Archive for August, 2009

Comedy Commencement

August 31, 2009

Sunday August 30th, 2009 – Pittsburgh, PA/Kenosha, WI

Two nights in an airport in one week is too much. It wasn’t part of the showbiz dream I had all those years ago but that’s how it worked out this week. My flights were very early and either hotels or shuttles didn’t match up well so the best option was to just get there.

After I got paid last night in Pittsburgh I asked the owner to take me to the airport so I’d not have to take a cab at 4am. That would have cost me a chunk of cash I don’t have right now so my other option was to sit in the airport and watch workers scrub the place down.

The club owner Jeff told me I did a great job this week and that’s a major breakthrough. He’s a notorious ball buster and known by many across the country as never saying good about anybody. That’s just how he is and I’ve known the guy going on 25 years now so it really took me back when he said that. I know that I’ve arrived when he says good things.

It’s kind of like how some parents (usually fathers) never actually say the words “I love you” to their children. It’s implied. Sorry, that’s not enough. We all have to hear it at least once in a while and hearing I did great shows felt fantastic. We talked about how far I’ve come since I started out seating people at the Funny Bone in Milwaukee back in the ‘80s.

Jeff was even more intense back then and most people didn’t know how to take him. He can be abrasive as hell but also very charming, often within the same five minute period. I grew to accept it as did everyone else who worked at the club but to an outsider it raised a few eyebrows when he’d go off on one of his many tirades about what he hated about life.

The guy does understand comedy though and even his detractors will give him that. It’s an innate thing and some people just have it. He definitely does, but getting through all of his other layers can be exhausting at times. Even so, he told me back in the ‘80s that I was the only one of the Milwaukee comics that had a chance to go anywhere in the business.

25 years later having him tell me I did a great job and saying how far I’ve come made it seem like I’ve come full circle. And I have. I started out on my road journey in Pittsburgh as a greenhorn opener punk and this week I’m finishing up as a headliner. I’ve graduated.

I had to change planes in Detroit and the distance between gates was insane. I thought I was going to miss my flight and it was a hassle but I barely made it. I was out of breath as I sat down, the last one on the plane. They had to unlock the door at the gate to let me in.

This was a long week and part of me is glad it’s over. Another part of me thinks it’s fun to have had so much to do in a single week. That’s what I always dreamed show business would be like and this was pretty close to matching my vision. Living it is an adventure.

Since I flew out of Milwaukee I called my cousin Brett and we went to Pandl’s to have one of their world class brunches. I can’t think of a better meal anywhere and I hadn’t had time to see Brett in a while so we had a blast. I told him it was a graduation celebration.

The question now is what do I do next? Many people get lost after any graduation as it’s a major change in lifestyle. Usually there’s a next level, at least in school. Graduating 8th grade leads up to high school, which leads up to college, and then there’s graduate school.

That’s where I feel like I am right now. I have my PhD in standup comedy but what do I do with it? It took a full out lifetime of sacrifice to attain it and I don’t want to just toss all of that effort away and go get a day job making nine bucks an hour driving a pickle truck.

The truth is, I need the money right now. The old joke about college graduates having to say “Would you like fries with that?” is now applying to me. I have attained a skill level a very small percentage of people ever do but that isn’t a guarantee I’ll be rich and famous.

The reasons for this don’t matter, even if they are legitimate. I could have done better as far as my finances are concerned but I took some chances and now I wish I hadn’t. I wish I wouldn’t have bought all the sports cards I did but sure was fun at the time. In theory, it should have gotten me more of a return than I could have gotten from my bank account.

What I didn’t think of is that there would be major effort to package and sell them and I miscalculated the time I’d have to provide such an effort. It’s not a liquid investment so it ties me up when I am in a pinch like I am now. In a perfect world I’d have a little cushion.

I did for a while and it felt good but I had no idea just how good. That’s the reason I had no qualms about taking the chances I did. I thought I was in good shape and could branch out a little but now I realize it was a mistake. I wish I had it to do over again but I don’t so there’s no use getting angry or upset about anything. I don’t blame anyone but me for this.

What I’m finding so difficult to deal with is everything constantly coming at me so fast. This week of brutal travel was an energy drainer but I can’t just relax and recharge for the next thing. I had to be in Kenosha tonight for another Mothership Connection radio show on AM 1050 WLIP. I would have loved to have gotten some sleep but I had a show to do.

We were in and out tonight and the harder I tried to get it back the more I felt I couldn’t control where it was going. There is a real vibe in there and when it’s good it’s REALLY good. When it’s bad, it’s bad. I don’t think we were bad tonight but it sure wasn’t great.

Tomorrow is going to be packed too. I have to teach a comedy class at Zanies and then I host the Rising Star Showcase after that. Then on Tuesday Jerry’s Kidders are working on our live version of the show to be put in theatres. After that I’ve got a comedy class out in  St. Charles, IL at Zanies in the Pheasant Run Resort. It doesn’t quit. My calendar is full.

