Archive for March, 2011

Rethinking Radio

March 22, 2011

Sunday March 20th, 2011 – Kenosha, WI

I feel like I’m drifting again. Damn. How does that happen? One minute I feel I have life and its complex mysteries figured out and everything is going smoothly. The next I’m in a funk trying to locate the exact spot it all came off the rails. Right now, clues are scarce.

I thought I was on a straight and steady path for a while there, and I totally was. I was in an upbeat mindset and ready for adventure. After this past weekend, I feel like I’ve wasted my entire life and want to donate my organs to someone who can use them and check out.

There’s a fine line between being productively busy and completely overwhelmed. I may have accidentally tiptoed over it, and that’s why I’m feeling the way I am. I’m not exactly sure which side of that line I’m on right now. Big dreams are great, but we all have limits.

My main problem is even though I’m getting better all the time, I’m still not up to where I need to be when it comes to both organizational skills and focus. I bounce back and forth between projects and as situations arise to occupy my time and attention, I get distracted.

There’s a real trick to delegating tasks, and I haven’t mastered it yet. Up until recently, I wasn’t able to do it at all, so there is significant improvement. I’m in the middle of giving a test run to several people to see what comes back. I know everyone is different, so it’s my responsibility to make sure I communicate what I expect and see if the others can deliver.

I’m sure I’ll be happy with some, disappointed with others and surprised either way with surprises I didn’t expect. I chose a wide variety of people to ask for help, and have gotten a wide variety of responses in return. It takes time to get everything into place, and it feels like everything is all over the place. That’s where I am now, and it feels like I’m drifting.

One of the projects that’s really a crapshoot is the Mothership Connection radio show in Kenosha, WI on AM 1050 WLIP. It’s been on over three years now, and even though I’ve had to keep changing co-hosts the show is sounding better than ever – no thanks to me.

The current crew is really doing the job, and I’m delighted. All of them started either by being guests or in my friend Shelley Maas Hernandez’s case, just coming out to watch the show and see how it worked. She had so much fun I offered her a free pass to come back anytime she wanted. She did, and now she’s a co-host and runs the show when I’m gone.

She does a more than satisfactory job, and sounds great along with both Greg DeGuire and my comedian friend Gary Pansch. Greg is a true expert on several paranormal topics, and adds a level of credibility even I don’t have. Gary adds to the mix too, and we have an absolute blast on the air together. I keep things loose, but they don’t need me to be there.

They do fine, and Shelley is great at lining up guests every week. That’s something I had no desire to do, but was a necessary part of the job. It’s running smoothly now, but the big issue is how can we turn a buck? Fun is fun, but I don’t have time to keep investing in this.

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A Brutal One Nighter

March 20, 2011

Saturday March 19th, 2011 – Bloomington, IL

Talk about both sides of the spectrum. Last night was about as fun as a one nighter gets, tonight was exactly the opposite. That doesn’t usually happen on back to back nights, but being Mr. Lucky often has side effects that don’t happen to anyone else. This was brutal.

The venue tonight was called the Tree House in Bloomington, IL. There’s been comedy there in some form for decades. I remember working it at least a dozen times over the last twenty years, and have had mixed results. Sometimes it’s been fine, other times pure hell.

The actual setup isn’t bad at all. There’s an elevated stage and nice seating area with no poles or bad sight lines in the way, and the sound system has been workable. The lighting is terrible, but that’s better than having bad sound. In theory, this could be a good venue.

Unfortunately, they haven’t figured out a way to make it work just yet. This wasn’t the Tree House I remembered, and I could see trouble brewing as soon as I walked in. There was loud rap music playing with disgusting X rated lyrics, and the people were mouthing along with the words which is a bad sign. It felt like a gang hangout, and I didn’t like it.

Showtime was 8pm, and by 7:55 there were 12 people there for comedy – all sitting in the back row. Nobody was there to seat them, and I could smell trouble. There were also about 20 people at the bar in the rear of the room, about half of them white trash boozers who were loud and obnoxious. When the show started, they were talking to the comics.

Whomever was to host the show didn’t show up, so a potential comedy student went up and tried to fill in after a short debriefing. He was there to maybe do a guest set, but not a hosting job. He was very green and had no clue as to what to do, but that wasn’t his fault.

The feature was a very nice young kid out of Chicago named Jay Washington. He tried to do his best, but the hillbilly mafia wouldn’t stop talking and that makes it very difficult especially for a newbie. I give him kudos for hanging in there, and he did his whole time.

As for me, I’ve been around way too long to put up with any lip from drunks. I went up and immediately confronted the situation and threw gas on the fire. I told him to shut his toothless pie hole or the show would be over. He wouldn’t, so I got off stage until he got thrown out. It was awkward for several minutes, but eventually all of them staggered out.

I’m sure the bartenders and staff were pissed, but I wasn’t going to fight those imbeciles for 45 minutes, especially when they didn’t pay to see the show. I don’t think anyone had expected there to be a confrontation, but it absolutely worked. The 12 people were great.

I ended up doing a full show, and those people laughed hard and were a fantastic crowd, or reasonable facsimile of a crowd. I actually had fun performing for them, but afterwards I realized even more I need to stop doing these lowball one nighters. No amount of money is worth having to expose myself to this kind of aggravation. This was a waste of energy.

