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Road Comedy Recap: Berkshires Brilliance

This past weekend I travelled to West Stockbridge, MA in the Berkshires to perform at The Foundry, a wonderful and intimate (when comedians cannot sell a lot of tickets we use intimate to make it sound like it was a choice) venue.  As a distinguished alumnus of Williams College, the most notable landmark in the Berkshires, I expected a hero’s welcome.  The Prodigal B Student has returned!  Well, this was more like The Good Samaritan, where the people I expected to show up did not, but many people I did not expect to did and made for a really great show.  So without further delay, let’s get into it!

Big Comedian, Mini Cooper

I made my way into south Harlem to get a ride with comedian and show producer Kevin Bartini.  To kill some time I wandered Frederick Douglass Blvd, just one bi-racial legend crossing literal paths with another. I also noticed a lot more of the people walking the streets had more of a resemblance to Douglass’ father than his mother.  If I can paraphrase the great Gary Gulman, “There’s Malcolm X Blvd, I live more int he Malcom Gladwell section of Harlem, but not the Malcolm in the Middle section.”

I met Kevin at his apartment and he pointed me to a Mini Cooper. When I saw the car I assumed Kevin would sit in there and a horse trailer would be coming for me to load myself into.  But alas, it did not arrive so I folded myself and my bad knees and my increasingly bad hips for the 2.5 hour drive to West Stockbridge.

We Sold Tickets? We Sold Tickets!

When we arrived at The Foundry (which based on its regal name and its small capacity feels like a perfect place for me to record a special – I began my path to humor as the joker on the Williams College basketball team (not joker as in Jokic, but joker as in makes lots of (too many) jokes) and perhaps it could end in The Berkshires as well.  At the front desk we realized we were going to easily clear 50 tickets sold (this may not seem impressive, but we were at 4 tickets sold five days earlier).  The one thing I have experienced trying to transition from middle act to headliner (I have always identified as a headliner, but over the last few years, thankfully, I have been able to express my comedian identity and live my low-ticket-selling-truth) is that for most shows, because most of my fans stink and my good fans are procrastinators, I am stressed on ticket sales instead of mentally prepping for my set for most shows.  It is really taking a lot of the enjoyment out of it for me, but that is the important “business” in showbusiness.

Kevin opened the show and was followed by a regional radio personality Steve Nagle and both set the table wonderfully.  I then took the stage and had a great time. Working about 75% new material, so much worked, the crowd was great (it skewed older, but I am realizing that just like with porn, I am starting to really warm up to the 60 and older crowd) and I was feeling that dangerous thing that has teased and tortured me throughout my almost 21 years doing stand-up comedy: hope.  I sold a decent amount of merch after and just felt good.  But the Lord giveth and he taketh away.

                                                                                        King of The Berkshires

New Jersey Transit Can Ruin Anything

We got back in Kevin’s Mini Cooper and made our way to NY Penn Station for my train back to NJ.  I figured I would get the 1:19am, which is the last train to my town on a Saturday (or first Sunday technically), but as Kevin made good time, I realized the 12:34am train was in play.  I have enjoyed the extra money, extra space and extra quiet in my move from NYC to NJ.  But living your life at the whim of NJ transit is not a good way to live. It is the worst.  Metro North and LIRR are Uber Black compared to NJ transit in terms of service.  And here is where the great day, or technically it is the next day, gets ruined.

Kevin dropped me off with 7 minutes to spare.  A homeless man in a wheelchair asked me to buy him something from a food truck.  I walked a few steps away and then my guilty conscience, which almost never shuts off, said “give him some money.”  I handed him a $5 and he then began to ask me if I could get him something from the truck. I felt bad, but told him I was sorry and had to run. Hopefully someone facilitated the purchase.

When I got to Penn Station every 8th avenue entrance was closed (of course, why should I be able to get my train at the train station) so I power walked (bad hips and knees) to 7th avenue and got in with 2 minutes to spare to see a huge crowd of people waiting for trains.  Of course the trains were all delayed.  In fact, the 12:34 never arrived and I got a 1:01am train to Newark to then get a Lyft back to my town.  And while waiting for that 1:01 train I saw thousands of Morgan Wallen fans arrive (his audience appears to be 17-20 year old white trash for whom (who or whom? Can never figure that one out) the N word is not a deal breaker in 2024) in Penn Station.  Why do I mention that? Because a lot of Morgan Wallen fans then turned right around to get on trains back to NJ because they are as dumb as you might imagine.

i arrived home at 2am to be greeted by an ecstatic Cookie and could only sleep 5 hours before going to early Mass and a book event at a Manhattan Holocaust Museum, which was still uplifting compared to NJ Transit.

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I Went to an Elementary School Musical

After the wild success of my blog last month recapping a trip to my girlfriend’s nephew’s talent show at a local high school (the alma mater of GOAT Tom Cruise) I decided to see if lightning could strike twice and checked out an elementary school production of Seussical, a musical based on the stories of Dr. Seuss and not Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required.  Full disclosure, while I am an avid theater goer this show probably would not have been on my itinerary if one of the players in the show were not my girlfriend’s niece.  And fuller disclosure, I probably still would have skipped it if I had not gone to my girlfriend’s nephew’s show (equal work, equal aunt’s boyfriend attendance #Feminst #Ally).  So let’s break down this production of Seussical (which started 12 minutes late! Who the fu*k do you think you are, Madonna?!).

