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Road Comedy Recap: Raleigh 2021

As I write this I am sitting in the café car of the Carolinian, the Amtrak route from Charlotte to NYC.  I performed in Raleigh, NC yesterday as part of my “Introduction/Farewell to America” Tour and the trip was well worth it, but not in the traditional sense of worth (e.g. profit, using train bathrooms that do not have The Shining-esque rivers of urine, etc.).  If the train home does not experience any more delays my totals for the last 36 hours will be: 20 hours on Amtrak, $50 profit, 2 college friends caught up with, 1 set that yielded some great things for the special taping in 15 days and a partridge in a pear tree.  With that, let’s break down the details.

The Piss-Dodging, Salad Buying Train to Raleigh

Based on my last experience trying to get home from Philadelphia via Amtrak, taking a 10 hour train trip from Newark to Raleigh with only 2.5 hours to spare before showtime might be perceived as a risk.  After all it took me 5 hours to get home from Philly due to a 4 hour train delay. One of those delays would ruin the show, if you are doing the math.  But the train arrived in Newark on time and 9.75 hours later arrived right on time in Raleigh.  I did lots of comedy writing/fine tuning on the trip down so it was a productive trip, but the real success of the train ride down had nothing to do with punctuality.

Taking a piss as a man on public transportation is a tough proposition, if – and this is a critical if – if you care about the condition of the bathroom once you are finished.  On Too Big To Fail, my 2012 album, I was going through a Greyhound Bus phase where I was taking the bus line to a lot of gigs. I described trying to responsibly piss while on a moving Greyhound bus as the world’s most challenging core workout.  On Amtrak I have perfected a left shoulder lean for balance to get over 95% of the piss in the toilet.  But when I entered the bathroom late morning on this train I could see that someone(s) without my core strength, tactics or ethics had used the bathroom and apparently believed that the toilet was something to be avoided at all costs.  The toilet area was covered in piss. Not a light drizzle or tasteful spritz, but a sloshy amount.  And as I positioned myself for what turned out to be an unexpectedly long piss (hydrate folks!) i noticed that the piss was slowly but steadily moving off the toilet area toward where my New Balance sneaker was positioned.  The was as close as a piss has come to an episode of 24.  This was Indiana Jones yanking his hat at the last minute except in this case it was a stream of stranger urine attacking my sneaker.  Finally my bladder was empty and I pulled my foot back with about 2 seconds to spare.  But the adventures were just beginning.

 

As the train pulled into DC I knew there would be an engine change as there are for all trains departing south or west from DC (when my comedy career finally is declared dead I would like to work for DOT on rail expansion, despite no experience in any related field – consider it payback for SNL allowing Kim Kardashian to host). In an effort to eat healthy I decided to get a salad since I knew there was a Chopt salad in Union Station.  When the train pulled in at 10:49 am I knew I had 19 minutes until the train left for parts south.  I was also in the business class (BALLER) car, which was the last car on a very long train.  But fortune favors the bold so I went in to the station, got myself a kale salad and made it back to the train with 8 minutes to spare.  How was I rewarded? With some guy sitting next to me for the rest of the ride once we arrived in Alexandria, the next stop.

A rare combination of agility and speed to dodge piss and get a salad during an Amtrak to North Carolina

On Amtrak they now do assigned seating for business class. That is fine, except some of these Amcucks don’t realize they can change their seat.  And on top of that, they cannot see who they are selecting a seat next to when they need to choose a seat that is already partially occupied. So while a bunch of small women got to enjoy their entire trip solo, I had some guy cuddled next to me for the last 5 hours of the trip.  Fortunately for both of us I ended up doing a lot of game tape review (watching recent comedy sets where I realized that sets I thought were just decent were in fact outstanding – you are welcome Boston and Philly!) in the café car.

Showtime

I got to the club at 735pm and noticed that there were not many people in attendance.  At 8pm when the host went up I could hear that there weren’t many people, but definitely louder than the few people I had seen when I entered the club.  It was a comparable crowd to the one I had in Philly, which was more expected in Raleigh than it had been in Philly.  The set went well (just reviewed it) and a few bits were off the charts so at least my primary goal of making the best comedy special of 2022 (presumably when it would air or be released)  still feels within reach even though my more immediate goals of happiness and profit seem woefully out of reach.  When you subtract my travel costs from my payout I made $50.  Now, the special makes economic considerations secondary but this felt like what a climate scientist feels when they see a dead coral reef: the future is bleak.

