Archive for September, 2010

A Tax And Attacks

September 29, 2010

Tuesday September 28th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

This old dung beetle continues to plug along. I’m pushing my symbolic little ball of poo across the desert of life, trying not to attract the attention of the lizards that want to eat me for lunch. I don’t think I’m better than anybody. All I want is to live a life of quiet peace.

I have a little more peace knowing I’ve finally got my tax situation current for one more year. It was an issue, but it’s fixed – at least for now. I went to my accountant’s office and signed my completed tax return for 2009. I’m still ahead of the extension deadline date by over two full weeks, but that’s not what I want to keep doing every year. Enough already.

I’m trying my best to overcome my annoying tendency to let it go until the absolute last minute every year. This isn’t the first time I’ve waited this long, and there’s no legitimate reason other than I’m lazy and find a way to put it off. I owe a state tax of $55, and have a federal surplus which will be applied to next year’s taxes. I’ll need it for my ship income.

I know in my heart I didn’t cheat, and I did my very best to keep receipts, mileage, and all the other stuff that has nothing at all to do with comedy. Every self employed person is in the same situation, and not everyone is a whiz when it comes to this stuff. Personally, it isn’t something I enjoy, but I’m getting better at it only because I have to. It’s a necessity.

I really don’t want issues with anyone. I know I’ve had more than my share of conflicts in life, and I wish I could have avoided all of them. Yes, I stand up for myself when I feel I have to, but it’s never fun to lock horns with anyone. It’s a waste of time in my opinion.

Bert Haas from Zanies emailed me today and told me the guy who got in my face a few weeks ago about how he was going to light up the comedy world didn’t show up on time and didn’t get to go up last night. I laughed when I read it, because it’s so typical. He has some blog too, that slams me up and down apparently. I haven’t even tried to look for it.

I’ve had some people inform me of it, and I just laughed about that too. I’m not close to being that important, and I’ve got my own life to worry about. I’m not pissed at that guy, even though he did jump right in my face that night. It did take me by surprise, and I very much regret how quickly I jumped back at him and how I did it, but what I said was right.

This life is HARD, and we all need to respect that fact. Comedy is harder, but he didn’t see that at the time. Hopefully this will teach him a lesson, and there doesn’t need to be a war of words. It takes two people to make a fight, and I’m just not interested. He’s on his own. If the guy wants to keep slamming me in a blog, so be it. I have other things to do.

I’m making slow but steady progress on most of the projects I’m working on, and I will continue to work as hard as I can. I really do regret the mistakes I’ve made, but some will keep haunting me no matter how hard I try to reverse the damage. Maybe it’s part of what I’m here to learn, if indeed that’s why any of us are here. I’m learning all the time, and the more I learn the more I realize I have a lot more to learn after that. Mouth shut. Onward.

Crusty Bread And Circuses

September 29, 2010

Monday September 27th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

I can see Dr. Smith from the TV show Lost In Space in my head so vividly it scares me. He’s moaning his inimitable classic line of lament, “Ohhh, the pain….the PAINNNNN.” And I feel it right along with him. The Green Bay Packers lost to the Chicago Bears, and life on this planet is not appealing at this time. It shouldn’t affect me, but it totally does.

I’ve been through this time after time, and I know how downright stupid it is to let some stupid sporting event control how I feel, but it is. That all powerful ‘us vs. them’ gene we all have to some degree in some area of life is firing on all cylinders. ‘We’ got spanked by ‘them’, and it hurts. It’s not so much the fact that defeat happened, it was the way it did.

The Packers played a horrible game. Period. They were penalized left and right and for a minute there I was expecting someone to get a penalty for early withdrawal. Every other kind was called, and the frustration of it all was too much to bear. I turned it off and went home to get some work done. I turned all media off and sat around stewing in my angst.

Why does this bother me so much? It really does. I guess it’s the control freak inside me that gets irritated that the team doesn’t give a solid effort. If that happened and they lost, I would be able to handle it with no problem. Some teams are better than others talent wise and that’s just how it is. If the Bears outplayed the Packers and won, I could accept that.

Giving a game away to a half assed ragamuffin band of mediocre at best gypsies was an absolute travesty. I didn’t see any fire or effort there, and I knew it was a total waste to sit and watch it happen. At least I got some work done, and tried to ignore the whole thing.

