Posts Tagged ‘Adam Sandler’

The People Business

May 9, 2014

Wednesday May 7th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I want to talk more about the whole “game” aspect of show business. It’s easy to come off as a crusty old bastard brimming with bitterness – and I’m sure some think I am. Maybe they’re right to a certain degree, but I want to go into the reasons why. It’s not just something I felt like doing.

Most entertainers that last even a little while I find to be of above average intelligence as a rule. This is often where their problems originate, as the public as a rule are a pretty sorry lot. I wish it were different, but it is what it is. Alexander Hamilton’s quote “The masses are asses” rings just as true in 2014 as it did in 1790 when he said it. The bar for greatness has been set painfully low.

Quite often the great artists are on a completely different plane than the public, and that causes great pain because there is no outlet for their artistic output. A lot larger audience wants to see an Adam Sandler movie than wants to see Woody Allen’s next release. Aiming low is a wise target.

This is not to say nobody smart or talented ever makes it, or only idiots do. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am pointing out is that show business is a people business, and if one has no insight on one’s customers, it’s easy to come crashing down in a hurry. There are rules involved.

There are also dues to be paid like tolls on a highway. The next booth is going to charge you an individual amount for that particular stretch of road, not caring that the last dozen all took a piece of your bank roll. If you want to ride, you have to pay. Period. That’s how it is in showbiz also.

Where the difference lies is that most highways have very detailed maps and it’s easy to find a manageable route. If one doesn’t have a GPS device, there are usually maps of the area put up in rest areas for any and all to freely use to their advantage. Show business’s route is more hidden.

There aren’t any pubic maps posed, and more often than not others on the same highway either don’t know where they’re going or are deliberately on a path to self implosion. That can be part of the DNA makeup of a dented can, and it can cause that person to make unhealthy decisions.

I have made more than my share of unhealthy decisions along my turbulent life trail, but I also made a few solid ones. Probably the most solid has been that I have STAYED WITH IT. I could have put a bullet in my head or the heads of several others by now, but I haven’t. That’s my only advantage at the moment. I’ve been around the block plenty of times, and I have seen the game.

If I do manage to win in the end, I will end up being one of the exceptions people talk about. It isn’t easy for anyone, but my circumstances have been especially difficult. And who would care about that? Uh, NOBODY but me. Where someone comes from is unimportant. All that matters is where one ends up. And if I am going to end up a winner in life the game has got to be played.

A big part of the problem is that I no longer have the hunger to do it – at least at a comedy club level. Been there, done that, burned bridges and learned a lot. That doesn’t mean I can’t enter an entirely different league, and that’s what I intend to do. Corporate humor would qualify, and I’m going to handle myself a lot differently than I did in comedy clubs. I know the rules better now.

The Uranus project is another arena altogether, but there’s still a game involved. I know it now, and I didn’t when I started in comedy. I see things more clearly, and that’s the direct result of all those crippling mistakes. I may have hurt myself, but I’m not dead yet so there is still a chance.

Show business - like EVERY business - is a people business.

Show business – like EVERY business – is a people business. Too bad a lot of people are idiots.

Versatility Pays Peanuts

May 8, 2013

Tuesday May 7th, 2013 – Lake Zurich, IL

   Versatility in the entertainment business can be a two edged sword. On one hand, it can allow a performer to have the luxury of more than one option to receive a paycheck. On the other, there’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” stigma that tends to go with it and that can cause confusion.

   Those known for ONE thing and one thing only have a much better chance at mass recognition – IF they happen to find that right thing. Mel Kiper Jr. is a perfect example. What the hell has he ever done except claim to know about the NFL draft? He’s got the title of ‘draft expert’, but what does that mean? Can anyone truly say he is or isn’t? It doesn’t matter. He’s carved out his niche.

   Rachel Ray is another. She has books and videos and is always on TV whipping up some kind of miracle meal, but again what else has she done? People like that just appear on television one day and become part of popular culture, and everyone knows who they are for that single reason.

   Dr. Phil bitches at people. That’s it. Nobody knows anything else about him. Does he have any knowledge about the NFL draft? It doesn’t matter if he does or he doesn’t? Can he make himself breakfast? That’s not important either. All that matters with the public is that one source of fame.

   A few select people have been able to parlay fame into more areas, but more often than not it’s one thing and one thing only that anyone becomes truly known for. Rush Limbaugh was hired to do NFL pregame commentary on the basis of his radio show, but he’ll always be known as being a radio host. Howard Stern is the same thing. He did a couple of movies, but he’s a shock jock.

   I’ve never been known for exclusively one thing, and part of that reason is I’ve been able to be versatile for many years. I’ve done standup comedy and radio, and also was a ring announcer for professional wrestling in addition to promoting live shows. None are easy, but I need to pick one.