I’m not complaining about any of this but it sure is a major effort to try and keep all this on the road. Things can’t help but fall through the cracks and I am just getting physically tired trying to always play the catch up game. When I get one thing done the next thing is waiting there ready to be addressed. It doesn’t care how tired or unprepared I am, and it’s a constant problem I’m facing more and more. I have to find a better way to work it out.

A Piece Of Pittsburgh

August 29, 2009

Saturday August 29th, 2009 – Pittsburgh, PA

I’ll always have a place in my heart for Pittsburgh. This was where I was booked for my first real road gig in January of 1986 and it was very special. I remember the date because of all things it was the week the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. I wasn’t so hot either.

I was only an emcee and was paid $150 for the week. I rode out from Milwaukee with a guy named Kyle Nape and it felt like I was really in show business. We stayed at a hellish rat hole called The Brentwood Inn and I had to share a room with Kyle or I wouldn’t have gotten the gig. Our room smelled like moth balls and the elevator smelled like stale urine.

Not that fresh urine would have made it any better, but I loved the fact I was doing what I always wanted to do. I was no more ready to host a show then operate that Space Shuttle but that’s the only way to learn. Pittsburgh is where my education started and I fit in here.

We’re both a little rough around the edges but basically have a good honest heart inside. It’s a beautiful city in many ways but a real pain in the ass in others. Traffic is always bad and construction is nothing short of a nightmare with all the hills and tunnels everywhere.

It’s really amazing to see how full circle I’ve come since that first time in. Then I was a weak opening act and stayed in a weaker hotel. Now I’m a strong headliner and we stay in a really nice hotel. It’s the Radisson Green Tree and I highly recommend it. It’s a fantastic place and the staff is wonderful from top to bottom. A good hotel makes road life easier.

I decided to get some lunch and I don’t have a car so I walked to an Olive Garden about a mile and a half from the hotel. There are so many steep hills here it felt like I was going to have a massive heart attack halfway there. Whatever walks I’ve taken in the past are no match for this one. I was in a full sweat when I got to the Olive Garden and out of breath.

Of course my waitress was absolutely gorgeous and I was a sweaty pig from walking up the side of a mountain to get there. Her name was Kelly and no matter how hard I tried to get her to laugh I couldn’t do it. Usually I can get most servers to crack but she just didn’t have it in her. She probably thought I was a wackadoo but so what. I don’t care anymore.

Life is supposed to be fun and if I’ve learned one thing through all my struggles it’s that I’m in charge of deciding what fun is. It’s not the same for everyone and I don’t care what anyone else thinks at this point. I do what I like and I like what I do and even though I am not where I thought I’d be after all these years, I’ve still made some incredible progress.

That kid that first came here in 1986 was clueless and angry at the world and looking to find some answers and show everyone he belonged. The guy now is completely different. He’s laid back and confident and realizes he has beaten the odds and done well after all.

Whatever happens now is a bonus. I’m going to enjoy every minute of every show I do and that includes the two tonight. After that it’s back to the airport to make a 6am flight.

Fortune Cooking

August 29, 2009

Friday August 28th, 2009 – Pittsburgh, PA

It’s amazing what a night’s sleep and a shower can do to recharge the batteries. I’m in a very good space today and ideas are still flowing like water from yesterday. I have to find some way to increase my income very soon without committing any crimes and I have no choice but to expand my entrepreneurial horizons. I doubt if I’d be able to find a real job.

Actually, I don’t want one. It’s not that I’m lazy but I really am a poor employee. I have to believe if I’ve made it this long without having to succumb to the false security of a job I can make it a little farther. I don’t mind working, what I mind is working for someone in charge I think is a moron. That doesn’t always have to be the case but it usually happens.

I thought a great example of the pain of that scenario was shown in ‘The Wrestler’ with Mickey Rourke’s character having to take a job at a deli to pay his bills. I wouldn’t have a problem working a part time job for the work, but dealing with a hard ass boss isn’t in my genetic makeup. I’d have to get in his face and that would be it but what does that prove?

It proves I need to be working for myself and that’s what I intend to do. I sure could use some cash right now but going to work at Walmart isn’t going to bail me out in the longer run. The smart thing to do is keep plugging and find a way to manufacture some income. I am in a rut for now but that doesn’t mean it has to last. It’s up to me to turn this around.

I had an idea today that I think I can develop into something. I’m going to keep it in the bag for a while until I write out the big picture but it already involves something I’m good at and have experience. I have to use my skills as an entertainer and public speaker to find ways to put money in my pocket. I do have skills in that department but not many others.

If I had to work a construction job or install swimming pools I’d be dead in a week. If it comes to that I’m in big trouble, but it doesn’t seem all that far off either. If fear of taking a day job motivates me to finally forcing myself into being an entrepreneur, then so be it.

