Archive for July, 2013

Interstate 65

July 31, 2013

Monday July 29th, 2013 – Ft. Walton Beach, FL/Fox Lake, IL

   I heartily challenge anyone who thinks they might want to become a professional entertainer of any kind to spend 24 straight hours in a car before they ever get their first gig and then come tell me if they’re still interested. I’d bet at least 95% or more would be out of the pool immediately.

   This is not a pursuit for the squeamish, and sometimes it becomes a grueling marathon that has nothing whatsoever to do with actual performance ability. It boils down to being able to arrive at gigs consistently to keep getting paid. We basically become truck drivers hauling a load of jokes.

   When I started, I couldn’t get enough of the road and all the extra perks that went with it. I was constantly seeing new places I’d never been to, and the spirit of adventure became intoxicating. I actively looked for any and all work as far from my home base as possible. Those days are gone.

   These days I dread having to travel long distances, whether by land, air or sea. I’ve been most everywhere, and even if I haven’t there aren’t many places that can dazzle me with a totally new gimmick I’ve never seen before. A long car ride is a long car ride pretty much any way it goes.

   I left Fort Walton Beach, FL last night after the show at 11pm Central Time. It’s never easy to fall right to sleep after a show, so I can always count on a couple of hours of alertness before my head starts bobbing behind the wheel. I’ve learned to pull over and rest when that time comes.

   I knew I was in for a hellishly long scoot, so there’s nothing to do but relax and try to enjoy the ride. I brought a couple of self help audio programs and my iPod to help pass the time, and there happened to be some good radio stations to keep my attention as I headed west on Interstate10 to Mobile, AL where I’d catch Interstate 65 and head north. GPS? Who needs that? I’m a road dog.

   Interstate 65 is a highway I’ve been on quite a bit in my time. I’ve driven it from end to end as I have most of the major Interstates in America. I always get a charge out of seeing an Interstate from end to end. It’s kind of like completing a book series or baseball card set. It brings closure.

   It also brings perspective. Most major highways transverse the continent and offer a wide array of anything and everything from urban to rural to regional and everything in between. Interstate 65 is a perfect example of this. It stretches from the deepest South to right outside of Chicago.

   It goes through Nashville, Louisville and Indianapolis – three places I’ve worked often through the years. I have good friends in all those places, as well as favorite thrift stores, restaurants and all kinds of local flavor. I could live in any of those cities tomorrow and find my way just fine.

   Alabama is another story. I’ve never liked that state, and after splitting it down the middle one more time today I’ve still not acquired a taste for it. I’ve always had horrible shows there, and if I never go back nary a tear will be shed – at least by me. I don’t feel a synergy and never have.

   Even their barbecue stinks. They don’t put sauce on it, and I’ve never liked that. I love a sweet tomato based sauce, as they do in Kansas City or Memphis. Memphis has a ‘dry rub’ style that’s delicious too. Alabama does it their way, and I’m not a fan. Oh well. I’m sure life will continue.

   If it doesn’t, at least I can say I explored my home country. Taking this long trip brought back memories, most good. What it didn’t bring was a desire to keep doing it. But if I have to, I will.

A Night In Florida

July 31, 2013

Sunday July 28th, 2013 – Fort Walton Beach, FL

   I’ll bet it had been twenty years since I’d been to Fort Walton Beach, FL but tonight I managed to find my way back. It was a different venue than I’d performed at last time, but pretty much the same kind – a giant entertainment complex located on the beach that has a weekly comedy night.

   These shows can go either way for no discernible reason, and often do. I remember having one particularly rough go of it in the two times I remember being here, while the other one happened to come off without a hitch. A lot of factors go into a successful comedy show, and only one has to be amiss and life can be downright miserable. Tonight it all came together and life was good.

   The venue tonight was a dueling piano bar called “Howl at the Moon”. It was packed, but with a younger audience that appeared to be drinking heavily. There was a lot of miscellaneous noise, from multiple blenders behind the bar to constant crowd chatter. This wasn’t a gig for the subtle, so before the show I braced myself for battle. I had no idea in what direction tonight would head.

   The degree of difficulty in situations like this is beyond sky high, but few understand. Bookers seldom if ever care, as all they want is their commission. They should technically be in charge of educating the venue operators as to how to properly run a comedy show, but that’s often the first and most glaring ingredient lacking. They assume we don’t need assistance, and that’s incorrect.

