Archive for the ‘Radio’ Category

WMOM Radio – Always Listen To Your Mom!

June 15, 2014

Saturday June 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Here is the first of several posts I made on Facebook in the last week or so. I am posting them here for those that aren’t Facebook friends, so please forgive me if you are and it’s a duplicate. I am just trying to get everyone on the same page, and a lot of things have happened of late.

This is one about my radio mentor, and being able to pay back someone who really helped me:

* * *

Everybody has mentors, and my biggest one in radio without question is the great Patrick Lopeman aka Pat Martin. He helped me get my first job at WMMQ in Lansing, MI in 1990. What a thrill it is to get one’s first morning show, and I won’t forget it.

Since then I’ve bounced around and have worked all over the country. It’s an insane business, with ZERO stability – but I still learned a lot about life and had fun doing it. Not only that I met a ton of really creative and wonderful people.

Management at most radio stations are apes, but the rest of the people are almost always great. There isn’t a station I’ve ever worked at where I am not in touch with someone to this day.

This past weekend, Pat hired me to consult his morning show on the station he owns in Ludington, MI. It’s called WMOM or ‘Mom’. They have a GREAT catch phrase in “Always listen to your Mom”. They were are the age now I was when I started, and it was fulfilling to be able to come back for a day and pass on some of the hard earned knowledge I have gotten in my travels – and from Pat.

Pat is in a word brilliant and is still as passionate about radio today as when I met him decades ago. He’s a fantastic mentor, loyal friend and goes out of his way to help others. That’s probably why you may not have heard of him before. Nice people rarely get the recognition they deserve, and I want to do what I can to change that. If you are a fan of CHR radio, listen to WMOM. http://www.wmom.fm.

It sounds as good or better than any other new music station in the biggest markets, and there’s only one reason for it – the great Patrick Lopeman. Thanks Pat! I appreciate you very much. Your kindness lives on in many – including and especially me.

* * *

I wanted to write this mainly because it’s all true, but I also wanted Pat’s friends and family to see it in print. I know it’s only the internet, but these days that’s as good as what it used to mean to get something in the newspaper or a magazine. I’m not a major publication, but I wanted Pat’s inner circle to see this and it totally worked. I know he did too, and he called to thank me for it.

People like Pat are WAY undervalued in my opinion. He’s considered a borderline wacko by a segment of the radio fraternity because he does things his own way. What they fail to give credit for is that his way WORKS. The guy is a brilliant radio mind, and lives and breathes it each day.

I am in that same category with some as well, so I go out of my way to toot the horn of the Pat Martins of the world. May he continue to live his dream, and I will support him any way I can.

WMOM is a radio station in Ludington, MI that sounds as good as any CHR radio station in America. www.wmom.fm

WMOM is a radio station in Ludington, MI that sounds as good as any CHR radio station in America. http://www.wmom.fm

Goodbye For Now

May 23, 2014

Friday May 23rd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Since everything else in my life is broken at the moment, why not make it a matched set? I am going to take a break from writing my daily diary for a while, and I have no idea how long it will be. When I started, I wanted to see if I could do it thirty straight days. That was March 14, 2006.

I’ve always been a diary keeper, but I have no idea why. I just thought it was neat to be able to look back over things that happened in the past – even though I rarely if ever read any of what I write. Once it’s done it’s done, and the main joy I get is from the doing. That’s why I’ve done it.

As a kid I wrote about things like going to see live professional wrestling matches with my best friend Timbo who would eventually go on to commit not one but two bank robberies. Worse yet, he tried to pin one on me and I had to wear a wire to get him to confess and then testify in court.

I chronicled that orally on cassette tapes, and I still have them somewhere. I’ve never been able to listen to them, as that time is still a painful memory. At the end of every day I’d narrate all that happened, but I kept it under three minutes. Maybe someone will want to hear them in the future.

This particular incarnation of keeping a daily diary has changed my life – both good and bad. If nothing else it has given me a discipline I didn’t know I had. I now have literally THOUSANDS of pages of stories and events and opinions that I can sort through and use however I feel like it.

I have no idea what I could use it for, but there has to be some kind of a book in here wouldn’t one think? Many times I wrote with the young comedian of the future in mind, hoping to shed an ounce of insight on the insanity of the business and also the actual craft of comedy. I think I did a good job in sharing subtle and not so subtle points that are timeless and can help a lot of people.

