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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: 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: Comedy and Kevin Spacey in Maryland

After a 5 month drought of road bookings, November represented an avalanche of bookings (2).  I was at the Brokerage in Long Island a few weeks ago, and even though taking New Jersey Transit to Long Island Railroad on a weekend is the time equivalent of driving to Atlanta, I did not write it up as a road recap. But with a booking outside of Baltimore that required Amtrak and hotel accommodations, here is the first road recap in quite some time! I was performing at Magoobys (I think for the 6th time between the 2 locations they’ve had this decade) and the weekend included all the staples of a J-L Comedy road trip: 1 awful show, 2 movies, 3 awesome shows, 5 pancakes at IHOP and a 7am Amtrak trip in Baltimore where Kevin Spacey held the door for me. So without further adieu let’s get into it!

Friday

On Friday I took a regular Amtrak (AKA poor people train) to Baltimore, but upgraded to the business class car, which was actually really nice. The rest of the train was packed, but the business class car, with tons of leg room and leather seats was only about 15% full. When I arrived at Baltimore Penn I walked to the light rail station, which I take every trip to whichever hotel Hotwire.com has bestowed upon me near Magoobys.  I buy a ticket for the light rail every time, but in half a decade of taking it, not once has anyone taken the ticket from me.  I arrived at the Extended Stay America, which is named for how long they expect the hotel’s bed bugs to cling to your clothing, in Timonium (hard to beat $135 after fees and taxes for 2 nights).

The two shows were solid that night. I was opening for Aida Rodriguez, most recently of Tiffany Haddish’s stand up series on Netflix.  I sold a handful of albums and ended the night with a vending machine can of pringles and some CNN. #Blessed

Saturday

Having scouted out eating locations I made my way to an IHOP about 3/4 of a mile from my hotel for some breakfast (also found out that IHOP does catering now, so as soon as I have a function that requires catering expect a call from me IHOP). I then got a Lyft to the Hunt Valley Mall where I went to see two movies: Knives Out and Queen and Slim – both very good movies and also could have been called White People Problems and Black People Problems, respectively. I then had Chick Fil-A for dinner nearby, giving me an IHOP breakfast-Popcorn and Candy lunch-Chick Fil-A dinner. How I am still alive I do not know, but as I write this the diet starts now (33rd time I have said that in 2019).

The first show Saturday night was outstanding. A new bit I am working on about getting hit as a child really did well on this show.  I cannot blame the first Friday crowd for not laughing a lot – since I forgot half of the punchlines, but none of the sad parts, so it felt more like a sad origin story than a darkly humorous take on my childhood.  But here is the newest rough draft of “All Roads Lead to Joe Rogan”:

The second show on Saturday was lightly attended and even more lightly laughed at.  Most of the audience were good sports and enjoyed my set, but there was one woman in a hat (it looked like she meant to line up early for Church Saturday night to get a good pew, but ended up at a comedy show by accident). So the shows ended on a low point, but the overall trip and majority of shows were a great success.  A good way to end the decade where I made 1 tv appearance, created 2 viral videos, self-produced 4 stand up albums (one went #1), made 8 appearances on Adam Carolla, made double digit appearances with The Black Guy Who Tips and The Dan Lebatard Show and made $734 in net profit. Bring on 2020!

The Red Hat (AKA “The Undertaker of Black Church”) is visible in this shot while Aida Rodriguez performs

Sunday

On Sunday I took the 7am Acela (#Comedy Mogul) out of Baltimore, figuring correctly that that would be the only time to take an Amtrak comfortably on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.  The station was not too crowded, but I did notice one person that I had to do a triple take: Kevin Spacey. Like myself, Spacey obviously knows that the early morning Acela on a Sunday is the most discreet way for an entertainment star to travel.  As I approached I had 4 options:

  1.  Tell him that House of Cards really sucked without him (and then rap my knuckles on the wood bench twice)
  2. Ask someone to record me on their camera and scream at Spacey for all the hurt he has allegedly caused
  3. Try to get him to grope me (#Settlement) or
  4.  Give him a knowing head nod and be on my way.

I chose 4 and his response was:

He was sitting with either a female relative or a personal assistant (OR POSSIBLY A WOMAN WITH HER OWN GREAT CAREER AND LIFE INDEPENDENT OF KEVIN SPACEY – PLEASE DON’T CANCEL ME). I was unable to upgrade to first class on the Acela due to blackout restrictions (insert Spacey joke here), but by coincidence Spacey held the door for me and a woman before going down the stairs himself.  SO HE IS ALRIGHT IN MY BOOK!  Our ways parted when he went to the First Class Car and I went to the upper-middle class section.

So all in all another fun and fruitful road work weekend. Thanks to all that have enjoyed this blog and supported my career the last decade.  All 7 of you!

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Road Comedy Recap: The Dennis Miller of Syracuse

This weekend found me in Syracuse, NY (always good when the road forces you to miss the jacked up prices of Valentine’s Day and just celebrate on Sidepiece Day (February 13) for more reasonable prices and easier to obtain reservations) entertaining the people of upstate New York from the confines of one of America’s largest malls.  The weekend would include movies, cheesecake, PF Chang’s, looking like a domestic terrorist in the mall and a visit from the former Governor of NY.  But most of all it would include me setting a new high in missed references by audience members, cementing my status as the beige, left-of-center Dennis Miller.  But as they say –  in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king, so please don’t perceive this as me unnecessarily taxing the minds of America.   When I ask a sold out crowd how many know who Quincy Jones is and only 15% clap (5% less than for his semi-famous daughter) you just start to feel like either you are out of touch or people are getting really dumb, OKAY BABE cha cha cha.  So without further adieu, from my writing room aboard another Amtrak, here’s the recap:

Valentine’s Day

After arriving at the Destiny Mall (where, based on all the neck tattoos I saw, the destiny is apparently unemployment) I went to PF Chang’s, despite my agreement with The Cheesecake Factory to brown bread and cheesecake myself to death every time there is one nearby.  I ate my beef & broccoli and then went to the club. Was predictably pretty packed for the V-Day.  My walk up music is “Warning” by Biggie, simply because it has a great opening 15 seconds before lyrics start.  However, I have made the mistake over the last few road gigs of thinking that Biggie is sort of culturally ubiquitous.  Well… he isn’t.  Actually  – let me cut to the chase. Here is a list of all pop culture references I made in my 5 sets and the corresponding level of acknowledgement by the crowd:

  • Biggie – an average of 3 people per show
  • Rashida Jones – 20% of crowd knew who she was
  • Quincy Jones – 15% (as a follow up to the low level of recognition of his far less accomplished and famous daughter)
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit – 5 people (a reference to the crowd thinking they might die if they laugh)
  • Drake – 7%  (an allusion to “Started from the bottom now I’m here”)
  • Amistad – silence
  • Ike Turner – 3 people (referring to who might have owned my dog Cookie before I got her)
  • Chris Stapleton – 30% (comparing a guy with a big beard who was one of the people who acknowledged Drake to the popular country singer – I then admonished the upstate crowd that they were closer to Canada than Tennessee)
  • Air Bud – 50%

Most of my act is not references or analogies, but every year it feels like there are fewer and fewer consensus references (HOW THE FU*K DO YOU NOT KNOW QUINCY JONES??!!!*^@E@&@*), but even A Star Is Born jokes were falling on deaf ears a couple of weeks ago in Buffalo – the movie was a huge hit and nominated for 8 Oscars but you feel like you are mentioning a 1960s foreign film to half of these people!

