Archive for January, 2011

Evolving Doors

January 31, 2011

Sunday January 30th, 2011 – Kenosha, WI

I can feel my whole attitude evolve, and I’m not sure what to think of it. I’m completely sick of having to deal with the pitfalls of small time entertainment. I’m sure there are a lot more in big time entertainment, and that scares me even more. What the hell am I even in this business for? My needs are changing as I get older, and dealing with this is necessary.

I still love to be creative, and I also love to be around anything funny. If I ever lose even one of those two things please shoot me in the head as quickly as possible. Life would not be worth living. I’m barely hanging in there now. My desire to please idiots is fading fast.

Look at all the hundreds of thousands of miles I’ve logged trying to get somewhere with either comedy bookers or radio station management. I’ve sacrificed everything for a lot of years, and always thought things would work out for the best. I hoped so anyway, but that wasn’t in the cards. I gave everything I had, only to get exploited by the ‘powers that be’.

Why has it taken so long for me to realize that I need to be the powers that be, and that I can totally do it effective immediately? I don’t know, but it has. I have a desire to venture into the entrepreneurial field, and making a buck intrigues me more than driving to some hellish midweek gig in the middle of Nebraska. That ship has sailed, and I’m not on it.

Comedy is still fun, but not the booking and traveling part. I’m thrilled to be developing the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show with at least a chance to expand that into something fun for people who hopefully haven’t consumed an individual keg before they arrive. Comedians like Jim McHugh are also working on their own projects. He sees his situation similarly.

He’s working on his ‘Chicago Comedy All Stars’ theme and guys like Wild Bill Bauer in Minneapolis are rolling their dice too. It’s a whole new world out there, at least for 80s standup comics who came up through the comedy club boom years. It’s all changed now.

Radio has changed as well. Jobs are hard to find, and security is absolutely non existent. I’ve had a blast hosting The Mothership Connection on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, but I haven’t made a penny in three years and it doesn’t look to change in the near or far future.

The fun of doing it was what kept me going this long, but I must say that isn’t enough at this point. My co-hosts Shelley, Greg, Gary and Diane have really stepped up in my place as I‘ve been away on the cruise ships, and I don’t need to be there anymore. They’re fine.

They enjoy doing the show, and they’re good at it. They do it differently than I do, but it still sounds good and is interesting radio. I feel like a fifth wheel when I sit in, and I’m ok with that. They’re taking the baton and running with it. I’m happy they’re still doing it.

This is all part of my evolutionary process. I am no longer playing the role of the up and coming comedian, and thus I don’t have to suck the asses of people I used to think were a way to get ahead. They weren’t and still aren’t. Good. I never enjoyed doing that anyway.

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Humble Gratitude

January 29, 2011

Friday January 28th, 2011 – South Milwaukee, WI

Being a dented can has some unique downsides. When something goes wrong, it’s often difficult to view whatever it is as an individual event standing entirely on it’s own and not group it in with every other unpleasant event memory and making life a total catastrophe.

I’ve really struggled with this for many years, and when I usually feel the absolute worst is right after what I think is a hideously rotten show.  Quite often the audience doesn’t see it anywhere near the way I do, but it rarely matters. I end up sunk in emotional quicksand.

I know a lot of comedians that think this way, and not coincidentally they’re dented can types too. We’re very picky when it comes to liking a particular show or audience, and we tend to be extremely hard on ourselves in judging our performances. I admit my standards for a show are far higher than anyone else’s, and when I don’t get there I feel like a loser.

It’s easy to slip into a depression funk or feel like I’m totally worthless and nothing I’ve ever done in my entire life has ever amounted to anything positive. One bad show pushes over a domino and everything else I’ve ever done is nullified. Of course it isn’t true, but it sure feels like it. I’m learning to think the right way, but it’s been a difficult transition.

