Jean-Louis Be Goode

A musically appropriate summary of my trip to Baton Rouge so far (to the tune of Johnny B. Goode):


Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back with people obsessed with LSU’s  football team
There stood a comedy club made of earth and wood
Where telling jokes was a boy named Jean-Louis Be Goode
Who actually learned to read and write very well
But he preferred telling jokes inside a comedy hell

Go go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Jean-Louis Be Goode

He used to carry legal papers in a leather sack
Now he walks aside the roads and the railroad track
Oh, doing shi*ty southern gigs with no car
Since Ferguson wondering how he fell so far
The people watching his act would stop and say
Oh my when is the headliner gonna play

Go go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Jean-Louis Be Goode

His mother told him “Someday you will be a man,
And maybe then you’ll abandon your comedy plan
Dozens of people coming from miles around
To ignore the jokes you tell when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
saying  “Manager on duty tonight.”

Go go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Jean-Louis Be Goode

2 more shows tonight…


Performance Anxiety

This weekend I worked a few shows in Long Island.  The crowds were typical Long Island – politically conservative (finally I got to see some Carl Paladino signs!), comedically crude (with obvious exceptions within each audience).  My clever jokes got polite laughter and any joke that I had that included the word fu*k or sex received much more positive feedback.

The real dilemma for me, however, was the late show on Saturday night.  I was sitting at the club bar pre-show watching the Knicks game and Knicks bearded forward Ronnie Turiaf was on the screen.  Here is what I got to hear from one of the caucasion bar patrons, who was waiting to go into the late show:

“Can anyone teach these guys to trim a beard!  Look at this guy – he’s like the other guy with the beard… (NY Jets receiver) Braylon Edwards – these guys can’t trim their beards! (Pointing at the screen) Maybe if this guy got another stint in jail they could teach him to trim his beard!  (mumbling with his friend) – Nigga please! (back slapping laughter)”

Now, as far as I know Ronnie Turiaf is not a criminal, but he is a black man playing basketball, which to some people is the same thing.  But I have to go perform comedy and try to entertain this obviously racist piece of sh*t?  Of course my joke about my Mom sponsoring my father for 46 cents a month got raucous laughter, which it generally does, but after many years I can start to tell when an audience is enjoying it too much.  I do not mean to make this seem like Dave Chappelle, who quit his show, in part because he felt like he was giving white people too much license to gang up in mean spirited laughter and N-word dropping on satires of black people.  But it certainly felt a little like that.

I never really considered leaving the club because it was one audience member and I am in no position to burn comedy bridges, but the fact that that man and his friends and many of his ilk sat in judgment of my comedy and may have been entertained by me makes me want to vomit.  I thought as I got older I would see less racism, but it seems the more I meet people and see different groups of people as I perform comedy, the more I see the uglyside of people.  I am in the unique position of looking fairly white to the untrained or underexposed eye and I have always been privy to hearing real racism – not the rants of wild-eyed racists who want to lynch negroes, but the prejudicial jokes and bad taste that go with the everyday, ordinary racist who thinks he or she is outside the presence of minorities.  It is still ugly in America, but this weekend was the first time where this reality infected my comedy career.

When I got on stage and told the crowd I was half-Haitian, half-Irish, a Caucasian male in the front row shook his head and said, “no way.”  And I laughed and said, “Maybe you are right – perhaps my Dad has been lying to me my whole life.  Or maybe you are just wondering if you said anything racist near me.”

The deafening silence that followed that line in the club was the best thing I heard all night.


Booking Season

The last week I have spent doing my least favorite thing in comedy: sending e-mails for 2011 work at clubs.   To describe the feeling of this endeavor is to look into the eyes of a stripper at a strip club who keeps getting rejected by patrons.  “Do you want a dance?”  “Ugggggggh, no thanks.”  The only difference is the stripper is able to never go back to that customer and salvage whatever pride her uncle did not already take from her, whereas in comedy bookings you keep e-mailing the same person who has ignored you 20 times in a row because

a) maybe they get a lot of e-mails and you just have to be persistent (2 years and counting on several clubs without a response)


b) some of your friends or acquaintances have worked a certain club and you think/know you are funnier than them so at some point you will break through

or finally

c) to quote Richard Gere – “I got nowhere else to go!”

