Archive for February, 2014

Heckling Isn’t Helping

February 16, 2014

Saturday February 15th, 2014 – Indianapolis, IN

The good karma boat has been docking at my port quite often of late, and I’m not complaining. Today I received a call to do a last minute fill in gig in Indianapolis at a place called Latitude 39. It’s a huge entertainment complex with a bowling center, video arcade, restaurants and nightclub.

They book bands in the nightclub space, and have comedy shows on weekends. I worked there last summer, and it was a lot more fun than I expected. I was probably about due for a rebooking anyway, but the call came today because someone wasn’t able to get a flight from the east coast.

Fine by me. I had a super show last night that paid well so my week’s nut was already covered. This was found money, and who these days couldn’t use some of that? Indy is an easy drive, and I was able to get Dan Morris as the opener. It happened to be his birthday, and he wasn’t booked.

I really like Dan, onstage and off. He is very intelligent, even for a comedian. Believe it or not, that’s one trait that is virtually universal in comedians. Some of us may play an idiot character on stage, but very few if any successful comedians are dumb in real life. We might do dumb things – and I’ve tiptoed through those tulips many times – but we’re not dumb people. It can’t happen.

To perform comedy successfully, one must not only grasp a given concept or topic but also put a comedic twist at the end to get the laugh. That requires above average intelligence, even though the public would probably think otherwise. Believe it or not, it takes a smart whip to play stupid.

Dan is a college graduate, and reads a lot of books. He has a good relationship with his parents, and has worked in the corporate world for nonprofit organizations for years. He understands how marketing works, and works hard at it. Those just aren’t the ingredients of the typical comedian.

He started a little late, but he’s only in his 30s and has been doing it five years. He’s funny, but like all of us needs steady work to polish his persona. He’s still finding himself on stage, and that can be a painful process at times. Some nights it just doesn’t go well, and there’s no avoiding it.

Tonight wasn’t Dan’s best night, and I felt bad for him. I know he was giving them everything he had, but they just weren’t buying it. They didn’t hate him, but I don’t think they got anything he was trying to do. He struggled through like a trooper, and I’ve been there many times myself.

I’ve got a lot more experience, so I knew what buttons to push with these people. I was able to get them going up front, as I have a much higher energy level than most openers. That’s just how I work, and nights like tonight it really helps. I was able to take them to a higher level in a hurry.

What Dan didn’t have to deal with was a loud heckler who would NOT shut up. Why he had to wait until I got on is a mystery, but he kept yelling one word things like “CHEESEHEAD!” and “PACKERS!” for no discernible reason. After about twelve interruptions, it got to be a bit much.

I sliced him to shreds without being mean, and that shows how much I’ve grown. At one time I would have gone for the throat, but I knew it wasn’t worth it. This was free money, and I took it. And of course the halfwit had to come up afterward to say how much he’d “helped” me. Thanks!

Latitude 39 is a spectacular entertainment complex with locations in several cities. I happened to be in Indianapolis tonight, and it's a gorgeous facility.

Latitude 39 is a spectacular entertainment complex with locations in several cities. I happened to be in Indianapolis tonight, and it’s a gorgeous facility.

Dan Morris is an up and coming Chicago comedian. He does very intelligent humor, and is a super nice guy. Watch for him!

Dan Morris is an up and coming Chicago comedian. He does very intelligent humor, and is a super nice guy. Watch for him!

If you ever go see live standup comedy, no matter what the beers you've consumed tell you - talking back to the comedian is NOT helping. Can it.

If you ever go see live standup comedy, no matter what the beers you’ve consumed tell you – talking back to the comedian is NOT helping. Can it, or suffer the consequences.

No Rape Tonight

February 16, 2014

Friday February 14th, 2014 – Loves Park, IL

Valentine’s Day is usually a pretty strong night for comedy, and tonight I had a booking in of all places Loves Park, IL. It was a country club gig, and those have a tendency to go either way in extremes. They’re impossible to predict, and can be beyond horrific or off the charts fantastic.

Many a night have I toiled in sweat in front of stodgy white people with money who could not relate for the life of them the struggles of Mr. Lucky’s life. They sat there in unimpressed silence as I gave everything I had to entertain them, and then I slinked off the stage to collect my check.

I’ve done golf outings where 95% of the audience is staggering drunk after a day on the course, and the other 5% can’t stay awake for the show. Country clubs have their own set of rules to live by, and it takes a long time to learn them. I’ve had plenty of experience, most of it quite painful.

