Friday, April 30, 2010

Dealing With Rejection

Thursday April 29th, 2010 - Chicago, IL/Lake Villa, IL

Never a dull moment. I’m still a little funky, but feeling a lot better. I’d scheduled lunch with my old producer from The Loop Rick Kaempfer today, and didn’t want to cancel. He is one of the few people busier than I am, and we hadn’t seen each other in way too long.

Rick is also my partner in writing the movie script for the infamous bank robbery story, and that needs to get sold. Rick has been writing other books with and without partners so he’s always got things going. He’s gotten a few books published, and is one of the hardest working people I know. I have nothing but respect for him, and he’s been a great partner.

We’ve been at a standstill for quite a while now, and the timing just seems to be right in both our minds to bring this project to the forefront yet again. We’ve got a partly finished product, but we’ve put in several rewrites and it’s come a long way from where we began.

Rick has some other projects bubbling and will be meeting with some L.A. power types in the next little while to pitch those things, and eventually this project will come up. We have a written agreement drawn up and signed by a lawyer, so I’m not worried about Rick screwing me over. He can’t, and I can’t do it to him either. We were smart with this one.

We both agree that we want to get a financial payoff for this project. It’s been a hideous memory and source of pain for me in many ways, but it is a hell of a story even I couldn’t have made up. It’s already a part of my life, so why not make the most of it and have it do some good and open some doors? It’s not like I want to star in the movie, I want payment.

Sylvester Stallone was a young actor and Rocky put him over the top. It was his vehicle. I’ve never been an actor and really don’t want to be more than I have to. I love being what I am, and that’s a live performer on a comedy stage. Movies really don’t interest me at all. Would I do one if someone asked? Sure, I just did two in the last year, but they were free.

I just did those for the experience, and both of them were a lot of fun, but no way could it come close to the excitement of being on stage during a live performance. That’s all my soul craves is to be in front of an audience entertaining them and having them totally love it. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever felt, and I want to keep feeling it as many times as I can.

Rick and I spoke about what our inside tracks were on getting someone with power that could possibly get the film made to look at it were, and we each have a few. My main one has always been Jeff Foxworthy’s management company. Jeff and I spoke about it when I worked with him last, and he said the thing they probably do best is get movies MADE.

He proceeded to rattle off a number of films his people were responsible for in various ways, and it was quite impressive. Jeff has no reason to lie to me and I’m sure he wasn’t. He’s always been great and he said he’d ‘put in a word’ with his management company to help me get a foot in the door. That’s exactly what he did and I’m very grateful, but it just wasn‘t enough to seal any deal. I’ve not been able to dazzle anybody with my sales pitch.

In fact, it was just the opposite. I contacted the person Jeff told me to, and it just wasn’t a match. I got off on the wrong foot with the lady and felt horrible about it. Then, I didn’t contact her for over a year hoping it would blow over and she’d forget. She didn’t. I tried contacting her again last week hoping to start all over again. This time went much better.

I’d had someone who knows her speak out on my behalf, and her tone was much easier this time. I apologized again and meant it, but she said we were cool. I told her what was new with me, after doing the Craig Ferguson appearance and releasing a new CD, and she was very complimentary. It felt like things were going well, so I asked if I could submit a package for her to look at, and how she wanted me to do it. I never want to pester anyone.

I was very encouraged to hear from her and especially since she was in a better mood all this time later. I do have a tendency to get off on the wrong foot with some people, and in my life I’ve had more than one person tell me that. “I hated you when I first met you, but I now consider you one of my favorite people.” Whatever. I grow on people like a fungus.

I hadn’t had the chance to lay my magic fungus formula on this lady yet, and I’ll admit I panicked. I didn’t want to make Jeff look bad, and I sure didn’t want to bother anybody in Hollywood who didn’t want to talk to me. I’m not at all comfortable in these situations.

I told Rick I was going to work on the connection and hopefully get someone on staff to at least look at our treatment. I received an email this afternoon telling me she’s not going to look at it, and doesn’t have time for new clients. She wasn’t mean or angry or anything other than informative, but I must say it threw me for a loop. I got flat out rejected. Ouch.

I’m not the first person to get rejected in show business and actually I’m not upset about it at all. I thought it was handled very professionally, and I have no complaints. She has a job to do with her clients, and I respect that. Nobody likes to get rejected, but it happens.

There are all kinds of stories about the Beatles getting turned down by lots of people for many years and finally when they did sign, it was for a rinky dink novelty label. Elvis was rejected by the Grand Old Opry, but he didn‘t let that kill him. This won’t kill me either.

It doesn’t mean the script won’t get sold, and it also doesn’t mean I won’t get signed by this agency in the future. It just means at this time, this particular person doesn’t have any time to look at what I have to offer. How I handle this is going to determine how this will eventually end up, and once again to my surprise I’m in a very good mindset about it all.

I’m not angry or upset. Really. I’m a little surprised, only because Jeff personally put a word in for me, but he can’t make them sign me. He did what he said, and I’m grateful. In no way am I blaming him, and I also wouldn’t think of trying to get him to intervene here.

I want to chronicle this story because it’s never easy to get flat out rejected. I want those who are following this to use it all as a how to for handling these situations with style and class. They happen. This will be a lesson for me too. I’m now learning about sales skills.

Chemical Warfare

Wednesday April 28th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Yeesh, this thing is deeper than I thought. I felt a lot worse than yesterday, so I ended up sleeping most of the day away yet again. I’ve found that’s the best way to let this pass so I don’t bring anyone else down. When it gets like this, I don’t want to be around anybody.

I doubt if anyone wants to be around me either. I was supposed to go over to hang out at Mark Gumbinger’s house with some people from the Dead Air movie cast and brainstorm about the next project Mark wants to direct.. I’m flattered he asked and I would have gone but this was just not the night for it. I told him I’d take a rain check but I wasn’t coming.

What I did instead was force myself out of the rack, peel off my sweats and hop into the shower to scrub away whatever needed to be scrubbed and go outside for a walk. My post office is almost exactly a mile away and there’s a Subway about a half a mile past that, so I wanted to go mail out some CD orders and then scarf down some vegetables and water.

That had to be the most difficult walk I’ve ever taken. It seemed like it would never end as I squinted to hide from the bright sunlight which normally delights me. Not today. I did all I could to keep walking, but I felt one big ache and all I wanted to do was beam myself home and right back to bed. I’ve never been hung over, but this is how I‘d picture it to be.

My head was throbbing, my legs hurt, and the last thing I wanted was sunlight and fresh air anywhere near me. I made it to the post office and finished my business, but making it to the Subway felt like I walked to Siberia. I ordered a sub packed full with vegetables but no chips or soda and sat and ate as my body ached from what wasn’t that big of a walk.

I realize this is a chemical thing, and it is what it is. I can eat better and exercise more in the future, but there’s a chemical tweak that happens at times, and this is one of them. I’m actually in a good space about it, and know it will pass as it always does. This is about the only time I can think of that I’ve ever been this lucid in the middle of one of these funks.

I’ve been really close to doing something stupid many times in the past, only because it always seems so final and permanent while it’s happening. This is the first time I can look to the future and know it will be over and when that happens, I’ll be in a creative groove.

It actually feels like my mental toughness is growing stronger, especially now when I’ve been known to just curl up in the past. I finished that damn walk, even though it was a big struggle, and all I wanted to do the whole time was turn around and go right back to bed.

In a goofy way, it feels like I’m going through this so I can offer a helping hand to other people at some point who’ll go through this too. I certainly have first hand experience for a lot of years, and most of it was just plain ugly. This one’s ugly too, but inside it doesn’t feel nearly as bad because my mindset while it’s happening is as clear as it ever has been. It actually feels like I’m learning from it, and that’s never a bad thing. Maybe it took all of this time to finally let it leak through my thick skull so I don’t have to go through it again.

I was in full sweat when I got home so I took another shower and kept plowing ahead in my work. I couldn’t sleep much more if I tried, so I cranked out a ton of emails that I’d let pile up once again. That’s always a never ending chore, but I managed to make very good progress tonight. I actually don’t mind being alone, and it felt good to shrink that big pile.

A lot of my recent emails have been very complimentary about my new CD ‘Hard Luck Jollies’. I received an email from George Clinton’s manager saying she’d like one to give to George, and that was a thrill. I’m sure he’ll see the artwork done by Pedro Bell who did so many Funkadelic covers over the years, and there’s a cartoon drawn on the back cover that has a caricature of George and myself that Pedro threw in as a bonus with our deal.

This latest recording project is going to open up a whole new set of doors for me, much as my last CD did. I got it out later than most comics, but I did it right. I recorded it down in Louisville which had a professional sound person and paid extra to have it packaged in a way that made it look like I had a recording contract with a real label. It was worth it all.

There are now a few thousand of those scattered all over North America, but those who have them didn’t get ripped off. I’ve seen a few for sale on Ebay, and it always makes me laugh to see that. It makes me feel like I’ve made it. Maybe I’ll find one at a thrift store.

Hey, so what? I’ve seen countless Bill Cosby and George Carlin and most other famous comedians products for sale in the fifty cent bin. All I care about is that they buy one new from somewhere. Who they sell or give it to afterward is not my concern. In fact, it would be a dream come true to buy one at a thrift store for a buck and then resell it for full price.

I’ve received lots of play on XM/Sirius satellite radio and constantly hear people tell me they heard one of my cuts being played. I ended up selling those rights to Laughing Hyena Records, which now sells them in truck stops. I still own the material, but they’re now the sole owner of that particular recording of it forever. A deal’s a deal, and I’m fine with it.

That was a very successful first recording attempt in my opinion, and I’m very satisfied with all that came out of it. I gave a ton of them away, but I did sell quite a few as well. It got my name out in a good way, and I still have people tell me they pop it in occasionally and have a laugh, or give it to someone else to listen to. That’s the way to make it pay off.

At most, there were probably 200 people who saw that show that was recorded. I’d have a hard time estimating how many people have actually heard that CD since 2003, but I’ve got to believe it’s more than 200. It’s more than 200,000. Besides the set I did on the Late Late Show on CBS, that was THE most heard comedy set I’ve ever done, warts and all.

