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St Paul Road Recap: Grandma Steve Austin Flips Me…

This past week was a whirlwind tour of Canada-South, aka Minnesota.  It was the typical J-L Cauvin comedy trip: Southwest Airlines, solid merch sales, complaints to the club and complaints directly sent to me while on stage.  The trip began with a 5 am run on a rainy Wednesday morning in NYC. It felt good – the city was dark and quiet and the only thing to fear in Midtown Manhattan was the 6’7″ bi-racial guy looking like a small B-cup version of Baywatch-Manboobs Edition running up and down 1st and York Avenues.  I got back to my apartment, showered and grabbed my bags for LaGuardia’s Southwest Airlines section, which is as close in feel to Port Authority Bus Terminal as any airport in America gets.  Upon arriving at Minneapolis-St Paul Airport, after a Chicago-Midway lawyover, I was picked upby my feature Joey Vincent, who for NYC comics looks like Jon Fisch, if Jon Fisch played Left Tackle for the Minnesota Vikings.  So the two of us drove the 2 hours in his van to the Black Bear Casino in Carlton, MN.  The gig at the Black Bear Casino is always interesting – it is run by a nice little fellow named Chuck, for whom ever year is 1987 when it comes to fashion – he sort of reseembles a short, mustachioed version of Sean Penn’s lawyer character in Carlito’s Way.  Well the casino has no table games and the showers have curtains instead of doors, so basically I don’t expect Floyd Mayweather to have his next title defense there.  Seven minutes prior to showtime I took a photo (look it up on my Facebook page (157 likes #blessed) or instagram: jlcomedy to see the 4 people sitting in the room.  But as soon as you could say #quitting and#RobinWilliamsMusthaveHadThisAsHisLastGig, the floodgates opened and we had almost a full room. Joey had a great set and I did what all legends do – performed so great that I sold one CD after the show.  If this sounds unremarkable, it isn’t because Joey said he had never seen someone make a sale at Black Bear and this was the second straight year I had at least one sale. I am basically the Wilt Chamberlain of selling CDs at weird casinos.

We headed back down to St Paul on Thursday for the first of my five shows headlining the Joke Joint Comedy Club.  The club has a condo, but unlike many condos, this one is the second floor of the club owner’s house so you know he keeps it clean and cozy.  It is like your own small, 2 bedroom apartment equipped with Dish TV and a PS3, which is a great contrast to the comedy condo at Rivercenter Comedy Club in San Antonio Texas, which is fully equipped with West Nile Virus and cockroach semen.

The Thursday show was actually just me doing twenty minutes after a comedy contest, which was fun because you could feel both the fatigue and the “this guy isn’t our fu*king friend” vibe from the crowd. Still sold three CDs to an avid reader of this blog so here’s to you if you are reading this post.

Fridays shows represented the highwater mark of the week for sure.  The early Friday crowd was massive. Not kidding. From what I was told it far exceeded Summer expectations and then I ended up selling 17 CDs after the first show (leaving me with two left for the remaining three shows).  And there was only one complaint to management!  The late Friday show was a much smaller crowd, but really really good (other than the fact that they bought zero CDs).  They also were treated to an eight minute off the cuff discussion of Barkhad Abdi, the Somlian pirate from Captain Phillips and Minnesota resident (until he moved to LA for movies and teeth whitening… I hope) that was not vidotaped and will go down as the greatest 8 minutes of comedy dedicated to Barkhad Abdi EVER.

Saturday’s shows had me stressed because, if I was pushing that much merchandise weight on Friday, there were bound to be a lot of disappointed fans on Saturday. Fortunately for all of us, the large crowd featured a woman I will call Grandma Steve Austin. The show was going alright, but then an odd exchange occurred:

Me: My father is Haitian-

Lady (possibly Grandma, but not sure): We like you anyway!

Crowd: Nervous laughter.

Group of Latin and Possibly Mixed Race Women on the other side of the room: What the fu*k did she just say?

Me: That was weird (followed by some laugh line).

