For some odd reason, my posts have not been automatically sent to be updated. I'm not sure why this is, but apparently it has been a long time since anything posted. I know it's a lot but here are the updates of what I've been writing since it cut off on March 24th. I'll try to update daily again. Thanks for reading! I write from my heart and never know if anyone reads it or not. Apparently someone does, as I've been getting requests to update the missing posts. Here they are, dents and all. I didn't have time to locate all the titles, as I create those when the blogs are finished. You can make them up yourself, but the content is there.
Well, it’s a good thing I’m in such a good mindset because I won’t be winning the contest here at Laughing Skull Festival. While it would have been nice to advance, I’m not upset. There were seven Chicago comedians in the contest that had over sixty entrants, and not one of us made it to the second round. Coincidence? Conspiracy? It doesn’t matter even if it was. We didn’t make it.
Monday March 25th, 2013 – Chicago, IL
Even before all is said and done in life, I realize that I am but a speck of tiny sand on an infinite beach. What I think or say or do doesn’t move the needle one way or the other on the grand scale of life, so all that really matters is to be able to please myself. It’s all temporary, so enjoy the trip.
That being said, I had a chance tonight to make some people happy and I did it. It doesn’t mean diddly squat to anyone but those involved, but that still makes it worthwhile in my eyes. I didn’t do it for any other reason than I know how good it feels to be able to make a dream come true.
If only for one night, I had the power of deciding who would be on the show at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago. Zanies is one of the top comedy clubs in North America, and getting the chance to book a show is like having the chance to manage a Major League Baseball team for one game or decide on the set list for The Rolling Stones for one concert. It’s a feeling of power for a day.
Bert Haas is the regular booker of Zanies, and that’s no easy task. Booking any comedy club is a challenge on many levels, and I could go off in many directions on how it’s often done poorly. There are a lot of behind the scenes factors that the public or even other comedians seldom see.
Bert trusts me on occasion to put together a ‘Friends of Dobie Maxwell’ show on a Monday to basically give himself the night off. He spends a lot of time between the three Zanies clubs in the area, so once in a while a night off helps recharge the batteries. I get that, and I’m glad to help.
I’ve been around the block enough to know how to put a standup comedy show together. I also know literally hundreds of standup comics on all levels, and every one of them would love a shot to work on the Zanies stage but rarely if ever have gotten the opportunity. I felt it was my duty to put as many deserving acts as I could up tonight to let them have their moment of fun in the sun.
Granted, it was a Monday night and the audience was stiff but many of the people who went up will never forget this day for the rest of their lives. Having a chance to make that happen for one person would have been a thrill, but there were several tonight. I got to play Santa and I loved it.
I’ve had similar experiences in my own life, and I’ll never forget those moments. I got to meet George Clinton, George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield in person, and even though it was only a brief meeting each time, I will cherish all those memories until the final breath of my dying day.
I tried to squeeze as many acts as I could on the show tonight, and I hosted and gave them all a stellar introduction like they were going on at Carnegie Hall. I wanted to make their experience a pleasant one, even though in the big picture the only ones it will make any difference to is them.
One by one, they all came up and thanked me after the show, and I told them all they were very welcome and I meant it. They offered me the chance to do something nice, and that gives me the feeling of extreme satisfaction that I was at least able to make a tiny difference and do something good for someone else. Maybe I didn’t stop any wars or cure any cancer, but this feels SO good.
Tuesday March 26th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI
My busy week continues as I had to be in Milwaukee today to promote the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows coming up sooner than later and also help judge the final round of a karaoke contest being held at the Potawatomi Casino Fire Keepers sports bar. I was flattered they asked, and I said yes.
I have an overwhelming feeling of confidence about how this project is going, and I can feel it becoming a big hit. I’ve been involved with more than my share of flops in my time, and this just doesn’t share the same characteristics. I can feel a positive buzz building, and it feels euphoric.
I’m really excited to be working at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino. I cannot say enough good things about that venue, and it’s just a perfect fit from all angles. The customers for my show are the exact same group the casino is going for, and this should be a perfect match.
Once word gets out there’s a funny local show that isn’t dirty, I know I’ll be able to stretch this out for years to come should I choose to do so. My biggest issue was getting the word out, but no more. Potawatomi has a very strong media presence, and they are getting behind me all the way.
Today I recorded a radio interview for WTMJ that will air this Sunday. There’s no way WTMJ would put me on the air as some Joe Shmoe local comic who came up with a half baked show in his basement, but with the Northern Lights Theatre behind it I have total and needed credibility.
It also didn’t hurt that the interview was hosted by my friend Jim Peck. Jim is a talented radio and TV host originally from Milwaukee who went on to be a big success hosting game shows on network TV. I have always been a fan of Jim’s, and am a bigger one now that I know him in real life. He’s got a razor sharp wit and is truly hilarious. He’s a pro’s pro and he made me look great.
Also with me in the interview was Bob Rech, the Entertainment Director for Potawatomi. He’s another guy I like and respect, and he totally knows what he’s doing. He’s not just giving me this run because he has nothing better to do though. He sees the potential this has for everyone in it.
Joe San Felippo of Bonkers Comedy Clubs is also someone in the mix. Joe has booked all the standup comedy shows at the theatre for years, and that’s how I got in. Joe and Bob put together solid shows, and have always been fans of mine and in my corner. I couldn’t be more grateful to both of them, and that’s why my first choice is to have the show have a home base here forever.
I’m a loyal soldier, even in a business where that’s not always common. Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago and I have worked together more than twenty years without a hiccup, and I’d love to establish a longstanding relationship with Potawatomi too. I’m not looking to start any turf wars.
All I want is a place to call performing home. I want to make a fair living, and I want the venue to make a fair profit too. This is a team effort, and I’m happy to have Bob and Joe and everybody at Potawatomi on the same team. Judging the karaoke show was a lot of fun, and there were quite a few talented performers on the bill. Now it’s off to Atlanta to be in the Laughing Skull Festival.
Wednesday March 27th, 2013 – Chicago, IL/Atlanta, GA
Here I go with yet another random roll of the dubious dice of destiny. I am in Atlanta this week to be a part of a prestigious comedy event called ‘Laughing Skull Festival’ and I am excited to be included in it. A huge number of comedians apply to be accepted, and a scarce few make the cut.
It’s designed to be a gathering place for industry people to find the next big thing. I guess it’s a comedy equivalent of the NFL Draft Combine. The powers that be all gather in one place to kick a few tires and compare notes on who the next big stars may or may not be. Eyes are a watching.
All I need is the correct pair to see me and it can open some serious doors. I’ve paid my dues to get here, and I’m not nervous in the least – not now anyway. I doubt if I will be when it’s time to go on stage either. I’ve put my time in and I’ve ripened. I’m ready to be plucked from the vine.
I’m one of the oldest participants here, and that gives me a distinct advantage. I’ve played the role of hotshot young punk, and a lot of mistakes can be made in situations like this. I won’t get intimidated by anything or anybody, and that’s a plus. I know exactly what needs to be done.
In a nutshell, need to get in front of someone who can open some new doors. Exactly who that is I’m not sure, but allegedly they’re going to be here this week. I need to go up and show what I can do, and also show why I’m different than any other idiot trying to get seen. It’s an audition.
They’re running a contest format, and my first round appearance isn’t until tomorrow night but I wanted to make sure I got to town a night early to avoid possible travel hassles, etc. I’m sharing a rental car and a room with a funny kid out of Louisville, KY named Jacob Williams. He’s now living in Chicago, and he’s been getting some attention in the clubs around town and on TV too.
Jacob is 24, and has been on ‘America’s Got Talent’ several times. I like him, and see a bright future for him if he stays with it. He’s already been doing it six years, and that’s even earlier than I started. A lot of kids are getting started younger and younger these days, and I don’t know what to think about it. It’s fine as far as stage experience goes but comedy comes from life experience.
I feel like I’m traveling with my comedy son. Jacob is hungry to learn, but he’s also very green as far as road experience. He’ll learn a lot from me on this trip, and we had fun on the drive from Chicago talking about comedy from all angles. The game has changed a lot since I was his age.
We stopped at The Punch Line on our way down, a legendary comedy club that’s been around since the beginning like a Zanies in Chicago or Comedy Castle in Detroit. I haven’t been inside that place in years, and it brought memories flooding back as I looked at the 8x10’s on the wall.
There were early promo shots I’d never seen before of big stars, and others I hadn’t heard of in years. Many of the comics pictured have died, and that was a wakeup call too. We made it to our hotel in downtown Atlanta, and of course they were sold out and we got stuck in the handicapped room. There’s also a $15 a day parking fee nobody mentioned. That’s how it goes in the big city.
Thursday March 28th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA
I can’t let today pass without mentioning it’s almost the anniversary of a very significant day in my life I thought I’d never forget. It turns out I haven’t forgotten, but it’s getting buried deeper in my memory than I ever thought it would when it took place twenty years and a week ago today.
On the night of March 21st, 1993 I was coming home to Milwaukee from performing a show in Antigo, WI when I flipped my Mustang convertible completely upside down and almost lost my life. I still don’t know how I managed to survive, but I did and every day since has been a bonus.
In what was one of the freakiest chains of events I have ever seen, a drunk driver heading west on Capitol Drive in Milwaukee somehow managed to knock an electric power pole out of socket and it caused live electric power lines to be drawn tight across lanes of traffic on Capitol Drive.
The lines were about two feet off the ground – perfect height to hook underneath the bumper of my Mustang and flip the car upside down. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and was in the left hand lane on Capitol Drive headed east at 19th Street. I saw the power lines in front of me but had no way to stop in time and I didn’t even try. Before I knew it I was upside down in pain.
Apparently, the drunk driver had hit the power pole only seconds before I got there. If that isn’t the ultimate Mr. Lucky story I don’t know what is. What are the chances I would be in that exact spot at that exact time? It’s beyond astronomical, but there I was. I heard later had I even been in the right hand lane on Capitol Drive I probably wouldn’t have flipped, but little good that does.
I have often gone over in my mind the details of what caused me to be precisely in that place at that time, and it’s flabbergasting. I had the opportunity to stay in Antigo that night, but I insisted on driving home. I had a girlfriend I really liked then, and we had a lunch date the following day.
We never made our lunch date, and it turns out I ended up never seeing her again. I ended up in St. Michael’s hospital with a twice fractured sternum, a broken jaw and a whole pile of problems I would end up paying for for years. I had six months of recovery time, and it was an ugly mess.
I don’t enjoy going back to that place in my life, and the farther I get from it the better I like it. I can’t believe I survived not only the accident, but all the circumstances that were around me at the time that went along with it. My best friend had robbed a bank he used to work at and I was the only one other than him that knew about it. Then he ended up robbing the same bank again.
There were all kinds of complicated twists and turns, and all kinds of things were going wrong in my life at once. That girlfriend was lucky she bowed out when she did and I wish I could have joined her. It wasn’t fun being me at that time, but who has a choice of the poker hand life deals?
I had more than my hands full, and looking back twenty years later I have no idea how anyone could have done much better under those extreme circumstances. I actually managed to keep my ship above water, at least enough to survive and be able to look back now and assess the damage.
That was an extremely difficult time in my life, and I was still working on recovering from my childhood which wasn’t much smoother. Chaos and disarray have always been main ingredients in my life’s recipe, but I still haven’t acquired a taste for either. I’d like some peace for a change.
There’s no doubt all I’ve gone through has given me a thick callous in some ways. It also helps explain why some people think I’m a bit harsh and rough around the edges. Sure, who wouldn’t have a few scars after going through the worst part of the hurricane? I’m working on it, but I still have a ways to go. I try to be as nice as I can to as many as I can, but I still have a few detractors.
I guess that’s how life works, but I’m not going to change who I am for anybody. I know I’m a good person deep inside, even with my flaws and shortcomings. I can sleep at night knowing I’m trying my best to earn an honest living and not hurt anyone. When I’m wrong I’ll admit it openly and apologize to anyone I need to. If they don’t accept it – and some don’t – what else can I do?
It’s nothing short of a miracle as to how far my life has come in these twenty years and a week since I thought I would be checking out of life as we know it. I was really down and out with not a lot of resources then, and if nothing else I have learned to be grateful for every little thing I get.
I was to the point of eating food from a shelter and having to learn to walk all over again. I had my jaw wired shut for a while and had to suck my supper through a straw. Still, I somehow made it through and here I am twenty years and a week later living a life I’m enjoying and still chasing dreams. There have been a lot of shaky moments in the years since, but all in all I’m doing great.
I’m doing extremely well considering where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through since that fateful night, but as much as I’d like to forget it the more I know I can’t. Who doesn’t have a list of examples of having to overcome obstacles in life? Mine are just more dramatic than most.
I could have easily died in that car accident, and I’m still surprised I didn’t. I clearly recall how people came running out of their houses after hearing the crash and I lay upside down trapped in my Mustang. I couldn’t yell because of my injuries and most of them thought I was dead. In fact I heard some people talking and they said it out loud next to me. “No doubt about it - he’s dead.”
With all my might I tried to holler something out loud to them know I wasn’t dead, but I didn’t have the strength. It’s all so surreal now, but it was very real that day. I knew right then I’d been given some bonus time in life, and from that day forward I would be playing with house money.
I even remember the Milwaukee Police Officer who filled out the accident report coming to my hospital room and telling me how lucky I was to have survived such a horrific crash. He told me he’d been an officer for 15 years and knew a fatality when he saw one. He told me to enjoy life.
I’ll admit that sometimes I still forget to do that, and that’s exactly why I need to remember the almost anniversary of that fateful moment that changed my life forever. It doesn’t matter how my set in Atlanta at Laughing Skull Festival goes tonight. Win or lose, I’m just lucky to be above the dirt still able to draw breath. I’m grateful for each one I have left. Now I’m in the right mindset.
Friday March 29th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA
Well, it’s a good thing I’m in such a good mindset because I won’t be winning the contest here at Laughing Skull Festival. While it would have been nice to advance, I’m not upset. There were seven Chicago comedians in the contest that had over sixty entrants, and not one of us made it to the second round. Coincidence? Conspiracy? It doesn’t matter even if it was. We didn’t make it.
Some of the other comics were rather miffed, but I’ve been around long enough to know that a contest of any kind that involves subjective judging of artistic talent is about as easy to predict as which rapper will get shot next. It could be anyone at any time for any reason. There’s no logic.
I came here to showcase myself in a five minute set, and that’s exactly what I did. I thought my set was very representative of what I do on stage, and it was in front of about fifty people off the streets of Atlanta who had never seen me before. I was mixed in with eleven other acts and all of us were trying to get the attention of three judges who like what they like. It’s not complicated.
On this night in this crowd in front of these judges, I was not one of the four finalists the judges liked based on their set of parameters – whatever that may include. I’m not bitter, angry or upset at anyone and I wish the comics who won all the best. There are a lot of really nice people with a lot of talent in this festival and my fingers are crossed that the best person wins and gets noticed.
Just because I didn’t win the contest doesn’t mean this was a wasted trip. On the contrary, there were a pair of useful info packed seminars this afternoon that made it worth coming. I was blown away by the presentation Steve Hofstetter made about the business of comedy. Steve is in charge of the festival, and I’m rapidly becoming a fanatical fan. This guy is on the ball and then some.
Tom Sobel in Louisville is a booker I’ve always liked and respected, and he told me how much respect he had for Steve Hofstetter. He told me I’d be impressed with both Steve’s comedy chops and his business acumen, and he wasn’t kidding. I haven’t seen his act yet, but if it’s half as good as his offstage methods he’s going to be a superstar. I shut my mouth and soaked in what he said.
I’m not sure how many of the other comics attending appreciated it, but I surely did. He threw out some fantastic ideas, and I need to implement a whole lot of them in my own presentation if I ever intend to move ahead in the business. I’ve got work to do, but that’s ok. That’s why I came.
Tonight I did two sets at two very different venues. One was at an alternative rock stage called ‘529’ and the other was at the Atlanta Improv. Both sets were solid, and I enjoyed watching a lot of other acts I hadn’t seen before. The vibe was very supportive, and we all got along all night.
I know my business is severely lacking compared to where my show is, and although it’s never pleasant to admit a fault I freely do so I can find a way to improve. I’m going to implement a lot of what I’ve learned here as soon as I get back and I know I’ll show major improvement within a short time. Tomorrow I have a huge treat. I get to meet with master marketer James Gregory, aka ‘The Funniest Man In America’. James has kindly offered his expertise and I’ll gratefully listen.
Saturday March 30th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA
Sometimes words with big meanings get thrown around carelessly, and that ruins the power of those particular words. Two that come to mind immediately are “genius” and “legend”. There are only a scant few who truly qualify as one of those, and far less that qualify as both. Today I got a chance to spend time with someone who is both, and I will be better for it for the rest of my life.
To me, a legend is a person or thing that comes along that completely changes whatever might be the perceived standard. Better yet, if there’s no perceived standard there is one set and kept up by said legend and it becomes used as the measuring stick for everything that comes along after.
Examples I think of immediately are McDonald’s, Michael Jordan and Zig Ziglar. They’ve all established their brand, and been able to maintain it even when competition has come from a lot of sources. They’re still looked upon as the leader in their field, and everyone else chases them.
In standup comedy, there aren’t many who have been able to change the game. Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld have traditionally been recognized as the top two acts of the comedy club era, but a name that never comes up and should is James Gregory aka “The Funniest Man In America.”
James is from Atlanta, and has been performing sold out shows to adoring fans for thirty years. That alone is impressive, but what makes him legendary is the way he markets himself and stays on top of the mountain in a business where backstabbing and throat cutting are par for the course.
I’ve always been a huge fan of James from afar, as I’ve known of him for decades. His name is familiar with anyone who works the road as a comedian, if for no other reason that he’s handled his business so much better than everyone else. He understands the game better than anyone else, but he also executes his plan to perfection. He has a system like McDonald’s does, and it works.
James’ manager is Lenny Sisselman, someone I’ve known for many years. He used to manage the Zanies Comedy Club in Nashville, and I always liked him personally and respected his rock solid integrity. Lenny is as honest and trustworthy as they come, and that’s rare in this business.
I’ve always told Lenny how much I admire James, and always wanted to meet him personally. I got my chance a few years ago when we were both on a comedy TV show taping for Comcast that happened to be shot at Zanies in Nashville. All the comedians went out for dinner after the show, and I got to sit at James’ table as he held court telling great stories that made us all laugh.
James has a larger than life charisma, onstage and off. He’s a true character, and one can’t help but be mesmerized by his magnetic personality. He reminds me of how wrestler Dusty Rhodes is able to grab an audience during interviews. There’s a southern rhythm that hypnotizes listeners.
Dusty is known as a microphone master, and it’s no surprise he and James are personal friends. James loves pro wrestling, and that’s another reason I’m a fan. He understands the way wrestlers create personas to establish their rapport with their audience, and that’s exactly what he’s done.
I happened to be attending the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta this week and I received an email from Lenny saying James would like to invite me to visit him at his house while I was in Atlanta “if I had some time.” If I had some time? Let’s cancel the festival and I’ll just hang out with James for a while. That alone would have made my trip worthwhile. Of course I had time.
We talked on the phone, and James said he was an early riser and I should plan on coming over as soon as I got up. Fine with me. I was a bit nervous in the car because I didn’t want to look like a total goober. Even though we’d met once, we’re not that close. I didn’t want to offend the man.
I arrived at his house, and I immediately knew why James has achieved legendary status. It’s a kind of place a person drives past in stunned awe and asks “I wonder who lives THERE?” It’s an awesome sight, as is the six car garage attached to it. I knew I was in for an amazing experience.
James welcomed me like I was an old friend, and led me to his living room to sit down. If ever the Atlanta Falcons need a place to practice in a pinch, there would be plenty of room inside this house. It was immaculately kept, and I was afraid to touch anything but James was a great host.
He made me feel right at home, and then proceeded to tell me some stories of how he started in the business and about his family. He’s incredibly humble, and more than once he apologized for ‘talking about himself’ when in fact that’s exactly why I was there. I wanted to hear all about his life and what he did to be able to stay on top of the game for as long as he has. This was a treat.
He told me about how he’s been working since he was 12 years old, and how his amazing work ethic he learned in sales has transferred over into comedy. He was the first comedian that offered merchandise after his shows – and that includes Leno and Seinfeld. James had cassettes and hats and t-shirts for sale after shows when he was still a feature act, and it’s done him more than well.
Marketing has always fascinated me, and I listened intently as James explained how he worked his way up from being an opening act sleeping on a couch to one of the biggest comedy club acts that ever stepped on a stage in the modern era. He didn’t start until he was in his 30s, and most of the rest of us start in our late teens or early twenties. James made up for lost time and then some.
What I got for my effort was basically a one day one on one seminar from one of the friendliest comics I’ve ever met. I really feel like we hit it off, and I couldn’t get enough of his stories of the way he built his business and career. He’s known as a ‘southern act’, but he really isn’t. Yes he’s from Georgia, but he doesn’t do any typical North/South stuff or anything like that. He’s careful not to go in that direction, and his act is hilarious and clean. That’s why he’s able to sell tickets.
James also has a fantastic hook. He’s billed as “The funniest man in America”, something he’d had written about him by a newspaper reporter years ago. His website is www.funniestman.com, and you can judge for yourself. What a treat it was to spend the day with someone I’ve been such a fan of for so long, only to find out he’s a truly nice person to go along with his legendary status he’s earned in the business. I can’t wait to start implementing the things I’ve learned this week.
Sunday March 31st, 2013 – Atlanta, GA/Chicago, IL
Time to head home. This week was a fun and productive experience even though I didn’t make a nickel, and I’m glad I came. I had forgotten how much I enjoy Atlanta. It’s a super city, but I’d not been here in years. I worked here regularly when I started, and I’d love to return again often.
I’m very much a big city person, but that’s not always where the money is in comedy. There is a lot going on at any one time in a big city from sporting events to concerts to even other comedy shows, and it’s difficult to stand out and be noticed. Playing the sticks is much smarter business.
In a perfect world, I’d work the road once a month in cities like Atlanta, Houston, Denver, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Seattle, Detroit, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Kansas City. Those are twelve towns I’ve either worked before or would like to work my way in.
I’d love to be able to hop on a plane once a month and go do shows in any of those places, then come home on Sunday with a check that has a comma in it. There are a few comics that have that kind of a draw like say a Brian Regan, and it sounds like a fantastic way to make a dream living.
For a long time, Tommy Chong was in that category. He had enough of a draw everywhere that he could pretty much sell out four shows at a comedy club in any major city, and then sell t-shirts on top of that. He could work the road as much as he wanted to, and for years he did exactly that.
The road is a lot less brutal when you’re flying first class and staying in hotels that don’t have a number or an animal in their name. Trying to nod off at the ‘Sleepy Squirrel Motor Lodge’ while some boozed up ex-convict biker is cooking a fresh batch of meth in the tub next door isn’t fun.
I learned a lot this week, but one of the things I already knew was that I need to become a draw SOMEWHERE. After all these years of knocking around, I’m still a journeyman with little to no clout when it comes to putting fannies in seats. That’s a major kick to the balls of anybody’s ego, but truth is truth. There are a lot of guys like me out there, but if we can’t sell tickets who cares?
This was a great week to get myself started in doing exactly that. Steve Hofstetter put together an outstanding seminar that changed my whole way of thinking, as did my great visit with James Gregory. Both of those guys are world class business people, even though they’re aiming for two completely different audiences. Steve is a huge college act, while James now focuses on theatres.
As for me, I’m going to start where I started – at least for now. I’m going to put all I have into the next four Saturdays doing the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows in Milwaukee. I’m at a great venue that’s behind me and wants this to work. What I learned in Atlanta this week will serve me well.
I did get a chance to stop on my way out of town and have dinner at my friend Darryl Rhoades’ house. He’s a world class cook and made us THE best lasagna I’ve ever eaten. His wife Suzanne and he are vegetarians, and they take pride in their cooking. Jacob Williams and I enjoyed every bite as we got ready for our twelve hour drive northward. I am in a wonderful space right now.
Monday April 1st, 2013 – Chicago, IL
It’s April 1st already, and somehow I feel like I’m the fool. Time is flying faster than I can keep up with and the first quarter of 2013 is now part of history. Really? I’m still behind on having my computer Y2K proofed, and I have a calendar in my wallet from my insurance agent from 1994.
Where does the time go? Away. That’s all that really matters. I’m seeing how important it is to make productive use of every free second I can, and I severely regret all the time I’ve completely pissed away until now. It’s not a renewable resource, and when it’s gone it’s gone. It’s precious.
If there is reincarnation, I sure hope we get a chance to come back and live life with knowledge going in, rather than being the empty headed halfwits we are now. Having someone to show us a few secret tips would help, but I guess that’s what parents are for in theory. I missed that boat.
My grandfather was great, but he died when I was 18 – right when I needed those tips the most. I made some extremely stupid mistakes on my own, and have kept that up to some degree for the duration. It takes years to get out of bad decisions, and sometimes the damage can be permanent.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to come into the world with some preexisting smarts? Damn, I’d be a major player and a multimillionaire by now. Too much freedom can be a bad thing, but I am by far not the only one to have mangled potentially good situations. Life is a big blind crapshoot.
Tonight I hosted the Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago, and after the show I hung out with Bert Haas, Jimmy McHugh and Kevin Naughton. Bert is the booker of Zanies, and his wife Sally is a comedian. Jimmy and Kevin are comedians who’ve done it as long or longer than me.
Bert was telling us that he and Sally were having a heated discussion on what a comedian’s job focus is. Sally’s view – and the three of us readily agreed - was that it was to always be working to improve one’s act and to be a better performer. It made perfect sense to Jimmy, Kevin and me.
Bert told us we were all wrong, and said it boils down to two words – SELL TICKETS. That’s never what any true comedian wants to hear, but it is the truth. If we don’t sell tickets, what does it matter what our act is? We might as well be hobby comics, and unfortunately most of us are.
This is a cold hard concept, and one I haven’t been good at embracing. It’s also the exact cause of why I’m not getting the results I’d like and other people are. I’ve known Jimmy McHugh and Kevin Naughton for years, and I like them both as people and think they’re funny comedians too.
Unfortunately, all three of us are among the struggling when it comes to our business. Any one of us could go on national television tomorrow and at the very least not embarrass ourselves, but what is embarrassing is how we’re all living hand to mouth after all these years of paying dues.
Had any of us had the vision of selling tickets first, our lives would be completely different in a good way. We’d be free to work on our acts – even though that’s really never a priority with fans who come to see us. James Gregory knows it. Jeff Foxworthy too. It’s April, time to smarten up.
Tuesday April 2nd, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI
My main focus for today was getting to Milwaukee to do a teaser show for ‘Schlitz Happened!’ in the sports bar at Potawatomi Casino. They sent out a press release and invited media, but there were also casino staff and VIP members from their newsletter that got in too. It was a lot of fun.
They even came up with a spectacular spread of “Milwaukee food” which included bratwurst, sauerkraut, beer and cheese soup with gigantic cream puffs for dessert. It was first class from the ground up, and I was thrilled to see it come to life. This is exactly how I pictured it would work.
Everyone at Potawatomi has been a peach to work with. Kim Mitschke is razor sharp with her attention to detail, and she’s also great at keeping me in the loop of what’s happening. She was a wonderful hostess, and brought me on stage for my performance with a top notch introduction.
The timing wasn’t great as far as getting all of the media to come, but that’s not a problem. I’d much rather have word spread organically, and then get media coverage later. I know in my heart I have a marketable product, and this was a test run. It was great fun to do, and it passed the test.
