Posts Tagged ‘business’

Entrepreneurial Evolution

July 25, 2014

Monday July 21st, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Like it or not, a whole lot of us are going to have to get more entrepreneurial in a hurry. I have been interested in having my own business ever since I can remember, but it always took a back seat to being a comedian. It’s only been recently that I’ve understood that comedy IS a business.

What a dummy I’ve been, but it’s not too late to change. I always use the great James Gregory from Atlanta as the gold standard of comedians that understand the business side best, and I have yet to run into anyone better. The only close horse in the race is Heywood Banks, and then all of the rest of us are sliding around in a giant mud pit hoping to find a couple of straggling nickels.

There are a lot of stellar business people in the comedy field in Los Angeles, but I am thinking of road dogs like me. James figured it out early, and has been consistently at the top of the game for decades. Heywood has done well for himself too, and I respect both those guys enormously.

If they’re not natural entrepreneurs, they sure have worked hard at fooling everyone. They are both extremely hard workers, and it is no accident either one of them has achieved their success. They have handled their business well, and didn’t choose to play the Hollywood roulette game.

These are two shining examples of entrepreneurs in the comedy game, but I’m talking of life in general. Ma and Pa public are broke, and there’s no sign of relief in sight. They can either get out there are start some kind of a business or they can learn to like cat food. Times are excruciating.

My grandfather used to tell me horror stories about The Great Depression, and from all he said it wasn’t that great. He was forced to become an entrepreneur, and he did just about anything he could get involved in to try and feed his family. According to both Grandma and Gramps, it was nothing to joke about. Everyone was tense, and nobody had any clue if it would ever get better.

Well, it looks like history is repeating itself after all. The whole country is broke, and 99.999% of us can use some extra cash right about now. For most of us it’s not extra either – it’s all we’ve got. Prices of food and gas and everything else are rising steadily, and nobody I know is doing at least halfway decently much less kicking ass. Life is rather bleak, but there has to be a solution.

Reading about The Great Depression, there were people that made fortunes for the ages. There are people doing it today as well, but they were rich to start with. The rich truly are getting richer but I don’t see how I can get any poorer. I’m barely hanging on, and it’s not how I want to live.

It’s been a constant struggle to keep the bills paid, and the distraction that is saps my creativity for projects I want to do. I did get a couple of very generous gifts, but I used that money to erase a hefty credit card bill and stop the bleeding of that insane interest rate. Now I am right at zero.

That doesn’t mean some emergency couldn’t wipe me out again, and I am still dangling by the thinnest of threads. I don’t think a job alone will be the long term solution. I will have to earn my own fortune, as there is nobody that’s going to leave me theirs. A lot of others share this scenario and we all have choices to make. The law of the jungle is adapt or die. It’s not “like it was”, and it’s not going to be any time soon. Being an entrepreneur is in my future, so I may as well like it.

Tough times force a lot of people to become entrepreneurs against their will. I am going willingly.

Tough times force a lot of people to become entrepreneurs against their will. I am going along willingly.

My friend James Gregory in Atlanta is the standard bearer for road comic entrepreneurialism. He's the king. www.funniestman.com

My friend James Gregory in Atlanta is the gold standard bearer for road comedian entrepreneurialism. He is the KING. http://www.funniestman.com

Heywood Banks is far from a slouch. He has always had a solid grasp on the business side of things. www.heywoodbanks.com.

Another friend Heywood Banks is far from a slouch. He has always had a solid grasp on the business aspect. http://www.heywoodbanks.com.

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My Drug Of Choice

July 5, 2014

Thursday July 3rd, 2014 – Rosemont, IL

Whenever I’m stupid enough to think I have anything figured out is exactly the time I find out I don’t. I’ve been harping on and on of late about how dead 4th of July week is in comedy clubs, and then I show up at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL tonight to a fully jam packed house.

Sometimes clubs give out free tickets to help drum up business on slower weeks, and that can make for less than stellar audiences. Usually the degree of respect and attention somebody gives an event they attend is in direct proportion to how much they paid to get in. That’s human nature.

I don’t care how the audience got in tonight, I wanted to take every one of them home after the show. Wow, what a molten lava hot crowd it was, and it got better as the night went on. There is absolutely no way to predict when an audience this good will show up, but when one does it’s an absolute treat to be alive. This is why old dogs like me stay in the business so long. It’s our drug.

I wish everyone could experience the intensity of the high that occurs when a room full of total strangers is riveted on your every word and laugh at all the right places. It’s the most intoxicating feeling I have ever experienced, and one of the reasons I never felt a need to try drugs or alcohol.

I don’t see how anything else can feel that good – and I get paid for it on top of that! I already know I will be hooked for life on the performance part. The problem lies in getting myself in the position to be on that stage again. That’s always the hard part, and why bookers treat us like dirt.

