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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.

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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 Hotwire.com 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.  Hotels.com 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!

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Chicago Journal Pt 1: Law Degree to the Comedy…

Well yesterday was my first day in Chicago to start a week of feature work at Zanies.  I flew a very bumpy short flight from Cleveland to Chicago and had my usual dosage of annoyance from the new brand of airline terrorist: the woman (or man) who thinks they are the sole owner of the window.  I like seeing outside but I would at least like it put to a vote of the row of seats.  Otherwise I reserve the right as the aisle seat person to refuse the window seat passenger access to snacks or the bathroom.  Anyway I arrived in Chicago and was picked up from the airport by my friend from law school who has provided me with shelter each of visits to Zanies in 2010, 2012 and now 2014.

The last time I was in Chicago she had added a cat to her apartment and that cat promptly sat on my head while I was sleeping, putting the fear of God into me.  So this time when I met the cat I have been kissing its ass and scratching it – like Anthony Cumia taking pictures with black fans I was out to show Biscuit (the cat) that not only do I NOT have problems with cats… some of my best friends are cats!

The other thing this trip is providing is a great contrast in paths taken by Georgetown Law graduates.  As I wrote on Facebook last night, many of my law school classmates, several of whom who have been exceedingly supportive by either recruiting people to shows in different cities or, in a few cases, providing me a couch or a spare bedroom (see as a lawyer you can have more than a one room apartment) to stay in when clubs do not provide lodging.   Well my friend owns her own place in the heart of downtown Chicago and it is a great loft.  Then she gave me guest passes to the East Bank Club – the greatest-to-an-absurd-level gym I have ever seen.  I am legitimately living a more luxurious lifestyle (except with a cat creeping around) than if I were staying in a great hotel (by great I mean EVEN BETTER than my usual Hampton Inn when I am feeling like a baller).  The point is the best thing I can say about law school is that it puts you in contact with people who will be successful and might help you on your difficult path to mediocrity. #Blessed

The show last night went very well at Zanies.  Here are my three favorite interactions that will help you see how I did:’

3) “Are you always the middle at clubs? (Yes) You should be a headliner.”

2) “Did you perform at Vanderbilt with lawyers?” (YES!) “That was a lot more tame than your act here” (well did you still enjoy it?) “To be honest I am very much against porn (I did a bit on the absurd fact that porn is still labeled interracial in 2014) but you did get lots of laughs.”

1) “My boyfriend died this week and I lost my job and you made me really laugh tonight and I am going to tell people about you.” (So you’re single?)

This will probably be the last blog of the week, but be sure to check out www.YouTube.com/JLCauvin for my review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes on Friday.

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! THIS WEEK’S EPISODE WAS A MASTERPIECE

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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!

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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:

“J-L”

That was it. So I replied:

“yeah?”

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!

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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 Salon.com.  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.

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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.

Ay - welcome to McDonalds, fu*k you want?

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

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes. New Every Tuesday!

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Cleveland Part 3: Extremeties

I am currently on the third of three days off in Cleveland.  At this point I am now beginning to over-analyze everything I see.  Fortunately the shows resume tomorrow night, which should prevent me from turning into Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

First off, I am getting a great tan in Cleveland, but it is more a wandering nomad, homeless-guy-in-LA tans, rather than a beach vacation tan.  That means my face, forearms and calves are a dark brown and everything else is relatively pale.  Because the bridge that shortens my walk to Starbucks and the Mall each day (and is a short cut to two strip clubs) is out of commission (for a year now – it was supposed to be fixed using Stimulus money – how ironic the stimulus money is preventing stimulation at the strip clubs – wakka wakka) I have to take the longer walk over the Veterans Memorial Bridge (VMB) every time I want to do anything besides meditate or avoid sneaky spider webs in the comedian condo.

Bridge Over Troubled Comedian

Yesterday, for example, at 6:20pm (plenty of daylight), I observed a party of 5 to 6 raccoons cross the street on my way to the VMB (good sign of rabies).  A day earlier I saw a creature that I did not recognize, despite watching all 11 episodes of Planet Earth, running in a nearby dirt patch.

