Archive for November, 2012

Stress And Strain

November 30, 2012

Thursday November 29th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   The stress and strain of the booking end of the business continues. It has nothing to do with the comedy end, but then again it totally does. If I don’t get bookings, I can’t be funny. It’s a vicious cycle, and getting more so all the time. It doesn’t help that I can’t stand dealing with any of this.

Too bad for me, as that’s part of the deal and goes with the territory. If I don’t like doing it on my own – and I don’t – I need to find someone who does or at least fakes it better than I do. I’ve never been a good actor, and handing me the salesman role is about as miscast as it gets. I stink.

Today there were two more prime examples. First, I was scheduled to do a thirty minute set at a company’s sales meeting tomorrow afternoon in the far south suburbs of Chicago. The money wasn’t great and it was a far drive, but any time money can be made when the sun’s up it’s good. I have several friends on the south side, and it would be a great excuse to get together for a visit.

I called to confirm, and was told they are postponing the meeting until after the holidays. It was apparently a last minute decision, but that doesn’t help me tomorrow. They may or may not book me for the new date, and I may or may not be in town and available. I was counting on that cash.

It’s the end of the month, and I’ve been hammered by both car problems and the IRS. I’ve been due for a dental checkup for a while, but can’t make an appointment because I have no money to pay for it right now. If my teeth rot out of my head, I’ll have to deal with it later. I’m tapped out.

The other situation was also stressful. I got a call about a possible holiday party in December in the Kansas City area. It’s nice money, but I’m booked at a club in the Chicago area that weekend and it’s going to be a hassle if I have to bug out of it. The pay for the gig in Kansas City is twice what I’m getting for the entire week at the club, but if I take it there will be some risk on my part.

The club may or may not book me back, and that could be at least a semi steady gig right in my backyard. What do I do? I can really use the money right now, so I didn’t say no just yet. It could come through, or it couldn’t. The smart thing to do is just let it play out and then make a decision if and when it comes to that. I can attempt to reason with the club, and that may or may not work.

Everything has to be so complicated and delicate, and I’m growing very tired of having to walk an emotional tightrope for every single booking I get. I just want to go out and perform, but there is always a lot more to it than that. It’s part politics, part sales and total hell – but that’s how it is.

I’m terrible at all this, but so are most performers I know. It’s not what we do, and most people don’t like to work at what they’re not good at. Getting someone else to do it sounds wonderful in theory, but not only does it cost money up front the danger of being ripped off becomes an issue.

My ex business partner scorched me for several thousand dollars, but it was stupid of me to let him have that kind of access to my money. I trusted him, and that’s another mistake. This is part of the business nobody ever thinks about when they get into it. Let it be a lesson. It was for me.

Zig Was Big

November 29, 2012

Wednesday November 28th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Zig Ziglar passed away today – or at least his physical body did. His body of work has touched millions over several decades, and he will live on through that. If there ever was a life well spent, his was right up there with just about anyone in my opinion. He made the most of his time here.

I have enormous respect for Zig Ziglar for several reasons. He was a pioneer and a legend, and neither of those is easy to pull off. He built himself up from obscurity, and stayed there. It took a long time to accomplish, but it was worth the effort. He’ll go down as one of the all time greats.

Although I wasn’t necessarily a rabid fan of much of his recorded stuff, the fact he cranked out so much of it should not go unappreciated. He was very consistent, and his work ethic was at the top of the spectrum. I know how difficult it is to create ONE audio or video program. He put out product after product after product, and wrote books too. That doesn’t count his speaking career.

Zig Ziglar became his own brand, and I’m sure he was paid handsomely for it. He was the top name in motivational speaking for years, but never rested on his laurels. Jay Leno was known as the top name in standup comedy during the boom years, and he had a stellar work ethic as well.

Coincidence? Hardly. A hearty work ethic is a must for any entertainer, and that’s exactly what Zig was. Nobody can truly motivate anyone else, and I’m sure Zig knew that. But he presented a message in an entertaining way, and those who wanted to be motivated latched on and heard it.

I have his book ‘See You At The Top’, and I really like it. His audio programs weren’t on my list of favorites, but that’s no disrespect. His style and delivery were a bit syrupy for my personal taste, but that takes nothing away from what he accomplished. He achieved a level of greatness.

