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Road Comedy Recap: Storming The DC Improv

The first comedy club I ever attended was the DC Improv on a trip with my brother. The first comedy club to ever pay me was the DC Improv for a week of emceeing.  So 18 years into my comedy career, which started at a jazz club open mic in Washington, D.C., it would not be an exaggeration to say that I achieved a real and personal milestone by headlining a weekend at the DC Improv.  It was a great weekend during which I connected with fans and old friends. had a genuine DC power lunch and had a few new bits achieve near-instant legend status.  I also sat next to a weeping pre-teen at the new Spider Man and experienced a momentary, but deep crisis of faith in my comedy career (duh). In other words, a uniquely typical road comedy experience for me, so without further adieu let’s get into it!

Thursday

After working from 7am at the day job I made my way to Newark Penn Station to catch the 315pm Accela to DC (with first class coupon upgrade).  It was an uneventful, but as I joked on stage all weekend – why is the first class car the first car on the train?  If a tragedy were to occur, shouldn’t the successful people in first class have a 4-5 car buffer of less worthy people in front of them? We should not be the tip of the spear in an accident!

Got to DC and made my way to the Farragut North station, which sounds like a drunk Dave Chappelle telling people where Dupont Circle is, to go to the AC Hotel, where the club was putting me up. I loved the hotel, though it did have a weird shower and a square toilet (I will never understand hotels that in the name of style and ambiance tinker with basic things that have been perfected).  I then had about 10 minutes to relax before heading out to the club for the first show of the week.

A nice welcome from the hotel

The show went really well, the crowd was great and to celebrate I went and did 90 more minutes of legal work in my hotel room to meet some billing requirements.

Friday

On Friday I had to wake up early to (drumroll please) do day job work because I was having my first real DC power lunch with David Frum. He had been at the Thursday show with his family and though the show went really well, my sole concern, knowing we would be having lunch the next day, was if the show would go well for DF. He did enjoy it so I knew our lunch would not be a 2 hour conversation dancing around the previous night’s comedic failure.  We had a tasty lunch (I had Rigatoni Bolognese) at Et Voila and discussed comedy, politics and more.

After lunch, as I waited outside for my Lyft, a man started approaching me with a look of recognition. As he got close I realized it was a man named Mark and he had been a year below me at Williams College.  I processed quickly like the Terminator and he said “do you remember me?” and I was like “Mark from Williams!”  His wife followed once it was clear that we were both the people we thought we were from 20 years ago. They told me they had been big fans of my stuff during the pandemic and then it came up that he was an assistant GM for the Nationals.  This is a more than common occurrence when interacting with Williams alums. I have a cool YouTube page… you have a World Series ring!

After the Frum power lunch and the Washington Nationals power chat I powered my way back to doing more powerful day job work at the hotel.  Then it was time to crush 2 Friday shows.  But when a comedian makes plans to crush, God laughs.  But not in a good way.

Frist show was actually really good.  It was a full crowd, thanks in no small part to the quasi army of my girlfriend’s friends and family that came through. An older, unpublished bit I dusted off on gummi vitamins tore the roof off (as it would for every subsequent show as it continued to rapidly get better as I began adding more tags in real time).  The star bit of the weekend, however, was definitely my multi part story about Georgetown Law professor Neal Katyal (who wrote a reference letter for me in law school) outpacing my entertainment career.  It is so good that it, along with gummi vitamins, may have extended the lease on my comedy career.

One bit that did not go over as well I hoped (it was the most inconsistent bit of the weekend, but when it hit it did hit big) was basically me offering vulgar and emotional sympathy for Adele’s ex.  During the Friday early show it was the only bit that earned any heckles… and they were from my girlfriend’s family. Here is a pic of me and my girlfriend after the show when I found out:

I know it was you(r cousin) that didn’t like the Adele bit

After the show I took Alex, a devoted member of the Making Podcasts Great Again fan community, and his wife out for a promised drink. Alex came to NYC solo for the taping of Half Blackface so I thought it was the least I could do.  In the course of just a half hour before the 2nd show I learned that Alex was infinitely more successful and accomplished than me.  I won’t discuss his career since it is not my place to do so, but I think my own insecurity about my comedy career made me presume/project a lack of success on to my fans (“well, they love my comedy so they must be at the end of the line!” – to be fair, since it did take an apocalyptic event for my career to finally take off, that is a more rational response than it would be for a comedian who did not require a Biblical plague level event to gain success).  But mostly it was just nice to be able to show a little appreciated to a fan. And then I asked him if I could borrow money.

