Posts Tagged ‘Bert Borth’

Stability? Ha!

March 4, 2013

Saturday March 2nd, 2013 – Oswego, IL

   If one wants stability or anything even remotely resembling it, entertainment is not the business path to pursue. I would personally recommend barber or diesel truck driving school – which I just might have to sign up for myself in the not too distant future to start supplementing my income.

I thought I’d had a solid gig lined up for tonight, but it fell through without notice earlier in the week. Well, that’s not totally true. BOY did I notice. It left a gaping hole in my paycheck for this week. I was to be filling in for someone who thought they had double booked, but it turned out it was for next month and my services weren’t needed. Good solution for them, unfortunate for me.

I truly must have been insane when I chose to be in this business all those years ago. I couldn’t wait to get into it then, but now I’ve had more than my fill of last minute inconvenient situations exactly like this and I need to line up some kind of a financial backup plan before I end up broke.

I’m already hovering over the financial abyss, and so are most of my comedian friends who are in the exact same boat. There used to be plenty of work to go around, and if we hustled we could find a job of some sort every single week. It might not have been Vegas, but it still paid the bills.

That’s no longer the case for several reasons, the sinking economy being a main one. Another big reason is flat out bad comedy. There are a lot of mediocre acts out there who have the desire to be comedians, but not necessarily the ability. They are however willing to make those weekly long drives and stay in flea bag hotels just to be able to claim they are professional entertainers.

It really is a brutal business in many ways – a lot different than most others. Other than maybe musicians in a band, I can’t think of any other industry that requires this kind of skill set. There’s much more to it than being funny, and unfortunately that can weed out those who do have talent. After a while we end up as just glorified truck drivers, hauling our four wheeler loads of jokes.

The constant grind of always having to look for the next job gets very tiring after a short while. I am SO sick of it myself, but it’s a necessary evil to keep working. I’ve managed to reach a level of competence with enough bookers to have them call me, but I’ve also burned bridges years ago that would be nice to be able to reclaim now. All these elements combined make it even harder.

Even harder than that, I’m looking to keep it local or at least regional so that narrows my field of potential gigs as well – at least in the traditional comedy venues. Comedy clubs aren’t the only way to make a living, but that’s where I’ve cut my teeth and I know the game. I need to develop a much broader base of income, and I’m working feverishly at doing just that. It’s for survival.

I don’t like to be off on a Saturday night, so I tagged along with Jim McHugh to a club called ‘Comedy Comedy’ in Oswego, IL booked by Bert Borth. Bert is a good guy, and has been in the game as long as or longer than I have. He’s a comic, but also books rooms and we get along fine. I’d work for him in a second, but he knows I’m a Zanies guy in the Chicago area and that’s how it is. No hard feelings on either side. I did a guest set to stay sharp, but losing that paid gig hurts.

Time For Spring Cleaning

April 11, 2010

Saturday April 10th, 2010 – Bolingbrook, IL

The people I rent my living space from did me a mammoth favor today by asking me to organize my floor space so they could replace my furniture. They’re getting new furniture upstairs and it’s better than their old stuff, which is better than what I had, even though it really doesn’t matter to me. I was fine with the old stuff, but it’s their house and their call.

I desperately needed to clean up the piles that were everywhere from the floor right next to the furniture to the actual furniture itself. I got up early this morning and started sorting things into other piles and then throwing away everything I didn’t absolutely need. I filled three big garbage bags full of outdated paper and that was a solid start. The purge begins.

I’ve said I was going to do it and it’s totally time. Most of my possessions can be gotten rid of, and from past experience the energy of motion feeds off itself and it gets easier and easier to part company with most of the junk once momentum starts rolling. It was sitting there collecting dust for months, even though I knew I would eventually get started on it.

Today was the day, and it’s way past due. I know I’ve been busy with other things lately but even though it’s a legitimate reason, it’s by far no excuse. In the long run, this will be a rejuvenation that will allow me to keep growing in the important areas. It’s a pruning of the branches to help the whole tree grow taller, and everything I did today fell into place.

