Archive for March, 2010

Living A King’s Life

March 20, 2010

Friday March 19th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

If nothing else, at least I’ve got variety in my life. I’ve got all these projects going on in all different directions, but I enjoy every one of them immensely. The struggle to manage it all will probably continue for the rest of my life, but it’s better than being bored to tears.

I was watching one of those “Lockup” inside prison shows on MSNBC tonight and that made me feel a whole lot better about my life. I saw some guy with forty years to serve go nuts and plug the toilet in his cell so it flooded the entire floor, and then he was extracted violently with tear gas by a bunch of guards in riot gear. It made my life feel like a king‘s.

In many ways, it totally is. For all the things that I haven’t been able to control, comedy is one that I could. And I did. I never stopped working and improving and no matter what happens, nobody can ever take that away from me. There’s such an exhilarating feeling of accomplishment that goes with it, I can’t put it into words. It’s taken a lifetime to achieve.

I’ll never be totally satisfied, and that’s a good thing. It’ll always keep me working, but I love the process so I’m fine with it. It’s who I am and what I do. I look forward to being creative, and finding solutions to my problems, and I’m in an excellent groove right now.

I’ve had so many ups and downs over the years that sometimes I lose track of important things, but right now I have razor sharp perspective for some reason. I’m seeing things on a level I’ve rarely seen them, and it excites me. I suppose I could have ended up in prison at some point, and nothing guarantees I still won’t, but right now I’d be able to handle it.

Why do I feel this positive and confident? Is it the manic part of manic depression? Am I seeing life in a new light as I get older? Have I totally flipped like an omelet and am in a delusional self induced hypno-funk of deceit? Whatever it is, give me this vision forever.

I feel totally at home in my own skin right now. Warts and all, I see who I am and know I don’t mean half a chipmunk turd in the giant zoo of life. Nothing matters except making myself happy, and I’ve found what does that – making others happy by entertaining them.

That sounds corny, but it’s absolutely true. I love to create and doing that correctly takes constant learning and growth. It also occupies my time, but in a good way. The days go by quickly, but when they’re over and I’ve put in my time doing what I love, I feel satisfied.

That’s what I did today. I drove up to Milwaukee to meet with Richard Halasz about the ‘Schlitz Happened’ show. I feel a nice synergy with him and we brainstormed about some things we can do to make the show better. After that I went to meet with Donna Gurda for more of the same. She could help tremendously on this project, and I think she’ll do that.

I’ve still got Uranus Factory Outlet on the docket, as well as comedy classes, two radio projects, a new comedy CD just days away and I have a seminar tomorrow in downtown Chicago that talks about reinvention. Something tells me to attend, so I will. It can’t hurt.

Trudeau Or False

March 19, 2010

Thursday March 18th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Kevin Trudeau is an interesting character to say the least. He’s always on late night TV with some book he’s pitching, claiming to have all the answers people need to solve their various problems. He’s been around for years, and I have to admit his pitch is persuasive.

I’ve been studying marketing for a long time, and he’s been a lightning rod for all kinds of controversy for several years. He has a super slick rap, but apparently it’s too slick for some as it’s wound him up in prison. Still, I can’t help but find the guy to be fascinating.

I saw one of his new infomercials a few weeks ago when I was in Pittsburgh and wasn’t able to sleep because of the pain in my knee and I have to admit I ordered his books about free money from the government. It claims I’ll be able to get my money back and a whole lot more by tapping the sources he lists in government that have money to send to people.

There’s another guy who has books on this theme named Matthew Lesko, and I got the chance to meet him years ago when he was a guest on a radio show I was doing. I think it was at 93QFM in Milwaukee, but it doesn’t matter. He was a very nice guy off air and the vibe I got from him was that he was just trying to feed his family by selling his products.

He must be doing OK because I still see him on the air occasionally wearing those suits with the question marks all over them making him look like The Riddler from Batman or something. I remember he gave us one after his interview but I don’t think I still have it.

I wish I did so I could see if his methods really work. I’m not stupid enough to think it’s easy to get free money in big hunks, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was some around for the asking and maybe even a poor shlub like me might qualify for a couple of bucks.

The thing I like about Kevin Trudeau is that he markets himself extremely well. He’s got books and a newsletter and website and has well produced infomercials that get people to order his stuff. They are packed with interesting content and make it easy to make orders.

The thing I don’t like is that he’s always bouncing around from product to product. That is a big red flag in my book, as it seems like he’s insincere and not passionate about what he’s selling that week. I remember him selling a course called ‘Mega Memory’ in the ‘80s and then branching out into weight loss. Then it was miracle cures. Now it’s free money.

I took a chance on his free money from the government books and they arrived today. It was a lesson ordering them because they were always upselling me on something else, but that’s one of the reasons I wanted to order. I wanted to learn for my own sales purposes. It isn’t illegal to sell more products, I just don’t want to rip anyone off. That’s not my style.

