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!


Speakerphone: The Sound of a Failed Society

I can admit that I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to cell phone etiquette, if cell phones are even old enough to have an old-fashioned division.  I think a phone should be on silent or vibrate.  I think if you watch shows or listen to music on your phone you should use headphones. And phone conversations in public should be like abortion for Democrats in the 90s: safe, legal and rare.  I know… real Puritanical shit on my part.  But as the smart phone midwifes society to engage and augment humanity’s worst impulses, I have noticed the speakerphone conversation becoming almost ubiquitous (not that everyone does it, but that at least one person will always be doing it no matter where you are).  While I wallow in my post concert come down (last night was Bruce Springsteen in Vegas – no more details until the April 4th Rain on Your Parade podcast) I thought why not write this week about the most recent bane of my existence.

Many of us remember Nextel’s walkie talkie function, which allowed attention and cashed starved teens to engage in loud, public conversations with the added pleasure of walkie talkie beeps.  But speakerphone, like so much tech, used to be something to enhance productivity (and the great sin of modern life – convenience).  It would allow you to do something manual while also having a phone conversation (someone with what Mike Pence would call “broad shoulders” could always rest the phone in between your head and shoulder, but speakerphone was much more comfortable).

But as cell phones became more and more common we found new ways to be discourteous.  I did an entire episode of Rain on Your Parade about smartphones, but regretted afterwards not even bringing up speakerphone.  Walking and texting, ADD, using phones during movies, not silencing phones during theater, diminishing people’s abilities to have conversation or eye contact – the jury is in and smart phones are a net negative for humanity, aided in part by a generation of ruthless, manipulative billion dollar companies.  But speakerphone?  That’s on us.

A switch was clearly flipped during the rise of the smart phone.  Rarely anyone, save the Radio Raheems of the world, listened to music out loud in public on their personal devices.  Headphones and the more recent advance of wireless earbuds make it clear how you are supposed to listen to music in public. But perhaps with that advent of Tik Tok and streamers, people view their phones more like their TVs or computers and don’t instinctively reach for ear buds.  I am sorry – let me correct that – stupid, fu*king, rude people view them that way.  But J-L, it feels like you are calling a sizeable part of the population “stupid, fu*king rude”?  Yes. Yes I am.

The inspiration for this post came yesterday as I took a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.  The bus driver made an explicit message at the beginning of the ride that phones should be used silently for the convenience of the passengers.  I looked around and realized that I, in fact, was included among these “passengers” whose convenience was being protected.  What occurred was a level of diversity that would make the most hard core progressive’s heart swell with pride and a rudeness display that made this less hard core progressive want to steer the bus into oncoming traffic.

First was the Latin couple who had a series of incredibly loud speaker phone conversations (when their stripper daughter picked them up at the bus station I felt a swell of forgiveness for them). I’d say it was a total of about 50 minutes.  I had Beats noise cancelling headphones on (I gave up on reading on the ride due to the noise) and yet Beats has clearly never tested their merchandise on a crowded Greyhound bus.

The real MVP of the trip was the Black woman behind me who, after we left Barstow, California, proceeded to have a 2 hour loud, vulgarity and homophobia-laced conversation on speakerphone.  If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you can hear a short and full version of some of the audio I was able to capture, under the guise of recording video of America’s beautiful landscapes.

When I left Barstow the signs were all there that the ride was about to get a lot worse

And perhaps in the spirit of When in Rome, or in a more spiteful, MAGA-esque “why do the minorities get to have all the stuff?!” an elderly white woman got on a speakerphone conversation towards the end of the ride for 15 minutes.  Now full disclosure, my mom is an 80 year old white woman with diminished hearing and this is how she prefers to use her cell phone.  Now, based on both my sympathies for older people and the fact that they make up a majority of my fans based on YouTube algorithms, I often carve out exceptions for them with issues related to tech.  But today is not that day.  My Mom often says “I hate this thing” of her cell phone.  Well to the Moms and Grandmothers of the world I say put your money where your hate is – no more speakerphone in public.


Road Non-Comedy Recap: Las Vegas

As a break between gigs in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, I did something I have not done since 2018 or 2019… I took a vacation!  Admittedly it was a 24 hour vacation to break up travel between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, but it still counts!  The only two times I have visited Vegas in my life were both with my family. The first was in college with my basketball team and my family visited so I did no gambling and no clubbing (and to be honest not even that much basketball playing) and the next time was to take my Mom for her birthday with my brother many years ago.  it was fun enough, but buying three tickets to Thunder Down Under was a lot more awkward than we anticipated.  So this time I was meeting my girlfriend for a Masks Up, Finances Down trip to Sin City!

I took an 830 am Greyhound from LA to Vegas and unlike my bus ride from San Jose with 3 recently released felons (see previous road recap blog) this bus ride really felt like it had a criminal element.  The woman behind me was going to get her son who was recently released and the woman next to her never stopped talking on her phone for 5 hours (no mask – so spreading her profanity-laced droplets). In the back of the bus, which I ventured through only once for a Cirque du Soleil-level piss on a moving bus, I saw an awkward white dude surrounded by sleeping Black dudes and it made me laugh because it felt like a Greyhound reboot of The Mad Real World from Chappelle’s Show.