   Rodney Dangerfield never did radio, and Vince McMahon never did standup comedy. They are both icons in their field, and although Rodney did movies that’s a logical progression in what the comedy business entails. Rodney was known as a comedian. Period. Vince McMahon has tried a few other pursuits, but he’s known as the king of modern day professional wrestling promoters.

   Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but not many. Most people who ‘make it’ become known for one thing, and that’s enough to sustain them for a lifetime. J.K. Rowling doesn’t have to do another thing in her life and she’ll be known after she’s dead for bringing us Harry Potter.

   I’m still looking for my ‘thing’. I don’t think I’ll ever be known for my standup comedy, as it’s not that radical unfortunately. I can rip it up with the best of them, but I’ve never had the massive appeal of a Carrot Top or Adam Sandler or someone else who’s a crowd pleaser. I have my style and a lot of people like it, but I haven’t been able to carve out a niche in all these years of trying.

   Tonight I had a show for 50 church group seniors in Lake Zurich, IL. They were part of a tour group and were all from Wisconsin. Visit Lake County is a group I’m a member of, and they are the ones who set up this gig. It went really well and it was fun, but it won’t make me a big star.

   As I was performing (without a microphone) for this group who was loving it, I tried to picture Rodney or Carlin or anyone else in this situation and I couldn’t. I bet there aren’t five comedians on earth that could have pulled this off, but who cares? Versatility does pay – but it’s in peanuts.

The Ultimate Meal

August 15, 2010

Saturday August 14th, 2010 – Somewhere Near Tampa, FL

One thing I’ve made a special point to do in my travels is eat well. Not necessarily a healthy well, but I’ve treated myself to some of the best tasting food in North America. I’ve eaten some of the most delicious food imaginable from all kinds of establishments from top end restaurants to greasy diners and everything in between. I’ve sampled it all.

If someday my heart should explode in mid beat, I’ll have earned it. No complaints on my end. If my bank account was as rich as my diet, I’d be able to buy Donald Trump like Baltic Avenue on a Monopoly board. I know I need to improve the quality of healthiness of what I eat, and after tonight it’s going to be a lot easier. I’ve eaten the ultimate meal.

I’ve always been in search of it, and like a good rap CD or an Adam Sandler movie that makes me laugh, I didn’t think it existed. Until tonight. Tony Esposito and I had no shows tonight and he asked me if I wanted to go to the steak house and end the week with a nice meal. He’s a super nice guy and loves good food just like I do so of course I said I would.

He arranged it with the cruise director and made reservations for 6pm. I’m still not sure where we can or can’t go, so I wouldn’t have had any idea who to ask. We do get a lot of employee discounts on a lot of things apparently, and Tony says I‘ll learn it all as I go.

For tonight, it was a world class meal for $40. With tip. From the moment we walked in to the moment we left, we had impeccable service from our wait staff who could not have done a better job. They made sure we had everything we could need, want or ask for. One was from Macedonia, another from Hungary and a third was from Lithuania. They all had unbelievably sexy accents, and were very attractive. It felt like we had a harem serving us.

The meal came with two appetizers, soup, salad, main course and dessert. Tony had the filet mignon, and I opted for the surf and turf. It was orgasmic. We both had a bowl of the lobster bisque, and I had shrimp cocktail that could have made a meal by itself. The salad came with the most outstanding bleu cheese dressing I’ve ever had, and it all was perfect.

We sat and ate and joked about how we don’t get this kind of treatment doing club gigs, and we were right. I thought of those low rent ham and eggers at Giggles in Milwaukee or any one of a number of other leakers who’ve treated me and a lot of other comedians like dirt and I thought how they’ll never get to experience this. They can all rot. We earned it.

Everyone on staff was unbelievably friendly, and the chef came out after and asked how everything was. I told him it was THE best meal I’ve ever had, and meant it. I don’t know if he believed me, but I was not kidding. Everything about the whole experience was right on target and on a scale of 1 to 10 I give it a 14. This is how I always pictured life to be.

I will appreciate this night and remember it always. Yes, I need to exercise and eat a lot healthier more consistently, blah blah blah. This was a special occasion, and the best part was I got to savor every bite. Gratitude makes everything taste better. This was a big treat.

Acting Like An Actor

January 15, 2010

Thursday January 14th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

With all the over the top, underfinanced, whacked out, half baked crazy schemes I have been involved in so far in my life, it’s a wonder I don’t have more acting experience. I’ve tried standup comedy, radio, pro wrestling promotion, sports card dealing and other goofy stunts that would have made Lucy and Ralph Kramden wince, but I’ve left acting alone.

Part of the reason is that I respect it as a craft. Anyone has to devote a lifetime to it to be truly skilled, just as in any other craft. Acting is no different than comedy or music or any other craft in that regard, and I was lucky enough to discover comedy early enough on so I devoted my energy to that. It scratched my creative itch and I never needed to be an actor.

