Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jerry Seinfeld

Tuesday April 29th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   Yesterday I mentioned that it was Jay Leno’s birthday and how he was the king of the comedy club boom of the ‘80s – and he was. Today it’s the birthday of the prince – Jerry Seinfeld. Those two ruled the roost in the glory years, and everybody else was choking on their exhaust fumes.

   I find it beyond remarkable the two of them were born only a day apart. I don’t know if there’s anything to astrology or not, but this makes me take notice just as the fact that Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh share the same birthday January 12th. Coincidence? Perhaps, but it sure is odd.

   Just because Jay was looked upon as the king of that era, there was no shame whatsoever in all Jerry was doing. He was working most if not all the same top level venues Jay was, and raking in hefty coin himself. I never saw any check stubs, but neither was sleeping in his car. They did ok.

   Again, just like with Jay I was informed of Jerry’s greatness through my association with Rick Uchwat who owned Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago. Rick was a father figure to comedians of all eras, and Jay and Jerry were like his oldest sons. Both have spoken highly of Rick just as I do, and Rick gushed in return when it came to both of them. Jerry wasn’t that far behind Jay’s status.

   Like Jay, Jerry was a meticulous trouper who was relentless about working constantly. The two saw comedy as a business a lot sooner than most of us do, and kudos to them for doing it. If there was one thing that wasn’t a joke to either it was standup comedy. They had the correct mindset.

   Just like I think Jay gets unfairly sniped from people that only judge him by the Tonight Show, Jerry gets lumped in with the countless sea of bad comedians that copied his style. I know quite a few people that don’t care for Jerry’s standup, and I always tell them that they should look again.

   It’s fine not to care for someone’s individual style, I’m like that too. There are some comedians I don’t enjoy at all, even though they’re huge names. That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean I don’t look at what they do and study it. Just because I don’t like a certain act doesn’t mean I don’t respect it. 

   I happen to really like and respect Jerry Seinfeld’s act, and in fact I use one of his routines as a classic example of a quality comedy bit for my classes. Even those that didn’t like him before are usually converted when I break down what he did and how he did it. The man is an all time great and even if he didn’t have his monster sitcom he’d still have lots to be proud of. He’s a megastar.

   And like Jay and me – he is also left handed. I don’t have anything in common with those two financially, but as far as creativity goes I have to believe we are cut from the same cloth. Lefties are wired to have careers based on creativity. It doesn’t mean righties can’t have success too, but they’re the exception. We’re the rule. It makes perfect sense that both of these guys are lefties.

   I have been fortunate to have a chance to meet and open for both Jay and Jerry and it was a real treat. Neither would remember me now, but I sure remember them. I learned from watching them both, and I give them the big props they deserve. From a performer’s viewpoint, they are royalty.

Even without his monster sitcom, Jerry Seinfeld would still be a huge success. He's one of the most accomplished standup comics of all time, and that's no small feat.

Jay Leno

Monday April 28th, 2014 – Lake Villa, IL

   Today is Jay Leno’s birthday, and I think it’s important to acknowledge exactly how huge of a career he has had. There have been controversial events surrounding him at times, but that’s not what I want to discuss. I don’t have enough information to claim to be able to speak intelligently on the subject. I heard what everyone else heard, but quite frankly none of that is my business.

   What is my business is standup comedy, and Jay Leno was the absolute undisputed king of it at the peak of the comedy club glory years. He was in the right place at the right time, and everyone I came up the ranks with spoke his name in revered tones. He was the one everyone aspired to be – or at least his status. He worked the top venues for top dollar, and he worked CONSTANTLY.

   I think the majority of the public has no clue what a work ethic Jay Leno has always had. I was privy to it through working with Zanies Comedy Clubs in Chicago and knowing the owner Rick Uchwat. Rick and Jay were very close, and Rick would always tell the rest of us how far we had to go to even get close to Jay’s work ethic. He figured it out early, and rode the wave to the top.

