Archive for August, 2009

Mind Vs. Grind

August 21, 2009

Thursday August 20th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

I don’t think people realize just how much of a grind being a full time comedian can be. No, I know they don’t realize. Nor do they care. To the average person comedy seems like a dream job, and in many ways it truly is, but that doesn’t mean hard work isn’t required.

There’s always something that needs to be done and when that gets done something else is in shambles and needs immediate attention. When the act is in a groove that’s when the business can slow down and when there’s a lot of work many times the act gets neglected.

Working everything together in the correct dosage is about as difficult as it can get but then try to add on a normal life and the odds of total success in all areas are astronomical. Sometimes the big picture can really get overwhelming so today I tried to break it down.

What do I really need to do every single day without fail? That’s a tough question. I’ve been a comedian long enough that I really don’t need to work on my act every day unless I want it to grow and expand and constantly improve. I absolutely do want that personally but it really isn’t necessary. I’m funny enough and I can get booked with the act I have.

As an artist and creative person those words are blasphemous but as a business person it makes perfect sense. I have 25 years of experience on stage as a comedian and not a lot of on stage situations could throw me at this point. I can go in and deliver the goods nightly.

What I really need is to get into better circles of people who book better gigs. It doesn’t do me much good to keep improving my act if I don’t work in better places. I want to get back on TV many times because I know I have enough material to do it and do it right.

I want to work Las Vegas and in theatres and in the top comedy clubs as a special event on a Friday and Saturday. I know I have the act to pull it off so I really don’t have to work on that at all unfortunately. WANTING to is optional. Needing to is not required. I’m at a place few people ever get performance wise but it doesn’t matter if nobody’s heard of me.

This is totally not what I want to hear but it’s the absolute truth. It’s all I could think of  as I folded my piping hot clothes fresh out of the dryer at the Laundromat this afternoon. I am way above where I need to be as an act and way below where I need to be in business. The problem is I love to work on my act and the business is a chore. That needs to evolve.

I also need to get back in the groove with comedy classes. Cyndi Nelson is the manager of Zanies in the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL and she reminded me that classes are scheduled to start soon and she asked me for information on them. Time is flying as it always does and I hadn’t gotten her that information yet so I spent time and did it right.

I have an opportunity to make these classes really great and that will take a major effort. I need a team around me to help and that’s another thing I worked on today. I’ve got a lot of stuff in the oven and I have to be careful how I handle it or all of it will burn to a crisp.


My First Death Threat

August 20, 2009

Wednesday August 19th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

Well, it looks like I’m FINALLY starting to climb the golden ladder of big time success in show business! I know that because I received my very first death threat in a disjointed email today written by a psychotic imbecile with atrocious grammar skills. It was a poorly worded rant on about a third grade level and apparently capitalization wasn’t a priority.

I’ve always heard a person hasn’t really arrived in the entertainment business until hate mail and death threats start coming in and I’ve already had my share of hate mail. When I first started doing mornings on 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago I used to get all kinds of radio critics firing off emails with brilliant content like ‘You SUCK’ or ‘You REALLY suck.’

Most of those were just blue collar rock apes blowing off steam. I used to answer most of them back and try to be funny and self effacing. Some of them got pretty nasty and that was fun for me because I love vaporizing hecklers and that was like electronic heckling.

One of the recipients of my scathing wit took the time to forward my retorts to my boss and I got yelled at for it even though he thought they were hilarious. Our owners weren’t too keen on getting in the face of our customers so I had to stop it or face losing my job.

After a few weeks the hate mail stopped and the fan mail started, some of which I’ll still get to this day. That’s how radio is and it’s a matter of what people are used to. I’ve had a lot of hate mail at most of the stations I’ve worked but then when I get fired I seem to get fan mail telling the station they blew it. It never got me hired back but I’m still grateful.

This one was different. It was sent on an address which uses my name and that doesn’t sound kosher to me. Then it said to “get a life” followed immediately by “kill yourself“. That’s a tiny bit confusing because I couldn’t do both. I’d have to choose one or the other.

Then it got a little more direct and said things like “i’m watching you” and “watch your back”, none of it in capital letters or punctuated in any way. This kind of thing is probably mindless psychobabble babbled by a mindless psycho but I really don’t appreciate the fact that my name is being used as his moniker on the outgoing email address. It needs to stop.

I have WAY better things to do than deal with this kind of infantile prattle but when it’s a veiled threat I think I need to put it out there so if I do take a bullet to the chest after my next show a few clues will already be in place. I have no idea if this is serious or a joke.

