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Defund The Comedy Police

Growing up my favorite priest at my local Church was Father Murphy.  Father Murphy was a pretty hard-lined priest, but he was also a riveting speaker and someone that made me feel prouder to be Catholic after one of his homilies.  I have often told people the feeling I got from his speaking must have been akin to the feeling than some get from lives in military service (a life style as difficult for me to imagine for myself as it might be for an atheist reading this to associate with being a Catholic) – a call to sacrifice and to make personal decisions for a greater good.  Though I am sure Father Murphy was/is a political conservative, he never made me think in political terms. Rather, he amplified the value and righteousness of my personal life decisions.

The reason I bring that up is that beyond Church, the other thing in my life that has given me the same sense of purposefulness has been stand up comedy.  I do not beat my chest and try to use “I am a comedian and therefore a First Amendment hero,” but I have found stand up comedy a sanctuary to express and/or escape some of the worst things in my mind and in my life.  And in return for that I have tried to not censor myself when I believe in material, never steal material and always put humor as the primary point (though not ignoring the meaning and power of words, I do not want to be a comedian that ever pursues “clapter,” something I have seen on both sides of the political aisle in comedy – more to come on that later – at the cost of laughter). This is my way of respecting the freedom that stand up comedy has given me.  So for most of my career I tried to produce stand up comedy and videos at a headliner pace while only operating on a funny first, consequences second standard and adhering to that.  In keeping with an overall honest approach, I also spent a lot of spare time in my career critiquing and calling out bad business practices in stand up, highlighting comedy I thought was overrated and seething over comedians who seemed to always forget the good fortune in their self-proclaimed Horatio Alger tales of comedy success (these were the blogs, not the material on stage or in videos). These did not help me advance I am sure, but I have always embraced an all encompassing honesty when it comes to comedy – with the freedom to do comedy comes a responsibility to be honest about it, if that makes sense.  Probably stupid, but quixotically consistent.

But the one thing I never did was declare some comedy “not allowed.”  I might not like it, but I never believed in limiting comedians’ ability to take risks and fail.  The only time I ever did that was when Michael Richards went on a tirade of N words directed at Black audience members.  Although it took place on a comedy stage it was about as artistic as John Wilkes Booth shooting Lincoln at a theater.  But other than that I have taken a very broad – “if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it/watch it” stance on stand up and comedy in general.  Not to say you cannot have an opinion, but the bar for “cancelling” in comedy for me is skyscraper high. I know it is a cliche by now, but stand up is worked out in public – the art needs people to fail to advance.  And to be completely honest, I often hate when I see comedians being provocative for the sake of being provocative and then hiding behind this same rationale, but perhaps that is the price we have to pay to have stand up. The same way free speech protects hate speech, comedy speech protects provocative-for-the-sake-of-being-provocative speech.

I should also point out that as the Internet has expanded money making opportunities for comedians it has also expanded the viewership and listenership far beyond the comedy club attending audience.  I have scolded comedians for not expecting that thorn to accompany their rose of booming profits.  And on this point I may be somewhat hypocritical because recently as my social media following has blossomed so have condemnations of some of my jokes.  And I hate it.

It feels like there are two types of Progressive comedy fans. The type that leave a $10 tip in the tip jar and walk out and the type that wait 20 extra minutes until someone sees them put their $10 in the tip jar and then walk out (OK, there are definitely more than just these two but go with it for the analogy).  The thing they are doing is good, but for the latter the real reward is being recognized for doing the right thing.  It feels that way with some of the people who have become my fans on Twitter.  They like that I am making fun of the President, but do not like it when any group that is not rich, white, powerful men get mocked. As I have joked before, as a 6’7″ genius I really have no choice but to punch down with my humor.  But the reflexive push back from people is absurd. Take this recent tweet:

Many people informed me that I should take this tweet down and that fat shaming was wrong.  I told several of them that their comedy opinions were so misinformed that they should definitely not be trusted on what is good comedy.  And I wrote this joke with the intention of avoiding controversy – my rule is, if I could sell it to Jay Leno then it is probably harmless.  And yet the trigger words came out and told me that it was mean and not funny.  In other words, any mention of Lane Bryant in a joke violates some newly created rule of comedy. Here is another that got people upset:

Many people were offended by this one.  I had seen these four mayors on CNN together and thought, wow those names all sound like they belong in a superhero movie or a porn parody of a superhero movie.  All of the women are Black, but other than the name Keisha, in a color blind guessing game, I would have guessed that London Breed was the white daughter of a hipster celebrity couple in Brooklyn, that Lori Lightfoot was a white woman and possibly in an upcoming sequel to The Incredibles and that Muriel Bowser was the grandmother of the Mario Brothers character.  And if Keisha Lance Bottoms were Ken Lance Bottoms then I would have been only the 40,000th comedian to reference porn.  But the Twitter comedy police were not having it.  I was informed that mocking the names of Black women is a harmful stereotype and that I said porn because they were all women.  Others gave me the “jeesh maybe this would sound better at a club, but not here” type comments.

Perhaps it is because I am half-Black, or more likely because I am not an insecure person trying to constantly prove their racial awareness bona fides, but if these jokes are not OK then what these heroes without a cause are really saying is that “certain topics cannot be talked about ever.”  Another good example from one of my last live shows in 2019 – I did a joke about all the white, male serial killers getting documentaries and I asked “it’s 2019 – are there no serial killers of color?  No trans serial killers?”  A woman came up to me after the show very complimentary but told me “trans people have it very hard and I think you should leave them out.”  It was as if she thought trans people were the subject of the joke, when actually the subject of the joke were people who come up to comedians after shows and tell them that the mere mention of trans people should be off limits.  For the sake of being consistent, I know these are criticisms and I said that criticism is OK, but laced along these criticisms is a desire to wall off certain topics to make it easier to appear more righteous, when it is really just cowardice and laziness.