Other times I just ranted about what was making my innards percolate, and some of it ruffled a few feathers. Actually, more than a few. I am now banned from several comedy clubs and people have told me how surprised I’d be at who actually reads what I write. Well, that’s 100% correct.

Frankly, I’m shocked anyone has read it at all. I did it mainly for me, but am delighted that I had some regular readers that actually got what I was trying to say and do. Others couldn’t stand my point of view, and chose to excommunicate me from communities I didn’t even know I was in.

Whatever the case, it’s exactly as advertised – a diary of a ‘dented can’. I’m struggling in many areas of my life right now, and just need to take a break and get myself better. As a rule I haven’t been afraid to discuss anything and everything in my life – even the very deepest darkest parts.

Well, in the last week and a half since Mother’s Day I’ve been going through a situation I don’t want to talk about right now. It’s personal, and I need to deal with it for a while. I have helped as many others as humanly possible over a lifetime, but now it’s time to focus on me for a while.

I may start up again in a month, a year – or never. I just don’t know. What I do know is that my life is all over the place and needs some regular structure. I think I’m going to go as far as trying the day job route, just so I can get my head straight and see what’s really important. Comedy has changed drastically just as life has, and everyone is in a constant state of transition. I am as well. If you enjoyed reading my thoughts, THANK YOU! If you didn’t, I thank you for at least taking the time to read my ramblings. I’m going to use this time off to recharge and regroup. Hope to be back again. Goodbye for now.

Thanks for reading my daily 'Dented Can' diary if and whenever you did so. I'm going to take a break for a while, not sure how long. Goodbye for now!

Thanks for reading my daily ‘Dented Can’ diary if and whenever you did so. I’m going to take a break for a while, not sure how long. Goodbye for now!

Rickles Still Tickles

May 10, 2014

Friday May 9th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I forgot to mention yesterday that it was the birthday of Don Rickles, who turned 88. He’s been one of my very favorite comedians my entire life, and one of the few big names I haven’t crossed paths with at some point. I almost got to meet him once, but then he had to cancel due to illness.

He is the elder statesman these days as far as comedy royalty goes, and there will never ever be another like him for many reasons. He was able to pull off an extremely delicate style of comedy that is quickly being exterminated by the insane oversensitivity of modern political correctness.

There is a barely visible fine line between outrageously funny and over the top offensive, and Don has been able to walk it masterfully for decades. Not many could come close to doing what he does, although many have tried and failed miserably. Don would be the equivalent of the guy that gets paid to diffuse bombs. One wrong maneuver, and there’s no 401K or a retirement plan.

But with great risk comes great reward, and Don Rickles has forged himself his own one man brand that still identifiable today. He was on TV when I was a kid, and he’s still on today. He’s a lot older now, but the basic act is still the same. How many musicians have hung on that long?

Part of what makes him so great is that he has off the charts likeability. The audience can sense his insults aren’t meant to be hurtful, and that’s EVERYHING when doing that style of humor. If he were a dashing young bull hunk with a full head of flowing hair and a mouth full of piano key teeth, he or anyone else would be hard pressed to pull off the act he does. He’s the perfect patsy.

Another part of what makes him so great in my opinion is his consistent ability to work in such a wide variety of situations. I’ve never seen him live, but on television he’s been tremendous as a roaster on the Dean Martin celebrity roasts, a powerhouse guest on almost every talk show in the history of the genre and he’s also a more than competent actor appearing on many classic shows.

I happen to love his work as do millions of others, but there are some that think he’s some kind of racist or bigot. This proves to me how out of control political correctness is, and that’s a whole other topic for another time. Rickles is great because he rips EVERYBODY, and that’s not easy.

His 1967 album “Hello Dummy” could not be released today without the Jesse Jacksons of the world organizing protest marches and demanding him to be reprimanded by the government. It’s insane, and I even saw Rickles get booed on Letterman for cracking an Obama/basketball joke.

Lighten UP already, o pompous and holier than thou world. It’s a JOKE. Nobody can take any jokes anymore, and I think the world is much worse off for it. Rickles points fingers at himself as well as everyone else, and he says a lot of things people think in a funny way. I’m still a big fan.

Standup comedy is difficult enough, but what Don does is way past that. Ripping somebody is a specialized art – especially without offending. It’s easy to rip someone at their own expense to get a laugh from the audience, but doing it without hurting the target’s feelings is not easy to do.

