Archive for May, 2014

100 People

May 5, 2014

Friday May 2nd, Caledonia, MI

Day two of the renegade comedy tour, and it’s going really well. Last night in Grandville, MI was a blast, and that’s a suburb of Grand Rapids. Tonight I was in Caledonia, which is just a bit farther out but still in the Grand Rapids radar. The show was at a place called “Family Tavern”.

That seems like an oxymoron, but I’d work places like this every night of the year and be able to survive quite nicely. It’s a bar and restaurant owned by a very nice lady named Jodi that is a former college basketball player. Her place is not huge, but there is a basement that is equipped with a separate bar, stage and sound that can seat about 100. It’s a perfect fit for comedy shows.

100 people or thereabouts is a totally livable number believe it or not. Yes, we all fantasize of performing in front of a gigantic theatre packed with 3,000 fans, but unless one is a big name it’s just not going to happen. That doesn’t mean we have to quit the business, as very few ever get to that point. There’s the dream world of show business, and there’s making a living every month.

I’ve had all I can handle to be able to scrape up that living month after month and haven’t been able to spend a lot of time working on filling those big arenas. That might be part of the problem, but the truth is it really isn’t necessary to survive. If I could get 100 people a night to pay a cover charge of $5-$10 to see me on a consistent basis I’d be living in a higher tax bracket. Bring it on!

That’s a lot harder than it sounds though, and in all honesty it’s probably a better pursuit to try for the big venues in the long run. Tonight was an example of how it can really work well for all parties involved though, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Start to finish, this was a total success.

First off, Jodi was behind Jerry Donovan and they worked as a team. Jerry said she was not up for it at first when he initially approached her, but he convinced her to try one night and it was an off the charts grand slam home run. Then she was on board, and they have done eight hot shows.

Jodi’s customers love it, and pack the place on comedy night. She is also drawing new ones in that have now been exposed to what she does. She has an outstanding food menu, and I wouldn’t expect that for such an out of the way small place. That food is up there with the best restaurants.

It is a restaurant technically, but I would never have thought to go there had I been out looking for a place to eat. I would have assumed it was a shot and a beer joint, and gone elsewhere. Now Jodi is bringing in customers for comedy that will try her delicious food and turn into regulars.

Unfortunately, Jodi and Jerry are a lot smarter than the average bar owner/booker combination and that’s why there aren’t more of these hidden little gems. They only do shows once a month, but that’s enough in a town and venue this size. It’s just the right amount, and everybody wins.

Another advantage Jerry has is that he hosts many of his own shows. He’s a solid headliner as well, but having an experienced host in situations like this helps train the audiences to know how to behave. It was a treat for me to have a solid host, and together we blew the roof off the joint.

Ed Bartko was the feature, a very nice guy out of Toledo who is 52 and started comedy later in life. He’s very enthusiastic, and funny too. It was a super night, and everyone was happy. What’s not to like about nights like this? Give me 350 a year, and I’ll shut my mouth. They’re out there.

100 people paying a reasonable cover charge every night would make a tremendous living for any performer.

100 people paying a reasonable cover charge every night would make a tremendous living for any performer – but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

That's about how many there were tonight in Caledonia, MI at The Family Tavern. Fun show, GREAT food!

That’s about how many there were tonight in Caledonia, MI at The Family Tavern. It was a red hot fun show – and GREAT food!

Jedi Jokers

May 5, 2014

Thursday May 1st, 2014 – Grandville, MI

Tonight was the start of my three night run in western Michigan working for Jerry Donovan. In a perfect world he wouldn’t have to exist, but there has never been a danger of this world coming close to perfection so here I am. I’m grateful for these bookings and will do my best for Jerry.

I do my best for every booker I ever work for, but Jerry is one of the few that appreciates it. He does standup comedy himself – and does it very well I might add. He is originally from St. Louis, but somehow managed to end up in the Grand Rapids, MI area. I never asked why, but that’s not the issue. He’s here now, and is making a name for himself in the area. That’s all I need to know.

Jerry handles his business extremely well, and he told me it’s because he worked in sales for a long time before he ever got into comedy. Sales is winning an audience over one on one, and the same principles are used in a group setting with comedy. He’s taken to it like a duck to water and I absolutely love working with and for him. He treats comedians like people, and that’s SO rare.

The reason he’s in the booking end of the business at all is a certain agency that has been based out of Grand Rapids for decades has taken it upon themselves to become pompous and think they own comedy just because they’ve been around so long. The fact is, they COULD have owned the entire Midwest had they been just a little bit nice rather than imperialistic tyrants with attitudes.

