Archive for January, 2012

Mentor Health

January 30, 2012

Sunday January 29th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

Being a mentor is extremely important to me, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why. I tried to figure it out, but the only answer that made sense was that it doesn’t matter why, only that I follow through and do it. I know how much in high esteem I hold my mentors, and they really made a difference. I want to be that same source of inspiration to others.

My grandfather was THE most influential mentor I ever had, but he was a father figure for life lessons at an early age. All of my adult life has been in and around entertainment, so those mentors were more specialized and shaped me professionally. I needed them all.

There was Gary Kern and Kyle Nape, two great guys who helped me cut my road chops and learn how to be a professional entertainer. But without a doubt, the big one for me by far was C. Cardell Willis. He hosted the show the very first time I ever stepped on a stage.

Cardell was my comedy father, and also the rest of Milwaukee’s comedians at that time. He took time to run shows and help any and all who wanted to learn the craft. He gave of himself freely, and I learned things from him that I still use today. He was a giving soul.

He was born and also died in the exact same years as my father. He would have turned 75 on April 20th of this year, and I think it’s only right I pay him a proper tribute. He was never famous, and in my opinion never got his due for all the people he helped – like me.

I have put the wheels in motion to have a tribute show at Shank Hall in Milwaukee this coming April 22nd. The room was booked on the weekend, but Sunday is appropriate for a show like this because that room used to be Teddy’s, and they had Sunday comedy shows there for years. In fact, that’s where I did my first ever paid comedy show. It has history.

It was also the Funny Bone in the ‘80s, so that’s the perfect place to have the show. I’ve arranged to rent the room for the night, and am contacting a list of Milwaukee comedians from that era who are still around. I’ve gotten a terrific response, and I can’t wait to pull it off. It will be my own personal tribute to a mentor, but also a chance to let others join in.

I’m working on getting some sponsors to cover costs, and will also make it a charitable event and hopefully raise some money for at least one worthy cause if not more. I know it doesn’t do anything for my career, but that’s ok. I feel I have to do this, and I’m going to.

Today I went to Milwaukee to take part in a ‘Comedy Conclave’ I was invited to attend via Face Book. It was a last minute thing, but I felt compelled to go. There’s something in my deepest DNA that tells me to help those people, or at least show them some support.

There were new faces and some that I knew, and it was odd to now be in the role played by Cardell when I was starting. They were looking to me for advice and guidance just like I looked to Cardell. I didn’t hold back, and told them my unvarnished opinion. I wonder if anyone heard it? I do know they were glad I showed up. I felt it. Mentors do matter. A lot.

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Super Bowling

January 29, 2012

Saturday January 28th, 2012 – LaSalle/Peru, IL

Cause and effect. Action and reaction. Yin and yang. There are two sides to everything, and that can be maddening at times. Just when one of those sides is functioning correctly, the other needs attention and it throws life out of balance again. It’s a constant struggle.

I’ve been in a nice little groove lately, doing all kinds of fun comedy shows close to my home and liking it. I’ve been generally working with and for quality people, and having a blast living in the moment. That streak continued tonight in Peru, IL at The Super Bowl.

The Illinois Valley Super Bowl is a bowling center that has been featuring live comedy shows for probably twenty years or more. I’ve only gotten on the bandwagon recently, but now I’m in their regular rotation of favorite acts and I’m glad to be on it. I have fun there.

The owners are Jim and Bob Stubler, and they’ve both been incredibly supportive of me and always bring friends when I’m there because they really like my act. How flattering is that? I always try to give extra strong shows there because I’m so grateful for the support.

Tonight’s show was packed and rocking, and there was a couple who brought friends to see me because they loved me so much last time. The lady in the new couple paid me one of the most sincere compliments I can imagine by saying I had exceeded her expectations. She said she couldn’t stop laughing, and thought she was going to pee her pants. Victory!

How much better can it get that that? Physical incontinence is the ultimate goal for any comedian, and it doesn’t matter where it happens. If I was playing Caesars Palace in Las Vegas or a bowling center in Peru, IL, peed pants are peed pants. I’ve done my job well.

