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Could Madea Make A Successful Middle East Movie?

I was disappointed to see Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass’ new movie, “Green Zone” make a relatively low amount of money this weekend. Not because I have any ownership in the film, but because it is sort of disappointing that Americans don’t want to engage the Wars in the Middle East on any level, even fictional. 

Keeps doing good movies, even if people don't see them.

It is sort of a Catch 22 that films like Green Zone, which is somewhat political (if you consider the truth, albeit fictionalized, “liberal”) and 2009’s Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, completely apolitical, are unsuccessful because of American society’s war fatigue.  If we had such aversion and fatigue over war, where was it in 2003 when troops marched off to war in Iraq?  In other words, if people were as tired of war and wanted to hide their eyes from it as much in 2003 and they do in 2010 then films like Green Zone and The Hurt Locker would never have been made. 

Sometimes I have friends who say, I just want to go the movies for a diversion, something mindless, not for some high minded message movie.  But how much mindlessness can we actually tolerate – Facebook, Twitter, reality television, Internet, video games, porn – and that is just my day before noon!  At some point don’t people want something thought-provoking that isn’t a 90 second clip on The Daily Show?

But I was actually very surprised to see a Matt Damon movie with such a good director fail, no matter what the topic. It raises a question in my mind: is there anyone who could actually sell a Middle East War movie successfully to our half apathetic/half-indignant society?  Here are some ideas I am pitching:

1) Scorsese directs DiCaprio in “The Enlisted”.  DiCaprio plays Tommy Coughlin, a Boston tough who joins the Army and is sent to Iraq as an alternative to going to prison.  There is a ton of Rolling Stones music, a lot of quick shots and of course, DiCaprio gets to speak with a Boston accent all while shooting a lot of brown people.

2 for 2 with Boston Accents. Could "The Enlisted" make it 3 for 3?

2) Will Smith & Tom Hanks in “I Am Soldier” directed by Steven Spielberg – probably the best bet for a successful Middle East War Movie.  Tom Hanks plays General Michael White who is asking Captain John Black (Smith) to go on a dangerous one man mission.  When it seems like Capt Black will fail, Sandra Bullock shows up as a sassy southern enlisted woman who is lost and helps him complete his mission. (Captain Black and General White could be role reversed, at which point instead of Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks companion in the desert would be a volleyball).

3) “I Can Do War Torture By Myself “or “Why Did I Enlist” by Tyler Perry – the wild card here – this film will be about a man whose marriage to Janet Jackson is on the rocks because he is not living a Christian lifestyle.  After receiving advice from his 6’6″ transgendered grandmother  the man decides to enlist in the war to prove that he, like Jesus Christ, is willing to sacrifice his life for a greater cause. 

A Madea War Movie could really test the extent of the Black Church's support for Tyler Perry's "movies."

4) “Sandstorm”starring Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner.  Pattinson plays an English enlisted man fighting in Iraq, but he can only fight at night because of his deep brooding nature and a secret he has (he’s a vampire).  Lautner plays an American fighting alongside, but harboring an even deeper secret (he’s a gay werewolf and if either of those things is found out he will be kicked out of the armed forces).

5) “Memorial Day”starring the cast of Valentine’s Day.  The concept of this movie is simple – every cast member of this film actually volunteers for active duty in Iraq as part of a documentary with an option for a reality television spin off.

Let me know which you think has the best chance.

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Weekend Recommendations

Taking a break from what one comic has deemed my “Erin Brockovitch” phase of comedy (the movement to boycott open calls and bringer shows has not gained any traction, but I am sure a Facebook group would gain thousands of apathetic members) I have decided to offer some recommendations to people that waste their time reading this  .

1) Go see This Is It.  if you like great music, concert films, Michael Jackson and/or molesting children all of you can find something enjoyable in this movie.  It really is outstanding and fun. 

A scene from This Is It.
A scene from This Is It.

2) Root for the Yankees.  The Phillies represent a city that could not even medal at the “Best Cities in the Northeast” Olympics.  I can’t wait for the Yankees to buy Cliff Lee.