(15 minutes later)

Me: I think if the state has marriage powers then they have to be given to gay couples, but I think sometimes Dads who are upset at having gay sons get a bad rap.

(Definitely) Grandma Steve Austin: FU*K YOU!

Me: (turning to see who she was arguing with to see her staring right at me) Huh? But the joke is really funny

Crowd: TELL IT

Me: (I tell it and it kills)

5 minutes later doing my closer:

Me: So my girlfriend was actually in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street

(I then turn to GSA’s side of the room where she is holding out a double middle fingered salute (Steve Austin style), waiting for me to turn – as in she already had them up before I turned towards her)

So unless this woman has a gay son and was ripped off by Jordan Belfort I am not sure why she was so hostile, though I learned afterward that she was extremely drunk and her husband ditched her halfway through the show.  Sadly this led to me selling zero CDs after the show, mainly because of the awkward tension, even though I did get a “great set” worth of handshakes after the early show.  At this point I was feeling like Tiger Woods chasing Jack Nicklaus – after the 21 CD sales prior to Saturday I figured there was no way I wouldn’t sell out.  Now, just like Tiger, after a belligerant exchange with a woman, I had lost my mojo and was still stuck with 2 left to complete the task. Well, the late crowd was really good, even though it was probably my weakest set of the week.  I sold one album. So I left with 23 from NYC and would return with just one. Pretty good considering for my last road trip (Cleveland-Chicago back-to-back) I brought 40 and returned home with 32.

The next day the club owner was nice enough to drive me to the airport at 545 am where he told me that the headliner at his Houston club, which I will be headlining in September, sold $700 worth of merch this weekend.  Given my track record I better bring more CDs and a willingness to harvest my own organs if I want to sell that well. Stay tuned.

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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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.

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Comedy Recap of the Week: Heckled by 3 Women…

I did a show in Park Slope last night – a show that I usually have fun at and  always find interesting.  It is run by the very funny comedian/Twitter-philosopher Yannis Pappas and there was a sizeable crowd most of the night at the small bar.  I was scheduled to go last because they were kind enough to give me a little extra time as I prep for my CD recording.  I started the set so-so, but then got into my quick bit about Fun. and Lena Dunham.  It received good laughs from the crowd according to my recording of the show, but I lost three women in the crowd (separate women – they were not friends or sitting with each other).  When I compared Dunham’s body to a manatee, which I assumed would elicit anger from manatee fans, I was shocked to hear these three women express displeasure.  I moved on to a bit that did well (though I carried it for about 30 seconds too long) about subtle racism in pop music and then I made the mistake of asking the crowd,”Did I lose you guys after the Lena Dunham bit – is she the patron Saint of Brooklyn ( if you recall from one of last week’s posts – I got a similar reaction from some people at a different Brooklyn location)?”  And then the three women spoke up.  To introduce you to the cast of characters:

1) The unfunny woman trying comedy who bombed 20 minutes before I went on stage, a/k/a Ms. Unfunny.  This woman is trying to do comedy and apparently the first lesson she learned was to save her best quips for a comedian who follows her.  To put it this way, she was so bad the Huffington Post has put her on a list of women NOT to follow on Twitter.  Her set was bad, but her comment that I had the same physique as Dunham (considering I am in the worst shape of my life and a man I am not sure how that is defending Dunham, but so be it).  My response was to tell her “you are a suicide bomber comedian – you go into a room and not only destroy your own set, but ruin other comedians’ sets as well.  Congrats.”  I then told her she should quit and that her set would technically not count as a start in comedy anyway. 

Now for anyone who thinks this is me complaining about an unfunny woman, I am not.  A person trying comedy for what appears to be the first time should know enough not to heckle another performer – especially for the sole reason that he mocked the creator of an HBO show.

2) The woman who demanded napkins from me several times during the show without a thank you or a please because apparently I am her employee AND she had lengthy, unwanted conversations with multiple comics during their sets when she interrupted her nonstop texting sessions, a/k/a Princess.   Her claim to fame at this point was that during the Dunham discussion she said, without taking credit, “Where’s the guy Yannis told to ‘waaaa waaaaaaaaaaaaa’ after a bad joke?”  She did not take credit for it once I focused on her, but we eventually had a heart to heart at the end of my set (foreshadowing).

