Mending Fences

August 23, 2014

Friday August 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

We interrupt this regularly scheduled sabbatical to bring you some positive news for a change! I have been taking a break from cataloging my daily thoughts in order that I might devote my full energy to my forthcoming book about having to testify against my childhood best friend because he decided to rob a bank he used to work at – twice – and then try to blame one of them on me.

I had forgotten just how fascinating a story it is, as I have been far too close to it all these years and if anything have been trying to move past it and make it all go away. Well, hugely impactful events like that don’t ever just go away, but at least I’m now able to examine it in retrospect with complete objectivity. It was a very unpleasant experience, but time has healed much of that pain.

Another unpleasant event happened five years ago this month. I’d worked a week at a comedy club in my hometown of Milwaukee, and had the ultimate sin happen – my check bounced. That is the granddaddy of all evils in the comedy business, and emotions tend to flare up in a hurry.

That was an ugly situation all around, and I wish it never happened. I also wish the bank robber had never pulled his little stunt once much less twice, but life rarely unfolds how we’d like. We get what we get, and then have to deal with it the best we can. All too often, we make mistakes.

All kinds of mistakes were made in this particular situation, and it ended up with all parties not speaking. I had worked for that club for several years and for the booker Funny Business Agency out of Grand Rapids, MI a lot longer than that. This one isolated incident ended up doing severe damage and erased decades of positive history. I don’t know why that check bounced, but it did.

What I do know is that I was absolutely fuming at the time. I was hurt, insulted and felt totally disrespected by both the club and by Funny Business. I did them all a favor by taking the gig for low money in the summer, but a friend of mine at the time was in charge of her class reunion and requested that I be the headliner that week. It all blew up, and I eventually lost the friendship too.

I will admit that on more than one occasion I have used this forum as a way to vent my feelings, but I attempt to do it in a way that hopefully helps an aspiring comedian coming up the ranks that may experience something similar to deal with that situation – hopefully better than I often do.

I am very honest and upfront with my mistakes, and I have made too many to count. I’ve done some smart things too, but those often go unrecognized. What stick out are all the flubs, and they tend to make the rounds in a few circles. Why anything I would write or think would matter even the least little bit to anybody baffles me, but apparently my words have more clout than I realize.

I let loose with a few tirades during that whole time, and I regret doing that. I mainly did it for me to get my frustrations out about a terrible situation, not realizing that a significant number of others in the business could and did see it, and that made everything worse. I’m sorry I did that.

How it ended up playing out is that I eventually got my money several weeks later, but I had to eat bounced check fees for five checks that I wrote on the one that bounced. Again, I was fuming and that anger fueled some of my rants. I wasn’t thinking with my head, but with my emotions.

That ended the relationship with Funny Business, and it was a big lose/lose. They have a bulk of their work in the Midwest, where I happen to be located. I am a very solid headliner, and have decades of experience working virtually every scenario from comedy clubs to corporate events to colleges to cruise ships. It would be smart for both of us to maintain a professional relationship.

I admit that I took this all very personally, and I’m not proud of it. I write all the time about the relationship between booking agents and performers, and how our mindsets are about as opposite as can be. We’re different personality types entirely, and quite often sparks will fly because of it.

What made it even worse was that a new person was entering the mix at that time. John Yoder is the owner of Funny Business, and I had been working with him for years. He has several sons, and has been incorporating them into the business in recent years. That’s common in businesses of all kinds, but unfortunately it can cause heat when old clients have to deal with the new son.

John’s son Eric was coming onto the scene exactly at that time, and he is the one that ended up handling much of the situation in question. I felt disrespected that John would shuffle off such an important issue on his son, and that put more gas on the fire. I flipped out and said some things I wish I hadn’t, and it all spiraled down into a flaming heap of manure that splattered on everyone.

Well, cut ahead five years. Funny Business Agency has survived without Dobie Maxwell, and vice versa. The world is still spinning, and life goes on for us all – screwed up as it may be. I had other problems creep up as they tend to do, and had basically moved on in my mind from it all.

In pops Eric Feinendegen. We have been working together for about a year, and we both have strengths in different areas. Eric is very corporate, and I’m helping him with his speaking career. He’s helping me with the business aspect of what I do, and we have been great for each other.

