I was featured today on The Check Spot podcast along with Nick Cobb, breaking down the Oscars. It is funny and will make great listening as you do something else that does not require your ears. Go to the link below”
One of the sad parts of being an up and coming stand up comedian, besides having to call yourself an up and coming stand up comedian for at least a decade before you can just be a “comedian,” is that producing time-sensitive original content can be difficult since you do not do it professionally you do not have crew and actors on the ready to produce whatever you come up with. Well, a month ago I wrote a sketch for PMSports – a new website that claims to specialize in sports-related comedy, but actually specializes in dick jokes, racial slurs and only approaches sports stories that even non sports fans are aware of. Well, after having 11 sketches rejected by the site in a month and seeing them set comedy back several IQ points I decided to film a couple of my sketch ideas.
This one is about how Brett Favre treats rehearesals for his commercials the same way he treats pre season for football. Sadly, 6 days after filming it, but two days before completion of editing Saturday Night Live, which tends to be funny by accident these days, produced a spoof of Favre’s Warangler commercial. Their spoof focused solely on Favre’s texting of penis pictures (did someone sneak a PMSports sketch into the SNL writers’ room?). Mine has a couple of references to that, but is about more than that. Hopefully you enjoy it and can forward it around.
Unlike most of my sketches this one is a very manageable 2 minutes in length.
This weekend I, along with three other quality comics from New York City, made a twelve hour trek to Asheville, North Carolina for the 4th Annual Laugh Your Asheville Off Festival. It also happened to be the same week as the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, so while the comedic equivalent of the NBA All Star Game was going on in Montreal, we were headed twelve hours in the opposite direction to the equivalent of WNBA tryouts.
The three other members of the car were Nick Cobb, recently of Last Comic Standing, Adam Newman of College Humor and Sam Morril, who most recently won March Comedy Madness at Comix. And me of www.JLCauvin.com, but you already knew that. I had not auditioned for the Montreal festival this year (was not asked to – so it is good to see that I am less worthwhile as a comic than I was two years ag0 – always a rewarding feeling), but I was still happy for all the people doing comedy half as long as me in some cases who were finally getting their shot at the big time after waiting all the time it takes to graduate a community college. I guess next year instead of writing jokes I will simply work on my networking for a year. I’m still convinced that my path to success lies somewhere along the path taken by Johnny Fontaine.
So we headed down to Asheville by car at 5 am on Friday. Nick Cobb did yeoman’s work, both in the amount of driving he did and the pity party he threw for himself for doing so much driving. Sam and I are New Yorkers in the sense that we both obtained driver’s licenses to get people to stop asking us if we have a license. See, outside of New York City people attach ideas like independence and self-worth to the ability to drive as soon as possible. But since native New Yorkers actually have things to look forward to other than driving to the Mall after school we don’t place the immediate importance on it (except for the rich kids I went to high school with who could not wait to drive the Mercedes, Range Rovers and BMWs to school junior). But thanks anyway to Nick for doing about 21 hours of driving in less than three days.
So on the ride down to Asheville we complained about comedy, ate boatloads of fast food and listened to various comedy CDs. By the time we arrived in Asheville at the Super 8 it was 5:30 and we all felt disgusting. Sadly, a Super 8 motel is not the place to feel refreshed. Super 8 motels feel like movie sets for the “brutal rape scene.” They are dark, dirty and the water pressure in the shower feels like someone urinating on you that has prostate problems – just warm enough to feel unsanitary and just enough water pressure to feel like air conditioned drip is falling on you from above. It’s like starring in a scene from Alien whenever you shower.
So after we all half-freshened up and relieved McDonalds and Wendys from our systems we headed to the closest restaurant to the Super 8 – Hooters. The waitress must have smelled the anger, cynicism and general failure of four comics because I have never felt less flirted with by a Hooters waitress in my life. We still left a generous tip because she looked like a young version of Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights.
After Hooters we headed to the Diane Wortham Theater in “downtown” Asheville, but not before some Asheville resident swerved into a puddle (intentionally almost for sure based on its place PARALLEL TO THE SIDEWALK) splashing all four of us (me the most) with some of Asheville’s finest, three day-old puddle water. I then said a humble prayer that the driver of that car find his or her way through their windshield (the haaaard way -Rodney Dangerfield voice).