They could have had their pick of all the best acts in the area, and for years they did. Then one by one they alienated most of them, and everybody lost out. Their venues are getting a lesser and watered down supply on a weekly basis, and a lot of good comedians are now scraping for work.

Had they handled things differently, Jerry wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. He wouldn’t be able to get the high quality of acts he does, because we’d all be loyal to the agency. Jerry would likely be working for them too, and everyone would be making a decent living. But that isn’t how it is.

The main problem is that the business has been turned over to the sons of the guy that was the original snake everyone worked for for years. None of us particularly liked him as a person, but comedians are stage whores and would work for the Beelzebub Booking Agency if they had the work to offer. I think the old man let the power go to his head and thought we actually liked him.

We TOLERATED him, and there’s a big difference. That’s not the way to build loyalty, and it sure isn’t the way to make friends. Not that business associates need to be friends to the point of coming over for Thanksgiving, but we were the ones that made him a healthy living. Treating us with at least a little respect would have lined his own pockets in the long run. He didn’t see that.

Now there are a significant number of scorned former acts that would go out of their way to get some payback for being dropped from the roster without as much as even an insincere thank you. He could have faked it like a stripper does to keep the money rolling in. It still is to a degree, but not like it used to. Jerry is taking over a nice little chunk, and I for one am behind him 1000%. It feels like I’m in Star Wars. The agency is the Death Star, and Jerry is leader of the Jedi Jokers.

Jerry Donovan is a funny comedian but also books comedy shows in the Michigan area. I'm delighted to work for him because he gets it.

Jerry Donovan is a funny comedian but also books comedy shows in the Michigan area. I’m delighted to work for him because he gets it.

Jedi Jokers, we are.

Jedi Jokers, we both are.

Craig Ferguson

May 2, 2014

Wednesday April 30th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Craig Ferguson is stepping down from his job as host of “The Late Late Show” on CBS after a ten year run. For some reason, quite a few people took it upon themselves to seek me out because they couldn’t believe anyone would do that. Why they asked me, I have no idea. Maybe I’m their closest conduit to actual show business – even though I’m light years away from Craig Ferguson.

I guess because I was on the show they thought I’d have some inside information. Far from it. I wasn’t in on any staff meetings, and I was only on one time for 4 ½ minutes in 2010. Still, I have some educated guesses why he would quit, and it’s no surprise at all. Show business is a vampire that sucks blood from everywhere and everyone. The higher the level of it, the sharper the teeth.

About as close to corporate show business as I have come would be working in radio. That was a stench ridden ugly nightmare, and dealing with the idiot brigade of management was a draining of dignity. Nobody cares anything about anyone as a human being, and it can be a soulless grind.

I can only imagine how insane it must be to have to deal with the network serpents, and I’d bet Craig Ferguson had more than his share of head butting sessions with all of them. He’s a creative guy and very funny in my opinion, and he knows what he’s doing. The suits don’t like to have to deal with anybody like that, because they’re a threat. They want robots that do what they’re told.

Any creative mind has a vision of how things should run, and often there’s a clash with people that aren’t creative at all. I’ve had those clashes all my life, and it can be ultimate frustration not to mention an incredible energy drain. Being distracted by all these fleas gets under the skin fast.

I would bet that Craig had his fill, even though I thought his show was far better than all of the others of that genre. I don’t watch a lot of those shows, but from what I’ve seen his was the most unique and consistently funny whenever I saw it. I’m not just saying that because I was on it. I’d think that even if I wasn’t or had done another show. I really am a fan of him and what he does.

Another sticking point that may or may not be a factor is that he was bypassed for Letterman’s slot. According to an interview I read he said it wasn’t an issue, but who knows? I thought it was a no brainer to give that job to him, but again I’m not in that circle. Mr. Colbert may do just fine.

I think the public assumes that big time show business runs smoothly, and the people in charge are all competent and benevolent souls that know what they’re doing. They have no reason to put any thought into it, because they have their own problems dealing with their own crop of morons in whatever career path they’re trying to pursue. The fact is that halfwits in charge are universal.

Craig Ferguson is a talented guy and I wish him only the best. He was very genuine when I met him the few times I did, and he had a fabulous run with his show. Ten years is a terrific ride, and I’d have to think he’s ok financially at this point. I’m sure he’ll regroup and come back when he has a new project of some sort. I’d love to cross paths with him again, and being on his show was one of the highlights of my life. I had a blast, and he could not have been nicer. He’s not done yet There’s too much talent there.

Why would Craig Ferguson walk away from a network TV job? One word - IDIOTS. He had a great run, and I wouldn't count him out just yet.

Why would Craig Ferguson walk away from a network TV job? One word – IDIOTS. He had a terrific run. I wouldn’t count him out just yet.