   One babbling drunk can throw a night like this to the wolves, and since the comedy shows start right after the dueling pianos perform that’s par for the course. The piano show is an entertaining concept, and as a fan of quality entertainment I enjoy them very much.  As a comic, they’re hell.

   For the entire show, the audience is encouraged to yell things out and sing along and be part of the mix. That’s the last thing comedians want, but we’ve got it. How can we blame the audience, as they’ve just been programmed for participation? Asking them to be quiet becomes impossible.

   Shouldn’t someone somewhere up the entertainment food chain have thought of this huge issue before scheduling a standup comedy show immediately after a dueling piano show? That’s like a kindergarten teacher passing out cookies and Kool Aid directly before story time. It’s buzz city.

   In my opinion, if anyone is going to offer standup comedy and music on the same night there’s no question that comedy should go first 100 times out of 100. It can serve as a perfect lead in for the pianos, and then if people want to yell things out it doesn’t matter. That’s a win/win for all.

   Tonight happened to go very well. I’ve done enough of these types of shows to know the exact formula, and it worked perfectly. They wanted quick, loud and animated, and that’s exactly what I gave them. Once my rhythm was established, I was able to sustain it for the rest of the evening. 

   The shift manager was one of the co-owners named Steve and he was really easy to work with. He enjoys comedy and totally gets it. He told us before the show he’d bounce anyone who might get out of hand, and knowing that goes a long way with me. It shows respect, and I appreciate it.

   I’m sure they have a legitimate business reason for putting comedy on after music, and it’s not my place to complain. It’s their venue, and we got treated extremely well. I was here for the cash and I got it immediately after the show. They put us in a sweet hotel, and I’m delighted to get the work when I really needed it. Rent will be paid this month, but now I have that long drive home.

Georgia Geography

July 28, 2013

Saturday July 27th, 2013 – Columbus, GA

   It’s not often I can say I haven’t been somewhere in the Continental United States, but today is one of those days. I’d heard of Columbus, GA but I can’t ever recall coming through this place in my many travels. I’ve been all over The Peachtree State starting with The Punch Line in Atlanta in the ‘80s and including Albany, Athens, Augusta, Savannah, Valdosta, Waycross and more.

   Columbus is on the Alabama border, and right next to Fort Benning. There’s a club called “The Loft” that has apparently been doing comedy shows for going on twenty years, and they have not one but two nights featuring different comics. I’ve seen that done on occasion, but not that often.

   The room itself is an upstairs facility, and quite large. They have a bar and restaurant, and they do comedy in an area separated by only a curtain. Unfortunately, noise from the other side bleeds over but that’s how they do it. It’s not my place to complain, as I’m here for the money and may never be back. It’s a long way from home, and circumstances brought me here for the evening.

   One nighters can always go either way, but if a place has made a commitment for twenty years chances are there’s a clue in the mix somewhere. The people on staff were all very nice, and I’ve never seen a more gorgeous wait staff in my life. Yowzah. Every last one was a total knockout.

   They had a nice sized stage with good lights and sound, and that’s another thumbs up. They do bands after the comedy, and there was a drum kit on stage but it still left enough room for me to prowl the stage like I like to do. They also serve dinner during the show, a big potential red flag.

   Again, if they’ve done it this long they’ve probably got a system and there were no problems at all. The noise from the other room was a bit distracting, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind so my focus was on them. They were aged probably from 30 to 50ish, and they were there for the show.

   I had a good time and more importantly got paid, but this is hopefully drawing close to the end of my barnstorming cross country one nighter tours. I took this run fully aware of everything that it entailed, but it’s only two nights and I’m barely going to come out ahead after all my expenses.

   Rent is due on Thursday of next week, and this was all I could find. I drove a lot farther than I should have, but I haven’t been out in a while so I sucked it up and did it. Since I’m on a budget this week, I chose to forego getting a hotel last night between Dayton and here. I pulled into the parking lot of a Marriott just south of Lexington, KY and slept there in my car for a few hours.