I already know this new one is much better. I’m always improving as a performer, but it also flows better than the last one did. I did a lot of the same bits, but they’re sharper with more punch lines and I know I’ve grown since the last one was recorded. That’s what this is all about. I want to grow with every project I do, but not only is this one better, I’ve got at least one and maybe two whole new ones already in the can. This helps cheer me up.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crap Circles

Tuesday April 27th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Hello darkness, my old friend. I’m back in the funk of depression but I’m not worried at all this time. I’ve been here plenty. None of this is new. I’m not overwhelmed or trying to locate a bridge to leap off of or anything dramatic. I know this will pass and I’m trying to let it do exactly that. It always does, and then there’s a period of high creativity after that.

What’s really been brutal in the past is that I’ve lost sight of this eventual passing. Even the worst hurricane or tornado eventually stops, but while it’s happening it’s very difficult to calmly imagine that when one’s house is getting ripped off of it’s foundation and flung out in space at 100 miles an hour. All bets are off when that happens, but this is not that.

This is just a minor relapse, mostly due to my own stupidity. Have I been exercising on a consistent basis like I know I should? Have I been drinking enough water or eating what I should be eating? Sadly, no. There’s no excuse for it either. Just because Taco Bell has a drive thru window late at night doesn’t mean I have to visit it regularly. This is my fault.

I’ve been getting a lot better at cutting out red meat and sodas, but there are all kinds of other naughty things to take their place. Bad things taste good, and they’re not expensive much of the time. What a dangerous combination that is. Who’s behind it, evil doctors?

It wouldn’t surprise me if heart surgeons all banded together and bought the joints that fill our arteries with the stuff they get paid big money to scrape out of us in due time. I’m a lot closer to 50 than 20 and I used to laugh about stuff like this. It’s not so funny now.

I totally believe the source of a lot of depression is diet and lack of exercise related. I’ve done some reading on it in my lucid moments, and I’m sure it’s true. Then, I stupidly fool myself into believing I can ‘treat myself once in a while’ to something bad for me. I guess I probably could if ‘once in a while’ wasn’t ‘once a meal, every day, seven days a week.’

It’s not quite that bad, but I know deep in my mayonnaise clogged heart that I can stand to do MUCH better with my diet and exercise habits. I’m not alone in this struggle by far, but it doesn’t make it any easier to pass up that slice of pizza that comes with eight more.

I think water is a big part of it too. Who the hell wants to drink eight to twelve glasses a day on purpose? I sure don’t. Urination holds no magic attraction for me, especially when I’m doing it every ten minutes. Still, our bodies are 70% water and we need to drink it on a regular basis to keep all the systems functioning. It’s part of life, but so few of us do it.

I’m one of the many, and now I wonder why my head is scrambled with depression. My blood is probably as thick as hot fudge, and I couldn’t run a full mile if all the women on Baywatch were at the end of it naked and begging me to have sex with them. I’d be dead.

I spent most of today in bed sleeping it off, the mental version of Otis Campbell. I’m no doctor, but I know what’s happening. This will pass when it passes, but for now it’s here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cheer The Deer

Monday April 26th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

Usually I’m working at Zanies in Chicago on a Monday night, but not this one. I had the week off from teaching and hosting and the timing couldn’t have been any better. A night to myself without having to think was exactly what I needed. I unplugged my brain and it felt good not to have any deadline other than to meet my cousin Brett for a sushi dinner.

Brett doesn’t have that much time off with his job and neither do I, so a night of relaxed grubbing up and catching up is always a treat. He’s got his hassles with his boss and work situation and a lot of it is the same as mine - many people in charge don’t belong there for whatever reason but they’re there…and we have to deal with it. It can be very frustrating.

Brett is a lot like me in that he’s left handed and creative and likes to do things his way, especially when he has a vision of what he wants to do. He’s very laid back and a friendly person, but he gets the same way I do when idiots come in and ruin his plan. He’s exactly like me in that he doesn’t suffer them well, and it’s cost him. We have similar struggles.

Both of us have had to slug it out in life with zero help from our parents. His father and mine were brothers, and as different as we used to think they were, they’re turning out to be exactly the same. They haven’t spoken in years, but there’s really no reason now. He’s got cancer apparently, but the damage is done. Brett speaks openly about it just as I have.

Fortunately, there aren’t all that many people who can relate to something that ugly. We both can understand how there can be absolutely zero feelings when hearing of a parent’s death, and we’ve both done it. His mother died a few years ago and I remember the frosty tone in his voice when he called to tell me. It was ice cold, just as I was when he called to tell me my father was dead. There was no emotion whatsoever. It was like a recording.

This is all deep and harsh and hopefully most people can’t relate to it at all. I wish I was one of them and I know Brett agrees. He’s done extremely well for himself and continues to make an honest living as a tradesman and instructor, but there’s still that gaping hole in his life where a father’s love and influence are supposed to be. I have one of those myself.

Why is that father position so damn important? I don’t know, but it absolutely is. It’s not a matter of being perfect, it’s a matter of being THERE, both in body and spirit. Those are memories that last a lifetime, good and bad. It affects both boys and girls too. My grandpa used to say that on both sides of every stripper pole there’s a bad father job. He was right.

The funny thing is, both of his sons said that HE was a bad father. He was wonderful to me, but maybe he wised up in his third chance to raise a child. He struck out the first two according to the ones he raised. I sure am thrilled he got it together by the time I got here.

I’ve always been deathly afraid to have children because I never wanted to do what was done to Brett and myself by our fathers. Brett never had kids for the same reason. He took it even further by having a vasectomy to really make sure. We wanted to break the chain.

It was totally therapeutic to get all this out over dinner, but also very heavy on the soul. Neither of us have very many people we can talk to about deep stuff like this, so when we do get together it often comes up. Better to get it out verbally than perched in a tree with a rifle picking people off bus stops. Getting it out of our systems is cleansing for our souls.

Since I was in Milwaukee anyway, I decided I was in the mood for live sports. I haven’t treated myself to a game in ages and there were two to choose from. The Brewers were at home as were the Bucks. Since it was a playoff game, I chose the Bucks. I’m glad I did.

I haven’t been to a game in years, and it brought back memories of when I worked there as a ball boy in high school. Actually, the Bradley Center wasn’t even built yet. In my day they played at The Arena, also known as ‘MECCA’, that had the multi colored floor. That joint used to absolutely rock during playoff games, and I can still remember that energy.

It was the ultimate cool job for a high school kid to sit directly under the basket and not only see the games for free, but get paid $10 a game to be there. I bet the ball boys make a lot more now, but so what? We had fun, and that was as close to any kind of major league sports as this short white boy would ever get. Mopping up sweat was my sporting height.

One of my ball boy friends Wade Waugus still works there all these years later. He’s an outstanding person and a great friend, and I suppose I could have gotten a ticket from him but I wanted to buy one and support the cause. He’s taken care of me plenty in the past, as has John Steinmiller who we worked for and is still there. I didn’t mind paying my way.

The ticket was $29, but what a game it was. The seat wasn’t that bad at all, except for a group of obnoxious lard ass twenty-something white guys who didn’t seem to understand the concept of sitting DOWN to watch a game. They were loud and rude and one of them farted so heinously in the third quarter I almost threw up. I wished I had a taser with me.

Let the record be straight that there were three twenty something black guys sitting with me in my row that were extremely well behaved, polite and paid attention to the game the whole time, just as I tried to. We all watched the white guys embarrass my entire race and I leaned over and said “THIS is why I hate Caucasians.” They doubled over with laughter.

Eventually, I just got sick of those idiots and moved to another open seat a few rows up to watch the rest of the game. What a perfect one to pick. The Bucks looked sharp for the entire time, and I was happy for Wade and John Steinmiller and Scott Skiles too. I think he’s an excellent coach, and the team really turned around this year. It was fun to watch.

Whether they win the series or not doesn’t really matter. They have their center Andrew Bogut out for the year, and nobody expected them to get this far. It’s good for the city and good for the team, and I found myself really having a great time and forgetting everything that was supposed to be pissing me off or making me feel like the lowly piss ant schmuck I’ve started to feel like in the last day or so. There’s plenty of time to worry about that the rest of the week. For tonight, I went back to high school again and ‘cheered for the deer‘.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mood Swinging

Sunday April 25th, 2010 - Kenosha, WI/Lake Villa, IL

I’m in one of my infamous short tempered dissatisfied pissy moods again. I hope it isn’t a depression funk coming on. It’s been nice to not have to go through that for what’s been a very long time now, but the revolving apple usually has the wormy side out eventually.

For whatever reason, it seems like everything I’m doing or have ever done flat out sucks turkey giblets. Whether it’s true or not, it sure seems that way. I’m only able to look at my glass as not only being half empty, the glass itself has cracks and flaws in it. What a drag.

I look at my tiny little CD and tiny little radio show and I feel like a complete loser after a lifetime of chasing so many big things. I had such gigantic aspirations at the start of this journey, and I look at what I actually caught and it seems like it wasn’t worth the effort.

We had a very weak Mothership Connection radio show tonight, or at least I thought so. It started out fine, but then we had some guest miscommunication and one didn’t show up and the other came on by phone. We had to half ass it through, and I wasn’t thrilled at all.

Normally that wouldn’t bother me, but for some reason it really irritated me tonight. It’s not like we’re on a huge station and nobody really cares who are guests are or aren’t, but I just all of a sudden felt like a rinky dink amateur and was wasting my time playing radio.

There were a couple of sit in guests tonight as the on air crew keeps evolving. People do what they do, and I understand that. People have things come up and it’s my job to get the most I can out of whoever shows up on a particular week. Tonight it just didn’t work out.

My friend Shelley came out because she likes being on the air. She helps me a lot with a lot of things, mostly my website. Her and her husband Bob really did me a favor when my computer was infected with viruses, so I’m glad to have her sit in if she wants. She’s fine on the air, as are the others, but tonight she stuck me with a joke that really hit me wrong.

Normally, I’m the first one to make fun of myself and I can take a joke without thinking about it. Then there are times when I have a skin so thin I could read a newspaper through it. It’s not necessarily what is said, but how it comes out. When it comes out like that, I’m totally back in my childhood getting sliced up verbally by my father, the king of all cruel.

I don’t think Shelley meant anything by it, but it sure came out that way. It flipped a big switch in my head, and I was gone for the night. I wanted to just get up and go home right there, but I had three more hours to kill, with no scheduled guests to pass the time away.

