Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Hope

Wednesday October 31st, 2007 - Lake Villa, IL

Today is Halloween. That’s when people dress up like someone else on the outside. I am becoming someone else on the inside. This is going to be the best holiday season I’ve ever had. That doesn’t say much but I know how miserable they’ve been in the past so I’m glad this one is looking up. Usually Halloween is when it all starts and then it’s a torturous two month reminder of how much I missed out on family stuff as a kid. I dread it every year.

This year is different. I have a little HOPE for a change. This business idea is going to be my calling for the rest of my life and I finally found my purpose. It is the most exciting and challenging project I’ve ever done and it totally plays to my likes and strengths. It’s ideal.
I was on my way to lunch with Marc Schultz when I got a call from the attorney’s office about the trade marking of the name. The process is nationwide and it costs $500. If some other business is using the name or something similar they are going to recommend I don’t use that particular name and that’s when it will get tricky. The name is a gimmick in itself.

I’ll gladly tell you what it is immediately as soon as it’s registered to me but I just can’t until that happens. Supposedly it will happen in the next day or two unless there is a glitch. I know my luck in the past. It’s all about ‘the glitch’. I’m not going to focus on that. I’ve come way too far and this is a great idea so I will take what I’m given and run with it all.

There’s nothing I can do now except wait it out. I feel like an expectant father. I am just hoping to see ten fingers and ten toes at this point, not two lobster claws or worse. I hope I get the name I’m after and I’ll go from there. The attorney asked me what category I am planning to sell merchandise and we settled on ‘mail order apparel’ for now. I will not get the other ideas I had in the mix now because there is no discount for more than one. What I need to do is get ONE category and secure a trademark and then set up a site to sell it.

The firm is going to help me with incorporation too and this is going to be quite a hassle at first but not a deal breaker. This is how to do it right and I absolutely do NOT want it a back alley under the table fly by night con game to scam a few bucks and then disappear. I want this to be a legit enterprise with a tax number and stationery and the whole shebang.

I talked to Max today and he had some very nice things to say. He is working hard with his own endeavors down in Springfield, IL. He’s got two ice cream shops and he’s been in the same boat I am and he called today to encourage me to stay with it and not give up. It was great to hear from him and he’s totally right. It would be easy to give up and it’s not a small matter to give up $500 to some lawyer I never met just so he can tell me I‘m legal. It doesn’t include the cost of the lawyer’s time or incorporation fees either. It will all add up.

There will be a lot more costs I’m sure but I’m rolling the dice with this project. I am on board for the duration and one way or another I am going to keep going until I get it up to what I envisioned it to be. I am starting the process so that’s all I can do. Now I need a list of things to do to follow and I need to DO them. Talking about it is fine but I need action.

I thought about the business all day as I got ready for the new month. I paid my rent and got that out of the way early and then prepared my Toyota to sell tomorrow. That’s a hard decision but unfortunately it’s the correct one right now. That car is SPECTACULAR. I’ll hate to see it go but if there’s one thing I do not worry about it’s finding another vehicle.

My friend Jack Bennett has a car lot in Fond Du Lac, WI. He can sell the Toyota quickly and make a few bucks for himself. I owe Jack a lot because he’s turned quite a few paying comedy gigs my way that were much appreciated at the time. He always thinks of me so it feels like I’m paying him back a little for his kindness. Plus I am making a profit on it too.

I will come out about $500 ahead of what I bought the car for and he’ll make money too so we all win. I can use the cash after my recent incident of getting my clock cleaned from my business partner making an unauthorized withdrawal of funds so the timing is perfect. I am off tomorrow and he’s got a check and we’ll hopefully do the deal and that will be it.

I suppose I could keep it if I really wanted to but the Mitsubishi is running fine and it’s a solid little machine for winter. The Camry is almost too nice for me. I’d hate to see it have to plow through a winter. That thing has seen only garages. It’s in way too good of shape.

I can always find another car. If this business works out the way I think it can I’ll be able to buy a dozen new Toyota Camrys but I probably won’t want to. I love to go hang out at the auction and I don’t see why that would stop if I had millions of dollars. I like the hunt.

I bought a couple of books today about mail order as if I need any more. I have quite an elaborate library of them and I’ve been collecting them for years. Any time I see anything I haven’t read I buy it and study it. The ones today were very different. One was from about 1975 and it was very cheap and had a few good theories. The other one was written in ‘96 and updated in 2005. It’s got a lot of current info and tips about how to work the business in the cyber age. I invested in myself and purchased both of them. I will devour each one.

I also bought a book called ‘The Tipping Point’ on recommendation from my friend Ted Perry of Fox 6 in Milwaukee. Ted said he loved the book and it might help me find a point or two I haven’t thought of yet so I’ll put that one on my reading list as well. I have all the books I need to read for the next year at least so I don’t have to buy any for a long while.

This is all coming together and I can feel it being totally the right thing to do. If I have a ‘glitch’ I’ll deal with it and learn from it and grow from it. I feel a wily wisdom from years on the road but also a wide eyed youthful rush of energy of getting into a brand new thing. If I have to change the name I’ll worry about that if and when I find that out. For now I’m grooving on the excitement of it all and I am putting together all the tasks I need to finish.

The holiday season is officially starting tomorrow and I am not the least bit depressed. I have too many fun things to do so I won’t allow myself to get down this year. I hope I am able to find some place to go to cheer others up at some point like an orphanage or an old folks home. I don’t want to sit and mope and stew about my past. That’s OVER. Hooray!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Power Lunch In Chicago

Tuesday October 30th, 2007 - Chicago, IL/Lake Villa, IL

I can feel my new direction starting to take off. Lots of things are bubbling in a way that will lead to my whole life changing. Time is a continuing issue and I will be careful for the rest of my life how I use it. The clock is ticking and time is a factor. Before I would waste it without thinking but now I can see that it’s a precious commodity that is slipping away.

Jerry Agar, Bert Haas and I have been meaning to have a lunch for weeks. Jerry wants a chance to do live comedy shows at some of the Zanies clubs and I think it would be a very good idea for everyone. Whether I’m on the shows or not doesn’t matter. This is an idea I know will work and everyone can make a few bucks. Plus it will promote comedy as well.

Let’s see, getting on WLS in Chicago regularly isn’t a problem but getting on at WKLH in Milwaukee once a year or less is. Huh? That’s radio. Plus, it’s personal too. Jerry is my friend and Dave Luczak isn’t. That’s life. I’d much rather be on a huge station like WLS.

I picked Jerry up and we met Bert at Zanies and went over to O’Brien’s to eat. That’s a place that’s been in Old Town for years and years as has Zanies. Bert is well known there by the owners so our service was even more fantastic than usual. That’s the places I like to frequent and we had a fun time and a delicious meal. Jerry pitched his idea to Bert and I sat and ate my lunch as it took place. I love to bring two parties together to make a deal.

Jerry had a dental appointment out in the suburbs and I told him I’d drop him off instead of him having to take the train. I stopped off at his house to say hi to his son Tanner who’s 15. He absolutely LOVES my business idea and he and I sat down and brainstormed for a while and he was shooting out some very interesting ideas. He is in an age group of people who could be a big customer base and I sat there and listened to him talk. I learned a lot.

The secret to this business idea if there is one is to just keep doing the right thing when I have a chance and the cumulative effect will eventually take place. I’ve already taken a big step by contacting a lawyer and attempting to make this a legitimate legal business entity. I got an email from him today saying they were able to find only one other guy with an idea similar to but not that much. Mine is WAY more elaborate and planned and I will develop more products than just the one that he has on his site. I want to make this an umbrella for ALL things funny and that could entail a lot of things. I am still in the beginning stages.

One thing that won’t change is that I’ll still get to be funny. I will be writing jokes and it might be in a different format or for a different audience but it’s still the writing process. I have been using it and improving on it my entire adult life. I’ll need to refocus my mind to write for products rather than a live audience. The process is the same, the results are too. It’s just different to put the joke on a shirt or a cap rather than recite it live to an audience.

Dealing with lawyers doesn’t thrill me nor does making shirts or hats or stickers but the idea of making something from nothing absolutely does. I am on the road to getting it off the ground and by this time next year I should be getting ready to have a big sales blast.

Lawyers And Bob Dylan

Monday October 29th, 2007 - Lake Villa, IL

I made a big step today in getting my business fire lit. I talked to a lawyer about what I’ll need to get done to have a legitimate business entity. It will require a forming of some sort of corporation and I’m still not exactly sure which one. He threw around all kinds of terms like ‘S Corp’ and ‘L.L.C’ and a few other things I’ve never really had to be bothered with.

This is a new time. I’m starting all over again and I need to get this done correctly so I’ll stay out of tax hell. I don’t need to get off on the wrong foot or shoot myself in one either. I got the lawyer’s name from my writing partner Rick Kaempfer and they were roommates in college. He started Rick’s personal business and I could tell on the phone he was sharp.

I will pay the money to get a trademark or a copyright or whatever it is I need to get the thing going. There still may be someone who has used or is using all or part of my idea. It didn’t come up when I looked for it but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If it does I will be in a good position to really expand quickly. If it isn’t I have no idea what I’ll get done.

After consulting with the lawyer I went to have lunch with Spike Manton. I told him I’m not ready to sign any deals with him and Jeff Schwartz just yet and I don’t mean it in a bad way. This is still a seed of an idea and it could have all kinds of lumps in the road I am not able to see right now. I told him I wanted to have at least 60-90 days to get myself ready.

Paying for a website and copyright search and all that kind of stuff is going to be a little inconvenient now but in the long run it will be WELL worth it. If I own this idea and have full control of it I can make a lot better deals as a whole when I’m calling all the shots. It’s not that I don’t want to work with those guys and I told Spike that but it’s just that now’s not the best time to sign any deals. I need to get all this through the beginning stages first.

It will be a slow tedious process I’m sure and there will be unexpected twists and turns I will have to go around but that’s all part of the game. I will find a way through this and let the process take it’s course. If I don’t act on it now I will be sorry for the rest of my life. I am not going to take no for an answer. One way or another I will be up and running and in the mail order business selling humor items by the first of the year 2008. That’s my goal.

