Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Favor From A Friend

Monday March 29th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

One of the main dents in my can is issues with trust. I don’t deny it, and as much as I try to work through it I know it’s there. I’ve been scorched so many times by so many people in life from my parents on down, it’s difficult to accept it when someone does me a favor.

I do all kinds of favors for all kinds of people and I’m proud of that. If I see someone in need I usually try to do whatever is in my power to make their situation better. I even pick up hitch hikers, within reason of course. If they look like Charles Manson’s mean brother I’ll pass them by but more often than not I’ll pick them up and try to throw them a bone.

Most times I’ll tell them right when they get in my car that I’m trying to help them and I wouldn’t appreciate being stabbed or shot so if they’re going to do it I tell them to do it as quickly as possible to get it over with. So far, nobody has. If it ever does happen, at least I know I took the time to think of others before myself and that‘s what life should be about.

Once in a while someone is very grateful, and those are the ones it’s a pleasure to help. I wish it happened more often than it does, but that’s life. I don’t help others to give myself an ego boost. If it comes, that’s great, but the real reason to do it is it’s just the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter who it is. I’ll hold a door open for anyone, not just the sexy babe.

That being said, my friend Shelley really helped me today by cleaning up the viruses on my computer, and I couldn’t be any more grateful to her for it. She’s off from her job for a few days and the last thing she needed to do was help me out, but she totally did. I took my infected piece of plastic over to her like a sick baby and she went to work and fixed it.

Her husband Bob knows a lot about computers too so together they went back and forth on how to find what was wrong, but whatever they did worked. It took a few hours to find out what it was, but I didn’t have a choice. I had things to do, but this was most important so I had to wait it out. I was just thrilled that they were willing to help me so I kept quiet.

I originally took it in for an estimate at the store where I bought it and they quoted me a price of between $400-$500, depending on how quickly I needed it. They said it probably was a three day job but if I needed it in a day it was $100 more. I wasn’t prepared to have to pay that, and I’m even more grateful I didn’t have to. Shelley did it for the right reason.

She’s a helper just like I am, and she’s gotten burned too. I told her how thankful I was to her and Bob and I meant it, and she blew it off just like I usually do. “It’s no big thing” she said. But it was. It was a HUGE thing, and now I’m back up on the internet highway. Whatever my quirks are with trust, Shelley came through. I feel like I owe her in return.

While we were waiting for the virus scans, Shelley also helped me get myself a page on Facebook for both Schlitz Happened and The King of Uranus. I’ve been meaning to get it done for months now, but today was the day. I will now start building networks of people who like each project, and be able to market to them better. Thanks Shelley! I owe you.

Life Is A Glitch

Sunday March 28th, 2010 - Novi, MI/Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI

Everything in my life is rapidly descending into chaos, and I can’t say I’m thrilled about any of it. It started with my computer that’s been giving me utter fits. It won’t allow me to sign on line and it says I’ve got viruses. I thought I had protection against that, but it’s not working apparently. If I can’t get online, that cripples me as far as my business life goes.

Luckily, I stayed in a fantastic Holiday Inn and Suites that had not one but a whole row of computers available for guests to use. If ever I could use one it’s now, but that doesn’t clean out the viruses on mine. If I have to buy a new computer it will really kick me in the bank roll right when I don’t need it. I have a CD at the printer to pay for and taxes as well.

I have to pay my accountant, and I’m afraid to even open the envelope with the total bill from my visit to the hospital a few weeks ago to have my knee looked at. My car’s getting ready to turn 186,000 miles and even though it’s running pretty good at the moment it just may decide to blow up in my face at any time. I’ve had to deal with that more than twice.

I know, I’m not supposed to dwell on the negative, but this is just reality. Things in life go wrong, and it becomes a timing thing. Yes, I know I could have been a whole lot better with my finances, but I wasn’t. I’m in a pickle right now, but it won’t take a whole lot for me to turn it around completely. I’m setting myself up for a chance to score in a big way.

It’s been years of paying dues to get myself in this position and I don’t want to ruin it at this crucial time. Computers can be fixed, but if I lose the data again it will be completely unnecessary. I’ve had that happen WAY too many times in the past and know what that’s like. I’ve built it all back up again and have all kinds of stuff that would kill me to lose it.

Jim McHugh and I caravanned it from Michigan to Chicago. He’s a great friend and is like the big brother I never had. He talks sense and keeps me grounded in many ways as I try to deal with my various situations. Hopefully I’m able to be a friend to him in return. I know he means well ,and we make each other laugh at times when we both need it most.

I made it back to Chicago to do a radio segment with Jerry’s Kidders on WGN at 5pm. I don’t see that project going anywhere right now and that’s very frustrating. Jerry isn’t full time there and it doesn’t look like he’ll ever be in the future either. That doesn’t help us at a time when we all could use at least a little stability in our lives. I think we may be done.

I don’t have the time or energy to keep doing half ass willy nilly appearances at the drop of a hat on short notice. Fun is fun, and we have lots of it, but the cost is getting to be way too much with no signs of a payoff any time soon. We have to get ourselves more defined in our own mind so we know what we’re selling. Nobody seems to be buying who we are.

The Mothership Connection radio show in Kenosha is going to be changing too. One of our co-hosts Diane asked for some time off and I can’t fault her for that. She’s got a lot of things on her plate right now. I get that. I do too. My main red flag is with the computer.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Paying A Bill

Saturday March 27th, 2010 - Dearborn, MI/Novi, MI

Life is still pretty good even though the show last night was weak. We’re booked in the space that used to be occupied by Second City apparently and they’re gone after a several year run. My friend Vicki Quade has her one woman show “Late Night Catechism” in the room and she had mentioned she thought Jerry’s Kidders should try to get a booking too.

I didn’t know that’s what it was when I took the booking, and quite frankly I think I’m getting boned on money. The agency that booked me is in the south, and I don’t work for them all that often unless they have work in the north. They asked me to do this one and I said I would. Mistake. I found out they’re making more than me with their commission.

This kind of thing goes on all the time in show business but it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. They asked if I wanted a gig this weekend and I said yes. End of story. If it means they get three times more than they’re paying me, technically it’s none of my bee’s wax. Too bad life isn’t always technical. Sometimes it’s gut feelings and mine got kicked.

Still, if I turned this down, there would have been hundreds of comics proud to take my place so I just shut up and did my job. Last night was not fun at all, but tonight’s audience came out to laugh. They were well dressed and polite and the house was packed out wall to wall. I knew I’d like them in the first ten seconds, and I kept it up throughout my show.

They were fun but the real fun was seeing to it my friend Bill Mihalic got up to do a few minutes to open the show. He’s a comedy writer and has been at it for years, but now he’s trying to branch out a little. I’ve never met a more diligent and sincere person in any walk of life and if I can give the guy hope I’ll always do my best. Bill Mihalic is good people.

In fact, this afternoon he came over to the hotel and drove me to take another tour of the Automotive Hall of Fame. I’ve been there before with Bill because he’s a member and we had fun then. He’s very knowledgeable, and served as a fantastic tour guide for all the ins and outs of the car business for the last 100 years. Bill’s a student of the whole car game.

After that we went to the Henry Ford Museum and looked at that for a while. It’s had to be at least a dozen years or more since I’d seen it and it was totally work the trip just for a chance to tour it again. Bill is a masterful tour host and knows all kinds of inside scoops.

The show tonight was a lot of fun, but getting to put Bill up on stage was the true high point of the trip. Stage time is like Christmas to an aspiring comic and the was a Saturday night full house that paid to get in. I saw Bill’s eyes light up when I said he was going up and that made me feel like I did my good deed for the day. I’ve had that look many times.

He did a fine job, and afterward I could tell he had fun. It’s hard to get someone to give stage time to a beginner, but I know what it’s like so I always try to be generous whenever I can. I had a little clout tonight so I made sure he got up. Not a big deal to me, but to Bill it made his whole week. This is what life is about to me. I want to work for good people.

I Love Detroit

Friday March 26th, 2010 - Novi, MI

I know it sounds crazy, but I love Detroit. There’s a vibe here that I’ve always been able to plug into, and I feel it again now that I’m back for the first time in a long time. I’ve had great shows here as I have in most of the rust belt towns. These people are into what I do.

I left a little later than I wanted to this morning and got stuck in Chicago traffic…again. There’s such a small window of opportunity to sneak by without getting stuck and it’s too early for me to get up, especially after I’ve been up late working on projects, which I was. I decided to get some sleep and a nice breakfast and wait for rush hour to run it’s course.

That was the right choice as I breezed through Chicago without any major delays, but I did have a little trouble in Indiana and that was frustrating. There’s nothing to do except sit there and wait it out, which is what I did. I had crossword puzzles and a stack of good motivational audio so I was ready to fight it but I didn’t need any of that. I had my phone.

Cell phones have made the booking process SO much easier. Actually, most bookings I now get are through email, but calling is still king with some bookers. It depends on each one’s individual preference, and that’s pretty random. I decided to reconnect with bookers instead of whine about traffic so of course when I started liking it, traffic started moving.

I wish I had a buck for every time I had to drive around Lake Michigan in my life to get to a gig. It’s not that far straight across to go from Milwaukee or Chicago to a Kalamazoo or a Grand Rapids, but having to go around the lake turns it into a major trip every time.

Not only that, there’s usually hellish construction on at least one several mile stretch of I-94 that backs up traffic for miles in both directions. How many times have I been going to some Michigan gig only to get foiled by construction and end up making it within just a few seconds of taking the stage? Too many to count. I made time for it today as well.

Lucky for me, they’ve FINALLY finished it and there were no orange barrels at all that made my life any more miserable than it already is. I did stop in Kalamazoo to have lunch with my friend Phil Anglin and it was nice to see him. He owns a couple of small bars in the area that he’d heard me on Bob and Tom years ago and wanted to try booking a show.

It ended up going very well and then we booked another one. His birthday is a day after mine and he’s just a mile mannered guy trying to make a living. He always sends cards on my birthday and Christmas and I really like and respect the guy. I hadn’t seen him in quite a while so it was good to meet up and catch up over ketchup and meat. He’s a good man.

