Road Comedy Recap: Cleveland and The Electoral Map of…

This week I have been in Cleveland, my home away from where John D. Rockefeller started his empire, where Drew Carey got  fat and where I have appeared more than any other city outside of NYC and LA.  Basically I have been like Andrew Miller for this city, but over the last 7 years – 6’7″, immensely talented, unwanted by NY and delivering amazing performances.  This week has been no different and the city has been in need of healing (but apparently not in need of comedy albums as my 1.0 albums sold per show rate demonstrates) since it was the only Democratic stronghold in the city on Election Night.  I have told audiences that their state looked like a murdered Smurf because there was this tiny blue spot in the top of the state and blood red pouring out of it to the entire state.  So just like a bases loaded jam in the playoffs for Miller I arrived in Cleveland (under my urban room moniker of “Vanilla Coke”) to deliver some comedic healing… to the audience members that were not talking or texting or coming in late).  Here ya go:

Thursday – Southwest Mogul

I had a free flight to Cleveland on Southwest Airlines (I actually have the equivalent of about 6 free flights because of my Southwest credit card – let me tell you nothing gets women ready to get it on more than when at a bar or a club you pull out your Southwest Black Visa Card – yes girl, ever fly 5th class before?), but the catch was I had to fly out of BWI. Well I didn’t have to, but rather than fly from NYC to Chicago and then back to Cleveland I took Amtrak to BWI… at 4:40 am.  I arrived at BWI and went to the diner in Terminal A.  And they have (Trump voice) tremendous pancakes and hot chocolate (end Trump voice) for any travelers out there.  I then hopped on my flight and had leg room for days. See below:

Snug as a bug in a rug with soon-to-be crippled legs

When I arrived in Cleveland I snapped a quick pic with Lebron James who met me at the airport to discuss some potential business ventures.  I then made my way to the comedy condo (usually words that are as awkward to a comedian as “Special Event: Jake the Snake Roberts”) but the Cleveland Improv condo is quite nice.  I then killed time and had a great set that night.  And to prove it I sold 1 CD, but got more compliments and eye contact than I have ever received in my 7 years of performing at the Cleveland Improv.

King and Mogul

Friday – No Movie so Why Not Re-Write and Record a Bob Dylan song for 6 hours?!

Normally on Fridays I check out a movie and do a review and then emotionally wrestle for 5 hours on whether or not to go to the gym, but with no movie nearby (Black People Christmas, or whatever it is called was under 50% on Rotten Tomatoes so I couldn’t see it.  I was suspicious mainly because it was the first happy, mostly black movie that did not use Earth Wind and Fire’s September in the preview – I will not abide that disrespect to a proud black cinematic tradition.  So instead I decided that I should spend my day re-writing and recording a new rendition of Bob Dylan’s Hurricane for The Dan Lebatard Show on ESPN radio.  If you are a fan of the show it is strong work (even though my vocals are booty). I re-wrote it before lunch, went to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame at lunch to see their new exhibit on music, power and freedom (really good and inadvertently timely) and then went back to the condo to record the song.  Hopefully it gets played and appreciated on the show Monday morning (writing this Sunday afternoon in a Starbucks):

That night I had some good sets and sold a whopping 4 albums so it was difficult to sleep that knowing that Saturday would be foot long sub at Subway instead of 6 inches due to my new wealth.  Here is a clip where I summarize the Republican Party in three awkward minutes:

Saturday – You Won’t Have J-L’s Merchandise Table To Kick Around Anymore!

The heading says it all. Had good shows, but after I sold zero on the first (helped in part by a group of 4 people who set up a human wall in front of my merch table – the pic below is of a woman doing the same thing on Friday night – but at least no one threw their coat on top of my CDs like in Albany earlier this year). So after selling zero on the first show I crushed the second show and then stormed out saying “You won’t have my merch table to kick around anymore!” and went back to the condo.  I then watched Dave Chappelle host SNL and give the best monologue in the show’s history in an episode every bit as good as Tom Hanks’s episode this year, which for me was the best episode of the show in years.

Good news is my CDs will rush for 100 yards with this kind of blocking…

On an Amazon Prime movie side note – earlier in the day I watched Woody Allen’s Bananas for the first time – wow – what a brilliant comedy that still holds up and is even prescient about some things (available for free with prime until November 30). I then watched (tried to) the very overrated Green Room – made it 65 minutes in and was bored. (Trump tweet voice) Sad! (End Trump tweet voice)

Sunday – Mass and TV in Starbucks

Walked to Mass on Sunday morning (huge, beautiful St John The Evangelist – oddly enough the name of my Church in Manhattan – I guess they franchised out) and couldn’t help feeling unholy thoughts as I looked at all those white, Catholic, Ohio voters (I know how half of my people tend to lean), but then I saw a girl texting during Mass and officially felt like a grumpy, old man.  But I do like being in a full Church and the fact that people still shake hands in Church in the Midwest instead of the Purell wave that you get in NYC.  I then watched Pitch and The Exorcist on my computer (seriously good shows on Fox this Fall – Mark Paul Gosselaar as a grizzled veteran catcher on Pitch is particularly good) and wrote a new version of My Prerogative called My Presidency for Trump (a joke that did so so was about how Trump is basically Scarface for white racists – expect his poster in redneck thug trailer parks in 15 years – and a political version of what Bobby Brown did when he left New Edition). I only mention this because I am starting to feel like comedy is more a compulsion, rather than a profession or even a hobby. Oh well, 500-5000 YouTube viewers will be thrilled when it goes up at some point and that is enough for me!

So one more show tonight and then my usual 5:50 am Amtrak back to NYC on Monday. You are welcome Cleveland.

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


Comedy Recap: Working Vacation in Cleveland

So this past week I was performing in Cleveland, Ohio, one of my favorite cities and one of my three potential permanent residences within the next 18 months (the options are A) New York – because if it is broken, why bother to fix it; B) LA – because there are more opportunities for industry to ignore me or C) Cleveland – because I like it, it’s cheap and the only worse thing than wasting 13 years of your life doing comedy is to do it for another 13, so might as well pack it in and enjoy as much real estate as your money can afford).  The week was chock full of adventures, discoveries and fun so might as well get into it.