Of course once I pass the Land of the Lost nature preserve I apparently am living in, I am quickly welcomed onto the set of Breaking Bad.  There is some sort of rehab clinic or shelter midway between the condo and the bridge.  There has never been any trouble and I am sure there is good work going on there, but it is still unnerving to see people walking like they are zombies nearby.  Except, unlike The Walking Dead, the white-black ratio is more 1:1 than a television acceptable 10:1.

Once I get passed the rehab center I can go straight, which leads to the supermarket and what appears, based on a proliferation of newish-looking beer gardens, to be a future yuppie, hipster neighborhood.  But first I have to walk through what feels like a four-to-five block hood.  As in I expect Cuba Gooding Jr. to scream RICKKYYYYYYYYYYY!” as I walk through it.  I have gone this way once to get groceries.  Perhaps I will go that way again today and work on my 40 yr dash time.

And don't forget to buy some milk at the grocery store!!!!

The other way, which has been my two to three times per day walk, is over the VMB which leads to food, Starbucks, Mass and the gym.  Of course crossing the bridge has been an adventure.  Usually there are lots of bike riders, but only about 1 in 5 are 10 speed-looking bike riders.  The rest are riding tiny bikes.  I never understood why grown men rode bikes that looked like they belonged to their younger siblings or children, but they immediate convey low level narcotics trafficking to me.  Then of course there are those special moments, like on Saturday, when I was jogging across the bridge and I observed a man without a shirt (hardly uncommon at the cross roads of Jurassic Park nature preserve, hood, and rehab clinic).  However, as I got closer it, became clearer that he had his penis out and was pissing into the wind while walking.   If he was headed to the rehab clinic I am guessing that he is going to need to give back that “two days sober” chip.

My daily ritual has been to read and write in Starbucks for several hours (since I just buy a one green tea I am basically renting the table for fifty cents an hour) before going to the gym.  Naturally this involves a lot of people watching.  Just the same way our economy and capitalism are helping to destroy what was once known as the middle class, the more I travel the country, observing “real Americans” the more I realize that Oscar Wilde was right – life is imitating art.  It seems the smaller the town or city, the more women are either dressing and inked up like porn stars, or just waiting on a 9th piece of chocolate cake.  I guess women have adopted the ,”If I cannot make a sex tape I might as well get on The Biggest Loser.”

Hi - what do you do for a living? Bank teller? Wonderful.

When I was doing clubs in the South, before they realized that book-learning and sarcasm did not always translate well to the “free ticket” crowds, I noticed the extremes of women.  They either looked and acted like Vivid video spokeswomen or like cheerleaders for Type II diabetes.   Obviously I am not examining men with the same eye to to detail, but the tattoo craze seems to have afflicted us as well, and I am sure we exhibit the same fitness extremes.   I don’t know if there is a crisis of confidence in America, only because we may be too shallow to actually examine how we feel.  We don’t just export our entertainment abroad -we also export it to the middle of this country, that used to be called upon to produce for us.  The Midwest had the identity of being the muscles of our industries – now they seem like an exaggerated testing ground for Internet and Reality Show trends.   The way a man without a job can turn to crime, it seems that when whole regions of the country have their jobs or identity stripped, a cultural race to the bottom seems to happen.  There are plenty of frauds and fools roaming New York City, but the uniformity of Middle America is starting to make think that the tattooed moron and the obese sad sack are becoming as American as the strip malls and apple pie that they consume.

Middle America seems to have adopted the all-or-nothing approach to attractiveness.

So if you thought those last couple of paragraphs were funny, I will be at the Cleveland Improv Thursday through Sunday.

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Cleveland Comedy: After Talents Left For South Beach

Yesterday I made my way to Cleveland at my usual 5:40 AM bus out of Port Authority Bus Terminal.  After 12 hours of being surrounded by snoring and bare feet I arrived in Cleveland.

When I arrived at the club to emcee for Joe Torry (former host of Def Comedy Jam on HBO) I was told that Joe did not bring his own feature and that he requested white and/or & “non-ghetto” comedians.  All of a sudden the weekend felt like a setup to be called a “white bitch” or a “light skinned fag-ot”  or a “light skinned, bitch ass, fake black fagg*ot”  for 6 straight shows – basically all the greatest hits from any urban club nightmare.

