Archive for February, 2013

Michael Jordan’s Birthday

February 20, 2013

Sunday February 17th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   Michael Jordan turned 50 today, but that’s only one of several reasons February 17th has gotten to be a date of uncomfortable significance on my yearly calendar. Today was also the birthday of my grandmother who was born in 1911 and the day my father died in 2007. That’s a lot to digest.

There are so many emotions mixed in with all of that I’m not sure where to start. I have always been a fan of Michael Jordan, partially because I knew he was my age. He was born in 1963 just as I was, but how much more different could any two lives be? Birth year is about all we share.

Can anybody name a person in any walk of life much less an athlete more famous than Michael Jordan? I can’t. That guy is one in a million million, just like Muhammad Ali or Babe Ruth. He’s the singular standard by which an entire sport is measured for generations. How amazing is that?

Other famous athletes were born in 1963 like Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley, but Michael has gone beyond athletics and is pop culture – and worldwide pop culture at that. He’s reached about as high a level as one can get and still qualify as human. After that one becomes a cartoon image.

I heard all kinds of tributes on the radio today about him turning 50, and they made him sound SO old. I used to think 50 was old too, but now I’m there and it feels like I’m just getting started. I was too busy making mistakes until now, but I finally feel like I’m in a position to hit pay dirt.

Then I look at a Michael Jordan and he’s been on top of the top for thirty years. It’s like it was included in his DNA, and it would be difficult for him NOT to be successful. He may not be the red hot icon he once was, but he’s had a super run right up there with Elvis or Michael Jackson.

It’s hard to comprehend someone of that magnitude being born just a few weeks ahead of me, but it’s true. That doesn’t guarantee happiness though. Whitney Houston was also born in 1963 and it didn’t end well for her even though she also attained heights most humans never reach.

Then there’s my father. He was an overwhelming underachiever and waste of sperm no matter when he was born. Nobody celebrated his 50th or any other birthday on radio or anywhere else. It still baffles me why he was so mean spirited and nasty to just about everyone, but now he’s dead and nobody misses him. I surely don’t, but I do wish I could find out what made him that upset.

Michael Jordan at 50 is looked at as a lion hearted champion of a generation and has the rest of his days to do as much or as little as he pleases. He has millions of dollars and a new model wife. If he’s unhappy – and he very well could be – it sure isn’t due to lack of resources. He’s loaded.

My father at 50 hadn’t ventured off the back porch to attempt anything. He was proud that he’d been able to pull down a disability for his bum heart, and he pissed the rest of his life away doing absolutely nothing of significance. As I sneak up on 50 – or as it sneaks up on me – I find myself betwixt the magnificence of Michael and the folly of my father. I have no idea where I’ll end up on the big picture chart of life. I have all I can handle keeping my bills paid. I can’t dwell on this.

Where’s My Colonel?

February 19, 2013

Saturday February 16th, 2013 – Mishawaka, IN

   My stress level is down considerably. I had about as productive of a day on the road as I could imagine, and after two solid shows last night I’m feeling pretty good. My show is as ready as it’s ever going to be, and I’m in full bloom as a performer. There were two very different crowds last night, and I handled them both with ease if I do say so myself. I am at the very top of my game.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t last forever and I am well aware. It took an unbelievable amount of scraping, clawing and self sacrifice to get here, but I totally feel I am in control on any stage. I’ve reached a level few ever get to, and it feels satisfying to know that I’ve stayed with it for so long.

I could easily have given up years ago and logically I probably should have, but I know deep in my heart I would have ended up much more miserable than I am now – and the main reason I am miserable now is that I want to be working more. I have found the thing I absolutely love to do.

I might not love the constant travel or the politics or the stress of always having to stay booked every week, but when I’m on that stage it feels like home. I finally feel like I’m starting to know what I’m doing up there, and that confidence adds rocket fuel to the mix. I’m on a higher level.

Not many people in any pursuit have paid the dues I have, and I’m starting to see results. What to do with those results is beyond me, but I have to think someone else has to see it at some point and raise me to a higher place. That person who ‘discovers’ me will end up looking like a genius.

I’m to the point now I can’t do much more by myself. I’ve taken my show to a higher level, but if nobody on a higher level in the business knows who I am I will continue to live hand to mouth and I just don’t want to do that. I’ve put far too much effort into this to remain unknown forever.