On a side note I went to see Bob Dylan at the Chicago Theatre with Larry Reeb. Larry’s birthday is coming up in November and someone bought him tickets for the show tonight. His wife can’t stand Bob Dylan so he asked if I wanted to go. Absolutely. He’s a legend. I will always see a legend if at all possible whether I happen to like that legend or not. It’s a workshop for me to watch what that person has that can affect so many people. I like that.

I don’t particularly like or dislike Dylan but I really like Larry Reeb. He’s funny and nice and we’ve been friends for a lot of years. We usually keep it light and talk sports when we hang out and that’s what we did tonight. Dylan’s voice was horrible and so was his singing but the band was great and it turned out to be a good show. Elvis Costello opened as did a guy named Aaron Lee. I think that was his name. And I heard the Packers won. Fun night!

Monday, October 29, 2007

My New Direction

Sunday October 28th, 2007 - Lake Villa, IL

Another jam packed day. For a dead guy I am pretty swamped. I slept on the notion that my career as a comedian is dead and I still think that’s the right mindset. I will still do a lot of shows and work when I can but in my mind I am an entrepreneur first. I need to put my finances in order in case I make it to old age. Doing what I was doing wasn’t the answer.

Parliament/Funkadelic was the musical empire that George Clinton spearheaded back in the ‘70s. It had a fantastic run and spread over several record labels over several years but there was a time when it had to end. By all accounts it was a final show in Detroit in 1981. After that show they all went their own ways and that was it. Everybody was frustrated.

George was broke and in litigation and it looked pretty bleak but that’s when he decided to reinvent himself. He couldn’t use either name Parliament or Funkadelic so he just began recording under his own name and cranking out new products. He kept evolving and had a second career that is still going today. He never quit touring and recording but he did have a change in his perspective and that’s where I am right now. George was successful for his second go round even longer than his first even though the first time had more impact. He was wiser the second time and used what he learned the first time to keep it all rolling.

The same is with me too. IF something comes along in comedy I will take it but it isn’t a life or death situation any more and I won’t do a lot of the stupid things I thought I had to to keep my hopes alive of that mythical guy hopping out of a limo and making me a star. It doesn’t happen that way and I have learned a lot of other things too that can help me now.

Between my business idea of selling funny stuff online to teaching comedy classes online to releasing the cds I recorded earlier this year I’ve got more than enough things to do that will keep me busy. In the next ten years or less I need to earn the money that will last me a lifetime. How long will that be? Who knows but I will plan on living to at least 100. If not I will donate whatever I have to a worthy cause. I just don’t want to be trying to get a gig in Kalamazoo for $200 when I’m 88. I want to be sleeping on my mattress filled with loot.

All I can think about is this business idea and I love it. It has rejuvenated me and I work on it in my head all my waking hours. I have told quite a few people so now I need to have it trademarked and protect myself. I am starting out as a newbie in this endeavor and I will without a doubt make some stupid mistakes just like I did in comedy but I got over those.

I will do the same with this too. I’ll surround myself with smart positive thinking people and grow my expertise in their presence. I will work hard and pay attention and grow this into something I can be proud of. I am excited and I just feel a wonderful adventure about to begin. Comedy can be a part of that but it’s not the first and foremost like it has been.

I’m exploring a new area now. I have lots of experience and yet I’m brand new all at the same time. It’s a conscious shift and I relish the new challenge. I can already feel the vibe of excitement come over me and my passion and enthusiasm will help me see this through.

I had three meals today with three people I like and trust. Breakfast in Milwaukee was with my old friend Greg Chadwell. I’ve known him since we were cooks at a place called Rustler Steak House on South 27th Street in Milwaukee. Greg is a couple years older than me but he is also a dented can. He came from the projects and worked like a dog to get his life going and he surely did. He was a good father to four kids and is good with his money.

He has rental properties and works at a bank approving loans but before that he worked as a car salesman for about twenty years. He ALWAYS worked hard and never whined of his bad luck and I respect him very much. We had a fun chat and ate at a place right across the street from where the Rustler used to be. Both of us have chosen to pursue success.

Greg had some solid advice on a business level and he said he would help me however I needed him to. And he will. When I needed a place to stay right out of high school he gave me the number of his future father in law who had a room for rent. I still owe him for that.

Lunch was with my former student Vince Carone. Vince just turned 25 but was only 19 when he took my class. I could see a spark in him then but he had a long way to go as we all do. It takes YEARS to develop as a comedian and he is really coming along nicely. He is way smart and a fantastic marketer and is doing a lot of things correctly. He released an outstanding DVD that has a spectacular package and he’s on his way. I’m proud of him.

He gave me a signed copy of it and I was very flattered to see my name in the credits. I try to help all my students but when I see ones like Vince really putting it together I have a special feeling of pride attached. He’s WAY farther than I was at 25 and he will hit the big time in one way or another. I can just feel it with him. He’s got talent and drive and is not afraid to invest time and money in himself. He’s going to do something big, I predict it. He has a sharp mind for marketing and was in a band for a while so he understands the game.

Dinner was with Jerry Agar and he and his wife Ann had some good solid ideas for me. I am taking notes and keeping track of it all. I have plenty to do and will work on getting an attorney this week so I can trademark or copyright my idea so I can finally write about it. I don’t want to have to keep calling it ‘the idea’ but until I am protected I will shut my yap.

I have never had such a good feeling about anything I’ve ever done in my life. No matter what problems or mistakes I make I will see this through and make something good come of it in the end. I talked to my friend Max in Springfield for about an hour and he said he’s cheering for me and will help me however he can. I know he will. I’d do the same for him.

Spike Manton and I are going to meet up tomorrow for just a few minutes to talk over a few things before I sign any rights over to his PR company he has with Jeff Schwartz. The smart thing to do is develop this a little on my own first. Everyone who releases an album thinks it’s going to be ‘Thriller’ and everyone that opens a business thinks it’s going to be Microsoft.

Neither is usually true so what comes of it when it just sits there? I need to get more of a plan going first and we can talk about working together later. I’m in a positive mindset and am rested and ready to let this thing rip. I hope I can keep it under control.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dobie Maxwell Is Dead

Saturday October 27th, 2007 - Brookfield, WI

Dobie Maxwell’s career as a standup comic died today. It’s over and I’m not sad at all. It’s lasted over twenty years and I have toured North America countless times and met a ton of fantastic people. Maybe died isn’t the correct word. Graduated is more like it. It’s been an amazing ride. I’ve appeared in comedy clubs and colleges and been on radio and TV and gotten to meet and work with a lot of celebrities along the way. And I ate good.

This weekend at the Majestic Theatre in Brookfield was the perfect way to go out. I’ve been in a lot of nice places (and a lot more not so nice ones) and this one is right up there. The facility was world class, the staff was unbelievably friendly and I got to work with my friend Tim Marszalkowski who I’ve been friends with for over twenty years. What a blast!

I had friends come out to support me all weekend and every one of them was wonderful. There are almost too many to list. The crew from the Tom Green Show came out on both weekend nights to see me and even brought me a special gift pack after tonight’s show. It was very kind of them to do that and I am blown away by it. Tom was a good friend and a class act onstage and off and I try to be the same whenever I can. Getting it back is great.

Neal and Terri Sorenson showed up as they always do when I’m in town. They’ve been just wonderful for years and always support me and I appreciate it. Marty Coello brought a clan of people out to the show and was also very supportive. Marty is the guy who was the ring announcer for the pro wrestling federation I used to work with and eventually did own for a while. If it wasn’t for him taking a night off and letting me fill in I wouldn’t have had a chance to have a lot of fun for a lot of years. All these years later he paid to see me.

One after the other people like that either came to see a show this week or called on the phone or came to the hotel to see me and I felt very honored by every one of them. I got a lump in my throat every time the phone would ring and it was someone else who wanted a lunch or a dinner or some time to gush over how well I’ve done and how happy they are it finally happened. In my mind it really didn’t happen but if they think so then I guess it did.

These last couple of weeks have been amazing. It’s more off stage than on but I can feel the acceptance from the people I grew up with. Finally. It may have always been there but I could never feel it. Now I can. I don’t know what made me finally be able to feel it but it feels REALLY good knowing that there are a bunch of people who think I’ve done well in my life and looking at where I came from I guess I did. My perspective is really changing.

Comedians get into the business for many reasons but most of us are REALLY damaged and screwed up even more than ‘regular’ people. I talk about it freely and don’t deny I am a raging wacko and never did. All of us in life need approval but comedians even more so.

Most of it is because we never got it from Mommy or Daddy or as in my case both. It’s all we really want but most of us never get. Even when the audience is laughing and happy we’re miserable because we can’t get that one crucial hug from the ones we want it from.

Maybe it was because my father died this year or I have finally written off my mother for not contacting me in almost fifteen years but I can finally start to see that I have made a lot of people laugh and a lot of people are proud of me. I never could see that before. I was in my own world dealing with a lot of things that were bouncing around in my vacuous skull but now I am starting to see that I may have had at least a small impact on a few people.

Seeing all those people show up at the shows this week that were in such a classy venue made me FINALLY see that I am a success after all. It might not be the exact definition of what other people think success is but they’re not the ones that matter here. I decide that.

When I started out as a twenty year old clueless confused hurting punk I said that what I wanted to do was become a strong headliner and work in top comedy clubs in big cities all over America and be good at what I did. I had no idea if I had a chance but I know I had a dream and I would have given up any inner organ I could survive without to make it come true. If you’d have told me then I would be where I am today I would have sold my soul.

I’m very glad I didn’t. I did exactly what I set out to do but there sure have been a lot of horrific lumps and bumps along the way that I didn’t plan on. It’s amazing that I’ve gotten as far as I have and I can honestly say that I earned my position exactly where I am. All of my mistakes as bad as they were didn’t blow me out of the game. I’m still around to play.

But as of today I’m hanging up my active title of ‘standup comedian’. High school has a graduation and no matter how fun or not fun it was it’s OVER. Sports players also hang it up at some point and even if they come back as a coach or broadcaster they are still done.

