Archive for February, 2010

Three Times A Kidder

February 28, 2010

Saturday February 27th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

“You’re On The Air!” starring Jerry’s Kidders performed live for the third time tonight at The Irish Heritage Center on the north side of Chicago. Even though 99.99999% of the planet, country, state or city couldn’t have cared any less – we enjoyed ourselves anyway.

We’re in a very difficult situation and it’s too bad, as there really is something with this concept. The show is funny, and I’m not saying that just because I’m in it. We hadn’t put a lot of time and effort into it since our last performance at the Beverly Arts Center, but it all fell together again as we started rehearsing. We ended up having our best show yet.

Too bad the circumstances weren’t the greatest. We had a lot to overcome, but we made up our minds we weren’t going to complain until after the show. We kept it all positive in a situation where it could have easily gotten ugly very quickly. I was proud of everyone.

There was a lot of miscommunication all around. When we arrived at the venue was the first time we discovered there wasn’t a light and sound technician, nor was there a way to do blackouts between scenes. Our show is written that way, so we were in quite a pickle.

Also, the stage was WAY smaller than we were expecting, and backstage availability to change costumes between scenes wasn’t available either. It was a major bomb on all of us and it would have been very easy to just can it and not do it at all. Tim Slagle, Ken Sevara and I calmly talked about it and decided this was what we had to work with so we’d do it.

That was a conscious decision we all made as a group, and nobody raised their voices or whined about it after that. Jerry Agar was out of town all week filling in on a radio station in Toronto so he can keep his house, so nobody can fault him for that. He showed up later and we all decided we were going to pull off a show no matter what, and we actually did.

The room we were in was gorgeous, and for a standup show it would have been stellar. I’d still love to do a standup show in there at some point, but for our play it was a difficult fit. The lighting wasn’t made for what we were doing and all around it was an adjustment we all had to make on the fly. It wasn’t convenient, but our options were extremely few.

The performance part ended up being really fun. We had our fans Fard Muhammad and John Vass and precious few others, and we appreciated them all. Those who did show up were great laughers, and they rolled with the circumstances and we ended up having fun.

I couldn’t be any more grateful for the fans we do have, and it’s a pleasure to be with an outstanding group of guys to work with in Jerry, Ken and Tim. For only our third show, it was not without it’s moments. We ad libbed some lines and we all felt ourselves growing.

Still, the reality is I don’t know how much longer we can keep doing these shows. This is getting to be an expensive hobby. We all took off comedy work to do this and nobody will be getting rich this week. Fun is fun, and this was, but we’ve got to turn a buck soon.

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Uranus Is Coming To Life!

February 28, 2010

Friday February 26th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Slowly but surely, Uranus is showing signs of life. It’s my job to determine whether that life will be intelligent or not, so I’m trying to think things through thoroughly beforehand so I don’t make any stupid mistakes. It doesn’t guarantee I won’t, but I’m being cautious.

My t-shirt printer Marc at Innovative Ideas in Antioch, IL called to let me know my first batch of t-shirts was ready and I hurried over to pick them up. It’s a simple design and it’s only on two dozen items, so if I can’t sell them all at least I’m not gambling my life away.

I’ve heard about all the websites where they’ll make one shirt on demand, and I suppose that’s the least gamble, but I didn’t like their products and fee structure so I decided to do it this way. I wanted to find a t-shirt printer guy I could work with, and I think I did. Marc is very laid back and has twenty years experience in the business. I feel a synergy there.

He put one of my shirts in his store window and said he’ll gladly test them out. If we hit on a winner, I’ll gladly cut him in on sales if he displays them for me. He’s willing to give me some test marketing, and that’s what it’s all about. Comedians test jokes on stage, and this is testing them on his store wall. What lines will get people to pull out their wallets?

I’m excited about this process, but I’m far from finished. I still have to create content on the website in addition to getting the whole mailing fulfillment system down pat for when I do actually start getting some orders. Then there’s records, taxes, advertising, coming up with new product ideas, it’s never going to end. That’s what it takes and I’m fine with it.

This is either going to be my retirement fund or a flaming explosion of a failure. I think I have a winner of an idea, but so does everyone who starts out in business. I’m sure every meeting before releasing the Edsel or New Coke was loaded with smiles and optimism.