The truth is, I’ve never really put myself into the correct position to make real money. It looked like I was about to get close in radio when I worked at the Loop in Chicago. Until the station got sold they were looking at signing us to a multiyear contract for decent coin. That was in 2004 and I’d have been sitting pretty right now. Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.

Instead, I’m worried about how I’m going to get my car out of the airport parking lot on Sunday morning when I get back to Milwaukee. Rent is due on Tuesday and I’ll barely be able to scrape that up. A lot of things led me to this point but deep down I know I’ve been  weak with my money skills but that’s only because I’ve chosen to be. I can improve them.

I’m in the situation I’m in because of a combination of things. Luck is part of it but only a small one. Yes, I’ve caught some tough breaks in life but the real reason I’m so broke at this time is because I let money slip through my fingers carelessly. I’m not the only one to do that but it angers me because I don’t have to let it happen. It’s time to fix this problem.

It really is a matter of how I choose to handle this. I can be bitter and angry about where I came from and how little help I’ve had or I can get off my ass and do something about it immediately and enjoy the process as it happens. That would be the best answer and I like challenges so I need to look at this as the ultimate mountain. If I climb it I’ll be the king.

Every day counts. Every choice counts. Every person I choose to have in my life counts. I want to play every card I’ve been dealt correctly and win the game. These are the things I was thinking about all day and it was very exciting to me to be able to start seeing in my mind’s eye what I want to make come true. I feel like I’m FINALLY starting to get a clue.

One of my ex students John Burton drove in from Columbus, OH to hang out and meet the club owner Jeff Schneider in person so hopefully he can get a future booking. I hadn’t seen John in a long time but he’s one of my very favorite students ever. He’s a survivor.

Like me, John’s parents weren’t a factor in his life so his grandparents raised him. He is an only child and his grandparents died, leaving him some money. He thought he was set for life financially and started out on his comedy journey because he enjoyed it. He’s very intelligent and of all my past students he’s one of the hungriest to learn that I’ve ever met.

I’ve stayed in contact with him over the years and always enjoyed seeing his progress in comedy. He’s paid his dues and slugged it out and he has my total respect both on and off stage. He’s a dented can too but with a lot more social skills than me. He plays the game a lot better than I do and he’s also a law school graduate who gave it all up to live a dream.

Jeff Schneider can be a tough nut to crack. Like with so many club owners, it becomes a numbers game as to who gets a booking. I’ve known him since he owned the Funny Bone in Milwaukee where I started back in the ’80s so he’s more than a club owner. I know the guy very well and my word is trusted so John getting a thumbs up from me will be a plus.

John and I hung out for dinner before the show and he’s really struggling right now too. He lost a bunch of money in the stock market and his nest egg is scrambled. He said he is in trouble for the first time in his life and like me, he doesn’t enjoy it. He’s looking for an answer financially just like I am. Everyone in America seems to be struggling with this.

People like John Burton and so many others are why I continue to teach my classes. It’s a win/win for everyone and totally not about the money. I introduced John to Jeff and that made me feel really good because I know he’ll get some work out of it and he can use it.

The audience tonight was just so-so. I suppose I could have walked my way through but I try to never do that. I want to make the most of every time I’m on stage so I used tonight as a practice session. I added new lines and delivered each one with future TV in mind.

The fact is I wasn’t nearly as prepared for my TV spot as I would have liked. There’s a big difference between doing six minutes on television vs. 45 minutes in a club and I flat out didn’t nail it. Unfortunately, thousands will see that when only 100 or so saw tonight.

Road Wearier

August 29, 2009

Thursday August 27th, 2009 – Los Angeles, CA/Pittsburgh, PA

My road chops are getting a little rusty. I used to be able to make cross country trips like this with no second thoughts. It was fun and adventurous and exciting to see how long I’d be able to stay out and how many miles I could cover. Now, none of that thrills me at all.

After the taping yesterday I was able to have lunch with Nancy Jo Perdue who I’ve been friends with for many years. I met her at a Gene Perret Round Table convention way back when and she’s a true character. She’s originally from Texas and has the thickest southern drawl I’ve ever heard but it’s really hilarious. I’ve always used her on all my radio shows.

Nancy Jo is a sweetheart and very funny but she’s still struggling to pay her bills too. If I had any clout at all I’d find as many people as I could that were talented and put them all in one place and see what develops. If I‘m good at one thing it‘s nurturing creative souls.

Hopefully that’s what I can do with Uranus Factory Outlet as a concept and we’re trying to do a similar thing with Jerry’s Kidders. Nancy Jo writes jokes for the Kidders when she can and we ate at Canter’s Deli on Fairfax. That’s where we all went after my last taping.

Kristi McHugh was at the last taping too. She’s one of my all time favorites. She’s very smart and funny and a total blonde stunner. She doesn’t fit the bimbo mold at all and that might be why she’s not farther along in the business. I think she’s really great and has lots of potential. She and Kate Brindle both share the title of the sweetest woman in comedy.

