Monday, November 30, 2009

Turning The Page

Sunday November 29th, 2009 - St. Cloud, MN/Lake Villa, IL

I wish I knew exactly how many long boring Sunday drives I’ve had to make in my life to return home from a road gig. It has to be over a thousand by now, but after two or three they’re all the same. After the last show on Saturday the focus turns to getting back home.

Bob Seger talks of it in “Turn The Page” when he mentions a long bus trip from Omaha when “You don’t feel much like riding, you just wish the trip was through.” How dead on he is. Fortunately for him, he had a tour bus with a driver and his band mates joining him.

Comedians are alone. We’re the driver and the band and the travel director and the tour guide. Bob Seger could sleep off some of his trip. I have to be awake every single mile so I don’t turn my Toyota into a flaming casket when I nod out and hit a guard rail at 75mph.

The handwriting is on the wall more and more every time I go out and do these kinds of gigs as of late. My life and times as a tireless bullet proof road beast are rapidly coming to an end, and I’m not the least bit upset. They’ve served their purpose extremely well and it all made for a fantastic adventure. I met people, saw places, had fun and got an education.

I ate delicious food I never would have sampled had I stayed in Milwaukee and I saw all of the America I read about in books as a kid up close and personal with my own eyes. I’ll never regret satisfying my wanderlust in my 20s and 30s, but in my 40s I’ve evolved a bit.

It’s just as satisfying to have a hot show at a venue ten minutes from my house as it is at some venue ten hours away. The results are exactly the same, but the time spent getting to and from work takes a whole lot of the fun out of it. I don’t have the slightest need to ever return to 99.9% of the places I’ve been, only because those places aren’t all that riveting.

I mean, will my quality of life really go down if I never return to St. Cloud, MN? Nope. Nor will my life be affected in any way if I don’t get back to most of the places I’m hired. They’re just towns, and I’ve seen more than a working man’s share of them on my watch.

None of this means I didn’t enjoy some parts of this trip. The house emcee at the club is a very interesting and intelligent guy named Perrin Spychala. We get along quite well and it was fun to visit again and flirt with the Playboy model quality waitress, but I told him it wasn’t worth all the driving I’d have to do each way to make that happen. He understood.

I’m not angry about any of this, nor do I regret the lifestyle I chose for the last quarter of a century, but it’s becoming rapidly clearer to me that I’m evolving to a place that doesn’t require me having to be in so many places for such a short time. I want to settle in and get to some of the things I missed during all those years of traveling. My wants are changing.

So are my needs. I have ZERO put away for a retirement of any kind, and I can’t see me still driving to St. Cloud and flirting with a 21 year old waitress when I’m 60. It’s a young man’s game, and I did spend my youth playing it. Now it’s time to graduate to a new one.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Leroy Kilps RIP

Saturday November 28th, 2009 - St. Cloud, MN

A piece of my childhood died today. I received a call that Leroy Kilps passed away last night and I was very sad to hear the news. Leroy was in charge of the monthly sports card shows at Gonzaga Hall in West Allis, WI and I’d dealt with him since I was about twelve.

Sports cards were one of my few fun memories of childhood and I’ve drifted in and out of the hobby frequently. I remember discovering there was a Wisconsin Sports Collectors Association as a kid and I joined it immediately. They held quarterly shows in Milwaukee at a place called Federation Hall on 13th and Lincoln and I used to attend them quite a bit.

I remember taking the city bus all the way across town from my grandparents’ house on the north side early in the morning so I could be there when the doors opened at 9 o’clock sharp. It seemed like such an adventurous journey then and I savored every second of it.

Every spare penny I had went into buying old cards back then. I remember standing and bidding at the auction with guys twenty years older than me on cards that were made well before I was born. For some reason I just knew those cards would appreciate in value and I bought up as many as I could. It turns out I was right and I wish I had hung on to them.

I used to send them off to get autographed and I remember getting responses from most if not all the players I sent requests to including Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Bob Cousy, Sandy Koufax and those are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I had a gigantic collection of many more.

When I was about 21 I started experiencing the rigors of adult life and having to make a living and times were lean so I sold my collection. I made money on it but not even close to what I could have made had I saved it for at least ten more years. It was a big mistake.

In a perfect world I would have cherry picked the choicest items and enjoyed them for a lifetime and sold the rest off at top dollar just as the market was peaking right around the mid ‘90s. I could have put a nice chunk of change away and still enjoyed my best items.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. It didn’t happen that way and that’s the way it goes. I still had fun collecting back then and in the end I still made a profit, even if it was way too early to get what I could have gotten later. The process was fun and Leroy Kilps was one of those older guys who I remember from the Federation Hall days. He was always friendly to me.

Leroy worked for the post office and I think he was a mailman at least part of that time. He had a card shop for a while, but not that long. He was just a collector who loved sports and everyone in the Milwaukee area who collected sports stuff crossed paths with Leroy.

I’ll admit we weren’t close friends, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the guy. I totally did, and don’t know anyone who didn’t. When I did my Craig Ferguson appearance, he’s the one who got the word out to all the people in the card hobby. I appreciated that a lot.

I was supposed to be on in March but I wasn’t, and when I saw him at the next show he came over and said “I wouldn’t stay up late for a lot of people, but I did it for you and you weren’t on. I’ll never do it again.” He was kidding, but I appreciated the fact he stayed up.

When I actually did get on the show he was almost giddy when he saw me the next time and was quoting my jokes back to me. I could tell he got a big kick out of it and I thanked him for mentioning it to everyone else. He was a regular guy and didn‘t put on any airs.

Life is finite and never guaranteed, and even though we know that it still stings when an unexpected sudden passing happens of someone we knew, even if we only knew them on a limited basis. I didn’t know Leroy all that well, but I did know him for most of my life.

How many people cross our paths each day that we may never get an opportunity to see again? All of them. I saw Leroy just last month and he told me he’d keep me in mind if an extra table popped up for the show. He asked how comedy was going and said the typical “One of these days I’m going to come out and see you” line I’ve been hearing for years.

He’s not the only one who’s said that but very few ever actually do it. I’m fine with it if someone doesn’t come to see my show, but I sure don’t want the reason to be that they’ve passed away. I wish Leroy’s family peace and comfort at this time and I also wish I could have gotten the chance to officially thank him for his support of my career before he died.

The show tonight was pretty sparse. Last night’s crowd was light but tonight’s was even worse. The weather was fantastic today and for whatever reason it kept people away. I did my time and tried to give my absolute best to those who did show up. They weren’t drunk and rowdy like last night and in fact were just the opposite. They were quiet and mousey.

The term ‘Minnesota Nice’ applied perfectly tonight. The people here are polite beyond belief, almost to a fault. Afterward there was a line of people waiting to shake my hand as they left and I bet if I’d have peed on their shoes they’d have thanked me for it. They’re as friendly as a whole in Minnesota as anywhere I’ve ever been, and I’ve been everywhere.

I did feel bad because the host told me a guy and his wife came out who saw me the last time I was here and loved the show. I guess the guy was raving about me to the host in the back of the room before the show and said he came out especially to see me. I’m flattered.

After the show the host said the guy got so flustered he wouldn’t come up and say hello because he was intimidated. That made me feel horrible, as I always try to be available to people after a show. I go out of my way to shake people’s hand and sincerely thank them for coming to see me. The last thing I want to do is intimidate anybody, especially a fan.

Speaking of intimidating, one of the waitresses this week was an absolute jaw dropper. WOW, what a scorcher. She’s the typical stunner blonde Minnesota is famous for and she supposedly has been offered a modeling contract from Playboy. She’s 21 and her ticket is punched. She won’t have to sell any sports cards to make ends meet. She won the lottery.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Offstage Maintenance

Friday November 27th, 2009 - St. Cloud, MN

I’m feeling much better today. I stayed up until 4:30am working on a breakdown of all my comedy material for 2010 and I’m delighted with the results. I’ve really put an effort into organizing my comedy bits in the last several years and I can feel significant growth.

I’ve broken everything down into a dozen categories, two of which are ‘miscellaneous’ and ‘topical’. That leaves ten topics to tackle, and if I do it right I’ll have all I can handle to flesh those out to the fullest and keep me working on it the rest of my life. This is what I should have done years ago, but I didn’t. I’m doing it now though, and that excites me.

I like to do what I call ‘accordion bits’. That’s when I can expand or contract a premise depending on audience reaction and how I’m feeling on any given night. A good example is a bit I’ve done for years about a Greyhound bus trip I took when I was 18. Some nights it’s three minutes, others it’s ten. When it’s rolling I’ve stretched it out to twenty or more.

There are all kinds of surprises I can throw in depending on how I’m feeling, and there are also a lot of places to jump off if I don’t like where it’s going. I’ve toyed with that bit for years, but I don’t do it all that much anymore. Once in a while people request it so I’ll dust it off just to stay in practice. If I can develop ten bits like that I’ll be set for a lifetime.

That piece of material really has grown over the years and it fits me perfectly. Structure is crucial in comedy and I’m finally starting to feel like I know what I’m doing after many years of trial and error, mostly error. I looked at the material I have now and the outline of where I hope to take it and I was very excited. This is going to be a gigantic labor of love.

I want to come up with five or six television sets I can start road testing immediately so next time I won’t be in the predicament I was in when I did the Late Late Show. I did pull it off, but I don’t want it to work that way again. I’ll be much smarter this time and begin putting bits in a running order so I‘ll have sets growing organically. I’m finally wising up.

