How does one talk about a thing without talking about it?
Really, it comes down to a handful of strategies: Keep it vague, don’t name names, and, ultimately, maintain enough distance where plausible deniability is an option. That might seem like an odd way to begin a story about a standup comedian — a profession that thrives on the power of honesty — but it's necessary.
Bilingual comic Javi Carrion has had an interesting life, to say the least. The Puerto Rican-born Miamian is a veteran of the South Florida comedy scene, fitting gigs in between working for an electronics company and raising his 9-year-old daughter. He's set to tape a half-hour special, Miami Made Me, April 8 at the Open Stage Club.
As busy as he is, Carrion happily finds time to tell stories. Some of them are told onstage, and quite often they're of the dirty variety. Some of them are told offstage, concerning down-low, dank business operations.
Carrion arrived in Miami in 1982, not long after the Mariel Boatlift, which saw a mass immigration of Cubans to the United States. “The Marielitos,” whom Carrion calls “the original pirates of the Caribbean,” helped shape the Miami landscape for the next 30 years, and, in turn, areas such as Hialeah made Carrion into the brash, cocky, and friendly man speaking to New Times over the phone.
Growing up, Carrion says, he was inspired to be a class clown and then a standup comic by greats including Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor. “I started listening to Eddie Murphy, my dick got hard, and I said, ‘Who the fuck is this guy?’ I wanna be black, you know what I mean? That’s where the comedy started. I went to my first open mike, and I fucking killed it.
“It was a bachelorette party, and the chick was getting married to an accountant. I said, ‘To an accountant? Your sex night is going to suck!’ And I went on and on. It was amazing. I fucking ripped the guy a new asshole, and she had a ball.”
This was, by his estimation, around 1991. Carrion took a break from comedy in the early 2000s. “I got a lot of shit. People wanted me to change my style. People said I was too dirty. I think I peaked too early, and I needed to take a break.”
After being away for a couple of years, he assessed the state of the Miami comedy scene and didn’t like what the younger generation was doing. Like an OG rapper ready to show up those he sees as pretenders, Carrion felt like he needed to get back in the game. “Seeing these new cats coming around — thinking that they were badasses, like there was nothing to it — I don’t know, it felt disrespectful... There’s a feeling sometimes as a human being that you know you’re good at something. It’s not cockiness; it’s just knowing that you can.”
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There was another career Carrion was good at. More than a decade ago, when he was “a different person,” he was, for lack of a better term, knowledgeable about the weed business.
Today marijuana is less taboo than it was 20 years ago. Legalization in now a reality in several states, including Florida, for medical purposes — the one good thing that came from November's dumpster fire of an election. Perhaps one day, taking a puff from a homemade blunt will be seen as innocent as taking a sip of a mojito mixed at a dinner party. But for now, despite the progress that's been made, discussing the subject of “growing trees” in a one-bedroom apartment over the phone is tricky and takes on a nervy tone.
Let's be clear: Carrion does not admit to growing, selling, or using marijuana. He just happens to know a lot about the stuff. For 20 minutes, he explains the various ways in which someone might hide the scent of crippy (“chlorine tablets”); how a grower could find her/himself in constant danger of getting robbed of tens of thousands of dollars' worth of product; and, ultimately, what might lead a person to quit the green-growing industry — namely, “coming home to some strange dudes waiting in a car outside your house.”
During his sets, Carrion sometimes jokes about the things he knows. But in the end, what he truly understands is that it is safer to tell jokes about the proper way to order a cafecito in Miami, or to marvel at 80-year-old men in Puerto Rico who have dyed their hair bleach-blond to support the baseball team, than it is to constantly “watch your back.” The risk of boos, Carrion says, will always outweigh the risk of “giving the government two years of my life.”