Archive for November, 2013

The Uphill Journey

November 20, 2013

Tuesday November 19th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

I have a full week of quality work this week, and I couldn’t be happier. This is how every week used to be, and it was like that for so long I got used to it and assumed it would never end. That’s pretty stupid, but I wasn’t the only one. There are a lot of road comics in the same sinking boat.

It’s getting harder and harder to stay booked every week, and less and less comedians are doing it. I personally know comedians who have been at it longer than I have and have more TV credits and they’re working less than I am. It’s getting rough out there, and having a steady run is sweet.

November has been pleasantly busy, and I have some better paying work lined up in December with a run of “Schlitz Happened!” at the Northern Lights Theatre in Milwaukee along with a few holiday parties that have come up lately. Hopefully a few more will pop up, and they just might.

People book their parties late, and some companies even postpone until January. My January is looking ok, but after that it’s a snow white calendar. That’s never good, but something will come up as it always does. I just wish I could snag a stretch of high paid work that would last a while.

A radio gig would be great, and I’ve been pushing that of late. Art Bell has quit his new show on XM Sirius apparently, and word has it they are looking for a replacement. I know I could hit a home run with a gig like that, but I have to convince someone at Sirius. My old radio ally Kipper McGee happens to know a few people over there, and said he’d at least find out what he could.

The point is that the process of looking for work and keeping income flowing inward is never ending. The last several weeks have been good, as is this week. Next week isn’t so hot, and so it goes. Months are like that and so are years. After it’s all added up, self employment is unstable.

Tonight’s assignment was hosting the ’10 Comedians for $10’ show at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL. It’s a lot like the Rising Star Showcase at the Chicago Zanies in that there are a lot of acts trying to work their way up the ranks and make it to that elusive ‘next level’. Not all do it.

It’s not always a matter of talent either. It’s a giant numbers game, and there are only so many spots available. The supply greatly outnumbers the demand, and it becomes a log jam. I’ve been lucky to have been on the right end of this particular version of it, but it’s a game I play as well.

A lot of rejection is involved in this game, so I always try to go out of my way to be friendly to the people showcasing. I give them a larger than life stellar introduction, and get the audience to focus on the stage as much as possible. Not every host does that, and it makes the acts feel good.

It’s really not all that difficult to treat people with respect, and I always find it worth the effort. It’s exactly how I’d like to be treated, but too often am not. It’s the old Golden Rule in action and living proof being nice can make a tangible difference. I find it important to set a good example.

It’s funny how the showcasers look at me like I have some kind of power because I’m ‘in’ with Zanies. I’m out there struggling week to week just like them, just on a different level. I hope they aren’t thinking it gets any easier, as it never does. An entertainer’s journey always travels uphill.

The entertainer's road always travels uphill.

The entertainer’s road always travels uphill.

Gramps 101

November 19, 2013

Monday November 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Anyone who knows me well knows how immense an influence my grandfather was and still is in my life. Gramps was my father figure, first mentor and number one fan. If it weren’t for all of his well placed wisdom and patience, I have no doubt I’d be dead or in prison. He was my hero.

For as long as I am alive, November 18th will be a personal holiday because it was his birthday. He was born in 1912, and I was able to obtain a Mayoral Proclamation in Milwaukee last year on the 100th anniversary of his birth. He was proud to be a Milwaukeean, and I know he would have been blown away if he knew his personal centennial would be an official day in his home town.

I doubt if it meant anything to anyone but me, but I’m really glad I went through the procedure to make it happen. I have the document in my possession, and it means a lot just like having one created for my comedy mentor C. Cardell Willis. If anyone has ever earned kudos, those two did.

Gramps and Cardell were a lot alike in that they were both students of the game of life and they both had the teaching gene. They went out of their way to acquire knowledge, but then would not be satisfied unless they could pass it on to someone else. I am lucky to have had them both as my mentor precisely at the time I needed them most. It was important to me to honor their memories.

Gramps and Cardell also shared the trait of not sugarcoating anything. They called it like it was and I appreciate them both for that. They are two of the few people I have ever met that were not afraid of stepping on toes. They weren’t looking to offend, but they wouldn’t back down either.

