Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

Buck Off

July 5, 2014

Wednesday July 2nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

That Mother Nature can sure be one icy hearted cruel bitch when she wants to. I have been in a one way love affair with the game of basketball ever since I was old enough to know what it was, but she personally saw to it a marriage between basketball and I would never be consummated.

I loved baseball and football too, but basketball was my favorite – probably due to the fact that my hometown Milwaukee Bucks were the only winning local team besides Marquette University basketball coached by Al McGuire, then known as the Warriors. All the other local teams stunk.

Like most school kids, I was delusional and cocksure I was going to have my pick of any major professional sport I was going to play – maybe even two or three. I would make the Hall of Fame in at least one, and then I’d spend the rest of my life signing autographs at baseball card shows.

Little did I know Moms Nature had other plans. She left my toolbox completely bare of any of the tools I would need to play any sport professionally including badminton, bocce or full contact Chinese checkers. I’m Caucasian, clumsy and never came close to being six feet tall. Game over.

That didn’t mean I wasn’t a great fan, and I followed all my local sports teams in Milwaukee as I grew up. The Bucks were my team, and in high school I got a job as a ball boy. That was going to be as close as I would ever get to participating in professional sports, but I had fun anyway.

It’s been painful to be a Bucks fan since Senator Herb Kohl bought the team in 1985, but if he hadn’t they would have left town. I’ve continued to cheer for them, but that’s like cheering for a sheep in a wolf pack. All the cheering in the world won’t help, even if the intentions are sincere.

I was holding out hope when the team was recently sold to a pair of billionaires, but that hope was violently dashed to the pavement this week when the team hired Jason Kidd to be their new head coach. I don’t care one way or the other about Jason Kidd, but how the owners handled the situation spoke volumes. They botched it to the highest degree, and it was totally uncalled for.

Larry Drew was the coach of the team last year, and they had the worst season in their history. He was in a no win situation, but I thought he handled it with class and professionalism. That had to be a nerve shredding meat grinder, but he hung in there to the end of what was a brutal season.

It’s not uncommon for new owners to come into a situation and put their own stamp on things. I was the victim of it several times in radio, and that’s why I was so sensitive to Larry Drew and his situation. I wasn’t surprised that he was let go, but it was done in a way that lost my fandom.

I know he’s got a guaranteed contract for two more years and will be making millions without having to work, but that’s not the point. Couldn’t they sit the guy down and explain things like a human being rather than let it play out in the media? No human deserves to be treated like cattle.

Not that it means anything to the new owners or anybody else, but I’m not going to cheer for a team that handles business like this. The San Antonio Spurs don’t, and they win championships. I love how they do business on and off the court, and they are my new team. Buck off, Bucks.

This is the logo of the Bucks teams I cheered for since I was a kid. Their new billionaire owners lost me in their first week.

This is the logo of the Bucks teams I cheered for since I was a kid. Their new billionaire owners lost me their first week.

Butts In Seats

July 4, 2014

Monday June 30th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

It’s Half Year’s Eve, and if I owned a bar or comedy club I’d make a big deal out of it and milk it for all I could. Too bad I don’t want to own a bar or a comedy club, but if I did this would be a big night – at least on paper. The trick is always getting butts in seats. It’s damn near impossible.

I’ve said it before, but only because it’s true. I challenge absolutely anybody to create any kind of event whatsoever from scratch, and get at least 100 people to show up. I’m not even worrying about paying customers, I’m just talking about attracting 100 pairs of butt cheeks into one room.

The butt cheeks don’t even have to be attached to a head. 100 seats filled with 200 butt cheeks. That’s the challenge, and a monumental one it is at that. I’ve been trying to do it for decades, and I haven’t succeeded on my own more than a fist full of times. I have total respect for promoters.

There are too many variables to count as far as what can go wrong to spoil any live event. Bad weather can keep customers away, but so can good weather. If there’s a storm, people don’t want to leave the house. If it’s a beautiful night they might feel like doing something outside instead.

Time of the month can be a factor as well, in more ways than one. People get paid at different times of the month, but usually it’s around the first and the middle. If there’s an event later in the month, customers may have full intentions of attending but there’s just no more money to spend.

Sometimes with couples, “time of the month” can absolutely be a factor. That may seem gross, but it’s a fact. P.M.S. can mean S.O.L. as far as getting someone to come out and attend any live event. Nobody ever thinks about any of this unless they have tried to promote events themselves.

