Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bad Audiences Do Exist

Monday June 28th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

On occasion, every single live performer who ever steps on a stage has to face a horrific audience. It’s part of the game. Eventually the odds dictate that the majority of people in a particular gathering just aren’t going to be a good match. It happens to everyone on every level, even though it usually gets farther apart the longer someone has been performing.

Sometimes the reason for a bad show is the fault of the performer. I’ve had awful shows in front of decent enough audiences over the years, and it was usually my fault. Part of the reason may have been legitimate, like I was tired from traveling or maybe even physically ill with a cold or the flu. Other times, I was just off. My head wasn’t in the same room.

Then there are the times when the full blame falls on the audience. They’re just a bunch of flaming imbeciles, and no matter who’s in front of them they’re not going to be able to break through the brick wall of group stupidity. It’s a bad mix, and that’s that. It’s over.

That’s what happened tonight at Zanies in Chicago. There was no Rising Star Showcase show as per usual because of 4th of July week, one of the slowest of the year. Clubs across the country either close for this week or piece together a low budget show with local acts.

Zanies’ headliner this week is a very funny guy named Tim Clue. Tim is not only funny on a comedy stage, he’s also a brilliant writer, actor and director. He’s a very experienced entertainer, and he knows his way around audiences. He’s my age and has been doing this probably as long as I have. That being said, we both agreed that this audience was a dud.

The format of the show tonight was that I was to open the show with 15-20 minutes and then bring up Tim, who would do about 40 minutes. Then, I’d come back and close it out with 20-30 minutes, depending on how they were. Tim and I are both veterans, and didn’t really care what the format was. We’re both able to handle just about anything by now.

I could tell they were a bad audience in the first five minutes. There’s just a certain vibe that’s in the room, and it was there tonight. I had to work way harder than usual to get any kind of laughs, and when I did there was never a roll. They judged each joke like a jury.

Tim went up and did exactly 40 minutes. He was funny, professional, but hated them as much as I did. He did a fabulous job under the circumstances, and came off stage without letting them know he wasn’t enjoying himself. Only he and I knew how difficult that was, but that’s part of being a professional. Sometimes it’s like this, and it needs to be handled.

Then I had to go back up and close out the show. It wasn’t fun, but I wish I would have taped it so newbies could see how to handle a bad crowd. There was a group of four loud Canadians of all things right up front, and they talked through the entire show. The whole room was out of towners, and keeping them in focus on anything was a chore. We earned our pay tonight, but after the show we weren’t complaining. We were both glad to get the work, especially on 4th of July week. This was a small glitch, but it’s over. On to big stuff.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Class Act Cousin

Sunday June 27th, 2010 - Kenosha, WI

There are only a few members of my family who I’ve ever felt close to, and one of them was born on this day in 1957. His name is Jef Parker and unfortunately he died a slow and painful death from cancer in 2001. He was only 44. That still seems so unfair, even now.

Jef’s father and my grandfather were brothers, so that made us second cousins. Jef had a very unpleasant childhood because his old man was also a lout and a cold hearted ass and in fact his father and my father were very close throughout their lives. It totally figures, as they were cut from the same cloth. Both were horrible fathers and never felt bad about it.

Jef had to endure the torture of bouncing around to different foster homes and was also a ward of the state for a while. He used to tell horrific stories of getting ganged up on, and like me, he didn’t suffer bullies well. Sometimes he’d have to wait weeks or more to pull off his revenge, but he did. Jef was a total dented can, and we were able to bond quickly.

We didn’t meet until I was in my early twenties, when a mutual friend introduced us for the first time. Jef started Collector’s Edge Comics in Milwaukee from scratch. He busted his ass to make it happen, and he did it with ZERO help from the family. I can totally but sadly relate to that feeling. Our blood line is loaded with small timers, goofs and losers.

Jef and I grew very close very quickly, and we hung out often. He was a big brother at a time when I really needed one. He encouraged my show business pursuits, and offered his well thought out advice whether I wanted it or not - but I always did. Jef was on top of it.

We had a mutual admiration society. Both of us knew how our family operated, and for both of us to get where we did despite that was nothing short of miraculous. Jef loved that I wouldn’t accept the fate most of the rest of the kids did, because he wouldn’t either. The fact that even one other person had the guts to buck the system gave us both some hope.

Then his cancer showed up. He fought it to the end, and not only was he courageous, he kept his dignity and class the entire time. We had detailed, in depth, no holds barred talks about life and it’s meaning or lack thereof, or whatever else popped into our heads. I wish we’d recorded them, because they’d usually get pretty deep. I miss those talks, even now.

Jef told me he would send me a signal from beyond if he could. He told me I’d know it was him because he’d make it funny and something special that I’d recognize right away. So far, I haven’t seen anything and that takes wind out of my sail. I know he’d absolutely do it if he could, as would I. So far, nothing. I sure thought I’d have gotten it before now.

I miss Jef more the longer he’s gone. He’d be 53 now, but he still had the heart of a kid. He was older than me by a few years, but we still got along famously. He showed with his own life that dented cans can indeed overcome obstacles, but the dents never go away. He was hurt by his father’s ignorance just like I was, but he pressed on. Jef Parker is my hero. How he’s dead and reptiles like Bernie Madoff and other maggots still live mystifies me.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Doubt Of The Benefit

Saturday June 26th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

Stage fright has never been part of my world, for whatever reason. I have a healthy dose of other problems to keep me occupied, but not that. Going on stage is something I enjoy, not a source of fear or anxiety like I’ve seen it be with others. It’s the highlight of my day.

What does scare me half to death is the fact that I have no health insurance, and I’m one procedure away from total indigence. I share that with many people, not just other comics or performers. It’s a dark cloud hanging over a lot of heads, and I’m sensitive to it daily.

I was scheduled tonight to perform at a benefit show for a comedian I’ve known a long time named Mark Reedy. He’s originally from Cleveland but lived in Chicago for years. I always got along well with Mark, and I’d heard he was having some severe health issues.

Unfortunately, most comedy benefits are complete disasters. They just are. I’ve tried to run them in the past, and lost my ass. I didn’t even make enough to break even much less raise any money for any causes, and no matter how hard I tried to avoid it, someone had a problem with someone else and there ended up being a fight at some point. What a hassle.

That being said, I was originally off and my heart goes out to Mark and everyone else in his position, including me. I’m not immune to having some big issue that needs a medical solution so I wanted to show my support, even though the chances of raising any real cash to help him were slim. I hope I’m totally wrong, but from past experience I’m totally not.

I was all set to commit to the benefit when I received a phone call telling me there was a last minute fallout at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino up in Milwaukee. I just got bumped from there with a double booking a few weeks ago, and I sure could use that money right about now. Plus, it would help the booker and I love playing that venue.

I contacted the other comics on the show and said I had to take the Milwaukee gig, even though I had committed to being part of the benefit. Guaranteed money vs. a random shot in the dark is exactly that - guaranteed. I’ll donate part of my check to Mark to support his cause, and I hope he’s ok with that. I meant no disrespect, but situations pop up at times.

This isn’t the greatest week to be booked for any comedy in or around Milwaukee. This is the week of Summerfest, only the largest continuous music festival in the world. It’s an institution in the Milwaukee area and has been since I was a kid. It’s THE draw in town.

Still, there were people at both shows at the casino, and both audiences were absolutely delightful. Those who were there were there to laugh, and it really was a lot of fun. I love to work this venue, and varied a lot from my normal routine. I wanted to riff with them.

Hopefully, everyone wins here. I helped the booker who was in a pinch, but recovered a week that was double booked recently. I will donate some money to Mark Reedy and was also able to work on material for two audiences of nice people. I don’t see any losers here.

These Kids Today

Friday June 25th, 2010 - Round Lake Beach, IL

Some things are best left unsaid. I sure wish I could have grasped that concept years ago as I’ve screwed myself more than once with something I blurted out, just because it’s how I really felt. That may be true, but it’s not always a good idea to actually speak it out loud.

From some of my earliest memories, I can recall letting my thoughts come flying out of my mouth unvarnished, and seeing people’s facial expressions change drastically. I don’t mean any harm by it and never did. In fact, I always thought it was a form of respect to be able to tell someone something with no B.S. attached. I guess I was wrong. I’m learning.

Tonight was an example of a situation that came up where I kept my mouth shut, and it was a conscious choice on my part. I could have said something, but I chose not to. That’s something I’m getting better at, even though I still think what I think. I kept it to myself.

There was a comedy show at the Round Lake Beach Community Center in Round Lake Beach, IL of all places. Funny they should name it that considering that’s the name of the town. The show was put on by Dan Morris, a young comic who lives in the area and who I was able to take with me to open the shows in Champaign and Freeport, IL last week.

I like Dan. He’s serious about comedy and wants to get better. He’s looking for comedy venues to book in Lake County, and I think it’s great. He found the Community Center on the internet and approached them about doing shows. This is his second attempt and there were maybe 35 people, 40 tops. It wasn’t a huge crowd, but they all came out to have fun.

Dan asked if I wouldn’t mind closing the show, and of course I didn’t. I was off the it’s literally a five minute drive from where I live. He booked some of the younger generation of comics to do it, and although I like the people he booked, a few of them were throwing around a little attitude backstage. I know comedy is difficult, but it’s hard for everyone.

A couple of the comics were moaning a little about the lack of audience, and they were a little cocky for my tastes. It reminded me of a time when I was about that age and I had a similar outburst. I whined about a small audience one night and a veteran comic named T.P. Mulrooney got in my face in front of everyone and told me to shut up and pay dues.

He snapped at me pretty good, and at first I didn’t know how to take it. Then, I knew he was completely right and I apologized to both him and the other comedians in the room at the time, most of whom had been around a lot longer than I had then. T.P. told how being a real comedian does involve doing shows for small audiences and learning to enjoy it.

I wasn’t angry at any of these kids tonight, but I thought about pulling a T.P. and going off on the ones who were bitching in front of the others so everyone could see it and have the benefit of learning a lesson. Comedy IS a struggle, and one has to earn the right to get in front of a sizeable audience. It’s not a birth right. They were indeed lucky to be in such a plush venue as it was. Do your best show for who’s there. But I didn’t. I shut my mouth.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Drifting And Drafting

Thursday June 24th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Boy, do I have a lot of work to do. The more I get done, the more that needs to be done. I sure wish I’d had better vision years ago, I’d be a powerhouse by now. But I didn’t. And I’m not. On second thought, my vision was ok. It was my follow through that was weak.