Kristi wasn’t available until later so we had dinner at a fantastic seafood place very near her apartment. She is trying to survive in the L.A. jungle where there are all kinds of ugly and underhanded games going on at any one time so it was a treat for her to be able to get real for a little while. I was never good at playing the L.A. game but she’s doing it well.

Kristi and Nancy Jo both said how proud of me they were that I have started to get some TV credits and it feels very good to hear that. They’re both real people with souls and that means a lot in a business that can be so cold and heartless sometimes. They were sincere.

My flight was at 6:30am so I took my rental car back after dinner and hopped a shuttle back to the airport. Getting a hotel would have been a waste of more money I don’t have so I prepared myself for a night at LAX. I’ve slept in airports before and even though it’s a hassle at least I don’t have to worry about missing a cab or bus. It’s better to be there.

I grabbed my computer like a running back grabs a football from the quarterback and it was nestled tightly in my arms as I fell asleep in the uncomfortable airport chair. The last thing I need would be to have it walk away with all my life on it. I need another backup.

I hadn’t had much sleep in the last couple of days so I actually nodded out and woke up about 5am. That’s the most sleep I think I ever got in a row at an airport but my neck felt like a sumo wrestler had stood on it for a week when I woke up. I was sore and felt funky.

I don’t enjoy that feeling of needing a shower and a shave. Some people don’t mind it at all but I can’t stand it. I don’t think I’d have made a good cowboy or shepherd because I’d have felt greasy and sweaty all the time and not been able to focus on what I needed to do.

What’s worse than that is having to take a dump at the airport. That’s never fun because of having to keep luggage within eye sight to avoid theft and the bathrooms are usually an absolute nightmare of filth. I’m not a germophobe but there are better places to handle the more personal business of life. I guess I’m a snob but I like to have a little more privacy.

One place that’s worse than the airport though is the actual airplane. ‘Dropping a deuce’ on an airplane is one of the most hideous tasks I can imagine and I’ve done it all too often to know what I’m talking about. Once is all too often but when ya gotta go, ya gotta GO.

Even worse than having to let loose on the plane is following someone ELSE who did it  immediately before you opened the door. That’s about as brutal as it gets and it’s always a reminder to me how grateful I am I never had to put in any serious time on a submarine.

I walked to my gate and waited for my plane and felt like I needed a shower but that’s a part of being on the road. I had another five and a half hours on the plane to Philadelphia and when I got on I had to sit next to a married couple who were in the middle of a fight.

My ticket said I had the window seat but I didn’t want to butt in because they were both trying to keep it quiet but they were locking horns pretty good. I sat in the aisle seat but it didn’t stop their momentum at all. They kept on sticking fingers in each other’s faces and talking with their teeth clenched together like I’ve seen so many couples do when angry.

The plane was full of people from Philadelphia and I could sense a short tempered vibe all over the place. Nobody was in a mood to take any lumps and when somebody’s baby started to cry I could see the angry glares from all over the plane. I just wanted to take off and get to Pittsburgh on time for the show. This was a long trip that sucked up my energy.

I decided to use the time in the air to really go over my life and decide what I need to do to get things going. I made lists of my top contacts in all the areas of my life I’m involved in and I felt like I was thinking clearly as I wrote down my ideas which kept on flowing as the flight wore on.  I ignored the fighting couple and poured myself into the task at hand.

The truth is that I enjoy challenges. Many of my personal struggles have been a difficult road compared to others but there’s something extra sweet about something that turns out how it’s supposed to, or at least how I think it should. Unfortunately this taping wasn’t an example of it. I wasn’t thrilled with it but I will move on and shake it off. It’s in the past.

I did make it to Pittsburgh and took a shuttle from the airport to the club. I’d guess there were maybe 45 or 50 people but I gave them a solid show. I love the rust belt and I felt an instant kinship with the audience. I wish I’d had the same click with the television crowd in L.A. but it was a whole different animal. Comedy’s tough, but it’s still my main love.

Too Pooped To Pass Judgment

August 28, 2009

Wednesday August 26th, 2009 – Los Angeles, CA

I guess I must not have as much good karma stored up as I originally thought. Every bit of this trip so far as been as absolutely difficult as is humanly possible and I can’t seem to catch a break anywhere. It’s frustrating on one hand but on the other I think I asked for it.

Coming out here on short notice on a wing and a prayer might not have been the correct thing to do. Not only did I get raped for a last minute plane ticket, there was also an added $71 for the rental car, which was actually a mini van as that’s all they had left. Of course.

It’s hard to feel sexy and enjoy L.A. in a mini van. Hot women in Mercedes Benzes had that look of stepping barefoot in fresh pet poop in their eye as they looked over at the red light hoping to see Steven Spielberg winking back from whatever it is he drives. I have to believe it’s not a rented mini van. I could feel their disappointment through locked doors.

