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Road Comedy Recap: Comedy and Kevin Spacey in Maryland

After a 5 month drought of road bookings, November represented an avalanche of bookings (2).  I was at the Brokerage in Long Island a few weeks ago, and even though taking New Jersey Transit to Long Island Railroad on a weekend is the time equivalent of driving to Atlanta, I did not write it up as a road recap. But with a booking outside of Baltimore that required Amtrak and hotel accommodations, here is the first road recap in quite some time! I was performing at Magoobys (I think for the 6th time between the 2 locations they’ve had this decade) and the weekend included all the staples of a J-L Comedy road trip: 1 awful show, 2 movies, 3 awesome shows, 5 pancakes at IHOP and a 7am Amtrak trip in Baltimore where Kevin Spacey held the door for me. So without further adieu let’s get into it!

Friday

On Friday I took a regular Amtrak (AKA poor people train) to Baltimore, but upgraded to the business class car, which was actually really nice. The rest of the train was packed, but the business class car, with tons of leg room and leather seats was only about 15% full. When I arrived at Baltimore Penn I walked to the light rail station, which I take every trip to whichever hotel Hotwire.com has bestowed upon me near Magoobys.  I buy a ticket for the light rail every time, but in half a decade of taking it, not once has anyone taken the ticket from me.  I arrived at the Extended Stay America, which is named for how long they expect the hotel’s bed bugs to cling to your clothing, in Timonium (hard to beat $135 after fees and taxes for 2 nights).

The two shows were solid that night. I was opening for Aida Rodriguez, most recently of Tiffany Haddish’s stand up series on Netflix.  I sold a handful of albums and ended the night with a vending machine can of pringles and some CNN. #Blessed

Saturday

Having scouted out eating locations I made my way to an IHOP about 3/4 of a mile from my hotel for some breakfast (also found out that IHOP does catering now, so as soon as I have a function that requires catering expect a call from me IHOP). I then got a Lyft to the Hunt Valley Mall where I went to see two movies: Knives Out and Queen and Slim – both very good movies and also could have been called White People Problems and Black People Problems, respectively. I then had Chick Fil-A for dinner nearby, giving me an IHOP breakfast-Popcorn and Candy lunch-Chick Fil-A dinner. How I am still alive I do not know, but as I write this the diet starts now (33rd time I have said that in 2019).

The first show Saturday night was outstanding. A new bit I am working on about getting hit as a child really did well on this show.  I cannot blame the first Friday crowd for not laughing a lot – since I forgot half of the punchlines, but none of the sad parts, so it felt more like a sad origin story than a darkly humorous take on my childhood.  But here is the newest rough draft of “All Roads Lead to Joe Rogan”:

The second show on Saturday was lightly attended and even more lightly laughed at.  Most of the audience were good sports and enjoyed my set, but there was one woman in a hat (it looked like she meant to line up early for Church Saturday night to get a good pew, but ended up at a comedy show by accident). So the shows ended on a low point, but the overall trip and majority of shows were a great success.  A good way to end the decade where I made 1 tv appearance, created 2 viral videos, self-produced 4 stand up albums (one went #1), made 8 appearances on Adam Carolla, made double digit appearances with The Black Guy Who Tips and The Dan Lebatard Show and made $734 in net profit. Bring on 2020!

The Red Hat (AKA “The Undertaker of Black Church”) is visible in this shot while Aida Rodriguez performs

Sunday

On Sunday I took the 7am Acela (#Comedy Mogul) out of Baltimore, figuring correctly that that would be the only time to take an Amtrak comfortably on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.  The station was not too crowded, but I did notice one person that I had to do a triple take: Kevin Spacey. Like myself, Spacey obviously knows that the early morning Acela on a Sunday is the most discreet way for an entertainment star to travel.  As I approached I had 4 options:

  1.  Tell him that House of Cards really sucked without him (and then rap my knuckles on the wood bench twice)
  2. Ask someone to record me on their camera and scream at Spacey for all the hurt he has allegedly caused
  3. Try to get him to grope me (#Settlement) or
  4.  Give him a knowing head nod and be on my way.

