The Cleveland Show
Important statistics from this week:
- 1 show at the Cleveland Improv- 15 minute set
- 24 hours on Amtrak to and from Cleveland, Ohio within a 51 hour span
- 1 cold/flu obtained
- 700 page book on basketball read
On Tuesday I set off on Amtrak for Cleveland, Ohio to do a set at the Cleveland Improv. It was a 3:45 train, which was scheduled to arrive in Cleveland in a manageable 11 hours, 42 minutes. I really like the train. Anything under 12 hours I consider enjoyable. It has an old school charm, in a way, but instead of travelling the rails with people who look and dress like Don and Betty Draper, it now really just consists of people who cannot fit in airplane seats (the morbidly obese and in my case, the semi-freakishly tall) and those that want to avoid TSA for profiling and legal status related issues.
On the train ride to Cleveland I managed to write the next brilliant, but under-viewed and underappreciated JLCauvin.com sketch and read 300 pages in Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball. About half way through the trip I felt the symptoms of a cold coming on, which I blame half on my Atlantic City drinking binge/sleep deprivation last weekend that may have left me susceptible to illness, and the health industry’s biggest customers that I was entombed with on Amtrak.
I arrived at the Doubletree in downtown Cleveland at 4:10 am. I fear that one day my nomadic travel schedule and odd hours, along with my menacing frame, will lead me to be the chief suspect in some disappearance/serial killer case. “The last I saw Mary Jo she was coming back from the bar around 3 am. To think of it I did see a rather large, rather unhappy looking man around 4 am that same night.” NY Post headline the next day: Comic Kills!
The next day I hung out most of the day at The Cleveland Improv (extremely nice club) and at the Rock Bottom restaurant above (I am sensing a message from above since I keep ending up in that restaurant chain in different cities).
The show that night was an open mic night where local comics are given 4 minutes each and a few visiting comics are given longer sets to audition for emcee and feature work. 4 minutes may not seem like a long time, but the good news is the club does not make it a bringer for the young comics, so unlike other places, dreams are not manipulated and raped by club owners. Not to mention that the booker of the Cleveland Improv has without question the best track record in returning phone calls and e-mails of any club with which I have dealt. But it’s like Sinatra said about NY, “If you can, duh duh, make it there, then you are probably with the right booking agency or sucking the right di-k.”
For my set I got to follow an older comedian with Cancer who is undergoing chemo. In one of my best off the cuff comments of my career so far the first thing I said on stage (with a well timed sniffle) was: “Well, I though I might get some slack from you guys because I have a pretty bad cold, but I guess that excuse is fu-ked now.”
I went through my set doing quite well until about the 11 minute mark. Then 2 of my last 3 bits (including the Mariano Rivera of my set – Obama impression) fell flat. There were three forces at work that I believed caused this: the checks were getting dropped on tables, my voice was dying on me and as the booker told me, Midwest crowds are slower, belly laughers (this last one may be the greatest euphemism of all time). Overall it went well and I think it was worth the trip. At least the trip going.
The trip coming back (a 5:20 am Amtrak the next morning, arriving at 6:25 pm in NYC) was like being Joel McHale’s character on Community. I don’t like to pick on special needs folk, but about three seats back from me was a man by himself who literally spoke for about 4 hours with very little break to an elderly couple who were sort of being polite. The main problem was that, as if some sort of stereotype from a Carlos Mencia bit, he just kept shouting out things like, “I like the train more than flying,” followed quickly by non sequiturs that expressed interest or joy in something.
The stars of the trip were not that guy, but the crazy (literally) guy who kept walking from the cafe car and back talking to himself and the woman who sat in front of me and kept having incredibly loud cell phone conversations. Here was my tally of phrases she used and how many times she used them on the train:
- “You know what I’m sayin” – 1,187
- “He think he can play me but I’m playin’ him” – 66
- “Sorry, but she caught me on the phone and I was like ‘I need to go'” – only 1 time, but this is funny how she was blaming her her other friend for keeping her on the phone, even though it appeared that her friend said almost nothing.
So I can tell you when I need to go back to Cleveland for more extensive work I am definitely going to upgrade and take Greyhound.