Sunday, February 28, 2010

Three Times A Kidder

Saturday February 27th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

“You’re On The Air!” starring Jerry’s Kidders performed live for the third time tonight at The Irish Heritage Center on the north side of Chicago. Even though 99.99999% of the planet, country, state or city couldn’t have cared any less - we enjoyed ourselves anyway.

We’re in a very difficult situation and it’s too bad, as there really is something with this concept. The show is funny, and I’m not saying that just because I’m in it. We hadn’t put a lot of time and effort into it since our last performance at the Beverly Arts Center, but it all fell together again as we started rehearsing. We ended up having our best show yet.

Too bad the circumstances weren’t the greatest. We had a lot to overcome, but we made up our minds we weren’t going to complain until after the show. We kept it all positive in a situation where it could have easily gotten ugly very quickly. I was proud of everyone.

There was a lot of miscommunication all around. When we arrived at the venue was the first time we discovered there wasn’t a light and sound technician, nor was there a way to do blackouts between scenes. Our show is written that way, so we were in quite a pickle.

Also, the stage was WAY smaller than we were expecting, and backstage availability to change costumes between scenes wasn’t available either. It was a major bomb on all of us and it would have been very easy to just can it and not do it at all. Tim Slagle, Ken Sevara and I calmly talked about it and decided this was what we had to work with so we’d do it.

That was a conscious decision we all made as a group, and nobody raised their voices or whined about it after that. Jerry Agar was out of town all week filling in on a radio station in Toronto so he can keep his house, so nobody can fault him for that. He showed up later and we all decided we were going to pull off a show no matter what, and we actually did.

The room we were in was gorgeous, and for a standup show it would have been stellar. I’d still love to do a standup show in there at some point, but for our play it was a difficult fit. The lighting wasn’t made for what we were doing and all around it was an adjustment we all had to make on the fly. It wasn’t convenient, but our options were extremely few.

The performance part ended up being really fun. We had our fans Fard Muhammad and John Vass and precious few others, and we appreciated them all. Those who did show up were great laughers, and they rolled with the circumstances and we ended up having fun.

I couldn’t be any more grateful for the fans we do have, and it’s a pleasure to be with an outstanding group of guys to work with in Jerry, Ken and Tim. For only our third show, it was not without it’s moments. We ad libbed some lines and we all felt ourselves growing.

Still, the reality is I don’t know how much longer we can keep doing these shows. This is getting to be an expensive hobby. We all took off comedy work to do this and nobody will be getting rich this week. Fun is fun, and this was, but we’ve got to turn a buck soon.

Uranus Is Coming To Life!

Friday February 26th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

Slowly but surely, Uranus is showing signs of life. It’s my job to determine whether that life will be intelligent or not, so I’m trying to think things through thoroughly beforehand so I don’t make any stupid mistakes. It doesn’t guarantee I won’t, but I’m being cautious.

My t-shirt printer Marc at Innovative Ideas in Antioch, IL called to let me know my first batch of t-shirts was ready and I hurried over to pick them up. It’s a simple design and it’s only on two dozen items, so if I can’t sell them all at least I’m not gambling my life away.

I’ve heard about all the websites where they’ll make one shirt on demand, and I suppose that’s the least gamble, but I didn’t like their products and fee structure so I decided to do it this way. I wanted to find a t-shirt printer guy I could work with, and I think I did. Marc is very laid back and has twenty years experience in the business. I feel a synergy there.

He put one of my shirts in his store window and said he’ll gladly test them out. If we hit on a winner, I’ll gladly cut him in on sales if he displays them for me. He’s willing to give me some test marketing, and that’s what it’s all about. Comedians test jokes on stage, and this is testing them on his store wall. What lines will get people to pull out their wallets?

I’m excited about this process, but I’m far from finished. I still have to create content on the website in addition to getting the whole mailing fulfillment system down pat for when I do actually start getting some orders. Then there’s records, taxes, advertising, coming up with new product ideas, it’s never going to end. That’s what it takes and I’m fine with it.

This is either going to be my retirement fund or a flaming explosion of a failure. I think I have a winner of an idea, but so does everyone who starts out in business. I’m sure every meeting before releasing the Edsel or New Coke was loaded with smiles and optimism.

I think I’m doing things right, and that’s why they’re taking so long. I had the chance to partner up with several people already, and I’m glad I turned them all down. In retrospect, I don’t think any of them would have worked out, and I’d be into someone for percentage of a company that’s either limping along or out of business altogether. I’m still in charge.

I waited to find the right website guy in Mark Huelskamp, and I think I did. He’s been a great help and he feels totally right. I feel the same about Marc with the printing aspect of it. He’s the right fit. We all understand if this works we’ll all have business for the future.

With the economy and times the way they are, even if this does all end up blowing up in my face, it will have been a fantastic learning experience and I ended up doing it my way. I love the challenge and accept the responsibility. Now it’s time to prove that I was right.

One thing I wasn’t good at in comedy was savoring every little milestone when I started out. There are many steps, and I was always looking to the next one. Today I’ll let it settle in that no matter what happens, my first shirts are DONE. It’s real! Uranus is underway!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Exercising My Options

Thursday February 25th, 2010 - Gurnee, IL

The struggle for balance continues, but I’m making progress. First things first, I crawled out of the rack and got to the mall to get my laps in early. I could walk near home and get results, but I like the mall. The temperature is controlled and at least there’s scenery to see other than some enormous sweat soaked ass on a stationery bike in front of me at a gym.

Gurnee Mills Mall is about seven miles away, but getting there can be a hassle. Traffic tends to back up as there are all kinds of unsynchronized lights, but I like to walk there so that’s where I do it. It’s long and flat and two laps is a nice workout. Three is a marathon, and if I ever decide to do four I should just apply for the job as a security guard already.

Walking is good exercise and I’m not alone in doing it. The others there aren’t all just a pack of dried up blue haired walking dead either, there’s actually a nice mix of people I’ll see depending on when I show up. The earlier I get there, the more I realize I’m not alone in a quest to at least attempt to get in some kind of shape. It takes effort to show up daily.

By the time I drive there and drive back and do a 45 minute to hour walk or more, it’s a significant outlay of time spent and it shrinks my work day. I suppose my heart blowing a gasket would shrink my work day even more - down to zero. Exercise is an investment in having some kind of a quality future that doesn’t involve being plugged in to a machine.

I’ve really been lax on exercising for many years, and unless I change my ways for good it WILL catch up with me. Nobody can live a sedentary lifestyle that long and then expect perfect health, especially with a diet loaded with sugar, grease, salt, chemicals and cheese.

I never smoke, drank or did drugs, but I’ll be just as dead as if I did if a major backup of butter and beef jerky residue clogs my aorta and I nod out on my steering wheel in a drive thru window somewhere. I’ve had a free ride for too long and I’m tempting the fates daily if I keep doing it. The body can take only so much - I don’t want to determine that total.

It would be a shame to have come so far in my life from so little, only to croak from not taking care of myself - something that is totally in my control. A lot of the other stuff I’ve had to deal with had nothing to do with me, and I still overcame it. This has everything to do with me, as everyone has a choice in what they put in their mouth or if they exercise.

If there’s anything comforting about this, I’m by far not alone in this struggle. Millions of Americans have this same situation, and it’s not easy to fix it in a short time. It’s been years of packing pizza and greasy burgers and fries and anything with mayonnaise down my gullet, and making it even worse by rotting in front of a TV and not exercising at all.

A few days in a row of walking a couple of laps in a mall isn’t going to turn me into the finely tuned world class athlete I never was, and I sure have lost a lot of the natural health and vigor I had in my teens and twenties. My home state of Wisconsin is the lard ass and love handle capital of the solar system, and I don’t want to perpetuate that trait anymore.

Unfortunately, exercising every day for a whole hour isn’t going to be easy. It’s just not. I have a lot of things going, and sometimes I can’t spare the time it takes to get to the mall and walk, get back home and shower up and then tend to my business. Some days will not allow that time, and I have to accept that and not beat myself up for it. That’s how life is.

Still, getting to the point where more often than not I do get some sort of exercise in is a place I am going to go. Period. I know I need to do it the older I get, and if that’s the thing that actually does kill me, it’ll make a funny story to tell. “Did you hear about Mr. Lucky? He started exercising and that’s what killed him.” I have to admit, that fits my character.

But, that’s only a stage character. I’ve said it before and it’s true - playing Mr. Lucky on stage is great fun. And it is. BEING him in real life is a nightmare. I’m starting to separate the two a lot better than I ever have and my off stage life is a lot more stable because of it.

I’m also pumped about doing this one man show about Milwaukee. Things are fitting in perfectly, and I can feel good things on the horizon by the day. I’m working with familiar people I’ve known for years, and they’re coming on board. Richard Halasz is a comedian who is doing some booking of shows, and I trust him. He’s honest and ethical to a fault.

Richard is the one who approached me about performing the show in Saukville, WI at a venue he’s booked before called The Railroad Station. I’m there March 13th, and he’s put a ton of effort into promoting it. I got a call today from a radio station in Fond Du Lac and they’re going to put me on next week to promote it. Plus, Richard made some great flyers.

I’ve also been approached about doing a big grand opening premiere show October 1st, and I’m excited to hear it. I will use that date to record either a CD, DVD or both and it’ll be something to promote all summer as I get my ducks in order and prepare the product.

I’m going to call in every local favor I can, but it’s already starting to come my way. It’s amazing how word is getting out, and I’m getting calls from all over. I got one today from my old friend Aye Jaye. He used to be Ronald McDonald for years and he’s now living in Los Angeles and still entertaining. That guy is a true character, and I mean it with respect.

When I had my first near fatal car wreck in 1993, Aye Jaye mailed me a check for $100 and I never forgot him for it. That $100 couldn’t have come at a better time and it paid for a lot of frivolous luxury items like…FOOD. He helped me when I needed it the most and I’ve never forgotten that. He added a bunch of fantastic suggestions I know I’ll include.

