Posts Tagged ‘Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase’

Indy Excellence

July 8, 2013

Saturday July 6th, 2013 – Indianapolis, IN 

   I can’t say enough good things about the booking I have this weekend. Everything is absolutely outstanding, and I want to give credit where credit is due. These people are making an effort that I have rarely seen, and I hope they get paid off handsomely for their investment. They deserve it.

   Somebody stuck a LOT of money into this business. They have other locations in Jacksonville, Pittsburgh and soon to be in the western Chicago suburbs from what I hear. I’m not sure if that’s all the locations they plan to open and it’s none of my business, but they’ve put out a lot of cash.

   They’re promoting a concept of a one stop entertainment center, and it’s totally top shelf. They have an amazing variety of video games, a first rate bowling center, a sports bar with a delicious food menu and world class video system, and a live theatre setup where the comedy shows are.

   They also have live bands, and an excellent one was playing as we left the venue tonight. They recently booked Kelly Clarkson in the comedy room, and she drew extremely well from what the G.M. told us. This is no rinky dink setup, and I respect those who took the risk. It’s very gutsy.

   They’re doing it right, and it shows. They’re getting some very solid comedy acts such as Carl LaBove who was best friends with Sam Kinison. I love Carl both as a person and performer, and I see he’ll be here in a couple of weeks. I’m flattered to be booked at a venue of this high caliber.

   This doesn’t seem to be the time to launch a mega venture like this, but then again maybe it’s a perfect time for it. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a clueless pinhead as far as business acumen goes, so if I can’t see an idea clearly it probably means it will be a big time success. I hope this one is.

   Everyone to a person that we dealt with this weekend treated us like big stars from the General Manager Michael Curatolo down to the bus boys in the restaurant where they provided meals for us each night. The entire staff couldn’t have been nicer, and that made it a treat to perform here.

   Brian Hicks is an easygoing laid back chap just as I try to be, and together I can’t think of two more low maintenance comedians anywhere. Still, it felt great to be treated like this and we were not about to abuse it. We went out of our way to say thank you and leave tips when appropriate.

   Indianapolis has always been one of my favorite places to perform, but I haven’t been here in a long time. There has been a bumper crop of excellent comedy venues here since I started, and the town as a whole has been supportive of them all. I’m grateful to get an opportunity to come back, and I hope it’s not the last time. A booking like this makes being a comedian the best job around.

   What isn’t so great is trying to string them together and flesh out a whole year. If it worked like this every week, life would be peachy. It did for a long time, but not anymore. I wish I could find a way to clone gigs like this one, the Zanies clubs in Chicago and Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase. 

   This week and last week in Ann Arbor really helped to bail out my summer, and I hope to keep the momentum going and hit the ground running into fall. Two weeks in a row is a nice little run, and having them in quality places like this makes life fun again. This is how it should always be.

   Because it isn’t, I’m going to be extra thankful for all the perks this week from the luxury hotel to the delicious meals to the state of the art sound and light system.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Bill’s Pills

June 30, 2013

Saturday June 29th, 2013 – Ann Arbor, MI

   Oh, for consistent bookings like this weekend in Ann Arbor, MI. I forgot how much fun being a comedian can be, and this trip was a pleasant reminder. This is exactly how it should be, and if I had my way my schedule would be loaded with gigs like this. I don’t know if they’re out there.

   There are so many things that are right about this club. It’s been running successfully for more than thirty years, so that’s usually a good sign. They’ve had time to work out the bugs, and there is a bond with the community that now has transcended generations. It’s become a town fixture.

   I highly doubt any other comedy club could knock them off the perch, and if another one tried to open I don’t think they could last. Both clubs might suffer, and both could close. This is a one club town, and they are doing an outstanding job serving their customers. It’s run as it should be.

   All I’m asking for realistically is about 25-30 places like this around the country to practice my craft and make a respectable living. I work enough for Zanies in Chicago and am developing the whole ‘Schlitz Happened!’ concept that I can stay closer to home and keep working every week.