   A lot of people choose to only look at his Tonight Show years, and base their opinion solely on that. That’s not the whole picture, just as people often judge Woody Allen on how he treated Mia Farrow and that whole situation. Again, none of that is my business and I have no right to judge.

   Jay Leno was a huge success long before he ever got The Tonight Show, and had he not gotten it he would definitely not have starved to death. Money is one thing he mastered early, and I’m a fan for that alone. He found a way to get paid top dollar, yet he never coasted. He had two jobs at all times since he was young – one that he lived off of and one that he saved. That’s SO unusual.

   I read several times where he said he saved every penny he made from The Tonight Show, and lived off the money he made in comedy. I did the exact same thing when I had my radio jobs, but unfortunately none of them lasted long enough to make a difference. I was always able to squeak out a living in comedy while I was doing radio, and I banked the radio cash. I see how he did it.

   What’s so fantastic is that he did it for so long. At one point a lot earlier than most, he was at a place where he didn’t have to work if he didn’t want to – but he totally wanted to. He was out on the road constantly either opening for music acts or headlining from coast to coast. He worked it, onstage and off. I saw him live in the ‘80s and it was like nothing I’d ever seen. He was amazing.

   I think he did somewhere around two hours, and it was rapid fire JOKES with zero fat. He had the crowd in his pocket the entire way through, and I was in awe. He brought the goods, and did it night after night after night. Young comics coming up the ladder today and those that may not have enjoyed him on The Tonight Show need to realize how great a standup he is and respect it.

   What I found odd is that Jay is left handed. Many entertainers are, but he is so mechanical that I was surprised to hear of it. He’s also dyslexic and overcame that quite nicely. I have respect for Jay Leno’s tremendous accomplishments, and I wanted to make it public. He earned his success.

Jay Leno was the undisputed king of standup comedy during the boom years of the 1980s. Period. He earned it.

Famous For A Night

Sunday April 27th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

   Tonight I had the delightful opportunity to both donate to charity and enjoy a world class meal at the same time. It doesn’t get much better than that, and I’m glad I did it. The event was held in downtown Milwaukee at a restaurant called The Capital Grille, and it was a classy experience.

   I had heard of that restaurant, but one always has to experience something firsthand to really be able to form an opinion. And even then, it might be a little off. I always like to give something at least two or three chances so I can make up my mind, but there isn’t always time in life for that.

   Tonight was my first time, and if I never get back it was a grand slam so that’s acceptable. I’d find it very hard to believe they could top this experience, but it was a special night and everyone on staff was on their best behavior. I’m sure they always are, but tonight they were off the charts.

   My film director friend Mark Gumbinger invited me to this event, as he thought I’d be one of a very few possibilities on his contact list that he could invite that would both appreciate the event and be willing to invest more than a few bucks for the experience. This was not a $9.99 fish fry.

   I am certainly not swimming with the biggest financial fish right now, but I do make a point to donate to charities whenever and however I am able and tonight was a chance to do that. A good friend of Mark’s was the person putting on the event, and this was the fifth year it has been held.

   He and his wife tragically lost their son to cancer at only 27. I can’t begin to imagine the horror that would be, and once again they were wonderful people who handled it with dignity and class. Mark introduced us and they couldn’t have been any friendlier and grateful that I could be there.

   There were some high powered movers and shakers in attendance, as Mark’s friend owns a few businesses and his brother is a former mayor of Kenosha. Everybody was friendly, and I’d guess about 75 was the final tally. It’s been growing every year apparently, and I’m glad I was invited.

   Mark and I were seated at a table with people from the cancer charity, and he brought it up that I was a comedian. I really can’t stand that as that’s not why I was there, but Mark wouldn’t let up one bit. I know he meant well, but I was really embarrassed. I’ve never been one to flaunt that in front of strangers, but they couldn’t get enough of it. They treated me as if I was a big time star.

