I am sitting in my old midtown Starbucks writing this in between another day at the law firm and before getting a haircut at my old barber shop before heading downtown to do a show at a restaurant for no money before returning to NJ for the night. So if you thought anything in my career or life had changed, it seems it has: I have a much longer commute home.
This blog is delayed by about 3 days because I was sick on Sunday, the Lord’s blogging day, and could not hammer this out. And then I had a busy week of podcasting and day jobbing and insomnia-ing. So this brief moment in between work, chores and unpaid comedy is when I can recount for you the absolute comedic destruction I delivered on Friday and Saturday. At this point, my comedy career feels like Neon in Blue Chips if Nick Nolte (and no one else) had ever discovered him in a small gym in “ALGIERS?!” He’d still be giving people work, but spending the rest of his days in business casual attire looming over a bunch of co-workers. So let’s get to it before this Starbucks closes…
Friday in York – Jean Betterman
I was picked up by friend and comedian Chris Lamberth from my apartment Friday afternoon for our journey to York, PA. We discusses movies and comedy for three hours and then got to our hotel. It was not a Hampton Inn so I cannot mention it as I try to preserve my potential future as a Hampton Inn spokesman (they get a solid shout out on my seemingly never to be released special Half Blackface, for which there will be a live memorial service on Sunday with my Patreon – if you want a ton of exclusive sketch videos, podcasts and more from me for very cheap you can join – just kidding! If you are a #fan of mine reading this, the last thing you want is to pay me for comedy). We then went to the Appell Center for the Arts in downtown York, and to my surprise the show was a sell out (I think lots of people just go to whatever is in town, but I did have plenty of fans there as well).
Daphne London led off the show with some funny musical comedy and then Chris did his thing from the middle spot. And then I killed it. There’s really nothing left to share. I had a set that was so strong with 80% new material since the two tapings of Half Blackface that I wish I had recorded it on high quality video and then thrown it out just to replicate the feeling from my greatest set ever in October 2021. I felt great after, sold a bunch of albums and then went to Iron Horse York for a post show meal celebrating my triumph. I ate a delicious piece of cake and went to sleep.
Saturday – Raising Money for Democrats in Nyack
Chris and I left York at 730 the next morning (or thereabouts) and made it an hour or so before stopping at an IHOP. After crushing that we went all the way back to NJ. But it was a quick turnaround for me because I had to go to Nyack to headline a small fundraiser for Democrats in Clarkstown, NY. Because NJ transit is dumb, here was how I had to go:
5:05 train to NY Penn Station
Walk to Grand Central
Get the 6:45 express Metro North to Tarrytown
Take a Lyft across the Mario Cuomo (birth name Tappan Zee before it wanted to play boys’ sports) Bridge to the venue in Nyack
But J-L, why don’t you get a car? BECAUSE I AM NOT AN ENVIRONMENT DESTROYING LAZY PIECE OF SHIT. I LIVE NEAR THE TRAIN AND BUS AND FOR THE 2-3 DAYS A MONTH WHERE A CAR WOULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN MY LIFE IT IS NOT WORTH THE INSURANCE, PARKING AND COSTS OF MANUFACTURING! PERHAPS IF MORE AMERICANS WOULD STOP LIVING IN NAVEL GAZING BUBBLES WHERE THEY BELIEVE THEIR ACTIONS HAVE NO CONSEQUENCES AND THEIR CONVENIENCE IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT IS BEST FOR THE WORLD THEY MIGHT STOP BITCHING ABOUT GAS PRICES AND TAKE PUBLIC TRANSIT OR WALK INSTEAD OF BEING A BUNCH OF FAT FUCKS ASKING ME WHY I DONT JOINT THE CARBON PARADE!
