Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Little Fairness Please

Thursday April 17th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   Is it just me, or is the entire world more insane than it’s ever been? Has it ever been sane, or am I turning into my grandparents faster than I thought? From where I sit, I really can’t tell one way or the other how the downward slide started, but it’s hard for anyone to deny it’s painfully here.

   As children in America, we are taught that this is the greatest country in the world. At one time I believed that with all my heart. Now, I am not so sure. I can see where we are POTENTIALLY the greatest, but I can see it for everywhere else too. Humanity itself seems to be the weak link.

   Nobody seems to be able to get it together and make life work for the long haul. Every time we seem to get something halfway decent going, it fizzles and reverts back to ground zero due to the flaw in our basic makeup. Well, there are probably many flaws but the main one I mean is greed.

   No matter what ‘system’ happens to be the flavor of the day, the greedy bastards in that society find their way into power by any means necessary and proceed to dismantle it for their own glory and selfish best interests. Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, it doesn’t matter. They all end up the same in the end. “Corruptionism” becomes the main ingredient, and then it’s rich vs. poor.

   It sure has worked exactly that way in my own personal life’s experience in comedy and radio. Most of the idiots at the top of both of those industries are anything but benevolent good hearted souls that put the business first and focus on nurturing talent and making the entire world better. 

   They’re obsessed with one thing and one thing only - their own ass - and how to not only save it on a daily basis but prevent anyone with a clue from getting anywhere near it in order to reveal to the world that they are indeed incompetent imbeciles that should be replaced by someone else immediately if not sooner. Those are unfortunately the moles that dig in and don’t go anywhere.

   I read somewhere that “nobody gives up power willingly” and I find that to be overwhelmingly true in my circles. Not everyone at the top of comedy and radio are bad people and incompetent, but there are quite a few bags of slime that could leave tomorrow and nobody would miss them.

   If it’s this way in two offshoot businesses of the entertainment field, how much worse must the craziness be in mainstream governments not only in America but all over the globe? I see how it works in my tiny little world, and it’s rotten to the core. The big picture must be purely horrific.

   What really scares me is I can’t help but wonder if the whole universe isn’t like this? There has to be life on at least some of the countless billion stars and planets out there. I hate to think aliens have all the same twisted policies fueled by greed we do. If that’s the case, why does life exist?

   All I’m looking for is a little fairness somewhere. Is that too much to ask? It must be, as I don’t see it anywhere I’m looking. My grandfather used to have a favorite saying “Cream and bastards rise to the top.” Boy was he right, and I’m sure he wishes he wasn’t. I wish he wasn’t. But he had it nailed, and it’s not getting any better. We’ve had thousands of years to fix this, but we haven’t.

Is it just me, or is the world getting crazier by the minute?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thank You Herb Kohl

Wednesday April 16th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

   The news story of the day in my home town of Milwaukee was the sale of the NBA franchise the Bucks. The team has been owned since 1985 by Senator Herb Kohl, who purchased it then at what turned out to be the bargain price of $18 million. 29 years later, he sells it for $550 million. 

   I know 2014 dollars aren’t the same as 1985 dollars, but that’s still a tidy little profit he turned for himself – even though he also pledged to donate $100 million toward a new arena that will be built to meet league requirements. Even if that comes off the top, he’ll still be able to buy lunch.

   That kind of money just clogs the brain pipe when comparing it to my little beggar’s cup that’s not even full of nickels. I know that whole chunk isn’t his to spend free and clear, but it’s still on a whole different cosmic plane than I’ve ever been close to and unfortunately will likely never be at least in this lifetime. Some people are born with opportunities others will never come close to.

   Herb Kohl came from a family that owned grocery stores, and there was one a few blocks from my grandparents’ house where I grew up. We shopped there every week, and I remember clearly like it was yesterday how he would sometimes be in the store and my grandparents saying hello.