For whatever failings I may have experienced in life, looking back on it I think it was an absolute lack of leadership that really caused me to drift. My grandfather was a wonderful mentor, but he died six months after I graduated high school. That’s probably the time for the most need for a father figure, but I was all alone in the world and made weak choices.

Granted, sooner or later the blame has to stop about where a person came from, and I’m not going to harp on it any more than I have to. Yeah, I had a few bad breaks, but I had a big hand in blowing a lot of other opportunities all on my own. Part of it was because of a burning inner rage I really didn’t know was there until years later. It affected my choices.

I was always trying to get back at someone or show someone I was good for something, and all that was a gigantic waste of productive time. Nobody cared. Had I been smart and spent my time focused on good things rather than sticking it to others, I’d be a big success rather than sitting here wondering what went wrong. I know I’m not alone in that either.

A lot of people screw up in life, but I think the real trick is how to bounce back and get a second chance. Maybe that’s all part of what we’re here to learn, and if it is I think I am finally discovering my purpose. I really AM learning, even if it comes with a major price.

The only thing that concerns me is if I have enough time left to make any real difference in anyone’s lives. I sure hope so, but I keep seeing all the time I wasted trying to figure all of this out and it crushes my hopes. I feel like I’m just getting started now, when in reality I should have been at this point about twenty years ago. I’m starting the race way too late.

I thought about that as I watched the NBA draft on ESPN tonight. I’m a sucker for those things no matter what the sport. I see all these young kids with high hopes and dreams get their name called, knowing they have NO idea what’s in store for them in the real world.

Most of them have been pampered since grade school, and think the pro career is going to work out without a glitch and they’ll be happy ever after. There have to be thousands of stories of kids that lost it all in just a few years or fizzled out and never made it at all.

Pro sports is probably the only thing even more brutal than show business. Well, it IS a form of show business but it’s different in that once the skills are gone, they’re absolutely gone forever. Comedy and music and acting at least have a little more margin for error.

Some of those kids tonight will get cut or traded or have to play in Europe or get caught up in drugs or booze or who knows what and look back when they’re my age and wonder what they should have done differently. I wish them well, but I‘ve got my own problems.

I thought about that too as I sat around sorting out boxes I’ve been meaning to sort for a long time. I’d been planning on this night for a while, knowing I needed some time alone to just think my life through. I tried to throw as much away as I could, and I’m glad I did.

A lot of it was paperwork and notebooks with unachieved goals written in them. I threw all kinds of papers out that had headers like ‘Goals for 1997’ with ambitious projects that I never got to, and part of that really made me feel like a failure. That time is gone forever and whatever I did instead sure didn’t make up for me not achieving what I had intended.

Part of the reason was that I was either getting fired from radio stations across America or having to testify against my best friend in a bank robbery trial. All of that put a damper on life and clouded even more what was already a blurry vision of what life was about. If I had the clarity of thinking I have now back then, I would be in a totally different place.

But I’m sure a lot of other people say that too. Too bad. We didn’t have that clarity then and that’s why we all did what we did. I for one regret it horribly, but what can I do? Who do I blame besides myself? I can’t blame my grandfather, I’m sure he didn’t want to die.

In a perfect world, he’d have been my mentor through my turbulent twenties and helped me get a grasp for what both the real world and show business were all about. I needed an experienced guide to coach me through the difficulty of getting established, knowing that I had some actual talent that could go to a higher level. I would have had a different life.

C. Cardell Willis was a wonderful showbiz mentor, but no offense to him he wasn’t the big time guy I needed. He gave me all he had and I appreciate it beyond words, but as far as helping me take it to the big time, he couldn’t help me after a certain point. I was once again all by myself, and there’s no way anybody can do it alone. I lacked a higher mentor.

It’s extremely disappointing to think about all this, but it’s true. The only good I can see coming of it is that I’ll hopefully get to be a super mentor to some bright kid coming up in a new generation. I know now what to do, but it took way too long to learn it. Some kid is out there in the same position I was, and if I can offer even a bit of wisdom I‘m happy to.

That kid may not even be born yet, OR, he or she could be reading it right now without me even having a clue. I surely hope so, even if I never know it. That’s the right thing for anyone to do - pass good energy forward. If I can help someone else, I’ll always make it a point to do so. That’s what real giving is all about. I hope others can avoid my mistakes.

I would LOVE to have had the chance to be drafted by any big time pro sports league so I could have felt the thrill of hearing my name called by the commissioner and walk down the aisle smiling from ear to ear with camera lights flashing and TV analysts touting me.

That’s not going to happen, at least in this life. Maybe in a parallel universe I’m a Hall of Famer with a drawer full of championship rings and a fat bank account, but in this life I’ve got to worry about paying rent every month. I hope I learn whatever lessons I need to.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Potawatomi Payback

Wednesday June 23rd, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

I’ve been flapping off a lot lately about how much I need to establish a workable system for staying booked, and I’m finally starting to implement it. The main objective is to have top of mind awareness with as many booking agents as possible, so they think of me first.

It’s very difficult to stay in everyone’s face without being a pest. There are probably too many comedians all trying for the extremely finite amount of work available, and it’s like an online game of musical chairs to get a booking almost anywhere these days. It’s tough.

It was a different kind of tough in the old days, but the numbers game was different too. Back then the hard part was getting a booker on the phone. Once you did though, it could mean a whole chunk of your year was booked, as several bookers had many full weeks of work to pass out. Plus, there weren’t as many people as now all trying for the same work.

There was no internet back then, and that really ended up changing the whole process of booking when it eventually hit. I know I sound like a senile toothless old grand pappy, but it’s true. The internet has turned the booking process into a game of who can answer back an email the fastest when a booker offers open dates. It’s very hard to stay on top of it all.

Also, the amount of work that each booker has to offer has shrunk dramatically so that’s all the more times I have to worry about finding a match. If I could hook up twelve weeks of work with one email, I wouldn’t need to make that many contacts. That’s not how it is anymore, so I have to constantly keep trolling my emails for one week or even one night.

The smart way to do it would be to make a list of every single booker I work for and put together a list of avails and send it to them so they can know when I’m open. That’s not a bad idea nor a complicated one, so one would think I’d have made it a regular part of my life by now, but I just haven’t. There’s no excuse for it, and I’m ashamed I’ve been so lax.

I’ve decided I can’t fix it in one fell swoop, and I can’t. It’s going to take some work to lay a foundation first and build and rebuild relationships with bookers. There are the ones who call me, but they’re not the ones I need to impress. It’s the ones I don’t work for on a regular basis, if at all. They’re the ones I need to let know I’m available without pestering.

A perfect example was the booker of the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee who called me today. I sent him my avails when we had our schedule glitch a few weeks ago and I ended up getting bumped. I wasn’t angry, and just sent him my list of avails and asked him politely to keep me in mind if he had any fallouts. They do occur.

Today I got the call asking me to fill in this Saturday because of a last minute change in someone else’s schedule. Bingo! I lost a week unexpectedly, but I got it right back in just a few weeks simply by letting the booker know I was open. Why don’t I do this with each and every booker I’ve ever worked for? That sounds like a great idea, I should have been doing it years ago. One of these days I’m going to finally get smart. When I do, look out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kipper And Kidders

Tuesday June 22nd, 2010 - Kenosha, WI

Jerry’s Kidders are back together…even if it was only for a single lunch at the Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI. We hadn’t seen each other in way too long, and even though Jerry Agar wasn’t able to join us, it was still great to see the Kidders. We still have a solid chemistry.

The reason we chose the Brat Stop is because it’s in between Milwaukee where Kipper McGee lives and the far south side of Chicago where Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle happen to live. I’m right in the middle so I had the shortest drive of all, and of course I was late.

The guys started busting my chops before I even got a chance to sit at the table, and that reminded us all of why we had so much fun for two years. We enjoyed being on the radio but the lunches and hanging out were always a huge part of the deal. It was our own little tree house, and everyone felt welcome. We all knew immediately how much we miss it.

Kipper McGee was our program director at WLS, and I told the guys then we’d never have such a supportive situation as far as radio goes. Kipper was in our corner and still is. He gave us the chance to grow as a team on the air, and he never squelched the creativity like way too many other clueless control freak program directors love to do. He got us.

It’s such a shame that radio is so trigger happy to fire competent people and allows the goof balls to remain employed. Kipper McGee is a brilliant radio programmer with a soul to boot, and he gets blown out the door of WLS while the corporate honcho named Farid or Farouk or Farout or Feng Shui or whatever his name is continues to ruin the company.

That story is WAY too common in radio, and I’m sick of it as are Kipper and the other Kidders as well. We got booted off the station when Jerry did, and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t still be there. Now he’s had to split up his family and go work in Toronto.

We didn’t dwell too much on the negative though. We knew we don’t get the chance to see each other in one place much anymore so we spent most of our lunch looking back at the fun times we had and laughing uproariously. There were some real moments with us.

We also talked about how we can keep the project going. It’s a lot of fun to sit around a studio and fire off lines about news stories of the week, and when we were on our game it was pure electricity. None of us want it to end like this, but what do we do to reignite it?

Jerry is going to be in Toronto for the foreseeable future, and that’s just how it is. We’re not angry, we all know he needs to turn a buck. We all do. How can we do it with a show that does current events jokes for an hour each week? That’s a tall order and we know it.

Still, there’s no reason we can’t reinvent ourselves and that’s what we bounced around the table. Kipper knows a lot of people in radio, and he still believes in us as a team. He’s of the opinion we should try to stay on in Chicago, and we all agree. But where? WGN is the logical choice, but Jerry hasn’t been on so neither have we. Still, it was a fun lunch.

Tweaking Uranus

Monday June 21st, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Ask and ye shall receive. I discovered a listing website where radio talk show hosts are able to troll for guests that match the format of their show. It only took a few hours of me having listed The Mothership Connection show on WLIP to get deluged with requests for interviews from Bigfoot hunters to a dentist who claims he chats regularly with aliens.

