Archive for July, 2010

An Extra Day In Paradise

July 22, 2010

Tuesday July 20th, 2010 – Somewhere In The Caribbean

I’m on board ship one more day, like it or not. We won’t dock until Grand Cayman Isle tomorrow, and then I fly from there to Miami and then back to Chicago. One thing about comedy clubs, when the gig is over it’s out the door and back home. This is a new world.

I got to hang out last night with Jim Brick and a few of the musicians who’ve done this kind of work for years, and it was very fun hanging out with them. The typical person on the ship has been extremely laid back and friendly and welcomed me without question to this lifestyle. It’s not for everyone, but those who can handle it seem to really get into it.

The women on board are absolutely incredible, both crew and passengers. I don’t know who I’m supposed to stay away from, so I haven’t made any moves on anyone, but there’s no shortage of female company anywhere. The crew is mostly foreign and I’m drooling at some of the sexy accents alone. I met a Bulgarian desk clerk I’d swim to Bulgaria to see.

I wonder why it’s taken this long for this whole world to open up to me? I’ve known of cruise ship comedy work for many years, and I can’t think of any legitimate reasons why I haven’t looked into it before now. If it weren’t for my friend Jeff Shaw mentioning me to his boss, I probably never would have looked into this. Now, it could be a whole new life.

I’ll wait to see how it all shakes out first. The worst case scenario would be they didn’t like what I did, and they’ll say so and that’s it. I’ll thank them for their time and I had the chance to get paid to go on a fantastic cruise to some exotic places. I was off anyway and it will pay my rent for a couple of months. No matter what happens, I appreciate the shot.

Best case scenario would be they liked me and want to book me for more work, but not a full time commitment just yet. I’ve got things going in Chicago and Milwaukee and I’d like to see those through since I’ve taken this long to get started on them. If I can pick my schedule, that would be the best of all worlds. For now, I just want to pass this audition.

It’s too early to predict anything, but my gut feeling is that I achieved my goal of doing adequate shows and not being a troublemaker to anyone. I showed up on time, did what I was asked, and really did enjoy meeting the people I met. The company is allegedly trying to aggressively expand their comedy roster and for once I seem to be in a favorable place.

Since I was stuck on the ship for another day, I decided to savor every single second of it, in case I don’t come back for whatever reason. I think I will, and I just may get tired of it like I’ve gotten tired of comedy road work at some point. Right now, it’s fresh and new and I’m having a blast, just like I did with the road. The key is to keep this mindset going.

I had a fantastic day just reflecting on everything. Jim Brick and I had a great dinner and then we went to see the song and dance show with the people we hung out with last night. They were all amazingly talented and blew the roof off the joint. We both were spotted by people who saw our show and we got asked to take pictures. A guy could get used to this.

Three Shots To Score

July 22, 2010

Monday July 19th, 2010 – Cozumel, Mexico

Today was the day to prove myself. Everyone has been very nice so far, but this was the day to prove that I can handle this kind of work. They were nice enough to keep me off of the ‘Welcome Aboard’ show, and Jim Brick showed me how to handle them in the future should I get the chance to do one, and hopefully I will. Nobody rushed me into anything.

Last night was easy also. There are five thirty minute shows each night split between us but last night Jim had to do three to my two, and that made it easier. I watched all three of his sets, and he’s a very good comic for these shows. He has a quick mind and can adjust.

I like to think I’m that way too, but I was still a little nervous to take my turn at bat for a three show night. It’s only 30 minutes for each set, but the room seats 450 and they’d like us to do different material for the family set and the regular one. We can repeat on the late shows, but working the audience really helps to stretch things out. I see why Jim does it.

They switch our order from night to night so it was my turn up first at 7:30. There was a nice size crowd despite the fact the ship was at port in Cozumel, Mexico and the deadline to be back on board wasn’t until 10pm. The club manager Ben wasn’t sure if it might lead to low attendance but it didn’t at all. They were a polite audience and I had a solid show.

I’m still on eggshells, especially with the early clean shows. Kids are allowed in and it’s just not what most comics are used to. ONE complaint can get me kicked off the job and I kept thinking about it the whole time. Still, I got solid laughs and Ben was happy with it.