I chose 4 and his response was:

He was sitting with either a female relative or a personal assistant (OR POSSIBLY A WOMAN WITH HER OWN GREAT CAREER AND LIFE INDEPENDENT OF KEVIN SPACEY – PLEASE DON’T CANCEL ME). I was unable to upgrade to first class on the Acela due to blackout restrictions (insert Spacey joke here), but by coincidence Spacey held the door for me and a woman before going down the stairs himself.  SO HE IS ALRIGHT IN MY BOOK!  Our ways parted when he went to the First Class Car and I went to the upper-middle class section.

So all in all another fun and fruitful road work weekend. Thanks to all that have enjoyed this blog and supported my career the last decade.  All 7 of you!

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Road Comedy Recap: 36 Hours in Baltimore

This weekend I was featuring at Magooby’s Joke House in Timonium, Maryland (sorry for the Trump-esque title of the blog – it was really 36 hours in a suburb of Baltimore, but that is not as good a title).  It was a weekend of highs and lows (as Michelle Obama said of my comedy career “When J-L thinks his career will go high, it will definitely go low”), sickness, multiple perfect sets, one dumb or tired crowd (yes YOU LATE SHOW FRIDAY), a cozy Amtrak ride and a too cozy Greyhound ride.  In other words, the trip was all that you have come to expect from road comedy from me, but in a more condensed amount of time.  So here ya go:

Friday: Fu*k You Sony!!!!!!!

I arrived in Baltimore on Friday around 2:15pm off of the Amtrak and then hopped on the “light rail” (basically two trolley cars where no one has ever taken my ticket in 3 years – but at $1.70 I can afford it, even if it is just the honor code). I then made the 15 minute walk from the station to my Red Roof Inn Plus (plus is for the fact that they have some rooms with extra amenities… I was not in the plus section). It is the same place I stayed in Fall of 2015 so I knew they got 5 stars on the J-L Road Comedy Guide for Hotels. To illustrate:

5 stars – no thefts or assaults on me or any other guests while I am there

4 stars – no thefts or assaults on me

3 stars – no visible stains of body fluids on sheets or chairs in my room, but possible thefts or assaults on others

2 stars – La Quinta Inn in New Haven, CT

1 star – sewage

One mistake I made during this trip was not bringing my parka. I had no idea how cold it would actually be in Timonium.  It was The Revenant-cold.  And I had a 1.2 mile walk to the club each night and a .8 mile to Panera Bread. Within ten minutes of my first walk I knew I would get sick (nose still running as of the typing of this sentence).  So at 6:30pm I made my way to the club.  But these were no ordinary shows.  I was also planning on using one of my 4 sets as a submission for Comedy Central’s new season of The Half Hour.  I have dozens of sets this year that would be admirable submissions, but knowing that every 5 minutes of material having, roast battling sycophant is submitting 30 minutes I at least wanted to make sure mine did not have any extraneous material that may happen… GULP… during a working comedian’s set!!!!

So as I have done hundreds of times, I set up my camera in the back of the room and proceed to crush (I am just referring to set up the camera when I say hundreds of times – I have crushed 1000s of times!).  Like a perfect set.  After the set I walked up to my camera and saw that it had turned off.  Well, this model of the Sony Handycam series, newer than the previous ones I had, keeps a backup of everything that you cannot delete. So my memory was full and shut off the camera halfway through the set.  After cursing and pacing for 15 minutes, the club owner lent me an SD card to use for additional memory.  However, I already knew the 2nd set would not go as well, even though it was going to be a bigger crowd.  I knew, because it was me.  And I was right.  I had a strong set on the late show.  There was just one problem – very few people in the crowd seemed to agree.  I actually did a new bit at the end of my set called “J-L blames crowd for ruining his Comedy Central tape and his life.”  That actually got them laughing.

