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Road Comedy Recap: The Gig That Broke Me

This morning, on 3 hours sleep (we will address that later) I finished reading Michael Lewis’ new book The Premonition. It is a book about some select people, much like those featured in his book The Big Short, who had a combination of outside-the-box thinking, instinct and intellect to know something bad was coming. In The Big Short it was the financial crisis underpinning The Great Recession. In The Premonition it was the current pandemic.  I know that Lewis will never write a book about me, but I feel like I have some of the same gifts for anticipating doom and gloom, with one caveat: I can only really predict them for myself.  And a day after going on an exhausting, infuriating trip to my nephew’s soccer game (this week’s Righteous Pk Podcast is dedicated to that story – go have a listen), the soccer game misadventure would pale in comparison to the Sunday experience I had going to, and coming back from, Philadelphia.  So let’s get to it.

Christian Rock Lyft

I was headlining Helium in Philly on Sunday night at 7pm.  The good news seemed in abundance. It was one of my 2 favorite clubs in the country, the Eagles were not playing Sunday and the last time I performed at Helium to record my album Thots and Prayers, I sold 100 tickets on a Wednesday.  So my cautious optimism was that I would at least meet that number given my exponential boost in fame and the fact that it was at least a weekend day, if not the worst day of the weekend. I sold 150 tickets on a Monday in Boston, so Philly on a Sunday shouldn’t be a problem I thought.  Now of course, I slept poorly the night before the show and felt my heart racing all day.  See, when I say that comedy is bad for my health I mean that quite literally.  When you entire career has been a fight to get your talent recognized and every legit milestone of your career exists as an isolated incident instead of accumulating as momentum building events, every gig that presents an opportunity for money, a relationship with a club chain, etc. takes on extra weight because of the overwhelming feeling of “these opportunities are infrequent at best.”

So I ordered a Lyft to take me to Newark Penn Station, the world’s worst train station. My driver arrived and began blasting Christian pop-rock.  I like Church and I like rock, but rarely do I like the combination.  First off, how many songs can you just have about Jesus’ love?  I mean that with all due respect – all 10 songs I seemed to hear seem to come from the same single idea with little variation.  There appears to be almost no daylight between a vaguely Christian pop song and a parody of a Christian pop song.  And the radio station said they had pastors on call if people wanted to call in. I found it all sort of humorous, but the driver was not just enjoying the music – he knew the words and was adding percussion on his steering wheel.  And then we passed a homeless man in traffic looking for money and Dominican Joel Osteen behind the wheel just gave him the Jordan shoulder shrug.

My driver had 55 minutes to get me to Newark Penn, which according to GPS was a 13 minute trip. Well DJO opted to avoid the highway (which was clear) for a series of side streets all the way to the station, We still got there with 18 minutes to spare, but I sort of felt like I was being taken the long way to see if the music of Imagine Jesus Dragons could work its magic on me.

Back in Philadelphia

When I arrived in Philly, on time at 435pm, I walked by the club to see my face.  Two things I noticed. One, the club used The Late Late Show as my credit. Perfectly legit, even though most people know me from other, more recent things. But multiple clubs have insisted on including “with Craig Ferguson.”  Would there be a violation of comedy law if we fooled people into thinking my stale late night credit might be from James Corden’s era?  Is Corden going to sue in Musical Theater Court if someone doesn’t make it clear that I was not on his iteration of the show?  The second thing I noticed was the Sonja Morgan of The Real Housewives of NY would be headlining the club a week after me.  I have often told my girlfriend, more anecdotally than with hard data, that when she watches 4 different real housewives’ shows she is supporting the reality show industry which boosted cheap shows starring talentless turds at the expense of more scripted material that before streaming might have been an opportunity for struggling writers and comedians.  I am not saying that reducing scripted shows by half in the 2000s would have directly led to me personally having a boost, but you get that in the aggregate, someone like me might have had more bites at the apple.  But I never meant it in a literal, direct sense. But thanks to sharing a marquee with Sonja Morgan I see that my journey of 18 years in comedy has been worth all the effort and that I am now in direct competition with Sonja Morgan (as singers must compete with Countess Luann’s bars on “Money Can’t Buy You Class”).

