Squirming In The Breeze

Sunday April 1st, 2012 – Chicago, IL

    Another April Fool’s Day, and this year the joke is squarely on me. I’m the sap who happened to land the starring role of the fool, and I do not enjoy it. I have painted myself into a corner right now, and am caught at a crossroads of an incredibly unenviable inconvenient professional pickle.

I seem to have a rapidly expanding number of comedy club bookers in the Midwest region who are choosing not to book me ever again under any circumstances directly because of something I wrote over a year ago concerning yet another booker in their inner circle who died unexpectedly.

I had no idea my little daily chicken scratching could have that kind of impact on anybody, but it evidently did. It surprises me on multiple levels. One, I only do this as a daily discipline to help keep my writing muscles warm. I don’t even consider myself to be a writer. It’s just an exercise.

Two, what I wrote wasn’t meant to be a slam on the guy. It honestly wasn’t. I try to maintain a consistent policy of not naming names when a situation is ugly, but freely naming people on any other occasion – especially when I’m fond of someone. Quite often, I write very positive things.

Unfortunately, there are less than stellar times when events or people in my life don’t match up to my liking, and I’ll write about everything – warts and all. Who doesn’t have problems? I know not everyone airs theirs out as freely as I do, but nobody ever has to read it. I just put it out there.

IF someone happens to read it, fine. If not, that’s fine too. I’d still do it anyway, if only for the discipline of the daily writing exercise. Also, I hope it helps a few younger comedians or dented cans in general cope with their own situations of personal hell a little better. I can feel for them.

Life is rarely easy for anyone, but especially not for a dented can. Most of us have had to really struggle to get anything we’ve ever gotten, and our social skills and tact aren’t always the best. It has never been my nature to pussyfoot or sugar coat difficult situations. I tend to say what I feel.

That can have catastrophic results, and often has. I’ve managed to alienate my siblings for what looks like will be the rest of our natural lives, and have had more than a few clashes with comedy club bookers and radio program directors I didn’t respect. In my mind, the reasons for most if not all of these conflicts have been completely legit. And the times I was wrong, I freely admitted it.

Contrary to what a lot of my detractors think, I never thought I was better than anyone or that I never make a mistake. That’s stupid. Of course I make mistakes, but I have an amazing ability to cause those who don’t care for me to completely turn their backs and let me squirm in the breeze.

That’s where I find myself now. Not with everyone, but with a cluster of places in the Midwest that would be very convenient for me to work. They would be nicer clubs in larger towns that are easily accessible to where I live. It would provide steady income and allow me to keep polishing my other projects like The Mothership Connection and The King of Uranus. I would love to just open my calendar and be able fill it with as much well paying quality work as I want. But I can’t.

I used to be able to easily get by every year, but it’s getting a lot tougher. I had a steady supply of bookers who would call and ask me to open my calendar and show up whenever I could find a week that was open. That’s a nice luxury, and I always appreciated it. For a long time, I could’ve worked solid for almost every week of the year if I chose to – and more often than not I chose to.

I really do enjoy doing comedy, and I always thought it was a better choice to take a gig rather than have a week off even if the pay was less than stellar. Some gigs paid better than others, but I rarely had a week off due to lack of opportunities. If I wanted to work, I could always find a gig.

That’s not always the case anymore, and I’m not the only one who’s noticing. I talk to all kinds of my comedian friends who are experiencing a similar drought, and they look at me like I’m the busy one. Yes, I still do get work but I’m not thrilled about this latest situation. It’s bad business.

Indirectly, it shouldn’t concern me at all. None of the people who are apparently SO upset with me have ever booked me for an actual paid gig. Not a single one. Ever. I’ve done a couple of free guest sets for them as I’ve passed through their towns over the years, but never once has it gotten me a booking. It’s a numbers game, and I’ve never been one of their favorites. That’s how it is.

There are places where I am one of the favorites, and that’s a different story. I get a lion’s share of the work, and my name is at the top of mind awareness for those bookers. Unfortunately, most of those bookers only book one or two venues. The people I’ve pissed off have a chain of clubs.

It’s an eerily similar situation in radio. Bob and Tom are on in over 200 markets, but they can’t stand me and in fact physically threw me out of their studio for reasons I still have never figured out. Something I said infuriated them, and in their minds I’m the devil and always will be for the rest of recorded history – and then about 2000 years after that. They have the power, and I don’t.

On the other hand, ‘Stone And Double T’ on ‘The X’ in Rockford, IL absolutely love me. They call me every Monday and let me riff on their morning show about pretty much any topic I might want to go off on, within reason. If those guys had Bob and Tom’s gig, I would be nation wide.

But they don’t. And I’m still persona non grata with Bob and Tom several years later and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it. I tried saying I was sorry, but they wouldn’t even answer me as human beings. They don’t need me, and that’s a sad fact. Welcome to the reality of showbiz.

The comedy club chain that’s upset with me doesn’t need me either unfortunately. It would be unbelievably convenient to do a run through all their clubs in the next six months and be able to pull in some decent coin and pay off all my bills and get a war chest going. But that just won’t be happening anytime soon – at least on this cosmic plane. They have told me I am NOT welcome.

Will it kill me? Not at all. I already don’t work for them, but I don’t want to be a leper for such a minor offense. Bob and Tom shut me out for life, and now these bookers are doing it. All I ever wanted was to make people laugh, and go home. Politics are a big part of it all, and I stink at it.


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