High Property Taxes, Low Microphone Budget

Glen Ridge, NJ is pretty pricey and you would expect a town that wealthy to have all the best stuff.  Well the best stuff does not include microphones apparently.  The first performer, in sort of a narrator role, had the mic cut off for about 40% of their time.  This would have been bad enough, but there was something else ruining my mood…

Elementary School Seats, Gigantic Human

When I went to the talent show I sat in the middle row, which was basically a massive aisle seat with about 5 feet of leg room. But for Seussical, the seats were assigned and though I had an aisle seat, it was an aisle seat that I outgrew sometime around 9th grade in terms of leg room and outgrew in terms of hip and waist girth in early 2023.  I would end up only sitting for the first thirty minutes before my right leg fell asleep “from the cheek to the feet” (that is my version of from the river to the sea).  I ended up watching the remaining hour standing in the back of the theater.  It was at this point that I realized I was at least 40 yards away from my girlfriend and her family so I was just a random, middle-aged dude watching a bunch of kids perform a musical. Speaking of a bunch of kids…

6th grade seats for a 38th grader

What is this The Ten Commandments?

I think the show featured every child in the town.  I have never seen a Broadway musical with a cast half this large.  And the quantity of the cast was only the second most disturbing thing about casting…

Live Aid + Band Aid + The March on Washington = Seussical cast

Is This Dr. Seuss or Dr. Wokeness?

The Cat in the Hat and Horton are two of the most well-known MALE Dr. Seuss characters. In the show they are both played by girls.  This is how it starts. Next thing you know we will have male elephants competing in high school swimming meets against female elephants and we will have let it happen!

The show was the abridged version (75 minutes) instead of the 2 hour, 30 minute Seussical that Lawrence Olivier made famous in the West End.  All the kids seemed to enjoy themselves and other than a few of the dads wearing their financial firm fleece jackets, the parents provided a pleasant audience.  And one day the 773 children who filled the stage will be able to say the performed in front of a comedy legend.

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Seinfeld Can Have Opinions on Comedy

In 2019 I remember seeing quotes from writer-director Todd Phillips on why he had pivoted to more serious films, like his then forthcoming Joker.  Phillips was the man behind two of the best comedies of the last quarter century – Old School and The Hangover.  He also, along with Judd Apatow, may have represented the last comedy film giants, which says a lot about our culture. We went from Mel Brooks to Zucker & Abrams to Harold Ramis to the Farrelly Brothers and Ben Stiller to Phillips and Apatow.  I am probably missing some big people in there, but the point is for close to 50 years there were writers and directors who defined their respective decade(s) for comedy movies.  So it is fair for someone to ask why this stopped in the last decade.

One reason, in my opinion, is the increasing reliance on superhero and big tent movies for both revenue and comic relief, which has rendered the big comedy movie a less attractive investment.  Another reason is the comedy sensibilities of younger people appear underdeveloped at best and completely lacking at worst (Thor and Tik Tok cannot be the main sources of comedy for humor to grow and survive – sorry to young people, including my nephew, but “that’s facts”).  And then there is the reliable, and heavy over-reliance, on blanketly blaming “wokeness.”  Wokeness has become this magical complaint that seems impervious to the most common complaint about overdone comedy from comedians – that it is HACK.  It seems on this one topic and term, there is no exhausting the bro comedians, the elder curmudgeons like Bill Maher and every other simplistic troll who just wants an easy answer to why things are not the same as they were 10 or 50 years ago in with comedy.  There is such little nuance and creativity, even in the complaining that a reasonable person could ask – this is neither funny, nor original – is the only reason your keep using valuable stage or screen time to lament this is because there is a sizeable portion of the audience who just like simple complaints repeated?  I don’t know, let’s ask a Trump rally hearing Trump share the same 4 phrases and 5 complaints for the 7th straight year of his Hateful Moron gatherings.

That said, I am not unsympathetic to some nuanced complaints about political correctness, as I have had numerous issues with many of my most vocal, least invested “fans” about jokes they do not like.  Conflating good comedy with righteous opinions, however, is bad for comedy and not great for society.  I feel like wokeness is maybe 10% of the problem and gets 95% of the blame.  But when a comedy legend or genius is offering their genuine opinion on a shift in comedy, based on their vast experience, it is worth at least listening and considering, even if you disagree.

So in Phillips’ case, which is sort of a precursor to the current Internet rage/love being showered on Jerry Seinfeld, he had said he felt like he couldn’t make comedies anymore because things had gotten too woke (or whatever word he used in an interview). What followed from that, on the Internet, was a barrage of “the guy with the unfunny frat movies can’t make movies now?” Now, Phillips did use certain language in his movies that would, understandable to me (some of you may still think being able to use homophobic slurs in 2024 is what stands between us and 1984), be out of step and maybe even frowned upon today.  But his movies were massive hits across many demographics and were defining comedies for their time.  The revisionist history that vocal, and often truly unfunny people, need to put forward to make their disagreement with a comedy writer a moral crusade is borderline pathetic.  If Todd Phillips has an opinion on comedy, he has more than earned the right to share it and have it considered, even if you ultimately disagree.  And of course, no one is “stopping him” from speaking, but I think you know what I mean.

And then Phillips’ film Joker made $1 billion and was nominated for 10 Oscars.  Clearly he has no business in Hollywood.

That brings me to the comedy complaint du jour – Jerry Seinfeld.  Seinfeld recently said, during the promotional tour for his new movie, Unfrosted (confession – I watched it last night expecting to hate it. I didn’t. It was mostly fun, occasionally funny and campy in a Muppets Show sort of way – I can see why people might have not liked it, but I think it’s bad ratings and reviews may be influenced by his current bete noire status), that he believed wokeness and PC crap is hindering television comedy (I had listened to the interview on the New Yorker podcast before the “controversy” broke out, but did not think it was worth more than half an eye roll and a “good interview, disagree on that point” from me.

                                                       Jerry Seinfeld in Unfrosted

But what has now predictably followed is a series of complaints about Seinfeld’s entire career and a listing of all the shows that prove Seinfeld wrong.