I’m really looking forward to the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows in Milwaukee coming up in April, but that’s not the best I can do. It will be fun to work a professional stage, but as far as taking my act to the next level it’s already there. Now it’s a matter of presenting it as such and getting paid.  

   These people in Mishawaka this weekend didn’t get cheated in the least. They got basically the same show people will get who pay top dollar in a theatre, and they loved it. People stood in line after all four shows this weekend to shake my hand and tell me how much they laughed, and that absolutely never gets old. I smiled and thanked every one of them, but I’m the one getting hosed.

I have a great problem but it’s still a problem – my act has exceeded my level of status and it’s time to move up. I’ve graduated from the commando bar gig scene and I want to get that elusive following I’ve been chasing for so many years. I want people to come out specifically to see me.

I’m not getting that doing what I’m doing, so I’ll have to find help. Maybe someone I meet at the Laughing Skull Festival next month will be able to help and that’s my focus going in. I will put those vibes out there and let the universe find me that person or people. This is the right time and it won’t take all that much to get something exciting on track. Elvis needs to find a Colonel.

Traffic Karma

February 19, 2013

Friday February 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL/Mishawaka, IN

   The next time I move anywhere – and I hope it’s not very soon – I’m going to have to pay a lot more attention to hidden but important details that impact me more than I had imagined. Freeway accessibility is a big one, and I’ve been struggling with that issue the last three places I’ve lived.

No matter which roads I take, there’s just no easy route to get to any freeway from where I live and it’s a huge hassle. I try to plan ahead, but some days I fall behind schedule as everyone does on occasion and it’s game over before it starts. It’s beyond frustrating, but I have to deal with it.

When I lived in Chicago it was maddening. I wasn’t all that physically far from I-94, but when traffic got heavy it didn’t matter. I was going to have to wait like thousands of others, and that’s all there was to it. I could try to plan around rush hours, but it didn’t matter. It was up to destiny.

I’m a big believer in traffic karma. Some days all the lights are green and everything is smooth. Other days I’m stuck behind a big slow city bus or the road crew hauling one of those smoky tar machines that make my life miserable, and no matter what improvised detour or alternate route I happen to try it only gets worse. It’s anyone’s guess as to what kind of traffic day today will be.

Then in Chicago it becomes even more random as to how constipated the freeways themselves might actually be on a given day. All it takes it one wreck or bad weather to cause total gridlock, and that’s a nightmare too. All one can do is hope for the best, but smart money says leave early.

I’m booked in Mishawaka, IN this weekend, which isn’t all that far in actual miles. Mishawaka is a suburb of South Bend, and that’s about 100 miles from downtown Chicago. I’m in Fox Lake, which is about 50 miles from downtown Chicago but at least ten miles from the nearest freeway.

I fell behind schedule today as I tend to do frequently, but I still managed to pack and get going with what I assumed would be plenty of time to make a trip of less than 200 miles – even with all the potential pitfalls that are Chicago traffic. I’ve been doing this for decades, and was prepared.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the clogged traffic toilet that only results when the President is in town. I had no idea until I was in the car, but by then it was too late. I heard it on the radio and laughed out loud when I did because I knew I was screwed and there was no way to stop it now.

What a great Mr. Lucky scenario. I think I’m planning for everything on my trip – except for a minor detail like the President coming to town. That’s a funny scene in a movie, but not funny at all today. Laughter turned into pure stress as I watched the minutes tick away and wasn’t moving an inch. Hello Mr. Gridlock. I knew I was in trouble, but also knew I couldn’t do a thing about it.

It was three hours of fully operational hell before I made it out of Chicago. Lucky for me I was dressed to be able to go on stage immediately – a trick I’ve learned through years of dealing with scenarios exactly like this. Of course I lost an hour to time change too so that cranked the vise of stress that much tighter. I made it with about two minutes to spare, but the audience never knew.

Tough Ship

February 15, 2013

Thursday February 14th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Carnival Cruise Lines is in a delicate P.R. situation and I’m sad to hear it. Their ship ‘Triumph’ apparently had an engine fire that disabled everything onboard and passengers have been living a nightmare for the past few days. I’m hearing all kinds of horror stories about raw sewage backed up in the hallways and running out of food, and it makes me glad I’m not still doing cruise ships.

