By Tony Maglio
In honor of the midway point of the season, I swapped emails with some of the best young New York comedians: J-L Cauvin (www.JLCauvin.com), Pat Breslin (www.PatBreslin.com), and comedian/actor Mike Bernardi (no website yet, so I considered just giving out his cell phone number). The following is the transcript – after very heavy censorship.
NAS: We’ll get to your teams in a bit, but from an outsider perspective – what do you think of the Nets 3-40 start, and are they the worst team of all time?
J-L Cauvin: I think the Nets will be the worst team of all time in terms of record – my prediction is 8-74 final record. However, there should be an asterisk on this record. In this free agent climate, the Nets have basically done the exact opposite of performance enhancement. I think the 1972-73 76ers just sucked without doing it on purpose. So much like Bonds and McGwire in baseball, these Nets deserve an asterisk when they go 8-74.
Pat Breslin: No need for an asterisk if Nets break the record (which I think they probably will), but what’s interesting here is the lack of shame associated with it. I’m a die-hard Sixers fan but the fact that we hold the record is something I barely remembered (then again, I wasn’t even born until later that decade). And I think what’s interesting is that the record is even now less dubious (does that count as a double-negative?) given Boston’s turnaround a couple years ago. What’s really motivating the Nets is to just not get a 30-second mention on the “Today” show in mid-April.
Mike Bernardi: The “worst team of all time” can only be determined by numbers. The worst record equals the worst team, but we all know it’s much more than that. Being bad because you’re just plain bad and being bad because you decide to dump players to make financial room for free agents and a top draft pick and so you can pack light on your trip to Brooklyn – that’s different. The Celtics may have proven that a team can turn around in one season, but the Clippers have proven that a team can languish in misery for all eternity. (R.I.P. Blake Griffin; we hardly knew Ye.) Where will the Nets fall on that spectrum? We’ll find out after this. And here’s something else that’s been bothering me, and maybe I missed something, when did Izod become such a huge corporation that it could have a whole Center named after it? I have one Izod sweater. Right now it is more valuable than the basketball being played in the building with the same tag.
Tony Maglio: First of all Mike thanks for joining the party three days late. Secondly – I appreciate your choosing a font color that is brighter than the surface of the sun (I believe the technical color name is “Eye Gouge Blue”). I’m pretty sure this is how Ray Charles went blind, but I can’t be positive because I missed a lot of the plot of “Ray” amidst all the hooting and hollering in the theater (too many years too late for a “Ray” reference?). Third – the answer to your Izod question is a two-parter. The real story is something to do with how Izod and Lacoste were the same brand, but then Lacoste screwed Izod over (or the other way around). I’ll look into it. The other part is you could probably afford to have the Nets play their home games at your apartment in Jersey City if you could get Aramark on board.
MB: Ok, it was either that color or black. So I’m going ahead and changing the color to black. Everyone gets a color but me. Happy now?
NAS: We all know T-Mac and Allen Iverson are ridiculous All-Star selections (let alone starters in A.I.’s case). I hate the system where fans choose all-stars in the NBA and MLB – any All-Star snubs and do you like the system?
JL: Deron Williams. One of the top two point guards in the NBA, zero All-Star games. He usually finishes seasons strong so his stats (this year an exception) are usually better at the end than at the midway. But this is one reason why fans should not vote – they do not really appreciate who the best players are. Tracy McGrady will end up making the Hall of Fame as “X-time All-Star” but he is an underachiever who has accomplished nothing of note.
TM: I agree Deron got snubbed for the All-Star game, but I’m still not willing to definitively call him one of the top two in the NBA. He’s in the conversation, but there are so many incredible PGs out there today. He is however, more underrated than being single.
JL: Most people have CP3 first, but how right now is D. Will not second? He plays in a rigid system and still gets 19 and 9-plus a game. He is the best shooter of the point guards in the league. And he is not a shooting guard masquerading as a point like half of these cats (I just read a book on Louis Armstrong so forgive my usage of “cats”). At this point the only two I’d accept in the conversation are Tony Parker and Steve Nash.