   I’d love to be working close to home two weeks a month, and have the other two weeks on the road doing gigs like this. It’s an easy drive, and the pay is enough where I can come out at least a little bit ahead. I’m not greedy, and this is very satisfying on many levels. These people get me.

   Tonight’s shows were even better than last night. My friend Bill Mihalic drove from his house in the northern Detroit suburbs to hang out and bought me a delicious and healthy dinner at B.D. Mongolian Barbecue. He didn’t have to do that, but I’m glad he did. It was a special day for him.

   This was his first official day of being retired from the automotive industry. Bill slugged it out in corporate America, and developed comedy writing as a hobby along the way. He took my one day seminar right here in Ann Arbor ten years ago this month, and has been writing ever since.

   Stories like Bill’s make me keep teaching classes whenever I can. He’s not taking what may be considered the “traditional route”, and that’s why I’m extra proud of him. He has blazed his own trail, and that’s even more difficult than coming up the ranks the way that everybody else does.

   I’m sure corporate America has a laundry list of major hassles of its own, but Bill managed to hang in there long enough to make it to retirement, and now he’s free to pursue what he wants to do but also enjoy the perks of having a beautiful home, family and all that goes with it. He won.

   I have all the respect in the world for Bill, because he WORKS. Whether it was his day jobs or writing jokes, Bill has a Herculean work ethic that has always impressed the hell out of me and it still does. Over dinner tonight he was like a kid in his giddiness describing all his future projects.

   It was refreshing to hear someone with that much excitement about comedy projects, and it put me in a better mood than I already was. It’s easy to see the pitfalls of the business, but when I see someone as excited as Bill it makes me happy for him and proud that my class got him started.

   Bill writes a daily joke sheet called “Bill’s Pills”. He’s also been writing for Jay Leno for a few years now, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for him. You can get a free subscription to Bill’s jokes at This was a fun trip, and I’m glad I came. Now I only have to fill 51 more weeks each year with gigs like this and I’ll be set. I’ll worry about it later. This was fun.

Ann Arbor Affection

June 30, 2013

Friday June 28th, 2013 – Ann Arbor, MI

   Back on the road again, and it’s been a while. Part of me missed it, but a bigger part didn’t. It’s a definite lifestyle, and not for everyone. I could tell I’m out of sync, and that’s a place I couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. The road bug has been in my blood all my adult life, but I’m just not intoxicated by it like I used to be. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it’s how I feel.

   The good thing about this week is that I’m back in one of my very favorite places of all time in Ann Arbor, MI. The club here is The Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, and I’ve always knocked it out of the park here as the audiences are traditionally intelligent and show up wanting to laugh.

   Places like this make being a comedian fun, and I’m bummed there aren’t more of them. It’s a treat performing for an audience that gets it, but that’s not always the case. And it’s not like I do particularly atom smashing brilliant stuff either. My material is relatively smart, but at times that just isn’t what certain audiences want. They want loud stupid filth, but that’s just not what I do.

   It’s different here, and I’ve always loved it. Ann Arbor is a very hip town located in the middle of the rust belt, and dangerously close to Detroit. People think I’m crazy, but I have always loved the Detroit area – at least the suburbs. I love the whole car culture, and at one time it was the hub of everything. I know people make fun of it now and with good reason, but Detroit was a giant.

   It was a blue collar working class giant much like my home town of Milwaukee, but that’s not the vibe in Ann Arbor. It’s very artsy and eclectic here, and I really like it. Madison, WI has a bit of that kind of vibe too, but not like here. For whatever reason, what I do seems to fit perfectly.

   It’s an easy week too. I can’t remember if there were Thursday shows in the past, but now it’s a Friday and Saturday only. There are two shows a night, and the club is located in the basement of a delicious vegetarian restaurant called Seva. I was the first to make fun of vegetarianism back in my youth, but this place won me over. It’s one of the best anywhere.