Eventually one of the guests called in and we stumbled our way through the three hours but I could feel myself sliding away the whole time. I can’t remember something hitting a nerve that big in a long time, but it totally did. My can still has a dent in it, and it’s giving me fits right now. I know I’m a crazy bastard, and something like this shouldn’t put me in such a low mood, but I’m totally feeling down right now. I sure hope it’s not depression.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Inside Comedy Business

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Quality People Matter

Friday April 23rd, 2010 - Oak Park, IL/Frankfort, IL

It’s never a wasted day when I get to spend time with people I like and respect. Today’s schedule was packed with them and I enjoyed every minute. First on the docket was lunch with Rick Gieser. He does publicity for Zanies and other places and he’s done all kinds of favors for me in the past. He’s helped me get on radio and TV shows in many other cities.

Rick is a hustler, but in a very good way. He’s a part time producer at WGN and used to be Bob and Tom’s producer in Indianapolis. He’s done a lot of solid favors for me and if I buy him a lunch once in a while it’s the very least I can do. He liked my new CD, and I’m sure if there’s any kind of publicity to be gotten from it, he’ll find it. Rick is good people.

I recommended him to Zanies when they were looking for a publicity person and I love the fact they hired him. It’s a win/win, and I got a chance to help him like he helped me. It should always work that way as far as I’m concerned, but this is the rare time when it did.

After that I went to see Cara Carriveau, another one of my favorite people. She’s been a huge supporter of my comedy since we worked together at The Loop. She did the mid day shift right after our morning show and we always got along extremely well. She was there for the show at Zanies which is my new CD and I wanted to give her a copy as my thanks.

She got fired at the Loop too for no real reason, but she’s now working at ‘The Mix’ for our old boss Greg Solk where she continues to sound fantastic on the air. Cara is the best, and I’m thrilled she’s back on the air. She should’ve never been fired in the first place but that‘s radio. We had a nice visit and I don’t get to see her because she lives so far away.

It worked out today, because I was booked at CD & Me in Frankfort, IL. That’s about as far south in the Chicago area as it gets, and I figured since I had to drive that far anyway it would be smart to pack in as many visits with people I hadn’t seen in a while as possible.

CD & Me is a room booked by Ken Sevara, and he’s been very generous in making me a frequent performer. That’s very nice of him to do that, and I’m very grateful even if it is a long drive. The people and the owners treat me very well and I’ll never turn that down.

One of my former students John O’Brien drove all the way down from Wilmette to see the show. He took my class many years ago and we’ve been in touch off and on but not in a while. Like Cara, John has been a constant supporter of mine and I appreciate it greatly.

John is a student of the game and loves comedy. He has a job and a family but still does perform when he can. He’s never going to be full time, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still enjoy comedy, and he does. He knows a lot about it and I always enjoy hanging with him.

Days like this are what life is all about. I got to interact with some of my favorite people in the world and do a comedy show too. The food was great and my car started every time I needed it to. These ’little’ things aren’t so little when they add up. I had a very good day.

Catching 22

Thursday April 22nd, 2010 - Niles, IL

According to what little I know about numerology, 11 and 22 are important numbers for dates each month. I’ve heard them referred to as ‘power numbers’ and allegedly those that are born on those days are especially gifted people. It’s also supposed to be an energy day, perfect for getting important things done. Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t, but I went for it.

I didn’t want to let the momentum die from all I did yesterday, so I got up and decided I was going to do at least one thing positive today and keep going from there. I started with mailing a dozen CDs out to media types and friends who may be able to get me some ink.

It’s getting very positive reviews from everyone who’s heard it and I’m starting to feel a buzz growing, at least with my friends. I see the importance of having recordings, as it’s a way to duplicate myself. The set that was used to record the CD was at Zanies in Chicago, and it was an early show on a Saturday that I remember very well. The audience was hot.

Now, that energy will be captured forever and a whole lot more people will hear it on a recording than ever heard it live. I’ve got at least one and maybe two more entire shows I can use to release another CD later this year. Then I’m going to start working on the local Milwaukee based ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show and put out some recordings of that as well.

I also used the theme of the 22nd to reconnect with some people I haven’t spoken to in a while. One of those was the Bob and Tom radio show in Indianapolis. I sent the producer and talent booker each a CD and a note hoping any ill feelings have blown over by now.

I still don’t know how or why that situation blew up the way it did, but I wasn’t the one who initiated it. If they’re still angry at me, I guess I can’t do anything but move on, but I still thought it was a good idea to send a CD as a good will gesture and hope it helps heal any lingering hostilities. I like the producer and booker a lot. They weren’t the problem.

I also tried to reconnect with Jeff Foxworthy’s management company. I made a bad first impression with the lady I was supposed to contact and that scared me off. I’ve never had a reaction like that either, and I wasn’t sure as to what to do. Ignoring it is the wrong call.

Since then, I’ve met a person who knows her and would be willing to vouch for me so I tried again and used his name. There’s no guarantee I’ll hear back from anyone, but it felt good to at least attempt to improve these shaky situations. It‘s smart business all the way.

Marc Schultz invited me over to his house for a barbecue and to watch the NFL draft. It was great to find another sports geek like me who loves the draft, so of course I went over and hung out. It was great food and great company, and a chance to escape for one night.

Everyone dreams of being a first round draft pick and getting to walk the aisle to shake hands with the commissioner, but the reality is most of us never do. The real challenge is to find what we’re all good at, and hope we can salvage a decent life. That’s where I am.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Shave And A Haircut

Wednesday April 21st, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Since I blew my chances to both rest up or accomplish anything productive yesterday, it felt extra good to kick it up a notch and get a lot done today. The weather was spectacular and these kind of days don’t come along very often around these parts. I enjoyed all of it.

I used today as a rebooting day to mentally start over. I finally got around to the gigantic mountain of laundry that’s been fermenting in front of me for weeks if not months, and it always feels good to get that out of the way. I have a backlog of socks and underwear and shirts that keep me from having to do laundry every week, so when I do it’s a major deal.

The woman I rent from told me I could use her washing machine, but I choose not to do that. I’m used to going to a Laundromat, and it’s actually quicker. I do it all at once and it ends up not taking that long at all. Usually three washers and three dryers gets it all done.

Road comics are used to doing laundry on the run. I wish I could count how many times I have had to stop at some strip mall between Albuquerque and Zanesville to scrub up my grundies for another week of road touring. Sometimes I’ll just buy cheap traveling clothes at thrift stores and wear them until they’re funky and then toss them. That’s a lot cheaper.

It’s also hassle free. One time I was in a restaurant and someone bumped a waitress who in turn spilled a big plate of spaghetti all over the front of my shirt. It was a chain reaction and obviously an accident but when it happened I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. I saw the look of terror on the waitress’s face, but I just laughed out loud and calmed her down.

The shirt I was wearing probably cost $1 at the most, and it was no big deal. It was very funny to see everyone turn and look at me, just like a scene in a movie. The manager said he’d pay for the cleaning bill, but I couldn’t do that. It wouldn’t feel right. I just tossed the shirt and put on the spare I always carry with me in my car. It comes in handy quite often.

I also got a haircut today and had my bean sheared pretty good. I had my hair quite a bit longer than I’m used to wearing it and there was a big pile on the floor when I was done. I wanted it a little shorter this time just to symbolize a renewal of attitude. It’ll grow back.

My friend and former comedy student Karl Newyear lives in Waukegan and invited me to dinner at The Quonset on Grand Avenue. They have outstanding pizza and we sat and talked about basketball, since Karl played and is a big fan. It’s always fun to talk sports.

Karl has a great comedy angle. He’s “The World’s Funniest Lutheran”. Great gimmick. He hasn’t been hitting it as hard because he has a day job, and in this economy that’s not a bad thing. Like many people, he does comedy part time when he can. That’s totally fine.

Everything was laid back and easy today. I have a load of clean clothes and a three state killing spree haircut and I even made time to do a lap in the Gurnee Mills Mall to try and restart my exercise experiment. All in all, it was a productive day. I rebooted my attitude.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Respect For Strugglers

Tuesday April 20th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

As my hectic schedule constantly evolves, Tuesdays and/or Wednesdays are turning out to be my day(s) off. That could change at any time, but for now that’s how it is. I tried my best to relax and enjoy myself, but before I knew it I was running around and now my day is history. I didn’t accomplish a damn thing, plus I’m behind on this new week’s tasks.

Marc Schultz called and invited me to lunch with him and Tim Walkoe. That’s hard for me to pass up, only because I like both of those guys very much. Tim is struggling to stay afloat like most of the rest of us in comedy and with his talent I think that’s a major sin.

That guy is FUNNY. Period. Marc books all kinds of acts, but Tim and I are his favorite comedians by far. He said we are the two he can count on to deliver in any situation and if he gets calls for comedians, we get the nod. I’m flattered beyond belief to be thought of in the same breath as Tim. I recommend you check out his website at

Tim is one of many people I know personally who are extremely talented and should be big stars in my opinion, but for whatever reason they’re not. That’s not an insult at all, it’s just fact. I think all kinds of comedians, actors, singers and radio people should be bigger.

Phil Cianciola in Milwaukee is another one that pops to mind. I used to listen to him all the time on WTMJ’s ‘Green House’ afternoon program and enjoyed him very much. He’s a skilled news person, but he’s also sharp and funny and really adds to any show he’s part of. One day I turned on the show and he wasn’t there, and nobody explained his absence.

That’s very typical of radio and I’ve been the victim of that myself. One day you’re on a major drive time program, the next you’re fired and vaporized from the station website as if you never existed. I’m sure Phil had the same experience and I think it’s totally stupid.

Phil is bouncing back with a pod cast which can be heard at I’ve not met Phil personally yet, but I did write to tell him how much of a fan I was of his role on WTMJ and I meant it. I also sent him a copy of my CD and he said he mentioned it on his cast and played a cut. That’s very nice of him and I hope to meet him in person soon.

Dan O’Brien is another name that pops into my head. He’s a former radio guy who took my comedy class years ago. He’s very talented, but decided to take a ‘steady’ job because he couldn’t afford to keep getting fired in radio. I totally get that, but I think it’s a crock.

He and Phil should be on the air if they choose to be. They’ve paid their dues and had to lose their jobs for no good reason to appease some visionless halfwit who probably hasn’t ever had to crack a live microphone but still knows what radio needs. My aching pelvis.

