Archive for November, 2013

Packer Pathos

November 30, 2013

Friday November 29th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

The Green Bay Packers are having one of their worst seasons in recent memory, and I find it to be a fascinating case study in human behavior whether someone is a football fan or not. They are completely unraveling as the season goes on, and have slid from heroes to bums in a few weeks.

It all started when their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a fractured clavicle on November 4th in a game against the archrival Chicago Bears. It didn’t appear to be that violent of a hit, and fans weren’t in a panic assuming the usually durable Rodgers would bounce right back.

Then in the next game against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 10th, backup quarterback Seneca Wallace went down in the first quarter with a groin injury. Again, it didn’t look to be that bad but he too was out of commission. That brought in Scott Tolzien, a third stringer that played in college at Wisconsin so a lot of Packer fans were familiar with him. He performed admirably.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to win either of the two games he started, and the spoiled fans of the Packers who have been one of the elite teams in the NFL since the early ‘90s were starting to grumble from within. An entire generation of fans has grown up assuming the Pack would win.

Last week they blew a golden opportunity to beat their most bitter rival of the last twenty years the Minnesota Vikings. They are having a horrific year themselves, but no Packer fan alive feels the slightest bit of sympathy for them. They’ve also had a great run, and when I was a kid they’d traditionally thump the Pack twice a year. Any day the Packers beat the Viqueens is a great day.

Too bad it wasn’t this particular day, as the best they could muster was a tie. They had a shot to win it in overtime, but they weren’t able to pound it into the end zone from a few yards out to get the win. Fans had grown accustomed to them being automatic in those situations in recent years.

Well, this isn’t recent years, and hope is fading like the paint job on a Yugo. Yesterday was the biggest all out ass kicking they’ve gotten in decades, and it looked like they’ve completely given up in every aspect of their game. The offense, defense and special teams played like Girl Scouts.

I have been a loyal (read: stupid) Packer fan my entire life and I have to say I am not pleased to see how this year has unfolded, but on a personal level I can totally relate. I wish I couldn’t, but I absolutely do. It’s very similar to my life, and I find it fascinating to watch how it’s playing out.

Unforeseen circumstances have been the cause of the downfall, mostly devastating injuries that have wiped out their best players. It has been uncanny how many important players were lost this year, but that’s the luck of the draw. It wasn’t planned on, but now they have to suck it up and try to salvage the season with what they have left. It’s not pleasant, but nobody has a choice. It’s life in the NFL, and life in general. The fans are growing restless, and the coaches are on the hot seat.

Three years ago the same coaches won the Super Bowl and were considered geniuses. That’s a long time ago in football, and now they’re bums. I find this interesting, and it’s a character test to make due every week with depleted resources. This is exactly how my life has been since I was a kid, so I’m finding an even deeper kinship with the team this year. They’re living my existence.

It's been a rough year for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers - but at least they're getting paid. We fans are getting screwed for free.

It’s been a rough year for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers – but at least they’re getting paid. We fans are getting screwed for free.

Gratitude Rules

November 30, 2013

Thursday November 28th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

I tend to be a complainer. A bitcher. A whiner. A pisser. A moaner. Call it whatever you’d like, it can be a formula that goes over like gangbusters with a comedy audience. I can get in a groove and roll with the best of them, and when it happens there are few comedians who can touch me.

It can be a lot of fun to point out what’s not going right on any given topic, and it’s therapeutic as well. The best thing of all is that the supply of things to snivel about never gets low. There are always new targets to attack, and that means I’ll always have something to transform into jokes.

This is all convenient in a comedy context, but in real life gratitude is the magic elixir. I’m off stage a lot more than I’m on, and there’s much more time to think. There’s a mindset that sets in both with those that complain and those that are grateful, and I’m tiptoeing on that very fine line.

Unfortunately, I can’t go on stage as a comedian and brag about how fabulous my life is. Who would want to hear that? If Mr. Lucky always scored with hot babes and knew how to choose the sleeper stocks that would pay off huge returns, what would be funny about that? I’d be obsolete.

On the other hand, if I was a motivational speaker and only talked about how everything in my life was in flames and miserable, how could I get a message of hope across? I have to keep all of my thoughts in their proper order, and know where I am at any given time. Life can be complex.