Perhaps I am overly sensitive and after all this is only Twitter, but right now YouTube and Twitter are the only two ways for me to really perform.  In 2018 I listened to The New Yorker podcast proclaim that Hannah Gadsby, a month before Nanette aired, would change comedy (I now know this was probably as much the input of a publicist as it was the opinion of The New Yorker podcast host). In my head I thought “what does The New Yorker (a magazine I like to read, but not take stand up cues from) know about comedy?”  And then they were right!  And I wondered – is this an aberration or a trend?  Is The New Yorker the new stand uptaste maker?

This year I have seen things I never thought possible in comedy, one of which is my relative success.  But I have also seen politically motivated, left wing social media dictate comedy in those spaces.  I am no doubt a beneficiary of that, but what has alarmed me is how humorless (and entitled) many of these people appear to be when the comedy (and comedian) does not align perfectly with their personal and political aspirations.  People who have accused me of comedy theft clearly are ignorant and may have never attended a comedy club, but I cannot dismiss them entirely because this is the platform we have for the foreseeable future.  I do my best to post other jokes (see above for sources of criticism) and encourage folks to check out my vast library of videos and albums that are neither political, nor Trump related in an effort to cultivate the portion of my fan base that likes stand up comedy.  But the the desire is far less for that work.  On top of that, for too many “comedy fans” on social media, their support becomes about affirming themselves.  I told someone recently that my comedy can make some progressives laugh, but I don’t make progressives feel good about themselves, which appears to be the ultimate aim for many of them.  And I could ignore them because they won’t ever go to a show of mine anyway (if those ever happen again).  But when they start assessing me as a person or telling me what to do with jokes (“take this down now!” “This is wrong!” “No!” “I thought you were funny but now I see you are an asshole!”) I would rather call them out and ask them to leave my virtual comedy club.  In fact, I don’t even think they like comedy. They like affirmation and wrapping it in comedy seems cooler or more fun, but when stripped of the “me” the rest of comedy is just Cody and they don’t know him.

As a quick example of why this is not just a one-sided issue, though it appears more prevalent on the left, I wrote this after attending a Dave Chappelle show a year ago. He did jokes on a 2015 or 2016 special on trans people that offended many.  In all honesty I thought they were hilarious. I am not saying they were not offensive, but they were also grounded completely in humor.  However, after the backlash he went through, in the show I saw live he decided to make a tortured metaphor between his usage of the N word and his usage of a homophobic slur. The response was not laughter because there was no joke. Instead there was head nodding and “clapter,” normally only found at a very progressive comedy show, but found in abundance at the Chappelle show I saw.  Chappelle is free to share his thoughts how he chooses and I simply didn’t like that bit, but the crowd’s reaction was sort of a mirror image of the cancel progressives. They were clapping at a crude analogy because it was affirming their desire to say the F word without condemnation, not because it was a great joke.  Is that so much different than someone wanting to cancel an artist for an offensive joke, no matter how funny?

Now, as I have navigated the last 4 months of my life and all of its successes and frustrations I have been given kindhearted advice from friends, associates and even a couple of celebrities to ignore haters, not comment on other people and keep my eye on the prize.  But right now the prize still just remains offering content from my apartment. And despite my writing, videos and impressions I am first and foremost a stand up comedian.  And no matter what level my career was at, I approached it in the funniest, but also most honest to myself way that I could. And if becoming successful as a comedian requires suppressing that which made me an excellent comedian then I must circle back to a quote from Father Murphy. When I was in high school he ended one of his homilies pondering, what if people who say religion and the Church are false are correct. And he said “If it is false, then damn it all.”

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Trump’s Pre-Written DNC Tweets Leaked!

With the Republican National Convention over and Cleveland still standing, national attention now shifts to Philadelphia, PA where the Democrats will hold their convention.  While the Democrats lack the star power of Scott Baio and Antonio Sabatao Jr., they will still bring some pretty heavy hitters to the Convention in the prime time hours. Now other than watching what the speakers have to say, the only other place you should be looking during the Convention (besides my Twitter account @JLCauvin) is Donald J Trump’s account. Well, thanks to Wikileaks I am able to share some of the pre-written tweets The Donald has locked and loaded for the 4 nights (be advised some of these are offensive):

Monday: Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama

“@RealDonald Trump Crazy Bernie clearly doesn’t like Crooked Hillary. Pathetic! His supporters should come to me. Be great!”

“@RealDonaldTrump Crazy Bernie is so full of lies, but he’s crazy so I feel bad for him. Needs assisted living!”

“@RealDonaldTrump The politically correct police are so pathetic. Now they are letting Leslie Jones talk! Not funny!”

“@RealDonaldTrump Michelle Obama wants kids to eat fruit and drink water. So poor! My kids drink the tears of immigrant laborers”

Tuesday: Bill Clinton and the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland & Michael Brown

“@RealDonaldTrump Bill Clinton – liar, rapist, murderer – one of the worst presidents of all time. Pathetic!”

“@RealDonaldTrump Rapin’ Bill now raping the truth. The American people won’t be fooled. We will win!”

“@RealDonaldTrump If Trayvon Martin respected law and order he would not have been attacked by George Zimmerman #BlueLivesMatter”

“@RealDonaldTrump So what if George Z wasn’t a cop? He has a gun and wanted to be a cop. Great guy! #BlueLivesMatter”

“@RealDonaldTrump Shame on the Democrats for taking these poor women and exploiting them. I will be great for black women!”

