Posts Tagged ‘Bill Gorgo’

Healing With Humor

November 13, 2013

Monday November 11th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

This has been a rough year health wise for more than a few of my friends. It’s been no polka in the park for me either having to deal with my recent kidney stone, but that’s nothing compared to what some other people I know have had to face. Many are comedians, and it doesn’t seem right.

I would think since comedians provide a service to humankind we’d get some sort of free pass, but we aren’t exempt from the same health horrors everyone else faces. Sometimes it even seems like we get it worse, which I could never understand. There are a lot of people I know suffering.

Jim Wiggins had cancer surgery just a couple of months ago, and he’s having to get used to life with no prostate or bladder. He is now cancer free which is something to celebrate, but that came with one hell of a price. He’s recovering nicely from what I hear, and hopes to work again soon.

Scot Wickmann is another comedian friend who has been dealing with health issues for a long time. He has been on kidney dialysis for quite a while, and recently he had triple bypass surgery. That’s serious enough, but apparently there was an infection and he had to have more surgery.

Bill Gorgo has been getting updates from Scot’s wife Jackie, and she said Scot just had one of two more surgeries he needs and everything went smoothly. He had an abscess on an artery, and that sounds frightening. I don’t have details and the last thing I ever want to do is bother Jackie.

The bottom line is, even if his next surgery goes well he’ll be lucky to be out of the hospital by Christmas. Crikey. I thought the eight or nine days I spent in the hospital for my surgery in 2011 was horrific – and it was. I can’t begin to imagine having to be in a hospital bed for six weeks.

Again, my problems really aren’t problems compared to what Jim and Scot and so many others are going through, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of them. There are a lot of people in a lot worse shape than me, and I want to help comfort them if I can. It’s all about human kindness.

All that actually matters in life is what we are able to give – especially to those that truly are in need. What could I do myself or help to organize that will make someone’s life even a little more pleasant when there’s a long road of recovery ahead? There has to be some way of reaching out.

I was delighted to be able to organize the big benefit comedy show last October for Milwaukee Police Officer Josh Albert after he was almost killed by a drunk driver going the opposite way on a freeway on ramp. His injuries were beyond a nightmare, but we were able to assist financially.

Peter Jest of Shank Hall in Milwaukee donated the hall, and the all comedians donated our time to perform. Drew Olson was a fabulous host that night, and Officer Albert’s work partner and my cousin Katie Anderer and her whole family got the word out to make it a success. We received a blanket of media coverage as well, and it ended up being a successful event that helped someone.

That’s what life is about. Period. I know we all need to pay our bills, but after that it’s what we are able to give that has any lasting meaning. Seeing my personal friends having to endure all of the personal hell they’ve been through makes me want to jump up and take action to help them.

But what could that be? I’d like it to be comedy related somehow, but I don’t think doing a live show is the answer. I would gladly volunteer to do it in a second if that would help, but it doesn’t strike me as the solution. I think there needs to be something that is able to reach more shut ins.

Scot Wickmann is going to be laid up in bed for a while. Even if he wanted to see a live show I doubt if he could make it unless they wheeled his bed right into the performance area. I’d be fine with it, but I can’t see it happening. A room full of beds with people from ICU would be silly.

It’s hard enough to be funny in a traditional comedy setting, but this would be off the charts to try and pry laughs out of hospital patients. That’s not what I had in mind. I would like to create a product that could be used to touch people depending on their condition, and that’s a wide scope.

One idea I had would be to interview comedians who have endured health issues, and try to put a comedic perspective on things that as a rule aren’t funny. When I was in the hospital, I couldn’t help but notice there are a lot of potentially funny events that only someone who has experienced them could relate to. I bet it would be of great comfort to have a video for new patients to watch.

There has to be a way to produce a video of comedians telling their hospital stories, and have it run on a constant loop on one of the hospital TV channels. I’d bet there could be several releases over time, as a lot of comedians have stories. I’m sure some celebrities would jump on board too.

David Letterman went through major heart surgery a while back, and I’m sure that gave him an abundance of stories that are a lot funnier now that he’s fully recovered. Sometimes it seems like the situation is overwhelming while in the hospital, and something to offer comfort would help to put a patient’s mind at ease. I remember how I felt when I was laying there and it was a bad trip.

Another idea I’d love to pursue would be establishing a humor library in all hospitals so people could watch and listen to comedy as they recover. It could be standup comedy CDs and DVDs or funny movies or even written publications like Mad magazine or comic books. It could help pass the time for patients, and even the employees could use it. I’m sure a medical staff has stress too.