I received 35 emails in about twelve hours, with no end in sight. One after another, I got pitched by authors and publishing houses and managers all trying to get their clients some air time. I’ll give it to them too, but not only that I’ll make solid connections I can use for future reference. I love talking about all these topics and I need to carve myself a niche.

Having a Sunday night show for four hours isn’t a bad start, but it isn’t the end all be all either. What I need to do is find a way to combine my comedy skills with my radio skills, and then create a network of people who will pay me for both. I think it’s totally possible.

I know what I’m doing on the air, and I know what I’m doing on stage. I’ve got years of hard earned experience in both areas. Now, the trick is to create my own unique show that allows me to shine at what I do best. That doesn’t mean I need to be the main focus all the time, but I do want to be in the position where I’m driving the bus…or the Mothership.

I’ve talked about doing this before, but it’s not as easy as just deciding to and then it’s a done deal. It would take a lot of calculated changes, and I’m not so sure it’s the right time for that just yet. I need to still be versatile for at least a little while so I can stay employed by mainstream bookers. That’s where my work is right now so why should I put it at risk?

Sending out promotional material to comedy clubs as ‘The King of Uranus’ could be an unbelievably stupid move, or it could be the most brilliant marketing tactic of the 2000’s. Personally, without any media hype I think it would be completely stupid. This has to get attention before any shows see the light of day, and that’s a lot different than just comedy.

The whole point of everything is that I’m getting a strong message it’s time to reinvent myself (or at least part of myself) as The King of Uranus and let it start growing. It won’t be without lumps and bumps and wrinkles and glitches, but what isn’t? I need to just get off my asteroids and DO this project. It’s a calculated crapshoot, but I think it will work.

I already see it working. People beep and wave and give me a thumbs up for my Uranus bumper sticker and license plate on my car, and it’s not even that great a car. It’s a big old tub of rusting Toyota, but I see smiles light up people’s faces in my mirror each and every day. Kids get it. Adults get it. Even cops get it. Now I need to just let go and let it happen.

This is a point at which all entertainers tend to lose confidence. It’s a whole new way of doing things, and old habits die hard. But, some entertainers realize that what they’d been doing for years isn’t going to get any bigger, and the only way to fight it is to reshuffle the deck and play a new hand. That’s where I am now, but I really don’t know how exactly.

What I do know is that some ingredients are in place. I have a gimmick in The King Of Uranus, even though it’s not fully developed. I also have a radio show with a growing line of strange and unusual people asking me to be on it. That alone seems to be a major plus.

I really enjoy doing the radio show, because it’s exactly what I want to be talking about. I’m in charge, and everyone knows it. Like Johnny Carson though, I encourage everybody to have their moment in the sun, and I’m secure enough in myself to let it happen. I really want people to shine, because in the end we all win. That’s what makes a show stand out.

Coast to Coast AM is the real Mothership as far as shows like this go, and I’m a big fan. I’m not trying to take over or compete or do anything like that. I’d love to be a guest on it at some point, maybe even a fill in host, but that’s about it. Our show is a cross between a morning show and Coast to Coast AM, and has a different feel. We‘re an ensemble show.

In a perfect world, we’d be on every night as a warmup act for Coast to Coast AM and I think it would be a perfect fit. We could be a little lighter in spirit and prepare listeners to go all the way off when the big show comes on. I’d love to have comedians on and people like George Clinton who would be fascinating to talk to on the air. That would be a kick.

Is there a demand for an every day show like this? I don’t know, and right now I’m just trying to fill the four hours a week I’ve got with as many interesting people as I can locate on a shoestring budget. So far it’s been very good but now I think I’ve hit the mother lode and we can take it to a whole new level. I’d love to develop a world wide cult following.

The key is to mix everything together though. I can’t afford to keep all these projects as individual entities, or I’ll not have enough time to do any of them. If I’m going to be The King of Uranus, that has to be both a comedy character and my persona as the host of the radio show. It also has to be a spokesperson for Uranus Factory Outlet and all that entails.

That will hopefully involve funny commercials selling funny products from t-shirts to greeting cards to whoopee cushions to joke items of all kinds. It will be the 21st Century version of Colonel Sanders, only instead of selling fried chicken it will be rubber ones.

Colonel Sanders became a walking brand name, logo and spokesman all rolled into one. He had a killer slogan and a unique look and everything fell together. He always wore his white suit with a black string tie, and everyone knew him. What will I wear as the King of Uranus? A cape? A crown? A cod piece? Who knows? I don’t. Not yet. But I’ll find out.

Part of this is scary as hell, but another part is the most amazing adventure I could ever think of. Building something out of nothing has always been of interest, and it still is. I’ve never really had any major success, but the few things I did do have been very satisfying.

I’m starting to see the big picture in my head with all this. The radio show will feed the King of Uranus character, which will boldly find comedy where no man has gone before. Even if this whole thing is a flaming disaster, I’ll have great stories to tell for many years.

Questioning The Big 'G'

Sunday June 20th, 2010 - Kenosha, WI

I’m in another one of my ‘What the hell if anything at all does life mean?’ moods again. It’s still a mystery why the human race exists, and the more I think about it the more I am baffled to the bone. There HAS to be some kind of meaning to all of this, doesn’t there?

Nope. There really doesn’t. Who said any of this has to make any sense at all other than random old chance that has come together to make all of our lives a living, breathing ugly ride for as long as we’re stuck on this water drenched pebble drifting through the dregs of the universe, hoping to cross paths with a cosmic clue. So far, I don’t think we found one.

I know I haven’t. I look around the world, or at least the one I’m in, and see nothing but injustice, insanity and incredible stupidity. Nobody seems to be figuring anything out, and I can’t understand why if there is anything close to resembling what God may be won’t be so frustrated that He doesn’t wipe us out, come up with a better blueprint and start again.

But here we all are, floating through this life plane without a hint as to the why of it all. Personally, the longer I float the farther away from any kind of God presence I seem to be feeling. I wish that weren’t so, but it’s true. I have serious doubts as to the existence of an all seeing, all knowing single being that keeps track of how many times I break His laws.

If God made us all in an image of Himself, then He must be imperfect too. Wouldn’t it make sense? It seems like there are a lot of holes in the God story, and as I get older I feel like I’ve been had. I believed it with all my heart as a kid, but that doesn’t make any of it true. I believed in Santa Claus with all my heart too, and also pro wrestling. I’m a sucker.

So are millions and billions of other humans, and I have to believe if there was a God as we were taught, wouldn’t all this be cleared up by now? We’re all supposed to believe the story that a random guy named Jesus came here via miraculous birth only to eventually be killed in place of every other human who ever lived because we all broke laws He didn’t.

Doesn’t that sound a bit far fetched? Sorry, it just does. I never thought to question any of it as a kid, I just believed it. They always lay the whole “Just have faith” line on us and that’s supposed to be enough. Well, it isn’t enough anymore. I guess I’m either a budding atheist or a strong agnostic, and those were hideous words back when I was growing up.

I want to know the truth, as most of us do. What’s the deal? Why are there so many bad things happening to good people if God is supposed to be in charge? Why can’t any of us see Him during this lifetime? One glimpse would make everyone believe without a glitch. I’m not trying to be blasphemous or anything else but telling the truth of what I’m feeling.

I’m sorry, ‘Just have faith’ my ass. I wish I did, but I totally don’t. What does that say of me? Am I a bad person for thinking that? I try very hard to be a good one actually, but it’s just not clicking with the God story after thoroughly examining it objectively over my life and trying to make heads or tails of it all. If I have to fry in hell for it, then I guess I do.

But that doesn’t seem right either, does it? Supposedly according to many sources hell will be packed full of unbelievers, infidels, evil doers and those that fall short of a loving God who likes to pass out free passes to an eternal party if we only do things the way that a certain group of people says to do it. IF we do that, then we get a pass to the big party.

If not, we’re destined to spend the rest of a never ending eternity chained up in a big old barbecue pit getting tortured by fire along with the opposite of God, a spirit who’s got lots of power himself, but just short of the power God has. It sounds like a big sibling rivalry.

It also sounds like a major crock now that I think about it, but this story line has been a big part of scaring people in line for thousands of years. It’s worked great for Christianity, Judaism, Islam and all the rest. The masses believe blindly in something they never think to question, to the point of killing other people over it. What a great job of salesmanship.

It’s almost a bigger version of Ford vs. Chevy or Coke vs. Pepsi. Our invisible being of assumed power and omnipotence who’s all about love and peace is greater than yours, but if you try to dispute it - we’ll kill you and your whole damn generation. That’ll prove it.

We’ve all got a whole lot of learning to do, myself included. Hopefully at some point it will all make sense, just like the end of the old TV show ‘To Tell The Truth’. All kinds of BS was thrown around on that show from several sources, but in the very end the real one finally stood up and we all found out the real story. I sure hope that happens in this life.

Hopefully, when we die we get to learn the real reason for all of this and hopefully get a chance to laugh about it with someone like one big episode of Punk’d or Candid Camera. Mean bosses and psychotic ex spouses would come out from behind a curtain laughing as they winked and said “Hey, GOTCHA!” Then we’d all hug and go on about our business.

All that brings me right back to my original question - what the hell IS ‘our business’ of being here at all? It all seems so random and unplanned. We get here and don’t even have a clue of what life is until it’s almost over. Then, we start thinking of how good we had it when we didn’t know we did, but by then it’s too late to go back and take advantage of it.

Then, I look around at the beauty on this planet and think some kind of a plan had to be in place to create all of that with such precision. The mountains and oceans and animals are all spectacular creations of breathtaking beauty, but I want to know or what made us breathe in the first place in order to take that breath later. Why are we experiencing this?

Of course, I won’t get my answer until after I die, if at all. Maybe this is one stretched out nightmare, and I’m the only one feeling it. If nothing else, it sure makes me a better radio host on ‘The Mothership Connection’ radio show on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. We had a strong show tonight with all four hours packed up with interesting guests.

What’s the absolute unvarnished real truth? I still don’t know, but at least I’m trying to make an attempt to find it. Here’s hoping it’s all one big joke and I’ll laugh at the end.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Freeport Fever

Saturday June 19th, 2010 - Freeport, IL

Sometimes it all just works out. When that happens, nothing else matters. Problems and everything else seem far away. Time stands still. When it clicks on stage, there’s a feeling of ecstasy that I’ve never been able to match with anything else. I totally felt that tonight.

