Comedy Commencement

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.


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