The second show would be the one that would leave me sad.  The crowd was not big, but that was not the problem.  I felt like I was having a very good set, but instead of a full house where the energy feeds off of itself it was small enough that big laughs were borderline impossible, both because it was 1/3 full and because when crowds are small they seem uncomfortable laughing loudly because there is a much bigger chance of shifting the focus onto yourself.  So during the course of the set I made about 6 allusions to suicide (all jokes), but otherwise gave a strong effort.  When I left the stage I didn’t feel great. I felt like by not being able to pack every show I had put fans in an awkward position.  That feeling was only augmented by the kind words from the fans who were there.  They did enjoy the set and one quartet said they came down from Baltimore that night specifically for me on their friend’s birthday.  Instead of making me feel good, it actually made me feel bad.  If you come to see me from another city I feel like I owe you a great experience and it is almost impossible to have a great comedy show at 1/3 capacity.  Not that it can’t be good, but when there is too much silence or too low energy that responsibility falls to the headliner for not getting more people.

Staring at you while you pee at the DC Improv

When I got to the hotel at 1 am I woke up the girlfriend to tell her that I think I needed to quit comedy.  It is one thing to fail myself, but I felt like I had failed fans, even though they said they loved the show. My girlfriend’s response, reflecting both her fatigue and familiarity with this subject was “uhhhh zzzzzzzzzz.”

Saturday

When I woke up Saturday I still felt a little bummed, but the feeling started to subside as I realized I really had had two strong performances the night before.  I went for a long walk through DC with the gf before she had to leave for home.  I then went and saw Spider Man: No End in Sight, or whatever it is called. I know it is setting records and people love it, but I am kind of done seeing Marvel stuff in theaters.  I think Disney+ is the right venue for me from now. I actually really liked the first Tom Holland Spider Man movie, but the new one and the one preceding it I thought were just fine. Considering the entire Spider Man film universe spans only 20 years, it seems now that anything 5 years or older counts as nostalgia for the Marvel fan base that is America.  I don’t think the movie was bad, but hammering me with memories of the last decade of movies seems to be enough for people to categorize something as “great.”

To make matters worse, the very chatty 11 year old next to me in the theater began weeping halfway through the film during an “emotional” part.  When I was his age I cried at Dead Poets’ Society and Glory, not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Saturday’s shows were absolutely great.  Both were sold out and I would like to say good things about the early show, but the problem is I am so proud of what I pulled off on the late show.  As I watched the emcee and feature on the late show I could see that the crowd was very chatty and quite possibly very drunk. There was one woman in the back that I referred to as Max Cady (think 1991 Cape Fear movie theater scene) because her laugh appeared designed to only distract and not register enjoyment of comedy.  I told Jon, the emcee, “well I won’t be going over my time with this crowd.”  And then I had my best set of the week. Every bit worked and I don’t know if I presented an intimidation or an “I don’t care” attitude on stage based on my low expectations for them, but whatever algorithm I unlocked, it was the key to the crowd.  When I finally got to sleep that night I felt like I had redeemed myself and was especially happy at referring to the Spider Man weeper as a “future adult gummi vitamin consumer if I’ve ever seen one.”

Sunday

I woke up Sunday and went right to 9 am Mass at the Cathedral of St Matthew, like I always do when in town (very beautiful Church). Then I had some time to kill at Panera Bread before heading to a noon show of West Side Story.  A mask-less, mustachioed man saw me pouring a cup of “medium roast” coffee and looked at me and said “Medium Roast guy, huh?”  And I wondered, “is that MAGA for “you suck di*k huh?” or closeted code for “you suck di*k, huh?”  Just happy he didn’t see my digital ticket to West Side Story.

The movie was solid (reviews of both will be on this week’s Righteous Pk Podcast and for patreon members of Making Podcasts Great Again, Trump will review Spider Man and Mike Pence will review West Side Story) and afterwards I went for a walk with my friend/law school classmate/guy who taught me that people with southern accents could still be extremely smart, Hank. Hank (and his brother) were actually the first two people at my first open mic in DC. So when he emailed me to let me know that he would be in town visiting his siblings the same weekend I was performing I thought it was good fortune that he would be there to see my final show (kidding).

But then a flood of messages started pouring in. Fans and Hank messaged me that they would not be able to come due to Covid exposure and/or Covid fear. Totally understandable, but still deflating when expecting a lighter crowd on Sunday evening.  As I said on stage, “I hope (those missing) only get long Covid, nothing worse. AM I NOT MERCIFUL?” (I know it’s 21 years old, but Gladiator still seems to be a movie I quote a lot regarding my comedy career).

As soon as my set was done I grabbed my check, my suitcase and made for the train. Got on my Amtrak with plenty of time and watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington because I am a rebel and felt like watching it as I left DC was a real middle finger to convention.  I then began crafting this blog, which is being finished now, in my kitchen, before a long day of legal work.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the shows. Hopefully you all enjoyed it. And if you are reading this and are not in the DMV area, get your tickets to see me in Chicago, San Jose, LA and Utah (please).  And here is a picture of Cookie this weekend, looking very unsure without me in the house.