There was an enthusiastic line of people after the show that wanted to buy a CD and tell me how hilarious I was, and that’s never a bad thing. I thanked each one and meant it, and then thanked the Stubler brothers once again for having me. They treat me like a big star.

Another plus was being able to bring along one of my former students Elly Greenspahn as the opening act. She did a fine job, and has made solid progress in just a few years as a comedian. She’s a Chicago public school teacher by day, and this is an extra perk for her. Getting a paid gig on a real show is a big deal, and it‘s been a delight to see her progress.

It was a really fun night all around, but on the way home I couldn’t help thinking about how this is the end of this particular little run. It’s been a lot of work just getting all of the little details done, like doing radio interviews and physically showing up for all the actual shows. I spent decades before that preparing to be able to do these solid shows I’ve had.

This run has been productive and rewarding, but I’ve let my booking maintenance really lack and I have holes in my schedule in February that worry the hell out of me. I have two weekends booked, but two that are not. Something MIGHT fall my way, but I don’t enjoy MAYBE being able to eat. I can’t sit and relish these fun shows, I have to seek out more.

Choo Choo, Mr. Bully!

January 28, 2012

Friday January 27th, 2012 – Rockford, IL

Try as I might, sometimes I still have trouble overcoming my weaknesses. One that I’ve struggled with horribly since childhood is being able to let certain things go. Even though I know it’s not smart, I tend to carry grudges. Big time. For years. I’ve been improving for a long time, but it’s still a soft spot and I admit it. I’m sorry, but I REALLY like revenge.

Maybe that’s the little brother in me who got pushed around as a kid, or maybe I’m just a dented can with an old fashioned mean streak. I’m not proud of it, but I know it’s there. I do all I can to be a nice person to a fault, but when I feel that someone has disrespected me I feel an intense need to break off a few karate kicks in their ass with a combat boot.

Bullies are especially a problem. I refuse to accept bullying from anyone, and even if it means getting my own ass kicked I’ll always get right back in their face and let them have my unvarnished opinion whether they asked for it or not. Mincing words is not my style.

That’s been my downfall on more than a few dozen occasions, but in retrospect at least I’ve made myself as clear as a bell with all the marble heads with whom I’ve had an issue. I’ll be the first to admit it’s usually a waste of time to worry about paybacks…but I have.

Just when I thought I was over one that really bothered me for a long time, tonight I had a chance to stick it to a big time bully and I can’t help enjoying how delightful it feels. It’s kind of like running into an old flame by chance who was a scorcher in her day but is now a weathered old war pig nobody looks at twice. It shouldn’t bring pleasure…but it DOES.

There is a comedy booking agent who used to have a stranglehold on the Midwest for a long time. He was never a people person, and in fact most comedians couldn’t stand him. We all tolerated him, only because he had a lot of work that was close to home. He made sure we all knew he was in charge, and had hundreds of us jumping through his hoops.

He could call us at a moment’s notice and ask us to drive in a blizzard to some horrible gig in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and knew we’d do it because he could hold over our heads all that other work he had that we wanted. It was a power trip, and he loved it.

I should have had a major clue when I eventually met him in person and saw that he had a beard. My grandfather always told me to avoid dealing with anyone with a beard, as they were surely hiding something. My father always had a beard too, so that was a useful tip.

Like most of the Midwest comedians did in the boom years, I depended on this bully for a big chunk of my work load every year. The work was usually decent, and even though it didn’t pay great, it was enough to fill in the cracks and make it possible to earn my living.

I can remember doing all kinds of last minute ‘favors’, but never ONCE getting it back in my direction. He could exploit anyone he wanted, and took full advantage of it. I knew I wasn’t the only one getting boned, but it still hurt. The bastard had no conscience at all.