Name looks like Chauvin and sounds like Covid – we’re gonna need a bigger boat (of comped tickets)

One of the highlights for me at the show was the fact that flanking the stage, in identical spaces on opposite sides of the stage were two friends from Williams (they knew each other but had no idea that the other was there until mid show).  Several fans new and old approached me after the show felt great, but I would be lying if it was not particularly nice to hear a fan say “Not afraid of burning in hell” which has become a bit of a catch phrase from Righteous Pk Podcast (my impression of Ron Reagan Jr’s atheism commercials are basically my co-host at this point).  One reason that this new phase of my career feels like the worst is that when featuring you are in a city for a weekend. That allows you to settle in, socialize, etc.  These one and dones are sometimes financially and emotionally deflating, but they always force you into a wham bam thank you ma’am, maybe I will see you in a year if we are lucky existence.  I did get to have a beer with my Williams friends Matt and Pete after, during which I learned that their kids are big fans of my videos. So that was nice to hear, even if I will be dead by the time their kids can legally enter comedy clubs.

Back to New Jersey

When I got on the 10:13 train (currently we are 25 minutes behind scheduled as I type this) – interrupting this for a random musical comment. I don’t know if any artist simultaneously wows me and annoys me more than Celine Dion.  Her version of “I drove all night” just came on my iPod and my God she can sing.  As long as I am not watching her in an interview or during some weird performance I am in awe of her.  Anyway, back to the blog – I get on the business class car and there are 5 people in the whole car.  5.  But guess where one of those 5 people is sitting? Yes – the seat next to mine.  I have no idea why someone would either pick or be assigned a seat next to someone (when I picked my seat a month ago the entire car was empty) but I checked on the Amtrak app and saw there were 7 sets of seats that were completely empty for the entirety of the ride. So I picked one of those. Now that I am done recapping time to go back and read. Just 7 more hours on the train to wonder WTF I am doing with my life. #Blessed

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Road Comedy Recap: Curb Stomping Your Enthusiasm in North…

This weekend I was in Raleigh, North Carolina at Goodnight’s Comedy Club. I am writing this from the cafe car of my Amtrak train (the Silver Star, which originates in Miami, so other than licking a toilet seat in Brazil there are very few places I would expect to carry Zika more than this train) and trying to remember that the week was a strong one – worked with solid comics, saw two good movies, sold some CDs, indulged in some Chick Fil-A (in North Carolina, which I have dubbed a “bigotry Inception”) and was able to relax a little bit.  However, 93 Uber rides, a horrible hotel breakfast, one female heckler and her emasculated husband and an elderly obese woman blaming me for her fall on this train 30 minutes ago have forced me to temper my happiness about the trip.  So with that tease let’s get into the details of another road trip with America’s favorite Middle Man Road Recapper.

Thursday – Hotel, Motel… Best Western?

I woke up early on Thursday, said goodbye to my girlfriend and Cookie (my dog, I packed several “Complete Cookies” – vegan, protein cookies that my girlfriend calls “Bro Cookies” because they are sold at GNC) and headed for the Carolinian, the 7:05 am train that leaves NY Penn Station for North Carolina.  I managed to secure a seat by myself until Richmond, VA, which on a packed train is pretty great.  I read a little bit, wrote my next sketch (filming Friday and going up 10 days before the first presidential debate) and generally felt like a freedom rider in the 1960s (there  were 3 white people and a bi-racial giant in my car to go with 80 black people and 54 bare feet.  I played spirituals on my iPod to complete the ambiance.

When I arrived in Raleigh only an hour late (5:30pm) I got an Uber thinking I had hotwire.com’d the same hotel I had been in 2 years ago.  For those of you that don’t play travel Russian Roulette on Hotwire.com (or as I will call it after this trip THOTwire.com), you put in your location and the website gives you discounted rates for hotels within a distance range – but to get the discounted rates you don’t know the name or exact location of the hotel.  4 out of 5 times it is a great deal and very convenient.  However to get the $54/night rate (#ComedyMogul) I picked a hotel in a 0.2 miles-5.0 miles range from the club.  Well, this was the 5th time because the hotel was 4.7 miles from the club – so that would mean Uber back and forth every night.  But if you add up the rate of the hotel I stayed at last time (Days Inn – #ComedyMogul) I still saved about $19 when you subtract the Ubers from the increased nightly price so basically I gamed the system again, if you don’t factor in the mental cost of inconvenience.  Sadly their continental breakfast sucked, but for $54 a night I guess I should be thankful that they had anything. #Blessed

Raleigh North = Nowhere near where you need to be in Raleigh

Thursday night’s show was fun. The headliner was Jon Reep, who I actually voted for on his season of Last Comic Standing many years ago, and 6’7″ emcee Brent Blakeney, who I worked with the last time I was in Raleigh (the Duncan-Robinson of opening acts), but this time we did not have to babysit Iliza Schlesinger’s dog in the green room. The show went well, though it was the only crowd for the week that wasn’t packed.  But I did make one pity sale of a CD to an older woman. That pity money then went to pay for a depression donut at the Dunkin Donuts near my hotel (the only thing within walking distance to my hotel – I would end up eating half of their inventory by Sunday morning).