Jay Leno talked about that in an interview once where he said if he saw a bald guy in the crowd he’d rip him about his ugly shirt instead of being bald. The guy would love it because it didn’t go where everyone else did, and I get that concept. I’ve used it myself, and it works really well. Don Rickles is the absolute master of insult comedy, and to still be doing it at 88 proves his greatness.

Don Rickles is he elder statesman of standup comedy these days. He's still going at 88. WOW!

Don Rickles is he elder statesman of standup comedy these days. He’s still going at 88. WOW!

Political correctness has polluted the world. Don's album "Hello Dummy" would cause an uproar if it were released today.

Political correctness has polluted the world. Don’s album “Hello Dummy” would cause an uproar if it were released today.

Thank You Herb Kohl

April 18, 2014

Wednesday April 16th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

The news story of the day in my home town of Milwaukee was the sale of the NBA franchise the Bucks. The team has been owned since 1985 by Senator Herb Kohl, who purchased it then at what turned out to be the bargain price of $18 million. 29 years later, he sells it for $550 million.

I know 2014 dollars aren’t the same as 1985 dollars, but that’s still a tidy little profit he turned for himself – even though he also pledged to donate $100 million toward a new arena that will be built to meet league requirements. Even if that comes off the top, he’ll still be able to buy lunch.

That kind of money just clogs the brain pipe when comparing it to my little beggar’s cup that’s not even full of nickels. I know that whole chunk isn’t his to spend free and clear, but it’s still on a whole different cosmic plane than I’ve ever been close to and unfortunately will likely never be at least in this lifetime. Some people are born with opportunities others will never come close to.

Herb Kohl came from a family that owned grocery stores, and there was one a few blocks from my grandparents’ house where I grew up. We shopped there every week, and I remember clearly like it was yesterday how he would sometimes be in the store and my grandparents saying hello.

I’m not claiming they were close friends or that he even knew who they were other than people that shopped at the store regularly, but it’s funny to have that obscure childhood memory and see how it grew. The grocery stores eventually closed, but they had Kohl’s Department Store as well. I’m not sure of the details, and it’s none of my business. The point is, they have done rather well.

Herb Kohl had a lot of opportunities most others don’t get. I’m not saying he didn’t work for it at least on some level, but he was in the right position to be one of the big players. Good for him, and by all accounts he has been generous with his resources. He is a known local philanthropist.

He bought the Bucks in 1985 when there was a threat of them leaving town. He made sure they didn’t, and even though they were quite mediocre at best in the standings most of those years the entire city owes him a debt of gratitude – even though most Milwaukeeans I know could not care any less. They bitch and moan about how bad the team is, and most wouldn’t pay to buy a ticket.

Many locals constantly bellyache about the Bucks being terrible, but would have whined even more if the team had moved. I guess it’s human nature to prattle on about what one doesn’t have instead of being grateful for what one does, and I admit I’ve been guilty of that myself regularly.

I listened to the press conference on the radio today, and it wasn’t ten minutes later when calls started coming in with fans complaining Herb Kohl should have donated more. They implied he should have built the new arena himself or something, even though he has been quite generous.

It sure is easy to spend other people’s money, isn’t it? As a native Milwaukeean, I’m thankful they didn’t move out of town in ’85. I was a ball boy in high school, and still have friends to this day that work there. Bad team or not, I’m still a fan. If nobody else says it, thank you Herb Kohl.

In high school, I was a ball boy for the Milwaukee Bucks. It was a blast, and I still have friends from that time to this day.

In high school, I was a ball boy for the Milwaukee Bucks. It was a blast, and I still have friends from that time to this day.

Herb Kohl kept the Bucks from leaving town in 1985, and if nobody else appreciates it I do. Thank you Senator Kohl.

Herb Kohl kept the Bucks from leaving town in 1985, and if nobody else from Milwauee appreciates it I do. Thank you Senator Kohl.

Gruntin’, Gaspin’ And Wheezin’

March 22, 2014

Wednesday March 19th, 2014 – Gurnee, IL/Island Lake, IL

Where did my youthful exuberance go? Instead of lovin’, touchin’ and squeezin’, I’m gruntin’, gaspin’ and wheezin’. The years are catching up with me, and there’s nothing I can do but fight it tooth and nail while I still have teeth and/or nails. Old age is on the way but only if I work for it.

How did all this happen so quickly? I was too busy with crisis management to enjoy my young buck years, and now that I’m finally starting to figure things out a little there are a whole new set of challenges ahead. This life thing is no easy video game, and the levels change dramatically.

