Archive for March, 2011

Revised Radio Rant

March 30, 2011

Tuesday March 29th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL (revised)

One thing I’ve been able to do in life is admit when I’m wrong. Apparently I’d obtained the wrong information on the radio firing of John Jagler at AM 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee today and I apologize for including him in my previous rant about the insanity of radio.

I don’t apologize for ranting about the cruel nature of radio though. It’s out of control as far as the cannibalization of its employees go. I’ve been witness to it first hand five times and every one of them has come about for reasons I still can’t understand. It wasn’t a lack of ability on my part, and it rarely is. They always seem to be going in a ‘new direction’.

Unfortunately, that direction is usually south. Of the five stations I’ve gotten fired from, four of those are no longer on the air and the other continues to struggle badly. Their ‘new direction’ turned out to be a lot worse than the one they were headed when I was working for them. The major complaint I have is how management doesn’t treat us like humans.

One thing I did get correct was that sports talk host Bill Michaels is no longer employed at WTMJ. I’m not exactly sure what happened other than his contract wasn’t renewed and it’s none of my business, but I did read where Bill Michaels said he was surprised about it and didn’t fully expect it. That’s all I had to hear, and I feel for the guy. He got taken out.

Other than maybe sports coaches, I can’t think of another business that’s so quick to fire people out of the blue. I don’t know Bill well, but I’ve met him and know people who are friends of his. I’ve heard him during Packer coverage and listened to his sports talk show, as I’m a big sports talk listener in general. He worked hard and I’m sorry he was gassed.

He wasn’t the first one though. I was a big fan of Steve ‘The Homer’ True on WISN for years, and he got let go after his contract was up. He’s now on AM 540 ESPN Radio and still sounds great. I’ll take at least a little credit for introducing Homer to Craig Karmazin at a comedy show years ago, and they ended up working out a deal that’s still going now.

I love hanging out on ‘The D List’ on ESPN Radio. The vibe in that building is a whole lot better than most other stations I’ve been around. Sure, people come and go as happens in all work places, but I don’t sense a gun to the head atmosphere there from Craig and he treats his employees very well from my observation. I’m a big fan of the whole operation.

My whole point is, I think people who are competent and want to work should be get to do exactly that, especially after putting in years of loyal service. If there has to be changes made, fine – but don’t just blow the person out the door with no way of earning a living.

That’s no way to treat human beings, yet it happens all the time. I think there could be a lot more class shown without that much effort. Most broadcast companies have properties elsewhere and at least a token offer of other employment could be offered. It’s only right, but that’s just my opinion apparently. I’ve never seen it happen in real life. I send positive vibes to Bill Michaels and everyone else who’s been fired in radio. It’s very unnecessary.

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WTMJ Radio Firings

March 30, 2011

Tuesday March 29th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL

The grim reaper of radio must be working on commission. I’ve never seen a business so bound and determined to fire its people en masse with such cold heartedness. I’ve had my own name called five times in four time zones, and every one has been ice cold and ugly.

Today the ax fell at AM 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee with twin casualties – morning news co-anchor John Jagler and evening sports talk host Bill Michaels. I never met John Jagler but I have briefly crossed paths with Bill Michaels. Either way, I can feel for them both.

They both had meetings in which an office door was closed, and within scant minutes a member of management recited a few well oiled clichés informing both of them they’d be no longer working at the station. There was paperwork to fill out, and then each one had to go clean out a work area which took years to accumulate piles of paper, junk and trash.

Time began to slow down as they filled a makeshift box with years of memories pulled from desk drawers and their entire tenure at the station flashed in front of their eyes. They fought back tears, and it became a surreal situation that this was indeed the end of the line at a place they’d come to the point of taking for granted. But in an instant, it was all gone.

Each one had to have security walk them to the door, and they had to be completely out of the building within an hour or two. Other employees heard about it and a few may have come over to say good bye, but more stayed away until it was over because they all know they could be next. Both guys loaded their cars, and left the parking lot for the last time.

Does any radio person really deserve to get treated like that? I seriously doubt it. They’d been showing up for years, and became part of the furniture. They’re people, just trying to make a living like anyone else. The company has a lot of other stations, couldn’t someone try to find them a job somewhere else or at least give a heads up a few weeks beforehand?

