After not being on stage since February 2020 I finally got back on stage last night. Etch April 27, 2021 into the comedy history books. Before 2020, my road comedy recaps were a regular part of my existence – write ups of all my road work to report the highlights and lowlights of doing the road as a middle act. Well after an unexpectedly successful 2020 I now begin writing road recaps as a headliner. I consider 2013, the year I dropped the double barrel release of the Louis CK parody video and Keep My Enemies Closer to be the year (my 10th in comedy – when it is cliché to say that a comedian has found their voice) that I was ready to headline and take comedy by storm. Obviously comedy, unlike Q, was not ready for the storm. Fast forward I was asked by a friend to headline his room in Magnolia, NJ in February and I asked for the last Tuesday of April because it was 3 days after my birthday and I figured if I was not vaccinated (as an essential fat person I assumed I would be high on the list) by April 27th we were all fu*ked. Well I got my second Moderna shot on April 9th and two weeks later I was good to go – 4 days before the show. So with that preamble, let’s get to what may be the first road recap for many of you.
Greyhound Bus – Superspreaders of All Varieties
I have a bit on Too Big To Fail about Greyhound so go listen to that for more of my opinions on Greyhound, but Greyhound was my best way to get to the gig (meeting my friend and show booker in Atlantic City to then ride to the bar in Magnolia, NJ). I arrived at Port Authority at 215pm for a 3pm bus. On my way from Penn Station (The Godfather to Port Authority’s Godfather II, in terms of homelessness and human tragedy in NYC) to PABT I witnessed 4 drug deals on 34th street in the span of 30 seconds (NYC is BACK!) and a young Asian man trip so bad that I admonished the sidewalk to #StopAsianHate. I got to PABT and bought an iced tea and a bag of pretzels. I scarfed them down on line for my bus because I figured the safest way to take what appeared to be a crowded Greyhound bus to Atlantic City was to not remove my mask at all during the trip.
When I got my seat I was happy to see that I had a seat to myself. There were a few other seats available, all next to people smaller than me (at 6’7″ and a PED, pandemic enhancing diet, inflated 300 lbs it would be tough to find someone bigger) so I got ready to read my Rick Perlstein book (Reaganland). And then one more person got on the bus.
He walked to the back of the bus but then made his way to me and just stood next to my seat. I was listening to music, but I looked up and asked “do you want this seat?” comfortable that his answer would be no. He said yes. My good vibes were gone. I began questioning my life, life choices and why, in a life that seems to deliver near hits and catastrophic failure, why the small comfort of a book and a seat on a Greyhound bus proved too tall an order for the transportation gods to complete (I know, I am being to dramatic and pessimistic, but where the fu*k do you think I dig for my insightful, aggressive, resentful brand of comedy?). He sat next to me and my right thigh began a 2 hour sweat like it was the debate stage chest of Tulsi Gabbard. But now, like Israel I could tell I had enemies all around me. The couple across from me both had their masks around their chins having a conversation. Do people think they are going to fool the bus driver? Like if he stops the bus and turns around to make sure people are complying they can flip it up like a Looney Tunes cartoon? This is for us! I asked them to put their masks on and they did (REAL LIFE INFLUENCER KIDS). Two seats behind them a guy was enjoying what looked like a casino buffet with his mask down and the thighmaster next to me began snoring through his exposed nose (mouth only covering still seemed like a win given what my other neighboring nations-seats were offering. I put my book away and just listened to my iPod the rest of the way. But one thing was clear: stand up still had plenty of suck left in it for Comedy’s Sisyphus.
My buddy and show booker Steve picked me up in Atlantic City and we drove to the Laughing Fox Tavern in Magnolia, NJ. The place was very nice with a very nice lounge/clubby area downstairs where the show would be. I had a pulled pork sandwich and coffee and went over my set. The crowd started filling in and it ended up being (I think) a socially distanced capacity crowd. My set was meh. My material is great and was delivered decently for the most part (and in the 50 minutes, about 90% new material from 2020-21), but I had to look down at my stool (the chair, not the one I needed to take after pulled pork and coffee) so my polish was not there. The energy in the room was supportive, but a little weird. But when I am not in full command of my material I tend to be lower energy (Jeb!) and I think that informs the crowd’s reaction. I am not a comedian that says “the crowd is never to blame.” As you can imagine I am the type of comedian that is very willing to apportion blame when it is due (my next/first tour should be called “The Personal Responsibility Tour”), but in this case I think it was a crowd that could have been gotten, but I was not near the top of my game.
The really good news was that several new fans showed up to the gig! I spoke with them after and then road back with Steve to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. I waited for an hour for the midnight Amtrak (ate 2 donuts and recorded a YouTube video in the station because at some point you become a 42 year old man/comedian who cares not for their health or how the other patrons stare at you as you speak like a former president (I was doing my Coolidge impression)).
Home Sweet Home
When I arrived in Newark I hopped in a cab (nice thing about a 130am cab ride in Newark is that they will not gouge you – same price as a Lyft without the wait and mystery. And whenever possible I try to support real cabbies. We zipped up Bloomfield Avenue, he dropped me off and I entered my apartment at 1:50am to a delighted, but sleepy looking Cookie Cauvin.
“Orlando is like a city stripping its way through college. Tampa is like a city turning tricks so it can save up for clear heels and get a job stripping.” – J-L Cauvin
This week’s fresh installment of RCR is of my trip to Tampa. I am currently working on 3 hours of sleep since I took a 5:50am flight from Tampa to LaGuardia (I always thought 6 am flights were the first of the day), so hopefully I don’t forget any good details or make any egregious grammatical errors. So let’s just get into it.
Wednesday – Southwest to the Southeast
Tuesday at work, while taking a break from working I noticed that Southwest was trending. Assuming one of their flight attendants did not book a 3 comedy special deal with Netflix this did not seem like a good thing. As we all know that was because the Southwest flight from LaGuardia to Dallas endured basically the nightmare scenario of anyone who fears flying – engine blows up, passenger sucked out of the plane (to be saved by some heroic people, though the woman died later) and landing in Philly – basically the unholy Trinity. This had special significance to me because I would be flying Southwest to Tampa less than a day later (as it turns out from the same gate as the ill-fated Dallas flight) so I was even more anxious than I normally am before a flight.
Well, I had nothing to worry about as the flight from NYC to Tampa went smoothly. I was headlining that Wednesday night in Tampa and it makes me bring up that age old question: If a comedian headlines, but no one shows up for it, did it really happen? Well, for about 28 people it did happen and it was a very mundane experience. There were some laughs, some botched jokes (full disclosure – I had not been on stage in a month) and zero albums sold after the show. However, after the show I went to Buffalo Wild Wings across the street and watched the conclusion of Game 2 of the Jazz-Thunder series. Here is a photo from the watch party/meet n greet I did:
The most entertaining and uncomfortable moment of the night was walking the 8 minutes from BWW to the comedy condo (a pretty solid condo, by comedy club standards – though the C word that offends most comedians, including myself is “condo” when it comes to road work). The area around the club is Ybor City area of Tampa – a place where chickens roam the streets (I averaged crossing paths with 35 chickens a day) and the ambiance feels like Bourbon Street in New Orleans minus the jazz and culture and with more tattoos and meth. On my walk back I encountered 2 black bikers (after all that white people have stolen from black people I never understand why some black dudes choose skateboarding or motorcycles as their areas of reverse cultural appropriation), a homelss black man arguing with a white garbage pail drummer, a whacked out chick randomly dancing with 2 dudes and then for finale – I was yelled at and followed for a block by a meth head with a mustache (“Methstache”) as he ripped leaves off of a tree near the comedy condo. All in all it was a memorable and weird intro to the Tampa area and exactly what I expect for a place with 19 tattoo parlors in a 4 block area.
Thursday: The Barber from Atlanta Arrives
Starting Thursday I was opening for Robert Powell, a comedian who just had a star making turn on Atlanta on FX. He played Paperboy’s barber and his career is about to blow up big time. He encouraged the emcee and I to stay at it because all it takes is that one shot. I nodded, even though in my head I was saying “Nope.” But allow me to discuss more of my surroundings.
I found a coffee shop with NYC prices, just so I wouldn’t feel like I was saving money. The Blind Tiger was near the condo and was basically what a hipster coffee shop would be if it were rebelling against all other hipster coffee shops to prove that it, in fact, was the rightful Cis-King of hipster coffee in Ybor City. I had a cup of black coffee every morning and finished reading the recently crowned Pulitzer Prize winning book Locking Up Our Own so that they knew I was Hoke (“Hipster Woke”).
