Archive for December, 2010

Cutting Bait And Moving On

December 21, 2010

Sunday December 19th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI/Kenosha,WI

I went up to the sports card show at Gonzaga Hall in West Allis, WI to meet up with my good friend Richard today. He’s been helping me sell my mountain of sports cards for the last few months and has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help me unload them.

Richard has an Ebay business and sells high end cards. My stuff was mostly mid-grade, which is always hardest to sell. I knew that when I bought them, but I wasn’t planning on selling them as quickly as I’ve had to. It was a mistake, and now I’m trying to recover.

There was a big card show in Chicago in November and Rich took a bunch of my stuff to shop around on my behalf. He didn’t have to do that, but he’s a good friend and wanted to help me get the best price, or at least a lump of cash rather than boxes of old cardboard.

It’s not easy to eat mistakes and move on, but that’s the best thing to do right now. I can always buy more cards, but my time in the sun as a comedian is getting shorter by the day so clearing everything else out and going for it is the right decision, even if I lose a chunk of money in the short run. Richard has really helped me make the best of this ugly mess.

He set up at his table with my stuff today, and ended up selling a couple hundred bucks worth of it. I paid the table fee, but it was totally worth it. He also gave me a nice stack of cash he got for some of my other stuff in Chicago and I wanted to hug him immediately.

That money will be able to give me even more of a financial cushion and allow myself a little leeway to work on projects in the new year. And, it allowed me to remove the pile of heavy boxes from where I was living just in time to avoid me having to move it to storage and spend money letting it rot. I took action, and Richard kept it going. He’s a true friend.

After a lifetime of farting around with sports cards, I think I’m finally finished for good. I had a blast with them from childhood on, but I drifted in and out of them and never had the constant focus required to be a big time dealer. I made a few bucks, lost a lot more but I have to admit the chase was a lot of fun. I’ve finally outgrown it now, but that’s okay.

I’ve got some scraps left, and Richard said he’d do his best to help me get as much cash back as possible. Again, he didn’t have to do that and I totally appreciate it. I love to hang out with him and some of the other card guys I’ve known, but as far as collecting or being a dealer myself that’s over with. I’ve learned my lesson and won’t consider that anymore.

This is all part of the lessons of life. Try something, tweak it, adjust it, see if it fits. This was a fun hobby for a lifetime, but now it’s over. Even though I ended up losing my ass in it, the money that’s coming in now is much appreciated. I’m living and learning. So be it.

If we’re all here on this cosmic plane to learn, I’m sure getting my share of education. If I knew life was going to be this difficult, I might not have signed up. Too late. It’s a never ending constantly evolving classroom, and I’m a perpetual student. I wonder if I’ll pass?

Tonight it was back to AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI for The Mothership Connection radio show. The crew all got together for a Christmas dinner beforehand, and I’m glad the show has been able to stay on the air in my absence on the ships. Everyone has pitched in.

The show has always been fun, and still is. We had some excellent guests and callers to keep it moving, and four hours ended up flying by as it usually does. I hadn’t been on the air in a while, and it felt good to get back in the saddle. The energy all around was good.

But, like with sports cards, it may be time to get out of this racket too. It’s been a lot of fun for a long time, but where is it leading? With everything else going on, it’s hard to be focusing on projects that don’t make money. If I had a bigger cushion to fall back on, I’d be able to do this without any question. But. is this the smartest way to invest my time?

That can only be answered if we’re able to get paid. How can that happen? I’m a fan of Coast To Coast AM with George Noory, and that’s the big dog of shows like this. If we’d get a chance to fill in on weekends or something that would be worth it just for the big ray of exposure it would give. But would it pay? And, would they let the crew stay together?

Part of what makes it all so fun is the crew of people involved. It’s a blast going into the studio with Shelley Maas-Hernandez, Greg DeGuire, Gary Pansch and whomever else we can get to show up and join us. It’s a cross between a morning show and Coast To Coast.

In a perfect world, we’d be able to get a syndication deal which would put us on nightly to open for Coast To Coast. It would be a perfect lead in, but are the radio powers that be even interested in something like that? I don’t have any idea who to even talk to about it.

Kipper McGee knows the show exists, and if anyone can give me pointers, it’s him. He would help me sell it if there were any openings, but he’s got his own career to maintain. He’s got an impressive resume, but no job right now. That’s common in the radio game.

Virtually everyone I know in that business is scrambling, and I’ve had my share of that too. Playing that game is a cross between musical chairs and whack-a-mole. There’s a lot of carnage with no real reason for it, so why tempt the meat grinder? The other people on the show are all bright eyed and bushy tailed, and that’s fine. They haven’t been scorched.