To me, motivational speakers have to be listenable for long periods of time. That’s not easy to do, and it becomes a matter of personal preference just like music. I can’t stand Pink Floyd, but I know millions of others love them. Are they right? Am I wrong? Personal preference is just that.

As far as speakers go, people like Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer I could listen to all day. Earl Nightingale is another. Stephen Covey, Deepak Chopra and Zig Ziglar I can’t. That doesn’t take anything away from the greatness of any of those people, and I still respect every one of them.

My friend Steve ‘The Homer’ True is a sports talk host on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee. His father is Dr. Herb True, a very big name in the speaking field. Homer has always been a huge supporter of my comedy, and frequently comes to see me perform when I am working the Milwaukee area.

Homer asked his dad to call me years ago and give me some encouragement, and I never forgot it. A ten minute phone call made a huge impact, and that’s what Zig Ziglar’s work did for a wide variety of people from all walks of life and will continue to do for years to come. That’s what we all should aspire to, and many of us who do still don’t come close to achieving it. Zig Ziglar took it to the highest level, and for that he deserves major kudos. He sure gets it from me. Zig was big.

Aching For A Break

November 28, 2012

Tuesday November 27th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Being an entertainer in general comes with all kinds of unexpected difficulties, but comedy has a set of unique problems that go beyond even those. One thing that can be especially tough is the process of staying in a funny mindset when funny is the last place one’s mind is at a given time.

It needs to become a habit, and something that can be turned on and off at will. That’s not easy, especially when life does what it tends to do to upset one’s personal apple cart. I remember very vividly having to do comedy shows as I was going through the horrific process of being prepared to testify against my lifelong best friend in a bank robbery trial. I still don’t know how I did that.

There were weeks of daily preparation for the actual trial, and I had absolutely no choice but to show up and do what I needed to do – which happened to be the most painful experience in a life jam packed with them. I used to have nightmares about that trial, and when it actually took place it was a surreal moment I wish I would have never experienced. Who could be funny after that?

I had to find a way, and I did. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been paid to be able to squeak out the meager existence I’ve been able to squeak. Club owners didn’t care about my personal problems, nor did the audiences. I was paid to get laughs. Period. And I did. But I wasn’t laughing myself.

That’s where I am now on a slightly smaller scale. I’m not facing having to testify in any court trials any time soon, but the stress of keeping myself booked and all the other issues I’m dealing with is keeping me more than occupied. I’ve got the stress of a dozen, and I’m feeling the strain.

The IRS problem is going to be a major issue. I got two letters today telling me I owed a total a lot higher than my accountant told me. With all of those penalties and interest tacked on, I’m in a much deeper hole than I first thought. How the hell am I going to get out of this? It’s a tight spot.

I’m not finding much funny right now, at least not off stage. I was able to pull off strong shows in Springfield last weekend, and the audience would never have known anything was wrong. The way I learned to do that was from having to do it during the bank robbery trial and other times of turmoil throughout my life. But one can only do that so long, and I’m really growing weary of it.

All it would take to really bring my spirits up would be a run of quality shows somewhere. I’ve paid plenty of dues, and I can pull off the shows. Comedy clubs, cruise ships, theatres or a mix of all those venues would be fine. I just want to work and practice a craft I’ve spent my life to learn.

A successful run of quality shows would wipe out my tax debt in no time, put me in a fantastic mindset and also be a treat for the audiences who come to see the shows. I’m ready to give them a great one, as I’ve spent decades on the road polishing it. All they have to do is come and laugh.

It all seems so simple, yet at the same time as far away as scientifically possible. How will I get a chance to make my mark? I don’t know, but when I do I’ll be ready for it. I just need a break to get it all in motion. As the United Negro College Fund says, “All I ever needed was a chance.”

Lending An Ear

November 28, 2012

Monday November 26th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   I got a call from my cousin Brett today, and he’s at his lowest point. I was sorry to hear of what he was going through, but of anyone on the planet he could have called who could relate to every word of what he was saying it was me. I listened intently as he unloaded what was troubling him.

