Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Decade Isn't Over Yet

Wednesday December 30th, 2009 - Cary, IL

It constantly amazes me just how dumb people are. The year 2009 is almost over and everyone seems to think this is the end of this decade. No it isn’t. 2010 is. It’s the same mistake people made in 1999 going into 2000. 2000 was NOT the beginning of the new millennium. 2001 was. Either way, time is still flying and this year is almost finished.

This was a big year for me in many ways. Getting on national TV was huge, and even though it was only for four and a half minutes, it gave credibility to what I’ve been doing for a lifetime. It didn’t make me famous, but it did put me in a club few rarely achieve.

Not only that, the perception by all was that I had a killer set. In my mind I know I can do better, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that more people saw me in that set on TV than have seen me in over twenty years of touring North America, and they laughed.

It took over twenty years to get that first national pop, but it really shouldn’t have. I was ready for it years ago, but I wasn’t in the right position to pull it off. I didn’t put my focus on it either. I was all over the place doing radio and trying to dodge bank robbery charges and just trying to survive. Bad breaks and poor vision are a hell of a combo to overcome.

I was talking to Bert Haas from Zanies about that today. He called to make sure I would still like to host the showcases on Monday nights and I told him I would. I enjoy watching the new generation of comics come up the ladder and hopefully I can be a mentor to them like C. Cardell Willis was to me and all the other Milwaukee comedians back in the ‘80s.

Bert talked about how important persistence is as a trait in show business and how a big part of it is just showing up time and time again. I agree. The business can be a grind with all the hoops there are to jump through and sometimes it feels like it’s all a waste of time.

I’m SO glad I never quit. Some people do, and I can see why, but I have to believe it’s more miserable to quit than to hang in there and suffer. I admit I’m a lifer, and will never quit the entertainment business. I may evolve and transform, but I won’t quit. It’s in me.

The new year brings a lot of hope actually. I really want to keep going and discover new and exciting levels I’ve only dreamed of until now. I know I can do more TV, but now I’ll have to align with the people who can make that happen. It’s a new game, but I’m ready.

I’m also excited about the one man play about growing up in Milwaukee. That’s a niche market, but I know I can pull it off. There’s a market for it, the question is how big. I have a feeling it’s big enough to be worth my effort, and I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and give it a shot. I’m looking forward to the challenge and this is the year for it.

Uranus Factory Outlet is another project that delights me. It’s a challenge to put a whole new concept together from just an idea, and even though it’s taken longer than I thought it would to get this far, I’m poised to make a lot of progress in 2010 and get it launched.

Those are very ambitious projects all, but it’s not all I have going. That’s where the big issue with time management comes in. Between comedy, comedy classes, Uranus Factory Outlet, hosting Monday showcases, the Milwaukee show and working on getting rid of all my sports cards, that doesn’t leave much time for farting around. But there’s more to do.

Jerry’s Kidders is still a project, and we’ve got a booking coming up at the Beverly Arts Center on the south side of Chicago January 16th and 17th for our play with Vicki Quade called “You’re On The Air”. We’ve been working on it for months, and today we worked on it again at Jerry’s house. We went over lines and cues and it’s starting to take shape.

The play may or may not be a winner, but it sure does feel like it. We’ve got a long way to go as far as actors, but this is not about acting. It’s basically our comedy act that’s been disguised as theater, and that puts us in a position of power. Three life long comedians are not going to freeze up and draw a blank. We’ve all been on stage and feel at home there.

Is that it? No, there’s also the Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP in Kenosha, WI. That’s another fun little detour that’s been worth my time. For three hours a week we get together as a group and get to play radio. We’re going on the third year now and even though we don’t get paid, it’s still a highlight of the week. I want to keep the show going.

That’s a hell of a lot to juggle for any one person, but that’s where I am. I’ll have to get myself on a tighter schedule and delegate more, but life is short and time is limited so the best thing to do is keep plugging. If my heart pops like a zit, so be it. I’d rather blow out than rust out from inactivity, but there doesn’t look to be any danger of that. I’m full up.

But, I’m still human and at some point a social life would be nice. I casual date several women, but I have to make time for it with all the other things I have going. I’d love to be married to a great woman, even if she had kids that weren’t mine. I love kids, and I think I would be a great father or father figure, but how can I fit that in with all else I’m doing?

This is all part of the puzzle of life. Eventually, I hope to get things running so I can just show up and handle each project at a time. That sounds great, but I doubt if it’s a realistic expectation. There’s always a glitch to work out or a problem to solve. Life is full of that. I’ve got a lot on the table, but it’s all stuff I really enjoy. Why not try to make it all work?

Time is ticking and this lifetime is getting shorter by the day. We all have to deal with it and each of us has to make choices that affect our future. I am still a dented can and that’s never going to change. Not in this lifetime. I have to do the best I can with what I have to work with, warts and all. That’s my goal for the new year and beyond. I want to improve.

Life can be so difficult sometimes. I know I’m a nut, and once in a while I’ll go off and do something especially stupid that will take years to correct. I made a few goofs this year but not as many as past years. I’m getting better, but I’m also getting older. Will I have an opportunity to cash in on all the dues I’ve paid before I’m too old to enjoy them? That’s a question that will get answered soon enough. Let’s crank it up and see what 2010 brings.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On The Mark

Tuesday December 29th, 2009 - Hoffman Estates, IL

Alright, time for some action. I’ve been playing small time ping pong far too long. My whole family were small time hustlers for generations, never having the guts to chase the big dream. I love my grandpa, but he settled for mediocrity. No, it was even less. He told me it bothered him in the end, but by then it was too late. I have a chance to roll my dice.

Actually, I’ve been rolling them my whole life. I took chance after chance with projects like buying a pro wrestling business and radio jobs which continually blew up in my face time after time. Comedy has been a gamble too. I sacrificed the chance for a wife and kids because I felt I wouldn’t have been able to do both of them justice. Turns out, I was right.

I really haven’t lit the world on fire as a comedian either though. Yes, I’ve survived and made a hobo’s living for over twenty years, but as far as a career goes I’m still a no name on the big scene. Part of that was bad breaks and part of it was bad choices. Together, that puts me where I am today. I’m an experienced act that nobody knows. How can I fix that?

I’m not the only comedian or entertainer in general who’s in this position. Not by a long shot. Everyone thinks they should be farther than they are, including those who’ve “made it” in the eyes of their peers. In fact, there are quite a few people who think I’ve made it.

In some ways I have. If I did one thing right, I stayed with standup comedy. No matter if I was promoting pro wrestling shows or doing morning radio or even trying to get myself cleared of bank robbery charges, I always kept working at comedy. I’d get stage time even if it meant losing sleep or not being able to have fun with friends. I always kept working.

Now, I’m very happy I did that. I know in my heart I’ve paid my dues, and so do all the people around me. Even those who think I’m a total ass always close their babbling rants with “…But he IS a good comic.” They can’t take that away, but I don’t care about them. I care about me. And audiences. I want to find a core audience and please them forever.

A ton of other people have done it, now it’s my turn. To what degree remains a variable for each individual. Dane Cook’s core audience comes out 20,000 at a time in each city at an arena where hockey and basketball games usually take place. It doesn’t matter what his act is, that’s pretty impressive marketing. That’s what this whole business is - marketing.

My marketing has been half assed and mediocre at best. I’ve been too busy working on creating an act all these years, but that’s what I really enjoy. Trying to procure work from some felonious honky tonk proprietor or getting new headshots taken was never what my passion was, and it isn’t now. Some of that needs to evolve, and I need to market myself.

The best marketers have made the most money, and talent had little or nothing to do at all with any of them. Talent is subjective anyway. I’d rather have an audience enjoy what I do and they can decide if I’m talented or not. Actually, likeability and charisma have the larger long lasting impact. If audiences like it, they’ll pay to see it. THAT’S true ‘talent’.

Today I took a very important step in improving my marketing by meeting with Mark Huelskamp. He’s Jim McHugh’s brother in law and a web designer par excellence. He’s the guy who did the Chicago Style Standups website when I was with them and I always thought that one looked fantastic. Mark is a pro and Jim McHugh suggested I talk to him.

My personal site is being handled by my friend Shelley. She really helped me get back up and running after my ex business partner cleaned me out, and I’m very grateful for her doing that. The site looks clean and is easy to navigate and she did a great job on it. She’s a giver like me and I appreciate that but she’s got a husband, two kids and a full time job.

I don’t expect Shelley to snap to my every whim, even though she’s been super at doing whatever I’ve asked her to do. Now it’s time to ramp the whole program up a few notches and I don’t feel comfortable leaning on her to do that. I need to get someone who can take me to a higher level, even if it costs money to get there. Money begets money. So I hear.

Mark and I met at Jim’s house today and went over the big picture of what I want. I told them I’m scattered, but have a ton of ideas I want to eventually interconnect and create an umbrella project much like George Clinton did with the bands Parliament and Funkadelic to form “A Parliafunkadelicment Thang” or “P-Funk”. Everything was under one roof.

That’s what I want to do eventually too, but I have to build up the components first. We talked about that today, and the one idea Mark is going to help me with is Uranus Factory Outlet. That’s been sitting there doing nothing for way too long, and I cringe just thinking about that. I don’t think it will take that much to at least get a site up, and Mark agrees.

If I can get a simple site built that’s Paypal friendly and has a couple of products on sale I can build from there. Mark knows his stuff and I interviewed a few other people to help me with this in the past, but right now Mark feels like the right person to help at this time. I’m going with gut feelings and vibe, and at this time what I’m doing feels totally right.

Shelley will still be a part of it if she wants, as will a lot of other people. George Clinton goes on stage with over 30 other people and on any given night it could be any of many of the total amount that make up the whole P-Funk mob. He goes with the flow and so do I.

Flow is one thing but structure is another. I need structure desperately, and that’s what I discussed with Mark and Jim today. Jim is very good at structuring things and I’m glad he kept pushing me to meet with Mark. It felt right and we had a very productive meeting for about an hour, then we went to lunch at Portillo’s near Jim’s house in Hoffman Estates.