I’d be fine with letting them take over the show, and maybe showing up once a month or so to hang out on air if they’d let me. I’m sure they would, but putting maximum effort into it just isn’t the best way to spend my time now. This is the time to create whatever is possible to go into some kind of retirement fund. I’m not going to have it willed to me.

I don’t regret any of this, and it’s a sign I’m still growing in a positive way. Playing the sports card game and having a radio talk show are both great fun, but I have to think a big wad of cash socked away wouldn’t suck either. That’s just where my instincts take me at this time. Making hay while the sun shines is the right thing to do, and hopefully clearing out the time suckers from my life will open up new avenues I’ll be able to make use of.

Optimal Options

December 21, 2010

Saturday December 18th, 2010 – Vernon Hills, IL

I’m beginning to get very excited about 2011. Things look like they’re finally starting to pop from all angles, and I’m ready for all of it – at least I think I am. Even if I’m not, what a super problem it will be to have too many fun and exciting things all going on at once.

First off, I’m starting to get comedy clubs calling me for dates next year. I haven’t been to Laffs in Tucson in a while, and there’s been an ownership change there. It’s back in the hands of the guy who used to own it, and he looked through his archives and saw I hadn’t been there for a while and asked me back. He’s in for a surprise, I’m WAY better now.

I love Tucson, and the west in general. Gigs are farther apart, but I’m to the point where I’m either going to fly in or not go so it doesn’t really matter. I also was asked to return to Wiseguys in Salt Lake City by my friend Keith Stubbs. I always love working in Utah and it’s been too long since I’ve been back there too. Another place I want to return is Calgary so that and a few other regular stops will give me a nice base of clubs to start scheduling.

These are all places I enjoy working, and going there is more of a mini vacation by now. I don’t have to prove myself on stage, and we have a good working relationship. It will be nice to see the people in those towns again, and hopefully I can teach some classes also.

That’s another thing that’s starting to heat up. Harper College has asked me to return for more classes, and that could really lead to good things. It’s totally legitimate and attracts a wider audience that isn’t just a comedy club crowd. If I’m smart, I’ll create a cash cow.

I also am back in contact with Arnie Hoffman from Laughing Hyena records. Arnie is a sharp businessman and he’s the guy who bought the rights to my first CD recording. He’s always looking for more products, and we went back and forth a little on what I might be able to create and make another deal. Arnie said he’s sold about 1800 copies of my CD.

That really made me feel good. He gave me a flat fee when he bought it so he’s the one who took all the risk. I’d already made my money selling it after shows. I’m glad he made a profit, and it got my name out a little. Arnie told me the topics that sell the best for him, and that gives me something to work with in planning recordings. It could lead to a deal.

These are all things I really enjoy, and I’ll have plenty to play with in the new year. I’ve also got a ’Schlitz Happened!’ show up in Milwaukee at the end of January and that’s my pet project right now. Creating something from absolute zero is a thrill, and I can see this gaining momentum. It’s exciting. All of it is. I’m not going to be stuck in a solitary rut.

I’m also still waiting to see what transpires with the cruise ships. Carnival has put some nice money in my pocket, and if that keeps coming I’d be stupid not to take it. If not, I’ve got plenty to do to keep me busy and solvent. Either way, I’ll be fine. That makes life the best it gets. I won’t be worrying about where my next meal or gig comes from, and that’s the best definition of success. I can sit back and be creative, and that’s what it’s all about.

King Of The ‘Hills

December 19, 2010

Friday December 17th, 2010 – Vernon Hills, IL

If there’s one comedy club in America I feel the most at home, it’s the Zanies in Vernon Hills, IL. I was the first comic on that stage when the club opened in 1991, and it’s been a lot more than a working relationship. The majority of the staff has stayed there for quite a few years, and we’ve all grown to become personal friends. Working there is going home.

It’s also the only comedy club in Lake County, so there are people who come out to see me from both Illinois and Wisconsin. I’ve lived in Lake County off and on for years, and I also have people who have heard me on the radio who’ll drive down to see me there. It’s a nice club with lots of available parking and it’s easy to navigate. I love working there.

Plus, I feel as at home on that stage as anywhere in the country. The staff doesn’t care in the least what I do, and if I would happen to have a bad show, nobody will write me up or scold me. If there’s a such thing as job security, I’ve got it at Zanies in Vernon Hills. It’s a sanctuary where I can pretty much do whatever I want within reason, but I don’t abuse it.

Tonight was just plain old fun. I had some people come out to see me, and that’s always flattering. It makes me want to give everything I’ve got to please them. Jayne Nordstrom from the Illinois Convention and Visitors Bureau came out with her husband and friends. I joined the bureau a couple of years ago and Jayne is as hard a worker as I’ve ever seen.