If it is a joke I don’t find it funny. At first I thought it was my ex business partner doing it to get under my skin but at least he knows how to use English as his first language. This bonehead has the creative writing skills of Paris Hilton’s lap dog. I just want it all to end.

But it probably won’t. I will leave it alone and not fan any flames but if it continues I’ll have no choice but to call the police and deal with it that way. It’s amazing that anyone on Earth would want to pose as ME. What kind of halfwit would do THAT? A clueless one.

Grilling A Brettwurst

August 19, 2009

Tuesday August 18th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

Brett Favre has decided to make the world a better place and play QB for the Minnesota Vikings after all. He will grace us with his presence so we can all bask in the gloriousness of the perpetually pampered Prince of Pigskin one more time, this time in a purple jersey.

My aching arse. Sarcasm doesn’t come across in print as well as is does in person but it sure didn’t surprise me when I heard about old B.F.’s latest round of B.S. this morning. It actually made me laugh because I predicted it a few weeks ago at his latest ‘retirement‘.

I have a bet of a steak dinner going with one of the bartenders at Zanies in Chicago that says the Green Bay Packers will have a better record than the Minnesota Vikings this year assuming that Favre should indeed sign with the hated purple posse. She blindly loves the unshaven lout and defends him to the death, even now that he has officially turned on her.

She and I have been going back and forth with emails and she thought the bet was over. Ha! Not a chance. I told her that he would come slithering out of his hole and ooze out of Mississippi and up to Minnesota just in time for the season to start so he gets to miss out on the rigors of training camp. She swore that I was wrong but now she’s just swearing.

Her name is Jackie and she’s a sweetheart of a person and very intelligent and we have always gotten along very well. She always said she was a Packer fan and we bonded with that, especially both living in Illinois, but it turned out she was mainly a Brett Favre fan.

When this whole circus started with him and the Packers, Jackie and I got into some fun but heated ‘discussions’ at Zanies and people would back away and let us go at it because they could see how passionate each one of us was about it. Neither one of us backed away from our points of view, and still won’t. Jackie blindly worships that selfish ass. I don’t.

My web person Shelley is just the opposite. She was in the blind worship camp for most of this scenario but said that if he ever signed with the Vikings, he would be ‘dead to her’. She’s the one who informed me about it this morning and in fact woke me up to do so.

What really infuriates me about all of this is that Jackie and Shelley are very nice ladies and there are millions more like them who would have had sex with Brett Favre any time, anyplace and anywhere, including right in front of their husbands and children. He had an entire state’s blind worship and could have had his choice of whatever a man could want.

He could have had free drinks, free meals, free room and board, as much sex as anyone could physically handle and could have sped all he wanted and never gotten a ticket in the state of Wisconsin. He had it all before age 40 and could have been King of Cheeseland.

Instead, he had to be a greedy selfish hillbilly and turn his back on those who pampered him and blindly turned their backs on all his faults and that’s just not right in my opinion. Am I jealous? Damn right I am. Every guy wants what Brett Favre has. And he blew it.

A Whole Lot Of Nothing

August 18, 2009

Monday August 17th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

I did absolutely nothing today to make my quality of life improve one iota. Bupkus. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I didn’t even think about it. I had a good old fashioned day off to hang out and waste in any way I pleased. That doesn’t happen often so I enjoyed every minute.

There was no showcase at Zanies in Chicago tonight and Bill Gorgo had to report back to his regular teaching job to prepare for the school year so I canceled comedy class for a week so I could save the hassle of driving into the city. All signs pointed to taking a little time off to recharge the batteries so that’s what I chose. I’m glad I did. I needed a break.

I don’t have any shows booked for this week but that doesn’t mean I won’t be working. Just the opposite. I’ll be working extremely hard at catching up on everything I’ve let get away from me in the last few months and I’ll have all I can handle to make any progress.

A professional comedian wears many hats and the funny one isn’t always the one that’s needed. That’s always our favorite but there’s also the business side of it too. We need to get work and promote ourselves and make travel arrangements and pay taxes. We have to divide our time into segments so we can include it all, even the stuff that isn’t enjoyable.

That’s the hard part. Who the hell wants to sort tax receipts? It’s also no picnic to have to grovel to idiot club owners and bookers for work. Are they ALL idiots? Of course not, but a large percentage of them are, at least when it comes to comedy. They have no clue.