13 Hours on Amtrak

Considering the fact that I have been very busy this year with full time legal work, triple the amount of road work I had all of 2015 within the first 3 1/2 months of 2016 (a good thing, but also shows just how terrible my 2015 was) and a new dog stressing me out occasionally, I have not had a lot of time or energy to do anything with my girlfriend besides Netflix and Pass Out. So I figured I would book some emcee work in Cleveland and make it a 4 day trip.  Not knowing if the feature would be using the comedy condo (of course once I paid for 4 nights in a hotel, the JLComedy Law* is that the condo would go unused by the feature, which it did) I booked a Comfort Inn in downtown Cleveland for a rate so cheap on that I assumed a disaster loomed.

*JLComedy Law is like Murphy’s Law, except only half Irish and a lot worse when applied to trying to turn a profit from comedy endeavors.

I also convinced my girlfriend to take the 12.5 hour Amtrak ride from NYC to Cleveland (at the convenient time of 3:30pm, arriving in Cleveland at 3:27 am), because it is a “nice ride” and “quite cheap.”  Let me put it to you this way – if you have a chick who does this with you and doesn’t complain she is not only a ride or die chick, she is potentially a ride AND die chick (two seats behind us for the second half of the train trip was a man with more than half his face and neck tattooed – the 4 types of people who take Amtrak more than 6 hours are 1) felons 2) illegal immigrants 3) morbidly obese 4) overly qualified comedy emcees) .

I looked up the Comfort Inn before leaving work and noticed that several of the pictures featured rooms with 2 double beds, as well as tube TVs (or as the headliner I would soon meet, Tone Bell put it, “the TVs with the asses” so I figured I may have gotten a hot rate of 50% off the room rate, but it still might feel like I got robbed.  This was running through my mind as we traveled all the way North through northern and then western New York. We lost time in Albany so the train could change engines there (from electric to diesel or something like that) because our train industry is still stuck in  different era.  We ended up arriving in Cleveland at 4:05 am feeling like human experiments at the CDC.  We made our way into the Comfort Inn and were greeted by a friendly, heavy set black woman, straight out of central casting, who saw us with out bags making it through the doors and began asking our names while still struggling with the suitcases in the doorway.  To her credit she never gave us any eye contact during our entire exchange, so I applaud her commitment to the character.

Dawn at the Comfort Inn and the Cleveland St. Law School in downtown Cleveland

God Bless The GOP Convention

When we made it to our floor we noticed that the carpet on our half of the floor was new and when we got into our room it had a king sized bed, a newly furnished bathroom and a flat screen TV!!  We then passed out for a healthy 4 hours of Amtrak filth covered sleep, breathing in the Subway bread air that penetrated the room since we were directly above a Subway restaurant. #BreatheFresh

As it turned out, this hotel was clearly undergoing renovations for the rush of taxphobic whores, religious nuts and Klan members that will descend upon Cleveland in July for the GOP Convention.  For the hell of it I looked up hotels the week of the convention. reported 167 hotels WITHOUT availability that week and the only hotel within 15 miles of the city center with availability was a 2 star hotel charging $340 a night.  This same hotel’s rate next week, for point of comparison? $96.  So perhaps if the convention were taking place elsewhere I would have been sleeping in a semen stained, TV with ass-having room filled with police caution tape, but thanks to the GOP I stayed in a 2 star hotel with 3.5 star upgrades.

The Sights

Needless to say, my girlfriend and I spent our first day in Cleveland at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.  I am a member of the museum (a guest and I can get into the museum for free for the next 4 years thanks to my generous donation #PatronOfTheArtsMogul and I get 10% off all purchases #ComedyMogul) so we walked in and I got a member wrist band, while my girlfriend was given a wristband for non-members.  #MembershipMogul

The next day we went to a new restaurant at the Westin hotel (where staff followed us around because they could smell Comfort Inn/Subway on our clothing) called Urban Farmer (it’s theme is a black farmer called Ol’ DaeMcDonald) and it was delicious!  My girlfriend made it her business to force me out of my usual shitty routine of chain restaurants by becoming a human Fodor’s guide to Cleveland.  The food was great (and she let me off the hook by choosing lunch – dinner prices were like NY Steak House prices, but lunch prices were like Cleveland lunch prices). We then saw The Jungle Book, which I reviewed in beautiful (and windy) downtown Cleveland:

The next day (Saturday), my girlfriend’s last day in town, we went bowling on E. 4th Street, which is sort of the hip/hipster area of town with several new restaurants. We bowled (I racked up a career high 148 in one game – not too bad for someone who has bowled less than 10 times in his life and never more than once in a two year period) and then left for an early dinner. We tried to eat at a brand new bar-b-q restaurant, recently opened up by one of the 377 celebrity chefs on TV, but the wait was 1 hour and 45 minutes… at 430pm. So we went across to a restaurant that looked promising, despite the communal tables, which always spell some horeshit dining “experience” gimmick.  The restaurant’s food was tasty, but they promised family style.  Well, when we sat down our waitress told us that it was tapas style. I asked her if I looked like a trendy bitch from Manhattan because I came in here for Midwestern family style, not big city skank tapas!  She recommended we order several things which we did, only to realize that Midwestern tapas doesn’t really mean many small dishes; it means many large dishes.  But I learned a valuable lesson in food marketing – if you call something pizza you can charge $10, but if you call it a “flatbread” you can charge $14.

A picture of me in front of the Cleveland Convention Center, before Cruz and Trump supporters burn it down in July

The Shows: Work Work Work and a Killer Headliner

Emceeing shows at the Cleveland Improv is work. It is not always fun. It is not always comedy. But it is always work. You are competing with 10% of the crowd coming late, 33% of the crowd talking for half your set, etc.  Your job is not to warm them up, but to gather their attention.  It is basically like a combination of being Jesus Christ on the cross while telling a Black Lives Matter rally to disperse: sacrificial and unwanted.  Well, as of this writing (Sunday evening before the final show) I have had 4 good sets and one horror show (I am talking to you late show Friday), which I consider a huge win/upset.  And, instead of looking at the week as a massive loss of money for comedy work, I have framed it as a mini vacation where the Cleveland Improv is paying for me and my girlfriend’s hotel.  Glass half full sort of thinking.