I got a ride home from local legend/comedian Rob Maher who was nice enough to come watch and hang out at the 2nd show. I then spent 90 minutes researching how to clear the memory on my Handycam.  I was able to find and implement the solution.  And that is how the future of Comedy Central changed forever…

Saturday: Homeless in Panera Bread and Another Perfect Set

On Saturday I had to check out of my hotel. Normally I would stay Saturday night and go home Saturday morning, but when I broke down how much I was earning (not a lot) and did the math of what 2 nights at the hotel and two train tickets would be (75% of not a lot) I opted to get a Greyhound early Sunday morning (12:40am) thus saving me most of the cost of a train trip and one night at a hotel.  #ComedyMogul  So with an 11 am check out I had to kill 8.5 hours without a home before Saturday shows.  So I went to Panera Bread and wrote two sketches while eating a 1030 breakfast and a 2 pm lunch.  And just a travel tip – no one does hot chocolate better than Panera.  Hot, but immediately drinkable and tastes like someone melted chocolate into a cup.  Only thing is overkill – they recently added chocolate chip marshmallows to the hot chocolate which, although tasty, turn a great beverage into a calorie heavy sugar rush.  I then made my way to Starbucks across the parking lot outside and read for another two hours before going to McDonald across the highway for dinner.  #ComedyMogul

My Panera Bread fan meet n greet event was a huge success

I owe a great debt of gratitude to the Saturday crowds at Magoobys.  I was already sick and dreading the pending Greyhound trip. I had only sold 4 cds to the first two audiences on Friday. The pressure was now on after going 0-2 on Comedy Central tapings. And I had no idea if my camera would fu*k up again.  Well what transpired was the comedy equivalent of Michael Jordan’s flu game.  The first crowd was great. Every joke hit and the camera taped!  Headliner said to me “That was the set; make sure that camera taped it.”  So when people ask when Comedy Central changed for the better* you can point to that perfect set that then elevated their series, etc.

*Set Deposited into Recycle Bin on desktop January 1, 2017

The second set also went great as a nice bonus and I ended up selling 21 CDs between the two shows.  I then took Uber to the Greyhound station for the final part of this epic 36 hour trilogy.

I love that the bathrooms have Kathy Griffin and Dane Cook at Magoobys. I did not verify, but I would like it to mean "for female shit" and "for male shit"

Sunday: Greyhound Abdi & Canola

Exclusive shot of me on Greyound (c) Annie Leibovitz

I got on my Greyhound bus at 12:40am. Before me on line was a man, probably in his late 40s who bore a slight resemblance to Barrkhad Abdi of Captain Phillips fame.  The man had a backpack, a suitcase and a large plastic bag.  He had a ticket that indicated he was at the end or in the middle of an epic trip (having  taken a couple of long Greyhound trips earlier in my career his trip had at least 3 bus changes.  But beyond all these details it seemed like the man might have been slightly developmentally disabled.  As I got on the bus, having dreaded this trip all day, I thought about this man – Where was he going? Where was he coming from? Was he safe? Did he have friends or relatives helping him?  It was making me sad as I settled into my seat thinking about how meaningless comedy feels in a world where a man like that might be struggling just to maintain his existence.  And then my bus driver  yelled into the bus audio system:

“Good evening everybody!”

silence. (half the bus sleeping)

“I said GOOD EVENING EVERYBODY!!!”

buh buh hello bitch damn

“My name is Canola and I am your driver tonight.”

Me: laughing.

So I guess laughter can have a useful place when you are feeling down.  Thanks Canola. And good luck Greyhound Abdi. I hope you are OK.

