Archive for November, 2009

Turning The Page

November 30, 2009

Sunday November 29th, 2009 – St. Cloud, MN/Lake Villa, IL

I wish I knew exactly how many long boring Sunday drives I’ve had to make in my life to return home from a road gig. It has to be over a thousand by now, but after two or three they’re all the same. After the last show on Saturday the focus turns to getting back home.

Bob Seger talks of it in “Turn The Page” when he mentions a long bus trip from Omaha when “You don’t feel much like riding, you just wish the trip was through.” How dead on he is. Fortunately for him, he had a tour bus with a driver and his band mates joining him.

Comedians are alone. We’re the driver and the band and the travel director and the tour guide. Bob Seger could sleep off some of his trip. I have to be awake every single mile so I don’t turn my Toyota into a flaming casket when I nod out and hit a guard rail at 75mph.

The handwriting is on the wall more and more every time I go out and do these kinds of gigs as of late. My life and times as a tireless bullet proof road beast are rapidly coming to an end, and I’m not the least bit upset. They’ve served their purpose extremely well and it all made for a fantastic adventure. I met people, saw places, had fun and got an education.

I ate delicious food I never would have sampled had I stayed in Milwaukee and I saw all of the America I read about in books as a kid up close and personal with my own eyes. I’ll never regret satisfying my wanderlust in my 20s and 30s, but in my 40s I’ve evolved a bit.

It’s just as satisfying to have a hot show at a venue ten minutes from my house as it is at some venue ten hours away. The results are exactly the same, but the time spent getting to and from work takes a whole lot of the fun out of it. I don’t have the slightest need to ever return to 99.9% of the places I’ve been, only because those places aren’t all that riveting.

I mean, will my quality of life really go down if I never return to St. Cloud, MN? Nope. Nor will my life be affected in any way if I don’t get back to most of the places I’m hired. They’re just towns, and I’ve seen more than a working man’s share of them on my watch.

None of this means I didn’t enjoy some parts of this trip. The house emcee at the club is a very interesting and intelligent guy named Perrin Spychala. We get along quite well and it was fun to visit again and flirt with the Playboy model quality waitress, but I told him it wasn’t worth all the driving I’d have to do each way to make that happen. He understood.

I’m not angry about any of this, nor do I regret the lifestyle I chose for the last quarter of a century, but it’s becoming rapidly clearer to me that I’m evolving to a place that doesn’t require me having to be in so many places for such a short time. I want to settle in and get to some of the things I missed during all those years of traveling. My wants are changing.

So are my needs. I have ZERO put away for a retirement of any kind, and I can’t see me still driving to St. Cloud and flirting with a 21 year old waitress when I’m 60. It’s a young man’s game, and I did spend my youth playing it. Now it’s time to graduate to a new one.


Leroy Kilps R.I.P.

November 29, 2009

Saturday November 28th, 2009 – St. Cloud, MN

A piece of my childhood died today. I received a call that Leroy Kilps passed away last night and I was very sad to hear the news. Leroy was in charge of the monthly sports card shows at Gonzaga Hall in West Allis, WI and I’d dealt with him since I was about twelve.

Sports cards were one of my few fun memories of childhood and I’ve drifted in and out of the hobby frequently. I remember discovering there was a Wisconsin Sports Collectors Association as a kid and I joined it immediately. They held quarterly shows in Milwaukee at a place called Federation Hall on 13th and Lincoln and I used to attend them quite a bit.

I remember taking the city bus all the way across town from my grandparents’ house on the north side early in the morning so I could be there when the doors opened at 9 o’clock sharp. It seemed like such an adventurous journey then and I savored every second of it.

Every spare penny I had went into buying old cards back then. I remember standing and bidding at the auction with guys twenty years older than me on cards that were made well before I was born. For some reason I just knew those cards would appreciate in value and I bought up as many as I could. It turns out I was right and I wish I had hung on to them.

I used to send them off to get autographed and I remember getting responses from most if not all the players I sent requests to including Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Bob Cousy, Sandy Koufax and those are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I had a gigantic collection of many more.

When I was about 21 I started experiencing the rigors of adult life and having to make a living and times were lean so I sold my collection. I made money on it but not even close to what I could have made had I saved it for at least ten more years. It was a big mistake.

