movie was solid (reviews of both will be on this week’s Righteous Pk Podcast and for patreon members of Making Podcasts Great Again, Trump will review Spider Man and Mike Pence will review West Side Story) and afterwards I went for a walk with my friend/law school classmate/guy who taught me that people with southern accents could still be extremely smart, Hank. Hank (and his brother) were actually the first two people at my first open mic in DC. So when he emailed me to let me know that he would be in town visiting his siblings the same weekend I was performing I thought it was good fortune that he would be there to see my final show (kidding).

But then a flood of messages started pouring in. Fans and Hank messaged me that they would not be able to come due to Covid exposure and/or Covid fear. Totally understandable, but still deflating when expecting a lighter crowd on Sunday evening.  As I said on stage, “I hope (those missing) only get long Covid, nothing worse. AM I NOT MERCIFUL?” (I know it’s 21 years old, but Gladiator still seems to be a movie I quote a lot regarding my comedy career).

As soon as my set was done I grabbed my check, my suitcase and made for the train. Got on my Amtrak with plenty of time and watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington because I am a rebel and felt like watching it as I left DC was a real middle finger to convention.  I then began crafting this blog, which is being finished now, in my kitchen, before a long day of legal work.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the shows. Hopefully you all enjoyed it. And if you are reading this and are not in the DMV area, get your tickets to see me in Chicago, San Jose, LA and Utah (please).  And here is a picture of Cookie this weekend, looking very unsure without me in the house.

I think Cookie thinks the book shelf is a one way mirror where she can safely observe the room when I am not there
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Road Comedy Recap: Roethlisberger vs J-L in Pittsburgh

This week I was in Pittsburgh for a headlining gig at the Pittsburgh Improv. When I got the gig a couple of months ago I was thrilled to get a Thursday night (as opposed to a Monday 1pm show, which seems to be closer to my reality with many clubs), which is traditionally a good night to work a club (if you cannot get a Friday or Saturday).  But as soon as I got the booking my J-L Jinx Spidey Sense kicked in and I thought “I bet the Steelers have a game that night.”  Do I even have to tell you that my assumption was correct?  So in a nod to self-preservation and local culture I made my show a 7pm show instead of 8pm, hoping that if the show ended by game time some people who were inclined to both support a twice-accused-of-rape quarterback and an Internet savior to millions in 2020 could have the best of both worlds.  However, Pittsburgh chose decidedly in one direction (spoiler – not me).  So let’s do an epic recap of my Pittsburgh trip – my first time back since 2009, when a white guy called a Black player on the Cleveland Browns a ni**er.  Good to be back!

Wednesday

I departed for my gig on Wednesday because I was taking Amtrak. Since I have a busy day job that I refuse to leave as long as comedy continues to be the dumbest business on the planet, I decided to work on the train Wednesday. Hotels were cheap so two nights were doable and I could be available Thursday morning for press if any were available (LOL – I would think a stand up comedian with a decently large following who can do lots of impressions would be a slam dunk for local radio, but apparently Jack Off and the Cum Dump on FM 101.69 could not be bothered).  So I busted out the WiFi hotspot in the café car on the 9 hour train ride to Pittsburgh and got to doing legal work while eating my sandwich.  And then 10 minutes in the café lady said I had to leave because the car closed in Philly when the train switched engines from the 20th century electric on the east coast to the coal powered 19th century train system the interior of the country runs on.

So while muttering expletives (you saw me bust out both the computer and the sandwich at noon, but did not think to warn me that the car would close? One of the great things on some Amtraks is when the café is not selling food it becomes impossible to continue sitting at the tables near the café.  Because as you know, tables do not work if food is not available) I went back to the business car, which was only about 15% full for most of the trip, which was lovely.  I decided to watch a movie I downloaded from HBO Max on my new tablet called Never Rarely Sometimes Always.  It is about a Pennsylvania teenager who goes to NYC with her cousin to get an abortion.  I figured, “when in Rome!” It was dark, powerful, excellent and a perfect way to get me in the right frame of mind for one of my comedy shows.  Because my career often feels like a burden I am carrying to term even though the humane thing would be to end it.

I eventually returned to the café car for several hours of work until we entered the part of Pennsylvania where the telephone signals no longer exist.  At that point I began reading Gommorah, a book I have had for years but was never motivated to read until friends started hyping up the show.  That way, after I read it I can watch the show and be morally superior to my friends because “I actually also read the book.”  But back to the dead zone of communication known as central and western Pennsylvania.  To be fair, I think the world would be better off if these Trump loving, mask burning, gun toting turds had no cell service or Internet, but in 2021 it is pretty startling that you can travel for 100 miles in a US state and not have a signal.  That reminds me of a joke I just wrote – “How many central Pennsylvanians does it take to put up a cell tower?  10 – One to climb the ladder and 9 to call him a communist fa**ot for wearing a safety harness.”

