On The Mark

Tuesday December 29th, 2009 – Hoffman Estates, IL

Alright, time for some action. I’ve been playing small time ping pong far too long. My whole family were small time hustlers for generations, never having the guts to chase the big dream. I love my grandpa, but he settled for mediocrity. No, it was even less. He told me it bothered him in the end, but by then it was too late. I have a chance to roll my dice.

Actually, I’ve been rolling them my whole life. I took chance after chance with projects like buying a pro wrestling business and radio jobs which continually blew up in my face time after time. Comedy has been a gamble too. I sacrificed the chance for a wife and kids because I felt I wouldn’t have been able to do both of them justice. Turns out, I was right.

I really haven’t lit the world on fire as a comedian either though. Yes, I’ve survived and made a hobo’s living for over twenty years, but as far as a career goes I’m still a no name on the big scene. Part of that was bad breaks and part of it was bad choices. Together, that puts me where I am today. I’m an experienced act that nobody knows. How can I fix that?

I’m not the only comedian or entertainer in general who’s in this position. Not by a long shot. Everyone thinks they should be farther than they are, including those who’ve “made it” in the eyes of their peers. In fact, there are quite a few people who think I’ve made it.

In some ways I have. If I did one thing right, I stayed with standup comedy. No matter if I was promoting pro wrestling shows or doing morning radio or even trying to get myself cleared of bank robbery charges, I always kept working at comedy. I’d get stage time even if it meant losing sleep or not being able to have fun with friends. I always kept working.

Now, I’m very happy I did that. I know in my heart I’ve paid my dues, and so do all the people around me. Even those who think I’m a total ass always close their babbling rants with “…But he IS a good comic.” They can’t take that away, but I don’t care about them. I care about me. And audiences. I want to find a core audience and please them forever.

A ton of other people have done it, now it’s my turn. To what degree remains a variable for each individual. Dane Cook’s core audience comes out 20,000 at a time in each city at an arena where hockey and basketball games usually take place. It doesn’t matter what his act is, that’s pretty impressive marketing. That’s what this whole business is – marketing.

My marketing has been half assed and mediocre at best. I’ve been too busy working on creating an act all these years, but that’s what I really enjoy. Trying to procure work from some felonious honky tonk proprietor or getting new headshots taken was never what my passion was, and it isn’t now. Some of that needs to evolve, and I need to market myself.

The best marketers have made the most money, and talent had little or nothing to do at all with any of them. Talent is subjective anyway. I’d rather have an audience enjoy what I do and they can decide if I’m talented or not. Actually, likeability and charisma have the larger long lasting impact. If audiences like it, they’ll pay to see it. THAT’S true ‘talent’.
Today I took a very important step in improving my marketing by meeting with Mark Huelskamp. He’s Jim McHugh’s brother in law and a web designer par excellence. He’s the guy who did the Chicago Style Standups website when I was with them and I always thought that one looked fantastic. Mark is a pro and Jim McHugh suggested I talk to him.

My personal site is being handled by my friend Shelley. She really helped me get back up and running after my ex business partner cleaned me out, and I’m very grateful for her doing that. The site looks clean and is easy to navigate and she did a great job on it. She’s a giver like me and I appreciate that but she’s got a husband, two kids and a full time job.

I don’t expect Shelley to snap to my every whim, even though she’s been super at doing whatever I’ve asked her to do. Now it’s time to ramp the whole program up a few notches and I don’t feel comfortable leaning on her to do that. I need to get someone who can take me to a higher level, even if it costs money to get there. Money begets money. So I hear.

Mark and I met at Jim’s house today and went over the big picture of what I want. I told them I’m scattered, but have a ton of ideas I want to eventually interconnect and create an umbrella project much like George Clinton did with the bands Parliament and Funkadelic to form “A Parliafunkadelicment Thang” or “P-Funk”. Everything was under one roof.

That’s what I want to do eventually too, but I have to build up the components first. We talked about that today, and the one idea Mark is going to help me with is Uranus Factory Outlet. That’s been sitting there doing nothing for way too long, and I cringe just thinking about that. I don’t think it will take that much to at least get a site up, and Mark agrees.

If I can get a simple site built that’s Paypal friendly and has a couple of products on sale I can build from there. Mark knows his stuff and I interviewed a few other people to help me with this in the past, but right now Mark feels like the right person to help at this time. I’m going with gut feelings and vibe, and at this time what I’m doing feels totally right.

Shelley will still be a part of it if she wants, as will a lot of other people. George Clinton goes on stage with over 30 other people and on any given night it could be any of many of the total amount that make up the whole P-Funk mob. He goes with the flow and so do I.

Flow is one thing but structure is another. I need structure desperately, and that’s what I discussed with Mark and Jim today. Jim is very good at structuring things and I’m glad he kept pushing me to meet with Mark. It felt right and we had a very productive meeting for about an hour, then we went to lunch at Portillo’s near Jim’s house in Hoffman Estates.

Portillo’s is a Chicago institution and it’s always jam packed. While we were waiting to order, Jim noticed that Carmen Salvino was waiting too. He’s a legendary pro bowler and growing up in Milwaukee where bowling is a religious experience, of course I knew who he was. Jim said hello and introduced him to Mark and myself, and it was a thrill to meet him. He and his wife were both very classy. Then he told Jim a story about getting stiffed on pay for an appearance he did where Jim performed. Different industry, same results.


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