I realize that these are all pie in the sky dreams, but I want to put it out there in the universe so hopefully someone else will see it and act on it. Even if it’s bouncing an idea back at me, I’ll take whatever I can get and move forward however I can. This is an idea that has no time restrictions.

We always see photo ops where celebrity athletes go in and meet sick kids in the hospital, and I think that’s a great thing don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see more of it, but what better source of cheering people up who need it is there than comedians. This would be a way to really be of use.

I think this would be a great place to develop the King of Uranus character. It’s so goofy that it can’t help to at least get the attention of somebody in a sick bed and take their mind off their pain for the moment. One way or another, I really want to reach out and make a hurting person laugh.

Hearing of Scot’s current situation and Jim’s recent issues has brought this idea to the forefront of my thoughts. It would be a great opportunity to match comedians with recovering patients and I’m going to keep thinking of what I can do to get this ball rolling. Service is what life is about.

I want to establish a program for comedians to be able to cheer up hospital patients as they recover. Any ideas?

I want to establish a program for comedians to be able to cheer up hospital patients as they recover. Any ideas?

An appearance by The King of Uranus might be in order. It's always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

An appearance by The King of Uranus might be in order. It’s always FUNNY when it comes from URANUS!

International Deadline

October 19, 2013

Saturday October 12th, 2013 – Toronto, ON

Back to the state of perpetual stress. Most of what being a road comic becomes after time is the constant hassle of having to get to the next place. There are deadlines to make, and obstacles that jump up out of nowhere that turn life into one big Cannonball Run. Decades of it wears one out.

My most recent cross country challenge was getting from LaCrosse, WI after a show last night to O’Hare airport in Chicago for an 11am flight to Toronto, ON to visit my friend Jerry Agar for a few days. I haven’t a clue how many miles or kilometers that is, and it’s not worth looking up.

All I know is, there gets to be an ever tightening knot in the bottom of my stomach as I attempt to make each leg of any trip and I never fully know I’m going to make it until I physically arrive. There’s always the chance of some unforeseen glitch, and that’s what keeps the stress level high.

The good thing this time was that I had Bill Gorgo to ride with from LaCrosse to Fox Lake, IL where I live. He’s a road veteran and knows the ropes. He knew we had to duck out immediately after the show in LaCrosse, even though it meant squelching all possibility of selling any CDs.

That stinks because it was a hot show, but that’s part of the road grind. I couldn’t afford to risk the time in case there was a delay getting back. Driving late at night is always a gamble, and I’ve learned it’s best to leave as much cushion as possible. Bill knew it too, so we got right in the car.

We stopped half way home to gas up and pee, but Bill brought snacks for the ride because he’s a road vet and knows that saves extra stops. There’s also a stretch of two lane highway along the route that was unavoidable because of where I live. There’s just no other way to get there and it’s filled with speed traps, critters and drunk drivers. It’s like driving through a real life video game.

Sure enough, we got pulled over because Bill’s car had a headlight out. The cop was cool about it, but that could have been a big issue. We were in Wisconsin and Bill has Illinois plates. That is frequently a recipe for disaster, but this time we dodged a bullet and were soon back on the road.

Bill dropped me off at 3am, but of course I was wide awake and couldn’t sleep so I answered a few emails. Then I did a load of laundry, and packed for the trip. I dug out my passport and flight info, and by that time it was 6am. I nodded off for a couple of hours, but it wasn’t sound sleep as I knew I needed to get to the airport and couldn’t blow it. There’s always a level of stress there.

Of course my car’s gas tank was on ‘E’, and when I stopped at the gas station all of the pumps were occupied. There was also some construction on the way, and that caused a delay that made the knot in my stomach tighten even more. Then I got to the airport exit on the freeway and they had it closed for repairs. I was really in a tizzy, and then the parking lot was over full too. Ugh.

I made it to the gate with minutes to spare, but that knot got tighter as my carryon luggage was about an inch too big for the overhead compartment and they made me check it. After all that, we had a bumpy ride due to weather and I thought I was going to throw up on the lady sitting next to me. It was a flying tilt-a-whirl, and I wasn’t expecting it. We eventually ended up in Toronto, but then there was the constipated maze of going through customs. I tell you, it never EVER lets up.

Easier said than done.

Easier said than done.

A common feeling for those of us who travel for a living.

A common feeling for those of us who travel for a living.

The Other L.A.