But the real revelation for me this weekend was the headliner Tone Bell.

When you see a name that you are not too familiar with you can make several assumptions. Maybe this guy is just some rising MTV type star with great PR and a mediocre act.  Or maybe he is a niche, urban act who has not crossed over (he is black). Or maybe he is a really good comic who is under the radar.  Well I didn’t know what to expect, but the dude is hilarious.  He is an Atlanta-born comedian and he flows easily with urban vernacular, but doesn’t present the animated delivery found frequently at clubs like the Cleveland Improv.  He walks a middle line, not with middle of the road mediocre comedy, but in terms of his delivery and sensibility.  He legitimately had me LOL-ing for most of his set, as well as quoting his jokes throughout the weekend to my girlfriend.  For all of you who paint me unfairly with the “hater” brush, you will at least take my praise of him seriously.  But the guy’s potential for breakout stardom had me thinking of Gary Owen and Sebastian Maniscalco.  Not his style, but his potential to have broad appeal at the comedy club level (he is already a working actor).  So if you see Tone Bell coming to a city near you I give it the official Righteous Prick recommendation.

While at the club I also got to bid a potential Cleveland farewell to Lee Herlands, my favorite club manager in the country.  He will be leaving Cleveland for the east coast, but rather than explain why I am a fan of his, feel free to check out one of my favorite podcast episodes of all time when I chatted with him in 2014.

So it is time to head to the club for the final show of the week before I hop on my 5:50 am train back to NYC on Monday morning, but I hope to be back in Cleveland soon. Maybe for a lot longer than 4 days.  And in case you are wondering, my pup Cookie is in the care of a friend of my girlfriend and she is already taking ass shots like a teenage girl from the Bronx without my strong paternal influence over her:


Cookie, you are too young to pose for photos like that!

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!


Cleveland Journal Pt 2: The Wrap Up (in Pictures)

Well, another week in my home away from home, Cleveland, has concluded and between good shows, great weather and saving money on my Con Ed bill back home this week was a huge success.  Since I was busy snapping a ton of photos on the trip I will just give you a short write up before giving you the photos (with hilarious captions of course).  Wednesday through Saturday I middled for Tim Gaither and Sunday I emceed for Gary Owen.  The great thing about working with Gary Owen (other than him being a funny dude) is that my first paid gig in August 2004 was emceeing for Gary Owen at the DC Improv.  So in 9 years, 11 months I have finally made it to the point where I am… emceeing for Gary Owen?  But since I worked with him in 2013 (and he remembered me then too after an 8 year gap) he remembered me as “the Georgetown law grad” (better to be remembered for something, right?).  He also remembered me telling him how good Season 3 of Breaking Bad was (apparently I really was like a Born Again Christian with that show).  But all the shows were fun (some more fun than others), but unlike most of my road comedy blogs I will let the pictures of the city and my time here do he talking.

Morning in Cleveland. Not a bad view


Downtown Cleveland on the 4th of July
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - best museum in the world
Big open fields for people to play Frisbee downtown. Has Cleveland become a liberal arts college campus brochure?


Science Center on the lake where they test Josh Gordon's blood for PED and alcohol (Cleveland Browns burn!)


A Cleveland bird tried to shit on me... my backpack took the hit for me. #NeverForget


All for one and one for all.. and by "one" they mean Lebron James


Legends line the streets of Cleveland near the lake


The view from inside the Cleveland Improv. Best location of any club in America (that has had me)


Car crash right outside of Church before Mass on Saturday #NotBlessed


Bar Louie in Cleveland - spinach dip with LOTS of artichokes - $8.50; Hillstone in NYC - removed artichokes from its dip, $17 - WIN FOR CLEVELAND


This pit bull was the guest of honor at the cookout I was invited to on the 4th. I think it's a pit bull. It was scary enough for me to call it a pit bull. Too much muscle tone


The Cleveland Improv


Walked by it yesterday, will be there tonight for Yankees vs Indians.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!


Cleveland Journal Pt 1: A Weird TV Offer &…

I am currently in Cleveland in week one of my two week “My schedule does not constitute a tour, so unlike other comedians I will not refer to my slate of gigs as a tour” Tour and already it is shaping up to be a tremendous trip.  Like any of my comedy adventures it starts with mediocre travel arrangements.  In an effort to constantly win the battle of life vs. crushing economics of feature work I took a 530 am Amtrak to BWI (using points) and flew from BWI to Cleveland (saved me almost half the airfare, but none of my dignity).  The flight started annoyingly because during the emergency exit symposium with the flight attendant (I got the exit row because I had A 21 as my Southwest ticket, which allowed me to enter the plane early – if you don’t understand the Southwest seating system I won’t explain it; I will just congratulate you on having the money to fly real airlines) a guy sitting on the other side of the aisle asked if the door was one that pulled in or pushed out.  Really Captain America?  Because you have so much experience saving lives on commercial airplanes you just want to make sure you use the proper technique during our plane crash?  What a douche.

So, being tired from my early wake up I started to doze off during the short flight to Cleveland.  Now one of the things I do before any flight is scan the NY Times weather map.  And on the Amtrak to BWI I noticed nothing but lightening bolts (not a good symbol in case you were wondering) from Chicago to NYC.  So I momentarily forgot that we were heading into the beginning of a potentially horrific storm (which apparently hit NYC last night) and dozed off, something I almost never do on airplanes.  Well, I was jolted to consciousness about 20 minutes outside of Cleveland by the worst jolt of turbulence I have ever encountered. The first jolt woke me up and then the plan turned to the side (if 90 degrees would be us on our side we definitely wobbled at least 30 degrees)  The bumps and turns only last about 15 seconds and I realized I sort of prefer that to the 30 minutes of nothing but chop.  Then I discovered something that I am sure most psych students know – fear is the best warm up for jokes.  Because the humorous comments I made for the next 5 minutes after the turbulence had my terrified row mate laughing hard.  And then I had an epiphany:

Instead of alcohol, comedy clubs should scare the shit out of customers before the show.  Think of how much we laugh nervously after leaving a haunted house or getting a jolt from a scary moment in a horror movie.  Why not apply this to comedy clubs?  (This feels like an idea for Nathan For You).  You just get big scary dudes (black a bonus at most American comedy clubs) to threaten patrons in the lobby of the club, and blocking the entrance so the show room is the only escape. Or a guy with fake dynamite to his chest runs into the club screaming “Allahu Akbar!”  Or a barrage of killer clowns.  Or maybe girls walking up to couples on dates claiming to be secretly having sex with the men in the couples – basically just an assortment of things to create nervousness and fear and then they walk into the club and laugh harder than they ever have.  Sure you will have to pay lots of actors/comedians for their work inciting fear, but you save on your liquor license and insurance.  Added bonus this might provide me another alley into working comedy clubs.  “J-L we are all booked up for stage time, but there is a bachelorette party coming in that we would like you to strike fear into.  CONFIRMED!”