   I’m not claiming they were close friends or that he even knew who they were other than people that shopped at the store regularly, but it’s funny to have that obscure childhood memory and see how it grew. The grocery stores eventually closed, but they had Kohl’s Department Store as well. I’m not sure of the details, and it’s none of my business. The point is, they have done rather well.

   Herb Kohl had a lot of opportunities most others don’t get. I’m not saying he didn’t work for it at least on some level, but he was in the right position to be one of the big players. Good for him, and by all accounts he has been generous with his resources. He is a known local philanthropist.

   He bought the Bucks in 1985 when there was a threat of them leaving town. He made sure they didn’t, and even though they were quite mediocre at best in the standings most of those years the entire city owes him a debt of gratitude – even though most Milwaukeeans I know could not care any less. They bitch and moan about how bad the team is, and most wouldn’t pay to buy a ticket.

   Many locals constantly bellyache about the Bucks being terrible, but would have whined even more if the team had moved. I guess it’s human nature to prattle on about what one doesn’t have instead of being grateful for what one does, and I admit I’ve been guilty of that myself regularly.

   I listened to the press conference on the radio today, and it wasn’t ten minutes later when calls started coming in with fans complaining Herb Kohl should have donated more. They implied he should have built the new arena himself or something, even though he has been quite generous.

   It sure is easy to spend other people’s money, isn’t it? As a native Milwaukeean, I’m thankful they didn’t move out of town in ’85. I was a ball boy in high school, and still have friends to this day that work there. Bad team or not, I’m still a fan. If nobody else says it, thank you Herb Kohl.

In high school, I was a ball boy for the Milwaukee Bucks. It was a blast, and I still have friends there to this day.

Herb Kohl kept the bucks in town when they could have moved in 1985. If no other Milwaukeean appreciates it, I do. Thank you Senator Kohl.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lights, Camera, ACTING!

Tuesday April 15th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   One of the first warnings I heard when I started doing standup comedy was “actor/comedian” = “neither/nor”. I think there’s a lot of truth to that to a certain degree, just as the Confucius saying “He who chases two rabbits, catches none.” The point is to focus on ONE thing and do that well. 

   I knew I enjoyed standup comedy more than anything, so that’s what I stayed with exclusively and never bothered to look into anything else. I’m not so sure that was the smartest move all this time later as I objectively look back on my life and analyze the decisions I made along the way.

   I’m not so sure I’d recommend that to someone starting out now – especially with how life has changed so radically on every level. When I started, I could make a living exclusively in comedy by the time I was in my early 20s. Like minor league baseball, I wasn’t getting rich but I had the opportunity to learn my craft on the job and work my way up the ranks. That’s a lot harder now.

   Then there was a time when Hollywood seemed to be passing out development deals to comics like candy at Halloween. Lots of people got off the road and moved to L.A. in hopes of being the next big thing. A few like Jerry Seinfeld and Drew Carey pulled it off, but a lot more struck out.

   One of the big things that held a lot of comedians back was that they weren’t good actors. They never made it a point to attempt to learn the craft, and I can totally see why. It takes a lot of effort to be a good comedian, and that’s enough to keep anyone occupied for a lifetime. It sure kept my attention. Still, I don’t think it would hurt any standup to take a few acting classes and vice versa.

   They’re very different crafts, and I’ll throw improv in there as well. That’s a whole other thing by itself, but the smart performer in the 21st Century would be wise to at least sample a little taste of all three to get an idea of what’s involved. Even if only for comparison purposes, I’d say do it.

   Entertainment doesn’t seem to be so much about craft and skill these days as it is about getting famous. I’m not a fan of that formula, but I can’t fight it. That’s how it is. With the internet now a force that isn’t going anywhere, a lot more unpolished talents are getting exposed far too early. 

   That doesn’t mean they don’t have talent, I just think it can be a bad thing to be seen too early. It’s like eating green bananas. They haven’t ripened yet, and to eat them will give the one eating them a nasty case of the trots. The same is true with any acquired skill, but everyone is impatient.