Today I got myself up early and forced myself to get some exercise by taking two grueling laps at my favorite walking track the Gurnee Mills Mall. I used to go there regularly, and I could feel the results over time. It’s a huge mall with twists, turns and offshoots that make things interesting for a walker. There are things to look at throughout the route, and it’s not just a boring treadmill.

Unfortunately, I’ve moved farther and farther away in the last few years, and now it’s a 25 mile trip one way. That sucks up way too much time to drive back and forth, not to mention gas at the cut rate price of $4 a gallon these days. If I lived closer I’d go every day, but that’s not an option.

I absolutely need to get back in a steady exercise groove though, and I have been concentrating on it since my birthday. The weather has been a little nicer than the polar vortex conditions we’re used to this winter, and that’s part of the reason I fell out of my groove. Another part is that it’s a big time commitment of time and energy to work out every day when I am on the road working.

The road life and regular exercise is about as good a fit as the Kardashians and long marriages. I do try to make time when I can, but many times I just can’t. I know that wouldn’t be an excuse if my heart pops like a zit, but in the real world that’s how it is. Pick your poison – earn a living by working at what you know how to do, or have zero income at all but stay home and stay fit.

I wish it were an easier fit, but it just isn’t. Most of my morning was shot by the time I drove to the mall, did my two full laps, went to have a healthy breakfast and then drove home to hose off in the shower. Who has that kind of time every day? Right now it isn’t me, but today I forced it.

A good walk like that usually keeps me sore for a couple of days, and I’m tender already. I feel it in my legs and can barely stand up, but it’s good soreness and I know I need to feel this pain as much as I can for the rest of my life. It takes conscious effort now, whereas in my youth it didn’t.

I used to walk all over the place and not even think about it. Now I have to plan it out before I do it, and force it into being part of my day. Is it fun? Unfortunately no, but I don’t think having a heart attack would be party time. This is part of the aging process, and I see that and accept it.

As the weather breaks, I’ll get out and walk a lot more around where I’m living. There aren’t a lot of walking paths like there were at my last place, but I won’t be here that long so hopefully it will only be a temporary hurdle. I did it up right today, but it’s only a day. It has to become habit.

Two laps through the Gurnee Mills Mall, and I was ready to call an ambulance.

Two laps through the Gurnee Mills Mall today, and I was ready to call an ambulance.

The Birthday Race

March 16, 2014

Friday March 14th, 2014 – Springfield, IL

Another birthday comes and goes, and I’m realizing the rest of my days are now a race against the clock to see if I can manage to accomplish anything of significance. My ego won’t allow me to give up now, but my intelligence tells me it’s going to be a long shot. Either way, here we go.

I’m still holding on to the statistic I read years ago that the average self made millionaire is 53 years old, and has tried 15 different things. I’m getting close to the age, and I think I’ve tried far more than the 15 things already. I’d count, but it would probably depress me. Failure is draining.

It’s inspiring to read the stories of people that made it after a long struggle like an Abe Lincoln or Rodney Dangerfield, but I have to believe there’s a longer list of those that died without a big break ever arriving. My comedy mentor C. Cardell Willis is an example, as is my grandfather.

A lot fewer people than I think they both deserved ever saw how great both of them were and it will irk me as long as I live. Those two were tremendous human beings loaded with giving hearts and master people skills, and despite all their efforts they died in obscurity. That seems so unfair.

Jeffrey Dahmer and Al Capone will be known forever. Gramps and Cardell will not. Why does the world have to be so hardcore and rub salt into the wounds like that? I don’t know, and I don’t know if I want to know. From an onlooker’s point of view it’s a cruel joke – but that’s how it is.

This week I’m back in Springfield, IL at Donnie B’s Comedy Club. Donnie and I have hit it off from the first few minutes we met, and are big fans of one another. He thinks I’m one of the best acts he’s ever seen, and I think he’s one of the best entrepreneurs I’ve ever seen. We mesh well.

A reason for that may be that Donnie is also a dented can. His family history and mine are cut from the same stained cloth, and he hasn’t seen his twin sister in decades. He’s familiar with my story, maybe that’s why we hit it off so well. There’s a synergy and mutual respect with him that I seldom if ever find with most club owners, and it’s always a pleasure to work here. I enjoy it.

There are precious few comedy club owners I have ever run across that grasp the importance of advertisement and promotion like Donnie B does. The late Jeff Gilstrap is the only other one that I can think of that comes close. He was the owner of ‘Comedy Off Broadway’ in Lexington, KY.