Nope. That would make too much sense. That would be ‘nice’ and human rather than a calculating heartless execution that’s completely uncalled for, but happens all the time at all kinds of stations coast to coast. That’s how that business is, and it stings to the bone.

The same thing happened to Phil Cianciola at WTMJ a while back. I always thought he was extremely talented and should be handed the afternoon shift when Jonathan Green’s tenure came to an end. They humiliated him too, and kudos to him for fighting back with his own pod cast. Still, I think all of those guys should have a job. They’ve all earned it.

I know business is business and all that, but we’re all humans too. Couldn’t the station try to sit down and help them relocate and continue their lives after dedicating a chunk of it to the station? To me this would be a no brainer, but I guess that’s why I’m still fired.

Not that it means much coming from me, but my heart goes out to those guys. I’ve been where they are and it’s not fun. Radio is what it is, and I wish all the best to both of them.

Silva Dollars

March 29, 2011

Monday March 28th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL

What’s 31 years old, doesn’t have gainful employment and as of today is $11.5 million richer? Answer: Carlos Silva, former pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs decided it’s a better option for them to pay him to not be around than put up with his malcontent vibe.

How big of a wanker did the guy have to be? For $11.5 million, I’d be willing to put up with a lot of guff from my boss. Hell, the whole joint could piss on my lunch box and I’d have a hard time finding something to be upset about. That’s a big time financial cushion.

I know there’s going to be a major chunk of taxes taken out and probably agent fees too, but that’s still a lot of cabbage left over for someone who seems like a classless lout to get to spend on Hershey bars and Archie comics for the rest of his born days. HE’S the actual real life Mr. Lucky, and I bet he doesn’t even know it. He’s probably pissed off right now.

This is a perfect example of how there absolutely can be too much of a good thing, and that money does not guarantee happiness. That ungrateful bastard broke the odds to make it all the way to the major leagues from Venezuela no less, not an easy task in the least.

I dedicated countless hours of my own childhood throwing baseballs against a real live brick out house in Milwaukee trying to live my dream of playing in the big leagues, and it never did come to be. I never even made it to the low minors. I had a one day tryout with the Kansas City Royals, and that was it. Am I jealous of a Carlos Silva? Damn right, I am.

Had I gotten signed, it would’ve been a long shot to make the big leagues after that. It’s an honor and a privilege and only a super elite special few ever get to experience a single game in the top level of any professional sport, yet here’s a whiny little weenie who still doesn’t get it at 31. He was a pain in the ass in Seattle, and they traded him to the Cubs.

The Cubs were delighted to get him at first, because they traded an even bigger pain in an even bigger body part named Milton Bradley away in return. He was a real malcontent that made Carlos Silva look like an exchange student from Mayberry. That guy had even more disdain for his lot in life, and playing baseball for a living just wasn’t good enough.

I don’t get the thinking of any of these pampered little divas and it’s turning me way off to even watch games anymore. Families are struggling here in America, not to mention an even bigger crisis in Japan. I wonder if their ball players behave like a Silva or a Bradley?

And to top it off, the guy gets his contract paid off IN FULL. Who negotiated that deal? Now THERE’S a union. I think the teachers in Wisconsin should pay attention to this so they know how to negotiate next time. This goof gets sent home but gets paid millions.

Say he gets to keep at least half that $11.5 million. That’s $5,750,000. At age 31, he’ll be able to spend $143,750 a year for 40 straight years. That’s $393.83 a day for doing the grand total of… NOTHING. Shut your yap, Carlos Silva. You’re the king of the world.

Critter Communication

March 28, 2011

Sunday March 27th, 2011 – Kenosha, WI

Back for yet another Sunday evening radio ride on The Mothership Connection on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. We always have fun, and no matter how down and out I may feel on any given Sunday I’m always in a good mood on the air because that’s why we do the show in the first place. We all contribute to the mix, and we’re a nice ensemble cast.

Tonight’s topic was animal communication, or ‘pet psychic’. Our guest was a nice lady from Madison, WI named Asia Voight, who is apparently an expert in her field. She was a wonderful guest, and really knew her stuff. Our co-hosts brought their animals, and she nailed one accurate reading after the next. It was astonishing to watch her rattle it all off.