In a perfect world I would have cherry picked the choicest items and enjoyed them for a lifetime and sold the rest off at top dollar just as the market was peaking right around the mid ‘90s. I could have put a nice chunk of change away and still enjoyed my best items.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. It didn’t happen that way and that’s the way it goes. I still had fun collecting back then and in the end I still made a profit, even if it was way too early to get what I could have gotten later. The process was fun and Leroy Kilps was one of those older guys who I remember from the Federation Hall days. He was always friendly to me.

Leroy worked for the post office and I think he was a mailman at least part of that time. He had a card shop for a while, but not that long. He was just a collector who loved sports and everyone in the Milwaukee area who collected sports stuff crossed paths with Leroy.

I’ll admit we weren’t close friends, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the guy. I totally did, and don’t know anyone who didn’t. When I did my Craig Ferguson appearance, he’s the one who got the word out to all the people in the card hobby. I appreciated that a lot.
I was supposed to be on in March but I wasn’t, and when I saw him at the next show he came over and said “I wouldn’t stay up late for a lot of people, but I did it for you and you weren’t on. I’ll never do it again.” He was kidding, but I appreciated the fact he stayed up.

When I actually did get on the show he was almost giddy when he saw me the next time and was quoting my jokes back to me. I could tell he got a big kick out of it and I thanked him for mentioning it to everyone else. He was a regular guy and didn‘t put on any airs.

Life is finite and never guaranteed, and even though we know that it still stings when an unexpected sudden passing happens of someone we knew, even if we only knew them on a limited basis. I didn’t know Leroy all that well, but I did know him for most of my life.

How many people cross our paths each day that we may never get an opportunity to see again? All of them. I saw Leroy just last month and he told me he’d keep me in mind if an extra table popped up for the show. He asked how comedy was going and said the typical “One of these days I’m going to come out and see you” line I’ve been hearing for years.

He’s not the only one who’s said that but very few ever actually do it. I’m fine with it if someone doesn’t come to see my show, but I sure don’t want the reason to be that they’ve passed away. I wish Leroy’s family peace and comfort at this time and I also wish I could have gotten the chance to officially thank him for his support of my career before he died.

The show tonight was pretty sparse. Last night’s crowd was light but tonight’s was even worse. The weather was fantastic today and for whatever reason it kept people away. I did my time and tried to give my absolute best to those who did show up. They weren’t drunk and rowdy like last night and in fact were just the opposite. They were quiet and mousey.

The term ‘Minnesota Nice’ applied perfectly tonight. The people here are polite beyond belief, almost to a fault. Afterward there was a line of people waiting to shake my hand as they left and I bet if I’d have peed on their shoes they’d have thanked me for it. They’re as friendly as a whole in Minnesota as anywhere I’ve ever been, and I’ve been everywhere.

I did feel bad because the host told me a guy and his wife came out who saw me the last time I was here and loved the show. I guess the guy was raving about me to the host in the back of the room before the show and said he came out especially to see me. I’m flattered.

After the show the host said the guy got so flustered he wouldn’t come up and say hello because he was intimidated. That made me feel horrible, as I always try to be available to people after a show. I go out of my way to shake people’s hand and sincerely thank them for coming to see me. The last thing I want to do is intimidate anybody, especially a fan.

Speaking of intimidating, one of the waitresses this week was an absolute jaw dropper. WOW, what a scorcher. She’s the typical stunner blonde Minnesota is famous for and she supposedly has been offered a modeling contract from Playboy. She’s 21 and her ticket is punched. She won’t have to sell any sports cards to make ends meet. She won the lottery.

Offstage Maintenance

November 28, 2009

Friday November 27th, 2009 – St. Cloud, MN

I’m feeling much better today. I stayed up until 4:30am working on a breakdown of all my comedy material for 2010 and I’m delighted with the results. I’ve really put an effort into organizing my comedy bits in the last several years and I can feel significant growth.

I’ve broken everything down into a dozen categories, two of which are ‘miscellaneous’ and ‘topical’. That leaves ten topics to tackle, and if I do it right I’ll have all I can handle to flesh those out to the fullest and keep me working on it the rest of my life. This is what I should have done years ago, but I didn’t. I’m doing it now though, and that excites me.