I also spent some time sun bathing (#TanBae) at my condo pool where I saw the most plentiful of Tampa’s native creatures – the 50+ year old woman with a tramp stamp and fake breasts. Basically the neighbors of the condo that went to the pool felt like the creators of a YouPorn channel that doesn’t get a ton of hits.
The show went well on Thursday. Headliner did well ,but so did the emcee who had me laughing all week. I had an expected strong set. Not much of note on that front. Besides you don’t read this to hear how well I did anyway! But here are two new stand up bits I am very happy with from the weekend:
Friday – I Feel Pretty
On Friday I went to see Amy Schumer’s new movie I Feel Pretty. I laughed some and thought Schumer and co-star Rory Scovel actually gave good performances and had good chemistry. I thought the movie was worth a rental (or a movie pass), but I may never know how much I enjoyed it because of the women in the theater with me. Here is what I wrote on Instagram after the movie:
Watching the new Schumer movie. 3 white trash women wouldn’t stop talking for the first 15 minutes. There was also a loud black woman a few rows behind them who was also yelling support for Amy Schumer at the screen. So the Trashdashian trio invited the black boom box to join them and now they are just a quartet of nonstop chattering barefoot jerks who won’t stop talking (1 hour nonstop). Also telling, they keep repeating every laugh line, except every Dave Attel line got silence. #Floridumb #Tampa
The first show went really well on Friday. The second show (the dreaded Friday late show – where everyone who is tired from a week of work, but whose couples’ therapist has insisted that they make time for each other with date nights, shows up to half-nap before beginning their weekend) was just OK (and of course that was the one where a couple of fans showed up #CauvinsLaw).
Saturday – Take it to Church… at Church
Saturday, after another early afternoon of sunbathing with the Florida Project cast again I headed to the vigil Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (which almost made me laugh thinking of the Leslie Nielson line from The Naked Gun when he said Nordberg was at “Our Lady of the Worthless Miracle).” If you have ever discussed religion with me you will know that I am a regular Mass attendee and that part of the reason I go to Mass regularly is because I hope to regain the strength of my feelings that I had when I was younger. There is still a core made up of guilt and faith that keeps me going each week, but often it does not feel as it once did. Pardon me for having a genuine moment here, but it did occur on the road so it goes in the RCR.
The Church was really nice, the temperature perfect and the lighting welcoming. Often when I go to Church I find it psychologically soothing, even if not always spiritually. And then the Church singer started singing. Oddly enough, whenever someone refers to a “voice from God” they are almost always referring to a popular singer, but this dude singing in a 70% empty church had a voice from God. I have been going to Mass since probably the age of 5 or 6 and I literally cannot remember being so moved by Catholic Mass hymns. The man was sort of a nerdy looking Latin man (so I thought, further research has indicated he may be Filipino – FIRST THE GUY IN JOURNEY AND NOW THIS?!). Khakis, tucked in polo, short, quasi-Dad bod. But every song he sang, almost all familiar to me, were sung to perfection. I felt like Nick Nolte in Blue Chips when he goes into a small gym in Louisiana and discovers Shaq dunking all over grown men (#ALGIERS!). Maybe I was still stressed about flying, or having increasingly frequent doubts about why I am still pursuing comedy with my life, or maybe the guy was just that good, but whatever the factor or factors it was a rejuvenating experience. And the closing hymn was How Great Thou Art and it was comically brilliant. Like so good I started laughing at the end because I knew he couldn’t help himself and he finished with a flourish that almost felt more appropriate for the Met than for a lightly attended Mass in Tampa (And then instinctively I yelled “PRIDE COMETH BEFORE THE FALL!” just to keep him level-headed). The Church, including myself, clapped for him when he was done. I heard often as a youth that “singing is like praying twice” in Church. I am pretty sure that is because they just want people to sing. But this man in Tampa literally boosted my spirit in a way I have not felt in years… which is going to make next Sunday’s Mass at my midtown Church awfully disappointing when the off-key organ playing lady does her thing.
I thought to myself after the Mass that the guy should have a recording contract or something, but at the same time I thought maybe part of the purity and soulfulness comes from the fact that he is singing for faith and for God and not for some material purpose. Then I went with a bag full of albums to the Improv and said “Spirituality isn’t paying my cable bill LORT!”
The first show was outstanding. Full house, great set and zero albums sold. And just like that I was back in a funk. To boot, a black guy came up to me, not mean-spirited, but still annoyingly and said “I’m Haitian. When you said you were Haitian I was like ‘bullshit!.'” And that was our exchange. This happens to me often. I don’t use my half black-ness as some excuse to say the N word or use it as cover for jokes. I offer it simply to tell autobiographical material, nothing more, nothing less. The flip side of this was what happened after the second show.
The second show went well and I ended up selling a decent number of albums. One was to a young white couple. The drunk woman said to me “you were the guy pretending to be black, right?” And then later her boyfriend repeated a sentiment that his girlfriend had stated earlier – that I “had a lot of guts” doing comedy in front of an almost all black crowd. I was not sure which way to be more offended – racially or as a comedian, but it was also the type of ignorant stuff I get from time to time where it is not necessarily mean spirited, but I also don’t feel like having a discussion about it with people that I will know for a total of 8 minutes at most.
More people bought albums, including a guy who had a huge wad of $100s and $50s and gave me a $50 and said keep the change. His generosity was appreciated, but after the first exchange I could not tell if this was another white guy giving me “respect” for doing my thing in front of a black crowd or if he just really liked my stuff solely on the merits. Of course he said nothing like what the earlier couple said so there was no reason to think anything but nicely of his generosity, but for the creeping insecurity.
I ended the night watching the 4th quarter of the Utah Jazz beat down of the OKC Thunder in Game 3 of their series. Ricky Rubio, the Spanish point guard for the Jazz, had a huge night so I tweeted him my respect for how well he played against all those black guys on OKC.
Sunday I had a fan show up (she was visiting her Aunt nearby), so that was nice, but of course because of #CauvinsLaw the crowd was an odd mixture of offended strippers and offended Church goers and the laughs were not as plentiful as I had hoped. However, lots more people came up to me with compliments after the show than from the other shows so maybe they were just a more subdued crowd. All in all it was an interesting week and an entertaining week, but I still had my Southwest flight the next morning.
I got a cab at 4am to the airport for my 5:50am flight. All you need to know about Tampa is I saw more women wearing 3+ inch heels at the Tampa airport at 5 am than I have seen at any other airport at any time of day. I got on the plane and as we were getting our pre-take off speech from the pilot he informed us that we would be flying at 39,000 feet because there was some weather issues they wanted to try to fly above. So now, as we leave in the still dark skies of Tampa I am nervously listening to podcasts just wanting to get home safe. About 25 minutes into our flight the Sun starts to illuminate our journey and I see that we are flying right above an endless see of black clouds (think The Nothing from The Neverending Story. But we never get any real turbulence and arrived slightly early into NYC at 815am. When I got to baggage claim I saw a weather report on the news that there were tornado issues in the southeast. I am just glad I did not listen to any weather reports before getting on the plane because if I had the combination of Southwest engine and tornado stories would have me on an Amtrak right now instead of penning this masterpiece.
This weekend I was in Fairfax, Virginia to perform atheadline at bless two restaurants. I was booked by a DC area comedian a month ago, negotiating a decent rate for myself (as the author of The Comedy Art of the Deal I adhere strictly to rule #1 of comedy business: “When possible, try to make a profit, but don’t insist”). Once I guaranteed myself more than $0 profit I closed on the deal like my name was Mariano Trump Rivera and prepared for highly anticipated gigs at The French Quarter Brasserie (Saturday) and The Blue Iguana (Sunday). As usual this story will involve Hotwire.com, Amtrak, sweaty walks alongside highways and small crowds full of passion. So let’s begin this epic journey of comedy genius.
Saturday: How The Sausage Gets Made
I headed to Amtrak for a 1:17pm poor people’s train. When the announcement was made for the train gate, most people actually got into a line (it sort of resembled the zombies in World War Z uniting to try and murder humanity, but if you travel from NY Penn Station with any regularity you know that this is a distinct improvement). But of course, several animals just cut the line like they did not know there was a line. I wish people like that got the death penalty. Seriously. People who murder are not deterred by the death penalty. If you are such an outlier to commit murder, knowledge of the legal system is not a consideration weighed before lighting the elementary school on fire. However, people who do annoying things like rap loudly on the subway, litter, or cut lines for Amtrak could potentially be deterred if they found out the result was a firing squad.