I remember taking long walks with Gramps and getting into these long involved conversations about anything and everything. I could ask him anything, and he’d give me an answer. He would always tell me to think for myself, and not just go along with something because it was popular.

He had some ideas that would be unorthodox today to say the least, but I can’t deny they make perfect sense even now. What I owe Gramps – and anyone smart enough to want to acquire true wisdom – is to compile a book of lessons he taught me. I didn’t realize it then, but he wrote it on my heart all through my childhood. Those long walks were when he etched his lessons into me.

I can’t believe how far ahead of his time Gramps was. He took me on my own personal ‘Scared Straight’ adventure when I was maybe 12. He arranged a personal tour of the Ethan Allen School for Boys juvenile detention center in Delafield, WI. It scared me far more than any lecture could.

“This is about the age your father started acting up,” he said between puffs of his non-filter Pall Mall cigarette. “I could tell you about this place, or I could show it to you. I’m showing it to you so when you think about doing something stupid THIS is where they’ll send you. And if you do get sent here – don’t call me. You’re on your own.” Gramps had a flair for the dramatic, and it worked.

I’ve been without Gramps longer than I had him, and I can’t think of one thing I wouldn’t give to have a single hour with him now. I know he’d have valid insight, and would throw out his raw thoughts on everything. Wow, would I love that right now. I can’t have it, so the best way to pay him back is to put out a book of our experiences together. He dictated it to me years ago.

My grandfather got his college degree at age 52 after years of night school. He taught me far more than any college ever could.

My grandfather got his college degree at age 52 after years of night school. He taught me far more than any college ever could.

Mentor and mentee - aka me.

Mentor and mentee – aka me.

Where’s The Money?

November 18, 2013

Sunday November 17th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I could really use some good old fashioned positive news right about now. I’m not sure exactly what that news could possibly be or where it might come from, but it feels like everything in my life is holding on by a thread and could come crashing down at any time. I’d like some security.

I’ve been working my tail bone raw lately, but only barely treading water financially. There is no way I can keep up this hectic pace, but I don’t see any choice. I have to keep doing whatever it takes to keep money coming in, but that doesn’t leave much time for anything else. I’m spent.

This last week was a perfect example. It took a massive effort to line up the four days of work with three different bookers, and very rarely does it work out the way it did. More often than not there is always some kind of glitch that pops up like a last minute switch or cancellation and the whole week is ruined. It worked this time, but many more times it doesn’t. It’s a constant hassle.

I could afford to fart around with stuff like this in my 20s because I needed the experience. It’s a completely different ball game now, as I’ve got more of that than I will ever be able to use in a dozen lifetimes. All of that experience was supposed to be used to obtain a payoff at some point.

As it sits, that hasn’t happened. What scares me is there’s no guarantee it ever will. I was close to pay dirt with my radio job at The Loop in Chicago, but that’s ancient history now and nobody cares that it didn’t work out except my former partners Max and Spike. They’re still hurting too.

We all went ‘all in’ and rolled the dice by taking that job, and it blew up in our faces. None of us have bounced back to that level, and it’s a lonely road. We had it in our hands and through no fault of our own it was yanked away. The stars were aligned in our favor, and then they weren’t. So far we haven’t gotten a second chance, and I feel my patience draining. Was that all we get?

This is a cold cruel world, and entertainment is even colder. Comedy or radio or whatever it is, there isn’t any sympathy for anyone who has a rough break. That only means something pops up for someone else, and another body is out of the way. It’s definitely a jungle, and I’m in trouble.

I’ve risked all I have to get to this point, and I have no idea if anyone with power will ever find me. I can kick ass on stage and on the air, but I can’t seem to do it in front of anyone that can put me in front of a mass audience. I love to work, but doing it the way I am is ripping out my soul.

How the hell am I ever going to be able to attract a quality woman for a long term relationship when I’m still out there straining to scrape together rent every month? I’m only fooling myself to think any lady of substance is going to want to be with a borderline vagrant – which is what I am. It’s not what I aspired to, but circumstances have backed me into a corner and that’s where I sit.