I like to do what I call ‘accordion bits’. That’s when I can expand or contract a premise depending on audience reaction and how I’m feeling on any given night. A good example is a bit I’ve done for years about a Greyhound bus trip I took when I was 18. Some nights it’s three minutes, others it’s ten. When it’s rolling I’ve stretched it out to twenty or more.

There are all kinds of surprises I can throw in depending on how I’m feeling, and there are also a lot of places to jump off if I don’t like where it’s going. I’ve toyed with that bit for years, but I don’t do it all that much anymore. Once in a while people request it so I’ll dust it off just to stay in practice. If I can develop ten bits like that I’ll be set for a lifetime.

That piece of material really has grown over the years and it fits me perfectly. Structure is crucial in comedy and I’m finally starting to feel like I know what I’m doing after many years of trial and error, mostly error. I looked at the material I have now and the outline of where I hope to take it and I was very excited. This is going to be a gigantic labor of love.

I want to come up with five or six television sets I can start road testing immediately so next time I won’t be in the predicament I was in when I did the Late Late Show. I did pull it off, but I don’t want it to work that way again. I’ll be much smarter this time and begin putting bits in a running order so I‘ll have sets growing organically. I’m finally wising up.

It took me a few years to write all my material down, but now I’m sorting it by category so I can start organizing it that way. I’ve got ten fingers, and will assign a category to each one so on stage I’ll be able to go back and forth however I want. The audience won’t have any idea what I’m doing, and they shouldn’t. All they have to do is show up and enjoy it.

This is all part of the ‘Maxwell Method of Standup Comedy’ I’m developing and trying out on myself. I really think it’s a solid system, kind of like the West Coast Offense in the NFL or The Triangle Offense in the NBA. Like with those systems, some will thrive with mine and think I’m a genius. Others will struggle and blame me for it. That’s how it goes.

I absolutely LOVE to work on projects like this, but unfortunately it’s not necessary for me to ever write even one more joke. I can get by with the material I have now, and that’s not bragging. I’ve attained a status of ‘funny enough’, and what comes into play there is a level of competence that once achieved really doesn’t have to be improved upon. I’m it.

There are performers of all kinds that achieve that status. I’m sure there are many actors all over the world that could be in movies and not embarrass themselves, but getting hired to do it is a different story. That boils down to marketing and image and many other traits. Very few if anyone has a level of talent alone that’s far and away superior to the majority.

I’ve been blessed with a quick wit and the ability to think on my feet in front of an open microphone, whether it’s on a comedy stage or at a radio station. I have done shows again and again both on stage and on air but I haven’t been able to turn that into big money yet.

Show business should actually be called ‘business show‘, as that fits it more accurately. My show part is fine, and in fact probably well above average. Even my detractors always finish a long diatribe of attacking me with “But he’s a very good comedian.” I love that.

What I don’t love is still struggling to find my way all these years into the business part of this whole thing. That’s where I really blew it. I can either work on that and get better or continue to live like a cockroach and have people ask “Why haven’t you done better?”

I’m the first to admit many of my problems are self inflicted. I’ve had a heaping dose of bad breaks thrown in too, but that’s no excuse. Lots of people catch bad breaks, it’s what they do to fight back that determines ultimate success. That’s where I am now. I have my warts, but I have ability too. What can I do to balance out my ‘show’ and ‘business’ side?

One thing I did to make an effort was hooking up with a comic named Dante in LA on a trade for a list of comedy bookers all over the world. He advertised on some comedy list a while back and I contacted him because he said he’d be willing to trade for sports cards or anything else of value. We talked on the phone and he was a good guy so we did the deal.

I had to throw in $100 but I now have a monster list of bookers from everywhere. Some of them I had, many I didn’t. I was able to send him sports cards I don’t have much actual cash into so it was a good deal for us both. Now it’s up to me to parlay this into paid gigs.

The fun part is working on my act like I did until 4:30am. The chore is contacting every one of those bookers and sending them my avails every month or six weeks or whenever they tell me to do it. It’s a want to work on my act. It’s a need to get bookings. I can come up with ten topics all day long, but if I don’t have gigs what good does that do? Not a bit.

This whole one man show idea about Milwaukee is still very much alive also. I worked on it in the car all the way to St. Cloud. I made notes on a legal pad all afternoon and I’m still stoked that this could be good on many levels. If I do it right it could eliminate all my money issues and that’s when the real creativity starts. I don’t like struggling each month.