There were a lot of things that went right tonight as a whole, and only a few that didn’t. It’s my strong tendency to focus on what didn’t, and let it unravel everything else. That’s a bad habit, and I’m going to consciously do what I need to do so I don’t think that way.

It’s a good thing to want to keep getting better, and I absolutely do. Within reason. I’ve always said I’m not a perfectionist, I’m an improvementist. If I make forward progress on a project, I’m satisfied. There’s only so much anyone can do, and seeking perfection tends to always lead to disappointment. It’s neurotic, and almost guarantees a severe letdown.

That being said, I’m going to highlight the upbeat points first of my ‘Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst’ show at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center tonight and allow myself to enjoy them. There were many, and I’m totally grateful.

First, the venue was really easy to work with. Chad Piechocki is the director, and he had everything under control the whole night. He made sure I had a working microphone with a fresh battery, and coordinated things with technical director Alex Clark to make sure we had no technical glitches, which we didn’t. They treated me like a king and I appreciate it.

Becky Ohm is the marketing director and she kept in communication extremely well for the last several months keeping me updated on everything. They all made me feel wanted, and that goes an extremely long way with me. I’d go the extra mile to help any of them.

They made sure I was listed on the website and also the sign outside of the venue. They asked for information and a promo kit, and actually used what I sent. I often get asked for that kind of stuff and it never gets looked at. These people were on the ball from day one.

Richard Halasz put in a lot of time and effort too. He sent listings out to media and a lot of them had the show listed in their ‘things to do’ calendars. That’s a lot of hoops to jump through, and he did it willingly. I was listed in the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, Shepherd Express, and I even got a mention on Channel 4 from what I heard. I got some nice press.

Drew Olson let me plug the show today on The D-List on ESPN 540, even though it’s a madhouse with Super Bowl week. I eventually want to buy commercials, but he let me on to plug it anyway. He’s always been a classy guy and came through when I could use it.

Tonight was filled with classy people. My friend Shelley drove up from Illinois to work my merchandise table. How nice was that? We sold a few t-shirts and cds, but it was nice to know I could have someone in place to trust while I was concentrating on the show.

Russ Martin brought his video camera, and opened the show. It’s always good to film it even if I don’t watch a show, which I rarely if ever do. Still, he showed up and set up and I totally appreciate it. Now I have some tangible clips to use to create an audition tape.

I don’t know where to start as far as people who came out to support. John O’Brien and his wife Gail again came up from Wilmette, IL. They came to see me in Harford last year and I totally didn’t expect them tonight. What a wonderful surprise. It made me feel great.

Tim and Kathy Slagle drove up from Dyer, IN to see the show. I was pleasantly shocked to see them afterward, and touched deeply to have that kind of solid support. Tim’s one of Jerry’s Kidders, and we did our own show last year which is what inspired me to do this.

Those guys alone made my night, but there were a lot more. Bob Barry was THE biggest radio personality when I was growing up, and he’s always been a super nice guy and very supportive of anything I do. He went to the same high school I did, but that’s not the only reason he’s nice to me. He’s just a super guy and seeing him there was a surreal dream.

After the show there were too many people to visit, even though I tried to get to them at some point to at least shake hands and thank them for coming. Greg Chadwell showed up to support and I’ve known him 30 years. Julie Stitch and I went to grade school together.

If I start listing all the names, I’m sure I’ll forget someone important so I’ll stop before I do that. I’ve made my point – a lot of super sweet people came out to show support and it made me overwhelmed with gratitude to see every one of them. But that wasn’t the point.

What I’m trying to do is get a business started for a niche market of people who would enjoy this show. The people who came were my friends, and they like me anyway. That’s an amazing compliment, but it won’t help me in the long run. I have to bring in strangers.

I won’t go off on my flaws, but I was very disappointed with myself. But, it’s a work in progress and I’ve got a lot more to do. I know what went wrong, and I’ll fix it. It wasn’t a bust, and the people laughed for 80 minutes. I need to enjoy that. I can build on tonight.