It took me a few years to write all my material down, but now I’m sorting it by category so I can start organizing it that way. I’ve got ten fingers, and will assign a category to each one so on stage I’ll be able to go back and forth however I want. The audience won’t have any idea what I’m doing, and they shouldn’t. All they have to do is show up and enjoy it.

This is all part of the ‘Maxwell Method of Standup Comedy’ I’m developing and trying out on myself. I really think it’s a solid system, kind of like the West Coast Offense in the NFL or The Triangle Offense in the NBA. Like with those systems, some will thrive with mine and think I’m a genius. Others will struggle and blame me for it. That’s how it goes.

I absolutely LOVE to work on projects like this, but unfortunately it’s not necessary for me to ever write even one more joke. I can get by with the material I have now, and that’s not bragging. I’ve attained a status of ‘funny enough’, and what comes into play there is a level of competence that once achieved really doesn’t have to be improved upon. I’m it.

There are performers of all kinds that achieve that status. I’m sure there are many actors all over the world that could be in movies and not embarrass themselves, but getting hired to do it is a different story. That boils down to marketing and image and many other traits. Very few if anyone has a level of talent alone that’s far and away superior to the majority.

I’ve been blessed with a quick wit and the ability to think on my feet in front of an open microphone, whether it’s on a comedy stage or at a radio station. I have done shows again and again both on stage and on air but I haven’t been able to turn that into big money yet.

Show business should actually be called ‘business show‘, as that fits it more accurately. My show part is fine, and in fact probably well above average. Even my detractors always finish a long diatribe of attacking me with “But he’s a very good comedian.” I love that.

What I don’t love is still struggling to find my way all these years into the business part of this whole thing. That’s where I really blew it. I can either work on that and get better or continue to live like a cockroach and have people ask “Why haven’t you done better?”

I’m the first to admit many of my problems are self inflicted. I’ve had a heaping dose of bad breaks thrown in too, but that’s no excuse. Lots of people catch bad breaks, it’s what they do to fight back that determines ultimate success. That’s where I am now. I have my warts, but I have ability too. What can I do to balance out my ‘show’ and ‘business’ side?

One thing I did to make an effort was hooking up with a comic named Dante in LA on a trade for a list of comedy bookers all over the world. He advertised on some comedy list a while back and I contacted him because he said he’d be willing to trade for sports cards or anything else of value. We talked on the phone and he was a good guy so we did the deal.

I had to throw in $100 but I now have a monster list of bookers from everywhere. Some of them I had, many I didn’t. I was able to send him sports cards I don’t have much actual cash into so it was a good deal for us both. Now it’s up to me to parlay this into paid gigs.

The fun part is working on my act like I did until 4:30am. The chore is contacting every one of those bookers and sending them my avails every month or six weeks or whenever they tell me to do it. It’s a want to work on my act. It’s a need to get bookings. I can come up with ten topics all day long, but if I don’t have gigs what good does that do? Not a bit.

This whole one man show idea about Milwaukee is still very much alive also. I worked on it in the car all the way to St. Cloud. I made notes on a legal pad all afternoon and I’m still stoked that this could be good on many levels. If I do it right it could eliminate all my money issues and that’s when the real creativity starts. I don’t like struggling each month.

The show tonight was also a struggle. This place rocked last time I was here but tonight it was half full of drunks who wanted to be the show. Fighting it wouldn’t do any good so I plowed through and did my time without incident. I’m starting to do a lot of things right so that’s where my focus needs to be. This was a temporary glitch and won’t rattle me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Hollow Holiday

Thursday November 26th, 2009 - Wausau, WI

Another Thanksgiving and the holidays are officially here. Actually, Halloween is when it really starts, but today is when it ramps up. I’ve been seeing Christmas decorations here and there and the radio is playing Christmas music but today it all goes jingle bells out.

I’m never going to be able to stop it so I’ll have to suck it up one more year and grit my teeth and accept it. I don’t have a problem if millions of people enjoy all the holiday cheer they want, I just wish I didn’t have to keep being reminded of it. Every fast food bag has a candy cane on it and commercials on radio and TV have annoying sleigh bells and Santa.

What bothers me is that is reminds me of all the unpleasant memories of childhood that I have fought so hard to get past. Christmas is supposed to be about family and I’m all for it, but family is something I’ve never had and probably never will. This time of year is the cruelest reminder, and it’s constant. EVERY year, I get six weeks of it rubbed in my face.

Thanksgiving is great in theory too. Family gets together and shares some food, football and fun. I love the concept, but all I can conjure up are memories of walking on eggshells the whole time so the old man wouldn’t blow a gasket and hoping to avoid an ugly scene.

Every year people invite me over and I’m very grateful for that, but it’s never the same. I feel out of place and uncomfortable and even though I know they mean well, it makes it more of a chore than anything. I’m a dented can, and no matter how hard I try to get over bad memories of the holidays, they’re still there and it makes me feel my life was a waste.

I was supposed to spend Thanksgiving with the woman I like up in Milwaukee, but she didn’t answer her phone for whatever reason. She told me she had to stop at her mother’s house to put in a family appearance, and then we’d hang out. That never happened and all my abandonment issue buttons with my mother got pushed. It really put me in a bad spot.

I’m working in St. Cloud, MN this weekend so I got in the car and started driving to cut time off my drive tomorrow. I stopped in Stevens Point, WI to have some dessert with my cousins Rob and Leah, their daughter Janine, and my other cousin Brett and his girlfriend.

I wish I hadn’t done that. They thought it was funny to pop in Rob and Leah’s wedding video from 1988 and it brought back all kinds of nasty memories because it had my father and step mother on it, along with a few other relatives I didn’t want a part of then and I’m sure not interested in seeing now. Those people are dead, and I‘d prefer it stay that way.

They thought it was funny and I tried to suck it up, but after a while I had to ask them to please turn it off and when they saw it was really bothering me, they did. They apologized and said they didn’t mean any harm, and I know they didn’t. Still, I don’t need to see that.

I thought I was feeling pretty bulletproof coming into the holidays, but right now I’m in a Motel 6 in Wausau, WI wondering why I’m still alive. Here come the holidays. Yippee.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A New CD, ASAP

Wednesday November 25th, 2009 - Kenosha, WI/Lake Villa, IL

I’m moving steadily ahead on my new CD project, I just hope I can make it pay off with some sales. This has been a long time coming, probably too long. Now I know why bands sometimes wait several years between releases. It’s a major undertaking to get one done.

My first one came out in late 2003. I recorded a week of shows in Louisville, KY at The Comedy Caravan and ended up using one of the weekend shows as the CD. It was a fairly representative example of what I was doing at the time, so I just released it warts and all

In the past, comics have edited together the best bits of multiple shows but I didn’t have the time or resources to do that. I suppose I could have, but I just wanted to get something OUT. I spent some extra money to have a nice package made, and I’m very glad I did. It’s received all kinds of compliments and I’m flattered to hear every one, but I can do better.

I want to be proud of what I release, not just piece together some half assed compilation of murky recordings I made with a Kmart cassette recorder in 1987. I want to give people their money’s worth and more. I like bonus tracks and liner notes, as I think it adds value.

I really do care about my fans, even though I probably don’t have as many as I could by now. In my mind, I should have been releasing yearly recordings for the past 12-15 years but I was too busy working the road and dealing with things like having to testify against my best friend at the bank robbery trial. Life squelched my recording career significantly.

Radio didn’t help much either. I was doing comedy the whole time I was in radio but it was all I could handle to keep my jobs in Reno and Salt Lake City and The Loop too. I’m amazed at the schedule I kept all those years. I’d do comedy clubs at night, then stay up to do the morning radio show, then sleep most of the day. I’m sure that will affect me later.

I did what I had to do to survive. I was too busy working to build a career, and now I’m in a precarious predicament. How do I make all that hard work pay off? I’ve got a backlog of material the public hasn’t heard, but how can I get it out? This CD will be my first test.

I’m very pleased with the recording that’s being used for this next release. It was a good night at Zanies with a positive vibe in the audience and I remember it being very fun. I am also including bonus tracks of a funny Mr. Lucky country song my friend Joe Dell’Orfano wrote plus an interview I did with Jerry Agar recently that’s hopefully interesting to fans.

Today I drove to Kenosha to have Lou Rugani voice the intro track. He’s one of the best voice guys anywhere and did it as a favor to me, which I really appreciate. I had him play God, and explain that Mr. Lucky was created so people would always be able to laugh.

It may work, it may not. But I wanted to try it, so I did. Now all I have to do is package it up and get them printed and I’ll have a new product to sell. It’s way better than the last one, and hopefully the next one will be way better than this. Still, this one doesn’t suck.

One Hour My Ass

Tuesday November 24th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

Today was an example of how time gets sucked up. We’re working the bugs out on our Jerry’s Kidders play “You’re On The Air” for our performance at the Beverly Arts Center January 16-17. We scheduled an hour rehearsal and it ended up consuming the entire day.

I don’t think the average person knows or really cares how much of a grind the business of entertainment actually is. Most outsiders only look at the time spent on stage during an actual performance and think that’s all the effort that’s required to get paid handsomely.

Hundreds if not thousands of people over the years have come up to me after a comedy show and told me how “lucky” I was to “only have to work 45 minutes a day“. I’ll usually smile and nod and try to be polite, but once in a while I’ll get in somebody’s face about it.