The DW Theater is beautiful (I knew from last year, but it was the first viewing for my three companions) and the crowd was laughing at everything on the first show. We all got very excited. Only Sam was performing on the second show Friday night (Nick, Adam and I all had spots on Saturday) so we just hoped for his sake that the crowd was as good.
What do you get when you take 350 and subtract 280? The crowd for the second show. Sam had to lead off the show after the “emcee” who resembled Jesse Pinkman’s prostitute friend from Breaking Bad (but with more tattoos) introduced him with – “he’s played the Carolinas” – which was actually Caroline’s in NYC. Sam had a very good set and at least 40 of the 70 people appreciated it. After the show we went out and had ice cream sundaes and drank beer because comedians are both immature and self-loathing. If Nicholas Cage had eaten ice cream to kill himsef instead of drinking alcohol in Leaving Las Vegas it would have resembled my weekend.
Saturday came around and the highlight of the day for Adam and Nick would be performing killer sets Saturday night. In a bit of foreshadowing, my highlight would be seeing Inception Saturday afternoon. Now that is no slouch of a highlight. Inception is a great great movie and you should see it if you have not. But I will explain shortly.
We made a post-movie, pre show trip to Hooters (hey if it’s broken why make the effort to fix it) where we ate chicken quesadillas and talked to the bartender about her 10 month old daughter. I find that before a set of mine it is good to have a conversation with a nice woman who seems to have a somewhat less than great life. If I still feel resentment and hostility towards the world and some women after that then I know I am going to have the right mindset to do comedy. I felt ready.
We headed to the theater and I was to perform first after the intermission. I went out on stage and there was a jazz band playing intro music for every comedian. My first line:
“Give it up for the jazz band. Yeah – jazz, my 11th favorite form of music.” A few comics in the balcony laughed.
I could not see everyone in the crowd, but it was my worst nightmare – it felt like a lot of old people. I guess the theater was having a special – “got to dinner at 4 pm and get half priced tickets to stare at a judgmental as*hole from New York City.”
My first actual joke that I prepared went well enough about shopping at big n tall stores, but it did not go as well as it has the previous 80 times I have told it. Then I did my joke about cougars, butsome loud-mouthed middle aged feminist fu*k kept shouting over my joke, apparently to defend the honor of the women on the Bravo channel from a relatively innocuous joke. In the last part of the joke I ask and answerthe question – “remember what they used to call cougars… uggggggggh.” However, during the pause, the woman who was defending the honor of “cougars,” decided to yell out defiantly, “SWEET!” as in cougars are sweet a/k/a awesome. So when I said “uggggh” it appeared that I was just responding to her with disdain. At that moment, when there was complete silence for my punchline, I was very tempted to stage dive like Axl Rose and at least beat up her male companion if she had one, but instead I just went through my jokes.
Next joke was a 2 minute bit on Facebook photography, which has been doing very well, but when even the children of half your audience aretoo old for Facebook , the joke will fall flatter than usual. I actually did get a big laugh at the end of the joke, but could not leave well enough alone and said with 100% disgust, “Oh, thanks for waking up Asheville.” Crowd lost again.
My jokes from that point on got very consistent laughter, except for the final line of a 2 1/2 minute closing bit, which got nothing after getting lots of laughs throughout the entire bit. So my final words on stage were, “That was the way to end a set poorly.” At least the last line had the Festival producer and the festival headliner, Jake Johannsen, laughing hard backstage.
Now this is when the real fun began. There were some managers and bookers of shows in attendance. And one of the bookers came back stage in between the early show (which I was on) and the later show (which Adam and Nick were on). This booker went and spoke to a few comics exchanging compliments and a desire to get them some bookings. I never even got eye contact from the guy. The best analogy I can think of is when a friend of yours is talking to someone at the bar and he/she has a friend. But the friend has no interest in you so the best he/she gives is sort of a smirky smile and then looks away, which sort of says “Hey I don’t think your an awful person, I just want nothing to do with you.” My experience backstage was whatever would be the level of humiliation after that. Not sure how many bookings I will get form the Festival, but it will probably be between zero and I’m going to call the cops if you email me again.
