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Roaches vs. Man – My Alamo in the Comedy…

Week 2 of my San Antonio journey officially began yesterday as I moved from the outskirts of San Antonio into the heart of downtown to work at Rivercenter Comedy Club.  A quick breakdown of the two clubs – The LOL Club gets you free admission to the best movie theater in America (Alamo Drafthouse) and quick access to a Cheesecake Factory and a Chick Fil-A.  On the downside you are sort of isolated and the only gym you can workout at is Planet Fitness – a gym that bans jump rope and heavy weights, but does have tootsie rolls and pizza parties.  Now I am at the Rivercenter Comedy Club.  Pluses – near the Alamo, which could be defeated by an athletic high school basketball team (if the tall Dutch were attacking instead of miniature Mexicans it would have been taken faster – the thing is small and short), near a Fogo De Chao (a Brazilian steakhouse that serves unlimited filet mignon) and a free week pass to the Gold’s Gym.  There is a movie theater, but it is not free and not as good, though it is a solid AMC.  So at this point it is hard to draw an overall winner.  Each club has its strengths and weaknesses.  The tie breaker is simple:

LOL Club – comedians get a hotel.  At Rivercenter – comics get the condo.

Whenever a comedian gets booked on the road there are three possibilities: one is the club provides a hotel, the next is they provide a condo – an apartment the club owns or rents and have cleaned once a week for the incoming comedians (do yourself a favor and DO NOT bring a black light – better to live in ignorance) and the last is that the club provides nothing.  Shockingly the lack of any lodging is sometimes preferable to the condo.

The first time I performed at Rivercenter was in Fall 2011 and I did not see one bug the whole week.  So despite other comedians ripping on the condo I had no problem coming back to it.  And during the day I saw nothing.

I did the show that night and had a great set – excellent crowd.  Had fun chatting with the emcee George and the headliner Cory, who was my condo-mate (the headliner gets the room with the 14 inch tube television – BALLER).  However, as I walked back with Cory to the condo after the show he began telling me haunting stories about his last time at the club (which was Fall 2012 – so more recent and relevant) and the high quantity of roaches he saw throughout the apartment (to be fair there are a lot of combat traps and 2 bottles of Raid in the condo).  And like Beetlejuice or Candyman it was as if Cory summoned the evil spirits of roaches and waterbugs by saying their name because when I got back to the condo I saw a large roach climbing the side of my dresser. I promptly smashed it (#hero), but was now convinced/paranoid that the apartment was teeming with them.  I put all my stuff into my suitcase and sprayed every inch of the room with Raid.

We then went out where I decided a few beers might put my already tired ass into a coma so I could pass out without thinking about my new roommates.  We ended up going to this excellent place Mad Dog’s British pub, which featured outstanding karaoke hosts (they looked like an older Amy Poehler and Mya Rudolph performing a sketch about two older women hosting karaoke).  When Cory and I walked in we got great looks of “who ARE these guys” because Cory is short but very jacked and bears a little resemblance to Michael Vick, while I look like a back-up long snapper for an NFL team (hey we both made this fictional roster).  One of the karaoke highlights was one guy wearing a Roger Staubach jersey who did a phenomenal version of Cherry by Franki Valli and the Four Seasons.  The staff was hot, the crowd was fun and the hosts were great (singing, dancing and joking around – I guess women in their mid forties do have something to contribute after all!) and I started to relax.  After a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours we left to go back to the condo.

We were talking in the kitchen area and I was starting to feel comfortable (all the lights on in the apartment) and then a roach just sauntered out towards me in the light of the kitchen.  This roach was like Blade – it was of the night, but could also walk in the light.  I then noticed one on the wall and Cory informed me that a stain on the floor was his handiwork earlier in the day (dead roach stain, not a Cory stain).  I promptly stepped on the one approaching me and declared “I’m out of here.” I felt like those brave souls at the Alamo that I was now so close to – outnumbered by aggressive, tiny, brown creatures.  I then booked a room at a nearby Doubletree for a surprisingly low rate (this blog is sponsored by hotels.com).  When I got to the Doubletree at 3 am the man at the desk looked at me and said “No offense, but you look deathly tired.  Here are a couple of cookies.”  And then I fell asleep in my beautiful room at the Doubletree.