The details aren’t important, other than it’s the same old life misery most of us go through on a daily basis. Job issues, relationship issues, dealing with idiots on a constant basis and the like are obstacles we must fight to overcome. For dented cans it’s worse, and Brett is definitely one of us.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think the world of him, as I absolutely do. He’s seven years younger than me, and sharp as a brand new razor. We have a whole lot in common – much more than my actual blood brother. I consider Brett to be my little brother, even though he stands about 6’4”.

He is left handed like me, and also a borderline Pisces as his birthday is February 21st. I’m still not sure if there’s anything to astrology, but my guess is there’s something there. It’s energy, and everything alive is energy. That would lead me to believe astrology measures a form of energy.

Whatever the case, we’re both on the same wavelength about a lot of things from family to the things we find funny. Brett is hilarious, and has a wonderfully dark twisted sense of humor I can always count on to make me laugh deep and hard no matter how down I’m feeling. That’s a gift.

Another thing Brett has is one of the most giving hearts of anyone I’ve ever met. I try to be one to always share anything I have with anyone who needs it, but he makes me look like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Even as a very small child, that heart was there and his sister used to use it against him and make his life hell. I felt badly for him, but he couldn’t help it. That’s who he is.

Brett told me what he was going through, and I found it remarkable that he said it drained all of of his hope and he felt a distinct snap inside. That’s the exact feeling I had in Springfield as I was told how much my car would cost to get fixed. We hit bottom at the same time, and I wonder if it was more than a coincidence? It seems odd it would occur like that on the very same weekend.

We’ve helped each other out many times, and this will be no different. I didn’t elaborate on my latest speed bump, as I wanted to let him vent about what was bothering him. He’s a great helper to many, and he deserves the floor when he needs to vent. He’s a younger brother as am I, and to have someone listen is a luxury. Too often everyone looks at us as perpetual pickers of dog poop.

My heart really goes out to Brett, and I wish I could do more to help him deal with this. He’s a Union Carpenter by trade, and a very good one. He’s invested his life learning and respecting his craft as I have done with comedy, but all of these years into it he doesn’t have security as I don’t.

Why quality people keep getting thrown into the meat grinder and imbeciles skate through life seemingly unscathed continues to mystify me to no end. There must be a reason for it, as it does happen frequently enough to be noticeable. So much more good could be done if life were fair.

A Neck Up Checkup

November 28, 2012

Sunday November 25th, 2012 – Springfield, IL/Kenosha, WI

   A good night’s sleep after two shows last night made me feel a little better, but not as much as I’d have liked. There’s still the lingering residue of dissatisfaction from having to shell out a pile of money I don’t have for a car I didn’t think I’d have to sink this much into. It peed in my pool.

It also caused me to really reach back and try to look at the big picture to see what I need to do to get myself out of this rut and reshape my destiny. In my heart of hearts I know I can be doing a whole lot more than I am – or at least doing it on a much higher level. I’m beneath my abilities.

There are times when I feel like I’m totally in sync, but then I get off track and it’s a frustrating off road hell ride through a muddy swamp with the windows open. Before I know it I’m caked in mud, and I can’t see my way to steer myself out. That’s where I am now, and my patience is thin.

I’ve been here countless times before, and that’s where the danger lies. It’s easy to develop bad habits, and that perpetuates the ugliness instead of finding a way to steer out of it. It does have an attachment to childhood, and that’s true for all of us. Dented cans tend to focus on the unpleasant things because that’s what we’re used to. Disappointment and disaster are the expected outcome.

My friend Max and I talked about that yesterday over lunch and we both agree everybody puts out a vibe on a certain frequency – and that’s exactly what comes back. Dented cans have sucked up negative vibes in their formative years, and no matter what we do we can’t seem to escape no matter what we do. It’s deeply ingrained, and subconsciously we tend to gravitate to the familiar.

I’m no analyst, but I’ve read enough books or at least parts of books through the years that I’m familiar with at least part of the reason my wheel is stuck in the mud right now. I’ve struggled to get past this for years, and I’ve actually had some tangible success. I need to acknowledge that.

From where I started, I’ve made nothing short of miraculous strides. I don’t know why I stayed the course, but for the most part I totally did. I’m not saying I didn’t pull some world class stunts of stunning stupidity – but I stayed away from booze, drugs and prison so that’s a major victory.