Usually it’s some drunken slug with a hot chick who gets to go home with her while I’ll be alone in a funky motel room that smells like Lysol, 800 miles from home with a family reunion of loud foreigners playing their annoying music in the room next door until 4am.

The time on stage in fact is NOT what we’re paid for. It’s those 23 hours and change we have to spend waiting for the next chance to go on stage. That’s what we’re being paid for and many times we get the short end. By the time every hour is added up and divided into how much we actually get, it’s often less than minimum wage. Not many think about that.

In fact, many people get into show business with the express purpose of avoiding a day job and the grind that goes with it. How surprised they are to find out there’s still a lot of work involved to be good at it, and sometimes they end up quitting. None of this is easy.

Jerry called about 10am and offered to drive to the rehearsal which was scheduled to be held in downtown Chicago at 1pm. Tim Slagle and Ken Sevara both live on the far south side so we try to meet in the middle whenever possible. They usually drive together as do Jerry and I, only to save money on parking in Chicago. Getting together is a major effort.

Jerry and I stopped for a quick lunch because neither of us had eaten and then we got on the road and were marooned in heavy traffic for the next two hours as we got stuck in the vortex of road cleaning. There were crews cleaning the highway and nobody was moving faster than 25 miles an hour for most of the way into the city. No escape, we were stuck.

The other guys called and were a bit upset that we were late, but we weren’t too thrilled about it either. We ended up getting there about 2pm, rehearsing until 4, and then had our return trip take even longer because of rush hour and a rain storm. It was a full day shot.

The rehearsal was good, but we’re still not finished yet. We’ll have several more before our actual performance, and there’s no guarantee we’ll sell even one ticket. We’ve all got a lot of time and effort invested in this project and we’re crossing our fingers it’ll pay off. It better. We’re paying a heavy price. This ‘one hour rehearsal’ ended up consuming nine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Passing On The Packers

Monday November 23rd, 2009 - Chicago, IL

The Green Bay Packers are doing it to me again. They’re playing with my heart and my head after I’d written them off a few weeks ago when they got embarrassed in Tampa. It’s an unhealthy dysfunctional relationship and I want out, but I just can’t cut myself loose.

Since Tampa they won a big game against the Dallas Cowboys and yesterday they were able to squeak by the San Francisco 49ers. I didn’t watch either game but I did hear about both of them and it almost gave me some hope that they were starting to show some life.

Today I heard they lost two Pro Bowl defensive players for the season in Al Harris and Aaron Kampman and it again started to grind on my psyche. Those two players were very solid and it could hurt the team’s chances of going very far this year but why does it have any affect on me? I wish I knew. I can’t believe I’m still this hooked on a football team.

Whatever part of the human experience the NFL taps into is where I want to set up shop with whatever I’m selling. It’s all I can do to avoid watching the games, but I feel I can do a lot more productive things with three hours on a Sunday than pin my hopes and dreams on a bunch of inconsistent imbeciles who make their millions off of needy nerds like me.

I want to make my own millions and win my own personal Super Bowl in life. Victory has got to be sweeter when it’s earned by an individual and not lived vicariously through a bunch of athletes wearing a uniform of a place most if not all of them aren’t even from.

Al Harris and Aaron Kampman aren’t from Wisconsin. They didn’t have to sit through a bunch of horrific losing seasons in the ’70s and ’80s like I did. They got to step right in and start collecting a heaping paycheck because millions of marbleheads like me watched them and cared deeply whether they won or lost. This is really stupid and I’m sick of it.

I feel like an alcoholic trying to fool himself into having only one drink. Three six packs later, the paramedics are peeling him off his steering wheel. That’s what I’m feeling about all this. I think the best thing to do is stay away from it all and work on productive things.

Even if the Packers win the Super Bowl this year, (which they won’t, but I’m still in the delusional state that they might) how does that make my life better? I’ll have to buy every cap and t-shirt and chatchke out there and it will end up costing me a ton of money. If I’m smart, I’ll be relieved when they’re snuffed out like a candle, but I’ve seldom been smart.

This is a real tweak with me, but I know I’m not alone. Look at the millions of fanatical soccer fans down in South America who live and die by their team’s fortunes. Nobody up here gives a picture of a rat’s ass about soccer, but they’re hooked even worse than I am.

Winning in one’s own life is the ultimate challenge, and that’s the Super Bowl victory I want to experience. There won’t be any parades or trophies, but the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment will make up for it. At least I hope so. I’m through wasting Sundays.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Digging The Journey

Sunday November 22nd, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL/Kenosha, WI

I’m in a very good place in my head these days and I want to acknowledge that. I have a tendency to be up and down more than Oprah’s weight or Madonna’s panties, but for now I’m on the up tick. The holidays are coming sooner than I’d like and I could easily end up back in the sewer, but I’ll deal with that when I have to. For now I‘ll enjoy this good vibe.

It’s not a feeling of mania or euphoria but rather a strong sense of satisfaction with what I’m doing these days. I’m not rich financially, and in fact I’m having a hard time trying to squeeze out a living, but enough money is coming so that I’m surviving. I’m ok with that. Yes, I still want to make my millions but I’m learning to enjoy each day for the gift it is.

I haven’t been walking lately or eating particularly well or doing anything other than my daily best to try to make the most of what I’ve got going that particular day. I’m feeling as comfortable in my own skin as I ever have. I can’t explain it, but I know I feel it. I’m in a space I hope I can stay in forever. I finally feel like I’m enjoying everything I’m a part of.

Tonight we had a fun Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP. It’s a Sunday night show on a small AM station in Kenosha, WI but to me it’s as much fun as being on WGN in Chicago, which I was with Jerry’s Kidders on Saturday. It doesn’t matter, I love it all.

The experience of being on the radio during a show that’s going well is a rush and has a deep feeling of accomplishment. I have no idea who’s listening at any given time and I’m aware that Kenosha, WI is not the broadcasting epicenter Chicago is, but I left the studio tonight on a major high note. We pulled off three solid hours of talk radio without a hitch.

Will it change the world? I doubt it. Does anyone remember it now, even if it’s been on only a few hours earlier? I doubt that too. Did I get paid a nickel for doing it? Uh…no on that front too. Why do I keep doing it? Because I enjoy the process, and the people also.

The same is true with WGN. I love to work with Jerry and the Kidders and we all laugh more off the air than during the show. We give our creative muscles a workout each week and we really don’t worry about anything else. It’s for us, and we all love being part of it.

I’m really enjoying my comedy lately too. I’m not working Carnegie Hall or Las Vegas, but the gigs I have been getting have been really solid. I loved Florida and even the shows up in the U.P. of Michigan before that were fun. It’s all just coming together right now.

I’m fine with where I live and the car I drive and everything else. None of that matters a bit, other than it’s keeping me alive. What really matters is the interaction with the people I like and being satisfied with the moment no matter what I’m doing. I truly feel that now.

Maybe I’ve been listening to too many motivational tapes lately and maybe I’ll return to the moody, impatient short tempered side soon enough but for now I’m having fun doing all I’m doing and I enjoy the people around me right now. I find nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Idea Comes To Life

Saturday November 21st, 2009 - South Milwaukee, WI

One small step for me, one giant leap for my one man show idea. I was booked for a gig in South Milwaukee, WI tonight with and by my friend Steve DeClark. He’s always had a knack for putting comedy shows together in non traditional venues and tonight we were at the Performing Arts Center of South Milwaukee High School, a place I‘d work anytime.

It’s exactly the kind of space I pictured working since I started in comedy. It’s a theater with auditorium style ‘soft seats’, a giant stage with a big red curtain, stage lights that are bright enough to light up the whole stage and a wireless microphone that doesn’t run out of juice halfway through the show. This was way better than working at some dive bar.

Steve has always tried to book more toward a theatrical audience and I couldn’t be more thrilled to work with him in venues like this. The show tonight was a benefit for Veterans and that’s never a problem for me. All armed forces people and Vets got in free and quite a few showed up. We weren’t sold out, but it wasn‘t empty either. It was a decent turnout.

I decided to let loose and test my theory that a whole show based on Milwaukee and the local flavor that goes with it would indeed work. It was exactly the right place to do it and I nailed it. I talked about anything and everything I could remember, and threw in a lot of names of people and places and things that have significance to life long Milwaukeeans.

I could hear not only waves of laughter, but also applause and oohs of recognition as all the tidbits I could throw at them were eaten up hungrily. I knew within minutes I have the winning formula with this idea, and they reacted exactly how I wanted them to. Afterward people lined up to tell me how much fun they had and especially loved all the local talk.

I ended up doing about an hour and fifteen minutes, even though they were a bit tight as an audience. I opened them up after a while but they were pretty snug at first. Maybe they didn’t know what to expect, but after a while I had them going. A big part of that was my ability to talk to them where they live. Literally. I know Milwaukee just like they all do.

These people were a little older than the average comedy club crowd, but they were able to understand what I was doing and they bought into it big time. I was delighted to hear it in their voices afterward. There is a market for this show, the question now is “How big?”

It’s by far not a finished product yet, but for working off the top of my head and making it last an hour and fifteen minutes, I had to be doing something right. I will go over all the notes I have and put together a running order and start filling it in with jokes immediately. It’s not like I’m starting from total scratch. All this requires is a little cutting and pasting.