Remember the Condo!

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

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10 Observations from 10 Years In Comedy

In my decade of performing, observing, enjoying and being despondent over stand up comedy it has been a very interesting and unique time to be a comedian.  When I began I still sent physical VHS tapes for auditions (quickly moving on to DVDs, both of which sit in warehouses like the one where the Arc of the Covenant is stored in Raiders of the Lost Arc).  The biggest comedian in the world was Dane Cook.  Beards were worn primarily by drifters and the homeless and women were just not considered very funny.  And in a decade my how some of those things have changed!  Now I send video clips and avails by email, which no longer have to be discarded into basements or (physical) trash bins; Louis CK is the biggest comedian, who unlike Dane Cook never uses non-sequiturs or voice inflection as the driving force of a joke; beards are an industry gold standard, like a foot long dong in porn; and now women are the funniest gender on the planet if you are reading the Huffington Post.  So to give you some perspective on the last tumultuous and game-changing decade in comedy here is my list:

1) Chris Rock may be the last stand up legend to be judged critically.  Bring the Pain is the greatest hour of comedy I have ever seen.  I do not think it will ever be surpassed.  Every bit on that is a greatest hit.  It was strong, relevant, thoughtful and most importantly hilarious.  Chris Rock’s next special was an A, but not the A+ that BTP was. But then Rock did Never Scared and I remember critics and comedians were not that warm to it.  I was at a taping of it in DC and enjoyed it, but knew that it was not to the level of the first two.  But I did not try to choke slam the first person to say they did not like the special.  Because in comedy you should be judged by the product and not merely reputation (that might actually benefit me).  Sure, fans can get caught up in the hype, but at least comedians should be able to give honest assessments.  However, guys like Dave Chappelle (who’s show was tremendous and whose stand up career has someone how been inflated to the level of Chris Rock (or beyond by some) as he gained unwarranted mythical status) and Louis CK have been unassailable and infallible in their stand up. 

I saw Chappelle in 2003 I believe, headline the DC Improv and watched someone deliver a lackluster hour for $45 a ticket.  The material and the effort were not worthy of the ticket price.  Also, Louis CK’s last two specials were fine.  Some highlights, but the almost instant reaction from comedians to them was “brilliant” and “amazing” across social media platforms, and could not be justified.  So apparently it is now a great time to be a legend in comedy.  Our colective need for man made deities in an increasingly secular age with more and more Internet interaction has made hero worship more necessary and more personal to people.  Myths can be worshipped, but a real comedy legend should still be scrutinized and judged on the work.  So for my money (which is not much) I think Chris Rock may be the last comedy legend we see for a while and definitely over the past decade.

2) Dane Cook used voice inflection as a punchline, which is now panned… by people who love comics who use voice inflection.  Starting my decade of comedy, Dane Cook was the biggest thing in comedy (more Kevin Hart than CK, but still a huge deal).  Ten years later, Cook can do nothing right in the eyes of some.  His formula, though not for everyone, was unique and he had honed it – it relied a lot on personality, charisma and story telling, but his signatures were voice inflection and accompanying gesticulations.  I do not describe it this way to denigrate it, but only because that is how someone studying his success might portray it.  He worked hard, worked through the clubs, made it to late night television and when his moment came he became a monster success.

Now Dane Cook is a guy with “no jokes” and “stupid fans” to a lot of the in-the-know comedy crowd who gravitate towards a new scene of comics who use plenty of voice inflection and gesticulation to either punctuate a joke – or to replace conventional punchlines entirely.  But some of this new inflection class are more humble and pulling less pussy than Cook so they are viewed as vanguards of authenticity.  So in a way nothing has changed on this front in ten years, except for a lot of blind hypocrisy.

3) Chappelle’s Show Was the Last Great Sketch Show.  I still watch and enjoy SNL, but since Chappelle’s Show, sketch comedy took a nosedive the last ten years.   It seems that Chappelle’s Show was the last sketch (and possible comedy overall) to be hugely entertaining with meaningful social commentary and risk-taking that was not meant to shock, simply for the sake of shock.  If I showed you season 2 of Chappelle Show 10 years ago (approximately) and then showed you a futuristic glimpse of Key and Peele ten years later, you might assume an apocalyptic event had taken place.

