Archive for October, 2013

Distinguished Pedigree

October 23, 2013

Wednesday October 16th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

I’m back headlining at Zanies in Chicago this week, and it never gets old. That stage has a long and distinguished pedigree since 1978, and everyone who is anyone in comedy from Jay Leno to Jerry Seinfeld to Richard Lewis to Robert Klein to Sam Kinison and countless others have stood on the very stage I am privileged to stand on eight more times this week. This place is legendary.

It’s like an athlete getting to play in a storied structure like Yankee Stadium or Lambeau Field. One can feel the aura of history just walking in the place, and that’s what I feel whenever I walk into Zanies – even though I’ve done it hundreds of times. There’s still a magic vibe in the place.

The walls are covered with 8×10 signed photos of acts that have performed there over all these years, and it’s a virtual history of the comedy industry. Most every big star one can think of is up there, and they all look unbelievably young with pictures most of the public hasn’t seen before.

Jay Leno’s picture looks like it’s from his high school graduation, as do several others. A lot of the acts are dead now, and there are also a lot of others that most people have never heard of. I’m on the wall too, and it’s one of my earliest promo shots in a tuxedo of all things. I’m embarrassed whenever anyone sees it, but Zanies refuses to take it down. They say they’ll replace it if I try.

Part of the charm of a long running comedy club is to see the pictures of the comedians who’ve been around a while and look at how they’ve progressed. The Punch Line in Atlanta has some of the oldest promo pictures I’ve ever seen, and there are quite a few that I had never seen before.

For reasons of which I am still unsure, I am one of the Zanies family. I sure didn’t plan on that when I started, and I’m sure they didn’t either. It just kind of grew unexpectedly over decades of working together, and now I’m ingrained in the DNA. I wouldn’t think of going anywhere else.

That doesn’t mean I’m bullet proof and I could easily get booted tomorrow, but I’d have to do something pretty bad to make that happen. We’ve got enough history with each other that we’re like an old married couple. We’ve learned to live with one another and there’s a comfort level.

Is it good or bad? It just “is”. There’s an Improv Comedy Club in Schaumburg, IL and I’d love to work there and every other Improv in America. What comedian wouldn’t? They have some of the most gorgeous comedy rooms ever built, and have a nationally recognized name. I might get a chance to work some of the others someday, but not in Chicago. I’m a loyal Zanies act. Period.

I just received word I was bestowed a huge honor by being chosen to be one of three comics on Zanies’ 35th anniversary show November 5th along with Larry Reeb and Tim Walkoe. That made my year, and I’m thrilled to be included in such distinguished company. Those guys are as funny as it gets, and are classic Chicago acts. To be part of that show is like being “made” in the Mafia.

True fans of Chicago standup comedy will get to see a show nobody has ever seen before. I’ve worked with both those guys many times before, but the three of us have never performed on one show on the same night. That’s a rock solid lineup, and I’m looking forward to us all knocking it out of the park for Zanies’ anniversary. I’m SO excited! Get your tickets early. http://www.zanies.com.

Zanies Comedy Club on Wells Street in Old Town Chicago. It's a cathedral of comedy.

Zanies Comedy Club on Wells Street in Old Town Chicago. It’s a cathedral of comedy.

Who's this idiot? I have NO idea.

Who’s this idiot? I have NO idea.

Sweat Home Chicago

October 22, 2013

Tuesday October 15th, 2013 – Toronto, ON/Chicago, IL

Back to the highly intense stress of travel and deadlines. It was great to take a few days to visit a friend, but I had to get back to Chicago for a week of work at Zanies Comedy Club. I was up to my armpits in things to do before, but now it’s over my head. Those few days away put me in the trick bag, and it will take herculean effort to dig out. There’s nothing I can do but keep plugging.

It was fun to relax a few days with Jerry Agar and daughter Kaelin, and I really enjoy Toronto. This was the most I’d ever seen of it, and I hope I can get back to perform someday. I don’t have an in and Jerry doesn’t either, but if I put it on the radar I’ll bet I’ll get a booking at some point.

I knew I was in for a stressful return trip as my flight was scheduled to get in at 5:30pm. That’s cutting it way too close for an 8:30 show, but Jerry didn’t think of it when he bought the ticket. It wasn’t intentional, but I cringed when I learned of it because I knew I was on a paper thin margin for error. One little glitch could make me miss my show at Zanies, and that would spell trouble.