Eric is in the process of learning the comedy business, and stumbled upon the Funny Business Agency online and asked if I worked for them. I told him the story, and how I thought the bridge was burned for good. Eric took it upon himself to initiate a conversation with John Yoder, and it ended up with me sending an apology to both John and Eric Yoder – and meaning it. I truly did.

I can’t control how anybody else acts, but I can control my own actions. No matter what went down that caused me to react the way I did, I’m ashamed of it and that’s not me. I’m bigger than that, and I couldn’t be more delighted that Eric Feinendegen reached out and started this process.

John Yoder admitted that he didn’t handle the situation well from his end, and that went a long way on my end too. I did feel there was a wrong there, and to admit it really put out any possible lingering embers. It’s history and completely in the past, even though it did some nasty damage.

As for what’s next, I’m not really sure but that’s ok. I didn’t do this just to try and get booked, and if Funny Business never uses me again I hold no grudges. This is about making things right and moving on. I removed all past posts pertaining to this issue, and I want it all to be over.

The Yoders don’t have to invite me over for Thanksgiving dinner, but at least if John or Eric and I are in the same room, we don’t have to avoid each other. I don’t want lingering unfinished business in my life. I reconnected with my siblings after decades apart, and now this. 2014 is a stellar year!


After a five year gap, it feels great to have mended fences with John and Eric Yoder at Funny Business Agency.

After a five year gap, it feels great to have mended fences with John and Eric Yoder at Funny Business Agency. Lingering issues do no good for anybody.

Special thanks to Eric Feinendegen who did a masterful job at initiating contact. It wouldn't have happened without his diplomatic brilliance. Thanks Eric!

Special thanks to Eric Feinendegen who did a masterful job at initiating contact. It wouldn’t have happened without his brilliant diplomatic skills. Thanks Eric!

Another Sabbatical

August 2, 2014

Friday August 1st, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I need to take another sabbatical from writing this particular diary. I think if nothing else I have proven that I can crank out material consistently – even if it has a tendency to rattle the cages of some on occasion. I don’t set out to do that or anything else but let my innermost feelings flow.

As I said before my last predetermined break – which ended up only lasting a month – I will be back when I feel I have something to say. I didn’t stay gone long, and I am still flattered by all of the tremendous emails of support I received from so many that I didn’t even realize were readers.

This time my reason for leaving is different. I need to focus on and FINALLY finish a book of the horrific experiences I went through having had to testify in Federal Court against my former childhood best friend that robbed a bank he used to work at – twice. Anyone that has known me for a long time has either heard the story or bits and pieces, and it has without fail captivated all.

The reason I can confidently boast of how great a story it is is because I did not write it. It just unfolded in front of me and all I have to do is report what happened. I guess I really was lucky to have been given such an amazing gift, but it sure was painful to live through as it all played out.

I admit that for years I was avoiding it. I didn’t want to go back there in my head, as it was so torturous an experience. Having to testify against one’s very best friend is as ugly as I ever want to imagine. I still have the occasional nightmare even now, but the time has come to get it out of me once and for all. Putting it into book form will allow me to move on from that painful stretch.

Years from now, all kinds of people will read it and be riveted. Most are. People I have told the full story to often become totally engrossed. When I told it on the Bob and Tom radio show I was deluged with emails from all over the country from strangers who were all absolutely fascinated.

I feel in my deepest heart that this is the project I need to focus on and get it off my plate once and for all. I fully believe it will open a lot of doors for me that aren’t open now, and if nothing else it will give me a product NOBODY else has. It is exclusive unto me, and will set me apart.

For however long it takes to finish this project, I will devote any and all spare time to getting it done. My original intention was to work on it for June, July and August – but here it is August 1 and I’ve frittered away yet another summer. I have made excuses long enough. It has to get done.

My good friend Lynn Miner has offered to edit the manuscript, and he has lots of experience as he has had almost thirty books of his own published. He knows the process well, and it is kind of him to offer his help. I will take him up on it, and he has already made outstanding suggestions.

All the parts of the story are there, as I wrote a skeleton outline about fifteen years ago not long after it all happened. I was not nearly the writer I am now, and all these years of making posts on a daily basis have strengthened my skill level exponentially. I already feel a major improvement.