The train arrived in DC on time and I got on the Metro headed to Tysons Corner, Virginia. I was staying at the Westin hotel in TC because thanks to hotwire.com (as I shared with the audiences) is a site where they give you cheaper rates, but they only give you the general area and star rating of the hotel. So I chose a highly rated hotel for $68 a night that was within 450 miles of where I wanted to be and landed up with the Westin, which was a 1.5 mile walk from the Metro. So over the course of the next 27 minutes I hauled my bags through Tysons Corner looking like a beige, sweaty ISIS recruit. I got to the hotel with about 30 minutes to spare before show booker and comedian Jon Yeager was to pick me up from the hotel. So I dropped my stuff off, did snow angels on top of the hotel comforter to build up my immune system and then headed down to the lobby.
We arrived at the French Quarter Brasserie (New Orleans food and Jazz-style comedy, in that it was not very popular) and I decided to have the “beans and sausage entree,” which was to play a profound role later in the weekend. I then met several local comedians that I had only known through Facebook up to that point, heard several solid sets and then went up to perform (after about 90 minutes I then went up and did 55 minutes – I referred to the show as more telethon than comedy show). The crowd was good, though a little fatigued and I even ended up nailing a newer bit:
After the show I bought a pack of donuts, reviewed my set and then went to sleep, think all was right with the world.
Sunday: Louis Armstrong’s Revenge & Killing The Blue Iguana
Sunday I woke up and ate a healthy breakfast and then returned to my room to binge watch some Hulu before heading out to do 3 Guys On Podcast (listen to the episode here). For me, Netflix is the wife streaming service. She holds it down for me at home, provides me with the best content of any streaming service and is central to my streaming life. Hulu, as I would inform the crowd that night, is a road groupie whore streaming service. I watch shows on Hulu in hotels and occasionally on my phone if I can get a private, sneaky, sleazy moment (to further this point the first thing I did when I got home on Monday was watch a new documentary on Netflix – also, notice how “Netflix documentaries” have replaced “books” for the way my generation and younger discus things to sound smart? That is why we are an increasingly stupid population, while simultaneously more arrogant). Well, just as I was ready to Hulu and Pimp Slap, the beans and sausage came upon me as unwanted as another season of Orange is the New Black. I then proceeded to spend the next 90 minutes losing about 10 lbs (with vomit playing the best supporting actor in the new Hulu series “New Orleans Food Exacts Revenge for Katrina on Toilet Water.” The food had been tasty and I am pretty certain it was my delicate system that was at fault, but if any more shit came out of me I was going to have to name my asshole Happy Madison Studios.
Well after that ordeal I made my way to Pentagon City to do the aforementioned 3 Guys On Podcast. And then got a ride in (Listen people, when you are a #ComedyMogul other comedians drive you around!) to DC to go to one of my favorite Churches in the country – St Michael’s Cathedral in DC (2 blocks from the DC Improv). I went in for Mass and something happened that really annoyed me. A very curvy Latin woman decided to sit in front of me at Mass. Many big Churches have sound proof rooms for families to sit in if they have babies. However, crying babies do not annoy me. Their cries are the wondrous sounds of new life and nothing could be more like a choir of angels than that. However, when I am trying to be spiritual and chaste and pure, I don’t need some 20 year old Salma Hayek sharing her Satanic blessings within a Peace Be With You handshake from me!
After leaving Mass I headed back to Fairfax for the Blue Iguana. Greeting me there was DMV comedy legend Rob Maher. We caught up and as usual I was happy to have him there, not only to chat with, but also for him to watch my set. I still maintain that if I am to remain a quasi-nobody in the world of comedy, I would rather do that in DC than NYC. Also on the show because he probably wants to be written up, was DC area comic Danny Charnley who I referred to as “Meth head David Beckham.” He had me laughing both nights, but especially Sunday night because I was paying more attention. Then I went up and had, with no exaggeration, one of the ten best shows of my nearly 14 years performing comedy.
The audience was small. It was 945 on a Sunday night when I reached the stage. This is a point where someone can mail it in or try to make something happen. I decided that I wanted to make something happen. I scrapped most of my more prepared material and decided to use the 55 minutes I was on stage to work on some major new bits I want to be part of my 2018 album (tentative title Light Privilege, possible new title after the show Rain Whore). I spoke about and sang Chris Cornell, did 20 minutes on a traumatic relationship that yielded absolute gold, discussed why Marcus Allen’s legendary penis can be directly linked to Donald Trump’s election win, and after talking about breasts for about ten minutes, compared a woman at the show, who had the largest breasts I have ever seen in person, to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (“whatever you do Ray, don’t think of breasts”). My Trump impression killed (Obviously #GOAT), but rarely have I felt as great a connection with a crowd as I did Sunday night. I think they appreciated my honesty, my energy and obviously my skills for a lightly attended show. To my pleasant surprise, after the show I ended up selling like 9 CDs, which to extrapolate, would be like selling 10,000 CDs at a full comedy club show. There are no clips to share as I taped it more just for material improvement purposes, but it confirmed my feelings that I am rapidly approaching having a new great hour, on the level of my best album Keep My Enemies Closer). It was a really fantastic night and the kind of show that made me feel like I am not wasting my time with comedy.
Epilogue: Monday Amtrak
On the way home I took the Accela because the Sunday performance demanded an upgrade. A guy tried to cut me in line and, already having PTSD from the cutting in NYC two days earlier, I told him there was a “fu*king line.” He apologized, which was hollow of course because he knew what he was doing. He then ran to the 1st class customer line and cut me and about 25 other people. I took a deep breath and said to myself, “Well, if he is in 1st class he actually should already be on.” But then I scanned the 1st Class car and he was not there. I then made a blood oath that if I ever see that man again, to throw a food item at him.
I sat down on the train next to a very nice older woman and as has become my Amtrak tradition, proceeded to have a great conversation with her for most of the trip. She reached the conflicting conclusion about me that many people, including family members come to, which is that all that I need is representation or PR to get my skills a wider audience, while also seriously questioning what a Williams-Gtown Law grad is doing wasting his time with a struggling comedy career. Well if you need an answer to that you can ask some of the people or giant breasts at The Blue Iguana. *mic drop*
This weekend I was in St. Paul, Minnesota at the Joke Joint Comedy Club headlining (one of three headlining engagements I have this month, so apparently Hell has frozen over). It was a great weekend, but emblematic of the struggles of being a (supremely talented) struggling comedian trying to make it to the next level. For instance, I did not draw particularly well because… the weather was really nice. To be fair I did have a fan from The Adam Carolla Show show up as well as a fan from The Black Guy Who Tips, but the crowds were the smallest I have had in my 4 headlining appearances at the Joke Joint (and this after adding more credits and picking up more fans from around the country). It is always a sad measure of your stature as a comedian when “seasonably warm weather” is a deterrent to coming to your comedy show. Admittedly the weather was great and the feature (whose name is Dan Mogal – #ComedyMogul meeting #ComedyMogal – we could not shake hands because it might have ripped the fabric of space) informed me that it was also some big fishing weekend in the Twin Cities. So I guess I lost to sunshine and Nemo this weekend, which didn’t really soothe my wounded pride. Since I am in an hurry to get to my day job (#ComedyMogul) I will give you the highlights and three very instructive videos from the weekend. Enjoy!
Thursday Crowd – The Soul Crushers
The first show of the weekend was lightly attended. But they had the energy of zero people so they definitely had their apathy working overtime. I was happy with my set, but the crowd, which was full of smiling mutes did not produce the usual amount of laughter indicating pleasure with jokes. However, the feature’s Dad was at the show (#FatherMogal) and after a bit on social media he let out the loudest noise of the night, not coming from the microphone, when he sighed “Jesus Christ.” Needless to say I sold zero CDs after the show and just went back to my Best Western Plus and cried into a glass of milk while emotionally devouring a pack of Hostess donuts (very underrated donuts). But then I stared into my mirror and recited my mantra, borrowed from Antwone Fisher, a film about a man finding inner strength dealing with childhood traumas of sexual abuse. Since that felt about the same as what I had received from Thursday’s crowd I stood there saying “I’m still standing… I’m still strong!” I then made a 7 minute montage of Thursday’s crowd silently rejecting every popular culture reference I made during my set. It was very popular on Facebook and now you can see it on YouTube. Enjoy!