The Real Comedian of Bloomfield and the Real Housewife of NY

So now my premonition of doom was bordering on full blown panic.  I went to a nearby Barnes and Noble to finish mapping my set and then went to Shake Shack for a chicken sandwich. Then I went to the club.  With about 15 minutes until showtime my fears were confirmed. I was not going to get close to the crowd I had 3 years ago.  I went into the green room and chatted with the emcee and feature (who both did well) and apologized for the less than stellar crowd.  That is when in a corner of my mind I entered a dark place – if my crowd is reduced by half, after a period when I exponentially increase my fan base, then what has really been accomplished? Other than a Greek Tragedy-level dose of social media-induced delusion.  My goal, of course, is not to be an Internet G-list celeb; it is to be a headlining comedian.  But that requires translating Internet money and followers into asses in seats.  Somehow I did what felt impossible – I turned a fan base 40x bigger than in 2018 into a crowd 50% smaller.

Now before you worry about whether I should be sharing this in an industry that prides itself on false confidence and ass kissing, my crowds in DC and Boston were great.  So it is not like I have been travelling and eating dogshit. But, like many comedians, I can be a prisoner of the moment and because of my several successes in Philadelphia at Helium, it felt particularly depressing to have my smallest crowd in 10 years performing there (including 2 album recordings on Wednesdays when I was obviously the headliner).

The Healing Power of Fans

So I did my set. It went well. My shirt was soaked with sweat, which had less to do with heat and more that I felt like I was fighting off career failure with every joke I told. I greeted fans after the show and they were great. There were social media fans, there was a guy who has first saw me during my first feature week in 2011 and has been a dedicated fan ever since (he told me that when my stuff blew up in 2020 he was indignant on my behalf “you need to check out his stuff! He’s been funny for a long time!”).  And then a fan/friend via social media, Doug, postponed his return trip to the Netherlands to come to the show.  I bought him a milkshake at Shake Shack after for his troubles (as another fan knows – if you travel on a 6 hour+ flight to see me do a show, I will hang out and buy food/drink after – not a great deal admittedly).  So as I walked back to 30th street station, having sold merch and met many kind, generous and effusive fans I felt so much better. One of the silver linings of having a fan base that is not too large is that you get to feel and appreciate their support up close.  From a business perspective sure, it would be better to have a fan base of millions, but when the fans you have can make it personal it makes it easier to be appreciative and stop feeling mopey because one show was financially disappointing.

And then all the good feelings were eviscerated.

The Soul Killing Power of Amtrak

I arrived at 30th Street Station at 1010pm for my 10:28pm train – the Palmetto, which travels from Georgia to NY.  The train was listed as 20 min delayed. No big deal. But on further examination of the arrival/departure board included trains that were supposed to arrive at 718pm and 802 pm from south of Philly as delayed still.  For the next hour, I watched how every ten minutes, ten more minutes was added to the Palmetto departure time.  I checked to see what a Lyft would cost from Philadelphia to Bloomfield (the non-Christian rock, local road option) and it was $134 before tip.  Had I made a killing at the club it would have been a no brainer, but instead I decided to wait for my train.

At 1145pm an announcement was made that all northbound trains were delayed with no addition information. At that moment a mouse ran around near me, presumably trying to get a Lyft before the surge pricing kicked in. I then checked Lyft and it was $220 before tip.

Interesting J-L Jinx sidebar here – the club offered me a hotel. I turned it down because I wanted to be able to start work on Monday morning. Well, as it turns out I do not currently have an assignment, so staying the night in Philly would have had no negative impact on my day job.

