Thursday, November 29, 2007

Black Thursday

Thursday November 29th, 2007 - Fort Smith, AR

Back in the line of fire. This week is now officially a major mistake and I can’t wait until I’m out of here. Tonight was cruel and unusual punishment. I got to the Electric Cowboy at 8:00 for what was supposed to be an 8:30 show and again saw cowboy hats and t-shirts lining the seated area. There was a gigantic dance floor behind that and more seats way on the other side of that. The first red flag was the hats and t-shirts and the second was that a few people were sitting way in back at those tables on the other side of the dance floor.

The smoke was thicker than the metal on the belt buckles and the host of the show was a full blown cowboy with an accent thicker than it all. I knew I was in the wrong place and there’s nothing I can do about it now. Jack Willhite was again the opener and he really is a very nice guy. I like talking to him off stage and his act is very good for what it is but what that is is not standup comedy. He is a one man revue who could give Danny Gans a run in Vegas and once again the crowd loved him. He only had to do about 35 minutes so he was able to do all the hits and they cheered loudly the whole time as he switched his costumes.

The sound system wasn’t the greatest and the small stage was even smaller because Jack has his equipment set up and the spot light was very narrow and if I didn’t stand directly in it nobody could see me. The degree of difficulty on this one was right up there with any of the countless shows I’ve ever done. I dreaded going up but I’m here so what could I do?

Then to make it even worse right before I went on people were talking about the Packer game at the bar. Word got out that the Cowboys were winning 27-10 and that was not the pick-me-up I needed to hear right before going on. Then they said Brett Favre was hurt so badly he would be out for the season. That really got my attention just as I got introduced. I was walking to the stage and the people at the bar were laughing and saying things like ‘I hope they rip his arm off.’ It’s the same stuff I say about the Bears but these guys meant it.

I launched into my act full bore and was determined to give them all I had. I really do try to give my best show if people come to see me and I want them to enjoy it. I didn’t try any fancy stuff or talk down to them or do anything but give them good solid comedy material I have been working to perfect my entire life. They looked at me like I was speaking Latin.

The people down here are just plain DUMB. There are plenty of idiots up north but I am convinced there is something wrong with the majority of the south. I don’t know what it is but it’s real. I slowed down and tried to find their rhythm and I laid out one good line right after the next and they just sat there staring. Nothing. Silence. I felt like an intruder here. I have been able to make people laugh with this stuff for years but not this night. Not here.

It got to be funny after a while but not for long. Any time I would mention a body part or function that couldn’t be mentioned on TV they’d come to life for a second. Then they would go back into uncomfortable silence when I’d go to a solid routine that works every other place in North America. I ate it for most of these 55 minutes even worse than I did in Jonesboro on Tuesday. This one was painful but I had to finish all my time to get paid.

If I don’t do the time I don’t get paid so after a while I told them I was just going to get through the time and they’d never have to see me again and if they would please not break out into discussion groups I would appreciate it. They did exactly that so I finished up and got off stage just in time to see the idiots at the bar high fiving because the Cowboys won.

This whole night pushed all my buttons. Maybe it was a test. What for I don’t know but I had to sit there and wait to get paid as I watched a room full of Arkansas Skoal chewers rejoice about the Cowboys beating the Packers. That was bad enough but then I had more torture in store as people lined up to buy Jack’s DVDs he was selling and hearing them all tell him that ’YOU should have been the headliner. That guy was TERRIBLE.’ They were too dumb to figure out I was standing there three feet away and could hear every word.

The manager came out of his office with pay envelopes for us and this is where my years of road experience came in handy. He didn’t watch the show and asked ’How’d ya like it?’ I shook his hand like he’d just given me the keys to the Playboy mansion and said ’WOW! What a place! These people are FANTASTIC down here! Thanks for having me tonight!’

His eyes lit up and he said ’No problem at all. I’m glad you liked it. Sometimes northern comedians have a hard time here.’ I took my envelope and counted my money and said my goodbyes and got in my car and felt like driving into an oncoming train. This one was bad. I am glad I had the presence of mind not to tell the manager though because all that really matters is that they bought some drinks which they certainly did. He will not have had to know I had a rough show because there is no way I’m ever coming back here ever again.

Everyone in entertainment has people that like what they do and those who don’t. Elvis got kicked off the Grand Old Opry but he found his fans and never had to go back. I don’t need to come back to The Electric Cowboy in Fort Smith, AR at least not in this lifetime. I am the King of Uranus and this is a black hole that doesn‘t need me. Farewell, Fort Smith.

One last kick in the teeth was on my way back to the hotel. I passed a barbecue joint the people at the bar were talking about and it looked like the road house that would have the good stuff. The lights were on and the sign said OPEN so I parked and walked in. I asked the waitress if they were serving food and she said ‘No, nobody’s eatin’. Everyone’s drunk ’cause the Cowboys stomped on them Packers. Wanna beer?’ I said no thanks and left.

There was a Taco Bell on the way so I stopped there. I’m in Tulsa tomorrow so I asked the kid at the register how far it was while I was waiting for my food. ‘About three hours’ he said. ‘Is that where you’re headed?’ I told him I was and he said ‘PLEASE would you take me with you? This town SUCKS. I need to get out of here man. I’ll go anywhere.’

That made me feel a little better but not a lot. I got my food and came back to the hotel and turned the TV off because they were analyzing what went wrong with the game. I am not interested in that tonight and I am trying to keep a positive mental outlook. I had been on such a roll recently but tonight sure brought me back into the abyss. I need to look up.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

300 Miles Of Education

Wednesday November 28th, 2007 - Fort Smith, AR

Very good day today. Even though I had an unexpected day off without pay I still made the best I could out of it. The weather was perfect and I decided to make the drive over to Fort Smith where I’m performing tomorrow so I could relax and enjoy the day. It may get nasty tomorrow or my car could blow up or who knows what so I drove today to get it all over with. I’m glad I did. It’s almost 300 miles and it didn’t look like that far on the map.

As I was checking out of the musty funk pit from last night a woman came running up to the front desk and asked if I’d been the one in room 200. I told her I was and she was very apologetic to the point of being embarrassing. ‘Why didn’t you complain?’ she asked. ‘We don’t run a hotel like that. We would have been glad to switch your room immediately.’

I told her it was only one night and I thought all the rooms must have been like that. She was visibly shaken to hear that and I thought she was going to start crying. ‘Oh NO! It’s a total mistake and we would NEVER have let a customer stay in a room like that. Will you PLEASE forgive us and give us another chance?’ This lady really cared about my comfort.

This is the kind of customer service that’s lacking in the world. I had to tell her it wasn’t a big deal and it really wasn’t. I told her I was one of the comedians and that I wouldn’t be able to spread the word in town and even if I was able to I wasn’t going to. She was how I try to be with customers and I totally felt that she was genuinely concerned. I respect that.

Coming from someone who has made more than my share of mistakes in many areas I’m very sensitive to someone trying to make things right with me. Yes I was a little put off by it last night but after a night’s sleep and seeing the sunny weather I wasn’t upset at all. She handled the situation wonderfully and if I was ever in this town again I’d stay there again.

I hope I don’t have to come back to Jonesboro, AR any time soon though. No offense. I would like to think there are a lot more towns on my performance list ahead of Jonesboro. The bottom line is I got paid and my car started and I was already over the difficult show I had last night. Those people have forgotten about it too. They care about it less than me.

There was a Waffle House right down the street from the hotel and I love that place so I stopped in for a quick breakfast before heading out. Stereotypes would not be stereotypes if there wasn’t a grain of truth in there somewhere and the people working there had more teeth missing than a bad hockey team. I couldn’t believe it. My waitress had a front tooth missing and the cook had both of his gone. Another waitress had her bottom front teeth all knocked out and I thought I was in a dentist’s waiting room rather than a restaurant. I had all I could do to not stare but I couldn’t help it. I thought it was a banjo fan club meeting.

The people here aren’t mean at all and in fact they will start up a conversation without a reason. I could barely finish my breakfast because people on both sides of me were asking me questions about two different topics. I tried to be polite but after a while it got to be an imposition. I finished eating and paid my check and they still wanted to chat some more.

I finally had to duck out and I waved to all my new toothless friends. It made me cherish my own fortunes and even being Mr. Lucky has it’s advantages over having to work at the Waffle House in Arkansas with front teeth missing. There but for the grace of God go I. It was funny to see all of them with the grins that looked like human jack-o-lanterns though.

I brought a lot of CD selections with me on this trip because I knew I’d be driving a lot. I bought a program about the behind the scenes story of Saturday Night Live called ‘Live from New York’. It’s an 8 CD set and it is really well done. There are actors playing all of the original people but they present it well and it was totally interesting. I was never a big fan of that show in the beginning and later on I was working every Saturday when I got in the comedy business but it still was very informative to listen to the story of how it started.

Now that I’m starting my own business I am trying to study as much about other people who succeeded so I can hopefully learn from every one of them. Lorne Michaels built one of the most storied television shows in history and whether or not I’m a fan doesn’t begin to change that. I want to know how he did it because I want to build my own fun project.

There were problems and politics and personality conflicts and all the same stuff that’s in every other business. Some people win and others don’t. It was a fascinating listen but I’m not finished yet. I’m on CD 6 out of 8. I can save the last two for the big drive to Tulsa. It did make me much more appreciative of how difficult it is to create a fresh new concept.

Another CD that really hit home was a 25th anniversary Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ CD. I found it a while back for $9 at a Target and forgot I had it. Say what you want about him now but Michael Jackson owned the whole entertainment world in the 80s. He was on fire both literally and figuratively and hearing this whole CD again really drove that home. It’s still a monster 25 years later and the best part was that it came with some bonus tracks.

There was a lot of great stuff including an interview with Quincy Jones. He talked about all the things that went into making it and how difficult it is to predict what will be a hit or not. It was also very fascinating to hear about how things fell together. Like with Saturday Night Live it was a concept that was strong and the pieces fell into place because creative people came together and created an energy that made it happen. I want to do the same.

