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!
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
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!
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:
Tell him that House of Cards really sucked without him (and then rap my knuckles on the wood bench twice)
Ask someone to record me on their camera and scream at Spacey for all the hurt he has allegedly caused
Try to get him to grope me (#Settlement) or
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!
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:
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).
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.
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!
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
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?”
As I walked back from Mass I stopped in a Wendy’s for a chicken sandwich. It was just me and these two people:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
This week took me back on the road to Albany, New York, home of grey skies and the Albany Funny Bone. The week has been unique for its general lack of eventfulness or even humor derived from awkward or uncomfortable circumstances. Some cuck once said “The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.” Now I believe that he was completely wrong, but assuming Elie Weisel was correct, then Albany has had very little love for me this week. I am writing this just before the final show on Sunday, so that should demonstrate how little I feel another show will change the tenor of the weekend.
I took Amtrak up on Thursday drenched in sweat. I was lugging a suitcase and a backpack and also a small bag full of CDs for sale. And it was 90 degrees in NYC. So by the time I settled into my seat on the train I had the brown complexion and sweaty gloss of someone who was nervously preparing for jihad. The train made it to Albany on time and I was picked by the manager and taken to the Hampton Inn near the club.
The Thursday show was a smaller crowd, but I ended up making two sales and offending no one. I figured that was a good omen for the main part of the weekend – the two shows Friday and two Saturday. And like every other business instinct I have had in 14 years, 11 months of performing stand up comedy, I was mistaken. On a bright note I shared a brief clip of myself on Twitter the next day and Jim Gaffigan liked it which then propelled it to well over 10K views. I have never worked with the great Gaffigan, but he pays me a compliment or shares some piece of my comedy content a few times a year, which makes me think we will never work together, but out of respect he will be the celebrity that pays for my funeral.
Friday’s early show was fantastic. Big crowd, big laughs, zero sales. And almost no acknowledgement – in an age where it feels like more and more audiences care about the fame level of the people performing, being a middle act has begun to feel more like club staff than one of the entertainers in terms of post show reception. And I would admit it if I were having bad sets, but these are the reactions after killing sets, which makes it all the more disheartening.
The late show Friday is often the show that is most predictably terrible. It is usually people who have had a long work week and decide, “Hey, can we drag down any struggling entertainers with us?” This late show was no exception. And they were led by an older drunk lady (she was the type where you didn’t know if she was a 38 year old who had been through the ringer or a 55 year old who was just taking a break from banging her middle school students in northern Florida. She had the orange complexion of a woman who either tanned too much or had just finished tossing Donald Trump’s salad (hence my nickname for her, “Trunt,” as in Trump/C- you can figure it out). She was loud, drunk and threw the show off repeatedly. And even worse, she spent 15 minutes after the show at the headliner’s merchandise table repeatedly saying “Oh my God, they hated me – I was getting reprimanded!” in that way that let’s you know she didn’t actually feel bad – she just wanted to remind everyone that there had been focus on her. In better news, one couple bought the three albums I had for sale. And making the evening a complete disaster was the Utah Jazz getting annihilated by the Houston Rockets in the western conference semi-finals.
Saturday I got up early, eager to change my luck. So I GPS’d the nearest gym, which was a Planet Fitness 2.6 miles away. I started walking figured that walk would be a good warmup before some light exercise and ice cream sundae eating at America’s most embarrassing gym chain (pizza day and bagel days are real things at PF). When I was .6 miles away all roads disappeared. Much like a lot of fat America, New York above New York City apparently becomes a place where you need to drive everywhere. So I walked back to the hotel, gathered my computer and went and finished my next YouTube masterpiece (142 views at least), “Comedian Combine,” which should be filmed and launched in June. I then made my way to All Saints Parish for Saturday evening Mass to pray for album sales and Donovan Mitchell’s jump shot.
Saturday night I had two great sets and sold zero albums. I went back to the hotel and had a chipwich and promised myself that if I experienced this disappointment another 322 times then I might have to call it quits on my comedy career.
Sunday I made a guest appearance on The Black Guy Who Tips podcast and then went to Dave and Busters with the headliner Dale Jones. We got a Lyft from the hotel because it was raining and here is the conversation we had with the driver:
Me: Just two grown men going to play video games.
Driver: Haha well it’s a good day to do it. Where you guys in from?
Me: New York City
Dale: Los Angeles
*brief pause where driver realizes how weird it is for a 39 year old man and a 48 year old man to be from opposite coasts meeting up to play video games at a shopping mall. Moment of contemplation if this is a new tactic used by closeted married men and wondering if Albany is a new hotbed for down low activities #TheNewAtlanta*
Driver: What are you guys in for?
Dale: We are both performing at the Funny Bone.
Driver: OH! (puts away Grindr app)
So we played some video games, ate some Pizzeria Uno and now I am back writing this masterpiece. Tonight I have one show, but cannot stay to sell CDs (HAHAHAHAHAHA) because my train is at 9:15. So if all goes well I will have a good set, get on the train and watch the Utah Jazz win on my phone on the way home.
This weekend I was at my favorite club in the country (tied for 1st with the DC Improv) – Helium in Philadelphia. As I told the crowds this weekend, my affection for Philadelphia comedy crowds stems from their combination of East Coast intelligence and piece of shit character. They are the perfect audiences because they understand the jokes and also do not (generally) care how dark or cruel the humor, as long as it is good. And it doesn’t hurt that my album sales are always strongest at Helium (average $300 a week in album sales). But if I have learned one thing in my 14 years as a comedian it is that as soon as J-L Cauvin expects something to go well for himself in comedy, it cannot and will not. So on Thursday I loaded up my bag with a ton of my albums and hopped on Amtrak down to the city of lawyerly AIDS.
