The Quick Guide for Comedians on St Patrick’s Day

Well, today is St. Patrick’s Day so it is the one day a year where I stop getting “You’re half black???” from people and get “Didn’t know you were half-Irish!”  But not only do I have the heritage to lecture all of you, but I also live in Turtle Bay, an area of Manhattan with a median age of 23, the most common ethnicity is Bro and there is a bar for every 6 residents, so I have actual field studies over the last 6 years to call upon.  And lastly I am a comedian, which means nothing really, but at least I know a few jokes that are overused.  So here is how comedians should act today (and some of these can apply to civilians as well):

1) Do Not Tell This Joke – I was guilty of this early in my career (first two years so I say this from a “don’t make the same mistakes that I did” perspective.  But let’s retire this joke (I knew when I did it and it got laughs, but a few shows later I heard a terrible comedian do roughly the same joke that I realized it was easy and lazy):

How crazy that we drink on St Patrick’s Day!  We don’t do that on other holidays. We don’t tip 5% on MLK’s birthday!  We don’t rape Native Americans on Thanksgiving!  We don’t fu*k donkeys and sever people’s heads on Cinqo de Mayo! (granted I updated these from what I actually said when I was doing this joke in 2005, but let’s just not do it.

2) Stay away from firefighters and cops.  This is generally good advice, but I have never been out for SPD and not seen these groups have either inter and/or intra squad fights.  This is for men (given the demographics of the FDNY and comedians this is like a day when heroes get amnesty to pop off on condescending, nerdy Jewish dudes in this city so watch your mouth).  For women who are into FDNY don’t let me stop you – this is like Fleet Week for angry, fit Irish guys (who might be even angrier this year due to all sorts of “diversity” efforts). Just don’t be mad when his wife knocks on the car window while you are blowing him in the middle of his description of his cross fit workout.  And if you are married to a cop – he is not working 16 hours of overtime tonight.

3) Get a Shamrock Shake – They are delicious and at under $3 well within a comedian’s budget of $7 on food per day.  Unless you are a comedian (or civilian) constantly posting about a great new diet you are on that is changing your life, in which case you should go talk a bunch of sh*t to some drunk firefighters.

4) Listen to this podcast episode – Comedian John Moses sat down with me last year to chat about St Patrick’s Day (my aversion to its American representation outside of the parades) and it became, in part, an excellent discussion of drunken escapades and bar fights he had been in.  You can only hear it HERE

5) Get Ready to Hear the Dropkick Murphys and House of Pain.  A lot. 

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on PodomaticiTunes and NOW on STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe on one or more platforms today – all for free!


10 Years In Comedy – The Worst and Best…

The celebration of my ten years in comedy continues this week with another retrospective post.  Admittedly, Monday’s post had the celebratory feel of a 9/11 memorial service so with today’s post I hope to offer something a little more instructive and even-handed.  My ten years in comedy have taught me many things, both good and bad and I thought I would share what I believe my worst and best decisions were in those ten years and how they impacted my career.

As is my nature let’s start with the worst decision.  For many comedians, both delusional (majority) and realistic, the goal is to get management.  Having someone reputable and connected guiding you, but more importantly for tangible benefits, getting you in front of people with power in entertainment, has become the holy grail to most comedians.  A lot of comedians talk that rap of  “I just want to get better,” but getting better, especially early on, when the highs from compliments and laughs are super high, is really just a means to the end of money and recognition, if not fame.  I once had management.  I had sent out a mass mailing to a bunch of agencies and even though I was only 4 years in to comedy, I believed (correctly) that my volume and quality of material was at least moving beyond my peers so I thought – “it’s time for me to take the next step!”  I sent a DVD/headshot/resume (which included every club I had done an open mic at) to dozens of managers and crossed my fingers.

To my surprise, several months after doing the initial mailing I received an email from someone at a very well known management company.  It surprised me that they would contact me over some smaller outfits that I had reached out to, but so be it.  I ended up having some very good conversations with Jamie, the manager who contacted me and then a very inspiring call with the head of the entire company.  After that I was submitted for The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and before you could say “Who the fu*k is J-L Cauvin?” I was booked for the show.  I ended up getting one other regional television booking a couple of months later, all while higher-ups at the agency kept telling me to move to California.  However, my name was not signed to any paper, signifying an official relationship and although confident that I was funny, I was not confident enough to leave NYC on the encouragement of people working in the most dishonest business in the world.  But Jamie continued to call me once a week to chat and to tell me about things he wanted to submit me for.  On a personal front he also made a few correct predictions about my ex-fiancee.