She is relentless at networking with people in Lake County, and she’s always putting in a good word for me. I know it’s part of my membership dues, but she goes beyond a work boundary and has become a friend. I’m glad I joined, and she’s been a one woman public relations firm on my behalf. She didn’t have to come out, but she did. I felt an obligation.

Some of the staff from the Mothership Connection radio show came out too. My friend Shelley Maas-Hernandez has really helped me in a lot of areas, and she brought a crew of people as she usually does including her husband Bob who’s never seen me. They’ve both been great, and when I had computer viruses they went out of their way to fix it for me.

Shelley runs my website and as I’ve been on the cruise ships she’s also been running the Mothership Connection radio show on Sunday nights. It’s a win/win as she gets to try her hand at real radio, and I have someone in charge I can count on to show up every week.

Diane Ebert showed up also, and she’s another sweetheart. She works the overnights on 102.3 WXLC in Waukegan, IL and has been in and out on the Mothership for a while. It’s not always easy with her busy schedule, but when she shows up she always contributes to the show both on air and off, and supports the concept. We’ve got a great crew all around.

Jim Moran came out too. Jim has really risen through the radio ranks and does traffic on WBBM among other stations in Chicago. He’s a total pro, and he and Diane have always come out to see me whenever they can. Shelley has either come out herself or sent people to see me for years. With people like that in the audience, it’s hard to have a bad show.

A whole group of strangers came up to me before the show to say how much they were looking forward to it. There were about ten altogether and they said they’d made it a point to come see me. A few had seen me before, and brought friends this time. They said they watched my schedule and as soon as they saw I was at Vernon Hills, they made plans.

THAT’S what I’ve been trying to cultivate my whole life – people who come out to see ME, not just those going out to see a random comedy show. There’s a different vibe if an audience is there to see someone in particular. They expect to be entertained, and if they are they respond with an outpouring of positive energy. That’s what I’m shooting for.

It’s only taken a lifetime to achieve it, but it’s finally starting to happen. A little. But it’s still starting. I thought I’d have it figured out by now, but I totally don‘t. I‘ll take any and every fan I can get and be grateful for every one. I want to give all of them my very best.

I could feel within about ten seconds they were going to be a good audience for the first show. Mike Preston was the host, and we’ve known each other for years. Mike is not only a funny comedian, he’s got a lot of experience hosting. His style and mine fit perfectly on the same show, as did the feature act Kevin McCaffrey. I think this kid is going places.

He already has. He’s 28, originally from the Chicago area but moved to New York, and writes for David Letterman. I’ve also seen him pop up on TV either on TruTV or VH1 or maybe both. It was where they flash quick comment clips from comedians on those ’Best of the ’80s’ or stupid criminal shows. Whatever ones he did, I’ve seen him at some point.

Those are nothing to sneeze at. It’s a great credit, as they run over and over and provide excellent national exposure. Plus, writing for Letterman doesn’t hurt either. The guy has a great work ethic, and I met him when he did a Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago a while back. He’s not only working on his comedy, his business acumen is razor sharp.

I wasn’t anywhere close to that smart when I was 28, and I’m not claiming it now. I just see what I did wrong, and know when someone else is doing it correctly. When I was 28, I had already gotten into radio, and moving to New York or LA to write for Letterman or anyone else wasn’t where my mind was. Kevin is on the right track to build a solid career.

All these things together made for a wonderful night. I felt as at home as I do anywhere on the planet, the host was experienced and competent, the feature act was funny and not filthy, and there were pockets of people all through the audience who already enjoyed my comedy style and knew what to expect. Plus, I had just come off of working on the ships.

That’s like coming out of the gym and taking ankle weights off. Those gigs may not be easy, but they sure are making me a better comedian. I could feel it as I launched into not only new material but some older stuff too. I could feel myself deliver it with a crispness and felt in control the entire time. It was great fun, and even the second show rocked the house. These were just regular customers, but I still had a hot show. I’m in a performing groove right now, I was King of the ‘Hills tonight. This was a slump buster. What a blast.

Frazzle Dazzle

December 19, 2010

Thursday December 16th, 2010 – Belize City, Belize/Miami, FL/Chicago, IL

I need a break. I’m not sure exactly how long, but at least a week or two without a place to be would be spectacular right about now. With all the ship travel and road work and an unplanned move, this has been one of my busiest years in recent memory. I’m all over the place, and it’s hard to keep up. There are so many things to remember, it gets confusing.

Keys, wallet, phone. Keys, wallet, phone. That’s my constant mantra. Today I managed to lose my keys. Again. I’m constantly patting myself down and checking and re-checking those three items, but even if I keep track of them 999 times out of 1000, they’re still lost.