Well the show went well enough – sold a lot of albums after the show and then celebrated a solitary Valentine’s Day as one should – by banging a piece of red velvet cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory (which may be the title of my next album – an R Kelly parody record – DEAR SYRACUSE R KELLY IS A SUCCESSFUL SINGER WHO IS ACCUSSED OF HEINOUS CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS AND HE HAD A HUGE ALBUM CALLED THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY).

I don’t even care if it’s your time of the month Red Velvet Cheesecake #LoveWins

Friday

On Friday I left the hotel around 1130 for the Destiny Mall. I went to see the new Liam Neeson movie (if you like the 2nd season of Fargo and don’t mind that Liam Neeson once roamed the streets looking for black men to murder it is actually one of his best movies of recent vintage.  I also thought of a sketch – Liam Neeson shooting scenes for Schindler’s List and then during breaks in filming scouting places to hunt black men. Example:

Liam as Oskar Schindler:  We must give these people freedom! We must protect these people!

Director: And cut! Nice work Liam

(lighting goes David Fincher dark)

Liam Neeson: I am going to get those black bastards

Director: And can we take it from that later line one time actually

(lighting goes bright again)

LN: Sure.  These are people. Good people. And we cannot judge them based on what they look like or how they worship!

Director (tearing up): And cut! Wow – that was beautiful.

(lighting goes dark)

LN: Now. Where’s the best place to find a black bastard. I mean anyone with black skin. Doesn’t matter!

You get the point.

I then sat in various places in the Mall for an addition 5 hours, basically looking like I was scouting it for a terror attack, reading a book on Frederick Douglass (one of my fellow bi-racial Mt Rushmore Americans – Babe Ruth and Barack Obama are the other two).

The two shows went well in that I sold a lot of albums, but the crowds still felt weird.

Saturday

I woke up early on Saturday for no reason other than that Mother Nature apparently wants to accentuate my already sleepy eyes. I went to the Mall around 11 and went to see the first show of Happy Death Day 2U (the first one was surprisingly good; it stars a pretty chick who plays bitch really well and there’s like 1% of my DNA that still finds that attractive), but the sequel, though mildly enjoyable lacked some of the focus and bite of the first one.  I am supposed to see Alita tonight, but right now the best movie of the weekend is definitely the one starring the guy who hunted black people for sport back in the day.

I then spent another 5 hours sitting in the mall, had PF Chang’s for dinner again, read more about Freddy D and then went to the club to see a packed house for the first show. And they finally were the crowd I was hoping for. Still sort of dumb, but a great energy for comedy. Sold a bunch of albums and then got a piece of cheesecake from the Factory (Oreo – my arch nemesis and eventual cause of death).

The late show Saturday felt like it was “Bring Your Stripper To Work” Day. There were a lot of big heels and bigger, round breasts on display when the show was over (they were an OK crowd – pretty much like all of them except the Saturday early show) and as the audience was leaving a lot of the couples looked the same: White Guy with Suit (there was one black guy who looked like he was taking his stripper out for a date), earring and/or hair gel, and a woman who looked like she was in Jay Z’s Big Pimpin’ video but has now settled down in Syracuse to raise her family of breast implants in a conservative community.  To be honest is a smart move by a small market thot – if you go to LA you will look like a middle class housewife with a web cam show; if you go to Miami you will look like a grandmother with a web cam show, if you go to NYC you will look slightly trashy (though you are appreciated boo!) but in Syracuse you look like a porn queen who can have any Syracuse University assistant coach you choose! I call these women Giannis Antetoko-bimbos (SYRACUSE – GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO IS AN MVP CANDIDATE IN THE NBA AND PLAYS IN MILWAUKEE SO IT IS A PUN ON HIS NAME AND ALSO AN ANALOGY TO HOW HE HAS THRIVED IN A SMALL MARKET). But even more notable on the final show of the week than the abundance of saline was the presence of former NY Governor David Patterson. I killed with him and his family. They came over after the show to tell me that I belong on SNL. But then they left without buying my album. You just can’t trust politicians!

Coming next Fall from A24 studios: The Feature and the Governor
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Road Comedy Recap: Buffalo IQ

This weekend I was in Buffalo, NY performing at Helium Comedy Club. It had been a full three years since I had performed at Helium in Buffalo, but the city had not lost a step in my absence – it was still incredibly cold and dreary. I booked my hotel through hotwire.com – the Russian Roulette of travel booking sites and unfortunately landed in a hotel 2 miles from the club. The weekend would be one of missed laughs, terrible weather and poor sleep. So without further delay, let’s get into it from the café car of the Amtrak home:

Thursday: Country For Old Men

I hopped on the 7:15 am Amtrak to Buffalo, an 8 hour ride that ended up taking 9 hours. In my ever militant, old man style of life (I have a landline, 7 day a week hard copy newspaper delivery, a cannister of Folgers coffee that I dig into every morning and a dozen other old man habits) I took a cab at the train station instead of getting a Lyft. I immediately regretted my decision and not just because it was double the price. The 20 minute ride to my hotel featured AM talk radio. I could not tell if it was Rush Limbaugh or just another bloated, angry, pill-popping “conservative,” but the entire discussion for 20 minutes was three angry white dudes discussing abortion. I then realized that Fox News is really just the cool party drug version of GOP hate. AM radio is the uncut, pure, too potent for human consumption level hate that should have angry old white people ODing. “Jack was in the prime of his life. Collecting social security and Medicare. His wife of 40 years was calling police on black people selling bottled water. And then someone slipped him some bad AM radio and his heart was only prepared for what he thought was Fox News level hate. He is survived by his wife, 3 children who all owe child support and a bi-racial child he doesn’t acknowledge. RIP Jack.”

I checked into my hotel – the Wyndham, which was pretty nice for the broke-ass special price I got from Hotwire. A couple hours after checking in I got in the hotel shuttle to take me down to the club. Different middle-aged white guy, but same AM radio. This time it was just two angry white guys discussing “all the free college the illegals were getting.”

When I got to the club I had a splitting headache, probably from the overload of all the truth bombs I was bombarded with during my unexpected exposure to AM talk radio. The crowd was fairly light on Thursday, but the set went well (though I did make a video of various references falling on deaf ears for your pleasure below) and I sold exactly enough albums (2) to cover tips for the green room waitress and the MAGA shuttle to and from the club that night. #ComedyMogul

Friday: Ruth Bae Ginsburg

On Friday I was awoken from my slumber at 6am by the elderly couple next door blasting Fox News (I head the old man say “Pelosi has got to stop the shutdown already!”). After breakfast in the hotel I went to a Starbucks 0.8 miles from my hotel, which meant, in Buffalo temperatures, I looked like Leonardo DiCaprio at the end of The Revenant by the time I arrived. I did some reading, writing and arithmetic and then went to see On The Basis of Sex, the enjoyable new film based on the early life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Young Ruth was cute AF so I didn’t think Felicity Jones was an out of bounds choice to play her, but I did have some small critiques. My review of the film and theater experience:

When I went into the theater it was a pleasant light flurry outside, as if Buffalo was saying “Well, you obviously want a touch of winter wonderland when you come to Buffalo!” but when I exited the theater 2 hours later it was a fu*king blizzard (video is available on my Twitter feed).

