Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
New day, new audience. The ship has been emptied and refilled with all new passengers and we’re back out at sea. These guys know how to turn a buck. The last group got off the ship and the staff cleaned everything with the scientific precision of a NASCAR pit crew.
It was amazing to behold. One group off. Next group on. That’s not easy to do with that many people, but they’ve got their system down. Now if I can just get mine. I really need to have a plan as to how I’m going to handle these audiences, both early and late shows.
Tonight couldn’t have gone any better. Go figure. I nailed both of my shows, and didn’t have a bit of trouble. I did get a warning from the cruise director for using a line I pull out once in a while when I used it during the early show. It’s about someone’s shorts looking like ‘Kurt Cobain’s wall’. It tends to shock those who happen to know Kurt Cobain is.
I don’t use it often, but when I think it will get a reaction I’ll pull it out on occasion. It’s not a reference most kids would know, so that’s why I used it tonight. I felt I was having a good enough show I could throw it in, and the cruise director happened to be in the room.
He made mention of it to the comedy club manager and then it trickled down to me. It’s the kind of thing that can become a problem, as it sticks in the memory of those in charge. I don’t think it’s a big deal at all, but until I’m ‘in’ with everyone I have to be on red alert.
Could I get fired over something like this? You bet. It depends on the mood or whim of the person in charge. This is not a comedy club, it’s a cruise line. Any little thing can be a reason to blow someone out if that’s what they want to do, but I don’t think they want to.
I told the manager I’d not do it again, and I won’t. I haven’t met the cruise director, and he shows up at whim. I’m still baffled as to what to do. One night I feel like I stunk up the place, the next I feel like a star. People asked for my autograph and I received all kinds of compliments as I walked through the ship. I’m sure not cocky though. I need to nail this.
I was told the company wants to have a record of what all comics do, and they’ll send a video person to record an early and late show so they have it on file. Tonight would have been a great night to record, but of course they didn’t do it. Maybe tomorrow. All I can do is my best, which I do every night. Now it’s a matter of getting friendly luck of the draw.
Gulp. That’s never been my forte. In fact, it scares the hell out of me. Who knows what kind of torture awaits in that situation? Some drunk heckler could go off on a tangent or a million other things, and it will be on tape in the office forever. I could really use a break.
This is what happens when a person has a job. Others call the shots. I’ve never enjoyed that, and I still don’t. The people here are very nice, and I have no complaints, but having to worry about using a joke in a certain situation is not what I want to do long term. This is a great opportunity to make some money and pay off bills. We’ll see how long it lasts.
This is the part of comedy that causes people to drink, drug or whatever else one does at a low point to forget their intense pain. I’m feeling about as low as a worm‘s weenie, but I can’t let on to anyone on the ship as I’m still new and not ‘in’ yet. I have to keep smiling.
The truth is, nobody cares. The people who saw my shows sure don’t. The first one was sparsely populated, as was the second. That’s good for me, as there aren’t many witnesses to testify in court that they didn’t like it, if indeed they didn’t. They just sat there staring.
The last one was full, and it reminded me of the infamous buffet I ate at The Stardome in Birmingham, AL. It’s one of my all time tank job stories, and I hope the entire state of Alabama gets plowed over and made into a giant compost heap. Those people are idiots.
I’ve never had what I’d consider a hot show in Alabama, but I sure have had some ugly ones. My debacle in Tuscaloosa was so bad it made a compilation book of comedy stories from the road called ‘I Killed’. I almost lost my life that night, and I don’t ever want to go back there. I don’t like the entire South in general, and the feeling appears to be mutual.
That’s how I felt last night. I’m not sure how many of those people were Southerners or not, but the reaction was the same. They didn’t get it, and I don’t think my stuff is all that complicated. I’ve done it for years, and usually something works at some point. That’s the thing that’s so frustrating about nights like this - it’s not like I’m trying out first time bits.
Some people just don’t get it. It’s not for them, and that’s fine. But it sure is hell to have to sit through it on both ends. I’m sure they didn’t like it any more than I liked being there but that’s how it worked out. I won’t make excuses, even though there are some reasons.
The other comedian Mutzie has a different stage personality altogether. His material has no bite at all, and he’s just a goof up there. He has charisma, and shaves his head to create a distinct look. He’s very likeable, but creatively he’s not doing anything I haven’t seen at least a thousand times before. Apparently, these audiences have never seen any of it at all.
He was on BET for six years on the show ‘Comic View’, a show which I don’t get. I’ve never found it to be the least bit funny, but I’m not black. It must be some kind of culture thing. It’s odd, as I like black music very much and know my way around it like no other Caucasian I know. But when it comes to comedy, I just don’t find most of it very funny.
Everything is a matter of taste, and I wasn’t the pleasure of the people on this particular cruise. Well, not all of them. Friday went quite well actually, and it wasn’t a matter of any kind of black/white or North/South issue. There were all kinds Friday, and they laughed.