On the first point, I do believe Curb Your Enthusiasm proved definitively that Larry David was perhaps the Simon to Seinfeld’s Garfunkel or his Stephen Merchant to Jerry’s Gervais.  But that does not erase Seinfeld’s deep contribution to American television and comedy history with Seinfeld.  And his stand up career is legendary, even if he remains a stickler for well-crafted jokes instead of producing glorified podcast episodes as annual “specials.”  And loads of people enjoy his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  I can understand not being a fan of Seinfeld and/or disagreeing with his take here.  But this need to wholly erase a well-earned legacy to simply bolster a current disagreement is Phillips all over again multiplied by five.

But the second part, where people are presenting all the shows that prove Seinfeld wrong… yes they exist (from Eastbound and Down (well not that recent, but I need to always praise it) to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to The Other Two there have been exceptional comedies recently that focus on terrible people and decidedly non-PC language and situations.  But to defend Seinfeld, those comedies are now niche, like so much other great art (see the store page of this very site to purchase and stream such brilliant, yet disappointingly niche content).  What have the best comedies at the Emmys been the last 5 years? Ted Lasso. Schitt’s Creek. The Bear. The last great FUNNY comedy to win best comedy at the Emmys was Veep. (But J-L, you are forgetting about Fleabag!  Am I?)  The culture clearly has embraced nice (or in the case of The Bear, drama?) to be their celebrated comedies. Laughter has given way to feel good, at least in what we have recently celebrated.  So is Seinfeld wrong? In my opinion, yes. But he is not completely without merit if you see how people respond to Todd Phillips or what shows they reward with comedy awards.  And the fact that some of the best and most successful comedy work on TV in the last decade has been with Seinfeld alums Larry David and Julia-Louis Dreyfuss (the only J-L I put above me and J-Lo in the J-L GOAT discussion) would only further bias Seinfeld (understandably) to his show and era.

So people can agree or disagree with Seinfeld, but I believe, just like science and other disciplines there are people who could be considered experts in comedy. In fact, just because Seinfeld chose to work clean only strengthens his credibility to speak on this issue. He is not as self-interested as another comedian might be when he expresses this. Rather, he seems to be expressing a concern for the course he sees comedy taking in general, not his personal comedy.  Comedy is, of course more subjective than math or science, but if you with one tweet or thread condemn Jerry Seinfeld as out of touch with comedy and in the next post hail Ted Lasso as the proof that Seinfeld is wrong on comedy, then we can at least all agree that you are not that expert.

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The Ballad of The 24 Year Root Canal

Last week I was basking in the glow of learning that my special, Half-Blackface, was streaming free on Amazon Prime, but like all things related to my comedy career, the basking was brief in duration. I woke up last Monday with a toothache and it only got worse until I finally made it to my dentist two days later.  It appeared that I had an infection, possibly stemming from a root canal I had had in college.  This was only the beginning of my problems, but first some background.

Fall 2000 – The First Root Canal

I was a senior in college. Having had a youth filled with candy, cavities were not something foreign to me, but the pain I had begun experiencing in one of my lower left teeth was something of a completely different order.  Having always hated the dentist, I did not want to go to the dentist in Williamstown, MA because if I am going to have someone go to war on my mouth I at least want it to be the Manhattan sadist I was used to.  I honestly think the original phrasing of “it’s the devil you know” was “it’s the dentist you know” and it got lost in translation throughout the years.

But by day 3 I was taking about 35 Advil to gain even temporary relief (Hulu has chosen not to go forward with me miniseries The Most Boring Drug Addiction Story Ever) and I thought, “internal organ failure seems like a steep price to pay to endure tooth pain.” I made an appointment for the dentist in Williamstown and I only remember two things: they had to basically inject through my tooth (top down through a small hole) to fully numb the area and that 2 seconds was the most painful 2 seconds of my life.  And the second thing I remember is that after they gave me a root canal and a crown and my pain was gone.

Fall 2000-2021: The Legacy of the Root Canal

For years  the dentists I would see would comment on what a good job the dentist had done with the root canal, but after the pandemic, perhaps sensing that I had gained immeasurable wealth and fame during Covid, my dentist said that the crown needed to be replaced (I kid my dentist – I have been seeing him for over a decade). He said that 20 years for a root canal and crown was an impressive amount of time, so we redid the crown and I hung the crown he had removed from the rafters of the dental museum.  I had dental insurance which covered a majority of the new crown and I left hoping for another 20 year run of root canal greatness.

April 2024 – The End is Nigh

My dentist, who squeezed me in on a busy day before he left for the week for his normal days off and the Passover holiday, took some x-rays and cleaned up a filling next to the root canal tooth suggesting that some space might have led to the infection, but that the root canal might also be infected. Either way he proscribed amoxicillin and Motrin and said I should feel better in a couple of days.

Sadly I did not feel better in a few days so I went to my brother’s dentist and was told the same thing – to let the amoxicillin work and if I did not feel better by Monday to see an endodontist.

But on Saturday I was in more pain so I went to a boutique dental office that had Saturday hours and emergency care.  The took x-rays and said that the root canal was failing (like all great athletes there is a time when you just haven’t got it anymore) and that there was clearly an infection around the root canal.  They recommended extraction, bone graft and implant. I am not going to tell you how much this cost, but when the dentist leaves so that the “patient care coordinator” can come in, you know it isn’t cheap.  When an office has someone whose job it is to tell people that their wallet pain may exceed their oral pain, you know you are in trouble.  I of course said yes.  And if you have not figured out my luck, of course I no longer have dental insurance, as I lost the job that came as a small requirement to keep said insurance.