On the other hand, I am an idiot too when it comes to the business side of it. I’ve never had an interest in that and neither do most other comedians. I’ll admit I’m a moron when it comes to finding the best venues and that’s why comedians and bookers have the rocky relationship we do. We’re on different wavelengths and don’t have the same goals at all.

Most comedians either want to be great creative artists or avoid gainful employment by finding something to finance their perpetual party habit. Comedy is the perfect solution as it allows 23 hours of free time between actual work time to fill with any vices imaginable.

Those that are serious spend those 23 hours making their onstage craft better. They look for ways to improve their act but rarely if ever do they work at improving aspects of their off stage life like marketing themselves or learning how to operate a legitimate business.

Bookers and agents fill holes. Venues need entertainment and bookers fill those holes at what often times appears to be random. I still can’t figure out the logic of most bookers as to how they think when they put shows together so maybe I’ll have to change hats now.

None of that was for today though. Once in a while it’s refreshing to take a day and be a bum. I’ll get up tomorrow and start looking for ways to slay the dragon again but for now it feels good to relax and recharge. I already feel a lot less stressed than I did all last week so maybe I’ll pick right up where I left off and get back in a creative groove. I love those.

Sports Cards And Tarot Cards

August 17, 2009

Sunday August 16th, 2009 – West Allis, WI/Kenosha, WI

I wanted to get as far away from anything comedy related today so that’s just what I did. Luckily today was the date of the once a month sports card show at Gonzaga Hall in West Allis, WI. If there was ever a day I could use a little escape for a few hours, today was it.

My friends Richard and Dennis had tables set up so I sat with them and hung out. I love to look at old cards and both of those guys have some killer inventory. The best feature of  Gonzaga is that usually nobody talks about anything but cards. It’s great. I don’t see most of these people anywhere else and when we do interact it’s about the hobby exclusively.

Today was different. Several of the regulars I know by face but seldom if ever speak to more than nod hello came up and either congratulated me on my TV appearance or asked  what it was like. A few even tried to tell me jokes but I was polite and listened all the way through and pretended like I didn’t know the punch line. I appreciated the fact they tried.

I didn’t mention I was going to be on to anyone but word somehow got out and people I really don’t know all that well shook my hand and were genuinely impressed. How great does that feel? Many said they’ve heard me on The D-List on ESPN 540 and quoted lines I’d said on the air. I was really flattered to get the royal treatment when I didn’t expect it.

We were also still in our groove from last week on The Mothership Connection show in Kenosha tonight on AM 1050 WLIP. Scott Markus was able to hang around for one more week and he packed the first hour with guests. Then we had Jonna The Happy Medium in studio for the rest of the show along with one of my comedy students named Grey Dolan.

I met Jonna a few years ago in Rockford when we both were on the Stone and Double T radio show. We’ve stayed in touch and she’s been a phone guest several times but coming  on live is always better. You can peruse her website at

Grey Dolan fit as well. She reads tarot cards and together her and Jonna were right on it when callers called. We had quite a few new callers and that means people are listening to us. I can feel a chemistry building between all of us and tonight was another fun program.

I needed to have some fun today and both events didn’t disappoint. I was really tired as I got home but I signed on to check emails and saw that I received one from Miss Roberts my ex librarian friend. She commented that she too had felt the middle act this week was vulgar and disgusting and that really made me feel embarrassed. This thing just won’t die.

What it boils down to is acting in a professional manor. There can be a time and a place for humor ranging from racy to spicy to raunchy to even filthy but it has to be in a setting where people know what they’re getting. Then they can’t complain. They were warned.

This is a big reason why corporate gigs are so difficult to get. People fear the show will be dirty and after this week I can see why. From now on I will pay more attention to this.

Facts In Black And White

August 17, 2009

Saturday August 15th, 2009 – Brookfield, WI

I couldn’t be happier this week of torture is finally OVER. Whatever lessons I may have needed to learn are not yet sinking in. All I feel is a thick emptiness inside combined with strong feelings of disappointment and frustration thrown in to make it really sting. This is not at all what I expected to be dealing with three weeks after appearing on network TV.

Every aspect of this weekend’s experience was unacceptable except the audience for the first show tonight. There were maybe 100 but they were spread out very strategically as to appear it was packed. Seating a room is a subtle skill. It’s like an audience’s comb over.

The middle act again didn’t have a clue as to where the line was and crossed it as much as any middle act I’ve seen in quite a long time. Normally I don’t point fingers but I’m as frustrated as I’ve ever been with a booker for booking someone like that in front of me. It really does make everyone’s job harder. If I had my way I’d have had him just go home.