The good part is, they usually pay pretty well – at least to the person booking it. If that isn’t the actual performer, there is quite often ripe opportunity for downright rape. One of my first gigs at a country club many years ago paid me $250 which was good money for that time. I found out at the end of the night the serpent who booked me had sold me for $1250. Welcome to show biz.

Performing conditions can often be less than primitive as well. They’re not in the entertainment business, so more often than not the lights and sound are of World War II surplus vintage. That’s come to be expected whenever I perform at one now, and much more often than not I am right.

There are often other pitfalls to working country clubs as well – one of the main ones being the serving of food and/or dessert during the show. Live performance is difficult enough. Attempting to perform live standup comedy is harder than that. Doing it while people are eating is insanity.

On the other hand, I’ve had some of my very best shows ever at country clubs. They were full of people who had a sense of humor and wanted to be entertained. They were pillars in the town, and had a clue of how life worked. Most of them owned businesses, and had read a newspaper.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight. I booked this show myself through a guy that had used several comedians from Zanies in Chicago, and was originally from there. He was very nice on the phone, but I could tell he wasn’t sure if I could do the job. He was apprehensive.

To make sure it would go well, I hired my friend Jimmy McHugh to open the show. He’s given me all kinds of work in the last few years, so I told him I’d split the money 50/50. I know I didn’t have to do that, but he’s a headliner in his own right, and I wanted everyone to come out happy.

Boy, did we. This was one of those nights when everything went right, and we both knocked it so far out of the park we couldn’t see where it landed. It was the perfect lineup of comedians for the perfect audience. On a scale of 1 to 10 I’d give it a 26 – and I’m always very hard on myself.

This was just one of those nights that a performer lives for. Everything was working, and it was pure fun for everyone. Jimmy had to work to get them focused and he did exactly that. He earned every penny of his pay, but so did I. And I didn’t have to get raped by any booker. What a night!

Comedy and country club audiences are often a poor fit. They can be a bit stodgy to say the least. Imagine a whole room full of Judge Smales from Caddyshack.

Comedy and country club audiences are often a poor fit. They can be a bit stodgy to say the least. Imagine a whole room full of Judge Smales from Caddyshack.

Tonight I brought my friend Jimmy McHugh along to assure a solid show. He did a masterful job as always.

Tonight I brought my friend Jimmy McHugh along to assure a solid show. He did a masterful job as he always does.

At the end of the night, we all had smiles on our faces. What a super fun night all around. THIS is why I do what I do.

At the end of the night, we all had smiles on our faces. What a super fun night all around. THIS is why I do what I do!

Home Cooking Tastes Best

February 15, 2014

Thursday February 13th, 2014 – Rosemont, IL

I’m very fortunate right now to be in a great position in the Chicago standup comedy scene. It took a lifetime to get here, and there’s no guarantee how long it will last. But for the time being, I am one of the main go to acts for three Zanies clubs and it’s keeping me booked a lot locally.

This is exactly what I want, and I’m not taking it for granted. There have been a lot of odds and ends random dates that have come up of late, and I’m on the current call list to fill them. I always say yes when those calls come in, and tonight I received one to headline the club in Rosemont.

I hosted the Tuesday night ‘Ten Comedians For $10’ the week before last, and was delighted to get that call as well. Lucky for me I can fill in effectively at any position on a comedy show, and not everyone can or wants to do that. I can see the reasons why, but with Zanies I have a history.

Many comedians wouldn’t accept an opener or feature spot once they achieve headliner status. It’s a long hard climb to get to that position, and they view anything less as an insult. I see why they think that, as often bookers and club owners just want to fill spots and couldn’t care less.

I have nothing to prove with Zanies, and they know I’m one of their top local headliners and it ends up being a win/win for everyone. They don’t have to worry about whether I can get the job done, and I don’t have to worry about my check bouncing or making long drives. Count me in.

Another thing that is helping is that there are several other comedy clubs in Chicago these days and not enough strong local seasoned acts to go around. Comedy clubs can be very territorial and often don’t allow acts to work for rival clubs. That’s a game that has been played since I started.

I’ve been on the wrong side of that game more times than I can count, but for once I’m the one in the cherry spot. Zanies has three full time clubs, and nobody else in town can give me as much work as they can. I’m in the spot everyone else in town wants, and I know how fortunate I am.