This is still a new animal, and I’m learning the hard way. I’m willing to keep trying, but I’m not willing to do the Arms Expert bit to survive. It’s just not what I do or who I am. It will be interesting to see how this next week goes. For all I know, it could be my last one.
“Keys, wallet, phone. Keys, wallet, phone. Keys, wallet, phone.” It’s grown to become a daily mantra, desperately trying to remind my scattered self not to misplace any one of the ‘big three’ objects so crucial to daily life on this planet that create pure misery when lost.
A month ago I lost my cell phone. It was 24 hours of torture until I got it back, but I did. Today I left my wallet in a cab. I’ve done that before actually, on more occasions than I’d like to admit. It just happens. Sometimes I’ve been able to get it back, but most - bye bye.
Today, to make it even harder it was in a foreign country, and by all logical definition it should have been one of the bye byes. I landed on Grand Cayman Island to catch the ship I worked on my tryout with Carnival Cruise Lines, ‘Liberty’. It’s a major process to make it through security and customs and then get to the ship. There’s always some obstacle.
Everyone always wants to see an ID or a boarding pass or get an employee number or a whole lot of other objects I’m rarely prepared for. It’s like a giant episode of “Let’s Make A Deal” and I’m waiting for Monty Hall to pop out at any time and offer me $50 if I have a kazoo and an extra $100 if I whip out a flugelhorn right behind it. It takes concentration.
It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really is. This whole travel thing is hard work. I had to be at O’Hare airport for a 5:55am flight so Jim McHugh was kind enough to help me out again. He’s not far so I can park my car at his house for free and he took me to the gate at 4:45am. That’s a true friend, and I totally appreciate him for doing that. That’s way early.
There was an extra long line in security as they have the new x-ray machines to get used to, and that’s making it even more of a hassle. Shoes off, computer out, everything’s a big game of musical chairs and a total farce, but it’s part of traveling so I shut up and took it.
The flight was totally full, and of course I was in the middle seat between some guy that wouldn’t stop talking and a black woman bubbling with attitude that seemed like she may start a race war at any moment. There was a mean energy off of her everyone nearby felt.
I wasn’t looking for a race war or bright morning conversation. I just wanted to nod off for at least a little sleep and get to the ship. We landed in Miami and then I had to change planes for Grand Cayman Island. I had a window seat this time, but it was another packed flight and took forever to get through security, customs and all the other jumpable hoops.
I did notice that Iggy Pop was on the plane, and he had to go through the line just as we all did. That made me feel a little better, but I don’t know why. He stood there with all of us and nobody approached him. I don’t think most people in line even knew who he was.
With all those distractions, I guess I just wasn’t concentrating. I was lacking sleep, and I left it behind. The driver was kind enough to return it to the ship, and I have it back - ALL cash included. I caught myself a major break. Paybacks don’t always have to be a bitch.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
I didn’t do much of anything today, and I loved every minute of it. I had planned to find my tax records if nothing else, and I still haven’t. I looked in a couple of places I possibly could have placed them, but they weren’t there. It’s concerning me a little, but I’m not yet officially worried. I know I kept them and they have to be somewhere. I’ll keep looking.
I’m probably not going to owe much if anything, but this is really bothering me. There’s no excuse for it, and I’m ashamed and embarrassed. But only a little. I’ve been working at a lot of things in my life lately, and much of it is getting better. I’m starting to notice it for the first time, and I may not be the person I thought I was but I’m being the best me I can.
This whole dimensional plane is insane and imperfect and all I kept thinking of today is that none of it really matters. If I’m fat or bald or ugly or broke or unhappy, nobody really cares except me. Happiness is up to each one of us, and we do have free choice despite all the things that are imperfect about this world. We can still choose a lot of things each day.
We can choose to be satisfied or depressed or jealous or content or anything else we can imagine. It’s not like that’s anything new, but it really hit home today and I didn’t allow a thing to bother me all day long. I made up my mind before I got in the car that I was NOT going to let anyone piss me off, no matter how much they tried. Some tried, but all failed.
I wanted to count how many strangers I could make laugh out loud today and I got it up to six. Not great, but not horrible either. The hardest was the Chinese guy at the buffet but when I got him he really cracked up. Language can be a barrier, but it wasn’t a deal killer. I made up in my mind I was going to get that guy to laugh, and eventually it happened.
I was at the buffet with Lou Rugani from WLIP, film director Mark Gumbinger and his brother Mike. They’re regulars every Monday and all thought I was on the ship and out of action. When I walked in I saw genuine looks of pleasant surprise and it felt wonderful to know someone was happy to see me. We had a fantastic lunch and laughed like toddlers.