The books came with an audio CD and I have to say it was excellent. I’ll read the books and see if I think it’s a ripoff or not. If so, I’m out about $40. It’s a lesson, and I bought it with that in mind. If it works, I’ll admit that too. I have to say, the guy is a good salesman.

The Game Has Changed

March 18, 2010

Wednesday March 17th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

There aren’t very many events that could cheer me up more than an all you can eat sushi dinner paid for by someone else, and that’s exactly what I received this evening from Bill Gorgo and Nick Gaza. What a night! The food was outstanding and so was the company.

There we sat, three old school comedy road dogs talking about what we need to do in a completely different world than when we started back in the boom years. Comedy used to be a lot more regimented than it is now, but I guess the same could be said for life itself.

More and more, rules and guidelines are becoming a thing of the past and everything is headed toward anarchy. In many ways, the internet is the greatest thing that’s happened to human communication since the printing press. In others, it’s the downfall of civilization.

Things are changing at such an alarming rate, nobody really knows what to do next. It’s a constant state of flux, and I for one am struggling to keep up. It’s funny, Bill Gorgo is a computer whiz, and he’s the oldest of the three of us. Nick and I struggle just do to email. We talked about how the former way of doing everything has become obsolete forever.

In comedy, it used to be somewhat of a common path. A comedian started at his or her hometown comedy club, and became good enough to go on the road. Then, he or she put in enough years to move up from opener to feature to headliner in the clubs. Then, it was time for a national television debut, usually with Johnny Carson. Letterman was fine too.

After that, it was an HBO or Showtime special and then a sitcom for a few years. After that, maybe a movie deal. As crazy as it sounds, most of us thought we would eventually have all of those things happen to us. It was just a matter of time. How naive we all were.

The three of us all went in different directions. Bill chose to stay in Chicago and teach high school, at which he excels. He raised a daughter and did comedy as much as he had time for, which was a lot. He worked the Midwest mostly, but went other places as well.

I chose to try radio, but never stopped doing comedy no matter where I was. I did move to L.A. in the mid ‘90s, but I only lasted about a year out there before money ran out. It’s a common story for many, but nobody cares. They only want to hear the tales of success.

Nick Gaza lived in L.A. for about fifteen years. He survived, but never got his big break we all dream of. He decided to move back home and start over, which is THE most brutal decision to have to make because deep down it feels like the dream is over. It really hurts.

He’s not the only one that moved back. I did too, and so do actors, singers, models, ball players, radio and advertising people and every other competitive field that requires talent and people dream about doing. Only a precious few ever hit real pay dirt, and the rest of a long obscure line end up dispersing and trying to salvage a life doing whatever we can do. It takes guts to even try, and I respect all those who do. The only failure is not to attempt.

The only question now is, what to attempt? Anyone and their uncle’s grandmother has a website these days, and the structure of what used to make comedians good has fallen out of repair. There used to be a circuit that we could work and polish our craft. Now, there is no real circuit and it’s everyone for his or herself. The whole world seems to be that way.

In some ways, failure and rejection is a good thing. Failure forces a person to retool and rethink the reasons for the failure and make improvements to try and succeed. A rejection is often an excellent motivation tool that also causes the jilted one to upgrade their effort.

There are legendary stories of The Beatles getting turned down by several record labels and Elvis being rejected at The Grand Old Opry among many others. They overcame their failures and ended up becoming more than just show business successes. They were icons of pop culture, but they also were loaded with talent. They deserved to be superstar acts.

Now, any halfwit with a camera can take a picture of just about anything from a farting baby to a giraffe taking a dump and it gets six million hits from other halfwits with no life and nothing better to do than forward emails with farting babies or pooping zoo animals.

Believe me, I have nothing against farting and pooping email attachments per se, but if it takes bread out of my mouth it sure is a concern. Comedy clubs used to thrive because in the ‘80s the economy wasn’t great, but there wasn’t a computer in every home that had zillions of everything that ever farted, pooped, screwed or fell down cataloged in order.

How the hell is any form of entertainment supposed to compete with the internet and all that is available for absolutely ZERO money? None of us at dinner could come up with a solid answer. Yes, we know that live entertainment is better, but how can we sell that to a big enough group of people that will come out every week to see us at some local club?

The whole playing field has changed, and no matter who likes it that’s what all of us are dealing with right now. Idiots with no experience or direction can call themselves comics and undercut the hell out of real ones and make life a living hell for those earning a living by practicing a craft that’s taken years to learn. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

My friend Marc Schultz is a booker as was his father before him. Marc has stayed in the business for thirty years, and the reason for that is he knows his customers and their needs and fills those needs for a reasonable price. His reputation is stellar, and he doesn’t have a website and says he never will. I used to tease him about it but now I can see his reasons.

Bill Gorgo, Nick Gaza and I have been around the block more than once. All three of us see what’s happening, even though we’re not exactly sure about how to counteract it right yet. We’re either going to end up figuring that out, or join the bread lines with the masses.