Attendance was lighter than normal for Friday shows, understandably given the weather. My sets were well received and I sold a few albums. Only one guy all weekend seemed to hate me (mid 50s biker wearing an American flag bandana, accompanied by his wife), but every show references to Biggie, A Star is Born and other pop culture items from a wide range fell on mostly deaf ears. Here is my brief plea to the crowd about A Star is Born:

And I got my allotment of strange racial comments as usual. A guy asked me where I was from in NYC and I said the Bronx and he replied “You’re the tallest white guy from the Bronx ever!” proving that he had not retained much from my set and that he had no idea how height or geography work. My favorite racially awkward line from road work is still is when the emcee was twerking on stage in Toledo back in 2010 (I was featuring for Steve Byrne) and I said to a white woman near me “he’s pretty good!” and she said without humor, “Well duh, he’s black.” #MAGA

Saturday: Mass and Bad Tourist

Saturday I woke up at 6am (I generally haven’t slept well most of this decade, but this was different – the alarm in the Fox News elderly room next door was blaring). Apparently, the geezers who left the day before had set their room alarm for daily and I had to call the front desk to shut it off (also Wyndham – please get thicker walls). After some rest and watching various shows on my computer I made my way back to Starbucks for more comedy due diligence and then it was time for Mass. The Church was a cathedral named St Louis. It is beautiful and obviously harkens back to a time of greater prominence since many of the kneelers had cobwebs and it was only about 15% full. And as I do in my never ending tour of Catholic Churches in America I gave my collection money to a homeless woman outside – Philadelphia, DC and now Buffalo are the cities with the savviest homeless people apparently. I don’t know how you can waslk into a Church and not give your money to a homeless person outside the Church. Sure it’s savvy marketing, but Jesus never put an asterisk on the Beatitudes “Unless they are smartly guilting you.”

Jean-Louis at St Louis

After Mass I walked to Wendy’s near the hotel when I saw the bar that birthed Buffalo Wings. I thought, “What luck – I should obviously go here for dinner… except chicken wings are worthless pieces of shit, so on to that spicy chicken value meal at Wendy’s!” Seriously, wings suck and were basically trash that the bar had to use when they ran out of good food 80 years ago (this was covered on an early episode of my deceased Righteous Prick Podcast). Show me the home of the breaded chicken tender and I will support that local business.
Birthplace of Buffalo Wings… PASS!

Birthplace of Buffalo Wings… PASS!

That night the shows were great, CD sales were trash and I went back to the hotel having made a profit of about $100 for the weekend and tried to fall asleep. I had this weird dream that I was in a store front with friends and some celebrities (Mark Wahlberg was one of them) when about a dozen armed gang members entered and shot and killed one person and the person they were there for, 6ix 9ine – a rapper who I’ve only been made aware of in news reports (I don’t know his music) and have not seen or read anything about in at least a month. Perhaps it was my subconscious mind’s way of saying how much I hate entertainers who have Internet fame. Or “It was all a dream…” – just kidding I know you don’t get that reference Buffalo.

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Road Comedy Recap: Shutdown in DC

This weekend I travelled to Washington, DC to perform with Jay Nog (my co-host on Making Podcasts Great Again) and John Moses (of Fight Stories Podcast) at Bier Baron Tavern – a bar/hotel/performance space in the heart of Dupont Circle (sandwiched between a Church with a huge rainbow flag and a gay bar called The Fireside – a real Devil’s Triangle!). We had two stand up shows, Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 8pm and then at 10pm each of those nights were Jay’s show called “Paid or Pain” where veteran comics sit and judge new comics and then based on audience reaction the new comics are either paid for their sets or tortured by a dominatrix.  This of course differs from my comedy career where I am paid, but never enough to cover the emotional pain of pursuing stand up comedy as a career.  Now federal workers in the DC area are largely furloughed from work and going without pay.  And as the shows demonstrated this weekend, we ended up wishing the fight over Trump’s historically terrible presidency had forced us to be cancelled as well.  So without further adieu:

Friday – Hacked To Pieces

When I arrived at Bier Baron Tavern I realized I had stayed there before.  I believe it was 2013-ish when I emceed for Sebastian Maniscalco and needed a cheap hotel to guarantee myself some profit for the trip.  Ironically enough this weekend I stayed there again, a mere one week away from taking my girlfriend to see Maniscalco at Madison Square Garden.  I guess I am just keeping it more real. When we checked in there was a guy standing in the lobby in a drug-induced trance. He was outside in the same mode the next day. But even he was gone on the third day when he realized no one, including dealers, wanted to be near these comedy shows.

 

Our hotel mascot

After checking in I had a salad at Chopt nearby and went over my set list for the night.  When I made my way down a few minutes before showtime I noticed that there were 6 people in the room.  But to be fair a woman came in about 10 minutes into the show to drive attendance to 7.  The crowd was pleasant despite being so small, but I could not help being disappointed. You see across the street from the venue is a coffee shop named SoHo Tea & Coffee.  And when I started doing comedy in DC in the Summer of 2003, STC had one of the best booked shows in the city. Monday nights – always a full house, good comics, etc.  And the few times I got to do it before leaving DC for NYC (for my first attorney job) were really enjoyable and felt like little early career milestones (i.e. not performing on comics-only open mics, though to be fair a lot of mics in DC had audience).  So in 15 years I managed to make it across the street for a few hundred dollars in net profit.  Not good.

This was taken 2 minutes before Friday’s stand up show.

After the stand up show we got ready for Paid or Pain and that was a packed house as the young DC comedians packed the place with friends.  Some of the comics were decent for newbies, some were atrocious.  But one guy stood out.  And not in a good way. In comedy there is no more offensive combination than confident and terrible.  And one comic basically got up there and delivered a worst of Def Comedy Jam performance.  I mean the hackiest white people this/black people that comedy. As one of my fellow judges Reese Waters said “That act killed in 1988.” John Moses, who was equally vicious (and correct) throughout  the night and basically deduced that the guy had so much confidence because he had basically lifted the act from old Def Jam.  The worst part was how well he was killing with the crowd. Between his friends who accused the three of us as “not knowing comedy” and “being jealous” and several other audience members who were so drunk and possibly stupid you would have thought Patrice O’Neal had risen from the dead to deliver his new special.  And because I never pass up a chance to reflect on comedy I realized these people are probably typical of comedy consumers now: Meme consumers who watch 2-4 Netflix specials a year, never go to a comedy club and think real hackery (like the jokes went stale in 1994) is great comedy.  And when I am featuring for that guy in 6 years I will have a good, sadistic laugh.

Saturday – Brain Dead Care Bears

On Saturday I woke up early to do all my comedy logistics for the week and then recorded this week’s episode of Making Podcasts Great Again with John as our guest (it’s a good one – so go subscribe on iTunes and enjoy when the new one drops on Wednesday).

I then went to see The Upside – the new Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston movie.  I will say the movie is a high B+. I enjoyed it, I laughed and most notably, I had no idea how the movie was getting demolished on Rotten Tomatoes.  I have suggested this on social media with the movie Bumblebee, which sucked, that Rotten Tomatoes is susceptible to bribery or at least bias.  While a F/1 star review is clearly rotten and an A/4 star review is clearly fresh in that 2-3 star range there is a lot of discretion in how they categorize it as rotten or fresh, since most people in our App/Quick fix/low attention span world will likely just see its score as the indicator that matters.  For example, when Lady Ghostbusters, an awful comedy received a strong score I decided to look closer and saw a lot of 2.5 star reviews where the blurb was fairly negative but was being rated fresh.  Just something to think about when you realize how much power RT has in this day and age and how much money is invested in movies.  It would be business malpractice NOT to try and manipulate or bribe Rotten Tomatoes.  But the point is simple – I really enjoyed The Upside.