There’s no reason I can’t be working this by the early part of next year. This is a bit of a risk, but not huge and totally calculated. The worst that can happen is I’ll get a little press, and that’s never a bad thing. Even if it gets grilled by critics, there are a number of people who will find it funny. They did tonight, and it was satisfying to see my idea come to life.

The Hat Trick

Friday November 20th, 2009 - Milwaukee, WI/Chicago, IL

Any day I get a chance to go on stage and at least attempt to make an audience laugh is a good day in my book. That’s the number one thrill of my life and what I enjoy the most, bar nothing. Second place is probably being able to mentor or at least encourage someone on the way up the comedy ladder. Third place goes to being on the radio. I love that too.

Getting to do even one of those on any given day makes that day a whole lot better, but today I pulled off the hat trick. That’s as good as it gets, and today was good from start to finish. I not only did the top three things I love, I also cleared up some other stuff as well.

I’m booked for a gig in December at the Great Lakes Naval Base where I have to host a version of American Idol they’re doing. I’ll have to wear a tux and it will be a very tricky situation because a lot will rely on my ability to ad lib and know when to jump in and out but I took it as a challenge, in addition to a paycheck. That’s where the trouble comes in.

The government has a system of how they pay outside contractors, which is me. I had to provide the contact person with my banking information so she can direct deposit my pay into my account after the gig. I had to go to my bank and get the form filled out and fax it back to the Naval Base, who in turn put my info into their computer. Now I’m in the mix.

It seemed pretty complicated for one not so large check, but that’s how they do it. With this kind of procedure, it’s no wonder we’re trillions in debt and everyone is in a panic. If I was in charge it would be different, but I’m not. With that in mind, I did what they said.

Little piddly stuff like this is annoying, but it still needs to get done. It was a hassle with my bank because there was a line in front of me and then the teller got busy and it took an hour before it was all done, including fax time. At least it’s done now and I’ll get paid for a couple of hours of work and move on. Still, it seems like a big waste of time to do this.

The whole drawn out procedure made me late for a radio appearance on ‘The D-List’ up in Milwaukee on ESPN Radio 540. I hadn’t been on in a while and Drew Olson asked me to come on so I could promote my show in South Milwaukee on Saturday. I always enjoy being on with those guys, and it’s never anything but a blast. It’s how radio should work.

Drew and Dan Needles are getting better and better in my opinion, and the vibe around the station is always very positive. I have nothing but respect for Craig Karmazin, who is always upgrading everything from the signal strength to the studio facilities to the lineup of programs. That guy is on the ball and it shows. I love being able to see all the growth.

The station used to be located out in a tiny little shack in Waukesha, WI for many years. When I had my pro wrestling organization I used to promote shows in Waukesha and had a few of my wrestlers on the station as guests. There were different people in charge of it then, and they were nice and all, but Craig came in and took it all to a new level. He made it into a real radio station and moved it into facilities in downtown Milwaukee as a start.

That upgrade was dramatic but it didn’t stop there. My friend Steve “The Homer” True jumped over from WISN and I like to think I had something to do with that. I introduced Homer to Craig when Drew arranged a station event party to come see me perform of all places at Giggles, when it was located in Germantown, WI. Craig and Homer met then.

Obviously they cut their own deal and I had nothing to do with that, but I feel like I was the matchmaker and I’m thrilled to be able to have a part in that. Homer is a good person and excellent broadcaster and he’s still on the air today as a solid anchor in the afternoon.

I can’t say enough good things about everyone at that station. For whatever reason they all seem to be on my wavelength and I feel at home whenever I walk in the door. There’s now a new door to walk through because the station moved yet again. It’s in the big blue federal building in downtown Milwaukee, right across from the Grand Avenue Mall.

The old facilities were a major upgrade from Waukesha, but these are even better. They are highly visible and the studio has windows and is right on the street. It smelled of new as I walked in and we riffed and had fun until the show was over at 2pm. It was worth the drive not only to be with the guys but also hang out with the other guest, Caitlin Morrall.

She’s a former Miss Wisconsin USA and a total stunner, but she’s really intelligent and funny too. She just got a TV job on the morning show at TMJ 4 and I can see why. We’ve been on the D-List before and she really gets it. She’s no talking head, she’s the real deal.

Someone like Caitlin is truly one in a million million. She’s got network star written all over her and I hope she gets it. She’s fun to be on the air with and she shoots right back at all of us with quick, funny, dead on answers. Her beauty is intoxicating, but she’s a super sweetheart to go with it. She’s dating a surgeon and I see why. She is as good as it gets.

After the radio show I took care of some errands in Milwaukee and headed right back to Chicago to do a comedy show at a place called Pressure CafĂ© on Clark Street, not very far from where I used to live in Andersonville. She show is run by Bubba Muski, one of THE nicest guys I’ve met in a long time. He just did his first Zanies set with me very recently.

Bubba runs a showcase for the comics and Pressure is a nice facility for it. It’s tiny but a very cozy setup, even though there’s no microphone at all. Young comics come out to get stage time but young audiences come out to listen. There was a very friendly vibe in there mostly due to the fact that Bubba is a really good guy. He asked me to do it so I said yes.

There were quite a few young comics in the room and I knew some of them from all the Zanies showcases, but many more I didn’t. It was really flattering to see the reverent look in their eye when they found out who I was. I guess my name doesn’t stink everywhere.

I didn’t get paid in money but that’s ok. I knew the deal when Bubba asked me. I felt as old as I ever have in front of those kids, but they laughed and it was really fun. Hopefully I encouraged a few of them but it encouraged me knowing the next generation is growing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

More Homework

Thursday November 19th, 2009 - Milwaukee, WI/Vernon Hills, IL

This whole Milwaukee themed one man play idea has gone way farther than I imagined, but I’m not going to stop working on it. Something in the back of my coconut tells me it’s a winner, and everything else can wait. When I listen to my inner voice, it’s always right.

My biggest problem is I try to out think it when in reality all I need to do is follow along and do what it says. The feeling I’m getting is to get it up and running as soon as possible so I drove up to Milwaukee this afternoon to meet with Ron Lee to scout some locations.

Ron lives up there and knows a few people I don’t know, but I’m very familiar with the territory so it didn’t take long for us to make the rounds. We looked at several spaces with an open mind, and then had a brainstorming session to compare notes of what we thought the pros and cons of each one might be. After that we planned out what we wanted to do.

He would be responsible for getting any space ready to go for a performance and it’s my job to come up with an actual show. I think both of us can make that happen, and we then went to see Jeff Shaffer who used to run the sound at the old Sunday Funnies at Teddy’s.

Jeff is a sound guy from way back and does mostly music events. He was working for a band who was playing at the Mitchell Park Domes, a Milwaukee landmark. Ron and I had some time so we went to talk to Jeff, mainly because I hadn’t seen The Domes for years.

It really is one of the more unique attractions I’ve ever seen anywhere. It’s like a zoo for plants of all kinds from around the world and each Dome has a different theme. There are cacti and palm trees and flowers and it’s very well displayed. I really enjoyed the tour and I remembered both my grandfather taking me there as a kid and also going with my class.

We met one of the people in charge and Ron brought up the possibility of doing a show at The Domes at some point. We got a name of the person who can authorize it and that’s a step in the right direction. We talked to Jeff and he said he thinks we can easily do this.

This kind of stuff really interests me, because it’s creating something from nothing. It’s not going to be hard to put a show together about Milwaukee, the real challenge will be to see how and where we can do it to create a niche for ourselves and make it worth doing.

It doesn’t really matter what venue we use to start, just so we do it. We’ll need a couple of times to run it to work the bugs out as Ron and I both agreed we’d like to add things to the mix like maybe a power point slide show or audio. It’s a constant work in progress for both of us but if I give him an idea it’s his and Jeff’s job to see how to make it workable.

Jeff is excited to be part of this project too. Everyone I’ve told about it has immediately said how much they love the idea and how they think it will work. Now I have to write an outline of the show, which I started to do in the car on the way home. It will be a two part presentation to allow for an intermission if necessary. Everything is falling right into step.

Rob Becker is the guy who wrote and produced the hit play ‘Defending The Caveman’ which made millions, and is still running today. He’s got several actors doing the role all over the country and I heard he has sold the franchise completely. I haven’t seen Rob in a while, but I’ve had him on my radio shows through the years and I know he’d help me.

Todd Grove was his Ron Lee and I should talk to Todd too. Any tips and hints I can get about making this work onstage or off would be much appreciated. I want to be smart for once and not just go into something half assed and shoot myself in the foot. I want to win.

The only downside I can see to all of this is the product is for a limited audience. Rob’s theme of men vs. women is about as broad based as it gets. Mine is a local show that also has a time boundary. It super serves a client base from about age 30 to 70 and that’s about it. I doubt if younger people would like this because they didn’t live through it like I did.

Still, I think there is enough of an audience for this to make it worth everyone’s while to at least try it out. The faster I can get it going, the faster I can find out if I was right. It will not require a major investment of money and better yet I won’t have to depend on comedy clubs to make this work. This is a whole new market and I’ll be the one calling the shots.

This whole thing is a risk, but a calculated one. Minimal too. If I do it and it flops, I will easily be able to go back and do what I was doing without missing a step. In fact, I’m not going to stop doing what I was doing as this gets going. I’m only going to do it one or two weekends a month for a few months to test the interest level. After that, we’ll reassess it.