3) A woman with a very tough, big-chick-escorting-JamieLannister-on-Game-Of-Thrones haircut also chimed in – but she doesn’t get a nickname because after she voiced very brief disapproval of my joke about Dunham she said nothing else to my memory.  So I guess thanks for respecting or at least tolerating 99% of my set like a civilized audience member.

Now there is a reason I generally do not engage hecklers.  I have no moderation.  I go from ignoring them to wanting to curb stomp them like in American History X.  But during this first interruption I kept my cool and actually recovered nicely for another 7 minute stretch of material and laughter.  I did throw in an “unlike Sam Morril (the comedian who was mired in a big blogosphere discussion on rape jokes last week), I am advocating violence against women” but we moved on.  I actually did a new bit about how I put on too much weight, so in a move that would make feminist bloggers proud I took the insults from Ms. Unfunny and turned them into an empowering statement about how I often eat cookies out of my own garbage can.

For a while I was feeling really good because I felt like I had moved on from a very awkward phase and was getting laughs. And then with exactly 2 minutes left in my set I went Neil in Heat.  What I mean by that is not that I started humping legs like a dog named Neil.  I am referring to the concluding scene in Heat where Robert DeNiro’s character has narrowly escaped trouble and is on the way to the airport with his girlfriend about to live his life free and rich, but at the last second he makes a pitstop near the airport to kill the man who betrayed him in the beginning of the film.  That decision changes everything and leads to his (spoiler of a 1995 film) death.  And that is what I did in the last 2 minutes.  Here is a sample of what I said:

“Who cares about rape jokes… I am wishing death on two people in this audience.”

“That Cleveland case was horrific, wasn’t it.  The silver lining is that that 6 year old will grow up to either be horrible in bed… or fantastic.”

Now those lines were meant to horrify.  The second line is along the lines of a well worked out bit I have (though it is not part of the bit), but I blurted out this clearly insensitive line just to elicit horror and oh boy, did it ever.  I do not do this ever and do not advocate shocking comedy for shock’s sake, but I wanted to rile up the people I was pissed at in the audience.  Here is the transcript:

(Silence)

Princess: I can’t even… that is disgusting…

Me:  I know it is. So are you. Fu*k you.

Random Irish Guy: No man – fu*k you – everything else was fine, but fuck that.

Princess: That was disgusting.

Me: I know, but this is not my Comedy Central taping (random chuckles).  Thank you for the time though Yannis.

Princess: Have some grace for that girl.

Me: Grace? You have been a rude cu*t this whole show.  You demand napkins at the bar like I’m an employee.  You’re cute and you have an iPhone that you have not stopped looking at the whole show, except to interrupt, but you are a piece of shit as a person so fu*k your grace comments…. Frank Gallo and Yannis Pappas than you for the time. Not sure if I picked up any Twitter followers tonight.

I then exited the stage and gave Princess a huge smile.  The Irish guy tapped me on the shoulder and said “You were hilarious but that one line was too much.” And he was right. 

So after reviewing this I apologize for last night to the audience at Bar 4, even though I am really sad only because I reflected poorly on myself.  And I used valuable stage time to get into personal attacks instead of using it for working on other bits.  So my advice to comics is use stage time wisely, try not to be too mean if it is not necessary, don’t heckle other comics if you are a comedian (or atempting to be one), and if you see the woman known as Princess in this blog, don’t let her in to your show.