I’d had a few tiffs with him over the years, and one time we really had a big blow out. It was wrong on my part, but I really went off on him in frustration and left a nasty message on his answering machine. We didn’t work together for years, and I should have used it as my liberation. Instead, I came crawling back and tried to unburn the bridge. Big mistake.

He ended up being the one who booked me at Giggles in Brookfield, WI which has now closed because the owner was bouncing checks like basketballs. He did nothing to inform me of a problem, even though he knew there was one. It was a major issue, and caused an inordinate amount of pain and suffering that didn’t need to happen. It still pisses me off.

Unfortunately, there has been a long and rapidly growing list of comics like me who are no longer working for him because he turned the business over to his sons, who are about as people friendly and competent as Saddam Hussein’s two geniuses. It’s been pure hell.

Well, tonight I got a little pay back. There’s a new room in Rockford, IL at a wonderful placed called Franchesco’s. WOW, what a venue! They have a show room that’s as sweet as any club I’ve ever seen, and they’re running comedy shows booked by my friends Ken Sevara and Sky Drysdale. Ken is another one of the victims of the booking agent bully.

He’s about as laid back and nice of a guy as there is, along with Sky Drysdale who was a radio personality who hosted comedy nights in Rockford for years. He really knew how to treat the comics and also trained his audiences to behave during shows. He did it right.

I couldn’t be more flattered that those guys thought of me to kick off the first show. Of course I had to say yes, and they made it even better by putting a guy named Brian Hicks in front of me as the feature act. He’s THE absolute best guy I can think of in the country for that position, and I don’t mean any disrespect by that. His style was tailor made for it.

The feature position in comedy is quite often the easiest from a performer’s perspective, but very underappreciated by everyone else. To be a good one takes effort, and Brian does it extremely well. His act is original, clean, well presented and very funny – but not in any way that’s overpowering so a headliner can’t follow it. Plus, he’s super mellow off stage.

He’s a married guy and doesn’t go out chasing waitresses or get snot flying drunk after a show. He does his job, does it well, and goes home. Bookers everywhere should look to clone Brian Hicks. He’s like a good utility infielder. They don’t get glory or huge money, but every team in baseball scrambles to find them. I’ve always been a big fan of Brian’s.

The booker in question apparently was fuming about this new room opening in a market he considered ‘his’, and sent out an email ‘banning’ anyone from working it. Brian isn’t a rabble rouser, and wanted no part of it. It was a gig to him, and that’s it. Not to the bully.

Brian is now persona non grata like so many others of us who’ve busted our butts to put money in this wank-a-doo’s pocket for way too long. Well, his empire is crumbling and it couldn’t delight me more. The old karma train has a circular track. Choo choo, Mr. Bully!

The Power Of Respect

January 28, 2012

Thursday January 26th, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

I can dream about massive unbridled success of the King of Uranus all I want, and I am, but meanwhile back on Earth the grind of life still goes on in the trenches. Bills won’t pay themselves, and dreams won’t become reality without effort. Back to work to make a few shekels to tide me over until superstardom hits. It’s taking much longer than I imagined.

The next few days are going to be hectic, but I love it. I’ll be working both on stage and on the air. Jim Stone contacted me for some last minute fill in talk host work at FM 100.5 WNTA in Rockford, IL. I told him I would show up, even though the shift starts at 5am.

It happens to work out perfectly, as I have a comedy gig in Rockford tomorrow night at a venue called Franchesco’s. It’s a ‘ristorante’, so that means it’s a high class swank joint. That term along with ‘bistro’ mean the arrow points due northward on the ritzy titzy hotsy totsy hoity toity meter. If it has ‘haus’ or ‘o-rama’ in the title, it’s a dive. I‘ve learned this.

Tonight I had a gig in Kenosha, WI at a place called ‘Pavle’s Lounge’. That’s definitely not a ristorante, but it’s not a dive either. That’s a bar, and they’ve had live entertainment for as long as Pavle has been open – 22 years. He’s a Serbian guy who couldn’t be nicer.