Portillo’s is a Chicago institution and it’s always jam packed. While we were waiting to order, Jim noticed that Carmen Salvino was waiting too. He’s a legendary pro bowler and growing up in Milwaukee where bowling is a religious experience, of course I knew who he was. Jim said hello and introduced him to Mark and myself, and it was a thrill to meet him. He and his wife were both very classy. Then he told Jim a story about getting stiffed on pay for an appearance he did where Jim performed. Different industry, same results.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Just Bearly

Monday December 28th, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL

I can’t remember the last time I had a Monday night off and did nothing but plop myself in front of the TV and watch the entire Monday Night Football game from start to finish. I usually write Mondays off, as I either have a comedy class to teach or a showcase to host.

On the rare occasion when I’m off and in town with nothing to do on a Monday, I try to get out and do something fun. Maybe I’ll see a movie or ask a woman out or anything but hole up and watch football, especially the game tonight. It had ‘megaturd’ written all over it. That or ‘megaterd’, I’m not sure of the exact spelling. Spell check doesn‘t know either.

Whatever it is, this game by all accounts should have been a frozen blowout, a dogsicle. It was the Minnesota Vikings vs. the Chicago Bears and as a Packer fan, I hoped that both teams would get a stomach virus and then their drunken fans would freeze to death in the stands to thin the herd of obnoxious halfwits that pollute the universe with their stupidity.

I happened to be in front of the TV when the game started so I thought I’d watch a few plays and then do something else. The Bears and Vikings are absolutely my top two least favorite football teams so it didn’t really matter who won or lost. I still think Brett Favre needs to get his nose rubbed in it a little so for the first time ever, I cheered for the Bears.

That alone felt strange, but even stranger was they played very well in the first half and were actually winning at halftime. Nobody predicted that, and by that point I’d been very entertained so I decided to watch it until it no longer interested me. That ended up turning into the whole game. The second half got better and then overtime put it into overdrive.

This was one of the most entertaining football games I’ve ever seen, and it had nothing at all to do with the teams playing. It was just a great game, and I’ll bet the NFL is thrilled old Favreroo keeps coming back like venereal disease on a rock star. They’d start a senior division for him if he’d keep playing until he couldn’t walk anymore. The guy is money.

The NFL sure does have an addictive drug for a product. Once that bug gets inside any person, it’s hard to get it out. I was mesmerized by the whole game, and it wasn’t even on my schedule to watch it. But once I started, I couldn’t stop. This was a game for the ages.

It felt good to have a Monday off, but I want to really get back and crank up the comedy classes again. I love teaching, and I know I can help those who want to learn about the ins and outs of the business. I’m a lifetime student of the game myself, so teaching keeps me close to it. Hopefully I can pass along some of the tips I’ve learned to a new generation.

Most of the day today I spent running errands to clear up the car accident. I cleaned out the wrecked car of all my remaining trinkets and took the title to my insurance agent, who in turn will pass it along to the claims adjuster and then I’ll get paid and move on. I really am lucky to have survived this with such minor damage. I don’t take that for granted and I’m ready to get back to work. I’m also ready to put the Bears back on the ‘still suck’ list.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Control Freaking

Sunday December 27th, 2009 - Kenosha, WI

I took a day off today to just relax and do nothing. Well, almost nothing. Even when I’ll sit around and do nothing, I almost always do something, it’s just a little less than I do if I set out to do something. Then I get disappointed because I never do enough. This way I’m ahead of the game because I’ll end up doing more than nothing, but less than something.

Confused? Me too. That’s probably why I get so far behind on everything. I get on a roll with something I’m doing and that captures my attention for the moment. Then the rest of everything I’m working on gathers dust and I feel like I’m starting over again all the time.

Two main factors come into play here: One - I happen to enjoy a lot of different things. Two - I’m a control freak. I just am. Most creative people are, at least the good ones. I’m fine with being on a team when I’m not in control, but that has to be stated from the start.

Jerry’s Kidders is a great example. Ken Sevara, Tim Slagle and I are the Indians and we all agree that Jerry is the chief. We each get a voice in decisions, but Jerry gets final word. That’s how it was set up right as we started, and we’re still abiding by it two years later.

My projects are a little different. I’m in control, but I don’t have any Indians underneath me. Either I should get some and start delegating or pick an order and live with it the way it is. That’s wherein lies the risk. Bringing in partners could bring in problems. Or help.

Obviously, bringing in the right partners would help but who exactly would that be? I’m the one who sees my own vision best, and that’s always how it will be. Other people can’t see it unless I explain it to them, but then there’s no guarantee they’ll share my inner fire.

My Uranus Factory Outlet idea is a great one. I know that because I’ve had three people offer to become partners in the venture. Each one of them wanted me to sign away a large slice of the total pie of something that hadn’t even made the first dollar yet. I almost did it the first time, but I reconsidered and said no. It just didn’t feel right, and I was correct.

Eventually, if I do get it going I’ll have to trust someone and take on some kind of help from any number of partners. I know I can’t do everything, but right now I need to learn a few more lessons before I start signing things away. I want to either have control or cash, not flatulent promises of future wealth. I would have been stung had I given up control.

This year will be critical to the big picture. I’m going to have to sign some things away, or at least bring on some kind of help from outside. In comedy, it would be signing with a management company. That’s always a tricky deal, and it has to be a good match for both parties. I’ve heard some horror stories of comics who can’t undo their management deal.

Again, I probably could have found something had I really looked. I chose not to. Now I need to rethink all of these things. I can’t keep doing it all by myself. I’ll never be able to get any true momentum going. Now the real challenge starts. Who will share my vision?

One place things are going along very well is the Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP. It’s a blast on many levels, but I’ve taken it about as far as I can by myself. I’m the conductor, but by no means am I the only contributor. Everyone else has added to the mix and together we’ve created a fun little club to go to for three hours on a Sunday evening.

Co-hosts have come and gone, come back again, gone again, but we’re still having a lot of fun no matter who shows up on any given Sunday. Tonight Scott Markus was back for another week before he heads back to Los Angeles and he brought a ton of guests along.

Scott wrote a book called ‘Voices From The Chicago Grave’ and did a great job with it. He’s working on the next version and is known in ghost circles so he can get guests for us that I don’t even know. He’s also into horror films so that’s another angle we cover when he’s around because he has solid contacts there too. We’ve had some very strong shows.

My comedian friend Gary Pansch lives in Kenosha and he’s a regular contributor also. I always thought Gary was funny, but he’s shining in this area too. He’s very quiet off stage but on the air he’s a solid contributor and always asks intelligent questions. He totally fits.

Diane Ebert has been in radio for a long time and she’s become our resident female, for now at least. I always thought a woman would be great in the mix, as most shows like this are geek fests for dorky white guys. I guess that’s ok, but I like to hot rod it up a little and having a woman on has totally worked. Diane is fitting in and starting to feel comfortable.

Our old female co-host was Lara Shaffer. She was a pleasant surprise, and understood it right from the start. She’s about 25 and not a radio person at all, which is what made her a natural fit. She had a natural flair for entertainment and is an aspiring model/actress. Yeah right. What 25 year old woman isn’t? That’s fine, but not many have Lara‘s wit and style.

Lara is going through whatever 25 year old women go through and isn’t on the show for now, but she said at some point she’d like to come back. That’s fine. I’d take her in a half a second, but Diane is doing an excellent job with what she does. It’s different, and that’s totally fine. My job is to decide what each person does best, and encourage them to DO it.

That’s what’s so much fun about the show. I want the others to shine and contribute and get to ask whatever questions they want of our guests. And that’s another thing, we get an absolutely amazing array of fascinating guests on a wide range of subjects. I’ve been very impressed and pleasantly surprised at how many people love to come on the air with us.

Now it’s a matter of taking it to the next level, but again that’s a delicate call. Nobody is going to really hear us on WLIP in Kenosha, WI. No offense to either Kenosha or WLIP, but that’s a painful fact. It is what it is, and it’s not a bad station at all. It’s just a bit small.

Getting on a big station would bring a whole new set of issues, many based on who gets to control the show. If I was making money I guess I could give up control, but why can’t I have both? There has to be a happy medium somewhere, and I’m going to hunt it down.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Grand Gamble

Saturday December 26th, 2009 - Waukegan, IL

In order to think big, I have to work my way up. How about I just start to THINK period and see where that goes? I can be pretty impulsive at times and then I have to go back and try to fix what seemed like such a good idea at the time I did it. My humongous mountain of sports cards is a stellar example. It sure was fun to buy it, but now it’s a gigantic pain.

I’ll deal with it in due time, but it’s not a crisis. I did think about it when I bought them, and I tried to imagine every angle and consequence that could happen if I did. The worst case scenario ended up happening, but I’m surely no stranger to that. It is what it is, and I knew it was a possibility when I did it. I didn’t think it would actually happen, but it did.

I rolled the dice, what came up came up, and I’ll learn from it and move on. I may lose a little money or even a lot. Maybe I’ll even make a little. The top mistake was not figuring in the extra time it would take to sort through all of them, and also that sports card shows are drying up all over the country. Ebay is the way it’s evolving but that’s not my plan.

At this point I am going to sort it and package it the best I can and try to find a buyer for ALL of it. I’ll see what I can get, and if I can come close to breaking even I’ll do it in half a split second of a jiffy. It’s cardboard. I want to aspire to higher things in life than that.

My most pressing need today was to acquire reliable transportation for the least amount of money as humanly possible. Being without a working car is torture for me. I need it for gigs, but it’s more than that. A car is freedom to me, and always has been. If I want to get in and drive to Guatemala or Oshkosh or Nova Scotia, I want to be able to do it anytime.

Jerry Agar was off this weekend and there were no Kidders so he came over and picked me up in his 1984 Buick Skylark his aunt from Canada gave him for his son Tanner. Jerry has been driving it too, and it runs pretty well. I teased him because he’s driving a car that even predates most of mine, but I didn’t tease too hard because he was doing me a favor.

He took me to the Waukegan Auto Auction so I could hopefully score a new old car and start my life over. Of course it was snowing like a Christmas movie, but too bad. I needed a car, and today was the day I needed it. Again, it was the worst case scenario but I wasn’t upset at all. In fact, I kind of liked the challenge. I’d done my homework and was all set.