Don’t forget tickets to my new CD recording May 18th in NYC can be bought HERE – http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/367876

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

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The Rise of the Female Heckler

A foolish woman is clamorous.  She is simple and knoweth nothing.” – Proverbs 9:13

Rest assured avid readers of this blog and listeners of the Righteous Prick podcast.  This is not some screed against women in comedy.  Well, sort of.  It is not about performers of comedy.  I just finished what can only be called a triumphant series of shows at Helium Comedy Club.  I received a great response from the six crowds, sold more CDs (and Live Angry wristbands) than any single week of my career and not one person out of roughly 1500 audience members offered me a suggestion on how I could improve a joke (they must have read last week’s angry post).  So what could I possibly have to complain about?  Well a great week does not mean a perfect week and both at Helium and at a bar show I did Sunday night upon returning to the city there were a few blemishes.  For the last couple of years that has been a debate drummed into the ground about whether women are funny (or in all honesty, and more specifically, if women are as funny as men).  Rather than divide the comedy community on a gender-related issue that has been exhausted, perhaps it is time to acknowledge gender in a comedy issue that comedians of both genders should be able to agree on: women are talking way too much sh*t at comedy clubs.

I do not know enough about the history of comedy club etiquette to know if mouthy women were always the norm in comedy club audiences, but I feel like in my decade in comedy I have seen a big rise in women sharing their opinions, sound effects and “making it about them” recently.  Now I am in a unique position as a physically imposing comedian in that like a nuclear missile, my size mostly acts as a deterrent.  I am no fighter, but I could still throw a few punches and smother most people to the ground with Dunkin Donuts-fueled mass.  Early in my career I only remember being heckled twice by men.  One was at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, which was basically punk college kids having a goofy time at a lightly-attended free show.  The other time was way back in 2004 at the DC Improv where some guy yelled as I got on stage, “That’s a big bitch!” (my hair almost grazes the ceiling above the stage at the DC Improv).  But since those early (and not material-related) heckles I find women in comedy club audiences have become almost the sole source of heckling, talking and commentary.  Much like an Al Qaeda argument, I am not saying all women heckle. In fact women made up a majority of all the shows at Helium this weekend and 99% of them were great audience members.  But of the 8-10 moments of interruption during my 6 sets, 1 was a drunk man, 9 were women.  And at the bar show I did in Brooklyn there was one heckler and she was a woman.  Before I continue describing this new, or at least growing trend, allow Bill Burr to posit one theory why women have become  so free with their voices and opinions at clubs (he is discussing society at large, but it applies):

I have determined that there are different categories of female audience members that are waging war on the comedy club experience.  You never know which one will show up or if it will be several at once, creating a Game of Thrones-like chaotic war of loud-mouthed women.  But thankfully, this weekend, I got to briefly experience a little bit of each group of  The Five Female Hecklers.

THE FIVE FEMALE HECKLERS

1) The Bachelorette Party Member(s)

This is sort of a cliche in comedy clubs that these parties generally suck, but cliches ring true for a reason.  This can actually be broadened to any large group of young women at a comedy club.  There can be one member of the group who is loud and or drunk, or it can be the whole group, but sadly, no matter what the number, they always seem to rally around the people in the group being jerks.  I witnessed this at Helium this weekend.  I was sitting in the back watching Rachel Feinstein’s set (the headliner) and a table of 6 women under 27 years old were talking nonstop.  An employee of the club went over and asked them to please stop talking, or if they needed to talk to please go out to the bar area.  Well, emblematic of their “I walk and text without looking around on busy streets assuming people will get out my way” generation they began mock laughing saying “we are allowed to laugh, right?”  They then left a few minutes later and drew a penis on the back of their receipt.  These women will be mothers one day, God willing.

2) The Black/Latin  Loudly Passive Aggressive Woman

I do not like to divide things on race, but this one is required.  The black or latin female heckler has a different approach. For example when I shared with the crowd that my father is Haitian on Saturday’s early show, one black woman sitting close enough for me to see and hear gave me a  “uhhh hmmmm… sure sure” indicating her non-belief.  Other comments that I have heard in my history from black and latin female audience members have been things like “He ain’t right”, “he ain’t funny” and “he don’t know me!” In other words, when it occurs, the heckles are usually loud and almost always passive aggressive as they are not stated directly to the comedian.