Tim and Phil and Dan are three examples of many more people I respect who are out in the trenches trying to survive. They’re brave and have my full respect and support, for any bit of good that may be worth. I’m out there with them, and it’s not easy. Back to work.

Who's Laughing NOW?

Monday April 19th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

Never have I in the past nor do I now claim to be perfect. My mistakes in life have been both numerous and infamous and I continue to pay for them on a daily basis. All that said, I shrieked with delight when I heard the tidings JD’s Comedy Café in Milwaukee was on the verge of closing it’s doors permanently. It felt so good I had others tell it to me again.

I know that it shouldn’t make me happy, and maybe it doesn’t. It does put a cake eating ear to ear smile on my puss though. There was never any love lost between that club and a long list of comedians, me being one of them. I’m not the only one basking in this news.

The owner was just plain mean spirited. He treated comedians like cat box cigars, and it didn’t matter because there was always another one ready to come in and get abused after anyone complained. A lot of comedy clubs and entertainment in general can be like that.

My main complaint with that club is that I did shows for them in 1994 and to this day I haven’t been paid. According to our deal I am owed $400, and that’s where the dispute is. Nobody disputes the fact I did the shows, the problem is JD not getting out his checkbook for going on 16 years now. He laughed it off back then and said he would never pay me.

It’s one of the few promises he’s kept, but it still infuriates me that I’ve had to sit there and take it. All kinds of people say “Just let it go already.” Easy for someone to say if it’s not your money, and if it was you’d be pissed off about it too. The whole situation stinks.

What stinks even more is that I didn’t get an opportunity to play in my home town for a lot of years because of this falling out so long ago. The booker then was no help at all and this has festered into an ugly feud which never had to begin in the first place. As I said, in no way do I claim to be without faults, but this one wasn‘t my doing. This was on them.

Truth be told, I would have worked there for low money, just to get some local acclaim. I’m a dented can, and all I ever really wanted was to get some love locally and feel like an entertainer. Instead, I got blacklisted and wasn’t able to perform there for all these years.

What that did was force me to go out on the road and leave Milwaukee to become a top notch comedy headliner, which I absolutely did. It was very difficult and for a long time I heard stories of how JD and his henchmen would spread stories of what an ass I was and many a local Milwaukee comic met me over the years and said I was the butt of his jokes.

There’s also the story of my infamous ‘Crisco package’ where I mailed a postal pack of Crisco, Cheez Whiz, Miracle Whip, sausage gravy and bacon after he’d had a heart attack many years ago that’s become a comedy road legend. It’s still making the rounds today.

In fact, I even earned the nickname of ‘The Count Of Mailing Crisco’, which I still hear on occasion from someone who knows the story. It’s all a blur now, but back then it was a giant mess. I needed that $400 badly, but JD just laughed it off. Who’s laughing now?

I’d heard he had a couple of strokes in the last few years, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. He was affiliated with the same crop of oily bikers my father was, and used it to intimidate and bully people just like my father did. One down, one circling the drain.

Life really is short and I fail to see what good any of that accomplished. I don’t miss my father and I surely won’t miss JD’s Comedy Café. I do miss the $400 I’m owed and wish I never had to go through this at all. I just wanted to entertain audiences in my home town.

There’s always been a lot of dysfunction in the Milwaukee comedy club scene. Giggles in Brookfield is no better, even though many of us hoped for a long time they would be. It pains me that they’re still open too, knowing how they bounce checks like basketballs all over town and I’m not the only one who’s had to endure that nightmare. It’s been horrific.

Unfortunately, I’ve been around this game long enough to remember back even farther when there was the Comedy Corner and the Funny Bone in town. Both of those guys had horrible but well earned reputations too. For some reason, Milwaukee comedy has always been infested with cockroaches and that in turn has polluted the scene of local comedians.

I’m one of the few who escaped early enough to salvage somewhat of a career, even if it still hasn’t been what it could be. I did manage to make it to national television and that’s not very easy to do, especially with no help or encouragement from the local comedy club scene. Then, when I did finally get on TV I got booked at Giggles and the check bounced.

Excuse me for being bitter about it but I absolutely am. There’s NO reason for any of it and it still hurts to this day. The owners of the Comedy Corner and Funny Bone left town with a path of abused comedians behind them and now it looks like JD is drifting off too.

He’ll slide into his next venture, oblivious to the pain he’s caused so many of the local comedians he could have helped to nurture. I wish you could see the pig sty hovel where they make the out of town acts stay. I think Auschwitz had a better interior decorator and again, the club just laughs about it. “Hey, you’re only there a few days.” It’s a big insult.

This is the side of comedy nobody sees or cares about. I’m sure it went on in Vaudeville and probably before that, but it still doesn’t make it right. Comedians are able to take a lot of punishment, and most of us want stage time so badly we’ll put up with the antics of the Comedy Cafes of the world. Before JD there was another maggot who was just as brutal.

He was a Prozac popping power freak maniac who used to get off on seeing how many comedians he could get to jump at his every whim. I’ve never been an ass kisser and that may be why I’m not farther than I am, but at least I have maintained a bit of my dignity.

Personally, I think when the Comedy Café closes they should torch that whole building and start over just like when they burned Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment. A lot of pain was inflicted in there, but most don’t want to talk about it. I don’t either, but it happened and if I don’t say anything nobody will ever know. Goodbye Comedy Café, I outlasted you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Marketing Mistakes

Sunday April 18th, 2010 - Kenosha, WI

I’m still riding high from the shows this weekend, especially last night in Michigan. I’m very thankful for Jim McHugh including me on these shows, but I’m also angry at myself for being such a poor marketer for so long. I don’t know why that bothers me so much all of a sudden, but it totally does. I’ve screwed myself out of thousands of legitimate dollars.

There’s nothing illegal about selling merchandise after shows, and I have never tried to hide a penny of it from the IRS or anything like that. I report everything, and that way I’m able to sleep at night with a clear conscience. What’s keeping me awake is that I’ve been such a slacker in getting products made for sale. I can do a lot better and I intend to do it.

A CD or t-shirt is not necessarily the best product, but people expect it at the very least. What can I do to make either one of those stand out from everyone else’s? First off, I can package the CD to look like I have a record deal. My last one stood out and this new one does too, even though it’s not as colorful as the first. It looks like a professional product.

Having several available is also a good plan. One CD is hard enough to produce but two or three push it over the top. I’ll have at least two by this fall, and that will be a huge plus in establishing credibility. I also want to get some in stores and on websites that sell other comedy products. CDs are dying out, but something will replace them and I‘ll be ready.

A book of some sort would be great too. I remember Jeff Foxworthy’s first book about rednecks, and it was jokes with cartoons illustrating some of them. That’s simple enough to do, and I’ve got a nice “You Know You’ve Got Bad Luck When…” book ready to go.

This is the way I need to start thinking, and should have been doing it twenty years ago. I guess I thought about it a lot, I just never executed most of those thoughts. Now, it’s the perfect time to do it as everyone else seems to be scattering in every direction. I’m ready to do what I should have already been doing, and that’s making the most of what I’ve got.

‘Mr. Lucky’ is a hell of a comedy persona. Lots of people think they have bad luck and can totally relate to it. If I can capture the ‘something-est’ title of being THE one with the worst luck, I can start marketing that a lot better than I have been. It might not just be in a standup comedy arena either. There might be a comic strip in there to make it even better.

Whatever the case, I’m responsible for creating something to sell. I put together my act and have been selling that all over North America for over 25 years. That’s ok, but I made the mistake of thinking that was the only way to do it. I missed out on adding t-shirts, CD and DVDs, books and who knows what else I could have thought of to the mix. I blew it.

Most other comedians I know lost out as well. VERY few have the foresight and vision to create products beyond the actual act itself, but those that did have done very well on a financial basis. Jeff Foxworthy is one of them and I respect him totally, as I do others like James Gregory and even Larry The Cable Guy. They put the business into show business.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

As Good As It Gets

Saturday April 17th, 2010 - Hudson, MI

Two for two on the tour, but this one was special. Sometimes everything just works out right and rather than try to figure it out, the best thing to do is enjoy it. The entire evening was an overwhelming success, and all of us enjoyed it. We were in our element tonight.

All the stars aligned and for whatever reason the audience was into what we were doing and I could tell we were going to kick major ass from the first thirty seconds Jim McHugh was on stage to host the show. The vibe was in sync and when that happens, life is sweet.

We had the perfect show tonight. Jim McHugh was the host and James Wesley Jackson went on next. James is one of THE sweetest people I have ever met, and is always upbeat and positive. I have a special affinity for him because he used to open for George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic for years and always has interesting inside memories to share.

I gave him a copy of my new CD and he was blown away by the Pedro Bell cover art on it. If anyone is hip to how cool that is, it’s James. He got it right away and really loves the fact I’m such a big fan of the group. James has always been one of my favorites. He’s just so easygoing and positive all the time. I can learn a lot from him in many ways, and I do.

Jim likes him too and books him whenever he can. The last time the three of us worked together was an Italian restaurant in Cincinnati and we blew the roof off that joint. It was a Christmas party as I remember, and they loved all three of us. It happened again tonight.

James has a very unique style on stage. It’s similar to a Steven Wright in that it’s clever one liners and short bits strung together. When it’s working, it’s a treat to watch. Tonight it was working perfectly, and it’s also a fantastic setup for me. James sits on a stool and is very deliberate and then I come up there and pound them with my machine gun delivery.

After the show people lined up to tell us how much they enjoyed us, and we all thanked them sincerely. The three of us have been around long enough to know when it’s good or bad, and this was definitely good. Those people were as good as any audience anywhere.

This is why we all got into comedy in the first place. Yes, money is nice and everyone’s dream is to play the big rooms but the energy from an audience on a night like tonight is a drug more powerful than heroin. So what if we weren’t in Vegas? This was a super night.

I also sold ten CDs over the two nights. That might not be huge, but it’s income to help pay for the expense I had in getting them made and a also very painful reminder of all the income I’ve lost out on by not having them all this time. It’s probably been at least a year and I’m ashamed of myself for not having anything to sell. I won’t let that happen again.

James and Jim didn’t have anything to sell. People really enjoyed these shows, and now I’ve got ten seeds out there to hopefully grow my name. I realized my mistake but at least I fixed it. A lot of comics I know never do. Nights like tonight need to be capitalized on.