4) It is better to be lucky or local as a middle comic.  Road work, once the lifeblood of the up and coming comedian has basically dried up.  Even if you are successful and connected enough to secure a lot of weeks of work as a middle, the nickel and diming barely allows you to make ends meet.  But if you are a local comedian across the country with any chops you can probably secure more work at your local clubs than someone with television credits can across the country (I am thinking of no one in particular).  Of course, if you are lucky enough to connect with an established headliner than you may secure as many feature weeks as they have headlining weeks, but generally being local or being lucky beat being good if you are trying to get middle work.  I felt like I saw a lot more people slightly ahead of me in the early part of my decade in comedy securing solid amounts of feature work.  Maybe that was an illusion, but when in 2013 a booker refers to it as a “buyer’s market” to you and another booker apologizes that they cannot pay you more (not because they are strapped for cash, but because local features have set the rate lower for that market) it probably is not.

5) The comedy community has reached a critical mass of self-absorption.  Comedy controversies have become as important to the comedy community as telling good jokes.  Mind you a comedy controversy is as valuable to the world as what you ate for breakfast is.  A funny joke on social media is almost as important as who told it with regard to re-tweeting and liking something.  No I am not suggesting that ass kissing somehow emerged in the last decade, just that it is now more in your face and having exponential growth BECAUSE it is in everyone’s face.  Ten years ago, the road and television appearances were badges of honor and benchmarks in a career.  Now every comedian who cannot or will not make effort to get booked outside of their three favorite venues is proclaiming “the old order is dead – we don’t need the clubs!”  Right, and now instead of some people having viable careers we have almost everyone scraping by at the same level.  I am mad at the clubs because they are cheap and hurting the chances of genuine talent sustaining their careers in comedy, but I still want the clubs because they have the built in audiences who like comedy and purchase CDs.

My favorie little anecdote showing people’s lack of gloabal awareness may have been a few years ago when a new-sish comic spoke of another new-ish comedian (both less than 4 years performing) and said “he is really influencing a lot of people right now.” 

6) The best comics I have seen throughout the decade were the 10-12 year guys.  I mean this to say the “unknown” comedians that I have liked the best have always been the guys with enough experience to be great at what they do, but enough humility and time to have shifted their focus from bullsh*t.  Two of my favorite comics right now are Yannis Pappas and John Moses (who may not want to be affiliated with me or this post).  They are both sharp, unique comedians with distinct points of view and are starting to get success.  This is who should be getting the showcase opportunities from the industry, not having to be do-it-yourself cottage industries.  Of course this is a Catch 22 – perhaps if they had been coddled and embraced sooner they would not have become as good as they are.  But now that comics like Yannis and John and many others have molded their acts under increasingly brutal (do it all yourself and if we like you we will take 10% to help you cross the finish line) industry conditions I want to see them doing half hour specials.  Not as speculative chances, but as proven commodities.

I laughed when someone recently told me that they thought Joe DeRosa’s new comedy central half hour was “great.”  I laughed because I am sure it was.  Joe is a comedian who is well known in comedy circles, has been doing it for over a decade and has worked very hard.  Comedy specials on television should be the reward of people who have earned a certain status, not a polling station for what tests well with millennials.  Half hours on Comedy Central over the past few years in some cases (but certainly not all) have felt like testing ground for potential new stars, instead of a selection of proven comedians.  So when someone tells me that Joe DeRosa “was great” I laugh because I wonder why every year does not have 12-14 Joe DeRosa’s selected.  And if they cannot find that many, why do they have that many episodes?  Video killed the radio star and one day someone will write that Millennial polling drowned the stand up comedian.

7) Still waiting for a Latin comic who can make the Latin experience have cross over appeal.  Just a thought. Ten years and although there are comics of Latin descent (Giraldo being one of my all time favorites) who are excellent I find it weird that in a country where Latinos are now (I believe) or soon to be the largest minority in the country there is no breakout/crossover star of Latin comedy.  George Lopez is the most successful, but where is the Latin Chris Rock or Richard Pryor or Dave Chappelle – someone lending an insider’s perspective and experience from a large community to the mainstream?  Oh wait, I forgot about Carlos Mencia.  It just makes me wonder if Latin comedians are too insular with their material (try enjoying a George Lopez special without Rosetta Stone) or if the industry is ignoring some up and coming talent(s) who might add a needed new perspective.  Either possibility would not surprise me. 