30th Street Station Nightmare

At 1215 there was an announcement that the trains north of DC have begun to move and the first one would arrive in 45 minutes.  No word on the Palmetto.  After the 718 train arrived at 1245am, the next train was announced (the 802pm would be here at 105 am).  The station then announced “if you are on the Palmetto your tickets will be honored on this train.” I considered waiting for my train where I would have a reserved seat to myself to maybe nap for the hour back to Newark, but then the Amtrak employee shouted  – “Train 90 can board this train” (that is the number of the Palmetto) so I figured he was emphasizing as a courtesy. So I went down the stairs at 105 am and boarded the 802pm train.  And then we waited.  Multiple trains pulled into the station after, discharged riders and continued north as we sat idle.  An hour later (and as it turns out 35 minutes after the Palmetto had come and gone without me) it was announced that we were waiting for a crew change. My guess is that a train crew cannot continuously operate a train for beyond a set period of time and perhaps the 5+ hour delay necessitated a crew change by union rule.  Well at 215am we finally got to leave. I had the all-nighter chills and shakes, so I probably looked right at home as I arrived at Newark Penn station at 320am, a tidy 45 minutes after the Palmetto had swung through.

I caught a cab and arrived home at 345am to be greeted by Cookie. I put on my eye mask (my bedroom is disturbingly bright in the morning, which is not usually a problem since I cannot sleep past 5am), caught 3.5 hours of quality sleep and woke up wondering if I can continue doing comedy.  Fans are one thing, but 6 hours for a one hour Amtrak trip in the middle of night might be the most powerful, negative force known to man.  The good news for you readers who like miserable comedy writings: I am Amtrak-ing to Raleigh (10 hours each way) in a week and a half to headline Goodnight’s Comedy Club. God help us all (in Christian Rock voice).

P.S. – as soon as I published this by Twitter mentions were blowing up because SNL had announced it hired a new Trump impersonator for the upcoming season. It was not me.  Amtrak actually does not feel so bad anymore!  Good luck to all the new cast members.

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Road Comedy Recap: Do You Even Lyft on Juneteenth…

This weekend I celebrated Juneteenth in Levittown, Long Island, opening for the great Roy Wood Jr.  I feel like that sentence alone packs so much I could just end the blog there, but as a sign of progress Levittown did not move to another town once Roy and I arrived.  Any set of gigs in Long Island can be a pain for someone commuting from New Jersey  because you have to coordinate two different train systems. Door to door it is just as fast to fly to Denver as it is to go from Newark to Levittown via the NJ Transit-LIRR double trouble.  Rule of Thumb – if your commute consists entirely of populations that like to include “strong” as a description of, or moniker for their community, you are in for an inefficient commute.  Roy was gracious enough to ask me to open for him when we were both on the same bar show in April, so no amount of awful infrastructure was going to stop me from saying yes.  So here we go!

 

Friday: Only a Historic, Catastrophic Basketball Loss Could Ruin This Night!

On Friday, in honor of Juneteenth Observed, I went out early to see my friend Brian.  We had burgers at some well regarded burger stand in Massapequa, where the price of items had apparently been frozen since 1983.  Tasty and cheap, I picked up the tab, assuring Brian that thanks to my web cam girl side hustle I could cover our combined $1.14.

 

We then made our way to Governor’s Comedy Club.  Only one show on Friday and I crushed it. It was a good thing I did because a friend and colleague that I have not seen since March showed up with some friends and realized I was not just “I hate work, so the guy who sits near me is funny” level funny, but funny funny.  A recurring theme of my career for the last 6 years – fans of The Black Guy Who Tips showed up (to 2 of the 3 shows over the weekend, more for Roy than me, but still for me too) and my favorite type of fan also showed up Friday: The “I did not know you were going to be here, but I follow you and am a big fan” fans.  Once again, thank you social media algorithms for rendering my fan base a total crap shoot.

 

After selling a few USB cards (all 6 of stand up albums are on one USB card that I sell), Brian gave me a ride to the LIRR.  The 10:29 back to NY Penn would give me breathing room (i.e. Haagen Dazs kiosk milkshake drinking time) before the 1141pm train home.  When I exited the train in Penn the Utah Jazz, my favorite team for 34 years, was winning 72-50 at halftime, on the road.  My former doorman texted me a gif of Jordan Clarkson. My girlfriend texted me “jazzzzzzzzzz,” which meant the Jazz were either winning or falling asleep.  Then, like all things NJ transit touches, the Jazz game went to shit as soon as I got on NJ transit (but my doorman friend and girlfriend jinxing it deserves some blame as well).  By the time I exited the train 29 minutes later in Bloomfield, NJ the Jazz were up 2 points going into the 4th quarter.  I arrived home in time to see one of the worst quarters of basketball in franchise history and watch my team’s season end.  However, I felt a small sense of relief.  I had one less place to story my anxiety and stress so I ended up getting an above average 6.5 hours of sleep that night.  It also obscured the fact that Jazz legend John Stockton had recently come out as an an anti-covid vax type weirdo.  June 18th should just be known as Black Friday for the Jazz organization (which is also what most people in Utah call the movie Friday, to distinguish it from Joe Friday in Dragnet).