I never had many pets as a kid, and as an adult I’ve been on the road traveling so it’s not possible for me to have pets of my own. It’s bad enough I’ve had to drive all these miles a year as me – I’d never want to put a poor animal through any of that. That would be cruel.

Just because I never had pets doesn’t mean I’m not an animal lover or wouldn’t assist in promoting any animal related causes. I want to cry every time I see the commercial on TV with Sarah McLachlan asking for monthly pledges to help some animal get help it needs.

There was a comic I worked with years ago named Ric Schraeder who was a vegetarian only because he didn’t want any animals to die just so he could eat. That’s a noble cause I was never able to follow, but I sure admire him for doing it. That takes true commitment.

Asia said she discovered she had the gift of communicating with animals since she was a kid and was surprised everyone else didn’t as well. Maybe we do, and she’s just had the ability to get and stay in touch with it this long. She amazed everyone with all her dead on questions that were supposedly ‘animal messages’. Learn more at http://www.asiavoight.com.

Who am I to say if anything we talk about on the radio show is real or not? I think there is a whole lot more to the universe and life as we know it than I’m able to grasp with my little old dimly lit low watted appliance bulb of a brain. I’ve learned to shut my cake hole and open two ears and let the experts speak what they know. That’s why the show works.

Plus, we just have fun doing it. There’s zero money to fight over so we all show up each week because we enjoy everything about it. It’s fun to be on the air, and it shows. I like to go by a policy of ‘HAVING fun but not MAKING fun’ and everyone else follows along.

There’s never any reason to take someone’s dignity or gang up on a defenseless outsider like so many radio shows do. I never want to operate that way. We are regular people who talk about interesting subjects in a fun way. That formula has worked out very well so far.

The only other comedian I can think of that has so many varied projects going on is Jeff Foxworthy. The big difference is, he gets PAID – and very well. I haven’t worked that out yet, but when I do look out. Fun and money together have to be the greatest combo ever.

A Wasted Favor

March 28, 2011

Saturday March 26th, 2011 – McHenry, IL

I really am trying to be a nice guy in this life, but the nicer I am the more I get scorched. Tonight I agreed to do a show for a comedian who lives in my area and is trying to start a regular show at a joint in McHenry, IL – maybe a ten minute drive from where I’m living.

I’ve always gotten along with the guy, even though the give/take ratio in favors has him taking by about 95%. Whatever. I’m used to it by now. I’ve always had the policy if I can give or help, I do. I try not to keep score and hope it all evens out in the end. Am I stupid?

When I showed up, all the red flags went up of a horrific experience. There was a small room with a bar and no stage, a rinky dink sound system and I heard within minutes there would be no cover charge for people to see the show. I wanted to get in my car and leave immediately, but I told the guy I‘d do the show for him so I shut my mouth and sat down.

We were supposed to start at 7:30, but didn’t get going until well after 8. That’s another red flag, as it usually serves to rile those who arrived for the original start time. I’ve had it happen before, and don’t need to keep reliving it over and over again. I’m past all of this.

By the time the show did get going, the comedian who’d set it up had partaken in a few swallows of hooch and was feeling a little tipsy. He went a bit long and was all over the place, and I again rolled my eyes wondering why I couldn’t have said no and had a night off. I like to perform, that’s why. Me and my stupid need for the attention of strangers.

The highlight of the evening was watching one of my former students Elly Greenspahn do the feature spot at my request. She’s a teacher in Chicago Public Schools and has been at comedy for five or six years now. She’s been making some nice progress and I wanted to give her a chance to have practice at doing a longer set in front of a suburban audience.

She really pulled it off, even though the sound system was pretty weak and the lighting on the stage was a single bulb, and a dim one at that. Her stage persona is developing very nicely, and the audience loved her. I can see television written all over her and I was glad I could throw her the stage time. She went a little short, but that’s fine. She gave it her all.

By the time I got on, alcohol became a factor and a few people started to talk. I saw I’d have to take charge, and that’s exactly what I did. It made it tougher without a good sound system, but I’ve got experience and knew what to do. I just didn‘t feel like having to do it.

They laughed hard, but I still had to deal with talking pockets most of the night. I don’t want to have to do that at this stage of my life, and it wasn’t fun at all. Then to make it all worse, the guy handed me a check at the end of the night. And it was $50 short. Not good.

