Archive for the ‘Standup Comedy’ Category

The Funniest Human

July 9, 2014

Monday July 7th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

A shocking revelation for those that aren’t in the business is that many professional comedians are not funny people in the least off stage. It is mistakenly assumed that since we make our living on stage getting audiences to laugh, it carries over into our personal lives and we’re always ‘on’.

Nothing could be more ridiculous, but that’s what far too many think. Dennis Miller referred to standup comedy as a “chimp trick”, and I see his point. I’ve always referred to it as a craft, and a craft can only be acquired through painstaking years of learning skills and putting them to use.

There are countless comedians that have a natural flair for being funny going in, but it still has to be polished and refined to a professional standard. Quite often that painful process tends to be what drives a lot of the funny out of those people, but if someone truly ‘has it’, it’s there for life.

There are also countless others that ‘have it’ – but never even once stand on a stage. My cousin Brett is one of those people. I would rank him up there with any of the top comedians I have ever met or seen, and had he wanted to he could have easily made his living doing what I have done.

Instead, he chose to be a union carpenter. He’s very good at what he does, but he faces many of the same issues I do with playing the politics game. Like me he’s terrible at it and knows it – and he also tends to shoot off his big mouth a lot like I do. We are definitely cut from the same cloth.

That’s likely what makes him so funny. He’s sick, twisted, vicious and unrelenting – and that’s a sincere compliment. Funny just flows through his veins, and no matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other we can pick it up from where we left off and get each other going again.

There is no human nor animal on this planet that can make me laugh out loud harder than Brett. Nobody. He knows my buttons, and when he hits one he will not stop. He often makes me laugh so hard I think I’m going to suffocate from a lack of oxygen – but afterward I feel SO cleansed.

That’s what happened tonight as I drove to Milwaukee to have dinner with Brett. We try to get together once a month if we can, but sometimes we’ll miss. We both happened to be off tonight, so we enjoyed a rack of ribs at Famous Dave’s which is one of our favorite spots and caught up.

Brett and his father had about the same relationship me and mine did, and we have all kinds of similar issues about it. We were around each other growing up a lot more than I ever was with all of my siblings, so Brett is basically the younger brother I never had. I can’t call him little, as he’s about 6’4” with size 14 shoes. He could twist my head of like a bottle cap, but he never would.

Like my brother Larry, Brett is one of the kindest souls I have ever met. He’s constantly giving of himself – and constantly getting taken advantage of. I think it goes with the territory, but it’s a part of who he is just like it is with Larry and me. We’re givers, and that’s what we do. Period.

I get to enjoy Brett’s dark and warped sense of humor all to myself, and it’s more precious than gold to me. I hope I have had that effect on others, onstage and off. It feels SO good to laugh that hard, and he’s the only one I can think of that can make me do it consistently. Now that’s a gift.

Who is the funniest person you know personally? It may not be a professional comedian.

Who is the funniest person you can think of? It may – or may not – be a comedian. For me it’s my cousin Brett. He cracks me up.

Still Flying High

July 5, 2014

Friday July 4th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m still on a high from the show last night at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL. No matter how many problems I have or how low I may feel on a given day, having shows like that is what keeps me above ground. I don’t see why I can’t experience that more regularly, like every week.

If I had my way – but I rarely do – I would be on stage every night of my life that I was able to stand even halfway erect and talk into a microphone – but only if I have the circumstances I had last night. It was a stellar venue with world class lights and sound, and people were there to see a show. When those criteria are met, I can almost always exceed their expectations and then some.

The misery comes when it’s some low rent hell hole blood and guts roadhouse dive that has no idea of how to run a show, but tries to anyway. It’s a chore to get anyone to shut up and listen for more than thirty seconds, and at the end of the night it makes me question why I was ever born.

Those aren’t the places to do real comedy, they’re just a chance for everyone to make a couple of relatively quick bucks. Notice I didn’t say easy – just relatively quick. The pain only lasts for about an hour onstage in situations like that, but can leave residual damage on the soul forever.

As much as I want to do shows like last night every night until I can no longer stand by myself, I don’t ever want to work the toilets again. I’ve long past my time of doing them, but sometimes I have to suck it up and do it for the money. Does that make me a whore? Unfortunately, it does.

It’s well and good to stand firm and be an ‘artiste’, but for most of us it’s not realistic – at least not these days. Absolutely ANY paying gig has to be considered by most of us working the road, and the quality is getting lower by the week. So is the pay. Nights like last night are a rare treat.