Well I arrived in Cleveland around noon I took the city’s “we are really trying hard” 2 car subway from the airport to the city center.  Getting to the comedy condo I saw that the club has continued to improve the condo (I have been coming to the club since 2010 and the condo has improved every year – but do not worry, even back in 2010 it was 10 times better than the Saw basement level accommodations at the River Center Comedy Club in San Antonio (seriously comedians – shame on any of you for working that club – not worth the money). Condo is now very clean, has two mounted flat screens, fast WiFi and the toilet paper is even folded with a triangle like at the fancy hotels like Days Inn.  And then after dropping my bags I received a Facebook message from a non-FB friend:


That was it. So I replied:


And the reply to that was:

“Would you like to be on COMICS UNLEASHED?” (caps included in message)


Now the person sending the message was not a friend of mine and I was not sure if it was a prank or a goof, considering the accompanying lack of any pleasantries or introduction.  I checked the person’s profile and they do work in entertainment so I replied:

“Sure. Sorry for the delay. I’m travelling.”

That was 20 hours ago at the writing of this blog.  I have not heard anything back. Perhaps it was just a poll to see if comedians would agree to appear on the show, but I am still somewhat confused by whether I have been offered or submitted for anything.  Maybe it’s just like Ghostbusters, “When someone asks if you want to do a TV show you say YES!”  Anyway, show went well last night and I am sleeping in the quasi-famous windowless bedroom of the Cleveland Improv comedy condo.  Sounds creepy, but is fantastic for sleep.  No light of day or hope to interfere with me and my slumber.  Check back Monday for the Cleveland recap and Chicago preview as my Tour continues.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!


The Cleveland Recap and Salon Backlash

This weekend I was at the Cleveland Improv emceeing shows.  My math, which is probably good for the present bottom line and horrible for future earnings is, “Will this gig net me more than sitting on my ass this weekend?” If the answer is yes, then I usually take the gig.  I was supposed to be featuring at the Cleveland Improv since a little while back, but just after logging half a dozen emcee spots (as in weekends, not shows) I was told that the feature booking responsibility had been shifted the main Midwest outpost of the Funny Bone/Improv chains (just like the Mob in Casino had Kansas City as a critical control hub between the East Coast and Vegas, so too does a town in Ohio control the fate of many working comedians.  And instead of adding (and earning) a club to my roster of places I feature I effectively had to take one off and be content emceeing.

The shows were fun and I ended the weekend with a 5-1 record (the Cleveland Improv is a largely urban club and I would compare my experiences there to playing organized basketball – you only have fun at the end of the game if it turns out you won a/k/a won over the crowd – but every show feels like work.  This is not shooting around or pick up basketball – it is adversarial and it partly feels, especially as the emcee (the three shows I have featured at the Cleveland Improv have always been my best), like you have to break the will of the crowd to laugh at you.  And before this sounds too much like a slave master analogy, let me remind you at this time that my father is black.  At best I am a house slave chiding field slaves (now the featured pic makes some offensive sense).

On more fun notes, AKA the time spend off stage, I must say downtown Cleveland is beautiful.  This is not a joke.  I think my purpose in comedy is not to become a successful or even marginal comedian – perhaps this adventure has just allowed me to scout many American locations so I can choose a place to live and work when I hang up the microphone.  And I think I identified the exact location in Cleveland.  Near the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame (recap of that next paragraph – WOW) there is a Catholic Church, an Amtrak Station, a football stadium (OK – the Browns, but still), a beautiful, expansive lakefront view and all the municipal buildings, presumably where prosecutors who did not get into comedy go to work every day.  If Cleveland were willing to throw an IHOP and a Cheesecake Factory into the area I would gladly plunk myself down there and die of happiness and trans fats sometime in my early 40s.

Sunday I went to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.  Holy sh*t that place is even better than I remember.  If you like music at all or do not suck as a human you must go here.  You learn so much (Les Paul should have a movie made about him already if there isn’t) and the place is chock full of great music, interactive exhibits, memorabilia and more.  Right now there is a two story exhibit on the Rolling Stones and for me the highlight is still the (now 90 minute) montage film of all the Rock n Roll HOF inductees.  That place should be on everyone’s bucket list.  Most readers of this blog would not believe how much I was smiling while inside the museum, but my face hurt a little bit when I left for overusing muscles I never use.

So thanks Cleveland for having a very underrated city and I hope that rumors of a comeback and rejuvenation are not wrong.

In other, probably more significant news I was featured in a piece on the popular site  The article was the work of Daniel Berkowtiz (no relation to David) a Columbia journalism student who met with me over many months to write a 6500 word tour de force about a respected, but failing comedian in the age of social media (me in case you do not respect me).  One of the interesting things about my peers and I that often gets overlooked is that I am part of the last generation of comedians who really invested themselves in comedy right before YouTube and social media completely changed the game of stand up for better and worse.  The article captures that very well, but when Salon took the article they required it cut down to 2500 words (though I did appreciate Salon using a photo of me from before comedy took my jaw line).  The big loser in that was probably my mother who was interviewed for the article and who gets a lot of praise from me for her support and is one of the biggest reasons I feel guilty for potentially squandering a law degree/career to pursue a more selfish/self-centered career.  The biggest winner was probably my ex fiancée who was not spared in the original version for being a terrible presence in my life at the very point when my career may have been poised to take off.