“@RealDonaldTrump Our law enforcement deserve better than this. We need more police and better moms! #BlueLivesMatter”

Wednesday: Barack Obama and Joe Biden

“@RealDonaldTrump I wonder who Plagarisin’ Joe stole this speech from. Melania would be a much better VP. Hot!”

“@RealDonaldTrump Joe Biden lost his son last year. All of mine are alive. Pro-life is the best!”

“@RealDonaldTrump Barack Obama would be the biggest liar of all time if Crooked Hillary were not still alive. Someone should see about that.”

“@RealDonaldTrump Barack Obama did nothing for black people. I will be the greatest president for blacks ever. Even better than Lincoln!”

“@RealDonaldTrump Barack Obama destroyed our country. I will make it great again. Believe me!”

“@RealDonaldTrump RT @WhitePowerParty “After a monkey president, we can’t have a bitch president. No more animals in the WHITE House #Trump2016″”

Thursday: Chelsea Clinton and Hillary Clinton

“@RealDonaldTrump: Chelsea Clinton is a 4 on her best day. Ivanka is a 10. Great lips, breasts and legs. And her voice is seductive. Great lady!”

“@RealDonaldTrump: How sad to have a rapist father and a crooked mother. Amazing she has not killed herself. But still, not as hot as Ivanka on Ivanka’s worst day”

“@RealDonaldTrump Why is Crooked Hillary shouting? Screaming and shrill. NOT PRESIDENTIAL!”

“@RealDonaldTrump Crooked Hillary has told more lies tonight than even Lyin’ Ted. BAD!”

“@RealDonaldTrump Worst convention ever. No stars. No people. Just politicians and blacks. We are going to make America great again.”

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Weekend Comedy Recap: Chappelle, Danbury and Twitter Credit

This weekend presented a diverse array of comedy exposure.  I featured at a country and western bar in Danbury, Connecticut on Saturday night, but the undercard for the weekend was going to see Dave Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday.  I have not been to Radio City Music Hall since I was a child and I forgot how big and beautiful that place is.  It really looked too big for a good comedy show.  But being a huge star that the crowd has been missing for a decade has a way of taming an intimidating room.  The DJ started the show with a tremendous slate of hacky jokes, but he’s not a comedian and the crowd enjoyed them so as usual… I’m the asshole.  The show started late, which led to numerous people standing in front of us (what happened to places like Broadway and Radio City? It used to be if you were late enough you didn’t get to sit and especially a comedy show with an intermission there is no reason to allow late people to disturb the experience of people who paid substantial money for tickets (they were a gift to me for my birthday but I am never above acting indignant).

So the show started with an immediate J-L Cauvin connection.  Tony Woods, a well known DC comic, was the opener.  The difference between DC comedy and NYC comedy is at some point NYC comedians decide they are above open mics and some bar shows, whereas in DC Tony Woods, who was already an established headliner, showed up all the time to any decent bar show or shitty open mic to work on his stuff.  And he always killed.  And I remember the first time I saw Dave Chappelle and Greer Barnes at the DC Improv, after seeing Tony Woods enough times, and it didn’t seem hard to guess who one of their inspirations was.  Whether that is true or not I do not know, but when you see two younger comics with a similar style to an older, funny comic your brain cannot help but make connections.

Woods did very well and then after an intermission Donnell Rawlings had a set that had me laughing at a few moments harder than anything I would see that night (this is only meant as a compliment, not as an insult to any other performers).  Then it was Chappelle time.  I enjoyed his set and I also enjoyed the fact that he was wearing a suit and  not a sleeveless shirt.  One of the few areas where black people are given a pass that white people are not is fashion (#blackprivilege?).  This is why Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook feel so comfortable walking around like morons after games wearing clothes that the Emperor would not be caught in.  And this is also why when Chappelle wears sleeveless shirts on stage to show off his new muscles people marvel at his guns.  White comic with muscles does it today I guarantee other comedians are chanting douche-bag at him (the way we all did at Dane Cook – unless we were the chick he was banging that night – and he didn’t even have muscles to show off).

Cool or Douche?

The set was fun, fairly light and enjoyable.  I was more impressed with the ability to control a room that large with standard stand-up.  Obviously his fame and devoted fans buy a longer attention span, but he also delivered.  If I had to grade it I would say it was a B+/A-, but I am sure that is “hating” to most people.  Oh well.  It was a relief to me though, because he washed away the memory of when I saw him in DC a decade ago, for top club dollar, and he delivered what amounted to “Hey man, I’m Dave Chappelle and I’m famous, rich and just me talking about anything is worth the price of admission.”    I left with a much better impression on Thursday.

But this was all prelude to my soon-to-be legendary performance at Coyote Maverick Bar in Danbury, CT on Saturday night.  I was featuring, but still brought 10 CDs because you never really know if you are going to sell zero or all of your CDs on gigs like this.  When I arrived at the location about 20 minutes before showtime I saw that the room was pretty small (roughly 100 capacity).  That is a good thing, unless you consider that 20 minutes before showtime and there are still approximately 98 seats left to fill.  I was informed from the smiling manager that the advertisement for the show (which was jam packed the week before) was placed in the wrong paper in a different city.  So now I had to deal with the fact that people in Bridgeport, CT were intentionally ignoring my show, instead of the good people of Danbury intentionally ignoring my show.  Now they just had to indifferently miss my show.

When the show started the crowd was about 25 strong.  I worked my ass off and felt good about my set, but pretty bad about my life.  They were a solid crowd (though with the average age being Crypt Keeper I had to dump a bit of my 40 and under material) and I did some of my best crowd work ever so at least that skill set got some exercise.  However, the biggest laugh of my set came with “I am selling CDs after the show…. oh who the fu*k am I kidding…”  But the gig was fun, the bar is cool and the check cleared despite having my last name spelled incorrectly.    So great job Dave Chappelle opening for me for the weekend. You really set the comedy table nicely.

