The Cleveland Recap and Salon Backlash

This weekend I was at the Cleveland Improv emceeing shows.  My math, which is probably good for the present bottom line and horrible for future earnings is, “Will this gig net me more than sitting on my ass this weekend?” If the answer is yes, then I usually take the gig.  I was supposed to be featuring at the Cleveland Improv since a little while back, but just after logging half a dozen emcee spots (as in weekends, not shows) I was told that the feature booking responsibility had been shifted the main Midwest outpost of the Funny Bone/Improv chains (just like the Mob in Casino had Kansas City as a critical control hub between the East Coast and Vegas, so too does a town in Ohio control the fate of many working comedians.  And instead of adding (and earning) a club to my roster of places I feature I effectively had to take one off and be content emceeing.

The shows were fun and I ended the weekend with a 5-1 record (the Cleveland Improv is a largely urban club and I would compare my experiences there to playing organized basketball – you only have fun at the end of the game if it turns out you won a/k/a won over the crowd – but every show feels like work.  This is not shooting around or pick up basketball – it is adversarial and it partly feels, especially as the emcee (the three shows I have featured at the Cleveland Improv have always been my best), like you have to break the will of the crowd to laugh at you.  And before this sounds too much like a slave master analogy, let me remind you at this time that my father is black.  At best I am a house slave chiding field slaves (now the featured pic makes some offensive sense).

On more fun notes, AKA the time spend off stage, I must say downtown Cleveland is beautiful.  This is not a joke.  I think my purpose in comedy is not to become a successful or even marginal comedian – perhaps this adventure has just allowed me to scout many American locations so I can choose a place to live and work when I hang up the microphone.  And I think I identified the exact location in Cleveland.  Near the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame (recap of that next paragraph – WOW) there is a Catholic Church, an Amtrak Station, a football stadium (OK – the Browns, but still), a beautiful, expansive lakefront view and all the municipal buildings, presumably where prosecutors who did not get into comedy go to work every day.  If Cleveland were willing to throw an IHOP and a Cheesecake Factory into the area I would gladly plunk myself down there and die of happiness and trans fats sometime in my early 40s.

Sunday I went to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.  Holy sh*t that place is even better than I remember.  If you like music at all or do not suck as a human you must go here.  You learn so much (Les Paul should have a movie made about him already if there isn’t) and the place is chock full of great music, interactive exhibits, memorabilia and more.  Right now there is a two story exhibit on the Rolling Stones and for me the highlight is still the (now 90 minute) montage film of all the Rock n Roll HOF inductees.  That place should be on everyone’s bucket list.  Most readers of this blog would not believe how much I was smiling while inside the museum, but my face hurt a little bit when I left for overusing muscles I never use.

So thanks Cleveland for having a very underrated city and I hope that rumors of a comeback and rejuvenation are not wrong.

In other, probably more significant news I was featured in a piece on the popular site  The article was the work of Daniel Berkowtiz (no relation to David) a Columbia journalism student who met with me over many months to write a 6500 word tour de force about a respected, but failing comedian in the age of social media (me in case you do not respect me).  One of the interesting things about my peers and I that often gets overlooked is that I am part of the last generation of comedians who really invested themselves in comedy right before YouTube and social media completely changed the game of stand up for better and worse.  The article captures that very well, but when Salon took the article they required it cut down to 2500 words (though I did appreciate Salon using a photo of me from before comedy took my jaw line).  The big loser in that was probably my mother who was interviewed for the article and who gets a lot of praise from me for her support and is one of the biggest reasons I feel guilty for potentially squandering a law degree/career to pursue a more selfish/self-centered career.  The biggest winner was probably my ex fiancée who was not spared in the original version for being a terrible presence in my life at the very point when my career may have been poised to take off.

But the article has driven new traffic to my work and of course most comedians are respectful, appreciative or even encouraging, but some “comedians” and many heroes in the Internet Commenter Community have come to trash me.  Part of the problem is the title of the article Salon chose “YouTube Is Killing Comedy” was overbroad, sensational and completely inaccurate when compared to the substance of the actual article.  It probably primed some readers (those with poor reading comprehension) to view it under a totally false framework.  The original title “The New Life of a Stand Up Comedian” was a better choice, but perhaps would not have generated as much traffic (ironic that an article about a comedian having to bend over backwards and devote efforts to other pursuits to satisfy Internet business models had to adjust to a title that was more sensational and inaccurate to drive Internet business).  But I enjoyed all the negative comments (cue Nas’ Hate Me Now, but with all the wealth references replaced by sarcasm).  People that still insist on defending Louis CK from an impression as if he is their child (and attack me because I am not famous – had the sketch been on SNL it would be exempt from scorn) or people trashing my comedy – one guy shot up my Ferguson set with no real ammo, but wrote with self-important authority so I guess I should heed his non-advice – these folks are the backbone of Internet comedy!

So on to Breaking Bad week.  This week I will record a new video – a Breaking Bad parody to promote my new album.  Looking forward to everyone telling me I don’t look like Walter White (I won’t be in costume – I’m playing myself – but I assume at least one comment will say “This was OK, but Bryan Cranston is a much better actor”).

For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic or iTunes. New Every Tuesday!  This week’s episode will be all BREAKING BAD so subscribe or follow today to get it Tuesday.