They know full well we’ll do just about anything to get that stage time, and they don’t mind if they exploit it to the fullest. Make a 1000 mile drive for $100? Be right there! The allure of stage is that powerful – especially on nights like tonight. It was pure, uncut heroin of the highest grade.

I was host tonight, and there were a dozen other acts on the show doing about six minutes each. It was a best of Chicago area showcase night, and the acts were all solid. But they don’t have the experience I do, and I knew right where to hit this audience from the start – and I never stopped.

There’s something very comforting about having that extra ‘passing gear’, and it gives one the ultimate stage confidence without getting cocky. Only years of hard earned experience can truly provide that feeling, and it can never be faked though many try. It’s intangible, but really shows.

In a situation like this, I can make the entire show better. I lead things off with a blistering set, and then bring every other act on with an introduction that makes them sound like they are giants in their field. That becomes contagious, and the audience wants to believe it. It all feeds on itself.

Everyone was still abuzz after the show, and people were lining up to shake my hand and thank me from audience members to comedians to wait staff for telling the crowd to tip. I did my job to the fullest, and everybody went home happy. This is how I think it should be every single night.

Unfortunately, nobody of consequence saw this show. The manager of Zanies had the evening off, and there were no talent scouts in the room. I was a star for little bit, now I’m back to being a nameless schmuck again. None of those people remember my name, but I sure made them laugh.

The intoxicating feeling of being on a stage performing standup comedy when it's going well is like no other feeling. It's the BEST! I never get sick of it.

The intoxicating feeling of being on a stage performing standup comedy when it’s going well is like no other feeling. It’s the BEST!

The Bipolar Express

July 3, 2014

Saturday June 28th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Welcome to the wild ride on the Bipolar Express. Less than 24 hours ago, life was in a peachy groove. I was laid back, relaxed, and everything was going swimmingly. Today, the only things in the water are a school of hungry sharks, and couple of piranhas – and an enormous whale turd.

I had a show booked for tonight in Cadillac, MI. I didn’t have my heart set on going to Cadillac on this night or any other, but apparently there is a car lot there loaded with classic cars. I happen to enjoy old cars, and was told about it by my friend Mark Gumbinger. He said if I could manage to get booked in Cadillac, he’d ride along and we’d scope out the tin. That’s why I took the gig.

When I told him I got the booking of course he couldn’t make it, so now I’m stuck with having to make the drive myself to do a bar gig I never wanted in the first place. I need money, but after expenses this wouldn’t be much as I rented a car to prevent piling up needless miles on my own.

There wasn’t a big profit margin anywhere, but I’ve always been one to work when I can rather than sit home and do nothing. There is always the possibility of selling a few CDs or DVDs, and smaller towns tend to be better buyers. I decided to just suck it up and try to enjoy the weekend.

That came to an abrupt end just as I’d finished fighting a nasty rain storm all the way through Chicago traffic and was passing into Indiana. I received a text telling me the show was cancelled due to the owners of the bar being on vacation and not promoting it properly. Apparently they’d forgotten there was a comedy show and the opening act had gotten to the hotel and had no room.

I’ve been around a long time, and I honestly can’t remember ever having a show cancel while I was on the way there. On one hand I was glad I didn’t have to drive to Cadillac, but on the other I knew I wasn’t going to be paid. I also knew I’d have to eat the expense of my rental car as well.

There’s absolutely no winning in this situation, and in these times one can’t afford to squabble with any bookers. I happen to like the guy who booked this gig, as he’s also a comedian. This is his side income, and he makes no claims of any of his gigs being career builders. They’re quick cash for everyone, and we all know that going in. It’s nice to have the option to take it if I want.

In all honesty, I really think I deserve to be paid in full for my trouble. It’s not my fault an idiot ‘forgot’ there was a comedy show, and I rented a car to make sure I got there. The club could not care less about that, or probably comedy in general. It’s a side income for them once in a while.

I’ve booked shows in the past, and I always made sure the comedians were paid in full, even if there was no show. That’s not the comedian’s fault, and I get that. I wanted to bring that point up with this booker but I could tell on the phone I wasn’t going to be paid. It took him by surprise as well, and I could tell he was stewed about it too – mainly because he’d be losing his commission.

He said “I’ll take care of you in the future”, which I knew was all I was going to get. I could’ve gone off on a big rant – and I would have been 100% in the right – but I also would have burned a bridge yet again. I have enough experience by now to realize exactly the right thing to do, and I did it. I got off the phone without starting any wars, and I was proud of myself for keeping cool.

