Archive for November, 2009

More Homework

November 20, 2009

Thursday November 19th, 2009 – Milwaukee, WI/Vernon Hills, IL

This whole Milwaukee themed one man play idea has gone way farther than I imagined, but I’m not going to stop working on it. Something in the back of my coconut tells me it’s a winner, and everything else can wait. When I listen to my inner voice, it’s always right.

My biggest problem is I try to out think it when in reality all I need to do is follow along and do what it says. The feeling I’m getting is to get it up and running as soon as possible so I drove up to Milwaukee this afternoon to meet with Ron Lee to scout some locations.

Ron lives up there and knows a few people I don’t know, but I’m very familiar with the territory so it didn’t take long for us to make the rounds. We looked at several spaces with an open mind, and then had a brainstorming session to compare notes of what we thought the pros and cons of each one might be. After that we planned out what we wanted to do.

He would be responsible for getting any space ready to go for a performance and it’s my job to come up with an actual show. I think both of us can make that happen, and we then went to see Jeff Shaffer who used to run the sound at the old Sunday Funnies at Teddy’s.

Jeff is a sound guy from way back and does mostly music events. He was working for a band who was playing at the Mitchell Park Domes, a Milwaukee landmark. Ron and I had some time so we went to talk to Jeff, mainly because I hadn’t seen The Domes for years.

It really is one of the more unique attractions I’ve ever seen anywhere. It’s like a zoo for plants of all kinds from around the world and each Dome has a different theme. There are cacti and palm trees and flowers and it’s very well displayed. I really enjoyed the tour and I remembered both my grandfather taking me there as a kid and also going with my class.

We met one of the people in charge and Ron brought up the possibility of doing a show at The Domes at some point. We got a name of the person who can authorize it and that’s a step in the right direction. We talked to Jeff and he said he thinks we can easily do this.

This kind of stuff really interests me, because it’s creating something from nothing. It’s not going to be hard to put a show together about Milwaukee, the real challenge will be to see how and where we can do it to create a niche for ourselves and make it worth doing.

It doesn’t really matter what venue we use to start, just so we do it. We’ll need a couple of times to run it to work the bugs out as Ron and I both agreed we’d like to add things to the mix like maybe a power point slide show or audio. It’s a constant work in progress for both of us but if I give him an idea it’s his and Jeff’s job to see how to make it workable.

Jeff is excited to be part of this project too. Everyone I’ve told about it has immediately said how much they love the idea and how they think it will work. Now I have to write an outline of the show, which I started to do in the car on the way home. It will be a two part presentation to allow for an intermission if necessary. Everything is falling right into step.

Rob Becker is the guy who wrote and produced the hit play ‘Defending The Caveman’ which made millions, and is still running today. He’s got several actors doing the role all over the country and I heard he has sold the franchise completely. I haven’t seen Rob in a while, but I’ve had him on my radio shows through the years and I know he’d help me.

Todd Grove was his Ron Lee and I should talk to Todd too. Any tips and hints I can get about making this work onstage or off would be much appreciated. I want to be smart for once and not just go into something half assed and shoot myself in the foot. I want to win.

The only downside I can see to all of this is the product is for a limited audience. Rob’s theme of men vs. women is about as broad based as it gets. Mine is a local show that also has a time boundary. It super serves a client base from about age 30 to 70 and that’s about it. I doubt if younger people would like this because they didn’t live through it like I did.

Still, I think there is enough of an audience for this to make it worth everyone’s while to at least try it out. The faster I can get it going, the faster I can find out if I was right. It will not require a major investment of money and better yet I won’t have to depend on comedy clubs to make this work. This is a whole new market and I’ll be the one calling the shots.

This whole thing is a risk, but a calculated one. Minimal too. If I do it and it flops, I will easily be able to go back and do what I was doing without missing a step. In fact, I’m not going to stop doing what I was doing as this gets going. I’m only going to do it one or two weekends a month for a few months to test the interest level. After that, we’ll reassess it.

Above all else, it’s been really fun to work on this so far. It’s only been a week, but I am having a blast sorting out the ideas I had and mixing them with those that people sent me. I like working with Ron, and he’s excited to have a new project to develop. It feels right.

This also gives me something to use as a backup to the Jerry’s Kidders play. That’s also a fun project that bypasses comedy clubs, and we’re getting bookings with it. I can stay in the area with both of these projects and fill in blank dates by cherry picking quality clubs.

This is the best of all worlds, and if I can pull it off I’ll be doing quite well. I love all the projects and I love even more the fact my travel will stay to a minimum. I’ve been out and about and it was fun, now I have different goals. One of them is a little financial security.

Tonight I had a show at Zanies in Vernon Hills. The audience was an odd mix and I had to really work to get them and I’m not sure if I did. They were in and out and I didn’t feel I was able to get on a roll and knock it out of the park. That room can be tricky depending on the size of the audience and weekdays are usually pretty small. I wasn’t happy with it.

