Archive for March, 2009

Kansas City Here I Come

March 31, 2009

Monday March 30th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

   The thought of staying in one place for a while really appeals to me. I’ve seen just about everything there is to see in North America and it was a wonderful twenty year journey to experience but now I have other projects I want to tackle and driving to Kansas City isn’t one of them. I’ve done it. Many times. TOO many times. This week I have to do it again.

   I’ll be working Stanford’s Comedy Club and by all accounts it’s a gorgeous new room in a big entertainment complex way out in the suburbs. That’s all fine but at this stage of the game it’s not the most important requirement I will need to have a successful week.

   I have no idea who my opening acts will be and it’s a crapshoot as to whether they will match up well or not. Many times the openers are just thrown together by a booker and it often is without any thought as to how the entire show will flow. I’m getting a lot pickier as I get older and I want to be able to choose who goes in front of me. I’ve earned that.

    Not many bookers really care unfortunately. If I’ve earned any good reputation over the years it’s that I can follow most anybody and that I don’t complain about it. I’ve had a lot of bookers tell me they put all their questionable acts in front of me because I can handle most anything and I’m easy to get along with. Gee, thanks. I’m penalized for being good.

   That’s getting way old. I used to hear how headliners wanted to have approval on who’d open for them and I thought it was pretentious. Now I can totally understand why they did that and I’m very much in agreement. I want the shows to flow well for both the audience and for me too. If I’m going to sacrifice my life for something I want it to be worthwhile.

   I have to be in town tomorrow night to do media on Wednesday morning. They usually have a full schedule of radio and sometimes TV to do and I don’t mind at all but that’s an extra grind that can get old pretty quickly. It’s fun to be a comedian but all this other stuff can get to be a lot of work. People don’t realize how much effort goes into filling a room.

   I get it totally as do the owners of Stanford’s so hopefully their new location is a winner and we can have a killer week with sold out fun shows. That’s the goal every week on the road but unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. If it did I wouldn’t be looking for other projects to be doing right now. Or maybe I still would. The road can be a big grind.

   The audience at the rising star showcase at Zanies in Chicago tonight was pretty awful. I could sense they were tight up front but all through the show they stayed that way and it made for a super long evening. I didn’t think it would ever end but 13 comics later it did.

   Here we go with audience dynamics again. For whatever reason this group of people on this particular evening in this particular setting did not gel as an audience and all of us did what we could to get them to enjoy themselves. This just wasn’t one of those magic times I talked about having last Saturday’s early show in Pheasant Run. This was pulling teeth. But at least I got to pull them and sleep in my own bed. Tomorrow it’s a 550 mile drive.

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Against All Odds

March 30, 2009

Sunday March 29th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

   If there’s any one kind of person I respect most it’s a ‘doer’. It’s way too easy to babble on about all the things a person wants to do in life but it’s an entirely different story to get off one’s plump lazy dimpled fanny and actually DO it. Very few people actually achieve anything at all much less anything really significant and successful. It just isn’t that easy.

   Many people over the years have called me a doer but in my mind I’ve fallen laughingly short of what I could have done had I had more drive. I could sit around and make a lot of excuses and some of them might be halfway legit but the fact is a lot of it was I was a lazy bum drifting through life and never really carving out a pathway to what I really wanted.

   I see a lot of people my age who have really pulled of some admirable accomplishments and I bow to their achievements. Joey Gutierrez comes to mind. Joey is a guy my age who started comedy years before I did. I heard stories about his parents driving him to clubs to do sets before he was of legal age. Good for him. He knew what he wanted to do early on.

   I worked with Joey numerous times back in the starting out years and I always liked his act and him as a person too. I wouldn’t say we were close buddies but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get along fine with him. We never fought or anything like that. We were peers back then and everyone was learning the ropes of comedy and finding our way in the business.

   Well find a way Joey did. He moved out to Hollywood with his wife Diane who is also a comic and a writer and they have done extremely well. Joey wrote for the Seinfeld show and Drew Carey’s show and he and Diane were the creators of “Still Standing” with Jami Gertz. Any of those credits would be impressive but all of them together are outstanding.

   To be honest I have no idea if Joey would even remember me or not. I’d like to think he would at least remember my name but in truth it’s probably been close to twenty years or more since we actually crossed paths. He had a plan and worked that plan amazingly well. I did whatever it was that I did for all that time and now I’m in quite a different position.

   He’s probably looking at retirement or at least some form of future security while I’m in a very similar place to where I was twenty years ago. I still hope my car starts and I’m not anywhere near closer to financial security than I was back then. I’m still out here drifting.

   Joey made some great decisions and he’s very talented. I only met his wife Diane one or two times and very briefly but she seemed very much on the ball as well. They’ve been at it for years and years and I’m happy for their success but now I have to find my game plan and get my own. I’m in a race against time and I don’t want to die broke in a basement.