But then just as I felt like I was building momentum Jamie was let go (as it was presented to me) by the management company.  And I had a very abrupt decision to make – do I stick with the individual who has helped me or do I stick with the big name company with more connections?  I chose the company – or the road more frequently travelled – and that made all the difference unfortunately.  My ex-fiancee and I broke up and I had a subsequent pair of mediocre showcases (though one was a NACA college showcase and last time I checked – student body presidents from small colleges in the Dakotas are not power players in Hollywood) in the wake of that personal annoyance.  The management company quickly lost interest, but did not tell me to look elsewhere for representation for another 6 months.  Meanwhile, Jamie now represents several writers in Hollywood and appears as loyal as ever to his talent.

Since my decision to stick with the name instead of the person I have not been back on television and have had to hustle and fight for every small piece of the comedy pie that I have had over the last 5+ years.  Who knows what would have happened if I had stuck with Jamie.  Perhaps nothing, but having someone who believes in you in your corner is something that, I have learned the hard way, is invaluable in entertainment.   So if there are any young comics struggling or comics just starting to see a rise in their fortunes, choose the person who believes in you over the person who impresses you the most (assuming, of course some base level of competency in management for both parties – needless to say the woman in my building that I chat with in the laundry room believes in my comedy 100%, but I would not have her manage my career).  It is a mistake I have made and will not make again.  It is the same logic that showed why Boof was such a better choice than Pamela in Teen Wolf.  Someone who believes in you will give effort that cannot be intellectually manufactured.  They will fight as hard as you because they share your belief in yourself.

So what is possibly the good decision here of this ten year journey?  Well, recently I had a couple of meetings with managers, based largely off of the success of the Louis CK video (their lack of subsequent contact has given me comfort knowing I may not need to make a tough decision on picking representation).  I also got an opportunity to do a web series shortly after leaving a comedy group that I had been part of.  These are small things, but they are the result of a simple decision I made –  to stop trying to be successful.  This was more a mental choice.  I still work as hard as I have been, but I now have removed expectations on myself.  The only demands I place on myself are to make good comedy and good comedy products.   Anything after that is not really in my hands.  So when a young comedian says they only want to get good I don’t believe them.  You have to have that natural inclination to egotistical attitude humbled out of you (I don’t even mean bragging or talking sh*t – I just mean that intoxicating feeling that takes hold of you early in your career when a good looking woman tells you you were funny or when a crowd pumps you up – it is too strong early on not to have your ego, even if quietly, take some control of your expectations). Some guys keep rising and then believe they can pontificate on what it means to be a comedian, but their experience is the exception, not the rule.  I now just want to be great because that is all that is left for me to aim for.  When no other validation seems available or possible that is when being great at comedy for comedy’s sake can really and finally take hold.

So I guess this whole post could summarized by saying the worst decision I made in comedy was putting my faith in the wrong people and the best decision I made was letting go of the mental state that got me to have misplaced faith in the first place.

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


Lamest Good Day in Sports History: Black Jockey Gets…

I thought today the sports media would have been exhausted after the 489 hours of NFL Draft coverage and Carmelo Anthony needing his right arm surgically repaired yesterday after the worst shooting performance in America since Newtown, but Monday provided some major historic milestones, if you are willing to stretch. First, the New York Times reported that jockey Kevin Kligger will be the first black jockey to race in the Kentucky Derby since 2000 and will have a chance to be the first African-American jockey to win the race since 1901! The 5’6″, 110 pound Kilgger, or as he is known to his friends as “Bigger Kevin Hart,” seemed like this week’s biggest piece of “let’s try to make a historical story out of sports” until Jason Collins came out of the Big and Tall Dressing Room closet and announced that he was gay.

Before moving on to Collins, there are some things I have to say about the Kligger matter (his name might still be a major problem (or taunting blessing) to many residents of Kentucky today). Shouldn’t history be something we care about at this point? To Kligger’s credit he says he does not care about being a role model or trailblazer, but his color should be irrelevant. Not because we have moved beyond race, but because we are largely moved beyond horse racing! The popularity of the sport is dwindling and no one gives a crap who is riding the horses. Now in the New York Times story there is some fascinating history about black jockeys at the turn of the 20th century, but I would rather read a book about that then the imaginary torch that Kligger is carrying.