When I left the movie theater I had to eat an early dinner and was not sure where to eat. And then I exited the Mazza Gallery shopping mall and realized that God had a plan:

I sometimes find my food Mecca by accident on the road (Cheesecake Factory if you cannot read it)

The shows that night were not good.  Snow had started falling so if you needed an added ingredient to ensure poor attendance beyond three comedians of varying levels of anonymity you had it with snowfall in DC, a city that handles snowfall about as well as Trump handles polysyllabic words.  The first show (the stand up) had about 10 people in attendance and they were very nice and eventually warmed up with about 20 minutes left in the entire show.  But the real deal was the Paid or Pain show where the comedians were almost all new, but all displayed varying levels of competency (the last one is probably ready to emcee some places, as he was the best and most experienced of all of them). But instead of 2 or 3 getting voted for Pain, the audience, which seemed to not grasp sarcasm, comedy or the fact that the voice judging the comedians was not, in fact, Donald Trump, but just a comedian imitating him, voted for everyone to get money.  At one point I called them a collection of Care Bears with brain damage, a group with a Teri Schiavo-esque grasp of comedy and various other well done insults that seemed to go over their heads.  At the end of the show I spoke to them in my real voice to prove to them that I was not Trump (even though I was completely visible on stage the entire time) and that got a big laugh as if they just realized it.

Sunday – Race to Amtrak

I had an 850am train home and the snow was still falling and I contemplated taking a Lyft, but I instead walked to the Metro, which opens at 8am on Sundays. DEAR WASHINGTON, DC – YOU ARE A MAJOR CITY OF NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL IMPORTANCE! STOP ACTING LIKE SOME SMALL SOUTHERN TOWN – OPEN YOUR TRAIN AT 6AM IF YOU ARENT GOING TO BE 24 HOURS A DAY! When I got to the Metro the gate was still locked. But the next train would not arrive until 833am – a very close call.  I contemplated going back to the snowy surface of Dupont Circle, but the up escalator was not turned on and I was not prepared for Rocky IV mountain training at that hour (seriously – DC folk know that escalator is like travelling into coal mine depths). So I waited until someone opened the gate and got on the Metro (5 stops from Union Station).

I got to Union Station at 842am and began sprinting screaming “Allah Au Akbar!” to make sure I had a clear path to the train (it was like my own Tom Cruise movie for 30 seconds).  I got on at 8:47am and plopped down in the quiet car, breathed 200 out of shape sighs of relief and thought to myself, “What the fu*k am I doing with my life?” I then cracked open the latest book on climate change that I am reading, The Waters Will Rise, and took comfort in knowing that we are all fu*ked.

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Road Comedy Recap: Taking Requests in Albany

This past weekend I was performing at the Albany Funny Bone.  It was poor timing because I had to leave home after only seeing the 1st two parts of the six part series Surviving R Kelly. I asked the crowds not to spoil the last four parts for me, but my suspicions were confirmed Monday afternoon when I watched them – R Kelly is a terrible person.  But this is not about the Pied Piper of R&B – this is about the (what is the opposite of Pied Piper – Repellant, Career Suicide Maker?) Career Incinerator of Comedy. So let’s Laugh in the Name of Hate with this recap – in which I survived 3+ days on one pair of socks, sold a lot of albums and took a request from a fan to disastrous results.

Friday

I brought 43 albums with me (20 Thots & Prayers, 23 Trump albums – Fireside Craps) on the Amtrak north to Albany. I also packed clothes and a book I was finishing on humanity’s effect on Earth (2014’s The Sixth Extinction – basically we are a plague upon the Earth and that was before the modern GOP created a bottle neck in international politics related to climate change). What I did not pack were any pairs of socks. I would realize this on Saturday.

I got to the new hotel that the club uses.  The used to use the Hampton Inn about a mile down the road from the shopping mall where the club is housed, but Hilton built a new hotel on the mall premises and that is where I got to stay.  The Hampton Inn on Western Road I still highly recommend – the staff was superb there, but nothing beats being able to walk to the club in 5 minutes when you are a carless comedian getting coffee. The weird thing about the hotel is that it is two Hilton properties in one building. On the left is Tru (where I stayed) and on the right side it was a Homewood Suites.  It sort of reminded me of that movie I did not see, but saw several previews for, Trouble at the El Ray.

2 Hotels: 1 Cul de Sac: Tru is for #ComedyMoguls

The crowds Friday were awesome (and right now there are at least 300 people in Albany trying to take credit for my usage of Tater Thots to describe chubby, tattooed white women of America). A buddy from college showed up with some family members (I gave them a free Trump CD) and I managed to sell a couple of albums.  But it seemed like a lot of recent trips I had overpacked the merch. The headliner was selling t-shirts, which audiences love, the way social media loves memes.  But I did receive several handshakes and compliments, BUT I CAN’T FEED MY DOG WITH THOSE!  Also a guy came up to me with his wife after the second show and said “That Air Bud-Weinstein joke is the funniest bit I’ve ever heard. And I come here a lot.”  And then he walked away. I CAN’T PAY BILLS WITH THAT (and it happens to be on Thots & Prayers)!

I went back to the hotel after, reviewed the tapes of both shows confirming my status as a comedy genius and then fell asleep.

Saturday

Saturday I used a free ticket to see J-Lo’s new movie.  If all these women can see corny Jason Momoa as Aquathot with no shame then I can see J-Lo do her thing!  The movie had just enough positives to make me not feel like a total tool. And my theater of middle aged upstate NY women seemed to enjoy it as well.  But seriously J-Lo is an all timer. There are women you want to marry. Then there are women you might consider leaving your spouse for.  J-Lo is in a category above that called “Where should we bury my wife’s body?”  Inspired by J-Lo, J-Lou got ready for Saturday’s shows. But post shower, pre-sneakers I realized I had not packed any socks.  My normal 36 hour pattern on the road is:

  • Shower before show (in this case I showered before my 315 train to Albany on Friday)
  • Put on fresh underwear and socks
  • Be one of the 50 funnies people in America
  • Sleep
  • Wake up
  • Consider the gym
  • Reject that and eat snacks while wearing the previous night’s clothes

Unfortunately I discovered Saturday afternoon that the critical 2nd step was disturbed. I made a mental note to buy socks at the mall and change before the show.

I did not remember until around 10pm when all stores were closed.  But, fueled by a dinner at Pizzeria Uno, I crushed both shows.  I even had 4 Albany fans/quasi employers show up (readers of this blog should remember that for a couple of summers I did a show at a mansion in Albany for a man named Dave – he threw very cool end of Summer parties for his friends). They remain the only private shows I have ever done that were fun.

I ended up selling a lot of albums after the two shows, but the second show is the real story here.  In addition to actual fans showing up to the first show, a woman came up to me before the 2nd show (she was there for the 2nd show) and said “I saw you last time you were here and that Spirit-Southwest joke you did I have been telling to my sister for like a year. Will you do it?”  I told her that I hadn’t planned on it (the industry may be stupid enough to keep me down on the depth chart, but I keep a headliner’s production pace in case they ever wake the F up), but I would do it for her.  SHE THEN CALLED OVER HER SISTER AND A FRIEND/BOYFRIEND/CUCK TO WATCH ME DO IT AT THE MERCH TABLE.  I then explained that I would do it on stage during the show.