Today is Thanksgiving and I wasn’t booked anywhere, so gratitude was the main course on my personal menu. It wasn’t a day to think funny, and that’s fine by me. I spend plenty of time every other day looking for faults to turn into comedy, and I’ll do it again soon. Today was for thanks.

I had so many invites to join people for dinner I lost count. That alone is extremely comforting, knowing I have so many people that cared enough to extend an invitation. I have to believe they meant it, or they wouldn’t have made a point to ask. It’s not like I was hinting that I had no place to go, or showing up at people’s houses out of the blue. These people made a point to invite me.

This year’s winner was Bill Gorgo. I love hanging out with Bill for many reasons, but he’s one of the best cooks anywhere and I’ve sampled his amazing work for years. He’s Italian, and that’s the tie breaker in any close call when it comes to food. Stereotypes wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t at least a grain of truth somewhere, and from my experience Italians are the champions of chow.

The Germans do well in the cuisine department as do Chinese and Mexicans, but Italians are in a class by themselves. Good Italian food is hard to beat, as is the company with Bill and his sister Geneva and the friends they invited. There was an Irish couple that had adopted two Guatemalan boys, and they were delightful people. They told fascinating stories of all their extensive travels.

It was relaxing to sit and listen to everyone else, and not have to be the source of entertainment all the time. I enjoyed being the audience for once, and I kept thinking of everything I have to be thankful for starting with health. Yes I had a kidney stone this year, but it’s not hurting now and I can still walk and talk and see – even if it’s with glasses. I have a lot of great friends, and I live a life a lot of people dream about. There’s plenty to go off on tomorrow, but today gratitude rules.

Every day should be Thanksgiving for all of us.

Every day should be Thanksgiving for all of us.

Storage Worn

November 29, 2013

Wednesday November 27th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI

Over the last couple of weeks, a large part of my life has been a moving experience. Literally. I’ve rented a storage unit, and for the umpteenth time in my life every worldly bauble and trinket I possess is packed away awaiting my next stop. I’ve moved so often, I qualify for gypsyhood.

The last time I tried to count my moves, I think I got to 18. That was a few moves ago, and I’m not interested in nailing an accurate total. It’s a chore and something I’m not looking forward to, but I have no choice. It’s time to find the next adventure, and that’s what I’ve been doing of late.

I had a nice three year run where I was staying, and I have no complaints. I didn’t have any bad blood or cross words with the woman who owns the house where I lived, and it was a great place in a super neighborhood. I had fair rent, and never once was I late paying it. It was a sweet deal.

But as happens all the time, circumstances changed and it was time for me to move on. That’s exactly how it went the last place I stayed, which was also a three year run. It was the sister-in-law of the woman I’m moving from now, so technically I got six years of living out of one deal.

I have always been a model tenant in that I pay my rent religiously. I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs, and I’m very much to myself. I’m usually reading or working when I happen to be home, but I’m on the road a lot more than I’m home so most of the time it’s a great deal for everybody.

As the years pass, I’m liking the road life less and less. I’ve enjoyed these last two places very much, and it was not fun having to pack up and start over again. The time before this one was an absolute nightmare, as I was doing cruise ships at the time. The woman had to be out in 30 days because she remarried and they’d bought a different house. I had two days to move all my stuff.

That was about as brutal as it gets. I was gone on the ships and had nobody to help me start to pack anything so I threw everything in boxes willy-nilly and jammed what I could into a storage unit. I threw away a ton of stuff, but I had no choice. I had two days and then it was back at sea.

This time I could see it coming, so I had at least a couple of weeks to get ready. I’d been trying to get organized all year, and throwing away things I didn’t need or at least sorting it all into the same category so I could pretend I was a little bit organized. It’s hard not to accumulate clutter.

I have the smallest size unit I could find, which is 5×5. I crammed as much as I could into that space, and still had a bit left over so I decided what I could live without and donated a few boxes of books, clothes and self help audio programs to the Salvation Army so I could fit everything in.

At some point, I’ll go through it all and hopefully lighten the load even more. If I haven’t used it in a year – out the door it goes. That’s not always easy to do, but the more times one moves the easier it gets to toss something. Eventually, I’d like to be able to have everything fit into one car.

The last thing I expected at this stage of the game is to have everything I own in a storage unit, but that’s where I sit. I have no idea where I’m going to live in 2014, and that’s not where I want to be. Is it time to move to another state? Who knows? A little security would calm my nerves.