This was the last place I ever thought I’d feel it. I was booked in Freeport, IL to work at some sleazy roadhouse looking joint that was between ownership and didn’t even have a name. I don’t think I’d ever experienced that before. It was set off the road on the edge of ‘town’, whatever that was. Actually, I never saw any town. I’m lucky I was able to find it.

The paint was peeling on the building and there was an unpaved parking area that had a mixture of mud, stones and weeds that made me immediately think about turning the car around and going home. It looked like the stereotypical hell gig scenario. I‘ve done many.

Still, the lot was jammed full of cars and I had to drive around to the back of it to find a parking place in some tall weeds. I drove out with the opening act Dan Morris, and had to drop him off at the door because we were running late. Showtime was scheduled for 8:00 and this was one of the very few venues I’ve ever seen that made a point to start on time.

Usually the itinerary isn’t even close to the actual starting time, but tonight it apparently was a priority to be punctual. I had been on the phone with the owner the whole way there and we fought construction and detours the whole way. We ended up arriving at 8:20, but the last hour was very stressful trying to see if we could get there on time. What a hassle.

I suppose I could have left earlier, but the booker asked if I wouldn’t mind skipping the hotel to save the club owner a few bucks and I said yes. I didn’t find it necessary to spend extra time in Freeport, IL if I didn’t have to. No offense to anyone, I was there to get paid.

The club owner was a very nice lady named Christy who was also working as a waitress running trays full of drinks out to the customers. The show area was packed full of a mix of age groups, but none of them looked like hicks or bumpkins. It wasn’t what I expected.

The opening act Dan Morris did his time, and it was just ok. He’s a nice kid and starting out and doesn’t have experience with this kind of situation yet. He did a trooper’s job just making sure his time was covered. I’ve been there and know just how difficult it can be.

They took a ten minute break before me, which is always a red flag, but I decided not to bitch about it. It wasn’t Caesars Palace and I know Christy needed to sell drinks to pay us so I didn’t want to stop that process. I sat and patiently waited for them to all file back in.

Christy kept trying to prod me and said things like “Geez, I hope you’re funny. I’ve got a full house here and it sure would be great if they liked you.” I faked worry and said “I’m hoping I’m funny too. Am I supposed to have this stuff memorized? I’m feeling a little bit rusty. Maybe I could write it on my hands or something.” She didn’t find that funny at all.

I guess I can’t blame her. There was a full house in there and it was Saturday night and Freeport was hopping. This was her chance to make a buck, and I don’t fault anybody for doing that, especially when hard work is involved. It’s hard to get people in the door but she did, and however she did it I’m sure wasn’t easy. I’d probably be a little worried too.

There was a good feeling in the room the whole night, even if it wasn’t the best venue. I could feel the people’s energy as I sat in the back of the room, and that comes from years of feeling energy from all kinds of audiences. Sometimes it’s a match, and tonight was it.

I knew exactly what to do from the first five seconds. No offense to Dan, but he just did his act. Granted, that’s what he was hired to do but that’s not what an audience like this is looking for. Most of them have never seen comedy before and don’t know what to expect.

In situations like this, it’s a good idea to comment on something about the room so as to bond with them right away. It doesn’t take much, but it’s very effective. A few jabs at the shabby paneling or Christmas lights up in June did it, and I had them from the beginning.

Then there was a lady in the front row, probably in her 50s, who was talking to the lady sitting next to her. Instead of scolding her, I leaned down and told her I could hear her and warned her not to tell any dirty jokes or I’d tell her pastor. I know it’s corny, but that’s the way to train them to listen without flipping out. It’s not their fault, they’re new to all this.

I also knew I had to ‘work big’ because there was inferior stage lighting. I slowed down as much as I could and used a lot of gestures and acted out my punch lines way more than I usually do, but that’s what was called for tonight. It worked great, and I knew it would.

Also, throwing in local references was a huge hit. It usually is in situations like this and I did it as much as humanly possible. The town of Monroe, WI is just over the border and maybe five miles away, and the name of their high school teams are the ‘Cheese Makers’.

Come on, how hard is that to make fun of? People from both states were in attendance, and that’s another easy angle to exploit. I was more of a summer camp counselor than an actual standup comedian, but that’s what they wanted. I gave it to them and they loved it.

I did about an hour an ten minutes, and I had a bunch of material left over afterwards. It wasn’t about that tonight. It was about being an entertainer. Big difference. I used any and all tricks I knew to keep the energy going, and it worked perfectly. I‘ve learned my craft.

What made this show so fun was that I had to be in the moment the entire time I was up there. I didn’t know what I’d need to do next, and that focused my attention like a laser so I’d always have to be thinking two or three moves ahead. It was like a mental chess game.

That’s a huge challenge and I love it, especially when it goes like it did tonight. No, it’s not the kind of joint I want to do regularly anymore, but it was a payday in the summer to entertain some very nice people who enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoyed them in return..

Friday, June 18, 2010

Preparing To Prepare

Friday June 18th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

No gig tonight but that’s ok. I’m working tomorrow, and then the summer tumbleweeds come rolling in. July is very dry, and August is weak too. Then things pick up again in the month of September on many levels. I’ve got some comedy work, classes, a week of good networking in Las Vegas and I’ll settle in for the big ‘Schlitz Happened!’ one man show.

October is looking pretty good too. I’ve got ‘Schlitz Happened!’ booked a few places so I’ll hopefully be able to establish a little roll, and I haven’t even gotten my dates from any of my staple places like Zanies, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Ann Arbor and Kansas City.

I also am working on some online comedy writing classes with both Bill Gorgo and also Linda Perret and have been hired to teach comedy at one of the big community colleges in the Chicago area. Not only that, I’m looking at releasing another comedy CD October 1st.

That’s a lot to prepare for, not to mention Uranus Factory Outlet and some of the rest of the ideas that are rolling around in my head. This is the time to crank out as much as I can because I’m not getting any younger. Old age will find me long before I want it to, so this is the time to get it all done. I’m under the gun and it’s up to me to get ready on my own.

This is going to require a lot of self discipline, something I’ve not always been good at. I’m ok with working on things, but I usually like to do it how I want and when I want. It’s going to take a view of a much bigger picture to get things done on a higher level, which I really want to do. I don’t just want to drift off into the sunset. I want to have a battle plan.

Woody Allen is a perfect example of someone who just keeps working. His films might not be for a mass audience, but he keeps making them and he has enough fans that keep it economically feasible. I’ve read where he’s already sketching out the next film as he does the one at hand. He’s developed a great work ethic and his lifelong body of work is vast.

George Clinton is another example. He’s almost 70 and still continues to tour, even if it is out of financial necessity. That’s not why he does it, and that’s not why Woody does it either. They’re artists, and that’s what they do. Money is a sidelight. It’s all in the doing.

I feel that way to a certain extent, but money sure would be nice. In my opinion. George Clinton should be filthy rich, along with a lot of his cohorts. He was behind an empire of spectacular creativity that continues to shine brilliantly today. They’re not an oldies act.

What I need to do is be absolutely ready when ‘the call’ comes. What is it? When will it come? Who will be on the other end of the phone? I don’t know any of those answers, but I don’t have to. All I need to do is be ready. When I get another chance, I’ll be prepared.

I was able to do the Craig Ferguson show and not embarrass myself. That’s great. Now, it’s time to take that farther. I’ve got to be ready for another one. And another after that. If I focus on survival only, that’s all I’ll ever do. I need to create a bigger picture of success.

Star Child Passes

Thursday June 17th, 2010 - Champaign, IL

Fans of comedians pale by far in comparison to fans of musicians. I’ve never had even one fan throw any panties toward the stage or pass out when I walked past them. I haven’t seen it with any other comedian either, and I’ve been around a lot of them. It’s not reality.

Music is different. I’ve seen rabid fans of all kinds of music sleep out overnight in front of a ticket office hoping to see a favorite band. There are packs of nomadic people touring across country hawking cheap trinkets and LSD so they can scrape up scratch to gawk at a remnant of The Grateful Dead. I doubt if even one fan has ever walked a mall to see me.

That being said, I’m a fan too. I like George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, and it’s been a life long pursuit. I’m sure Elvis and Beatles fanatics are the same, as are rabid fans of Led Zeppelin, Springsteen, Kiss, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks or just about anyone.

It almost becomes a way of life. One gets to know the band’s music first, but then it’s a constant piecing together of bits of information, trivia, news, rumor, hearsay and nuggets compiled from various sources that combine to produce a body of knowledge about every facet of someone’s favorite band. I don’t think it’s anywhere close to that with comedy.

I’ve always read up on what’s going on with the P-Funk, and since there’s been such an enormous amount of members constantly going in and out, there’s usually some kind of a storyline going on somewhere. Plus, I’ve seen them live so many times I feel like I’m part of the band myself. Everyone has their favorites in every field, and in music this is mine.

It was especially sad to hear of the passing earlier this week of one of the band’s iconic members who has been highly visible since 1972 named Garry ‘Star Child’ Shider. He is known for appearing on stage dressed only in a diaper, but he was also the music director of the band, and co-wrote some of their biggest hits including ‘Atomic Dog’ and others.

Casual fans knew him only as ‘the diaper guy’, but he was a huge part of the live shows and had a big part in the history of it all. George Clinton is so charismatic that he tends to take most of the attention, but the whole group is loaded with talent. I’ve seen them when they’re ‘on’, and there’s nothing like it. I’m sorry Garry will be gone, and he was only 56.

I did a show tonight in Champaign, IL at a sports bar that has a really nice upstairs stage facility. This was their first night, but nobody planned on a game seven of the NBA Finals when they decided to do comedy a few months ago. That, on top of it being summer drew a crowd of maybe 25 in a room that seats 250. Not only that, they all sat in the back rows.

Is this what comedy is coming down to? I sure hope not. I don’t want to see anyone lose money, but I’m sure they did tonight - at least with our show. The downstairs was full for the game, but that’s not the answer. The trick is to get people in the door to make comedy pay for itself and turn a profit. Starting in the summer probably doesn’t help either. It’s an uphill climb in the north. People want to be outside in the warm weather. I know I do too.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Detour de Force

Wednesday June 16th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

Keeping my bookings straight is like trying to organize a swarm of bees. I thought I’d at least try to narrow it down to Wednesdays for now, but that’s not happening. Something’s always coming up, and today it was a call from my cousin Brett in Milwaukee who has an unexpected vacation from his job this week. He’s always worth the trip, so I drove there.