The bit is about 6 minutes so it ate up a good, unplanned chunk of my 25 minute set but it killed. The rest of the set went well. As I mentioned I sold well after, but guess who I didn’t sell to? The “Dance monkey dance!” woman!  She walked by, gave me a finger gun and said “thanks for the joke!”  Fortunately I was in too good a mood to dwell (I attribute it to my recent purchase of The Greatest Showman soundtrack which is offensively catchy – I was surprised by how much I liked the movie and the album was only $6.99 on iTunes, and studies show that musical taste is not binary) but I would have been less offended if she had pegged me at Tru by Hilton and left without leaving a tip.

Sunday

I woke up at 530am, most likely because I had a cup of coffee in between the two Saturday night shows. Coffee seems to incubate in me and kick into gear 8-11 hours later. Well, knowing there was an 8am Mass 2 miles down the road I got dressed and power walked my way to Christ The King. As I have noted in previous road posts, I always like going to Mass outside of NYC because 1) they are more full and 2) people shake hands and aren’t a bunch of Purell losers who wave at you, even if they are sitting next to you (as I said on Israeli Tortoise – “Jesus could wash the feet of lepers but you can’t shake my fu*king hand? Real fu*king Christ-like!”  And speaking of Christ after Mass and breakfast I saw buff Jesus/Homeless Fabio Jason Momoa in Aquaman.  It was surprisingly adequate.  And I think it was the best Post-Nolan (also my rap name) DC film for sure (spare me your Wonder Woman nonsense).

After the movie I remembered to buy socks… and decided not to.  I figured I would be home in less than a day where I have many pairs of clean socks so I could make it one more day.

Sunday’s show was my favorite show of the week. It was a packed house and most importantly they bought more albums than any single show that weekend.  I arrived with 43, sold 40 and gave 1 away. #GOATFeature (though it helped that the headliner had run out of t-shirts mid Saturday)  Additionally, I had crushed an R Kelly bit on Sunday and wanted to post it to YouTube. However when I reviewed the tape, a black woman located near my camera was ordering her “well done, but not burnt!” steak too loudly and it is really distracting from the bit. Obviously R Kelly still has some allies among black women. SMH in the name of love.

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Road Comedy Recap: Thots and Prayers Answered

This past week I was in Philadelphia for a very big week in comedy. I was performing at one of my two favorite clubs in the country, Helium Comedy Club and also recording my new stand up album, Thots & Prayers.  The album recording was Wednesday and then I would be featuring for Josh Blue Thursday-Saturday, The week would involve a handicapped room at the Sheraton, fans from Oregon accidentally seeing me perform, South Jersey MAGAts ruining my good vibes, and the best set of my life leading to a double album.  So with that teaser, let’s get into the details.

Wednesday – “We Overbooked King Rooms”

I arrived in Philadelphia around 4pm on Wednesday, nervous AF (I had only slept about 4 hours).  To put this in perspective – most big comedians who record albums have various factors on their side – they are headlining consistently so they get to work out 45-60 minutes per show, multiple times per week. They also have the clout to record several shows so they can pick the better show or edit together the best parts of multiple shows.  When you are a comic like me (prodigious talent, prolific capacity, no clout, no representation) you have to go through a riskier process.  Working on (what turned out to be 100 minutes of material) your set piecemeal – 20 minutes here, 8 minutes there, 25 minutes over there, 7 minutes in your bathroom mirror, etc, you have to trust yourself to a greater degree. Furthermore, you are lucky if you can book an A club for an off night for one show.  4 of my previous 5 albums were basically one take (Keep My Enemies Closer was 95% one show, which I opted to do when only 27 people showed up to a 130 seat venue for my first recording of it). Israeli Tortoise was the only album I had two full shows (albeit a 40 seat venue) to record.  Thots & Prayers, my new one, was going to have to be one take.  So in addition to having to prep for the album in the most difficult way, the one take recording raises the pressure of tech difficulties, audience difficulties and comedic screw ups all derailing my one shot to record a great album. Hence – very little sleep.

When I got to my hotel, the Sheraton on 17th and Race I was told that the hotel had overbooked King bedrooms, so I had two options (I told them there was a third – kick someone else out of a King bedroom): take a room with two full size beds and a normal bathroom or a Queen bedroom with handicapped facilities.  I took the Queen bed. As a comedian wrote on Facebook, my room made me look like Gandalf visiting Bilbo in The Lord of The Rings:

Coming soon to Game of Thrones

Then it was time for the show.  My longtime buddy Chris Lamberth was featuring and my buddy of more recent vintage, Steve Rinaldi, Philly native, was emceeing. I mic tested and then made sure to be in the green room before anyone entered the showroom because if the turnout sucked I did not want to know before hand.  I had a chocolate shake from the nearby Shake Shack as my dinner because I was afraid of having an 8 Mile moment before the show. As Steve got going I heard the crowd and assumed it was around 100 people.  I was correct and they were a good crowd. Chris then went up and the crowd kept sounding great, which gave me a boost of confidence.  And then it was time for me to perform.  I ended up doing 104 minutes that night.  When doing a one take album there is a temptation to throw the kitchen sink at the audience and then edit out what didn’t work.  I don’t try to do that because a crowd will fatigue and then, you might have a closer or a late show bit that seems to bomb or do poorly, but more a result of the crowd being exhausted because you have thrown too much at them.  I knew my set was long (I had anticipated about 80 minutes), but every bit was one that I believed was strong so if everything worked, everything would stay.  As it turns out, from my first listening back to the raw audio, the only bit that did weaker than expected, was my bit about the ESPN OJ documentary around minute 75.  I still can’t tell if it was crowd fatigue or if I have overestimated how good the bit is because of my own personal pride in the bit.  But that was the ONLY lull in the crowd for the 100 minutes.  They were on top of every joke, their energy and laughter was big the whole time.  If I delivered an A performance, the crowd unquestionably delivered an A+ performance.  I posted two different bits to YouTube from the show (the second – I am tempted to use a later version of the Trump joke as a bonus track on the album, but for continuity’s sake I will probably just use the one from the recording- the one posted below is not the album recording version), so hopefully you enjoy them.  The album will be a double album, which I would not do if I wasn’t happy with and confident in the product. And the crowd was about 30 friends and fans and the remaining majority just random people from Philadelphia who came out on a Wednesday for a comedy show.  So the fact that they were great laughers, patient with a no name comic and big enough fans of stand up to support live comedy in the middle of the week was a real blessing (of course none of them friended me on Facebook or followed me on Twitter, but I will let it slide because they made a much more meaningful contribution to my career – though 20K Twitter followers would probably get me more shows and specials than a great comedy album).

Thursday – “You were funny. I don’t know what was up with those people.”

As the glow of Wednesday still lingered I headed to the club for the Thursday show.  About halfway through my set on Thursday I just had this overwhelming sense of gratitude: “Thank God you guys weren’t at the Wednesday show.” It was the same size crowd as Wednesday, but I seemed to have divided the crowd with my comedy.  So after the show I had several people walk up to me and say some version of “Well I thought you were hilarious. That crowd was weird.” Then I had a long conversation with two women in town for a work conference with their arbitration company (how many comedians can say “Oh JAMS – when I was an associate at a law firm, our employment agreement said we agreed to JAMS arbitration in the event of an employment dispute.”  One of the women bought my albums and since she was from Chicago proceeded to rip improv, as well as a small club in Chicago (that has not booked me in a while). And just when I was about to propose she mentioned her husband and I saw my chance for Who’s Line Is It Anyway-hating children vanish.  The other woman was from Minneapolis and asked me if I had shows coming up there.  In what felt like the scene from In The Line of Fire when John Malkovich’s character has his backstory busted by a bank teller, I assumed I was being set up since the ONLY gig I have on my calendar for the rest of the year is in St Paul, MN.  By coincidence I then walked the two women to CVS on the way back to my hotel – when you hate improv and buy my albums you get a VIP experience.