 

Saturday – Can a Half Black Man Catch a Cab in Long Island?

On Juneteenth I headed out to Long Island early because the NJ transit trains are every other hour in my town on the weekends. So I left Bloomfield and eventually arrived in Hicksville, Long Island (a 9 minute drive from the club) at 5:01pm.  I saw that there was a Chick Fil-A a ten minute walk away so I went for some Christian chicken before the show.  Once I was finished I figured I could kill time until 6:10 before getting a cab for the 7pm show.  Well, no Lyfts were available.  So I walked back to the train station which has an old school cabby depot. No cabs available. So as I began to feel nervous about not making it to the club on time (I don’t have Uber on my phone, but apparently they are easier to get on Long Island, presumably because people on Long Island think it is “gay” to spell Lyft with a Y.  So, after contacting the club and the emcee I was able to hop a ride with Roy when his train arrived at 6:55 and we arrived shortly before the show began, albeit beginning about 15 minutes late.  The early show Saturday was the only show I was not happy with my performance. It was fine, but the other two were a lot better.  I think part of it was the 240% humidity combined with the stress of rushing to the club had me sweating like Ron Burgundy when he is racing back to the news station in Anchorman.

 

After the show, in addition to more The Black Guy Who Tips fans, I was greeted by a couple that was quoting my Lincoln Project ads back to me. But they were not following me on social media, nor did they know I would be there.  More accidental fans!  But more hilarious, though out of respect for Roy I will be cryptic, was what went on between the shows.  Let’s just say I do not envy the part of Roy’s success that leads to potential Hustle and Flow encounters:

 

The second show went well (I am resisting my usual video posting this year because I really want a lot of my bits to be new for most people when I record in October) and then I rode to LIRR with Roy.  Here is where the story gets interesting.

 

Because of the weird train schedules, Roy offered me a hotel if I needed one.  I said I would take one Saturday so that I could stay until the end of the 2nd show and not worry about missing the last NJ train out of NY Penn.  But for some reason, most hotels in the vicinity of the club were all booked, so the best option was a hotel that looked nice to me on the web in Jamaica, Queens (PSA: the Internet is deceptive). Roy’s assistant booked it and I thanked her.  The good news, on top of the catfish hotel photos, is that it was a quick walk from LIRR in Jamaica, which would also facilitate a quick departure in the morning.  Here, in bullet point form, is the rest of my trip (you know I got home safe because this blog is being written Sunday night):

  • Exit LIRR at 1am on Sutphin Boulevard. Look around and see some working folk and some ne’er do wells.  One way looks well lit and the other turn looks like an invitation to go out like Bruce Wayne’s parents.  Of course the GPS points me toward the darkened, abandoned street for 3 blocks.
  • When I arrive at my hotel, the lobby is not air conditioned.  There are two women who look like Snoop from The Wire sitting in the lobby with t-shirts that say “Security.”
  • The guest check in area is behind thick glass (this felt more like bullet protection than Covid protection)
  • I get my room on the 2nd floor and head up.  As I walk down the hallway of this fairly busy hotel I see a couple exit the room at the end of the hall. They seem sort of awkward. I could not tell if this man and woman were a couple or just the occupants of the room for a couple of minutes but they stood at the end of the hall as I approached. At this moment my math was “40% chance she’s a prostitute, 40% chance they are a couple and 20% chance they are a couple and are about to attempt a push-in robbery as soon as I tap my key card.”
  • They did not. I entered my room and proceeded to do my final Father’s Day Cameo (feeling that it might represent my final work). Went to bed at 2:30. Woke up at 6:30 and left at 710 for the 7:22 LIRR to Penn Station.  The night clerk was still up and gave me a look like “leaving so early? Were you not satisfied with your floor’s whore services?”

