Archive for May, 2009

Opportunity In Appleton

May 21, 2009

Wednesday May 20th, 2009 – Appleton, WI

Damage control week. I’ve heard wonderful things about the Skyline Comedy Café in Appleton, WI but until this week I’ve never worked here. There are reasons for it that I’d really rather not get into because it won’t change the fact that I have been excluded for so long. It’s taken many years but I finally got my chance and I’m grateful to have it. Period.

Life is full of sensitive politics but the entertainment business is even more delicate. I’m the first to admit I’ve made more than my share of stupid mistakes in life and business but I believe a real winner hangs in there and is able to turn things around. It sure isn’t easy.

I’d pretty much written this place off because I felt I wasn’t ever going to be shown any chances to prove myself. No club in America needs any one comedian and that’s a reason to keep us all humble. No matter what position one is going for there are HUNDREDS of qualified and capable bodies to fill that spot and each club only has 52 weeks a year open.

The Skyline Comedy Café has gotten along just fine without Dobie Maxwell and that’s just the way it is. It’s a buyer’s market from a club standpoint. They can use a lot of good acts and never need to get around to me and nobody will be the lesser for it. Except me.

I’m really glad they gave me a shot though because this is one fantastic room. We had a super packed house tonight and a rocking show and on a Wednesday night in a Wisconsin comedy club on a sunny day in May that’s a borderline miracle. This was a genuine treat.

The booker thankfully let me pick my opening acts for the week and that’s something a lot more bookers should consider. It’s a much better week when there’s chemistry onstage and off and this week will be very low maintenance. The opener is Emily Galati who just moved from Arizona and has done some showcases at Zanies. She’s funny and fits well.

Jim Flannigan is the feature and I’ve always liked this kid onstage and off. He’s a funny act but also a student of the game. He’s polite and respectful and isn’t afraid to work hard and pay some dues. He wants to learn and he’s grateful for the chance and all of us fit in a show together because nobody steps on each other’s premises and we will get along fine.

I met the owner Cliff and he was nothing but pleasant. He smiled and shook my hand as I walked in the club and that’s the best I could expect. He didn’t say anything to make me feel uncomfortable and I’m thrilled he didn’t. I don’t want any bad blood between us and I’m confident after tonight there won’t be. I did a strong show and I can tell he knows it.

He’s very sharp and he wouldn’t have been in business as long as he has if he wasn’t. If I could change the past I would but I can’t so all I can do is build whatever kind of a good business relationship I can from this point forward and see where it goes. It started today.

I hope I can draw a few people but this is a tricky weekend with the holiday and the nice weather too. At least I get a chance to prove myself and I’ll be on my very best behavior.
The funny thing is I’m always on my best behavior. I don’t drink or do drugs ever nor am I mean or abusive to the staff. I always tip even if I’m only drinking water and I try to be polite and respectful to everyone I meet from the janitor on up. It doesn’t really take a lot of effort to be nice but I try to put some into it anyway. It’s just plain smart business.

What isn’t smart business is not even getting a chance to be booked at a club because of something someone heard. Reputations can make or break a person and mine for the most part has been very good over the years. I show up and don’t bother people. Occasionally it gets around that I can be hard to work with but that’s because I want to do quality shows.

I want the sound and lights to be right and I want opening acts who aren’t drunk all the time or filthy on stage. I also want the audience to know they can’t talk during the show. I have a strong act that’s taken years to develop and trying to out shout some boozed up oaf who got in free by dropping his wrestling ticket stub in a fish bowl totally pops my cork.

There is never a problem in the good rooms because they know how to have these kinds of things taken care of before I ever have to deal with it. Such is the case here in Appleton this week. The sound is fantastic and the lights are perfect and the audience is well trained and not obnoxious at all. They come out to hear COMEDY and it’s a delight to be here.

I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be here before but that’s how it worked out. Fair or not isn’t a question because life is never going to be fair. It was what it was but I heard there is a big ugly fight going on between the owners and now there are going to be two clubs in town.