   On the way here, I stopped to have lunch with my friend Dave Rudolf. Dave is booking acts at a smaller club in the far southern suburbs of Chicago, and wants to try a comedy night. He asked if I would mind doing the opening night, and I said I would. I don’t really work the south side of Chicago much, as it’s a long ride from where I live. It’s 90 miles one way to get to Dave’s house.

   In contrast, it’s only about 50 miles each way for me to get to either downtown Milwaukee or downtown Chicago from where I live. The only way it’s convenient to visit with Dave is when I pass through on my way to a gig like I was today. Gas prices are making us all plan trips more.

   It’s bleeding us all dry, but who has a choice? I could rant and rave about how they could run a car on pickle juice and coffee grounds, but they’re never going to do it. It’s all about money, and those few who have it aren’t about to turn it loose to the masses of us who don’t. We’re screwed.

   That’s not about to change any time soon, so we might as well enjoy whatever we can. I have a fun gig this week in a place I really enjoy. I won’t get filthy rich, but I at least know my rent will be paid Monday so that’s a big relief. The shows tonight were both solid, and I loved being back for the first time in two years. I know that because the last time I was here I went to the hospital the next week with my type 2 diabetes diagnosis. That was a fun week too, and I’m thrilled to be back. If I had 52 weeks like this every year, life would be a breeze. I don’t, so I’ll enjoy the trip.

I Love Detroit

March 29, 2010

Friday March 26th, 2010 – Novi, MI

I know it sounds crazy, but I love Detroit. There’s a vibe here that I’ve always been able to plug into, and I feel it again now that I’m back for the first time in a long time. I’ve had great shows here as I have in most of the rust belt towns. These people are into what I do.

I left a little later than I wanted to this morning and got stuck in Chicago traffic…again. There’s such a small window of opportunity to sneak by without getting stuck and it’s too early for me to get up, especially after I’ve been up late working on projects, which I was. I decided to get some sleep and a nice breakfast and wait for rush hour to run it’s course.

That was the right choice as I breezed through Chicago without any major delays, but I did have a little trouble in Indiana and that was frustrating. There’s nothing to do except sit there and wait it out, which is what I did. I had crossword puzzles and a stack of good motivational audio so I was ready to fight it but I didn’t need any of that. I had my phone.

Cell phones have made the booking process SO much easier. Actually, most bookings I now get are through email, but calling is still king with some bookers. It depends on each one’s individual preference, and that’s pretty random. I decided to reconnect with bookers instead of whine about traffic so of course when I started liking it, traffic started moving.

I wish I had a buck for every time I had to drive around Lake Michigan in my life to get to a gig. It’s not that far straight across to go from Milwaukee or Chicago to a Kalamazoo or a Grand Rapids, but having to go around the lake turns it into a major trip every time.

Not only that, there’s usually hellish construction on at least one several mile stretch of I-94 that backs up traffic for miles in both directions. How many times have I been going to some Michigan gig only to get foiled by construction and end up making it within just a few seconds of taking the stage? Too many to count. I made time for it today as well.

Lucky for me, they’ve FINALLY finished it and there were no orange barrels at all that made my life any more miserable than it already is. I did stop in Kalamazoo to have lunch with my friend Phil Anglin and it was nice to see him. He owns a couple of small bars in the area that he’d heard me on Bob and Tom years ago and wanted to try booking a show.

It ended up going very well and then we booked another one. His birthday is a day after mine and he’s just a mile mannered guy trying to make a living. He always sends cards on my birthday and Christmas and I really like and respect the guy. I hadn’t seen him in quite a while so it was good to meet up and catch up over ketchup and meat. He’s a good man.

I also stopped in Ann Arbor to hang out with Jimmy McHugh who’s working the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase this week. He loves sports as do I so we spent $5 for a ticket to see the University of Michigan baseball team play. It was a beautiful day and a great way to relax a little and enjoy life. I made it to the hotel in plenty of time and it was a pleasant  surprise to find out it was a Holiday Inn and Suites, and I had a suite. Life is good today.