Road Comedy Recap: My Rod Tidwell-Fans in Hartford

One of the keys to success in stand up comedy, after having management, having lots of followers on social media, being under 30, projecting a false air of confidence, having other talents and avenues to success besides stand up comedy and talent, is having meaningful engagement with your fans.  I was in Hartford this weekend (technically I am still in Hartford awaiting Sunday’s final show, but with day job work looming tomorrow morning I wanted to get this written now so that the 80-200 readers I have would not be deprived of a prompt recap) where I have a solid and loyal fan base of 5-9 people. But these are album recording attending, ticket purchasing, movie review watching, podcast listening sons of guns and I am having a hard time convincing them my career is a complete dead end – WOOOOOO! (Ric Flair for those who have no idea why I wrote this sentence like this) so I must keep them (they are basically the Rod Tidwells to my Jerry Maguire – “SHOW ME THE PUNCHLINES! Congratulations J-L we will continue to be your fans”). Before a breakdown of the weekend specifics here is what I gave to my 3 fans +1 spouse that showed up this weekend:

Thursday – gave Jacquelyn a hug though she bolted to allow me to (try to) sell merch. She came with her sister to my last album recording.

Thursday – Jon also shows up – he has been a fan since my 1st appearance in Hartford in 2010 (I had a 5 year stint in Funny Bone prison when I was not given a week of work from April 2011 until mid 2016 (basically this will go down as the Ted Williams going to WWII or the Ali getting stripped of his belt in his prime of stand up comedy – 5 years of being exiled from the largest chain of clubs when I could still have been considered a “young comic” for part of it and networked and met dozens of headliners all while getting money and stage time) because a few morons in Des Moines gave me bad reviews (even though it was still one of my best weeks of CD sales – perhaps it was my 10 minute story about the woman who kept calling me a fa**ot via email because I wouldn’t invite her to my hotel and was still emailing me during the show because she was at a bar next to the club story that did it #ComedySexSymbol #FunnyBone #PsychoSkank). Well Jon is a huge movie fan so I went with him after the show to see Deadpool 2 (enjoyed it and was thrilled to see the Freddie Mercury trailer – I would give the trailer a best pic nomination).

Saturday – Keith (and his wife, +1) came to the early show and I forgot to call a buddy of mine in LA because we talked for about an hour (sorry Nick, but 4 comedy fans are more rare than my 9 comedy friends, but you are still a valued member of my failing comedy career team #SquadGoals). I brought Keith a hard copy of Keep My Enemies Closer because the last time he saw me at the Hartford Funny Bone he said he had lost his copy – it was the only CD stolen from his car! #ComedyKnowledgeableCarThief

The lesson of this long preamble is that it pays to be a comedy fan of mine – you get hugs, movie dates and albums just for prolonging the ebola riddled corpse I call a comedy career.  Ok, let’s do the more specific breakdown.

Travel & Accommodations

I took Amtrak up to Hartford on Thursday and immediately found myself enraged.  I got on the train, secured a seat and got up to put my bag above me.  Just then, the man sitting across from me jumped up and put his suitcase above my seat as I was preparing to put mine up there.  Most people, including me, have tics and weird things they do. But like religion, masturbation and bare feet, I prefer to keep those things outside of the public accommodations of travel. So I looked at the guy and asked “Is there something wrong with your luggage space?” and he replied that he “can keep an eye on his bag better if it is there.” Does this assume Tom Cruise is going to Mission Impossible your suitcase by hovering above you?  And even if he did that you would know because I would be screaming “G.O.A.T.!!!” at the sight of TC.  I was very tempted to pull a TJ Miller and call in the bag and behavior as suspicious, but instead I just sat and steamed.  And then, despite 20% of the car still being open a woman asked if she could sit next to me, the largest human in the car.  Of course she was a white woman over 70, which if you have read my long distance travel blogs you know that I could probably become the Jon Voigt of an Amtrak-Midnight Cowboy if I wanted to with how many of these old ladies like to chat me up.  I think some people claim to have old souls, but I have an old, crotchety and bitter soul so I think it comes off more attractive and authentic to these golden girls.