8 ) Men dominate comedy but the only thing that has changed is that it is now inappropriate to ascribe any qualitative value to the fact that dominate.  Most people still think men are funnier than women. All that has happened is vocal members of the comedy comunity have rendered this notion the equivalent of  hate speech so most people will no longer express that opinion explicitly.  #progress

9) There is no middle class left in comedy.  You are either a star, a star in the making, or a hobbyist. – Close to #4 so just read this. 

10) I went from too new to too old without ever hitting the “just right” phase.  As I was moving up the ranks from “open mic-er” to “respected open mic-er” to “why is he still doing this open mic” to “hey I got a guest spot at a good club” to “emcee” to “feature” I was always impatient.  Club owners assured me that I was new and I was young and my time and voice would come.  Now I am 34, 10 years in the game and working my ass off and I see a lot of late twenty-somethings making it big (at least relatively speaking).  But maybe I just missed that specific day when I was 31 years old, but looked 29 and had just had a good workout and wrote a really solid new joke and had a little bit of 5 o’clock shadow – that was the moment when I was just right for comedy success.  

So if this is the last ten years of comedy I hope for my sake AND for the sake of stand up that this circles back around a little bit. Because if this was the ten years leading up to now, the next time you see Key and Peele on your television set there very well may have been a stand up comedy apocalypse. 

Have a great weekend!

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

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The 2011 J-L Cauvin Reader

With 2011 coming to a close I thought I would give fans, friends and new readers a Best of  2011 of my blogs.  I have divided them into 5 categories and the following blogs represent both my favorites and the ones that got by far the most web traffic.  The five categories are:

  1. The Comedy Business
  2. Road Gig Stories
  3. Politics
  4. Movies
  5. Sports

If you are a fan of the blog I’d appreciate you passing this along (or you can always pass along your favorite individual posts from within this blog) through Twitter and Facebook.  This is really a collection of mys best stuff so sending it to people could turn them into fans. Thanks again for reading.  2012 will be a big and new year for my on-line content and I hope you will:

  • become a fan of “Righteous Prick” on Facebook and
  • follow @RPrickPodcast on Twitter
  • Every Monday starting in January I will post my movie reviews to www.YouTube.com/JLMovieLife (subscribe today even though the page is not finished), and
  • look for my new podcast every Tuesday starting January 3rd on iTunes (Righteous Prick) and
  • and please continue to come to this blog on Wednesday and Fridays for new posts.

 

A picture of me reading makes sense since this post is caled the J-L Reader.

THE COMEDY BUSINESS

  1. How To Fail In Comedy While Really Trying – A Breakdown of the Breakdown of the Traditional Path to Comedy Success (with an epic battle with “Bob Hellener” – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2304
  2. In Re Bob Hellener – Comedy hack and all around douche Dan Nainan is revealed to be the coward behind Bob Hellener – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2596
  3. Charlie Sheen – The Comedy America Deserves – A Breakdown of Charlie Sheen’s 2011 “Comedy Tour” – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2254
  4. Comedy One Hit Wonder – A self-depricating take on my career after 8 years – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2771
  5. A Tribute To Patrice O’Neal – A Eulogy For One of My Favorite Comedians – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=3099

ROAD GIGS

  1. The Best & Worst Fan Mail From Des Moines, Iowa – A Series of Fan/Love Letters From A Homophobic Self-Proclaimed Blow Job Queen (watch the video)- https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2210
  2. The Hills Have Eyes Wide Shut – A Swinger Party Overshadows My Show in Allentown, PA – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2165
  3. Cleveland Extremities – The Loss of Lebron James Apparently Caused An Unusually Large Number of Men in Cleveland to Masturbate in Public – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2665
  4. 30 Hour Train Ride From New Orleans to NYC – Of All The Train Rides I’ve Taken For Comedy, This Was The Most Epic – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2867

POLITICS & ECONOMICS

  1. Economics For Dummies – 9 months Before Occupy Wall Street I wrote this – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2178
  2. 3 Non Partisan Things America Should Dohttps://jlcauvin.com/?p=2742
  3. Occupy Wall Street – A Follow Up to #1 in light of the Occupy Wall Street Movement – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2987