October 18, 2013

Friday October 11th, 2013 – LaCrosse, WI

L. A. The left coast. La-la land. One has to come from Wisconsin to think of LaCrosse and not Los Angeles when those terms are mentioned, but I am. That’s where I performed tonight, and it was a rock solid show. Unfortunately, nobody with showbiz clout will see me here. I need to get to the other L.A. to raise my career status, but for tonight it felt good to be here. I like LaCrosse.

For one, it’s the most scenic city in Wisconsin. That might not say much, but there are hills and the Mississippi River and for cheeseheads it’s a pretty town. I thought it was really great as a kid, but then I started hitting the road and went west. Wisconsin can’t hold a candle to the mountains.

Second, it’s a college town and even though I traditionally haven’t done well for those types of audiences the ones that come out here are almost always good. I’ve played here many times over many years, and more often than not I have had pleasant experiences. Tonight was yet another.

A lot of things are good about this gig. It’s been going a long time, and locals know where it is. It’s in a Midway Motor Lodge on a main drag less than two minutes off the Interstate, and that’s great for everyone. There’s a good restaurant in the hotel so people can eat before the show, and there’s plenty of free parking. There’s also a radio station that interviews the comics on the air.

From a performer’s perspective, those things are all positives. Plus, we get to stay in the hotel which is also a perk. We can literally leave for work a minute before we’re scheduled to be there and make it on time. There’s also a nice pool in the hotel, and all in all it’s a pleasant experience.

There are several places like this around the country, and I’ll bet I’ve played more of them than I missed. Some comedy one nighters come and go, but the stalwart hotel gigs are prized jewels in the life of the road warrior. They’re the gift that keeps on giving, and I am grateful for them all.

These are the joints where careers are built. Wait, check that. These are the joints where a skill set is built. That skill set has to be showcased somewhere – usually New York or Los Angeles – and then a career can happen. The LaCrosses of the world are a very important piece of the pie.

On the way up, it’s a place to cut one’s performance teeth. I’ve done all kinds of shows on this very stage over many years. I started as an opener, and now I’m a solid headliner. I can feel how much I’ve grown, and it feels great. I no longer need the experience, but now the money is nice.

I won’t get rich from this show, but it will pay a bill or two and right about now I totally need every buck I can get. It wasn’t difficult other than having to drive all the way here but I wanted to visit my friend Jim Wiggins and he lives up this way anyway. I was able to make it a win/win, plus I also got to hang out with Bill Gorgo and talk shop the whole trip. It was quite productive.

Still, in the back of my brain I know I’m in the wrong L.A. LaCrosse is a friendly place and I do enjoy performing there but Los Angeles is where things happen and careers are made. There’s a lot going on in New York too, but even with the advent of the internet L.A. is where everybody needs to be known. I had my chance, but I left before I could establish roots. I always intended to go back, but so far circumstances haven’t dictated than I can. When they do, I will gladly return.

LaCrosse - Wisconsin's 'west coast'.

LaCrosse – Wisconsin’s ‘west coast’.

Cancer No More

October 18, 2013

Thursday October 10th, 2013 – Sparta, WI

In all my years of gallivanting around North America, I can only recall a couple of times when my schedule happened to work out conveniently. I am notorious for having horrific routing over most of my career, and the stress from it has probably already shaved some years off of my life.

I’ve got some more coming up in a couple of days, but for now I’m exactly where I want to be. I’ve got a show tomorrow night in LaCrosse, WI and that allowed me to take a ride to Sparta, WI with my friend Bill Gorgo to visit our mutual friend Jim Wiggins on his birthday. It was a special birthday for Jim as he was just released from a nine day hospital stint after having major surgery.

If anyone can relate to the misery of nine days in the hospital it’s me. That’s how long I had to rot when I was in for my own surgery in 2011. It seems like two lifetimes ago now, but it was an unexpected obstacle in an already difficult life. I wasn’t expecting it, and it changed me forever.

Other than total financial disaster, I’m much better for it today. My type 2 diabetes is in check, and I could have easily lost all my plumbing. Any time a man has his junk sliced up like sushi it gets his undivided attention. ‘Testicle’ is a funny word – unless it involves surgery on one’s own.

I’m just now getting to a point where I can talk about it freely on stage. I’ve done it a few times and it’s gotten mixed responses. There’s a fine line between comedy and sympathy and there has to be just the right mixture of funny in place to get laughs rather than ‘oohs’ – or stunned silence.

I’m still working on it, and hopefully I’ll be around a while longer to polish it into a closing bit. Anytime severe discomfort and someone else’s genitals are involved, it’s always a guaranteed hit with a crowd. ‘America’s Funniest Videos’ has proven it for years. Nothing follows a crotch hit.