Making Schlitz Happen

January 28, 2011

Thursday January 27th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL/Milwaukee,  WI

Coming back from a road trip of any kind always means one thing – catching up. It’s all I can do to make sure I stay on top of emails, phone calls, snail mail, bills, maintenance of my car, banking, laundry and who knows what else? It often gets away from me, but I try to keep as much of it under control as I can. Today I tried to focus on the main objectives.

Tomorrow is the big ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show in South Milwaukee. I’m excited about the show part, but that’s not all that needs to be done. I need to get the word out as best as I can with the limited budget I have, and I’m still basically a one man band. Other people have helped promote and send out flyers, but in the end this was me. It was an education.

I have a Schlitz Happened Facebook page with 931 friends, so hopefully that will get a few walkups. OnMilwaukee.com gave me a very nice splash as did a few other websites. I don’t want to call in too many favors just yet, but I do want to make it a nice full house if I can, as that always makes a better show. I’ve done what I can, now it’s show time.

Quite a few people are going to help out, and I appreciate every one of them. My friend and web person Shelley will work my merchandise table, and I picked up and paid for my official tour shirts today which look absolutely fantastic. They have all sorts of old school Milwaukee references on them that will resonate with anyone who lived there back then.

I had 29 calls to return, was 238 emails behind and also had a dinner date with some old friends from Milwaukee Tim and Lynn Willmes. Tim and I met doing sports card shows a long time ago, and he and Lynn have been great supporters over the years. They come to a show when they can, and they’re coming tomorrow and bringing friends. I appreciate that.

They’ve wanted to take me out to dinner for a while now, and that’s super nice of them. I haven’t had time, but I didn’t want to blow them off, so tonight was the night. They had wanted to do it tomorrow, but that would be too hectic, especially before a show. Today’s much better, so I drove up and we had a wonderful relaxed meal. It was delicious as well.

It’s fun to have dinner with friends, but that takes time out of my work day too. I have a ton of other things to get to, but the first order of business is Schlitz. I’ll have a lot of long time friends like Tim and Lynn coming, and I want to not only make sure I do a hot show but also make sure I get to personally say hello and thank each one of them for coming.

I never want to ‘big time’ anyone, and I sure don’t think I’m too good to say hello to the people who come, but there are so many details I have to take care of onstage and off that it’s all more than a little bit overwhelming. If I ignore even one person I’ll feel horrible.

This is grass roots show business from the ground up. Literally. This whole thing came from a single idea, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds. I’ve only done it a precious few times, but things are coming together quite nicely. I’ve got t-shirts now, and a website on the way, along with a poster. The best thing of all is it’s been a blast to put it all together.

A 14 Hour Day Off

January 28, 2011

Wednesday January 26th, 2011 – Montego Bay, Jamaica/Chicago, IL

Another 14 hour ‘off’ day of travel. I’d never been to Montego Bay, Jamaica before so I checked out of my cabin extra early so I’d be sure to make it to the airport on time. Every port is different, and this one made us go through Immigration and Customs before they’d give us our passports back. I had to wait in line for quite a while and I’m glad I left early.

One of the others with me who was also signing off was a cabin steward supervisor who lives in Montego Bay and has been working for Carnival for 24 years. He was waiting for a ride home from a relative of his, and generously offered me a ride to the airport. I didn’t want to be rude, but I had no idea who the guy was or if I’d make it to my plane on time.

We waited a few minutes and then our ride came, a tricked out Toyota that looked like it came out of a Fast and Furious movie. There was reggae music thumping so loud out of it the mirrors were shaking on other cars around it. Too late to back out now, I’d said yes.

The driver turned the music down a little, but not much. I expected him to pull out a big fat spliff and start passing it around, but he didn’t. Some of the song lyrics had the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘Lord’ and ‘heaven’ sprinkled in, and those were the few I could understand.