The show tonight was also a struggle. This place rocked last time I was here but tonight it was half full of drunks who wanted to be the show. Fighting it wouldn’t do any good so I plowed through and did my time without incident. I’m starting to do a lot of things right so that’s where my focus needs to be. This was a temporary glitch and won’t rattle me.

A Hollow Holiday

November 27, 2009

Thursday November 26th, 2009 – Wausau, WI

Another Thanksgiving and the holidays are officially here. Actually, Halloween is when  it really starts, but today is when it ramps up. I’ve been seeing Christmas decorations here and there and the radio is playing Christmas music but today it all goes jingle bells out.

I’m never going to be able to stop it so I’ll have to suck it up one more year and grit my teeth and accept it. I don’t have a problem if millions of people enjoy all the holiday cheer they want, I just wish I didn’t have to keep being reminded of it. Every fast food bag has a candy cane on it and commercials on radio and TV have annoying sleigh bells and Santa.

What bothers me is that is reminds me of all the unpleasant memories of childhood that I have fought so hard to get past. Christmas is supposed to be about family and I’m all for it, but family is something I’ve never had and probably never will. This time of year is the cruelest reminder, and it’s constant. EVERY year, I get six weeks of it rubbed in my face.

Thanksgiving is great in theory too. Family gets together and shares some food, football and fun. I love the concept, but all I can conjure up are memories of walking on eggshells the whole time so the old man wouldn’t blow a gasket and hoping to avoid an ugly scene.

Every year people invite me over and I’m very grateful for that, but it’s never the same. I feel out of place and uncomfortable and even though I know they mean well, it makes it more of a chore than anything. I’m a dented can, and no matter how hard I try to get over bad memories of the holidays, they’re still there and it makes me feel my life was a waste.

I was supposed to spend Thanksgiving with the woman I like up in Milwaukee, but she didn’t answer her phone for whatever reason. She told me she had to stop at her mother’s house to put in a family appearance, and then we’d hang out. That never happened and all my abandonment issue buttons with my mother got pushed. It really put me in a bad spot.

I’m working in St. Cloud, MN this weekend so I got in the car and started driving to cut time off my drive tomorrow. I stopped in Stevens Point, WI to have some dessert with my cousins Rob and Leah, their daughter Janine, and my other cousin Brett and his girlfriend.

I wish I hadn’t done that. They thought it was funny to pop in Rob and Leah’s wedding video from 1988 and it brought back all kinds of nasty memories because it had my father and step mother on it, along with a few other relatives I didn’t want a part of then and I’m sure not interested in seeing now. Those people are dead, and I‘d prefer it stay that way.

They thought it was funny and I tried to suck it up, but after a while I had to ask them to please turn it off and when they saw it was really bothering me, they did. They apologized and said they didn’t mean any harm, and I know they didn’t. Still, I don’t need to see that.

I thought I was feeling pretty bulletproof coming into the holidays, but right now I’m in a Motel 6 in Wausau, WI wondering why I’m still alive. Here come the holidays. Yippee.


November 26, 2009

Wednesday November 25th, 2009 – Kenosha, WI/Lake Villa, IL

I’m moving steadily ahead on my new CD project, I just hope I can make it pay off with some sales. This has been a long time coming, probably too long. Now I know why bands sometimes wait several years between releases. It’s a major undertaking to get one done.

My first one came out in late 2003. I recorded a week of shows in Louisville, KY at The Comedy Caravan and ended up using one of the weekend shows as the CD. It was a fairly representative example of what I was doing at the time, so I just released it warts and all

In the past, comics have edited together the best bits of multiple shows but I didn’t have the time or resources to do that. I suppose I could have, but I just wanted to get something OUT. I spent some extra money to have a nice package made, and I’m very glad I did. It’s received all kinds of compliments and I’m flattered to hear every one, but I can do better.

I want to be proud of what I release, not just piece together some half assed compilation of murky recordings I made with a Kmart  cassette recorder in 1987. I want to give people their money’s worth and more. I like bonus tracks and liner notes, as I think it adds value.

I really do care about my fans, even though I probably don’t have as many as I could by now. In my mind, I should have been releasing yearly recordings for the past 12-15 years but I was too busy working the road and dealing with things like having to testify against my best friend at the bank robbery trial. Life squelched my recording career significantly.