A Fun One Nighter

March 20, 2011

Friday March 18th, 2011 – Frankfort, IL

Tonight I was back in Frankfort, IL at a place called ‘CD&ME’. Why they named it that is still a mystery, as is why they decided to do comedy shows in the first place, but they’re sweet people so I keep saying yes when they ask me to show up. They respect comedians.

It’s booked by my fellow Jerry’s Kidder Ken Sevara, and he’s really put a lot of his own sweat equity into it to get the room going. Frankfort is about as far south as it gets when it comes to Chicagoland suburbs, but Ken lives there and it’s a place for him to call his own locally. It’s a smaller version of the old pro wrestling territories. Ken claimed Frankfort.

I think it’s actually a tree nursery or something, but they have a large building with a bar and balcony and large dance floor area where the shows are held. The owners are about as nice as club owner types can get, and they’ve at least supported Ken since he started this a few years ago now. It’s gotten better with time, and people do come out to enjoy comedy.

From where I live it’s almost a full 100 mile one way trip and really not worth my while financially or career wise, but the people are so nice I can’t resist saying yes. Ken treats us all very well and at this point I can have my pick of weeks whenever I want to work there.

If nothing else, it’s a great place to work out new material. I’m usually able to grab their attention in the first minute, and I can take them anywhere I want after that. I want to give the audience my very best and also Ken and the owners for having me. I’m very grateful.

Unfortunately, grateful doesn’t pay the bills. The gig is what it is, and even though it’s a fun time, the pay just isn’t there. Plus, now it’s a Friday so unless I can tack on a Saturday somewhere, it’s difficult to take it anymore on its own. It becomes a matter of economics.

I worked tonight with a kid named Pat McGann. This kid is going to be big time, and he is just getting started. He’s a good looking Irish kid from the south side who’s father is an alderman or judge or someone with influence. I didn’t ask, and it’s none of my business.

He hasn’t been doing comedy long, but he’s got all the tools to have a big time career in some kind of show business, and I’m happy for him. I never had what he has on stage and off, so there’s no reason to be jealous. Plus, he’s a nice kid and has a good work ethic too.

Pat did a fine job opening for me, and I brought it home with a solid set. My friend John O’Brien drove all the way down from Wilmette, and he’s seen me countless times before. He’s always been a huge supporter, as has his wife Gail. How can I not be blown away by that? John had nothing but great things to say, and when I came off stage he was smiling.

“Now THAT’S a professional.” John said. What a nice thing to say, and I appreciate the fact he knows how difficult comedy really is. He’s a former student and has done comedy on and off for many years now, so he knows the inner workings. Saying what he said and how he said it made me feel great, even if nobody else in the whole place had half a clue.

What sets CD&ME apart from regular comedy one nighters is that they hire a music act to play after the comedy shows are finished, and make it an evening of entertainment for a single cover charge, and I think it’s very smart. They are located out in a remote area so it makes perfect sense to want to keep the customers in one place for as long as they can.

This week’s music act happened to be my friend Dave Rudolf, and I’m thrilled. Dave is a super talent and an even better person, and I was the one who suggested he come out to see a comedy show a while back so hopefully he could get hired, and that’s how it went.

I love it when I can hook good people up, and this was a perfect match. Dave lives very close by in Park Forest, IL, and this wasn’t a far ride at all. Having work close to home is a real treat on many levels, and everything just fell together without a glitch for a change.

That being said, I noticed Ken seemed a little upset when I arrived. When I asked what was bothering him, he told me another comedy show was coming to a steak house up the road, and not only that quite a few of the comedians he’s used for years are working there.

This is becoming more and more typical these days, but I don’t like it. I’m all for people working, but in some cases there isn’t enough for everyone and I think this is it. Nobody’s debating the steak house isn’t allowed to start a comedy show. That’s not the issue at all.

What’s at steak here is the territory. Frankfort isn’t that big a town, and is probably only a one night a week area. Putting two there will very likely kill off both of them in a short time, and then nobody will be there. That’s bad for comedy, and they should know that.

Unfortunately, there’s no requirement for smarts when it comes to starting up business ventures, and they’re going to do what they’re going to do. Ken has invested four years in his room and has really done a nice job with it. The new gig is being booked by a person neither Ken nor I particularly like personally, and that’s going to make it extra irritating.

I do agree that the comedians should have at least called Ken and let him know they had taken work at the new place. Etiquette in the old days said that’s exactly what to do. It’s a courtesy, and depending on the situation doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t do both gigs.

In a bigger city, I don’t think it matters at all. A person can work all the clubs in a town back to back to back, and it won’t make a difference. Smaller venues in smaller towns are different, and if a place does comedy first the comedians owe the bookers at least a call.

Pat McGann happens to book a very nice gig at the Raue Center in Crystal Lake, IL. I’m booked there in April, and another club close by asked me to perform also. It’s on another night just like this gig in Frankfort, but out of respect I called Pat to ask about their rules.

Pat said they preferred I not work the other place, and that’s fine I can understand trying to build a draw, and it wasn’t a problem. I told the other guy, and he understood. End of a potential problem. Comedy is a very delicate undertaking sometimes. This is an example.