I’ve lost my ass so many times trying to promote my own various live events I have to sleep on my stomach. It’s uncanny how many times I have happened to be competing the same night with a major sporting event – or worse yet a minor sporting event that was only important in the town where my event was. I’ve been bankrupted by high school football games, bake sales and bingo.

Promoting one’s own events is an unforgiving mother – giving with one hand and taking with the other. Just because something works one way one time is no guarantee it’s going to work all the time. I’ve had weekends where one event goes well and I make a halfway decent profit, but lose it all and then some on the very next night when some fluke power outage closes the doors.

Bigger businesses have problems like this too, but they have much more of a cushion to be able to absorb the punishment of one night gone badly. If I take it in the shorts, those shorts may well be soiled by the following morning. It’s a risk to be a promoter of any kind, but there are rewards as well. If one is willing to roll the dice and roll up his or her sleeves, good things can be in store.

I’m going to start promoting my own shows in the very near future. I am willing to take a risk and lose if it’s for me, but driving hundreds of miles for someone else without a guarantee that’s worth my while is not what I need to be doing ever again. I did it far too long, and it never paid off. If I’m going to work for any clueless imbeciles, that imbecile is going to be ME. Nobody is going to watch over my career like me, so it’s plain old smart business. I’m ready to get started.

No matter the size of either, butts in seats is what the entertainment business is about.

No matter the size of either, butts in seats is what the entertainment business is about.

The Unenviable Fraternity

July 3, 2014

Sunday June 29th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Since I was already on the far south side of the Chicago area yesterday without a gig, I decided to call some of my friends to see if I could find anybody home. I don’t get that far south as much as I probably should, and I have a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while. Why waste the chance?

Tim Slagle was the first to call back, so we got together at his house in Dyer, IN. Tim and I are a lot alike in that we tend to polarize people, and then make it worse by not caring what anybody thinks. We have both burned a few bridges in our time, but that happens with a lot of performers no matter the genre. People with strong opinions who don’t have power tend to become pariahs.

If and when these people happen to catch a break, their past sins are often forgiven because of their newfound success. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon then, and that’s just how the game works. Tim and I are two examples of many who made a living, but never hit our jackpot.

Personally, I really like Tim both onstage and off. He is brilliantly funny, and even though his style is completely different than my own I am a huge fan of his work. He’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, and sometimes more than a few. That takes gargantuan testicles, and I respect him.

We are part of the unenviable fraternity of comedians that came through the boom years of the ‘80s but never got a sitcom. It seemed like everyone did – and there were quite a few – but there were a lot more of us that didn’t find our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and are now in our 50s and 60s wondering how we’re going to pay our bills next month. That’s not the place to be.

At least former athletes have a pension plan if they played long enough. I’ve been around three other genres of the entertainment business in standup comedy, pro wrestling and radio, and none of those three have any kind of financial security. One either makes it big or they starve. Period.

I was trying to figure out the actual number of long time road dog comedians that are now in a similar position, and I would guess it to be maybe three to five thousand. I am not talking about part time weekend warriors, as there are thousands more of those scattered across the continent.

I’m talking about people like Tim and me and all the others that came up during the boom and are now struggling to stay booked every week. That was never a problem before, but times have changed drastically in the last few years and that includes a new generation of wannabe comics.

The newbies of today don’t have the opportunity we did to get out on the road and earn a living at a young age. The work isn’t there for them either, and the whole business is changing. It’s the law of supply and demand in full effect, and unfortunately the demand has gone down while the supply has exploded. There isn’t enough quality work for everybody and there needs to be a cull.

I’m sure this process has happened in other businesses too, but I can’t think of any because this is the one that I have chosen. I was a ring announcer and promoter in wrestling and I’ve seen that business go through changes too. It takes a very specialized set of skills to succeed in that racket. Radio is another business on the slide for many reasons. I guess I just don’t know how to choose a career very well. I’ve had a long run in comedy, but I see the future and know I need a change.

Tim Slagle is a comedian that does comedy for smart people. He's one of my favorites. Check out his hilarious CD 'Europa'. www.timslagle.com.

Tim Slagle does comedy for smart people. He’s one of my all time favorites. Check out his hilarious CD ‘Europa’. It’s a classic! http://www.timslagle.com.