Friday – “You’re Trumpgotz!”

On Friday the girlfriend came down from NYC. We had dinner with one of her best friends and her friend’s husband.  They came to the early show, which, of course, was the worst crowd of the whole week.  That audience was not the 2016 Democratic National Convention Philly crowd. That crowd was the 2018 MAGA South Jersey crowd. Dumb, super white and generally felt unhappy to be at the show (and it was not just me – all the comics on the lineup thought Friday early was the worst crowd.  But of course I felt like that dancing frog from Looney Tunes with my girlfriend’s friends there. Yes… J-L kills… when you are not there… you just need to believe me.

I swear J-L kills usually!

My girlfriend then announced that the were heading to the Devil’s Alley after the show, which I thought was evangelical speak for anal, but turns out was just a bar near the club.

The second show Friday was the best audience of the week, other than the album recording.  After the show a father-son duo from Oregon came up to me and said “You’re Trumpgotz!”  I said I was and they were generally stoked to meet me.  By way of background I created and have done a segment for ESPN radio’s The Dan Lebatard Show since 2016 where I read the words of the show’s co-host, Stugotz, verbatim as Donald Trump, due to some of their eerie similarities in tone and sentence structure.  So when they realized it was me they treated me like a rock star, which was cool.  However, it continues the tradition of people who are big fans of my work seeing me by coincidence only.  Unfortunately, my “I have lots of fans and occasionally they come out to see me accidentally” is not a winning formula to get booked.  But it really was cool to meet fans of my work from across the country (they were visiting the east coast celebrating the son’s graduation from college). Now the big question is whether or not I will be able to get the Lebatard Show to have me as an in studio, in character guest when time to promote the release of Thots & Prayers

Saturday – Cheesecake & Church

When the girlfriend and I woke up Saturday she had to go home to make it to work by 1pm.  We had to wait a long time for the elevator because… 5 of the 6 elevators were broken (sort of an inconvenience in a hotel with 20+ floors) but when she left it was time for me to properly celebrate so I made my way to the Cheesecake Factory to officially commemorate the successful album recording. I had my usual healthy meal at TCF of salmon and broccoli… followed by a piece of Godiva Cheesecake. I then waddled to a coffee shop to kill time before 5:15 Mass at the Church near the club.  Obviously it was a weird time to attend Mass in the state of Pennsylvania after their Spotlight on steroids just exploded a few days earlier (on a related note – the most awkward moment of the recording Wednesday was me doing my joke about the song Janie’s Got a Gun being a great example of child abuse making for kick ass rock, 24 hours after the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sex abuse in the PA Church came out), but I did feel like offering up a prayer of gratitude for the recording going well.  52 Sundays a year and a few holy days of obligation I just spend time relaxing and praying for stuff, but something good had definitely happened and a lot fell in line that good have gone awry so I felt like saying thanks.

Congrats to me!

After Mass a homeless man (or at least very down on his luck) was holding the door with a cup out. I only had a $20 and some loose change so I gave him the change, but I am amazed at how many people don’t give. In Philly, and especially DC, the homeless have sharp strategies – they know the mass times and congregate outside asking for change.  Now this may be manipulative or calculating, but my answer is so what? These guys are homeless and what better place to try and get charity than with a crowd who just listened to the words and teaching of Jesus?  Had I known I would have saved a buck from the collection plate and given it to the guy.  But it seems lots of people in this country practice their religion in Church and on a ballot, but not anywhere in between. Oh well.

Shows went well Saturday and Rob Schneider did a guest set after me and before Josh on the late show.  He was solid, if not particularly original or hilarious, but as I watched a lot of those dumb, attractive South Jersey faces dying with laughter at Deuce Bigalow’s set I realized that I am never going to make it in comedy (not that that I hadn’t realized that already, but my God did it smack me in the face that night).  I dreamed that I would be the next Greg Giraldo (and if I can plug the album one more time I really think T&P really showcases my 3 biggest artistic influences: Giraldo, Patrice O’Neal and Gary Gulman), not only because of my educational background (he was a Harvard educated attorney), but also because of my sensibility and writing style.  But as I have gotten better as a comedian I see that the average comedy club audience (in other words when you are not opening for a Dave Attel-type, i.e., a comic that can and does bring with him a highly attuned and experienced comedy crowd) seems to be getting dumber. More interested in the celebrity of the people they are seeing than the comedy.  I really believe a society that has replaced tweets for reading newspapers, replaced reading a book with candy crush and replaced introspection with social media is cultivating a dumb and self-centered population that is bad for a lot of things, including stand up comedy.  So as the weekend ended I was even more grateful for the amazing crowd that I had Wednesday because it felt like it might have been a stroke of luck than a testament to anything I did to get them there.

I then hopped on the 12:10 am train back to NYC, was greeted apathetically by my dog Cookie at 2am and then fell asleep after a job well done.  Look for the album in late September (I hope).

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Road Comedy Recap: Guns and Tater Thots in Dayton

It is Sunday morning in the Beaver Creek, Ohio Panera Bread as I write this.  Because I will be on a 16 hour Greyhound bus ride tomorrow I will not have access to Internet (or personal space and drinkable water) all day tomorrow so the road recap goes up this morning.  Besides, with most of Ohio presumably staying home tonight to watch the GOAT Lebron James, I assume tonight’s show will not warrant much consideration anyway. This was my first time to Dayton giving me all the Ohio comedy merit badges (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Columbus were already completed) so this will be chock full as I recall the loss of my Dayton virginity.  And like so many of these recaps it begins with a travel story full of pain.

Greyhound to Dayton

I do not like flying.  I don’t have a crippling fear, but I do not like it. And I have not been on a small plane (smaller than a MD-88 and usually not smaller than a 737) since 2009 when I did a gig in Destin, Florida.  We transferred in Atlanta for a 50 seater to go to Fort Walton Beach, FL. It was a beautiful, sunny day and it was one of the bumpiest flights of my life (raising the question – WHAT THE FU*K ARE THESE PLANES LIKE IN BAD WEATHER?).  Additionally, the size of seats on those planes are slightly less roomy than overhead baggage space.  So I just decided that when I can’t travel on a normal sized plane (737 or bigger) I would go via other means, which means my beloved Amtrak (I am known as “The Joe Biden of Amtrak riders you don’t give a shit about” in rail transit circles) or Greyhound. Well, at $120 round trip and 16 hours Greyhound beat Amtrak in both price and time so that is how I travelled.

My bus left Port Authority bus terminal at 9:15pm on Wednesday night.  I was loaded up with healthy snacks, podcasts and a hazmat suit for the 15.5 hour journey.  I probably slept a total of 90 minutes during the journey, but I had my own seat for most of the trip, which was the best case scenario.  And I smelled only 2 farts throughout the journey. Neither were mine.

When I arrived at Dayton I ordered a Lyft. This is what transpired next:

My Lyft driver was a 67 year old black man that gave me his Motown cover band’s card when I told him I was a comedian. Turns out his group, Touch, finished 3rd on an NBC show hosted by Nick Lachey, so you know a trip is off to a bad start when your Lyft driver in Dayton, Ohio has more entertainment juice than you do.  I arrived at the club around 1:45 and got walked over to the comedy condo.