She’s Out Of My Life

March 18, 2011

Thursday March 17th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL

I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude at all the birthday wishes I received this year, and they’re still trickling in three days later. How flattering. I always try to remember people’s birthdays if at all possible, even though once in a while I’ll let one slip through the cracks.

Most times I’ll nail it though, and I love it when someone is genuinely surprised that I’d remember. It makes them feel special, and I love that. That’s what birthdays are supposed to be in my estimation. It’s someone’s personal holiday and spotlight day to celebrate life.

I’m sure some of this has to do with never knowing my mother. I used to wonder where she was when I had birthdays as a kid, and why she couldn’t at least give me a call or put a cheap card in the mail or something. It made me feel like I wasn’t important in her life.

After several years of never hearing from her, it kind of got moved to the back burner of my mind. I just wrote her off, even though Mother’s Day used to remind me of everything again. There was never any closure there, and still isn’t. She just took off and that was it.

That whole situation was apparently a complete mess according to what I’ve heard from family members over the years, but kids don’t know that. She was my mother, and I never heard hide nor hair of her until I was about 10 years old. She came and picked me up with my sister Tammy and brother Larry and took us to the Milwaukee County Zoo for a day.

It was very awkward for us all, as I really wasn’t all that close with my siblings either. It felt like a day with a total stranger and a couple of acquaintances I barely knew. When the day was over she dropped us off and that was the only time I saw her until I was about 18.

Maybe that’s part of the reason why birthday greetings and cards and making a big deal of it is important to me. I love to pamper someone and let them bask in their personal day. When it comes back in return, it’s fantastic. I lost count after 800 online birthday wishes.

I know Face book makes it easy, and some people just do it to everyone, but it still feels great to see all that mail come in anyway. Most of them were from people I know and like and I felt like I was at least a little bit special to somebody on this insanity filled planet.

One person I didn’t get anything from was the woman up in Milwaukee I’ve been back and forth with for so many years. This is the third birthday in a row she’s missed and my patience is over. I sent her a text saying it hurt my feelings, and it did. I always remember her birthday and her kid’s birthday and try to make them feel like they’re special that day.

To not have it come back brought all that coldness from my mother’s absence back into play and it really made me feel like a bag of fertilizer, minus the bag. I know I got a giant pile of greetings from some fantastic people I really like, including women, but not even getting a call or text or email from ‘her’ hit a big klinker with me. A dented can has to be careful of not focusing on the one bad thing, but it’s tough. It hurt. She is SO out of here.

Meals On Wheels And Jerry Lewis

March 17, 2011

Wednesday March 16th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL/Chicago, IL

Jerry Lewis turned 85 today. What a life that guy has had. I was never a big fan of his as a kid, even though a lot of my school friends loved him. I’ve since grown to tremendously respect him as I get older, and I think the man is a flat out creative genius, like him or not.

He tends to polarize people, but so do I. That’s exactly what good entertainers do. Their fans adore them and their detractors abhor them. Either way, everyone seems to be talking about them and that’s the whole idea. Lady Gaga is the most recent one I can think of, but Charlie Sheen seems to be running hard to win the warped attention derby these days too.

The accomplishments of Jerry Lewis are quite remarkable. People may not like his style or him in general, but the sheer volume of work he cranked out is impressive. Movies and live performance with or without Dean Martin and even the telethons all require ability.

The problem is, he always seems to angry about everything when I see him interviewed. There’s always that layer of angst close to the surface when he talks about anything and it bothers me to see it. Maybe it’s because I had or still have it myself. I feel like I’m getting a lot more mellow as I get older, but Jerry Lewis seems to be going the opposite direction.

I can’t speak for Jerry Lewis, so I won’t try. I’m happy with the direction I’m headed at this time, and intend to keep going in it. Jerry Lewis has an awesome body of work to fall back on, I don’t. That was the focus of my day today. I need to crank out some products.

For breakfast I met with Cathy Rubino, an ex student who’s wonderfully creative and a sharp lady. She volunteered to help me create products, and I will let her. She has a lot of solid ideas, and we threw a few back and forth to get started. I can’t do all of this myself.

Finding places to make stuff and getting prices and comparing notes with other places takes a lot of time, effort and patience. I don’t have any of that right now, so I’ll delegate it to Cathy to work on. We had a productive meeting and at least the ball is rolling now.

Lunch was with Marc Schultz, and he took me out for a birthday treat at an Italian joint called ‘Cuzzin’s’. I’m used to the Milwaukee sub sandwich chain called ‘Cousins’, so my bearings were a little off. Magician Dennis DeBondt joined us, and he’s always a treat to hang out with. He’s very funny onstage and off and we all sat around laughing and eating.

After some errands, I had a dinner at Boston Market with Todd Hunt. I still think Todd is THE top guy to model for marketing, and that’s where his background is. His products are stellar, and he has a system of mailing updates to customers and just runs his business with total efficiency. If you need a business speaker, go to http://www.toddhuntspeaker.com.

I hit the trifecta for meetings today, and all three others bought because of my birthday, but I know that won’t last. I’ll gladly pay next time, and at least things are getting going, if slower than I pictured. That’s life, but at least I’m headed in a productive direction.

Patience Pays Back Twice

March 16, 2011

Tuesday March 15th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL

Birthday over – old age officially settling in. With it comes some wisdom, and hopefully that will help me make better decisions than I did in my maverick youth. I still want to be a maverick, but in a much subtler way. I want to pick my spots and have a purpose now.