I also stopped in Ann Arbor to hang out with Jimmy McHugh who’s working the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase this week. He loves sports as do I so we spent $5 for a ticket to see the University of Michigan baseball team play. It was a beautiful day and a great way to relax a little and enjoy life. I made it to the hotel in plenty of time and it was a pleasant surprise to find out it was a Holiday Inn and Suites, and I had a suite. Life is good today.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shame And Pride

Thursday March 25th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

Whatever problems I might have seem pretty pale in comparison to Rick Finch, former member of KC and The Sunshine Band. He was arrested for having sex with teenage boys in the music studio at his home and apparently he admitted it to police. That’s pretty hard to explain one’s way out of, and I have to believe any kind of a career he has is now over.

Most people don’t even know who he was, but I’ve always been a fan of that band since I was a kid and I’m not ashamed to admit it. They cranked out some mega funky hits back then that still sound good today. They were all about showmanship, and I always love that no matter what the product is. Good entertainment is difficult to produce. I respect them.

The reason I knew who Rick Finch was is that he was the ’other guy’ in the team of two creative people. KC is known for the hits, but Rick Finch co-wrote a lot of them and had a big part in the creative process. Another example would be Meatloaf and Jim Steinman.

Meatloaf only sang the songs that Jim Steinman wrote, but nobody really cares about it other than Jim Steinman. Elton John and Bernie Taupin are another example. Elton sings and writes the tunes and Bernie writes the lyrics. That’s been successful for forty years.

Rick Finch and KC wrote songs in the ‘70s, and then had an ugly split in about 1981. Is it a coincidence the band stopped having hits right around that time? KC continues to tour even now, but they’re an oldies act for sure. Whatever creative magic they had is finished.

I hate to hear stories like that because finding that match is difficult. A comedy example would be Martin and Lewis. They were on top of the world and then they broke up too. In a perfect world it wouldn’t happen, but this never will be a perfect world. I feel worse for the victims. The guy obviously has a problem and I hope it isn’t too late to get some help.

My guess is, he’s going to die miserably in prison. I can’t see a pleasant outcome for the guy who molests teenage boys in his house when he’s supposed to be a mentor figure. It’s not an accident and no matter how rich or famous he used to be, that’s all over with now.

Whatever unpleasant obstacles I’ve had thrown in my life’s path, it wasn’t that. I’ve had my share of other problems, but I’ve never been molested by any scout masters or priests. Maybe I was just too damn ugly, but at least I never had to have those kind of memories.

The story really shocked me when I read it. I totally knew who he was, and it came out of the clear blue unexpectedly. How does anyone put a positive spin on that? What does a publicist or press liason say, especially when he admitted it? It can’t be a pleasant task for his lawyer either. Then of course there will be everyone in the music industry gossiping.

All the articles I’ve had over the years have always been positive. It’s part of coming up the ladder, and they’re used in a publicity package to send out to get more press or send to bookers. I may get some negative press in the future, but it won’t be anything like this.

On a positive note, I had lunch with Vince Carone today. He’s a former student who has a chance to really do something in the business. He’s 27 now but was probably 19 at most when he took the class at Zanies. He was always a nice kid but now he’s really maturing.

When I was coming up in Milwaukee in the ‘80s, my mentor C. Cardell Willis groomed me to be ‘the one’ who would do something in the business. He said that of all the comics in town at that time, I was the one that had the most chance of taking comedy the farthest.

He taught me about the road and how it would be a grind, but that’s how comedy had to be to make a living and not just be a hometown hobbyist. Cardell always told me I would take comedy farther than he’d be able to, and he was right. I did. He didn’t have resources at his disposal to go on the road full time. He had a family to support and he did his duty.

The comedy boom of the ‘80s didn’t have much of a place for Cardell. He wasn’t in the right place at the right time, funny as he was. He was my age now when clubs were in the infant stages, and most of the comics then were twenty somethings. He never had a shot.

Vince is really starting to come into his own and I told him at lunch today I feel exactly the way Cardell did when he told me I’d take it farther than he ever would. Vince will be the one to leave me in the dust, and if it has to be someone I’m glad it’s him. He’s got an amazing work ethic but he’s got a heart too. He also has a business sense. That’s RARE.

I’m proud of all my students, and just as children they’re all individuals. I support them and try to be there when they have a question, but sometimes we drift apart over years and I don’t hear from them for a while. I’m busy bailing water out of my own boat, and I have my own career to mishandle. I’m making dumb new mistakes so I’ll have more to teach.

Vince has always kept in contact and I’m very grateful for that. He’s very classy and it’s going to take him very far. He’s not insincere as many in show business can be, and I will always be in his corner cheering for his success. He gave me his SECOND finished DVD, which for 27 is outstanding. It wasn’t half assed either. Both projects are very impressive.

I was farting around with morning radio at 27, wondering what direction to go. We had no recording capability back then, and if I did my act was so brutal I’m glad there’s not a recording of it I’d have to destroy. Vince did a fine job and I’m happy for him. Not only is it funny, he put a nice package together and twenty years from now he’ll still be proud.

Vince knew what he wanted from the start, just like I thought I did. Even at 19, he was always asking questions and sending me emails and I respected him for that. He was right on the money, and I’m not surprised he’s starting to do well now. He’s only 27, but he’s a veteran of the wars because he started young like I did. He’ll blow me out of the water.

I told him to be careful for what he wished for. All I wanted back then was to be a solid act and kick ass on stage wherever I went. I thought that was all I needed. Well, I got that wish, and was I wrong. There’s a lot more, and Vince is doing it right. Rick Finch isn’t.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mothership Maintenance

Tuesday March 23rd, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Sometimes I look at all the projects I have going on and I see a whole lot of similarities between that and the process of raising children. Some of them share the same things, but most are very different from each other. I totally love each in their own way, but I have to treat them all as individuals and judge each situation that comes up on it’s own merits.

Today the Mothership Connection radio show on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI was what won out for my attention. I’ve stuck with that project over two years now, and that’s the longest I’ve ever lasted on any show I’ve been involved with on the air. I really love it and the little voice inside my head tells me it’s time to devote more time and energy to it.

Since my own resources are stretched pretty thin, I need to delegate tasks to the regulars who keep showing up each week. We’ve got a solid core of quality people and if I put the word out that I need help, I know they’ll all rise to the occasion and make it happen. I feel a very positive vibe from everyone involved, but the show needs to have a total overhaul.

Joey O’Shey has been a very welcome addition, mainly because he’s been on a big time morning show in Boston for years. He understands the concepts of preparation and pacing and his energy on air fits in perfectly with the others in the studio. Diane Ebert has been a radio pro for years and she handles the phones and also takes care of all the social media.

Gary Pansch has really stepped up to the plate. He’s always been very quiet off the mic, but when that red light comes on he’s right there. His weekly ‘Mothership Hall Of Fame’ feature showcases a weekly kook from either past or present and he’s made it his own.

There are several others who drift in and out when they can like Dr. Destruction who’s a TV horror host of a show called “The Crimson Theatre”. He’s a local icon and is a true artist in every sense of the word. I always love having him in, and he shows up whenever it fits his schedule. No pressure either way, and it works. That’s how the whole show is.

Grey Dolan and Shelley Maas Hernandez are former comedy students and they show up when they can too, as do several of my co-hosts like Scott Markus and Lara Shaffer. They are both off doing other projects, but when they’re in town they know they can show up at the studio and I’ll put them on the air. It’s a nice relaxed feeling that’s very rare in radio.

George Clinton created his own situation in the ‘70s with Parliament/Funkadelic. That’s who did the album ‘Mothership Connection’, which is where I got the name for the show and use it as a tribute. George oversaw everyone and had the vision but the musicians put the work in to make it pop. Together they created a whole better than the sum of the parts.

That’s the goal here too and I don’t think it’s that far away. The on air part sounds great, but things like a total website update and coordination of guests and weekly promos and a mailing list and podcast all need to be addressed and put in place. Like a child, this is part of growing up. The Mothership Connection is reaching puberty. It’s a whole new galaxy.

Ball Four Time

Monday March 22nd, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

A ritual I’ve had every spring since I was in high school is to find a copy of my favorite book “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton and pass it on to someone who hasn’t read it. I love that book and never get tired of the stories and characters in it. I think it’s an absolute classic.

It’s amazing how many rabid sports fans have never read that book, even though it’s 40 years old now. It’s Jim Bouton’s diary of playing for the Seattle Pilots for the only season they existed in 1969 before they moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers, the same team I grew up watching as a kid in the ‘70s. It’s a very candid peek into life in baseball.

He talks about the politics, which aren’t all that different than the politics in comedy or any other field of endeavor. He caught a lot of grief for it when it came out, but looking at it now, it’s pretty tame. He had a lot of dead on observations and predicted correctly quite a few things that actually happened. The players of his era were not millionaire crybabies.

It’s also a lot more. 1969 was a pretty tumultuous time in our country too, and Bouton’s timing was perfect to capture it all in one book. Plus, he was traded during the season and played for the Houston Astros to finish out the season. That and his being sent down for a brief stint in the minor leagues really provided a fascinating in depth look into baseball.

I read it in high school and it really resonated with me for some reason. I love sports but it’s more than a sports book. It’s a diary of hilarious stories with strong characters and I’m always able to pick it up, turn to any page and start back up where I left off. It’s timeless.

A big reason I started writing my own diary of life as a comedian was a direct influence of Ball Four. I thought it was a treat to get to peek inside the world of baseball that so few people ever got to see. It revealed a human side to it and even though he caught hell for it at the time, Jim Bouton wasn’t disrespectful at all in my opinion. He handled it perfectly.

He was honest about how he felt, and didn’t exclude himself in his criticisms. I loved it then and continue to enjoy it year after year. That’s a mark of a true classic and there isn’t another book I can think of I’ve enjoyed as many times over the years as I have this one.