This is all hokey and cornballish in a way, but it really isn’t. What do we really have but our ability to choose? Everything else is a product of that, but choice is where it all begins and ends. I can feel I’m getting better in my choice making abilities, and it’s about time.
I had a really great day today, and didn’t do a damn thing anyone would consider to be a groundbreaking act. In fact, I did very few acts at all. I had lunch with friends, I spoke to a few more on the phone and online, and I spent most of the day being grateful for each and every little blessing I have. I’m thankful for the ship gigs, and for life itself. I feel good.
I know I have my work cut out for me, and that’s another thing that makes me feel good all over. I’m going to go out there and nail those shows on the ship. I’m going to improve by the show, and enlist the help of others to build an act that people love. Everything I am doing now is a labor of love. If nothing else, I was able to find some things in life I enjoy.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Only two shows tonight, it felt like a night off. I’m starting to get an idea of what these audiences will like and laugh at. Unfortunately, it’s not necessarily what I do on a regular basis. I see it, I accept it, and I’m not upset in the least. I need to adapt to their tastes, not expect them to jump on board with what I’m ding. I’m here to please the crowd, not me.
This is not a career move. It never was. It’s a chance to earn steady money, eliminate all my credit card debt and hopefully bank a few bucks so I can finance some of my ideas for products and projects that I can’t do as of now. I’m taking a calculated risk by being here.
In a perfect world, I’d work as often or as little as I want. I’d develop a solid reputation for being a good guy to work with and a quality act that can be depended on to knock out killer shows night after night, in any situation. I’ve kind of got that in comedy clubs now, but that doesn’t translate to cruise ships. This is a different audience, and I need to adjust.
My ‘Mr. Lucky’ persona doesn’t seem to be working at all. Nobody cares. I have never really polished it to the point where I have a solid set of jokes only about being unlucky. I have a few things, but I feel it limits me sometimes in a particular audience. These people are on vacation, they don’t want to hear about a guy from Wisconsin who has bad luck.
At least I don’t think they do. I don’t feel it. They want to talk about the ship and what’s involved on a cruise. That’s our only common ground, other than the fact I’ve been to the cities and towns these people come from. There aren’t too many places I haven’t visited.
The first show tonight was the best early ‘PG’ show I’ve done yet. I had a plan going in, I wanted to keep the amount of premises down to a minimum so I wouldn’t have to waste any material or burn any topics I might want to delve into in the later show. There were a few kids in the audience, but not nearly as many as the last cruise. It wasn’t an issue at all.
This experience is no doubt going to make me a better performer, because I’ll make it a priority to improve and adapt into this situation. I had a similar situation when I moved to Utah to take a radio job. Those audiences were completely different than what I was used to, and I had some big adjustments to make in a short time. I did, and now I love it there.
I think I’ll have the same experience here. I observed both Jim Brick and Tony Esposito, and they both figured it out. They do material right down the middle, and aren’t the angry ranter types that can have success in comedy clubs. They went with the flow of the crowd and that’s what I need to do also. This is a new situation, and winners are able to adapt.
I’ll find a way to make this work for as long as they’ll keep hiring me. It’s good to have a standard to aspire to, and I’d love to be the best guy out here. That’s going to take some work, as my act doesn’t thrill the masses like a juggler or impressionist does. I’ll have my work cut out for me trying to figure it out, but I’m up for the challenge. It’s another solid source of income, and that’s never a bad thing. Friday the 13th wasn’t so unlucky after all.
New day, new challenges. Yesterday it was making it to the ship on time. I did. Barely. Today it was finding my way around it. Again, I knew not one soul on the entire ship and had to be very resourceful. This ship’s interior is totally different from the other one I was on, and I was completely lost as soon as I walked out of my cabin. This is all new to me.
Everything is in a different place, and I wandered around for over an hour trying to get a handle on what was where. Last time the comedy club was in the rear of the ship and easy to find. This time it’s in the middle, directly under the main show lounge. It’s tricky to see the staircase leading down to where the shows are, and I missed it three different times.
This ship seems to be a little older and a little smaller than the other one, but not all that much. This is still one big bad hunka hunka floating steel, and I’m still in awe of how this much metal can float. It’s a techno-miracle, and I’m glad I have a chance to experience it first hand. Not only that, I’m getting paid to see places on the planet I’ve never ever seen.
Anything new can be intimidating, and this totally is. I’ve been in all kinds of situations in life where I’m the outsider or the rookie, but this is up there with anything I’ve faced as it’s so large and so far from home. This has to be what newbie soldiers feel like. It’s a big boat in a foreign land, and everyone else all seem to know what to do and where to go.
I finally found my way back to my cabin and when I walked in the phone was ringing. It was the other comedian, a guy named ‘Big Tony’ Esposito. He’s from Orlando, FL and in his mid 30s. He’s been doing the ships for about eight years, and we hit it off right away.