Everything about today was difficult. I flew out of a different airport than I flew in, and it was out in the sticks and an hour drive. Jerry missed his exit, and we were riding around looking for a place to turn back around. We’d left in plenty of time, but there’s still that underlying tension of wondering if we’d find it. Jerry had never been there before, and neither one of us knew the way.

We did get there eventually, but it was so far out in the boonies there were no restaurants to get a snack before my flight left. There was a coffee shop in the airport, but as soon as we walked in a lady informed us they were closing…not for the day – for good. It was like a comedy sketch.

There was a snack bar open, and we had a sandwich and visited for a while. Jerry is busting his ass in Toronto trying to get ahead, and he’s doing a marvelous job on the air – but he did the very same thing in Chicago and Kansas City before that and Raleigh, NC before that. He’s wants what I want – stability. I know this isn’t the right occupation for that, but damn it would be refreshing.

Jerry had to get back to the city, and I assumed I was going to get on my plane without a glitch. Ha! Who are we talking about here? There was a weather squall in Chicago and it caused a delay of about an hour, and that made my bilge hole pucker. Now it would be a race to make my show.

This is the part of the business nobody ever plans for, and it was torture waiting until we finally got to board the small plane and head home. I tried to do a crossword puzzle to forget about it all, but I couldn’t help thinking I was going to be late. I can’t stand that feeling of such helplessness.

The ride back was even bumpier than the ride there, and by the time we landed I was ready for a full body massage to loosen up. I made it through customs, and then had to locate my car in an immense remote parking lot which took longer than I expected. My jaw was clenched like a vise.

I got to my car, and there’s always that hope there aren’t four flat tires – or worse no tires at all. Everything was there, and I fought traffic on the Kennedy Expressway for a while and I got there with minutes to spare. I did my show, and it actually went very well. The audience had no clue of the stress level I went through to get there, but they don’t need to know. They have stress of their own.

Other than the dreaded Bears, there are a lot of things I love about Chicago.

Other than the dreaded Bears, there are a lot of things I love about Chicago.

A Hugh-mongous Heart

October 22, 2013

Monday October 14th, 2013 – Toronto, ON

One of the cruelest aspects of human life is that all too often those that have the most intensely focused desire to attain or achieve something are the ones that are never able to have it. I’ve seen it time and time again – including in my own life. There’s a cruel irony to it I can’t understand.

I wanted to be a professional baseball player from as early as one can comprehend what that is. I was a pitcher – and left handed at that. That is THE most desirable position to be if one intends to realize that dream, yet I still couldn’t manage to pull it off. It disappoints me to this very day.

Most of my childhood was spent throwing a baseball whenever and however I could. I had no preference if it was to another human or against a brick wall, I just wanted to pitch. I read books on pitching, watched live games and even obsessed as far as to keep my left arm out of the cold.

I knew for sure there was going to be a bust of me in Cooperstown at some point, but the only part that came true was ‘bust’. I didn’t make it, even though I did have a tryout for one day with the Kansas City Royals. They used to have a baseball academy, and would travel around to visit the other Major League cities and scout for talent right under the noses of all their competition.

I was 19ish, and cocksure of myself when I went to that tryout. I knew I had put in my years of preparation, and knew how to pitch. Unfortunately, that’s not what the Kansas City Royals were looking for – nor was any other professional team. They were looking for physical specimens to mold into the position they thought was best, and that’s something someone is born with or isn’t.

We all get standard and deluxe equipment with our packages in life, and not everyone likes all they get. Some of us get special talents and attributes included that we never expected, while the rest have to make do with what they get. Many more than don’t ever get what they really want.

I did happen to get a few tools in my box, and throwing with my left hand was one of them. I’d gotten that gift, but I couldn’t throw the ball as fast as a Major Leaguer needs to to stand out in a crowd. 80 miles and hour is not 90, and it sure isn’t 100. That’s what the scouts are looking for.

That’s why those that have it get paid so much, as it’s just plain not that common. Bull Durham is one of my favorite baseball movies because it shows exactly how random things are in life and in baseball. Kevin Costner’s character is intelligent and diligent and by all accounts should be the one with the big career. That’s not how it worked out. Tim Robbins’ character got the big break.