The reason I know it passed the test is that people stayed after the event to ask questions about the actual shows, as they plan on bringing friends with them. That’s exactly what I want to hear! I want word to get out, and build a recognizable brand. I finally have my chance to be a draw.
One lady made a point to track me down and tell me how much she related to my mention of a Milwaukee television icon from the ‘60s and ‘70s named “Albert the Alley Cat”. It was a puppet that was a nightly sidekick for a local weatherman named Ward Allen. The puppet would mangle certain words and it was very funny. ‘Humidity’ became ‘humidery’, and it was of local legend.
The lady who came up to me said she moved to Milwaukee from Spain at age 16. She thought it was crazy to have a puppet giving the weather, and she took a picture of her TV screen to send back to Spain to show her family how crazy they were in Milwaukee. Her face lit up like a kid’s as she told the story, and I knew right there this will be a big hit. I touched her on a special level.
There are HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people that have memories like that of local lore in Milwaukee, and I want to entertain each one of them. This show could run for years before I’d run out of fresh customers, and I’d be delighted if it does. I’ve hit a nerve here, and I’m excited.
There’s no way I’ll ever be able to get to all of the localized talking points I have come up with in any one show, and that’s the beauty of this whole idea. I want people to keep coming back and bringing friends with them. The show will grow and evolve, and it will constantly refresh itself.
For once in my life, I really feel I’m in the right place at the right time. Everything fits together perfectly, and I know if I get people to come out they’ll LOVE this whole concept. I’ve been off the radar for so many years with so many projects, I know a hit when I see one. It feels different.
At the very least, I got to be part of a press conference in my honor. How many people can say they got a chance to do that? Jason Evans came from www.mkefunny.com with Brendan O’Day to film an interview and Matt Kemple from The Milwaukee Comedy Festival showed up as well. www.milwaukeecomedy.net Those guys are supporting the local comedy scene, and I appreciate them both for covering this and making me feel important. My gut tells me this one is a winner.
Wednesday April 3rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I was listening to the Milwaukee Brewers broadcast on WTMJ radio today, and I’m still blown away by the greatness of Bob Uecker. That guy is FUNNY. Period. I remember listening as a kid when he was just starting, and I thought he was a riot then. All these years later, he’s still got it.
I do think funny is an inherent trait for the most part. I know I had it from an early age, and had the ability to make both kids and adults laugh almost at will. I don’t know how I knew how to do that, but I did it whenever I could – usually to the extreme dissatisfaction of an authority figure.
Not many teachers were impressed by my rapier wit, and even fewer bosses liked it when I got out in the working world. I was anything but funny to them as I cracked off line after line, but no force on Earth could stop me from going for the laugh. Like a pig enjoys mud, I enjoy laughter.
I really do think it’s an addiction, but what a wonderful one it is. I can’t see there being a wing at the Betty Ford Clinic for smart asses any time soon, and if there is I don’t want to go. I’m only happy when I can go for the laugh in most situations. Whatever normal is, it doesn’t interest me.
That being said, it has always completely baffled me at how many shoot for a career in comedy that aren’t the least bit funny off stage. It’s been that way since I started, and I have no doubt it’s been around a lot longer than that. For some reason, some people feel a need to pee in the pool.
A guy like Bob Uecker would have been funny if he worked in a funeral parlor. He’s just got it in him, and he can’t help it. I can’t either. I tried being quiet in school and an employee who was ‘on the team’ and all that, but I just couldn’t do it for long. My true colors came out and stayed.
Unfortunately, funny is a subjective thing and not everyone agrees on what does or doesn’t fall into said category. When I was a kid, there were some older kids in my neighborhood that would constantly shoot lines from Jerry Lewis movies back and forth. They thought he was the funniest thing ever, and I never got what they thought was so funny. I still don’t. He does nothing for me.
I guess it’s like a favorite band or restaurant. Once a taste is acquired, it can be enjoyed by the person who acquires it and it becomes the desired standard. We all have individual taste buds, so it’s all over the board as to what’s considered good or not. Nothing is ever liked by everybody.
I know a guy who can’t stand Bob Uecker, as hard as that is for me to grasp. Whenever I bring up how funny I think he is the guy goes off in six directions how he’s overrated and shouldn’t be on the air, blah blah blah. It reminds me how humble we all need to be, as we all have detractors.
I’ve seen more than my share of people walk past me after a show and not even look me in the eye. Those that do have a look of either disappointment or disgust, and I always try to smile wide and make it extra uncomfortable for them on their way out. I find it hilarious when that happens.
It’s a numbers game, and always has been. Life itself is a numbers game from the time that one tiny sperm cell makes it to the egg first and the billions of losers never get to see the light of day. It’s a cruel and vicious world sometimes, but I didn’t design it. I’m just trying to figure it all out.
Before it’s all over, I’d love to get a chance to meet Bob Uecker and tell him how much I have always enjoyed his immense talent. It doesn’t have to be long, a quick handshake and hopefully a picture would do it. I have friends who can make this happen, and it’s time to ask for their help.
Thursday April 4th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I’ve been keeping a happy secret to myself for the last couple of weeks, and I’m delighted to be able to finally let it out. My long time friend and comedy mentor Ross Bennett got a chance to be on the David Letterman show tonight, and he knocked it out of the park. I am SO happy for him!
Ross is just the best on so many levels, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this killer opportunity. It gives me tangible hope that at least a little fairness exists in this insane world, and a little goes a long way. I was on pins and needles all day waiting to hear from him, and when he texted me saying he killed it I felt like my Packers won another Super Bowl. It was pure ecstasy.
I first met Ross in the ‘80s when he worked at the Funny Bone in Milwaukee. We hit it off then and have stayed friends through a lot of ups and downs in both of our lives. Ross has not lived an easy life either, but like me he still keeps slugging and tries to play the hand he was dealt in life.
We’re kindred spirits and I’ve always gotten along with him from day one. He’s been like a big brother in many ways, and I’ll never forget his kindness. When I was living in Los Angeles, he’d lived there before I did and helped me get settled in. He didn’t have to do that, but I so appreciate the time he took to show me the ropes. L.A. can be very intimidating to a newbie, at least at first.
Then Ross moved to New York where he lives now, and he helped show me around that scene when I visited a couple of times. He helped me get sets at some of the clubs there, and again was like a big brother at a time when I really needed it. We went to a Yankees game, and saw a lot of amazing places all over Manhattan that I will never forget. Ross has always been a stellar friend.
I’ve tried to be one in return, and many years ago I was able to help Ross get involved in sports cards of all things. He set up at card shows for a few years as he was out on the road doing shows as a comedian, and at the time it gave him focus and structure he needed in his life. He’s thanked me for it numerous times, but it was my pleasure to help a friend who has always had my back.
Ross has really been through some rough stretches in his life. His first wife passed away and he was left to raise his son Nash with the help of his mother. That’s no easy task in a ‘normal’ world but trying to be an entertainer and raise a child is damn near impossible. Still, Ross pulled it off.
He has also had his share of run ins with certain people just as I have. He was kicked off of the Bob and Tom radio show for years, and then managed to get back in their good graces – the very same day I was kicked off of the show. We sat there together for a few minutes, then I was gone.
We laugh about it now, but I was really bummed out when it happened. I still don’t know what I did to make them that upset, and Ross talked me off the cliff that day – again when I needed his help the most. He’s always been there for me, and I can’t say that about most of my own family.
To hear he got a shot on Letterman made me leap with joy. He’s been slugging it out all over in the New York area for years, and has worked like a mule to get this chance. I’m glad he nailed it, but I’m surely not surprised. He’s a world class comic talent, and always was. This is his destiny.
The show will air on Friday April 5th, but I’ll be on my way back from a gig in Indiana. I don’t know how I’ll get to see it, but I’ll make sure I do at some point. This is a special occasion of the highest order, and I hope it launches him into other amazing opportunities. Ross got his revenge!
Friday April 5th, 2013 – Florence, IN
One of the benefits of spending a life on the road is getting to sample some of the finest food at places I would never have visited had I chosen a ‘normal’ lifestyle. My home turfs of Milwaukee and Chicago are both stellar chow towns, but I’ve had outstanding grub all over North America.
That being said, I can’t remember when I have ever enjoyed a more delicious or well presented meal than I had tonight after my show at the Belterra Casino in Florence, IN. WOW, what a treat of epic proportions, and I wasn’t even expecting it. Surprises like this make life worth the effort.
I’ve worked at the Belterra Casino before, but it was years ago. I remember doing a private gig for some kind of corporate holiday party and it was extremely difficult. The place itself is one of the most beautiful facilities I’ve ever worked though, and I didn’t mind going back to try again.
This was for a completely different booker, and a completely different situation. Last time was a private party. This time the casino itself wanted to book a comedy show for the public. It’s not the same thing, so I said yes. One thing I didn’t recall was how difficult it was to get to the place.
It’s located right on the border of Kentucky and Indiana, and it’s an easy drive from Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville. It’s a brilliant location in that regard, but getting there is a huge pain in the ass because after Indianapolis it’s a lot of two lane highways and small town slow roads.
I also thought Indiana didn’t participate in Daylight Saving Time, and I lost another hour I was planning on. I didn’t get to the show until five minutes before, and I really don’t like to cut it that close but everything lined up and that’s how it worked out. It was pure stress those last two hours of what is already a long drive, and to make it worse I had been given the wrong contact number.
I thought I was leaving messages for the show manager, and couldn’t figure out why he would not return my calls. Finally, the booking agent’s office called and scolded me for not checking in when in fact I had been trying to for hours. We straightened it out, and I got there just in time for opening act Dan Ronan to go on stage while I parked the car. It’s a good thing we rode together.
Dan is a funny kid, but he’s very young and the audience was a bit older. He did the best with what he had to work with, and I’ve been there myself. I knew exactly what those people wanted, and I let them have it with both barrels. I kept it clean, but also kept them laughing until they had enough. The casino wanted a 90 minute show, so I had to do an hour and five minutes and I did.
The person in charge seemed very pleased as he came to our dressing room and told us we had a complimentary meal coming at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. Dan and I had thought about a possible return trip, but the offer of a free meal quickly killed that stupid idea. We were in for the night.
This was a major treat for me, and I’ve been around the block before. For Dan, he died and was loving his first day in heaven. He ordered a New York Strip and I had the bone-in filet and it was off to the races. Our waiter Ronnie was a big fan of comedy, and he couldn’t have served us any better if his life depended on it. Top to bottom, this was one of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed.
That’s the key part too – we ENJOYED every last bite of it. I had a seafood appetizer that was also spectacular, and it was one of those nights that made me happy to be alive. Jeff Ruby isn’t a name I’d ever heard of before tonight, but I’ll never forget it now. This was a world class meal.
Saturday April 6th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI
I did it! I officially turned an intangible dream into a rock solid reality, and it’s beyond exciting to know that not only did it go extremely well - it’s only just beginning. I’ve finally got myself a legitimate hit on my hands, and after more than my share of flops it feels so good I can’t sit still.
“Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz from the Pabst” made its official debut tonight at The Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee for two shows, and I could not be any happier with how everything turned out. It went about as well as anyone could hope for.
I knew going in I didn’t have a finished product, so my expectations were low. My main worry was if anyone would come out to see it, but that went away quickly as I watched a line of people waiting to get in the theatre at 7:50. I could barely refrain from jumping and screaming with glee.
All I need is for people to latch on to this concept, and I’m going to be able to do this for years to come should I choose to and why wouldn’t I? I have all this local knowledge deep inside, and where else could I ever use it? There are enough people who know what I’m talking about to put it to use for everyone’s benefit. It’s going to take a lot more polishing, but the raw spark is there.
The shows tonight were at 7 and 9, and there were more people at the first show then they have ever had for Bonkerz Comedy Club shows. BINGO! That’s all that matters right there. The show doesn’t have to be good unfortunately; it just has to get people in the door. I’m learning that’s the key ingredient in show business - even though it goes against all of my instincts as a performer.
I’m not saying I don’t want it to be a good show, I totally do. But it doesn’t matter how good it may be if nobody comes out to see it. Tonight they did, and it was wonderful. The second show’s crowd was a bit less than the first, but together for both shows it was their biggest attendance for comedy shows ever. That’s not a bad way to start, but I’ve got a long road of hard work ahead.
I’m not taking any credit for any of what happened tonight. Potawatomi has a high visibility in town with media, and they were the ones who got the word out. Bob Rech is the one who gave it the green light after hearing about it from booker Joe San Felippo. I sold Joe, Joe told Bob, and it grew from there. Bob gave it a shot, and Kim Mitschke and the P.R. department went from there.
The word was put out, and then we had our dry run last Tuesday. Every opportunity was given to me to have the best chance of performing for a full house, and that’s how it came about. I had a few people I know show up to support, but the majority of who came out were total strangers.
THEY are the ones who have to like this show, and judging from the response they totally did. I encourage audience participation at a certain point, and both shows had a lot of it – and exactly the way I wanted it. Nobody was yelling up drunken gibberish. They added to the show’s flavor.
The first show was a challenge to maintain an hour and twenty minutes, but I did. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but being up there for that long isn’t easy. I threw in some standup bits to assure I wouldn’t totally bore them, and it worked. I did my time, and had plenty of material left.
The second show felt a lot more relaxed. I felt a major improvement in only one show, and the crowd was really into it. I ad libbed all kinds of stuff, and they got it all. I’m not cocky, but I just know this is a big hit. It will take a lot more work, but I’m totally up for it. Schlitz is happening!
Sunday April 7th, 2013 – Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI
Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but not in my busy world. I had a comedy class to teach at Zanies in Chicago this afternoon, and then ‘The Mothership Connection’ radio show tonight at 8pm on AM 1050 WLIP. I love doing both of those things, but my mind was focused on Schlitz.
I’m thrilled with how the opening night went, and all of my energy needs to be centered on this for at least the rest of the run. I’ve been notorious for not being focused and other bad habits, but it doesn’t mean I have to repeat the pattern. This is my chance to do things right, and I intend to.
The main thing I know I need to change is my attitude toward the actual show. I’ve been such a stickler for the onstage content throughout my life, I’ve missed out on several giant opportunities I totally should have gotten. That’s not going to happen this time. I’ve got a much clearer vision.
The truth is, the public doesn’t care anywhere close to how much I do about how any particular show happens to go. They’re MUCH more forgiving than I’ll ever be should I happen to forget a joke or do something out of the intended order. The only one who cares is me. I have the power.
This is something I’ve had problems with for a long time, and have seen others succumb to as well. I have come off stage countless times to thunderous applause, only to pick apart what went wrong with the set I just did that the crowd loved. They loved it, but I didn’t. That’s acceptable.
It’s only a problem if it’s the other way around. I’ve seen performers with an exaggerated view of their own abilities, and they think they’re superstars when in fact the audience sees them a lot differently. I’ve never had that problem, and I hope I never do. I’m about constantly improving.
There’s a fine line of how much energy to devote to the actual show versus the business, and I feel I’m right on track with this project. I’m glad I went to Atlanta last week and got to see things from the perspectives of excellent business minds like Steve Hofstetter and James Gregory. They are both light years ahead of me when it comes to handling their business, but I’m catching up.
This is going to be a fantastic opportunity for me to implement what I learned, but also harvest the decades of hard work I spent out on the road learning to be a performer. I nailed those shows on Saturday as far as the audience was concerned, even though in my head I know I can make it better by leaps and bounds. I intend to do exactly that, and it will grow organically in due time.
The old me would have looked for a small venue to do this and piece together a masterpiece of a product over years of struggle. WRONG. I did that with my standup act and am nowhere close to getting the results I hoped for. That was the wrong way to do it, and I won’t repeat that error.
Getting on the big stage and working out the bugs is the way to go, and I’ve got three weeks of work ahead that I’m really going to focus on. These next six shows will all be better than the last, and by the end of the month I hope to have another run scheduled so I can keep the barrel rolling.
I love working at the Northern Lights Theatre, and hope to continue. If the numbers keep up at the rate they were last week, I believe I will. Still, that was only one week. Now word has to get out, and it will take time for it to take root. All I can do is keep working to improve, and I’ll have a solid kick ass show to deliver for anyone who decides to take a chance and come out. I can feel myself being much more mature than I’ve ever been, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Monday April 8th, 2013 - Fox Lake, IL
I had a stunning revelation today. It was another busy day of running around all over the place, but right in the middle of it all it hit me that I have achieved and attained the Holy Grail that very few ever come close to – happiness. I have life, liberty and happiness. It’s no longer the pursuit.
Sure, there are still plenty of things I’d like to have and achieve before it’s all over, but for the most part I am doing exactly what I want to with my life and I’m loving it. How many of us ever even come close to that at any point in our lives? Not many that I’ve found, but I do think I have.
In some ways I’m afraid to even think about it, as it’s so delicate a condition. It seems like it’s ingrained in our DNA hard drives to always want more, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s incentive to keep going and improving, and that’s what life is about right? But I’m content in my journey.
Just because I’m here now doesn’t mean it’s permanent, or does it? I was looking back through the chapters of my life trying to decipher if and when I’ve ever been at this point before. I’ve had some fun stretches mixed in with a lot of torture and insanity, but I never appreciated them fully.
One was in my early twenties as I was starting out in comedy in Milwaukee. I also had a job at a department store called ‘Boston Store’, which I always thought was a goofy name. Was there a ‘Milwaukee Store’ in Boston? I never checked, but my guess is no. I worked there during the day and at the comedy clubs at night. Between the two I had the best of everything but I didn’t see it.
At the Boston Store I was a retail clerk called a ‘flyer’. That meant I worked every department in the store that had an opening on a particular day, and it was the only way to go. I met all kinds of red hot single women, and to this day I kick myself for not realizing the perfect pipeline I had.
There were seven floors of hotties at the Boston Store, and anytime I wanted to take a lunch or break, my table was full of cuties to choose from. I had a date anytime I wanted, and I did enjoy it but not as much as I should have. My mind was on comedy then, and I wouldn’t be deterred.
But I even blew that. Those were the magnificent boom years of the ‘80s, and nobody knew it wouldn’t last forever. It was a blast to hang out with the comedians of that time, and some of the names that were coming up then included future stars like Drew Carey, Robert Schimmel and an outstanding array of others who went on to much bigger things. Those were truly golden years.
I realize that now, but not then. How stupid I was. I was always striving to get to the next level and wasn’t taking time to enjoy where I was – which was pretty spectacular at the time. I wasn’t enjoying the fun because I was lost in my own anger about childhood issues or whatever else the psyche of an artist uses to fuel progress. I was missing out on a fun era, and it was all my fault.
There were also a couple of fun stretches in my radio days, but they didn’t last long before my eventual firings. Still, there were times when I had radio and comedy going at once and was in a great space. I had all the money I needed at those times, and life was really fun – for a while.
Well, it’s really fun again only this time I know it while it’s happening. I love to do the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows, and that project looks to be very bright. I’m also teaching classes and doing a fun radio show and am surrounded by wonderful friends all over. I love where I live, and life just fits my personality now. It may change and I may fall out of this groove, but for now I’m happy.
Tuesday April 9th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I can’t help but think about how good I’ve been feeling of late. It’s a feeling of contentment on a deep level that permeates my entire being. It’s actually a bit scary in a way, but it feels like I’ve finally hit full stride in life on a cosmic level and my possibilities of positive growth are endless.
I don’t know why I know this, but I do. I feel it. I’ve felt the other side of the spectrum too, and this isn’t it. Maybe it’s just the opposite side of bipolar, but I don’t think so. I’ve always pictured life to be exactly like this, and it finally is. I don’t know why it took so long, but it’s here now.
When I was working on the morning show at 93QFM in Milwaukee in 1991, I felt like I was in the same position then. All I ever wanted was to have an outlet for my creativity, and I thought it was going to be that. I was doing comedy and on radio, and knew exactly what I wanted to do.
I wanted to create a local empire, and in a way it was the early version of ‘Schlitz Happened!’ I had guests on the air who were local celebrities, and I could feel it was going to be a winner back then. Unfortunately, management didn’t and it all came crumbling down before I could set it up.
My friend Drew Olson was one of the few who shared that vision. He wanted to build a strong local network of contacts, so he could get anything he needed at any time whether it was tickets to a ball game or his car worked on. He was willing to give too, as was I. We both saw it clearly.
Drew is now doing exactly that working on ‘The D List’ on 540 ESPN Radio in Milwaukee. It took a while, but we’re both in a pretty good position locally. He’s always been a great friend for years, and we’ve helped each other countless times. He gets it, and it gives me hope to continue.
It isn’t just about being on a local level though. Being the King of Milwaukee was something I wanted then, but now it’s not my priority. It would be a kick if ‘Schlitz Happened!’ catches on to enjoy a long successful run, but if it doesn’t I’m still ok inside. This feeling is deeper than local.
I’m just in a groove that I know is the right way to be. I’m grateful for every day, and all that’s in it. My food tastes great, and even the car that’s been such a pain in the ball joints is not giving me any hassles. If it blows up tomorrow – and it might – I have a better one waiting in the wings.
That’s just it. Nothing overwhelming is bothering me right now. Sure, I have little frustrations any busy person has but it’s not deeply rooted in the anger I used to have toward who knows the number of sources. I was pissed off at a lot of things for a long time, but now I’m not letting any of it get to me. I feel a layer of cosmic insulation around me and I’m focusing on what I need to.
For whatever reason, I feel an air of confidence about me I can’t say I’ve ever had. I am going to be successful no matter what I do, and it’s my choice of what it is. If ‘Schlitz Happened!’ is a flop, I’ll come up with something else. If I move from Chicago, I’ll be fine. If they find a tumor the size of a Cornish hen in my brain pan and I check out in a week, even that’s ok. I can take it.
I feel like there’s a whole new vibe coming out of me, and it’s the exact one I have wanted to have forever. Whatever dents in my can caused me to make the many stupid mistakes I did aren’t hurting me now, and I don’t know why. Is it just because I’m maturing? Is it something that I did knowingly or unknowingly? That’s a good question. I have no idea why I’m in such a high place, but I know I belong here. I’ve pictured it since I was a kid, and I’m here. NOW it’s time for fun!
Wednesday April 10th, 2013 – Libertyville, IL/Rosemont, IL
My packed tight schedule got packed tighter, but there’s no use complaining. I am going to put all I have into what I’m doing and that’s all I can do. I’ll either get it done or wear out trying. It’s all stuff I totally enjoy, so if my heart does happen to pop like a pimple at least I’ll have had fun.
Today I started teaching another comedy class at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL. I enjoy teaching there, but it’s not a place that attracts hardcore comedy students. That’s fine, but it’s not the same preparation to teach. Most of the people who take classes there are doing it as a hobby.
This particular class is a Toastmasters group looking to get some tips on how to make speeches funnier. They’re very nice people and open to learning, so I’ll give them the tips they want and a lot more. I can use these sessions to practice and improve my teaching skills with new exercises.
It’s all about constant improvement, and I’m definitely doing that onstage and off of late. I can feel myself getting markedly better, and that’s how it should be. It’s not common for someone to stay hungry this late in the game, but that’s exactly how I feel. I want to always keep evolving.
After class, I headed over to Rosemont, IL to headline Zanies Comedy Club there. I picked up a three night run there that fits perfectly with my Saturday commitment in Milwaukee. Schedules happened to fall into place for both Zanies and me this week, and it’s a perfect fit for each of us.
Things have really been falling into place lately, and I’m afraid to ask why. It doesn’t work like that often – at least from my experience. I seem to be in a deep groove of late, and I can’t say I’m upset about it. I need to savor this feeling for when the tide turns back, and it will. It always does.
I just feel like I’m finally swimming with the current in life rather than fighting upstream to get anywhere. It’s a whole different feeling to be going with the flow than against it. I’ve found what I love to do, and I’m not only doing it for a living I’m enjoying the process. That’s a dream gig.
It’s taking a lot of energy to make it all happen, but that’s ok too. It takes even more to work at something I can’t stand. Most of the world is trapped doing some dead end boring job that wasn’t in their dreams when they still had enough energy left over to dream at all. I’m actually living all mine, and it feels great. Even a bad day doing what I’m doing is better than being a rich zombie.
The key is to keep showing up every day and do the very best I can. I’ve got so much going on at any one time, it’s inevitable something will fall through the cracks and it does regularly. I wish it didn’t, but it absolutely does. Despite that I’ve managed to get a lot done in the recent past, and I’m not about to give that up any time soon. These are my prime years to do whatever I will do.
I really had fun at class tonight, and I will come up with lessons designed for their needs. It’s a challenge to find where their wheel house as a group is, but I’ll give it my best shot. I also had an excellent time on stage at Zanies. I’ve been working on Milwaukee stuff of late and haven’t been putting effort into my regular standup, so that will be the focus in Rosemont. Life is a workshop.
Unfortunately, for as much fun as I’m having there’s the pile of unfinished business that always goes with it. Emails and phone messages are backed up, as well as laundry and other chores like car maintenance, taxes and everything else that everyone else has to do. I’ll have to attack that at some point, but then it takes time away from what I love to do. A sexy secretary would be great.
Thursday April 11th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL
People who aren’t comedians have no idea what is actually involved in the performing process, even though most think they do. I’m sure it’s like being in a rock band or playing pro sports - it’s a commonly shared dream of millions, but a ridiculously low amount ever get to do it as a career.
Everyone may think they know what goes into not only getting there but maintaining a level of professionalism, but until one physically does it there’s no way to predict all that it involves. The craft requires extremely hard work, lots of it and the process never stops – or at least it shouldn’t.
I’m to the point now when I really don’t need to work on my act anymore, although I still do at every opportunity. I can’t name the actual percentage of comedians at my level that haven’t done a single thing to improve their acts in years, but I’d have to believe it’s rather high. It’s common, and I see why. There are so many other things to deal with, many times the act itself is left alone.
Technically, nobody makes us work on our on stage show. We don’t get more money if we’ve got ‘new material’, and that’s a widely misunderstood term as it is. The average public thinks we can just crank out new and polished jokes and bits and routines at will, when in fact it’s not true.
Sometimes adding even one line or a single word to a bit can take months to do correctly. It’s a delicate process, and requires discipline to work on it over time in front of different audiences in different situations. Sometimes a way a word is inflected can make a difference. It’s an art form.
I’ve always been aware of this, and have used my stage time wisely. That’s the only time when I’m in control, so I take it very seriously. I may look like I’m just goofing off up there, but I’m at work and am paying attention to everything that’s going on. As I get older, I’m even more into it.
Tonight was a magnificent opportunity to practice, and that’s exactly what I did. The situation I am in at Zanies is rare, so I took full advantage of it. They love me there, and I’ve proven myself as a solid headliner. If there’s such a thing as comedy job security, I have it there. I don’t want to ever abuse that status, but if there’s ever a place for me to experiment with something it’s there.
There was about a two thirds full house at Zanies in Rosemont tonight, and they were in a good mood. I could tell by watching the opening acts it would be a good audience, and I could’ve gone up and done my regular show and been done with it. It’s a weeknight, and my pay wouldn’t raise no matter what I did. Nobody was expecting anything other than what I do, but it wasn’t enough.
Not for me, anyway. I knew I had a chance to improve, so I jumped at it. I decided before I got on stage I was going to dramatically slow my usually manic pace for the entire show and deliver my material in a completely different way than I normally do. It’s like a basketball team deciding to switch from playing a fast break style to a slow down offense. A different skill set is required.
Not only that, I threw myself off even more by opening with material I rarely if ever use in that spot and throwing my big closer in about fifteen minutes in to see if I could follow it. I did, and it was a hot show start to finish. I was on my toes the whole time, but it was a wonderful workout.