Pittsburgh Arrival

I arrived in Pittsburgh at 8pm, got in a cab and headed to my Hampton Inn near the club.  I walked in wearing a mask but noticed no one else was. Not staff. Not patrons.  Freedom!  I went to my room, dumped my stuff down and made my way to get some PF Chang’s.  When I walked in not one staff member was wearing a mask, but the restaurant was almost entirely empty except for a meeting of the 3 Percenters at the PF Chang’s bar and a few families.  I sat down and almost on cue, my brother, Pro Publica’s Henri Cauvin, sent me an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer that stated that Pennsylvania was leading the nation in daily Covid hospitalizations (and that was with Philadelphia doing things like being run by Democrats and not being stupid with vaccines and masks).  That meant central and western PA were doing the lion’s share of owning the libs and the ventilators.  And as I kept noticing, no one wearing masks over the next few days I kept thinking “1/3 of you are obese, 1/3 of you are ugly and 1/3 of you are obese and ugly – all of you have plausible reasons to be masked up!”

the view from my hotel room was apparently of the location where Pittsburgh area criminals dump dead bodies

Thursday

The next day I woke up at 645am, my version of sleeping in. I went downstairs for breakfast, mapped out my set for that night and then went for a 4 mile walk around the malls near my hotel.  I then sat down for an 8 hour workday at my computer in my hotel room.  When that was done I went to Burgatory, a brilliantly named hamburger restaurant near my hotel. When I walked in I was wearing a mask so the host brought me to the quasi-outdoor area filled with nice torches that made me feel like I would watch a virgin get sacrificed while I ate my meal.  I sat there by myself until some other lib cucks were seated in my area.  I ordered a burger and fries and my God – it was great!  I felt like it was an omen for the show. (spoiler – it wasn’t).  I then saw they had a chocolate chip cookie sundae dessert. I made a note that if my set were really great or really awful I would come there after for the dessert.  I then left and went to the club.

Burgatory – never a better place for a Catholic comedian who loves hamburgers and exists in an entertainment netherworld

When I entered the club I noticed a crowd that, in terms of size, resembled the audience of an art house foreign film in its 7th week in the theater.  Ok, maybe not that bad, but when every show you do starts to feel like watching the dying breaths of Christ on the Cross you tend to see things as worse than they are.  More people filled in and it ended up being a mildly respectable crowd for a comedian that people seem to prefer watching in two minute increments on their phones, who was also performing while the Steelers were warming up for Thursday Night Football.

Quiet yet festive was the atmosphere in the mall between my hotel and the club

The energy of the crowd for the emcee and feature was not quite blackout, but definitely at least a brownout.  My set went fairly well (a strong ad libbed clip of me describing the battle for Pittsburgh’s soul that night is on my Instagram) and I met several kind and effusive fans after.  Now in a weird bookend to the night the emcee had to leave for something else after her set so I literally walked my own emcee and then two die hard fans of Making Podcasts Great Again asked if I wanted to get a drink after. I said that I would hang out but had to get my money from the office.  I ended up talking to the assistant manager for about 15 minutes (turns out I broke my streak of only making the minimum amount of money per the contract) and when I went outside it appeared I had been ghosted by my own fans!

Feeling abandoned I made my way back to Burgatory for that sundae only to find out that they closed at 9pm.  Perhaps there was an angel looking out for me and my waistline or perhaps I was in a Greek Mythology Hell where you are never able to both do comedy and eat delicious chocolate chip cookie sundaes.

Friday

I woke up early the next morning to eat breakfast at 6am so I would be in no danger of missing my 730am train home.  I got a Lyft from a guy who informed me that he had a lot of darkness inside of him, which either meant he liked Black guys or was troubled.  To be fair he was discussing how he writes poetry, which at this point I am considering as a more lucrative career than stand up comedy.  I got on the train and watched Moonstruck, another HBO Max movie expiring this month. Other than Olympia Dukakis I thought the movie sort of stunk.  I then went to the café car to continue my legal work.  Hard to pick out what the highlight of the week was: working on a train, working in a hotel, seeing my dream die another day, or working on the train, but it was all a wonderful and fulfilling experience.

The bittersweet thing about some of these underperforming road gigs is that the people who are fans enough to see me live are as bewildered as I am that my crowds are not packed.  After all, I am hilarious, diverse in my skills, and more famous than the average comedian (though to be fair the median comedian is a progressive incel with an annual salary of 17 drink tickets).  I think the answer is that my comedy was viewed as a distraction for most people, not as a mere sample of a robust catalogue of humorous work, which it was and is.  Throw in Twitter’s algorithms treating me like an unclaimed Trump son he had with Omarosa and voila! –  you have a recipe for failure gumbo!  That is why it is always weird when I see comments on social media like “he got me through the pandemic” as if my existence died once you got vaccinated.  Covid is still here and so is Cauvin!

I made it home around 530pm and – you guessed it! – went back to work until about 11pm on legal work.  If there is one lesson I have learned from doing comedy, making a lot of money at it, becoming quasi famous, recording a killer new special and appearing twice this weekend in the preview for the upcoming season of a major cable drama it is this: apparently I should not quit my day job.

Thank you to everyone who came out to see me in Pittsburgh. The irony of constantly disappointing myself is that it really does make me appreciate the people who pay money to see me and to become fans beyond when you need a worktime distraction or a giggle on a group text.  The flip side to the bitter spirit that engulfs a lot of what I do is a deep and genuine gratitude for those of you who do care and have comedy pallets beyond mere distraction.

See you in Washington DC next week folks!  DC Improv Dec 16-19.  I am crushing it – come see for yourselves!

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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.