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

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Road Comedy Recap: Killing and Getting the Death Penalty…

This weekend was Labor Day weekend, but in one of the great ironies of my comedy career in 2015 it was one of the few weekends I found myself working in a comedy club, instead of at a computer doing legal work.  I was in Timonium, Maryland at Magooby’s Joke House featuring for Rob Maher (he is the guest on this week’s podcast).  So, continuing one of the most revered traditions in all of stand up comedy, here is another road recap for you to enjoy:

Thursday – Small Crowd, Smaller Laughs: I arrived in Baltimore with The Wire theme song repeating in my brain and got on the light rail to Timonium. From there it was a .6 mile walk to the Red Roof Inn Plus, where I was staying. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the RRIP for a few reasons: one – I have stayed at some very pleasant, well-attended Red Roof Inns; two – this was a Red Roof Inn PLUS so it was probably better than that and three – I paid $159 (including taxes and fees) for three nights. So those are two reasons it could be good and one that could mean I would get raped and murdered by Waingro from Heat (an analogy I have made too many times to the various lodgings in my comedy career).

That night there was only one show. The crowd was light and for me, the laughs were lighter.  It was one of those crowds where way more people came up to me after to tell me variations of “really funny,” and I always want to reply, “Yeah, I know, but it would have been cool to laugh out loud during my set so that I didn’t get the universal sign for “not funny at all.”

After the show Rob (the headliner) and I were caught in a conversation with a 5’7″ busty blonde from Bel Air, MD who taught special ed kids (what’s not to like?).  Now on a quick biographical note, I dated a 5’7″ busty blonde from Bel Air, MD for three years so perhaps engaging in any conversation with her was an attempt to re-capture a pleasant moment from my past.  However, that lasted about 20 seconds. Why?  Because the woman at the club was kind of racist and might have been looking to cheat (two of my three rules with hooking up are 1) must not be racist and 2) must not be in a relationship – the third, which does not apply here is 3) must not be someone a friend dated). Well this woman was regaling Rob and I with stories of how she has relationships with women, that her husband was away for the weekend and how she gave her 1st BJ in 7th grade.  She had an accurate count of how many black men she had made out with in her life (“three”) and many other odd statements that might have made her super progressive during the Civil War, but felt uncomfortable in 2015.

After leaving the club and bisexual, racist version of my ex, I stopped by the gas station across from the RRIP, bought a pack of Soft Batch cookies and a 1% milk (an old road tradition of mine) and went to cross the street when I saw a young 20-something woman in a low cut tank top and shorts holding a sign that indicated that she was hitchhiking.  Needless to say that this empowered woman was just another in the quietly dignified group of “sex workers” in America who, despite a 99.9% correlation of being victims of sexual trauma and/or parental neglect, she seemed like the exception to the rule and just making sound life choices to augment her entrepreneurial life.  But since my room had two beds and I felt bad I asked the woman three quick questions…

Washington had Mt Vernon. Jefferson had Monticello. J-L Cauvin has the Red Roof Inn Plus

Friday – J-L is Back! (but still not selling much merchandise): Friday I spend about 5 hours in a Panera Bread reading (FYI – the best chocolate chip cookies available from a chain are Panera Bread’s. They are awesome).  Message to any men over the age of 60 in Timonium, MD – there is an oasis of senior citizen vagina in the Panera Bread.   I also tried to watch a movie through Amazon Prime in my room, but Red Roof Inn Plus has the WiFi equivalent of 1997 dial up.  I also noticed that there were a lot of ants in  my bathroom area so I did buy a can of Raid-Ant Killer and proceed to become the Bashar-Al Assad of the Timonium ant community.

Weapon of Ant Destruction

That night I had two strong shows, but sold almost no merchandise.  So instead I bought two packs of Soft Batch, one for each CD I sold. I would have given the local prostitute a pack, but she was not out on Friday night.  I then got home in time to catch an amazing fifth set between Rafael Nadal and an Italian dude named Fabio Fognini. In addition to upsetting Nadal, he also led to the greatest tweet in US Open history when I wrote “Fognini looks like the hot member of an ISIS boy band.”

