The Ten Worst Movies of 2009

People often ask to start with the bad news when given a good news/bads news option and this blog will be no different.   Besides, the worst movies will provide more humor than the best movies of the year.  For me it as also easier to come up with the list of 10 worst movies than the ten best.  Here they are,

10) Year One.  Jack Black, Michael Cera, Paul Rudd and Harold Ramis, to name a few, decided to take off from being successful and funny and make this terrible movie, which, like many liberal comics in New York, showed that making fun of the Bible does not necessarily make you as funny as George Carlin.

9) Friday The 13th.  It came out early this year, but was strong enough it in its shi*tiness to stick around.  This was actually the first horror film I have ever seen where the acting was actually better than the film.  That is like watching a WNBA game and saying, “Man these girls are awesome, if only they had better coaching to take advantage of their skills and athleticism.”

8) Funny People.  This film is here, not so much because it was a terrible movie (it was not), but because I have not been misled by a marketing campaign for a movie this much since I thought I was going to a sports movie called Jerry Maguire.  Late night show hosts and bloggers seemed to all be in on the scam – this was a movie that would show what being a comic is really like.  Instead it showed the audience what the lives of chubby, unfunny, overpaid Jewish guys is like.  It could have probably been called Goldman Nut Sachs (as a tribute to the genital humor that also abounds in this movie).

7) Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Needless to say this was the #1 movie of 2009 in terms of financial success.  Racist robots were apparently the cure for the summertime blues of Obama fatigue.  This was also the worst movie experience of the year for me since I sat next to a guy who talked so much during the movie that I think he was conjured up in a stereotype machine invented by the Wayans Brothers a la Weird Science’s creation of Kelly LeBrock.

6) 2012.  The biggest disaster film of the year not starring Tiger Woods (I am almost done making Tiger jokes).  The effects were weak and at 2 1/2 hours long, the film was about 2 hours and 27 minutes too long.

5) The Proposal.  In a year where 500 Days of Summer showed how good a romantic comedy could be, this film showed how bad they could still be (and people ate it up).  Puritan sexual mores and too much religious fervor are some of the things that people point to to show how unenlightened America is compared to some of its less powerful, but equally Disney and McDonald’s craving European allies.  I think looking at the collective grosses of Sandra Bullock’s movies make the case much more strongly.  (I have not seen The Blind Side yet, but am looking to get a free ticket, which will allow me not to financially support a great white hope story that looks terrible).

4) X Men Origins: Wolverine.  My hopes ran high a year ago when I saw The Dark Knight for the 432nd time.  Perhaps people would demand higher quality action films.  And the trailers for this film looked promising.  What was delivered was the worst thing from Australia since Yahoo Serious.

Let’s take a breath here and recognize that the next three films are even dangerous to say out loud they are so bad.

3) Antichrist.  Here is the review I posted on Facebook after seeing this film:

I wanted to see this movie based on the preview, despite mostly bad reviews. Upon seeing the movie, here is who should see this movie:
1) Want to see a montage in which Willem Defoe sexually penetrates (shown) an actress while his character’s son (approx 4 yrs old) falls out a window to his death.
2) Want to see a fox eat its own wounds (take that Fantastic Mr Fox)
3) Want to see Willem Defoe receive a handjob and then ejaculate blood.
4) Want to see a woman self-circumcise herself.

If you have answered yes to more than one of these questions (I appreciate morbid curiosity in small doses) then please de-friend me. 🙂

2) Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  One of the surprise hits of the year and that is what made me watch it.  However whenever something that I am initially skeptical about generates popular success (Mamma Mia! the musical, The Fast and The Furious to name two) my initial skepticism is always correct.  This may be the greatest example of this in pop culture history.  It seemed to have the quality of a student film, but with far less quality work on the part of the actors.  A movie of truly devastating crappiness.  To paraphrase the Dude from The Big Lebowski: “Well, you finally did it America, you’ve killed fu-king comedy.”

drum roll please

1) Amelia.  Perhaps Amelia Earhart knew this movie was coming, because I would disappear too if this bag of sh*t were attached to my name.  Hilary Swank and Richard Gere both producing the worst film of their careers (yes I am counting The Next Karate Kid).  And here is the worst thing I can say about a movie.  This was not only worse than Paul Blart, but was worse than last year’s worst film – Twilight.  ‘Nuff said.




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.



I remember as a 2nd grader (give or take a year) at Riverdale Country School some Columbia psychology grad students were allowed to use us for experiments.  Simple ones, maybe some of you have been involved in them (there is actually a commercial parodying them running on television currently, but it involves ponies) where the experimenter would tell us we could have 3 Hershey Kisses if we waited for an indefinite amount of time (could be 5 minutes, could be 50) or 2 Hershey Kisses at any time when we said we wished to stop waiting.  I distinctly remember waiting for only a few minutes and then requesting the two Hershey Kisses.

I did not realize that more than two decades later this mindset would bite me in the ass when everyone else would adopt it.

With the advent of YouTube and similar media outlets the viewer’s attention span is both demanding and being molded for nothing less than ten minutes of humorous bursts.  The shorter the better.  If something is 3 minutes try to make it 2, etc.  But comedy, I believed, was open to all sorts of styles and thoughts.  My jokes generally come in the form of intermittent punchlines during the course of stories or opinions with (hopefully) a big punchline at the end.  That is one style – it is not changing the world, but iI hope the content and perspective I have is unique enough.  I am no Bill Cosby or George Carlin, but I wonder to myself sometimes if those legends started out today would they even be considered comedians or would they be placed under the more nebulous “spoken word” category, meaning I may have to listen to some set up or opinion or allow a person to develop something before I get to a more substantive and funny payoff.