Maybe the guy was a Christafarian Rasta Christian hybrid or something, but I got in the back seat and hoped for the best. I had no idea where the airport was in a town I had never been to and I trusted a guy I’d never met who says he’d worked for the company 24 years.

Welcome to the world of cruise ships. This isn’t the first time I’d been riding in a cab or car with total strangers in a foreign country wondering if I’d ever set foot on an American soil again, and if not would my death be quick and painless? My luck, I’d be kept alive to perform underground government scientific experiments with monkeys and coconuts.

We did eventually get to the airport and I thanked both gentlemen and meant it. It could have easily been my last ride of any kind, and had they wanted me dead it would not have been a difficult mission to complete. I was thankful to see the dingy Montego Bay airport.

Of course I had to go through security again and of course the large Jamaican woman in charge took it upon herself to personally check my luggage and remove a shampoo bottle and a shaving cream can that were over three ounces. Excuse the hell out of me for using toiletries, and not being able to buy them in smaller containers in a third world country.

I didn’t flash anyone any attitude, as I didn’t want to risk time in the hoosegow with my new found Jamaican friends. I was representing the cruise line and America, so I shut my mouth and let her take my items. If that made her feel better, I’d let her have her victory.

Plus, I was wearing a Packer t-shirt. That might not be a large problem in Montego Bay, but I was scheduled to be on a flight from Charlotte to Chicago and that could get a little hairy. Actually, I hoped it would. I love verbally sparring with strangers. I always win.

The flight from Montego Bay to Charlotte, NC was about an hour late to board, but not a word of mention was ever made. Was this just how laid back they do things here, or did the main engine have an oil leak? I’ll never know, but it did get frustrating to wait around.

We finally took off, but I wondered the whole way if I’d make my connecting flight. It’s a feeling of constant compounding stress, and it’s especially frustrating because nobody is concerned but me and there’s not a damn thing I can do except hope for it all to work out.

Of course my gate was completely across the Charlotte airport, and after getting grunted at from a U.S. Customs officer, I had to go through security…again. Why the hell do they make us do that? We just came from a damn plane, that’s not good enough? I don’t get it.

I just wanted to get home and I didn‘t have a lot of time to spare to make it to my gate. I did their little chimp and doggie parlor tricks of taking my belt and shoes off and opening my computer bag and taking my laptop out, even though I hated every second of doing it.

I noticed a married couple in line looking as pissed as I was, and it turns out they were. We commented on how stupid all this ‘security’ is, and the guy said he wants to see all of the fat ass members of congress who approved all of this have to go through all the exact same hassles we do. I loved that idea, and then his wife said she was sick of it all as well.

After a couple of minutes we were laughing about it, and I thanked them for letting me vent. They thanked me for listening, and we went on our way. We saw the TSA agents all looking at us, and that made it all even funnier. Small victories at the right time are large.

Once again, I barely made it to the gate on time, and they were already boarding a super packed flight to Chicago. They made us all check our carry on luggage, which delayed us another half hour. This is how it is when one travels for a living, and it gets old very fast.

I could see frowns and sneers as I walked down the aisle of the plane wearing my green t-shirt with huge yellow letters spelling ‘PACKERS’ with the holy ‘G’ logo underneath. It put a big grin on my face as I looked dead in the eyeballs of everyone I could. How sweet.

Actually, the guy sitting in my aisle pretended like he wasn’t going to let me in because I was a Packer fan, but we ended up having a very good conversation about the game and football in general. He was an intelligent fan, and made some great points. He saw I knew what I was talking about and wasn’t going to razz him, and we enjoyed each other’s view.

That helped pass the time a little, but it was still a long travel day. Checking my luggage made it even longer, and I had to wait for that as one last hassle. After that I got picked up by a former comedy student named Jason Hale who will be helping me with marketing.

Jason is a brilliant marketer and we hadn’t seen each other in about ten years. He’s been very successful doing what he’s doing, and wants to help me market comedy classes on a bigger scale than I have been. We met for dinner and talked it over, and will get it going.