What am I going to do, yell at the guy? I took the gig and assumed all would be handled professionally. WRONG. I will be pissed if the check bounces, but it’s my fault for taking one. This was too much stress for a piss poor pay off. Please don‘t ask me for any favors.

Raising Expectations Immediately

March 26, 2011

Friday March 25th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL/Chicago, IL

Time to make some hard decisions. I’ve pecked away a little at all the projects I’ve said I want to tackle this year, but the progress is just not enough. I need to improve by a lot if I’m going to make any progress with anything. I’ll have to fire myself up, or fire myself.

One of the major downsides of self employment is that there can be too much freedom, and that can do just as much or more damage as not enough. If I went to work at Wendy’s and wasn’t cranking out enough burgers per hour, I might get a warning but eventually I’d be shown the door. There’s an expectation level there, and they have the right to set one.

I have an absolutely enormous expectation level set for myself, but the problem is it can be overwhelming at times. I’m trying to build a skyscraper by myself with popsicle sticks, and that’s just not realistic. I have to take proper steps in proper order, make up a tangible plan of action and actually follow it day in and day out until what I envision comes to be.

That’s really tough  to pull off, especially alone, and it’s impossible to pull off without a fully detailed plan. I’ve gotten better at my planning in the last year or so, especially when I was out working the cruise ships. I’ve got a nice outline laid out, but it’s still not there.

Here it is, almost the end of the first quarter already and what have I done? Not a whole lot, and nowhere near what I thought I’d have done by now. Things do get in the way and there are legitimate reasons as to why I’m behind, but not one of them are and excuse and I refuse to settle for the piss poor progress I’m making. Time to kick it in the ass. Today.

There’s no reason I shouldn’t be living all of my dreams right now. I’ve pissed away so much of my life making mistakes and dealing with my own stupidity that I’ve left myself precious little time to make something good happen. Many of those mistakes have taught me valuable lessons, and now I’d like to try success for a while and see how that fits me.

I’m very disappointed with my level of achievement, not only for my whole life to date but for this year especially. I’ve got to get organized and get others working with me on a team basis if I’m ever going to move past the level of bottom feeder scavenger that I am.

I don’t want to be at this level anymore, but I also don’t want to have to be a full blown 100% all beef class A New York Style wankeroo either. My grandpa always told me the most difficult challenge in life is to be a good person and a success. It’s the golden ring.

Well, that’s exactly what I’m shooting for. I know me and I wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than the most difficult anyway so why hide it anymore? Failure I can take, not giving maximum effort I can’t. I know I can do better, and I need to start right now.

I will begin immediately to improve myself on every level and make plans to do it on a bigger scale and with other people involved on the team. Between Uranus Factory Outlet, comedy, comedy classes, exercising and organizing, I’ve got plenty to occupy my time.

Every Single Day

March 26, 2011

Thursday March 24th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL

It takes a truly rare breed of human animal to thoroughly enjoy being famous and all the strains that go with it. We’ve all dreamt of walking down the red carpet at the Oscars with cameras flashing and screaming fans begging for autographs. That actually might be fun!

Fun for how long though, maybe a half hour tops? And, dreams can easily be turned on and off in the mind instantly and at will. True fame cannot, and people become prisoners of it depending on their individual personalities. Some are better equipped mentally for it than others, but eventually even the best of the best have to get sick of always being ‘on‘.

Technology doesn’t help either. Today being famous is a 24/7 gig, with no time off for good behavior. Paparazzi are squatting in the driveway waiting to snap pics of celebrities taking out their garbage these days, and I don’t think I’d ever enjoy that, however big of a ham I might be. I’m actually more of a bacon slice, one little piece usually takes care of it.

It can be flattering to be recognized in public, especially when the person is a fan. I just had it happen a few days ago when I went to get a haircut. I got a sandwich afterward and the lady behind the counter had seen me at Zanies. When I first walked in she stared right at me and locked in her gaze. It was odd. I thought maybe my haircut looked extra goofy.

I made my order, and we joked back and forth a little, and it was only then she asked if I was a comedian at Zanies. I asked her if she thought I looked funny and she launched into “My husband and I couldn’t stop laughing. We think you’re the funniest guy EVER!”