When I lived in Milwaukee, I would never get the last minute calls to fill in. I saw the ones that did, and wondered if they appreciated it. They often didn’t act like it, but try as I might I couldn’t ever crack the rotation. Twenty years later I’m the golden boy, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

I have what is supposed to be a tremendous gig at a country club in Rockford, IL tomorrow for a Valentine’s Day party, and I had tonight off. Zanies only needed me tonight, so it was a perfect fit. I was able to pick up some much needed extra cash, and Zanies got a need filled with ease.

The audience tonight was a bit stiff at first, but I reached back and brought all I had. I was able to get them eventually, and there’s a deep satisfaction that goes with that much like being able to solve a difficult crossword puzzle. I had to work a lot harder than usual, but that’s fine with me.

What tonight was was a paid practice session. I had a chance to work on my act, and that’s why I got into the business in the first place. I know I should be working on marketing myself for this year – and I am – but for tonight I was able to get in the gym and work on my craft. That doesn’t happen that often anymore, and I really enjoyed it. Those people got a solid show, and I got paid.

Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont is one of the most beautiful comedy facilities I've ever seen. I was there tonight, and will be back again in April.

Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont is one of the most beautiful comedy facilities I’ve ever seen. I was the headliner there tonight, and will be back April 4-5.

Effective Evolution

February 15, 2014

Wednesday February 12th, 2014 – Gurnee, IL

I feel another tidal wave of overwhelm coming, and there’s not a lot I can do about it. I have all kinds of projects in various stages of completion, and no matter how hard I work or at what there are always a number of other things that get left unattended. There’s just too much on my plate.

My problem is, I don’t know what to clear off. I enjoy everything I’m doing, but there just isn’t time to devote to it all as I’d like. Something has to go, and it’s like deciding which one of one’s children to send packing. I’m having a terrible time deciding what to cut, but it needs to happen.

Here it is six weeks into the new year, and it’s not a new year anymore. I’ve been working hard every single day to the point of exhaustion yet I feel like I’m falling behind more than ever. How can that be? I’m making a solid effort, but more things are piling up than ever. I need to press on.

I know I’m giving it all I’ve got, and if I keep doing that with a plan I know good things are on the way. They already are. I’ve been working a lot lately, and in very nice venues. I am bringing in steady income, and feeling very good about life in general. More of this needs to happen daily.

Despite all that, I know I’m still painfully behind of where I need to be. The only thing that has a chance of changing that is delegating as much as I can to as many as I can. Each one of my pet projects needs to have a solid team in place – even if that team consists of only one other person.

Trust issues or not, this has to take place or I’m never going to get anywhere. My personality is one that has trouble focusing on just one thing, even though that would be a lot smarter than how I’ve been trying to do things all these years. I’m open to change, as if I’m not I’ll never advance.

McDonald’s is a perfect example of effective evolution. They used to sell hamburgers, French fries and Cokes. Period. They came up with a system that worked, and sold billions of customers a limited product line. Eventually as times changed, they ended up adding many more products.

I kind of did the same thing, but not nearly as efficiently as McDonald’s. I started as a standup comic exclusively, and then I drifted into radio – by fluke. Eventually teaching classes came into the picture, and that wasn’t planned for either. It just happened. Before I knew it I was doing too many things at once, but all of them were working relatively well. Now, I’ve got too much to do.

There was no long range plan going in for any of this, and now all of the haphazard results I’ve gotten are painfully exposing that. I’m all over the place, and there needs to be a total reboot with a plan in place if I ever intend to achieve any kind of stability. Living like a gypsy is getting old.

This is the most challenging time in my life, even though it’s also the most exciting. I feel I am giving my all every day, but one glitch or delay takes me out of my plan and puts me in the trick bag again. If I have someone else to consult and delegate tasks to, it will provide me a safety net.

Eric Feinendegen and I have been working well together on several things in including my new monthly newsletter, but he’s got a family and a life too. We need a few more people to recruit for the team, but not until we get our own schedule hashed out. This life thing is harder than it looks.

Survival in business - and in life - requires constant evolution.

Survival in business – and in life – requires constant evolution.

McDonald's is a business that has evolved dramatically. They don't look like this anymore.

McDonald’s is a business that has evolved dramatically. They don’t look like this anymore.

Success Is Calling

February 13, 2014

Tuesday February 11th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

At 9am sharp on the second Tuesday of the past several months, I have been participating in an interactive conference call called Midwest Entertainment Entrepreneurs Mastermind. It’s exactly what I need to be doing, and I wish it would have existed years ago. I am getting a lot out of it.

The idea was hatched by my friend Jeremy Danley aka “The Mighty Jer Dog”, and it’s limited to only a select few others that he has carefully chosen to be part of the conversation. Everybody gets to introduce some marketing ideas each month, and then they are discussed one at a time.