I spent about four hours today getting the old manuscript ready to revamp. I’ll make occasional posts here if something of note occurs, but that is my focus. If you want to sign up for my monthly comedy newsletter, please send me your email address at I’ll let you know when the book is ready. If you enjoy this diary you will love the book. Thanks again for your loyal support! Good bye for now.

I need to take another break for a while so I can finish up a most amazing true life story. Talk to you hopefully sooner than later.

I need to take another break for a while so I can complete my first book. Talk to you hopefully sooner than later. Thanks!

The Quick Flip

July 31, 2014

Monday July 28th, 2014 – Waukegan, IL

I’m still basking in the radiant glory of my killer business triumph yesterday, flipping the stash of toy cars I nabbed for $2 at a thrift store for a cool crisp twenty. Actually the bill was a kind of soggy and rumpled, but twenty bucks is twenty bucks. The point is I made a profit for little work.

That’s the pure essence of what every fly by night huckster has been attempting to do since the beginning of time. It has never been easy, and never will be. I just happened to luck out and I am fully aware of that fact. The universe threw me a couple of bones, and I flipped them for twenty.

I realize it’s only $20, but there are much larger implications involved. What if I had purchased an item for $200 and sold it for $2000? I would be a lot more excited than I am now – and I truly am now. It feels great to pull off a successful deal, but it also makes me wonder if I did it right.

My two main wheeler dealer mentors have traditionally been quick flippers, and both of them were able to stay in business twenty years or more. They may have varied on rare occasion, but for the most part they’d get something in and flip it right back out. If they doubled their original investment, they’d do it day and night until they couldn’t do it anymore. Then they’d do it again.

Greed is part of the human bag of tricks, and everyone thinks about how they can score a sweet financial deal that gives a ridiculous return. This is why casinos stay in business. People that won big can’t just walk away and appreciate that they won. They have to try and clean the casino out.

I must admit I did think on the way home yesterday that I could have kept those cars for a little while and tried to move them on Ebay. I only went to one dealer, and he gave me my price. What I don’t know for sure is, was my price correct? Ten times my investment is great, but did I have a stellar load that could have sold for a lot more? That would have involved a lot of extra activity.

I would have had to list what I had for sale on Ebay (which I have never done before), write up all the sales notes, take pictures and eventually mail them to each buyer. Maybe I could have put them all in one lot, or maybe I should have split them up into several. There were many options.

My initial investment was very small, so I could afford to sit on the whole bag as long as I felt like it. Knowing me that would be months or even years, and I don’t want to start stockpiling old clutter at this point in my life. I want to get rid of as much as I can, and only collect cash piles if I collect anything at all. I was able to turn my investment into a healthy return, so I’ll accept that.

I also came across some old sports cards I forgot I saved. They weren’t anything great, but they were old and worth something so I took them to a sports card shop today and got $40. I can’t put an exact price on what I had in them, but I’d rough guess $20. I bought them several years ago so I’ll count that as total profit. They were just lying around, and I turned them into in pocket cash.

Who hasn’t had the dream of starting with something tiny and turning it into a fortune? This is not the first time I’ve done deals like this, but I always end up needing the money and that ends the game before it starts. I’ve got a couple of other trinkets I can cash in, and I should be close to $100. That’s a nice round number to start, and I’ll keep watching for deals. They’re out there.

From now on, this is the only collectible I am interested in acquiring mass quantities of. Everything else is for sale.

From now on, this is the only collectible I am interested in acquiring mass quantities of.

Trans Am Treasures

July 31, 2014

Sunday July 27th, 2014 – Wilmot, WI

I was walking through a thrift store a couple of weeks ago and ran across a bag of toy cars that were on sale for $2. It was a generous sized bag for that price, and I noticed it was packed with a collection of Pontiac Trans Ams for whatever reason. When I was growing up that was a hot car.

Somebody had obviously been collecting them, and they were donated. I have always liked toy cars, and anytime I can cop a sizeable load of them for a low price I’ll do it if for no other reason than I like to give them away to kids. The look in their eyes when they get a big bag is priceless.