It’s not fair, but that’s the last thing life ever is. There are countless stories in every career field where natural talent or innate ability is required. Standup comedy is surely no exception, and it’s loaded with fiercely loyal aspirants who try as hard as I did in baseball but will never make it out of the low minor leagues if at all. Try as they might, they just don’t have it. It’s not in the cards.

I’ve seen this sad story play out from coast to coast since I started doing comedy, and I see it in my comedy classes regularly as well. It shreds my heart into confetti when I see someone with an unfaltering desire to succeed get out there and slug it out for years and not make progress. I wish I could make things even a little bit fair, but nobody has that ability. That’s not how life works.

One of the saddest examples of this theory was Hugh Neary. As I write this I’ve been teaching comedy classes for eighteen years, and have had more than 2000 students come through my class that has been taught at various locations. That’s a lot of people, and I have studied and observed all of them. Some of them ‘have it’, and others totally don’t. No matter what they do, it’s useless.

It doesn’t mean they’re bad people, and it doesn’t mean they’re failures in life or entertainment or anything else. All it means is that as far as standup comedy goes, they weren’t given that extra scoop of potatoes it takes to put them over the top. Like with baseball, it has to be a natural gift.

Tom Clark is an example of someone that had it. Tom was in the very first class I taught, and it was obvious to both me and the rest of the students that he had that extra scoop. He needed to be seasoned as we all do, but the natural flair was there. Hannibal Burress was another one that was easy to spot. He never took my class, but I saw him shoot up the ranks in Chicago like a rocket.

He’s doing really well for himself now, and I’m not surprised. He’s just like the Tim Robbins character in Bull Durham, except he’s a lot smarter. That kid not only has it, he’s LOADED with it. I don’t know if I have ever seen anyone else with a scoop as big as his. He’s a rare exception.

Unfortunately, Hugh Neary was not. He was just the opposite. He had about as tiny of a scoop of potatoes as I’ve ever seen, and no matter what he did it wasn’t going to change. He was given what he was given, and that was it. No amount of practice or dedication would ever change that.

That small tidbit wasn’t going to stop Hugh though. He must have taken my entire class at least half a dozen times all the way through. He could have taught the damn thing after a while, but he absolutely loved being around comedy and comedians. He loved the creative process, and he had an amazing appreciation for anyone that did have natural ability. He was a student of the game.

Hugh was without question THE most dedicated student I have ever taught. It’s not even close. He would show up early, and sit through everyone’s act and make dead on observations. He had an outstanding eye for what others were doing, but when he got on stage himself it was different. He had a hard time keeping his composure, and no matter what he tried he never put it together.

That didn’t matter to me, because I could see the lion’s heart that beat inside him. Hugh wasn’t going to give up, and after the first couple of times through the class I let him show up for free. It wasn’t hurting anybody by having him there, and he totally added to the class. His passion for all that standup comedy entails dripped off of him like the flop sweat he had when he was on stage.

Hugh Neary was born on October 14th, 1975. He passed away from a blood clot on November 20th, 2005, and I’m still fighting back tears as I think about it. I went to his funeral, and saw him lying in his coffin holding a microphone. His mother and sister were standing next to it and they didn’t know who I was. When I told them, they lit up and said how much Hugh loved my class.

There aren’t many in any field with the passion of a Hugh Neary. I will honor his memory with an award called “The Hughie” for my future students that show the most passion for comedy and all that it involves. They won’t be able to match Hugh though. Nobody can. He is the undisputed champion of all time. His heart was the biggest I’ve ever seen. Wherever he is, I hope life is fair.

NOBODY had more raw passion for standup comedy than Hugh Neary - 10/14/75 - 11/20/05

NOBODY had more raw passion for standup comedy than Hugh Neary – 10/14/75 – 11/20/05

Canadian Thanksgiving

October 22, 2013

Sunday October 13th, 2013 – Toronto, ON

I haven’t been to Canada in a while, and I forgot how much I like it here. I’ve always found the people to be really friendly and unassuming, and they’re especially nice if an American makes an effort to respect their country. They have “little brother syndrome”, and all it takes is the slightest bit of positive attention to win them over forever. They have an identity, and they want it known.