As a standup comedian I am DONE. I did what I set out to do and it was a lot of fun. It maybe didn’t get me exactly what I pictured when I started but maybe my picture wasn’t a clear one for whatever reason. People make the major leagues that aren’t stars but they’ve been able to feed their families and have a few moments in the sun. VERY few are stars.

The same holds true in any kind of entertainment. That’s why stars make so much cash. There just aren’t that many of them. I was never a star but I was in the game and I worked with some stars and I wasn’t out of their league with ability. I hung with all the big boys.

What I am graduating to is my next level. Standup comedy is wonderful but it’s a young man’s game and it’s passing me by. I’m not going to get that sitcom any time soon and the clubs aren’t what I need or want to be doing. I need to focus on my business idea and have that blossom in the next year or so because that will help me have financial security. I have never had that in the past and at my age I can’t keep driving 600 miles for $200. I’m done.

It doesn’t mean I don’t have to stop doing shows though. I love being on stage and will always love it. I am booked in the next few months and will enjoy those shows but I know in my mind I am now officially a business man and entrepreneur first and a comic second. I have NEVER said that in my adult life before and it’s a little scary but deep down I realize I need to get that straight in my head. Baseball players retire, so do models. It’s my turn.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Playing The Palladium

Thursday October 25th, 2007 - Brookfield, WI

I’ve worked some nice places in my day but I think the one this week tops them all. That includes Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and any comedy club I’ve ever played. This joint is a dream gig and I wish I could record an HBO special here. I’m working at the Palladium at the Majestic Theatre in Brookfield, WI. They opened in May and started comedy shows to complement the movie theatres and the first weekend they booked Kathleen Madigan from Last Comic Standing. I’m friends with Kathleen and she loved it here. Now I can see why.

It’s probably the nicest movie theatre I’ve ever seen and to have a separate live theatre is a brilliant idea in my opinion. I heard they open it up for Packer games and sell lots of beer and food and that’s a fantastic idea. Whoever is behind this is very smart and I hope we’re able to put some fannies in seats. That’s what it’s all about no matter how nice a joint it is.

The business is what matters though. I need to learn how to pack a room but it may be a bit difficult this week. It’s technically Halloween weekend and that’s never a good one for comedy as a rule. People go to costume parties but usually not comedy shows. Once again Mr. Lucky’s timing kicks in but there’s nothing I can do but give my absolute best shows.

I’m having a little bit of an issue from my past as well. I have had some problems with a couple of morning radio shows here that have been on the air forever. When I was back at WQFM in 1991 I used to snipe them on the air all the time like a bad guy wrestler. I don’t have anything personal against those guys and never did but they didn’t feel the same way. They have NEVER had me on their shows and said they never will. I think it’s a bit much to hold a grudge that long and I truly am sorry if I offended them but I’m still on the outs.

I think everyone has burned a bridge or two in life and it’s how one reacts to it that tells what kind of character is inside. My grandfather always told me when I made a mistake to claim it and go to any person that was affected by it and sincerely apologize. If they don’t accept it then it’s not my problem anymore. It’s not easy to admit you’re wrong but I do.

That’s a great lesson to learn in life and I’m getting a lot better at it only because I have made so many mistakes in mine. The problems I had with Dave Luczak at WKLH were an eternity ago and the ones I had with Bob and Brian from Lazer 103 were even longer than that ago. I have tried many times to at least end any hostilities but they won’t accept it and none of them will have me on the air when I’m in town. They’ll go out of their way not to.

I was supposed to be on Dave and Carole’s morning show this week because the theatre is running ads on the station but got turned down because ‘they don’t have enough room’. Right. I know that’s not the case but to fight it won’t change the fact they can’t stand me. I would go on the air and apologize for anything I did that made them angry years ago and be the nicest guy in the world and that would be it. I could add to their show and be funny and it wouldn’t do anybody any harm. Hey, they still have jobs. I got gassed back in 1991. That’s not the issue I guess and no matter how long ago it was they haven’t forgotten. I’m sorry it’s got to be that way but it wasn’t my call. I wish the whole thing could blow over.

But this is only one town and I don’t have problems like this anywhere else. I will just be happy to be working this week and not wish anything bad on anyone. If I see Dave Luczak or Bob and Brian I will go up to them and look them right in the eye and apologize for any wrong they think I did to them and stick out my hand for them to shake and try to make it right. I already have tried to make it right but they all blew me off so what else can I do?

I can focus on what’s going well and that’s a lot of things. I got an email out of the blue to call my friend Jim Mickelson out in Salt Lake City. Jim worked as music director at the radio station I worked at and for years we’ve talked about starting a comedy record label. I think I could put together some quality recordings from obscure comedians the public is not familiar with - myself being one of them. I know I could hand pick some funny talent.

Well lo and behold Jim was talking to a friend of his who is in the music business and he said ‘Remember that idea you had to start a comedy record label? I think I’ve found a guy you can sign as your first act. I heard him on XM Radio and his name is Dobie Maxwell.’

I laughed when I heard it and Jim said he did too. The guy laughed when Jim told him I was the other guy who wanted to start the label with him. I know I am in rotation on XM because many people have told me they heard me there but this could lead to good things. The guy is apparently high up in the music business and wants me to send him a package.

Whether anything comes of this or not it’s still a reminder of how things can happen in a blink of an eye. All I need is ONE person to like what I do that has power and I can be on my way. I’ve been searching for that person my whole life and haven’t found him or her as of yet so maybe this is it. Or if not this guy maybe he knows the person I’m searching for.

I will be ready when my break comes. It HAS to be getting close by now doesn’t it? I’ve been slugging it out for so long that I feel like something has to happen soon but I guess it doesn’t. I am not a typical case scenario in a lot of ways so we’ll see how it all turns out. I can only control certain things and in recent years I’ve been making some good decisions.

Tonight’s show went very well. I’m working with my old friend Tim Marszalkowski for another week of ‘Pola-palooza’ shows. I say he’s Polish and I’m bipolar so that’s where we came up with the name. Actually the booker wanted us to do a theme show because it would look good in the flyer and asked if I knew any Polish comedians. Alas, here we are.

Tim brought his family out and they all had a great time. His brother and mom and two of his daughters were there and at the end of the show I paid a special tribute to Tim’s dad who passed away recently. His dad’s dream was to see Tim and me play at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas but never got the chance. When I got to play Caesars last year I dedicated it to Tim’s dad and his whole family heard about it and they were thrilled. I love doing that.

This will be a fun weekend. I’ve got a lot of people coming out to see me and I will give it all I can and let it rip on stage. I will keep doing what I’m doing and I know inside I am not the evil ogre Dave Luczak or Bob and Brian think I am. Can’t we all just get along?

Late For LaCrosse

Wednesday October 24th, 2007 - LaCrosse, WI

Today was a lot of things from a lot of different areas of life. I don’t think I can take too many days like this because I am about ready to nod off at the keyboard from just this one. I ended up leaving Nashville at around midnight and of course the rain started pounding as I started driving and it made it very difficult to make any time. It made the drive harder.

I stopped at a Waffle House in Bowling Green, KY and there was a guy playing a guitar and singing gospel music. He was with another guy who came over and politely asked if it would be ok if he played while I ate. There wasn’t anyone else in there but the staff so we all listened to him strum the guitar and warble a few tunes. Actually he was pretty good. It was a surreal scene that makes stopping at a Waffle House in Kentucky at 2am worth it.

Seymour, IN was as far as I could make it without killing myself. I was nodding out a lot and more than once I found myself on the shoulder or headed toward a guard rail. I should be dead by all accounts from all the long trips in the rain like this I’ve made in my life but I somehow have avoided meeting my fate snoring. I came close a few times so I decided not to tempt the fates anymore and I got a room at 4am. I slept until 9:30 and started driving.

That was the worst use of a hotel room I’ve made in years but I needed to sleep and that was all the time I had so I had to eat the cost. Sleeping in the pouring rain in my car at the rest area isn’t my idea of fun anymore. There was a time when I would have done that and not even thought about wasting the money on a hotel but this isn’t that time. I had $40.

I made it to Indianapolis for a lunch with my friend Greg Phelps. Greg is having a tough time with a business partner of his too who drained a big chunk of money out of their joint account and we talked about how much that hurts. He lost more money than I did and has to deal with the guy in court suing HIM so he’s got it worse but my situation is still ugly. I will get over it though and am already just thinking of ways to move past it and roll ahead.

There was a super hot waitress at the restaurant we went to who was in her late 30s. We hit it off really well for some reason and that made a delicious lunch even better. She was a sweetheart and very good looking and had no rings anywhere in sight. I didn’t even let her know I was a comedian but she still said ‘I just LOVE funny guys like you.’ I am on a hot streak with women lately and I can feel it. I’m feeling a lot of flirting and I’m not upset. It goes in cycles and the tide is definitely IN. She waved and blew me a kiss as I walked out.

The long drive was now ahead of me and I knew it. I bought a book on CD of the Kevin Trudeau book ‘Health Secrets THEY Don’t Want You To Know About’ just because that was what caught my eye at the bookstore. It was a twelve CD package and I had a healthy drive so I figured I’d try to think about my health while I made it. Also I was sick of radio.

Kevin Trudeau has always intrigued me. He’s my age and has always been a hustler with various products. He had a shady reputation for a while and did prison time but he has had a lot of success with his books and infomercials. I bought the program to learn from him.

I was pretty disappointed with the whole package. I bought a copy of his book both new and then found another copy at a thrift store for three bucks. He did write and publish it all himself and that’s not easy to do. I always respect people who can pull off a project from a single idea and he has really parlayed his entrepreneurial skills into a self made empire. I’m hoping to do the same with my business idea and I will use Kevin Trudeau as an influence. He lives in Chicago from what I’ve been told so maybe I can even meet him live some day.

The sinking feeling of being late and not being able to do anything about it started to get sinkier as I weaved in and out of construction barrels and slow moving trucks. I humped it as hard as I could and had the Mitsubishi red lining at about 95 miles an hour. That’s not a very smart thing to do but I was late and I needed to make up some time. I am an imbecile for doing it because I could have easily wound up dead or with a gigantic speeding ticket.