Listening to all this sure made my drive a lot shorter. My mind was occupied for most of the drive and I really did learn a lot. I want to learn from the masters and be smart with the Uranus Factory Outlet concept. There are so many things I can see doing with it that now is the time to carve out a plan so at least I can get it up and running successfully before the problems start so I can have a chance to defend myself when they do. I feel good about it.

I never thought any of this would be problem free and I still don’t. It’s a matter of being able to work past my problems and keep it going. That’s what Lorne Michaels did and all the other people who ever did anything in the world. Colonel Sanders was a survivor and I am too. I always have been but I haven’t had any tangible success other than I have made a living as a comedian for my entire adult life. I guess that is a success but I can do more.

Arkansas Agony

Tuesday November 27th, 2007 - Jonesboro, AR

Oh oh. A glitch. Then another. Then the trifecta. Son of a glitch. Uranus Factory Outlet is looking better all the time. This week is turning into a nightmare and there isn’t much to do about it other than let it play out and go home licking my wounds. I’m not going to get upset because it won’t do me any good. I’ll take this as a subtle message from the cosmos.

The day started out ok. I got a call from my friend Max who sounded glad to hear I was in town. We made lunch plans and then I checked my emails. I saw that there was a glitch in the run this week and the Wednesday show in Fayetteville, AR was cancelled. Not only will I lose the pay for that show but now I have to find a hotel room and pay for that too.

Not good. The reason I took this run was because it was four nights in a row for decent pay. It was also to get in with the booker. These are the people I drove all the way over to Charlotte, NC to audition for a few months ago at my own expense. I’m finally starting to get some gigs from them and I thought it was good business to accept this week so I did.

Then a fifth night was added and I took that too and switched around some other stuff I had and on paper it looked like everything was going to work out. Now it’s all in disarray. Booking a five night run in Arkansas and Oklahoma is not a career move by any means. It will pay some bills and I am still of the mind set that it’s better to choose to work than not.

Now that theory is going to bite me in the shorts this week and there’s not anything I am able to do to change it. Driving home now would be stupid because not only would I blow my chance to get work from this booker again I’d lose what remaining pay I would get for finishing out the week. It’s a long drive home and I’m already here so I will have to eat it.

It would have been a lot easier if tonight was the night that fell out because I could have stayed at Max’s house in Springfield for free and visited with his family and had a blast. It would have been a mini vacation and then I could drive here and finish my work week but now I not only miss a night’s work I also get stuck with a hotel room. It’s all a big hassle.

Jonesboro is about an hour north west of Memphis. There is no easy way to get to it off I-55 so I lost time winding through small towns behind slow traffic. I watched my speed at all times because these small towns are ripe for nabbing Yankee speeders and I’ve had that ugly experience before not far from here. It wasn’t in Arkansas but it was close enough.

Finding the hotel was another hassle but I finally did. It was an hour before show time so I checked in expecting to grab a quick shower and go to the club. The hotel looked fine on the outside but when I got to my room it was disgusting. They had just cleaned the carpet and it was still wet to the point of being squishy. Yuck. Who knows why they cleaned it.

It could have been after they removed the dead body because that’s what it smelled like. I am about as low maintenance as it gets but this place is horrific. The stench of ripe funk punched me in the face as I opened the door but I was late so I tried my best to ignore it.

I put my bags on the bed and took my clothes off so I could grab a quick shower. What I didn’t notice is that there were no towels in the room and I didn’t notice it until I needed one. When it rains it pours. I ended up using a couple of hand towels and the bed sheet to dry myself off because I was in a hurry and needed to get to the show. It would get worse.

The name of the club is ‘Electric Cowboy’ and that’s a red flag. A Tuesday in Arkansas at a placed called ‘Electric Cowboy’ doesn’t bode well for a slick talking northerner. I was greeted at the door by a gorgeous hostess though and I thought I might be wrong. Nope. I walked in the room and saw a lot of both cowboy and baseball hats. Not good. Usually the rule is the higher the hat count the lower the laugh count. I could feel this wasn‘t for me.

The opening act is a guy named Jack Willhite. I really like Jack and we’ve worked many times together but all of them have been in brutal gigs. Jack has more of a Las Vegas style show and does characters with costumes and music and he really is good at what he does. It’s not straight standup but that’s ok. He’s a super nice guy and I respect him for doing a show he wants to do. A lot of ‘purists’ don’t like that kind of thing but who cares? He’s a guy trying to make a living and he works harder than anyone I’ve ever met because he has to set up all his equipment before the show and that usually takes a couple of hours to do.

The show started a half hour late because of technical sound problems and the audience was talking and drinking and getting louder and louder and when Jack finally went up they really loved him. He has loud music cues and plays a guitar and changes costumes and this was the crowd that was primed for that and they went nuts for everything he did. Glitch.

Everything was lining up for my slow and painful death. I felt it. A country/rock bar on a Tuesday night in Arkansas following a guy with loud music and costumes. Not only that it was a smoky hell and I felt my eyes burn as I walked to the stage. Not only not only that it got even worse because I have had a sore throat and I could feel my voice starting to go.

I never had my tonsils out and once in a while I get a nasty infection and it blows out my voice. I am having one of those now and when I got on the mike it sounded horrible. I felt like Bonnie Tyler singing ‘It’s A Heartache’ without a band and I probably should have as it would have gotten a better reaction. This was not my audience and I had a long evening.

I started off ok but I could feel them fading quickly. For whatever reason I was just not the right act for this place on this night. To make it worse I had to do 55 minutes because that’s how long the booker wants on a two man show. I did my time but it wasn’t easy to stay up there in the smoke with my voice going out having to follow a loud musical act.

It doesn’t get any more difficult than this. Pulling off 55 minutes on this night was a big achievement but the only people who appreciated it were Jack and me. The crowd didn’t and that’s fine. I shouldn’t be taking bookings at a placed called ‘Electric Cowboy’ at this time in my life and career. I did it for the money and I learned a lesson. I’ll finish out what I said I’d do and thank everyone for having me but in my mind I will be focusing on being the King of Uranus and I won’t let this get me down. Let’s see if I can keep that promise.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Monday Marathon

Monday November 26th, 2007 - Chicago, IL/Springfield, IL

No rest for the wicked. Even less for me. I had to be up by 5am to get packed and have my rental car back to the lot by six. That’s when the shuttle buses are supposed to run but I know better. I didn’t want to take any chances so I got there right when they opened. To miss my flight would be a huge hassle and I’ve cut it way too close way too many times.

I made it with no problems but then I had to wait at the gate until they started boarding. Of course the flight was delayed so I had to wait even longer. This is the part of the road’s constant grind the audience never sees. It has to take years off every comedian’s life and it can be mentally as well as physically draining. I always try to have something to read or do so I don’t have to just sit there and stare at the walls. That makes it even worse. It’s a very grueling schedule and it’s relentless. There’s always the next plane to catch or drive to do.

Today I had both. My plane got in a half hour late and then I had to catch the shuttle bus to get my car which was at a remote parking lot. I saved about $30 in parking but I had an unbelievably long walk from the baggage claim to the shuttle stop and it took a lot of time I didn’t have to spare today. Hurry hurry hurry. Wait. Hurry hurry hurry. Wait. It’s brutal.

Then I had to wait for the shuttle bus and when it did finally get there I had to wait even longer because a couple with a baby had to get the baby situated before we left. I couldn’t do anything about it so I got out my KFC book I just bought and started reading while the driver helped strap the kid in so we could leave. It’s hard to read over a tot screaming but I’ve had so much experience over the years I just drown it out in my mind and I did again.

We finally got to the lot and I could see I was going to cut it short to get home and drop off my dirty socks and underwear and pick up a new batch and then head back downtown to Zanies to teach my comedy class at 6pm. No time for naps. No time for anything but an endurance test and race against the clock. This is supposed to be my day off by the way.

I climbed into my car and the seat was set differently as were the mirrors. The radio had a Spanish station on it and I wondered who was driving it when I was gone and what they were doing with it. I can just picture it being involved in a drive by shooting or a drug run. I don’t know if I’d use this whole remote parking idea again. Saving $30 wasn‘t worth it.

Getting on the 294 Tollway there was traffic backed up because of construction and that made me even later. Idiots on cell phones always add to the delay and I sat there without a way to make it stop. If I had their numbers I could have called and told them to hang it up and drive so we could all get home but I couldn’t so I popped in a CD and tried to relax.

I got home and switched out clothes and emptied my garbage and reloaded the car for a long week of driving. I felt like a one man pit crew in my own personal NASCAR business and I’m also the driver as well. Not only that I’m the travel agent and navigator too. It’s a test of not only strength and endurance but mental toughness too. I have to always be in a forward thinking mode to keep planning the next thing. This is not a business for the lazy.

That doesn’t stop them from getting in it though. Many comedians get into the business because it seems easy. You only actually work 45 minutes a day if you’re a headliner but it isn’t necessary to be a headliner to be in the business. Opening acts can squeak by but that is usually the top level the slackers will achieve. There aren’t many lazy ones that hit it big.

The appeal of a short work day and free booze wears off when they have to do a few of these kind of days. Constant travel and having to be on mental alert at all times makes this into a job like anything else. The time on stage is great but there is a lot of time and energy that has to be spent getting that next gig and then physically getting there to actually do it.

I’ve really been lax at my booking side of the business lately. I’ve been too busy working to go look for more work. That sounds odd but it’s true. I’m getting calls from bookers to work and that’s great but there is no rhyme or reason to it. I am going wherever they have me and I’m getting paid but there is no real career plan in place. I’m too busy with my job.

It’s all starting to run together. I want to build my Uranus Factory Outlet business but if I do that I’ll let my road schedule lapse even further. If I keep getting work thrown at me I will not be able to build that business like I want. What do I do? I also have to think about what I want to do with my comedy classes and I still have to finish the movie script too.

All of this is going to work itself out. I hope. It’s a good problem to have a lot of things on the table but it can get overwhelming at times not being able to keep it all balanced. I’m really running on empty and don’t have a lot of spare time to waste but I still feel like I am sometimes. Waiting in traffic today was one of those times. I could have been doing work.