This is a very challenging time for everyone. Those who don’t enjoy change are in for a rough time. Old dog or new pup, things aren’t like they were just a few years ago. We are all going to have to adjust to survive. I’m not sure if I like it, but this is how life is today.

Jerry Lewis And The Naked Gun

March 17, 2010

Tuesday March 16th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Belated birthday wishes are still trickling in and every one of them makes me feel good. Who doesn’t like to be recognized, especially on or around their birthday? Today happens to be Jerry Lewis’s 84th birthday and he’s been on my radar since grade school. I can still remember how the other boys in my class all loved him. I can’t speak for any of the girls.

As much as I tried, I was never able to find him funny as a kid. I think I watched all the same movies my friends did, but they never made me laugh. I felt like an outcast, but I’m not going to lie. I eventually gave up on him and just accepted the fact he didn‘t wow me.

My whole opinion has changed since I became an adult, and especially a comic myself. The truth is, Jerry Lewis is brilliantly creative on many levels, and very few in history can compare to his list of accomplishments. That says a lot, even though his movies still don’t make me laugh. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean I don’t respect his creativity.

He was born into a family of performers, and has been around show business his whole life. That can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the individual. I’m sure he could have easily dropped out and done something else, but to last for over three quarters of a century and still be a household name, positive or not, is about as difficult as it gets.

It’s very easy to bash his brash and abrasive personality, his telethon or just about all of his solo movies, but I see how much he accomplished onscreen and off and have nothing but the utmost respect. It’s not easy to succeed in show business at all, much less last for several generations. Say what you will, the one thing that can’t be disputed is his tenure.

There’s a fascinating interview with him from the David Susskind show from probably the mid ‘60s which really won me over. He was amazingly sharp, and went off on a lot of subjects that showed how intelligent he really is. He’s never seemed happy whenever I’ve seen or heard him interviewed, but I guess genius and happy have never come as a pair.

Being a student of the comedy game doesn’t mean I have to personally like everyone’s work. In many cases, I just don’t. It doesn’t move me. Comedy and entertainment itself is subjective, and whoever sees it gets the opportunity to make up his or her own mind as to whether that individual enjoys it or not. If I don’t enjoy something I can still respect it.

One thing I’ve always personally enjoyed are the series of Naked Gun movies made by the Zucker Brothers and Jerry Abrahams. I’ve always been a fan of theirs, at first because they were also from Milwaukee but later because I just found their style to be hilarious.

I’ve seen most of their movies but Leslie Neilsen’s Frank Drebin character never fails at making me laugh out loud. I found a DVD of the first movie at the thrift store today, and I popped it in because I hadn’t seen it in a while. It still made me laugh and I watched for a lot of other things I really hadn’t noticed before, like pacing, laughs per minute and how it all ties together as a movie rather than just watch individual scenes. Those guys are great.

Not only did the movie hold up, I was amazed all over again at how they cast actors that weren’t at all previously known for being funny. All of them. Leslie Neilsen was a serious actor, as was George Kennedy. Ricardo Montalban played a great villain, and he’s usually very likeable in all the roles I’ve seen him play, especially Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island.

Priscilla Presley and especially O.J. Simpson aren’t even known for acting at all. Still, it all fell together perfectly and I thought laugh for laugh it was right up there with any other movie I can think of that was released in the last twenty years. They should be proud of it, and I’m sure they are. Watching it again made me take inventory of everything I‘ve done.

That, coupled with the body of work Jerry Lewis cranked out made my little career feel like a bug fart by comparison. I can’t be cocky because I really haven’t done anything yet, other than wish I could catch a break sometime. Do I have any ideas for movies? Yes, but I’m nowhere near close to being able to even present them to anyone. I’m way off course.

All I can do is continue down the path I’m on and do the best I can with whatever time I have left. I’m never going to have the career of a Jerry Lewis or the Zucker Brothers, but I can still keep working on what I’m doing. I’ve got a new CD on the horizon and that’s the product to focus on now. It’s not a movie and I’m not a legend in France, but it’s a start.

Greg Phelps sent the proofs of the CD package today and I had to make a few small but important corrections. The font wasn’t very readable in my opinion and there were a few typos, but other than that it looked pretty good. We were able to use the artwork I paid for from Pedro Bell, even though it’s not colorized. I had to go with what I have, but it’s ok.

Greg and his artist Chad colorized the title of the CD which is ’Hard Luck Jollies’ and a logo for my name Pedro Bell drew that looks like the logo for Funkadelic. I doubt if many people will recognize it, but those who do will really be impressed. I was, and that’s good enough for me. It looks very unique, and it’s not just another thrown together hack piece.

I’m really going to have to scrape together cash to pay for this, but I think I’ll be able to sell enough of them quickly to get my money back. It’s an investment in myself, so that’s never a bad thing. I think I’ll get some attention from it, as it’s a product I can be proud of that will sound and look professional. I’ve been overdue for another product for a while.