Instead, he dug me two cavernous holes I had to climb out of but I came out swinging in the first show. It’s my job to grab a crowd by the throat and take them wherever I feel like taking them. I didn’t like where they had been so I had to bring them over into my world.

One factor that could have gone either way is right up front in the first row there was a large party of about twenty people who happened to be black. Any large party in a smaller crowd is an important factor because how they respond goes the show. It’s majority rule.

Many times a large party can disrupt the entire show. Bachelorette parties are infamous for it and most comedians wince when we see them walking in. They’re usually drunk by the time the show starts so when I get up there it’s a free for all combat zone. NOT fun.

Even when the large group is into the show it can present problems because there is also the rest of the audience to entertain as well. Sometimes there are private jokes or someone wants the comedians to “Make fun of Hank” but nobody else knows or cares who that is.

Tonight’s group was fantastic. I happen to really enjoy working for black audiences that are a little older and smart because they really pop when they love a show. They laugh out loud and clap and they like to add comments during the show but it’s not mean spirited or heckling. That’s just how they tend to be quite often and I like it a lot. I can roll with it.

People feel uncomfortable talking about differences in certain audiences but it’s fact so why avoid it? Stereotypes wouldn’t be stereotypes if there isn’t at least a thread of truth in there somewhere. Southern audiences tend to be dumb. Sorry, that’s just how it is. I spent my whole life putting theory into practice and I don’t see a change coming any time soon.

East coast audiences tend to be impatient and will heckle if they don’t like a show. I’ve experienced it too often to deny it happens. Black audiences have their own rules and it’s a fact of performing life. Many black comics completely alter their show to fit the crowd.
Some are not able to work both ’urban’ and ’mainstream’ audiences which is just a nice way of saying ’black’ or ’white’ in a different way. It seems to scare people but there’s no reason for it. People are people deep down, it’s just that some of us have different flavors.

I grew up around black people and went to school with them and played on sports teams with them and shared a workplace over the years. I’m extremely comfortable for the most part but nobody can deny that racial tensions do exist and always will. Ignorance has a lot to do with that but if everyone would just think a little the majority of it would go away.

The group tonight was great. They were PEOPLE who came out to see COMEDY and I happened to be the headliner and white. They happened to be a group and black. Together we clicked from the first ten seconds on stage and it was by far the best show of the week.

What made it even better was my friend Mark Krueger came out with his wife Amy and any time they come out I know I have two fans. Mark happened to be wearing a Dolemite t-shirt which is a character played by comedian Rudy Ray Moore. Rudy was an icon and a legend in black comedy and not many whities have a clue as to who he is. Mark and I do.

We both appreciate Rudy because he was an innovator. I pointed out Mark to the group and mentioned his t-shirt and they went crazy when they saw it. It was a respect thing and they all knew who Rudy Ray Moore is but to see not just one but two white guys who did too took them by surprise. I love to drop references in black crowds nobody ever expects.

What means a lot is that we all acknowledge it and accept it. THEN we can make fun of it and the laughs will be free of tension, which is exactly what happened tonight. I was on point the whole show because they let me run with it. My rhythm on stage combined with theirs as a group and we made music together. When that happens, comedy is pure magic.

After the show one of the guys in the group came over and shook my hand and said he’s a regular at Giggles but I was by far the funniest comic he’d ever seen there. He didn’t say the funniest white comic, he said the funniest comic. I told him they were the best group I had ever seen at Giggles. Period. And I meant it. They saved the week and I loved them.

Mark and Amy and I hung out after the show and I always feel pressure because Amy is always going through some kind of medical procedure and I never know how she’s doing on any given night. She is the most amazing trooper I have ever seen and I wouldn’t last a quarter of the time she has with so many health issues. I always want to do my best show.

She mentioned that the middle act was disgusting and I was very ashamed. If anyone on earth loves to laugh and are NOT prudes it’s Mark and Amy Krueger. When Amy said it I knew that I need to not let this kind of behavior continue. One goofus ruined it for many.

The second show was sparse and slow and very hard work. This is not what I want to be doing and I had a talk with the owner afterward. He wants me back and that’s nice to hear but I think I need to shoot for something much higher. This was a hint for me to move on.

A Fun Free Friday

August 15, 2009

Friday August 14th, 2009 – Brookfield, WI

I’m at a crossroads. This has been a difficult week and I need to handle things delicately to play my politics right. I’ve never been good at that before so hopefully I can reverse the trend. I don’t want to step on any toes but it won’t be easy. Feathers will surely be ruffled.

