Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Hometown Detour

Monday November 16th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

I’m getting nothing but overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyone about my one man show idea and I have to say it really shocks me. The absolute LAST thing I thought I would ever do would be to come back to Milwaukee, but I really feel like this is a winner.

It’s grown from an off the cuff idea I threw out on the phone a few days ago to a doable structured show I know I can pull off. I’ve sent a rough outline to about 50 people I know and trust from up there and to a person everyone has sent back not only positive thoughts but little snippets of ideas too. I’ve got more than enough to fill a solid 90 minute show.

Ron Lee was the person I was talking to on the phone. He holds the honor of hiring me for my first paid comedy gig back at Teddy’s on Farwell in 1984. I received ten bucks for what was supposed to be ten minutes of standup comedy, but I don’t think I ever quite hit the goal that night. Whatever I did for those ten minutes wasn’t comedy. I stunk out loud.

Ron and I have kept in touch through the years and he’s always looking for a new thing to promote or some fun project to get behind. We’ve done a lot of fun projects from radio to a cable TV show to a band contest to live comedy shows over the years. He and I both like adventures and we’re willing to try things to see if they work. Many times they don‘t.

I told Ron about the play we were working on with Jerry’s Kidders in Chicago and that piqued his interest. He came down to see us rehearse it and loved the concept. He asked if he could try to book us up in the Milwaukee area and both Jerry and Vicki Quade thought it would be ok. It’s no skin off anyone’s nose, and we wouldn’t mind getting extra work.

One thing led to another and Ron and I had been talking about a venue. He mentioned a theater space he knew of that might be a little small for the Kidders but he still thought it was a workable space. I threw out the idea of a one man show based on local pop culture and it clicked with both of us. The more we thought about it the more we were sold on it.

I’m not going to fight this creative surge or poo poo it in any way. I am getting as strong of support for this as anything I’ve ever done, especially in Milwaukee. I don’t know how or why this is, but I do know that I absolutely feel something click with this whole idea.

I’m supposed to go see the space in the next week or so with Ron and see how we’ll be able to make this work. It won’t be hard to get the show part ready, but promoting it is an entirely different animal. That’s his main job, but I’ll still have a say in it too. I know I’ve been a poor business man in the past, but this is a new project and I can change that now.

I’m not looking to do anything but put together a funny live show and eventual recorded versions both on CD and DVD of my experiences growing up in my home town. I want to maybe put a little bit of autobiographical material in it to add texture, but mostly it will be about the town I know best. Many people have mentioned John McGivern, and the shows he’s done locally. Hey, good for him. I don‘t want to steal his thunder. Mine is my own.

More than one performer has grown up in Milwaukee, and it isn’t exclusive territory for any of us - including me. I really respect John McGivern for being able to market himself to a local theater audience and proving that it can be done. He has branded himself nicely and more than one of the people I told about my idea mentioned his name immediately.

Again, good for him. He put himself on the map and that’s difficult to do. People said I should probably study what he did so I don’t cross over into his territory. I disagree. I will do exactly the opposite. I respect him as an artist and don’t want to copy what he did. I’m my own creative entity and have no trouble coming up with my own jokes and premises.

The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were both bands from England. Did they both have fine careers? I’d say so. Did they infringe on each other’s territory? I’d say not very much, if at all. Maybe they both had some songs about similar topics like ‘love’, but that’s pretty broad based. If John McGivern did beer and brat jokes, it doesn’t mean I can’t do others.

Another funny local guy I have nothing but respect for is Rip Tenor, aka Art Kumbalek. I’ve always been a major fan of his and he’s a brilliant comic mind who never fails to get me laughing whether I see him live or read his hilarious column ‘Art For Art’s Sake’ that has been consistently funny for years and years. He’s another guy people have mentioned.

Rip’s character of Art Kumbalek IS a Milwaukee guy. I’m going to talk ABOUT those kinds of people and my experiences observing them my whole life. Big difference. I love his character and he makes me laugh, but what I’m going to do is nothing close to that.

Will Durst is another comic hero of mine. I told him my idea and he loved it. He said he left Milwaukee in ‘79 and his whole act was about being from there and he had to create a whole new one when he got to San Francisco. He did that, and is in my opinion one of the sharpest comic minds in the business. If he gives me the thumbs up, I‘m feeling golden.

We’re still working on the Jerry’s Kidders play and have one solid booking and another that looks to be solid. That’s going to keep us all busy for the next couple of months but it won’t stop me from making notes on my one man show. They are for two totally different audiences so there’s no conflict of interest anywhere. It’s my backup plan to earn a living.

These projects are exciting and I’ll be working with top quality people on both of them, unlike the maggots and bottom feeders I’ve had to deal with on the club scene, especially up in Milwaukee. My greatest revenge on those halfwits will be packed houses of people enjoying my show that isn’t filthy or amateurish, and I won‘t get raped out of my money.

Tonight I had a pleasant unexpected treat of doing a charity show at Zanies in Chicago for another tremendous audience. I’m on a hot streak lately and I’m not complaining. I’m just enjoying every minute of it because I know eventually I’ll take one in the poop chute.

We all do. That’s part of the business, but tonight I ripped it up with Tim Harrison on a Toys For Tots benefit. We both loved the crowd and they loved us. What a fun evening.

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