The lesson that took me far too long to learn is that none of this was personal – even though the patsy stooge that ends up holding the flaming bag of pig poo happens to be me. I used to flip out royally when things like this happened – and they did a lot. But again, in theory I had that right.

I was always one to stand up for what I thought was mine, but I didn’t always do it in the most delicate of ways. I have a big mouth and I admit it, and when I don’t like someone or something I have had a long history of not hiding it from anyone. This has gotten me into a heap of trouble.

All it takes is a tiny spark to burn a bridge, and in the long run it’s just not smart. I went off on several people through the years that completely deserved it – but that didn’t mean that I was the one to do it. They were unscrupulous before I ever showed up, and remained so long after I left.

I’m not saying this situation was unscrupulous. I really do like the guy that books this gig and I know he didn’t have anything to do with the show cancelling at the last minute. It was the owner of the bar in Cadillac’s fault, and technically he (or she) is the one that should be paying us out.

It’s not my fault that someone ‘forgot’ there was a comedy show, but in the real world nobody cares. We had a deal, and I was prepared to live up to my end. There were no signed contracts to prove it, and that’s another aspect of the comedy business that people outside of it don’t believe.

We’ve all been stupid enough to operate on handshake agreements for decades, and we deserve what we get in all reality. There really isn’t time to send out contracts for every little one nighter, and it’s basically an honor system that we’ve all been on. Times like this are when honor is gone.

Had this been my gig, I would have immediately called the comedians and apologized for their inconvenience and assured them they would be getting their full payment. Period. If I booked the gig, the comedians are technically working for me and not the venue. It’s on me to get them paid.

Unfortunately, most bookers only care about the venues and couldn’t care less if we got paid or not. We’re just the necessary evil, but to them we’re expendable. I’ve said it before and it’s sadly true – they’re the pimps and we’re the whores. And they can always find a fresh crop of whores.

I’m disgusted with the whole business, but it’s never going to change so why flip out? I should never have taken this gig in the first place, and I am going to place the blame squarely in my lap. I’m WAY past doing hell hole bar gigs in Cadillac, MI or anywhere else. I should have said no.

They were lucky to get someone with as much experience as me whether they know it or not – and they totally don’t. I put an entire lifetime of blood and sweat and sacrifice on the line for an embarrassingly low price, and they still rejected it. That’s about as low as my self esteem needs to dip. I got in the business for all the right reasons, but this is not my idea of a retirement plan.

Any up and coming entertainer needs this one valuable lesson: IT’S NOT PERSONAL. Don’t make the same mistake I did for so many years. This stuff will happen as long as the Earth spins. Expect it. I for one have had my fill. To have such a fun and smooth running show as last night in Rockford followed by this pig fart less than a day later is not what I want in my life right now. I want stability after all these years, and Cadillac, MI is not where to find it – old car lot or not.

Being an entertainer can be a ride on The Bipolar Express. One night everything goes perfectly, and the next it couldn't be any worse.

Being an entertainer can be a ride on The Bipolar Express. One night everything goes perfectly, and the next it couldn’t be any worse.

The People Business

May 9, 2014

Wednesday May 7th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I want to talk more about the whole “game” aspect of show business. It’s easy to come off as a crusty old bastard brimming with bitterness – and I’m sure some think I am. Maybe they’re right to a certain degree, but I want to go into the reasons why. It’s not just something I felt like doing.

Most entertainers that last even a little while I find to be of above average intelligence as a rule. This is often where their problems originate, as the public as a rule are a pretty sorry lot. I wish it were different, but it is what it is. Alexander Hamilton’s quote “The masses are asses” rings just as true in 2014 as it did in 1790 when he said it. The bar for greatness has been set painfully low.

Quite often the great artists are on a completely different plane than the public, and that causes great pain because there is no outlet for their artistic output. A lot larger audience wants to see an Adam Sandler movie than wants to see Woody Allen’s next release. Aiming low is a wise target.

This is not to say nobody smart or talented ever makes it, or only idiots do. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am pointing out is that show business is a people business, and if one has no insight on one’s customers, it’s easy to come crashing down in a hurry. There are rules involved.

There are also dues to be paid like tolls on a highway. The next booth is going to charge you an individual amount for that particular stretch of road, not caring that the last dozen all took a piece of your bank roll. If you want to ride, you have to pay. Period. That’s how it is in showbiz also.

Where the difference lies is that most highways have very detailed maps and it’s easy to find a manageable route. If one doesn’t have a GPS device, there are usually maps of the area put up in rest areas for any and all to freely use to their advantage. Show business’s route is more hidden.

There aren’t any pubic maps posed, and more often than not others on the same highway either don’t know where they’re going or are deliberately on a path to self implosion. That can be part of the DNA makeup of a dented can, and it can cause that person to make unhealthy decisions.