   I’ve done a few things pretty well especially coming where I came from and what I was given to work with but that’s no excuse anymore. I’ve had a lot of years to make my own life decisions and I can’t keep blaming my parents or my past. At some point I have to get my life together and take responsibility for how it turns out. That time is right about now.

   The reason I thought about all this today was because I went to Zanies in Chicago to see the sitcom premiere of “Big People Little People” starring my comedian friends Tim Clue and John DaCosse. John and Bert Haas wrote the script based on Bert’s wife Sally who is also a comic. They’ve been working on this project for years and today was the showing.

   I couldn’t and wouldn’t miss it for anything. I know and like all the parties involved and to see something I know has had this much work put into it made me proud to know all of them as friends. I respect the effort and even if it would have been horrific I would’ve still liked it because I saw the passion that went into it. These guys poured their souls into this.

   John and Tim were part of another sitcom project idea a few years ago and Bert has been a writer for years. They teamed up on this project and have been plugging away making it come together in their spare time. All of them have families and lives and to make time to work on a project like this is no small accomplishment. I had to go and support the effort.

   Jerry Agar knows Bert Haas and he was invited too so we drove together. I was the one who introduced them and it feels great to be able to say that. Everyone there was a Zanies insider or a member of the cast and it was an honor to be asked. Larry Reeb was there and Mike Preston too. Mike was the camera person and film editor and he did a fantastic job.

   The whole atmosphere was fun and exciting. It’s especially interesting to watch a show where I know the people in it personally. I thought they really nailed it and it was a funny and well structured pilot. They entered it in a big sitcom contest and hopefully they’ll win or at least get some notice. That whole process is another game that has very poor odds.

   Show business in general has very poor odds. For someone to get lucky enough to get a hit project takes a lot of things coming together. Timing and luck are part of that but it’s a matter of doing the work required also. It took a ton of hard work and sacrifice by each of the people involved in the show today to make it this far and this is only a pilot episode.

   Actually it really isn’t even that yet. This was a self made version of a pilot episode that they did to enter the contest. They hope to be able to get some funding to do it again on a real soundstage with better quality broadcast equipment and maybe a crew. Unfortunately that isn’t going to guarantee they’ll ever get on TV with it even after all that hard work.

   That’s why I respect the effort of all these people so much and I was honored to be there to see the premiere. I enjoyed it very much and I think there is some talent involved on all levels. John and Tim are smooth actors and funny guys and Bert is a strong writer as well.

   I am also even more respectful of the success of a guy like Joey Gutierrez who not only was on several huge shows as a writer but he also got to be in charge of his own show as well. He came up the ladder and paid his dues and he is one of a very few who hit it big.

   I’d love to see Bert and John and Tim hook up with Joey and take this project to the big time. It could happen. Show business is who you know and these people know each other.

What Makes It All Worth It

March 29, 2009

 
Saturday March 28th, 2009 – St. Charles, IL

   The early show tonight at Zanies in Pheasant Run is an example of what has kept me in this business for an entire lifetime. There was a magical chemistry between the audience’s vibe and mine that was as close to a perfect match as I’ve ever seen. It was magnificent.  

   I’ve had good shows and bad ones but this was in a zone by itself. I don’t think I’ve had a dozen shows like this in my entire life that have been this good of a match. I felt like I’d known them all for years and we were just hanging out and having fun. And we all were.

   What made it so special was that it lasted the whole show. There were no weak spots in a forty-five minute set and it built perfectly. I started strong and finished stronger. It feels as if I just bowled a 300 game or hit a hole in one. The stars aligned in my favor tonight.

   This audience was a touch on the sick and twisted side which also helped make it work so well. They could take whatever I dished out and I knew it. That made me try to go for a few shock lines which totally worked. That can be delicate if they don’t buy it but tonight they totally did. It was like they were all on the same page and I was reading it to them.

   Part of what helped was that there were two larger groups in attendance. Some of them obviously knew each other so there was a familiarity there but they were different groups so they were still strangers. To have them all come together so well was a rare happening.

   After the show I was totally drained. I gave them all I had and they loved it. I did too. It was as good as comedy gets and that’s pretty damn good. I even remembered to bring my postcards to pass out and I sat and shook hands and passed out cards until everyone left.

   These are the shows that keep us all going when it gets rough. The high is that intense. I knew it while it was happening and I just enjoyed the moment. I was totally free up there. I’m finally learning to enjoy myself during my shows. It’s like an out of body experience. It took years to learn how to do it right but now I can sit back and let instincts take over.

   The late show wasn’t nearly as good. It was also full of chatty people and I had to deal with that all night. This was the late show Friday we didn’t have last night but after a hot show like the early one I didn’t really care. That buzz would last me the rest of the night.