This whole situation at Giggles has not been fun. Attendance has been way down due to many reasons. Summer in general is a slow time for comedy clubs in the north but there’s also added factors like the Wisconsin State Fair, Irish Fest, the Milwaukee Brewers being in town and a Green Bay Packers preseason game tomorrow. This week is a death march.

Added on to that is the middle act this week is filthy. Period. I’m not a prude but this is uncalled for. The graphic nature of his act makes ME flinch, and that’s not easy to do. It’s amazing how many comic wannabes think that just because they don’t use ‘those words’ it’s totally ok. It isn‘t. Describing disgusting bodily functions is NOT comedy. It’s gross.

I feel like I’ve spent my entire life in vain. I should be at a point now where I get to pick who opens for me but nobody cares. I told the club owner about it and he just laughed and said “You’ll handle it. You always do.” It’s a compliment in way but not how I want one.

I want to go up there and give an audience my absolute all. If someone comes out to see me I want to make sure they never get cheated but I have to dig my way out of a big hole when opening acts go blue. One would think I’d have some control over that but I don’t.

My godmother Anita Baumann came out to see me tonight for the very first time. She’s really great and as a kid she always sent me birthday and Christmas cards and I remember it fondly. She was a sweetheart then and is now. We’ve been in contact via email but until tonight she’s never been able to come out and see me perform. Then she has to see that.

My friend Lynn Miner came out as well. He used to be a professor at Marquette and is one of the smartest and nicest people I know. He alluded to it as well. I apologized but the fact is the damage was done. They didn’t come to hear that and I was very embarrassed.

The late show was even worse. My friend Shelley’s class reunion came out and I had to dig my way out of the hole again and it was like pushing a freight train through thick mud up a hill with slippery shoes on. I was drenched in sweat when I got off stage and I had all I could do to keep the energy flowing for a full 45 minute show. This was all unnecessary.

I think I’m done as far as clubs like this go. If I’m not getting paid well and not having a good time and not getting any kind of incentive with a door deal or don’t have any control over the filthy acts that go up in front of me why the hell am I doing it at all? Beats me.

The ride home tonight was one of the longest I’ve had in recent memory. I have nothing personal against the club owners, and in fact I like them very much. I just refuse to let this kind of atmosphere perpetuate itself. If I have to get a day job I have to, but this is brutal.

Old Friends, New Friends

August 14, 2009

Thursday August 13th, 2009 – Brookfield, WI

Today was a test of my patience, but I think I passed. I don’t think it was an A+ but that doesn’t matter. What’s important is I didn’t flunk. I’m not perfect yet but at least I can see improvement. There was a time I wouldn’t have been able to keep it cool like I did today.

Two really good things happened so I’ll focus on those. First, I met for lunch with Tom ‘Sky’ Skibosh who was the P.R. director for the Milwaukee Brewers for 19 years. I heard his name around for years and always heard he was a good guy. I heard right. He now is a speaker and offered to share some hints and tips if I wanted to hear them. Of course I did.

It never hurts to network with a good soul, especially when it’s one who is in a position to exchange leads for work. He is a very funny guy naturally and although he doesn’t call himself a comedian he still makes people laugh. I know I can do it too and the only thing different are the venues and booking methods. The actual presentation process is similar.

There’s no real secret. Here’s a microphone. There’s the audience. Make them laugh. In theory it’s the same thing but in the speaking business the money is significantly higher. I have talked to my friend Todd Hunt many times about it and he said the real difference is how the gigs are booked. Comedy has a circuit of clubs and venues. Speaking does not.

Speakers have to be WAY better at marketing than comedians because they have to sell themselves to someone who usually isn’t at all familiar with the entertainment business. It usually falls in the hands of some elected committee member who will be gone next year.

That represents a whole new set of problems but when a gig does get booked the money is usually pretty good to make up for it. Sky was very helpful and fun to hang with. I love sports and he gave me a copy of his book which is packed with stories of his Brewer days.

I grew up watching those teams so the stories have an extra special meaning to me. He’s a great story teller and I can see why the guy gets work. He’s a natural entertainer and has an engaging style. His website is in case you ever need a speaker.

Sky said the speaking business is taking a hit just like comedy is and those who used to make huge money are not nearly as booked as they’re used to. That’s just how it is at this time and I know I’m not the only one that’s feeling the pinch. We’re all having to scrimp.