Hopefully, I can provide a similar peek into the world of what it’s like to be a comedian on the road. Jim Bouton was never a superstar and neither am I, but he did achieve a huge accomplishment by making it to the major leagues for several years. That’s no small feat.

Making a living solely from being a standup comic was no easy task either. I admit I’m not a household name, but I’m not a part time wannabe either. I’ve done it and been there and brushed up with some of the all time greats. Jim Bouton did too, and it’s interesting.

I recommend Ball Four to anyone, not just sports fans. I have an extra copy I’ll be glad to mail to anyone who asks for it, but it’s available at Jim Bouton’s website too which is www.ballfour.com. Hopefully my little diary will entertain people forty years from now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pelosi Whipped

Sunday March 21st, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI/Kenosha, WI

I don’t enjoy going off on political rants, I have my own problems that take up the bulk of my waking hours. Keeping rent paid and gas in my 17 year old dented up tin can car is plenty for my skull to handle each month, along with all of the projects I have going now.

The last thing I need to do is have to watch my back for my own government, but that’s what seems to be happening. Who the hell elected these monkey bastards to Congress and why are they destroying the country I used to be so proud of? Is Ashton Kutcher behind it and we’re all getting Punk’d? Surely this has GOT to be a joke, right? I’m not laughing.

What person living in the real world really thinks this health care idea is good for any of us who actually work for a living? Really? You trust the GOVERNMENT to make things BETTER? How’s the post office doing these days? There’s a flaming example of how the fine peeps in Washington ‘git ‘er done’. What proficiency! What a system! What a joke.

Who the hell is Nancy Pelosi and why isn’t she getting a work boot up her smarmy ass? Has she ever had to slug it out and have to pay her own bills? I highly doubt it. Nobody in the circles I frequent wants anything to do with this idiotic money sucking piece of insane legislation, and in my book that should equal ‘We the people’. They’re jamming it on us.

Before those who say it get locked up in camps, I do NOT approve of my government’s performance from the unqualified slicker than snake snot talking head Socialist President right on down the line. Joe Biden is a pompous idiot, as is his partner in crime the equally clueless Nancy Pelosi. As far as anyone worth a sneeze in Congress, I can’t think of one.

Those people aren’t for us, about us or among us. They’re in their own little world with our money and are spending it on ‘Hershey bars and Archie comics’ as my grandpa would often say. I saw the picture in the paper of everyone walking hand in hand like this is such a wonderful thing and I almost puked. America as I thought it stood for is officially over.

My grandparents were staunch supporters of the slogan ‘America - love it or leave it.’ If they were alive today, I bet they’d be making travel plans. I would move, but I don’t think I should have to. How about starting with the millions of ‘undocumented’ people who are here sucking up the resources meant for AMERICANS? Can’t they get sent somewhere?

I was born here, work here, pay my taxes and am trying to survive week to week, month to month, year to year. It’s getting harder and harder to do that, and seeing what’s coming out of Washington from people who are supposed to be protecting us is frightening me as much as any horror movie ever has. This nightmare isn’t on Elm Street, it’s everywhere.

This isn’t a nasty right wing tirade. I’m not thrilled with the Bush administration either. I just think it isn’t too much to ask to be represented by someone with a clue who can see what a mistake this whole health care bill is. We got ZERO vote, it was forced upon us by a demented crew of clueless mooks who I wouldn’t trust to piss out a cigarette butt spark.
I agree there are major problems with the health care system, but this sure isn’t going to fix anything. When was the last time any government fixed anything? Mussolini said he’d get the trains to run on time. Did he ever do it? If he did, it sure came with a giant price.

Let’s look in the mirror to start fixing health care. We’re a nation of fat ass lazy halfwits who don’t exercise, and I’m putting myself right at the top of that category. I just had a bit of a wakeup call with my little gout episode a couple of weeks ago. It’s funny now, but no pain I’ve felt in years compared to how much my knee hurt. And what caused it? DIET.

I eat too much red meat and sugar and don’t exercise enough, and if the left ventricle of my heart should happen to explode halfway through my next hot fudge sundae, who’d be responsible for that? The government? That’s the message I’m getting with all this hooey.

NOBODY seems to have the desire to look in the damn mirror for the source of all their problems…and solutions too by the way. Why are we in bad health? We’re fat and lazy as a country, and it’s getting worse. Nancy Pelosi doesn’t need to have a hand in enabling us to do whatever we want and then middle class people who bust ass have to pay for it all.

Political correctness has gone way past any boundaries of sensibility, and nobody seems to be able to say or hear the truth without having someone else step in and try to soften it. I can’t say I disapprove of the President without being called a racist. Really? Who said it had anything to do with race? It never did, but since that topic is up, let’s talk about that.

Why are people so hypocritical when it comes to issues of race? All the Hallmark cards and pie in the sky wankers that yammer on constantly about ‘I don’t see color’ and ‘we’re all one people’ go out of their way to support Cinco de Mayo and Martin Luther King day but if I would ever have a ‘Hey, I’m glad I’m a whitey’ day I’d be the social leper outcast.

I still get blamed for slavery and people think it’s ok to ask for reparations, even though they were never slaves themselves. Get your head out of your aspirations and welcome to planet Earth, where I thought we were supposed to get by on our own merits, at least here in America. It’s supposed to be a melting pot for freedom, not a piss pot for freeloaders.

This whole health care insanity REALLY infuriates me. Nobody owes anyone anything. Get your totalitarian state government out of my face, and let me go live my life trying to figure out what the right path is. Where is my pursuit of happiness? My government is on an apparent mission to relieve me of that pursuit so I can help fund illegitimate children.

Of course there are people who need help from somewhere. They should get it too, but I don’t think it should come from Washington. There are private sources and other options and if people in charge would THINK rather than throw tax money at it, we’d get it fixed.

This is like handicapped parking spaces. Why do we need so many? It screws things up for the masses, and it would be cheaper to call a cab for a handicapped person who really needed to go shopping. They’d get their needs met and the rest of us would park easier.

A Saturated Saturday

Saturday March 20th, 2010 - Chicago, IL/Elkhorn, WI

Today was loaded with surprises, most of them good. The one I didn’t like was waking up to several inches of snow on the ground, which made me have to scrape it off my car, which made me have to hustle faster than I wanted to on slick roads to get downtown for the seminar I signed up for about reinventing my life. Still, I was able to make it on time.

The teacher’s name is Steve Olsher. He wrote a book called “Journey To You” and he’s a life long entrepreneur. He told some interesting stories up front and I liked the guy right away. I respect how hard it is to get people in a room, and he did a lot of things correctly.

It was the weather that screwed us. Nobody expected snow, sleet and slippery roads but good weather has the opposite effect. People want to wash their cars and go outside so the same result happens - they stay away from the event. I’ve had it happen to me quite often, so I felt Steve’s pain. I stayed as long as I could, but wasn’t able to finish the entire day.

I politely excused myself and drove north for my show in Elkhorn, WI at the Evergreen Golf Course. I’d heard it was snowing pretty good and didn’t want to risk it by cutting the drive time too thin. It was white knuckles and brake lights for way longer than I’d hoped.

I arrived at the Evergreen Golf Course at 7:10 for an 8:00 show and was surprised to see a jammed full parking lot. I had to park a ways away and walk in the snow, but I wasn’t at all upset about that. Full crowds mean full payment, usually in cash. The place was really jumping and that’s always a plus. Not only that, I worked with two competent comedians.

The opener was a newer guy named Matt Drufke. I’ve seen him at Zanies a few times at the Rising Star Showcases I host on Monday nights, and he did a fine job then. He’s from a town called Huntley, IL which is not on the beaten path. Getting stage time isn’t easy to do on a regular basis, but I’ve never heard him complain. He’s got some upside potential.

They wanted a two headliner show and my old friend Vince Maranto was the other one. We’ve worked together a ton at Zanies and we both feel comfortable onstage and off. He did an excellent job as he usually does and it was a fun night all around. I went up and did what I do, and the audience loved it. They loved all of us. This was a pleasure all around.

Working with good guys who are professional makes everything a whole lot more fun. I wish it could be like this every night. Not only were the other comedians easy to handle, the guy in charge of the Evergreen was nice too. His name is Russ and he gave us easy to follow directions and let us do our show. He also made sure we were fed and watered too.

The show was booked by a comedian named Jerry Wolski who used to live in Chicago but is now in Los Angeles. He’s been asking me for months to do this show and I’m glad he did. Everything went smoothly and Jerry was about as low maintenance to work for as I’ve ever experienced. Everything was right about tonight, and I’m grateful for every little detail - including being paid in cash a minute after getting off stage. Take THAT Giggles.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Living A King's Life

Friday March 19th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

If nothing else, at least I’ve got variety in my life. I’ve got all these projects going on in all different directions, but I enjoy every one of them immensely. The struggle to manage it all will probably continue for the rest of my life, but it’s better than being bored to tears.

I was watching one of those “Lockup” inside prison shows on MSNBC tonight and that made me feel a whole lot better about my life. I saw some guy with forty years to serve go nuts and plug the toilet in his cell so it flooded the entire floor, and then he was extracted violently with tear gas by a bunch of guards in riot gear. It made my life feel like a king‘s.

In many ways, it totally is. For all the things that I haven’t been able to control, comedy is one that I could. And I did. I never stopped working and improving and no matter what happens, nobody can ever take that away from me. There’s such an exhilarating feeling of accomplishment that goes with it, I can’t put it into words. It’s taken a lifetime to achieve.

I’ll never be totally satisfied, and that’s a good thing. It’ll always keep me working, but I love the process so I’m fine with it. It’s who I am and what I do. I look forward to being creative, and finding solutions to my problems, and I’m in an excellent groove right now.

I’ve had so many ups and downs over the years that sometimes I lose track of important things, but right now I have razor sharp perspective for some reason. I’m seeing things on a level I’ve rarely seen them, and it excites me. I suppose I could have ended up in prison at some point, and nothing guarantees I still won’t, but right now I’d be able to handle it.