Jeff would constantly run the comedians from radio station to radio station most mornings, and that’s the way it is here. Donnie picks me up at the hotel early, and we make the rounds doing all the important morning shows. Many comedians complain about it, but I get why it’s important. It gives his club a presence in town, even if the people don’t come out the particular week I’m here.

Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that will be the case this week. St. Patrick’s Day weekend isn’t the best for comedy, and they have a big parade downtown here. The club isn’t located near that area, so we might have to eat some cheese whether we like it or not. Of course we won’t like it, but Donnie and I are survivors and we’ll keep pressing on. Still, I had a fun birthday anyway.

Another birthday passes, and my cake turns into an official fire hazard.

Another birthday passes, and my cake turns into an official fire hazard.

I'm working in Springfield at Donnie B's Comedy Club - one of my very favorite stops.

I’m in Springfield, IL this week at Donnie B’s Comedy Club – one of my very favorite stops.

My grandfather never got his big break in life. I want to do my best to keep his memory alive.

My grandfather never got his big break in life. I want to do my best to keep his memory alive. His mentoring skills were off the charts.

My comedy mentor C. Cardell Willis deserved more than he got as well. Love ya Cardell!

My comedy mentor C. Cardell Willis deserved more than he got as well. Love ya Cardell! Every time I go on stage, a part of you is with me.

Deeper Into Uranus

March 14, 2014

Thursday March 13th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

On this date in 1781, one Sir William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus. From that day on every grade school science class has never been the same. No matter how straight a teacher may try to present it, everybody ends up giggling uncontrollably. That’s why Sir William is my hero.

No matter how one may view it, Uranus is funny. It hits on a base level, and I am not ashamed to admit I find everything about it absolutely hilarious. It’s a bad pun. It’s juvenile. It’s as old as the universe itself – and that’s the reason I want to dive into the black hole head first and own it.

I am stating to the cosmos loudly, clearly and in no uncertain terms that effective immediately if not sooner I am officially claiming the Earth rights to Uranus for as long as I may live. I have dabbled in it before, but it wasn’t enough to own it. I have only scratched the surface of Uranus.

Did I invent this? Of course not. I just got through saying that Sir William Herschel discovered it in 1781, but he didn’t own it either. Uranus was first spotted around 1690, and that gimoke did not invent it either. It was there the whole time. It’ll be there when I’m gone, but I want to use it.

David Letterman never claimed to have invented a “Top Ten” list, but he has claimed it for his own. Good for him. He saw it was available, and he has used it wisely for decades. That’s what I want to do with Uranus. I want to end up so deep into Uranus nobody else will be able to follow.

When I walk down any street in any town on any continent, I want people to say “Look! There goes the King of Uranus!” And then I want them to giggle as much or more than they did in their science class back in grade school. I want to lift humanity’s spirits through the power of Uranus.

This is a dream that has been flickering inside of me far too long. I have seen only random bits and pieces of it come true, but every last bit of it has been overwhelmingly positive from a vanity “URANUS 1” license plate on my car to a “King of Uranus” baseball cap. The masses eat it up.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that I can’t run with this and take it to the pinnacle of either unbridled raging success or totally catastrophic failure. Quite honestly, it’s the success that frightens me if anything. I’m accustomed to failure and can navigate effectively, but it’s boring.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I have made up in my mind I’m going to put Uranus out there to sink, swim or succeed beyond my wildest dreams. That won’t be easy, as I have some pretty wild dreams. Actually, I just think it would be fun to have it as a legacy. I want the giggles to continue for generations after I’m dead. There could be no greater honor than to get laughs posthumously.

I’ve had this idea floating around for far too long now, and I’ve got to either hit it or quit it. I’m sick of doing it half ass. Get it? See, the angle never stops. Uranus is a wide open magnet for fun. I am now officially accepting the Kingship and now prefer to be known as “His Royal Highney”.

I Googled Uranus – which is funny in itself – and the facts that came up laid me out. “Uranus has rings.” Hee hee hee. “Uranus has only been visited once.” Stop it! “Uranus is a giant ball of gas.” I think I’m going to shoot milk through my nose! From this day on, Uranus is my destiny!