These are the kinds of things a craftsman does, and it keeps me fine tuned and in the game. The audience was great, but they would have loved most anything I did. I could have phoned it in but that wouldn’t have made me any better. I worked on my craft tonight, and it’s deeply satisfying.
Friday April 12th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI/Rosemont, IL
I’ve got places to be, baby! It might not be New York or L.A., but that’s fine by me. Chicago is a gargantuan city and Milwaukee is my home town, so that will do for today. Milwaukee was the first place I needed to be to meet with some radio friends for lunch. That’s always worth the trip.
Pat Martin has been a mentor to all kinds of radio people, and he was to me too. He helped me get my first job in Lansing, MI and I don’t know whether to hug him or punch him for that. He’s a great guy though, and deserves much respect and gratitude. He’s always been a big supporter.
Kipper McGee is another radio icon I love and respect, and he was there too. Kipper and Pat’s influence have been shining beacons in my radio experience, which has been a lumpy ride at the very least. When I’ve really needed a friend, both those guys have been there and I’m grateful.
Mitch Morgan is a very talented radio name I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting, and he was in the mix too. He’s what radio people call ‘on the beach’, which is between gigs. He got blown out by those fine humanitarians at Clear Channel who are always known for their extreme warmth to talented people who have sacrificed their lives to attain a high level of professional competence.
Also part of the group was Mark Helaniak. Mark is president of the Milwaukee Broadcaster’s Club, and also someone I’m hiring to put sound effects together for ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows. I want to get old radio and TV jingles and commercials to play before shows as people walk in the theatre so it takes them back in time and puts them in the right mood before the show even starts.
Mark was the one who did the final mix on my most recent CD ‘Hard Luck Jollies’, and he’s a pro that’s been around the area for decades. I’d never actually met him in person before, but he’s a very nice guy and we all had a blast at lunch exchanging radio stories. We are all ‘radio lifers’.
Unfortunately, Mark’s computer system has been giving him fits of late, and we were not able to finish the original job. He asked if I could come back tomorrow, and I’m fine with that but I’m hoping we can get it done in time for the shows. I was looking forward to adding it for this week.
There’s nothing I can do about it, so I left Mark’s house and headed to Zanies in Rosemont, IL for two more shows. I would have loved to take some time to relax, but that’s just not in the plan right now. I have to keep showing up where I’m expected, and I barely had time to make it there by show time. By the time I get gas for the car and stop for a quick meal it’s time to work again.
I kept up what I started yesterday and worked on my act both shows. The first show was a full house, and I used that opportunity to go through my ‘A’ set. I closed with the closer I usually do, which I did early in the set last night. I haven’t been doing it of late, and I don’t do it at all in the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show so I wanted to give it a run through in front of a full house to polish it.
I have also used these last few shows to work on my offstage business as well. James Gregory was kind enough to give me an afternoon of his time when I was in Atlanta, and he explained to me how important it is to have a nice display of merchandise and an onstage sales pitch to sell it.
I respect him unconditionally, and made it a point to do all of what he said every show. It was a conscious effort, and I sold out of all my merchandise by the end of tonight’s first show. I’ve not been the greatest at merchandising, but this week I showed major improvement. Thanks James!
Saturday April 13th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI
Ding ding. Round two of the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ experiment, and I’m still standing. It’s going to take a while before it starts to take a real shape, but for where the process is now I’m feeling a lot of positives in all directions. It’s worth my time investment, but I’ve got a lot of work to do.
On the good side, both shows tonight were well attended once again. That alone will allow me to keep doing it, and that’s about the best I can hope for right now. This isn’t something that’s an all or nothing onetime event like a big boxing match, this is a project that will take years to build.
I had a couple of glitches to work through tonight, and that’s going to be part of it for however long this project should happen to run. It’s a constant process of adjustment and adaptation to the circumstances at hand, and sometimes that’s not pleasant but it’s the only way to build anything.
The first show tonight was again the best attended. It surprises me that a 7pm show would be a bigger draw on a Saturday night than a 9pm show, but that’s how it’s working out so far. Maybe it will evolve, but for now that’s how it is. I definitely sensed a different energy from both shows both weeks so far. The later shows had more people that wanted to participate and be a part of it.
The glitch in the first show tonight was that there was a group of about 25 who weren’t born in Milwaukee and lost some of my references. They were transplants who moved here years ago for work purposes, but they weren’t able to hang with me on the material that went back any farther.
I talked to quite a few of them after the show, and they said they had a good time even though I was not hitting them on all cylinders. That’s an issue, and I have to be prepared because this isn’t the only time that will happen. I have to be prepared with a ‘Plan B’, but I’m still working on my ‘Plan A’ for those the show is intended to target. I wasn’t expecting this, and it did throw me off.
What threw me off in the late show was a crowd much younger than I was expecting. That put me in a different trick bag, and again I wasn’t prepared. I knew early that this wasn’t going to be my crowd so I fell back on my standup bits and luckily I was able to do that as it bailed me out.
That’s another situation I need to be prepared for in the future. I will make a note of it and have a plan for when it happens again – and it will. Situations always repeat themselves, and that’s the one thing any performer can count on. If one is in the business long enough, it all happens again.
What wasn’t a big hit was a closing bit I came up with that plays some audio I thought for sure would bring the house down, but it didn’t. I’m not saying it won’t in the future, but it will need a few tweaks and right now I’m not certain what those are. This is all part of starting from scratch.
All in all, there was progress made from last week to this one. I tried several new things, some worked and some didn’t. I’m already embarrassed at how little there was last week, but that’s the way I want to feel every time because it means I’m improving by leaps and bounds. I’m not at all cocky or think ‘I’ve arrived’. I don’t ever want to think that way. I’m just barely getting started.
Sunday April 14th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
My business sense has been growing remarkably stronger of late, but I think I still have a long way to go before I can get too excited about anything. There’s a big war going on with that and my inner ‘artiste’, and I can’t claim any victories just yet. This is a time I must tread very lightly.
By all accounts, ‘Schlitz Happened!’ has the potential to be a big hit – probably the biggest and best project I’ve ever done. I don’t know how much that’s saying, as I haven’t pulled off as many big projects as I’d have liked. I attempted more than a few, but they didn’t turn out as I’d hoped.
For various reasons, I’ve never had a major hit with anything I’ve ever done. There hasn’t been that signature piece of work I’m known for that all artistic people seek. I was close with the radio job I had in Chicago at 97.9 ‘The Loop’, but the station got sold just as we were starting to gel. It was none of our faults, but we took the hit anyway. For whatever reason, that timing was wrong.
This project feels completely different. It feels like my timing is dead on perfect, as Milwaukee people have a desire to go back to a safer time in their past and seek refuge from the insanity of a crazy world in which we live. It’s only been a couple of weeks, but I can sense I have hit a nerve.
That being said, I wasn’t thrilled about my performance in either show last night. I wasn’t able to knock either one out of the park like I know I can, but that’s just not realistic. I’m just starting, and nobody starts anything from zilch without at least a few growing pains. I need to be careful.
I know what I am capable of as a live performer, and quite honestly when it’s going well few if any others can match my energy level. When I’m hot, I’m hot. Last night I was not. It wasn’t my best performance, even though I did hear plenty of sincere compliments from many who came.
It didn’t help that Joe San Felippo and Bob Rech were there, and they watched both shows. I’m not worried about them firing me or anything, but they’re the ones who gave me this shot and my inner artiste wants to knock them both flat on their asses to prove they made the correct decision.
This is a feeling deeply rooted in all dented cans. We’ve been mocked and ridiculed most if not all of our lives – usually by someone extremely close to us. More often than not it’s a father issue and the pain runs so deep we’d do anything to hear him say even the slightest words of approval.
I know I’m not alone in this, but few ever talk about it out loud. Once in a while I’ll manage to get a fellow performer to ‘fess up about having daddy issues, and it’s always the reason he or she got into the business in the first place. Why so many fathers are cold hearted ogres is beyond me.
Once in a while it’s someone else. Johnny Carson’s mother was the source of his approval need and he admitted it. No matter how big of a star he became, she never would give him the support he craved from her. All of us have that need to be loved and accepted, but in performers it’s even stronger. Look at all of the brutal sacrifices we make in our lives to get even a little. It’s amazing.
Those deep inner scars are very slow to heal, and old habits die painfully hard. We’re so used to needing acceptance to the point of desperation, we’ll knee jerk react to situations where things don’t go as we planned in our mind’s eye. That’s something most of us fight, and I’m fighting it after two shows I wasn’t thrilled with last night. Nobody but me felt that way, and even Joe and Bob said it’s a work in progress and we’re just getting started. I need to shut up and know it’s ok.
Monday April 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I don’t know what happened, but today was a train wreck on many levels. For some mysterious reason, all hell decided to break loose at once and I have no idea why. I have been in a very good groove for the most part over the last several months, feeling as happy as I ever have in my life.
My daily vibe has been looking up on a consistent basis, and I haven’t had any rough stretches for a long time. Life has actually been great fun - exactly how I pictured it when I was a kid. I am not naïve enough to think there wouldn’t be downswing, but I sure wasn’t looking forward to it.
Today happened to be ‘one of those days’ from the start, and it finished worse. The first glitch I encountered was the transmission in my car slipping noticeably. That car has given me nothing but trouble since I got it for free, and I’m about ready to set it on fire and watch it burn to a crisp.
It’s almost time to switch it out for the Toyota Camry I have in storage, but I wanted to stretch as many miles out of it as I could to at least try to get back some of the money I had to pour into it to get it running. The whole idea was a big mistake, and I’m going to lose in the end anyway.
Then it’s tax day. I don’t know how I managed to mangle that yet again, but I did. I thought I’d solved my problems, but I had to again tell my accountant to file an extension because I couldn’t get all the paperwork to him in time. I’m a lot better than I have been in the past, but still behind.
What throws me off is that I have to wait for places I worked to send me a 1099 form. They are supposed to do it by January 31st, but there are always those that don’t and that in turn puts me in the trick bag and before I know it it’s April 15th and I’m behind yet again. I always report 100% of whatever I make – cash included - as I don’t need any IRS trouble over my meager earnings.
I’d much rather have a clear conscience and be up front about every nickel I make, but it’s hard to get every place I work to stay up to date. I need to keep better records myself, and I have been, but I’m still not there yet. I’ll get it done, but I’ve been on the road so much I fell behind - again.
All this is baby poo compared to what happened in Boston today. There were some explosions at the Boston Marathon that killed a few people and severely wounded a lot more. Whenever this kind of thing happens, it puts me in a foul mood to the point I don’t even want to turn on the TV.
I can’t figure out what’s wrong with people, and times like this disgust me to the core. I’ve said forever there are all kinds of people I can’t stand, but I never had any intention of killing anyone. I’ve always been a proponent of just living a life out of touch of anyone with whom I can’t stand.
There’s no reason to get violent with anyone – especially innocent people who have nothing to do with whatever issue there may be. That appears to be the case in Boston, and it makes me feel sick to my stomach. It’s all so unnecessary and I wish it would stop, but I think it’s just starting.
This is all extremely fishy, much like 9/11. I have a hard time believing it was just one random act, and it’s going to set off another string of events to further put the squeeze on any freedom we as Americans may have left. Somebody somewhere has got an agenda of evil, and innocent folks have to pay with their lives to move it forward. That’s not how life should work, but I don’t have a say in it on a bigger picture but my own life. I was on a major positive upswing – and I guess I still am – but stories like this sure make it hard to stay there. My heart goes out to all the victims.
Tuesday April 16th, 2013 – Hoffman Estates, IL
As unimportant as it may seem, I want to be known for something positive after I’m dead. It’s difficult to be known for anything after one is dead, and that’s why I want to do it. It means there has been effective work done somewhere along the line, and future generations benefit from it.
Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges and Buster Keaton are perfect examples. I used to watch their work with my grandpa when I was a kid, and we both laughed uproariously. I have pleasant memories to this day because of them, and most of them were dead before I was born. They gave millions pleasure while they were alive, and millions more after they died. That’s true success.
I don’t know if I can do that, but it sure is a noble goal. I think I’m on or close to the right track at least a little, and I intend to keep working for as long as I’m breathing. It will end soon enough anyway, so why not shoot for the moon and beyond? Making a difference would make me proud.
Right now, the project at the top of my mind is ‘Schlitz Happened!’ That may well be what I’m known for if anything, so I want to knock it out of the park and make it a high quality product for years to come. It may only be enjoyed by a select few, but I want those people to love it dearly.
I’ve been doing my due diligence to improve myself on every level of late. Meeting in Atlanta with James Gregory and taking Steve Hofstetter’s business seminar really inspired me to take my level of business up a notch, and today I met with my friend Todd Hunt to continue that process.
I always learn from Todd, as he’s one of the top marketers I know along with James, Steve and precious few others. There is major skill required to be a top marketer, but it also involves a well executed plan and a lot of plain old hard work. James, Steve and Todd have all done it correctly.
Not only that, they’ve all done it in different areas. James works comedy clubs and theatres for the most part, while Steve works colleges and comedy clubs. I doubt if any of James’ fans have a clue as to who Steve is, and vice versa. And I’d bet none of any of those fans would know Todd.
Todd isn’t even a comedian. He’s a ‘business speaker’, which isn’t the same as a ‘motivational speaker’, and neither of the two have a ‘circuit’. Todd has to dig up jobs one at a time, but he has done it successfully for years and continues to grind out his marketing plan on a consistent basis.
I would bet 95% of his business or higher comes from his relentless cold calling, sending flyers and mailers and constantly shaking the trees of human resource people nationwide. If I had to do what Todd does to get work, I’d be out of business in a week. He really knows what he’s doing.
Not only that, he’s a huge fan of Broadway shows. How does that help me? Well, he’s into that world like I’m into sports, and he has a working knowledge of the entire culture. I am completely clueless to that subject, but it doesn’t mean I can’t learn from it. Todd explained a lot of how that game works, and I listened intently trying to pick out anything that can help me with my project.
Todd is also really good at making critiques and suggestions, and was kind enough to offer his input on the shows I’ve already done. I will listen to what he says, and incorporate the things I’m able to use to keep the show constantly improving both onstage and business wise. He gave me a one on one seminar just like James Gregory did, and I am grateful to have friends that are willing to offer help. I’ve always tried to be that way myself, but when it comes back it feels fantastic.
Wednesday April 17th, 2013 – Libertyville, IL
Summer will be here sooner than later, and I’m probably one of the few who live in the climate region I do that is dreading the thought. While everyone else is out barbecuing and camping and having the times of their lives, comedians are scraping to piece together a living. It’s a struggle.
It can be a struggle all the other months too, but summer is the toughest time of the year by far. Who wants to be inside seeing a comedian when there are baseball games to attend or swimming pools to enjoy? I was born and raised in a place that has nasty winters, so I feel that way myself.
It’s always been a challenge to stay booked in the summer, and it’s not getting any easier. I’ve managed to squeak through and survive all these many years, but it hasn’t been easy. Some years are better than others, but as a rule summer is the slow time for comedians. I need an alternative.
Bands can work festivals, and that’s often a solid source of income for them. Comedy does not play well outdoors, even though it’s been tried. I’ve worked many an outdoor gig where I’ve had to talk over a plane flying over or watch someone change a dirty diaper in front of me as I work.
One of the few places where comedy business carries on as usual during the summer months is the South. They’re used to the hot weather and they deal with it accordingly. Comedy clubs seem to do well year round in the South, and in years past I’ve gone down there to salvage a summer.
When I was working for Carnival Cruise Lines I had a great summer – probably the best I have ever had. I was surprised to discover people want to cruise in the summer, but apparently they do and it was great for my wallet that year. I’d gladly do it again if I get the opportunity, but I’m not in that loop these days. There’s a new booker in charge, and I haven’t been able to get a booking.
Part of the reason is that I haven’t tried to get in his face about it. I’ve been too busy getting my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show off the ground and everything else I’ve got going on. Bookings are the last thing I’m worried about, when in fact they should be the first. Now here comes summer heat and my bookings are ice cold. After I complete my Schlitz run in two weeks my calendar is bare.
I’ll get some last minute stuff thrown my way as I usually do. Bookers I haven’t worked for in a while will contact me and I’ll be ‘fresh meat’ on their schedule. There’s always a fallout at the last minute for whatever reason, and that’s how I’ve been able to make a living for all this time.
I don’t want to have to depend on having to wait for other people’s scraps though. I’ve been at this long enough where I should be enjoying the lion’s share of the bookings and not playing the role of the buzzard hovering above a rotting carcass. I’ve earned my place, and I need to claim it.
Once again, it all boils down to a successful marketing plan. If I can find a way to pack fannies in seats, I’ll work all I want. I’ll have so many gigs I’ll need to clone myself to take them all. It’s not that way now, and I need to change that in a hurry or I’ll be mowing lawns or setting up rides at a carnival. As each year passes, leaving my summer bookings to the fates is not a wise choice.
Maybe I’ll be able to carve out a summer niche for ‘Schlitz Happened!’ at some point. There is a big church festival market in the Milwaukee area, and that could be a perfect fit. This won’t be the year as it’s way too late, but next year is a definite possibility. As of now, this summer is one of the slowest I’ve had in a long time. I’ll either adapt or starve, and I don’t like the last option.
Thursday April 18th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI
For whatever reason, fate dictated that I was absolutely going to attend the Milwaukee Brewers game this afternoon whether I liked it or not. First, I was offered an extra free ticket by my friend Mark Gumbinger. He and some friends were going to the game, and he was nice enough to ask if I wanted to tag along. I had a gig booked tonight not far from Milwaukee, so I told him I would.
Then, late last night Mark sent an email saying a few of his rental properties were having flood issues and he wouldn’t be able to make the game. I already had my ticket, but who wants to go to a baseball game alone? I didn’t want to throw away good money on parking just to sit by myself.
I had already scheduled a breakfast meeting with my cousin Wendy, so I headed to Milwaukee much earlier than I needed to for a noon start baseball game to meet up with her. She’s very fun, and she and her husband Dan came out to see ‘Schlitz Happened!’ last week so I felt I owed her.
Not only did she buy me a delicious breakfast at The Athens restaurant, she said her son Andy would be at the game and he too had an extra ticket. I told her I already had my own, but I would go and hook up with Andy anyway. He’s been a big supporter of mine, and I am totally grateful.
I never hung out with that side of the family growing up, but in the last few years we’ve gotten know each other better and I am delighted we did. They’re hard working friendly people and I’m proud to call them relatives. They’re trying to overcome the stench of our family just like I am.
Wendy’s father and my grandfather were brothers, and by all accounts her father was an all out scoundrel. I wasn’t fond of him as a kid, but I didn’t see him all that often. I found out later of an array of ugly exploits, and it made me sick to my stomach. He was definitely from the dark side.
My grandfather was one of seven brothers, and was one of few bright spots. Most of the others were lowlifes, reprobates and scumbags. My father was in that category, and he always got along famously with his uncles. I guess we inherit different traits, as my father and I never could find a common ground on any level. He enjoyed the dark side, while I was always trying to escape it.
Cousin Wendy has always tried to do that too, and has raised a wonderful family. Her kids are all great, and she doesn’t let her past take her down just as I’m trying not to let mine destroy me. It’s not easy to get over a lot of things, and it’s good that we’ve now got each other to encourage.
I try to stop and see Wendy whenever I’m in the Milwaukee area, and she’s an early riser so it usually ends up being a breakfast at The Athens because it’s close to her house. Sometimes some or all of the family comes along if they’re around, and it’s been a great way to get to know each other later in life when we can appreciate how much we’ve all had to struggle to make it this far.
It was really fun to hang with Andy at the Brewers game. That’s the most we’ve hung out one on one ever, and I really enjoyed it. He’s a former cop and current bar manager, and he’s one of the most connected people in town. I thought I knew a lot of people, but he’s got me WAY beat.
One of the people he knows is Bob Uecker’s radio producer Kent Sommerfeld, and those were the tickets we had today. They were great seats, not the typical Bob Uecker seats everyone jokes about. Andy said he’s sure I’ll be able to meet Bob in person eventually, and I’d really love that. It may have taken decades to find them, but I actually have relatives with whom I feel a kinship.
Friday April 19th, 2013 – Chicago, IL
I’m having serious doubts as to the logical order of the universe, and I have to admit it’s taking away any and all faith I had in a God. Whatever God is, it’s not what I was told as a kid and I am left with a giant hole in my psyche that’s filled with disappointment and unanswered questions.
The ugly situation in Boston set me off, and it was on the radio all day as I drove around trying to get errands done. It was on constantly, and every station was making mention of it at least to a degree. Even the music stations were giving updates, so I gave in and followed the chase myself.
I still can’t understand how the world can have such an insidious side, and the more I followed the story the more it disgusted me. Why useless wastes of DNA like this are allowed to make life miserable for so many is beyond my comprehension. And in the end, where is any fairness at all?
The older brother (Idiot #1) is dead – and nobody is sorry – but now Idiot #2 is captured and he will be nursed back to health at the public expense to face a trial, and then housed and fed on our nickel for the rest of his natural days. I can’t wrap my tiny brain around any of this, and I’m tired of seeing stories like this happen over and over and over again. None of this makes sense to me.
I’ve said it many times before and I still feel strongly, I am on the wrong planet. Somehow I’ve taken a cosmic detour to this stench ridden space pebble while the spaceship bound for my planet is missing a passenger. The more I see how things are handled here, the more I want to go home.
This really bummed me out, but then again I couldn’t stop listening. How one idiot could elude thousands of alleged law enforcement professionals is absolutely fascinating. How could it take a whole day to find this puke? It did, and it made hundreds of thousands of people’s lives difficult.
Something is wrong deep to the core, but nobody seems to want to discuss it. What could make anyone so heartless as to hurt and kill so many innocent people for no apparent reason? I always hear “that’s the world we live in now.” Now? No, I think it was always like this. That’s my issue.
Look at Charles Manson and his pals. They went on their little spree in the ‘60s, and it wasn’t a new thing then either. Terror and atrocities have gone on since the beginning of time. Why won’t God protect innocent victims, or at least help us weed all the bad seeds out of our genetic stash?
I am SO sick of hearing “it’s free will” and “we’ve just gotta have faith.” My puckering poop shoot. Ask the people in Boston who just lost limbs about any of that. I’m sure they’re delighted to be included in the big heavenly plan. Charles Manson is still alive, but an 8 year old kid isn’t.
Sorry, this just isn’t right to me. If there is a bigger plan somewhere, I’m not seeing it and it’s a painful experience wandering around a planet where things are getting worse and not better. I’ve always tried to do the right thing, and I know millions of others do too – but it doesn’t seem to do any good. The bad in the world always seems to wipe out the good, and everyone is worse for it.
They eventually captured Idiot #2, and even though everyone on the radio seemed to be feeling good about it, I had a hollow feeling inside as I knew this wouldn’t be the last time something as dramatic as this would capture everyone’s attention in the media. It won’t, and the next time this happens I’ll feel disgusted all over again. This is not the kind of place I would have chosen to be my home, and if there is some kind of a God somewhere I hope He or She gets this thing fixed.
Saturday April 20th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI
Tonight was round three of the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ experiment, and things are still looking up in every direction. Both shows were once again well attended, and audiences tonight were better than last week’s by far. These people were exactly who the show was meant for, and they got it.
A big part of the reason was that I had a lot of friends come out to each show. I’m flattered and grateful they came to support, but unfortunately I can’t depend on that for the long term. If this is going to fly with eagles I will have to find a way to get strangers to come and keep coming back.
That’s not to say strangers didn’t show up tonight – they totally did. They were into what I was doing, and it gave me hope that I actually do have a winning product that has some legs. I have a very long way to go though, and I know it. But at least I feel all my sweat effort will be worth it.
These shows were only numbers 5 and 6, but I could feel significant growth and improvements from the other four and I’m sure I will next week also. There are all kinds of ingredients required to create a finished product of anything, and this is nowhere close to being a finished product yet.
This is the time for trial and error and refinement, and that’s what I’m doing. My friends aren’t going to be the ones to put this show over, but unfortunately they’re the ones who have to watch the baby’s first steps. They’re usually not smooth, even though it can be fun to watch it firsthand.
I’m still very much in the baby steps phase of this project. I see a clear vision in my mind’s eye of where I want it to go, but I’m nowhere close to that now. Right now I’m just trying to increase my stage wind to be able to do a consistently entertaining hour and twenty minutes at one stretch. That alone is a challenge, not to mention trying to establish a well fitting running order for it all.
I have said it each week so far and I will continue, I am NOT about to get cocky any time soon even though I am very encouraged with the direction it’s all going. All I had to do with anything is come up with the initial concept. I’ve had help from everyone else, and that’s why it’s working so well. Everyone at Potawatomi has been super supportive, as have all my Milwaukee friends.
Tonight’s shows were especially packed with friendly faces, and I was happy to see every one of them. My godmother Anita Baumann brought some people, and she’s always been supportive of everything I’ve done. She always sent birthday and Christmas cards when I was a kid, and I’ll never forget her for that. How many godmothers and godfathers keep it up for an entire lifetime?
Vicki Quade drove up from Chicago to attend, and brought a friend of hers who is in charge of another theatre in the Milwaukee area. Vicki is very successful with her own shows about being Catholic like “Put the Nuns in Charge” and “Late Night Catechism”. Vicki has been there from the start to offer encouragement, and I know she’ll have ideas to make the show that much better.
If I start naming all the others who showed up, I’ll leave someone out and I’ll feel embarrassed. I felt like I was at a wedding after the show as I was shaking a long line of hands from David Lee and Mark Krueger and their wives from my old 93QFM days to a lot of people I’d either worked or gone to school with and every one of them was grinning from ear to ear with nothing but great things to say about the show. I really think they meant it too, but even if they didn’t I was glad to hear it all. This is what any performer dreams of, but even though it was a fantastic experience it doesn’t change the fact I’ve still got a lot of work ahead. Six shows in, I’m just getting started.
Sunday April 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL/Kenosha, WI
Today was a day to kick back, but only a little. I’m finding myself thoroughly enjoying all that I have piled on my plate - even though the pile is dangerously high. Everything could crash down with a thundering thud at any second, but for now I’m having fun. It’s exactly what I want to do.
2013 is flying by faster than I can comprehend, but I’m definitely still on my way to having the best year I’ve ever had. I’ve already accomplished a lot, but I see a lot more just around the bend. Decades of preparation have gotten me to this point and I just can’t see wasting even one minute.
It’s really been a satisfying experience performing the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows. It is exactly what I dreamed about when I first started doing comedy, and even though it took a lot longer for it to become a reality than I ever imagined it is now and it feels better than good to see it happen.
Sure, there are a lot of tweaks needed but the basic product is there and it’s now out there and ready to grow. That baby has been born, and it has ten fingers and ten toes. There might be some growing pains and glitches, but all babies have that. For the most part it’s a happy healthy infant.
‘Schlitz Happened!’ is getting a lot of attention now, but after next week’s final performances I will put it down for a nap for a little while – probably until fall. Potawatomi Casino and I will get together on a plan for future shows, and I feel very confident we’ll be able to work out all details.
Another baby that’s just waking up from a nap is standup comedy classes. I’ve got some going both at Zanies in Chicago and Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL and I’m finding myself doing them several nights a week of late. I love teaching them, but I’m going to have to organize more.
Tonight’s baby was ‘The Mothership Connection’ paranormal radio show on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. That’s another project I really enjoy, but I’ve really neglected it of late. We had our best year by far in 2012, but now we’re just kind of drifting along. It doesn’t stink, but we’re not growing and that’s not good. We’ve got a very solid vibe between the crew, and we know it.