It’s a tiny little room, but it does have a stage and maybe could fit 60 people if crammed full. Fortunately, that wasn’t an issue tonight as I think the grand total was 14. This is just not the kind of gig I want to be doing now, but I was asked nicely so I said I would do it.

There’s a huge difference between being respected and treated like a two bit whore, and the tiniest amount of respect goes a long way with most entertainers of any genre. We get bought and sold like baseball cards or used cars, and the ones doing it forget we’re people with feelings. Most of us become entertainers because we lacked respect in the first place.

I was approached for this show by a bouncer at Pavle’s who saw me at a Zanies show at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL a few months ago. He said Pavle had not done any comedy shows in a long time, and would like to start up again. We worked out a date that turned out to be tonight, and since it was a week night there wasn‘t much risk involved.

I called Russ Martin and Karl Newyear, as both are not far away and can always use the stage time. I knew they’d appreciate it, and wouldn’t waste the opportunity. I try to throw a bone to others when I can, and I like hanging out with those guys. It was an easy call.

Pavle usually doesn’t open until 9pm, so the show was scheduled for 9:30. That’s a late start for any week night show, and knowing I had to get to Rockford by 5am made it seem that much later. I wouldn’t have minded if they canceled, but they wanted to do a show.

It is what it is. Pavle was extremely grateful, and must have thanked me ten times. How can I get angry at that? It’s not his fault. It’s a hard task to fill even a small bar for a show in Kenosha on a week night. At least I felt respected, and those 14 people loved the show.

Digging Deeper Into Uranus

January 26, 2012

Wednesday January 25th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

I’m battening down the hatches, as I can tell this is going to be a hell of a year. I feel the rumblings in the distance getting closer, and at some point the deluge will begin. It has to. I’ve been putting too much out there for too long without some positives bouncing back.

I’ve paid enough dues for about six lifetimes, and now it’s time for payback. I haven’t a clue as to what it will all entail, but I know it’s on the way. I just do. I feel it. I don’t know how I know, but I do. There are going to be events in 2012 I’ve never experienced before, but in a good way. I am working day and night to make sure I’m prepared to soak it all in.

Between bookers calling, classes pending, my one man show ’Schlitz Happened’ about growing up in Milwaukee, The Mothership Connection paranormal radio show on WLIP in Kenosha, WI and trying to stay in contact with friends, I’ve got more than I can handle.

That doesn’t include ‘side projects’ like producing the DVD for James Wesley Jackson or booking a ’Pirates Of Comedy’ tour with Don Reese, Dwight York and Dan Still. It’s a chore just to list all this stuff much less keep track of it, but every bit of it is worthwhile.

And then there’s The King of Uranus. That’s the monster that’s been rumbling loudest, and I feel myself being drawn to it. It’s the culmination of everything I’ve admired in life and a mix of a lot of things from pro wrestler to charismatic evangelist to George Clinton and Sun Ra’s outer space alter egos to science fiction to just plain funny. It’s a total kick.

I think it’s more than that though. My friend Max Bumgardner called tonight out of the blue to say he was thinking about me and had the urge to call so he did. Max is one of the few people I consider a true kindred spirit, and totally gets where I am coming from. He’s always understood the ‘dented can’ concept, and is a big fan of The King of Uranus idea.

Max has very solid natural business instincts, which I admit I do not. I’m a creative type and that’s how it has always been. I’m at the mercy of the bean counters, and that’s a fact I’m not thrilled about. Max gets where I’m coming from, and called at the perfect time.

He encouraged me to get out there and DO this gimmick, and told me to only say aloud positive affirmations that I want to come true. Max is a big time student of self help like I am, and he’s right. The Law Of Attraction really does work, and I needed to re-hear that.

This whole thing is more than a gimmick. It’s the childhood I never got to have, and the way to reach more people than I ever would as a regular old run of the mill white standup comic. I’ve tried that for decades, and it hasn’t come close to working how I’d planned.

This idea goes way deeper than that. It opens me up to a whole new level of community service and bringing laughter and healing to people who really need it. I picture this to be a whole lot deeper than putting on a goofy costume and walking into places to watch how people react. That’s part of it, and its very funny, but the roots of it all are very spiritual.