Landing a steady income would really turn things around – if nothing else in my own head. I’m sick of living like a cockroach, but I have to keep the money coming in so I have no extra time to devote to looking for my dream babe. I was supposed to have a date today with a woman I’d love to know better, but she backed out on short notice because something came up. Maybe it did, but it sure stomps on my self esteem. If I want a honey, I’ll need some money. I think I’ve earned it.

To get one of these...

To get one of these…

...I'll need a lot more of this.

…I’ll need a lot more of this.

Building Business Relationships

November 18, 2013

Saturday November 16th, 2013 – LaSalle/Peru, IL

I wrapped up my little homemade three night mini tour tonight in Peru, IL at a place one would not necessarily think would be fun but it totally is. It’s a bowling center called “The Super Bowl” and they’ve been doing regular comedy shows for more than twenty years. I like working there for many reasons, and they like having me. Again, if it were like this every week I’d be golden.

I enjoy working for people I like and respect, and this week was a dream week in that regard. It started out with hosting the new Tuesday night showcase at Zanies in Rosemont, IL. Working for Zanies is always a good time, and that relationship continues to flourish twenty plus years into it.

I then worked two nights in Michigan for Phil Anglin, and he’s another guy I’d go to the limits and beyond for. He only has two little rooms, but he treats comedians so well I’d work for him as many times as he’ll have me. He’s just a classy person and works hard to make an honest living.

He has a heart, and it shows. So does Zanies. They treat me extremely well, and in turn I’ll stay loyal to them to the end – which hopefully is still a ways away. Developing lasting relationships is a key to long term success, and I value every one I’ve built over the years. It has taken effort.

Another that continues to grow nicely is The Super Bowl. It’s owned by brothers Jim and Bob Stubler, and again they’re honest hard working people that extend the effort to treat comics well. I deal with Jim, and he’s as sharp as I’ve ever seen as far as being a businessman goes. Bowling is his main business, but he’s done well with comedy because he has a plan and has executed it.

He knows what his market will bear, and he is really easy to work for. He buys ads on the radio and hires a local DJ to host the shows. Little things like that go a long way, and that’s why he has lasted as long as he has. Other bars in the area have tried comedy shows but they always fade out sooner than later. One approached me recently in fact, but I turned them down. I’m loyal to Jim.

I’m loyal to Phil in his part of Michigan and Zanies in the Chicago area too. We’ve all worked together for years, and built up a mutual synergy. I wouldn’t go across the street – even if it were for more money – if it would jeopardize that relationship. I’ll stay with those I worked for first.

That’s good business in my opinion, even though I’ve seen it blow up in both directions in the past. Sometimes the good people don’t win in the end. I’ve been asked to ‘stay loyal’ and gotten screwed royally, and also stayed with people that ended up getting blown out of the water. That’s a risk every self employed entertainer takes, but I’d rather take that risk with quality individuals.

This far into the game, I’m not going to screw anyone over intentionally. That’s just not how I want to operate. I know not everyone cares as much about stuff like that as I do, but I can’t sleep at night being the selfish snakes some people are because they’re only in it for their own gain.

I’m in it for my own gain too, but if I have to pee in someone else’s pool it’s over. If it can’t be win/win, I don’t want it. Maybe it means I won’t ever hit the big time, but I’ll live with it if I can feel good about myself when nobody is around. This week was hard work, but also rewarding to know everyone I worked for was glad to see me. I wasn’t just a hired gun, and that means a lot.

I can honestly say I'm a favorite at The Super Bowl - a bowling center in Peru, IL. I'm always happy to work for Jim and Bob Stubler. They have great comedy shows. If you're near by, go see one. www.ivsuperbowl.com

I can honestly say I’m a favorite at The Super Bowl – a bowling center in Peru, IL. I’m always happy to work for Jim and Bob Stubler. They have great comedy shows. If you’re near by, go see one. http://www.ivsuperbowl.com

Comedy Combat

November 16, 2013

Friday November 15th, 2013 – Plainwell, MI

It was another rough night at the office, but again nobody else needed to know. Tonight’s show was at Rhino’s Pub in Plainwell, MI, once again for my friend Phil Anglin. Phil is one of my top favorite people of all time to work for, just because he’s such a big fan of comedy. It’s a pleasure to work for people like that, but unfortunately there are far too few. It’s not like this every week.