TM: Nash was who I was mostly referring to, but the more I see of him the more I’m coming around on Rajon Rondo. Rose and Devin Harris have lost a lot of steam in the discussion this year, and I’m pretty sure Baron Davis quit basketball. I’ll leave Parker out of it and concede number 3 to D. Will if you concede that Nash is the best shooting PG in the league. His numbers are RIDICULOUS: 54% FG, 43% 3PT, 94% FT. He’s more accurate than Fred Armisen’s impersonation of Barack Obama. Cue fellow-Obama impersonator JL’s head exploding in 3, 2, 1…
JL: Fred Armisen is not a “fellow impersonator” since he does not do an impression. Rondo’s test will be when he plays without three Hall-Of-Famers. Rose is not ready yet, but I think has the potential to be the best in the game because of his strength and stupid explosiveness. I guess when I think of D Will shooting I am not thinking on kick outs and free throws, but on his step back J.
PB: I’ll take this opportunity to point out (a) that I’m an unabashed Iverson fan, and (b) that it sucks that he got voted into the game, since he obviously doesn’t deserve it. It’s just negative publicity that he can’t control, and that isn’t his fault. (Should I compare it to Obama’s Nobel Prize or is that too much? Whatever.) It’s unfortunate that it may overshadow the fact that he’s been a model teammate (did I just say that?) and positive impact on the Sixers. Then again, I wish I had problems as bad as “got voted into NBA All-Star Game again when I didn’t deserve it”. Whatever.
MB: This is why the Electoral College was invented: to prevent the “uneducated” masses from putting someone totally undeserving into the political All-Star game. And with any luck, once we dodge that massive bullet, the bullet will remain relegated to Fox News until she and her ignorant, dangerous views barely covered with trendy spectacles and a human form return to the deepest circle of hell from whence she came.
TM: Here we go…
MB: And another thing, you want to make the All-Star game more than just a runway shoot? Make it count for something like Major League Baseball does. Then you’ll finally see what people want to see: the best vs. the best giving their best for one game only.
TM: Unless they’re on the Royals.
NAS: Before Bernardi transforms into Bill Maher so early in the conversation, let’s talk about your team’s first half of the season…
JL: The Utah Jazz have greatly disappointed me this year. They are healthy, young, talented, and well-coached and are in a fight for the 8 seed at this point. They are kind of like the show “24”: they gave me great moments a decade ago, but now every season begins I am excited and hopeful, only to be disappointed halfway through with their unexplainable absurdity. That said I think Deron Williams is a beast and that Paul Millsap will emerge as a 20/10 guy once Carlos Boozer leaves. I still think the Jazz have a 10 game, season-altering win streak in them, but I expected them to be about 6 games better in the win column at this point.
TM: So you DO or you don’t like Deron Williams…
PB: I’d say that the Philadelphia 76ers are slowly killing me, but that’s a bit dramatic. Still, I can’t remember watching a team lose SO many close games since…uh…oh right, last year’s Sixers. I’ll stop whining and go to the positives: Dalembert is playing real well now, Iverson is playing the right role, and Jrue Holiday plays D like he’s trying out for the JV team (and looks like it, too). Problem is that they’ve been a disappointment because Eddie Jordan spent the first one-third of the season rotating in everybody but Jim Lynam. Oh, and they choke every game down the stretch. Still, as bad as their record is, they’re in the East…so they’ll probably have a playoff shot until March. Unreal.
MB: I’m a New York Knicks fan, so forget the first half of the season. Let’s have a moment of silence for the last ten full seasons. You know how people say “if I could go back, knowing what I know now…” Well, if I could go back, knowing what I know now, I’d find a way to get to the 1999 Knicks and say, “Look, I know you lost the Finals and I know it was a shortened season, but do this franchise a favor: Bottle up as much sweat as you can from this playoffs and keep a jar in each locker for future players to dab it behind their ears before games.” Oh, and then I’d find and poison Stephon Marbury. Hey China, enjoy him. Let’s make sure we peel the ‘Made In America’ sticker off him; otherwise, we’ve only seen the beginning of the tsunami of lead and chromium covered products coming to our shores.
TM: Patrick Ewing sweat so much that you could have bottled more than enough for the current roster. He could have mass-produced the least attractive cologne concept ever and marketed it to gullible fan-idiots like my brother and friend Kenny…oh wait, Michael Jordan already did that.
NAS: Let’s switch gears for a minute: What’d you guys think of the Golden Globes?