All of this brought back memories as I was racing through the slalom on I-90. It’s been a long time since I had to drive like a total maniac to barely make the gig but not too long that I can’t remember that feeling. I can’t stand it and I don’t ever want to feel it again but I always say that until the next time when I’m late. This just goes with a life on the road.

The name of the place tonight was ‘Loon’s In LaCrosse’ and I’ve been here a few times before. The actual setup is very nice but I’ve usually had rough shows here. Either I had a weak opener or a young rowdy college crowd or something came up that I wasn’t fond of. It wasn’t that way tonight though. The audience was strong and nobody cared I was late.

The opening act was a nice guy out of Milwaukee named James Ervan Berry. He uses a middle name because there’s another guy named James Berry apparently. The other James Berry is white and the one I worked with is black and I thought it would be funny to make a show with both of them performing together. They could maybe even team up for some kind of project like a CD or DVD and that might get some attention. I don’t have a clue if the other guy is funny but the one I worked with definitely is. I’d work with him anytime.

I actually had a very good show. I was so tired from driving all I thought about was my act. I lost track of time and ended up doing a little over an hour. I hadn’t planned on that. I also didn’t plan on two hot blondies coming up to me after the show and inviting me to a college bar down the street. I might have gone but I was too tired from driving 864 miles. I don’t particularly enjoy bars in general much less college bars but these two would have made it worth the trip even if it was just to shoot some pool or something. But I was beat.

A lot of people came up and shook my hand after the show and said things like ‘You’re the BEST comedian I’ve ever seen.’ That’s very flattering to hear that and I am always as nice as I can be but then I looked at the list of who’s coming and I knew that I should be.

I really need to get my business idea going because it scared me to look at those guys on the list. They’re all older than me and not really going anywhere and I don’t want to ride a train that’s headed for Oblivion City. They’re not bad people at all but working these gigs has a shelf life and my expiration date is coming up soon. Still, it was fun one more time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nashville And Back.

Tuesday October 23rd, 2007 - Nashville, TN
Hard drive today even though it was only 330 miles from Indianapolis to Nashville. Rain was beating down the whole way and right outside of Bowling Green, KY there was a bad accident that closed the road for about an hour and a half. All we could do is sit inside our cars and wait for it to be cleared off. I tried to read a little but it was the kind of rain that’s also humid and it fogged up the windows and made it unpleasant all around. I tried to let a little breeze in by cracking a window and that’s the way the rain was blowing so the inside of the car was soaked in about thirty seconds. Then I’d roll it up and it would steam up all over again. An hour and a half of that wasn’t fun but there was nothing I could do but sit.
I am in Nashville for a corporate show tonight at the downtown Nashville Hilton. It was for a group of used tractor sales people for Caterpillar who were from all over America. It was a little older crowd and there were several hundred of them in a huge banquet room. I was hired to do thirty minutes after dinner and between their charity auction. The cocktails had been flowing before I got there and I could see that I would have my hands full of fun.
The guy in charge was very nice but obviously not a speaker so his intro was shaky and I had to perform on a small stage with a podium on it which blocked most of it. I did have a wireless mike with a decent sound system so that made it a little easier but it was still a big challenge to make these people laugh without offending anyone. There is a very fine line.
I did my time and actually got some nice big pops at times but other times they stared at me like I was speaking Portuguese with a stutter. I have enough experience to switch it up so I did and I also commented that this was difficult and if anyone else wanted to try it I’d gladly sell tractors for a day and that got them back and I closed very strong. My usual bit about stupid people breeding too much got a few gasps so I backed up and toned it down a bit so I wouldn’t scare them. That’s a delicate situation and I handled it about as well as anyone could have because had I lost them that might have been it for the night. Instead I was able to back off a little and be cutesy for a few minutes and then I hit the big closer in a much less intense way than I usually do. Today was just not the audience that liked that.
The guy in charge was supposed to pay me right after the show but he was busy with the charity auction and I didn’t want to bother him. I was off by 8:30 and it was almost 10:00 and they still weren’t done with the auction so I left and will get paid by mail by Zanies. It was uncomfortable having to wait as long as I did but I know the guy didn’t mean harm. It was a busy night for him and they were raising big money for the charity and I understand.
I do need to get paid though and the club will work it out I’m sure. Now I’m back in the apartment where I showered before the show and will get in the car and start heading back north because I have to be in LaCrosse, WI tomorrow night. I know it will be a hellacious drive and I’m out of my driving groove so I need to get started tonight even though it will cost me another hotel room when I could have stayed here in Nashville for free. There was a local woman who worked for the charity who was all over me after the show and invited me to a party but I have to get on the road. She thinks I blew her off but I totally didn’t.

Decisions, Decisions

Monday October 22nd, 2007 - Indianapolis, IN

What a difference a couple of days make. Last week I spent three nights in one of THE swankest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. It was a Hilton and I had a fourth floor view of Lake Mendota in Madison. It was beautiful and classy and everyone I talked to called me ‘sir’.

Tonight I’m staying in a joint called ‘Dollar Inn’ in Indianapolis where I’m listening to a couple have a screaming match outside my door in the parking lot as I type this. They both have had a few drinks and are swearing at each other at the top of their lungs. It makes me feel like I’m back in my childhood again listening to my old man’s biker cronies squabble.

The room in Madison didn’t cost me a penny other than ten bucks to have internet for a 24 hour period. This room cost me $32.28 with tax and that’s why I took it. I like to cut a corner when I can and this is one of those nights. It’s raining outside and I needed to leave the highway before another methed up trucker passed me at 88 mph like I was parked and sprayed water puddles on to my car to keep me awake. There isn’t any high speed internet and I can’t use dialup because the phone jack is from 1952. And nobody here calls me sir.

This is part of the comedy business that most people can’t take. There is a constant flow of dramatic change and very often things go from one extreme to another without warning and it can be jarring. One night the hotel is great and the gig is horrible. The next night the gig is great and I’m sleeping on someone’s couch. It’s been years and years of that and by now the one thing I can expect is that I won’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

I chose to be in this dumpy hotel tonight just to save a couple of bucks. I am on my way to Nashville to do a private show tomorrow and had a class to teach at Zanies followed by a Chicago Style Standups show. Rather than drive all the way back home through the bad weather and road construction only to have to turn right around and back south just a few hours later it was smart to leave after the show and see how far I could drive in the rain.

Earlier today I looked at an apartment right around the block from Zanies. It’s a little bit more than I want to pay but the location is perfect. My monthly bills would double and I’d have a year lease but I really think I need to do it. It’s a very clean studio apartment on the first floor and it’s the same building where Zanies has a unit where they put up the comics.

I’m not thrilled about having to move again and I guess I don’t but where I am is out of touch with everything. It is cheap and quiet and there is no lease and all of that is a plus so now I have to make a choice. If I do move I’d have to do it quickly and it would cost me a chunk of my savings for the security deposit and all that. My parking would be extra and it would tie me down to Chicago for at least a year. Of course if I took it I’d get some major opportunity in another town and get stuck eating the lease and that’s what concerns me.

I’ve got a couple of days to think about it so I’ll run all the options through my head and then make a choice one way or another. It’s not a matter of life or death and if I stayed up in Hooterville a few more months I would be able to save some cash and that’s never bad.
Things are really changing quickly. I had my meeting today with Jeff Schwartz about my business idea. He and Spike Manton and their promotions guy Ken took me out for a meal and we discussed the idea a little more in depth. They said that the people they told all had the same reaction - silly laughter. It’s a gimmick and a third grade level joke and when I’m able to write about it in detail I certainly will. For now I need to still keep it quiet until I’m protected with a copyright and all that kind of stuff. The gimmick is what is going to make this thing work and I need to be careful who hears it before I can get it running for myself.

The fact that Jeff liked it so much says a ton. He has been around Chicago radio for a lot of years and he said at lunch today that he knew my old boss at the Loop Greg Solk when he started out as a teenage intern. Greg is about my age and now a top radio poobah. Jeff has a ton of media connections and that’s what I need to get this thing started correctly.

Now I’ve got more decisions to make. After lunch we went back to the office and they presented me with an offer to partner up on the project. I would be in charge of creativity and product design and they would up front my costs of a website and making products. I would be giving up a chunk of a company that hasn’t even made it’s first dollar but I need to team up with someone who has media connections to get some exposure from the start.

This is a tricky situation. Could I say no and own it all myself? Yes. Would that be smart in the long run? Probably. But in the short run I don’t have to put up a nickel of my money to get it started. All the business books I’ve read say that’s the dream situation to look for. I am not greedy but I don’t want to just give away something now I will really regret later.

I have a good gut feeling about the people involved. They are all radio veterans and are not beginners in either promoting things or being in business. Spike has a corporation for a play he and another comedian Tim Clue wrote and produced. I worked with him for a year at the Loop and we went through some very stressful times together and he didn’t crack. I thought we would end up having a falling out but that never happened. He’s a super guy.

That alone makes me feel good about this partnership idea but what if Spike has a falling out with the other two guys and I’m left alone with them? There are too many scenarios to count and the one that will actually happen will be one nobody thinks of so what I need to do is talk to a lawyer before I sign any agreements. Jeff encouraged that and I don’t feel a high pressure sales pitch from him at all. He told me he’s interested in teaming up and that alone made me feel pretty good because it lets me know my idea is as solid as I felt it was.

The main thing this is going to be is a mail order business that sells funny products. I am ok with having to split it with someone else if I can be the creative entity churning out fun ideas. Their job is taking care of the marketing and website and fulfillment of orders which is how it will work according to the contract I read today. All of it is up for negotiation.

I could be making the dumbest mistake of a long line of dumb mistakes I’ve made in my life but it could also be the best opportunity I’ve ever had. I am going to think it through a little more and then make my decision based on my research and gut feeling. Here we go.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Radio And Cousin Susie

Sunday October 21st, 2007 - Milwaukee, WI/Lake Villa, IL

Another busy day that was supposed to be a day off. I am hitting it pretty hard and I am going to be working the next seven days straight. Today was going to be a rest up day but I never got around to it. There are too many things going on and I am feeling overwhelm.