They put the auction list of vehicles on a website at www.waukeganautoauction.com so it’s possible to at least check out the selection that particular week. They do accept bids online but I wouldn’t recommend doing it. I think it’s smart to look at the cars in person and get a feel for what’s available. I know it sounds goofy, but cars have personalities.

I totally believe that. There is an energy that comes from sitting in a car, and I can feel it after all these times I’ve bought at the auction. I’ve had good feelings about cars and been dead on every time. The danger comes when I try to force it. A few times I needed to pick up a runner and I took a chance on something I hadn’t sat in or looked at and got burned.

I wasn’t about to let that happen today. I knew I needed a car and looked over the list of what was available. Once in a while they’ll throw something in late that hasn’t been listed and I’ve ended up scoring a couple of nice deals on those. I had it in my mind I would not just bid on any tin can because it was cheap. I wanted to be smart and score a sweet deal.

This was actually a good week to buy a car. Attendance was about as low as I think I’ve ever seen it at the auction and I’m sure that was because of both the holidays and the bad weather. I figured I had an extra good chance to find a cherry so I set out to hunt it down.

There is a period before the auction when the cars can be started up and looked over for damage, but not driven. They don’t even allow anyone to pop the transmissions in gear so there is risk involved. I’ve gotten pretty decent over the years at picking though. It’s hard not to smarten up when one gets burned as many times as I have. Those scars go DEEP.

Today’s auction was 120 vehicles, and I had six I was interested in, and another three or four that I had mild interest if the price was right. The two main ones I liked were Toyotas but one was a 2000 Corolla and the other was a 1993 Camry. I sat in both cars and started each one up and looked under the hood for warning signals of abuse. I also checked them for heaters, very important this time of year. I also check lights, signals, radio and doors.

One thing I’ve learned is it’s NOT a bargain if the radio doesn’t work or the driver door doesn’t open or some other annoying defect that makes life miserable. Dents are fine, but they don’t affect how the car runs. Neither does the radio, but I listen to a lot of different kinds of audio so at this point stereo is a required part of any car I might buy. I need one.

The first few cars went extremely cheap and I thought I might have a shot at getting one of my two top prospects. The first car of the day was a ‘97 Buick with 107,000 miles on it that ended up selling for $150. Even with the auction fee of $200 and $55 for paper work it would be a running car out the door for about $400. I’ve jumped on those in the past.

Most times it ends up a bad deal. It sounds good at the time, but then something pukes that costs big money like a transmission and it becomes a lost cause. This one had rust on it but the inside was very clean. Still, it looked like an old man’s car so I passed on it. I’ve had enough of those rot rods in my life and I just didn’t feel like settling for another one.

Sure enough, the ’93 Camry came up and didn’t attract many bids. I’d set a $1000 limit in my head, and that’s as high as I was going to go. It hit $1050 and then $1100 and I put my bidding card away. No hard feelings, I had my budget for what I thought would be an affordable deal. Then, the lady who bid $1100 pulled it back because she misunderstood.

The guy that bid the $1050 didn’t want it either, so it came to me. The auctioneer said he’d sell it to me for my highest bid of $1000 if I’d take it, and I said I would. I made the deal and juiced up the last of my available credit and drove Jerry to buy him breakfast. It seems like it had care. The interior is clean, no rips in the seats or cracks in the windows. The brakes are solid and the tires are new. For $1000, I think I scored a deal. We’ll see.

The Secret Christmas

Friday December 25th, 2009 - Milwaukee, WI/Lake Villa, IL

Another Christmas comes and goes, but this one wasn’t brutal at all. It wasn’t even bad. I actually felt good the whole day, and that’s pretty remarkable since I woke up in a Motel 6 and for the first time in recent memory don’t own a car. Well, I own PART of a car, but most of it looks like it went through a giant blender. Hey, at least I woke up. I’m grateful.

My back was even sorer than when I laid down because the mattress was saggy. I don’t know if that was because they haven’t changed it in years or if it was the constant barrage of lard asses using it as their honeymoon suite. Either way, I was still happy to wake up.

I needed to get some sleep after my drive-a-thon to Duluth and back and it didn’t matter where I got it, as long as it wasn’t behind the wheel. I dropped off the rental car two hours before I had to but I had no place else to go and I wanted to get it back before a new crisis had a chance to bubble up out of nowhere and cause me grief. I didn’t have the energy.

I woke up feeling refreshed and peeked outside my window to see a gray, rainy day that sure didn’t look like Christmas. Not in Wisconsin anyway. It looked like Seattle on a day that would have sent Kurt Cobain over the edge so I closed the drapes back up and turned on my computer. It was too early to call anyone and I didn’t have a way to go anywhere.

I brought a few videos with me to watch in case I got bored or depressed, but I was way too tired and was asleep about ten minutes after I got to the room. One of the videos I had was ‘The Secret’, which I hadn’t seen in quite a while. I watched it and it immediately put me back in the excited state I was in when I saw it the first time. That is a powerful video.

Many people have criticized it and picked it apart, but those wank poles will never have anything that pleases them. They look to pick everything apart, and I’m just not into that. I also think there’s an actual effort involved and just wishing something true won’t make it so. There’s a medium ground in there somewhere and that’s where I want to always be.

I really do believe that thoughts become things and most if not all self help publications of all kinds boil down to the same basic message - what a person thinks about most often is what manifests itself in that person’s life. Period. The bible says it and so does a whole lot of other sources. I believe it to be true, but somehow we all tend to get out of rhythm.

The Law Of Attraction works, but it has to be followed correctly. I watched that video this morning and it spoke directly to ME, just like it did the first time I saw it. I was in an unbelievably positive place for a long time after, and I just got out of it somehow. I think a lot of it had to do with that I didn’t continue to pack my mind with positive ingredients.

I’m not saying I have to listen to motivational tapes every day or that they’ll take all of my problems away. What I’m saying is, I have to make a total commitment to creating the exciting life I’ve always wanted to live. Sometimes I’ve come close, but others have been downright pathetic. It’s up to me to readjust my entire life and it starts in my own head.

I’m thrilled I chose to watch The Secret again, and I’m not going to let it die there. I am going to keep filling my head with solid brain food and keep growing into the person I’ve always wanted to be. That person is a WINNER, and everyone knows it. He’s dynamic on stage and off, and he’s constantly creating quality projects and attracting fantastic people.

I’ll admit I’ve been a little shaky in a few areas lately. Diet and exercise have been very inconsistent, and there’s no reason for it. None. I’ve had some nice streaks where I feel as good as I’ve felt in years, and then I’ll just let it all go and pack my colon full of red meat, sugar and anything else that I’ll need a doctor to remove some day with a jack hammer.

The people I choose to be around is another thing I need to work on. I love to be around positive, fun, intelligent creative people and I have many I already know. They can stay as long as they like, but the other lowlifes have to go. I won’t tolerate any of their petty little grade school BS and if I never see them again, I won’t miss them. I don’t miss them now.

I could go off on several examples, but why waste key strokes on those cretins? They’ll never help me or see my vision so piss on all of them with an infected bladder. They’re as dead to me as my father, and he can’t hurt me anymore either. Let them all find peace, but let them do it as far away from me as possible. I don’t want their toxic energy close to me.

There are way too many good people that I don’t have to deal with anyone I don’t want to. What a relief that is! I’ve made it this far by doing it my way, now if I just smarted up a little and do it correctly I bet I’ll see amazing improvements in a short amount of time.

My friend Tom Orlando is definitely one of those on the good list. He’s got a very good vibe going in his own life, and I’m glad we’ve reconnected. He was in Milwaukee to visit his relatives for Christmas and was nice enough to swing by the Motel 6 and pick me up.

Tom has the entrepreneurial spirit and has done very well for himself, but like me he is very creative and doesn’t always do great with details. He’s got people around him in his world that do have those skills, and he’s learned to use them effectively and mesh with all the things he does well. He is a great mind to bounce ideas off of, and we did on our ride.

We’ve known each other since grade school, and then went our separate ways. Now it’s over thirty years later and we’ve got a lot more in common than we did even then. We’ve both been bitten by the radio bug and it’s bitten us back, but not in a good way. I’m still a struggling mope while Tom has figured out other ways to skin a cat. I totally respect that.

I want to leave a trail of good stories behind in my life. There have been some clinkers, but who doesn’t have those? I want to show unbelievable kindness and concern for others and be thought of as a shining example of a guy that overcame his past and helped others.

I want to find love and peace and squeeze every last drop out of my potential and not be the loser and waste of sperm my father tried to tell me I was. He’s dead, and soon enough I will be too. I don’t have time to waste on small time pinheads. It’s time to think BIG.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Even

Thursday December 24th, 2009 - Milwaukee, WI

What a grueling marathon this whole trip has been. I’m glad it’s over, but I’m also glad I was able to make good on my commitment to show up in Duluth. I had a solid show and didn’t let circumstances get in the way like I easily could have. It wasn’t the crowd’s fault and I was proud of myself for being able to leave it out of the equation and just let it rip.

I’m still in a bullet proof mental state and I’m not letting anything get me down. In fact, I’m looking at this situation as a gift because it will motivate me to come back and get my priorities straight so I actually DO something with my life rather than just drift through it.

Whatever problems I have right now are easily fixable. I need a few bucks to make it all even again and even though it seems like a lot to me, it really isn’t. Twenty or thirty grand would put me in a great place and fifty would make me feel like Donald Trump. That’s an afternoon of shopping for Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, but I don’t have high standards.

I’ve lived like a cockroach for so long, I’ve gotten used to it. I think even if I did haul in a big windfall I’d be able to make it last a lot longer than most other people. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with material things, I just don’t have a need to own all that many.

My grandmother used to have furniture in her living room that nobody could sit in other than the pastor from church whenever he would come over. That happened maybe four or five times EVER, and the rest of the time it sat there covered in plastic collecting dust.

One of the very few laughs I ever had with my father was when the family got together to clean out her house when she went to the nursing home. He walked over and plopped on the couch that had been covered in plastic for as long as anyone could remember and said “I always wondered what that would feel like.” It was very funny and we all got it.