   That’s a good thing because I needed it on the way home. The weather was nasty and it was snowing hard as I heard a thumping noise coming from under my car. Apparently I’d hit a nail or a pothole or something and it shredded my front passenger side tire. I was not near civilization so I nursed it a couple of miles until I was at an identifiable intersection.

   Of course my AAA membership had expired and I didn’t know that. It was a huge pain in the ass to get a tow truck to get me at 1am which became 2:30 by the time one came to help. A local cop was great and helped me find a tow truck and waited until it came and I really appreciate it. Highs and lows in the same day are what make life such an adventure.

Dance Fever

March 29, 2009

Friday March 27th, 2009 – St. Charles, IL

   OK, that’s more like it. Back on track for two very strong shows at Zanies tonight. This is a lot more of what I was expecting and even the late show was really cooking. I thought they were going to be a little rowdy but they settled in nicely and I had a lot of fun with it.

   The process of a live comedy show is very much a dance with the audience. I’m the one leading but if they don’t follow nobody’s having any fun. When they let me take them any and all directions is when it really gets fun and that’s what I felt tonight. I was in control.

   I love life when the shows are like this. My mind is alive and sharp and I feel every tiny nerve ending inside me tingle as I shape the raw energy into a show that’s unique to each particular audience. That’s what I did twice tonight and after each show I was drenched in sweat and what a great feeling that is to know I’ve given everything I possibly can give.

   The early show was pretty packed and I had several former students come out to see me. I’m always very flattered when that happens and tonight was no different. Steve Stern is a high school teacher by trade but he’s very funny and one of my all time favorite students.

   He was going through a horrible divorce when he took my class years ago and it helped him funnel his pain a little. He was great in his graduation show but he knew he couldn’t pursue comedy any farther and he was fine with that. He just wanted to explore it a little.

   We’ve been in contact for probably a dozen years now and it’s people like Steve that are the reason I love teaching so much. That process is very much a dance too and if they will let me lead I always promise I’ll take them to a place that will allow them to be their best.

   I really had a fantastic time on stage tonight but after the shows I realized how piss poor my marketing is right now. I don’t have anything to sell or any cards to pass out and I am just plain stupid for not doing it. Many of these people are first timers and I could develop them into regulars if I let them know I’m coming back. This has to stop and I mean today.

   I have some postcard size cards I had made up a while back which are now obsolete but at least they have my name on it and my phone number. I had them made mainly to start a buzz about Uranus Factory Outlet and also to push WLS radio appearances on Mondays.

   I never did get one just for comedy shows and that’s insane. Why not? I have no excuse other than I just didn’t do it and tonight I blew a chance to stay on top of two outstanding audiences who would probably love to know when I’m coming back. I’m embarrassed for not being on the ball but I can change that and I will. That’s my first order of business.

   Before the show the manager Cyndi took us out to eat at the Harvest restaurant which is in the Pheasant Run Resort. WOW, what a place. They have upgraded it into a fine dining establishment that’s as outstanding as any restaurant I’ve ever eaten. Ever. And I’ve eaten at a lot of great places. It was fun to hang out and enjoy one of the best meals I ever had.

There ARE Bad Audiences

March 27, 2009

Thursday March 26th, 2009 – St. Charles, IL

   Today had all the trimmings of a great day but the show was terrible and that’s what I’ll remember. I took some time to prepare and I was in a very good mood but as usual it only takes a single wank pole to ruin it for everyone. It amazes me how some humanoids are. I can’t stand it when this happens and it’s happened hundreds of times before.

   Some ass nugget gets into a comedy show for free and thinks he (or sometimes she) is ‘helping’ and no matter how much they’re told to stop talking nothing will get in their way of babbling. The older I get the less patience I have with these situations but it really hasn’t bothered me in a while because I’ve had a string of very good shows lately.

   I’ve been on my game and when that happens I’m a difficult act to heckle because I talk fast and don’t allow for anyone to jump in and mess with me. Once in a while they still do and tonight was it.

   It wasn’t just me though. This whole audience was goofy. Audience dynamics are very unpredictable, much like a jury. There are infinite combinations of possibilities as to how they will react and when they are all together they can do some unpredictable things. I am pretty good at reading audiences after all these years but sometimes even I still am fooled.

   Normally I love working at Pheasant Run Zanies. The stage is nice and roomy and there is a nice sound system and the lights are good and usually I rock that place. Tonight was a situation nobody expected but we all had to deal with it and everyone is relieved it’s over.

   The emcee this week is Mike Preston who has been doing comedy many years. He’s not a complainer at all and even he said he didn’t like them when he came off. The feature act is a young kid named Bryan Berrey who is really funny but is still a little green and hasn’t developed his road chops yet.

   He will, but tonight he had to deal with this situation too. To his credit he did his time but his style is to do short and very clever one liners with a setup and a punch line. He doesn’t really interact with the crowd but tonight he needed to. I watched him struggle and it reminded me of the years I spent doing the very same thing.