Max is one of the few people who gets all this, and his call served as a lightning rod for getting me to put into words exactly what I intend to accomplish by doing this. At first the idea was just to make money, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s much deeper now.

I want to touch people’s lives and souls, not just their wallets. I want to help the hurting heal, and there are far more dented cans out there than I ever imagined. I’ve had my share of horrific breaks in life, but there are countless stories much worse than mine. They need to laugh, and they need someone who can relate to their pain to deliver it. And that’s me.

There are countless nameless and faceless standup comedians out there, but there’s only ONE King of Uranus. I’ve finally come up with something that sets me apart from all the rest – even though I’ve been ‘out there’ my whole life. This is the vehicle I have lacked.

I’m going to breathe life into this character in the next little while, but it’s been brewing since childhood. Gramps would LOVE this, and I’m not only doing it in his honor, but for the others in my family who died without ever doing anything worthwhile – like my uncle. He left this planet a lonely unfulfilled bitter horse’s ass. He missed the reason for living.

It’s all about giving and sharing and showing sincere acts of kindness. He motivated me whether he knew it or not, and ending up like him or my father scares me beyond words. I want to be known for my service to humanity, and this is going to be the way I achieve it.

If a regular old comedian came to a hospital or an orphanage or an old folks home, they may or may not be remembered five minutes after they left. I know I feel that way far too often after shows. People may laugh and have a good time, but I’m forgotten in minutes.

Who could forget The King of Uranus showing up in full costume with flames and farts and smoke and gimmicks and whatever else I can throw in? Word will get out, and it will spread like wildfire. I know human nature and entertainment enough to know I’ll get a lot of mileage out of minimal effort. Just showing up in the goofy costume will get attention.

Now it’s a matter of coming up with the back story of why I’m dressed like that and the battle plan of how to get it known to as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. It WILL get seen, and it already has shown potential for lightning fast recognition.

When it does, I want to have my priorities straight. Yes, I’m looking to get rich. I’m not denying that for a second. Money is a part of life, and it’s important. But what’s far more important is touching those who are hurting. I want to take this to places where comedy is needed most but not usually seen – like prisons or hospices. I want to make a difference.

I know it all sounds corny and sappy, but I‘m not kidding. With all the insane horror of dysfunction going on in my life from such an early age, this is finally my chance to be the kid I never got to be then. I had to grow up too fast, and missed out on much of the dumb fun kids are supposed to have. Well, this is it – and a way to reach out to others who have similar scars. Like a Patch Adams, Peace Pilgrim or Mother Theresa, this is my mission.

Regal Stupidity

January 26, 2012

Tuesday January 24th, 2012 – Waukegan, IL/Hoffman Estates, IL

Lots of running around today, but all of it productive – and long overdue. First it was off to scenic Waukegan for lunch with magician Dennis DeBondt. He ran across a guy with a bar/restaurant that has an upstairs performance space that wants to try live comedy shows.

Downtown Waukegan is not the epicenter of entertainment, but there’s no comedy at all in Lake County, IL and it wouldn’t hurt to get a few things started. Dennis is a very funny comedy magician and could easily headline comedy clubs if he wanted, but he’s also very good at the business end of things and doesn’t need to do that. He does better on his own.

He’s exactly the kind of person I need to align myself with, and I can help him too. He’s always talking to people that aren’t in my loop of contacts, and often those people ask for referrals of both comedians and magicians. It never hurts to know a source for new work.

No matter what happens in Waukegan, I’m glad I met with Dennis. He’s a professional, and I can hopefully help him in return. We looked at the room in question, and it’s doable for an occasional show. It’ll never be a full time club, but that’s not what the place wants.

After lunch it was off to work on the King of Uranus costume with Jim McHugh. I need a constant kick in Uranus to make this thing happen, and he’s been doing his job perfectly as of late. I’m the first one to admit I’m a scatterbrain, and Jim helps me to stay focused.