The first thing I did was clean off my desk and recreate a work space. It’s not a big desk and I don’t have that much space, so sometimes it’s easy to use it for storage. Wrong. I’ve seen how cluttering the desk constipates progress and I have to keep it clean from now on if for no other reason than it’s a symbol of forward motion. I need a place to focus energy.

I also made room for the three ring binders I created last week that will be master copies of reference for ‘Schlitz Happened!’, my comedy classes and comedy material I intend on developing this year. They’re all clearly labeled, easily accessible and have a regular place to be now so I’ll be able to find everything easily if I just get in a habit of putting it away.

This is a giant leap forward, as most of my things are placed randomly where I put them and then when I need them again it’s anybody’s guess where a particular item may be. It’s been a daily scavenger hunt at times, even when I didn’t feel like playing. This is better.

While I was at it I made a space for all my Uranus stuff and it’s right next to the spot for all my Mothership Connection radio stuff. I have a nice collection of paranormal books to peruse, even though most of them will eventually be gone with everything else. At least it all has a place now, and while I was at it I created another three ring binder for the show.

This was more progress than I’ve made in many months, and I felt like Rocky Balboa as I did it. To the rest of the world it was all meaningless, but to me it symbolized a positive change of direction and tangible improvement. I know I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a major step to get it started and I’m thrilled I did. Taking action is the start of all success.

I had a super fun show tonight in Bolingbrook, IL at a golf course of all places. They do comedy shows there twice a month and it’s booked by Bert Borth, a Chicago area booker who’s also a comic originally from St. Louis. Bert is very laid back and I’ve always liked him personally, but Zanies has been good to me over the years so I rarely work for him.

He runs a club at Walter Payton’s Round House in Aurora, IL and he’s offered me a gig there many times. It’s not that I can’t do it, but I just don’t feel it’s right since I’m closely associated with Zanies, and they have three clubs in the area. No offense to Bert at all, it’s a numbers game. I’ve worked for Zanies for many years and they’ve been my home clubs.

This particular show was different. It’s in a golf course where regulars come out and it’s never going to be a full time comedy club. The people are wonderful, and they really love comedy. Supposedly it’s been packed every other show, but tonight was about half full or even less. Still, they were powerhouse laughers and I ended up doing more than my time.

These are the kind of people I want to cultivate, as they totally appreciated every one of the acts on the show. Dan Brennan is a suburban comic who’s putting his act together and I’ve always thought he was funny. He did a fine job tonight in the opening slot, and Mike Von was the feature. He’s originally from Baltimore and I’ve seen him work a few times.

I always thought he was funny too, but tonight really won me over. I found out he’s just 23 and has been doing comedy for seven years already. He’s got a very bright future and I see big things for this kid. He’s well dressed and well spoken and apparently his father is a comedian too. That doesn’t guarantee the son will be funny, but this one absolutely is.

Mike happens to be black and the audience tonight was predominantly white and had an average age of about 40-50. Here’s a 23 year old black kid from Baltimore who could get up there and grab them in the first minute and do a professional job. I was very impressed with his skill level and I thought he was older. He sure has the chops and I wish him well.

The evolution of comedy seems to be going in the direction of shows like this and I like it. The pay wasn’t huge, but it was worth driving across town for rather than driving eight or nine or more hours to some hell hole bar for a few more bucks but not all that many. If I could make a living in the Chicago/Milwaukee/Madison Rockford area I’d be thrilled.

Doing shows like this are becoming more commonplace, and it also helps because it’s a crowd that’s a little older and won’t go to comedy clubs. I’m getting older and I’m perfect for these people. Plus, I get to stay home during the day and work on other things that are important like cleaning out my living space. Today was productive on quite a few levels.

John O’Brien is a former student I hadn’t seen in two years. He’s been an unbelievable supporter over the years, and I appreciate him greatly for it. He’s a few years older and a student of comedy, but still likes to go up himself when he can. He has his job and family, but comedy is still important to him and I respect that. He came out to see the show and we visited for a while before and after. People like John make teaching worth the effort.