   I got up there and started to hit them hard and bring them into my rhythm. I used all my years of experience to get them in my groove and I had some spots where they were with me but I never got on a really good roll and part of it was because they were just plain old STUPID.

   Some people say there are no bad audiences but once in a while there just are. What really made it unpleasant was a group of four halfwits right next to the stage who would NOT stop talking. They talked through Mike and then Bryan and halfway through my show I called them on it and they were smart asses and couldn’t believe I’d do that.

   After the show the one who did it the most came back to shake Bryan’s hand and made it a point to not shake mine and make a snide remark I didn’t hear as he walked away and then shot me a glare over his shoulder like he ‘won’. Here’s hoping he gets a butt fungus.

Hump Day Hiatus

March 26, 2009

Wednesday March 25th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

   Sometimes there’s a Wednesday night show at Zanies in St. Charles but this wasn’t one of them. This is my only night off this week and in these times that’s a welcome situation. Work is good and I’ve been getting all kinds of it lately. I will take it all and be thankful.

   This is my peak and I have no idea how long it will last so I am taking all the work I can get, but in the best venues I can find. This week I’m at Pheasant Run Zanies which is very familiar and comfortable to me. I love the room the manager Cyndi is a total sweetheart.

   Next week I’m in Kansas City and there’s a new location of the club I work and I heard it’s really nice. I’ve worked Kansas City a few times and I like that place too. After that’s over I come back to do Zanies on Wells Street in Chicago and then I go to Laughlin, NV and Las Vegas for back to back weeks. The pay is decent and I’m working places I like.

   This is all I ever asked for and I’m thrilled to be doing it. I’m going to use these gigs to keep working on my act in every way. I will polish up new material and keep working on my next 4 ½ minute TV set every night. I will also work on getting my marketing up to an acceptable level for a nationally touring headliner which is what I want to legitimately be.

   I had yet another lunch with Marc Schultz today and that’s exactly what we discussed at length the whole time. He’s always been in my corner but I asked him how I can take it to another level and really make a run at the big money.

   Marc books all kinds of acts besides comedians and he said a lot of it starts with a promo package and that starts with a video. It doesn’t usually work that way in comedy clubs but Marc has always told me that isn’t where the real money is in this business.

    I agree with that 100%. The real money comes in getting the big company bookings at their convention or yearly awards dinner or whatever they do that uses entertainment. Those are the gigs that have a check with a comma in it.

   I want to at least be considered for those kinds of shows and if I don’t put myself out in front of the people who book them I’ll never get my chance. Marc has been doing his best to include me in his presentations anytime comedy is being bought but I need lots of other bookers around the country to know me too. That will take as much effort as performing.

   I also need to renew my ties with all the club bookers as well. I’m still very behind on it and there is absolutely no excuse other than I’ve been too busy working to look for work. I’m fortunate enough that a certain amount of people seek me out but that’s not the route to real success.

   I’m surviving and my needs are met but I want to do more than just that. I want to keep making my dreams come true. I love the excitement of achieving a goal like getting on national television. Most people dream of it and I did too but I played the game and I really made it happen. Why stop there? I want to keep cranking out products that my fans enjoy and I want to make more fans to enjoy my products. I want to do it all correctly and not cheat myself or anyone else in the process. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

A Seven Year Old Superstar

March 25, 2009

Tuesday March 24th, 2009 – Rockford, IL/Lake Villa, IL

 Today was all over the place but none of it was bad. I received a call to fill in at LT’s in Rockford, IL and I gladly took it. It’s a short drive there and back and I’ve done it several times before. I’m working the rest of the week at Zanies so this was a little bonus money.

I always liked Rockford. I bet I’ve worked there at least a hundred times over the years and with any luck I’ll work a hundred more. The people have been very friendly to me as a rule and it’s in a fantastic location accessible to Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison, WI.

Another reason I like Rockford is being a guest on the ‘Stone and Double T’ radio show on WXRX radio. They have an open door policy and any time I’m in town I can go in and hang out on their afternoon show. I enjoy it very much and whenever I’m in town I try my best to stop in and say hello. They always treat me like I’m famous and I appreciate that.

There are a few famous people from Rockford like Suzanne Pleshette and Cheap Trick. In the comedy world Kip Adotta is originally from there and he’s always been one of my very favorites. I remember seeing him on the TV show ‘Make Me Laugh’ back in the day with guys like Bruce Baum and Vic Dunlop and many others. Kip was always very funny.

I met a young lady today who is going to put all of those people with myself included to shame and she’s only seven years old. Yes – SEVEN! Her name is Emily Bear and she’s a world class pianist. Not only this world either. If there indeed is life on other planets she’s got to be at the top of their list too. I’ve never heard or seen any seven year olds like this.