3) Go get Greg Giraldo’s CD “Midlife Vices.” In the spirit of the forthcoming A Christmas Carol, it is like a look at the Ghost of J-L’s Christmas Future.  It is a powerhouse of comedy.

4) Go see me if you are in Boston.  I am headlining Tommy’s Comedy Lounge Friday at 830 pm and Saturday (Halloween) at 730 pm.  I will be delivering the best sets of my life, which when I find out I can no longer perform at most NY Comedy Clubs I will release the Boston performances on a special DVD entitled “This Is It,” which fans of great comedy, comedy films, J-L Cauvin and molesting children will appreciate.

Have a nice weekend.

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San Francisco Comedy Competition – Round 1, Day 3

Yesterday was a great day for many reasons.  The weather was nice, The Motel Aladdin, where I stayed last night had a great continental breakfast and, obviously, I did not get murdered in my sleep by the drifters that were probably staying at the Motel Aladdin or at least in the wooded areas nearby.  More importantly September 11, 2009 was the day that I officially got over 9/11, thanks to the overwhelming amount of Facebook comments from people who feel they have to let the cyber world know that they will not forget.  Phew, now I can finally sleep again. 

But the two biggest things of the day for me were John Stockton getting inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and me not performing comedy in front of inbred white trash.

Well, I had a good performance tonight, in front of an extremely good crowd and went over by 6 seconds, thus disqualifying my performance.  Rules are rules and I am not mad about that.  I am actually mad that now that means my casino performance must remain as one of the 4 scores towards my final score (we perform 5 times and the lowest score is kept).  Keeping that casino gig on my record is the comedic equivalent of a rape victim being denied an abortion; I now must carry the shame of that performance for the rest of my comedic life, or at least until Sunday.

I will say now that when I summarize this festival, whenever it ends for me, I will be offering some harsh words, but I don’t want them to be taken as sour grapes, but merely reporting some strange observations about comedy.  Stay tuned – it could be happening as soon as Monday morning.

So with 1 good performance and two stinkers I am down 2-1.  But one of my heroes, John Stockton was also down 2-1 in many series and you know what he did?  He lost to Michael Jordan and the Bulls both times.

Day 4 better be good for me or it could be curtains.  We go to Grass Valley tomorrow, which, naturally, is 150 miles away from San Francisco.  Apparently it is a burial place for old hippies.  Great.

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Wake Me Up When September Ends

A lot of big things in September that can potentially lead to incremental success as a comedian or months of bitter regret.  I have not done any new writing since returning from Denver in a hopes to avoid what is often the death-knell for me in any audition/competition in the past.  It goes something like this: I think of a funny premise, which will be funny in a month, a week before an important show.  I then say to myself – this is my best joke!  I then do it and it ruins part of a set that would have been good, but for the prematurely born joke.  I then punch inanimate objects and write about my frustration.  Not this year.  Here are my upcoming trials:

The Boston Comedy Festival – August 30th-September 6th.  This is aspirational.  If I am performing on September 6th it will have been a success.  If I am not angry on September 7th it will have been a huge success/possible miracle.

I have not made the finals in Boston in 5 years and Aaron Boone no longer comforts me.
I have not made the finals in Boston in 5 years and Aaron Boone no longer comforts me.

An Obamacare Tale– We just finished filming my latest spoof/video and not only do I think this will be the best, but also actually semi-relevant.  Imagine a health care town hall with all the worst elements of Obama haters, then imagine a guy who looks like Beck playing Joe Biden and the best Obama impression you’ve ever seen by a member of my family.  Then model it after the scene in A Bronx Tale where Chazz Palminteri beats up a group of bikers.  What do you have?  A video that should go viral and be on Olberman’s Countdown and launch my new career as SNL’s Obama.  What will it actually get – 14 Facebook comments and 500-600 hits.  But it should be up this week and will make me momentarily happy.

What happens when the town hall gets our of control for Obama?  An Obamacare Tale... coming soon.
What happens when the town hall gets our of control for Obama? An Obamacare Tale... coming soon.