Condo Glory

In stand up comedy there is only one C word that offends comedians and that is “Condo.”  If you, as the middle act, get a hotel you have won. There is usually a minimum standard of care delivered by even the crappiest of hotels, but a comedy condo can range from “Hey this is solid!” to “Hey, this comforter is solid frozen with other comedians’ semen!”  Well, the new standard for comedy condo excellence has been set by the Dayton Funny Bone (suck on it Rivercenter Comedy Club in San Antonio – the awful condo since abandoned that resembled the bug room in Temple of Doom – and the subject of a blog that got me banned from there).  The apartment, which is located in a new building in the mall where the club is (literally a stone’s throw from the club) is basically a slick 1 bedroom loft type apartment with a full cable package (all the HBOs, etc). It is pretty much a better set up than 95% of hotels, so good job Dayton FB!  It allows me to creepily spy on patrons of the club:

Alfred Hitchcock style!

For dinner I went to The Cheesecake Factory, located a dangerous 400 feet from the condo (it is the preferred restaurant for NBA players and NBA-sized middle acts) and then I went to the club.  Thursday’s show went well, sold a few albums, watched the first half of Game 1 of the NBA FInals (I could not stay up for the JR Smith debacle because even my love for Lebron must succumb to 90 minutes of Greyhound sleep.

Greyhound is worse for you than crack and meth combined. This was me at 1030pm Thursday night

Friday: One Good Crowd

Friday I went to LA Fitness and got swole AF. I also went to the Cheesecake Factory again (I went with a sensible dessert of Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, which is one of the lower calorie cheesecakes they offer at only 13,880 calories per slice). I watched the outstanding season finale of The Americans (thanks for not spoiling (*watching) it Black Twitter!) in Panera Bread and then, just like that, it was time for two shows at the Funny Bone.

The first audience was so so.  I know that because when I was selling albums after the first show (right outside the bathrooms like some African bathroom attendant offering you CDs instead of cologne and breath mints) two young guys came up to me, bought the albums and said “We want to be comedians and I don’t know what was wrong with that crowd. You were awesome.”  This proves that I perform to the back of the room, even if they are just in comedian fetus form.   The second audience was awesome – they were a smaller crowd, but they bought a lot of my albums, which after 15 years (June 2nd was 15 years since I picked up a mic at the Takoma Station Tavern in D.C.) is the cynical way I judged the quality of a crowd – you can boo me, but if you buy my albums you are a good crowd.

The only blemish after the first audience was a black who came up to me and said “That ain’t your race. (proceeded to touch my hair) Nah – show me your stomach hair. Niggas got nappy stomach hair.”  Now, as I have said, if I wanted to use the N word (which I don’t – there goes my shot at a Trump cabinet position) I could make a legal case in N Word Court (my new show I am pitching) presenting DNA evidence, a picture of my father and my Sprint Mobile bill as compelling proof of my half-blackness. However, I have lived my life as an HGH infused Adam Sandler with a tan so even if the N Word Constitution accords me a right to say it, in the real world I do not have license to use it. My point is writing this is that I tell my story not to take liberties with language or to “get away with” saying things. I tell my story because it is my story.  But increasingly (and I have noticed a lot more skepticism in the age of Trump from black people, just like many more white people commented and asked about my race after shows during Obama’s presidency) I am having these uncomfortable interactions. My theory is that under Obama, white people were wondering if I was cashing in on the cache of being bi-racial (if they can’t be cool then why should this Italian looking guy get to be), whereas black people have been saying a lot more things to me since Trump’s election – perhaps wary of whether I am a racial and political ally or just someone trafficking in race.  But whatever the case, don’t touch my hair! #BlackGirlMagic

Missed References, Guns, Thots and Prayers: Saturday

Saturday I went to LA Fitness again and got even more swole AF. I emailed the cast and crew of Comedian Combine the final script (filming June 16th – this will be one of my best sketches) and then walked 2.5 miles to the closest Catholic Church for vigil Mass.  Now the weather was beautiful, but it was also 80+ degrees and after a while 2.5 miles starts to get super hot.  I arrived at Church looking, as I often do in summer months, like an ISIS operative having a panic attack.  Another weird thing about the Church, was the demographics of the attendees.  Not an exaggeration – there was one beige dude (me), 4 Asians and about 800 extremely white people.  I have noticed this more and more on the road and after reading Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law (which made my last blog – my recommended U.S. History reading list) I can’t help but think of the historical shame of how segregated our cities are (and how the book thoroughly explains was done by design at the highest levels of federal and state government, in addition to local and personal prejudices that created, and sustain, a world of white middle class wealth).  I wanted to ask the people around me “Don’t YOU think it is weird that EVERYONE looks the same in here?”

The Passion of Christ… was FREEDOM!

 

As I walked back from Mass I stopped in a Wendy’s for a chicken sandwich.  It was just me and these two people:

I will have a #6 meal and ONE REASON – I DARE YOU TO GIVE ME ONE REASON!

Coupled with my Mass experience I almost want to ask “If you moved to a town without scary minorities to feel safe, why the need for the gun you paranoid, fat Nick Offerman-looking cuck!? Al Qaeda is not coming for you, no matter what your Greyhound Bus Depot security thinks (see video above). And you probably have zoning laws that would bar people that have the same skin color as people in MS13 or the Crips from moving here. Besides I could take that from you if I wanted to – I AM THE CAPTAIN NOW!”  During my meal two girls came in and ordered food and then one proceeded to sit with her bare feet on the seat and I thought, “Excuse me Donald Glover, but THIS IS AMERICA – an old, scared white dude with a glock on his side and a millennial putting her bare feet up in a restaurant.”

The first show went OK that night, but in the same set I made an Alex Jones reference (and then polled the crowd and only 1/3 had even heard of him) and a Nino Brown reference (and only about 7 people knew what I was talking about) in the same set and thought America’s ability to get references has to be somewhere between those two, but alas it was an epic fail.  I also made a Rocky IV reference on the late show and almost no one had seen it.  And they call themselves patriots?

I went back to the condo after the first show to upload the video to my computer and by the time I got back to the club everyone had left (the headliner did a shorter set than he had been doing) so I sold nothing after the first show. Fortunately the late show would be the best crowd (only heckling I got was on the late crowd, so they sucked under normal definitions of crowd quality, but as I wrote earlier, albums sales are the sole factor determining a crowd’s quality form here on out).  I did get a good new bit, as well as a pop culture phrase I have invented. Enjoy “”Tater Thots”:

As my set was winding down I started going into my bit about how it is tough to ask a guy to settle down in 2018. A bit that has been doing well for me and was 4/4 in Dayton, but then some dumb, attractive woman and her tatted up, sleeveless shirt, dip swallowing boyfriend/man/friend decided to chime in (I think she was also a Trump supporter, so let’s just use another one of my linguistic inventions – she was a Trunt). I do not hate stupid people. They were stupid based on their support of Trump and their inability to understand the premise of a joke. But they were confident stupid people and I hate those mfers.  So I aborted the joke, but I think it helped propel album sales because when I made my self-deprecating album pitch a black man yelled out “We Got You!” and I thought “I don’t believe in Wakanda Forever, but perhaps today we are all Wakandans!”  I sold well after the show and even gave two black men (I believe one of them was the man who shouted his support) and their dates a breakdown of their relationships as Trump (I gave my endorsement to the black man dating a black woman, but told the black man dating a white woman that I did not approve, which had them all laughing).  I then went back to the condo to find The Dark Knight was on. I stayed up til 2am watching it because it was only Wakanda for a day – it is The Dark Knight forever. And here is a beautiful shot of Beaver Creek I took on my way to Church:

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Road Comedy Recap: My Rod Tidwell-Fans in Hartford

One of the keys to success in stand up comedy, after having management, having lots of followers on social media, being under 30, projecting a false air of confidence, having other talents and avenues to success besides stand up comedy and talent, is having meaningful engagement with your fans.  I was in Hartford this weekend (technically I am still in Hartford awaiting Sunday’s final show, but with day job work looming tomorrow morning I wanted to get this written now so that the 80-200 readers I have would not be deprived of a prompt recap) where I have a solid and loyal fan base of 5-9 people. But these are album recording attending, ticket purchasing, movie review watching, podcast listening sons of guns and I am having a hard time convincing them my career is a complete dead end – WOOOOOO! (Ric Flair for those who have no idea why I wrote this sentence like this) so I must keep them (they are basically the Rod Tidwells to my Jerry Maguire – “SHOW ME THE PUNCHLINES! Congratulations J-L we will continue to be your fans”). Before a breakdown of the weekend specifics here is what I gave to my 3 fans +1 spouse that showed up this weekend:

Thursday – gave Jacquelyn a hug though she bolted to allow me to (try to) sell merch. She came with her sister to my last album recording.

Thursday – Jon also shows up – he has been a fan since my 1st appearance in Hartford in 2010 (I had a 5 year stint in Funny Bone prison when I was not given a week of work from April 2011 until mid 2016 (basically this will go down as the Ted Williams going to WWII or the Ali getting stripped of his belt in his prime of stand up comedy – 5 years of being exiled from the largest chain of clubs when I could still have been considered a “young comic” for part of it and networked and met dozens of headliners all while getting money and stage time) because a few morons in Des Moines gave me bad reviews (even though it was still one of my best weeks of CD sales – perhaps it was my 10 minute story about the woman who kept calling me a fa**ot via email because I wouldn’t invite her to my hotel and was still emailing me during the show because she was at a bar next to the club story that did it #ComedySexSymbol #FunnyBone #PsychoSkank). Well Jon is a huge movie fan so I went with him after the show to see Deadpool 2 (enjoyed it and was thrilled to see the Freddie Mercury trailer – I would give the trailer a best pic nomination).

Saturday – Keith (and his wife, +1) came to the early show and I forgot to call a buddy of mine in LA because we talked for about an hour (sorry Nick, but 4 comedy fans are more rare than my 9 comedy friends, but you are still a valued member of my failing comedy career team #SquadGoals). I brought Keith a hard copy of Keep My Enemies Closer because the last time he saw me at the Hartford Funny Bone he said he had lost his copy – it was the only CD stolen from his car! #ComedyKnowledgeableCarThief

The lesson of this long preamble is that it pays to be a comedy fan of mine – you get hugs, movie dates and albums just for prolonging the ebola riddled corpse I call a comedy career.  Ok, let’s do the more specific breakdown.

Travel & Accommodations

I took Amtrak up to Hartford on Thursday and immediately found myself enraged.  I got on the train, secured a seat and got up to put my bag above me.  Just then, the man sitting across from me jumped up and put his suitcase above my seat as I was preparing to put mine up there.  Most people, including me, have tics and weird things they do. But like religion, masturbation and bare feet, I prefer to keep those things outside of the public accommodations of travel. So I looked at the guy and asked “Is there something wrong with your luggage space?” and he replied that he “can keep an eye on his bag better if it is there.” Does this assume Tom Cruise is going to Mission Impossible your suitcase by hovering above you?  And even if he did that you would know because I would be screaming “G.O.A.T.!!!” at the sight of TC.  I was very tempted to pull a TJ Miller and call in the bag and behavior as suspicious, but instead I just sat and steamed.  And then, despite 20% of the car still being open a woman asked if she could sit next to me, the largest human in the car.  Of course she was a white woman over 70, which if you have read my long distance travel blogs you know that I could probably become the Jon Voigt of an Amtrak-Midnight Cowboy if I wanted to with how many of these old ladies like to chat me up.  I think some people claim to have old souls, but I have an old, crotchety and bitter soul so I think it comes off more attractive and authentic to these golden girls.

America’s Best Value Inn has nothing on me – providing headliner comedy at 1988 Emcee prices! #BestValueFeature #TilesAreOverrated

The club manager piced me up at the train and drove me to my hotel  motel, America’s Best Value Inn. From the exterior I thought “well if it is any more than free there is no way it is the ‘best value.'”  However, my room was actually quite solid and a great flat screen tv, that had a remote that worked like a real remote and not a “20 seconds of ‘did I turn it on’ delay for no reason” hotel motel remote.  The hotel motel manager told me at check-in that if I wanted service I needed to open the shade so they knew to help me. As Ben Franklin once said “Those willing to give up room service for security deserve neither.”  If you can’t tell from my Midnight Cowboy and Ben Franklin references I am slowly morphing into a real-life version of my new Righteous Prick Podcast character “Beige Dennis Miller” and when I tried to recall the room service story Thursday night it fell flatter than a Larry Nasser patient cha cha cha (damn it STOP Beige Dennis Miller!).  “Can they not invest in three cent placards that say ‘do not disturb?’ Instead I have to resort to old time spy tradecraft to get my towels changed?”  I think it was the general silence and realizing I had said “tradecraft” when I realized I was finally becoming Beige Dennis Miller.  But to be fair – to the average comedy club audience these days anything beyond weed and jerking off starts to feel high brow.

King of Condescention

Merchandise Is Dead… Almost

Only Friday’s late show seemed openly hostile to me, but CD sales basically reflected 5 (and counting) audiences that hated my existence.  Now my post-show handshake game was on point, but I only made one sale Thursday and 5 on Saturday (between the 2 shows). And all joking aside – these were from crowds that liked me!  A few factors affect this – the headliner, Chris Porter, was selling his DVDs, so naturally that will eat into the merch sales of “the middle guy.” And most people will say “no one buys CDs anymore.” That is true generally, but up until late 2017 I was selling really well so something else feels afoot.  I don’t know what it is other than God’s 988th sign that I “should quit while I am behind” (credit for this quote belongs to Coach Kreso – football coach and high school gym teacher at my high school.

One may be the loneliest number, but merch is the loneliest table

Sweaty Church

Another feature of my road work is my weekly journey to America’s Catholic Churches.  The closest one to my hotel motel was St. James (#Lebron), which was 3.1 miles away. And as fate would have it, Sunday was, by far, the hottest day of the week so I ended up sweating substantially by the time I arrived on time for 11am Mass. I looked like a black Baptist preacher when I walked in because of both the sweat and the fact that I looked like the only person in attendance who wouldn’t turn into a lobster in the Sun (actually there were 3 black people and 4 Indian people giving the Church a 3.5 black, 4 Indian and 277 bleach ethnic breakdown).  Mass was good, though nothing compared to the Voice of God in Tampa (though the Choir was very good and they even had a horn player, which I consider acceptable, unlike Church bands with full on rock band components). It is OK to have a little Chicago in your Church band, but you cant go full Journey.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Lebron

So that is all I have for you this week.  I am taking Greyhound home after the show tonight, so really the only possible news from this point on relative to this road work would be some sort of horrific incident on the bus or at NY Port Authoirty at 1am.  I will give my girlfriend my wordpress password so she can amend the blog in that event. Otherwise, just enjoy this new clip from Hartford and have a good week!