But like any weekend of comedy it ended on a down note because after the world cup USA game yesterday, which was great and with an objectively incredible ending, I tweeted “That was some George RR Martin shit!  #WorldCup””  It got 5 retweets and 7 favorites from my 1700 followers.  20 minutes later I saw a retweet, from someone I follow, of a tweet by some tech geek with 11K followers who tweeted 1 minute after me (he doesn’t follow me so I doubt he saw mine) that said “George RR Martin wrote that game” and it had over 3200 retweets.  And I shut off twitter and felt a renewed sense of hate for all things comedic.  Sorry Chappelle and Danbury, but hate is stronger than any joy you can provide, but thanks for trying. #Blessed

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes and/or STITCHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe for free!

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This Week’s Best Reasons to Quit Comedy

Every week represents a new wave of opportunities to want to quit comedy for so many people.  “Oh he has an hour special!” or “How the fu*k did she get on Late Night TV?” or “Why does my bank balance have a negative in front of it – does that mean the bank owes me money?”  Twitter is a constant stream of “93 retweets? You have to be kidding me!” and Facebook is an overflow of good comics spending too much time having to (or not having to really) defend themselves and bad comics claiming they are above having to defend themselves.  I saw a “comedian” drop what I will call crude statements about the Cleveland rescue in succession, basically daring someone to say “you are not funny” so he could start yelling from the mountaintops “I am a comedian and I go to places you are afraid of!”  And you just want to say in a calm and rational voice, “No – you are just not funny.  Now you are offensive, but just because some people who are funny are offensive, does not mean it is a causal relationship.  Funny can be offensive, but offensive does not mean funny.”  But instead I just debated unfriending the person for 5 minutes for constantly flooding my Timeline with bad comedy.  But because I am glutton for punishment I did not.  But this inspired me to give you my top reasons why you should quit comedy this week (possible recurring theme)

1) Because a middle aged dude minding his business in Cleveland is funnier off the cuff and is way more charismatic than you are.  There are a lot of unfunny human beings doing comedy and I like to imagine that Charles Ramsey, the hero from Cleveland, was probably a great up and coming comedian who did not test well with millennials or middle aged white people and was turned away from the industry.  The bad news is, with these metrics guiding stand up comedy, comedy may suffer, but the good news is the world may have a lot of very funny and toothless heroes in the coming decades.

Now of course if you want other reasons to be annoyed – the video has 125 dislikes as of this typing – can we not find these people and eliminate them from society?  A lot of people like the death penalty for murder.  Not me.  Those people are outliers who cannot be deterred usually.  Prison is enough to deter the normal person.  I am for the death penalty for things like littering.  Because the average asshole who litters with a garbage can near him or the guy who gives a dislike to a video like this is probably making everyday life worse for more people. 

And just like good comedy, don’t skip to the two minute mark like half the assholes on the web encourage you too – see the story and enjoy the buildup to some classic comedy!

2) Because the web is constantly looking for villains to put on cyber trial.  This week there have already been two “controversies” regarding humor throughout my Internet circles.  One is the article today from Slate about the response to Charles Ramsey.  I cannot say I disagree with the general premise of the article, but I also think it ignores the fact that unlike some other situations, Charles Ramsey was actually a poised, confident and funny dude.  I appreciate sensitivity to issues like this, but I also think it is part of the Internet’s 100% rate of finding a villainous angle to things.  I am sure there are pockets of the population enjoying the Ramsey video for the wrong reasons – like if you are more obsessed with him saying ribs and “MacDonald’s”, than his great “Deeead Giveaway” tag line then you, to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, might be an asshole. 

But the real story occupying many in the comedy world is the recent back and forth between a blogger and comedian Sam Morril.  Here is the blog that started all of it.  Sam wrote a fine response on Facebook and the blogger replied with this.  I think Sam is funny and all of the jokes she cited have made me laugh in person.  The only problem is that it is getting tiring and annoying to keep defending comedy.  If Sam was not good at comedy then I would have a problem with his jokes.  But they are funny and clearly intended as humor so the discussion ends there for me. But in a world where every slight and every incident and every thought has the potential to become viral or widespread this blow up is going to become the norm.  Every person who is offended or unamused or somewhere in between has a bullhorn known as the Internet.  And that would be reason enough to quit comedy this week, if not for number 3.

3) Because Comedians and the Internet always turn these issues into overly thoughtful circle jerks.  At some point between hours 12 and 36 of a “comedy controversy” it becomes an irritating circle jerk of thought and debate.  First comes the rallies to Sam’s defense, then come the attacks on the bloggers, then come the tweets and posts about “debate” and “respect” and “art” and then comes the congratulating each other even if on the opposite sides of this thorny “issue.” I actually saw two comedians have a semi-debate on Twitter and then have the equivalent of a social media hug it out and agree to disagree.  One day, philosophers and school children will ask, “Which came first, the blogger who took comedians too seriously or the comedians who took themselves too seriously and made themselves relevant to bloggers?”

4) Because a manager arranged and cancelled two meetings (one by simply not calling back).  OK this one was just for me, but a reminder that after a decade I still ain’t sh*t!

5) Because Funny or Die stole the Huffington post’s mojo and posted a list of funny women you should be following on Twitter.  The only possible good that might come out of this is if the pro women on Twitter HuffPo folks get into an East Coast-West Coast war with Funny or Die’s female tweet fans and then both go down in a hail of bullets.  See that is a murder joke, not  a rape joke.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes. New Every Tuesday!