Jim Wiggins had a crotch hit of his own as he had his prostate and bladder removed. That’s not funny in the least, but life plays no favorites – even with comedians. It’s our job to find the funny in a lot of things that don’t seem glib on the surface, and I have no doubt Jim will use this as fuel for future routines. We can’t help it. A true comedian always looks for funny in every situation.

Sometimes that’s what keeps us going. Life can be downright frightening, and if anyone could come even close to relating what Jim was feeling it was me. He had a lot more done than I had to have, but I know how lonely and intimidating it can be laying alone in a hospital bed waiting for some stranger to carve into your bean bag like dark meat on a turkey. It makes sleep impossible.

I wanted to make sure I saw Jim on his birthday, but Bill and I weren’t sure if he would still be in the hospital or not. His hospital was in LaCrosse, so either way we knew we’d see him but it’s much better that he was at home. He was tired and moving slow, but he looked remarkably good. We didn’t know what to expect, but he exceeded our expectations. We were just glad to see him.

The best news of all is that he’s now cancer free. He had gone through three painful bouts with chemo, and that’s now over with. Now the thing to focus on is healing, and Bill and I focused on that as we sat and visited. Jim eventually nodded off to sleep, but I knew he was glad we showed up. I was glad we did too. For once my routing made it possible for me to be in the right place.

Comedian Jim Wiggins 'The Last Hippie In America' no longer has cancer! www.lasthippie.com

Comedian Jim Wiggins ‘The Last Hippie In America’ no longer has cancer! http://www.lasthippie.com

A Symphony Of One

September 8, 2013

Thursday September 5th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL/Des Plaines, IL/Rockford, IL

   If there’s anyone else anywhere who has as many projects going as I do with little to no payoff, I’d love to meet them belly to belly and have lunch if for no other reason than to assure myself it isn’t just me out here trying to be a one man symphony orchestra. Sometimes I feel totally alone.

   I love doing what I do, but I don’t love the hectic nature of how I do it. At least a little stability would sure be nice, but one of the reasons I have so many things going is to hopefully hit on one idea so I can back off of the others and focus. That’s easier said than done, and I’m wearing thin.

   Today I had another jam packed day as I got up at 4am to work on organizing my comedy class notes and lesson plans for the coming fall schedule. There is still a solid possibility of Bill Gorgo and me getting a publishing deal, and we’ve been working out our sample chapter in the last few weeks. It’s a LOT of work – which I don’t mind – but also a major sucker of valuable free time.

   It’s a gamble, but one that has to be taken. Getting a publishing deal would add immeasurable credibility to what we’re already doing, and allow us to hopefully become the standard bearers in the teaching of standup comedy techniques. I’ve got this much time and energy already invested, why not take it to the absolute pinnacle? That’s what we’re shooting for, but it takes a full effort.

   Next on the list was getting to a location near O’Hare Airport to record some video rants in full regal splendor as The King of Uranus. This was the last thing I wanted to do today, but there was a camera person on the clock and studio set up involved. There was no way I would blow it off.

   What made it much more difficult was that I had problems with my computer printer and could not print out the revisions I made to the material. They’re basically the rants I did on the radio on 97.9 The Loop in Chicago in 2004 reworked and updated, but not having scripts made it harder.

   Even harder than that, there was a power outage at the location where we recorded and that put even more pressure on cranking it out. We’d all invested time and energy to make this date work, so not having anything to show for it would have been a huge downer. Fortunately, we worked it out and ended up putting six rants in the can to be edited for insertion on the site by next month.

    I’ll have my own King of Uranus channel, and will get to crank out content that hopefully will get hits for both the site and the character. Again, it’s a risk for us all but one we agreed was well worth taking. It requires time and energy to roll all these dice, and that’s why I’m spread so thin.

   It was physically and mentally draining to do the rants, as I had to stand in costume in front of hot lights and by the time it was done I was a sweaty pig. We took and retook shots, but felt they turned out well. It’s all part of the process, and today was the day to put in all of the grunt work.

   After that it was back to Rockford to fill in on WNTA from 3 to 5pm. I knew I-90 was going to be brutal with construction, and it absolutely was. That drains more energy, not to mention doing the actual radio show. That went well too, as I continue to feel more comfortable in the talk radio format. It was another full productive day, but I don’t know long I can keep up this manic pace.

A Night Of Stories

September 2, 2013

Friday August 30th, 2013 – Libertyville, IL 

   If for only one time in my life I’d love to know what it’s like to be in the right place at the right time. I certainly know all too well from a pantsload of personal experience what it feels like to be off the radar and nowhere close to the center of what’s happening – and of that I have had my fill.   