   That’s a part of road life I’ve never enjoyed, but everyone has done it at some point. It’s either budget restrictions or due to hotels in a town being full, but at one time or another performers of all genres end up sleeping in their car. It’s never a restful sleep, but we suck it up and move on.

   I’ve come way too far to be sleeping in my car at this stage of the game, but times dictate that I needed to so I did. I could have gotten a hotel, but I had a long way to drive and I would not have gotten my money’s worth. I did what I had to do, and hopefully I’ll squeak out a profit this week.

   All in all, this was a good run. I’m in Fort Walton Beach, FL tomorrow, and that’s a place that I’ve been before. It’s been quite a few years, but it was one of the first places I’d ever headlined. Wait, let me rephrase that. It’s one of the first places they ever let me go on last. I was far from a ‘headliner’ then, but everybody has to earn their stage chops somewhere, and that’s what I did.

Climate Control

July 28, 2013

Friday July 26th, 2013 – Dayton, OH

   Small victories are victories nonetheless. For the first time in recent memory – maybe ever – it thrills me to know I have a prime booking in a ‘climate’ location at a favorable time of the year. Coming up the ranks we all have to pay dues, and that often includes accepting off season work.

   I can’t count the times I’ve had to make my way to Duluth in December or Austin in August, and had to endure all the consequences that go with it. If one wants to gain experience and stay working early on, that’s part of the trade off. Bookers know it, and they know we’ll jump at it.

   It’s actually useful experience to deal with worst case scenarios, but after a while it gets to be an insult. Rarely if ever is there hazard pay, and the consequences can be devastating. I once had a gig in Laughlin, NV in the summer when it was 114 degrees – at night. I had a Geo Metro with no air conditioning, and it would have been smarter to accept a booking on the surface of the sun.

   Today I received a call to work in Tucson, AZ at Laffs Comedy Club for New Year’s Eve. I’ve always loved that town, but I have traditionally been booked there from April through September through the years. A lot of other people love it as well, so I’ve had to take whatever I could get.

   It’s an honor to be asked to do New Year’s Eve at any club, as it means they think highly of the caliber of the act. It’s traditionally the most important booking of the year, and they want to have a solid act. I’m beyond flattered they thought of me, and I’ll go there and kick ass for six shows.

   There are many reasons I enjoy Tucson. Obviously the climate is great, and I have quite a few friends there because my friend Jerry Agar used to have a radio show there. I got to be part of the show, and we recorded the version of my comedy class called ‘Be Funny Make Money’ there.

   I really love the club Laffs too. I find the crowds to be smart and into comedy, and I get along really well with the staff. Gary Hood is a funny comic who works behind the scenes, and knows what he’s talking about on stage and off. We hit it off years ago, and then he left and came back. He makes it easy because he’s a comic himself and knows the little things that make life better.

   The owner Gary Bynum is one of my favorite club owners anywhere, as he’s a business person first and lets you know it up front. I don’t have to go in there and kiss his or anyone else’s ass, or hang out and make his friends laugh or anything other than what I was hired to do. There is zero fakery there, and everyone knows it’s business. If every club was like that, life would be peachy.

   Knowing I’ve got a sweet gig on New Year’s Eve made my long drive much more palatable as I left early to get to Columbus, GA by tomorrow. That’s a long scoot, and I rented a car so as not to pound miles on my new old Toyota Camry. My days of astronomical miles on a car are over.

   I stopped in Dayton, OH to say hello to Rob Haney who owns Wiley’s Comedy Club. He and I worked together years ago at the Funny Bone in Milwaukee, and I always liked him. He’s a hard working funny comic, and he decided to buy his home town club years ago and get off the road.

   I can’t fault anyone for that, and he’s been at it for years now. He was saying how tough it has been in the last couple of years, as it has for most everyone. He, like me, has few alternatives to fall back on. He’s a lifer, and is in it for the long haul. He’s still funny, and I’m glad I stopped by to say hello. It’s been too long, but we’ve both been busy trying to survive. That’s a full time job.

The Power Of Perception

July 25, 2013

Wednesday July 24th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL 

   One of the most important aspects of the entertainment game is unfortunately one of my worst attributes, and that’s correctly working the politics angle. I have never been good at it, and it has cost me more than dearly. If comedy were real politics, I’d be grouped with the all time pariahs.