I have been able to squeak out an existence doing the things I truly enjoy, but therein lies a part of the problem. I’ve grown used to ‘squeaking’, and it’s become what I expect. Should I have the lifestyle of a college freshman this late into the game? I think not, and it’s up to me to find a way to get past it. Something is not right, and if I change my thoughts I will change everything else.

This is a very crucial time for not only me but the entire planet. The whole system we’ve come to view as ‘normal’ is changing by the day, and that means the entire vibe of life is changing as well. I don’t know what it’s changing to, but there’s definitely something different happening.

We talked about this on The Mothership Connection radio show tonight, and it felt good to get it out in the open. I know I’m not the only one who struggles, but I refuse to let it keep me down. I’m where I am because of who I am and what I chose. I can make new choices and I intend to.

Exhausted

November 25, 2012

Saturday November 24th, 2012 – Springfield, IL

   Hello darkness, my old friend. I thought I was on an upswing, but I got hammered today when I took my car in to have a loud muffler looked at. I thought it had been taken care of when I had it inspected at the garage, but that was apparently only a patch job. That patch broke, and so did my spirits as I learned I would need a whole new exhaust system that would cost $825 to install.

$825 for a 1993 Nissan Sentra? That sounds ridiculously high. I wouldn’t expect it to cost that much to replace the exhaust system on the Space Shuttle. Apparently Midas is named that due to the goldmine it is for those who own one. They prey on helpless schmucks like me and get rich.

There was nothing I could do about it but pull out my credit card and take the direct hit. It kills me to have to do it, and now whatever benefit I had from getting a ‘free’ car from my friend Rich is now gone. I’ve got way more invested than it’s worth, and I’m stuck driving it to pay back my investment. There’s no guarantee it will last, and now I’m backed into a spot I don’t want to be.

I’m not blaming Rich at all. He’s a great friend, and only had good intentions when he gave me the car. It’s got low miles, and in theory it should run for a while. But after putting ball joints and brakes and body work and now a totally new exhaust system in it, the ‘free’ part has long passed.

To make it even worse, I picked up a nail in one of the tires and had to get that patched as well. They didn’t put my hub cap on tight, and it rolled off somewhere in Springfield so that’s gone as well. I didn’t hear it fall off, and I hope it didn’t roll up on a curb and kill anyone. That would be all I’d need, and I wouldn’t put it past the realm of possibility with how my luck has played out.

I also discovered a crack in the windshield that wasn’t there before. I don’t know when or how it came to be, but it’s right in front of the steering wheel, and if I don’t get it fixed I’ll need to get a new windshield to boot. I had to do it for my last car, and that was $200 I didn’t want to spend.

I asked the guy at Midas where a glass place was, and he told me there was one right down the block from where I’m staying. I went there, and of course they’re closed for the holiday weekend and will open Monday at 7am. The whole situation made me want to swallow a big shiny bullet.

So here I sit with the world’s most expensive 1993 red Nissan Sentra that has a blue fender and hood, wondering where the nearest mountain is that I can drive off of with me inside. It’s not just this isolated incident that put me in this mindset – it’s the lifetime of taking hits. I’ve had my fill.

I’ve tried to be a nice person my entire life, but what does any of that prove at a time like this? It doesn’t mean a damn thing, and quite frankly it really pisses me off. I don’t see God, and I am really hating my life at the moment. There is only so much anyone can take, and I’m at my limit.

If I could lie down and end my life right now, I totally would. Why the hell was I even born in the first place? Everything I have tried has been a flaming failure, except entertainment. I have a natural flair for that, but no matter how hard I try I can’t crack journeyman status. It’s killing me.

What kills me even more is that I have to drive a car donated by a friend in the first place. It’s a flaw in my personality or something that my subconscious mind keeps attracting half ass projects like this and I keep falling for them. I’m trying to save a buck when I can, but it ends up a whole lot more expensive than if I’d have bought a new Mercedes and just paid it off. I screwed myself.

I’m not going to lie, this is a very dangerous time. I’m tired of everything, and this just snapped my chain big time. I keep trying to fool myself into thinking I’ve got a chance at something good in life, but then something like this happens and it wipes me right back to ground zero. It stinks.

This is totally not what I pictured life to be, but apparently I must have since that’s exactly the scenario that keeps popping up again and again. Somewhere in my past, this is the picture of how life was supposed to play out must have been painted and my subconscious mind has obeyed the order. I want to change that order, but I am apparently having trouble in getting it done. I’m lost.