After lunch I was going to make the rounds and visit some friends but I noticed that my front end on my car was really starting to make a nasty noise. I found a car place near my cousin Brett’s house and took it there to have them tell me how much of a hit I’d have to take. I knew it wouldn’t be cheap and I was right. Full rectal insertion: $755.67. YIKES!

I’ve never actually found out what a ‘yike’ is but I sure was not expecting a bill like that today. They tried to tell me what it was but all I heard was “Blah blah blah blah $755.67.” Does it really matter after that? It was some front end bearing and it was ‘disintegrated’.

It took them the rest of the afternoon to fix it and they initially promised it to be done at 5:30. I knew I needed to get it done because I really need a car. This one has to last me for at least six months at this point so I can make my money back. Hopefully I won’t wreck it like that last nice Toyota Camry I had last year. I still wish I had that one. What a peach.

This one is pretty decent too but now I’ve got an investment I need to protect. The place couldn’t get whatever part they needed and I ended up getting out of there at 6:25. I had a hard time holding my tongue without really letting the owner have it because not only did his minion have the personality of a doorknob, he made fun of the fact it cost so much.

I don’t need any jokes stuck in my face by a punk kid and I wanted to take a wrench and loosen his ball joints but I shut my mouth and lowered my voice to ask when I could have the car back. Personal attacks wouldn’t have made it any better or cheaper so I kept quiet.

The owner tried to explain how he couldn’t get the part and I told him I didn’t care a bit about that and I didn’t. His guy told me 5:30. Period. Now it was almost an hour late. The show at Giggles starts at 7:15 so now I have to fight traffic for the Wisconsin State Fair as the garage was just a few blocks away. I was under high stress and trying to remain calm.

I had heard from my librarian friend Miss Roberts that she was coming out to the show tonight and I had to stop and buy her flowers. I’ve waited over 30 years to see her and she would have to come out on the night I was under so much stress. I got the flowers and got to the club and there were about 30 people. My heart sank. Welcome home, Mr. Lucky!

My friend Steve Purcell drove in from Madison to hang out and that was extremely nice of him to do that. My other friend Don Schmitt and his wife Marie came out as well along with Donna Gurda who booked the Tom Green Elvis shows I’ve done for so many years.

Those are all some of the very nicest people I know and I didn’t want to bring them into my world of torture so I tried my best to strap on the game face and do the show. I wanted so to make Miss Roberts feel special and during the show I mentioned that she was in the audience and told the story of how she booked me for my first show all those years ago.

The audience applauded and Miss Roberts came up to get her flowers but she wouldn’t take the $5 I offered to pay back to her because I was so horrible at that show. The crowd laughed hard at it and it was one of the most wonderful feelings I’ve ever had in my life.

The look on her face was magic and we talked afterward and what a dynamic lady she is even now. She was at the Brewer game today with an ex librarian friend of hers and both of them were amazingly complimentary. We took pictures and I thanked her again for her kindness and $5 that went so far after all these years. Moments like that don’t come often.

My car problems will return as they always do. I’ll get them fixed as I always do. That’s something I’m used to by now. What I’m not used to is being able to thank the kind souls in my life like Miss Roberts or welcome new friends like Sky. That has to be my focus.

Backstage B.S. Brewing

August 13, 2009

Wednesday August 12th, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL

I won’t lie, I’m feeling a little cranky right now. No, it‘s more than that. I‘m down right pissed. About several things. Anger in itself isn’t bad but how I choose to react to it is the $64,000 question. In the past I’ve made some extremely stupid choices I wouldn’t choose to make again if I had a second shot, but I didn‘t. Now I’ve got some scars and baggage.

My knee jerk reactions of the past cost me a lot in the long run. Even though I still feel I was in the right all these years later, that doesn’t matter. PERCEPTION was that I was the problem so rather than hunt down the real truth I was unfairly branded as being ‘difficult’. It’s never been about who’s really right or wrong. It’s always about perception. It truly is.

Am I difficult to work with? YES. But only if the person I’m working with is a halfwit. I usually know what I want to the smallest detail and if someone has a clue they get it and we have no problems. When I come across an imbecile who just gets in the way is when a problem arises. I’m a polarizer and always have been. I’m either loved or totally loathed.

I try very hard to please people. I really do. I admit my mistakes freely and never claim I know everything. I’m a dented can struggling to make it through life from circumstances I wouldn’t wish on even the halfwits I’ve clashed with in my life. I don’t wish bad on them at all. I just want them to get the hell out of my way and let me complete my inner vision.