The second set at 9:45 was also full, but again they really didn’t buy my closing bit. It’s strange, because that’s the one I can count on in clubs when nothing else is working. They liked everything else I did, but not that. I cut and pasted and took out what I could as I did it, but it just wasn‘t what they wanted. Everything else got big laughs. I can’t figure it out.

I also had to do a late show at midnight, the ship’s equivalent to late show Friday in the clubs. I was a little tight beforehand, as I’d hate to have one bad one keep me from getting hired back. I did get some laughs all the other shows even if it wasn’t up to my standards.

It rarely is. I demand way more of myself than anybody else. I want to blow an audience away. I want a crowd to double back with laughter until they get whiplash. I want them to turn purple from losing air. I want them all to have sore stomach muscles from laughing.

The third show wasn’t up to those standards unfortunately, but it wasn’t without several high points with big laughs. It was a challenge because of how tired they were from being in Cozumel all day, but those who came were polite and respectful. This was a cake walk.

Compared to clubs, this gig is way better in many ways. The hard part is the lifestyle of living on a ship, and I still can’t say if I’m cut out for it long term. For this week it was an unexpected treat. I met some nice people and learned a lot. Let’s see how they liked me.

Observation Dork

July 22, 2010

Sunday July 18th, 2010 – Somewhere In The Caribbean

Day two at sea. Simple strategy: mouth closed, eyes and ears wide open. Observe. I had an entire day of invisibility before my debut tonight and took advantage of it by seeing as much of the ship as I could without being seen. This thing is an absolute floating miracle.

I can only imagine the host of horrors most people’s ancestors suffered on their way to a life in America, and I can see why they kissed the ground at Ellis Island. Had they had the opportunity to be on the vessel I’m on, I don’t think most of them would have gotten off.

The more I wandered, the more I was blown away by everything. I don’t know where to start. From the sheer size of the ship itself to all the things that are available on it, this is a tribute to the modern era of mankind’s ingenuity, and I for one am extremely impressed.

The amount of food is beyond belief. Thousands of people from all over North America have access to an overwhelming amount of choices of delicious freshly made world class cuisine in unlimited amounts. How many countries would look at that in utter disbelief?

I’m having a hard time believing it myself. Then, there’s the truly diverse crew from all over the planet who come together to work on the ship. I have never seen any one place of work where so many different people can gather together and not have a riot. There are all sizes, shapes, colors and any other variations one can think of, and I’m really enjoying it.

Carnival wants to expand their comedy presence on all of their ships, and if I’m on their roster that means twenty possible ships. I don’t necessarily want to be lost at sea, but for a chunk of time it will be steady work and a chance to turn my financial situation around.

There are two comedians who alternate sets, and tonight Jim Brick went first at 7:30 to do his clean set. They advertise it as ‘PG’, but there are kids in the audience and we aren’t supposed to swear at all. That’s fine with me, but a lot of performers couldn’t handle that.

Jim is very experienced and he did his set without a glitch. He’s really good with crowd work, which I could be too if I worked on it more. I used to do it a lot, but I decided to go for a more structured set because it’s too inconsistent for my tastes. It’s a perfect fit for an audience like this though, and I’ll have to think about ways I can bring it back effectively.

I did my first set squeaky clean, and it went very well. I felt a little tight, but I didn’t go over the line, so that’s all I cared about. I just wanted to get my bearings and see how they would react to my style. It was fine. My late show was red hot, until I got to my big closer which kills in clubs. They stared at me so I adjusted and closed strong with a different bit.

That’s why I know I can do this. Not many could adjust on the fly like that, and nobody else had any idea it was my planned closer but me. The club manager is from Manchester, England and this is only the second week of the comedy club so I’m really in a great spot to be rehired. All I have to do is get some laughs and not be a pain offstage. I can do that.

Afloat On A Boat

July 22, 2010

Saturday July 17th, 2010 – Miami, FL

Well, I made it through my first day of life on a cruise ship. Here I thought I’d had more travel experience than just about anyone else walking, but I was wrong. I felt like a rookie and realized this is a world that’s been thriving for years and I’ve completely missed it.