 

Fun weekend. Lots of reading on trains. Worked with one of the best in the business. And lived to write about it.

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Road Comedy Recap: Storming The States Near The Capitol

17 years ago I graduated from Georgetown Law and like the cicadas I just made a triumphant return to the DC area for 3 nights of shows.  It was a weekend of fancy Amtrak accommodations, reading on benches in shopping malls, heckles from plastic surgeons, hotel curtains that would not close, Cheesecake Factory, great comedy and a truly unique experience in my almost 18 year comedy saga: meeting fans. So without further adieu, here it is folks.

Thursday – Amtrak Luxury and a Fake News Summit in Arlington

Newark Penn Station is the closest Amtrak station to where I live, but it is also a disgusting place. So even though going to New York Penn would add time to my trip, I would also be able to luxuriate in the revamped Amtrak lounge in NY, one of the centerpieces of the new Moynihan Train Station.  As a Select Plus member of Amtrak (baller) I get access there for any Amtrak trip I take.  And it did not disappoint.  Unlike other Amtrak lounges on the east coast, rather than some Rold Gold pretzels and leftover Sara lee danishes, the new lounge has a full bar (well at least coffee bar), dozens of premium snacks and treats, beautiful, spacious seating and slaves fanning you. I ended up having a tea and two packs of Lorna Doones (I eat not for the job I have, but for the job that my great-grandfather wanted).

The NY Penn Amtrak lounge is a masterpiece. Seriously.

After I finished watching the complimentary gladiator matches in the lounge I made my way to my Accela to DC. I read 50 pages in Rick Perlstein’s Reaganland (leaving me with only 4200 pages left) on the way to DC and then took the Metro out to Tyson’s Corner, VA (which now looks like a whole new city) after arriving.  I checked into my Hilton hotel (as I told the crowds I like my hotels the way I like my sex tapes) and then made my way to O’Sullivan’s in Arlington for two shows.

Several fans showed up for both shows, but the true highlight (with no disrespect to my fans or the father of one of my college hoops teammates who showed up) was Jonathan Martin of the New York Times coming through for the first show.  Since most of our discussion was off the record I will not reveal all of the details of our hang out in between shows, but I will say this – everyone deserves to be loved the way Jonathan Martin loves my Mike Pence impression. Here is a brief transcript of a moment I will share.

J-Mart: You know Trump really did say to Pence “You can be a patriot or you can be a pussy.”

J-L (in Pence voice): Well Mr. President, I can assure you that the last thing I want to be anywhere near is a pussy.

*JM laughing hysterically*

J-L (in Pence voice): I won’t even go into seafood restaurants.

*JM almost falls out of chair laughing*

Friday – Mall Reading and Brewery Comedy

Crush on a show, get a mask

Friday was the type of day I had been missing for a year and a half. Walking around a new city, sitting around reading and just feeling relatively care free.  Of course the day began unexpectedly due to my hotel curtains.  There are two types of hotel curtains.  One type I call scissoring curtains – where you just try to bring together two separate sets of curtains to the middle and smush them together, in hopes of sealing them shut.  The other type are the “am I in there?” curtains – where you drag one curtain all the way across and try to seal it against the wall so no daylight seeps through. Well. at 7am, after 4 hours of sleep, I woke up thinking I had left a light on. In fact, the curtain had about 1/3 of an inch of daylight coming through, which was a sensation can only be described as “nuclear blast outside of my hotel window.”

Friday I ate at Shake Shack for lunch (their chicken sandwich is far superior to their overrated burgers) and read some more Reaganland (somehow I now have 4700 pages left – I think pages actually get added as you read it).  The mall Starbucks seating was closed so I had to drink my coffee and read my book just sitting outside of a random women’s clothing store, which after about 90 minutes, struck me as possibly creepy.  I then headed to Twinpanzee Brewery in Sterling, VA for the Friday show.  Unlike Thursdays shows, where I felt a tad rusty, the set Friday was great, which was good because my girlfriend’s friends all went to that show and there are only two things you don’t want your girlfriend’s friends to see you do on the road in this order: 2) making out with a sidepiece and 1) doing badly on stage.