I haven’t needed my keys for a whole week, and I thought I put them in a safe place so I wouldn’t lose them. I must have looked at them 1000 times this week, as there’s a shelf to store things in my cabin on the ship. This morning when I packed I thought I placed them in my pocket, but alas – they aren’t there. No matter how hard I looked, they’re not there.

My wallet is there, and so is my phone. No keys. Two out of three IS bad when it comes to those things, but what can I do? If they’re in my cabin, I’ll be able to pick them up in a week when I go back. Fortunately, I have another booking on that particular ship. That’s a long term solution, but in the short term I’m screwed. Every key I need was on that ring.

I used to carry at least a spare car key in my wallet, but I didn’t put one in from my new old Cadillac. I did get a second set when I bought it, but those are in the ash try and I have no idea if I locked it or not. Many times I’ll at least leave the rear passenger door open so I can avoid situations like this, but at this point my brain is mush and I just do not know.

I’ll deal with it like I have every other time this has happened, but it always seems to be at the most inconvenient time. I’m between places to live and everything is up in the air at this point. I have no base of operations and everything is in boxes and storage. I guess I’m one that needs some kind of order and I don’t have that right now. I’m living like a gypsy.

I did make the flight from Belize to Miami. I flew with the other comic Thomas Brown, and he’s just a super nice guy. He’s friends with Jeff Foxworthy, and that’s all he needed to say. My respect for Jeff is up there with anyone on the planet, and after this week so is Thomas. He’s a straight shooting guy, very hard working and he likes to restore old cars.

I love old cars too, but he’s got me beat by miles. I’m a tire kicker and an admirer, he’s an actual doer. He restores about two cars a year from the ground up and resells them for top dollar. He’s a metal worker and a welder and does the work himself. I couldn’t hold a wrench straight, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t admire the majesty of those old cars.

They’re rolling art, and Thomas really knows his stuff. It’s great when comedians don’t always have to talk comedy every waking second. I enjoy that too, but it was a refreshing week to work with a classy guy like Thomas. He carries himself like a total pro, and I can feel we’ll cross paths again. He’s the kind of person I want to have more of in my life.
He’s got goals and dreams and chases them. I know Jeff did too, and I still think we will be back in touch eventually.

I’ve always felt uneasy asking for favors, but that has to stop. Maybe it’s from childhood rejection, who knows? I do know there are people who believe in me that would love to make a call, and I know Jeff is one of them. He’s got some clout.

I have to be ready when the time comes. He did what he said he’d do last time we spoke and I followed up with his management company and got turned down. That’s not what I expected, but maybe the time just wasn’t right. When it is, I’m sure whomever the person is that will give me my break will open that door and it will fall together. That’s the plan.

I have to maintain a positive attitude and keep expecting good things, but I can’t lie. It’s very difficult to do that all the time, especially around this time of year. Christmas and all it’s nasty memories hadn’t really hit me until today in the Miami airport when I waited in a line to go through customs and some idiot in front of me took about 20 minutes to clear because she was arguing with the agent and had a hand full of passports. It was a big pain.

When I blow in the patience department, I’m gone. I have to hold my tongue or I surely will end up in jail, at least for the night. I don’t suffer idiots well, but slow ones are even higher on my up the poop shoot with pointy steel toed work boots list. I was about to get to my last nerve when I heard The Little Drummer Boy and that took me to a sad place.

It’s amazing how one little trigger like that could take me out, but it did. I suddenly saw all the wreaths and ornaments and lights and realized I was in Miami. The only chance for a White Christmas is if the cocaine dealer stops over. I tried to shut my senses off, but if it were that easy, I’d do it every year. Some years are better than others, but today got ugly.

The more I tried to avoid the decorations, the more I saw them. It’s actually quite funny, but not on a day like today. I just want to turn it all off and rest up for a while. Recharging the batteries would do wonders, but that’s not coming for a while. I have more gigs to do.

After having to go through security in Miami…AGAIN…my mood really turned sour. I just did it in Belize, and haven’t been anywhere else but the airport. I don’t think anybody at the airport has a store selling bazookas or shoe bombs. Why do I have to go through the rat and cheese game again? Everyone does, and today’s crew were the typical idiot posse.

I got to my gate, and apparently I was too late to get on the plane. It was right there, but they made me wait for the next one. Then, they didn’t tell me there was a gate change so I had to run and catch the tram to my gate all the way across the airport. My nerves are shot after a tough week and all these little things that really don’t mean much by themselves.

Together, they’re a constant reminder that it’s time to rest and recharge for a while. I am bass ackwards in every part of my life, and it all feels out of sync at the moment. Nobody cares though, and I know that. It’s up to me to do what I need to do to get in a mindset for success. At this point I’ll settle for one that lets me keep track of my keys. I’ve got a busy weekend of shows, then just a few days home before going back out to sea. I’m frazzled.