What we didn’t get was a pleasant healthy family relationship, and that’s why this time of year hurts so much. It’s a yearly reminder of what never was and never will be after all these years of wanting it. I know it’s too late now, but I can’t help admitting I still want it.

I probably always will, and who knows if I’ll ever get a chance to have my own family? I’m having enough trouble keeping myself going without the burden of a wife and kids to support. Maybe I’ll get my wish and maybe I won’t, but at least I’m honest with myself.

I screwed up a lot of things with my siblings, and I admit it. They don’t speak to me and it hurts, but I know in my heart I tried my best to make it better with all of them. I went to each of them and apologized, then asked for their forgiveness in return. They all said no.

Now I guess I have to live with that. It used to really bother me, but right now I can say honestly that it doesn’t. Not right today anyway. That may change but right now all I want is for all of us to find peace and get over all that ugliness of childhood. If they don’t want to talk to me, it’s their loss. I’m trying my best and in a good space. I hope they are too.

Christmas Eve has etched some very vivid memories into my mind over the years. As a kid I remember a knife fight breaking out in the kitchen at my father’s house between my step mother’s brother and one of the Outlaws. Nothing says Merry Christmas more than a drunken idiot pulling a knife right when presents are supposed to be opened. Ho Ho Ho!

Someone’s old lady was cheating on someone or something and all I can remember is a fight breaking out and everything getting knocked over. My grandparents were also there and I can still see the bitter look of disgust on my grandmother’s face as she took me into the living room with my brother and sister and we sat in the corner until it was all over.

I was probably about eight or nine and I could tell then that something wasn’t right with our family. I kind of knew it before, but that particular memory really clinched it for me. I can’t believe how vivid that memory still is today, even though I’ve tried to obliterate it.

Another Christmas Eve memory I have is putting a gun in my mouth and getting to the horrible point of pulling the trigger. I don’t recommend that to anyone, and I still shudder when I think of it now. My old roommate George had a .38 revolver and he was gone on Christmas Eve and I was all alone. It was 1993, the year I had my first major car wreck.

I was really low that year on many levels. I lost months of work recovering from the car accident and that was the year my best friend Timbo had robbed the bank for the second time. I was broke and broken and in a horrible place in my head and I just didn’t want to live anymore. I sat there for quite a while and mustered up the guts to squeeze the trigger.

The gun jammed or something and whatever the reason was, it didn’t go off. I sat there shaking and crying and overcome with emotion. I ended up putting the gun away and then writing a long letter to my father which I ended up mailing. It was many months later, but he called me and we ended up having our one on one meeting, which went nowhere fast.

These are deep emotional memories that used to be extremely painful, but as the years pass, so does the pain. Now they’re just memories that I really don’t want to revisit at all if I don’t have to. What rots is that when I hear Christmas music and see lights it tends to send my mind back to places I don’t want it to go. The trick is to not let myself go there.

Some Christmases have been flat out torture. This one isn’t so bad, even though I have a few things to be pissed off about. Yes, my car is history but that could have been a LOT worse. I’m alive with no major injuries and I might not live to see another Christmas but I sure did live to see this one. I’m grateful for that and also for the fact I’m thinking clearly.

I’m at a Motel 6 in Milwaukee because I had to return my rental car back to the airport and I have no ride anywhere. I don’t want to bother anyone on Christmas Eve and I need to get some sleep anyway. I just drove over 1000 miles in just over 24 hours and the last few hundred were under stress in a snow storm. This is the perfect night to spend asleep and I don’t mind at all. A lot of other people would be upset about it, but I’m in a bullet proof place in my head and I’m feeling good. I hope I can stay in this place for a while.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Around The World In A Day

Wednesday December 23rd, 2009 - Duluth, MN/Lake Villa, IL

I am SO sore right now. Everything aches. It feels like my entire body got clubbed a few hundred times with a giant canoe paddle. The last thing I wanted to do was drive 450 long hard miles to Duluth in December to do a low paying gig, but I made good on my promise to show up. If I say I’m going to do something, I really do try my best to honor the deal.

I’m in a tough spot right now, but I’ve been here before. These are the times that build a callous toward life, and I’ve got one of the thickest of anyone I know. I’m not bragging at all, and in fact I almost wish I didn’t know how to handle these situations, but I totally do.

There are days when I’m bullet proof and can handle anything, and there are others that push me over the edge and I don’t want to go on living. Today was bullet proof, and I was in a clear thinking mindset the entire trip despite the fact I’m getting raped on the rate for my rental car. It’s Christmas week and it was tough to find a car at all. Of course it was.

I’m Mr. Lucky, remember? It’s always ‘worst case scenario’ and THEN add the wrinkle or glitch to make it really difficult. It’s a hell of a comedy formula but not pleasant living it, especially now. I’ve got to do some serious maneuvering to recover from this situation.

I thought about what to do for most of the trip, the rest of the time trying to hear any bit of weather information I could find about the alleged impending snow storm that’s going to alter life as we know it apparently. I’m not afraid of snow, but right now I don’t need a second accident in the same week trying to swerve around some imbecile in front of me.

This isn’t going to be an easy fix. That Toyota I wrecked was running great and I paid a little more than I usually to when I invested in it. I had a wheel bearing replaced for $900 and that’s now lost money. My over/under for this one was not met because I didn’t have it long enough for it to pay off. I gambled and lost. Again. Now money is a major issue.

My credit is horrendous after losing my house in Utah. That was in 2001 but I’m going to have that hanging over my head for a long time. IF I can hit some kind of cash jackpot or windfall from selling a screenplay or whatever, I’m sure I’ll get an opportunity to have it go away with a lump sum negotiated payment, but right now that doesn’t help me at all.

I do have a credit card, but that’s juiced to the moon from my dental nightmares with all my root canal work in the last year or so. I think I’ve also got part of the Toyota I wrecked and some of that wheel bearing on that tab as well. I’m really up against the financial wall right now, more than I can remember in recent history. I’ll have to make smart decisions.

That’s exactly the opposite of what I’ve been doing. I had some cushion money but that is ALL gone and I’m bone on bone. I should get a check for the wreck because I did have it insured, and right now I’m glad I did. I’m sure I’ll be able to go back to the auction and fish out some other discarded hulk, but that’s getting a little old too. At this time in life it would be nice to have some security. I’m sick of gambling, I’d rather pay for a decent car.

My friend Max in Springfield, IL knows a Hyundai dealer he used to sell radio time to when he had his morning show there. At one time Max said he thought he could help me get a loan from the guy and drive off the lot with any car I wanted, new or used. I thought twice about it and never pursued it, but right now that deal sounds ok. I’ll give it a shot.

I don’t have anything to lose, and if the answer is no I’ll dig something up. I wish I had more of a financial cushion, but I don’t so it’s back to this game again. I’ve played it way too many times before, and it’s losing it’s luster. I don’t feel like gambling with this now.

I’ll have to deal with that eventually, but tonight I had to do a show. I got in about 4:30 for an 8pm show, and that’s a lot better than doing 95 miles an hour trying to make it just as they’re bringing me up. I’ve done that before, and it was at this gig actually. Not good for the stress level, and at least I didn’t have to do that again. I made it in reasonable time.

The Black Bear is a very nice place and the hotel is top notch all the way. They throw in a free buffet ticket and that’s always excellent too. I checked in and ate right away so I’d be able to get at least a little nap in, but of course my phone was ringing with people who wanted to know how I was from the accident. I appreciate that, but it kept me from sleep.

The casino wasn’t as crowded as it usually is, and the show room was down right empty at 8:00. The booker is also the host and he knew Kristi McHugh was snowed in so he got a local to come in and do some time in between us. I don’t think it was necessary but he’s going to do what he’s going to do and I didn’t have the energy to start asking questions.

The crowd was tiny and I had my work cut out for me but I wasn’t going to make them have to pay for my bad breaks. It was none of their faults my car got wrecked or a big bad blizzard was on the way. They came out to see a show and I was not going to cheat them.

I leaned into it and brought all I had. I worked as hard as I could and tried to give them a show I’d like to see if I was coming out on a night like that. I grabbed them by the throat and didn’t let go until I was done and they loved it. I was very happy with the show as my energy was good the whole time. I’m pleased I didn’t use bad circumstances as a crutch.

The booker was thrilled as he usually is, and I really like working for the guy. The thing is he just doesn’t have enough work for enough pay to warrant any more marathon drives like this. I thanked everyone for having me and was warned by security to start driving to avoid the snow. I can’t afford to take any more chances right now so I took their advice.

The rental car had Sirius Satellite radio so that kept me awake for a while but the snow turned into sleet and freezing rain as my knuckles were snow white on the steering wheel for the next six hours. It’s Thursday at 1:30pm as I write this and I just got home now.

I’m about ready to drop from exhaustion but I made it there and back. I did what I said I would, but now I need a shower and sleep and a fresh mind to take care of this puzzle I’m forced to solve. I have until 8:30pm to get my rental car to Milwaukee. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another Crash Course

Tuesday December 22nd, 2009 - LaGrange, WI/Lake Villa, IL

Early this evening I once again barely escaped my bloody death in a violent car crash. If I’m supposed to be learning something from this, I think I’m blowing it. I haven’t a clue as to why this keep happening, but I hope I figure it out so it can stop. This is ridiculous.

Last December 3rd I was in Milwaukee and got my back forty plowed by two gang thugs in a stolen car in the middle of the ghetto. Tonight it was a multiple car pile up way out in the sticks on an icy hill. The person in front of me slammed on the brakes, but I was as far back as I could be because I saw it was icy. Too bad for me, I still got creamed in the end.

I wasn’t going all that fast, but fast enough to skid when I hit the brakes. I always heard a driver should steer toward the direction of the skid. I did that and it straightened out, but I had a split second to make a decision or I would have rammed the person in front of me.

To the right I saw telephone poles and mailboxes, but to the left I saw what looked to be empty fields. Unfortunately, it was a two lane highway and someone was coming head on straight at me. I gunned it to try and make it into the open field and ended up spinning my whole car so the rear end was facing the oncoming car. Then I heard that hideous crash.