So the second show Saturday night was a big success as Nick led off the show strong and Adam absolutely murdered it two spots later. So of the four comics that travelled together from NYC, the other three got to be Bosh, LeBron and Wade, and I ironically, as the only one with any minority blood in the water, was Mike Miller. Some of our group even got to speak with a manager from a somewhat reputable agency after the show who offered such insights as “don’t get married, you’ll never regret fu*king a lot,” and “I was chatting up this hot chick tonight. I’m married, but it’s good to see I can still do it.” I am just surprised he was not missed from his Montreal Festival seminar, “Here’s everything that you don’t need to know about comedy, but do need to know about how insecure and regretful I am about my decision to get married and have a family.” I just told the festival producer, Charlie (one of the coolest and nicest guys I have met in comedy) that if I did not see him relatively soon, there was a good chance he’d see me again in several years when I am teaching his kids high school History.
After the show, Sam, Nick and I went to Waffle House at 2 am because I feel it is therapeutic to hit complete rock bottom after a disappointing show. When we were leaving the Waffle House we were approached by a possibly drunk, definitely crazy, man in his late fifties, early 60s with a long white beard, flanked by 3 Latin/light-skinned black guys in their late teens.
Now as a Northern man with a black Dad and an Irish mom there are a few things I fear. 1) The South, 2) Old white men from the south, 3) groups of minority teens wandering parking lots at 2 in the morning. But I learned a new, more powerful fear that night – when an old crazy southern man is hanging out in a parking lot of Waffle House with three minority teens in the south. There is something so prison rape-ish about that combo to me.
So the old man walks up to us and has the following exchange:
Old Man – “You walkin’?”
Me – “No.”
Old Man – “You look like you’re walkin’?”
Me (walking away with Nick and Sam) – “Well yeah, now.”
As we walked away Nick started laughing uncontrollably, but Sam quickly informed us that they were all still looking at us as the old man mumbled something with the word “fu*k” and started angrily mocking Nick’s laugh. It was at that moment that I first imagined what it would be like to star in a re-make of Deliverance. We got back to our rooms and I slept 3 hours that night, both because we were leaving early the next morning and because I feared becoming a victim in The Hills Have Eyes 3.
Nothing much to report the next day – we just drove 14 hours back to the city (90 minute of travel was the Holland Tunnel), ate a bunch of crappy food, discussed comedy (we spent about 4 hours alone mocking comedians who discuss the difference of black people and white people) and just wished for the sweet embrace of death when we arrived back in NYC.
When I got back to Facebook world I got to see all the photos and tweets from all the comics and people from Montreal. Time to start looking at Masters programs in education I guess.
While spending a few hours on Facebook the other day I stumbled on to a discussion on my friend and comedian Nick Cobb’s page. He was asking for a new show recommendation and friends of his were offering suggestions as to what they thought the best show of the last decade was and what the best show currently on is. There were some sensible answers and some real awful answers. Here are some examples and shows that did not make the cut:
House – who are you my parents?
Lost – you are too stupid to appreciate the list I am putting together
Rome and Deadwood – these are the people that in a music discussion of the best band of all time would ignore the obvious rule that you MUST say Rolling Stones or Beatles (my favorite band is Guns N Roses, but my answer would be Rolling Stones). Those who drop Rome and Deadwood – a good and a very good show, respectively – are the people who drop Nirvana in a “best band” discussion. Shut your mouths and just accept that sometimes, like a broken clock, American culture gets it right.
John Adams – it’s a miniseries. read Nick Cobb’s question.
The Mentalist – seriously? CBS is the network that produces dramas to make Jay Leno fans feel smart.
True Blood – a show that like Glee, seemed to realize that their main demographics were women and gays and decided – to hell with writing – we’ll just get everyone on this show in a gym, skimp on story and consistency and still draw ratings as long as we amp up the sex, gore and campiness. Headed down a path of awfulness this season. The real shame is that Alan Ball, who created a television masterpiece in Six Feet Under, is also listed as a creator of True Blood. My guess is that after Six Feet Under he made a ton of money, found himself a trophy wife/husband (no idea what his sexuality is) and after season 1 of True Blood said – “Hey, you are shallow and pretty dumb – wanna write this show for me? Most of it is written in a book already – you will just have to add more breasts, blood and campiness? What’s campiness? Well you know when you think something is good? Right, like Paul Walker or Dexter – just write it with that same feeling.”