Down Home Folk

January 28, 2011

Tuesday January 25th, 2011 – Somewhere At Sea

Two more rock solid shows tonight, a great way to end this run. These people were very friendly, and I had a way better time than I expected. No offense, when I heard I’d be on a ship based out of Galveston, TX I was concerned to say the least. It had hell gig written in blood letters all over it, but I was wrong and I‘m glad. These audiences have been red hot.

Not only do they love the shows, they wait afterward to come and tell me that and ask if I’m coming to their town any time soon. I’d say about half are from Texas and the rest are from Oklahoma or Kansas and all the way north to the Dakotas and into central Canada.

These are down home folk who enjoy being entertained, and I totally enjoy entertaining them. These aren’t the drunken slob types who so often frequent comedy clubs, especially in smaller towns. These are regular people who are on vacation and are out seeing a show.

BIG difference, and I felt it all week. How many years have I spent driving hundreds of miles to get to some piss ant half ass two bit little town to entertain 50 drunken yahoos or less? Too many. If I never have to drive ten hours to a gig it will be too soon. I’m done.

I come back here in three weeks, and I need to have some kind of pass out to give them at the end of my shows when I return. I know I can build a mailing list, and make fans out of these people. They’re exactly who I want as fans – friendly people from the heartland.

There are literally MILLIONS of people like this in America who would love my show, I just haven’t found a way to reach them en masse. This could be a start. Every ship is an audition in front of varied audiences of people from all walks of life who could hire me to come to their town and do a show I book myself. I don’t need that many to do very well.

The first crowds I worked on the ships were from New York and Miami. They were not ‘my people’. They weren’t bad people, they just weren’t for me. These people are from an entirely different background, and I match up with them very well. Now I need to use that to my advantage and make fans out of them. That‘s part of the business of show business.

Working on mailing lists and fan bases is only one part of the business. I also spent a lot of time this week working on off stage improvements. Mark Hawkins was extremely nice about sharing tips on how to best go over with the ship audiences. He’s been both a comic and a cruise director, and I can’t think of anyone else who’s successfully done both jobs.

Mark has a tenacious work ethic, and we spent many hours exchanging ideas and doing what most veteran comics think can’t be done – improve. Mark is a solid writer, and does it every day. He also makes a set list like a baseball batting lineup and sticks to it rigidly.

I must admit he’s won me over to that way of thinking. I’ve NEVER used a set list, but I sure am thinking about starting after listening to Mark’s reasons of why to have one. He   made a lot of valid points, and I respect his tenure. This has been an outstanding week.

Schlitz And Jack

January 24, 2011

Monday January 24th, 2011 – Somewhere At Sea

Each cruise ship has a different schedule of ports, and this is a week where we have two sea days in a row. That doesn’t happen all that often, and it can get kind of long. I like the option of getting off the ship and walking around in the sun, but that’s over for this run.

The next time I’ll be able to get off will be in Montego Bay on Wednesday, but then I’ll be flying to Miami and then Chicago. Then I’ve got only two short days to prepare for the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. I’ll be ready.

I just hope someone shows up. Everyone will be in a great mood because of the Packers and it turns out it’s the week off before the game. Maybe luck struck in a positive way for a change and the stars aligned so I can have a decent crowd show up. Usually it’s “I don’t know what happened – last week it was jammed in here.” How often have I heard that?

It would be nice to pack it out, but I’m not sure if I’m there just yet. I’m away too much working on the ships, and don’t have a publicity machine in place yet to get the word out when I’m gone. I’ve got some word of mouth going, but that’s about it. It’s a crapshoot.

Hopefully, it won’t be a crap catch. I just want enough to pay my expenses this time and if I can do that, I’ll be thrilled. My venue rent is reasonable, but I have a few more hidden  costs to cover and I’d like to recoup those. We’ll see. This is a test of my drawing power.