   I have a friend named Regina Prokop who is a legitimate Hollywood casting agent. She got me a part as an extra in the film “While You Were Sleeping”. Was I an actor? No, I was dressed as a mailman and walked past Sandra Bullock for a few seconds. Was it fun? Sure. Should I have put more effort into pursuing bigger roles? Absolutely. Credits like that can impress when added up.

   Regina has put out a very affordable EBook called “Lights, Camera, ACTING!” I recommend it to anyone who wants the real scoop on how to get started correctly. I get nothing from it but to help a friend. It’s a steal at just $2.99.

My friend Regina Prokop is a real Hollywood casting agent. Here she is on the red carpet at some major event.

Her guidance got me a part in 'While You Were Sleeping'. I play a mail man - but I didn't go postal. Thanks Regina!

Her new EBook is very affordable and is packed with hands on proven tips on how to enter the on camera acting part of the business. I highly recommend it to anyone starting out.

Scratching And Clawing

Monday April 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   I don’t often give myself credit for a lot of things, but one thing I have always been able to do better than almost anyone is absorb an inordinate amount of life’s punches. I have had more than the average journeyman’s share of lumps to take starting from my earliest memories, and it’s not getting any easier. I know everyone has their own batch of problems, but not many are like mine.

   I have never thought I was better than anyone else and I still don’t, but I do think that I’ve been able to last longer in the line of fire than almost anyone I know. It’s a wonder I am not constantly sucking a crack pipe or guzzling moonshine by the jug. Had I gone that route, I would be dead.

   Sometimes when I’ve been at my lowest points, I would get a giddy feeling of impenetrability that made me feel like Superman’s big brother. I would laugh at everything that was crumbling around me, and march through the rubble to continue my journey. “Is THAT all ya got, life?”

   Then there were other times that for no reason I’d just turn into a giant ball of nerve endings of the most sensitive kind, and any little thing would cause severe pain and agony. All I would want is to curl up in the fetal position and go to sleep for eternity. There has rarely been an in between.

   At the moment, I’m feeling the in between. Part of me doesn’t care if I live or die this very day, but another part of me is laughing inside and mocking life for thinking it can defeat me. It’s quite an odd mix I admit, but it’s what I feel. It’s like I’m caught in between gears and stuck in neutral.

   Inside there’s a lost little boy cluelessly wandering through life all by himself like he’s gotten left behind in a big Kmart and can’t find his parents or anyone to ask to make an announcement to look for them. It’s intimidating as hell, and I have no idea if I’ll ever find my way to safety.

   There’s also a bad ass ape like creature in there that could stomp The Incredible Hulk in a fight with one arm tied behind his back. He is not afraid of man or beast, and has a crystal clear vision of what he wants and where he wants to go. He’s sitting alone in a cage, just waiting to cut loose.

  All he needs is an invitation, but that’s the problem. Very few seem to know or care that he’s in there, and even though he would never do any harm those few that do seem to be deathly afraid of having him anywhere around. So there he sits, loaded with potential - but not using any of it.

  I guess I’m just suffering from a total shortage of self esteem. Everyone wants to feel wanted by somebody, and I’m just not feeling it from anywhere right now. I scratch and claw furiously each week to barely stay afloat, and as humbling as it is to accept the world is not waiting on pins and needles for the King of Uranus to arrive. I’m going to have to scratch and claw that into life also.

   Scratching and clawing is not what I want to be doing right now. Creating and enjoying would be much more to my liking. I’ve suffered enough – at least in my mind. At least a short run in the sun should be in order, shouldn’t it? I’ve hung in there this long, it would be a total shame not to score my payoff. I could really use a little shot in the arm from the universe right now. I’m tired. 

Sometimes I feel like a lost little boy wandering through life without any direction or guidance.

Other times I feel like I can absorb anything and everything life can possibly throw at me.

Life sure would be a lot easier if I didn't have to scratch and claw my way through each and every week. How about some relief from the universe?