If Phil booked the Funny Bone or Improv chains, I’d be sitting pretty. He thinks I am hilarious, and that’s all any comedian needs. If the person that books the shows is on board, life is a breeze. I do have a lot of bookers who love me, but unfortunately they aren’t the ones with the big gigs.

I’m royalty in places like Springfield, IL and Plainwell, MI but can’t find a way to get booked at an Improv to save my life. Radio is painfully similar. I’m at the top of the go to list for ‘Stone and Double T’ in Rockford, IL but ‘Bob and Tom’ who are on in 200 plus markets hate my guts.

This is how it is, and there’s not a damn thing I can do but keep slugging. I am who I am and it tends to polarize people. I’m loved and loathed, but that’s a requirement for any good entertainer. The trick is to get the people to love you be the ones that have the real power. That’s not so easy.

I still love working for Phil though, and he sure does know how to run a bar and grill correctly. It’s always been a fun experience to work for him through the years. I never want to see anybody take it in the shorts financially, but especially Phil. I want us all to make money so I’ll be back.

It was a lot more crowded tonight than last night in Richland, but the sound system was terrible and that was a killer. We were screwed before we started, and there was nothing any of us could do but work through it. It was too late for fixing, and there was a room full of paying customers.

Bad sound is my worst nightmare. I’m not very cute, so bad lighting I can live with. It’s livable if they can’t see me, but if they can’t hear me I’m toast. My style is very verbal, and I use a lot of lists and rely on rhythm to beat an audience into submission. I need to talk over them to succeed.

That wasn’t happening tonight, and it changed my entire rhythm. I have enough experience to know what to do, but it was a major adjustment and I had to be in the moment the whole time up there. As I was doing one piece of material, I was thinking about which one would fit next to get their attention. I needed to get them laughing hard up front so they’d be quiet and let me finish.

Of course when alcohol is involved, that changes the equation dramatically. There were two or three tables that were constantly chattering, and I had to stop the show several times to ask them to please be quiet so I could finish the show. They wouldn’t do it, and I had all I could to do stop myself from walking over there and kicking them in their drunken asses. They ruined the show.

Once again, I strapped on the false face and got through it but it was not fun in the least. I have had to fight this kind of thing for a lifetime, and I’m just done with it. Phil apologized profusely, but it’s not his fault. Drunken idiots are everywhere. He’ll have to improve the sound system if he wants to do more shows, and I’m sure he will. It was never like that before, but tonight it was for whatever reason and I had to fight like hell to do my job. If comedy is combat, I’m a Navy Seal.

Standup comedy without an adequate sound system is like full on combat. It's intense.

Standup comedy without an adequate sound system is like full on combat. It’s intense.

The False Face

November 16, 2013

Thursday November 14th, 2013 – Richland, MI

One of the truly difficult aspects of being funny for a living – and there are almost too many to count – is having to do it when the mood just isn’t there. It’s great fun to the point of intoxication to be on stage when one is in a groove and ‘feeling it’, but that isn’t the case every single night.

I’m sure it’s that way for other professions too, but it’s more difficult for comedians. We create the environment of laughter completely by ourselves, and bring the audience along for the ride. It begins and ends with us, and therein lies the magic of standup comedy when it’s done correctly.

I have no doubt there are days when strippers aren’t feeling the least bit sexy, but they will pull it off – literally – anyway. They have a distinct advantage over a comedian in that they’re able to go through the motions – literally – and please their audience. What they do is much more visual.

A comedian has to bring it from within, and that’s a lot harder in my opinion. I’m sure it can be unpleasant for a stripper to have to show her wares to a room full of drunken sailors, but she grits her teeth and plows through anyway. Drugs and alcohol might help, but comedians can’t do that.

We need to be at the top of our mental game, or at least I do. I can’t think of any comedian that goes on stage drunk or high on a consistent basis and maintains any sort of consistency. I know a lot that get blasted beyond belief after their shows, but while they’re on stage they’re cold sober.

Tonight was one of those nights where I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ve had a lot of those over a lot of years, but one learns as a professional to suck it up and get through it. That can be as difficult as anything I’ve ever done, but too bad. If I want to get paid, I will keep my problems to myself.