But the article has driven new traffic to my work and of course most comedians are respectful, appreciative or even encouraging, but some “comedians” and many heroes in the Internet Commenter Community have come to trash me.  Part of the problem is the title of the article Salon chose “YouTube Is Killing Comedy” was overbroad, sensational and completely inaccurate when compared to the substance of the actual article.  It probably primed some readers (those with poor reading comprehension) to view it under a totally false framework.  The original title “The New Life of a Stand Up Comedian” was a better choice, but perhaps would not have generated as much traffic (ironic that an article about a comedian having to bend over backwards and devote efforts to other pursuits to satisfy Internet business models had to adjust to a title that was more sensational and inaccurate to drive Internet business).  But I enjoyed all the negative comments (cue Nas’ Hate Me Now, but with all the wealth references replaced by sarcasm).  People that still insist on defending Louis CK from an impression as if he is their child (and attack me because I am not famous – had the sketch been on SNL it would be exempt from scorn) or people trashing my comedy – one guy shot up my Ferguson set with no real ammo, but wrote with self-important authority so I guess I should heed his non-advice – these folks are the backbone of Internet comedy!

So on to Breaking Bad week.  This week I will record a new video – a Breaking Bad parody to promote my new album.  Looking forward to everyone telling me I don’t look like Walter White (I won’t be in costume – I’m playing myself – but I assume at least one comment will say “This was OK, but Bryan Cranston is a much better actor”).

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes. New Every Tuesday!  This week’s episode will be all BREAKING BAD so subscribe or follow today to get it Tuesday.


The Cleveland Show – 2013 Edition (plus the worst…

Dispatch from BWI.  Today I left NYC on a 3:00 am Amtrak to catch a 915 am flight from BWI to Cleveland (travel for free will make me do annoying things to myself, but I have Amtrak points to cover the train trip and I had enough points on Southwest to get to Cleveland for free round trip from BWI, but not from NYC.  But it is not all bad news.  Thanks to some good luck I will be staying in a nice hotel instead of the comedian condo.  Perhaps this is just luck, or perhaps my no-holds barred, bridge burning, career destroying blog tactics have gained me a measure of fear among bookers and managers (to paraphrase Walter White – I AM THE ONE WHO BLOGS)!  But probably just luck.

Either way, I am too tired to write much, but I have already experienced something funny, or at least memorable. Because the diner was closed (July 31st-August 1st – great timing) I had to eat breakfast at McDonald’s when I arrived through security.  There is no level of satire that could parody the experience of a 645 am trip to the BWI McDonalds.  I feel like the service style was one of such hostile apathy that it would make the most hardened fast food employees stop and take notice.  I know it is McDonald’s and the pay sucks, but to combine apathy with hostility takes some effort.  Saying “can I help whose next would you like to try the egg white surprise” in the form of one word, delivered in monotone and just repeating it with increasing volume so that some intimidated Midwestern couple in their 50s hop to attention takes a real dedication, as do the dozens of tattoos adorning the arms of the women of BWI McDonalds.  The best is when the food is ready they drop it off to a spot 3 feet from you and no matter how many people reach to be handed the food it was consistently placed just outside of the reach of the customer, yours truly included.  It felt like the whole staff were women who were deemed “too tough and nasty” to play Snoop on The Wire.  Oh well, time to get on the flight to Cleveland.

Review of 2 Guns tomorrow.  Shows all weekend starting tonight at the Cleveland Improv.

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Cleveland Steamer

I am currently embedded in Starbucks because of a muggy downpour outside, which is a terrible way to begin a three day break in Cleveland.  It is the baseball all star game so there are no sports to watch, I have already been to the Rock N Roll Museum (sorry, your new exhibit on “Women Who Rock!” is not enough to get me back so soon after my initial visit last year) and I am trying hard not to see Zookeeper or Larry Crowne, which means I am out of things to do.  I am in Cleveland because I have been booked for back to back weeks.  I just opened for Rodney Perry, best known for his work on The Mo’nique Show and in a recent Tyler Perry movie.  After three days off to self-hate I will be opening for Matt Braunger, who is quite a different performer.  Of course, when comparing clips I think you will see that the booker for the Cleveland Improv is stretching my diversity a bit thin.  I think the manager knowing that I am mixed race has doubled the work I get here, but also doubles the work.

It has been a big week for half-black people.  Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit this weekend and President Obama made it another week without getting killed by the Tea Party.  Meanwhile I was introduced on stage to Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” (not kidding).

Here is Rodney Perry:

Had a fun time working with him this weekend and he is a super nice guy.

Now here is Matt Braunger, who I will open for this weekend:

Now guess who the only person will be that attending both of these shows?  Most likely me.  Between the two crowds, I will end up performing something akin to Jim Carrey’s split personality in Me, Myself & Irene.  So if you are in Cleveland – get your tickets to Matt Braunger this week and see me defeat the attempt by Cleveland Improv General Manager Lee Herlands to make my life difficult.


The Casino, The Bloody Toilet Seat & Vanilla Coke…

So after a few weeks of dominating Call of Duty: Black Ops while stationed in my man-cave, AKA  studio apartment, I headed back out onto the road Wednesday for a two week comedy trip.  The first gig was a spot at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY, which is somewhere near the north pole.

The Casino

Wednesday I drove up (well, rode shotgun) with comedian Joe Pontillo to perform at the Turning Stone Casino.  It is my third time performing at the casino and I am glad to say that the gig keeps improving with each trip.  The first time I went there was a crowd of 25 in a room that sat 400.  Then the casino re-configured their night club into a comedy room that was much smaller and more conducive to comedy.  The last show I did there probably had 50 audience members and Wednesday night we had about 80!  At this rate I will be a world renowned comedian sometime after my 147th birthday!

But the show actually went really well.  Fortunately Joe and I did not perish in what has become a traditional, Act-of-God weather phenomenon on the drive up to Verona.  Last winter we drove up and encountered three separate snowstorms.  However, none scared me as much as the thunderstorm we passed through on the way up Wednesday.  I actually thought we were witnessing the end of the world.  But I’m sure everyone upstate would attribute increasingly severe weather to it’s obvious cause: the onerous tax burdens on wealthy Americans and businesses.