So after 45 e-mails this week I have received two responses.  One was entertaining because it would be opening for black comedian who has it in his contract that there can be no other black comedians on his show (making a half black, somewhat minority-ish looking comedian sort of a Plessy v. Ferguson test case for stand up comedy).  The bottom line is that comedy is looking less and less like a tenable option for employment.  Bookers seem to be 1/3 liars, 1/3 honest, but extremely busy and 1/3 indifferent.  Perhaps I need to book my gigs old school.  Like go to clubs in person.  With Luca Brasi.


Dishonorable Discharge

Last night I did a show at a club in Princeton, New Jersey.  I was the feature act (the middle act doing about 25 minutes) and it went so well that I woke up with an e-mail from the owner/manager telling me that I was now demoted to emcee the shows tonight (instead of featuring) because I did not “look comfortable” and referred to a cheat sheet on stage.  I think I would have been happier if I were banned from the club and arrested for indecent exposure than being demoted.  Unfortunately, being demoted to emcee one night after featuring (with the same headliner) is like being fired from a job, but then still having to show up to work for another couple of weeks.  Obviously an awkward situation.

The sad part was last night’s show did not resemble a club gig.  That is because 65% of the 30 patrons were all doctors in some medical consortium.  Their average age was 55 and their favorite topic was themselves (for the record, the headliner is pretty dirty, but she scored big time points with the crowd by doing, drumroll please… lots of crowd work).  The emcee automatically does crowd work as part of his/her job description – “get the crowd involved and excited” and the headliner can see the tone of the show through the feature, which leaves the feature to figure out where he or she can go.  Sort of like being a set up man in baseball.  Your job is just not to fu-k up the show before Mariano Rivera.

So after my first four jokes (tried and true from San Fran to Denver to Boston and every sh*thole open mic in NY so like I said, tried and true) fell flat I realized that just a handful of people and the comics were giving me any consistent laughter.  So at that point I took a long hard look at my set list.  Far from a memory helper it was more like a temporary examination of the choices I have made in my life.   Then I just continued to rip through jokes that usually work with everyone outside of conservative medical professionals staying at Princeton, NJ hotels.  I was comfortbale the whole time, but I guess I can’t say the same for the crowd.  Some things went well and they even laughed a lot at the Obama impression (despite being almost unanimous in their displeasure for him – aside – I hope most of them lose their jobs with a public option if that is possible), but their laughter stopped just in time to give me an awkward exit off of the stage.

I think my main problem is that I confused the show’s proximity to New York as “non-road.”  With my exponentially heavier travel schedule this year I have seen what works and what doesn’t work outside of major urban centers.  Sometimes I have been surprised (Denver in particular), but most places and most people are content with the same old stuff (blacks and whites are different, black comics who are loud and animated versus calm and thought provoking, crowd work, women and men are so different, etc.).  It is as if people do not go to comedy clubs to hear something original in these places, but to hear the same jokes that they have always liked from different people.  This is not necessarily “wrong,” but it is irritating. Oh, fu-k it’s wrong. Dumbasses.  Buy a CD if that is what you like.  But either way it would have been nice to have one show to make the adjustment from “comedy club set” to the “older white people who do not get pop culture or sports after 1985 set/love crowd work about themselves and are possibly the intellectually slowest group of doctors in America” set.  I guess not.

What’s absurd is that although I feel my stuff is on the whole fairly original, I am not re-inventing the wheel on stage.

I guess what I have to figure out (and what I fought with my girlfriend about – I turn into a verbal Jake LaMotta after a bad show) is how to get paid: infrequently for somewhat original concepts, without being a self-righteous Hedberg or Carlin rip off that abound in “alt” scenes or more frequently for a routine that makes me want to kill myself but that comedy “fans” eat up on the road while I hope for a big break that will allow me to be my own voice.

But first I have to sludge through rain/snow to host two shows tonight.  Cold, wet and demoted – sounds like I’ll be much more comfortable tonight.


Killing, Dying & The Death Penalty

Death Penalty

Before I get into comedic related issues a quick statement on the death penalty (due to some Facebook chatter on my page).  I am against the death penalty in all cases.  The recent revelation in Texas that an innocent man was executed for arson and capital murder in 2004 for allegedly setting fire to his home, which killed his two young children should be huge news.  Can you imagine the man’s anguish (he never pleaded guilty)?  But I am against it even when the person is actually guilty (yes even if DNA and videotape corroborate it).  I think it is barbaric.  China, parts of the Middle East and the U.S. are the world’s executors.  No one else I believe.