I think Cookie thinks the book shelf is a one way mirror where she can safely observe the room when I am not there
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Road Comedy Recap: The King of Martin Luther Comedy

This week’s comedy destination was Washington, D.C. for 6 shows at the DC Improv.  Because I had to put myself up in a hotel I did what I do with all comedy trips that won’t make me much profit… I asked my girlfriend to join me for a weekend getaway (this is the way that I rationalize my comedy career – rather than being a struggling feature, trying to make a profit I instantly become a guy who gets paid a few bucks to take his girlfriend on vacation). #CheapVacationMogul.  I arrived Thursday solo at the Westin City Center. It was a very nice hotel that I was able to swing a good deal on through Hotwire.com. I knew it was a nice hotel because nothing was included. Internet, breakfast and prostitutes were all additional fees. Normally when I go to a hotel it’s a Hampton Inn where they give you Internet, a waffle iron and a townie 7 to warm your bed, all for $62 a night. No such luck with the DC Westin.  My favorite thing about hotels like this are the breakfast options.  “You can have a thimble of coffee and one scrambled egg for $25.50… or our buffet which features, eggs, pancakes, french toast, pastries, cereal, an omelette station and a therapy dog for $26.00.”  Hmmmmmmmm, can you come back and let me consult with Jared Kushner on the pros and cons of both options?  So as I write this in a coffee shop (I had to check out of the Westin at noon, which leaves me as a nomad in DC for 5 hours before Mass and comedy tonight before hopping the 1010pm train back to NYC) here is a recap of the week in quips and photos:

Thidepiece Thursday

With my lady not arriving until Friday morning, Thursday became “Thidepiece Thursday.”  Only one fan showed up (thank you The Black Guy Who Tips for having the most engaged and loyal fans anywhere) and she was attractive, but unfortunately she did not get the memo about Thidepiece Thursday because she rolled in with her man. Maybe because he felt guilty about violating Thidepiece Thursday etiquette by showing up or because no one had bought any of my merchandise after the show, but he bought all three albums I had for sale as he and his lady were happy with the show.  So I guess I will let it slide.

But after the 1 pity purchase I texted my girlfriend at 12:01 am (First Lady Fridays) and said, “Bring a bag with room; you are going to have to bring some of these CDs back home.”  And not to be too down, my buddy Ross and a friend of his also came to the show so obviously I am being modest about my ability to draw audiences nationwide. We sat in Shake Shack in between shows and talked about deceased relatives, just to keep it light.  Here is a fun clip from the show:

Food Court Friday

The girlfriend arrived Friday and we promptly went looking for food.  Fridays during Lent mean no meat for Catholics so she got some free-trade, goat cheese-quinoa-avocado wrap that was smuggled out of Brooklyn and I got two slices of pizza.  I actually walked from my hotel to Union Station to get her and then we walked all over DC. By the count of my new invention FatBit (which keeps track of all your steps and the fact that you are still horrible out of shape) I had done at least 25,000 steps before getting back to the hotel to prep for the evenings shows.

Before the evening entertainment we tried to go to the African-American History Museum (see my instagram – @jlcomedy – for Trump’s opinions on it) and there was a huge line. I ended up talking Utah Jazz basketball with the guy standing behind me, which is actually the least African-American way to have an NBA discussion. We then got about 30 people from the front when they said no more tickets were available #Blessed. We then went to an art museum where some Japanese lady who looks like a Pixar character had a big exhibition. We also failed to get limited tickets for that so we looked at other stuff, including a sculpture of a bald, fat girthy-cocked dude (the pic omits the girthy phallus for any young readers of bitter, anonymous comedian blogs #TargetMarket):

I left this couple (unknown to them) in the pic for scale

My girlfriend was meeting her high school friend and her husband at the show (THAT’S 6 FANS ALREADY FROM THE FEATURE ACT – #DRAW) and I had a very strong set. The audience was not full so I set my camera up in the back to capture the action. Unfortunately some folks sat near my camera (for no discernible reason) and bumped my camera so I learned quickly after the set that I had a great 18 minutes of the bathroom door killing.

As I steamed after the first show, and sold nothing, I considered quitting that very moment.  However, I did something smarter. I decided to counter the JL Comedy Jinx with some self-hate.  I decided not to tape my second set.  And of course I crushed. So while I don’t have that set on tape, I did sell 12 CDs after the show (including 3 to ANOTHER member of The Black Guy Who Tips fanbase – 7 FANS MOTHERFU*KERS!). I then crawled into bed next to my girlfriend, who was in a wine-induced coma, at 1 am. #SpoonSaturdays

Sight-Seeing Saturday

On Saturday we woke up and made our way to her friend’s house in East Falls Church for some brunch (“When in White Women Rome…”), though before that I had the pleasure of running into NYC comedian Anthony DeVito on the street. We had a nice chat and I wished him luck on his Comedy Central taping (for blog readers, you may remember Anthony from my intimate Winery Show/Bed and Breakfast in early 2016). After brunch the gf and I went for a long walk around DC and went to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the World War II Memorial, which I think is the best thing in all of DC (thank you for your (lobbying) service Tom Hanks.  Both are beautiful.  The weather was beautiful, but then it was time to bring the lady back to Union Station (you either get 3 days in a Hampton Inn, or 2 in a Westin on the Broke Comedian Getaway Vacation Package). We ate Pizzeria Uno, which obviously put me on a 24-esque timetable to get back to my Westin bathroom and I put her on the train back to NYC. Before getting to the shows that night here are some photos (more on my Instagram):