That being said, I’ve filmed a part in a movie and am appearing in a play all in the same week. How strange. Up until now my acting experience has been painfully low. Last year I was in a short scene in a film that was directed by my high school friend Bob Richards’ son Kyle, but that was a last minute thing. He did me a favor and allowed me to do a part.

Before that, I was an extra in the movie “While You Were Sleeping”. I was in an actual scene with Sandra Bullock, and I played a mailman of all things. It didn’t take any acting talent to dress in a postal uniform and push a mail cart down the street. The real challenge was not trying to hit on Sandra Bullock as we stood around almost an hour, ten feet apart.

They told us as extras we weren’t supposed to approach the stars for any reason. I guess I can see that, but in my case it was ridiculous. It was filmed in winter and it was about as cold as I can ever remember, and in fact too cold to snow. They needed snow in the scene so they brought in a fake snow machine to fill in the set, and that took just over an hour.

There we were, Sandra Bullock and me, just feet apart. She stood there and for the life of me, I could NOT get her to look my way and say hello. She looked up, around, over at the snow machine, everywhere but in my direction. After a few minutes it got to be funny.

Usually I’m a pretty good schmoozer and can strike up small talk with most anyone, but not this time. Sandra was not a huge star then, but I love brunettes and I would have loved to at least be able to test my flirting skills on a cold day when there was nothing else to do but stand there and hope my testicles would return by spring. She never even said hello.

I’ve heard since that she’s a very nice person and who knows why she didn’t say hi to a lowly extra, but all these years later I haven’t forgotten it. That pretty much ended dreams I may have had to be in movies, but I really never did. All I ever wanted to be was a solid funny comedian. That’s all that mattered to me. I couldn’t care less if I was a good actor.

Now, it’s a little different. I had fun doing Kyle Richards’ movie and even more doing a few scenes with my friend Lou Rugani in “Dead Air” yesterday. Plus, there was an actress named Tierza Scaccia who was not only really good looking and talented, she actually did speak to me both on camera and off. What a great name that is, too. I hope she hits it big.
I’d love nothing more than to show up at the Oscars with Tierza on my arm and moon Sandra Bullock. Thoughts like this are probably why I’m not only not an actor, but still a single comedian in my 40s. I’ve always been prone to doing things on the maverick side, and the masses just aren’t ready for that yet. Sandra Bullock did things right, good for her.

Actually, I’m glad I chose standup comedy over acting. I suppose I could have done the ‘actor/comedian’ route, but that usually means ‘neither/nor’. No matter how many breaks that didn’t go my way, the fact remains that I have paid my dues and am a solid comedian and NOBODY can ever buy that. It has to be earned, just like the skills of a master actor.

My problem with acting is, I have to be someone else all the time. I guess that’s fun for some people, but I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. It never appealed to me to have to create a new persona over and over again as it takes to be a successful actor. I was fine with shining up the one I had doing comedy onstage. It’s a personal choice for all of us.

Many famous actors kind of just play themselves over and over. Adam Sandler is pretty much the same guy in all his movies as is Martin Lawrence or Eddie Murphy or a flock of other people who didn’t start out as standups. Does Chuck Norris have stage chops? What about Stallone or Arnold? None of these people are what I’d call craftsman. Would you?

Writing is another craft that looks easy and lots of people aspire to become. That takes a lot of discipline and effort too, but who’s willing to put it in? Not many. Those that do are quite rare, and even rarer are those who put in the effort and have real talent to go with it.

I’ve never considered myself a writer either, BUT – I’ve managed to produce an entry in this diary every single day since March 14th, 2006. Does that mean I’m a GOOD one? No, but it does mean I’m a writer to some degree just because I’ve kept cranking out the pages day after day after day. I may still stink, but I stink less now just because I kept doing it.

Acting is the same way. I bet there are ten times as many unknown mediocre Caucasian wannabes in Hollywood and all over who want to be actors, just as I’ve wanted to get into comedy. I paid my dues and chased the dream my whole life, just as I would’ve done had I chose to be an actor. The hard work requirement doesn’t change no matter the craft.

It was a lot of fun to be in the movie yesterday, but I’m not fooling myself into thinking I’m some hidden gem that Hollywood is waiting for. If I really want to pursue it I need to be around it and study it. Acting classes wouldn’t hurt, and probably a few books as well. I don’t have time for all that right now, nor do I want to get involved in a whole new gig.

I love comedy, even though it’s an insane business. What, and acting isn’t? It’s a crazy world all around, so I’m glad I chose what I did. Comedy is the best there is, but that’s my opinion. Too bad, as that’s the only one I care about. No offense to actors, comedy is best.

Still, we’re going to have fun with “You’re On The Air” at The Beverly Arts Center this weekend. We had a dress rehearsal today and I had to act like an actor. I hope I fool them.