I have made more than my share of unhealthy decisions along my turbulent life trail, but I also made a few solid ones. Probably the most solid has been that I have STAYED WITH IT. I could have put a bullet in my head or the heads of several others by now, but I haven’t. That’s my only advantage at the moment. I’ve been around the block plenty of times, and I have seen the game.

If I do manage to win in the end, I will end up being one of the exceptions people talk about. It isn’t easy for anyone, but my circumstances have been especially difficult. And who would care about that? Uh, NOBODY but me. Where someone comes from is unimportant. All that matters is where one ends up. And if I am going to end up a winner in life the game has got to be played.

A big part of the problem is that I no longer have the hunger to do it – at least at a comedy club level. Been there, done that, burned bridges and learned a lot. That doesn’t mean I can’t enter an entirely different league, and that’s what I intend to do. Corporate humor would qualify, and I’m going to handle myself a lot differently than I did in comedy clubs. I know the rules better now.

The Uranus project is another arena altogether, but there’s still a game involved. I know it now, and I didn’t when I started in comedy. I see things more clearly, and that’s the direct result of all those crippling mistakes. I may have hurt myself, but I’m not dead yet so there is still a chance.

Show business - like EVERY business - is a people business.

Show business – like EVERY business – is a people business. Too bad a lot of people are idiots.

Jedi Jokers

May 5, 2014

Thursday May 1st, 2014 – Grandville, MI

Tonight was the start of my three night run in western Michigan working for Jerry Donovan. In a perfect world he wouldn’t have to exist, but there has never been a danger of this world coming close to perfection so here I am. I’m grateful for these bookings and will do my best for Jerry.

I do my best for every booker I ever work for, but Jerry is one of the few that appreciates it. He does standup comedy himself – and does it very well I might add. He is originally from St. Louis, but somehow managed to end up in the Grand Rapids, MI area. I never asked why, but that’s not the issue. He’s here now, and is making a name for himself in the area. That’s all I need to know.

Jerry handles his business extremely well, and he told me it’s because he worked in sales for a long time before he ever got into comedy. Sales is winning an audience over one on one, and the same principles are used in a group setting with comedy. He’s taken to it like a duck to water and I absolutely love working with and for him. He treats comedians like people, and that’s SO rare.

The reason he’s in the booking end of the business at all is a certain agency that has been based out of Grand Rapids for decades has taken it upon themselves to become pompous and think they own comedy just because they’ve been around so long. The fact is, they COULD have owned the entire Midwest had they been just a little bit nice rather than imperialistic tyrants with attitudes.

They could have had their pick of all the best acts in the area, and for years they did. Then one by one they alienated most of them, and everybody lost out. Their venues are getting a lesser and watered down supply on a weekly basis, and a lot of good comedians are now scraping for work.

Had they handled things differently, Jerry wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. He wouldn’t be able to get the high quality of acts he does, because we’d all be loyal to the agency. Jerry would likely be working for them too, and everyone would be making a decent living. But that isn’t how it is.

The main problem is that the business has been turned over to the sons of the guy that was the original snake everyone worked for for years. None of us particularly liked him as a person, but comedians are stage whores and would work for the Beelzebub Booking Agency if they had the work to offer. I think the old man let the power go to his head and thought we actually liked him.

We TOLERATED him, and there’s a big difference. That’s not the way to build loyalty, and it sure isn’t the way to make friends. Not that business associates need to be friends to the point of coming over for Thanksgiving, but we were the ones that made him a healthy living. Treating us with at least a little respect would have lined his own pockets in the long run. He didn’t see that.

Now there are a significant number of scorned former acts that would go out of their way to get some payback for being dropped from the roster without as much as even an insincere thank you. He could have faked it like a stripper does to keep the money rolling in. It still is to a degree, but not like it used to. Jerry is taking over a nice little chunk, and I for one am behind him 1000%. It feels like I’m in Star Wars. The agency is the Death Star, and Jerry is leader of the Jedi Jokers.

Jerry Donovan is a funny comedian but also books comedy shows in the Michigan area. I'm delighted to work for him because he gets it. www.jerrydonovan.com.

Jerry Donovan is a funny comedian but also books comedy shows in the Michigan area. I’m delighted to work for him because he gets it. http://www.jerrydonovan.com.

Jedi Jokers, we are.

Jedi Jokers, we both are.

Numbers Don’t Lie

April 27, 2014

Friday April 25th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

After all of the painstaking effort I have put in over a lifetime feverishly attempting to create an identity that is moderately recognizable to the largest amount of people possible, it’s laughable at how tiny a number that turns out to be. It isn’t even close to 1/1000th of 1% of people on Earth.