Saturday – Coffee Shop Greatness (a J-L coffee is extra light with a dark roast if Java Nation wants to make a beverage named after me)

Saturday I had lunch with my buddy Ross at the Cheesecake Factory.  Even though I could feel Type II diabetes forming in real time it still felt like the right fuel for the last two shows of the week.  Then it was time for the shows at Java Nation in Rockville.  I think the best way to share with you what went on is through bullet points (because I am tired and need to do other stuff):

  • First show – a group of plastic surgeons who were drunk were disrupting my set.  At one point I told one “fu*k your mother” simply hoping he might attack me so he could be removed.  This was the only low light of the evening.
  • This was the clip 2 minutes after the f your Mom comment. This is now my gold standard for quickest turning a crowd around in my career:
  • Several fans told me after show how excited they were to see me in person, how I helped them get through 2020 and (most important for my future) how great a stand up I am.
  • Show Two was surgeon free and was incredible. My set was great, but I was blown away by the audience.
  • One fan told me that he had lost multiple family members during Covid and that my comedy had really helped him.
  • A fan who had seen me my last time in DC (2018?) came to the show with a friend who had independently discovered me through my videos (nice to have those two worlds collide).
  • Last, but not least – 5 members of a family flew from Ohio on Saturday to see me on the late show (and then flew back the next day). They were incredible fans, but as much as they enjoyed my comedy I must say seeing them all together having so much fun as a family really warmed my heart, or whatever part of my heart has not been destroyed by the comedy industry and the cheesecake factory.  After so many years, it felt truly incredible to have people showing such great and meaningful support to my comedy.
  • I also had a message on my phone after the 2nd show from a fan who had recently lost their father. I had done a cameo for the Dad a little while back and this person told me they were watching it and getting a good and needed laugh.  Needless to say that was powerful, especially on a night that already meant so much to me. It becomes a lot harder to gripe about industry slights when the people who actually buy your stuff are so connected and supportive (though I will double my efforts to still gripe if that is what it takes).

Sunday – Back to NJ

The next day as I waited for my train back home I gave two homeless people $10 each (one did a double take and the other one tried to hug me (I kissed her with tongue since the CDC said I was safe). I was only going to give them $1 each but then I opened my wallet and $10s were the lowest denomination I had (baller) and once you open up the wallet it would take a real piece of shit to say “just kidding!” to some desperate folks.

So my first real road comedy trip in a year and a half was an incredibly satisfying experience. Thanks to everyone who came out and who helped organize the shows (Jon and Gil).  If you want to know where I will be each month, sign up for my monthly newsletter (bottom of my home page) and if you like me talking and joking about comedy life – be sure to follow Righteous Pk podcast (just click on podcast above).

And if you were wondering, Cookie was hanging out with her human cousins over the weekend loving life:

Cookie Cauvin on watch
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Road Comedy Recap: Magnolia (NJ)

After not being on stage since February 2020 I finally got back on stage last night.  Etch April 27, 2021 into the comedy history books.  Before 2020, my road comedy recaps were a regular part of my existence – write ups of all my road work to report the highlights and lowlights of doing the road as a middle act.  Well after an unexpectedly successful 2020 I now begin writing road recaps as a headliner.  I consider 2013, the year I dropped the double barrel release of the Louis CK parody video and Keep My Enemies Closer to be the year (my 10th in comedy – when it is cliché to say that a comedian has found their voice) that I was ready to headline and take comedy by storm.  Obviously comedy, unlike Q, was not ready for the storm.  Fast forward I was asked by a friend to headline his room in Magnolia, NJ in February and I asked for the last Tuesday of April because it was 3 days after my birthday and I figured if I was not vaccinated (as an essential fat person I assumed I would be high on the list) by April 27th we were all fu*ked.  Well I got my second Moderna shot on April 9th and two weeks later I was good to go – 4 days before the show.  So with that preamble, let’s get to what may be the first road recap for many of you.