Stuck Between Storms

December 16, 2010

Wednesday December 15th, 2010 – Roatan, Honduras

Change of travel plans. No use complaining, I’ll just have to roll with it. I was supposed to fly home from Belize today, but with all the rough weather this week everything is on a different schedule. Today we stopped in Roatan, Honduras instead. It’s not easy to fly out of here, I’ve done it before. It requires a puddle jumper shuttle flight to the main airport.

The ‘main’ airport has a total of maybe a dozen planes if they‘re lucky, and I’ll bet half of those are only there for parts. I’d rather wait the day and fly out of Belize. That isn’t an international show piece major airport either, but it’s better than Honduras. And, it keeps me out of the cold for another day. I don’t have a heavy jacket and it’s going to slap me.

The down side is, I’m scheduled for a week at Zanies Comedy Club in Vernon Hills, IL that starts on Thursday. I had to cancel the Thursday show because the flight would cut it way to close, and having to spend an entire day with a puckered bung hole is not my style.

SO many things could go wrong, and I’d hate to have to cancel at the last minute. I told them the situation and they’ve always been great about stuff like that, but I still hate to be cancelling shows. I like working Vernon Hills, and that’s one of the few places people do come out to see me. It’s close to both Milwaukee and Chicago and convenient for many.

I heard late today that there’s still no guarantee we’ll make it out of Belize. The weather is still an issue apparently, and Belize is what’s called a ‘tendered port’. That means it’s a shuttle boat ride from where the ship anchors out at sea to the actual port, and apparently they don’t run when the weather is rough. I’ll have to see in the morning what transpires.

I’m not going to worry about it, but it does concern me more than a little. Missing a gig for a whole week is not the kind of reputation I need to be building right now. I’ve always been known for being reliable, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to work on the road as long as I have. Bookers know I don’t drink or do drugs, and they can count on me.

I’ve got a show booked in Dubuque, IA December 22nd, and I’m worried that will be the next nail biter situation. I fly out again at 5am on the 23rd, and there are all kinds of snares that could pop up from car trouble to bad weather. I can’t cancel now, but I’ll sure be a lot more careful of what I book around the ship gigs, if indeed I get any more. I have no idea.

This next run is the last one I’ve got. I haven’t heard back from the booking person, but I know she’s got WAY too much going on to bother her right now. If they want me back, I’ll get an email asking for my available dates. If not, I’ll be grateful for what I did get and move on. I sure gained some experience, and it helped get my finances back above water.

The money alone was worth it. That changes everything. Having even a little cushion is the difference between saying yes or no to some one night hell hole. I’ve got to make my run at whatever I’m going to run at, and a Wednesday night in some small town biker bar is not it. I had an extra day to get some work done, and I did. Time to freeze for a week.

Working The Big Room

December 15, 2010

Tuesday December 14th, 2010 – Somewhere At Sea

Easy and glitch free is just not how my life works. Tonight was one of the most difficult nights of comedy hell I’ve ever had to endure. I thought this kind of mortal combat would be over at this stage of the game. I was sure I’d be counting my residual checks and living a life of leisure by now. I better guess again. I’m ready for a massage and a week of sleep.

Rough weather continued to be an issue and we weren’t able to dock at Grand Cayman Island as planned due to safety concerns. A number of passengers were upset, and voiced their displeasure quite vocally to the cruise director Wee Jimmy. I like Jimmy a lot and it wasn’t fair that he had to take the brunt of the complaints, but that’s part of his job duties.

Not only weren’t we able to dock, that meant we weren’t able to pick up the soul singer who does a Motown revue in the big auditorium. Jimmy called and asked if I’d be willing to fill in with the other comic Thomas Brown, and what was I going to say? Of course I’d help him out, he’s a great guy to work with and he was in a bind. That’s not the problem.

The problem was there were a bunch of people in the big theatre who had no idea there was a change, and were not expecting to see comedians at all. Jimmy told us to each do a solid twenty minutes, and not talk to them. He suggested we hit it hard and keep moving, as many of them would probably be upset about the schedule change. At least he told us.

Thomas has been doing ships a lot longer than I have, even though we’re close to being the same age. I told him I’d rather he went last, only because he’s got a lot more practical experience on ships than I do, and he’ll be a solid anchor to close the show. All either of us wanted was what‘s best for the show, and that attitude helped us survive a tough spot.

I had one song by the band to try to warm the crowd up, and then it was me. I could feel their attitude from the first few seconds I got out there, and to make it even harder, Jimmy sat in the front row listening to my every peep. He’s my immediate supervisor while I’m on the ship, and it was distracting knowing he was there. It was pure stress the whole set.