It has to get DONE. Period. I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m crazy, and in fact that’s the whole idea. I never denied it, and I don’t now. This is an admittedly stupid concept which perfectly fits a painfully stupid world. It lightens people up at a time when we all need it.

We saw a perfect example of it today as we went into a fabric store looking for material to make the King’s cape. Or is it a robe? I don’t know, so that’s what we went to find out. Jim bought a new video camera that’s the size of a cell phone, and followed me around in the store as we looked through fabrics and had interaction with a couple of sales people.

They were a little taken aback at first, but after a while they came around and it was fun to watch the transformation. Who’s not going to remember that the King of Uranus was at their store? It was great practice on many levels. We filmed a scene, bought the fabric and Jim’s mother has a friend who is a whiz of a seamstress and she’ll construct the costume.

That will be more fodder for recording. Gradually, we’ll come up with the character out of trial and error and the reactions we get will dictate what stays and what goes. This is an absolute blast, and I don’t care who tells me it’s stupid. It IS stupid – that’s why it works.

I really do have passion about this project, and I need others like Jim to keep harping on me to just DO it. There will never be a better time than now, and action is the main key to success at anything. The only failure possible with this concept is not taking my best shot, but days like this make that fear shrink like testicles in cold weather. Prepare for a King!

 

American Storage Pawn Picker War Stars

January 24, 2012

Monday January 23rd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

I haphazardly gulp from life’s cup of shame like a thirsty dog laps from a toilet. I should be a millionaire by now, and the one and only idiot to blame for why I’m not gawks at me in the mirror every day. I’ve had chances, and so far I have blown every one. It haunts me.

Nothing reminds me of it more than this recent glut of all the ‘treasure hunt’ TV shows.  ’Pawn Stars’, ’Storage Wars’, ‘American Pickers’ and all their various imitators show me just how close I was to hitting pay dirt. It was right in front of me, and I flat out missed it.

What more of an ideal situation could a person ask for than to be constantly on the road for twenty-five years with 23 hours of free time a day to do nothing but hunt for treasures, make connections all over North America and wheel and deal? I was tailor made for this.

I have always had an eye for collectibles, even as a kid. I remember going to sports card shows in Milwaukee back before they were popular everywhere. I would take the city bus across town to a place called Federation Hall when I was maybe 12 or 13, and come back with as many old baseball cards as I could buy with whatever stash of money I had saved.

They used to have auctions for old cards, and I was right in there bidding toe to toe with grown men many years older than me. Many would ask why I was bidding on those cards when they weren’t from my era, but I just knew they would be worth money in the future.

I ended up selling most of them in my early twenties when I really needed money, and it came in super handy at the time. I did make a healthy profit, but had I really been smart to wait until the peak years of the mid ‘90s I’d have made ten times what I did. I missed out.

Still, I bought and sold sports card collections for years after that. I loved the process of hunting the source, making the deal and reselling it all. Sometimes I lost money, but more often than not I was able to do pretty well. There are a lot of universal steps that go along with any collectible genre, not just sports cards. Had I been smart, I could have hit it big.

Collectibles and antiques are all about knowledge. The objective is to buy items from a seller that doesn’t know where to get as much as you can. That’s the whole concept of all these TV shows, and it’s exactly what I was doing as I was wheeling and dealing cards.

What if I would have gotten to know antique dealers and collectors in all the towns I’ve been going back and forth to all these years? WOW. It boggles the mind how many deals I could have been part of and how many great adventures I missed out on. Sure, I did buy and sell a few random baubles and trinkets along the way, but nothing to break the bank.

Now, after seeing these shows everywhere it’s going to be next to impossible to troll up anything of real value for any kind of bargain. Every seller is now going to jack up prices beyond belief, thinking they’ve got the Holy Grail. I wouldn’t think of starting now, but if I had years ago I’d have probably hit my mother lode by now. I missed the boat. How sad.