I worked for Carnival in 2010 and 2011 and was booked on that very ship. I had fun on that run and especially liked the cruise director. He was a total people person and we got along great. I’m not sure if it’s still the same person, but I’m sending positive vibes to no matter who’s in charge.

One can only imagine how hellacious that gig must be right about now, and if it was me I think I’d have jumped off the back of the boat about two days into it to swim home. To Chicago. What a mess, and unfortunately it will tarnish both Carnival and cruising in general’s reputation with at least a percentage of the ticket buying public for a long time to come. This is not good publicity.

Unfortunately, it’s a numbers game. Carnival had 22 ships when I worked there, and may have a few more now for all I know. I was absolutely amazed at how efficiently those ships operated, and I would estimate I worked on at least a dozen during my run. They’ve got the system down.

I was blown away by how they cranked things out, but still took care of business. They loaded and unloaded passengers with surgical precision, but safety was never overlooked in the mix. My personal safety was never a concern in all the time I worked for them, and I’d work there again.

This is the equivalent of a plane crash causing people to not want to fly. Yes they suck out loud if you happen to be aboard one of the crashing planes, but it’s still a safe bet to fly just because in the grand scheme plane crashes are extremely rare. More people die in car wrecks than in planes.

I’m not making excuses, and I still feel bad for everyone who had to go through this horror. It’s not fun I’m sure, and there are two comedians on board who will probably never have a desire to work a cruise ship again. I’m surprised it didn’t happen to Mr. Lucky, but I’m not sad I missed it.

I am sad that this will linger in people’s minds or a long time. The thousands of cruises that are glitch free go unglorified because that’s how they’re supposed to go. ONE didn’t, and it’s putting a negative image of the company and the business in people’s minds that will make a much more lasting impression than 100 commercials singing the praises of cruising. That’s how life works.

McDonald’s sells oceans full of coffee every day without a hitch, but one idiot dumps a cup of it in her crotch and sues and it’s all over the news. It only takes a single incident out of thousands to change the minds of the masses, and that’s just not fair. But again, whoever said life was fair?

Carnival has a fleet of other ships that aren’t having any problems, but this one is getting major coverage on every network. I’ve got my own problems to look after, but this was an incident that caught my attention. This could happen to anyone in one way or another, and nobody is immune.

Eyes On The Prize

February 14, 2013

Wednesday February 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Back to the business of standup comedy. Farting around with antiques is fine to fill spare time, but I’d rather have my days filled to the brim with great gigs and more work than I can handle. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have time to scour thrift stores because I’d be too busy with comedy.

This is a fine line, and I don’t want to get caught up in the hunt for trinkets. It’s fun, but also an energy sucker if I let it. I need to watch myself and keep that part of my life where it belongs – in the background. I want to be a comedian that deals in antiques, not a junk dealer who tells jokes.

Keeping my eyes on the big picture can be difficult, but there definitely is one. I see myself as a multifaceted entertainer that is the leader of several exciting projects that involve teams of very special people who work together to create quality products greater than the sum of their parts.

That’s a mouthful, and more than a handful to actually execute in real life. I’ve got enough on my plate for six lifetimes, and part of that is the reason not much seems to get done even though I’m constantly working on something or other to the point of exhaustion. I’ve got a lot going on.

I think I need to focus more on the finished product of how I see my life working, as it can get too easy to get lost in individual projects. I’d like to be able to pick and choose where I work and experience the best of several worlds. I’m not that far off on one hand, but not close on the other.

For example, I’m getting a lot of standup comedy bookings of late. That’s great, and I’m more than grateful to get them. I’d like to make more money and travel less, and that’s where ‘Schlitz Happened!’ comes in. That’s a local show that can hopefully allow me to stay off the road at least for a while and be more lucrative financially as well. That’s a potential gem, but needs attention.

Comedy classes are also on my mind. I love teaching, as it keeps me close to the core of what I love to be around – creativity. It also allows me to pay my knowledge and experience forward to a generation of those who are hungry to learn. I don’t regret any of the time I’ve spent teaching.