Sir William Herschel discovered Uranus on this date in 1781. See his expression as he 'looks up Uranus'. Hee hee hee

Sir William Herschel discovered Uranus on this date in 1781. See his asinine expression as he ‘looks straight up Uranus’. (Hee hee hee)

Look! Uranus has rings!  (Giggle giggle)

Look! Uranus has rings! (Giggle giggle)

Uranus is on FIRE! :)

Blow it out Uranus!

My King of Uranus logo - like the planet itself - is sideways. No other planet is quite like it.

The official recognized King of Uranus logo – like the actual planet itself – is sideways. No other planet is quite like it. Thumbs up Uranus!

If you'd like a book mark, send me a mailing address and I'll mail one out free of charge. No strings attached to Uranus.

If you’d like a book mark just like this one, send me a mailing address and I’ll mail one out free of charge. No strings attached to Uranus.

Sharing For Sheri

March 12, 2014

Tuesday March 11th, 2014 – Hawthorn Woods, IL

Long before I reconnected with my birth family, I was part of the Zanies Comedy Club family. I have worked more than my share of jobs, but have never seen a group of closer knit people than I have at Zanies. There are several Zanies locations in the Chicago area, and the one that recently closed in Vernon Hills, IL had a particularly sweet staff. Those people have always been super.

I worked at that club frequently from the day it opened until the day it closed. Coincidentally, I was the first comedian to ever step on that stage and the last one to close the last show. That club was my home both in comedy and in life, and I even developed my comedy classes in that space.

The last three places I have lived have all been with former Zanies employees, including where I am now. That’s why when the opportunity arose to have a fundraiser for Sheri Johnson, I knew it was my duty to set the wheels in motion. I had no doubt the others would follow, and they did.

A tremendous turnout of both former Zanies staff and Chicago comedians came out tonight to make a successful event at Hawthorn Hills Country Club – who generously donated their facility for the evening. It was comforting to see all those friendly faces again, and we pulled off a gem.

Liz Long really helped, as she was the manager of Zanies for years. Actually, Sheri was too at one point so it was totally in house. Many of the wait staff showed up early to help set things up, and a few with teenage kids brought them out to help with the heavy lifting. It was a team effort.

The comedians came out as well, and I’m very grateful to Patti Vasquez, Mike Preston, Trevor Burke, John DaCosse, Sonya White and ‘Uncle Lar’ Larry Reeb. They put on a killer evening of comedy, and nobody got paid a cent. All except Trevor knew Sheri, and it was nice of them to be willing to come out and support. The people in attendance got a huge bang for their charity buck.

I didn’t get a final count numbers wise of attendance, but the main area where the actual show was held was standing room only. There were side areas to the left and right of the stage as well, and they had people too. The room looked full, and that’s all that mattered. It wasn’t a flop at all.

Even better, the final total of donations including a 50/50 raffle and quite a bit of donated swag was almost double what I was estimating. It was a raging success, and I couldn’t be happier but I also am not surprised. Those people are givers, and they came together tonight and did it right.

I have to say I’m extremely disappointed in the rest of the Chicago comedy scene. I posted the event on a couple of Facebook groups of younger comedians and got ZERO response. That made my bung hole pucker, as it didn’t shine well for the younger generation. Here national headliners came out and generously donated their time and talent, but open mic piss ants couldn’t show up.

I thought there was NO excuse for that whatsoever, not just from a comedy standpoint but from a humanity standpoint. A vibrant young woman has been struck down in the prime of life with an absolutely horrific health crisis, and not ONE of several HUNDRED aspiring comedians had one ounce of human compassion to come out and support? Even for selfish reasons they should have come out to network with comedians and bookers. They missed out, because it was a great night. If you missed it and still want to donate, here is the link:

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/sharing-for-sheri/140736

The 'Sharing For Sheri' benefit comedy show was a smash, thanks to the efforts of a family of wonderful people. I am proud of them all.

The ‘Sharing For Sheri’ benefit comedy show was a smash, thanks to the efforts of a family of wonderful people. I am proud of them all.

Something Smart

March 1, 2014

Wednesday February 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

The older I get, the more I realize just how poorly I’ve managed my life in so many ways. I did manage to have a generous helping of fun and adventure along the way, but I sure did screw a lot of things up too. When I hear people say “I have no regrets in life,” I can’t relate. I have a bunch.

What’s even worse is that I have to keep living, and try to steer myself in a good direction even though I’m coming from a place I really didn’t want to be. That makes where I am even more of a challenge, and I feel time catching up. I wish I could reboot and start over, but that’s no option.