Brett is very creative and a great sounding board. He’s the only other left handed person in our family, so in many ways we think alike. But, he’s also got a very logical side and is often able to come up with an angle I haven’t thought of. Plus, he makes me laugh as hard as any human being on Earth, including comics. He’s sick, twisted, dark - and I love it.

He could have easily been a very good comic had he wanted, but chose to be a carpenter instead. That’s his passion, and he spent a lifetime learning his craft like I did mine. Now he teaches at the union training center in Milwaukee so our lives are taking a similar path.

I wanted to talk to him about how he teaches, and he said he’s a maverick like I am as it doesn’t always have to go by ‘the book’, whatever that is. He breaks tradition all the time, and his students either love him or hate him. I’m the same way, and we both loathe idiots.

I’m already behind on my booking process, so another week wouldn’t really make a big difference. It wouldn’t make any difference at all. Nobody knows I’m way off but me, and I’m the only one that says so. But it’s true, and eventually I really have to turn this around and be a lot more organized. I’m getting work, but not nearly at the level I know I can get.

Brett and I discussed that and a lot of other things over a Red Lobster dinner, and it was worth the drive on many levels. The food was outstanding, and it was a great opportunity to both reflect and look ahead. Any family relationship I can nurture is important to me.

Brett and his sister didn’t get along very well as kids, and they too spent time in silence. Eventually, they patched it up and it took work on both sides. They still communicate in a civil manner today, even though she moved out of town years ago. They both work at it.

That’s all I wanted with my sister too, but at this point I’ve written it off. We discussed it at dinner and then it occurred to both of us on the way home we were near Mitchell St. where my father’s house was. We decided to drive by and see the condition it was in, and to our surprise it was vacant and boarded up. It looked like it was a condemned building.

Maybe it was. The neighborhood has really gone down, not that it was great in the first place. It looked surreal to see it abandoned, with windows busted out and others boarded up. I don’t have happy memories of that place at all, and I wanted to burn it to the ground.

My old man rode with the Milwaukee Outlaws, and I remember bikers congregating on the front porch when I was a kid and scaring the neighbors half to death. Now all of that’s over, and good riddance. I heard their new leader got arrested today. It didn’t bother me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tammy's Silent Treatment

Tuesday June 15th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

Today is my sister Tammy’s birthday. Even though she hasn’t spoken to me in going on 18 years now, I still remember. I’m sure she knows mine is in March too. This situation is completely stupid in my opinion, but after all these years I have no idea of how to fix it.

I’ve tried many times to make peace through other family members, including her own kids. I’ve tried writing letters and I really meant it when I said I was sorry. I never thought it would last this long, and it’s to the point now where none of my siblings speak to me.

I’m not claiming I was perfect, and never have. Yes, I blew up at her and I deeply regret it, but that was a different time. I don’t even want to go back there in my head, but I made a major mistake and I claim it 1000%. I’m not proud of what I did, but I was in a situation where I needed some help and she wouldn’t give it to me. I snapped out of gut reaction.

That happens to a lot of siblings, but to have an 18 year silent treatment seems just a tad harsh. She didn’t even give me a chance to explain why I did what I did. I’m not saying it would have justified it, but at least I did have a legitimate reason and it wasn’t her. I had a lot of overwhelming things going on in my life then that she had no idea were happening.

Had I had a chance to explain myself, I really think any reasonable person would see the circumstances for what they were, and move on. I know I would have. The punishment in my opinion was WAY more than the crime, and it’s festered into one big nasty old tumor.

Our family situation was never good, and Tammy and I were never close. We’re just two different people, and I’m even fine with that. I just resent the fact that she continues to be this way when I have repeatedly tried to settle it so we can all move on and begin to heal.

I made mention of it on my Facebook page this morning and responses have come in by the truckload. I’ve heard from more people about this than any other single post I’ve ever made. I knew I wasn’t the only one who’s experiencing this, but it’s more than I thought.

Mine is only 18 years, but I’ve heard from people well over twenty and even thirty. The human condition stays the same, so I knew my situation wouldn’t be unique. I don’t get it why there has to be so much coldness involved. We’re supposed to be helping each other.

I’m not one of those people who refuse to take blame. I had an aunt like that and I never once heard her say she was wrong. Now she’s dead and nobody misses her. My father did the same thing. Maybe Tammy is like that too. Eventually, we’re all going to be dead and I can’t think of one good reason for any of this. It’s to the point of starting to piss me off.

I screwed up. I’m sorry. How else can I say it? I guess I’m not looking for a relationship because I wouldn’t know what to say to her. She wanted it this way. It’s spread to the rest of the siblings, and it seems to be unfixable. We are who we are, but I think it’s necessary for us all to get a chance to heal from our hellish childhoods. This isn’t the way to do that.

Uranus Is Calling

Monday June 14th, 2010 - Louisville, KY/Indianapolis, IN/Chicago, IL

Up early and on the road this morning, as I needed to go from Louisville to Indianapolis for a lunch with Greg Phelps, my friend who did my CD replication on Hard Luck Jollies. His website is www.tridigitalsolutions.com should you need audio or video duplication.

Eventually, I hope to do many more products with him and I wanted to discuss some of the options I’ll have when the time comes. Plus, he’s just a good guy. I’ve known him for 25 years now, and he’s always been a good friend. He chose to be a family man, and he’s a good one, but part of him is still living the road life adventure vicariously through me.

One question he and many of my other friends I don’t see all the time always ask with a gigantic grin on their face is “How’s Uranus?” That’s one project I’ve managed to just let poop out at exactly the wrong time, pun intended. I’m getting a clear message to restart it.

I hadn’t really been out on the road much lately, and this whole week I’ve been getting a lot of people honking and waving at my ’I (heart) Uranus’ bumper sticker, which matches my ’URANUS 1’ license plate. That’s happened before, but not like this week. I’ve had a lot of people roll down their windows and yell “I love Uranus!” and giggle like a hyena.

I know I’ve got something with this idea, but I’m just not following through. Maybe it’s a fear of success, or maybe I just don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Maybe it’s a combo platter, but I just know there’s some kind of magical power in the whole Uranus concept.

Now I have to find out exactly what that is. I need to create that concept clearer, first for my own mind, then to others. I know I want it to be a line of products, but there’s more to it than that. I want to create a concept people can belong to, a social club. Club Uranus!

Everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE I’ve told about this idea has smiled and instantly gotten the joke. Before I left, I knew I’d been letting this idea get away from me, so I sent my web person Mark Huelskamp final payment in full for his work on the site. It’s almost ready, and has been for months. It’s about 9/10ths completed, but that’s just not enough.

I don’t have a good reason why I haven’t done more. I just don’t. I’m not going to try to analyze it or beat myself up for it. I’m going to DO it. I’m going to BECOME the King of Uranus, even though I don’t exactly know all the details of what that is. I do know it’s the most sheer fun I’ve ever had, and I haven’t even fully developed it yet. This is a winner.

Who else gets people of all ages, sizes and colors rolling down car windows to give the thumbs up sign and say “I love Uranus?” I also see people snapping pictures of the sticker and plate combo, and I caught several people doing it today. I can just feel that it’s time.

Mark Huelskamp sent me an email thanking me for my payment and suggesting we get together next week and just get the site up and running. Period. That would be a huge step forward, and a shot of espresso to my self esteem. It looks like my future lies in Uranus.

It also lies in teaching some sort of comedy and/or comedy writing classes. I’m getting all kinds of inquiries from all kinds of sources and that’s a good thing too. I can see a big demand starting up again, and that usually happens when Last Comic Standing returns to television each season. If that drums up business for me, then I guess it’s not bad after all.

Bill Gorgo and I met up with a guy who is interested in helping us market a writers only class in the Chicago area. We’ve taught several of those over the years, and they’ve been smashing successes. There are a lot of people who are interested in just writing and never going on stage, and we were able to come up with enough exercises to make them happy.

Gene Perret’s daughter Linda and I had been talking about an online course possibility, and that’s not dead yet either. Plus, I’m going to be teaching this fall at a local community college in the Chicago area that will take my visibility even higher with the masses. I may not be doing that much road work in the near future, but that doesn’t mean I won’t work.

This is exactly the kind of life I want. If it turns out like I plan, I’ll have multiple stream income flowing in from everywhere, but still get to do fun things I really enjoy. Uranus is a mail order concept, and I can move that anywhere I choose. I can also teach classes both live and online from anywhere I choose as well. These are two very solid income makers.

Wait, I think that’s wrong. They’re very solid POTENTIAL income makers. I’ll have to develop both of these ideas a lot more, but I know it’s worth it. Comedy classes will bring money back the quickest, only because I’ve got years of experience under my belt doing it successfully. The bugs are worked out of the product, now I need to successfully sell it.

Uranus Factory Outlet is a much bigger concept, and that will take a lot more work for a payoff, but it will be huge if I can pull it off. In a way, I already did. My tiny bit of market research tells me I’ve got a huge hit on my hands, and people don’t even know what it IS yet. I don’t know exactly what it is yet, other than it’s going to be a test of my creativity.

I’m feeling up for both challenges, but none of this is going to be easy. I’m getting older and I can feel that too. I’m not the young buck that used to be able to pull all nighters and drive across country and still be stage fresh. Those days are gone. Now I need to conserve energy and spend it wisely. The game has changed, as have my own personal strengths.

On top of all this, I received an email from the booker of cruise ships today offering me a week of work this coming week. I know a few comics who do the ships, and one put my name in the mix with a booker he knows. Supposedly, it’s decent pay and all I have to do is two different thirty minute sets in a week - one family friendly and one ‘nightclub’ set.