It’s not anywhere near 1/100th of 1% of the United States, nor does it approach 1/10th of 1% of the population of the Chicago metropolitan area where I have been based for the majority of my adult life. How’s that for taking some humble pies to the face? It’s like I’ve never even existed.

I tried to figure out as close to a number of people I have performed live for over my entire life, and the closest number I could come up with is somewhere between around 750,000 and an even million. And that took thirty years of hard work. How many of those would remember my name, even if there were cash and prizes involved? Even at 1% – which it isn’t – I am still an unknown.

Even at a million I am still an unknown, but that’s more than enough to make a fantastic living – provided that million is reachable and relatively in a maintainable service area. If they were all over the globe at random, that would make it difficult to serve them by doing live performances.

The people I have performed for are scattered randomly all over North America, and that’s my biggest problem. Other than the Chicago/Milwaukee corridor, nobody has a clue as to who I am – and it’s not all that much there. I can draw a few dozen, but nothing that will define a career.

Most of my work has been done to groups of about 100-200 on average, and often it’s been far lower than average. How many times have I worked some road house honky-tonk hell hole in an obscure town 1000 miles or more from home in front of 50 or far less? I couldn’t begin to count.

And even if they liked me – which often they did – was I smart enough to ask for an address of any kind to stay in touch so maybe they might come back next time I was in town? Even before email I guess I could have sent post cards, but it would have taken time and money I didn’t have.

The truth is, obtaining top of mind awareness with a large group of people is one of the hardest things imaginable. Even McDonald’s has to keep their name pounded into the public’s head, and who hasn’t heard of McDonald’s? They have worldwide presence and a huge advertising budget. I wander all over the country to entertain random people in comedy clubs. I’m a faceless drifter.

I could live with that if the money was there, but right now it just isn’t. It doesn’t matter what I happen to do on stage unfortunately. I used to think that’s all that meant anything, but that’s just plain wrong. All that matters is if one can put butts in seats, and that’s something I have not ever figured out how to do. Mike Tyson is selling out his one man show. I don’t draw flies to manure.

What any of this means I really can’t say, other than I need to have more people become aware of who I am as quickly as possible. I started a newsletter this year, but that only has around 2000 on the list. And how many of those actually read it? I sure won’t be getting cocky any time soon.

Gaining the attention of just 1% of the American public is a lot harder than it sounds. I've been trying for 30 years, and I'm not even close.

Gaining the attention of just 1% of the American public is a lot harder than it sounds. I’ve been trying for 30 years.

New Mentor Needed

April 15, 2014

Sunday April 13th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I speak often of what a tremendous mentor my grandfather was to me – and he was – but there are a few things he never got to that I had to painfully learn on my own. He died when I was only 18, so maybe he just didn’t have enough time to get to them yet. Or maybe he didn’t know at all.

As great of an influence as Gramps was and still is, nobody knows everything. He struggled in his own life in many ways, and when it was all over he was just a small time hustler. He tried his hand at a few things, but admittedly never was willing to go all in and risk it to get the big prize.

He played it safe for reasons I guess I can understand, but in retrospect it sure didn’t bring him any lasting happiness. My grandmother never supported his dreams, even though he’d sacrificed his most productive years working at jobs he despised in order to support her and their two sons.

He tried to be a good father – at least by his account – and that didn’t work out either. Both my father and uncle had their conflicts with him, and neither had even half as close of a relationship as Gramps and I enjoyed. Maybe that was a grandfather’s “second chance” thing, I don’t know.

The reason I’m having these thoughts is that I’m at a place in my life where I don’t know who I can turn to as a mentor figure. Everyone needs a mentor, and I don’t think it ever ends. I’m in a place that few ever get to in life – especially this late in the game. I don’t know who I can talk to.

I’m still out here wallowing in the mud WAY longer than most are willing to go all in. I wasn’t able to settle for the safe route like Gramps did – and 99% of everyone else. I was committed to it 100% off the bat, and even though I made some horrific mistakes and caught some rotten breaks, here I am still around with a chance to succeed. I don’t know exactly how, so I’d like a mentor.

Most of my circle of friends have no idea what to tell me. They’re having their own issues with week to week survival, and I get that. They couldn’t help me if they wanted to, and unfortunately that doesn’t do either one of us any good. It’s everyone for themselves, and I find that very scary. I have to move forward with the knowledge and experience I have, and make my best decisions.

One thing I’m really having a struggle with is short term vs. long term goals. I see where I aim to be in the long run, but I’m constantly distracted by detours I have to take in the short run. I am so discombobulated from all the lumps I’ve taken that I’m having a tough time sorting out which way is up. Then I let the short term distractions eat up all my time, and I have no big plan at all.

Add to that the fact that I have always been fiercely independent in my business dealings to the point of not letting anyone else in on my plans, that I have nobody to blame but myself when I’m stuck in the position I’m in and haven’t a clue as to what to do next. I need to amend my method.