He’s a big sports fan, and knows some of the same people I know in the comedy world. I could tell he’s laid back and easygoing, and I think he sensed the same in me. There’s an inner sense that comics have that can tell if another one is a good person. I know I have it, and can pick up on someone’s vibe pretty quickly. So does Tony. We’ll have no trouble.
The shows tonight were also a little different than the last time. This was my day to get three shows, and tomorrow I’ll have two. They rotate us so people can come back and see comedy two nights in a row at the same time and see different acts. That’s how they do it, and I’m not complaining. It’s just that I’ll have to get used to this style if I work on ships.
My early show went a lot better than both of the last ones I did on the other ship. These people were into it, and I was able to knock a couple of bits out of the park and get a nice applause break each time. I felt a lot more confident, and can tell I’ll eventually be able to figure this out. It’s a little different than most comedy clubs, but I can see where to adjust.
The last two shows were fine, but still a little choppy for my tastes. I did exactly as they instructed, and didn’t repeat material from early to late shows. I did a lot of different stuff in the last show too, even though I didn’t have to. I wanted to give the audiences all I had, and tonight I didn’t embarrass myself. I can see where I need improvement, and I’ll do it.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The longer I walk this sorry excuse for a planet the more I am acquiring an utter disdain for at least 90% of the humanoid life forms walking here with me. I am not feeling like I belong, and it’s getting worse. If any aliens are reading this and would like to bring a new friend to your home planet, please come find me. I have a passport and I can leave today.
I usually don’t get this pissed off for very long, but today I’m not in the mood to take an ounce of poo from anyone. I’ve had it with the human race, and I’m cheering for a big old mushroom cloud to wipe out a few million so maybe some of these halfwits will wake up.
Here’s an example of the kinds of things that are chewing on my fanny. My web person Shelley lost her job at a restaurant chain. She’s got a husband and two really sweet kids at home, and like a lot of people she needs to work to put the family over the hump. She has a huge heart and works like few others, but she keeps getting screwed out of menial jobs.
She worked at a chocolate store in a mall, but that went sour. Then she found a job at an all night restaurant. That wasn’t her dream gig either, for many reasons. Then, she got this last gig and threw herself into it. She showed up and did her job just like she always does.
Then, yesterday she tells me not only did she get fired - they made her open the joint up by herself so the manager could sleep in. THEN, they took her to the office and dropped a bomb on her head. That’s about as brutal as it gets, and I can sure see why people flip out.
I hear story after story of this in all kinds of scenarios. Radio isn’t much better and there is a list of cold hearted devious bastards who’ve fired me over the years for no real reason that I would have not one ounce of guilt urinating my first and last name, mailing address and Social Security number on their open coffin, headstone or urn of cherished remains.
Inhuman people and actions really irritate us humans who are out here trying to play by some set of rules where everyone has at least a chance at fairness. It feels like life’s now a Road Warrior movie where everyone is for him or herself, and nice ones get rubbed out.
I’m really getting sick of it, and I know a lot of others are too. I’m trying to clear up my business before I head out on the ship and one of the things I did today was pay up on my credit card which is juiced up to the hilt. Most of it is from my dental pain of the last few years with all the root canals and crowns I’m still paying for, but not all. It’s a giant mess.
I got to thinking of all the times I’ve lent people money and it hasn’t come back, even if I politely ask for it. Paul Kelly owes me $500 for a car I sold him several years ago. I also sold Will Clifton another one of my auction rats so he could surprise his son with a car.
The waterhead kid got drunk and wrecked it within a month, and I haven’t seen a nickel of the money. It’s $1000 and I could sure use that and Kelly’s $500 right about now. The worst thing is if I owed both of those pukes half a buck they’d sue me on People’s Court.
The fat bastard who used to mismanage the Comedy Café in Milwaukee J.D. owes me a $400 debt for shows I did in 1994. I asked for it many times over the years, and he smiled and said “Prove it.” This is not what human beings do. This is how monkeys behave right before they start grabbing their genitals and throwing handfuls of dung. We’ve devolved.
My ex business partner who I trusted with my life embezzled $8000 and also laughed at me when I went after him for it. He grudgingly paid me back $1400 with checks that said ‘Loan Repayment’ when they should have said ‘Theft Restitution’. Then he sent one final one that said ‘Final Payment’. And it was. That’s the one thing he did tell the truth about.
I’m not the first person to get screwed over and neither is Shelley and neither is anyone else, but my question is why does it have to keep happening to people who are absolutely trying their hardest to be on the up and up? Bastards and criminals seem to get a free ride.
And don’t give me this ‘God’s will’ BS either. I’m having a major problem with that as well. Where is this ‘God’ guy, the one in the white robe with the long beard who rewards Cub Scouts for helping little old ladies across streets? Why isn’t He making things fair?