I feel like I’m trying to crawl out of quicksand, and the more I kick the lower I sink. My friend Max Bumgardner lives in the Springfield area, and he and his son Dustin came to take me out to lunch. Max is also a dented can, and one of the few people who can relate to my feelings of pain in seemingly hopeless situations like this. We’ve talked each other off the ledge more than once.

It’s not just a matter of a muffler falling off an old car. That happens every day, and it’s no big deal. I should have expected it to happen at some point, and this just happened to be that point. It is what it is, and it either gets fixed or the car gets junked. That’s the logical way to look at this.

I suppose I could have nursed it back home and shopped it around to a few places to shave off a chunk of the bill, but I chose to get it fixed and move on. The deeper matter is that I’m stuck in this situation in the first place. Max and I are both struggling, years after getting blown out from our dream radio job at The Loop in Chicago. There was no real reason for it, and we’re drifting.

Had we been able to stay on that track, we’d both likely be extremely well off right now if not actual millionaires. We were on the golden path, and it all came unraveled because of no fault of our own. Apparently it was a once in a lifetime shot, as another hasn’t come along to replace it.

We both realize it’s been years ago now, and we’re both trying to move on and deal with it but things like this keep blowing up in both our faces and it’s getting very old very fast. Max is great at what he does, and honest as the day is long. He’s getting hammered with some rental property he’s been trying to sell, but can’t find a buyer. It’s bleeding him dry, and he’s frustrated as well.

It was great to be able to vent with Max, but that doesn’t change the fact we’re both still having a hell of a time trying to figure out what life is all about. I thought I was on a good path, but I am very down right now after this little incident. I’m going to end up losing money for the week, and this was the money I was going to use to pay my rent for December. I don’t know where that will come from, and my soul hurts even thinking about it. My self esteem is crushed like a cockroach, but I had to suck it up and do two more shows tonight. The crowds had no idea I was miserable.

Donnie B’s Gets An A

November 25, 2012

Friday November 23rd, 2012 – Springfield, IL

   I am thoroughly delighted to be making a return to Donnie B’s Comedy Club in Springfield, IL this weekend. I can’t say enough good things about this place, and I wish every last comedy club in America would take lessons from Donnie B on both how to run a business and people skills.

This guy just knows how to do it right. I loved it the last time I was here, and it was even better this time around. He has since changed locations, and now the club and hotel are side by side in a place called the Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center. That’s always a welcomed convenience.

The other club was very nice as was the hotel, but being in the same building makes it so much easier. I can go back to the room between shows and relax, take a shower, whatever. I also don’t have to worry about getting to the club in traffic, finding parking or many other annoying things.

An example of how well Don pays attention to detail, when I checked into my hotel room there was a business card sized piece of paper in with my room key card letting me know the club was now located in the hotel and their hours of operation. How smart is that? Every club that’s part of a hotel complex should absolutely do the same, but I’ve very rarely seen it done in all my years.

The new room seats about 100 more people than the other one, and there was a much healthier audience for the first show than I expected on a holiday weekend. Not only were there more than I expected, they were polite and smart and ready to laugh. Don hosts the shows and warms up his audiences, and also trains them how to behave during the shows. Over time, this pays a dividend.

The late show wasn’t as well attended, but there were still a respectable number who were also there to see a show. The typical late show Friday in a comedy club can be a babysitting of drunks but not here. They were totally into the show, and I had an absolute blast – so much so that I took it upon myself to see how much different material I could pull out since Donnie B was watching.

Not many club owners watch all the shows, but Donnie B is not the typical owner. He wants to see how his audiences react to the comedians he uses so he knows who to bring back. He knows who his clientele is, and busts his ass to please them so they’ll keep coming back. And they do.

I also thought it was good practice to stretch out a little and use some material I hadn’t used in a while to keep in practice. I’d say I was able to do 95% different material in the late show, and it felt great to do that – especially knowing that headliners need to do 60 rather than 45 minute sets. That’s another smart move on his part. He gives the audience more comedy and less bad openers.

I really had fun both shows tonight, and as I was on stage I wished it could be like this in every club in every town. I know I won’t have to fight for my pay at the end of the week, and it will be the exact amount we agreed on. There will be no hassles, and that’s exactly how it should work.