 

Two towers of DC culture and history
WWII memorial is an incredible sight – full view of Washington Monument on one side, Lincoln Memorial on the other and a beautiful design and tribute
GF captured a perfect angle of the MLK memorial
Let’s just hope the Marvel/Disney people get the rights to the MLK comic instead of DC Comics

That night I arrived at the DC Improv for three shows and was greeted by friend, former podcast guest and DMV comedy legend Rob Maher.  We chatted and then I went on stage and did the Lord’s work.  I then went into the DC Improv Lounge to follow another DMV legend and friend, Randolph Terrance and crushed even harder than in the main room (I feel like my new bit on the “Fluidity of Sexuality” would please most comedians and members of the Nixon White House). I then had my best post show sales of the week (I opted not to give CDs to the gf to bring back – either I would sell them (good) or be furious that I was dragging them back to NYC (justifying my rage at comedy) to the point that I had to run back to the Westin to get the remaining copies for the late show.  All joking aside, I do wish I had gotten a job in DC over NYC after law school because the DC comedy scene has always been my favorite.

I had a very good second set and sold a few copies more. Then I received news that Louis CK had started his SNL monologue with a “Why Did the Chicken Cross The Road” joke.  So as I kill some more time on this beautiful DC Sunday, enjoy my video from 2013 that proves that I am way ahead of Louis CK. #JLouisC

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Weekend Comedy Recap: Comedy, Highway Danger and When Yentas…

This past weekend (Thursday-Sunday) I was at the DC Improv, one of my favorite two clubs in the country (Helium in Philly being the other). Third place is reserved for whoever books me the week I am asked to rank comedy clubs.  I think it might have been my 8th career week working the Improv, but one of the great things about a “career” in stand up comedy is that no matter how familiar or routine it can begin to feel. there is always a chance to be surprises for better and for worse.  I was opening for Clayton English, 2015’s winner of Last Comic Standing, so it was clear the shows were all going to be packed. But as usual with these write ups, let’s start from the beginning

Mission Impossible: Find an affordable hotel in a reputable chain near a Metro Stop during high tourism season in DC

The last few times I have performed in the DC area I think it has been the Summer, which means Congress out of session, swamp ass in full swing and lower rates on hotels.  So I had some sticker shock looking up hotels, realizing that the area hotels coming up in my price range were homeless shelters and 24 Hour McDonald’s bathrooms.  Thankfully, due to the new Silver line on the Metro I was able to secure a nice room at a Residence Inn by Marriot in Tysons Corner, VA. It was 10 stops from the club and only involved 15 minutes of side-of-highway/no sidewalk walking to and from the Metro (please check my instagram at jlcomedy to see a midnight video montage of my walk that my mother called “scary”).  The room was very nice, there were free cookies in the afternoon, a solid breakfast including a waffle iron (the three great equalizers in human history are a) the printing press b) the Internet and c) waffle irons at discount hotel chains) and a Subway nearby for me to eat fresh.  The only problem I had with the hotel was that their front entrance was a magnet for those humungous, fat bees that don’t sting you, but are still scary as hell.  One bumped into my forehead and I think with both have CTE now.

Can’t Sell Merch If People Store Their Coats On Top of It

The shows were all strong for the week, but my merch sales suffered a bit. One reason is that people kept throwing their coats directly on top of my CDs like it was an upstairs bedroom of a house party when going to get pictures with the headliner.  This was almost as embarrassing as the audience member who looked at me and said “sorry, but can you take a picture of us (her and the headliner). Fortunately Clayton is a good dude or just saw horror in my eyes and immediately asked some random person to take the photo.  The jackets on my merch offense (“IN MY CULTURE IT IS A BIG INSULT TO THROW YOUR COAT ON TOP OF A MAN’S LIFE WORK!”)  happened a total of three times (one coat by a young man whose mother then reprimanded him and he immediately picked the coat up, once by an absentminded woman and I was able to snap a pic of it and then the third was technically a purse, but you get the idea), after happening zero times in the previous 12 years and 10 months of me performing stand up. #Blessed

The Joke That Wouldn’t Quite Work and the Group of Yentas Who wouldn’t Shut Up

I did largely tried and true material throughout the weekend, but my bit about why it is a good thing 9/11 didn’t happen in 2016 (the people yelling World Star while filming the towers falling, the people taking selfies and recording it instead of helping or getting help and the 4.9 million blog posts the next day about how it effected ME) fell flat for 3 of the 5 shows (and I did not bother doing it for the Sunday crowd, which was very tight before I even thought about going there).  However, it became the joke that the most people would specifically reference to me after shows to say “I thought it was great.”  But the offense never lasted because I have really fully developed my “If Trump and Bernie were comedians” bit and it really crushes any awkwardness, especially in apolitically minded town like DC.  In other words I used the impressions as such a crutch that they almost didn’t seem like the usual crutch of hacky impersonators. Or I have become what I despise.