I’m losing it, man. I’ve had it up to my pasty white arse with the same old excuses that let bungholes slide time after time. If it were the opposite, good people wouldn’t get half the leniency the scumbags do. They wouldn’t. Liberty and justice for ALL? Not a chance.
But then there are the silent group of those who don’t bitch and complain, but just keep on slugging. They don’t wail about how the government owes them and they aren’t trying to get a free ride from anyone and they just want to make a decent life for themselves and their families. These people are mixed in randomly with the scumbags, and it’s a travesty.
The good ones come in all colors, sizes, shapes, locations, distinguishing characteristics and ages - and they’re left to fend for themselves against a world full of non thinking, non feeling oafs who are out to vanquish them from the planet so there’s more beer for them.
I haven’t been this down on humanity in a long time, and there’s no real reason for it as I see it either. Maybe I’m getting old and this is where I’m headed. Probably so. I just am beyond sick of seeing good people get stung by an unfair turn of events and have to take a backseat and not be able to do anything about it. Shelly should still have that job to go to.
I want my money from the grub worms who owe me. Granted, I gave them the power to screw me over by giving them the money in the first place. My bad. I treated them just as I would like to be treated. I learned that from that stupid thing called The Golden Rule. It apparently wasn’t meant for this particular planet, as we’ve screwed it up for millennia.
I’m not perfect and don’t claim to be better than anyone else, but I do try to make a few better choices. I don’t think it’s working, as here I am at this late age struggling like I’m a freshman in college. There’s another thing. I didn’t get to go there either, because nobody in my family thought it was important. Thanks Pop! Where are the aliens? Come get me.
Monday, August 9, 2010
I’m in a low mood and I really shouldn’t be. But I am. I’m trying to figure out what did it but I don’t think it was just one thing. It’s a lot of little things coming together, but they add up and now I’m feeling lower than a cricket‘s pecker. I hope I’m not in another funk.
Part of it is deep down I really don’t want to go out on the ship, especially for as long as I’m going. I really do appreciate the work and everyone there has been wonderful to work with, it’s just that the timing seems to be wrong. I would have loved this ten years ago.
Even five years ago when I got fired from the radio gig at The Loop. I had money saved then, and I would have saved more and been sitting pretty right now and not had to really do much of anything I didn’t want to do. I think I would have appreciated it a lot more.
I still do, and I’ll get to see some exotic places, even if it is in the dead of summer when it’s as hot as it gets. If I’m lucky, I’ll get some additional bookings at the peak times when it’s winter in the north. Eventually, I hope to be able to schedule myself whenever I want.
I guess a lot of it boils down to freedom too. Money equals freedom of choice. I had the world by the t’aint just a few years ago, and I really didn’t know it. I was totally debt free when I went to Salt Lake City in 2000, and that’s when everything started to disintegrate.
I had a nice radio gig making $50K a year, not great for a morning show in that size of a market, but very good for a cockroach like me used to piecing weeks together. I also did a lot of comedy out there, and lived off of that money and banked 100% of my radio salary.
I had a nice apartment a mile from where I worked and a nice girlfriend and a shiny red Cadillac I paid cash for and life was on the up. I was saving money every week, then I got snaked into buying a house. That’s when it all came crashing down. Hard. It took a while, but eventually I lost the job and the house went a few months later. I’ve struggled since.
Then I got the job at The Loop which turned things in a good way again. I started saving the radio money and again living on my comedy gigs. That turned things around in a short time, and life was again on the upswing. I was used to living like a bug and was in heaven knowing my car was paid for and I was putting money away every week. That’s success.
I had zero debt and $40K in the bank and was just ending my first year and hoping we’d get signed to our second contract, which we would have done if the company hadn’t been sold. Instead of showing us respect, they showed us the door and it hasn’t been anywhere close to the same since. My partners Max and Spike have had to struggle just as I have.
That was five years ago now, and it’s never going to come back. I didn’t think it would at the time, but I sure didn’t expect it to play out like it did. I’ve had to piece and paste all my life together month by month, trying to find the next somewhat steady gig. It looks to be the cruise ships, so I won’t complain. I’ll be grateful and go in and give my best work.
One annoying trait I’ve noticed continually in most of my least favorite people I’ve ever met is their refusal to admit and claim a mistake. Everyone or everything else but them or their actions was responsible for any given situation gone wrong - every time, all the time.
My father was totally like that, as was my Aunt Charlene. Neither one of them ever said they screwed something up, and it was comical after a while to hear how they would put a spin on anything to remove themselves from any blame whatsoever from any situation.
The funny thing is, they never got along - but they were exactly the same. I’ve been in a lot of radio situations where the bosses were like that also. They’d never ever admit it if a mistake was made, and the next thing I knew would be I’d been fired. How does that fly?