I had two pleasant surprises today, in an already positive mood. Answering hundreds of birthday greetings tends to put a person in a happy mood, or it does me anyway. One after another, it was a funny note or a shared memory and I spent several hours catching up on all of it. That’s a great problem to have and if I’m going to get swamped, that’s the way.

The first surprise was from Pedro Bell’s new assistant Tym Stevens. Pedro did my CD cover art for ‘Hard Luck Jollies’ and did so many classic album covers for Funkadelic in the ‘70s. He’d been having some health issues and his last assistant never finished the job he was told to do, and I never got a colorized finished version that I could use to reprint.

Well, that’s no longer an issue. I got the files today where Tym not only colorized it all, he updated the line art and made it reproducible and computer friendly and he also made a new logo for ‘Mr. Lucky’ which resembles the Shaft logo from the ‘70s. It’s outstanding!

I couldn’t be happier with all of it. Now when I reprint the next batch of cds, it will look like a Funkadelic CD ‘Harcore Jollies’, which is what I wanted in the first place. The logo of my name looks like the Funkadelic logo, and the ‘I’ in Dobie looks like a microphone.

If nobody else gets it (and unfortunately few will) I do, and I think it’s fantastic. It’s my tribute to Pedro Bell’s unique style, and to be able to do this project at all was a stray idea that came to life and is now reality. It’s all now exactly how I pictured it, and I’m thrilled.

I had to wait a while to get it, but it was totally worth it in the end. Tym said he wanted to wait until my birthday and make it a surprise, which was unbelievably thoughtful. I am beyond excited, and even though I still have copies of the other printing left, I’ll make the next one look ten times better. Again, I’m probably the only one that cares, but that’s ok.

The other surprise I received was finding out Giggles Comedy Club is closing up in the Milwaukee area. That’s the place that bounced a check and totally treated me and a lot of other working comedians very poorly. I’m surprised it took this long, but I’m delighted to hear of they’re closing if only for the fact the insanity of how they operated it will cease.

I’ve had all kinds of bad experiences with Milwaukee clubs over the years, and this is a little bit of payback knowing they won’t be able to do it anymore. The damage is done but at least it won’t spread. It was like when my father died, I wasn’t sad when I learned of it.

I did a lot of favors for those people, and they crapped all over my name and tried to put a dent in my reputation. I’m not perfect, and never claimed to be – but I do help others and give of myself way more than the average Joe. Their mean spirited slight was a big insult.

The agency who booked the comedians there had a hand in it too. They sent us there but knew the club was bouncing checks the whole time. It was all a big ugly mud pit and I for one am delighted it’s closing. I don’t have to mock them or send a dozen dead roses like a radio person I know of once did. They’ll get the message when they’re asking if their new customers want fries with their Whopper. Hopefully they’ll just get out of show business.

Actually, comedy clubs at that level are pretty far from show business. They might be in the entertainment business, but on a very low level. Those people couldn’t create any kind of entertainment if they wanted to. They pimp the talents of up and comers and we take it, dented cans most of us are, because we need attention that badly. Will it lead anywhere?

NO, and this is ringing proof. They managed to stay open for a few years, probably a lot longer than they should have, and when things got bad at the end they screwed over those who kept them in business – the comedians. That’s happened way too many times and I’m sore from taking it in the poop shoot from vermin like this. Let them go deliver pizzas.

Because of their actions, a lot of comedians including myself may have to do that exact same thing. There are so many mismanaged comedy clubs around that are now closing up that the business itself is in serious trouble. The cycle is playing itself out, and it’s a bitch.

I’m getting better in my old age about reacting to this kind of thing. In the past, I’d have looked to stick it in their ass in any way possible and as high up as I could. Now, I see I’m wasting my time even thinking about lowlife maggots like that. They were never involved in comedy for the same reason I was anyway. They wanted to sell beer. I wanted a career.

The truth is, comedy clubs are not where to make a career. They’re a training ground for comedians to learn the craft, and then it’s time to go somewhere else and get ‘discovered’ and take it to the next level. I was never able to do that, and became frustrated at the club level because it never propelled me to where I thought I wanted to go. It wasn’t meant to.

It’s crystal clear to me now, but I wasn’t able to see this just a few years ago. Maybe it’s part of the process of getting older. I’m losing my youth and boundless energy, but I have a new perspective of things I never had before and can see situations in a whole new light.

The people who ran Giggles were not nice to me at the end. They disrespected me and a lot of other hard working honest comedians too. I honestly don’t wish them anything bad personally, I really don’t. I’m just delighted they’re out of the business. It’s like flushing a toilet – one time won’t do it forever, but it makes the bathroom smell a lot better for now.

Life is downright DIFFICULT. Period. At any age. When idiots make it harder, I can’t see why it has to be tolerated. This went on far too long, but hopefully it’s over. In fact, I have a chance to book a new venue not far from where Giggles was. How about that?

The karma train has a circular track. Choo choo! What goes around, comes around. I’m far from perfect myself, but I do try to treat people with respect. This was a satisfying day.