We had a few technical glitches tonight, but that happens once in a while. It could have shaken us, but we didn’t let it and we ended up having an excellent show. We also had some last minute guest cancellations to deal with, and we handled that as well. This baby is ready to start walking.
They all are. Standup comedy is my adult child since it’s been in my life the longest, but I love that like a baby too. Unfortunately, I can’t devote all of my attention to any of them right now so I’m trying my best to at least give each one a hug whenever I can. Being a daddy is no easy task.
Then there’s The King of Uranus. That whole project has completely come to a halt, and that’s not at all to my satisfaction. I know it’s a goofy idea, but it too has enormous potential. I get that reminder every single day when someone behind me in traffic snaps a picture of my license plate and bumper sticker with a big grin on their face. That idea could be the biggest of them all, but if I don’t do my due diligence as a father that baby will die. They all could, and that’s why my time needs to be spent wisely. I’d hate to see any of these ideas die. It’s up to me to give them breath.
Monday April 22nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
Almost everyone enjoys a pipe dream of becoming famous at least once, but nobody ever has a realistic idea of everything that it entails. It’s fun to imagine the perceived perks that accompany a celebrity’s existence, but like everything else in life it comes attached with a substantial price.
I have had the opportunity to observe varying degrees of famous people firsthand over multiple decades, and it’s always an education to see how those situations play out. Everyone is different, and that produces different results each time. Some were made for that role, and others weren’t.
In everyone’s fantasy, being famous is always a pleasant experience. One gets recognized only at the most convenient time, and then only by the most attractive members of society who are all sane and want nothing else but to heap the highest praise and politely request a quick autograph.
There are never any kooks, detractors or stalkers in said fantasy, and the magic button is able to be turned on and off at will so when it’s not convenient to be recognized one can quickly go right back to enjoying the undervalued freedom of anonymity. Unfortunately, this is far from reality.
In the real world however, fame is extremely unpredictable. It can come and go without notice, and often does. Just because one achieves it at a certain time in a particular circle doesn’t mean it will be there forever, and while it’s there it comes with a downside nobody ever sees in advance.
I couldn’t imagine being truly famous on a massive scale like an Elvis or Michael Jackson. It’s usually a recipe for eventual disaster, and few if any ever handle it well for very long. Both Elvis and Michael died young, and by all accounts their final years weren’t pleasant. Who wants that?
My grandfather had a great saying: “The higher you climb up the flagpole, the more people can see your ass.” Gramps had a way of cutting to the chase, and this made perfect sense even when I was a kid. Still, I am in a business where having name recognition is what puts fannies in seats.
There’s a gargantuan difference between name recognition on a business level and insane fame though, and I don’t want any part of the fame game. I’m private off stage to the point of boring. I don’t need to be a constant center of focus, and in fact I’m very uncomfortable in that role at all.
I do what I do on stage, and that gets my ya yas out just fine. When the show is over, I am right back to being myself and I like that just fine. People often come up to say they enjoyed the show, and that’s great. I always try to be accessible and sincerely thank them for coming - and mean it.
I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about Justin Bieber famous. He’s the latest example of a genuine worldwide sensation, and I can’t see how anyone that age could have a clue as to how to handle it. It’s great for the ego to know you can sleep with anyone you want in a major arena full of hot and horny teenage girls – and their mothers too – but I don’t think it’s a healthy existence.
I don’t think I’m made to play the fame game, but I do want to get more name recognition for a chance to make more money doing what I’m already doing. I won’t be any funnier if I can fill an arena, but I sure will be richer and I don’t find anything at all wrong with that. I’ve paid my dues for a lifetime to acquire the skill set I have, so what’s wrong with maximizing my income to earn more than the journeyman’s wage I’m bringing home now? Being a worldwide heartthrob might sound fun in theory, but I’d gladly settle for a respectable following of fans to keep my bills paid.
Tuesday April 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I’d like to spout off a little more on the concept of being famous and all that goes with it. It’s a complex subject, and I’m not even sure if I fully understand it. What I do know is there is a huge difference between having name recognition and being an actual draw. I want to become a draw.
There aren’t many who can say that, but those who can have the world by the ‘nads. Being able to fill seats brings power, even though actual talent isn’t a requirement to do it. What is needed is an easily identifiable product that a significant amount of people are willing to pay money to see.
I’ve been trying feverishly to become a legitimate draw for decades, and have failed miserably no matter what I’ve tried. The closest I have come by far are the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows I am doing this month in Milwaukee, and I’m hopeful I can continue to build on that. It feels like a hit.
But even if it is, I’ll only be a draw in the Milwaukee area and maybe Wisconsin. Sure, I might work my way up to having a loyal following and that following could number into the thousands or even hundreds of thousands – but that won’t make me famous. True fame is an extreme rarity.
Only a very very VERY few in any category manage to generate instant name recognition with the masses, and with the internet generation getting more and more fragmented by the minute it’s becoming even more difficult. The days of worldwide fame are coming to a close, but the era of selective stardom is just getting started. More and more people are becoming partially famous.
This seems like an ideal plan, and the chance at having the best of both worlds. Not being able to leave my hotel room isn’t my idea of fun, but that’s what being truly famous entails. Michael Jordan talked about that in an interview I saw, and it made me not want to ever reach that level.
It was bad enough when I worked on cruise ships. I challenge anyone that thinks being famous is desirable to work one week on a cruise ship and see if they still feel that way. I was tired of the random but constant recognition after only a week, and I did it for the better part of eight months.
There was no place to hide beside my room to avoid it, but who wants to be cooped up inside a tiny room without a window on a cruise for a whole week? After a while, I felt like I was inside a fish bowl and everywhere I went I was being watched. No place on the ship was safe from attack from anybody at any time. I could be eating a meal or even in the bathroom and it would happen.
I’d say 95% of those who approached were extremely nice. They’d say something to the effect of how they enjoyed the show, and then went on their way. It’s their right, and I respect it. Then there was the 5% who made it hell by telling bad dirty jokes or trying to get me to buy Amway.
It’s all a big numbers game. There are what - seven billion people on the planet now? Who gets to be famous to the highest number of that total? The Pope? The U.S. President? What comedian is known to the most people worldwide? I wouldn’t have a clue. It’s probably a Muslim mime or a Chinese ventriloquist. I do know it isn’t me, and I don’t think I’d know what to do if it was.
I was trying to crunch some numbers and I’d guess after all these years I’ve performed live for probably 750,000 to one million people not counting radio and TV appearances. That may sound like a lot, but out of a total tally of seven billion it doesn’t even make a tiny dent. Even if I got on network TV daily, people overseas wouldn’t know me. I won’t seek fame, but I will try for rich.
Wednesday April 24th, 2013 – Fox Lake , IL
I was watching some old wrestling videos on You Tube today, and ran across a name I hadn’t heard in years – Roger “Nature Boy” Kirby. He wasn’t a major star, but I always liked his name. I never saw Buddy Rogers who also used the “Nature Boy” moniker, as did the great Ric Flair.
I used to regularly see live matches from about age 12 or 13 on, and the promotion that came to Milwaukee where I grew up was the American Wrestling Association, or A.W.A. In retrospect, it was one of the very best promotions of the old territory days and my high school years were right in the middle of a golden era. There was top flight talent then, and growing up I was a huge fan.
There were also quite a few fans in my high school, and we often talked about wrestling events just like we’d talk about baseball or football. It was very popular, and nobody cared if it was real or not because of the colorful personalities. Those guys knew how to entertain live and on TV.
Roger Kirby only wrestled in the A.W.A. for a short time, but he was a bleach blonde bad guy who played an arrogant character. He had huge legs, and apparently really broke an actual world record for leg pressing a staggering amount I can’t remember, but I think it was around 2800 lbs.
Right around that time there was a kid who started attending our high school who’d just moved to Milwaukee from the Detroit area and his name happened to be Michael Kirby. It wasn’t a full day in before his nickname obviously became “Nature Boy”, but nobody meant any harm by it.
I got to be friends with Michael as the year went on, and I really grew to like him a lot. He was a rather serious type, but a super nice kid who tried really hard. I could tell there was some kind of trouble in his life, and he was definitely a dented can. I’m not sure of what his family situation was, but I don’t think it was the greatest. Somewhere in his life, I sensed he had felt a lot of pain.
I went out of my way to be friends with the guy, and I could tell he really appreciated it. I knew it would be hard for him or anyone to move to a new town in the middle of a school year, and the Detroit Pistons t-shirts he wore to school didn’t help as some idiots used to get on him about it.
He also happened to be black, and I think that was an issue too. He wasn’t comfortable around many people, and I just sensed the guy needed a friend. I got along great with him, and he ended up confiding in me later that it was my being friendly to him that gave him strength to carry on.
Later in the year, he came to me with a dejected look in his eye asking why people kept calling him “Nature Boy”. He thought people were making fun of him, and he couldn’t understand why. He wasn’t a wrestling fan and had no idea who Roger Kirby was, so I told him the whole story.
His eyes lit up like I’d told him he’d just been pardoned from a major felony. He was delighted to hear the story, and that it wasn’t him they were poking fun at. I have no idea whatever became of Michael Kirby, but I sure wish the man the very best and hope he found happiness in his life.
I looked up Roger Kirby, and he’s still alive. He’s 73 and apparently living in Kansas City with his family, and I wish him well too. I don’t know if anyone calls him “Nature Boy” anymore, but it sure is a cool nickname for anyone who uses it – at least I think so. Michael Kirby didn’t like it at all, but he wasn’t a wrestling fan. Should there ever come a day when I have a son, he just may have his mail addressed to Mean Gene “Nature Boy” Maxwell. There’s a reason I’m not married.
Thursday April 25th, 2013 – Niles, IL
What is it about the National Football League that has addictive powers? It’s frightening, but if I could figure out that secret ingredient I’d use it myself and get rich. Something about that sport has turned hundreds of millions of Americans into brain dead zombies who are hooked for life.
Unfortunately, I find myself in that category and no matter how hard I fight it I seem to always come back – and I’m sure that’s exactly how they want it. I am a lifer, and my drug of choice has always been the Green Bay Packers. There are 31 other flavors available, but that one is mine.
Once again as I have for too many years to count, I purposely blocked out my evening to watch ESPN TV coverage of the entire first round of the NFL draft. I’ve done it as long as I can recall it being televised, and I have to say ashamedly that I really enjoy it. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.
Talk about your quintessential non event being overhyped, pumped full of hot air and force fed to a shallow stupid public – this is absolutely it. It’s such a brilliantly slick marketing job I wish I would have thought of it. Part of me is embarrassed I like it so much, and another part is jealous.
The modern day King of Ballyhoo Vince McMahon himself couldn’t have pulled an event like this out of thin air, and I’m sure he’s probably jealous too. The NFL really put one over on all of us, and we’re thanking them for doing it by showing up in droves to watch it like a Super Bowl.
My friend Marc Schultz is as hopelessly hooked as I am, and he invited me over to watch it at his house. It’s become an annual tradition that his wife Audrey cooks us steaks and we sit around in front of the TV from opening pick to the very end. It’s a total geek fest, but we both live for it.
Marc is a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, and even that doesn’t stop me from going there each and every year. We actually have intelligent conversations about what each team needs, and we try to predict who each one will take. We’ve never been right yet, but it’s still fun and we will probably keep doing it as long as they keep televising it - but why would it stop? Halfwits like us watch it.
All the whole overblown thing boils down to is just a glorified version of picking sides as kids, but there’s something about it that attracts millions of mooks across America that should have all kinds of better things to do. I can’t tell you for the life of me who represents me in Congress, but I do know in what spot my Packers were drafting (26) and that’s embarrassing. I am SO hooked.
The NFL knows this, so they’ve stretched the whole thing out over three days. Now it’s a whole weekend I have to set aside – and stupid me I probably will. I tell myself I’ll just put it on to find out who the Packers get in the later rounds, but who am I kidding? As always, I’ll end up getting sucked in once more by Mel Kiper Jr.’s hypnotic hyperbole and before I’ll know it it’s Monday.
There were actual games going on in both baseball and basketball tonight, but I didn’t pay any attention to any of it. Why would I want to watch actual GAMES – some of them playoff games – when I can eat steak with a friend and watch as pampered oafs get chosen to rake in zillions?
There’s just something not right about any of it, but I can’t deny I had a total blast from as soon as I walked in the door to the minute I left after the last pick of the first round. The food was very good, and the company was better. Marc and I watched every single pick and it was a pleasure to do it. Not one down of football was played, but the NFL still made money. THAT’S marketing!
Friday April 26th, 2013 – Niles, IL/Fox Lake, IL
I’m getting ready for my last night of ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows for the immediate future, but my offstage work is just beginning. This is a project that should last for years, but I don’t intend to rest on my laurels and coast through it. If I’m going to do it – and I am – I want it to be great.
The only way anything can be truly great is to keep working and improve every aspect. I don’t think I’m above this process, and in fact I want to completely rebuild myself from the ground up. I’m going to examine and reexamine myself from all angles, and build something to be proud of.
On stage, I need to have a solid structure. I couldn’t be any farther from that if I tried, and it’s a frightening place to be. I have some of the ingredients in place, but none are in any kind of order or set dosage. I’ve been randomly experimenting, and that’s not any way to achieve real success.
It is the way to get started though – at least for me. I’d much rather get it out there and begin to shape it than leave it in the planning stages forever. I know a lot of people who talk about a lot of projects they’d love to do, but never even test any of them once. Ideas are useless without action.
One thing I’m not afraid to do is take action, and so far it’s been a gigantic learning experience. I have enough stage chops that I can pull off an acceptable show with audiences, but I won’t fool myself into believing the array of flattering comments I have gotten mean it’s a finished product.
It SO totally isn’t – onstage or off. I met with Cathy Rubino for breakfast today. She’s a former comedy class student with a background in acting and theatre and she’s nothing short of brilliant. I could tell she had the creative spark in class, but she never wanted to venture out on the road to chase the standup dream. I can’t blame anyone for that, as the road life is an all consuming beast.
There are a lot of genuinely talented people who couldn’t last on the road, and it surprises me I made it as long as I did – talent or not. The lifestyle required to be an entertainer is just not made for everyone, but those of us who can manage to survive acquire a callous that helps protect us.
I know I have a thick one, and sometimes I feel out of touch with ‘normal’ people. They often aren’t on the same wavelength, and that’s why road dogs tend to either be lone wolves or choose to hang around other road dogs exclusively. I don’t think either of those are the smartest choices.
Why not hang around those who can be a link to actual customers? Cathy is a perfect example of someone who gets both sides. She’s an amazing talent, but she also has a family life and that keeps her grounded. Whatever dents are in her can aren’t noticeable on the surface. I’m not used to being around people like that, but I need to be because she’s exactly like I want my fans to be.
She’s in the exact right age group, and enjoys entertainment. She didn’t grow up in Milwaukee, but totally understands what I’m trying to do. She offered to coach me from a theatrical point of view, and I gratefully took her up on it. She’s got experience, and I know I can learn from her.
She drove up with me for the first week, and saw the shows in person. She made notes, but we agreed that we’d hold off until I had a few more shows under my belt to compare and see how it all worked out. I filled her in on how the other shows went, and we went over the notes she made the first week. She had a lot of very solid ideas, and her insights from a theatrical background are something I wouldn’t get from another comedian. This is the correct path for pursuing greatness.
Sunday April 28th, 2013 – Chicago, IL
I received last minute word that George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic were performing in Chicago tonight, so of course I had to rearrange my schedule so I could attend. It’s impossible to ever know for sure when the last time will be for me to see them live, so I always go when I can.
George always has been and still is a master showman, and I never get sick of watching him do what he does. He’s a world class entertainer and a master of his craft. Even into his 70s he takes command of the stage from the second he walks onto it, and never lets go the rest of the evening.
I hadn’t seen the P-Funk in a while, and even though I had a lot of other things I could’ve done instead, I made it a point to catch the show. It was too late to reach out to George’s manager who has always been nice enough to put me on the guest list, so I knew I would have to pay to get in.
There aren’t many acts I’d pay to see, but George will always be one of them. He’s my favorite of all time, and I can’t see anyone knocking him off that perch at least in this lifetime. I have yet to see any live music act come within three planets of touching them when they’re on their game.
It’s got to be hard to keep it together for such a long time though. If you’ve never seen George, he’s the leader of a musical circus. There are probably 30-35 people on stage at any time, and it’s an amazing experience when everyone is on the same page. There are an army of super guitarists plus slick horn players and enough backup singers to start another band, and George leads it all.
I have a hard enough time keeping myself on track as a comedian. I can’t imagine what George deals with on a daily basis. He has had to deal with a lot of loss of late as well. Just last week one of his longtime bass players Cordell ‘Boogie’ Mosson passed at the age of 60. Before that, Garry Shider died last year. He was a talented guitarist known for appearing on stage in only a diaper.
It’s beyond belief they’re still touring, and that’s why I catch them whenever I can. They aren’t playing the greatest of venues these days, and that’s an absolute shame in my opinion. I wouldn’t have wanted to work in the venue they played tonight, but if he was upset George didn’t show it.
The sound was horrific and the stage was tiny, but that didn’t stop George and the P-Funk from proceeding to scorch the paint off the walls. Wow, were they on tonight. George has dropped his wild multi colored hair look in favor of a suit and tie, but it didn’t matter. He was on red hot fire, and we all got our money’s worth and then some. That was a lesson and a half in showmanship.
Every time I think I have my own thing figured out, I see something like this and it informs me I’ll never be finished learning no matter how long I hang in there. If George or the group was not happy about anything, none of the audience could tell. They came out like it was a Carnegie Hall debut. Who knows if or when I’ll get to see them again? If this was it, it was sure worth my time.
Monday April 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
As a comedian, making fun of anything and everything that passes in front of my nose is what I do for a living. Whenever I happen to notice anything unique or of interest pop up in the news or anywhere else, my thinking has been trained over a lifetime to search for the jokes immediately.
That’s how the comedy mind works, even in the most delicate of situations. No matter how sad or horrifying any tragedy may be, there are usually jokes about it within hours. This is especially true since the dawn of the internet, but even before that people with a warped side were still at it.
I remember hearing Jeffrey Dahmer jokes in Milwaukee about three days after it happened, and couldn’t believe they could get out there so fast. Now it’s even faster than that. I love a good line even if it’s in the poorest of taste, but that’s how comedians are. We’re trained to look for humor in all situations, and that in turn dulls our sensitivity to certain topics the public may find taboo.
All that being said, a major story all over the news today was an NBA basketball player named Jason Collins becoming the first active player in any major professional sport to come out of the closet and declare he was gay. I’m a big listener of sports talk radio, and it attracted a lot of calls.
Again, as a comedian my first instinct is to go right for the jokes but this made me pull the plug on that part of my brain and think it through. First off, I can’t believe anyone still has issues with someone being gay. I know I don’t, and never did. Even though I am not gay myself and admit I don’t understand it, I don’t feel it’s my position to judge anyone else. I have my own problems.
Where I sit, that’s how it should be with everyone. I might have a complaint if I find myself in prison and am approached for a midnight date from my 6’10” frisky cell mate named Snake, but there I go with the joke angle again. This is a subject that’s going to be top of mind for a while.
I can’t believe it took this long for someone to be ‘the one’. I’m sure there are all kinds of jocks through the years who were gay and had to live a secret life, but it took Jason Collins to push the envelope and assume the role. I bet he didn’t know what he’s gotten himself into, and I’m sure it will come with both good and bad. Like Jackie Robinson, he will be seen in history as a pioneer.
Personally, I don’t think it’s that big a deal but it was according to the callers on the radio. Let the guy live his life. I thought I was a big sports fan, but I’d never heard of the guy before today. He’s a marginal player at best, even though making it to the NBA at all is a major achievement.
It won’t be his play that he’ll be remembered for now, and I already sense controversy brewing by the way callers reacted to the whole subject. Once again, it seemed like the religious goofballs who took the low road and started condemning him to hell. That put me even more in his corner.
I don’t think a person can help how he or she is born. If you’re gay you’re gay, and it’s nothing new. It’s been around as long as humanity, so if there is a God He or She must have programmed it into the DNA makeup somewhere along the line. Who are any of us to point fingers at anyone?
I’m not trying to be a do good liberal crusader or anything else but a human being. After trying to look at this issue from all angles intelligently, it occurs to me that anybody’s sexual preference is their own business and none of mine. Or yours. Period. On a happier note, more gay men leave more single women so why should heterosexual men complain? Stop whining and go find a date.
Tuesday April 30th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about ‘Schlitz Happened!’ since Saturday night. I thought I could let it sit until fall, but that’s not going to be the case at all. There are too many details to be looked after, and even though I won’t do any performances for a while I still need to improve on every aspect of it on stage and off. I’m not going to let myself flub this project like I have others.
There was a very nice build throughout the entire month of April, but I guarantee the next time it runs I’ll have it at a much higher level in every facet. I have some good people on my team that I know will have input I can use to keep polishing this chunk of raw coal into a shiny diamond.
In addition to the people I already thanked, I forgot to mention others like Todd Hunt who was kind enough to offer to listen to the recordings of my first shows and make notes. Todd’s insights are always welcomed, and I’m sure his input will take root immediately. That’s just one source.
Art Hinty came out to the final show this last Saturday, and he’s as sharp as they come when it comes to tweaking and punching up existing ideas. He’s a newspaper reporter by trade, and he’s been a great source of ideas and realistic input on most of the stunts I’ve tried to pull off of late.
Art has a real grasp of the real world, and he’s another one I listen to with reverence. He’ll put a heaping ladle full of solid ideas into the stew pot, and he already has. We went out to eat after the last show, and he gave me the thumbs up as far as a show concept but also loaded me down with some useful structure details from a writer’s viewpoint and he was dead on with his notes.
Mark Fenske is another friend that took time to come up from Chicago to see the show. He has lived in L.A. for years, and did some acting as well as standup comedy. He went to school to be a director, and he sat through two shows and made some notes as well. I’ll take all I can from all of these sources, and also keep making my own notes as I go. I already feel a lot of positive growth.
Then there’s the off stage side of it. I need to keep working with Mark Filwett on website stuff, as content creation is always crucial. I’ll need to create products too, and also keep reading up on all things older Milwaukee so I can expand what I already have going. This will also take work.
I don’t mind working, but my question is what’s the right work to be doing at a given time? It’s always a time management issue, and I don’t want to waste a second this late into the game. I am always biting off more than I can chew, so I’ll either need to start chewing or spit something out.
I also need to start delegating a whole lot more or I’ll never get anywhere with anything. I just can’t do everything, and I’m proving that every day. Making myself the project leader of several teams is the way to go, and that’s what I’m going to do. There’s no way I can do it all by myself.
As of now, ‘Team Schlitz’ is operating pretty smoothly. I have the people I need in place to get what I need for the immediate future, and I have a clear idea of who I need to engage after that to keep things moving. If I didn’t have so much other stuff going, I’m sure I’d be able to pull it off.
The trick now is to get all the teams running like this, but I’m not there by a long shot. I have a lot of scattered and half baked projects that could be working smoothly but just aren’t because of my admitted lack of focus. I do believe this is all doable though, and it’s a matter of creating one big master plan with a lot of little mini plans woven in. It won’t be easy, but what in life ever is?
Wednesday May 1st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
New month, new motivation. I just finished slugging out a pleasurable productive month doing ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows, regular standup comedy shows and teaching comedy classes, but the money I made from all of it is gone like Madonna’s virginity. It was fun to do, but I need money.
It’s SO disheartening when every penny one works so hard for has to go to non sexy things like speeding ticket fines or credit card bills, but that’s life – at least for most of us. I don’t know who has money to burn these days, but nobody in my immediate circle. Everyone I know is struggling just to stay afloat, and that has a way of cranking up the stress level and sapping fun out of life.
Sometimes I feel like I’m almost there, but then I look at my bills and know I’m not even close to where I need to be. I focus on the journey and enjoying the moment and all that claptrap that’s splattered all over greeting cards and motivational posters, but at the end of the day I’m BROKE.
Life can be so cruel and unforgiving, and mistakes from one’s past have a way of coming back like a cosmic boomerang. I know it’s worked that way for me. I’ve been trying to wisely handle my finances, but every time I start to get ahead a little a tornado comes along to wipe it all out.
It’s not like I’m spending every spare dollar I make on “Hershey bars and Archie comics” like my grandpa used to say. I’ve been making a practice of saving 10% off the top of all I make like I’ve read in several financial books, but then a crisis comes along or a gig falls out or something else falls off my car and I have to use that money in a pinch to bail myself out one more time.
A major problem with the entertainment business or being self employed in general is the lack of a consistent income. Some weeks or months or even years are flowing with cash, but then the pendulum eventually swings the other way and it’s all over. It never lasts forever, but during the slow times it seems that way. I feel myself headed into a slow time, and it’s getting my attention.
I’ve been here before, so I’m not afraid. I’ve had to piece together a living my whole life, but it does concern me I haven’t figured out a way to reach a higher financial level by now. I know I’m better than this, so now it’s time to prove it. I’m backed into a corner, and I don’t have a choice.
What I’ve been doing obviously hasn’t worked to my satisfaction, so what are my choices? I’m either going to change my tactics and make something significantly better happen, or I’ll stay the same and continue to produce the mediocre to poor results I have been cranking out for so long.
I understand what the options are, and I’m choosing change. This is not where I want to be one, five or twenty years from now. Whatever I’ve done in the past to lead me here I intend to change dramatically and not keep ending up with empty pockets for all my hard work. This is a mistake, but one I think I can change if I make the correct choices. I don’t want to keep living like a bug.
I reached out to a few bookers today to obtain some work for the immediate future, and I hit on a couple of random dates. That’s a good thing and much appreciated, but not something for long term. I won’t crawl out of my financial hole doing one nighters in sports bars, and that’s the rub.
I need to take my business sense to a completely new and much higher level, and that’s hard to do after a lifetime of squeaking by. It’s easy to get into the cockroach mindset, but that’s not how I want to live anymore. I never wanted to, but I thought it would lead to a payoff. Was I wrong.
Thursday May 2nd, 2013 – Danville, IL
Danville, IL happens to be the home town of show business brothers Dick and Jerry Van Dyke, actors Gene Hackman and Donald O’Connor, NFL football player Zeke Bratkowski and baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount. That’s quite an impressive lineup for a town of about 33,000 people.
I had only passed through here to gas up and pee once or twice in all my travels, and never had I performed here until tonight when I worked a delightful joint called “Sarge’s Tap”. It ended up being a super positive experience, and I’m glad I came. Shows like this make it all worthwhile.
This was a gig booked by fellow comedian Steve Sabo out of Toledo, OH. I’ve worked for him several times before, and quite frankly the shows can go either way. Sometimes they’re great like tonight, but other times they can degenerate into bloody verbal combat with boozed up goobers.
I don’t blame Steve for that. He books mostly bar gigs to make some extra cabbage, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He busts his ass making posters for his gigs and he brings entertainment to places that normally wouldn’t have any. He works most of the gigs himself at first to get them going, then sends other comics through and takes a commission. That’s a smart business model.
Anyone who accepts a booking from Steve knows – or at least they should – that anything may happen on a given night without logical reason, and one must prepare to expect the unexpected at all times. I remember working for him one night in Michigan when a ghastly she beast wouldn’t stop taking her t-shirt off and proudly flashing herself alternately between the audience and me.
Normally I would greatly enjoy large breasts being jiggled my way, but this was the exception. They were large in and of themselves, but in comparison to her mammoth hind quarters they lost any and all sex appeal and just looked freakish. They got everyone’s attention the first time they came out, but by the time we’d all seen them a dozen times even the freak factor had worn off.
