Archive for August, 2012

Comedy Casualties

August 31, 2012

Thursday August 30th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   There’s sad news all over the place in the comedy world this week. I was stunned today to hear of the passing of ‘Wild Bill’ Bauer, a pillar of the Minneapolis comedy scene and someone I was extremely fond of. Our paths crossed years ago, and we stayed in touch. This is really a downer.

Bill was one of the few comedians who would just call to say hello. That’s very rare for several reasons. Most comedians are constantly trying to lock down future bookings, and having to be on the phone is a necessary evil. I’ve never been a phone person, and sometimes I’ll not even turn it on for several days because 99% of the calls that come in are leeches looking to suck out a favor.

Wild Bill Bauer was never one of those people. He would call to find out what was going on in the Chicago or Milwaukee scene, and compare notes with what was going on in Minneapolis. He was also a fan of ‘The Mothership Connection’ radio show as was his wife and we’d often take a detour in that direction. He was just a laid back nice person, and I always enjoyed our exchanges.

Only a few years ago, Bill booked me for a really fun New Year’s Eve gig in Eau Claire, WI. It was very nice of him to do that, and he told me I could work for him any time I wanted. He had a list of favorites he liked to work with, and I was quite honored to be on it. He treated me great.

Unfortunately, I never got to see his act in person. We often would laugh about that, but we met in Indianapolis years ago in a situation when I was coming and he was leaving and we ended up having lunch with several other comics. Bill was a big Bob and Tom radio show favorite, and they had him stay over an extra day so they could have him on their show. I’m glad it happened.

It’s always been a random process of how comedians cross paths, and although most of us who are road comics have at least heard each other’s names there are no guarantees we’ll ever meet each other in person. Bill and I crossed paths by chance, and remained friends for twenty years.

Earlier in the week, a Milwaukee comedian named Byron Beck also passed away. I’d heard he was only 41 years old, and that makes it even sadder. I didn’t know Byron all that well, but I did cross paths with him a few times and he was always polite and friendly. He ran a showcase in the Milwaukee area, and I worked it a couple of times. It was a surprise, as I never knew he was ill.

On top of all that, a very talented Chicago comedy magician named Ken Mate had a stroke not long ago, and that shocked everyone who knew him. He wasn’t a smoker or out of shape and had no prior history of health problems. I got to know Ken through my booker friend Marc Schultz and had several lunches with him through the years. He’s a big time student of his craft just like I am.

According to Marc, Ken is out of the hospital but nobody knows the extent of his injuries. He’s a very good guy, and hearing of this combined with the passings of Bill and Byron really disturbs me and again makes me question the existence of God. How come filthy scumbags like Charles Manson and Fidel Castro and so many others get to live long healthy lives but comedians who help make life better for those who really need it drop like flies? I just can’t understand the logic.

A Pleasurable Pickle

August 30, 2012

Wednesday August 29th, 2012 – Burlington, WI

How does one decide on just one flavor at Baskin Robbins or just one hottie to approach at the Playboy mansion? Maybe other people can, but I can’t. I might not like them all, but I sure enjoy more than one. What fun is life if one can’t explore all of it? It’s exciting, but also excruciating.

   I’m finding myself stuck in the same old situation I’ve been in for years, and I don’t know how to change it. It’s a problem on one hand, but pure pleasure on the other. What a productive pickle to be in – and that’s why it’s so difficult. I love all that I’m doing, but there’s too much going on.

If I could find it in my inner wiring to focus on just one of my backlog of projects, I’d probably have had some significant success by now. I’ve done alright in several areas, but haven’t had that big grand slam home run that everyone dreams about. Could it still happen? I do believe it could.

The problem is I’m not exactly sure which one of my list of projects is the right one to go after. I love them all, and if I would pick just one I’d feel bad about neglecting the others. I feel it now. I enjoy the constant stimulation of having a lot of things going at once, but it’s hard to maintain.

I work all the time and I love it, but I do admit my organization skills could stand a significant upgrade. I need to make a master plan, then cut it up into smaller ones and pay closer attention to details like time, money and building a team around me. Did a one man band ever hit the charts?

If one did – and I can’t think of any – it was the exception rather than the rule. The Colonel was part of Elvis’s team and Brian Epstein was integral in the rise of The Beatles. When he died, they went off in four opposite directions and I have to believe that was the beginning of their demise.

But then there are the Rolling Stones. I’ve read that Mick Jagger has served as their business manager for decades, and they seem to have done rather well. They focused on one thing though, and that’s being a rock and roll band. They put on concerts and made recordings, and did it well.