We’re all out there slugging in the trenches to make a living, and everyone is on the same page even if we’re not necessarily doing the same things in the same venues. Jer Dog has an excellent flair for business, even though he looks like he just crawled off the Cheech and Chong tour bus.

That’s no insult whatsoever mind you, as that is the audience he’s going for. He is famous for going into smaller towns and finding some road house somewhere and setting up comedy shows where they’ve never done one before. He enjoys the bar crowd, and usually does extremely well in those situations. I on the other hand can’t stand that environment, even though I’m a veteran.

I’ve worked for Jer Dog quite a bit in the last couple of years, and I really like what he’s doing. He’s carving out his own niche, and going around a lot of the ‘traditional’ bookers that could not care any less about the talent they exploit. That’s not a tradition either one of us care to continue.

Quite a few of those bookers want nothing to do with Jer Dog, as he’s a threat to their territory – or perceived territory. Nobody owns any particular area or town, but bookers often think they do. There are strict parameters of where comedians can and can’t work, and none of us like that.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there was even a little loyalty shown our way once in a while, but that rarely if ever happens. The bookers can cancel us a week out for no particular reason, but if any of us happen to need to switch a date there is hell to pay. But we have no leverage, so we take it.

Some of us have decided not to take it, and that’s why I love this group. There’s a BIG country out there, and a lot of places to work that aren’t in the ‘traditional’ venues. Most of those are not paying a living wage because they don’t have to. There is a big supply with very limited demand.

The places we’re focusing on have not been strip mined by anyone else. That comes with an all new set of challenges, but we in the group realize it and that’s what much of our discussion leans toward. It has opened up a whole new arena for me, and I’m thrilled to be asked to be included.

Not all booking agents are scumbags, but enough of them are to make this conference call exist in the first place. Had they treated us even a little more fairly, we’d have shut up and taken all of their abuse. Their lack of professionalism is coming back to haunt them, and I’m not sad about it.

I’m not looking to do road houses and honky tonks like Jer Dog does. I want to do theatres and auditoriums and even churches in smaller towns. Clean comedy really sells in those places, and I can do a solid show without swearing once. Now I just have to promote myself to those venues.

Does this look like someone who is an excellent marketer?

Does this look like someone who is an excellent marketer?

Actually he is. Jeremy Danley aka "The Mighty Jer Dog" is a razor sharp businessman. Much respect. Check him out.

Actually he is. Jeremy Danley aka “The Mighty Jer Dog” is a razor sharp businessman. Much respect. Check him out.

Teacher’s Pets

February 13, 2014

Monday February 10th, 2014 – Chicago, IL

Just when I start to get discouraged that standup comedy is dead – or at least severely wounded – along comes a night like tonight to refill my coffers with hope. There’s nothing like an evening of new and exuberant performers having one hot set after the next to reignite the fires of passion.

Every once in a while Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago gives me a Monday night and bills it as “Dobie Maxwell and Friends”. I am allowed to book anyone I want, and can do as much or little time as I want. As long as the show is 90 minutes I’m golden. It’s as close to power as I ever get.

I really enjoy these nights, because I go out of my way to hand pick acts I think not only would do well on their own but also blend with the other acts to make a quality show. I’ve been around plenty long enough to understand how the flow of a comedy show works, and I like the process.

I probably get three or four of these a year, and whenever I get the call I always say yes. It’s an excellent opportunity to pass out breaks, and to me there’s no more satisfying feeling than being able to give some hard working young comic a chance to work the Zanies stage. It’s a big deal.

Tonight I decided to make it a “Best of Zanies Comedy Class”, as we have new classes starting this month. We need to get more of a community spirit going, and I thought this would be a way to kick start it a little. My co-teacher Bill Gorgo has been handling the beginner level classes for a while now, so I asked him to pick some of his favorites that haven’t had a chance to do Zanies.

Quality stage time is THE most prized commodity for a newbie, whether he or she knows it or not. There are open mic nights everywhere, but that’s not quality stage time. In fact, sometimes it does more to stunt someone’s growth than encourage it. It’s a bunch of clueless upstarts waiting around for stage time, with nobody in the room having any idea what to do with it. It’s useless.

Unfortunately, that’s often the only places new comedians can get any stage time and they do it out of desperation. Nights like tonight can be magical, and tonight was. Bill chose a killer lineup, and they did their part working social media and made sure people showed up to see them. It was a fun night for everyone, and the feeling of excitement the whole night made me glad we did it.