I shut my mouth and observed, trying not to get in anyone’s way or be a pain in the ass. I’m new, and I knew it. In the future I’ll probably laugh about how overwhelmed I felt as I wandered through the bowels of the enormous Liberty cruise liner, but I did. I felt lost in the first two minutes, and everyone I asked had a thick foreign accent I couldn’t decipher.

They were all friendly, but then they’d point and mumble something inaudible and I’d be right back to not having a clue as to where I was supposed to go or who I was to report to or where my luggage was. I felt like I was dropped into another world and left to figure things out on my own. It was like a live action mystery puzzle, and rather intimidating.

I was up way too late yesterday trying to catch up on emails and pack for something I’m really not familiar with yet. I knew I wouldn’t need a parka or long johns, but what should I bring for five days in July nearer to the equator than I’ve ever been in my life? My list of guidelines said I’d need to dress ‘formal’ for two nights and I assumed that meant a suit.

I bought some nice short sleeve Tommy Bahama silk shirts that look classy but not like a Caribbean pimp. I also brought along a couple of long sleeve dress shirts and a jacket in case they enforce the ‘formal’ rule. I do own a tuxedo, but I didn’t want to haul that down here and have to wear it in this heat. I’d feel like a baked penguin soaked in sweat gravy.

I did manage to catch my plane out of Chicago, but I left super early to get to O’Hare in time to not have too much stress. This was my first trip, and I didn’t want any unpleasant surprises. I had my passport and ID and paperwork and everything went smoothly, except the fact I had to take a middle seat between two people who overlapped into my seat area.

Sleeping in that situation is always hellish, but my eyelids were heavy so I couldn’t help but nod out almost immediately. I snore like a leaf blower, and several times I felt myself wake up suddenly with a jerking head motion that I know must have annoyed the hell out of the two people in my row, not to mention everyone else who could hear me snoring.

Sorry, people. Hey, I could have had gas. We landed in Miami early, but then I had an unexplained delay catching a shuttle to the cruise line port. Miami is like a war zone, and my driver didn’t speak six words of English. If he had any reason to want to do me in, he could have sold me for parts and they never would have found my carcass. I was polite.

Eventually, the shuttle ended up at the port. I don’t know how he did it, and the route he took seemed to be long and complex, but I didn’t complain out of fear I’d get dropped off and have to hitch hike. I was completely at his mercy but he came through, and the cost of $20 was reasonable for as complicated as it seemed. I was just glad to see that giant boat.
Wow, what a scow. I guess I’d never seen a cruise ship up close – not this size anyway. Most things I’ve seen in life under delivered. Not this. Mount Rushmore was a lot smaller in person than I’d pictured in my head, as was the St. Louis Arch. This ship is a monster.

I eventually found where I was supposed to go and checked in. I had to have a name tag made so I can get meals, and fill out more paperwork. They kept my passport and said I’d get it back when I left the ship, which I thought was odd. There must be a reason for it but I didn’t ask. Nobody in the office spoke English well, and I didn’t want to cause trouble.

The main woman I had to deal with was a Latino love goddess – an absolute stunner. If I had to pick a design for the perfect beauty, she’d be pretty close. I love brunettes, and this woman was a cross between Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek. Yeowza! I had a hard time keeping my composure as I listened to her directions. She was hypnotically exotic. Wow.

Hotel clerks in Des Moines don’t usually have that kind of allure, so I took it as a sign I made the right choice by taking this gig. Another lady from Australia showed me how to find my cabin, and even though she wasn’t a heart melter, she was friendly and I was able to find it with no problem. I’m staying in crew quarters, out of sight but near passengers.

I’d always heard how tiny the cabins were on ships, but this one was actually larger than I’d imagined. My standards aren’t that high, and I’ve been living in basements and renting rooms my whole life so I can handle just about anything. There’s plenty of room for me.

There are two bunks, a desk area with a small TV, a closet and a bathroom. I don’t have any windows so I can’t tell if it’s day or night, but I don’t have it at home either. I can live with it, and for five days I’ll have to. Oh, and I have a phone too. Who do I need to call? I have no idea, but they give me one anyway. I think it’s so the cruise director can call me.