When the show started the crowd was talking. Literally it felt like all 200 people (as expected 194 black people, three white people and and in an upset 3 Asians) were talking, but the good news is that they were still settling in.  That is different talk then "you are boring me" chatter.  So I went through some standard material which got them chuckling a little, but then I got to LeBron and Obama and the crowd all of a sudden became engaged.  A few things I learned from my set:

1) Black people in Cleveland hate LeBron as much as the white people burning jerseys in the news clips and they love Dan Gilbert.  They also love my Obama impression as much as Dan Gilbert.

Insulting these guys is safe comedy in Cleveland right now.

2) Ask a crowd of black people in Cleveland to vote for Obama and 8 will clap.  Tell a crowd of black people in Cleveland that Obama might not get re-elected and 25 people will boo you.  Point out to a crowd of black people in Cleveland that they did not clap when I asked them to vote for him but booed me when I pointed out the logical conclusion of black people not supporting Obama as bad for his re-election chances and 194 will cheer and laugh.

Cleveland Improv fans may not actually go vote for him, but don't dare suggest he won't get re-elected.

3) Despite starting comedy in DC and working this club a few times this is the first all black crowd I’ve worked that was there specifically for a Def Jam experience.  I learned that speaking forcefully, using a dash more profanity and being generally aggressive gained the audience’s attention.  And all jokes about having sex with white women were met with discomfort.  I am also not comfortable that this sounds like 80% of the manual on slave owning.  Too far? Probably.

4) The barista in the Starbucks in Cleveland where I am writing this may be the most attractive woman in all of Cleveland.  I really think given her midwestern location and look that she was an absuive realtionship with her parents away from adult films.  Well I guess she will make some goober and/or 8 members of the Cleveland Cavaliers happy one day. 

My personal highlight was an impromptu quiz of Joe Torry’s credits by Joe Torry.  Here was the exchange:

“What do you want me to specifically say for your intro?”

“I don’t care – what do you know?”

“Def Comedy Jam host.”

“What else?”

“I don’t know. You did some movies too.”

“That’s it?”

Awkwardness.  I did not absorb much from law school or the legal profession, but I do remember what Robert Duvall said in A Civil Action: “Never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.”

So today I am hoping to build on my moderate success of last night.  If I do not I will be sure to post the video to YouTube.

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A Recap Of The Rock n Roll Hall Of…

Yesterday I went to the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame & Museum in Cleveland.  If you have not gone I strongly recommend it.  Perhaps if your favorite team is playing the Cavaliers, Indians or Browns one day/weekend build a trip around that, but the museum was awesome.  It is also geared as an all day experience (I spent about 5 hours there, which is a record for me at a non-school trip museum visit).  It was also relatively empty, which made for a pleasant visit (but it was weird watching all of the various movies and exhibits in empty theaters, except for the 45 minute recap montage of all the inductees – that was too amazing to feel weird in solitude).

And there is a special Bruce Springsteen exhibit on the top floor featuring tons of memorabilia.  Most interesting, at least from my perspective, was seeing items from the late 60s when he was promoting shows with handmade signs  saying “Come see The Bruce Springsteen Band – $3.”  With today’s technology, any as-hole (this as-hole included) can make impressive looking promo materials, but it must be especially gratifying for Springsteen to be able to see exactly how far he has come in every way.

I also had a black light with me to scan the exhibit for any body fluids of my housemates from Williams College.  Nothing was found, but the exhibit is supposed to be there through 2010.  Now I will give you a detailed recap of my favorite things in the museum, in case you never make it to Cleveland.

Best Hall of Fame Classes (in my opinion)

1) Gold Medal – 1989 – Rolling Stones, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Phil Spector (for producer and street cred).  This must have been an absolutely incredible induction ceremony.

2) Silver Medal – 1988 – The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, Bob Dylan, Les Paul.  Many would claim that this has to be number one, but I like the Stones way more than the Beatles, The Temptations win the Motown battle with The Supremes.  I do like the Beach Boys a lot, but they are cancelled out by Dylan’s mumbling. I did learn a lot about Les Paul at the Museum – they have a great exhibit dedicated to his evolution towards the electric guitar.  It was just great to learn about the guy who invented my Guitar Hero guitar.