America’s Best Value Inn has nothing on me – providing headliner comedy at 1988 Emcee prices! #BestValueFeature #TilesAreOverrated

The club manager piced me up at the train and drove me to my hotel  motel, America’s Best Value Inn. From the exterior I thought “well if it is any more than free there is no way it is the ‘best value.'”  However, my room was actually quite solid and a great flat screen tv, that had a remote that worked like a real remote and not a “20 seconds of ‘did I turn it on’ delay for no reason” hotel motel remote.  The hotel motel manager told me at check-in that if I wanted service I needed to open the shade so they knew to help me. As Ben Franklin once said “Those willing to give up room service for security deserve neither.”  If you can’t tell from my Midnight Cowboy and Ben Franklin references I am slowly morphing into a real-life version of my new Righteous Prick Podcast character “Beige Dennis Miller” and when I tried to recall the room service story Thursday night it fell flatter than a Larry Nasser patient cha cha cha (damn it STOP Beige Dennis Miller!).  “Can they not invest in three cent placards that say ‘do not disturb?’ Instead I have to resort to old time spy tradecraft to get my towels changed?”  I think it was the general silence and realizing I had said “tradecraft” when I realized I was finally becoming Beige Dennis Miller.  But to be fair – to the average comedy club audience these days anything beyond weed and jerking off starts to feel high brow.

King of Condescention

Merchandise Is Dead… Almost

Only Friday’s late show seemed openly hostile to me, but CD sales basically reflected 5 (and counting) audiences that hated my existence.  Now my post-show handshake game was on point, but I only made one sale Thursday and 5 on Saturday (between the 2 shows). And all joking aside – these were from crowds that liked me!  A few factors affect this – the headliner, Chris Porter, was selling his DVDs, so naturally that will eat into the merch sales of “the middle guy.” And most people will say “no one buys CDs anymore.” That is true generally, but up until late 2017 I was selling really well so something else feels afoot.  I don’t know what it is other than God’s 988th sign that I “should quit while I am behind” (credit for this quote belongs to Coach Kreso – football coach and high school gym teacher at my high school.

One may be the loneliest number, but merch is the loneliest table

Sweaty Church

Another feature of my road work is my weekly journey to America’s Catholic Churches.  The closest one to my hotel motel was St. James (#Lebron), which was 3.1 miles away. And as fate would have it, Sunday was, by far, the hottest day of the week so I ended up sweating substantially by the time I arrived on time for 11am Mass. I looked like a black Baptist preacher when I walked in because of both the sweat and the fact that I looked like the only person in attendance who wouldn’t turn into a lobster in the Sun (actually there were 3 black people and 4 Indian people giving the Church a 3.5 black, 4 Indian and 277 bleach ethnic breakdown).  Mass was good, though nothing compared to the Voice of God in Tampa (though the Choir was very good and they even had a horn player, which I consider acceptable, unlike Church bands with full on rock band components). It is OK to have a little Chicago in your Church band, but you cant go full Journey.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Lebron

So that is all I have for you this week.  I am taking Greyhound home after the show tonight, so really the only possible news from this point on relative to this road work would be some sort of horrific incident on the bus or at NY Port Authoirty at 1am.  I will give my girlfriend my wordpress password so she can amend the blog in that event. Otherwise, just enjoy this new clip from Hartford and have a good week!