The Reality Of Perception

January 23, 2012

Sunday January 22nd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

There’s a very interesting video on the internet about a world class violinist by the name of Joshua Bell who played a very difficult piece of music on a super expensive violin that was worth $3.5 million in a train station in New York. No passers by recognized him. He got $31 in donations in an hour‘s playing, while tickets to his shows average $100 each.

I remember seeing the video when it first came out, but someone sent it to me again this week and I was reminded of how important perception is – especially in the entertainment game. Talent has never mattered, and the video drove that point home hard. It’s not that a talented person will never make it, it’s just that talent is not the one and only requirement.

It’s not just about talent either. Joe Paterno of Penn State died today of lung cancer, and his perception was that of being revered for decades as a pillar of virtue and a worthy role model for his players to emulate. When the scandal broke about long time assistant coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly having sex with boys on campus, Paterno’s image was stained.

By all I’ve read and heard, JoePa did absolutely nothing to protect the victims of one of the most horrific crimes I can imagine. Even though he eventually got fired as a coach, he still had the blind worship and support of a large number of football fans in Pennsylvania.

They couldn’t imagine getting rid of the living legend, even if what he did was about as wrong as it gets. He was perceived as an icon, and the truth didn’t matter. There are other examples too numerous to count, as well as hypothetical situations. What if someone like Hitler or Bin Laden had helped little old ladies across the street? Would it redeem them?

Of course not. Their perception was that of being evil, and deservedly so. They had way too much bad energy attached to their names to let one little good thing sway the opinion in the other direction. Reputation can go a long way in how the public views somebody.

Brett Favre is a shining example of how someone’s public perception can change from icon to ex con in a short period of time. He was the king of Wisconsin for at least a dozen years, and when he left his fans were up in arms. Then, when he pulled his little Viqueens stunt, he turned to the dark side faster than Darth Vader’s cape. His perception changed.

Perception isn’t always reality, but it might as well be. Ozzy Osbourne may have bitten the head off of a bat, and maybe he didn’t. Does it matter? Everyone has heard that story. Did Richard Gere and a gerbil ever hook up for a well publicized weekend rendezvous?

Again, it’s not important if it actually happened or not. A lot of people THINK it did, so that’s all that’s necessary. That gerbil could pass a lie detector test and it wouldn’t change a thing in the public’s mind. The perception is there that it happened, good luck changing that. I was thinking today about what my perception is, and I’m not really sure. I hope I’m perceived as a good person, and I try to be one. Unfortunately, that’s not all that important as far as business goes. ‘Nice’ won’t get a person paid. It’s the ability to sell some tickets.

A Fifty Mile Radius

January 23, 2012

Saturday January 21st, 2012 – Elkhorn, WI

I think my ‘closer to home’ theory is finally starting to pay off. Tonight I did a show at a country club in Elkhorn, WI and my round trip total was 72 miles. What a delightful night of ‘work’ it was to be able to leave my house at 7:30 for an 8:30 show, and be back by 11.

This is exactly what I had in mind when I came up with this plan, and now that I’m able to see results it makes me want to dig in and do it more. Who needs grueling twelve hour  drives each way on a weekly basis to prove I’m in show biz? I prefer it this way, thanks.

There were a lot more positives with this gig than being out there aimlessly wandering the earth like Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu. It was easy, low pressure and I had a chance to earn my weekly nut in less than four hours. If I could do that every week, life is sweet.

I didn’t make great money, but it wasn’t horrible either. Considering how much actual effort I had to put out to get it, I’ll shut my mouth and say thanks. I might have been able to score more gross pay for a weekend or week long booking, but after expenses I’d be at right around what I ended up taking home. Not having the long drive was like a vacation.

This particular place is being booked by another comedian who is kind enough to think of me whenever these kinds of random shows come up. I wouldn’t consider going behind his back to try and book things myself, even though not everyone else operates that way.

I’m very respectful of territorial rights when it comes to situations like this, and he ends up calling me more often than not anyway so we all win. He charged a small but very fair commission for recommending me, and I gladly paid it. The show went well as I was sure it would, and the guy in charge said I’d be back. I was paid and in my car without issue.