One of the things I’m pretty honked off about is this week of shows I’ve got coming up at Giggles Comedy Pub in Brookfield, WI. I’ve worked there several times over the years and I truly like the owners there. The staff is very nice and it’s a low pressure work week.

I can see friends and hang out and it’s usually a lot of fun. Now that I’m getting older it doesn’t mean as much to me anymore to do things for fun. I need to get PAID. I’ve paid a lifetime of dues to get to this level and it’s coming to a point where it has to be worth it.

The booking agency who has been in charge of Giggles is a guy I’ve worked with many years. I’ve talked about him before and I actually like the guy personally. I’ve had my ups and downs with him business wise over the years but I’ve really tried hard to patch it up.

I learned today he expects me to send in 25% of my pay this week as commission. I’ve never had to send any commissions before and I’ve worked for the agency twenty years. I thought the money was low to begin with and now I learn I have to eat an additional 25%.

My first reaction was not very positive to say the least. To make it worse, he didn’t even book me in there this particular time. My web person Shelley wanted me because she is in charge of her high school class reunion and they’re having the party at Giggles on Friday.

I’m very flattered Shelley asked for me specifically and the owners agreed to it. I did get a confirmation notice from the booker but I was already set with the club itself. Now I get word I’m going to have to send in a commission for the week and I get left with peanuts.

In the past there were a couple of one night gigs before Giggles and they helped make it a worthwhile week of work. Now those are gone for whatever reason and there’s only the three nights left. Sorry, that’s not my fault. My take home pay isn’t worth taking home.

I have to commit a weekend and I want to be paid for that. I don’t care how close it is or how much fun it is or anything else. I’ve worked hard to get my ability and I was just on a network TV show three weeks ago, yet I’m not getting one penny more than anyone else.

Why the hell did I even bother to get on TV? One would think bookers would watch the late night shows and fish for fresh blood to come through their clubs. Even the guy who is booking Giggles in my opinion should have called and opened his calendar and asked me which weeks I had open so he could promote it. He could still book me for a great price.

We could all make money if we’d work out a door deal of some sort and try to make it a special event. “Recently seen on CBS TV” could get some play in a medium sized city for the clubs there and I’d go in and kick major ass and be a super nice guy to the staff too. In a perfect world that’s exactly what should happen but instead I get tossed in the big pile.

I talked with a couple of other bookers recently trying to get some work that would be a smoother routing process and got back an icy cold “Filled that already.” Well, UNFILL it, you pud. How many times did I get bumped when I was coming up? Pay a brother back.

I’m not looking to fire anyone but it’s amazing how flat out clueless most of these guys really are. How about SWITCH a week? It’s happened to me but when I need to do it it’s a major hassle. Sorry, I have earned my right to pull rank. Do they want to book a strong act for a low price or do they want to lose out and keep it as it is? I don’t think they care.

I know I’m sniveling but a lifetime of this would make even Mother Theresa snap. It’s the same stupidity over and over again and I’m tired of it. This is why entertainers flip out and cop attitudes when they make it. I don’t wonder why anymore, but I really don’t want to have to be like this. With just a little bit of effort there can be a workable solution here.

All I want is to fill my calendar with decent work. By ‘decent’, I mean quality gigs in an environment where comedy is appreciated. No more toilets for low pay. I’m good at what I do but many of the bookers I’ve been working for still treat me like lint from the dryer.

Either I’ll have to book gigs myself, or find other places to work. Or both. I really don’t want to book my own shows because that’s a whole different job. I want to show up for a gig and do it. But I can’t if I don’t earn a living wage or get gouged 25% in commissions. I think I could get better rates from the Mafia, and at least I’d get to play in nicer joints.

I hope this doesn’t get ugly, but I sense that possibility brewing. I want to earn what I’m worth or I won’t work a place anymore. I can’t. This could be my last time at Giggles, but I still have a solid relationship with the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino. If that has to be my Milwaukee venue, so be it. It will be a test to see how this all plays out.

Directile Dysfunction

August 12, 2009

Tuesday August 11th, 2009 – Cary, IL

My entire day went in a completely different direction than I had planned and all I could do was try to run with it. I originally intended to work on my comedy class outline but my car has been making loud front end squeaking noises and I wanted to get it taken care of.

My classes will be over forever if my front wheel snaps off on the freeway and I skid my way to a violent fiery death. That’s something I could only do once but classes can repeat over and over so I chose to get the car fixed so I could continue with my lesson updates.