I was disappointed too. I wanted to be cruising around in a convertible enjoying the vibe of L.A. that I love so much. Instead I found myself scrounging for any hotel room I could rustle up with no reservation at 3:30am L.A. time which was really 5:30am Chicago time. I was overly tired and frustrated and really having second thoughts about making this trip.

The first thing I wanted to do was find the actual place where the TV show was taped so I wouldn’t get lost. This was the reason I came and I wanted to know exactly where it was so I wouldn’t blow it in the morning, which it now was. I found it and then started to look for the nearest motel so I could at least get a shower and a couple hours of quality sleep.

The only place I could find was a rat hole for $108. Everything else was full and it left a bad taste in my mouth to have to pay so much for such a cruddy room but that was a great example of supply and demand. He had a room and I needed one badly. We both knew it.

I gave him my credit card and it was declined. I was in shock. He ran it through again to make sure and again it was declined. I gave him my debit card hoping that still had a few bucks left on it and thankfully it did. I grabbed my luggage and trudged to my new hovel.

The first thing I did was call the credit card 800 number to see what my balance was. It’s as high as I’ve ever had it and I tried to figure out what happened. Then it hit me. I bought my latest car with it and then it needed huge repairs. I also had a balance from before with all my dental work still on it. I guess I didn’t think it was that high but it really added up.

Now I was really depressed. I laid in bed staring at the ceiling not able to go to sleep but knowing I really needed some. I knew I was in weak financial shape but not this bad. I am going to really have to readjust my thinking but there’s no time for that until I get home.

I eventually nodded off but it sure wasn’t a restful sleep. 7am rolled around so fast that I didn’t even feel like I got any sleep at all. I scrubbed up and got dressed so I wouldn’t get to the studio late since I put so much effort into getting here. My mind didn’t feel sharp.

I did manage to make it to the taping location exactly on time. There were lots of people in line to be audience members and I noticed they were a lot younger than I usually like as my audiences but they were dressed very nicely and looked friendly. I was greeted and led around the back of the building by a gorgeous production assistant and told where to wait.

There is always a lot of hustle and bustle going on with TV and movie shoots and I tried to stay out of everyone’s way. I had to fill out a heaping pile of paperwork so I could get a paycheck but I may have some union issues as I just did another show earlier in the year.

I was a member of AFTRA when I worked at the Loop but they really never did me any favors, especially after I lost my job. I stopped paying my dues and got some letters which I eventually stopped opening and just tossed into the trash. I hope they don’t withhold any money because if they do I’m really going to be screwed. I’ll find that out soon enough.

The main thing I was here to do was get another TV credit and do a good set. This show was not Comics Unleashed as I’d expected. It’s a new show called Comics.TV and Byron Allen is the executive producer but not the host. He was there and very friendly as he met us backstage before the taping. I thanked him for letting me be on the show and meant it.

The audience was about 300 and Byron was the warmup. He did a great job telling them what to do and how to react and then he brought out the female host who I’d never met. It was very similar to other TV shows where several comedians perform in six minute sets.

I happened to be on the first show ever recorded and I knew a few of the others and they were all really nice people and funny too. Greg Hahn opened the show and he’s very high energy and funny. That was a great choice to open. I also knew Dwayne Perkins and Alex Reymundo from the road and both are also quality acts and good people. Everybody was.

The staff was exceptionally friendly just as they were on The Late Late Show. I seem to forget that the staff wants us to do well because the better we do the longer the show lasts and the more paychecks they can collect. That’s not always how it feels working in clubs.

I drew number five of six in performing order and I was really tired by the time I was to go on. It’s not an excuse, but it is a fact. I over thought my set and Eric the producer said I should do my Late Late Show set and add on to it to make it six minutes. I tried to please him but I also wanted it to be a great set because I wanted to show him I can do the job.

When I got out there it threw me a little because they didn’t let us see the set before the taping like they did on The Late Late Show. I tried to get into a groove but I felt a little bit off right from the start. Then I took it in a totally different direction and felt like I got lost.

The more off track I got the more I tried to scramble to recover and I never did feel like I got them like I know I can. I did get an applause break but it wasn’t a killer and I did my time and got off when I saw the wrap up sign. I was pretty disappointed but the backstage makeup lady said I was funny. I didn’t know what to think. I was too tired to think at all.

The Next Adventure Begins

August 26, 2009

Tuesday August 25th, 2009 – Minneapolis, MN

My whirlwind week long action packed highly stimulating bombastic free spirited cross country swashbuckling adventure begins today. No buckles to report on any swashes as of yet but it‘s still early. My main goal is that I’ll show up on time everywhere I’m expected.

So far I’m ok. I was scheduled to attend the Lake County Convention & Visitors Bureau 25th anniversary luncheon at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort at noon and I made it. There was massive road construction in every direction but I left early because I knew about it.

My friend Jayne Nordstrom asked me to help out with a trivia contest during lunch and I said I’d do it months ago and didn’t want to back out at the last minute. Jayne has really gone out of her way to make sure I get my membership dues worth and not only is she an outstanding worker, everyone else in the office is on the ball too. They really get it done.

