Archive for January, 2010

A Waste Of Wednesday

January 21, 2010

Wednesday January 20th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

It’s coming up on three weeks into the new year and my whole schedule has completely jumped the tracks and run off course. I’m swinging in the breeze like a rusty gate and I’ve got to stop now and regroup immediately before I lose control of everything. I’m drifting.

It’s not like I haven’t done this before, but this is not what I planned for and I absolutely refuse to accept it. If I’m going to get anything done of any significance, I have to make a conscious effort to block my time and use it efficiently. I started the year off OK but then went off into my old ways and now I’m just letting the wind take me where it wants to go.

Today was a complete waste of time. Not good. I ended up sleeping late and that starts a day off in the wrong direction. I’ve been pretty good about popping out of bed early lately but today I flat out blew it. I don’t know why, and then when I woke up I still felt sleepy.

Emails have built back up to over 600, my bathroom is filthy, everything I own is piled up in disarray and I wouldn’t know where to find anything important if I really needed to track it down on short notice. In other words, I’m right back to ground zero all over again.

The fact is, things just take more time than planned on and that puts everything else off schedule and before you know it nothing gets done. Yesterday was a good example. I had a day I could have used to work on my mess, but I chose to go up to Milwaukee for lunch with Richard Halasz and then a trip to see the venue we’ll be doing a show on March 13th.

Did I have to do that? No, but I wanted to. But it wasn’t absolutely necessary. I need the discernment to determine what’s really important and what isn’t and then the discipline to execute and enforce it after I’ve made my decision. That’s a whole lot harder to get done than it is to say, but I’ve got to make an effort or I’m going to be out of time all the time.

Today I was asked to appear on some radio show in Chicago I’d never heard of to pump up our play “You’re On The Air”. In theory, that was great. In reality, it was a completely wasted trip to Chicago and several hours of time I’ll never get back. I’m sorry I took time out of my schedule to do it, and it didn’t do any good for anyone. It was a mistake to go.

The only good thing was meeting the lady who hosted the show. Her name is Maureen O’Looney, and I’m not nearly clever enough to make that up. She’s almost 90 from what the engineer guy told me, and she speaks like she’s auditioning for a Lucky Charms spot.

She was an absolute sweetheart of a person, but as far as promoting our show it was one of the biggest wasted trips I’ve ever made. This was on a brokered AM station and I don’t think there were many listeners who would want to see our show. I tried to fake patience.

I can’t keep doing distracting things like this. It takes hours out of my day that I should and could be doing some productive things. No offense to Maureen, but I’ve got a lot of things brewing and need to keep stirring the kettle. I’m angry at myself. This was a waste.

Advertisements

Back To Milwaukee I Go

January 20, 2010

Tuesday January 19th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

Never say never. There was a time when I could not WAIT to escape my home town of Milwaukee, WI. It was my life’s mission. Even as a kid, I knew I didn’t want to live there very long and as soon as I could leave, I hopped on the first Greyhound bus out of town.

I’ll never forget it. I was working at a restaurant called “Rustler Steak House” across the street from the Southgate Mall on South 27th Street in 1982. The Brewers had just lost the World Series and the nasty cold of a Wisconsin December with Christmas coming wasn’t an exciting prospect for happiness so I left my job in mid shift and bought the bus ticket.

I was 19 at the time and not sure what life was about, but I did know I wanted to live it anywhere but Milwaukee. Warm weather was the first target but all I could afford to buy with the money I’d saved was a ticket to Dallas, TX. I don’t know why I picked Dallas of all places, but I did. Maybe it was because I could afford a round trip ticket, which I got.

That trip was one of the best things I ever did. It was the first of countless cross country adventures I’d have over the next almost thirty years and at the time it took a lot of guts to chuck everything and DO something exciting. I thought I’d planned for it but I did a poor job and ended up having to use that return ticket a day after I got there. I wasn’t ready yet.

Coming back to Milwaukee was pure torture. It was cold and everyone I knew made fun of me for ‘failing’ in my bid to start a new life somewhere. I hadn’t failed, I just needed to learn a few more things which I eventually did. But at the time, I was feeling pretty low.

I went back to grovel for my job back at the Rustler Steak House but they wouldn’t give it to me right away. They wanted to ‘teach me a lesson’ and I guess they did. It taught me to rely on myself, which I’ve had to do since. Then I remember getting my job back after a while and then the restaurant closed and went out of business, leaving us all dangling.

I bounced around several other horrific low paying dead end jobs from restaurants to car dealerships as a lot boy to anything else I could do to survive. My grandparents raised me but my grandfather had died and that threw the family into a full scale war by that time.