   Happening my way into standup comedy in the ‘80s just as the boom years were about to begin has been about the closest I have come to date to hitting a home run, but even that wasn’t a grand slam. Had I possessed the rock solid headliner act I have now, I’d have been a multi millionaire.

   Instead, I clawed my way up the ranks and earned my stripes over decades of paying dues. I’m fine with paying my dues – everyone has to – but it would be nice to get paid back in money. As of now, I’ll be very much upside down on the dues to payoff scale if it ends tomorrow, and I feel like I got cheated. I’d hate to think I came all this way only to get skunked in the end. How cruel. 

   The entertainment fad of the week seems to be storytelling. There are groups popping up with names like ‘The Moth’ and ‘Ex Fabula’, and I’m hearing they’re selling shows out in New York and it’s heading west. There are groups in Chicago and Milwaukee, and I hear it’s catching on.

   I don’t know why it’s catching on, but apparently it is. My long time friend Dave Hendrickson in Milwaukee has been part of the scene there for a while, and even ran his own events at a place called The Safe House. He asked me to participate, and I said yes. If there’s one thing I’m loaded with in life it’s stories. I don’t have to make anything up, and could fill up a whole show myself.

   Another friend Bill Gorgo in Chicago has done some storytelling events there, and has enjoyed the experience. Dave suggested we try a night of storytelling somewhere, so I suggested we do it at Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, IL. They have a nice performance space there, and it’s small enough where the risk wouldn’t be huge if nobody showed up. I’m always up for rolling the dice.

   I didn’t want it be a sausage fest, so I asked a former student named Cathy Rubino to be part of the mix so we’d have at least a little diversity on the bill. Cathy is loaded with creative talent and was excited when I asked her to join us. If nothing else, it would be a refreshing change of pace.

   Tonight was our first show, and it came off very well. We didn’t sell out, but we did manage to rustle up enough to have a show. On a holiday weekend, I’ll consider that a victory. It’s difficult to get butts in seats for any reason, and this was no different. We did our best to get the word out.

   Dave has a couple of nice video cameras, so we were able to do a two camera shoot. Hopefully that can be cut up into a demo of some sort and we can get some paid bookings if indeed this is a viable product. I’m personally not that impressed with it as a genre, but what the hell do I know?

   I wasn’t impressed with rap either but that sells to the masses big time. I still think it stinks, but someone is getting paid a lot more than me. If storytelling is what’s selling, I am locked, stocked and ready to rock. Standup comedy is WAY harder, but if this is the flavor of the month I’m set.

Bye Bye Books

August 8, 2013

Wednesday August 7th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I unloaded two more big boxes of books today, but it didn’t put a dent in the master pile. I did get a few requests from yesterday, and did my best to oblige. Sally Edwards requested Anthony Robbins and Zig Ziglar, and since she lives not far from me I delivered them to her front door.

   Bill Gorgo and I got together to prepare for fall comedy classes, and he helped himself to some joke books I’ve never used but hauled all over the country through my many moves. I mistakenly thought I’d have a use for them, but never did. They were dead weight, and I’m glad they are out of my life. If I should happen to need them, I’m sure Bill will let me use them whenever I want.

   This kind of mindset is probably more common than I realize. My grandfather, father and uncle were all borderline hoarders, and wouldn’t get rid of anything if their life depended on it. They’d save rusty tools, boards with nails in them and all kinds of other things that never had any use.

   Their wives used to nag each of them to clean out their backlog of junk, but none of them ever did. Then they died, and left their families the horrific task of getting rid of it all. I’ve seen it take place three times in my personal family experience, and I want to make sure I don’t follow suit.

   I thought I was above that by saving books, but I really wasn’t. I do read often – probably a lot more than average – but I still have a far bigger supply than I will ever need in this life or several others. Even if I read a book a month, that’s sixty books in five years. I’ve got at least a thousand or more, not counting magazines and articles I’ve clipped over the years. Nobody needs all that.

   There’s more than I’ll ever read on the internet alone not to mention the world class library just two blocks from where I live. If I feel a reading need, there’s an easy fix seconds away. I’ll allow myself to save a reasonable number of personal favorites, but the rest will return to circulation.

   Hopefully, I’ll be able to give a lot more away. I’d be fine if someone else got some use out of all this rather than have it sit there and do nothing. I had my opportunity, but could only get to so much. Holding on any longer is not productive for anyone. Away it all goes, the faster the better.