These are some of the lumps I’m going to have with the play as well. I won’t start with a big venue, so audiences will be smaller in size. Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw, but a smaller audience can go either way. If I get 40 people who aren’t laughers, that can be a LONG night. Still, I’m grateful for the work and life goes on. I’ve got plenty to do.


Gramping It Up

November 19, 2009

Wednesday November 18th, 2009 – Long Grove, IL/Cary, IL/Kenosha, WI

Lots of running around again today, I sure hope some of this pays off pretty soon. All it feels as if I do is get up and run around and get back home and sleep a little only to get up and do it all again. I’ve been hitting the road pretty hard in the last little bit and things are falling behind everywhere else. I wanted to stay home today and catch up but I couldn’t.

There was a quarterly meeting for the Lake County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau in Long Grove, IL and since I paid my membership dues I don’t think it’s smart to miss any meetings. Those people are extremely nice though, so I don’t mind. It’s good business for me to network with people in the area, and I’m sure at some point I’ll get hired for a gig.

The bad weather made traffic a nightmare and there were a bunch of people who didn’t make it by 8:30. I pulled in right at 9am thinking I was late, but in fact I had nailed it and was actually early. They postponed it for a few minutes and I can see why. It was a mess.

After the meeting I fought more traffic to make it to Jerry Agar’s house for a rehearsal of “You’re On The Air” with Jerry and the Kidders. We put in a full day’s hard work of editing and rehearsing lines without a script, and by 5pm we were all ready for a snooze.

The play is really coming along though. Everyone is working together and we’re adding funny lines and punching up the others we already have. We’re all excited to give it a shot in January at the Beverly Arts Center. Tickets are on sale and we’ve already sold some so that made all of us feel good. We’re not getting cocky, but we think we can really nail it.

After practice I met up with my friend Gary Pansch in Kenosha because it’s his birthday today. I bought him a meal at a Mongolian Barbecue place that just opened because that’s where he wanted to go. Gary is a regular on the Mothership Connection radio show and a very funny comedian as well, and I felt I owed him at least a meal for all he pitches in.

I won’t forget Gary’s birthday because it was also my grandfather’s. He was born in ‘12 and died in ‘81 but I still think about him often if not daily. He was absolutely the biggest influence of my childhood, and I can honestly say if it weren’t for him I’d be going down a much worse path than I ended up choosing. Gramps took time with me and it paid off.

I thought about him all day and was grateful for how wise he was. He had a style all his own when it came to teaching and I was his masterpiece of mentorship. He was about 52 when I went to live with him and my grandmother. I was 5 months old. Life was a mess.

Gramps often told me he raised me because he felt he owed it to me. He saw how all of us were being raised by my parents and that wasn’t good for anyone. Gramps made it his mission to plant good seeds in my head and he said it would be up to me to nurture them.

I’m doing my best, and I know I’ve made him proud. He wanted to be in show business  but never went after it. I’m living my dream and part of his too. Happy birthday, Gramps.

Lunch With A Bunch

November 18, 2009

Tuesday November 17th, 2009 – Niles, IL/Lake Villa, IL

A big part of why I love being an entertainer so much is crossing paths with others who share the same passion. Nothing is more fun than performing, whether it’s comedy or any other skill. There’s a kindred spirit among performers and I love to share that when I can.

My friend Marc Schultz puts together an annual lunch get together of all his clients, and that covers the gamut from circus performers to magicians to ventriloquists to comedians. I’ve attended several in the past and they’re always a chance to shoot the breeze with a lot of really fantastic people. I’ve had to miss a couple because I was working, but not today.

Marc has really grown to become a friend first and booker second. He’s a great guy and very good hearted and we hit it off on many levels. He loves sports and old time wrestling and is a student of the entertainment game too, not just comedy. He’s a few years older as most of my friends have always been, but I really have grown to think highly of the guy.

Bert Haas at Zanies in Chicago is the same way. I consider him a friend before a booker and actually I’d prefer it if he didn’t book Zanies so people wouldn’t keep asking me for a good word. He books who he books and that’s his business. Even if he didn’t book me I’d still think he was a good guy, and he is. He’s a great family man and has a generous heart.

It’s funny how people hit it off in life. Some mesh and some clash, and it’s random how that shakes out. I know people who think Bert is an ass and mostly it’s because he doesn’t book them at Zanies. He’s the first one to admit that just because he doesn’t book an act it doesn’t mean that act isn’t funny, it’s just a matter of if someone fits in the scheme or not.

For whatever reason, I’ve fit in at Zanies for 20 years now. Onstage and off, I’m in their wheelhouse and it’s been much appreciated. I feel the same way with Marc, even though I haven’t gotten as many bookings from him. That’s changing though, and we’re starting to hook up for more things since my Craig Ferguson appearance. He thinks I’m on my way.

We met at a Chinese restaurant with a spare banquet room on Golf Road in Niles, IL. It was another great experience, even though there have been more in past years. There were still about 30 people there and the conversation was very upbeat and positive despite what may be going on in the economy. Everyone’s struggling, but nobody dwelled on it today.