I always try to update my lessons and improve my system and I’m never satisfied. I like to constantly challenge myself to provide the best classes around and I know that I do that hands down. It’s not bragging, it’s a fact. Nobody works harder at studying the process of standup comedy and implementing it on stage before a live audience than me. NOBODY.

That’s why it really infuriates me when these other wannabes and charlatans come along and try to steal money from unsuspecting people. It’s happening all over the place and it’s really pissing me off but all I can do is make my own product better and blow them out of the water, or at least make it obvious for anyone with half a brain my product is superior.

It now becomes a marketing contest. I know in my heart how much grueling hard work and blood and sweat and sacrifice and passion went into learning my craft. Those mooks aren’t even at the top of the comedy club ladder much less have appeared on national TV other than maybe doing the wave at a football game. They don’t know what comedy is.

Unfortunately, neither do the ones taking their half assed ‘classes’ so it’s nothing more than the age old case of the blind leading the stupid. I have to overcome that by creating a method that the others aren’t doing and also market it to customers they aren’t reaching. I want this course to be the top comedy course in the world and also the best marketed.

The time seems to be here again where lots of people want to get into the business. It’s been cyclical and with the Adam Sandler movie out now there seems to be a new wave of people curious as to what comedy is all about. Unfortunately only a few of them will ever try it and even fewer will stick with it. Why? Because it’s DIFFICULT. But it’s also fun.

That’s what I stress in my classes and will continue to do so. Yes, I absolutely admit it’s bothering me that underqualified wannabes are oozing up through sewers everywhere but nobody else seems to care. Clubs are allowing this to go on but they don’t know better.

The one advantage I have in all of this is that Zanies in Chicago has let me exclusively teach their comedy classes since 1994. I have it documented and they will back me on it. They’re a player in Chicago and even though others are popping up I still get to continue mine at Zanies for as long as I choose to do it. THAT’S why I’m loyal to them in return.

I have an opportunity to take my business to a whole new level. The others are trying to copy me but they aren’t doing a very good job. They’re just distracting like mosquitoes.

I am way ahead of them all because I spent my life studying comedy and comedians and all the ins and outs of the business from a practical and hands on experience. It’s the main difference between college and the real world, or theory and reality. I’ve walked the walk.

Apparently there are enough people who don’t really care about that and I guess if they want to take a class from a less qualified person I can’t stop them. Quality costs more but sometimes there isn’t enough left over to experience it after money was wasted on junk.

I’ve always said it before and I’m saying it now that I love to teach people who want to devote their lives to comedy, either as writers or performers. That’s who I most desire for companionship on any level. If I’m on the road with a comic I want that comic to want to learn his craft just like I had to and just like everyone before me had to. It’s a long road.

There are no easy answers and quick solutions just like there aren’t any quick ways that make a million dollars in real estate with no effort other than listening to a tape and going to the local courthouse and deciding which foreclosed on mansion you want given to you. Comedy is difficult as is real estate as is running a McDonald’s. Nobody rides for free.

Maybe these idiots are doing me a favor in the long run. They’re weeding out the misfit masses who don’t really want to learn about comedy but are only looking for a quick easy way to effortless superstardom even though they’ve never struggled for anything in life.

I want to get in there and WORK. I also want to work with those who want to work. I’m not promising any quick solutions. All I’m promising is to reveal my many mistakes so it will hopefully save time for a new person and help them avoid the same screw ups I did.

I also can accurately assess where a newbie’s strengths and weaknesses lie and tell them how to properly advance both onstage and off. If a person buys into it I have a lifelong fan and pupil and I have quite a few of those now. Tom Clark now lives in L.A. and headlines nice clubs and really has developed a nice career. I could see his talent in his first class.

That was 15 years ago now and he’s paid his dues and is teaching his own classes out in L.A. at the Comedysportz location apparently. THAT doesn’t bother me at all. In fact I’m very proud to hear that because I know I was his first entry into comedy and he’s still in it all these years later. I just saw him last week and he’s doing well. He’s really blossomed.

All my plans were put on hold today as I drove my car to get looked at near Jerry Agar’s house by a mechanic he recommended that worked on his car. I left it and the guy told me he’d look at it and we went back to Jerry’s to work on planning the live version of Jerry’s Kidders. We are shooting for work in theatres rather than clubs and we planned an attack.

We worked hard the entire afternoon and I called to see if my car was ready but they’d not even looked at it yet. I could have flipped out like I have all too often in the past but I calmly hung up and Jerry took me to pick up the car. I’ve got way more important things to be concerned about than one more squeak box car. That’s not my passion. Comedy is.