That was my first experience working for Steve, and I must say it made me think twice about a return engagement but I never blamed him personally. He books bar gigs and that kind of stuff is par for the course. Some comedians spend their lives doing those kinds of gigs, but I’m not a fan. I did them in my early years to gain experience, and that I got. Now I do them just for the money.
I happen to need money right now, so here I am. I’m glad to get this booking, as it fits perfectly with another I have tomorrow in Marion, OH for another comedian named Jeremy Danley. Steve and Jeremy are very similar in that they book quite a few rooms on their own, and good for them for doing it. They’re both honest guys hustling a buck. That’s what built the America we knew.
Tonight’s show was an absolute sledgehammer. The opening act was a guy named Chris Smith out of the St. Louis area, and he’s been out there for years just like me. He’s a wonderful feature, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. Usually, feature acts try to blow headliners off the stage so they can get booked back as a headliner and get paid more money. I understand the reasoning.
Chris is a funny act, but his style is very easy to follow. He does a super job, and we’ve worked together before. He earns every penny of his pay, and I’d tour with him anytime. He’s a total pro, and the crowd loved him tonight. They loved me too, and the whole time I was on I was grateful to get work this week. The owner Wanda is very nice and said she wants me back. I hope I don’t need the money as badly then, but this is a place I would do again. Let’s see how tomorrow goes.
Friday May 3rd, 2013 – Marion, OH
One thing a life in standup comedy isn’t is boring. Stressful? Maddening? Insane? There’s a bit of all those ingredients and many others, but one thing comedy surely isn’t is the same old thing. One night it’s a hot show for a packed house, but we sleep on a couch. The next night it’s a four star hotel, but we’re performing for twelve people at a VFW Hall with horrific sound and lights.
The next night after that we’re off, and the night after that we’ve got two shows – one is a blast but the other is a train wreck. Sometimes we fly to a gig, most times we drive. Sometimes there’s an opening act, other times there’s not. There are limitless possibilities, and we as comedians can never fully predict what a situation will be like until we’re in it. Adaptability is a necessary trait.
I took last night’s booking because it was within reasonable distance of tonight – a completely different scenario. Tonight’s show was in an entertainment complex in a strip mall that is trying standup comedy in a space they usually book bands. Comedy is still new, and final count was 14 in a space that could seat 150ish. And there was no opening act tonight, it was just little old me.
I had the option of bringing an opener, but I chose to do the time myself and keep the cash for my trouble. There was also more pay, but there was no room provided like last night. We usually get accommodations of some sort, but this particular gig came without and I knew that going in.
To make it even harder, the 14 who did show up were scattered all over the room and wouldn’t move even after I asked them politely on three different occasions. The only people sitting in the front row were a couple who were making out the whole time. They were all over each other and it was distracting to everyone else who didn’t stop staring. I chose to ignore it and do my show.
There was a party of four who insisted on sitting in the very last row and refused to budge from that position no matter how pleasantly I asked and eventually how much I rode them about it. It’s difficult enough to do comedy successfully under ideal conditions, but this made it impossibility.
On top of all that, before the show I had an experience I can’t ever remember having – and I’ve had a lot. As I got out of my car to fill my tank for the ride home, I somehow managed to tear my pants right up the crotch. I laughed out loud when it happened, but I was without a backup plan.
It was ten minutes before show time, and no clothing stores were open in Marion, OH. I wasn’t packed for a long trip and all I could do was keep my legs closed and hope nobody would notice. It’s a good thing there were only 14 people, and the people in front weren’t concerned about me.
This was one of those nights when all one can do is suck it up and get it over with. I suspected it might be difficult when I took the gig, but I had no idea it would be like this. I slowed my pace and did my time despite the conditions, and I earned every penny of my pay which I gladly took.
I got in my car with my split pants, and headed for home. I need to be up early to host an event at Harper College in the morning and then a charity auction in Milwaukee at night. This schedule is a bit ridiculous even for me, but sometimes it works that way. The road life is not an easy one.
Saturday May 4th, 2013 – Palatine, IL/Milwaukee, WI
What am I, nuts? More than a little, apparently. I drove back from my show in Marion, OH last night for two reasons – one; it didn’t come with a hotel room like most gigs do. Second; I needed to be back in time to host a talent showcase at Harper College in Palatine, IL from 10am to 1pm.
I knew that was going to be an extra bitchy drive, but I didn’t want to say no to Scott Cashman. He’s the Director of Continuing Education, and a super nice person. He’s gone out of his way to make me feel welcome at Harper and really wants to have my comedy class as part of his regular curriculum. This is a once a year special event, and it’s an honor to be asked to host so I said yes.
I thought I could make it home by about 3:30, so that would give me at least a few hours to get some sleep in before the event. Of course I hit some weather in Ohio and Indiana, and then some traffic and construction in the Chicago area and I didn’t get home until 5:30. I barely got into my snoring rhythm when it was time to get right back up, take a fast shower and show up at Harper.
The event went smoothly as I knew it would. It’s a showcase for all the classes that is designed to rustle up new enrollment. They had everything from a live fencing demonstration to an improv troupe to all kinds of live music, and everyone did really well. It was fun to be a part of it all, but by the end of a three hour event I was ready to hibernate like a bear. I couldn’t wait to get home.
Before that, I had a stop to make to hopefully cheer up one of my former comedy students who hasn’t been feeling well of late. He was kind enough to visit me when I was in the hospital and it was only right that I support him in return. Sometimes a short visit can do wonders, and I tried to spread at least a few kind vibes. I do try to do the right thing whenever I can, even if it’s difficult.
I was a refried zombie by the time I got home, and didn’t even undress before hitting the couch with a vengeance for a power nap. I needed to be back up and on my way to Milwaukee to host a charity auction for Milwaukee Montessori School by 5:00, but I desperately needed some sleep.
The next thing I remember, I woke up and looked at my watch and it was 6:45. I was in such a deep sleep I had forgotten where I needed to be, but I knew I was late and tried to focus on what appointment I had blown. I realized it was the auction, and shot off the couch like a moon rocket.
I got dressed in record time, and ran to my car like Batman had just gotten the bat signal. I felt horrible about oversleeping, but it was too late now. There’s always a feeling of helplessness that goes with missing a deadline, and all I could do was get there as fast as I could and try not to piss anyone off. I volunteered for this event, and it was my obligation to get there. I had zero excuses.
I was asked to host this same event last year by Ian Spanic of The Spanic Boys. He and his dad Tom have been huge supporters of mine, and I’ve always been a fan of their music. I was glad to have been able to help a worthy cause last year, and it was flattering to be asked back once again.
I called Ian from the car and told him I’d be late but was on the way. I told him what happened, that I just had too much going on and overslept. He was cool about it, but I still felt like an ass to have done that. We’d had this gig booked for months. All the other stuff I had came along later.
In the end, the auction went fine and nobody knew. I was only a few minutes late, even though I was in total panic the whole way there. The crowd was there to support the kids, and I was too.
Sunday May 5th, 2013 – Gurnee, IL/Kenosha, WI
No time for relaxing, even though today would have been the perfect day for it. The weather is finally starting to break around these parts after a long sloppy winter nobody thought would end - and in other parts it hasn’t. I heard there was a late season nasty blast of snow from Kansas City to Minnesota last week, and nobody would have been surprised had it hit Chicago or Milwaukee.
All of this combined with everything else going on everywhere reminds me how unbelievably delicate the balance of life is not only on this tiny planet but probably in the entire universe with all its vastness. Sometimes I think too much, but how can one not? There’s too much going on.
The fine line required to sustain life as we know it is fascinating to me. Our planet hosts a huge array of plants, animals and us, and that entails a lot of environment variables. There has to be an ample amount of fresh air for us to breathe and enough clean water to drink and use to generate a renewable food supply. One itty bitty tweak could easily throw it all off and we’d all be history.
On top of that, Israel is launching missiles at Syria and one wrong move there could easily lead directly to the dropping of bigger ones closer to where we call home. I’m ashamed of my species with our warmongering ways, and I wish someone with power would put a permanent end to the insanity before these idiots put a permanent end to everything. It would be nice to just enjoy life.
I’m trying to do my very best to do exactly that, even though I’ve been pounding the pavement pretty hard of late. I’m trying to squeeze as many positive things as I can into the days I have left - and nobody knows that number. Every one of us is living on borrowed time, but not many of us are really living. We’re busy farting around with all sorts of meaningless tripe, and I’m there too.
What really means anything? It’s different for everybody, but I think it boils down to enjoying each day as it comes. It’s hard not to worry about the future, but nobody promised any of us will live to see the end of even this day. As for me, I’m going to savor all the sunshine while it lasts.
I was scheduled to attend a storage unit auction this morning, but I must have gotten some bad information. I showed up at the place and there was no auction going on. I’d heard about it from my friend Karl Newyear, so maybe he heard it wrong. Whatever the case, I was out and about on a sunny day so it was no big deal. I didn’t have any spare money to buy a storage unit anyway.
I just went because Karl suggested it, but at some point I’d love to dabble in that area. It has an appeal because of the treasure hunting angle just like hitting flea markets, thrift stores and estate and rummage sales. There’s something exciting about finding a trinket and selling it for a profit.
I’ve only done it a precious few times, but it was a lot of fun when I did it. In the big scheme of life in the universe, my finding a doo dad for a few shekels and flipping it for a few more doesn’t put the slightest ripple in the cosmic fabric, but it sure makes me feel a thrill for a few minutes so who or what does it hurt? Since I was already up and outside, I spent the rest of the day junking.
I didn’t find a thing to buy today, but I still had fun in the sun just observing the freak show we call life. I browsed and talked to people and just took everything in that was around me. It was as fun as anything I’ve done in a while, and just being in the moment felt great. I did get to squeeze in a nap, and then went to have dinner with my Mothership Connection co-hosts before doing the show from 8pm to midnight on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. I savored the sunshine all day.
Monday May 6th, 2013 – Pewaukee, WI
Tonight I was asked to be part of a mini symposium for of all things magicians, and it was one of the most enjoyable evenings I’ve had in a very long time. My friend Lynn Miner is a magician of the highest order, and he helped put together this event along with our mutual friend Jim Peck.
Any time I can hang with Lynn and Jim I do it, but this was a special treat. Lynn asked Jim and me to speak to a group of area magicians about our experiences in the entertainment business and maybe relate a couple of stories that might pertain to them. They were into us and made it easy to fill the two hours for which we were scheduled and then some after that. Time flew very quickly.
Jim Peck is an amazing talent. He’s got natural charisma, a strong presence and razor sharp wit and it’s no surprise he was a network game show host for years. It may sound like an insult to be called a game show host, but far from it. It’s not an easy job, and only a few can do it correctly.
I remember watching Jim on Channel 4 in Milwaukee growing up. He did some news reporting and interviewing and was very good at that, and then he got his network break. We crossed paths through Lynn a while back when both were simultaneously working with Marquette University.
It’s amazing how knowing someone from TV or radio can have a lasting effect. I now consider Jim to be a friend, but I still can’t help be a little star struck every time we get together. I can still remember him from both local TV and his game show days, and there’s still an aura of celebrity.
He shared some killer stories about interviewing Barbara Walters and all kinds of other famous people, and I sat there like everyone else and was enthralled. I have a few stories of my own, and together it made for a program that by all accounts was a huge hit. I’d love to do this more often.
The event was held at a place called “Big Guy’s Magic Shop” in Pewaukee, WI and “Big Guy” is quite sharp and on the ball. He’s got a beautiful well stocked shop, and has more than a clue as to how to promote himself and his events. His website is www.bigguysmagic.com and one of his listed specialties is ‘fart bombs’. One should never be far from being able to obtain a fart bomb.
I happen to enjoy magic and magicians as a fan, even though a lot of comedians I know tend to look down upon it all as being less than ‘pure’. With many standups, anything short of that is not respected and it includes magic, ventriloquism and especially juggling. They’re all ‘bastard arts’.
I can see where comedians would think that, but to many improvisers and actors comedians are the ones looked down upon. Second City in Chicago for years has looked down on standups, but I never got into all of that. Any form of entertainment done well is difficult, and nothing is better or worse than the other in my opinion. I happen to do standup comedy, but I respect everything.
Jim said something in his presentation with which I totally agree. He said he enjoyed watching magicians work, and didn’t want to know how the tricks were done. I’m the same way. I’ll enjoy the performance thoroughly if the performer is entertaining, but I have no desire to have to know how the trick itself was done. I’m a fan of the entertainment process. The gimmick is secondary.
This was a really fun night all around, and I made some new friends in the magic world. All of the attendees were nice people, and made Jim and I feel like big stars. Lynn did a fantastic job in hosting the event and working with Big Guy to get the word out, and it was well spent evening.
Tuesday May 7th, 2013 – Lake Zurich, IL
Versatility in the entertainment business can be a two edged sword. On one hand, it can allow a performer to have the luxury of more than one option to receive a paycheck. On the other, there’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” stigma that tends to go with it and that can cause confusion.
Those known for ONE thing and one thing only have a much better chance at mass recognition – IF they happen to find that right thing. Mel Kiper Jr. is a perfect example. What the hell has he ever done except claim to know about the NFL draft? He’s got the title of ‘draft expert’, but what does that mean? Can anyone truly say he is or isn’t? It doesn’t matter. He’s carved out his niche.
Rachel Ray is another. She has books and videos and is always on TV whipping up some kind of miracle meal, but again what else has she done? People like that just appear on television one day and become part of popular culture, and everyone knows who they are for that single reason.
Dr. Phil bitches at people. That’s it. Nobody knows anything else about him. Does he have any knowledge about the NFL draft? It doesn’t matter if he does or he doesn’t? Can he make himself breakfast? That’s not important either. All that matters with the public is that one source of fame.
A few select people have been able to parlay fame into more areas, but more often than not it’s one thing and one thing only that anyone becomes truly known for. Rush Limbaugh was hired to do NFL pregame commentary on the basis of his radio show, but he’ll always be known as being a radio host. Howard Stern is the same thing. He did a couple of movies, but he’s a shock jock.
I’ve never been known for exclusively one thing, and part of that reason is I’ve been able to be versatile for many years. I’ve done standup comedy and radio, and also was a ring announcer for professional wrestling in addition to promoting live shows. None are easy, but I need to pick one.
Rodney Dangerfield never did radio, and Vince McMahon never did standup comedy. They are both icons in their field, and although Rodney did movies that’s a logical progression in what the comedy business entails. Rodney was known as a comedian. Period. Vince McMahon has tried a few other pursuits, but he’s known as the king of modern day professional wrestling promoters.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but not many. Most people who ‘make it’ become known for one thing, and that’s enough to sustain them for a lifetime. J.K. Rowling doesn’t have to do another thing in her life and she’ll be known after she’s dead for bringing us Harry Potter.
I’m still looking for my ‘thing’. I don’t think I’ll ever be known for my standup comedy, as it’s not that radical unfortunately. I can rip it up with the best of them, but I’ve never had the massive appeal of a Carrot Top or Adam Sandler or someone else who’s a crowd pleaser. I have my style, and a lot of people like it but I haven’t been able to carve out a niche in all these years of trying.
Tonight I had a show for 50 church group seniors in Lake Zurich, IL. They were part of a tour group and were all from Wisconsin. Visit Lake County is a group I’m a member of, and they are the ones who set up this gig. It went really well and it was fun, but it won’t make me a big star.
As I was performing (without a microphone) for this group who was loving it, I tried to picture Rodney or Carlin or anyone else in this situation and I couldn’t. I bet there aren’t five comedians on earth that could have pulled this off, but who cares? Versatility does pay - but it’s in peanuts.
Wednesday May 8th, 2013 – Libertyville, IL
Boy, am I embarrassed. I’m teaching a Wednesday night comedy class at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL, and my students are telling me I’m not getting paid enough. I know they mean it in a complimentary way, but it’s still embarrassing to know someone thinks I deserve more pay.
This current class is a Toastmasters group, and they approached Improv Playhouse about doing a private class just for them so they could improve their speeches. They don’t necessarily want to become comedians, but they do want to punch up their speeches with humor. They’ve been a fun group, and it’s been a challenge for me to come up with lessons each week that meet their needs.
I’m trying to learn and grow along with them, but after class tonight a couple of students asked if I did corporate training and how much I charged. I’ve done some corporate training in the past, and it’s always gone very well. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been me that has set the prices as a rule.
One time I was asked to speak for a friend of mine who worked as a realtor. His father was the owner of the company and wanted someone to speak at a luncheon about “hanging in there when times get tough”. I do know about that. My friend recommended me and then asked for my price.
I had no idea what to ask, so I asked how big the attending group would be. It was about 300 as I recall, so I asked for $500 for a 45 minute presentation. That’s more than the going rate of what most road dog comics get for a one nighter, and I thought I was asking a fair price for the event.
As it turns out, it was a red flag to my friend’s father because it was WAY below what anyone else with credibility was charging and it made me look like a used car with flood or hail damage. I ended up getting the gig, and it went very well. I was able to pull off exactly what they wanted.
Therein lies my problem. I know I know what I’m doing. It’s taken decades of hard work to get the knowledge I have, and I can present it effectively because I’ve done it time and time again to diverse audiences. What I don’t know is how to sell myself at the right price. I don’t want it to be too high and scare people off, but I also don’t want it to be too low to make me look amateurish.
I really need to solve this problem, or I’ll never get myself to that ‘next level’ everyone dreams of. There’s a psychology of pricing, and people that are willing to pay top dollar assume they are getting the best product available when that’s not always necessarily true. It boils down to sales.
There is absolutely nobody on this entire planet who can teach standup comedy techniques and procedures better than me, and I’m not bragging when I say that. Nobody has put in the time and paid their dues like me, and I’d be able to hang with anybody when it comes to “talking shop”.
I know it in my heart, but getting someone else to pay for that knowledge is a different story. It doesn’t always go hand in hand, and I’m going to have to either learn to get paid what I’m worth or spend the rest of my life being looked at as having a glorified lemonade stand for a business.
It stung that my students brought it up that I was underselling myself, but they were right and it needs to get fixed. Doing the class with them is fun, but it’s not going to get me out of my money hole so basically it’s not making the best use of my time. Fun is fun, but there are bills to be paid. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be paying them with ease AND having fun doing it. I have the fun part down, but the money is a different story. I need to step it up soon or I’ll be out of business.
Thursday May 9th, 2013 – Gurnee, IL/Fox Lake, IL
My friend Russ Martin and I hung out for a while today and had a delicious meal at a Chinese buffet in Gurnee, IL. Hanging out with comedians is one of the best parts of the business, as it’s about the only time we truly feel at home. The public doesn’t always get what we do or more so why we do it, but when we hang out together it’s often as much or more fun than actual shows.
I remember coming up the ranks as a beginner at the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Milwaukee in the ‘80s where I was a seater, janitor, answerer of phones and all around gopher in addition to getting random stage time thrown my way from time to time. Hanging out was part of the deal.
There was a group of us who would hang out every night we were in town, and after watching the shows we would reconvene at a diner called Ma Fisher’s to continue the process. We’d learn from what we saw, and often headliners would join us and impart pearls of wisdom on us as we ate our food and soaked it all in. To this day those are some of my favorite memories of all time.
One week Robert Schimmel was in town, and it was before anyone had heard of him. He ate it at the club all week, and I remember feeling so sorry for the guy knowing he was going to go up and have a rough set every night. For whatever reason, Milwaukee was just not ready for what he was doing and it was a painful week. We got to be friends at Ma Fisher’s hanging out afterward.
I remember seeing him years later as he was starting to hit it, and I went up to him and asked if he remembered his week in Milwaukee. Not only did he remember, he sincerely thanked me for taking time to hang with him after the shows. The pleasure was mine, but he thanked me because his daughter was sick at the time, and he was feeling very low. He said I made his whole week.
These are the memories that keep getting sweeter as time goes by. Robert Schimmel had a lot of obstacles to overcome to say the least, but he did and had a remarkable career. He stayed with his vision, and refused to back down no matter what. I wish everyone could have seen how he took it in the shorts that whole week, and how those same jokes later made him a star. It’s so inspiring.
Russ mentioned at dinner that he’d just watched a You Tube biography of Rodney Dangerfield and how it had reminded him of me in many ways. He’s not the only one who has said that, and I ended up going home and watching it myself. I had seen it before, but I enjoyed it all over again.
What really stood out was how much Rodney struggled, and how brutal his childhood was. Just like so many others, comedy was his escape. Robert Schimmel had some nasty struggles too, and I doubt if fans of either of those guys knew or cared. They both made audiences laugh like crazy, but when the show was over who made them laugh? Quite often it was hanging out after shows.
I’m a huge fan of Rodney’s and always will be. Schimmel too. I wish I couldn’t relate so much to what they were about at their deepest core, but I totally relate to both of them. They made their inner pain become joy for others, but inside that pain was still there. They were both dented cans, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t successful. I hope both of them are in a much happier place.
As a rule, comedians are both extremely sensitive and intelligent. We hurt easily, and often are from horrific backgrounds that ‘normal’ people can never comprehend. Comedy is our only way to mask that pain, and that’s what keeps us coming back to that stage even in the most difficult of stretches. It’s a moth to a flame - we can’t help it. Hanging with each other helps soothe our pain.
Friday May 10th, 2013 – Caledonia, WI
Like it or not, I have to knuckle down and make some money. On this cosmic plane, I have not figured out a way to get over the financial hump, and it absolutely stinks. I keep hearing tall tales of how people start with a piece of lint and a gum wrapper and turn it into millions, but I bet nine of ten of those tales aren’t more than fabricated fluff and nothing else. Getting rich is a real bitch.
Yes people do win the lottery and even businesses hit it big, but more often than not people get in a financial rut and stay there throughout their lives. It’s getting harder to make an honest buck than ever before, and those that do are getting taxed up the poop shoot so why even attempt it?
One thing I know it’s not is easy. The snake bastards who peddle “no money down” real estate courses on late night TV are oilier than Justin Bieber’s complexion, but the greedy couch maggot masses still get sucked in by the idea of making easy millions without doing anything to earn it.
I’ve always been willing to earn it, but how? I’ve been so busy focusing on creative endeavors, studying financial fundamentals has been left behind. This is true for millions besides me, and in no way have I ever thought I was alone. The clock ticks, and I need to start socking away cash.
But it’s so damn difficult without stability. One week or month will go well, but then there will be some fallouts or unexpected bills and before I know it I’m back in the hole deeper than I ever was. If I had more stable income I could plan better, but who does these days? It’s not realistic.
Then there are those who inherit a hefty wad. Wouldn’t that be sweet? Without a doubt, but too bad for me – everyone in my family tree that could possibly have left me something is now dead and I didn’t get a nickel. I’m not asking for millions, but it would be nice to have a little security.
It’s no fun floating aimlessly like a dead fish from week to week. Struggling to scrape together a living takes away a lot of creative energy that could be spent on much more meaningful things. I’d much rather be planning a benefit show to help a worthy cause than hoping my rent gets paid.
I thought for sure I’d be financially secure by now, and by all rights I should be. I was lined up perfectly with my radio job at The Loop in 2004, and that would have been it. I would have had a great run of comedy to go along with the radio and by now I bet I’d have enough saved to retire.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. The whole world came crashing down, and it was no fault of my own but I sure am suffering all these years later. Had I been able to get another gig or have time to put another plan together I may be sitting in a different spot altogether. But I didn’t. I had to get back out and start piecing together a living in this cold cruel world where few care about anyone else.
I thought about all this more than a little today as I loaded a container with trinkets and baubles I’ve been buying at thrift stores and flea markets to take to a person to help me sell on Ebay for a profit. I hope. I don’t have time to fart around with it myself, but I’m trying to start an income so I’m hiring someone to do it for me. It’s a friend of a friend, and I have no idea if it will work out.
What else can I do but keep slugging? I defy anyone to start from ground zero and get rich with no help from anyone. I’m sure it’s been done and will continue to be done – but it’s about as rare as rappers who say ‘ask’. The odds are stacked against us, even in America. Sorry to say, it’s not the easy cakewalk we’re lead to believe. I’m doing my best, but I could use a break about now.
Saturday May 11th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
Sometimes the briefest words of encouragement can really make a difference. Today I received an email from Tom Wilson, and it really cheered me up. Tom is a hilarious comedian and also an outstanding actor. Unfortunately, most people only know him as ‘Biff Tannen’ of the Back to the Future movies. While that was a tremendous career break, it is by far not all of what Tom does.
I had a chance to work with him several years ago at Zanies in Chicago, and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He wasn’t pretentious or aloof or anything other than a fellow comic out there trying to make a living. He was very approachable, and we enjoyed our week together.
Whenever I’ve been around ‘celebrity types’, I have always gone out of my way to not jump in their face and try to buddy up to them and be their false friend. I’m sure they get that to the point of nausea, so I try to keep my distance and if they want to talk I let them take the lead. I’m sure it isn’t the smartest business move, but to me they’re people first. That’s how I’d like to be treated.
As the week with Tom went on, I felt we were hitting it off pretty well so I decided to bring up the whole Back to the Future experience. I imagined (correctly as it turns out) that he’s as sick as sick can be of talking about it, so I brought it up very delicately. I politely asked if he would care to talk about it, and if he didn’t want to I would totally understand. He graciously said he would.
His is a situation that’s very unique. He was a comedian in the ‘80s during the boom years, and landed a hefty role in a movie. Not only that, it was one of the biggest movies not of the year but the decade. Not only that, there were not one but two successful sequels. On paper, it would be a dream come true for any comedian of that era – of which I was one too. In reality, not so much.
The first thing everyone assumes dead wrongly is that because a person is in a film he or she is automatically rich forever. Not true. Yes, Tom was paid for his role but that money is long gone and there isn’t an endless supply of royalty checks that show up in his mailbox. He was an actor.
He didn’t write or direct any of the films, and was basically an employee like a ball player is an employee of the team he plays for. They get paid too, but it’s the same thing. When the money is gone - it’s gone. Baseball players from 1985 are not still getting paid for games they played then.
The other thing Tom has had to deal with is the uniqueness of the iconic character he played. It was a fantastic role and he totally nailed it, but he said every day of his life no matter where he is he has to hear “Hellooo, McFLY” from 99.9% of everyone he meets. After a while it gets to be a pain in the Flux Capacitor, and I totally understand. I can see where it would be a hideous curse.
To his credit, Tom is such a class guy he says he feels he owes fans of the movie their moment with him so he plays along whenever he can. I consider myself very accommodating to fans that approach me, but Tom is at a whole other level. He gets it every single day of his life and has for decades. No matter how nice anyone is, I can see it becoming pure torture. Tom handles it well.
If you’ve never seen Tom’s comedy act, I urge you to do so. He has an outstanding way to deal with the whole Biff thing by doing a funny song about it right up front. It explains everything to the audience, and then he’s free to just be funny – which he totally is. www.tomwilsonusa.com is his website and you can follow him on Twitter @TomWilsonUSA. He’s much more than his role as Biff Tannen- even though it was a stellar one. People like Tom make me proud to be a comic.
Sunday May 12th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
Depending on the year, certain holidays hit me in different ways. Christmas can be a source of major pain one year, but not so bad the next two or three. Father’s Day has also drudged up some ugly memories I’d rather forget, but try as I might they still find their way to the top of my head.
I wasn’t even thinking about Mother’s Day, but I happened to turn on my radio and listened to sports talk radio of all things and heard ball players giving shout outs to their moms and thanking them for all their support through the years. After a few minutes of that I was feeling mighty low.
It drove the point home again and again that I got cheated out of one of the most basic elements of human life, and I’ve lost out on more than I realize. If my mother was dead I could put closure to the situation, but as far as I know she’s still alive somewhere and the whole situation rots ass.