There’s a kid named Ranjit Souri (RUN-jit SOW-ree) that really lit it up. He’s a fantastic joke writer, and also acts and does and teaches improv. I was blown away by his advanced chops. A Chicago Public Schools high school teacher named Amy Shanker is sharp too. Another teacher Elly Greenspahn went up, and she’s been getting better every time I see her. She really nailed it.

Everyone that went up tonight nailed it – including Bill who closed the show and showed all of his students that he wasn’t just blowing hot air in class. It’s funny when students come out to see us perform and discover that we actually do know what we’re talking about. It’s very satisfying.

Nights like this have always been fun for me. I’ve hosted thousands of shows of all kinds, but doing these takes on special meaning. Four of the six acts we booked were making their Zanies debuts. That’s a big deal in Chicago, and everyone aced their opportunities. Being part of that is special, and will only get more special as they climb the ladder. That first taste is the sweetest.

Bill Gorgo and I teach comedy classes at Zanies in Chicago. Tonight we had a showcase for some of our best students.

Bill Gorgo and I teach comedy classes at Zanies in Chicago. Tonight we had a showcase for some of our best students.

Ranjit Souri does and teaches improv, but he's a fantastic joke writer and lit it up in his Zanies debut!

Ranjit Souri does and teaches improv, but he’s a fantastic joke writer as well and lit it up in his Zanies debut!

Alex Adelson had a rock solid set as well. Very impressive!

Alex Adelson had a rock solid set as well.

Amy Shanker is a Chicago Public Schools high school teacher who really has a bright future in comedy. She's 'got it'. She tore it up tonight!

Amy Shanker is a Chicago Public Schools high school teacher who really has a bright future in comedy. She’s ‘got it’. Watch for her!

What are the chances we'd have TWO Chicago Public Schools high school teachers? Elly has been doing comedy for a while now, and gets better and better each time I see her. Tonight she was terrific. It was a night to remember for everyone.

What are the chances we’d have TWO Chicago Public Schools high school teachers? Elly has been doing comedy for a while now, and gets better and better each time I see her. Tonight she was terrific. It was a night to remember for everyone.

Michael Sam’s Club

February 11, 2014

Sunday February 9th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Well, it had to happen sooner or later and it happened today. The first openly gay athlete came out that will be a current member of one of the ‘Big Four’ professional sports leagues in America. To me it’s no big deal on a personal level, and in fact if anything I’m surprised it has taken this long.

Was anyone naïve enough to think there weren’t any until now in the history of sports? Really? Come on. Please get me a list of those imbeciles so I can sell them some swamp land or a bridge – preferably a two for one deal. Better yet, sign me up as the first straight male flight attendant.

From a life standpoint, I could not care any less about this story. I wish Michael Sam well, and quite honestly before today I’d never heard of him. He’s in for a hell of a ride to say the least, but judging from the interview I heard with him he seems like a sharp kid and will be able to hack it.

From a comedic standpoint, this is going to be a nightmare before it starts. Every no talent hack and his or her grandma’s uncle at open mics and on You Tube is going to jump all over this story and mangle it horrifically, all in the name of “humor”. I shudder to think of it, but it’s inevitable.

Every time there’s a huge story like this with any hint of shock value, count on there being lots of backlash in the form of painfully poorly placed “jokes”. I saw it first hand in Milwaukee when Jeffery Dahmer hit the world media stage like a sledge hammer. It spread everywhere overnight.

It only took a couple of days for a barrage of jokes to start flowing, but that was way before the internet. Life in general is at warp speed these days and this story will explode online and already has. He happens to come from a town called “Hitchcock”. Really. Do I need to go any further?

Hack comics and wannabes everywhere are salivating right now. They can’t wait for their shot to get on stage anywhere to display a lisping limp wristed mean spirited “impression” of Michael Sam, thinking it will be there ticket to the top. There’s blood in the water and the sharks are out.

More than a few somebodies somewhere are breaking their necks to make it to their local malls this very minute to have a number “69” Michael Sam jersey custom made to order. You think I’m joking. I wish I was, but I know it’s true. The latest hack comedy premise has been fully hatched.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sick twisted politically incorrect downright nasty joke. I am all for slicing and dicing any subject imaginable – but NOT on stage. There are just some things that need to be left alone – or at least left to those with experience that know what they’re doing.