None of us really knew what to expect but when she came in the studio and sat down at the mike we all immediately knew we were in the presence of genius. This kid was full of an energy that radiated from her that is way beyond her seven years. What a gift she has.

My feeble little attempts at humor may have their place but I gladly took a back seat so I could soak in the vibe of a legitimate genius. I’d always heard Mozart was composing at a young age but to see an example of it in person was very impressive. It left us all in awe.

Some people just win the lottery in life. Emily Bear hit the power ball and then some. If there’s another seven year old anywhere with more going on than Emily I sure would love to meet that kid. Emily has it all. She’s amazing at what she does and a total peach pie to boot. She’s very much a child first and it shows. Her parents have done a wonderful job.

Her mom brought her to the studio and not only is she very attractive but she’s a singer and has appeared on Broadway. Her dad is the team doctor for the Rockford Ice Hogs and Emily is a beautiful kid inside and out. Good genetics plus good family equals good life.

I love kids anyway but it really blew my mind to see Emily handle everything so well in the interview. She was relaxed and I made her laugh out loud a few times by throwing her some lines she didn’t expect. Nothing took her out of the game though. She hung in there.

She was on the show plugging her gig with the Rockford Symphony on Saturday night. She’s also played at Ravinia in the Chicago area and has been on the Ellen DeGeneres TV show four times. FOUR. And I was thrilled about getting my one little spot just recently.

None of this has gone to her head and it was really fun to watch all this transpire as I sat in the studio and enjoyed the whole thing. Stone and Double T were loving it as well so it really came off sincere and it totally was. Stone even played a few of her songs on the air.

That’s what really blew everyone away. She’s on a level all by herself. She has released three CDs already and not only can she play like nobody else I’ve ever heard she WROTE most of if not all the songs on at least the last two. Wow. I am so impressed with that I’m speechless and that rarely happens but rarely does a person get to meet a child prodigy.

I have nothing to gain by plugging her website but go check Emily out for yourself and you’ll see why I’m gushing so much about her. It’s www.emilybear.com. Check out a CD and not only will you agree how fantastic she is but part of the money goes to charity too.

Not many people will ever get to experience what Emily is probably going to achieve in her life but I predict she will be fine and not flip out like the cast from Diff’rent Strokes. I could see that the music was just in her. It is a part of her being like her hair or her liver.

Here is a seven year old girl who is composing world class music but she’s still able to be a kid too. Her mother seemed very grounded and showed us a picture of her two other kids who are also apparently very grounded and normal. They don’t play the piano as well as Emily does but apparently few people do of any age. She’s the cosmic lottery winner.

It was a genuine thrill to watch this all transpire today. I could feel her talent as she was talking about it and then when we heard her songs it blew us all away. She’s very special. I wish I would have gotten her autograph or a picture taken with her but she did draw us a picture and signed it to Stone and Double T ‘and Dobie too’. At least I made the final cut.

The show tonight at L.T.’s was a big letdown after seeing Emily work. Here I am trying to make rent after a lifetime in comedy and she’s doing gigs with the Rockford Symphony at age seven. She’ll never have to do one nighters in bars to pay for her cell phone bill and that’s a good thing. She’s going to have a first class ticket in her life and I‘m glad for her.

The weather was pretty nasty on the way home and about a mile from my house I saw a car stranded right in the middle of a dark two lane road. I stopped to help and it was a cab driver from India. He thought his alternator fried but when we tried to jump it it wouldn’t turn over. We tried for quite a while and ended up pushing his cab off the road into a lot.

What really got my attention was how thankful the guy was that anyone stopped. I guess I don’t realize what it’s like to be a foreigner in a strange land and not speak the language well. I thought the guy was going to start crying when I offered to drive him home. It was no big deal to me but to him it was a major event. It feels good to be able to help people.

Magnificent Monday Magic

March 24, 2009

Monday March 23rd, 2009 – Chicago, IL

 Some days everything works. Other days everything doesn’t. Today started one way and ended up the other. I woke up at 5:15am and was supposed to catch my train into Chicago at 5:26. I flew out of bed and dressed as fast as I could and started hauling ass to get to the train station. I cut mud pretty good and got there exactly at 5:27 to watch the train leave.

There was nothing I could do about it and had I tried to run any faster I’m sure my liver or pancreas or other internal organ I might need for a few more years would’ve burst like a frozen pipe in February. Better to wait for the next train than ride in an ambulance now.

The next train wasn’t for another half hour and it got me into the city later than I wanted but I was still on time to meet Tim Slagle and Ken Sevara to go over the material we were going to do on WLS in a special Jerry’s Kidder’s segment. Jerry Agar is filling in for Don and Roma on the morning show this whole week and invited us to do our bit once again.

I must say we handled it very nicely. Not only were we all in a good mood, we also had Maura Myles and Wendy Snyder sit in with us. It was like a band adding a horn section. It made us all sound great as those ladies know how to bring it on the air. They’re both pros.