3) The Table of Cougars

This is a more recent phenomenon given all the empowerment society has bestowed recently on neglected women in their late forties.  I was not actually personally bashed by the cougar crowd this weekend (though I witness them exhibiting some general sh*t talking), but every comedy show seems to now have a group of women – a mix of divorced, married and whorish –  who roll into the club and are going to recapture their youth, no matter who is saying what with a microphone.  What happened to some dignity later in life?

4) The Disapproving Woman with the Weak Husband/Date

This is the defining group of the women heckler phenomenon.  From being a prosecutor in the Bronx to dating women in adulthood I have noticed that bad people tend to gravitate towards someone who tolerates and/or is comfortable with their flaws.  This does not mean happy with, but means comfortable with, because it satiates some primal instinct or conditioning.  Abusive men I observed in the South Bronx did not seek out or find themselves attracted to doctors and lawyers, unless their encounter resembled the beginning of the plot of a snuff film they saw.  They found women who came from places where abuse was tolerated or normal, thus creating a hellish symbiosis of abuse.  Well, much like the Real Husbands of the South Bronx, the Real Housewives of American Comedy Clubs have apparently found boyfriends and husbands that like to be yelled into submission as if they’re dating Dirk Diggler’s mother.

I once went on a date with a woman to see Dane Cook (2004 – Caroline’s).  She was late – strike one; she gave me a look of disapproval when I laughed at a Dane Cook joke about vaginas  – strike two; and then she did not do anything after the date – strike three – game over.  Fortunately, she did not vocalize her disapproval, but her look was enough to turn me off (that and her lack of consent after the show).  But had she spoken out or yelled at Dane Cook I would have told her to be quiet, stop embarrassing us or leave.  This may sound harsh, but it just means that I only want to date people who know how to conduct themselves in public and that I am not desperate enough to put up with inappropriate bullsh*t from a woman because she is the only one I can get.  Now unfortunately, there is a class of men who date and marry loud, inappropriate and embarrassing women because they either can put up with it, or more likely, feel that they have to.  And there is a couple like this at every show.

She is the woman yelling “That’s not funny!” or “Men do it too!!”  or some other stupid and unnecessary opinion about a joke.  And almost always you will see a guy just happy to have a spot on her life roster sitting right next to her.  Just sitting there quietly knowing that he is powerless to stop this monster.   In short, she is the worst person in the comedy club.  Assuming Lena Dunham’s nutritionist is not in attendance.

Or as another example – at the bar show in Brooklyn last night – the loud woman was near the stage, intoxicated and with a large black boyfriend (second biggest dude in the bar after the miserable sloth on stage). She kept yapping and I just told her “I’ll be done in a few minutes.”  Now, as tradition would have it, large black guys don’t usually have a reputation for putting up with mouthy women, unless they are the voices inside of Tyler Perry’s mind.  But as I gave them a look of fatigued disappointment he said to me with a smile and what sounded like an African accent, “Hey man, you got to keep it real, right?”  And then I realized this woman had found a third way to find a man who would allow her to be a moron in public: date a foreigner who does not yet know the custom. Downside – when her guy does learn the custom, he may circumcise her for being insolent.

5) The Woo-er and the “I Don’t Know How To Respond To a Funny Joke” Lady

This last one is almost not a heckler, but has found a way to become just enough of a distraction to be a loose cousin of the heckler.  This is the chick that “woo”s way to much, because it is not about supporting the comedian, rather, it is about letting the comedian know that she is there.  This is the same woman that when she thanks someone she goes “thank you soooooo much,” just to somehow make the thank you about her as much as it is about the person being thanked.  This person is usually drunk, sometimes attractive and always useless.  They can often be the same person, or at the same table as the person who looks at their table and either repeats every tag (in 2006 or 2007 at a show at Gotham Comedy Club I heard a woman repeat every Pablo Francisco punchline for 35 minutes) or just keeps saying “that is so funny” while barely laughing.  Instead of teaching classes on stand up comedy, maybe clubs should start teaching audience how to react (3 appropriate responses to jokes – claps and laughter or silence – end of class).