One argument for the death penalty I get is – what if it was your friend or family member they killed – you’d be for it then?  Well, being human I would want vengeance.  But the government is in place to elevate society (at least we hope) beyond Old Testament justice, not to enforce it.  It has no deterrent effect and I don’t think satisfying some sort of blood lust should be our main justification for imposing a punishment.  Isn’t that why people get to watch UFC and MMA fights?  This is to say nothing of the racial disparity in the application of the death penalty.  It is a flawed and barbaric system because it relies too much on passion and prejudice, which is exactly what the law is supposed to reign in.  There is a reason that a police officer can shoot someone during a potentially dangerous or lethal situation, but not when the criminal has his hands behind his back handcuffed and is unarmed.   Of course the person is not convictedof anything yet, but even after conviction does he/she pose any more threat to society locked away for the rest of his life than the unarmed person on the sidewalk with his hands cuffed?

Now with that happy start this has been a strange week in comedy.


Monday –

Had a great set at the Boston Comedy Festival (the one and only sanctioned kill in this blog entry).  Advanced to the semi-finals on Friday.  Was feeling great about comedy.  This was one of those days where I was saying, man comedy is great.  It almost feels good to be alive.  Oops spoke to soon – because here comes Tuesday.


Tuesday –

Started the evening off with the World Series of Stand Up at Carolines.  14 audience members.  Maybe 16.  I delivered my jokes with more disdain than usual (partly fatigue from Boston), despite a renewed effort to be more smiley when I deliver my jokes (“what’s  the matter boss, WE sick”).  The crowd laughed as much as they could at someone they probably did not like (the line “wow – thanks you guys I always wondered when the first time that joke would not do well would be” is not very endearing) and I lost.

Then I was off to a bringer at Gotham Comedy Club.  I learned an important lesson from my bringer.  If I am ever in a foxhole the people I can depend on are: my parents, my girlfriend, a few ex-co-workers and my barber – because in a pinch that is who showed up to support me.  The jokes were going fine until I risked a bit on interracial porn being racist.  It went over well with about 8 people in the crowd.  My joke, albeit still a little rough, focuses on the fact that a successful genre of porn is interracial.  I mean the categories for porn are things like: anal, orgies, urine and feces fetishes and interracial.  Shouldn’t one of these not be considered as much of a taboo?  Exactly, urine and feces are pretty mainstream now.  I will take the blame for that one not being ready Gotham, but deep down I think the 2.5 black people (my Dad, me and some dude) were not enough to make the 93 white people comfortable talking about race.

Then I went and auditioned at Comic Strip at 1115 pm.  It went well since there were still 6 people who had not yet fallen into a comedy show induced coma.  And of course I did not get passed.  I was told that my HIV joke was good.  I replied by saying it was not a joke and then stabbed him with a needle full of my blood.  I was told my joke about my height was a little too obvious, which I kind of agreed with except then I realized I had not told a joke about my height per se.  Maybe I just don’t know what words and sentences mean yet, but when I do I will be able to adjust my joke about Lane Bryant to not be so damn much about my height.


The Epilogue to this experience was that Time Out NY once again failed to list my show in their comedy listings page (for the next listing I am going to disguise my show and call it the ALTHOMOSUPERCALIFRAGILISTIC LOWEREASTSIDEOR POSSIBLY BROOKLNBUT ONLY COOL PARTSOF BROOKLYN EXTRAVAGANZA SHOW.


Hopefully that means the end of the bad comedy karma and I can get back to doing well Thursday and Friday.  Stay tuned.


Denver – The Sunshine State & The Economics Of…

Is quoting Old School out of style?

Tomorrow I fly out to Denver to feature for six shows at a mid-size club.  Despite the glamour you may infer from my frustrated rants about performing in different places, losing comedy competitions,  not getting booked enough and missing out on television opportunities I assure you, life as a comedian is no party.  As I prepare for Denver here is an anticipated breakdown of my sharecropping like experience as a feature comedian.