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The Marginalizing of Stand Up Comedy Festival

I woke up this morning and opened up my copy of the New York Times.  There were stories about the Boston bombing, an editorial about the dysfunction of my former employer, the Bronx District Attorney’s office, but beyond terrorism and delays in justice there was a story on the cover of the business section of the paper that really caused me to gag.  The article was about Comedy Central’s new comedy festival taking place next week.  The article was reporting on #ComedyFest – a comedy festival that comedy central is “having” next week.  As the article highlights “there will be no smokey comedy clubs… no two drink minimums” because the whole “festival” will take place on Twitter and Vine.  Because what comedy needs is even more conditioning to shorten attention spans.

Comedy Central is really the most significant platform for stand up comedy by a significant margin, but in a strategy that seems to be part-over saturation – in a decade they managed to marginalize the impact of their signature stand up series “Comedy Central Presents,” and part pandering – catering to “millennials,” – a short-attention span generation with record highs in narcissism and record lows in employment a/k/a spending power, they are marginalizing stand up at a rate that would make MTV’s usage of music jealous.

I am sure I am just being a curmudgeon and a hater, but when the main station for comedy and stand up is promoting and pushing for people to enjoy tweets and 6 second videos, what future does stand up comedy really have?  Maybe in a few years live stand up comedy will be called “Long Form Stand Up” or “he practices that old school form of stand up – no memes, no tweets, just 30-45 minutes talking into a microphone!”  Perhaps stand up’s best days are already behind it, but it should still look back, not to reminisce, but to make sure Comedy Central is not coming to strangle it to death.  #LookOut

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes

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Rise of the Frans – Comedy & Social Media’s…

Over the last couple of years in comedy, with the rise of social media, there have been many hints and tips on how to accelerate your career using the new forms of communication.  “Communicate with fans!” “Create a relationship with fans!”  “Be Louis CK!”  Other than “content creation” there are no other things I hear more in comedy right now to make it.  Unfortunately, I feel like all this advice and expertise sharing is moot.  Like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (not really a Breaking Bad reference, but feel free to think of Walter White as you read this), which states that you cannot know the position and momentum of something at the same time, all this advice about social media and outreach is outdated as soon as it is identifiable.  Once ten comics have made money and success from a given strategy (Dane Cook – MySpace, Rob Delaney – Twitter, George Lopez – Latino people with terrible senses of humor), everyone adopts the technique and then collectively saturate the market with it.  And no on discusses the side effects or unintended consequences of all this outreach!  Sure, for the upper echelon of comedians in stature and money, they still call the shots, but I recently mowed three fans’ lawns just to get them to listen to my free weekly podcast.  Telling jokes, providing free content and travelling around the country is not quite enough these days.  Now, this is not to say that the advice of communicating with fans is useless, but at some point too much communication, outreach and heavy petting can lead to an awkward blurring of the line between fan and friend, which has given rise to a new breed of people thriving in the new media world of comedy: “Frans.”

Frans can come in three varieties: one is the fan that crosses too quickly into friend territory and starts sharing too much personal information. The second Fran is a friend that believes because they have been to three shows in 8 years and has heard of Louis CK that they are now well equipped to critique and modify your act.  The final Fran is very common to comedians – the token Fran – the friend who has claimed to be a fan for a long time and turns out is really neither.

TYPE 1 FRAN

This Fran starts as an eager fan and can engage you on various topics – sports, movies, comedy and it all stays solid.  If it stays there you have a great fan, social media has worked and you should reward them with merch or comp tickets or recreational drugs.  But Type 1 Fran-ness can start with a personal question  or an inquiry for advice on a personal matter, which then puts the comedian in a position that I hate in all aspects of life (I have used this example before on sharing cable bills).  If you engage on a personal level, then you have just turned the fan into a Fran.  However, if you pull the “slow down,” or “that is not my department” then you may lose the fan entirely when they feel like, justifiably or more likely unjustifiably, like a used up Steubenville high school student who was only there to have his or her funny bone  tickeled while they were passed out in what they thought was a friendship blackout.  In other words, there is no safe middle ground – you are either uncomfortable or an asshole.  I once had a fan tell me “can’t you act like a person?!” during an exchange and all I could think was, “I’m not a person! I’m a comedian!!”

The way to nip this in the bud, in my opinion is to have a firm boundary.  Mine is either the second pregnancy or the third restraining order, whichever comes first.  That is when I tell a fan, “Hey, you have crept in the the Fran zone!”

TYPE 2 FRAN

This is the person that started out as a friend and then, thanks to lots of interactions with you and your comedy on social media, began to feel a little bit like Luke Walton. What I mean by that is when Luke Walton arrived on the Shaq-Kobe Lakers he probably was in awe of their talent and very respectful.  But after 4 or 5 seasons of VIP treatment at clubs, championship rings, Luke Walton probably started offering Shaw free throw tips and trying to compete for chicks with Kobe at the club.  Similarly, if your friends become immersed in your comedy world on social media and on the Internet what may start out as a respectful, deferential relationship to the work you have put in to your comedy and the talent you have cultivated, but then all of a sudden your friend goes from Flavor Flav, just offering spontaneous bursts of encouragement to P Diddy – attempting to one-up your status updates on Facebook, critiquing all aspects of things you do and then slyly throwing in comments like “WE know what funny is.”  Since when did you go from my Luke Walton to my Scottie Pippen?

The way to nip this in the bud is to go out to a big dinner with them and at some point during the dinner do this to them:

TYPE 3 FRAN

This is the friend who claims to always support your comedy and then after a few years you realize, no you don’t! And then you realize, we aren’t even really friends!  And finally, that is when you tell your parents you are moving out.