Mick Jagger didn’t host a paranormal talk show he didn’t get paid for and teach classes on how to be a rock star. He was too busy BEING one himself. I get that, but it doesn’t change the actual fact I absolutely love each and every one of my projects. When I’m doing them, they’re all great.

Being on stage performing standup comedy when everything is going well is still the purest fun and energy rush I have ever experienced. I’ve always loved it, and always will. I’m not very fond of the offstage insanity, but once I’m up there everything else fades and that becomes my focus.

But I also love to teach classes, be on the radio, wheel and deal sports cards, read books, watch movies, hang out with friends, watch sports, spend time with women – in other words have a well balanced life. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough time to get to everything I want to explore.

Today I had lunch at the Sci’Fi Café in Burlington, WI. Mary Sutherland and I discussed a plan on how to promote her upcoming conference on the radio. Productive? A little. Fun? Absolutely.

Binder Finder

August 30, 2012

Tuesday August 28th, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI

   Just when I think I’m finally getting myself organized and putting a plan together, along comes an unforeseen glitch to throw everything off course. Isn’t that just about how life works for us all to a certain degree? It’s not about the glitches, but how we react that determines our successes.

I received a phone call way too early this morning informing me I had left my three ring binder of comedy notes at the restaurant in Milwaukee where I met up with my cousin Wendy yesterday for breakfast. I brought it because I thought I was early, but it turned out she was already there.

I’ve been putting a lot of work into those notes of late, and didn’t want to risk losing them so I made sure my phone number and email were printed prominently in several places so I’d get that call if indeed I did happen to get separated from the binder – which is exactly what happened.

I was smart in making up the binder so I could work on my comedy whenever I had any down time, but scatterbrained enough to leave it behind at a restaurant. Yin, meet yang. That’s how life goes. I was grateful for the call, even though I was rather disappointed at my own lack of focus.

The last thing I’d planned on was a trip back to Milwaukee, but I wanted to retrieve those notes before anything happened to them. I’m sure cousin Wendy would have gladly picked them up for me, but I chose to get them myself and make up for my blunder. It was my fault, nobody else’s.

It was a beautiful day, and I chose to not let my little goof ruin it. It could have been worse as I could have not had any identification at all and never gotten the call. Earlier this year I lost my one and only booking calendar packed with important contacts which I still haven’t gotten back.

When I walked into the restaurant, there was a whole different crew than yesterday and it took them several minutes to track down the binder. I’ll admit I panicked a bit, but then somebody found it and all was well with the world. I thanked them all and walked out with a relieved smile.

Since I was already in town, I made the best of it by clearing up another glitch from yesterday that was bothering me all day. Drew Olson and I had lunch at Jake’s Deli on North Avenue and it occurred to me after we left that we didn’t tip the lady who served us. It was an honest mistake, but I don’t like to do that and I felt like an ass about it all the way home. It was totally my fault.

I decided to again take charge of the situation and go back to Jake’s and see if she happened to be working. She was, and remembered me from yesterday. I sincerely apologized and put a $5 bill in her hand. Her eyes lit up like Santa brought more toys December 26th. I’m so glad I did it.

After that I called my friend Kipper McGee to see if he was in town and had time for lunch. Kipper has always been a great friend and loyal supporter, and I felt I owed him. He was indeed in town and available and was glad I called. I didn’t want anything other than to show my sincere appreciation for all the favors he’s thrown my way over the years. For a seemingly blown day, I was able to spread some good energy. Life really is about how we react to unplanned situations.

Live Rounds

August 29, 2012

Monday August 27th, 2012 – Milwaukee, WI

   Living where I do puts me right in the middle between Milwaukee and Chicago, and it’s almost exactly equal in distance to the mile to get to downtown in either city. I have friends and contacts to maintain in both places, so no matter which direction I need to go I’m already halfway there.

Today it was north to Milwaukee to rattle the cages of a few of my favorite people. It’s good to maintain contacts, but gas prices have made it necessary to squeeze as many meetings as possible into each trip these days. I used to be able to shoot back and forth on a whim, but not any longer.

It’s a minor inconvenience, but not the end of the world. It just makes me have to plan my trips more, and that’s actually a good thing. It makes the most productive use of my time and gives me a goal and a deadline – two of the most important ingredients of getting any task accomplished.