None of that is my business and I’m not going to pry. If Cliff decides he wants to let me in on the story I’ll listen and then keep the information to myself. His business is not for a diary of mine and I’d never think of including it but I am sorry to hear of the falling out.

I did get approached by the other club a while back and since I didn’t work here I would gladly have done it but then I got this booking so this is where my allegiance will fall as it all shakes down. I have never been one to play two sides against the middle and I want to build a relationship that works for both parties. From what I’ve seen tonight I’ll stay here.

I’ve seen this situation happen over and over in many towns and sometimes there is just room for one club in a town. When there are two it chokes both of them out and I sure do hope that isn’t the case here. This is a very nice club and I hope the other one doesn’t put a damper on that. There are a few places to draw from but I would think location is key.

All this reminds me of comedy classes in Chicago. When I was doing it nobody else in town even thought of it. Now everyone and their grandmother tries one and I’m the only one who suffers because they knock down the price and have no idea what they’re doing.

I’m sure every other business goes through this kind of thing too but it doesn’t make it any easier. I feel bad for Cliff because he’s got a sweet club here. I’m glad to be here and for whatever it’s worth from my end I’m hoping to stay here and build a draw together.

A Night At Hooters

May 20, 2009

Tuesday May 19th, 2009 – Greenfield, WI

Three days of creative freedom and now this – the grand slam. Tonight I was asked to be the host of the bikini contest at Hooter’s in Greenfield, WI. Oh, alright. Twist my arm. I’ll force myself to trudge through and put in another day on the rock pile. Work, work, work.

My friend Drew Olson has been hosting this event for the past couple of years as part of his radio gig but tonight he had to appear on TV for the Brewers so he gave my name as a replacement. The dear lad. I’ll have to make sure he and his are taken care of in my will.

Actually the gig was a lot of fun. I have done a couple of events for Hooters before and I always enjoy working for them. I was in Florida some years ago and got to host a similar couple of events down there that were also well run. Those people are very professional.

My contact here was a guy named Bob who I assume is in management. He was easy to deal with and very friendly and the whole night was like a night off. All I had to do was to announce the girls as a group and as individuals and keep the flow moving. Piece of cake.

The event was held in a tent in the parking lot and a lot of effort was put into making it a success. Bob and the staff were right on it and it came off without a hitch. There were a total of 23 contestants from Hooters locations in Green Bay, Appleton and Rockford, IL.

Most of the girls were between about 18 and 22 and I realized immediately that I am not from the same planet they are. I have nothing to say to any of them other than hello. I’m a completely different animal than all of them and it was funny to read their contest bios.

They listen to music by people I’ve never heard of and as they paraded on stage I don’t think I recognized more than one or two songs out of the 23. They were born in the ‘80s and ‘90s and almost all of them were young enough to be my daughter. I felt very old.

The Hooters people handled everything with class as I’ve come to expect from them in my experience. They didn’t want it to be dirty and I didn’t take it there. I tried to pump up every contestant and there were no dogs in the group at all. I thought every one was up to very high standards and growing up in Milwaukee I don’t remember that kind of quality.

The hard part was narrowing the field. There were some total knockouts in the line but I could see the disappointment in some of their eyes when they didn’t make the final five. I know the feeling from having been in comedy contests over the years. It rots ass to lose.

I don’t think young women have any idea the power they have. These girls were totally hot and there weren’t any losers in the bunch. Any guy should have been thrilled to have a chance at any one of them but most guys that age are complete idiots. I know I sure was.

I passed up chances at tons of hot women then because I wanted to ‘focus on my career’ for a while. Ha. What a mistake. Now these women look at me like I’m their dad’s friend.

Three For Three

May 19, 2009

Monday May 18th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

If life was like it’s been in the last three days all the time I’d have nothing to bitch about anymore. Saturday was great because of Jerry’s Kidders on WGN. Yesterday it was doing a solid Mothership Connection show on WLIP. Tonight it was a hot showcase at Zanies.

Monday nights at Zanies can be very tricky. Sometimes the crowds are fantastic but the lineup of comedians is weak. Other times it’s just the opposite and the crowd is comatose but the comedians are strong. Tonight nitro met glycerin and everything was explosive.

