Posts Tagged ‘Branson’

Close For Comfort

January 12, 2014

Saturday January 11th, 2014 – Wauconda, IL/Island Lake, IL

One of the sweetest treats any long time entertainer can experience is having a booking close to home. The longer the time in the business, the more the closeness to home is greatly appreciated. The road gets old and unforgiving after time, and the excitement of seeing new scenery expires.

There comes a point when we’ve been everywhere, seen everything and all we want is to have a “normal” life – whatever that may be. What it isn’t is being constantly in transit trying to arrive on time for the next show. It is constantly looming over one’s head, and I for one am SO over it.

Tonight – for one of just a handful of times I can ever remember – I had a show literally down the road from where I live. Wow! I was ecstatic beyond words. I’ve worked this place before, but I lived in a different place then. It was still close, but not like this. This one was a stone’s throw.

The venue is a place called The Energee Center in Wauconda, IL. Sally Edwards is a comedian that started booking shows there because she and her husband moved there and saw there was no comedy anywhere close by. It’s a small room, but audiences are friendly and it’s very laid back.

The pay to close the show is comparable with most one nighters on the road, so they can get an excellent quality of acts to work there. It’s in the Chicago area, and like me there are a lot of acts that are less than thrilled with going on the road to make basically the same money. Actually, it’s less after gas and food are subtracted from the total. Working in Wauconda does have its upside.

It has a huge upside for me, as I’m staying in Island Lake which is the next town over. It was a two minute drive to get to work tonight, and I had a smile on my face the whole time. I would be thrilled if I could do that more often, and I totally see the appeal of a Las Vegas or Branson, MO for that exact reason. If an entertainer can get the audiences to come to them, life is but a dream.

The show tonight was a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t have been upset even if it wasn’t. As long as I didn’t have to drive far, a room full of screaming drunken hecklers wouldn’t have caused me to flinch one bit. I was paid immediately upon getting off stage, and that’s the cherry on the sundae.

Trevor Burke’s dad Joe brought Trevor out to do a set, and then they’re going to fly out to Los Angeles tomorrow to talk to a production company about a reality show for Trevor. Good for the both of them. Whether they get it or not doesn’t matter. The fact they’ve got a meeting is terrific.

The feature act tonight was Mike Maxwell – obviously no relation. Mike is an up and comer on the Chicago scene, and I like the guy a lot. Having two guys named Maxwell on a show is a good gimmick I guess, but I’d work with him anytime. He brought a lot of his family out, and that was a large percentage of the crowd tonight. It was a slow night for many reasons and we needed it.

Things are just really going well right now, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. The situation with my roommate Sheri is still very sad, but that’s getting better too. They’ve moved her to one of the best treatment facilities in the country, and she’s beginning a long process of recovery that may take up to a year. Her friend Debra told me they want to try and keep the house, and it might entail having me and another person stay here to pay expenses. If that would help Sheri, I’m in.

Wauconda, IL - comedy hotbed? No, but there's a fun one nighter once a month at The Energee Center.

Wauconda, IL – comedy hotbed? No, but there’s a fun one nighter once a month at The Energee Center.

I worked with 12 year old comedian Trevor Burke for the second time this week. The kid is getting more work than I am - and he deserves it. Funny kid.

I worked with 12 year old comedian Trevor Burke for the second time this week. The kid is getting more work than I am – and he deserves it. Funny kid.

Mike Maxwell (no relation) was also on the show. It was "an evening with a couple of Maxwells". As always, it was a lot of fun.

Mike Maxwell (no relation) was also on the show. It was “an evening with a couple of Maxwells”. As always, it was a lot of fun.


The Branson Theory

August 17, 2013

Friday August 16th, 2013 – Crystal Lake, IL

   It’s easy to make fun of Branson, MO, and many people do. They talk about it being full of old people and their parents, and I guess to some degree that might be true. The acts there are geared for an older audience, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Those people need entertainment too.

   As I rapidly approach geezerhood, I like the idea of how Branson operates more and more. It’s exactly the opposite formula most entertainers are used to, but I could get used to it in a big time hurry. We’re used to constantly being on the road bringing entertainment directly to the people.

   Branson’s theory is to put the entertainment in one place and let the people come get it. That’s a brilliant plan, and I’m all for it. Las Vegas has done a similar formula for much longer, but it’s based around entertainment being the lure for people to gamble. In Branson, it’s the main event.

   I’ve been through Branson a few times in my travels, but I haven’t worked there as of yet. I’m hoping to put it off at least a little while, so I don’t feel like I’ve been farmed out to the oatmeal circuit just yet. It’s like an AARP card. Everyone knows it’s coming, but nobody wants to get it.

   The good thing about standup comedy is that it can be done a lot longer than most other forms of entertainment. Athletes are done for sure by 40, and often a lot earlier than that. Leading men and women in movies are done rather quickly too. Rock bands have been hanging around longer in recent years, but that’s too much work in my opinion. Comedy is the best long term scenario.

   The worst part is the constant grind of the road. I’m feeling it now, and it’s a major issue. I still love doing the shows, but getting there is a major hassle. If I had a Branson situation where I was in a centralized location where audiences came to me that would be as close to heaven as it gets.

   I was close with the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows at the Northern Lights Theatre in Milwaukee in April. That was a fun experience, and I got to stay home for the entire month. I also put together a few other gigs on the side and had a very productive month. I wish I could do that all year long.

   This month has been another close to home bonanza. Last week I picked up the hosting spot at Zanies Comedy Club at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL. That’s about an hour drive from where I live, and I’m very much at home there. I made solid money to stay local, and I loved it.

   Tonight I had another local show at The Raue Center in Crystal Lake, IL. I’ve worked there for years, and it’s always a glitch free positive experience. They book quality acts there and charge a substantial price, which results in audiences that pay attention because they made a commitment.

   I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad show there, and the crowds are fantastic. They’re a bit older as a rule, but not walkers and blue hair old. There are people in their twenties sprinkled in, but most of the people range from about 35 to 65. I’m right in their wheel house, and I do well every time.

   What’s even better is that it’s maybe 25 minutes from home. I was off stage by 10:15 and after stopping for something to eat I still made it home before midnight. I could get used to this really fast – like today. How many times have I had a red hot show like this but had to drive the whole night and get home after sunrise? TOO many. I’m sold on keeping it close to home. I have more than enough road stories to last me six more lifetimes. It would be a much bigger treat to be able to enjoy my life in one place for a change. It doesn’t have to be Branson. I’m fine where I am.