Above all else, it’s been really fun to work on this so far. It’s only been a week, but I am having a blast sorting out the ideas I had and mixing them with those that people sent me. I like working with Ron, and he’s excited to have a new project to develop. It feels right.

This also gives me something to use as a backup to the Jerry’s Kidders play. That’s also a fun project that bypasses comedy clubs, and we’re getting bookings with it. I can stay in the area with both of these projects and fill in blank dates by cherry picking quality clubs.

This is the best of all worlds, and if I can pull it off I’ll be doing quite well. I love all the projects and I love even more the fact my travel will stay to a minimum. I’ve been out and about and it was fun, now I have different goals. One of them is a little financial security.

Tonight I had a show at Zanies in Vernon Hills. The audience was an odd mix and I had to really work to get them and I’m not sure if I did. They were in and out and I didn’t feel I was able to get on a roll and knock it out of the park. That room can be tricky depending on the size of the audience and weekdays are usually pretty small. I wasn’t happy with it.

These are some of the lumps I’m going to have with the play as well. I won’t start with a big venue, so audiences will be smaller in size. Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw, but a smaller audience can go either way. If I get 40 people who aren’t laughers, that can be a LONG night. Still, I’m grateful for the work and life goes on. I’ve got plenty to do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gramping It Up

Wednesday November 18th, 2009 - Long Grove, IL/Cary, IL/Kenosha, WI

Lots of running around again today, I sure hope some of this pays off pretty soon. All it feels as if I do is get up and run around and get back home and sleep a little only to get up and do it all again. I’ve been hitting the road pretty hard in the last little bit and things are falling behind everywhere else. I wanted to stay home today and catch up but I couldn’t.

There was a quarterly meeting for the Lake County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau in Long Grove, IL and since I paid my membership dues I don’t think it’s smart to miss any meetings. Those people are extremely nice though, so I don’t mind. It’s good business for me to network with people in the area, and I’m sure at some point I’ll get hired for a gig.

The bad weather made traffic a nightmare and there were a bunch of people who didn’t make it by 8:30. I pulled in right at 9am thinking I was late, but in fact I had nailed it and was actually early. They postponed it for a few minutes and I can see why. It was a mess.

After the meeting I fought more traffic to make it to Jerry Agar’s house for a rehearsal of “You’re On The Air” with Jerry and the Kidders. We put in a full day’s hard work of editing and rehearsing lines without a script, and by 5pm we were all ready for a snooze.

The play is really coming along though. Everyone is working together and we’re adding funny lines and punching up the others we already have. We’re all excited to give it a shot in January at the Beverly Arts Center. Tickets are on sale and we’ve already sold some so that made all of us feel good. We’re not getting cocky, but we think we can really nail it.

After practice I met up with my friend Gary Pansch in Kenosha because it’s his birthday today. I bought him a meal at a Mongolian Barbecue place that just opened because that’s where he wanted to go. Gary is a regular on the Mothership Connection radio show and a very funny comedian as well, and I felt I owed him at least a meal for all he pitches in.

I won’t forget Gary’s birthday because it was also my grandfather’s. He was born in ‘12 and died in ‘81 but I still think about him often if not daily. He was absolutely the biggest influence of my childhood, and I can honestly say if it weren’t for him I’d be going down a much worse path than I ended up choosing. Gramps took time with me and it paid off.

I thought about him all day and was grateful for how wise he was. He had a style all his own when it came to teaching and I was his masterpiece of mentorship. He was about 52 when I went to live with him and my grandmother. I was 5 months old. Life was a mess.

Gramps often told me he raised me because he felt he owed it to me. He saw how all of us were being raised by my parents and that wasn’t good for anyone. Gramps made it his mission to plant good seeds in my head and he said it would be up to me to nurture them.

I’m doing my best, and I know I’ve made him proud. He wanted to be in show business but never went after it. I’m living my dream and part of his too. Happy birthday, Gramps.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lunch With A Bunch

Tuesday November 17th, 2009 - Niles, IL/Lake Villa, IL

A big part of why I love being an entertainer so much is crossing paths with others who share the same passion. Nothing is more fun than performing, whether it’s comedy or any other skill. There’s a kindred spirit among performers and I love to share that when I can.

My friend Marc Schultz puts together an annual lunch get together of all his clients, and that covers the gamut from circus performers to magicians to ventriloquists to comedians. I’ve attended several in the past and they’re always a chance to shoot the breeze with a lot of really fantastic people. I’ve had to miss a couple because I was working, but not today.

Marc has really grown to become a friend first and booker second. He’s a great guy and very good hearted and we hit it off on many levels. He loves sports and old time wrestling and is a student of the entertainment game too, not just comedy. He’s a few years older as most of my friends have always been, but I really have grown to think highly of the guy.

Bert Haas at Zanies in Chicago is the same way. I consider him a friend before a booker and actually I’d prefer it if he didn’t book Zanies so people wouldn’t keep asking me for a good word. He books who he books and that’s his business. Even if he didn’t book me I’d still think he was a good guy, and he is. He’s a great family man and has a generous heart.

It’s funny how people hit it off in life. Some mesh and some clash, and it’s random how that shakes out. I know people who think Bert is an ass and mostly it’s because he doesn’t book them at Zanies. He’s the first one to admit that just because he doesn’t book an act it doesn’t mean that act isn’t funny, it’s just a matter of if someone fits in the scheme or not.

For whatever reason, I’ve fit in at Zanies for 20 years now. Onstage and off, I’m in their wheelhouse and it’s been much appreciated. I feel the same way with Marc, even though I haven’t gotten as many bookings from him. That’s changing though, and we’re starting to hook up for more things since my Craig Ferguson appearance. He thinks I’m on my way.

We met at a Chinese restaurant with a spare banquet room on Golf Road in Niles, IL. It was another great experience, even though there have been more in past years. There were still about 30 people there and the conversation was very upbeat and positive despite what may be going on in the economy. Everyone’s struggling, but nobody dwelled on it today.

Tonight I had a meeting with a younger comic named Dan Morris. He did a set a while back on a Monday at Zanies and he asked if I would mind letting him pick my brain about comedy a little. That was very smart of him to do, and I told him that. I was glad to help if I could, and he’s a hungry young kid who wants to improve. I totally respect him for that.

I was like that when I started and now it’s my turn to pay it forward whenever I can. I’m very grateful for all I’ve gotten, even if I never get rich and famous. I’ve had a blast doing what most people only dream of, and if that’s all I get I’ve already won the game. Hearing Dan’s enthusiasm pumped me up, as did going to the lunch. I still love this comedy thing.

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.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Late For Letterman

Sunday November 15th, 2009 - Orlando, FL/Milwaukee, WI

Stress is part of life I can do without, but in the entertainment business it’s a constant. If it’s not worrying about a check bouncing from some slime bag club owner, it’s any one of a number of other pitfalls that have to be dealt with regularly. The stressful part is that it’s all very random, and there’s never a set time for a problem to pop up. They just happen.

Today it was travel related. That’s always a huge issue as so many facets of it can screw up so easily. It could be car problems or weather issues or road construction or a limitless number of unexpected freakish events that cause blood pressure to shoot up like a rocket.

I flew out of Milwaukee this time because I got a cheaper ticket. I’m right in the middle between Mitchell Field in Milwaukee and O’Hare Field in Chicago so I don’t mind which one I fly from. I buy whatever ticket I can get the cheapest and it gives me more choices.

I was supposed to be on a showcase for the David Letterman show at Zanies in Chicago tonight for Eddie Brill, the talent coordinator. Eddie is a really good guy and I’ve had two showcases for him before, even though I’ve yet to nail one. He’s a comic himself so he is fully aware of how it works, but I still would like to show him my best for pride’s sake.

I wish he could have seen the sets in Florida, especially Saturday’s show. That was one of the strongest sets I’ve had in YEARS, and of course nobody but the audience saw that one. It’s a completely different animal in an audition situation. Six minutes has a different vibe altogether. It’s a matter of presenting the essence of the character in that time frame.

I did almost an hour in Florida, but that’s not what Eddie or any television booker needs to see. They need to have a short crafted set that gets quick laughs. That‘s all. I had to do that on The Daily Buzz TV shot on Thursday, and that was about three minutes. I did fine in that scenario, but it was completely different than a live headliner set. This is all tricky.

I’ve been working on my set to show Eddie, but not as much as I’d like to quite frankly. I’ve had other gigs and haven’t had time to work on just my audition set, even though it’s crucial if I’m going to get any more TV exposure in the next little while. Eddie has been a big supporter not only of me but to other comics as well and I never want to abuse that.

My plane had some mechanical problems and took off later than scheduled and I would have cut it REALLY close, and by the time I got to my car and raced to Chicago I’d be on at the very end of the showcase. I would have been frazzled and tired and chances are way off my best game, and that’s not how I want Eddie to see me, especially on my third time.

I called Bert Haas at Zanies and told him my situation and he was great about it. He said I could save the stress and not kill myself getting down there on such a thin cushion and it made perfect sense to both of us. I’m disappointed I didn’t get up for Eddie, but to do it in such stressful circumstances wouldn’t have done any of us any good. I’m glad I didn’t try to force it, and embarrass myself. I’m getting smarter in my old age, and it’s about time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Outstanding in Orlando

Saturday November 14th, 2009 - Orlando, FL

I lost money coming to Florida this week but I’d do it again and again and again if I had a guarantee I’d get as much good out of it as I did. WOW, what a productive trip this was, and it was topped off tonight with one of the most electric shows I’ve had in a long time.