People like Richard Halasz and Aye Jaye and Ron Lee who used to produce shows back at Teddy’s in the ‘80s are going to help put this project over the top. Also, long time good friends like Drew Olson, Ted Perry, Steve ‘The Homer’ True and more will also pitch in.

I’m doing things right for once, and it feels SO good to see it come together after many years of frustration and failure. This is going to work! I can feel it. I’d hate to lose all this because I didn’t spend time exercising and blew my heart up like a five cent firecracker.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Great American Comedy Festival

Wednesday February 24th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

Zanies in Chicago held an audition showcase tonight for The Great American Comedy Festival and I was fortunate enough to be included. It’s a comedy competition held each summer in Johnny Carson’s home town in Nebraska and has been going for a few years.

The website is and the talent lineup is booked by Eddie Brill, talent coordinator for The David Letterman Show. I’ve showcased for him a couple of times before, but I’ll be damned if I can ever have a killer set in front of him.

Tonight was no exception. Everything went wrong leading up to the show, as it snowed all afternoon and made driving a nightmare. I live exactly 50.4 miles from Zanies and it’s never easy even when weather is good. There’s always traffic somewhere and it’s hard to judge exactly how long it will take on any given day. I left at 5:15 for an 8pm call time.

The snow got thicker both in the air and on the roads, and cars were spinning out and in ditches all over the place. I’m extra gun shy after my own recent car wreck in bad weather so my bung hole was clenched from start to finish. This was a high stress unpleasant ride.

I called Zanies to let the box office person know I was going to be late, but he never got around to telling anyone else. I got a frantic call from Bert Haas at 8:15 asking where the hell I was, but by that time I was already on North Avenue and headed toward the club.

They’d drawn numbers to determine the order, and of course I was first. It’s absolutely uncanny how many times that’s happened, and I’ve almost come to expect it. Number one is usually a good thing to be, except when it comes to a comedy showcase audition show. The crowd is usually tight and there are only six minutes to lay out whatever you’ve got.

This is a part of the business I’ve never been good at, even though I’ve improved a little only because I’ve done it quite a few times. The energy of a six minute set is the opposite of a forty-five minute headliner set, which I’ve been doing for years now. It‘s very tricky.

The audience tonight had no idea what they were seeing. They were just there to see the show, and didn’t realize how potentially important it was. They weren’t bad people at all, but they weren’t good laughers either. Then, the host Vince Maranto did a bit bashing the hell out of Wisconsin right before me. I like Vince, but he didn’t help me by doing that.

Normally I wouldn’t mind at all, and I’ve worked with Vince for years and years, but he gave my intro as being from Wisconsin so I felt I had to defend myself. The crowd wasn’t very hot and it took me out of my game from the first few seconds. I hadn’t planned to do that, and I was off schedule as to what I’d planned to do. The decisions are split second.

I’ve been in front of Eddie Brill before and he’s a great guy. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like him, and it also makes it a lot easier because he’s a comic himself. He knows everything that can go wrong and he’s experienced it himself. Still, nothing is an excuse.

If I’m in front of a talent booker for whatever reason, it’s my responsibility to show my best no matter what the circumstances. Nobody cares it was snowing to beat the band, or that I’d just driven almost three hours in highly stressful conditions. That doesn’t matter.

It also doesn’t matter what order number position I draw out of a hat. Actually, this was drawn for me. All I have to do is go up and showcase my best six minutes no matter what the circumstances are, and that’s all I can do. Eddie doesn’t see the times I go up and kick major ass for a solid forty-five minutes and have people tell me they can’t laugh harder.

His job is to find comics that he thinks David Letterman will like, and for this particular showcase he was looking for people who will play well in Norfolk, NE. The audience had no clue so the hard choice is whether to try and please them or try and grab Eddie’s ear.

That can be a maddening decision, and unless there’s total commitment it can lead to an absolutely horrendous result. I don’t think I was horrendous, but I sure didn’t nail this one like I’ve been doing in my headline sets recently. I felt like I didn’t get my best response.

I did get a chance to showcase at least a little of what I wanted to show though. I have a closing bit which is a rant about how idiots shouldn’t breed and it’s become a dependable climax over the years. I lead up to it for forty minutes, and then unleash a five minute big bang that usually destroys most of the people in the room. It kills, and I’m known for it.

It’s difficult to showcase that particular bit, as it usually takes a while to lead up to how I deliver it. It’s angst filled and animated and the verbal equivalent of the 1812 Overture. I tend to speak quickly anyway, and this is a great example of it. When it works, it KILLS.

My challenge is to find a way to audition with it so the Eddie Brills of the world can get to see it, but also get where I’m coming from with it. Just going up there as a white guy in a sport coat yelling isn’t going to do me any good. I know that bit works, but I don’t know how I’m going to do it in such a short time and have the audience get it. I gave it my best.

The audience laughed a few times during my six minutes, but not nearly as much as I’m used to. I worked a little more ‘clubby’ than a squeaky clean set for TV, only because I’ve met Eddie before and know he’s competent and can tell the difference. This wasn’t my set for Letterman, this was a set that would work in Nebraska, and it would. I’ve been there.

I’d LOVE to get a chance to go to the festival this year. I’d kick ass, because I’m able to adjust to each audience individually, and Midwest people usually love what I do. If Eddie calls me, I’ll be thrilled and say yes. If not, I know it’s nothing personal and all he’s trying to do is book the best festival he can. He cares about it and I would too. We love comedy.

I may or may not ever get on the David Letterman Show, and that’s just how it is. Eddie Brill or anyone else isn’t ‘out to get me’ or so many other things comedians think. It’s not easy to audition, and I thought it was so-so at best, but at least I got to show a part of a bit that destroys in a club setting. If Eddie likes it, I’ll get in. If not, ok. I know it still kills.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Benevolent Vengeance

Tuesday February 23rd, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Back to work with a vengeance today. Things are coming together quickly on more than one project and if I’m not careful I’ll have a life gridlock worse than I’ve ever had before, and I‘ve had a lot of them before. I have to really watch myself or I’ll lose myself easily.

Comedy classes are scheduled to start up next week and I’m always pumped about that. A mistake I’ve made many times is waiting until the day of the show to make up all of the class worksheets and put them in order. I’ve got them done early this time, but I still need to buy some three ring binders. I like to give the classes lots of paperwork to study later.

Uranus Factory Outlet is also closer to becoming a reality. I’m delighted with how it has developed, and working with Mark Huelskamp was the right call. He’s the brother in law of Jim McHugh, and Jim has been great at being supportive of the whole project. He gets what I’m trying to do, and I try to support him on his comedy projects too. It’s a win/win.

I did get my ass out and exercise yet again and that’s never a bad thing. It’s funny how a couple of laps in the mall are a lot more difficult now than they’ve ever been before and it isn’t an effortless undertaking. By the end of the walk I’m soaking wet and my legs really hurt, but I know it‘s good for me. Better to exercise now than after a massive heart attack.

One thing that’s falling behind a little more than I’d like is my comedy career. I need to address that immediately, and I started today. My booking system is nonexistent. I’ve not kept up with my list of older connections, nor have I sought out new ones. That’s the kiss of absolute death, and I have nobody to blame but myself for not keeping my name fresh.

Even though there is some shrinkage going on in the business, I still get enough calls to work for enough bookers to keep me surviving. I’ve lost touch with a lot of people due to my other projects, and that’s something that I need to be careful with or I’ll lose any good leads I do have. It’s never been a matter of who’s best, it’s who’s available that I know?

I’ve been working on lots of offbeat projects like the stage play “You’re On The Air” with Jerry’s Kidders and the one man show about Milwaukee called “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst” and that’s distracted me from my club work.

There are a lot of places I’d love to go back and work, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t. I haven’t been to the Comedy Caravan in Louisville in a long time, and I love it there. It’s a matter of updating my availabilities, and I haven’t been current. Shame on me. Calgary is another place I enjoy. The Comedy Cave is a fun place and it’s even good in summer.

There’s always Wiseguys in Salt Lake City and Ogden, UT and Rooster T. Feathers in Sunnyvale, CA. I’ve always loved these places and it’s high time I get back to all of them. I’ve got a new CD on ice too, and hopefully that will be out in the very near future so I’ll have something new to bring to all these places. There’s a lot to do, and all I can hope for is to keep myself focused and plugging away at all of it every day. Today was productive.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thank God It's Monday

Monday February 22nd, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

A rare Monday off today, and I enjoyed the chance to relax for a day. My weekly grind can get pretty hectic, and that’s what makes everything pile up. Most weekends I’m doing comedy shows somewhere, plus a Jerry’s Kidders WGN radio appearance is in the mix.

Then, I have The Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP in Kenosha, WI Sunday nights from 8 to 11pm. I have to prepare for that and make sure I have topics to talk about and/or guests and co-hosts to talk about them with. It’s fun, but it can get to be a lot to do.

After that, I usually come right back on Monday and either teach a comedy class or host the Rising Star Showcase show at Zanies in Chicago, or both. By Tuesday morning I’m in a catatonic babbling state of mental pudding, but the week is starting over and I have a lot of the same things to prepare for all over again. Plus, I have to keep myself in bookings.

There is a lot not only on my plate, but on the salad plate and soup bowl too. It takes an amazing amount of self discipline to keep all of this straight, and I’m the first to admit it’s never been a strong point. It’s amazing I’ve been able to pull off what I have, but I’m still not going to rest on my laurels. I have a lot more I want to do, and planning is everything.

If I’m lucky, this will be the last Monday I have off in the significant future. I’m starting comedy classes up again at Zanies and next week is the scheduled opening night. I have a Tuesday night class scheduled at Zanies in St. Charles, IL at the Pheasant Run Resort too.

There’s no guarantee either of those classes will fill up, but I’m getting a lot of inquiries so I think I’ll be ok. If not, I’ll keep trying and be ready when they do fill up. I’m still in a recovery mode from having to start all over again after my ex business partner’s stunt, but I can’t use that as an excuse forever. It happened, I’m dealing with it, and that’s about it.