Those are people I want to be associated with and it was nice of them to include me in a big event like this. There were mayors of Lake County towns and business owners and all kinds of various dignitaries but most of them were just nice people. I was able to squeeze a few laughs out of them while they were eating and also plug myself and Jerry’s Kidders.

These are the kind of people who would totally book the Kidders for a yearly banquet or some other kind of larger event. Many of them perked up when I was introduced as being a regular on WGN and I could tell by the looks of them most weren’t regular comedy club goers. That’s totally fine because we’d be able to bring a much different and better show.

There’s no way I’d be able to get all of these people on the phone individually so being a part of the Visitor’s Bureau was a smart investment. My name is out there now with the movers and shakers and as far as I know I’m the only comedian who lives in the county.

Whether I am or not I’m the only one who invested in the $300 membership fee but it’s already paying off. I’ve got a Thursday night gig in Waukegan in October and I even have a return booking in February because they like the idea and find me easy to work with and flexible. That’s what I’m trying to project and I really feel I can manufacture some work.

There is money in Lake County and it’s growing all the time. They just built a gigantic water park called Key Lime Cove and there will be a minor league baseball team starting next year called the Lake County Fielders. The team owner was at the luncheon today but I didn’t get a chance to meet him or anyone else because I needed to catch my 5:00 plane.

I flew out of Milwaukee because it’s closer than O’Hare and less expensive to park for a long haul. My plane turned out to be delayed so I got rerouted to a completely different airline and am now in Minneapolis rather than Phoenix like I expected. I hope I make it.

Tomorrow is the most important stop on the tour. I have to be at the studio at 8am for a 9am taping and I don’t have a place to stay or rental car yet. Karma, throw me a bone.

Bracing For Chaos

August 25, 2009

Monday August 24th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

This is going to be one of my busiest weeks in recent memory so I’m trying to cover all  bases to avoid making any major mistakes. I’m a one man band and that can be the kiss of death in situations like this. Missing out on one little detail can screw up the whole week.

I have to be in Los Angeles by Wednesday to film the TV show but I still don’t have the details of where I need to report and when. I also don’t have a place to stay yet because of the short notice of it all. I hope I can score a rental car and cheap hotel but maybe I’ll find someone to throw me a bone and let me grab a couch. I have quite a few friends out there.

After L.A. I need to be in Pittsburgh by Thursday night and then back to Chicago so I’ll make it for The Mothership Connection radio show on Sunday night. That’s a lot of miles covered and a lot of things could potentially go wrong and throw a wrench into the mix.

Today I had a comedy class to teach at Zanies in Chicago at 6pm and then I headlined a show that started at 8:30. Before that I had to go and buy a sport coat because I’m helping host a big event with the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau tomorrow before I catch my plane. It’s their 25th anniversary and I was asked to host an awards presentation.

I said I’d do it and can’t back out now but it will make my schedule even tighter. I have to be at the airport by around 3pm for a 5pm flight and the event is a big luncheon and it’s probably going to go a little long so that will cut my time cushion even more. I expect this week to be that constant pressure of having to be somewhere on time and I don’t like that.

Stressful situations are bound to happen  at some point and if there’s ever a time when I could use a road manager this is it. But I don’t have one right now and it’s all on me to be in all those places this week and still show up fresh and perky and ready to be Mr. Funny Boy at the drop of a hat. This is the part of comedy nobody thinks about when they start.

I love being a comedian and I’m sure I’ll have fun this week and meet some new friends and all that but the constant feeling of stress to keep having to show up in different places is really something I could do without. But then again I really couldn’t. This is a part of it.

The road is brutal and unforgiving and if I miss a plane or don’t find an affordable hotel the road doesn’t care one bit. I’m really short on cash right now and I put it all on the line to buy my plane ticket on short notice. Rental car and hotel are extra and I’m crossing my fingers I can catch a break somewhere. I’m not sure when I’ll get paid for the TV show.

Again, nobody cares about any of this but me. The TV show only cares if I’m funny for six minutes. The club in Pittsburgh only cares that I make it to town for a show at 8pm on Thursday. Listeners of The Mothership Connection only think about it on Sunday night.

If I’m not any of those places life will go on without me and that’s even more humbling because none of this really matters. Still, I do intend to show up and give my best effort.

Off The Deep End

August 24, 2009

Sunday August 23rd, 2009 – Kenosha, WI/Lake Villa, IL

I’m starting to get back in a walking groove again and I feel better already. I had to miss yesterday because I needed to be at WGN for Jerry’s Kidders early in the morning so I did two laps today to make up for it. I must admit I was hurting for a while near the middle of it but I didn’t quit and finished strong. My heart was pumping and I was a sweat machine.

Doing a little exercise for a few days or even a few months isn’t going to reverse all the horrible food and gross amounts of sugar and animal fats I’ve crammed into my cake hole in a lifetime but it’s a positive start. Now I need to make it a habit for as long as I’m alive. Starting and stopping like I have been won’t really help anything. It has to become habit.