Everything lined up perfectly and Friday the 13th couldn’t touch the vibe of the show on either night. Last night’s vibe was very good, but tonight’s was off the hook, out the door, over the rainbow and in the groove. Nobody on the show could do any wrong and it was a powerhouse laugh riot from start to finish. I haven’t seen a show like this in several years.

The audience was fabulous, and that’s where it all starts. Still, the comics are important as well. The opener could have been a feature and the feature could have closed the show. There was also a guest set who was young but very likeable, and he did a fine job as well.

We all got along as comics and nobody stepped on each other’s material. Everyone did their time and it was just a professional pleasure working with everyone this weekend, on the show or in the hotel too. The staff was very friendly and made us all feel comfortable.

The money wasn’t great, but I knew that coming in. The booker kicked in two nights of extra hotel that wasn’t part of the deal so that’s very fair. It was much appreciated and I’m not complaining about the pay. I took this gig to pay my plane fare for the TV appearance.

Everything else really fell into place this weekend as well. I can’t stop thinking of ideas for the one man show about growing up in Milwaukee and I sent out my outline to several Milwaukee friends and they had some great suggestions that are all part of the mix. I’ll be able to get this up and running in a short period of time, and have a very unique product.

I’ve always heard a writer should write what they know, and I grew up in Milwaukee so I know about that. I’ve always done everything in my power to escape and not be a part of my home town, but a lot of that had to do with my dented can past. There were some very ugly memories about Milwaukee I didn’t want to relive, but now most of that is history.

The truth is, Milwaukee is a very unique place and, warts and all, it has an identity. I am a product of that place, no matter how hard I’ve tried to escape that fact. I’ll always call a drinking fountain a ‘bubbler’ and no matter how badly the Packers stink, I’ll still root for that big white ‘G’. Rather than deny all that, I might as well live with it. It’s in my blood.

This is going to be a hell of a show, I can feel it. I tried a one man show years ago, but I wasn’t close to being ready for that then. Now, I’m MORE than ready. I’ve paid my dues and know I can pull this off in a theatre setting and I’m going to start work immediately.

All my other projects are still in the works as well, because this won’t take me off track all that much. I already know the subject matter and have some of the jokes already in my show so I know they work. I’ll just be expanding and tweaking and it will be ready soon.

I Like Friday The 13th

Friday November 13th, 2009 - Orlando, FL

Another Friday the 13th, Mr. Lucky’s favorite day. That’s when everyone else feels for a day what it’s like to be me 24/7/365. Actually I’ve come to embrace it because it’s a good promotional angle. Nobody else I know uses it so I want to make it my own cow to milk.

There is at least one Friday the 13th in every year and no more than three. This happened to be a ‘three’ year in 2009 but there’s only one in 2010, in August. I have nine months to germinate and execute a killer promotional idea to get some press and I’m starting now.

An easy thing to shoot for would be to release some new product(s) then, but what I am really shooting for is to do some kind of live event. A TV show would be great, and that’s why I took this week to come down and be on The Daily Buzz. We talked about me being Mr. Lucky and it fit the theme perfectly. How can I parlay it into something bigger in ‘10?

One thing I’d hoped to do was release my new CD today, but that didn’t happen. It’s no big deal, as the world wasn’t waiting for it or anything, but it would’ve been a promotable angle. I’m all about gimmicks and promotions and angles that will attract media attention.

Unfortunately, I’ve missed a lot more than I’ve hit. I’m just so far behind on everything that I can’t keep up. The CD should have been completed and out by now but it isn’t. I’m not going to make excuses, but I did have other things to deal with. Too bad. Everybody’s dealing with the distractions of life. I have to suck it up and find a way to make it happen.

The weather was gorgeous today so thankfully that’s not an issue. I took a long walk up the road from my hotel which has every chain restaurant known to humankind, and a few that aren’t. I worked up a full sweat and also brought some 3x5 cards to jot down ideas.

One idea I don’t know why I had in Florida, or today - but I did, was to come up with a CD and one man show about growing up in Milwaukee. I’ve had that idea before, but for whatever reason it really hit me hard today and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I used up all my 3x5 cards jotting down ideas in a restaurant and people were gawking as I did it.

I really didn’t care what those people thought, I just kept writing. The ideas were really flowing and it won’t be difficult to put this in motion. I’ll need to find a venue that’s not a comedy club, as that’s not what I’m shooting for with it. I want to make it a theatre show.

I know there’s a limited audience, but it’s got to be at least a couple million people who spent at least a few years living in Milwaukee between the 1960s and 2000. They’ll know what I’m talking about and it will bring back memories. I know, I do it when I’m there for shows now. I can drop local references I can’t use anywhere else because I grew up there.

If I really dug deeper, I could come up with a killer 80-90 minute theatre show that will be hilarious and personal to anyone who spent time in or near Milwaukee. Nobody else is going to get it but that’s fine. It’s not for them. This would be a specialized market only.

There’s a guy named James Gregory out of Atlanta who is very southern in his comedy. He’s an icon in the south because he captures what it’s like to be a Southerner. His shows sell out at theatres and many times he plays for consecutive weeks. He super serves those who support him and his fans are rabid. I want to do the same for people in Wisconsin.

I don’t think I have to do all that much work to get this going. I’ve already got material about being from Milwaukee, because I am. It’s part of me and like it or not, always will be. I may not always like it, but the best way to overcome that is to make it make money.

There are plusses and minuses to doing a locally based show, but for now it’s a definite plus. I live close enough to Milwaukee where I can drive up and do shows in the area if it should take off. I would like to do places like the Pabst Theatre or other venues that aren’t comedy clubs. In fact, those are the people who indirectly have motivated me to try this.

There’s a guy named John McGivern who has carved out a niche for himself in comedy in Milwaukee. I’ve never met the guy but I respect his marketing ability immensely. He’s always got some solo shows running in theatres and I see his name everywhere. Good for him. He was smart enough to do it without the clubs, and that alone earns my respect.

My friend Steve DeClark knows John and I’m working with Steve this coming Saturday in South Milwaukee at the Performing Arts Center there. Steve is another guy who knows how to promote shows so he’s another one I can work with to help this go. I’m excited to get this going, as I think it will be a fantastic way to serve a market not many are tapping.

John McGivern isn’t my competition, nobody is. It’s up to ME and me only to breathe a life into the concept, and I know I can. All I thought about all day was what I’d like this to become, and I totally see the vision. I’m sure John does a fine job, but there‘s room for all of us. My take on it will be my own and his will be his. This will be a temporary project.

I still have no idea why the idea hit me in Florida on Friday the 13th, but it did. I was out most of the day walking and thinking and writing and by the time I got back to my room I was ready for a nap but it was close to show time. I showered up and went to do the show.

This is a really nice facility and there was a full crowd tonight. Mitch English came out with his wife and it was very kind of them to do that. They’ve got kids and Mitch gets up extra early to do his TV show and it really was nice of them to come out to show support.

The other comics on the show are both very nice guys and excellent comics also. That’s SO rare, and I told them both that. The opener is my age and hasn’t been doing it long but has a nice stage presence and could easily be a feature. The feature is very funny also and I can easily see him closing shows. By the time I got on the audience was in a good mood.

That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work and I had a monster show on Friday the 13th. If I could have shows like this every night I’d be a big star, or at least a little less cranky. I’ll work for audiences like this anytime. This particular Friday the 13th wasn‘t unlucky at all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Daily Buzz & Yogi

Thursday November 12th, 2009 - Orlando, FL

In typical Mr. Lucky fashion, the weather in Florida is absolutely horrendous. Of course it is. I wouldn’t be me unless it worked out like that. It’s chilly and cloudy and drizzly and everyone has been complaining about it since I got here. Cheer up everyone, I’ll be out of here Sunday morning so the sun can show up again. As for me, I‘m not bothered one bit.

I didn’t come down here for sun this time. I had business to take care of, and I did. I had my appearance on The Daily Buzz this morning and it was really fun. It wasn’t thrilling to have to get up at 4am but I didn’t want to be late. I don’t know my way around down here and the last thing I needed was to get lost or hit a wall of traffic. I made sure I got there.

They’re sure not bashful about collecting tolls down here. I thought the Illinois Tollway was a Nazi offshoot but this is worse. Every five minutes they’re shaking me down for all my spare change and if I knew my way around better I’d drive over a swamp in reverse to avoid paying them. I don’t know why I have such a disdain for toll roads, but I do. Period.

Whatever it cost, the experience of being on the show was totally worth it. Everyone on staff is unbelievably friendly and they really have a solid show with a fun chemistry that’s contagious on the air and off. My friend Mitch English is very funny and comes across on camera extremely well. Most TV weathermen are corny or stale, but Mitch has real talent.

I saw that when we were in Salt Lake City. He was doing weather there on a Fox station and worked for the husband of a woman who was on our morning show. He also was on a sister station in our building and I got to know him there. He was very friendly and we hit it off immediately. He wanted to do comedy but he had a wife and kids and a TV career.

God bless the guy. I wouldn’t trade that for a brutal road life of a comic anyway. OOPS, wait a minute, that’s exactly what I did. My bad. I guess Mitch got first choice. He picked a winner. He could have been a comic though, he’s very funny. I’m flattered he asked me to be on the show. He’s been offering it for years, but for whatever reason I never did it.