Road Comedy Recap: Manchester by the C Word

Thursday through Sunday I was performing at the Hartford Funny Bone, which as the name would indicate, is located in… Manchester, Connecticut (hence the blog title – there are no specific C-Words, but I could not resist the pun for the title).  It was my first time back at the club since 2011.  I received good reviews my previous two times at the HFB, but then went to the Des Moines Funny Bone in mid-2011 and received poor fan survey results (I still sold a lot of CDs and never got heckled or booed that week, so I am not sure how bad the grades could have been).  So naturally the response was to not book me for five years at any of the 20+ Funny Bone/Improvs.  I still wonder if one of my favorite videos on YouTube had anything to do with it, when I read emails during my last Des Moines set from a cute young woman (most likely a year or two away from sleeping with one of her high school students, assuming she is a teacher) who wanted to come to my hotel:

But like a reboot no one asked for I made a triumphant return to Manchester-Hartford last week and it was fun, funny and volatile.

Thursday: Good Start

I arrived in Hartford at 2:20pm on Thursday and was picked up by the club manager.  He was running the sound booth when I was last there in 2011, so it turns out that there are ways to advance your career in the comedy business, as long as you make sure to avoid being a comedian.  He brought me to the Extended Stay, which is pretty solid for chain hotels.  Pluses – full kitchen in your room.  Negatives – no breakfast and the arch nemesis of my health a 5 minute walk away:

I need to start telling clubs not to book me so close to IHOP

When my Mom learned I was at an Extended Stay she asked me if it was okay and if there were families staying there.  I then realized that she, being unfamiliar with the Extended Stay brand, assumed Extended Stay was some sort of governmental housing term for displaced families or a halfway house. I had to inform her that my career was not so bad (yet) that it required FEMA assistance.

The show that night was good (no hecklers, sold a lot of CDs). And one fan/friend (“Fran” – Trademark pending) showed up as well (I AM A DRAW).

Friday: The JL Jinx Affects Connecticut’s Heroines

It is no secret that I am a gambling cooler to my own comedy career.  Therefor, if anything actually positive starts to happen in my career the universe requires a hefty sacrifice to balance it out.  Well, with CDs sales brisk and shows going well, it should come as no surprise that within 36 hours of my arrival in the state, the UConn women’s basketball team, 4 time defending champions and owners of a record 111 game winning streak saw their streak ended Friday night.  There was nothing else to really report from Friday, but with the debt to the comedy gods paid, Saturday was in a safe position to resume destroying my career.

Saturday: Faith, Fans and Fu*k-Ups

I started my day (at 315pm) with a 2 mile walk to the nearest Catholic Church for Saturday Vigil Mass at 4pm.  In a big plus for Connecticut everyone shook hands during Peace, instead of the Purell habit that I have observed over the last 5+ years of just waving and saying “Peace be with you,” even to the person standing next to you.  Having prayed for guidance on what to do with my life, God would give a very clear answer that night at the Funny Bone.

I had 6 fans showing up to the early show (well 3 separate fans dragging others to the show) – I AM A DRAW OUT OF THE FEATURE SPOT!  But the early show was not starting on time. In fact it was starting 15 minutes late. So while the emcee was on stage (doing his full time) I was asked to get off stage by 8:05, which ended up being an 11.5 minute feature set (instead of the usual 20-25 minutes).  THAT WILL TEACH PEOPLE TO BE FANS OF MINE!  I still sold CDs and expressed gratitude afterwards, by doing a 30 minute set/podcast rant in front of Bertucci’s in the shopping mall for superfan Keith and his brother (I think it was his brother) and friend after so they got headliner minutes out of me at least.

The late show started and a short Latino man in his 40s kept yelling that it was his birthday (apparently as part of Trump’s MAGA, men are trying to snatch the comedy club heckling nightmare crown from drunk white women). At one point he took the mic from the emcee (who was a nice kid 20 years old, but legitimately looked like a very tall 14 year old).  During my set Stand and Deliver and his surrounding tables never shut up (as I write this I wish I had gone into a Jaime Escalante impression), but I handled it pretty well and even got to say many humorous, somewhat racist things to him and his table using my Trump impression.  Look for my next video “Comedian CRUSHES Heckler as Trump, Obama & Bernie Sanders!!!!” (just kidding – I don’t want to post it)