The Bipolar Express

July 3, 2014

Saturday June 28th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Welcome to the wild ride on the Bipolar Express. Less than 24 hours ago, life was in a peachy groove. I was laid back, relaxed, and everything was going swimmingly. Today, the only things in the water are a school of hungry sharks, and couple of piranhas – and an enormous whale turd.

I had a show booked for tonight in Cadillac, MI. I didn’t have my heart set on going to Cadillac on this night or any other, but apparently there is a car lot there loaded with classic cars. I happen to enjoy old cars, and was told about it by my friend Mark Gumbinger. He said if I could manage to get booked in Cadillac, he’d ride along and we’d scope out the tin. That’s why I took the gig.

When I told him I got the booking of course he couldn’t make it, so now I’m stuck with having to make the drive myself to do a bar gig I never wanted in the first place. I need money, but after expenses this wouldn’t be much as I rented a car to prevent piling up needless miles on my own.

There wasn’t a big profit margin anywhere, but I’ve always been one to work when I can rather than sit home and do nothing. There is always the possibility of selling a few CDs or DVDs, and smaller towns tend to be better buyers. I decided to just suck it up and try to enjoy the weekend.

That came to an abrupt end just as I’d finished fighting a nasty rain storm all the way through Chicago traffic and was passing into Indiana. I received a text telling me the show was cancelled due to the owners of the bar being on vacation and not promoting it properly. Apparently they’d forgotten there was a comedy show and the opening act had gotten to the hotel and had no room.

I’ve been around a long time, and I honestly can’t remember ever having a show cancel while I was on the way there. On one hand I was glad I didn’t have to drive to Cadillac, but on the other I knew I wasn’t going to be paid. I also knew I’d have to eat the expense of my rental car as well.

There’s absolutely no winning in this situation, and in these times one can’t afford to squabble with any bookers. I happen to like the guy who booked this gig, as he’s also a comedian. This is his side income, and he makes no claims of any of his gigs being career builders. They’re quick cash for everyone, and we all know that going in. It’s nice to have the option to take it if I want.

In all honesty, I really think I deserve to be paid in full for my trouble. It’s not my fault an idiot ‘forgot’ there was a comedy show, and I rented a car to make sure I got there. The club could not care less about that, or probably comedy in general. It’s a side income for them once in a while.

I’ve booked shows in the past, and I always made sure the comedians were paid in full, even if there was no show. That’s not the comedian’s fault, and I get that. I wanted to bring that point up with this booker but I could tell on the phone I wasn’t going to be paid. It took him by surprise as well, and I could tell he was stewed about it too – mainly because he’d be losing his commission.

He said “I’ll take care of you in the future”, which I knew was all I was going to get. I could’ve gone off on a big rant – and I would have been 100% in the right – but I also would have burned a bridge yet again. I have enough experience by now to realize exactly the right thing to do, and I did it. I got off the phone without starting any wars, and I was proud of myself for keeping cool.

The lesson that took me far too long to learn is that none of this was personal – even though the patsy stooge that ends up holding the flaming bag of pig poo happens to be me. I used to flip out royally when things like this happened – and they did a lot. But again, in theory I had that right.

I was always one to stand up for what I thought was mine, but I didn’t always do it in the most delicate of ways. I have a big mouth and I admit it, and when I don’t like someone or something I have had a long history of not hiding it from anyone. This has gotten me into a heap of trouble.

All it takes is a tiny spark to burn a bridge, and in the long run it’s just not smart. I went off on several people through the years that completely deserved it – but that didn’t mean that I was the one to do it. They were unscrupulous before I ever showed up, and remained so long after I left.

I’m not saying this situation was unscrupulous. I really do like the guy that books this gig and I know he didn’t have anything to do with the show cancelling at the last minute. It was the owner of the bar in Cadillac’s fault, and technically he (or she) is the one that should be paying us out.

It’s not my fault that someone ‘forgot’ there was a comedy show, but in the real world nobody cares. We had a deal, and I was prepared to live up to my end. There were no signed contracts to prove it, and that’s another aspect of the comedy business that people outside of it don’t believe.

We’ve all been stupid enough to operate on handshake agreements for decades, and we deserve what we get in all reality. There really isn’t time to send out contracts for every little one nighter, and it’s basically an honor system that we’ve all been on. Times like this are when honor is gone.