That’s when it really gets tough to disappear. Good natured ribbing is one thing, and not every Bears fan is a dingle berry, but I have to say an overwhelming proportion of them in my world at least are. They call and taunt and not even in a funny way, and I’m not ready to play nice when that happens. Don’t poke the tiger, and if you do expect to get mauled.

It’s a football game, and a relatively meaningless one at that. It’s early in the season and although this may come back to haunt the Packers late in the year, chances are it won’t be an issue. The Bears aren’t that good, and I predict they’re going to start losing soon and at a breakneck pace. They always do. They’re 3-0 now, but I see them starting to sink soon.

But why do I care so much? I really wish I didn’t. But I do. I never smoked even a single cigarette in my life, or pipe, or cigar. Drugs and alcohol have never touched my lips, and I should be happy I dodged a major bullet in life. Most people at least dabble at some point with some substance, but not me. I’ve never had a hangover, because I never had a drink.

So why am I so addicted to sports, especially the damn Green Bay Packers? I don’t have any idea, but I know that losing to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night while they wear a throwback jersey that made them look even uglier than their regular putrid uniforms do is no picnic. Does anyone in Brazil, China or Africa care even a little? No, but this still rots.

Slept Away

September 27, 2010

Sunday September 26th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, so that’s what I did. I slept in, got up for a short while, then went right back to bed. I’ve been hitting it hard lately, and needed a day to lay around and do absolutely zilch. I didn’t watch any football, nothing. I slept the day away.

I usually feel like I’ve wasted something when I do that, but today it felt good. I haven’t been exercising or eating particularly well or drinking enough water lately and I can feel it in my lack of endurance. I used to be able to plow through anything, now I feel exhausted.

I was supposed to do a phone bit for my friend Steve Purcell’s internet radio show, but I slept right through the call. I never do that, but today I didn’t hear it ring. I felt bad when I woke up and discovered he’d called, but it was too late by then. I guess I needed the rest.

When I did finally crawl out of the rack, I noticed my desk is piling up with paperwork. It seems like I just cleaned it up the last time. I need to write some checks, pay some bills, just keep things current. That stuff is getting harder and harder to maintain all the time.

If it isn’t that, it’s laundry piling up. Or phone calls. Or emails. Or something to prepare for, like a comedy class or ‘Schlitz Happened!’ I’m a one man band trying to play a major symphony by myself, and I feel like I’m lost in the middle of a song. I’m overwhelmed.

I’ve felt this way before, and I don’t enjoy it. It takes the fun out of all the things I have going, but what else can I do but try to keep plugging? I’m too far into everything to drop things off my schedule, but it sure would be nice to take a week or two off and just relax. That’s not an option right now though, and I have to find a way to make everything work.

It’s a giant puzzle, and every day gets more complex. I plan on working on something I like, but then something else comes out of the blue and wipes it out and delays what I had going. It’s a momentum killer and puts me behind schedule. Then, I let my schedule lapse a bit or work on something else and before I know it everything is behind. It’s frustrating.

I think the key is finding partnerships with everything I’m doing. Having others depend on me will make more deadlines, and that will in turn get more things done on my end as they’ll be depending on me rather than me just drifting between these projects randomly.

This week it’s about focusing on the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show at the Schauer Center in Hartford. I’ll be ready when the lights go up, but there’s a lot more to it than that. I have a lot of things to complete if it’s going to be an ongoing event, which I really think it can be for a long time. Thousands of people will enjoy this show, and I want everyone to see it.

That will require finding a venue to do it on a consistent basis, creating a marketing and advertising plan to promote it, coming up with merchandise to sell and keeping the show itself up to the quality standard I set for myself, which is extremely high. That’s not going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. I’ve had my day of sleep, now back to work.

From Slots To Brats

September 26, 2010

Saturday September 25th, 2010 – Las Vegas, NV/Milwaukee, WI

Las Vegas definitely has a short shelf life. For a few days it’s great fun, then it’s time to go home. I find New York to be that way too. Both places definitely have an energy, but it can wear a person down in a hurry. If I was a partier, I’d probably be in rehab right now.