Sunday: The Trump Pen and Peter Pan

Sunday was the final show of the week and after watching the Utah Jazz lose a close one on national TV I headed to the club.  The crowd was big and the show went great. However, the show started 30 minutes late and the headliner did well over an hour, so instead of being able to sell merch I had to run to catch my 10pm Peter Pan bus (named Peter Pan because like the kids in Pan, if you ride their buses you are likely not to grow older).  But after my set the headliner, Michael Colyar was kind enough to call me back up to the stage, called me a genius and gave me a talking Trump pen (follow my Instagram (@jlcomedy) to see my video of the pen). One of the nicest, if not the nicest gestures any headliner has ever done for me. But with no time to spare I got a ride to the bus station in downtown Hartford.

The bus got to NYC 40 minutes early (one of the great paradoxes of bus travel in America – it is unquestionably the worst of transportation choices and yet, always on time and cheap, which trains and planes cannot claim), but my favorite part of the trip was the intro safety video on the bus from the Peter Pan CEO and family (like a Trump family but with a net worth of $900K).  As I sat with a bunch of people that looked like extras from The Wire and a Trump campaign video about illegal immigrants, it was pretty funny to sit there watching the Peter Pan CEO, White Whiterson, and his children wish us well on our journey. I could actually see them cross the street on the video after delivering their message.

All in all, a productive and fun week of comedy.  Even more significantly, with 7 fans and kind gestures from the headliner, there may have been a downside to the week – I feel motivated to continue doing stand up.  And with that, enjoy two new stand up bit/clips from the weekend. Enjoy!

Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER &  ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.


How to Be a Great Comedy Heckler

The Dave Chappelle incident in Hartford has brought heckling and its place in stand up comedy into the spotlight again.  Well to help improve, if not settle the debate, there is now a video on the Internet that promises to help people become better hecklers to improve the comedy club experience.  Watch it and share:

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes. New Every Tuesday! This week’s episode – a debate/discussion about paying college athletes.


Comedy Recap of the Week: You Don’t Look Half…

This weekend I travelled to Hartford, CT for gigs at Brew Ha Ha Comedy Club at City Steam.  This is one of the most convenient and best set ups in the whole country.  The shows are Friday and Saturday, so one does not have to take any days off from the day job to work the club if you are in NYC. The hotel is a Holiday Inn Express, which given current comedy club accommodation standards, ranging from no room to body fluid stained comedy condo, is basically the Ritz-Carlton to a comedian.  The hotel is 400 feet from the Amtrak station and a ten minute walk from the club.

Interestingly enough, the hotel has a free breakfast, but no waffle iron, which is a big problem because as any comedian knows, the waffle iron has been the great equalizer in comedy accommodations.  “Four people were murdered here last week,” used to be what you would hear at a comedy club condo/hotel, but it now sounds a lot better as “Four people were murdered here last week, but our continental breakfast features a waffle iron.”  Like the personal computer for individuals, the waffle iron leveled the playing for hotels. The Econo Lodge closed the gap with the Gansevoort thanks to the waffle iron.  There is also a Subway near the hotel so that you can eat something halfway healthy for lunch and the club provides free food and a few free drinks per show for dinner.  In other words it is the perfect set up for a comedian looking to have a comfortable weekend.  When I was at the club in Summer 2012 I had three great shows and was happy as could be.  But this is 2013 and I am working on a new hour, which will set the world on fire, but as a majority of the crowds taught me this weekend, it is not for everyone.

The Friday show was the worst I had all weekend.  It still went well, but I blanked on several bits (including two of my new best) and had to retreat to some older bits to keep the flow going, which is exactly what I did not want to do.  And I felt guilty since two of my 28 nationwide fans, Jon and Laura (it was fate J-L has fans J and L) were at the show and I had promised newer material.  They still thought it went well, which was probably them being nice.  But most people greeted me nicely, except for a group of girls who sprinted past me, well sprinted might be generous – they waddled in a frightened manner away from me.  The only really awkward thing about City Steam (aside from the fact that half of the ceiling over the stage is too low for me to stand under) is that merch sales for features is at a narrow corner right next to the stairwell, which creates a gauntlet for audience members to pass through.  I shook many hands and was told “good show” by a lot of people.  I sold very little and got the awkward exchange that would become the theme of the weekend.