Why do I feel this positive and confident? Is it the manic part of manic depression? Am I seeing life in a new light as I get older? Have I totally flipped like an omelet and am in a delusional self induced hypno-funk of deceit? Whatever it is, give me this vision forever.

I feel totally at home in my own skin right now. Warts and all, I see who I am and know I don’t mean half a chipmunk turd in the giant zoo of life. Nothing matters except making myself happy, and I’ve found what does that - making others happy by entertaining them.

That sounds corny, but it’s absolutely true. I love to create and doing that correctly takes constant learning and growth. It also occupies my time, but in a good way. The days go by quickly, but when they’re over and I’ve put in my time doing what I love, I feel satisfied.

That’s what I did today. I drove up to Milwaukee to meet with Richard Halasz about the ‘Schlitz Happened’ show. I feel a nice synergy with him and we brainstormed about some things we can do to make the show better. After that I went to meet with Donna Gurda for more of the same. She could help tremendously on this project, and I think she’ll do that.

I’ve still got Uranus Factory Outlet on the docket, as well as comedy classes, two radio projects, a new comedy CD just days away and I have a seminar tomorrow in downtown Chicago that talks about reinvention. Something tells me to attend, so I will. It can’t hurt.

Trudeau Or False

Thursday March 18th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Kevin Trudeau is an interesting character to say the least. He’s always on late night TV with some book he’s pitching, claiming to have all the answers people need to solve their various problems. He’s been around for years, and I have to admit his pitch is persuasive.

I’ve been studying marketing for a long time, and he’s been a lightning rod for all kinds of controversy for several years. He has a super slick rap, but apparently it’s too slick for some as it’s wound him up in prison. Still, I can’t help but find the guy to be fascinating.

I saw one of his new infomercials a few weeks ago when I was in Pittsburgh and wasn’t able to sleep because of the pain in my knee and I have to admit I ordered his books about free money from the government. It claims I’ll be able to get my money back and a whole lot more by tapping the sources he lists in government that have money to send to people.

There’s another guy who has books on this theme named Matthew Lesko, and I got the chance to meet him years ago when he was a guest on a radio show I was doing. I think it was at 93QFM in Milwaukee, but it doesn’t matter. He was a very nice guy off air and the vibe I got from him was that he was just trying to feed his family by selling his products.

He must be doing OK because I still see him on the air occasionally wearing those suits with the question marks all over them making him look like The Riddler from Batman or something. I remember he gave us one after his interview but I don’t think I still have it.

I wish I did so I could see if his methods really work. I’m not stupid enough to think it’s easy to get free money in big hunks, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was some around for the asking and maybe even a poor shlub like me might qualify for a couple of bucks.

The thing I like about Kevin Trudeau is that he markets himself extremely well. He’s got books and a newsletter and website and has well produced infomercials that get people to order his stuff. They are packed with interesting content and make it easy to make orders.

The thing I don’t like is that he’s always bouncing around from product to product. That is a big red flag in my book, as it seems like he’s insincere and not passionate about what he’s selling that week. I remember him selling a course called ‘Mega Memory’ in the ‘80s and then branching out into weight loss. Then it was miracle cures. Now it’s free money.

I took a chance on his free money from the government books and they arrived today. It was a lesson ordering them because they were always upselling me on something else, but that’s one of the reasons I wanted to order. I wanted to learn for my own sales purposes. It isn’t illegal to sell more products, I just don’t want to rip anyone off. That’s not my style.

The books came with an audio CD and I have to say it was excellent. I’ll read the books and see if I think it’s a ripoff or not. If so, I’m out about $40. It’s a lesson, and I bought it with that in mind. If it works, I’ll admit that too. I have to say, the guy is a good salesman.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Game Has Changed

Wednesday March 17th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

There aren’t very many events that could cheer me up more than an all you can eat sushi dinner paid for by someone else, and that’s exactly what I received this evening from Bill Gorgo and Nick Gaza. What a night! The food was outstanding and so was the company.

There we sat, three old school comedy road dogs talking about what we need to do in a completely different world than when we started back in the boom years. Comedy used to be a lot more regimented than it is now, but I guess the same could be said for life itself.

More and more, rules and guidelines are becoming a thing of the past and everything is headed toward anarchy. In many ways, the internet is the greatest thing that’s happened to human communication since the printing press. In others, it’s the downfall of civilization.

Things are changing at such an alarming rate, nobody really knows what to do next. It’s a constant state of flux, and I for one am struggling to keep up. It’s funny, Bill Gorgo is a computer whiz, and he’s the oldest of the three of us. Nick and I struggle just do to email. We talked about how the former way of doing everything has become obsolete forever.

In comedy, it used to be somewhat of a common path. A comedian started at his or her hometown comedy club, and became good enough to go on the road. Then, he or she put in enough years to move up from opener to feature to headliner in the clubs. Then, it was time for a national television debut, usually with Johnny Carson. Letterman was fine too.

After that, it was an HBO or Showtime special and then a sitcom for a few years. After that, maybe a movie deal. As crazy as it sounds, most of us thought we would eventually have all of those things happen to us. It was just a matter of time. How naive we all were.

The three of us all went in different directions. Bill chose to stay in Chicago and teach high school, at which he excels. He raised a daughter and did comedy as much as he had time for, which was a lot. He worked the Midwest mostly, but went other places as well.

I chose to try radio, but never stopped doing comedy no matter where I was. I did move to L.A. in the mid ‘90s, but I only lasted about a year out there before money ran out. It’s a common story for many, but nobody cares. They only want to hear the tales of success.

Nick Gaza lived in L.A. for about fifteen years. He survived, but never got his big break we all dream of. He decided to move back home and start over, which is THE most brutal decision to have to make because deep down it feels like the dream is over. It really hurts.

He’s not the only one that moved back. I did too, and so do actors, singers, models, ball players, radio and advertising people and every other competitive field that requires talent and people dream about doing. Only a precious few ever hit real pay dirt, and the rest of a long obscure line end up dispersing and trying to salvage a life doing whatever we can do. It takes guts to even try, and I respect all those who do. The only failure is not to attempt.

The only question now is, what to attempt? Anyone and their uncle’s grandmother has a website these days, and the structure of what used to make comedians good has fallen out of repair. There used to be a circuit that we could work and polish our craft. Now, there is no real circuit and it’s everyone for his or herself. The whole world seems to be that way.

In some ways, failure and rejection is a good thing. Failure forces a person to retool and rethink the reasons for the failure and make improvements to try and succeed. A rejection is often an excellent motivation tool that also causes the jilted one to upgrade their effort.

There are legendary stories of The Beatles getting turned down by several record labels and Elvis being rejected at The Grand Old Opry among many others. They overcame their failures and ended up becoming more than just show business successes. They were icons of pop culture, but they also were loaded with talent. They deserved to be superstar acts.

Now, any halfwit with a camera can take a picture of just about anything from a farting baby to a giraffe taking a dump and it gets six million hits from other halfwits with no life and nothing better to do than forward emails with farting babies or pooping zoo animals.

Believe me, I have nothing against farting and pooping email attachments per se, but if it takes bread out of my mouth it sure is a concern. Comedy clubs used to thrive because in the ‘80s the economy wasn’t great, but there wasn’t a computer in every home that had zillions of everything that ever farted, pooped, screwed or fell down cataloged in order.

How the hell is any form of entertainment supposed to compete with the internet and all that is available for absolutely ZERO money? None of us at dinner could come up with a solid answer. Yes, we know that live entertainment is better, but how can we sell that to a big enough group of people that will come out every week to see us at some local club?

The whole playing field has changed, and no matter who likes it that’s what all of us are dealing with right now. Idiots with no experience or direction can call themselves comics and undercut the hell out of real ones and make life a living hell for those earning a living by practicing a craft that’s taken years to learn. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

My friend Marc Schultz is a booker as was his father before him. Marc has stayed in the business for thirty years, and the reason for that is he knows his customers and their needs and fills those needs for a reasonable price. His reputation is stellar, and he doesn’t have a website and says he never will. I used to tease him about it but now I can see his reasons.

Bill Gorgo, Nick Gaza and I have been around the block more than once. All three of us see what’s happening, even though we’re not exactly sure about how to counteract it right yet. We’re either going to end up figuring that out, or join the bread lines with the masses.

This is a very challenging time for everyone. Those who don’t enjoy change are in for a rough time. Old dog or new pup, things aren’t like they were just a few years ago. We are all going to have to adjust to survive. I’m not sure if I like it, but this is how life is today.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jerry Lewis And The Naked Gun

Tuesday March 16th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

Belated birthday wishes are still trickling in and every one of them makes me feel good. Who doesn’t like to be recognized, especially on or around their birthday? Today happens to be Jerry Lewis’s 84th birthday and he’s been on my radar since grade school. I can still remember how the other boys in my class all loved him. I can’t speak for any of the girls.

As much as I tried, I was never able to find him funny as a kid. I think I watched all the same movies my friends did, but they never made me laugh. I felt like an outcast, but I’m not going to lie. I eventually gave up on him and just accepted the fact he didn‘t wow me.

My whole opinion has changed since I became an adult, and especially a comic myself. The truth is, Jerry Lewis is brilliantly creative on many levels, and very few in history can compare to his list of accomplishments. That says a lot, even though his movies still don’t make me laugh. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean I don’t respect his creativity.

He was born into a family of performers, and has been around show business his whole life. That can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the individual. I’m sure he could have easily dropped out and done something else, but to last for over three quarters of a century and still be a household name, positive or not, is about as difficult as it gets.

It’s very easy to bash his brash and abrasive personality, his telethon or just about all of his solo movies, but I see how much he accomplished onscreen and off and have nothing but the utmost respect. It’s not easy to succeed in show business at all, much less last for several generations. Say what you will, the one thing that can’t be disputed is his tenure.

There’s a fascinating interview with him from the David Susskind show from probably the mid ‘60s which really won me over. He was amazingly sharp, and went off on a lot of subjects that showed how intelligent he really is. He’s never seemed happy whenever I’ve seen or heard him interviewed, but I guess genius and happy have never come as a pair.