But in a week of mostly highlights and oncoming traffic lights (remember by walks at midnight on the side of highways in Tysons Corner?) the lowlight was a no-brainer.  It was after the early Friday show and a group of four Jewish women approached me with the shortest being the most vocal, of course. Here is a summary with some quotes of the 4 minutes I stood with Skanks and the City:

Short Blonde: Are you really half black?

Me: Yes

SB: Really?

Me: Yeah.

SB: Because my friends and I thought you looked like Adam Sandler and Jerry Seinfeld.

Me: Uh Huh.

(Awkward pause)

SB: And they’re both Jewish. So we thought you were Jewish. And we’re all Jewish.

Me: OK.

Skank and the City Member 2: Are you really half black?

Me: Yeah

#2: Really?

Me: Yeah

#2: I want to see a picture

SB and Skank #3: OH DO YOU HAVE A PICTURE OF YOUR PARENTS?

At this point there was actually a small line of people wanting to take pictures (and maybe buy CDs) from me, so you know they were taking a LONG time if there was a line forming for me. After a few more racial inquiries, they had one of their boyfriends, take a picture. he grabs a phone and says: Are you really half black?

Me: Yeah.

After the first picture he says: OK (to all of us in the picture) Do something goofy!

Me (internally): what is this a wedding photo?

I then glare at the woman next to me for the photo, which got a big laugh from everyone (as intended) except the woman (#2)

#2: Why are you so awkward?

Me: have a nice night everyone (before I join ISIS)

Sunday: No Groupie Night (Girlfriend’s Friends Coming to the Show)

On Sunday I saw a movie with my buddy Ross (Midnight Special – like E.T. without fun or aliens – started promising, overally disappointing) and then went to Mass at St Matthew’s near the Improv (Pope Francis went there when he was in town so I guess I was the 2nd high profile Catholic there this year). Then it was time for the final show of the week, which was special because two of my girlfriend’s friends were coming to watch.  So first I had to update my ho-fan page that Sunday night’s show was off limits and then not have a terrible set.  Mission accomplished!  The friends then gave me a ride to Union Station to catch the final train out of DC that night.  A perfect end to a mostly great week in DC: it started with me on the side of a highway walking and ended with a door to door ride from the club to Amtrak.

And then I got home and my dog peed with excitement on the floor. Like comedy, my dog knows how to deliver just enough bad with something good to make me constantly question my life choices.

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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Comedy and Weight Loss Across America

When life closes one door, another one opens.  This is very true in my life, but generally when one decent door closes , the new door opening is an elevator door opening yielding an empty and fatal elevator shaft.  For the last couple of months I have been struggling to keep up with my free content empire (blogs and sketch videos have suffered the biggest reduction, the podcast has had more solo episodes while movie reviews remain the most consistent) with some very time consuming daytime legal work.  But no need to worry fan (or possibly I am up to fanS plural now), my day job assignment ended two weeks early so while I will start desperately seeking day time work (I receive replies to 5% of my comedy booking emails, but 75% of my legal work emails so at least I get some positive affirmation on top of actual money from pursuing legal work over comedic work) and experiencing financial related stress I will have more time to reaffirm my status as the King of All Unpaid Media.  Today’s contribution is a series of videos from stand up shows this year that will showcase some solid bits (mostly new from the 2nd half of 2014, or improved if not new bits) and provide an accidental time lapse of some of my weight loss this year.

I considered posting my half hour submission to Comedy Central from the DC Improv, but I would rather keep that product private until I officially don’t get picked. In the unlikely event I get selected then I definitely won’t post it because I think 90% of it would end up being what I would like to showcase on a television taping.  So enjoy this collection of random bits from 2014:

The Fatal Mistake of Quiznos

Dating vs Hooking Up

The Battle of Generations at Panera Bread

The End of Racism and Black Bouncers

The Benefit of Gay Marriage

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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Comedy Recap: Early Wake-Ups, Soccer and Stand-Up in DC

This weekend I was in DC to emcee some shows for Sebastian Maniscalco, which meant, per my usual DC arrangements, rooming with my 5 year old nephew for the weekend.  He has been pretty cool about me cramping his bachelor lifestyle in the past and this weekend was no different.  Of course arriving at home at 1am each night and then waking up to a fully alert nephew at 615am each morning to discuss soccer and/or dinosaurs (my nephew’s two favorite topics, though showing him highlights of Vince Carter on YouTube may have given my nephew a new interest to supplant his Carmelo Anthony/JR Smith fan club membership) is not ideal, but so be it.  My younger nephew’s motto is “I do more before 9 am than my lazy, underachieving uncle does all day.”  My older nephew, who is up even earlier on a consistent basis, which is why the two ‘phews don’t share a room, has been described as Mel Kiper Jr. as having a “great motor.”  I feel like Shaq the Buick salesman trying to keep up with two Russell Westbrooks.