Friday – J-L’s Revenge
The Friday crowds were great. Sold some CDs, picked up some social media followers, and I developed a technique that I am patenting for comedy called “Divide and Conquer” (TM). I basically trashed Thursday’s crowd repeatedly at the end of well received jokes and the Friday (and eventually Saturday) crowds luxuriated in their feeling of superiority over their fellow town folk. I felt so good that the Friday crowds had redeemed me that I put together a compilation video of the same jokes killing (mostly) on Friday, that had failed Thursday. It was only 25% as viewed and likes on Facebook as the one of me crashing and burning because people are terrible and only like to see me in pain. If you are a decent person (Divide and Conquer (TM)) then maybe you will enjoy this YouTube clip of the jokes working:
Saturday: Praise the Lord and Pass the Comedic Ammunition
Saturday was the best day of the weekend. The weather was beautiful (again) so I decided to walk to Church (Saturday evening Vigil Mass) , which was 1.8 miles away according to GPS. The priest was a visiting priest who has been doing missionary work, which, as he described, started on a trip to Haiti, which got me a little teary given the recent burial of my father in Haiti (but all the white people were like “This Italian dude is soft AF!”), but don’t worry – most of my thoughts during Church were still comedy-centered. Rather than bore you with more words (Church rock band, 1 black guy in the whole Church…) – here is my summary of Midwest Catholic Mass from the Joke Joint stage that night:
That night the shows were outstanding – and just so the late show Saturday people know I meant it – you were the best crowd (but all the Friday and Saturday crowds were really good). Sold more CDs and ended the night with an ice cream because I was a good boy who had done a good job. And my favorite compliment of the week that showed what a hypocritical laugh whore I am came after the early show Saturday. A Trump voter came up to me and said “I voted for Trump, but unlike some comedians, everyone could laugh at your Trump impression and material (GOAT).” Instead of lying down in front of his car screaming “Free the nipple” while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, I just shook his hand and with a goofy grin said “Thanks so much!” The only difference between a comedian and a politician is that a politician only sells his soul and integrity for money and power, while a comedian will give it away for a handshake and a kind word. Oh well, anything was better than those Thursday people.
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
This week I traveled to Orlando, Florida for my first booking in Florida since 2009 when I performed at a resort in Destin, Florida (my check cleared from that week, but less than a month later the checks stopped clearing for performers, one of the last times in my comedy career that I was not sarcastically #Blessed – though that should tell you something about the stand up comedy business when getting paid what you are owed counts as a blessing). Headed to Orlando, or as I call it “Tampa with an Associates Degree” there were snafus. I was originally slated to perform Thursday-Sunday. So I booked flights on Southwest using points. But a couple of weeks before the gig I was told that it would be Friday-Sunday. Now, changing the ticket would have used up a lot more points (which I do have #ComedyMogul), but I figured I would save them for trips in the future to max out their value and take my old friend Amtrak to Orlando. And that is where this week’s Road Comedy Recap begins:
Thursday – Amtraks of My Tears
I arrived at Penn Station in NYC at 245 pm for the ironically titled “Silver Meteor,” which was set to depart at 3:15 and arrive in Orlando a mere 21.5 hours later(look up #21HoursOfAmtrak on Twitter to see my chronicles). I settled into my seat, which, despite the crowded train, I managed to not have to share with anyone the entire ride to Orlando. The only other two who managed this feat were the black guy behind me who was charming – he listened to music for about 20 of the hours to Orlando via noise cancelling headphones… wrapped around his neck so that basically it just sounded like an iPod playing without the headphones in. So his combination of black skin and shitty etiquette no doubt dissuaded many (white, Southern bound) passengers from joining him. The other passenger who didn’t have to share her seat was a large woman who said she had purchased two seats so technically she is disqualified from the contest of “avoiding sitting next to a stranger.” Rigged seating!
As the ride progressed I did several hours of comedy related work and recreational reading in the cafe car to avoid settling into my seat before sleep time. Then a little after midnight I made my way to my seat. I reclined and closed my eyes and slept for an hour. Then I was awoken by one of the three children sitting in front of me with his mother as he listened to YouTube videos on a cell phone sans headphones. I dozed off again for an hour then woke up (#StayWoke) to more cell phone videos. I then dozed off for one more hour and around 430am woke up for good to Beats Off by Dre behind me receiving a cell phone call that he stayed on til 530 am.
Nothing else of great significance happened on the train, other than it being late. I arrived just outside of Orlando early Friday afternoon, picked up by George, who told me that when he was much younger and living in Miami a guy had tried to work with him to do some modeling or TV work. He declined thinking it was some sketchy 80s Miami thing until he arrived on the set of Miami Vice (where he was interning) and saw that guy with a young actor who resembled him doing a part that he would have been auditioned for by the sketchy guy. The young actor was getting his first big break and his name… was Moe Green (not true – it was Benicio Del Toro, but I just wanted to pull a Hyman Roth from Godfather Part II – but still, what an insane story!).
Friday – Georgetown Law Reunion
Friday afternoon I did some sun bathing (at this point when I take off my shirt my girlfriend says “Plumo” referencing Pablo Escobar from Narcos (and real life) who would offer men “the silver (plata) or the lead (plumo).” This is not because she thinks I am a ruthless leader or criminal, but because of the Escobar-esque paunch I sport when eating like shit and skipping the gym.) So hopefully some of the women at the pool thought I was too powerful a #ComedyMogul and that is why I have neglected my core. But I got some Sun and then headed to the club to open for The Amazing Jonathan, a comedy/magician veteran that was headlining after taking a few years off due to health issues. When I got there to settle into the green room TJA’s wife informed me that the Green Room was private per his contract, so I settled in the showroom while yelling at her “You know who I am? I’m Moe Green!” (sorry for the Godfather references) No, I didn’t do that and I didn’t care. After all the Palestinians have no home and look how well they are doing, so being a green room-less Power Feature was not an issue for me.
The first show went great and I sold a lot of CDs. One couple, that I would describe as poor man’s Kelly Slater and his porn star girlfriend (though she didn’t have that wounded look in her eyes or a high-pitched, my uncle diddled me when I was 8-voice so maybe she was just hot for hot’s sake), came up to me and were emphatic in their praise. He then pointed to the long line of admirers for the headliner and said “What is that? Are they serious? You should have that line.” Unfortunately he started getting louder and I had to tell him “No one ruins my comedy career or burns bridges except me!” But I still appreciated the sentiment and the support. But it would be very “on brand” for me to get in trouble in my career for getting new fans.
One of the biggest stories of Friday night was three law school buddies coming out to the show! Well they came to the late show. The first show was a tour de force. The second show featured 3 different tables of drunk, loudmouths (women and their weak men) and of course that was the one my friends came to. They still had a good time and I ended up selling decently after that show as well, I think mainly out of solidarity with people’s disgust with the talkers. We then went for dessert at a nearby bar and watched the Utah Jazz lose at home, forcing a Game 7 (an hour away as I write this – UPDATE THEY WON!).
Sadly the real headline for me on Friday was that my brother was in Haiti with my cousin burying my father’s ashes. As my brother said, it was sunny and hot, just like my Dad would have liked it. I would have been there, but there is an old saying in entertainment – when the comedy world offers you a chance to net $310 profit in a week you don’t say no.
Saturday – Rednecks Ruin The Hotel Pool
On Saturday, well rested considering I had slept a fitful 3 hours in the last 44 hours, I made my way to Planet Fitness, the gym for people who hate gyms. Sadly when I arrived it was not hot fudge sundae and donut day. I understand the purpose and focus of Planet Fitness and respect it to a degree. For many people, the gym can be uncomfortable and discourage people from working out. But Planet Fitness seems to have gone too far in the other direction. I half expected to see a sign saying “no shoes, no cellulite, no service.” There was a sign banning supersets. The exercise bike did not go to a level high enough to challenge me and I am an out of shape Plumo! The dumbbells only go up to 60lbs. It’s not a gym. It’s a place where people rehab after hip replacements! But I did a serviceable back workout despite being asked to leave once a vein became exposed in my arm from working too hard.