But once again, women made up a majority of the people buying my merchandise and laughing at my jokes this week and I am very appreciative.  But now it is time for that great majority to start cleaning house and letting these dummies know that they are doing wrong.  Except for #4 – that one will probably never learn.  I am just keeping it real, right?

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The Shows That Got Progressively Darker

This past weekend I was at the Brokerage Comedy Club in Bellmore, Long Island.  I had performed there once before and it would have been a very forgettable weekend for anyone who is not a grudge holding comedian with a great disdain for Long Island.  So I went to the Brokerage, post Thanksgiving, prepared for verbal warfare.  Turned out the shows went really well, although they sort of had a downward trajectory.

FRIDAY

The emcee was Meghan Hanley a young white woman bursting with smiles, and the headliner was Steve White, a black guy bursting with smiles, so I had a critical dual role in the show: I was meant to ease the crowd into a darker skin tone and to present a darker world view, in case the emcee and headliner gave them the perception that everything was OK.  And the crowds did a good job in easing me into a darker and darker mood.

If the baby were frowning and 270lbs this would have been our lineup.

Friday’s show went off without a hitch.  Really great reaction from the crowd, though more than one person approached me after the show to verify that my Dad was black (and not a clever comedy trick I use to talk about Haitian people). Oh Long Island!  You and your white flight Jews and Catholics!!!

SATURDAY

Saturday’s shows started great, and by started great I mean I was able to say approximately 40 words until some Italian Napoleon decided to interrupt my bit on Big and Tall Stores:

Napoleonzo – “Hey, my buddy is 6’7″!” pointing to his friend

Me – “Ok – cool.  Thanks.”

Napoleonzo – (Raising his hand to interrupt me) “So you are probably 6’5″ if you guys stand back to back” (because that is how you measure height – not by rulers apparently)

Me – “OK – Hey everyone I just got challenged to a height off by a friend of a guy!  (Pause) You know what Fuck that Joke!  No it had a punchline and everything, but it was made so much better by a dick interrupting to have a conversation.”

And herein lies the problem with being my size.  If I was 5’7″ dude I would be a snarky guy.  Instead as an angry looking 6’7″ no matter how sarcastic (or how right I am in complaining) nothing can halt comedy momentum like me attacking an audience member.

The show continued, mostly without a problem and the post show response was pleasant.  My favorite post show interaction was with a 52 year old divorced Mom who informed me that she felt like I was wasting so much potential (I told some bits about having been a lawyer).  She had a look of such sadness that it started to depress me.  And she was a divorced Mom attending an over 45 singles event at a comedy club!  As we talked it eventually turned out she was dragging me down because she was really projecting lost life opportunities of her own.  I then asked her if we had been engaged at some point, but it turns out we had not been.

The second show on Saturday was going really well, but about 16 minutes into my set some older drunk gentleman definitely said something disparaging in the corner.  Now the Brokerage is a small and cozy club so if you are talking in anything above a small whisper it is audible.  I looked at the guy and realized I was not good at dealing with hecklers.  The guy looked like a drunk Ted Kennedy and my instinct was to say, “Listen to me you ruddy, drunk Irish fuck – say something again and I’ll bury you at the bottom of a lake with your shit family you Ted Kennedy looking bag of shit.”  Of course my better angels tell me not to say that, but because my temper is so out of control, my better angel cannot come up with more acceptable ways of dealing with hecklers – it is either drop a nuclear bomb or say nothing.  Throw in the fact that I am the size of a defensive end and I am forced to just take it.

Given my family's affection for Ted Kennedy it was especially weird to want to murder an audience member that looked like him.

Post show though I still got lots of compliments, handshakes and the club paid me so it all ended well.  Thanks to everyone who came out, except for the friend of the tall guy and the Ted Kennedy looking guy.  I hope you both have horrible lives.

I am headlining a casino in the middle of Minnesota on Wednesday.  Then I am headlining the Joke Joint in St. Paul Thursday through Saturday.  See you there, no one that reads this blog!