Tonight I had a meeting with a younger comic named Dan Morris. He did a set a while back on a Monday at Zanies and he asked if I would mind letting him pick my brain about comedy a little. That was very smart of him to do, and I told him that. I was glad to help if I could, and he’s a hungry young kid who wants to improve. I totally respect him for that.

I was like that when I started and now it’s my turn to pay it forward whenever I can. I’m very grateful for all I’ve gotten, even if I never get rich and famous. I’ve had a blast doing what most people only dream of, and if that’s all I get I’ve already won the game. Hearing Dan’s enthusiasm pumped me up, as did going to the lunch. I still love this comedy thing.

A Hometown Detour

November 17, 2009

Monday November 16th, 2009 – Chicago, IL

I’m getting nothing but overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyone about my one man show idea and I have to say it really shocks me. The absolute LAST thing I thought I would ever do would be to come back to Milwaukee, but I really feel like this is a winner.

It’s grown from an off the cuff idea I threw out on the phone a few days ago to a doable structured show I know I can pull off. I’ve sent a rough outline to about 50 people I know and trust from up there and to a person everyone has sent back not only positive thoughts but little snippets of ideas too. I’ve got more than enough to fill a solid 90 minute show.

Ron Lee was the person I was talking to on the phone. He holds the honor of hiring me for my first paid comedy gig back at Teddy’s on Farwell in 1984. I received ten bucks for what was supposed to be ten minutes of standup comedy, but I don’t think I ever quite hit the goal that night. Whatever I did for those ten minutes wasn’t comedy. I stunk out loud.

Ron and I have kept in touch through the years and he’s always looking for a new thing to promote or some fun project to get behind. We’ve done a lot of fun projects from radio to a cable TV show to a band contest to live comedy shows over the years. He and I both like adventures and we’re willing to try things to see if they work. Many times they don‘t.

I told Ron about the play we were working on with Jerry’s Kidders in Chicago and that piqued his interest. He came down to see us rehearse it and loved the concept. He asked if he could try to book us up in the Milwaukee area and both Jerry and Vicki Quade thought it would be ok. It’s no skin off anyone’s nose, and we wouldn’t mind getting extra work.

One thing led to another and Ron and I had been talking about a venue. He mentioned a theater space he knew of that might be a little small for the Kidders but he still thought it was a workable space. I threw out the idea of a one man show based on local pop culture and it clicked with both of us. The more we thought about it the more we were sold on it.

I’m not going to fight this creative surge or poo poo it in any way. I am getting as strong of support for this as anything I’ve ever done, especially in Milwaukee. I don’t know how or why this is, but I do know that I absolutely feel something click with this whole idea.

I’m supposed to go see the space in the next week or so with Ron and see how we’ll be able to make this work. It won’t be hard to get the show part ready, but promoting it is an entirely different animal. That’s his main job, but I’ll still have a say in it too. I know I’ve been a poor business man in the past, but this is a new project and I can change that now.

I’m not looking to do anything but put together a funny live show and eventual recorded versions both on CD and DVD of my experiences growing up in my home town. I want to maybe put a little bit of autobiographical material in it to add texture, but mostly it will be about the town I know best. Many people have mentioned John McGivern, and the shows he’s done locally. Hey, good for him. I don‘t want to steal his thunder. Mine is my own.

More than one performer has grown up in Milwaukee, and it isn’t exclusive territory for any of us – including me. I really respect John McGivern for being able to market himself to a local theater audience and proving that it can be done. He has branded himself nicely and more than one of the people I told about my idea mentioned his name immediately.

Again, good for him. He put himself on the map and that’s difficult to do. People said I should probably study what he did so I don’t cross over into his territory. I disagree. I will do exactly the opposite. I respect him as an artist and don’t want to copy what he did. I’m my own creative entity and have no trouble coming up with my own jokes and premises.

The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were both bands from England. Did they both have fine careers? I’d say so. Did they infringe on each other’s territory? I’d say not very much, if at all. Maybe they both had some songs about similar topics like ‘love’, but that’s pretty broad based. If John McGivern did beer and brat jokes, it doesn’t mean I can’t do others.

Another funny local guy I have nothing but respect for is Rip Tenor, aka Art Kumbalek. I’ve always been a major fan of his and he’s a brilliant comic mind who never fails to get me laughing whether I see him live or read his hilarious column ‘Art For Art’s Sake’ that has been consistently funny for years and years. He’s another guy people have mentioned.

Rip’s character of Art Kumbalek IS a Milwaukee guy. I’m going to talk ABOUT those kinds of people and my experiences observing them my whole life. Big difference. I love his character and he makes me laugh, but what I’m going to do is nothing close to that.

Will Durst is another comic hero of mine. I told him my idea and he loved it. He said he left Milwaukee in ‘79 and his whole act was about being from there and he had to create a whole new one when he got to San Francisco. He did that, and is in my opinion one of the sharpest comic minds in the business. If he gives me the thumbs up, I‘m feeling golden.