I’ve worked in Canada several times, and have always enjoyed it. I worked in Winnipeg a long time ago and Calgary not that long ago, but that’s not Toronto. Canadians look at Toronto like an American looks at New York. Unless one actually lives there, it’s usually a place to be avoided.

I’m a city person, so I don’t think I’d have any trouble living here. It’s a huge city, and I would bet millions of ignorant Americans know absolutely nothing about it. It’s very cosmopolitan, and very ethnically diverse as well. I was surprised at the percentage of people from somewhere else.

I’m here hanging out for a few days helping my friend Jerry Agar come up with some ideas for a creative project he’s working on. I don’t even want to hint at what it is, because someone could easily swoop in and steal his idea. I will say that it’s very ambitious, and he’s putting all kinds of time and energy into it and requested my help. He has helped me a lot so I felt I owed it to him.

We’ve actually helped each other a lot over the years. Every time one of us gets fired from our radio gig, we’ve been there to comfort the other and it’s happened far too often. I’ve been blown out of jobs in Lansing, Milwaukee, Reno, Salt Lake City and Chicago, and Jerry has been shown the door in Toledo, Tucson, Knoxville, Raleigh, Kansas City and Chicago. We’ve got a history.

Radio is a bug with a toxic bite, and we’ve both got plenty of scars. Both of us are really good at what we do, but trying to stay employed can be a challenge when neither one of us suffers the idiots in management well. We’re creative types, and that’s usually a recipe for corporate death.

Jerry got blown out of Chicago at WLS for no good reason, other than management wanted to try a new flavor of the month. I had the same fate at The Loop, and that’s just how it goes. I have comedy as my primary source of income, but Jerry has a family and had to take the job up here.

He’s originally from Canada, but his wife isn’t and that was a hassle just like it was when Jerry first came to The United States years ago. This is a process most Americans never have to think about, and I admit I didn’t until I met Jerry. I was born in America, and never thought about it.

This weekend happens to be Thanksgiving in Canada. Most non Canadians have no idea that it exists, and that’s part of the disrespect factor that irritates them so much. It wouldn’t take a lot to just wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, even though they choose to do it on a Monday in October.

One thing I’ve always loved about Canada is the Canadian Football League. It’s a fast moving game, and I totally love it. There are only eight teams, but there is just not that much population up here to have more. There’s a double header of CFL football tomorrow, and Jerry and I got to watch the NFL today. Most people here are Buffalo Bills fans, and I’ve always enjoyed working in Buffalo so today I was one too. Hockey I could survive without, but the rest of Canada is fun.

Like Rodney Dangerfield, Canada gets no respect. Most Americans don't even know they have provinces instead of states.

Like Rodney Dangerfield, Canada gets no respect. Most Americans don’t even know they have provinces instead of states.

Check out my long time friend Jerry Agar on AM 1010 CFRB if you need to bone up on what's going on to the north. It's like a whole other country! www.newstalk1010.com

Check out my long time friend Jerry Agar on AM 1010 CFRB if you need to bone up on what’s going on to the north. It’s like a whole other country! http://www.newstalk1010.com

International Deadline

October 19, 2013

Saturday October 12th, 2013 – Toronto, ON

Back to the state of perpetual stress. Most of what being a road comic becomes after time is the constant hassle of having to get to the next place. There are deadlines to make, and obstacles that jump up out of nowhere that turn life into one big Cannonball Run. Decades of it wears one out.

My most recent cross country challenge was getting from LaCrosse, WI after a show last night to O’Hare airport in Chicago for an 11am flight to Toronto, ON to visit my friend Jerry Agar for a few days. I haven’t a clue how many miles or kilometers that is, and it’s not worth looking up.

All I know is, there gets to be an ever tightening knot in the bottom of my stomach as I attempt to make each leg of any trip and I never fully know I’m going to make it until I physically arrive. There’s always the chance of some unforeseen glitch, and that’s what keeps the stress level high.

The good thing this time was that I had Bill Gorgo to ride with from LaCrosse to Fox Lake, IL where I live. He’s a road veteran and knows the ropes. He knew we had to duck out immediately after the show in LaCrosse, even though it meant squelching all possibility of selling any CDs.