This seemed like an especially good find, so I gambled the two bucks knowing I wouldn’t lose. I opened them in the car, and was impressed with the quality of the load. There were Hot Wheels and Matchbox and Corgi which are all brand names. They were in top notch condition and there was a nice variety. There were also a couple of slot cars – both Trans Ams – and a Batmobile.

When I got home I immediately emptied the bag for a count, and it was 27. Not shabby. That’s far less than a dime a car. I looked up some of them on Ebay, and saw they had asking prices of up to $15 a car. There was a Hot Wheels special edition that was a mail in offer exclusively, and there were four of those. The Batmobile had asking prices between $10-$15, so I knew I’d be ok.

Even the no name Trans Ams had to be worth at least a buck each, and there were also a couple of higher end Matchbox models of older cars that were in excellent shape. There were also a few cheapo cars in the bag that would probably sell for a quarter or less, but as a whole it was a haul.

Today I took my weekly run through the flea market in Wilmot, WI and decided to bring along the bag of cars to see if I could sell them as a whole. I would much rather turn a quick profit and let some vendor make out than set up and sweat my Sunday away trying to sell them all myself.

My cousin Jef Parker used to own Collector’s Edge Comics in Milwaukee, and I would watch him wheel and deal comic book collections. He said there were always two strategies, and buyers had to decide if they wanted to flip it for a quick profit or piece it out in detail and squeeze every cent out. The latter would entail much more time, effort and expense so he preferred the former.

I also watched master sports card dealer Ray Gunderson of Gunderson’s Sports Cards in West Allis, WI pull off deal after deal and that was his strategy too. He was always about a quick flip – even if he lost out in the long run. He didn’t care if the buyer got an extra good deal, and in fact he wanted that so they’d come back and buy from him again. “This ain’t no museum,” he’d say.

Whatever he paid for anything, he’d move it out the door for 2-3 times what he paid for it. He kept his doors open for 20 years doing that, and everyone thought he was crazy for having such low prices. But his success was being able to buy low, and he did it regularly. He was a master.

That’s exactly what I did with this bag of cars. I stumbled upon it by chance, and it was able to be had for the right price. I suppose I could have farted around on Ebay and maybe made $100 or more, but I settled for a quick $20 from a dealer who was sweating in the sun. Maybe I could’ve tried for $40 or $60, but I kept it fair. I made a nice profit for doing nothing. I’ll take it and run.

I copped a load of toy cars at a thrift store for $2. Not a bad haul.

I copped a load of toy cars at a thrift store for $2. Not a bad haul.

This isn't even all of them. I feel like a miniature used car dealer.

This isn’t even all of them. I feel like a miniature used car dealer.

Buffet Of Danger

July 30, 2014

Saturday July 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Does life ever get even a little easier for any of us at any time? I’m beginning to think it never does, and that scares me. Well maybe not scares, but absolutely disappoints. I’d hate to think we plow through the treacherous jungle this planet can be, only to leave with no payoff. That stinks.

The human experience as I have observed it is a constant evolution of change, and each change brings with it a spanking new set of ominous obstacles to have to figure out a way to get over. It would certainly be nice to have at least a little time to enjoy the scenery, but the intense struggle always seems to require more than just casual attention – at least for me anyway. It never rests.

My problems have always been different than most everyone else’s in my immediate circle, but I always assumed I would receive a higher payoff. When I was a kid I knew other kids that came from various levels of dysfunction, but nobody was close to my situation and it was a distraction.

I really struggled through childhood when I should have been just enjoying being a kid. I never had that chance, but I assumed adulthood would be easier. Then I chose to get into THE craziest business around, filled with instability at every turn. Adulthood has been a buffet of danger also.

Again, I assumed I’d meet a great woman and build a good life anyway. Well, I met a bunch of women that may or may not have been great but I knew inside that I wasn’t ready to put together the life I always dreamed of. That’s why I got into radio, assuming it would bring along stability.

Boy, do I have to quit assuming. Nothing could have been more unstable, and life has been one crisis after another for as long as I can remember. I know everyone has problems, but not quite as unique or complex as mine. I don’t know anyone else that has had to testify in court against their best friend from childhood for robbing the same bank twice. Those kinds of events leave scars.