I have very few memories of my mother, and those I do have are far from pleasant. She left my father, two older siblings and me when I was five months old, and that’s when I went to live with my paternal grandparents who raised me until age 17. My mother stayed away and it really hurts.
This is pain I can share with few others. A mother is supposed to be the one who’s there for the tough times – not be the source of them. I’ve tried to push this to the back of my mind since I can remember. Today it came back. There’s a dark empty corner of my soul I don’t know how to fill.
I wanted to forget about it and ‘just move on’ and ‘get over it’ like so many have told me, even though not one of those self taught know it all back alley aspiring Dr. Phils of the world have felt anywhere close to a crushing blow like that themselves. They think they’ve got all the answers.
Nobody I know has any of those answers, including me. How does someone deal with such an ugly situation? I wish I knew. My whole life I’ve tried to suck it up and do the best I could with what I have, but that hasn’t been effective. All these years later, I’m still a lost kid. I need a hug.
If she were to come out of the woodwork again, I’m not sure I’d want to see her. I don’t think I would feel any better, and every other time I’ve seen her in my life it has been nothing but brutal to the psyche and a waste of my time. I’m not going to get what I want, and that’s the way it is.
I’m writing about all this so openly because I hope I’m able to touch someone who reads it and has something maybe as painful in their life. I don’t know anyone to talk to that I think can relate to what I’m going through, and that makes it worse. Keeping it all quiet just adds to the isolation.
This is an inner torture I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but I don’t know how to get rid of it. It’s drained me for a lifetime, and continues to be a source of agony. I drove around in a funk all day, and it didn’t help when I wanted to stop for lunch at three of my favorite restaurants and lines were out the door because it was Mother’s Day and people were enjoying their family meal.
That added gas to the fire, and I was hurting so badly I thought of ways to end my life without leaving a mess for someone else to have to clean up. Why am I even here? No matter how much success I may ever achieve, there will always be this ugly void in my life. It’s the unfixable hole.
I’ve been far down like this before on Christmases and Father’s Days and even Thanksgivings. I usually move on and keep slugging, but it always sucks a little more out of my soul. If you have loving parents and a family, be grateful. It can’t be bought, and without it life has little meaning.
Monday May 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
Here’s another major life’s regret to toss on my ever growing pile: I never made the investment of time and energy to create music. I really wish I would have taken an opportunity at some point to at least learn the basics of music so I could have added it to my repertoire of creative outlets.
I’m not saying I would have made a career of it or even attempted to, but I really think it would have added all kinds of interesting angles to everything I’ve already done. It would have been the perfect fit for my already ‘out there’ left handed creative mind set, and I think I missed the boat.
I can’t sing a lick, and I know it. That’s just not in me, but I think playing some instrument and especially writing songs would definitely have been for me. It’s a craft and art form just like joke writing is, and I think a lot of the same brain cells are used to create each. I live for that process.
I remember reading somewhere that Steve Allen had written thousands of songs throughout his life - even though I can’t think of even one hit. It doesn’t matter I guess, the process is rewarding if nothing else. It can be financially lucrative too, I suppose. Hit songs are what pay royalties for a lifetime. People want to hear them over and over and over again. Who ever wrote a ‘hit joke’?
The creative side of the music and comedy crafts may be the same, but getting one’s chops are completely different. A comedian has to go up and suffer constant pain in front of live audiences for years until he or she learns the ropes. A musician can haul out the old bassoon or piccolo and practice alone in the privacy of his or her own room. It’s still difficult, but not nearly as public.
As a kid, I don’t remember being around live music at all. Nobody in my family plays anything but the radio, so it’s not like I was born into the Jackson or Osmond clan and given a tambourine for my first birthday. Plus I’m very Caucasian, so that may have impeded my progress as well.
My natural inner rhythm may not be there from the start, but I bet I could have learned the craft and fit in on some level had I been offered more of an opportunity. I remember farting around on a cheap used guitar when I was around ten years old, and then my grandfather bought a keyboard organ from Kmart for some reason. I aped around on that too, but never had any formal lessons.
Being left handed didn’t help with any dreams I may have had of becoming a guitar hero. Left handed guitars are like left handed golf clubs. They’re out there, but really rare. I never did have a chance to even see if I liked it or not. Maybe I would have hated it, or maybe I’d be a star now.
One thing I would have been is eccentric and eclectic. I’m already that now, but it’s not a bad thing in the creative arts. I adore artistic kooks, and always have. George Clinton is one of those, and I mean it as a sincere compliment. He’s brilliant, but out there. Other names that pop into my head that did or do their own thing are Sun Ra, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper and Thomas Dolby.
I bet I would have written some interesting songs by now to say the least. I have a comic style, and I’m sure I’d have a music style as well. I love a well written song, especially one that tells an interesting or unique story. Was (Not Was) writes a lot of songs like that, as does Bernie Taupin.
I suppose I could start taking some lessons now, but I think it’s way too late to make any noise on a serious level. I’d be just another half baked hack hobbyist, but I don’t need any more speed bumps in my path. I did what I did, now I have to live with it. Comedy keeps me busy enough.
Tuesday May 14th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI
Hooray for the mentors of the world. They provide insight and wisdom to those climbing up an invisible and often difficult ladder, and all too often their unselfish efforts go underappreciated or worse yet not appreciated at all. I for one have always been grateful to my mentors, and still am.
In the radio business, my main mentor when I started was Pat Martin. Pat is a radio lifer who is just as passionate about the business today as he was when I met him in the late ‘80s. He’s spent his life learning his craft like I’ve spent mine in comedy, and he knows what he’s talking about.
I can’t thank Pat enough for all he’s done for me through the years. He was the first to suggest I give morning radio a shot, as he thought I had the natural ability to do it well. He lent me a tape program he recorded about getting into the radio business, and it was very nice of him to do that.
We kept in contact, and eventually Pat turned me on to my first job in Lansing, MI at WMMQ in 1990. Another contact of his was Dan Balla. He was the Program Director there who needed a morning show in a hurry after his last guy had some personal problems and needed some rehab.
Pat was doing us both a favor, and I ended up getting the job. It was shaky to say the least, and then Dan ended up moving on to another gig in Oklahoma City and left me in Lansing in a rotten situation. That station was as dysfunctional as radio gets – and that says a lot. It was an education of the highest order, but after six tumultuous months I’d had enough. I quit to return to comedy.
I don’t blame Pat for the situation in Lansing, even though I still tease him about it. He wanted to see me get a morning gig, and I did. I didn’t get fired, and in fact they wanted to sign me for a new contract. I didn’t do it, and Pat was my main source for advice at that time. He really helped.
Through all my roller coaster radio adventures, Pat was the one person I could count on to give me an honest assessment of what was going on. He was always proud of me for landing jobs, and told many people that I was a ‘comedic genius’. Hearing that from a third party is very flattering.
One year when I was really down and out and between jobs, Pat and his wife Jennifer made it a point to invite me over for Thanksgiving and I’ll never forget it. Pat insisted we watch the movie ‘The Party’ starring Peter Sellers, which remains one of my favorite comedy moves to this day.
I also have to admit that it was Pat that suggested I use ‘Mr. Lucky’ as my comedy persona. He was always making suggestions, and even though I didn’t always agree I appreciated him taking the time to do it. I knew he was always in my corner, and he was only trying to help me advance.
Today is Pat’s birthday, and it was this day years ago when the Mr. Lucky incident happened. I took him out for a birthday lunch, and the waitress got my order completely wrong while getting Pat’s order – which was a lot more complicated – absolutely perfect. The more that went wrong, the more Pat laughed. He said “There’s your persona. You’re Mr. Lucky.” I knew he was right.
I had a ton of other things to do today, but I couldn’t let Pat’s birthday pass without taking him out for another lunch. I drove to Milwaukee to hang out with him, and I was disappointed that he didn’t have a line of his disciples waiting to do the same. I’m by far not the only one he’s helped, but that’s par for the course with great mentors. They’re rarely appreciated enough, even though they’re constantly of a giving nature. If nobody else is grateful for Pat’s kindness, I certainly am.
Wednesday May 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I got up much earlier than I had intended to this morning to do a comedy segment on the ‘Stone and Double T Show’ on WXRX ‘The X’ in Rockford, IL. I really like those guys, and we usually do a weekly call in bit on Monday mornings. We missed this week, so they rescheduled it today.
I have mixed feelings about doing that show, but it’s fun so if they keep calling I’ll keep doing it. The guys themselves are great, but I’m not sure if anyone who listens to that station likes what I do. It’s really hard edged rock, and that’s just not my audience as a rule. I try to be entertaining, but I’ve never once had anyone come to any show I’ve done saying they’d heard me on ‘The X’.
Does that mean I should stop doing it? That’s a tough call. It doesn’t hurt to get radio exposure, but it’s not helping either. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years on the wrong radio stations, and I think some of my best work has fallen on deaf ears. It’s discouraging, but that’s how it’s been.
I still can’t believe I’ve worked for THREE country radio stations. Yikes. I’m not a fan of that genre at all, even though I grew to respect it during my tenure. That’s not my audience either, but those are the stations I was able to get jobs so that’s where I went. It makes me have doubts as to the competence of radio in general if they’d hire me three times at country stations, but they did.
I’m also experiencing serious doubts about continuing to host ‘The Mothership Connection’ on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. Again, it’s great fun but who’s listening? It’s a small station in Kenosha, WI with a weak night time signal. We do have a certain amount of loyal listeners every week who hear us live and a few more on the net, but is it enough to keep doing it? I’d think not.
I wish the show came with a paycheck, but it doesn’t. How can I generate one? I don’t have the slightest idea. I have a meeting with John Perry from the station tomorrow and we’ll either come up with a plan to earn some money or I’ll shake his hand and thank him for the fun opportunity.
The ultimate goal is to get on a station that fits my personality, and find a way to stay on the air and get paid. That’s proven to be a whole lot easier said than done, but unfortunately being taken off the air has not been my fault. If I could manage to put together a nice run somewhere that has a listener base in my wheel house, I’ll be set for life. But I’d also be set for life if I hit the lottery.
Unfortunately, the odds seem to be about the same. Every time I get on a station that would be a fit, something happens to end it prematurely. ‘The Loop’ in Chicago was a perfect fit, but just as we were starting to get some legs we got fired. Then I was part of ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ with Jerry Agar, Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle on both WLS and WGN in Chicago. That was also a winner.
Had Jerry not been blown out the door, we’d still be on the air and have that coveted following I’ve not been able to attain no matter how hard I’ve tried. For some reason, I just haven’t had the chance to gel at a place that fits. I love being on with Stone and Double T, but they’re not where I’m ever going to get any mass recognition. If they were Bob and Tom, I’d be a national draw.
I have a hard time figuring out where the radio business is headed as a whole. It’s always been insane, but there was a certain air of mystery about it. Local programming was plentiful and of a high quality. Now everything is pre recorded in another city and it’s very impersonal. I’d love to have a steady job somewhere, but I don’t know of any that exist. The Stone and Double T shows of the world are becoming rarer and rarer, and that’s a shame. Radio’s best days are behind it.
Thursday May 16th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
My grandfather told me the hardest challenge of all in life is to be both a success and a quality person. He said successful people often become corrupt and quality people often fail to become a success. It was basically an elongated version of “Nice guys finish last”, but Gramps was correct.
Only a very special few ever manage to do both - but that’s my goal and always has been. I am well aware I just might fail miserably in the end, and at the moment I appear to be headed in that direction - but the game isn’t over yet, and every day above ground I still have a fighting chance.
It may only be a teeny weeny chance that’s getting teenier and weenier by the minute, but until there’s a click of my coffin lid I technically still have a shot at the grand prize. I wouldn’t want it if I had to screw someone over to attain it, but many times that’s part of the deal. It can get ugly.
On the other hand, I don’t want to live the rest of my days like a vagrant either. There has to be some kind of happy medium, doesn’t there? There is a sweet spot located somewhere in between ‘nice guy’ and ‘success’, but it’s kind of like the sweet spot surfers look for inside a huge wave.
There’s a lot of effort required to find that giant wave in the first place, and then there’s danger thrown into the mix by choosing to maneuver the surf board into that little space so precious few ever reach. One could wipe out in an instant, and it’s all over. But riding that wave is a big thrill.
I’m not going to lie; I want to ride the big wave. I want to be able to feel that thrill of achieving something rare and special that nobody can ever take away. But I also want to be a generous soul and known for being ethical to the bone. There’s an extra amount of effort required to get there.
The hardest pill to swallow is nobody really cares. Donald Trump is known for being a success bur it doesn’t matter how he got there. He inherited a few million and turned it into a quite a few more, but does it matter if he’s a nice person or not? Not really, and especially not during a deal.
There are all kinds of nice people that haven’t achieved a damn thing, but nobody thinks less of them for it. They’re known for being generous, and quite often those are the ones that successful people exploit the most. They’re willing to go the extra mile, and they do get taken advantage of.
I don’t know why any of this matters so much to me, but it totally does. I want to be both good at what I do and a good person on top of that, and I don’t care how much extra effort it takes. I’m not going to be satisfied doing anything less, and even if I fail I think it’s a worthwhile pursuit.
One of the most important parts of attaining this status is surrounding myself with both decent and successful people and learning from both. There can be a different mindset involved, and it’s easy to get lost in one or the other. Maintaining a healthy balance is the goal, but man is it hard.
I’m not trying to paint myself as a saint, and I have more faults than anyone. I screw up all the time, and am nowhere near attaining the status I seem to seek so badly. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still on my mind every single day, and it also doesn’t mean I won’t get what I’m going for.
Every day is another chance to inch closer to where I want to be. I’m getting a lot of good done of late, but I also know I have a lot more to do. Sometimes I think I’m over my head, but I won’t ever lower my standards. I know myself, and if I did that I’d be unfulfilled and miserable. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it on my terms surrounded by the highest quality people. NO leakers.
Friday May 17th, 2013 - Sparta, WI/Fox Lake, IL
Here we go again. Three hideous words I’ve never wanted any part of have showed up to party with me this weekend – ‘worst case scenario’. I’m all too familiar with them, and they’re like the weirdo group of relatives we all have that make us cringe every time they come over for a visit.
In a nutshell, I cancelled two solid dates of work this weekend to instead work with my friends Bill Gorgo and Jim Wiggins in what was supposed to be a two night booking near Minneapolis. I adore both of those guys, and we were all looking forward to a stellar weekend onstage and off.
As it happened, the booker of the shows we were allegedly scheduled for didn’t have any hotel rooms for us and was counting on us staying in some sort of one room frat shack or something. If there’s one thing comedians are used to, it’s being put up in a hotel. It may not be the Hilton and it usually isn’t, but we don’t as a rule have to bunk up like cowboys on the range. We get a room.
One thing apparently led to another, and Jim ended up pulling the plug on the whole thing. I do see why he did it, but it also left a gaping hole in all of our schedules – mine not only for a week but for the month. I was counting on money this weekend, and now not only won’t I make a cent – it cost out of pocket to split gas with Bill. No gig means no chance to sell DVDs or CDs either.
I’m not so much angry as frustrated and just plain tired of dealing with small time flea bookers where this is even an issue. The three of us combined probably have close to 100 years of service and to have this kind of stuff go on this late into the game is not right. It’s disrespectful to us all.
That guy would have gotten three solid headliners – two with national TV credits. Jim has done two ‘Tonight Show’ spots and I’ve been on Craig Ferguson. Bill is a solid act, and can headline a club with the best of them. We only took the gig because we wanted to spend time with our good friend Jim who happens to be going through extremely painful chemotherapy for the third time.
This whole situation stinks, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. I could have blown up at the booker or even Jim, but what would that prove? I’ve tried that angle more than once, and it’s not the way to handle things. I found that out the hard way, and ended up badly burning bridges.
This is no time to be burning bridges with anyone. What it is is time to smarten up and improve my way of doing business. In retrospect, I had gigs booked for this weekend and when Jim asked if I was open I should have politely said no. I love him like few other comedian friends, but I am really in a pickle because of this. We could have come for a visit any one of too many off days.
We did have some quality face time together as Jim bought us a delicious lunch at a local joint near his house in Sparta WI, but that was the most expensive free lunch I’ve had in years. We all lost out, and no matter how much fun we had hanging out the fact remains our wallets are empty.
Part of the problem is we as comedians often get used to being treated like whipped puppies by bully club owners, and we choose to accept it rather than make waves and possibly lose work for any reason. Another part is we don’t enjoy the booking part of the business. We’re performers.
Unfortunately, we’re going to have to change in a hurry or insanity like this will keep popping up out of the blue and making life very unpleasant. I love Bill and Jim, but from now on I’ll have to love them under more stable circumstances. I’m disappointed - and my creditors will be also.
Saturday May 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
It’s raining.,,it’s pouring…but life isn’t boring. That’s too bad, as I would gladly welcome a bit of boredom right now. In fact, I’d like more than a bit. Twenty years of steady work for great pay in quality venues sounds fantastic. Sign me up today, and I’ll gladly be bored without complaint.
In the mean time, I’m trying to figure out how the hell I’m going to make it through these next few months financially – and then the few months after that. I’ve been taking it in the shorts over and over, and it’s cleaning my clock. I can use a windfall from somewhere, and I can use it soon.
And to take the week’s exploits further into the toilet - literally - I was in and out of the crapper all day due to something I must have eaten yesterday. I had to stop about an hour after dinner last night, and that was a red flag. Bill Gorgo is a fellow road dog, so he got off the road immediately and found a gas station. Everyone who has done road time has had to find a bathroom in a hurry.
There’s nothing scarier than being miles away from civilization and feeling ‘the urge’. It comes out of nowhere, but commands full attention when it arrives. Nothing on Earth takes precedence during that intense period, and until the situation gets resolved it becomes one’s complete focus.
We did find a gas station, but it was a few miles of hell before we got there. I was pinching my cheeks and praying for strength, and every mile we drove seemed like 100. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hold it even ten seconds longer, but we got there and I got my pants down with no time to spare. That’s a hilarious situation when it happens to someone else, but sheer fright when it’s me.
I could tell there was something wrong by how fast and intensely it had hit me, and it happened again five minutes after I got home. I was up and down all night and several times today, and I’m not 100% positive what it was that caused that reaction. Whatever it was, I hope it’s cleared out.
It’s not easy to eat right on the road, and even though I’ve been trying I’ve been falling short in my efforts more than I’d like to. If I really go off course, I’ll be dealing with diabetes and all that goes with it and I don’t want to go back down that road. I came as close to that as I ever want to.
I basically laid around all day, but I needed the rest. I would have loved to be working tonight, but what happened this week happened and it’s too late to undo it. I took another hit, and nothing I can do will make up for it other than buying a lottery ticket – which I did. It’s forced optimism.
I can either slide into the mental abyss and let myself be miserable, or I can force myself to get back up one more time and keep fighting. I really didn’t feel like fighting, but what other options are there? Giving up is not the answer – even though there are times when that looks like the best option. This is one of those times, but I know that’s exactly why I need to dig in and slug it out.
In a way it feels like I’m starting all over again, and I kind of am. A performer is only as good as his or her last performance, and right now I’m between stages. That’s always an adventure of epic proportions, and never the same twice. I’d love to be bored with a full calendar and not have to sweat so much if and when a glitch happens as happened this week. Variety can be overrated.
Sunday May 19th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
In the continuing education program that is called life, I think I can cross off yet another lesson I have learned painfully and in the most difficult way. That seems to be the only way to really get the message, and this time I have certainly gotten it and then some. This one will stay with me.
I have learned and learned well that there is a big difference between being ‘thrifty’ and being a flat out cheapskate, and also that there is NOTHING ‘free’. I thought I had known that already, but apparently I needed a refresher course from the universe. Hopefully this will be the last one.
What a humongous mistake it turned out to be to accept the ‘free’ 1994 Nissan Sentra from my friend Richard Caan. Richard is a great guy and only had the best of intentions, but his gesture of friendship turned out to be a painful kick square in my ball joints that kept kicking for months.
On paper, it looked to be a win/win situation. He had just been paid out a healthy chunk from a fender bender his sister had that wasn’t her fault, but the car was still drivable. They had planned on donating it to charity, but Richard knew I put a lot of miles driving to gigs and thought I could benefit from a low mile Japanese car that had never given his mother a problem while she had it.
In theory, he was correct. Nissan Sentras are supposed to be notoriously dependable and have a stellar track record from all I heard and read. For whatever reason, I got the exception to that rule and I had nothing but one incredibly painful and ridiculously expensive crisis after the next with that rolling turd for as long as I had it and it sucked both my wallet and my spirit completely dry.
The body work before I could drive it cost $750 for a replacement hood and right fender. If that would have been it – and Richard and I both thought it was – that would have been a sweetheart deal. The car only had 105,000 miles on it, and by all estimation I could have driven it for years.
Other than the fact the car was red and the hood and fender I had replaced were blue, it wasn’t a bad looking little roller skate. There was one hubcap missing when I got it, but I replaced it and even with the hillbilly two tone it wasn’t as bad as some of the tin cans I have owned in my life.
Then, the gates of hell opened wide and everything went wrong. First it was the exhaust system that fell off in Springfield, IL. That cost a ridiculous $825. I still can’t believe the exhaust system for a golf cart like that costs that much, but at the Midas Muffler Shop in Springfield, IL it does.
I didn’t think the exhaust systems of Air Force One or the Space Shuttle would cost that much, but I thought since I planned on keeping it a while I’d invest and that would be it. HA! That was just the beginning. The brakes were a bit spongy, and that cost $350. I needed a new battery and battery cables, and that cost $125. The right headlight blew out and that was $45. It didn’t stop.
Then I had a problem with the driver’s door. It wouldn’t stay closed in the dead of winter, and for a while I had to crawl in through the passenger side and get sodomized by my own gear shift. It was $150 to fix that. Then the alternator blew on my way to a gig and that was another $250.
I don’t even want to add all that up, because it would just depress me more. I was being flat out cheap rather than thrifty, and it was a big mistake to think I’d be able to get a free car. I really do appreciate Richard’s kind offer, but if I ever get another one from anyone I’m going to run in the opposite direction as fast as I can. I have learned my lesson. NOTHING in this life is ever ‘free’.
Monday May 20th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I really needed to get rid of that Nissan Sentra. It was sucking whatever self esteem I may have had left right through the exhaust pipe, and no matter how good of a deal it was or wasn’t it put a vibe in my life I don’t want any part of. Living like a bum is not what I aspire to, especially after putting in so many years of paying dues. I made a big mistake, and it was time to cut my losses.
I have a friend of a friend who wheels and deals cars on craigslist, and he is listing it for me for a small fee only if it sells. I could have run it through the auction I suppose, but who’d nibble on a ratty looking pickle like that? Even if it does have low miles and new parts, there’s no sizzle.
The windshield cracked all the way across, and all the hubcaps are now gone. I started out with three, but after six rough months of potholes and railroad tracks the others jumped ship as well. It has been an unbelievably painful run with this car, and I didn’t expect it or I would have turned it down when I got the offer. For whatever reason, it has jumped up and taught me a painful lesson.
A big part of it is about mindset. All too often a dented can feels he or she isn’t deserving of an item or position of top quality because that’s the message that’s been installed since childhood. It eventually becomes habit, and habits can be very hard to break. This is much deeper than a car or any other outside source. This is something that comes from within, and it needs to be changed.
I really do feel I deserve to have a nice car and work the top level gigs. I have earned my place as a performer, but there’s still that little whipped puppy inside that was told all my life I’d never amount to anything and would be a total failure. I don’t want to believe that, but I sure do appear to be doing all I can to perpetuate that outwardly. I need to stop immediately and change course.
I’m in the middle of a slump at the moment, but I’ve been in them countless times before and it doesn’t scare me a bit. I know enough to know they eventually pass, and good things will start to head my way eventually. I have been clinging on to a loser’s mindset of late, and that has to stop.
Taking that car from my friend Rich was a bigger mistake than I ever imagined. It wasn’t just a car between friends – at least from my end. It was me settling for the lowest possible rung on the ladder because I didn’t think I deserved to have anything better. I didn’t see it at the time, but it’s crystal clear in retrospect. Again, there’s a difference between thrifty and cheap and I see it now.
My father was painfully cheap, and looking at it now I see it was distinctly because he was not confident he would ever be able to do any better. He drove even crappier cars than I do, and now he’s dead and what did it prove? At one time he could have bought himself a brand new car right off the lot, but he never ever treated himself at any time. He went to his grave a mental pauper.
I’m not saying he or anyone else needs to piss money away like a coked up rapper, but there’s a mindset inside everyone that attracts pretty much everything. There are unforeseen incidents of pure luck in everyone’s life, but for the most part what any of us get is programmed from within.
I thought I knew that, but I guess I didn’t. This car situation sure drove it home with an unholy vengeance, and I’m sorry I was that thickheaded to not be able to see it. I have to change what’s in my head and then what comes to me will change. I don’t want any more two tone Nissans with no hubcaps. I’ve had enough of that for six lifetimes. I want to play with the big boys. I deserve a chance, and it’s up to me to allow it to happen. As for the old mindset, I want it gone like the car.
Tuesday May 21st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
There’s a major upheaval going on inside my head, and I couldn’t be more excited. I know that I need to completely rewire my beliefs down to the core, and as scary as that may be I’m ready to dive in with both feet and make a full commitment. Upgrading my car was a very positive start.
The next thing that needs to be tweaked heavily is my model for career success. The world I’m in now both professionally and as a whole is completely different than the world I started in, but that can be said of anyone. We’re all learning to adapt and adjust, but the older we are the harder it is to do. Comedians of my generation were spoiled. We got to experience those fabulous ‘80s.
That was an amazing time to be a comedian – probably the best ever. I’m delighted I got to see and experience it firsthand, but those days are gone forever. I can’t go on conducting business as if times haven’t changed. They absolutely have, and comics from my generation are hit hardest.
We all clearly remember when there were more clubs than acts, and anyone with a phone and a functioning car could get booked enough to at least squeak out a living. It only lasted for a short time, but boy was it fun. It’s nothing like that now, and that means I have to come up with a new plan – or have a plan period. Back then nobody thought about anything other than their next gig.
We were able to easily bring in a livable wage almost immediately – even as an opening act – so that virtually NOBODY even thought about merchandising except my friend James Gregory from Atlanta. Kudos and then some to James for being the nationwide leader years before I saw anyone else do it. People used to snicker at him for selling his wares, but who’s laughing now?
James was smart enough to treat comedy like a BUSINESS. That’s exactly what it is, but most of the rest of us weren’t that smart. We stupidly assumed everything would ‘just work out’ for all us and even stupider than that we assumed it would last forever. I’m embarrassed that I did too.
Nobody pictures getting older or the times changing, and NONE of us saw the internet coming – not even James. That was the giant fire breathing cross between an elephant and a dragon that mysteriously appeared out of nowhere and completely changed the game. It took a while, but it’s here to stay. Anyone who enters the game today has a whole new set of paradigms to deal with.
I can’t speak for the others of my generation, even though I know more than a few aren’t liking the way things have evolved. I’m not thrilled with it myself, but I have to enter into a mindset of today in order to continue or you can make my next check out to ‘Mr. Edsel’. It’s a new world.
Unfortunately, funny has little or nothing to do with the game today. It’s all about being able to get noticed. Who has the most Facebook friends? Who can put asses in seats? It wouldn’t matter in the least if the ‘next big thing’ in comedy wouldn’t get ONE laugh. If he or she could fill seats in a comedy club, they’d be instant headliners. I didn’t create this world, but it’s where we live.