Then there’s the Uranus project. I picture myself as the character of ‘The King of Uranus’- the head of a business umbrella that sells funny products online and in stores everywhere. It will be a brand in and of itself, and a source of income separate from standup comedy but not that far off.

And if that’s not enough, there’s ‘The Mothership Connection’ radio show as well. I love doing a talk show – especially one where I can talk about the topics I do. I can bring some humor into it if I want, but sometimes we can get serious too. It’s great fun to do the show, I want to continue.

This is more than enough to keep me busy, and realistically I’ll never get where I’m wanting to go without the help of many other people. I want to create teams for all these projects where I am the leader but others make it happen. It’s getting there, but there’s a lot that needs to be gotten to and every day is a struggle to pack in as much as humanly possible. I’m putting in the effort, but is it the right effort in the right order? That’s where I can get lost, but at least I’m moving ahead.

Solving The Puzzle

February 13, 2013

Tuesday February 12th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   Tonight I had the great opportunity to headline at Zanies in Chicago, and I didn’t take it lightly. I have headlined there countless times before, but I’ve got a more pressing purpose these days as I get ready to participate in the Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta in March. I intend to kick ass.

Anyone who has seen me when I’m on my game knows that I am a high energy wrecking ball on stage. I like to pound an audience into submission until they can’t take it anymore. I enjoy it when people come up to me after a show and tell me their stomach hurts and they can’t breathe.

To me, that’s quality customer service. I want people to leave my show with a hurting stomach and in tears whenever possible. What other business has that for a goal? Maybe horror movies or amusement parks, but that’s about it. I don’t think Macy’s or McDonald’s desires those results.

Tonight’s show was a challenge, and I rose to the occasion. Sometimes week night crowds tend to be a bit stiff, and that’s how it was tonight. They were also diverse – which may sound good in theory in life but it makes comedy a lot more difficult. Different people laugh at different things.

There were young and old, white and black, Jewish and gentile in the audience tonight and for a Tuesday when the President spoke it was a surprisingly full house. Some were rather rowdy up front, and that made it hard for the opening acts Michael Issac and Denise Ramsden. I’m a fan of both of those acts, but this was no picnic for either of them tonight. That audience needed a slap.

Fortunately, I was the right man for the job. I’ve got years of experience slapping stiff crowds into shape, and that’s what I had to do tonight. No offense to Michael or Denise, but sometimes a comedian needs to have a passing gear to accelerate to a place that whips an audience into shape.

Part of that is confidence, and another part is experience. I’ve seen more stiff audiences in my day than Michael and Denise combined have seen crowds period. I should know how to handle it by now, and I do. Those guys didn’t do anything wrong, but this is a rough game. The public can be a cruel animal and trying to make them even listen up much less laugh can be a daunting task.

I got the attention of most of them, but not all. Some people will just never get it that a comedy show is meant to be watched in silence, and talking is not part of the mix. It’s rude, ignorant and just plain stupid but it has gone on since live shows began and isn’t going away any time soon.

Still, I did the best I could with what I had to work with and ended up getting most of them by the end of the show. It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t let up and was proud of myself for staying with it the whole time. I could have phoned it in, but I never like doing that. Each show is an individual puzzle to solve, and not all of them get solved. When a tough one does get solved, it’s satisfying.

I made it even harder for myself on purpose by mixing up my material so I’d have to think on my feet and be even more involved. I closed with what I normally open with, and vice versa. It’s harder that way, but also more of a challenge and I love that. I’ll be ready for Atlanta in March.

Betting On Elvis

February 12, 2013

Monday February 11th, 2013 – Crystal Lake, IL

   There’s a thrift store in my area that has a Monday special of 25% off for those who sign up for one of their discount cards. Last week I was walking through scouring for baubles and/or trinkets to resell and ran across an issue of TV Guide from1956 that had Elvis on the cover. It turns out it was his first national magazine cover, and is apparently a higher end collectible. I was interested.

The marked price was $29.99, and that seemed low to me for an item of that ilk. It appeared to be in excellent although not pristine condition. There were minor signs of wear, but who’d keep an issue of TV Guide around that long? They were meant to be thrown out at the end of a week.

I don’t particularly have $29.99 to gamble on the chance of something being real, so I did my due diligence and went to do some research on the magazine. Ebay sales average about $100 per magazine, and there was one that was independently graded like a coin or stamp and that one had an asking price of $1300. I asked the store manager about the history of it and he said it was real.