Had this been my gig, I would have immediately called the comedians and apologized for their inconvenience and assured them they would be getting their full payment. Period. If I booked the gig, the comedians are technically working for me and not the venue. It’s on me to get them paid.

Unfortunately, most bookers only care about the venues and couldn’t care less if we got paid or not. We’re just the necessary evil, but to them we’re expendable. I’ve said it before and it’s sadly true – they’re the pimps and we’re the whores. And they can always find a fresh crop of whores.

I’m disgusted with the whole business, but it’s never going to change so why flip out? I should never have taken this gig in the first place, and I am going to place the blame squarely in my lap. I’m WAY past doing hell hole bar gigs in Cadillac, MI or anywhere else. I should have said no.

They were lucky to get someone with as much experience as me whether they know it or not – and they totally don’t. I put an entire lifetime of blood and sweat and sacrifice on the line for an embarrassingly low price, and they still rejected it. That’s about as low as my self esteem needs to dip. I got in the business for all the right reasons, but this is not my idea of a retirement plan.

Any up and coming entertainer needs this one valuable lesson: IT’S NOT PERSONAL. Don’t make the same mistake I did for so many years. This stuff will happen as long as the Earth spins. Expect it. I for one have had my fill. To have such a fun and smooth running show as last night in Rockford followed by this pig fart less than a day later is not what I want in my life right now. I want stability after all these years, and Cadillac, MI is not where to find it – old car lot or not.

Being an entertainer can be a ride on The Bipolar Express. One night everything goes perfectly, and the next it couldn't be any worse.

Being an entertainer can be a ride on The Bipolar Express. One night everything goes perfectly, and the next it couldn’t be any worse.

Rock Star In Rockford

June 30, 2014

Friday June 27th, 2014 – Rockford, IL

Ah, a flash of the good old days. For at least one day I got to be in the comedian groove again. I’ve been out of it for a while, and it felt very much at home to be back. This is what I was born to do – at least the performance part. I got to work in a nice venue in front of a receptive crowd, and there were no long drives to make. This is exactly how I picture my comedy future to look.

Long time Chicago comedian Ken Sevara books monthly comedy shows at a wonderful Italian restaurant in Rockford, IL called Franchesco’s. I was the headliner for their opening night a few years ago, and it’s been a while since I’ve been back. I never bugged Ken about it, and that’s one of my problems. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get lost in the mix because there are so many comics.

He knew I did a killer job, and so did the staff. That was never the question. Quite a few of the staff that remembered me from that night walked up and said hello within ten seconds of walking in the door. I know they weren’t faking, because it’s a busy restaurant with lots of people coming and going all the time. They were sincere, and it felt very satisfying to have them remember me.

There was also a table of people that were there a full 45 minutes before the show that had seen me perform at a place called L.T.’s that ran weekly comedy shows for years. They said they had been waiting for me to come back to town, and didn’t want to miss it. I almost felt like a big star.

I also got to be on the radio this morning with “Stone and Double T” on WXRX, and they have always been fans and treat me great. Their station is probably not my demographic, but it’s still a lot of fun to be on with them so I always say yes whenever they ask. They’re both real people on the radio, and that is SO refreshing. If they were Bob and Tom, I would be a millionaire by now.

They’re not Bob and Tom, and Rockford isn’t Las Vegas – even though the actual room where they do the shows could easily be in Vegas. It’s a gorgeous facility, and has a separate and sound proof entrance from the bar and restaurant area so as to keep the showroom quiet during shows.

They have big screen TVs all over the room that say ‘Comedy Night’, and it’s a perfectly sized and proportioned room that seats probably 150ish. They can show clips of upcoming acts if they like, or list drink and food specials. Everything about this particular space is how it should be for all standup comedy shows, but rarely is. It’s a pleasure to work rooms like this whenever I can.

It’s EXACTLY the kind of venue I’d want to promote my own shows on a consistent basis, but they’re almost nonexistent. This one has just about everything anyone could want, including tons of free parking and a liquor license plus full menu of delicious food. There’s a lot to work with.

I would never infringe on Ken’s room, and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just saying it has all the features I’d be looking for to do my own shows. Rockford may be a bit small to shoot for a weekly show anyway, and that’s important to know. It’s easy to burn out in a smaller town.