I’ve been in the business long enough where I can pull out a show somehow, even if it’s not the quality I want to give. This was an extra tricky situation because I’d already used a lot of my material during the Welcome Aboard show on Sunday night when they asked us to go a little longer. I would have been a lot more careful had I known the circumstances.

Also, I still had to do not one but TWO more shows in the comedy club, and they were being billed as being two completely different shows. That’s a lot of material, and I didn’t want to be in that position, but I was. Trying to please everybody is the best way to please nobody, so I just sucked it up and did my best. They warmed up, but it took them a while.

It wasn’t the show of my life, and I wouldn’t submit it to The Tonight Show, but for the circumstances, it was nothing short of miraculous. Every single day of my experience was needed to pull this one off, and I was soaked with sweat at the end. My nerves were shot.

Thomas Brown went up and did a magnificent job. It was totally the right call to let him close it out, and he pulled out a beautiful audience participation bit which for this specific evening was absolutely perfect. He gets three men out of the audience and gets them to be his backup singers, and of course they all screw it up and look like idiots. It worked great.

I don’t have anything even close to that in my trick bag, and it was a perfect way to ease any frustrations there may be with people who didn’t get what they wanted. The people he brought up were the stars, and Thomas didn’t waste any of his material. I totally respected his tenure on the ships, and I told him afterward that bit saved the entire show – and it did.

This is just a different animal than comedy clubs. Unfortunately, a bit like that would be looked down on as ‘hack’ in most clubs, even though the audience loved it. But, in a time like tonight it was just what the doctor ordered. These people aren’t comedy purists, they aren’t even necessarily comedy fans. They’re impatient cruisers who wanted soul music.

That’s the reality of this whole game – we are NOT the main attraction. I knew it before, but tonight drove it home about ten times harder. We’re time killers and things to do after dinner for the passengers. We’re there to sell drinks – period. It sure keeps a guy humble.

We had a second show in the main lounge at 9pm. These people were a lot looser than that first bunch, and there were more of them. The main lounge is a gorgeous room and I always love to work stages like that. It’s so big and beautiful it’s hard to believe it’s on a ship, but it is. If I had my way I’d work venues like that every night. It feels like showbiz.

The second crowd was a lot better, but of course Jimmy didn’t watch that one. His view of my ability, whatever it is, came from the first show and that’s how it will stay with him for life. Funny how things like that work, but they do. Whenever someone asks him how I am as a comic, he’ll immediately remember the first show tonight and form his opinion.

It’s like that guy last night that thought I sucked. I’m sure he’s not thinking about me at all, but if he ever does, his opinion won’t be flattering. That’s just how it is. Strangers can be very cruel judges, but I guess that‘s their right. They don’t know how hard this all is.

Right after the second show upstairs, I had to get down to the comedy club for my 9:30 show. I came off one stage soaked and went up within five minutes on the other. I didn’t think any of the same people would see me, but halfway through my set I saw the lines of people trickle in to the comedy club who had just seen me upstairs. Gulp. More trouble.

That meant I had to steer away from material I’d done upstairs, and that can get to be an impossible task on such short notice. I like to go with the flow, but this wasn’t the time or place for that. I had to focus with all my energy and I felt like I was an NFL quarterback.

Being on stage requires lightning quick reflexes and a clear mind to make decisions in a split second. I ended up doing four shows tonight, and by the end of it I feel like I climbed Mt. Everest and ran a marathon after that. I sure earned every penny of my pay this week.

A Dissatisfied Customer

December 14, 2010

Monday December 13th, 2010 – Somewhere At Sea

Choppy Waters. Sounds like the long lost cousin of Muddy. It feels like the ship is in an enormous blender with the ‘puree’ button pressed, and most of the day today was just like most of last night – shaky. There are a pair of metal drawers under my bunk that slid open during the night and I got out of bed and sliced my right shin open on one of them. Ouch.

It’s not quite bad enough for stitches, but it was bleeding pretty good for a while. I don’t need any medical expenses right now, but maybe I should at least consider a tetanus shot. I don’t want to have lock jaw as the cause of my death, even though it would be funny.

Not thrilled with the first show tonight. I sense the passengers are a bit crabby and they did skew a little older than I’m used to out here. There were kids right up front too, which made it an even odder mix. They chatted during the whole show and I could hear them as clear as day. The older people were a little slow on the uptake so I tried to slow it down.

That’s always difficult for me, but my usual rapid fire style wasn’t going to work in this situation. Plus, I burned extra material last night and I need to save what I’ve got for later in the week when I’ll need it in all the adult shows. I did the best I could with what I had.