I’ve also got enough material recorded where I think I can have another one done by the fall. That would be great, and it’s already in the can so it’s not like I need to record any of it again. In a perfect world I’ll keep creating CD projects every year for as long as I can be creative enough to keep thinking of material. Every artist should always keep on growing.

Maybe I will get around to doing movies eventually, maybe not. As long as I keep up an honest effort to do my best, I’m sure my path will take me where I need to go, even if that isn’t necessarily where I wanted to go when I started out. A big movie career sounds great but who really gets that in the end? Not many. Does it mean I’m a failure if I don’t have it on my resume? No, not at all. Failure is not trying. I’m trying hard, I’m just farther back.

Ideas Of March

March 17, 2010

Monday March 15th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

There’s a great little joint not far from where I live called Olando’s. It’s divided up into two halves, one is an ice cream parlor and the other has about a dozen tables with a top to bottom solid menu with mostly Italian food. It’s very reasonable and I’ve never had a bad meal there. It’s become a highlight of living in this area and I go there as often as I can.

One of their specialties is a crab meat salad, and it absolutely rocks. It’s huge and full of crab meat and vegetables and comes with fresh cheese and delicious home made dressing. I know there’s cheese on it, but there are also vegetables and all in all it’s pretty healthy.

I ordered one up today and sat around with a pen and pad and sketched out my plans for the immediate future. I’ve got a ton of projects on the table and it’s easy to get lost or out of sync. I know how I am, and distraction is my main downfall. Rather than let it keep on happening, I want to have a detailed plan in place so I can keep growing no matter what.

That’s going to involve delegating tasks and having teams in place and I’m kind of on a path to do that, but sometimes I still wander. There are some very solid people in place to collaborate with, and this is absolutely the most exciting time of my entire life. I’m on the brink of doing whatever it is I’m going to be known for, even if it’s an exploding failure.

I’m willing to risk that because I don’t think it’s going to happen. If it does, I can easily deal with it. What I can’t accept is not trying, and giving it my very best effort. I’m doing a lot of things right, but I can also use a lot of improvement. Time is limited and always a factor. It’s getting harder to squeeze everything in because my array of interests is so vast.

Too bad, that’s the situation I have. I’m now 47 years old and time is ticking away on a daily basis. It is for everyone, but I hear it a lot louder at 47 than I did at 27. It’s a limited resource for sure. I don’t want to waste any of it doing something that isn’t on my list of worthwhile endeavors. This is the time to stop talking and make my dreams come to life.

Some of them already are. I’m a solid standup comic and I’ve always wanted to be that since the first time I stepped on a stage. If I could have seen the act I’d become back then I would’ve been extremely pleased. Looking back, I actually exceeded my expectations.

Now I want to take it a whole lot higher. I’ve got a new CD on the way, and it should be in my hands and ready to sell in about a week. That project dangled way too long, and it’s a sore spot because I just didn’t get it out fast enough for my liking. I could complain, but there aren’t many to blame besides me. I could have handled this better, and I wish I had.

That’s the main reason I had my own little personal summit today. I crunched my salad and crunched numbers of the time and effort it would take to crank out all the fun things I want to get to before I croak. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, but at least I’m putting a plan together in my head that will trickle down onto paper and into a notebook which I’ll carry with me and look at on a daily basis. Thoughts really are things, and I’m thinking clearly.

A Radioactive Birthday

March 16, 2010

Sunday March 14th, 2010 – Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI

Another birthday comes and goes, and I realize I’m doing pretty well considering where I came from. The years are piling up, but so are the victories – even if they’re small ones. I may not be a household name or independently wealthy, but a lot of other things that are a lot more important are falling into place very nicely. I’m learning, growing and feel good.

What really told me I’m on the right track was the number of emails, calls and texts that greeted me as I got up this morning. I know birthdays are listed on all the social networks, but it still felt good to hear from so many people. I counted over 400 emails, not counting the calls and text messages. They came from friends, comedians, fans and even strangers.

I appreciate every single one of them and I’m going to answer every one, even if it takes until my next birthday. There were a few I didn’t get, but it really didn’t bother me like in the past. None of my siblings sent me anything, and they knew it was my birthday. That’s a wound that is scarring over, and I accept that it just won’t be any different in this life.

I can honestly say I’ve done my very best in trying to patch those things up, and it’s just not going to work out. I said I was sorry for whatever I did to piss them off that much and meant it, now it’s not on me. I also have an uncle who screwed me over on an inheritance I was supposed to get from my grandparents, and I haven’t heard from him in years either.

I hear he has cancer and is circling the drain, and it’s a shame things had to work out as they did. It was a pretty low life stunt he pulled, but that was years ago and the damage is done. I think my father was probably in on it too, but whatever the case, neither one did a damn thing for their family because they didn’t do anything to live their own life’s dream.