My first stop was breakfast with my cousin Wendy. She’s one of a precious few relatives I can think of that aren’t from the dark side of The Force. Her father and my grandfather were brothers so that makes us second cousins. She’s a total sweetheart and completely down to earth, and does what she can to not only make the best of her situation but make life better for those around her.

She’s a great mom and now grandma, and one of the few people I can talk to about how totally insane our family situation was and is. I know we’re not the only ones in history to have endured family craziness, but ours is a special kind of warped. We’re both trying to let it go and move on.

After that it was a meeting with my friend Lynn Miner. Lynn is a fantastic person, and we help each other on many levels. He’s a master magician, and took one of my very first comedy classes in 1994 to punch up his magic act. We hit it off immediately and have remained in contact since.

Lynn was also formerly in a high position at Marquette University, and is now one of the very top grant seekers in America. He travels the globe giving lectures on how to get funds, and is the author of several bestselling books on the subject. Lynn doesn’t fool around. He’s the real deal.

We always have productive brainstorm sessions, and today’s was no different. He comes to my situation with logical input and I put a little craziness and excitement into his. It’s a perfect fit for our natural tendencies, and we always come away with a fresh perspective on what we’re doing.

After that it was a lunch with my old friend Drew Olson from 540 ESPN Milwaukee radio. It’s been way too long since we hung out, and he’s another one I can safely exchange new ideas with on a mutually beneficial basis. We’ve been able to help each other quite a bit through the years.

I also met up with Russ Martin to scout out potential locations for both regular comedy shows and ‘Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst.’ That’s another win/win if we can find a place to do it on a consistent basis. It has to be the right fit for everyone, and that’s the reason I made the drive. I wanted to get a feel for each place, and the only way to do that is show up in person. Since I was in town I thought it would be wise to make some rounds. And it was.

Rewarding Radio

August 29, 2012

Sunday August 26th, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   It’s taken more than four years, but I’m starting to really feel The Mothership Connection radio show on AM 1050 in Kenosha, WI take shape. We had another super solid show tonight, and the vibe is getting stronger every week. This is the right team, and it feels like the right time as well.

When the show started, we were on for two hours on Sunday afternoons. I still can’t believe we did that, but that’s when the station had an opening. I think it was from 2-4pm, and it wasn’t easy to fill those two hours as I recall. There were plenty of rough patches, but we stumbled through.

My partners then were Jimmy Novack who is now part of the ‘Jimmy and Jen’ morning show on sister station 102.3 WXLC in Waukegan, IL and Stu James who works at 95.1 WIIL which is literally in the next room from WLIP. He’s the promotions director and a solid air talent as well.

We had a lot of fun for a few months, but life got in the way and eventually both of those guys had to move on and make a living. Stu’s commitment to WIIL took too many hours and he didn’t want to tie up his only day off working for free at the smaller sister station. I totally understood.

Jimmy needed a gig, and the full time morning show came up at WXLC so I didn’t blame him either. I would have done the same thing, and there weren’t any harsh words exchanged by any of us. That’s how the radio game works, but I wanted to keep the show going so I stayed with it.

We evolved from an afternoon show to an evening show, and that was absolutely necessary. It just isn’t spooky talking about werewolves and ghost encounters when the sun is up. Moving into the evening slot needed to happen, but I still was very shaky as a host and two hours felt like two months on certain nights. It took a lot of effort to stay with it through the rough spots, but I did.

Several people have come and gone through the years, but that’s to be expected on a small show on a small town station. No offense to anyone, but it is what it is. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to do the show, because it totally is. That’s the main ingredient that kept us all coming back.

Now I feel it’s time to make a run for some money. Fun is great, and I love to grab as much of it as is my legal limit, but that doesn’t pay any bills. We took fun as far as possible, now it’s time to get paid. I think I’ve definitely earned it. The show has evolved from two hours of hoping we could fill the time to four hours of solid programming where we can’t fit everything into the mix.

What a fantastic problem that is. We have to work hard to squeeze everything we can in each week but we still have plenty left over. I’ve grown to become a much better talk show host, and my partner Greg DeGuire has a geek quotient that’s off the charts. That’s a very good thing, and he is THE perfect co-host for a show like this. After years of trial and error, it’s coming together.

That’s exciting, and I really feel a positive energy brewing with people who are associated with the show frequently like Mary Marshall, David Lee Hendrickson, Karen Uchima and quite a few others. I feel like the conductor of a big band, and we’re finally starting to put out quality music.