My life in a nutshell.

My life in a nutshell.

The Longest Month

November 28, 2013

Tuesday November 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Here come the holidays, like it or not. I, for one, do not. What I like even less is that I have no way to avoid them every year, and every year it’s a challenge to tough it out until December 26th. It’s always one of my most favorite days of the year, but this next month getting to it will be hell.

It’s getting to be such old news I don’t even want to write about it anymore, but I can’t help it. I’ve had a lifetime to try and find ways to “just get over it” and “move on” like all those Dr. Phil wannabes have been telling me for years and years, but it hasn’t worked. Every year it’s torture.

The very nature of the holidays is to get together with family and create lasting memories that get passed down through generations. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are supposed to be an opportunity to bond and share and catch up with people that are supposed to be our confidants.

I realize nobody has a Brady Bunch family situation, but those of us who grew up dented cans have a whole other level of dysfunction only another dented can is able to comprehend. There’s a level of psychological pain there I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and it comes back year after year.

It has always flabbergasted me how hearing just a couple of short notes of a Christmas song on a commercial or seeing a poinsettia on a fast food bag can take me right back to that place in my head I’ve been trying to bury since I was a kid. All it takes is a tiny trigger, and I’m right there.

I realize it’s the favorite time of year for uncountable millions – at least in North America. It is supposed to be a positive experience, and for most people I’m sure it is. Sure, everyone has some wacky relatives and maybe there are one or two isolated incidents that stand out, but for the most part over one’s lifetime I would say the majority of Americans look forward to this time of year.

On paper, that’s exactly the way it should be. There should be a time of year when families can come together and recharge batteries. I’m all for it, and I have wished for a family that would do exactly that since my earliest memories. It never happened, and every year is the ugly reminder.

Those who don’t understand what I’m talking about are always trying to give advice, and that’s almost as bad as the situation itself. “Come to our house” they say. “We’ll make you forget about those bad memories.” On the contrary. In fact it makes it worse. I know they mean well, but they aren’t able to comprehend how deep the pain goes. Only a dented can would be able to feel that.

I wish everybody could have a strong family to depend on and that I didn’t have to write about this misery every year, but I know I’m not the only one so I do. It feels at least a little comforting to know I’m not totally alone, so I’m putting it out there hoping someone else might be soothed.

One of the most haunting memories I have as a teenager was my best friend Timbo and me going to a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Eve because neither one of us had anywhere else to go. It was a bunch of Jewish people and us. They looked at us like we were lost puppies.

Unfortunately, we were. In theory, this should be the start of the best time of the year. In reality this is the longest month of them all. I’m going to suck it up and look forward to December 26th.

My favorite day of the year. It means the holidays are OVER.

My favorite day of the year. It means the holidays are OVER.

A Money Minefield

November 26, 2013

Monday November 25th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

If there’s anyone anywhere who is doing well financially, I’d like to meet them and shake their hand. It sure isn’t anyone in my circle of friends and contacts. Times are tight, and getting tighter by the week. Now the holidays are here, and that should launch everyone into tension overload.

I had to deal with car problems today, something I haven’t had in a while but I always know is only a dashboard light away. How many times have I had a car that ‘runs great’, but costs me the moon because something goes wrong that isn’t engine or transmission related? I’ve lost count.

Today it was my rear suspension system. Something snapped when I went over a railroad track a while back, and it got so bad I couldn’t drive the car without getting whiplash every time I hit a pebble. I put it off as long as I could, but I had no choice. Final damage: $450. My wallet hurts.

Every time I think I can at least stick my nose out of the water and breathe a little, some out of the blue crisis comes along and puts my head back under. This wasn’t what I pictured doing with $450 right now, but I’m sure the guy at the car place didn’t mind. He’s probably struggling too.

There’s a quote rolling around in my head, but I have no idea who said it or where I heard it. It goes “Life can be a cruel mother – giving with one hand and taking with the other.” I don’t know who said that, but it should probably be on a t-shirt or bumper sticker. It rings truthful with me.

It’s hard enough to deal with the expected expenses of life, but throw the surprises in there and it’s a money minefield. Nobody can predict where the mines are, and eventually we all get one or more limbs blown off. It could be worse though. At least I’m single. How do parents pull it off?