I then went to the hotel pool for some more rays and that is when the redneck trash took over. I was lying there getting some sun when 6 people, appeared to be two couples and a couple of friends, showed up. They immediately started playing music on a stereo (that Trump America confidence) and Lil John’s “Turn Down For What” came on in their playlist. Then one of the woman changed it and one of the redneck men said “Why did you turn that off? I was fixin’ to turn down for what!”” I had a private chuckle and then went back into my zone until the youngest member of the crew, who I can only describe as “Lena Dunham, if she let herself go” began jumping into the pool. The pool was small and there was less than a foot between the pool and the lounges where people like me were reclining. I barely got splashed so I said nothing, but then she did it again and I got a healthy dose of water. So I said to one of her friends “she’s got to stop that.” Well, Trailer Park Dunham began pouting and “put herself in a time out” because I guess I was being a cranky old man and not letting Shamu Gallagher have her fun. I kept my cool, but I was seething inside. Or maybe that was just the sun burn I developed on my shoulders. Either way I was hot, but left peacefully.
The shows Saturday night were both excellent. Sold merch, met a fan from The Black Guy Tips (a usual occurrence by now because he has the most engaged audience of anything I have done in 14 years of comedy – UPDATE – another fan showed up to Sunday’s show) who came from Tampa with his girlfriend to see me (despite the fact that the club staff repeatedly told him I was not performing there this weekend because in comedy there is an old saying – “Fu*k a feature, and not in a good way.” But here are two good clips from the weekend’s shows. A brand new bit and a retooled classic from Keep My Enemies Closer (seriously that album is a masterpiece – get it):
Sunday – The Sweaty Journey to a Fake Catholic Church Before The Jazz Game
Now there are stories that I am not writing here that will be covered on the podcast this week, but this is also being written before the Utah Jazz game on Sunday. So for anything Sunday night or Monday-Tuesday (taking Amtrak back – #PrayersForJL) , as well as things from the weekend not written up here, the podcast is the place to go Tuesday night. But Sunday I woke up (#StayWoke), had a delicious breakfast at the hotel and began walking to the nearest Catholic Church for 10:30 am Mass. Now I forgot to pack walking around shorts so I had to make the 2 mile walk in jeans. So when I arrived at the Church in humid heat and sprinting from cars as I crossed the highway (thanks Google maps for making me think there were sidewalks) I was tickled at the fact that it was an Eastern Orthodox Church. It counts for Catholic Mass (like transfer credits from a strange alternative learning college that doesn’t believe in grades or gender), but it really feels like a parody of Catholic Mass. First off, 95% of the Mass is sung. Even the readings. So during prayers I sounded like the bass from Boyz II Men doing an interlude breakdown while Greek Shawn, Greek Nate and Greek Wanya sing-prayed their hearts out. Also, these folks do the sign of the cross wrong. And Communion was a wine soaked piece of bread. So now I know that I prefer my tasteless wafer.
So now that I am caked in dried sweat with dusty jeans sitting in a Starbucks I am hoping that my #Blessed weekend passes to the Utah Jazz. See you next year when my Amtrak arrives back in NYC! And meanwhile, back in NYC while I am away:
Recently it has felt like stand up comedy is less a passion or profession I am pursuing and more an angry Albanian engaged in a blood feud with me. Beyond my usual gripes about the comedy industry (see 90% of my podcast episodes for more specifics) my last few weeks have felt like an installment of the Final Destination film franchise, where Death is determined to stop me from performing comedy. Last week, after being booked for the Toledo Funny Bone since January I decided to email the club to confirm my spot (it would be the third time performing there, but knowing that the Comedy Grim Reaper is determined to push me back into the full time practice of law I figured that I should confirm just in case). The response I got back was “Yes, the hotel is the same, but we don’t have you until the end of the month.” Now this was 27 hours before I was scheduled to leave for Toledo, so I had my round trip train ticket and more importantly had not picked up any day time work for the week (which pays more than a week of featuring, so it was a double whammy). And add on to the fact that I am booked elsewhere when Toledo said they have me. I will spare you the transcript of my reaction within my apartment to myself after a series of cordial, neutered emails, but the look on my dog’s face said “Please just send me back to my abusive trailer park in Kentucky. This “comedian” (even my dog puts air paw quotes around my career) is too angry.” With that preamble, I will now take you to this past weekend’s comedy journey in Albany, NY.
The Grim Reaper Strikes Amtrak
In a sequence worthy of its own episode on This Is Us my Friday morning unraveled like the Comedy Grim Reaper was gunning for an Emmy. I arrived at NY Penn Station at 10:50 am for my 11:20am train. Well, little did I know that a train derailment in New Jersey had caused havoc (my guess is that it was either the Comedy Grim Reaper or Mr. Glass from Unbreakable testing to see if my comedy will is unbreakable). I will now deliver the news/plot in bullet points:
Wait for news until 1pm
Told at 1pm to take Metro North from Grand Central Station to Yonkers where an Amtrak train was waiting to go to Albany and points north
Take subway to Grand Central and catch the 1:51pm train to Yonkers
Arrive at Yonkers at 2:20pm – told train must wait.
Go to vending machine at Yonkers Station because the Albany-bound trains do not have snack cars (#FindOurSnackCars). Machine eats one of my dollars (cue the This is Us acoustic singer songwriter depressing song)
Train finally cleared to leave at 3:30pm
Arrive in Albany at 5:35pm
Get in cab with 4 other people and forced to ride all over Albany for an hour before being dropped off at the Hampton Inn
(cue even more This Is Us-ish music – get a text from my girlfriend that her brother… wait for it… was on the train that was part of the derailment that set this all in motion – he is OK).
I have sex with Mandy Moore at the hotel.
So with 20 minutes before the start of the first show Thursday I texted my girlfriend saying that I needed to quit comedy. Most of what happens in comedy makes me angry and that anger can sometimes provide fuel and motivation. But the trip to Albany, coming off of a week of a cancelled gig felt more helpless and pathetic (which, make no mistake about it, it is). End credits. “Next week on This is Us…”
Great Crowds Save The Day
My mood was almost immediately uplifted once I got to the club on Friday night. Maybe it was Pavlovian – going near a stage with Guns N Roses playing in the background is as good a set of factors to trigger involuntary happiness in me, but it would be unfair to characterize it that way. The crowds were really good and generous the entire weekend. The headliner was John Henton, who most notably played the handyman on Living Single, a show that aired on Fox from 1993-1998, also known as a great time for a young man to discover that Tootie from The Facts of Life was all grown up (the Michael Jordan of “Damn, she’s grown!” to Ariel Winter’s Crag Ehlo). They were great laughers and even more importantly great buyers – sold out of all my CDs over the weekend.
The Rest of My Albany Trip
I saw the movie Life (really good).
I am working on new bits towards a 2018 album. Here is a clip of that bit making progress:
And if you do not follow me on social media here is a pic of me seeing one of Albany’s prized tourist attractions “Giant, Dirty Pile of Snow”
Hartford, CT starting Thursday. Tell them I am coming. And Hell’s coming with me… (this is from Tombstone, in case you think I am being exceedingly morbid).
This week I have been in Cleveland, my home away from where John D. Rockefeller started his empire, where Drew Carey got fat and where I have appeared more than any other city outside of NYC and LA. Basically I have been like Andrew Miller for this city, but over the last 7 years – 6’7″, immensely talented, unwanted by NY and delivering amazing performances. This week has been no different and the city has been in need of healing (but apparently not in need of comedy albums as my 1.0 albums sold per show rate demonstrates) since it was the only Democratic stronghold in the city on Election Night. I have told audiences that their state looked like a murdered Smurf because there was this tiny blue spot in the top of the state and blood red pouring out of it to the entire state. So just like a bases loaded jam in the playoffs for Miller I arrived in Cleveland (under my urban room moniker of “Vanilla Coke”) to deliver some comedic healing… to the audience members that were not talking or texting or coming in late). Here ya go:
Thursday – Southwest Mogul
I had a free flight to Cleveland on Southwest Airlines (I actually have the equivalent of about 6 free flights because of my Southwest credit card – let me tell you nothing gets women ready to get it on more than when at a bar or a club you pull out your Southwest Black Visa Card – yes girl, ever fly 5th class before?), but the catch was I had to fly out of BWI. Well I didn’t have to, but rather than fly from NYC to Chicago and then back to Cleveland I took Amtrak to BWI… at 4:40 am. I arrived at BWI and went to the diner in Terminal A. And they have (Trump voice) tremendous pancakes and hot chocolate (end Trump voice) for any travelers out there. I then hopped on my flight and had leg room for days. See below:
When I arrived in Cleveland I snapped a quick pic with Lebron James who met me at the airport to discuss some potential business ventures. I then made my way to the comedy condo (usually words that are as awkward to a comedian as “Special Event: Jake the Snake Roberts”) but the Cleveland Improv condo is quite nice. I then killed time and had a great set that night. And to prove it I sold 1 CD, but got more compliments and eye contact than I have ever received in my 7 years of performing at the Cleveland Improv.