I’m familiar with that sound, I’ve heard it way too often. This one was a direct hit and it blasted me all the way back over to my original side of the road and into a big snow bank. It’s amazing how much damage can be done in such a split second of time. What a mess.

My entire trunk was torn off along with the rear bumper and all the lights. Everything in the trunk was shredded, including the big box of sports cards I had in there to sort and the collection of Hot Wheels and Match Box cars I recently picked up from my cousin Brett .

Of ALL days to have this accident, it would have to be today when my trunk was filled with things I was counting on to bring me a few bucks to use as a cushion going into the new year. GONE. All of it. Well, most of it, but the stuff that stayed has a lot of damage, at least what I was able to salvage. It disgusted me to look at that, but at least I’m alive.

There were about six cars total in the wreck and the ambulances came and then a police car showed up with two more right behind. They were asking all of us questions but I was stunned, wandering around trying to find some of those lost trinkets I was counting on for extra money so I could pay some bills. There were other people crying and visibly upset.

I’ve had these kinds of things happen so often I’m just numb to it all. Even the guy who looked me over in the ambulance said “Wow, you sure are taking this calmly.” I told him I’d been through it all before and knew how to handle myself. Unfortunately, that’s true.

The one thing I couldn’t find were my glasses, which were thrown from my face right on impact. I looked and looked but couldn’t find them. Then a fireman looked and he located them in about ten seconds. They landed in the pen holder pocket in the passenger’s door.

I’m glad there weren’t any passengers with me. I called a few people for the opener spot on the gig I was going to, but couldn‘t find any takers. Good for all parties. Who knows if weight distribution with two people would have made the car flip over or stay head on for a crash that probably wouldn’t have had many survivors. This could have been very ugly.

It’s still going to be a significant hassle, but much less than what could have been. I’m now without a car, and that’s a killer. A road comic needs to have wheels to work at gigs like the one I was headed to tonight at the Black Bear Casino right outside Duluth, MN.

This was one of those ‘too far for too little’ gigs, but I agreed to do it because I was able to bring Kristi McHugh along. She’s originally from Iowa and is back there visiting all of her friends and family for Christmas. She said she needed money and I know I do so I got us booked so we could hang out, have fun and get paid. None of that is going to happen.

I received a call from Kristi this morning telling me she was snowed in and couldn’t get out of town to meet me in Clear Lake, IA where we had agreed to meet up. I assured her a career is not on the line at the Black Bear Casino, even though it’s a nice place full of all nice people, from the staff down to the customers. It’s a fun gig, but the drive is too long.

I called a few people after I spoke with Kristi to try and fill the opener slot. There isn’t a shortage on finding comedians, or even comedians on short notice. The trick is getting the person that’s able to coexist in a car for eight hours. That’s the real challenge, and a tough one at that. I’ve learned how to be a good road companion but a lot of others sure haven’t.

Bill Gorgo almost said yes, as did Mike Preston. Those are two road guys I know I’d get along with, we’ve done long rides before. One thing about chemistry with another comic in the car for that many hours each way, it’s either tolerable or it isn’t. I don’t need quirks, I’ve got my own. It’s also a courtesy as a road warrior to learn to be an easy travel buddy.

I couldn’t find anyone to take Kristi’s place and I couldn’t get the booker on the phone to explain the situation. I was going to dive up there tonight, get settled and be as fresh as a green banana in case I had to do the whole show myself, which is a distinct possibility.

Money’s tight on this run anyway, so I wanted to at least get up there and get some rest so no matter who does or doesn’t show, crowd included, I’ll be ready to perform and get my pay. That’s the business side of why I’m going but I want to please the people as well.

Now all my plans have changed. I’m getting very sore, but I’ve experienced that before in other accidents. I’ll take a hot shower and stretch and walk around whenever I can and I’m hoping I’ll be able to once again suck it up, move on and put this in my distant past.

I can complain or I can keep going and at least try to make something happen. For now, I cleaned out my old car and brought all the contents home that were salvageable. I know I’m missing a bunch of stuff, but for now it’s the best I can do. Welcome to Mr. Lucky’s world. My can and my car are dented, but at least I’m still alive. Why? I have NO idea.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Three Birthdays

Monday December 21st, 2009 - Chicago, IL

I enjoy December 21st for several reasons. First, it’s the Winter Solstice. That means it’s the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year. Ground zero. The days are going to get longer if even for a few seconds, and pretty soon spring will be here again. I choose to use today as a symbolic starting anew, and I really need it. I’m not in a groove right now.

The other reason I like today is it happens to be the birthday of three friends, all of them as different as three people can get. Still, I think very highly of them all and I didn’t forget to recognize them. The first was my web person Shelley. She’s helped me a ton since my ordeal with my ex business partner and if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t have a website up.

She’s a former comedy student and has a huge heart and I really appreciate her attitude. She’s adopted and understands the dented can concept and she’s a big kid herself. She has two sweet daughters 9 and 6, and is in Iowa right now picking up a puppy to give them on Christmas. She was excited to both be doing that and that I had remembered her birthday.

Pete Lipsey is another one on the list. He’s someone I’ve known over 20 years and he’s done very well for himself. He did comedy for a while and still does occasionally, but his real life is with his family. He’s got a great wife and three kids, and he’s in the real estate business. I don’t talk to him as often as I’d like, but I was able to remember his birthday.

Preacher Moss is the last one. I’ve known him even longer than I’ve known Pete and he has also done himself proud. Preacher is from Washington D.C. but went to Marquette in Milwaukee and started doing comedy in the 80s. He’s a couple years younger than me but has been doing comedy forever. More important than that, he’s a person of high character.

Preacher converted to Islam many years ago and that’s not an easy mix with comedy. In all my travels though, I’ve never met a more sincere person who lives his faith without an axe to grind with anyone. He doesn’t force it on anyone and has had to endure all kinds of ridicule but he takes it with dignity and is a true winner. He’s someone everyone respects.

It’s funny to me that three people so different could all share the same birthday but they do. Preacher is Muslim, Pete is Jewish and Shelley is Catholic, at least I think. I know she isn’t Jewish or Muslim, that’s for sure. Still, all three are wonderful people and I’m proud to know all of them and count them as friends. I’m glad I could remember their day today.

I had a fun lunch with Marc Schultz and Larry Reeb. Marc had my check for the show I did last Friday, and one for Larry too. We ate at Barnaby’s Pizza and had a great meal and a lot of laughs. Marc and Larry had never met in person, and we sat around for two hours talking sports and comedy and what we could all do to get more gigs coming in for 2010.

Tonight I drove to Milwaukee to have dinner with my cousin Brett. I hadn’t seen him in a while and it was one of the few days we were both available. Neither of us are much on Christmas so this was ours. We made each other laugh and that’s the best present of all.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Packer Pain

Sunday December 20th, 2009 - Milwaukee, WI/Kenosha, WI

Those damn Packers are going to give me an aneurism yet. I went to Milwaukee to visit friends at the monthly sports card show at Gonzaga Hall and after it was over a few of the guys felt like hanging out at Jimmy John’s so I joined them. The Packers were playing the Steelers in the late game but none of us really cared. We don’t get to hang out that often.

We had fun as we always do but I had to leave a little early to make it to Kenosha for a get together with Gary Pansch and Diane Ebert. They’re my co-hosts for the Mothership Connection radio show and we planned to have a holiday dinner at a Mongolian barbecue joint called HuHot Grill. I appreciate all they do on the show so I took them out to eat.

The Packer game was on a tiny TV behind the bar, and everyone in the restaurant had to see how it turned out. Neither Gary or Diane really care about sports, and I tried to ignore the game and give them my full attention but I couldn’t. All the other tables were glued to the TV and eventually I had to join them. Gary and Diane didn’t mind, but I still felt bad.

It’s amazing how many people are afflicted with the same disease I am. Strangers were talking to strangers and we were all lamenting at how the game was so tense right up until the end, and the Packers ended up losing on a last second touchdown pass. We were sunk, and the whole mood of the restaurant was somber as everyone returned to their own lives.

We talked about it and Gary found it funny that strangers in a restaurant would get to be so friendly so quickly just with the bond of a sports team. It’s true, and I tried to tell him I admired him for not liking sports and wished I could be indifferent but can’t. I’m hooked.

In the scheme of life the game means nothing, but a whole restaurant full of people sure got quiet in a hurry and stayed that way even though the food was really good. We talked about it as we ate and I really do think it’s a curse. But it’s over, and the Packers got beat. Gary and Diane enjoyed the meal, and I enjoyed their company. That took the sting away.

The real fun was doing the radio show after dinner. It always is. Scott Markus joined us as he’s back from L.A. to visit his family for the holidays and we let it rip for three hours on the air, talking about many subjects. It’s getting to be easier the longer we’re doing it.

Filling three hours of somewhat intelligible talk of any kind on the radio is no easy task, much less attaching some kind of entertainment value to it. At first, two hours was tough but now we’re breezing through three fairly easily. We’ve got regular callers and they add to the mix nicely. We’ve had some very interesting guests too. The show is coming along.

My question, as with Jerry’s Kidders is, how do we make that pay off financially? I like fun as much as anyone, but now it’s time to get paid. That’s the hard part, and I haven’t a hint of a clue as to how to make any of this start paying my bills. That needs to change in the new year or I can’t keep doing all these projects. I’ve paid my dues, now I need to pay my bills. That’s going to be a priority for 2010, but for tonight we all focused on the fun.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Late, Kate and Fate

Saturday December 19th, 2009 - Chicago, IL/Schaumburg, IL/Brookfield, IL

Ever since I moved out to Hooterville, going into the city of Chicago is a major project. It’s exactly 50 miles from where I live to Zanies on Wells Street and 53 miles to get to the WGN studios for Jerry’s Kidders. There’s no easy way to get there and traffic is an issue.

This time of year I have to fight shopping traffic from Gurnee Mills and that can be just as brutal as freeway traffic in the city. There are all kinds of lights and none of them seem to be synchronized so it can take a half hour just to make it from my house to the freeway.