Being a student of the comedy game doesn’t mean I have to personally like everyone’s work. In many cases, I just don’t. It doesn’t move me. Comedy and entertainment itself is subjective, and whoever sees it gets the opportunity to make up his or her own mind as to whether that individual enjoys it or not. If I don’t enjoy something I can still respect it.

One thing I’ve always personally enjoyed are the series of Naked Gun movies made by the Zucker Brothers and Jerry Abrahams. I’ve always been a fan of theirs, at first because they were also from Milwaukee but later because I just found their style to be hilarious.

I’ve seen most of their movies but Leslie Neilsen’s Frank Drebin character never fails at making me laugh out loud. I found a DVD of the first movie at the thrift store today, and I popped it in because I hadn’t seen it in a while. It still made me laugh and I watched for a lot of other things I really hadn’t noticed before, like pacing, laughs per minute and how it all ties together as a movie rather than just watch individual scenes. Those guys are great.

Not only did the movie hold up, I was amazed all over again at how they cast actors that weren’t at all previously known for being funny. All of them. Leslie Neilsen was a serious actor, as was George Kennedy. Ricardo Montalban played a great villain, and he’s usually very likeable in all the roles I’ve seen him play, especially Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island.

Priscilla Presley and especially O.J. Simpson aren’t even known for acting at all. Still, it all fell together perfectly and I thought laugh for laugh it was right up there with any other movie I can think of that was released in the last twenty years. They should be proud of it, and I’m sure they are. Watching it again made me take inventory of everything I‘ve done.

That, coupled with the body of work Jerry Lewis cranked out made my little career feel like a bug fart by comparison. I can’t be cocky because I really haven’t done anything yet, other than wish I could catch a break sometime. Do I have any ideas for movies? Yes, but I’m nowhere near close to being able to even present them to anyone. I’m way off course.

All I can do is continue down the path I’m on and do the best I can with whatever time I have left. I’m never going to have the career of a Jerry Lewis or the Zucker Brothers, but I can still keep working on what I’m doing. I’ve got a new CD on the horizon and that’s the product to focus on now. It’s not a movie and I’m not a legend in France, but it’s a start.

Greg Phelps sent the proofs of the CD package today and I had to make a few small but important corrections. The font wasn’t very readable in my opinion and there were a few typos, but other than that it looked pretty good. We were able to use the artwork I paid for from Pedro Bell, even though it’s not colorized. I had to go with what I have, but it’s ok.

Greg and his artist Chad colorized the title of the CD which is ’Hard Luck Jollies’ and a logo for my name Pedro Bell drew that looks like the logo for Funkadelic. I doubt if many people will recognize it, but those who do will really be impressed. I was, and that’s good enough for me. It looks very unique, and it’s not just another thrown together hack piece.

I’m really going to have to scrape together cash to pay for this, but I think I’ll be able to sell enough of them quickly to get my money back. It’s an investment in myself, so that’s never a bad thing. I think I’ll get some attention from it, as it’s a product I can be proud of that will sound and look professional. I’ve been overdue for another product for a while.

I’ve also got enough material recorded where I think I can have another one done by the fall. That would be great, and it’s already in the can so it’s not like I need to record any of it again. In a perfect world I’ll keep creating CD projects every year for as long as I can be creative enough to keep thinking of material. Every artist should always keep on growing.

Maybe I will get around to doing movies eventually, maybe not. As long as I keep up an honest effort to do my best, I’m sure my path will take me where I need to go, even if that isn’t necessarily where I wanted to go when I started out. A big movie career sounds great but who really gets that in the end? Not many. Does it mean I’m a failure if I don’t have it on my resume? No, not at all. Failure is not trying. I’m trying hard, I’m just farther back.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ideas Of March

Monday March 15th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

There’s a great little joint not far from where I live called Olando’s. It’s divided up into two halves, one is an ice cream parlor and the other has about a dozen tables with a top to bottom solid menu with mostly Italian food. It’s very reasonable and I’ve never had a bad meal there. It’s become a highlight of living in this area and I go there as often as I can.

One of their specialties is a crab meat salad, and it absolutely rocks. It’s huge and full of crab meat and vegetables and comes with fresh cheese and delicious home made dressing. I know there’s cheese on it, but there are also vegetables and all in all it’s pretty healthy.

I ordered one up today and sat around with a pen and pad and sketched out my plans for the immediate future. I’ve got a ton of projects on the table and it’s easy to get lost or out of sync. I know how I am, and distraction is my main downfall. Rather than let it keep on happening, I want to have a detailed plan in place so I can keep growing no matter what.

That’s going to involve delegating tasks and having teams in place and I’m kind of on a path to do that, but sometimes I still wander. There are some very solid people in place to collaborate with, and this is absolutely the most exciting time of my entire life. I’m on the brink of doing whatever it is I’m going to be known for, even if it’s an exploding failure.

I’m willing to risk that because I don’t think it’s going to happen. If it does, I can easily deal with it. What I can’t accept is not trying, and giving it my very best effort. I’m doing a lot of things right, but I can also use a lot of improvement. Time is limited and always a factor. It’s getting harder to squeeze everything in because my array of interests is so vast.

Too bad, that’s the situation I have. I’m now 47 years old and time is ticking away on a daily basis. It is for everyone, but I hear it a lot louder at 47 than I did at 27. It’s a limited resource for sure. I don’t want to waste any of it doing something that isn’t on my list of worthwhile endeavors. This is the time to stop talking and make my dreams come to life.

Some of them already are. I’m a solid standup comic and I’ve always wanted to be that since the first time I stepped on a stage. If I could have seen the act I’d become back then I would’ve been extremely pleased. Looking back, I actually exceeded my expectations.

Now I want to take it a whole lot higher. I’ve got a new CD on the way, and it should be in my hands and ready to sell in about a week. That project dangled way too long, and it’s a sore spot because I just didn’t get it out fast enough for my liking. I could complain, but there aren’t many to blame besides me. I could have handled this better, and I wish I had.

That’s the main reason I had my own little personal summit today. I crunched my salad and crunched numbers of the time and effort it would take to crank out all the fun things I want to get to before I croak. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but at least I’m putting a plan together in my head that will trickle down onto paper and into a notebook which I’ll carry with me and look at on a daily basis. Thoughts really are things, and I’m thinking clearly.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Radioactive Birthday

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

Another birthday comes and goes, and I realize I’m doing pretty well considering where I came from. The years are piling up, but so are the victories - even if they’re small ones. I may not be a household name or independently wealthy, but a lot of other things that are a lot more important are falling into place very nicely. I’m learning, growing and feel good.

What really told me I’m on the right track was the number of emails, calls and texts that greeted me as I got up this morning. I know birthdays are listed on all the social networks, but it still felt good to hear from so many people. I counted over 400 emails, not counting the calls and text messages. They came from friends, comedians, fans and even strangers.

I appreciate every single one of them and I’m going to answer every one, even if it takes until my next birthday. There were a few I didn’t get, but it really didn’t bother me like in the past. None of my siblings sent me anything, and they knew it was my birthday. That’s a wound that is scarring over, and I accept that it just won’t be any different in this life.

I can honestly say I’ve done my very best in trying to patch those things up, and it’s just not going to work out. I said I was sorry for whatever I did to piss them off that much and meant it, now it’s not on me. I also have an uncle who screwed me over on an inheritance I was supposed to get from my grandparents, and I haven’t heard from him in years either.

I hear he has cancer and is circling the drain, and it’s a shame things had to work out as they did. It was a pretty low life stunt he pulled, but that was years ago and the damage is done. I think my father was probably in on it too, but whatever the case, neither one did a damn thing for their family because they didn’t do anything to live their own life’s dream.

They’re each going to have died bitter and alone, with lots of family angst left over. I’ve made more than my share of my own mistakes, but at least I can feel myself improving as the years go by and it’s significant. It won’t be said that I followed in my father’s shadow, and that alone gives me hope for the future. I’m definitely getting by on my own merits.

Lots of other people have family problems, but mine seem so embarrassing and odd. I’ll never understand why I got thrown in with such a bunch of hard headed people who don’t think anything like I do, but I did. I don’t think I’m better than anybody, but I do think my life’s choices were better. We just come from different worlds. I can’t understand theirs.

My cousin Brett and I get along great and always have. He just turned 40 and is coming to his own peace. His father and he aren’t going to get along, and he’s come to terms with that and it’s in his past. It’s still a shame, but it’s not going to change. Ever. That’s life.

I’m learning how to enjoy life more too as I get older. The intense need to stick it in the ass of anyone to prove myself is LONG gone. I really don’t care who likes me or doesn’t, and that’s taken a lot of pressure off. I have enough people who like me that I can be with them and not have to waste one iota of energy on the idiots. That makes life a lot easier.

Today was a radio themed birthday and it couldn’t have gone any better. First, it was an afternoon in Chicago to be on WGN with Jerry’s Kidders at 3pm. We hadn’t been on in a while, and we all were in the mood to have fun. The weather was beautiful and we had an abundance of funny news stories, so we went on the air and let it rip for longer than usual.

We’re normally on for a half hour to close out Jerry Agar’s show, but today we opened because of the way the schedule worked out. Since we had extra stories, Jerry just kept us on the air and we finished when we were done. We were in good form and on point so the time flew by and we had some solid laughs during our time. It was relaxed and a pleasure.

I had to pinch myself halfway through, but as we sat there it occurred to me that I was at one of the biggest radio stations in America on my birthday riffing comedy bits with some of my friends, and no matter what else happens in life - that alone was pretty impressive.

Who gets to do that? Not many, and I don’t care if anyone else appreciates it. I do. It’s a thrill to have the ear of a station’s listeners that’s that big, and I told the guys that after we finished. They know it too, and the feeling of gratitude and accomplishment after we were done pumped us all up as we went across the street to the Billy Goat Tavern for burgers.

We discussed how we can turn this project into money, as we haven’t done that yet. It’s a big challenge, and I’ve always loved challenges so rather than frustration we decided to look at it as opportunity. We’ve all put a lot of work into this project and now it’s time to get paid for it. The burgers tasted great and we were all in a positive mood the whole day.