That stinks because it was a hot show, but that’s part of the road grind. I couldn’t afford to risk the time in case there was a delay getting back. Driving late at night is always a gamble, and I’ve learned it’s best to leave as much cushion as possible. Bill knew it too, so we got right in the car.

We stopped half way home to gas up and pee, but Bill brought snacks for the ride because he’s a road vet and knows that saves extra stops. There’s also a stretch of two lane highway along the route that was unavoidable because of where I live. There’s just no other way to get there and it’s filled with speed traps, critters and drunk drivers. It’s like driving through a real life video game.

Sure enough, we got pulled over because Bill’s car had a headlight out. The cop was cool about it, but that could have been a big issue. We were in Wisconsin and Bill has Illinois plates. That is frequently a recipe for disaster, but this time we dodged a bullet and were soon back on the road.

Bill dropped me off at 3am, but of course I was wide awake and couldn’t sleep so I answered a few emails. Then I did a load of laundry, and packed for the trip. I dug out my passport and flight info, and by that time it was 6am. I nodded off for a couple of hours, but it wasn’t sound sleep as I knew I needed to get to the airport and couldn’t blow it. There’s always a level of stress there.

Of course my car’s gas tank was on ‘E’, and when I stopped at the gas station all of the pumps were occupied. There was also some construction on the way, and that caused a delay that made the knot in my stomach tighten even more. Then I got to the airport exit on the freeway and they had it closed for repairs. I was really in a tizzy, and then the parking lot was over full too. Ugh.

I made it to the gate with minutes to spare, but that knot got tighter as my carryon luggage was about an inch too big for the overhead compartment and they made me check it. After all that, we had a bumpy ride due to weather and I thought I was going to throw up on the lady sitting next to me. It was a flying tilt-a-whirl, and I wasn’t expecting it. We eventually ended up in Toronto, but then there was the constipated maze of going through customs. I tell you, it never EVER lets up.

Easier said than done.

Easier said than done.

A common feeling for those of us who travel for a living.

A common feeling for those of us who travel for a living.

The Other L.A.

October 18, 2013

Friday October 11th, 2013 – LaCrosse, WI

L. A. The left coast. La-la land. One has to come from Wisconsin to think of LaCrosse and not Los Angeles when those terms are mentioned, but I am. That’s where I performed tonight, and it was a rock solid show. Unfortunately, nobody with showbiz clout will see me here. I need to get to the other L.A. to raise my career status, but for tonight it felt good to be here. I like LaCrosse.

For one, it’s the most scenic city in Wisconsin. That might not say much, but there are hills and the Mississippi River and for cheeseheads it’s a pretty town. I thought it was really great as a kid, but then I started hitting the road and went west. Wisconsin can’t hold a candle to the mountains.

Second, it’s a college town and even though I traditionally haven’t done well for those types of audiences the ones that come out here are almost always good. I’ve played here many times over many years, and more often than not I have had pleasant experiences. Tonight was yet another.

A lot of things are good about this gig. It’s been going a long time, and locals know where it is. It’s in a Midway Motor Lodge on a main drag less than two minutes off the Interstate, and that’s great for everyone. There’s a good restaurant in the hotel so people can eat before the show, and there’s plenty of free parking. There’s also a radio station that interviews the comics on the air.

From a performer’s perspective, those things are all positives. Plus, we get to stay in the hotel which is also a perk. We can literally leave for work a minute before we’re scheduled to be there and make it on time. There’s also a nice pool in the hotel, and all in all it’s a pleasant experience.

There are several places like this around the country, and I’ll bet I’ve played more of them than I missed. Some comedy one nighters come and go, but the stalwart hotel gigs are prized jewels in the life of the road warrior. They’re the gift that keeps on giving, and I am grateful for them all.

These are the joints where careers are built. Wait, check that. These are the joints where a skill set is built. That skill set has to be showcased somewhere – usually New York or Los Angeles – and then a career can happen. The LaCrosses of the world are a very important piece of the pie.

On the way up, it’s a place to cut one’s performance teeth. I’ve done all kinds of shows on this very stage over many years. I started as an opener, and now I’m a solid headliner. I can feel how much I’ve grown, and it feels great. I no longer need the experience, but now the money is nice.