I may be personally chock full o’ faults in my own life, but admitting my mistakes isn’t one of them. It’s been a main theme for this diary and continues to be a major part of how I live my life on a daily basis. I fully admit I’ve made some terrible choices, but I want to turn them around and do things correctly as much as possible. That‘s not at all easy to do.
But who said life was easy? Nobody I know. Pimpin’ apparently ain’t easy, and neither is life itself. The key is what we all do to correct the things we can, and move on, hoping whatever lessons we learned will serve us well. I’d hate to screw up and not learn from it.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in recent years was buying the large collection of sports cards that I did. In theory, I had extra money at the time, and I’d planned on setting up at sports card shows across the country during the day, as I performed comedy at night.
Like Communism and several other things, that sounded great in theory and on paper. If I could have pulled it off, I’d have two streams of income, and life would be better in a lot of ways. I was never able to do it, for whatever reasons. Some were legit, but the facts are I never turned a profit with it and all I had was a huge pile of cardboard clogging my life.
I could have chosen to do nothing, and let them sit - just as they have been for much too long now. That’s not what a winner would do, so today I packed the whole lot of them in the back of my car and drove them to Milwaukee to my friend Rich who sells sports cards on Ebay for a living. I’ve known Rich forever and he said he’d help me liquidate my pile.
He didn’t have to do that, but he said he would and I’m taking him up on it. I’ve helped a lot of people in my life, and when it comes back it’s greatly appreciated. Rich will assist in sorting and pricing and helping me move it as quickly as possible, which still may take a while. There’s a lot of stuff there and it’s in all kinds of conditions. That’s how I got it.
There is no doubt I made a big mistake buying these. Life circumstances were different then, and I did it. Now I need to undo it, probably at a loss. I can’t worry about that now, I will take what I can get and humbly accept it. I’ve learned a lesson, and will grow from it.
The hardest part is, I can’t just hit a reboot button and start all over. I thought about this before I did it, and even imagined the worst case scenario, which is exactly what occurred almost to a tee. The entire sports card business is on thin ice, but I still love it anyway. I’ll be hooked on old cards as long as I’m alive, but right now I can’t afford to be involved.
Like a lot of things, it can be a time and money sucker without immediate or guaranteed payoff. There were no guarantees I’d make my money back much less a profit, but it sure did sound like a great idea at least for a while. What I didn’t think of was all of the hidden costs like table fees at shows, theft, and travel expenses. There’s also the risk of damage.
Rich had some water in his basement last week in an area he’d never had it before, and he’s lived in that house since he was 5 years old. He had to throw out some collectibles he never thought he would, and that fear does exist with all dealers. Fire, water damage, theft and even natural disasters like tornadoes or earthquakes can wipe out a collection quickly.
We talked about exactly that as Rich and I unloaded my car in his driveway and brought the boxes into his living room. He’ll sort it for me and has some people who may want to take some of the newer stuff off my hands. I’m sure the price will be low, but at this point I just want it all GONE. I bought it a few years ago now, and I just want to recoup and go.
Another mistake I made in the last few years is with the comedy clubs in Milwaukee. If I could change it I would, but I can’t. The fact is, most of them have been run by anything from gangster wannabes to novice Polocks, and the comedians have been treated poorly.
I’ve worked them all in my time, and the one place I’ve always been treated fairly is at a place called Jokerz. I was one of the first headliners they booked, but it was through a guy who no longer books the room. He asked me to stop working there, and since I’ve known him over twenty years, I said I would. I chose to work another club I’d also worked for.
That owner called me too, and asked that I would work only his club and if I did he said he’d “make it worth my while” and “take care of me.” Yes sir, he did that alright. He put me in the trick bag and bounced my check - THE number one sin a club should never do.
That whole situation was a huge mess and continues to leak raw sewage into my life as my reaction to the check being bounced wasn’t very pleasant. First off, I accepted a check from a Polock - red flag number one. Then I bitched about it and took it out on his special needs child which got his tarantula wife all caffeinated and pissed off and it started a war.
The truth is, I never should have stopped working at Jokerz in the first place. I liked the staff from the start, and I still do. There’s a manager there named Natalie who is a people person and a sweetheart all the way. She took me back, and I did my first show tonight.
The crowd wasn’t huge, but it was very friendly and the show was really fun. My friend from high school Joe Kubicek came out, a former Milwaukee cop. He’s been a supporter for years and I appreciate not only that, but Jokerz for having me back. I felt I was home.
Sometimes the hardest part of comedy is getting there when your name is called. Today was a perfect example, and I always say I’m never going to let it happen again…until the next time it happens. Stress and angst were a bigger part of my day than the comedy part.
I had two separate gigs booked tonight - one show at a golf course in Algonquin, IL and then two shows at Jokerz Comedy Club in Milwaukee. Of course, each of those places are in opposite directions of where I live, so I knew my travel time would be a major issue.