Actually, I’m pretty boring for the most part. I keep to myself and just try to stay out of everyone’s way. I like to hang out with good people, but I don’t need to be pissy drunk or tooted up on cocaine to do that. Some people do, but that’s never been my style. Maybe if I did I’d be farther along in the business, but if that’s what it takes I’m glad I didn’t do it.

There was no shortage of quality people to hang with here this week. Joe Lowers put on a fantastic event, and everyone here agrees. He and his wife Cindy risked everything they had to move out here from Pittsburgh and start this comedy room, and they’ve been really super to deal with. I sure hope they at least broke even, and also that they try this again.

The opportunity to network with this many comedy people in one place at one time just doesn’t exist very often so it made it worth everyone’s while to come out here. I managed to even procure a few bookings myself, and that’s gravy at this point. I’m glad I came out.

I missed the actual finals of the contest because it happened as I was on the plane flying back to Milwaukee to pick up my car. That’s where my mind is going to be for at least the immediate future, as I have several performances of ‘Schlitz Happened!’ coming up soon.

I’m ready as far as the show itself goes. This will always be a work in progress, but I am ready to pull off solid shows at both the Schauer Center in Hartford next Friday October 1 and in Saukville at the Railroad Station on Friday October 9th. In between I’ve been asked to do a TV taping in a small venue called Sherman Perks, somewhere on the north side.

That show will be on October 6th, and I can designate tickets for those who might enjoy sitting in on a TV taping. It will be low pressure and fun, and if you want to attend please let me know and I’ll gladly put you on the tickets list. It will be a very intimate setting.

I fully intend to create a brand with this show, even though it’s somewhat limited in it’s scope. It’s a show about growing up in Milwaukee in the 60s and 70s, with a few older or newer references thrown in depending on who’s in attendance. That’s it. It’s not anything groundbreaking or earth shattering, but I know it will be entertaining for those who get it.

I’ve been super busy with everything else I’ve been doing, and I’m way behind where I thought I’d be as far as marketing and preparation. I don’t have any of the products I was hoping to have for sale like t-shirts, DVDs or a book of essays about Milwaukee things.

All that will come in due time. This is a fun project that’s come out of nowhere and has a bright future. I can feel it. I’ll be on TV and radio next week promoting it and the shows are what I’ll focus on for now. I’m ready to go. Good bye, Las Vegas. Hello Milwaukee!

Still Working It All Out

September 25, 2010

Friday September 24th, 2010 – Las Vegas, NV

Had a bit of a detour today, but I’m not upset. This was supposed to be the ultimate day for networking, the highlight of the entire trip. There’s a meeting place at Hooters here in town for all working comedians who want to gather and it’s called “The Fryer’s Club”.

That’s a clever takeoff on the legendary Friar’s Club in New York, where comedians of past generations used to gather. I’ve heard about the tradition in Las Vegas and was going to attend with some comedian friends, but just as I was about to leave I got a call from my friend Dan Still informing me he’d just lost his day job and his life was in a major funk.

I’ve known Dan for twenty years, and there are few with a heart as big as his. He’s from Milwaukee, and decided to come out and test the waters of the contest in Las Vegas. I had no idea he’d be coming out here, and was glad to see him when he showed up Tuesday.

Dan tries harder than just about anyone I’ve ever met. He’s sincere, trustworthy, loyal to a fault and has a work ethic of a coked up mule. That guy will show up and keep plugging and slugging until the job is done – whatever it may be. He knows computers, machinery, auto and home repair and just about anything else you can think of. The guy is brilliant.

He’s similar to me in that he has a tendency to put people off at first, but after a while a person can’t help liking him. He’s kind and generous and I’ve always thought he was way underappreciated in the comedy world. He does second and third rate gigs because he has poor business and salesmanship skills, as do a lot of talented people. He deserves better.

He can do several celebrity voices dead on, and he always gives everything he’s got in a live show. I think the world of the guy and always have, and it pained me to see him in as much pain as he was. His wife has had some health issues and he needs a job to help get a handle on them. All he wants is a fair chance to work for a living wage to pay his bills.

Apparently his new employer didn’t agree, and now he’s out on his ass. What’s worse is Dan happened to lose an eye during his high school years. It’s funny to make jokes about stuff like that until someone really has to deal with it. Dan has been dealing with it for all the years I’ve known him, and I’ve never ONCE heard the guy complain. He’s a trooper.