One thing that’s really becoming a good habit is the Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP AM 1050 in Kenosha, WI. Tonight was another fun program and we went about as far into deep thought as I can ever recall hearing or being part of on any radio station in my experience. We got into the meaning of life and why we’re here and it was cleansing.

The last few weeks we had a full house in studio but tonight it was only Dr. Destruction and Lara Shaffer as our other co-host Diane Ebert was feeling sick and wanted to have the night off. Gary Pansch can only be in studio the first hour because he has to work. He left after his weekly ‘Mothership Hall of Fame’ segment and we started off on deep thoughts.

We kept talking and throwing in different angles and it was very interesting, at least for the three of us in studio. Dr. D and Lara are intelligent people and I like to think I can stay with most anyone when it comes to topics like this and we started clicking and interacting and before we knew it an hour went by. We all agreed it was by far our best riffing ever.

I’m not sure how it would have gone over on a bigger station and that’s what makes this experience so much fun. WLIP is a real radio station but it’s not WGN so I don’ t have to be concerned so much about appealing to the masses. We can go in whatever direction we feel like, within reason. Tonight wasn’t necessarily our normal direction but it was good.

We’ve got some regular callers who like the station in general and they’d probably stick with us if we read bean dip recipes for three hours. That’s not an insult to them but rather a tribute to the radio station. WLIP has been a part of Kenosha for decades and I never am lost on that fact. There are many people in town who have it locked in 24 hours a day.

Granted, many of them are older and might not be used to hearing about space aliens or most of the other things we talk about but I can feel we’re getting a following and it’s fun to go in every week knowing there are people listening. We’re growing this organically.

We hung around the studio afterward and riffed some more on how we might be able to turn a buck eventually. Nobody knew. What we did know is that we’re starting to find our groove and it’s working out really well. Two grooves in one day is very positive. Walking builds my physical self and the show builds my mental and spiritual self. It’s all positive.

Inglourious Kidders

August 23, 2009

Saturday August 22nd, 2009 – Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI/Gurnee, IL

Busy from sunup to sundown today. I didn’t get to bed until 6am because I was working on Jerry’s Kidders bits and needed to finish up. I got right back up at 8:00 and it reminded me of one of the good things about not being in morning radio anymore. The hours stink.

I’d much rather be pooped but prepared than go in the studio and waste everyone’s time as I easily could have done. I respect Jerry too much and he’s putting his neck out by even having us on at all. WGN is a major radio station and I’m very fortunate to have a regular weekly slot on it. The least I can do is give my best effort. Plus, we were short a Kidder.

Tim Slagle had to attend a funeral in Michigan on short notice so we had a short crew. I felt I needed to be the anchor today because Ken Sevara’s strength isn’t necessarily on the radio side. Tim and Ken are both comics. Jerry is the radio guy. I’m the only one who has done both full time so it was up to me to set the pace today. I love that kind of challenge.

After the show we met up with Kipper McGee for lunch. Kipper is still trying to sell us to a distributor for a syndicated show and we’ve gotten some nibbles apparently. That’s a long shot and we all know it but we’re in the machine and that means we have a chance.

Lisa Greene also joined us. Lisa is a veteran Chicago radio talent and is between jobs as so many good people are right now. She came to see me a Zanies a while back and we’ve kept in touch. She’s extremely professional and is looking to get back in the business so I thought it would be good for her to mingle with Kipper and also get to meet the Kidders.

We don’t have any female voices right now but at some point we might need one. Lisa is a pro and a sweetheart too and we all got along splendidly at lunch. Kipper is working a lot of angles and he has to make a living since getting dumped at WLS. He’s one of an all too tiny pool of radio people I trust but he loves the Kidders and I know he’ll do us right.

We’re starting to build our team of quality people around us and that’s what will put us over the top ultimately. We’re funny enough on the air and we’ve proven it on two major Chicago radio stations going on two years now. The real secret is how we sell ourselves.

Are we always brilliant? Of course not. Nobody is. What we are is consistent in how we go about our business and we show up each week prepared to provide content for the time we’re on the air. Some weeks have been better than others but as a whole this is a winner.

People with reputations as solid as Kipper McGee backing us don’t hurt one bit. We are also on one of the biggest radio stations in America and every time we go on the air it’s a notch in our credibility belt. These are all things that rank a lot higher than being funny.

As we keep improving hopefully we’ll keep building a larger following and eventually be able to do live shows in theatres rather than have to scrape the comedy club goo out of the bottom of that barrel. We’re all way over that. This is our ray of hope and we know it.

Basically what we’ve got now is a weekly half hour commercial in place to eventually sell something to those who like what we do. That product could be a live show or maybe a tangible item like a book or CD or anything else we can come up with. How can we get the very most out of it? That’s what we kicked around at lunch and all of us contributed.