I wouldn’t wish anyone that mental torture, and I still have nightmares about it. Another rotten feeling is moving across the country for a job, then having that job taken away with zero backup. I know that has happened to others, but I’ve had it happen five times. I’m still hurting from that too, and I never had anyone to go to for help or support. I’ve made it this far without a safety net.

Now I’m reconnecting with the siblings I never got to grow up with as a kid, and it has opened up a tremendous window of hope. It feels SO good to begin this process – even this late into the game. It is what I have always wanted, and I feel it only getting better. Meeting a woman I could spend quality time with is still on the bucket list, but that’s extremely difficult in my current situation.

I thought for sure I would be financially secure by now and on my way but I’m a shopping cart and cardboard sign away from vagrancy, and I’m living week to week despite the fact I’m trying harder than I ever have. Life is constantly changing, and now that I finally figured out my craft it seems like nobody wants it anymore. I am a master blacksmith but nobody is buying horseshoes.

On top of that, I’m still dealing with depression and diabetes issues. Both of those require a lot of attention and effort, but how can I do that when I’ve got to focus on survival? There aren’t any trust funds with my name on it, and I’m screwed. No wonder old people are salty. Life is HARD.

Life seems to get harder as it goes. No wonder old people can be so crabby.

Life seems to get harder as it goes. No wonder old people can be so crabby.

She doesn't look crabby. I wonder if she wants to have lunch.

She doesn’t look crabby. I wonder if she wants to have lunch?

Mentor Magic

July 29, 2014

Friday July 25th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

I love being a mentor. It’s got a lot of the same rewards of fatherhood without having to change any diapers. I have had some tremendous mentees along the way of all ages, and it’s funny when they have been physically older than me. It doesn’t matter, as they are still in the role of student.

I am a student myself of many things, but in comedy I am the mentor. It’s one of the few topics I’m able to speak on with relative authority, even though the entire time I am teaching I remain a dedicated learner. I just happen to be farther along than most, so I can reach back and nurture.

The challenge of figuring out how to bring out the best in each individual is something I never get tired of. Everybody is different, and mentoring is not something that is started and finished in one session. It’s long term, and requires dedication and input from both parties. I really enjoy it.

One of my current favorites is twelve year old Trevor Burke along with his father Joe. Joe took one of my classes at Zanies in Chicago many years ago, and now Trevor is doing comedy. He’s a super kid and I have grown to really like him – even though I would highly recommend that kids don’t do standup comedy for more than fun. There are several reasons for that, and all are legit.

First off, kids don’t have the life experience to be able to draw upon for material. They are in a tough spot, and I don’t think it’s fair to the average kid to put them in a position to be on stage in front of total strangers – especially adults. Too many things can go wrong, and it’s intimidating.

Second, bombing on stage can be an absolutely horrific experience. I wouldn’t want to throw a kid – especially one I like – into such a precarious position with any sort of regularity. If the kid is doing a talent show at school or something for other kids, fine. But as a career path? No way.

Of course there are exceptions to almost every rule, and Trevor is it. Joe has a background with entertainment, as his brother had a band. Joe is fully aware of the pitfalls, and is very good in the way he keeps Trevor grounded. He and his wife Pam are excellent parents, and it all just works.

People frequently ask me, “Is the kid funny?” He’s a KID. He’s still developing as a person, so it’s unfair to put adult expectations on him or any other child. He’s funny enough, and should he decide to stay with standup as he matures, I think he’s got an extremely bright future. What he is loaded with is likeability and experience. He’s been acting for years, and is at home on the stage.

He enjoys performing, and that’s a huge part of it. He’s a novelty right now, and everyone gets that. He’s getting a lot of attention because Joe knows how to play the entertainment game. He is Trevor’s manager, and it’s a chance for them to bond as father and son but still develop a career.

Tonight I rode to Milwaukee with them both and watched Trevor compete in a talent contest at a street fair. It wasn’t the greatest of circumstances, but he went up and did his set anyway. There was a girl about his age that was a singer, and she had a bunch of her family come out so she was the winner because it was based on audience response. Trevor wasn’t disappointed, and we went to dinner at The Safe House afterward. It was fun to hang out, and no matter what happens I will still be his mentor and friend. Comedy is a nasty racket. I want to see him enjoy his childhood.