I made it to class on time and it was a very good one tonight. They are starting to get all of the things I’ve been telling them and I can see it coming together. Graduation is coming up next Monday and it will be a good show. They always are. I put a lot of work into class as I always do and I love it but with all my other projects I just can’t keep these going like I have been. I need to get them online and/or find someone else to teach a beginner level.

After class I said good bye to the students and tried to give them a little encouragement. I know how difficult comedy is and it can all be so overwhelming. I want to encourage but I also want to let them know it’s not easy and there are no guarantees either. It’s a delicate balance but my job as a teacher is to show them both sides. I want to let them have fun but I also want them to respect the business and know what they’re getting into. It’s not easy.

Getting into the car again after class wasn’t easy either. I wanted to go right to bed but I have a long way to go to Jonesboro, AR and I need to put some miles behind me tonight. I got a cheap hotel in Springfield, IL so hopefully I can see Max tomorrow before I leave.

This was one of the longest days I’ve had in a while but it’s all part of the game. I would be miserable working at a day job and I know that. I am getting steady work and will keep working on my side projects too. Something has to pop soon. Hopefully not my heart. It’s been a lot of years of hurry and wait and hectic days like this. A payoff sure would be nice.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Postal Rip Off

Sunday November 25th, 2007 - Salt Lake City, UT

Last night in Utah. I like it here but I’m ready to leave. I was able to get a lot done but I am getting itchy to get back to Chicago even though I’ll only be there for half a day before I have to start driving to Arkansas. I have to go from the airport home and repack so I can head to Zanies to teach a class at 6pm to 7:30. Before class I have to squeeze in mailing a few bills out and paying my rent and getting my mail and picking up my dry cleaning. It’s a constant hustle and there’s always something to do but at least I’m not working a day job.

I may not be rich but I’m surviving. Most people who have jobs are doing the same and they loathe what they’re doing. I love what I do and am going into the new year with a big project that could totally make me a millionaire if I do it correctly. That’s keeping me in an unbelievably positive mindset and for the first time I can remember I’m not feeling horrible about Christmas coming up. I am so busy thinking about my business I don’t even notice.

One thing I did notice was that a postal vending machine ate $41 of my hard earned cash today. I stopped at a post office and wanted to buy a roll of stamps and I got ripped off. It is SO frustrating to not be able to talk to anyone and I stood there all alone stewing that a machine ate my money and didn’t give me my stamps. I smacked the machine trying to get the roll to fall out and an alarm went off so there I stood thinking I was going to prison or worse. Maybe they’d make me work at the post office. That would be my life’s nightmare.

What am I going to do, call them tomorrow and tell them I lost $41 cash? Yeah right. If word got out they were giving away money everyone and their uncle would try that. It did happen though so I am going to try and call them but I have to catch a flight and won’t be able to until late in the day. The whole thing is maddening. All I wanted were my stamps.

It felt good to have a day off today and I hung out with my friend Jim Mickelson. Jim is a good friend who used to work at the radio station with me when I was here. Other than the fact that he’s a Vikings fan he’s a great guy and he thinks there is room for a recording label for comedy acts. I went to his house today to watch football and we talked about it a lot. I have my plate pretty full right now but he said he thinks we can make something go.

Whether any of it happens or not at least I have some hope for the future. When I get so down I feel like all hope is drained. I don’t feel like that now. I am excited to get up every morning and that’s how I always thought life should be. I am going to keep getting up and pushing ahead with all of these projects until I can’t do it anymore. I feel like I’m running late and time is limited. I’ve wasted a lot of years trying to find myself but now I have.

This was a good trip to Utah. I always seem to think straight here and the clubs like me a lot. Keith Stubbs was very nice to call me and tell me how funny I was and how much all the staff enjoys it when I’m here and that I can come back any time I want. Now THAT’S success to me. I have free reign to come and go as I please in a place I like and that’s what success is all about. My needs are met even though I don’t make a ton of money but it’s a fun time and low pressure. I will now head back to Chicago and keep focusing on Uranus.

Full Moon Magic

Saturday November 24th, 2007 - Ogden, UT/Salt Lake City, UT

Full moon tonight. That can be a red flag. I was eating at an Asian buffet just as the sun was going down and saw that big glowing pie rising out of the sky and I must say I did get a little concerned about it. But not as concerned as I was about what they were serving on the buffet. There were some icky critters on there I’m not used to eating here in America.

This was a place located in my old neighborhood when I lived here. It was a place called ‘Chuck-A-Rama’ which is a Utah tradition. It’s a family buffet and very good. Apparently it moved out since last time I was here and was replaced by ‘The Crazy Buffet’. I’ve never seen a placed called ‘The Crazy Buffet’ before but now I can see why they called it that.

They had some of the most disgusting looking things I’ve ever seen and the people were standing in line to get it. I thought I was going to puke as I watched people pile up plates with baby squid and fish heads and giant cockroach looking things I assumed were shrimp. There was some good stuff too but it was strewn in with the yucky stuff and it was gross.

They had fried bananas and some seaweed looking stuff that looked like it came out of a lawn clippings bag and I didn’t want any part of it. It made me thankful I grew up where I did and even if I do have a heart attack from eating trans fats and Oreos at least it tasted a lot better than I bet most of this stuff did. I wasn’t about to give it a chance. It was nasty.

Last night I didn’t prepare for the shows and I really noticed it. My mind has been going a mile a minute in many directions lately and my act is the one thing I don’t want to let get stale. It’s like anything else that is a life long pursuit - it needs to be maintained. Musicians have to keep practicing and stay sharp as do actors or athletes or anyone else. Comedians are no exception. I need to remember that as my schedule gets more hectic and make time to work on my act and not let that lapse. I’ve worked too hard to get it where I’ve got it.

After dinner I went back to the hotel to prepare myself for the two shows. All it takes is going over my notes and loading my brain with things to refer to during the show. I like to work looser than most comedians do and I’ve always been able to squeak by with my fast talking style and ability to think on my feet. That’s a nice option but not a be all end all.

My style is very rhythmic and when the audience gets into it I’m fine. I still need to keep writing new jokes and improving and I haven’t been making time to do that lately. Nobody knows it but me but it’s bothering the hell out of me and I decided it will stop tonight. The audience deserves the best show I can give them and tonight I was determined to give it.

One of the benefits of working out here is it makes me work hard. Many times crowds in Utah are judgmental and just plain uninformed. This is not like anywhere else and being as clean as possible never hurts either. Plus the opening acts are usually weaker than in other places so that makes it more difficult as well. Not only that many times I have to do much more time than almost everywhere else. Most places want the headliner to do a 45 minute set whereas here it’s not unusual to be asked to do an hour or longer. That’s a lot of time.

I don’t mind any of these hurdles and whenever I work here I know what I’m getting as far as audiences go. This is the big city of this part of the country but it really is distanced from the rest of the world in many ways. It’s got it’s own culture and I have learned quite well how to plug into it over the years. I like working here and hope I can keep doing it.

The first show tonight was really strong. Not only did I prepare myself for it but they fit my demographic perfectly. Most of the audience was over 30 and smart and I could tell in the first thirty seconds that they were going to love my show. It was an ideal match and it worked from the start. I was in a groove and decided to use this show as a practice round.

The openers did a good job but I was left with an hour to fill so I told myself I would fill that hour with material and not work the audience or try to ad lib. I wanted to sell my stuff as if I was just thinking of it off the top of my head and that’s always the illusion we create when a show is going well. The audience has no idea how difficult it is to come up with an act and they don’t care. They want to be entertained and that’s why they pay for a ticket.

I was very happy with the first show because I was in the moment for the entire time. To do that takes concentration and not let the mind wander. That’s very easy to do after these many years in the business and I didn’t want to do that tonight. I sold every joke and had a game plan before I went on of what bits I wanted to do and I worked that plan perfectly. I did exactly one hour and got a huge pop at the end on my dismount. I earned it and took a nice big bow and walked of stage soaked but knowing I gave this crowd my absolute best.

The late show was completely different. There were a lot of college students in the place because Weber State University is located in town. They were young but not mean and the usual level of drunkenness is never a factor in Utah. There were also some older ones so it made for an interesting challenge. I was up for it and read the audience before I went on. I wanted to nail the late show too and went about it in a much different way. I switched up.

I was much more animated for this set and let myself ad lib more. They wanted to talk to me so I didn’t stop them or let it bother me. I also told myself I wasn’t going to let it have an adverse affect on the show no matter what. It was a full moon and that’s when wackos thrive so why fight it? I told myself I wasn’t going to get angry and I’d just deal with it all and do my time. I didn’t just phone it in though. I really did give my very best effort again.

After the show the manager said I walked six people on the late show. They were uppity Mormons who had never been to a comedy show before and called me ‘a crude maniac’. I took that as a compliment and the manager Gail laughed about it. If anything I scaled it all way back for these people and they‘ve obviously never seen how blue it can get in certain places. I don’t think it made a difference who was on stage. They wanted to be offended.

Even with the six walkouts I know I had a strong night. Friday wasn’t bad but tonight it was how it’s supposed to be. This is the reason I’ve sacrificed my life to polish my craft. It makes it all worthwhile on nights like tonight. The feeling of accomplishment is wonderful and it will hopefully tide me over until I can get to Arkansas and do it all again next week.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Room 313

Friday November 23rd, 2007 - Ogden, UT/Salt Lake City, UT

Microwave nostalgia. I’m back at the Baymont Inn in Salt Lake City. That’s where I had my big idea for Uranus Factory Outlet back on September 1st. I’ve worked on it every day since and am gradually turning it into a reality from an idea that came to me in the shower.

It hasn’t even been 90 days yet but already it brought back memories when I checked in. I was in the handicapped room last time because they were booked solid with a custom car painter’s convention. I remember getting out of the shower and writing down my idea as it came and thinking that it was going to be the biggest thing I ever did. I still think it now.

