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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: The Scatman Crothers of the Boston…

It has been several years since I attended any comedy festival and 10 years since I made a good, but failed run at the Boston Comedy Festival.  But in the “hope springs eternal” mindset that rests beneath numerous layers of “fu*k this sh*t” I entered the Boston Comedy Festival again this year. My mindset was fairly practical in entering. The prize for the winner was $10,000.  With 96 competitors I figured odds were in my favor (imagine buying a $600 lottery ticket – train and hotel fare – but your odds of winning $10,000 was 1 in 96 – but really much better than that based on experience) so I entered.  Also, a much less important factor I figured was with most comics of my comedy generation either finding success or permanent obscurity it was time for me to meet the next group of comedians who might pass me by in the next five years. Either way I figured there were enough reasons to give it a shot.

So after spending several hundred dollars I went to my preliminary round Thursday night and had a really good set. And then at the end of the show when the comedians going on to the semi finals were announced I figured I was definitely in the top 5. And I may have been right, but I was not in the top 3, which was the number of comics advancing.  And just like that I felt like Scatman Crothers from the Shining. I had gotten on my Snowcat (Amtrak) and traveled many miles to show up to save the day, only to have a comedy contest ax buried in my chest.  But like many things in comedy, I am calloused at this point to where I can just sort of shrug it off in a few minutes (by contrast losing in the semi finals in 2006 took me… oh wait I am still not over that robbery).  Silver lining 2 of the 3 comics that made the semis from my prelim also made the finals, meaning that we had a disproportionate number of finalists.  The system really is rigged!

When you have a vision of being a hero in Boston, but get axed in the 1st round

I spent the next day at the movie theater (movies and movie snacks are my alcohol) and saw Arrival (thoughtful and solid) and Magical Harry Potter Beast Creatures Movie (decent escapism, but not sure I need it to be a five movie franchise, which is what they have planned). And then, thanks to my friend comedian Jay Nog I got a spot on his Paid or Pain show as part of the festival.  The show is unique, but simple: comedians perform and the audience decides if they get paid or pain (delivered by a dominatrix – on this show a latex clad busty woman – my favorite thing on the show, other than my own humor, was seeing the comedians on the lineup talk to her in the green room like she didn’t look like a porn star – my conversation with her would have been “Did you order a pizza? Something wrong with your cable? Plumbing? Are we gonna fu*k or what??”). I was one of the two judges on the show offering witty criticism and commentary on the show and the performers.  Other than the aforementioned dominatrix I think it would be safe to say my Trump impression stole the show.  I spent the last 20 minutes speaking as Trump only, including what Trump would want from a dominatrix (“I would want Ivanka in the room because she is very hot and I would want the dominatrix to be dehydrated so when she peed on me it was a strong Trump gold color”).  I think the show will air on Sirius XM at some point – I will tweet/share the details if I get them.

After the show I had a couple of comedians and audience members tell me that I should audition for SNL. It was a nice compliment and I will get on that as soon as I find a way to make it to the semi finals of a comedy contest.

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