It was all I could do to support myself then, much less try for college. I was all alone in a cold ugly world, and that world was Milwaukee at the time. I found it to be an alcoholic cesspool of  lowlife dysfunctional idiots who weren’t interested in bettering themselves.

They had no ambition to rise above anything other than their boring no brainer factory jobs, their bowling teams, and their beer. LOTS of beer. Milwaukeeans sure love to suck down their suds, and with most it’s a way of life. I never drank, so I never fit in either.

Over the next few years, I kept struggling to survive but eventually discovered standup comedy as a means to get me out of town. It was a rocky start, but I stayed with it and am SO glad I did. Comedy is what gave me hope and what kept me from swallowing a bullet.

As soon as I was able to leave Milwaukee, I did. I had a horrible family life, didn’t like the whole booze soaked mindset that embraced mediocrity, had no wife and kids to hold me back and knew the entertainment scene was pathetic to the point of embarrassment so I moved to Chicago in the mid ‘80s. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was fantastic.

It’s amazing how 90 miles on a map can be 90 million light years in life. Chicago had a comedy scene and I quickly became part of it and cut my teeth as an entertainer. I learned my craft and enjoyed my life and knew the first week I was there I made the right choice.

Then as life opened up, I took some chances and started in radio and that’s when things started to get all cloudy and convoluted. I ended up back in Milwaukee at 93QFM later on but that ended in total disaster. Still, something inside yearned to be a star there. I wanted to prove to those who doubted that I was worth something after all, especially my father.

It’s a common story in show business and life in general. We all want to gain approval from family, friends, lovers or whomever else we feel we need to impress. I admit that my main focus was on ‘sticking it’ to everyone, but what a waste of time all of that is. I know it now, but I hadn’t learned that then. I wasted a lot of time and caused myself much pain.

Who needs any of that? I’ve survived until now and although I made a ton of mistakes I regret horribly, I’m still in the game and in a much better mindset. I’ve learned a lot and it shows. Supposedly we’re here on Earth to learn lessons. Well, I’ve earned my doctorate.

All that being said, I drove up to Milwaukee today to meet with Richard Halasz. He’s a comedian friend I’ve known over 25 years, and he’s now promoting some shows as well. I told Richard about my one man show about growing up in Milwaukee and he absolutely loved the concept. He’s got me booked in Saukville at the Railroad Station on March 13.

Granted, Saukville is not where I pictured this show to be, but he says the people came out and supported shows he’s done out there with Will Durst and wanted to try something else. I’m willing to give it a shot so we went out there today to look at the room. I looked it over and met one of the owners and everyone seemed like nice people so we’ll let it rip.

If you’d told the clueless angry hurt kid who got on that bus in 1982 he’d be looking to return to Milwaukee to do shows, he’d have flipped you off and walked away. Now, it’s a whole new adventure and I’m really looking forward to it. I know I can pull this off for an audience that grew up in the same place I did. The difference is, I’m able to accept it now.

Milwaukee is what it is, but it sure is unique. After seeing everywhere else in America, I have a whole different perspective now. That time in my life would have been horrible no matter where I lived. It took many years to see that, but I have. I’ve matured greatly.

I doubt if I’ll ever live in Milwaukee again, but I’m close enough to be able to pull this off. I’m going to craft a show about my hometown and share it with others who grew up where I did. I’ll turn a negative into a positive and also make a few bucks for my trouble.

Back To The Trenches

January 19, 2010

Monday January 18th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Today the harsh reality sank in that I’d left a lot of things undone as I prepared to do the stage play last weekend, and now I’ve got an intimidating mountain of work to do to get it back down to a manageable level. I put everything I had into the play and now it‘s over. If it paid at least a little I wouldn‘t be concerned, but everything we made went to expenses.

I knew it would be a building process going in, but it took even more of an effort to pull this off than I thought, and now everything else is in disarray. I haven’t made any booking inquiries in way too long, and I also had intended to start the process of printing my CD.

The master is finally done, but it’s still sitting around because I haven’t been able to put any time into it to get the cover and liner notes finished and get them actually printed. I’m going to use my friend Greg Phelps in Indianapolis and he’s been extremely patient but it needs to get DONE. I’ve wasted a ton of opportunities to sell them and that’s not good.

I also hope to get a shopping cart on my website so I can sell them there too. That could and should have been done a long time ago, but it wasn’t. I blame myself. There’s only so much time in a day and so much any one person can do, and I’ve fallen behind on a lot of things I assumed I’d have been able to finish by now. I’m ashamed and embarrassed by it.