It was a couch interview with one of the other co-hosts named Andy Campbell, who’s a former touring comic who landed this gig about three years ago. I’d heard his name on the road and he’d heard mine and we exchanged typical comic talk of who we’d worked with and when and where and we hit it off nicely too. He’s smooth on the air and a total pro.

The staff laughed as I jam packed as many jokes as I could fit into my three minute time slot, which turned out to be a lot. Everyone involved with the show put me at total ease so it wasn’t difficult at all. I felt a lot more comfortable because I knew Mitch but it also was much easier than the Craig Ferguson experience because I was familiar with being on TV.

Television is a quick hit medium, and I’m learning to do it better each time I get on. My material and persona are a fit for TV because I speak fast and think on my feet better than most. I enjoy the challenge and hope to get on a lot more times. This was worth my trip.

I absolutely think I’ll be able to get on again in the future because Mitch has been in my corner all along. He knows how difficult comedy is and I can feel his respect whenever he asks me about the road life because I think deep down he’s always wanted to do it. That’s no insult, as he’s carved out a fine niche for himself. Still, the lure of stage is very strong.

Human nature always wants what it doesn’t have, so maybe that’s what keeps us going. If we all had what we wanted, nobody would make any effort to chase any of our dreams and push that envelope all the way and achieve something nobody thought was possible.

I’ve always wanted a family, or so I thought. Maybe seeing my wife come to bed in her flannel jammies and mud pack or having to change poo-poo diapers daily would cure me of all that rather quickly. I don’t know. It would be nice to have love and support but I’ve lived without it for so long I wonder if it’s totally necessary for happiness. Who knows?

What I do know is, I’m doing something with my life quite a few others would also like to do. Entertainers need that spotlight and it becomes everything from a drug to a habit to a way of life to a surrogate family. For dented cans especially, it’s what keeps us all alive.

One entertainer who’s about as UN-dented of a can I’ve ever met is Yogi Mueller. He’s an absolutely wonderful soul I met back in Milwaukee in 1991 when he was at Marquette University and working part time promoting a snack called ‘Screaming Yellow Zonkers’.

He and some other college kids dressed in flaming yellow Zubaz sweat pants and wildly designed costumes and claimed to be from the planet ‘Zonk’. They were going to various radio stations trying to get on the air, and I just had to have these guys on. Anyone who is ballsy enough to dress in full Zonk-galia has my attention. They don’t need anything else.

Yogi’s got some size too. He’s about 6’5” and could easily pass for a pro football player or WWE wrestler and has an even bigger heart. He’s loaded with creativity and is a gentle giant personified. He’s bitten by the performance bug too, and does musical comedy with a partner. They call themselves ‘Token Fat Guys’ and they perform all over down here.

Check them out at facebook.com/tokenfatguys and tell them I sent you. We’ve stayed in contact but haven’t seen each other in person for several years now. He happened to be in town and not working tonight so we hooked up for all you can eat lobster at a buffet joint right down the street from my hotel. It cost a few bucks I don’t have, but it was worth it.

The sting of the price will long be overshadowed by the pleasant memory we’ll share of having an all you can eat lobster buffet. There were crab legs and sushi and some of THE best clam chowder I have ever tasted. If you’re going to go out, go ALL out. So we did.

Yogi’s got a great relationship with his parents and they’re both still alive, and live here in Florida. He’s originally from St. Louis and went to Marquette but now he’s settled here and his parents followed. He can’t relate to any of my dented can stuff and I’m absolutely delighted that someone had a happy childhood. I bet Mitch did too. What a fun day it was.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You All Veterans

Wednesday November 11th, 2009 - Orlando, FL

I’ve said it before and I meant it - one thing I never joke about is how much I appreciate my freedom as an American citizen. I may be a dented can in what’s seemingly becoming a dented country, but warts and all this is home. I don’t ever want to live anywhere else.

Veterans Day and the bloody price that was paid to allow me the freedom to air out my opinions, no matter how whacked out they may be to some people, has not been taken for granted - at least from me. My grandpa drilled it into me as a kid and it stuck. I appreciate every single day I live in this country, and I thank all those who sacrificed to make it so.

I’m the first one to speak out against all wars, but never against our Armed Forces who have risked and sometimes lost lives for generations because they’re doing exactly what a soldier is trained to do - follow orders. I respect how much they put on the line and I can’t honestly say I’d be able to be that courageous. They take it from theory right into reality.

On my airplane trip today the flight attendant gave a special thank you to all soldiers for Veterans Day and I started clapping along with about half of the rest of the plane. The guy in the seat next to me gawked my way like I’d just soiled my trousers, but I didn’t care. I did it louder and longer, and looked him square in the eye while doing it. He turned away.

I feel like such a loser sometimes. What the hell have I done to contribute ANYTHING in this life? Not too damn much, if anything at all. I’m not saying a person has to be a war hero or is nothing at all, but some kind of service to humankind should be a part of all our lives in my opinion. I’m trying to do what I can in life, but I feel completely insignificant.

I wish I could go do shows for the troops and contribute that way. I don’t care if they’re in Baghdad or boot camp, I could be doing more to pitch in a little. I guess I could look to be hired for some USO shows, but I have no idea who to contact about getting those gigs.

This week I’m in Orlando, FL to be on “The Morning Buzz” TV show. I was scheduled to be on Friday the 13th, but they were packed so I got bumped back to the 12th. That’s ok, I’m just glad to get the TV spot. That’s three in one year, and for me that’s a record. ONE was the record, so I’m not complaining at all, even though I’ll be losing money this week.

I’ll be able to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while and hopefully start getting gigs down here again. I haven’t worked Florida in way too long and this is the time of year for heading south. I’ll take it in the shorts this week but I think it will lead to more very soon.

In honor of the Vets I fasted the whole day and reflected about America and my life and how I can best use whatever time and resources I have left. Not that my lard ass not eating for a day will do anything for anyone, but it was my symbolic way of showing solidarity.

The more I think about others and their situations in life, the more I realize I’ve got a lot to be thankful for in my own. And I am. I’ll still complain, but never on Veterans Day.

Facing Father Issues

Tuesday November 10th, 2009 - Gurnee, IL

Today was very significant on several levels. First, it would have been my father’s 72nd birthday. I’ll never forget this date as long as I live for exactly that reason, but the anger I had for whatever reasons I had it is fading quickly. Now I just feel it was all a big waste.

I googled my father’s name today and not one single thing came up. Not anything about his death or birth or anything else in between. It was like he was never here. He never did anything for his kids because he never did anything for himself. I almost feel sorry for the guy. He had 69 years to make his mark doing anything, and he blew it. It’s embarrassing.

Maybe the reasons for his mean spirited menacing ways were due to the lack of his own achievements, but it sure wasn’t fun to be the recipient of them. He was a bully and not at all supportive of anything I ever did. Never did we bond, even a little. Now it’s too late.

WAY too many people have father issues, and it’s a common motivator for entertainers of all kinds. Wayne Dyer’s father abandoned his whole family and his mother had to get a job and support the kids. He tells a riveting story of how he finally found where his father was buried after years of searching, and totally forgave him. When I first heard it, I cried.

Steve Martin has another moving story about father issues in his book “Born Standing Up” as he describes a deathbed exchange with his father that cleared the air. That was a tear jerker too, and I totally felt his pain. Unfortunately, I never got to have that deathbed chat to clean up our issues. We did meet for about an hour when I was 31, and that was it.

I used to think he would rot in hell for how he treated his family, but now I’m not even sure if there is a hell. THIS seems like it to me, and if there’s somewhere worse I’d like to see it just out of curiosity. Brett Favre is playing for the Vikings and Dane Cook sells out arenas while I struggle to get work in the U.P. of Michigan to pay my rent. THAT’S hell.

I don’t really have any feelings at all for my father anymore. He’s been dead to me a lot longer than his body has, so what’s the loss? Does Stevie Wonder miss his sight? How is that possible if he never had it? He got along this far without it and still made a great life.

What are the answers to any of this? I sure don’t have any. I think my mother’s birthday is tomorrow, but I’m not sure if she’s living or dead much less when her birthday is. It’s a non issue and getting more distant. The damage is done and they’re both part of my past.

Another significant event today was the execution of the D.C. Sniper John Muhammad. What an unthinkable horror he unleashed on so many innocent people. I remember seeing that whole scene on TV and being glued to coverage because of how frightening it was.

Whose father issues are that nasty to go off the deep end like THAT? Even I’m not able to comprehend that kind of pain. I heard on the radio he never acknowledged anyone even as he was being strapped to the gurney. The dents in his can are beyond comprehension.

Another significant event today took place at the Key Lime Cove Resort in Gurnee, IL. I’m a member of the Lake County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and was put in touch with some people at Key Lime Cove about possibly doing a version of a comedy class for their staff. It was completely experimental and I was scheduled to do it with Bill Gorgo.

Bill is a high school teacher in Chicago and called to tell me two of his students were in the hospital after being shot last night and he was dealing with all that went with that ugly nightmare. They weren’t in danger of dying, but it’s still shocking to hear of such a thing.

I told Bill not to worry about showing up, as the Key Lime Cove people had no idea of anything we had planned, other than it was about humor. If there’s one thing I can handle it’s giving a talk about comedy and humor so that’s what I did for the scheduled program. I told the lady in charge I’d have about 30-45 minutes planned and I easily covered that.