After the show, I was sitting at the bar with my glasses on and often times people do not recognize me as being the one who was just on stage. A well dressed guy said to his party in a boisterous tone, “Geez, I could’ve skipped THAT. Is that supposed to be FUNNY?”

He was shaking his head as he walked right by me and looked me right in the eye as he passed. I don’t think he realized I was the guy on stage, but his party did and they looked down at the floor as they passed. I did have some people come up and shake my hand but the negative ones always stand out – especially when they’re that blatantly vocal about it.

I don’t have a problem if someone doesn’t think I’m funny, I really don’t, but when they voice their opinion with such disdain I’m not going to lie – it hurts. A lot. That guy had no idea how much sacrifice went into what he saw, and if he didn’t like it he could have kept it to himself or at least waited to say it until he got out of the room. It really sank my boat.

Judging by the way he was dressed, he probably had money. Maybe he inherited it from his old man, and everyone in his immediate circle thinks he’s a horse’s ass. He sure acted like it, but I guess that’s his right. He didn’t pay a cent to get in, and that’s the reason I’m against not having a cover charge. It’s easy to mock something that didn’t cost to get in.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a person dislike me that strongly up close. It’s part of being an entertainer, but on the right night it can sting to the bone. This was that night, and it bothered me even into the later show where I kicked ass and took names. I brought it extra hard and pounded those people until they couldn’t breathe, partly because I liked them and partly to prove I belong here and can do the job. I got big applause at the end of my set, but in some cabin some oaf still thinks I stink. And that hurts worse than my shin.

Sea Monster

December 14, 2010

Sunday December 12th, 2010 – Tampa, FL

Just when I thought I avoided all that nasty weather back home, it finds me at sea. It’s a different kind of nasty, but it’s still rocking our world in a scary way. The ship is battering into giant waves and bouncing all over the water. People are heaving like it’s a frat party.

I’ve been ok so far, but it’s pretty scary to have the entire world from the floor up shake back and forth like an amusement park ride for hours at a time. There’s no place to go to get away from it, especially my cabin. I thought I was going to slice my ear off shaving as I waited for a few steady seconds, which never came. It would make a funny movie scene.

Sunday night is normally the ‘Welcome Aboard’ show where the cruise director hosts a show which features a sample of what passengers can expect. There are usually some big dance numbers, but the dancers can’t perform when the seas are this rough. They could be injured, and I get that – but it meant we had to do an extra long comedy show to fill time.

Both Thomas Brown and I are long time comedy veterans and can adjust to a particular situation well, but this was a challenge for both of us. The ship was all over the place and staying on stage in a single spot was difficult. I move around anyway, but tonight threw a curve every time the floor moved and I didn’t expect it. Fifteen minutes felt like forever.

Not only that, it was fifteen minutes of material that’s now shot for the rest of the cruise because I won’t know who’s seen it and who hasn’t. That makes it extra tough, and it gets tougher as the week goes on. This ship likes us to mix up our material more than most of the other ships, and they like to bill every show as ‘totally new material’. I’d like that too.

There’s a different vibe on this cruise from others I’ve experienced on this ship. This is a group that is a bit older on average than the last few, and that in itself is an adjustment. I don’t feel like I’m in the wheel house like I have in past weeks. This will take some work every show to adjust my material to give it the best chance of hitting with each audience.

I don’t mind working, but I want to please the audiences in front of me no matter who it may be. That’s just not always realistic though. Most of the time I can pull something out they’ll like at least enough to get me by for that particular show. Once in a while though, I just don’t have anything in my tool box to pull out to fix it. They’re not into what I do.

That’s how I felt when I first got out on the ships. I felt out of place and had to adjust an entire lifetime of experience in clubs to fit the variables that come with the cruise crowds. It’s been getting better and better, but this week may be a relapse. I’ve been warned that it gets a little tight during the holidays, as people often have lost loved ones or got divorced.

I’m not going to read a whole lot into any of it right now. I’m just hoping we get out of this choppy water we’re in. I’m sure we will, but right now it knocked out the satellite for the TV and most of the channels are down. It’s a good thing I’ve got work to catch up on, and I’m not outside in the elements pooping a deck. This gig is NOT for the squeamish.

Marcus Dupree

December 12, 2010

Saturday December 11th, 2010 – Somewhere At Sea

A sea day off. That means there are no shows to do and no ports to get off and explore. The ship heads back to Tampa and tomorrow this batch of passengers gets off and a new one gets on and the whole process starts over again. These days can be the most lonely.

There isn’t much to do except sit around and kill the time. I chose to work on upgrading and improving my act for 2011, and even though I worked on it for three hours I still had a lot of time left over. The human attention span is only so long, and I maxed mine out.