This is why having a plan with goals is so important. Making things happen in steps is a great way to avoid getting too far off track, and that’s where I’m headed right now. I have to be more careful in where I focus all my energy and at least back myself up a little bit.

Weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly goals and longer should be in place so I can handle a detour like this play once in a while and not get as wiped out as this has done. I have over 600 emails I’ve fallen behind and haven’t been putting in my time reading like I intended.

I’ve been exercising semi regularly, but that’s fallen off for the weekend as I got myself all wrapped up in the play. None of this is anything I’m proud of, but it’s how it’s worked out so I’m behind honest with myself. The cost of getting this play up and running was an enormous one. Even if it wasn’t an outlay of cash, it sure came in and took over my life.

Now it’s gone, at least for a while. I have some work this week and next, and then it’s a new month already. I have to get myself back on track for comedy bookings and also start working on my one man Milwaukee show. That’s something I can control and I really am excited to get that going. I see exactly what I want to do, now I have to execute that plan.

Uranus Factory Outlet needs to become reality as does the next level of comedy classes. I love all these projects, but time management is the old nemesis of the new year. It’s still a battle to find time to do all the things I need and want to do. I’m stretching it pretty thin.

Tonight I was back at Zanies in Chicago hosting the Rising Star Showcase. It was good to get back on stage doing standup again. I’ve got a lot of work to do, time to get started.

Fun And Foresight

January 18, 2010

Sunday January 17th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Back for a little hair of the dog that bit us. Last night was a major high and a chance for us to enjoy the sweet fruits of a lot of labor, and we did. After the show we went out for a fantastic meal at a place called Leona’s, which is a chain in the Chicago area. The food is outstanding, but we’d have had just as much fun at Wendy’s. This was about the people.

We sat around and enjoyed each other’s company and buzzed about how much fun this whole project was. Everything fell together exactly how it was supposed to, and that’s not what I’ve been used to in life. Six months ago we had a concept. Now it’s an actual show.

It took major effort from the group, but it was the right effort. The combination of what we brought to the table as the Kidders was the comedy aspect. Jerry brought along a radio outlet and Vicki Quade helped us develop our concept into a play format. We couldn’t do any of this without all these ingredients, and we know it. For once, things fell into place.

Last night was the launch, and it was a good one. Nobody made a fortune and we didn’t set the theater world on it’s ear – but we did DO this. Last night was our night to enjoy the thrill of all this coming together, but that’s over now. As great as it was, we had to return to the Beverly Arts Center today for a matinee performance at 2pm. Time to do it again.

It seemed almost surreal to be right back there so soon after our big night. By the time I dropped Jerry off it was after 2am and he suggested I just sleep on his couch because we needed to get back so soon, so I did. It saved a lot of time and driving but we still had our hands full getting up and showered and headed right back south for another performance.

The audience was again very receptive and we were actually a lot looser as a group. We knew our cues from doing it last night, but this time we had some technical glitches. I had my microphone go out for two of my characters and that threw us all off stride. I covered for it and projected loudly, but it was still a hassle we didn’t expect. Welcome to theater.

This is a whole new experience and there is much to learn. Some of the costume change situations were a little awkward too. None of us are used to that as standup comics, so we struggled a bit with the timing of it all. The first show Ken Sevara had an issue with it and today I did. I had a sleeve turn inside out on a jacket and I’ll be damned if I could fix it.

It’s like a pit crew in a car race. A lot has to be done in a limited time and if one thing is out of place, it screws everything up. I could NOT get that sleeve to pop back in, and that caused me to rip my microphone wire out of the socket and off of the unit that was on my pants. I stuck the unit in my pocket and went on stage to do my bit. I had no time to spare.

Nobody in the audience cared, and actually it was a good learning experience for us all. I have to believe this is all part of live theater, and the bugs will get worked out the more times we do this. We all agreed that standup comedy is THE best performing experience of them all. All we do is show up and talk. Still, nobody regretted doing the play. It’s fun.
Too bad fun doesn’t pay any bills. If it did, I’d make Donald Trump look like a vagrant. I’ve done fun projects my whole life. Once in a while I’ll squeeze a couple of stray bucks loose, but I’ve never come close to hitting the mother lode. I do want to experience that.

I read recently where my funk hero George Clinton’s mother passed away and he didn’t have enough money to pay for her funeral. That was a real wakeup call. George is now 68 years old and should be living the life of the superstar he is, but he’s still out touring so he can pay bills just to survive. That’s not right, and I sure as hell don’t want that to be me.