If Charles Manson and O.J. Simpson were to be released from prison and decide to do a tour of comedy clubs, they’d sell out coast to coast in minutes. Again, I’m just reporting the truth. I wish it mattered who’s funny and ethical and nice, but none of that has anything to do with anything. I don’t have to like the way things are going, but I do have to deal with it. The ‘80s are over on the calendar, and they have to be over in my head too. It was a great time, but I can’t live there now. I am now an internet marketer specializing in humorous content. As far as a comedian - I QUIT!
Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
Today would have been the 99th birthday of one Herman Poole Blount – aka “Sun Ra”. He was born in Birmingham, AL but claimed to be from the “Angel Race” - not of this planet. That alone makes him one of my all time favorite entertainers, but his showmanship is what I admire most.
He was the leader of a huge band that he called his ‘arkestra’, and the name of it changed about as frequently as his musical directions. There was the ‘Blue Universe Arkestra’, the ‘Heliocentric Space Arkestra’, the ‘Solar Myth Arkestra’ and many many more. He was an eccentric fellow.
There’s good weird and bad, and he was very good. By all accounts, he and his band were drug free and upstanding members of the community wherever they happened to be living at any time. They were based for years in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, where Sun Ra died in 1993.
I never got a chance to see him live, but I’ve seen some very interesting video that puts me in a fun mood every time I see it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7_JUShK4n8&feature=related is one link. There’s also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMMWNwVhq5k&feature=related
Sun Ra was a true original, and those are difficult to find. George Clinton borrowed a little bit from him and also set up shop in ‘outer space’. The whole ‘Mothership Connection’ concept and costume came out of Sun Ra’s shadow and I freely admit that’s where I got The King of Uranus.
I remember the first time I saw him on TV when I was a kid. I didn’t know what I was seeing, but it captured my undivided attention as I watched it with my grandparents. Gramps looked like he got it, but my German grandma wanted to take a rolling pin to either the TV, Gramps or both.
Grandma was not very open to anything new, different or artistic. If it wasn’t a Lawrence Welk ditty or a polka, she didn’t want it within five miles of her. Seeing Sun Ra and his ‘arkestra’ sent her farther into outer space than Sun claimed to be from. The greatest ones are loved and hated.
I loved the fact that he incorporated outer space themes into his music, and that made me want to know more about him as I got older. He was a remarkable personality to say the least, and his claim of being taken by aliens to the planet Saturn made me like him more. He made that claim a long time before UFO abduction stories were popular, and he stuck by that story his entire life.
I don’t know if he was from Saturn or not, but I do know he was an underappreciated artist and too eclectic for the masses. He was a recording machine, and it is said he’s the the 20th Century’s most prolific musical artist with over 100 full length albums. Wow! That alone is one major feat.
It’s also notable that he’s a ‘22’. According to numerology, people born on the 11th and 22nd of a month are allegedly the strongest personalities and most influential people. Sun Ra was born on a 22nd, as was George Clinton (7/22). Rodney Dangerfield was too. (11/22) There are all kinds of entertainers, politicians and celebrities born on 11s and 22s so there may be some truth to that.
I’m not a ‘22’ or an ‘11’ unfortunately. I’m a ‘pi’ (3/14). I don’t know if any of it means a dang thing, but I do know I am a fan of Sun Ra and not nearly enough people know who he was to pay tribute to a unique performer who had the guts to follow his creative vision for decades. That’s at the top of my list for people I admire most, and he’s up there with the very best. He spent his life entertaining this planet – whether he was born here or not. What better way to invest one’s time?
Thursday May 23rd, 2013 – Chicago, IL
My friend Ross Bennett is in town this week headlining at Zanies in Chicago, and we hung out all afternoon dissecting his recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Ross has been slugging it out in the trenches even longer than me, and getting this break is well deserved.
I couldn’t be any happier for someone who has been such a good friend and supporter of mine for decades, and we had a lot to talk about. Comedians can be geeks when it comes to the craft of comedy, and we spent the whole afternoon discussing everything that went into the whole event.
When I was on the Craig Ferguson show, Ross called me and wanted to know everything about that experience and I happily told him. It’s a monumental victory to get one’s national TV debut, but unfortunately the only one who can truly understand what it’s like would be another comic.
So much goes into such a short appearance, and the only thing an audience sees is five minutes of what looks like effortless comedy. They have no idea of the agony that has gone into honing it over years on the road, and then packaging it into a set that needs to be approved by the network.
There’s always a talent coordinator to deal with, and he or she dictates what gets to stay in and what gets axed. I had to deal with three or four different ones on the Craig Ferguson show, and in the end it was the first person I ended up dealing with who had quit and come back. Her name is Celia Joseph, and she was a total sweetheart. She approved my set, but it took a while to develop.
Ross told me how he would record sets on DVD, and then the talent coordinator would look at it and tell him what to keep, change or cut. He kept working at it, and eventually what came out was a killer set. I was so proud when I watched it, as I knew his back story of years of struggle.
Ross is also a dented can, and his road has been far from paved with gold. He is from a military family, and at one time he considered a career in the military. I’m glad he didn’t go that direction because he’s a fantastic comedian and always has been. He has pissed some important people off through the years just as I have, but he’s never given up and that’s why this is such a major deal.
We talked of how this validates all the years of extreme effort that’s required to hone this craft, and how nobody can ever take it away – especially those who rejected or never supported him in the first place. It’s a top accomplishment, and reason to celebrate - which is exactly what we did.
Some people may celebrate by having a drink or going out to an expensive dinner, but we were delightfully satisfied to sit in the McDonald’s across from Zanies as Ross drank a Diet Coke and I drank a bottled water and go over everything about the set from beginning to end. It was a treat for me to hear it, and Ross was ecstatic to relive every moment in detail. I was so happy for him.
It was also extremely educational, and I wish I’d had a recorder to turn our conversation into a podcast for future comedians making their network TV debut. We went over our experiences and compared notes, and someone could have definitely gotten something out of the whole exchange.
Ross said they told him he could come back, and they’ll be running his episode again at the end of May apparently. Not only is it great exposure, he gets paid again. I’m not sure if they ever ran a second showing of my Craig Ferguson shot, but I know I never got paid again. Ross deserves it and I’m thrilled for his good fortune. See him live or see the set at http://youtu.be/3fUyhibih7M.
Friday May 24th, 2013 – Gurnee, IL
In the best of all worlds, I’d be able to live in a place I’m comfortable but still perform enough to keep my chops and make a decent living. That’s a much more difficult challenge than it might sound, but I’ve been trying to arrange it for the past few years. In theory, it should be attainable.
In reality, there are still some glitches that need to be worked out. Tonight was a good example as I did a show at the Heather Ridge Golf Course in Gurnee, IL. I am a member of a group called “Visit Lake County” which used to be called the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Heather Ridge is a member too, and there’s a really good guy named Matt Nordigan who came to me and asked if I’d be interested in trying a comedy show in their clubhouse facility. They’ve got a cozy little room that seats about 85 people, and again in theory it would be a decent room.
I booked a show for him probably a year or two ago that I wasn’t able to be on because I must have been on the road or something. Maybe I was on a cruise ship, who knows? It all gets lost in a big blur after a while, but that show went well enough to have him ask me to book another one.
It was supposed to be last Friday, but I backed out because of the request by Jim Wiggins to do the shows that never happened in Minnesota. My wallet still hurts from that disaster, but Matt is flexible and agreed to delay it a week. It was nice of him to do that, but attendance was very thin.
I’d guess there were 35 people tops, but every one of them had a great time. I closed the show, but I brought Kay Cammon to open along with Dan Morris and Mark Fenske. They all did really well, and for a sparse turnout it was a fun experience. Still, I feel bad when a venue loses money.
I don’t know the exact numbers, but I know Matt was disappointed. I hope he was at least able to come close to breaking even, but I seriously doubt it. I didn’t get paid a ton, and I had to shell out for Kay, Dan and Mark out of that budget. Basically, I got some gas money to hang out with friends. As fun as it was – and it was – this is not what I need to be doing this late in the game.
I really like Matt, and he really likes comedy. There are probably 2000 residents in the Heather Ridge community, and he pumped the show in their monthly newsletter which not many of them read obviously. Again, in theory the place should have been standing room only - but it was not.
In reality, filling a room with people for any reason is flat out DIFFICULT. It might not appear to be that tough to get 100 people to show up for something, but I encourage anyone to try it and tell me how it goes. People today have too much going on and are getting deluged with messages on Facebook to the point where everything blends together and nobody can keep it sorted out.
The redeeming factor is that it was close to home. Heather Ridge is only 15 miles from where I live, and there’s no traffic. I don’t even have to get on any freeways, which is rare. I’d love more shows this close to home, and I believe they’re there. There’s no ‘circuit’ per se, and it’ll require some hustling on my part and the part of people like Matt who are willing to try something new.
Is this the way to build a career? No, it really isn’t. It’s a stop gap measure to pay some bills for a while as I continue to develop shows like ‘Schlitz Happened!’ and work on getting a few more corporate bookings. It saves me those hellaciously long drives I’ve been making most of my life, and now that gas is approaching $4.50 a gallon it’s allowing me to survive when others are not.
Saturday May 25th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
One thing I don’t think I’ll ever be able to truly enjoy is a Saturday night off. That’s the money night for a comedian, and I would guess any other live performer. If one can’t manage to troll up even a mediocre a booking, the entire week seems like a waste. And it is. I want to be working at my craft, and this is the main night to do it. There are only so many Saturdays in anyone’s life.
This was mostly my fault, and I regret it. I know it’s a holiday weekend and all, but I should be working somewhere. It’s also the beginning of the summer season, which is notoriously a rotten time to be a comedian – at least in the North. People want to be outside after a long ugly winter.
I suppose I should want to be outside too, but I don’t. I want to be on a stage somewhere doing what I love – making audiences laugh. If that were to be outside I’d accept it, but those bookings are not the most desirable as a rule. Trying to fight the sounds of tilt-a-whirls or the Blue Angels flying over one of my punch lines can be maddening. Still, I’d take that over having a night off.
Sometimes the luck of the draw just comes up blank on certain nights and weeks. I’ll be able to book every other week with no problem, but the one week stays open no matter what I do. That’s how it has always been, and I’ve never been able to figure out why. Other weeks are the opposite in that I’ll get several calls for the same week from various bookers. It’s never been predictable.
My mistake in this case was that I put all my time and energy into the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ run in Milwaukee in April, and I neglected my bookings for the summer. I’m a one man band, and it only allows so much time to get everything done. I spent my time working on that instead of this, and now it’s biting me in the aspirations. I’m glad I did the Schlitz show, but it’s over - for now.
I’ll be doing more of those in the fall and hopefully well beyond, but now my summer calendar is wide open and I’m bordering on panic. I did just pick up a weekend in Ann Arbor, MI in June and another in Indianapolis on July 4th weekend – one of the most challenging weeks of the year to fill – so I won’t starve. It could be a lot better though, and I’ve got nothing in August as of yet.
I’m sure something will pop up between now and then. It always does, but that’s not the way I want to live my life these days. I’ve done that for far too long, and it comes with a price. One can only ‘squeak by’ for so long, and my personal expiration date has passed. I’ve made it this long, but continuing to put myself at the mercy of cancellations and the whims of bookers has passed.
Most comedy bookings are done months in advance. Every booking agent has his or her way of doing things, and that can be a game in itself trying to figure them all out. I’ve let myself get out of the regular rotation with several of the bookers I used to work with, and that’s been my fault.
Keeping in touch with everyone is important, and I’ve let it lapse. It’s easy to get forgotten in a business where there are far too many people competing for a limited amount of spots, and now I am paying for it. I’m going to have to reconnect with everyone and start the process totally over.
What makes it harder is that I want to transition out of the clubs if I can, but I still need to bring in an income from somewhere. There are clubs I’ll always enjoy working like Zanies in Chicago and The Comedy Showcase in Ann Arbor, but I’ll enjoy them a lot more if I have income the rest of the year. This is a delicate time financially, and I’m in a rough stretch right now. I could really use a windfall of cash sooner than later. Hear that universe? Do your thing, baby. I need it now.
Sunday May 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
Nobody appreciates quality entertainment more than an entertainer. I’m a loyal and rabid fan of anything well done, but obviously standup comedy holds a special place in my heart and always has. I loved it before I did it, and my love for it was what drew me to it. I never grow tired of it.
I think that makes me a perfect candidate to be a producer of product for other comedians. I am a lifelong fan of the craft, and who better would there be to inject a set of ‘fresh eyes’ into what a comedian does to best showcase his or her talent to the public? I feel as if I’m uniquely qualified.
I got my chance a while back when I produced a live DVD project for my friend James Wesley Jackson, aka ‘The Enviromedian’. This was a thrill on many levels. First, James used to tour with George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic for years. That alone puts him in my Hall of Fame for life. Anyone who knows me knows I love the PFunk - even though nobody can figure out why.
For whatever reason, I was sucked in as a kid when I first heard it on the radio and I still love it today. It’s well done entertainment and then some, and I respect the immense effort it must have taken to pull off such a huge project. James got to witness it first hand, and still be a comedian.
Second, James is flat out one of THE sweetest human beings I have ever encountered. He has a laid back friendliness that shines on stage, and you can’t help but love the guy. He’s got his own unique style, and the first time I met him we hit it off instantly. Part of it was the fact that I knew of his pedigree with the PFunk, and another part was two fellow comedians sharing our histories.
Whatever the case, I wanted to start producing other performers. I can think of more than just a handful who don’t have top quality recording projects out in my opinion, and that’s not meant to be an insult. Most of us are focused on our performing and just trying to stay alive that taking the time to crank out product never manifests itself. I know how hard it was to do my own products.
I also suffer from a common ailment of not being able to sell my own stuff well, but can go all out with someone else’s. I believe in James as a comic and a person, and it was my pleasure to be the one to head up this project. It was recorded a couple of years ago now, but my hospitalization fiasco of 2011 has held it up along with other obstacles in my path. It’s been a long time coming.
Now, I have FINALLY gotten my head out of Uranus and had 100 promo copies made to start sending them out. I don’t know exactly who to send them to, but I have them. I invested my last nickel getting this done, but I felt I owed it to James and myself to finish what I said I would do.
Fellow comedian Mike Preston was the technical person, and I hired him to record the show at a place called ‘Asbury’s’ in the Chicago area. It’s a country club of all things, but James knocked it so far out of the park it might as well have been Carnegie Hall. It was a very special experience to be there that night, and for once the hot show was the one that got recorded. It came out great.
I hired legendary PFunk artist Pedro Bell to do the cover art, and fans will be able to recognize it instantly. It took a long time to get this far, but I am proud to say I did it. Now I need to stretch it further and start selling some product. Not only that, I’d love to get a chance to produce several more comedians I’m a fan of. Names that come to mind are talented guys like Bill Gorgo, Jimmy McHugh, Jim Wiggins, Tim Walkoe, Tim Northern and so many more. George Clinton produced a lot of music acts beside his own. I’d be delighted to do the same with a variety of comedy acts.
Monday May 27th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
It’s Memorial Day, and I’m in a reflective mood. The weather today in the Chicago area really rots, and it’s ruining people’s mood. I can feel it. Barbecues are being cancelled, and I sensed an ominous vibe from quite a few people as I ran a few errands today. I tried to make sense of it all.
I’ve been in a funk myself of late, and that’s never good. I feel myself sliding down the rails of the abyss, and I know it’s going to be hell to crawl back out. No matter what anyone says, it’s the lack of money that’s causing 99% of it, and there are all kinds of tangled wires that are the cause.
It stinks and I wish it weren’t that way, but then I think of the people in Oklahoma who’ve just had their whole lives swept away in seconds and it makes me shut my yap. That’s a horrible spot to be in, and what’s left of my heart goes out to every one of them - toothless hillbillies or not.
This world is full of the toothless, clueless, hopeless and shameless. There are hillbillies, hobos and halfwits, and we’re all thrown together to fight our way through the jungle. We either squeak out a way to survive the madness, or we’re wiped out like bugs on a windshield. It’s a cruel gig.
The whole war thing has never made sense to me either. I have the utmost respect for all of the brave souls who had the courage to give their lives, but the concept of war itself makes me puke. We’ve been doing it as long as we’ve been a species, but I still can’t see anything good about it.
Why do we have to kill each other for any reason? I know I sound like a bleeding heart hippie, but I really mean it. I’ve always said I have a ton of people I can’t stand, but I don’t want to kill any of them. I might not want to be within 500 miles of them, but they can go live away from me and screw up their own lives. I would like to think the karma train will run them over eventually.
Look at all the sadness Memorial Day brings to millions of Americans who lost someone in the service of the country. There are parentless kids because of it, and lonely spouses and all kinds of ugliness that I just don’t see a legitimate reason for. I know war is about money in the end, but if that’s the only way to get it then I’ll stay broke. Someone at the top is missing what life is about.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the one missing what life is about. In my warped little pea brain, I’ve always thought life was supposed to be happy and fulfilling. We should cheer people up at every possible opportunity, and that’s what I’ve always tried to do. Sometimes it has worked out great, but others it feels like I totally missed the happy boat. Of late it’s been the missed the boat way.
One thing that really cheered me up today was a note from a wonderful comedian named Beth Donahue – Weedman. What a fireball she is, and I’ve always been a huge fan. She tells it like it is, but unfortunately not everyone can handle that kind of honesty. I know. I’m like that as well.
Beth and I have both been around about the same time, and we’ve both done comedy and radio along the way. We both have our fans, and both have our detractors. Unfortunately, neither of us has figured out that pesky success formula or chased it very hard. We chose to do things our way and that’s not always the way to win the approval of those difficult to figure out ‘powers that be’.
I have all the respect in the world for Beth, and the others like her that never seem to reap what they so richly deserve. I feel the same way about the troops who gave it all up so rich politicians can get richer on the blood of the grunts that did the dirty work. This planet is a cosmic carnival.
Tuesday May 28th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
One of the most difficult positions I can think of to attain in all of the entertainment business is becoming a legitimate show closer in comedy clubs. The professional term that usually gets used is a “headliner”, but to me that implies that the act has some kind of marquee appeal or is a draw.
There are scant few acts that can draw on name alone, and those that can usually opt for bigger venues than a comedy club. That leaves an entire subculture of acts most of the public could not pick out of a police lineup that travel from club to club each week making a living getting laughs from audiences who have no idea who they are before they step on a stage. That’s a tough order.
I’m one of those acts. It’s taken a lifetime of paying serious dues to get there, but I have pulled it off. Even my worst detractors have to admit that I am a strong act, and when everything else is going wrong there’s a high degree of satisfaction that comes with knowing I’ve earned my status.
Comedy club headliners are the Navy Seals of show business. The only way to get that status is to EARN it, and those that earn it rarely are paid what they’re worth. I don’t know how much the Navy Seals get paid, but I have to believe for what they do with the risk involved it isn’t enough.
I think the same is true for comedy club headliners. We’re the ones who bring home the bacon week after week for the comedy club owners who seldom appreciate it. We have to be consistent enough to not only follow an array of questionable opening acts, but maintain a high proficiency level for an extra long period of time. It’s a job not for the squeamish, and not all can handle it.
The average length of a headlining comedy club set is 45 minutes. Sometimes it can be longer – up to an hour, or even more - but rarely is it shorter. I challenge anyone who thinks they’re the least bit funny to get on a stage and entertain a room full of strangers who have been consuming alcoholic beverages en masse for even five minutes and see how tough that is. It’s no cakewalk.
Then add on to that quite often the level of opening acts to fill the time before is often bogged down with less than competent wannabes who all think they should have been booked to be the headliner. They’re gunning for the position (and ever so slight extra pay that goes with it) but are rarely respectful of how difficult it is to have to be a level higher and be able to follow everyone.
Closing one show under those circumstances is a feat in itself. Closing them night after night is downright miraculous - but that’s the job description. A strong headliner should be able to follow most anything, and still bring solid laughs for the entire time they’re on stage. That’s what we do night after night – at least the good ones. It’s hard as hell, but after a while we get into a groove.
I have been a solid show closer for many years now, and sometimes I forget just how much of a sacrifice it was to get there. It’s an unbelievably rough process, but since I started that’s all I’ve ever wanted to become. Now I’m here, and I realize that nobody cares but me and the others that have paid the enormous price to obtain this elite status. We know how much it cost, but that’s it.
The public really doesn’t know or care how tough it was. They want to come to a comedy club to laugh – or at least they did. Now the trend seems to be they’re wanting to see someone famous on any level. If someone has a two minute video on You Tube that goes viral, comedy clubs will book them to “headline” hoping they’ll put butts in seats. They might, but they can’t pull off the difficult task of closing a show. I can, but nobody knows who I am. Life can have a cruel irony.
Wednesday May 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I was scouring my local thrift store today, looking for my instant retirement plan. I’m hoping to run across a severely underpriced bauble or trinket I can score for peanuts and resell for top buck on ‘Pawn Stars’ or ‘The Antique Road Show’ – but who isn’t? Life is now a big scavenger hunt.
We’ve all been relieved of whatever savings we may have had, and the economic collapse that we’re going through has made American Pickers of us all. Gas at $4.50 a gallon with no letup in sight has brought out the wheeler dealer in all of us. Between that and the lottery, we’re crossing our fingers we have a few shekels left for our old age so we don’t have to subsist on pet chow.
It’s easy to spot the sharks in a thrift store, and we’re all doing the same thing. We’re all trying to outsmart everyone else and haul in something we can resell for a lot more. Sometimes it does happen, but not as much as everyone might think. Most of the junk in there is there for a reason.
I highly doubt 2004 is going to come back any time soon, so why would I need an organizer or calendar even if it is only $1.99? And I think I’m up to my limit on VHS tapes too. I don’t know anyone who even has a player anymore, but I’m sure someone does. I have an 8 track machine.
Vinyl records are allegedly making a comeback, so I’ve been stocking up on those of late. I’ve been able to get them between fifty cents and a buck on a consistent basis, and have put together a decent collection of mostly jazz, older country and obscure spoken word stuff I have seen listed on Ebay for significantly more. I have no idea who buys them, but I have a supply ready to sell.
I used to focus on books and self help recordings, but not anymore. I’ve got enough material to last me six lifetimes plus a long prison term, but I don’t feel my life getting any better because of it. I picked most of it up for very low prices at the time, but now I wish I’d have that money back instead of piles of books and tapes I’ll never ever get to. My intentions were good, but that’s it.
Good intentions mean nothing without action, and I’m trying to make something happen so I’m not still fishing for thrift store scraps years from now should I be lucky enough to live that long. I do admit I enjoy the treasure hunting aspect, but depending on it to pay my bills is not my desire.
I received what I’m taking to be a message from the cosmos today when I ran across a copy of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be A Redneck If…” book. I hadn’t seen a copy in a while, but not a day goes by that I’m not aware of how I missed my shot to be part of that whole phenomenon.
I can picture plain as day sitting across from Jeff at lunch and having him tell me how he came up with an idea he thought would make millions and how I laughed in his face and told him what an idiot he was and how it would never work. If I could live my life over again starting from any one point of reference, that would surely be it. I missed out on a huge opportunity, and I know it.
Too late now. I looked at the credits in the book and didn’t see my name there, even though he listed some other comedians I know. I could have been there too, but I blew it. Kicking myself in the aspirations years later isn’t going to change the fact I missed the boat, but it does still sting.
Will I ever get a chance that big again? Who can say? I’m thrilled for Jeff’s enormous success, as he was and is a wonderful guy. I give him mega kudos for a legendary idea. Not only that, he EXECUTED it to perfection. And here I sit years later, wishing I had shut up and played along.
Thursday May 30th, 2013 – Libertyville, IL
Life is a continuing series of ups and downs. I happen to be stuck in a down right now, but I’ve been here plenty of times before so it’s nothing new. Although it’s never pleasant, the only thing to do is wait it out and try to weather the storm as well as possible. Sooner or later, it will switch.
I’ve given up on trying to figure out a logical reason, because I don’t think one exists. I think it boils down to a planetary vibe, or something bigger than all of us. Maybe it’s moonbeams or star dust or cosmic dust from Uranus, but some days or longer periods of time are better than others.
Why is it one day I’ll wake up and everything falls into place? I hit all the green lights in traffic and I go to the restaurant and get the cutie pie waitress to flirt with rather than the 300 lb. sea hag with stale perfume that smells like her sump pump went out. On those days, nothing goes wrong.
Then, other days I can tell it’s going to be exactly the opposite. I get behind some nose picking Neanderthal drooling into his cell phone in the left lane of traffic who directly causes me to miss one green light while he slides through, leaving me steaming at the red light unable to retaliate.
That in turn throws me off course and I end up hitting every other red light the rest of the entire day, and then getting not only the ugliest waitress at the restaurant but the newly paroled first day on the job cook with trench mouth and pink eye that sneezes on my omelet. I guess that wouldn’t be so bad, but I’d ordered a chef’s salad. When I’m out of the groove, it doesn’t matter what I do.
Right now, I’m out of the groove. Sometimes it last for days, sometimes for weeks. Sometimes it’s longer than that. I was in a really good groove just a few weeks ago, but that’s gone now. I’m not sure exactly when the switch happened, but I know it did. I wish I could identify the process.
One thing that’s really been an annoying issue of late is traffic problems. I got a speeding ticket in January that’s been a festering dingle berry since it happened. First, the fine was $250, and the gig I was going to in Eau Claire, WI paid $200. I was already in the hole, but the rental car I was driving cost me even more. Then I went to fight it in court, and they misfiled all my paper work.
I eventually paid the ticket after finding out they screwed up the filing, but last week I received a notice from the state saying my driver’s license is suspended. That’s another fine I had to come up with, and the torture is never ending. I’ve never had my license suspended in my life until this annoying little hiccup, but now I’m a criminal because some smug cop had to play Dirty Harry.
Normally I respect the police, but that guy had a bug up his ass as he got out of his car. I don’t know what his problem was that day, but he sure took it out on me. I could tell when he climbed out of his car I was going to get a ticket by the way he goose stepped to mine. I was out of luck.
Other days, I’m able to make the cop laugh or just get off with a warning. I’ll admit I’ve gotten off completely several times when I probably should have gotten pinched, but for reasons I can’t identify I slid through the cracks. Was it because I was a nice guy? Caucasian? Without any past criminal record? It could be a combination of all of those things, but I can’t put my finger on it.
Sometimes things work out, and sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t feel like I am doing anything different, but there sure are different results. Right now I’m on a low, and try as I might I haven’t the first hint of a clue as to how to change that. If I could, I would. But I can’t. I’ll have to wait.
Friday May 31st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
“Out of chaos, one must create order.” – Dobie Maxwell, Low Rent Philosopher - 2013
That sounds like something Buddha or Confucius might have uttered, and for all I know one or both of them did. Maybe one ad libbed it during an after dinner speech at a golf outing or awards banquet and the other stole and claimed it since they died only four years apart. (I looked it up.)
I don’t know how either of their financial situations were, but mine is about as solid as Lindsay Lohan’s career future. In a word, that would be shaky. OH, is it shaky. Shaky like an earthquake. If I don’t do something about it in the very near future, I’m going to be sleeping in a state park.
I have chosen to attempt to fix it in a way I haven’t attempted in a while – by having a plan and actually working it. That sounds like the easy answer, but for me it never is. I’ve managed to find ways to lose money that should have been in the bank like nobody I’ve ever seen. It’s uncanny.
I’m out several grand in the last year or so for either gigs that fell out at the last minute or cash I am owed for various reasons – most directly connected to my generous nature (read: stupidity) and kind heart. When I’ve had money I’ve always been generous to a fault, and that has to end.
