Posts Tagged ‘acting’

Lights, Camera, ACTING!

April 16, 2014

Tuesday April 15th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

One of the first warnings I heard when I started doing standup comedy was “actor/comedian” = “neither/nor”. I think there’s a lot of truth to that to a certain degree, just as the Confucius saying “He who chases two rabbits, catches none.” The point is to focus on ONE thing and do that well.

I knew I enjoyed standup comedy more than anything, so that’s what I stayed with exclusively and never bothered to look into anything else. I’m not so sure that was the smartest move all this time later as I objectively look back on my life and analyze the decisions I made along the way.

I’m not so sure I’d recommend that to someone starting out now – especially with how life has changed so radically on every level. When I started, I could make a living exclusively in comedy by the time I was in my early 20s. Like minor league baseball, I wasn’t getting rich but I had the opportunity to learn my craft on the job and work my way up the ranks. That’s a lot harder now.

Then there was a time when Hollywood seemed to be passing out development deals to comics like candy at Halloween. Lots of people got off the road and moved to L.A. in hopes of being the next big thing. A few like Jerry Seinfeld and Drew Carey pulled it off, but a lot more struck out.

One of the big things that held a lot of comedians back was that they weren’t good actors. They never made it a point to attempt to learn the craft, and I can totally see why. It takes a lot of effort to be a good comedian, and that’s enough to keep anyone occupied for a lifetime. It sure kept my attention. Still, I don’t think it would hurt any standup to take a few acting classes and vice versa.

They’re very different crafts, and I’ll throw improv in there as well. That’s a whole other thing by itself, but the smart performer in the 21st Century would be wise to at least sample a little taste of all three to get an idea of what’s involved. Even if only for comparison purposes, I’d say do it.

Entertainment doesn’t seem to be so much about craft and skill these days as it is about getting famous. I’m not a fan of that formula, but I can’t fight it. That’s how it is. With the internet now a force that isn’t going anywhere, a lot more unpolished talents are getting exposed far too early.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have talent, I just think it can be a bad thing to be seen too early. It’s like eating green bananas. They haven’t ripened yet, and to eat them will give the one eating them a nasty case of the trots. The same is true with any acquired skill, but everyone is impatient.

I have a friend named Regina Prokop who is a legitimate Hollywood casting agent. She got me a part as an extra in the film “While You Were Sleeping”. Was I an actor? No, I was dressed as a mailman and walked past Sandra Bullock for a few seconds. Was it fun? Sure. Should I have put more effort into pursuing bigger roles? Absolutely. Credits like that can impress when added up.

Regina has put out a very affordable EBook called “Lights, Camera, ACTING!” I recommend it to anyone who wants the real scoop on how to get started correctly. I get nothing from it but to help a friend. It’s a steal at just $2.99. http://store.blurb.com/ebooks/371661-lights-camera-acting

My friend Regina Prokop is a real Hollywood casting agent. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaCast. Here she is on the red carpet at a big event.

My friend Regina Prokop is a real Hollywood casting agent. Follow her on Twitter @ReginaCast. Here she is on the red carpet at some huge event.

Regina got me a part in 'While You Were Sleeping'. If you rent it, I'm in there. Thanks Regina!

Her guidance got me a part in ‘While You Were Sleeping’. If you rent it, I play a mail man – but I didn’t go postal. Thanks Regina!

Regina's new EBook is a great way to get started in on camera work. It's a great bargain and full of useful information.

Regina’s new EBook is a proven way to get started in on camera work. It’s a fantastic bargain and full of useful information.

The Queen Of Connections

March 8, 2014

Friday March 7th, 2014 – Libertyville, IL

It’s amazing how connections work. Sometimes people come into our lives from the strangest of places, and end up staying a lot longer than expected. One of the reasons I have loved teaching my comedy classes so much is that it has attracted a steady stream of quality people into my life.

The number of people that I have kept in contact with after having them as students is well into the hundreds, and I value and cherish every last one of them. I don’t always see all of them all of the time, but there are always enough of them coming in and out of my life to keep me occupied.

I’ve been teaching since 1994, and if I had to single out one group that stands out from them all it’s a class I taught last summer at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL. It was a class filled with ‘corporate types’, and they were a Toastmasters group from Lake County, IL. They were friendly enough people at the time, but I had no idea what an impact we would have on each other’s lives.