Breaking hearts and bones as a member of ISIS' #1 boy band

Saturday – Kill on Show 1, Get the Death Penalty on Show 2: One of the things I have learned recently is that even as I get better at writing and performing my comedy I will still alienate some crowds, even when I am on my game. Generally it will be a combination of easily offended and mentally dumb that don’t get or like me.  Well Show 1 Saturday was NOT that crowd. I murdered as hard as I ever have with that crowd (video clips coming to the YouTube channel soon).  I really had a terrific set and felt great.  I had earlier watched Northwestern upset Stanford on TV (my brother went to NU so they are the college program I root for/follow) and had had another Panera chocolate chip cookie that day so with a great first show the day had the makings of perfection.  Then Show 2 occurred…

I felt good going into show 2. My friend Marie, from law school, showed up with her husband so I thought – “I am killing with strangers – now the crowd has people I know – THIS IS GONNA ROCK.”  What followed for the final show of the weekend was nothing short then capital punishment.  Awkward silences to the early litmus test jokes I have (early set jokes I use on the road that always kill so I can gauge the crowd) and then when discussing Latin women and working in the Bronx an audible “Wow… wow” from an unhappy women. That wouldn’t be so bad, except that was the only sound.  In 3 of the 4 shows before the laughter may have drowned the feigned shock of this woman, but the late Saturday crowd’s silence provided her with an audible spotlight.

The best thing about doing comedy long enough is that you really don’t feel badly after a tough set (they did lose it to a 5 minute bit about being blamed for other people’s shits in public bathrooms – not surprising).  I think they could tell I felt mentally superior to them, which may have hurt my chances of regaining their affection (which I never actually had).  Oh well, 3 of the 5 shows went great, one went so so and one was a bloodbath (with me as the sole victim).  But it is weird that in the same town, on the same night one crowd of residents can think you are the greatest thing ever and then the very next crowd hates your guts within ten minutes.  But that is how real life has been for me so at least my comedy appears to be true to myself. #Blessed

Off to Los Angeles next week. Stay tuned.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!

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Weekend Comedy Recap: See Something, Say Something, Laugh at…

This weekend I was in Timonium, Maryland performing at Magooby’s Comedy Club.  I had performed a couple of weekends at the club’s older space a few years ago, but had not been booked since.  But then I worked a weekend in Syracuse a couple of months ago with the brother of Magooby’s owner, killed it and got him to vouch for me to work Magooby’s (side note – this is why for the rest of the year I am putting together a “Working With Relatives of Comedy Club Owners” tour).  But like all my comedy recap stories, the comedy club is just one player in an ensemble of experiences over the course of three days.  So here it is:

On Friday I arrived in Baltimore and then proceeded another hour via light rail and bus to Cockeysville, Maryland where my hotel, The Ramada Limited, was situated.  The first thing that bothered me was that the place was listed as a hotel, but had the motel-esque feature of all rooms accessible from the street (the lobby was just its own kiosk and not an entryway for access to any of the rooms).  In addition to that was the fact that within 2 blocks of the Ramada Limited (the Limited stands for your chances of success in life if you have to stay there) there was a Chick Fil-A, a Five Guys, an IHOP and a Dunkin Donuts.  The message from Cockeysville was simple: if a drifter looking for a quick score doesn’t kick in your door and murder you, the food options will do it to you.

The first bad omen on the trip was when I checked in to the ho/motel I was sent to one room that had not been cleaned. I came back and was sent to another room. That one had not been cleaned either (I could see the dead hooker’s body through the window).  Finally I got a third room that was clean. #Blessed

I only stay in 5 star hotels, if you add up the five 1 star reviews they receive.

FRIDAY SHOWS

Friday night’s shows were interesting.  The first crowd was dead for the emcee.  Now sometimes I can see an emcee doing poorly and say either “crowd is not warm yet or the emcee sucks.”  But in this case there were some solid jokes that were not even registering with the crowd.  My set had some good laughs and plenty of almost inexplicable dead spots (like language barrier level dead spots).  Here is how I basically ended my first set:

“Well, this was fun, though it was more like a TED talk than a stand up set.”

Crowd – nothing

“Oh Christ, I did it again – you guys probably don’t know what a TED talk is!  Now my set is turning into an Inception of references you don’t get – like layers of things you have never heard of on top of each other.”