I’d love a place similar to this in Milwaukee to do ‘Schlitz Happened!’ more regularly, and one in the Chicago area wouldn’t hurt either. Even if I did weekends once a month and promoted the hell out of them I bet I’d develop a following sooner than later. This is the future of the business.

Franchesco's Ristorante in Rockford, IL is a great place to have dinner and see a comedy show. If it's a 'bistro' or a 'ristorante', it's hard to go wrong. www.franchescos.com.

Franchesco’s Ristorante in Rockford, IL is a great place to have dinner and see a comedy show. If it’s a ‘bistro’ or a ‘ristorante’, it’s hard to go wrong. http://www.franchescos.com.

Ken Sevara books the shows, does comedy himself and also hosts a radio show on WIND called 'Fly By Night'. Find him at www.kensevara.com.

Ken Sevara books the shows, does comedy himself and also hosts a radio show on WIND called ‘Fly By Night’. Find him at http://www.kensevara.com.

'Stone and Double T' are two of the nicest - and most competent - radio people I have ever met. I'd do anything for those guys. www.wxrx.com.

‘Stone and Double T’ are two of the nicest – and most competent – radio people I have ever met. I’d do anything for those guys anytime. http://www.wxrx.com.

Kindness 101

June 28, 2014

Thursday June 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

No matter how many complicated problems I have or how disappointed or overwhelmed I feel – and I do on a daily basis – I have not forgotten that the only thing that matters is kindness. I am making it a priority in my life, even when nobody is looking. It’s what makes life worth living.

I’m obviously not perfect, but I feel myself getting into a groove and I really like it. I’m always on the lookout as to how I can make someone at the very least smile a little. That’s a positive, but it takes it to a whole new level if I can get an outward laugh. One to one laughter is comedy too.

Another of my grandfather’s countless wisdom pearls was “Find the ugliest person in the room and make it a point to be extra nice to them. They’ll appreciate it a lot more than everyone else.” I know that’s not P.C., but it’s SO true. Gramps knew how to cut to the chase with total candor.

I’ve always tried to be nice whenever a situation presented itself and I don’t intend to stop, but now I am actively seeking those opportunities before they happen. Holding doors for people in a public place is a great example. Just holding the door itself is nice, but it only takes a teeny tiny smidgeon of extra effort to make it an event. A deep bow and arm gesture can work wonders.

Sometimes a goofy little line like “PRESENTING…his (or her) ROYAL majesty…” will light up a stranger’s face and make them laugh out loud. It doesn’t work every time, but even when it doesn’t I find that especially funny. Imagine what the person must be thinking. I find it hilarious.

I also find that it takes my mind off my problems several times a day. We all hear how what we think shapes our lives until we’re sick of hearing it, but it really is true. We can only think about one thing at a time, and the more good things we focus on the less time there is for the ugly stuff.

This takes a concerted effort, and I am not saying it’s easy – especially at the start. I just know that as for me I have been putting a lot of effort in of late and I’m seeing results that I really like. My goal was and is to make kindness my habit, and to train myself to go there without thinking.

Another thing I have been working on is making a call a day to someone I haven’t talked to in a while and saying hello for no reason other than their name jumped out at me on my phone list. I try to be objective, and just scroll through my massive list and pick somebody out at random.

This has been getting outstanding results. I’m dusting off relationships that have been put on hold as life does its thing, and everybody has those. There isn’t time to keep close track with all the people we know, but this is a great way to let people know they’re still on the friend radar.

Yet another little deed I’m working on is writing a personal email to someone as well, telling them all the good things I can think of about them and how much I appreciate them. I don’t lie, and I really try to honestly seek out their good qualities and let them know it. Sometimes I have not heard back, and maybe those people think I’m a weirdo. That may be true, but I did mean it.

None of this means anything other than I think it’s the right thing to do. There are still idiots I can’t stand, but I refuse to let them waste my energy. I would much rather focus on those I like.

Life's magic password is KINDNESS. Pass it on.

Life’s magic password is KINDNESS. Pass it on.

It Takes A Champion

June 26, 2014

Tuesday June 24th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

If I have learned nothing else from my life’s long twisted journey, it’s that making one’s living exclusively as an entertainer for any significant amount of time is nothing less than a big old, icy cold, rock hard, unforgiving, unrelenting, cruel, nasty, fire breathing seven days a week BITCH.