What followed was a 45 minute ordeal that is the closest I will ever get to the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.  Of course I needed extra Novocain (because I am very large, a pussy, or both). But needless to say I had both long and stubborn roots (I like my teeth like I like my commitment to comedy) and it took quite a while to full remove the GOAT root canal tooth.  Now when I entered the office I had everyone laughing as I made gallows’ humor jokes. When it was done I was literally shaking from the trauma and basically had the body language of  Theo on Game of Thrones after he had fully been broken into Reek. When I sat up I noticed some tooth shavings and a tiny morsel of bloody root on my bib/shirt. I felt like the Nazi in The Zone of Interest when he sees his children bathing in Jewish remains in their river (minus all of the Nazism and atrocities against Jews, though some people have told me I look like Seinfeld).

When I finally made it out of the chair I saw that the dentist was fairly short and I thought, was this a “short king” flex?  Me strapped down like Gulliver while he went to work?  He was very friendly, but isn’t that how a truly confident short king would act? I envisioned him saying to the support staff after I left, “Guess who doesn’t have jokes anymore?”

The Aftermath

I made my way to my local CVS to pick up my stronger Amoxicillin and pain meds and when I walked in U2’s Beautiful Day was playing. You may think I am making this up, but I am not. In Fall 2000 when I got the root canal, U2 had just released their new single off there new album, Beautiful Day.  Now, as if a funeral hymn for the gone root canal tooth, here it was playing again.

As I sit here today, I am three hours away from a just scheduled appointment with Short King, DDS to look at my mouth because the swelling has not gone away and there is still a decent amount of pain radiating in my mouth. My guess is that I need a different antibiotic than Amoxicillin, because of course I would be unresponsive to an antibiotic I have not had in 3 decades.

The Lesson

I don’t know if a root canal can teach anything about life, but when i think about something lasting twenty years, exceeding expectations, people and experts commenting on its quality and then ending up in the trash I begin thinking, “has my comedy career just been one long root canal?”

Technically this s the first blog of 2024 that missed my self-imposed “one blog a week” New Year’s Resolution, but hopefully you will excuse it as it was the result of a medical issue.

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I Went to a High School Talent Show

This past week I watched the engaging and disturbing docuseries Quiet on The Set, about the awful and in some cases, criminal exploitation and abuse that went on during the Golden Age of Nickelodeon (as I said on this week’s legendary episode of Rain on Your Parade podcast – at 11 years old I was enjoying In Living Color, so I am not sure how children could enjoy the offerings of Nickelodeon, but alas, this was mere foreshadowing of the comedy stupidity that would come to define present day society).  So after watching all four episodes, I thought, “what better place for an unmarried, childless, struggling entertainer to go to than a local high school talent show?!”

Full Hassan Minhaj disclosure – my girlfriend’s nephew was in a rock band participating in the talent show, so it is not as funny or creepy as my set up would have you think.

The show took place at the Glen Ridge elementary school.  Despite the wealth of Glen Ridge, apparently their high school does not have a large auditorium on its campus proper and uses the elementary school across the street (this is particularly galling when you consider that A THE graduate of Glen Ridge High School is the GOAT, Tom Cruise.  The only other factoid I know about Glen Ridge High School is that in the late 1980s a group of Glen Ridge jocks sexually abused a developmentally disabled girl (the first book I read, for pleasure, so to speak, in college was Our Guys – an absolutely tremendous book about that shocking case, which forever imprinted Glen Ridge in my mind in a way that even Tom Cruise could not undo with 40 movies and many more thetans).  So, with that on my mind I went to see the talent of Glen Ridge High!

Piranha performing under a sign that I thought about cropping to make for a controversial social media story.

I will not disparage any of the acts, which other than a dance troupe and a gymnast, were all musical.  I was largely impressed with the talent, and when not impressed with the talent, the courage to be mediocre in front of kids and parents.  My girlfriend’s nephew is only in 8th grade, but played drums in a very competent rock band named Piranha. I would have awarded them 3rd place, but they did not place at all.  Their music evokes Green Day and I was particularly amused by their bass player, who seemed furthest along in his rock identity and enthusiasm (a sort of Flea energy with Buddy Holly look… glasses, he wore glasses).

First place is where the judges and I agreed.  I am assuming the girl was a junior or senior and performed really well at the piano, even doing a non-cliche version of Feeling Good, a song that I have grown to hate due to its overexposure in commercials, singing contest shows and Michael Buble.  She seemed to have the talent and poise of someone who has ambitions and parents willing to fund them.

Second place went to a duet that was good (both were good, but one of the singers might have won first if she was solo – a voice of incredibly clarity and tone and other things that might make me sound like I know what I am talking about).  But here is where I had a big beef with the judges.  There was a small child – I do not know if he was an elementary school kid allowed to compete in the high school show, or if he is just a sort of Gary Coleman-Webster type kid because when I told him after the show that he was great I was alarmed at how small and young he seemed.  Well what he did was perform Piano Man on the piano, with a harmonica in his mouth. His harmonica looked like orthodontist head gear because of his age and size and he was great.  I kept thinking, I cannot do either of those things and he is pulling it off well, and had the savvy to pick a song right in the wheel house of the 40 something judges (I am only saying that to make me and my girlfriend feel better – we were probably older than at least two and possibly all 4 of the staff/teacher-judges.

After the show I felt myself projecting my own indignity and frustration on him, but the kid seemed very happy to talk to his friend and take compliments from giant strangers.

Third place went to a good singer who I had disqualified because she sang the song Never Enough from The Greatest Showman, a song so schmaltzy that the only thing that could ruin it more was having videos released of corrupt New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez singing it to his accomplice then-fiancée as he proposed to her.  I, in fact, have had enough *drops mic*.

So that was my night at the Glen Ridge Talent Show – and on an unexpected positive note – almost all the kids (and parents) were off their phones!  Perhaps that is the key to keeping the youth off screens: make everything about them and their friends.