I can’t remember a recent show where everything just fell together like tonight. What an absolute blast to be part of a show like this. I’m the toughest critic there is and when it’s a  bad crowd or a show misfires I’ll be the first to admit it. Not tonight. There was a raw and rocking electricity in the room from the first ten seconds to the last comic of the evening.

I’ve done enough of these shows and shows in general to get a real feel for the audience in a very short period of time. If they’re super or if they suck – I know it immediately. It is no mystery to know how an audience is going to behave. The mystery comes from why?

Why they were so good tonight is anyone’s guess but I think it was the luck of the draw. These particular people as a whole had excellent senses of humor as individuals and when they came together the sum was greater than the parts. They laughed right when they were supposed to and nobody heckled and when a comedian was talking they were listening.

That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be and if it were like this more often there wouldn’t be as much binge drinking by comics. Well, maybe there still would but the reason would be other than trying to forget a bad audience. These people should travel together as a unit and build self esteem to aspiring performers all over the country. They were magnificent.

Nights like this make all the years of struggle seem worth it. We all felt appreciated and who doesn’t want to feel that? I sure do. I need it. Everyone does. Hearing it several times on the walk between the stage and the men’s room confirmed it even more. We rocked it.

Three separate projects in three separate days but all of them were fun and when they go the way they’re supposed to the feeling of satisfaction pulses through my veins and that is the feeling I have right now. The drive home tonight was like floating on a passing cloud.

All of these things are on my terms. I didn’t have to kiss anyone’s ass or compromise an ideal or a moral to make it happen. For the last three days and nights I’ve gotten to do my favorite things without having to get hassled from some imbecile that I’m doing it wrong.

I was in control of all of it and I liked and respected the people around me too. Taking a concept like Jerry’s Kidders or the Mothership Connection or even hosting the showcase and making it come to life from only an idea is a thrill I’ll never get sick of having. I’m in creative heaven right now but I can’t gloat. There are a lot more projects left to conquer.

White Sox And Black Holes

May 18, 2009

Sunday May 17th, 2009 – Milwaukee, WI/Kenosha, WI

Here’s a nifty nugget of obscure baseball trivia knowledge even if you don’t like sports. Former Chicago White Sox outfielder Carlos May was born on this date in 1948 making him 61 years old today. He originally wore uniform number 29 but later changed it to 17.

What makes it so significant is he’s been the only professional athlete to wear his birth date on his uniform – ‘May 17’. That’s one of the coolest trivia questions I’ve ever heard and I was able to partially dazzle or at least temporarily perplex quite a few of the people who attended the sports card show up at Gonzaga Hall in Milwaukee today. It was fun.

Nothing gets a sports geek’s juices flowing like a skull buster trivia question and I’m a big one myself so I understand the concept fully. It’s fun to be stumped for at least a little while but then it gets to the point where a person just has to know. That’s how today was.

People were guessing former Brewers pitcher Don August but he was born in July. I’m not sure what his uniform number was but pitchers usually have higher numbers so if it’s higher than 31 that would take him out. People were fascinated by this question as was I.

I do love a good trivia question and I’ve been compiling a list of the best ones I’ve ever heard for as long as I can remember. When I was in radio I was smart enough to write the  best ones down so I could use them over again and I’ve got a file that would choke a yak.

If I ever do land a full time radio gig again I’ll be able to hit the ground running but it’s not likely I’ll ever get the chance. However, every time I say I’m through with radio a job comes out of nowhere and I’m back in it again. I’ll just let it happen however it develops.

For now I’m having great fun on two radio fronts even though I’m not getting paid. The WGN experience yesterday was great and so was the Mothership Connection in Kenosha, WI tonight on WLIP. Talk about your polar opposites in every way. WGN is one of THE broadcast entities on the planet and WLIP is in a studio the size of a teenager’s bedroom.

WGN is a 50,000 watt blowtorch that reaches thirty some states and half of Canada. It’s the flagship station of the Chicago Cubs and it rakes in millions of dollars in revenue each year. WLIP is nowhere near a blowtorch. It’s more like a Bic lighter running low on fluid.