I think I’m doing things right, and that’s why they’re taking so long. I had the chance to partner up with several people already, and I’m glad I turned them all down. In retrospect, I don’t think any of them would have worked out, and I’d be into someone for percentage of a company that’s either limping along or out of business altogether. I’m still in charge.

I waited to find the right website guy in Mark Huelskamp, and I think I did. He’s been a great help and he feels totally right. I feel the same about Marc with the printing aspect of it. He’s the right fit. We all understand if this works we’ll all have business for the future.

With the economy and times the way they are, even if this does all end up blowing up in my face, it will have been a fantastic learning experience and I ended up doing it my way. I love the challenge and accept the responsibility. Now it’s time to prove that I was right.

One thing I wasn’t good at in comedy was savoring every little milestone when I started out. There are many steps, and I was always looking to the next one. Today I’ll let it settle in that no matter what happens, my first shirts are DONE. It’s real! Uranus is underway!!

Exercising My Options

February 26, 2010

Thursday February 25th, 2010 – Gurnee, IL

The struggle for balance continues, but I’m making progress. First things first, I crawled out of the rack and got to the mall to get my laps in early.  I could walk near home and get results, but I like the mall. The temperature is controlled and at least there’s scenery to see other than some enormous sweat soaked ass on a stationery bike in front of me at a gym.

Gurnee Mills Mall is about seven miles away, but getting there can be a hassle. Traffic tends to back up as there are all kinds of unsynchronized lights, but I like to walk there so that’s where I do it. It’s long and flat and two laps is a nice workout. Three is a marathon, and if I ever decide to do four I should just apply for the job as a security guard already.

Walking is good exercise and I’m not alone in doing it. The others there aren’t all just a pack of dried up blue haired walking dead either, there’s actually a nice mix of people I’ll see depending on when I show up. The earlier I get there, the more I realize I’m not alone in a quest to at least attempt to get in some kind of shape. It takes effort to show up daily.

By the time I drive there and drive back and do a 45 minute to hour walk or more, it’s a significant outlay of time spent and it shrinks my work day. I suppose my heart blowing a gasket would shrink my work day even more – down to zero. Exercise is an investment in having some kind of a quality future that doesn’t involve being plugged in to a machine.

I’ve really been lax on exercising for many years, and unless I change my ways for good it WILL catch up with me. Nobody can live a sedentary lifestyle that long and then expect perfect health, especially with a diet loaded with sugar, grease, salt, chemicals and cheese.

I never smoke, drank or did drugs, but I’ll be just as dead as if I did if a major backup of butter and beef jerky residue clogs my aorta and I nod out on my steering wheel in a drive thru window somewhere. I’ve had a free ride for too long and I’m tempting the fates daily if I keep doing it. The body can take only so much – I don’t want to determine that total.

It would be a shame to have come so far in my life from so little, only to croak from not taking care of myself – something that is totally in my control. A lot of the other stuff I’ve had to deal with had nothing to do with me, and I still overcame it. This has everything to do with me, as everyone has a choice in what they put in their mouth or if they exercise.

If there’s anything comforting about this, I’m by far not alone in this struggle. Millions of Americans have this same situation, and it’s not easy to fix it in a short time. It’s been years of packing pizza and greasy burgers and fries and anything with mayonnaise down my gullet, and making it even worse by rotting in front of a TV and not exercising at all.

A few days in a row of walking a couple of laps in a mall isn’t going to turn me into the finely tuned world class athlete I never was, and I sure have lost a lot of the natural health and vigor I had in my teens and twenties. My home state of Wisconsin is the lard ass and love handle capital of the solar system, and I don’t want to perpetuate that trait anymore.

Unfortunately, exercising every day for a whole hour isn’t going to be easy. It’s just not. I have a lot of things going, and sometimes I can’t spare the time it takes to get to the mall and walk, get back home and shower up and then tend to my business. Some days will not allow that time, and I have to accept that and not beat myself up for it. That’s how life is.

Still, getting to the point where more often than not I do get some sort of exercise in is a place I am going to go. Period. I know I need to do it the older I get, and if that’s the thing that actually does kill me, it’ll make a funny story to tell. “Did you hear about Mr. Lucky? He started exercising and that’s what killed him.” I have to admit, that fits my character.

But, that’s only a stage character. I’ve said it before and it’s true – playing Mr. Lucky on stage is great fun. And it is. BEING him in real life is a nightmare. I’m starting to separate the two a lot better than I ever have and my off stage life is a lot more stable because of it.