They’re each going to have died bitter and alone, with lots of family angst left over. I’ve made more than my share of my own mistakes, but at least I can feel myself improving as the years go by and it’s significant. It won’t be said that I followed in my father’s shadow, and that alone gives me hope for the future. I’m definitely getting by on my own merits.

Lots of other people have family problems, but mine seem so embarrassing and odd. I’ll never understand why I got thrown in with such a bunch of hard headed people who don’t think anything like I do, but I did. I don’t think I’m better than anybody, but I do think my life’s choices were better. We just come from different worlds. I can’t understand theirs.

My cousin Brett and I get along great and always have. He just turned 40 and is coming to his own peace. His father and he aren’t going to get along, and he’s come to terms with that and it’s in his past. It’s still a shame, but it’s not going to change. Ever. That’s life.

I’m learning how to enjoy life more too as I get older. The intense need to stick it in the ass of anyone to prove myself is LONG gone. I really don’t care who likes me or doesn’t, and that’s taken a lot of pressure off. I have enough people who like me that I can be with them and not have to waste one iota of energy on the idiots. That makes life a lot easier.

Today was a radio themed birthday and it couldn’t have gone any better. First, it was an afternoon in Chicago to be on WGN with Jerry’s Kidders at 3pm. We hadn’t been on in a while, and we all were in the mood to have fun. The weather was beautiful and we had an abundance of funny news stories, so we went on the air and let it rip for longer than usual.

We’re normally on for a half hour to close out Jerry Agar’s show, but today we opened because of the way the schedule worked out. Since we had extra stories, Jerry just kept us on the air and we finished when we were done. We were in good form and on point so the time flew by and we had some solid laughs during our time. It was relaxed and a pleasure.

I had to pinch myself halfway through, but as we sat there it occurred to me that I was at one of the biggest radio stations in America on my birthday riffing comedy bits with some of my friends, and no matter what else happens in life – that alone was pretty impressive.

Who gets to do that? Not many, and I don’t care if anyone else appreciates it. I do. It’s a thrill to have the ear of a station’s listeners that’s that big, and I told the guys that after we finished. They know it too, and the feeling of gratitude and accomplishment after we were done pumped us all up as we went across the street to the Billy Goat Tavern for burgers.

We discussed how we can turn this project into money, as we haven’t done that yet. It’s a big challenge, and I’ve always loved challenges so rather than frustration we decided to look at it as opportunity. We’ve all put a lot of work into this project and now it’s time to get paid for it. The burgers tasted great and we were all in a positive mood the whole day.

My next destination was WLIP in Kenosha, WI to do the Mothership Connection radio show at 8pm. We had an extra full house of sit in guests tonight and that was as much or even more fun than WGN this afternoon. The vibe was dead on, and I think we had over a dozen people in the little studios of WLIP. There were about four people to each mike.

There were all our regular callers plus a few new ones, and we had great guests too. Our former co-host Scott Markus was back from L.A. and he’s always a help, so he got Ursula Bielski to come on with us who wrote several books on Chicago ghost lore. Scott has one too, and the whole show just fell together. It was like a three hour on air birthday party.

John Vass is a fan of Jerry Agar’s on WGN, but he asked if he could come and hang out with us and of course I said yes. He added to the show, and that’s always how it’s been as long as we’ve been on the air. I’d like to think I’ve got something to do with creating that vibe, as I’m the one who runs the show. Like George Clinton, I’m just the referee of it all.

I’m going to keep cranking out my little blog for the indefinite future. If people enjoy it, I’m flattered. I heard from my friend Arnold Mukai in Seattle and he says it allows him to live the show business life vicariously through my adventures. That’s great. If I can help a person escape, I’m all for it. Hopefully, I can inspire someone to live their own dreams. It won’t change the fact that I’m always going to be a dented can, but it does help to know it gets better as time passes. This was a fantastic birthday, and I’m grateful for every one.

Blatz Off!

March 15, 2010

<Saturday March 13th, 2010 – Saukville, WI

It looks like Schlitz really is starting to happen! I didn’t know exactly what to expect on several levels concerning the initial run through of my one man show about growing up in Milwaukee called “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst”, but the overwhelmingly positive response it got gives me extremely high hopes. This is a winner!

It’s not a finished product yet by a long shot, but what’s there is very useable. I do know how to entertain an audience, and my lifetime of experience gives me a huge advantage of being able to go back into the archives and bring out polished standup bits which allows a freedom to experiment few others have. I can take chances because I have a backup plan.

The show was at the Railroad Station in Saukville, WI which wouldn’t have been in the top 50 places I would have chosen to get this started. Richard Halasz had booked a couple of previous shows there with Will Durst, so that’s a thumbs up for me. I like Richard and a reputable comedian like Durst wouldn’t work a place twice if there was anything shady.

I knew I needed to work the show through a few times, so where better than here to get a feel for it? The owners were all very nice people and we drew 146 people which is very respectable for a place that doesn’t do comedy on a regular basis. The club had posters up for a couple of months, but it was Richard that really dug in and didn’t let up on promo.