I was going to drive back from Madison last night but I was in a great hotel so why take a chance of plowing into a deer or a drunk driver plowing into me at 3am? I decided to get a good night’s sleep but that didn’t work out. I had a creative surge after the show and it’s impossible for me to sleep when that happens. I have to stay up and get it out of my head.

When I finally drifted off to sleep I was really tired but at least I was able to squeeze the ideas out of my head like a toothpaste tube. I had some ideas for how to market my online class and I think it could work. I love to play with stuff like this but it keeps me up a lot. I get lost in it and totally focus and before I know it the sun is coming up. But I love it all.

The weather was again beyond perfect as I drove to Milwaukee after checking out right at noon. The colors are starting to change and it was a gorgeous drive. My Mitsubishi is in perfect running order and it purred the whole way as I cranked up a bunch of cds I haven’t listened to in a while and it was a relaxing hour to sit and reflect on where I am in my life. I must have made that drive a thousand times in my life but today it was a pleasant cruise.

I can feel something good in my future with my business idea. It just feels right and I can sense that I made the right choice. I really did want that radio job at the Loop but this is an opportunity that will pay off a lot more in the long run. Radio is just a quick fix for money. It’s such a volatile minefield and people get blown up every day. I’m sick of hearing of it.

In the newspaper this morning I read that the Michael and CV morning show got fired at WRIT in Milwaukee. I appeared on that show several times and really liked them both. I’ll never understand the logic of radio. They had solid ratings and I’m sure they weren’t very expensive but it said they got fired due to ‘budget cuts’. Hey, that’s not their fault. Sales is supposed to be SELLING the show so they can keep doing it. I’m sure they’re not thrilled with the news and I know CV just got married recently too. The whole thing just reeks.

Part of me really feels for them both because I’ve been in that position myself five times. FIVE TIMES I’ve had my world come crumbling down in radio and two other ones I quit before they could blow me out the door just for pride’s sake. I knew it was coming so the best revenge I could get was to leave and go back to comedy before they torched me first.

It still amazes me how insane the radio business is. Michael and CV were really nice and they got along off the air and all they were doing was trying to feed their families. They’re out on the street because someone in a suit decided a ‘budget cut’ is necessary and now it all ends abruptly. They had to clean out their cubicles and turn in their ID cards and it’s as tough they never existed. They’re probably off the website too. I’ve been through it ALL.

If I had their home numbers I’d call them and take both of them out to lunch and I’d buy.
But even after all that there is still something about radio that keeps bringing us all back. I got a call today from my friend Cara who did middays when I was at the Loop. She is at WTMX ‘The Mix’ in Chicago part time and sounds as smooth as ever. She’s way talented and besides that she couldn’t be any nicer. She’s even more of a ‘radio lifer’ than most.

I mean that in a very good way. I have never heard Cara say anything bad about anyone at all much less anyone in radio. I bet if she was shown a picture of Saddam Hussein she’d say ‘Well, he certainly did have a nice full head of hair.’ She’d find something nice to say.

Cara also works harder than just about anyone I’ve ever met in radio. She’s got a super podcast called “Cara’s Basement” where she interviews entertainment people. Most of her guests are music people but not all. I was her first ‘guinea pig’ and I was flattered that she asked me. She’s a wonderful interviewer and if you want to check out all of her programs I bet you’d enjoy every one. Her website is www.carasbasement.com. Tell her I sent you.

What I respect most about Cara is that she HUSTLES. She has a husband and two kids but still takes time to do her interviews and work on her site and also still be on the air as much as humanly possible. I don’t think I’d give radio that much effort but she does and I couldn’t respect her more for it. Plus, she truly is a talent. She’s got a wonderful voice.

People like Cara and all the people I worked with at the Loop and even the other places I worked over the years would be fun to use on my commercials. I want to make a bunch of funny radio and TV spots to promote my business and having an arsenal of radio talent will make it that much more fun. Now it’s up to me to organize it all and bring this to life.

I had to stop thinking about it for a while as I stopped in Milwaukee to perform for my cousin Susie’s 60th birthday party. She sent me an email a few weeks ago asking if I would do a birthday party. Normally I don’t like birthday parties and she didn’t tell me it was my second cousin. Her father and my grandfather were brothers. I remember her from when I was a kid and she was always funny to me back then. When I found out it was her I had to say yes. She looks at me as a big star and was thrilled that I would come to her big party.

There is dysfunction in every family to the point where that word doesn’t even make any impact anymore but ours is right up there with anyone. Susie has had her own pile of dung to push like a dung beetle in her life but she has a good heart and always did. I couldn’t be a lout and say no and of course I couldn’t charge her either. I did about twenty minutes to an odd crowd of older people and kids and distant relatives I didn’t know at all. I hated it.

Those kinds of situations are always uncomfortable and not at all fun but I wasn’t there for me. I was there to show Cousin Susie that everyone in the family isn’t a lowlife skunk. She was ecstatic when I walked in the door and I really tried my best to at least get a few laughs from as difficult of a situation as there could possibly be. I don’t know how I did. I did hear a few laughs but I could also feel the blank stares from people who were there to eat pizza and sing karaoke. I kept it short so as not to infuriate them any more but I didn’t want to shortchange Susie either. She asked me and I appreciate that. What a busy day.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chasing A New Dream

Saturday October 20th, 2007 - Madison, WI

Productive day today. I stayed in my room most of the day and worked on my business plan. The weather was beautiful and I probably should have gotten out and enjoyed it but I was having too much fun doing what I was doing so I went with that instead. I really love this idea and I’m finding myself getting lost in it but I don’t mind at all. It’s a labor of love.

What I enjoy so much about it is that it’s starting totally from ground zero. When I began as a comedian at least there was somewhat of a set route to take. I had to rise through the ranks with other comedians who were doing the same and there were rules to follow. I did follow some of them but I was always out there doing my own thing. I discovered a lot of detours on the road and took a few of them. Radio was one and even though I got burned I still learned a lot. I also booked pro wrestling shows and that was another learning time.

I love learning but sometimes it can be VERY painful. I have a lifetime of education and this business idea will incorporate all of that into one big idea. I had to come up the ranks as a comedian and follow set standards but with this I am totally on my own and in charge. I don’t think I was ready to be in charge before and that’s why I made so many mistakes. I have learned my lessons well and with this project I feel that I am ready to get my payoff.

There are a lot of things to do and that’s what I was working on all day. I’ll need to find a lawyer and an accountant and start everything off correctly. I will get a tax number and a business bank account and stationery and business cards and a website and everything else that goes with starting a real live functioning business. That will keep me busy for a while.

The main thing is to keep immaculate records and not have tax problems. Ever. I learned my lesson over the years and had real problems with that as a lot of comedians have. Many entertainers and Americans in general have had tax problems. I am not going to let that be me ever again. It’s not that difficult to keep good records and I have learned the hard way that it’s more than worth the little time it takes to organize them. That’s a big advantage a lot of startup businesses don’t have. I had my lifetime in comedy to prepare for all of this.

What I am relying on with this business idea is my creativity and showmanship combined with salesmanship and marketing savvy. I am going to have a mail order business that sells humorous products and I am going to market it better than anyone else. There are a lot of mail order businesses and there are a lot of businesses that sell humorous products. I think there are even other mail order businesses that sell humorous products but I truly believe I can carve out a niche for myself and make a great living. I am willing to make my mistakes starting out as all businesses do but I’ve already made a lot of the big stupid ones already.

I did a lot of dumb things coming up the ladder as a comedian and that’s all part of life. It would be different if I had it to do all over again but in comedy I don’t. In mail order I do. If I do this right I’ll come out of nowhere and turn some heads and people will ask me ‘What planet did YOU come from?’ The only one who isn’t going to be surprised is me. I will come out of nowhere and in what seems like no time turn this idea into a BIG winner.

Mind you I’m saying all this not to be cocky but to put it out there in the universe so I’m able to have a point of reference to come back to later. I’m totally in sync with everything I need to be in sync with and I feel fantastic. I’m not depressed and I know this will work.
I just know it. I can’t say how I know it but I do. This is an inner feeling of radiance that I can feel as a tangible thing and I am following my inner voice or instinct or anything else it may be called. I’ve been out of sync many times and I know that feeling but this isn’t it.

My grandpa used to talk about ‘maximum effort’. He said very few people give it and it is what is required for greatness. Most people don’t care about greatness. They just try to find the easy way out and that’s human nature to a certain degree. Then there are the nuts that have to climb Mt. Everest ‘because it’s there’. Those are the ones who want greatness and I am discovering I am one of those nuts. I always knew I was a wack job but now I’m at least finding out what KIND. I’m totally finding myself with this and I’m having a blast.

Vince Lombardi talked a lot about giving maximum effort. I don’t know if that’s exactly what he called it but he preached about giving one’s all. ‘Commitment to excellence’ is the phrase I think he used and Al Davis stole it and used it for the Oakland Raiders. I have the same desire to make my business great but I am not going to be a perfectionist. That’s not realistic. I am an ‘improvementist’. I want to keep getting better as long as I am working.

This is a business where I will be able to keep improving and give maximum effort. It’s a one man operation for now and whether I hire any employees or not I will be in charge. At any given time there will be only ONE person that has the final say. Me. If it’s a success or a failure will ultimately fall in my lap and that challenge is what fuels my inner fire to do it.

It’s what the American dream is all about. Here’s a kid who came from nowhere and has an idea and turns it into a multimillion dollar entity. People want to hear that story and the media wants to report it. I want to be the one to create the story so everyone is happy. I’m on my own schedule and there aren’t any manuals for it though. I am playing it all by ear.

That’s what makes this so much fun. I was reading all day and surfing the net and seeing what other people are doing and I am not out of anyone’s league. I am excited and will be even more excited as I get it up and running. Being a comedian is still fun but driving all of those miles for low money isn’t. This will be a new challenge and I can feel the exuberance return as I see all the new things I’ll have to do to create this and make it into a real entity.