When I got there I finished mapping out my set in the green room and then proceeded to do an entire set of political material and impressions, about 2/3 of which I had written that day. It went over very well. Here is a clip:
I then mingled with people after, ate a brownie (an actual brownie, not a mini girl scout – I only respect Armie Hammer, I am not actually him) and then Pete Dominick, the comedian who organized the event, drove me to the Tarrytown Metro North at barely safe speeds allowing me to make the train back to the city by a minute. I then walked from Grand Central back to Penn Station in time to get a 12:20am to Newark, from where I procured a Lyft to take me home. When I arrived I ate a pint of ice cream while watching SNL. I fell asleep and when I woke 5 hours later I had such a bad sore throat that I was gagging on my phlegm and thought for about 10 minutes I might die (when my life flashed before my needlessly paranoid eyes – my two thoughts were that my special really was going to come out after I was dead and that my girlfriend and dog would be upset discovering my body, primarily because of how difficult it would be to move). For more on that fun experience – check out my podcast this week – just kidding, if you are a #fan I know you won’t!
Next road gigs? PRINCETON, NJ the end of the month!
So this weekend I made a trip to Boston for an encore performance at City Winery. Last July my trip to Boston represented one of my first post/mid/where are we in the pandemic comedy road trips and it was a smashing success. Despite my pessimism at only being offered a Monday night spot I got around 150 people in the main room, met lots of fans and returned home to NJ the next day a conquering hero. So this year I felt even happier to get a Friday spot at CW. I had initially booked two Friday shows (the smaller room, which is better for comedy, seats 75 people so I figured 150 on a Monday in July = at least 150 tickets on a Friday in July). As my friend Duane said to me after the show on Friday, “I tried to buy tickets for the late show, but it was sold out.” I replied, “We canceled it because sales were awful.” He replied “Well you could have said nothing and let me think it was sold out.” I replied, “for better, and most certainly for worse, my entire comedy career’s essence forces me to say exactly what I just said.” So now that you know the middle of the road story, let’s get going on the whole thing.
The Way to Boston
I took a day off from work (I now try to factor in the cost of vacation days when taking a comedy gig, the way companies should factor carbon output into their value) and hopped on the 10:03am Acela to Boston. The train was uneventful. I helped my seatmate, a petite Asian woman, put her suitcase in the luggage compartment. Either I am getting weaker or Thor’s hammer was in her suitcase because that thing was heavy AF. The real highlight came when a fan, before departing one of the stops just outside of Boston tapped me on the shoulder and said she was a big fan. I said I was headed to Boston to do a show and she said she knew but her husband had tickets to Phish. As if that was not bad enough, some guy on the train (one of these Phish people that apparently have unlimited vacation days to tour the country to watch Phish) chimed in with “you’re going to Phish? Me too!” I wanted to say “Hey fella, can’t you see this is a fan-entertainer conversation? No one asked what the Ungrateful Dead fan thinks about any of this!” But instead I thanked the fan for her support and waited to arrive at South Station (as I learned this morning before leaving for NYC it is actually the Michael Dukakis Train Station – PUT SOME GREEK SALAD RESPECT ON HIS HAIRY NAME!)
I walked to my hotel, Club Quarters, from MDTS. Serviceable enough hotel, though my bathroom smelled very musky. Then it was time for sound check. The young staff on the show was all very nice and positive. The lead was a young woman whose experience working with artists and her psych degree clearly gave her a good set of skills to communicate with giant, despondent, self-deprecating comedic geniuses before shows.
I made my way back to my hotel to shower and go over my set list (of the show, at least 50 minutes were written in the last 2 months, post the new special). And on an extra good note, my friend Al, part of a Williams College group of friends coming to the show (Utah Jazz Coach and Class of 2008 Eph Will Hardy was disappointingly not there – he must still be busy helping demolish my favorite team – WHY COULDN’T IT BE AN AMHERST GRAD TO DO THAT!?), had been able to get on a last flight out of Chicago after his planned flight was canceled.
So I went on stage at 7:20 and outside of a bit on Mark Wahlberg and comparing terror attacks in Boston and NY to the Red Sox and Yankees, which did fine but ruffled some, I think the set was a big success. I do not want to mention some of the topics (simply because several of them are original and I would not want to inspire someone else to do bad versions of my work), but I will probably post some audio/and or video to my patreon this week. I also busted out an impromptu George Carlin impression for a bit where I was parsing some language. One fan was at the show 2 days after his father had passed, which was very touching and would have been a much more valid excuse to miss a show than Phish (just kidding Acela fan!).