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Las Vegas: Seeing The Boss and Feeling Like a…

I am currently sitting in a Hampton Inn in Salt Lake City, UT, blocks away from the Delta Center – The House That Ainge Destroyed.  I have a couple of hours before the Jazz-Mavericks massacre game so I figured I would recap an eventful, inspiring and cash-hemorrhaging couple of days in Sin City!

2 New Jersey Icons. One Arena.

I arrived in Vegas on Friday at 3pm on a bus trip that inspired last week’s blog on speakerphone usage.  The main purpose of my trip was to take part in the Stand Up Podjam – a day long festival built around the extended comedy and podcast community of Pete Dominick, and brought to fruition by the extraordinary efforts of Cassie Rice, a generous fan of Pete’s and mine.  I would be performing a live episode of Making Podcasts Great Again on Saturday afternoon and then performing stand-up comedy Saturday night.  But before that was time for my first Bruce Springsteen concert.

I have been a fan of Bruce Springsteen for most of my life, the way a Catholic who goes to Church on Christmas and Easter is a lifelong Catholic.  I have several of his albums, but also found his Broadway show boring (an apostasy that I think would get me the death penalty in parts of New Jersey) and have found the Opus Dei level worship (to keep the Catholic analogy going) among many of his fans to be off-putting (and fertile ground for jokes).  But with a night in Vegas to kill and The Boss in town, it felt like time for me to finally get baptized in the waters of The River.  It was also the second musical concert I would see featuring a Twitter follower of mine (Richard Marx – 1st, Stevie Van Zandt – 2nd).

Now to preserve a lot of the Springsteen adventure for my podcast (if you are a fan of me, my ideas or my comedy and don’t listen to Rain on Your Parade every week – amend immediately!), which will be completely dedicated to Springsteen on April 4th, I will simply say I enjoyed the show a lot. I still consider myself a secular Springsteen fan, but might attend a few more services than before. How many? TWO! THREE! FOUR!

Springsteen in Vegas

Making Podcasts Great Again and Stand Up 

When Jay Nog (my co-host) and I took the stage at 1pm I felt confident we would have a great live episode. I did not necessarily think it would be out best episode ever, but that is exactly what happened.  Now, with all due respect (which is not much) to anyone who thinks anyone on God’s Green Earth does a better Trump than me, this show was the death knell of that erroneous delusion.  Voice, mannerisms, hour of ad lib content and an extended jerk off dance were just some of the reasons why this taping should be a special on Netflix and why we should be performing it live in theaters every night until the 2024 election.

The episode should be available on audio soon for our podcast subscribers and the video, of which I just learned only 26 minutes of the hour taped unfortunately – (resume blog from new computer that was not smashed to smithereens) – will be available to view for subscribers of MPGA as well (standing ovation at the end not featured).

After the podcast we had a few hours to have Chick Fil A and rest –

Sidenote – the great thing about a place like Vegas, much like Los Angeles, is that even the regular folk are sort of a trickle down hot.  While getting coffee at Starbucks the students at a local beauty school kept coming in and I kept wondering are you the students or the finished products?  at which point hot coffee was thrown in my face.  And the aforementioned Chick Fil A felt a little less like Christian chicken and a lot more like a guy who liked women who looked good in glasses and form fitting red polo shirts (seriously it was clear that the God-fearing manager of the restaurant had a busty, Filipina librarian fetish)

We went back to the venue for the stand up show and musical performance.  The show began to take on the feel of almost a memorial service for Pete, though Pete was alive, healthy and emceeing the show.  It is just that Pete has been a big part of his fans’ lives for well over a decade and there is a deep appreciation for his work, his character and most importantly, his showcasing of world class talent on his show, me.  I just want my fans to actually buy tickets (or anything above free that I do), so hoping for a warm community of heartfelt tribute seems like an absurd ask for this life.  Though to be fair, two of my biggest fans made the trip from the land of Latter-Day-Saints to Sin City to see me and brought a friend as well (thus clearing my “wherever two or more are gathered in my name” requirement for me to perform)! So that felt good in a way that an arena of 20K fans screaming your name cannot match (take that Bruce!).

On the lineup was Pete, followed by Ophira Eisenberg who killed (I was last on a show with her over a decade ago and she always just has impeccable polish, without seeming too prepped or inauthentic). Then Christian Finnegan went up and, while I was hoping that since he had recently discussed how little he was doing stand-up while on Pete’s show he would lower the bar, he promptly murdered.  So then I went up as the literal and figurative half-Black sheep of the lineup and did well (better than I felt according to the audience) but it was an overall superb show.

Once we were done, musician Gareth Sever performed several songs, the overwhelming highlight of which was The Ballad of Pete Dominick, which was basically like Bob Dylan’s Hurricane if it were twice as long, funnier than Weird Al’s funniest and featured a sizeable roast of J-L Cauvin that was so good I can’t wait to share it when an MP3 is available (on my patreon he finishes … as 99% of the people who know J-L sighed as they would never give 3 dollars for lots of hilarious J-L related work). Finishing the evening was Jon Carroll, singer-songwriter, who among his smallest credits is the theme song for Pete’s show, Stand Up, which he performed with back-up from a local group of high school musical students (I think they were high school – at this point every one 16-23 looks like a child to me).

The event was awesome. The fans were awesome and I am very proud to have been included in the event and with my contributions to the event.  The next day it was time to go the Vegas strip and destroy all those good feelings.

Wheel of Fortune and Roulette

I met the girlfriend at the Venetian for a day of more official Vegas activities. To sum it up I spent a large amount on a return visit to Wolfgang Puck’s Cut (excellent again and somehow even more expensive than just 5 months ago), was treated to the Darren Aronofsky movie at the Sphere (incredible experience, incredibly expensive – but beware awful people – it involves climate change so it might be “woke” – i.e. stating obvious things about climate and nature that would make a normal human feel slightly guilty and/or distressed) and some gambling – the girlfriend, on her first ever time playing roulette, devised a roulette system that had her slowly accumulating chips over an hour until she left up $200 (I genuinely think whatever her system is she could have made $2k if she sat there for 6 hours).  My gambling consisted of massive losses on slots, medium losses on roulette and major losses of self-esteem.