I won’t get rich from this show, but it will pay a bill or two and right about now I totally need every buck I can get. It wasn’t difficult other than having to drive all the way here but I wanted to visit my friend Jim Wiggins and he lives up this way anyway. I was able to make it a win/win, plus I also got to hang out with Bill Gorgo and talk shop the whole trip. It was quite productive.

Still, in the back of my brain I know I’m in the wrong L.A. LaCrosse is a friendly place and I do enjoy performing there but Los Angeles is where things happen and careers are made. There’s a lot going on in New York too, but even with the advent of the internet L.A. is where everybody needs to be known. I had my chance, but I left before I could establish roots. I always intended to go back, but so far circumstances haven’t dictated than I can. When they do, I will gladly return.

LaCrosse - Wisconsin's 'west coast'.

LaCrosse – Wisconsin’s ‘west coast’.

Cancer No More

October 18, 2013

Thursday October 10th, 2013 – Sparta, WI

In all my years of gallivanting around North America, I can only recall a couple of times when my schedule happened to work out conveniently. I am notorious for having horrific routing over most of my career, and the stress from it has probably already shaved some years off of my life.

I’ve got some more coming up in a couple of days, but for now I’m exactly where I want to be. I’ve got a show tomorrow night in LaCrosse, WI and that allowed me to take a ride to Sparta, WI with my friend Bill Gorgo to visit our mutual friend Jim Wiggins on his birthday. It was a special birthday for Jim as he was just released from a nine day hospital stint after having major surgery.

If anyone can relate to the misery of nine days in the hospital it’s me. That’s how long I had to rot when I was in for my own surgery in 2011. It seems like two lifetimes ago now, but it was an unexpected obstacle in an already difficult life. I wasn’t expecting it, and it changed me forever.

Other than total financial disaster, I’m much better for it today. My type 2 diabetes is in check, and I could have easily lost all my plumbing. Any time a man has his junk sliced up like sushi it gets his undivided attention. ‘Testicle’ is a funny word – unless it involves surgery on one’s own.

I’m just now getting to a point where I can talk about it freely on stage. I’ve done it a few times and it’s gotten mixed responses. There’s a fine line between comedy and sympathy and there has to be just the right mixture of funny in place to get laughs rather than ‘oohs’ – or stunned silence.

I’m still working on it, and hopefully I’ll be around a while longer to polish it into a closing bit. Anytime severe discomfort and someone else’s genitals are involved, it’s always a guaranteed hit with a crowd. ‘America’s Funniest Videos’ has proven it for years. Nothing follows a crotch hit.

Jim Wiggins had a crotch hit of his own as he had his prostate and bladder removed. That’s not funny in the least, but life plays no favorites – even with comedians. It’s our job to find the funny in a lot of things that don’t seem glib on the surface, and I have no doubt Jim will use this as fuel for future routines. We can’t help it. A true comedian always looks for funny in every situation.

Sometimes that’s what keeps us going. Life can be downright frightening, and if anyone could come even close to relating what Jim was feeling it was me. He had a lot more done than I had to have, but I know how lonely and intimidating it can be laying alone in a hospital bed waiting for some stranger to carve into your bean bag like dark meat on a turkey. It makes sleep impossible.

I wanted to make sure I saw Jim on his birthday, but Bill and I weren’t sure if he would still be in the hospital or not. His hospital was in LaCrosse, so either way we knew we’d see him but it’s much better that he was at home. He was tired and moving slow, but he looked remarkably good. We didn’t know what to expect, but he exceeded our expectations. We were just glad to see him.

The best news of all is that he’s now cancer free. He had gone through three painful bouts with chemo, and that’s now over with. Now the thing to focus on is healing, and Bill and I focused on that as we sat and visited. Jim eventually nodded off to sleep, but I knew he was glad we showed up. I was glad we did too. For once my routing made it possible for me to be in the right place.

Comedian Jim Wiggins 'The Last Hippie In America' no longer has cancer! www.lasthippie.com

Comedian Jim Wiggins ‘The Last Hippie In America’ no longer has cancer! http://www.lasthippie.com

The Down And Dirty

October 12, 2013

Wednesday October 9th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

One of the distinct advantages of the technology age is that there are many more opportunities to receive exposure from targeted groups than ever before. It used to be that comedians would all be fighting for a precious few network television slots, but chances of ever getting one were slim.

