Monday June 17th, 2013 – Wheeling, IL
As REO Speedwagon so eloquently sang, “So if you’re tired of the same old story - turn some pages.” That’s exactly what I’m going to do, as in roll with the changes. I am by far not the only one in that position, and people everywhere are having to reinvent themselves on a daily basis.
My friends Bill Gorgo and Joe Nuccio are at a crossroads in their lives too, and today we had a three way powwow to see how we can help each other. We all think we can, but there has to be a solid plan in place. That’s never been one of my strong points, so I went in with a humble spirit.
Bill and I have taught a series of comedy classes together for several years at various locations. We have a well formed synergy, and he’s not only a very accomplished and funny comedian - he has been an actual high school teacher for decades at several Catholic high schools in Chicago.
He decided to opt for a retirement, and wants to focus more on comedy as both a performer and a teacher. We mesh well both on stage and in class, and have the option of giving a client a class, seminar, show or any combination thereof. We both have holes in our calendars, so today was an excellent opportunity to start exploring options. There are many, but will take work to go after.
That’s where our mutual friend Joe comes in. He just ended a job as a computer programmer at a place he worked for years, and is also on the hunt for new opportunities. Joe is a former student of both Bill’s and mine and is also a professional musician. He is extremely organized, and that’s exactly what Bill and I both need. He brings things to the table we don’t have, plus we like him.
Joe comes from both a corporate and entertainment background, and is a valuable consultant in what Bill and I would like to do. We met at Joe’s house and spent several hours talking back and forth about what could and couldn’t or should and shouldn’t be done. It was long, but productive.
One thing we agreed on was that Bill and I need to come up with a book of our lessons on how to write and perform comedy. We’ve both got a ton of experience, and have strong opinions on a variety of subjects pertaining to the craft of comedy. We’ve both written some articles and came up with some worksheets, but we don’t have a well defined product. Joe told us that right away.
Even though we’ve got vast experience in what we’re doing, now we’ve got to market that to a whole new customer base. This isn’t for comedy club audiences, but a business crowd. We are at the beginning of a huge task, but a necessary one if we’re going to survive in the business jungle.
After our all day marathon meeting, I drove to Vernon Hills, IL where I oversaw a group of my current students who are going up for a graduation show on Wednesday. They’re a Toastmasters group, and mostly made up of professional types. They’re very nice people, but standup comedy is just not something they’re used to and they’re finding it difficult to put their routines together.
It’s an especially challenging position as a teacher and mentor, because I know I’m not making their lives difficult on purpose even though they look at me as a vicious taskmaster. They want to improve, and I respect that. I’m only telling them what they need to hear in order to move ahead.
Still, they’re all really nice people, and I see how badly they want to improve. I can really help people like this – and there have to be a LOT more of them who have money to hire a coach than the upstart punk in comedy clubs that I was. There’s a lot more upside here than comedy clubs.