MOVIES

  1. Review of Super 8 – I Expose JJ Abrams As Hollywood’s Bernie Madoff – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2537
  2. Someone Must Stop Adam Sandler – Title Speaks For Itself – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2710
  3. Return of the Planet of The Apes – My Favorite Movie of the Year (and a funny write up) – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2752

SPORTS

  1. The End Of The Diet Jordan Era – My Summary of Kobe Bryant’s Era as Diet Michael Jordan – https://jlcauvin.com/?p=2412
Blog

Minnesota Recap – Cold Weather, Warm Reception

My headlining stint was a rousing success at Joke Joint in Lilydale, MN (a few miles from St Paul – one of the twin cities, so Lilydale is like the chick that St Paul has sex with when Lilydale thinks it is actually having sex with Indianapolis).  Of course on this blog, the phrase “rousing success” is a relative term.  It means I had three really excellent shows, one decent one and one that was eh.

Joke Joint is a comedy condo club, meaning that you live in an apartment that the club owns or rents, versus a hotel.  But unlike most condos, the Joke Joint one was pretty damn cozy.  It features a full kitchen stocked with snacks (and tons of bottles of 5 Hour Energy – in case the headliner is a raging douchebag), a television and DVD player and two bedrooms – one for me and one for soon-to-be dead hookers.

Being a big walker and non-owner of a car I like when accommodations are near eating and shopping areas.  Well, the condo was a mere 1.7 miles from a Walmart/Panera Bread/etc. and considering that I once walked 4.1 miles each way in a suburb of Denver to see a movie each day, this was no problem.  Except that was Denver in springtime.  This was Minnesota in Winter (think Game of Thrones and how terrified those dues are of Winter).  Each walk would start with me having a penis and by the time I arrived at Panera Bread I was using the women’s bathroom and removing a finger dead from frost.

Silence of the Lamb's Buffalo Bill re-enacting a Minnesota winter.

I managed to see one movie while in Minnesota.  The feature – a woman named Wendy – was given the unenviable task of chauffeuring me to and from the shows each night agreed to bring me along to the movie she was seeing with the two teenage daughters of a friend.  Of course this felt like some sort of set up.  I thought I was getting Silvio Berlusconi’d.  But something far more offensive was to happen. We went to see Hugo.

2 16 year old girls at the movies? Mamma Mia!!

I was lukewarm on Hugo.  On the plus side it was directed by Mr. Eyebrows Martin Scorsese and has been receiving rave reviews.  On the downside I had no real fu*king interest in it.  But the critical mass was so good that I decided I wanted to see it.  Whoops.  Here in as concise a fashion as possible is my summary of Hugo:

  • Well acted
  • Boring
  • Really boring
  • Fell asleep boring (literally)
  • Nice looking movie
  • Takes place in Paris, every actor (both English and American so it was intentional) using British accents
  • Long
  • Too long
  • Never cared very much about the characters
  • Every revelation of past events that have led our characters to be the way they are fails to deliver as much significance – it is as if JJ Abrams decided to direct a boring family movie (and critics – please stop calling this a family film – no kid, let alone a kid from the ADD 21st century will enjoy this or have the patience for your ode to cinema)

But the point of this whole trip was not to see movies or experience shrinkage on an unprecedented level – it was to do comedy, or as I described it to the crowd to run a Ponzi scheme on myself.  And the crowds were really good.  The Thursday crowd and the two early Friday/Saturday crowds were great.  Enthusiastic, smart and great laughers.  The late show Friday was tough and featured a lot of Usain Bolts (this is what I call a person who sprints out of the showroom, for fear that even looking at me may force them to acknowledge my existence or buy a CD).  The Saturday late show was tough, but still a net positive.  Here is one of my favorite newer bits I dropped on the crowds:

So I managed to sell a few CDs, got a lot of laughs, avoided junk food at the airports (Midway one of the underrated airports in America – can’t beat Potbelly for airport food!), did not get arrested, did not die in a plane crash and immediately sent every penny I made to the credit card, phone and cable companies!  Comedy!  Thank you to the fellow comics, staff and audiences at Joke Joint.