Friday – No Movie so Why Not Re-Write and Record a Bob Dylan song for 6 hours?!
Normally on Fridays I check out a movie and do a review and then emotionally wrestle for 5 hours on whether or not to go to the gym, but with no movie nearby (Black People Christmas, or whatever it is called was under 50% on Rotten Tomatoes so I couldn’t see it. I was suspicious mainly because it was the first happy, mostly black movie that did not use Earth Wind and Fire’s September in the preview – I will not abide that disrespect to a proud black cinematic tradition. So instead I decided that I should spend my day re-writing and recording a new rendition of Bob Dylan’s Hurricane for The Dan Lebatard Show on ESPN radio. If you are a fan of the show it is strong work (even though my vocals are booty). I re-wrote it before lunch, went to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame at lunch to see their new exhibit on music, power and freedom (really good and inadvertently timely) and then went back to the condo to record the song. Hopefully it gets played and appreciated on the show Monday morning (writing this Sunday afternoon in a Starbucks):
That night I had some good sets and sold a whopping 4 albums so it was difficult to sleep that knowing that Saturday would be foot long sub at Subway instead of 6 inches due to my new wealth. Here is a clip where I summarize the Republican Party in three awkward minutes:
Saturday – You Won’t Have J-L’s Merchandise Table To Kick Around Anymore!
The heading says it all. Had good shows, but after I sold zero on the first (helped in part by a group of 4 people who set up a human wall in front of my merch table – the pic below is of a woman doing the same thing on Friday night – but at least no one threw their coat on top of my CDs like in Albany earlier this year). So after selling zero on the first show I crushed the second show and then stormed out saying “You won’t have my merch table to kick around anymore!” and went back to the condo. I then watched Dave Chappelle host SNL and give the best monologue in the show’s history in an episode every bit as good as Tom Hanks’s episode this year, which for me was the best episode of the show in years.
On an Amazon Prime movie side note – earlier in the day I watched Woody Allen’s Bananas for the first time – wow – what a brilliant comedy that still holds up and is even prescient about some things (available for free with prime until November 30). I then watched (tried to) the very overrated Green Room – made it 65 minutes in and was bored. (Trump tweet voice) Sad! (End Trump tweet voice)
Sunday – Mass and TV in Starbucks
Walked to Mass on Sunday morning (huge, beautiful St John The Evangelist – oddly enough the name of my Church in Manhattan – I guess they franchised out) and couldn’t help feeling unholy thoughts as I looked at all those white, Catholic, Ohio voters (I know how half of my people tend to lean), but then I saw a girl texting during Mass and officially felt like a grumpy, old man. But I do like being in a full Church and the fact that people still shake hands in Church in the Midwest instead of the Purell wave that you get in NYC. I then watched Pitch and The Exorcist on my computer (seriously good shows on Fox this Fall – Mark Paul Gosselaar as a grizzled veteran catcher on Pitch is particularly good) and wrote a new version of My Prerogative called My Presidency for Trump (a joke that did so so was about how Trump is basically Scarface for white racists – expect his poster in redneck thug trailer parks in 15 years – and a political version of what Bobby Brown did when he left New Edition). I only mention this because I am starting to feel like comedy is more a compulsion, rather than a profession or even a hobby. Oh well, 500-5000 YouTube viewers will be thrilled when it goes up at some point and that is enough for me!
So one more show tonight and then my usual 5:50 am Amtrak back to NYC on Monday. You are welcome Cleveland.
Get J-L’s new stand up albums KEEP MY ENEMIES CLOSER & ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
This weekend (well Thursday-Monday morning) was spent in Syracuse, NY – the city that the Sun forgot. I was featuring at the Syracuse Funny Bone, located in the Destiny Mall – a mall so large that they have an entire store dedicated to Crocs, or as I call it, a recruiting tool for ISIS. The comedy week really began last Wednesday night when I played Batman in the Roast of Batman at Broadway Comedy Club. I had a good performance and tried to emulate the Christian Bale Batman voice (video forthcoming), but in terms of attire I had to wear a tight Batman shirt and a hot rubber mask (and then went right to a Batman themed Eyes Wide Shut orgy) because the XXL Batman costume basically fit like Freddie Mercury in the pants and like Chris Farley wearing David Spade’s jacket in Tommy Boy up top. But the jokes went well and then I went to sleep for an early trip to Syracuse the next morning. So without further adieu here is the recap of the trip:
Thursday – Amtrak Backtrack
As I write this from my return Amtrak Monday morning I am happy to report that we are on schedule. The same could not be said for Thursday morning’s trip to Syracuse. I have written a lot over the years of my affinity for, and frustrations with, rail travel in this country. As part of the stimulus plan when Obama took office many dollars were earmarked for infrastructure improvements and additions to state and federal rail service. Much of it was scrapped, especially in states like Florida and Ohio with Republican governors. I have thought for many years that there should be a massive – like hundreds of billions – investment in making our nationwide rail service comparable to Europe and Asia. Improvement to our infrastructure, thousands upon thousands of jobs, upgrading our transportation system and giving something for people to use – feels like a win all around, which is why I think various lobbies, probably aviation at the top of the list, have worked hard to kill this (in addition to the GOP wanting to privatize rail). So instead what we are left with is a 5.5 hour trip to Syracuse that takes 7 hours because Amtrak, once out of the DC-Boston corridor (where the money and power reside) Amtrak does not own the tracks so freight always gets priority – on my last 5 long range trips (5+ hours) the average arrival has been just a few minutes short of 2 hours late. I am no populist and am a happy Hillary voter, but nothing more richly symbolizes America than business being given priority 100% of the time over people on the rails of America. When I finally arrived in Syracuse (after we had to ride 30 minutes past the station because of a disabled train at the station so we could switch tracks) the sky looked like the beginning of the Battle of Helms Deep in The Two Towers, so very welcoming.
Thursday’s show was solid. Nothing big to report, but worth noting is that two stories below the club in the mall was a Cheesecake Factory. So I had a slice of the Hazelnut Cheesecake while the headliner was on (it’s their new flavor and it may be the best they’ve ever done). And just to show you the admiration and respect the Mall has for the money printing machine that is the Cheesecake Factory check out the side of the Mall as they are every bit as powerful as Saxs Fifth Avenue and Macy’s (and only Cheesecake Factory appeared to have reserved parking for their management in the Mall parking area.
Friday – Great Movie, Great Shows, Horrific Aftermath
On Friday I went to see Deepwater Horizon, the Peter Berg directed movie starring Mark Wahlberg about the Exxon Valdez spill (kidding for those of you who are bad with jokes). I have made a lot of fun at the expense of Wahlberg and Berg (sounds more like a law firm) because they have been on some sort of draped-in-the-flag mutual masturbation series of films recently (starting with Lone Survivor, which was OK and then next month’s Patriot’s Day about the Boston bombing these guys are making short, white American men feel even better than Donald Trump). The preview for Patriot’s Day is literally like a remix of the Deepwater trailer – white guy kisses pretty wife while guitars strum, then goes to work trying to make the world a better place – then bad sounds and ominous shots – and then title screen. I said on my podcast the next Wahlbergberg movie is probably going to be called Standing Blue – about a white cop who protests San Francisco 49er games because Colin Kaepernick won’t stand for the anthem.
Now, with all the jokes out of the way, I must give the Wahlbergberg devils their due – Deepwater Horizon was excellent. Incredibly well executed (minus some of the given cheese in the first 30 minutes of the film), well acted (Gina Rodriguez was not quite Tom Hanks at the end of Captain Phillips (GOAT PTSD performance) but she was really good when given a chance to flex her chops and Wahlberg was solid, as was Kurt Russell), and quite powerful. Highly recommend.