He mailed flyers and sent email blasts and got me a radio interview in Fond Du Lac and I really give him credit for doing a thorough job in promoting this along with the venue. It isn’t often a comedian does this good a job of behind the scenes detail work but he nailed it and totally followed through. Everyone was happy with the results and it was a big hit.

I brought my friend Russ Martin along, who was kind enough to film the show with his movie quality video camera, even though I don’t need anything that elaborate right now. I just wanted to get it on tape in case I ad libbed something that could be used in the future.

Gary Pansch also came out to support and he lit it up for a few minutes to get the crowd in a good mood. I went up and did an hour and five minutes, trying to squeeze in as many local stories and references as I could. I did some of my regular standup but it still had the local flavor to it. I added in a few things exclusively for this show and they went over too.

Was I thrilled with the show? No, not at all. Was the audience? Absolutely. They loved it, and that was my main concern. I wanted to feel it out a little first since I never worked there before, and didn’t have too much scripted. I wasn’t sure what kind of audience they drew, so trying to force a theater show wasn’t smart. This was more of a bar audience.

The sound system was popping and the stage lights were pretty bad, but other than that it wasn’t horrible at all. The physical layout of the space was nice, even though smoking is still allowed in Wisconsin bars. That was a killer, and my eyes were burning within the first ten minutes. This was a comedy show in a night club, NOT a one man theater show.

Still, the audience was both receptive and very polite. They weren’t pissy drunk and had the courtesy to sit and listen to the show. There were waitresses, but they were also polite and didn’t talk loud while taking orders or distract form the show at all. I was impressed.

I know how to read an audience, and could tell that I had a chance to do well right from the get go. I wanted to get to a lot more subtle and experimental material, but tonight was not the time to try it out. There will be other times, and I’m glad I didn’t force anything.

A few people showed up I hadn’t seen in thirty years or more. Robert Deglau and I went to the Jackie Robinson alternative open classroom school in sixth grade. We were both in the same homeroom and had an interest in radio. We reconnected by email a couple years ago but hadn’t gotten together before tonight. It was great to see him after all these years.

Jeff Phelps and I went to high school together at Messmer High School. He worked for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as a photographer for twenty-two years before losing his job last year in a purge that took a lot of other people with him. He is a real pro and takes amazing pictures, and I felt bad he lost his gig. Times are tough for people in many fields.

Jeff and I recalled the story of when Hank Aaron came to Messmer to speak. We loved sports and wanted to get an autograph so we skipped out of class and drove to a sporting goods store and each bought a baseball to get signed. We waited for Hank’s limo to pull up and as soon as we saw it we sprinted out the side door with our fresh white baseballs.

Nobody in the entourage expected us including Hank Aaron, and we politely asked him to sign our baseballs. There wasn’t much he could do but grab the pen and sign. We both had pens with us, and we had our whole plan of attack worked out way before we did it.

After Hank signed for us, someone in his entourage firmly said “Ok, that’s IT. No more autographs.” Jeff and I smiled at each other and went back into school with our prize. We were the envy of the whole school, and we got to meet Hank Aaron before anyone else at school, including the principal. It was the only time I ever skipped out, but it was worth it.

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my life was selling that ball many years later when I really needed money. Boy, was I stupid. I think I may have gotten $60. Maybe $75 tops. I remember crying when I sold that ball, but at the time I really needed that cash. It’s a huge mistake, but too late to change it. Jeff kept his ball, and I’m glad. I’d love to see it.

This is the end of my fourth solid year of keeping my little diary. It may not be good or even interesting, but at least I’ve been able to keep it consistent. I’ve had experiences all over the board, and hopefully I’ve been able to entertain or inspire at least somebody.

I’m still a dented can, and always will be. I’m improving in many areas, but I still have many more that need a lot of work. Will any of this live on after I’m dead? Who cares? It doesn’t affect me at all. I’ll be dead. Right now, I’m not and I hope whoever reads this at any time gets a laugh or two, or maybe some inspiration. Another year over. What’s next?

Milwaukee Is Calling Me

March 13, 2010

Friday March 12th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Tomorrow is my first official dry run of my one man show “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst” at the Railroad Station in Saukville, WI. I spent today preparing a few home made signs with localized terms on them to flash to the audience.

I’ve got a basic idea as to what I want the show to be, but it’s always going to be a work in progress. I’m going to try things every time I perform, and keep what works best. I love the concept of doing a whole show with one basic theme, but there are a lot of sub themes that can be incorporated in various degrees, so no two shows will ever be exactly alike.

I’ve got enough stage experience to pull off the time, and enough information about the subject that I’ll never be able to get to all of it at any one performance. Still, I have no real defined show pounded out yet, and that’s why I wanted to have a few times to experiment before I hit some bigger places. No offense to Saukville, but it’s not the strip in Vegas.