That’s about seven miles. Then, I have to fight either construction or congestion on I-94 which is always clogged up somewhere. I never know exactly where, so that makes stress inevitable no matter when I leave. I try to leave early, but the earlier I leave the more of a hassle it seems to be. Still, I have to get there and many times I’m on a tight schedule.

Today we had a Jerry’s Kidders segment scheduled for 3pm. I left at 1:45 which wasn’t enough time, and I got stuck downtown in Christmas traffic. Boy, did I. I inched along as my stress level rose and realized I wouldn’t make it by 3:00. WGN had a basketball game on that went long so that gave me some time, but I still was late for the first few minutes.

I was talking on the phone at a red light and a Chicago cop on a bike told me to hang up while I was on the air. The guys heard it and apparently were able to make fun of it after I hung up, but the stress of being late wasn’t worth the joke. Punctuality would be better.

After the show I had dinner with Kate Brindle. What a sweetheart she is. She is a comic from Ann Arbor, MI who now lives in Virginia and works for PETA. I’ve always enjoyed hanging out with Kate, as she’s just a wonderful person. She has her beliefs and she sticks to them without inflicting them on everyone else. That takes guts and I totally respect her.

We had a great meal at Sweet Tomatoes in Schaumburg, and it never hurts to run some roughage through the pipes. I need to eat better and it felt good to load up on salad when I really wanted red meat and pasta. Kate doesn’t eat meat so it was a good choice for both.

After dinner I thought Kate was going to come with me to do a set for a benefit show in Brookfield, IL at the VFW but she was tired from her travels. She apologized but I totally get it. The road is tough no matter what reason one is on it so I told her to get some rest.

The VFW show was put on by my friend Eddie Horn Jr. Eddie has a big heart and puts on shows for the vets a few times a year with an improv group he has. I’ve done it before and any time I can help out a veterans’ cause or Eddie, I always do it. They’re worth it.

Eddie puts a ton of work into these shows and has sound effects and costumes and it’s a major event for both the performers and the audience. I’m honored to be asked and it was really fun. The audience was totally into it and the room rocked. More importantly, I was able to help a good cause at Christmas. That’s what life’s about and I’m glad I could do it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Avatar

Friday December 18th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

I made a point today to go see the movie ‘Avatar’ so I could avoid the torture of having to hear about it second, third and fourth hand from everyone else. Whenever such a giant movie comes out I like to see it myself and make up my own mind. Plus, it’s pop culture.

That’s one area where I’m painfully weak. I don’t watch much TV, especially whatever chunks of poo the networks bundle up and heave to the public. I’ve never watched any of the biggest hits of the last twenty years, and I don’t intend to. None of that interests me at all, even though as a comedian I really should be aware of it. I felt I had to see this movie.

I felt the same way about the Batman movie with Heath Ledger. Everyone was hyping it so much I wanted to know what they were talking about. I thought that was one of the few movies that delivered on the hype and it seemed like this one was pumped up even more.

I tried to go in with an open mind and just enjoy the experience. Getting shaken down at the ticket window for $13.50 did raise my expectations a bit though. I’m not a cheapskate but that was a surprise. I did have a choice of not seeing it in 3-D, but that’s not an option in my mind. If I’m going to see it, I want to see it in it’s full splendor, not cheap-o-vision.

The theater was almost sold out so I found a seat up front in the seats that put a crimp in the neck from having to look straight up. I put my 3-D glasses on over my regular glasses and felt like a total dork, but nobody saw or cared so I sat back and waited for the movie.

I can be a tough critic on myself and/or things I know something about, but in the cases where I’m ignorant I tend to be pleased very easily. I’m not a science fiction geek or even all that much of a movie buff so I was easily impressed from the beginning. This was one of the most mind blowing experiences I’ve ever had and it really did live up to the hype.

I tried to watch it from every angle and learn from it. It’s very difficult to create a whole new world, but I thought James Cameron pulled it off. There was just the right mix of all the ingredients and I thought it came off amazingly well. I bought it, and that’s a hard sell in most cases. The 3-D was spectacular too. It really did feel like I was part of the action.

What a huge project this was. Technology keeps improving and James Cameron was in the right place at the right time to be able to play with it and he pulled off a major winner. I don’t know how much control he had, but since he wrote and directed it I’d think he had quite a bit. Still, the studio must have financed it so I wonder how it played out in the end. I’ve heard mixed reviews on James Cameron, but he sure does get the big movies made.

I can’t fathom taking on a project that big, and maybe that’s my problem. I was feeling kind of good about getting my new comedy CD finished, but after seeing this movie I feel like a pimple on a flea’s fanny. I wonder how James Cameron feels. Does anything EVER truly satisfy a creative person? Maybe that’s what keeps us going. I’m glad I saw it today so I can sit back and see what the public thinks. I thought it was totally worth my $13.50.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Michigan Marathon

Thursday December 17th, 2009 - Gaylord, MI/Lake Villa, IL

Another 435 miles on my Toyota, not one of which helped to advance my career. It was great to hang out with Tim, but it came with a price. I spent all day Tuesday driving up to Houghton Lake and then had two nights of shows under less than ideal conditions. Then I had to spend all day today driving home. At the end of the day it wasn’t worth the effort.

Tim is a great guy and I love hanging out with him, but we’re going in two completely different directions. He’s trying to feed his family and comedy is a hobby once in a while. He had fun going up in Houghton Lake on Tuesday and last night in Gaylord. I did not.

Last night in Gaylord was very difficult. It was at the bar/restaurant of a hotel and even though they’re nice people, the conditions were awful. There was no stage to speak of, no stage lighting, and the sound system had both a hum and a buzz and drowned us all out.

Nice has nothing to do with any of this. I’m nice, but when it comes to performing heart surgery that has nothing to do with anything. If I need a bypass, give me a prick who has a clue where to slice me open and some experience doing it. We’ll look for nice guys later.

I like the booker and I took the gig of my own free will, mainly to hang out with Tim in December. Tim loves Christmas and knows I don’t, but he’s away from his family and he appreciated the fact I came up and spend some time with him. That I understand. Why I’ll continue to aggravate myself and do gigs like this, I don’t. I really have to knock this off.

I do love to perform, but time and energy are limited. It will do me much better to set up my own shows closer to home and not have to deal with the lack of professionalism from club owners who have no clue how to run a show. I’ve reached my limit and I know it.

I’m just going to shake this off and move on. My schedule coming up in 2010 is starting to fill up and it’s a better class of work. I’ve paid my dues and these low paying toilets are not what I need to be doing right now. No offense to anyone, but I’m past this kind of gig.

I tried to use the time in the car to be positive but I didn’t bring any audio material with me like I usually do. I left in a hurry and that’s one thing I didn’t bring. I know I said I’m due for a purge, but I stopped at a Goodwill and bought a set of Suze Orman tapes to help pass the time in the car. She’s one person I’ve heard of but never actually heard her work.

I found a nine tape set with a couple of tapes missing for five bucks. That’s a little high, especially with missing product, but I gave it a shot. I sure do need to improve my money skills so I drove and listened and then shut it off to reflect on my life and what she said.

Life is a constant battle with changing circumstances. When I was young, I had energy to burn but no act. Now I have an act but energy is running out. These trips are long and getting a lot harder than they used to be. I’m going to find a way to avoid them. I have to.
I can’t keep wandering all over the place like a gypsy, especially when the money is low.

Too Far For Too Little

Wednesday December 16th, 2009 - Gaylord, MI

It is flat out major league COLD up here. Some of the locals were telling me that this is not only the coldest place in the state, they get the most snow too. Great! My little Toyota just barely turned over and I haven’t seen another one since I’ve been up here. Everybody drives big American four wheel drive gas sucking tuna boats, but I can totally see why.

I should be used to bookings like this by now. My whole life has consisted of having to be in places like Duluth in December and Austin in August. It’s always the very worst of conditions, but that’s when the work is available. Now, I’m starting to get a little picky.

These kinds of gigs just aren’t profitable at this point in my life. I came up here to visit my friend Tim, and I’m glad I did. He’s always worth the drive, and I’m glad to have gas money for the trip, but as far as career planning goes it’s time to totally reinvent myself.

Tom Dreesen was talking about it at lunch on Saturday. He said he still loves the shows but absolutely hates getting there. We all related to him and thinking about my drive back tomorrow makes me shudder. It’s going to be long and boring and I hope it doesn’t snow.

Now it’s a matter of evolution. I’ve got a few things going locally in my ‘squared circle of Uranus’ which includes Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, WI and Rockford, IL. That’s a very nice cross section of America and I think I can pull down a living working mostly in that particular region. There are millions of people within an hour from me. Why travel?

This is a theory I’ve had for a while, but now it’s time to make it a reality. I don’t want to be spending my golden years in a car driving to do shows in Gaylord, MI for 40 people who have no idea who I am and don’t care. I need to pick a region and build a client base.

Of course I’d love to be in L.A. or Las Vegas but I think my ship has sailed as far as the warm weather places go. I can still do gigs there, but moving there and claiming it as my own doesn’t seem attainable right now. It would take too long to get myself established.

I’m already entrenched where I am now, and I like it there. Chicago is a great place and I’m one of the top standups in town, even though improv is king. Milwaukee is my home town, and I really think this one man play can build a following. I’m going to focus on it at least for 2010 and see if my feeling is correct. If it is, I’ll have more reason to stay put.

Madison, WI and Rockford, IL are close enough to garner attention. There isn’t all that much going on comedy wise in either town, but they’re populated and could be very good sources of corporate type work if I make myself known. I know media types in both of the towns and it would be wise to hook up with their convention and visitors bureaus as well.

Working hard is not as important as working smart. I’ve been all over the place over the years and maybe if I’m lucky I’ll put ONE year together when I do everything right. 2010 could just be that year. Or not. Maybe I’ll screw up even bigger, but at least I have a plan.

North Polish

Tuesday December 15th, 2009 - Houghton Lake, MI

No matter how bad anyone’s life gets, someone else always has it worse. It might be an entirely different situation, but problems are problems. I’m up in the north woods visiting my old pal “Polish Thunder” Tim Marszalkowski, and he can use a friend at the moment.

