What I Learned In Indiana – Climate Change Is…

I finished up a 5 show stretch in Indianapolis at Morty’s Comedy Joint, featuring for Dave Attell.  When I met Attell he was sitting in the front seat of the emcee’s car and I did not recognize him because he was wearing a hat.  And a beard.  And hair.  I actually thought he was the emcee’s friend until I head the recognizable Attell voice from the front seat.  Working with Attell was great because the guy is a machine gun of comedy.  But unlike a lot of admirers and imitators he is both quick off the cuff and his almost one-liner esque comedy seems to weave a narrative, which is quite difficult to do.  Even though he jumps from topic to topic it never feels like a series of Dangerfield-esque one-liners that grow tired after ten minutes, nor does it feel like some alt room string of non sequiturs.  I would share some of my favorite lines from the shows, but I think Attell is very sensitive to his material spreading around (and perhaps diminishing incentive to support his live shows) so I will not (but the good news if you are among my many friends, acquaintances, people I nod to to silently, etc in the DC area I will be featuring for him again this coming Thursday through Sunday at the DC Improv.  So come see what all the talk that I am not sharing is all about!

But enough about the famous guy I worked with – you guys want more details about my experience in Indiana so here are the highlights:

Climate Change Is A Myth

This  was all I took away from my set Thursday night.  After surviving a weird sports movie ( experience on Thursday, I was treated to a small, but enthusiastic crowd at Morty’s Comedy Joint (Attell headlined the four shows Friday & Saturday).  The set was going well and then I made a joke about climate change, with a “radical liberal bias”  i.e. I think, like the scientific community, that it exists and that man is a contributor.  Well that prompted a couple of “It’s a myth!!!” from patrons.  Considering that two people represented about 6% of the crowd it sort of bothered me, especially since the rest of the joke was going well.  So I abandoned it for the rest of the weekend.  I could have tried to fight a valiant effort to get people to laugh at those who think environmental scientists are part of a grand conspiracy, but I decided it was a losing battle.  I have understood why Obama has not put up as big a fight for certain issues, but after Thursday’s show I felt it.  AMURRRRRICA!!!!

Killer New Bit And Some New Old Fans

I am very tempted to put the new bit I wrote Thursday (based largely on the above linked blog posting), but I think I will save it for live performances and my upcoming CD recording.  But it really destroyed and worked all four shows, but was delivered four different ways.  That is one of the exciting things about a good new bit – even if it kills it is still new and can be manipulated and worked over and may become something great.

And the coolest thing was that two women who had seen me in Chicago a year ago at Zanies were at the club by coincidence and were asking me why I did not do my Good J-L Hunting bit.  It was that magical feeling in comedy where you feel so great that someone remembers you for some of your material, but simultaneously are annoyed that you did not do that joke.  But it was definitely a net plus in the good feelings department.

OK, enough positivity.

My Basketball Card Comes To A Show

During the late show last night I noticed a table with 5 white women, a white guy, an Asian man and two black men.  I then said – “Holy sh*t, this is the most diverse thing in Indiana besides the Indiana Pacers.”  The whole crowd laughed, but the table I was joshing with really laughed hard.  I just figured it was another group that enjoyed having fun poked at them during the show.  You know the dopes who leave a comedy show after heckling and talking to the comedian all night saying, “Oh my God we totally made that show awesome!”  But as I found out when I left it was a little different.

One of the black men, who was about 6’4″ was standing by the club bar with an attractive 40-something blond and she said to me, “We were laughing so much because you said we were diverse like the Indiana Pacers, and he (pointing to black man) was a Pacer.  Yes!  Turns out the guy was former Pacer guard Vern Fleming, whose basketball card is definitely in an album in a closet at my parents’ house.   And here is how I know Vern Fleming is a good dude.  Sure he is a NBA dude banging hot blond chicks (cliche), but he dates age appropriate hot blond chicks and to me that is a great statement for older women that there are some good older men out there who appreciate seasoned women.  So remember ladies – it is not your age that matters; it is whether you are ugly or not.

It was a great weekend in Indianapolis two movies seen, two trips to Chick Fil-A and four awesome shows with Dave Attell.   Now it is time to get home and make love to my Play Station 3 before heading back on the road.


The Day I Was Supposed To Die – A…

When I travel to a gig I usually get an early flight so I can get to the location early, christen the bathroom and still have time to spare before the gig begins.  Thursday was no exception.  Having secured a $68 flight on Southwest I decided to to take a break from my lucrative Greyhound/Amtrak endorsement deal (don’t worry I am taking a 19 1/2 hour Greyhound trip back to NYC on Sunday) and take a quick flight to Indianapolis.

Readers may or may not know that I have a slight fear of flying/heights, which is ironic given my choice of profession and the fact that I am very tall. My flight was to depart at 11:20 am and we were only running about 15 minutes late when the plane started speeding down the runway.  But then, just after I had said a silent “Please God don’t let me die” and then just as I was about to do my customary urine-in-pants move, the pilot hit the breaks on the plane.  I said out loud, “that’s interesting,” and inside I said, “We are going to die on this plane! (accompanied by the opening shriek that Prince does in the song Get Off)”

The pilot told us that while we were going on the runway there was a landing plane crossing our path or something to that effect.  So under that explanation I saw that I almost died the way many people died on the season 2 finale of Breaking Bad (in retrospect at least a dozen comedians would be right to make the connection while mourning my loss on Facebook).