On Thursday I took the poor people Amtrak down to Philadelphia, but was greeted by new leather seats on the train (#MAGA – Make Amtrak Great Again) so the ride felt more like an upper-middle class train experience. The one show of the night went well (I was opening for Kevin Brennan, who was actually the inspiration for REM’s Shiny Happy People, Thursday-Saturday) but the crowd was not that big and they were particularly stingy in their merchandise purchasing (I think I sold 1) and then I made my way back to 30th Street Station to go back to NYC. The club does not put up features so it was cheaper for me to travel home and come back Friday than to get a hotel Thursday night – the club is located downtown so weekend hotel rates are cheap, but during “business people” days, when titans of industry get rooms to bang hookers and associates, the rates are outside the range of #ComedyMoguls.
I got home at 2 am and settled in for a refreshing 5 hours of sleep.
When I arrived back in Philly Friday around 230pm I made my 1.2 mile walk to the Hampton Inn-Convention Center from the train station. I got my hotel on hotwire.com, which is the Russian Roulette of hotel bookings and had forgotten that I was in the deluxe “2 full size beds” room. Because when you are a #ComedyMogul you don’t sleep in the same bed twice.*
*Sarcasm – the 2 full size bed choice is always the cheapest and most annoying option
Before the Friday shows I made my way to The Cheesecake Factory for a nutritious dinner of salmon and broccoli and a basket of black bread (why does Cheesecake even offer the crusty white baguette when the black bread is basically dunking on the white bread like Shaq on Chris Dudley?). I skipped the cheesecake because I knew this would not be my last trip over the weekend. #RestraintMogul
The shows were really good Friday, but sales remained awful. And then I had to have an annoying interaction with some annoying older South Jersey type woman. Here is the conversation that happened:
Kevin Brennan: Hey J-L do you have the square app? (yes) She wants a t-shirt so you give me the money and then ring her up on your app (no problem)
*This actually meant that my sales of the first show would be -55 cents #ComedyMogul
Woman hands me her card and I swipe it.
J-L: (holds phone) OK – please sign here
J-L (still in friendly sales mode hoping people buy his albums): If you can just sign here…
Woman: (with attitude) OKaaaaaaaaaaay
Woman makes effort to sign.
Woman: (dismissive hand gesture) It’s not working.
J-L holds phone and holds it for her (doing nothing else). She waves her finger to demonstrate that it is not working, except it is working and her signature is just a dismissive line from her shitty finger. She says something else annoying.
J-L: I could really do without the attitude.
Woman: (thinking she is funny) Hey, you know where you are!
Woman then leans over and mumbles a question about my album.
J-L (still in friendly sales mode): I’m sorry? (did not hear her)
Woman: (holds up hands in surrender gesture) I come in peace.
Her weak, emasculated husband tried to engage me in conversation, but I just sort of nodded and said little. Then I think the woman said that her husband shouldn’t buy my stuff because I am not nice. Nothing could embody my comedy career more in 2017 than this: do favor for woman buying merch from a different comedian, get C U Next Tuesday attitude from the beginning, then misunderstood being polite as being a giant rude man and then her trashing me to her cuck husband – ALL WHILE STANDING IN FRONT OF MY MERCH WHILE THE AUDIENCE LEFT THE SHOW BLOCKED FROM SEEING MY ALBUMS.
Saturday was the peak of the trip. Went to the Cheesecake Factory for a late lunch and got cheesecake (what kind of POS goes to TCF back to back and doesn’t have cheesecake either time?). Chose the pumpkin cheesecake because at 1040 calories per slice it is one of the lowest calorie options. #DisciplinedMogul Went to Mass as St John The Evangelist (which is also the name of my home Church in NYC – #BrandLoyalty) and then crushed both sets Saturday night. Had a fan drive from Delaware for the show (Thanks Zeke – a member of The Black Guy Who Tips fan base), but that buried a sadder note about fan support at the end of 14 years in comedy:
performed at Helium a total of 9 times since 2011 (1 corporate gig, 2 independently booked shows, 6 feature weeks)
my single highest week of merch sales occurred at Helium $410 in 2014 (out of the feature spot – and no gimmicks or t-shirts like a non-Boss!), almost every year my highest merch sales week is at Helium
recorded an album there (Too Big To Fail)
2017: 6 shows – 1 fan
I am not blaming anyone or even pissed – it just becomes a reality that no matter how good you are or how hard you work, minus kingmakers or fame, people will eventually lose interest when it doesn’t look like anyone or any accepted marker of success is co-signing your work… even if you expand your platforms, produce a new album on average every 2.5 years and stay engaged on social media.
I checked out of my hotel at 1015 am, giving me close to 9 hours to kill as a homeless comedian in Philly. I opted to see Thor:Ragnarok (I give it a B: it’s fun, light and features way too much stupid Hulk and not enough leather clad, evil-hot Cate Blanchett. But in all honesty the Marvel movie universe is basically doing to film what Trump is doing to America). I then spent 2 hours reading The New Yorker (I was able to make it through almost an entire half of an article in those 2 hours) in a Starbucks, just to let all of Philadelphia know that I am better than them. Here is a fun new clip from the weekend:
Sunday night I was opening for Judy Gold who is 6’2,” and gay making us the most progressive front court in comedy history. The set went well and then I ended up on the Accela train back to NYC after the show with Judy Gold. It is part of my new book “Travel Like a Headliner, Live Like an Open Mic-er.” And with me was a ton of albums… minus ten.