We’re still working on the Jerry’s Kidders play and have one solid booking and another that looks to be solid. That’s going to keep us all busy for the next couple of months but it won’t stop me from making notes on my one man show. They are for two totally different audiences so there’s no conflict of interest anywhere. It’s my backup plan to earn a living.

These projects are exciting and I’ll be working with top quality people on both of them, unlike the maggots and bottom feeders I’ve had to deal with on the club scene, especially up in Milwaukee. My greatest revenge on those halfwits will be packed houses of people enjoying my show that isn’t filthy or amateurish, and I won‘t get raped out of my money.

Tonight I had a pleasant unexpected treat of doing a charity show at Zanies in Chicago for another tremendous audience. I’m on a hot streak lately and I’m not complaining. I’m just enjoying every minute of it because I know eventually I’ll take one in the poop chute.

We all do. That’s part of the business, but tonight I ripped it up with Tim Harrison on a Toys For Tots benefit. We both loved the crowd and they loved us. What a fun evening.

Late For Letterman

November 16, 2009

Sunday November 15th, 2009 – Orlando, FL/Milwaukee, WI

Stress is part of life I can do without, but in the entertainment business it’s a constant. If it’s not worrying about a check bouncing from some slime bag club owner, it’s any one of a number of other pitfalls that have to be dealt with regularly. The stressful part is that it’s all very random, and there’s never a set time for a problem to pop up. They just happen.

Today it was travel related. That’s always a huge issue as so many facets of it can screw up so easily. It could be car problems or weather issues or road construction or a limitless number of unexpected freakish events that cause blood pressure to shoot up like a rocket.

I flew out of Milwaukee this time because I got a cheaper ticket. I’m right in the middle between Mitchell Field in Milwaukee and O’Hare Field in Chicago so I don’t mind which one I fly from. I buy whatever ticket I can get the cheapest and it gives me more choices.

I was supposed to be on a showcase for the David Letterman show at Zanies in Chicago tonight for Eddie Brill, the talent coordinator. Eddie is a really good guy and I’ve had two showcases for him before, even though I’ve yet to nail one. He’s a comic himself so he is fully aware of how it works, but I still would like to show him my best for pride’s sake.

I wish he could have seen the sets in Florida, especially Saturday’s show. That was one of the strongest sets I’ve had in YEARS, and of course nobody but the audience saw that one. It’s a completely different animal in an audition situation. Six minutes has a different vibe altogether. It’s a matter of presenting the essence of the character in that time frame.

I did almost an hour in Florida, but that’s not what Eddie or any television booker needs to see. They need to have a short crafted set that gets quick laughs. That‘s all. I had to do  that on The Daily Buzz TV shot on Thursday, and that was about three minutes. I did fine in that scenario, but it was completely different than a live headliner set. This is all tricky.

I’ve been working on my set to show Eddie, but not as much as I’d like to quite frankly. I’ve had other gigs and haven’t had time to work on just my audition set, even though it’s crucial if I’m going to get any more TV exposure in the next little while. Eddie has been a big supporter not only of me but to other comics as well and I never want to abuse that.

My plane had some mechanical problems and took off later than scheduled and I would have cut it REALLY close, and by the time I got to my car and raced to Chicago I’d be on at the very end of the showcase. I would have been frazzled and tired and chances are way off my best game, and that’s not how I want Eddie to see me, especially on my third time.

I called Bert Haas at Zanies and told him my situation and he was great about it. He said I could save the stress and not kill myself getting down there on such a thin cushion and it made perfect sense to both of us. I’m disappointed I didn’t get up for Eddie, but to do it in such stressful circumstances wouldn’t have done any of us any good. I’m glad I didn’t try to force it, and embarrass myself. I’m getting smarter in my old age, and it’s about time.

Outstanding In Orlando

November 15, 2009

Saturday November 14th, 2009 – Orlando, FL

I lost money coming to Florida this week but I’d do it again and again and again if I had a guarantee I’d get as much good out of it as I did. WOW, what a productive trip this was, and it was topped off tonight with one of the most electric shows I’ve had in a long time.

Everything lined up perfectly and Friday the 13th couldn’t touch the vibe of the show on either night. Last night’s vibe was very good, but tonight’s was off the hook, out the door, over the rainbow and in the groove. Nobody on the show could do any wrong and it was a powerhouse laugh riot from start to finish. I haven’t seen a show like this in several years.

The audience was fabulous, and that’s where it all starts. Still, the comics are important as well. The opener could have been a feature and the feature could have closed the show. There was also a guest set who was young but very likeable, and he did a fine job as well.

We all got along as comics and nobody stepped on each other’s material. Everyone did their time and it was just a professional pleasure working with everyone this weekend, on the show or in the hotel too. The staff was very friendly and made us all feel comfortable.

The money wasn’t great, but I knew that coming in. The booker kicked in two nights of extra hotel that wasn’t part of the deal so that’s very fair. It was much appreciated and I’m not complaining about the pay. I took this gig to pay my plane fare for the TV appearance.