This has been the ultimate challenge at times, especially for someone like me that tends to use how I’m feeling to shape my show on a given night. I had a booker once tell me early on that he could tell exactly how my day went by watching my set. Some shows were upbeat, others dark.

One stretch that really stands out even now was when I was going through the horror of having to testify against my former best friend for robbing a bank. It took years for the whole scenario to play out, but I had to block it out of my mind for that time I was on stage every night. It was hell.

But torture as it was, it helped to make me a professional. Audiences don’t care about problems that aren’t theirs, and in fact they’re at a comedy show to forget about theirs for a little while. My job is to entertain them, and nothing else. They don’t care that I’m more miserable than they are.

Tonight I was in Richland, MI working for my friend Phil Anglin. He’s a major fan of comedy, and runs shows at his two bars a few times a year. He treats all the comedians like big stars, and I love working for the guy. His staffs couldn’t be any nicer, and they feed us a delicious meal too.

On paper, it’s one of the sweetest gigs I’ve ever had. In reality, it was deer hunting season so it was half full tonight in a place that’s not that big to begin with. I had to fight a drunken lady that babbled the entire night, but I plowed through and gave my best. Everyone was raving afterward, but I was someplace else mentally. I strapped on the false face one more time, and nobody knew.

Some nights a comedian just isn't in the mood to be funny.

Some nights a comedian just isn’t in the mood to be funny. Too bad. We do it anyway.

Hope For Homer

November 14, 2013

Wednesday November 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Today is only Wednesday the 13th, but it sure is behaving like Friday. I’ve had more bad news in one day than I’ve had in the last six months – and I’ve had a rough six months. First off, I was told that Mike Gumbinger passed away last night. I wasn’t super close with Mike, but I am good friends with his brother Mark and we all watched Packer games together in the last several years.

Mike has been in and out of hospitals the past few years, and it was a long and painful process. I felt really bad for him, and I know Mark went above and beyond the call of duty to wait on him to the point of sacrificing his own life. It wasn’t easy for anyone, and I’m sad to hear he passed.

Then this afternoon I received word that my friend Steve “The Homer” True had been involved in a car accident in Milwaukee and was in critical condition. I only received sketchy details, so I called my friend Richard Caan who lives in Milwaukee. I thought he could give me more details.

He sounded distant when he answered the phone, and I told him what had happened to Homer. He said he had just come from the same hospital, and his mother just passed away. What horrible news all around. It was like an episode of the Twilight Zone. There were eerie vibes everywhere.

I knew Richard’s mother and she had been sick for a while, but it was still a shock to hear that she’d passed. I saw her not all that long ago, and the 1994 Nissan Sentra that was such a constant source of grief was originally hers. Richard had given it to me with good intentions, but it was an unbelievable money sucker. That wasn’t Richard’s fault, and I am still grateful he thought of me.

The news of Homer is especially devastating. I can’t begin to say enough good things about all he has done to support me through the years. I met him in the early ‘90s when he came here from Madison, WI to work as a sports talk show host on WISN. I was working at WQFM at the time.

When I ran my first professional wrestling show in Waukesha, WI in October of 1992, I hired him to be a celebrity guest ring announcer for the main event. He not only did a fantastic job, he refused to accept any pay because he knew the budget was tight. I will never forget him for that.

Then through the years we stayed in touch, and he would frequently come out to support me at comedy shows when I appeared in Milwaukee. He would pay to get in, and often bring friends as well. There are very few souls anywhere that are that flat out good hearted, but Homer definitely is one of them. Not only that, he can do sports talk and play by play on the radio, and do it well.

His father is a motivational speaker named Dr. Herb True. One time Homer had his dad call me to offer some encouragement about hanging in there with comedy and I won’t forget him for that either. He didn’t have to do any of it, but time and time again Homer has been a friend in need.

Whenever I have done a benefit show for any cause – and there have been many – Homer will not only show up, but donate cash out of his pocket. He never asks for a receipt for tax purposes either. He gives from the heart, and his is gigantic. I love the guy, and this news really stings me. What makes it even worse is that today is his birthday. I wrote him a heartfelt note of thanks for all his support, but that was before I heard the news. My deepest wish is that he’ll get to read it.