Richard Halasz booked some comedy shows at The Railroad Station in the past and has had some success as far as both numbers and quality of audience. He said the people who attended those shows were extremely well behaved and listened without any uncalled for incoherent drunken psychobabble added into the mix. That interested me from the start.

I’m not looking to do this show in comedy clubs or bars in general. I want to find some quality theater venues in the area that will have me back at least once a year if not more to entertain audiences who are there to see a show. I’ve grappled verbally with  quite enough incoherent booze monkeys in my life and if I never see another one I’ll survive just fine.

It doesn’t mean I won’t get any in Saukville, but if there are they’d better get some licks in early, because I’ve got a few surprises for them. This is not what I’m looking for, but if it finds me I’ve never been known to shy away from any level of heckler combat so I have a fantastic chance of not only winning, but firing full frontal verbal blasts at close range.

Hopefully, it won’t come anywhere close to that. I just want it to be fun, and I had a lot of it putting the show together. Apart from those signs, I’ve got a lot of directions I’d like to go and I have a great feeling it will fall together quickly. I have all the ingredients for a killer show, now it’s time to work out some bugs and get it ready to take to a nice theatre.

The great advantage I have is that nobody in the audience knows what to expect exactly so I’m not under any pressure to deliver anything specific just yet. If I lose my place with anything I’ve got plenty of standup material to cover me and won’t have any major lulls.

There’s absolutely no pressure on me at all, other than I want to do a good show for not only the audience, but for Richard Halasz too. He put up money out of his pocket to risk a show, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I’m glad he wanted to work with me, and in no way will I give anything less than my best effort, even if it is a new work in progress. I will be ready when my name is called tomorrow, and there’s probably a seat left for you.

Looking Down The Road

March 12, 2010

Thursday March 11th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

People have been teasing me all day about having gout, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a pleasant alternative to having to get knee surgery I couldn’t pay for right now so a couple of jokes at my expense are no big deal. Bring it on. I’ll start worrying when I get leprosy.

The fact remains, I’m getting older and I feel it. Mentally, I’ve always been significantly older than my actual age. Even as a kid, most of my friends were older than me and that’s still the case. People I hang around the most like Jim McHugh, Marc Schultz, Bill Gorgo, Bert Haas, Jerry Agar and all the Kidders are all at least a couple of years older than me.

Allegedly, Pisces is the astrological sign that signifies the old souls. I’ve been told many times I’m one, but who knows if any of that’s true? I am who I am, but even as a kid I felt out of place in this life. I still do, no matter how hard I’ve tried to find a place for myself.

I’m starting to head into the final stages, and there’s no guarantee how long that will be. It could be thirty years, thirty days or thirty minutes so I thought about what I should start to do with the rest of my life to achieve the smartest and most productive results possible.

What really hit home today was that I need to start cranking out products and keep it up until I’m out of ideas or out of breath, whichever comes first. I’ve got a full 25 years in as a touring comedian along with an off and on 20 in the radio business. I also have 15 years in as a comedy teacher, so that’s a lot of different life experience on which to draw from.

I paid my dues and learned my crafts, but now it’s time to take that and put it into things I can pass on to others. I want to do things that benefit people long after I’m gone, even if I can’t be there to see it. I don’t know why it’s important to me, but for some reason it is.

No matter how hard I try to figure out the meaning of life, the less of a solid answer I’m getting. At least I’m getting some kind of an idea of where I want to go, but I look around at life in general and I see the majority of people stumbling through it with no inner drive or direction other than to get drunk, laid and party. There doesn’t seem to be much else.

This world is full of idiots, and I don’t know a nicer way of saying it. If there is a God, I wonder if that was intentional? There are a comparative few who try to make the most of whatever talents they’ve been given, but the majority of humans aren’t worth the trouble.

Alexander Hamilton said “The masses are asses” and that was in 1790. I haven’t seen a whole lot of improvement since then. Yes, there are a lot of wonderful people around but they’re way outnumbered by the herd of halfwits that keep NASCAR and rap in business.

I don’t want to be so cynical, but the picture gets clearer every day. My grandfather was a sharp cookie and much the same way and it feels like I’m becoming him a little bit more every day. He was hilarious, kind and smart, but also had a dark side. He died unfulfilled, and I don’t want that to be me. I want to squeeze out every last bit of potential I have left.

Gout And About

March 11, 2010

Wednesday March 10th, 2010 –

Chicago, IL

Apparently I have gout. Perfect! That’s exactly the kind of disease Mr. Lucky would get and actually I couldn’t be happier to hear it. For someone with zero health insurance, gout is sweet music to my ears compared to full blown major knee surgery and all that torture.

I talked to the doctor and after reviewing my x-rays she said after hearing a description of how the pain started and looking at the x-rays she came to the conclusion it’s probably an attack of gout and that’s what we’d address. An MRI is expensive and it cut me a huge break by not having to pay for it myself, because I can’t right now. This was great news.