This time I was assigned to room 313. Uranus was officially recognized as a planet back on March 13th, 1781. 3/13. Coincidence? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a secret message to me from the universe letting me know I’ve chosen the correct cosmic path. Or, it could just be the Baymont Inn telling me that’s the only room they had left. Either way I’m glad I’m not back in the handicapped room again. Taking a shower in one of those is a major hassle.

I put in some time working today and it felt good. I am looking at this project from a big picture perspective and I have a lot of work to do but if I work on something every day as I have been I’ll surprise a lot of people. I’m making progress and it’s come light years in a very short amount of time. I’m excited about it all and being back here shows me how I’ve grown already. Hopefully there will be a plaque saying ‘The King Or Uranus slept here’ in the future but for now it’s a nice clean room and a place for me to get some work done.

The world’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken is located here in Salt Lake oddly enough. It’s not far from the hotel and I’ve been there quite a few times. It’s not very different from an ordinary KFC but it’s historic because it was Colonel Sanders’ very first franchise when he was starting out. His partner was a restaurant owner from Utah named Pete Harman. They started small and worked their way up to a world wide brand that became larger than life.

I’ve always been fascinated by people like Colonel Sanders. He was a survivor and had a clear and vivid vision that he sold with persistence, hard work and showmanship. I want to be someone like that so in future generations people will look at me and examine my story to see how and what I did to make my own vision become a reality. He’s a big inspiration.

There is a book that tells the story of how KFC grew from one restaurant into what it is today and I remember it from when I was here last time. I never saw it anywhere else so I bought one today. It’s called ‘Secret Recipe - Why KFC is still cookin’ after 50 years’. I’ll add it to my constantly growing list of books to read to hopefully help me get educated as to how business works and how I can be a success like the Colonel was. I’m always trying to learn and even though the book was expensive I bought it anyway. I will learn from it.

Both shows tonight were very good audience response wise but I wasn’t happy with my performance either time. I’m in transition right now and my rhythm is off. Nobody else can tell it but I can. I need to put some time in and work on my show before tomorrow night.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thoroughly Thankful

Thursday November 22nd, 2007 - Rock Springs, WY/Salt Lake City, UT

This was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve had in a long time. Usually holidays aren’t a pleasant experience for me on any level but today was actually fun. I woke up in Wyoming after being wiped out from yesterday’s insanity and felt rested after a good night’s sleep. It makes a huge difference to not have to be anywhere in a hurry and my mood was mellow.

The hotel was way better than I expected. It was called ‘Motel 8’ and it wasn’t a chain. I expected filth and squalor but instead got a huge bed and great cable and a perfect shower that had all the hot water I wanted and the room was spotless. It also had free wireless and I could sign right online without a hassle. I wish I had more places to stay in this well run.

I woke up late and turned on the TV to see the Packers kick a field goal right as the first half was ending to go up 17-6. Two wins in one week? To me that’s as good as it gets and I was already thankful before I even set foot outside the hotel room. The vibe was all good and the weather was perfect and I got in my rental car and started to head west to Utah.

One thing I wanted to do on this trip was write out my goals for the new year. I’ve been listening to a lot of recordings and reading a lot of books and a common theme I hear over and over again is to physically write down goals so they can come into my life. I took that to heart and wrote down what I want to accomplish in 2008. It felt fantastic to write down everything I could think of that I want to do and it all flowed extremely well. I am ready.

I do believe it will be the best one of my life. I can feel a lot of things coming together at once and my mindset is the best it’s ever been to go along with it. I wrote down goals not only for the year but I made quarterly, monthly and daily goals as well. Why haven’t I had the foresight to do this before now? I wish I knew. I’ve made goals before and resolutions and all that but not like this. I really thought about it and wrote down things I think I need to do in the coming year. I looked at it when I was done and got excited. If I can pull them all off (and I really think I can) I will totally have the best year I’ve ever had. I can’t wait!

I am seeing things a lot clearer now than I ever have in my life. I got off I-80 and headed north on I-84 to go to Ogden where I’m working this week. Keith Stubbs is a great comic and also the owner of the club I’m working called Wiseguys. Keith invited me to come for Thanksgiving and I always enjoy spending time with him and his wife Noelle. He’s a father of three great kids who are still little and they think I’m hilarious. I love little kids and they are at the right age where little things impress them. We played catch and colored and had all kinds of fun before and after dinner. The turkey was outstanding and everybody was in a great mood. There were no idiots anywhere. Hearing the Packers won made it perfect.

My family situation is what it is. It’s never going to be what I want and no matter what I do I can’t change the past. That used to bother me beyond words and put me in a horrible mental place but this year I was not there at all. I have a new business to develop and now I have goals and a plan and I am excited like I’ve never been in my life. Spending this time with good friends was wonderful and I enjoyed it for what it was. I loved this whole day.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wildness In Wyoming

Wednesday November 21st, 2007 - Rock Springs, WY

No amount of money could make it worth the amount of stress I had today and it lasted for twelve hours straight. I originally planned this trip to Utah to relieve stress and relax so I could get ready for the new year but this was a whole day of exactly the opposite. It was just one of those days when nothing went right and all I could do was let it play itself out.

This was a brutal day for travel. I shouldn’t have picked the day before Thanksgiving to fly out but I didn’t have a gig booked and thought it would be relaxing. I am not supposed to be in Ogden, UT until Friday so I thought I’d visit friends and hang out and rest a little. After I bought the ticket I was asked to do the gig in Rock Springs, WY. I said I would.

The weather in the west was bad and planes were delayed all over the country. My flight was scheduled to leave at 1:30 and arrive in Salt Lake City at 4 which would have been no problem to make the 190 mile drive to Rock Springs. I didn’t have a rental car reserved so that would have taken a few more minutes but I still would have had enough time to do it.

Traffic on the freeway was backed up and I was stressed out trying to make it down to a remote parking area away from O’Hare Field. I got a call from the airline saying there was a delay but they weren’t sure how long it would be. I found the parking lot and then had a long delay while the shuttle bus driver had some issue with the dispatcher and I could feel every muscle in my body tighten as I wondered if we’d ever get to the airport. It was hell.

I can’t stand that feeling of being late and having someone else in charge of my destiny. I don’t know if it’s childhood issues or trust issues or just the fact that I am not thrilled with morons running my life but here was a bus full of tense people all needing to catch a flight and a six dollar an hour goof with an attitude was not letting any of us get there. It stinks.

We finally got to the airport and I checked in and found out the plane was scheduled for a 3:30 departure and we would get in about 5:30 Salt Lake time. That would cut it tight. I called the booker and said I was delayed and he said he’d call the club and see if he might be able to find someone else to do the gig tonight. The owner said he wanted me because I was there a few times before and could handle his rowdy crowds like nobody else could.

I guess that’s a compliment in a way but I am not looking to tame any lions at this point. All I want to do is relax and have fun this week. I got on the plane and then found out that we wouldn’t get there until SIX thirty Salt Lake time. Someone made a mistake and I was now in a panic because they were planning on me being there and I might not make it in.

The flight was full of crying babies and cranky flight attendants and the woman sitting in the seat next to me had some skanky perfume she must have put on with a paint roller. It’s all part of the blur that was this whole day. I knew I was in for more stress as we landed in Salt Lake and the airport was packed with Mormons coming home for Thanksgiving. This made it even more difficult to get my luggage and then head over to the rental car place to get a car to begin my cross country excursion to make it to Rock Springs by show time.

There was one rental car booth that had no line so that’s what I picked. It was also the only one that had an off site location. I didn’t know that and after filling out all the papers and signing and initialing everything I was told I had to get on a shuttle bus and go to their lot ten minutes away. UGH. More stress, and there was nothing I could do about it but sit on the bus and feel my arteries harden as the driver tried to make small talk about weather.

When I got to the car place there was a new clerk and of course she didn’t have any idea as to what to do and it made me even later. I finally got my car but it wasn’t the one I was supposed to get so they called someone else and he didn’t speak English and I felt like the butt of the joke once again. Finally I just grabbed the keys and got in the car and took off.

Maybe there’s a warrant out for me now but I had to get to the gig. I grabbed my phone to call the booker and tell him I finally made it and of course that was out of juice so I had no way of contacting anyone. I started laughing because all this was going wrong and this was supposed to be a relaxing week off. I had to cut mud to get to the gig and that’s that.

The drive from Salt Lake City to Rock Springs is not an easy one. There are quite a few twists and turns through the mountains of Utah and then there are two huge valleys to deal with in Wyoming. They’re called ‘the two sisters’ but they’re actually mothers. There are all kinds of trucks and they have to negotiate the steep grades getting through those things and in bad weather it can be lethal. The weather was ok today but traffic was very heavy.

I wound through the hills of Utah and into Wyoming with the rental car gas pedal to the floor much of the time. I had it up to 105 at one point and just kept it to the floor to make some time. Wyoming is the place to speed because cops are few and far between but I saw three of them going the other way and thought I would get nabbed for sure but I didn’t.

The place I played was called Johnny Mac’s. It’s a road house and when I got there they were like the crowd in the Blues Brothers. There were beer bottles on tables and it looked like chessboards all over the joint. There was a local DJ on stage stalling until I showed up and when I walked in I had no time to prepare at all. He just brought me right up on stage.

I challenge anyone to try and pull that off. I had five seconds to get my bearings and I’d missed the rest of the show so I didn’t see anyone else or what they did. I started with the opening I normally do and had to adjust as the night went on. Some of them were paying attention and some weren’t. They were drunk and rowdy and some started to talk to me.

That’s always delicate in a situation like this so I played it carefully and just kept coming with bit after bit and I worked harder than I have in a long time. I came off stage soaked in sweat but I had done 50 minutes and got a huge ovation from drunken cowboys and that’s no easy task. If I was a boozer I’d have been able to get all the free shots I could guzzle.