I was scheduled to be part of a welcome show held in a big theater called ‘The Venetian Ballroom’. Again, all I can say is wow. It’s a fantastic 2000 seat theater – on a SHIP. It’s a spectacular facility, and I introduced myself to the cruise director Butch who is originally from Minnesota. He was very welcoming and put me at ease right away. That’s a relief.

He hosted the show, which was a sample of things the ship offers. There was a talented group of dancers and then Butch interviewed some passengers and did a really nice job of putting everyone in a good mood. He got a newlywed man and an old fart who was on for his 50th anniversary and the comedy wrote itself. I see why they do it and it totally works.

After that, the other comedian Jim Brick came out and did ten minutes. They only need one of us for the ‘teaser show’, and it was Jim. That’s fine with me, and he did a fantastic job of calling back to what Butch did. He’s a veteran of the ships and knows how to do it.

Jim and I hung out after the show and he showed me a few ins and outs of where to go and what to do and he was very helpful. I told him I’ve mentored tons of people in clubs, but this is a whole new ballgame. I appreciated his help. Tomorrow we start doing shows.

Scared Shipless

July 17, 2010

Friday July 16th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Here we go again. Yet another chapter in my life is getting ready to open, and I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’ve faced this exact same situation too many times before to count, and every single time the results have never been what I pictured, so why worry?

Change is the one thing that’s constant in life, but that doesn’t mean adjusting to it is an automatic glitch free process. There are a lot of adjustments to be made any time there’s a scene change in life, and I’ve had more than my share of them. I admit I‘m a bit nervous.

Switching schools was always a hassle. I know a lot of kids had to do it way more than I ever did, but I did my share and it was always a whole lot of worry over nothing. It’s only a different group of people, but the concept is still the same. It’s a classroom with lessons.

I was always able to handle the academic part, it was the people part that frightened me. Would I fit in with everyone? Would I fit in with anyone? How about even one? I always managed to find enough friends to get along no matter where I went, but I didn’t know it going in. Many nights before a new school I would lay awake, wondering what to expect.

My radio moves were another example. It takes guts to pack a car with every possession one has and head off to life in a strange town…alone. I’ve done that several times as well, and there can’t help but be at least a little bit of anxiety on the road to town not knowing a single soul except for the guy who told me to move there – the same one who’d fire me.

Another vivid memory is the night before the infamous bank robbery trial. I knew I had to testify in federal court against my life long best friend, and there was no way out of it at all. I didn’t want to do it, but he forced my hand and I had to. It was a horrible experience, but strangely not as bad as I had imagined. I did what I had to do, and then it was all over.

This situation is nothing like that. Actually, it’s quite pleasant. I’ve been asked to come along on not only a FREE cruise, but I get paid to audition for future work. I am a perfect fit for the job at hand, and have spent a lifetime preparing for this opportunity. I’ll nail it.

Still, that’s not the main issue. I want to find a place where I fit in. I’m not looking to be a troublemaker or high maintenance, but I wasn’t in radio either and I kept getting fired at each stop through no real fault of my own. I kept showing up at the wrong time. Enough.

Is this the right time to be doing this? I have to say, I really don’t know. Ten years ago it would have been a major thrill to be hitting cruise ships, but was I ready for it back then? Quite honestly, I don’t know that either. Maybe yes, maybe no. But it didn’t happen then.

It’s happening now, and I didn’t even ask for it. It came out of the blue, and I allowed it to play it’s course and become reality. I could have said no, but I didn’t. I’m exploring the possibilities of this on many levels, even though I’ve heard all kinds of stories about ships both good and bad. Like before, nothing will be what I pictured. This is a new experience.

Christmas In July

July 17, 2010

Thursday July 15th, 2010 – Wisconsin Dells, WI

Last minute fallouts have saved my day for almost as long as I’ve been a comedian. One of the few smart things I’ve done is to cultivate a reputation with most of the bookers I’ve ever worked for that I am available and willing to fill in on short notice for emergencies.

They always pop up for a variety of reasons, and over the years I’ve been able to land an array of opportunities I might not have been able to obtain by just being another run of the mill white guy,  slugging it out with all the rest. I had something to offer bookers that was at least a wee bit unique, even if all that was was being ready to go in their time of need.