Comedy work is still coming in too. This week in Madison was out of the blue and I had fun working with my friend ‘Polish Thunder’ Tim Marszalkowski. The staff liked us and it was a pleasure to work with all of them even though crowds weren’t very big. That wasn’t our fault and they all know that. We did the job and the shows were actually a lot of fun.

This is how I have pictured that life is supposed to go. Things are working out and I’m a lot less stressed when that happens. Why they have been so hectic is a mystery to me but it seems to be calming down and I’m thrilled about that. I can feel that I’m on the right path.

Ella's With The Fellas

Friday October 19th, 2007 - Madison, WI

Any time I’m near Madison I try to find time to stop at Ella’s Deli on East Washington Street. I love the whole vibe of that place and I was able to turn Tim Marszalkowski and his son T.J. on to it too. They’d both never been there before and their eyes got wide and smiles came on their faces as we walked through the door. That’s the same look I had too.

I don’t even remember the first time I visited Ella’s but it was many years ago. They are a Madison tradition and it’s been open for thirty years. It looks older because the toys that are all over the place are much older than thirty. Most of them are functioning antiques. It is a museum of old gadgets, toys, gimmicks, machines, gizmos and they all are amazing to watch while waiting for a meal and while eating one too. I never get sick of going there.

Tim and T.J. were like little kids as they walked around and stared at everything. There is a flying mechanical Superman made out of paper Mache that flies back and forth on the ceiling along with a Popeye on a rocket. There are mechanical birds and a flying saucer in the corner and all kinds of amazing old tin that is in working order all these years later. It’s a place where nobody can be in a bad mood and I came here to take notes for my business.

My friend Max opened ice cream stores because he said ‘Nobody is in a bad mood when they eat ice cream.’ The same holds true here. Ella’s has lots of ice cream and great burger platters with crinkle cut fries and corned beef and pastrami and chicken soup with noodles and matzoh balls as big as I’ve ever seen. This place is a one stop feel good shop. I love it.

That’s how I want my business idea to work out. It’s going to be a website that sells fun and funny things at first and maybe a store eventually if I do indeed actually need one. I’m going to focus on marketing it better than anyone else and make it entertaining for people. Ella’s Deli isn’t the only restaurant in town but it is the most unique. I want to do that too.

It’s not going to be easy and I know it but it’s definitely something to shoot for. I will be getting older anyway so why not sink my entire creative energy into this and make it work like I know I can? There’s just something about this project that makes me feel good. I am confident but not cocky and I know I’m on the right track. Coming to Ella’s was a treat.

Tonight’s shows were nothing to remember either good or bad. They were just there. It doesn’t matter anyway as this isn’t a career maker. The staff is unbelievably friendly and it is a big deal to them to have live comedians to talk to. They are used to movies and that’s a whole different thing. It’s fun to be treated like a celebrity and Tim and I both play it up to the hilt. Not the celebrity part, but being nice to the staff. He understands it because of his background in the bar business and in sales. What we are doing this week is sales, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter how funny we are this weekend or even if we’re funny at all.

What matters is that we are nice guys and professional and fun to hang out with. We’re not drunks and we’re easy to talk to and approachable and I can tell the staff thinks we are cool. Whether we are or not they THINK we are. That’s the key. The game is ours to win.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Madison Politics

Thursday October 18th, 2007 - Madison, WI

Playing politics all over the place. I’m in Madison this week working the Westgate Mall Theatres. The gig is in a movie theatre which has been converted into a live venue which is actually pretty good. The sound system is nice and the stage is decent and for years I have always thought this would be a good idea. If movie theatres could sell this concept to their customers for even a couple shows a week I think it could be a win/win for everybody.

The gig was booked by my friend Joe San Felippo who is also from Milwaukee. He now lives in Florida and has a bunch of comedy rooms all over the country. Some are in hotels, some are in casinos, and now he’s trying movie theatres. Joe is a great guy and has always taken care of me. I like working for him and I also like him personally so I try to be loyal.

That’s where the tricky part comes in. There is another club in town called The Comedy Club On State Street and I used to work there until I got banned for chasing a big gang of drunken hecklers out of the club the last two times I worked there. I feel bad about it but I had to defend myself and that’s a place where they just will not patrol the room. It’s crazy.

The owner of that club is a guy named Gus Paras who is also a wonderful person and as classy as they come. He’s a restaurant guy and is great at what he does but he inherited his comedy club when the previous owners leaked out on the lease. He decided to keep going and has actually done pretty well. His wife is a sweetheart too and they are just good folks all around. I loved working for them and didn’t even know I had been banned until I heard it from the booking agency out of Grand Rapids, MI. I couldn’t believe they banned me.

The politics of show business is as bad or worse than high school. There can be a whole lot of ‘He said, She said’ and hearsay and sometimes rumors morph into truths without the actual parties involved ever talking it out. That’s what happened in this situation. I should have talked to Gus in person when I found out I was banned and straightened it out then.

For whatever reason I didn’t do it. I like working Madison because the good crowds are FANTASTIC but the bad ones are horrendous and there usually isn’t any middle ground. I have always done well here when the audiences were good because they’re hip and smart. I usually eat it when they’re the drunk stupid college mooks who only want to get vomity drunk and not pay attention. Those are the times when I had to go nuts to defend myself.

It could have been the club manager that told the booker he didn’t want me back. It may have been Gus himself or his wife or his daughter who also works as a waitress there. I am really not sure who did it and I was hurt when I heard it and chose not to pursue the issue. Then this opportunity came up this week so I jumped at it and that’s not good politics. It’s probably going to make some ripples at the other club which will get back to the booker in Michigan and he’s got a lot of work around the Midwest. I’m not currently booked in any of those places and working here could seriously affect it. I am in a very delicate situation. What to do? I don’t really know. I worked for Gus first but I’ve known Joe longer. I don’t want to make anyone angry but if I’m banned at the other place I should take the work.

That would make sense on paper but it doesn’t always work out like that. Someone may see that I’m working the other room in town and it could get back to someone else and I’ll hear about it after the fact and get more work taken away because I wasn’t a good soldier. There is a lot of one way loyalty in comedy and I never thought it was fair. But it is reality so I have to play the game the best way I can. The best way to please nobody is to try and please everybody so I’ll have to make my decision and live with the consequences from it.

This gig could go either way. Tonight was their first show ever and we had twenty or so people in a theatre that seats maybe 150. They were surprisingly good laughers and we did the best we could in that situation. Management was thrilled and thinks we’re major stars.

I’m working with my old friend Tim Marszalkowski who I love hanging out with and he came up from Ohio this week. He hasn’t been on stage in a long time so he was rusty. We pulled off a show because I’m not rusty and everyone was happy. Tim is a great schmooze artist and people naturally love him. He’s very charismatic and likes to hang out and drink a few beverages with people after the show and he’s the perfect match to my personality. I like to go back to the room and not hang out at all. This is opening week so I should stay.

The hotel is beyond fantastic. The movie theatres are owned by the Marcus Corporation which also owns the Madison Hilton and that’s where they’re putting us. We both have an outstanding view of Lake Mendota from our rooms and the whole experience is first class. If I have to be banned from somewhere I’ll take this as a second choice every single time.

I’m not sure how the weekend shows will go or if they will even do comedy very long. I hope they do and I hope it doesn’t affect Gus’s business at the other club and that we can all get along and be friends. That’s my hope but I’ve been around way too long and see all the petty jealousies that come up between bookers. I choose Joe San Felippo but I have no animosity to the booker from Grand Rapids. I’ve worked for him over twenty years and he has a lot of decent work I wouldn’t mind doing again. But working here could cancel that.

The only thing that would stop this is if I were a big name draw. Then I would be able to choose which place I wanted to work and that would be that. I’d make my money and get to call the shots in every town and work for whomever I feel like working for. That’s what I’d love to be able to do and not have to worry about all these political chess game moves.

This week I made my choice. It may or may not hurt me in the long run. Next week will be interesting too because I’m at the Majestic Theatre in Brookfield. That’s a suburb west of Milwaukee and there are all kinds of politics in Milwaukee these days. I also work there at the Northern Lights Casino which is booked by Joe San Felippo. I have worked a lot at Giggles in Germantown which is booked out of Grand Rapids. I like the owner of Giggles very much and don’t want to do anything to upset him but I had to take the theatre gig.

I haven’t talked to him either and I hope he’s not angry. I took the week to keep myself busy and not to make any political statement or switch loyalties. This gets to be like gang wars after a while and I have never liked it but that’s how it works. I just want to perform.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Cleaned Clock

Wednesday October 17th, 2007 - Madison, WI

Back to hitting the bricks today. I need to keep working hard and not let up. I am in the prime years of my career and they’re winding down quickly so I need to make my move. It doesn’t matter that I got ripped off. Nobody cares. I need to find a way to get past all the inconvenience and start over again. It actually came at the perfect time and I’ll take it as a wake up call to learn about other parts of my business - mainly money and finances and all that goes with it. I never liked that kind of stuff and only focused on the comedy part of it.

How wrong I was. Getting my clock cleaned like this was a good lesson. I had a lack of trust for most people anyway but this really took me by surprise. I didn’t see it coming but looking back on it all the signs were there. It’s like a cheating spouse situation. I guess the one cheated on is always the last to know. Now I know and I am going to get through this without doing anything stupid. I can guarantee you it won’t happen like this again though.

Life is cruel. Life is hard. When I was about nine my grandfather told me ‘You’ve got a giving heart, kid. You’re going to get SCREWED. Get used to it.’ He was right. I have an inner soft spot and I really do try to give as much as I can and always have. I’ve had a few bad experiences but for the most part it’s been very positive. When somebody who is in an obvious situation of need gets help there is no greater feeling than being the one helping.

That doesn’t mean I have to be stupid and na├»ve to the fact that some people aren’t very nice. What hurt me in this situation was that it was someone I really trusted and have been working with for years. THAT really hurts but again it’s a chance to learn and I will use it as exactly that. I’ve got too many good things going on right now to let this kill my vibe.