There’s nothing wrong with having fun, but smart financial planning has got to be a part of the mix at some point. I’m to that point, and if I don’t watch myself I’ll be in the same boat as George Clinton and so many others who either got ripped off or just didn’t plan.

From what I read, George was allegedly ripped off by people who were supposed to put his financial affairs in order after a bankruptcy in 1984. That was after his first big heyday but he would come back and have another big run when rap music sampled his big songs.

By all accounts he should be extremely rich, but apparently he isn’t. He truly is a legend in his field, and that’s even scarier. I’m far from legendary in my field and never had even close to the impact George did. If he’s broke and used up, what’s in store for me? I better learn to get my finances straight so when money ever does start rolling, I’ll be prepared.

As fun as doing this play was, I have no idea how long I’ll be involved in it. Fun is fun, but to really do this right it will take paying dues and a total commitment from all of us to keep going in the same direction. It’s like a band, and that’s what scares me. Bands break up all the time and a group of people have a lot more chance to clash than an individual.

I’ll be the first one to admit I have trust issues, and I’ve brought this up to the group. I’ll be a dented can my whole life, and in addition to that I’m a creative control freak. I like to do things the way I like to do them, and I think I’ve earned that right. Getting voted down in a group situation will only last so long with me, and I know it. I am creatively selfish.

I think that’s necessary to be good, and I’ve told this to the other guys. Jerry is fine with it, but I’m not so sure about the other guys. They say they are, but when money flows who knows what bumps in the road will turn into mountains? I don’t want any clashes to come out of nowhere but it’s almost inevitable in a group situation. I want to prepare for it now.

In reality, we’re all too old to put a lot of time and effort into this for years to make it an industry like a Rob Becker did with his play “Defending The Caveman”. He is a marketer like I’ve never seen, and I respect the hell out of what he did with that show. Vicki Quade is brilliant in her own right and has marketed her shows very well also. We need that too.

Now is when the real work starts. We had our fun for a weekend, but now it’s time for a review of everything and see where we all stand. Will we take it farther? Who knows, but even if we don’t just to get it this far was an electrifying experience. I’m delighted I did it.

Opening Night Fever

January 18, 2010

Saturday January 16th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Tonight was the big debut performance of our play “You’re On The Air” at the Beverly Arts Center and we all agreed it was a smashing success. We’ve been working for months for this night and it’s here and gone. Nobody can take this away from us now – we did it!

What an absolute blast it was to pull this off in front of a live audience. Was it sold out? Were people camping out for tickets like Grateful Dead fans? Were tour buses coming in from the hinterlands packed with rabid followers? Frankly, we’re not ready for that yet.

This was a first time run through in front of a live audience and that was enough to keep us more than occupied the entire evening. We’re all new at this and we’re working out the bugs. I’ve read that the smart restaurants never have their grand opening on the first night they’re open. They make sure they have the details worked out first, THEN they let it rip.

That’s exactly what we’re doing, and it worked out perfectly. We had a very respectable crowd and it wasn’t just our friends and family. We had fans that came especially to show support, and we couldn’t be more grateful. We felt like stars, and who wouldn’t love that for a first time doing something? The audience was right there from start to the very end.

We’ve got three especially enthusiastic fans that have supported us from back when we were on WLS and continue to show up no matter what we do. We love all three but we’d never be able to rank them in order because they’re all fantastic people in their own way.

One is named John Vass. He has been a huge supporter of Jerry’s on the air to the point of building a fan page on Facebook. Another is Fard Muhammad, (pronounced Fa-ROD) who always shows up to see us and tells all his friends how funny we are. How flattering.

The one who stole the show this time was Shoshana Weissmann. She’s a teenager who lives in New York and heard Jerry when he was on WABC and became a huge fan. She’s been a supporter of the Kidders too, and not only is she a sweetheart she’s brilliant to the point of genius. For her birthday she asked her father to bring her to Chicago to see us.

How amazing is that? Shoshana and her father came by train and were there to see our debut performance. Before the show she came back stage and met us all and got pictures. She was shaking like she was meeting the Beatles, and we all made her feel special, and she is. We love John and Fard and all our fans, but how many come from New York?

This was just a wonderful night all around. The people who were there were there to see US, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted as an entertainer. We gave them our best, and it really was a solid show. We’ve got a few things to work out, but nothing big. We’re on target.

How many people in life get a chance as adults to do something this much fun? Not too many, and we all knew it. Problems can wait, this was our big night to go out and pretend to be thespians. We all savored the laughs and applause and it was a magnificent evening.