As for the shows on Friday – I crushed obviously, but in my arrogance I slipped up. I am not a big cheese eater unless it is preceded by “grilled” or followed by “cake” but I opted for the quesadillas during the 1st show, then got cheesecake in between shows and then, in a moment of boredom, got the mozzarella sticks during show 2. What happened next was nothing short of Deepwater Horizon meets Harry from Dumb and Dumber. I will spare the details, but I got back to my hotel room at 1230am and left my bathroom at 3:05 am. In between dumping crude oil into the Syracuse sewage system I also vomited so hard I thought I burst a blood vessel in my right eye (just turned out to be bloodshot with cloudy vision for an hour). If my stomach had been any worse Peter Berg could have directed a movie starring Mark Wahlberg about the plumber that would have had to come and fix my bathroom. Porcelain Knight coming to theaters 2018.
And here is me crushing in an extended bit about my dog Cookie. Another clip of me doing Trump is getting a lot of hits on Facebook (my Trump impression is so powerful it turns conservative, upstate white voters into a Def Jam crowd)
Saturday – Crushing Sets, Crushing Emotions Over Poor Sales
Saturday I saw the movie Ouija, which was not very good (other than Lights Out – critics have been off bigly with this year’s horror offerings). I also ate very little because my stomach felt like it had been through a war. So there was nothing much of significance to report other than the fact that I crushed hard. Several people told me my Trump bit/impression was the funniest thing they had ever heard. I agreed with them. But in two shows I only sold 1 CD. So I went back to the hotel bummed, but hopeful with one more show left in the week. #LiveLoveLaugh Here is a picture of Jake The Snake Roberts and I from the club. If you don’t follow me on Instagram, this is Jake doing his impression of me when I heard Jake The Snake Roberts was headlining comedy clubs:
Sunday – The Final Chapter
Sunday began with being woke(n) up by the high school band that occupied every room on my hotel floor except for my room and the headliner John Henson (of Talk Soup and Wipeout) and they were loud and annoying, but I had already gotten the 4.5 hours sleep I need to be an angry, lazy, bitter sloth of a comedian so I was good to go. I went to see The Magnificent Seven and was joined by John, who either because he wanted an aisle seat as well or just wanted to assert his headliner status, sat one row above me in the theater. The movie was not very good. I feel like Denzel, Chris Pratt and Antoine Fuqua were all better than that movie (though Pratt was annoying in his overly charming performance). Then it was time for the final show. I did very well and sold the most CDs (10) than any other show for the weekend. I felt so confident that I had a 3rd and final piece of cheesecake, which as of this typing has not done any damage.
All in all it was a great weekend working with John and Mr. Jackson (the emcee), as well as Rob, the chauffeur, door guy, former strip club bouncer who escorted John and I around for the weekend. Looking forward to coming back in 2017! Now I get to see my dog Cookie, who is not thrilled about her Cookie Monster costume, but fu*k it – she looks cute in it. And if Wahlbergberg have taught us anything, it is heroes don’t always do the easy thing, but they do the right thing – coming in 2020 Mark Wahlberg as Cookie the Dog in Halloween Hero directed by Peter Berg.
Get J-L’s new stand up album ISRAELI TORTOISE on iTunes, Amazon & Google.
This weekend I was in Raleigh, North Carolina at Goodnight’s Comedy Club. I am writing this from the cafe car of my Amtrak train (the Silver Star, which originates in Miami, so other than licking a toilet seat in Brazil there are very few places I would expect to carry Zika more than this train) and trying to remember that the week was a strong one – worked with solid comics, saw two good movies, sold some CDs, indulged in some Chick Fil-A (in North Carolina, which I have dubbed a “bigotry Inception”) and was able to relax a little bit. However, 93 Uber rides, a horrible hotel breakfast, one female heckler and her emasculated husband and an elderly obese woman blaming me for her fall on this train 30 minutes ago have forced me to temper my happiness about the trip. So with that tease let’s get into the details of another road trip with America’s favorite Middle Man Road Recapper.
Thursday – Hotel, Motel… Best Western?
I woke up early on Thursday, said goodbye to my girlfriend and Cookie (my dog, I packed several “Complete Cookies” – vegan, protein cookies that my girlfriend calls “Bro Cookies” because they are sold at GNC) and headed for the Carolinian, the 7:05 am train that leaves NY Penn Station for North Carolina. I managed to secure a seat by myself until Richmond, VA, which on a packed train is pretty great. I read a little bit, wrote my next sketch (filming Friday and going up 10 days before the first presidential debate) and generally felt like a freedom rider in the 1960s (there were 3 white people and a bi-racial giant in my car to go with 80 black people and 54 bare feet. I played spirituals on my iPod to complete the ambiance.
When I arrived in Raleigh only an hour late (5:30pm) I got an Uber thinking I had hotwire.com’d the same hotel I had been in 2 years ago. For those of you that don’t play travel Russian Roulette on Hotwire.com (or as I will call it after this trip THOTwire.com), you put in your location and the website gives you discounted rates for hotels within a distance range – but to get the discounted rates you don’t know the name or exact location of the hotel. 4 out of 5 times it is a great deal and very convenient. However to get the $54/night rate (#ComedyMogul) I picked a hotel in a 0.2 miles-5.0 miles range from the club. Well, this was the 5th time because the hotel was 4.7 miles from the club – so that would mean Uber back and forth every night. But if you add up the rate of the hotel I stayed at last time (Days Inn – #ComedyMogul) I still saved about $19 when you subtract the Ubers from the increased nightly price so basically I gamed the system again, if you don’t factor in the mental cost of inconvenience. Sadly their continental breakfast sucked, but for $54 a night I guess I should be thankful that they had anything. #Blessed
Thursday night’s show was fun. The headliner was Jon Reep, who I actually voted for on his season of Last Comic Standing many years ago, and 6’7″ emcee Brent Blakeney, who I worked with the last time I was in Raleigh (the Duncan-Robinson of opening acts), but this time we did not have to babysit Iliza Schlesinger’s dog in the green room. The show went well, though it was the only crowd for the week that wasn’t packed. But I did make one pity sale of a CD to an older woman. That pity money then went to pay for a depression donut at the Dunkin Donuts near my hotel (the only thing within walking distance to my hotel – I would end up eating half of their inventory by Sunday morning).
Friday would be the peak of the trip on all fronts, except CD sales. I woke up, thought about going to the hotel gym, and after burning 3 calories thinking about it I opted instead to do a double feature at the movie theater. I got an Uber and ate at the aforementioned Chick Fil A and then saw Hands of Stone and Don’t Breathe. Check my positive reviews of both here:
The shows that night were great. Packed crowds, big laughs, etc. In other words nothing really fun to recap happened. I did get a celebration milkshake at Dunkin Donuts (technically it is a DD/Baskin Robbins, but DD is doing all the heavy lifting for that mediocre ice cream – the milkshake was weak).
Saturday – “If AIDS and Cancer had sex on this stage right now it would be more enjoyable than what you are doing”
During the day I sat in my hotel room doing a marathon of The Good Wife on Amazon Prime (solid show – 15 eps through season 1; I would have called the show The Nice Lawyer). I then made my way to the club. The first show was hot despite a few woman making their voices heard too much (one woman said “oh come on” in disappointment about 7 times in the first 11 minutes of my set and a couple of younger ladies kept trying to get me to recognize them by overreacting with “awwws” at some punchlines. But overall – great first show. Then the second show happened.