I couldn’t imagine raising a kid right now. I have all I can do to keep my own bills paid. Where are people getting money to raise children these days – especially if they intend on sending them to college? These are not easy questions, and I have no answers. I barely found $450 for my car.

Actually, I didn’t find it at all. I had that money all ready to go somewhere else, but that didn’t work out. It was to help pay down my credit card, and that’s another issue most people today are battling. I had my balance at zero for years, but again I stepped in the money minefield and blew my leg off. I needed a car badly, so I bought the one that just had the work done on it. It’s a trap.

The interest is already killing me, but what can I do? Had I been able to keep driving it I would have, but it had reached the boiling point. The whole thing makes me sick, but I know I’m by far not the only one going through these situations. Like I said, everyone I know is having problems.

One thing I’d really like to see is some financial training in schools. I for one could have used a crash course, and so could everyone else. Most parents can’t or don’t take time to talk about this with their kids because they’re out feverishly struggling to try and patch their own money holes.

If nothing else, at least I’ll have a nice smooth riding car to sleep in if I need to. Rent is due in a few days, and I had all I could handle to scrape that up…again. One of these days I’m going to figure it out, and hopefully be able to share it with my friends. Life is too short to live like a bug.

Life is a minefield. Problems explode without notice.

Life is a minefield. Problems explode without notice.

Still Getting Better

November 26, 2013

Sunday November 24th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

After all these years of performing standup comedy, I still feel not only that I am growing but I have a lot more upon which I can improve. That might disappoint some people, but I love it. I’ve got a reason to stay the course, and that’s important right about now. The road is plenty rough.

I just finished up a nice run of work that ended last night with week of eight shows at Zanies at the Pheasant Run in St. Charles, IL. Last night’s shows were very strong, and I felt myself doing a lot of things better than I ever have before. I’m going through a growth spurt, and it feels great.

That particular stage has always been one of my very favorites, and I’m extremely comfortable there. I’ve gone through a lot of growth spurts there through the years, but now it’s time to find a launching pad to take what I’m doing to a bigger audience. I know in my heart I’m ready to pop.

What I don’t know is where that launching pad is located. My crowd is not a typical bar crowd, and maybe not even a typical comedy club crowd. I do well in comedy clubs, but I still think I’m best suited for theatres. They don’t have to be huge cathedrals, but I’d much prefer that setting.

The atmosphere at Pheasant Run is very close, as there has been a theater there for decades and they are known in the area for it. I would assume at least some of the people who come to Zanies have been there at some point, and as a rule the audiences in that part of the world like what I do.

I appeal most to people over 30, and the fact that I’m not filthy is a huge plus. I can do a whole show and not say one swear word if necessary, and that’s a lot more rare than most people would think. I can also slug it out with bikers and sailors when I have to, even though that’s gotten old.

That’s never the kind of comedian I wanted to be, and it’s painful when I have to do it after all these years. Unfortunately I’m good at it, so the crowds usually love it. I can’t stand having to be my own enforcer, but most clubs refuse to bounce anybody these days because they buy drinks.

I’ve never been interested in being a saloon comic, even though that’s frequently where I have gotten hired over the years. Some comedians live for it, but I’ve always viewed it as a paycheck. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, but I have sucked in second hand smoke for a dozen.

The direction I’m thoroughly enjoying is the shaping of stories that have personally happened to me, and taking the audience on a trip. I used to just try to think of jokes, but this adds so much more depth of character. I don’t just stand there and talk, I like to move around and use my face and body for punctuation. I lean into it and give them all I’ve got, and it’s really working well.

This is going to be a perfect fit to take the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show to the next level. I’ll be at Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino the next five Saturdays, so I’ll have ten shows to keep this momentum going. The only thing I wish I could change would be to add more shows.

In a perfect world, I’d be performing seven nights a week somewhere. The fewer miles I have to go, the better. Having a month of shows an hour from where I live is a huge leap in a direction I’ve been looking to go for a long time. I’m going to enjoy this next month. http://www.paysbig.com.

I will be performing my one man show 'Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst' at Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee 11/30/13 and every Saturday in December. www.paysbig.com.

I will be performing my one man show ‘Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst’ at Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee 11/30/13 and every Saturday in December. http://www.paysbig.com.

The Doctor Calls!

