All Hat, No Cattle

Tuesday March 18th, 2014 – Rosemont, IL

The Bat Phone rang at the last minute again yesterday, and I was asked to host the “10 for $10” showcase at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL tonight. I never mind getting that call, as it’s an easy gig and I like to observe the next generation of comedians and know what they’re doing.

There are more absolutely horrendous acts these days than ever before, but there are good ones too. It’s always rare in any creative field to see “naturals”, but when it’s easier for anyone to gain access to doing it there are bound to be higher odds. But at the end of the day, true talent shines.

When I started, not that many people were doing standup comedy. Most cities had a core group of comedians, and they knew each other. It was that way in Milwaukee, and I was one of about a dozen at the core of the comedy scene for several years. Some came and went, but for the bulk of that time that same dozen or so were it. It was that way everywhere for the most part back then.

As time has passed, there has been an explosion in the number of wannabe comedians and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. Most of them I see are complete idiots quite honestly, and I fail to see their reason for doing it. I was an idiot too, but I knew it and realized I had a long way to go. I respected the craft, and would do whatever was needed to improve. I was a student of the game.

I am still a student of the game, and that’s why I host showcases whenever I can. When I came up, most of us were on roughly the same level. I started out on the bottom but quickly caught up. Today there is a great chasm between generations, and the cockiest ones seem to be the newbies.

The dawn of the internet generation has not done standup comedy any favors. I’m seeing a new breed of newbies that think they know it all before they start, and it’s laughable to listen to all the attitude they bring without having ever done anything. In Texas they call that “all hat, no cattle”.

I’ll preach that standup comedy is the hardest performance art there is to my dying day because it happens to be the truth. I can’t think of any craft that isn’t difficult, but standup comedy is high atop any list. Anyone that has ever truly succeeded knows that, and greatly respects the process.

I know I do, and that’s why I try to be extra nice to those coming up the ladder. There are many rungs on that ladder, and we’re all at different levels at any given time. Very few ever make it to the very top one, but those that do deserve the ultimate respect. Bill Cosby is one I can think of.

He has taken standup comedy about as far as anyone ever has, but he’s still out there working it at age 76 – and the key word is WORKING. His schedule is full, and still works clean fifty years after he started. Is there a coincidence there? Hardly. We can all learn from his success methods.

Any real comedian doesn’t have time to cop any attitude. He or she is out there working on the craft constantly, and not trying to become a star the easy way by avoiding work. This new breed of cocksure rookies needs to dial it back a few notches and study the masters. I know I do, and it tells me how much more work I need to do. Bill Cosby has so much cattle, he doesn’t need a hat.

gene wilder

Bill Cosby is busier than I am at age 76. And he doesn't need the money. All comedians can learn from him.

Bill Cosby is busier than I am at age 76, and he doesn’t need the money. He’s at the top of the ladder. All comedians can learn from him.


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