This is the part of the business that’s so difficult to grasp for some people. After a good show, we are in a euphoric mood and want it to last as long as possible. Most comedians I know enjoy that time in different ways. Some have cocktails, others chase women or hang out with the other comics on the show, still others have been known to go the drug route.

What I don’t think most comedians realize is that the audience is in a euphoric mood as well, and in perfect position to make an impulse buy on their way out if there is a product for sale at a reasonable price. The more products available, the better chance of making a sale. It’s very smart business and even if sales are mediocre, they do add up eventually.

I still remember getting lectured about this by James Gregory years ago. James is one of the best marketers I’ve ever seen, and I have nothing but respect for him. He’s an Atlanta based comedian who is king in the southeast and he bills himself as ‘The funniest man in America’. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter in the least. The perception is there.

James has t-shirts, sweat shirts, baseball caps, books, CDs, videos, and combinations of all of the above. His website is and I’m sure he’s got more things for sale because I haven’t checked it in a while. James Gregory knows show BUSINESS.

I’ve been weakly mediocre at best, and the only one to blame is me. I am making a solid conscious decision right now to improve my business skills dramatically. There’s no good reason I haven’t had anything to sell either in person or on my website for this long. I only hurt myself by doing that, and I’m in enough pain already. There’s just no excuse. Period.

Maybe it’s a self esteem thing and deep down some of us don’t think we deserve it. I’ve never enjoyed hawking merchandise, but most times I never hawked it. I just mentioned it was available and if people wanted something they could come get it. And they often did.

I remember James telling me that it’s a worthwhile expense to have as much to offer as possible, as eventually someone will buy it. If I’m doing shows anyway, why not have the largest available inventory possible to give people the most choice? I can’t argue with that and why should I? He’s right. Way more comedians than not never master the marketing.

I’m not talking about having one crappy t-shirt or home made CD or DVD available for sale. I’m talking about taking time to have quality merchandise made up and put in a nice package and offered at the end of a show. That takes a lot of effort, and most never do it.

Most comedians now have websites, but that’s not the same. The impulse buying power after a killer show like we had tonight is priceless. They just saw a red hot performance in person and the endorphins are still surging through their body. THAT’S the time to sell.

I’ve been missing out on this opportunity far too long now and that’s going to stop right this minute. I didn’t have to hawk the ten CDs I sold this weekend, and in fact the people thanked me for letting them buy one. They wanted it, and I had it available. It’s a business deal, and everyone wins. It’s taken longer than I thought, but I’m finally getting smarter.

Entertainment Evolution

Friday April 16th, 2010 - Holiday City, OH

The comedy business seems to be evolving similarly to America itself. What once was a perpetually proud powerhouse is now only a shell of what it was, but most are proceeding as if nothing’s wrong and nothing’s changed and they assume it’s going to right itself and life will be Hershey bars and Archie comics once again. I don’t see that happening at all.

I don’t want be pessimistic, but I am extremely concerned. The problems with America are way over my head and not in my jurisdiction. I’m not a politician and never wanted to be, but it sure seems like things are getting out of hand. I don’t trust the people in power.

Maybe things were never perfect, but they were a lot simpler thirty years ago. Now I’m starting to sound like my grandparents, but it’s true. I remember the gas lines of the 1970s and the recession and all that went with it, but times were different. There were still ways to make a living, and there were factory jobs here where middle class people could work.

There seemed to be a lot more structure then, and even when times did get rough, it was a predictable cycle and it would always get better eventually. Now, it seems to be anarchy and nobody can predict the future more than a few months in the future. It’s a crapshoot.

Comedy is not what it once was either. It used to be a wonderful way to earn a living for those who could handle the constant gypsy lifestyle. There was a structure and a hierarchy and people would work toward something. Now, it seems like everyone is for themselves.

Maybe they were always for themselves, but there was more of a foundation set as to an actual plan of how to do it. There were circuits to work where one could develop an act to sell to better bookers of better circuits and eventually television and movies. That was the plan, and a lot of people caught breaks. Now, it seems like nobody has any kind of vision.

Everyone and their grandmother’s proctologist thinks they’re a comedian and has all the same access to Facebook everyone else does, and the good acts get lost in the mix. I don’t see that changing any time soon, and like it or not this is how the business is developing.

Jim McHugh is trying to book his own shows as “The Chicago Comedy All Stars” and I respect him for doing it. He’s going out and selling shows to groups for fundraisers and it isn’t easy. He’s been great to work with and I support what he’s doing. He’s fighting back at the insanity of having to chase bookers down and taking his destiny into his own hands.

This weekend he booked a mini tour in Ohio and Michigan. Tonight we were in a small town called Holiday City, OH which I’d never heard of before. We did a fundraiser night for a basketball team in a Ramada Inn and it went very well. The people loved the show.

I wouldn’t have the patience to book shows like this but Jim has been able to do a great job putting these together. I’m extremely grateful for the work, but I’m also a solid act for him to count on to bring it home. This is a win/win all the way, and tonight was a success.

Friday, April 16, 2010

AC/DC Frenzy

Thursday April 15th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

Another tax day, another extension. Again, I blew my yearly goal of having all my stuff ready so I can get my return filed on or even before today, but that’s life. Things get in the way and for another year I’ll have to do it later. It’s not illegal, so I won’t sweat it. I’ll get everything together and get it to the accountant and he’ll take care of it as he always does.

Nobody enjoys thinking about all that, at least nobody sane. I wanted to escape from the real world and as luck would have it I scored an extra ticket to see AC/DC at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. I’d always heard they put on a fantastic show and I always enjoy an opportunity to study master showmen in any genre. If it’s done well, I’ll be a fan for life.

I was never a huge fan of theirs, even though I don’t despise them like many women do. They’re the Three Stooges of rock. Guys revere them, women revile them. Not all women hate them, as there were quite a few hotties in the house, but the ones who do - really do.

The critiques I’ve heard about them always say they don’t have a lot of range and all the songs sound the same, and I guess part of that is true but it’s true for most bands that hit it big. Do all ZZ Top songs sound the same? To me they do, but I still like them. It’s a style.

KC & The Sunshine Band is another example. Disco is long dead, but I love KC’s style and he still continues to pack houses because he knows how to entertain an audience. I’ve never seen them live, but I’m a big fan of their recordings and if they show up, I’m there.

I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see AC/DC, so I went. WOW, what a show they put on. I don’t think the reviews I heard did them justice. I was blown away by how much energy they cranked out, and were able to keep it up for the entire show. They were great.

The crowd was all the way back to the last row, and if I had to hazard a guess I’d say it was about 12,000. Maybe more. Nobody got cheated, that’s for sure. We all got the price of our ticket and more. I’d have to say this was one of the best shows I’ve ever attended.

I’m always going to be partial to George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, but they’re locked in as my favorite band. I tried to compare the two acts during the show, and I have to admit AC/DC really hammers it home. They didn’t let up the entire time, and I wonder how those guys can keep that energy going that long. Angus Young is 55. I looked it up.

Brian Johnson is 62 and was running all over the stage and none of them missed a beat. To still be that energetic and pack arenas at that age is nothing short of amazing. It was an extremely tight show, with hit after hit after hit. They kept banging it out the entire night.

George Clinton does that too, but his venue size is shrinking unfortunately. They’re still fantastic, but the public doesn’t know it. AC/DC is definitely not an oldies act. They’re as popular now as I can remember them in high school, and I wasn’t a huge fan then even if most of my friends were. I knew who they were and they were ok. I’m now a huge fan.

The main reason I enjoyed them so much is that they give the fans what they want. The crowd they draw is very blue collar as a rule, and those people don’t want to hear about a tortured artist or some kind of fairy dust opus from the 15th Century. They want to ROCK.

Period. They want to hear loud music they can bob their heads to, and they want to hear it all night long. They don’t need to hear complicated stories about angst filled divas with drug issues or anything other than the songs they love on their stereo. AC/DC delivers it.

They do have a lot of hits, and yes I’d say quite a few of them sound the same, but I saw thousands of people pumping their fists and enjoying every one of them. They please their fans, and what else matters but that? The critics? I don’t see critics paying anyone’s bills.

Another thing that blew me away was the merchandising. I have no idea who’s the main force behind it but I wish I could hook up with them. They’ve got it DOWN. I counted 18 t-shirts for sale, not counting anything else. That’s 18 different designs…at $40 per shirt.

I also saw buttons for $10, a flag for $50 and even an AC/DC neck tie. I’d always heard Kiss were the marketing kings, but if AC/DC isn’t up there I’d be shocked. They had a lot of stuff for sale, and I saw people buying it. I saw people wearing it too. I lost count at all the t-shirts I saw worn by those who were already there. They’re a clothing line as well.

That’s one thing George Clinton never really capitalized on. In recent years I’ve seen an upgrade in his merchandising, but not much and it’s not consistent either. I know how the mindset is though. Performers want to perform. We’re not interested in selling t-shirts for bald fat white guys to wear on fishing trips, or behind the wheel of their tractor trailers.

Still, those are the people who are the most loyal, and those people were there to see the show. They were singing along with every word, and the band gave them exactly what all of them wanted, and they did it with flair. I was very impressed with the whole operation.

I made it a point to stand and watch the crowd file out to see what I could learn. I don’t know what I expected, but it was interesting to note their mood. Most were in a fabulous mindset. I saw big smiles, high fives and people gushing how much they loved the show.

I also saw even more t-shirts than I noticed before. I’d have to say there were thousands of them, with AC/DC being the most popular and Harley Davidson the second. That was the common theme, and the genius behind the t-shirt concession has got to be super rich.

This was a huge lesson, and I’m glad I went. I felt like I attended a marketing seminar instead of a concert, but that’s ok. The lessons will hopefully last longer than the ringing in my ears from the loud music. This a marketing machine, and I loved seeing it work.

Seeing all this made my little piss ant CD seem infinitesimally small, but at least it’s a start. I won’t be able to crank out the energy or income AC/DC does, but at least I’ll have a standard of excellence to shoot for. These guys get it done. I learned a whole lot tonight.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hard Luck Jollies - FINALLY!

Wednesday April 14th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL/Milwaukee, WI

Whoo Hoo! I’ve been pumped up before, but rarely like today. I’ve been positively and absolutely giddy all day and the grin on my puss just won’t go away. My brand spanking new comedy CD “Hard Luck Jollies” is now available for sale at the competitive price of $13 postpaid in the continental United States of America - slightly more for Zimbabwe.