   At least Gary Hart, Eliot Spitzer and so many more went down in a sex scandal. My downfall has mostly been not being able to shut my big mouth. I tend to call things as I see them, and that doesn’t tend to sit well with everybody – especially those in the line of fire. I am far more often the hardest on myself than anybody else, but that’s never what gets remembered in the long run.

   Many people in the business have extremely thin skins even more so than in the rest of society. There are nuts in all walks of life, but entertainment is like a giant Payday candy bar. It’s loaded with them to the point of that being the main ingredient. I’ve had to learn to play cards delicately.

   Unfortunately, I’ve made some legendary mistakes that have held me back a lot more than they should have. The powers that be can be extremely unforgiving, and I’ve suffered greatly. It’s not fair, but fair has never been part of the equation. The jungle isn’t fair, and neither is this business.   

   One example is the Bob and Tom radio show in Indianapolis. They are on in 200 or so markets give or take, and they prominently feature comedians on their show. I’d been a guest about six or seven times, and had always done well. I know how to do radio, and was starting to get frequent air time. One day I showed up and apparently did something they didn’t like – and it was all over.

   They never did tell me what I did, but they physically removed me from the studio and made a huge deal over something I still can’t understand. They had asked me to tell a story from a book of comedian’s road stories called ‘I Killed’, and I merely did what they asked. They went off the deep end, and there was nothing I could do about it. They vaporized me like I have never existed.

   I tried to apologize for whatever I did when it happened, but they would not hear a word of it. I got thrown out like a vagrant, and they threw me off their live tour also. I tried to write a letter of apology – even though I still don’t know what I was apologizing for – and they all ignored me.

   For whatever reason, they had it in their minds that I was a bad guy and they shunned me like a leper. I can bitch about it all I want, but it won’t change anything. Was it fair? Of course not, but we already know about fair. They don’t like me, and the only thing that would change it might be for me to get so famous they’d want me because of public demand. I wouldn’t need them then.

   Another stinging example is a chain of comedy clubs called The Funny Bone. They’ve got a lot of clubs all over the country, and most of them are within driving distance of Chicago. I’ve never been one of their main ‘go to’ guys, but I have worked for them occasionally through the years.

   A couple of years ago, I wrote an entry in this very diary about a manager of one of their clubs that passed away. I knew the guy, and while I had nothing personal against him I thought he was not the most professional in how he handled business. I chose to not participate in his politics.

   I knew a lot of comics that flat out couldn’t stand him, but I was never one of those. Mine was just a professional beef, and in retrospect I mentioned that I had played the politics of the game completely incorrectly. That was the main thrust of my post – but it wasn’t taken that way at all.

   For whatever reason, that particular post made the rounds and I was vilified as if I had written a hate letter to Mother Theresa. I was getting nasty emails from wannabe comedians from that area that didn’t even know me, wishing me to rot in hell and that I should have died instead of him.

   I couldn’t believe one little post had caused that big of an uproar, so I went back and reviewed it to see if I had been too harsh on the guy in any way. Try as I might I sure couldn’t see it, and it clearly pointed the finger of blame at me as I had intended. It was too late by then. I was cooked.

   My one tiny little inane posting spread around to Funny Bone managers across the country and before I knew it I was banned like explosives in an airport. Dave Stroupe is in charge of booking many of the Funny Bones, and although we were never close I had crossed paths with him a few times. We got along fine, but I’ve never been one to push friendships with people that have clout.

   I’ve always been one to hang out with someone because I like them as people first, not for how they could advance my career. That’s about as wrong as can be as far as the politics game should be played, but I never wanted to be fake. Too bad for me, as that’s not how the jungle operates.

  Two more people that apparently hate my guts are Colleen Quinn in Omaha and Al Canal in St. Louis. They both sent me blunt harsh emails basically telling me they’d never use me because of what I said about the person in question. I don’t think they ever actually took time to read what I wrote, as if they had they’d see that he wasn’t the target but I was. Too bad. Perception is reality.

   This has been a very painful lesson in both cases, as it doesn’t matter if I’m right or not. That’s not how the game works. Perception is far more important than fact, and it sucks to be on the bad side of it – which I apparently am with these people. No matter how hard I try, they shut me out.