Here’s where the poker game of all this comes in. The store manager was maybe 30ish and not a fan of Elvis at all. I could tell by the indifference in his tone as he talked about all the interest it had been getting. He wasn’t sucked in, and sounded like he just wanted to get it out of the store.

I tried not to act interested, but also get as much information as possible. That’s when I learned of the 25% discount on Mondays I hadn’t known about. He wouldn’t budge and sell it to me any sooner for the discounted price, but said I had a good chance to nab it if I would show up at 9am sharp Monday morning which I did today. My gut told me this was something worth going after.

In the back of my mind I half expected to see people in sleeping bags lined up at the front door camping out waiting for the store to open up at 9 but when I got there it wasn’t so. There was one guy ahead of me, and I was prepared to fight to the death for the right to claim my Elvis item but he went in the opposite direction and was obviously interested in something completely different.

I did indeed score my prize, and got my 25% discount to boot. I also found a few other trinkets like a wooden and metal toy gun that looked to be pretty old and a View Master that came with a pile of discs for three bucks. I also found another small bag of older Hot Wheels cars that were in fair shape, and at fifty cents a car I think I’ll do ok with them. If not, I’ll give them to some kids.

This is all a gamble, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll make one cent in profit but I am already enjoying the adventure of the hunt. Driving to the store so early in the morning made me feel like Indiana Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant. I didn’t know if I’d get it, and when I did it gave me a feeling of accomplishment and victory. At the very worst, all I’ll be out is under $40.

I don’t think I’m going to lose money on the Elvis piece though. I already showed it to some of my friends and they gawked at it like monkeys looking at a bright red ball. If nothing else, it will serve as an eye catcher if and when I do set up at a flea market or antique mall. If I have to bet on a collectible that will fetch me a nice profit, I feel safe betting on The King. Thankyouverymuch.

 Is The King collectible.

 

Fred Sanford Revisited

February 12, 2013

Sunday February 10th, 2013 – Lake County, IL

   I’ve been dipping my toe in the water with the antiques picking game, and I think I’m going to do pretty well for several reasons. I’ve been looking for another source of income that’s flexible, and I think this is it. It won’t be easy, but if I play my cards right I’ll be able to turn a fair profit.

Right now I’m mainly practicing my ability to pick items out of thrift stores. That’s not a huge source of guaranteed income, as all those items have to pass in front of a lot of eyes before even making it to the store shelves. Still, there are often trinkets that do and that’s what I want to find.

It becomes a poker game of deciding what I can get at a lower price and spin for more than my initial investment. There will be expenses of time and money if I choose to sell on Ebay or set up at a flea market, so I have to decide what I can do well enough with to make it worth purchasing.

I’ve scored quite a few smaller items already, and that gives me hope there’s a lot more to pick – especially when rummage sales start in the spring. I’m learning what to look for, and it’s a total switch from what I’ve been buying for the past twenty five years when scouring the thrift stores.

It used to be all I’d look for would be books, CDs, DVDs and maybe cassettes depending upon if I had a cassette player in the particular car I happened to be driving at the time. I’d often score great stuff for a very low price, but I discovered the turnover market wasn’t there. I never bought to turn it over, but after moving several times and having to drag it all with me I’ve restructured.

I have enough books to read for the next forty years, should I be lucky enough to live that long. I am now focusing on baubles and trinkets that can be spun for a profit, and that can include a lot of things from jewelry to glassware to furniture to vinyl records just to name a few. There are all kinds of possibilities, and I have a whole lot to learn about all of them. Right now I’m guessing.

For example, I stopped in Goodwill on my way to a gig a few weeks ago and they had a sale on vinyl records. Albums were a quarter and 45s were three for a quarter. It’d been years since I had any records and I don’t own a turntable on which to play them, but I gambled five bucks on some older stuff from the early ‘60s that was in very nice shape. It was a calculated but affordable risk.

One of the albums was a ‘Bat Masterson’ TV show piece that was dated 1960. It’s in excellent shape, and I saw on Ebay that one had sold for $100. Bingo! I’m not saying I’ll get $100, but if it brings even $40-$50 I’ll be ecstatic. Now I have to find someone who is willing to pay me for it.