But how? It will mean letting others into my inner circle, and I’ve never been comfortable with that. I have always had trust issues, and that’s a big part of being a dented can. Too bad, because if I don’t change it up I am never going to hit pay dirt. It’s humbling to admit, but I was wrong.

My grandfather was my father figure and mentor as a child. I couldn't imagine a better one.

My grandfather was my father figure and mentor as a child. I couldn’t imagine a better one, and I think about him every day – even now.

He was with me from five months old until age 18. I owe him a debt I can never repay.

He was with me from five months old until age 18. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude I can never repay. Instead, I will pass it on to others.

C. Cardell Willis was my main mentor in standup comedy. He was terrific as well.

C. Cardell Willis was my main mentor in standup comedy. He was terrific just like Gramps. I have helped pass his timeless wisdom down to many.

Now that I'm transitioning into my next phase of life, I need a new mentor to help me get going. Who will it be?

Now that I’m transitioning into my next phase of life, I need a new mentor to help me get it going. Who will it be?

Fantastic Friends

April 9, 2014

Tuesday April 8th, 2014 – Milwaukee, WI

It was back home to Milwaukee today to attend a seminar held especially for me by my friend Lynn Miner. Lynn is a magician among many other things, and we met when he was a student in one of my first comedy classes back in the mid ‘90s. Since then I’ve learned a lot more from him than he ever did from me, and it’s people like him that make me continue to teach to this day.

Among Lynn’s “other things” is holding successful workshops for universities along with his son Jeremy on how to procure funds through grants. They’ve done it all over the world, and are on the road more than I am. They are great at what they do, and are at the very top of their field.

Once in a while Lynn will ask me to punch up something he’s doing with a funny line. I never mind, and gladly throw him any ideas I can. He never abuses my time, and has always been very supportive of anything I do. If I had more people like Lynn in my life, I would be a big time star.

I have always had a difficult time asking for favors from anyone, and I’m sure that goes back to my dented can childhood. I need to get over it fast, because sometimes people really want to help. I know I do, and it feels great when I can. Why am I robbing someone else of their joy?

Lynn is nothing short of amazing when it comes to simplifying complicated business concepts. He has a formula that he uses in his workshops, and he broke down a version of it for me today over lunch as he went over my King of Uranus idea. He pointed out – painfully correctly – that I have not come up with an acceptable business plan to date, and that would be an absolute must.

I don’t dispute that at all, and I sat and listened as he laid out what I needed to do. He wants me to make a list of everything I envision the business to be, and then he’s going to sort it into what needs to be done in what order. He didn’t have to do that, but he graciously offered to help and I will gratefully accept his kind offer. I know I can’t do it myself, and this is a super opportunity.

This concept is SO going to be a success. I feel it to the depths of my being. People like Lynn are in my corner, and although he’s really great he’s not the only one. I have a very deep bench, and most if not everybody on it will gladly help me however they can. I’ve cultivated them for a lifetime, and have not exploited them as resources. I am picking my time to ask, and it is now.

I have 100% confidence that Lynn will be one of many that will point me in the right direction. Even though there are still a few that think I’m the devil, a whole lot more don’t and couldn’t be any more supportive. Those few who don’t like me barely know me, if at all. It’s their loss by not giving me a chance, but that’s the situation now. Hopefully I’ll change their minds in the future.

Another great supporter of mine for decades has been Drew Olson. He’s another ace in the hole and is as well connected in Milwaukee as anyone I know. He is on AM 540 ESPN Radio with his partner Dan Needles on ‘The D List’ from 10am to 1pm weekdays, and since I was in town I had to check in with him as well. He is also a supporter of the Uranus idea, and has some connections he thinks may help as far as making products, etc. I’m thrilled to have an all star list of friends.

Lynn Miner is a man of many talents. He's a world class magician, and also one of the top in his field at grants workshops for universities. He is helping me with my business plan, and I am unbelievably grateful.

Lynn Miner is a man of many talents. He’s a world class magician, and also one of the top in his field at grants workshops for universities. He is helping me with my business plan, and I am unbelievably grateful. http://www.minerandassociates.com

Drew Olson is also one of the most generous people I have ever met - and we have been friends so long I don't even remember when we met. It was the '80s. Catch him on 'The D List' on ESPN Radio in Milwaukee. www.espnmilwaukee.com.

Drew Olson is also one of the most generous people I have ever met – and we have been friends so long I don’t even remember when that was. It was the ’80s. Catch him on ‘The D List’ on ESPN Radio in Milwaukee. http://www.espnmilwaukee.com.