After lunch it was a lot later than I thought but I promised I’d attend ‘Hearse Fest’ that was being put on by my Mothership Connection co-host Dr. Destruction. The Doc is one of the hardest working and most naturally talented people I know and the more I’m a part of his world the more I respect and admire the guy. He’s loaded with all kinds of abilities.

Not only is he a fantastic artist and painter but he also heads up a punk rock band called “The Dead Leathers“. I’ve heard him speak of the band for a while now and today was the first time they’d played in many years apparently. I told him I’d be there for it and I didn’t want to go back on my word so even though I was tired I headed up to see the big shindig.

Unfortunately there was only ONE hearse that showed up for the fest. Can a ‘fest’ have only one participant in it? I felt bad for the Doc but he wasn’t upset about it at all. He had his punk rock crowd out there and there were bands playing and booths set up with things for sale like monster masks and the people who were there all seemed to be having fun.

The bar was called Kelly’s and they had delicious food so I got a plate of lobster ravioli and watched the Dead Leathers perform. Dr. D is very good on stage and he sang the lead and played guitar and was very entertaining to watch. I wish the crowd was a lot bigger.

On the way home I decided to check out the Packer game at the Brat Stop for a little bit. I live just over the border in Illinois and don’t get Wisconsin TV stations so watching the Packers on local TV is a hassle. I sat there cheering for an exhibition game and I knew my addiction was still there. No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to break my Packer habit.

They looked really strong and even though the game didn’t count there was a whole bar full of people cheering when the Packers did something good, which was often. I scanned the whole place and saw people of all ages dressed in their Green jerseys and realized I’m not alone. Whatever drug the NFL is selling is one I want to hook people on in the future.

I didn’t stay for the end of the game and on my way home I passed a theatre which isn’t far from where I live and they were showing Quentin Tarantino’s new movie ‘Inglourious Basterds’. I’d heard so much about it I knew I had to see it before others ruined it for me.

I’ve always liked Tarantino’s movies for the most part even though they can be over the top at times. I was a fan of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown but I never understood the Kill Bill movies at all. He sure has been able to attract a lot of attention.

I thought his latest movie was interesting and it has some amazing scenes in it but I was not blown away with it like I was with say a Pulp Fiction. But what the hell do I know? In my mind Dr. Destruction should be directing movies. His talent always blows me away.

Hollywood Calls Again

August 22, 2009

Friday August 21st, 2009 – Niles, IL/McHenry, IL

Just when I thought nothing else could surprise me, I got a call today from a guy named Eric in Los Angeles asking me to fly out next Tuesday to film an episode of the TV show ‘Comics Unleashed’ hosted by Byron Allen. Without a flicker of hesitation I said I would.

I guess when it rains it pours but I’m not complaining at all. ANY national television is helpful, except for maybe an obituary on CNN. My friend Jeff Wayne gave me Eric’s info even before I was accepted to be on The Late Late Show and I’ve been emailing him for a while now. I hadn’t gotten a booking but I was on his list so I kept following instructions.

From time to time he’d send out mass emails with booking dates and asked for updated avails. It’s always a good idea to be available for a national TV show even if a previously booked club date has to be cancelled. Most clubs will understand and adjust the schedule but if they don’t it’s still a risk worth taking because TV credits are much harder to get.

I received another email just last week and it said the next round of taping was going to be coming up this Wednesday August 26th and I told him I was in Chicago but I’d make it out there if there was a spot for me. I didn’t think there would be but I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity just in case there was. I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. It’s here.

Eric said he’d seen my Late Late Show set and thought it was funny but also mentioned he thought it was a little one dimensional with just jokes about having bad luck. I flinched a little because that’s what I was going for but then he said he wanted me to do most of it  Wednesday. I didn’t want to argue with him and I said I’d do whatever he wanted me to.

I got the sense he was looking to fill openings and the last thing I needed to do was start telling him what I thought I should be doing. He’s the producer and Jeff Wayne did a very nice thing to drop my name and give me the contact so I will show up and follow orders.

I have a ton of material and can easily come up with six minutes but Eric doesn’t know that. Not yet. If I go out there and play cowboy and do what I want it may shoot me in the foot rather than shoot me to the top. If he wants what I did on CBS that’s what I’ll do but I really didn’t have that set all that polished. I added a lot of last minute additions to it.

He asked me to send him a written out set by the end of the weekend. I will send him as close to what I did on The Late Late Show as I can and also put in a few other lines so I’ll hopefully have some leeway to ad lib if I can. That’s how I like to work and always have.

Either way, this is a major deal. My goal was to get one national TV spot this year and I was thrilled with that but two will be off the charts. I happen to like the format of Comics Unleashed and I think I’ll fit in splendidly. It’s almost the TV version of Jerry’s Kidders.

The hard part won’t be the show, it will be getting to L.A. and back and then Pittsburgh where I start Thursday night. It’ll be a busy week but THIS is the kind of busy I live for!