Ok – remember – to join both of my podcasts for some of the best sh*t you will ever listen to this week. Off to the Utah Jazz game!

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24 Hours In Pittsburgh

On my way out west I took an eventful 24 hour stop in Pittsburgh, PA to see the New York Rangers take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.  With less than 5 hours to keep my New Year’s Resolution of resuming weekly blogging for the whole year and less than 5 hours until my midnight train to Chicago to see a green river for Saint Patrick’s Day here is my last 24 hours recapped in (mostly) photo format. Enjoy!

The girlfriend and I boarded the Pennsylvanian in Newark, NJ at 11:19 (ten minutes late, not a great start), which traverses the entire state of Pennsylvania, concluding at 8:05pm (835 pm in our case).  I promptly blamed my girlfriend for Amtrak’s tardiness as the Pennsylvanian has never failed me until this time.  We did see something very cool that I aspire to, but will surely never achieve: attached to the train was a luxury, custom-made train car for one man with a guest.  Apparently if you like trains and have time and a boatload of money you can have your own train car attached to an Amtrak and taken on routes.

When we arrived at our hotel we were greeted by news that the credit card machine was down, so I had to fill out a credit card form like some peasant.  Then we saw a man randomly drop 3 forks while walking through the lobby.  We then got in the elevator with a man who seemed unstable and kept cursing about how his room card was not working to activate the elevator.  We left our hotel for the nearby Capital Grille, a good steakhouse of less use to Catholics on Fridays during Lent.  So I ordered salmon and the portrait of Roberto Clemente staring at me the whole meal was definitely judging me for not having a steak.

3000 hits and I have to watch you eat fish at a steakhouse?

I then ordered the Coconut Creme Pie for dessert. I am usually a chocolate cake or cheesecake eater after a meal, but I remembered and told a story about a late friend, David Lee Nelson, who was a comedian and actor I knew for years in NY. He also was one of the few people to reach out to me during the pandemic to congratulate me on my success from a deeply genuine place (i.e. he was pursuing theater in South Carolina so there was no incentive or ulterior motive to his kindness and good cheer). Well before all that and his tragic loss to Cancer he had been a waiter at the Capital Grille near the Chrysler Building in NYC, near the law firm I worked at at the time.  He was not my waiter but he asked to comp me a dessert and he said the coconut creme pie was his favorite. I remember liking it, but after talking about him at dinner with my girlfriend I said, well I have to order it now and my goodness it was one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.

Thanks David Lee Nelson

Another funny story about the NYC capital grille was I went in there with a date within a year of David comping me the dessert and the hostess, an attractive and personable woman looked at me while checking in and asked, “are you a comedian? You’re so funny-” and before I could fully look at my date, puff out my (at the time) considerable pecs and say “should we just skip dinner?” the hostess finished, “David Lee Nelson is my brother.” I could not pretend to be a celebrity any longer and simply said “oh wow!” But I was genuinely happy to hear his name and to meet his sister.

Today we went to a pretty terrible breakfast at our hotel (not really the hotel’s fault as the hotel was PACKED with St Patrick’s Day parade visitors and Penguins-Rangers visitors) where most of it was cold.  We then went to the Andy Warhol museum and to the Penguins-Rangers game, so rather than delay dinner tonight any longer, here is the rest of the day in pictures with witty captions.

The Andy Warhol Bridge where you are guaranteed 15 minutes of traffic

 

One of the many exhibits in the Andy Warhol Museum

 

I found Warhol’s description of my conception offensive and disgusting

 

This piece was entitled bi-racial elephant with dog dick tusks I think

 

2 large heads

 

I was sad to see Anti-Semitism had made the Penguins mascot hide by pretending his name is Irish. DO BETTER PITTSBURGH

 

The game had a lot less feet washing than I expected

 

                                               RANGERS WIN
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How The GOP Chose Katie Britt

This week should have been about how Joe Biden put an orthopedic shoe up the ass of every hater and doubter with an energetic and overall strong State of the Union. Yes, he referred to an undocumented worker as an “illegal,’ but perhaps we could carve a progressive exception out for an undocumented worker, whose work appears to have been the murder of a nursing student, to allowing an 81 year old man on the right side of most issues to say “illegal.”  But just as Joe was about to celebrate and text Jill “get ready for some Corn Pop tonight,” enter Katie Britt.

Katie Britt, whose performance I would describe as “phone sex operator having a bipolar episode” was a standout terrible performance in a role that often leads to bad performances.  She was so bad and trending for so long I thought there was a chance that Trump might get angry at her for occupying too much bandwidth.  As I said on Twitter (and found out was stolen by someone), her performance was what you expect from someone who could only afford Kirk Cameron acting class.  Katie Britt, a pretty, young Senator, seemed like a solid option to the GOP, because they are as dumb as they are vicious.  Perhaps they thought she would give off that classic Republican combo of “GOP men want to violate her, and GOP women want to be her” but instead she gave off Handmaid’s Tale as envisioned by Jordan Peele.

But for everyone criticizing the GOP’s choice of Britt and the performance of Britt, perhaps you’ll feel different when you see the other options that made the final cut:

Tim Scott – In an effort to prove that they are not a party of racists and self-hating people of color, the GOP wanted Tim Scott to deliver the message. However, just at Britt decided to deliver her message from a kitchen, Scott wanted to do the message while tap dancing for Donald Trump at Mar A Lago.  The GOP believed that, while entertaining, it would detract from the message of lying about Joe Biden.

Lauren Boebert – For purely personal reasons I would have enjoyed more Lauren Boebert screen time, but apparently censors would not allow her to show either of the penises she planned on holding during her attack on Biden.