   The funniest part of all of this is that I’ve never ever considered anything I write to make a bit of difference in any way. I don’t think I’m important or that one key stroke I make has an impact on anything in this world. I write as a daily mental exercise, not to purposely piss anybody off.

   If anything, the only people I really aim for are comedians coming up the ranks. Of anyone on this planet, I know how brutally difficult this business can be and I try to speak openly of it all so someone else can hopefully avoid all the stupid mistakes I’ve made. I want to be a warning light, so hopefully someone else can play politics better than I have. It’s been a major obstacle for me.

   My policy has always been and still is now – if a situation is ugly I’ll leave names out of it, but still tell the story. If I do happen to include names, I consider the situation positive or at least not antagonistic. That’s why I included the Funny Bone manager’s name in my initial post. I was not angry at him personally, but it was a mistake to name him because everyone else misunderstood.

   Again, I don’t think anything I prattle about means a plugged nickel in the big scheme of life. I crank out my little poop sheet every day, and I probably should stop but it’s become so much of a part of my life by now I think it’s too late. Hopefully, I’ll get some readers who take it how it’s meant. I listed names in this post, because although these people have me on their most hated list I don’t hate them at all. It’s business, but they took it personally. That used to be my big mistake.

   So, here I sit. Bob and Tom hate me and they’re on in 200 markets. ‘Stone and Double T’ love me – but they’re only on in Rockford, IL. The Funny Bones torched me from their twenty clubs, but three Zanies in Chicago love me. Any good entertainer is both loved and hated. I’ve arrived.

Guitar Greatness

July 25, 2013

Tuesday July 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I was taking my exercise walk today, and that’s often when the most off the wall thoughts tend to force their way into my head from unknown places. Maybe it’s due to the shaking up of all the stagnant blood in my brain, but I’ve noticed that some of my freakiest thoughts come to me then.

   Today I was listening to some Parliament/Funkadelic on my iPod in honor of George Clinton’s birthday yesterday, and I got to thinking if I had to choose only ONE song as my very favorite of all time from any artist or musical genre what would it be? I doubt if anyone has a quick answer.

   I thought about it a rather long while, and then on the iPod came the Funkadelic song ‘Maggot Brain’ from the ‘One Nation Under  A Groove’ album. The song was originally released in 1971 as a studio version on a Funkadelic album of the same name, but this version is live and released in 1978. Of all the songs I have ever heard in my life, I can’t think of another that comes close.

   Despite the unconventional title, the song is jam packed with sensitive feelings and raw human emotion. I never get sick of hearing it, and if I was stuck on an island with the ability to hear just one version of one song this would definitely be it. I hope I’m never in that situation, but it’s fun to think about – kind of like what one’s last meal would be before execution in the electric chair.

   That’s a whole other topic entirely, but if I had a ‘last song’ before checking out this one would definitely be it. It’s a slow and at times intense guitar solo that doesn’t have any actual lyrics per se, but the guitar work speaks volumes. I challenge anyone to listen to it and not feel something.  

   The original guitarist was Eddie Hazel, a highly skilled virtuoso who passed away at the age of 42. As the story goes, George Clinton got him alone in the studio and told him to play his guitar like his mother had just died. One take later, the song was recorded and became a band signature.  

   It’s an amazing piece of guitar work, and I’ve heard others cover it from Carlos Santana to The Red Hot Chili Peppers to some guy named Bucket Head. Everyone puts individual flavor into the song and some versions are better than others, but it’s a definite standout as far as a unique solo.

   By all accounts, I really shouldn’t like this song but I can’t get enough of it. There are probably a dozen recorded versions by Funkadelic alone, and they always play it in their live shows for the hardcore fans like me who have come to expect it. Michael Hampton is now the guitarist instead of Eddie Hazel, and he does a magnificent job of recreating it time after time. It’s a masterpiece.

   Many people have said that to truly ‘hear’ Parliament/Funkadelic there needs to be drugs taken by the listener. The band has long admitted their substance dabblings, and George Clinton speaks freely about experimenting with acid for years and how he felt it opened up his mind creatively.    

   I’ve never even smoked a cigarette much less a joint, and the only thing close to acid I’ve taken is an occasional Rolaids to relieve excess stomach acid. I would be afraid to drop acid and put on Maggot Brain only to find out it sounds like a polka. Maybe I’m missing out, but I’ll continue to enjoy it like I have for most of my life. The song still kicks ass – even to a drug free white boy.  