November 25, 2013

Saturday November 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

It takes a lot to surprise me anymore, but once in a while something happens that does raise my eyebrows. This morning I received a phone call completely out of the blue from Dr. Funkenstein himself, George Clinton! Had I been asked to predict something freakish that might happen today I highly doubt that would be in my top 1000 guesses. It was a pleasant surprise, but unexpected.

Actually it has happened before, and I didn’t expect that either. The band was on the way to do a show at Summerfest in Milwaukee in 2011, and they stopped at the Lake Forest Tollway Oasis on I-94 and George’s manager Carlon Scott saw me listed in the Lake County Visitor’s Guide.

I’ve been a member of Visit Lake County for several years, and it comes with a listing in their annual guide of businesses, attractions and events in Lake County. Carlon happened to pick up a copy and saw my name, and called to say hello. That’s proof positive that advertising does work.

I had just gotten out of the hospital from my diabetes debacle a couple of days before, and was feeling pretty weak. I almost didn’t answer the phone, but I’m thrilled I did. When I told Carlon I had just gotten out of the hospital, she had George call me back a few minutes later. He had been in the hospital around the same time, and was just out himself. He wanted to call to cheer me up.

He certainly did. How many times does anyone get to have an all time personal hero call out of the blue? It’s kind of like a famous athlete visiting a sick kid in the hospital only better. I’m a big fan, but he treated me like a peer. He asked how my shows were going and I asked all about his.

The reason he was calling today was to ask if I knew how to get in touch with artist Pedro Bell. Pedro did quite a few legendary album covers for Funkadelic in the ‘70s, and happens to be from Chicago. I tracked him down years ago and he did two CD covers for me, and the DVD cover for James Wesley Jackson. It cost me a chunk of change, but I had it at the time and I’m glad I did it.

Not only did I get every penny of my money’s worth, I got to know Pedro through the process and now consider him a friend. He’s a very talented artist, but also a down to earth person. I was very much in awe at first, but he could see I knew of his work so he opened up and we hit it off.

George is coming out with a new project, and wanted to track down Pedro to do some artwork. He knew that I had hired him recently, so he wanted to reconnect. I told him Pedro has been sick lately, and in fact James Wesley Jackson and I had discussed doing some kind of benefit show.

George asked me to keep him posted on the benefit, and I certainly will. James and Pedro have been friends for years, and when I suggested some kind of benefit I knew James would jump on board immediately. With all the other projects I’ve got going now, it has forced me to put that on the back burner for much too long along with James’s DVD. http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

Hopefully this will set everything in positive forward motion again. As George said on a record years ago “Funk not only moves…it can re-move. Dig?” I’d love to be involved in anything I can do to help Pedro and work with James, but if George happens to be involved it would be a dream come true. If you need a dose of the funk, the real Mothership flies at http://www.georgeclinton.com.

George 'Dr. Funkenstein' Clinton has my number.

George ‘Dr. Funkenstein’ Clinton has my number.

Pedro Bell aka 'Captain Draw'. Cover artist for many clasic Funkadelic albums

Pedro Bell aka ‘Captain Draw’. Cover artist for many clasic Funkadelic albums

This is a  bonus cartoon Pedro did when I hired him to design my CD cover for "Hard Luck Jollies'.

This is a bonus cartoon Pedro did when I hired him to design my CD cover for “Hard Luck Jollies’.

Here's the cover Pedro did for James Wesley Jackson's new DVD. It's available at www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

Here’s the cover Pedro did for James Wesley Jackson’s new DVD. It’s available at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

The first cover Pedro did for me was 'Hard Luck Jollies'.

The first cover Pedro did for me was ‘Hard Luck Jollies’.

Here's the original Funkadelic album 'Hardcore Jollies'.

Here’s the original Funkadelic album ‘Hardcore Jollies’.

My next CD will be 'Comedy Skeletons In The Closet'.

My next CD will be ‘Comedy Skeletons In The Closet’.

Here's the original it was based on - 1986's 'R&B Skeletons In The Closet'.

Here’s the original it was based on – 1986’s ‘R&B Skeletons In The Closet’.

Temporary Conditions

November 25, 2013

Friday November 22nd, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

Today was one of those days where a lot of things are going on at once, and it’s tough to keep everything in order. It all ends up melting together into one big gooey mess, like leaving crayons or a sundae out in the sun all afternoon. After a while, it becomes difficult to separate the parts.