I did get to the mall today and pound out two full laps, and was lost in thought the entire time. I’ve got all kinds of ideas rolling around in my skull, and walking the mall helps me shake as many of them out as I can. I’m learning to use that exercise time productively.

I also went back to the custom t-shirt shop in Antioch, IL to order a batch of t-shirts for Uranus Factory Outlet. The owner Marc is proving to be very helpful, and I’m hoping we can form a business relationship that lasts a long time. My mail order guru in California is a guy named Melvin Powers, and he’s always recommended finding long term partners.

There are a few things I didn’t get to today, but it was a day off so I’m not upset. In the little I’ve studied about numerology though, ‘11’ and ‘22’ are power numbers and today’s date was February 22nd. That’s 2/22. I have no idea if that’s significant or not. If so, oops.

I guess it’ll all have to wait until 2/23. All added up that’s 7, so maybe tomorrow has an outside chance of being a lucky day. I’m sure it’ll get a lot luckier if I keep working on all these projects I’ve started. It gets overwhelming at times, but in the long run I love it all.

Dabbling For A Day

Sunday February 21st, 2010 - West Allis, WI/Kenosha, WI

I promised my friend Richard Caan I’d take his table at the sports card show at Gonzaga Hall in West Allis, WI because he wanted the month off. I pieced together some scraps of collectible things I wanted to unload and arrived at 8:58am for a show that started at 9:00.

Nobody is ever going to get rich at that place, but for a $25 table investment I threw out my trinkets and spent the day haggling with the local chiselers. Milwaukeeans are right up there with the Scots as being cheap, so prying any money at all out of anyone is a miracle.

I did manage to make my table fee and a few bucks more, but not much. What set me in the black was finding out I had won the Super Bowl squares pool from last month and my $5 gamble paid off with $85! That was an unexpected break and I gratefully accepted it.

I’ll always enjoy the card hobby, but it’s not what it was. Nobody is hauling in millions, but that’s ok. It’s a social club to hang out with friends, and I love having a monthly time to just relax and escape the rest of the world. Yes, I bought all those cards and I wish now I hadn’t, but that won’t kill me. I’ll unload them eventually but keep a few for myself too.

What I noticed today more than ever was guys I normally don’t talk to coming up to me and asking about comedy or radio. They’d either heard me with Jerry’s Kidders on WGN or on The D-List on ESPN AM 540 in Milwaukee. I had no idea they even listened or had a clue who I was, but quite a few of them did and it felt really good to have them say so.

I never looked at myself as anything but a regular guy, but it felt like I was a celebrity or something by the way people were treating me. They would quote back a line I said on air that made them laugh, and I was amazed at how long they’d waited to come and tell me. I guess setting up as a dealer put me in their peer group, and I enjoyed being in it for a day.

I’m not going to kid myself though. I’ll never be a full time card dealer. That takes a ton of work doing all kinds of things I’m not good at, and on top of that the market isn’t close to what it once was. Richard will be back at his table next month, and I’m out. OK by me. I’ve dabbled in this my whole life and drifted in and out. It’s a hobby, that’s what it’s for.

With everything else I’ve got going on, the card tide is drifting out again. That’s totally fine, I’ve had my fun. If I never see another card show I won’t complain, but if I decide I want to get back in it, I can do that too. It’s nice to have options, but now I need money.

I’ll take my $80 profit from the football pool and run. Maybe I can use it to finance my next set of comedy classes. Making copies of paperwork and buying binders will cost me right around that much. That’s what I need to be creating - multiple streams of income.

The Mothership Connection radio show tonight on WLIP AM 1050 in Kenosha was fun as usual. I got to dabble in radio all night like I dabbled in cards all day. That’s the best of all worlds, minus the money. If I can’t make money, at least I’ll have fun. Today was fun.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Something's Missing

Saturday February 20th, 2010 - Racine, WI

Will any work I do ever satisfy me? The older I get, the more I‘m doubting it. I’m trying to enjoy shows more, but sometimes I just can’t lower my standards. When I’m on stage, I want to send people into a new dimension of time and space. I aspire to knock socks off.

Most of it is for the audience, but part of it is for me too. I am a huge fan of all kinds of entertainment, and I know how difficult it is to do it correctly. I’ve seen good and bad and also myself been good and bad, so I know the difference. I want to blow audiences away.

Lately, by all accounts I’ve been doing exactly that. Even more people than usual have come up to me after shows telling me they haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. I love hearing them say that, and I’m sincere when I thank them, but I know I’m still not there.

Last night at CD&ME in Frankfort, IL was a very good example. My friend and fellow Jerry’s Kidder Ken Sevara told me the crowd loved me, and I think they did, but I wasn’t at all satisfied with my show. They loved their part, but mine was not up to my standards. I felt like a couple of cylinders weren’t firing, and I wanted the overdrive gear to kick in.

Sometimes, an audience just can’t laugh any more. They’ve given all they have, and no matter how hard a comedian works, that’s the best anyone can do. I’ve gotten to that point countless times, but I still think I can get more. Hearing a large crowd pop with a big hard crisp hearty laugh is a drug, and it never gets old. It’s an explosion of energy and I love it.

Tonight was another example. I did a show at the Racine Theatre Guild with my old pal Steve DeClark. It’s a wonderful facility and I was there with Steve last year too. We had a hot audience then, and tonight’s was right there with them. They were polite and listening the whole time and there were no drunken outbursts. In other words, it was a dream night.

Lou Rugani from WLIP came out along with Mark Gumbinger, the director of the film ‘Dead Air’ in which Lou is the star and I have a part. Carol Strempler is a regular listener to WLIP and calls in to both Lou’s show and The Mothership Connection, and she’s also in the movie. They all made it a point to come out and see me and I was very flattered.

The whole staff at the Racine Theatre Guild couldn’t have been any nicer, and these are the kinds of shows I’ve always dreamed of doing. There might not have been jam packed houses of thousands of people, but those who did come were as good as a crowd can get.

I loved performing for them, and I gave them everything I had. I got several pops during the show and at the end a large number gave me a standing ovation. What a rush that was! I knew they meant it and I bowed low in gratitude and meant that too. They were the best.

So why am I still not satisfied? I’m not. Grateful? Yes! Satisfied? Uh uh. I just feel I’m able to improve significantly, and I’m not up to my standards even though those who saw it this weekend enjoyed it. I’m glad they did, but I know I can do better. Time to prove it.

This really bothered me as I drove home tonight, and I know it shouldn’t. I’ve been on a red hot run lately and I should be on top of the world. I’ve had a lot of comedians tell me recently how they keep hearing my name being mentioned and how strong my shows are.

That’s really nice to hear, but it’s even better to hear people say I’ve helped them along the way and given them advice when they started. That means even more. I try very hard to be a quality person, but I know there are still those who think I’m a card carrying wank. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. I’ve tried to right all my wrongs, but a few just won’t let me.

Some of those people are in my own family. My sister lives in Racine, or at least I think she still does. She hasn’t spoken to me in going on 17 years now, and I doubt if I’ll get an opportunity to ever turn that situation around. That’s really sad and in a perfect world she would have been at the show tonight laughing with everyone else. But that didn’t happen.

We should have had a great dinner and some laughs before the show, and all her friends and neighbors could have come out to enjoy themselves also. I’m at the top of my game, and it’s taken a lifetime of sacrifice to get to this point - and I’m still not satisfied with it. Something deep down inside tells me I’m not doing everything I can to be my very best.

Part of it is knowing a lot of the mistakes I made are too late to correct. They’ve helped shape where I am now, and had I known better I’d have chosen differently. Other things I did know better but wasn’t able to choose differently. Living in L.A. is an example. I was out of money when I lived there and it would have been stupid to stay. I never went back.

There are plenty of other boo boos on my resume too, but through all of them I’ve never given up. I’m still out here slugging. I may have my enemies, and I may be my own worst one at times, but I’m still in the game and as long as that’s true I have the chance to win.

Now I have to figure out exactly what I think that would be. I used to think it would be attaining headliner status and working places like The Racine Theatre Guild for people in soft seats who came out to be entertained. That happened tonight, but it wasn’t enough. It was still hollow after the show when everyone was gone and I was by myself in the car.

A feeling of extreme emptiness came over me as I hoped I haven’t wasted my life. I’ve had to struggle so hard to get where I am that I haven’t had a chance to really take a good long objective look at what I’ve done right. I’ve always been too busy fixing my mistakes.

I’m the first one to admit I’m crazy, but I’m not stupid. My mistakes are part of my past but I’ve done a lot of smart things too. My life has been an odd mix and even I don’t have a clue sometimes as to where I’m going or what will make me happy. That’s pretty dumb.

I’ve always been the happiest when I’m able to give something to someone who enjoys it. If I can help someone by teaching a class or offering encouragement or just being their friend I always try to do it. Maybe I’m not doing it enough, and that’s why I feel so empty right now. Maybe it’s a part of growing as an artist, but I feel I’m not where I want to be.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Creative Connections

Friday February 19th, 2010 - Frankfort, IL

I put 350 miles on my car today and didn’t leave the Chicago area. I didn’t plan on that, it just worked out that way. The first stop was lunch with my friend Dave Rudolf, one of my favorite people ever. He lives in Park Forest, IL, which is about 80 miles south of me.

It’s much closer for me to drive to Milwaukee than it is the south side of Chicago, plus there’s always the added torture of getting through the city. If I go through downtown it’s usually a traffic nightmare, and taking the I-294 bypass involves tolls I can’t stand paying.

I was booked tonight at CD&ME which is in Frankfort, IL. That’s not far from Dave so I thought I’d combine the drives. Dave is the greatest. I can’t begin to tell it with a couple of sentences, so check out his website. He’s a musician, comedian, cancer survivor and fantastic entertainer all around. Plus, he’s a super human being also.

I worked with Dave over 20 years ago at Snickerz Comedy Bar in Ft. Wayne, IN and we have stayed in contact since. He does a charity show every Christmas and is a giving soul type just as I try to be. The guy is always working on something fun and never gives up.

