Posts Tagged ‘Bob Hope’

Wilde About Larry

January 27, 2010

Wednesday January 27th, 2010 – St. Charles, IL

Most people, including many comedians, don’t realize how much devotion it requires to keep improving the onstage part of our business. There’s so much to do off stage it’s hard to keep growing as a performer, and that’s exactly why it’s so important to keep doing it.

The ‘act’ is the product we sell. Part of that includes jokes, but it’s also a mixture of all kinds of other intangibles from confidence to experience to presentation. It’s a developed persona wrapped up in a total package, and if it’s done correctly it should always evolve.

George Carlin is a perfect example. He had a 40 year career but was constantly evolving to the point of where it even changed his physical appearance. He started out with the suit and tie look and short hair, and evolved into the counterculture hippie wearing jeans and a t-shirt with long hair and a beard. His comedy evolved along with him. He kept growing.

I’m very much at that point myself, and I relish the challenge. I have more material than most comedians already, only because I made a point to keep working on it over the years while everything else in my life exploded around me. Focusing on comedy kept the bullet out of my mouth in some ways, but it also gave me something to do that I really enjoyed.

Comedy is FUN to me. It always has been. I can’t stand dealing with the club owners or the bookers or the brutal travel schedule or the sleazy motels, but the time onstage is what I live for. It makes up for all the other stuff, and if I’m going to sacrifice a ’normal’ life to get it I’m going to go about it correctly. Comedy is a craft, and it needs to be developed.

There are many aspects to that craft, onstage and off. Both are difficult. I’ve spent years which grew into decades learning the ropes onstage, and it didn’t come easy. Many nights I’d wonder if I made the right choice as I stood on the stage of some honky-tonk hell hole hundreds of miles from home hoping to hypnotize a handful of hooched up hillbillies.

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but I did learn from it and now I’ve attained a level of expertise as a performer very few ever achieve. Why? Because I stayed with it a lot longer than most others would. Part of that is because of my love of the craft, the other is probably part stupidity. By all accounts I probably should have given this up years ago.

That being said, this is exactly why I need to keep growing. It would be easy to phone in my shows and focus on other things like I’ve seen a lot of other comics do. Unfortunately, some of those things they focused on were bitterness, booze or something else on the ugly list and it ended up destroying the act it took so many years of hard work to put in place.

I don’t think it has to be that way, and I’m going to do something about it. I never drank or did drugs, so that’s a huge minefield I avoided right there. Bitterness on the other hand has been a problem. It’s hard not to be bitter about things that are unfair in life, but who’s going to change that? The only thing any of us can do is become the best US, and let what happens after that happen. That’s where I’m sitting right now. I still can improve greatly.

A major part of that will be reworking my entire onstage act from top to bottom. Every single aspect of everything I do is up for review. It’s like totally remodeling a house that’s been lived in for 25 years. Over that time things wear out or break down and there’s a list of things to fix or improve to bring it back up to speed again. Plus, it’s good to refresh.

My act can use a total rework, and that’s not going to be easy. It’s a matter of busting up a lot of things that have been there for years, but also keeping some of the pillars in place to start rebuilding with a strong foundation. There has to be a well planned blueprint first.

My first 25 years in comedy were very unorganized. I didn’t have much of a battle plan at all other than to just get better on stage and stick it in the ass of everyone who bothered me. That was pretty stupid, especially the last part. Now, I’m not worried about what any other people think. I know where I want to go, and I hope I’m not too late to get there.

The first smart thing I’ve done is knowing what I want to do. I’ve never had that before. The second one will be doing my homework before I start. I’m going to go back in history and study guys before me and see what they did, both right and wrong. I’ve always been a student of the game, but now it’s time to dig even deeper and see what I can find to use.

Larry Wilde is a guy who published over fifty books about comedy from joke books to a classic called “Great Comedians Talk About Comedy”, which interviews a bunch of the biggest names of the 20th century from Bob Hope to Woody Allen to Johnny Carson and a lot more. Larry asks pointed questions and gets some amazing insights from the masters.

There are recordings of his interviews sold on a website called http://www.laugh.com. I have all of them and enjoyed every one. It’s fascinating for me to hear what the guys before me have to say about the craft, and it’s amazing to hear how much of it is timeless, even now.

Larry has his own website at http://www.larrywilde.com and years ago we came into contact, even though I don’t remember exactly how. He’s always been very friendly and I do hear from him on occasion asking me about something comedy related. He’s what I consider a super student of the game, and that’s what I aspire to as well. He’s on top of his business.

He’s also a great entrepreneur, something I really need to learn. I contacted Larry about buying some of the recordings he made with more obscure but equally brilliantly talented comedians like Dick Gregory, Ed Wynn, George Jessel and Joey Bishop. I told him I was interested in buying out all he had and they came in the mail today. I can’t wait to listen.

The complete list besides the people I mentioned are Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, Shelley Berman, Jimmy Durante, Danny Thomas, Maurice Chevalier, Jack Benny, George Burns and Jerry Seinfeld. Those are some heavy hitters and I’m sure I’ll learn from every one.

This is the kind of stuff most performers won’t do. One, it was an investment of money. Larry cut me a deal, but it still will cost a chunk of change not to mention the time it takes to listen, make notes and implement what I learned. But, it’s worth it. I‘ll really improve.

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