I thanked her and meant it, and that made everyone else in the restaurant turn and gawk at me while I waited for my sandwich to be made. I’m sure nobody else probably had any clue of who I was, and that makes it even more awkward. I smiled and waited, but I could totally feel eyes on me as I picked up my food and went and ate it. It was uncomfortable.

After I was done eating I made sure to make eye contact and smile and wave on the way out. Usually I carry pairs of free tickets with me for Zanies but of course I didn’t have any with me that day, nor did I have a copy of my ‘Hard Luck Jollies’ CD either. I usually do.

That particular situation I handled well though, and I could tell by the look on the lady’s face she really did recognize me and in a positive way. I was nice to her and really meant it, and I made a point of acknowledging her before I left. I wanted her to feel appreciated.

I’m not even close to being what could be legitimately called ‘famous‘, and I wouldn’t be able to begin to imagine what it must be like to be someone truly known like a Charlie Sheen or a Lady Gaga. Whether I like them or not, they’re about as recognized as it gets.

Who was the most famous person of the 20th Century? Elvis? Michael Jackson? Hitler? Muhammad Ali? Richard Simmons? Carrot Top? Whoever it was, I bet they were sick of getting asked to sign autographs every time they walked out in public. I know I would.

The reason I’m bringing any of this up at all is, believe it or not I get a healthy share of hate mail on a semi regular basis. I can’t believe why I’d matter that much for anybody to want to dash me off a nasty note, but apparently there are some restless souls out there.

I’m not talking about those I may have had run ins with in the past for whatever reason, I’m talking about total strangers taking time to seek me out and send me emails telling me in lurid detail just how much my blog sucks and that I should stop writing it immediately.

There’s usually some form of the statement “I read your blankety-blank little diary every single day and it’s SO blankety-blank terrible it makes me puke…” Really? Terrible I can handle, that’s an opinion and you’re entitled to one. But, you read it “every single day?”

Am I over at your trailer forcing you at gunpoint to do that? Not “every single day” I’m not. Not once a week or once a month. Not ever. YOU are the one who CHOOSES to put yourself through the self torture of reading it that often, so I can’t say I feel any sympathy.

Do I think I’m some self important hotshot writer now? Not in the least. I don’t claim to be a writer at all actually. I’m a journeyman road comic, still out here hacking out a living after a lifetime of dumb mistakes and rotten breaks. And – I’m a whiner, a kook, a student of humanity, but most of all I’m a dented can cataloging the events of my life. That’s it.

I don’t claim to be better than anyone else, or even that my opinions are right. I just take a few minutes every day and jot down what I’m feeling, warts and all. I do it for me, and I don’t think about who reads it or if anyone even reads it at all. It‘s a daily exercise for me.

Hopefully I can help aspiring comedians and entertainers in general both now and after I’m dead have an idea they’re not the only ones out there struggling or getting their teeth kicked in by idiots and scumbags. This is a difficult business, and not many will ever talk about what a grind it can be. I want to let the curious know what it’s like from the inside.

Truth be told, I wanted this to be the comedy version of Jim Bouton’s book “Ball Four”, of which I’m still a huge fan. He spoke of what it’s like to be a major league ball player, something a lot of people want to do but never get the chance. The same is true with life on the road as a comedian. People think they want it but have no idea of what it entails.

So, if you’re one of those who read my ramblings “every single day” and hate it beyond words, I’ve got two well chosen words just for you – PISS OFF. I couldn’t care less if you don’t like my diary or even if you don’t like me personally. A lot of people don’t like me, and it’s always been that way. The good thing is, a lot of others do, and that’s my saver.

I don’t claim to be perfect, and never have. I don’t even claim to be good at writing this diary, even though I’m into my sixth full year now. I just want to have something to show for my time on this planet after I leave it other than an abused corpse filled with red meat and sugar, and a lengthy line of creditors searching for some mysterious stash of cash I’ve managed to hide from everyone. Sorry, it’s not there. All I have that’s really mine is this.

Pendulum Upswing

March 24, 2011

Wednesday March 23rd, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL

The pendulum was swinging in the good direction today, and I love when that happens. I felt myself on a bit of a slide there, but only briefly. Now I’m definitely on the upswing, and it’s time to plow ahead and get to work. This is the time to put in maximum effort.