There were some other albums in the stack that were listed between $25 and $60, but again that in no way means I’ll get that. Still, I think I made a fantastic buy for my $5 and now I’m going to experiment with ways to turn it all for a profit. It’s all a risk, but I’m into the whole pile for a fin.

This kind of stuff is everywhere and always has been, but I wasn’t looking for it until now. It’s certainly not my goal to become a modern day Fred Sanford, and the last thing I want is to waste my time thinking I’m going to get rich quick. I’m not delusional going into this. It’s a transition.

Hopefully it can help me make a few bucks to keep me off the lower end gigs on the road, and when I am on the road it’s something I can do to productively use my time to make contacts that hopefully I can use to move some of the inventory I do get. I’m learning quickly that winning in this game is about knowing where to sell things BEFORE they’re bought. That takes a network.

I’ve got a few comedy contacts that do this kind of thing either for side income or to earn their actual living. Greg Willet is in Appleton, WI and he’s a full time dealer. Greg has been generous with his time in helping me get started, and he informed me of a pick where an old baseball card that was found in a scrap book brought $92,000 at auction. Big ticket scores are still out there.

Someone wins the lottery every week as well, and I’m totally aware this is a long shot. I don’t expect to make a million dollars tomorrow, but with a little effort and smarts applied to what I’m already doing I think I can use it to make a few extra bucks. I’m not looking to cheat anyone and I am going to report every penny of profit to the IRS – but I will take all my legal deductions too.

Today I ventured out to test the waters at a couple of small flea markets that happen to be near where I live. I just wanted to get a feel for what’s out there these days and see if setting up at one might be in my near future. I wasn’t impressed with either one as a whole, but there were dealers at each one that stood out so I’m glad I went. I ended up learning from them all – good and bad.

One ingredient that was painfully missing from the mix was showmanship. Way more than not, most of those who set up just threw everything in a pile and let it sit. A few of the dealers would say hello as I walked into their domain, but most did not. They sat there knitting or reading their book or whatever they were doing, and it was interesting to monitor how each person behaved.

Signage was another thing that caught my eye. A few of the sellers had eye catching signs that let me know how much their merchandise was, but most others had sloppy hand written stuff that was very unappealing to the eye. If I would set up at a show like this I would handle it differently and I bet I’d do well. My entertainment background would set me light years ahead of the pack.

I could see myself dressed up as The King of Uranus at some big flea market, and attract a long line of people to my booth to buy things. I could do some kind of humorous presentation and sell funny items like joke books or farting dolls or something I can pick up cheap and spin for profit.

All of this is all about the show, and I know it going in. It’s not my goal to spend the rest of my life looking for rare Edsel hubcaps or ‘I Like Ike’ buttons. I want to use those things to help turn a buck, but that’s about it. I enjoy the treasure hunt aspect, but the real buzz comes from a show.

I want it all to tie in together, and I think it can. If comedy fans know I wheel and deal antiques they might sell to me before approaching a stranger – especially if I develop an honest reputation as I intend to. If antique customers know I do comedy, they might become fans. It ties together. I am not taking this lightly, and I know there is work involved in addition to a need to get educated in a lot of areas of expertise so I can make smart choices when buying things. I have work to do.

What A Week!

February 11, 2013

Saturday February 9th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   This week at Zanies in St. Charles, IL at the Pheasant Run Resort is comedy heaven for several reasons. After spending a lifetime experiencing anything and everything that can go wrong with standup comedy, it was a delicious treat to have everything work out correctly without a glitch.

First, it’s close to home. What a wonderful treat not to have to worry about travel for a change. Anytime I can work a week of comedy shows and sleep in my own bed is a humongous positive. If I never have to stay in a hotel ever again, my life would not miss a beat. I’ve done it too much.

Second, it’s a quality venue. The sound and lights are always great, and since it’s been open for so long there is at least a fighting chance most if not all of the audience at least knows the reason they are there. There is visible security in place to escort the morons who don’t get it out the door but that doesn’t happen often. When it does, Lenny Creagh handles it beautifully. He’s a real pro.

Third, it’s managed well and has been for years. Cyndi Nelson is one of the most respected and beloved comedy club managers anywhere, and she recently moved on to manage the new Zanies in Rosemont, IL. Tracey Whitmer is now in her place and like Cyndi she actually enjoys comedy and treats the comedians with respect. It’s refreshing to show up at a club and feel wanted there.