It’s also a big test for my organizational skills. I’ve contacted a lot of people and they’re stepping up and doing what they do best, or at least what I‘ve asked them to do. So far, so good. I don’t think it will be a disaster on Friday, but I would have liked more time to get the word out. This will be an education as to what I need to do to promote in the future.

No matter what happens, I’m not going to stop doing this show – even if this one tanks it to the hilt. It’s all a learning experience, and actually quite fun. The risk is minimal, as I’m the product. I’m not booking a band or dealing with other comics. This is my baby.

I heard Jack LaLanne died yesterday at 96. I was always a fan of his, and I can’t think of anyone who lived a better life. He turned his passion for health and life into a fortune, and helped countless others along the way. His life was long and productive, and I admire him in many ways. He did what we all COULD do, but choose not to. I’m one of the guiltiest.

It seems so difficult to make healthy choices on a consistent basis but Jack LaLanne did it for a lifetime. He got into the habit and stuck with it and I bet he could have kicked my pansy ass around the block throughout most of his 90s. I’m ashamed and embarrassed.

None of us have anyone to blame but ourselves. Junk food tastes great, and it’s easy and cheap to get. It’s advertised daily and I’m totally hooked. That doesn’t mean it’s right, but it is a fact. Jack LaLanne stands out, but he really shouldn’t. We should all be living a life like he did. I keep saying I’m going to, but then the evil gods of fat and sugar possess me.

Polarized Packer Passion

January 24, 2011

Sunday January 23rd, 2011 – Galveston, TX

I’m in heaven and hell at exactly the same time. Shouldn’t it start raining or something? On one hand, the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears and are going to Texas for a chance to win the Super Bowl. That’s heaven. On the other hand, I’m out on a cruise ship with a literally thousands of people from The South that couldn’t care less about any of it.

What a thrill and what a letdown, all at the same time. The home port is Galveston, TX and that’s where we stopped today to start a new cruise. I can’t remember ever being here before, and if I was I didn’t get to get out and walk around downtown like I did today for almost two hours. It’s a pretty run down place as a whole, but there is some history here.

I’ll always remember it just like I remember Albuquerque, NM – with disgust. I can still remember being in Albuquerque the day the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI. I waited my whole life to see it, and there wasn’t a TV in the comedy club so I had to watch the end of the game in a Mexican restaurant while a mariachi band was setting up. It was miserable.

Nobody in the joint cared in the least about the game, and they stared at me as I jumped around the bar with my raised fists clenched screaming in delight. They looked at me like I was either crazy or the wildest immigration agent who ever lived, but they left me alone.

What a downer that was, even though the Packers made my football dreams come true. I was going through the horrors of testifying against my best friend Timbo in the infamous bank robbery trial, and football was not on the front burner then. Staying out of jail was.

The next year they lost the Super Bowl, and that one I did catch. Pew. What a repulsive memory that still is also. The snacks don’t taste good, the jokes aren’t funny, nothing will make up for the team of choice losing the big one. Just once, I want to watch them win it.

Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Pittsburgh is a very solid team, and they have many of the same things the Packers do – a great defense, a young stud quarterback and a player on defense with stupid looking hair but superstar ability. I’m not sure who’s going to win.

Still, it’s a euphoric feeling to see them get to the big one after all the nasty injuries that have plagued the team all year. They came together at the right time, and everything is on a roll. I wish my Gramps could see this, and I even wish I could share the celebration with Timbo the bank robber. He and I were Packer fans since we were 11. We’ve earned this.

I don’t care what the people on the ship think. I mentioned it tonight on stage during my five minute opening night teaser, and got a smattering of applause at best. I just laughed it off, and it is funny in a way, but I also had that same empty feeling I had in Albuquerque.

This could be the last time the Packers ever play in a Super Bowl. The NFL is changing and the revenue sharing that makes every team have a chance may be gone soon out greed by the owners. I’m going to enjoy every single bit of this, and if I can go see it live I will.