I have thirty solid years of hard earned experience, and I have no interest whatsoever in doing any Michael Sam bits or gay jokes in general. It’s not my style, and not what I do. I’m sure there could be some funny stuff there for someone, but for the majority of the herd it’s already passé.

I’ve been accused of being gay for years because I’ve never married. Did it ever occur to them that maybe I’m just an ugly bastard that has been rejected by the entire female species? If I were gay, I’d gladly admit it. I would also be able to dance, cook and my clothes might match at least once in a while. Leave Mr. Sam alone. But if there’s any comedic justice, he’ll be drafted by the Packers.

Michael Sam will be a household name forever because he's the first openly gay athlete to play in a major sport in America.

Michael Sam will be a household name forever because he’s the first openly gay athlete to play in a major sport in America. That’s his business.

That's his business, but unfortunately it will bring along some really bad attempts at humor. I cringe just thinking about it. Ugh.

Unfortunately, it will bring with it some really horrific attempts at ‘humor’. I cringe just thinking of it.

Calendar Alignment

February 11, 2014

Saturday February 8th, 2014 – Hartford, WI

For the second Saturday in a row, I did a well run benefit show for The Lions Club. This week it was in Hartford, WI at a beautiful facility called The Schauer Center. I’ve worked there before, but not in the same venue. It has multiple venues, and I played in one of the smaller ones the last time I was there. It was a full house and very well received, so I was delighted to be back again.

This time it was in their main theatre, which is gorgeous. It’s much bigger than where I worked last time, and there were probably the same amount of people so it wasn’t as impressive. I’m still glad I got a chance to work the big room, even if it wasn’t sold out. I enjoy playing bigger stages.

I had no idea this was a Lions Club fundraiser when I booked it, and in fact the way I got it was a bit of a fluke. I happened to throw out an offhand smartass comment on a Facebook post made by someone I recently friended, but hadn’t seen in person in more than twenty years. Someone in that person’s circle of friends saw it and recognized my name. He happened to book this event.

The person I made the comment to happens to live in Denver, but is from Milwaukee originally and so is the guy that saw it. His name is Phil Larsson and he used to be part of ‘Comedysportz’, a competitive improv group that was started in Milwaukee. He lived in Texas for decades but has now moved back to Wisconsin. All of that had to come together how it did to get this booking.

I’d met Phil years ago, but only briefly. To have him see my name like that and happen to have a gig on a night that I was open a month out is damn near miraculous. It’s amazing how when the mindset is in a positive space, things like this happen. I truly believe it’s because of all the recent events that have been happening with reconnecting with my family. It’s made all the difference.

Even if it hasn’t, I’m believing it is so that’s good enough. Maybe this would have worked out before, but I doubt it. How many other things like this have I missed because my mind wasn’t on the wavelength it should have been – but totally is now? I can’t worry about that. They’re gone.

The point is, they’re happening now and I know it. I claim it, and I see no reason why it won’t keep happening indefinitely. I see no reason to stop. I had a nice booking close to home on short notice, had a lot of fun doing it and helped raise money for a good cause. How could I top that?

By keeping it coming. I am still in my prime as far as performing goes, and can light up a room with the best of them when I’m on my game. I’m on it far more than I’m off, and I don’t want to miss even one opportunity to stay in shape and work whenever I can. Events like this are a blast.

The audiences now are reaping the benefits of the ones I ripped off years ago by being terrible. It’s a process all performers go through, and it’s painful. I wanted to be great when I started, but I was anything but. I was horrendous, but so is everyone else. The headliners then carried shows and I was nothing more than time filler. I was trying my best, but my skill level just wasn’t there.

Now I’m the one carrying shows, and the audiences today are reaping the benefits. They didn’t have to sit through my growing years – they only see the polished product now. “You sure make it look easy up there,” people often say. Well, looks are deceiving. Nothing worthwhile is easy.

For whatever reason, my booking calendar for 2014 has been filling up quite nicely. Two months down, ten to go. Knock wood.

For whatever reason, my booking calendar for 2014 has been filling up quite nicely. Two months down, ten to go. Knock wood.

Carson’s Clout

February 10, 2014

Friday February 7th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Jay Leno’s tenure has ended as host of The Tonight Show, but the only thing that pops into my mind is the amazing run Johnny Carson had. Nobody will ever again come close to the incredible dominance that Johnny achieved, and maintained for thirty years. Today’s world is not the same.

Just as Cy Young’s record of 522 pitching victories will never be threatened much less broken, Johnny’s impact on late night television carries the same enormous presence. Everyone after him will forever be compared, and they’ll lose – especially by those of us who watched him firsthand.