JL: I was on a 17 hour Greyhound bus trip during the Globes so I did not see them. However, Mo’Nique and Christopher Waltz are the biggest no-brainers. They were awesome. “Avatar” is a fun, quality movie, but it is screwing “District 9” out of the respect it deserves (voters can only handle one movie with aliens per year apparently). Of the dramas nominated I thought “Up in The Air” was the best, with “Inglorious Basterds” second. “Glee” should not have won anything (except if Jane Lynch won something). “Modern Family”, although a weaker version of “Arrested Development”, is infinitely better. I like that “The Hangover” won, although “500 Days of Summer” was a better movie.
TM: I think I would have rather been on a 17 hour Greyhound bus trip than stay in on a long weekend and watch the entire Golden Globes show, which I did. I actually have yet to see a few of the movies nominated this year, so I can’t comment on them. I liked “Up In The Air”, but it didn’t blow me away or anything. Also I might have a slight bias against Jason Reitman after hearing him on Bill Simmons’ podcast offering the classicly patronizing “It-was-actually-harder-for-me-to-make-it-having-a-famous-and-powerful-father routine”. Meanwhile, his father was the co-Executive Producer on this movie. As Breslin would say; “Whatever”. Anyway, “Glee” winning over “Modern Family” and “30 Rock” is more stunning than “Glee” winning a second season. That show is terrible. It started out quirky and different on the limited run it had, but very shortly transformed into an acapella version of “California Dreams”. I also am glad that “The Hangover” won, although admittedly I haven’t seen “500 Days of Summer”, because I’m a man. (That sentence may have lost credibility when I previously admitted to having seen a few episodes of “Glee” and mostly the entire run of “California Dreams”).
MB: I didn’t watch. I believe if you’re nominated that’s enough. Whoever wins is rarely the “right one”. Having said that, if I’m ever nominated I will burn down an orphanage to win.
NAS: “Lost” didn’t win any Globes this year as it heads into the final season. How does it end? Theories?
JL: They end up on Oceanic Flight 815 at the end of the last episode trapped in some recurring time warp. There can be no quality or satisfying ending to that make-it-up-as-we-go show so they will go for a “Twilight Zone”-baffling ending.
TM: I’m so glad you mentioned it as a “make-it-up-as-we-go show”. For those reading, you and I have never previously had a conversation about “Lost”, but I’ve been saying that for years to anyone who will listen (which basically amounts to my girlfriend, and even she’s been tuning me out since Season Two). CLEARLY, when the show started out The Island was Purgatory. The writers thought they were cleverer (doesn’t seem like a word but the dictionary is assuring me that it is) than the Comic-Con nerds who watched their show a little too closely. That concept was stretched way further than it could be and the show took far too many (and too long) hiatuses (hiati?). That’s why NOTHING is ever seen through or explained. The “smoke monster” was not only some of the lamest special effects since “Mega-Shark vs. Giant Octopus”, it never amounted to anything. Same with the polar bears, etc. They have no ending, they have no master plan. And the people clinging to that are going to be sorely disappointed when it ends the exact way you said it will. OR, when that theory becomes too hot and they shoot an alternative ending with Patrick Duffy coming out of the shower.
PB: I’ve somehow resisted watching this stupid show for the past half-decade, and I’m sick of hearing about it, so I’m hoping it ends awfully for all of you. I’m thinking a terrible “Heroes” tie-in to close out the episode or something.
MB: It ends with the last episode. Maybe.
NAS: What’s your opinion on the whole Leno/Conan mess?
JL: I told all my friends Conan would not be as successful because he is quirkier and more of an acquired taste. Sure his humor is more abstract and smarter than Jay Leno, but until Jay moved to Ten and multiplied the corniness of his act by a factor of ten (yes it was possible for him to do that) I had preferred Leno. But since the conflict broke out I think Conan opened up and was more fearless which made his show outstanding. Hopefully if he goes to Fox he becomes the anti-hero of late night television – if he keeps his new found edge I will definitely watch him.
TM: The now cancelled “Jay Leno Show” is (was) one of the worst shows on television. His “10 at 10” segment is so disjointed and uncomfortable that my DVR can’t even watch it. I think everyone agrees Conan is funnier, but I actually liked Leno more for the format of the “Tonight” show. It’s a terrible mess, and everyone loses – especially us when in 10 years Jimmy Fallon takes over the “Tonight” show. Conan is definitely getting a raw deal here, but I can’t feel too bad for someone getting paid $30 million to NOT work.