But it turned out that in addition to all of Boston going away every weekend in the Summer, there were a ton of big concerts in the area on Friday. Not only Phish, but Zac Brown Band and, the big one nearby, New Kids On The Block, whose audience could only be described as a “white, middle-aged flesh tsunami” (as I dubbed it after the show). After the show my group of Williams friends and I made our way to a nearby sports bar to watch the Red Sox-Yankees game, which the Yankees predictably lost (since I was watching).
The next morning I woke up and read on a park bench downtown while having a cup of coffee. As I took in downtown Boston, and wrote in a tweet, it felt like watching American History get molested by a shopping mall. The proximity of commercialism and historical landmarks is so jarring, at least to a visitor. I then went with my friends and some of their kids to a family friendly brewery called Trillium (seems like an oxymoron, but it seemed to work – beer, kids, driving – what could go wrong?!). I had 3 drinks and then proceeded to play whiffle ball with everyone. My personal highlights were ripping a double with one hand and on a routine grounder, fielding it and then tumbling to the ground as some combo of beer, surgically repaired knee and 43 year old-thinking-he’s still 29-clumsiness took hold of me. I cannot imagine what that looked like to half a dozen elementary school age kids, but it had to have been jarring.
I had to take a Lyft back to Boston early because I had to go to Mass (since I am on Amtrak all morning and they don’t provide a snack car chaplain). I arrived in Little Italy for Mass, which meant I had to kiss my hand after doing every sign of the cross. I also noticed that there were a lot more young and attractive people at Mass in Boston than in NYC or NJ – is this because they are still trying to bag a Kennedy?
After Mass I went back to my hotel and prepped to go watch the Sox and Yankees with my friends, but after a long, fun and tiring day drinking and playing whiffle ball in the Sun the plan was nixed. So I did not get to watch the Yanks (of course they won 14-1).
I got up early for the 6:35am train back to NYC, which is where I am writing this. It is not an Acela train, but I am sitting next to a guy wearing a Brown University Sailing hat. It makes sense that I am on this regular people, slow train – comedians on the downside of their career are right at home. But someone on an Ivy League sailing team? You are not doing life right if you are on the poor people train.
This weekend I made my way down to Washington, DC for a pair of shows as I prepare for the re-taping of the special whose name we dare not speak. The trip began with an Uber ride worthy of the Fast and Furious Franchise and ended with a woman yelling at me that she had been abused by a priest. Let’s just get into the recap! Also the recap of my Buffalo road trip is part of a bonus episode of my podcast now available on my very robust and very cheap Patreon. Link available on my website menu above.
I don’t have friends. I got Uber
I have not used Uber in many years. I deleted it off of my phone and have used Lyft when I need a ride app because I believe choosing the company with fewer scandals and sexually assaults is responsible and engaged citizenship. But when I am about to miss my last chance to get to DC on time on a Friday, my sympathy for Me Too becomes AFTER ME! The wait for Lyft on Friday afternoon was “limited availability.” which struck me as odd so I asked my girlfriend if she still had Uber on her phone. She did because our relationship is a lie! “I THOUGHT WE AGREED TO DELETE UBER! But while you still have it can you check if a car can get me?” The wait said 15 minutes, which would get me to Newark Penn Station at 3:08 for a 3:13 train. Close call, but I had no option. And then I waited about 23 minutes. So right there it seemed my window had all but closed. When I got in the car, the school crossing guard stopped us before we could go through the light. I slapped my (non-surgically repaired) knee and said “FU*K!” My driver remained calm and non-judgmental and said “you are in a hurry? I will do my best to get you there quickly.”
What proceeded was one of the two greatest cab performances I have ever been part of. The first was the guy many years ago who got me from LaGuardia airport to midtown Manhattan in record time and for the cheapest price I’d ever had by using a series of side streets. It was Harry Potter level shit. The other one was this driver who employed barely legal and perhaps extra-legal methods to get me to Newark Penn with six minutes to spare. It was like a Fast and Furious reboot where Dom is behind the wheel and The Rock is anxious and hasn’t been to the gym in a while sitting in the backseat. And Vin Uber managed to never really be reckless. The ride was $20 but I gave him $40 in cash as a tip and told him his heroism that day would be immortalized in a comedian’s blog.