Radio didn’t help much either. I was doing comedy the whole time I was in radio but it was all I could handle to keep my jobs in Reno and Salt Lake City and The Loop too. I’m amazed at the schedule I kept all those years. I’d do comedy clubs at night, then stay up to do the morning radio show, then sleep most of the day. I’m sure that will affect me later.

I did what I had to do to survive. I was too busy working to build a career, and now I’m in a precarious predicament. How do I make all that hard work pay off? I’ve got a backlog of material the public hasn’t heard, but how can I get it out? This CD will be my first test.

I’m very pleased with the recording that’s being used for this next release. It was a good night at Zanies with a positive vibe in the audience and I remember it being very fun. I am also including bonus tracks of a funny Mr. Lucky country song my friend Joe Dell’Orfano wrote plus an interview I did with Jerry Agar recently that’s hopefully interesting to fans.

Today I drove to Kenosha to have Lou Rugani voice the intro track. He’s one of the best voice guys anywhere and did it as a favor to me, which I really appreciate. I had him play God, and explain that Mr. Lucky was created so people would always be able to laugh.

It may work, it may not. But I wanted to try it, so I did. Now all I have to do is package it up and get them printed and I’ll have a new product to sell. It’s way better than the last one, and hopefully the next one will be way better than this. Still, this one doesn’t suck.

One Hour My Ass

November 25, 2009

Tuesday November 24th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

Today was an example of how time gets sucked up. We’re working the bugs out on our Jerry’s Kidders play “You’re On The Air” for our performance at the Beverly Arts Center January 16-17. We scheduled an hour rehearsal and it ended up consuming the entire day.

I don’t think the average person knows or really cares how much of a grind the business of entertainment actually is. Most outsiders only look at the time spent on stage during an actual performance and think that’s all the effort that’s required to get paid handsomely.

Hundreds if not thousands of people over the years have come up to me after a comedy show and told me how “lucky” I was to “only have to work 45 minutes a day“. I’ll usually smile and nod and try to be polite, but once in a while I’ll get in somebody’s face about it.

Usually it’s some drunken slug with a hot chick who gets to go home with her while I’ll be alone in a funky motel room that smells like Lysol, 800 miles from home with a family reunion of loud foreigners playing their annoying music in the room next door until 4am.

The time on stage in fact is NOT what we’re paid for. It’s those 23 hours and change we have to spend waiting for the next chance to go on stage. That’s what we’re being paid for and many times we get the short end. By the time every hour is added up and divided into how much we actually get, it’s often less than minimum wage. Not many think about that.

In fact, many people get into show business with the express purpose of avoiding a day job and the grind that goes with it. How surprised they are to find out there’s still a lot of work involved to be good at it, and sometimes they end up quitting. None of this is easy.

Jerry called about 10am and offered to drive to the rehearsal which was scheduled to be held in downtown Chicago at 1pm. Tim Slagle and Ken Sevara both live on the far south side so we try to meet in the middle whenever possible. They usually drive together as do Jerry and I, only to save money on parking in Chicago. Getting together is a major effort.

Jerry and I stopped for a quick lunch because neither of us had eaten and then we got on the road and were marooned in heavy traffic for the next two hours as we got stuck in the vortex of road cleaning. There were crews cleaning the highway and nobody was moving faster than 25 miles an hour for most of the way into the city. No escape, we were stuck.

The other guys called and were a bit upset that we were late, but we weren’t too thrilled about it either. We ended up getting there about 2pm, rehearsing until 4, and then had our return trip take even longer because of rush hour and a rain storm. It was a full day shot.

The rehearsal was good, but we’re still not finished yet. We’ll have several more before our actual performance, and there’s no guarantee we’ll sell even one ticket. We’ve all got a lot of time and effort invested in this project and we’re crossing our fingers it’ll pay off. It better. We’re paying a heavy price. This ‘one hour rehearsal’ ended up consuming nine.

Passing On The Packers

November 24, 2009

Monday November 23rd, 2009 – Chicago, IL

The Green Bay Packers are doing it to me again. They’re playing with my heart and my head after I’d written them off a few weeks ago when they got embarrassed in Tampa. It’s an unhealthy dysfunctional relationship and I want out, but I just can’t cut myself loose.