Trevor Burke has done more in show business at age 12 than most people do in a lifetime. Plus, he's a really nice kid too. I'm a big fan.

Trevor Burke has done more in show business at age 12 than most people do in a lifetime. Plus, he’s a really nice kid too. I’m a big fan.

Sports Comedy With Balls

July 29, 2014

Thursday July 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

A lot of things sound really great in theory. Communism is a big one, but nobody has been able to pull it off successfully for any significant amount of time. Polygamy is another. It sounds like a party, but there are laws against it for a reason. The success of any idea lies in the execution.

When I lived in Los Angeles in the mid ‘90s, I knew I needed a gimmick to separate me from a ridiculously large glut of white males trying to make a dent in standup comedy. Supply was FAR greater than demand even then, and I saw it. From my longstanding background in pro wrestling promotion, I zeroed in on a persona I thought would get me the most attention and get me seen.

That idea was to become “The Sports Comedian – With Balls”. I’d asked my friend and mentor Ross Bennett what he thought I should focus on, and he asked me what topics I knew best. I told him I knew sports, and I wasn’t lying. I have been a rabid sports fan since I was able to tie shoes.

Ross’s answer was fast and simple: “Well, why don’t you call yourself The Sports Comedian?”

It clicked with me immediately, and I spent all the money I had at the time to get photos taken in sports jerseys. I even had sports cards of me printed up. I got a crew cut like I though a sports comedian should have, and I proceeded to try and book myself. That’s where the glitch came in.

I didn’t think of it at the time, but not everyone is as enthusiastic about sports as I am. In fact, a whole lot of people couldn’t care less about it – especially women. Granted, there are quite a few women that do follow sports at least casually, but not nearly enough to support what I was doing.

I vividly recall getting on stage with this idea more than a few times, and seeing people’s faces tune out as soon as I said I was going to talk about sports. There were some nights that went very well, but it was too inconsistent so I dropped it after a few months and dove head first right back into the pool of anonymous Caucasians. “Mr. Lucky” is what I tried next, and that jury’s still out.

Times have changed and so have I, and I think the time is right to try this idea again. I have the chance to dust it off on Monday August 11th, at Zanies Comedy Club on Wells Street in Chicago. Every few months they give me a Monday night and let me do whatever I want – within reason. I told them I wanted to try this idea, and they gave me the thumbs up. I really think it will succeed.

Everything is so compartmentalized with the advent of the internet, and that wasn’t the case the first time I tried. If this is marketed correctly – and that’s the rub for just about anything – I know I can carve out a great niche market. People that love sports are rabid, and there are MILLIONS of us nationwide. If I can tap into that market, I have to believe I can make a comfortable living.

Even if I would only do it part time, I think I could still do more than ok. Every sports team on every level has an awards banquet or a pre season kick off dinner, and if this idea was presented properly I know it would get some bites. Well, I think so anyway. Here’s my chance to prove it.

I’ve got a killer lineup of comedians already lined up, and if nothing else it will be fun to hang out with them. I am going to rattle all the media cages I can, and hope I can get some publicity.

Twenty years ago I threw everything I had into this gimmick. The time wasn't right then, but I think it is now. We'll see. Come on out to Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago on August 11th.

Twenty years ago I threw everything I had into this gimmick. The time wasn’t right then, but I think it is now. We’ll see. Come on out to Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago on August 11th.

Dirty Diapers

July 28, 2014

Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I want to talk more about the whole game of getting on television. Ultimately, it’s what makes or breaks a true career in the entertainment business and everyone that succeeds needs to master it and find their outlet. Some may have a different platform than others, but television is the key.

It used to be that once a comedian – and I’m sure singers, dancers, magicians, ventriloquists as well – got on a big show like Ed Sullivan or Johnny Carson, they were as good as set. They’d get all the agents that were anyone fighting over them, and usually end up with a guaranteed income.

There were a few that flamed out, but for the most part those shows were the showcase for the very best of the best in any field of entertainment. If one was lucky enough to get on a show like that, literally MILLIONS would see them in one shot. It’s not like that anymore, and never will be. The days of the world wide mega star entertainer are over thanks to one reason – the internet.