 The cure for this is easy – do not get into comedy. If you respect your parents and family at all you won’t make them choose between loving you and respecting you.

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes

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I Did Not Know Internet Memes Were The Future…

There was a time in my career when I aspired to be the next Greg Giraldo or Patrice O’Neal.  Although my health seems to be headed in the right direction to accomplish that goal, the comedy portion of my career does not seem to be on target.  And then it dawned on me that I was thinking about comedy in the wrong way.  Writing material and performing are secondary sources of content for a successful comedy career today.  That is why my new comedy hero is George Takei.  I will now enter the cutting edge of comedy – Internet memes!

One thing I must give credit to is Facebook.  Internet memes did not seem to be anywhere and then Facebook decided to start making photos larger a little over a year ago (I think – time flies when your career is stagnant). It seems that Facebook decided, very perceptively, that adults, like toddlers, enjoy pictures so they should make them bigger. So as adults we all joined in an adult picture book. Almost instantly it seemed people were posting a lot more pictures on Facebook.

But it was time for us to mature to the children’s books of Facebook – MEMES! Now we could look at a picture and slowly build our comedic reading comprehension.  This should come as no surprise.  YouTube has been a great tool for promoting and spreading content, but it also conditioned people’s response time to 1-2 minutes for content.  But like a people who’s technological capacity is increasing in direct contrast to their attention span, we have now moved on to Memes.  Now you need not spend more than 2-3 seconds to get your humor fix!

Of course part of the meme movement were phenomena like “planking” and “Tebowing” which could be grouped in a bigger category of “stupidity.”  But they helped prove what everyone except comedians think: Everyone can be a comedian and a source of “comedy” as long as we continue to get dumber and more impatient.  But I had not realized how pervasive and how quickly even smart people had been conditioned to prefer memes as the delivery device of modern comedy.

I am a member of Comedians at Law – a group of comedians aimed primarily at untapped, intellectually savvy markets – the legal communities, both professional and educational.  There are not many groups of people more steeped in reading comprehension, education or in need of a laugh.  So we have produced humorous writings on a daily basis that receive varying responses ranging from decent to very good.  Now these are usually writings targeted at our demographic and relatively short depending on how lazy members of the group are feeling.  But what has had an inordinate amount of success among legal humor sites?  Memes.  Some are very funny like the following after the “Obamacare” Decision:

But many are marginally funny at best and yet still yield a tremendous amount of shares, likes and other forms of social media appreciation. Now of course an argument could be that “Hey, sometimes people want a quick laugh or don’t have the time to read something or watch something more involved.”  But looking at many of these memes, it feels like people would rather place a premium on efficiency than quality.  Why read a five minute funny post when I can look at a relatively unfunny picture for seven seconds?  And if this is the comedy preferences of legal professionals and law students, where is the average American’s mindset?  I assume laughing at their own boogers at this point.

But the key to comedy in the last decade has been to be ahead of the curve. Dane Cook was with MySpace. Louis CK was with self-producing his own show.  So now what is the next level?  I am putting all my money on bodily sounds and facial expressions.  As society’s comedy expectations continue along the awful crossroad of heightened sensitivity and shorter, less sophisticated attention, is it only a matter of time before farts and buck teeth become the next sensation in comedy’s De-Evolution chart?  Speaking of which, please check in to my website every Friday for J-L’s Sneeze of the Week.

I used to feel like a comedian. Now I feel like an Internet marketing company.  When I speak of quitting comedy, people sometimes take that statement as a mere “I am not making the money I need so I must quit” sort of cry.  And it is.  But truthfully, there is so much involved with a comedy career that has nothing to do with comedy, that it feels more like I want to be a comedian in 1998 – that seems like a cool job.  In 2012 it feels more like I am a cyber marketer who happens to have a sense of humor.

Illustrative of my frustrations along this front is a  conflict that we have had recently in Comedians at Law regarding web traffic.  My belief is that we should offer content that is quality and speaks to us 100% and hope that people who follow us are dedicated because of the quality.  But there is a school of thought within the group, which does produce more significant web traffic, that we should be delivering what people want.  However, the problem with this is that when we offer quality content or radio appearances promoting shows, people who have been drawn to us do not respond with any enthusiasm.  I want to attract moths to a comedy flame, but it feels like we are aiming to draw flies to comedy shit.   And not to sound too melodramatic, but sometimes I feel like this is the battle being waged in comedy since the YouTube/Twitter takeover.  Within 5 years I will be selling fecal samples on my website rather than CDs if this continues.  OK, maybe not my feces, but the feces of someone with hilarious feces.  Mine are a little bit wordy.

This for me, by comedian Andy Sandford, is a great way of demonstrating part of the mental atrophy that is occurring with audiences of comedy.  Even I can fully support this meme.  Enjoy and please only share the meme and not the rest of the blog.

For more from J-L please check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on iTunes or on Podomatic

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Weinergate

Of Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner I think only one of these Democrat’s actions were shameful for their office.  All three acted inappropriately and have earned ire from their spouses.  But at least Clinton and Spitzer acted like adults.  Bad adults, but adults nonetheless.   We live in an increasingly juvenile state of adulthood (guilty as charged here), but at least if our politicians are going to continue to disappoint us, it would be nice if they did it in an adult fashion.  Have sex with  groupie-colleagues (Clinton), have sex with high priced escorts (Spitzer), but tweeting pictures?  Our politicians cannot respect the office they have been given, but they can at least respect our sense of what kind of lewd behavior they should engage in.

Mayor 2013?