My next destination was WLIP in Kenosha, WI to do the Mothership Connection radio show at 8pm. We had an extra full house of sit in guests tonight and that was as much or even more fun than WGN this afternoon. The vibe was dead on, and I think we had over a dozen people in the little studios of WLIP. There were about four people to each mike.

There were all our regular callers plus a few new ones, and we had great guests too. Our former co-host Scott Markus was back from L.A. and he’s always a help, so he got Ursula Bielski to come on with us who wrote several books on Chicago ghost lore. Scott has one too, and the whole show just fell together. It was like a three hour on air birthday party.

John Vass is a fan of Jerry Agar’s on WGN, but he asked if he could come and hang out with us and of course I said yes. He added to the show, and that’s always how it’s been as long as we’ve been on the air. I’d like to think I’ve got something to do with creating that vibe, as I’m the one who runs the show. Like George Clinton, I’m just the referee of it all.

I’m going to keep cranking out my little blog for the indefinite future. If people enjoy it, I’m flattered. I heard from my friend Arnold Mukai in Seattle and he says it allows him to live the show business life vicariously through my adventures. That’s great. If I can help a person escape, I’m all for it. Hopefully, I can inspire someone to live their own dreams. It won’t change the fact that I’m always going to be a dented can, but it does help to know it gets better as time passes. This was a fantastic birthday, and I’m grateful for every one.

Blatz Off!

Saturday March 13th, 2010 - Saukville, WI

It looks like Schlitz really is starting to happen! I didn’t know exactly what to expect on several levels concerning the initial run through of my one man show about growing up in Milwaukee called “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst”, but the overwhelmingly positive response it got gives me extremely high hopes. This is a winner!

It’s not a finished product yet by a long shot, but what’s there is very useable. I do know how to entertain an audience, and my lifetime of experience gives me a huge advantage of being able to go back into the archives and bring out polished standup bits which allows a freedom to experiment few others have. I can take chances because I have a backup plan.

The show was at the Railroad Station in Saukville, WI which wouldn’t have been in the top 50 places I would have chosen to get this started. Richard Halasz had booked a couple of previous shows there with Will Durst, so that’s a thumbs up for me. I like Richard and a reputable comedian like Durst wouldn’t work a place twice if there was anything shady.

I knew I needed to work the show through a few times, so where better than here to get a feel for it? The owners were all very nice people and we drew 146 people which is very respectable for a place that doesn’t do comedy on a regular basis. The club had posters up for a couple of months, but it was Richard that really dug in and didn’t let up on promo.

He mailed flyers and sent email blasts and got me a radio interview in Fond Du Lac and I really give him credit for doing a thorough job in promoting this along with the venue. It isn’t often a comedian does this good a job of behind the scenes detail work but he nailed it and totally followed through. Everyone was happy with the results and it was a big hit.

I brought my friend Russ Martin along, who was kind enough to film the show with his movie quality video camera, even though I don’t need anything that elaborate right now. I just wanted to get it on tape in case I ad libbed something that could be used in the future.

Gary Pansch also came out to support and he lit it up for a few minutes to get the crowd in a good mood. I went up and did an hour and five minutes, trying to squeeze in as many local stories and references as I could. I did some of my regular standup but it still had the local flavor to it. I added in a few things exclusively for this show and they went over too.

Was I thrilled with the show? No, not at all. Was the audience? Absolutely. They loved it, and that was my main concern. I wanted to feel it out a little first since I never worked there before, and didn’t have too much scripted. I wasn’t sure what kind of audience they drew, so trying to force a theater show wasn’t smart. This was more of a bar audience.

The sound system was popping and the stage lights were pretty bad, but other than that it wasn’t horrible at all. The physical layout of the space was nice, even though smoking is still allowed in Wisconsin bars. That was a killer, and my eyes were burning within the first ten minutes. This was a comedy show in a night club, NOT a one man theater show.

Still, the audience was both receptive and very polite. They weren’t pissy drunk and had the courtesy to sit and listen to the show. There were waitresses, but they were also polite and didn’t talk loud while taking orders or distract form the show at all. I was impressed.

I know how to read an audience, and could tell that I had a chance to do well right from the get go. I wanted to get to a lot more subtle and experimental material, but tonight was not the time to try it out. There will be other times, and I’m glad I didn’t force anything.

A few people showed up I hadn’t seen in thirty years or more. Robert Deglau and I went to the Jackie Robinson alternative open classroom school in sixth grade. We were both in the same homeroom and had an interest in radio. We reconnected by email a couple years ago but hadn’t gotten together before tonight. It was great to see him after all these years.

Jeff Phelps and I went to high school together at Messmer High School. He worked for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as a photographer for twenty-two years before losing his job last year in a purge that took a lot of other people with him. He is a real pro and takes amazing pictures, and I felt bad he lost his gig. Times are tough for people in many fields.

Jeff and I recalled the story of when Hank Aaron came to Messmer to speak. We loved sports and wanted to get an autograph so we skipped out of class and drove to a sporting goods store and each bought a baseball to get signed. We waited for Hank’s limo to pull up and as soon as we saw it we sprinted out the side door with our fresh white baseballs.

Nobody in the entourage expected us including Hank Aaron, and we politely asked him to sign our baseballs. There wasn’t much he could do but grab the pen and sign. We both had pens with us, and we had our whole plan of attack worked out way before we did it.

After Hank signed for us, someone in his entourage firmly said “Ok, that’s IT. No more autographs.” Jeff and I smiled at each other and went back into school with our prize. We were the envy of the whole school, and we got to meet Hank Aaron before anyone else at school, including the principal. It was the only time I ever skipped out, but it was worth it.

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my life was selling that ball many years later when I really needed money. Boy, was I stupid. I think I may have gotten $60. Maybe $75 tops. I remember crying when I sold that ball, but at the time I really needed that cash. It’s a huge mistake, but too late to change it. Jeff kept his ball, and I’m glad. I’d love to see it.

This is the end of my fourth solid year of keeping my little diary. It may not be good or even interesting, but at least I’ve been able to keep it consistent. I’ve had experiences all over the board, and hopefully I’ve been able to entertain or inspire at least somebody.

I’m still a dented can, and always will be. I’m improving in many areas, but I still have many more that need a lot of work. Will any of this live on after I’m dead? Who cares? It doesn’t affect me at all. I’ll be dead. Right now, I’m not and I hope whoever reads this at any time gets a laugh or two, or maybe some inspiration. Another year over. What’s next?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Milwaukee Is Calling Me

Friday March 12th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Tomorrow is my first official dry run of my one man show “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst” at the Railroad Station in Saukville, WI. I spent today preparing a few home made signs with localized terms on them to flash to the audience.

I’ve got a basic idea as to what I want the show to be, but it’s always going to be a work in progress. I’m going to try things every time I perform, and keep what works best. I love the concept of doing a whole show with one basic theme, but there are a lot of sub themes that can be incorporated in various degrees, so no two shows will ever be exactly alike.

I’ve got enough stage experience to pull off the time, and enough information about the subject that I’ll never be able to get to all of it at any one performance. Still, I have no real defined show pounded out yet, and that’s why I wanted to have a few times to experiment before I hit some bigger places. No offense to Saukville, but it’s not the strip in Vegas.

Richard Halasz booked some comedy shows at The Railroad Station in the past and has had some success as far as both numbers and quality of audience. He said the people who attended those shows were extremely well behaved and listened without any uncalled for incoherent drunken psychobabble added into the mix. That interested me from the start.

I’m not looking to do this show in comedy clubs or bars in general. I want to find some quality theater venues in the area that will have me back at least once a year if not more to entertain audiences who are there to see a show. I’ve grappled verbally with quite enough incoherent booze monkeys in my life and if I never see another one I’ll survive just fine.

It doesn’t mean I won’t get any in Saukville, but if there are they’d better get some licks in early, because I’ve got a few surprises for them. This is not what I’m looking for, but if it finds me I’ve never been known to shy away from any level of heckler combat so I have a fantastic chance of not only winning, but firing full frontal verbal blasts at close range.

Hopefully, it won’t come anywhere close to that. I just want it to be fun, and I had a lot of it putting the show together. Apart from those signs, I’ve got a lot of directions I’d like to go and I have a great feeling it will fall together quickly. I have all the ingredients for a killer show, now it’s time to work out some bugs and get it ready to take to a nice theatre.

The great advantage I have is that nobody in the audience knows what to expect exactly so I’m not under any pressure to deliver anything specific just yet. If I lose my place with anything I’ve got plenty of standup material to cover me and won’t have any major lulls.

There’s absolutely no pressure on me at all, other than I want to do a good show for not only the audience, but for Richard Halasz too. He put up money out of his pocket to risk a show, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I’m glad he wanted to work with me, and in no way will I give anything less than my best effort, even if it is a new work in progress. I will be ready when my name is called tomorrow, and there’s probably a seat left for you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Looking Down The Road

Thursday March 11th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

People have been teasing me all day about having gout, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a pleasant alternative to having to get knee surgery I couldn’t pay for right now so a couple of jokes at my expense are no big deal. Bring it on. I’ll start worrying when I get leprosy.

The fact remains, I’m getting older and I feel it. Mentally, I’ve always been significantly older than my actual age. Even as a kid, most of my friends were older than me and that’s still the case. People I hang around the most like Jim McHugh, Marc Schultz, Bill Gorgo, Bert Haas, Jerry Agar and all the Kidders are all at least a couple of years older than me.

Allegedly, Pisces is the astrological sign that signifies the old souls. I’ve been told many times I’m one, but who knows if any of that’s true? I am who I am, but even as a kid I felt out of place in this life. I still do, no matter how hard I’ve tried to find a place for myself.

I’m starting to head into the final stages, and there’s no guarantee how long that will be. It could be thirty years, thirty days or thirty minutes so I thought about what I should start to do with the rest of my life to achieve the smartest and most productive results possible.