Dexter – I made it through one season. Some of the worst acting I have ever seen. Michael C Hall should die poor and be remembered for David Fisher than collect paychecks with that cast of nothings (though I hear John Lithgow was good in later seasons – too bad I give a show one full season to at least entice me. It didn’t).
Special Note – Why I have no faith in Showtime – You may notice that Dexter is the only Showtime show even mentioned by me. That is because Showtime is stupid. Their shows are made with the following concept – can we write one character, line up one credible actor or actress and surround him or her with mediocre writing and acting? Yes, well then we want to make your show! Even USA at least says “CharacterS welcome.” Showtime’s phrase should be “Character welcome as long as long as character brings mediocre humor, drama and/or co-stars.” I hate Showtime in all its forms – Lakers, Cable Television, etc. If HBO, AMC, USA and Showtime all went to school together, HBO would be the Harvard bound quarterback, AMC would be the slightly arrogant and nerdy valedictorian, USA would be the guy who chicks inexplicably liked and Showtime would be a Goth kid. No, it would be the girl that dates the goth kid, but is not goth herself. Loser.
Treme – wake me up from my coma – have they cancelled it yet?
Mad Men– Mad Men to me is once again, like sushi – it is something that lots of people like, but also something that lots of people like to say they like because they want to be people who like things like sushi and jazz and other overrated things. Mad Men is a well done show. But like Treme, Mad Men sometimes feels like a documentary on early 1960s life, which can be somewhat boring. I found Season 3 of Mad Men (until an admittedly great finale) to be an excruciatingly boring endeavor. I often defend shows like The Wire by praising its authenticity, but it helps that there is actually some intriguing plot development to go with the realism.
So here for all of you is the definitive list of what shows from the last 10 years you should watch. It is objectively correct.
1) Six Feet Under – Funny, moving and the most realistic look at relationships and human fears of any show ever made, by far. if the show feels “too gay” for you, rent Queer As Folk, watch it and then re-start Six Feet Under. f the show is too troubling or upsetting for you then it is working. And it is widely and justly considered to have the greatest finale in television history – take that MASH!
2) The Wire– Would be number one, but Six Feet Under is just more personal. If this show is too slow for you, then watch The Shield and consider yourself ignorant. If the show is too black for you, watch Southland and consider yourself slightly racist.
3) Arrested Development – The best comedy I have ever seen. Nothing is actually close, especially this decade. So naturally it only made it three seasons on television. I blame the South.
4) The West Wing– If this show is too political for you, then you are dumb. As impressive as the dialogue, plot and acting is, the details of the show are incredible. To say nothing of the fact that they basically predicted the election of Barack Obama before he had even announced his candidacy.
5) The Sopranos – The first of the Big Three for HBO (Seriously in an 8 year period HBO dropped Six Feet Under, The Wire and The Sopranos on America – to me that will go down as the greatest accomplishment in original television programming). Sopranos, unlike The Wire and Six Feet Under did not quite end in a way that met with its overall impact and quality.
6) Breaking Bad– the best show on television right now by a mile. It is dark, filled with tension and excitement, well acted and yet feels incredibly plausible and realistic at the same time. This is the first drama I have seen that clearly indicates that HBO has dropped the ball recently. Mad Men gets mentioned as the one HBO let get away (especially because that might have meant naked Joan!), but Breaking Bad is so superior to Mad Men it’s a joke. More entertaining without sacrificing anything in terms of writing or acting quality. If the show can finish with way its first three seasons began then it may move towards the top of this list.
I feel I must mention Eastbound and Down (but only 1 six episode season to show so far) and I have not seen In Treatment – an HBO show that has been highly recommended to me. Other than that those 6 shows above will entertain you and raise your expectations for what television can do. Then when you are done with them you will look down on most other people’s television show opinions like only a condescending six-foot-seven comedian can.
Well, today I had an audition for Last Comic Standing. I did two minutes in front of three big time pros: Andy Kindler (very respected comedian), Natasha Leggero (who sort of reminded me of the lead singer of The Bangles – niiiiice) and one of my two favorite comedians, Greg Giraldo (Chris Rock the other).