Forward, March

March 15, 2011

Monday March 14th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL/Racine, WI

Another birthday, and since I can’t stop them from coming I might as well find as many ways to enjoy them as I can. Yeah, I’m getting older – but so is everyone else. I’m not the first person to be in this position and I won’t be the last. For the immediate future, I am in a position to do whatever it is I’m going to do in this life. I am in my prime creative time.

I’ve got some life experience behind me, and still at least a little gas in the tank, so now it’s a matter of seeing how far I can make that tank go before I’m too old or too worn out to get anything done. It’s a giant race against the clock, like a 4th quarter drive in football.

What’s my touchdown? It’s a lot different now than it was, and I never had a clear idea of what it was before. I guess I thought it would work itself out, which of course it didn’t. Now I realize I have to put the image in my own head and go make it happen from there.

I’m fine with it, and am up for the challenge. I love challenges, and for the first time in my life I feel like I’ve got some sort of plan in place. I want to find something I love that pays enough for me to build a nest egg to live comfortably should I need to stop working for whatever reason. I don’t need a mansion, I just want to be able to live like a human.

I’ve spent my life in basements, cheap motels and filthy comedy condos. I don’t think a modest town house at some point would be out of my league. I don’t need anything other than a clean place to stay in a nice area. I’ve spent enough years living like a cockroach.

Sometimes I get a little down, and sometimes I get off track, but in all honesty I’m on a very positive path right now. My health is pretty good, considering I’ve neglected it for all these years. Plain and simple, that has to stop. Immediately. I know I keep saying that, but now it’s true. One can eat so much lard, sugar and pork before one’s heart pops like a zit.

I need to stretch. I need to exercise. I need to drink more water. I need to cut soda out of my life forever. I need to eat healthier. I need to drop significant tonnage. This is difficult and not able to be done in a week or a month or even a year. I need to make big changes.

That’s got nothing to do with how I spend the rest of my days. I have a wonderful group of friends and associates to choose from, and I truly believe I have all the ingredients for a dream life if I’ll just put it together. I’m nothing more than the arranger, and will mix and match people’s strengths and talents to get the best results for the group. That takes effort.

I want to give this next year my maximum effort. I don’t think I’ve ever done that up to my standards before, which are way higher than anyone else’s for me. I want to do things right, have a plan and execute it all the way to completion. I want to score a touchdown.

And, I want to build a team of diverse talented creative types of all kinds that will have fun playing along with me. I want to become a comedic version of Berry Gordy or George Clinton, who headed a group of creative types and talents and got the most out of them.

That’s the plan for the year. As for today, it was a flat out fantastic birthday. I’m still on a high from the fun radio show last night with the house full of fun company. Shelley did a wonderful job of making it a memorable evening and it truly was an unexpected treat.

Today it continued with almost 1000 emails and Face book greetings from people from all walks of my life from comedy to radio to collecting to women I like to friends I’ve had for years and years. I even had some fans wish me a happy ‘pi day’, which it is – (3.14).

This was not only unbelievably flattering, it also really put into perspective the odds of people I get along with to wank poles I can’t stand. There are maybe ten or a dozen idiots goofs I don’t want to deal with under any circumstances vs. all those I heard from today.

And just because someone didn’t wish me a happy birthday doesn’t mean they’re sworn enemies. There are a lot more people I can tolerate than the few pukes I can’t. That hit me in the face when I saw those emails piling up all day, and it made me feel good about how I’ve handled the leakers. Why do I have to deal with them at all? I don’t. Good riddance.

I’m sure people are going to do that to me too, and they have. My siblings are a flaming example, but that’s a family squabble thing. I don’t count them on my ‘dirty dozen dufus’ list. They’re not going to talk to me, and that’s it. I send them love and am moving ahead.

My friend Russ Martin bought me lunch today at the Iron Skillet Truck Stop in Racine, WI on Highway 20 and I-94. Russ has helped me by recording some ‘Schlitz Happened’ shows and gave me a DVD which I can give to Marc Schultz to cut up for the website.

After that I took a lap in the thrift store in Waukegan on Highway 132 which is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I also took a lap in the Gurnee Mills Mall. It felt good to get out and exercise, and I also bought myself some DVDs to watch and two new baseball caps that say ‘King of Uranus’ on them just because it was my birthday and I treated myself.

I stopped at my storage bin and removed a box of business and mail order books I’d put in a place where I could easily find them. Those are what I need to bury myself in for the next few months and get ideas to get Uranus Factory Outlet going. I’m putting it in gear.

The woman I rent my living space from bought me dinner tonight at The Olive Garden not far from where we live. I didn’t even know it was there. It was a chance to hang out a little, since I haven’t done that since I moved in last December. We enjoyed ourselves.

Yes, I want to build a business and make a wad of cash and all that, but I also want a fun life in there somewhere too. Traveling was great, but I missed out on a lot of the ‘normal’ side of life. I’d like to have a few bites of that for a while. I’m excited about the next year.

Hopefully I can salvage a life I’ll be proud of after coming from where I did. That was a bad scene all around, and thankfully most of them are dead now. Why should I wallow in that years later? I want a satisfying fun life surrounded by winners. Forward – MARCH!

Uranus And The Mothership

March 15, 2011

Sunday March 13th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL/Kenosha, WI

The planet Uranus was discovered by Sir William Herschel on March 13, 1781. I don’t know how he discovered it or why he chose to call it what he did, but I’d have to guess it was around 6:01am on March 14, 1781 the jokes started, and they’re still flowing today.