After my set a young man bought me a drink at the bar and told me he thought my jokes were awesome.  Then after the show he came up to me with his girlfriend and said, “Awesome stuff man – I didn’t buy you a drink like as in ‘I’ll suck your dick,’ but (gesturing to his girlfriend) she might suck your dick – hahaha.”  I told him, “Yeah that was so weird and awkward until you clarified it.  Now no one feels strange.”

But speaking of sucking dick I observed something even more bizarre towards the end of the show.  Three women, who on average were a 9.3/10 (and not in that stupid way where most women assume they are already a 7 or an 8 when they are 4s and 5s – these chicks were Hollywood 9.3s).  They were accompanied by a few men all of whom appeared to be 2-3 times their age.  This brought up several thoughts/questions for me:

  1. Attractive women can be found anywhere where there is the possibility of money, except for candy stores selling lottery tickets.
  2. The Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY has prostitutes?  And hot ones?
  3. Why are comedians not offered prostitutes in lieu of cash and/or hotel room?
  4. Is it possible these women are not whores?  Or even if they are, has living in Verona, NY made them unaware that being a 9.3 (or a flat out 10 in the case of the woman wearing the white dress – if you are reading this blog) carries a much higher exchange rate in major cities?  Old men in Verona can offer you what?  Applebees’ gift cards and discounted hunting permits?  In the city you are looking at a 1 bedroom apartment on Central Park West and a purse dog.

Well the gig ended – I got a good night’s sleep and then made my way to the Syracuse Greyhound Station for a 7 hour ride from Syracuse to Cleveland, Ohio while the haunting opening chimes of AC/DC’s Hells Bells played in my iPod.

The Bloody Toilet Seat

It should be no secret to the readers of this blog that like Republicans in Congress I am waging a war to cut benefits on the neediest citizen I know: me.  That is why I seek to end up in the black on every trip I make.  That means the cheaper the gig, the longer and cheaper the transportation.  I have taken 18 hour Greyhound trips and this fall I will add a 20 hour Greyhound trip and a 30 hour Amtrak trip to my Joey Chestnut/Kobayashi of self-destruction through transportation.  But Syracuse to Cleveland was only a 7 hour bus ride.  I can do that in my sleep.  But shortly into the trip I was yelling “This was supposed to be an exhibition!” like Apollo Creed’s trainer right before Apollo is killed by Drago.

One of the great things about America is its diversity, especially in cities like Washington, DC and New York City.  It means people of different backgrounds, hot women of all varieties, etc.  But these are the positives of diversity.  Taking a Greyhound bus for any significant distance (more than 100 miles) demonstrates how awful diversity can be.  Here is what one would learn from the diversity on my Greyhound yesterday:

  1. Amish people travel in large packs and not one of them has a stick of deodorant.  There is also no such thing as a handsome or attractive Amish person (sorry Kelly McGillis).  And even if one were accidentally handsome or pretty, lack of sunlight and grooming products would nurture what nature tried to fight.
  2. People of all races who appear to have felony records prefer Greyhound.
  3. Black woman having a conversation asked the following questions: a) “Her son is dead?  They was playing with guns?” b) “Them black vitamins was omega threes?”  I enjoyed this because as a heavy set black woman she endorsed two negative stereotypes (poor grammar and gun violence) but also showed that she does care about her heart and joint health.
  4. Only angry tall people read on Greyhound.  Everyone else maintains hour long phone conversations or listens to their iPod so loud that I can actually understand lyrics from three seats away (oddly a dude that looked like he was an extra on Sons of Anarchy was listening to No Scrubs by TLC).

But sometimes you learn something on a Greyhound bus that you already knew, but the magnitude of it shocks you to the core.  It should not come as a shock that bus bathrooms are gross.  For me they pose an additional challenge.  First, I have to duck in most (they seem to be about 6’5″ at best and I am 6’7″).  Second, the bus drivers prefer the stop and start motion as if they are in bumper to bumper traffic, and third, I try not to hold on to anything in a bus bathroom.  So under ideal circumstances a simple piss turns into a p90X level core strengthening and balance workout.  But the bathroom on this Greyhound had a special surprise for me:

Blood on the toilet seat.

Let’s do some soul searching.  I am not always the best bus and train bathroom person.  9 out of 10 times I will take a wad of toilet paper to lift up the seat, but sometimes the damage is so severe that some J-L urine may actually sterilize whatever the hell has gone on previous to my visit.  But those are all within what the reasonable person would expect.  But blood on a toilet seat?  Personally I think it was the Amish, but who knows?  One of my fellow passengers might have been fleeing a shoot out with law enforcement.  But in any case it was the most disgusting thing I’d ever seen.  And then I felt the most disgusting thing I’d ever felt.  As I was leaning and twisting to keep balance in the bathroom my back (which was only covered by a t shirt) made contact with a gooey, gel-like substance which quickly seeped through to my skin.  The next three seconds seemed to last an eternity as I believed that the blood was just a diversion to get me to inadvertently slap some ejaculate on my upper back.  Fortunately it was just some gel soap from the soap dispenser that someone had smeared on the mirror (hell soap anywhere is an improvement at this point).  As odd as that sounds it is what I observed and it is what I will tell myself to go to sleep for the next 6 months until the trauma of that bathroom subsides.

Cleveland Improv & The Birth of Vanilla Coke

By 730 last night, after I had scrubbed my back with alcohol and sandpaper it was time to perform at the Cleveland Improv.  What is normally a fairly diverse crowd (on average the crowds I’ve had at the club have been 60% black, 40% white + other) was almost 100% black.  And female.  And that can be a tough crowd for me.  If I don’t say some things that bush buttons racially (while urban crowds are still determining whether to consider me one of them or too close to a white dude talking sh*t) I will generally push some buttons gender-wise.  But the crowd was fantastic.  The last time I was in a room of black people that happy I was at IHOP with my Dad.  As I have always said there is no greater feeling than killing in a black room and no worse feeling than doing badly in a black room.  And last night felt great.