Love And Haiti

January 16, 2010

Friday January 15th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Another full day of play practice today, but that wasn’t really what’s on my mind. We’ll be able to pull this off when the curtain goes up tomorrow night. We’ve all put in a ton of time and effort getting this project to this point and I’m really pleased with how it’s come so far in a relatively short time. It doesn’t suck, and we’re not going to embarrass anyone.

Our lines are pretty much down by now, but today we did a full dress rehearsal to get an exact feel of how much time we have for costume changes and where we each need to be on stage during each of our scenes. We all blew some technical aspects, but that’s why we rehearse. Nobody did anything major, and we all knew right away where we screwed up.

Dale Irvin was very nice to have driven down to watch and support us and he had some very helpful notes, as did Vicki Quade. Vicki is a pro and has all kinds of productions up and running at any given time and she’s been absolutely essential to getting this all going.

Everyone we’ve been in contact with has added to the mix with this whole project. It’s really been a team effort all the way, and a whole lot of fun too. We’ve got costumes and a stage setup and the material flows very well from all of us. Mostly that’s because we’ve all been on stage before. This is our standup material presented in a much different way.

Vicki got us some nice articles in a few of the south side newspapers and that’s another reason we’re all glad to be working with her. She’s done this before, and knows what the papers want. We’ve done it too, but not in the theater scene. We’re thrilled about it all.

The hardest part of the work is over now. We went from idea to page to stage and today we all walked out of there knowing we will come back tomorrow and give a show we can all be proud of. No matter how many or few show up, they’re not going to get cheated out of their money and that’s all we can ask for. We hope they enjoy it, but that’s up to them.

The Beverly Arts Center is a gorgeous facility and we’re loving it more and more as we rehearse there. There’s a guy named Peter who’s helped with lighting and sound cues who has been super easy to work with as have everyone else we’ve met there. Their website is http://www.beverlyartcenter.org and they’ve got other great shows besides us. Check them out.

What’s really bugging me is what’s next? I really didn’t plan on this play taking up this much of my time and energy, and I’m already slipping behind on my plans for everything else I’m trying to get done in the new year. I’ll have to make some tough decisions on my next moves so I can get back on track. The play is up and running and out of our hands.

Vicki will act as our agent and either book us or not. That’s what she does, and she’s as good at it as anyone I’ve been around so who knows? Maybe we’ll be working a lot but if we don’t, I need to have a backup plan. Actually, THIS was my backup plan. I decided to invest the time with the Kidders to make this happen so we’d have something to possibly sell to earn some extra money, and I’ll be dipped in spit if we didn’t pull that off exactly.

That’s not what I was thinking about most of the day though. This whole Haiti situation is really bothering me. I feel SO sorry for the people who are suffering down there. I don’t care what color they are or if they drink goat’s blood or whatever they allegedly do, it just makes me sick that so many people have to go through something as horrific as they did.

What really makes it worse is that they were suffering in the first place. I can remember when I worked in Miami a dozen years ago how everyone always made fun of the Haitian people. They were the Polocks of the Caribbean, and everyone told Haitian jokes instead.

I love jokes as much as anyone, and the sicker and meaner the better. But those are just JOKES. Deep inside, I have to believe any human soul with kindness knows when to stop kidding and start showing compassion. This is that time. Those people are in a big hurt.

I’m not going to go off on any big rants or complain about politics or anything else I am not qualified to do. I’m a political idiot and I admit it. Of course I have opinions, but who said that means I know what I’m talking about? I spout my mouth off with what I feel, but nobody needs to hear that now. What needs to happen is a little help for our humankind.

When Katrina happened, it got ugly and political and everyone pointed fingers and it’s a scar on our country to this day. My opinions don’t matter about that either, but it seems to me there could have been a much better solution on all sides in that mess. Let’s hope that this doesn’t wind up as political ammunition. No matter who’s in charge, HELP THEM.

I wish I could do something to help, but what? I’m struggling to survive myself. I guess I could send a few bucks somewhere, but how do I know it would do any good? This is an opportune time for scammers unfortunately, and I’m sure they’ll be coming out very soon to prey on people like me who want to at least make an effort to show some compassion.

It’s my job to make jokes and poke holes in the insanity of life, but there’s not one thing funny about thousands of people losing their lives in a few seconds. And why them? Why is it all so random? Those people were already dirt poor, now this? Who’s in charge here?

I can piss and moan and complain with the best of them but this is not a time to do that. I have no problems at all compared to people in Haiti who have piles of rubble where the house they lived in used to be. All I have to worry about are my stupid little lines for my stupid little play that reflects my stupid little life. I may have problems, but not like that.