Steve 'The Homer' True - a heart as big as anyone I've ever met. He can use your prayers tonight.

Steve ‘The Homer’ True – a heart and talent as big as anyone I’ve ever met. He can use your prayers tonight.

A Martian Iguana?

November 14, 2013

Tuesday November 12th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by anything outer space related. I love it all from red giant and white dwarf stars to gas giant planets to especially UFOs and beings from the outer edges of the cosmos. It has fascinated me my whole life, and I’m still interested in all of it.

It was great fun to host “The Mothership Connection” paranormal talk radio show on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI for five years, and I hope I get a chance to do it again. I never get tired of talking about anything interplanetary, and the latest tidbit is the alleged “iguana” found on Mars.

There’s a picture that’s going around of an oddly shaped object that people are claiming could be an animal of some sort. It resembles an iguana, at least according to many observers. I looked at it carefully for several minutes and quite honestly I don’t see an iguana, but what do I know?

To me it looks more like a plucked chicken with rickets. Even so, that’s pretty impressive to be roaming the surface of Mars. If we could have sent anyone there in retrospect it should probably have been Colonel Sanders. He could have breaded it, fried it up and fed it to hungry Martians – and I do believe Martians exist. I don’t know what they eat, but I definitely think they’re real.

I’ve always thought that there was life all over the universe – even in our solar system. Doesn’t it seem a little ridiculous that we’re the only planet out of nine that has anything going on? I have never believed that, and I still don’t. I’m not sure where it is, but I’d bet my asteroid it’s plentiful.

Mars seems like a no brainer, especially with all the weird things they’ve uncovered there since the Viking probe went there in the ‘70s. The ‘face’ is no coincidence in my opinion, and I would be shocked if we haven’t already sent people there to explore. NASA is a lot bigger than us all.

The moon is another interesting case. There are all kinds of rumors flying about why we didn’t go back after the Apollo missions of the ‘70s, and other rumors saying we never went at all. I am not sure what the truth is, but it sure is fun trying to find out. These subjects never get old to me.

One of the most fascinating people I have ever met is a lady named Bonnie Meyer. She’s from Neenah, WI, and she claims to be an alien ‘contactee’ for multiple decades. She was an amazing radio guest, and I was riveted to her every word. If she’s lying, she’s the all time queen of BS.

Personally, I don’t think she is. She’s a very nice lady, and unless she’s a total psychopath she can calmly tell some hair raising tales about her experiences on space craft from other galaxies. I highly recommend her books ‘Alien Contact’ and ‘Unholy Alliance’. They’re fascinating reads.

Is it true? Who can say? I’ve never actually seen an alien, a UFO or even a meteor shower, but I can’t get enough about any of them. That’s why my eyes and ears perked up when I saw all of this about the Martian iguana. I guess like a lot of people, I want to believe there’s life out there.

Well, I actually do believe that, but now I want undeniable proof. If there’s an iguana on Mars, can a skunk on Saturn be far behind? How about a platypus on Pluto? And I won’t even think of mentioning anything on Uranus. Who’d believe that? Everybody knows Uranus is frozen shut.

Does the image on the left found on Mars look like an iguana to you? The one on the right looks like Nancy Pelosi.

Does the image on the left found on Mars look like an iguana to you? The one on the right looks like Nancy Pelosi.

This is the alleged 'Face on Mars' image taken by Viking 1 in 1976. It kind of looks like Ozzy Osbourne.

This is the alleged ‘Face on Mars’ image taken by Viking 1 in 1976. It kind of looks like Ozzy Osbourne.

Joking aside, this is a fascinating book from alien contactee Bonnie Meyer. It's worth checking out.

Joking aside, this is a fascinating book from alien contactee Bonnie Meyer. It’s worth checking out.

Healing With Humor

November 13, 2013

Monday November 11th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

This has been a rough year health wise for more than a few of my friends. It’s been no polka in the park for me either having to deal with my recent kidney stone, but that’s nothing compared to what some other people I know have had to face. Many are comedians, and it doesn’t seem right.