What a hell ride it’s been to get this project FINALLY done, and I can now see why it’s so difficult for bands to stay together for extended periods of time. This one took so long to finish, I almost broke up with myself. It may not be “Thriller”, but at least it’s finished.

The worst part of all is that I’ve had some stupendously sizzling shows in the time since the last copy of the previous one ran out to today’s rejuvenation and rebirth. I shudder as I think of how many copies I could have sold between then and now and it’s probably up in the hundreds. That translates in cash to thousands, and the only one to really blame is me.

Yes, I had problems with my ex business partner and all the ugliness that went with that plus I sold the rights to my first CD outright to Laughing Hyena Records and don’t own it anymore. Those two things contributed to the gap in time along with some reasons on the other side with both the artwork and Donna Gurda who was the producer of this project.

Donna’s mother passed away and she had to attend to all that goes with that, and Pedro Bell’s artwork became an issue when his business partner embezzled from him and put an additional unexpected damper on the project. Any one of those things would be extremely frustrating, but all together it nearly choked out the whole project. I am thrilled it didn’t.

I had to keep plugging or it would never have gotten finished at all, and I’m very glad I did. Donna did a great job on the disc along with Mark Heleniak at EarMark Productions. She used to produce Tom Green’s music projects and she knows what she’s doing, along with Mark. They worked hard and were worth every penny I spent. I appreciate their help.

Pedro Bell’s cover artwork is also fantastic, even though I wasn’t able to get it colorized fully. It’s really intricate cartoon work, and after a lot of testing it was decided to just add color to the name logo for me he created and the words ‘Hard Luck Jollies’. The logo was modeled directly after the logo for the group Funkadelic. Anyone who’s a fan will know.

There are some things I’d change on the packaging just as there are on my last one but it won’t be noticed by anyone but me. It looks very presentable and sounds crisp. Nobody is going to know or care how many delays there were with this, they’ll just enjoy the results, or at least I hope they will. The last one went over very well, and this one is an upgrade.

The good thing is, this won’t happen again any time soon. I’ve already got ideas for the next one and I talked to Donna and Mark about it today as I dropped off copies of this one up in Milwaukee. We’ve got a lot more recordings to go through and there’s enough there for at least one but possibly even two more projects like this so I’m set for at least a bit.

I’ll keep cranking out product as much and as often as I can, but I won’t whore myself. I want to keep some kind of quality control and not just slap anything together. This took it up a notch, and I want to keep doing that as long as I can. I know there’s a lot more in me, and hopefully I can use these recordings to develop more of a fan base, like a musician.

Now is when the real work starts though. I’ve had some solid support from Sirius/XM Satellite Radio and I hope they’ll continue to showcase my newer offerings. Some of the material is the same from the first one to these next two or three, but I did it in a different way. Plus, there’s new stuff added in there too. I purged myself of everything I had in me.

I also have to restock websites that have sold my product like CD Baby and quite a few others like and Those were also years ago and I wasn’t the contact person, my ex partner was. I’ll have to dive in and do all of this myself even though none of this is my field of expertise. For now, I need to be in charge of it all.

I’ll put the word out on Facebook and myspace and I’m even doing it here on my daily diary, which I normally don’t use to plug anything blatantly. This time I have to put it all aside and market this thing. I was always shy about it before, but people liked it and I am still getting compliments from it seven years later. This new one will not be a stink bomb.

I also have to find a way to put it up on my website and have people buy it there. I have no idea how to do that, and I didn’t ask my friend Shelley today when I picked the boxes up from her house. I had them sent there because there’s always someone home watching her kids. She’s also been a gigantic help lately and I appreciate all her efforts immensely.

I appreciate everyone who has contributed to this entire project from Donna and Mark to Pedro’s artwork and also Greg Phelps in Indianapolis who put the whole package into completion mode from getting all the design and art finished to getting the printing done. His company is called Tridigital Solutions and I recommend them for all your CD needs.

The main regret I have is not being able to thank everyone I wanted to thank. The inner sleeve would have had to have been 20 feet long, and I couldn’t afford that. Still, I’m very thankful for all who contributed in whatever way they did. I’ve had a lot of support from a variety of people and I am humbled, flattered and owe them a debt of sincere gratitude.

There’s also a Mr. Lucky song written and performed by my friend Joe Dell’Orfano and a one on one interview with Jerry Agar recorded in the WGN studios. I’m a fan of a lot of people, and an interview is always interesting to me so I put one on hoping somebody else feels the same way I do about it. All in all, this is a jam packed CD chock full of stuff that I’d want to get if I was buying a comedy CD. That’s a formula that’s worked in the past.

This is a milestone, and I love it. One CD isn’t easy to do. Two is twice as hard. Three’s extremely rare, so that’s the next goal. I think I can do it, especially since it’s already been recorded. If you’d like a copy of Hard Luck Jollies, I’ll gladly sign it for you. Please send $13 to: Dobie Maxwell P.O. Box 618 Lake Villa, IL 60046. I totally appreciate all orders.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Acting Class And Storytelling

Tuesday April 13th, 2010 - Oak Park, IL/Milwaukee, WI

I’ve often heard comedians can easily transform themselves into actors as a rule, but for whatever reason I never chose to take that path. It never interested me. I was content with being a comedian, and I still am. The thrill is in that live performance. It never gets old.

Looking back, I wish I would have taken some acting and improv classes along the way. It would have added more texture to what I do on stage, and not hurt me at all. I probably won’t get a sitcom at this point, but it still would have been nice to have at least a couple of acting roles under my belt to round out my resume. I’m just now starting to get into it.

There was a one day seminar today designed to make speakers improve stage presence. It was sponsored by The National Speaker’s Association (NSA) and I heard about it from Steve Olsher, my new friend I met who taught his seminar on reinvention. He invited me to go along with him and I did. It was a chance to network and learn from a professional.

The meeting was at the studios of Ted Sarantos in Oak Park, IL. He’s been teaching for forty years, and I really liked the guy. He gave us techniques and exercises and there were about 40 people there, most of them speakers. My friend Deb DiSandro was there, and we hadn’t seen each other in a while. Like me, Deb is always trying to improve everything.

After the seminar, many of us went out to lunch and visited some more. I got to sit next to Ted and pick his brain about acting and teaching, and he did the same about comedy. It opened me up to a whole new world, even though I really don’t have any desire to go full time into acting. I’d be interested in taking Ted’s class to learn some basic fundamentals.

The main thing about going to seminars is the contacts that can be made. I met Steve at his seminar, then he asked me to go to this one and now I met Ted Sarantos. I see there’s a whole world of people I need to know, not just comedy people. I am behind on all of it.

Maybe I wasn’t ready until now, but I totally feel that I am. I love teaching and I know what I’m doing, but it doesn’t hurt to attend other seminars and watch how others deliver their material. I’ll pick things up here and there and it will make my classes even better.

Tonight I drove up to Milwaukee to participate in a storyteller’s club started by my old friend David Lee Hendrickson. He was a comedian for years, now he’s doing this. People get up and tell stories about their life. Some are sad, others funny. Everyone has a story.

I’m not sure where he’s going with it, and I don’t think he knows yet either. Still, it was fun to watch the people work, and I even got up and told a couple myself. If I have plenty of anything it’s interesting life stories - all of them true. I hope David succeeds with this.

The venue for the storytellers is The Safe House in Milwaukee. That’s a legendary joint everyone should experience. I hadn’t been there in years and forgot how unique and fun it is. Acting lessons by day, storytelling by night. It’s a wonder I have any free time at all.

Warning In The Morning

Monday April 12th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI/Chicago, IL

It’s not too often I end up in the downtowns of both Milwaukee and Chicago in the same day, but today was one of them. I had business in both places and it all ended up on a high note. I’ve been known to complain about living in the sticks as I do, but on days like this I catch a little break. On this day I happened to catch a big one and I’m extremely grateful.

I had a lunch scheduled with my old friend Chris ‘C.P.’ Peppas in Brookfield, WI and it saves a few miles if I take US 45 north instead of going all the way east to I-94. I’ve made the trip countless times and I know the route extremely well by now. It does go through a few towns where the speed limit drops considerably, but in the long run it’s a shorter trip.

Today I had a lot on my mind as I drove through the Milwaukee suburb of Muskego on my way to meet C.P. in Brookfield. Right off I-45 and Highway 36 there’s a road that’s a shortcut, even though I can’t think of the name of it offhand. I do know it saves me time.

I was zipping along and saw a cop parked in a lot where I don’t usually see one. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a police car on that road before. I saw a speed limit sign of 40 MPH about a quarter of a block past the police car and I hit my brakes to slow down right away. I saw the squad car turn around and start following me and I knew I was in trouble.

He ended up following me for almost a mile before firing up the lights. It’s never fun to drive with a cop in the rear view mirror, especially when he won‘t flash any lights. That’s a great way to induce paranoia, and when they did finally flash I actually felt some relief.

I was in an upbeat mood and enjoying the beautiful weather but those lights put me in a foul mood in a hurry. The last thing I needed today was a speeding ticket, especially with my new comedy CD on the way I need to pay for. I saw the cop get out of the car with his cop mustache and slow cop walk, and it didn’t look good. He didn’t appear to be jovial.

One thing I’ve learned to do over the years is always hold my hands up to show that I’m not carrying any weapons, which I never do anyway. I’ve got my license and insurance in my left hand with my right one up in full view right under the rear view mirror. I’ve heard this is a good way to show there’s no surprises, and it’s a sign I’m not looking for trouble.

He asked me if I knew how fast I was going and I really didn’t. He snarled “55 in a 40” and took my license back to his car and sat there for a good twenty minutes. I was late for lunch and getting more pissed off by the minute, and really thought I only deserved to get a warning. I might have been going fast, but I saw him and slowed right down after that.

I watched him get out of the car and do that slow cop walk to mine with no expression at all on his face. I bit my lip and prepared for the worst when he asked for my telephone number. I resisted the urge to make a smart ass comment and I told him. He then gave me a document which he said was a warning, and told me to watch my speed next time. That put me in a jaunty mood in a hurry, and I thanked him and drove away feeling like a king.

I’ve always thought it would be hilarious to yank my license back in that situation and totally spin the tires and lay rubber right in front of him as I flip him the bird. It would be stupid, but still hilarious. Maybe if I find out I have a terminal disease and can’t do a long sentence I’ll think harder about it, but for now I’ll just let it remain my deep inner fantasy.