Crowd – nothing

“Oh, Inception. Sorry – this tiny movie that made like $300 million a couple of years ago.  I referenced two movies in this set – Avatar and Inception and you’d think I mentioned some obscure foreign film.” 

See a lot of politicians say things like “The American people are smarter than that…” to discredit opponent’s positions.  And many comedians focus on being likable or pandering.  To quote Danny Glover, “I’m getting too old for this sh*t.”  I understand if someone like Dennis Miller can throw people off with all his references, but if an analogy to Avatar or Inception in a joke doesn’t register (when it registers laughs 98% of the time) then yes, crowd, it is you.  So I will treat you with disdain and condescension (even more than usual).   I have never watched a TED talk, but I know what the fu*k they are!  As another example unrelated to my jokes, I have never watched Citizen Kane from start to finish, but I wouldn’t stare like a vegetable if someone made a broad reference to it.  But maybe the crowd was just tired from a long work week. Or stupid. Or both.

The second show went much better Friday and I sold a couple of CDs.  It was a hard earned split.

SATURDAY SHOWS

Saturday’s shows were both solid.  The first show was probably my favorite crowd. I celebrated with a couple of gin and tonics and a burger (important note for a later part of this story – the last thing I ate until 8pm Sunday was the burger at about 1030pm) and then Rob Maher and Joe Robinson of the Rob and Joe Show arrived at the club.  They run a very good podcast and we communicate often on social media, but it was good to hang out in person.  Of course I woke up today to see that I had fallen 10 spots on the Stitcher Comedy Podcast Rankings, which I think is directly attributable to my association with them this weekend.

3 podcasting legends in one place!

The second show was probably only the third best set of the week for me (nothing was going to be worse than the first Friday show unless someone shot me while on stage) but I felt like I ended the weekend with a 3-1 record.  However, the most eventful part of the weekend was just getting started…

SUNDAY FUN DAY!

I could not sleep well Saturday night. I was getting up at 8am anyway to begin my journey on the Maryland bus system to get to Baltimore Penn Station, but what should have been 6 hours of relatively satisfied sleep was about 2 hours of crappy sleep.  My stomach was feeling a little queasy so I decided to skip the “executive continental breakfast,” as the Ramada Limited called it, and went to the bus.

During the 80 total minutes I was on the different buses I started to get progressively more tired and queasy feeling, though travelling through several neighborhoods in Baltimore I could not help but smile thinking about The Wire because everyone had the physique and accent of Prop Joe (and half the characters on The Wire – either the white-ish Baltimore accent of saying words like “Coach” as “Cauch” or the one I heard much more common, the blacker Baltimore accent of saying words like “two” as “tseu” (I hope that is clear and if it is not, I blame you)).

By the time I reached Baltimore Penn Station I was sweating profusely and my stomach was reacting like I had just chugged a gallon of Mexican tap water.  As I result I ending up spending so much time in a Baltimore Penn Station bathroom I nearly qualified for adverse possession.  Feeling better and barely making a train I had been 50 minutes early for I sat down in my seat and started to feel a different kind of queasy coming on.  Not to mention the sweating got worse to the point that it might have been making fellow travelers uncomfortable.  I went to the snack car to have a water and a Gatorade and to get a little more space.  About 25 minutes into that I had the sudden urge to vomit. So I shuffled my way to the bathroom (by this time my back was hurting and all my muscles felt weak) and let forth a furious puke fest.  Now I was just left with back pain and a headache, but my stomach was much better.  I then went back to my seat to see someone sitting in it (to be fair it was a crowded train and I had been gone for an hour) and my backpack missing.  Turns out someone had seen a sweaty dude with thick eyebrows leave a backpack and told the conductor!  I could finally cross “be suspected of being a terrorist”  off of my bucket list.  To show how out of it I was, the conductor had walked right by me with my backpack – as it was at the table right next to where I had been semi-comatose in the cafe car.

An artist's rendering of me on Amtrak yesterday

So there it is folks – comedy, hostility, illness and terror threat – just another weekend in comedy.

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!