Barron Trump – With his 18th birthday looming like his 14 foot shadow, Barron Trump would show a new generation of potential Hitler Youth to the nation, while reminding them that he is Donald Trump’s son and not a drug addict like Hunter Biden.  However, Donald Trump had no idea who he was and did not want someone taller than him to deliver the message.

Kyle Rittenhouse – This was actually very close to happening, but only Truth Social would allow Rittenhouse to bring his emotional support AR-15 with him, thus eliminating mainstream coverage.

The Sound of Freedom – Given Katie Britt’s largely false and misleading (and extensive) discussion of rape and sex trafficking, the GOP were close to just playing the two hour movie starring guy-too-extreme-for-Opus-Dei Jim Caviezel about child sex trafficking as their rebuttal.  But the GOP eventually decided that nothing could me more unnerving than Katie Britt talking. About anything.

Matt Gaetz – This is actually my serious suggestion to the GOP.  Matt Gaetz stinks. Let’s be clear.  But he is sharp, ready for prime time as a TV personality, is all in on Trump and can connect to younger generations, whether through Only Fans, Venmo or Thai vacations.  The GOP is a completely amoral, hypocritical bag of garbage, but when it is time for a rebuttal to Joe Biden, they decided to go with some think tank-consensus-algorithm choice like Katie Britt?  At least do Joe Biden the courtesy of being who you are and pick your worst best. Instead you picked your Britt.

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The Republican Party Is Anti-American

Observing the Democratic Party for the last decade, it has become clear that it represents America. This is not about economic, racial, religious or ethnic demographics, though by those measurements, the statement would be true as well.  I simply mean from both political and governing standpoints, the Democratic Party represents America. We have politicians and voters who are on most sides of many issues, from economic policy, affirmative action, abortion, Israel, law enforcement, climate change (thanks Joe Manchin for helping us be diverse here) and everything else.  The common threads binding Democrats are a belief in democracy and a belief that the people elected to govern, should govern.  And it is these last two things that now mark the biggest distinction between the Democratic and Republicans parties.  I believe Mark Wahlberg described the GOP best in The Departed:

Before I go further, I recommend you listen to this weeks episode of Rain On Your Parade podcast (find it on the podcast tab). The episode was focused on American democracy and covers what I will not be covering today (how to make America more democratic – it was not a very hopeful episode, but I believe it is the best one so far of my rebranded show).  This blog, is more about how congressional Republicans no longer are interested in the two pillars of their jobs: democracy and governing.

Imagine a basketball team if you will. In practice, you scrimmage, run drills and try to compete for your own individual success to secure more playing time for yourself.  But in the end, once the coaches have selected playing time based on those results, the team is then unified in the goal of winning games together.  There will be disagreements sometimes on who is playing well, who deserves more time, etc. but the overall goal never changes: winning as a team.

Now imagine a basketball team, where two members of the starting five do not like what the way the coaches are drawing plays and distributing playing time, so they proceed to injure their teammates… during games.  That might be disturbing to see, wouldn’t it? That is what the Republican Party is at this point.  There is an element of the GOP that cannot govern, but the vast majority do not want to govern. And that is why it is time to do away with the fallacy that “we all play for the same team: America.” We don’t.  Democrats are trying to do the work of the American people for the benefit the American people (they may disagree within the ranks on how to do it, but there is not an “anti-governing” wing of the Democratic Party). Now you could be the rare, principled Republican team player like Mitt Romney, who might have genuine disagreements on policy. But that is because he might think he has a better path to success. But the vast majority of Republicans are driven by nothing more than appeasing Trump and schadenfreude – seeing Democrats fail, no matter how much it hurts America, is the joy.  Republicans will cut of your nose to spite the Democrats’ face.

Congrats GOP!

The Republican Party is not an “opposition party” anymore. It is an anti-American party.  Their inactions and obstructions are not based on policy (see the border legislation as a good example) and they are not really based on fact (if you can say the Biden economy is a disaster you are either a liar or dangerously ignorant).  They are based on stopping the very workings of democracy and impeding the function of government: to govern for the benefit of its constituents.

But the American people seem all to willing to indulge in the fantasy that “Democrats and Biden” can’t get things done.  For example, when the child supplemental income failed to renew (despite slashing childhood poverty by 30% I believe), it was 48 Democrats who voted for it, 1 or 2 who voted against it (Joe Manchin – basically a Reagan Democrat) and 50 Republican Senators who voted against it.  If you think 96% of Democrats voting for something to help children and 0% of Republicans is a DEMOCRAT problem, then you are doing the GOP’s work for them.  The Republican party has lowered the bar for themselves so much that America basically looks at Democrats to do 100% of the work with 50% of the workforce and then blames them for not doing the LITERALLY impossible (if you believe in math and constitutional law).  Here is the comparison I made in my special, TALL BOY, last year:

So, to say this for the 1000th time, if you care about American principles and American people, there is one party that both wants to help people and is doing/trying things to help people. The other party, if they sat and did nothing, would be improving upon their current stance, which is to actively impede progress.  In fact every time Republicans actually are able to do something (with permission from their dominatrix Donald Trump) it ends up unpopular (tax cuts for the rich, getting rid of Roe v Wade). Republicans cannot govern and they don’t want to govern. The only thing more contemptible that what the Republicans are currently doing, would be knowing who they are and returning them to power.

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Starbucks Mobile Ordering Is The Enemy

Most days of the week I will take a break from watching shows, being depressed and working a day job (the three things most common among self-described “comedians”) to go to my local Starbucks for a reading break (which now also doubles as a “listen to 4 or 5 people watch and listen to things on their phones without earphones” break).  My order is pretty consistent (green tea and either a croissant or a cookie) and even if it wasn’t, they would know me by the fact that I am super tall and in there about 5.5x a week.  But as I have had plenty of time to observe how Starbucks works, I must say that one true enemy has emerged: mobile ordering.  Child trafficking, Trump and climate change are all bad, but I don’t think modernity’s problems can be so succinctly summarized as they are in Starbucks mobile ordering.