I’m also pumped about doing this one man show about Milwaukee. Things are fitting in perfectly, and I can feel good things on the horizon by the day. I’m working with familiar people I’ve known for years, and they’re coming on board. Richard Halasz is a comedian who is doing some booking of shows, and I trust him. He’s honest and ethical to a fault.

Richard is the one who approached me about performing the show in Saukville, WI at a venue he’s booked before called The Railroad Station. I’m there March 13th, and he’s put a ton of effort into promoting it. I got a call today from a radio station in Fond Du Lac and they’re going to put me on next week to promote it. Plus, Richard made some great flyers.

I’ve also been approached about doing a big grand opening premiere show October 1st, and I’m excited to hear it. I will use that date to record either a CD, DVD or both and it’ll be something to promote all summer as I get my ducks in order and prepare the product.

I’m going to call in every local favor I can, but it’s already starting to come my way. It’s amazing how word is getting out, and I’m getting calls from all over. I got one today from my old friend Aye Jaye. He used to be Ronald McDonald for years and he’s now living in Los Angeles and still entertaining. That guy is a true character, and I mean it with respect.

When I had my first near fatal car wreck in 1993, Aye Jaye mailed me a check for $100 and I never forgot him for it. That $100 couldn’t have come at a better time and it paid for a lot of frivolous luxury items like…FOOD. He helped me when I needed it the most and I’ve never forgotten that. He added a bunch of fantastic suggestions I know I’ll include.

People like Richard Halasz and Aye Jaye and Ron Lee who used to produce shows back at Teddy’s in the ‘80s are going to help put this project over the top. Also, long time good friends like Drew Olson, Ted Perry, Steve ‘The Homer’ True and more will also pitch in.

I’m doing things right for once, and it feels SO good to see it come together after many years of frustration and failure. This is going to work! I can feel it. I’d hate to lose all this because I didn’t spend time exercising and blew my heart up like a five cent firecracker.

Great American Comedy Festival

February 25, 2010

Wednesday February 24th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Zanies in Chicago held an audition showcase tonight for The Great American Comedy Festival and I was fortunate enough to be included. It’s a comedy competition held each summer in Johnny Carson’s home town in Nebraska and has been going for a few years.

The website is http://www.greatamericancomedyfestival.com and the talent lineup is booked by Eddie Brill, talent coordinator for The David Letterman Show. I’ve showcased for him a couple of times before, but I’ll be damned if I can ever have a killer set in front of him.

Tonight was no exception. Everything went wrong leading up to the show, as it snowed all afternoon and made driving a nightmare. I live exactly 50.4 miles from Zanies and it’s never easy even when weather is good. There’s always traffic somewhere and it’s hard to judge exactly how long it will take on any given day. I left at 5:15 for an 8pm call time.

The snow got thicker both in the air and on the roads, and cars were spinning out and in ditches all over the place. I’m extra gun shy after my own recent car wreck in bad weather so my bung hole was clenched from start to finish. This was a high stress unpleasant ride.

I called Zanies to let the box office person know I was going to be late, but he never got around to telling anyone else. I got a frantic call from Bert Haas at 8:15 asking where the hell I was, but by that time I was already on North Avenue and headed toward the club.

They’d drawn numbers to determine the order, and of course I was first. It’s absolutely uncanny how many times that’s happened, and I’ve almost come to expect it. Number one is usually a good thing to be, except when it comes to a comedy showcase audition show. The crowd is usually tight and there are only six minutes to lay out whatever you’ve got.

This is a part of the business I’ve never been good at, even though I’ve improved a little only because I’ve done it quite a few times. The energy of a six minute set is the opposite of a forty-five minute headliner set, which I’ve been doing for years now. It‘s very tricky.

The audience tonight had no idea what they were seeing. They were just there to see the show, and didn’t realize how potentially important it was. They weren’t bad people at all, but they weren’t good laughers either. Then, the host Vince Maranto did a bit bashing the hell out of Wisconsin right before me. I like Vince, but he didn’t help me by doing that.

Normally I wouldn’t mind at all, and I’ve worked with Vince for years and years, but he gave my intro as being from Wisconsin so I felt I had to defend myself. The crowd wasn’t very hot and it took me out of my game from the first few seconds. I hadn’t planned to do that, and I was off schedule as to what I’d planned to do. The decisions are split second.