Tim and I have known each other for more than twenty years. We had a cable TV show together in West Allis, WI back in what seems like a different lifetime to both of us. Tim is one of my all time best friends, even though we’re as different as two people can get.

For whatever reason, we’ve always clicked and stayed in touch despite both of us going in completely different directions. Tim always had a day job and never had a chance to be a full time comic, even though I knew he always wanted to. He could have shunned all of his duties as a husband and father but he never did, and I’ll always respect him for that.

For years, Tim lived in the Akron/Canton area of Ohio and worked in trucking. He was a manager of a terminal and I know it involved selling freight service and that’s about all I wanted to know. I have ZERO interest in that business but he had a family to feed so he took the job in Ohio and that broke up our TV show. I was never angry, he had to do it.

That company just recently went out of business and left Tim out in the freezing cold with no job and mouths to feed. He scoured the job listings for months and finally hooked on with a company in Houghton Lake, MI which is WAY up there in the northern timber.

His wife and kids are still in Ohio and he hasn’t sold his house there yet. He’s living in a tiny apartment and working long hours trying to drum up shipping business. If you need any freight shipping done, please contact me so I can contact Tim. He’ll cut you a deal.

I’ve got a gig in Gaylord, MI tomorrow night and the only reason I took it was to get an opportunity to hang with Tim for a while. He’s busting his ass trying to be a bread winner in this economy, and having to move up to the north pole wasn’t his idea of a dream gig.

Life gets in the way of a lot of our dream gigs. I didn’t think I’d be doing shows up here to pay my rent this far into the game, but I’ll live with it. Tim got me booked for the local Habitat For Humanity’s holiday party tonight and I’m very grateful. He didn’t have to do that. He opened the show with a few minutes and I went up closed it out with a half hour.

The audience was quite small and rather quiet, and it didn’t help that people were at the pool table talking loudly and smacking balls around while we tried to entertain the people at the party. There was no spotlight on the stage and it was extremely difficult but we did it anyway. The people ate their cake after we were finished and then they all went home.

The people up here have really been hit hard by unemployment, yet they still help their less fortunate neighbors with Habitat For Humanity. Tim is doing what he needs to do to feed his family and all of them have a lot more problems than I do. I’ll shut my pie hole.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Urgin' For A Purgin'

Monday December 14th, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL

It’s amazing how people make the same mistakes over and over again. I’m an especially guilty party and it frustrates me to no end. It hit me as I was rifling through all my piles of everything today that I really don’t need to own most of the physical possessions that I do.

It’s all a big waste of money, time, space and energy. Other than that, it’s fine. I have an overload of books and audio programs on both CD and cassette, a bunch of totally useless ‘collectibles’, not including the mother lode of sports cards I never should have bought.

I’ve known this for a long time, but I still keep buying stuff anyway. Why do I do that? I always tell myself it’s a good deal, and maybe that means the price was low, but if I don’t ever get around to using it how good of a deal was it? I think I need to do a major purge.

I’ve done that several times in my life and every time I do it the process gets easier. It’s easy to accumulate useless possessions but that first time I got rid of all of them it was an unbelievably difficult task. I didn’t want to let go at first, but when I finally did I loved it.

That was very productive and cleansing too, but then I allowed myself to let it build up all over again, in even higher piles than there were before I got rid of it. Then, I’d cleanse again and it felt good again…and then I’d let it build up again. Guess what? I did it again.

I love books and I love to read, just as I love to listen to audio programs when I drive on road trips. That’s fine, but there’s no way I’ll ever get to even half the stuff I have now if I live to be 200 and read eight hours a day, seven days a week. Enough already. I’m full up.

In theory, I’d love to be able to read all those books from cover to cover and listen to all the Wayne Dyer and Tony Robbins and so many others I’ve never even heard yet and just soak in all that valuable information so I can use it to make my life better in every way.

In reality, I spent a bunch of money I could really use right now for other things on stuff that’s just sitting around collecting dust and could easily be wiped out with a flood or fire, leaving me not only with nothing to show for my investment, but a mess to clean up also.

I looked up and down my book shelves today and saw book after book that I just had to have that I never even opened since I bought it. Some I bought new, others I found in old book stores or thrift shops or rummage sales. If I haven’t read them, why do I keep them?

I guess I think I’ll lose money on selling them back to a bookstore, but I already lost the money when I bought them in the first place. If I didn’t read them by now, that money is a distant memory. Anything I can manage to scrape up now is a bonus and I should take it.

The cards won’t be so easy. I blew a wad on those, and the fun wasn’t worth the money. I thought I could turn a buck on them but the market is in the toilet right now as it is for a lot of collectibles. I learned my lesson, but I already knew it. It’s time to clean it all out.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Back To The Pack

Sunday December 13th, 2009 - Lake Villa, WI

I’m off the wagon and back into a relapse of my severe Green Bay Packer addiction big time. I said I was through with those bums after they lost at Tampa Bay, but they’ve crept back into my life and I hate myself for letting it happen. They’ve won five games in a row and I’m hooked all over again. Am I that shallow that football really matters this much?

I’m ashamed to admit it, but yes it does. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t enjoy every minute of it whenever the Packers win, because I do. I don’t know why it means so much, but it totally does. I love it when they win and when they lose it puts me in a terrible place that reminds me of when they stunk up my childhood with their rotten teams of the ‘70s.

I know I’ve said it before, but none of this should matter. I should be able to sit with my friends and watch the game and enjoy their company. IF the Packers happen to win, that’s great. They’re my home state team, and it’s fun and natural for a person to root for a team that’s local. If they lose, oh well. It’s entertainment and it was fun to watch them on TV.

Honestly though, what sports fan worth his or her salt could actually do that? Not ONE. It’s life or death, and the bigger the game, the bigger the stakes get. At least that’s the way it works in my world. No matter how much I fake it, I still care if the Packers win or lose.

Today, I just gave in and watched it. The Packers played the Chicago Bears and that’s a game I need to see. The Bears are having a rough season, and that made the temptation an impossible urge to resist. I wanted to witness a blowout, much like the 61-7 ass thumping I had to sit through when the Bears blasted the Packers in 1980. That one’s still hurting.

I’ve been pretty good in the last month about not letting myself get lost in the games but today I let all that go. The Bears stink, but no matter what the records are I’ll never tire of seeing them go down in humiliating defeat. Like sunsets, each one has it’s unique beauty. This part of my personality really disturbs me, but I’m not going to deny that it does exist.

Today’s game started out splendidly with the first play from scrimmage a 62 yard run to glory by Ryan Grant. I had to keep my exuberance down, as my roommate had her living room upstairs jam packed with Bears fans. I could hear them groaning and swearing and I have to say that made it even sweeter. I’m a sick man, but oh what a wonderful sensation!

I know I’m in for a big letdown, and they’re probably not going to win the Super Bowl, but at least for the last five weeks, all is right with my world. The war in Afghanistan has real consequences of life and death for American citizens, and here I am worrying about a damn football team. I feel like a total ass, but I can’t lie. It trips my trigger that they won.

This all has to be one big government plot to distract us from what’s really important in the world. If the majority of Americans are drunk and being hypnotized by the NFL, those who are really in charge can run amok doing whatever they want and we won’t even care. Maybe I’m reading too many conspiracy theories, but I do still love football. Go Packers!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lunching With A Legend

Saturday December 12th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

If there’s a better way to celebrate what would have been Frank Sinatra’s 93rd birthday than spending time with a guy who opened for him for twenty years, I sure can’t think of it. Tom Dreesen sat in with Jerry’s Kidders on WGN radio today and what a treat it was.

Tom sat in with the Kidders once before, but I was on the road and only got to take part on the phone. It’s a whole different dynamic sitting in live, and today was one of the most enjoyable radio experiences I’ve ever had. That says a lot because I’ve had a LOT of fun.

Tom Dreesen was one of many comedians I used to see on The Tonight Show growing up in the ’70s. My grandparents raised me and they’d go to bed early so I’d sneak around and turn on their black and white TV right before midnight just as the comics came on.

For some reason that few minutes of escape made me feel better and I grew to know the schedule of who would be on as it was listed in the TV section of the newspaper. I would plan my day around watching the comedians until I got old enough to stay up by myself.

What I especially loved about Tom Dreesen was he always mentioned that he was from Harvey, IL and since I was in Milwaukee that sounded close. I didn’t know where comics came from, but for some reason it gave me hope that one of them came from a place close to where I lived. I guess it gave me hope that some day I might be able to be a comic too.

I met Tom very briefly at Zanies a while back but I didn’t get to hang out with him at all as he was giving a motivational speech and just about to go on. I got to shake his hand for a few seconds and that was a thrill, but not like today. Hanging out on the air with him for a whole hour was fantastic, but the fun really started when he held court with us at lunch.

The guy just radiates class onstage and off. Opening for Frank Sinatra is as impressive a credit as there is in comedy and Tom fit perfectly. He lives that part and conducts himself like a total winner. We had an advantage that Tom used to manage Ken Sevara and Ken’s partner when they were a team so there was some history there. It felt like real showbiz.

Tom rattled off story after story about Chicago and Frank Sinatra and his comedy career and if that wasn’t great enough, he popped for lunch too. We ate at the Billy Goat Tavern that was made famous by Saturday Night Live with the ‘cheezborger, cheezborger’ sketch and it was surreal to be sitting there eating one while one of my comic heroes told stories.

Other people may have no idea who Tom Dreesen is and think I’m nuts, but I know I’m nuts so I don’t care. He achieved a level of respect in the business that few others ever do, and for me to be able to get a chance to not only work but hang with him was orgasmic.

Tom will be on Letterman this coming Monday and I hope I can watch. He’s a guy who played the game correctly, and I can take many lessons from how he did it. Days like this make life worth living, even if nobody else cares. I’m only interested in impressing ME.

I Love Show People

Friday December 11th, 2009 - Kenosha, WI

No matter how much I whine and complain about what didn’t go right in my life, one of the things that did has been the amazing number of fantastic friends I’ve made throughout the years, and the number keeps growing. Entertainers as a whole are interesting people to be around, and I’ve crossed paths with some truly stellar examples of the best of the best.