The one and only way to make things change for the better is to become a draw that enough of the public is familiar with and will buy tickets to see me. It doesn’t have to be anywhere close to the whole public, but it does have to be enough to sell tickets every week. That’s super difficult.

This has nothing to do with ego, although it is a blow to anybody’s that they aren’t able to fill a 50 seat room more than once a year. This is strictly business, and business often has very little or nothing to do with the show. But without a show, someone’s business won’t endure for the ages.

I’m in the same pickle barrel I’ve been in for years. I have a rock solid act, but nobody knows who I am so I can’t get a chance to prove it on a consistent basis. I’ve been too busy out making a living to get in front of the right people, and those people I have gotten in front of didn’t think I was what they were looking for – even though most people have no idea what they’re looking at.

A show like last night would have been a perfect example of one to have had when somebody with power was in the audience. I was up and down a dozen times, and kept the show rolling on many levels. Somebody with smart eyes would have seen that and plugged me in to something.

Too bad for me, they weren’t there. They’re never there when I rip it up, and that’s what makes me so frustrated. I KNOW I can do this, and so do a lot of others – especially all my detractors.

I'm learning as I get older to savor the good times. The tide will turn soon enough. When life goes well, it needs to be savored for all it's worth.

I’m learning as I get older to savor the good times. The tide will turn soon enough. When life goes well, it needs to be appreciated.

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.

The Sweetest Music

July 5, 2014

Tuesday July 1st, 2014 – Rosemont, IL

The sweetest music any comedian can hear the week of the 4th of July is a phone ringing. This is traditionally the deadest week of the year along with Christmas week, and that’s just how it is. It was like that even during the peak years, but it’s really true now. It’s not easy to get a booking.

Cruise ships can be decent on Christmas week because Jewish people tend to fill the ships, but comedy clubs on land tend to be ghost towns. Most clubs do a local ‘best of’ show with acts that live in town and don’t cost much. It’s something a club plans for every year, and they squeak by.

4th of July week is similar, but Jewish people celebrate too – at least if they’re Americans. I’ve never seen a rush of communist sympathizers or terrorists in comedy clubs or cruise ships on the week of 4th of July. It’s slow for everyone, and there’s always the variable of what day it falls on.

Saturday is always the money night in any week, and when Christmas Eve, Christmas night or the 4th happen to fall on one that makes it even harder for a venue to turn a profit that week. I’ve seen a lot of places in recent years just bite the bullet and close for those weeks. I can see why.

Zanies Comedy Clubs in the Chicago area will be open this week, but will close on Friday the actual 4th. They’re piecing ‘best of’ local shows together, and Chicago is a big city with a lot of options. It’s a chance for comedians to get their feet wet working at a Zanies location, and that’s a big deal in Chicago. It’s a chance for the clubs to be able to stay open as well, so it’s win/win.

I couldn’t have been more delighted to receive a text from the manager of the Rosemont Zanies asking if I would mind hosting the shows tonight and Thursday. Would I mind? Are you kidding me? I would be willing to host the show, vacuum the showroom after and take out the garbage at the end of the night. Being able to bring in even $1 on 4th of July week is a victory in these times.

As if that wasn’t enough, I received an email shortly thereafter from Bert Haas asking if I’d be willing to close the shows at the St. Charles location in Pheasant Run Resort on Saturday. Again, I was barely able to conceal my joy as I pretended to look for my calendar to see if I was open.

This couldn’t have come at a better time, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I hate to be in such a pickle to need money this badly, but it’s a big barrel and I’m not alone. Every comic I know that hasn’t gotten a day job by now is also sniffing around for anything they can get. Times are tight.

I’m really going to have to be better prepared from now on, but at least for another year I’ll get through another 4th of July week and another summer. I’ve picked up a couple of straggler shows for July and August, and there could be a few more in the mix when I rattle some cages I haven’t rattled in a while but need to. This particular week was wide open, and now it’s not. I’m thrilled.

The show tonight was excellent. The Rosemont location is part of a beautiful new complex that has a lot of bars and restaurants, and there is a significant amount of walk up business. That’s the exact type of location the most successful comedy clubs in the country are. Hopefully this club is set up for a long successful run. There was a nice house tonight, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’ll enjoy Thursday and Saturday too. Thank you Zanies, you saved me again. http://www.zanies.com.

Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL is one of the most beautiful comedy clubs in America. www.zanies.com

Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL is one of the most beautiful comedy clubs in America. See it for yourself! http://www.zanies.com

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.

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.