Everything else really fell into place this weekend as well. I can’t stop thinking of ideas for the one man show about growing up in Milwaukee and I sent out my outline to several Milwaukee friends and they had some great suggestions that are all part of the mix. I’ll be able to get this up and running in a short period of time, and have a very unique product.

I’ve always heard a writer should write what they know, and I grew up in Milwaukee so I know about that. I’ve always done everything in my power to escape and not be a part of my home town, but a lot of that had to do with my dented can past. There were some very ugly memories about Milwaukee I didn’t want to relive, but now most of that is history.

The truth is, Milwaukee is a very unique place and, warts and all, it has an identity. I am a product of that place, no matter how hard I’ve tried to escape that fact. I’ll always call a drinking fountain a ‘bubbler’ and no matter how badly the Packers stink, I’ll still root for that big white ‘G’. Rather than deny all that, I might as well live with it. It’s in my blood.

This is going to be a hell of a show, I can feel it. I tried a one man show years ago, but I wasn’t close to being ready for that then. Now, I’m MORE than ready. I’ve paid my dues and know I can pull this off in a theatre setting and I’m going to start work immediately.

All my other projects are still in the works as well, because this won’t take me off track all that much. I already know the subject matter and have some of the jokes already in my show so I know they work. I’ll just be expanding and tweaking and it will be ready soon.

I Like Friday The 13th

November 14, 2009

Friday November 13th, 2009 – Orlando, FL

Another Friday the 13th, Mr. Lucky’s favorite day. That’s when everyone else feels for a day what it’s like to be me 24/7/365. Actually I’ve come to embrace it because it’s a good promotional angle. Nobody else I know uses it so I want to make it my own cow to milk.

There is at least one Friday the 13th in every year and no more than three. This happened to be a ‘three’ year in 2009 but there’s only one in 2010, in August. I have nine months to germinate and execute a killer promotional idea to get some press and I’m starting now.

An easy thing to shoot for would be to release some new product(s) then, but what I am really shooting for is to do some kind of live event. A TV show would be great, and that’s why I took this week to come down and be on The Daily Buzz. We talked about me being Mr. Lucky and it fit the theme perfectly. How can I parlay it into something bigger in ‘10?

One thing I’d hoped to do was release my new CD today, but that didn’t happen. It’s no big deal, as the world wasn’t waiting for it or anything, but it would’ve been a promotable angle. I’m all about gimmicks and promotions and angles that will attract media attention.

Unfortunately, I’ve missed a lot more than I’ve hit. I’m just so far behind on everything that I can’t keep up. The CD should have been completed and out by now but it isn’t. I’m not going to make excuses, but I did have other things to deal with. Too bad. Everybody’s dealing with the distractions of life. I have to suck it up and find a way to make it happen.

The weather was gorgeous today so thankfully that’s not an issue. I took a long walk up the road from my hotel which has every chain restaurant known to humankind, and a few that aren’t. I worked up a full sweat and also brought some 3×5 cards to jot down ideas.

One idea I don’t know why I had in Florida, or today – but I did, was to come up with a CD and one man show about growing up in Milwaukee. I’ve had that idea before, but for whatever reason it really hit me hard today and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I used up all my 3×5 cards jotting down ideas in a restaurant and people were gawking as I did it.

I really didn’t care what those people thought, I just kept writing. The ideas were really flowing and it won’t be difficult to put this in motion. I’ll need to find a venue that’s not a comedy club, as that’s not what I’m shooting for with it. I want to make it a theatre show.

I know there’s a limited audience, but it’s got to be at least a couple million people who spent at least a few years living in Milwaukee between the 1960s and 2000. They’ll know what I’m talking about and it will bring back memories. I know, I do it when I’m there for shows now. I can drop local references I can’t use anywhere else because I grew up there.

If I really dug deeper, I could come up with a killer 80-90 minute theatre show that will be hilarious and personal to anyone who spent time in or near Milwaukee. Nobody else is going to get it but that’s fine. It’s not for them. This would be a specialized market only.
There’s a guy named James Gregory out of Atlanta who is very southern in his comedy. He’s an icon in the south because he captures what it’s like to be a Southerner. His shows sell out at theatres and many times he plays for consecutive weeks. He super serves those who support him and his fans are rabid. I want to do the same for people in Wisconsin.

I don’t think I have to do all that much work to get this going. I’ve already got material about being from Milwaukee, because I am. It’s part of me and like it or not, always will be. I may not always like it, but the best way to overcome that is to make it make money.

There are plusses and minuses to doing a locally based show, but for now it’s a definite plus. I live close enough to Milwaukee where I can drive up and do shows in the area if it should take off. I would like to do places like the Pabst Theatre or other venues that aren’t comedy clubs. In fact, those are the people who indirectly have motivated me to try this.