   Today I tried my luck with Half Price Books – knowing I wasn’t going to get rich. Wow, was I right. A seller is always at their mercy, and all I got was an offbeat offer of $35. I couldn’t figure out how they arrived at that number and I suppose I could ‘negotiate’, but that’s never something I enjoy. My grandpa would have loved it and tried to squeeze every last nickel, but that’s not me.

   I took the money and my empty bins, and walked to my car feeling relieved. I’m going to keep shrinking my possessions until it hurts – and then I’m going to shrink them some more. Anything I’m getting rid of is replaceable if I really wanted it again, but for now I’d rather be free of mind.

   I keep recalling how Gandhi used to allow himself only a handful of possessions – one of them being his eye glasses so he could read. I don’t know if I’ll make it that far, but I’d bet it wouldn’t kill me if I did. Most people I know could get by with a lot less, and this feels like the right thing to do at this time. Yesterday unloading one box stung ever so slightly. Today, it felt really good.

   It has to be good for everyone to shuffle the cards in one’s own deck on occasion. If we’re not growing, we’re dying. I feel a growth surge coming on, and my creative juices are still bubbling as well. The less I have to worry about material objects, the more I can spend on creative ideas.

The Peak Of Ripeness

June 22, 2013

Friday June 21st, 2013 – Niles, IL

   It’s the first day of summer, and once again I find another year slipping away. After today days start to get shorter again, so this is it – the prime day of the year. I’m not booked tonight, and I’m not thrilled about it in the least. I want to be out working as much as I can, and that’s every week.

   Nothing else makes me even close to happy. I’ve resigned myself to the icy fact that I’m never going to have that solid family relationship I have always wanted, but if I can’t have that the only other thing I’d ever want is a chance to be on stage entertaining people who are there to see me.

   I’ve been chasing that tricky rabbit longer than I think I should have, and I don’t feel any closer now than when I started. I have come untold light years as a performer, but nobody knows who I am so what good is it? I know I can go on stage and light up a room, but nobody powerful cares.

   Rodney Dangerfield had a great joke that said he quit show business and when he quit – he was the only one who KNEW he quit. That’s funny to anyone who isn’t living it. I feel like I’m there now myself, and I’m not laughing. I’m not even smiling. I’m panicking, and that’s never good.

   There are too many choices to make, and I have no idea which ones are correct. I’ve made a lot of stupid ones through the years, but even so I still paid my dues and developed my natural talent to the point it’s ripe and ready to pick. I’m at my peak just like today is the peak of the summer.

    I don’t want to waste any more time, as that peak ripeness won’t last forever. It will eventually get soft and rot, and the last thing I want is to be a rotten piece of fruit that fell off the tree. I have come way too far for that, so I decided to do something about it. I am not satisfied with this fate.

   In a perfect world, I’d be working six to seven nights a week in nice venues for audiences filled with my fans. I’d super serve those people, and give them my very best each night. I’d sign every autograph and pose for every picture after the show, and live the rest of my days brightening the days of as many others as humanly possible. I’ve got the ability, now I just need the opportunity.

   How the hell is that going to happen? I wish I knew. I read an interview with Lewis Black and he said he had resigned himself to the fact he’d never make it – and then he made it. I’m right at that point myself, and I don’t like it one bit. There’s no guarantee I’ll hit anything, and that rots.

   I can rattle off a dozen names of absolutely fantastic standup comedians that the public has no idea whatsoever who any of them are. Look these people up in no particular order and tell me if you don’t think they’re hilarious. I know they are, because they’ve paid their dues just like me.

   Here’s a list off the top of my head: Tim Cavanagh, Tim Walkoe, Tim Northern, Dwight York, Don Reese, Jim McHugh, James Wesley Jackson, Beth Donahue, John McClellan, Danny Storts, Ross Bennett, Keith Stubbs, Todd Johnson, Auggie Smith, Bill Gorgo, Rick D’Elia, Wally Wang and now I’m going to get in trouble because I’ll leave someone out unintentionally. Suffice to say not everyone makes it.

   I’ve said it before, and I wish it weren’t true – talent does NOT assure anyone of career success in the entertainment business. In sports it may be different, but this isn’t sports. This is a business based on subjective opinions of many that have never once attempted to do themselves what they are allegedly experts at choosing. This has always been frightening and extremely disturbing, but I don’t see it ending any time soon. There are hoops that are to be jumped through, like it or not.