Since Tampa they won a big game against the Dallas Cowboys and yesterday they were able to squeak by the San Francisco 49ers. I didn’t watch either game but I did hear about both of them and it almost gave me some hope that they were starting to show some life.

Today I heard they lost two Pro Bowl defensive players for the season in Al Harris and Aaron Kampman and it again started to grind on my psyche. Those two players were very solid and it could hurt the team’s chances of going very far this year but why does it have any affect on me? I wish I knew. I can’t believe I’m still this hooked on a football team.

Whatever part of the human experience the NFL taps into is where I want to set up shop with whatever I’m selling. It’s all I can do to avoid watching the games, but I feel I can do a lot more productive things with three hours on a Sunday than pin my hopes and dreams on a bunch of inconsistent imbeciles who make their millions off of needy nerds like me.

I want to make my own millions and win my own personal Super Bowl in life. Victory has got to be sweeter when it’s earned by an individual and not lived vicariously through a bunch of athletes wearing a uniform of a place most if not all of them aren’t even from.

Al Harris and Aaron Kampman aren’t from Wisconsin. They didn’t have to sit through a bunch of horrific losing seasons in the ’70s and ’80s like I did. They got to step right in and start collecting a heaping paycheck because millions of marbleheads like me watched them and cared deeply whether they won or lost. This is really stupid and I’m sick of it.

I feel like an alcoholic trying to fool himself into having only one drink. Three six packs later, the paramedics are peeling him off his steering wheel. That’s what I’m feeling about all this. I think the best thing to do is stay away from it all and work on productive things.

Even if the Packers win the Super Bowl this year, (which they won’t, but I’m still in the delusional state that they might) how does that make my life better? I’ll have to buy every cap and t-shirt and chatchke out there and it will end up costing me a ton of money. If I’m smart, I’ll be relieved when they’re snuffed out like a candle, but I’ve seldom been smart.

This is a real tweak with me, but I know I’m not alone. Look at the millions of fanatical soccer fans down in South America who live and die by their team’s fortunes. Nobody up here gives a picture of a rat’s ass about soccer, but they’re hooked even worse than I am.

Winning in one’s own life is the ultimate challenge, and that’s the Super Bowl victory I want to experience. There won’t be any parades or trophies, but the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment will make up for it. At least I hope so. I’m through wasting Sundays.

Digging The Journey

November 23, 2009

Sunday November 22nd, 2009 – Lake Villa, IL/Kenosha, WI

I’m in a very good place in my head these days and I want to acknowledge that. I have a tendency to be up and down more than Oprah’s weight or Madonna’s panties, but for now I’m on the up tick. The holidays are coming sooner than I’d like and I could easily end up back in the sewer, but I’ll deal with that when I have to. For now I‘ll enjoy this good vibe.

It’s not a feeling of mania or euphoria but rather a strong sense of satisfaction with what I’m doing these days. I’m not rich financially, and in fact I’m having a hard time trying to squeeze out a living, but enough money is coming so that I’m surviving. I’m ok with that. Yes, I still want to make my millions but I’m learning to enjoy each day for the gift it is.

I haven’t been walking lately or eating particularly well or doing anything other than my daily best to try to make the most of what I’ve got going that particular day. I’m feeling as comfortable in my own skin as I ever have. I can’t explain it, but I know I feel it. I’m in a space I hope I can stay in forever. I finally feel like I’m enjoying everything I’m a part of.

Tonight we had a fun Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP. It’s a Sunday night show on a small AM station in Kenosha, WI but to me it’s as much fun as being on WGN in Chicago, which I was with Jerry’s Kidders on Saturday. It doesn’t matter, I love it all.

The experience of being on the radio during a show that’s going well is a rush and has a deep feeling of accomplishment. I have no idea who’s listening at any given time and I’m aware that Kenosha, WI is not the broadcasting epicenter Chicago is, but I left the studio tonight on a major high note. We pulled off three solid hours of talk radio without a hitch.

Will it change the world? I doubt it. Does anyone remember it now, even if it’s been on only a few hours earlier? I doubt that too. Did I get paid a nickel for doing it? Uh…no on that front too. Why do I keep doing it? Because I enjoy the process, and the people also.

The same is true with WGN. I love to work with Jerry and the Kidders and we all laugh more off the air than during the show. We give our creative muscles a workout each week and we really don’t worry about anything else. It’s for us, and we all love being part of it.