I also stopped to see a woman I’m very fond of, and that was a total disaster too. I’d not seen her in a while and wanted to reconnect. We’d gone out to dinner a few times and had what I thought was a good time but then she invites me over tonight and tells me how she has a new guy she’s seeing and how great he is. Why do women do that? I felt like an ass.

There must have been some crossed signals or something so I got in my car and deleted her number from my phone. I would have been pissed if I hadn’t thought of the people in Haiti who are sleeping on rubble tonight. My dating life really doesn’t matter very much.

Acting Like An Actor

January 15, 2010

Thursday January 14th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

With all the over the top, underfinanced, whacked out, half baked crazy schemes I have been involved in so far in my life, it’s a wonder I don’t have more acting experience. I’ve tried standup comedy, radio, pro wrestling promotion, sports card dealing and other goofy stunts that would have made Lucy and Ralph Kramden wince, but I’ve left acting alone.

Part of the reason is that I respect it as a craft. Anyone has to devote a lifetime to it to be truly skilled, just as in any other craft. Acting is no different than comedy or music or any other craft in that regard, and I was lucky enough to discover comedy early enough on so I devoted my energy to that. It scratched my creative itch and I never needed to be an actor.

That being said, I’ve filmed a part in a movie and am appearing in a play all in the same week. How strange. Up until now my acting experience has been painfully low. Last year I was in a short scene in a film that was directed by my high school friend Bob Richards’ son Kyle, but that was a last minute thing. He did me a favor and allowed me to do a part.

Before that, I was an extra in the movie “While You Were Sleeping”. I was in an actual scene with Sandra Bullock, and I played a mailman of all things. It didn’t take any acting talent to dress in a postal uniform and push a mail cart down the street. The real challenge was not trying to hit on Sandra Bullock as we stood around almost an hour, ten feet apart.

They told us as extras we weren’t supposed to approach the stars for any reason. I guess I can see that, but in my case it was ridiculous. It was filmed in winter and it was about as cold as I can ever remember, and in fact too cold to snow. They needed snow in the scene so they brought in a fake snow machine to fill in the set, and that took just over an hour.

There we were, Sandra Bullock and me, just feet apart. She stood there and for the life of me, I could NOT get her to look my way and say hello. She looked up, around, over at the snow machine, everywhere but in my direction. After a few minutes it got to be funny.

Usually I’m a pretty good schmoozer and can strike up small talk with most anyone, but not this time. Sandra was not a huge star then, but I love brunettes and I would have loved to at least be able to test my flirting skills on a cold day when there was nothing else to do but stand there and hope my testicles would return by spring. She never even said hello.

I’ve heard since that she’s a very nice person and who knows why she didn’t say hi to a lowly extra, but all these years later I haven’t forgotten it. That pretty much ended dreams I may have had to be in movies, but I really never did. All I ever wanted to be was a solid funny comedian. That’s all that mattered to me. I couldn’t care less if I was a good actor.

Now, it’s a little different. I had fun doing Kyle Richards’ movie and even more doing a few scenes with my friend Lou Rugani in “Dead Air” yesterday. Plus, there was an actress named Tierza Scaccia who was not only really good looking and talented, she actually did speak to me both on camera and off. What a great name that is, too. I hope she hits it big.
I’d love nothing more than to show up at the Oscars with Tierza on my arm and moon Sandra Bullock. Thoughts like this are probably why I’m not only not an actor, but still a single comedian in my 40s. I’ve always been prone to doing things on the maverick side, and the masses just aren’t ready for that yet. Sandra Bullock did things right, good for her.

Actually, I’m glad I chose standup comedy over acting. I suppose I could have done the ‘actor/comedian’ route, but that usually means ‘neither/nor’. No matter how many breaks that didn’t go my way, the fact remains that I have paid my dues and am a solid comedian and NOBODY can ever buy that. It has to be earned, just like the skills of a master actor.

My problem with acting is, I have to be someone else all the time. I guess that’s fun for some people, but I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. It never appealed to me to have to create a new persona over and over again as it takes to be a successful actor. I was fine with shining up the one I had doing comedy onstage. It’s a personal choice for all of us.

Many famous actors kind of just play themselves over and over. Adam Sandler is pretty much the same guy in all his movies as is Martin Lawrence or Eddie Murphy or a flock of other people who didn’t start out as standups. Does Chuck Norris have stage chops? What about Stallone or Arnold? None of these people are what I’d call craftsman. Would you?

Writing is another craft that looks easy and lots of people aspire to become. That takes a lot of discipline and effort too, but who’s willing to put it in? Not many. Those that do are quite rare, and even rarer are those who put in the effort and have real talent to go with it.