Those chances are even slimmer today with the number of aspiring comedians growing by the minute, but there are more specialized media outlets than ever before that provide a much needed platform for performers to get seen by enough people to be able to build themselves a following.

More acts than ever can attain enough local or regional recognition to make themselves a better than average living while not being internationally famous, and I find that encouraging. I’d much rather have my followers and cater to them than have to conquer the entire show business world.

Very few ever did that in the past, and those that did were enormous stars while everybody else struggled in obscurity trying to pound out a living. Now the rules have changed and the odds that anyone will ever be a megastar are tiny. On the other hand, there are a lot more potential niches.

Today I had an opportunity to be on a show called “The Down and Dirty with Frank Fontana”. It was a lot of fun, but I’m not sure how to describe exactly what it is. It can be seen and heard at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/diy at 11am Central Time and it’s a hybrid show that’s seen and heard.

Frank Fontana is a super nice guy, but he is also an expert on home repairs and Do-It-Yourself design projects. He’s very down to earth and entertaining, and the show is a cross between a talk radio show about home repair and a late night TV show like Leno or Letterman that has guests.

It’s informational, informal and targeted to a specific audience that from what I hear is a rather large one. They’ve started to have comedians as guest hosts recently, and they called Zanies for a list of Chicago acts. I was on the list, and today was my turn to be on as a guest host with Frank.

The show is an hour, but they pack it with quality content. Frank did an interview with me for a segment, but then had on other guests and I served as his sidekick. I’ve had all kinds of hands on experience with that from my morning radio days, and I thought we worked very well together.

One of the guests was Reverend Mark Anthony Lord who is the Spiritual Director and founder of Bodhi Spiritual Center in Chicago and he talked about prosperity. We went back and forth and had some funny banter about my whole ‘Mr. Lucky’ persona, and he used it as his starting point.

There was another guest named John Eskandari of Urban Plantsman who discussed fascinating facts about plants and how to get the most out of them in one’s yard that I found to be interesting beyond belief. I didn’t think I’d fit in this format, but I knew in the first few seconds that I did.

Everyone was so nice to me that I felt like I’d not just appeared on a show but made some new friends. The producer was a British woman named Cherie, and she set the tone that was constant for the entire experience. It’s great fun being treated like a star, and it also makes for relaxed and fun content. I can see why this program is popular, and I look forward to being on it again soon.

Frank Fontana - competent host of 'The Down and Dirty with Frank Fontana'. Find it at www.blogtalkradio.com/diy

Frank Fontana – competent host of ‘The Down and Dirty with Frank Fontana’. Find it at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/diy

Reverend Mark Anthony Lord talked about prosperity.

Reverend Mark Anthony Lord talked about prosperity.

Hooking People Up

October 10, 2013

Tuesday October 8th, 2013 – Palatine, IL

Who a person knows really does matter in life, but only if action is taken to make those sources pay off. Today some actions I took with several contacts came together, and even though none of it was of direct benefit to me I still felt good about making it happen. I proved it could be done.

Jeff Schneider used to own the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Milwaukee when I started. He has the ability to polarize people just as I do, but he is extremely intelligent and we have remained in touch going on thirty years. I’m one of the few who get where he’s coming from, but I totally do.

Jeff put together a well thought out presentation called “Avoiding the Homogenized Life” that deals with the choices we all have to make in life whether to do our own thing and chase passion projects or settle for mediocrity and play the game. He put a lot of time into it and I liked what it was about. It’s a struggle I’ve dealt with my whole life, and I know many others are facing it too.

Jeff constantly bemoans the fact that nobody will call him back – even though when he owned his comedy clubs for thirty years he was known throughout the comedy world as one who was as difficult to get a hold of as anyone. I find it funny to hear him complain when tables are turned.

He was looking to video record his presentation in a college atmosphere so he could approach colleges about hiring him to speak for students. His perspective at age 60 had changed from his perspective as a student, and he thought it would benefit college kids to garner some inside tips.

I have a friend at Harper College in Palatine, IL named Scott Cashman who is the Director of Continuing Education. I think Scott is one of the most on the ball people I’ve ever met, and I’m glad we crossed paths. He’s also extremely intelligent, and I thought he would get Jeff’s angle.