I’ve lost count on the number of CD projects he’s done, but I think it’s 24 now. He said he’s working on three more, and a couple of books too. Oh, and a play as well. He has his own recording studio in his house, and he puts it to good use. I love his creative energy.

He’s always been a big fan and supporter of mine too, and I’m very flattered by that. It’s always fun for me to hang out with creative types and exchange ideas and that’s what was planned for today. Like everyone else, Dave has been hit by the economy and has to think of new sources of income. Rather than complain about it he’s coming up with new ideas.

Dave has taught workshops on the business part of music and we’ve talked about trying to put together something for entertainers in general. Music and comedy and most genres of entertainment have similar business models, at least at the beginning and most newbies have NO clue as to how to get started. They’re left to their own mistakes, and that stinks.

Dave asked for some ideas for things he was working on and gave me some great input for the Uranus Factory Outlet project. He has a few connections he recommended and we had a very productive lunch. Dave is the kind of mind I want to have around my projects.

I was going to hang out on the south side until show time, but I received a call from my t-shirt guy Mark in Antioch, IL telling me my ‘T E I A M’ shirts were ready. I could have waited another day, but I decided to drive back north and pick them up. It was sunny and traffic was moving and I know it was a long drive but I didn’t care. I was in an up mood.

The shirts look really good, and Mark is proving to be very easy to deal with. He gets it. I drove back south to get to the show by 8pm, and it was a really nice audience and we all had a great time. I don’t mind driving if it has a payoff, and today was worth every mile.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Getting Ready To Rumble

Thursday February 18th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

More work today chipping away at the piles. People don’t realize how much work there is in the actual process of being a comedian and it’s been years of buildup that I’m hoping to clear away once and for all. It won’t be easy though, and that’s why I’ve delayed it this long. Who wants to sit around digging through boxes and sorting out scraps of old paper?

I surely don’t, but every minute I’m spending doing it is making me feel like I’m taking charge of my life, and I know it’s the right thing to do. I’ve been able to throw away a lot of useless or outdated stuff, but I’ve also found a whole lot of things I thought I had lost.

I’ve always been a note taker, jotting down ideas when I get them. I get them quite often but rarely have I been organized enough to put them in a safe place. I did have most of my best ideas on my old computer, but that got stolen along with my backup hard drive so for the last couple of years I’ve been trying to piece together a lot of the stuff I lost back then.

There’s no way I’ll be able to replace it all, but I have been finding bits and pieces of all sorts of different ideas I either thought I’d lost or don’t even remember having. This is the right way to do this, slow and painstaking as it is. I need to just suck it up and get it done.

My grandfather used to really drill me as a kid to do things the right way. I hated it back then, but I’m SO grateful now that he did that. There’s a very empowering feeling of total accomplishment when something is done correctly that can’t be bought. It’s only earned.

I remember one time I mowed the lawn in an admittedly half assed manner, as I wanted to go play baseball with my friends. Gramps caught me as I was leaving and made me get the mower back out and do it right. I missed the game that day, but I sure learned a lesson that’s still with me. Gramps and his wisdom have been the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten.

I want to be able to pour everything I have into my upcoming comedy projects, and it’s going to be a whole lot easier if I don’t have any major baggage or unfinished business on my plate. This is the right way to do it, even though it’s taking time and energy right now.

Today was another full day of work, and I surprised myself at how much I cleared out in a single day. I’ve still got a long way to go, but at least I can walk around my living space again and even sit on some furniture. I had every couch, chair and table piled with boxes.

This is like a mental colon cleanse, and I’m just getting started. It was hard to get this in motion, but now it is. I’m seeing how useless most physical possessions are, and I’ll let as much of what I’ve managed to let clog my inner toilet go as soon as I can find a home for it. I’ll sell what I can, give to friends what they’ll be able to use and donate the rest of it.

I plan on doing a real colon cleanse too. I bet I’m backed up like the rush hour traffic in Tijuana, and blowing some of that gunk out will also be a welcome event. If nothing else, I’m getting myself ready for something new and bigger than ever before. It’s about time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Balance Is A Bitch

Wednesday February 17th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

It finally feels like I’m starting to make some measurable progress clearing off the huge pile of backed up tasks I set out to do at the beginning of the year. Valentine’s Day is past and time is rounding the corner to my birthday. If I keep it up, I’ll be in full stride by then.

All those quips and slogans motivational speakers use are true, no matter how cliché all of it is. Thoughts ARE things, and inch by inch it IS a cinch. We DO become what we put in our minds, and without goals nothing can be achieved. The hard part is taking action.

I spent most of today sorting through the scattered pile of confusion I’ve allowed to get completely out of control. Books and clothing and scraps of paper with comedy notes and phone numbers and receipts and anything else imaginable are laying around like a tornado went through, and there’s no excuse for it. Yes, I’ve been busy, but this is not acceptable.

I’ve never been a neat freak, but I’m not Oscar Madison either. You wouldn’t know that by walking through the clutter where I live, and it’s to the point of no return. I have to get organized very soon or I’ll never be able to get anything done. It‘s to the boiling point.

I really do have all kinds of things going on, and a lot of them are good, but if I can’t get myself into some sort of order I’ll lose whatever positive momentum I do have. This is an inner tweak which is manifesting itself outwardly and I’m just not going to let it continue.

One thing for sure is that my grandfather was SO right when he used to talk about how the most difficult thing in life to achieve was balance. He said it was even more difficult than getting rich, because many who did get rich sacrificed a lot of other things to do it.

Being balanced in all areas of life is the ultimate challenge. Has anyone done it? I used to think Tiger Woods was pretty close, but then he had his little fender bender and all that ended. Who else is close? Bill Gates? Oprah Winfrey? I guess I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are some people who have found a way to balance.

Extreme wealth isn’t necessary, but some degree of it is. Also, physical health, a family, creativity, continuing education, a chance to give back and all kinds of other things are on that list. Who has time to do all of it? How about even some of it? Most of us stumble our way through life, maybe focusing on a few things we do well because it strokes our ego.

How about taking time to really work at what we’re not good at? That takes total guts to even try, but I totally want to do it. If I never get rich or famous but continue to grow for a lifetime, does that make me a failure or a success? It depends who’s asked on what day.

I’d love to have it all, but is it in the cards? Is it even possible? I don’t know, but I put a full day’s work in today and in the short run it meant nothing. In the long run, if I keep up daily improvement I’ll be a much better me in not that long of time. I‘m seeking balance.

Touching With Teaching

Tuesday February 16th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

I don’t know why I enjoy teaching so much, but I totally do. I hated school. I remember counting down the hours of almost every day, and the days of almost every year, hoping it would all be over. It wasn’t the learning I couldn’t stand, it was what and how I learned.

I wanted to dive in to what I wanted to know, and most of that wasn’t what was on their agenda. Algebra and geometry couldn’t have been any more painful, and biology had only one redeeming quality in that there happened to be all the best looking girls in that class.

Creative things are what I enjoyed, and there weren’t nearly enough of those to begin to satisfy my needs. I remember in seventh grade we had a science project assignment where we had several weeks to complete a presentation on a topic. For whatever reason I picked the human heart, and I really got into it. I wanted to make mine the best presentation ever.

The actual topic didn’t make any difference at all. I wanted to focus on the show part of it. I remember making up all kinds of colorful drawings to show and my uncle suggested I make an audio presentation complete with background music and call it ‘A Tour Of Your Heart’. That was all I needed to hear, and I was totally in. On presentation day, I let it rip.

I’m not sure if it was so much that the other kids enjoyed it, but I remember applause as I finished. It was completely different from what everyone else did, and it entertained the class. I didn’t have to say one word, I just stood there pointing to the graphs and pictures I had arranged, and my voiceover with music behind it sounded great, at least in memory.

Maybe if I heard it now, I’d be embarrassed by how excruciating it was, but at the time I blew everyone away with it. The teacher gave me an ‘A+++’ and I don’t think I ever got a grade like that for anything else I ever did. Isn’t that what they give butter? I don’t know.

The point is, I really loved doing those kinds of things, but put me in front of an algebra book and I was through. I didn’t care then and I don’t now. I’m sure somebody has a need for it, if only algebra teachers to torture future generations. As for me, I’m done with it.

What made me think of all this was that I received several emails today thanking me for the comedy classes and graduation show last night at Zanies. They were a fantastic group and I really enjoyed them because they got what I was telling them. Seeing the light go on in a student’s head is very satisfying and I really enjoy seeing them go up and get laughs.

I guess it’s a lot like a sports coach. I know everyone in my classes doesn’t have to like me personally, and I don’t really care if they do. I want them to LEARN something, and if they do that, the personal part will follow. Seeing the students’ growth is very satisfying.

The mentoring part is satisfying too. I know how much I revere the memories of all my comedy mentors from C. Cardell Willis to Gary Kern to Jimmy Miller, and hopefully I’ll be able to occupy that special place those guys have in my heart in a whole lot of others.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Night With Friends

Monday February 15th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

Tonight, for only the second time in recorded history, Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago billed their show as ‘Friends Of Dobie Maxwell’. Basically, I held down the fort because the booker Bert Haas wanted to have a Monday off. I don’t have a problem with that and I totally understand, but a lot of wannabes read a lot more into it. They think I have power.

Most Monday nights are showcase nights and I host those whenever I’m available. I’ve kind of inherited the job over the last couple of years, only because nobody else wanted it. I looked at it as Monday money is never a bad thing, plus I was already coming to Zanies to teach my classes. Why not stay an extra two hours and earn food money for the week?

The majority of those who come through the Monday showcases are decent people. It’s great experience to do a six minute audition set anywhere, and this is a good opportunity for many of these kids, even though probably half or more aren’t ready to be booked yet.

A common mistake most newbies make is getting a few halfway decent minutes they’ve done ten times or less, and then taking that to every comedy club within 1100 miles of the place they’re from, and they shoot themselves in the foot by doing that. They’re not ready.

Plus, in a situation like Zanies, it hurts them even more. Bert Haas has been booking the club for over twenty years, and he’s seen everyone from Jay Leno to Jerry Seinfeld to just about every other top flight comedian from the 20th Century to now. How’s a little Johnny Fuzznuts, 22 year old rookie greenhorn from Green Bay, going to impress a Bert Haas?