Jerry knows what he’s doing too. He shouldn’t be on fill in duty in my opinion but it’s a chance to get some income and nobody can blame him for that. He has a wife and kids he needs to feed and far be it from me to judge anyone’s financial affairs. He needs a job and I respect anyone’s right to earn a living. What I mean is I think he should still have a job.

All of that talk and thought was put aside and we all went into the studio and let it rip. I could feel we were on a good roll in the first ten seconds and that’s what radio does to get a person’s soul and never give it back. Days like today are what keep us hooked for life.

After the show we hung out at our favorite restaurant Ronnie’s a few blocks from WLS and our old friend and biggest supporter Kipper McGee came to join us for a while before a doctor’s appointment for some back problems. He was hurting but still came to see us.

We all like and respect Kipper very much and it was he who gave us a giant push on the air like none of us have ever seen. He believed in us and so did Jerry and that’s why we’re always trying to please them first because we all appreciate how much work went into it.

Jerry was in a groove today and I thought all the Kidders were as well. I also thought we interacted well with both Maura and Wendy who are witty and sharp in their own right. It isn’t a strain at all at this point. We took a year to hone our chemistry and it‘s still there.

I sure hope this isn’t the last time we’re on the air together but I can never tell. This is a project that has technically been terminated when Jerry got fired but they keep asking him back to fill in and he in turn asks for us to join him. We’re like ghosts returning to a death site. We got fired months ago but we’ve returned many times. And I hope we will again.

Jerry drove into the city because it was such an early shift so he drove me back home. It saved a few hours of the train process for me so I decided to use the time to keep working on all the things I’m working on. I need to funnel every free minute I have into doing that.

I received two emails today from the Late Late Show from different people telling me it still hasn’t been determined when my segment will air. People keep asking and I’d love to be able to tell them when but as of now it hasn’t been decided. I’m fine with it. It’ll come.

Tonight was another showcase of the up and coming comics at Zanies in Chicago and I was again the host. I’m really enjoying that gig and it’s turning into a mini event. Lots of the people performing bring people to see them and the audiences have been pretty full.

They haven’t always been great audiences but at least there were butts in seats drinking and buying food. That’s what pays me so I always appreciate it. For whatever reason they were on fire tonight though. This audience was one of the best I’ve seen in many months.

It’s always amazing to me to study audience dynamics. It’s totally random and each one has to be dealt with separately. Sometimes the numbers are large but they are stiff and not into the show at all. Other times a small crowd of 20 or so can be electric. I’ve seen it all.

It has nothing to do with young or old or white or black or male or female or things like that. Yes, audiences can be different because of those factors, but even then there are still no guarantees they’ll all be the same. People are individuals and then they collect together as a random crowd and just like lottery number combinations the possibilities are endless.

Tonight’s audience was a lottery winner. They exploded with laughter and I could sense it in my first ten seconds on stage just like I knew in the first ten seconds on the radio that we would have a good show. I knew it. I felt it. And I was right. Again, this is the kind of show that keeps a person doing it when the audience sucks or is small. This was a keeper.

I wonder why it went so well today both on the radio and on stage? Was there some sort of biorhythm going on in the universe to make it so? Was it the opposite of a full moon or something and everyone was magically in a good mood? I have no idea but I sure felt that everything I was involved with was on point. Life was firing on all eight cylinders today.

Missing the train was no big deal but when it happened I thought in the very back of my mind that this could be the start of a ’Mr. Lucky day’. I’ve lived way too many of those to count but everything goes wrong and I can’t control it. Not today. Everything went right. I wish I could bottle up days like this and use a little bit of it when I’m having a bad one.

Another thing I want to mention is that it’s John Pinette’s birthday today. John is one of the very best comics of his generation, which is also my generation. He is a baby face kid on stage that everyone loves and I love to watch him work. He’s a natural and also a very nice person too. I’ve worked with him several times and always enjoy watching his show. I hope he had as good a birthday as I had a day today. I wonder how long this will last?

Collecting Wisdom

March 23, 2009

Sunday March 22nd, 2009 – Milwaukee, WI/Kenosha, WI

Another sports card show today but this time it was up in the Milwaukee area at my old standby Gonzaga Hall in West Allis. My friends Dennis and Richard usually have a set up of tables next to each other but today Dennis was set up in Chicago so I filled in for him.

I’ll never get rich selling cards. I know that. I did this for the practice. Just as in comedy there are a lot of different skills involved to make sales. I have to set up my table and then sit there and watch my stuff as potential customers walk by. Then as they rifle through all my hard work and try to chisel me down in price I have to maintain a calm friendly vibe.

It’s a poker game in many ways. None of the stuff is really valuable. It’s just cardboard. The whole idea is to warm someone up and sell them on buying YOUR cardboard. There are also niches. Some dealers sell only a certain kind of cardboard. It’s a lesson in how to be in business and I need that right now. I want to be fair but still find a way to survive.