I think in retrospect, the negatives of that have outweighed the rewards by quite a lot. It was nice to get paid work at the time, but it’s never paid any kind of lasting dividend. For one thing, I never received any publicity. Part of the game includes building one’s legend or at least a solid reputation with the people who have an opportunity to advance a career.

No booker ever calls another and says “Hey, this kid sure knows how to fill in for a last minute fallout.” It just kind of happens. I was smart enough to figure out that fallouts can be a good source of income, but that’s about it. Still, once in a while one comes my way.

Tonight was one of those whiles. I received an email to do a gig in the Wisconsin Dells at a resort called Christmas Mountain Lodge. I did it in the dead of winter last year and it was an absolute blast. I was surprised to hear they were still doing comedy in the summer, but not upset. Bills are due year round, and a nice paying Thursday night in July is sweet.

Last time there was no opener, and I had to do over an hour myself. It turned out to be a great gig, and I pulled it off. Tonight there weren’t even half as many people in the crowd and there was an opening act for whatever reason. I can never figure out a booker’s logic.

There were no problems tonight either. The opener was a nice guy out of Hot Springs, AR named “Chucky D”. We got along fine and he did his job. They wanted me to go long and I used this as an opportunity to practice for my cruise ship booking. I kept it clean and upbeat and put everything I had into my performance even though it wasn’t a full house.

They turned out to be a tremendous audience, and I ended up doing about 1:15. I didn’t work the audience with any “What do you do for a living?” bits either. I wanted to take an opportunity to give them a SHOW, the same one I intend to give the people on the cruise.

I was drenched afterward and felt exhausted when I got off stage. I love that feeling, as it tells me I didn’t cheat the audience – and I didn’t. I gave them my best, but also worked on which material I think will work best in a family situation. It was a chance to practice.

Still, I appreciate the fact that I received the call to do this on short notice. I doubt if I’ll ever be one of this agency’s favorites, but that’s ok. They don’t have many crown jewels to offer at this point in my life. A call out of the blue on occasion is enough. Like tonight.

‘Punchline’ Still Stinks

July 16, 2010

Wednesday July 14th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

Sometimes a person’s tastes evolve as life goes on. I know that’s been the case with me. As a kid I used to despise Muhammad Ali and wanted him to lose every fight. I thought he was a loudmouth braggadocio and wanted to see him get that mouth shut permanently.

Now I realize I was falling into the brilliant marketing plan he’d had all along and think he’s one of not only the greatest athletes of modern times, but also one of the greatest and most charismatic entertainers who ever lived. I have a completely different opinion now.

Another example is the movie ‘Airplane!’. I remember seeing it right when it came out. I was in high school, and saw it with my siblings and uncle. It’s one of very few times we were all together in a public place. Why I don’t know, but we were, and it was a huge hit.

The theater was packed, and everyone was laughing. It was like a live comedy show as far as that goes, but I hadn’t experienced that then. I remember how much fun we all had, and thought the movie was THE funniest thing I’d ever seen in my life. I’ve seen it since, and it’s not nearly as funny as I remember it. It caught me just right on that particular day.

A movie I couldn’t stand when it came out was ‘Punchline’ with Tom Hanks and Sally Field. It was right during the comedy club boom in the ‘80s and every comic felt like we were obligated to see it because everyone kept asking if that’s how comedy was. I saw it on the road with a guy named Steve Iott, and we both hated it. We barely sat through it.

I was in my twenties then, and had a whole different mindset. I wondered how I’d react to seeing that movie now, and Mark Gumbinger decided to show it at his house as part of an ongoing tradition he’s doing of inviting friends over to watch movies and hang out for a night. He’s got a really nice place with a huge screen TV and I’m flattered he called me.

Mark is a director so he watches movies from a completely different angle. He looks for the edits and film making style, which is fine. I’m learning to appreciate that a lot more as I get older too. I’m learning and growing and respect how difficult it is to make any film.