They’re not. But they all think they’re going to be ‘the one’ that makes Bert take notice and immediately insert them as a headliner for big money, bumping everyone else in their path out of the way and making them the hot new thing in comedy. I think they think that. I see some of these kids strut around the back of the club, then go up and eat it big time.

It’s happened time and time again, even when Bert tries to lay it out for each of them in a pre-show meeting he has before each Monday showcase. He looks at me from his perch in the back of the room when another young punk goes down in flames, and rolls his eyes at me as I smile. We’re the two old farts trying to be patient as we watch rookie mistakes.

Since I’ve been associated as the regular host of the showcase shows, many think that I must have an inner track to Bert’s ear. I don’t. He books who he books. All I’m in charge of his hosting the shows. Period. Still, I get all kinds of emails and calls asking me to help someone get past Bert’s rules and squeeze them in. It’s to the point of being maddening.

Now, since the show is billed ‘Friends of Dobie Maxwell’, a few people think I’ll be in charge now and have some booking clout. WRONG. I’m just filling in so Bert can have a night off to spend with his family. I’m not booking Zanies, and I don’t have any authority. Hopefully that will slow the requests down, but I doubt it. I’ll deal with it later. Tonight’s show was really strong, and I’m sure I’ll most likely be asked to do one again. And I will.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Romance And Radio

Sunday February 14th, 2010 - Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI

Valentine’s Day can be the source of a lot of angst. Everyone wants to have that perfect mix of sex and romance with that ultimate partner, which probably doesn’t exist on Earth for anyone. Men want sex, women want romance and Hallmark wants us all to buy cards.

I read somewhere that there are a significant number of those who send themselves mail and/or flowers on significant holidays, especially Valentine’s Day. At first it shocked me, but then I remembered how the Valentine’s Day greeting card system worked in school.

I wonder if they still do that? We used to decorate our little bags and hang them up on a wall in our classroom, and the kids would drop little Valentine’s cards in the bag. My first crush in about third grade was a little blondie named Holly Lueck. I don’t know why I can still remember her name, but I do. It’s like Charlie Brown and that little red haired girl.

My heart ached for Holly, but I never really got to know her at all. I remember she made me stutter and stammer to be around her, and I never felt like that around anyone before. I remember picking out a special Valentine for her and decorating it with my own personal cartoons, as I fancied myself an ‘artiste’ back then. I put the card in her bag and waited.

I waited some more. And some more after that. Every day I’d come to school and scour my bag, hoping I’d gotten one back from Holly, or even one that MIGHT have been from her. We had them sealed and were not allowed to open them until Valentine’s Day, when the entire class would do it together. No other Valentine meant anything except Holly’s.

Finally, Valentine’s Day came and the teacher let us take our bags off the wall and open our cards. Some kids got more than others, but a couple got shut out completely. That’s a hard pill to have to swallow at age 8 or 9, and I can remember feeling bad for those kids.

I didn’t get the goose egg, but I also didn’t get one from Holly for whatever reason. The smack to the self esteem resonates to this day as I looked over to where she was sitting at her desk and saw her opening her pile of Valentines and stuffing candy into her pie hole.

I wanted to go over there and throw my arms up in the air and say “Forget anything?” If I had to live life over again, I probably would, just to see the look on her face. It’s a funny concept now, but it sure wasn’t then. That pain of being rejected stung down to the soul.

Whatever happened to Holly Lueck is anyone’s guess. Maybe she’s an obese cow with twelve illegitimate kids and no teeth, or maybe she turned out to be a sweetheart after all. I doubt if she’d remember me, and at this point I don’t remember anything about her but that she had blonde hair. Maybe that’s why I’ve had my life long affinity for brunettes.

Anyway, I made a special point today to send Valentines or at least text messages to all the single women I could think of, no matter who they were. Just the thought of receiving something from someone and how nice that can feel made me want to spread some cheer.

As for me, I was in a fantastic mood all day. Three hot shows at Zanies yesterday was as satisfying as it gets, and my comedy itch was scratched thoroughly. Nothing lifts my spirit higher than having good solid comedy shows, and that would include a card from Holly.

Today it was radio. All day. All night too. Jerry Agar was in Haiti this week through his church and didn’t get back until Friday night. We weren’t sure if or when Jerry’s Kidders would be on this week, but it ended up being today from 3pm to 3:50. We met up at 2:00 to go over our stories and prepare as we usually do, and I could feel we were all clicking.

We took that energy right into the studio and kept it going when the little red light came on. It’s always fun when we’re in that groove, and even when the show wandered, we still were able to get some laughs out of it. That’s what makes the concept so much fun. We’re up on the high wire without a net, and everyone knows it. It’s high risk, but high reward.

Not all the jokes hit, but WE were on target as a team. Ken Sevara, Tim Slagle and I are completely different in almost every way, and it took us a while to gel on the air. Ken is a voice and character guy and Tim is very up on current events and issues. My style doesn’t include any of that, so I’m coming from yet another angle. I’m just a disruptive smart ass.

The thing that makes it so much fun is that we all enjoy hanging out together off the air as well as on. It’s like a tree house or a weekly poker game we get to carry on in front of microphones on one of the biggest radio stations in America. I think our sincerity shows. Every joke isn’t always stellar and nobody claims that, but as a team we can get on a roll.

We had that today, and the time went by faster than it usually does. It felt like about ten minutes, when actually it was almost an hour. Then we went out for pizza afterwards and continued the laughs there. We had a new producer this week named Margaret and she’d never worked with us before so we asked if she wanted to join us and she did. It was fun.

I needed to wrap it up a little early as I had to be in Kenosha, WI to do The Mothership Connection from 8 to 11pm on WLIP. Today was double duty, but I didn’t mind. It’s fun to be on the radio, and when The Mothership Connection clicks, that’s a total blast also.

Again, we all like each other as people first, radio partners second. We hang out off the air when we can, and everyone contributes to the show. There may be a group of chumps that can’t stand me, but they can kiss my pale fuzzy arse. My friends and I get along well.

Having one group like this would be great, but I’ve got two. And I’m part of two others with both The D-List on ESPN Radio 540 in Milwaukee and with Stone and Double T on WXRX ‘The X’ in Rockford, IL. I don’t do those shows every week, and I don’t run them either, but when I’m on it’s the same feeling. They’re great people and we all click on air.

I didn’t make a nickel today, but I sure had a good time hanging out on the air with a lot of people I like and respect. I hope it leads to something in the future as far as money and contacts go, but for today there was nothing I could think of I’d rather do. That’s success!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Three Times A Night

Saturday February 13th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

Zanies in Chicago is one of the few comedy clubs left that do three shows on a Saturday night. I’ve talked before of how difficult that is, and it is. But I love it. It can be a grueling experience, especially as the headliner. Forty-five minutes of solid standup comedy is one of the most difficult tasks I can think of to do ONCE, much less three times in one night.

When I started, three shows on a Saturday was pretty standard. A few clubs tried it on a Friday too, and if I remember correctly even Zanies did for a while. That’s a lot of shows, but back then comedy was red hot and they could pack them in like sardines so why not?

I’ve read stories where vaudeville performers would have to do six shows a day. I don’t know if that was every day or just Saturday, but that’s still a lot of work for one day. They had a lot shorter time to do, but they still had to stay around the theatre and be ready to go on when it was their turn. Those people really worked hard. It wasn’t a glorious existence.

I’ve always been of the mentality that if I’m going to work, I want to WORK. I’d prefer that all clubs did three shows on a Saturday, and if we could fill it, let’s do Friday as well. There was a club called The Funny Firm in Chicago during the boom years and they ran a brutal schedule every week. They had two shows on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Friday and Saturday had three, and I think they also ran one on Tuesday. Monday was a new talent showcase night so I won’t count that, but all together that’s still 13 shows for a week which is unheard of today. Most people now are happy to get 13 shows in a month.

I was ready for my marathon tonight, and that’s exactly what it is. I’m very physical and jump around a lot on stage, and after forty-five minutes I’m usually soaking with sweat to show for all my effort. The lights can be very hot, but my bouncing around like a jumping bean also adds to it. I definitely work when I’m on stage and when I’m done I’m spent.

Another thing I have to be careful of is how I move my material around. It’s not hard to confuse the shows and not be sure what material I did for what audience. I happen to have a ton of material, and sometimes I’ll bring out an old bit or switch order on the fly and for three show nights that can really put me in the trick bag if I’m not paying close attention.

Tonight was a dream night for many reasons. First, all three shows were totally sold out to the last seat. It was Valentine’s Day weekend and even if it wasn’t me that drew I don’t mind at all. People were in seats, and they paid top dollar to be there. I gave them a show. It’s funny how it works, but the more people pay, the more they pay attention to the show.

The openers were great guys and easy to work with too. Pat McGann is a fresh face that has a really bright future. He’s smart and funny and knows how to network. He’s doing a lot of things right, and he did a fine job as host. Fritz was the feature and he has a style on stage that’s very laid back and low key. It’s a perfect fit for me because then I go up there and blow the dust out of the speakers. Everything fell together and it was a fantastic night.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Proper Perspective

Friday February 12th, 2010 - Elkhorn, WI/Milwaukee, WI

What a busy day, but it was all in proper perspective. Jim McHugh called me early with news that George Clinton was appearing on WGN’s morning TV news. That was kind of a surprise, as I didn’t think it would be a match. Still, I will always be a fan of George, so I tuned in to see it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen George appear on a morning show before.

He’s been in the news lately for several reasons, none of them pleasant. His mother died a few months ago, and apparently he didn’t have enough money to pay for a funeral. That was a shocker when I first heard it, but it really isn’t. Show business can be brutal with all the lopsided deals people sign, hoping to get ahead. George deserves better. He‘s an icon.

Then, his oldest son passed away just recently. Apparently, he was found at home a few days after he died, and that has to be devastating to a parent. On top of that, a member of one of George’s girl groups ‘Parlet’ named Mallia Franklin passed away from a stroke.