I really am delighted I got the call from the club manager in Michigan yesterday. That’s a major deal, as I thought that situation was severed forever. When I’m wrong, I’ll freely admit it but that wasn’t one of those times. I feel vindicated getting back in there and I’ll go in and light it up when I do go back. That’s one of my favorite clubs in the country.

What amazes me is how clearly the message is that I needed to learn those lessons I did from all this. It was a nightmare while it was happening, and caused me to lose those who I thought were friends, but it also taught me how to conduct myself business wise and not ever have to let it happen again. Even getting embezzled was a lesson, and I see that now.

Am I still pissed off at those who did it? I thought about that honestly today, and I have to say I don’t even think about them anymore. I have no feelings at all. It was exactly like when I heard of my father’s death. The damage was done, but I wasn’t thinking of him at all so it had no reaction. Not at first anyway. I feel the same with this. I don’t really care.

I guess that’s a lesson in itself too. No matter how bad someone gets scorched, the cure for it is to just move on and let time heal it. I admit I was pissed at all those people while it was going on, but now they don’t mean a damn thing. If I saw them, I’d ignore them.

Surrounding myself with quality people is the answer, and there are enough to make life wonderful. I’m refusing to waste my time with bung holes, and I’ll enjoy the company of the good ones and focus on building something with them. That’s my choice, and I like knowing I have a say in the matter. I can hang out with good people if I want, and I want.

I had the pleasure of hanging out with two today. The first was an old radio partner from my past named Mark Napoleon. Mark and I worked in Kenosha in the same building I do The Mothership Connection at a country station in 1999. He was my traffic guy or at least that’s the company that paid him to be there, but in reality we were partners on the show.

Mark is very funny and still can be heard doing traffic all over Chicago radio. He’s been one of my very favorite people since we worked together, and I’ve always wanted to work with him again in some capacity. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, but made time to get together today. It was like we’d never been apart, and we hung out for three hours.

After that, I went to visit another friend Rick Piccolo out in Algonquin, IL. Rick is great because he is getting back into comedy later in life and really enjoying it. He’s like a little kid and I love that kind of passion. He took me out for a late birthday meal, and I couldn’t be any more grateful for friends like Rick and Mark and so many more. They get it, and if I have to suffer through this life, these are the kinds of friends I want to have joining me.

Apology Accepted

March 24, 2011

Tuesday March 22nd, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL

Just when I thought I’d seen and heard everything, I get a phone call today that surprises the hell out of me – but in a good way. It was a club booker calling to apologize. To me of all people. I can’t say I ever remember that happening, so I’ll count it as a major positive.

It all had to do with the nightmare fiasco I had to endure with that slithering oil can flim flam man who convinced me to teach him how to teach comedy classes so Jay Leno could endorse my course. He said he wrote for the Tonight Show and I stupidly swallowed it.

What a naïve bumpkin I was, and he totally scammed me to the bone. We taught a class together in Michigan, and it was actually quite successful. We had 17 people and it was a blast, even though I did the teaching part and the other goof just nodded his coconut head along with everything I said and went “Uh huh…uh huh.” He was completely useless.

Without drudging up all that pain, he ended up going behind my back and snagging that club for his own, telling the manager who called me today I wasn’t interested in doing the classes there. That was never the case, and it ended up becoming a sore spot immediately.

I tried to explain my side of the story but the manager didn’t want to get involved. He’d been friends with the comedian who screwed me over for years, and he assumed I was the bad guy in the whole mix. I ended up not getting booked at the club for years, and it left a very bitter taste in my mouth. But – I let it go and moved on, figuring I’d lost this battle.

Well, lo and behold I get a call today from the manager offering me a week of work and apologizing for the situation and how it all played out. Apparently there was a falling out between those two, and a lot of things surfaced that caused a complete change of heart.

I gladly accepted the apology and reassured the club manager I was never angry at him – and I wasn’t. It was the knob shine who went behind my back and said I didn’t want any part of the classes anymore. That was uncalled for, but he never thought he was wrong.

Funny thing though, he’s been burning bridges all over the country lately. I can think of at least four other bookers he’s had run ins with, and every one of them have told me of it as it has happened. This is only the latest, and I have to say none of it makes me feel sad.