Before the showing I mentioned how much I hated Punchline when it came out. I didn’t know how I was going to react to it now, but thanked him for at least letting me hang out and watch it with the group. If it stunk again, I probably wouldn’t have finished it myself.

Sure enough, after twenty plus years in mothballs, I hated it all over again. So did Mark, but for different reasons. It could have been a good movie. Tom Hanks and Sally Field in one movie should be at least halfway decent, shouldn’t it? Forrest Gump still holds up.

Punchline tried but failed to capture the essence of the dented can which makes us need that stage so much. They tried to exploit the father tweak angle, but it fell flat and I don’t think I’ll need to ever watch that movie again. My opinion remains the same, even after a lifetime of working to make myself better. Punchline is a flat line, but they still got paid.

George Steinbrenner

July 14, 2010

Tuesday July 13th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

The Grim Reaper must be working on a commission basis these days. It’s hard to keep a current count of everyone of note who has died this year, and as the old time disk jockeys used to say “And the hits just keep on coming.” Every day seems to bring a new casualty.

Today’s #1 with a bullet was New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Actually, it was a massive heart attack at age 80. According to many, there were serious doubts that a heart even existed, but according to all of the news reports I read that’s what caused it.

I don’t know what to think about George Steinbrenner. There’s no doubt he was one of the most high profile pro sports owners of the modern era, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him. Nobody has to like anybody, and I resent the fact that when controversial people like this die, their negative side rarely comes out. Nobody ever seems to tell it like it is.

I’ve read lots of stories about him being an absolute ass. I don’t know if they’re partially true, completely true or mostly made up. I never met the guy or had cause to interact with him in any way on this cosmic plane during any of the time when we shared it. Now we’ll never do it, but his story still intrigues me. He got to live his life in the biggest fish bowl.

The Yankees weren’t the yearly shoo in to win the World Series from my first memories of them. They had guys like Celerino Sanchez and Freddy Beene and all kinds of ham and eggers nobody ever heard of. I had their baseball cards, but couldn’t have cared less about any of them. I followed my own mediocre to rotten hometown Brewers team back then.

I was ten when George Steinbrenner took over, and his name quickly became known for all the things he did to transform the Yankees. That was the very beginning of free agency and the Yankees turned it around in a hurry. Mike Kekich and Bill Sudakis gave way to a new crop of big stars from Reggie Jackson to Catfish Hunter to Goose Gossage and more.

I learned to loathe the Yankees over the years like any other self respecting baseball fan, but one has to admit that this current success run was built under Steinbrenner’s watchful eye and has lasted some 37 years. The question is, could that run have been even better?

The impression I got about George Steinbrenner was a cross between Thurston Howell III and the Incredible Hulk. He was always arguing with Billy Martin and firing or trading people, and didn’t seem interested in fair play. All he cared about  was the bottom line.

Granted, in 37 years he won seven World Series championships. Might there have been twice that many if he wasn’t an overbearing blowhard? That’s hard to say. Nobody speaks ill of him now that he’s dead, but I’ll bet there are a lot of stories right under the surface.

I always wanted to have money, but not if it makes me act like that. He was probably an ass even if he wouldn’t have been loaded, but money brought it out and enabled him to do whatever he wanted, without caring who was hurt by it. I want to leave a happier legacy.

Walter Hawkins

July 13, 2010

Monday July 12th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

I was very saddened to hear of the passing of Walter Hawkins today. Even sadder is that despite the fact he was a master craftsman and creative genius, most of the public have no clue as to who he was or how much he contributed to his field. He had world class talent.

Walter Hawkins was the leader of The Hawkins Family, a gospel music super group for several decades. Their first album came out in the mid ‘70s and I remember hearing it as a kid and loving it. For some reason, I’ve got some eclectic musical tastes for a dorky white boy from Milwaukee. There’s no reason I should like black gospel music, but I totally do.

It’s funny how that music gets categorized in stores. White groups always get labeled as ‘contemporary Christian’ while black artists are ‘gospel’. I love the gospel artists because of the raw energy. There’s usually a large choir involved and that sound is incredible. I’ve never heard anything like it, and I never get tired of hearing it. It’s soothing to the soul.