I’ve been in front of Eddie Brill before and he’s a great guy. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like him, and it also makes it a lot easier because he’s a comic himself. He knows everything that can go wrong and he’s experienced it himself. Still, nothing is an excuse.

If I’m in front of a talent booker for whatever reason, it’s my responsibility to show my best no matter what the circumstances. Nobody cares it was snowing to beat the band, or that I’d just driven almost three hours in highly stressful conditions. That doesn’t matter.

It also doesn’t matter what order number position I draw out of a hat. Actually, this was drawn for me. All I have to do is go up and showcase my best six minutes no matter what the circumstances are, and that’s all I can do. Eddie doesn’t see the times I go up and kick major ass for a solid forty-five minutes and have people tell me they can’t laugh harder.

His job is to find comics that he thinks David Letterman will like, and for this particular showcase he was looking for people who will play well in Norfolk, NE. The audience had no clue so the hard choice is whether to try and please them or try and grab Eddie’s ear.

That can be a maddening decision, and unless there’s total commitment it can lead to an absolutely horrendous result. I don’t think I was horrendous, but I sure didn’t nail this one like I’ve been doing in my headline sets recently. I felt like I didn’t get my best response.

I did get a chance to showcase at least a little of what I wanted to show though. I have a closing bit which is a rant about how idiots shouldn’t breed and it’s become a dependable climax over the years. I lead up to it for forty minutes, and then unleash a five minute big bang that usually destroys most of the people in the room. It kills, and I’m known for it.

It’s difficult to showcase that particular bit, as it usually takes a while to lead up to how I deliver it. It’s angst filled and animated and the verbal equivalent of the 1812 Overture. I tend to speak quickly anyway, and this is a great example of it. When it works, it KILLS.

My challenge is to find a way to audition with it so the Eddie Brills of the world can get to see it, but also get where I’m coming from with it. Just going up there as a white guy in a sport coat yelling isn’t going to do me any good. I know that bit works, but I don’t know how I’m going to do it in such a short time and have the audience get it. I gave it my best.

The audience laughed a few times during my six minutes, but not nearly as much as I’m used to. I worked a little more ‘clubby’ than a squeaky clean set for TV, only because I’ve met Eddie before and know he’s competent and can tell the difference. This wasn’t my set for Letterman, this was a set that would work in Nebraska, and it would. I’ve been there.

I’d LOVE to get a chance to go to the festival this year. I’d kick ass, because I’m able to adjust to each audience individually, and Midwest people usually love what I do. If Eddie calls me, I’ll be thrilled and say yes. If not, I know it’s nothing personal and all he’s trying to do is book the best festival he can. He cares about it and I would too. We love comedy.

I may or may not ever get on the David Letterman Show, and that’s just how it is. Eddie Brill or anyone else isn’t ‘out to get me’ or so many other things comedians think. It’s not easy to audition, and I thought it was so-so at best, but at least I got to show a part of a bit that destroys in a club setting. If Eddie likes it, I’ll get in. If not, ok. I know it still kills.

Benevolent Vengeance

February 24, 2010

Tuesday February 23rd, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Back to work with a vengeance today. Things are coming together quickly on more than one project and if I’m not careful I’ll have a life gridlock worse than I’ve ever had before, and I‘ve had a lot of them before. I have to really watch myself or I’ll lose myself easily.

Comedy classes are scheduled to start up next week and I’m always pumped about that. A mistake I’ve made many times is waiting until the day of the show to make up all of the class worksheets and put them in order. I’ve got them done early this time, but I still need to buy some three ring binders. I like to give the classes lots of paperwork to study later.

Uranus Factory Outlet is also closer to becoming a reality. I’m delighted with how it has developed, and working with Mark Huelskamp was the right call. He’s the brother in law of Jim McHugh, and Jim has been great at being supportive of the whole project. He gets what I’m trying to do, and I try to support him on his comedy projects too. It’s a win/win.

I did get my ass out and exercise yet again and that’s never a bad thing. It’s funny how a couple of laps in the mall are a lot more difficult now than they’ve ever been before and it isn’t an effortless undertaking. By the end of the walk I’m soaking wet and my legs really hurt, but I know it‘s good for me. Better to exercise now than after a massive heart attack.

One thing that’s falling behind a little more than I’d like is my comedy career. I need to address that immediately, and I started today. My booking system is nonexistent. I’ve not kept up with my list of older connections, nor have I sought out new ones. That’s the kiss of absolute death, and I have nobody to blame but myself for not keeping my name fresh.