It even escalated at one point to having Jay Leno call me on the phone. I said I shouldn’t have been stupid enough to think Jay Leno would endorse me or my little old course, but that’s exactly what the guy promised. Then Jay asked me for the guy’s name. When I said it, it didn’t ring a bell. That really sealed the deal. I knew I’d been scammed by a shyster.

I was delighted to get the call today. I love working that club and am glad to be back in good graces. I’m sorry the manager had a falling out and I can’t figure out what this goof is trying to prove. He’s a mediocre comic at best, and now is resorting to ‘teaching’ for a way to scam money. I’m not perfect, but I’m not that. Hopefully this can all go away now.

But, I must say it was all a tremendous lesson – even though it was and still is extremely painful. I really did learn a lot, and I’m going to choose to take that from it rather than let myself get bitter and give up. Yes, I got screwed. Hard. Without dinner, flowers or a kiss.

However, it showed me quite a few things I was doing wrong and I’ll never do them that way again. First off, I was stupid to trust some drifter who came out of the blue and made me an offer that was too good to be true. I fell for it, and assumed he was being sincere.

Second, I undervalued my product. I’ve worked for years to polish my class lesson plan over and over and over yet again, always trying to improve myself and my material before each class session. I genuinely care about my students, and I would never ask any of them to do something I wouldn’t do myself. I work just as hard as I would expect a student to.

Most of the other comedy teachers I’ve seen are just in it for the quick buck. Not all, but the vast majority I’ve seen definitely are. I have always been a disciple of Gene Perret and give him credit for his methods of joke writing. He’s the king and always will be, but he’s a writer and focuses on that. I have a more broad based course with performing skills too.

Thankfully, the one thing nobody can steal is my passion. No matter how many of these wanna be wank poles try to horn in on my comedy classes, NONE of them will ever come close to how much I try to give to my students. My methods may be a little unorthodox to say the least, but the ones who’ve gotten it over the years say it was a thrilling experience.

That’s what I want to continue, and help spread laughter and creativity to more than just those who want to be comedians. That’s a hard gig, but a lot more common folk could get a lot more laughs if they would focus on doing that. I want to contribute that to the world.

I remember there was that guy dressed in black with the hat that taught guitar lessons in a course he sold on late night TV. I don’t remember his name, but I remember wanting to get the course and start playing the guitar. I still do. I won’t get invited to join Funkadelic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun and fart around in my spare time playing a guitar.

I think comedy can be sold in the same way. People need and want to be funnier, and I can offer a simple fun course plan to accommodate every level. That’s a very noble goal and something that will make the world a better place. As corny as that might sound, I’m in. The classes have been such fun over the years, I know they can help a lot more people.

Thirdly, this whole thing taught me about dealing with people in a business situation. If I have a good idea, and I think I do, nothing is stopping anyone from stealing any or all of it and trying to put me out of business. It’s up to me to put out the very best product I can.

Between that serpent and my ex partner who embezzled all the money from the classes, I’ve learned a lot of the same lessons others in show business have had to lose a lot more than I did to let it sink in. I got off easy, and I have totally learned from it all. Bitterness is a natural reaction, but it won’t change anything. I choose to dust off and move forward.

Kenosha vs. Hollywood

March 22, 2011

Monday March 21st, 2011 – Kenosha, WI

It’s amazing how much of my life has been rooted in Kenosha, WI in the last few years. I never expected it, but I can’t say it’s a bad thing. I like the town and have made a lot of good friends there between having the radio show on WLIP and being part of the crew of director Mark Gumbinger’s film projects. I feel comfortable hanging in town. I enjoy it.

Plus, it’s very easy to get to from where I live and it’s halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago and I have business in both cities. I could easily see myself living there for a long time and not regretting it in the least. It’s centrally located and easy to navigate the town.

I’ve never been one to climb any social ladders. If I like someone, I like them no matter where they live or who they are. That’s not the way it works in Hollywood, which is why I didn’t last out there. I made friends with a lot of people who were struggling like I was, so that wasn’t the way to advance my position. I ran out of money and had to leave town.

In a perfect world, I’d have gone back there and still be there now. I’d have found a way to survive, and maybe even hit on some script idea. It’s hard to say, but I did know people out there and they’re now becoming the next generation of Hollywood. Mark Roberts is a brilliantly creative comic mind and he’s an example of someone doing very well out there.