Night 1: Washington, DC
On my Acela train to DC (I call the Friday afternoon Acela to DC the adultery express, simply because it seems to feature a high number of attractive women and old men) I sat next to a woman who sort of looked like an older, but healthier Lindsey Lohan. When I got to Union Station I ate a Chopt Salad and mapped out my set for the 8pm show at Baby Wale (no affiliation with the the DC rapper, though I assured the crowd that there would be a cease and desist order arriving any day). Several die hard fans showed up, as well as middle aged women who I believe left very disappointed that I did very few impressions and lots of jokes that were not super nice.
After the show, show booker and comedian Jon Yeager drove me to Springfield, VA where he had booked me a Motel 6. During my stay I thought there might have been a tear drop tattoo convention being held in one of their presidential suites, but it turns out it is just sort of a motel for ruffians. As I told the crowd on Saturday, they didn’t leave the light on, but the moonlight shining off of the police caution tape did create a warm, welcoming glow. I was in Room 114 because we could not afford the upgrade to where the players dwell. This was my second hotel in the last 6 months with bulletproof glass for the front desk, in case you are wondering if fame and fortune have had a positive effect on my career.
Night 2: Culpeper, Virginia
The next day I read, but to make up for that un-American activity I ate breakfast at McDonald’s and lunch at Chick Fil A. To kill the afternoon before Jon picked me up for the trek to Culpeper (one p, so I pronounced it Culpeeper to the crowd for the night) I reviewed my first special taping to make more notes for the re-taping on May 14th. Remind me never to do that again. That set and crowd really should have been my walk-off and I was tempted on Saturday while listening to call off the second taping on principle. But the thing about principles and comedy is that principles always lose and no one cares. So SHOW STILL ON!
The show in Culpeper was at The Sangria Bowl – a very nice Latin restaurant with a staff of nice young Latin women. it was located across the street from the Culpeper GOP headquarters so I couldn’t tell if this was some sort of advanced Get Out trap to lure me in with tostones and attractive Latinas while the sundown committee across the street plotted my demise, but I stayed anyway.
The show went well. A remarkably diverse crowd for a town that the census lists as 109% white. I worked through material and issues and was ready to close with my bit on Holy Water when a woman yelled. Now the first time she yelled was to tell me she did not believe I was half Black. But I eventually won her over. The next time she yelled was 3 lines into my Holy Water bit to say “I WAS MOLESTED BY A PRIEST!” Now, there are many ways to deal with a heckle or an interruption, but that is a tough one. Perhaps if I was some edge lord douche I would have said “well he had terrible taste” or “well at least it was not a boy” but sometimes battles are not worth fighting, so I just said “Obviously I am very sorry to hear that. Well, let’s move on to my bit about how my Mom beat breast Cancer” (which is what I did – comedy life hack – a great time to work on material that is often somewhat uncomfortable is when an audience member has screamed about being a victim of child sexual abuse – the crowd is then way more amenable to Cancer material than they might have previously been.”
After the show Jon and I chatted with some new fans (at least one of whom said they would read this blog – THIS IS A FAN TEST) and then drove back to the Motel 6, which had actually been downgraded to a Motel 4 during the day. We stopped at a Wendy’s where I treated myself to a medium chocolate frosty and then slept for 5 hours before waking up to go to Church, during which a priest yelled at me “I WAS MOLESTED AT A COMEDY SHOW!” Now I wait for the Acela back home to New Jersey. Have a great week folks (join the Patreon!)
The first comedy club I ever attended was the DC Improv on a trip with my brother. The first comedy club to ever pay me was the DC Improv for a week of emceeing. So 18 years into my comedy career, which started at a jazz club open mic in Washington, D.C., it would not be an exaggeration to say that I achieved a real and personal milestone by headlining a weekend at the DC Improv. It was a great weekend during which I connected with fans and old friends. had a genuine DC power lunch and had a few new bits achieve near-instant legend status. I also sat next to a weeping pre-teen at the new Spider Man and experienced a momentary, but deep crisis of faith in my comedy career (duh). In other words, a uniquely typical road comedy experience for me, so without further adieu let’s get into it!
After working from 7am at the day job I made my way to Newark Penn Station to catch the 315pm Accela to DC (with first class coupon upgrade). It was an uneventful, but as I joked on stage all weekend – why is the first class car the first car on the train? If a tragedy were to occur, shouldn’t the successful people in first class have a 4-5 car buffer of less worthy people in front of them? We should not be the tip of the spear in an accident!