I hooked Jeff up with Scott, and Scott (mostly as a favor to me) booked Jeff to deliver his talk at Harper. He told me that if I recommended Jeff, that was good enough for him and he’d give it a shot. I’m flattered to have that kind of influence, but that’s what’s needed to get things started.

I also put Jeff in touch with Jay Bachochin who owns “Chum Bucket Studios” where he does excellent audio and video work, graphic design and the like. I knew Jay would do a splendid job, so I instructed Jeff to hire Jay for the evening. You can as well at http://www.chumbucketstudios.com.

Jeff asked if I wouldn’t mind opening the evening with a few minutes of standup comedy as an audience warm up, and I said I would. Since I had lined up all the involved parties, the very least I could do was show up and see how it came off. I was curious myself as it was a total crapshoot.

We had a grand attendance total of 36, but it was held in a small room so at least it looked full for recording purposes. What surprised everyone was that only one student showed up – and she was with her parents. Jeff had targeted it for students, but that’s not at all who showed up. Those who did enjoyed the evening, and we could tell because they stayed afterward to ask questions.

Even though it was a small crowd, I still felt like the event was a big success. I made it happen with my contacts, and that made it even better. Now I need someone to do the same thing for me.

Harper College in Palatine, IL is a great place to learn. Scott Cashman is in charge of Continuing Education.

Harper College in Palatine, IL is a great place to learn. Scott Cashman is in charge of Continuing Education.

Need something recorded? Contact Jay Bachochin at www.chumbucketstudios.com.

Need something recorded? Contact Jay Bachochin at http://www.chumbucketstudios.com.

Perpetual Overwhelm

October 8, 2013

Monday October 7th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

My days are getting more and more packed, and there’s no relief in sight. My phone is ringing constantly to the point I leave it shut off most of the time, and I don’t know how to handle it. I’m in a state of perpetual overwhelm, and even though I’m working hard I’m always falling behind.

I start my days with the best of intentions, and then that phone rings and it’s almost always bad news or something I hadn’t planned for to distract me. I’ve got several energy vampires to dodge that just can’t seem to understand that I’m very busy most of the time and need to get work done.

I try extremely hard to be polite, but that doesn’t work. They’ll keep calling and then scold me for not picking up when I do call them back – and I try to call everyone back at some point. I am often several days or even longer in doing it, but I never try to blow anyone off. I know what that feels like, and it’s not pleasant. But courtesy only goes so far, and this is becoming a big hassle.

I love to hang out and chew the fat and all that, but when there are things to do that earn me my living, I can’t afford that luxury. My phone is a business tool, and I have a limited amount of free time with too many people who want to use it for unimportant chatter. I have reached saturation.

Not everyone who calls me is a pain in the ass, and in fact most people aren’t. Most times I am delighted to hear from those that take time to call, and am flattered they thought of me in the first place. It’s just that I can’t call everyone back in a timely fashion, and that tends to insult people.

“Hey, you can make time to call ME back can’t you?” Everyone says that, and no I can’t. I try as hard as I can to get back to everybody, but between that and the constantly growing email pile and the activities of life itself it just exceeds my human capabilities. I need a secretary yesterday.

The way I’ve been handling it of late is to just leave my phone shut off. That’s not professional in the long run, and I do get important business calls mixed in with the time suckers who want to jibber jabber for an hour about nothing. I can’t predict who is going to call when, and it’s a mess.

Another hassle is the time schedule people call. Most of my business comes from comedians or comedy bookers, and that tends to be a night time activity 99% of the time. I never try to call any comedians before noon, and most comedians return that favor. Bookers sometimes call a little bit earlier, but rarely before 10. That’s acceptable – especially when they are calling with bookings.

Then there’s the group of clueless pinheads who crank up calls at 7am because that’s how they roll. They’re early risers, and expect everyone else to be up doing jumping jacks and pushups at 5am like the Marine Corps. This is a great way to get me to ignore you, so please don’t call then.

Part of this problem exists because I am just not a phone person by nature. I’d rather exchange an email or even a text when possible, as it tends to get to the point faster. A six word text often contains as much pertinent information as a ten minute phone call. Over a whole day, it adds up.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be famous. I’m having a hard enough time keeping track of everything now. Time is a valuable commodity, and I’ve got all I can handle to manage mine.

Boy, ain't this the truth.

Boy, ain’t this the truth.