3) Bronze Medal – 2001 – Michael Jackson, Queen, Aerosmith, Paul Simon.  MJ is like the LeBron James of the Hall of Fame classes – he could not have the supporting casts of the earlier classes (though Queen and Aerosmith are definitely better than the musical equivalents of Mo Williams and Anderson Verajao), but he alone makes this one of the greats.

4) To Be Determined – 2012.  This is when Guns N Roses is eligible and if the Hall of Fame can get them to reunite then all bets are off. (I was happy to see Welcome to the Jungle as one of the 500 songs that defined Rock according to the Hall of Fame).

5) Honorable Mention – 1999 – Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen.  No need to argue the better 70s/80s/90s singer-song writer when they are both on the bill.

Most Awkward Hall Of Fame Moments

1) 1992 induction of Ike and Tina Turner.  Nothing else needs to be said.

2) 2004 Induction of George Harrison as a solo artist.  Not sure he merited it, but it was the Hall of Fame’s way of telling Ringo Starr, “We really think you are the useless member of the Beatles, which is why the rest of them have been inducted twice.”

3) There is an exhibit of a photographer who has captured major musical moments at Madison Square Garden.  The last two photos in the exhibit are from a 2008 Holiday Concert.  The top photo is of Rihanna.  The bottom photo is of Chris Brown.  Did the Hall of Fame not hear about them or did they figure leave it – perhaps we’ll induct them together in 20 years.

4) 1998 Induction of the Mamas and the Papas.  Did nobody think it weird when one of the inductees was grinding his daughter on the dance floor?

Other than personal goals in comedy and seeing a Utah Jazz title, seeing a reunited GNR in concert would top my list of things I want to see

5) 1997 Induction of the Bee Gees.  Have you ever looked at the 4 Gibb brothers?  Clearly Mom fu-ked someone else when she had the ugly twins.  Andy, who died young, looked like a more handsome Heath Ledger and Barry Gibb looked like him.  The twins looked like anorexic Paul Giamattis.  But I will cut them slack since one of them passed on and their music was excellent.

Members That I think Are Overrated

1) Elvis Costello – don’t get him, don’t care for him

2) The Police – Every Breath You Take – great.  The rest of their songs – repetitive and annoying. 

Other Thoughts/Observations from the Hall of Fame

  • Based on sheer volume how is Phil Collins not in the Hall of Fame – he seems to meet their criteria.  Then I saw Genesis on the 2010 list of inductees.
  • Frank Zappa – has a musician ever looked more like a porn star?
  • No one has ever rocked a beard better than Marvin Gaye. Except maybe for early 90s Tom Cruise.
  • I used to not get why David Bowie got so much respect in the music world (you mean the guy from Labyrinth that slept with Mick Jagger?).  I wonder no longer – that guy’s catalogue is pretty sick.  And so diverse.  He’s like a whiter, more feminine Prince, but 10-15 years earlier.
  • Tom Petty has the deepest speaking voice and the whiniest singing voice.
  • Even though I usually roll my eyes at “spiritual” people (they generally believe enough to make themselves seem worldly, but really just hate judgment), Jim Morrison seemed pretty cool, at least the way they write him up.  Val Kilmer was a good choice to play him, but if Will Ferrell got in shape when he was younger and wore his Chazz Michael Michaels hair from Blades of Glory I think he could have pulled it off.

 See what I mean?

  • Good God a lot of rock stars died early.  How are Motley Crue and the Rolling Stones still alive given all the drug and plane crash deaths that seem to strike musicians.
  • I don’t want to meet James Hetfield of Metallica. TO me he seems like he’s 7’0″ tall and 350 lbs.  He looks like a monster bad ass on stage and it would be disappointing to stand next to him and dwarf him.
  • Steve Winwood was a member of Traffic, who got inducted in 2004.  Between his solo work, The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic this guy is like the Robert Horry of music.  Good work Steve.

Ok, that is it for the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame & Museum.  Now tonight it’s off to see LeBron in person (19 rows from the court).  And then it’s a good thing shows start up again at the Cleveland Improv tomorrow night because I think I will be out of activities to do in Cleveland.