I could do that in my sleep, and if the pay is good I’m going to have to really consider it seriously, at least for a while until I can clean up my finances. It’s a great problem to have and I’m grateful for the recommendation. She asked me to send avails so she could try me out sometime this summer, and I know I can do the job so I’ll do that. First it’s dead, now I’ve got more going on than I can handle. Why is that? I don’t know, but busy is better.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ending On A High Note

Sunday June 13th, 2010 - Louisville, KY

And now it’s all over. There’s always a tiny twinge of sadness at the end of every road week that goes well, and I can feel it now. The friendships are put on hold until next time through town, and some of the people I hung out with while I was here I won’t see again.

This was a very good week as far as getting along with everyone went. I didn’t have an issue with anyone on stage or off, and even the heckling situation was a non issue. There wasn’t even one drunken outburst the entire week, and I think that’s some sort of record.

I still give credit for the positive comedy vibe in this town to Tom Sobel. He’s had this city and area under his control for going on thirty years. He really likes comedy and we’re not just pieces of meat to him. He treats comics with respect and he’s one of the few who I really trust when it comes to a booker. I’ve never had an issue with payment even once.

Tom allowed the Louisville comedy scene to grow into a healthy one, and it’s evolving into a new generation of comedy that I hope continues to grow. The new owner Darrell is a good guy, and we got alone fine all week. I hope he can continue the tradition for years.

Tonight’s show was a fundraiser for Catholic charities and most of the audience wasn’t into comedy at all. They were a little older and I could tell they were a bit tight, so I had a difficult task ahead of me. There were guest sets and the host went long, so when I got up they were already tired. I had all I could do to both hold their attention and get laughs too.

I slowed it down considerably, and went with my years of experience. I told slow stories with animated expressions and didn’t flinch when they didn’t get big laughs. I kept doing it until they caught up with my rhythm, and I closed very strong. I wouldn’t have had any clue how to do that just a few years ago, but that’s where my years of experience pay off.

I knew those people weren’t there to see me. I also knew it didn’t matter if they thought I was funny or not. They made their money with the fundraiser, and all I really needed to do was finish out my time without offending anyone. I kept it clean and passed that test.

After the show I received all kinds of flattering comments from the wait staff and door people and just about everyone who worked at the club all week. They said they liked my act and that I was easy to deal with and low maintenance and that’s exactly what I love to hear. I don’t want to be anything but a sweetheart, and it’s really nice to hear them say it.

But now it’s over. Hopefully I’ll be back here again, but who knows? It was quite a few years since the last time I was here, for whatever reason. Nobody was angry or anything at all like that. It just worked out that this was the week where we were able to hook it up.

We’ll all go on our ways, and hopefully in the future the opportunity will arise for me to return to Louisville again. This is one of my favorite places, and they seem to like me too. I appreciate everyone this week from Tom to Darrell to the staff to the customers as well.

Focusing On The Fun

Saturday June 12h, 2010 - Louisville, KY

All kinds of fun today, and it reminded me why I’ve spent my life as a road comic. I got to teach a three hour seminar at The Comedy Caravan that went extremely well. Teaching is a lot of fun, especially when the students are interested, which they were. Time flew by.

My friend Adam White is the one who put this together. He teaches his own class at the club, but I don’t mind because he’s a lifer in comedy. I’ve known Adam almost since he’s been an open miker, and it’s great to see his growth both onstage and off. He moved up to Chicago for a while to study improv and do comedy, and I helped him settle in up there.

Now, all these years later, he’s moved back to the Louisville area and has taken over as the guy when it comes to classes and mentoring the new comics. Good for him, they’re in excellent hands. Adam cares, and it shows. I helped the right guy, and now it‘s paying off.

Adam has a web whiz kid partner named Jordan Cooper who helps put his class on line. That’s totally what I need, and we talked about it after the seminar. There were people of all ages and interest levels, and everyone got along. They asked good questions and I saw that they were serious about the comedy business. That makes it worth everyone’s time.

I’d love to do these all over the country. I saw a wide range of people come out for this, many of them in their 40s and 50s who either tried comedy and got away from it or have always wanted to try but never did. I’ll bet there are THOUSANDS of those types around.

The buzz of the seminar hadn’t worn off yet, and it was time to do more comedy shows. That’s why I’m here, so I enjoyed every minute of all of them. We did three shows but the time flew and it didn’t seem like that at all. I leaned into it and gave it my very best effort.

The second show is the ‘money show’ of the week. Usually there are no comps for that one and it’s what pays the bills. We had about 120, which is very good for a muggy night in June, They were nice people, but about halfway through I noticed I had to really work a lot harder than I’d been working to keep their attention. They just got tired, and I felt it.

They weren’t mean and I don’t think they stopped enjoying themselves, it just seemed a little strange to have such an energy switch right in the middle of a show. I kept on going, and took it as a personal challenge to bring up more energy and carry the show to the end.

I suppose I could have belittled them, but I didn’t. They just sat there quietly, but it was all I could handle to squeeze some laughs out of them for the rest of the show. I worked it as hard as I could, and it felt good to rise to the challenge. They made me earn each laugh.

After the show the feature act Roger Keiss and I went across the street from the club for a delicious dinner at a fantastic restaurant called Ramsi’s. It’s open until 2am and has one of the most interesting and eclectic menus I’ve ever seen. It’s got everything from a bison steak burger to vegan dishes and, prices are reasonable. Everything I did today was fun.

Louisville Slugging

Friday June 11th, 2010 - Louisville, IL

I’m really enjoying Louisville. I’ve always liked it here for some reason. If I had to pick a town along I-65 to live, this would be it. It’s got a friendly vibe and I can feel a sense of civic pride from the people who live here. It’s not the inbred toothless place people think.

It’s in a great location for road work too. I’ve always heard the ’magic triangle’ for road work is Louisville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis because over 60% of the population of the United States is within an eight hour drive of those three cities. There’s opportunity here.

Had I stayed with comedy only and not ventured into radio, I could see myself spending at least a couple of years here on my way up the comedy ladder. People used to move to a city and establish connections, and then move somewhere else and do the same thing over again. Then they could come back and work the places they used to live. It’s very smart.

Unfortunately for me, my radio places weren’t very exotic. My first job was in Lansing, MI but I was already working there so it didn’t make any comedy contacts. I did pull it off in Salt Lake City. I’d never been there before I worked radio there, and now I still go back and do comedy there all these years later. That’s what I should have done just for comedy.

Boston had a great scene during the boom years, as did San Francisco, Minneapolis and Seattle. It wouldn’t have hurt to move to any of those places, and Louisville too, but I just didn’t get around to it. I was too busy doing whatever I was doing and that’s how it went.

I had lunch today with my old friend pro wrestler Bull Pain. Bull used to wrestle as one of The Texas Hangmen with my other friend Mike Moran. They wrestled in the AWA for a while and did pretty well, but eventually split up. Bull moved to Louisville and has been here for twenty years. He moved here for the same reason I would have - location of gigs.

Bull still wrestles and has paid more than his dues, just like I have. We talked about that as we sat at a Hooters joking about how nobody recognized either one of us, despite all of our attempts to become famous for a lifetime. Part of it is very funny, but another part had us both wondering what the hell we were doing with our lives. We agreed we had no clue.

Neither one of us could have handled a day job, and both of us made more than our fair share of mistakes along the way in our business pursuits. With just a little break along the way, both of our life stories could have had a completely different twist. But they didn’t.

Still it was great to see him, and hopefully he can come out to a show on Sunday. When I first started, he and his then wife would come out to see me in Milwaukee and they were big fans. We figured that was about twenty years ago now, so hopefully I’ve gotten better.

Tonight’s shows were very good, especially the dreaded late show Friday. These people were very into it and it was a pleasure to work for them. It was the best show of the week so far, but the whole week has been a lot of fun. I’m glad I got the chance to come back.

Two Minutes On Television

Thursday June 10th, 2010 - Louisville, KY

Local television. How many places have I been on? It all starts to run together after this many appearances, but I’ll try to remember. Let’s see, there’s Albuquerque, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Tucson, Salt Lake City, Memphis, Reno, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Pittsburgh, Colorado Springs, Winnipeg, Calgary, Chicago, El Paso and Miami.

Oops, and I forgot Louisville. I’ve been on here before too, and today I was on again. It was a local news/fluff show at the same station, but there were new hosts. I also think the time was different, but I could be wrong. I seem to remember an early morning show, but the one today started at 10am. We were on for the third segment, roughly around 10:25.

By ‘we’, I mean the new club owner Darrell Holladay and the feature act for the week, a very nice and funny guy named Roger Keiss out of Chattanooga, TN. Usually it’s just me, but today it was all three of us. Roger and Darrell were on the panel with the hosts while I was told to stand in front of a brick wall that was created just for these weekly segments.

The floor director told me to be prepared to get cut to at any time, and I was to be ready to either “do a solid two minutes or cut it when we tell you.” What does that mean? I did what I was told, glad I’d had a lot of experience in these situations. It’s always different.

Standup comedy is difficult enough in a club with an audience facing a stage. Standing in a TV studio staring into a camera and not knowing when I was going to start or exactly how long I’d be going raised the level of difficulty significantly. TV is a different animal.

They want short spurts of controlled content, preferably delivered with an upbeat energy. They want it for a couple of minutes, and then they want it to stop with a clean ending so they can cut to the commercials, weather or next bit. They have no desire to make it easy, they just want results. We’re content filler, and I get that. I’ve learned to adjust quickly.

Darrell and Roger bantered with the hosts for a minute or so, and then one of the hosts brought me into the mix. He didn’t bring up the ’Mr. Lucky’ angle, which I was ready to pounce on and run with for two minutes. If there’s one thing I can do it’s pack a punch in two minutes. I talk fast and get in a rhythm, and I challenge anyone to insert more jokes.

They came to me and I started rattling off jokes until they told me to wrap up. Everyone on the crew seemed really impressed, but they had no idea how many times I’ve been in a situation like that. Usually they don’t have us perform per se, but it is very similar having to do a panel or couch spot with a host for two or three minutes. Anything can happen.

I didn’t change the world, but I didn’t embarrass myself either. Coming into someone’s living room for two minutes or less and trying to establish my character and get laughs is no easy task. This one didn’t suck, but I don’t know how it helped, either. Maybe it might cause a few people to think about coming out to see comedy, whatever week. Gallagher is at the club next week, and they promoted him too. No problem, they have tickets to sell.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Back In Kentucky

Wednesday June 9th, 2010 - Louisville, KY

It feels like old times again. I’m back on the road working a full week comedy club. It’s what I used to do almost every week for many years. Now, it’s almost uncommon. Many clubs have shrunk down to Thursday through Saturday or just Friday and Saturday. I like a few more days to get into a groove and hopefully draw some locals by word of mouth.