Mark is a rare breed who can both perform and write. He’s been in all kinds of shows as an actor, and he’s terrific. But, he’s as good or better behind the camera. He’s right where he belongs, and deserves all the success he’s getting. I’m not claiming to be in a league of a Mark Roberts, but he does know me and had I stayed out in L.A. longer, who knows?

Billy Gardell is another example. He’s a great guy and has worked extremely hard to get to where he is, and I’m thrilled for his success. There are quite a few others I’ve met over time who are also doing well like John Riggi, Jimmy Pardo and of course Drew Carey. I’m happy for all of them, and they each made a lot of sacrifices for a long time that paid off.

Quite frankly, I didn’t do that. I chose to leave town when my money ran out and return to Chicago, as that’s where I could earn a living. I gambled on radio several times and got scorched each time. It is what it is, but that’s why I never ended up going back out to L.A. In my mind I always intended to, because I love it out there. I just haven’t had the chance.

Now, I’m in a whole different position. I just want to salvage a good life and have fun at this point. If I went back out to L.A., I’m a different person. I’m not as hungry now, and I don’t want to live like a cockroach all over again. I wouldn’t expect to just show up and have the people I know give me a job. They earned their positions, and I didn’t. True fact.

What I have attained is a spot in the crew of Mark Gumbinger and his network of talent. It might not be big time, but they’re fun people with real talent, and I’m proud to be a part of the mix. Mark called a meeting at his house tonight to brainstorm his next project and it was a lot of fun. Whatever mistakes I made in Hollywood, at least I’m part of this group.

Life eventually becomes a matter of what’s realistic. Hopes and dreams are great, but as time passes the immensity of vision eventually shrinks to fit the circumstances. I never had time to dream as big as I should have, because I was always too busy trying to survive and pay my bills. I know I wasn’t the only one to have had to deal with that, but it was a drag.

Now is not the time to be bitter about it though. I could sit here and dwell on it but that would only fester and rot and do nothing positive whatsoever. That’s how life played out. Tough noogies. Maybe I was a mega star in a past life or a parallel universe, but here I’m a run of the mill schmuck who never really found a stride. I’m still out here slugging away.

The time frame I’m dealing with is a lot smaller now. Who am I kidding? Even if I do hit it in the next little while, I’ve got a lot of hard road miles on my carcass from chasing all of this for so long. And I don’t know how much punishment it can withstand. I need to get in shape and stay there. I’ve pissed away my youth and sooner than later I’ll be paying for it.

I want to do something great in my life and always have. The clock is really ticking hard  and for the first time, I hear it. I used to be that young buck with my whole life in front of me. That isn‘t the case anymore. I woke up one day and all of a sudden I was out of time.

The big question is – what exactly IS this greatness I think I seek? I used to think it was ‘hitting it big’. Well, that definition is different for everyone. In effect, I did hit it big in the radio business when I got hired to do mornings at The Loop in Chicago. That’s a big time station, and radio people were and even still are impressed. Not everyone gets to do that.

My problem was, I didn’t get to STAY doing it. If we were still on the air, I bet I’d have saved a quarter of a million dollars by now. Between the radio salary and comedy gigs and I’m sure I would have kept teaching classes too, I’d be sitting on financial easy street now.

For whatever reason, that’s just not going to be the way it is in this lifetime. Again, I can sit and bitch about it or I can keep slugging and salvage the best I can with the equipment I have left to mine what I can out of the rest of my life and avoid being bitter about what I didn’t get. That’s very easy to do and I’ve seen way too much of that to know it’s a trap.

I’m not going to be Mark Roberts or Billy Gardell or especially Drew Carey. This isn’t a negative statement, it’s simple fact. Those guys went out to L.A. with sky high hopes and dreams and stayed there. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, but I didn’t. I can’t expect to head out there now and catch up for lost time. I chose what I chose for whatever reason, so be it.

That doesn’t mean I can’t have fun though. It also doesn’t mean I can’t build a business right here in the Midwest. I know I can teach people who want to learn about comedy and I’ve proven it hundreds of times. Maybe that’s my way of salvaging some kind of a life.

I’ve got a lot of my plate right now, and it’s time to play it out with careful thought. I’ve pissed away a lot of years, but I have a lot of experience too. This is probably my last shot to really hit anything of note. It’s late in the game and if I’m going to win it, it’ll be soon.