From the title you can tell that I did not advance and sadly I completely agreed with the judges. However, there is something profoundly crippling when one of your idols in your business tells you, as nicely as possible, that it wasn’t good enough. Sort of like how Michael Jordan ruined Kwame Brown’s career by continually berating him and calling him a “faggot” in practice when he was an 18 year old rookie with the Wizards. Kwame was never a good player after that, though he did his best to dispel the epithet by fathering a starting five and two subs with numerous women (at last check). None of the judges were mean at all – they were quite nice and refreshingly constructive, but I hope that was not because I am almost the size of Kwame Brown and they are not Michael Jordan’s size. I must admit though, that when Giraldo went to speak and I could see from his expression that it was going to be a very lukewarm appraisal it was one of the most painful moments of my career.
I guess I came prepared with a sort of a generic set that may have worked with producers in the past, but with real, genuine comedians of a high order judging, that was a big mistake. It seems whenever I audition for something I play it safe, probably because auditions terrify me.
What is so bitter to take is that this season could be great and come with an extra stamp of legitimacy because of who is judging and selecting. Of course there are funny people who will not make it, but if Greg Giraldo says you are a good comedian, it carries with it some real street cred that Bobby Baccala from The Sopranos (previous celebrity judge) just does not have.
On a plus, they thought my Obama impression was really good. But Giraldo thought the premise surrounding the impression was too convoluted (which as soon as he said it I thought – “of course it is – FU-K!”). As I left Gotham Comedy Club – my brain began to re-work jokes, but not to make a show, but because their advice, even on the two minutes of material, could actually make me a better comedian. I guess if their feedback can help me make my material better then there is a silver lining. It might have been helpful if one of them told me to give up also. Time will tell on that one.
Good luck to Nick Cobb, David Cope, Luke Cunningham, Myq Kaplan and any other friends who have moved on.
This Saturday, while filming The Blind Side 2 trailer, comedian Nick Cobb paid me a rather odd compliment: “When are you going to update your blog? I have been checking every day and no update. Your blog gives me comfort, knowing that no matter how angry I am about comedy, there’s always at least one person who is angrier.”
It’s true I sort of slacked off on the blog posts in February, primarily because I try to write only when I have either a funny idea or something I want to express and February just did not inspire much. Another reason was I was playing far too much God of War. Well, March should be quite different.
First off I will be competing in Comix’ March Comedy Madness, which gives me a 63/64 chance of being disappointed. This tournament used to be held at Caroline’s, but Caroline’s decided to host a different tournament called “Final Four,” which I think will be a similar format. I opted to do only the Comix tournament for two reasons. One is that I did not have to audition since I made the Final Four last year. And second, the last time I showed up for an open call at Caroline’s I waited 5 hours, was then told I did not have to audition and then was never given a spot I was told I was getting (that’s known as the worst of all worlds). And I still have not gotten an email response to a politely worded email requesting an explanation. So in other words, Comix was the default winner for not having treated me like a part time Wal-Mart employee (like battered spouses, comedians set very low thresholds for appreciation by comedy clubs).
It will be an uphill battle at Comix (starting March 10th) mainly because it is almost impossible for me to get people to come see a show of min anymore (crowd determines winner) and because lacking a beard, a disheveled wardrobe, jokes thick with non sequiturs and inside references, as well as an accent or universal circle-jerk approval from sycophantic comedy websites and Time Out NY, I realize that I may not have the success I have had in previous years.
March will also provide an opportunity for me to audition for Last Comic Standing. Sadly, this one I actually have more hope for simply because the potential reward is too big to ignore (it’s like the lotto). So I will audition for that and most likely write a recap on the website. All in all March promises to give me more than enough vitriol to provide you with a good read.
New Year’s Eve is probably my least favorite holiday. I have had a relatively good track record on other trite and annoying holidays in terms of enjoying myself and/or not screwing things up. However, I have managed to have about eight bad New Year’s Eves in the last decade, from sleeping on an assistant coach’s couch in college because I had basketball practice the next day and the dorms were not open yet, to ruining a date a few years later because I passed out from overeating at a steak house, to getting dumped by a fiancee (actually a good New Year’s in hindsight, but you get the idea). In other words, the holiday has been bad luck for me. But thanks to my friend and fellow comic Nick Cobb I was getting a paid gig in New Jersey to perform at a New Year’s Eve show in Sommerset, New Jersey. If anything could break the curse of New Year’s Eve it would be comedy. And along similar lines of thinking, if anything can turn the country around it’s a Sara Palin presidency.