We all have to play the hands we’re dealt, and we get ONE shot. That seems rather unfair, does it not? Most of us are clueless on our own, and unless we have razor sharp guidance from parents or some sort of mentor figure our lives drift off course like I feel mine did. Now I’m trying to get my bearings in order to make a run to the finish line. I hope I can salvage at least some of a life.

I truly think my first major boo boo was staying with radio after my first job came to an end in Lansing, MI in 1990. It would have been early enough where I could have gone back to standup comedy, and eventually moved to New York or Los Angeles and stayed until something popped.

I did eventually make it to L.A., but totally not how I’d planned it. I had been blown out of yet another radio gig in Reno, NV and it was closer to drive to L.A. than it was to Chicago so I went there. I had a few bucks of severance pay, but not a lot. I lived like a cockroach for about a year, and then started doing road gigs to pay bills. That’s not the smart way to be based in Hollywood.

In retrospect, I should have taken a break from standup and just found a way to do whatever it took to settle in out there. I knew a lot of people, and had some connections. A lot of people that are doing very well now were just arriving, and I could have come up the ranks along with them.

Billy Gardell was there, and he’s doing well now on ‘Mike and Molly’. He’s a super guy, and I remember seeing him at a Sunday football watching get together with comedians. “Are you here now?” he asked. I said that I was, and he said “Cool. I know you’ll do well.” And he meant it.

My friend Keith Leslie was writing for “Grace Under Fire” then, and I hung out regularly with him and the writing staff. In fact, some of my lines ended up making it on the show. Those guys were very fun, and I had no problem fitting in. I just didn’t stay long enough to grow any roots.

Mark Roberts is an amazing talent, and he’s now doing extremely well. He’s got his fingers in a lot of pies, one of which is “Two And A Half Men”. I think he’s in charge of that show, and he could have easily hired me to be a writer. A lot of Chicago comedians moved to California right around that same time, and several are still there. In a perfect world, I’d be out there with them.

Maybe in a parallel universe I’m living that dream with all the trimmings, but I think that ship has sailed for this one. I moved back to Chicago to regroup, with full intentions of going back to California when I was ready. I never made it, and now I’m starting to have some regrets. I was in a super position then and didn’t realize just how good it was. I chose the safe route, and it turned out to be more dangerous than if I’d stayed and delivered pizzas for a while until I got settled in.

One year is not long enough to do much of anything well enough to make a lasting impact. One year is barely a radar blip, and that’s generous. There are a lot of of athletes that had one big year and that’s it. Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych and ‘Super Joe’ Charbonneau are two lingering examples from my youth. Both were poised for stardom, but now they’re taking up residence in oblivion.

The same holds true with any skill based endeavor. How many one hit wonder music acts have come and gone? Debby Boone comes to mind. She was hot for about a year – if that – and then it was over. Did she have a ‘career’? How anyone can in that short of a time? It’s just not enough.

Had I stayed out there, who knows what would have come along? I loved everything about the whole idea of living there, and deep in my heart I still do. If I had a reason to be out there I’d get in my car and drive there tomorrow. Again, I think that ship has sailed from a realistic viewpoint. I was living in the right place, but it wasn’t at the right time – yet. I wish I would have waited.

The last thing that will do any good is beating myself up about it. I had reasons for what I did, and that’s how it turned out. There was no way to see the big picture then, but I’m writing about it now in hopes I’ll be able to help someone else with their own personal struggle. I hope what I screwed up will encourage someone else to stay and wait it out. Go where the magic happens.

Not a whole lot of magic has happened anywhere else I’ve been. I thought Salt Lake City was going to be my home, and that blew up in my face worse than anywhere. I chased that radio bug, and it wouldn’t stop biting. Then I came back to Chicago, and it bit me again. When will I learn?

It’s getting a little late in the game now. If something happens, it’s going to have to happen in a hurry. There are a few stories of people who have made it late, but they are always the exception and never the rule. My path has been anything but ‘normal’, so I need to really focus on strategy.

Is what I’m doing now the smartest thing I could be doing? I say yes, but that’s what I thought years ago when I was being so unknowingly stupid. I truly believed I was going to land that huge radio gig and it would set me up for the rest of my life. It didn’t happen, and now I’m struggling.

One thing I do have is a boat load of hands on experience, but who really cares enough to give me a job? I could go on any radio station on the dial and fit in somewhere, but try as I might I’ve not been able to keep a job more than a year and a month. It was always something else but me.