There’s a guy named John McGivern who has carved out a niche for himself in comedy in Milwaukee. I’ve never met the guy but I respect his marketing ability immensely. He’s always got some solo shows running in theatres and I see his name everywhere. Good for him. He was smart enough to do it without the clubs, and that alone earns my respect.

My friend Steve DeClark knows John and I’m working with Steve this coming Saturday in South Milwaukee at the Performing Arts Center there. Steve is another guy who knows how to promote shows so he’s another one I can work with to help this go. I’m excited to get this going, as I think it will be a fantastic way to serve a market not many are tapping.

John McGivern isn’t my competition, nobody is. It’s up to ME and me only to breathe a life into the concept, and I know I can. All I thought about all day was what I’d like this to become, and I totally see the vision. I’m sure John does a fine job, but there‘s room for all of us. My take on it will be my own and his will be his. This will be a temporary project.

I still have no idea why the idea hit me in Florida on Friday the 13th, but it did. I was out most of the day walking and thinking and writing and by the time I got back to my room I was ready for a nap but it was close to show time. I showered up and went to do the show.

This is a really nice facility and there was a full crowd tonight. Mitch English came out with his wife and it was very kind of them to do that. They’ve got kids and Mitch gets up extra early to do his TV show and it really was nice of them to come out to show support.

The other comics on the show are both very nice guys and excellent comics also. That’s SO rare, and I told them both that. The opener is my age and hasn’t been doing it long but has a nice stage presence and could easily be a feature. The feature is very funny also and I can easily see him closing shows. By the time I got on the audience was in a good mood.

That’s exactly how it’s supposed to work and I had a monster show on Friday the 13th. If I could have shows like this every night I’d be a big star, or at least a little less cranky. I’ll work for audiences like this anytime. This particular Friday the 13th wasn‘t unlucky at all.

The Daily Buzz And Yogi

November 13, 2009

Thursday November 12th, 2009 – Orlando, FL

In typical Mr. Lucky fashion, the weather in Florida is absolutely horrendous. Of course it is. I wouldn’t be me unless it worked out like that. It’s chilly and cloudy and drizzly and everyone has been complaining about it since I got here. Cheer up everyone, I’ll be out of here Sunday morning so the sun can show up again. As for me, I‘m not bothered one bit.

I didn’t come down here for sun this time. I had business to take care of, and I did. I had my appearance on The Daily Buzz this morning and it was really fun. It wasn’t thrilling to have to get up at 4am but I didn’t want to be late. I don’t know my way around down here and the last thing I needed was to get lost or hit a wall of traffic. I made sure I got there.

They’re sure not bashful about collecting tolls down here. I thought the Illinois Tollway was a Nazi offshoot but this is worse. Every five minutes they’re shaking me down for all my spare change and if I knew my way around better I’d drive over a swamp in reverse to avoid paying them. I don’t know why I have such a disdain for toll roads, but I do. Period.

Whatever it cost, the experience of being on the show was totally worth it. Everyone on staff is unbelievably friendly and they really have a solid show with a fun chemistry that’s contagious on the air and off. My friend Mitch English is very funny and comes across on camera extremely well. Most TV weathermen are corny or stale, but Mitch has real talent.

I saw that when we were in Salt Lake City. He was doing weather there on a Fox station and worked for the husband of a woman who was on our morning show. He also was on a sister station in our building and I got to know him there. He was very friendly and we hit it off immediately. He wanted to do comedy but he had a wife and kids and a TV career.

God bless the guy. I wouldn’t trade that for a brutal road life of a comic anyway. OOPS, wait a minute, that’s exactly what I did. My bad. I guess Mitch got first choice. He picked a winner. He could have been a comic though, he’s very funny. I’m flattered he asked me to be on the show. He’s been offering it for years, but for whatever reason I never did it.

It was a couch interview with one of the other co-hosts named Andy Campbell, who’s a former touring comic who landed this gig about three years ago. I’d heard his name on the road and he’d heard mine and we exchanged typical comic talk of who we’d worked with and when and where and we hit it off nicely too. He’s smooth on the air and a total pro.

The staff laughed as I jam packed as many jokes as I could fit into my three minute time slot, which turned out to be a lot. Everyone involved with the show put me at total ease so it wasn’t difficult at all. I felt a lot more comfortable because I knew Mitch but it also was much easier than the Craig Ferguson experience because I was familiar with being on TV.

Television is a quick hit medium, and I’m learning to do it better each time I get on. My material and persona are a fit for TV because I speak fast and think on my feet better than most. I enjoy the challenge and hope to get on a lot more times. This was worth my trip.
I absolutely think I’ll be able to get on again in the future because Mitch has been in my corner all along. He knows how difficult comedy is and I can feel his respect whenever he asks me about the road life because I think deep down he’s always wanted to do it. That’s no insult, as he’s carved out a fine niche for himself. Still, the lure of stage is very strong.

Human nature always wants what it doesn’t have, so maybe that’s what keeps us going. If we all had what we wanted, nobody would make any effort to chase any of our dreams and push that envelope all the way and achieve something nobody thought was possible.