When I arrived at the Vegas bus dept, I hopped on a local bus with an incredibly unhelpful bus driver (DUDE – YOU WORK AT A TRAVEL DEPOT IN A TOURISM CITY – HOW DO MY QUESTIONS BOTHER YOU?).  I arrived at the MGM Grand and my girlfriend met me on line waiting to check in.  We had a large room, but had to walk down a long hallway that smelled like a stripper ready to go on stage (post perfume, pre-sweat and Champagne Room).

MGM Grand was so wild, even the pandas were twerking

Then it was time to gamble.  Long story short on gambling – the Wheel of Fortune machine was our best friend.  I ended up losing money eventually, but the only time I was in the plus was with my success on that machine. My girlfriend, meanwhile, crushed the shit out of the machine, winning every time except for once.  I lost everywhere I went – Game of Thrones and Little Shop of Horrors machines ended up murdering me (I know the fun-theme machines suck because casinos know you will play based on the theme regardless of how expensive the plays or how bad the pay outs… but I did it anyway).  I then placed $20 on my college number (33) on roulette.  The only positive to losing that is that a couple wearing Let’s Go Brandon masks followed my lead with more expensive bets, hoping I would be good luck.  So they lost their MAGA dollars at least.  I must admit, I did not have the same level of disdain for them as the usual MAGAts because they were following casino rules on Covid, which plenty of people were not.  So if it’s between hating Joe Biden and not spreading Covid and hating Joe Biden and spreading Covid, I will tip my ironic red hat to the former.

Then we went to Craftsteak, an outstanding and expensive restaurant in the hotel.  I was able to retroactively count it as Valentine’s Day dinner, so that means I get a break Monday… pizza party!  Then we headed to see Vegas/Magic legend David Copperfield.  We both enjoyed the show, though some of the theatric elements were a little too much for me.  And, as a big fan of the show Arrested Development (the greatest tv comedy of all time – Netflix seasons do not count), it is hard to take magic 100% seriously after Wil Arnett’s GOB performance.  And the most inadvertently hilarious part of the show was how many non-English speaking/barely speaking people Copperfield ended up selecting for demonstrations.

So that was it – the next morning we got out early for a 6 hour drive to Salt Lake City, which is where I am typing this now.  The epic Salt Lake Recap will be written Saturday from Amtrak as I wrap up the epic vacation/tour.


The Top Ten Of The Summer

Summer Movies, Had Me a Blast

The Summer film season kick off was Wolverine, which was the worst thing not named Swine Flu, Paul Blart or Blue Dog Democrats to emerge this year.  Fortunately, the rest of the Summer with a few exceptions, turned out to be pretty damn good.  Although I was pleased with last Summer’s movies, especially The Dark Knight, I think this year’s were overall stronger.  Here’s my top 10 if you want any recommendations before heading back to school, work or prison:

1. Up – Amazing and touching Pixar film about an old man who is too busy having an adventure to complain about Obama’s death panels.

2. District 9 – The most creative movie of the year and probably going to get a Best Picture nomination now that the Academy can nominate ten movies.  In short it is about an alien who lands in Africa who is harassed by locals when they begin claiming he was born in Hawaii.

3. Bruno – People were mixed on this – whether they liked it or hated it.  I thought it was brilliant and more daring that Borat.  So what if the only redeeming message was that the only thing more gross/funny to watch than gay male sex is angry, homophobic rednecks and disgustingly ambitious L.A. parents; it was all absurdly hilarious.

4. Drag Me To Hell – This film was gross, creepy and hilarious.  And like Joan Rivers – it was all intentional (have soem Comedy Central Roast people).  I probably enjoyed this movie more than any others this Summer.

5. The Hurt Locker – Interesting and tense movie about a guy who diffuses IEDs in Iraq and seems to like it.  They are talking Oscar potential for this one, but my guess is because it is not political enough and because Sean Penn is not blowing anybody, its chances are not that high that it will be remembered in February 2010.

6. The Hangover – This will be remembered as the comedy of the year and the film that finally made Las Vegas a destination for young men to go party.

7. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – I thought this was the best adaptation from the books and Alan Rickman does more with little dialogue than anyone I’ve ever seen.  But I wish one of Potter’s classmate’s name’s was Joseph Takagi.

8. Public Enemies – I was disappointed by this film, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.  Oddly enough I thought Johnny Depp was the weakest part of the film – stick to playing weirdos and heartthrobs.

9. Star Trek – This movie surprised me in that it did not suck.  In fact it was pretty good.  Of course I found it strange that the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage was still relevant centuries later (I do not equate Mike D as the Mozart of the 2300s), but it was well done by JJ Abrams and company.

10. Terminator Salvation – Fu-k you, I enjoyed it.  The second half of the film made the first half make a lot more sense and seem relevant and I actually hope they make a fifth and final one.

The only thing left for me to see this Summer will be Inglourious Basterds.  If it is amazing I will make note of it, but more than likely it will just annoy me.