All this has happened in the very recent past, but when George came on TV he was in a very upbeat mood and played along with the interviewer, who brought a box of props and wigs and tried to match George’s hairstyle. I can’t say I’d be as patient as George was, but he played along and made the bit work. I thought he was great and was glad he got a plug.

George and the band played at The Cubby Bear in Chicago tonight and I’d love to have been there. I’ve seen him there several times before, and he didn’t disappoint. Rarely does he, and it‘s hard to believe he‘s still out doing smaller clubs at age 68. Granted, a lot of it is because he has to earn a living, but he sure isn’t taking the easy way. He really earns it.

A casual fan watching that TV show this morning would have NO idea about all the sad events that have happened to him recently. He came out and entertained. Period. That’s a consummate pro, and I respect him even more after seeing it. I don’t know if I could hide it as well as he does. My problems seemed pretty tiny in perspective so I shut my mouth.

After seeing George I had to attend traffic court in Elkhorn, WI. The sheriff issued me a citation after my accident in December and I needed to fight it for many reasons. It would have taken four points from my driver’s license and the fine was $213. That’s too much.

I don’t know why I got a fine at all, other than they milk the hell out of everybody when they get the chance to raise revenue. They cited me with ‘too fast for conditions’, but how did they know how fast I was going? It was icy, and I had slowed WAY down. Nobody in the courtroom was at the scene except me. How could anyone prove I was going too fast?

There was a sheriff hearing people’s stories and offering deals before a trial. I told him what happened, and apparently a few other people in that accident had already been there. He knew of it, and said I wasn’t the only car in the pileup to get a ticket. Still, I think it’s a total scam and I tried to tell him that politely. He wasn’t a bad guy, and I tried to reason with him like an adult. I thought, and still do, that I shouldn’t have gotten any ticket at all.

Obviously, that wasn’t his idea of a ‘deal’, so he ended up knocking the points violation off and making it a non moving violation. He lowered the fine from $213 to $170 and I’ll have thirty days to pay it. I could see it was probably all I was going to get, so I said yes.

I suppose I could have made a scene and asked for a jury trial or called a lawyer, but the cost or aggravation of all that just isn’t worth it to me. I know the court knows that too, so they get people to pay their fine and make it go away. They had an opportunity to make a quick $170 and they took it. Too fast for conditions, my ass. They just want their money.

Again, I tried to look at it with perspective. I could have easily died in that crash, and if not I could have easily had some horrible injuries. If staying alive and being able to see or walk or anything else most people take for granted (including me) cost $170, it would be a fantastic bargain. I’m sure people in wheelchairs would gladly pay $170 to get out of it.

I wasn’t bitter as I walked to my car with no limp. I’ll pay my fine in thirty days and just move on. It could have been a LOT worse, and bitching about a fine won’t change my life for the better. I felt good about myself for thinking like this. In the past I haven’t done it.

After court I drove to Milwaukee to meet up with Ron Lee to scout out potential places to perform the one man show. Ron has been doing some leg work and we’ve been staying in contact about a lot of the things necessary to bring this project together. There are a lot of things to put in place before an actual show, but we knew it. This is all from scratch.

We looked at a few spaces, and it was a very productive process. We talked to people in charge and asked about availabilities and all kinds of stuff I really haven’t done too much in all my past experience. Most shows I’ve done are preset and all I have to do is show up and go up. This is completely different, but it’s already been a great learning experience.

We’re going to pull this off. I feel it. It’s a quality product and I’m doing things exactly how I’m supposed to be doing them. I’m not disrespecting anyone going in, and I will not look to do it in the future either. I want this to come together through hard work, planning with a dash of showmanship thrown in. No, more than a dash. I’ll need a ladle full of that.

Our last stop was at the Milwaukee Visitors Bureau. I plan on registering with them like I did with the Lake County Convention And Visitors Bureau in Illinois, but they’ll have a challenge to outwork a consummate pro like Jayne Nordstrom and all the competent staff.

This was a pretty busy work day, but I had a show at Zanies in Vernon Hills, IL tonight. There was only one because they brought in some soap opera star who drew tons of horny women who all thought he was going to sleep with them. It was funny to see them run out of the showroom hoping to bed their TV stud master, but see me waiting around instead.

I got some animated dramatic looks of severe disappointment, but I’ve gotten that quite a few times in life so I just laughed and blew kisses to all the ladies. The Zanies staff was laughing, as they saw the position I was in. It could have been worse. It’s all perspective.

Rockford Rolling

Thursday February 10th, 2010 - Rockford, IL

I might not be getting paid a dime to be on the radio these days, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. Exactly the opposite. The reason I keep showing up is because it IS fun, and that should count for something. When radio is being done correctly, there’s an electric energy that bounces off the walls of the studio. It’s different than standup, but it’s still addictive.

Today I was back on with my friends ‘Stone and Double T’ in Rockford, IL on WXRX, ‘The X’ - 104.9. I love being on with those guys, as they both understand how good radio works. They let it grow organically, and there’s never any pressure. I go in there and they let me riff, trusting that I’ll have something either funny or interesting to say. I love that.

Those guys have always treated me with respect, and I totally appreciate it. Double T’s name is Terry, and he emailed and asked if I wanted to come in and hang out on the air. I hadn’t been in for a while and it’s always flattering to be asked back. Both those guys are secure in themselves enough to let their guests have the spotlight, and that makes it easy.

The funny part is, their station is the Bob and Tom station in Rockford. Jim Stone has a relationship with most of the Bob and Tom staff, and he said he’s tried to bring my name up a few times to see why they’re so angry at me, and has been rewarded with dirty looks.

It really is almost laughable at this point. Whatever I did is apparently still an issue and I guess I’m still banned from their show. Forever. I wish I knew exactly what it is I did to make them that pissed off, so I know what to avoid. I said I was sorry then, and I meant it. I’m sorry now too, but I guess that’s not good enough. I’m on their list and I can’t get off.

If Stone and Double T were in Bob and Tom’s position, I’d be a big star in 200 markets across the country, and a millionaire. Instead, I get to go on in Rockford, any time I want. Still, I’m flattered. I’ll show up when they ask. They’re both great guys, and sincere too.

I really do feel bad about the Bob and Tom thing, but what else can I do about it? I said I was sorry, and they rejected it. That’s life. It’s like Jackie Mason’s banishment from The Ed Sullivan Show or any number of other showbiz grudges. This is how it can play out.

I will do what I can with what I have, wherever I am. Today it was Rockford, and it was totally worth the trip. I practiced promoting Uranus Factory Outlet and the guys loved the concept. They played around with it, and I got a chance to practice in a safe environment.

Jim McHugh rode out there with me, and he’s been especially helpful recently. He said he’s going to jump in my face and make me focus on this project, and he totally has. It’s a godsend, as I’m always all over the place. He’s helping me stay focused and I need that.

It’s always easier to help others. It’s helping one’s self that seems to be the hardest. Jim has been a real friend by doing this, and I absolutely see improvement by him doing it. I’ll pay him back by doing all I can to help him too. That’s what friends do. Today was good.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Radio Karma Lives!

Wednesday February 10th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

I’ve been involved in standup comedy, professional wrestling and radio in my lifetime, and by far it’s radio that has had the biggest number of snakes. For some reason, there are backstabbing maggots in that business who are always looking to get by at the expense of others and they don‘t care who gets burned. I’ve seen it in comedy too, but not like radio.

Life is difficult enough without having a certain few malicious bung holes adding to the degree of difficulty, but there always seem to be a few who succeed. They always seem to show up at a low point in time, and instead of trying to bring healing they bring napalm.

One name that comes immediately to mind is Eric ‘Mancow’ Muller. He’s a loudmouth on the air, but never really said anything. When Howard Stern made being a ‘shock jock’ fashionable, Mancow copied him and didn’t do a very good job, but there were slots that needed filling because radio is a business of copying success and redoing it elsewhere.

Mancow made a lot of money for many years, even though everyone I knew who was in the business couldn’t stand him on air or off. He was brash and rude and treated people as if he was better than them, and just became a total pain in the ass to deal with. But, he had those almighty ratings, and that meant he was able to keep up the illusion for a long time.

When I worked at The Loop in Chicago, the station was sold to the same company that Mancow was working for, Emmis Communications. We were forced to go to a ‘Welcome to Emmis’ party and it was a horrific experience. We all felt like step children and it what made it worse was it was on their turf. We were in their building and it was humiliating.

The new GM introduced Mancow who pompously got up and said a few words and we felt even worse when he came up to us afterward and allowed us to kiss his ring. Nobody likes to be talked down to, and that’s exactly what he did. We knew our days were few.

A few weeks later when those fine folks at Emmis blew us out the door the week before Christmas, Mancow went on the air and apparently started bashing us mercilessly with no real reason for it. We were already gone, and the threat to his little babblefest was over.

I never listened to it because I never found his verbal diarrhea worth wasting my ears on, but I heard it from a lot of people so I don’t doubt it happened. I know my partners Spike and Max didn’t appreciate it very much and there really was no reason for it except spite.

I remember mentioning it to our then ‘boss’ at Emmis, who only served as that to blow us out the door, and he just laughed and said “Hey, that’s ‘Cow.” I wanted to jump over his desk and strangle him, but I needed the severance pay. He was fooled by the illusion.

Spike and Max and I got boned, and it changed all of our lives for the worse. We’re still recovering from it several years later, but we’re all still in there slugging and living life as best we can. We all resented how Mancow’s antics went unpunished, but we moved on.

Then, conservative talk radio became the hot thing and Mancow once again lacking any vision of his own decided to copy that trend and try to ride Rush Limbaugh’s coat tails so he stumbled in that direction. He’d blown his morning show with Emmis and was trying a new direction. As fate would have it, he ended up replacing Jerry Agar’s shift on WLS.

We’d all heard some rumors about how he got that shift, but nobody would confirm any of them. What was confirmed was that Jerry was out of the dream job he’d spent years of his life working to get. He had ratings and seemed to be on his way, but he too ended up a victim of the Mancow’s mean spirit. Mancow bashed him on the air too, and it got ugly.