Who doesn’t remember snickering in class the first time they heard of the planet’s name and put it together with the body part? It was in grade school, and we weren’t supposed to laugh – but that’s exactly why it was so funny. Suppressed laughter is always the sweetest.

For 230 years now, grade schoolers of all ages have made Uranus jokes and laughed out loud, even though the stodgy ‘powers that be’ have tried to change the pronunciation over the years. Sorry, if you’re over 30 it’s Ur-ANUS. Tee hee. Don’t take away my childhood.

Today is officially the day I roll the dice and put everything I’ve got into banking on the power of a grade school joke taking me from just another white guy trying to be funny to a successful business person with name recognition. It’s time to make something happen.

I’ve had this idea for years now, and have spent time and money getting myself ready to make the plunge, and the time is now. I have learned a lot, but have a lot more to go. I’ve been working on so many other projects and also trying to survive that I’m way behind on where I thought I’d be by now, and it’s disappointing. Quitting now would make it worse.

I want to create a character that’s larger than life called ‘The King of Uranus’, and make myself known to customers who will buy funny things of all kinds. Harland Sanders had a similar transformation into his Colonel Sanders character, which is exactly what that was.

He dressed the same way, looked the same way and cultivated a persona that Americans eventually came to know, like and trust. I’m not sure if I can become the icon he did, but I sure think I can associate myself with whoopee cushions and joke items at the very least.

I know there’s more in there too. Maybe it will evolve into a production company to put funny products together like live shows, CD and DVD projects and maybe even television or movie projects. I don’t know exactly what direction will be the best, but I know I need to start now and attempt to go somewhere. Right now, it’s all sitting there doing nothing.

There’s no way I’m going to start thinking about this again and start making a living as ‘The King of Uranus’ overnight, or next week. I won’t be listing ‘Royal Space Highness’ as my occupation on my tax return this year. It’s going to take a steady transformation for several years to pull it off the way I envision it. I’m going to change my whole existence.

It’s not just a matter of putting on a cape and a crown or some goofy costume. I need to learn about business and sales and marketing and use my creativity and showmanship in a totally different way than I have before. I want to educate myself and evolve into a unique entity that can become a brand name on its own. And, I still have to make a living as well.

This is SO off the beaten path, but that’s why it intrigues me so much. This should be a wonderful time in my life, and in many ways it is, but I’m really starting to get sick of the road and comedy as I’ve come to know it. That was a dream 25 years ago, and I really did manage to pull it off and make it a reality. Now it’s time for a new dream, and this is it.

What interests me is working on and learning new skills. I can adapt pretty well, and the skills required for business are different than the ones required to live the road life. Going from one to the other will have some lumps and bumps, but I believe it’ll pay off nicely.

That’s all a ways off yet. Tonight it was up to Kenosha to go back in the radio studio for The Mothership Connection on WLIP. I hadn’t been on the air in a while and was looking forward to it. Co-hosts Gary Pansch and Shelley Maas Hernandez suggested we get a nice meal before the show at the HuHot Mongolian barbecue restaurant. That’s their favorite.

I don’t hate it, and we met up for a birthday meal. Shelley had a coupon and we enjoyed a nice relaxing meal before the show. I didn’t think to ask who the guests were, as they’ve been doing a fine job without my input at all. I showed them what to do, and they do it.

The first guest was a woman who talked about reinvention and finding our ideal jobs in life. She was fascinating, and told me I’d hit stride in a year or two and be more known as a speaker and helper of people. She was a great guest, and whether or not it’s true she had our attention the entire time. The show is tremendously fun when guests are that sharp.

After that it got really fun. Shelley went out of her way to do a ‘This Is Your Life’ show for the final two hours and it almost made me cry. What a kind hearted thing to do, and it made me feel very much appreciated. I always try to do things like that for others, but it’s even better when it comes back my way. She worked on it for a long time but it was great.

She lined up callers to wish me a happy birthday and tell a story. It started with my very sweet Godmother Anita Baumann. She has always remembered my birthdays and always sent a card, even when I was a kid. My birth mother was nowhere to be found, but Anita’s kindness is still there all these years later. She’s a kind soul and I appreciate her so much.

After that, our ex co-host Lara Shaffer was in studio and sat in with us for a while. Lara was and is absolutely fantastic on the air, and totally adds a unique angle. She’s got a very natural on air presence and is extremely sharp on the topics we talk about. She was in her usually strong air mode, and we lit it up for almost an hour. It was great to have her back.

Next it was a mixed array of comedy people from the years of my life from Bert Haas of Zanies in Chicago to Jim McHugh to Bill Gorgo to Tim Walkoe and several others. Then, Jerry Agar was on the phone telling how we met, and Shelley played the Kidders theme.

To my shock, the other two Kidders Tim Slagle and Ken Sevara walked in and made my whole month. They’d been planning it for a while, and it was an absolute blast hanging in the studio with such great friends. For one night, I was the king of radio. And I loved it!

Clash And Carry

March 13, 2011

Saturday March 12th, 2011 – Fox Lake, IL

What would make me happy? I used to think I knew, but that wasn’t even close to what I think now. I used to want show business success, but for all the wrong reasons. I still do want to succeed, but now on a different level and for different reasons. I have evolved.