What really hit home today was that I need to start cranking out products and keep it up until I’m out of ideas or out of breath, whichever comes first. I’ve got a full 25 years in as a touring comedian along with an off and on 20 in the radio business. I also have 15 years in as a comedy teacher, so that’s a lot of different life experience on which to draw from.

I paid my dues and learned my crafts, but now it’s time to take that and put it into things I can pass on to others. I want to do things that benefit people long after I’m gone, even if I can’t be there to see it. I don’t know why it’s important to me, but for some reason it is.

No matter how hard I try to figure out the meaning of life, the less of a solid answer I’m getting. At least I’m getting some kind of an idea of where I want to go, but I look around at life in general and I see the majority of people stumbling through it with no inner drive or direction other than to get drunk, laid and party. There doesn’t seem to be much else.

This world is full of idiots, and I don’t know a nicer way of saying it. If there is a God, I wonder if that was intentional? There are a comparative few who try to make the most of whatever talents they’ve been given, but the majority of humans aren’t worth the trouble.

Alexander Hamilton said “The masses are asses” and that was in 1790. I haven’t seen a whole lot of improvement since then. Yes, there are a lot of wonderful people around but they’re way outnumbered by the herd of halfwits that keep NASCAR and rap in business.

I don’t want to be so cynical, but the picture gets clearer every day. My grandfather was a sharp cookie and much the same way and it feels like I’m becoming him a little bit more every day. He was hilarious, kind and smart, but also had a dark side. He died unfulfilled, and I don’t want that to be me. I want to squeeze out every last bit of potential I have left.

Gout And About

Wednesday March 10th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

Apparently I have gout. Perfect! That’s exactly the kind of disease Mr. Lucky would get and actually I couldn’t be happier to hear it. For someone with zero health insurance, gout is sweet music to my ears compared to full blown major knee surgery and all that torture.

I talked to the doctor and after reviewing my x-rays she said after hearing a description of how the pain started and looking at the x-rays she came to the conclusion it’s probably an attack of gout and that’s what we’d address. An MRI is expensive and it cut me a huge break by not having to pay for it myself, because I can’t right now. This was great news.

Gout is a buildup of uric acid in the joints, and usually manifests itself in the big toe or even in the fingers. Sometimes it goes to the knees, and when it does it’s only one. This is going to be a lot easier to fix than ripped knee tendons, and I’m already feeling way better than I did even yesterday. I’ve known for a while my diet has been horrible. I deserved it.

Red meat is one of my favorite things on earth, especially bloody rare steak. I love steak and eggs for breakfast, and I’ve been known to have a steak for lunch too. Or dinner. Or a late night snack at a truck stop on the way home from a gig. Red, rare meat is delicious to me and always was. I’m surprised I didn’t get this before, and it’s probably not over yet.

There’s probably enough beef packed in my intestines to start my own cattle ranch. I’ve had small spurts of exercise and health in the last couple of years, but as a whole meat is a way of life in my world. I just love it and always have. Now I’m starting to pay the price.

This is a total wake up call. I’ve been hitting the snooze button for a few years now but I really need to get it in gear IMMEDIATELY. This is a warning signal for a lot of other things that could go wrong in a New York minute. My heart could pop like a zit walking up a flight of stairs, and unless I really start watching myself, I’m going to be a statistic.

The pain I felt was nothing less than excruciating with this. The doctor said that crystals form from the uric acid and cause pressure on whatever joint is near and I learned kidney stones are also a buildup of uric acid and those are also painful. Either way, I need to take the hint and cut WAY back on red meat and I totally will. I don’t want to feel this again.

Apparently, drinking alcohol can make gout flare up too. At least I don’t have to worry about that, and whatever red meat problems I’ll have later in life won’t be compounded a few more times with the havoc alcohol takes on a system. I made that choice correctly to not drink, and that’s one I’ve never regretted. At least I wasn’t a complete and total idiot.

I went to the Old Country Buffet today with Marc Schultz, comedian Tim Walkoe and a comedy magician named Dennis DeBondt who are all great guys. It was very enjoyable to sit and hear great showbiz stories and it didn’t bother me at all to stay away from red meat and eat plates of vegetables. I’ve had a lifetime of eating whatever I want, and it’s time to watch myself. I heard the warning. Gout is a funny word, but the pain it brought wasn’t.

This whole experience really lit a fire under me though. It’s all part of a collective good because that’s how I’m going to choose to accept it. I am going to take full responsibility for getting myself to this point and also full responsibility for getting myself out. If I don’t and my heart does explode, hopefully I‘ll still be able to inspire others to chase the dream.

What a difference a single year makes. Exactly one year ago today I was in Los Angeles filming my first national television spt on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. It’s a memory I’ll never forget, and in many ways it seems like six lifetimes ago. In other ways I feel like it was last week and I want to get out there and do a lot more of them. And I do.

What’s it going to take to make that happen? I wish I knew. The rules of show business have never been cut and dried, but they’re getting even harder to figure out as time passes and technology advances. What was standard procedure just a few years ago is obsolete.

Methods of contacting bookers have changed, as have the outlets for content. Cable TV used to be the goal for standups, like an HBO or Showtime special, but now the internet’s giant presence dwarfs all of that. Youtube is huge, but how can anyone turn a buck with it if it’s always free? These are all legitimate concerns that puzzle me on a consistent basis.

I loved the whole experience of being on The Late Late Show, and if I never get back to do it again, it was still a huge highlight of my life. Celia Joseph the talent coordinator was one of the sweetest people to work with I’ve ever met, as were the whole staff at the show including Craig Ferguson. I’m a big fan and respect his talent immensely. He’s a winner.

But I totally believe that I’m a winner too. I’m happy for Craig Ferguson and I hope I’ll get a lot more chances to interact with him as time goes on, but I have to take my chances and put myself in a position to do that. I haven’t been as good about that as I could have.

Another major mistake I’m making is not following up with Jeff Foxworthy’s help with his management company. I know I pissed off the lady I was supposed to contact, and that really scared me off but it was unintentional. I need to get in there and use that contact.

Jeff is a straight up great guy, and I know he was sincere by doing this favor for me. I’m not going to let a little faux pas keep me from the big time, and I need to go and reconnect with them immediately. I’m SO ready for this right now. I wasn’t sure if I was before, and it turns out I wasn’t, so I’m glad I waited. Now, I’m sure I am and it’s time to go grab it.

My birthday is coming up on Sunday, and I can’t stop it. I’ve had a lot more of them to ponder than I ever thought I would, and after all I’ve been through I really am lucky to be alive and somewhat coherent. A case of gout doesn’t scare me at all, especially after those horrible knee pains have gone away. There was a solution to the problem, and I found it.

Now it’s time to pull out all the stops and keep chasing whatever I’ve been doing for all these years. I can do lots of TV spots, but someone has to say yes, which means I have to keep asking. So I will. Gout won’t take me out of the game. In fact, it’ll bring me back.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crazy Heart Hits Home

Tuesday March 9th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

I needed to escape today so I went to see the movie ‘Crazy Heart’. I hadn’t seen a movie in a long time and that’s one I’ve been hearing about since my friend Darryl Rhoades told me he was filming it over a year ago. Darryl is out of Atlanta and we’ve been friends for a lot of years. He started out as a musician and morphed into comedy and he’s a super guy.

Darryl had a non speaking role as a drummer in one of the bands and he had quite a nice chunk of screen time. Nobody else would probably notice, but he’s my friend and told me he was in it so I picked him out right away. It was fun to see him but the movie was pretty dark as a whole and a few times it really made me flinch. Show business can be a downer.

Jeff Bridges’ character plays an aging country singer who still has to piece together life on the road long after his prime. He’s a fabulous actor and really made it convincing. I see why he won the Oscar, but it sure was dark and gloomy. It reminded me in many ways of ‘The Wrestler’ with Mickey Rourke, and worse yet - quite a few comedians that I know.

The entertainment business is very cold and only a selected few ever really hit it big and make it last for a lifetime. Public tastes are fickle, unsophisticated and usually shallow for the most part, so often times people with true talent and vision have to struggle to survive while the lesser talents with the superficial looks or business savvy take all the attention.

This happens in every field in life from music to acting to wrestling to sports to comedy too. The dream window is only open for so long, then it’s a matter of survival. The exit of entertainers usually isn’t pretty, and both The Wrestler and Crazy Heart drove that home.

As good of a movie as it was, it kind of depressed me a little. Even though it had a kind of happy ending, it was still a little shallow for me. The guy didn’t get the girl, the young pretty boy punk got all the glory, and all he got in the end was to continue making a living doing what he always did. I guess that’s not bad, but it seemed like he still got screwed.

The inner fear all of us have as entertainers is that will be us someday. Soon. The guy in the movie was supposed to be 57 years old. I’ll be 47 on Saturday, and I could relate to all the business situations he was facing. I’ve worked for slimy agents too and in some of the same towns in the movie. Clovis, NM? Grand Junction, CO? Been there. Once is plenty.

I talked to my friend Dwight York today also. He’s a wonderful guy and one of the best comedians I’ve ever worked with, but he can’t seem to catch a break either. His act is one of the darkest, most twisted I think I’ve ever seen and that’s a sincere compliment. He’s a master joke writer in my opinion, and I can’t believe he’s not an international superstar.

But he’s not. Not even close. He’s slugging it out like me, trying to pay his rent. Dwight and I can relate on a lot of levels, but neither one of us give up. Life is what it is, and I’ve given up trying to figure it out. I needed a break today, but I wish I wouldn’t have chosen to see ‘Crazy Heart’. I needed something a little more upbeat to help me forget my pain.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Hospital Hijinx

Monday March 8th, 2010 - Kenosha, WI

Here we go with another unexpected adventure. I sure didn’t plan on any of this taking place, but it did and here I sit with my education, wondering what to do next. I was in so much pain after the radio show last night and exhausted from driving so I just got a motel room in Kenosha, WI to make it easier. More driving would have been asking for trouble.

I had a difficult time walking up the one step it took to get from my car to the sidewalk next to my room, and then there was the step up to get into the room. I’d never even think of that before, but right now, everything involved with walking or sitting is a huge issue.