A New Fan In New Hampshire

August 29, 2012

Saturday August 25th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   One aspect of being an entertainer that’s rarely discussed is how a performer should handle fan interaction. This is something everyone who makes a living on stage will have to deal with at one time or another and probably a lot more than that – but I’ve seen it mangled time and time again.

I’ve always chosen to look at approaching fans as customers, and treat them accordingly. I was the one who chose to be an entertainer, and I knew going in that this was part of the game. It’s an extension of the stage, and if someone makes an effort to approach me I won’t chase them away.

I would have to say from my experience probably 90% or higher of people who make an effort to come up to me after a show or anywhere else have something to say that they at least intended to be positive when it left their tongue. It doesn’t always come off that way, but I have thick skin.

A lot of times someone will say something like “I didn’t think you were going to be that funny when you first got up there” or something similar. They don’t mean anything bad when they say it, and depending on the situation I’ll try to play off whatever they say and make a joke out of it.

It’s very easy to make or lose a fan for life in a one on one situation, and I’ve seen quite a few performers really blow it. They come off extremely cocky, or they won’t pose for a quick picture or sign an autograph. I’m sorry, but that goes with the territory. I think it should be an automatic.

Granted, there is that 5-10% who are a tad unstable but I’ve learned over time they’re not at all difficult to deal with if they’re just acknowledged as being alive. Asking them a simple question like their name or where they’re from usually makes them feel important, and they mellow out.

There are the scary stalker/felon types, but fortunately I’ve never reached the level of having to be taken back to my hotel via police escort. I’m sure that’s a special kind of scary, but that’s not the kind of fame I’m talking about. I’m talking about your regular old professional entertainer of all genres and all levels below Michael Jackson or Elvis level fame. That’s a whole other issue.

Another issue is the actual situation when the fan approaches. If it’s after a show, that’s not out of line in my opinion. In a restaurant, that’s where I’ve seen people flip out. Someone will go up to an entertainer and ask for an autograph and the performer will shoot back something nasty and then not do it. I think this is a huge mistake. How much effort is required to sign an autograph?

I bring this up because today I received a very nice email from a fan in New Hampshire who’d heard a clip of me on Sirius/XM radio and wanted to tell me he thought I was hilarious. He made the effort to look me up on the internet and send me an email. The least I could do was thank him for his time, but I always want to do more than the least I can do. That extra mile is so important.

I got his address and sent him a CD as my gift. I personalized a signature to him, and told him I would gladly get him tickets should I play New Hampshire any time soon. And if I do, I sure will follow up on my promise. I might not be world famous yet, but I try to collect fans one at a time.

J. Medicine Hat

August 25, 2012

Friday August 24th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I was unpleasantly surprised to learn of a fellow performer’s untimely passing today. His name is Jent Monk, but he was better known for years as a hypnotist by his stage name of ‘J. Medicine Hat.’ I always thought that was a kick ass stage name, and he carved a profitable niche with it.

He was originally from Iowa and we first worked together in October of 1988 in Kalamazoo at the Hilton Comedy Club. I know it was October of 1988, because the World Series was going on and Jent and I went to watch it after our show. It was the game where Kirk Gibson hit his classic home run off Dennis Eckersley to win the game in the bottom of the 9th inning. It was a classic.

For some inexplicable reason, right before the pitch on which Gibson would hit the home run a hushed moment of silence fell over the sports bar where we were watching it. I turned to Jent and said out loud “He’s going to hit it out right here.” Sure enough, two seconds later he did just that.

Jent and everyone else looked at me with quizzical eyes as Gibson was rounding the bases with a pronounced limp, and I just shrugged my shoulders. I have no idea why I knew he was going to hit it out right then, but I totally did. It’s a moment that’s still very vivid in my mind even now.

We crossed paths a few more times after that on the comedy trail, and we’d always refer to that moment because it was just so memorable it was difficult not to. I won’t lie and say we hung out all the time and were close friends, but every time we crossed paths we got along extremely well.

Part of the comedy business that I’ve always enjoyed is the meeting of a wide variety of others from all over the place. It’s a random process, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Sometimes it occurs that two comedians will be matched up one time and one time only. I’ve had a number of those pairings, and so has everyone else who works the road. It’s strictly a luck of the draw deal.

Sometimes people click, and other times they clash. Very rarely have I clashed with comedians on the road. I’m about as easygoing as it gets, and I don’t bother anyone. If they want to hang out with me, fine. If not, that’s fine too. I never push myself on anyone, and have rarely had an issue.