I always gave until it hurt, and thought it would ‘come back around’. Well, it’s not coming and I’m really missing it. Also, I was able to get bookings without much effort because I have proven myself to be dependable, booze and drug free and a rock solid act. I was never worried about it.
Things are changing now, and I need to follow suit. I’m not worried yet, but I am concerned as to how I’m going to make it through the summer months. I’m still a quality act, and I’ll get work again – but it goes in cycles. I just finished up several runs, and I am between booking blocks.
The right thing to do is find more booking blocks, and contact people farther out. Most bookers of comedy clubs and even corporate work don’t just book one event or venue. I need to rattle the cages of everyone I’ve ever worked for that might book me back, and find a few more to acquire.
In a perfect world – which it never is – one should be booking about six months out. That’s not always the way many bookers have done it lately, and with work falling out left and right there is more of a last minute feel than I’ve ever seen. I’m used to living that way, but I’ve never liked it.
I’ve made a career on being available for last minute bookings, and there are always fallouts all over the country. I was always willing to drive from Albuquerque to Cincinnati on short notice if that’s what it took, but with gas prices and my time in the business I’m over it. I need to evolve.
I had lunch today with Jayne Nordstrom from a group called ‘Visit Lake County’. It used to be called The Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I’ve been a member for years now. I get a few gigs a year, and the people there are easy to deal with. My membership includes help with networking other clients, and Jayne gave me some leads to contact for possible future work.
Now is the time to start throwing out feelers for holiday parties, and in the past I have not made the effort to land any. I just took what came. Some years were better than others, but I’m in show BUSINESS and I have to get that through my thick skull. I have a bunch of leads to follow up on but they’re handpicked fellow members. Someone has to need my services for a holiday party or awards banquet, right? Chaos is not my preference. I have a sales career, and the product is me.
Saturday June 1st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
One of the reasons I’ve been in such a funk lately has to be the fact I have not been keeping up with my diet and exercise program like I need to. I am thoroughly embarrassed, ashamed and the only thing that will turn it around is to get back into that groove. There are no excuses. I blew it.
There may not be excuses, but there are reasons. I went back on the road earlier in the year and the groove I had worked so hard to get into just slipped away. Looking back, I allowed myself to skip a day and then it became two. Then I allowed myself a ‘treat’, and that became two as well.
Before I knew it, I was exercising once or twice a week if that. Oh, I always MEANT to get out there bright and early every morning and take my daily exercise walk - but then the phone would ring or I’d need to drive 400 miles or I’d need to get some sleep before my 400 mile drive home.
The road life and a healthy lifestyle are not an easy pairing. Making time to exercise is difficult enough, but often there is no place to do it. I like to get out and walk outside, and sometimes that can be next to impossible in a strange town where I don’t know which neighborhoods to avoid.
Eating is a whole other issue. I love to sample local cuisine whenever possible, and sometimes it’s not always health friendly. An occasional treat is one thing, but I was overdoing it and I need to stop. I didn’t go totally of the wagon, but I did enough to feel it noticeably. I need to cut back.
The summer season is here and I have painfully little road work (or work of any kind) so I have ZERO excuses. If I don’t get myself back into the shape I was in, it’s my own fault and I deserve all the bad things that will absolutely happen. I know what I need to do, and I intend on doing it.
I intended to before, so that’s why I’m concerned. Bad food tastes SO good, and always will. It seems so unfair, but that’s how it is. For the rest of my time in the body I have, I need to make an effort every single day to control both what goes into my pie hole and how I choose to exercise.
I’ve made the effort the last few days to get up and walk in the morning, and do I feel it when I get home. Damn, am I out of shape. And it didn’t take long. That’s what frightens me. I put in an extensive effort since I got out of the hospital in 2011, and I thought my blobbo days were over.
SO wrong. It’s easy to slip back into old unproductive habits. I never got back into the fast food and soda death grip, but I did allow myself to partake in breads, pastas, cheeses and other nasties I need to re-eliminate. Vegetables, fish and salads need to come back more, and more water too.
The combination of diet and exercise can do wonders. I am (or was) living proof of it but it has to be done every single day. Once or twice a week just won’t cut it, and that I am living proof of. I now have several months of warm weather ahead to get myself back to where I know everyone needs to be. I see a nation of balloon asses all around me, and I don’t want to follow their lead.
I took a long walk this morning, and thought I was going to keel over about halfway through it. I could tell I’ve lost any conditioning I may have had, and am starting completely over. Even my blood was brittle, but I didn’t quit. I came home a sore, sweaty panting slob, and then flopped to the couch for a nap. I was proud of myself for hanging in there, but know I’m going to have a big job ahead of me keeping this going every single day. It’s not fun, but I guess a massive stroke or a fatal heart attack would not be a party either. I strayed off course, but now I’m back to healthy.
Sunday June 2nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
It never hurts to pound positive principles into one’s head, even if they have been heard before. I want to do all I can to turn the tables and get myself out of this current funk, so I buried myself in quality content all day long. There’s nothing like learning from the best in a particular field.
First, I listened to a recording of Woody Allen talking about comedy and comedy writing. It’s part of the extensive research done by author Larry Wilde for his classic book ‘Great Comedians Talk About Comedy’. He recorded interviews with great comedians of the past and it’s been one of my favorite books for years. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in standup comedy.
There’s a website called www.laugh.com that sells the interviews Larry did with comedy icons like George Carlin, Johnny Carson, Jerry Seinfeld and many others including Woody Allen. This was the precursor to the overdose of podcasts we have today. Marc Maron has the one everybody seems to be familiar with, and he gets the best guests of this generation like Larry did years ago.
I can’t think of anyone bigger in the comedy world than Woody Allen. He is THE most prolific comedy artist of the 20th Century if not all time. His work ethic is unmatched by anyone and he’s still doing it today. Whether anyone happens to be a fan of what he does or not, he cranks it out.
I happen to be a huge fan of Woody’s, and the sheer amount of product alone he’s generated is awe inspiring. I churned out my two little CDs and a DVD, but those seem like Chihuahua turds compared to Woody’s body of work. He’s written four books of essays, has three comedy album projects that are now condensed onto a two CD set and has done a feature film a year since 1969.
In a word – WOW! What other artist has come close to that kind of output? Steve Martin has a lot of films to his credit in addition to albums and books, but he’s not in the same solar system as Woody. Nobody is. Like him or not, he’s the standard setter for generations to come. His number of completed projects dwarfs everyone, and even though all of them weren’t big hits many were.
I listened intently to Woody’s interview, and even though I’ve heard it at least a dozen times or more there is always something that jumps out at me that I hadn’t heard or need to hear again. He is truly the master’s master of the craft of comedy, and I enjoyed listening to him all over again.
After that, I popped in a five cassette program from an author and mail order guru I’ve listened to for years named E. Joseph Cossman. He made millions marketing products that were given up on by others, and had a number of big hits including the potato gun, ant farm and several others.
I’ve got a few tape programs from him, and they’re all great even though some of the info may be a bit dated. He died years ago, before the internet. Still, his acumen is rock solid now as it was when it came out and I wanted to refresh my memory and hear it again. It inspired me all over.
Maybe now I’ll actually DO something rather than bitch about being in a slump. His principles of business are very solid, and he was a world class entrepreneur. What better way to learn about anything than to go to the top of any field and study the masters? E. Joseph Cossman is a master.
Woody Allen is a master also. So is Larry Wilde. Gene Perret is another. I would love to get on a list like that, but I have a ways to go. Right now I’m hoping to be able pay my rent next month. I doubt if Woody Allen is worried about that. He’s thinking about his work - just as he should be.
Monday June 3rd, 2013 – Chicago, IL
Today was a trip down a two way street. I dealt out a few doses of constructive criticism while teaching my comedy class, but I had taken some of my own before I got there. It was all meant to uplift and improve, and that’s how it was taken by everyone involved. There was growth today.
Criticism of anyone’s work – constructive or not – is an extremely delicate process. To achieve maximum benefit, it has to be given in exactly the right dose. Too much and it turns into nothing more than a personal attack. Too little and the message doesn’t get across. It has to be done right.
My father was a perfect example of how not to do it. He had an uncanny knack for deciphering someone’s biggest weakness or shortcoming - then pointing it out in a mean spirited way right in front of everyone. He could be wickedly funny – if it wasn’t YOU. He was the original ‘Simon’.
His words of criticism were anything but constructive, and lo all these years later I still flinch a little when I remember some of the nasty things he said – especially to those who were supposed to be the closest to him. They still sting years after he’s dead, so that’s why I try to be a lot nicer.
There is no need for personal attacks, and there is an art to getting the message across so that a person receiving it can reap the benefits and not just sit with clenched jaw and hurt feelings. I’ve seen it happen countless times, and try to avoid it like the plague. Today everything worked fine.
Before comedy class I met with my friend Todd Hunt. Todd volunteered to listen to the DVDs of my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows from April and offer his input. I have ultimate respect for Todd and his input, as we’ve developed a working relationship over years. I’ve helped him by adding a few punch line suggestions to his business speech, and then he decides if he will use them or not.
Many times he has, and it’s been a constant work in progress as long as I have known him. Our roles have been reversed, and now he’s the one making the suggestions. There was no need for a buffer, as we understood the process. I wanted him to make suggestions and not only did he offer input, he got it from someone else who had never seen the show. I got twice what I had expected.
Todd happens to know someone who is originally from the Milwaukee area and has experience in the entertainment field. He played my show for her to see what she’d think, and she in turn did it one better and threw in some very helpful suggestions. I knew immediately this would be a big help. Todd offered some solid input as well, and I’m excited to add it all to the mix immediately.
Todd and his friend were ‘fresh eyes’, and they both had the right demeanor. They were trying to make improvements, rather than just throw out half baked opinions based on half thought out ideas. There was a plan there, and I totally appreciate both of them taking time to make the notes they did. Todd is very good at what he does, and always has been. His effort will not be wasted.
There were no hurt feelings, or ignorant comments as can happen all too often. How often have I had to sit across the table from some halfwit who starts his or her dimwitted diatribe with a line like “Here’s what’s wrong with what you’re doing…” After that, nothing else has any meaning.
Saying something like “Here’s a point you might consider” opens the door without insulting or belittling, and is much more professional. That’s what Todd did with me, and that’s how I make a point to do it in my classes. At the end of the day, it all worked out exactly how it should have.
Tuesday June 4th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
As ridiculous as it sounds, I think there’s something in the human animal that enjoys struggle. Somewhere inside, we crave it. What’s more satisfying than overcoming a humongous challenge and beating the odds to gain a victory? Nothing I can imagine. We love it when it gets difficult.
I’m a big fan of the computer game Free Cell. It’s a form of solitaire, and played with a deck of cards. The game involves moving all the cards around in descending order and alternating colors, and it can be highly addictive. I love it because it keeps the brain busy, and can be challenging.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of different combinations, and allegedly all but one is solvable. Some games are far too easy, most present at least a slight degree of difficulty but then there are those few that drive me up the wall and across the ceiling – and they’re the ones I love.
They keep me baffled for a while, and I might go back and play the same game fifty times over before I eventually figure it out – but I usually do. I go in spurts, but when I get on a bender I am known to drop everything else I’m doing and put all my effort into solving that particular game.
It’s completely frustrating for a while – sometimes a long while – but then when I do solve that particular game there’s an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment like little else I’ve ever felt. I’ve run across other Free Cell players, and most of them know exactly what I’m talking about.
The harder the effort that’s required, the more satisfying the feeling of victory is when it finally happens. Only the biggest challenges have appeal. The others aren’t even close. Putting forth an epic effort is never easy, and I guess that’s why it feels so good to win. It’s the ultimate victory.
More and more people are having to put forth that kind of epic effort in life just to stay alive in this financial climate, and they’re feeling the utter frustration of a difficult Free Cell game times ten. It’s no cakewalk out there, and tensions are rising. Try waiting five seconds at a green light.
My grandparents used to talk about how The Depression was good in that it helped to get all of their generation on the same page, and it kept them humble. They pulled together and it gave life a sense of purpose. The generation of today seems defeated – at least those I talk to. Challenging computer games are one thing, but gas prices rising by the day are squeezing us all like Charmin.
I’ve struggled my whole life, so I’m used to it by now. It’s not necessarily pleasant, but I have a thick callous built up over decades so it doesn’t scare me when my world blows up. I’ve had it happen so many times now, it doesn’t even move the needle anymore. Others aren’t that way.
I’m feeling tensions build on every level, and it scares me. Jobs are nowhere to be had, and the majority of everybody I know is completely tapped out. I am too, but I don’t have a house full of hungry kids to feed and a giant mortgage to pay on that house I couldn’t sell even if I wanted to.
With a Free Cell game, if it gets too tough I can take a break for a while or do something else. It’s not that way in life. When the tornado hits, there’s no choice but to hang in there and slug it out. There’s no pause button, and it can get really stressful. We’re all stuck in a pressure cooker.
I wish I knew what the solution is, but I don’t. Where is that ultimate victory feeling in life like I feel in Free Cell going to come from? I’ve got all I can do to pay my bills every month, and so do millions of others. I rarely have time to play Free Cell at all. I’m too busy trying to survive.
Wednesday June 5th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
I have a calculator I bought years ago at a rummage sale for a quarter, and I happened to find it in an old box today. I don’t think I’ve ever used it even one time since I bought it, so I decided to play around and crunch a few numbers to get my quarter’s worth. I let my imagination run wild.
Does anyone even use calculators anymore? Other than trying to figure out how much it would cost to fill my gas tank, I can’t think of a time I’d use one. If I really needed it, I think there’s one on my phone, right? I think so anyway. I’m still trying to figure out how to make it ring properly. It tweets and beeps and farts and does everything more than what I bought it for – to make calls.
The world is passing me by on a daily basis, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I’m trying to keep up, but it’s not even close. I am getting smoked like smuggled marijuana in prison. Hey, there’s a funny thought – a joint in the joint! Ok, back to reality. I’m a big human dinosaur.
Technology is in charge, and that’s how it is. It’s frustrating, but it’s too late to turn back now. It’s all here to stay, like it or not. Some of it I really like, but there’s too much to keep up with on a daily basis, and I feel so lost I don’t know who to complain to. Our humanity is being neutered.
I think the era when it was the ideal mix between Flintstones and Jetsons has passed. There are a lot of great things about technology and the modern era, but there are drawbacks too. The same is true for the ‘good old days’ as well. I don’t think prairie life was the ultimate thrill ride either.
Hunting for my dinner and sleeping in a cabin with my unshaven wife and eight melon headed offspring I need as farm hands doesn’t tickle my doo dad at all. Yes, there were no preservatives or genetic altering added to my food and it probably tasted better than McNuggets, but that’s it.
Back then, I’d be dead by the age I am now. Even in this era, I’m shocked I have lived as long as I have. Every day I’m alive is bonus time, and I’m trying to make the best of it but it’s getting tougher by the hour. I try to be blind to the insanity that’s going on everywhere, but I just can’t.
I still say money would solve 95% or higher of my current problems. A windfall would put me in a much calmer mindset, and I wouldn’t have the constant stress of having to make decisions to pay my bills in the short run rather than be an asset to humanity in the long run. It’s exasperating. I’d only need a reasonable chunk, but today I pulled out the stops and went for a million bucks.
I started farting around on the old calculator, and punched in 1,000,000 divided by 365 days of the year. It comes out to $2,739.726 so we’ll round it up to $2,739.73. That’s how much anybody would need to make every single day for a year to have a cool million. Leap year it’s $2,732.24.
That number alone blows my mind, but that’s gnat poo. There are professional athletes that are not even in the starting lineups of their teams that make multiple millions a year, and they have a contract that’s guaranteed for more than one year. I couldn’t begin to imagine what that would be like. Well I guess I could imagine it, but I’d like to LIVE it. I truly believe I could handle it well.
What is money anyway other than a manufactured shallow symbol of the exchange of energies from one party to another? Unfortunately, in this existence it’s absolutely EVERYTHING. That wasn’t my call, and I’m not saying I like it – but it’s the truth. I’m not going to lie, I’d love to get a million bucks legally and without hurting anyone. Right now I’d be delighted with $2,739.73.
Thursday June 6th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL
Above all else in life, it is of the ultimate importance to me to be a quality person. A few would swear that I am in the final four of the ‘Guess the Antichrist’ tournament, but it’s only a few. I’ve never claimed to be perfect or even close, but when it’s all over I’d like to be remembered for the good I did and the happiness I spread to as many as humanly possible. It’s all that matters to me.
One of the few things in my power that I can do that I think may have any kind of lasting effect at all in a positive way is to catalog and pass along all the painful lessons I’ve learned during my decades in the entertainment jungle. Hopefully it can help dented cans who have yet to be born to have some kind of a map to follow in the pursuit of their dreams. I had little help in my corner.
I shudder to think what I could have been had I made better decisions, but it’s much too late to change paths now. I chose what I chose and did what I did, and now here I sit with the results. It doesn’t mean I’ll never catch a break, but I sure did take a long way around. I screwed the pooch.
The most positive action in my situation is to freely list all the stupid mistakes I made, hoping I can help others who are coming down the pike for years to come. I know I’m not the first idiot to misplay his cards, and that coupled with some rotten breaks has put me deep into the trick bag of life. It could and probably should have been a much smoother ride, but it played out how it did.
I started another blog about six months ago that has a growing number of articles that will help anyone who may be interested in attempting standup comedy either now or in the future. There’s a lot of practical and timeless information, and I know it can be of tremendous help to beginners.
I call my program “The Maxwell Method of Standup Comedy”, and I am offering these articles at zero cost as my gift to the universe at http://maxwellmethodcomedy.wordpress.com/. I wanted to plant some positive seeds that will hopefully produce trees that will give shade long after I am gone. It’s the old theory of “teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.” That’s my goal here.
I sure haven’t made much of an impact in the comedy world. I’ve managed to squeak out a tiny living for decades, but that’s about it. I’m considered a journeyman at best, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m talking about. I totally do. Every last lesson I’ve learned – I’ve EARNED.
Maybe that was my purpose, and it’s all I can give. I’ve taken some big hits in my life, and I’ve learned some excruciating lessons on many subjects. I know well of what I speak, and if anybody is even halfway smart they’ll study what I have to say and if nothing else do the exact opposite.
I’m in one of those frustrated artistic moods lately that makes me feel as if nothing I’ve done in my professional existence is or ever has been worth a flea fart. I don’t feel very funny and I don’t even feel like I’m a skilled writer. What I do know is what I am talking about is the correct info.
I do have passion about standup comedy. I love to create, perform and teach it – even though at this time I still haven’t broken through to a level of recognition I know I have in me. I know I’ve got some natural ability, but I don’t feel even close to have discovered how to construct a career.
If I’m supposed to learn a lesson from it I’m failing miserably. I’m highly annoyed, and it feels as if all I’m doing is losing valuable time. I was on a roll the last couple of days and cranked out four solid articles. I have a lot more to say, so hopefully somebody can learn something useful.
Friday June 7th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL
If the universe isn’t going to give me a break, I have to go out and make my own. I don’t know why life has gotten to be so difficult right now, but it is. I need to rustle up some work, and that’s one of many cold realities of self employment. Had I opted to suckle the civil service teat like the majority of my family, I’d be able to coast through life collecting a check. I chose another route.
While that route may be much more scenic and interesting, there are also a lot more potholes to dodge. Being in business for one’s self is a severe test of endurance, and several skill sets have to be polished to make it all work. Each and every penny any entrepreneur makes is well deserved.
It’s no secret that right about now I could use a steady stream of income. Four or five would be better, but I’ll settle for a solid trickle for now. I’m willing to work for it, and in fact I’d prefer an opportunity to just practice my craft and make an honest living. That’s been rather tough of late.
Trying to make lemons out of lemonade, I signed up for the World Series of Comedy contest at Zanies in Rosemont, IL this weekend. I absolutely abhor comedy contests as a rule, and there are many legitimate reasons for it. They can be demeaning, degrading, dysfunctional, humiliating to the bone and almost always the only one who isn’t thoroughly pissed off afterward is the winner.
Still, I need to get in front of some bookers and that’s what this contest is about. A guy named Joe Lowers out of Pittsburgh moved to Las Vegas and started it from scratch. I give Joe a double thumbs up and all the credit in the world for putting something this big together , and it has been growing every year since he started a few years back. He’s worked like a maniac and it shows.
I have no qualms with Joe or anyone else at the World Series of Comedy. The grand prize is an opportunity to work about 50 weeks as a feature in several clubs across the country. I’m a strong headliner, but if I get in front of the bookers they’d see I’ve got the chops. I just want the chance.
Since I was off this week, Zanies manager Cyndi Nelson suggested I enter the contest. She said they had an extra slot, and if I wanted it it was mine. I thought long and hard about it due to all of the horrific experiences I’ve had in the past, but I decided to give it a run. A chance is a chance.
On this particular show, I drew slot number 7 out of 8 contestants. The others weren’t bad acts, but they weren’t headliners either. No offense to any of them, but I’ve got more road experience than probably all of them put together. I know how to read an audience and how to bring a show to the next level. I have a passing gear those guys don’t have, but it didn’t come without a price.
I sacrificed everything to acquire that skill, so I absolutely expected to win the contest. I had an excellent spot, and the audience was with me the whole time. I took it up a notch, and since I had seven minutes I packed as much as I could into it and closed on a big pop. I knew I threw heat.
At the end of the show, they announce the winners and I took first place tonight. I could see the looks of disappointment on the others’ faces, and I’ve been there myself. I went over to each one and complimented them on their act, and meant every word. I’ve been in their position too often.
This is not a time to gloat or brag. I am very flattered I won tonight, but I should have won. I’m far more experienced than all of these guys, and I’ve earned it. All I want is to get some attention from bookers so I can get back out and earn my living. Tonight went great, but it’s not over yet.
Saturday June 8th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL
Shoot me now. Please. Anyone who has a few spare bullets lying around, could you please go find your gun and pump a few rounds in the back of my head while I’m sleeping? Sell whatever organs you can on Ebay, and keep the money. I’m on the wrong planet, and I want to go home.
My every fear and more about comedy contests came true tonight, and I’m feeling about as low and useless as a poodle’s pecker in a kennel full of pit bulls. Tonight was the finals of the World Series of Comedy at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL, and it couldn’t have gone any worse.
It feels like I got hit in the cup with a blazing fastball – only I wasn’t wearing a cup. This stings to the bone, and makes me question my entire existence. Just yesterday I was in the winner’s seat and feeling fantastic. Less than 24 hours later, I’m on the toilet seat and the bowl is overflowing.
Absolutely everything went wrong tonight. First, the Chicago Blackhawks game was televised and the whole town is going nuts over it. This reminds me of how it was when the Bulls were on top in the Michael Jordan era. When the playoffs came around, nobody came to comedy clubs or theatres or restaurants or anywhere not a sports bar. It was great for the city, bad for businesses.
Tonight’s crowd was about a dozen away from being sparse. On top of that, there was a big old bachelorette party in the house – the death knell of comedy shows. They’re usually drunk beyond belief, and rarely shut up during the show. Also there were some twenty somethings right in front that had their arms crossed and were bound and determined not to laugh at anything anyone said.
We all had eleven minutes tonight vs. seven minutes last night. There were six of us on the bill, and I drew number two. That’s about what it felt like, as they were completely dead. The emcee had a rough time getting them going, and he brought up the first act to piercing silence. He got a bit of response, but his style didn’t prepare them for what I do. I tried to adjust, but I was done.
These people were flat out DUMB. That happens in a country of more than 350 million people. Once in a while a clump of dimwits gets together, and tonight was it. I pulled out every trick that I could think of, and I finally started to get them about nine minutes in. I had to get off at eleven, so all that did was set them up for the next guy. In a headline set I could have got them over time.
But this wasn’t a headline set. It was a contest, and all that matters is if someone can get laughs for the time allotted. It doesn’t matter that that’s all the time they have, and past performance has nothing to do with the current situation. That’s what’s so brutal and cruel about contests, and I’ve never liked them. How many times have I ‘lost’ to someone who can’t even do a 30 minute set?
The truth is, nobody gives half an aardvark’s ass, or the ants he ate for lunch. None of the dolts in this crowd tonight saw the years of hard labor it took to get the chance try and impress a panel of judges for ten minutes. Had I made the final three, I’d have gone on to the late show and had a 25 minute set with two other finalists. I like my chances a lot in that scenario - but I won’t get it.
Am I pissed off? Royally beyond belief, but not at Joe Lowers or The World Series of Comedy or Cyndi from Zanies who suggested I sign up. I’m more pissed at myself for making the choices I made that put me in a position to even sign up for this contest in the first place. I should be out there headlining all these clubs, and working any time I want. I know I have the ability, but those people tonight just weren’t my audience. I don’t want them as my audience, but I had no choice.
This is all part of the cruel randomness of the entertainment grind. Everyone dreams of being a famous singer or actor or comedian, but that dream can turn on and off with ease and it’s located safely inside one’s imagination where the real world doesn’t operate. In life, it’s a much harder.
When it goes like it went tonight, there’s no turning it off. All the way home in my car burning $4.50 a gallon gas, all I could think of were the years of struggle and paying dues that placed me in the position to go up in front of less than half a room full of people who stared blankly at me.
I felt like a goldfish who was somehow taken out of the bowl and all I could do was look up at the people staring at me, hoping someone would have the presence of mind to throw me back in so I could breathe. Nobody did, and that was it. The feeling of crushing disappointment is about as bad as I’ve ever felt it, and I truly wish I’d never been born. What the hell am I doing here?
Nobody came over to tell me I did a good job or encourage me like I did last night to every one of the other contestants. I’m not blaming those guys, they were all very funny. The lineup was as solid as I’ve ever seen one for a comedy contest, and the fact that I have more experience than all the rest of them means absolutely nothing. That’s not what was being judged. It was just tonight.
It was total luck of the draw, and I drew a rotten poker hand tonight. I did the best I could with what I had to work with, but it wasn’t enough to crack the top three I needed to move to the next level for the late show and do 25 minutes. I would have had a huge advantage in that situation, as 25 minutes is like a night off for me. I can do three times that amount of time, and be consistent.
I doubt if any of those other guys could have matched me over a longer period of time, but that won’t be an issue. It’s over, and only because of dumb luck. It’s like a sports team that wins by a last second fluke play of some sort in a championship game. Nine times out of ten the other team would have won, but in the one time out of ten it was the big game so the underdogs are champs.
I wish all the winners nothing but the best, and I’m not holding any grudges against anybody or anything like that. I entered the contest of my own free will, and I knew full well anything could happen both good and bad. I took a chance, rolled the dice and got wet mud kicked in my face.
I don’t know if I can put into words how rotten I feel right now. This one really hurt, but unless one has been a performer and experienced this pain firsthand I’m just wasting keystrokes on my computer. It would be like a woman trying to tell me about childbirth. I will never feel that pain.
If there is someone reading this that has experienced what I’m talking about, he or she can feel every bit of what I went through tonight. It’s a deep bitter disappointment that takes one’s whole spirit away. It’s like finding out that there’s not only no Santa, but that I owe the fat bastard who has been wearing the suit all these years back pay, suit rental and interest on the toys he brought.
I’m really beginning to lose faith in just about everything. I wish I could have some optimism, but I just don’t see it. Is that a normal part of growing older, or did something just snap inside of me after taking all these years of all these direct hits? After a while even the nicest puppy bites if someone keeps poking him with a broom stick. I feel like I have been getting poked since birth.
I wish I had an upbeat thought to end on, but I totally don’t. Not only did I lose out on my shot to get a paid trip to Las Vegas, I also didn’t get paid this week. I spent money on gas getting to a contest I got my ass handed to in. This is not what I pictured life to be. Shoot me now. Please.