I measured how far I had to go and how much time I was supposed to have to do it and it came out pretty close. I tried to coordinate it with both parties, telling each of them my situation beforehand to avoid confusion. The country club promised to get me on and off so I’d be able to make it to Jokerz, who in turn agreed to start their show a little bit later.
On paper, in theory, I would be fine. I gassed up my car and had my proof of insurance ready in case I was pulled over, and had my map all laid out of the route I’d had planned for several days. For once I thought I was ready, and was confident I’d be able to do this.
This is a variation of a situation every live performer has encountered WAY too many times to count. There are X number of miles to travel in Y amount of time, and variables like road construction or a train delay are never figured in and then it becomes a flat out race to get there in time. Making the money is important and we’ll risk our life to get it.
I pulled up to the golf course at exactly the time I said I’d be there, and of course they’d been drinking and golfing all day and were running late for dinner. I’d worked for them in the past, and they liked me enough to bring me back again so I didn’t complain - but I did say I was on a tight time schedule and needed to be off so I could get back up to Jokerz.
They sat everyone down and started bringing the food out, and then brought me up right in the middle of that so I had to deal with waiters and waitresses walking past where I was standing. There was a wireless microphone, but no stage or lighting so I had to stand right in front of a long table of prizes and awards that were going to give away after the meal.
I could hear the clinking of silverware on plates and some people weren’t looking at me while others weren’t even facing me at the tables where they sat. Some were talking with each other, others were talking with the wait staff. This was not the ideal show situation.
I’d been in front of these people last year, all baseball umpires of all things. They were a little drunker this year, and I could feel it. I opened with some standard lines that are solid 99% of the time and they just laid there so I knew I’d have to adjust and find a new route.
Actually, it found me. A couple of the drunker guys in back started piping up comments and I was able to slam them, much to the delight of the other guys. It was all male so I got a little blue, which they all loved. I could tell what I had to do to get them to come along.
How many times have I been in this situation? I’ve lost count. They weren’t bad people at all, but the situation was extremely difficult. They all knew each other and maybe a few of them remembered me from last year, but I doubt it. I had to really be in top form here.
This was survival mode. By the time I got on it was about a half hour later than we had agreed on, but what could I do? That’s how these things tend to go, and I needed the cash so I took the risk. Now I was up there in the middle of dinner deflecting heckler darts so I could do my time and get in the car and start racing to Milwaukee to do two more shows.
A few of the guys started stepping up to the plate and trying their hand with me and that was a big mistake. I launched them left and right and the more I jammed them the more it went over with the rest of the audience. They loved it, and when I said good night I got an unbelievable pop from the audience. Some were even standing, but I had to start driving.
I got my check and started my journey north to Milwaukee. Of course I hit every kind of traffic construction there could be, and also got behind every nose picking, phone chatting Illinois road ape there was out driving tonight, and of course that was every single one.
Frustration and tension built as I pounded my Toyota’s accelerator to the floor. I was up to about 90-95 a few times, and then I thought better and slowed it down. I went the long way, but it was freeway so I thought that would be easier. I took I-43 north and barely got to Jokerz by 9pm when I was scheduled to go on. I dashed in and went right up on stage.
I’ve never enjoyed doing that, and it took a minute or two to get adjusted. I did find my rhythm, and the audience never knew that I’d risked life and limb to get there on time for the show and they didn’t care. It’s not their job. It’s my responsibility to get to work when my show starts. I’ve always hated these situations though. It‘s just too much of a drain.
But what am I supposed to do - turn down the money? Right now I can’t do that, so this was the only choice. At least it wasn’t the worst case scenario which would have been not making it for the show at all. I’ve done that too, and that’s about as frustrating as life gets.
The first show went fine, and the staff at Jokerz are really wonderful to work with. They knew the deal, and were very supportive. We texted back and forth the whole way so they knew how close I was as I sped like a maniac to get there. It was like a James Bond movie or something. I did make it when I said I would, but this was way too close for my tastes.
The second show was a surreal nightmare. There was a bachelorette party that went off the deep end and had to be thrown out, right during my show of course. It was very tense, as there was yelling and loud confrontation and I had to try to tip toe around it on stage.
My friend Drew Olson came out to hang, and he witnessed yet another example of how difficult comedy can really be, at least on this level. I didn’t tell him about the rest of the night, but he’s been around long enough to know how it is. This was a day of high stress, and I earned every penny I made. The sad part is, it’s all going to go to paying off bills.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I’d like to meet the anal retentive S.O.B. that can keep up with everything that has to be looked after in 21st century life. I have a hard time believing anyone can do it. There’s just too much to do, and too little time to do it. I know I’m having major difficulty, and I only have me to look after. If one little thing goes wrong, it throws everything else off course.
One little thing rarely goes wrong though, it’s a cluster of major things. That really puts everything into a state of total disarray, and trying to manage it is like trying to keep a pit of snakes under control just by talking to them. For some reason, snakes just don’t listen.