   I’ve tried to listen to The Grateful Dead on occasion, but I don’t hear anything there. It would make sense that one would have to be high to get what they’re doing, but for some reason I get it loud and clear with P-Funk. Keep your Beatles, Stones and Zeppelin too. P-Funk is my favorite.     

Maggot Brain - pure guitar virtuosity

Maggot Brain – pure guitar virtuosity

                                                                                                                                                    

Braun’s Song

July 23, 2013

Monday July 22nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL 

   Jimmy cracked corn and nobody cared, so why the big cluster fuss about Ryan Braun getting cracked for using performance enhancing drugs? That’s all everyone was talking about today on radio, television and online, and they made it sound like it was some sort of catastrophic event.

   Friends from all over were contacting me all day asking questions and offering condolences as if I’d lost a loved one or something. It’s funny to me that they’d do that, as we have nothing at all in common other than Braun happens to be employed – or at least he was – in the city I was born.

   Other than that, we couldn’t be any more different. He’s a twenty something Californian pretty boy who has a smoking hot lingerie model girlfriend and millions in the bank. He has a fantastic dream home in Malibu, and a condo in Milwaukee where I couldn’t even afford a parking space.

   He’s in the restaurant business with Aaron Rodgers, and he’s got a multimillion dollar contract that paid him $6 million this year and is guaranteed for several more. He’s a former MVP and an All Star, and if none of that is enough he’s played long enough to be vested with a hefty pension.

   I’m a journeyman standup comic trying to piece together a living from month to month, hoping to catch a decent break at an age where most people are preparing for geezerhood, grandchildren or both. I’m ass deep in credit card debt, I owe the IRS and I have a huge medical bill from a stay in the hospital in 2011 I doubt if I’ll ever be able to pay. Braun and I are in two different worlds.

   And I’m supposed to feel sorry for this guy? That’s just not going to happen. I don’t have time to feel sorry for anyone, including myself. I have to get out there and squeak out a living for one more week. That keeps me busy enough. Some millionaire who felt a need to fib isn’t my fault.

   I must admit, I admired the guy as a baseball player. Yes I am from Milwaukee, and I’ve been a Brewers fan since I can remember – and that’s a pretty long time. I hearken back to before the Robin Yount era, and I’ve watched countless crybabies come and go. This is not a crisis. It’s life.

   The entire world has changed since I was a kid in the ‘70s. The guys I watched then weren’t in the same zip code as the rich kids today. A big star then didn’t have the financial clout of a scrub today, as it just wasn’t how things worked. They made decent bucks, but not like they do today.

   Nobody was on steroids then, but they took amphetamines in the ‘70s and cocaine was an issue with not only most teams but most sports in the ‘80s. Athletes are people, and people have flaws. I don’t think they have an obligation to be role models to our children – but it sure would be nice.

   I’m disappointed in Ryan Braun, but why should he care? He’s set for life financially before he turns thirty, and there aren’t too many who can ever say that. Did he ‘cheat’? Maybe so, but what other business doesn’t do that? Strippers have fake boobs, but nobody stops ogling them do they?

   Granted, fake boobs aren’t illegal but why should steroids be? If an athlete wants to juice up to gain a distinct advantage, so what? It’s not my testicles that are going to shrivel up. I’m a paying customer, and I want to see action. I don’t make millions and I can’t hit home runs, so what else can I do but pay someone else to do it for me? We all pay to watch athletes do what we can’t, all so we can hold up an index finger and claim that “WE are number ONE!” No stupid, the TEAM is number one – you’re a janitor. Deal with it. Life is cruel.  Feel sorry for Ryan Braun? Hardly.

Spike’s Big Night

July 22, 2013

Sunday July 21st, 2013 – Evanston, IL

   I can’t think of too many things that feel better than a friend remembering a birthday, so that’s why I try to do it whenever I can. It’s not all that difficult, but it really makes a difference. I love the beaming look of joy on someone’s face when they are truly surprised, and it never gets old.

   Today was my friend Spike Manton’s 50th birthday. He’s a very low key guy when it comes to any kind of celebrations, and I learned from his wife Tami that he’d made specific instructions to NOT under any circumstances have any kind of party or make a big deal of it. That’s how he is.