Even though there is some shrinkage going on in the business, I still get enough calls to work for enough bookers to keep me surviving. I’ve lost touch with a lot of people due to my other projects, and that’s something that I need to be careful with or I’ll lose any good leads I do have. It’s never been a matter of who’s best, it’s who’s available that I know?

I’ve been working on lots of offbeat projects like the stage play “You’re On The Air” with Jerry’s Kidders and the one man show about Milwaukee called “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst” and that’s distracted me from my club work.

There are a lot of places I’d love to go back and work, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t. I haven’t been to the Comedy Caravan in Louisville in a long time, and I love it there. It’s a matter of updating my availabilities, and I haven’t been current. Shame on me. Calgary is another place I enjoy. The Comedy Cave is a fun place and it’s even good in summer.

There’s always Wiseguys in Salt Lake City and Ogden, UT and Rooster T. Feathers in Sunnyvale, CA. I’ve always loved these places and it’s high time I get back to all of them. I’ve got a new CD on ice too, and hopefully that will be out in the very near future so I’ll have something new to bring to all these places. There’s a lot to do, and all I can hope for is to keep myself focused and plugging away at all of it every day. Today was productive.

Thank God It’s Monday

February 23, 2010

Monday February 22nd, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

A rare Monday off today, and I enjoyed the chance to relax for a day. My weekly grind can get pretty hectic, and that’s what makes everything pile up. Most weekends I’m doing comedy shows somewhere, plus a Jerry’s Kidders WGN radio appearance is in the mix.

Then, I have The Mothership Connection radio show on WLIP in Kenosha, WI Sunday nights from 8 to 11pm. I have to prepare for that and make sure I have topics to talk about and/or guests and co-hosts to talk about them with. It’s fun, but it can get to be a lot to do.

After that, I usually come right back on Monday and either teach a comedy class or host the Rising Star Showcase show at Zanies in Chicago, or both. By Tuesday morning I’m in a catatonic babbling state of mental pudding, but the week is starting over and I have a lot of the same things to prepare for all over again. Plus, I have to keep myself in bookings.

There is a lot not only on my plate, but on the salad plate and soup bowl too. It takes an amazing amount of self discipline to keep all of this straight, and I’m the first to admit it’s never been a strong point. It’s amazing I’ve been able to pull off what I have, but I’m still not going to rest on my laurels. I have a lot more I want to do, and planning is everything.

If I’m lucky, this will be the last Monday I have off in the significant future. I’m starting comedy classes up again at Zanies and next week is the scheduled opening night. I have a Tuesday night class scheduled at Zanies in St. Charles, IL at the Pheasant Run Resort too.

There’s no guarantee either of those classes will fill up, but I’m getting a lot of inquiries so I think I’ll be ok. If not, I’ll keep trying and be ready when they do fill up. I’m still in a recovery mode from having to start all over again after my ex business partner’s stunt, but I can’t use that as an excuse forever. It happened, I’m dealing with it, and that’s about it.

I did get to the mall today and pound out two full laps, and was lost in thought the entire time. I’ve got all kinds of ideas rolling around in my skull, and walking the mall helps me shake as many of them out as I can. I’m learning to use that exercise time productively.

I also went back to the custom t-shirt shop in Antioch, IL to order a batch of t-shirts for Uranus Factory Outlet. The owner Marc is proving to be very helpful, and I’m hoping we can form a business relationship that lasts a long time. My mail order guru in California is a guy named Melvin Powers, and he’s always recommended finding long term partners.

There are a few things I didn’t get to today, but it was a day off so I’m not upset. In the little I’ve studied about numerology though, ‘11’ and ‘22’ are power numbers and today’s date was February 22nd. That’s 2/22. I have no idea if that’s significant or not. If so, oops.

I guess it’ll all have to wait until 2/23. All added up that’s 7, so maybe tomorrow has an outside chance of being a lucky day. I’m sure it’ll get a lot luckier if I keep working on all these projects I’ve started. It gets overwhelming at times, but in the long run I love it all.

Dabbling For A Day

February 23, 2010

Sunday February 21st, 2010 – West Allis, WI/Kenosha, WI

I promised my friend Richard Caan I’d take his table at the sports card show at Gonzaga Hall in West Allis, WI because he wanted the month off. I pieced together some scraps of collectible things I wanted to unload and arrived at 8:58am for a show that started at 9:00.