Still, it’s great fun to do the show there each week and I want it to continue and get a lot better. The content is pretty good I must say but it could use more flash like sound effects and music beds and stuff like that. That will improve in time but I’m dealing with a goose egg for a budget so I have very limited resources to draw from. At least we’re on the air.

Tonight’s show was very strong. We had two solid guests – one talked about UFOs and the other talked about ghost sightings in Illinois. They were interesting and I kept the flow going the whole time. I love hosting the show because it’s good practice and I feel totally at home with the topics, guests and my co-hosts. A few bucks would sure be nice though.

Window Of Opportunity

May 18, 2009

Saturday May 16th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

Jerry’s Kidders are adapting rather nicely to our WGN scenario. This was week number three and I thought we started to hit stride as a team. We already knew each other but now we’re adjusting to our surroundings and how things are done at WGN. It’s a lot different.

First off we’re in a completely different studio situation. WLS had us sequestered away in a tiny little studio buried in the bowels of a downtown Chicago building. We were near a cluster of elevators so once in a great while a hot looking intern would walk past us but it wasn’t often enough to look forward to. We pretty much had to create our own energy.

WGN’s studio is a glass enclosed zoo cage right on Michigan Avenue. There are lots of people mulling around and peeking in to see if they recognize anyone inside. Even if they don’t they still smile and wave when we wave at them and there’s a steady flow all day.

That may take some getting used to for radio people but for the three of us it’s water to a duck. We’re used to performing for live audiences and we know how to feed off of their energy one way or another. If we can get a live audience to be part of this we’re golden.

The weather was gorgeous today so there was an even bigger crowd rubbernecking in at us this week than there was the last two weeks combined. They were up against the studio glass and apparently they can hear us on air. I could see a lot of them laughing out loud.

When the bit is going well there’s a total rhythm in motion and that’s part of why it’s so much fun. We’re all in the same comic groove and it’s like a band performing live. We’re all in the moment together and when it works it’s down right splendiferous. What will put it over the top and make it even better would be to include a live audience every time out.

I don’t see that being a problem as the concept takes off and develops into a familiar bit with WGN listeners. Even those who don’t listen can figure out in about five seconds that we’re a group of (hopefully) funny people doing jokes back and forth. It won’t be difficult to figure that out and like today there will be some who will stay and watch and enjoy it.

A couple of times today I was able to hit a punch line and make eye contact with people as I did it and I saw them laugh. I gave a couple of thumbs ups and got some back but that will evolve as we settle in. There will be those who just come out to give us all the finger.

I’m fine with that too. I can handle it. It might be fun to yank my Levi’s down and shoot a pasty white moon shot right in their faces but this is WGN so I’ll fight that urge. We all know where we are. We need to ease ourselves in steadily and establish our brand name.

So far so good. It really feels good to see those people looking in at us and laughing out loud. As we get fans we’ll go outside and shake every hand and thank them for taking the time to come out and see us. This could be a fantastic opportunity to network every week and build a loyal following. We all see it and we love that we’re seeing. This can work!

Wayman Tisdale

May 16, 2009

Friday May 15th, 2009 – Lake Zurich, IL

Yesterday’s vibe of all pleasant all day has evaporated but quick. Today was exactly the opposite. The weather was drizzly and blue and so was the energy. A single day can make a big difference and I’ll be damned if I can figure out why that is. But it is. And it stinks.

It does today anyway. When it goes from bad to good it can be exhilarating and hopeful. When it goes in this direction it can spiral downward into one of those depression funks I try so hard to avoid. They usually come back though and I hope this isn’t going to be one.

What really disturbed me early was reading that Wayman Tisdale died of cancer at only 44 years of age. I never met the man in person but I did play baseball many years ago with someone who claimed to be his distant cousin so I kind of followed his career because of that. I had no reason to doubt that guy and I don’t think he would just make that fact up.