The owner was thrilled and he’s a very nice guy. I’m glad to do favors for guys like that but I told him this was a stressful day I didn’t need. It was nobody’s fault though. It was a culmination of a lot of things and that’s how it worked out. I am very glad this one is over.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cleaning Out For 2008

Tuesday November 20th, 2007 - Lake Villa, IL

My last day off for a while. I’ve got a busy schedule coming up and used today to sort a few piles that have been stacking up lately. I cleaned out my car which needed it and that’s always a good feeling. There was rotting fruit and old newspapers and receipts I’ll need to keep for taxes and I got it all out of there. I’ve been meaning to for days but today I did it.

I also had a stack of mail I hadn’t even opened. My UPS Store box is in the city and I’m only in Chicago on Mondays so it piles up. I wrote out my bills and that’s another feeling I love. Putting those envelopes with all the checks written in the mail makes me feel like I’m out of the danger zone for yet another month. I’m starting to get myself ready for 2008.

This was a good year in many ways but financially it was pretty lean. My dental hell cost a few thousand dollars I was saving for way more exciting things. I had it and I’m glad but it sure would be handy if I still did. I guess I need my teeth for a few more years so I made a good choice but it would be nice to have a cushion heading into the new year. I’m tight.

But who isn’t? I’ll bet even Donald Trump wouldn’t mind a few extra bucks in his piggy bank for a wacky night out sometime. Money is a commodity and I am learning to manage mine for the first time in my life. Yes I blew $300 on Packer tickets on Sunday but that’s a calculated expense. I planned for it and used my money from a show I didn’t expect to get so it’s not like it’s out of pocket. It was a once in a great while treat and I’m glad I did it.

I’m talking about finances as a whole. I have started to get a grasp of it and I’m working to improve all the time. I have ZERO credit card debt and a paid off car. That car may not last the week but I have been smart enough to put away a $400 a month phantom payment so when it does explode I have some cash to put down on my next one. It’s a slush fund.

My rent is cheap and I don’t have a cocaine habit or a gambling addiction so on paper it all looks pretty positive. I know I’m in the .0001% of Americans who aren’t drowning in a sea of debt but now I’m starting this business and I will need money to get it started. I live within my means pretty well but that’s it. My savings is dwindling and I’ll need it soon for start up costs after the first of the year. I’m taking a calculated risk that I’ll make a profit.

If it is going to blow up in my face this is the time in my life to do it. I’m still able to find work as a comedian so at least I can support myself doing something I enjoy. If I need the money I can still take gigs and pay my bills while I build the business. If I was forced to go get a day job at a mall I don’t think I’d last very long. I was never a good employee and to go back to that all these years later wouldn’t make it any better. I’d be older and grumpier. My tolerance for idiots is at an all time low and there would be fisticuffs in the first hour.

This whole thing really is a big challenge. It’s also a big risk too. I feel in my heart that I am going to succeed at it. I am reading and studying as much as I can and preparing for an all out assault in 2008. I am glad I kept good tax records this year so that won’t be a giant hassle like it has been in the past. It felt good to hang out and rest but now it gets hectic.

Changing Directions

Monday November 19th, 2007 - Chicago, IL

Just another manic Monday. 99.999% of other comedians have Mondays off but not me. I have had the Monday market cornered for a while now and it’s getting even more hectic. Doing the radio show on WLS adds to the mix and today was our second installment. We are still very much a work in progress but at least it’s air time on a major radio station. It’s a hassle getting into the city but in the long run this could really work out well for us all.

After the show Jerry Agar took us out for breakfast and we talked about what we could do to make our segment better. Nobody is really doing a comedy round table like this so if we can nail it and make it work it will hopefully get some attention. Other comedians have already started to approach Jerry about getting on so that’s a good sign. This could work.

It will take time to develop a chemistry and we know that. Jerry and I have been in radio before but Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle haven’t. They need some time in the chair to get the rhythm down and they will. We had a couple of nice riffs today and that will continue with practice and get even better. Hopefully we can lead up to doing some live shows with this.

I have lost my desire to keep banging it out on the road like I have been for so long. I’ve got two weeks of road work coming up and it’s making the Uranus project look better all the time. That’s a challenge. Road work is not. At one time it was THE challenge but now after years of chasing that dream I finally caught it. It was all about touring the country for years and developing an act and I did both of those very successfully. Now I want to get a business going and get some money socked away so I don’t need to drive to Oklahoma or Arkansas or Wyoming which are all places I‘ll be working in the next two weeks. Enough.

I’m also starting to get tired of teaching classes too. I never thought I’d say that but I’m really feeling burnout with it. I had a class tonight and a few of students didn’t attend for a number of reasons and it makes it a lot more difficult when that happens. They fall behind and then want me to get them caught up but that’s not my job. I am getting tired of it all.

I am growing all the time and trying new things and dealing with beginners is just boring quite frankly. It’s not the students’ fault they’re beginners but they need to learn the basics before they can get to the really creative fun stuff and sometimes I lose my patience having to go over the same fundamentals over and over again. The challenge is definitely fading. I have done it so many times it feels like I’m climbing the same mountain over and over.

My whole life is changing and I can feel it. I am doing different things and that’s the way to get different results. I didn’t like a lot of the results I was getting so this is a good thing. I had a blast on the road all those years and I loved teaching classes too. Now I am not the same person and I have different needs and dreams. Been there. Done that. I need change.

It’s really difficult for me to say all this because it’s been the focus of my whole life for a lot of years. Performing and teaching are what I lived for. Now I feel like I’ve had enough and want to try other challenges. The chance of being ‘The King Of Uranus’ intrigues me.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Live In Lambeau

Sunday November 18th, 2007 - Green Bay, WI

Sometimes a person just has to let it loose once in a while. Today was about as loose as I get which isn’t that bad at all actually. If Britney Spears acted like me for a day she’d get front page news world wide as ‘Boring Britney’. She spends money like water but she has a lot too. I live like a cockroach so when I take a buck out it kicks and screams. It’s rare.

I haven’t been to a Packer game at Lambeau Field since the Packers slaughtered the evil Chicago Bears 40-3 in a snow storm in December. I couldn’t remember the exact year so I looked it up. It was December 11th, 1994. I don’t remember where we got the tickets but I remember saying if I never saw a game again in my life it couldn’t get any better than that.

Beating the Bears by that much in December in Lambeau Field in the show is absolutely heaven for a Packer fan and I think about it often. I was with my cousin Brett and also my best friend from childhood who was also the infamous bank robber. I’m sure he thought of that game when he was doing prison time and he caused us both to miss the Super Bowl in ‘96 because we were going through the trial. I was testifying against him and it wasn’t the thing either one of us wanted to be doing during the magic year we’d waited for forever.

I don’t know why I wanted to go today but I just did. I hadn’t been in all those years but today I felt like seeing a game. Maybe it was because November 18th was my grandfather’s birthday. He used to take me to games when I was a kid and those were probably the very best memories of a not so fun childhood. Sitting in Lambeau Field with Gramps was great. I remember it like it was last week and all the details are still vivid in my mind. I loved it.

Jim McHugh is also a huge Packer fan even though he grew up in Illinois. His father was a fan and I guess it rubbed off on Jim. He also has fond memories of being there so I said I would pop for tickets and we’d go to a game. Jim’s dad died last year as did his brother so he has had to deal with all that plus he’s trying to feed his family and money is tight. I’m in a position to spend a couple of bucks and I don’t do it often so I figured I’d just let it rip.

We got up early and made the 45 mile drive from our flea bag motel to the stadium for a chance to find a parking space and then some tickets. We found a parking spot right away and it was only $10. It was a block away from the stadium and there was plenty of room. I told Jim we were going to find tickets and they were going to be good ones. I just knew it.

I hadn’t been to a game since they redid the place and it was gorgeous. Of course I have seen it on TV but to see it live was very impressive. We took a lap admiring it but we also were trying to find someone selling tickets. We asked a program vendor if he knew where we might score a pair he just laughed and said ‘Good luck boys. There aren’t gong to be a lot of extras today.’ Jim and I agreed that even if we didn’t find tickets it was still worth it.

Being around the vibe of all this was really positive. The team is having a super year and if they should get back to the Super Bowl I doubt if I’d be able to see that live so we had a mission to see this game today. I just knew we would find our pair of tickets eventually.

We walked around the stadium about three times and I must admit I was starting to feel a few doubts. We saw a couple of oily looking characters trying to get outrageous prices for tickets we weren’t even sure were for today’s game. They wanted $250 to $300 for a single ticket and they weren’t even in the same section. I love the Packers but wasn’t up to paying that kind of money especially if Jim and I couldn’t sit together and enjoy the game.

We walked over by the main entrance and found a few more people selling tickets. One guy had a pair of tickets that had a face value of $203 each and was willing to sell both of them for $400. That was a little steep but I offered him $300 and he just gave me a sneer.

The closer it got to game time the more people were pulling out tickets and I saw a guy who looked the least greasiest of the bunch and asked if he had two. He didn’t seem to be a grease ball scumbag like many of those people can be and I trusted my judgment. He had a pair of tickets on the 50 yard line that had a face value of $72 each. He wanted $300 and I said ‘SOLD!’ Whether I could have gotten him down or not I felt it was right so I did it.

I gave Jim his ticket and his eyes lit up like a nine year old. He told me I may have had a chance to get them cheaper and I told him he may have been right but the other guys were pros and this guy wasn’t and they were on the 50 yard line, or so he said. It just felt right. I told Jim that whatever it cost would be forgotten but the memory would last a lifetime.

We strutted toward the stadium and got in line and found our seats just after kickoff. To see the gorgeous green grass and a packed stadium and feel the electricity was worth what I paid and more. Then to see that we really were on the 50 yard line drove it home. I had a smile on my face from then on and we watched the Packers win 31-17. The weather could not have been any more perfect and we had a fantastic time. I am SO glad we could come.

I enjoyed the game and so did Jim. He couldn’t thank me enough and I told him he was very welcome. This is a time when I could do something nice for him so I did. Whatever it cost me was worth every cent and we will be able to look back on this for the rest of both of our lives. We drove home happy and it got happier when we heard the Bears lost too.