I would think since comedians provide a service to humankind we’d get some sort of free pass, but we aren’t exempt from the same health horrors everyone else faces. Sometimes it even seems like we get it worse, which I could never understand. There are a lot of people I know suffering.

Jim Wiggins had cancer surgery just a couple of months ago, and he’s having to get used to life with no prostate or bladder. He is now cancer free which is something to celebrate, but that came with one hell of a price. He’s recovering nicely from what I hear, and hopes to work again soon.

Scot Wickmann is another comedian friend who has been dealing with health issues for a long time. He has been on kidney dialysis for quite a while, and recently he had triple bypass surgery. That’s serious enough, but apparently there was an infection and he had to have more surgery.

Bill Gorgo has been getting updates from Scot’s wife Jackie, and she said Scot just had one of two more surgeries he needs and everything went smoothly. He had an abscess on an artery, and that sounds frightening. I don’t have details and the last thing I ever want to do is bother Jackie.

The bottom line is, even if his next surgery goes well he’ll be lucky to be out of the hospital by Christmas. Crikey. I thought the eight or nine days I spent in the hospital for my surgery in 2011 was horrific – and it was. I can’t begin to imagine having to be in a hospital bed for six weeks.

Again, my problems really aren’t problems compared to what Jim and Scot and so many others are going through, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of them. There are a lot of people in a lot worse shape than me, and I want to help comfort them if I can. It’s all about human kindness.

All that actually matters in life is what we are able to give – especially to those that truly are in need. What could I do myself or help to organize that will make someone’s life even a little more pleasant when there’s a long road of recovery ahead? There has to be some way of reaching out.

I was delighted to be able to organize the big benefit comedy show last October for Milwaukee Police Officer Josh Albert after he was almost killed by a drunk driver going the opposite way on a freeway on ramp. His injuries were beyond a nightmare, but we were able to assist financially.

Peter Jest of Shank Hall in Milwaukee donated the hall, and the all comedians donated our time to perform. Drew Olson was a fabulous host that night, and Officer Albert’s work partner and my cousin Katie Anderer and her whole family got the word out to make it a success. We received a blanket of media coverage as well, and it ended up being a successful event that helped someone.

That’s what life is about. Period. I know we all need to pay our bills, but after that it’s what we are able to give that has any lasting meaning. Seeing my personal friends having to endure all of the personal hell they’ve been through makes me want to jump up and take action to help them.

But what could that be? I’d like it to be comedy related somehow, but I don’t think doing a live show is the answer. I would gladly volunteer to do it in a second if that would help, but it doesn’t strike me as the solution. I think there needs to be something that is able to reach more shut ins.

Scot Wickmann is going to be laid up in bed for a while. Even if he wanted to see a live show I doubt if he could make it unless they wheeled his bed right into the performance area. I’d be fine with it, but I can’t see it happening. A room full of beds with people from ICU would be silly.

It’s hard enough to be funny in a traditional comedy setting, but this would be off the charts to try and pry laughs out of hospital patients. That’s not what I had in mind. I would like to create a product that could be used to touch people depending on their condition, and that’s a wide scope.

One idea I had would be to interview comedians who have endured health issues, and try to put a comedic perspective on things that as a rule aren’t funny. When I was in the hospital, I couldn’t help but notice there are a lot of potentially funny events that only someone who has experienced them could relate to. I bet it would be of great comfort to have a video for new patients to watch.

There has to be a way to produce a video of comedians telling their hospital stories, and have it run on a constant loop on one of the hospital TV channels. I’d bet there could be several releases over time, as a lot of comedians have stories. I’m sure some celebrities would jump on board too.

David Letterman went through major heart surgery a while back, and I’m sure that gave him an abundance of stories that are a lot funnier now that he’s fully recovered. Sometimes it seems like the situation is overwhelming while in the hospital, and something to offer comfort would help to put a patient’s mind at ease. I remember how I felt when I was laying there and it was a bad trip.

Another idea I’d love to pursue would be establishing a humor library in all hospitals so people could watch and listen to comedy as they recover. It could be standup comedy CDs and DVDs or funny movies or even written publications like Mad magazine or comic books. It could help pass the time for patients, and even the employees could use it. I’m sure a medical staff has stress too.