Got to DC and made my way to the Farragut North station, which sounds like a drunk Dave Chappelle telling people where Dupont Circle is, to go to the AC Hotel, where the club was putting me up. I loved the hotel, though it did have a weird shower and a square toilet (I will never understand hotels that in the name of style and ambiance tinker with basic things that have been perfected). I then had about 10 minutes to relax before heading out to the club for the first show of the week.
The show went really well, the crowd was great and to celebrate I went and did 90 more minutes of legal work in my hotel room to meet some billing requirements.
On Friday I had to wake up early to (drumroll please) do day job work because I was having my first real DC power lunch with David Frum. He had been at the Thursday show with his family and though the show went really well, my sole concern, knowing we would be having lunch the next day, was if the show would go well for DF. He did enjoy it so I knew our lunch would not be a 2 hour conversation dancing around the previous night’s comedic failure. We had a tasty lunch (I had Rigatoni Bolognese) at Et Voila and discussed comedy, politics and more.
After lunch, as I waited outside for my Lyft, a man started approaching me with a look of recognition. As he got close I realized it was a man named Mark and he had been a year below me at Williams College. I processed quickly like the Terminator and he said “do you remember me?” and I was like “Mark from Williams!” His wife followed once it was clear that we were both the people we thought we were from 20 years ago. They told me they had been big fans of my stuff during the pandemic and then it came up that he was an assistant GM for the Nationals. This is a more than common occurrence when interacting with Williams alums. I have a cool YouTube page… you have a World Series ring!
After the Frum power lunch and the Washington Nationals power chat I powered my way back to doing more powerful day job work at the hotel. Then it was time to crush 2 Friday shows. But when a comedian makes plans to crush, God laughs. But not in a good way.
Frist show was actually really good. It was a full crowd, thanks in no small part to the quasi army of my girlfriend’s friends and family that came through. An older, unpublished bit I dusted off on gummi vitamins tore the roof off (as it would for every subsequent show as it continued to rapidly get better as I began adding more tags in real time). The star bit of the weekend, however, was definitely my multi part story about Georgetown Law professor Neal Katyal (who wrote a reference letter for me in law school) outpacing my entertainment career. It is so good that it, along with gummi vitamins, may have extended the lease on my comedy career.
One bit that did not go over as well I hoped (it was the most inconsistent bit of the weekend, but when it hit it did hit big) was basically me offering vulgar and emotional sympathy for Adele’s ex. During the Friday early show it was the only bit that earned any heckles… and they were from my girlfriend’s family. Here is a pic of me and my girlfriend after the show when I found out:
After the show I took Alex, a devoted member of the Making Podcasts Great Again fan community, and his wife out for a promised drink. Alex came to NYC solo for the taping of Half Blackface so I thought it was the least I could do. In the course of just a half hour before the 2nd show I learned that Alex was infinitely more successful and accomplished than me. I won’t discuss his career since it is not my place to do so, but I think my own insecurity about my comedy career made me presume/project a lack of success on to my fans (“well, they love my comedy so they must be at the end of the line!” – to be fair, since it did take an apocalyptic event for my career to finally take off, that is a more rational response than it would be for a comedian who did not require a Biblical plague level event to gain success). But mostly it was just nice to be able to show a little appreciated to a fan. And then I asked him if I could borrow money.
The second show would be the one that would leave me sad. The crowd was not big, but that was not the problem. I felt like I was having a very good set, but instead of a full house where the energy feeds off of itself it was small enough that big laughs were borderline impossible, both because it was 1/3 full and because when crowds are small they seem uncomfortable laughing loudly because there is a much bigger chance of shifting the focus onto yourself. So during the course of the set I made about 6 allusions to suicide (all jokes), but otherwise gave a strong effort. When I left the stage I didn’t feel great. I felt like by not being able to pack every show I had put fans in an awkward position. That feeling was only augmented by the kind words from the fans who were there. They did enjoy the set and one quartet said they came down from Baltimore that night specifically for me on their friend’s birthday. Instead of making me feel good, it actually made me feel bad. If you come to see me from another city I feel like I owe you a great experience and it is almost impossible to have a great comedy show at 1/3 capacity. Not that it can’t be good, but when there is too much silence or too low energy that responsibility falls to the headliner for not getting more people.