The trick now is to not let the past consume me or the future overwhelm me like I think it may have done in the past. I’m never going to be able to live the dreams I had years ago and that’s just how it is. Whatever ships that already sailed aren’t coming back to get me.

From this day with the circumstances I’m in, what would be the smartest plan to get my life to a place I truly want it to be? The first thing is, make a plan. I’m doing that little by little by making connections with people who I’ll hopefully have to answer to. Julie Carey came out of the blue, but I put the vibe out there I needed someone and she showed up.

I’m a big believer in vibes, even though I have no idea how to define it other than a raw energy someone emits that causes a feeling of reaction. Some of us emit positive ones and others don’t. I know I often rub people the wrong way at first, but they come to really like me in time. Others never do, and just think I’m a flaming wanker. I don’t worry about it.

I never have. I’ve always wanted to just ignore people I clash with, and not have to talk to them and waste everyone’s time. I don’t wish bad on them, I just want them to live life somewhere ELSE. I don’t care if that’s Zanesville, OH or Zanzibar – get out of my sight.

There are several people I’ve chosen to eliminate from my life, and quite frankly I don’t miss a one of them. I’ve got my own life to live filled with my own problems and having people I clash with out of the way makes things less complicated in my mind. I’m terrible at faking like I like somebody when I don’t, and I realize not everybody likes me either.

Unfortunately, I had to work with one of those people at my show last night. It’s a long story I won’t revisit, but that person said some things in a condescending way exactly like my father would have, and I wanted no part of those words, or him in general. No biggie.

Then, I found out I had to work with the guy and my heart sank. Why do I have to be in the same room with that knob shine? If I was the headliner, I should have had the clout to work with anyone I wanted. The booker Harry Hickstein is also a comic and a sweetheart of a guy and didn’t want to make any waves and fire the guy. So who has to live with it?

Why me? If it was the other way around, and it has been, I’d get fired without the hint of a second thought. Too bad. So sad. Sucks to be me. Now that I’ve got a little bit of clout, I guess it doesn’t mean anything. I guess I could have no showed, but that’s not my style.

I’m way too ‘nice’. Well, nice SUCKS, and Leo Durocher was right – we do finish last. I don’t want to be a mean bastard, but sometimes that’s the only answer and it’s a matter of survival .I’d much rather have a win/win than try to vanquish someone I can’t stand.

Unfortunately, that’s how it often works in return. Some people are incredibly insecure, and will stop at nothing to squash anyone close to being thought of as a potential rival or competition in any way. I’m sick of playing that game, but in show business it’s constant.

Why the hell am I even here on this planet? Supposedly we Pisces are the ‘old souls’ of the world and have the most experience, if indeed any of astrology is true. Maybe I clash when dealing with others who are working on different things. I have no solid answers.

I really don’t want to squash anyone. I’m all about live and let live, but some people are just bung holes and I don’t want them to live near me. Is that too much to ask? My sister and I have clashed our whole lives, and she has chosen to not speak to me for going on 18 years now. I’ve tried to make peace with her, but she refuses to accept or acknowledge it.

What else can I do? Move on and try to let it go. Sibling relationships are supposed to be deeper than business ones, so why can’t people understand it when I ignore them and just want to be left alone to get by on my own merits? I don’t know, but apparently they don’t.

I always look at it as a numbers game. Out of 300 MILLION living here in America and 6 BILLION world wide, why would I have to spend time with even ONE idiot I don’t like or respect? There are way too many people I haven’t met yet, not to mention the ones I’ve already bonded with and get along with splendidly. I don’t need to waste time with idiots.

I regret even spending as much typing time dealing with it as I just did, but I want to get it out there, so it doesn’t sit and fester inside. I know I’m not important, and people aren’t required to hire me as a comedian or even talk to me. I know that, and it keeps everything in perspective. I don’t want wars or clashes with anyone, but that’s totally unrealistic.

I’m not one to think I’m right all time, and will always admit when I screw up. I do not nor ever have expected anyone to be perfect, I just happen to feel bad vibes from various individuals from time to time, and over the years I’ve found out that feeling is accurate.

All that being said, that’s just how life works. The guy I had to work with last night did not come near me, as I asked the booker to make sure he not do. We got along fine and it didn’t re-escalate. I still don’t know why I had to be in the same room with the guy, but I guess there was a lesson I had to learn. I wasn’t mean, but it was quite uncomfortable.

This is all part of being a dented can. There are all kinds of deep seeded quirks that get tweaked by people in life. If mommy and daddy weren’t there, how can I expect a random stranger to treat me well? And for all I know, these people are dented cans worse than me. It’s only now that I can begin to comprehend the other people’s situation. That’s growth.

I’m still loaded with faults and defects and shortcomings, but dammit I’m getting better all the time. Those that don’t like me can go piss up a rain gutter. I don’t care. I’m a nice person, and do a lot to help others. If you’re too stupid to see that, that’s not on me. I have enough things to work on keeping my own life on the road. Life on this planet is difficult.