Anyone that has lasted more than ten years has my undying respect, and then there are the lifer types like me that have gone past any and all ‘normal’ boundaries, and find ourselves desperately hanging on for dear life from week to week despite having sacrificed our lives to polish our craft.

My particular scope of view has been standup comedy, radio and professional wrestling. I have friends in each of those areas that have been at it for decades and are either struggling to hang on even a little bit longer or feverishly looking for something else so they can continue to survive.

And I know there are other fields like actors, dancers, musicians, magicians, film makers and a few more categories I’m sure I missed that are in this same (sinking) boat. We’ve devoted our all to our crafts, but never “made it big”. That term is so unfair, and it’s never about who is the best.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until someone hears me – there are all kinds of talented people at any given craft that are virtual unknowns, and quite often those with minimal talent manage to claw and scratch their way to the top by having razor sharp focus and wanting the spotlight more.

It takes almost a psychotic obsession to hit the big time in any creative endeavor, or a once in a lifetime streak of amazing luck. Or both. That’s rare enough, but now find a way to keep yourself around for more than a few months or even a year. Trust me, it’s NOT easy and most people fail.

In the comedy field, I can easily name dozens of really solid acts that just never found a way to get that break we all need. There are all kinds of reasons for it, but that doesn’t mean they are not talented – and solid citizens as well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter in this vicious death race.

Names that pop into my mind off the bat include Dwight York, Don Reese, Dwayne Kennedy, Larry Reeb, Tim Walkoe, Jimmy McHugh, Beth Donahue, James R. Zingelman, Tim Northern, Danny Storts and Ron Ferguson. For every one of those names there are a dozen more, and I will stop naming because I know I’m excluding a friend that I like and respect. But you get the idea.

This all started when I got a phone call today from Rick D’Elia – another highly respected road warrior I love onstage and off. What a classy chap he is, and funny too. He is originally from the Boston area, but has been living on the west coast for years. We met in 2003 at the San Francisco Comedy Competition and have stayed in touch. He’s out there still slugging it out just like me.

He’s driving across the country, and working a week in Oklahoma this week to earn money to get himself home. He’s getting thrown out of his apartment for subletting while he was out trying to make a living in the crumbling comedy business, and he needs to find a place when he returns. I love Rick like a brother, and could totally empathize with his situation. This is why I have zero patience for cocky know-it-alls that have paid zero dues. The show business meat grinder is not for everyone. My heart goes out to Rick and everyone else still in the game. It takes a champion.

Rick D'Elia is a super funny comedian onstage and a classier person off stage does not exist. Look him up along with every other name I posted in this entry. They're ALL great, and deserve a break. www.rickdelia.com.

Rick D’Elia is a super funny comedian onstage and a classier person off stage does not exist. Look him up along with every other name I posted in this entry. They’re ALL great, and deserve a break. They’ve paid big dues. http://www.rickdelia.com.

Idiots On The Internet

June 26, 2014

Monday June 23rd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Two things I have never suffered well throughout my life are (in no particular order) idiots and bullies. Occasionally they show up in the same person, and that makes it extra hard to dummy up and let it pass. I have been getting better at keeping my big mouth shut, but I still suffer relapses.

I always make the disclaimer that I don’t think I know everything and never have. I am wrong a whole lot, and when it happens I readily admit it. When I’m right I will often defend it, and that is where much of my trouble lies. It doesn’t matter if one is right. All that matters is perception.

Today I got into a war of words with somebody on Facebook of all things. I thought I’d learned to stay out of those high school skirmishes, but something caught my eye and I commented on it. The next thing I knew I was in the middle of a knock down drag out verbal clash…with an idiot.

A comedian and former student of mine commented on how he was putting together a chunk of new material, and that he didn’t like most of it. Harmless enough. Someone else that claims to be a comedian chimed in with “Adding five minutes of material a month is a new hour every year.”

I probably should have let it go, but I find that statement to be flat out ridiculous and I thought it was necessary to point that out to younger comedians. NOBODY “adds five minutes a month” of quality comedy material. It’s not that easy. It’s like adding five pounds of muscle. It’s HARD, and it takes a lot of sweat and effort to achieve it. If it were that easy nobody would ever be paid.

