We continue our interviews with the Comedians at Law, six former or current lawyers who are schlepping across the country in a national Lawmageddon Tour. You can find them this week in Boston and Los Angeles, and at both places you can find J-L Cauvin, Georgetown Law grad, former Bronx prosecutor, and current stand-up comic. And a mix of other things, as he’s quick to tell you.
How about a question you apparently get all the time: what are you?
6’7″ 265 pounds of disappointment. My father is Haitian, my mother is Irish, and when you mix that you get a 50/50 chance of success. My older brother is doing well. I am a Voltron of underachievemnt. Just look at Derek Jeter and his sister. He’s Derek Jeter. She’s just some chick.
So, you got your start when you were at Georgetown law, going to open mics nearby. You were obviously on the road to becoming a lawyer, but what got you sidetracked into comedy?
I was horribly depressed in law school. I was overworked and in a long-distance relationship. By the second month of law school I could not get out of bed. My then-girlfriend actually called a Georgetown priest to speak with me because a) I would not speak to a shrink and b) I was puking gren vomit, but that was due to all the alcohol consumption and not a demonic possession. A guy who lived in my building was hanging up a poster for a local comedy show in February 2003 and told me I should come by to watch. I went, had a blast and was inspired to give it a shot. I think that is what Nicole Brown Simpson said after her first date with OJ. But once I started doing comedy my depression faded, my grades got better and I just felt better about life. It was like comedy was methadone to law school’s heroin and as we all know, nothing bad every comes from methadone.
You graduated from Georgetown in 2003. After law school, where did you land, legally?
I graduated in 2004. Who the fu*k does your research? And if you fire them do you want to hire me? I will work for free drinks and second rate lodgings in obscure cities.
We just had an opening in our fact-checking department. Seriously, where did you first end up after school?
I landed at the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, which was a solid place to work. Granted I lived with my parents for the first two years because a starting government salary is only one rank above government assistance. Fortunately, back then I was strapping and idealistic so living with “two old roomates” was not as much of a—as we say in legal circles—“cock block,” as it might have been for lesser humans, like, for example, the person I am today. After the DA’s office I went to a Philly based law firm in NYC and that was really nice. Al Capone said in the movie The Untouchables: “In my neighborhood you get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.” Well in NYC you get further with a television credit and a six figure salary than you can with just a television credit.
And were you pursuing a comedy career at the same time? How was that?
I was. It was fun. Becuase no matter how bad a day at work I was having there was something to look forward to after work. And my office at the DA’s Office had faster internet than the dial up I was using at my parent’s apartment, so I was able to blog, update MySpace, and prosecute violators of the law all from the comfort of my office. Of course there was the occasional mix up when I would be writing on my blog that Jorge Diaz’s set was terrible, while trying to prosecute Dane Cook for running numbers in the South Bronx.
Are you doing comedy full time now or do you keep your fingers in the practice too?
I am doing comedy full time, which is sort of like running a Ponzi scheme on yourself. I am both Bernie Madoff and an angry defrauded 80-year-old grandmother in one person. I have travelled the country, taken every gig offered, killed (comedy lingo for doing well) in every region of the country except the South, (I think some people in Alabama just got my jokes this morning that I had told in Birmingham in 2009), and completely left law behind, except for CLE credits. However, last month I started sending my resume out. In other words I think I lost, but I hold my head up high knowing I fought the irrelevant fight.
I just watched your set from a while ago on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. No mention you are a lawyer. When do you decide to play the lawyer card?
Emphasis on “a while ago.” I did not want to mention that I was a lawyer because I was currently working as one. I usually drop the lawyer card when the “I’m a comedian” doesn’t work to impress people. I am actually going to start bringing my Williams and Georgetown diplomas (see how I dropped Williams College in there also) on stage so that people realize what other specific things I have wasted besides NBA height, NFL size, and Barack Obama-backstory to tell jokes.
You’ve joked about living with your parents until you were 28. Are you still there or have you moved up?
I live in midtown Manhattan. For at least another 3 months. I have already picked out a nice new residence in the abandonned construction project acreoss the street from where I currently reside. I am not sure if your readers will pick up on this, but I am the bright-eyed optimist of Comedians At Law.
So, two comedy albums under your belt, Racial Chameleon and Diamond Maker. I hear there may be a third coming out?
Next month my new album comes out. It is called Too Big To Fail. It is ironic because I am big. And a failure. I may give it away for free because fu*k Louis CK and his $5 download. I think people will rank it somewhere with Adele’s 21 as an album full of rich narrative from an out of shape person.
Besides the Lawmageddon Tour, where can we usually find you, y’know, being funny?
I am very funny on Twitter (@JLCauvin) and my website, JLCauvin.com, has a ton of content—original videos, my weekly podcast (available on iTunes) and my blog (both titled “Righteous Prick”), which is probably what most comics know me for if they know me. But by 2013 you will probably find me being funny in an office, a classroom, or the penal system.