I would vote for Eliot Spitzer today, but I am not sure I would vote for Weiner.  Obviously Weiner’s conduct was far less egregious than Spitzer’s, but it was also old school.  A busy man like Spitzer was being efficient and trying to use discretion (when these guys use escorts they are paying less for the quality of the women, although usually high quality, and more for the guarantee of discretion) to protect his family’s sensibilities, even if he was sacrificing their integrity.  On the other hand Anthony Weiner is a Congressman, but had half a dozen Twitter relationships? That is brazen and time consuming.  Have you no sense of decency?  American values are no longer about being a good person. It’s “be a piece of sh*t in private.”  Weiner violated that sacred trust we as a nation hold so dearly.

America seems destined to be some sort of mentally challenged version of Europe when it comes to sex.  We are becoming more and more immune to sexual impropriety, which we think demonstrates some sort of intellectual sophistication, but at the same time becoming more and more distasteful and lewd in the conduct we expose ourselves too.  We seem to accept that celebrities and people of power, almost always men, will engage in tawdry behavior.  But if we are headed down that road I think we should have some guidelines.  If you are a person of fame or power then it should be as Uncle Ben said in Spider Man, “with great access to pussy comes great responsibility.”  For the extra vagina that will come your way you should be able to comfortably offset that by limiting the public access of your indiscretions.  And Weiner violated this as badly as one could – via Twitter, the 21st Century’s Town Cryer.

And I know this is a lame point, but if your name is Weiner you really should be on guard to always guard your penis privacy.  For example, if my name was John Rape I would get written consent every time I had sex with a woman. Just to be safe.  Even if it was pronounced RaPAY.

NitTwit

So I am not morally outraged by Weiner’s conduct in any way.  It just feels sort of insulting.  A private citizen can be as stupid as they want on social media, but a politician should have the decency to mess around with skanks in private.  That is the America I believe in.

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J-L’s Time Person of the Year

One of the most anticipated magazine issues every year, besides the 114 that discuss whether Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston will get back together, is Time’s Person of the Year issue.  The criteria, according to Wikipedia, is  a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that “for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.”   Now clearly Time has not always honored that, most notably when Osama bin Laden lost in 2001 (rumor has it he will never attend the awards banquet ever again) to Rudy Giuliani – which was basically the Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas of  Time’s POTY.  But this year I think Time can get it right.

I am so over Time's Person of the Year.

Many people got talking when the finalists were announced – on my Facebook page LeBron James got a lot of attention (ironically people obsessing over him for the last 6 months thought it absurd that he could be a finalist).  But for me the winner should be obvious.

My pick, of the numerous finalists, is Lady Gaga.  Now in 2001 Time clearly feared their choice would be seen as an award, rather than as mere acknowledgment and the fear of appearing a joke may stop Time from naming Gaga, so here’s the argument for her.

Should be TIme's Person of the Year

First off, she won a bunch of MTV video awards and in a year without Kanye West interruptions, that makes her the biggest music story of the year.

Now technically that is basically it for her actual accomplishments this year.  She is a hard working performer who has become a major force in music.  But that alone would just make her a minor irritant.  However, what she represents is basically the direction of  our entire culture.  Here’s why.

1) She has become the dominant figure on the Internet.  All due respect to Mark Zuckerberg, who created the Internet’s most pervasive medium since e-mail, but Gaga dominates all of our pithy forms of communication.  Her video Bad Romance is the most watched video on all of YouTube.  She has the most Twitter followers on Twitter (President Obama is 5th).  In other words, in a society that is increasingly turning information and entertainment into 140 character brain farts and 30 second, seizure-inducing visuals intended to keep the attention of morons, she is the Queen.

2) She takes pithy political stands.  In a country that is increasingly mired in a struggle to choose the less complex answer and choice for increasingly complex problems she took the brave stand of asking for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  It is nice to use your fame and clout for good social issues and I think that is a worthy cause, but for a pop star who is next in line to lead the Kingdom of Gay Dance  Clubs (should Queen Brittney Spears die) I don’t think it is a particularly bold stand.  But that is our politics – does it affect me (Gaga’s dancers and fans)?  Is it already fairly popular or at least popular enough that I will not feel like an outcast if I join?  Then Yes!

3) She could have written the anthem for the anti-Immigration movement.  In a country where many people are anti-Immigrant and come out of the woodwork every election cycle, one of Gaga’s big hits of the last year was “Alejandro.”  The chorus:

Don’t call my name.
Don’t call my name, Alejandro.
I’m not your babe.
I’m not your babe, Fernando.

Don’t wanna kiss, don’t wanna touch.
Just smoke one cigarette and hush.
Don’t call my name.
Don’t call my name, Roberto

We get it Gaga – you don’t like Latinos.  Perhaps you could do a concert for the militias that patrol the border.  Just don’t bring your gay dancers.

4) She is a distraction.  The days of musical artists being relevant beyond the current minute are here.  Unlike Madonna or Michael Jackson or the Rolling Stones or the Beatles artists today are just flashes in the pan, in part because of a lack of creativity and perhaps even more due to our lack of attention span.  Madonna would take years to come out with a new album.  If Lady Gaga took years to release her next album, her next album would not come out because a dozen copycats would have taken her place.  Lady Gaga’s tireless effort is an acknowledgment that she, like the Justin Biebers of the world do not have staying power (at least as musical artists), both because of us, as well as themselves.  Madonna could change her image over a decade. Gaga changes her image every commercial break both because we need it to stay focused and she needs to do it to stay in the spotlight.  She labeled her album the Fame Monster and that is appropriate – because she is a monster and American consuming society is her Dr. Frankenstein.  So her influence is technically our doing, but she should accept the recognition on behalf of our culture.