On Saturday I went to watch the younger nephew play soccer where he has been dominating (they instituted a rule, based on his dominance, that if you score two goals you then need to go to defense). However, I was meeting my brother at the game and I arrived before him, which was a real wake up call.  Like most adult males I have a hard time coming to grips that I am a grown up.  I am 33 years old, but it still feels like an insult when people call me “sir.”  My brain keeps telling me that I am just out of college and still a young buck, but the fatigue under my eyes and expanded waist line tell me I am a man.  But it is a true rude awakening when you arrive at a park by yourself and are watching a bunch of 5 year olds that you don’t know play soccer.  That is when it hits you, through a series of curious stares from parents, that you are in fact an adult man.  Thankfully my nephew arrived shortly thereafter and I stopped handing out Second Mile Charity fliers.

My nephew dropped a hat trick, including a coast-to-coast third goal after being placed on defense (I particularly liked it when he said “fu*k your rules losers” or that might have just been me yelling that).  I am now searching for whoever the youth soccer equivalent of Bela Karolyi is so I can get this kid to maximize his potential.  His initials are JLC and it is high time a JLC bring pride to our family, instead of shame.

But the main point of the visit to DC, other than to buy discounted cigarettes for my mother (I assume at some point Mayor Bloomberg is going to make me a poster child for a crackdown on people circumventing the NYC cigarette taxes), was to host shows at the DC Improv. I was opening for Sebastian Maniscalco.  It was a really fun week.  The crowds were great and I was really surprised by Sebastian.  I had watched a couple of clips on line before working with him, but in a way that really underscored how important the live show is to stand-up comedy, even though the live show is starting to become just part of a comedian’s package instead of the major selling point, Sebastian’s live show was fantastic in a way YouTube clips cannot capture.  One of my great aversions is when someone tells me that I need to develop my character.  I always want to say, “my character is that I am a funny person with good, original material.”  But watching Sebastian was cool because he has a definitive character on stage, but it works hand in hand with the material, rather than trumping it.  With the help of a buddy who came by and watched one of the Friday shows we determined that Sebastian was a combo of Boardwalk Empire’s Gyp Rosetti and Brian Regan.

So the comedy was great this week.  My sets went great, the feature, Francisco Ramos, did great, and Sebastian crushed each show.  Both guys were cool to chat with and it was nice to see crowds appreciating different sensibilities all on one show (but DC always has some of the best crowds in the country).  Made me feel happy to be doing live comedy.

Now the good news – my calendar is empty of road work until July 18th.  So do the right thing and get tickets to my CD recording in NYC on May 18th HERE.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes

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A Weekend of 2 Pioneers – Jackie Robinson &…

I am writing this from aboard Amtrak headed down to DC to host a series of shows at the DC Improv.  Friday through Sunday I will be emceeing for Sebastian Maniscalco, but more importantly I am emceeing the DC Improv’s 10th annual “Funniest College” competition, in which students from different colleges in the Maryland-DC-Virginia area will compete for various prizes and the right to have their school dubbed “DC’s funniest college.”  What you may not know is that I was named the winner on behalf of Georgetown in the very first year of this competition in 2004.  Much like when a championship team arrives for an anniversary celebration at an arena (e.g. the 1973 Knicks were at Madison Square Garden recently commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Knicks’ last title and their status as professional sports’ most overrated franchise), I will return to the DC Improv to inspire a series of students that they too can have a career of ups and downs over the next decade that will lead them right back to the starting point of their careers.   But what makes me a pioneer, worthy of sharing a headline with Jackie Robinson on the weekend that the much hyped biopic about him is released?  It is because I won, despite not being a college student.

I was a law student when the competition was announced, but much like a giant racial and body weight combination of Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson I decided to not take no for an answer (actually I was approved almost immediately under a broad “student attending a college/university” interpretation of the rules).  And much like Robinson I faced adversity – enduring the heckling, the jeering, the lack of laughter for many of the other comedians was very emotionally taxing, but I went out, dominated and won, just a year into my comedy career, which was about a 11 month, two week advantage over most of the other contestants.  The title was covered for the Georgetown Law newspaper and still remains the first and last time I accomplished anything that made Georgetown/Georgetown Law proud.

So tonight I will be in DC performing for adoring fans and then much like Robinson, will be forced to stay with a local family that agreed to let me board with them (my brother and his family, including my 5 year old nephew who is still baffled by the concept, the desire and the existence of a career in stand up comedy, which I reassure him – no a career in comedy does not exist – like dry land in Waterworld it is a myth).