The pilot told us that because of the aborted takeoff we would need to return to the gate to refuel.  This sounded strange to Dana, the Mom from Maryland sitting to my right, who informed me that her father had been a pilot for Pan Am.  When we got back to the gate men in Southwest windbreakers began coming onto the plane (Southwest polo shirts – safe, Southwest windbreaker – bad).  Then the pilot told us after about thirty minutes that an emergency light had gone on and that they were trying to figure out if there was a technical problem with the plane or just with the emergency light.  In other words I think our pilot lied as to the original cause of our slow down.  I have always suspected pilots of being liars.  Like when then pretend not to be afraid of severe turbulence with that generic, horsesh*t, calm voice that they all seem to have.

So we waited two hours, listening to a Southwest flight attendant crack jokes on the loudspeaker (to which Dana said, “Oh she thinks she’s a comedian” in a way that sounded scornful of the flight attendant’s jokes (justified) and stand up in general (only semi-justified).  So I was committed to keeping my secret identity a secret and then we started talking.

“Are you from Indianapolis?”

“No. Going for business.”

“Oh, will you be late with the delay?

“Nope, not working until tonight.”

“What do you do?”

“Stand Up Comedian.”

That is how long it took to break me.  When I said comedian, the sophomore college student headed home for fall break next to me, Mackenzie, if my memory is correct, piped up and asked:

“You’re a comedian?”


“That’s cool.”

“It’s ok.”

“Do you know any famous comedians?”

(inner monologue) Have you heard of Patrice O’Neal or Dave Attell? Probably not.

“You mean like Dane Cook?”



Now during these pleasantries with these two women (Mackenzie – a 20 year old woman who hates Twitter, does not have Internet on her phone and likes math and science – sort of like the 20 year old I would clone for a better America if I had the machine from Weird Science and Dana, the Al Gore hating, Barack Obama-voting (I have a soft spot for politically varied people, even if I don’t agree with them) mom) I never lost the thought that these might be the last two people I would ever speak to.  You may think I am being too paranoid of flying, but the passengers on this plane gave me reason to be concerned.  First we had a female co-pilot.  And second, two rows in front of me, for several rows, was a deaf high school (or small college) football team from Maryland.

You may be asking yourself what is the big deal about a deaf football team?  Everything!  First off when a crowded plane goes down there is always some sympathetic story.  How does the headline “200 perish in plane crash, including entire Inspirational Team of Deaf Football Players.  President Obama mourns the loss of these heroes and 160 losers who could not afford Delta on short notice” sound?  I mean they would make an inspirational sports movie and call it something like “Heard Around The World” or “Deafinitely”  or “Heard and Long” (my favorite)  or “The Sounds of Silence” and it would probably have Marlee Matlin as a fictional team trainer who becomes the romantic lead for the head coach.  But you know who is not in this movie?  The hilarious comedian killing it in row 20 of the plane.  He is an extra or an under 5 at best.  Oh and did I mention the co-pilot was a woman?

Well the plane eventually took off and I had a pleasant conversation with both women (I gave them both my website and I think passengers around me thought I was a male escort with a wide age range (I work at night, I have banter with 19 and 56 year old women, and he caught me masturbating uncomfortably in the bathroom).  I have found that conversation is often the best way to be calm during a flight. We did not crash, obviously, unless I am a character from the show Lost.  So now it is time for some Dave Attell shows.  (I will give a full recap of all shows on Monday – like how on Thursday I divided the crowd between people with brains and without when I asked who believes climate change is a myth).  So Indiana – I survived and I am going to make you wish I’d died on that plane!  I mean I am going to kill!  That’s the expression I was looking for.


Trying Times in Indianapolis

This past week I spent in Indianapolis to compete in Trial By Laughter, a comedy contest (yay) between thirty-two comics from around the country.  Here are the important details:

  • The winner was to receive $1,000 cash, an Amazon Kindle, a Flip camera, a 45 minute DVD shoot at Morty’s Comedy Joint – the host club for the competition and a CD recording deal
  • Runner up was to receive $500 cash, a Flip camera, a 30 minute DVD shoot at the club and a recording deal
  • 3rd and 4th place receive automatic entry into the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta in Spring 2011
  • 5th-32nd place leave with varying ranges of disappointment and bitterness towards comedy and with sets to air on local Comcast (Indiana/Midwest) this December.

Guess which group I fell in?  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Here is a full recap of the week.

Night 1 – Optimism in Many Forms

So the first night of the competition I did good work.  I was the second overall comedian of the competition and I felt very good about my set.  I ended up placing first in my group and moving on to the semi finals.

After the show I was going to go to Steak N Shake with fellow comedian Nick Dopuch of Chicago via St. Louis, except for one thing – Nick’s car broke down – specifically his alternator and battery were shot.  This combined with Nick not moving on to the next round (he went after me and lost the crowd with a Chicago Cub bit) and I was feeling bad for him.  Had both of those things happened to me I probably would have lit the car on fire, but Nick was remarkably pleasant.