We are both addicted to the Packers as were the rest of the 70,000 people who were at the game along with us. $300 would buy a lot of food for hungry people or something that could help someone who really needed it but I spent it on football tickets. I am all for what I can do to help people but for today I felt it was ok to treat myself to a very rare gift. I’m not going to do it every week and I might not get back here for another 14 years. Or ever.

Life is supposed to be fun. Gramps was the only person who gave me hope when I was a confused kid and going to Packer games with him was FUN. Now I got to pass it on and buy a ticket for Jim just like Gramps bought tickets for me over the years. It felt fantastic.

Jim loved it and so did I. Now I can head into the new week and the new year with a big mental boost and keep my already growing positive attitude growing even more. This was a one day adventure that came together even better than I planned it. I hope I keep this up.

Back In The Minors

Saturday November 17th, 2007 - New Holstein, WI

Back in the low minors for a day. I was off this weekend due to the unscheduled falling apart of the Chicago Style Standups group. They were supposed to be in Iowa for another weekend of shows but after last week I wasn’t going to drive eight hours one way for yet another unguaranteed door deal. The Saturday show had fallen out already so it was only a Friday in Spencer which doesn’t even merit using that much gasoline with these prices.

There comes a point when a person just has to say no. That’s the most powerful word in the world. I have traditionally had a difficult time saying it especially for comedy shows. If I could get booked ANYWHERE I’d usually say yes and then regret it later. I’m SO done with that at this point and it felt good to say I was not going. I’m not sure if the other guys did and I really don’t care at this point. Spencer, IA will keep existing whether I go or not.

I was planning to have the weekend off but a last minute spot came up in New Holstein, WI. My friend Jim McHugh who is also a refugee from the Chicago Style Standups had an opening on a two man show and asked if I wanted to do it. I haven’t taken the opener spot in I don’t know how long but I like Jim and I was off so I said I’d do it. The money wasn’t bad at all and all I had to do was 35 minutes which is a night off. This was a gift of money and I told Jim I’d like to use it to buy tickets to see the game on Sunday at Lambeau Field. He’s a big Packer fan too and I haven’t been to a game for many years. He loved the idea.

We got into town about 4pm and found our hotel. It was ‘The Starlite Inn’ but I doubt if any stars had ever stayed there. Not since the early 1960s anyway and that’s probably the last time the carpet was cleaned. We were going to share a room and save a few bucks but there was only one bed so I ended up getting my own room and there went that good idea.

The show was in a joint that was an old basketball gym that was built in the ‘20s. I’ll bet the owners got it cheap and I don’t blame them for giving it a shot. They painted it up and are doing entertainment and God bless them for hustling. They work hard and I can totally respect that. They have bands mostly but they’ve been doing comedy shows once a month.

The lights weren’t the greatest and the sound kept cutting in and out but the people who showed up were there to laugh and they loved the show. There was a drunken goof who’s a regular and always wants to be the center of attention. I let him know immediately that it wasn’t going to fly and the crowd loved it as usual. He wasn’t ready for me and of course he had to try and find me after the show and say how much he was ‘helping me.’ Uh huh.

I turned and walked away as he came over and went back stage and read my book about mail order for a while until he went back to drinking. I’m not interested in trying to be nice to yet another in the long line of clueless boozers who just don‘t get how to act in public.

Actually it felt good to just walk away and not waste any breath on him. I think I’m now finally starting to learn how to say no in the right situations. I’ll need that for my business. Jim and I got paid and thanked the owners. They have to deal with that halfwit every day.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thrift Store Therapy

Friday November 16th, 2007 - Lake Villa, IL

I took a day off today to relax and get my head together. With any luck at all I’ll be busy beyond belief with my new business and that will keep me occupied for the next few years. I hung out with my cousin Brett in Milwaukee for a while and walked through a few thrift stores. To me that’s relaxing and for some reason I never get sick of looking through junk.

I think it’s the thought of finding a gem mixed in with the junk. There’s something about ‘the hunt’ for something which has always interested me. Maybe I like making decisions. I would love to be a pro sports general manager and draft or trade players. Picking the right thing feels good and so does going to a thrift store and finding something useful that some other person threw out. It’s like rescuing a pet from a shelter. It feels good to find a home for something that was given up on. I think that’s why I like the car auction so much also.

This business is going to be the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. What’s not to enjoy? I am going to be the boss and will get to make ALL the decisions. Doesn’t everyone dream of that? Now I can prove to myself how smart I think I am. I’ve gotten screwed over for a lot of years by a bunch of clueless idiots. If it happens again that clueless idiot will be ME.

I have a chance to succeed here and I can see it clear as day. This will be great for every other ‘dented can’ around who thinks it can’t be done. It CAN and I’m going to prove it. I have a high school education and have hacked around the country as a comedian for years. I have been able to exist but not really live. I’ve had failure after failure and have been way down and depressed so many times I’ve lost count. I have thought seriously about taking a bullet on many occasions because I was out of luck and hope. Now I don‘t feel that way at all. I feel ALIVE and I’m so pumped up about this idea I can’t even sleep. It’s my destiny.

That’s all well and good but now I have to keep working at it. I felt I needed a day to be lazy and I was but that can’t happen on a regular basis. I wandered and drifted today and I enjoyed it but now I need to make a plan and work it. There should be NO drifting for this project until I can make it profitable. There’s nothing to drift to actually. I’m already here.

My work is totally cut out for me. I have a bunch of quality people all across America to go to for ideas, help and guidance. I rarely if ever call in favors and I’ve done a lot of them over the years so now I can have some come my way. I will carefully choose what I would like to come my way and go after it. I know people that have offered ‘If you ever need any favors let me know.’ Well, as a matter of fact I do. What can you tell me about business?

The best part of this whole thing is that I still get to be funny. I can still do comedy and I want to keep doing it but it will be MUCH better if I can build a draw through doing some commercials on TV and radio as ‘The King Of Uranus’. Everyone will know who that is.

This is my ‘Gilligan’. I know that going in. If I do this right I’ll be recognized in airports and restaurants and malls and ballgames. I’ll have to deal with all that goes with being the guy who says he’s the King of Uranus. I am ok with it for now but ask me in a few years.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The KING Of Uranus!

Thursday November 15th, 2007 - Lake Villa, IL

Big BIG day today. It is for me anyway. I heard from the attorney’s office I’m working with that I am officially a legal business entity today. I have the trademark filed and now I can FINALLY write about my idea without worrying about anyone stealing it. It’s a goofy idea and I know that 99.999% of people won’t want to steal it but all I needed was one so I had to protect myself. I have done that and for the first time ever I am now incorporated.

My business idea is to sell funny stuff through a website called ‘Uranus Factory Outlet’. I am now officially ‘The King Of Uranus’ and my slogan is ‘It’s ALWAYS funny when it comes from Uranus.’ I plan to do radio and TV commercials as this character and create a media buzz in towns where I perform so when I go there as a comedian I can be a draw in a comedy club or better yet a bigger theatre setting. This is going to be a huge challenge.

I absolutely love challenges so that’s not a problem. This idea is so stupid I totally think it’s going to work. The time is right for me to reinvent myself and this is what I am going with. I know people will think I’m nuts but a lot of them already do. A lot more think this is a brilliant idea and I have to say I agree. I don’t know why it flew into my head in Utah but it did and now I’m going to run with it. Inspiration comes when it wants to and it’s my job to recognize it and develop it into a workable idea. It’s now a reality in just 8 weeks.

If anyone can pull this off it’s me. I know I’ll make mistakes and have problems but I am expecting it and nothing will make me quit this until I see it succeed. I’ve been trying these kinds of off beat wacked out ideas my whole life and after having every other one blow up in my face I’ve finally found one I think is going to pay off. I am betting the farm on this.

Everyone likes to laugh and this idea has many levels that can be sold to many people. It is a grade school joke that’s just plain silly. Gilligan’s Island was silly too but who doesn’t know about it? It’s the same story every time - they’ll almost get off the island but Gilligan finds a way to screw it up at the last minute. They found a ton of ways to accomplish that.

The same is true with this idea. What products can I come up with that have a Uranus or space theme? I have a bunch I’d like to try but for now I’m going to start with a few items of clothing that have a joke on it and see how that develops. If it gets hot I’ll keep going.

There are a whole lot of things I need to learn. This is all new to me and I know that. I’ll make mistakes but that’s the way to learn. I have a good idea of what I want to do and if I stick to that plan I should be ok. I’m not going to flip out and start buying Bentleys and be an idiot. I’m going to learn this business inside and out and grow slowly but comfortably a step at a time. I’m not putting my month to month rent and expense money into this and it doesn’t have to feed me any time soon. This is something I want to build up from scratch.

One thing I did treat myself to was getting the personalized license plate ‘Uranus 1’. It’s just funny to see it in print. I am going to put all I have into this project and I realize that it will either make me a multi millionaire or wipe me out completely. I can handle either one.

What will put me ahead of everyone else is that I have an inside track on comedians that nobody else knows about. I can have an army of creative talent in one email start writing a batch of jokes that would look good on a t-shirt or bumper sticker. It’s my job to sort it all out and decide what will be made and how it will be made and how much to charge for it.

The space theme is not only hilarious it’s identifiable. EVERYONE I told about this idea all had the same reaction. They giggled like a school kid. Even the ones I thought might be offended or shoot it down had to chuckle and say ‘Well…I think you’ve got something.’

I absolutely KNOW I have something but now my hard work begins. I have all the other groundwork to lay like getting a website up and running, finding someone to make actual products, deciding which products to sell, where and how to advertise, how to get lots of free publicity, storage of inventory, fulfillment of orders etc etc etc. It’s all still very new.

Other people have been where I am and they’ve succeeded. I know I can and will also. I have a stack of books to read and that’s great but nothing beats experience. I have a lot of it in the comedy world and I’ll tap it but I’m very limited in business so I’ll call in favors as much as I can. I rarely do that and have a lot of built up good energy I’ve built for years.