Talking Shop

January 23, 2011

Saturday January 22nd, 2011 – Somewhere At Sea

No shows tonight, plus it was a sea day. That means no port to wander and explore. I’m stuck aboard ship all day and all night with nothing to do and nowhere to be. That can get long and lonely without a plan of action. Laying around like a beached whale only sounds fun in theory. After about an hour it gets to be unbridled torture. Structure is important.

One thing I’ve been pretty good at out here is finding something productive to do when I have down time. I’ve made spectacular progress in laying the foundation of projects I’ve been meaning to do for years, and it feels great. If anyone asked for tangible proof of what I’ve done for the past six months, I’d be able to print off a copy and display it with pride.

Today I spent a few hours bouncing ideas around with the other comic Mark Hawkins. I really caught a break working with Mark, as he’s a former cruise director and has worked for Carnival for a dozen years. He’s been really helpful at removing the mystery of how to work these audiences, and I learned a lot hanging out today. That doesn’t happen often.

In the old days, there were quite a few opportunities to talk shop with other comics. The clubs used to be a place to hang out, and comics were there every night they were in town doing just that. We’d go up and do sets, and most people watched each other and knew all their jokes as well or better than the person doing it. It was a great way to learn the craft.

Road trips were another way to do it. In a four or five hour drive, there’s a lot of time to go over lines, premises, concepts and ideas and trade thoughts. Sometimes another comic could add exactly the right word or idea and make an incomplete thought ready for stage.

It didn’t work with every comic, as some were just in it for the booze and women. They didn’t really care about making their act better, they had other priorities. Those of us who were in it for the comedy part were usually always up to exchange ideas and get better.

As time went on, those meetings stopped. Nobody hung at the clubs anymore, either we were out on the road performing or the club wasn’t a fun place to hang anymore. I missed it right away and have often tried to get writing sessions going, but it’s not an easy sell.

That’s why when Mark asked me to do it today I jumped at the chance. Our styles aren’t even close to being similar, but that’s ok. We went over each other’s unfinished ideas and the other person would comment on what they thought of them from a fresh perspective.

I was able to throw a couple of punch ups his way, and he’s going to try them this week. That’s the whole idea. I’m glad I could help. It works so well because we don’t touch any similar topics. Whatever lines I give him isn’t something I would ever do, and vice versa.

He also threw some great ideas my way about sports. Mark’s father is a big time sports writer in Detroit and covers the Tigers. He’s been around sports his whole life, but has no desire to do it on stage. This was a total win/win and worth every hour of work we put in.

Good Vibes All Around

January 23, 2011

Friday January 21st, 2011 – Cozumel, Mexico

This is turning out to be a fantastic week for several reasons. First, the audiences on this ship are some of the sweetest human beings I’ve ever seen. I’m on the Carnival Conquest and it’s home port is Galveston, TX. A large percentage of passengers are from Texas but not all. I don’t know what it is, but they’re wonderful people. I could stay here for years.

Normally, I don’t do well in the south as a whole. I was dreading this run, as I’d heard it was full of Texans and the surrounding areas, but boy was I wrong. These people are right there when it comes to hipness. They’re a little older, and very well behaved. I know how to talk to older people, as I was raised by my grandparents and have been around them my whole life. I feel much more at home with a crowd of 60somethings than 20somethings.

People have been lining up to take pictures with me and get my autograph after shows. I always make it a point to be available if anyone wants that, and I can tell they really enjoy what I do. They’re telling me stories that coincide with bits I do, and I can tell I’ve had an impact. That’s what this game is all about. I never thought I’d have done this well here.

The other break I caught this week is working with a guy named Mark Hawkins. He’s a comic from Detroit who eventually became a cruise director, and knows the business part of the game inside and out. He has a wife and kids and lives on Grand Cayman Island. He isn’t a cruise director anymore and now is back to doing comedy. He’s got a sweet gig.