What I’m trying to accomplish is start a more watered down version of a comedy class for a more corporate type audience. I have exercises for team building and have 15 years of teaching under my belt and I know there is something useful with spreading interest in humor to people who have high stress jobs. I also want to do a version for the public too.

I read years ago about a guy who worked in a cancer ward that started a club for those at the hospital who wanted to laugh. He did it to get away from the constant barrage of death and chemotherapy and sadness for one hour a week and he said it was a stunning success.

I wish I’d saved that article but it always stuck in the back of my mind. Now it’s time to breathe some life into it and develop it into a service for humankind. Times are tough and laughter is needed more now than at any time I can ever remember. This is going to work, but I still don’t know how or where. It’s significant that I did the first one tonight though.

We had eleven people show up but then one guy got a call and had to leave. They were all very nice people and it wasn’t unpleasant, but I have no idea how I did. I tried to bring some of the lessons I teach at comedy class, but these people don’t want to be comedians. It’s going to take some tweaking and practice, but eventually I know it will be a winner.

The reason I was so excited about Key Lime Cove is that ‘Famous Dave’ Anderson put the concept together. I have ultimate respect for that guy and the operation reflects what a sharp business mind he has. The staff is on top of it and I want to associate with winners.

Maybe we’ll do something and maybe we won’t, but I appreciate the chance I got to try my first meeting there. Bill will add a lot to the project and I’ll keep learning and tweak it until it strikes a nerve with the right people. MILLIONS of people could use more laughs.

My last significant event was seeing “This Is It”. What an amazing entertainer Michael Jackson truly was, and his talent broke all previous barriers. He was the ultimate dented can with severe father issues, and no matter how rich or famous he was they were always there. He sure left his mark and now it’s time for me to make mine. My father never did.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

R.I.P. Melodie Wilson

Monday November 9th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

I was very saddened to hear that Melodie Wilson passed away today. She was one of the main TV news anchors in Milwaukee going back to the ‘70s. It’s amazing how much of a part of life someone on radio or TV can be in a particular town but it’s true. It’s like a part of a giant extended family and they become local celebrities to the rest of the population.

I’ve experienced it myself on a much smaller scale during my time in radio. I’ve been in several markets, but not all that long unfortunately. Still, I will occasionally go back for a comedy gig in one of them and have someone come up and say how they used to listen to me regularly and even quote something I said or did years before. It’s totally flattering.

Television is much more high profile than radio so I’m sure they get noticed much more than I ever did. People really do get star struck and forget that media people are just that - people. Just because someone is on radio or TV doesn’t mean he or she has no problems.

Growing up in Milwaukee, I watched Melodie Wilson on Channel 4 because that’s who my grandparents who raised me watched. They were loyal to Channel 4 and everyone else was out of luck. Since there was only one TV in the house, I either watched the Channel 4 news when it was on or I did something else. Those were my choices, and I lived with it.

Later in her career, Melodie Wilson went over to Channel 6 and I got to meet her when I was on the news promoting some comedy show I was doing. I don’t remember where or when it was, but I do remember meeting her and being totally star struck because she was my grandparents’ very favorite newscaster. I told her that and she thought it was funny.

I only met her that one time and only for a few minutes, but she really made me feel like I belonged there and we had a very good interview. She was in the studio and I was in the news room for whatever reason, but after it was over she came in and shook my hand and told me I did a good job. She was very warm and friendly and I totally appreciated it then.

I was really impressed with my brief meeting with her and had read of her breast cancer and felt horrible for her. I knew she had a family and it just seemed so cruel to have all of that ugliness to deal with. She wasn’t old and she leaves four kids and a husband behind.

It all seems so unfair. Here’s a talented lady with a family and she has to suffer like this for many years while Charles Manson continues to consume resources in prison. I haven’t a clue why this is, but I have to say I’m growing very tired of it. Can’t a good person win? Whatever force is making the rules on this pimple of a planet hopefully has it figured out.

My heart goes out to Melodie Wilson’s family, but that doesn’t really do much good. If I could do something to help, I absolutely would. But what? A comedy benefit? That’s no solution and won’t change the fact that she was courageous for a long time. I respect how she handled her situation and did it with nothing but class. I can’t say I’d be able to do the same and I truly don’t want to find out. Condolences to her family and friends. It’s so sad.

It reminds me of another Milwaukee TV news anchor named Duane Gay. I got to know him a little through Milwaukee comedian Mark Shilobrit, who knew Duane from college. They did a TV show on Channel 18 called ‘UWM News Focus’ back in the early 1980’s.

Duane was a super nice guy and we went to a few Brewer games over the years, and he and his wife would come out to see Mark at a comedy show once in a while. Many times I’d be on the same show so I’d see them too. Duane was a down to earth, wonderful soul.

He also had a long ugly bout with cancer and he passed away a few years ago. That was also very sad, but like Melodie Wilson, Duane was nothing but classy and courageous the entire way through. He never complained and in fact remained positive. He was amazing.

I don’t use the word hate very often because it’s a very powerful word. I choose where and when I use it, but I can honestly say that I hate cancer and all the destructive things it does. My grandfather died from it as did millions of others who weren’t well known like Melodie Wilson or Duane Gay. It causes pain and suffering and I see no positive angles.

The only thing I think of when hearing heart wrenching stories like these is to chase any and all dreams one may have, as the time we all have here is limited. Don’t accept second best, and shoot for the stars. Every interaction we have can turn into a life long memory.

I only met Melodie Wilson once, but it was very pleasant and that’s how I remembered her when I heard she’d passed. The same with Duane Gay. I knew him a little better but it was still very sad when I heard of his passing too. I thought back and only had good vibes from his memory. Those are exactly the kind of memories I’d like to leave with people.

Unfortunately, there are some with whom I’ve failed miserably. I didn’t intend to, but it sure ended up that way. I’ve tried to make amends and once in a while it’s turned out on a positive note but not always. I don’t have to name names, but there a few who either hope actively that I rot in hell or if they heard I died, it would get no reaction. That’s how it is.

There are, however, a whole lot more people I have been able to reach in a positive way and tonight I was able to make several good memories for several people. I was in charge of booking the talent on the Zanies showcase show in Chicago and it was even billed as a ‘Friends of Dobie Maxwell’ show on the website. I hand picked people to be on the show.

I wanted to take the opportunity to make a special show of people who’d appreciate the shot at a big club and that’s what I did. An example would be a local Chicago guy named Bubba Muski who’s a fixture at Chicago open mikes and really is a kindhearted soul. He brought his parents and both of them thanked me as did Bubba for a chance to do Zanies.

One after the other, the comics and their friends lined up to do the same and they said it was the night of their life and I was proud to have been the one to put it all together. I am by far not without faults and don’t claim to be, but putting pleasant memories in people’s heads is what I live for. Hopefully they’ll remember me fondly, or at least this experience.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Packing It In

Sunday November 8th, 2009 - Harris, MI

This has turned out to be an extremely exhausting week of drives to the northernmost parts of Michigan and back. I’m not upset tonight was the last one for a while. I love to work and really appreciate the money, but I earned every single penny of it on this run.

Tonight’s obscure Upper Michigan destination was the booming metropolis of Harris, which consists of about six small buildings and some wandering cattle. The Island Casino pokes through the Harris skyline like a finger through cheap toilet paper, and that’s where the show was. I’ve been there several times before as has my opening act, Steve Purcell.

Steve lives near Madison, WI and we agreed to meet up to share a ride. There’s no easy route to get there from where I live so I had to wind my way through country roads and it took a lot longer than I thought, but the weather was spectacular so I enjoyed the drive.

The Packers were playing the 0-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so Steve and I assumed we’d be able to enjoy the broadcast of an easy win which would make a picture perfect weather day perfect all around. Ha! Nope. We’re both lifetime fans, but today we both regretted it.

I can’t ever remember being in a car with someone and seeing a mood change as fast as ours did without being angry with each other. We couldn’t believe how the game slipped away from the Packers but neither one of us could turn it off. We’re both Packer-holics.

I asked Steve why it matters so much to us what a bunch of millionaire steroid shooting gorillas who aren’t even from Wisconsin do, and neither one of us could think of a decent answer. We both felt cheated, and I’m sure there were millions of others who felt that too.

How can such flaming incompetence go unpunished? With a performance like that, I’m through with the Packers this year. I don’t want to waste three hours of attention on those pinheads, and if life was fair coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson would have their bags forwarded to their home cities and they would be out of jobs. Now.

A fish rots from the head, and this was the last straw. The Brett Favre situation was bad enough, but I don’t blame McCarthy or Thompson for that fiasco. But, losing to the lowly Bucs who have a rookie quarterback is unacceptable. I can piss away my own life, I don’t need to let a bunch of surrogate saps ruin my Sunday afternoons. This was a bad dream.

Steve and I were pretty quiet the rest of the trip and we got to Harris with under an hour to spare. I hate cutting it that close but there’s just no quick and easy way there. We got in and got ready and did the show. The people laughed and then we packed up again and got back in the car and drove right back to Madison. And then I got in my car, disappointed.

There was a lot of time to think on the way home, and I tried to block out the Packers as much as I could. I’m ashamed that it bothers me at all, but it really does. Who knows why that is? I’ve got my own life to fix. I can use these extra three hours on Sundays to do it.