   As luck would have it, our mutual friend and fellow member of the morning show on 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago Max Bumgardner was going to be in town for a Monday business meeting so I suggested we go over and pay Spike a surprise birthday visit – especially since he didn’t want it.

   Spike, Max and I are like brothers, and I’m sure it will be that way for life. Being on a morning radio show tends to bond people together, as it can be such an intense experience. I can’t think of many jobs other than an astronaut where that much intimacy between workers exists constantly.

   How many spouses speak to each other four hours a day, five days a week from 5-9am? I doubt if there are many, and those that do probably have some epic battles. Spike, Max and I got along extremely well, and we enjoyed each other’s company on air and off. We had a rare chemistry.

   The human dingle berries of the vaunted Emmis Communications happened to be way too full of themselves to know what they had, so they chose to blow us out the door when the station was sold in 2004. They proceeded to make stupid decision after stupid decision, and now they’ve lost the station and their stock is worthless. I can’t say any of the three of us have ever shed one tear.

   What I can say is that we’ve remained friends, and every time we get together it’s like we were never apart. I’ve heard pro athletes talk about that feeling, as have military veterans. The bonding in intense situations lasts for life, and believe it or not a morning radio show can be very intense.

   There’s no use bitching about what went wrong, but the bottom line is that we got a bloody red raw deal and it’s too late to do anything about it now. What we have is our lasting friendship that will continue as long as we’re alive, and I thought it was important to visit Spike on his big day.

   I met Max at his hotel in Schaumburg, and we had about a half hour drive to Spike and Tami’s house in Evanston. We stopped and got a card, and bought him a Dunkin’ Donuts gift certificate because he used to suck down their coffee by the gallon every morning. It was the perfect gift for him, and I had some obscure sports books I knew he’d like so we threw those in to top it all off.

   We arrived at 6:30 – to the minute when Tami told us to be there. He was in the basement with his daughter, who was distracting him so he’d stay down there so we could surprise him. It was a perfect plan, as we walked downstairs and ambushed him with his gifts. He was truly surprised.

   Even though Spike is very dry and non emotional, we could tell he was glad to see us. The look in someone’s eyes in a situation like that never lies. We had a wonderful dinner, and had a lot of laughs to go with it. Spike and Tami’s kids Mickey and Samantha have grown into beautiful and well behaved teens, and that also reminded us how time waits for nobody. Spike is a great friend, as is Max. Was it worth losing our jobs how we did for their friendships? I say absolutely yes.

Moon Mysteries

July 21, 2013

Saturday July 20th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Today is the anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing in 1969. I’m of the generation where I don’t necessarily remember that particular one, but I do remember several others. It was a topic of study at school, and more than once I remember us watching something about it on television in class and then discussing it as a group. I loved the subject then, and I still do. It’s fascinating.

   It gets even more fascinating when the rumors come out of whether that first landing was faked or not. I remember how strange that sounded when I’d first heard it, but I felt the same way when I heard pro wrestling was prearranged. After I found out, I ended up liking wrestling even more.

   Wrestling is a well crafted show, and a very good one when executed properly. I felt privileged to be in on the joke, and it didn’t cause me to lose interest when I found out it wasn’t as it at first had appeared. There was still a skill set required, and it kept my attention as to how it was done.

   I’m not sure what the truth is about the first moon landing or the others, but isn’t it at least a bit odd that the United States or anyone else hasn’t made an effort to go back since? There has to be some kind of reason, doesn’t there? I thought we’d have a “Six Flags over the Moon” by now.

   Allegedly from what I’ve read the reason for a faked mission or missions would be for making the Russians believe we had the technology they didn’t, and that would mean we could kick their rotten Rooskie rumps from the moon to Moscow. Whether or not it’s true, I at least can grasp the logic.

   If it isn’t true and they really did go, why did it stop so suddenly? Or did it? This is where all of the real craziness starts, and that’s what I never tire of. There are all kinds of goofy theories from aliens told us to stop coming back to we still are going back but the public doesn’t know about it.