What I do see is a guy who helps anyone and everyone, is honest as the day is long, and gets as little in return as anyone I’ve ever seen. I thought I was Mr. Lucky, but Dan has an life obstacle I hope I never have to experience. My respect for him is deep and sincere. He knows what pain and suffering are all about. My little life woes pale in comparison to his.

When a guy like that calls all bummed out, a schmoozing session can wait – even if it’s in Las Vegas with bigwigs. They can keep their wigs on another night and hopefully they can meet me another time. To me, sitting with a friend in need is much more important. I do have a heart, and know what it’s like to suffer myself. Dan was grateful I came, and it felt good to be there when a guy needed someone to talk to. Kindness is a noble pursuit.

To me, showing kindness is the only true pursuit that’s worthwhile in all of life. All else pales in comparison, and I’m ashamed of myself for failing as often as I have. I’d think by now I’d have things figured out, but I still blow all too often and that sure is frustrating.

An act of kindness shown to someone lasts forever. Dan was really bummed out tonight but he told me of things I allegedly did and said twenty years ago that he still remembers, and thanked me all over again. Quite honestly, I didn’t remember but Dan certainly did.

Dan is a kind soul himself and has helped me on many occasions over the years. I have a lot of kind souls in my circle like my cousin Brett and my friend Tim Marszalkowski in Michigan and a whole lot more that if I took time to list would look like a phone book.

These are the people that make me keep the gun out of my mouth every day. Hopefully I have shown enough kindness back to have earned my keep in my little time here on this ugly mean spirited planet full of hate and stupidity. Unfortunately, I’ve thrown my share of that around too, and I deeply regret it. That’s not what I’m about, but some think I am.

I know there are more than a few that think I’m a flaming ass pustule. I try to be good to all I cross paths with, but sometimes clashes occur. I’m not perfect, and not claiming that I am, but I really regret when things go sour with people. That’s why when things get off course, I prefer to just amputate the relationship rather than continue firing live ammo.

Maybe it’s right and maybe it’s wrong, but I’m still learning. Ultimately, I never mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, but sometimes they’re just too damn stupid to realize that and I go off on a tangent. That doesn’t make anything right, and I need to learn to curtail that.

This kind of stuff is way deeper than the shallowness of show business. I’d rather be an upstanding human being who shows kindness than a shallow wank with only money and material things. I’m starting to see what’s really important in life and it’s not anything any store sells. It comes from within, and I’m just now getting in touch with that inner power.

Some people I’m never going to reach, at least not in this life plane. My siblings are out of touch and probably out of reach for good, as are Bob and Tom. I’ve really tried to offer sincere apologies to all those people, but they’re not up for taking it. Now I can’t do much more and the ball is way out of my court. If they hate me, so be it. I’m not out of friends.

I’ve got a lot of people I really like and respect that I got to hang with this week. Two of them were Brian McKim and Traci Skene from Shecky Magazine. It’s an online comedy magazine and they’re very good at it. I like Brian and Traci very much and we got to hang out and visit for a while this week. I also saw quite a few comics I hadn’t seen in a while.

The more I plug along in my life, the more I realize I’m doing a lot better than I thought I was. I have a thick list of friends, I work doing what I love and have for my entire adult life. I came to Vegas to network and schmooze, but it turns out I hung out with someone from all the way back in Milwaukee. That’s ok. It’s always good to show some kindness.

Sin City Symposium

September 24, 2010

Thursday September 23rd, 2010 – Las Vegas, NV

This is turning out to be a very fun event. I’m not sure if I’ll get anything out of it other than hanging with good people, but that’s enough for me. At least I’ve been able to renew some old contacts and meet some new friends. My seminar went over pretty well from all accounts, and I’ve had comic after comic approach to tell me they’d learned something.

That’s the whole idea. We all keep learning, but I’ve made the biggest mistakes and the smart people on the way up won’t have to make those all over again. I tried to be soak up as much knowledge as I could on my way up the ranks, but there weren’t people handing out advice to my generation of comics like I’m able to do. Times are very different now.