Bookers and club owners are a little different, but that’s not the focus here. I’m speaking about comic on comic matchups, and how random they are. There are other comics I’ve been matched up with several times in various locations all across America. Like I said, there’s no set pattern.

That being said, there’s no official way to keep in contact with everyone. Facebook makes it a lot easier now, but back when I started there was no way to keep in touch with everybody I made contact with on the road. Most times we’d exchange phone numbers, but that’s about as far as it ever went. That’s no disrespect to anyone, we were all out on the road trying to make our living.

Many snob comics look down upon anybody who uses props or is a ventriloquist or hypnotist because they think it’s a cheap gimmick. All of those things done well require talent and ability, and Jent really did it well from what I hear. I’m sorry to hear of his passing and send him peace.

Flaming Heaps Of Donkey Poo

August 25, 2012

Thursday August 23rd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I wish I had some kind of an idea if I’ve touched anyone in a positive way. I really don’t know. I sure do intend to, but then I’ll piss someone off unintentionally and it seems like I’m on a black list for life. I’ve never claimed to be perfect, but I don’t think my crimes deserve the punishment.

My sister and I had a falling out going on twenty years now, and she has not spoken to me even one time since. Granted, I said I never wanted to talk to her again but that was in the moment and I didn’t really mean it. I’ve tried at least a dozen times to apologize and take the blame, but she is not hearing of it. At this point, any brother/sister relationship has been permanently amputated.

The Bob and Tom radio show is another sore spot. I still don’t know what I did to piss them off to the point of physically removing me from the studio and firing me from their comedy tour, but apparently I did and my name is still mud in their eyes and that happened several years ago now.

Again, I tried to apologize to them as well but they wouldn’t hear of it and I’ve heard some not too friendly comments about me attributed to them through the grapevine that I can’t confirm but find to be totally unnecessary. I did nothing to provoke them, but apparently they can’t stand me.

I think that’s a little harsh in my opinion, and I tried to make it right but they wouldn’t accept a sincere apology and that’s how it is. It’s not like I went in there trying to do anything but do what they told me to do. I was asked to tell a story that was published in a book called “I Killed” – and that’s exactly what I did. When I finished, everyone was fuming and I was tossed out on my ear.

Then there’s the situation with the Funny Bone chain that’s yet another flaming heap of donkey poo. I’ve managed to thoroughly infuriate a significant faction of their booking people over some opinions I voiced when a club owner passed away a while back. Had they read what I wrote they would have seen that I was pointing the finger of blame squarely at myself – but alas they didn’t.

Word got out that I was the devil, and I am now banned for the rest of eternity from any Funny Bone club in the solar system apparently. Again, I tried to make it right and explain what I wrote but nobody would hear of it. And when I asked if any of those who banned me had actually read my posting they all said the same thing, “I didn’t HAVE to read it – I heard about it.” Whatever.

This is how life works, but it’s worse in the entertainment business. Pettiness abounds, and I’ve never enjoyed playing stupid grade school games. That’s a major reason why I’m not farther than I probably should be, but it’s a problem because being an ass kisser just isn’t part of my makeup.

Popeye said it best – “I yam what I yam.” I have a long list of nice people I’m very fond of and consider friends, but those few things like this that have gone wrong suck out my positive energy and it leaves me feeling I’ve never done anything to touch anyone positively. It drains my tank.

I realize I can be a total dingle berry when I want to be, but we all can. None of these examples were results I intended. I said I was sorry, and I was. I still am, but I guess it’s not good enough.

Good Vibrations

August 24, 2012

Wednesday August 22nd, 2012 – Burlington, WI/Milwaukee, WI

   Life is a continuous series of ups and downs, and the ups are the times to relish and enjoy. I’ve had more than my share of downs and undoubtedly more are on the way, but that’s not the focus right now. I can feel a definite upswing coming in my life, and I’m delighted. I am SO prepared.

One thing that’s really starting to find a groove is The Mothership Connection radio show. I’ve tinkered with it for years and been able to devote varying degrees of energy into it, but it’s really starting to come together. I’m getting fabulous guests on a consistent basis, and am plugging and replugging into sources of positive energy that just feel right. This is how I pictured it all along.

Today I had lunch at the Sci’Fi Café in Burlington, WI with Lou Rugani from WLIP. I’ve been a fan of that place since I first visited it when the show started in 2008 but I’m ashamed that I’ve never been back. I’ve had full intention to return, but the time was just never right – until today.