There is no need for a long post here. I got on stage and of the 200+ people I’d say I had the attention of 130 and the approval of about 95. The set was a B- performance and I got a D+ reaction from the crowd. But the Joe Wilson moment of the night came when Danny Rouhier, the emcee for the night asked the crowd after me if they were ready for their headliner, a woman in her mid or late fifties yelled, “Well, is he going to be better than the other guy (me) hahaha?” In other words an old, New Jersey, woman, three things that would generally disqualify her from judging my or most people’s comedy, had just delivered the final word on my 2009.
I have had some humbling moments in comedy, but this may have been the most humbling. So I watched the ball drop and said to myself, “Fu-k this year and fu-k this decade. I’m going to turn my fortunes around starting this New Year’s.” And then the first thing I heard after the ball drop was the DJ cue up “I Gotta Feelin” by the Black Eyed Peas and I had an inauspicious first thought for the decade: “Not this fu-king song again.”
Today I depart for Boston for the semi-finals of the Boston Comedy Festival. Last night I had my own show that I produce and I was excited both for the great lineup we had, as well as the fact that I would be able to do a nice practice run of my set for tonight. Unfortunately, that would not happen. What would happen is that Medgar Evers College would finally be bumped down to #2 on the list of worst gigs I’ve ever performed.
Last night the bar was largely occupied by young members of an ad agency (think Mad Men, but all stupid, unable to handle their alcohol and unattractive) who had been there drinking and playing Wii since early afternoon, since they had a half day. Even in my glass half empty approach to life I thought, hey maybe we could make fans of this group since they work nearby. Instead what we got was a bunch of drunk as-holes.
I managed to get through about 4 minutes of material until I had to deal with the idiots (and they had already ruined 4 people’s sets). There were two main offenders. One was a drunk kid who looked like he was about 19. He managed to make a spectacle during everyone’s set. The other was a slightly older d-bag who would shout random things he thought was funny. For example when I said the word Obama, he shouted “Obama your mama hahahahahaha.” Even when they appreciated the jokes, they would then discuss and argue loudly why the joke was or was not funny.
I felt terrible and embarrassed for the great comics I had come to perform, but fortunately all of them know experiences like this. I was very close to actually pulling the Chazz Palminteri scene from A Bronx Tale, which I ironically just filmed a spoof of, where he locks the bar door and tells them that they can’t leave the bar.
Adding insult to injury, I was talking after the show outside with Nick Cobb when the 19 year old spectacle came outside and started talking to us. So I said to him, “You just ruined our show, but now you are interrupting my life and a private conversation.” Then when I was talking to Nick one of the worker’s from the ad agency, we will call him Token after the South Park character, decided to flex his muscle by saying the following, “Don’t you hate comedians who aren’t funny and make fun of the audience.” At this point he might as well have come into my apartment and taken a sh*t on my bed. Despite actually trembling with rage (my only fear was that I might hospitalize the jerk – I am no fighter, but I am big and like most comics have very little to live for) I managed to utter out the most sensible thing I said all night – “you and your friends ruined the show in there, but now you’ve come outside and disrespected us out here.” Hearing that, and probably seeing the crazed look in my eyes that only occurs during Utah Jazz losses and listening to Sean Hannity, he apologized.
But there it is. Bad audience, but not as bad as Medgar Evers College. But the fact that it happened at my show and nearly resulted in misdemeanor assault charges makes it the worst. All in all, since Monday, this has been the worst string of shows I’ve done (3 “eh” shows on Tuesday, an awful open mic on Wednesday, and a crime against humanity on Thursday). Let’s hope Boston brings me back some good vibes.
There is a happy ending to the Always Be Funny show story though. My friend who part owns the bar where my show takes place left me a voice mail last night. He told me that the drunk 19 year old had torn down one of the bar’s signs in drunken stupidity and thrown it in the bushes outside, so my friend threw him in the bushes, at which point he began crying. The only thing that would have made me happier is if Token had somehow had his jaw broken during this exchange, but even so, maybe it was a sign that my luck was changing at the right moment.
We’ll see – Boston Comedy Festival Semi-Finals tonight at 9 pm – Hard Rock Cafe.