When I got to the hotel at 1 am I woke up the girlfriend to tell her that I think I needed to quit comedy. It is one thing to fail myself, but I felt like I had failed fans, even though they said they loved the show. My girlfriend’s response, reflecting both her fatigue and familiarity with this subject was “uhhhh zzzzzzzzzz.”
When I woke up Saturday I still felt a little bummed, but the feeling started to subside as I realized I really had had two strong performances the night before. I went for a long walk through DC with the gf before she had to leave for home. I then went and saw Spider Man: No End in Sight, or whatever it is called. I know it is setting records and people love it, but I am kind of done seeing Marvel stuff in theaters. I think Disney+ is the right venue for me from now. I actually really liked the first Tom Holland Spider Man movie, but the new one and the one preceding it I thought were just fine. Considering the entire Spider Man film universe spans only 20 years, it seems now that anything 5 years or older counts as nostalgia for the Marvel fan base that is America. I don’t think the movie was bad, but hammering me with memories of the last decade of movies seems to be enough for people to categorize something as “great.”
To make matters worse, the very chatty 11 year old next to me in the theater began weeping halfway through the film during an “emotional” part. When I was his age I cried at Dead Poets’ Society and Glory, not Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Saturday’s shows were absolutely great. Both were sold out and I would like to say good things about the early show, but the problem is I am so proud of what I pulled off on the late show. As I watched the emcee and feature on the late show I could see that the crowd was very chatty and quite possibly very drunk. There was one woman in the back that I referred to as Max Cady (think 1991 Cape Fear movie theater scene) because her laugh appeared designed to only distract and not register enjoyment of comedy. I told Jon, the emcee, “well I won’t be going over my time with this crowd.” And then I had my best set of the week. Every bit worked and I don’t know if I presented an intimidation or an “I don’t care” attitude on stage based on my low expectations for them, but whatever algorithm I unlocked, it was the key to the crowd. When I finally got to sleep that night I felt like I had redeemed myself and was especially happy at referring to the Spider Man weeper as a “future adult gummi vitamin consumer if I’ve ever seen one.”
I woke up Sunday and went right to 9 am Mass at the Cathedral of St Matthew, like I always do when in town (very beautiful Church). Then I had some time to kill at Panera Bread before heading to a noon show of West Side Story. A mask-less, mustachioed man saw me pouring a cup of “medium roast” coffee and looked at me and said “Medium Roast guy, huh?” And I wondered, “is that MAGA for “you suck di*k huh?” or closeted code for “you suck di*k, huh?” Just happy he didn’t see my digital ticket to West Side Story.
The movie was solid (reviews of both will be on this week’s Righteous Pk Podcast and for patreon members of Making Podcasts Great Again, Trump will review Spider Man and Mike Pence will review West Side Story) and afterwards I went for a walk with my friend/law school classmate/guy who taught me that people with southern accents could still be extremely smart, Hank. Hank (and his brother) were actually the first two people at my first open mic in DC. So when he emailed me to let me know that he would be in town visiting his siblings the same weekend I was performing I thought it was good fortune that he would be there to see my final show (kidding).
But then a flood of messages started pouring in. Fans and Hank messaged me that they would not be able to come due to Covid exposure and/or Covid fear. Totally understandable, but still deflating when expecting a lighter crowd on Sunday evening. As I said on stage, “I hope (those missing) only get long Covid, nothing worse. AM I NOT MERCIFUL?” (I know it’s 21 years old, but Gladiator still seems to be a movie I quote a lot regarding my comedy career).
As soon as my set was done I grabbed my check, my suitcase and made for the train. Got on my Amtrak with plenty of time and watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington because I am a rebel and felt like watching it as I left DC was a real middle finger to convention. I then began crafting this blog, which is being finished now, in my kitchen, before a long day of legal work.
Thank you to everyone who came out to the shows. Hopefully you all enjoyed it. And if you are reading this and are not in the DMV area, get your tickets to see me in Chicago, San Jose, LA and Utah (please). And here is a picture of Cookie this weekend, looking very unsure without me in the house.
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).