Jerry said he called him and they talked about it, but then Mancow denied that and said all kinds of things that apparently weren’t true. I have no reason to doubt Jerry’s word, as we’ve known each other over twenty years. The whole thing stinks, and it’s a very similar stench to the one that happened years ago at the Loop. And again, none of it was needed.

I’ve talked about my competitors in radio on the air quite a bit. It’s a strategy. It’s like a professional wrestler trying to drum up business for an upcoming match. I’ve blurted out all kinds of things over the years, but it was part of the game. I had no malice toward any of the people personally, it was an act. And, in the end, I lost. They had jobs, I got fired.

This is not the same thing. I’m not the only one who has a Mancow story and neither is Jerry. Time after time he would get a little too personal, and it was ALWAYS when there was no chance of retaliation. Jerry and I were already fired. There’s no reason to do that.

I guess I blame the stations to some extent, but as a human being there’s no reason to be that damn mean spirited, especially to those who can’t fight back. Jerry got screwed over big time, and he still hasn’t recovered from it. He’s piecing each month together and has a family and a mortgage, just like my partners Spike and Max did at the Loop. Life is hard.

All that being said, I heard the news today that Mancow was fired after his shift at WLS and I can’t say it made me sad, even a little. I know I shouldn’t rejoice in the downfall of others, but he’s a guy that’s had it coming for a long time, not only in my opinion but SO many others in radio who have had to endure his cocky prattle for so long. Karma lives!

I don’t wish the guy bad, but I absolutely DO wish him to have to feel what it’s like to have to struggle to pay the mortgage every month and have the experience the stress of a wife and kids breathing down his neck wondering when and where that next gig will be.

Mancow is a mean spirited bully, just as my father was. At one time, my old man was a big mean evil ogre that everyone was afraid of. Then, he died a shriveled up pathetic loser and there weren’t enough people who cared to have a funeral. He’s gone and isn’t missed.

I doubt if very many people are taking Mancow out for dinner tonight to lament his fate, and as for me I wouldn’t piss on his teeth if his mouth was on fire. I have enough faults of my own to work on and I’m not claiming perfection, but this news was LONG overdue.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Snow Plowed Crowd

Tuesday February 9th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

Just about the time I think I have this whole standup comedy thing figured out, I have a night like tonight and it blows me all the way back to the starting line again and I wonder why I ever started performing in the first place. When it‘s good, it’s great. Not tonight.

I was scheduled to work the downtown Chicago location for Zanies this week but I have been moved do to other bookings. Zanies had a chance to book someone they wanted and instead of blowing me out like happened with my show last Saturday in Fond du Lac, WI, they moved me out to Vernon Hills on Thursday and Friday. That’s closer for me anyway.

The downtown location is the only one that does a Tuesday show, so I still needed to do it as part of my week. No problem, I enjoy working. I didn’t enjoy driving through a nasty snow storm to get there, but that’s part of the deal. Nobody at the club expected any kind of a crowd because of the weather, but we were all proven wrong. People kept coming in.

By the time the show started, we were all feeling pretty good. The wait staff had people to sell drinks to, and the comedians had an audience. Win/win. The only thing wrong with that is the majority of them only wanted the drinking part. The show was an afterthought.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had to deal with such an ugly babbling mob of boozed up, rude, chatty bubbleheads like these people, and I had all I could handle to not just put the microphone down and walk out the door and get in my car and drive home. If I wasn’t at a Zanies, I would have seriously considered doing it. These people didn’t want a show.

They wanted to BE the show. There was a group of about a dozen or so flamingly white suburban types who obviously had had too much to drink. They found a need to comment on EVERY SINGLE LINE I did, and after the first six minutes I have to admit it got old.

They had started when the other acts were on stage, but the booze really kicked in when I got up there, and I had to fight with them the whole time. I’m WAY past that, but not in their minds apparently. The more I tried to ignore them, the more they tried to participate.

The rest of the crowd wasn’t that great either, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get any kind of a roll going so I did the best I could, and got off stage exactly five minutes after the manager Martin gave me my five minute light. I’d had enough of these monkeys.

As I cleaned the snow off my car afterward, I saw two of the front row boozers having a cigarette in front of the club. They didn’t know it was me right next to them and one said to the other “What an ass that last guy was. He acted like he didn’t even want us to help.”

I wanted to take my snow brush and jam it where there’s normally not that much natural snowfall, but I bit my lip and got in the car and drove away. He wasn’t worth it, and I had my fill of idiots for one night. Still, after all these years of stage time, a night like this will sneak up and rattle the cage of even the most savvy veteran. I guess this keeps us humble.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Business

Monday February 8th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

There’s supposed to be a foot of snow coming in the next day or two and everyone is in the pre snow panic mode. The grocery stores are getting cleaned out of everything and it’s like the world is ending. Usually, the ones hyped the most are the biggest disappointment, and I’m hoping this one is too. Still, everyone seems to be preparing for the apocalypse.

I just want to prepare for my future and not live hand to mouth. I’m making progress on all my projects, and even though it’s not anything spectacular, it is progress and it’s a very satisfying feeling to see things move in the right direction, even if the movement is slow.

My piles around the house are shrinking and that’s been WAY overdue. I’m making the time to sift through paperwork and books and mail and tax receipts and all the things I’ve been letting get out of hand. Nobody else knows or cares how clutter can slow everything else down, but I do and I’m taking care of it. It’s going to make the rest of my life better.

I knocked down the email pile today and I got my voice mail box down from almost full to almost empty. That was a big deal also, and at least I’m connecting and reconnecting to people I need and want to who can help move what I’m doing forward. It all takes time.

I made some progress with Uranus Factory Outlet today too. My trademark lawyer sent me a form to reapply for my trademark since I haven’t been using it to sell anything. It’s a dead expense right now, but I hope to change that very soon. I am now back in the mix to have Uranus Factory Outlet trademarked when I start the website officially on March 13th.

I also ordered a batch of t-shirts from a store in Antioch I keep seeing as I drive past it on Highway 83. It’s a custom printed shirt and hat shop and I decided to stop and see if it could be somewhere I can get products. The guy running it was very nice, and I ended up ordering a batch of two dozen of my ‘T E I A M’ shirts. Those sold pretty well in the past.

For those that don’t get it, ‘T E I A M’ is a play on the no ‘I’ in team saying most of us heard at some point in our lives. It’s not necessarily a Uranus product, but I think I’ll have a good shot to sell them, and it lets me test this guy’s ability to get shirts finished quickly.

A huge part of the business will be product procurement and I need to have more than a single source for any one item I want to sell. Backing myself up is key, and this guy could be either my number one go to shirt maker, or he could be my plan ‘Z’ last resort source.

The biggest part of the mail order business is testing, testing, testing. That’s a common theme from a lot of people who’ve written about the subject, and I guess I have to follow those instructions. I may think I know better, but I don’t. Nobody does. It’s all a big test.

I’m putting in my time on the hamster wheel and knocking out a few things I’ve needed to do for a long time. It doesn’t shake the world, but it gives encouragement to mine that I have some hope to live my dreams after all. It can snow all it wants now, I’m ready for it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Numbers

Sunday February 7th, 2010 - Kenosha, WI

Super Bowl Sunday. This year’s game meant nothing to me, but I still learned from it as I watched all the pomp and fluff that goes with an event that big. I think I read where over 100 million people will watch it in America and 750 million around the rest of the world.

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but say it is for argument’s sake. That’s a total number of 850 million people watching one single event. Pretty amazing, but if the world’s entire population is six billion, that’s not even 20% of the world watching. That shrinks the size of the event in my eyes, and makes me wonder what if anything would capture ALL of us.

The World Cup Soccer tournament is huge around the world, but we have barely a blip of interest here. I have to believe a good Three Stooges festival could knock it out of the ratings in most American cities, and half of them could even feature Shemp instead of an entire stacked deck of Curly. Soccer is just plain BORING to us, and it always will be.

I doubt if there were many Super Bowl parties in Cameroon or Paraguay either. I don’t think ten year old kids working in the sweat shops making Nike shoes bought squares for the big game and checked their numbers after every quarter. It’s only a major event here.

Still, the game has become what’s probably the biggest non religious holiday anywhere, and all the players on both teams today will tell their children, grandchildren and anybody within earshot who’ll listen that they played in the Super Bowl. Win or lose, that’s pretty impressive, at least around these parts. It‘s got to be good for a free beverage, doesn‘t it?

I did get to watch a little bit of the second half from the studio as we did the Mothership Connection radio show in Kenosha, WI tonight on AM 1050 WLIP. I made sure I was all full with guests so we could have a show and we absolutely did. We had a lot of calls and people didn’t even mention the game at all. Neither did we, until we said the Saints won.

The Super Bowl is an American institution and the Mothership Connection is a weekly Sunday night radio show in Kenosha, WI. Who wins? In my mind it’s me. I get to do this again next week, and most if not all of the players in this game will never get back again. Some of them got in only a play or two and nobody cared but them. But they were in it.

I kind of feel like that about getting on The Late Late Show last year. Yes, I did make it to national TV, but only for four and a half minutes at 1:30am in the summer. Did anyone see it? Sure, probably hundreds of thousands if not more. In fact, more people saw me do that four and a half minutes than had seen me during the past twenty plus years combined.

What does that do for me now? Not much, other than provide me with a memory I’ll be able to have the rest of my life. Would I like to get back there? Absolutely. But, just like a football player or any other professional athlete, there are no guarantees. A lot of it is luck of the draw, and I know how mine has been up until now. I thought of all that as I saw the players hold up the trophy and enjoy their moment. I was happy for them. They earned it.

I also thought of a few comedians from New Orleans I’ve worked with over the years and was happy for them too. Sammie Martin is a very funny guy who was the co-owner of a club I loved in Memphis called ’Comedy, TN’ with another funny guy named John Marks. Normally, comedians who book clubs aren’t strong acts. Not so with these guys.