Everyone and their uncle’s grandma are now starting to give me all kinds of conflicting folk remedies, and I don’t know what to believe. Some say ice it, others say put heat on it. One was to take a hot bath in Epsom salt. I have no idea what that’s supposed to do, but it came from a good source and I do remember my grandparents having some at their house.

I never asked them what it was for, and I guess I assumed it was something you sprinkle on the sidewalk after it snows. I don’t know what therapeutic powers it has, but I’m to the point now I’d try just about anything up to and including the direct insertion of a flaming organic pickle up my poop shoot counter clockwise. If that would help, I’d have one in.

I tried the bath, but sitting down was a major production. I bet it took a half hour before I could lower myself into the tub, and when I did I could barely stretch my legs out. How many times have I gotten a handicapped hotel room when I didn’t want it that had exactly what I needed tonight? Too many times to count. Not tonight. I had to shut up and soak.

Personally, I didn’t feel any better after sitting there for about an hour, but I did it and if there are any hidden benefits, hopefully I’ll get them. If not, I’ll have the rest of the box in my car to use in the next snow storm in case I need it. That or I’ll sprinkle it on popcorn.

I went to bed after taking the hot bath, but my knee was on FIRE painful. I didn’t sleep very well, and woke up early and decided to get it looked at. I drove myself to the Aurora Health Care Clinic on Highway 50 in Kenosha and they took me right away with no wait.

I had no idea what the procedure would be, but it wasn’t difficult at all. I was instructed to go into a room and put on one of those one piece gowns that exposes the back forty and of course I couldn’t figure out how to put it on. It had snaps and ties and it was confusing.

I was laughing because I could see it coming, and sure enough - two hotties came in and caught me as I was trying to figure it out. I laughed and told them I wasn’t really in pain, I just did this to meet women. Luckily they laughed too, or I’d be even worse off. Or in jail.

They took x-rays, and were about to x-ray the wrong leg until I told them. That’s totally my luck, having the wrong leg done. They took blood and gave me an anti inflammatory medicine via IV and now I have to wait and see what the problem is. I hope it’s cheap.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Not Just Knee Deep

Sunday March 7th, 2010 - Cranberry, PA/Kenosha, WI

Pain. Non stop pain. Excruciating non stop pain. Overwhelmingly excruciating non stop pain. That’s what I felt for the better part of my 666.6 mile drive home from Pennsylvania today. I’m not making that total up either. That’s exactly what the trip mileage ended up.

There is something really wrong with my left knee, and I have NO idea what it is. It was sore yesterday when I woke up, and it got worse as the day went on. It affected my show a little last night, but I was still able to pull it off. The audience didn’t know, but I sure did.

I’m having a hard time lifting my leg in any way, and that’s a pretty major deal. None of us ever have a need to lift our legs in this earthly experience, do we? I figured I could just slide through life and not be bothered. I guess I was wrong. I need to have this looked at.

I wanted to take a shower before going to bed last night, but I couldn’t lift my leg to get in. The pain was that bad. Then, I got up this morning at 5am to start driving and I had an adventure even getting out of bed. Every inch of movement in almost every direction was pure torture, and it would’ve made a hell of a funny scene in some movie if it wasn’t me.

I could barely walk on it, but I managed to limp slowly to my car. Getting in the car was another adventure, and that must have taken twenty minutes. I felt like Tim Conway’s old man character on The Carol Burnet show, but for real. I knew I was in for a painful drive.

The first 50 miles was hell on earth. No matter where I tried to rest the leg, it hurt and it was a constant throbbing I couldn’t ignore. I couldn’t find a position to just let it rest so it was a matter of trying to move it to relive pain over and over again. I knew I couldn’t last doing that all the way home so I stopped and got some Advil as soon as I could find one.

Again it took about twenty minutes to get out of the car, limp to the gas station, pay for the Advil, limp back, get back in the car and start driving. I’m about as impatient of a guy as has ever lived, so this was excruciating on many levels, but what could I do? Nothing.

Kristie Dickinson lives in Lansing, MI and she’s a sweetie. She’s an aspiring comic but used to be a dancer. No, not that kind, a real one. No poles involved. She also bakes some of THE best cookies and brownies I’ve ever tasted. We were scheduled to get together for lunch since I don’t see her very often, and I really wanted to cancel but I went anyway.

We had lunch at P.F. Chang’s and it was great to see her but I thought my leg was going to fall off the whole time I sat there on a high bar type chair. I couldn’t find a comfortable position to sit no matter how hard I tried and it was a total waste of both a great restaurant and great company too. I limped to my car slowly and almost fell down in the parking lot.

The pain is right dead center in the knee, right under the kneecap. I made it to Kenosha, WI to do the Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP but that was torture as well, as all I could think of was the pain. I got a motel room and hope it will feel better tomorrow.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cranberry Stomping

Saturday March 6th, 2010 - Cranberry, PA

Totally different vibe onstage tonight. Wow! THIS is the reason I started doing comedy, only dreaming someday I’d be having shows like this. Now I am, and I’m going to take it all in and enjoy every last tiny morsel. No matter what else happens, I’ve lived my dream.

Maybe that initial dream was a little fuzzy, and maybe I was more than a little na├»ve. Or both. I guess I just assumed that having great shows would lead to wealth and fame, but it totally doesn’t. There are so many other things involved besides talent that nobody knows or thinks about at the beginning, and it’s probably good because everyone would just quit.

From the very start, I knew that comedy was a craft. I also knew I wanted to be a master craftsman, and that it would take years to attain that status. I don’t know why I knew that, but I absolutely did. Now I can look back and be extremely proud of myself for not giving up like I’ve seen countless others do along the way. I could have too, but I stayed with it.

Tonight’s show at the Funny Bone was about as hot as a standup comedy show gets. It’s the best feeling in the world when audience and performer are on the same page, and I felt it from the first ten seconds on stage. I knew this was going to be fun, so I dug in and let it rip. I was in perfect time, and prowled the stage knowing I’d be able to make it all work.

Shows like this don’t come along every night, but when they do I’m seasoned enough to be able to recognize it right away and make the most of it. I wasn’t feeling good at all off stage, but the audience doesn’t care about that. They paid their money and a percentage of them didn’t feel that great themselves. They wanted to see a show. I didn’t blame them.

I don’t know how I did it, but I hurt my left knee and it’s excruciating. I must have done something, but I have no idea what. Maybe I twisted it in my sleep or something but I had a hell of a time walking on it all day and it was hell getting in and out of my car. Plus, I’m trying to get over a horrific sore throat and my voice was strained and squeaking all night.

I really didn’t feel like doing a show at all, but there was a full house tonight and among the people there was the owner Jeff Schneider’s wife Laurie. She lived in Milwaukee way back in the beginning when I was just starting, and I ate many a meal at their house at that time. One Thanksgiving I was there with Bill Engvall, as he was at the club that week.

I hadn’t seen Laurie in many years, and she sells real estate now. She brought a group of her friends out specifically to see me, and that made me feel really good. I thanked her for her cooking and generosity all those years ago, and apologized for all the horrific sets she sat through at the beginning when I was beyond horrible. She smiled and gave me a hug.

“Everyone has to start out somewhere, but we ALWAYS knew that you were funny. It’s no surprise you’re doing well, and I wanted to bring my friends to see you.” I almost cried when she said that, and it really meant a lot. She did see me when I started, and she didn’t have to come back all these years later, but she did. And then I went up and kicked ASS.

It was one of those nights when everything went right, and when that happens it’s like a spiritual experience. It almost feels out of body. I read once where great athletes get in the zone where not only do they know where the ball is, they know where it’s GOING to be.

The same feeling applies to this. I not only know what’s working now, I can sense what bits I should do following the one I’m currently doing. I’m in the moment and performing the bit I’m doing, but another part of my mind is sorting through my rolodex of other bits.

It’s odd, but not unpleasurable. I love having the complete control of the whole show at my fingertips and choosing where to take them next. Tonight was one of those nights that they were going to let me, and I could feel their intense silence as they soaked in the show because I’d earned their trust. There are two kinds of silence, and this was the good one.

The opening act this weekend was a very funny 27 year old kid out of New York named Joe Pontillo. I thought he had some very well written funny material and wasn’t a pain off stage either. It was a well booked show where a the acts blended together. It’s frightening how many bookers don’t ever grasp that idea, but Jeff is one of the few who totally does.

I was watching Joe’s set when I saw two people get up and walk out. I know Joe saw it too, but when that happens there aren’t many choices. Talking to them would have drawn attention to it, and there was a possibility of it getting uglier than it already was. The rest of the audience liked him fine, and they didn’t really care if a random couple didn’t agree.

This is a tough situation, and every comedian has to face it at some point. It’s a blow to the ego to have anyone get up and walk out during a performance, and I’ve had it happen to me many times. Anyone who says they haven’t is lying. It just goes with the territory.

I talked to Joe about it after the show and he said it did rattle him at first, and I told him that’s perfectly normal. I also told him he reacted 100% correctly by not saying any nasty comments on the way out and just letting them go. I also told him the reason people leave isn’t always that they didn’t like the show. I have my own personal horror story with that.

I was in New York City a few years ago visiting my friend Ross Bennett. We were club hopping and he had a set to do at another club and gave me the high sign we needed to get going. The bad thing was, I was watching Dave Chappelle at the time and the only way to exit the club was to walk through the audience and it couldn’t be done inconspicuously.

I tried to be as invisible as I could, but Dave immediately drew attention to it and it was very uncomfortable for everybody. I knew it bothered him, and I wanted to explain why it was happening, but I just lowered my head and kept going. It had nothing to do with him.

Joe is a funny kid and he’ll be fine, and as I watched him throw out his lines it sure did remind me of myself twenty years ago when I was trying to find my way in the business. I guess I still am in some ways, but onstage I’ve really come a long way. Dave Chappelle is a lot richer than I am, but as far as sheer satisfaction goes - nobody can touch me tonight.