Here are some of the highlights (because this weekend will probably provide me with five opportunities to experience the full spectrum of urban comedy):

  • I finally came up with my stage name if I decide to go the BET circuit.  Vanilla Coke (alluding to my half-black, Algerian-at-best appearance).  At least half a dozen women shouted it at me as they left the club.  I will gladly change that to my officially name if Coca Cola wants to pay me $250,000 annually for the next 30 years.
  • When I said my Mom was white a woman shouted, “You look good anyway!”  Never has a compliment felt so weird.
  • When I discussed how my Dad was a tough disciplinarian when I was a kid there was no response.  I then asked, “Anybody know their Dad here?” Huge laugh.  When in doubt, in a room of 200+ black women, it is safe to rip irresponsible black men, as long as they already like you.

It is a weird phenomenon, but when you kill with mostly white crowds you feel like they want to buy you a beer or bang their girlfriend in Verona, NY.  But when you kill with a black crowd it feels like they want you to join their family.  Hopefully the good times keep rolling.

So that has been the trip so far, but with gigs spread over the next 10 days in Cleveland I am sure there will be more to discuss, but hopefully no more bloody toilet seats.


March Madness: The Infuriating Inconsistency of Cleveland Crowds

Last week I wrapped up two weeks in the Midwest with 4 days of performances at the Cleveland Improv.  The Cleveland Improv has a new gorgeous location (I would rank it the second nicest club I have seen in the country behind the Chicago Improv), which is located right next to Christies, a large strip club, which made it a convenient place to take a break for two strippers on Saturday, thus answering the question of  “where do strippers go for a break when they want to feel better about themselves?”

Now at every other club I work or have worked in the country I have featured (the middle act that does about 30 minutes per show, gets paid a little bit more than the emcee, and gets paid a lot less than the headliner), but the Cleveland Improv has put me through a year of emcee work, as if it is the mail room at an Entertainment agency.   There are somethings that have made this a particularly interesting experience:

  • I have been on several “paper” shows in Cleveland (an experience only exceeded by my “shows” in Birmingham, Alabama a few years ago).  “Paper” shows are the shows, either on low volume nights or with non-famous headliners, where the club offers free admission to people to get a crowd in (they still have to order their two drinks).  So what happens on these nights is you get a diverse audience with a dozen different comedic sensibilities (stupid often runs through many of them), whose only common denominator is that they like free tickets to things.  This is the flour in our cake recipe for infuriating shows.
  • Cleveland Improv school of thought.  There are three schools of thought to booking shows that clubs employ. Here they are for comparison:
  1. The Complimentary Lineup – this is where the emcee, the feature and the headliner are not carbon copies, but their styles are almost guaranteed to please the audience – in other words if you like the headliner, then you will probably be pleased with the other two comedians.
  2. The Contrast Style (the Cleveland Improv technique) – this is where the emcee, the feature and the headliner all offer something different.  This can have a great payoff if the crowd is open to different styles, but can, more often than not, turn into the comedic equivalent of an ambush in a war zone when, like a show I did last year, the headliner is a famous Def Jam comedian (meaning he brings a Def Jam crowd that ONLY likes Def Jam comedy) and the feature is a clean comedian from Iowa whose closer involves an Avril Lavigne reference.  Let the chorus of “Boo Nigga Boo!!!!!” begin!
  3. The Who Just E-Mailed Me technique – this is the one I am convinced some bookers use, which is basically enie meenie minie moe on e-mail when you cannot figure how a club put together a lineup.

So I featured on Thursday, as my audition to feature at the club and had an excellent set.  It was literally the best set I had had in Cleveland in 20 shows.  Of course I would not have a great set again until Sunday.  There were many awkward moments during the shows.  Here are the top 3:

  1. I told the following joke (part of a larger bit) 6 times during the week: “You’d never get a store called ‘Big and Tall’ for women because they’re too sensitive.  So instead they get ‘Lane Bryant’ which seems nice, but it isn’t once you realize the initials for Lane Bryant are lb.”  Now you may not think that is a funny quip (it is is not the big payoff of the joke), but here is why 4 of the 6 Cleveland crowds were dumb – no one laughed at the line.  But then I said “And of course LB is short for pound” and those 4 crowds erupted in laughter.  So it was not that they did not like the joke; they didn’t make the connection that LB was the abbreviation for pound.  That told me everything I needed to know.  I was not Dennis Miller making a reference to an obscure 18th century painting to prove why Obama’s foreign policy is a failure – it was one of our main units of measurement.
  2. I got heckled on the 1015 show on Friday.  He told me to “tell some jokes” 10 minutes into my 15 minute set.  Needless to say he was not laughing at the LB reference.
  3. Upon leaving the showroom I began verbally destroying Cleveland crowds for their stupidity and the collective pussiness of white crowds who are scared to tell a black heckler to shut the fu*k up (but they ALWAYS have the comedian’s back if it is a drunk white chick heckling as they did on the 8pm show Friday).  Then a white woman from the 8 pm show who was at the bar with her husband and was laughing at my tirade came up to me and said, “Look on the bright side you are still white.”  I looked at her and said, “Did you not hear my routine?”  And she replied, “But for this room you are white, so you still have that.”  And that is my quandary with America – who do I side with – dumb black people or dumb white people?

See you next time around Cleveland.  Just know that I may not enjoy it either.


Cleveland Shows (part 2) & California Gurls

Quick recap of Cleveland shows – Day 2 :

I was greeted with silence for 15 minutes for show #1 last night so after losing home court advantage Thursday night when I made them laugh quite a bit, Clevelanders came back with a vengeance giving me apathetic stare after disapproving moan.  Show 2 was a blowout, but I quickly re-grouped with Coach/Improv Manager Lee Herlands, who sadly, with the recent passing of James Gammon (a/k/a the Manager Lou Brown from Major League), lacks a clear cut favorite for casting when my book is made into a Lifetime Original movie.