   Word got around the room that a “famous comedian” was in attendance, and I felt eyes looking at me as I went to use the bathroom. I know some people live for the attention, but that has never been my thing. I’m fine with doing my show and then escaping back into my obscure existence.

   Just as we were about to leave, a lawyer made his way over to our table and asked if I wouldn’t mind answering a few questions he had about standup comedy. He wasn’t at all the typical slimy lawyer stereotype, and I tried to answer him as honestly as I could. I didn’t want to take away the focus of the event, but they raised some good money and I was honored to be a part of it. I think I may be asked to perform next year, and if it helps the cause I surely will. These are fine people. 

I attended a charity event in Milwaukee tonight at a restaurant called 'The Capital Grille'. Wow!

They have locations all over, but this one was outstanding. www.thecapitalgrille.com.

I was invited by my film director friend Mark Gumbinger. Here he is with singer Gordon Lightfoot. www.edmundfitzgerald.com.

Where's Allen Funt?

Saturday April 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   This was the Saturday off I didn’t know I had until two days ago, and I chose to shut my mouth and just work through it. Complaining about it isn’t going to change anything, and it’s more than just one lost gig that’s the problem. It took years to get to this point, and I am really in a corner.

   I didn’t choose the safe route in life – if there even is one. What I chose was the adventure trail, and that’s exactly what I got. There were a few thrills along the way, but I trusted everything that I had always read about “do what you love and the money will come” and “everyone with talent will eventually get their shot.” I’m losing hope about all of that faster than the Cubs lose games.

   It just floors me how nice people get crapped on time and time again. It’s not just me, and I see it so much it makes my gag reflex go off. How about at least a LITTLE break for the people that have kind souls? I’m just not seeing it anywhere, and it sure makes me question life’s existence.

   The whole God thing is a very sore spot with me. We all want to have one, just like as children we all wanted a Santa. I have to believe even Jews and Muslim kids were up for a guy that brings them free toys. What kid wouldn’t love that? Then we find out it’s all a lie, and it’s devastating.

   I am seeing the whole God vs. “The Devil” scenario the same way. I used to believe there was a God and I hoped to go to “heaven” after I died. Then one day – just like my grandpa predicted I would – I woke up and realized it was a bigger made up tale than Santa. But I wasn’t devastated.

   It just makes me wonder, why all this huge potential on such a beautiful planet filled with such monkeys but most never gets fulfilled? It might make sense someday, but I don’t think it will for the living. If there is indeed a “next life” – and I’m having severe doubts – I guess we’ll find out.

   The latest example that makes me scratch my head is a friend of mine that is a former comedy student. I can’t think of a more gentle soul, and I know a lot of people. He has always supported me and said kind words at every opportunity. He loves comedy, and just enjoys being around it.

   I won’t mention his name because I don’t want to get him in trouble, but he’s going through an absolutely hellacious divorce and isn’t allowed to see his son. It’s ripping him up, and I can’t see how this happens to such a laid back nice guy. If anything, he should be asked to talk to the sons of countless scoundrel fathers who never get the time of day from their old man. They need him.

   And don’t get me started on women liking “bad boys”. The last woman I really cared for threw me aside like a bag of lawn clippings for some greasy maggot that will cheat on her without any guilt. He told her he would, yet she fell for him anyway. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t lived it. 

   And I know it’s not just me. It goes on all the time everywhere, and I’m begging for some kind of relief. Prove to me there is a God and all of this is just a big joke. At the end of our life we get taken to a big room and St. Peter looks mysteriously like Allen Funt, and all our friends are there to greet us. I said I wasn’t going to complain, but I guess I did. Oh well, nobody hears it anyway.

I'm showing my age, but Allen Funt hosted a TV show called 'Candid Camera' when I was a kid.

Hopefully, if there is a next life he'll play the comedic role of St. Peter and tell us this life was all an elaborate prank.

Leo Durocher was right about 'nice guys' finishing last. Why does life have to work like that?