I was all over the place today, getting myself ready to head out to sea next week. I broke yet another dental filling so it was back for an unexpected stop at the old Russian shop of dental horrors to get drilled on - again. They really do great work there, but there’s not an ounce of sympathy for pain. They waited in line for toilet paper, I better learn to shut up.
They’re actually very nice people, but I do notice a hardness about them in some ways. I guess I’d have it too if I grew up in Russia, so I don’t complain. My dentist this time was a Lithuanian woman with a great sense of humor. She told me to stop moving my tongue or she’d cut it off. She said she’d already cut off two and a third would win her a jackpot.
That probably doesn’t translate very well, but she delivered it perfectly with her accent and it put me in a good mood because it was unexpected. She showed more humor in five minutes than in all the others I’ve dealt with in probably twenty five visits over the years.
I was surprised my credit card worked, but it did, and now I’m in a financial hole bigger than the one that was in my tooth. I need this money from the ships to bail me out at least a little, and to make it worse I still haven’t filed my income taxes yet. I filed an extension.
My accountant called today and said there’s a problem with the IRS. They said they had not received my return for last year, even though I know I mailed it. I have to see him this coming Monday to straighten it out, and that’s more money I don’t have to pay him to file this year’s return. It just keeps coming and I have no defense. I just have to deal with it.
After the dentist I went to get a haircut, then did my laundry after that. I had a mountain built up and was out of socks and underwear. I also answered a fermenting stack of phone messages along with some emails I’d been needing to get to and all in all it was a tornado.
My friend Karl Newyear invited me for dinner at The Quonset, a great pizza joint in his hometown of Waukegan. We flip flop buying, and it was his turn. Good thing, as I’m all tapped out at the moment. We had a hot waitress that distracted us both, but we liked it.
Karl bills himself as ‘The World’s Funniest Lutheran’ which is a great gimmick. He has a job and just got married, but he’s getting an itch to perform. I get it, but it’s not always an easy sell at home or work. Check out Karl’s site at www.worldsfunniestlutheran.com.
I’m still thinking a lot about my comedic evolution process. The gig on the cruise ships is going to cause me to do it in a hurry, as will the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show focusing on life in Milwaukee thirty years ago. It might not be creatively satisfying to dummy it down to the masses, but it’ll be good training. I’ll find my inner essence, and grow from there.
I’ve always been able to adapt and get laughs, even as a kid in school. I’m not worried a bit I’ll find a direction to go, I just want to make it consistent. Playing ‘Mr. Lucky’ is very fun to do on stage, but hell in real life. I do like the angle of one guy having absolutely the worst luck and timing on the planet, but will it be enough to build a career on? We’ll see.
I guess I could evolve more into ‘that guy’, but I don’t know if I want to. I’ve never had a solid consistent 45 minute headliner set doing only ‘Mr. Lucky’ bits. Maybe that’s a big part of the reason I’m not farther along than I think I should be, but it’s true. I have bits to define the character a little, but they’re not very deep. It’s more of an underlying side bar.
It might be a good way to go for the ships and the Milwaukee show, but I’m not totally sold yet. One thing I am sold on is keeping it clean. I’ve never been a filthy act, but in my travels I’ve never seen someone who keeps it clean get hurt by that. Ever. It’s just a smart business decision. I’ve heard swearing my whole life and it doesn’t offend me in the least.
My father was a biker, and he and his minions could turn a room bluer than someone’s face choking on a chicken bone. The funny thing is, my grandmother could out cuss them all. She was a master, and when she let it rip those bikers knew they‘d met their match.
I can hold my own when it comes to salty language, but on stage I don’t find it adds to a show very often. In certain circumstances, a few cleverly placed words can punch up a bit and add texture, but like most spices - too much ruins the whole dish. Most young comics have NO idea how to keep it clean these days, so when I get on the crowd has heard it all.
That never sets a good tone for any show, and it’s not a matter of being offended as it is an issue with being able to use those words for surprise when necessary. A well placed ‘F bomb’ is one of the biggest weapons in comedy. I’ve seen it and used it myself at times to punctuate a line and fracture an audience. But - it should be saved for the right occasion.
That’s still not what I’m talking about as far as evolution though. When I started, I liked to work the audience a lot more than I do now. One thing I have been given is a quick wit. I’ve always had it, even as a kid. I could nail someone with a line like a sniper without an effort. I don’t know why, but I could. I can still throw out lines naturally, and I enjoy it.
Evolution. Reinvention. Growth. I’ll be doing all these in the immediate future. It’s part of entertainment and life itself. Nobody stays a kid forever. Even Beaver Cleaver grew up eventually. We all move on. It’s that time for me, and I want to find something I can sink my teeth into for a few years until it’s time to do it again. I’m starting to see how it works.