I caught a break today, and I know it. Mr. Lucky’s stage character would NEVER catch one like that, and it felt good to separate the character from me as a person. There are way too many times when I haven’t, and it’s been torture. For whatever reason, today I had my mojo working and I lucked out. It could have been a number of reasons, but I don’t care.

Maybe it was the fact that I held my hands up. Maybe it was because I didn’t have any outstanding warrants. Maybe he saw my personalized ‘URANUS1’ license plate and had second thoughts about calling it in. Maybe he recognized my name from somewhere and cut me a break. Whatever the case, I want to put a sincere thank you out into the universe.

Life is SO unfair, but this is a situation where I win out. I’m a dorky looking white guy who looks about as far from being a gang banger as humanly possible. I speak clearly and am not intimidated by police officers. I treat them with respect answer questions honestly, and more often than not I end up driving away without a citation. Today was another one.

I really do think it was the right call. There are times when I was speeding and probably do deserve the fine, but not today. It doesn’t mean I couldn’t have got it, and I’m not at all trying to tempt the fates. I caught a break, and was only a few minutes late for my lunch at The Emperor’s Kitchen with C.P. He was understanding about it and life goes on. Again.

C.P. ordered a DVD off of Public Television about Milwaukee things that are no longer in existence. He thought it would be a good resource for ‘Schlitz Happened!’ and I totally agree. I offered to pay but he said it was his gift to me. I paid him back with lunch but I’ll take care of him more than that. At some point I’ll be able to hire him for something paid.

C.P. is a talented writer and a super nice guy and he grew up in Milwaukee so he knows exactly what I’m going for with this. He’s a few years older than me so his references dig a little deeper, which is good. I want to include him on the team somewhere, and he could be a major asset. I can’t pay him right now, but he knows it and said he’d work with me.

I watched my speed on the way home and arrived just in time to shower and crawl right back in the car and drive to Chicago to host the Zanies Rising Star Showcase show. What a great night it turned out to be. The audience was medium in size but large in appetite to see comedy and they couldn’t have been any better. The lineup of comics was stellar too.

That doesn’t happen every time, but when it does it’s a blast to witness. It makes my job a lot easier, and it’s basically a night off. I bring up the comics who kick ass, and I tell the audience who the next one is. It’s a little deeper than that, but not al that much. I watched the show and was impressed by quite a few of the people tonight. Everything fell together perfectly and I got paid in the end. What could be any better? Avoiding a speeding ticket.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Albatross Removal

Sunday April 11th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

I made a big step in the right direction on getting rid of the sports card albatross around my neck today. I’ve been trying to shop them around to some dealers I know, but that has significant risk attached. Most dealers of any collectible range from total scumbag shyster criminal types to partial scumbag shyster criminal types. Very few will cut win/win deals.

All of them aren’t like that, but from my experience the overwhelming majority of them are. I’ve seen coin and stamp dealers operate over the years, and my cousin Jef Parker had several comic book shops in the Milwaukee area before he passed away several years ago.

The people might be different in each hobby, but the game is exactly the same. There is a predator and there is prey. The predator needs to eat, and the prey is at their mercy as to what their ultimate fate will be. Usually, it’s ugly and bloody with the prey getting eaten.

I knew I was taking a risk when I bought these cards. I had some money at the time and I bought a few collections of various sizes from various sources. I thought I would be able to do card shows on the road while I was doing comedy shows, and make double income.

In theory, it sounded great. So does Socialism. Let’s see how Mr. Obama’s master plan to fix health care works out in reality. On second thought, no let’s not. Let’s not have this forced upon us like they’re trying to do. Let’s THINK a little. Maybe a lot. Let’s be smart.

I thought I was being smart by buying these cards. I thought it through and even though it was a gamble, it was a calculated one so I pulled the trigger. I knew what the very worst case scenario was, but I did it anyway. Then it happened, and now I am stuck with them.

Actually, the second worst thing happened. The first would have been a flood or fire and then I’d REALLY be screwed. I’m not insured for them and I’d be out every single penny I spent to buy them all. Now, at least I have somewhat of a chance to get some of it back.

The two main mistakes I made were buying a mixture of older and newer stuff, and that much of the older stuff was in mid-grade condition. Older and newer stuff has a different customer base, and as the saying goes - “The very best place to get hit is in the middle of the road.” That’s where much of the stuff falls, and there are all kinds of dealers selling it.

Personally, I don’t even like the new cards. They’re overpriced and overproduced and it has a whole different collector mindset today. I like the old classic stuff from the 50s, 60s and even the 70s, as that’s when I collected. After about 1985 or so, I couldn’t care less.

Still, I probably have 50,000 cards made from 2000 to 2008 or so that I have no interest in at all. I only bought them thinking I could turn a buck. Now I wish I’d never seen them and can’t wait to get them out of my life. There’s a painful lesson in this, and I’m starting to see it crystal clearly - stay with what you love and the rest will work itself out. I made a huge goof and now I need to ungoof it, at least to the level I’m able to make it disappear.

In all likelihood, I’m going to take a loss when they’re all gone. I’m afraid to estimate it as an actual number, because I don’t want to turn it into a reality. Thoughts are things and it’s easy to dwell on how horrible this whole situation is. That’s not going to change it for one minute, but what will change it is me unloading as much of it as I can for a fair price.

That’s where it all gets cloudy. What exactly IS a ‘fair price’? Most dealers will ramble on about overhead costs and how the market is slow and some of it is legit, but then a lot of them will turn around and offer a lowball cash price hoping their scare tactics worked and they can steal the deal. I’ve seen how they do it and it’s all a big production number.

The reality boils down to old fashioned economics - supply and demand. If someone is a card dealer, they need to have inventory to sell for more than they paid for it. I get that. I don’t mind if a guy makes money off of me and in fact I want that. That way he or she has a reason to potentially by from me again. The problem I have is finding the correct deal.

My two main friends in Milwaukee deal in mostly top level cards, and much of all they do is conducted on Ebay. My cards have a market, but it’s not those guys. I do know of a guy from Michigan that’s been doing shows for 35 years. His name is Mark Smith and he comes to Milwaukee on occasion to set up at a card show and we’ve talked several times.

Mark does this all over the country, just like I do comedy. He’s probably about the very same level in cards as I am in comedy. I’m nationally touring, but not super famous. I am known in some places but still have a private life, so all isn’t bad. Mark has a life but still goes out and works card shows all over every week. We both hustle to get our bills paid.

That being said, Mark has agreed to take my cards on consignment and include them on his table, which is at a different card show each weekend. He said he can give me a down payment up front and then make payments every month and I’m ok with that. I’ve had my ass scorched big time in the past with comics and car deals, but this is a different animal.

Mark has a stellar reputation in the business, and if he screwed me word would get out in about ten minutes. He can’t afford to screw up his reputation, which is very solid. That took him 35 years to build and we talked about that today as we ran over the deal we want to work out. He’ll send monthly payments, and I know he will. He’s the total right choice.

I still may end up losing out in the short run, but in the long run I’ll have all this GONE, and that is worth it right now. If I hit it big, I’ll be able to buy it all back and fifty times as much beyond that if I want. The problem is, I don’t want. Not anymore. I’m done with the thought of trying to do both. I can’t. It didn’t work out, and now I want to pack and move.

Mark is going to be back in Milwaukee in May. That will give me a chance to put all of it in a package and give him what he wants - which is older stuff. Mine isn’t great, but it’s not horrible either. There’s some sellable stuff there for sure, but how much will it bring? That’s what Mark will figure out, then we’ll work out a percentage and my life will keep moving. I learned my lesson. There are ZERO ‘quick bucks‘. I’m giving up chasing them.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Time For Spring Cleaning

Saturday April 10th, 2010 - Bolingbrook, IL

The people I rent my living space from did me a mammoth favor today by asking me to organize my floor space so they could replace my furniture. They’re getting new furniture upstairs and it’s better than their old stuff, which is better than what I had, even though it really doesn’t matter to me. I was fine with the old stuff, but it’s their house and their call.

I desperately needed to clean up the piles that were everywhere from the floor right next to the furniture to the actual furniture itself. I got up early this morning and started sorting things into other piles and then throwing away everything I didn’t absolutely need. I filled three big garbage bags full of outdated paper and that was a solid start. The purge begins.

I’ve said I was going to do it and it’s totally time. Most of my possessions can be gotten rid of, and from past experience the energy of motion feeds off itself and it gets easier and easier to part company with most of the junk once momentum starts rolling. It was sitting there collecting dust for months, even though I knew I would eventually get started on it.

Today was the day, and it’s way past due. I know I’ve been busy with other things lately but even though it’s a legitimate reason, it’s by far no excuse. In the long run, this will be a rejuvenation that will allow me to keep growing in the important areas. It’s a pruning of the branches to help the whole tree grow taller, and everything I did today fell into place.

The first thing I did was clean off my desk and recreate a work space. It’s not a big desk and I don’t have that much space, so sometimes it’s easy to use it for storage. Wrong. I’ve seen how cluttering the desk constipates progress and I have to keep it clean from now on if for no other reason than it’s a symbol of forward motion. I need a place to focus energy.

I also made room for the three ring binders I created last week that will be master copies of reference for ‘Schlitz Happened!’, my comedy classes and comedy material I intend on developing this year. They’re all clearly labeled, easily accessible and have a regular place to be now so I’ll be able to find everything easily if I just get in a habit of putting it away.

This is a giant leap forward, as most of my things are placed randomly where I put them and then when I need them again it’s anybody’s guess where a particular item may be. It’s been a daily scavenger hunt at times, even when I didn’t feel like playing. This is better.

While I was at it I made a space for all my Uranus stuff and it’s right next to the spot for all my Mothership Connection radio stuff. I have a nice collection of paranormal books to peruse, even though most of them will eventually be gone with everything else. At least it all has a place now, and while I was at it I created another three ring binder for the show.

This was more progress than I’ve made in many months, and I felt like Rocky Balboa as I did it. To the rest of the world it was all meaningless, but to me it symbolized a positive change of direction and tangible improvement. I know I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a major step to get it started and I’m thrilled I did. Taking action is the start of all success.