   Who can say what’s real? I can’t, but that includes most of the masses of humanity. Somebody somewhere knows, but they’re not talking. That leaves everything to speculation, and that’s what I thought about a lot today. What really happened, and why isn’t there an NFL moon franchise?

   We are such a small cosmic speck in the grand scheme of the vastness of the universe, but who can help wondering what else is out there? We think going to the moon is a big deal, but it really isn’t when one considers all of the billions, trillions and zillions of planets and moons out there.

   It would seem pretty improbable that if there indeed is a God He or She would only put life on such a minute terrestrial pebble as Earth and nowhere else. That doesn’t make any sense, and I’m not buying it. I would bet there is life everywhere – I just hope it’s not as screwed up as we are.

   We picture aliens landing that have superior intelligence to ours, but what if they’ve got many if not all of the same qualities we do? That would be a cosmic buzz kill, wouldn’t it? Here comes extra terrestrial contact, but they’re just as jealous, petty, warlike, selfish and insecure as we are.

   According to some, ‘they’ are already here among us and have been for thousands of years. To completely poo poo that would be just as insane as buying it hook, line and sinker. I don’t know, and I know I don’t know. I can have theories, but until I’m on the space ship it’s still a mystery.

  If nothing else, it sure is captivating to think about. I’ve always thought about stuff like this, but today’s anniversary of the alleged first landing on the moon reopened the file. What’s the truth?

The Emotional Toilet

July 21, 2013

Friday July 19th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   An especially unpleasant part of being both a dented can and creative artist type is often a total lack of self esteem. People have told us for so long that we’re not worthy or up to snuff and it’s a constant struggle to keep fighting that rejection. Some days it feels like the bastards were correct.

   I’m feeling that way right about now, and it’s not fun. Looking over my entire life, it sure feels like I’ve wasted it and I wish I could either start over or move on. Where I am just isn’t cutting it as far as satisfaction goes, and I feel like I have completely missed the mark in life. I’ve blown it.

   There are some days when I feel like a bullet proof warrior, plowing through the battlefield that most people never put even the tip of one toe on. I’ve made it through countless battles and been able to miraculously survive to fight another day. I can’t think of anybody who has gone through all the front line blood soaked life combat I have on so many levels and hung in there like I have.

   I’m not patting myself on the back as much as admitting I’ve just been too stupid to quit. I’m at a point in my life now where I don’t feel any closer to my goals than when I started, and that’s an unmerciful kick in the gonads of my self esteem. What the hell have I done with all these years?

   I’ve tried to make something good happen, but a combination of bad breaks and poor decisions have taken me so far off any course I thought I was on I don’t know what to do. I sure could use a break right now, but I don’t see one on the horizon. It feels like I’ve just been fooling myself.

   There’s a person I know that has some power in the business and with one phone call could put me in front of some important people that could really change my life. For whatever reason, he is not doing it and it’s been a crushing blow. Very rarely do I ask for favors, but in this case I made an exception. It wouldn’t be anything other than a phone call or two, but it’s not happening at all.

   This makes no sense to me, but what in this insane jungle of a business ever does? I’ve had this particular person tell me I was “the best standup comedian I’ve ever seen”, yet there isn’t a bit of effort to put in a word with someone when I really need it. I can’t figure it out, and it really hurts.

   I do like this person personally, but on a business level I feel completely ignored. This is how it works in the entertainment business, and one of the reasons why I never should have entered into it. If I wanted ‘normal’ – and I did – this is the last place to ever find it. I feel emotionally raped.

   I think the majority of entertainers stumble into the business because they are severely lacking in an emotional area of their lives and hope to make up for it by becoming successful. It’s often the lack of approval or encouragement from a parental unit, and that story has been played out as long as entertainment has existed. The whole business is a giant game of kids needing attention.

   I’m not going to lie and say that’s not a major reason of why I got into it. I wanted to prove that all those incredibly cruel things my father said were wrong, but some days I still hear them and it completely erases anything positive I may have done. I’m sorry, but I’m human and I feel pain.

   Nobody cares about anyone else’s pain, as they are trying to numb their own. Comedy is often a welcome diversion to both those watching and those performing, but if the pain isn’t dealt with on a deeper level it never really goes totally away. Once in a while the emotional toilet clogs and it all backs up to create an ugly mess. What I could use is a plunger, but I don’t see one around.