I’ve never considered myself a writer either, BUT – I’ve managed to produce an entry in this diary every single day since March 14th, 2006. Does that mean I’m a GOOD one? No, but it does mean I’m a writer to some degree just because I’ve kept cranking out the pages day after day after day. I may still stink, but I stink less now just because I kept doing it.

Acting is the same way. I bet there are ten times as many unknown mediocre Caucasian wannabes in Hollywood and all over who want to be actors, just as I’ve wanted to get into comedy. I paid my dues and chased the dream my whole life, just as I would’ve done had I chose to be an actor. The hard work requirement doesn’t change no matter the craft.

It was a lot of fun to be in the movie yesterday, but I’m not fooling myself into thinking I’m some hidden gem that Hollywood is waiting for. If I really want to pursue it I need to be around it and study it. Acting classes wouldn’t hurt, and probably a few books as well. I don’t have time for all that right now, nor do I want to get involved in a whole new gig.

I love comedy, even though it’s an insane business. What, and acting isn’t? It’s a crazy world all around, so I’m glad I chose what I did. Comedy is the best there is, but that’s my opinion. Too bad, as that’s the only one I care about. No offense to actors, comedy is best.

Still, we’re going to have fun with “You’re On The Air” at The Beverly Arts Center this weekend. We had a dress rehearsal today and I had to act like an actor. I hope I fool them.

A Hectic Day Off

January 15, 2010

Wednesday January 13th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI/Kenosha, WI

Today was supposed to be my only day off this week, but I ended up putting in a sixteen hour work day. How did that happen? I’m about ready to drop from exhaustion but I have to be right back up tomorrow morning to pick up Jerry Agar and drive to the Beverly Arts Center to begin final rehearsals for our play “You’re On The Air“. I’m running on fumes.

The new car smell of 2010 has worn off and now it’s just another year. Two weeks of it are gone already, and I feel myself getting totally overwhelmed. I’m in this play way over what I thought it would be, and fun or not it’s draining all my free time. I didn’t expect it to be this all inclusive, but it is. Today I went to Milwaukee to scour some thrift stores.

I know thrift stores very well, and can usually find what I need if I look hard enough for it. Usually I look for books or audio programs, but not today. I was trying to find costume pieces to go with the characters I play and it was a real challenge. I did it on Monday with Chicago junk shops and today I covered as many in Milwaukee as I could. It was a chore.

I know my way around Milwaukee and it’s thrift circuit quite well, but spending the day doing it is an energy drainer. I walked up and down row after row of junk seeing if I could find anything that jumped out at me that would fit into the show. That takes concentration and determination to keep focused but I hung in there and did it. This is our big weekend.

I was exhausted after that but I needed to get to Gateway Tech in Kenosha to appear in  the film “Dead Air” by Mark Gumbinger. He’s the director and co-writer and we’ve had him on our WLIP Mothership Connection radio show a few times. He’s been asking me to be in a film for a while now, and today was the day. It’s only my second movie role.

Mark has done a lot of directing of both feature films and documentaries and he’s a real pro. The schedule changed a couple of times, which is to be expected. He’s trying to get a big project done on a small budget, and if anyone can relate to that math problem, it’s me.

I was running a little late, but so was the shoot. That’s also to be expected. I had a much bigger part than I imagined, and quite frankly I hadn’t memorized any lines. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I just showed up willing to do what I needed to do. We ended up doing quite a bit of filming and I didn’t get out of there until almost midnight, but it went well.

I played a ‘stern but likeable’ radio station manager. Do any of those exist? I would bet I’d see a two headed albino leprechaun with webbed feet riding a unicorn before I’d see a ‘stern but likeable’ radio station manager. That was a challenge, but I think I pulled it off. Mark was very easy to work with and seemed happy with what we did. I’m glad I did it.

This is all a lot of unexpected effort I didn’t expect to be putting in, but I think it’s very worthwhile so I’m doing it anyway. It’s like a quarterback calling an audible at the line of scrimmage when the defense changes. I have an opportunity to gain some experience and learn different things so I’m investing time and energy while the situations are available.

Working At Our Play

January 14, 2010

Tuesday January 12th, 2010 – Cary, IL

This ‘play’ stuff is anything but. We’ve worked harder as a group on this one project for no guaranteed return than just about anything else I can ever remember doing. This isn’t a play, this is a WORK – and lots of it. I’m learning a lot and having fun, but it’s an effort.

Even though we’re all basically doing bits from our comedy acts, they’ve been divided up into chunks and spread out over the show in the form of characters which we each are working to bring to life. We’ve all done our material as standup comedy. This is different.