I had a super fun show tonight in Bolingbrook, IL at a golf course of all places. They do comedy shows there twice a month and it’s booked by Bert Borth, a Chicago area booker who’s also a comic originally from St. Louis. Bert is very laid back and I’ve always liked him personally, but Zanies has been good to me over the years so I rarely work for him.

He runs a club at Walter Payton’s Round House in Aurora, IL and he’s offered me a gig there many times. It’s not that I can’t do it, but I just don’t feel it’s right since I’m closely associated with Zanies, and they have three clubs in the area. No offense to Bert at all, it’s a numbers game. I’ve worked for Zanies for many years and they’ve been my home clubs.

This particular show was different. It’s in a golf course where regulars come out and it’s never going to be a full time comedy club. The people are wonderful, and they really love comedy. Supposedly it’s been packed every other show, but tonight was about half full or even less. Still, they were powerhouse laughers and I ended up doing more than my time.

These are the kind of people I want to cultivate, as they totally appreciated every one of the acts on the show. Dan Brennan is a suburban comic who’s putting his act together and I’ve always thought he was funny. He did a fine job tonight in the opening slot, and Mike Von was the feature. He’s originally from Baltimore and I’ve seen him work a few times.

I always thought he was funny too, but tonight really won me over. I found out he’s just 23 and has been doing comedy for seven years already. He’s got a very bright future and I see big things for this kid. He’s well dressed and well spoken and apparently his father is a comedian too. That doesn’t guarantee the son will be funny, but this one absolutely is.

Mike happens to be black and the audience tonight was predominantly white and had an average age of about 40-50. Here’s a 23 year old black kid from Baltimore who could get up there and grab them in the first minute and do a professional job. I was very impressed with his skill level and I thought he was older. He sure has the chops and I wish him well.

The evolution of comedy seems to be going in the direction of shows like this and I like it. The pay wasn’t huge, but it was worth driving across town for rather than driving eight or nine or more hours to some hell hole bar for a few more bucks but not all that many. If I could make a living in the Chicago/Milwaukee/Madison Rockford area I’d be thrilled.

Doing shows like this are becoming more commonplace, and it also helps because it’s a crowd that’s a little older and won’t go to comedy clubs. I’m getting older and I’m perfect for these people. Plus, I get to stay home during the day and work on other things that are important like cleaning out my living space. Today was productive on quite a few levels.

John O’Brien is a former student I hadn’t seen in two years. He’s been an unbelievable supporter over the years, and I appreciate him greatly for it. He’s a few years older and a student of comedy, but still likes to go up himself when he can. He has his job and family, but comedy is still important to him and I respect that. He came out to see the show and we visited for a while before and after. People like John make teaching worth the effort.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Festering Finances

Friday April 9th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Everything in life always has to boil down to money. Why is that? People say it doesn’t, but it absolutely does. I’ve always said 95% of my problems can be directly traced back to a lack of money, and I still think it’s true today. Why do people continue to stay employed at a job they can’t stand? They need the money. We all do. It makes us all do crazy things.

Some people inherit it, only to piss it away on frivolous baubles and trinkets. Others get a feel for it early in life and invest it so it works for them. Most of us never receive even a bit of training as to how to use it and by the time we discover that it’s too late to recover.

I feel myself wallowing in a real danger zone and I sure don’t want to be stuck here the rest of my life. It’s been difficult enough to piece together a meager living all these years much less to go on any kind of saving plan, but I still could have done a whole lot better.

I did have some savings as recently as a couple of years ago, and I kept my credit cards down to zero on a regular basis. Those days are long gone, mostly because of my regular trips to the dentist chair to get a face full of root canals, and my generous nature to those who have stuck it to me in return. Those people hurt me more than the root canal needles.

Paul Kelly owes me $500 for a car I sold him several years ago. Will Clifton owes $900 for a car I sold him for his son, who apparently wrecked it a short time later. JD the owner of JD’s Comedy Café in Milwaukee still owes me $400 for shows I did in 1994 which my instincts told me to file a small claim for, but I was talked out of it by the former booker.

I can think of a few other instances too, but those three alone would be $1800 I’d use to pay for my CD that was supposed to be shipped today but apparently wasn’t. I know I am by far not the only one to have money owed to him, but I’m angry with myself for letting it happen - especially more than once. I was trying to be ‘nice’, but that just doesn’t cut it.

I love the scene in Goodfellas where Robert DeNiro’s character sees the commercial on TV for Morrie, the guy who sells toupees. DeNiro flips out when he sees it and grabs the cord from a nearby phone and starts choking Morrie. That’s exactly how I’m feeing now.

I’m not a violent guy at all, but this kind of stuff really bothers me. I tried to reason with all three of those grease balls, but they just laughed about it and told me to piss off. Here I sit, drenched in piss, but out $1800 that’s rightfully mine. Who do I blame for this? ME.

I never should have sold cars on credit and I never should have let JD slide on that $400 without filing a suit in court. These are painful lessons that continue to haunt me when it matters most. That money would have paid for my CD project, and now is when I need it.

These are painful lessons in life, and I wish I wouldn’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again but apparently I do. I should have savings put away and have a lot of streams of income coming in. But I don’t. It’s up to me to revamp my financial situation.

Group Dynamics

Thursday April 8th, 2010 - Winfield, IL

Every imbecile and their aunt’s grandma is trying to slap together a group of comedians these days, thinking it will be an automatic sell. It seems to be a Sam’s Club mentality of if something is sold in bulk for a special price, it’ll fly out the door. Not necessarily true.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the group theory, even though I’ve participated in several. The first one I can think of that got noticed was “The Kings of Comedy” which consisted of Bernie Mac, D.L. Hughley, Cedric The Entertainer and Steve Harvey. They made a big splash with a tour and a film and good for them for doing it. It was a successful concept.

Then, Jeff Foxworthy used the concept to do “The Blue Collar Comedy Tour” with Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry The Cable Guy. Again, good for Jeff. He knew he’d have a completely different audience, and he was very successful. Then, as everything that works has to endure, the avalanche of imitators trying to scarf up the scraps started popping up.

I’ve seen all kinds of ‘tours’ pop up from “Four Funny Dads” to “Pretty Funny Women” to a cow barn of others that don’t really fit together. ‘Three Funny Norwegians With The Hiccups’ isn’t necessarily a drawing card, even though people are trying to use any bit of a gimmick they can. I’m not at all opposed to gimmicks, they just have to be marketed.

Joey O’Shey has created a group concept called “The Wise Guys Of Comedy” and I like it for many reasons. One, he understands MARKETING. That’s really what all this boils down to anyway. It’s now like a band, and bands present a whole new set of rules that we as individual comedians never had to deal with before. It now becomes a group dynamic.

With group dynamics come politics and hierarchy issues, and that’s why bands break up so often. It’s not easy working together under any circumstances, especially in a situation where democratic rule is supposed to take place. It’s just not realistic to expect everybody to agree on everything, and when they don’t there needs to be a final say as to what goes.

Jerry’s Kidders has stayed together because Jerry Agar is the final say. If we’re stuck on an issue, our rule is ‘Jerry plus one vote’ to make the decision. Jerry isn’t a dictator but he does have the ultimate final say, and we all agreed to that going in. I think that’s needed.

It’s exactly what didn’t happen with The Chicago Style Standups. That was a group that never did get the leadership situation straightened out and it’s barely limping along today. Jim McHugh got out to start his “Chicago Comedy All Stars”, and he’s the leader there. It works great because we all know it, and Jim’s a good leader. I work for him quite often.

Joey put this idea together but didn’t just sit there and wait for business to come to him. He went out and had posters made up and started selling the concept of three comedians a lot like The Rat Pack that could interact with both the crowd and each other, and sold it to places that don’t normally have comedy. That’s very smart, and I’m in. We had our debut tonight at a place called Caliendo’s in Winfield, IL and everyone who came out loved it.

Is this going to be the next big thing in comedy entertainment and take the whole world by storm? I don’t think anyone could predict that, even if it was. I don’t think it will be at all, but that’s ok. Just because we’re not selling out arenas doesn’t mean we’re a failure.

It’s a lot more than that. Besides marketing, it also boils down to who’s in the show and how are they used? Joey has been doing comedy for over twenty years and chose not only me but Bill Gorgo to be a part of this. Bill and I are not only experienced, we get along on many levels. Plus, neither one of us want to be in charge of this. This is all Joey’s baby.

We all agree Joey should be paid for doing that, and so far everything has fallen exactly into place with no glitches. This is almost like three musicians forming a little combo that plays out on weekends once in a while. We all have other projects, but this is a fun aside.

Actually, Joey is working to make this THE project, and I could see it happening as he‘s very good at marketing where Bill and I really aren‘t. I’ve got my own projects to tend to, and that takes enough of my time. Bill is a high school teacher so for him it’s extra money and a chance to hang with comics. The chemistry of the three of us fits together perfectly.

That’s why I see this working, but as a sleeper project. Joey has hand picked venues that have not done comedy before, but have facilities to do shows. Some might work great and others might flop horribly, but all of us have enough experience to know how to handle it.

We’ve all been around the block so nothing rattles us, and we’re going where everyone else isn’t. I’m sure word will get out eventually and other ‘groups’ might try to horn in on this, but that’s just part of business in general. Joey is on the ball and has been working to get the word out, so he’s got a head start on the latecomers. He out hustled a lot of people.

This is how the times have dictated how comedy evolves. I hear stories of how guys out east are doing shows in smaller towns for volunteer fire department fundraisers. That may sound hick and low end, but I also hear how much money comes through these venues for the comedians. It’s WAY worth their while, and bypasses the scum bag bookers as well.

The show tonight wasn’t a killer but it wasn’t a flop either. It was a first run for a show in a place that doesn’t normally have shows. The owners loved us and want us back to do another one in the summer. With some very minor adjustments, it could be a solid money maker for everyone involved. I was willing to do a trial run on a Thursday to experiment.

I still do shows with Jim McHugh and his Chicago Comedy All Stars and in fact I have two gigs booked next week in Michigan. I also am part of Jerry’s Kidders and would do a show with those guys in a second. It never hurts to have a chance to get work anywhere.

No matter what group calls or where any of this leads, I’m still in charge of my destiny. Ultimately, I want people to come out and see me. If I’m with a group it’s fun and usually financially beneficial, but in the long run I want to have fans that enjoy what I do and are there to see me specifically. Is that being a control freak? Maybe. But that’s what I want.