Tables only cost $25 and that’s very reasonable. The show has been going since I was a kid in the ‘70s and many of the same people show up there once a month. It’s a time warp and a community all by itself. Like it or not, I’m a part of that community. And I like it. It has taken a lifetime of trial and error to acquire my knowledge of the sports card hobby.

It doesn’t matter that I taped the Late Late Show to these people. Over the years a scarce few of these people have come out to see me perform even though I always offer tickets if they want. Dennis and Richard have seen me many times and they’re great but most of all the rest of them say ‘I gotta come out and see that comedy thing one of these days.’ Right.

I don’t mind and to me it’s funny. I know most of them will never come out but they do make it a point to tell me that ‘one of these days’ they’ll be there. It’s been twenty years. I think if they were going to come they would have done it by now. Maybe they’re waiting until a certain night and then they’ll all come out on the same night and really shock me.

After my expenses at the end of the day I made $325. That sounds good but I had to buy the cards I sold and most of what I did sell was to other dealers who took a chance on it to hopefully sell it for more to other potential customers at other shows in other towns. They are all in it a lot more than I am and do it for if not a living much more of a steady hobby.

I admit I just like to fart around with it once in a while. I love sports and I love to enjoy collecting things from my childhood era and before. It’s history and to get a very nice old card in pristine condition really is a lot more rare than one might think. That’s why they’ll sell for such ridiculous prices. There just aren’t that many of them. It’s a numbers game.

All of this is a side hobby but I intend on using it to not only have some fun and make a little extra cash but also to keep learning about business and salesmanship and how to get the most bang for my buck. I see some of these other guys work and they are a lot farther advanced than I am and they make the most of their time and inventory. I want to as well.
I’m really studying sales and sales techniques so I can maximize my comedy more than I am now. The cards are what they are and I enjoy them for fun. Comedy is what I’ve put a lifetime of real effort into and I’d hate to leave money on the table that I don’t have to.

A big example of that is my after show sales. I’ve been horrible at it for the most part of my life and mediocre at best for the rest of it. I’m out of products right now and I need an entire makeover in that area. I’ll bet I’ve left literally thousands of dollars in the wallets of people who loved my show and would have bought something but I didn’t have it to sell.

I’ve had many people ask me for a CD or a t-shirt after a show and I just didn’t have it. I would see inferior comics who opened for me sell piles of inferior crap merchandise for ridiculous prices just because people wanted to have something to take home with them.

A mailing list is another thing I’ve been pretty piss poor in maintaining. I have done this for a lifetime and in all reality I should have THOUSANDS of names of people who liked my show that I could notify when I’m coming back so they can spread the word to others.

Business cards? I’m half assed with those too. I get some and then give them out when I get asked for one but have I ever set up a fish bowl after a show? How about a nice setup of merchandise to browse through so I can sit and chat with people? I have sat to chat but it wouldn’t have been that much more work to have a display set up. I’ve really blown it.

All this is good because it tells me I still have lots of work to do. My shows aren’t going to be the issue anymore. They were for years as I had to build one from scratch. Now I am at a level where I’m a solid headliner but my marketing is very poor and has to catch up.

You watch, I WILL improve my marketing dramatically in this next year. I’m not going to waste my lifetime of work and not get my payoff. It’s not ego, it’s smart business. Why should I not allow people to know I’m around? I’ve been really lax on marketing myself.

That’s why I thought it was so good to set up at the card show today. I observed how all the other dealers did it and learned a lot. Most of them weren’t very good showmen and if I can learn from those who are I can take that showmanship to my display after the shows.

I sure am learning about a lot of things and I love that. I’ll put it all to use as I develop a strategy to market myself as a comedian, comedy teacher and also the King of Uranus. I’ll focus my energy on the marketing because that’s what will put me where the money is.

Tonight was yet another solid Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP in Kenosha. We had a guest who was a pet psychic who claimed she could communicate with animals and she blew us all away. My co-hosts brought their cats and it was all very entertaining.

I’m really loving the vibe of this show but I still don’t know how I can turn a buck with it. Fun is fun but I’ve got too many fun things that aren’t paying any bills. It would all get even more fun if one thing would hit financially so I could keep doing all the rest of them.

Back In The Loop

March 22, 2009

Saturday March 21st, 2009 – Rosemont, IL/Chicago, IL

    I think by far the best reward I’ve received from my time in the radio business is the big list of lasting friends I’ve made no matter where I’ve been. I’ve had full time jobs all over the country from Lansing, MI to Fort Wayne, IN to Milwaukee to Reno to Salt Lake City to Chicago to Kenosha, WI and I’ve been a ‘friend of the show’ in several other places.