David Stuart is the owner of Improv Playhouse, and I approached him about teaching classes at his facility because I lived in the area and there was no standup comedy around anywhere since a Zanies location in Vernon Hills, IL had closed. He agreed, and we ended up doing a few classes.

Zanies is the big name in standup in the Chicago area, and I have been teaching there for years. No offense to David, but his facility is not that nor does he claim it to be. He specializes in acting and improv training, and he’s very good at it. My class was just an added bonus to his repertoire.

We’d held a few class sessions, but nothing earth shattering quite honestly. They were just kind of ok, but nothing special. When he told me a group of Toastmasters wanted to take the class as a group I didn’t have any idea what to expect. It was the summer, and any income was appreciated.

Little did I know that we would touch each other’s lives so deeply, and they ended up without a doubt THE best class I ever taught. Period. What made them so great was that they came from an entirely different place than most students that take the class. They were already friends because of their Toastmasters connection, and they were already used to speaking in front of an audience.

They asked me to help them punch up their speeches, and I told them I would do that but I also would not sugarcoat anything. They thought they wanted that, but when I started bringing heat it ended up scaring them. I worked those people harder than I’ve worked anyone, but I knew it was exactly what they needed. It was funny to hear them whine and moan, but they did what I said.

As the class went on, I ended up giving them several more sessions than they ended up paying for. It was my call, and I don’t regret it for a second. They were eager to learn, and I got a chance to practice teaching with people who were hungry and wanted to improve themselves. What else did I have going on in the summer? El-zilcho. The extra sessions we had were very productive.

Finally it came time for their ‘graduation’ show, and they packed the joint at Improv Playhouse for what turned out to be a purely magical evening. They all went up and lit it up in front of their friends, family and fellow Toastmasters, and it was an absolute blast for everyone. I felt like their mother hen, and couldn’t have been prouder of all of them. THAT is why I’ve taught for so long.

The leader of that Toastmasters group was Eric Feinendegen, and now Eric and I have teamed up and are working on corporate speaking angles. He’s helping me with my monthly newsletter, and I’ve been helping him with some speeches he’s been doing. He wants to set up bookings for both of us, and is very familiar with the corporate world. We’re helping each other and it’s a fit.

Another member of that class is Jean MacDonald. Jean prides herself on being one of the most connected people anywhere, and she should. She is up there with anyone I’ve ever seen at being on top of the contact game, and that’s exactly what success in any field is about. She excels at it.

Jean calls herself ‘The Queen of Connections’ and I don’t doubt her for one second. She knows EVERYBODY in Chicago – at least everybody that’s important. She makes it her business to be in contact with anyone that’s doing anything, and her days are spent nurturing her vast network.

Eric and I met up with her a few weeks ago, and she was full of ideas that were very helpful to both of us. She told us to start networking and come up with a newsletter, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. She talked about ‘warm calls’ to lead to business rather than cold calling, and talked about how to get into a field and own it. She also talked about getting multiple bookings at once.

She totally knows her stuff, and I shut my mouth and listened as she spewed nothing but useful information. Then to my surprise, she went on about how much the class meant to her and how it changed her life. I was very flattered to hear that, and I could tell she was sincere. She said it was a highlight of her life to perform at the graduation show, and she’ll always remember the feeling.

Again, that’s exactly what I’m shooting for and I couldn’t be happier to hear she had fun. That whole class was special, and the effort they all put in was remarkable. They got a lot out of it for sure, but they put a lot into it too. From my perspective, it made being their teacher well worth it.

Jean sent me an email and asked to do a follow up coffee meeting at my convenience to check on how progress has been going. Today was the day I could do it, and even though I don’t drink coffee we met up at a place in Libertyville to compare notes. When I got there she was meeting with her web person, and before I sat down three different people walked over and said hello.

I’m telling you, I’ve never seen anyone network like Jean does. It was a treat to watch, and we finally got time to talk. Jean’s passion for what she’s doing just shines, and I could feel it as she explained what she’s looking to do, and how I can be a part of it. She wants to help me connect with corporate sources to both speak and teach speakers, and she wants me to help her as well.