The whole comedy business has changed, because the world around it changed. Human nature stays the same, and those are the points that I try to stress in my presentations. I did one in Chicago with Bubba Muski earlier this month at Pressure Café and this one was an offshoot of that. I gave some unvarnished opinions and focused on topics few others do.

No matter how much any circumstances might change, the fact that it takes a lot of old fashioned hard work to succeed even a little is an absolute constant. Hard work combined with creative vision and a little luck thrown in there are what will ultimately define all of us as performers. These people need to know that, and hopefully I can paint the picture.

Most of the booking agents have been pretty approachable. They held a meet and greet in a big room and we all got to shake hands, kiss babies and hand out business cards. It’s very intimidating for a new comic to be in a room with all those bookers, and I remember when I was intimidated by it too. It takes a while to realize that they’re all just people too.

I renewed a few relationships with those I knew, and met a few others for the first time face to face that I’d worked for over the years. There was one that I wouldn’t approach, as I could see we were not going to hit it off. I had wanted to make some kind of peace with him, as I’d worked for his father for twenty years. He took over and started firing people.

Do I need him for survival? No, but it would be nice to have that work. It’s in my home region and in places I do extremely well. A smart person would know that and beg quality people to work their circuit, but nobody ever accused any of them of being smart. They’re in it for themselves, and treat the comics like disposable diapers. I won’t put up with that.

I turned the other way and avoided a confrontation. I could have gotten in his face, as he was part of the ugliness of the Giggles bounced check situation in Milwaukee, and I never did get my bounced check fees returned, but he’s not worth my time. He’ll run the whole business into the ground soon enough, and that’ll be it. He’s already started to mangle it.

I’ll outlast him, just as I have so many other imbeciles in the business. Wasting time on clueless halfwits has been a major source of my conflict over the years, and when I don’t listen to them and do my own thing it usually goes quite well. That’s the best solution.

Las Vegas Lowdown

September 23, 2010

Wednesday September 22nd, 2010 – Las Vegas, NV

I love Las Vegas. In a perfect world, I’d have lived here at least for a while by now and laid down some kind of networking base to return to often. I wish I had more connections out here, but I totally don’t. Other than a few showcases over the years, I’ve never had an opportunity to work out here and that’s too bad. I think Mr. Lucky would be a perfect fit.

Whatever comedy boom there was out here appears to be over. I heard the club scene is brutal, and apparently the Riviera is closing their comedy club that’s been open for years. I did a showcase there years ago for Steve Schirripa, who later went on to an acting career in The Sopranos. He used to run the club and I got in through my friend George Miller.

I passed my audition but I thought Steve Schirripa was a maniac and never called to get any bookings. He’s a huge guy and can be intimidating, and I didn’t want to deal with any of that at the time. In hindsight, I should have gotten hired and taken my chances. I didn’t need the work then, and was getting hired all I wanted. Those days are gone for everyone.

I still get hired in enough places to keep me alive, but it wouldn’t have hurt to lay down a few comedy roots here, as it’s an entertainment town. No – it’s THE entertainment town in all the world. Why would I want to know people here? I doubt if that could help any.

This is yet another in my laundry list of stupid mistakes, but it’s too late now. I did what I did, and that’s it. I have connections in places like Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh. I don’t mind working in those places, but it would be a lot sexier to have yearly stops in Vegas to flesh out my booking schedule. I never thought to develop that until it was way too late.

Still, I enjoy coming out here and hope to hook on somewhere at some point so I’d have a reason to come out more often. I could totally see a billboard with ‘Mr. Lucky at Wynn’ next to Cher or Wayne Newton. George Wallace seems to be the new king of comedy out here, and good for him for claiming the title. He’s charismatic, funny and can pull it off.

I really think I could fit in well too though. I’d love a situation where I could set up my own space and stay out here for a while. I heard George Wallace has a deal to keep him in town for multiple years, and that’s great. That would be the ultimate super dream gig in a perfect world, and maybe the ship gigs are training me for it. Those audiences are similar.

I’m just going to enjoy my time here this week and not worry about anything else. I had a fantastic dinner with my friend Dan O’Bryan, a former comedy student who now lives a few miles north of town. He’s also a former radio guy with a set of deep booming pipes to prove it. Like me and everyone else, he got sick of the insanity of radio and left the game.