Since we’re doing a show about talk radio, the characters we are playing will either be a live in studio guest with Jerry, or a caller. Each of us is playing several characters and it’s a real challenge to define each one clearly with just a jacket, wig, hat or some sunglasses.

We’ve been gradually putting it all together, and everyone sees the mammoth effort that it has taken to get even this far. We haven’t even done our first real show yet and we have already updated and rewritten and improved the whole show countless times. We improve and upgrade something absolutely every time we get together, and nobody thinks it sucks.

We’re all professional entertainers and have been on stage or in front of a live mike for a lifetime. We won’t freeze up and draw a total blank, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be blowing lines and/or forgetting cues. That’s why we’re working so hard to get it smooth.

Vicki Quade has been a real help in guiding us in a theatrical direction. She has a lot of experience in not only putting plays together, but getting them up and running in theaters. I really don’t think we could have gotten close to this far without her, and everyone in the group knows it. This truly has been a group effort and everyone involved has had a part.

We went through another rehearsal at Jerry’s house today, but mostly it was about what each of us was wearing for each scene and where we’d be standing on stage. We did run a few scenes, but not the actual dialogue from top to bottom. We only did a few transitions.

I for one am absolutely sick of my lines by now. I’ll be fine once an audience is there to hear them, but reciting them to each other is a complete drag. I like to be fresh and wing it whenever I can, but the other guys are much more regimented. I have to be very respectful of that, and I try to be even though it’s torture for me. This is a team effort, not my show.

I’ve always read where Jackie Gleason never liked to rehearse for “The Honeymooners“ and just went out and riffed it. He’d apparently drive the rest of the crew nuts, and I never wanted to do that even though I do enjoy working fresh and completely in the moment.

If nothing else, one thing I do have is a new perspective on just how difficult this whole entertainment thing is, at least to pull off correctly. Standup is supposed to be the hardest, but all of us are experienced in it so we can handle that. Doing this play was hard, but we all rolled up our sleeves and put in our time. I sure hope the audience likes it. We’ll see.

The Cardinal Sin

January 11, 2010

Sunday January 10th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

They sucked me in again. Damn those green and gold bastards. How do they keep doing that? I swore I was NOT going to let myself succumb to the temptation but I blew it. I fell full force for the fever, and got a face full of football feces flung at me. How frustrating.

Somewhere in the cosmos there has to be a planet where life doesn’t suck the bottom of an outhouse hole. That’s where I want to live, and if there’s an extra seat on any departing mother ships I’m ready to leave immediately. Maybe I can get a space ticket deal online.

After today’s flaming football flop, I’m ready to pull up stakes and relocate to a planet I can call home. Maybe it’s Uranus, as that’s exactly where my beloved Green Bay Packers took it today in what sports people are calling one of the best playoff football games of all time. I’m convinced it’s only a great game if your team wins. Otherwise, it’s just torture.

To invest time and emotion in cheering for a team and then watch them get scorched at the very end is about as fun as riding in the passenger seat with a suicide bomber, and has the same result. It’s a sudden jolt that has lasting results. The pain doesn’t go away soon.

This is the worst time to be a Packerholic. I knew they weren’t going to have it easy this week but nobody predicted a game like this. I had a strong feeling they were going to lose and if I was smart I would have bet what little money I do have and not watched one play. I could have spared myself the death dagger at the end and put a few bucks in my pocket.

I’ve often heard that Dallas Cowboy fans still ache over the infamous Ice Bowl game in Green Bay in the ‘60s. I love watching those old highlights because I know how it comes out and it cheers me up every time. It was one of the all time great games in NFL history, or so the announcers keep saying. I guess I never had to watch it from a Dallas viewpoint.

I started doing some work today and vowed to make it a productive one. I’ve got a play to rehearse for this week and just came off a solid week of comedy shows. I’m starting to get some momentum going in the new year and I didn’t want to ruin it with having to get my spirits crushed by a lousy football game. I know my weak spots and this is a big one.

Everyone was predicting a Packer victory and I really did feel like that was my cue not to watch the game. I’m not a gambler at all, but I really did get the feeling to lay down as much money as I could get my hands on and bet on Arizona. I didn’t listen to that either.

When the game started I purposely isolated myself and started working. Then, I blew it by rationalizing I had to just peek at the score. They were down 31-10 by that time and it seemed like it was over. Fair enough. I was glad I didn’t watch it. But then it all changed.

They launched a remarkable comeback and I got texts from friends saying how exciting it was. That’s when I lost it and couldn’t resist anymore. I got sucked back in and that was it. They got beat and it’s over. And it hurts. It feels like a cactus was jammed in my soul.