Pay for 6 shows – $400

Flight to Denver – Jet Blue – $330.00

Air Train round trip to JFK and back – $10

Gym Fees – $0 (fortunately there is a 24 Hour fitness less than 2 miles from the club – yet another reason for me to endorse this awesome gym)

Meals – $30/day (3.5 days)

Additional meals cost because I am a fu-king giant – $25/day

Cost of travelling to a Obamacare town hall meeting in Denver to assault old Republicans – $25

Number of CD/DVDs I must sell at $10 a piece to break even – 16

Chances of appearing at the club again without a bump into headlining for actual financial incentive – 0

Making people laugh for 6 shows – not priceless, but worth more than $400

If I have WiFi in the club-provided apartment then expect some updates on my trip.  Otherwise follow them on Facebook or Twitter.  Or go fu-k yourself.


Sell Out

Bon Scott said “It’s A Long Way To The Top” – Then he died and his band made it to the top with another singer.

Last night I lost in the Final Four of Caroline’s March Madness to the incredibly sharp and very deserving champ Myq Kaplan.  I think what gave me trouble sleeping last night was not the fact that I lost, but the fact that I felt like a complete nervous fu-king hack in my performance.  I wish I could give a more upbeat recap (Rich Vos crushed some idiot woman in the front who started talking during my set and did not shut up until Vos verbally undressed her for 15 minutes, Ryan Reiss had strong sets and Myq Kaplan beat him with a very strong set in the finals), but I am preoccupied.

See the jokes I did last night are some of my tried and true and they always work.  But last night they did not work as well for several reasons.  One is that I was nervous.  Give me a mic and some strangers and I can do very well.  Give me a mic, some strangers and add the word competition or contest and I freeze.

Probably for many comics, including myself, these competitions present the same opportunity that the lottery presents – an unrealistic hope that success will change, or accelerate a change in, one’s life, when all it amounts to is lost time and money for all but the winner.  I have been on television twice and it has yielded jack sh*t.  So when there is a chance to get paid work from a club and some modicum of exposure/respect it ramps up the importance, even if it is something you have done a thousand times.  But the desire to “make it” or “get a break”, no matter how small the break may be just adds a layer of nervousness for me – like how Tommy in the film Tommy Boy describes how he fu-ks up a potential deal.

Competitions are like the good cop to the bringer show’s bad cop.  See clubs will tell you it’s a business, etc., but there are comics getting work and comics not getting work that could easily switch places.  The problem for these places is once you are in, you understandably won’t go back to being out – so bumping an established regular will only lose the club a comic.  However, if you string along young comics, without telling them that years of bringers will not yield anything that years in the backs or basements of pubs won’t (more a lie of omission than commission), they will keep coming back (case in point – me).  So if you make the mistake of bumping up too many of these comics all you get is more comics who will refuse to fund “new talent nights.”  So I now reconcile my lack of courage by saying that I need to do them because I need a good tape of some new jokes – which can be true, but does not really justify whoring myself out.

But worse than choking last night was the fact that my tougher, more personal jokes I saved for the finals (in the event that I made it) because I needed the crowd to like me first (gentler jokes in the first set) before I could get into that.    This is what I am most ashamed of from last night.  I tried to be Jay Leno and tell jokes that everyone would like instead of telling the jokes that mean the most to me and can evoke the best performance from me, for fear that I would not get everyone chuckling.

I was reminded after the show last night of a show that I did last Friday.  The crowd was about 150 and the median age was about 48.  A comic named Sean Patton got up last on the show.  He did a set that was very funny, but what I appreciated even more was that his set had a very subtle “this is what I do, so fu-k you if it’s not your cup of tea”  kind of vibe because his topics and style were surely not going to make everyone in the stuffy room happy.  But his performance had no change from what it was at Rodeo Bar two days earlier in front of younger, drunker people.   He was not trying to be a different product for different audiences.  He knows what kind of comic he is (at least he certainly appears to) and did not abandon it.

My best stuff is the stuff that 75% of the room likes and 25% of the room is slightly offended by (those stats are provided by my imagination) – and I am not talking about some sort of Lisa Lampanelli parade of racial slurs – I am talking about the calling of people on their bullsh*t sort of humor or exposing horrible things from my past to get a laugh.  But instead of being me as a comic, something that has taken me a few years to figure out (and still am figuring out) I told my safe set.  So I lost and could not even leave with my pride.  It is as if the comedy gods tell me to develop my own style and be true to it, but all the opportunities that come up with a hint of potential success tempt me to go lite in the hopes of getting a leg up in the business.  Here is what I would have done differently last night if I could have it over again:

  • Told the woman in the front row to shut the fu-k up.  Not as clever as Vos’ stuff, but would have felt good.
  • Told my Kobe (“Great Comedic Timing”), Diamond Maker and My Private 9/11 jokes (first 2 available on iTunes, third available on rooftop comedy).