I realize that these are all pie in the sky dreams, but I want to put it out there in the universe so hopefully someone else will see it and act on it. Even if it’s bouncing an idea back at me, I’ll take whatever I can get and move forward however I can. This is an idea that has no time restrictions.

We always see photo ops where celebrity athletes go in and meet sick kids in the hospital, and I think that’s a great thing don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see more of it, but what better source of cheering people up who need it is there than comedians. This would be a way to really be of use.

I think this would be a great place to develop the King of Uranus character. It’s so goofy that it can’t help to at least get the attention of somebody in a sick bed and take their mind off their pain for the moment. One way or another, I really want to reach out and make a hurting person laugh.

Hearing of Scot’s current situation and Jim’s recent issues has brought this idea to the forefront of my thoughts. It would be a great opportunity to match comedians with recovering patients and I’m going to keep thinking of what I can do to get this ball rolling. Service is what life is about.

I want to establish a program for comedians to be able to cheer up hospital patients as they recover. Any ideas?

I want to establish a program for comedians to be able to cheer up hospital patients as they recover. Any ideas?

An appearance by The King of Uranus might be in order. It's always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

An appearance by The King of Uranus might be in order. It’s always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

Scott Tolzien Syndrome

November 12, 2013

Sunday November 10th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

The Green Bay Packers are living my life. They are being bombarded by one unexpected crisis after the next, and it’s all coming at once and totally out of the blue. That’s been pretty much the blueprint of my entire life, and I’ve gotten used to it by now. It’s fun to see someone else squirm.

What’s even more fun is to watch the fan base panic. Aaron Rodgers has been very durable as a star quarterback, but he suffered an injury last week and now he’s out for at least a few weeks. They were shaky at best in the backup position with Seneca Wallace, but Coach Mike McCarthy gave him his full vote of confidence last week. The team spent all week trying to band together.

Then wouldn’t you know it, Seneca Wallace goes down in the first quarter with a groin injury, and a hush fell over Lambeau Field as former Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien took the field. He’d only been activated from the practice squad the week before, and was a last resort.

Lo and behold, he came in and did a spectacular job under the circumstances. He looked like a seasoned pro, and totally belonged out there. He made a couple of mistakes, but nothing to incite mass panic either with the coaching staff or the beer swilling masses who think they’re coaches.

That was no easy feat, but Scott Tolzien went in there and got it done when everything was out of control. He exceeded everyone’s expectations, and when he got his chance he was prepared to deliver. That’s very impressive, and even though the Packers lost the game it doesn’t bother me.

Life has a way of throwing curveballs, and sometimes things get hairy very quickly. I know it’s not just me, but I’ve felt like I’m the third string quarterback for most of my own life. I’ve done my best to hang in there the best I could, but there is never any sympathy from one’s opponents.

No team is going to take it easy on the Packers because Aaron Rodgers is out. In fact, they will go out of their way to make life as miserable as possible for Scott Tolzien just like they did when Seneca Wallace was in that spot. The rules of the jungle are unforgiving, and I am living proof.

I was born into a crisis situation, and had to resort to Plan B from the start. My mother took off when I was five months old, and I was sent to live with my paternal grandparents. Their plan was to find an orphanage to send me to, but they decided to raise me themselves because they were at each other’s throats and they thought it would keep their marriage together. I was their project.

Their marriage eventually ended anyway when I was twelve, and Gramps died when I was 18. Grandma had kicked me out of the house when I was 17, and I have been on my own ever since trying as hard as I can to piece together whatever a ‘normal’ life might be. I’m still wondering.

I’m not looking for sympathy, and never did. All I’ve ever wanted is a chance to pave my own way in the world and get ahead on my own merits. I’ve sincerely tried with all my might to be a quality person despite what poker hand I may have been dealt, and I haven’t always succeeded.

Warts and all, my life has been what it has. Much like the Packers, it wasn’t what was planned on but there was no choice on my part. Scott Tolzien is a man after my own heart. I can relate.

Scott Tolzien stepped onto a mine field, and left with both of his legs. Kudos to his achievement.

Scott Tolzien stepped onto a mine field, and left with both of his legs. Kudos to his achievement.