Standup comedy is a craft – and an extremely difficult one at that. If one really wants to master it, that person needs to know the rules and have some respect for how much sacrifice goes into it. I’ve spent a lifetime paying dues, and when some imbecile fires off the stupid gun I get incensed.

What set me off was some pompous female – I refuse to call her a lady – that got on some trip about how “positive thinking could make it happen” and blah blah blah and how I was ‘negative’ and more blah blah blah. Sorry, there’s nothing negative about it when it happens to be the truth.

She just copped an attitude on the wrong day in the wrong way, and I admit I let her have it for not only agreeing with an incorrect statement, but doing it so smugly. She has NEVER been on a comedy stage in her life, and to think she knows her ass from asparagus twisted my left nipple.

She wrote back trying to insult me, and I just laughed and unfriended her. Unfortunately, she is a “fan” of comedy to the point of stalker, and now my name will be dragged through the mud yet again. I have a knack for pissing people off, but only idiots. Smart people and I get along great.

Another feud with anyone is just not what I need right now. I’ve had enough for six lifetimes, but I felt I had to defend the craft of comedy so any newbie with a clue wouldn’t see that and get the wrong idea. It’s not easy to add new material – especially when an act is just getting started.

More accurately, five quality minutes a YEAR is more realistic. Whether she hates me or not, truth is truth. I just have to learn to shut my mouth and not start fights with idiots. Nobody wins. On the up side, hopefully she’ll spread my name to other idiots so they’ll all stay away from me.

This about sums it up in regards to Facebook.

This about sums it up in regards to Facebook.

Just because we've come a long way technologically, it doesn't mean we've been able to weed out idiots.

Just because we’ve come a long way with our technology, it doesn’t mean we’ve been able to weed out idiots. Stupid transcends everything.

My Own Space

June 24, 2014

Sunday June 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m back from my bittersweet weekend in Sparta, WI and am ready to move forward. It’s fun to visit good friends, and Jim Wiggins and Bill Gorgo are as good as they get. Jim’s family treats Bill and I like we’re in the will, but on the down side doing difficult shows for tiny audiences is a self esteem sucker and a dignity drainer. At this time in my life I just don’t need to be doing this.

Jim and Bill get it. They’ve been doing comedy for decades just as I have, and they know how I feel. Bill has been a high school teacher for years now, and has already made his transition into being able to do comedy when he feels like it. It works for him. I’m not so sure it works for me.

Jim could see that I was less than thrilled with the shows this weekend, and he took me aside at least four or five times to strongly suggest that I find my own space and start promoting my own shows. He said it should be a place where I can live as well so all my energy can stay in one spot. He’s done it himself more than once, and said it can be an exciting experience plus creative bliss.

There’s a comedian named Chris Speyrer that did exactly what Jim speaks of in the small town of Mason City, IL. That’s the home town of another funny comic named John Means – aka “Dr. Gonzo.” John and his wife owned a restaurant on the main drag, and Chris bought a building on the same block and has been able to keep the doors open several years now. I congratulate him.

Mason City is tiny, but it’s within driving distance of Peoria and Springfield and Chris books a lot of his headliners from the Bob and Tom radio show which is on in both of those cities. He has been smart to do that, and kudos to him for taking the plunge. That took a lot of guts on his part.

I’m not sure if a town that small would be to my personal liking, but there are all kinds of other options in a lot of other places. I have been wondering for years now how I could get off the road but still get on stage regularly, and my own place would be a way to do it. It would solve a lot of problems – but create a lot more. I’m fine with that at this point, and would enjoy the challenge.

I don’t know if I can find a place that I can live as well as do shows, as everything would have to be ideal for that to happen. I don’t have any money to buy any buildings, but that’s never been my goal. I just want to do standup comedy shows on a regular basis for people that want to enjoy what I do. I don’t want to have to fight drunks or drive 1000 miles to get there. Does that exist?

Between Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Rockford, I have to believe there has to be at least one facility that would be able to fit my needs. Ideally it would seat around 100 comfortably, and in theory I’d be able to work there every single week of the year for several years if I’d want to.

If I could attract audiences, why would I not want to? I’ve said before that 100 people a night for multiple nights in a week can provide a very nice living. I’m not greedy, and I wouldn’t need anything else to survive quite nicely. In an area that’s populated, it would take years for everyone to see the show in a 100 seat room and I could keep it going indefinitely. Mr. Wiggins was right.