Labor

I often find myself harmlessly jealous of the comradery that the employees at my NJ Starbucks display.  As a comedian I work alone and travel alone and can assure you I am horrible company and a horrible co-worker for myself.  But the workers at my Starbucks seem to treat each other well and be friendly with each other, which I would guess, in the absence of union protections, is a reflection of their manager.  Obviously one of the benefits of unionization would be not having to depend on the variances in franchise leadership for a solid work environment, but in the case of mine, her style and leadership seem to be working.  But mobile ordering cannot be fixed by a local manager.

I have joked on my podcast, Rain on Your Parade, that Starbucks baristas have basically become bartenders that we pay like Wal-Mart greeters. Now I know the pay is better, joke killers, but the volume of orders that flood in on the mobile system are absurd sometimes.  Whereas, a line would keep the pace manageable, and sometimes discourage people who don’t want to wait 20 minutes for a coffee or a milkshake masquerading as a coffee, mobile order allows you to make a wish like Aladdin, as if it is consequence and labor free.

One diabetesappuccino please!

I do not know the numbers, and I am too lazy to google them right now, but I am sure that the volume of increased orders thanks to mobile ordering is outpacing the increase in pay and benefits to workers at Starbucks.  So, just like corporate greed squeezing more out of less, Starbucks is likely doing the same and we are the sole driver of it.  I have never ordered something mobile and never will and that brings me to the next point.

Social Interaction

I like talking to people.  I also like ordering something from a human and being able to hold them accountable if and when they fu*k it up!  But just like remote work (which is a forthcoming topic on the aforementioned Rain on Your Parade podcast), I am a fan of person-to-person interaction.  For all the wonders that technology has given us, the idea that person-to-person interaction is unnecessary or weird or “ok boomer” is just not true. It is part of us as human beings.  People will simultaneously decry the uselessness of in person work or communication or interaction, while lamenting the depression and loneliness of large segments of the population and not see a connection.  From dating to work, the avoidance of in person interaction is detrimental to society and individuals.

I quote this from Gary Gulman’s special The Great Depresh often, but he said that small, pleasant interactions boost serotonin. Yet we seem determined to avoid something that our bodies biologically tell us is good for us.

But J-L, what if they suck and you don’t want to deal with shitty people???

Oh STFU! As someone who often rubs people the wrong way, only assholes presume that their Starbucks interaction will suck.  Sure there are plenty of bad employees in lots of places, but Starbucks is closer to Chick Fil A than the DMV when it comes to solid interpersonal exchanges.  That is excuse making for the fact that society is in an interpersonal death spiral where the first wave were the socially awkward and emotionally crippled, but then the apps and “convenience” (the most harmful concept to our planet’s well-being) started to turn the normal into the dependent.  You can see this during a rain storm in Manhattan when people are not hailing a cab driving right by them because their app-brain tells them to wait 10 minutes for an Uber. Instead of the blind leading the blind, society is now the app-dependent leading the app-obsessed.  Of course dating is more difficult for people who find ordering a coffee with eye contact and voice as too personal.

I’m sorry, but I am not used to having to speak to a human while at a coffee shop

Hidden Costs of Convenience

As alluded to before, like so many things in our society, Starbucks mobile ordering makes very immediate the idea that we don’t care how the beyond sausage egg sandwich gets made.  I walked into my Starbucks last week and saw 1 person on line and over 20 people waiting for the mobile orders.  And that one person was going to be last to be taken care of, despite having the (courage? if not now, we are a few years away from face to face communication being deemed brave by default) decency to order their beverage in real time and not in some digital fantasy where workers whose workload you do not know, and definitely do not care about, have to make complicated drinks (as I have said, if your coffee order has more than two instructions, you don’t like coffee, you like giving orders) at breakneck speed because they are no longer just handling orders, they are handling whims.  And that is what our society has become – a place of wish fulfillment on the backs of increasingly burdened service workers with absolutely no connection or interest in how the things get made by those requesting them.

On my most recent visit to Starbucks, the place was about half full and only 2 people in line, and then in walked an entire high school girls’ team (couldn’t tell what sport because I only acknowledge Caitlin Clark and Simon Biles when it comes to women’s sports). Now I don’t mean to damage the feminist movement or Title IX, but I am guessing that post game on a Saturday afternoon in a ritzy NJ town (I cross town borders to go to my Starbucks, like Billy Joel wooing Christie Brinkley in the Uptown Girl video) the girls could have just come in and ordered their drinks. But instead, in a basic combination of all three of my complaints, they came in with 12 simultaneous orders.  As has happened to me, I can be the only person in line and still have to wait 10 minutes for a cookie because everyone else cannot wait.

I would suggest charging extra for mobile orders, but that won’t work because it might cost Starbucks money if enough coffee warriors “boycotted” because they did not want to be charged for the extra workload they were creating. But even if it did get instituted, and it made extra money to be split between the store and the workers, it would still never happen because it would only improve the ordering experience for the most thoughtful and considerate customers – LIKE ME.

Confusing Convenience with Goodness

Like so many things I joke, speak and write about, I do not think this will get better and I don’t think it will stop. The things in our society seem designed to make us more awkward, less social, more consumerist and less connected. But the reason we let those things happen is because they all come with that magical word “convenient.”  We, as a society have confused convenience with goodness.  We have confused convenience with efficiency. And we have confused convenience with importance.  And as long as we keep doing that (and I don’t see how or why we won’t) we will all become either the overworked barista or the consumer who cannot make eye contact.