How many other places like this are there within a 50 mile radius of my house? I would think there are enough to keep me working at least a couple of times each month were I to want to do that. Last week I was in Wauconda, IL which is even closer. Again, the money wasn’t stellar, but it didn’t totally suck canal water either. The closeness makes up for it.

I know I may be getting spoiled these last two weeks, but I believe I deserve it. Way too often I’ve had to drive hundreds of hard lonely miles to stand in front of far less people or far less friendly or sober people. Nobody was drunk tonight, and they were good laughers.

There are all kinds of people within a fifty mile radius of where I am. Zanies in Chicago is just about fifty miles exactly from door to door, and downtown Milwaukee is a little bit less. Rockford is maybe a little farther, as is Madison. Still, there are a lot of people living in that circle who would love what I do and I’m bound and determined to find all of them.

Even if I expanded it to an even 100 miles, that’s still a lot of potential. I bet if I worked only that specific territory boundary alone, I could earn a respectable living and still sleep in my own bed every night. Next week I’ve got three gigs close to home. I’m loving this.

Scoring With Boring

January 21, 2012

Friday January 20th, 2012 – Gurnee, IL

No rest for the wicked. Up and at ’em. I signed myself up for another network meet and greet breakfast this morning, and it started at 7:30 at the Golden Corral in Gurnee, IL. I’ve never been a morning person, even when I worked in morning radio, but that’s too bad for me. It’s smart business to crawl out of the rack, scrub myself up and make some contacts.

Today’s group was the Lake County Chamber of Commerce, and I heard about it earlier in the week from my contact Jayne Nordstrom at Visit Lake County – formerly The Lake County Convention And Visitor’s Bureau. She’s been a total pleasure to work with since I became a member, and continues to come through again and again. She’s in my corner.

Making contacts in my own back yard can never hurt. For the price of breakfast I’d buy  anyway, I get a chance to cross paths with others who all have the entrepreneurial mindset I’m trying to develop. If nothing else, not many of these people had ever met a comedian. I could feel ears perk up when I introduced myself, and everyone was friendly and warm.

On Wednesday, I had a couple of inquiries from people who wanted to know if I would be available for a company function. Today, I had five more. Bingo! That doesn’t mean a single one of those gigs will ever happen, but how many other comedians were dressed up or up at all at 7:30am mingling with a room full of business owners? Not many, I’d guess.

ONE measly little gig out of all of this will pay my yearly membership dues, and that’s a solid bet in my book. I felt quality energy both times this week, and will seek out more of these events to attend in the future. All I need is to hit one valuable contact to win big.

After breakfast I stopped at the Gurnee Mills Mall to continue my daily exercise string. I’ve been on a roll lately, and not only have I not missed any days, I’ve been walking a lot farther than I ever have. Today I put in four complete laps, and I think that’s a first. Most people have much higher goals, but to me four laps in the mall felt like Olympic victory.

I don’t know exactly how far that is, but I would guess it’s probably at least two miles if not more per lap. That’s a big place, and there are a lot of twists and turns to put at least a little variety in my route. I’m soaked by the time I finish, and I feel comfortable enough to immerse myself in thought as I exercise. I find it simultaneously relaxing and energizing.

What a boring slug I am, but these stupid little things really do excite me. Getting up to put in an appearance at the networking meeting really made me feel like I’d accomplished something worthy of calling it a successful day. Then, getting in four laps in the mall took it over the edge. I’m on a thrill spree. What’s next, cleaning out the lint trap in the dryer?

I know I’m a flaming bore, but that’s who I am. Doing a pound of cocaine or skydiving doesn’t tempt me in the least. Walking in a mall and meeting strangers at a restaurant put me in a great mood. Am I nuts? I’m afraid so, but it could be worse. I could be Belushi or Kinison or someone else who’s DEAD. I‘m dull, but I‘m alive. Today was a lot of fun.