I’ve been reading lots of things lately and one article was with Rick Rubin the producer of The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Johnny Cash’s last few albums. He said how he doesn’t know the first thing about ‘making a record’. He said he hires people to work in the studio and run the knobs but he oversees it all and has a big picture. The same is with me too. If I never have to make a t-shirt or sticker it doesn’t mean I can’t still make myself a fortune.

Whatever expertise I have to offer the main thing is a deep inside knowledge of standup comedy and what audiences across North America laugh at. I am not going to lose a dime shooting low with this idea. I am going to hit them in their wallet and kick them in Uranus.

Pun intended. This whole thing is one pun after the next. Just like Gilligan’s Island, what’s the way they’re going to do it this week? I have to keep cranking out ideas and I love it.

Getting started today is a total thrill. My grandfather’s birthday was November 18, 1912 and this is about as close to November 18th as I can get so I’ll dedicate it to him. He would have LOVED this idea and I know he’s looking at me from wherever he is and laughing as hard as he can. I am too. This is just FUNNY and I know I’ll find an audience who agrees.

I’d like to have the ‘Grand Opening Of Uranus’ on my birthday. Uranus itself got named on March 13th of whatever year it was and my birthday is March 14th. This whole thing is a perfect fit and a great concept and I’m going to focus my creativity on it so I can make the thing pay off. It’s a marketing challenge but I have to physically sell products that I create. I also want to partner up and drop ship as many items as I can. I know I can make this go.

Now it’s up to me to prove it. I have announced it to everyone and I’m protected by the trademark. I will start working on it now like it’s my first priority because it IS my priority now. I’m now the Sam Walton of whoopee cushions and the Ray Kroc of rubber chickens.

Network Ninja

Wednesday November 14th, 2007 - Chicago, IL/St. Charles, IL

Drive and eat. Drive and eat. That was the main theme of today and I liked it. I arranged a lunch meeting with my writing partner Rick Kaempfer and Jerry Agar so they could have a chance to meet and talk about Rick’s book called ‘Severance’ that Jerry read and liked. I am always happy to introduce two good people I know to each other. I’ve done it often.

Jerry’s program director at WLS is Kipper McGee. I’ve known Kipper even longer than I’ve known Jerry and it was me who introduced those two a few years ago. Jerry wanted a chance to do talk radio and Kipper was programming a station in Orlando at the time so as a friend I hooked the two up and they kept in touch. Kipper got the job at WLS and then a position on air opened up and he hired Jerry from Kansas City. I’m thrilled I had a part.

Kipper heard Jerry was having lunch with us and wanted to come along because he liked Rick’s book too and wanted to meet him. He brought along his copy to have Rick sign for him and it was fun to watch all three of them banter back and forth and get acquainted as I ate one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life. There’s some joint downtown that custom makes sandwiches and Kipper took us all there. Indirectly I made all of it happen.

Networking with good people is what it’s all about. It’s totally win/win. Jerry got his job and a chance to live his dream and Kipper got a good employee and looks good for having the eye for talent to find Jerry. They’re building a solid working relationship and it’s never bad for me because the higher they go the higher placed contacts I have in both of them.

It’s not bad to bring Rick into the picture either because he’s my writing partner. He has done well with his book and the better he does the better chance we have to sell our script. Then when the script sells we can get a book deal to follow it up. When we do that we’ve got the relationship with Kipper and Jerry to get it pushed on the air. This is how to do it. It cost me $26 to park my car for two hours and it was worth every penny. We had fun.

Then I dropped Rick off in Mt. Prospect at home and headed to St. Charles to meet with my grade school friend Tom Orlando. Tom now owns his own construction business and a successful one it is. He used to be in radio too and knows a lot of high powered bigwigs. I always love hanging out with Tom because we’ve known each other so long. He’s a funny guy and thinks I’m funny too. More importantly he understands the value of networking.

He loves my business idea and we brainstormed all through one of the best Alaskan king crab dinners I’ve ever had. There is a great restaurant near Zanies and we go there once a year or so and it’s always delicious. Tom will be able to put me in touch with some people who can help me move this project along. I ate two delicious meals today and didn’t pay.

I also heard from the lawyer and he said I should be incorporated and ready to start my business by tomorrow. He will file the necessary papers and I will be up and running. I had a meeting with my accountant and he gave me some suggestions and told me to keep good records which I will absolutely do. My idea is transforming into a reality. This is exciting!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What Is Genius?

Tuesday November 13th, 2007 - Chicago, IL/ Lake Villa, IL

Another night back at Zanies downtown. It seems like I work there more now than back when I lived in the city. It’s a 51 mile trip one way from Lake Villa but it’s worth it. I love to perform and when Zanies is rocking there are few places like it. Tonight it was rocking.

There were openings at two of the clubs this week and I was asked to fill in. I am always glad to do any favors I can for Zanies because they’ve been SO good to me when I really needed it throughout the years. I have made them money both performing and from all the classes I taught but they have also paid my rent time and time again. It’s been a win/win.

Tuesday shows can go either way but tonight was really good. There were about 50 or so but at the downtown Zanies that’s a nice house. The place only seats about 120 and it’s a long and narrow room so 50 can look full. There was an odd mix but they fit together as a group. Audiences definitely have personalities as strange as it sounds. This one had their own flavor and all three of us noticed it. We were also an odd mix of performers as well.

The opener was a guy named John Bolger. He is a total hustler and I mean that in a very good way. He’s a comedian but also has any number of side writing projects going on at a time. He’s a hard worker and is making connections on both coasts and I respect him a lot for doing it. When I was on the Loop he would send me proposals for bit ideas and had an outstanding work ethic. He’s very positive and his attitude is contagious. He’s a winner.

The middle act is absolutely amazing. His name is Hannibal Burress and I can’t rustle up enough positive words to describe his comedic brilliance. I’m in awe of this kid. He’s only in his mid twenties but he’s one of the most gifted comedic talents I’ve seen in many years. I’ve known him for a while and he gets better and better every time I see him. He was just on the Craig Ferguson show and I heard he did well. I’m not surprised at all. He’s a talent.

Genius is a word that gets thrown around way too much but I really think this kid has it. People have told me I have it too but I’m not sure. I read once where the definition of it is being able to see things differently on a consistent basis. Seeing things is definitely part of the comedic process and every comedian has to look at things differently from the public.

Hannibal takes it to new levels. He’s very intelligent but that’s not ‘it’. He’s got a unique way of looking at situations and a vocabulary that would make Alex Trebek jealous. When he puts sentences together there is a definite rhythmic style that’s all his own. He happens to be black and wears glasses and his look is a stark contrast to his material which adds to it even more. I watch him on stage and he puts words and ideas together in a way that I’m in awe of. He’s got amazing ability to ad lib as well and he doesn’t let anything bother him on stage. He handles talking from the crowd extremely well and never breaks a sweat.

He has natural performance gifts that I don’t have nor do a lot of other people. He is so far ahead of where I was at 25 it’s not even funny. If this kid isn’t a big star it’s surely not for a lack of ability but there’s no guarantee he’s going to do it. Talent alone isn’t enough.

There’s also ‘the game’. Playing the game is what makes or breaks people in comedy or any other kind of show business. Hannibal Burress has a gift but unfortunately a lot of the people who pick talent wouldn’t have any idea how talented he is and it could discourage a kid like that. He will get bored with the small minded thinking and could react in a way that turns people off. Lord knows I’ve done that many times and I hope he avoids that.

I always see stories about the ‘genius’ who has the tragic ending and it makes me sad. It happened to Van Gogh and Charlie Parker and even Gorgeous George the wrestler. These people had a unique gift and were originals but their lives ended sadly and in squalor. I am hoping a kid like Hannibal doesn’t have it happen to him but he’s very sharp and has a nice vibe about him and I think he’s going to do just fine. I’m glad to see his steady progress.

I enjoyed watching him open for me but that won’t happen for long. He’s getting ready to start closing shows soon and he won’t look back. For now I can follow him but shortly people will be asking me if I know him. I do and I predicted his success before he popped. Together with John Bolger this audience really had a lineup that made for a solid show.

I am finally smart enough to know what to do with shows like this. Tuesday night is the perfect place to experiment and since Zanies is so familiar to me I have total job security. I am not going to get fired and I have freedom to do pretty much anything I want. It’s up to me to give them a show for 45 minutes but it doesn’t mean I can’t practice new material.

That’s exactly what I did tonight. I ad libbed a lot and acted out some bits and there was a woman in back that wouldn’t shut up so I had to deal with her the whole night. I did not get upset and used the opportunity to practice my heckler skills without getting mean. It’s a very delicate situation when a woman heckles because the audience can turn in a second even if it’s her fault. I’ve had years of experience with this so I felt totally comfortable and in charge. I wanted to see how close to the line I could walk without crossing it and I did. She really had stamina and would NOT shut up the whole show. Normally I’d shred her.

I did some of my regular material but I did it in a different cadence and rhythm. I threw a lot of newer stuff in too and that’s always a fun challenge to sell it like it’s a polished bit. I always enjoy the challenge of dealing with so many variables and to do it in a safe situation like being at Zanies made this a productive workshop. Plus I purposely avoided my closing bit so I could force myself to stretch out and find something else to use instead. It worked.

After the show a very attractive blonde came up and started talking to me. I checked for rings as I always do and there were none. She said she was originally from the Milwaukee area but had lived all over the country. We talked for a while and then she gave me a card because I didn’t have any of mine left. She was dressed really well and looked like she had it together. When she left one of the wait staff asked me why I would be so nice to the one who talked the whole show and I started laughing hard because I had no idea that was her.

Another story for the archives. I should have known the hottie who flirts with me after a show is always the heckler. Good thing I didn’t have a card. Maybe she’s a stalker too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Returning To Radio

Monday November 12th, 2007 - Chicago, IL/Lake Villa, IL

Today could be an historic day in my life. Mondays are historically busy for me anyway. I have a class to teach at Zanies in Chicago and then I often host the new talent showcase afterward. I plan for it and it’s a win/win for everyone because I make one trip to Chicago and take care of several things. That’s always good but now I’m about to get even busier.