There will be a few that slip through, but it won’t be like it was. Everybody in society had seen Bob Hope when he was popular, but not everybody has seen Justin Timberlake or Beyonce. The fan bases of those people tend to be in their own generation, and it’s not necessarily a negative.

It sure allows for more specialized serving of one’s audience, and also gives more entertainers a taste of the enormous success that used to be reserved for only the elite marquee names like an Elvis or Frank Sinatra before him. The Beatles were huge too, as was Michael Jackson. Now we have a ton of acts carving out their own smaller empires, with most of the world oblivious to it.

Getting on television is still important, but not nearly as important as knowing how to manage the internet. The game has changed completely now in that schmuckos like me and everyone else with a computer can technically throw our hats in the ring and start making our own appearances on “television”. It’s not network television, but the possibility does exist for it to be seen all over.

I’m not just talking national television, I’m talking WORLD WIDE. “Going viral” is possible, even though it’s not likely just like buying a lottery ticket doesn’t make you likely to win. What it does is gives one a chance to win, and today’s entertainer needs to come up with a battle plan.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen made over and over is people putting things out there too soon. I hear the newbies talking about how they have six videos and four CDs and “did an hour” at some toilet club somewhere that was recorded and is now a “one hour special”. I hear this constantly.

The trick is to make a special truly special. Years of hard work and polish can’t be avoided if a comedian or any other act wants to break through the crowd. These are things nobody gets told at the beginning, and it’s wrongly assumed everything they do needs to be recorded and thrown out there for the universe to see. I equate this with dirty diapers. Should those be displayed openly?

Of course not. They should be changed in private and thrown out. Eventually the baby will not need to wear one anymore, and it’s a non issue. The same is true for entertainers. Don’t show us your dirty diapers on You Tube or anywhere else. It’s a whole new game, and I need to master it like everyone else. It’s a good thing I have a lifetime of experience. I am really going to need it.

Dirty diapers are NOT for public display. Too many newbie comedians seem to think every bad set they do needs to be on You Tube. WRONG.

Dirty diapers are NOT for public display. Too many newbie comedians seem to think every brutal set they do needs to be on You Tube.

A Cup Of Coffee

July 28, 2014

Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Oh, how time flies. Four years ago today my appearance on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” aired. I’d recorded it the previous March, and by the time it ran I honestly thought it would never air. When it did, it was a tremendous experience – at least for people around me.

For whatever reason, that super short four and a half minutes on national television at 1:30am was a whole lot more impressive to people than the lifetime it took to get there. To me it wasn’t that big of a deal, because it was the easy part. All I had to do was walk out there and do a whole lot less time than I’m used to doing. It was like a night off, but that’s what put me over the top.

As far as credibility is concerned, making it to national television even once is proof of having played in the majors. It’s not a guarantee of a lifetime of problem free bliss, but neither is making the majors in any kind of sport or entertainment genre. Lots of people have more problems after they get there than before they started, and I’m sure more than a few wish they had never started.

There is so much involved to “making it big” in any genre of entertainment, but the one factor nobody can ever gain control over is luck. Things happen good and bad, and that’s just how it is. I freely admit that I got very lucky in a good way to have the door open to get on the show, but I also knew what to do with that luck when I got it. I had to play the game for a while, but I did it.

I went back and forth with the talent booker, and then they changed talent bookers. Then they did it again. Then the original person came back, and I started all over again. It took a couple of years to play out, but I got my spot and no matter what else I ever do nobody can take that away.

Several years have gone by now, and I haven’t gotten anything close to that kind of a break in anything I’ve tried. Did I put forth any less effort during that time? NO WAY. In fact, I probably put in more, but I had a few bad breaks health wise and that took me out. Again, it’s all part of it. That was a bad break just like initially getting the call to open for Craig Ferguson was positive.

After living through this process and seeing it with others I know personally, I totally see why there are one hit wonders in music. If it’s this complicated for a comedian, I can’t begin to think what it must be like for a band. Talent isn’t the only thing that puts an act over the top. It’s many things, and everything has to line up at the right place and time for a career to really take root.

