Journey To Janesville

Thursday May 27th, 2010 – Janesville, WI

I received a nice surprise by getting a call to fill in for a last minute fallout in Janesville, WI at a place called The Armory. It’s, well, an old armory building in the downtown area that’s been remodeled and they did an outstanding job. It’s an absolutely gorgeous facility that does large production shows, and they’ve also been doing comedy for several years.

Janesville and Beloit have always had a soft spot in my heart. My first ‘road gig’ was in Beloit, and I remember how electric it felt to be performing in another city than my home town of Milwaukee. I felt like a real live performer, even though I was horrendously bad.

Everyone stinks when they start out, but the process of learning the offstage lessons is a separate education altogether. Getting in a the car and riding to the town with all the other comedians is part of that, along with talking about how the show went on the way home.

My mentor C. Cardell Willis had a friend in Beloit who owned a bar and booked shows about four times a year. He also had a place in Janesville, and eventually that was the big ‘run’. Beloit would be one night, Janesville the next. Once in a while we’d get to do both shows in the same month, and it felt like a Lollapalooza tour. I loved doing those shows.

Cardell would drive a few of us down from Milwaukee along with his manager Shirley Schaak, and Shirley would make up the order on the way down. She’d give us our times, and then pay us in cash after the show. I sure hope they made some money, but knowing how generous both of them were, I doubt it. Those were some sweet comedy memories.

Cardell and Shirley are both gone now, as is the economy of Janesville. I used to enjoy the audiences in both towns, as they were just good old hard working Midwestern people. They were friendly and loved the fact we’d drive down from Milwaukee to do shows for them. I felt really bad when I heard General Motors closed the plant there just recently.

It wasn’t a ghost town or anything, but I have to believe the future there isn’t what was the case when everyone had jobs. I’ve seen Michigan towns after the auto industry went belly up and it’s not pretty. Flint is a hell hole, I’ve been there more times than I wanted.

Hopefully Janesville won’t turn into another Flint. They’ve got a nice downtown and it seems like they’re working hard at keeping their city pride intact. It’s not filthy at all and The Armory really is a wonderful facility. Unfortunately, the audience wasn’t very large.

The staff couldn’t have been nicer, and they feed the comics before the show. I had one of THE best hamburgers I’ve ever had in my life, and everything about the place was first class all the way. I was asked to do a longer show, and I gladly did what they requested.

I ended up doing about an hour and ten minutes, but the audience that did show up was into it. I was too. I enjoyed the show, but wished they’d had more people so they might be able to turn a profit. I hope they keep it going, they’ve put too much effort into this not to.


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