Everywhere I turned today it seemed like there was another JFK documentary, tribute or recap of events. It was on TV, radio and online, and after a while it becomes a blur. We have all heard the story a zillion times, but nobody can say what really happened. Those who could are all dead.

If there is someone alive who knows, they’re circling the drain and aren’t telling. There will be arguments about it one hundred years from now just like people will still be debating the Lincoln assassination. They can debate all they want, but the results are the same. Both are still deceased.

Today was also the anniversary of Rodney Dangerfield’s birth in 1921. Rodney has been at the top of my all time favorite comedian list since high school, and probably always will be. It would take one hell of an act to knock him off his perch, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

I think about Rodney often, because he happened to hit at a time when I was in the wheelhouse of his audience – teenage boys. Woody Allen was a big hit with that group too, but he wasn’t the powerhouse Rodney was, at least where I grew up. Woody was funny, but Rodney was royalty.

I appreciate Woody Allen a lot more now, as I see what a prolific artist he has been throughout his life and still is. Nobody can touch him, but Rodney has nothing to be ashamed of. He put out a lot of product himself, and his fans still love him. I will never tire of watching Rodney’s work.

The point I’m making with all of this is that no matter how big anyone gets in this life, it’s only temporary. Eventually everyone’s day passes, and life moves forward. Was there anybody bigger and more powerful in 1963 than the President of the United States of America? He was the world standard when it came to power and influence, but that obviously didn’t make him bullet proof.

Rodney Dangerfield took a long time to hit the top of his game but he did – and when he did he lasted more than thirty years. What a tremendous thrill ride he had in life, but it eventually ended just like it does for all of us. Win or lose, it all fades away. If so, why not chase all one’s dreams?

This afternoon I recorded five more King of Uranus rants for the comedy website that is going to feature them exclusively, and it was a lot of fun. I’m starting to feel much more at ease with it on every level, and it will only get better with time. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s great fun.

I’ve got a ton of material to choose from, and the best part is I wrote it back when I was on the morning show at 97.9 The Loop in Chicago in 2004. A lot of it still holds up, and it’s like I have a fresh river of ‘new’ old material to breathe life into as the King. I know there’s potential there.

Tonight I did two strong shows at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL. I practiced my craft, and did it well. There will come a time when I’m gone just like JFK and Rodney, but for as long as I’m here I’m going to do what I truly enjoy. Super success or flaming flop, it’s all temporary.

Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. That's longer than he was alive. Everything is temporary.

Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. That’s longer than he was alive. Everything is temporary.

Today was also the anniversary of Rodney Dangerfield's birth in 1921. He got a lot more respect than he admitted, and deserved every bit of it.

Today was also the anniversary of Rodney Dangerfield’s birth in 1921. He got a lot more respect than he admitted, and deserved every bit of it.

Trevor Burke

November 23, 2013

Thursday November 21st, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

I don’t have a lot of power in the show business arena – or anywhere else – but that which I do possess I always try to use for good. Tonight I was able to facilitate a good deed that will remain in several dozen people’s memories for decades, and that’s a win/win every time. I’m glad I did.

One of my former comedy students Joseph Burke has a twelve year old son named Trevor who has been doing standup comedy for a while now. I’ve seen kids try standup comedy before, and I always approach it with caution. It’s not really for kids as a rule, but there are always exceptions.

Comedy can be a brutal experience when it goes poorly, and there are countless things that can go wrong on any given night. Putting a kid in the line of fire can be extremely dangerous, and I’d personally recommend against it far more often than I’d encourage it. It has to be the correct fit.

The situation with Joe and Trevor is far different than most, and I was able to help arrange for Trevor to appear for a ten minute guest spot opening for me at Zanies Comedy Club at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL. The Burke family lives about six blocks from the resort, and they were thrilled that I could arrange the appearance. Joe got the word out with friends and family.

Appearing on a Zanies stage for the first time is a big deal for any Chicago comedian, but for a twelve year old kid it’s unheard of. Not only that, but to do it in front of family and friends in the backyard is something they’ll all be talking about decades from now. It was a wonderful night.

I was truly pleased to see how everything unfolded, and Trevor went up and got some very big laughs – not only with his friends and family but with the regular audience as well. He’s a funny kid, and has been working with his dad for a while now. This was not a one time and done fluke.

There are a lot of performers that couldn’t stand that fact that a cute kid was getting the laughs and attention from an audience, but I am secure enough in myself and my ability and I absolutely loved it all. This was a huge night for Trevor, but also for Joe and all the friends that showed up.