I’m really enjoying my comedy lately too. I’m not working Carnegie Hall or Las Vegas, but the gigs I have been getting have been really solid. I loved Florida and even the shows up in the U.P. of Michigan before that were fun. It’s all just coming together right now.

I’m fine with where I live and the car I drive and everything else. None of that matters a bit, other than it’s keeping me alive. What really matters is the interaction with the people I like and being satisfied with the moment no matter what I’m doing. I truly feel that now.

Maybe I’ve been listening to too many motivational tapes lately and maybe I’ll return to the moody, impatient short tempered side soon enough but for now I’m having fun doing all I’m doing and I enjoy the people around me right now. I find nothing wrong with that.

An Idea Comes To Life

November 23, 2009

Saturday November 21st, 2009 – South Milwaukee, WI

One small step for me, one giant leap for my one man show idea. I was booked for a gig in South Milwaukee, WI tonight with and by my friend Steve DeClark. He’s always had a knack for putting comedy shows together in non traditional venues and tonight we were at the Performing Arts Center of South Milwaukee High School, a place I‘d work anytime.

It’s exactly the kind of space I pictured working since I started in comedy. It’s a theater with auditorium style ‘soft seats’, a giant stage with a big red curtain, stage lights that are bright enough to light up the whole stage and a wireless microphone that doesn’t run out of juice halfway through the show. This was way better than working at some dive bar.

Steve has always tried to book more toward a theatrical audience and I couldn’t be more thrilled to work with him in venues like this. The show tonight was a benefit for Veterans and that’s never a problem for me. All armed forces people and Vets got in free and quite a few showed up. We weren’t sold out, but it wasn‘t empty either. It was a decent turnout.

I decided to let loose and test my theory that a whole show based on Milwaukee and the local flavor that goes with it would indeed work. It was exactly the right place to do it and I nailed it. I talked about anything and everything I could remember, and threw in a lot of names of people and places and things that have significance to life long Milwaukeeans.

I could hear not only waves of laughter, but also applause and oohs of recognition as all the tidbits I could throw at them were eaten up hungrily. I knew within minutes I have the winning formula with this idea, and they reacted exactly how I wanted them to. Afterward people lined up to tell me how much fun they had and especially loved all the local talk.

I ended up doing about an hour and fifteen minutes, even though they were a bit tight as an audience. I opened them up after a while but they were pretty snug at first. Maybe they didn’t know what to expect, but after a while I had them going. A big part of that was my ability to talk to them where they live. Literally. I know Milwaukee just like they all do.

These people were a little older than the average comedy club crowd, but they were able to understand what I was doing and they bought into it big time. I was delighted to hear it in their voices afterward. There is a market for this show, the question now is “How big?”

It’s by far not a finished product yet, but for working off the top of my head and making it last an hour and fifteen minutes, I had to be doing something right. I will go over all the notes I have and put together a running order and start filling it in with jokes immediately. It’s not like I’m starting from total scratch. All this requires is a little cutting and pasting.

There’s no reason I can’t be working this by the early part of next year. This is a bit of a risk, but not huge and totally calculated. The worst that can happen is I’ll get a little press, and that’s never a bad thing. Even if it gets grilled by critics, there are a number of people who will find it funny. They did tonight, and it was satisfying to see my idea come to life.

The Hat Trick

November 22, 2009

Friday November 20th, 2009 – Milwaukee, WI/Chicago, IL

Any day I get a chance to go on stage and at least attempt to make an audience laugh is a good day in my book. That’s the number one thrill of my life and what I enjoy the most, bar nothing. Second place is probably being able to mentor or at least encourage someone on the way up the comedy ladder. Third place goes to being on the radio. I love that too.

Getting to do even one of those on any given day makes that day a whole lot better, but today I pulled off the hat trick. That’s as good as it gets, and today was good from start to finish. I not only did the top three things I love, I also cleared up some other stuff as well.

I’m booked for a gig in December at the Great Lakes Naval Base where I have to host a version of American Idol they’re doing. I’ll have to wear a tux and it will be a very tricky situation because a lot will rely on my ability to ad lib and know when to jump in and out but I took it as a challenge, in addition to a paycheck. That’s where the trouble comes in.