I’ve always wanted a family, or so I thought. Maybe seeing my wife come to bed in her flannel jammies and mud pack or having to change poo-poo diapers daily would cure me of all that rather quickly. I don’t know. It would be nice to have love and support but I’ve lived without it for so long I wonder if it’s totally necessary for happiness. Who knows?

What I do know is, I’m doing something with my life quite a few others would also like to do. Entertainers need that spotlight and it becomes everything from a drug to a habit to a way of life to a surrogate family. For dented cans especially, it’s what keeps us all alive.

One entertainer who’s about as UN-dented of a can I’ve ever met is Yogi Mueller. He’s an absolutely wonderful soul I met back in Milwaukee in 1991 when he was at Marquette University and working part time promoting a snack called ‘Screaming Yellow Zonkers’.

He and some other college kids dressed in flaming yellow Zubaz sweat pants and wildly designed costumes and claimed to be from the planet ‘Zonk’. They were going to various radio stations trying to get on the air, and I just had to have these guys on. Anyone who is ballsy enough to dress in full Zonk-galia has my attention. They don’t need anything else.

Yogi’s got some size too. He’s about 6’5” and could easily pass for a pro football player or WWE wrestler and has an even bigger heart. He’s loaded with creativity and is a gentle giant personified. He’s bitten by the performance bug too, and does musical comedy with a partner. They call themselves ‘Token Fat Guys’ and they perform all over down here.

Check them out at and tell them I sent you. We’ve stayed in contact but haven’t seen each other in person for several years now. He happened to be in town and not working tonight so we hooked up for all you can eat lobster at a buffet joint right down the street from my hotel. It cost a few bucks I don’t have, but it was worth it.

The sting of the price will long be overshadowed by the pleasant memory we’ll share of having an all you can eat lobster buffet. There were crab legs and sushi and some of THE best clam chowder I have ever tasted. If you’re going to go out, go ALL out. So we did.

Yogi’s got a great relationship with his parents and they’re both still alive, and live here in Florida. He’s originally from St. Louis and went to Marquette but now he’s settled here and his parents followed. He can’t relate to any of my dented can stuff and I’m absolutely delighted that someone had a happy childhood. I bet Mitch did too. What a fun day it was.

Thank You All Veterans

November 12, 2009

Wednesday November 11th, 2009 – Orlando, FL

I’ve said it before and I meant it – one thing I never joke about is how much I appreciate my freedom as an American citizen. I may be a dented can in what’s seemingly becoming a dented country, but warts and all this is home. I don’t ever want to live anywhere else.

Veterans Day and the bloody price that was paid to allow me the freedom to air out my opinions, no matter how whacked out they may be to some people, has not been taken for granted – at least from me. My grandpa drilled it into me as a kid and it stuck. I appreciate every single day I live in this country, and I thank all those who sacrificed to make it so.

I’m the first one to speak out against all wars, but never against our Armed Forces who have risked and sometimes lost lives for generations because they’re doing exactly what a soldier is trained to do – follow orders. I respect how much they put on the line and I can’t honestly say I’d be able to be that courageous. They take it from theory right into reality.

On my airplane trip today the flight attendant gave a special thank you to all soldiers for Veterans Day and I started clapping along with about half of the rest of the plane. The guy in the seat next to me gawked my way like I’d just soiled my trousers, but I didn’t care. I did it louder and longer, and looked him square in the eye while doing it. He turned away.

I feel like such a loser sometimes. What the hell have I done to contribute ANYTHING in this life? Not too damn much, if anything at all. I’m not saying a person has to be a war hero or is nothing at all, but some kind of service to humankind should be a part of all our lives in my opinion. I’m trying to do what I can in life, but I feel completely insignificant.

I wish I could go do shows for the troops and contribute that way. I don’t care if they’re in Baghdad or boot camp, I could be doing more to pitch in a little. I guess I could look to be hired for some USO shows, but I have no idea who to contact about getting those gigs.

This week I’m in Orlando, FL to be on “The Morning Buzz” TV show. I was scheduled to be on Friday the 13th, but they were packed so I got bumped back to the 12th. That’s ok, I’m just glad to get the TV spot. That’s three in one year, and for me that’s a record. ONE was the record, so I’m not complaining at all, even though I’ll be losing money this week.

I’ll be able to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while and hopefully start getting gigs down here again. I haven’t worked Florida in way too long and this is the time of year for heading south. I’ll take it in the shorts this week but I think it will lead to more very soon.

In honor of the Vets I fasted the whole day and reflected about America and my life and how I can best use whatever time and resources I have left. Not that my lard ass not eating for a day will do anything for anyone, but it was my symbolic way of showing solidarity.

The more I think about others and their situations in life, the more I realize I’ve got a lot  to be thankful for in my own. And I am. I’ll still complain, but never on Veterans Day.

Facing Father Issues

November 11, 2009

Tuesday November 10th, 2009 – Gurnee, IL

Today was very significant on several levels. First, it would have been my father’s 72nd birthday. I’ll never forget this date as long as I live for exactly that reason, but the anger I had for whatever reasons I had it is fading quickly. Now I just feel it was all a big waste.