All of these things are the foundation of an outstanding work environment, but what really sent this week into orbit was the solid lineup of comedians. I was extremely fortunate to share the bill with a pair of my all time favorites both onstage and off in Vince Maranto and Jimmy McHugh.

Zanies has used house emcees for years, and I am a big proponent of that concept. It makes the shows far better as a whole, as someone with experience starts the night and maintains an energy that can’t be achieved by putting up a rank amateur like most comedy clubs have done to death.

Vince is one of the Zanies regular hosts, and does a fantastic job. We’ve known each other for at least twenty five years, and he’s a solid headliner in his own right as is Jimmy McHugh. They have both been through the wars just like I have, and it’s a breeze working with guys like that as nothing can rattle any of us at any time. We’ve all seen it before, and our calmness level is high.

The three of us are comedy mercenaries at this point, but that’s not a bad thing. We still love to perform and all do it well, but none of us are big stars and may never be. We’ve all paid our dues and are big leaguers as far as being professional comedians, and we all respect each other’s acts.

I watched Vince and Jimmy this whole week and they still make me laugh out loud even if I’ve seen their bits literally hundreds of times. They’re both well written and well performed, and I’m a fan of them both as people and as comics. Getting to be on a show with them was fun but rare.

Comedy clubs as a rule just don’t book that much talent on one show like a Zanies does. For at least four nights, I had a dream working environment and I enjoyed every second of it as I know how uncommon it truly is. Next week I’m back to the grind, and I will appreciate this even more.

Familiar Territory

February 9, 2013

Friday February 8th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   I’m headlining this week at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL at the Pheasant Run Resort. If there has been one comedy club that has captured my entire tenure in standup comedy, it’s that one. I’ve worked there since it opened in 1989, and have climbed up the ranks on that very stage.

I was strictly an opening act when I started (and a weak one at that) but was young and willing to make the drive to St. Charles from Chicago which was then and remains a big hassle. There is just no easy way to get there, and at some point the journey requires travel on Illinois Route 64.

Route 64 is also known as North Avenue, and there has been continuous construction going on at various points of that road since 1989. I have spent countless hours on that road over the years on my way to shows at Zanies, and more than once I’ve cut it too close for comfort and squeaked by with mere seconds to spare until show time. My stress level on that street alone has been ugly.

I’ve survived managers of every personality type, and ownership changes at the resort. I’ve had some of my very best shows ever on that stage, and have driven home in disgust wondering if I’d made the right career choice. Every emotion that can possibly be experienced, I have felt it here.

Part of me wishes I would have recorded at least one set a year since 1989 so I could document my enormous growth. I don’t think I’ve missed even one year in all that time – even though I’ve had radio jobs all over and didn’t always live in the area. If there was one place I could count on to get a booking, it was Zanies in Pheasant Run. I’m grateful for all the times it has paid my bills.

I am no longer that punk kid looking to come up the ranks, and now doing shows here is about as easy as it gets. I’m so used to the surroundings by now I could do shows in my sleep. There is a nice high stage with a strong sound system, and I know exactly what to do to have hot shows.

I’ve been a regular headliner for years now, and I do actually get fans coming back to see me at this location more than all the others. One nice lady named Harriett Leo is a major fan, and never brings less than half a dozen new people to see me whenever I appear. I was just here a couple of months ago, and she showed up with about ten people who loved the show. I really appreciate it.

This was a fallout week on short notice, and she came back with eight more new people tonight who hadn’t seen me before. I need about 100,000 more Harriett Leos in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful for not only her support but for that from Zanies over the years. They have allowed me to go from punk kid wannabe to legitimate comedy headliner, and I will always be grateful.

Those early years were pretty painful. I was beyond horrible as all new comedians are, but they stayed with me and let me work it out until I got better. The Zanies in Chicago is the place that’s touted by Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld, but St. Charles is not without its own charms – especially for me since I’ve worked there so often. That place will always have a special place in my heart, and I hope I’m able to keep working on that stage as long as I’m drawing breath. This week was unexpected but appreciated, and I’m going to waste the money on dumb stuff like rent and food.