I really believe YouTube, for all its convenience is going to have a very detrimental long term effect on comedy.   I was recently told in the course of a rejection for something I auditioned for that I “needed to get to the jokes faster.”  This was in response to one of the best sets I’d ever had in my life.  Now maybe that means that I suck.  But I do not feel that is the case.  So, despite telling what is my best material in crisp formats that had just gotten me passed at two well regarded national clubs, I was taking too much time getting to the punch.   But this may just be what the comedy fan market is demanding.  But

This trend has a doubly deleterious effect on my nascent career because at the time that young storytelling comics with points of view may or may not be getting shunned (or at least fewer opportunities) for more quick hit style comics (nothing against them at all if they do it well), it also seems that this is the dawn of new dominance for the slovenly/nerdy comedian.  Seth Rogan’sascendancy may be the biggest moment of this trend(or re-trend), but also in successful movies like The Hangover the two guys getting the biggest laughs are Zach Galifianakis (slovenly) and Ed Helms (sort of meek and nerdy).  Shows like Important Things with Dimitri Martin and the new porn for alt comedy fans, Michael and Michael demonstrate that the nerdy and alt scene is where the comedy businsess seems to be mining for its new talent.  Perhaps Dane Cook cashed in all the alpha male chips this decade for comedians.  But these two trends (shorter bits, stranger comedians) make me feel like a 2009 General Motors SUV.  That is why instead of getting what I think is a half-assed critique of my audition I would have preferred to hear, “Fu-k you,” or “We don’t want you,” or “You are not what we’re looking for.”  Those I can understand, but if the gates to the comedy kingdom require admission fees in the form of alternative looks or sounds or rapid fire punchlines akin to Rodney Dangerfield or Robin Williams then my days in the business are numbered.  It’s just not what I do.

And people are becoming more and more programmed to expect or demand certain delivery devices like YouTube – the internet is no longer enough.  Not too long ago I told a waiter at a restaurant that I was a comedian.  He seemed to be a big comedy fan so I gave him my card which has my website on it.  He then asked me if I had any clips on YouTube and that he’d look me up on YouTube.  I just gave him a sh*t eating grin because I did not want saliva in my food, but in my head I was thinking, “Yeah maybe you could check out clips of mine if I put them on YouTube, but wait, I think I know where you might also have a chance of seeing some clips – the FU-KING website I just gave you that has all my stuff you pre-programmed moron.”

And to show that this is not sour grapes or some small potatoes gripe, all entertainment is feeling this decrease in attention and creativity – even porn!  See the link below.

Now if even porn stars are craving more substance to their work something is going dreadfully wrong with our pop culture.

I really feel like at some point down the road YouTube will have some video Twitter equivalent where things can only be 15 seconds long and will just consist of people taking dumps in public places or near children and we will all be competing with that stupidity as comics.   I just hope this is a phase of comedy and not a permanent direction because if it is I’ll just take my two Hershey kisses now.


Einstein Was A Celebrity

And so is Paris Hilton – what is wrong with this picture?

I am finishing up a biography on Albert Einstein and have learned a few things.  One is that Einstein was a pretty shi*ty father.  He also revolutionized the way the physical world was viewed in science.  Third, he was a bona fide celebrity.  For all the ways we as a society have progressed the celebrity culture is definitely one way where we are definitely regressing. 

Even 30 years ago the names Woodward and Bernstein became famous because of their exposure of the Watergate scandal.  Now I don’t even remember the name of the New York Times’ journalist who won a Pulitzer for exposing the Bush wiretapping program – and I played basketball with the guy a few months ago.  But whether I like it or not I can tell you who Omarosa is.  Newspapers are dying and reality television is thriving. 

But the case of Einstein was particularly interesting to me.  A man who deserved legitimate fame for a theory that turned scientific law on its head and won a Nobel Prize became a household name.   What would Einstein be today? My guess last night at an open mic was maybe he’d be the boring Tuesday guest on The Daily Show.  “Next we have the author of The General Theory of Relativity – Albert Einstein.” ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ (I guess to Jon Stewart’s credit – even though I find him increasingly and unbearably smug – is that he does have authors of different disciplines on his show, including scientists).

Instead we make any as-hole with a foul mouth or enlarged breasts a celebrity.  I think part of this stems from our culture, that George Carlin certainly ripped apart, where little kids for the last 20 years have been told that they are special and unique and great.  Now those coddled and delusional idiots have grown up  and in the back of their minds it’s cool to see the average as-hole become a celebrity because, unlike Einstein, they could see themselves doing the same.   Studying physics?  No thanks.  Blowing a washed up celebrity on a tour bus – now that is something everyone can do?  Blogs, YouTube and its ilk represent  challenge to traditional authority and media run amok and the backlash is that our newspapers and our values are quickly transitioning from absolute to relative to obsolete.   Our celebrities no longer have talent or objective value, our news sources are increasingly delivered in glib, opinion-soaked soundbites.  And like the frog that boils to death as temperature is increased gradually we are just accepting this.

So as a glib, opinionated comic seeking fame for telling jokes let me leave you with this piece of wisdom.  Someone not too long ago told me that my reading of the morning newspaper (in print form) and my interest in the news and more specifically, politics, was merely a product of having been raised like that (somehow this was meant to be a challenge to the objective importance of being well informed).  Well, that is how I was raised and hopefully there are still people out there that will raise their kids that way or else in ten years you may be coming to this website for both your celebrity and news fix.


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.