It doesn’t, and that’s just how it is. I will enjoy this weekend as much as I can, and hope I’ll be able to make this a regular stop for a long time. Now, I just have to find 51 more weeks like this.

Thanksgiving Manly Style

November 23, 2012

Thursday November 22nd, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   Here comes the holiday season, like it or not. I’ll be glad when it’s over, but I know millions of people love it so I hope it’s a good one for their sake. I just wish the whole thing wasn’t so damn omnipresent so those of us who don’t care to be reminded of it could carry on with our existence.

EVERY commercial on TV and radio has annoying sleigh bells in it, and I’m already tired of it and it’s only Thanksgiving. There’s more than an entire month of this torture ahead, and I’m just not up for it this year. Too bad for me. It’s not going to stop, so I better suck it up and move on.

I do like Thanksgiving though. The older I get, the more I realize that gratitude is a choice. It’s one I’m choosing to make as often as I can, and only good things come of it. It’s easy to focus on everything we don’t have – and I’m good at that too – but seeing what we do makes life livable.

One thing I do have is a fantastic group of world class friends scattered all over North America and beyond. It took a lifetime to accumulate them, and I’m grateful for every last one. I received at least a dozen invitations to spend Thanksgiving all over the country, and that was appreciated.

I have to be in Springfield, IL tomorrow to do this weekend at Johnnie B’s Comedy Club, so it was smart to keep it close to home. My friend Mark Gumbinger lives in Kenosha, WI and he had a “guys’ night out” theme this year. It was just him and his cousin Greg, and I rounded out a trio.

No offense to any of the other invites, but this was the right choice by far. None of us believed in the tradition of a turkey, so Mark cooked New York strip steaks on the grill that were about as delicious as any of us had ever eaten. Those alone made it worth showing up. Turkey shmurkey.

But there’s more. Mark has a giant screen TV in his basement, and it’s the perfect man cave for watching football or anything else. We had shrimp cocktail and all kinds of other delicious treats and appetizers piled high and football to watch, and nobody had to say a word. We were satiated.

Then it got better when Mark’s cousin Greg brought out a DVD of Led Zeppelin he bought last night and Mark popped it in his system. WOW, was that a treat. It was like we were attending the actual show. I’ve never been a big Zeppelin fan, but I also never hated them. This won me over.

I had no idea they even got back together, and I probably should have. Apparently they did this particular event five years ago in England, and they’re just releasing it in the US now. I’ll bet it’s a monster seller, as I know I’m going to buy one for sure. Jason Bonham was great on drums and those guys just tore it up. Robert Plant sounded amazing, and it was just an all out kick ass show.

After that we watched some Three Stooges and Beavis and Butt Head DVDs Mark had and felt like teenagers in a tree house for a night. I know it wasn’t a ‘traditional’ Thanksgiving, but it sure was fun and none of us complained. There was no pressure, and everybody went home full of red meat and singing a tune. Life is what it is – warts and all. I’m learning to be grateful for days like today and try to make as many of them as possible. This started the holiday season with a bang.

You Want Stable? Raise Horses

November 22, 2012

Wednesday November 21st, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   The average person has no idea how difficult it is to be a professional entertainer. Had I known before I started, I seriously doubt I’d have chosen the path I did. There’s a lot to be said about the security of a ‘normal life’ – if indeed such a thing exists. It doesn’t for me, and I’m not thrilled.

I gave it all up to have my chance at the big time, and the chance of that happening is shrinking by the minute. Bad breaks mixed with bad decisions has put me in a place I really hadn’t planned on being – especially this far into the game. Couple that with changing times for everyone on the planet, and it’s a downright scary scenario. I don’t like to be a downer, but the future looks scary.

Everything I thought I could count on is unstable, and it’s that way for almost everyone except a precious few at the top. It seems to be that way everywhere too, not just in show business. It’s a world of instability, but the older I get that’s the last thing I want. How can I turn this all around?

What’s most frustrating is the politics of it all. I’ve never been a good ass kisser, and that’s hurt me big time. I like people because I like them – not because they can help me advance my career or lift my social status. That’s not the optimal way to play the game, and that’s why I’m not in it.