He gave me a quick pep talk to be more fun and lively and to forget about the curveball and give ’em the heater ( he had already thoroughly disparaged my act earlier in the day).  I went out int he second show and won a decisive victory over the crowd, closing with a “if 9/11 rallied people around George Bush, then Cleveland is probably rallying around Kobe Bryant” bit.  Lee said to me, “now that was a good set.”  In 3 trips to the Improv this year it was the first full blown compliment I got from Lee which either meant he was drunk (very possible) or that it was a moment as touching as the janitor watching Rudy play his final game for Notre Dame.  He did follow it up saying I won’t be a headliner for ten years, so it all evened out.

So I now hold a 2-1 lead over Cleveland Improv audiences with two big shows tonight.  I can close out the series tonight with two wins because I do not want to leave my fate up to Sunday night audiences (after Church is a terrible time to hear jokes ending with tag lines like “cum dumspter.”).

Now on to the task of today as promised on Twitter, so you know I must honor it:

I am in the habit of declaring things “the worst ever.”  For example, just based on a preview I believe I successfully called Valentine’s Day the worst movie of all time.  I still have not seen it, but I am confident in that designation.   Well, I am now ready to declare the worst song I have ever heard: California Gurls by Katy Perry featuring a shell of a man named Snoop Dogg.

I must disclose I am not averse to pop music or female pop artists.  For God’s sake I have two Shania Twain albums, 4 Lady Gaga songs on my iPod and an Adam Lambert album.  And I enjoyed Katy Perry’s jingle Hot N Cold – it is a great pop song.  So I was intrigued when I saw Katy Perry’s new song, California Gurls had reached number one on the pop charts.  Now if Paul Blart: Mall Cop and George Bush’s first election in 2004 taught me anything it is that the American people can get it wrong and they can get it wrong horribly.  But Katy Perry had not yet done anything wrong on the scale of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry or trading Sammy Sosa, so there was no real warning (though her engagement to insect Russel Brand raised both of my eyebrows).

So this week, before departing for Cleveland I turned on VH1 in the morning to see what the  kids are listening to (and by kids I mean women in their 30s) and to my excitement California Gurls was coming on.

Now Katy Perry is, in my non-humble opinion, very attractive.  Perhaps that is because Lady Gaga’s mug is the only other omnipresent female pop presence at the moment, but I think she is quite awesome.  So the fact that she is about 90% naked throughout the video would only enhance my enjoyment of the video.  But then the music began. Here are the lyrics for you:

Snoop Dogg]
Greetings loved ones
Let’s take a journey

[Katy Perry – Verse 1]
I know a place
Where the grass is really greener
Warm, wet and wild
There must be somethin’ in the water
Sippin’ gin and juice
Layin’ underneath the palm trees (Undone)
The boys
Break their necks
Try’na creep a little sneak peek (At us)

You could travel the world
But nothing comes close
To the Golden Coast
Once you party with us
You’ll be falling in love
Oooooh oh oooooh

[Katy Perry – Chorus]
California girls
We’re unforgettable
Daisy Dukes
Bikinis on top
Sun-kissed skin
So hot
We’ll melt your Popsicle
Oooooh oh oooooh

California girls
We’re undeniable
Fine, fresh, fierce
We got it on lock
Westcoast represent
Now put your hands up
Oooooh oh oooooh

[Katy Perry – Verse 2]
Sex on the beach
We don’t mind sand in our Stilettos
We freak
In my Jeep
Snoop Doggy Dogg on the stereo (Oh oh)

You could travel the world
But nothing comes close
To the Golden Coast
Once you party with us
You’ll be falling in love
Oooooh oh oooooh

[Katy Perry – Chorus]
California girls
We’re unforgettable
Daisy Dukes
Bikinis on top
Sun-kissed skin
So hot
We’ll melt your Popsicle
Oooooh oh oooooh

California gurls
We’re undeniable
Fine, fresh, fierce
We got it on lock
Westcoast represent
Now put your hands up
Oooooh oh oooooh

[Snoop Dogg – Verse 3]
Toned, tanned
Fit and ready
Turn it up ’cause it’s gettin’ heavy
Wild, wild Westcoast
These are the girls I love the most
I mean the ones
I mean like she’s the one
Kiss her
Touch her
Squeeze her buns

The girl’s a freak
She drives a Jeep
and lives on the beach
I’m okay
I won’t play
I love the Bay
Just like I love L.A.
Venice Beach
And Palm Springs
Summertime is everything

Hangin’ out
All that ass
Hangin’ out
Bikinis, tankinis, martinis
No weenies
Just a king
And a queen-ie
Katy my lady
You’re lookin’here baby
(Uh huh)
I’m all up on you
‘Cause you representin’ California
(Ohhh yeahh)

[Katy Perry – Chorus]
California gurls
We’re unforgettable
Daisy Dukes
Bikinis on top
Sun-kissed skin
So hot
We’ll melt your Popsicle
Oooooh oh oooooh

California gurls
We’re undeniable
Fine, fresh, fierce
We got it on lock
Westcoast represent
(Westcoast, Westcoast)
Now put your hands up
Oooooh oh oooooh

Snoop Dogg:
(Californiaaa, Californiaaa)
California girls man
I wish they all could be
California girls
I really wish
You all could be
California girls
(Californiaaa, girls)

And the beat to the song is equally awful.  And this is America’s #1 song?  Never have I heard a song that made me long for the melodic and lyrical genius of Summer songs like LFO’s Summer Girls (previously a contender for the worst song I’ve ever heard, but they came back strong with Girl On TV – very underappreciated).  I do understand Katy spelling “gurls” with a u so perhaps no one confuses the song with the Beach Boys’ California Girls, a song that is not only infinitely superior melodically, but also reads like Dickens compared to these lyrics.

And Snoop Dogg – what a bitch!  Perhaps rap stopped being authentic and hard years ago, but he managed to dig up the corpse of street cred and sodomize it with this song. Or did he already do that when he wrote and performed an atrocious ode to Sookie Stackhouse in a video following  a True Blood episode this season.

So in other words, California Gurls –  congratulations!  You made Katy Perry a little less attractive to me than even the thought of Russel Brand grinding his heroin-riddled pelvis into her.  You are the worst song I’ve ever heard.  And you may very well go down in History, along with George W. Bush, the Twilight series and ringtones as one of the things that signified the end of America’s status as the World’s leader.

And if you have this song as your ringtone I think you should consider ending your life.