PB: As for Jay Leno he is acting like a jerk, but the man is a workaholic who has found two rare things in the terrible business of stand up comedy: power and stability. And to get those things you have to ruffle feathers.
JL: But I think America’s increasing ADD, spurred on by stupid short blurbs on YouTube, and instant access via unnecessary mobile technology has given Conan much less time to adjust (just look at Massachusetts – they gave Obama one year to fix the biggest set of disasters at one time in this country’s history: two wars, a Great Recession – Tea Party morons). 70 years ago FDR was given three terms to turn around the Depression. Good thing Twitter was not around for FDR.
PB: I love that you got political on the Conan/Leno question – I thought you’d more likely go there on the “Lost” or All-Star question…nice work. (Btw, Carson’s supposed to be FDR in this analogy, right?)
TM: This is how messed up the late-night situation/my sense of iconic television history is – for a second I actually thought you meant Carson Daly there Pat. Because if we had to label all of the talk show hosts, I would say Carson Daly is more like Rutherford B. Hayes in the sense that everyone forgets about him and they both banged Tara Reid.
JL: As fascinated as I’ve been by this whole controversy, I think it’s ultimately something that we’re pretending is a bigger deal than it really is. I mean, I’ve completely sided with Conan on it (as have most people, I’m guessing) – but it’s still not likely to make me watch him regularly, wherever he ends up. I think Conan’s way funnier than Leno (who I can’t stand to watch interview anybody), but I’m still just a casual viewer who would rather watch Stewart or Colbert.
PB: I think a better analogy here is boxing, since late-night TV wars were legitimately a huge deal in the early ‘90s, and now it just feels like it’s something we’re supposed to think is a big deal…when in reality the landscape has changed so much (in this case, Stewart, Colbert, and Chelsea Handler are the UFC/MMA).
TM: Would this make George Lopez TNA Wrestling?
MB: JL, your Obama point just gave me a crush on you. Leno stinks. I think what he is doing is insanely unethical. Maybe he shouldn’t have made that ridiculous five year date for him leaving the show and just left when he was ready to do so. Instead we end up with this sh*t show. Literal and figurative. Jay Leno: the Brett Favre of Late Night.
NAS: Speaking of whom, while this won’t run until the Super Bowl match-up is set: NFL Playoffs – who do you like the rest of the way?
JL: I hate Brett Favre all the way. Colts-Saints, Colts win. Peyton Manning – undisputed best player in the NFL post-relaxation of pass coverage rules.
PB: I hate Favre too, but I think they get in. And it kills me to type this, but I think the Vikings beat the Colts. Barf.
MB: Peyton manning is the Michael Jordan of our current time. He is as good. He is as ubiquitous. The difference is, Peyton is hilarious. Oh, and he has one championship and Jordan has 6 (should have been 7 or 8 – thanks a lot Mr. Jordan’s murderer and Major League Baseball). I believe, however, that stringing together championships is WAY, WAY harder in the NFL. The evidence? No one has ever won three Super Bowls in a row. The Broncos of the late 90’s may have had the best chance, but it didn’t happen (thanks a lot Elway retiring). Back to Manning, I can’t think of one person I’ve talked to who doesn’t like the guy. I’m a Steelers fan, but ill still root for Peyton as long as he’s not playing them. He’s one of those guys that, even if he beats you, you’re like: “Hey, thanks for beating us, Peyton. That was a great 60 yard bomb to Reggie Wayne”, and you’re the cornerback. Now, having said that, it would be a great underdog story for the Jets to beat the Colts. However, Peyton will play great in spite of the Jets defense, a la Darrelle Revis (he’s my Pitt boy!!) and Sanchez, even as a game manager, will revert to being a rookie when he faces the speed of the Colts 1st string defense for the whole game. The Saints are underdogs; not because of points, but because it’s impossible to be on top of Brett Favre’s landslide of crap (thanks a lot Green Bay, N.Y., Tavaris Jackson and Brad Childress). Vikings beat the Saints. Why? Because they shut down Reggie Bush, they get to Drew Brees, and Adrian Peterson remembers that he can break a 50 yard run while dragging a safety in his left hand. Colts v. Vikings Super Bowl. And then I don’t know.