I had a lunch with Marc Schultz and gave him a press kit to send to another booker over in Pennsylvania who likes comedians. He saw my video and loved it and has a few shows a year that pay pretty well. They’re mostly for an older corporate crowd and I am now at an age where I’ll be the baby of those kinds of shows but they pay well. I’ll take the money.

I also met with my friend Brian Seery who is a great entrepreneur. He’s always got a lot of things going and his most recent business is a franchise of El Famous Burrito which is a local Mexican restaurant chain. He’s also got a tanning salon and works as a technician for a heating and air conditioning company. Not only that he’s a part time airline mechanic for Northwest Airlines. He’s married and has a couple of kids and he also coaches hockey.

Now THAT’S a work ethic. Brian and I have been friends for years and he’s always one to not hold back what he thinks as am I. We give honest opinions to each other on all our ideas and I told him my business idea and he sat there and thought about it for a while.

He is not one to blow smoke if he doesn’t believe in it and he came back with a few very smart ideas and we bantered it around a while. He is busy and asked if I wanted to work at the restaurant part time. That wasn’t an insult and I didn’t take it that way. He trusts me. I told him my problem and he said ‘That’s why I asked you. You wouldn’t do that to me.’

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tuesday Without Clues Day

Tuesday October 16th, 2007 - Lake Villa, IL

Still bummed out about yesterday. Tony Miller’s funeral was very sad. Here’s a guy that only wanted to make people laugh and to get struck down so young and with so painful of an affliction just doesn’t seem fair. Example after of example of scumbags living way long and inflicting their evil on everyone else are everywhere. My father was a perfect example.

If my father had died at 42 that would have made me 16. He’d be a distant memory and I would have not had to deal with his black hearted coldness as long as I did. The damage from childhood was over by then but he still did a whole lot of mean things after age 16. I tried to make it right with him but never got how much pain he inflicted on others. He was clueless his whole life but he had 69 years to spread around his evil. Tony had to die at 42.

If Tony had gotten a chance to live until he was my father’s age of 69 he’d still have lots of quality shows in him and years to spread his humor to people who really need it. That’s a full 27 years of doing good. Instead Tony’s gone and it doesn’t seem like it’s very fair. It was a big year for quality people passing. Cardell Willis and Tom Green died earlier in the year and now Tony. I knew Tom and Cardell very well but I only knew Tony a little bit.

Pat Brice is another guy who passed way too soon in my opinion. He was only 30 and it looked like he was headed for a very bright future. Why does this happen? It seems to be a common story and I have never been able to figure out why. It’s not just comedians either. I always see on the news where a cop gets shot trying to nail a crook and leaves behind his young children and pregnant wife. They are the ones who always seem to die early. Why?

I don’t have an answer. Neither did the person who bled my bank account dry. I dreaded a sit down meeting with that person but there was nothing I could do to avoid it. It was an ugly and uncomfortable situation but there was a wrong done that I needed to get righted.

I’m not going to get into it here just because it’s too painful to talk about. Someone that I really trusted stung me and it really hurts. It was over money too and not all that much in the scheme of things. It’s a few thousand but in my world right now that’s a lot of dough.

Sitting there and not having any emotions was VERY difficult. I feel used and raped and I posed the question ‘Ok, what would YOU do if you were me in this situation?’ All I saw was a blank stare at the floor and silence for a few seconds. Then I heard ‘I don’t know.’

You don’t KNOW? You surely knew when you were taking my money and living off of it. Now you’re clueless? That doesn’t seem right. I am going to learn a painful lesson from this and actually it could have been a LOT worse. It’s bad but it won’t kill me. It’s kind of inconvenient and it will set me back a little but I can and will recover from it. But it hurts.

Good thing it happened before I started out full tilt into my business idea. I will no doubt learn even more painful lessons as that progresses but I am not going to let this stop me. I will press on and keep fighting but this sure was a bump in the road. Time to drive over it.

Monday No Fun Day

Monday October 15th, 2007 - Lake Villa, IL

Everything about today was unpleasant. I’m glad it’s over. I woke up early and watched the early news on CNN Headline News partly because I wanted to see the news and partly because I’ve had the hots for Robin Meade since she was a news anchor in Chicago. She’s gorgeous and always starts my day off great no matter how bad the news is. She’s married of course and I will probably never get to meet her in person but I still tune in to see her.

Of course she wasn’t working today but her replacement was pretty hot herself. Is there a news babe on any of the networks that isn’t sexy? CNN and Headline News and Fox are all packed with stunners and I can see why they do it. Who would watch bad news from a pig faced wildebeest? Those babes must get stalked by all kinds of wackos worse than me.

I read a little and then went back to sleep for a little bit before heading up to Milwaukee so I could attend the funeral of Tony Miller. Funerals are never fun but this one was nasty on several levels. First, it was very sad to see Tony lying in a coffin. I found out he was 42 years old and had stomach cancer which is just wrong on a lot of levels. I didn’t know him as intimately as I’ve known a lot of comedians but we never had a cross word between us. I have nothing but positive memories of him and one time he even came to Chicago to get looked at by Bert Haas at Zanies and I was able to host the show and give him a very nice intro and he ended up having a fine set. He was extremely grateful and shook my hand like I had just paid his rent for six months. He really was a classy person and very well liked by a lot of people as evidenced by the attendance at the funeral home. He drew a nice crowd.

There were a couple of people I didn’t want to see and I just avoided them the best way I could. One was a club owner up there who is a bully and a weasel and rips off comedians with no conscience about it. He owes me $400 from 1994 which I’ll never see and I didn’t want to cause a scene out of respect for the memory of Tony. Tony was classy and he was the reason I was there, not to tangle with that other fat bag of human rubbish. What would starting (or finishing) an argument prove? I haven’t seen him since 1994 for a reason. Too bad I didn’t file a small claims action when I could have but I didn’t want to drag it all out any more than it already was. Looking back on it I wish I would’ve but it’s too late now.

The other was one of the comedy ‘teacher’ maggots who has been running my class into the ground in media interviews. He saw me and scampered the other way like the weasel I know he is and I just didn’t want to get involved in all of that. The whole thing was not an enjoyable experience but I did want to show up out of respect for Tony and his family. He HAS to be in a better place now and I know he has nothing to regret about how he lived.

Then I had to go to Chicago and confront a person very close to me who ‘borrowed’ an unspecified amount of money from a bank account of mine. I don’t want to get into it now or here but he got me pretty good and I found out about it by accident. It really rocked my world and took me by total shock. It was a business situation and I trusted him with some money that was supposed to be ‘ours’ which ended up ‘his’. I am not sure what I will have to end up doing but none of it was pleasant at all. I feel like I’ve aged ten years in one day.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Football And Loud Babies

Sunday October 14th, 2007 - Washington, D.C./Lake Villa, IL

Packers WIN! Bears LOSE! Which is sweeter? Who cares? Which part of the Reese’s is sweeter, the chocolate or the peanut butter? It doesn’t matter. They go perfectly together. I had an early flight home and was tired when I got in so I ended up sleeping away most of the day. I really needed the rest though so I don’t feel bad at all. This was a quality week.

I was awakened out of a sound sleep by a loud cheer from a large group upstairs. I have always been a sound sleeper my whole life but this one was LOUD. The person who owns the house had a bunch of people over to watch the Bears game. I can’t believe I live in the same house as Bears fans but cheap rent is cheap rent. Plus I’m hardly ever here so it’s not too annoying, except the times like last Sunday when they all cheered upstairs as I had the horror of my life unfold before my eyes in total silence. Today it was sweet payback time.

When I woke up and heard them cheering I knew the Bears had done something good. I didn’t listen to any games as I just didn’t feel like it today. After that Packers lost like they did last week I am a little cool on football for the moment plus I have other things to do.

Since I was awake anyway I turned on the TV just in time to see the Vikings nail a long field goal to kill the Bears in the last second. I wanted to jump up and holler but I knew all the people upstairs would hear it and I didn’t feel like meeting them that way so I shut up. Then I saw the other highlights and heard the Packers won a tight game and life is peachy.

Packers win. War in Iraq is still going. Packers win. People are still dying of horrible and incurable diseases. Packers win. Marriages are breaking up and families are being ripped at the seams. Packers win. Starvation is ravaging millions of people around the world. How a football game can make so much difference when all this other stuff is going on is amazing but it does. At least around these parts. Bears fans are feeling low and Packers fans are on a huge high but in the scheme of life none of it matters. But I have to say I still feel great.

I needed a boost after my flight home from Reagan National Airport in Washington. The flight was at 6am and that’s never pleasant but it was full of screaming babies and none of the parents could shut them up. One in particular that caught everyone’s ear was a Satanic little red headed demon who had obviously been fed way too much sugar and would NOT shut up. He was uncontrollable in the security line and ended up on MY flight. Of course.

The parents were a fat greasy unkempt biker with a ponytail and a tattooed road pig that I wouldn’t want to be naked near even after a few years in a Turkish prison. How they had to pick each other to fornicate is beyond me. Neither one of those two had red hair either.

The kid was in line screaming at the top of it’s little impish lungs and I turned around to try and stare them down but they were oblivious. Finally I said ‘Hey Rosemary, can’t you shut your baby up? It’s 5:30 in the morning.’ A couple people laughed out loud, a couple more smiled. Still more looked down at the ground not wanting to get involved. She gave me a dirty look and the kid still screamed on. I sure hope the little bastard was a Bears fan.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

DC Is OK

Saturday October 13th, 2007 - Alexandria, VA

Great day today on many levels. This whole weekend was fun and even though I’m only going to break even financially I’m way ahead in everything else. This was a paid vacation. I mainly came out to hang with my friend Jerry Thomas. He is a comedy lifer like me and I hadn’t seen him in a while. We met in Milwaukee when we were both writing jokes for the Alex Thien column in the Milwaukee Sentinel in the early ‘80s. How much we‘ve grown.

Jerry moved to LA for years and worked with a radio seminar guy named Dan O’Day. It lasted several years and when I would visit LA Jerry would show me around. I saw him on the first day I was ever in LA when I rode a bus from where I was staying to meet him for lunch. I didn’t know a soul there and to see a friendly face when I got off the bus meant a lot. I’m not intimidated by LA at all now but back then I had no idea what it was all about.