Something Smart

March 1, 2014

Wednesday February 26th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

The older I get, the more I realize just how poorly I’ve managed my life in so many ways. I did manage to have a generous helping of fun and adventure along the way, but I sure did screw a lot of things up too. When I hear people say “I have no regrets in life,” I can’t relate. I have a bunch.

What’s even worse is that I have to keep living, and try to steer myself in a good direction even though I’m coming from a place I really didn’t want to be. That makes where I am even more of a challenge, and I feel time catching up. I wish I could reboot and start over, but that’s no option.

We all have to play the hands we’re dealt, and we get ONE shot. That seems rather unfair, does it not? Most of us are clueless on our own, and unless we have razor sharp guidance from parents or some sort of mentor figure our lives drift off course like I feel mine did. Now I’m trying to get my bearings in order to make a run to the finish line. I hope I can salvage at least some of a life.

I truly think my first major boo boo was staying with radio after my first job came to an end in Lansing, MI in 1990. It would have been early enough where I could have gone back to standup comedy, and eventually moved to New York or Los Angeles and stayed until something popped.

I did eventually make it to L.A., but totally not how I’d planned it. I had been blown out of yet another radio gig in Reno, NV and it was closer to drive to L.A. than it was to Chicago so I went there. I had a few bucks of severance pay, but not a lot. I lived like a cockroach for about a year, and then started doing road gigs to pay bills. That’s not the smart way to be based in Hollywood.

In retrospect, I should have taken a break from standup and just found a way to do whatever it took to settle in out there. I knew a lot of people, and had some connections. A lot of people that are doing very well now were just arriving, and I could have come up the ranks along with them.

Billy Gardell was there, and he’s doing well now on ‘Mike and Molly’. He’s a super guy, and I remember seeing him at a Sunday football watching get together with comedians. “Are you here now?” he asked. I said that I was, and he said “Cool. I know you’ll do well.” And he meant it.

My friend Keith Leslie was writing for “Grace Under Fire” then, and I hung out regularly with him and the writing staff. In fact, some of my lines ended up making it on the show. Those guys were very fun, and I had no problem fitting in. I just didn’t stay long enough to grow any roots.

Mark Roberts is an amazing talent, and he’s now doing extremely well. He’s got his fingers in a lot of pies, one of which is “Two And A Half Men”. I think he’s in charge of that show, and he could have easily hired me to be a writer. A lot of Chicago comedians moved to California right around that same time, and several are still there. In a perfect world, I’d be out there with them.

Maybe in a parallel universe I’m living that dream with all the trimmings, but I think that ship has sailed for this one. I moved back to Chicago to regroup, with full intentions of going back to California when I was ready. I never made it, and now I’m starting to have some regrets. I was in a super position then and didn’t realize just how good it was. I chose the safe route, and it turned out to be more dangerous than if I’d stayed and delivered pizzas for a while until I got settled in.

One year is not long enough to do much of anything well enough to make a lasting impact. One year is barely a radar blip, and that’s generous. There are a lot of of athletes that had one big year and that’s it. Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych and ‘Super Joe’ Charbonneau are two lingering examples from my youth. Both were poised for stardom, but now they’re taking up residence in oblivion.

The same holds true with any skill based endeavor. How many one hit wonder music acts have come and gone? Debby Boone comes to mind. She was hot for about a year – if that – and then it was over. Did she have a ‘career’? How anyone can in that short of a time? It’s just not enough.

Had I stayed out there, who knows what would have come along? I loved everything about the whole idea of living there, and deep in my heart I still do. If I had a reason to be out there I’d get in my car and drive there tomorrow. Again, I think that ship has sailed from a realistic viewpoint. I was living in the right place, but it wasn’t at the right time – yet. I wish I would have waited.

The last thing that will do any good is beating myself up about it. I had reasons for what I did, and that’s how it turned out. There was no way to see the big picture then, but I’m writing about it now in hopes I’ll be able to help someone else with their own personal struggle. I hope what I screwed up will encourage someone else to stay and wait it out. Go where the magic happens.

Not a whole lot of magic has happened anywhere else I’ve been. I thought Salt Lake City was going to be my home, and that blew up in my face worse than anywhere. I chased that radio bug, and it wouldn’t stop biting. Then I came back to Chicago, and it bit me again. When will I learn?

It’s getting a little late in the game now. If something happens, it’s going to have to happen in a hurry. There are a few stories of people who have made it late, but they are always the exception and never the rule. My path has been anything but ‘normal’, so I need to really focus on strategy.

Is what I’m doing now the smartest thing I could be doing? I say yes, but that’s what I thought years ago when I was being so unknowingly stupid. I truly believed I was going to land that huge radio gig and it would set me up for the rest of my life. It didn’t happen, and now I’m struggling.