I remember sneaking out of bed as a kid when I was supposed to be sleeping and turning on the TV to see the comedians Johnny would introduce. It was a thrill to be up when I wasn’t supposed to be, and then in the summer when I could stay up I’d watch the whole show almost every night.

This took place over years, as it did with millions of other Americans. He was truly the king of late night TV, mainly because there was no real competition. Today there are not only too many actual shows competing, but that pesky little internet tosses a few ice cubes on the fire as well.

We’re all scattered more than ever, but Johnny came along at a time when the rich got richer to the point of ridiculous, and there was nobody else. Charlie Chaplin had that status in movies, but he was way before my time. Johnny is part of my childhood, and millions of others’ too. He’s the standard bearer, and even though he’s been off the air for 22 years he is still held in high esteem.

Earlier this week I finally picked up the controversial biography aptly titled “Johnny Carson” written by Johnny’s former lawyer and cohort Henry ‘Bombastic’ Bushkin. I remember Johnny talking about him in his monologues, but had no idea until way later it was based on a real guy.

I’d heard a lot about the book for a while, and was looking forward to reading it. I really liked the PBS documentary a while back about Johnny, and I thought they were fair with portraying a no holds barred picture of what he was really like. Johnny had human flaws as we all do, but he also was one of the biggest celebrities of the 20th century. He got to go where few others tread.

The book was an easy read, and I thought it was well written. Like with another book I really liked, “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton, it stepped on toes because it painted a real picture of someone the public viewed as super human. Mickey Mantle was a human just like Johnny was. Period.

I don’t look any less at Johnny Carson because of his shortcomings, and in fact that makes the whole story more fascinating. We all dream of attaining that kind of status, but it doesn’t promise a care free existence for those precious few that get there. Mickey and Johnny were both troubled to a certain degree, and fell short of where they probably could have been. It adds to their legend.

Jay Leno is completely different than Johnny. I have nothing bad to say about him, and he was absolutely ‘the man’ when it came to standup comedy in the ‘80s. He was the top banana for sure and Jerry Seinfeld was second. Then there was everyone else. That was no small feat, and neither was hosting a network talk show for 22 years. Jay has had a fabulous career, and I don’t think he is done yet. He’ll surface somewhere else, you watch. But no matter what, Johnny’s still on top.

Jay Leno hosted a successful network talk show for 22 years. That's no small accomplishment.

Jay Leno hosted a successful network television talk show for 22 years. That’s no small accomplishment.

But no matter what, to a generation of Americans Johnny Carson will always be the king.

But no matter what, to a generation of Americans Johnny Carson will always be the king. Period.

Trevor Fever

February 8, 2014

Thursday February 6th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

One ingredient I’ve never been able to find in the entertainment business is logic. Things go on with no apparent rhyme or reason, and it’s been that way forever. Why are the Kardashians stars? My point exactly. People come along at the right time in the right place, and careers can explode.

I have never been able to get those two things right, but few others have either. I’ve been in the right place at the wrong time, and the wrong place at the right time. I have even managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – lots of times. But in all my years, I’ve yet to hit that jackpot.

Frank Caliendo is an example of someone that did. He came along doing impressions of people that were in the news at that time, and there were no other impressionists of his generation doing what he was doing. He had perfect timing and a tremendous work ethic, and things fell together.

I don’t think it’s possible to plan for it, it just happens. Trying to over think things won’t make it any easier, and all one can do is keep throwing things out there. IF something should hit, it’s an indefinite science and there’s no guarantee it will happen. The fates have to be in total alignment.

Someone I see it happening for right now is the 12 year old comedian Trevor Burke. That kid’s ship is about to come in big time and it’s an ark. I’m very happy for him and his family. He’s got all kinds of things brewing in all directions, and I can tell he’s on the verge of something huge.

I’m not at liberty to say exactly what’s going on, but he’s got some big things in the hopper for 2014, and they’re happening sooner than later. I’m in contact with his dad Joe, and I’ve heard the news first hand. For whatever reason, the timing is right and Trevor is about to catch a big break.

I’ll do all I can to help in any way, as I know how rare opportunities like this are. He’s going to experience things most people never get to feel at any age, and I hope things go well and he has a dream life. I always said I’d be happy just knowing someone that made it, and this is my chance.

I could see it happening for Frank Caliendo, and I see it even bigger for Trevor. He’s totally in the right place at the right time, and the powers that be want a 12 year old comedian right now. It has nothing to do with talent, and that’s no insult to anyone. Timing and luck are the main keys.