We’ve stayed in contact over the years and Jerry is now doing standup himself. He and I talked about the business and about all our years of knowing each other and just had a fun time hanging out in DC. His friend Kathy came along and we went to ‘the mall’ to visit the tourist sites and we all enjoyed it. I don’t know why they call it ‘the mall’ as there isn’t any Orange Julius or Spencer Gifts to be found but that’s what they call the place we visited.

I hadn’t seen these things in a long time and I really am glad I came. The weather was as good as it could be and there were a lot of people from all over the country doing the very same thing we were - appreciating our American heritage. It’s very moving to see all this.

It is for me anyway. If there’s one thing I will not joke about it’s how thankful I am for a life of freedom in America. My grandpa drilled that into my head from early childhood and I still feel it today. I don’t take my freedom for granted and today I got to celebrate it with several hundred if not a couple thousand other people who felt the same way. We loved it.

We walked from the Washington Monument to the World War II Memorial and got our picture taken by the Wisconsin section. There is a commemorative concrete slab for every state and all the territories too. I had never seen this Memorial before and it was beautiful. I saw people with World War II American Legion caps who looked like they were former soldiers and I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather. He served in the Air Force during World War II but didn’t have to go over and do combat because he was in his 30s then.

The Vietnam Memorial wall was very moving. Seeing all those names of those who died was really sad. Those were all someone’s baby once or sibling or neighbor or classmate. It also brought back memories of my childhood. My father rode with the Outlaws and I have memories of sitting with some of the bikers who told of the horrors of Vietnam. They had been over there and talked about it and to hear that at age nine or ten was quite disturbing.

The Lincoln Memorial is a lot bigger than I remembered it and it was packed with people taking pictures and looking at the inscriptions. It was a feeling of respect and gratitude and I wasn’t the only one who felt it. No amount of money could have made me miss this day.

I think every American should see these things at least once in their lifetime. Seeing it on TV or online or reading about it in a book just isn’t the same. Seeing the actual places live and in person puts it all in a whole new perspective. I hadn’t been here for a while so I got to reflect on life and it gave me a whole new appreciation of getting to live life in America.

After we finished enjoying everything we walked back to my rental car and found a nice fresh parking ticket flapping in the windshield wiper. There were no parking meters nearby and I suppose I could have been angry but I thought even for $20 I still would have gotten a lot out of seeing all this so I will just pay it and shut my mouth. In Chicago it would have been $50 so I guess I got off cheap. In Russia they’d probably have sent me off to Siberia.

Jerry lives in Alexandria and there’s a frozen custard place called ‘My Dairy Godmother’ right by his place. That’s a great name and the owner is from Wisconsin. I strutted in with my Packers sweatshirt on and she said ‘We’re going to win tomorrow, aren’t we?’ We got off on the right foot and it got even better when we had our sundaes. They were very tasty and to top it off she had Sprecher root beer in bottles. I felt like I was back in Cheeseland.

For all the time I’ve spent traveling in my life Wisconsin is always going to be my home. I grew up there and know the culture of Milwaukee and even though I don’t always enjoy memories of my past when I’m this far from there and have some frozen custard it feels as though I do love at least part of my past after all. Jerry hasn’t lived there in years either so he knows what I’m talking about. Hearing someone say ‘bubbler’ makes us feel at home.

The show tonight was really good. It’s a place called ‘Floyd’s Bar and Grill’ but doesn’t look like the name sounds. It’s a very old building and has super high ceilings and a smart upscale clientele. They weren’t drunk and stupid and they were there to see comedy. Last night was a lot of fun but tonight was even better. This trip was worth it on many levels.

One show a night is like a vacation. I can do that in my sleep. I enjoy working and in my book we could have done three shows a night with audiences like this. I have always done well in the DC area because crowds are pretty hip as a rule. Places like here and Madison, WI and Ann Arbor, MI and San Francisco are all hipper than the average strip mall crowd.

The people that run this room had another show at another club for six years. This was a grand opening weekend of the new room and I was the first headliner. The married couple who run the shows both thanked me fifteen times for coming and couldn’t believe I didn’t play their other club in six years but I told them that’s how comedy works. There isn’t any guarantee that a comedian gets on a ‘circuit’. We all have to get work wherever we can.

The booker who put me in this weekend has a lot of other work as well. They’ll get the double thumbs up from the people here and I should be able to parlay this into a lot more work next year. These are the same people I drove from Flint, MI to Charlotte, NC to do a contest for a few months ago so now it’s starting to pay off a little all this time later. It’s how the comedy business works and when I did that contest I paid my own expenses and lost money. This week I broke even. Maybe next time I can actually make a few bucks.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Business Decisions

Friday October 12th, 2007 - Alexandria, VA

I thought I was back in morning radio having to get up at 4am after getting in at 1. I was not in a good mood when I got home because of how the Chicago Style Standups group is going and in retrospect I should have stayed home. I was all wound up and didn’t get very much sleep at all. I rolled over at 3:45 and closed my eyes for ‘five minutes’. Luckily it’s a trick I’ve done before and I only overslept by ten minutes and rolled out of the rack at 4.

My plane was at 7 and I am so far out of civilization that I didn’t want to risk it. There is a lot of construction going on and sometimes it’s at night so I sucked it up and got started so I wouldn’t have to have any more stress in my life at 5am. I’m starting to learn. A little.

These are the kinds of days I want people that think comedy is easy to experience. There isn’t much funny at 4am with two hours of sleep knowing you have to be at the airport by 6 to catch a plane to a gig where you’ll just barely break even. This is not for everybody. I do love the time on stage but the process of getting to gigs is getting harder and harder.

There was a surprising amount of traffic on both the roads where I live and the freeways too. I’m glad I left early and it still was a snug fit on time but not a crisis. I pulled in to the long term parking lot at 5:40 and there wasn’t a spot to be found. Finally I saw a guy with a suitcase come out the exit door and I followed him down the row until he found his car.

It was a nice spot right by the tram entrance and I got on the train which was crowded. I ended up making it to the gate with a few minutes to spare but I still could have been there a little earlier for my tastes. I’m getting too old to be rushing like a maniac all the time. It’s a lot less hectic to show up an hour early and do a crossword puzzle or read a good book.

The plane ride was very turbulent and I thought I was going to yack quite a few times. It was one of the bumpiest plane rides I can ever remember and the landing was very tense. I usually don’t mind flying at all but today was a bit unpleasant. The guy next to me was not happy either and had a very east coast hard boiled attitude. He didn’t find anything funny.

Hey, if it was my time it was my time. It would have been nice to have sat next to a sexy woman rather than a bearded shark in a silky suit but I lived to tell about it so that’s ok by me. It made me think yet again of how short life is as the plane bounced around the sky as a ping pong ball would bounce around in toilet water. There are no guarantees and I get it.

That put me in an even better mood when the plane landed. Once again I have a little bit of bonus time to keep doing what I’m doing. I should have died several times before but it keeps getting put off for whatever reason. I’m not going to take it for granted and keep on working even harder. Every day is a gift and I tried to enjoy the rest of the day to the hilt.

I got to the hotel and it was around lunch time so I asked the clerk if there were any nice places to eat. ‘IHOP’ he said. I wanted a local place and then he said ‘Oh, Red Lobster.’ It didn’t occur to him that Red Lobster wasn’t a local joint. I just smiled and said thanks.

Then he said ‘Oh wait. I know a place that’s just like Red Lobster only they don’t serve any kind of seafood. They have steaks and stuff.’ I couldn’t help laughing out loud. If you hear that line in a movie or TV show someday you’ll know where I got it. Life wrote it. It made me laugh the whole day and maybe it was the way he said it but I will remember that line for the rest of my life. Maybe you had to be there but I was and it was really hilarious.

The main reason I took this gig was to hang out with my good friend Jerry Thomas. We go back too many years to count and any time I am in the DC area it’s always fun to hang and chat. He is originally from Milwaukee and we have a lot in common. He is now doing comedy but also wrote for radio joke sheets for years. He is now doing standup himself so we have that to talk about too. Plus we’re both Packer fans but that conversation was a bit short this time. There wasn’t anything to say after the last game so we kept the talk happy.

Jerry and I hit the Chinese buffet by the hotel and thought we had plenty of time to grub up before the show. Traffic is hellacious in these parts and of course we got stuck trying a left hand turn where we shouldn’t have and it was a big mess. I love Jerry but he’s not the most directionally sound driver on the road and I thought we’d never make it to the show. Again, it’s a hilarious scene in a movie but not very fun to live out in reality. I was tense.

I did end up getting to the show on time but I didn’t know that as we were driving and it caused a lot more stress than either one of us needed tonight. I need to watch my time in a situation like this especially where I haven’t worked the club before and am not totally ‘in’ with the booker yet. Good thing I checked in an hour before the show as a courtesy to the manager. I’ve run shows before and not knowing if the comedians are in town is NOT fun.

Chicago Style Standups is becoming not fun as well. I like the guys and I like the idea of several comics sharing one mike but as it sits it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere near an avenue I want to go riding along on someone else’s vision. I signed up as a soldier and I’m getting too busy with my own projects to keep showing up for door deals without any sort of guarantee on any level. I’ve been around a long time and that’s not the way to operate.

I’m not angry or bitter or anything but thankful for the guys letting me be a part of it this last couple of years. It could maybe be built into something bigger but it needs to be run as a business by business minded people. Comedians running anything business like is usually not a good idea but here I am going to attempt my own business all by myself. I do think it is of the utmost importance to have ONE person running something like this so somebody is in charge and everyone else knows where the buck stops. That’s my theory and now I’ll see if I’m right. If I’m wrong I’ll gladly admit it but for now that’s what I’m going to do.

Maybe if I show a flair for business I can come back and breathe some financial life back into the group and we can get out of our rut and start making things happen. I really liked my experience with the guys and if I’m asked to do shows again I will if I’m available but to make a commitment for a collaboration of comedians trying to rise from the ashes with no financial backing is not smart business right now. I need to make some retirement cash.