I took a  walk around the ship to get some exercise, and then came back to my cabin to discover an interesting documentary on TV I’d been meaning to watch about a guy named Marcus Dupree. He was a football phenom back in the early ‘80s. I remember him well.

He was supposed to be the next big thing in football – a guaranteed can’t miss superstar. I remember he went to Oklahoma for a year, and then faded out of sight completely. Then he came back and signed with the USFL, and eventually had a very short run in the NFL.

Allegedly he was one of the most gifted athletes ever, but he never came close to living up to his potential. Herschel Walker was another highly touted superstar, but he played in the NFL for several years and had a respectable career. Marcus Dupree quickly fizzled.

I’d never seen him interviewed before, but they showed him today and he’s handled his situation a lot better than most others would have – myself included. He’s not bitter about anything, and accepts how his life worked out. He’s now driving a truck and works hard making an honest living. The guy has a fantastic attitude and I have total respect for him.

He’s right around my age, and part of my generation. Every athlete from our generation is now finished, and we’re all old men longing for the past. Michael Jordan was born the same year I was, as was Charles Barkley. They’re now ‘old school’. It makes me wince.

Bo Jackson was also born the same year I was. He was huge in his day, but now isn’t at the top of anyone’s mind anymore. Those guys are all has beens, while myself and almost every other person from our generation are a never was. Brett Favre is looked at now as a senior citizen, but he’s six years younger than me. My athletic days are LONG behind me.

Marcus Dupree’s heyday was in his late teens and early 20s. He admits he made a lot of bad choices, but who doesn’t at that age? Hell, I still make them now. I felt bad for him as he told the old story of how a ‘friend’ mismanaged his money and a knee injury ended his career in one play, and before he knew it he was out of football and completely broke.

There are a lot of athletes like that, but it really hits home when it’s a guy from my own generation. It reminds me I’m getting older too. I’m still waiting for my tiptoe through the tulips of glory, but it sure won’t be as an athlete. Not unless I join a senior bowling league or tiddlywinks tournament. I’m just a dung beetle comedian trying to earn an honest buck.

The Sun Makes It Fun

December 11, 2010

Friday December 10th, 2010 – Cozumel, Mexico

Getting up this morning and putting on a pair of shorts to walk around in Cozumel, MX in perfect 80 degree weather was worth every bit of yesterday’s travel misery. I may have had a different opinion yesterday, but in retrospect it was all worth it. It‘s paradise here.

It’s funny how I’ve become comfortable with everything in just a few months. I may not like everything about life on a ship, but I’ve learned to at least tolerate it enough to get by. I’ve had my share of down times, but today wasn’t one of them. Going outside to see how tropical it was after spending a week freezing my lug nuts off in Chicago was a real treat.

Walking and thinking are a perfect combination and I took an extended hike today in an entirely new direction. I’ve walked a lot in Cozumel, but today instead of heading for the downtown area with which I’m familiar, I went in completely the opposite direction for a new perspective. There wasn’t as much to see, but I enjoyed every step in the warm sun.

I’ve got all kinds of projects in all phases of development, and I focused on how I’ll get everything organized and functional in the new year. This year took me in a direction I’d never have predicted, and the ships ended up being very good to me in a financial sense.

They’ve also made me a better comedian, even though at first it was pure hell to get out here and eat it night after night. I’m starting to figure it out, and not only am I not eating it anymore, I’m blowing the doors off the majority of shows. Maybe that’s because I’ve had assignments on the right ships, but that’s ok. It took me a while to find my stride out here.

This week I’m on the Carnival Legend. I like the staff and the crowds here very much. I fit in well with these people, and I’ve learned to really feel at home onstage and off. I like pleasing people, and these audiences have liked me the most on a consistent basis of any of the ships I’ve worked so far. If I could get in a regular rotation here, I’d be in heaven.

That’s the deal the guy I’m working with this week has, and he really loves it. His name is Thomas Brown and he lives in Tampa where the ship is based. He gets to do the weeks he wants, and it works out perfectly. Good for him. He’s a super nice guy and works hard at his craft. I’d work with him anytime, and I think we’re going to be working a lot more.

I’m back here Christmas week, as is he. I’m doing the whole week, but he’s only doing half of it and spending time with his family. Good for him. I’m glad he’s got the freedom to do that, and that Carnival is so flexible. They’ve been great with me too as far as when I’m scheduled, and I hope it can continue into 2011. As of now though, I’m not booked.

I can use some time off in the first quarter to catch up on a lot of things back home like unpacking all my worldly possessions I had to throw haphazardly into storage. I can also use some time to make contacts for the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show and comedy classes as well. I’ve also got some land gigs booked to pay the bills, so I’ll be ok for the first quarter of next year. After that, it‘s all up in the air. I’m used to that, so it doesn’t worry me at all.