The guy I played ball with was a nice guy and I’ve always followed sports and I’d heard of Wayman Tisdale because he was in college playing basketball at that time and was just about to get drafted into the NBA. I remember we talked about who the Milwaukee Bucks were going to draft and he went off on how they should draft Tisdale over everyone else.

When I asked why he told me what a great person Tisdale was and how much everyone who ever met him liked and respected him and he said whatever team got him would be a better team on and off the court immediately. The guy was a one man fan club for Tisdale and because of that I always cheered for him throughout his NBA career. I like nice guys.

Then after he quit playing after a respectable career he started to release jazz albums for a few years. I remember hearing he was doing that and I was very impressed. It’s not easy to make it to the NBA much less have a career for more than a couple of years. It’s also a difficult thing to not only release a music album but to have one place on the charts also.

Wayman Tisdale played in the NBA for twelve years. He released eight jazz albums as well. Either one of those two things would be major achievements but to do both is down right spectacular. I have nothing but respect for the man and everyone seemed to have all positive things to say about him on every front. His legacy will be one of a total success.

Why do people like this have to die at 44? This really bothers me and further questions if there is a God looking out for us or not. Why would a guy like Wayman Tisdale have a horrible cancer death at 44 when Charles Manson is healthy and cancer free at a ripe age?

I don’t get it. Hopefully Wayman Tisdale is in a better place and that’s the place I want to go to sooner than later. I am getting older and more jaded and hearing of this really set me off today. I was very sad and still am. It doesn’t seem fair to me but life never was.

On top of that I also heard a comic friend of mine has bladder cancer. That really made today a downer all around. Why can’t life be happy and fair? On this planet it just isn’t.

Pleasantly Pleasant

May 15, 2009

Thursday May 14th, 2009 – Grayslake, IL/Tinley Park, IL

I can sum up today in a single word – pleasant. I don’t think I’ve ever written or uttered that sentence in my life and I have to say it feels fantastic. What a treat it was to have an entire day free from crisis, malfunction or disaster. This is a groove I could get used to.

The weather was absolutely perfect and that’s always a good start. The sun was out and the temperature was just right and it stayed that way all day. I hit every green light and my road seemed to unfold in front of me. I don’t know why it was clicking but it totally was.

My first stop was a quarterly membership meeting of the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau. I joined last month and today was my first meeting. A lady named Jayne Nordstrom was the representative I dealt with and she’s really good at her job. She’s been persistent but not a pest for a long time now and I finally ended up joining at her bequest.

She’s a very nice lady as are all the other people both in the bureau and the actual group of business owners. Everyone was laid back and friendly and I could feel the positive vibe as I walked around shaking hands before the meeting. Rick Young helps Jim McHugh on some of the Chicago Comedy All Stars shows and he lives close by so he showed up too.

There was a drawing for two airline tickets because Mitchell Field in Milwaukee is also a new member and Rick kept telling anyone who’d listen “I’m going to win those tickets, you know.” He kept saying it and saying it and when the actual drawing finally happened the lady put her hand in the big bin and pulled out the winner. It was Rick. We erupted.

I wonder if that’s truly how life works or if this was just a fluke of a day. He said it like he believed it and sure enough – BANG. He wins the tickets. It was amazing because his statement over and over wasn’t forced at all. He really sounded like he believed he’d win those tickets and damned if he didn’t. He seemed to know it. It was eerie. Good for him.

Tonight I worked a gig for a group in Tinley Park, IL which apparently has had comedy before. I got it through Jimmy McHugh and he did it last year by himself. This year it was different because he hosted it and got myself and Rocky LaPorte to do it along with him.

Rocky is the epitome of pleasant. I’ve known the guy twenty years and he’s always very upbeat and positive. Everyone I know likes Rocky and I do too. He was in L.A. for years and was always in the running for a sitcom but for whatever reason it never came to be.

Did he get bitter about it? If he did he sure doesn’t show it. A lot of people wouldn’t be able to handle it as well as Rocky did but he’s by no means a failure. He works good gigs, makes a living and doesn’t complain. About anything. Ever. He sets a very good example.