Nobody is ever going to get rich at that place, but for a $25 table investment I threw out my trinkets and spent the day haggling with the local chiselers. Milwaukeeans are right up there with the Scots as being cheap, so prying any money at all out of anyone is a miracle.

I did manage to make my table fee and a few bucks more, but not much. What set me in the black was finding out I had won the Super Bowl squares pool from last month and my $5 gamble paid off with $85! That was an unexpected break and I gratefully accepted it.

I’ll always enjoy the card hobby, but it’s not what it was. Nobody is hauling in millions, but that’s ok. It’s a social club to hang out with friends, and I love having a monthly time to just relax and escape the rest of the world. Yes, I bought all those cards and I wish now I hadn’t, but that won’t kill me. I’ll unload them eventually but keep a few for myself too.

What I noticed today more than ever was guys I normally don’t talk to coming up to me and asking about comedy or radio. They’d either heard me with Jerry’s Kidders on WGN or on The D-List on ESPN AM 540 in Milwaukee. I had no idea they even listened or had a clue who I was, but quite a few of them did and it felt really good to have them say so.

I never looked at myself as anything but a regular guy, but it felt like I was a celebrity or something by the way people were treating me. They would quote back a line I said on air that made them laugh, and I was amazed at how long they’d waited to come and tell me. I guess setting up as a dealer put me in their peer group, and I enjoyed being in it for a day.

I’m not going to kid myself though. I’ll never be a full time card dealer. That takes a ton of work doing all kinds of things I’m not good at, and on top of that the market isn’t close to what it once was. Richard will be back at his table next month, and I’m out. OK by me.
I’ve dabbled in this my whole life and drifted in and out. It’s a hobby, that’s what it’s for.

With everything else I’ve got going on, the card tide is drifting out again. That’s totally fine, I’ve had my fun. If I never see another card show I won’t complain, but if I decide I want to get back in it, I can do that too. It’s nice to have options, but now I need money.

I’ll take my $80 profit from the football pool and run. Maybe I can use it to finance my next set of comedy classes. Making copies of paperwork and buying binders will cost me right around that much. That’s what I need to be creating – multiple streams of income.

The Mothership Connection radio show tonight on WLIP AM 1050 in Kenosha was fun as usual. I got to dabble in radio all night like I dabbled in cards all day. That’s the best of all worlds, minus the money. If I can’t make money, at least I’ll have fun. Today was fun.

Something’s Missing

February 21, 2010

Saturday February 20th, 2010 – Racine, WI

Will any work I do ever satisfy me? The older I get, the more I‘m doubting it. I’m trying to enjoy shows more, but sometimes I just can’t lower my standards. When I’m on stage, I want to send people into a new dimension of time and space. I aspire to knock socks off.

Most of it is for the audience, but part of it is for me too. I am a huge fan of all kinds of entertainment, and I know how difficult it is to do it correctly. I’ve seen good and bad and also myself been good and bad, so I know the difference. I want to blow audiences away.

Lately, by all accounts I’ve been doing exactly that. Even more people than usual have come up to me after shows telling me they haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. I love hearing them say that, and I’m sincere when I thank them, but I know I’m still not there.

Last night at CD&ME in Frankfort, IL was a very good example. My friend and fellow Jerry’s Kidder Ken Sevara told me the crowd loved me, and I think they did, but I wasn’t at all satisfied with my show. They loved their part, but mine was not up to my standards. I felt like a couple of cylinders weren’t firing, and I wanted the overdrive gear to kick in.

Sometimes, an audience just can’t laugh any more. They’ve given all they have, and no matter how hard a comedian works, that’s the best anyone can do. I’ve gotten to that point countless times, but I still think I can get more. Hearing a large crowd pop with a big hard   crisp hearty laugh is a drug, and it never gets old. It’s an explosion of energy and I love it.

Tonight was another example. I did a show at the Racine Theatre Guild with my old pal Steve DeClark. It’s a wonderful facility and I was there with Steve last year too. We had a hot audience then, and tonight’s was right there with them. They were polite and listening the whole time and there were no drunken outbursts. In other words, it was a dream night.

Lou Rugani from WLIP came out along with Mark Gumbinger, the director of the film ‘Dead Air’ in which Lou is the star and I have a part. Carol Strempler is a regular listener to WLIP and calls in to both Lou’s show and The Mothership Connection, and she’s also in the movie. They all made it a point to come out and see me and I was very flattered.