I googled my father’s name today and not one single thing came up. Not anything about his death or birth or anything else in between. It was like he was never here. He never did anything for his kids because he never did anything for himself. I almost feel sorry for the guy. He had 69 years to make his mark doing anything, and he blew it. It’s embarrassing.

Maybe the reasons for his mean spirited menacing ways were due to the lack of his own achievements, but it sure wasn’t fun to be the recipient of them. He was a bully and not at all supportive of anything I ever did. Never did we bond, even a little. Now it’s too late.

WAY too many people have father issues, and it’s a common motivator for entertainers of all kinds. Wayne Dyer’s father abandoned his whole family and his mother had to get a job and support the kids. He tells a riveting story of how he finally found where his father was buried after years of searching, and totally forgave him. When I first heard it, I cried.

Steve Martin has another moving story about father issues in his book “Born Standing Up” as he describes a deathbed exchange with his father that cleared the air. That was a tear jerker too, and I totally felt his pain. Unfortunately, I never got to have that deathbed chat to clean up our issues. We did meet for about an hour when I was 31, and that was it.

I used to think he would rot in hell for how he treated his family, but now I’m not even sure if there is a hell. THIS seems like it to me, and if there’s somewhere worse I’d like to see it just out of curiosity. Brett Favre is playing for the Vikings and Dane Cook sells out arenas while I struggle to get work in the U.P. of Michigan to pay my rent. THAT’S hell.

I don’t really have any feelings at all for my father anymore. He’s been dead to me a lot longer than his body has, so what’s the loss? Does Stevie Wonder miss his sight? How is that possible if he never had it? He got along this far without it and still made a great life.

What are the answers to any of this? I sure don’t have any. I think my mother’s birthday is tomorrow, but I’m not sure if she’s living or dead much less when her birthday is. It’s a non issue and getting more distant. The damage is done and they’re both part of my past.

Another significant event today was the execution of the D.C. Sniper John Muhammad. What an unthinkable horror he unleashed on so many innocent people. I remember seeing that whole scene on TV and being glued to coverage because of how frightening it was.

Whose father issues are that nasty to go off the deep end like THAT? Even I’m not able to comprehend that kind of pain. I heard on the radio he never acknowledged anyone even as he was being strapped to the gurney. The dents in his can are beyond comprehension.

Another significant event today took place at the Key Lime Cove Resort in Gurnee, IL. I’m a member of the Lake County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and was put in touch with some people at Key Lime Cove about possibly doing a version of a comedy class for their staff. It was completely experimental and I was scheduled to do it with Bill Gorgo.

Bill is a high school teacher in Chicago and called to tell me two of his students were in the hospital after being shot last night and he was dealing with all that went with that ugly nightmare. They weren’t in danger of dying, but it’s still shocking to hear of such a thing.

I told Bill not to worry about showing up, as the Key Lime Cove people had no idea of anything we had planned, other than it was about humor. If there’s one thing I can handle it’s giving a talk about comedy and humor so that’s what I did for the scheduled program. I told the lady in charge I’d have about 30-45 minutes planned and I easily covered that.

What I’m trying to accomplish is start a more watered down version of a comedy class for a more corporate type audience. I have exercises for team building and have 15 years of teaching under my belt and I know there is something useful with spreading interest in humor to people who have high stress jobs. I also want to do a version for the public too.

I read years ago about a guy who worked in a cancer ward that started a club for those at the hospital who wanted to laugh. He did it to get away from the constant barrage of death and chemotherapy and sadness for one hour a week and he said it was a stunning success.

I wish I’d saved that article but it always stuck in the back of my mind. Now it’s time to breathe some life into it and develop it into a service for humankind. Times are tough and laughter is needed more now than at any time I can ever remember. This is going to work, but I still don’t know how or where. It’s significant that I did the first one tonight though.

We had eleven people show up but then one guy got a call and had to leave. They were all very nice people and it wasn’t unpleasant, but I have no idea how I did. I tried to bring some of the lessons I teach at comedy class, but these people don’t want to be comedians. It’s going to take some tweaking and practice, but eventually I know it will be a winner.

The reason I was so excited about Key Lime Cove is that ‘Famous Dave’ Anderson put the concept together. I have ultimate respect for that guy and the operation reflects what a sharp business mind he has. The staff is on top of it and I want to associate with winners.

Maybe we’ll do something and maybe we won’t, but I appreciate the chance I got to try my first meeting there. Bill will add a lot to the project and I’ll keep learning and tweak it until it strikes a nerve with the right people. MILLIONS of people could use more laughs.

My last significant event was seeing “This Is It”. What an amazing entertainer Michael Jackson truly was, and his talent broke all previous barriers. He was the ultimate dented can with severe father issues, and no matter how rich or famous he was they were always there. He sure left his mark and now it’s time for me to make mine. My father never did.