Simple changes, but would have made a huge difference – not in the result, but in my pride in my performance.  But this is a moot point because I sh*t the bed in competition.  I’m surprised I didn’t revert back to calling myself the love child of The Rock and Adam Sandler while having a conversation between Robert DeNiro and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sorry if this seems too much like a mope fest.  The chance to perform comedy at a great venue and not be required to bring people is an opportunity I am thankful for.  And special thanks to my friends who showed up last night.  The comedy system as it is set up puts as much a strain on the friends of relatives of comics as it does the comics (the ones who show up regularly at least).  There is a balance between supporting your friends and risk hearing the same jokes over and over again versus the comic’s dilemma of trying to perfect the jokes they have while trying to perform new ones so your friends do not get bored and stop coming to the show.   One thing the bringers have shown me is who amongst my friends really supports my dream and comedy and who doesn’t.   As Batman said at the end of The Dark Knight – “sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded.” Well, if there is a silver lining to taking comedy bait for all of these years it is that I can see and appreciate who amongst my people who have shown some faith in my comedy.

I think I just wish comedy was just about comedy.  Like some sort of warped John Lennon song imagine there was no YouTube, No Bringers, No Contests – just comedy.  Or maybe I just have to be more disciplined and principled with my comedy.   Checking my next few shows on my calendar are a bringer, another competition (serious reconsideration) and a couple of auditions – to quote Lloyd Bridges from Airplane, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to find principles.”



Why I Need Vito Corleone To Manage My Comedy…

I am about to engage in a round of calls to about 50 clubs around the country that I sent dvds, headshots, etc.  I have also done a round of deliveries to comedy clubs in NYC.  So far I have a guest spot (think immigrant labor, but much, much cheaper) at one club to show for it.  Most likely a majority of these well put-together packets are sitting at the bottom of a desk or garbage can.  I know this does not make me any different from a lot of comics.  But sitting here and observing Joe The Plumber on television makes me wonder if comedy is the only way not to get success.  After 6 years in this game I have come to a few possible movie-based (of course) solutions:

  • A lot more comedians are going to have to start embarrassing themselves (think Michael Richards) or die (think George Carlin) for me to move up the ranks any faster.
  • I think there is a 50/50 chance I may go D-Jay style on a club owner if I actually see my packet in a garbage can or on the floor somewhere (from the movie Hustle and Flow – where Terrance Howard sees that Ludacris’ character has thrown his demo in the toilet and goes Travis the Chimp on him – this would be a racist if I were a NY Post blogger, but I am just making a joke about Travis here).  Sidenote – contact comedian Amy Carlson for the best chimp joke that I’ve heard.
  • Something like Airheads (Brendan Fraser, Adam Sandler) where me and a few friends take over a comedy club until they pass us and pay us the $25 we so richly deserve.
  • Or find a Godfather who can help me out like Don Corleone helped out Johnny Fontaine.  Right now the one I have is a Haitian man in his early 70s.  Not really a power connection in the entertainment industry.

Not only because it is the best film of the options I presented, but I feel like the last option may be the most effective.  If only because I would love to hear a 7 foot goon (he would have to be bigger than me) saying to a comedy club owner: “Either J-L’s name or your brains will be on the lineup tonight.” 

And it would be equally enjoyable to hear a comedy club owner say, “J-L Cauvin would be perfect for this club.  It would make him a big star.  And if I can be frank with you we had a girl we worked with for three years – acting lessons, improv lessons, comedy lessons.  And along came J-L Cauvin with his buzzed hair and his guiney-looking charm and she threw it all away to make me look ridiculous.  And a man owning a club where jokes are told every night cannot stand to be made to look ridiculous.  And to be even more frank, she was young, she was funny, she was innocent and just to show you that I am a hard-hearted man that it’s not all talent and punchlines, she brought more people to bringers than anyone else and I’ve had bringers all over the world.  Now you get the hell out of here!”

And then the next morning Carrot Top’s head is in the bed of the club owner. AAAAAGGGGGGHHHH

Ok – time to start making these phone calls.  J-L Cauvin insists on hearing bad news right away.