Greyhound Bus – Superspreaders of All Varieties 

I have a bit on Too Big To Fail about Greyhound so go listen to that for more of my opinions on Greyhound, but Greyhound was my best way to get to the gig (meeting my friend and show booker in Atlantic City to then ride to the bar in Magnolia, NJ). I arrived at Port Authority at 215pm for a 3pm bus. On my way from Penn Station (The Godfather to Port Authority’s Godfather II, in terms of homelessness and human tragedy in NYC) to PABT I witnessed 4 drug deals on 34th street in the span of 30 seconds (NYC is BACK!) and a young Asian man trip so bad that I admonished the sidewalk to #StopAsianHate.  I got to PABT and bought an iced tea and a bag of pretzels. I scarfed them down on line for my bus because I figured the safest way to take what appeared to be a crowded Greyhound bus to Atlantic City was to not remove my mask at all during the trip.

When I got my seat I was happy to see that I had a seat to myself. There were a few other seats available, all next to people smaller than me (at 6’7″ and a PED, pandemic enhancing diet, inflated 300 lbs it would be tough to find someone bigger) so I got ready to read my Rick Perlstein book (Reaganland). And then one more person got on the bus.

He walked to the back of the bus but then made his way to me and just stood next to my seat. I was listening to music, but I looked up and asked “do you want this seat?” comfortable that his answer would be no. He said yes.  My good vibes were gone.  I began questioning my life, life choices and why, in a life that seems to deliver near hits and catastrophic failure, why the small comfort of a book and a seat on a Greyhound bus proved too tall an order for the transportation gods to complete (I know, I am being to dramatic and pessimistic, but where the fu*k do you think I dig for my insightful, aggressive, resentful brand of comedy?).  He sat next to me and my right thigh began a 2 hour sweat like it was the debate stage chest of Tulsi Gabbard.  But now, like Israel I could tell I had enemies all around me.  The couple across from me both had their masks around their chins having a conversation.  Do people think they are going to fool the bus driver?  Like if he stops the bus and turns around to make sure people are complying they can flip it up like a Looney Tunes cartoon?  This is for us!  I asked them to put their masks on and they did (REAL LIFE INFLUENCER KIDS). Two seats behind them a guy was enjoying what looked like a casino buffet with his mask down and the thighmaster next to me began snoring through his exposed nose (mouth only covering still seemed like a win given what my other neighboring nations-seats were offering.  I put my book away and just listened to my iPod the rest of the way.  But one thing was clear: stand up still had plenty of suck left in it for Comedy’s Sisyphus.

Magnolia, NJ

My buddy and show booker Steve picked me up in Atlantic City and we drove to the Laughing Fox Tavern in Magnolia, NJ. The place was very nice with a very nice lounge/clubby area downstairs where the show would be.  I had a pulled pork sandwich and coffee and went over my set. The crowd started filling in and it ended up being (I think) a socially distanced capacity crowd. My set was meh.  My material is great and was delivered decently for the most part (and in the 50 minutes, about 90% new material from 2020-21), but I had to look down at my stool (the chair, not the one I needed to take after pulled pork and coffee) so my polish was not there.  The energy in the room was supportive, but a little weird.  But when I am not in full command of my material I tend to be lower energy (Jeb!) and I think that informs the crowd’s reaction.  I am not a comedian that says “the crowd is never to blame.” As you can imagine I am the type of comedian that is very willing to apportion blame when it is due (my next/first tour should be called “The Personal Responsibility Tour”), but in this case I think it was a crowd that could have been gotten, but I was not near the top of my game.

The really good news was that several new fans showed up to the gig!  I spoke with them after and then road back with Steve to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. I waited for an hour for the midnight Amtrak (ate 2 donuts and recorded a YouTube video in the station because at some point you become a 42 year old man/comedian who cares not for their health or how the other patrons stare at you as you speak like a former president (I was doing my Coolidge impression)).

Home Sweet Home

When I arrived in Newark I hopped in a cab (nice thing about a 130am cab ride in Newark is that they will not gouge you – same price as a Lyft without the wait and mystery.  And whenever possible I try to support real cabbies.  We zipped up Bloomfield Avenue, he dropped me off and I entered my apartment at 1:50am to a delighted, but sleepy looking Cookie Cauvin.