I also had a couple of delicate situations to deal with today that could easily blow up in my face at any time. Everything is a house of cards, and one slam of a door will make it all come crashing down. That in turn makes for extreme tension and stress, and I’m just not up for living like that.

One situation is my Reno booking December 26-30. I really want to work there, but that’s the worst week of the year to be traveling. Plane tickets are through the roof, and I have to be careful in case I get a New Year’s Eve gig somewhere. I want to leave myself a chance to switch a flight if I have to, but I also have to make sure I can get a ticket at the lowest possible fare. It’s tricky.

It’s coming down to crunch time, and either way I’m going to have to do something. Reno isn’t a driving option, even though in my early days I’d have done it without hesitating. That was then and a very long time ago. Three days in a car each way is not my idea of adventure anymore. It’s a prison sentence, but I want to do the gig both for the money and to get myself into a new club.

The other situation was a one nighter offered to me by a booking agent that’s in a town that has another one nighter booked by someone else. I’ve done the first one, but not for a long time. I am not booked back there at the moment, but they apparently don’t want anyone who works there to work this other place. That’s a lot to ask for a one nighter, but that’s the way the game is played.

Do I stay ‘loyal’ to the first place and say no to immediate work that I could use even though I have no concrete date? It’s a tough call, and I asked the second booker if I could avoid using my name in any advertisements. A buck is a buck, and I’d slide in and out of town like a mercenary. We were all set to go, and then I get the message they’re going to take that week off so the gig is off. Just like that. No pay. No notice. No nothing. Loyalty? What’s that? This is not what I had in mind when I started, and it’s getting old really fast. Come to think of it, so am I. What do I do?

At Least It’s Fun

November 22, 2012

Tuesday November 20th, 2012 – Niles, IL/Mt. Prospect, IL

   Fun by day.  Fun by night. That’s how life is always supposed to unfold in my humble opinion. It rarely happens, that’s why it’s memorable when it does. I try to make fun the secret ingredient that makes life bearable. Without that, why get out of bed at all? Too many people are miserable.

I get miserable too, but days like today help to grease the skids at least a little. My friend Marc Schultz is a booking agent and puts together an annual show business lunch where he invites his performing clients that range from magicians to jugglers to almost everything else in between.

Marc’s father ran a talent agency talent booked a lot of circus performer type acts of all things, and Marc has evolved with the times. He still books some of those kinds of acts, but also does an array of other things that even includes comedians. I get some work from him once in a while as well, but I consider him a friend far more than an agent. He’s one of my very favorite people.

We go to lunch regularly on our own, but this is different. It’s like a local version of Broadway Danny Rose where anyone and everyone in the Chicago area who is around shows up and we all sit around and have lunch at a Chinese buffet. I’ve been to several of them, and it’s a total blast.

Nobody understands entertainers like other entertainers, and Marc always invites an interesting mix of personalities. I’ve met some great people I now consider friends of my own from going to these lunches, and I never like to miss them. Marc encouraged me to invite people of my own, so I went through my list and asked quite a few. Todd Hunt and Karl Newyear were able to make it.

It’s good to feel a sense of camaraderie, and I love hearing all the stories from other performers to let me know I’m not the only one out there slugging. Magicians and ventriloquists and anyone else who entertains for a living can relate to the extreme degree of difficulty it takes to survive.

There was a healthy turnout today, and I really enjoyed myself. Quite a few of these people are only people I see at these lunches, but it’s a great way to stay in touch and network. I don’t know how we can help each other, but it never hurts to keep everyone’s name out there so we all do it.

Tonight I was asked to appear as The King of Uranus on Mike Preston’s ‘Psychobabble’ cable TV show and that’s another can’t miss proposition. I love doing that show, as Mike allows all of his guests to have creative freedom and experiment with ideas without fear of being shot down.

The vibe on that show is always laid back but still creative, and Mike surrounds himself with a revolving cast of very talented people who get what’s trying to be accomplished. He does it on a wing and a prayer, and that’s what’s even more amazing. He’s been able to keep it going for ten years now, and just like my Mothership Connection radio show it’s a constant work in progress.

There are always people coming and going, and as in all passion projects the lack of budget is both a blessing and a curse. I’d love to see Mike turn a buck with the show, but for now it’s just a chance to play show business so we all do it. I didn’t make a dime today, but I sure did have fun.