Mary Sutherland and her husband Brad have been having an annual October event called “The Burlington Vortex Conference” where they bring in speakers from the UFO field since 2008. It’s an outstanding event, and I really enjoyed it when I attended that first year. For whatever reason, we never connected after that and I can’t explain why. There was never a falling out or anything.

Today we reconnected, and I’m thrilled. Their 2012 conference is going to be the last weekend in October and they’ve got another stellar lineup of speakers. More information about the event’s details are at www.burlingtonnews.net/conference and I plan on plugging it on the air as the date gets closer. This will be an absolute win/win for all of us, and it felt right as soon as I walked in.

I don’t know why life works the way it does, but I truly believe vibe has a lot to do with it. I’ve been learning a lot from hosting the radio show, and I’m still sorting all of it out. I don’t claim to have any concrete answers to anything, but my mind has surely been opened up to new concepts.

Sending out a vibe is definitely one of those concepts. A lot of sources mention it from religion to astrology to numerology to self help books like ‘The Secret’ or ‘The Power Of Believing’ that Phyllis Diller claimed to have changed her life. Whatever it is, vibes have an effect on all of us.

It really does feel like the vibes we send out attract other things to us with a similar vibe. Good vibes out, good vibes back. Bad works the same way. I must have been sending some horrid ones out to get some of the things I’ve received, or maybe a lot of it is random after all. Who knows?

I surely don’t, but I’m still investigating all possibilities. My vibe is good right now, and I feel a very good one coming back. I don’t know what I’m doing any differently, but I do feel it and I want to acknowledge it so it keeps coming. These are the results I want, and I’m totally in sync.

Tonight I drove to Milwaukee to participate in an open mic run by Brendan O’Day that’s held at the Miramar Theatre on Oakland and Locust. I went up to support the new comics coming up the ranks and hopefully gave them a little wisdom. That was my goal, to pass the good vibe forward.

Phyllis Diller

August 24, 2012

Tuesday August 21st, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Any time words like ‘icon’, ‘legend’ or ‘star’ are used in the same sentence with ‘comedian’, it captures my attention as it happens so infrequently. Phyllis Diller was all of the above, and sadly she passed away yesterday at the age of 95. If there ever was a comedy success story, she was it.

It’s not as if the news itself was a total shocker to anybody. Ninety five years is an outstanding run for anyone. She brought much needed laughter to tens of millions over several generations of American history in 20th Century, and her place of exalted prominence was sealed decades ago.

I’m not sure if the average person realizes just how remarkable her career actually was. She put it all on the line, and overcame tremendous odds to achieve success in a field that was dominated by men. She not only carved out a place for herself, but paved the way for other women as well.

She didn’t start in comedy until she was 37, and had five kids and a shaky marriage. Comedy is hard enough under ‘normal’ circumstances, even though they rarely if ever exist. Most stories of how comedians start are more similar to mine, with the performer beginning much earlier in life.

People like Milton Berle and Charlie Chaplin were noted child performers, and Woody Allen’s career started as a writer of jokes when he was a teenager. Rodney Dangerfield started out young as well, even though he took a break for quite a few years to sell siding while he raised a family.

Phyllis Diller’s story was completely different, and very inspirational. She had a dream and put everything she had into it and succeeded. She frequently cited a book by an author named Claude M. Bristol called ‘The Magic Of Believing’ as the root of her success, and would pass out copies.

One of those who received a copy was my writing mentor Gene Perret. Gene is another icon to many in the comedy business, as he has authored several books on comedy writing that show the nuts and bolts techniques of structuring jokes. I first read one of his books called “How To Write And Sell Your Sense Of Humor” before I ever stepped on a stage, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

I met Gene’s daughter Linda when I was living in Los Angeles, and ended up meeting Gene at an annual comedy conference they put on called “The Round Table”. Gene has always been very supportive of all comedians, and he started by writing for Phyllis Diller in the ‘60s. She was the one who inspired and encouraged him to move to Hollywood, and he freely gives her the credit.

To his own credit, Gene took the initiative and actually did it. He loaded up his family and did what 99% of people never do – he took ACTION. Phyllis bought jokes from him on a consistent basis, and then he ended up meeting Bob Hope and he never looked back. He was the head writer for Bob for more than twenty years, but he never lost contact with Phyllis. It’s a fantastic story.

I found a link to some video interviews with Phyllis that ooze passion. Anyone who isn’t a fan after watching these is dead.  http://youtu.be/Ma0FbWLSOcU Gene Perret’s website is a place to go for anybody who wants to learn more about comedy writing. www.comedywritersroom.com.