After the show we hung out and it was…well…pleasant. Nobody trashed anyone and it was just three comics making each other laugh and sharing stories. No bite, no bitterness, no fake Hollywood smiles. There was a vibe in the air today I want to bottle up and save.

Lancing A Human Boil

May 14, 2009

Wednesday May 13th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

I don’t know why so many of my non comedian friends ask me about the late night TV talk shows but they do. What do I think of Jimmy Fallon? Will Jay Leno be able to make it in prime time? How long will Letterman keep doing it? I’m the last guy who’d know.

In truth I don’t really watch any of the shows unless I’m flicking through the channels at some hotel after a show looking for Sports Center. Once in a while I’ll watch if a friend is performing but that’s about it. For whatever reason those shows don’t really entertain me.

I have nothing against any of them and I used to love Johnny Carson and even Merv but that was mainly because those shows featured comedians regularly. There weren’t all that many shows either so most of them were able to get the huge guests. It’s not like that now and I don’t have time to sit and listen to some bubblehead I don’t know plug a bad movie.

Speaking of bubbleheads I’ve got one crawling up my ass of late trying to get me to put a word in for him with Bert Haas at Zanies. He’s a former student who I have gone out of my way to help many times in the past and then when I do offer any insights or advice he ignores it all. Then he’s angry that Bert won’t return his emails so then he bitches to me.

This is one of the few downsides to teaching the classes. For all the great people I meet there are those few mosquitoes who tend to annoy me so much it makes me almost forget about the winners I meet. It’s a test in human relations skills and also a patience drill too. I try to be friendly and encouraging and uplifting but after a while I can’t take it anymore.

I’m to that point with this guy and it’s taken years to get there. He bawled me out about “not taking FIVE minutes to watch my tape“. OK, that does make me look like an ass but I’ve had over 1000 students over the years and at any one time I have several who contact me asking for ‘five minutes’. Those blocks of time add up and before long I’m swamped.

I really do have to learn to say NO but that’s always been difficult for me. I have a heart and I enjoy helping people but I feel like I’m being taken advantage of by people like this. I sent him an email telling him he’s never ONCE offered to pay for my time to look at his tape and the times I did he did exactly the opposite of what I told him. He’s so off my list.

The whole exchange left a bad taste in my mouth because I really did try to help the guy out over the years. He seemed sincere but looking back on it he was a pain in the ass most of the time and he thought he was WAY better than he is. Then he trashed Bert Haas with all his energy and sent me nasty emails wishing Bert to rot in hell. Those were a red flag.

Now I’m sure he wishes me in hell and that’s fine. Actually I think I’m already there so his wish came true. I know he’s probably trashing my name around the open mikes and he can go ahead and do that too. I’m not going to apologize for what I did or said because he was the one who didn’t listen. I told him the right things to do and now I’m finished with it all. I’m not going to take abuse from a guy like that. Watch, he’ll get his own talk show.

Betting On The Kidders

May 13, 2009

Tuesday May 12th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

I got an email today from The Craig Ferguson Show but it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was from the talent booker Celia Joseph saying she’s again leaving the show because of another opportunity and wanted to let everyone know. She was an absolute peach to work with and I sent her congratulations immediately. She made my experience there very easy.

Still no word on when my segment will air. Actually I don’t really care if it runs or not. It would be nice and I still think it will but whether it does or not I can use the DVD for a new audition set to get more club work and private shows. That’s the real benefit of all of this for me. A lot of people can’t or won’t stay up that late to watch the actual broadcast.

Everyone on the show was absolutely fantastic to work with and I don’t see why my set wouldn’t run. If I tanked it they would have told me by now and it would have been over. I got paid and I am still on their mailing list so I think it’s just a matter of that’s how they do it. It takes time and when they feel it’s right they’ll put me on. I’m totally fine with it.

The main thing I got out of all of it was the experience of taping for national TV. I had a taste of what it was like and I didn’t blow it. I made quite a few mistakes that I absolutely will NOT make the next time or any time after that. I have a much better perspective now.