Dan is one of the reasons I keep teaching comedy classes. People like him and so many others have crossed my path in life and made it a lot richer. He’s always been supportive and still is, and it was great to sit back and hang out for a while. He totally gets the plight of any entertainer, as he’s one too. I’m grateful for good friends and time to enjoy them.

A Magnificent Zero

September 1, 2010

Tuesday August 31st, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

To say I’ve had my share of credit and financial trouble would be like saying Glen Beck wouldn’t be the guest of honor at an NAACP rally. It’s a major understatement, but 100% true. I can’t speak for Glen Beck, but as for me I’m attempting to vastly improve myself.

Now that I’m in a position to make a little money, I’m trying hard to fix my whole way of thinking and create brand new habits that last the rest of my life. I have a few books on the subject, and now is the time to read and learn. My way wasn’t doing anything positive and I’m beyond grateful for this chance to fix it. I’m taking extra time to focus on all this.

If I attempt to fix my entire financial situation, it’s going to take years of discipline and hard work. It will also take a lot of money I don’t have right now, and knowledge too. I’m not claiming to be a financial wizard, but I don’t think I have to be. I just need to be a tiny bit smarter to make huge strides. My situation is in utter shambles, and I admit it up front.

Still, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as a lot of people’s, and at the very least I really am making a sincere attempt to rebuild the mess that’s there. The first step was that big ugly credit card balance I’ve been dragging around for a while. It’s sucked a lot of both money and energy out of my life, but today I drove to Milwaukee and paid the balance in full.

I can’t express in words how fantastic that felt. I wrote a check for the exact amount of the total and it felt like I was cutting a dragon’s head off with my pen. I wanted to hold it up for everyone else in the bank to see and start jumping up and down like someone who just watched his or her team win a championship. This was a major step in getting ahead.

My goal was to have the balance paid off by October 1st and I’m a month early. I put all the money I’ve earned from the cruise ship gigs and everything else I had into it and now my total net worth is under $50 but that’s ok with me. I’m working pretty steadily for the next several weeks, and I’ll get fed and housed on the ship this week starting tomorrow.

I had a zero credit card balance for quite a few years before this latest rough spot, and it costs SO much to have that weight tied around one’s neck. Not only is it stressful and not pleasant, it’s flat out expensive. The interest was strangling me, plus I’m not a stickler for making payments by the due date and the late fees are even worse. It’s all money wasted.

This was a major step in the right direction, and I literally skipped to my car as I left the bank. There was an older couple pulling in and they looked at me like I was a molester of kittens and children, but I couldn’t care less what they thought. I felt like I won a lottery.

I have all kinds of other money issues from past years, and I’m not out of the woods by a long shot just yet. BUT…that’s not going anywhere. This was sucking me dry, and now it isn’t. I also had to pay my car insurance and for front end work I had done recently, but it all got paid for today and I feel like I’m starting totally over on a very high note. One step at a time, but this one feels like the first one on the moon. One giant step for my finances.

A Lesson In Showbiz

September 1, 2010

Monday August 30th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

I’ve got two days back on dry land to pack in about a week’s worth of errands, then it’s  back on the ship for a full week run. Then I return to Chicago late on Tuesday September 7th to pick up my car and start driving to Michigan for a two night casino run in the U.P.  starting on the 8th. My schedule feels like a blender with the farthest right button pushed.

I’m glad to get the gigs, but sooner or later I won’t be able to keep up this pace. At least on the ship my travel is taken care of for me. Airline tickets purchased in my name and all I have to do is make it to the airport on time to sit in the seat. That’s not always been easy either, but at least the hard part is done by someone else. Now I need someone to drive.

That’s one thing that has really lost it’s luster in a big way. I don’t care if I ever have to drive an automobile again. I still need to get places, but someone else can drive. I’ll relax and enjoy the ride as a passenger, or maybe just nod out and sleep. Whatever the case, it’s not my goal to keep making marathon cross country drives to do gigs in remote locations.

The pay will be decent for the week though, and on Saturday I’ll be back in Milwaukee at the Potawatomi Casino. Normally I’d be in the Northern Lights Theatre, but apparently they’re remodeling it and the comedy will be somewhere else. That’s ok, they are always on top of it there and I’ve never had any problems. I’ll work wherever they tell me to go.