So if you are not around DC to watch me deliver historic comedy then feel free to watch this week’s review of 42 (up a day early).  It is a fairly bad movie so I advise you to just watch the 7 minute review, which highlights the 42 horrible issues with the film, because it will give you a lot more enjoyment than the actual film, unless you are 11 years old, serving consecutive life sentences in prison or severely stupid.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes

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All The Things You Don’t Want to Hear After…

Last night I was at Helium Comedy Club (with all due respect to all other clubs, Helium and the DC Improv are the two best places to do comedy – I have not been to all, but I have been to most) for a Comedians at Law show.  We had a decent crowd in number, but they were fantastic with the laughter.  Through 90 minutes and four comedians they were attentive, polite and full of laughter.  A comedian cannot ask for more than that out of a comedy club audience.  And if the evening had ended there I would have gotten on the late Amtrak back to NYC with an uncharacteristically smiley face.  But like a bad Sunday show at the end of a successful weekend on the road, comedy shows always find a way to find a way to end weirdly for me.  The way the ring in The Lord of the Rings wanted to make its way back to its evil creator, comedy shows want to find a way to get to my angry core.

After the show I went to sell my CDs outside of the showroom.  And here is a sample of what I heard – the good, the bad and the ugly:

  1. “Great show – you guys need a woman in the group,” (despite the fact that 25% of our lineup that night was female.
  2. “I really like your stuff.  And I am a lawyer and a comedian and I could really kill it.  Wherever you need me I can be there.”
  3. (my favorite) “That was pretty good?!”
  4. “How much are CDs?  We’ll take two.  Thank you. Great show.”
  5. “Did you really graduate from law school in 2004? But that would make you like 33, but you look 50.”

By way of background, Comedians at Law has been the most difficult thing I have ever embarked on in stand up comedy.  This is not to say that it has not reaped some benefits, but putting together a new business, marketing it to an untapped, but marginally interested market (law schools hosting comedy shows and comedy clubs showcasing lawyers are both NOT natural sells), managing occasional personality clashes and having two defections from the group that almost made me homicidal have all made it a very trying experience.  In short it is taking all the challenges of starting a business and combining those with all the inherent difficulties of advancing a stand-up comedy career.  So as much as certain comments can bother me after a regular show, the hubris or complete unawareness of some of the people that come to the Comedians at Law show make steam come out of my ears.

To the credit of the audience no one had specific suggestions for bits like they did in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago,  But guess which of the five comments I liked best?  If you guessed the one that seems appropriate from a nice fan then you guessed correctly.  The other four are easily dismissed.

  • (1) – Please do not compliment the show and then tell me what it needs, especially when it is completely irrelevant. If you cannot keep it to a compliment then, in the words of The Rock, know your role and shut your mouth.
  • (2) We put together this show from scratch.  If you were a comedian worth anything you would know a) how insulting what you said is and b) how much work we put into our project.  So therefore you are either rude or not worth performing with
  • (3) The word “pretty” does not belong in comedy, especially when you are giving a compliment about a set.  If you feel too insecure to give a full compliment (often men) then just leave the club and say nothing.
  • (5) I know one thing: I do not look 50.  If you are trying to mess with me after a show, don’t because I will dismantle you verbally.  If you are too dumb to judge age or know that you are being moronic then do not go out in public or do not speak when you are out in public.  This would not annoy me so much, but for the timing – it is after I just had a killer set pursuing my passion – so if you are going to ruin someone’s day go home and hang with your family.

But of course thank you to the two fans who treated me with kindness and respect and put a little cash in my pocket (as well as the couple of dozen people who came out and said “great show” or “nice show” and shook my hand).  This may sound arrogant, but as a comedian I am underpaid, underemployed and working my ass off.  All I ask is that fans respect what I do (or at least the fact that what I am pursuing is hard).  That does not mean compliment me or buy my CDs.  It just means if you like it – treat me with respect and if you did not – leave and feel free never to check my stuff again.  The fact is I am smarter than most people that come to my shows and better at comedy than all of them.  But I would demand that this courtesy be extended from the best comedians to the very shittiest comedians.

Now to some of you this post seems spot on, but to others I come off as an angry asshole.  Well, you are both right.  Let me give you an analogy for how frustrating what Albert Brooks called “complisults” on The Adam Carolla Show.  An ex of mine had a roommate, but my ex handled the cable bill among her roommate duties.  So one month there was an additional $4.95 on the bill for an On Demand movie.  Her dilemma was that she would seem petty to ask for the $5 for the movie, but felt the roommate was in the wrong for not presenting the money in the first place.  And this is how I feel about people giving these half-compliments/half-insulting or thoughtless remarks after a show.  They are giving me the cable bill with $5 that I am completely not responsible for.  So they might be a jerk or they might just be a little careless, but they are in the wrong.  But if you tell them, “Hey you owe me $4.95 for that movie,” or in my case “Please respect what I do and know that you know nothing about comedy or the business of comedy,” the asshole burden is immediately shifted.  So that is why I find it so frustrating – because we are desperate as comedians and as a business to maintain great relations with fans so we build our fan base we have to grin and eat their dumb comments and can never correct them or put them in their place because then the asshole burden is 100% shifted on to us.  “Ït’s only five bucks,” becomes “Hey, I liked your show – I just thought you could do this or that – what an asshole!”  See what I mean?