5) Bad Romance is a pretty good song.  Got to give the devil her due.

Of course – if I were a betting man, I would guess that Time will go for an intellectually safe, discussion-creating choice like…

Time will make the almsot equally valid, but definitely safer choice and probably pick this fu*k for Person of the Year.
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The 10 Facebook / Twitter / Blackberry Commandments

I remember a discussion from an English class in high school where we were discussing if Man invented God to fulfill a human need, or if God actually exists.  Now, most comedians I know range from ambivalent to hostile towards God and religion, which if you have seen and heard a lot of comedians seems to be pretty justified on their parts.   But if humans did invent the concept of God I think the most compelling evidence of this may be the Twitter and Facebook explosion on the Internet.  It is clear that humans, at least Americans, like the idea of some larger presence observing their actions and thoughts to give them relevance.  Now politically we cry out for privacy and independence, but Twitter and Facebook seem to reveal our true nature, at least the nature of the shallow and enlightened people we have become.  We still need relevance bigger than ourselves, so if God and religion cannot provide it, we will simply invent something to give us that sense of cosmic community.  Of course I think this is incredibly stupid and would prefer to believe in an invisible man or force than in the insecurities of people, sublimated into social networking and technology, but to each his own.

So with that in mind I propose a 10 Facebook/Twitter Commandments:

1) Thou shall not put RIP messages on social networking.  I remember George Carlin talking about how our culture is obsessed with death and he was probably right.  Funerals may be entirely useless, but at least they have more gravitas than a Tweet or a Facebook status.   When people write RIP messages on social networking sites I really believe what they are saying, perhaps subconsciously, “I’m a thoughtful and caring person and I need people to know this about me, even if it involves a modest exploitation of the loss of a loved one.”  Stop doing it, your deceased cannot read anymore, so your thoughts and/or prayers are sufficient.  And if you write messages on Facebook pages of deceased people (seen it a few times) the only dignified thing to do is have the page taken down – he/she cannot “like” you comments anymore.  And lastly, a website where I describe movies and masturbating probably isn’t a sanctified enough place to honor someone.

2) Thou shall stop telling people how the weather is. Pretty self explanatory, but next time you think of updating something mundane like that, stop, think and try to appreciate it and feel it without looking for validation or to feel like people out there now know how you feel so you have some increased validity.

3) Thou shall not make awful jokes.  There are some really awful jokes being shared on these websites.   Compounding the problem is that there seems to be no shortage of stupid people willing to “like” or comment with a “brilliant” on these jokes.  You probably don’t know who you are, but perhaps I will let you know in the future.  Here’s a hint – if your jokes read like a mediocre joke for Jay Leno, stop.

4) Thou shall not observe the sabbath.   “Follow Friday” is a huge circle jerk on Twitter.  It is where people tell other people to follow certain people that they are friends with or find funny.  It is the prosthelytizing of social networking. 

5) Thou shall not demean compliments.  I always enjoy when I see the news feed on Facebook and someone has wished 8 people in a row Happy Birthday.  It somehow manages to demean the insignificant wishing of a happy birthday on the Internet.  Another one, specific to comedians, is when someone who runs a show rattles off “great set” to every comic on the lineup.  Thanks for that – now I know that I am equally as great as everyone who did you show.  Greatness and quality are relative terms and although I have been part of some great shows, not every show taking place in every bar of NYC is “great.”

6) Thou shall step aside on the sidewalk when you are using your mobile device.  A year ago if someone walked into me while staring at their Blackberry they would apologize.  Today they look at me as if to say, “huh?”  In another year I assume they will say (imagine bitchy NYC 20-something, “What the fack?”  I will be in the wrong for not getting out of their way while they send LOLs.  Your tweets, bbms, etc. can wait.  You are not that important, at least not important enough to walk slowly through crowded streets slowing down pedestrian traffic and walking into people.

7) Thou shall treat photograph-taking with the same importance that you did when you needed ato actually get photos developed.  For selfish reasons I carve out a comedy exception to this (in Catholic terms think of it as a dispensation), but can people stop using every moment of the day as a moment worthy of preservation?  We have already managed to cheapen dead people and birthdays and compliments through social media, and now we have cheapened nostalgia.  “Grandma, do you have any photos of your friends when you were younger?” “Why yes in fact I have 4,566 photos – here are the 97 of us drinking Smirnoff Ice.” Awful.

8) Thou shall not say “hit me up on Facebook” – self explanatory. 

9)Thou shall not give more weight to texting donations, Twitter rumors and Facebook groups/Friends than is appropriate.  The real story about the millions of dollars that texting raised for Haiti after the Earthquake is whether or not young people would have been nearly as involved for a tragedy if t had not been so easy to donate.  Technology like that allows us to do some good, but more importantly it has removed the desire or need to be proactive and actually be involved or care.  I know dozens of people who texted donations, but it was a middle aged couple I met in Cleveland who were headed to Haiti to voulnteer.  And let’s not forget the most important thing Facebook has accomplished was to get a woman near death a chance to host a television show that died 7 years ago.

I should mention that I have almost 1600 Facebook friends, but a relatively small group of actual friends.  I have been tempted when my cell phone contract is up next year to get rid of my blackberry.  I now have a land line phone in my apartment because I don’t want brain cancer and I told a friend of mine – how many pithy conversations, flirtations and communications would there be if people had to call my home phone.  He responded, “then most people would not have contact with you.”  And he is right, the question is – have we already become a society that values quantity of contact and “friends” over actual quality of friendship.

10) Thou shall follow me on Twitter.  www.Twitter.com/JLCauvin  I am a comedian and not famous so I am forced to play the game.   But rest assured, 95% of the time I obey the Commandments.