I’ve been involved in either standup comedy, radio or professional wrestling most of my adult life and all three of those fields are ripe with characters. Most are good people and if I had to choose between the three I couldn’t do it. Good friends are good friends. Period.

People laugh at me when I say I was around wrestling, but I love a lot of those guys. I’m a fan of most kinds of entertainment when it’s done well, and wrestling is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Those who are good at it take pride in their craft, and I’ve seen how hard they work at it. Believe it or not, there are a lot of quality people who wrestle.

I’ve known my friend Mike Moran forever. He wrestled as ‘The Texas Hangman’ for at least twenty years and had several partners along the way, most of whom I also knew and liked as people. They were the bad guys in the ring, but I’d trust Mike with my last dollar.

Another guy who pops into mind is ‘Bull Pain’. He’s a bad ass and looks the part but in real life he’s a great guy. Wikipedia lists his real name as something it’s not, so I won’t be the one to spoil the party. I just call him Bull, and he’s been out there slugging it out on a regular basis as long as I have. He’s one of the kindest and gentlest people I’ve ever met.

There’s a special bond with entertainers because we know how difficult it is both on the stage and off. The good ones have a mutual respect and I’ve had that feeling with most of the people I’ve worked with. Fortunately, the percentage of all out wankers is pretty low. I’ve had my clashes, but rarely with performers on air or on stage. We usually get along.

Today I had lunch with Lou Rugani. He’s a radio friend that works at WLIP in Kenosha and has one of THE most amazing voices I’ve ever heard. Everyone else knows it too, but he’s as humble and classy as anyone with that much talent as I’ve ever met. He played the voice of God in an intro bit on my new CD and it sounds like the real thing. He nailed it.

Lou has always been a big fan of mine and I can’t figure out why. I’ve worked with him off and on for years and he always comes out to see me perform whenever he can and for whatever reason, he always comes out on nights when I’m on top of my game. I kid about hiring him as a shill because whenever he shows up, it always seems like it’s a hot show.

I should have bought Lou lunch today as the least I could do for him voicing that bit for me on the CD, but he insisted. We sat around and laughed hard because he’s hilarious and every five minutes someone came in that he knew so he’d introduce me like I was a star. I appreciate people like Lou and Mike and Bull and all the great comedian friends I have as well. The holidays aren‘t fun from a family angle, but great friends sure do make up for it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Memories Of A Mentor

Thursday December 10th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

When I checked emails today I’d received one from Jamie Kern, daughter of Gary Kern, one of my early comedy mentors. Gary passed away at age 36 and had two daughters that meant the world to him. I’d met them both, but that was years ago. They were both young and wouldn’t remember, but I do. They were sweet kids and I’m sad Gary died so young.

I have no idea how Jamie found me, but she asked if I had any pictures or audio of Gary that I might be able to make copies of to send her. I wish I did. I’m sure it would probably mean a lot. Jamie said she didn’t really know her dad all that well and wanted to catch up.

My heart really goes out to those kids. Gary was a wonderful guy and funny comic but a comic has to travel to make a living and that’s what he did. It’s who he was, as all of us in the business are slaves to the road. That’s where ‘it’ is. ‘It’ is the drug of the stage and we are all addicts. We need that rush of a live audience and the road is where we go to get it.

I wasn’t a first hand witness to Gary’s fathering skills, but my guess is that he was good at it. I know he was a father figure to me, and I’ll be forever grateful to him for it. I’m sad Jamie and her sister didn’t get to have more of a relationship with Gary, and I know for at least a while he was having problems at home with his wife, but that’s typical in comedy.

‘Normal’ marriages are difficult at best, but comedy marriages are a lot worse. The road always comes between the two partners and unfortunately the road always wins. It’s like a person having a ‘battle’ with cancer or alcohol. Cancer and alcohol always win in the end. The road does too. I’m glad I never put a wife and kids through the grind of the business.

I wish I could talk to Gary with the knowledge and understanding of the business I have now, rather than be the na├»ve greenhorn I was at the time. I looked up to him then, and his word was gold. He admitted he’d made some mistakes, but I was too blinded by the chase of the big dream to see that. He had a lot more to teach, but I wasn’t ready to learn it then.

Unfortunately, technology wasn’t like it is today and there just isn’t much if any tape or film at all of quite a few of the great club comics of the boom years in the ‘80s. Gary was a strong headliner and very funny and his act would still work today. I know he appeared on a regional TV show in Fort Wayne, IN called ‘Nightshift’ hosted by Kevin Ferguson.

Those tapes were sold to Comedy Central years ago and I remember seeing Gary a time or two as I passed through the channels. I told Jamie that’s the only tape I’m aware of that he had, and that’s a travesty. He should have had at least an audio recording, but that was how it was then. Nobody had any audio or video. We did our shows live and that was it.

I hope I can find some pictures or lost tapes of Gary, both for his kids and for me. I will always be super grateful to guys like him and C. Cardell Willis and hopefully I’m passing the mentoring torch they gave me on to others. I certainly try to whenever I can. Gary is a hero in my eyes and I hope Jamie and her sister get to have a remembrance of his career.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Driving Me Crazy

Wednesday December 9th, 2009 - Chicago, IL

The white death didn’t kill us after all. The way the media made it sound, life was over as we know it. As it turns out, we did get a few inches of snow that shouldn’t have been a big deal. Too bad it was. It made driving into Chicago a total white knuckled nightmare.

Jerry Agar was filling in on the afternoon show on WGN radio today and asked us to be on for the last half hour to plug our play coming up at the Beverly Arts Center January 16 and 17. After that we were scheduled to have a rehearsal as it‘s getting to be crunch time.

We all pretty much know our lines by now, but any time we get a chance to rehearse the whole thing as a group we like to take advantage of it. Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle live on the far south side and Jerry and I are far north. That makes it a challenge to get all of us in one place at one time. Traffic today almost stopped it from happening at all. It was brutal.

Jerry told us to get in around 6:00 to relax and get situated. Getting past security can be an issue in the Tribune building so it works better to get there early and avoid the stress of having to convince the security guards we’re not terrorists looking to take radio hostages.

They can really be difficult sometimes, but that’s their job. Nobody’s angry about it, but we all know it can be an issue at any time so getting there early is important. Jerry wanted us on at 6:30 so there was a half hour cushion. I left home at 3:30 and just barely made it.

That feeling of constant stress being caught in traffic is the ultimate frustration. Nothing I could do would make the backup unclog, and all I could do was sit in my car with all my orifices clenched, hoping for a break in the delay which never happened. It took forever to inch my way into the city behind idiot after idiot who didn’t know how to drive in snow.

The cab drivers in the city are the worst. They’ll just dart in and out without a signal for the hell of it and cause everyone else to be even more stressed than they already are. They were pissing everyone off and the chorus of horns beeping was proof but they didn’t care.

I ended up getting to the studio right as the music was sounding for our segment and it’s not the first time that’s happened. The good part about that is nobody listening could care less if we’re on the air at all, so that takes the pressure off. As long as I’m able to talk into the microphone when I’m spoken to is all anyone cares about, and I did do that. Barely.

Afternoon drive time is a lot different than Saturday mornings. There’s a lot more of all the elements like news and traffic and sports and commercials. We were only on for a few minutes and then we rehearsed the play. After that we had a delicious pizza that was even more delicious because we had a gift certificate for it from a restaurant called Pizano’s.

By the time I drove Jerry home and got back to my place it was over nine hours. I don’t mind working, but most of this time was spent driving. It’s just like a road gig. I thought I was working on getting off the road. I guess I’m just making it a little bit closer to home.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's SNOW

Tuesday December 8th, 2009 - Lake Villa, IL

Maybe it’s me, but it sure seems as I get older that way too much hype is involved with the possibility of an oncoming snowstorm with significant accumulation. I grew up in the snow belt and as memory serves me, it was no big deal to get pelted with a foot of snow.

This is where we chose to live, and snow in the winter comes with the deal. Maybe I’m turning into my grandpa, but I don’t think there needs to be weather updates in the media every five minutes with ‘storm trackers’ and ‘Doppler radar’ giving me more than I want or need to know about the ‘potentially hazardous blizzard like conditions’. It’s SNOW.

Most of the time these imbeciles with toupees still blow it, even with all their computer technology and high powered nuclear radar equipment, or whatever it is they use to bring their doom and gloom predictions to interrupt the program I was enjoying on radio or TV.

IF it snows, I’ll deal with it. If not, I’m spared the torture of having to look at the picture from the Hubble spacecraft in 3-D of ominous looking storm clouds over Utah that are on their way to destroy all life forms within a 90 mile radius of where I am at that moment.

Then, today I heard they’re probably going to close some schools BEFORE it snows, if indeed it even does. Now I’m really starting to sound like a grumpy old fart because I had to haul my frozen fanny to school 99% of the time no matter how high the snow piled up.

I spent every one of my school years in Milwaukee and I can only remember a very few isolated days when indeed we had a snow day from school. I’d have to say it was maybe a day or two a year tops, and it wasn’t every year. Even then, sometimes it was only half the day. We still had to trudge through the artic blast to get to school, only to go home early.

I know, I know - I sound like I walked uphill both ways five miles through a mine field filled with broken glass and poison ivy to get to school so I could crack the books, but it’s a different time now I guess. It just doesn’t seem like snowfall should be such a big deal.

One thing a lifetime on the road has taught me is how to get somewhere in bad weather. I can’t begin to number all the times I’ve had to navigate my barely running car with bald tires through blizzard like conditions to make it to my gig in some two bit town 500 miles away from the last one, and I still made it. It may take longer but it‘s not lava, it‘s SNOW.

I had some errands to run this morning and everyone at the bank was talking about how the big blizzard was coming and they were going to stock up on everything from food and water to flashlights and blankets. What is this, another Y2K crisis? How did that end up?

Personally, I’m glad to have the time to myself. I’m off for a couple of days and in town performing at Zanies in Vernon Hills this weekend. I can hopefully use this extra time for catching up on a few things I’ve let get behind while everyone else is scampering to try to save themselves and their families from the impending doom of white death. It’s SNOW.