The government has a system of how they pay outside contractors, which is me. I had to provide the contact person with my banking information so she can direct deposit my pay into my account after the gig. I had to go to my bank and get the form filled out and fax it back to the Naval Base, who in turn put my info into their computer. Now I’m in the mix.

It seemed pretty complicated for one not so large check, but that’s how they do it. With this kind of procedure, it’s no wonder we’re trillions in debt and everyone is in a panic. If I was in charge it would be different, but I’m not. With that in mind, I did what they said.

Little piddly stuff like this is annoying, but it still needs to get done. It was a hassle with my bank because there was a line in front of me and then the teller got busy and it took an hour before it was all done, including fax time. At least it’s done now and I’ll get paid for a couple of hours of work and move on. Still, it seems like a big waste of time to do this.

The whole drawn out procedure made me late for a radio appearance on ‘The D-List’ up in Milwaukee on ESPN Radio 540. I hadn’t been on in a while and Drew Olson asked me to come on so I could promote my show in South Milwaukee on Saturday. I always enjoy being on with those guys, and it’s never anything but a blast. It’s how radio should work.

Drew and Dan Needles are getting better and better in my opinion, and the vibe around the station is always very positive. I have nothing but respect for Craig Karmazin, who is always upgrading everything from the signal strength to the studio facilities to the lineup of programs. That guy is on the ball and it shows. I love being able to see all the growth.

The station used to be located out in a tiny little shack in Waukesha, WI for many years. When I had my pro wrestling organization I used to promote shows in Waukesha and had a few of my wrestlers on the station as guests. There were different people in charge of it then, and they were nice and all, but Craig came in and took it all to a new level. He made it into a real radio station and moved it into facilities in downtown Milwaukee as a start.
That upgrade was dramatic but it didn’t stop there. My friend Steve “The Homer” True jumped over from WISN and I like to think I had something to do with that. I introduced Homer to Craig when Drew arranged a station event party to come see me perform of all places at Giggles, when it was located in Germantown, WI. Craig and Homer met then.

Obviously they cut their own deal and I had nothing to do with that, but I feel like I was the matchmaker and I’m thrilled to be able to have a part in that. Homer is a good person and excellent broadcaster and he’s still on the air today as a solid anchor in the afternoon.

I can’t say enough good things about everyone at that station. For whatever reason they all seem to be on my wavelength and I feel at home whenever I walk in the door. There’s now a new door to walk through because the station moved yet again. It’s in the big blue federal building in downtown Milwaukee, right across from the Grand Avenue Mall.

The old facilities were a major upgrade from Waukesha, but these are even better. They are highly visible and the studio has windows and is right on the street. It smelled of new as I walked in and we riffed and had fun until the show was over at 2pm. It was worth the drive not only to be with the guys but also hang out with the other guest, Caitlin Morrall.

She’s a former Miss Wisconsin USA and a total stunner, but she’s really intelligent and funny too. She just got a TV job on the morning show at TMJ 4 and I can see why. We’ve been on the D-List before and she really gets it. She’s no talking head, she’s the real deal.

Someone like Caitlin is truly one in a million million. She’s got network star written all over her and I hope she gets it. She’s fun to be on the air with and she shoots right back at all of us with quick, funny, dead on answers. Her beauty is intoxicating, but she’s a super sweetheart to go with it. She’s dating a surgeon and I see why. She is as good as it gets.

After the radio show I took care of some errands in Milwaukee and headed right back to Chicago to do a comedy show at a place called Pressure Café on Clark Street, not very far from where I used to live in Andersonville. She show is run by Bubba Muski, one of THE nicest guys I’ve met in a long time. He just did his first Zanies set with me very recently.

Bubba runs a showcase for the comics and Pressure is a nice facility for it. It’s tiny but a very cozy setup, even though there’s no microphone at all. Young comics come out to get stage time but young audiences come out to listen. There was a very friendly vibe in there mostly due to the fact that Bubba is a really good guy. He asked me to do it so I said yes.

There were quite a few young comics in the room and I knew some of them from all the Zanies showcases, but many more I didn’t. It was really flattering to see the reverent look in their eye when they found out who I was. I guess my name doesn’t stink everywhere.

I didn’t get paid in money but that’s ok. I knew the deal when Bubba asked me. I felt as old as I ever have in front of those kids, but they laughed and it was really fun. Hopefully I encouraged a few of them but it encouraged me knowing the next generation is growing.