Joe asked me to sit down with Trevor a few months ago and give him some pointers. The main thing I told Trevor was that I was in his corner and would always be his friend first before having anything to do with comedy. I will support him in whatever he chooses to do, and if he wants my help or advice I’ll gladly give it. If not, that’s fine too. It’s exactly what I would tell my own son.

Another thing I told him was to just relax and enjoy everything that goes with being a kid. He’s into video games and all the other things a twelve year old of today would like, and that’s what a kid should do. Standup comedy will always be there, and there should be no pressure to fight and claw into a business that can be very unforgiving when one isn’t a cute kid. Look at child actors.

Whatever the case, I was extremely proud of him as he went up there and got to experience the intoxicating thrill of getting laughs on stage. Was his set perfect? Nobody’s is including my own, but I wasn’t there to critique. He did great. That’s all any of those there to see him will remember forever. Who knows how far he’ll go? That isn’t important tonight. Trevor lived what most never get to experience at any age. I’m happy for him. After this, it’s all gravy. http://www.trevorburke.com

Trevor Burke has done more at age 12 than most comedians do in a lifetime. I hope he lets me drive his limo someday. www.trevorburke.com

Trevor Burke has done more at age 12 than most comedians do in a lifetime. I hope he lets me drive his limo someday. http://www.trevorburke.com

The Surprise Factor

November 22, 2013

Wednesday November 20th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

I heard one of the best radio broadcasts I’ve ever heard this afternoon as I turned on 540 ESPN in Milwaukee and heard Steve ‘The Homer’ True back on the air. I had wanted to give him a call for a week now, but I also wanted to let him have his privacy as he recovered from his car wreck.

Apparently it wasn’t as bad as originally thought, and that’s the best news I had heard in a long while. It’s not often a friend gets into a car accident so serious that it gets mentioned on the radio on a competing station. That’s what happened, as I’d heard it on the Milwaukee Bucks broadcast the day it happened. Ted Davis the voice of the Bucks is a class act and that was very courteous.

I’m sure we’ll hook up at some point in the near future, and the last thing I want to do is bother the guy when he’s back at work the first day. He was getting all kinds of calls from well wishers, so I just enjoyed his radio show as I usually do. He’s an outstanding broadcaster and always was.

Life is unbelievably delicate, and can be gone or drastically changed in just a few seconds. I’m sure Homer has replayed the point of impact scenario in his head over and over and realizes how frighteningly close he came to taking the terrestrial trip to the other side he wasn’t planning for.

The surprise factor in life is part of what makes it interesting, but also what scares the pants off of us knowing anything – and I do mean anything – could happen at any moment. A car accident is never something anyone plans for, but it changes one’s life forever. Homer knows it full well.

I’ve had a few near misses myself, car accidents and otherwise. My recent kidney stone torture was a prime example. I woke up out of a sound sleep to discover an excruciating pain in my side, so I got out of bed to crawl to the computer to see if I could at least know the cause of my death.

It felt like my innards were going to burst, and shrapnel from my entrails would be scattered all over the walls. I originally thought it might be appendicitis, and I’ve heard horror stories of some people dying if they didn’t get to the hospital in time. It turned out to be ‘only’ the kidney stone.

For something so laughingly tiny, it felt like a bowling ball trying to pass through my guts and I failed to find the funny while it was happening. It’s very funny now, but that’s in hindsight. I’m sure if it comes back I won’t have so much as a shadow of a smirk on my puss. And it just might.

As far as I know, I still haven’t passed it. The people I’ve talked to have told me so many tales that I have no idea what to believe. Some say it may have lodged somewhere and will pop out at random and torture me all over again. Others have said I may have passed it and not even known.

What’s important to me is that I’m not in pain anymore. Whatever happened to that little speck of matter that did so much damage is not my concern – at least for now. I’ve got other things that need attention, as does Homer. Car accidents and kidney stones are obstacles on the road of life.

It does make life interesting, if for no other reason that it adds gratitude to the mix. I’m have no doubt Homer is grateful not only to be alive, but back at work doing what he loves. I’m delighted to be back to making people laugh instead of wondering if I’d live another day. Life is in charge.

Life is full of surprises - expect the unexpected.

Life is full of surprises – expect the unexpected.