An elderly couple walked up to me and said, “Very funny stuff, but I just don’t believe that you are half-black.”  I have not figured out the right way to react to this.  I literally spend 5 minutes of my set recalling the unique experience of being half black, but generally looking white (or at least not-half black, even if some other ethnicity).  Now perhaps comedy audiences no longer believe they are getting humorous truth on stage anymore because of all the geeks and act out-specialists that comprise comedy now (of course the audiences all believed the headliners Mad Lib-esque bits where he simply placed me into interchangeable stories of smoking weed on the road, even though we met for the first time 2 hours before the show – THOSE were all believable to the audience as they kept asking me about our “tour.”).  But do people think anymore?  There are only two possibilities to the statement/question about my ethnicity – either you are calling me a liar or a panderer or you are saying my parent’s’marriage is a fraud (it is full of hostility, but it is not a fraud).

Saturday I recounted the story on stage to some laughter (mostly from the 10% non-white crowd members) on the early show.  Then after the show a guy came up to me and here is the exchange:

“You don’t look half-black.”

“I know.  That is what the bit was about.”

“Is it true?”


“Well, really funny stuff man.” (he said this sort of nervously because the look in my eye was probably that of a half-Black Panther)

See the problem with the material I am working on is that it is not for everyone by definition.  Speaking of all the subtle and not so subtle racist things I still experience and observe to audiences where half the people could be guilty of some of the experiences I recount is not a recipe to winning a whole crowd.  But instead of laughing or not laughing the mirror has to be turned on me instead of on themselves.  Because if I am making up my race for material then the jokes have no relevance or meaning.

As if this was not enough of an annoyance, there is also the “your wife is being uncomfortably flirty with me right in front of you dude” scenario.  After the first show Saturday, which was my second best set of the weekend, but my lowest audience response, a woman came up to me gushing and not removing eye contact for a good 15 seconds.  I did the thing I always do in these cases which is shake her hand and then immediately engage her husband with a hand shake and a “thank you.”  But this guy who was a pretty big guy in his own right gripped my hand and he had some serious paws.  They weren’t longer but his hands were very thick and engulfed mine.  I can palm a basketball, but this guy felt like he could deflate a basketball with his hand.  Then he said, “not very big hands for a big guy!”  I replied like a court jester, “Well that is why I am telling jokes instead of playing in the NBA!”  What I wanted to say was “You know what they say – mediocre hands, mediocre cock, but that does not seem to be stopping your wife from wanting to ride on it.”

This is the joy of my career until I can draw my own audience – people either question my race without thinking of how weird/offensive it is or they need to drag me off of my high horse of feature work in cities like Hartford.  Either someone is telling you that their friend is really funny too, so you know that they know you are not special or they get into a pissing contest because their wife or girlfriend enjoyed the show.  The headliner is accorded a decent level of respect (not always, but odds are better), but the middle is the best place to deposit your issues for any audience members.  And don’t worry I also got a hearty helping over the first two shows of “pretty good,” the worst compliment in entertainment.

But there is a happy ending to this story.  I banged that guy’s wife.  Just kidding.  No, the final show was fantastic.  The average age of the late crowd was 30 instead of “Do Not Resuscitate” and they appreciated the new material.  And even though no one bought merch after I received no “pretty good”‘s, and no “are you really half-black”‘s.  It was nice to end on a high note.

And then like a horror movie, where you think all is well but a horrific thing happens at the last minute, as I was leaving, and standing right next to the emcee, a woman walked by, in front of the emcee and 4 feet from me (hard to miss – my action comedy movie biopic title) and said to her, “You were the best one.”

Well played Comedy.  Well played.

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