My friend Jerry Agar and I have been talking about doing a comedy ‘round table’ format where a group of comics comment on the news on his radio show. Jerry has had this idea for a long time. He went to comedy central with it years ago and soon after Bill Maher got the show ‘Politically Incorrect’. Coincidence? It was fishy at the time and it still is today.

There’s nothing Jerry could do about it then but now he’s in a position to put it together and use it on WLS. That’s a big station and it could really be good for us all. The others in studio are Tim Slagle and Ken Sevara. Jerry is the moderator and has a list of topics and it goes around the horn. We have jokes written and the idea is to keep it moving and funny.

Today was our first installment and it went very well. Tim and Ken are more up to date in news and political issues but I’m pretty good at throwing in ad libs and adding on to the written jokes they have. Jerry and I have known each other so long that we have a rapport that goes way beyond radio. This is a great mix and if we do it right we can make it work.

There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do it right and today was a fantastic start. We all had material written and had WAY more than we could use. The bit runs from 10:30 to 11am and the plan is to make it a weekly feature. If that goes well Jerry thinks we can do a series of live shows in the area to raise money for charity and I love that idea. This is fun!

In order to get downtown on time to be on the air I left at 5:30am. There is construction hell on the Edens Expressway and also rush hour hell on top of that. This was our first one and I didn’t want to have a chance of being late so I got up and got started driving. I had a hassle free drive in and was way early but I’d rather do that than be stressed out and late.

After the radio show we had breakfast and talked over how it went and where it may go in the future. Everyone was optimistic and the program director LOVED it. That is never a bad thing either. This is how I want to be involved in radio. I don’t have a job in it but it is still part of my life. Once a week on WLS will keep it fun and hopefully get me known a little more so I can be a bigger draw in clubs. That’s the reason I started in radio anyway.

I went to get my mail and read my starting up a business book until it was time to go to Zanies for class. We had a very good class tonight and then I hosted the showcase which I also enjoyed. This was a great day all around. It started at 4am and ended after midnight.

These are the kind of days that I love and I hope there are a lot more. My energy comes alive on days like this because everything I’m doing is fun for me. This is what life is about and money doesn’t matter. I’m doing what I love and nobody in my family ever did that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Audition Insights

Sunday November 11th, 2007 - Chicago, IL

Tonight was my big audition for the comedy booker of the David Letterman show. His name is Eddie Brill and he’s also a comedian. Most people in those jobs are not comedians themselves and have no idea how difficult it is or what they are looking for so it was very refreshing to have someone looking for talent who has actually done standup. I liked him.

There were ten showcasers on tonight’s show and he talked to us all in the green room a few minutes before the show. He was very easygoing and informative and I have had many audition situations where it was constant tension the whole time. This was not that. He is a nice man and he said since he’s a comic too he would take time to review everyone’s set. I thought that was very generous and he said he thought that’s what everyone would want.

He’s right. We do want to know how we did in the eyes of the one who picks the talent. I’ve seen people not get many laughs from the audience but then get picked by the person in charge of choosing and it works the other way too. People have killed for the audience only to be poo pooed by the great and powerful ‘one’. Who that ‘one’ is really matters.

Eddie told us the numbers of what it takes to get on the show. He said he auditioned for the show himself four times. One he thought he did poorly and one he thought he did great and one he thought he did just ok and one he didn’t know at all. That covers the choices in a nutshell and he was very encouraging to us all. He said if we had a rough set not to even give it a second thought. He would see us again and help us build a set that Dave will like.

That’s another important part of the equation too apparently. It’s Eddie’s job to find the comedians that will make David Letterman laugh. His taste is what Eddie has to satisfy but who’s to say what that is? It’s all very intangible and inexact but that’s how this all works. The last thing to do would be to over think it and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t like my set at all for many reasons but it sure was a great lesson for the next time I get to audition.

Luck of the draw is always something that seems to find a way to defecate on my shoes and tonight was no different. I drew lucky number one and had to go up first after a green host who didn’t take control of the show very well. There’s nothing I could do about it so I went up and started my set. I did a few audibles and tried to include too much material in too short of a time and the audience was pretty stiff on top of that. I did my time and had a few laughs but no big pops like I’m used to getting. I had to edit my material as I did it to make sure there were no brand names or other disqualifiers. I wasn’t thrilled with it.

Nobody else was thrilled with their sets either. It was a tight audience on a Sunday night and all we could do was our best. After the show Eddie met with me and had some notes. He ripped my set a little but it was all constructive. He wasn’t mean spirited and what was said about this particular set was absolutely correct. I shook his hand and thanked him for his time and meant it. He told me I now need to go make him a nice 5-7 minute DVD with his critiques in mind and keep working it until a set can be created that Letterman enjoys. I will add that to my to do list. He said I was a ‘very skilled comedian’. That’s encouraging.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Chicago Style See Ya

Saturday November 10th, 2007 - Northwood, IA

Still on a high from the show last night in Fort Dodge. It was in a hall called ‘The Opera House’ but the only fat ladies that I saw weren’t on stage singing. Wisconsin may have the plumpest people on Earth but Iowa is right up there. They get the silver medal of MOO.

Today would have been my father’s 70th birthday. How fun it would have been to be off from performing and back in Milwaukee to celebrate it with my siblings. We would have a huge family get together with all the children and grandchildren and have a fantastic meal.

There would be pictures taken and lots of nice gifts and gag gifts and all kinds of stories told about the great times we all had over the years. There would be love dripping all over the place and I wouldn’t be sitting in a hotel room in Iowa wishing it would all be real. But what am I doing instead? Sitting in a hotel room in Iowa wishing it would be real. It isn’t.

He died in February of this year but it seems like so long ago now. The raw nerves have all deadened and the pain of that whole situation doesn’t bother me like it once did. It isn’t ever going to change and that’s just how it is. But it’s not keeping me from chasing any of my dreams and in fact for many years it fueled it. Now I have grown into my own person.

I figured it out today that he was about my age now when I graduated high school. I so could have used a good father then but he was nowhere to be found. He didn’t ever try for anything and he succeeded. Now he’s dead and nobody misses him. His father died at 69 just like he did and I still miss Gramps dearly. Funny how the numbers work. I can’t plan on 69 but if I could that would mean I’ve got a quarter of a century left to do all the things neither one of them did for whatever reason. The clock is ticking and I’m going for it all.

Tonight’s show was in a casino in Northwood, IA not far from Clear Lake. The facility is very nice and the audience was too. There is a separate room for entertainment and it’s sound proof so we don’t have to perform over the noise of slot machines like many casino gigs don’t seem to grasp. The people here want entertainment and it was an easy evening except for having to deal with one of the guys going long and not knowing when to get off stage. The management asked us to do a 90 minute show and no longer. That’s not hard.

But the guy just rambled on and had no clue of when to end even though he has been in the business longer than all of us. I’m not going to mention his name because I don’t want to make it any worse than it is but he’s the one who has made this group situation a hassle. He chooses to behave unprofessionally time and time again and I’ve had enough of it now.

It’s like a woman. No matter how beautiful she might be if she’s a bitch to deal with the beauty means less and less. Sure this guy is a very talented comedian but he is such a pain to deal with off stage and it’s getting worse that I have absolutely had it as of tonight. This is supposed to be FUN and a lot of it was but dealing with his quirks is getting old fast. I’ll politely say thanks for having me but I think my time in Chicago Style Standups is over for now. No regrets. I learned a lot and had some fun but now I’ve got other stuff to develop.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fort Dodged A Bullet

Friday November 9th, 2007 - Fort Dodge, IA

Up early to pack my freshly dented Toyota and head to Jim McHugh’s house to pick up Jim and Bill Gorgo so we could head to Fort Dodge, IA for a Chicago Style Standups gig.

I live up north in Lake Villa and Bill is in Chicago not far from where I used to live. Jim is out west in Hoffman Estates so Bill and I had a rush hour challenge to make it on time. I got there at 7:30 and Bill got there at 7:45 and we were packed and on the road by 8:00.

Lots of people car pool to work but not many do it for a 350 mile boring drive to Iowa. It was good to have two guys to talk to and that’s part of the fun of comedy. We stopped at the Field Of Dreams in Dyersville, IA on the way because Bill had never seen it before.

Jim and I had both been there several times before but since Bill hadn’t we had to let him experience it. He loves baseball and has seen the movie so we knew he’d appreciate it. We took some pictures and lumbered around the bases and soaked it all in on a gorgeous day.

The show tonight in Fort Dodge was electric. The whole idea of Chicago Style Standups was to work in bigger venues in smaller towns and be an event. When that works we blow the roof off the joint and tonight was one of those nights. There were five of us and every one of us was on our game. Besides Bill and Jim and me there was James Wesley Jackson and Paul Kelly. Between us we have way over 100 years of total experience and all any of us have to do is about 12-15 minutes tops. We can cherry pick our very best bits and kill.

It’s like a night off. We are all on stage in director’s chairs and we take turns at the mike for a few minutes and then sit down and let someone else go. There’s no real order and we go back and forth as we feel like it and when it flows like it did tonight it’s fun for us all. It doesn’t even seem like work and it isn’t. It’s fun. The work is in getting consistent shows.

This was a door deal tonight. I can’t stand door deals and even though we did well on it I am not going to continue doing them. There is no incentive for anyone to help sell tickets in a deal like this. This show was promoted by a local radio group so they helped pack the house but it was very iffy right up until yesterday. There were management changes and it could have been a complete disaster. We dodged a bullet tonight but this has got to stop.

The group idea is very fun on stage but promoting shows is a huge hassle. No comedian wants to do anything more than show up and go up. We really don’t care about how all of those people get there but that’s what pays the bills. I joined the group as a soldier. I don’t want to run it and the other guys aren’t very good at business. It’s been too disorganized.

Nobody knows if the group is going to break up or not. The concept is great but getting it to work every night is another story. This may not be the exact right group of guys but I still love to do shows so I took this week and next. If this is the way we’re going to go out it was worth the drive. Tomorrow we are at a casino near Mason City and it could be back to disarray again but for one night we were treated like stars so we let ourselves enjoy it.