J-L Cauvin is a comedian based in New York who will be recording his third album live next Wednesday, November 9th at Helium Comedy Club. We caught up with him to ask him some questions about Philly, and the process of recording a comedy album.
Why did you choose Philly as the place to record your album?
I opened for Steve Rannazzisi in May at Helium and I felt such a great energy from all the shows. Plus I have a decent number of friends in the Philadelphia area so I thought it would be a perfect place where I have good mix of a growing fan base and friends. I am from NYC, but I just really wanted to do it somewhere else besides my home so that I did not have to rely solely on family and fellow comedians to fill seats. And then I can just go home and tell everyone I crushed even if I tank.
What makes a Philly crowd different from crowds in other places?
I felt like the audiences in Philly have a mean streak in them that makes doing comedy really fun. They are not dumb mean, they are smart mean. My material is generally not too evil, but Philadelphia was the first city I ever performed in where if a joke was funny, no matter how mean it might have been, it was greeted by unanimous laughter. There were no “oooooo’s” or “awwwwwww’s” which I loved. I hate when crowds pretend to be offended. If you are truly offended, leave. If not, then stop making sounds and laugh like everyone else.
Bill Burr recorded his Emotionally Unavailable album here in Philly and opens it up with some local reference jokes. Of course his rant on Philly at the Opie and Anthony Travelling tour ater became a mega-hit. Do you plan on having any jokes or rants specifically about our town?
No – don’t have anything Philly specific really. My experience has been so good in Philly so far that I have not been motivated to dump on the city. Famous last words. There are plenty of other groups of people that I verbally assault so Philly will have to wait its turn I guess.
This is your third album – how have you changed as a comedian since recording your first? Is there anything on your first two albums that you wish you didn’t release to be out in the public forever?
My first album, Racial Chameleon, was definitely the friendlier album in that a lot of the material was light-hearted. I did a lot of impressions on the album, a lot of pop culture observations and I was dating a woman with a kid so the jokes were probably more sitcom-ish. I am proud of the album, in part because I believe it was really good for a comedian 3 years in. The second album, Diamond Maker, was a little bit darker. About half the CD was dedicated to the story of my failed engagement and I think the only thing I regret is that I did not dig even deeper. Not to be mean (maybe that would have been a pleasant bi-product), but because there was really dark humor in the story of our relationship that I kept exploring after the CD was recorded. But I have basically buried most of that material now because I don’t feel like re-living some of the experiences on a nightly basis.
I am really excited for this CD recording because I feel like I am fully developed as a comedian (of course I probably thought this three years ago also). I know what I believe, I know how I like to deliver my material and I think I am finally at that point where people will be able to tell if they love me or hate me. Not everyone will be a fan, but I believe that my material is strong enough and comes with enough force that the people who are fans will be dedicated fans.
Do you have a plan to release a new album every so often or do you just work until you have enough to record?
I have a personal goal of doing one every 3 years or so. I seem to be averaging about 35-40 polished minutes per year so after 3 years and some trimming I can put out an excellent hour. Since my last CD I have been doing comedy full time since that CD was released. So I have had 3 years of travelling and working with some great comedians like Patrice O’Neal, Dave Attell, and countless other lesser-known, but really professional and funny people. I feel like I have learned to be more brave and honest in my material, a process that really began with my second CD. This CD is really going to be all me, in that it it will be less about how I interact with other people, and more how I see the world, including a look at life as a comedian. One of the things I have worked hard on is writing material about being an up and coming comedian, but making it funny to people who are not comedians or in entertainment. I think it is often a story that is not told and it is one I won’t be able to tell with as much authenticity if I ever do make it big. I remember reading Lenny Bruce’s autobiography and was struck by how much fresher it felt than Steve Martin’s or George Carlin because Bruce was writing it when he was 40 or so. He had just “made it” so all his struggles and hustles felt more in the moment, whereas some of the other greats who have written of their beginnings wrote decades removed from the actual experiences. I want this CD to be in part the way I look at the world in 2011, but also a look into the world my life as a comedian in 2011.
Do you prepare for an album recording differently than you do for a regular headlining set?
Only in one way. I will not censor myself at all for a CD recording because I know people there are there to see me. On other sets I will sometimes leave out my more harsh or political material because the crowd may not be there for me, but just there for some generic laughs, so I try to get crowds like that to meet me halfway. But to quote my favorite show Breaking Bad this CD will not be a half measure. And that is what I am really excited about.
J-L Cauvin will be recording his new album Too Big to Fail live next Wednesday, November 9th at 8:00PM at Helium Comedy Club. Tickets can be purchased online.