   I don’t like it and never have, but if I intend to change my current status I need to suck it up for at least a little while and get back out there. There are so many places other than comedy clubs to approach, and that’s where it gets tricky. Where do I go and who do I talk to? I haven’t been able to figure it out until now, so what leads me to believe I’ll do it now? I can’t, so I need some help.

   I had lunch with Marc Schultz today, and in his world he’s in a similar situation. Marc books a variety of entertainment acts and has for years. He inherited an agency from his father, and even though he’s not a comedy booker per se I have gotten a decent amount of work over the years.

   Marc and I are friends, and there aren’t many bookers I’d call a friend first. I genuinely like the guy, and even if he never booked me again I’d still hang out with him. That’s all fine, but we put our heads together today to see what we could come up with. His business isn’t what it was, but what business these days is? We can both use a little freshening up, so we came up with a plan.

   Most of Marc’s clients are corporate types. Most of them would never hire a standup comic but he’s going to approach the ones that might. He’s always been good about trying to include me on any sampler videos he sends, and I totally appreciate it. But I can do the job, and he realizes that.

   We also agreed that Marc is going to go after club work that I haven’t gone after, for a fee. I’m delighted to pay anybody to get me work I don’t have, so this is a no brainer. If he can land some decent work, I’m all over it. I don’t want to work the toilet circuit anymore, so these will be good clubs that will pay decent money. He’s not familiar with the club market, but he’s willing to try.

   This is not a long term fix, but in the short run it could be great for both of us. I won’t be stuck doing what I’ve never liked, and it’s always good to have a third party selling me rather than me stumbling and stammering and asking for work like a vagrant asks for change. I’ve never liked it.

   Steady work is what’s it’s about in any facet of show business. Period. I’d rather work steadily and make livable wage than be a big star one minute and a has been bum the next. I’m all about a steady career with regular income. I’ve come close many times, but I’ve never been able to make it last. There’s always been a radio job to come along and shake things up in a destructive way.

   I’m not foreseeing any radio in my immediate future. That ship has sailed – or sunk. What I am going to do is cross every T and dot every I and go after all the quality standup comedy work I’m able to get. It could be comedy clubs, cruise ships, colleges or corporate. I can handle just about anything at this point, but what I can’t handle is not working at all. That’s totally unacceptable.

   I look at comics from my generation of performers like Louis CK and Jim Gaffigan, and I want to be doing what they’re doing. How did they get it? I don’t know. I’m sure it was a lot of things. Talent is a part, but so is persistence, connections, luck and who knows what else? It’s complex.

   If I don’t get myself in front of someone, I’ll never have any chance to do anything. That’s not what I want to have as my final legacy, so at least Marc is going to be out there trying to mention my name to people who can book me in decent venues. Why haven’t we done this before now?

   Neither one of us has an answer. Marc was doing his thing, and I was doing mine. Now we’ve both run out of ‘things’, and this is a logical fit – at least for now. I’m going to dive into booking myself in as many quality places as I can. No more toilets. If I succeed, my life will change soon. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s just that where I’m doing it hasn’t gotten me seen.

Turning Some Pages

June 19, 2013

Monday June 17th, 2013 – Wheeling, IL

   As REO Speedwagon so eloquently sang, “So if you’re tired of the same old story – turn some pages.” That’s exactly what I’m going to do, as in roll with the changes. I am by far not the only one in that position, and people everywhere are having to reinvent themselves on a daily basis.

   My friends Bill Gorgo and Joe Nuccio are at a crossroads in their lives too, and today we had a three way powwow to see how we can help each other. We all think we can, but there has to be a solid plan in place. That’s never been one of my strong points, so I went in with a humble spirit.

   Bill and I have taught a series of comedy classes together for several years at various locations. We have a well formed synergy, and he’s not only a very accomplished and funny comedian – he has been an actual high school teacher for decades at several Catholic high schools in Chicago.

   He decided to opt for a retirement, and wants to focus more on comedy as both a performer and a teacher. We mesh well both on stage and in class, and have the option of giving a client a class, seminar, show or any combination thereof. We both have holes in our calendars, so today was an excellent opportunity to start exploring options. There are many, but will take work to go after.

   That’s where our mutual friend Joe comes in. He just ended a job as a computer programmer at a place he worked for years, and is also on the hunt for new opportunities. Joe is a former student of both Bill’s and mine and is also a professional musician. He is extremely organized, and that’s exactly what Bill and I both need. He brings things to the table we don’t have, plus we like him.

   Joe comes from both a corporate and entertainment background, and is a valuable consultant in what Bill and I would like to do. We met at Joe’s house and spent several hours talking back and forth about what could and couldn’t or should and shouldn’t be done. It was long, but productive.