I hadn’t been out on any trips in a while, and my road chops were very rusty. I couldn’t seem to get motivated to make the drive, and it’s only 360 miles. In the old days, that was almost a local gig. Now, it seems like a trip to Mars. The road has finally lost it’s luster.

Well, the drives have. I’ve been up and down I-65 as much as anyone who’s ever driven a four wheeled vehicle, and I’ve seen enough of it for several lifetimes. Truck stops don’t really differ all that much, and there isn’t a hill over ten feet tall to qualify as ‘scenery‘.

I ended up both leaving late and getting hung up in Chicago traffic, and had to postpone a lunch with Greg Phelps in Indianapolis. I barely made it to Louisville for the new show time of 7:15pm. Louisville is on Eastern Time and I always have to remember that. Plus, a comedy itinerary is usually never correct when it comes to show times. Mine said 8:00.

The audience was small, but WOW were they good. The club has a t-shirt program that lets people who buy and wear certain club attire get in for free on Wednesday nights. I’ve always thought that was a smart idea, as it’s a billboard for the club on that particular day.

It also cultivates more repeat business from those who come out to the club in the first place. Trained audiences are the best. If they’ve seen a lot of comedy, it’s easy to perform for them because they understand what I’m trying to do. First timers can tend to just stare.

These people were right on the money all night long. I’d guess there were around 30 or so but they laughed at the right places and were with me from the first ten seconds. I love working for audiences like that no matter how large or small, as it makes me work harder to please them even more. This one was great - plus I ended up selling four cds as well.

I’ve always enjoyed playing Louisville, and it feels good to be back. The club here has a fantastic staff of competent people, and I love the whole stage setup too. There aren’t any poles or bad sight lines to worry about, and the sound system is right up there with any of the best clubs I’ve ever worked. I think I can still record myself both audio and video too.

The problem here is that there’s another club in town, and I’m not completely sure two clubs can coexist. They seem to be far enough away where it shouldn’t matter, but maybe there aren’t enough comedy fans in the area to support them both. That’s yet to be seen.

I know one of the owners of the other club, and I get along very well with him. I hate to see these border wars happen, but that’s business. I suppose I could get a booking over at the other joint if I wanted to, and probably for more money. But I won’t. I’m loyal here.

Last Comic Bitching

Tuesday June 8th, 2010 - Chicago, IL

Last Comic Standing is rearing its ugly head again, and I have mixed feelings about it. I never understood why standup comedy can’t be the ultimate reward for anyone. It’s like a connecting flight in show business. It’s never the final destination, only a plane change.

Even in the boom years of the 80s, it always seemed like the goal was to get on TV so a sitcom could be developed ”based on the standup comedy of…” I never wanted that. My goal was always to be a great standup, and have people come to see me because of that.

Was that stupid? Not necessarily, but it sure wasn’t business smart. The real money is in products like TV shows and movies, and I guess I didn’t see that big picture like a whole lot of others did. I was very content being a comedian, and I still am. But it’s not enough.

I’m sick of people telling me “YOU should be on Last Comic Standing”. I’ve heard that since the show started, whenever it started. I’ve never watched it, and have no desire to in the near future either. I suppose I probably should, but I’m just not interested. From what I’ve always heard, the ‘drama’ is what sells it. I’ve had enough drama for six lifetimes.

Drama is the last thing I’m looking for. If I were on that show I’d either win it by a huge margin or get six bullets to the head in the first episode. I’m very opinionated, and just do NOT suffer idiots very well. It’s cost me a lot over my lifetime, and I’m not a good faker.

I’m just now starting to learn how to deal with all that, and I sure shot myself in the foot and many other places along the way. I’ve had a few friends appear on the show and I like the fact that it gives comedians exposure, but even if I did go on the show I’d still want to be a comedian afterward. I’m not interested in becoming an actor. I like standup comedy.

One former student I’m extremely proud of these days is Tom Clark. Tom was in one of my very first classes I taught at Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee in about 1994 and I could see immediately that he had a special spark. He did, but it was a lot more than that because he stayed with it and developed his talent and played the offstage game well too.

That’s where I really blew it over the years, and I admit it. There was nobody to tell me how to do it properly, like I’m able to tell my students now. I don’t claim anything about Tom’s success other than he took a class I taught when he started. If he didn’t take a class he would have started anyway, and he would have been successful anyway. He’s a talent.

I’ve stayed in contact with Tom over the years, but haven’t seen him in a while. I have a lot of things going on as does he, but every time I see him I tell him what a great way he’s played the hand he was dealt, and beg him to let me drive his limo when he hits it big.

This could be my big chance. When he gets his sitcom, I hope he remembers me at all. I have nothing but respect for Tom Clark, and he deserves all the success he gets. I was too busy making my own mistakes, but those are what I‘ve used to educate all my students.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Monday On The Move

Monday June 7th, 2010 - Kenosha, WI/Chicago, IL

Looks like it’s back to having super busy Mondays, but under these circumstances I can live with it. The busier the better, when it’s good stuff. First, it was up to Kenosha, WI for lunch with film maker Mark Gumbinger, his brother Mike and the legendary Lou Rugani.

They have regular lunches every Monday at a Chinese Buffet on Highway 50 and I have a standing invitation to join them. They’ve made me a part of their group and it could be a lot worse. They’re all funny guys, and Mark and Lou are always working on movie ideas.

Mark wants to shoot a DVD of my standup show, and we’re trying to come together on an idea of how to do it best. He’s a perfectionist when it comes to things like lighting and editing in short clips of audience members laughing, but not all that concerned at how the packaging looks. I’m just the opposite, and we weren’t able to agree on a plan of action.

Both of us are control freaks in our own way, and each of us have our vision as to what we see being a final product. Maybe we’ll come together on an agreement and maybe we won’t, but neither one of us were angry about it. We kicked around ideas, and that’s what needed to be done. I wouldn’t mind having a DVD out, but I’d want it to be how I want it.

I’m not sure Mark and my sense of humor necessarily match up, but it doesn’t mean we can’t come up with a compromise along the way. We both need to make it work as far as selling product goes, and I can’t sell what I don’t have. I need to create a lot more product to sell, of every kind. I’ve got a CD right now and that’s IT. I’m thoroughly embarrassed.

I asked my speaker friend Todd Hunt who he knew of that had either the most or best of products for sale, and he mentioned a lady named Jeanne Robertson from North Carolina who used to be a beauty pageant queen. She’s got SIX different DVD/CD products on her website for sale, and a couple of books too. www.jeannerobertson.com. Very impressive.

It really doesn’t matter if they’re good or not. The point is, she DID them, and I can tell by looking at her website they’re of professional quality. Good for her. It’s not easy to do ONE decent product much less six, and I’m going to shut my pie hole and start working.

Tonight it was back to Zanies in Chicago to start up comedy classes again. This time we have a nice full class with a diverse group of interesting people, and that’s what’s been so much fun for so many years. Bill Gorgo will teach this session, but I’m glad class is full.

There was also a very hot Rising Star Showcase show afterward, and that’s always a fun way to close out the day. Both crowd and comics were into it, and when that happens, my job is easy. I just sit back and watch the show and keep things moving. Tonight was that.

Most people never get a chance to do one thing they enjoy, much less three. Not only do I get to do three things I enjoy, I get to do it on a Monday. It’s not quite there yet, but I’m working feverishly hard on it. I’ve got a long way to go to catch up to Jeanne Robertson.


Sunday June 6th, 2010 - Lake Villa, IL

For whatever problems, shortcomings or disappointments I’ve had in life, one thing I’m able to say proudly is I’m doing what I want to do. Not many people can honestly say that but I can, and I‘m grateful. I may not be doing it all on a high level, but that’s different.

The fact remains, I’ve been able to survive my entire adult life doing things I enjoy, and I know others wish they could have the guts to do that too. I‘ve heard it over and over my whole life from many people . Sure, there were some bad breaks combined with stupidity to put me in some hellish situations over the years, but through it all I’ve hung in there.

Sometimes I get depressed or discouraged and want to suck a bullet, but then I’ll talk to someone else who’s trapped on the corporate hamster wheel and feel totally good in about ten seconds. There are plusses and minuses to everything I guess, and I’m still slugging it out doing what I enjoy when most others have either given up, lost their passion or died.

I can feel myself coming up on a very good time now. I’ll be working in Louisville this coming week, and I love it there. Tom Sobel and the staff at the club are fantastic people, and it’s always a blast to work there. I’ll do lots of media and also get to teach a class on Saturday, so it will be a full week doing lots of fun things. That’s what life is all about.

This coming week I’m starting up another round of classes at Zanies in Chicago as well. It’s been a long, hard ugly ride to get back to ground zero after all that happened with my ex business partner, but it’s coming around and I couldn’t feel more proud. It’s a feeling I never get sick of, and that’s starting something from nothing. It feels so good to do that.

I’ve got a lot of good seeds planted, and WAY more positive people who like me in life than those who think I‘m a wank. I’m sure there are quite a few who can’t stand me, but I honestly couldn’t care less. I try to be a good person, and if someone has a problem I have always tried to make it right, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. The key is to move on.

The Mothership Connection radio show is another fun thing I’m proud of. I know we’re not making a nickel doing it but the fun is there while we’re on the air. I keep debating at to whether I should keep doing it or not, but after thinking about it for a while I’m leaning toward a very loud yes. It won’t take all that much tweaking to get this ready to be sold.

That’s all part of the challenge I’m facing with everything I’m doing, and I need to have some perspective as I do it all. Not many people ever get the chance to not only chase one of their dreams, but just about anything they can think of. If nothing else, I am doing that.

My comedy shows are better than they’ve ever been, and going to get a lot better. I have the passion and the ability, and my life long sacrifice of becoming a student of everything about the game onstage and off has begun to pay off. I’m up there with anyone as far as a knowledge of comedy goes, and that makes me a better teacher too. I also get to be on the radio too, talking about things I enjoy. When things get low, I need to remember all this.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Five Guys Fever

Saturday June 5th, 2010 - Valparaiso, IN

In my never ending fascination with marketing breakthroughs, a hamburger chain called ‘Five Guys’ has tiptoed quietly on to my radar. I’d never heard of them before until about a month ago when my friend Shelley asked if I wanted to go with her on a ‘mystery shop’.