Quittin’ Time

March 13, 2011

Friday March 11th, 2011 – Toluca, IL

I get the message loud and clear – it‘s time to find something else to do to make a living. I’ve always said when standup comedy is no longer fun, I’ll stop doing it. My grandfather said a similar thing about smoking, but he used the price per pack of cigarettes as criteria.

“When they hit a buck a pack, I’ll quit,” he’d say. Of course when it did he didn’t, and he’d say it about the next price break and it went on for years. My grandmother got in his face and wouldn’t let him forget, and it became a running joke. He was a smoker. Period.

What ended up making him actually give them up was a heart bypass operation. He quit overnight, cold turkey. He said it was miserable, because he enjoyed smoking and all that went with it. It was a popular habit of his generation, and wasn‘t frowned on like today.

I am heading toward my own disaster if I don’t stop taking comedy gigs in non comedy venues. I’m hesitant to say stop standup comedy altogether, because it can be great fun in the right situation. But those situations are getting fewer and farther between. I need a gig that pays the bills, and let comedy serve as a hobby or fill in when I’ve got some time off.

The reason I’m so miserable is, this just isn’t fun anymore. All the minutia it takes to be booked for a gig, physically get there, have to play chair and whip with drunks in difficult circumstances and then driving home or worse yet going to a sleazy motel isn’t worth the pittance of money that comes back in return. It used to be fun, now it’s just a big hassle.

Thanks to the ships, which weren’t fun either, I do have a few bucks put aside to bridge a small gap between getting something else going to help put some more money away and maybe get to enjoy life for a while. The grind of these small time one nighters is torture.

I’ve been doing this for so long, every possible thing that can go wrong has – and it gets old. Every babbling drunk that talks through a show thinks he (or worse, she) is the center of the universe, and I have to shut that person up with well worn heckler lines said over a fifth rate sound system which used to be used for calling bingo games during prohibition.

The process used to be a challenge, or at least I was duped into thinking it would maybe lead to somewhere better. It doesn’t. About all it does is offer stage time, but not a quality place to hone one’s craft. It would be like taking a dance lesson and having some drunken slob try to cut in on your partner halfway through the song. How will that help anyone?

Steven Spielberg isn’t going to be in Toluca, IL looking for comedic talent to star in his next blockbuster film about the entertainment business, either. Most times, it’s just some random drunks who’d get loaded at some bar whether there happens to be a show or not.

The people who run these shows aren’t entertainment people. They’re looking for ways to get new people in their joint so they can sell liquor, and maybe throw a piece of fish or steak down their throat too. Most are not comedy lovers, and we’re just being exploited.

Then, there’s the money. On paper, it looks like a pretty sweet payday to stand up there and tell jokes for under an hour. But figure out how many phone calls it took to get a guy on the phone to book it, how long it took to drive there, how much gas was used, and the profit margin shrinks like male genitals in a cold swimming pool. It’s just not worth it.

Not for me anyway. Not anymore. I’ve learned how to hobo a living for myself for years doing these gigs on various levels, but that time has to end soon. I’m tired, and even if the owners are thrilled – I no longer care. Quite frankly, they’re very lucky to get somebody of my experience and ability to work in some hell hole town off the beaten path. I’m past it.

That sounds cocky and pompous, but it’s fact. There comes a time to stop doing certain things, and this is it for me. I used to do it for the experience, which I have plenty of now. Then I did it for the money, which I’ve got enough of at least for now. Other than both of those, what other reason would I have to say yes other than the sheer fun of performing?

Don’t get me wrong, everything about the show tonight went very well. The people who owned the Italian restaurant were absolutely wonderful, as was the staff. The actual show was booked by Harry Hickstein, a genuinely nice man who has a heart of solid gold. He’s been a huge supporter of mine, and always tries to get me in at the various gigs he books.

It’s flattering to be wanted, and I truly appreciate it. BUT – the actual gig was not fun at all. There was a tiny stage with a horrible sound system that fed back to the point of being a distraction. The lights in the room were restaurant lights, and I had a ceiling fan right in front of my face so I couldn’t see much of the audience. The conditions were atrocious.

Then, of course some table of drunks right in front had to start up talking right during a punch line, and threw my timing way off. I couldn’t be mean, because they were pillars of the town, and important people to the restaurant. They needed to be bounced, but I wasn’t the one to do it, and the restaurant sure wasn’t going to do it. I had to bear the brunt of it.

I’m just too old for this kind of rinky dink politics. If someone wants a show, I’ll try my damndest to give them a great one – but I need the right tools to do it. Give me the proper stage, well lit with a kick ass sound system. Then we can talk. If someone gets loud, they need to be launched. Now. No warnings, toss their boozed up carcasses out immediately.

Then, there’s the ‘free’ meal. That’s always tricky. They’ll give you a meal, but it’s the proper thing to leave a nice tip to the server. OK, fine. Still, that ends up to costing close to what the actual meal would have been, so it’s never really ‘free’. It all adds up, and the bottom line shrinks even more. By the end of the night, it’s usually lucky to break even.

I did get a chance to work with fellow Jerry’s Kidder Tim Slagle. He took the gig to get to hang with me, and I’m unbelievably flattered he did that. He is also a road warrior and knows of everything I just mentioned. His act is very smart, and he had to struggle to get their attention too. The one thing that came out of it is that he made some suggestions for the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show which were fantastic. I’ll take that as the reason I came.