San Francisco Comedy Competition September 9, 2009 – November 4, 2013– This is a prestigious comedy competition that lasts for a very long time if you are good/lucky.  I hope to go far (it actually ends October 3, 2009 – see Boston Comedy Festival above for similar description).   I have never been to San Francisco, but I hear it’s a nice city.  I am sure I will enjoy my friend’s couch and the nearest 24 Hour Fitness club and Starbucks.  But don’t worry, I will tell everyone that it is awesome when I return, the way people returning from Europe trips show how much they were changed by experiencing Europe by saying things like Barthelona.

Hope to have good news to report in September/October.  Probably will be more entertaining if I don’t.  Stay tuned.

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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.

An artist's rendering of my comedy career.
An artist's rendering of my comedy career.

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

I can take you and your three other Golden Girls.  But first let me take your Medicare since you don't want it.
I can take you and your three other Golden Girls. But first let me take your Medicare since you don't want it.

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.

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90,000 Sex Offenders Barred From MySpace

At least I still have Facebook.

I read yesterday that MySpace has removed and barred approximately 90,000 sex offenders from MySpace.  I am not sure that will save it from dying an excruciating death at the hands of Facebook, unless they go negative and start claiming that Facebook is a haven for sex offenders.

How did MySpace find these people?  I never saw the “rapist” or “pedophile” option on relationship status or occupation.  And I have to assume that if you are a sex offender you cannot be so stupid as to make an account with your own name, unless, instead of employing a clever ruse (candy, white van, “this room is really warm, do you mind if I take off my shirt”), you are more a brute strength sexual assaulter, but then you would have to bar most fraternities and Mike Tyson from MySpace, which they did not.

And have you seen some of the girls on MySpace.  I don’t want to say any of these girls are asking for it, but when your screen name is Hot Wet Pussy Cat (coming soon to my “Top Friends”) and every picture is an ass pose of some variety shouldn’t that the two to tango policy.  Furthermore, I thought you had to be at least 16 to be on MySpace.  I assume, if on-line dating is any primer for MySpace sexual predatory tactics, there will be 8 to 10 months worth of inane banter and by then wouldn’t the victim be of legal age?  And if a person younger than 16 is lying, how is that the sexual assaulter’s fault?  Sure the Dora the Explorer backpack should have been a clue as well as the fact that her favorite movie is High School Musical 3, but can’t it be assumed by the assaulter that she was of age when her 13 year old boyfriend forwards her sextexts to everyone (kids these days!)?

And isn’t anyone who watched Brittney Spears’ first video on MTV that was older than 18 sort of a sex offender anyway? 

Or at least forwarded it on the Internet?  Now sex offenders need to run to Facebook or Twitter (which sort of sounds like a finishingmove for a sex offender video game character, probably voiced by CNN’s Twitter-obsessed Rick Sanchez).  As long as narcissism does not become a crime Facebook should have nothing to worry about.  How’s Friendster doing by the way?

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The King of All Media – Barack Obama

Perhaps a moment of silence for the last 4 years before the party for the next 4 days.

I am now certain that January 20, 2009 is a historic day in America.  It obviously has significant meaning as a statement of the progress of the American dream of equality and equal opportunity (anyone, and I mean anyone, with a Harvard education and hundreds of millions of dollars can be president).  However, I think it stands as an even more important statement about the future of America and American politics.  It is proof that the future of politics, more than ever, is a game, and it will be won not by credentials or experience, but by mastery of the media and technology.

The best parallel to this before the Obamification of politics as far as the history I am aware of is the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon.  An incredibly close election (think Bush v. Gore, minus theft) a critical factor was the good looks of Kennedy leading those who watched the debate on the new contraption known as the television to find Kennedy the winner of the debate (versus radio listeners who thought Nixon won).

Well we now have more than just television now.  We have Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Blackberry, text messaging, etc.  Our generation, rather than contributing substance and value are merely adding more and more bells and whistles for delivering the same old sh*t, or more simplified sh*t.  But because all we have delivered, or more accurately, consumed, are bells and whistles, we are starting to value and confuse bells and whistles as substance.  Whether it is a 19 year old thinking his or her life warrants a blackberry, or people text messaging instead of speaking to each other, or reading celebrity blogs instead of reading and supporting newspapers we are well on our way to sacrificing relationship building and social skills for virtual relationships. 