TM: It’s a clean sweep against Favre as a person. I can’t fathom why he’s so beloved (re: he’s white) after all the BS he’s pulled (minus the awesome game he had after his father died, that was neat) The only people who should like Brett Favre are pharmacists and Sidney Rice. I also don’t buy that he’s a great teammate – I just picture him trying like hell to get Tavaris Jackson to switch to Wranglers. I like Saints over Colts in the end.
NAS: So what about Mark McGwire – does he make the Hall of Fame?
JL: Like it or not he and Sammy Sosa brought baseball back and the game has not suffered even with all the revelations of drug usage. 1998 was the best summer of baseball of my life and at least those two made it fun unlike the surly Barry Bonds who for my money was using performance enhancement as a beard for his incredibly feminine voice. However, I think Jose Canseco has proven himself tied with Derek Jeter as the most important player in baseball in the last 30 years and should go into the Hall of Fame, not as a player, but as the first Hall Of Fame snitch. Jeter proved that you could win honestly and Jose Canseco is the Deep Throat of professional sports (the Watergate informant you pervs).
PB: Agreed – as unlikable as Canseco is, he’s come across as the most honest one out of anybody. How did that happen?
TM: The new trend of praising Canseco for his honesty is baffling to me. Did anyone ever really think he was lying? No, the media just couldn’t make libelous statements without proof. Canseco is still the snitch who ruined the party for everyone. He’s like that guy who you know you don’t want at a bachelor party because he might tell the bride what went down for some meager personal gain.
MB: None of the players from the steroid era should go into the Hall. That’s how we keep them together. Don’t put them in and then give some special explanation. DON”T put them in and that’s how everyone will know that there was something different about the players in that era. I’ll even take it one step further. Make a statue of Barry Bonds trying to get into a locked door at Cooperstown.
NAS: Ok let’s finally circle back and end it on a basketball note. The Slam Dunk Contest: do you like it, who wins, best dunker/dunk of all time – what’s your opinion on the LeBron flip-flopping?
MB: I think it’s a fun side-show act like the Home-Run Derby, but how much more can you do with it? Short of jumping over the backboard or curing cancer while you dunk, what else is there? LeBron needs to get this contest over with because if he doesn’t there is no way he’s going to live up to the hype he’s built up (do you hear me, “Lost”?!)
JL: Vince Carter put on the best show of all time at the Dunk Contest. Kobe and Vince are past their dunk primes, but LeBron is the only dunk-worthy superstar to have not done it. Jordan and Dominque did it several times, Dwight Howard has done it several times, Kobe did it (when he was a younger buck). I don’t see how LeBron could top Vince’s display, but he’d be the best right now. He should have done it already, but perhaps his corporate handlers have told him the risk or effort is not worth it to them. Overall the dunk contest is stupid though. It becomes a contest for how much overreacting the players in the stands can do at dunks. There are more genuine reactions in “Def Comedy Jam” television audiences.
PB: I wish LeBron would do it, but doubt he will – more importantly, though, why can’t MJ still do it? After watching his beyond-awkward Hall of Fame acceptance speech last fall, it’s clear he’s a bitter older man with imaginary scores yet to settle. I think we’re safe from him un-retiring again, and it’s doubtful he’d lower himself to an old-timers game…but tell me he wouldn’t jump at the idea of revolving Saturday of All-Star Weekend completely around him. We call it “MJ Vs.”, and he takes on all the younger guys in the shootout, dunk contest, 1-on-1, whatever…hell, we’ll even set up a blackjack table mid-court. And if he gets schooled in anything (or all of it), it’s guarantee he’ll come back again and do it next year. Tell me he doesn’t think he can still do this – especially if the Vikings win in two weeks.
Thanks again to the guys who joined me for our mid-season Roundtable talk. If you think these guys are funnier than me (which they are), check them out online and on stage. All proceeds from sales before February 1st of J-L Cauvin’s two CDs, “Racial Chameleon” and “Diamond Maker”, go to the Red Cross for Haiti. You can see Mike Bernardi in “Tits and Assets” February 12th in the Strawberry One-Act Festival, and check out Pat Breslin February 4th at Temple University. As for me, you can check me out right here, same time next week.