Not many people I know are still out there slugging like I am this far into the game, and I have no idea if it’s the right choice or not. The idea of quitting doesn’t thrill me, but doing it like I’ve been doing it thrills me even less. What can I do to scratch the creative itch, and still be solvent?

Living hand to mouth just isn’t cutting it, but I’m by far not alone. I don’t want to end up at the home for wayward road comedians, and that means I’ll have to figure out something a lot sooner than later that provides an income. Until then, I’m going to work on improving my business skill.

Today I spent three hours sifting through computer and paper files looking for anyone that has ever hired me. I need to come up with a current list of potential hirers, and work them like a sales rep works a client list. For life right now, that’s my smartest move. I could use something smart.

Getting into the radio meat grinder was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. I regret it now, but it's too late.

Getting into the radio meat grinder was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. I regret it now, but it’s too late. It’s a cruel game.

I lived in Los Angeles for a year in the mid '90s. I loved it there, and wish I would have stayed.

I lived in Los Angeles for a year in the mid ’90s. I loved it there, and wish I would have stayed. Mistakes are clearer in retrospect.

Billy Gardell got there around then, and played the game correctly. Good for him, he's a great guy and everyone loves him - including me.

Billy Gardell got there around then, and played the game correctly. Good for him, he’s a great guy and everyone loves him – including me. Go Billy!

R.I.P. WNTA

February 26, 2014

Tuesday February 25th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I heard sad news from my friend Jimmy McHugh today that radio station WNTA in Rockford, IL has changed formats from news/talk to “classic hits” – and everyone who worked there got the boot from the entire on air staff to the producers. It’s yet another example of the cruelty of radio.

I’ve been through that scenario myself, and it’s sickening. It always comes out of the blue, but one day the boss asks to see the air staff one by one and the purge is on. Word spreads around the building, but it’s too late by then. Everyone gets their pink slips, and then it’s all an afterthought.

The people that get shown the door are out of the building within minutes, and the rest of those that kept their jobs feel sad – in a way – but also relieved that it wasn’t them. The radio guillotine can fall at any time, and few are fortunate enough to escape the blade at some point in a career.

This news really hit home, as I had done quite a bit of fill in work on WNTA the last couple of years and learned a lot. I was never a talk radio host before – at least not a news/talk station. I did my Sunday night paranormal show “The Mothership Connection”, but that was a different vibe.

WNTA had a current events format, and it forced me to grow by leaps and bounds from a radio standpoint like no other job I ever had. My first radio gig was a classic rock morning show, and I took to that immediately. I had music to play, and all I had to do was fill in the cracks. I was able to do that without thinking. It’s what I do. Talk radio is a different animal, and one that can bite.

The first hour I did it, I knew I was in for some growing pains. I’m fine with being the side guy and throwing in a smart ass comment when needed. That’s way too easy. I’m great at reacting to situations and adding a punch line, I’ve been doing it since grade school. Hosting is a lot harder.

Most people don’t appreciate just how frighteningly difficult it is to sit alone in a room in front of a microphone and just talk much less be interesting for eight to ten minutes. That can feel like eternity. I thought I was relatively witty and a quick thinker on my feet, but those first few feeble attempts to do talk radio were embarrassing. I flat out stunk, and I’m not too proud to admit that.

But without the chance to stink repeatedly, there can’t be growth. Everyone stinks at first in all creative and artistic endeavors, but those willing to press on and pay dues become masters of the craft. WNTA had a long standing staff of talented professionals, and I was fortunate to fill in for all of them during my tenure. I filled in on every shift, and it was an education. I respect them all.

Doug McDuff was the morning show host, and then there was Ken DeCoster, Mark Mayhew, Paul Youngblood and Dean Ervin. Every one of them treated me great, and made me feel like I was part of the station even though I was just filling in. Producers Howard Bailey-Murray and a guy I only knew as Tim were also easy to work with. My entire experience there was pleasant.

Jim Stone is the Operations Manager, and I feel sorry for him because he had to fire everybody as per company orders. He’s got a heart and is a great guy, and I’m sure it was no picnic for him to have to do that. It was sad news all around, but I wanted to pay respects to all those people for being so nice to me when I was there. WNTA will live on in my heart, and I wish them all well.

I'm, grateful for the air time I had on WNTA in Rockford, IL. I'm very sorry to hear the station is changing formats.

I’m, grateful for the air time I had on WNTA in Rockford, IL. I’m very sorry to hear the station is changing formats.