Walter Hawkins was the George Clinton of gospel music. He had several offshoots of a core group of singers and musicians, and released numerous recordings that he wrote and produced. He was surrounded by extreme talent, but he was the one who molded it into a finished product, and the results were consistently some of the best music I’ve ever heard.

He was married to Tramaine Hawkins, a superstar in gospel music. She had a few solo albums, and her power house voice is legendary. They eventually got divorced, but when they were a group they cranked out recording after recording of spectactular material that still sounds good today. Unfortunately, a lot of that great music isn’t available on CD.

I remember buying cassettes and albums as a teenager and having to hunt for those. The store clerks would usually give me a funny look, but I didn’t care. That soothing sound of a big gospel choir belting out classic tune after classic tune is something I still enjoy now, even though my feelings on God and religion have completely changed since I was a kid.

There are some Youtube clips of The Hawkins Family, and I challenge you to check out classic tunes like ‘Goin’ Up Yonder’ or ‘Be Grateful’ and not have the hair on the back of your neck stand up when Tramaine or Lynette Hawkins-Stephens start letting it rip from a place no Caucasian folk I’ve ever met seem to have inside of them. It’s beyond this earth.

The big one that blows everyone away is a song called ‘Changed’. Wow. Tramaine is at her absolute best on this one, and she blows all the dust out of the speakers and then some as the choir sways behind her adding glycerin to her nitro and making music like no other. I am in total awe of the level of talent of all these people, and Walter was right at the top.

What really saddened me was that he died of pancreatic cancer. That sounds SO painful and I just can’t grasp how a God could let that happen to not only someone with such rich talent, but someone who spent his life trying to honor a God. It doesn’t make sense, and it makes me doubt even more. Walter Hawkins was one of the best ever. He will be missed.

I Need A Manager

July 12, 2010

Sunday July 11th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

I need a manager. Finally. But I definitely do. Everyone seems to think some wizardly mystical guru type is going to pop out of a limo with a long cigar and wallet full of $100 bills, but I’ve yet to see that happen for anyone. I’ve heard horror stories of long term one sided contracts with management companies, and that’s not what I’m looking for at all.

First I think I need to determine exactly what I mean by a manager. I’m talking about a personal manager who takes care of my immediate ongoing needs like sending promo to gigs, making sure promo is updated, handling website updates, a newsletter and any other constant chore that needs regular updating but most comedians rarely do. It’s a valet type.

In a perfect world a manager would organize tax records, arrange media interviews and also handle the lion’s share of marketing and merchandising. I don’t want to spend all my time doing things that keep me away from being a better comedian, but they’re necessary to the big picture and those who don’t do them don’t advance. I feel like I can use a hand.

Bookings are another area which could use a swift kick in the aspirations. I know I stink at sending out my avails each month to a list of bookers I already work for. Most booking work is done online these days anyway, so a manager type could not only keep that list up to date, but create a new one of places I don’t work yet. It could be a total win/win for us.

The incentive I could offer is a percentage of each booking, with a higher one going to a gig I couldn’t get myself. Private shows could be gone after with a direct mail package for relatively low cost. I’ve never done one before, but I’ve always thought that would work.

I’m the first one to admit I’m all over the place, but I also know what I want to work on. I tend to wander quite a bit, but I’m always working on something. If I had a manager, I’d draw up a plan with that person as to what needed to be done when, and have a plan down on paper as to what needed to be done when so we could check and balance each other.

It would have to be the right person, preferably someone who has had some experience in the entertainment business and isn’t coming into it blindly. I can think of a few people I would consider, but they’d have to want to do it and be willing to take direction. I’d be in charge, and have final say. That person would work for me, but I’d still take suggestions.

A management deal is something completely different. Signing with a big agency where they handle the career is not what I’m talking about. In that scenario, they have contacts I don’t and can get movies made and projects done. Right now I’m looking for someone to be my personal pit crew so I can concentrate on driving the race car. I’m getting nowhere.

It seems like I make a little progress on something and then everything else falls by the wayside and doesn’t get done at all. I need someone out there doing the littler stuff so I’ll be able to pick and choose what needs to get done so I can get on to bigger projects other than working the small time gigs I’m doing. I want to find my way to the elusive big time.