The whole staff at the Racine Theatre Guild couldn’t have been any nicer, and these are the kinds of shows I’ve always dreamed of doing. There might not have been jam packed houses of thousands of people, but those who did come were as good as a crowd can get.

I loved performing for them, and I gave them everything I had. I got several pops during the show and at the end a large number gave me a standing ovation. What a rush that was! I knew they meant it and I bowed low in gratitude and meant that too. They were the best.

So why am I still not satisfied? I’m not. Grateful? Yes! Satisfied? Uh uh. I just feel I’m able to improve significantly, and I’m not up to my standards even though those who saw it this weekend enjoyed it. I’m glad they did, but I know I can do better. Time to prove it.

This really bothered me as I drove home tonight, and I know it shouldn’t. I’ve been on a red hot run lately and I should be on top of the world. I’ve had a lot of comedians tell me recently how they keep hearing my name being mentioned and how strong my shows are.

That’s really nice to hear, but it’s even better to hear people say I’ve helped them along the way and given them advice when they started. That means even more. I try very hard to be a quality person, but I know there are still those who think I’m a card carrying wank. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. I’ve tried to right all my wrongs, but a few just won’t let me.

Some of those people are in my own family. My sister lives in Racine, or at least I think she still does. She hasn’t spoken to me in going on 17 years now, and I doubt if I’ll get an opportunity to ever turn that situation around. That’s really sad and in a perfect world she would have been at the show tonight laughing with everyone else. But that didn’t happen.

We should have had a great dinner and some laughs before the show, and all her friends and neighbors could have come out to enjoy themselves also. I’m at the top of my game, and it’s taken a lifetime of sacrifice to get to this point – and I’m still not satisfied with it. Something deep down inside tells me I’m not doing everything I can to be my very best.

Part of it is knowing a lot of the mistakes I made are too late to correct. They’ve helped shape where I am now, and had I known better I’d have chosen differently. Other things I did know better but wasn’t able to choose differently. Living in L.A. is an example. I was out of money when I lived there and it would have been stupid to stay. I never went back.

There are plenty of other boo boos on my resume too, but through all of them I’ve never given up. I’m still out here slugging. I may have my enemies, and I may be my own worst one at times, but I’m still in the game and as long as that’s true I have the chance to win.

Now I have to figure out exactly what I think that would be. I used to think it would be attaining headliner status and working places like The Racine Theatre Guild for people in soft seats who came out to be entertained. That happened tonight, but it wasn’t enough. It was still hollow after the show when everyone was gone and I was by myself in the car.

A feeling of  extreme emptiness came over me as I hoped I haven’t wasted my life. I’ve had to struggle so hard to get where I am that I haven’t had a chance to really take a good long objective look at what I’ve done right. I’ve always been too busy fixing my mistakes.

I’m the first one to admit I’m crazy, but I’m not stupid. My mistakes are part of my past but I’ve done a lot of smart things too. My life has been an odd mix and even I don’t have a clue sometimes as to where I’m going or what will make me happy. That’s pretty dumb.

I’ve always been the happiest when I’m able to give something to someone who enjoys it. If I can help someone by teaching a class or offering encouragement or just being their friend I always try to do it. Maybe I’m not doing it enough, and that’s why I feel so empty right now. Maybe it’s a part of growing as an artist, but I feel I’m not where I want to be.

Creative Connections

February 20, 2010

Friday February 19th, 2010 – Frankfort, IL

I put 350 miles on my car today and didn’t leave the Chicago area. I didn’t plan on that, it just worked out that way. The first stop was lunch with my friend Dave Rudolf, one of my favorite people ever. He lives in Park Forest, IL, which is about 80 miles south of me.

It’s much closer for me to drive to Milwaukee than it is the south side of Chicago, plus there’s always the added torture of getting through the city. If I go through downtown it’s usually a traffic nightmare, and taking the I-294 bypass involves tolls I can’t stand paying.

I was booked tonight at CD&ME which is in Frankfort, IL. That’s not far from Dave so I thought I’d combine the drives. Dave is the greatest. I can’t begin to tell it with a couple of sentences, so check out his website. http://www.daverudolf.com. He’s a musician, comedian, cancer survivor and fantastic entertainer all around. Plus, he’s a super human being also.