Does Trevor have comedic talent? That doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. He’s extremely likeable, and looks comfortable on stage. He’ll appeal to the masses, and that’s what counts. He’s unique, and that’s what sells him. I’m anything but that, as adult white males couldn’t be more common.

I don’t do impressions, I have no puppets, and I’m not particularly cute. That takes me out of a lot of categories of show business, and it’s a miracle I’ve been able to stay close to it as long as I have. Trevor has won the lottery, and he’ll surpass me by the end of the year. That’s how it goes, but I’m not angry or jealous in the least. I know how the showbiz game is played, and I accept it.

I really like Trevor, and if anything I’ll do my best to be his mentor. I want to see him keep his dignity and self esteem intact as his star rises. There will be a lot of jealous people who want him to fail, but that goes with the territory. It’s wasted energy though, as it’s in the cards for that kid.

The breaks he is about to get will set him up for life if he plays his cards right, and I’m betting he will because he has a solid family base. His dad Joe is extremely smart, and understands how business works. His brother has two sons that were in a band, and they ended up doing very well. The family has been through this before, and I met the grandfather who is also very grounded.

All the ingredients are in place for massive success, and I’m thrilled to be this close to watch it all pop. It doesn’t happen very often, and it couldn’t happen to nicer people. The whole family is behind Trevor, and that’s how it should be. It will ground him, and he won’t be a Justin Bieber.

How many stories are there of child stars that end up in the gutter? Pretty much all of them. It’s front page news when one doesn’t end up on the cover of the National Enquirer with a mug shot, but I don’t see that for Trevor at all. He’s going to be an exception, much like Ron Howard was.

Ron Howard’s father was around the business as well, and he and his brother Clint got into it at an early age. Clint was the star of a TV series called “Gentle Ben” with a bear, but then he faded away. He’s done a lot of small roles since – mostly cameos in the movies directed by his brother.

Trevor doesn’t have any brothers, or sisters either. He’s a well adjusted only child, and it’s rare to have everything fall into place like it is. He won the lottery, but he won’t end up a derelict like many of those people do. He’s being prepared properly, and if anything he’ll appreciate it more.

The real test will come with time. Will he stay with standup comedy and become a lifer like me or will he graduate into acting and never do it again at a certain point? There’s no right or wrong answer, and it will be an individual choice. Maybe he has been bitten by the bug, but maybe not.

He’s been in a ton of acting and video projects, and has an impressive resume. I saw a video he did for a band, where he played the lead singer as a kid decked out in KISS makeup. He came off really well, and it’s obvious the kid just ‘has it’. I hope he catches his break, and I think he will.

There are two rock solid opportunities on the table for him at the moment, and even one would shoot him past 99% of other comedians in America – including me. I don’t want to see him flop, and he won’t. Like I said, he is in the right place at the right time and it’s obvious that somebody else sees it or they wouldn’t be lining up to put him on TV. He’s got a bright future and it’s here.

If nothing else, I can help him avoid most of the pitfalls I see made and made myself. I’ll point them out to both him and his dad, and hopefully they’ll listen. They’re going to have all they can handle and then some of wacked out advice from strangers and hangers on, and it will be soon.

Everything is coming together at lightning speed, and there’s no use fighting it. This is not how it happens for most people, so there’s really no precedent. I wish only the best for Trevor, but it’s inevitable that some glitch will happen at some point and that’s when I can be of the most help to him and the family. If there’s anything I’ve experienced a lot of, it’s glitches. I can offer advice.

The Burke family has been unbelievably gracious throughout all of this and has said repeatedly they’d like me to “come along for the ride”. I really appreciate that, but I’m not looking to try to horn in on their territory. IF there’s a spot for me somewhere in the mix, I will be very grateful.

Watch for 12 year old comedian Trevor Burke - coming soon to a TV near you.

Watch for Trevor Burke – coming soon to a TV near you.

His star is rising quickly. He's got more credits at age 12 than most entertainers get in a lifetime. He's a great kid, and his whole family is behind him. I am too. GO Trevor!

His star is rising quickly. He’s got more credits at age 12 than most entertainers get in a lifetime. He’s a great kid, and his whole family is behind him. I am too. GO Trevor!

Justin Bieber allegedly has talent, even though most adults would like to punch him in the face for his punkish attitude. Trevor has none of that. He's a great kid.

Justin Bieber allegedly has talent, even though most adults would like to punch him in the face for his punkish attitude. Trevor has none of that. He’s a great kid.