   I’m proud to say I am still in contact with at least one person from every place I’ve ever had a job and usually it‘s quite a few. My first radio job was in Lansing, MI at WMMQ in 1990. I still occasionally hear from several of those people all these years later and I even became friends with the guy I replaced, Jaz McKay. He’s still on the air out in California.

   93QFM in Milwaukee was a horrible place to work because it was owned by the biggest bunch of halfwits this side of a NASCAR race but the on air staff was filled with absolute gems like Mark ‘The Mangy Man’ Krueger. He and his wife Amy come to see me when I play in Milwaukee and he’s one of the funniest humans I’ve ever met. He‘s a true genius.

   David Lee ‘The Lee Monster’ did middays when I was there and he’s got absolutely the most powerful voice in existence. You’ve heard him all over the place doing commercials for monster truck shows and on Monday Night Football on the Westwood One network. I have been friends with David and his wife Karen since we worked together back in 1991.

   Tim ‘The Rock And Roll Animal’ was also a great guy to work with. He was a big time talent rock jock and also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Staff meetings were as funny as it gets and we needed it at the time because management were such imbeciles to work for that morale was always in need of a boost. Those guys sure provided a big one.

   John Perry did overnights then and he now runs WIIL and WLIP in Kenosha. He’s also a great guy and he’s the one who asked me to do the Mothership Connection show I have been doing on Sunday nights for a year. He was one of the people I met back at 93QFM. There was a sense of family and togetherness there with the air staff and we still have it.

   The problems I’ve had in radio were with management. They come in and blow us out for no real reason other than to manufacture change just to make change. Usually it’s not the answer they think it is and then a few months later they get blown out themselves but it’s too late. Everybody loses. Then all the good people have to go find a job yet again.

   I am very fond of people from all the stations I’ve worked but I have to say the very best air staff by far I’ve ever worked with as a whole was at ‘The Loop’ in Chicago. There was no weak link on that staff as far as talent goes and they were all wonderfully nice people.

   Cara Carriveau followed us doing middays and was really strong. She got fired too after we did and it was stupid and uncalled for. She’s got a husband with his own business and two beautiful kids and works harder than anyone I’ve ever met. She breathed and slept the radio business and to fire her made NO sense. Now she’s working at WTMX in Chicago.

   Seaver did afternoons when I worked there and he was made for rock radio. He’s got an amazing set of pipes and knows the format inside and out as did Cara and they both made the station sound like a major market legendary rock powerhouse. Of course he got blown out as well but he landed on his feet and is back on the air again on WDRV ‘The Drive’.

   Jimmy Novack did nights when I first got there and he’s still one of my all time favorite people in the radio business and he’s now doing a successful morning show on WXLC in Waukegan. He got fired a few months after I got there and I still don’t know exactly why.

   Replacing Jimmy was my friend Byrd who is as good as a rock jock gets. He has a huge voice like David Lee from 93QFM and kicks ass anytime he cracks a mike. He’s also one of the hardest working jocks I’ve ever met and he prepares for his show like few others. I still see him from time to time and he’s still at the Loop. He should be. He‘s excellent.

   The morning show I was on was called ‘The Morning Loop Guys’. Stupid name, super guys. Spike Manton is a comic friend of mine and he got me in with the program director Greg Solk. Max Bumgardner was working in Omaha and he was our third guy. We were also on with Bruce Wolf but he was a morning TV sports guy and never sat in with us.

   Spike, Max and I were the main guys and despite all our growing pains we got along as well as any three guys who were thrown together and told to be entertaining at 5am every morning for four hours. That situation could have ended up ugly but we were all friends.

   We still are and that’s what made today so special. I got to see both of them in a single day and it was a blast both times. Spike has a son Mickey who’s about 10 and totally into sports cards. There was a big card show in Rosemont, IL today and Mickey wanted to go.

   I hadn’t seen Spike so we all decided to go together and it was a lot of fun for everyone. Mickey and Spike got to have father and son time and I saw some card friends and we did all fun things all day and hung out. Spike is still struggling from getting fired but he is not quitting and we all have to just keep slugging. Still, we’d be doing SO well right now.

   I dropped Spike off and went to have dinner with Max who was in town attending a big convention for his new job. He works for a company that rebuilds damage after tornadoes and he’s doing well at it. Max has major skills in business and he loves it but deep down I know he would like to be back doing mornings in Chicago radio. All three of us would.

   Max and I had a great visit and I told him I saw Spike and we remembered some funny stories only the three of us would appreciate because we lived it. Morning radio can be a very intense grind, especially in a major market. It’s not easy to keep cranking out funny day after day and there was a lot of pressure on us. Still, we never fought. That’s amazing.

   Whatever nightmare memories I have of radio (and there are several) the good ones of a bunch of great friends far outweigh those bad ones. Seeing Spike and Max in one day was a real treat. I didn’t get much work done but it recharged my batteries and I need it today.