I worked with Dave over 20 years ago at Snickerz Comedy Bar in Ft. Wayne, IN and we have stayed in contact since. He does a charity show every Christmas and is a giving soul type just as I try to be. The guy is always working on something fun and never gives up.

I’ve lost count on the number of CD projects he’s done, but I think it’s 24 now. He said he’s working on three more, and a couple of books too. Oh, and a play as well. He has his own recording studio in his house, and he puts it to good use. I love his creative energy.

He’s always been a big fan and supporter of mine too, and I’m very flattered by that. It’s always fun for me to hang out with creative types and exchange ideas and that’s what was planned for today. Like everyone else, Dave has been hit by the economy and has to think of new sources of income. Rather than complain about it he’s coming up with new ideas.

Dave has taught workshops on the business part of music and we’ve talked about trying to put together something for entertainers in general. Music and comedy and most genres of entertainment have similar business models, at least at the beginning and most newbies have NO clue as to how to get started. They’re left to their own mistakes, and that stinks.

Dave asked for some ideas for things he was working on and gave me some great input for the Uranus Factory Outlet project. He has a few connections he recommended and we had a very productive lunch. Dave is the kind of mind I want to have around my projects.

I was going to hang out on the south side until show time, but I received a call from my t-shirt guy Mark in Antioch, IL telling me my ‘T E I A M’ shirts were ready. I could have waited another day, but I decided to drive back north and pick them up. It was sunny and traffic was moving and I know it was a long drive but I didn’t care. I was in an up mood.

The shirts look really good, and Mark is proving to be very easy to deal with. He gets it. I drove back south to get to the show by 8pm, and it was a really nice audience and we all had a great time. I don’t mind driving if it has a payoff, and today was worth every mile.

Getting Ready To Rumble

February 19, 2010

Thursday February 18th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

More work today chipping away at the piles. People don’t realize how much work there is in the actual process of being a comedian and it’s been years of buildup that I’m hoping to clear away once and for all. It won’t be easy though, and that’s why I’ve delayed it this long. Who wants to sit around digging through boxes and sorting out scraps of old paper?

I surely don’t, but every minute I’m spending doing it is making me feel like I’m taking charge of my life, and I know it’s the right thing to do. I’ve been able to throw away a lot of useless or outdated stuff, but I’ve also found a whole lot of things I thought I had lost.

I’ve always been a note taker, jotting down ideas when I get them. I get them quite often but rarely have I been organized enough to put them in a safe place. I did have most of my best ideas on my old computer, but that got stolen along with my backup hard drive so for the last couple of years I’ve been trying to piece together a lot of the stuff I lost back then.

There’s no way I’ll be able to replace it all, but I have been finding bits and pieces of all sorts of different ideas I either thought I’d lost or don’t even remember having. This is the right way to do this, slow and painstaking as it is. I need to just suck it up and get it done.

My grandfather used to really drill me as a kid to do things the right way. I hated it back then, but I’m SO grateful now that he did that. There’s a very empowering feeling of total accomplishment when something is done correctly that can’t be bought. It’s only earned.

I remember one time I mowed the lawn in an admittedly half assed manner, as I wanted to go play baseball with my friends. Gramps caught me as I was leaving and made me get the mower back out and do it right. I missed the game that day, but I sure learned a lesson that’s still with me. Gramps and his wisdom have been the greatest gift I’ve ever gotten.

I want to be able to  pour everything I have into my upcoming comedy projects, and it’s going to be a whole lot easier if I don’t have any major baggage or unfinished business on my plate. This is the right way to do it, even though it’s taking time and energy right now.

Today was another full day of work, and I surprised myself at how much I cleared out in a single day. I’ve still got a long way to go, but at least I can walk around my living space again and even sit on some furniture. I had every couch, chair and table piled with boxes.

This is like a mental colon cleanse, and I’m just getting started. It was hard to get this in motion, but now it is. I’m seeing how useless most physical possessions are, and I’ll let as much of what I’ve managed to let clog my inner toilet go as soon as I can find a home for it. I’ll sell what I can, give to friends what they’ll be able to use and donate the rest of it.

I plan on doing a real colon cleanse too. I bet I’m backed up like the rush hour traffic in Tijuana, and blowing some of that gunk out will also be a welcome event. If nothing else, I’m getting myself ready for something new and bigger than ever before. It’s about time.