TGIF

Friday would be the peak of the trip on all fronts, except CD sales.  I woke up, thought about going to the hotel gym, and after burning 3 calories thinking about it I opted instead to do a double feature at the movie theater. I got an Uber and ate at the aforementioned Chick Fil A and then saw Hands of Stone and Don’t Breathe. Check my positive reviews of both here:

The shows that night were great.  Packed crowds, big laughs, etc.  In other words nothing really fun to recap happened. I did get a celebration milkshake at Dunkin Donuts (technically it is a DD/Baskin Robbins, but DD is doing all the heavy lifting for that mediocre ice cream – the milkshake was weak).

Saturday – “If AIDS and Cancer had sex on this stage right now it would be more enjoyable than what you are doing”

During the day I sat in my hotel room doing a marathon of The Good Wife on Amazon Prime (solid show – 15 eps through season 1; I would have called the show The Nice Lawyer).  I then made my way to the club. The first show was hot despite a few woman making their voices heard too much (one woman said “oh come on” in disappointment about 7 times in the first 11 minutes of my set and a couple of younger ladies kept trying to get me to recognize them by overreacting with “awwws” at some punchlines. But overall – great first show.  Then the second show happened.

There are sad and tragic moments in American History concerning black men that are too legion to count. From slavery to Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin America has a plentiful history of destroying black men. I would like to add another black man to that tragic roster.  There was a Latin woman who kept talking and repeating lines and clapping off the beat of the jokes. At best she was horribly distracting, at worst she should be first on Trump’s deportation squad list.  I probably spent 12 of my final 22 minutes on stage in North Carolina dealing with her. I pledged to the crowd that I was going to join ISIS and after I completed my one target mission I would retire from jihad.  I ripped this woman so many ways and nothing worked (also here is a popular blog I wrote in 2013 about female hecklers).  And even more disappointing was that her husband or boyfriend, a strong looking black man (physically strong, obviously he had been mentally broken) had said nothing or never tried to intervene or calm her down or drown her in a bathtub.  Now in fairness to Stephen from Django, she was a Latin woman and that is right after cookies as my life kryptonite , but at some point you have to step up and be a cis-hetero-normative male, no matter how good the salsa is. The entire crowd roared every time I crushed her and the biggest laugh I probably got all week was when I morphed into Trump and gave her a “Get her out.”  On Twitter and Facebook I said this man’s performance was “the weakest by a black man since Charles Smith against the Bulls.” (The above quote is one of many things I said to her by the end of my set). Here are just a couple of still shots from me scolding the woman:

Please shut up
Seriously, shut up!

After the second show I sold some more CDs and was treated like a hero by most of the crowd.  But those good tidings simply meant that the comedy gods had something negative in store for me before leaving North Carolina, because no comedy journey ever ends well…

Sunday – The Fall Guy for the Fallen Lady

Just 2 hours ago at the writing of this sentence I arrived at the Raleigh train station.  I boarded the train and was told to take seat 3. I saw an obese elderly woman sitting in seat 4, but she had books and a tray of snacks in seat 4. I then said “Hey, that is my seat – they assigned me to it.” She then started saying she could move back (her scooter was in front of seats 1 and 2), but I did not understand that seat 4 was not her seat (why would I assume an obese/handicapped woman would park her chair somewhere other than the seat she is sitting in?) so I just waited for her to move the snacks so I could sit down. She then got out of the seat and shuffled/struggled to walk over to seats 1 and 2. At this point half the car is staring at me like I am the bus driver telling Rosa Parks to move, even though that is not what I intended. Also I am now blocking about 12 passengers from making it to their seats.  A guy the size of Luke Cage then tells me he is in seat 4 (why Amtrak paired 6’7″, 280 lbs with 6’3″, 230, when the people paired behind me had the combined weight of Tom Hanks at the end of Philadelphia is a mystery to me). As I was sliding out of the way of Luke the fall heard around the Amtrak world occurred.  The old lady fell spilling coffee and juices.  Luke and I helped her up to her seat and then a conductor came up to her to see if she was OK. She then explained that (pointing to me) “He HAD to have that seat so I got up.”  I tried to get support from Luke Cage, but between elderly black woman and guy who looks like he co-owned the pizza shop in Do The Right Thing I think his support for my predicament was tepid at best.

My train buddy is not on my side

So now I sit in the cafe car on my way home blogging instead of being treated like the Bull Connor of Amtrak in my seat.  The good news is I will be back on Amtrak tomorrow headed to Albany to do voice work as Donald Trump, so I just need to remember my German Sheppard and fire hose in the morning.

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