So to the people that continue to support me, spread the word about what I do and treat me with some respect – thank you.  To those of you that don’t like what I do – you are entitled to your opinion.  And to those of you that like my stuff, but are dumb enough or arrogant enough to try to mess with what I do – know your role and shut your mouth.

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

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DC Recap – Soccer Uncle Opening For Attell

This past weekend was one of those weekends that can give a comedian enough energy to pursue a failing dream for another year.  After a weekend of opening for the great Dave Attell in Indianapolis I coincidentally had the opportunity to open for him for six more shows at the DC Improv.  The DC Improv is consistently one of the best clubs in the country, if not the very best, in terms of audience and the weekend did not disappoint.  However, the audience that saw me as Superman on stage did not realize that I was living a very Clark Kent-lifestyle during the daytime.

When in DC I stay with my older brother and his family.  How convenient, right?  Absolutely, except for the fact that I have to room with my four year old nephew.  He would be roommates with his six year old brother, leaving the attic to me, but his older brother has sleeping issues, so the four year old has been relegated to the attic.  I give the kid credit.  He is four years old and sleeps in an attic by himself and does not seem to be afraid of it.  Of course, when I saw Paranormal Activity 3 last Friday, which focused on a child who sees a demon spirit, I could not say the same for me.

My nephew was apparently not that thrilled that I would be interfering with his four year old autonomy.  He asked my brother if I could sleep on an aerobed in the basement (second scariest place in a house after the attic).  But I don’t know why he was upset.  I managed each night to enter the room practically silent and never waking him.  However, every morning at exactly 615 am, my nephew would announce that he was ready to go downstairs and then engage me in 10-40 minutes of conversation.  This may explain why I appeared semi-comatose by the Sunday night show at the Improv.

Saturday was sports day.  With my brother in NYC on Friday and Saturday it was up to me to take the four year old to his morning soccer practice and his noon basketball practice.  My brother was responsible for bringing snacks to the soccer practice so he had purchased some Kashi brand granola bars.  I realized at that moment that I am only in favor of Michelle Obama’s healthy eating for kids initiative in theory only.  And to add pretension to injury, when the coach was asking the majority caucasion kids their favorite ice cream one kid said “Mango Sorbet.”  I then encouraged my four year old nephew to bully that kid, both in person and via cyber tactics, whatever would let that kid know that he is not OK.   And on a particularly disturbing note – I discovered my fly was open for the first thirty minutes of the soccer practice.  Not one emasculated, granola snack serving dad said anything!  So I am running around a bunch of four year olds with a gaping hole in my crotch at four year old face level and no one said anything.  Throw in the fact that I am an uncle and I am lucky to have not been shanked in jail later that night for being an accidental pervert.

Kashi bars this week, wheatgrass shots next week! YAY!!!!

After soccer practice it was time for basketball practice, which my nephew said he did not want to go to.  Having been an accomplished college benchwarmer in basketball, I was a little taken aback by my nephews comment.  But then I realized why.  The coach of the basketball program was pretty intense.  For a high school coach.  But he was coaching and running through drills a group of kids between 4 and 8 years old.  All the kids were black, so naturally the snacks were Dunkin’ Donuts.  You can take the sugar out of the white soccer practice, but you can’t take the diabetes out of the black basketball practice.  My nephew wasn’t terrible, so he seems sure to continue the Cauvin tradition of mediocre hoops accomplishments (but since he is relatively diminutive the expectations of his career will be much smaller than his gigantic uncle).  And for any hoops scouts there was a seven year old at the practice with defined muscles in his calves and a consistent 8 foot jumpshot.

The shows, however, were nothing less than awesome.  I had a great time.  I even decided to join a couple of fans at a nearby bar after Friday’s late show.  I basically did it just to prove to them that I would (they seemed sure that I was lying).  They told me to meet them at “Public.”  So I went a block away to Public to discover it was a four story bar/lounge/date rape emporium.  I did not find the people (sort of like meeting someone in NYC and saying, “Yeah just meet me in Macy’s”), but the owner of the bar found me and he had been at the show and he bought me two drinks.  Thanks, and just kidding about the date rape comment.  It seems like a place where I would have thrived as a law student (for the record “G-town law student” much higher value in the bars than “unknown comedian killing it”).

I handed out more cards over the six shows than I have at any other gig since I have had the cards.  And I never force them on people.  I only give them to people who ask, or people who are so effusive in their praise that it seems reasonable to hand them one.  And my trash ratio was great.  For about 150-200 handed out I only found one on the street outside the Improv between the six shows.  So for all that glad handing, performing and card dispensing I have added four Twitter followers, three facebook friends and two blog fans. So unlike my usual bitching I will just say thanks to that small, but incredibly lucky group of people in the DC area.  The only problem is that a week of featuring at the DC Improv was the highlight of my comedic year.  If DC is my peak fan base then I fully expect to see my body burned in effigy, composed of my cards, sometime this week in Syracuse.  See you there!