None of this is said with bitterness, but I think it’s important to note that there are a number of ingredients needed to bake a cake. I’ll also be the first to admit I’ve shot myself in the foot more than once, but that happens to others too. Michael Vick is one of the most blatant examples of all time, but he still managed to come back and salvage a decent career. Not everyone gets that shot.

It’s hard to say if I will ever catch another break as big as the ones I’ve already had. No matter what happens from now on though, I did manage to get on national television as a comedian and had a job doing mornings at 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago. In radio, that’s the big leagues as well.

Not many ever make it to one of those much less both, but the key is to stay there and carve out a career. I had a cup of coffee but that was it. So far. Maybe that will be it. Maybe not. We’ll see.

Success in show business requires more than just a cup of coffee on TV. One has to make a mark. That's harder than it sounds.

Success in show business requires more than just a cup of coffee on TV. One has to make a mark. That’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Entrepreneurial Evolution

July 25, 2014

Monday July 21st, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Like it or not, a whole lot of us are going to have to get more entrepreneurial in a hurry. I have been interested in having my own business ever since I can remember, but it always took a back seat to being a comedian. It’s only been recently that I’ve understood that comedy IS a business.

What a dummy I’ve been, but it’s not too late to change. I always use the great James Gregory from Atlanta as the gold standard of comedians that understand the business side best, and I have yet to run into anyone better. The only close horse in the race is Heywood Banks, and then all of the rest of us are sliding around in a giant mud pit hoping to find a couple of straggling nickels.

There are a lot of stellar business people in the comedy field in Los Angeles, but I am thinking of road dogs like me. James figured it out early, and has been consistently at the top of the game for decades. Heywood has done well for himself too, and I respect both those guys enormously.

If they’re not natural entrepreneurs, they sure have worked hard at fooling everyone. They are both extremely hard workers, and it is no accident either one of them has achieved their success. They have handled their business well, and didn’t choose to play the Hollywood roulette game.

These are two shining examples of entrepreneurs in the comedy game, but I’m talking of life in general. Ma and Pa public are broke, and there’s no sign of relief in sight. They can either get out there are start some kind of a business or they can learn to like cat food. Times are excruciating.

My grandfather used to tell me horror stories about The Great Depression, and from all he said it wasn’t that great. He was forced to become an entrepreneur, and he did just about anything he could get involved in to try and feed his family. According to both Grandma and Gramps, it was nothing to joke about. Everyone was tense, and nobody had any clue if it would ever get better.

Well, it looks like history is repeating itself after all. The whole country is broke, and 99.999% of us can use some extra cash right about now. For most of us it’s not extra either – it’s all we’ve got. Prices of food and gas and everything else are rising steadily, and nobody I know is doing at least halfway decently much less kicking ass. Life is rather bleak, but there has to be a solution.

Reading about The Great Depression, there were people that made fortunes for the ages. There are people doing it today as well, but they were rich to start with. The rich truly are getting richer but I don’t see how I can get any poorer. I’m barely hanging on, and it’s not how I want to live.

It’s been a constant struggle to keep the bills paid, and the distraction that is saps my creativity for projects I want to do. I did get a couple of very generous gifts, but I used that money to erase a hefty credit card bill and stop the bleeding of that insane interest rate. Now I am right at zero.

That doesn’t mean some emergency couldn’t wipe me out again, and I am still dangling by the thinnest of threads. I don’t think a job alone will be the long term solution. I will have to earn my own fortune, as there is nobody that’s going to leave me theirs. A lot of others share this scenario and we all have choices to make. The law of the jungle is adapt or die. It’s not “like it was”, and it’s not going to be any time soon. Being an entrepreneur is in my future, so I may as well like it.

Tough times force a lot of people to become entrepreneurs against their will. I am going willingly.

Tough times force a lot of people to become entrepreneurs against their will. I am going along willingly.

My friend James Gregory in Atlanta is the standard bearer for road comic entrepreneurialism. He's the king.

My friend James Gregory in Atlanta is the gold standard bearer for road comedian entrepreneurialism. He is the KING.

Heywood Banks is far from a slouch. He has always had a solid grasp on the business side of things.

Another friend Heywood Banks is far from a slouch. He has always had a solid grasp on the business aspect.