There are sad and tragic moments in American History concerning black men that are too legion to count. From slavery to Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin America has a plentiful history of destroying black men. I would like to add another black man to that tragic roster. There was a Latin woman who kept talking and repeating lines and clapping off the beat of the jokes. At best she was horribly distracting, at worst she should be first on Trump’s deportation squad list. I probably spent 12 of my final 22 minutes on stage in North Carolina dealing with her. I pledged to the crowd that I was going to join ISIS and after I completed my one target mission I would retire from jihad. I ripped this woman so many ways and nothing worked (also here is a popular blog I wrote in 2013 about female hecklers). And even more disappointing was that her husband or boyfriend, a strong looking black man (physically strong, obviously he had been mentally broken) had said nothing or never tried to intervene or calm her down or drown her in a bathtub. Now in fairness to Stephen from Django, she was a Latin woman and that is right after cookies as my life kryptonite , but at some point you have to step up and be a cis-hetero-normative male, no matter how good the salsa is. The entire crowd roared every time I crushed her and the biggest laugh I probably got all week was when I morphed into Trump and gave her a “Get her out.” On Twitter and Facebook I said this man’s performance was “the weakest by a black man since Charles Smith against the Bulls.” (The above quote is one of many things I said to her by the end of my set). Here are just a couple of still shots from me scolding the woman:
After the second show I sold some more CDs and was treated like a hero by most of the crowd. But those good tidings simply meant that the comedy gods had something negative in store for me before leaving North Carolina, because no comedy journey ever ends well…
Sunday – The Fall Guy for the Fallen Lady
Just 2 hours ago at the writing of this sentence I arrived at the Raleigh train station. I boarded the train and was told to take seat 3. I saw an obese elderly woman sitting in seat 4, but she had books and a tray of snacks in seat 4. I then said “Hey, that is my seat – they assigned me to it.” She then started saying she could move back (her scooter was in front of seats 1 and 2), but I did not understand that seat 4 was not her seat (why would I assume an obese/handicapped woman would park her chair somewhere other than the seat she is sitting in?) so I just waited for her to move the snacks so I could sit down. She then got out of the seat and shuffled/struggled to walk over to seats 1 and 2. At this point half the car is staring at me like I am the bus driver telling Rosa Parks to move, even though that is not what I intended. Also I am now blocking about 12 passengers from making it to their seats. A guy the size of Luke Cage then tells me he is in seat 4 (why Amtrak paired 6’7″, 280 lbs with 6’3″, 230, when the people paired behind me had the combined weight of Tom Hanks at the end of Philadelphia is a mystery to me). As I was sliding out of the way of Luke the fall heard around the Amtrak world occurred. The old lady fell spilling coffee and juices. Luke and I helped her up to her seat and then a conductor came up to her to see if she was OK. She then explained that (pointing to me) “He HAD to have that seat so I got up.” I tried to get support from Luke Cage, but between elderly black woman and guy who looks like he co-owned the pizza shop in Do The Right Thing I think his support for my predicament was tepid at best.
So now I sit in the cafe car on my way home blogging instead of being treated like the Bull Connor of Amtrak in my seat. The good news is I will be back on Amtrak tomorrow headed to Albany to do voice work as Donald Trump, so I just need to remember my German Sheppard and fire hose in the morning.
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The last week has been a great microcosm of my career. My latest album, Israeli Tortoise, with no industry, label, management or iTunes support hit #1 on the comedy charts for a day and stayed in the top 10 for 4 days (as I type this it currently sits at 110, so basically my album has had the same arc as the movie Awakenings – a miracle occurred and everyone became happy only to see it quickly fall back into a Robert DeNiro stupor by the end of its run. The album also received a Twitter endorsement from Jim Gaffigan, the Pope of iTunes album sales. And to kill time on the road I saw 4 movies, 3 of which I enjoyed. That’s the good news. But like any comedy adventure it also featured the usual assortment of low lights – a 15 hour train ride with 20 minutes sleep and then having to wait 4 hours before checking into the hotel, being avoided like a leper by 99.9% of the audiences of the shows after performing, despite crushing 4 of the shows and only having one stinker (LATE SHOW FRIDAY – I AM TALKING TO YOU). Fitting that during the week where I hit #1 on iTunes I have my worst week of merch sales on the road ever (I am averaging 1 CD sold per show with one show to go – the good news is I will get an unsuspecting workout dragging 90% of my albums home on Monday morning) . Here is my truth (hand to the chest) in more expansive details:
If Eli Roth is looking for a new movie idea for one of his awful torture porn films, perhaps “Cross Country Amtrak” could make a compelling subject. I have taken the Lakeshore Limited (the one that goes from NYC to Chicago by way of Greenland) well over a dozen times in my comedy career as it hits Cleveland, upstate NY and Chicago, all places I have performed in many times. But perhaps it is my increasing #ComedyMogul status or just getting more uncomfortable as I get older, but the train is rough. Especially to Toledo. It was an hour late and arrived in Toledo at 7am and let me tell you, there is nothing more refreshing than getting off a train filled with the obese, the “I need to avoid TSA” and bare feet crowd of an Amtrak after 15 hours (and kudos to the two separate people who took powerful shits in our car during the Odyssey) and only 20 minutes sleep.
Due to inconsistent Internet in the room and the fact that the gym in the mall closed 2 years ago, movies ended up being my main time killer. I saw 4 movies, one each day. I loved Sausage Party (see the review here), was more than pleasantly surprised by Bad Moms, found a lump in my throat during Pete’s Dragon and wanted to murder every critic on Rotten Tomatoes who gave the atrocious Lights Out a positive review. Also one of the great benefits of the Toledo Funny Bone, besides the excellent hotel across the street (not withstanding the Internet, it is pretty swanky) from the club, is the fact that food and the mall (not a great mall, but better than nothing) are within walking distance and involve no crossing or walking along the side of any highways – always a plus in the life of the car-less feature).
The main event for every trip are the shows and I have been very happy with my performances. But to be honest, I have eaten it on stage (Birmingham, AL 2009 comes to mind as an overall week that was a struggle) and still came away still selling decently. However, the Toledo crowds have been a perfect storm of people who don’t want to buy AND don’t particularly want to make eye contact with you after a show. I did get a handful of “are you really half black”‘s – slightly fewer than the “good show”‘s I got, but a lot closer than I would have liked. The main thing I have judged from the crowd is that a lot of them seem like stand up novices – those who may not be comedy savants so they simply know by the end of the show “the guy who went last and did the most is the only human being that counts on the lineup!” I have opened for some of the biggest names in comedy and although never overshadowing them – if you hold your own as a feature, good crowds can recognize the talent and promise in all the acts. These crowds laugh their asses off (EXCEPT YOU LATE FRIDAY SHOW), but then walk by you like you were the 25 minute mic stand repair guy. Very weird and frustrating, but that’s the deal sometimes.
The worst though, was the guy who came out after my set with his wife or girlfriend to specifically tell me that he thought I was really great and that my set blew him away. He asked for a picture, I obliged and he and his lady went back in for the rest of the show. I went to the emcee and said, “Well, at least I will get one sale after the show.” Fast forward 245 minutes (black headliner) and the same dude might have been able to challenge Usain Bolt for the 100m. I kept thinking – don’t you at least want my website info?”
Usually merch money pays for all my food and movies for a weekend and then some. Now I am going to have to hit an ATM to tip out the bartenders after the last show. This is my 9/11 (which if I had sold between 9 and 11 CDs I would not have to go to the ATM).
One other thing I have learned about myself being on the road for the last few years is my ability to depress emcees. It is admittedly cool that because of my videos and impressions my reputation and skills have outpaced my actual career within stand up comedy (which is sort of counter-intuitive – “Hey people know and like your work – of course we can’t book/represent you!). On top of that my exposure on podcasts like Carolla and TBGWT have made more people on the road familiar with my work. But it is sort of a bizarre compliment seeing comedians getting sort of depressed about the business when realizing that I am still a nobody (implying that they think I should be further along – hence the compliment). Not to mention I get slightly aroused seeing comedians become more aware of what a shameful joke this industry is. Quick teaching moment – kiss the ass of a headliner, get a manger or be under 30 with a pinch of talent (but not too much so that they don’t think they can mold you into what they need at their agency) – these are the ways to “make it.” All other methods are red herrings.
So as I gear up for the finals show of the week (and a 3:20 am Amtrak back to NYC – SEE AT THE BOTTOM FOR SUNDAY EPILOGUE) I leave you with some bits from the weekend and a reminder to go buy Israeli Tortoise on iTunes (or other digital platforms), Enjoy – and pray that I don’t get Zika, Ebola or Bird Flu on my way home.
Play Station Banged My Ex
The Problem With Ocean’s 8 in 1 Minute
I sold 1 CD on Sunday night after a very strong set, which helped complete my 1.0 sales per show rate – the lowest of my career for any road weekend. However, group of older black people came up to me at the club after the show and said the following (for ease of writing I have turned all of their voices into one speaker):
OBP: We were on your Amtrak coming here. We sat next to you and in front of you (there were 4 of them total)!
J-L: Oh yeah, I remember you!
OBP: Yes, you were very funny tonight. And we commented on the train how often you got up to go to the bathroom.
J-L: Yeah, I didn’t sleep for the whole trip so my body kept having to pee.
OBP: Will you be going back on the train tonight?
OBP: Then we will see you there. We will get a picture with you there!
So look for a pic of me and 4 older black people at the Toledo Amtrak station coming to the Internet soon!