And he was rewarded – two women who had watched the show drove by and asked us if we needed help (isn’t it usually the other way around? – what a great feminist moment).  They ended up driving us to the dealership so Nick could leave the car there for morning repairs and then were Nick’s guest to Steak N Shake as a thank you (sure this could be the opening for a porno film, but one was married and one had a boyfriend so Nick was going to have to be content with a hamburger and milkshake).  Here is the most important part of our conversation, which, once again, took place at Steak N Shake, where we were waited on by Andrew,

who looked like a teenage Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords, for the first of 4 consecutive nights:

Woman 1 – So you guys just travel around doing comedy?

Nick and J-L – Yeah

Woman 2 – So it must be crazy – is it just money and partying on the road?

Nick and J-L – Yeah, that is why you had to give a jump to my broken down Honda.  And why we are sitting in Steak N shake eating ice cream with platonic groupies – because it is fu*king crazy!

So after night 1 I was feeling optimistic of my chances in the competition and was more impressed with the resiliency of Nick.

Days 2-4 – Movies, The Rock & Al Pacino

The next two days were basically me and Nick driving from strip mall to strip mall doing impressions of The Rock, Al Pacino.  We also went to see Paranormal Activity 2 (underrated) and Due Date (overhyped).  Basically it was just a higher IQ version of Dumb and Dumber for 48 hours.  We also watched the other competitors each night, and passed judgment on most of them.

I kept telling Nick that he had me laughing way more in real life than when he was on stage.  It was like looking at my opposite.  I have been told to be nicer on stage, whereas I think Nick may make too much of an effort to be nice on stage.  That’s comedy – trying to be yourself, while making it work for other people.

Night 4 – The Death of Optimism

So every competition for me has a pattern – I have a kick ass first round,  and a very good set in the round preceding the finals that is derailed by some sort of bad timing.  A brief history:

2008 Boston Comedy Festival – Sandwiched between Bostonians Joe List and Myq Kaplan I get squashed – less crowd interactive than List and then dismissed by one of Kaplan’s patented callback quips to my set.

2009 Boston Comedy Festival – I went last in a field of 8 in the semi finals.  I had an excellent set.  Unfortunately, the audience had sort of tuned out because Dave McDonough had just obliterated them (he went on to win the whole thing).  It was like he felt like a closer and then “hey wait, don’t leave – we know you loved that last guy, but we have one more as*hole who wants to stop you from going home – J-L Cauvin!”

2010 New York Comedy Contest – only 2 rounds and I finished 2nd of 70+ comedians.  1st place won $2500.  2nd place won $0

2010 Trial By Laughter – I am seeded 2nd, but behind the #1 seed Tom Simmons, who beat me in San Francisco last year and went on to win the whole thing.  As a 17 or 57 year veteran of comedy Simmons is a very tough matchup and going last (the benefit of being the higher seed) would make it nearly impossible.  But after the set I had in the first round I am not sure why I drew the toughest matchup in the second round, but the karma-like tradition of “fu*king J-L in the semi finals/second round” is apparently set in stone at this point.

Tom and I had engaged in some spirited texting during the week.  Where he assured me that everyone was fighting for second place and made Mom-related comments and plagiarised Eminem to trash talk while I asked him if he would use any notes from his days workshopping with Elaine Boozler.  So Thursday night we were the lad off matchup with NYC’s Lance Weiss leading off followed by me, closed out by Tom Simmons.

The competition is being filmed for local Comcast airing so all sets needed to be TV clean.  Lance Weiss, 40 seconds into his joke said: “oops I fu*ked up that joke, and now I have cursed… I will be selling my DVDs after the show” – a very funny moment, but made it more obvious that it would be a showdown between the Tom and I.

I went up and had a perfect set (10 minutes this round and comedians were not allowed to repeat jokes from any preceding rounds).   I could not be angry with myself.  What I could be angry with is that the crowd was now sufficiently warmed up for Tom Simmons to finish the show.  Which he did.  I left his set 3 minutes in because every minute that went by I could hear my chances of winning diminishing with every Midwestern guffaw.  Towards the end of his set I heard a loud burst of applause and I came back into the showroom, assuming it was him getting off stage.  Nope.  Applause break.  At that moment, for the 58th time in 7 1/2 years I declared my comedy career over.  All the frustration of the highs and lows just came to an all new head.

Tom Simmons went on to finish second to Kansas City’s Mike Baldwin so thanks for doing my job for me Baldwin.  Of course I was not there because I had flown out the morning of the Finals.  Special thanks to comedian Tony Deyo, who was also a much better sport than me about losing in a very tough semi finals match (to Mike Baldwin), who gave me an early morning ride to the airport.  I guess one of the good things about the week was to see and meet comedians who were able to roll with punches a lot better than me and look to the bigger picture.

Unfortunately now is not the time for lessons because I am headed to Boston for… you guessed it – the first round of the 2010 Boston Comedy Festival.  God help us all.