St Paul Road Recap: Grandma Steve Austin Flips Me…

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

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

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

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

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

Me: My father is Haitian-

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

Crowd: Nervous laughter.

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

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

(15 minutes later)

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

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

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

Crowd: TELL IT

Me: (I tell it and it kills)

5 minutes later doing my closer:

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

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

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

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

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Minnesota Journal Part I – Bet on Half-Black at…

A fun week (I hope) started yesterday as I flew from New York to Minneapolis via Chicago.  I am headlining the Joke Joint just outside of Minneapolis tonight through Saturday, but to sweeten the pot the booker for Joke Joint also booked me to headline the Black Bear Casino, a small, but nice casino located a mere 11,000 miles from Minneapolis.  The Black Bear show turned out to be a very pleasant surprise, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The Travel

I flew Southwest from LaGuardia to Midway to Minneapolis.  I always used to assume O’Hare was the better of the Chicago airports.  I just assumed Midway was a place where prisoners were transported and rats and abandoned animals fought for the  pleasure of waiting passengers.  Turns out Midway is nice.  First off, unlike O’Hare, I’ve never experienced awful delays at Midway and more importantly they have a Potbelly sandwich shop, which allows me to eat a large healthy turkey sandwich that I know tastes good, instead of my usual airport diet of $13 dollar half pound bags of peanut M & Ms and shame.

The flight from Midway to Minneapolis was uneventful.  But the earlier flight to Midway from NYC was much creepier, both because of my occasional urine spritzing when we travelled over a storm system and because of the people behind me.

Sitting behind me was a skinny, fairly attractive woman (she had a clear look of cu*tiness which made me instinctively downgrade her) in the window seat and a scruff looking guy about 12 years her senior sitting in the middle seat.  And for about 20 minutes before take off he just kept whispering words to her like “pussy,” “fu*k” and “bitch.” If she had been engaging him back I would have been less worried, but she just kept looking out the window.  Because I do not need any more reasons to feel nervous on a plane I just assumed he was a crazy person, probably not a terrorist, but possibly some sexual pervert who would make our flight awkward and possibly force it to be diverted.  But just be before I was about to push a call button she finally responded!

And for the next 45 minutes they spent cursing at each other (I think she may have fu*ked someone else, or she was a cu*t and he was angry and possibly crazy, probably because he had reached that point where a guy realizes he is with a hot chick, but he hates the fact that she is an awful person and resents her and himself for being in a vicious circle of cu*titude).  Then the lady tapped out of the argument by… wearing a sweater over her face for 30 minutes.  The guy then lifted it up and whispered something to her and then put a sweater or jacket over his head.  But he grew bored of this and left his seat and went several rows back for the last hour of the flight (possible ad campaign for Southwest’s open seating policy!).

When we finally arrived in Minneapolis I had a bit of a wait for my ride, so I ate a yogurt and blueberry parfait (I will not allow airports to destroy my fitness dammit) and the Marty showed up.  He is a young comic from Minneapolis who agreed to drive me the 19 hours back and forth to the Black Bear Casino in exchange for a guest spot and a room for the night at the casino.  Now that is dedication.

The ride was really only about two and a half hours, but what shocked me was that until we were about a mile from the casino I had not seen a single sign for the casino.  With that kind of reach I fully expected the casino to have at least 30 people in it (or however many immediate neighbors the casino has in the empty darkness that is Carlton, MN).  Turns out I was right.

The Show

So Marty and I walked into the casino and I could see that we had just increased the audience total by 20%.  We checked into our rooms, which were nice and luckily equipped with Nintendo 64 controllers, in case I found a time machine and want to invite 14 year old me to play some games.  After dropping my bags off I checked out the casino.  It is basically slot machines, a black jack table and the room for comedy/music.

When I walked in there were 4 people sitting (room seats probably 100-120) and 8 people at the bar with their backs to the stage watching hockey – I am in Canada basically.

As the show progressed more crowd came in which was nice, but I was still not sure of the crowd.  Especially when the following exchange occurred:

Emcee – “… Maybe Herman Cain should just wave the white flag”

Angry bar heckler: “As long as it is a black flag”

Emcee (slightly later) – “Herman Cain was found with a another woman!”

Angry bar heckler: “And her name was Ginger White – how ironic is that?”

Yes it is ironic if miscegenation laws are still on the books in Carlton, MN.  Otherwise it is not ironic UNLESS you are coming from a non-ironic stance of racism.  And the “black flag” comment was just dumb.

The it was time for me to go.

And the set actually turned out great.  Other than the guy who answered his ringing phone (if you are a man and you have a cell phone and it rings you are not a real man – vibrate or silence – save the rings and ring tones for women and Puerto Ricans on NYC buses) 8 feet from the stage. But I felt awesome during this show, with every minute surprising me.  I riffed about 30% of my set and all the material that I prepared worked.  I really felt like I had accomplished a victory.  Granted it was a moral victory.  And granted moral victories are usually the result of an actual loss, but I still felt good.  Sure I handed out only 5 cards and sold zero CDs, but the moral victory of not sucking (and even having a good set) in the middle of nowhere in front of a bunch of people that think Obama was born on Mars felt pretty good.  Sure I had to split my meal ticket with Marty (I won’t big time a guy who drove two and a half hours and pull the diva move of “This $14 meal card is for closers only!”), but it still felt good eating a prepackaged grilled chicken salad after a job well done.

The show taught me a valuable lesson – I was in a room of mostly conservative, some racist, white people in the middle of nowhere, but these people had what some liberal crowds and some conservative crowds don’t have – the ability to let go for the sake of a comedy show.  I insulted various members of the crowd and their town repeatedly in between bits.  Now they may not have known that Hawaii is a state, but they knew that when you come to a comedy show you come to laugh and have a good time.  So even though they may be beating their wives or committing hate crimes today, I am glad that they were a good audience last night.

Joke Joint tonight – spread the word to people.  Check back tomorrow for the movie of the week (if I can find a movie theater) and Monday for the full Minnesota recap.