I see this theory both in Milwaukee for the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show and somewhere near the Chicago area that’s not near a Zanies club. I wouldn’t attempt to compete with them because for one I couldn’t, and also they have been great to me for a lifetime. There are plenty of other joints in that squared circle, and I’m up for trying to get my own thing going. If I had two dozen in my own audience, there would be only one person to blame. That I could live with. I like Jim’s idea!

Chris Speyrer figured out a way to get off the road. He bought a building and started his own venue. Smart!

Chris Speyrer figured out a way to get off the road. He bought his own building and started his own comedy venue. Smart!

If you are ever near Mason City, IL go see his club. www.mclimits.com

If you’re ever near Mason City, IL visit Chris’s club. http://www.mclimits.com

Bigger Fish Ahead

June 23, 2014

Saturday June 21st, 2014 – West Salem, WI

The times, they are a changin’. I can’t believe how drastic the changes are, and my entire life is being rattled to the core. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there are always aftershocks to have to deal with. Things that used to be a constant in life no longer are and it all takes getting used to.
This weekend I am doing a two night run of renegade commando style comedy shows with two of my all time favorite friends and comedians, Jim Wiggins and Bill Gorgo. I think the world and a few other planets of both of those guys onstage and off, and I would hang with them anytime.

Jim is a cancer survivor, and is coming back strong after recent surgery that left him without a bladder. He can’t travel like he once did, and his son Josh volunteered to approach local places in the area of Sparta, WI where they live to set up shows. Josh is in his 30s and has known Bill for most of his life. Jim and Bill were roommates in Chicago for years, and they’re close like family.

They have graciously brought me into the mix, and I’m flattered to be a part of it. We’ve done several shows in the past couple of years, and some have been better than others. It’s not easy to set up a comedy show, and a lot of things have to happen on many levels for it all to go correctly.

The venue has to be behind it from the start, and willing to promote from within. Most never do even close to what it takes, and then wonder why there’s nobody there on the night of the show. I can’t count the number of half baked productions I’ve been a part of, but I know I’ve had my fill.

Unfortunately, this trip added two more to that list. Last night we did a supper club near Sparta, and tonight it was a bowling alley in West Salem. Both venues were able to seat close to 100, but I don’t think we had more than 25-30 each night. Last night’s audience was mostly Josh’s wife’s family, and although they were outstanding laughers it didn’t hide the fact someone lost their ass.

I never like to see that happen, but unfortunately it rarely if ever has to. If a venue owner would listen to a promoter’s input and take the proper steps, there could be a full house where everyone is able to make a buck. It’s never an easy buck, and that’s where most venue owners get fooled.

They think by putting up a poster in their own place “word will get out”. NO. They have to put effort into promotion, just as they’d need to if they had karaoke, pool leagues or a new sandwich on their food menu. Live comedy is just the opportunity to promote something that is hopefully a unique product in their area. If done correctly it can be a consistent money maker for a long time.

These last two nights just weren’t it. Going into details as to why won’t change the fact that the ball was dropped somewhere. I don’t want to point fingers, as I’m past the point of dealing with all of this. I don’t need to be on stage that badly to suffer through such humiliation. I don’t think Jim and Bill agree. They had fun, and that’s great. I had fun being with them – but not the shows.

Between the three of us, we’ve got well over 100 years of hard earned hands on experience. To labor in front of 25 people a night just isn’t my idea of fun these days. We’re all beyond it. I love those guys and Josh too, but it would have been more fun to ride up and just visit without shows.

We got paid, but I still feel unfulfilled. In the past, I’d clench my jaw and keep slugging. Now, I really don’t care. I don’t need approval from anyone else. I would much rather handle my own business. It takes the pressure off. I want to cast for bigger fish, and this isn’t where they swim.

Jim Wiggins is a cancer survivor and one of the most experienced comedians walking the planet. He deserves to perform for full houses of loyal fans. www.lasthippie.com.

Jim Wiggins is a cancer survivor and one of the most experienced comedians walking the planet. He deserves to perform for full houses of loyal fans – and I’m a big one. http://www.lasthippie.com.

Bill Gorgo has paid his dues as well. He's very funny, and I'm a big fan of his onstage and off.

Bill Gorgo has paid his dues as well. He’s very funny, and I’m a big fan of his as well.