   One thing we agreed on was that Bill and I need to come up with a book of our lessons on how to write and perform comedy. We’ve both got a ton of experience, and have strong opinions on a variety of subjects pertaining to the craft of comedy. We’ve both written some articles and came up with some worksheets, but we don’t have a well defined product. Joe told us that right away.

   Even though we’ve got vast experience in what we’re doing, now we’ve got to market that to a whole new customer base. This isn’t for comedy club audiences, but a business crowd. We are at the beginning of a huge task, but a necessary one if we’re going to survive in the business jungle.

   After our all day marathon meeting, I drove to Vernon Hills, IL where I oversaw a group of my current students who are going up for a graduation show on Wednesday. They’re a Toastmasters group, and mostly made up of professional types. They’re very nice people, but standup comedy is just not something they’re used to and they’re finding it difficult to put their routines together.

   It’s an especially challenging position as a teacher and mentor, because I know I’m not making their lives difficult on purpose even though they look at me as a vicious taskmaster. They want to improve, and I respect that. I’m only telling them what they need to hear in order to move ahead.

   Still, they’re all really nice people, and I see how badly they want to improve. I can really help people like this – and there have to be a LOT more of them who have money to hire a coach than the upstart punk in comedy clubs that I was. There’s a lot more upside here than comedy clubs.

What’s An Enviromedian?

May 28, 2013

Sunday May 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

  Nobody appreciates quality entertainment more than an entertainer. I’m a loyal and rabid fan of anything well done, but obviously standup comedy holds a special place in my heart and always has. I loved it before I did it, and my love for it was what drew me to it. I never grow tired of it.

   I think that makes me a perfect candidate to be a producer of product for other comedians. I am a lifelong fan of the craft, and who better would there be to inject a set of ‘fresh eyes’ into what a comedian does to best showcase his or her talent to the public? I feel as if I’m uniquely qualified.

   I got my chance a while back when I produced a live DVD project for my friend James Wesley Jackson, aka ‘The Enviromedian’. This was a thrill on many levels. First, James used to tour with George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic for years. That alone puts him in my Hall of Fame for life. Anyone who knows me knows I love the PFunk – even though nobody can figure out why.

   For whatever reason, I was sucked in as a kid when I first heard it on the radio and I still love it today. It’s well done entertainment and then some, and I respect the immense effort it must have taken to pull off such a huge project. James got to witness it first hand, and still be a comedian.

   Second, James is flat out one of THE sweetest human beings I have ever encountered. He has a laid back friendliness that shines on stage, and you can’t help but love the guy. He’s got his own unique style, and the first time I met him we hit it off instantly. Part of it was the fact that I knew of his pedigree with the PFunk, and another part was two fellow comedians sharing our histories.

   Whatever the case, I wanted to start producing other performers. I can think of more than just a handful who don’t have top quality recording projects out in my opinion, and that’s not meant to be an insult. Most of us are focused on our performing and just trying to stay alive that taking the time to crank out product never manifests itself. I know how hard it was to do my own products.

    I also suffer from a common ailment of not being able to sell my own stuff well, but can go all out with someone else’s. I believe in James as a comic and a person, and it was my pleasure to be the one to head up this project. It was recorded a couple of years ago now, but my hospitalization fiasco of 2011 has held it up along with other obstacles in my path. It’s been a long time coming.

   Now, I have FINALLY gotten my head out of Uranus and had 100 promo copies made to start sending them out. I don’t know exactly who to send them to, but I have them. I invested my last nickel getting this done, but I felt I owed it to James and myself to finish what I said I would do.

   Fellow comedian Mike Preston was the technical person, and I hired him to record the show at a place called ‘Asbury’s’ in the Chicago area. It’s a country club of all things, but James knocked it so far out of the park it might as well have been Carnegie Hall. It was a very special experience to be there that night, and for once the hot show was the one that got recorded. It came out great.

   I hired legendary PFunk artist Pedro Bell to do the cover art, and fans will be able to recognize it instantly. It took a long time to get this far, but I am proud to say I did it. Now I need to stretch it further and start selling some product. Not only that, I’d love to get a chance to produce several more comedians I’m a fan of. Names that come to mind are talented guys like Bill Gorgo, Jimmy McHugh, Jim Wiggins, Tim Walkoe, Tim Northern and so many more. George Clinton produced a lot of music acts beside his own. I’d be delighted to do the same with a variety of comedy acts.

The Enviromedian is BACK!

The Enviromedian is BACK!

James Wesley Jackson

James Wesley Jackson