Tonight I was back at Zanies in Chicago hosting the Rising Star Showcase. I probably should have taken the night off, but I really do enjoy doing it – especially when the shows are how it was tonight. The audience was razor sharp and the lineup of talent was dead on and it was a joy to watch it all come together. I keep the flow going and it’s a fun night.

It doesn’t hurt that I get paid either, and I stand by my old school axiom that it’s always a good bet to accept the gig as not many comedians anywhere on any level are able to turn a buck on a Monday night. Any money is found money, and the gig itself is pretty easy.

A flaming example happened tonight of what NOT to do in a showcase situation. Some goofy wannabe bastard had his ’manager’ contact Bert Haas to arrange the showcase date, as is the protocol. Bert really does try to squeeze as many people on as he can, some that I probably wouldn’t if I were in charge. That’s his option, and I don’t tell him what to do.

He gave the ok for this ham and egger to get his tryout, and the guy brings about fifty or more people into the club to see him. There was a line out the door. Well, Bert insists the showcasers show up by 7:30pm SHARP. 7:31 and it’s a done deal. That’s his rule, and he enforces it fairly to all people. I’ve seen him throw a lot of experienced people off shows.

Well, the ’manager’ flips out and decides he’s going to pull every one of those people in the audience out to ’stick it to Zanies’. Bert didn’t panic a bit, and in fact helped clear out the room so the waitresses could clean the tables and get them ready for the next group of people who would take them, which is exactly what happened. That guy screwed himself.

This is a VERY important lesson for all performers to learn, even though it’s not at all a pleasant one. Unfortunately, life will go on with or without YOU, no matter who ‘you’ is. I know exactly what that feels like, as I’ve had my share of scuffles with clubs myself.

The sad thing is, it doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right. It just doesn’t. I’m sure both of those guys thought they’d made their point and sent Zanies scrambling because Bert has a rule he won’t budge for anyone. Not true. They were all totally forgotten about before the show even started. Other people came in, filled those seats and it was a spectacular show.

This is a very humbling fact to swallow, but a fact nonetheless. I remember my own tiff with the ape who used to own the Comedy Café in Milwaukee. I ended up not only being stiffed out of $400 for shows I did, I’ve never been back since. This happened in 1994.

It doesn’t matter that I was right, it burned a bridge. There were plenty of others to take my place, and over the years it became like I never existed, at least not there. They didn’t close without Dobie Maxwell, and I didn’t starve because I didn’t work their grease trap.

Was that smart business? No, it really wasn’t. That place was by all accounts a haven of all kinds of debauchery and skullduggery, and I’m glad I never had to work for that puke, but burning that bridge took me out of the mix there forever. I gave them the power, and that’s my mistake. It would have been much better to be the one to decide if I work there.

The Zanies example is going to be very similar. I didn’t catch the guy’s name or see his manager, but I know Bert knows it, and you can bet it will be a dark day on the sun when they get a chance to audition again. That’s just how it is, but none of this needed to be.

It always baffles me why the greenest newbies with the least amount of promise always think it’s a good idea to pack the house on an audition night with their buddies. That’s not EVER going to get anyone booked, at least by anyone who’s been around the block. They can see through it, and know the only real way to be a comic is to make strangers laugh.

Hopefully, that kid will learn his lesson. He needs to gas the ‘manager‘ dork, unless he plans on going into the pro wrestling business, and start over again. He needs to find him and only him in charge of making contact calls, and he needs to patch it up with Bert.

If that guy really wants to work at Zanies, he’ll apologize to Bert and start over again at ground zero, minus Mr. Manager. Bert is very fair, and I believe he’d be open to throwing the kid another shot, but not under current circumstances. Rules are rules, follow them.

After the show, Bert and I talked about the incident in the office as I was waiting for my check. He was reminded of something he once heard when a club owner brought out a big bucket of water and told a comic to stick his hand in up to the elbow. Then he told him to take the arm out and asked him “Notice any difference in the water?” Of course there was none. The place where the arm was filled in in less than a second, and now it’s a plain old bucket of water again. Any one person can be replaced. Fast. This is a lesson for all of us.