I really didn’t on that particular day, but she asked me nicely so I said yes. They opened a new location in Libertyville, IL and when we got there the joint had lines out the door of high school kids and we had to wait way too long for our food. My patience for waiting in lines has always been low, but this particular day set me off. It was a bad first impression.

Then, just last week Marc Schultz said he wanted to ‘try out a new hamburger place’ for lunch he’d heard about. We got there, and it was a different Five Guys location. Again we had to wait in line, but this time not as long. Their joints are jumping, I’ll give them that.

It seems like these places are sprouting up everywhere out of nowhere. I noticed one up in Milwaukee a few days ago in the Bay Shore Mall, and today I had a last minute fall out gig in Indiana and saw one on the way south side of Chicago in Orland Park. I stopped for a quick burger, just because I wanted to learn a little more about the history of the place.

Apparently, the first location was opened in 1986 in Virginia. They’ve spread all around since then and there are all kinds of articles on the walls from places like Indianapolis and Atlanta with reviews of their product. This is no small operation, and it’s far from ‘new’.

It’s amazing how much work can go into something for so long and still be an unknown quantity to millions of people. I’ve traveled America my entire life and I’d never heard of this place until a month ago. Now, I can’t stop hearing about it. They’ve broken through.

So far, I’ve not heard or seen any ads, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have them. I bet they do, and I’m sure I’ll come across them soon if they’re opening up so many locations in the area. They seem to really have it together as far as marketing goes, and that’s what successful entities do. They also have a system of how they cook and get the food served.

Is the product that much better than anyone else? I have to say not really. It’s only a few items, done well, and their gimmick is they have free peanuts to eat while people wait for their order to be cooked. It’s simple, but effective. Is it new? No, but there is a plan there.

Judging by the enthusiastic response of the people I saw packed into the three locations I’ve visited, they’re doing something right. I’m trying to figure out what. Are people into it because it’s new, at least in this area? It doesn’t hurt that they have high calorie comfort foods fried in grease either. Around these parts, that’s pretty much a guaranteed seller.

Still, it’s only burgers, hotdogs and fries. It’s fascinating to me how they can come into an area and make such impact. They must know what works after many years of trial and error, and they’re doing it. This is no Mickey Mouse operation. There’s big money here.

I wonder what the other burger places do to fight something like this? Five Guys has the smaller menu with a higher price, but they seem to specialize in a certain thing. I wonder who their average customer is? There’s no dollar menu, and there’s not a lot of choices.

The more upscale hamburger places like a Fuddrucker’s could be affected, but they do a great job in my opinion. Is it a location thing? There seem to be a lot more Five Guys than Fuddruckers around, or at least from my perception. This is all interesting, at least for me.

Sub sandwich restaurants present another recently crowded field, or do they? I grew up in Milwaukee, where there was Cousins and Suburpia. Both were local chains, and people in southeast Wisconsin know and love them both. Cousins is bigger, but still not national.

Jimmy John’s seems to be making a huge run for everyone’s money, and I learned that a Chicago area guy around my age started it up in 1983. It totally reminds me of Five Guys in that it’s got a very basic menu, but it’s done well. Sub sandwiches, chips, sodas. Maybe a cookie for dessert. I think that’s it. Do they have soups? Not that I know of. It’s basic.

I have to admit, I think they’re delicious. If a Cousins or Suburpia were directly next to a Jimmy John’s, I can’t guarantee which one I’d choose. I guess it would depend on how I felt that particular day. Jimmy John’s came along much later in the game, but did it right. They might not always get my business, but they have become one of the final choices.

All this very much applies to comedy in that it doesn’t really matter who came first. It’s a matter of the system and how it’s executed. When I started doing comedy in Milwaukee there were people who were doing it longer than me, but I studied the game and was able to pass them by in a relatively short period of time. I saw the bigger picture more clearly.

That was twenty five years ago, but now I’m running the same risk of having it done to me all these years later. I’ve been doing it how I’ve done it since then, and still there are a majority of people who’ve never sampled my product. What can I do to get them to try it, so I’m at least on their final choices list? I need to infiltrate new places and set up shop.

Five Guys must have had a plan to expand, and there was a lot of work involved for that to become reality. They had to scout locations, sign leases, build out stores, hire staffs, all with no guarantees of success. They took a calculated risk based on their market research.

I won’t have as much work to do as that, but I do think my market research indicates I’ll be a player in other areas if I set up shop there. “Other areas” could include a lot of things from new towns, new venues, new target audiences in old towns. This is about business.

I realize that more every day, and I don’t know if it’s good or bad. It just is. I used to do comedy strictly for the fun and adventure of it all, and it was both. I mistakenly thought it would lead to riches automatically, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now I’m seeing it from a much different perspective. I know what I’m doing, now I need to package it up and become the Five Guys or Jimmy John’s of comedy. I want to be the ‘new’ sensation.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Milwaukee Maintenance

Friday June 4th, 2010 - Milwaukee, WI

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t do my walking today. I have a reason for it, but it’s not an excuse. I am performing in Louisville next week at The Comedy Caravan and they asked me to record some radio spots promoting myself. I needed to get those done, and went up to WLIP in Kenosha to do it. The production director Dan Hanni said he’d help me out.

Dan is always backlogged with work, and I ended up having to wait quite a while to get him at a slow point. I appreciate the favor so I’m not complaining, but that’s just how life works. Things come up and need to get done, and everything else has to wait. It’s reality.

I cranked out three different versions of what I thought were pretty funny commercials, and the club will edit and decide what to use. I’m glad to be going back to Louisville, and I hope I can put a few butts in seats. That town is a lot hipper than people think. I like it.

After the radio station, I drove to Milwaukee to meet with Richard Halasz to scout out a few possible locations for shows. I still want to do ‘Schlitz Happened!’ but there might be room to book shows in general with the closing of the Comedy CafĂ©. Richard books some shows in the area already, and he’s a life long Milwaukeean who knows the whole scene.

Richard is as honest as the day is long, and like me really cares about the comedy scene in Milwaukee. It’s our home town and we want comedy to be healthy and thriving, which it’s never been. There’s always been a crop of snakes in charge who exploit all the locals.

The big serpent who just left the Comedy Cafe wasn’t much different than those before him, and nobody’s sure what will happen if and when the club reopens. Personally, I hope it turns around and someone with a clue gets in there and runs it with some class. I liked the room a lot when I worked there, but management was brutal. A change was overdue.

Richard and I don’t really want to be bookers, but there seems to be an opportunity now so we wanted to check into it. We visited some hotels on several sides of town, and a few showed some interest in doing at least semi regular shows in the future. It was positive.

I want to have a comedy presence in my home town for many reasons, One is to finally exterminate all the bad vibes from years past. Not only was my family not supportive and in my corner, the clubs weren’t either. I earned my stripes in comedy anyway, and now all that ugliness is over with. I want to move on and get laughs and build a loyal fan base.

There’s a club called Jokerz who was very nice to me when I worked there just as they opened a few years ago. I would have stayed with them but was asked by another club to be ‘loyal’, so I did. What an idiot I was. They treated me like mud and bounced a check.

I stopped at Jokerz tonight to reconnect with them. The manager Natalie is a sweetheart and I’m not opposed to working there again. They’re not at all like the other clubs in town and the room itself is spectacular. If nothing else, I’d at least like to teach some classes.

It felt great to walk in the club and have Natalie run over and give me a hug and tell me they all miss me there. I had some hot shows in there, and never had a gripe with anybody at all. They paid well and everything was fine. The only reason I stopped working there is because I was asked to by the other club. I’d known them longer so I thought it was right.

Most comedians would LOVE to be loyal to someone, but we rarely get a reason. We’re dented cans and whipped puppies as a whole, and any kind of love or affection would get our loyalty for life. I know it would from me. All we want is to perform and hear laughter. We’re not interested in politics or selling drinks or anything other than being on the stage.

Zanies in Chicago has always been completely opposite of all my negative experiences in Milwaukee. It’s only 90 miles away on a map, but it’s light years away in how they’ve treated me. They’ve been in my corner for twenty years, and I’ll be loyal to them forever.

It would be a dream to have a place in Milwaukee like that, and Richard craves that too. He never left Milwaukee for whatever reason, and it’s stunted his comedy growth. He has had to put up with the insanity for years, and I don’t now how he did it. I’d have snapped.

That’s why he started to book his own shows, and there still may be room to do more of that. More and more comedians are becoming disgruntled with the anarchy of how it’s all going, and we’re realizing that we’re the ones giving the bookers and snakes all the power to run roughshod over us like they do. We’re sick of it and many of us are taking action.

I was talking about that with the headliner at Jokerz this week. His name is Steve Hirst and he’s originally from England but now lives in Dallas, TX. We worked together a few years ago in Houston and really hit it off. I hadn’t seen him in a while, but when I’d heard he was the headliner I had to make a point to stop and say hello. He’s a true gentleman.

Steve is very down to earth off stage, but has one of the strongest natural presences that I’ve ever seen on stage. He’s got a style and charisma and his British accent has an almost hypnotic effect on an audience. I really love watching him work, and he tore the room up.

He does work pretty blue, but that could be easily fixed. It doesn’t offend me personally but it may keep him off TV, at least at the start. He’s such a likeable guy onstage and off that I’d love to see him get a TV show. If I were in charge, I’d be grooming him big time.

What I like about him most is that he’s totally real. He said that about me too, and he’s right. We were talking about how bookings are down and we’re each one week from the poor house and that’s just how it is. We both agreed how refreshing it was to hear another comic telling the truth, not fabricating all the great things that weren’t really happening.

Steve is at Jokerz on Saturday, and I highly recommend you go see him. He’s one of the most naturally funny people I’ve ever seen, and he gives it all every show. Jokerz website is www.jokerzcomedyclub.com. Give the manager Natalie a hug and tell her it’s from me. Steve Hirst will be worth your trip. That guy brings it. If I booked a club, he’d work there.