Gout is a buildup of uric acid in the joints, and usually manifests itself in the big toe or even in the fingers. Sometimes it goes to the knees, and when it does it’s only one. This is going to be a lot easier to fix than ripped knee tendons, and I’m already feeling way better than I did even yesterday. I’ve known for a while my diet has been horrible. I deserved it.

Red meat is one of my favorite things on earth, especially bloody rare steak. I love steak and eggs for breakfast, and I’ve been known to have a steak for lunch too. Or dinner. Or a late night snack at a truck stop on the way home from a gig. Red, rare meat is delicious to me and always was. I’m surprised I didn’t get this before, and it’s probably not over yet.

There’s probably enough beef packed in my intestines to start my own cattle ranch. I’ve had small spurts of exercise and health in the last couple of years, but as a whole meat is a way of life in my world. I just love it and always have. Now I’m starting to pay the price.

This is a total wake up call. I’ve been hitting the snooze button for a few years now but I really need to get it in gear IMMEDIATELY. This is a warning signal for a lot of other things that could go wrong in a New York minute. My heart could pop like a zit walking up a flight of stairs, and unless I really start watching myself, I’m going to be a statistic.

The pain I felt was nothing less than excruciating with this. The doctor said that crystals form from the uric acid and cause pressure on whatever joint is near and I learned kidney stones are also a buildup of uric acid and those are also painful. Either way, I need to take the hint and cut WAY back on red meat and I totally will. I don’t want to feel this again.

Apparently, drinking alcohol can make gout flare up too. At least I don’t have to worry about that, and whatever red meat problems I’ll have later in life won’t be compounded a few more times with the havoc alcohol takes on a system. I made that choice correctly to not drink, and that’s one I’ve never regretted. At least I wasn’t a complete and total idiot.

I went to the Old Country Buffet today with Marc Schultz, comedian Tim Walkoe and a comedy magician named Dennis DeBondt who are all great guys. It was very enjoyable to sit and hear great showbiz stories and it didn’t bother me at all to stay away from red meat and eat plates of vegetables. I’ve had a lifetime of eating whatever I want, and it’s time to watch myself. I heard the warning. Gout is a funny word, but the pain it brought wasn’t.

This whole experience really lit a fire under me though. It’s all part of a collective good because that’s how I’m going to choose to accept it. I am going to take full responsibility for getting myself to this point and also full responsibility for getting myself out. If I don’t and my heart does explode, hopefully I‘ll still be able to inspire others to chase the dream.

What a difference a single year makes. Exactly one year ago today I was in Los Angeles filming my first national television spt on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. It’s a memory I’ll never forget, and in many ways it seems like six lifetimes ago. In other ways I feel like it was last week and I want to get out there and do a lot more of them. And I do.

What’s it going to take to make that happen? I wish I knew. The rules of show business have never been cut and dried, but they’re getting even harder to figure out as time passes and technology advances. What was standard procedure just a few years ago is obsolete.

Methods of contacting bookers have changed, as have the outlets for content. Cable TV used to be the goal for standups, like an HBO or Showtime special, but now the internet’s giant presence dwarfs all of that. Youtube is huge, but how can anyone turn a buck with it if it’s always free? These are all legitimate concerns that puzzle me on a consistent basis.

I loved the whole experience of being on The Late Late Show, and if I never get back to do it again, it was still a huge highlight of my life. Celia Joseph the talent coordinator was one of the sweetest people to work with I’ve ever met, as were the whole staff at the show including Craig Ferguson. I’m a big fan and respect his talent immensely. He’s a winner.

But I totally believe that I’m a winner too. I’m happy for Craig Ferguson and I hope I’ll get a lot more chances to interact with him as time goes on, but I have to take my chances and put myself in a position to do that. I haven’t been as good about that as I could have.

Another major mistake I’m making is not following up with Jeff Foxworthy’s help with his management company. I know I pissed off the lady I was supposed to contact, and that really scared me off but it was unintentional. I need to get in there and use that contact.

Jeff is a straight up great guy, and I know he was sincere by doing this favor for me. I’m not going to let a little faux pas keep me from the big time, and I need to go and reconnect with them immediately. I’m SO ready for this right now. I wasn’t sure if I was before, and it turns out I wasn’t, so I’m glad I waited. Now, I’m sure I am and it’s time to go grab it.

My birthday is coming up on Sunday, and I can’t stop it. I’ve had a lot more of them to ponder than I ever thought I would, and after all I’ve been through I really am lucky to be alive and somewhat coherent. A case of gout doesn’t scare me at all, especially after those horrible knee pains have gone away. There was a solution to the problem, and I found it.

Now it’s time to pull out all the stops and keep chasing whatever I’ve been doing for all these years. I can do lots of TV spots, but someone has to say yes, which means I have to keep asking. So I will. Gout won’t take me out of the game. In fact, it’ll bring me back.