Sammie a rabid Saints fan. When I’d work there we’d talk about the NFL and he was a walking font of knowledge about not only his team but every other one too. We’d talk for long stretches about my Packers or his Saints and there’s no deeper way for heterosexual males to bond in America than to talk about sports. Sammie and I are both NFL junkies.

Another fantastic guy I worked with from New Orleans called himself ‘The Silver Fox’. His name was John Schnauder and I’ve never met a more classy person in all my years of traveling as a comedian. This guy was laid back and fun and people loved him right away. He had a thick “N’Awlins” twang but it wasn’t forced, that was him. He had a real style.

This was at least twenty years ago, and he was in his 60s then. He raised his family and decided in his retirement he wanted to be a comedian, so he did it. He knew he had a late start, but he didn’t care. He just enjoyed making people laugh, and I had an absolute blast working in Jacksonville, FL with him and Shirley Hemphill from “What’s Happening?”

I was very green then and just starting out on the road. I was the opening act and John was the feature. I made sure I gave him a great introduction every night because I thought everyone should have one, but he really appreciated it because he said a lot of the younger comics would make fun of him because he was so much older. We got along very well.

He was very proud of his city and did material about it every night. We hung out quite a bit that week, and this was before the internet so we exchanged information and sent each other a few Christmas cards, but then we kind of fell out of touch as happens in comedy.

I sure hope he’s still alive to see his Saints win the Super Bowl. If anyone deserves that thrill it was him. What a super guy he was, and not just of comedians I’ve known, but of ANYONE I’ve known. That guy had a real charisma about him, and I hope he’s ecstatic tonight. I’m sure there are a ton of John Schnauders and Sammie Martins rejoicing now.

There were really no bad guys in this game. Who doesn’t like Peyton Manning? There’s another guy who handles himself with dignity and isn’t a maniac like so many others who play pro sports. I like the Colts’ coach Jim Caldwell too. He comes off very classy also.

They’re probably bummed out about losing now, but the memory will get sweeter as the years pass. They made it to the highest pinnacle of their profession, and even if it was for only one day, they got to put on the uniform and run on the field and say they were there.

I want to experience the highest pinnacle of life. What is that? I don’t really know. Is it fame and fortune? Probably not. I have to believe it’s having the unconditional love of as many people as can be. Who has that? Beats me. I’m still trying to figure out what love is.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Yachts O'Luck

Saturday February 6th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

A rare Saturday night off, and I can’t say I’m thrilled about it. I enjoyed the time off, but I don’t like the way it came about. I was supposed to be booked for a show tonight up at a yacht club in Fond du Lac, WI, but was bumped because the venue went with a local act.

I’m fine with that, but they should have either paid me out or moved it to a solid date in the future so I could have gotten my money somehow. I can’t just pull work out of the air to make up for a show that cancels only a few weeks out, but they don’t care about that at all. They aren’t a comedy venue and probably aren’t aware of how big of a hassle this is.

This is another delicate situation, and I’m usually pretty bad at those. The last one I had to deal with was the bounced check situation at Giggles last summer. That didn’t turn out well at all, and I ended up getting screwed by both the club and the booker who I thought was supposed to be in my corner. They both turned out to be greasy, and it got very ugly.

This situation is a little different. It was booked by a comedian who got it handed to him by means of which I’m not exactly sure. He’s not an agency, just a comic making an extra few bucks. I’ve turned people on to an occasional gig myself, and it’s usually done out of goodwill. I don’t usually take a commission because I figure it will come back around.

I know the guy didn’t mean for this to happen, but he called me and told me I was going to be replaced and just kept saying “Sorry about that.” Not acceptable. I told him that and he asked what I wanted him to do about it. I told him I wanted him to call the person up at the yacht club and tell them I need to be paid and/or get me a solid date for a future show.

He wasn’t prepared to do that, and just kept saying he was sorry. I hung up the phone in frustration and disgust, and it will be a long LONG time before I ever agree to do a show for him again. I was going to fire off a letter to the yacht club too, but what would that do other than make things uncomfortable all around? The damage is done, and I got screwed.

It wasn’t all that much money, but it was better than an average one nighter and I had it already spent when I said I’d take the gig. There’s no reason I shouldn’t get it, and that’s a fact even if I got bumped. That’s not my problem. A professional situation would pay me.

Show business is full of half assed fly by night hassles like this. I’ve known that guy for 25 years, and this puts a real strain on our relationship. He’s not a bad person, but I’m not up for getting boned out of a payday because he doesn’t have any power with a venue that he books. HE’S the one who booked me for this so in theory he’s responsible for paying.

I’m going to shut my mouth and just let it go. There was a time when I would have gone off on both the comedian and the venue, but that’s just wasted energy. Fond du Lac isn’t a comedy hotbed and never will be. Personally, the Fond du Lac yacht club and everyone in it can lick the barnacles from the depths of my port hole and if they ever want to book me again, it’s going to cost a lot more than it would have tonight. But I hope they don’t ask.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Old Friends Are Best

Friday February 5th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

Up to Milwaukee today to jump start the one man show idea. I want to do this correctly so I set up meetings with old friends who can help. Ron Lee used to produce shows when I first started and wants to do it again. He loves this idea and has some contacts for places he thinks it could work. Ron and I met up with my old friend Mark Krueger to discuss it.

Mark is an icon in Milwaukee and I bet he knows more people than the mayor. He has a lot to contribute to this project because not only is he well connected, he’s hilarious and a savant when it comes to local references. He could probably do a show like this himself.

We sat around firing off ideas and came up with some good ones. Ron and Mark can do a lot of favors for me and they will. I’ve known them both forever and if they were doing a project like this, they know they could count on me to help. It pays to have old friends.

After our productive brainstorming lunch I went to visit another valuable asset in Drew Olson. He’s another good friend I’ve known forever and knows everyone in Milwaukee’s hierarchy who’s anyone. Between Mark and Drew, that covers everyone I need to know.

Drew had some great ideas too as he always does, but one in particular was outstanding. He knows John McGivern, the Milwaukee actor who does one man shows that have been very successful. I’ve never met the guy but I keep hearing how well known he is in town.

I have nothing but respect for the guy, and am not looking to ‘compete’ or anything like that. When I’ve told some people about my idea for a one man show about Milwaukee the first thing they say is “John McGivern does that.” That’s fine, but why can’t I do one too?

I congratulate John for cracking the Milwaukee market. That’s no easy task. He came at it from a different angle than I did in standup, and he found the secret. Kudos. He proved an audience does exist for local entertainment, but it sure wasn’t in clubs where I started.

Drew suggested I contact John and offered to make it happen. That’s a brilliant idea. I’ll gladly tell him what I’m doing, and hopefully we can team up and make more work for us both. He probably turns down work I’d love to have, and if we’re on the same team I’ll be able to not only get those gigs, but work my way up the ladder and pay him back as well.

I’ve often done shows for groups who’ve asked me to suggest other comedians for their shows in the future. I’ve gotten a lot of shows that way too. John is way ahead of me with this and doesn’t need my ‘help’, but at some point I’m sure we’d be able to trade leads for shows and both end up getting more work out of it. That’s how I’d like to see it play out.

I look at it as healthy. Coke and Pepsi might not like each other, but they make the other one better. Also, how many gospels are there? Four. Is one better than the other? Who can say? They’re different, but it’s the same story. This is similar. John McGivern has his take on growing up in Milwaukee and so do I. We’re different people. I think we can coexist.

It was very nice of Drew to make the gesture and I appreciate it. No matter how it turns out, I will treat everyone with the utmost respect. This is like that scene in the Godfather where Marlon Brando says “Good luck in your new business.” He put a disclaimer in the mix saying something like “As long as it doesn’t interfere with ours,” or however it went.

In theory, I don’t need to ask anybody’s permission to do a one man show or any other show I want to do. I just want to show respect. John McGivern has earned it by making a name for himself doing something nobody before him was able to do. I know how hard it is to put butts in seats anywhere, much less Milwaukee. I don’t want any hard feelings.

I’m trying to follow the Golden Rule too. When I started comedy classes in Chicago, it was something I started from scratch. Then my ex business partner pulled his embezzling stunt and went behind my back and started trying to do it in the same town, and it turned ugly rather quickly. Then a bunch of other ‘classes’ started up and it spun out of control.

Had someone come to me and asked, I could have helped them get started, and we may have been able to grow a business together rather than be rivals. That didn’t happen, and now it’s everyone for himself. I don’t want to have a similar situation in Milwaukee. I’ve been on the other side of it and seen it blow up. Hopefully, that won‘t happen this time.

It’s out of my hands now. Drew sent an email to John, and I’ll either hear from him or I won’t. If I do, I’ll approach it with the attitude that he’s in charge. If I don’t, I’ll do what I do and see how it goes. In my mind, there’s plenty of room for everyone. I’ll make it go.

I had dinner tonight with my old friend Greg Chadwell and his girlfriend Nancy. Greg is a true friend, and I’ve known him since 1982. We worked together cooking at a restaurant called Rustler Steak House on the south side of Milwaukee, and have been friends since.

Greg is a dented can, but never EVER complained. He’s one of the hardest working and most honest people I know, and no matter what life does to him, he just keeps going. I am a whiner and complainer and I admit it, even though sometimes it can be funny when I go off on something that pops my cork. Greg has the right attitude. He shuts up and works.

I needed a place to live in 1984 and Greg turned me on to a room for rent by his former father in law. I ended up staying there for a couple of years, and those people were so nice to me I still consider them the family I never had. They had me over for Christmases even after I moved out, and in fact I’m even a godfather to one of Greg’s kids. I love them all.

He works at a bank now as a loan officer, but he sold cars for many years after escaping from the restaurant business. Greg helped me get a loan approved for my first brand new car in 1988 and I’ll always appreciate him for that alone. Greg Chadwell is a great friend.

People like him make America great. He works hard and doesn’t bitch about wanting to get a bailout from the government or anyone else. The least I could do was buy dinner for a guy like that. I owe him a lot more though. Old time friends are the best. I have several.