We hit it off really well yesterday and today he and the music director asked if I wanted to have lunch in Cozumel. I love Cozumel, and I gladly accepted. Mark has been out here for years and knows all the best joints I don’t know, and we had a killer meal with a better view for half the price of the other places around. I shut my mouth and let those guys talk.

Both of them really have an inside to how the cruise game works. I know I’m still on an uphill learning plane, but I’m getting better. They told me some stories of what other guys did before me, and I’m a church mouse compared to most of them. I’m pretty easygoing.

We decided to walk back from the restaurant, and it was a great workout. We were all a sweaty mess by the time we got back, but we worked off our meal and I learned a lot just by listening to those guys talk about the cruise ship industry. This has been a combination of fun and learning, and that’s never a bad thing. I’ll try to enjoy it while I’m learning.

My friend Mutzie pulled a great prank. He worked the earlier part of this cruise and told the audiences to come sit in the front and not laugh under any circumstances. I’m worried enough about doing well out here, and didn’t need to have anything to make it any harder, but when I heard what he did I couldn’t stop laughing. That was hilarious and he got me.

I’m not at all getting cocky and think I know everything, as I could have a horrible show at any time. I’ve still got another cruise on this ship with a whole new group who may or may not like me in the least. I can’t predict, but I can review. These people were on fire.

Dealing With Details

January 20, 2011

Wednesday January 19th, 2011 – Milwaukee, WI/Fox Lake, IL

The details in life are supposedly where the success lies, but that’s exactly what I’m not good at. I’m great at coming up with grandiose visionary ideas, then when it comes down to actually pulling any of them off, I’m all over the place. Big projects need big planning.

They need to be thought out from beginning to end, then executed properly by a team of competent people who each know their individual roles, yet have a team concept and can work together for the common good of the collective. That sounds fantastic in theory, but making it happen in real life is a different story. That’s my goal though, and I’m behind.

A big skyscraper can’t be built by working a little on the foundation and then a little on the windows, then a little on the elevator shafts. Each job has to be taken care of in proper order, and someone in charge has to oversee both the big picture and the individual jobs.

Since this is my life and my ideas, I’m in charge by default. Do I know what I’m doing? HELL NO. I’m a complete idiot and I freely admit it. I’m slowly feeling my way around in the dark, and could easily trip and fall into wet cement at any moment. I’m a big klutz.

Granted, I’m better than I was, but I still have a lot of work to do. I’ve got to fly out for more ship work tomorrow morning, so I went up to Milwaukee today to take care of some details before the big ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center Friday January 28th. It’s the first time I rented a space, and I could lose my shorts.

Actually, the price was pretty reasonable and if not one person shows up I’m not going to have to sleep in the park. I won’t be thrilled about it, but I’ll survive. That’s not what I want to focus on though. I want to focus on FILLING it, not surviving an empty house.

I went on the air with Drew Olson and Dan Needles on ‘The D List’ on 540 ESPN radio but I also sniffed around for ad rates to buy some air time in the future. I need to come up with at least a semi regular location where I can do the show and really work out the bugs.

Advertising is essential, and I’m making my plan now. Do I want to do print? I have no idea what works best. I’m willing to try different things, but I do have a limited budget to play with, so I have to be careful. I can’t be buying any Super Bowl TV ads quite yet.

I talked with my t-shirt guy and he’ll have a fresh load ready for the 28th.  I’ve got some ‘Hard Luck Jollies’ CDs left, so I’m good there. I’ve got the word of mouth word out for the show, but I could do better. Ticket prices are low, and I hope I can get at least a bit of help with the media. I don’t want to blow all my favors though. This is all an experiment.

The show itself will be solid. Every one so far has been better than the last. I’ll work on it all week on the ship, and when I come back I’ll be ready to go. I’m ready now. If I had to go on tonight, I’d let it rip. I just want there to be someone in the seats to see it. It’s no fun standing on stage alone in a room. Details, details. They’re where I need to improve.