But just when Kevin Kligger (seriously does his middle name start with K also? KKKligger might be the most racist thing I ahve ever seen if it is!) was getting his 15 minutes of fame, NBA scrub Jason Collins comes out as a gay athlete (while also announcing that he is black). Now I say scrub because he and his brother were pretty bad as far as NBA basketball players go. His twin brother Jarron, who is straight, but equally bad at hoops, responded with shock at the announcement, “Oh wow – well I hope that stuff that happened to the evil twins in GI Joe doesn’t happen to us.” (Seriously my resentment of the Collins twis stems from my years as a Jazz fan watching Jarron be terrible)

I think it took courage for Jason Collins to come out, though technically he is a free agent and his season is over, so if he is not signed by a team he technically is not an active athlete in one of the four major American sports leagues. But that is besides the point. What is happening is already a revising of Collins’ career. See unlike Jackie Robinson (the sports media has been calling for a “gay Jackie Robinson” over the last few months, hopefully not to produce an overly sentimental film called “69” in a few decades – sorry I really couldn’t help myself), Collins is not that good at his sport. He is less Jackie Robinson and more John “Wait, I thought he was just British” Amechi 2.0. But as I read captions and descriptions, Collins is now being described as a “tough, gritty defensive player,” “a “great teammate,” “known for shutting down Dwight Howard (huh?)” and “savvy veteran.” Are we in that big a hurry to validate this moment by making him better than he is? Doesn’t that de-value Collins’ moment, as well as the moment when a player we actually care about announces he is gay? Like when a player who averaged 6 points per game and is under contract comes out? That should be earth shaking compared to this announcement.

And let’s not ignore the benefits – ever since the announcement has been made Jason has been crushing Jarron in twitter followers (though Jarron quickly wrote something begging for more attention with the misleading title “I’m proud of my brother” or something like that. And endorsements are sure to follow. Is Ben Gay too obvious? How about Jason’s “Grindr” tough play of the game?

I know we are a cynical culture and I am a cynic, but I still recognize how tough it must be to be a skinny, black, near-midget riding a horse or being gay and bad at basketball. But let’s not make everything bigger than it is. The good news is that one day we will not care about all of this (but of course we will as long as sites like Deadspin can get web traffic from athlete dick pics). But I look forward to more groundbreaking announcements from NFL punters, 3rd base coaches in baseball and pretzel vendors in hockey. I am just impressed that Collins’ twin brother had no idea. You’d think at some point some girlfriend/boyfriend would have had a mix up and outed the whole thing! At least if life were a 1980s sitcom it would have happened.

But congrats to Kevin Kligger and especially Jason Collins – you are courageous and you are part of history, even if it is Snapple Facts level of history.

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


My First Comedy Nightmare!

A couple of nights ago I had one of the most terrifying dreams I can remember having.  The most terrifying of my life was a recurring dream I had when I was about 7 or 8 years old (I had it about ten times) where my Mom gets in a cab to share it with someone and that person, a woman, stabs her to death.  And it happened the same way every time and yet I could never change it.  It got so bad I one time woke up to ask my brother, sleeping in the bed next to mine, if Mom was going to live a long time and what would we do if someone murdered her.  My brother reassured me that our Mother would be around for along time and much to my Mother’s chagrin she has lived long enough to see what her younger son has become.  I know nothing about dream interpretation, but perhaps after seeing my mother murdered by a woman in my dreams as a youth I would never be able to laugh at another woman again, no matter how many times the Huffington Post told me to follower her tweets.

I give you that tiny, disturbing glimpse into my youth for two reasons. One, it sets up how disturbing my dreams can be (pretty bad for a little kid I think, so imagine my adult dreams) so that when I tell you how frightening my recent nightmare was you will grasp the magnitude. The other reason is it gave me a roundabout way to mock female comedians. Sorry ladies. I am trying to get better.

Anyway, the dream began as follows:  I received some e-mails from NYC clubs telling me that their rosters were full, that there were not enough spots for passed comics so that an audition would not be happening or that I would get an audition in the future.  Fair enough. Then I checked and saw that all 40 of my road work e-mails had not been replied to.  Started to feel antsy, so I e-mailed a bunch of friends who run shows at bars and found out most of them had been cancelled.  I then sat down and decided that maybe I should look into auditioning for things, but that I did not know where to look for parts or work and would be lucky to just get extra work.  I then started thinking I should go back to the law and then went into a full blown panic attack when i realized I had been out of practice for almost 4 years which is practically a death sentence to my legal career.  And then I woke up sweating.

This may read like a dream sequence from a comedy about a struggling comedian, but in fact it is terrifying.  Here is why: other than the full blown panic attack, which only occurred when I woke up from the nightmare and could not go back to sleep, the dream was a recap of my previous 48 hours of comedy work search.  In other words, my subconscious went looking for deep darkness in me to haunt me with and it realized that the worst nightmare it could find was the comedy career I am actually living! through.

So thank you stand up comedy, you are officially my nightmare.  Now I have to get Leonardo DiCaprio or Dennis Quaid (Dreamscape people!) to pull me out of this.  Someone spin a microphone and let’s see if it falls.

I’ll be in Indianapolis next week and Syracuse the week after. For more cheer check out my weekly podcast which just cracked the top 40 on Podomatic’s comedy chart.

Merry Christmas.