One thing I do have is a boat load of hands on experience, but who really cares enough to give me a job? I could go on any radio station on the dial and fit in somewhere, but try as I might I’ve not been able to keep a job more than a year and a month. It was always something else but me.

Not many people I know are still out there slugging like I am this far into the game, and I have no idea if it’s the right choice or not. The idea of quitting doesn’t thrill me, but doing it like I’ve been doing it thrills me even less. What can I do to scratch the creative itch, and still be solvent?

Living hand to mouth just isn’t cutting it, but I’m by far not alone. I don’t want to end up at the home for wayward road comedians, and that means I’ll have to figure out something a lot sooner than later that provides an income. Until then, I’m going to work on improving my business skill.

Today I spent three hours sifting through computer and paper files looking for anyone that has ever hired me. I need to come up with a current list of potential hirers, and work them like a sales rep works a client list. For life right now, that’s my smartest move. I could use something smart.

Getting into the radio meat grinder was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. I regret it now, but it's too late.

Getting into the radio meat grinder was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. I regret it now, but it’s too late. It’s a cruel game.

I lived in Los Angeles for a year in the mid '90s. I loved it there, and wish I would have stayed.

I lived in Los Angeles for a year in the mid ’90s. I loved it there, and wish I would have stayed. Mistakes are clearer in retrospect.

Billy Gardell got there around then, and played the game correctly. Good for him, he's a great guy and everyone loves him - including me.

Billy Gardell got there around then, and played the game correctly. Good for him, he’s a great guy and everyone loves him – including me. Go Billy!

Better Business Building

February 21, 2014

Thursday February 20th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’ve been getting a lot of bookings of late, and that’s never a bad thing. It almost feels like the old days, as I’m working almost whenever I want to. Almost all of my weekends have been full, and there have been some week nights thrown in as well. This is how I’d prefer it to be always.

Realistically, that just won’t happen forever. Bookings come in waves, and I’m nearing the end of this particular one. All I had booked for this week was a Saturday in Mattoon, IL, but today I got a call to do a show in Ottawa, IL tomorrow night. Someone they had booked had to cancel.

It’s not for great money, but it’s a nonprofit organization and part of the deal is that they write me a letter of recommendation if they like what I do. I’m sure they will, as the lady who booked me has seen me several times before. I’ll make a few bucks, and get a testimonial for my files.

I wish I would have started collecting testimonials years ago, but I didn’t. Few comedians I’ve ever worked with do. We just don’t think about it. I could have had HUNDREDS by now, and it wouldn’t have been very difficult at all. I guess I can go back and salvage a few, but it’s too late to have the stellar list of thoroughly satisfied customers at my fingertips that I easily could have.

This is a big red flag for the future, and I won’t let it happen again. Now that I’m transitioning into being a humorist, I intend to compile a reference list of every single client that ever uses me from now on in any capacity from speaking to training to painting the lines on their parking lot.

This is just smart business, and I’m embarrassed by the fact I never did it before. I don’t have a reason other than nobody else did it either. That’s not acceptable. Nobody ever sold merchandise for years at the comedy club level except for James Gregory, and he was way ahead of his time.

Now almost everyone sells, only because it’s necessary to survive. Gas prices are high, and the pay in comedy clubs is the same or less than it was twenty years ago. Hawking some trinket after the show is not why most entertainers get into the business, but it has come to be expected now.

My business sense is growing rapidly, but I am nowhere near where I should be. I have a thirty year head start on my ‘show’. That’s about 97% of what I focused on all these years, and that has thrown me way off balance. I think it should be as close to 50-50 as possible, but that’s difficult.

I had a friend who was a fanatical bodybuilder, and he talked about how most of them train the ‘beach muscles’ like arms and chest, but neglect the legs. They’re apes above the waist but have bird legs, and that causes a major imbalance that prevents them from winning the big contests.

The same is true with show business. There has to be somewhat equal attention paid to both the show and the business. I’m just now coming around to that formula, but my show needs a whole lot of extra work because of all the years of neglect it has had. That’s what I’m doing this year.

My shows in Ottawa and Mattoon will be solid. I know that before I get there. In fact, I have to believe they’ll be up there with the best performances that Ottawa or Mattoon have seen recently, if not ever. But if my business were better, I’d do the same show in bigger towns for higher pay.

Just like bodybuilding,  a show business career needs balance.

Just like bodybuilding, a show business career needs balance. Without it, it’s freakish.

Testimonials are not difficult to get, but most entertainers never ask. I am going to change that starting immediately.

Testimonials are not difficult to get, but most entertainers never even think to ask. I am going to change that effective immediately.

Building my business will lead to more income - and that's the whole idea.

Building my business will lead to building more income – and isn’t that the whole idea?