No matter what happens I will not be intimidated when I get in that situation again. I’ve now been there before and know what to expect. I’m sure it’s the feeling NFL rookies feel after their first game or even their first year in the league. It’s an adjustment but once they make it they’re ok. I feel like that now. If I handled that I can handle any other situation.

Surprisingly the situation seems to be shifting back to radio again. My best opportunity right now is the WGN slot with Jerry’s Kidders. None of us have made penny one since it started over a year ago but we’ve made strides in putting our act together and we continue to improve even now. This could reach a lot of people who’d never hear of us otherwise.

It really is all about who knows us. If we can get to be a name in Chicago it should lead to some gigs in the area. The actual listening area of WGN is a lot more than Chicago and I’ll gladly go to Peoria or Des Moines or Kokomo or anywhere else that would have us. It wouldn’t be much different from what I’ve been doing other than the pay will be higher.

I still haven’t had that big break and unfortunately there’s no guarantee that I’ll ever get it. I’ll need some luck in there somewhere and Jerry Agar seems to be my one man charm bracelet. He’s had a total knack of being in the right place at the right time ever since he’s gotten into talk radio and it’s looking like he’s there again. WGN could be our big payoff.

At least it’s still fun. Jerry and the guys make it worth the time and we all enjoy being a team both on the air and afterward in the restaurant. I sure hope adding money to the mix won’t cause us to lose that spirit of fun but it totally could. I don’t think so but who’s able to say for sure? Still, I won’t let it scare me off. This is the biggest project I’ve got going.

Paying Showbiz Dues

May 13, 2009

Monday May 11th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

Back in the Zanies Monday night saddle after a couple of weeks off. It felt good to have off but it also felt good to be back. I really do enjoy hosting these shows and it gives me a chance to check out who’s coming up the ranks. It’s smart business to know these people.

Somewhere along the line any one of them may catch a big break and need a writer or a role in a sitcom or movie and hopefully I’ll be at the top of the list. I do try to be available should they have questions to ask and many times they do. I also try to encourage them as much as I can. I watch their shows and make suggestions and I see that they appreciate it.

I know exactly what they’re going through because I was there myself. It takes years for an act and stage persona to truly develop and mature and there is nothing that will rush it. Doing sets at every possible opportunity in every possible environment is the way to do it correctly and when it’s not going right that can really get old. This is part of paying dues.

NOBODY else can pay one’s dues except that particular person. I see a core of comics putting in their time at Zanies and other places and I see their progress whether they do or not. People like Mike Palaszak and Bryan Berry and Adam Burke and Hannibal Burress and Julianna Forlano and Mikey Mason and Beth Stelling and others are doing it right.

Sometimes the audiences love them and other times they just sit there. I can totally feel what they feel because I still experience that now even if it is on a different level. I try to always give them a quality introduction and show them what a good emcee does so if and when they host shows they’ll get an idea of what to do. I am setting an example for them.

C. Cardell Willis set the example for us back in Milwaukee when I was starting out. I’m just passing his kindness forward and hopefully when I’m dead there will be someone that remembers what I was trying to do with fondness just like I remember Cardell. He was an inspiration to all of us then but as the years go by his memory grows sweeter and sweeter.

I don’t do it for any other reason but that it’s FUN. I enjoy being able to watch this crop of newbies ripen and if I can throw a little fertilizer in the mix I’m happy to do it. I owe a lot to the few people who helped me when I started and I’m just paying it forward. People like Cardell and Gary Kern and Kyle Nape and Danny Storts all helped me get my chops.

Darrin Hensley is a very funny guy out of Lexington, KY. He drove up to do a set and it was good to see him. We worked together in Corbin, KY of all places and he was the host of a weekend I did down there. He was very new then but I could see his hunger so I went out of my way to be nice to him and help out. I know he appreciated it so I didn’t mind.

Tonight I was the host so I made sure he had a great introduction and he went up for his six minute set and I could see the major improvement since Corbin. He did a nice job and the crowd liked him and I told him he should be proud of himself. And he should. Paying dues doesn’t have to be miserable but they do have to be paid. There are NO exceptions.