And Obama has mastered these formats.  The problem is that the future of politics seems to be about how one delivers, not what they deliver.  Politics will become like Domino’s Pizza – the promise of quick, efficient delivery will matter more than the substandard crap that potentially comes in the box.  Obama has become a major pop culture figure and I think to millions that is his most endearing quality.  This is not to say that Obama is not smart, thoughtful, measured and composed individual with leadership skills.  But the precedent he has set is scary to me.  For the first time I can think of the delivery device of the message seems to have as much or more power than the message itself.  I know advertising dollars has been critical to politics for years, but I think the presidency has become more of a product than ever before and that will only increase as people demand more and more instantaneous and glib forms of information and information delivery.

On a side note, Obama is breaking a racial barrier – and although I believe it is important to point out that he is half-white, I am tired of hearing more and more people mentioning that in a spiteful way, as though if we turned back the clock 50 or 100 years he would have been getting a hearty welcome from white America.  However, I am also equally tired of America patting itself on the back.  As much as Obama is cool and inspiring, the love orgy occurring on the news is starting to sicken me – it is as if America is starring at itself in a mirror and is arousing itself in some sort of narcissistic appreciation of its own tolerance and progressiveness.  Stop it already!

But back to the technology/media manipulation.  Obama has proven incredibly capable at using message and media to create an impression upon people, even when the actual content conflicts with the impression.  Some examples:

Facebook/CNN Sound byte: We need more than just the old politics of Bush and Clinton.

Reality: We need all of the Clinton staff because the Clintons actually know and knew what the fu-k they were doing in making decisions and in picking staff.  I am like the Sammy Haggar of the White House.  I will keep the Clinton/Van Halen band, but just replace David Lee Roth/The Clintons.

Facebook/CNN Sound byte: Family is private and I want my children to have a normal life.

Reality: Here is a private letter to my daughters that I will release to the media to show how private and fatherly I am.

Facebook/CNN: I am taking a train ride to DC because I have been inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s common touch and leadership to America.

Reality: I am visiting 4 cities on the East Coast.  Abe Lincoln gave 100 speeches in 12 days coming across half the country during a crisis that is still unparalleled in American History.

 

But we are buying it hook, line and sinker.  And I need to make this clear – I think Obama was what we needed.  My main reason for voting for him is that the Bush foreign policy made Obama’s race an asset in raising our respect in the world community, after 5+ years of bombing brown and Muslim people.  His symbolic value is a real asset to America.  However, how people have clung to him shows that when the media is played the right way people can be manipulated and led along.  I like Obama so this is not as much a warning against Obama as president, but a warning of where we are going as a people.  Are we using technology and the media or are we allowing them to use us?  That may sound like a cliché saved for science fiction, but I think we are living it now. 

We are a nation of wristband wearers and Facebook groups.  Obama’s words may inspire, but I am afraid that all he will do is inspire us to talk and engage in more symbolic gestures.  He is going to have to do the heavy lifting for the country if this buzz wears off in 100 or 200 days.  Celebrity is a fleeting existence, so hopefully he has the substance to make a difference.  I think he does, but only time will actually tell.

One thing above all disturbs me about this event.  Tuesday will be a great feel good moment in history, but history should have been made, or rather, re-made four years ago.  Over 3,000 individuals have died in a war we apparently ALL thought was wrong 4 years ago, but did not elect John Kerry because he was not “cool” or “the man”.   When we had a chance to elect a president 4 years ago who would have made environmentalism a bigger priority we did not.  When we could have elected a president who would not have let big corporations run amok (or at least as much) we did not because our own wallets were doing ok and they guy just did not “inspire” us.  When we could have had a president who might have prepared better for Hurricane Katrina and put someone in charge of FEMA who did not judge Arabian horse shows, we did not and 1,000 poor people died.  So when we had a chance to change history 4 years ago we did not.  So maybe there should be a moment of silence for all that has gone wrong in the last four years before we celebrate the next four days.