She’s been getting some bookings lately, and wants to polish up her speech and add humor to it. Well, if there’s one thing I can help people with it’s that. Eric and I have been working at that exact same thing, and it’s working tremendously well. There’s no reason I can’t help Jean also.

She also went on to say how this is the hot season for business whereas summer is ice cold for the comedy world. She scolded me – deservedly – about being stuck in ‘comedy mode’. I’m in a new arena now and new rules are in place. I heard all she said, and I’m on board. She’s a winner. I never would have imagined that little class last summer could lead to this, but it has and we’re all better for it. Jean’s website is http://www.networkconnectsucceed.com I think the title says it all.

Jean MacDonald is a speaker, author and trainer. She knows EVERYBODY!

Jean MacDonald is a speaker, author and successful sales trainer. And she knows absolutely EVERYBODY!

Eric Feinendegen and Jean are in Toastmasters, and they took a comedy class I taught at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL last summer.

Eric Feinendegen and Jean are in Toastmasters, and they took a comedy class I taught at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL last summer.

David Stuart owns Improv Playhouse, and it's a wonderful place to learn acting, improv or standup comedy. Tell him I sent you! www.improvplayhouse.com.

David Stuart owns Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL. It’s a terrific place to learn improv, acting or standup comedy. Tell him I sent you! http://www.improvplayhouse.com.

Pleasantly Pooped

February 24, 2013

Saturday February 23rd, 2013 – Kenosha, WI/Glenview, IL

   My life sounds a lot like a Dick and Jane book from first grade. Run, run, run. Go, go, go. Run and go. Go and run. See Dobie run. See Dobie go. He is busy. Busy, busy, busy. Look at Dobie’s tongue hang out as he runs himself ragged every day. Dobie is pooped. Pooped, pooped, pooped.

That’s just how it is right now, but I’m not complaining. Everything I’m doing is fun, and how many people can say that? Sure I’m still broke, but at least I’ve got some hope and that’s all any of us can ask for. There have been some very dark times in the past few years, but that’s because there didn’t appear to be any hope on the horizon. Now I’m feeling like I at least have a chance.

My friend Mark Gumbinger called to invite me to lunch today. He’s a film director who wants to film a pilot episode of ‘Mr. Lucky’ as a sitcom. I’m very flattered he’d think of me but I don’t think I’d have time for it just now. I’ve got more than I can handle on my daily calendar already.

If I did have time, he would be the director I’d choose. He’s very meticulous, and knows what he wants each scene to look like. He’d be my own personal Martin Scorcese, and I’d trust him to get the most out of what we had to work with. I had a small part in one of his projects ‘Dead Air’ and it was great fun, but I’m no actor and never claimed to be. Like Seinfeld, I’m a comic first.

They were able to build a solid cast around Jerry Seinfeld, and that’s exactly what would have to happen with me. I’m not opposed to the idea, but right now it’s not something I can spend any time working on. I’ve got too many other things to focus on, but it was still fun to discuss today.

Mark directed my one hour video that was recorded at WLIP studios last year, and it turned out quite well. He’s a total pro, and we work together smoothly. We put together a product we could both be proud of for a very low cost. If we had any kind of budget at all we would be dangerous.

I don’t take acting lightly however. That’s a craft just like comedy, and I haven’t paid any dues whatsoever. People make the mistake of thinking it’s easy to do both, when that couldn’t be any further from the truth. I respect the craft of acting, and wouldn’t head into it without a solid plan.

If I ever did get a sitcom opportunity, I’d find a quality mentor and take a class. At least having a basic skill set as a foundation would make things a lot easier for everyone involved. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking on a big project just winging it like I have until now. That’s not smart. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right. Like standup comedy it can look easy but totally isn’t.

Speaking of comedy, Bill Gorgo called and asked if I could fill in at the very last minute for his show at The Laughing Chameleon in Glenview, IL. There was supposed to be a feature slotted to do twenty minutes, but he bailed for unknown reasons. Any way I can help Bill, I surely would.

That’s a small room, but it was full tonight and I had a blast. I worked in new material and also switched around some old stuff. I helped a friend, but also used the time to be productive and get ready for The Laughing Skull Festival in Atlanta in March. It’s all fun, but I could use a breather.